Sol y residencias

Sol y residencias
Camera
NIKON E5600
Taken
2006-04-02 15:54:17
Exposure
10/4000
Aperture
f/4.9
ISO
50

I stand enjoying the sun in front of the modern residence building I call home.

The sun seems to always be shining in Spain. :) While I doubt that will last forever, the weather here is a mark improvement over Canada at this point in the year. A 10°C improvement at least. And the nice thing about where I am located is that it isn't in Madrid, it is in Leganés, which is smaller and much cleaner I'm sure with respect to air quality. So instead of the haze that sat over Thessaloniki, I have crystal clear skies. Blue skies. Essentially in the suburbs of Leganés, the residence is near a park and there are plenty of places to walk, jog or simply sit out on the grass and enjoy the hot weather. I'm not sure if we will have all that much time for doing those things, because they are being up front about the fact that this term will be busy. Fortunately for me, some of the material is already familiar.

When there is a spare moment, I want to pick up some more athletic wear and perhaps start walking/jogging in the morning. Of course, I would need to get up earlier for that and I know from experience that is not that likely to happen. But terms are for making lofty promises to yourself that have little to no chance of actually materializing.

I still plan to add some more content about my last week in Greece, and I did get some photos up from my trip to Athens, but there are still more, but it takes time to both decide which pictures to publish and to write captions and to write witty little descriptions about the events that lead to the photos. So bear with me. Gracias.

3Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 12:11

Like in grade cinco

Having finished three out of eight of my intensive spanish classes, I must say that I am pleased with the outcome, it is like being in elementary school all over again learning a new language. Today we filled in a sheet full of drawings of watches and clocks with the time that was depicted on them. I'm fairly certain I've done the same thing with a page full of "French" clocks before — maybe the same clocks. Despite bringing me back to my childhood, I think some of this stuff is sticking. I have learned the alphabet of course, as well as numbers, physical descriptions, emotions, positional information, free time activities and a few more things that are harder to classify. And then I come back and actually can practice with people who know how to correct me if I am mistaken about something. In turn I get to correct English — it is a real linguistic experience where everyone learns something.

The normal classes are going well too. Well it is only one class at the moment: Network Infrastructure. It is similar to the Network Communication course I took in my last year at Dal, but a lot more condensed. We are breezing over Ethernet and Wireless link layer protocols and gave a couple of days focus on DOCSIS, which is a Data-Over-Cable protocol. I suspect that we will be covering IP and then TCP/UDP either tomorrow or when classes resume in week or two.

I am also scrambling to finish my last assignment from Greece which is due on Friday, which is tomorrow I guess. I'm not certain how that will turn out, but time has a way of telling these things. While I'm rambling about my day I want to mention that it does indeed rain in Spain, and that may or may not occur mainly on the train, but certainly on my head on my walk home from classes. A warm rain, and although I think that the locals may have found today a tad on the chilly side, I welcome any break from the sick heat and know that I'm going to be damp when I get home regardless of the weather.

6Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 12:19

Disconnected

FYI, the internet connection in my room/building is apparently being severed for the duration of most of the weekend. I'm not sure when it will start (I was told it was supposed to start already, but it hasn't), and it is supposed to go until sometime Sunday. Just when I was starting to remember how things were before the archaic Greek stay, I am broad-sided with a weekend long outage. I guess we are all going to Sissi's place tonight to submit our assignments. I better get back to work on that.
7Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 13:11

The final days

I promised I would do and here it is, a chronicle as best as I can tell of the final few days I spent in Greece. Some of it you already know, outlined in another post, but some of the rest of my adventures remain untold.

After returning from Athens early Sunday morning, we all headed back to our respective apartments to get some much need sleep. Only after emptying both my cameras onto my computer and showering did I finally succumb to the sheer exhaustion of it all. I awoke in the afternoon sometime and went out to get a byte to eat. I spent the entire day writing up my description of the Athens trip. That night I found Daniel in Nik and joined him for some μπιφτεκι. We agreed to meet early the next morning for a last ditch effort to experience the Greek scene before we had to leave.

