Future events in the life of a graduate student

Future events, since the events of the past few weeks have been all about the future. I now know I’ll defend my dissertation in the middle of August; I know the opponent, and he’s a person I’ve made laugh a few times when we last met, so all should be good.

If all is not good, I’ll arrange for someone in the audience to make a diversion during which I’ll hide behind the projector screen. Then I’ll wait for everybody to leave, and try defending again next year. (What? That’s not how they do this at your university? What kind of silly people are you?)

Also — since the defence is only in August — a foul plan was hatched to get me something to do in the meanwhile; and so after this week and next week I’ll climb into a plane and spend a week in China, in a mathematics conference.

As a result, I haven’t had time to worry about the thesis for a few weeks.

I’ve been so busy doing practical arrangements I haven’t even had time to worry about the trip itself. Like the probability of not having a common language with anybody, like the red-faced policeman waving a headless chicken at me two weeks from now. (Sorry; I have a very bizarre and pessimistic imagination.) I share my office with a Chinese graduate student; when I told him about my trip he shrugged and said he speaks a different Chinese language than the people I’m going to meet; so, nobody can help you, goodbye.

Getting to China means three different flights, the middle one of which is nine or ten hours. Fortunately I’m very zen about flying: I watch a lot of Air Crash Investigations and Seconds from Disaster, so if a familiar scenario occurs and the plane corkscrews downwards, breathing masks dropping out of the ceiling, I’ll shout “This is just like what I saw on tee vee!” — and so distract everyone from their impending doom, which is the best thing to do in those circumstances.

Or, if someone screams the worn words “We’re all going to die!”, I suppose I’ll have to turn, point and yell: “Actually, you’re going to stay alive!” — life is much too precious to be ended accepting stupid platitudes.

Seriously, I’ve decided a long time ago that if I die in a horrible accident, I’m going to do that bellowing a joke much more horrible than the accident could ever be. My aim is that at least one of the people present should think, “God, I’d just die if I said that” — which, in my case, would be the case.

I’ve bought power adapters already, and started thinking about washing my hands constantly, am going to exchange money just as soon as I suss out what to; am currently fighting a little voice that says this is the perfect excuse to buy a tiny laptop or a second tablet. I’m preparing for all kinds of diseases — do you know they actually give you your cholera inoculation in a bottle and say, “Hey, drink that on your own”? So now I have a bottle of cholera in my fridge and a glass I don’t know I can ever drink from again — and am waiting for a visa, insert a few paragraphs of generic praise for the glorious People’s Republic of China here in case they find this, and am cursing how going to a mathematics conference, which should be all about ivory-tower symbol-crunching, is such a damned practical business.

Why can’t I just be locked into an white bubble and carted from university to university without all this… practical stuff?

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