Paris

The last leg of our trip took us to Paris, and we’d be there on the same day as the Eurocup final between France and Portugal! We were all set to fly there until while having some beer at the Hofbräuhaus in München, I got an e-mail saying our flight was cancelled. Luckily, I knew my way around quite well already, so I booked train tickets right away through Deutsche Bahn. Our route had a transfer at my old stomping grounds – Stuttgart. I barely recognized the place since everything was under construction for Stuttgart 21. When I was there, the main train station hadn’t been renovated and people were protesting all over the place about the whole project. The trains also went a lot faster than I remembered – a whopping 319 km/h.

First order of business after arriving: food. The last two times I was there as a poor student, we never splurged on food, but now as working professionals, I can! Frog legs? Okay.

With the Eurocup games being hosted in France and the terrorist attacks that happened in Paris, there were soldiers on the street in just about every place with crowds. If any terrorist attacks were to happen in Paris, it wouldn’t be during the Eurocup games.

Later that night, we met up with one of our friend’s coworkers for dinner. Time for more food. Escargot? Okay.

Beef tartare? Okay. We all had one for ourselves, and if anything bad were to happen, there was only one washroom in our AirBnB. Would have been game over.

The next day, we went to Versailles. Instead of taking pictures of things, I played Pokemon Go instead. It had just launched in USA, and since I had an account from that launch, I got to play. Everywhere I went, there was Pokemon. Never mind that it was a blazing hot day without much shade in the palace gardens. Gotta catch’em all. It was Pokemon Go everywhere I went – there’s even an arena at the Arc de Triomphe.

Make Napoleon great again!

After all the walking around, it was time for more food. Foie gras this time.

The next day was a trip to the catacombs and saw the skeletal remains of a lot of dead people.

And also visited a famous dead guy: Napoleon.

After that, it was time to go to the fan zone at the Eiffel Tower to watch France VS Portugal. All these people are trying to get in through the many entrances. The police guarding the gate were letting women and children go in without lining out while everyone else had to. Chivalry is alive and well in France.

After a long while of waiting we got in. There were so many people walking on the gravel road that it kicked up so much dust everywhere and it was hard to breathe and I was coughing every few minutes. It wasn’t comfortable at all. There were long lineups everywhere and nowhere to sit. But the atmosphere was really good. Lots of cheering and anticipation for a France win.

A friend of ours, who was coming from another location came too late and couldn’t get into the fan zone to meet up with us. After a grueling ordeal of deciding whether or not to stay or go, we left and watched the game from a small restaurant near our AirBnB.

After Portugal won, people still cheered in the streets and set up firecrackers and stuff. I couldn’t have imagined what it would have been like if France won. All the France fans would have lost their shits and the streets would have been even more rowdy.

The next day, it was time to fly back home, thus ending my 3rd European adventure.

Link to photo album: here

Munich

From Berlin, we made our way to Munich. I didn’t take a lot of pictures here, since I’d been here 3 times before. We did the usual stuff like drinking, eating pork knuckle at the Hofbräuhaus, and visiting Marienplatz.

We also got to check out the Deutsches Museum – it is a museum of all things technology. From stone age technology all the way to current research problems.

While we were in Munich, we watched the game between Germany and France in the Eurocup at a local pub. After Germany lost, everybody was pretty quiet when they left the pub. There was just sadness 🙁

That’s about it for Munich!

Link to photo album: here

Deutsches Panzermuseum

The next excursion from Berlin was the German Panzer Museum. I’ve always wanted to go here ever since I heard about it. It was about a 3-hour drive from Berlin, so this presented a good opportunity for me and my friends to drive on the famous Autobahn. Too bad our rental car was a Volvo and not the Mercedes Benz that we wanted, but we still got to drive really really fast.

The museum focussed on German tank developments since the beginning: World War I. Definitely an awesome museum. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in the subject.

During the interwar period and World War II, the Germans took the tank concept and built it into a very effective war machine. This museum is paradise for tank nerds like me.

This museum is also paradise for mechanical engineers too. Here is an interactive exhibit on the tank’s transmission. Yanking on the lever let you shift gears and one can see how the gears move around through the clear covering. Definitely real cool for people who are into that sort of stuff.

There are lots of tanks here. This is only one of the many rooms.