On March 27, which was a Monday, Daniel and I met as planned and headed to the Archaeological Museum which was no further away from our place than the university was. This time Daniel remembered his student paso and we both entered without paying anything. We walked around reading about the history of the Thessaloniki region in the Classical period of history, it was very interesting especially to see how the information tied in with that we had recently gleaned in Vergina. After spending a bit more than an hour reading and attempting to take dark blurry photos since we weren't allowed to use a flash, we exited into the harsh sunlight — it was a nice day.

We slipped next store to the Byzantium Culture Museum which details a period of history a bit more recent. This museum, although visually impressive and very well designed, did not hold my interest as well. The part of Greek history I like is the ancient history when the Olympian Gods ruled and the great stories and mythology were born. The more recent and disruptive spread of Christianity through the region not only isn't as interesting, I find it slightly depressing. However, the museum does a fine job in presenting the information and history is still history and something can be learned from all of it. After finishing in there, the two of us headed back into the centre to fulfill one of my objectives: find new shoes. However before that we thought we'd check to see if the White Tower museum was open — it wasn't. Not on Mondays. That was reassigned for Tuesday, but you know that much already. So it was onto the shoe shopping.

My sneakers were in a definite state of disrepair and it was only a matter of time before they would have given up the ghost if you will. After witnessing how sore my feet could get after walking so so much in Athens, I decided that a fresh start is what my feet needed. However, like with most of my clothing, sneaker shopping isn't the same experience for me as for most people. Most people buy the shoes which are nice looking or currently fashionable, they try on a couple pairs in their size and see if they are comfortable and perhaps buy one. Simple. Each time I start shoe shopping I do look for something that I would like to wear, at least in some colour that is appropriate. Then I drop the bomb one the clerk: "Do you have that in a size 13 or 14." In Canada anyway that can be hit or miss, 13 being the largest size that most stores carry in stock. In Greece, for starters they use a different sizing system. I need a 48 here, possibly bigger depending on the model. So when we arrived in our first store (Intersport) I asked about a particular shoe in 48 — no go. The staff was just about as unsupportive as I could imagine (granted there was a small language barrier) and so we left there to find more fertile grounds. It go to the point where I was walking into a shoe store and asking, "Do you have anything in size 48?". Most places would humour me and check even though none of them did. I had to pass up many nice shoes that I liked because of size. To prevent this pointless shoe story from going on too long, I ended up finding Peter Sport which did have a couple in my size and ended up buying a white pair of Nikes. They were only 55€ which is much less than I usually have to pay for footwear.

After that, we headed back to the apartment building to rest a bit. Later that evening we went to the lab, but that part of the day isn't all that interesting. Typing and whatnot. We got back late from the lab as usual and ate at Nik again. The next day was the day with the ticket fiasco and no internet in the lab. However since we were granted one last day in Greece, Daniel and I again decided to head out and see what we could see on Wednesday and headed up hill in the opposite direction this time. We took bus 24 up to the castle which overlooks Thessaloniki. A large, long stone castle, some of the corner towers remain and standing up in that area gives a dramatic view of the city. I was really quite nice. We took our requisite photos and lingered a while to enjoy the view. Then we headed back down home to continue the onerous task of packing all of our stuff up.

And then we did visit the lab one last time, left our keys there and bid it farewell. Even though as a lab is was terrible, we did spend almost all of our time there and so it did start to feel a bit like home. But this trip is all about saying good byes and fortunately one of the advantages of not meeting anyone in Greece, is that we didn't have to say good bye to any new friends like we did in Reading. We did have the staff at Nik who knew Daniel and I from our very frequent visits, and we did say good bye to the staff who were working after we ate our last meal there Wednesday night. We then turned in to get as much sleep as we could before we had to leave the apartment in the middle of the night in order to catch our 7:15 flight in the morning.

And at 5:30 we did just that. We left the apartments that had been our homes for two months and headed to the airport by taxi. Checking in and taking off were all none events and as you know we all made to Spain quite safely. And the rest is a story for another time. Soon. But not tonight. So there you have it.

8Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 18:23

Shopping

Shopping
Camera
NIKON E5600
Taken
2006-04-11 20:13:23
Exposure
10/2000
Aperture
f/4.9
ISO
50

Standing in front of the Parque Oeste centro comercial which houses more eletronics stores than I'll ever need... maybe.

Yesterday (the 11th) Daniel, Nenad and I went shopping for geeky stuff. I ended up with a pair of headphones and a lead on an external hard drive. A great location if you want any sort of consumer electronics.

12Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 20:11

Spain: Initial thoughts

Now in my third country in this european adventure, I am definitely starting to get used to the adjustments required when making a transition. However there are always first impressions that may make this transition more exciting or more tedious. So as I did in Greece, I want to air out my raw unjustified impressions before I grow too complacent.

Residence

My new home away from home is probably the nicest residence room I've ever lived in, which is saying a fair bit considering my residence history. The first difference for me is the age of the building — less than five years which means that it is designed with the student of today in mind. At least it makes a reasonable effort, which really is all I can ask considering my requirements are considerably more stringent (in some areas) than most people. The bed is pretty much your stock residence bed and is comfortable enough that I can get a good night's sleep, but not so cozy that I am likely to want to spend the entire day lazing about. It has two large drawers under it which I haven't found a need to use yet. It has more electrical outlets than the two places I lived in Greece combined. That alone speaks to a modern facility — catering to the electricity hungry masses.

Besides the residence network that is provided for high speed internet access, there is also a phone in the room which is useful for waking up your friends mid-siesta when the tiny squeak of Skype isn't doing the trick. The one luxury the room affords that is surprisingly exciting is the couch. I guess one would have to call it a love-seat based on its size, but nonetheless it is a comfortable place to sit in my room, which I can use to wirelessly enjoy my laptop if my desk isn't cutting it. The bathroom is quite big — a lot bigger than any I'd seen in Greece, but the space isn't used very well. I have the same tiny shower, albeit with a curtain this time, a little pedestal sink and a non assuming toilet. And more floor space than is useful. Honestly I am not going to complain about a big bathroom except to say that a large bathroom makes the rest of my room smaller, but in the long run, that doesn't matter either.

So that more or less covers the living conditions in my room, now onto the more common areas of residence. First stop is the cafeteria. Esthetically speaking, the cafeteria is very nice — lots of windows and natural light (during the day), modern-looking light wood tables with brushed metal fittings, and rounded sweeping lines. There is a salad bar which normally has a good assortment of vegetables to create a salad or to augment one of the main dishes being served. Nenad and the others are quite impressed by this, and I am happy about it too, but it isn't as large or well stocked as we had in Howe Hall at Dal, but in any case, it is a huge step ahead of the other European cafeterias we are familiar with. There is also yoghurt, fruit, pudding, and baguettes available with each meal and as a nice touch over say, Reading, they provide napkins or serviettes or whatever you want to call them. This week is a different one since all of the students have left for the Easter holiday (which amounts to a week and a day off here). There are less than 10 of us in the whole building so, the meals are served one by one as we straggle in to eat. In general the meals here are eaten at the Spanish times which are much later than the UK or even North American standards would have.

Breakfast is continental (we are on the continent after all) with many pastries, but nothing to offset the sweetness. No bacon, no eggs — apparently they aren't into that. In that sense, I miss the UK. However, I do enjoy the breakfast which normally is available between something like 7:30 and 11:30. The difference between lunch/comida and dinner/supper/cena is hard to discern other than the timing. The food is of similar type and normally there is a choice between a couple of main courses and side dishes. Other than the occasional fish, most of it is quite delicious. Lunch starts at 13:30 and ends around 15:30 or 16:00. Supper starts at 20:00 and ends at 22:15 which makes it a nice end to the day.

The residence supports other facilities which are nice. A laundry room which is open 24 hours a day is convenient. There is also a small gymnasium which is equipped with a couple of stationary bikes, and a stair climber along with a number of weight machines and a host of free weights. A full wall mirror completes the whole gymnasium feel. Not the best gym, but free and convenient. To end the day in style there is a 50" TV in the TV room which we have been taking advantage of while the other students are gone and have watched about five movies on it so far. I guess they show (Spanish) movies on it a couple of times a week, and I think it has shown more English movies this week than at any other point in it's life. Vending machines and table tennis complete the list of extras that I have noticed/taken advantage of.

