Hey’up. Well, here I am


Well, here I am at Swansea University, sitting in the Multimedia & Graphics research lab surrounded by PhD students. Yes, that’s right, I don’t have my own box to work on yet. I will in due course (and it looks hopeful, though not certain, that I’ll be able to install gentoo on it – this is generally a SuSE shop), but since I don’t even have a room yet, a computer’s not at the top of the agenda. I’m currently sharing with Chris Whyley, who’s very nice, but whilst I have a bookshelf I don’t have a desk. Not a big problem, all I’m doing so far is reading and occasionally scribbling down notes.

All in all, it’s “so far, so good”, I’d say. I spent most of yesterday meeting people, getting an account set up, getting my ID card (and library card – alas, I can only take out 30 books at a time), and generally getting acclimatised. People are all (so far) very nice and welcoming. The most exciting part of yesterday was my attendance at a tutorial given by Professor Tucker, the head of the department. This is a group which I’ll be taking over next year, so they were as curious to see me as I was to see them. One of the first things they’ll be doing with me is a short presentation each on some coursework they’ve been doing this term, and the Professor took great pleasure in reading out the titles of their works and exclaiming with mock surprise that that was something I knew all about, to the terror of the author in question. In actual fact, a lot of it was stuff I know all about. I’ll be particularly interested to see the presentation on making music with computers. :-)

Apart from that, I’ve been reading. My main task at the moment is to ready myself for the Operating Systems course I’ll be teaching as of the end of January (lectures at 11:00 on a Thursday, and 14:00 on a Friday, by the looks of things). I’m doing this by going through Professor Chen‘s notes on the subject and expanding on the gruesome details in some of the seven textbooks I now have with the words “Operating Systems” in their titles. I’m currently concentrating on concurrency and mutual exclusion – stuff I already knew enough about to work with when I needed to (possibly with a bit of reading), but which I now need to know inside-out so I can teach it without looking like a blithering idiot (as if). So today it’s been semaphores, Lamport’s Bakery algorithm, Dining Philosopher, etc. Fun stuff. No, really.

It’s all fairly relaxed and flexible – certainly a far cry from Frontier. Suits me. And it’s so nice to have access to a library again. Apart from the directly work-related stuff, I’ve picked up a book on Haskell, volume one of Knuth (only a one-week loan, alas, even for one in such an exalted state as I, but extended over Christmas), and nice little number called Tracking the Automatic Ant. I was reading that last one over lunch, trying to get my head round a proof that the “obvious” way of tying your shoelaces is (in terms of lace length) the unique optimal way of doing it. I’m OK until point 22 of the proof, but then something happens which I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ll keep at it. It’s just so nice to be thinking again.

I’m meeting the Frontier techies for a curry tonight which I’m really looking forward to (although maybe I shouldn’t have had chicken jalfrezi for lunch), and hopefully there’ll also be misc other Frontier people around, seeing Hannah off the premises in time honoured fashion (yes, another person who left Frontier this week, except that in a master stroke of employee morale management, the powers-that-be decided not to tell anyone that she was leaving until two days before it happened – but of course!). With a bit of luck I’ll throw her around the place as I’ve been known to do in the past.

Executive summary: I’m happy.