Monday, October 29, 2007

Another Reunion

This year there seem to be many reunions: First the high-school reunion in July, then the UniBwM-colleage reunion. And now a personal reunion, with a friend whom I knew since 28 years but had not seen in 25 years. I use the time to make a detour to Innsbruck, before continuing to the actual destination of my travel.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

VaMP in Deutschem Museum

At our UniBwM reunion I heard that the vehicle which we had been working on, "Versuchsfahrzeug fuer Autonome Mobilitaet - Passenger" (VaMP), was now an exhibit in the technology museum "Deutsches Museum" in Munich. A new hall had been opened, devoted to all kinds of traffic artefacts, with trains and cars. And VaMP was there. A strange feeling, to see that piece of technology with which I had gotten my PhD 11 years ago, now in a public exhibition. I had been driving with in in 1994 around the Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle, and I had driven it (together with my colleague Markus Maurer) to Denmark in 1995, on our often referred trip form Munich to Odense, where the car drove about 95% of the distance only controlled by its camera vision system.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some Sightseeing

The weather in Munich is grey and cold, but at least it does not rain. So I decide to drive a bit south to the Alps. Tegernsee, Sylvensteinsee.

In the evening, a concert in the Gasteig. When living in Munich, we had often gone - I had a student ID, and often got those cheap tickets for excellent performances. Somehow after a few years we had stopped going to those concerts, so now it was for more than 13 years that I was once again at the Gasteig. The Munich Philharmonic played a Strauss-only program (Richard): Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, and Also Sprach Zarathustra. Quite heavy stuff. In my opinion, the brass was overall too lound and overshadowed the strings. Could have had a few more players in the violin sections. As an Encore they played Wagner's Vorspiel to the Meistersinger of Nuremberg. An all-German program, quite teutonic.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reunion with Former Colleagues from UniBwM

Friday night a pleasant reunion had been scheduled: after 11 years I would see again some of my former colleagues from UniBwM where I had worked on the autonomous vehicle and where I got my PhD degree. Prof. Dickmanns had organised this meeting on the university campus. As I was driving towards it, I noticed that many of the roads had changed. Roundabouts everywhere, a new bypass road. And the entrance road to the campus too had somewhat been moved. It was already dark, but I found my way ok.

Nice to meet the former colleagues - there was a lot to tell! They work now in a variety of positions, as project managers, and some as professors.

Travelling Again

Again travelling. On Thursday I work in the morning at the Uni, then take a taxi to the airport. Leave the Smart on campus, after letting security know about it. The flights go well. First to Amsterdam, then further on to Munich. The flight to Munich has a problem: as the bus approaches the plane on the Schiphol airfield, it stops but does not let any passengers out. At the plane, a few maintenance people keep walking up and down the stairs. After about 10 min an announcement that this plane has a problem with a crew seat, and so it cannot take off. We drive back to the terminal, until another plane is found. With one hour delay we take off, and arrive in Munich.

I had a rental car reservation from Avis. As I walk up to the counter of Avis at the Airport Munich, the counter is closed. All other counters appear to be open, just the Avis counter is closed. I look at my reservation voucher: yes, it states there that the counter only is open from 7:00-23:00. I might have made it, had I arrived earlier. But now it is shortly after midnight. I just tried to call Avis on my mobile phone, when a cleaning woman tells me that the Europcar counter would take the responsibilities for Avis after closing hours. And indeed, the friendly chap from Europcar has my reservation. I was pleasantly surprised: had only reserved a Economy car (VW Polo), but got a Opel Astra Stationwagon, 1.6l, with Navigationsystem. Nice treat.

Now just driving to the hotel in a Southern suburb of Munich. At 1am I arrive at the hotel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Member of "the Fleet"

Yesterday, my vehicle fleet got extended by a new member: a 2002 "smart car". Finally, I can express my environmental conscience with an adequate vehicle, to compensate for my CO-2 sins (frequent flying, huge 1970s gas guzzlers). And it is a convertible, suitable for the next summer. It was a sale from a private owner. The vehicle is in very good condition, and I hope to have now a trouble-free and economical commute to work everyday.

