When was the last time I posted something here? (other than a video?… Which reminds me that I haven’t linked them all here!! Argh…)
Goodness, that was *before* I went to Photonics West! Quite a lot of things have happened since then, as anyone can imagine.
In early February I was gearing towards my attendance of Photonics West 2016, which is simply the biggest Optics conference in the world. After attending it, I have to say that indeed it is! Even though I spent 5 days straight from morning (0830 starts!) till late I have probably not even seen 1% of the whole event. Even checking the exhibition out was rushed, very rushed!…
I was also attending it to give a talk on a system that Sylvain and I developed and got a paper on. It was a fairly simple idea, implemented with old components we sourced around the lab (some of which we had no datasheets of!). The session I was in (on PS-OCT) had some very good speakers from very distinct and established institutions, reporting on work that typically involved a lot more people and spanning across quite a few years. Definitely made me feel a bit small in comparison, but I managed to get that talk out without that much of an issue, in the end. There was actually a fairly humorous point in the whole thing 🙂 – as the chairperson called me in to give my talk, the guy who was presenting after me thought it was his turn (the session was already running late) and headed for the stage at the same time. To which I said “don’t worry, I won’t be long anyway!!” – definitely helped to break the ice a little bit. And since we were running late already the chairperson didn’t allow for that many questions, with one of the two I was asked being something I was already expecting, managing to joke it off a little bit ;).
Of course, attending Photonics West also meant travelling to the US and the sunny state of California, which even in early February was better than some August days here in Kent! San Francisco is definitely quite a sight. Sylvain and I hired bikes on the last day and ended up cycling something like 30 miles up and down the famous SF hills, and we also crossed the Golden Gate – with the mandatory shot in front of it, of course! But trying to cycle up Lombard Street (with a ridiculous grade – I think it must have been over 20%!) on a hire bike which had definitely some issues with its bottom bracket (it kept creaking every time I put some load in it) was interesting (and intense!).
San Francisco is however a city full of contrasts. The hotel I was in (which was actually a youth hostel, but a pretty good one!) sat on the very edge of the Tenderloin neighbourhood, which is unfortunately famed for the large amount of homeless people living in it. Actually, one would see homeless people even down the financial district with all the high-rises and shops – it definitely struck me when I saw a guy sleeping rough no more than 50 yards away from a Ferrari. The US does not have the same social support system as in Europe, that’s for sure. And SF is apparently similar to London (and the south of England, really) in terms of housing affordability – rents are high and property prices skyrocketing, with a progressive gentrification happening, too. All too familiar…
After the conference, Sally and I planned a bit of a mini-holiday through California, involving a roadtrip to Yosemite and a nice scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. In terms of the mileage, it was nowhere near as crazy as my roadtrip last year through Arizona – we took our time to enjoy the scenery and have lots of lovely Mexican food, too :).
As you’d probably have guessed by now, there has been a big change in my personal life over the last few months – I have a girlfriend! Sally is a very special companion and a pleasure to live with 🙂 definitely these last few intense thesis-writing months wouldn’t have been so relaxing and easy if it hadn’t been for her (and she has been dutifully acknowledged in the thesis, of course!). And yes, I have now realised I have put “intense” and “relaxing” in the same sentence. Oh well…
Speaking of thesis, it is done!! (that partly explains my absence from posting things here…) I submitted it today, all 256 pages of it! (actually it is a bit less than that, this figure includes appendices…) Had to take the mandatory picture for everyone to see, of course 🙂
I do feel quite mixed emotions at this stage. Writing it wasn’t particularly painful or difficult (it helped having 4 papers already published ready to turn into chapters!…), and it helped having some other things going on (more on that later…). But at the same time I feel relief for having finished it, and excitement for the things to come (namely the new project I will be working on as a post-doc). Fun times ahead!
Speaking of fun, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts I started getting slightly more serious with my rowing – I mean, I’m still (and will ever be) miles away from “elite” level, but I definitely went up a notch from “casual fair-weather sculler”. Joining HBARC was a pretty good idea, I have to say, and I’m very looking forward towards the summer racing season, when I will finally travel a little bit and get to know some of the towns in the south coast. The gruelling winter training has been paying off, too – we raced already in a pre-season event in Deal and we did not came last! (quite a feat considering we had the grand total of ONE outing with one of the crews I’ve raced on)
I will finish this very lengthy post as I have to get going – I’m writing this from an airport café whilst I wait for my dad to arrive in England (he’s coming to visit me for a few days, so some sightseeing and nice food is in order!). Thank you French air traffic controllers for your industrial action and causing my dad’s flight to be delayed, otherwise I would have never managed to finish this post!! 😀
So, over and out. Hopefully next time I’m writing will be not in 3 months’ time! 🙂