MonthAugust 2011

Summer Hailstorm

Day 230

The past two months of weather in Stuttgart saw a majority if days that were partly cloudy without a lot of sunshine and a lot of random rain.  Since the beginning of last week, the temperature in Stuttgart rose from a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius to a phenomenal 30 degrees Celsius over the course of a day.  Also part of this dramatic change was the sudden disappearance of all the clouds.  This weather persisted for a few days and I was beginning to think that summer in Stuttgart finally arrived.

Last Wednesday, I noticed on the weather report that Stuttgart would get more rain today and when I saw that I thought it was kind of strange.  As usual though, the forecast here was generally pretty accurate.  As predicted, it started raining as I got to work.  The rain was so light that it may as well not be considered rain.  Not long after, the weather reverted to the 30 degree sunshine.  That was disappointing.  I wanted more rain.

Later that day, as I was leaving work, the bright summer sky was overrun by a large gathering of storm clouds.  A large rainstorm started pretty much around the same time I decided to leave work. I walked from the research building to the main building, which usually takes about a minute, and during that time, it rained so hard that everywhere that my umbrella didn’t cover was soaking wet, namely my jeans from the knees down.  I could squeeze the pant leg and water would gush out like a wet towel.

Like everyone else, I waited for the bus by the guard booth at the gate under shelter.  Looking out, everyone could see the rain turn into hail.  Hail the size of loonies rained down.  The sound of the hail hitting cars just made a loud and persistent rattling noise.

When the bus came, everyone opened their umbrellas and ran to the bus.  While inside, we could still hear the loud rattling from the impact of the hail and we were all thankful that we didn’t have to be outside anymore.

As the bus passed under an overpass, we could see the drain on the overpass disposing the drainage water onto the side of the road beneath it and because of that, it ended up flooding the road.

About halfway down the mountain, the rain stopped and almost immediately, a rainbow appeared.  After getting off the bus, I started feeling the intense summer heat again.  The wet ground now just reflected the intense summer like a giant mirror.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that large of a rainstorm in recent memory and definitely not one where it started hailing in 30 degree weather.  Haven’t been that soaked from rain before either.  It was really like movie rain – it comes out of nowhere all of a sudden and gets everyone soaked, but it stops really quickly.

Really Handy LaTeX Commands

I just started writing in LaTeX and all too often I find myself forgetting commands that I had looked up a few minutes ago.  Therefore, I thought it’d help if I compiled a list of these.

Paragraph Spacing


This goes in the preamble of the document (after the document class stuff, but before the begin document line).

Removing Page Numbers


This gets rid of page numbers for that particular page, but the numbering sequence continues on the next page.

Adding Unnumbered Sections into the TOC



By default, unnumbered sections do not appear in the table of contents and therefore they must be added manually.

Defining a New Style with fancyhdr

fancyhf{}}% clear all header and footer fields

New style definitions should go before the very last curly brace.

Unnumbered Sections Not Working with leftmark and rightmark


For some reason, unnumbered sections don’t play nice with fancyhdr and don’t get treated as real sections when the leftmark and rightmark commands are used.  By using markboth, it fixes the problem.  Now my headers show the correct section name.

Bulleted List

item Here is a bullet.
item Here is another bullet.

Numbered List

item Here is item one.
item Here is item two.

Referencing Sections by Name

section{MyFirstSection} label{marker}
In section~nameref{marker} we defined…

Requires the hyperref package!  Put the line below in the preamble.


Linking to a Website




That gives an o with an umlaut.  Just replace the letter to get an umlaut on a different character.

Really Basic Android Programming Learning Resources

I’m pretty new to Android development and it was only a few days ago that I got my development environment completely set up.  It’s now time for me to do some real learning.  I’ve put together a list of some learning resources that helped me a lot.

1.  Hello World


It goes through the steps of installing the proper packages in the Android SDK, the fundamentals of using the emulator properly, setting up projects, and the basics of setting up a UI using XML files (loading strings and UI elements from resource files).

