Thursday, September 6, 2007
I particularly appreciated Jessica's work as chair of the A cluster... Given the diversity in project focus, having someone there who had already been exposed to the research and who was willing to ask leading questions and deliberately draw the groups into a deeper waters was fantastic. Go Jessica! :)
Afterwards, of course, Alexei did a typically brilliant job of organizing appropriate post-conference refreshments in the courtyard.
And now I've wrangled some of it. Saturday the 17th was one of those rare days when there was no particular place we all had to be, or at least no groupish things to do. So I wandered off through the city, no particular place to go, or anything specific in mind to add to our collective record. Went to a museum or three, found the Pancakes! place, wandered around the Jordaan. And for some reason it was a good day for street music--a solo accordionist, a klezmer band.
And when I saw a tuba setting up in Dam Square, I was intrigued.
(That just had to be expressed in sepia. . .)
and then, these crazy dancers:
And then of course there was an Alanis Morrisette impersonator. . . but I think I will spare you all that footage.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Sathi and The Café Terrace!
After the Museum, we headed to our last group dinner at a fabulous Iranian restaurant. It was awesome spending time as a large group one more time, but it was sad to think that we would all be leaving soon. To prevent me from babbling on and getting way too sappy, I will leave you with this video:
*Disclaimer: due to my camera's decision to exhaust its battery supply on my video blog day, some of the images in this video were "borrowed" from others so that I could include images of everyone.
I had an amazing time over the past month, and a lot of that was thanks to all of you. You are some of the most incredible people I have ever met and I could not have hoped for a better group to travel with :) Thank you, and see you in Seattle!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
The day began extremely early. We all met in the courtyard at 8:40am. I think this might have been the earliest we have had to meet so far. Once everyone got down there, we all walked to the bus stop to take the bus to the science park. As we stood waiting for the bus, I think I heard someone say that it was 'painfully too early'. With Clifford as our leader, we transferred buses and then finally arrived at the Science Park which houses Sara.
Sara is the home to Amsterdam's super computers and other data storage for both academics and commerical businesses. We were led to a conference room. Shortly after entering the room, he brought to our attention that there was coffee available. So all at once, the group swarmed the coffee in desperation for caffeine. During this time, I watched Jack pour some tea into his coffee and then put some much sugar in it that it didn't matter anymore.
The presentation was umm...interesting...but we all listened to it anxiously awaiting the opportunity to enter the Virtual Reality Cave. The group was split up into two. I was part of the first group. We went into the cave first. We were each presented with a pair of googles in order to get our brains to make sense of what we were seeing. When looking into the googles, each of the eyes saw a slightly different image allowing the brain to percieve depth. Sara's virtual reality studio uses tracking technology to detect the user's movements. While the 'user' wore the glasses, the rest of the group looked at the scene through that person's eyes.
After the cave, we took a tour around the databases. We were taken around and were shown what the internet looks like. The 'tour guide' explained to us the sheer sophitication of their super computers and the amount of data that can be stored at Sara. He also explained to us the super computer. From this, I learned that somewhere in New York, a connection failed limiting our access to the UW network.
After the groups reunited, we were presented with lunch. We were served an option of sandwiches with fruit, and milk or orange juice. I thought lunch was good.
After lunch, we headed back to ISHSS for the prostitution part of the day. In room D, Petra Timmermans was waiting for us. Her lecture was very interesting and informative. This might have been one of my favorite lectures so far because I felt that she wasn't talking at us but interacting with us. After the lecture, we headed over to PIC to get a tour of the Red Light District. Again, we broke up into two groups. We saw Belle. Our tour guide explained to us that often sex workers in the Red Light District work in the same area as others of the same ethnicity because of supply and demand, but in recent years such division is not as clear anymore. Unfortuneately, I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures while I was there, so I hope everything remembers what that part of the day was like. After the tour, we went into a sex worker's rental space. The apartment that we visited was currently unliscensed and not operating. So we looked around and heard about what's it like to rent one of those places. It seemed to me that sex workers in general are like a big family, making sure to care of each other while on the job.
After all of this, we joined back together did a quick group review and headed back to the dorms. A big portion of our group had a BBQ in the courtyard and I joined Shirley, Mirjam and May-Brit for a slightly complicated dinner.
Overall, it was an 'interesting' day!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Last Monday, August 6, was quite an eventful day, with city tours and lectures packing our schedule from 9 to 5.
