Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UCT Ballroom Formal 2010

It's that time of year again! The UCT Ballroom Formal is on the 25th of September at Kelvin Grove. The theme is Rivendell so prepare yourself for a night of dancing in the world of JRR Tolkien…

Here's what you need to know:

Price: Members - R170 ; non-members - R240
Date: 25 September
Venue: Kelvin Grove

Bookings can be made by emailing Claire Hanley on claire.carebear9@gmail.com.
Payment can be made at dancing from Tues the 24th of August, or by emailing ontheball.uctballroom@gmail.com for our banking details (please send the proof of payment to claire.carebear9@gmail.com).

For a few past years check out 2009 and UCT FB Photos

Monday, August 30, 2010


This is compliments of Carl Salk, who wrote the lyrics to the tune of YMCA. Roll on Y-S-S-P.

Comrades, there's no need to feel lost.
I said, comrades, get yourself to the Schloss.
I said, comrades, 'cause you're got a new boss
There's no need to be unhappy.
Comrades, there's a place you can go.
I said, comrades, with the bugs in your code.
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to make it compile.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
They have everything for comrades to enjoy,
You can try out new modeling toys ...
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
You can learn GIS, you can run GAMS with zeal,
You can do whatever you feel ...
Comrades, are you listening to me?
I said, comrades, what do you want to eat?
I said, comrades, how ‘bout meat wrapped in meat?
But you got to know this one thing!
The chef shot it all by himself.
I said, comrades, grab your dish off the shelf,
And just go there, to the schlossrestaurant
I'm sure they can help you believe:
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
They have everything for comrades to enjoy,
You can try out new modeling toys ...
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
You can learn GIS, you can run GAMS with zeal,
You can do whatever you feel ...
Comrades, I was once in grad school.
I said, I was down and out with the blues.
I felt science would never meet art.
I felt the whole world would fall apart ...
That's when someone came up to us,
And said, hop on the 566 bus.
There's a place there called the y.s.s.p.
They can start you back on your way.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
It's fun to stay at the y-s-s-p.
They have everything for comrades to enjoy,
You can try out new modeling toys ...
Y-s-s-p ... you'll find it at the y-s-s-p.
Comrades, comrades, there's no need to feel lost.
Comrades, comrades, get yourself to the Schloss.
Y-s-s-p ... you'll find it at the y-s-s-p.
Comrades, comrades, there's no need to feel lost.
Comrades, comrades, get yourself off the Schloss.
Y-s-s-p ... just go to the y-s-s-p.
Comrades, comrades, are you listening to me?
Comrades, comrades, where do you wanna be?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Toy Story 3 in 3D

I've always managed to miss Toy Story when it is on at the cinemas but last night I felt like a happy movie on my 'last' night in Vienna. My options were Grown Ups or Toy Story 3, so obviously I chose Toy Story 3 (3D). I'm not sure it needed the 3D bit but the movie was awesome. I remember having toys like that and their banishment to the top shelf. Barbie and Skipper are probably having tea right now and lamenting my neglectfulness.

I would watch again purely for Buzz's Spanish Mode and the beautifully choreographed Paso Doble at the end of the movie. Yes I know that only I would recognise the style of dance the toys were doing...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Breakfast..More like Brunch

Today is going to be a series of emotional farewells as we all leave to our various homes. People have been getting teary-eyed all morning. Preeti (my flatmate) and I opened the first floor balcony up for breakfast this morning. The event turned into breakfast/brunch as various people woke up from partying most of the night away.

We had to hijack Ben's kitchen to deal with the massive amounts of food we all brought to cook. The idea was to finish up everything in the fridges...and I ended up with more food than I started with.

The menu for the morning: Pancakes with cinnamon and sugar, Turkish bakery bread (so good), boiled eggs, American style Austrian bacon, donuts, croissants and McDonalds! Quite the feast.

More I have to finish packing before my grand European contiki :)

Positively Dotty

Elisabeth, Jose and I tried Dots Experimental Sushi last night. It was an interesting combination of traditional sushi with a few twisters.

