Tag Archives: Traveling

Last Day In Venice

The last day in Venice is over and I am on the train again on the way back home. I had a great time and lots of great memories to take home with me!

A visit to the Peggy Guggenheim collection was on the list for today. While I am not sure about Peggy (she’s buried on the grounds of her collection right next to her 14 dogs), I am sure that I saw some great pieces of art today including some Picassos.

Some final walks without any specific destination but the goal to breath in some of the cities air concluded this short visit. I am sure I’ll be back some day!

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The Second Day Wasn’t Bad Either

… the weather was not as good as on the first day, but good enough to allow for a visit to the Doge’s Palace and the island of Murano,

Murano is known for its long tradition in the production and manufacturing of glass. I don’t exactly know how much of the stuff you get there today is Chinese, but I guess the island still adds to the charm of the Venice.

We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant that had a beautiful view on the Rialto bridge.

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They even had WiFi, so I could publish Harald Baumgartner’s Website after his show had aired directly from that Rialto bridge restaurant. Oh how I love technology …

A Perfect Day in Venice

The night train was not as comfortable as my own bed and I woke up every other hour, still it was way better than those 8 hour transatlantic flights that always give me a neck pain, when I sleep.

Whatever marginal discomfort the train ride might have left me with, it was totally blown away by the great first day in Venice. Here’s a photo that I took today: It shows Venice as seen from the bell tower on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Venice

Lots of sun, great places to visit, great art, not too many tourists (at least compared to Venice in summer). What can I say: A Perfect Day in Venice.

On the Night Train to Venice

I’ve never been in a sleeping car before. We boarded the train in Linz at about 11 pm and are expected to arrive in Venice at 8:30 am tomorrow morning. The compartment looks similar to the one in this photo, which I found on wikipedia

It’s not fancy, but it’s inexpensive and potentially promises the comfort of a couple of hours of sleep. The others, most of who boarded in Vienna already, are sound asleep, so I’ll close my laptop for now.

Sarajevo

about 1400 km of travel, 3 days, more than 100 IEEE people from over 60 countries, but less than 15 hours of sleep.

I won’t tell you about that short city visit. Most of what has happened this weekend has actually happened at a place called the Sarajevo Hollywood Hotel, where we (the more than 100 IEEE people) and at least five times as many Wrestlers mingled (http://www.worldveteranwrestling-sarajevo2013.com). – Not that we were there for the same reason.

It was the second IEEE Region 8 committee meeting for me and I feel it was even more intense than my first one in Madrid in April. While IEEE is an engineering association, the truth is, these meetings are mostly political – politics about coming up with solutions and policies to “foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity“. Apart from the matters at hand, these meetings are great opportunities to witness different styles of leadership, different styles of communicating with each other and different approaches to problem solving in general. The best part is you can actively participate if you don’t mind throwing around, being thrown around and having your head go all wild with thinking.

meeting

Here are some notes I made to myself about the process rather than the outcomes during the meeting:

  1. With most of us being engineers in academia, we are having a huge problem thinking outside the box.
  2. Almost everything you propose, someone will have proposed at some point already. (Maybe this is a direct consequence of 1.)
  3. Although it may lead to wasting your and other people’s time, it is still worth proposing stuff, even if this results in wiser and more experienced people stopping you right away. Otherwise you risk missing the few jewels that might be hidden somewhere in people’s heads!
  4. You would probably need at least as much time for preparations (in terms of goals, strategy, background research) as the meeting takes, to make the most out of it.
  5. Not having a clear vision on certain issues (maybe due to a lack of 4.) will make you feel like bouncing between people’s opinions. – Which, then again, might not be that bad after all for getting an idea about things.
  6. If it comes down to making a decision, following 5 think about Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat.
    Alice: “Which way ought I go from here?”
    Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to?”
    Alice: “I don’t much care where–”
    Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”
  7. You were quite slow in understanding what people really meant. “Sorry for that.”
  8. If you are working on one-size-fits-all-solutions (which many things on a Regional level are) be careful when you start statements with things like “From my experience …”. While difficult to implement: You really ought to make decisions based on statistical and scientific analysis rather than on very limited personal experiences.
  9. Even if it gets rough sometimes, don’t forget to grab a beer with people at the end of the day and thank them for their contributions. Be respectful: You need them as much as they need you.

I guess I succeeded and failed at all of them and I am not sure if these notes will help me or you in any way. Still I thought I’ll write them down, just in case I want to revisit them before the next meeting …

Campus Life

I do like traveling and working in research (given that you have appropriate funding) + being on an international IEEE committee requires just that. There have been a lot of trips this year that I haven’t even mentioned on my blog.

For each and every single one of them I do have a blog post in my draft folder, which I just never got around to finish and publish. Mostly because these trips usually turn out to be so intensive and exciting, with so many new experiences and people, that it seems virtually impossible to capture them in a blog post. This weekend I was in the Bath and London (UK) for four days.

Tower bridge, London (UK) 2013

I’ll do it differently this time. Instead of trying to capture everything I’ll focus on one topic: UK/US campuses vs. Austrian campuses.

After I had come back from UCLA in 2008, I did get one question frequently: What’s different? The answer is: many things. One of the main differences I experienced in the US and did find again in Bath is the way universities there are not only places for focused professional studies, but places where you actually live. Both at UCLA and at the Uni of Bath you’ll find banks, grocery stores, bars, gyms, running tracks, on campus housing and so much more. It is like they are small self-contained villages. In addition to that a myriad of student clubs enrich the experience of living on campus.