We began the day with a tour of Amsterdam's Jewish Quarter, which happens to be very close to our dorms on Prins Henrikadde. The city's history provides for some very interesting stories and artifacts, such as hidden synagogues, churches, and buildings related to the diamond industry, which the Jewish population brought with them as immigrants, since they were forbidden from the existing guilds in Amsterdam. We were taken to the Dutch Theatre, which served as a Nazi transport site during World War II -- Jews were held there before being sent to work camps in Germany. There we received a lecture on the Dutch impact from the war. Starting with a systematic isolation of Jews from public society in the early 1940s, it resulted 77% of Dutch Jews killed during World War II, compared with about 25% in France and 90% in Poland. The tour ended with a trip to the Jewish Historical Museum, which focused on the local history of Amsterdam's Jewish population, before, during, and after the war. I was personally very interested in seeing and hearing all of this, since I was originally expecting a solid focus on the war.
After lunch, we visted the Amsterdam Center of Architecture, a small building across the street from our dorms, which features architectural models of new construction in the Amsterdam area. There, we received a very interesting lecture on Amsterdam's history through the lens of an urban planner. The city was originally oriented along the water with rich population on the west, to allow them fresh air, while the rest of the population lived closer to the industry downwind. Since then, the city has expanded by way of reclaimed land, and is currently following a growth pattern in "fingers" spreading from the city center so that people have easy access to nature. The day was finished with a walking tour, where we heard many interesting anecdotes about the area, from the fact that bridges are washed down on hot days to prevent too much expansion of the iron structure to how buildings with support piles driven too shallow during construction become slanted over time.
Here's a short video of the day's activities:
We had a very nice lecture with Leon Deben, who is a professor at University of Amsterdam. It was quite interesting talking about the topic of public space versus private space. We talked about such issues as surveillance cameras, and making benches uncomfortable to discourage sleep. We also walked a neat video of such topics as the Houston tunnel system and the surveillance camera system, big brother, in the UK. I was talking to a student in the master's program for UvA from the UK. She said that in some places there are actual speakers. So if someone littered, the voice may say to pick it up. What a scary world.
After lecture, we had lunch as usual. The menu was chicken sandwich or Greek salad sandwich, greens, fruit, and cookies. Oh...and there's orange juice for everyone as well. I found out that Clifford usually eats about 7 cookies every lunch....interesting. I wonder if he'll read this.
So, after lunch we went with Leon Deben on an excursion to Bijlmer. It's a big neighborhood that's been a huge social development focus. In the center of Amsterdam you have the shops and housing mixed. But in Bijlmer, everything is separated. We visited the housing areas, went to the community center, and had a final stop at a cafe. I had a Chocomel, which is the best chocolate milk in the world. It's like drinking a good chocolate bar.
Due to some technical difficulties, I was not able to get the videos that I took into the slideshow. So there are many short videos to enjoy. Enjoy
Here's a photo slideshow:
Some footage of various parts of the journey:
Note: I also had some videos of Shirley and Alex, but I don't want to put those up without their permission.
I'm glad it was sunny yesterday because there's a thunderstorm going on right now!
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The museum was incredible! Never before had many of us seen such a vast and varied collection, and a private collection no less! Makes you just gape in awe at the family's wealth *laughs* but at least we get to enjoy the endless Van Gogh's, Impressionists, Picasso's, and international sculptures. Afterwards we had group lunch of terrific pasta + potato salad and dicussed our individual projects - their current statuses and where we hit road blocks and where we hope to take advance. Lot's of great stuff! Everyone's doing fantastic work!
Following, we had 2 hours of free time to take our bikes and ride around. Personally, I got a chance to ride a bike after 8 years of non-riding with Haley's help and expertise. A complete and total adrenaline rush! Makes me want to go home buy a new bike. From what I've heard, there's a cool hunting lodge there and great bike trails.
Friday, a group (Ray, Julie, Jack, and Mark) had gone earlier to Utrecht at around 10:00 am and later Paul and his colleague and Ann joined up. I went a little late because I had assumed there was a group going at 1:00 pm but luckily learned from Clifford and Colleen that I should just go and meet up with the earlier group. The following video summarizes the trip to Utrecht:
The Genesis exhibit that was produced by Emily, an acquaintance of Paul's, was truly a one of a kind experience. From what I learned from Julie, Emily has background in humanities and social sciences and really wanted people to get the sense that there isn't a fine line between science and art and kind of take you outside of comfort 'boxes' and I think the exhibition did a great job of that. It's also interesting to think about how people of different backgrounds would view this exact same exhibit because they probably come in with different affinities and understand/grasp certain concepts differently - but in the end it is still the same exhibit!
