Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bar B Que party at my research group

This month we had the yearly Grill party at my robotics research group. We hold this party every summer at a Bar-B-Que location next to our building, and invite all the students who have worked with us during the last year. This year, summer has not come completely yet, so we were afraid of a bad weather. However the weather got better at the time of the party and we started a little earlier than scheduled. The initial phase, burning the coal, was tough, so we used a heat blower to speed up the process :)

I came back at about 11 pm while the party was going on with still a few participants there. Some left-over food and drinks now lay in our kitchen ready to be made good of...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Joining East and West Germany

A few days back, the university arranged a trip to Berlin. We travelled on bus with Brazilian students singing and making noise at the back for the first two hours. This was a ten hours journey because of our stopovers. We got a hostel to stay neat the city center in this relatively big city (but only a third the population of Lahore). There we were briefed on our location and where to go in the evening and which areas to avoid. Yes they told us two areas where we could be engaged by neo-nazis that got us worried. Nevertheless we got out and met a friend there who took us to an Lebanese restaurant serving tasty KFC style chicken.
The next day we went to a research institute to hear some presentations and see their super-computer. It was in a large noisy room with a long line of cupboards containing processor arrays. They had more than a hundred hard-disks which were used as temporary storage. The actual data storage was on tape drives on which a robotic arm was used to switch tapes. We also saw pieces of Berlin wall placed at city centre. There was a clear brick all through the city marking the position of the former Berlin wall. Since the Berlin wall was not straight, rather circular, so it was always difficult to tell which side of the wall (marking) was East and which West. Even the guide had problems sometimes. However, there were some things that provided some clues. Like the traffic signals for pedestrians were different. There was a very small portion of the wall intact at one place surrounded by a metal fence. Near it was a very long piece along the river with paintings depicting the history and sufferings due to the wall.
This wall made Berlin a very interesting and complex place. Like in other cities, foreigners were colonized on the outskirts of the city. In the case of Berlin, they lived near the wall as this was considered a dangerous place. When the wall vanished, these foreigner colonies found themselves in the middle of the city at important locations. So there are colonies like Turkish, Arabic, etc very near to the city centre. Secondly, once the wall was removed, Berlin was the first capital of the world with a huge empty space right in the middle. They didn't know what to do with it, so they sliced the area like a cake and divided it among huge companies. So now there are triangular buildings in this area made by Sony, etc.