Rob has created a mini-blog for the Germany trip that goes into a bit more detail on some things. Take a look!
I meant to blog again before Christmas, but Christmas tends to make me busier (despite my best efforts to not let it affect me) so I didn't get around to it. Thus we have post-Christmas blogginess.
The weekend before the holidays I was in London to go with Kim to her Christmas work party. It was pretty good because I got to see and chat with some old friends from high school that I hadn't seen in a long time. We had supper at the Elephant and Castle (tasty enough) and then we went to Yuk Yuk's to see some live comedy. It was hilarious! I totally recommend it if you haven't done that before. There were 7 different comics performing that night and they were all quite funny. It was a great time.
Christmas was fairly standard this year, everything happened without issues and I had a good time. I won't go into the details too much as they are pretty repetitive: get up, stuff yourself with food all day, socialize with relatives, and fall asleep with a sore tummy. I got some nice gifts and I think people liked what I got them so all is well.
I'm holding a New Year's eve party at my apartment this year. I think it's going to be pretty good as a lot of people have responded saying they can come. If anyone reading this wants to come and didn't get invited please contact me and I'll give you the details. It's hard to catch everyone sometimes.
This is a long overdue post, I've just been so busy since getting back from Germany that I haven't had a chance to do it.
So Germany rocked!! I had a great time and the two full days we spent in the city were enough to do most of the things we wanted to. If I had been backpacking through Europe I probably wouldn't have spent much longer there, so I think it worked out quite well.
We flew from Toronto to New York (Newark-Liberty Airport) on Friday the 8th, arriving around 11:00am. The flight was pretty quick but the last 15 minutes were very turbulent and most people on the plane were feeling pretty sick. Everyone cheered when we landed mostly because the plane had finally stopped trying to make us vomit.
Rob and I quickly got off the plane and caught a commuter train that took us right into midtown Manhatten, a few blocks from Times Square. We walked up to Times Square and wandered around a bit taking pictures and acting like tourists. We found a really huge Toys 'R Us which had a bunch of cool Lego sculptures and other fun toys. After ogling the Nintendo Wii's for a bit we left and started trying to find some lunch. We eventually settled on a random cafe on some side street somewhere that had some really good pizza. Absolutely loaded with toppings. It was excellent and super cheap, so I think it was something that wasn't meant for tourists. Score!
After lunch we headed to the Empire State building to go up and enjoy the view. Unfortunately, the line was gigantic and we didn't have enough time to wait around for 1.5 hours if we wanted to catch our flight. We decided to get an express pass (more than double standard admission) which was totally the right thing to do. The pass let you skip all the lines. All you had to do was tell the staff you wanted one and they immediately escorted you to the front of the ticket buying line, then to the front of the elevator line, and after the ride up, to the front of the upper elevator line. On the way down you got to get on the elevator right away too. The building gives a great view of the city, but it was really cold that day, the wind was awful and we had to keep going in and out of the gift shop to keep warm. Pretty amusing.
Once we finished with the Empire State building we got some snacks from a Walgreens and then took the train back to the airport to catch the overnight flight to Germany. The flight was not bad but I had a hard time sleeping and the food they gave us was pretty terrible. Anyway, we arrived in Germany at 8:30am local time and I had managed to sleep maybe 2 hours after running around New York the previous day.
We collected our baggage in Germany and then caught a commuter train into Cologne. The train was really convenient because the station we got off at was right in front of our hostel. Unfortunately it was too early to get our rooms, so we dumped our baggage in the baggage room, brushed our teeth, and headed into the city.
Cologne is a really nice city, and the weekend we went it was full of tourists from around Germany enjoying the Christmas markets. We spent most of Saturday looking through the many markets and seeing the city. After a quick breakfast of croissants and cappuccinos we went to our first market and got some steaming mugs of gluhwein, a hot red wine based beverage. Quite strong but very warming. Maybe not the best choice for a morning beverage, but it came in a cool mug that I kept. We also got some some lard-fried potato pancakes (mmm...lard). The markets were just full of Christmas things and gifts for anyone. It was neat to see some of the German stuff that I have seen with through my dad's family but no where else in Canada. We also went to a gigantic music store called Saturn where Rob picked up some random europop. We did 4 markets that morning and then headed back to the hostel to claim our room and shower and take a break.
The hostel was really big, and clearly catered to large groups, so it wasn't the greatest for meeting random people (the common room was uninviting). But it was very clean and nice and cheap. We each paid about 23 euros per night, which included breakfast the next day. Our room had 3 bunk beds in it (so it slept 6 people) as well as a locker for each person and a bathroom with a (crappy European) shower. Everything was spotless and the beds were pretty comfy. Our roommates were nice (although different each night). They included people from Brazil, Japan, Spain, Germany and unidentified (some people we never met due to conflicting sleeping hours). I would definitely do the hostel thing again in the future. Hotels are so expensive and you're never there anyway.
After resting for a while, we went back out and hit up the Chocolate Museum. It was hilarious. It was a very serious look at the history, production and distribution of chocolate. It was way too serious to not laugh at so we had a great time. It also had a functioning chocolate factory that you could walk through and sample the end product. Tasty! The best part was the huge gift shop (all chocolate) where I picked up most of the presents I brought back for people.
After the museum we wandered around looking for somewhere nice to eat supper (unsuccessfully, due to the crowds) and we ended up just getting Currywurst from a market. Currywurst is quite popular in Germany and consists of a traditional sausage sliced up and coated in a sauce made from ketchup and curry powder. It was much tastier than it sounds and it came with the traditional European side of fries and mayonnaise. It was a great meal. Also, in our wanderings we stumbled across a fantastic shop of very authentic cuckoo clocks and pyramids (spinny Christmas candle holder things). The stuff in there was awesome (and awesomely expensive), and I'm so glad I saw it.
After supper we decided that our energy had run out so we went back to the hostel. I checked my email at a terminal and then we sat around for a while in the common area drinking some beer we got from the front desk. It was pretty amusing because we were able to watch at least three large groups of German tourists (young ones) leave the hostel in various costumes (one group was all orange short skirts and tight white tops, guys and girls). Lots of drinking involved of course. After finishing our beers we went up to our room and met our roommates for the evening. After talking for a bit we finally went to sleep after many long hours of running around.
