ADBIS 1996

This picture was taken at the ADBIS conference in Moscow in September 1996. I do not remember who took this picture and why, and when I got the print, getting the prints were not instantaneous at that time. It was the same strange time. I didn’t have a vise yet and was waiting for the second set of documents. I was mentally half gone but still didn’t tell anybody. I remember a couple of social activities, but the overall picture of that conference is pretty hazy in my memories.

It was the first time ADBIS became an international conference, not just some Russian professors and researchers hanging out with some Western colleagues. As I already said many times, one part of me was sure I would come back in two years, because despite whatever John Roseman was saying, I could not imagine myself living anywhere except Saint Petersburg.

The other part of me was similarly sure I am leaving for good. All the things I could not forgive my mom for were still raw and hurting, and this other part of me was hoping never to see her again. I didn’t see any way for Boris and me to achieve any stability in our relationships, and this other part of me was thinking that I will start my life fresh, meet some other man, and live happily ever after. I think that this was also an intention of Pam: she didn’t know about Boris; on paper, I was a single mother of three, and Val was divorced, and supposedly we didn’t have anybody else to lean on.
I always have the same thoughts when yet another anniversary of my coming to America is approaching. I think about how little I knew about what the future beholds.

Today, I was talking to Boris on Facetime, and at one moment, we stopped talking, and were just looking at each other. And I felt so strongly how lucky we are to have each other. And how much our lives changed because we have each other. Not only the family/personal life, but also the professional life, and overall what kind of humans we have become.

It’s crazy even to think about this: I would never decide to go to America if I wouldn’t be sure that we can’t resolve our issues. I am thinking: if my mom and grandpa won’t be both so difficult, and if my mom could secure my grandpa’s apartment after his death, Boris and I would have a place to live. And I would never-ever decide to go anywhere. And that apartment was so small and miserable that it would be a miserable life. But I wouldn’t know about it.
And even more horrifying, if we would never enter these relationships… We both would live our lives and think that everything is great, and we would be different people (I can see it clearly, what kind of people we would be!).

OK, seasonal thoughts:) and one more night, I am up way later than I planned! I am leaving myself here, on September 15, 1996, and I can’t even imagine how somebody could be as ignorant as I was!

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

A Moment of Real Happiness

Tonight, I presented my NORM talk at a PG Conf webinar. That was the second time I gave it after the SOFSEM conference in January. Two weeks ago, I used it to reopen Chicago PUG online, and I felt that the presentation went horrible. Other people were saying I did great, but I didn’t feel that way. It was challenging to present without hearing and seeing the immediate reaction of the audience. Besides, I faced some technical difficulties.

That time, I practiced in zoom the day before to make sure I almost know it by heart, including all the jokes, and it went really well. Even though I haven’t heard the audience, I could feel that people are engaged. The questions in the zoom chat started to appear while I was talking, and there were lots of them!

Also, I am so glad I put together a GitHub repo with a working example! I hope that this will open a new chapter in the life of the NORM framework.

I felt great after my presentation was over. It was probably as close to the atmosphere of the real conference as it could get:)

A Tour of Kurion

This tour came to the conference schedule almost a last-minute, and I told the organizers that it was a terrific idea. As I said before, just walking around during the after-hours was not an option. When I researched “thins to do at Limassol,” I realized that the interesting stuff is outside the city. Unfortunately, all the tours you could book, even the half-day tours, were starting in the morning.

That tour gave the conference participants an excellent option to see at least some of the history of Cyprus and in a very compact way. I do not appreciate an idea of going to the conference, and then spending three-quarters of the time sightseeing, A professional conference is for your professional development. Yes, it is nice to go on some tours and see a new place, but not at the expense of the main purpose. Scheduling that tour as a separate event was great, a gift from the organizers. If I was traveling for leisure, I would spend more time on each of the sites and would research more of the history in advance.

We started at 4 PM and headed to the archeological site of Kurion. During our ride, our tour guide showed us the refugee villages, which are very well maintained. It is astonishing and sad to learn that there are still hundreds of thousands of refugees in their own country. For such a small country like Cyprus, these numbers are really striking. Once again, I have to admit that we are fast to forget the things which disappear fro the top news headlines – especially if they do not touch us directly.

Passing a stream on the way

We finally arrived at the Archeological site of the ancient state-city of Kurion. There are so many things to see there, but we had limited time, and technically speaking, we were visiting at the after-hours. We had to finish our visit before the sunset, which gave us not more than 40 minutes for everything

House of Eustolios, first private villa, then public baths
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Conference: Day Three Keynotes

On day three, we had two keynotes: one in the morning, and one after lunch, and after the second one we had a social program (a tour and a dinner)

The first keynote presented by Gunnar Klau was called “Haplotype phasing or deciphering the scrolls from the four schools of Amathus”. And if you can’t figure out what it was about, I will give you a clue: there was a Biology track at the conference, dedicated to biological and genetic applications: Algorithmic Computational Biology, and this keynote was a part of that track. Hopefully you can see from the photos below how the ancient recipe reconstruction is related to understanding the genome.