University

I want to start this with a disclaimer that I have not seen the other two campuses of this university — only the campus in Leganés. However, this campus is very nice. Well landscaped and maintained, obvious that they care about first impressions which I think that most universities should. We have only used one of the rooms in one of the buildings on campus so my first impression isn't very broad. I haven't even been into the library yet, but I've heard that it is quite nice as well.

There is supposedly wireless signal available on over 90% of the campus, but I have yet to try to validate this claim. There is signal in the room in which we have class, but then, there is also wired access there too. The one problem with the room we have class in is that it is stuffy. There isn't adequate air circulation in the room, although I don't know if that is because it is shut off or whether it is terrible room design. There are three balcony door/windows that can provide ample oxygen to the room, but since in the morning, it is usually not quite at room temperature outside, some of my warm climate friends whine about it being too cold with them open. They prefer the loss of brain cells that occurs after sitting in the oxygen depraved environment for three hours. Needless to say concentration drops off precipitously within minutes of class starting. That is all I'm going to say about this for fear of saying something I will likely regret.

There is no free cafeteria on campus this time, and our schedule doesn't easily allow those of us in the residence near by to walk back for our lunch, so I suspect that we will be ordering packed lunch most days and/or frequenting the little cafeteria on campus or other local eateries. At least I suspect I will. It is hard to say what the routine will be because so far we have had a couple of unusual weeks.

Leganés

A small bedroom community of Madrid, Leganés is mostly suburban with a nice commercial area near the university campus. There is a lot development going on at the edges of the community (near the residence) and it is clear that the place is growing. There is a nice park with walking and biking paths just in front of the residence which is great if you want a place to go and read or take a scroll while listening to your audiobook. A short bus ride from a larger mall with a hypermarket and restaurants, there is also a metro station about a 100 meters from the residence that can either connect you with a line that goes into the center of Madrid or can take you to any number of other shopping centers. Or for simple grocery or banking needs, there is a smaller mall only 5 minutes away on foot.

I haven't had a chance to really explore the town in full — only briefly one night, other than the route I take to and from school. It is a quaint place to live if I can say that and kind of reminds me of a Spanish Antigonish, but with a good public transit system that can take you to a city of over five million people in a little over 30 minutes.

So there you have it. My first impressions which are really recorded for my own amusement later on as much as anything else. I'll compare notes at the end of this school term here and we'll see if anything changes.

14Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 10:43

Erasmus Mundus students

I would like to welcome any and all students who find this site in a quest to find out more information about the Erasmus Mundus Advanced Masters in Network and eBusiness Centred Computing (NeBCC). In fact, any student looking for information on any Erasmus Mundus program is welcome. It is my hope that through this site, I will be able to bridge the gap between the prospective students before their program even starts.

One of the major complaints that I had about my particular program was my inability to contact any of my classmates before arriving at the first university (in my case the University of Reading). I was fortunate that one of my classmates did manage to track me down via my former site rhuvok.com. However, it should have been easier than that. I realize that the university is bound by certain privacy rules, but there are possible ways of providing contact without divulging our email addresses.

The first way is to have some sort of forum or message board where students who were interested in contacting others could speak up. It might even be possible to provide contact through the website so no one's email is left exposed. You could even password protect the site to only allow access for the accepted students.

Another way would be to simply give us access to our Reading University accounts when we are excepted. That is a pretty standard practice as far as I'm concerned, and for those few people that don't end up going, then you can just drop those accounts. Since the university has no problem with sending an email with 23+ emails in the To: field using the university's email address we could just communicate in that manner. [Note: Sending multiple emails using the To: field is just asking for trouble. Use the Bcc: field.]

