sunday, october 22nd 2006, 1pm

manual updates of this site are over. time for wordpress to do all the work for me. and maybe now i'll get into the habit of posting regular, small updates a la haikufactory. check it out.

thursday, october 5th 2006, 12pm

by now i am sure that whoever still looks at this page has come to the conclusion that i have totally abandoned the site, and/or am dead. tadaa, back by popular demand, i have decided to post a note or two. and since i have no new pictures of berlin (well. i do. just not here right now.), i've dug up this shot of me and my good friend eddy, after a nice day of boarding and a tour of the nelson brewery. yeah, it's a few years back, but we look so happy. check it out.

i have been slowly getting used to living in the craziness called berlin. and while i like pretty much all of it, i do miss the countryside i had around darmstadt. sure, in terms of dining, drinking and the likes, berlin is superior to almost any other place i have lived (including tokyo), but it's really, really big and it takes way too long to get the hell out of here when necessary. in this respect, i find that vancouver is becoming more and more attractive to me these days... well, lets see. i have put up a jobsearch website recenty, which is predominantly targeted at the videogames industry. but since i'll still be involved in phd work until summer 2007, it is still quite a distance away, and i'm also interested in staying in an academic environment. we'll see how these conflicting plans/goals pan out. stay tuned...

... or rather, do not stay tuned, since this website will most likely not be updated until my graduation. well, maybe. i will try. hope you all are doing well and enjoying whatever it is you are up to these days. and let me know if you'll be in berlin anytime. cheers.

friday, february 3rd 2006, 9pm

long time no write. and for a good reason. since last friday, i've been living in berlin! and pretty much dead center in the heart of all of berlin, although it used to be considered part of the east. whatever, no more borders. rupert helped me move (thanks again man!) and stayed for the first few days to do some exploration of my new neighborhood. and a very quirky and international neighborhood it is. to my great delight, i finally have incredible sushi around the corner. yay. not to mention the slew of cool cafes, bars, restaurants, shops (many of them sell clothes and furniture), and many museums. in one word: culture.

i started my new phd position here at tu berlin (with my good friend and phd advisor marc) last wednesday, and although there's still lots of admin stuff ahead, it doesn't feel too bad. therefore, i'm (finally) getting back to my research, after weeks and months of finding an apartment, signing for that apartment, and actually moving my life from darmstadt to berlin. and all this pretty much right after i got back from tokyo end of november. agh. but: looks like i can gear down now, at least with respect to all the travel stuff. enough traveling for me for a while, although i would love to hit the alps, at least for a few days...

... but that will have to wait until i've set this place up a bit, got comfortable in the new lab, and am ready to organize a proper going-away party in darmstadt. very likely to happen mid march, i think (and hope). paper deadlines looming mid/end april, and then the new teaching will be underway. no rest here, same old same old. cheers!

monday, october 31st 2005, 1pm

wow. the second real update just two days later... here goes... so when i got here in september i met rune from norway in the laundry room, and he invited me to a j-league (soccer) game. the fields are smaller here, and the japanese style is quite offensive, so it's pretty fun to watch.

i've added a shot of my neighborhood, just so you can see that living about a 30 minute metro ride outside of town already gets you into a not-so-dense setting with gardens etc. but it does make it about two hours of walking/traveling every day, which is starting to be a bit of a pain in the ass. sure, i'm spoiled from walking 5 minutes to the lab in darmstadt, but isn't that the way it should be? i mean, i'd hate to lose two hours of my life everyday for the rest of my life! :-)... fast forward to one week ago (sunday): my japan vacation week. well, it was to start on monday, but the weather was so nice, i wanted to get a look at mount fuji from shinjuku. the observation decks on the metropolitan government office building are free, so that's where i headed for. i got real lucky.

on monday i took a bullet train (a shinkansen) to matsushima, which is about 300 kilometers north of tokyo. it is mostly known for being one of three top scenic views in japan, and rightfully so. but not only that, there's also a very nice zen-temple here, where i spent the afternoon reading and relaxing. i had a pretty bad headache from sitting at the computer too much before i got here, but i left much more relaxed. and a day later my headache was gone too. i guess sometimes it helps to get away from work from time to time and smell the roses. although i think i already do it often enough, it seems there is no such thing as often enough :-)

i had initially planned on another day trip to kanazawa on tuesday, but considering that it's a four hour train ride one way, i skipped it and instead went to ueno park in tokyo. ueno park is known as a great autumn foliage spot, but that gets better towards mid november. i really came here to attend the hokusai exhibition in the tokyo national museum. i was not disappointed, it was great. and i bought a few replicas of the ukiyo-e (woodcut prints) in the shop, which are made using the same techniques as hokusai, hiroshige and other ukiyo-e artists of the edo period. if you're interested, you should check out the adachi institute for woodcut prints.

