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Heading for Denmark

Thu 28 Aug 2014 by mskala Tags used: , , ,

I don't think I have officially mentioned this here on my Web log yet, but here it is: I am moving to Denmark to work as a postdoc in the Scaleable Similarity Search project at the IT University of Copenhagen. This is a one-year temporary position with a possible renewal for a second year.

As I type this, I am in my apartment in Winnipeg, sitting on top of my modular synthesizer in its Pelican case because that is the closest thing to furniture that hasn't been taken away by either the movers or Goodwill.

I'm under extreme stress right now. The main task facing me is to finish cleaning the apartment before I have to hand in the keys on Saturday afternoon; and honestly, I am on schedule for that and there's no reason to think it'll be any problem. I have already done the hard parts (in particular, the stove) but I'll worry until it's finished. At the last apartment I left, the manager went through and flagged a whole lot of infelicities in the move-out condition report that didn't really exist and definitely weren't my fault, but then she didn't attempt to charge any of them against my damage deposit, so I'm not sure what was up with that. I'm also not sure what to expect this time around. Based on the condition when I moved in, I get the idea that my own standards are a whole lot higher than what these people expect. On the other hand, the form letter from the management company describing the cleaning they want me to do is extreme. We shall have to see.

By the way, on cleaning: this time rather than getting an aerosol oven spray can, partly for general environmental reasons and partly because I don't know how to safely dispose of half a can of that stuff, I instead got a bottle of oven spray with a hand-operated pump. And it worked really well, better than I remember the spray cans working. The bottle was exactly enough to clean the oven and its racks. I usually get two cleanings out of a spray can (containing roughly the same number of grams of presumably the same product) so maybe the difference is just that the hand pump applies it more thickly. Since I only needed one cleaning and any remaining product would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste, it worked out well for me.

Meanwhile I'm working through the rest of my to-do list. Today that included cancelling my renter's insurance. RBC Insurance wins the award for worst phone centre responsiveness of any of the places I've had to call recently. After going through several levels of phone menus, I was told that I could elect to have them call me when I reached the front of the queue, instead of having to wait on hold. Okay...

I was told to expect a call back in 17 to 26 minutes. After 36 minutes, I was called - by the robot. It made me go through a couple levels of confirmations and account number entries, and then put me on hold waiting for a representative. Only for a few more minutes, but the claim that I would be called back when someone was ready to speak to me clearly was not true. While waiting they played me several informative messages about the necessary documentation for applying for auto insurance - which wasn't what I wanted to do and I couldn't do anyway because RBC is not allowed to sell auto insurance in Manitoba.

Tomorrow I'm off to the University of Manitoba to turn in my key there and do any other last-minute things that may occur to me. Maybe print out a couple more copies of my flight itinerary, because the copy I already printed was hard to find when I wanted it recently. I also have to drop off my remaining confidential University documents for shredding, because I gave my shredder to Goodwill. Then it's cleaning, until that's finished. Saturday morning I'm planning to dispose of my telecommunications hardware: DSL modem to the phone company, and telephone and answering machine donated to charity. In the afternoon I turn in the keys to this apartment and leave this place for good. I'm going to spend my last night in Winnipeg in an hotel. I decided to do that to make sure I get a proper night's sleep, not in a sleeping bag on the floor but in a bed in a room I don't have to clean, and without the apartment check-out hanging over me, before my departure from Canada. The plane leaves Winnipeg mid-day on Sunday the 31st, and after connections in Montreal and Paris, I start work in Copenhagen on Monday the 1st. The mail from HR says I'm to start at 9am, but in fact I will not, since the plane isn't even scheduled to land until 9:05.

Last night I got back from a week in BC visiting my family. When I went to Vancouver in July for my work permit application, I had planned to also visit Nanaimo to see my family there; but that didn't work out for a number of reasons. I came back (from the July trip) to an answering machine message from the Danish embassy's outsourced service provider saying my biometric scan (THE ONLY REMAINING MAJOR REASON FOR MY TRIP) hadn't been done properly, so could I come in tomorrow to try again? After a flurry of phone calls and email messages the word was that I didn't actually have to fly back to Vancouver, they would process my application without the biometrics and I could have those done after my arrival in Denmark. I planned a second trip to BC for this month. And then my grandmother died. So I attended her memorial during this month's BC trip. The memorial was Tuesday, I spent Wednesday travelling, and then here I am in Winnipeg at the close of Thursday, in a frenzy of packing and cleaning and last-minute to-do items, preparing to leave the apartment on Saturday and the country on Sunday. It never lets up.

I'm probably going to make some changes in my life concurrent with my move. This is a good time for it and I have to do something if I'm going to have any real possibility of achieving what remains of my dreams. I've toyed with the idea of recording some thoughts as audio and posting them in what people call a "podcast." I'd most likely do that on my Soundcloud account, after upgrading its capacity. But I don't know if I will do it. Last time I tried (which was some years ago, and with audio files posted on my own Web site instead of using a service), I was disappointed by the response - it was just my usual Web site readers who listened to it, and not even all of those. What would make it worthwhile would be if the audience expanded and kept expanding, through people posting links to my broadcasts in their own spaces (such as on Facebook and Twitter). I don't know if that is really something I could expect. Even if I don't do spoken-word diaries, however, you might like looking at that Soundcloud link, because I've been posting and will continue to post bits and pieces of synthesizer music there. The synthesizer is going with me on the plane (not with my other possessions on the slow cargo ship) and I expect to use it a fair bit in my downtime on the Danish end.

I also want to revive some of my electronics work. I pretty much put that in boxes and forgot about it when I went to grad school because I didn't have time for it. But now there's some uncertainty about how long I'll be able to continue pursuing computer science as a profession. If I can't find a faculty appointment as my next job after ITU Copenhagen, then I don't think it's realistic to think I will ever be able to, and that will mean throwing away everything and starting over from zero yet again. Electronics might be a direction to consider in that case. I really enjoyed going through my components and finding things that I'd forgotten I owned but for which I can think of interesting uses.

A few weeks ago someone I had thought was my friend said something that was far out of bounds on a social networking Web site, so far out of bounds it was incredible to me that she could have said it. But she didn't retract or delete it. She didn't repeat it, but just continued posting all the other (very different, pretty much innocuous) things she usually posts. I don't believe her account was compromised or anything, and personality compromise leading her to do something out of character (such as getting really drunk) also strains credulity. This wasn't someone I thought of as a close friend, and probably not you if you care enough to be reading this, but I had thought she uniquely well understood certain things, and shared certain values of mine, that very few of my other friends do understand or share. And then she did this absolutely unacceptable thing, directly against everything I thought she stood for, and I realized that I didn't really know her at all. The person I thought I knew could not possibly ever say that. Just one little comment, probably not even seeming important to the person who wrote it... but exactly the most hurtful and hateful thing I couldn't have imagined her saying, to me. It really shook me up. I didn't know how I could react.

Maybe the thing I ought to have done was "call" her on it, but I didn't. I actually did almost nothing. I just said "Oh, that's a goddamned shame," and moved on. Maybe a serious honest discussion could have saved the friendship, but that would have required effort on both sides and given I'd misunderstood her values and who she is so completely already, I wasn't sure there was anything to save let alone that that effort could be there.

Anyway, it made me think pretty hard about what kind of people I want to have in my life. I'll be seeking out more people who I think can be part of the life I need, want, deserve, and have earned, and I'll be breaking off contact with some of those whose values create problems for me. I've been doing that for a long time already, of course. But if I have other reasons to break some of my connections to North America anyway, now's a good time to continue that process.

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