The next day we got up, had some sweet hostel style breakfast and then headed out to see as much as we could. We had hoped to go clothes shopping, but made the mistake of assuming that the shops would be open on Sunday. Fortunately there was still plenty to do in town. We spent a bunch of time at the Kolner Dom, which is a giant Catholic cathedral at the centre of town. First we went up a 500 step spiral staircase to the top of one of the spires and got a good view of the city. Then later we did a tour of the main building and got to see and hear a lot about the history. The purpose of the cathedral was to be a point of pilgrimage to see the remains of the three wise men, which were brought to the city about 1000 years ago. We got to see the gilded box (huge) containing the remains as well as hundreds of other ancient relics that are still in active use at the cathedral. The place was like a museum the stuff was so old, but it was all being used so that was pretty neat. The stained glass was also astounding, some of it more than 500 years old.
We hit up a couple more markets that day, including one on a boat, and we also went ice skating at an outdoor rink. We then managed to get a nice meal at a fancy Czech restaurant which we followed up with beers at a bar around the corner. The bar was really fun, because they were playing happy German club music and there was a group of people in Santa hats all singing along. Quite amusing, and just fun to sit and enjoy it. Back at the hostel we sat in the common area for a bit drinking beers with one of our roommates for the evening. He was friendly and had travelled to Canada in the past so it was neat to chat with him about home. We went back up to the room and chatted with another roommate for a while and then went to bed.
The next day we got up at 6am and went out to catch our train back to the airport. We actually almost missed it, because they changed the schedules while we were there, which meant that the time we had looked up on Friday had become invalid. Fortunately we just caught the train and we easily got through security and onto the plane back home. The flight back was even longer due to wind or something, but it was smooth so there were no problems. I even managed to sleep a little. We had the perfect amount of time to connect in New York and then we were back to Toronto and I went to bed.
It was a great trip and I'm totally glad I went. Here are some pictures:
I'm going to Germany this weekend! Rob found some really cheap plane tickets to Cologne, Germany so we're going on Friday, spending all day Saturday and Sunday seeing the city, and coming back on Monday. It's totally crazy and random, but it should be fun too! I've never been off the continent before and this seemed like a good opportunity. I want to travel more and I think that a good way to do that is to start travelling! In addition to various attractions, Cologne also has a bunch of huge Christmas markets at this time of year, so it's going to be really good for getting presents! I can't wait!
In other news, winter has arrived. stupid winter. I'm not a fan of seasons that make everything harder, like travel or even just leaving your home. Or seasons that can kill you if you don't take active measures to prevent such. And I don't need to be cold to be reminded that I'm alive. I'll just move a bit if I ever forget. Bah.
I'm taking a pretty chill weekend this week in the hopes of gaining a bit more control of my life. I feel like lately I'm always doing something and so i'm neglecting other responsibilities that I shouldn't be. I need to get a doctor, dentist and optometrist in Toronto, and I also need to start Christmas shopping. But lately my weekends have been full, and I've been doing stuff every single night after work. Sure, the stuff is fun and cool (lik guitar hero, wing nights and climbing) but I need to do some useful things as well. It's crazy to think how I've almost been working for 4 months now. A whole term has gone by! I'm not thinking about going back to school though so I think I've stopped thinking like a student.
Even though it is a chill weekend, I'm still doing a bunch. I went to Justin and Monica's housewarming party last night, tonight I'm seeing the new James Bond movie with various people and tomorrow I might try to go climbing. But I still have a bunch more free time than normal so that's good.
I've managed to start actually using the facilities in my building finally. I've started to swim on a semi-regular basis and it seems to be working out well. I'm out of shape, but getting better! I want to get a chin-up bar for the apartment somehow too so that I can do exercises to help my climbing, but I don't know how to get one.
In case anyone is wondering why I don't update anymore, it's because I now spend my free time playing Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2. Good times!!
There was a little bit of excitement on my way to work this morning. As I passed by the Royal York hotel a large police escort escorted a bus and a few other dark vehicles away from the hotel. It seemed pretty serious. A random guy on the street informed me that they were the security team for the king of Sweden and his wife who are apparently in the city. I saw the escort again later outside the Hockey Hall of Fame and there were even more police with them then along with guys in suits with ear pieces. Pretty fun.
I was just browsing through the Google Analytics statistics for this site and I noticed some strange trends in search terms people use that lead them to my site. In particular over 20% of searches that lead to my site are "co487 lausch" which is pretty strange to me. CO487 is a course I took in 3A called Applied Cryptography. I talked about it a bit on my site back then, but I don't think I've mentioned it since. Google returns just one result for that search, which is the complete list of undergrad homepages on the math/cs servers at Waterloo. So I think that someone somewhere is using that search term to get there and then they probably go to several pages from the list (likely including mine).
I just looked closer at the results (after typing the last paragraph) and I noticed that those searches actually all occured only in February and March of this year, and haven't happened since. So this doesn't really mean anything as the crazy person was an isolated incident. Oh well, I spent some time typing all this so I'm still gonna post it. Just for everyone's information though, this site is the top Google result for my full name "Matthew Lausch" so if you're too lazy to make a bookmark you will at least have a search term that will let you click the "I'm feeling lucky" button with success.
Not too much to report on today, I've just been working and enjoying living in Toronto. Thanksgiving was fairly standard, good food with family, and we've been doing the regular wing night thing every Tuesday with great success. I've also been climbing on Wednesdays, but have yet to get out again on Sundays (needs to be fixed). I bought new shoes yesterday, a pair of brown Sketchers that are super comfy and look nice. I graduate this weekend, so for at least a while my connection with the University of Waterloo is finished.
A couple of people have mentioned that I haven't update recently so I thought I would comment on a recent local issue here in Toronto, since it is something that could affect me as a resident of this fair city.
As part of the waterfront revitalization efforts, a proposal has been made to the city to demolish the Gardiner expressway and replace it with a multilane boulevard in order to improve the aesthetics of the downtown core. Combined with several other highway enhancements in the area, this would serve to reduce the number of cars (and thus the noise and pollution) in the immediate downtown area. This is a good idea, it is ridiculous to have a major highway right through the very heart of the city. If you want to get down here you should take public transit from the outlying regions or be prepared to drive on normal roads and fight for a tiny number of parking spots. Downtown should not be centred around cars.