The whole city of Utrecht has a bit of a more relaxed atmosphere than Amsterdam and we saw quite a few goths there walking about as you might see in the video. Utrecht's plethora of museums is definitely worth the visit. And of course a big thank you to Mark for being a great sport & letting me film/capture such awesome moments!
Saturday I went out and did research exploration and interviewing - Amsterdam West primarily on Saturday. It was interesting to come across coffeeshops in a predominantly Immigrant neighborhood - different kind of makeup than the touristy areas of central Amsterdam. I also got a chance to talk to some youngsters in the Moroccan neighborhood playing outside of their school - really friendly kids. I took quite a few pictures on my walks, here is one of the Moroccan restaurant located on Jan Pieter Heyenstraat that has good prices (around 6-10 euros) for a meal so feel free to check it out! It was very much an independent, self-planned weekend which I hope was both productive and relaxing for everyone.
Friday, August 10, 2007
"My Michelle (Live)" - Guns 'N Roses
"Southtown Girls" - The Hold Steady
"Hard Like It's a Pose" - Alec Empire
"King of the Hill theme" - The Refreshments
"Strange Lover" - Ghostland Observatory
"Massive Nights" - The Hold Steady
"Gangsta's Paradise" (sampled from Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise") - Coolio
Sorry about the lighting at dinner. What can ya do? Julie, the Jaws part is a joke. I don't really prowl the courtyard seas for free wine. I promise. I hope y'all like it!
Thursday, August 9, 2007
My real post is coming soon.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
And here's a picture that gives you some idea of how many people were there:
Monday, August 6, 2007
While I was growing up, one of the comics I would read were the Tintin series. This series was first published in Belgium, so we set off for the comic museum first so that I could get one of the books in French as a souvenir. After the comic museum we went on a speed walking tour of many architectural sights of the city. Going through the city, we walked past Saint Gudule Church, the Centraal Sation, and various other buildings before buying lots of chocolate and heading back to the hostel for dinner.
For dinner, we rode to an Italian restaurant to meet up with some Brussel students from the U.S. Sadly, our bus driver clipped a car and we had to stop for a while. Dinner was good, but it was a lot of food and very crowded with two groups of students.
It was after dinner that the real fun came in. A Brussels grad student, Frederick, volunteered to give us a tour of the city. I will be the first to admit that this is the smartest man on the planet. He knew everything there was about Brussels. He took us back through all the big highlights of the city explaining all the history of each building. The big highlight was when he took us to the Manneke Pis monument. Now the story behind this according to Frederick is that there are three possibilities. The most probable is that a very rich man lost his son and organized a very large search party. After some time of searching, the boy was found peeing on the side of the street, and in honor of finding his son, he built the monument. The less probable is that when Brussels was under attack, enemies placed many kegs of explosives under the city hall. Seeing the lit fuse, this boy peed on it, extinguishing the fuse and saving the city. The most improbable is that Brussels was surrounded by a fierce army and was outnumbered until this boy went onto the wall and peed on the enemy soldiers, scaring them away and enabling Brussels’ army to win the battle.
On Friday, we had a large tour of European Parliament and a lecture at the European commission with the Brussels students. Sadly, none of the officials were there. However, a lot was learned during the lectures even though some of us were very tired from walking around.
Following the tour and lectures, we had another five hours to explore the city before we came back to Amsterdam where only four people managed to stay awake the entire time.
The YouTube video is just a short representation of the many things to see and do while in Brussels.
After the lectures were over we all headed back to the dorms for a break prior to dinner. Sathi and I chose to walk the whole way back, and encountered a few cute pygmy goats. AWESOME.
We also go to pass by a good share of cool and small cars. That rocked too. For anyone who doesn't know, there is a infinitely larger selection of TINY cars here, like the SMART car, there are also tiny little cars made by many other manufacturers and tiny trucks as well... But don't worry, the people are normal sized. In fact, the dutch are Giant people, with an average height of something like 5'10".
