Monday, May 27, 2013

European Research Exchange - So Many ESPORTS

So this week I decided to just rest and relax a bit. Been walking too much and my legs were hurting, so I didn't really want to move. Also my hands/wrists are hurting from using the computer too much, so I wanted to get off the computer too.

Luckily I had an easy solution to this dilemma. There's a bar in Berlin that opened back in February. I read about it in like December or January, and I knew from then that I needed to come check out this bar. So this week I spent a lot of time at Meltdown Berlin.

Favourite bar.

This is a special bar. It's not like your traditional bar where you go to drink and watch like Soccer or Hockey on the TVs. No, this is an eSports bar. A bar where they have professional video game competitions (like StarCraft tournaments) broadcasting instead. So naturally I had to check it out.

I found out that Dario "TLO" WΓΌnsch, a German progamer was going to be at the bar on Wednesday, so I had to go. It's not too far or out of the way too, so it's in a nice location. When I got there I was kind of early, but the next thing I know TLO appears next to me, shakes my hand and sits down next to me.

No big deal, just hanging out with TLO.

So that was an awesome night, there wasn't that many people there, so it was nice for conversations. Talked to him for like two hours. It was kind of surreal actually, because I've watched this guy on stream many times, but all of a sudden he was no longer just a guy on stream, but now hes an actual person.

This weekend was the World Champion Series (WCS) Europe finals, so obviously I had to go watch them at Meltdown. TLO was actually playing on Saturday against MVP but unfortunately he lost and everyone was sad. It was pretty crushing. Luckily he did better on the following day.

Two guys playing random MOBA games while StarCraft is on.

I went back again yesterday (Sunday) for the fifth place matches and the finals. TLO did a lot better and managed to win two matches and get fifth in the tournament, which is fantastic. Afterwards I stayed for the finals and pretty much just spent the entire day there.

It was a pretty long day, but pretty fun as well. Met a bunch of people and had a good time watching some good StarCraft. Definitely a lot better spectating atmosphere at Meltdown than at home.

Drinking a Spawning Pool while watching the finals.

So I'm planning on going more often. Definitely for the big events.

I really want to watch some of these games live though, so maybe. If it works out I might haha, Cologne isn't toooo far.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

European Research Exchange - Lots of Stuff

Oh man, so this week a lot of stuff happened. Lots of things done and eated and seen, lots of walking and lots of being tired. I guess I'll start from the beginning and do a quick rundown of what I did. So either this is going to be a really long post, or I'm not gonna do the things justice. Most likely the second one since I'm tired haha.

Anyways so the first thing I did this week was take a walk through Tempelhof Airport. Yes, airport. So in the past there was this airport in Berlin which they decided to stop using. So now it's a giant park. So people go in there and cycle and run and barbeque and launch kites and whatever. But it's legit just an empty airport.

I'm on a runway.

It's pretty cool. Very relaxing and giant. It's also really big. I walked from one end to another and it took like half an hour. It sucked cause it was hot and I was wearing my backpack with my laptop in it. But it was pretty cool.

Afterwards I met up with Patrick, a prof from UOIT. He came to Berlin for two days to visit, and it was nice seeing him. Spent some time talking with him about stuff and also eating with him. He brought me out to a Biergarten for lunch and I had my first authentic German meal.

Apparently white asparagus is pretty ok. I'd eat it. Sometimes.

There were a few other meals too, and honestly they were all great. Patrick only stayed for two days though since he's off on other adventures. Such a busy man.

So starting Friday to today (Monday), there was the Karneval der Kulturen. Or the Carnival of Cultures. Essentially it was a street carnival where there were lots of booths where people sold food and drinks, random things and of course had performances.

It also happened in front of this cathedral, which I thought was pretty cool.

It was pretty cool, I'm not very big on the whole dancing to music thing though, so I didn't stay too long for that. But on Sunday I went again because they had a parade. The parade was more interesting since each car represents and organization or culture and they pretty much just had fun.

It was really interesting because it's a very informal parade. Like you can just follow or stay in front of each car as long as you dont get in their way. So near the end it was like a giant street party where hundreds of people would follow a specific car/truck with music and just dance or whatever

You know there's a lot of smokers when you're not sure if the haze is from a barbeque or not.

Again, if you're in to the whole dancing and music thing I'm sure it would be a blast. Not really my scene though, so it was mostly just an observation thing for me. Also the event was really long, I was there for six hours and didn't even see the last 20 or so cars.

I did more walking today since it was another holiday. Since it was a day off I went to the zoo today. The Berlin Zoo apparently houses the most animal species in the world, and is apparently really nice, so I decided to go. It was actually a pretty nice zoo.

Theres some mountain goats on there.

It's really cool, because they designed a lot of the exhibits very "naturally". So it's not always like, a glass/acrylic/metal cage or something, or a very obvious pen. A lot of them are formed naturally out of the ground, and have moats to separate the people and the animals.