Anyway, I like the idea of getting rid of the Gardiner and opening up the land for green space and business and such, but the project would cost up to a billion dollars and would take almost a decade to complete. I understand the idea of long term investments, but I think that it would be a better idea to put the money towards the ever-struggling TTC and commuter services such as GO. If public transit were greatly improved, it is possible that traffic downtown would be reduced through the voluntary actions of people as opposed to being forced to stop without a viable alternative. The current services are sufficient for current usage, but I doubt they would be able to handle the additional strain if the main road into the core were to be removed.
The real problem of course is that there isn't money to do anything, and that regardless of what happens, something needs to be done with the Gardiner because it is old and falling apart. As it is, it costs more than ten million dollars per year to maintain it. That's just no good.
I just got back from the Gala presentation of the North American premiere of Infamous and I'm too wired to go to sleep so I'm taking the opportunity to post an update about the rest of my film festival adventure.
I took a long lunch on Monday (and subsequently stayed at work until 8:30pm after getting back) to go see The Last Kiss staring Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson and Jacinda Barrett. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but it was completely different from what I expected. I think current marketing/press stuff suggests that it is a romantic comedy, but it wasn't very funny and it definitely was not romantic. It did however deal with a lot of relationship issues in an often brutally honest way. It was very well written and all of the actors did an outstanding job in what seemed like difficult roles. All of the characters had glaring personality faults, like real people. It was different from a lot of movies in that nobody was a hero or flawless or anything (hence the brutal honesty). I also found that the movie spoke to me personally in that many of the issues could perhaps be in my near future. The movie centres around young (but established) middle class professionals who are about to make the final transitions to true adulthood...something which seems nearer to me now than ever. No special guests were present for the show, but it was an afternoon screening the day after the main screening, so I wasn't surprised.
Tonight was the big event, the Gala at Roy Thompson Hall for Infamous and it was quite the event indeed. We lined up about two hours early and there was a huge crowd of people (who weren't even attending the screening) waiting around just to catch a glimpse of the special guests. The director Douglas McGrath was there, along with cast members Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Sigourney Weaver and Lee Pace. It was pretty exciting just to be there. The director and cast came up on stage before the screening to talk a bit about it and then they took their seats up in one of the boxes to watch the show. Lining up early was definitely worth it, because we were able to get our tickets upgraded (for free) to the main level (as opposed to the balcony).
The movie itself was great. It's another one about the American author Truman Capote (like last year's film, Capote) but since I haven't seen the other, I was able to just enjoy this one without (unfair) comparison. The director even joked about the coincidence in his speech at the beginning. It seems unfortunate to be the second movie, but I believe that this one will succeed as well. It was an excellent film, probably the best of the three I saw at the festival (although they're so different it is hard to compare them). It is hard to describe the movie, but it basically follows Capote around during the time of his research and writing for his book, In Cold Blood, both in New York and in Kansas. The juxtaposition of these two worlds alone was a fantastic way to present the story, and I felt that the acting (especially Toby Jones and Sandra Bullock) was fabulous. I definitely recommend.
I'm finished my first week of work as a real person now and I think it went pretty well. I'm already right into real work with a whole bunch of bugs assigned to me to fix. It also sounds like I'll have some larger projects pretty soon so that is pretty cool too. I've bought my annual membership to the climbing gym as well, and I'm going to try to start going twice a week. I'm still sore from Wednesday though so I don't know if I can start the twice a week thing yet.
The Toronto International Film Festival is currently running here and I was lucky enough to get tickets to 3 movies! It's really exciting because the TIFF has become one of the world's most important film fests, along with events like Cannes and Sundance. I even read that it is the most important event for the Oscars because it has the largest North American attendance of all festivals. The three movies I'm seeing are Fido(IMDb),The Last Kiss(IMDb) and Infamous(IMDb). The Last Kiss is on Monday, and Infamous is on Thursday so I'll talk about those in a later post, but Fido was an opening night movie so I've already seen it and I'll discuss it here.
Fido is a Canadian film by Andrew Currie, a comedy about zombies. So you know it has to be good. I mean, c'mon, a Canadian Zombie Comedy? How can that be bad??? And as predicted, it completely rocked the house. If it ever comes to DVD (harder for small movies) I will definitely be buying it.
So the movie has a 1950s sort of feel to it, like Leave it to Beaver or something, with perfect families in perfect neighbourhoods in perfect little towns with lots of bright colours and lush scenery. Except that 20 years before the time of the movie aliens blasted our planet with radiation which left a coating of dust everywhere that causes the dead to come back to life and seek out the flesh of the living for sustenance (awesome!). So there was a big war where mankind eventually overcame the zombie menace by closing in their towns and cities with fences and inventing a collar that quenches the flesh-thirst of zombies who wear it. This leads to the idea of using collared zombies as workers for menial tasks and it becomes trendy to keep a zombie or two as servants in your house.
The movie centres around a family that just got its first zombie (played very well by the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly) and is adapting to life with a zombie. The father was a child during the zombie wars and is so damaged that he feels it is best to never form close relationships because the person is just going to become a zombie that tries to eat you when you die (the radiation dust lingers). The mother (Carrie-Anne Moss, Trinity in the Matrix), desires more from her relationship and the son (K'Sun Ray) questions everything about the whole "Zombie Menace" as only a child can. The child and the mother quickly befriend their new zombie, however the father remains terrified and resentful towards it. When the collar on the zombie malfunctions and it eats one of the family's neighbours (thus creating a new zombie), a zombie outbreak occurs in the town and the family must work to keep their beloved zombie safe and to avoid being eaten.
The movie explores lots of issues and probably has lots of deeper meaning, but I'm not very good at stuff like that. I feel like maybe the isolation of the characters from each other as a result of fear of future zombification maybe reflects the growing isolation of people in society today. But I don't really believe that people are more isolated today (as some other people do) so that doesn't feel like a valid analysis to me. Meh, whatever.