There’s also an exhibit showing how kids learn how to play war at a young age and it questions the morality whether or not this is okay. Ironically, when we were there, a group of children were going through the whole museum screaming about how the stuff in the museum was the coolest stuff ever.

Right behind that, was an exhibit of guns and how humans engineered death.

The exhibit on how armour piercing rounds work was especially cool.

And also the cool cross-sections.

What’s a tank musum if you can’t actually go inside one?

And of course, one can’t look at tanks without thinking of margaritas and Katy Perry…

After visiting the museum, we stopped in Hamburg to grab a bite to eat. We ate at this restaurant with a mysterious set menu where we knew neither the price nor what we would be served. We ended up eating different kinds of seafood over a few courses (swordfish, among them!), and it was ~40 euros!

Link to photo album: here

Leipzig

While in Berlin, I took the Deutsche Bahn and made a day-trip to Leipzig, where Robocup 2016 was happening. Three years ago, I had visited Eindhoven for the same Robocup competition, so it was pretty cool to go there and check it out again.

The ICE is amazing, but it’s pretty expensive. It costs around ~120 euro to go across the country.

Back at Robocup, I got to see the robots in action once again! I also got to reconnect with a few of the people I used to know at Robocup too.

I also got a bit of time to walk around the city center. Downtown Leipzig isn’t very big, and since I went there on a Sunday, everything was closed and there was almost no one on the streets.

I spent about half a day there, and after that I went back to Berlin.

Link to photo album: here

Berlin

The next destination after Krakow was Berlin (this would be my second time here). First step: go to the Sony Center and have a Bananenweizen because I just can’t get that anywhere else.

There is a Uniqlo here! I wish I got paid to say this, but it’s the greatest clothing chain in existence.

Gotta love these Bierbikes rolling down the street.

Our main reason to come here was join in on the party that is the Eurocup. A giant screen was set up at the Brandenburg Gate just to show the games. The weirdest part, that before the game started, they did Kiss Cams, which was fine, but they did this with straight men too… shudder

We stuck around to watch Poland play against Portugal!

These people know how to chill.

We met some of my friend’s German friends and they took us to a warehouse that was converted into a bar with a giant screen just to watch Germany VS Italy. According to them, going to that place to watch the game has brought them “good luck” when they went to see Germany VS Brazil in 2014. Definitely one of the greatest games of Football I’ve seen – what a close game between Germany and Italy with a 6-5 Germany win after a penalty shootout.

And of course, when in Germany…

Link to photo album: here

Auschwitz

As part of the trip to Krakow, we visited the Auschwitz concentration camp. We bought tickets in advance (guided tour) so we didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets or anything. An Uber took us from the city center to the entrance (190.70 PLN = ~$49 USD). At the entrance, we were greeted by the icon sign that read “Arbeit macht frei”.

The tour took us to various locations in the camp, where prisoners were experimented on, suffered in standing cells, etc. The guide also explained how the Germans ran the camps day to day, how they used certain prisoners to oversee other prisoners (Kapos), and of course the extermination. One of the most impactful exhibits here was a room full of just shoes – shoes of many who died at the camp. It’s one thing to be told a bunch of numbers of how many died, but it’s another thing to see thousands of shoes just laid out in front of you.

The camp was split into two: Auschwitz I and II, where the main purpose of Auschwitz I was for political prisoners while Auschwitz II was for extermination and forced labour. Originally, Auschwitz I had many one story buildings, but an additional floor was added to increase capacity.

Guardtowers and electrified barbed wire fences prevented escapes. They really thought of everything.

The death wall is where people were lined up to be executed by firing squad.

The next part of the tour took us to Auschwitz II. Railway tracks efficiently brought prisoners directly into the camp. It’s impressive how efficient they were – that’s what made so scary.

As the Allies closed in on the camp, the Germans destroyed many of the buildings to try and hide what they did. But nonetheless, the truth came to light at the end and many of those responsible were tried and executed.

It was really hard to imagine millions of people were killed in this one place alone. People didn’t talk much during the tour as if to informally have a moment of silence for all the victims. There was nothing to be said. Everyone felt the aura of sadness just by being there.