Jose and Elisabeth shared a Dots Sushi Special with Geisha Lips and Cape Town Bombs. The Cape Town Bombs looked awesome, sort of like Salmon Roses but with a hot sauce on top. I ventured in Mango Maki, which had prawn, avo and you guessed it...Mango. It was a very sweet creamy experience. My other choice was Calfornia rolls which had prawn, salmon, avo and something inside and multi-coloured fish roe on the outside...suitably different.

Moving on we met up with the more party crowd at a heuriger in the 19th district. We missed the food but managed to have a few wine spritzers before moving to the next destination of the evening (there was a fairly ambitious itinerary for the evening).

Everyone was in bright spirits last night but there were these times of great sadness as we say goodbye to to each other. The last photo was the group chatting up a storm on the tram to the next club. It seemed like a nice place though a little pricey, 8 euros for a cocktail!

Friday, August 27, 2010

YSSP Awards Dinner

The YSSP Awards Dinner last night was our last chance to party as a group and reminisce about our experiences over the Summer. Some YSSPers interpreted "formal" a little more liberally than over...shorts with sandals or takkies is not formal!

The Director, Alumni president and YSSP Dean all regaled us with tales of past years and memories from this Summer. Each YSSPer received a certificate for completing the program and the official photo taken on the grand staircase off the main entrance.

The YSSPers put together a presentation for the dinner which consisted of a few movies from our time here, a song, a dance and the Y-S-S-P (Think YMCA but with scientists trying to spell YSSP). Our favourite moments were captured on film and there were quite a number of photos of us "working" in our offices :P

The second photo is the African delegation :)

The last photo is the IME group, my fellow survivors of the Summer (the Canadian, the South African, the Chinese and the Ukrainian..sounds the like start of a bad joke)

Algorithm Circle: 3rd Python Course

This afternoon is the start of the 3rd Python Course for learners between ages 11 and 17 at the University of Cape Town. The Algorithm Circle is hosting the course with roughly 100 learners from the Western Cape. Normally I would say Cape Town but we have a few learners travelling from Hermanus and Paarl to join us (and a few from Johannesburg)

As today is the final day of the YSSP in Vienna I am obviously not able to lecture this time round. Good luck to the team in Cape Town, I'll eagerly await feedback on Monday.

The design above is for the new volunteer t-shirts that was very kindly designed for us. Are you a coding superhero? I can't wait to get my tshirt when I get back.

Last Day @ IIASA

Today is the last day of the YSSP at IIASA. It has been a whirlwind three months here in Vienna and I'm still trying to absorb everything I've learnt while here. I'm happy to be going home to Cape Town and back to my family but I am also a little sad to leave behind this awesome group of talented individuals. Let's hope the reunion is in a place I can actually afford to visit.

I've written a lot about the YSSP experience in the last three months and I'm very glad I can now look back at my musings in fond remembrance of seminars, parties and trips. We're primarily doing admin today (giving in keys etc) before many of us leave this weekend.

I'm off to Italy and Switzerland and probably won't be posting much until I get back to Cape Town (expect a barrage of backposting at this point)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

SA Ballroom Social Intervarsity

I would like to wish the UCT Ballroom Dancing Society the best of luck in the Intervaristy (South African National Student Ballroom and Latin-American Dancing Competition) at Rhodes University, I know you're going to be spectacular as always. As the chairman of the society I would normally be competing but cannot physically be there this year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful time and that the bus ride is both fun and problem-free. I expect a video recording of the formation and some sparkly trophies to come home with you.

Look at previous post for a reminder of last year's competition that UCT hosted.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reaching the Real World

Sometimes I think scientists live in this bubble that has small filtered interaction with the Real World. Its like the Ivory Tower idea though only slightly more grounded. We tend to believe our work will promote itself and that innovate ideas will naturally to adopted without resistance. (Yes I know it doesn't work like this in reality, but it would be nice).

IIASA is trying very hard to revamp their communications and marketing with the outside world. I was interviewed yesterday afternoon as part of an effort to provide info videos to future YSSP applicants. The Communications Team have been asking us questions throughout the Summer and have even stopped by for feedback.

