Today I found out that the reason why my mouse wasn't fine tuned enough to hit the links I aimed for was that my mouse pad had too many chocolate stains on it. When I removed the mouse pad, the mouse worked impeccably. These stains are just one of the many pieces of evidence from my ecstatic dissertation writing ending almost a month ago. Other pieces of evidence include the post-it note with my advisor's home phone number and an early draft of the recurring figure of the dissertation (an illustration of the context gap).
The chocolate reminded me of the other day, where the Alumni Association at my University held a 'chocolate tasting evening', with plenty of chocolate to taste and a lecture on the secrets of chocolate production. I finally got my question to why American chocolate tastes so horrible answered. Unfortunately it is in the US permitted to put vegetable oils in chocolate, making it cheaper to produce and easier to melt. This was apparently introduced by a guy named Hershey who made it common to call it chocolate even though it contains a low percentage of actual cocoa (down to 30 %) and high amounts of sugar and vegetable oil. However, some Americans have opted out of the cheapness and created this extremely wonderful 'back to the roots' chocolate that was the last treat of the evening. I will be stocking up when I get to Chicago next week.
I assume it was a jinx. As soon as I threw out the last two cold medicine pills (Advil cold and flu liquid tablets) because I was never really sick and because I didn't want to put them in another box of 'one day I will clear out this so it doesn't take up room in the attic', I got sick. I don't remember if I was leaving or coming but only that it had something to do with packing and Glasow when I tossed it, well-knowing that you cannot get cold medicine in Denmark. Somehow the Danish health and drug administration does not believe in cold medicine, which means that the only relief for sore throat and runny nose is ibuprofen and cough drops. This is why I always attempt to have a supply of cold & flu remedies when I am in Denmark, still aware that I might not need if for years and then not being able to find it when I need it. I have no idea why it is not legalized here in Denmark when you can get it most other places I have been and I have to admit that I love the effect the night time version gives you. As Homer Simpson would put it: uhmmmmmm, drooooowsy...
I was in the newspaper (Berlingske) yesterday and I forgot how bland journalists can make your carefully considered points seem in a page or two. I am pretty much cited for saying that the location-based system I investigated in San Diego was mainly focused on teaching and that all the students (and my self) put their profiles to open. These things are as such not untrue but just never the issues that I would have thought about as more interesting or important. But I guess that is the price you pay for attempting to reach outside the research community. Things get grey scaled. I do appreciate however that they didn't get all black and white as the questions some researchers get: Location-based services, good or bad?
When I went shopping with my Mom today, she wondered (as it seems that some of my colleagues also do, judging on their wondrous looks when they see me at the university) why I went to my office every day and seem to do work. 'But you don't have any obligations for your university anymore, do you? You handed in your dissertations?'. Disregarding my strange situation of still receiving a salary from the university, and thereby actually having obligations although I am supposedly 'done' (whatever done means), I had to explain that being a researcher (or trying to become one by profession, the whole purpose of attempting to get a PhD) is not just writing the obvious dissertation and teaching poor students how to program. Research involves numerous levels of bureaucratic elements of filling in forms (spend a whole morning making budget for my next conference, getting hotel etc.), giving these forms to the right people and faxing proof of student status (!) to conference managers. Moreover comes the responsibility to the community as a whole in the shape of reviewing conference/journal papers and committee work, which does not go away, even in the case that I did not have a job. Those things are unrelated to who provides the bread on your table, who furnishes your office and what country you live in. So when people wonder what I do in my office from 9 to 5 (alright, 9 to 9 yesterday and 10 to 2 today), I think again of how many things we as researchers have to do on top of all the 'fun' work. Not that I have ever doubted that these extra things are not part of the job and not that I don't like doing these (booking hotels are mostly fun when the nice hotels have rooms available, reviewing papers is always very insightful). But when you explain to others what kind of work you do, these extras are often omitted due to the focus on the exciting parts. This apparently results in confusion to what I am doing running around at the university, working in my office and typing at my laptop at night. (I sometimes wonder myself...) But as depressingly clever people say:
Life is what happens when you are busy doing something else.
I therefore decided to make sure that I enjoy doing the little bureaucratic everyday things; voluntary work is supposed to be fun and worth doing. No matter how busy ones life become it is important not to get lost in practicalities but instead see them as part of life/work and enjoy them as much as the 'real' work.
In my opinion the executive lounges in airports should have an admittance policy considering the length of people's layover rather than their frequent flyer status. Today I was very envious of the frequent flyers (who unfortunately do not include me, because of my erratic flight choices rather than sky mile frequency) who got to sit in a couch with a whiskey in their hand, waiting for their connecting flight. I had an unmentionable excessive layover (again due to my unstructured choice of airlines) in Bristol International Airport, a godforsaken place with 5 pound-an-hour wireless and the smallest selection of duty-free goods ever seen. Instead of joining the whiskey club I went to the non-smoking section of the cash bar where I spent the better part of my layover drinking Bloody Mary and typing away on my laptop. Enjoying the fact that the next three flights I have are all direct flights, thanks to SAS' direct connection to Chicago and New York.
Anyway, I am back in Copenhagen so let's go partying.
Just a reminder to watch 'viden om' [knowledge about...] tomorrow Tuesday at 20.45 at DR2 if you happen to be in Denmark (contrary to me...). The documentary is about the new location-based system that they are developing at my university and they interviewed me in the end for some insigts into these technology saturated environments. I am talking a bit about the study I carried out in California and I am answering questions the following week at the website. Could somebody please tape it for me?
All right, I admit it: I ran off, escaped Copenhagen. After handing in my dissertation, being interviewed by Danish Broadcast (DR2) for a documentary on the location-based services they are doing at my university, I thought that I needed a break. I am still in wireless range and hope to get a little work done (that would be application writing). Still, my blogging frequency might be as low as the last couple of weeks, until I decide to return... For the people concerned about my well being I can say that I am being taken good care of and having a wonderful time :-)
While my dissertation is printing I got to do weird things I haven't done for a while: Clearing my office desk (most of the papers I just stuck in to a giant folder named 'thesis related') and surfing the internet (wow, there are things happening in the world besides context-aware computing and design guidelines). I have this weird sense that this is a big moment and then not. Fact is that making 11 copies (I have to hand in 7, then one for me, one for my Dad, one for my relatives in California, one for my friend and ups, one for my co-advisor, sorry Paul...) takes looooong time on a copier when you have 160 pages. And because I only have one copy card, I have to wait until it is all printed to make the 8 or so color copies that I think would give it a nice touch. So all this 'wow, this is it' is just plain hard work. And then I have to admit that there is nothing glamorous about spending a Sunday night alone at the university only being interrupted by a security guy who wanted to make sure that someone had not left the copier upstairs (the one on my floor is not working...) copying 11 copies of 160 pages by accident. I reassured him that I wouldn't leave without turning off the lights.