They also had a lot of animals. And of course lions. It's really funny actually, since they have an indoor and outdoor exhibit for lions. In the indoor one you can get really close to them, like one meter away from a metal cage. Also apparently the lions like to troll people and spray their pee into the crowd.

So I can now say my friend got peed on by a lion.

I luckily didn't stand in the front lines, and managed to back off in time. But it was pretty hilarious.

They also had an aquarium, but it wasn't that big and didn't have a giant shark tank. But they did have a reptile and amphibian section, which was totally not cool. However overall the zoo was really nice. Totally worth a visit.

It's worth it to flamingo. Ha ha. ha.. >_>

Next week I'm planning on hitting up a BarCraft. WCS Europe finals are going on, and it should be awesome.

Oh I almost forgot. I also found a Chinese supermarket so I can finally cook my beloved Asian veggies. Also for a night and morning the water pipe in my building broke so I ended up washing my hair from a hose/pipe on the street. Fun times.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

European Research Exchange - Even More Walking

So normally I write my blogs every Friday, but then I realized that that was a weird time to write a blog since I normally do things on the weekends. So it's like, I'm writing a blog about stuff I did like a week ago. I figure it's probably better to just write it after the weekend, so here I am, writing a blog. I think I'm gonna fully switch it so I write one every Monday instead.

Anyways so on Saturday I went on a walking tour. Now people who know me know I don't like to walk, and I've been kinda complaining about it already. But this tour was recommended to me, is free, and covers a lot of places I wanted to go, so I was like, sounds like a good deal.

It was a pretty good deal. (New Berlin Tours)

It all started at about 11:30 AM when I left the flat to head over. It was my first time going to downtown Berlin (even though it's up from where I live), so I wasn't sure how long it'll take me to go. Luckily I made it on time and got onto a tour. We started at the Brandenburg Gate, which is a really big gate.

The cool thing about the tour was that our tour guide gave us some background and context for the stuff we saw, so instead of just seeing a big gate and calling it a day, we saw a big gate and got some history behind it too, which was pretty cool.

It's apparently really nice at night, so I'm gonna go back for that.

The tour started from there and essentially led us through a three hour walk through the heart of Berlin where we got to see a bunch of stuff dealing with Berlin's history, notably World War II and the era around then. Our next stop was pretty interesting, it's called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Now, I first heard about it from a Cracked article, so you can tell how awesome my sources for places to visit are. The article said it was a pretty bad memorial, and it certainly seemed that way through the Internet. But when you were there, it was really random and out of place. When you walked in though, it felt, really really weird.

Yes, it's literally just slabs of grey rock.

It's a very jarring experience to be in the middle of a big city and then walk into this random place. It's not very interesting to look at, but because it's not very interesting it makes it very interesting. Weird how it works. It's not very forgettable that's for sure.

Afterwards we went through the city a bit more and saw pieces of the Berlin Wall (un-arted) and other old buildings and random places that were historic. It was a very cold day outside and I was freezing since I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We visited a whole bunch of stuff actually, and I have plenty of pictures. One of my favorite spots was the last one, the cathedral in the Lust Gardens.

The name of the garden doesn't live up to it's hype.

It's a really big cathedral, and it looks really nice.

After that the tour disbanded, and I was actually not too too tired. I walked back to the train station which was maybe a kilometer away, and then I was like hey, I can see another monument from here. Might as well check it out too before I leave.

Turned out it was a giant troll. Because apparently Berlin is a really big and flat city, so even though I could see the Victory Column from the Brandenburg Gates, it was still two kilometers away. So halfway through I was like starting to die. It was still ok though because along the way I saw two other things which were pretty cool.

The Victory Column.

It's a giant monument celebrating a victory in German history. Something I thought that was really cool was that it survived World War II with only minor injuries. So if you walk up to the base, you can actually see some chips and dents in it. I'm thinking they're bullet holes, but I have no idea.

Afterwards I realized that the closest station was another kilometer away, so I walked more to that and rode it home and ended up buying dinner at a "Thai" place outside of a supermarket. The food was ok actually, but it totally was Thai food made by Thai people for non-Thai people.

I don't have a picture of the Thai food, but here's a picture of the beer section in the supermarket.

By the time I got home my 3DS said I walked ~17000 steps. So assuming each step is 2 feet, thats 10 kilometers right there. Felt like a boss, but I was really tired.

My plans for next week is more walking. There's a park I want to visit.

Friday, May 10, 2013

European Research Exchange - Working and Walking

So I've successfully survived my first week in Berlin, so yay. This week I got started on my research project at Freie. I'm working on a project dealing with event processing, which is actually kinda interesting. However I need to like, re-learn Java and to learn Esper, which is similar to SQL, but for events. Thats like blah.

It's not too bad though, pretty relaxed working environment. I have my own little office, room, thing with like a desk, a chair, a monitor and some windows.

