I wake up bleary-eyed and jet-lagged at 6 AM begging of myself WHY? Why do I subject my body to such torturous trans-atlantic flight for three days of, of what? Of talks of which I will attend at most a quarter? Of hotel banquet food? Of aching back muscles from lugging around massive proceedings and laptops bundled together in free canvas tote bags that I don't really want anyway?
For me, the answer is the people, my friends, my colleagues, their quirky interests and insightful comments. It's the research in the corridors, the animated technical arguments over the lunch tables, the great stories that get told by a diverse set of people from a diverse set of backgrounds.
Basically, it's like a big family reunion. But families you are born into. How do you get born into the FOCS family? I remember my first FOCS – Las Vegas 2001 – feeling alone, isolated, shy. Now I feel a part of the family, accepted into this community due in part to my papers, yes, but also labels that were really a matter of luck. What becomes of all those people that didn't have my luck?