Sunday, February 28, 2010

First week of class

This past week my first class finally began. I went in prepared to use the entire 210 minutes, except I overestimated how much I would get through. Now that I better understand how courses work here, not to mention the students, I will be slowing down my delivery and delving further into the fundamentals that I thought they had learned already. I am already looking forward to my next class where I get to work in some Bob Ross (pictured).

Here you see Bob Ross painting a GUI. Eventually, by the fourth class, the students will have created a little game where a tank or buoy shoots a cannon at a target. My application is shown below, with a picture of me surfing in Ocean Beach, winter of 2005.

Finally, since today is the last day of February, I had to record and post the Tune of the Month, which is "Orange in Bloom." I have no energy to make anything more creative, and since there are no green walls in our new apartment my options are limited. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Warmer Weather, and then not

On Saturday it was pleasantly warm here, reaching nearly 38º F; so we decided to visit the National Museum of Denmark --- which is FREE everyday.

Among their collections is a great showcase of native cold-weathering gear.
They also have a very good exhibit of Denmark's pre-history and origins in the Vikings (10th century) and long before, going back 14,000 years.

It was very common to sacrifice war booty to the gods by throwing it into bogs, like these bronze horns, called "lurs".

These humans skulls show signs of trepination, which is still used to this day to treat inter-cranial pressure differences, and personality disorders.

By the time we left the museum the temperatures had dropped to below freezing, so we quickly made our way home. Today we refuse to leave because it is 23 ºF.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


How does one find the "best" path to move from one place to another, given a set of obstacles and possible risks, without considering all possible paths? Well, that question has been the subject of much research, and today it is solved. Well, really it has been solved for some time (since about 1950's); but I have had the (mis)fortune of performing the exercise of implementing the algorithm -- which is called "A*" or (A-star) -- for one of the courses I am assisting in (Artificial Intelligence). Though most of the process was painful, the end was nothing but rewarding in seeing that little green piece magically find its way to the little yellow piece. If you have MATLAB, feel free to download it and play around.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day and Festelavn

Another Valentine's Day has come and gone. In my (Carla) Danish language course, I asked if the Danes celebrate the holiday. I found out that while the holiday is known here, not many people care about it. This year, the Danes had even less reason to celebrate Valentine's Day because February 14 was Festelavn! Festelavn is the Danish equivalent of Carnival. Falling on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, it evolved from the Catholic tradition of celebrating before the beginning of Lent. Denmark is a primarily Protestant country though, so Festelavn doesn't have much to do with religion. In fact, it resembles Halloween. Children dress up and go around asking for money or candy. One tradition that I became well acquainted with is Slå Katten Af Tønden (hit the cat out of the barrel). On Friday afternoon, I heard a lot of loud whacking sounds. I looked out the apartment window into the school yard and saw all of the school children outside, whacking barrels strung up around the yard! The wooden barrels are filled with candy and, much like a piñata, are hit by the children until the barrels break open and spill their treats. In the olden days, a black cat was put in a barrel! The beating of the black cat-filled barrel was supposed to beat out the evil spirits. Thankfully, the cat has been replaced by candy for these kids.

Of all the outfits I saw, I liked this kid's outfit the best. It's hard to beat a pencil beating up a wooden barrel.

Bobby and I didn't get the opportunity to celebrate Festelavn, so we instead celebrated Valentine's Day. Bobby gave me a lovely bouquet of pink tulips. I made Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I actually only used 37 cloves, but it was yummy even without those 3 cloves. The chicken was accompanied by mashed potatoes, green beans, and fresh home-made bread.

We finished the evening with a home-made chocolate cake. You'd think with all this eating and lack of exercise due to the snow that we'd be putting on weight. Instead, we are both the skinniest we've been in years! Cheers to home cooking!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Carla's Day and Family, in Danish

Jeg står op klokken syv. Jeg leve te og jog spiser morgenmad. Jeg ogsa lever frokost til mit mand. Klokken otte læser jeg avis. Jeg går i bad klokken no. Klokken halv ti børster jeg tænder. Jeg taler tøj på klokken ti.
Klokkn halv elleve lever jeg te. Jeg renser huset og jeg studerer dansk. Klokken tolv lever jeg frokost. Jeg spiser frokost klokken halv en. Jeg køber mad klokken halv to. Klokken halv fem studerer jeg dansk.
Jeg lever aftensmal klokken seks. Klokken soote spiser vi aftensmal. Vi ser fjernsyn klokken halv ni. Klokken elleve sover vi.

