December 2012

Year 2012

To be honest, the past year seems a bit flat or grey. It surely hasn’t been a bad year, and when I come to think of it surprisingly many big adventures, including exotic travel and exciting courses, have actually filled the year. Yet I don’t want it as a template for the ones to follow either.

It has also been great to be closer to and have more visits from my family than in recent years (although still a few hours away by car). I’ve also had a good job surrounded by nice colleagues.

The problem, I suspect, is that something has been missing in the everyday life. A mismatch between the surrounding city and me. And a stand still in personal development. This has made for a year of far too many pointless days.

Lesson learned perhaps, that the occasional escapes providing spikes of happiness cannot form a meaningful year unless the days in-between are also good? That unhappy weekdays cannot be compensated for by the occasional adventures, but in fact puts them in the shadows?

Supposedly it has something to do with Paris and wanting something else from life. It also begs the question of whether or not I can lead a happy life without the big adventures? But let’s return to that in a later post when finishing the PhD has left more air for reflection.

Instead, let’s have a summary of the adventures that after all made the year stand out in some ways.

First of all, the year provided several regular appointments to sweeten the everyday, including obtaining a motorcycle license and taking a photography course in darkroom film and print development. As I haven’t bought a motorcycle yet the license so far only represents good memories, but often during autumn have I found happiness in getting into film photography and going to the darkroom.

My bimonthly guitar lessons have been oases of life that each time without exception made me forget whatever troubled me and brought me back to the present. With my teacher we have covered among others songs of Iggy Pop, The Clash, The Thermals, and Surfer Blood. The idea of writing my own songs, or even playing live, is still far away; but the improvements are noticeable and things are coming more easily now.

The year also saw going to the fitness centre replaced by going to the squash centre. I decided back in Paris that I must have some kind of sport in my life (called this a value or axiom), but the former simply became too much of a duty; squash on the other hand is still fresh and motivating.

Moving on to the bigger singular adventures, work took me to Boston, Houston, and New York City in the US; Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, and The Dead Sea in Israel; and Bonaire in the Caribbean. Curiously enough, they all crammed together in the first few months of the year, in one case giving only a few days of rest in-between.

The two weeks at Boston University gave several new inputs academically and I greatly enjoyed the teaching and hospitality of my host. My girlfriend joined me for one of the weeks and together we also saw a fair bit of the city. I think it’s a city that gives a better impression during summer yet we still enjoyed both its atmosphere and its exhibitions. And although it was smaller than I had expected, its skyscrapers and architecture (as always in the US) installed a shock and fascination in my european eyes.

Next up was Israel for the one week winter school on lattice-based crypto held just outside Tel-Aviv. During the week we got to see parts of Tel-Aviv and for the weekend we rented a car to go to Jerusalem and The Dead Sea. My interest in Israel was definitely sparkled by this trip and it’s been put on my list of places to come back to.

Straight after Israel I headed for a week-long conference on Bonaire. My girlfriend joined me again and during the scheduled eight hours overlay in Houston (clever clever) we had a look at the city and found what looked like a proper Texan BBQ restaurant. On Boniare I managed to resist the temptation of skipping out on the conference to go diving (unlike many of my colleagues) and instead went with my girlfriend evenings and after the conference was over — great place for diving, and first time night diving. On the way back we again had a scheduled five hours overlay in New York City (clever clever, although we almost missed the plane) to go for a quick burger and a walk in Central Park.

Continuing in travel, we spent a few weekends in spring following Marguerituren around Denmark (onetwo, three, four, and five). I’m glad we saw the country from this romantic angle, and later during our summer trip to Sweden we did not hesitate to spend the extra time and petrol taking the Swedish equivalent when the opportunity presented itself. An excellent trip by the way, that included tenting (one and two), Stockholm, and a sailing course north of Göteborg. To finish off our nordic summer we also spent a weekend in beautiful Norway visiting old friends.

I’ve also attended a lot of great concerts during the year. The Thermals played in Paris during spring. The Northside Festival featured both Noah and the WhaleThe Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and Kashmir. We finally managed to catch The Buzzcocks, and could throw in Rancid and Cock Sparrer at the same time. Certainly also worth mentioning is Daniel Norgren whom we first caught a bit unexpected at a blues concert at Tobakken in Esbjerg but ended up also booking tickets for at Atlas in Aarhus.

Naturally I’ve also spent some time in France, of which a long walk I in the streets of beautiful Paris with a camera in my hand stands out most memorable — fortunately this is still a guarantee of happiness.

And last, but not least, a weekend in London cemented the belief that big cities are the next step.

Weekend in London (with Buzzcocks + Cock Sparrer + Rancid)

A few weeks back we had arranged a weekend trip to London just to get away from Aarhus a bit. And planning ahead I had found a weekend with the maximal payoff in terms of concerts! Beyond that thought we hadn’t really planned that much, and mostly wanted to “go have a weekend in London” as if we were living there.

Friday

We arrived in the city at about noon and went for lunch at a pub across the street from the hotel. It went a bit outside my tradition of starting each countries with its “national” dish (fish ‘n’ chips in England, currywurst in Germany, baguette in France, and hotdog in Denmark) but pub food is a close second in the UK. And I was actually pleasantly reminded of the surprisingly decent food you can get cheaply at the pubs: it hasn’t changed or been influenced much since my time in Edinburgh, and it came with a pint.

