I write today from the Dively Center of Case Western.

I woke up at 5:45am this morning to the screech of my alarm clock, which somehow seemed even more grating than usual, having been one of the few amenities supplied by the otherwise—ahem—austere housing department here (for which see my previous post). Last night, after I’d finished blogging, I realized with some degree of dread that I’d forgotten my toothbrush, having brought indeed everything else required for the care of my teeth1 except the most basic implement. At midnight in a strange city, I had no recourse but to go to bed feeling somehow fundamentally dirty, and waking up with my teeth feeling mossy. Today, I am told, we will having a shopping spree at Walgreens or Walmart or whatever store we can find to stock up on the essentials that we weren’t provided. Were we in a hotel, there would at least be a vending machine with toothbrushes, but sadly the dorm we are staying at appeared entirely vacant last night except for two malcontents watching the BET Awards in the common room at a volume loud enough to pulverize concrete.

The “free swag” situation improved somewhat when we arrived at the Dively Center: upon registering, one received a blue CampusEAI lanyard upon which was attached a name tag. Ostensibly, everyone is to wear it around his or her neck during the conference, but afterwards, of course, it can be used for pretty much anything. More importantly, our “free gift” was a Belkin 4-in-1 pen, a heavy metal affair with a bright bluish reading light, a laser pointer, a ballpoint pen, and a PDA stylus in one phallic cylinder. It requires four tiny batteries (included), but considering the number of times just today that I’ve accidentally flash the reading light or the laser, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will die within a month and I will have no desire to buy more batteries.

The lobby of the Dively Center was a real sight: wall-to-wall geeks, some of them long-haired misanthropes that look like they spend most of their time in the dark using vi, some of them crisp-collared management types, always greying just slightly at the temple and generally looking affable, and even some women, which is a rarity at technical conferences. I seem, as I suspected, to be the youngest person here. No matter: the first meeting put me in my element.

From 9am to 11:30am, I and a laptop:human ratio >1 were regaled with advice on how to attack the Oracle portal’s styling, either using the built-in style generator (which is, if you have a speck of intelligence, obviously crap), adding extra CSS (which we already do), or use a custom renderer. You see, Oracle’s portal allows one to customize where the content area goes, which means that I can place the portal contents within a standards-compliant template. The bad news is that the output created by the built-in code escape #content# is tables nested inside of tables, nested inside of tables. It’s enough to make you sick, and the end-user really has no control over what is outputted. The instructor assured us that later in the afternoon, he would go over customizing the renderer that outputted said tables.

Another attendee, who happened to be from a British university, and thus immeasurably fun to hear speak, complained about Oracle Portal’s total lack of compatibility with anything resembling a standard. “Good,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll get some answers. And maybe this guy will show up again and I’ll get to hear his accent more.”

Lunch was buffet-style, and was actually quite good. The chef—a trim black man with a rakishly-askew hat—announced the courses and the soups of the day, and I got lasagna and a turkey sandwich and pasta salad and cream of chicken soup and was quite stuffed. I only had to stop eating once, when trouble back at the university forced me to whip out my laptop and troubleshoot.

The afternoon session was a short one, only lasting until 2pm, and was actually no help at all. The instructor described editing the various files used for rendering, but it occurred to me in medias res that what I want to change in the portal—that is, changing the tables-in-tables-in-tables structure into a much simpler one based on flexible divs, ideally AJAXified ones—isn’t really possibly without a lot of work, because Oracle’s interface for adding portlets to a user’s page involves essentially a table-splitting mechanism, and I gather from the code that trying to change the way it’s outputting might break that. At any rate, it’s something to look into.

So here I am, drinking tea and eating an apple, typing on my laptop and its persnickity wireless network card. I relish the thought of getting a toothbrush and possibly beer. I sort of relish the thought of sitting down and reading Rousseau’s The Social Contract. I don’t know how in the world we’re going to stretch that out for the rest of the day.

  1. Specifically, toothpaste, floss, and these damn Crest Whitestrips that I’m using in preparation for my brother’s wedding[]
§1230 · June 28, 2006 · Tags: , ·

4 Comments to “The Conference: Day I, Pt. I”

  1. Allison says:

    You left out the most important thing about today! lame-o. haha

  2. Ben says:

    Oh yes: for those of you unaware, today marks 44 months of solid relationship for Allison and I, which certainly beats the hell out of anything else that’s happened so far today.

  3. Lina says:

    OK, past, like, 6 months, I don’t think you’re allowed to celebrate month anniversaries. Sorry. :(

  4. Ben says:

    It’s not so much celebration as a recognition. We generally try to hang out specifically on those dates—it’s not as though I lavish her with flowers and chocolates every time.

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