Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Second Home

My first trip to Amsterdam came during a whirlwind European tour in the summer of 1984 during my undergrad years. My second trip was for the 1994 Complexity Conference (then called Structures). I spent my sabbatical year in Amsterdam 1996-97 and have come back about once a year since.

For the past several years I have stayed at the same hotel (NH Tropen), rented a bike from the same shop with the same sarcastic woman behind the counter who now recognizes me when I arrive. I know where to jog, where to get groceries and gifts for the kids. I don't need instructions to get to the hotel from the airport or a map to get from the hotel to CWI or the CS department at the University of Amsterdam. Maybe there are better hotels or bike shops but familiarity makes life easier.

Some of the faces have been around since my sabbatical and well before: Paul Vitanyi, Leen Torenvliet, Peter van Emde Boas and Harry Buhrman, the last of which I have written more papers with than any other co-author. Some faces I see for the first time. Today I am going to my fourth Ph.D. defense in Amsterdam as a member of the opposition.

I don't visit the tourist sites, the museums, the "coffeehouses", the red light district. I come to see old colleagues, make new ones, hopefully prove some theorems and enjoy my second academic home.

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