wednesday. time to leave for three days of kyoto sightseeing. according to takeo, three days should be enough. what he really meant must have been "after three days it'll be enough". and i was. but i only managed to see core kyoto, and not even all of that. japan still has so much to offer, i'll need to come back someday for the rest. anyway, i started in kyoto on wednesday afternoon, then checked into the ryokan (a traditional japanese hostel with tatami mat floors, meals served to the room and communal (hot) baths). ideal after a day of sightseeing, i'd say. the food was excellent, and the hot bath took care of the rest. very enjoyable, as was the city. i was quite impressed with the sheer amount of historical sites, shrines, temples and beautful gardens. well, you can read up on it all on various websites, such as my favorite picks japan guide and japanese guest houses, so i'll just get straight to the pictures from wednesday and thursday.

friday, kyoto day three. more sights to see, and actually those that i liked most. not that the previous days had been less impressive, it's just that i'm more of a zen-garden than a buddhist-temple person (although they are very nice as well). and with ginkaku-ji and kinkaku-ji i got two very popular and very beautiful gardens. and philosophers way was so nice that i almost walked it twice. yeah, the incredible weather (20 degrees and sunshine) helped a lot too. take a look.

well, i guess from the previous two updates, one could get the impression that i'm on vacation here in japan. sure, i did lots of sightseeing, but all within two weeks of my eight week stay, and i have three more (full) weeks of work to go before i head home. yeah, weekends too. i want to make the most out of being undistracted from the usual things back home. concerning this website: it looks like i can breath some life back in, but these updates are so time consuming. incredible. i'll still need to add a "march 2004 - september 2005" fast forward section somehow, but that should be doable, yet with much less detail than the previous updates. i mean, all the traveling i've done in that timespan needs to be documented, if only for myself :-)

a few more personal notes... after i get back on nov. 20th i'll be looking for an apartment in berlin, since marc (my friend and phd advisor) and me are moving to the tu-berlin, where i will help set up the new lab, do some teaching, and complete my phd thesis by mid/end 2007. at least that's my plan. i'm currently aiming for moving in january, but that of course depends on the availability of cool and not overly expensive apartments in nice districts such as prenzlauer berg or mitte. i hear the availability is quite good these days. so anyway, it's bye bye darmstadt for me soon. i wonder if i'll manage to stay away for good this time :-) furthermore, olga will be finishing her phd in tel aviv in the summer of 2006, and then come to berlin to do a postdoc with marc. sweet, eh? :-) nice how things sometimes just fall into place. i'm all happy. it's about time i settle down a little bit :-) ... signing off for now. hope you are all fine and doing whatever it is you want to be doing. cheers.

saturday, october 29th 2005, 8pm

time for the first *real* update in a long time. no, i still haven't managed to catch up with the massive amount of pictures on my hard drive, so i won't even try. at least not yet. instead: more japan. i just got back from a three day trip to kyoto and before that i spent a day in the scenic bay of matsushima and also visited an incredibe hokusai exhibition in the tokyo national museum. and i had great weather, finally. a nice week, i must say! but before i post the shots i took this week, it's time to get the tokyo stories from olgas visit (oct. 3rd till 11th) up on this site...

we started the week with a visit to asakusa, the oldest part of tokyo which is where the lower class of tokyo lived during the edo (or tokugawa) period. it is also where many of the scenes in hiroshige's woodcut prints took place. asakusa holds what is commonly known as one of tokyo's major tourist attractions, the large senso-ji (asakusa kannon temple). after strolling sround the neighborhood, we headed for some shopping, eating and neon-light-watching in shibuya. it rained a lot, but tokyo is designed around the rain-season from september to october, so it's really not that bad, and it's not cold either.

the next day i surprised olga with a visit to the ghibli museum. she didn't figure this one out, so i think she was really (and pleasantly) surprised. we got to see all kinds of sketches, toys and crazy contraptions, showing the magic in the making. they even sell original hand-drawn cel's from the feature films in the shop, but (understandably) at pretty steep prices. i could keep myself from buying one. instead, i got all kinds of other stuff, including the totoro storyboards, and, of course, my very own totoro. yeah, i'm a little kid.

