Friday, February 02, 2007

Visiting Barbados

The SoCG PC meeting was held this year at the Bellairs Research Institute in Barbados, in conjunction with a joint McGill-INRIA workshop on limited visibility, organized by Hazel Everett, Sylvain Lazard, and Sue Whitesides. It was my first time in Barbados; people have been coming to such workshops every year for many years now, and there's a nice core group of people who know how the system works and where all the good eating and drinking joints are.

Bellairs is a fairly minimally equipped research facility, smack bang on the beach on the Caribbean (i.e nicer) side of Barbados - shared dorm rooms, common bath areas, common kitchen, and the like. The facilities are much more basic than say, Dagstuhl, but this is more than made up for by the beauty of the surroundings (Did I mention that it was smack bang on the beach?). In fact, if you walk a few steps from the gate of the Institute, you end up on the beachfront of a swanky nearby hotel, which is rumored to have rooms that cost $700/night, with a 14 night stay guaranteed.

The communal aspect of the facilities (everyone cooks, we all make breakfast together, people share in the costs for food, beer, rum, rum, rum, and more rum) makes the workshop a rather friendly place. I was only there a few days alas, but the mere notion of a schedule where you work in the morning, take the afternoon off, and reconvene after dinner seems so natural, that I was wondering whether we could actually do this at SoCG or other conferences.

The workshop starts off with people proposing all kinds of problems loosely organized around the theme of limited visibility, and then people go off into self-organized groups to work on whatever seems interesting. Every now and then, there's a public review session to discuss progress. This model works surprisingly well, and all kinds of nice puzzles pop out of the discussions.

It's a great environment to do relaxed research in; not having the internet for a few days made looking up results a little tricky, but it was manageable. My main regret in leaving early: I didn't get a chance to go to the (in)famous Rocky's Bar.

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