Link to photo album: here

Krakow

In June 2016, I made yet again another trip to Europe! This time, my travels have taken me to Krakow in Poland! I flew Vancouver to Montreal to Paris, AND THEN to Krakow. It took basically a whole 24 hours, but at least I got a $200 Air Canada voucher out of it by volunteering to get bumped to a later flight.

Travel tip: THERE IS UBER IN KRAKOW!!! To go from the airport to the old town, it costed only 25.46 PLN, which is not even $7 USD to go about 12km. That total was split by 3 people, so that’s about $2-something per person.

Our hostel was in the old town, and was in walking distance to the market square.

South of the old town is Wawel Castle.

And it’s got a great view of the Vistula River. It’s a got a great bike/jogging path that runs along it too.

We went on a walking tour to the old Jewish quarter. Since the war, it no longer housed the vibrant Jewish community that once existed.  The Old Synagogue, built in the 15th century still stands today.

The former ghetto now looks like this. Each chair represents 1000 victims.

The tour ended at the former Schindler Factory. It is now the site of museums for art and the history of Krakow. One of the exhibits is a cable car that used to run through the city. The sign says “Use by Jews forbidden”. It’s one thing to hear about what the tour guide says about the holocaust, but this sign was much much more impactful.

A less depressing topic: food. I can’t go to a new place without drinking their beer. I definitely like it a lot better than the beers I can get in North America. And then there’s bread. I really like bread. A local brand of orange juice, called Cappy was amazing too.

Somebody also told me to try perogies, but perogies to me are alright I guess. I also ate some deep fried calf brain. I would not eat that again. One of the restaurants we went to was called Wierzynek, and the cool thing about it is that it’s been around since 1364!

Link to photo album: here

Should you be an engineer?

It’s not easy to decide what career path to take.  Especially for high school students, who don’t yet know what they want to do.  During my time in university, I spent a bit of time in engineering outreach to speak to high school students and first-year university students about studying engineering.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to go back to my old high school and present to students about studying engineering (link to presentation below), and to help guide them with their career choices.  The idea was to communicate:

  • What engineering is as a profession
  • What engineering is about
  • That they should consider it as a career

At the same time, it wasn’t meant to “persuade” them to study engineering, but more like show them what it’s about so that they can make a more informed decision when they choose their university majors.  I also wanted to tell them this as general advice:

  • Do what you’re interested in
  • Nothing worth doing is ever easy
  • Don’t do it just for the money

Overall, the students seemed to be receptive to what I had to say, and had good questions to ask me about my experiences.  Hopefully, I helped guide them to make a career choice for themselves!

Link to the presentation: here

Moving an OS to another disk and still have it boot with Linux

For the longest time, I’ve had an 80 GB HDD running my Windows partition (dual-boot setup with Ubuntu on a SSD), but now I’ve finally upgraded the Windows partition to an SSD as well. I looked into how to clone my Windows partition onto the SSD, such that I can still boot the disk.

I already have Ubuntu as my main OS, so copying the disk was easy using dd, which allows copying all the contents of one disk to another. This works well when the new hard drive is greater than or the same size as the current hard drive (I upgraded from a 80GB HDD to a 128GB SSD).

First I run this to see which disk I am copying from and to

fdisk -l

Then I run dd. If I am copying from /dev/sda to /dev/sda, then it’s:

dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb

But sometimes the disks don’t have the same size, so I used gparted to move/resize the partitions to make use of the extra space on the new disk. gparted complained that it might make my disk no bootable, but the disk was still bootable for me nonetheless. I didn’t even have to mess with any grub bootloader settings either. I simply unplugged the old disk, and left the new disk plugged in and booted into the new disk no problem.

Not your typical “sign your life away” kind of waiver

I stumbled upon this when I was rummaging through some of my things.  It’s a waiver for visiting the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North and South Korea.  It pretty much says that my safety is not guaranteed if the North decides to attack.

The United Nations Command, the United States of America, and the Republic of Korea cannot guarantee the safety of visitors and may not be held accountable in the event of a hostile enemy act.

There’s even a section about not interacting with the soldiers on the other side too.

Fraternization, including speaking, making gestures or associating with personnel from the Korea People’s Army/Chinese People’s Volunteers (KPA/CPV) side, is strictly prohibited

Anyway, the full text is here for people who are curious

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