I arrived yesterday in Innsbruck, Austria — a lovely medieval town set in a valley in the Tyrolean Alps. Here the Pontiff and I are sharing an office at the Institut für Quantenoptik und Quanteninformation, and will have to work out a comedy routine to be performed Friday morning, when we’re supposed to open the QIPC meeting at Ike Newton’s old stomping grounds, the Royal Society in London.
Since I’m too jetlagged to write a coherent entry, I hope you’ll be satisfied with some lists:
The three secrets of air travel (distilled from a decade of experience flying to four continents, and offered free of charge to you, my readers):
- Bring a book. Don’t even try to work on the plane; just read read read read read. If you get stuck in the airport for hours, all the more time to read!
- If you must work, do it with pen and paper, not a laptop.
- Put your laptop case in the overhead bin, not under your seat. This will give you more room to stretch your legs.
The only three German words you’ll ever need to know:
- Danke (thank you). To be said after any interaction with anyone.
- Ein (one). As in: I will have one of those (pointing).
- Entscheidungsproblem (decision problem). The problem of deciding whether a first-order sentence is true in every interpretation, proven to be undecidable by Church and Turing.
The two things I saw yesterday that I wish I’d taken a photo of but didn’t:
- A jewelry store display case, proudly displaying “SCHMUCK” brand designer watches. (Important Correction: Ignorant schmuck that I am, I hadn’t realized that “schmuck” is not a brand name, but just the German word for jewelry. Apparently the meaning in Yiddish migrated from “jewels” to “family jewels” to “person being compared to the family jewels,” which is a bit ironic. “Oh my turtledove, the apple of my eye, my priceless schmuck…”)
- A campaign poster for one of Austria’s far-right politicians, which graffiti artists had decorated with a Hitler mustache, a forehead swastika, and salutations of “Heil!” (Just what point were the graffiti artists trying to make? I wish I understood.)