Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Timo

Yesterday morning I received an e-mail stating that somebody I knew rather well has committed suicide. He studied computer science, and since he was a student assistant as well, we shared the same office space for several years. The moment I read the e-mail I was shocked, and shortly after I became very emotional. Since then I have been thinking about him and things he said all the time.

Most of us saw that he had been feeling down for a long time and didn't get much sleep, but no-one of us thought he was this depressed. And we didn't know how to help him either. Now I'm wondering if there is anything we could have done about it if we would have understood his situation better. Maybe if he had gotten some professional help, I don't know.

Yesterday was the funeral, but I couldn't be there since I am in Japan right now. I have a lot of happy memories about him, and will remember him as a very kind, funny, gifted person that was always there to help other people out. I just wish somebody could have helped him too...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Holiday in Croatia

Two weeks ago Annett and me returned from a holiday to Croatia and Romania. Below I've written something about the things we did in Croatia that I hadn't come to to put on my blog yet. Annett has written the part about Romania, and we will add pictures later.

Since we had so many things to arrange this year, we didn't find the time to acquire some background knowledge about Croatia and Romania, which always raises the appetite when going to a certain new country or region. While we were there, however, we were able to pick up some nice things about the country.

The Culture

If we forgot for a second about the omnipresent mysterious one meter high stone walls, the island seemed rather unused. Later we would hear that all this land was used for thousands of sheep, which we weren't able to see since they were all inside because of the high temperature. When Annett and me visited the town Pag, we bought an overpriced sheep cheese that we ate heartily at a bar with red wine.

Another interesting thing was the Croatian language. The language belongs to a language group, the South Slavic Languages, I didn't know anything about, and therefore almost everything was gibberish to me. According to Mateusz, who was born in Poland, it is in many aspect very similar to Polish, which belongs to the West Slavic Languages. Just like Polish they have some words consisting of just one consonant, and there are some very nasty diacritics.


Cheap

With the help of Sanja, a friend of ours who was born in Bosnia and lived a year in Croatia, we rented an apartment on Pag, one of the many islands of Croatia. This costed us only 1000 kuna (137 euro) per person per week! For the same price a taxi driver was willing to drive all nine of us all the way from Rijeka Airport to our apartment, which was at least a two-our-drive; it was much faster and much more pleasant than traveling by public transport. For half a liter of beer we usually payed around 15 kuna (2.06 euro) and for a full dinner around 75 kuna (10.28 euro). For a huge burger one pays around 20 kuna (2.75 euro) and for a plate of freedom fries around 15 kuna (2.06 euro). This is all, especially for Norwegians of course, very cheap. Liter bottles of mineral water in restaurants are, however, heavily overpriced and cost around 30 kuna (4.11 euro).

Beautiful

Croatia has a lot of wonderful beaches, and the sea has the typically Mediterranean blue/green color. On the mainland starts almost immediately a huge mountain ridge that adds a surreal look to the whole picture. At one of the beaches there was, during the day, a party similar to MTV Beach Party going on, and this was hilarious to look at. Since the sea was very clear, I decided to buy myself a pair of flippers, goggles and a snorkel. Because I'm experiencing some problems with my right ear, I was not able to dive very deep, but it was certainly of fun to swim among and chase the fishes.

Just before we came, there had been some bad weather, so we were lucky the temperature was way under 40 degrees Celsius. However, during the week it went steadily up to 40 again, making being around the water a necessity. Some of us got heavily sun burned, but I'm luckily not one of them. It seems that the sunscreen we bought - accidentally with glitter - saved me.

The last day in Pag we went on a boat trip to two other islands where it was very exciting to snorkel: very deep and full of fish and other sea creatures. On our way back we saw a dolphin swimming far away and when we came close to it, it used the slip stream of the boat to swim along with us for a while, until it decided to go its own way again. The crew told us that they saw this regularly, and that the dolphins would stay longer if encountered in a group.

Crazy Traffic

The traffic here is full of crazy people. Without any hesitation, people make a turn right in front of your nose. The other day, when we were driving in a bus, someone parked his car in the middle of the road to block the bus and all other traffic, and two people jumped out begging the bus driver to take one of them along. Yet, instead of calling the police, the bus driver let this maniac in and continued his tour as if nothing happened. At such a moment it is convenient to speak some Norwegian, enabling Annett and me to safely express our uneasiness about the whole situation...

Bike Trip

Because the island was rather flat, we decided upon going on a bike trip, inspired by the many flyers we say that advertised a bike rental place. When we, after a one-and-a-half hour walk finally reached this place, they turned out to have just three bikes available. To get rid of our frustration we settled down at a restaurant to eat lunch and have some drinks, and started walking home afterwards. We may not really have felt like walking, because at every other bar we encountered, we stopped to have a Mis Mas, what seemed to be a mix of Fanta and red wine. After a couple of Mis Mas'es we came to the conclusion that this was the best biking trip ever! At a certain point we started to see more and more naked people around us, and in retrospect this might explain the annoying wall we had to climb over to continue our biking trip: we had arrived at a camping for nudist. Despite our clouded state of mind, we decided not to bother them anymore and got ourselves out of there. This must have been the moment that we seriously started using the name of our group The Swedish Nine, which we chose carefully in order not to embarrass any of our own countries.

It has been a wonderful holiday and we managed to get some rest here. Annett saw to it that I didn't take any mathematics with me, although I did manage to take my Japanese study book Genki with me. We were about to go to Japan, and we wanted to be prepared...

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

PhD position in Oslo and holiday!

Good news, everyone. That the title announces both my new job and an upcoming holiday probably indicates that I should write more frequently on my blog. Some weeks ago I started at my brand new and first real job: a PhD position at the Center of Mathematics for Applications (CMA) in Oslo! The topic will be in the area of algorithmic aspects of algebraic geometry, probably again in connection to differential equations. For my master thesis, my supervisors and I did research concerning the classification of the first order differential equations with the Painlevé property, and this was rather pure, as in not applied, mathematics. After my master thesis I realized that I wanted to switch to a slightly more applied topic, and therefore I am very glad to work for the CMA.

Although I will go to Japan in three weeks, I only just now officially moved to Norway. We sold and completely moved out Annett her apartment and now I am, only officially of course, living at her parents' place, with even my name on the mail box. This caused of course some very curious looks from the neighbours who were wondering who this new family member might be :D. I have obtained a letter stating that I can stay here until 2011, and later I will receive an official ID card. Furthermore I obtained a temporary D-number (national identification number), a bank account, a tax card and I applied for a permanent identification number. Norway doesn't seem to be very bureaucratic, because I was able to obtain all these documents in a holiday month. Having a job greatly simplifies the whole procedure.

Upcoming Saturday Annett and I will go on holiday to Croatia with a couple of friends, and after that we will attend the International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS) 2006 in Bucharest. For us this conference of course has a very special meaning, because in 11 days it will be exactly a year ago that Annett and I met at ICPS 2005 in Coimbra! Because we had a rather busy year, Annett and I decided to participate only passively in this conference, so no presentations or physics shows coming from us this year. We return to Norway at the 22nd of August, and then, four days later, we will be on our way to Japan...

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