More importantly though, the movie was hilarious. I know my above description doesn't really show it, but the actors in the movie play the whole thing dead seriously, and the premise is way to ridiculous not to laugh at. Some of the funniest stuff is when a zombie safety expert visits a class of young children (maybe 8 or 9 years old). He asks how many have had to kill a zombie and several rais their hands. He also gets to see them do target practice while chanting "Not in the chest, head shots are best." Also amusing was the recurring mantra of, "You can't trust old people." Because you never know when they'll die, become a zombie and start trying to eat your flesh. The whole movie was full of crazy stuff like that and the audience was howling for the entire time. It was awesome.
This was the premiere of Fido, so a lot of the people involved in it came as well, including Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, K'Sun Ray, Andrew Currie, and a whole bunch more. They even did a bit of Q\&A at the end and Billy Connolly was hilarious! I'm also impressed by seeing Carrie-Anne Moss, it's the first celebrity I've ever been close to (she sat about 10 rows in front of us).
I'm so glad that I got tickets to some of the movies this year and I feel very lucky because we got them online on the day general purchasing opened. Jen got up early in the morning and hammered at the server until she managed to get some tickets. I am definitely going to buy a coupon book or something next year because it's such an awesome experience to go to premieres and see really good movies.
Well, my last summer as a student is almost over. I start work tomorrow, and although I'm excited (and anxious) I am also a little sad because it means I am leaving the student phase of my life behind, possibly forever. And it was a good phase, lots of fun. But I will be glad to have an income. I like living in an apartment that I'm not ashamed to bring people to.
The Ex has been happening for more than a week now, which means we've been able to watch fireworks every night for a while. This weekend was the airshow, and our apartment has a great view of the area where it happens so I was able to get a couple cool pictures. I've never seen an airshow before, and it was pretty sweet. Planes are cool.
The sun was reflecting off of one of the other CityPlace buildings tonight, so I took some time to set up a nice photo with a long exposure time. I really like the reflection of the sunset and the streaks of the cars on the Gardiner in the background. It would have been nice to have a digital SLR to do this with, along with a tripod. Or at least a camera that can write images to a raw format instead of JPEG. Stupid lossy compression.
I went rock climbing tonight for the first time in about 8 months. I can still do it, which is good, and after a few weeks I should be back up to my previous skill level. Hopefully I'll continue to get better. I think I'll need to get new shoes soon though because the ones I have now are just all around shoes and not so good for harder climbs. Yay climbing!
We went to Trimurti for some Indian food tonight and it was super awesome! I haven't had Indian food in a while (other than my attempt posted below) so it was great to go out to get some. The restaurant was definitely one of the best Indian places I've been to and I'm sure we'll be going back.
Kim is up visiting this weekend so I decided to attempt to cook a meal of reasonable nutritional value (as opposed to just going out). So I made some butter chicken (curry) with potatoes, cauliflower and fresh peas mixed in, and rice on the side. It was pretty good and I think that Matt and Kim also liked it.
I've finished spending money for a while now I think, so I took some pictures of my apartment so that I could finally post some stuff on my website. So, here is my bedroom (with my new bed and dresser/end tables -- all brand new), and the living room/kitchen (with my new TV, couch and loveseat -- all purchased used).
There were some fireworks at the Ex tonight so I took some pictures from the balcony. I also took a couple of fun night pictures with long exposure times to see fun light patterns. Digital cameras are fun.
I was in London the last few days, just hanging out and visiting with Kim and my family. We had a really nice lunch in the park on Sunday, and on Monday I got to visit with Mike for a while before he takes off back to California for 4 months. I didn't get to visit with Kim as much as I would have liked because she had to work at her new job at the bank a lot. But that's OK because it sounds like she is enjoying it.
Yesterday I came back to Toronto and we did the wing night thing at Fresh on Spadina. I had a Buddha rice bowl and it was super tasty. I really like peanut type sauces. We also played games after dinner and I hope we continue with that because it was really fun. Rob has so many cool board games!
In other news I have managed to start reading again (yay!) and lately I've been reading some Robert Heinlein. He's a classic science fiction author who is really quite talented. I just finished "Stranger in a Strange Land" and it is definitely one of the best books I've read in a while. It's also very accessible to people who may not normally lean towards the genre. It takes place almost completely on Earth, and all of the main characters are human. That being said, I love the more inaccessible kind of science fiction too, but it's nice when I enjoy a book to be able to recommend it to others who don't have my more nerdish leanings.
I went to see Spamalot last night and I must say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lots of great recreations of stuff from the movie, along with lots of new stuff written just for the show. It seemed pretty true to the general Monty Python style, it even had little animations at some points. We had dinner at Fran's before the show and I had really good Macaroni and Cheese as well as an awesome milkshake.
On Thursday night we saw Clerks 2 and had supper at Salad King. Both were awesome as expected.
It's been a long time again since my last update, and a lot has happened. I tell myself I haven't updated because I'm too busy, but the real reason is that the amount of stuff to write about has gotten to be so large that the task is just too daunting. Rather than writing in detail, I will just do a quick catchup now, and then I'll try really hard in the future to not fall behind (yeah, right).
Matt and I moved into our place in Toronto last Monday, and the whole production went very smoothly (probably because we have very few possessions). We do need to buy a lot of things now, like a couch or maybe a chair, or any furniture at all for the living area. It's pretty bare right now.
We hooked up Internet right away, and it is really awesome. The building we live in shares an OC-48 line with a couple other condo buildings near by, which means that we get 100Mb Internet right to our suite. It's about 35 times faster than the average cable or DSL connection and it is only costing us an extra $5/month. Pretty sweet deal.
After moving in, we spent a couple days running around to get some things, but for the most part we accomplished very little. On Thursday morning we went back to Waterloo to write the Real Time exam (easy) and then I left the next day with Mike and Alex to go to Alex's cottage on Christian Island (it's the big one west of Thunder Beach).
The cottage was awesome! We basically just relaxed, ate food and went to the beach. We played lots of cards, and also got a change to drive a Sea-doo which was really cool too.
I'm back in Toronto now, and I am really enjoying myself. I love how easy it is to just walk out and get stuff, and I've already been out to eat at lots of fun places (and I'm going out for another *wing night* tonight).