olga gave a talk at the graphics seminar on thurday afternoon, and we used the morning to visit the imperial palace gardens (and we had sunshine!). unfortunately, it was the only real sunny period we had all week. and it was so relaxing and nice to stroll through this park. the talk went really well too, not such a big surprise to me :-) that evening, takeo invited us to a traditional japanese dinner, with shabu-shabu (meat cooked in hot broth) and all kinds of other tasty treats. not to forget: lots of sake. i really like sake.

friday. after barely sufficient sleep we headed out for yoyogi-koen and the meiji-shrine inside the garden. very tranquil indeed. and i once again realized that i am much more fond of shinto shrines with all their bare-wooden construction, as opposed to the slightly more elaborately decorated buddhist temples. zen-buddhist temples are another topic, but more on that in a later update on my kyoto trip. after the peace and quiet of the yoyogi gardens, we strolled through harajuku, a very hip and trendy part of town, with omotesando boulevard, considered as the champs-elysees of tokyo (by takeo). there are some really nice shops and sushi places off the main strip, and we found a small ukiyo-e (woodcut print) museum there too. after all this we headed back home for some napping before the night out in shibuya... the plan: stay up all night and party, take the first train (at 5am) to the tsukiji fish market, check out the early morning craziness there, and finish it all off with an as-fresh-as-it-gets sushi breakfast. we stuck to the plan all the way, and it was big fun! sure, we were toast afterwards, but it was really worth it. hmmmm, and the sushi was so good. not enough for saturday though, so after about six hours of sleep, and no real brain activity, we decided to go shopping in ginza. shopping in ginza is fun. perhaps too much fun.

after *really* getting some sleep we used sunday to explore around shinjuku, the most lively district of town, and also a place where i go every weekend just for the atmosphere (and there's a big bookstore there, kinokuniya, where they sell english books and mangas). we went for a delicious dinner in the new york grill that evening. it's in 245m height above the city, so the view at night is absolutely stunning. and it was also the set for the bar-scenes of "lost in translation". as you can guess, i'm a big fan of this movie, so the overall experience was enhanced. not that it really needed to be, we had a really good time (and a really good meal to go with it :-). after the dinner: more strolling and neon-light-watching.

on olga's last day, takeo was so nice to drive us to kamakura, about 70km south of tokyo. kamakura was the capitol of japan during the so-called kamakura-period (1192-1333), so there are many sights to see, most prominently, the giant buddha statue. but aside of that the whole place has a very "historical" feel to it. takeo took us for more traditional food, this time: okonomiyaki. it's a dough with fish or meat and lots of veggies (like cabbage) and spices, which you mix yourself, and then bake it on the table (which is a hotplate). quite the experience, and it tastes good too.

i dropped olga off at the airport the next day and then went directly to the lab to continue my research. the following two weeks were pretty heavy-duty in terms of the inner workings of what i'm doing, but i've made progress, if only in that i now have a better grasp of what is going on. now that i'm back from kyoto, i will try to get a prototype up and running before i leave in three weeks. and marc will drop by here in the last week too. and madeleine just wrote me that she'll be by on my last day/night for some tokyo sightseeing and nightlife. it's not over yet :-) to be continued... soon!

sunday, september 25th 2005, 8pm

yikes. weirdo weather here these days. hot, sunny and humid two days ago. rain yesterday. today it's cold and windy. meh. didn't let that keep me from tokyo exploration though, no way. i headed out to ikeburo, which is the closest neighborhood to my home of heiwadei in the northwest of the city. i stayed from the early afternoon till dusk, strolled, went shopping, ate sushi and some yakitori, and simply enjoyed the atmosphere. i really don't know exactly why, but being in an unfamiliar yet intriguing culture with no person to talk to always fills me with an incredible sense of peace. sure, this only goes well until i crack from not communicating with anyone :-) fortunately, most of the (13) lab members speak english. and, so cool, olga will be dropping by to visit soon (the tokyo sightseeing week i mentioned in the last post). and yours truly managed to pick up a usb cable today, so here are some shots from yesterday in the metro, ginza and in the lab... i forgot the camera today, which is a pity, since there was some traditional festivity going on. argh.

tomorrow i'll be attending the digital animation symposium here in the tokyo international forum, where people from pixar, sony imageworks and studio ghibli will be giving talks on their latest features. sounds like a cool day in a cool building to me. then the weeklong workathlon starts. more updates next weekend. cheers.