The university I am studying at right now (Johannes Kepler University Linz) does have some of these features, after finally having moved most of their departments to one centralized campus. Still, try walking campus on an idle weekday night (apart from Thursday, which is the big party night on campus) and you’ll find it to be deserted. Don’t get me wrong, you will see countless researchers behind windows and the occasional, sleep-deprived grad student heading for the vending machine. However you won’t encounter undergrads in their training cloths or campus sweaters, you won’t see dancing or fencing classes behind all-glass window fronts, the posters won’t invite you to join some fancy chess, music or religious club and you won’t be able to find a running track.

In Austria if you want to engage in any of these activities, it’s up to you to look for them somewhere else. Unis are for learning and for taking exams, but the institutions won’t tell you or make suggestions whatsoever about how to live your outside-the-uni life. Neither do they care about whether you take pride in studying at this very place or not.

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. I do feel that the UK/US system generates social pressure and it is easy for students to get lost in different activities every night, with the potential danger of burn-outs. On the other hand I do think your time at uni should be wholesome and teach you more than just the subjects you are enrolled in, which is in favor of the UK/US campus culture.

The Austrian/German system does generate a significant amount of graduates who are not involved in any social activity at all, which I think is utterly wrong. Don’t ask me for numbers, but I can give you a few examples which ended up having quarter-life and midlife crises. On the other hand not having your hands full with all that uni social stuff, leaves space for students to get involved in their local communities. Plus the lack of university driven activities does of course also not rule out the possibility that students with a shared interest form unofficial clubs.

These observations are obviously very subjective and might not apply to all schools. Whatever kind of system you are in or about to enter, I do have three pieces of advice regarding campus life and your time at university in general, which I’d like to share with you:

  1. Move out of your parent’s home. While I would suggest a dormitory for starters (you’ll get to know so many people who will help you and who you can help) an apartment is also an option. This is the time for you to become self-dependent.
  2. Engage in at least one social activity or club, but monitor your stress level and learn to say “No” when required.
  3. Go abroad and enjoy the ultimate step of self-dependency. It will, for a limited amount of time, give you the opportunity to design your daily life from scratch, plus I guarantee you, you will learn more about yourself than ever before.

Having said that, I have to add that advice should always come with a disclaimer, so I’ll simply cite Mary Schmich here:

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

What’s campus life at your university like?

Hello from CERN

We’ve made it and it is actually our second day at CERN. I am sitting at a table in the CERN cafeteria, a sunny spot right next to one of their magnets they have on display. More than 1000 of these are somewhere below me, in a 27 km long ring. That’s where they accelerate junks of protons to have them finally collide.

As I am sitting here sipping my coffee I enjoy the spirit and the excitement of all of the researchers and “science tourists” around me who have come from all over the world to participate in and witness R&D at the forefront of science and technology!

Yesterday we had the chance to talk to one of the scientists from the core team of the Neutrino experiment, where in short they send Muon Neutrinos from CERN to some place in Italy (roughly 730 km from here) to see if some of the Muon Neutrinos change into Tau Neutrinos, as predicted by some theory that is not confirmed yet. I am sure you’ve heard about that experiment, which was in the media excessively because of some measurement setup error which lead to the suggestion that neutrinos may be faster than light. It’s just so much more exciting to really talk to the people who actually do the experiments as opposed to just following some copy-and-paste flawed media coverage by some journalist who might not even care. I’m getting goose bumps again as I think about those interesting discussion!

ATLAS experiment control room

LHC computing grid

CERN, here we come!

We’re on our way! As I am writing this we are on the bus already!

The IEEE student branch JKU Linz is going to CERN. There are 14 more hours of bus driving ahead of us. But I have a feeling that this is absolutely doable given the amount of beer that people brought on the bus ;) — Not to forget everybody’s excitement that is even more energizing and rewarding. I am really looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Last Call to Passenger Sinnesrausch

The last three days were marked by the visit of my good friend Christoph Bauer. I know him trough “Pro Scientia” (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro_Scientia) and we’ve stayed in contact since we first met at the Pro Scientia summer convention about a year ago.

I really enjoyed his visit. Even tough I can not come up with any reasonable explanation, of how anybody his age can have such a broad and mature cultural, political, scientific, you name-it, knowledge, I can say that having conversations with him is one of the greatest delights one can get!

Apart from talking, listening to Bach, Mozart, Wagner, tasting great spirits we also explored some of the cultural highlights Linz has to offer. We managed to get hold of some of the last tickets to the exhibition “Sinnesrausch”, which hosts a couple of installations centered around the common theme “Sensory Sensation” and leads over the rooftops of Linz. Most of the installations are interactive, here’s a photo of Christoph trying the “super-lense-chair”.

If you think that exploring Linz and its wonders is for you too, just drop me a line. I am always happy to welcome my friends to Linz!

A Sad Certainty

So I had this setup where I would get these occasional top-news messages from CNN. Like ten years ago, on the first day of my last year of high school, the phone would not stop ringing until the last byte of its memory was filled. A sad certainty began to besiege us all.

New York is “far away” from a European perspective. If it is too remote for you to empathize, take the 9/11 memorial tour, which is what I did a year ago. A married couple with very close connections to the events of September 11, 2001 shared some historical facts as well as their personal story. A very emotional trip. Ever since I am in awe of how gracefully many people have tried to deal with the mean hand they had been dealt. Today is a day to feel sad and a day to understand our duty to learn from what has happend.