I had a lot of fun at the European Common Lisp Meeting at Amsterdam last weekend. It was great to put some faces on the names of the people I'd had talked to over Usenet/email/IRC, and destroy the mental images I'd built of them. The latter apparently also worked the other way around, one of the first things Christophe Rhodes said to me was along the lines of "you were supposed to have a beard". Another interesting and surprisingly large group were the guys whom I'd never heard of, but who were doing interesting complex applications in Lisp as their day job. (The surprising part being how many used Lisp in their day job, not how many I'd never heard of.)
Tony Martinez had organized a pre-meeting meeting at a small cafe near the station that served some good beers. Thanks, Tony! About a dozen Lispers finally turned up there. I especially enjoyed talking to Andreas Fuchs, Peter Seibel and Tim Daly. At some point we left towards the Leidseplein to get something to eat, led by Arthur Lemmens who was co-organizer of the meeting. This took quite a while, apparently herding Lispers is about as hard as herding cats. On the way to the restaurant we managed to pick up Daniel Barlow and the Battyanis who'd been skating.
The late dinner at a chinese restaurant was quite good. Someone (I think it was Tim Daly) suggested that there's a corollary to Godwin's law that applies amongst Lispers. Apparently any conversation between two or more Lispers will eventually lead to a discussion on Erik Naggum. This might well be true, as I observed this happening a number of times during the weekend.
Woke up at 7am, but the hotel alarm clock said it was 7pm. "Fuck, how did I manage to oversleep like this? I didn't drink that much." So I got up, brushed my teeth and proceeded towards the restaurant where the saturday dinner was supposed to be. After a few minutes I finally managed to put together all the clues about what the time really was (like birds singing and the sun being in the east) and returned to the hotel. By the way, Amsterdam is particularily pretty at 7am.
My parents sent me video greetings from the exhibition at the old Heineken brewery when they were in Amsterdam last year. Naturally I had to return the favour, so that was my first real stop for the day. At the exhibition I bumped into a bunch of Lispers from the previous day's meeting, which was a pleasant surprise. Other than that, the exhibition was pretty worthless. If you happen to visit Amsterdam, I suggest you skip this one for some more worthy tourist attraction.
The organized dinner on saturday was reasonable. I was sitting next to Bruno Haible, and we had some interesting technical discussions on a number of topics. My other neighbor was someone from Franz sales/marketing. She seemed like a very nice person, but her first questions to me (along the lines of "which company are you from?") made it pretty clear that I'd find talking to other people on the table somewhat more rewarding :-)
After the dinner I (and a bunch of other SBCL hackers) ended up at the lobby/bar of the hotel where Christophe, Robert Strandh and Rudi Schlatte were staying at. The bar had some huge comfortable chairs and antique(?) tables which made for a really great environment for talking Lisp. The only thing missing was a fireplace.
Sunday was the official meeting day, with some talks. I thought all of the talks were worth hearing, though the AllegroCache and Lispworks demos seemed a bit too longwinded. I particularily liked Luke Gorrie's combined Slime presentation/demo (for the coolness factor of doing it all in Emacs) and Bruno's weak pointer implementation talk (for the technical content).
I was intending to do some touristy thing on monday, but hadn't really thought what it would be. After checking out of my hotel I headed to the nearby pharmacy (my feet were killing me after all the walking). On the way I happened to spot Rudi, who didn't have any concrete plans either, and let me tag along. We visited the Rikjsmuseum, walked around Amsterdam, and sat down frequently for coffee/coke breaks at coffeeshops. Special thanks to Rudi for tolerating me for most of the day.
As the final unlikely coincidence of the extended weekend, just when I was boarding my return flight Luke turned up at the same gate too! Apparently he had to make a business trip to Helsinki on a short notice. So naturally I ended up at the bar of Luke's hotel in Helsinki, drinking beer and talking about all sorts of cool stuff. This was very nice since I'd only talked to Luke for a couple of minutes in Amsterdam.