Tag Archives: Bonaire

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.

Financial Crypto on Bonaire + Stop in Houston

Sometimes being a Ph.D. student is illegally good: although this might end my travels for the year, I have absolutely no reason to complain due to the last two months’ adventures: Boston, Israel, and now the Caribbean with a short stop in Houston and New York City!

Being the unlucky one chosen to present our secure division paper at this year’s Financial Crypto, I had to go for a week of sun and diving on Bonaire. So bad was it in fact, that my girlfriend offered to come with me to help wherever she could; and thankfully she took care of most of the diving, leaving me responsible for only the conference during the first few days, and two days of diving in the end.

On the way there we had booked our tickets with enough delay in-between the connection flight to go have a look at Houston. I don’t know if we were just unlucky, but when the bus dropped us off down-town it most of all looked like a (modern) ghost town: huge skyscrapers and broad roads alright, but no people nor cars in sight. Since it roughly stayed like this for three hours while we walked around, we had almost given up and decided to just head back to the airport early for dinner when we stumbled upon the only few blocks with a bit of life. Thankfully we gave it a second chance, and found not only that House of Blues is a great place for a pulled pork BBQ burger, but is also an apparently famous venue in town.

Finally arriving on Bonaire after 18 hours in transit we went straight to the hotel, and didn’t see until morning how splendid the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort really was: 30 degrees, morning fruit buffet on the beach, and a calm blue Caribbean waiting 10 meters away. Unfortunately I had to attend the conference immediately after while my girlfriend went to get started on her diving certificate — and even worse, the conference room was located on-top of the diving shop so I could sit there, inside, and look down on them having fun in the water outside. Here a padding on the shoulder is perhaps in order, as I noticed that several of the other conference attendants where not so serious, and where in fact diving along with her.

All said, it was a good conference though, with interesting topics both from academia and industry. I got to talk to some industry people, and most strikingly of all I learned that they were actually quite excited about the research being done in academia (in this case secure multi-party computations) yet would not dare to touch it before it had somehow received an approval stamp from e.g. the US government; in other words, they needed someone to point fingers at if something went wrong — understandable of course, but hadn’t thought about before that.

It was also fun to see and meet Ross Anderson for the first time, as his book Security Engineering was a heavy influence on me when first getting interested in security and crypto. The other book was Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier by the way, and both come highly recommended for anyone getting into the area and wanting a broader overview.

When the conference was over we had taken two days extra, which meant that we could go diving together and had time to rent a jeep and do a round-trip of the island. Amazing diving spot with corals literally appearing 15m off the shore by the hotel, and stunning nature reserve with flamingoes, pelicans, and goats!

Finally, one the way back to Denmark we had again planned for a few hours lay-over, this time in New York City. There were only a few hours to spare this time, but we did manage to grab a burger and a stroll in Central Park, not least thanks to a ride into town from some of our earlier dive buddies. After almost being late back at the airport we sat down in our seats and denied for a few hours that we were heading back to cold and dark Aarhus.