I am currently in Beijing visiting Jing Xu at Capital Normal University. This is the second time I have been to China so I already knew a little of what to expect. Beijing has the added advantage of being in the same time zone as Perth so despite the 13-14 hour journey to get here, there were no problems with jet lag.
The food is very tasty even if you don’t always know what you are eating. My many years eating chicken teriyaki from the Japanese Gourmet Food to Go place on Hampden Road means that my chopsticks skills are passable. Ordering in restaurants when the only Chinese words I know are hello, thankyou, rice and beer has also been an interesting experience. Thankfully many restaurants have pictures on the menu. There was one memorable episode when I was eating with a group of people, all with about as much knowledge of the language as me. As part of our meal we ordered two plates of dumplings. When they hadn’t appeared a good 15 minutes after the rest of the food, we asked about them (not sure how though), only to then have eight plates of dumplings appear. Five minutes later another two plates (probably the original two we had asked for) appeared.
Last week while I was here, I attended the Workshop on Group Actions on Combinatorial Structures that was very well organised by Shaofei Du and his colleagues at Capital Normal. I think the workshop was a great success with a wide variety of talks and generous hospitality from the organisers. Some talks that I found particularly interesting were:
-Klavdija Kutnar’s on the classification of cubic symmetric polycirculants.
-Dragan Marusic’s on two open problems in vertex-transitive graphs. One was finding a CFSG-free proof of the nonexistence of a primitive group of degree 2p that is not 2-transitive. The other was on finding vertex-transitive snarks. A snark is a connected bridgeless cubic graph that is not 3-edge colourable and the Petersen graph is the only known vertex-transitive one.
-Steve Wilson’s on small rotary maniplexes. A maniplex is a generalisation of a map (an embedding of a graph onto a 2-dimensional manifold) to higher dimensions.
-Robert Jajcay’s on the role of groups and symmetry in the cage and degree/diameter problems.
-Shenglin Zhou’s comprehensive survey on automorphism groups of block designs.
I spoke about my work with John on groups acting regularly on generalised quadrangles that I have discussed here before but with an emphasis on how our examples answered a question on normal Cayley graphs.