Another great XML Summer School in Oxford

Despite some flooding here and there.

The eighth meeting of the XML Summer School sponsored by The CSW Group at Oxford University was another great one, with Norm Walsh and Dan Connolly being excellent additions to the list of XML luminaries presenting. Norm started a flickr group for the summer school, and I just added a few pictures.

[Cherwell punts at high water]

Judging by an email I received from my mother while I was in Oxford, the flooding in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire was big enough news to be reported in the US, but it didn't affect the Wadham College campus. We did hear tales of lost power, lost water, flooded homes, and bad transportation delays from several locals, though, and we saw ducks and a swan swimming around the giant pond that had been the Queens College cricket fields.

The flooded train tracks between Oxford and Didcot prevented my family and I from visiting Bath, which was one of our tourism plans, and it also prevented Leigh Dodds from joining the Oxfordshire Semantic Web Interest Group meeting held Wednesday evening. There were still several interesting presentations at the SWIG, and I look forward to querying the structured data in Wikipedia (for example, the structured data about each Simpsons' episode shown in a box down the right of each page) using SPARQL after hearing about the Linking Open Data project from Dan Connolly's presentation. The meeting reminded me how much face-to-face club meetings have been replaced by technology as a way for people with similar interests to share them; doing it the old-fashioned way has some nice advantages.

This year also saw more offspring of XML people than ever before. In addition to my wife Jennifer and I bringing along our two daughters, Jeni Tennison, Lauren Wood, and Paul Prescod each brought a daughter, and John Chelsom's wife Angela arranged a tea for them all at the famous old Randolph Hotel that all the kids enjoyed. Angela was also kind enough to arrange for my daughters to go horseback riding at a local stable, but the torrential rains prevented the actual riding. The girls still managed to get some English mud on their riding boots, and they still have some funny stories about the trip to tell their friends at the barn where they ride at home in Virginia.

Despite the floods and the transitional state of the CSW staff running the event, they all did a fine job, especially new members of the staff Rose Barnard and second-generation CSW employee Jo Nurse. For the Wednesday evening social events, we were all very happy to see the newly-married Kerry Poulter join us; she ran the summer schools before Rose joined this year and has since moved on to an energy company where they all seem surprised by the depth of her technical knowledge. We'll all miss Omar Tamer, the tech guy and heavy lifter for the ladies, who waited for the end of the summer school before moving on to his new position at O2. I hope that his replacement is as good at configuring wireless routers from both Windows and Linux machines. And as always, Sara Price serenely watched over the proceedings and provided calm assistance to all attendees and CSW employees who needed it.

[reading Harry Potter on the way to Oxford]

Related reading material: I like to match my travel reading to my destination, and I heartily recommend Joe Queenan's Queenan Country as reading material when traveling in England. His survey of trashy American culture Red Lobster, White Trash, and Blue Lagoon was one of the funniest books I've read in the last few years, and his account of his first big solo tour of the UK without his English wife is also hilarious. (I even learned that some of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's earlier liaisons took place in the Oxford hotel where my family and I stayed.) Despite what the Amazon reviews say, it's funnier and better written than Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island", which I never even finished.

We were in Germany the day that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" came out, and luckily the British edition was easy to find in Heidelberg. My daughters, who had just re-read the first six books in anticipation of the seventh, each bought a copy and stayed pretty focused until they finished it. The picture on the right shows them on the bus from Heathrow to Oxford.


Bill Bryson's books shouldn't even be donated; they should be used as landfill. He makes at least one error per page.

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