They have the same Dell monitors as the Game Dev lab eh.

I've been walking a lot lately. A lot more than I usually walk haha. I need to walk everywhere, walk to the train station, walk from the train station, walk in the train station, etc. Lots of walking. I'm not a pretty big fan of walking.

But yesterday in Germany was a holiday. Apparently its Ascension Day which is like a religious holiday when Jesus ascends into Heaven so it was a day off. It was also Father's Day, which apparently meant all of the 20 somethings were out and about drinking and celebrating. And apparently it was also (unofficially) Victory Day, which marked the day the Soviet Union took over parts of Nazi Germany. So it was a pretty eventful day.

Also random street art.

Since I had the day off I figured I'd walk around and explore the city a bit and to see some of the sites. The day started off kinda sad and rainy, but it quickly cleared up and the weather was really nice. My first stop was the East Side Gallery, which is a kilometer stretch of the Berlin Wall that was arted over.

The wall is really colourful and really cool looking. It was nice walking along it and just looking at all the art (and vandalism). You can really feel the history of the place when you look at the wall from all of the things written and depicted on it. Pretty cool.

There was a section with Batman on it too.

Afterwards I was planning on heading to Tempolhof, but since I was too impatient to wait for that train I went to Treptower Park instead. Turned out to be a good idea because there's a Soviet memorial there. And remember how I said it was also unofficially Victory Day? Well people were celebrating it there.

There were lots of people literally just chilling on the grass, drinking beer and doing random things. Really relaxing. I took a walk around the park and ended up taking a break in a Burger King. Now, I normally don't go to Burger Kings, but I looked at the menu, saw what I saw, and went in and ordered..

Beer and ice cream at Burger King you say?

Apparently Germany is a pretty cool place.

Anyways afterwards I walked to the Soviet memorial. That was really cool since there were a lot of people there celebrating and paying their respects. So people would bring in flowers and such and actually lay them on the memorials.

They have a few monuments in the memorial, and the biggest thing they have is a big statue of some dude holding a child in one hand and a sword in the other. I'm not really sure what it symbolizes but it looks pretty badass.

Large swords are always pretty cool.

So yea, apparently I celebrated Victory Day. Probably the best day to go to the memorial though, so I'm glad I did.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

European Research Exchange - Arrival in Berlin

So I'm in Berlin now!

This summer I'm a participant of a research exchange to Germany, so I'll be working under Dr. Adrian Paschke at Freie Universitat Berlin. I've never been to Europe before, and I've been the biggest foreigner ever. Like I haven't felt like such an outsider ever, and its only been the first 32 hours haha.

I also had to board a bus to board my plane. It felt really ghetto.

So it all started in Toronto. I took a 7.5h flight to London where I got on a 1.5h flight to Berlin. Both of those flights were really uneventful. It was a really weird flight though, since I left Toronto at 7 PM, so I wasn't tired at all. But when I got tired I could only sleep for like a few hours and then I had to get up and face the morning since time zones.

Coming into Berlin though, my very first impression was that there was a lot of trees. I looked outside the plane window when I was coming down, and all I could see was trees, and then buildings where there were no trees. It was a really big difference than what London looked like.

London is all just like buildings and grass, like a lot of cities.

And when I got on a taxi to get to where I'm living, it pretty much was exactly as I saw it. There were trees everywhere. Next to the roads, in between the roads. Lots of trees. It's actually really cool. Makes the city seem very earthy.

The building are nice too. They have a cool mix of modern and historic buildings. We drove by a lot of cool things, and the taxi driver was nice and pointed stuff out to me when we passed by it. Like he pointed out the major landmarks and buildings like the Berlin Tower and Berlin Wall.

I actually don't think I have any pictures featuring outside without any trees in it so far.

I also went to the supermarket yesterday, and I got there by riding a bike. Now, I haven't ridden a bike in a long time. Like over ten years. But my housemate was like yea lets take the bikes to the supermarket. So I did. I rode a bike on a road, in traffic, in Berlin. It was so sketchy. Like I felt like I was going to lose my balance and get run over by a truck >_>

Luckily that didn't happen.

Today I went to the university for the first time, and walked forever. It was like a good 30 minutes from the train station to the school, and then in the school I walked around campus a bit, then walked more, then ate lunch, then walked more, then met my research supervisor, then walked another 30 minutes back to the station.

See, so many trees.

Speaking of the train station, the trains here are ridiculous. There's so many stations. Soooo many stations. And each station is pretty cool too, especially the cool ones servicing the central ring. Those are kinda nice.

But something that really stood out for me about the trains was that you have to press a button to open the door. So like in Toronto and Hong Kong the doors just auto open when they reach a station. But in Berlin they default to being closed, and you need to leave you hit a button on the door to open it.

Dat button.

I was so confused when I first tried to get on a train. It's weird.