Here are some pictures taken from my balcony, I'll take some indoor pictures once we have some furniture:
Well, classes are done, and Real Time is over (except for the exam). We had our demo on Tuesday, and it didn't go overly well. The trains and the tracks took quite a thrashing over the last couple days of development and as a result our models were no longer very accurate. Also, the trains in the demo kept getting stuck/derailed which generally screws things up in ways that can't be avoided. The prof and TAs understand however, because they all took the course themselves at one point. We will pass and that is all that matters. I'm officially tired of school. I've had enough.
I finally beat "Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past" today, after starting it a couple months ago. I never played it when I was younger and I always felt I missed out, so at the beginning of this term I fired up the trusy SNES emulator and started playing. Unfortunately Real Time put a stop to any regular playing, so it didn't progress very quickly. But that's all taken care of so I played a whole bunch yesterday and today and now the game is finished (I even got all of the heart pieces). I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, just as much as Super Metroid (which I played for the first time this Spring). Nintendo rocks, they make such fun games. If they do the Wii right, I will definitely be picking one up!
We're moving to Toronto this coming Monday. I can't wait to get settled in my new place and start acting like a person instead of a wandering vagrant. I'll be able to give people my address and not have to remember to update it with them every four months! I'm also looking forward to starting work. Mike has been working a lot in Maya lately and I'm really excited to start working on it again. Computer Graphics rocks! On a related note, I'm going to rewrite the base code for my ray tracer and start trying to keep it up as a personal coding project. It's really fun to work on so I don't think this will be too hard.
I need new shoes. The 5+ year old Dr. Marten's have just about had it.
It's been a while since my last update, and a lot has happened, but I've really spent most days just working on Real Time so it feels like it's been just more of the same the whole time.
Matt and I have entered into a year lease for an apartment in Toronto at Front and Spadina. It's part of the Concord Cityplace complex which means we get to become weird downtown condo people. On the plus side however, the building is wired (with fibre) so we can get 100Mb Internet, and it only costs $50/month!! I'm pretty excited to move in, I like Toronto, and I get to start being a real person with a few nice things, instead of a student with whatever I can scavenge from random people.
I was in Toronto on Saturday for Rib-o-Rama at John's house. It was a pretty good time and I got to chat with a bunch of people who I'll be working with in the Fall so that was really awesome.
I ordered a cell phone today, so I have officially entered the ranks of the rude people. I figure I can't live in Toronto without one, but I feel as if a piece of my soul is now lost forever.
Normally reinstalling an Operating System is a rather painful and disruptive experience, however Linux, and specifically Ubuntu can be much happier then some of the alternatives.
On the advice of a friend I decided to attempt to setup XGL/Compiz on my Ubuntu installation to get all the fancy special effects that are possible when your desktop is composited by your video card. Unfortunately this stuff is still a bit new and so it has some bugs. In particular, the installation script I chose was very buggy and although the XGL/Compiz stuff did eventually work, it normally crashed and died after about 5 minutes. Also, even when it was not enabled, my system had become unreliable at best. I later found out that the installer script I used had been deemed "not ready for use" by the creator about a day after I tried it. Oh well.
So anyway, X.org was busted beyond all recognition and I didn't want to muck about trying to rollback to the official version. That meant a complete reinstall. Fortunately, my home directory and all my files are on another partition, thus my data was safe. However, I would still have to reinstall all the software I had installed already, which was a fair amount. I was able to export a list of currently installed packages from Synaptic, but I didn't have any hopes for being able to actually use it.
So I formatted my OS partition and reinstalled Ubuntu Dapper Drake. After getting the security updates, switching to a newer kernel and setting up the nVidia drivers, I opened the packages list with Synaptic. It worked perfectly and all of my old packages were downloaded and installed. Less than 2 hours after starting and with almost no effort on my part my system is back up and running exactly the way it was earlier this evening. Now that is amazing.
In other news I am finding that Real Time isn't as cool as it was and is now just a lot of work. Oh well, just 4 more weeks.
Oh man, I never thought Real Time would actually be this crazy, but I guess I was wrong. The Tracking #1 assignment was due today, and we spent all of the past week working on it, at least 8 hours each day. Then, to finish, we spent 17 consecutive hours working on it on Sunday (from 10am until 3am). Totally nuts, but I think it was worth it because our prof was really impressed by our demo. He said our tracking was much better than what he normally sees at this stage in the course and he gave us a 95% on the assignment. Hopefully we can continue with this performance for the rest of the term!
After the demo I decided to do nothing for the rest of the day. And by nothing I mean go grocery shopping, make some phone calls and then go to Morty's for wings with Matt, Keizo, Jen, Greg, Sean, and Rene. It was pretty fun and a nice break. I also went back to Greg's after to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Good times, even though Edmonton lost.
I also picked up a headset today to attempt to use with Skype. Since SkypeOut is now free, this may be my new replacement for long distance!
I went to home last night so that I could get a root canal today. And as fun as that wasn't, it was still a nice break from Real Time, which is becoming annoying. The next assignment is due on Monday and we arn't really all that close to being done. The next few days will suck. And if we don't get it done, then it's just going to make the following assignment even worse (because we will still have to finish this one). And the following assignment doesn't need any help with being bad.
In other random news, my family almost lost our cat this week. He escaped outside last Friday and didn't come home until just today. Whenever the cat goes outside he always comes back the very next day (lalala). So when he didn't we got worried that something happened to him. Normally we let him out in the back and he plays in the forest behind my mom's house, but this time he went out the front door and that is still a bit weird for him since my mom is in a newish house. We figured he got lost and then something bad happened. So my mom went to animal shelters and other various places looking for him to no avail. One animal shelter did give her "Lost Pet" flyers that she could pass out, so she dropped a bunch off to our neighbours. It turned out that the lady two doors down had found him less than two hours after he escaped on Friday and she took him into her house. She was planning on keeping him!!! She even took him to the vet and got him shots and stuff even though it is clear he is not a stray. We're also pretty sure that she knew he was ours, but she never came and asked. It was only the flyer that got him back. Stupid cat stealing lady, we knew she looked evil the first time we saw her!