After a short session of relaxing and maxing, we headed out to dinner as a group, which was totally Klumpy. The food was REALLY good, and it was nice to have a dinner as a group. You may see the video clip of Clifford giving a toast here, and hopefully it isn't sideways... if it is, I'll fix that soon. On the other hand, the food did take forever to get to us, so I guess that was NOT klumpy. Dinner was like a marathon... one that you were destined to lose... in last place. It took almost 4 hours to finish. But to the restaurant's credit, their kitchen was VERY small, and the waiter was very nice, helpful, and understanding. Luckily, we had only been together for a week or so, so we were all able to put up with each other for the whole dinner. After dinner, I personally went home, and slept the night away... it was awesome.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
So. On our first available research day, your delightful Wayfinding Group members spent about two hours inside planning, which does not make for good blog material. What did happen was the third of our semi-spontaneously organized group dinners, with a joint cooking and socializing effort concocted in Sunil and Jonathan's kitchens. Awesome! The group's ability to coalesce into the courtyard is really cool, even if it means that if we ever want to go somewhere as a group, it takes at least 40 minutes...
Normally on a research day, you'd figure that some kind of research-related stuff from the blogger would make it into the video, but since our research is still essentially "secret," in this entry you get a soundtrack and some Prelinger Archive footage, as well as still photos and some totally janky video of the group making food.
The video was shoved together in Windows Movie Maker, which handles all of the titling, cutting and pasting, and soundtrack blending stuff. Anyone who has a PC and wants to use this tool can check in with me for tips, or can go to the Atomic Learning Tutorial Page for Windows Movie Maker 2.
and here is my experimental film:
It may seem weird to focus on the dorms when all of Amsterdam is out there to be explored, but I figured it would be nice to contrast our interactions with the local population (Dutch and otherwise) with the way we are in the dorms, our home of the next few weeks. As for the weird added stuff, I didn't have much that I could post from Tuesday, so I thought I might as well demonstrate some of the features of Movie Maker, in case you guys want to monkey around with your videos.
Also, I know that we are shooting lots of great footage, and I think we'd all like to be able to see it...what if we continue to post our videos here, whether or not it's our assigned entry? Seems like it would be nice to have the round-up of this stuff all in one convenient spot. But what do y'all think?
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
At 10:00 we all gathered in the 1st floor (meaning up one flight here) classroom and had our overview of the schedule and normal logistics. Most of us took a break trying to figure out how to work the vending coffee machines in the cantina, not bad coffee for something shooting out of a mechanical machine :) Back in the room Mirjam gave a really interesting lecture about the Dutch people and her take on what pragmaticism was really about here, essentially that it is regulated tolerance as a way to exercise control. I found it particularly interesting to hear the view of a Dutch person on the subject matter and how the views and ways of dealing with 'problems' are so different from how they are in the states. A good example is how the Dutch look at addiction as simply a health problem rather than adding the moral aspect that Americans do.
I found the sociological explanation that hisorical need for water management was the reason for the cooperative nature of the Dutch to be extrememly interesting and so simple (and apparently the simpler the better here) We also learned the basics of the pillar model, but sadly I only got a blurry picture of Mirjam's excellent sketch of the pillars. Overall the lecture was great, and included some pretty awesome videos of rapping about drug policies that I have added to this post.
We finished class with a short lesson on Dutch, which I've realized there are some sounds like the 'g' one that I'm not sure I can ever make. It's sort of fun to try out simple Dutch words but I think the only phrase I have ever really been able to use in real life is 'dank u wel' and I think that is probably because it sounds a lot like 'thank you.'
Afterwards, Irina led us in a small circle around part of the city, it was nice having someone point out things about areas and show us some good restaurants and bars. Most of my pictures are from this excursion.
Later in the day Mark and I tried to go back to this notebook shop we saw on our way, but it was already closed. I realized attempting to go shopping anytime after 6pm except on Thursday is just pretty pointless. And some of us headed over to an Irish Pub called 'Molly Malones' just to hang out for a while. I'll announce that Jack will sometimes perform his Jack Jig if 80's music is playing, and everyone should peer pressure him into it. And of course since we seem to often spend a lot of time spending euros on food and coffee Chase and I ended the night by walking over to one of those fries places and buying delicious fried potatoes in a cone.
a train i saw the next day! (a slightly better video I think)
I plan to edit this somemore, but I wanted to at least put this out there since the page for the collective blog is finally up!