May 17 2009

“Prochain arrêt: Avenir” (next stop: Future)

by at 2:35 pm

For months, Jackie’s been reminding me that there’s a very important blog post that I need to write. It all started in February, during our trip to Italy with Michelle, when I found out through e-mail on a serendipitously-open WiFi link in Rome that the computer science PhD program at EPFL (the school I’ve been working at) accepted me with a very generous fellowship to support me for my first year. I’d be unattached to a lab so I can explore what areas of comp sci interest me (something I didn’t do too much of as an undergrad), which is pretty exciting. On the other hand, 4+ more years in Switzerland? Jackie only has one more year left for her program. Uh oh. Decisions, decisions…

Celebrating in Rome

Then in the month of March as I thought about the decision and waited for the visit day at EPFL (it took place 3 flights up from my office with some people I knew, but still, I got to meet the other students and hear the pitch). The visit came at the end of March, I got a sweet t-shirt from EPFL, met the incredibly diverse group of accepted students (Serbian, Greek, Turkish, American, Iranian, French, Czech, Chinese, and more…) and then it was up to me to make the decision. But I didn’t feel like blogging the visit and my indecision.

The first week in April was really crazy and then we were off to Israel for Passover. I e-mailed my decision to EPFL at almost the last minute using another serendipitously-open WiFi connection in Israel and then we flew off to Turkey. By the time I got back to Switzerland I was up to my ears in finishing up beta launch of the website/research project I’ve been working on practically all year:


I was spending really long hours working out all the bugs, going back and forth with our designers and then finally, on May 7th, we beta launched! Here’s a picture from a conference at the University of Lausanne called Forum des 100 (forum of the one hundred—important, influential people in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, that is), where they announced our launch:

Please visit, play with, find bugs on and share The basic idea of the website is that it’s a tool for exploring indicators of world cities. You can use it to build your own ranking of cities and find out how cities compare to each other.

I wanted to put up a post about it at the time, but then I got really sick. Nothing too out of the ordinary (and I hope, not at all porcine); probably just the result of me staying up too late. It wouldn’t go away even though I just slept or watched movies most of the day, every day—for the last week! Meanwhile, Jackie’s in the midst of finals now, so she didn’t exactly have time to play nurse this past week. But I think, maybe, fingers crossed, I’m finally almost better. Which is great because I just lost a week of work on what was going to be a short amount of time in any case to create a presentation. I get to present our research at a conference in Paris in June. A month or two ago they asked us to send them a portrait of ourselves. Here’s what I sent:

Portrait of Seth

Little did I know they’d be turning it into this:

Line-drawn portrait of Seth

Hah. But where’s my beard? And why’s my chin squiggly?

Some announcements you don’t want to miss:

  • July: we’re spending it in Paris. Jackie’s parents are visiting while I’m doing Klezmer Paris 2009 for a week (and David Krakauer is apparently coming for some workshops!) Then for the rest of the month we’re both taking Yiddish classes at the Summer University in Yiddish Language and Literature. Come visit us!
  • August: we’re spending it in the USA. This poses a problem as there are many of you family and friends to see and the U.S. is much bigger than Switzerland. Chicago and New Jersey (NYC of course) are certainly on the agenda. Seattle? Boston? D.C.? Philly? Make your case in the comments, let us know when you’ll be where, and help us figure out how this is possible.
  • September: class starts September 14th for me and Jackie so we’re hoping to travel in Europe the first two weeks of September. Have you traveled anywhere lovely this time of year in Europe? Seems like a great season for decent weather and fewer tourists.

Oh yes, I did in fact take the offer from EPFL. Wheee!

David Krakauer at a concert we went to in Nyon last March

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9 responses so far

9 Responses to ““Prochain arrêt: Avenir” (next stop: Future)”

  1. Jeremyon 17 May 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Congratulations on the decision! I may take you up on the invitation to visit in Paris.

  2. Lizon 17 May 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Congrats! The Swiss must’ve taken a liking to you. 🙂

    Hope to see you folks when you’re NYC-side!


  3. Joelon 18 May 2009 at 2:42 pm

    No mention of your plan to meet us in Munich in September?!? Maybe that’s because I haven’t told you about it yet. We should talk about it soon so we can buy plane tickets. And we could easily substitute say Copenhagen for Munich.

  4. Lauraon 18 May 2009 at 9:45 pm

    So I dropped by Cambridge this weekend and saw RecKlez and missed you guys.

    Congrats Seth!! Clearly you’re super awesome. I better get to see you both in NYC! 😀

    I am super excited for you guys doing the Yiddish summer program. I really hope you have Niborski– he is quite awesome.* And will say ot ot ot! all the time. Tell him I say hi 🙂 He probably won’t remember me. :p


  5. Judy Hon 19 May 2009 at 8:16 pm

    OMG, congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!! Does that mean 4 more years in Switzerland?? Wow!! So exciting! Also, you should definitely come to DC in August. That’s all. I will think about how to make my case. Ha!

  6. Alexon 21 May 2009 at 1:42 am

    Congrats. I really like the sketch. Let me know when you’ll be in Chicago, I’ll definitely come to see you.

  7. Sethon 24 May 2009 at 11:21 am

    Thank you everyone. Hope to see you all when we’re in the States (or in Europe! come!!)

  8. Utpalon 24 May 2009 at 11:57 pm

    CONGRATS!! I’m sad that I won’t see you more in the northeast during the next few years, but I’m really excited for you both!

    Also, that paltry sketch cannot do justice to the awesome that is YOU.

  9. JWerthon 26 May 2009 at 8:46 am

    Congratulations and mazal tov, Seth! That’s crazy exciting news! Is there a long-distance component here (can you work remotely on a PhD? That seems like it should be possible) or will you be in Switzerland for the next bunch of years?

    Also, I definitely vote for DC in August. Especially if you’ll be spending lots of time abroad over the next few years, you’ll need a good dose of the national’s capital to keep your connection to the motherland strong. 🙂

    Hope you’re feeling better!

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