Monday, May 27, 2013

Outbound Again

It feels like a much shorter time than the two and a half weeks since my last professional travel---though perhaps that's because the time since has still had several talks, a significant paper submission, and a major project deadline.  Tonight, I head out again, this time for an experience that is all new to me as a variety of professional service.

Despite the fact that I'm at a company rather than a university, I still have a number of opportunities for academic advising, and it is rather encouraged by BBN as well. I've advised students at both the Masters and Ph.D. level before, but never before has helping with a student involved an international journey.  Some months ago, one of my close colleagues asked me to serve on the thesis committee of his Ph.D. student, whose work I respect and have been following closely for some time.  Since they're over in Europe, I assumed my participation in the defense would be via some sort of remote dial-in (see previous discussion of my fondness for the magic of modern telepresence).  In fact, however, they'd like to have me there in person, so I'm getting on a plane this evening, and will spend about 48 hours on the ground over there, attending the defense and connected celebrations, as well as getting some good time to catch up with my colleague and hear all about his latest ventures.

Alas, I do not get to wear my doctoral hood, which will continue to remain undisturbed in its quiet corner at the back of my closet.  Apparently, there is a special and different form of garb that the university traditionally prescribes for committee members employed by industry (remember: academia is one of the only still-extant reservoirs of medieval guild traditions in the modern world). So one of the first things I'll be doing upon arrival is getting fit for the archaic scholastic version of a rented tuxedo.  I'm unsure just what it is that I will be wearing, and I fear that it won't live up to the gaudy inventions of my imagination.

Another lovely side benefit of this trip comes from the fact that its financing means I wasn't restricted to a US-flag airline---one of the typical requirements of traveling with any aid from a US grant.  As it happened, the cheapest fares (by far) when I was booking my tickets went through Iceland, so it became not only possible but the Official Best Travel Option for me to stop off and see my dear friends in Reykjavik on the way back---I'm taking a day of vacation, and quite looking forward to meeting their new baby in person, who I've previously met only over Skype.

This trip is another piece of time away from our own increasingly intriguing and interactive baby, but at least I've had a long and quiet time together with her this weekend.  We were all going to a wedding down in Maryland, of one of my wife's oldest and dearest friends, but Harriet went down with various standard unpleasant baby ailments that I shan't embarrass future-her by describing to the Internet.  In any case, it became clear that subjecting Harriet to 16 hours of driving would be a bad idea, but with no actual danger in the offing I encouraged Ananya to go without us.  So while Ananya went by Amtrak, Harriet & I rolled around on the kitchen floor, playing with pots and pans, discovering how magnets go back on the refrigerator, and listening (me at least), to my newest audiobook to keep the non-baby half of my mind happy too.

And since I can't fend her off from this keyboard much longer, it's time to post and see if I can answer a few of those long-neglected emails from friends before I vanish again for the airport...

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