This got me thinking, how do you raise the public profile of a research group as diverse as IIASA. It covers so many broad research areas that you cannot market it like you would a small research group with one focus. I mean even explaining "Applied Systems Analysis" takes a while.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Late Summer Workshop

Today is the start of two full days of presentations by the YSSPs on their research over the Summer. Its been an intense 3 month period and looking back there are many many things I would have done differently. The first was to communicate well in advance with the group I'd applied to. I've noticed that nearly all participants with "Cold Calls" have had far more misunderstandings with their supervisor and spent a lot more time explaining the background to the problem and their motivations.

This year the presentations are grouped a little differently to normal. Presentations are grouped according to research topics instead of research programs. I presented in the "Addressing Selected Problems in Africa, China and India" section along with Arame Tall (Senegal), Nimi Hoffman (South Africa), Xuchao Yang (China), Linke Hou (China) and Sarthak Gaurav (India). Our presentations were 15 minutes long with 10 minutes for questions. As the first group to present, we now can happily sit through everyone else's without feeling any presentation anxiety.

Following our presentations we have an Interim Report to hand in at the end of September which should be more indepth than the presentation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

YSSP Tshirt Design

Thursday night was the unveiling of the YSSP 2010 t-shirt design by Aapo at the football match. We've been brainstorming ideas a lot over the last 2 months and this is the final product. Its a very YSSP joke in some ways as The Sound of Music featured quite heavily on our Zell am See trip. The hills are definitely alive with the sound of science :P or at least the schloss is.

Tomorrow is the start of the YSSP end of Summer Presentations. I have to present first! My friends who know I am a night owl will be laughing at this fact.


This weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to Wolf's birthday party in Pörtschach (which will henceforth to refered to as P-dorf as I cannot pronounce it). P-dorf is situated next to Wörthersee, the most gorgeous lake in Austria. About 3 hours drive away from Vienna, 10 of us trekked by car and/or train to check out what all the fuss was about.

The lake has crystal clear green/blue water and is surrounded by the Alps. We had a few hours free until the party started and went for a dip in the lake. The swimming area (which you pay to get into) has a supertube and diving board.

While posing for a group shot Avery decides to try the tactic used by the photographer for the new YSSP brochure. "Think of a wild science idea"..."Avery keep quiet and look at the camera"..."But..."..."AVERY!"

Then there is always one that messes up a fairly traditional photograph...In our case we have two, aren't we lucky :P

Wolf threw a spectacular Sushi & Saki themed event with some karaoke and loads of sake. I even got to try my sushi making skills again rolling maki (with holey Korean seaweed).

Wolf's friends bought him his first pair of lederhosen, which he proceeded to wear for the remainder of the evening. Being his first pair they required a little bit of explanation and help to put on.

The party raged on til 6am I'm told (I baled at 3.30am) and hence the car trip home was rather quiet...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Farewell S&P pots

Tomorrow is the end of an era, the Athlone Cooling Towers are being demolished at noon. Having lived in Pinelands for the last 15 or so years I've grown quite attached to the salt and pepper pots nearby.

When I drive home from the airport in a few weeks time I'm going to miss this marker. I'm hoping that someone takes a video for me. The last cooling towers I saw implode were in Pinetown, Durban (Pinelands...Pinetown, noticing a theme here) over 15 years ago (on Red Nose Day I think).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Invading Rome

This is a taste of my 4 days of walking through Rome. If you're really keen to track the route (which I'm sure you're not), Markus created a KMZ file for Google Earth that tracks our movements and eating spots. It was like having a walking talking GPS

Day 1: Green
Day 2: Red
Day 3: Blue
Day 4: Yellow

Please note the number of circles we managed to complete and monuments/churches we passed a few times Piazza Nova in particular.

A Day in the Life of a YSSPer

Ben wrote a Day in the Life in June when the days were quiet(ish) so I thought I'd write an update now that the our time is coming to an end (4 days til presentation day!) of what we do on the average day.

7.15am The Early Morning M-Bahn (or Tram/Bus combo on party days)

7.45am Arrival at the Schloss
We generally have to unlock the front door as official hours are 8.30am - 5.30pm. Its actually quite sad getting to the office this early in the morning.

