The World at Large

Moving to the US

Monday, June 02, 2008

Doing too Much

My brother recently sent around an email telling everyone in my family (I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters) what he's been doing lately. When I realised that I was interested in the most mundane things that he's up to, and that I'd done some similar things lately, it occurred to me that I should tell them what I've been up to as well. But why would I write an email when I have a blog?

SemTech 2008

There's a conference on Semantic Technology, held in San Jose in May of each year. I went to my first one last year, and my second was just 2 weeks ago. My work is centered around semantic technology, so this is an important conference for me.

I had several new features in the software I work on (Mulgara) which we wanted released in time for some publicity at the conference. The more people to use the software, the more likely I am to have budget for the coming years, so getting things completed in time was very important for me personally. Besides, I've been looking forward to getting some of these things done, and having the conference there was a good way to keep me on track.

With this sort of pressure on, I've been concentrating on my work, to the exclusion of most other things, in the last couple of months. Luc and Nic are always there to make sure I don't forget the really important things (usually at about 6am), but most non-family activities had to be abandoned. All, the same, I got some swimming in, and have been getting back into running now that the weather is warmer (at long last!).

The conference itself went well. I spent a week in San Jose, but barely left the hotel the whole time, so I can't comment much on San Jose (except for some of the downtown restaurants). It was colder than last year, so I didn't use the pool deck either - not that I would have had time.

My conference schedule was essentially:
  • Wake up, get showered, dressed, etc.
  • Go to the breakfast put on for conference attendees.
  • Speak to 3 or 4 people at breakfast.
  • Attend conference sessions - unless someone corners me and I end up in a discussion for that time.
  • Lunch time. End up in conversation and have to remind people that I'm hungry and we need to eat now.
  • More sessions - unless someone has grabbed me again.
  • Break for the evening. Run back to my room to freshen up.
  • Go to dinner with boss/corporate contacts/other friends (well, all the corporate contacts are friends, so that's a blurry line).
  • Talk shop all night.
  • Get back to hotel, and discover friends drinking in Foyer.
  • Have more drinks bought for me, all while talking shop.
  • Get to bed after midnight, wondering where day went.
Most of the conversations were ones that I wanted to be in, but it was completely exhausting for me! I didn't have to buy drinks all week, but after my first night of that (no, I didn't have many) I took it easy - unlike some other attendees. :-)

The outcome for the week was 1 serious job offer, and 3 casual offers. The release of the software got some attention in the right places, which is part of the reason I had so many people wanting to talk to me. It's nice to feel wanted. :-)

Another thing that came out of it was a number of comments by various people that I need to be involved in the next round of standards relevant to the semantic web. It's not highly visible involvement, but it's a big deal in terms of the web. It's a small corner of the overall standards process, but still a little humbling to think that these guys want me involved in helping set some of the standards for the future of the World Wide Web. I'm on the the committee yet though, so I'll see how that pans out.

Overall, the whole week was completely overwhelming for me. It's nice to see what kind of a reputation I've built up, but I know that part of that comes from the good word of several close friends. It has really set the scene for my coming year of work.


I got back to Chicago on a Friday night, about an hour after bedtime for Luc and Nic. That hardly mattered, as they were both out in an instant to welcome me back. Luc was all smiles, and Nic was practically speechless with happiness that I was back. Anne was happy to see me too, but I think she'll be the first to admit that her demonstrativeness paled next to the boys.

The next day Luc and I went to Costco to buy a couple of staples (mostly fruit) and a bike trailer. It had been many weeks since I'd spent most of a day with just Luc and me, and I was really impressed at how enjoyable his company has become. He's turning into a thoughtful young man, and I had fun just talking with him. He was also ready to help with every little thing, often without being asked. I hope he understands how much I appreciated that.

The following morning I was up with both boys, as we did Bike the Drive. Lakeshore Drive is closed to cars on the Sunday of every Memorial Day weekend, and it gets opened up to cyclists for several hours. I did it with Nic last year, but this time I could do it with both boys in the trailer. Many people do it very slowly, but I'm used to triathlons, so despite my lack of practice and the heavy weight on the back, I did it in good time. The boys enjoyed the festival afterwards, as there were free samples of cheesecake, fruit juice and balloons. There was also a Beatles tribute band playing, and Luc was delighted that he knew the music (yes, we have Beatles in our music collection at home).

That night I tried to get a few things done, which led to only a couple of hours of sleep. Obviously the bike ride was hard on a body that hadn't cycled in months, and the previous week of hard living, combined with lack of sleep all took it's toll. Tuesday morning I was taking out the trash, and while avoiding toys in the corridor I felt my back go. I do this every so often, so I know how to handle it, but it's never nice. I was pretty much over it in about 4 days, which is a fast recovery, so I was lucky. I need to keep the swimming up to avoid more of this, so I was back in the pool again this morning (I hadn't swum in 2 weeks).

Getting Laughed At

The last big thing to mention is something I've been threatening to do for years, but always had some reason or another to put it off.

Some years ago I decided that I'd like to try taking all my hair off. Anne was never keen on the idea, but also understood that it was something I'd really like to do. I first got it into my head that I wanted to try it out in the early 90's, so it's been on my mind for about 15 years. Back then it was a big deal, but these days you can't walk a block down the street without seeing someone who has no hair at all. It's very popular for people with a receding hairline, but more and more you see people with a full head of "stubble" sporting this particular hairstyle (or lack-of-hair style). I've never had much of an opportunity, as I usually had a visa photo, job interview or something coming up. Either that, or the weather was just too cold, and there's no way you'd want to be without a layer of protection in a Chicago winter!

Anyway, with the warm weather finally arriving, the conference over, and not being due into the office (in New York State) until August, I thought it would be a good chance to finally do it. I won't say that Anne reluctantly agreed. It was more that she didn't disagree. The person it bothered the most was Luc.

I made sure Luc came along with me when I got my hair cut, and he told me on the way that he'd rather I didn't. Once it was done he said that I wasn't his Daddy for the moment, but that he still loved me, and was looking forward to having it grow back out so I could be his Daddy again. But the thing that made him seem to finally get over it was when his brother saw me. Nic just looked at me, and killed himself laughing. "Daddy, hair GONE!" He thought it was a joke all day. This attitude was infectious, and before long he had Luc laughing at me as well. Even Anne seemed to get a kick out of it.

Going on my usual rate of growth, I'll be back to a "short" hair cut in about 2 weeks. This is a one off thing, so Anne is keen to get a photo while she still can. She is still yet to take it, but you may see it on her blog soon. Meanwhile, I'm also taking advantage of the new exposure of my scalp to have a dermatologist check it out. Tith short haircuts over the years I've been burnt there a few times, and coming from Queensland I have to be checked out pretty regularly. They do check your scalp, but I've never been confident that they've definitely seen it all. So with an appointment coming up, this was yet another reason to finally give it a go.

Frankly, it feels comfortable, but it looks weird, so I'm more than happy to let it come back. At least I won't be curious about it anymore. :-)

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