There are two problems with taking a trans-Atlantic flight at 5:30 that has a stop-over in the UK. 1) the flight is too short to get any real sleep. 2) Trying to force your body to sleep, at a time you don't normally sleep and in an uncomfortable seat, isn't a recipe for success. It also doesn't help if they never turn off the cabin lights during the flight and keep coming by to offer you crappy food or the opportunity to buy something from their duty free shopping magazine. So, the result was a three flight day in which I arrived at 9:30 local time without having slept. I got a quick shower and changed in enough time to meet the examining committee for lunch (complete with wine, which I needed like I needed a kick in the gut) and head to the defense. Surprisingly, I did pretty well. There was about 5 minutes at the end of the hour talk in a non-English language I can somewhat understand where I drifted a bit and I might have actually done one of those embarrassing head nod things where you jerk yourself out of sleep and look around like someone just unexpectedly slapped you. But after that I held strong though my questions (obviously) and the 5 other questioners, only one other of which held their exchange in English. In the end it took about 3.5 hours and I only had one moment of weakness.
The candidate did well and only had a few issues with the questions, mostly related to nerves and the multiple languages. The defense was followed by a reception and then I went back to my host's house for dinner with a few of the committee members and some faculty from the local institution. It was a fun dinner, where at any given time one could hear 5 different languages being spoken. Unfortunately, by that time I was pretty spent and had a hard time following conversations in the local language, but it didn't really matter. The guests stayed until 10:00 and then I got some sleep without much concern for jet lag affecting whether I would fall asleep or not. In fact, managing to stay awake for the entire time seems to have allowed me to avoid jet lag almost entirely and reset my clock to the local time.
Today I'll be giving a talk in a pretty famous place, which should be fun. I have no idea how many people will show but this talk is a little more "data light" than I was hoping, so a smaller audience would almost be preferred. In any case, it'll be good to let people know the direction we are heading.