Anyway, Angus (the cat) was very healthy and suffered not at all, and as you can see he is already back to his abnormal self:
I saw Cars on Friday night and even though it was opening night, it feels like I should have seen it a long time ago. Mike has been talking about how awesome it is for a long time now, so I've been feeling like I'm missing out. It was an extremely awesome movie, the story was solid as is usual for Pixar movies and the quality of the computer graphics was a HUGE step above anything that's been done before. Awesome! I saw it with Matt, Mike and Mike's friends Jeremy, Yung and Nick. Everyone went to get tea after the movie, but I went home and straight to bed because I had to get up at 7am this morning (which is much earlier than my normal 10:30am).
This morning I met up with some people from Alias/Autodesk to go bouldering at Niagara Glen. I've never been climbing outdoors before so this was an awesome experience. Also, the park was absolutely beautiful. Just a whole bunch of trails circling around the Niagara Escarpment and all of the wonderful rocks it has to climb on. The climbs were pretty challenging and some of them went fairly high, but we had three crash pads and lots of spotters so it was pretty safe. I had a great time, but I am definitely out of practice. I can't wait to start climbing regularly again once I am in Toronto.
The park was on the Niagara River, so we had lunch on some big rocks on the edge. I took a bunch of cool pictures while we were there, and here they are:
Kim's mom gave her two tickets to the Lord of the Rings musical in Toronto so we went to that this weekend and it was not too bad. Probably about as good as a musical version of the Lord of the Rings could be. But I don't see it doing a multiple year run like other shows have done at the Princess of Whales (Phantom of the Opera -- 8 years or something). We also wandered around the Eaton's Centre a bit and got supper at the Pickle Barrel which is always good.
On Sunday Kim and I went to see X-Men 3 in Waterloo, and it was alright. Fun action stuff with more mutants that remind you of the original cartoon or comics (if you happened to have partaken in those as a child). We also went for supper at the Mongolian Grill with Mike and Matt for Mike's birthday. We even got the staff to give Mike a free dessert and sing to him. Afterwards Mike and I hung out at the tea shop next door with a couple of his friends until after midnight. Good times!
This term has been pretty relaxing so far. I work on Real Time and that's about it. The rest of the time I just hang out, do stuff with Kim or other friends, or just play Legend of Zelda for SNES. We've been working our way through the first six seasons of the Simpsons on DVD and we're probably going to start watching Arrested Development soon as well.
The new version of Ubuntu is coming out this week. I'm planning on installing it right away because my Debian installation has become a bit broken in the last few weeks. I really shouldn't have done that last "dist-upgrade" but you never know that before it's too late.
Our Waterloo apartment is nice (as I mentioned before) and I appreciate the fact that the air conditioning allows me to sit at my desk and type without sweating (last summer term was HOT). But, we're in the basement and as far as we can tell the air conditioning is ALWAYS on. We all wear sweaters, jeans and socks when we're home and it's over 30 degrees Celsius outside! It's just not right when I have to remove extra clothing to go outside.
I've been working a lot on Real Time lately, and we've managed to finish the first kernel assignment almost a week early. Hopefully we can finish the second kernel assignment this week before the first one is even due! Just like Graphics!
The only other exciting thing that has happened lately was that the cleaning lady for our apartment came today! First time! She was really nice and cleaned almost everything. She vacuumed, mopped, cleaned counters and the bathroom. So awesome! This is such a non-student place!
Oh yeah, one other thing. I signed an offer from Autodesk (at the old Alias office in Toronto) to be a full-time software developer on the Maya team starting in September. Yay jobs! I need to find an apartment in Toronto now, preferably downtown. My biggest requirement is ensuite laundry, but I'd also like to have all the nice fancy things that the new expensive condos have.
It's been a while since my last update, and a lot has happened. But this will probably be a fairly abridged version as I'm kinda tired/busy. Real Time is going to be a lot of work.
The day after my last exam of the term I flew back to California to interview for two more positions with Apple. It went pretty well and Mike managed to come down to visit for an evening which rocked as usual (mmm....Outback Steakhouse). I also got to stay in California for a reasonable amount of time (3 nights), so things were much less rushed than last time and I think it made the interviews go a little smoother (lots of time to relax and get settled).
I got back on a Wednesday to meet Mike (who arrived the day before) at the Westcourt apartment for pizza and a bit of chillin'. Other than Pizza Hut taking two hours to deliver our food (yay for future credit!), it was a pretty relaxing evening. The next day we ran down to Kitchener to pick up a rental van to move to our new place down the street. I'm now on McDougall, which isn't much further from the University than Westcourt. The place is really sweet though, brand new stuff everywhere and gigantic. Plus, air conditioning for the summer.
Here are some pictures of my room, note that I have opted to use the double bed someone left here and that it means I finally get to live the true student experience by sleeping on a matress on the floor.
The common areas:
After getting all moved in we relaxed, watched a bunch of Simpsons on my new DVD/DivX player, and just generally hung out. Kim helped move and she stayed for the weekend, and Adrienne also came to visit on Saturday and Sunday.
I'm only taking one class this term, and it is Real Time Programming, which many people will tell you is more than enough all on it's own. I think I can already say that I agree. We've only had a week of classes and I'm already worried about being able to finish the work. Tonight (a Sunday), after getting back from my trip home, I went straight to the lab and worked for more than four hours on my current assignment. Despite the work, it looks like it will be pretty fun, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot.
This weekend was also really fun. Friday was Kim's birthday, so I left Waterloo early to visit her on Thursday night and all day Friday. We shopped a bit and did the dinner thing and just had a good time. My mom's birthday is also in May (the 30th), and my brother and I decided to take her to see the musical "Hair" this year in Toronto. Saturday was a good day for it, so that's what we did. We hit up the Hot House for supper afterwards and it was about the same as usual. The show was great, and I think my mom really enjoyed the day (which is all that really matters). Sunday I went to lunch with Kim's family (as usual), but this time we had cake and presents for Kim and her dad (his birthday is the day after Kim's). The whole weekend was a nice, last break before Real Time takes me away.
Just a quick update, it's exam time so not much interesting is happening. This term's exam time time wasters have included Mario Adventure and working on my Ray Tracer (no updates to the online docs yet, but that will come eventually). It's been pretty fun, but my real exams are coming now (Compilers and Coding Theory) so I think I'm going to have to actually start studying in a more organized fashion.
In other news I have a sweet apartment for the summer and I'm going to try pretty hard to go to the Siggraph Conference in August.