The second keynote was by Mikolaj Bojanczyk and it was called “Polyregular functions.” This one was pure programming, but I could not help myself but asking why people are so obsessed with Haskell language 🙂

After that second keynote, there were no more sessions, and the social program started.

A Visit to the Limassol Castle

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Limassol Castle. That is the only ancient building in the city and an old one. FIst, there was an early Christian basilica in the 4-7th centuries A.D. A bigger church was built over it in 10-11th centuries, and then at some point in the 12th century, the castle was built, incorporating different parts of the church.

Now, when you walk in the museum, you see a lot of arrows, indicating the meeting points of different buildings and epochs.


Unfortunately, there are not enough descriptions in the museum, I need to read way more to try to understand what it is all about. Also, there is not enough historical evidence regarding many of the periods. The castle was almost ruined during the first Ottoman invasion (by the city’s Venetian Governor). The Ottomans completely ruined it during recapture, and then id was turned into a prison. We ended up visiting the museum twice – by ourselves on Tuesday and with the organized tour Wednesday night, but there was still not enough information.

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Day Two and Exploring Marina

Since it was getting dark at 5 PM, we figured out that if we want to see something, we need to skip one session. And it was indeed the only session we skipped during the conference! It was on Tuesday, and that was the first sunny day.

It was almost warm in the places with no wind, and to our surprise, we saw several people getting sunbaths on the hotel deck, closer to the walls. 

I was not one of them, but I enjoyed the sun!

After lunch, I changed to gym shoes and jeans, and we headed towards the city center. It was about 5.5 km between the city center and our hotel. Since there is always a risk that I won’t be able to walk for several hours straight, we decided to take a cab from the hotel to the city center, and then walk back on our feet. 

I have to mention that there are tons of Russian tourists in Cyprus, and especially at Limassol. Most signs are dubbed in Russian, not English, or at least Russian comest first. Local organizers were talking a lot about “Russian money,” it’s influence on Limassol and on Cyprus in general, and the ways the Cyprus government tries to control the situation (mostly unsuccessfully). 

It’s funny that most of my friends and co-workers in the US reacted to my travel plans, either “what is Cyprus?” or “where is Cyprus?” The cab driver asked us where we are from, and when I said “from Chicago,” he didn’t even understand first. After I repeated more clearly, he exclaimed: Chicago?! How did you find Cyprus?!  

Although it sounds like a well-known anecdote, “How did you find Paris, Missis Astor?” he undoubtfully meant “find” in its original meaning:).

There is not much historical Limassol left. Marina, although beautiful and stylish, is very new construction. Here are some pictures:

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Traveling to Cyprus

My birthday was on Saturday, and I spent most of it in transit. Started it with a birthday breakfast of hot-smoked salmon sandwich on rye bread at the Vantaa airport and then boarded a flight to Frankfurt. That flight and the subsequent flight to Limassol were extremely uneventful, being operated by Lufthansa :).

I didn’t know that we have to cross the border going to Cyprus. Cyprus is an EU member, but not a part of the Schengen agreement. However, they acknowledge Schengen visas, so it works at least one way :).

Upon arrival, we met our driver (we had a prearranged transportation to our hotel) and got into the car. Once again, I didn’t know that Cyprus had left-side traffic, so you have to be super careful. The highway from the airport was one-way, and the reverse route was not visible. Citing my surprise that nobody asked us at the border, how long we are going to stay, Boris joked that that’s because there is no way out anyway :).

This time of the year is off-season on Cyprus, so hotels are dirt-chip, and the first two days it was raining. We won’t do much sightseeing anyway, because it falls dark right after five. But here is the view from our room 🙂

I also managed to get an hour in the gym, hence I have my usual in-the-gym birthday picture:

Getting Ready to Go to Cyprus

I am leaving in less than three days, and I am still only partially packed and can get a feel neither about the weather nor the dress code of the event. I have never been to Cyrpus, and at this time of the year, people do not go to Cyprus :).

I just got a long email from the conference organizers, and at the very end of that super-long email, they mention that the electric plug on Cyprus is English! I would not have an idea! In fact, I already packed my European connectors :). Good to know :).
In addition, I am staying after work today to run Chicago PUG meetup, and I am going to the shelter tomorrow night to cook dinner with the residents. And Thursday is my last day in the office before I leave, and also I need to visit Mom :). And I really want to rehearse my presentation a couple of times… Wish me luck 🙂