Jeg har fire bedsteforældre. Donald er min farfar. Frieda er min farmor.Carl er min morfar. Dorothy er min mormor. Donal or Frieda har un søn. Han hedder Dale. Dale er min far. Carl og Dorothy har to døtre. De hedder Sharon og Marlene. Sharon er min mor. Marlene er min tante.
Jeg har to brødre. De hedder Gregg or Jordan. Gregg er gift. Hans kone hedder Tracey. De har to sønner. De hedder Mark og Brooks. De er mine nevøer. Jeg er gift. Min mands hedder Bob. Vi har ikke børn.
Det er mine forældra!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Carla's class and Bob's university

On Friday, I (Carla) got to finally see Bobby's new workplace! The second year undergraduate students at Aalborg University spent this last week creating electronic games, and Friday was the presentation day. After watching the groups present, Bobby showed me his office (his computer hasn't arrived yet) and then we had lunch with his colleagues in the Staff-Only lunchroom. The building that houses the university is really modern with an interesting layout. There are a lot of large windows in let in sunlight and many comfortable common areas. Bobby's office, which he shares with another teacher, is quite large and has nice, new furniture.

This week I started my Danish language courses at a local language school. My classes are 3 days a week and each class lasts 3 1/2 hours! I was completely overwhelmed the first class. The teacher (who is quite young) covered 20 pages in the textbook within the first 2 hours! We listened to a recording of the number once, then moved on to a different lesson. I eventually raised my hand and asked, "Is this going to be the normal pace of the course? It seems to be moving very fast and it's hard to learn anything when we only go over the subject once." All of the other students nodded their heads in agreement. I think the teacher assumed we had an understanding of basic Danish already (even though this is the beginners course). Hopefully, she will slow the pace of the other classes. The next day we had a different teacher, and she was wonderful! In fact, she is one of the authors of the text book we use, so she is a professional educator. So far, I know how to count to 100, say most of the alphabet (Danish has 3 extra letters, å, æ, and ø, which are very difficult for English-speakers to pronounce), and ask basic questions. Hvad hedder du? (What is your name?) Hvad kommer du? (Where are you from?) Hvad taler du? (What do you speak?) Bobby gave a seminar at his university the same day as my first class. He talked about his research area to his new colleagues and some students. Many people showed up to hear him, even though there was a terrible snow storm! To celebrate, we made Mexican food for dinner: ground beef tacos, beans, and chips and guacamole.

Another cooking adventure Bobby and I had was making gnocchi! These Italian potato dumplings are delicious, but man, do they require a lot of work! However, the effort was well worth it.

I also made Hollandaise sauce! Again, it requires a lot of effort, but like the gnocchi, it is well worth the effort. We ate Eggs Benedict with the sauce, freshly made bread, and poached eggs. It was a very delicious, albeit decadent, brunch.

Ah, the marvels of modern technology! Since moving to Copenhagen, Bobby and I have missed our good (perhaps best?) friends Kate and Olivier. Luckily for us all, we can keep in touch (and monitor the girth of Kate's very pregnant belly) via video chat. It will never replace meeting in person, but it has been really nice to keep in touch this way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Weather Update

This is Bob with your Copenhagen weather update. Today it is expected to get to -11 ºC (12 ºF), and with snowy winds up to 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph) directly in your face.

Last night I got stranded at the bus stop, and walked the 2 miles to the S-tog (train to Copenhagen) with icy wind at 45 kph removing my epidermis. In the mirror this morning I saw that I now look my age. Things are falling, but in slo mo like on the moon.

It seems that I am the only one who stays at the office until after 4:30 PM, or sunset, because when I exit from my warm office the entire building is silent and dark, except for the winds outside laughing at my predicament. I have to turn on the lights in the hall to find my way out, and click a special "after hours" button to open the main doors. And there I am waiting alone for a bus that never shows, with my back turned as a shield to the icy wind, which then freezes my computer bag. So sleepy... maybe I will just lay in this soft 4 foot drift...

I made it to work this morning, but not without trouble. On the train the conductor said something that made people appear inconvenienced. I asked a man, "What did he say?" Then four people were speaking to me in English telling me what was said, asking me where I am going, saying to follow them — everyone speaking at the same time because they are just so nice and helpful here. When I got to work I asked a colleauge, "What does it take for a snow day?" She said, "Snow day? Oh, like when the school shuts down because of the weather? That never happens; we just start late."

Everyone tells me that this is the coldest winter Copenhagen has experienced in 23 years. I once replied, "Great, so I've got nothing but warm sunshine for the rest of my contract." Then I was reminded that in Denmark the opposite of extremely cold winter is gray and windy with horizontal sheets of rain.

My office mate rides his bike to work and home every day. What about the wind and ice and rain? "Yeah, I've got good clothes," he says. He is a Viking. I hope to become a Viking too.