I joined Facebook which is a social networking site for University/College students. Normally I have much disdain for social networking, but the post-secondary nature of the site appealed to me. Oh well, it's a good alternative to work and now I can say that I am familiar with social networking. Damn you kids and your music!
Funny times today. Ryan got this big bag of mini-potatos at the Wholesale Club here in Waterloo a few weeks ago, but since there were too many to eat all at once they've been sitting in our freezer. Unfortunately this makes them hard to get apart when he wants to eat some. Today he tried hitting them against the stairs to break some off...but the bag broke instead! The potatos also chose this time to conveniently break apart, making a really fun mess. The pictures tell a much better story:
So I got back from New York last night at about 11pm...not too bad considering I left La Guardia at about 7:30 and there had to be about 1000 people ahead of me in the customs line at Pearson.
I was in New York for a job interview with Google, at their New York office (located near Times Square). I think it went pretty well, and I have to say that it was an awesome experience. All the things you hear about working at Google (the free food, the on-site massage therapists, the awesome everything) is totally true. It would be such an amazing place to work because they care soooo much about their employees. They go way out of their way to ensure that the environment is perfect so that they can get the best from everyone who works there.
The trip was fairly similar to my California adventure: get on a plane, go to a hotel, do the interviews the next day, leave that evening. The main difference was the city, and the fact that I didn't know anyone in the area so I was on my own for the evening of my arrival. The hotel was pretty sweet (free HBO among other things), but I couldn't just hang out there all afternoon and evening so I went for a 3 hour walk around the area. Went through Macy's (damn that store is big), wandered around Times Square and went up the Empire State Building. I toyed with the idea of getting food from some random tasty looking place that I had never heard of before, but decided against it and just got a sub from Subway. Didn't want to make myself sick on bad food before the interview.
Here are a few pictures I took from the top of the Empire State Building:
Here are some pictures of my hotel room:
Here is a picture of some of the swag Google bestowed upon me for coming down to interview with them:
The last two days definitely count among the craziest I've ever had. I was down in California for my interview with Apple and I managed to squeeze in a tour of Pixar, dinner/hanging with Mike, and a complete trip around the San Francisco Bay in addition to a day of interviews. And I wan't even in the state for 30 hours!
I had to get up at 5am on Wednesday to catch a shuttle at 6am from the University to the airport in Toronto. From there it was on to San Jose with a very brief stopover in Phoenix. Pretty cool to see all the landscapes and stuff as we crossed the continent (although I didn't get a window seat so I didn't have that great of a view). The thing that struck me the most is how flat everything is. I guess they didn't have glaciers carve the countryside into thousands of small hills and valleys like around here.
The flight back (which left at 8:30pm on Thursday) had a two hour stopover in Las Vegas and I must say that was an interesting experience. First of all, flying into Las Vegas at night is a really neat. The strip looks really cool and there are soooo many lights. Other than that though, the experience was mostly strange. The airport was full of slot machines (never saw anyone get any payout whatsoever) and had a whole bunch of designated smoking areas which wern't really separated from the rest of the airport at all. Just places with chairs and ashtrays. Very uncool. Also very old-school, I remember way back in the day when most public places were like that but I haven't seen it in a long time. My plane was delayed in Las Vegas, but not enough to make me miss my shuttle back to Waterloo in Toronto. My plane trip can be seen in the image below (green on the way there and red on the way back).
So I arrived at San Jose just before 3pm local time and instead of checking into my hotel, I decided the best idea would be to go visit Mike. It turned out OK, but I cut it pretty close getting back. I'm pretty sure midnight was the latest I could check in to my hotel and I finally got there at 11:30pm. Crazy.
Anyway, Mike and Pixar (Emeryville) are kinda far from San Jose. I had to take an Amtrak train (in red below) from San Jose to Emeryville which took about 1.5 hours. Pretty cheap though, just $11. Ended up chatting with a random girl the whole way, but I think she was kinda crazy. She told some pretty unbelievable stories (more and more as we went). Pretty sure she was trying to see how far she could go before I called her on it and told her she was a nut. Well, I didn't break so I won the little game!
To get back from Emeryville to Cupertino (where Apple and my hotel are), I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit system) which is basically just a subway, part of which actually goes under the bay (in blue below). Maybe I'm wrong, but an underwater subway seems like a bad idea in an earthquake prone region. Anyway, the BART stops at the San Francisco airport so I had to transfer to a commuter train (like Toronto's GO train; in red below). Unfortunately I arrived like an hour early for the 10:24pm train which meant I had to wait around for an hour in an essentially abandoned train station. In the dark, alone, in some random ass place in California. It turned out OK, but seemed a bit sketchy at the time. The train only took me as far as Sunnyvale, so from there it was a cab ride (yellow below) to the hotel. This map shows my trip around the bay.
So that is all the travelling I did, but I actually did a lot of fun stuff too. Mike took me on a tour of Pixar, which was absolutely insane! It was just so cool to be there, it must be amazing to work there. I got a cool Pixar t-shirt with Luxo Jr. on it and I got to meet a lot of really nice people. Here are a couple of pictures of the Pixar front gates (they are taken at night, so they arn't the best, but still pretty cool).
After the tour we got some supper at a pretty good Indian restaurant and then headed back to Mike's apartment. It was really nice, but I couldn't stick around too long as I had to catch the BART to attempt to get back to the hotel. We did mess around with his mom's new digital SLR though, here is a picture.
The hotel was really good. I actually had a suite with a bedroom, bathroom and living room. King bed in the bedroom, two TVs, and they even gave me a free shuttle to the airport the next day after I had checked out. Here are a couple pictures of the suite:
The next day was the interviews at Apple (you know, the point/funding source of the trip). Eight in total, it basically lasted all day. It was pretty challenging, but the team seems really awesome and I think it would be a really cool place to work. Actually I know it would. The only question is whether I want to live in the US or not (and whether they like me, of course). I think I performed OK, but I missed a couple questions I should have got and I have no idea what my competition is like.
After the interview I got on my plane and headed home. In the last 48 hours I've only had 6 hours of sleep and I've changed time zones twice. I'm pretty confused about what I should do right now, so I did this blog entry. Probably going to sleep/eat now.
