Saturday, May 30, 2009

Traffic and Pedestrians

Today is the last day of the NET2009 conference in Rome, Italy. It has been a fascinating conference and the conferees are from Switzerland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, Argentina, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Spain, Italy, with me representing the United States. I have heard talks by physicists on finance, on economics, on evolutionary game theory. The theme here is definitely interdisciplinarity. My plenary talk on Thursday focused on supply chains and oligopolies and how we could assess the possible gains from mergers and acquisitions with insights into the merger paradox. My field is operations research and management science so I am interested in mathematical modeling, analysis, and effective algorithms for problem solution as well as managerial insights.

The venue at La Sapienza is a big room and we are offered Italian treats during coffee breaks. My hotel is the hotel for aviators (translated roughly from the Italian) so I am surrounded by men in uniform. Navigating the streets and crosswalks of Rome has been quite the experience. Even with a green light, I cross, only to get mopeds and cars literally almost clipping my heels. Several times I thought that I would not make it across the street, even while trying to cross with a group of Italians, but somehow, miraculously, the traffic stops and I look into the eyes of the drivers.

As for parking, I have seen cars parked on crosswalks, on sidewalks, and almost on top of one another as in those fabulous children books by Richard Scarry with the characters Huckle and Lowly.

I continue to be impressed by the elegance of the people here and how they greet each other so warmly and courteously. My hotel has the most delicious food but the rooms do not have carpets (but lovely hardwood floors) so noise travels plus one needs to lock oneself into the room with a big key. In case of fire I do not think that anyone would be able to unlock the doors to escape (in addition there are metal grates on the room windows). The rooms are clean but spartan. The beds are tiny and one gets one sheet as a cover. I must have gotten accommodations for a private rather than for an officer.

Travel always opens up one's eyes and strengthens one's survival skills and sense of adventure.