Afterwards we went for Death: A Self-portrait at the Wellcome Collection, but in all honesty the venue was more exciting than the exhibition. Also visited a few years back, and with its free entry, nice cafe, and good museum shop it’s a nice place to hang out. This time I realised that there’s also a second floor but that’ll be for next time to explore.

We had a tea and a crumble at the cafe, and picked up some fish ‘n’ chips on the way back to the hotel. Having not looked exactly where the Buzzcocks concert was going to take place, we were surprised to discover that it was in fact a good deal outside the city and hence had to take not just the metro but also the regional train. When we finally arrived, The Mick Jagger Centre looked more like a primary school than the great venue where we were at last to see the Buzzcocks. They played a great concert though, the guitarist seemingly the one with most punk left in him, and the drummer looking like it was about time to retire. However, we had to cut it short by the last to tracks in order to reach the train station in time: unfortunately these were Ever Fallen In Love and, I believe, What Do I Get? That obviously was a bit of a let down, but given how far we were into the country side it seemed silly to risk the last safe ride back.

Saturday

Headed for Camden Market and got an English breakfast at a pub first thing there. The markets have gotten bigger since I was there in 2008, despite the story that parts of it caught fire. It really is an impressive market, not matched by any in Paris for instance. Had a curry for lunch, and a bit arbitrarily picked up Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates.

We then headed to Tate Modern for their William Klein exhibition. On the way we ran into some kind of Father Christmas event consisting of several hundred people dressed up for the holidays and just basically hanging out. We later saw that they had marched through London, at some point also occupying Trafalgar Square.

Great exhibition by the way, and very easily to see that he’s one of the good ones. Particularly liked how good he is at filling the frame and make the photo stuck you in (later wanted to try the same at Brick Lane, but my attempt earlier in Boston was perhaps more successful).

For the evening we decided to get last minute tickets for a play, and ended up with The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre — it was what looked best on the list at the box office, but turned out to be a surprisingly good show! Very good adaptation from the movie with clever use of meta language; highly recommended. The underground theatre itself was very cute, and with an elderly guy in front of us with a very contagious laughter it couldn’t have been must better. We left wishing we could go more often, even if it’s three times or more the price of going to the cinema (the actors seem to perform a more honest job anyway).

Sunday

Starting again with a market, we went to Brick Lane for a late breakfast/lunch. In no rush, we walked up and down the market, bought a few items, and got hungry again looking at all of the different options. Has it become hipster? Yes, but it is a nice place.

Afterwards we just kind of strolled around town a bit until dinner (a lovely noodle place around Leicester Square I think) in preparation for the Cock Sparrer and Rancid concert at The Forum later.

The concerts were great. A bit loud at 110 dB compared to the usual 100 dB, but energetic atmosphere and impressive venue (an old theatre I suspect). My girlfriend remembered listening to Cock Sparrer on cassette tapes in her teenage years, and for me they were a welcomed discovery — am now looking forward to Shock Troops arriving in the mail. Having instead listening a lot to Rancid I was very happy to finally see them alive and they didn’t disappoint. Should have prepared a bit better for the sing-along though.

Finally, we flew with Ryanair but talked about not doing that again. Why their initial price might be lower than the other airlines, their price curve is also a lot steep: as soon as you want a bit more (such as checked-in luggage) the price goes up quickly and you end up paying the same (if not more) than with a decent airline — yet the airports used by Ryanair are still far away, the departures are early in the morning, and they are not that good at managing overcrowding.

Oh by the way, Songkick turned out to be a splendid tool for researching which weekend to go! It gave me a combined list of all planned performances by the artists of my choosing six months ahead — and brilliant integration with Spotify.

Introduction to Cryptography (in Danish)

I’m not really posting a lot on university-related matters, for two reasons I suppose. Firstly, this blog is mostly a recreational thing right now satisfying a need to do something else than work. Secondly, my PhD is rather technical; I like this, but by it’s very nature also very specialised.

One thing kind of slips through these two filter though, and that is teaching “outsiders” about the basics of crypto. Doing this gets me even more excited today than when I first came across crypto in secondary school about 10-11 years ago in 2002 (through Applied Cryptography and Security Engineering).

During the years I’ve somehow ended up getting involving in three graduation projects of secondary school students writing about crypto. Funnily enough one book has really put itself on this marked — Kryptologi – fra viden til videnskab — with the result that I have yet to hear about someone not writing about either of the topics covered in this book: classic crypto and the RSA crypto system (I wrote about the latter myself).

Last spring I furthermore had the pleasure of actually giving an introduction to cryptography to a class of the brightest students from secondary schools across the country, Sciencetalenter to be precise. And for one and a half day! Work rarely felt less like working.

First they visited our department at Aarhus University where we worked on the RSA system, and a month later I visited the Sorø Science Centre where we covered modern crypto such as secure multi-party computation and classic crypto such as the Vigenère cipher and the Enigma. This latter is a great place by the way, with a very cool cloud chamber!

The notes we used have been iterated over with each PhD student who have had this class during the years and is available below in my rendition. For good or bad these are in Danish.

Masterclass note om RSA Kryptosystemet.

Masterclass note om Sikre Beregninger.

Masterclass note om Historisk Kryptografi.