2.  Android UI Layout


This tutorial here goes through different ways of laying out the UI with Views, ViewGroups, and Widgets within a given Activity (see link for a definition of the terms).  The code examples on that site pretty much demonstrate how textboxes, buttons, and the like can be added to the screen.

Apart from the links, options also exist for creating Android UI’s with XML.  One is DroidDraw and the other is the plugin inside ADT for Eclipse (just open an .xml file and the UI editor should open).

I found it’s easier to just edit the XML files by hand rather than rely on ADT, although ADT does preview them really well.

3.  Android Developers Website


This isn’t really a tutorial site, but it basically covers everything to do with Android programming.  It basically is a documentation for all the classes with some descriptions on what you can do with it.  Some of the language in it is super technical though.

I didn’t list many sites here because after understanding the content from the first two, it really feels like Android programming becomes super open ended from there.  Depending on what people want to do, the Android Developers site should have information on how.

Really Old and Nostalgic Arcade Games

During a coffee break today, my friends and I somehow ended up discussing all these super old arcade games.  It made me feel super nostalgic.  I remember those days at Playdium playing all these fantastic titles.  Pretty sure this is why I was so into computer games.

Area 51

Area51 Area51SS

I think this was the first rail shooter I ever played.  All I remember from this game was shooting aliens with the light gun at the arcade or on the PlayStation.

Gauntlet Legends


I played this game when I was like 9 and I’d all I’d do was mash buttons and things on the screen would die (except when I ran into those stupid door traps).  It was great.  Surprisingly, one of the most memorable things about this game was when the narrator would say something like, “Warrior needs food — badly!”, with the most epic tone possible.

House of the Dead


Here’s another super classic rail shooter.  I played this when I was like 8 and it was so scary back then.  Now that I look back, this game came out way before people thought the idea of zombies were cool.  Each boss in the game had a special weak spot that the player had to shoot at in order to kill them faster, but the last boss didn’t have one.  And…I always shot the hostages…

Hydro Thunder


The most memorable thing about this game for me was when the game narrator would announce “HYDRO THUNDER!!!” really loud the moment the game started.  It made the game sound more epic than it was.  I don’t think this game was ever as good as the shooters though.

Metal Slug X


This is the game that every Asian shopping mall had.  People put in quarter after quarter trying to beat this game.  The player died so easily in this game and the game made so much money that way.  I don’t think I played this at the arcade often, but it was a great game.  The player had to fight through hordes of enemy soldiers while rescuing POW’s that looked like Tom Hanks in Cast Away and for some reason, these POW’s would somehow give the player powerups (as if they couldn’t use it themselves).

Star Wars Trilogy


This rail shooter was probably one of the most unique ones.  Rather than using a light gun, the player had to use a joystick and shoot at the enemies on the screen.  Since it also followed the Star Wars storyline, the player got to shoot TIE-Fighters in an X-Wing to blow up the Death Star(s), use a blaster against invading stormtroopers on Hoth and even tie the cable around the AT-AT’s legs to knock them over.  The player even gets to fight Darth Vader and Boba Fett.  Even though I played this game so much, I could never defeat Darth Vader.  Every time he threw down his cape right before his next slash, I’d always miss the block.  That was annoying.  The best level was Death Star II.  The recreation of it in that game was just amazing for its time.

Time Crisis II


I thought this game was so cool just because the player got to step on a pedal to hide.  That never happened in all the other rail shooters I’d played.  It was so awesome.  Each click on the light gun felt really nice too because the slide would go back every time the gun was “fired”.  It gave a really nice plastic clicking sound that I always associated to this game.

Tokyo Wars


This was one of the few multiplayer games at the arcade where people could play against each other (other than racing games).  It was so fun to just rush in with a tank and just start firing without a care for any strategy whatsoever (as if I had any when I was 9).  Somehow I was still pretty good at the game.  I’d always look at the minimap to see where the enemies were so I never drove around randomly.  The narrator in the game would also say something like, “enemy tank to the rear!” and every time the player fired a shot, the whole chair would shake. 

