Since I’ve switched to Linux several months ago, I’ve had to deal quite a lot with PDF documents. PDF’s are an essential part of the job as a PhD student, and one needs to manipulate them quite a lot – merging, splitting, turning and resizing. In a previous post I’ve mentioned some of the applications I am using. However, since then new needs have emerged and its time for the nerd update. Here’s the review of the tools I’m using in my daily PDF operations:
- Viewing – I have all but abandoned PDF-Xchange viewer. Good old Adobe reader is just much more compatible with the printers at the university, even though the connection still has some bugs I’m too lazy to work out.
- Editing – I usually do not use editing in PDF. But when I do, I find Okular the most straightforward tool for this.
- Splitting and merging – I used PdfMod and PDF-Shuffler to split and merge PDF documents, but I’ve had some difficulties figuring out how to force the order of the pages when merging and splitting. PDFSAM allows the user to choose exactly the order of documents when merging and the interface is much more to my liking. However, PdfMod is still the one I use to rotate pages.
- Bookmarking – when merging PDF’s, the bookmarks do not always merge in a consistent way. JPdfBookmarks allows to edit or create bookmarks, including dumps and uploads of complete sets of bookmarks. Very useful!
- Online tools – of course all these operations on PDF documents, including resizing, merging, converting and compressing can be done online. The downside is the limit on the document size you can upload/generate, but in everyday use its usually not a problem at all.
Following courses is an integral part of a PhD. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been following an Advanced Course in Environmental Biotechnology. Delft is a European powerhouse in microbial bioengineering ever since the days of local hero Anthony van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope and actually started the whole science of microbiology. With exciting lectures on hot topics such as stoichiometric of microbial growth and gas-liquid inter-phase transport, the course lived up to the standards required from the birth place of the trade. It might sound awkward to some people, but as I’ve mentioned so often before – I am a nerd and I actually enjoy this stuff. Although I’m absolutely no biologist so as far as I’m concerned they could have gone lighter on the topic of Microbial S-, N-, and P-conversions.
Unlike the courses I am used to in the engineering world, this one was inhabited mostly by (micro)biologists and biochemists. In plain language – girls. Surprisingly, this does not appear to make much of a difference. As usual with this type of occasions, the course also included the usual portion of socialising – meaning drinks and dinner, and whether its guys or girls – the conversation is mostly revolving around sex. The only difference might be the girls needing a bit less beer to get started, a simple matter of lower body mass. Hey – I am implementing the biology lessons learned already!
The absolute highlight of the course was undoubtedly the visit to the practical part of environmental biotechnology, a waste water treatment plant in Rotterdam. This is where the shit goes down, literally. Well, actually the shit goes up. The Dokhaven plant treats the sewage of some half a million people. In a proper Dutch way, it is built in a dried dock under the sea level. So when the sewage water is cleaned, it has to be pumped several meters upwards to be discharged into the Maas river. All in all I’ve had a very useful course, and a unique opportunity to see with my own eyes where it all goes to once I flush. Engineering rules!
Today I walked into the university cafeteria to get a snack but got a big surprise instead. I was stunned to say the least. The lady working there was cooking. Now I know that’s what you expect to see in a cafeteria. But in Holland? The Dutch cafeteria cooking is usually limited to warming up a sausage or opening a bucket of factory soup (and of course not to forget deep frying things normal people give to the cat). But this lady was actually cooking, and she was using real vegetables, too! Even more surprisingly, they looked fresh.
After I got over my initial shock, I immediately changed plans – this turn of events deserved encouragement and appreciation. Even if it would mean putting my stomach at the mercy of a Dutch cafeteria, something any person who owns taste buds normally avoids doing at all cost. Fortunately, my daring move was rewarded by the second surprise of the day – the food actually had taste! As I dug in, I discovered to my further amazement that the wokked veggies were still crispy, the tofu (yes, there was even the choice of chicken/fish/veg variants) was not disintegrating upon gaze and that the gravy was of the right texture and not too fat. Admittedly, the rice could have been fresher, but who cares? You could actually distinguish the ingredients by colour and taste! Now I know many readers would think I’m exaggerating in my excitement, but those who’ve had the chance to “appreciate” a Dutch office cafeteria will surely understand. Hopefully this is more that just an incident, and lets all pray that other Dutch cafeterias will follow suit in not just opening packages but actually making food. Amen.