Such a crazy day! First was class, then my 2.5 hour Sybase interview and then my Psychology midterm. But wait! That's not all! Between class and my interview I heard back from Apple! They want me to come to California for more interviews! So awesome! And, I finally got chat in Gmail! And I got dairy queen tonight! And Kellie's car got here! Way too much is happening! Hence the exclamation marks!
Crazy times lately, not much time to post.
Last weekend was fun, I mostly worked but on Friday I got to help push Keizo's car around the parking lot and help create a trap for a mouse we found in our downstairs bathroom. Both activities were successful, the car ended up in our parking spot and the mouse was put outside (alive).
Compilers is a bunch of work of course, but I haven't been able to pay enough attention to it because of job stuff and midterms in other courses. At the beginning of the term I applied for jobs at Sybase, Google, Apple and a couple other places. I got interviews for the three listed above: Sybase by phone last week, Google in person this week and Apple in person this Friday. I spent a lot of time preparing for the Google interview and it was still really challenging. Sounds like a great place to work though. The Sybase interview went well too and as a result I have an additional interview with them next week. Hopefully Apple goes well.
This term is disappearing really quickly, it's pretty nuts. I'm really glad that I'm taking an extra term for Real Time because if nothing else it will give me a few extra months to prepare for the "real world." Or something. I'm sure I won't be any more prepared by then but it's comforting for now.
I need to figure out what to do for housing next term. It looks like Kellie is moving out, so I need an extra person if I am going to live here with Mike and Matt. Anyone interested? If not, I will have to find a new place. Residence is pretty tempting since it's cheaper in the summer, it's close, it's air conditioned, and best of all it doesn't require any extra effort for things like utilities.
Update: This post seemed kinda boring without a picture so I took a couple with my camera using a fun new feature I found for using the auto-focus in a manual sort of way.
I suppose I should put in my two cents about the election, isn't that what blogs are really for? Valid social commentary from the point of view of real people? Haha, yeah, right. :)
Anyway, the Conservatives won a slim majority and I think it will probably be OK and even beneficial in some respects. They don't have enough hold on parliament to try anything too risky. Also, they get a chance to show Canada if they are a bunch of crazies or if they deserve to carry on the "conservative" name. My main issue with politics in Canada right now is the lack of a valid right-wing party. Social conservatism has no place in Canada, however fiscal conservatism is a very valid political ideology that can help balance the governing of the nation. Unfortunately social and fiscal conservatism have been merged just like in the United States.
On the positive side of things, the Conservative party has very tight ties to Alberta and so hopefully relationships between the west and the rest of the country will improve. I think that the west was really starting to get pissed off at the way they are treated. They generally feel that the rest of Canada benefits off the vast amounts of money generated by their oil while at the same time giving them essentially no say in the running of the country.
Also of note, the NDP made significant gains. This is nice because it means that we are not a two party system like in the United States. There is a third option that actually can have an influence. The success of the NDP was somewhat muted however by the disproportionately small number of seats they won compared to their share of the popular vote. A parallel of this issue can be seen with the Green party, which achieved the highest number of votes they ever have, but still failed to win any seats in the house. As someone who has never taken a political science course I don't know how to fix this problem, but I'm sure there must be a solution that merges the ideals of regional representation with the nationwide popular vote.
Finally, I think it is a good thing that the Liberals are not in power because a change is good every once in a while. Also, it is time for a new leader so that the party can become disconnected from the negative events of the past few years. While those events did not bother me personally, I think that I'm in the minority with regard to this opinion.
I do have concerns regarding the upcoming government. These include health care (the possible two-tierization thereof) and the various human rights issues that go along with the social conservatism of the hardline elements in the Conservative party. Although Stephen Harper has said that he will not pursue abortion or same-sex marriage related causes, I wonder whether the latent Reform/Alliance members of the party will really just let him go ahead with those plans. Finally, I am also saddened by the loss of a national childcare plan. While it very possibly would have failed, a success like the program instituted in Quebec could have really helped shape the next generation of Canadians in a very positive way. Remember everyone, children are important! Stephen Harper's tax credit is essentially useless. The free market philosophy is not perfect and this is one of those instances (like health care) where government intervention is required.
In other completely unrelated news, I finally tried a White Russian which was the drink of choice of the Dude from one of my favourite movies, The Big Lebowski. I must say, I'm a fan of the drink. Very tasty.
Just a quick update on this cold and freezing rainy night. Last weekend was pretty good, I went skating with Kim on Friday night which was really fun. On Saturday I managed to get a haircut, buy new jeans, finish most of my C&O assignment and complete a few other mundane but useful tasks that I can't remember anymore. Sunday saw the successful return of myself to Waterloo and me finally learning what terms like "1st and 10" mean in American football.
This week I am applying to jobs, making test cases for the compiler and hopefully participating in strange psychological experiments for the purposes of extra credit in my Psych 101 class. Good times!
Oooh, I remembered a picture that was worth posting. On the last day of work all the co-op students got to get their picture taken with the Oscar that Alias was awarded in 2002 for technical achievement for the development of Maya. It was VERY cool to get to hold it. A definite shout out goes to John Gross and John King for making it happen. Here is my picture:
So, it's been a long time since my last post and as a result I've forgotten most of what has happened. The quick rundown of what's happened is: more rock climbing with Alias folk, the Alias Christmas party (awesome!), Kim visited for a while in my last week of work, four holiday dinners (goose, turkey, ham, salmon), got to see Mike (and start him out on Perl) and KJ, hung out a bunch with Kim, saw a bunch of movies (including King Kong and Harry Potter), lots of fun Christmas presents (5 seasons of Simpsons!!!), moved from Toronto to Waterloo and probably a ton more stuff that I'm forgetting. I should post some pictures from the break, but I don't feel like formatting them and stuff so it probably won't happen. Oh well.
This term is gonna be nuts, I've already put in maybe 15 hours on Compilers (the result being a mostly functional scanner for Ada, the language we have to compile). Also I have other courses (I think, haven't really looked at them yet). Plus, I have to get a job so that I can um...you know, become a real person or something.
The apartment in Waterloo is good as always, of course. I got my roommates to watch Grey's Anatomy, which means that we've been into the 4 or 5 episode marathon sessions already.