I’m currently attending a “Summer School” 2-week course on Functional Programming in France. It’s essentially 2 weeks of Haskell lectures coupled with exercises from some of the best Haskell programmers (one could even say inventors of the language) in the world.
The lectures haven’t started yet (first one is in about one hour) and so I spent the morning walking around the location and taking some pictures. We’re staying at the absolutely lovely Chateu de Cadarache about 70 kilometers outside of Marseille. It’s full accommodation with three awesome meals per day included (and of course wine is included at dinner ; ).
I was expecting a sort of dormitory style room where it was a small bed and shared bathroom shower, but I have a full hotel-room with my won bathroom and shower and the room even has TV. There are three houses with rooms for accommodation, but unfortunately the building I’m staying in is the only one without Wi-Fi. So I have to settle for using the internet in the common-area (like lecture hall and dining area).
Without further delay, here are some pictures of the place. You can check out more pictures on flickr. There are more short explanations of pictures on Flickr as well.
As you might have seen on my Twitter (or Facebook), the course registration in Sweden started about a week ago. For the past year I’ve been absolutely determined to study “Scientific calculation & Simulation” as my “specification” of my Masters of Engineering Physics.
But as with most things, the decision becomes harder when you actually have to make it. There were 2 factors weighing in on my decision, the specification (inriktning in Swedish, there is no real equivalent in English/American schools) and the time in which I should study it.
I have two big hobbies in my life, Programming and Physics. The former is something I’ve worked with the past 10 years and the latter is something that have been exclusive to study, I don’t actually really see myself going into a career in Physics, but I absolutely love to study the subject. To be able to understand how the world works and perhaps even have the ability to explain it to someone else is fantastic.
I have also thought for the past year that “If I can do it in 1 year, I will.” During my second year I studied 11.5 credits extra. I need 300 credits to graduate and have 191.5 currently. One term is 30 credits. In Swedish schools we study 3 terms normal courses and then spend one term doing our thesis project for another 30 credits during our last 2 years. However, if I just study another 20 credits extra during the 4th year I will be done with all my courses and can then do the thesis project during the summer and thus finish in slightly more than a year. I think 20 credits extra in a year is by no means impossible and frankly, after having spent the week planning and looking at schedules, I don’t even think it’s going to be difficult.
Because I think my thesis project will be more applicable to my future career if I choose the calculation specification, I will choose that over “Accelerators – technology and physics”. Because I think I can finish in a year without much further difficulty, I intend to so as well. It was quite a lot of work to find a plan that involved enough physics to keep my interest in that field satisfied, but I think I finally found a plan that works. There were quite some compromises but if I were to read everything I wanted to, it would be almost a full years worth of extra courses.
So, here is the plan I hope to follow. I think it’s going to be an interesting year.
Last monday we had a School Assembly type thing that lasted a full day. It was called a スピーチ大会 or “Speech competition” or “Big speech meeting”. If you remember the speech I did in class a while back that was for the purpose of selecting a couple of students from school to hold their speech in front of the entire school. In my class me and Taru was selected as the best ones and because the teacher basically said Tarus’ speech wasn’t “serious” enough (the content, that is) for the big meeting I was selected in my class.
I then went on to hold the speech again together with 8 other people from the elementary level japanese classes. The other people were really serious about the whole thing and had memorized their whole speech and practiced a lot and I really didn’t think it was that serious. I think the content of my speech was good enough to go on to the big contest but I did really not put in that much effort into actually trying to go there. Of the 8 people from elementary level, 3 were chosen to go on to the big meeting and the ones that were chosen deserved it with how hard they worked for it.
Anyway, the first half of the day was listening to speeches, and the second half was student performances, someone singing and playing piano, someone playing instruments or doing traditional dances and such. I have a little bit of video from it and a picture.
A person holding a speech
In the video there are professional players toward the end that was the finishing show for the day, they were really good and entertaining. The dance that a group of people are doing in the middle of the video are from a very famous korean pop-group. Check out the YouTube video of the original. It’s actually really funny and addictive music
While I was editing video and such I found that I had footage of the Snow Monkeys from Nagano as well that I hadn’t uploaded. So here’s that video too! I put in some of the music from the first video
Last week we got an assignment to make a speech in school. The speech could pretty much be about anything, and should last 2 minutes. I first made the speech in english and then translated it to the best of my ability. I then paid for a professional translation of it and got a real Japanese version of it. It’s quite interesting to see the difference. I’ll show you the original english speech, the professional translation, my translation and then finally I translated from my Japanese version back to English to show you how much was lost. Finally, there is a video of me giving the speech in school from today.