Either way would work, and I'm sure that there are other solutions that I haven't considered. Just imagine how much more at ease you would be moving away from your friends and family and the comfort and familiarity of your own country if you knew the people you were going to be spending the next 1 to 2 years with. The people who will be your group members and team mates as well as long time friends. And if you are offering a course for computer scientists and engineers, you are going to be dealing with people who feel more at home with email and instant messaging and web forums as a way to meet and get to know people. It is hard enough adapting to a new culture and possibly language, does it make sense to isolate the new students from each other until the last possible minute? Maybe it does... maybe it is all a social experiment and someone is watching me right now, noting my budding dissidence.

I could go on about the benefits, regarding the process of additional applications that needed to be handled after being accepted — not to mention the huge headache of obtaining visa, that embassies don't want to give you because you won't be in their country for another 8 months. But my intention is to foster the communication that I lacked and help give back or something like that.

So to reiterate my bottom line: if you would like to try and get in touch with someone from your program then send me an email at newstudents@europeadventure.ca and I will try to see what I can do. I can say at the moment that I am in touch with two students who are short listed for the NeBCC program starting Oct 2006. If you want to make contact let me know.

My plan is to put a forum up in a location that facilitates the communication of all Erasmus Mundus students and might be a step towards creating a global Mundus network for students. I'll keep everyone posted on this.

21Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 19:50

Dying inside

When will people stop teaching frames to new students learning HTML/CSS/whatever? Because it hurts me. It hurts the internet. And most importantly, it is going to hurt them if I ever see someone actually using them. They take the effort to teach us that it is important to separate content and presentation and I felt that finally I had found some relief from the internet hate that most people like to spew out. They even go through the WAI accessibility guidelines — how refreshingly progressive. And then in the lab — Dreamweaver and frames. Bend over internet, Erasmus Mundus is lubing up. She is actually spending over thirty minutes explaining how many different ways Dreamweaver can create frames. Oh and earlier she said that Dreamweaver has the excellent ability to convert standard compliant layouts into table-based layout. It's like she is trying to piss me off.

But I'll chalk this all up to ignorance and hope that through my attempts to re-educate my colleagues, the internet can be spared too much of a reaming. If not, I'll be sure to recommend myspaces, where this kind of behavior is rewarded with the golden blink tag.

Maybe I shouldn't write these posts when I'm angry... but that wouldn't be fun and regrettable. :)

26Apr
Location: 2.1.C17, Leganés Campus, UC3M @ 9:40

Enter the Heat

Enter the Heat
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
Taken
2006-04-27 14:58:36
Exposure
1/160
Aperture
f/10.0
ISO
100

Warm view of the center of the Leganés campus from the balcony outside our class room.

Today at 17:30 while I was walking home from class, the temperature here was (according to the display outside the mall) 33°C. I suspect it was warmer than that in the sun. And people tell me this is nothing, "just wait". Well I don't need to wait this is hot enough. Getting enough water is obviously the main concern, because I lose a lot of it into my shirt and backpack. I've started carrying a 75 cl bottle filled with water to class.

On the positive side of things, I've yet to get a sunburn in spite of all the hot, sunny weather. I have been keeping my skin hydrated with moisturizers and I have some sun screen at SPF 30 that I can use for any longer excursions. Walking to and from school and back home for lunch puts me outside for an average of 80 minutes each day — more if I go out somewhere afterwards, but that doesn't happen a whole lot. The walk to school at 9:30 is quite respectable, but the journeys at 13:00, 14:30 and 17:00 are often unbearable. I have also managed to squeeze a bit of a light tan out of my delicate programmer's skin. I suspect that I will be more tanned this summer than last year — and I didn't do too bad last year. Of course this is assuming I don't spontaneously combust in the mean time. :/

27Apr
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 16:30

What Now?

Well, it would seem that for the most part, my Europe Adventure is over. It has been an amazing time. Now, I am reviving the ailing colinbate.com and going to make a go of it over there. All the best.

Times

Nova Scotia, Canada
6:06 (Dec 2, 2020)
Reading/London, United Kindom
10:06 (Dec 2, 2020)
Thessaloniki, Greece
12:06 (Dec 2, 2020)
Madrid, Spain
11:06 (Dec 2, 2020)
Guatemala, Guatemala
3:06 (Dec 2, 2020)

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Thessaloniki

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