The Suzuki will be sold - it recently failed the annual MOT test, and it is not feasible to get it fixed. I placed a free ad on Craigslist and got already 3 inquiries. Whoever pays first, will get the car...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dinner at Meg Soosay's Home

Last year, in summer 2006, Meg Soosay had organised a charity dinner. This year she again organised one. Well, not one, but 10 so far - each member of staff was invited, and since the dinner table sits only about 10 people, she did repeat the dinner several times, with different guests each time. This Monday my schedule finally allowed me to attend. She cooked nice food from her home in Malaysia - excellent!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Talk about the Leeds Town Hall Organ

Saturday morning, from 9:30 - 11:00, organist Simon Lindley (a former member of staff at Leeds MEt) gave a 1 1/2 hour overview on the history and capabilities of the Leeds Town Hall organ. He played a few pieces, highlighting the sound of the more than 6000 pipes. He also provided a wealth of information about the history of Leeds, the Town Hall, and Leeds in general.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I want a "good" car...

Well, since I have only two car wrecks, I would finally like to know what it is to own a "good" car, one that is not going to be dumped at the scrap yard. The Citroen is very old and worn, but it runs well and seems to be safe; so I will invest and keep it going for a little while. The Suzuki was at the MOT station a few weeks ago - and failed grandiously many items. So I will have to scrap it, or sell it for parts. Repairing it is not an option, as the repair would be way too expensive. Some welding would have to be done.

So I am looking now for a "nice" car, reliable and economically to run. I have in mind something quite specific...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Car Towing into Garage

Next day, Thursday, I arrange for a garage, get a quote over the phone. Possibly the steering pump will have to be replaced... could be expensive. The AA comes shortly before noon. Since the suspension is driven by the hydraulics, the car is no longer suspended... and actually I am not supposed to drive it, as the seals of the suspension might suffer. But I have no other choice... the car needs to be towed, and is being brought to the shop.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Car Breakdown

On my way home from work, up the steep hill from the Kirkstall Valley, I suddenly hear a rattling noise from the engine compartment of the Citroen Xantia. I stop, open the hood, and see that the auxilliary belt seems to be shredded. Unfortunately I do not have any tools to remove the parts from the belt, which seem to create the noise when the engine us running, as they beat against the walls in the motor compartment. I call the emergency service AA, who after about 30 min arrive at the scene. The guy removes the debris, then we try again to run the vehicle. Works ok for 200 m, but then the noise starts again. He suggests to cut the belt and drive home without it; since all the garage shops are closed now, we cannot go to any, and he would come next day to pick up the car and bring it to a garage.

So I drive slowly, as the engine still works. But I do not have power steering anymore, as the powersteering pump is now disabled. So steering is a bit harder than usual. And - I realise that I also do not much braking power! Now this seems to be a bit dangerous... driving downhill, without much brake force. The AA van drives behind me, ready to help when necessary. Also the generator is of course disabled, I am only running on battery. Judiciously I press the brake pedal when approaching a roundabout; works fine. Then up the next hill, at home.

From my neighbor Clive I get a recommendation for a nearby shop.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NTI Launch Event

The Leeds Met New Technology Institute (NTI) has already been operating for a while in the Old Broadcasting House, but on Tuesday evening an official launch event was held at this venue, with guests from local industry.

Monday, October 15, 2007

MELD event

MELD is an organisation with the goal to bring together journalists and new media. On this Monday, 15.10., MELD officially launched in Leeds with an event in the Boutique Bar in Hirst Yard, not far from the train line and the canal.

I am rarely in this area; Hirst Yard seems to be a relict of the "old Leeds", a narrow urban backyard. Glad that such areas still exist. The Boutique bar seems to be one of those "In" places in Leeds. On the top floor is where the event takes place. Approx. 20-30 people are there. We talk about possible projects, and I propose my ideas re. intelligent automated computing and journalistic story telling.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Concert in Leeds Town Hall

Another great concert in the Leeds Town Hall: the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under conductor Stephane Deneve played "Ma Mere L'Oye" by Maurice Ravel, the 2nd Violin Concerto by Sergej Prokoffiev, and the "Symphonic Dances" by Sergej Rachmaninov. The conductor gave a few introductory remarks about the "dream program" tonight.

When taking a few pictures, the usher came and told me that I must not shoot any pictures... well, of course I complied, but nevertheless I am posting here the picture I took, as my contribution to civil disobedience. :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Leeds Light Night 2007

Since 2005, the "Leeds Light Night" is a special event in Leeds, transforming the inner city into a cultural arena with many interesting events. A great event for a night out! Finally there are not only drunken yobs in the streets, but also "normal" people, enjoying the relatively mild (no rain!) evening weather.

Medieval songs in one of the churches of Leeds.