A cashless future
When I first came to Japan and stepped off the Narita Express I was confronted with having to take the subway. The Japanese subway system is a marvelous thing and has driven a lot of innovation. There is one thing in particular that I am impressed by and that I believe is important to the future of Japanese society. That thing is the PASMO and Suica cards.
In Sweden we hardly use cash at all. Everyone pays with credit cards or cash cards connected to their bank-account. I believe that this is a good thing because it decreases the risk of theft that carrying cash brings. It is also more convenient than having to carry around cash and bring up cash every time you buy something. It is much easier handing over a single card than to count cash from your wallet.
In Japan cash is very popular, everyone walks around with a lot of cash and everyone pays with cash everywhere. There is however an exception that is slowly spreading to become more and more normal and that is using PASMO or Suica to pay for purchases. It started with the Subway system, then spread to vending machines and kiosks at the stations. Now you can pay with PASMO or Suica at convenience stores and even some grocery stores.
PASMO and Suica holds several advantages over credit cards. They are much faster, they do not require and on-the-spot bank confirmation to handle a transaction and you don’t have to swipe your card in a machine, simply place it on the reader without removing it from your wallet. Those are technical advantages, but there are safety advantages as well. PASMO and Suica are charged with cash and has no connection to your bank-account. This means that if the card is stolen or lost you only loose the cash on the card and not all the money on your bank-account. You can also register the card, allowing you to cancel the card and get the money that was on the card back. In short, it has all the safety features of a credit card but adds many of it’s own.
In the future I hope to see Japan take more advantage of this system, spreading the locations where payment by PASMO or Suica is possible. Japan can become a better, more high-tech and safer cashless society than Sweden.
When I first came to Japan and stepped off Narita Express, I had to use the Subway. Japans subway is a fantastic thing because it develops a lot of technology. Among those things, there is a thing that I think is important for Japans future. That is PASMO and Suica.
In Sweden people don’t really use cash. Everyone pays with credit cards or cash cards. I think that is good. If you walk around with a lot of cash, people are not safe. I also think that paying with cards is more convenient than paying with cash.
Because cash is popular in Japan, everyone always walks around with a lot of cash and pay anywhere with cash. But, there is one exception. That is PASMO and Suica. Paying with PASMO and Suica is becoming more common all the time. It started at the Subway, then vending machines used it, now you can pay with PASMO and Suica at different places such as convenience stores and super markets.
I think PASMO and Suica are better than credit cards. It is faster, doesn’t require confirmation from the bank and you don’t have to take it out of your wallet. I think PASMO and Suica are more safe as well. Because you put cash into PASMO and Suica, you don’t have to use a bank-account.
I really want to see a future Japan where PASMO and Suica are used more. I think Japan can become a better, more high-tech and safer cash-less society than Sweden.
The last few weeks have seemed uneventful, even if that might not particularly be the case. I have gotten into a bit of a routine making time pass very quickly.
I remeber back when we only were here on vacation. A month was such a long time, managed to see so much and do so extremely much. Now a month flies by and I barely know what I’ve done or what I have to show for it. Upon restrospection there is a lot happening, or so at least my growing pile of school related papers would say.
I’m doing good in school. Though I can’t honestly say I always get 100% on all the tests I do keep a high standard. Not that it’s particularly hard right now though. There are a few disurbances in class that have decreased my motivation some. There are three big things.
There is a person in class who I swear to god does not shower or wash their clothes. The person smells of so much sweat that our entire classroom smells like a gym-locker every day. I can not express my frustration about this fact as I’m quite sensitive to that sort of sweat stench.
There are some people in our class that for some reason scream at the top of their lungs when we’re supposed to repeat after the teacher. Making it impossible to hear either yourself or the other people. They’re usually not correct either so them screaming the wrong answer makes everything so much more annoying. On top of this screaming about 90% of the chinese people in our class can not speak at all. They speak really quietly and mumble imcomprehensibly when asked something or told to say something. They also try to say everything as absolutely fast as they possibly can, so they loose every sort of intonation in their speach, making everything one big melted-together, incorrect, slur.
About half the class are chinese, so around 7-8 people. Of these 7 people about 2-3 are really immature and do not give a flying fuck about what the teacher is saying or doing. The policy of the school seems to be that no one is supposed to get a “bad grade”. No one is supposed to be “left behind” or anything like that. This results in the teacher adjusting the speed of the class to the worst students. If everyone was serious-minded and actually studied I wouldn’t mind this. But when there are people not giving a crap at all, this means we might spend weeks on something completely irrelevantly easy and not moving forward at all until those unserious people feel like listening for 10 minutes. I might sound negative towards chinese people but I’m not really, it’s just the case with my class. I know one chinese person, “Shizuka-san”, that is very serious and studies very hard and is beyond my level of Japanese long ago.
