Monday, 12 September 2011

Between US Open wins - remembering 10 years ago

I had tentatively decided not to engage in the whole "Where were you?" thing today, but I'm having second thoughts. Over breakfast this morning, though, I was watching Sam Stosur's win in the US Open tennis, which took my mind back 10 years, for reasons which had very little to do with the day's more significant context. It was an interesting time for me, so I looked back to what I had written about it in what, at the time, passed for my blog. What I found was a very disappointing:
A two weeks that I couldn't begin to document. Being the reluctant photographer, I think my total picture count was 3 (all of the same thing), so I can't live up to Chris' example of lots of piccies. Suffice to say that it was an adventurous trip, being so close to the US during such a weird time.
I have to say that doesn't really do justice to what was, indeed, a very interesting trip, so I thought I might write it up here.

I left Australia, I guess, around the first of september, flying via Sydney, Honolulu and Vancouver to Seattle, where I spent the week at the EDOC 2001 conference, accompanied by Kerry and Zoran. I presented my first full conference paper, and made really good connections with people like Jean Bezivin, Xavier Le Pallec, and bunch of others. The following weekend I flew to Toronto for the OMG Technical meeting, getting in, I think, on the Sunday, and checking into the OMG meeting hotel near the airport. I remember I had a horrible room, all glass facing west, or perhaps south. The weather was hot in any case, and the room was borderline uninhabitable  once the sun hit it. I remember resolving all week to request a room change, but never got around to it.

I remember sitting in it, though, on Sunday afternoon, marvelling that I was able to watch a US Open Tennis final at a sensible hour, for the first time in my life. Lleyton Hewitt had had a storied run to the final, and played what was, at that point, the match of his life to beat Sampras in a dominating display which presaged his rise to number one in subsequent years.

I was watching Stosur's match this morning, partly via a tweet stream from Bethlehem Shoals, one of my favourite sports writers. For someone who, in his basketball writing, has always fought against "Homers", sports fans who blindly support their home teams, he certainly overly obsessed with the "Serena winning for America" storyline, and in fact failed to mention Stosur at all in his comments. This really rubbed me the wrong way. For me, Stosur's win has so many great storylines to it.
  • She's the first Australian to win a slam since Goolagong in 1980, a win which heralded a transition from the glory days of Smith/Court and Goolagong/Cawley into a dry spell that lasted so long.
  • It breaks the impression that so many, myself included, had of Stosur being someone who would crack under pressure. When I saw Stosur break in the second set, my heart went into my mouth as I wondered whether she would stay strong or go to water the way she seems to have done so often before, most notably in the French final against Schiavone.
  • Hewitt came from nowhere to win his first slam by beating Sampras, an American favourite who had won 13 slams already (he would win a 14th at the US the following year). 10 years later, Stosur wins her first by beating Serena, another American favourite, who had also won 13.
I had two purposes in Toronto. The first was the see through an uncontroversial vote to recommend my HUTN work for adoption, and the second was to be a technical expert for a very controversial vote on the EDOC spec. On Tuesday morning I gave my HUTN presentation. As I remember it, I think I was presenting either as or just after the towers went down. Suffice to say the audience was small and somewhat distracted. I can remember being kind of amazed. Not distressed, but very conscious that this was something pretty significant.

The rest of the meeting was kind of weird, but went on nonetheless - for the most part, people couldn't leave anyway. HUTN passed easily and I was appointed FTF Chair. EDOC passed fairly easily - I was stopped from answering technical criticisms of our submission by Kerry - "speak softly and carry a great big stack of proxies". UML Action Semantics got their semantics stripped out, and I can remember them being in the hotel bar at the same time as the EDOC group, the groups alike in size but not in spirit.

I have other memories of the week, less coherent. I remember a US$400 bill at an Outback Steakhouse, as I went with a big group and was surprised at what Americans think (perhaps) constitutes Australian food (blooming onions, Prime Minister's prime ribs). I remember catching a bus into downtown Toronto with Keith and Michi Henning and lying on the grass next to the lake.

I can remember worried exchanges of emails with DSTC about flights home, uncertain not only because of the closure of US airports, but of the demise of Ansett in Australia. Kerry's flight was re-routed through somewhere strange in Canada - Winnipeg or Calgary or somewhere. American OMG members paired up and hired cars to drive across the continent home to Florida, Arizona, California. As I went to the airport, I walked past hundreds or thousands of people sitting waiting for flights, anywhere they could, trying to get out of Canada and back to their homes, wherever they were.

Being an international trying to leave the continent, I was a priority, and my flight actually didn't change. Transiting through Honolulu, we were forced to collect our bags and walk outside the terminal along the road to check in again, but it was a pretty small imposition in the circumstances. As our flight finally touched down in Sydney, the passengers applauded, a show of nationalism I've never seen on an "Australian" flight. The Ansett drama was resolved without incident as Qantas picked up all their flights, and I was back to Brisbane as scheduled.

It was an interesting trip.Others will have reminiscences today which go on about how September 11 changed them forever. I don't think it changed me, either temporarily or permanently, but it was certainly a memorable trip.

No comments: