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There and Back Again: Day 4 (or something like that) - Jim Huggins
May 11th, 2006
08:14 am
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There and Back Again: Day 4 (or something like that)


It's been an ... interesting week. Brain dump ahead ...



  • I may have had a bit of a professional revelation this week.

    I maintain a research website for folks in my research area. Well, I sort-of maintain it. It's gone dormant for the last three years, mainly 'cuz I've gotten distracted with other things, and because nobody at Kettering really seemed to care about that work as much as other work I do. (Actually, nobody at Kettering really cares about my research at all.)

    Well, this week, lots of people have asked me "how come you're not updating the website anymore?". Which at first was really, really embarrassing ... it pointed out my failure in pretty stark terms. On the other hand, over time, I realized that this is a sign of how valuable the service was to the research community, and how much they really want to have it back.

    And then it occurred to me ... I've been wondering how in the world I can ever earn enough recognition to become a full professor. One of the key criteria is to show a "unique contribution" to the scholarly world, whatever that means. This website *is* a unique contribution; people want it, people use it ... and I think people cut me a lot of slack at conferences like this when I'm not writing papers.

    So maybe that's the incentive I need to get off my arse and start working on this again. Not that it's any easier to find the time, especially with two kids in the house. (That's about when the work on the website pretty much died.) But if I see this as my path to get promoted ... maybe that'll help.

    Anyways, it helps assuage some of my perpetual "I'm not producing 5 papers a year like my colleagues" guilt.

  • Spent most of yesterday afternoon in Trier, a small tourist town near here. Trier is massively cool; it's probably the oldest city in Germany, tracing its roots back to Roman fortifications built in 16 BC (one of which is still standing).

    That's always an amazing thing about Europe. I'm walking down marketplace streets that are 500 years old, sleeping in a building that's 300 years old. And we Yankees think that a building that's been around for 50 years is "old". We have no freaking idea what "old" really means on our side of the pond.

  • German food is delightful, at least here. Only problem is, it's often on a buffet, so I don't know what to call any of it when I go home. Breakfast is the best example ... they have an orange juice (I mean a juice with orange color, not "orange juice" which is really yellow) which tastes absolutely delightful, and a sweet meat that's to die for. Wish I knew what they were so I could get some back home.

    Now, I just need to get a real Italian pizza before I leave. Not terribly likely, but one can hope. (For those of you who haven't had the priviledge, real Italian pizza isn't the greasy, cheap monstrosity that American pizza is. I spent two weeks in the south of Italy at a research conference in my youth eating pizza every night, and never suffered a bit.)

  • I've affirmed one of my usual traits. When I'm in Europe, I drink hot tea frequently. When I'm in the US, I don't.
    Partly it's 'cuz they don't have drinking fountains with potable water every fifteen feet like in the US. Partly it's 'cuz they brew it in pots instead of individual bags. I think that's really the difference. I wonder if I'd drink more hot tea at home if I had a brewing pot. (Not that I need more junk in my kitchen, mind you ...)

  • Got lucky in Trier and found a little teddy bear with "Deustchland" on it and the German crest. After Clara was born, I started buying her little state bear dolls every time I took a plane trip someplace (thesis trips, conferences, etc.). Of course, I had no idea if I could find one in Germany. It ain't the same brand, but it'll fit in the collection just the same.

  • It still amazes me how bad academic talks can be. I'm really tired of sitting through academic talks when I have absolutely no clue about what's being discussed ... and I look around, and 2/3 of the crowd appears to have the same disinterested look ... and the speaker is absolutely clueless about how badly he's lost the crowd. And that's usually 15 minutes into a 60 minute talk.

    Most of these 60 minute talks are worse than the 20 minute talks I see at SIGCSE. Sigh.

    I'm skipping a bunch of talks today. In part, that's so I can try and catch up on email and start working on the website again. In part, though, it's 'cuz I've run out of ways of politely passing the time (napping, dreaming about my wife). I still feel like I'm missing out on something when I skip a talk, but I can't stand it anymore.

  • Have I mentioned that I miss my wife lately? After 12 years of married life, sleeping alone sucks.

  • Seem to have fallen back into my obsession with puzzle books at the end of the day ... I don't have the energy or the will to do much else.

  • Gratefully, the network connection here is really, really good. I've been able to keep up-to-date on stuff back at Kettering without too much difficulty. And even more gratefully, nothing seems to have exploded while I'm gone. (There's always tomorrow, of course, when I drop off-line in order to start the journey home ...)

  • Hope the kids haven't killed my wife yet ... as much as I look forward to getting back home, I don't look forward to getting back to the "limits-testing" phase that they're both in right now. Sucks to be the dad sometimes.



Ok, brain-dump complete. On to the day.

Hey, hey, HEY! ... let's be careful out there, aiight?

(I'm over 30. Am I even allowed to say "aiight"?)

Current Location: Schloss Dagstuhl
Current Mood: calmcalm

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From:darthdingus
Date:May 11th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)
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We have no freaking idea what "old" really means on our side of the pond.
Reminds me of an Eddie Izzard quote:
"I'm from Europe... where all the history comes from."
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From:jkhuggins
Date:May 11th, 2006 11:54 am (UTC)
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It's not really the tools that are the issue; mostly, it's finding the content and summarizing it. The human aspect of the job always takes the most time.

And I'd consider WoW, except that I didn't bring my laptop to Germany (sob!). Basically, I didn't want to schlep it all over the place.
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