As a result of school slowing down (and them not really expecting us to study at home anymore) I have aquired a lot of free time. I had a choice to make with this free time, spend it studying at home and then inevitabely be bored out of my scull 4 hours a day during class or spend it on some other hobby. I was contacted by a very nice gentleman about some work a while back and we have come to an agreement that I will work part-time a bit for him.
So until new-year I will be working on a quite exciting project for RightRental.com. It is (partly) my job to make sure that every available rental apartment in the world is on that site. It’s exciting work because it’s a fun problem and because I get to work in a programming language I haven’t worked in before (Clojure). It’s fun to learn new things.
I’m not really working my ass of right now, I’m mostly in the studying and research phase to try to figure out the best solution, then I don’t think it will take too much time to actually implement it.
I guess you could say “To celebrate”, Emma and I bought some new entertainment for our apartment.
Call of Duty: Black Ops on Xbox
We both really like the Call of Duty game franchise, but of course I think FPS’es are ment to be played on a console, so we decided to buy this. I think it’s a good investment.
To sum it up; school is going good if a bit slow right now and I’m doing some fun stuff on the side.
Today we started school again after a week off. As I mentioned before some people moved up and some moved down in classes and I chose to stay where I was. This meant however that the two “July-starting”-classes that I and Emma was in got smaller as people moved and the result is that they put the two classes together to one. So with the new school start today I am in Emmas’ class!
Now it’s kind of what we expected when we first got here, but we’ve got twice the amount of friends as if we would have been placed in the same class from the start. Good times all around.
Most of all it’s going to become even more convenient to study since we’ll always have the same exercises and homework and such so we’re always studying the same things at the same time.
I have thought some more about my idea of an architecture game, wanting to be creative. I started learning SketchUp, the 3D modeling software from Google. It’s very easy but not really what I want, then I started investigating ArchiCAD again but I’ve forgotten so much it would take way too much work to get back into it.
Today I started doodling a little bit in SketchUp but it’s quite tedious really.
Those who have been at my house in Sweden might recognize this. I tried recreating my house. But the it’s not that simple really and I discovered that I had to put in sample furniture to try to figure out the sizes of the rooms, so it’s a bit of a pain in the ass. It’s a little fun, but not really as creative as I would like it to be.
In another attempt to satisfy my creative curiosity I’ve sort of half-started to play a little Minecraft. It’s a game made by a single (Swedish!) dude that’s really exploded in popularity and I can see why, it’s quite addictive even though there’s no real objective. It’s looks like crap but the game mechanics just makes up for it so much. Here’s a fan-made trailer that I found quite awesome:
You can try a limited version of the game for free online. It just features a “creative” mode where you can build unlimited amounts of stuff without having to mine for it. Not as fun but still fun! The full game is just €10 so it’s real cheap. If I manage to create something cool in Minecraft I’ll make a video of it or something!
In other news I bought a pair of running sneakers at Nike a couple of days ago and ran 3km with Emma. Have been soar for two days now but I think it’s starting to go away so it’s about time to get out and run again!
Have any other suggestions of how to spend creativity? Please post in the comments!
Yesterday Marcus, a classmate, hade made some onigiris (rice-balls with stuff in it) at home and it looked pretty good so I tried to make some myself!
I fried up some chicken with some pepper and some extra salt to counter the rice (according to Marcus instructions), then I put some cellophane wrap in a cup and put the rice in there, made a sort of cup out of the rice and then put the chicken in the middle.
I pulled up the plastic wrap and pressed everything into a ball and then put it in the fridge.
Today during one of the breaks in school I ate it, and it tasted really good, so I’m going to make more! After about 3 hours in school I usually get really hungry so this is a really cheap way (it cost maybe like 30 yen to make one of these balls and you actually get pretty full from one or two) to not be hungry for the last lesson!
This is the school that I go to and in this video are some excerpts from one 50 minute lesson. This is basically how most lessons go, we practice dialogue, repeat after the teacher and read from the textbook.
I was going to talk about the cellphone, the camera and school. But I didn’t really have anything useful to say about the camera so I skipped it. I find it a lot harder to make vlogs right now than writing regular blog-posts. When I write I can get in exactly how much information I want and the reader can choose to read as much of it as he wants, it’s easy to school to see where interesting parts are and such. In the video though I have to be fast and concise or it becomes super-boring very, very fast. The end result is that the video contains a lot less information than a blog-post would have. It’s a good exercise to learn to be concise, but at what cost does that happen, and is it worth that cost? Anyhow, here is a video. Showing off the school-material is the most interesting and worth-while part.