Technically my sabbatical ended during the summer, but yesterday it really ended when I gave two 75-minute lectures back to back. On a normal Tuesday, this would be followed by a 75-minute embedded systems lab but the students and I get a free pass for a week or two while the lab admins get all of their software straightened out. This teaching load would be a cake walk for a high school teacher, but it’s tough work for an R1 professor. Of course, given that I had 482 consecutive days away from teaching, I’m in even less of a position to complain…
Overall I’m happy to be back. During my sabbatical I avoided my office fairly rigorously, but now I’m enjoying talking to my colleagues face to face again. Since I atypically failed to move out of town for my sabbatical (Sarah had to teach last year, and our sabbaticals are perfectly out of phase) the question was: what would I do? A number of people suggested that I write a book, but I’m really happy that I did not. First, this would have been a most unwelcome task hanging over my head all year. Second, Phil Koopman wrote my book. Well, not really, but his new book Better Embedded Systems Software (I’ll review it here soon) has a very similar focus to what I’d have written.
The idea that I brought to my in-town sabbatical was that it gave me license to skip out of everything I didn’t feel like doing (faculty meetings, reading groups, etc.) while still participating in any events (distinguished lectures, hiring dinners, etc.) that seemed either appealing or else truly important. This worked out pretty well, although I think my time management skills (never my strong point) atrophied over the past year. We’ll see if I can get them back.
During my sabbatical I got a lot of good research done and a lot of good thinking done. I read some technical books that had been on the back burner for too long. I spent more time with my kids than I had previously, and managed to be outdoors and totally out of contact with the world for two weeks last summer and then a week this summer. All these things were good. On the less satisfactory side, I didn’t manage to become a proficient user of a semi-automated theorem prover, as I had hoped, I didn’t explore some new research directions that I had wanted to, and I was often disappointingly connected to my regular job. Sarah and I will have to figure out how to sync up our sabbaticals so we can leave town next time.