I am going to Switzerland for a day next week, to a dissertation defense. I have never been to one before, as UC Berkeley, where I got my Ph.D., does not conduct them. So I am curious to see how it works. I've been told where and when to come, and I've read and given comments on the dissertation, but I don't have any clear conception what we will actually do. I imagine the defender will present her results, we will ask questions, she will answer, then we will go off in another room for a period of time sufficient to make her nervous before coming back to warmly congratulate her. Since we have all already read the dissertation and any problems we pointed out have been fixed, I have trouble thinking of the event as other than ceremonial. Her university is paying for my travel and hotel, so if they want to fly me in for a solemn ceremony, I will not complain over much.