Marquee down at Headingley Campus

The white set of marquee tents which had been up on the Acre at the Headingley campus since the graduation activities in July, now are being taken down. Underneath is just brown soil now, but activities are on the way to re-green the blank area.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Matthias Kuentzel at Leeds Uni

After the controversy of his scheduled talk back in March 2007 which was cancelled due to "security concerns", Matthias Kuentzel again came to Leeds to give a talk, and this time it was not cancelled. The title of the talk held this Wednesday, october 10, was Hitler's legacy: Islamic antisemitism in the Middle East. The auditorium was filled to about 1/3; interesting that there was not so much interest, after all that controversy. Police guarded the entrance, but kept a low profile in typical British cool manner.

The talk was indeed very interesting, and it highlighted a chapter that is not discussed very much in the mainstream discussions: the link between radical Islam and Fascism, together with the historic connections between the two. Naturally, Mr. Kuentzel clearly distinguished between the "general Islam" and the specific groups involved in these links. After the one hour talk, there were a few questions, which were answered by the presenter. Strangely, the questions were "collected" in a set of 4-5 by the organisers, then Mr. Kuentzel answered them as a batch. One issue came across in those questions and discussions reflecting the latest events in the UK re. boycott propositions of Israel by several UK institutions: the ambivalent position of "the political left" towards Israel. One audience members clearly expressed an anti-leftist stand, while Mr. Kuentzel mentioned that his political home was "the Left", but that he began to disagree when people labeled one kind of assassination as fascistic while labeling thge same type pf assassination as "freedom fight", just depending on who the perpertators were and against whom their murder was directed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Autumn Afternoon

Temple Newsam is an 18th century estate right at the south-eastern city border of Leeds, with a nice park. This Sunday there are quite a few people out there, strolling around and enjoying the mild autumn weather.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday Night: Concert

The Leeds International Concert Season had started a few weeks ago, and I decided that this year I would again go to concerts in the Leeds Town Hall, as I had done during my first year here in Leeds. This Saturday, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio under Vladimir Fedoseyev played Elgar's Serenade for Strings (in my view a pleasant but rather predictable piece), Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #2 (one of the great "concert war horses"), and Rimsky-Korsakov's Shererazade (in my opinion the most impressive of the 3 works - with its colorful instrumentation and its defiance of stricl classical form). I especially admire about Rimsky-Korsakov (and for that matter Borodin) that he was basically an amateur, not trained in composition and music. This is phantastic and gives some hope to amateur composers everywhere and through the ages.

After the concert, it is quite amazing to see the Leeds night life in the streets on Saturday night. Lots of young people stroll around, most of them probbaly students, a few of them drunk, but most (still) more or less dry. Most of them "glamed up" for the night, forming lines outside of bars and clubs. It seems that the roads are more busy now around midnight than they are during the day.

Saturday MSc Engineering

I knew that I would have to teach 3 Saturdays this semester, to teach the module "Modelling and Simulation" in the part-time MSc Engineering course. In the last academic year, I alrady had done a Saturday module, "Image Processing", together with Alan Crispin, so I knew the students. I was aware that in a few weeks I would have to spend a total of 3 Saturdays in these tutorial. But I was very surprised to learn right after my return that the first lecture would already be given this Saturday! Somehow I had missed the "introduction" part of this module... so now I was in the situation of quickly having to prepare something. Fortunately this Saturday tutorial would only be half a day long, as this was just a lecture about introduction. So I prepared a set of vugraphs on matric algebra, differential equations, and dynamic systems.

Saturday morning, 9:00, the group assembled, and I gave my presentation. Went well, I think. The next Saturday tutorial will be on 3.November - and then it will be a full day, in the PC lab, with everybody in the class working on a computer, using Matlab and Simulink.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A few more days in Germany

After the ACM Multimedia conference was over, I had one more day in Southern Bavaria. Once again a short trip to the Alps, where the past days of wet weather had covered the mountain tops with a bit of snow. The sun was shining again, and I had another opportunity to shoot a few nice landscape pictures. On the way back north, I took the Romantic Road, which passes through old towns where the time seemed to have stopped. Donauwoerth, Harburg, Wemding, Noerdlingen, Dinkelsbuehl, Feuchtwangen, Rothenburg and many other towns are on this road. So I take it easy, drive slowly, not on the Autobahn, but on the Bundesstrasse.

Two more days with the family, I visit my brother. Then back "home" to Leeds. Again there is the 4 h drive up north to Duesseldorf, where the flight to Leeds leaves.