Restaurant Amani–A Japanese-Chinese-Korean Dinner

Day 217

A while back I bought Groupons for a sushi platter at this restaurant and so today my friends and I went here for dinner to use them.  When we walked in, I went up to the counter and told the lady in German that I made a reservation for four people yesterday.  I then overheard her speaking Mandarin to her colleague.  It threw me off since I expected the staff there to be Japanese (even though a lot of Chinese people run sushi restaurants in Vancouver).  Knowing that the lady spoke Mandarin, I started speaking that instead and I told her that we wanted to use Groupons.  She seemed really surprised at how I started speaking Chinese and asked where I was from.  I told her I was from Hong Kong and she told me she was from Korea.  That totally took me aback.  For a Korean, she spoke Mandarin as well as someone natively Chinese.  She said that I spoke pretty good Mandarin for someone that came from Hong Kong (but maybe that’s just her being polite).  After that brief chat, she then invited us to sit anywhere we wanted and gave us our food menus.

Looking through the menu, I realized the restaurant had more than just Japanese food.  It had Korean and Chinese food.  The last few pages of my menu had some items written only in Chinese and my friend didn’t have those pages in their menus (likely because they knew that I knew Chinese).  It turns out they served the Cantonese style chicken feet (鳳爪)!  I definitely had to order that one.  I also ordered a bowl of Kimchi as I hadn’t eaten that in a while.  I had both of those along with the sushi platter that the Groupon got me.  My friends ordered Gyoza, spicy fried squid (I think it was 椒鹽鮮魷), miso soup, and Inarizushi (fried tofu filled with sushi rice).

My friends didn’t know what it was so I explained it as a Korean version of German sauerkraut except spicy.  I don’t eat Kimchi much, but this one tasted really good.  It had the perfect amount of spiciness.  I guess that is kind of subjective since everyone can handle a different amount of that.

The chicken feet that I ordered didn’t taste as good as I thought it would.  I can’t help but compare the taste with the kind I’ve had in Vancouver.  Some people do say that Vancouver has the best Chinese food in the world and now I’ve begun to see that.  Compared to Vancouver, the meat (pretty much skin I suppose) on the  chicken feet I got here seemed to be a lot “tougher”.  I was really expecting it to be really soft.

Although I didn’t try the miso soup, it looked really delicious.  It looked a lot different that the usual kind that I’ve seen in Vancouver.  I wouldn’t know which one is more legit or better tasting though.  Everything else looked really good and super legit too – especially the fried squid; that looked really good.

After eating our appetizers, we chowed down on the sushi platter.  Almost immediately, the mediocre seafood quality of Stuttgart revealed itself.  The taste was a lot more bland and had less of the natural flavour of the animal itself.  Again, I compared it to Vancouver and it’s really no contest there.  Vancouver has such good access to the ocean for fishing, while Stuttgart is landlocked and relies on frozen fish being delivered. 

Despite that though, I thought that this place had good sushi for a landlocked city. Although, the biggest drawback in eating sushi in Stuttgart is that it’s really expensive. The only reason we went was because of the Groupon that gave us 50% off the sushi platter.  I don’t think I would have gone otherwise.  Seeing that I’m going to be back in Vancouver really soon (16 days by my count), I can have all the amazing Japanese, Chinese and Korean food I want!

On our way out, I had another brief chat with the lady there and it was really difficult for me to understand Mandarin.  It wasn’t the way she spoke, but more so the way I really had to focus my attention to her talking because my Mandarin ability wasn’t that good.  My mind literally zoned out of everything and focussed purely on understanding what she said.  I ended up saying something back in like a mix of Chinese, German and English.  It was kind of strange, but she understood what I wanted to say.  It was kind of random yet really fascinating to have a trilingual language conversation and tri-culture meal going on.

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