Depending on the day, the Schlossplatz is humming with activity as some group set up stages, booths, stalls for whatever event to being hosted there next. On friday morning we have a few farmers market type stalls.
7.45am - 9am Browse webcomics and online newspapers

9am - 12pm Work on stuff, maybe read a paper, annoy your officemates by starting a discussion on a topic you need help with the other YSSP in the office

12pm Lunch
Lunch in the Schloss Restaurant is a rather social event most days. On sunny days we sit outside under the trees and solve the world's biggest problems over some deep-fried concoction ranging from 2.10 euros upwards. Depending on the day we get to puzzle over how the lunch menu fits together and what exactly they decided to deep-fry on the day. The other day was diced celeriac and cheese patties! The presence of a salad bar is much appreciated (except when its all coated in vinegar).
1.30pm Sleepy time after all that lunch...must work...

3.15pm Mid-afternoon snack (Eissalon anyone?)

3.30pm-5.15pm Work stuff frequently studded with mutterings in foreign languages as the model breaks...again

5.15pm Leave time (unless there is a party planned, see below)

5.30pm Party time
On certain evenings STAC/YSSP organises a party which fits into the "work hard, play harder" philosophy here. Its nice to be able to unwind, chat to staff or fellow students and escape the office.

8.50pm Waiting for the bus

As the sun sinks in the "early evening" we seek to catch the last rays of sunshine after being in the office during the day. The IIASA wireless works at the bus stop and provides an excellent opportunity to catch up on FB and emails.

9.20pm The Last Bus

9.25pm The Commute Home

9.45pm Quellenplatz
The commute home takes 45 minutes if everything is timed perfectly but can take up to an hour if the tram arrival does not coincide with the arrival of the bus at Quellenplatz.

10.20pm Simmering again
View from the 5th floor balcony (at 6pm not 10pm, the sun doesn't stay up that late!)

10.30pm Dinner / Evening snack (or Potluck)

10.40pm Check up on stuff at home

11.30pm Whoops!
Realise you're going to have to get up at 6.30am and should really go to sleep

YSSP vs IIASA football showdown

Last night was the YSSP vs IIASA Staff football showdown which I gather has become a tradition over the years. I have also heard that the staff have a few players that actually play for clubs unlike the YSSPers. Knowing this I'm not surprised when past scores have been 9-0, 7-1 etc to the staff. This year the YSSPers have been playing every week and have definitely improved from the first get together in June. They have even had secret meetings and been practicing to take on the staff. Paul the octopus predicted a YSSP win in the 4th half :)

This said, they lost 4-3 but only because they didn't stick to their game plan in the first half. In the second and third halves they played beautifully. Those who came to support who very enthusiastic for every goal they scored and every goal Mikko saved.

The photo documentary of the match below:

The meeting of the leaders, please notice the fancy uniforms handmade with love by Avery, Aapo and Markus and Avery's now green shoes after Aapo and Markus "accidently on purpose" decided that they needed to match his uniform.

YSSP first half meeting, its a very international negotiation going on :)

The supporters came out with their new vuvuzelas from Africa Day and did a few mini Mexican waves to cheer on the YSSP team. The IIASA staff were lacking both the noise makers and numbers to upstage them. Its all about the fan base.

The end of match photo

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rome @ Night

Rome at night is an entirely different city to Rome during the day. I know this can be said for nearly every city but I noticed it far more in Rome. For one the churches hide in the shadows and give over the spotlight to Pizzerias and Pubs and the romantic lighting of monuments.

A trip around Rome at night should not miss the Colosseum which becomes even more impressive with its well placed mood lighting. My camera doesn't have the best night shot settings (or I haven't found them) and I don't have a tripod to still the shakes for slower shutter speeds but I really like the photo of the Colosseum above.

A trip along the river during the day shows a fairly dirty Tiber River with boring banks but at night the river edge comes alive with bars and open air theatres. I can imagine spending a good many hours exploring the riverside (and the small stalls that sprung up between bars).

The Trevi fountain was actually very boring when we visited at night, something I was really looking forward to. It looks nothing like the beautiful postcard shots.

The last photo is of something that I actually never saw during the day, the Pyramid. The photo was taken at dusk and really reminds me of a Stargate landing platform (I know I'm a geek).

1 shell, 2 keys and 3 bees?

After lunch we wondered down past Colonna Traiana and stepped into a beautiful church not listed on the maps. The Monumente a Vittorio Emanuele II is impressive based purely on its vast size but actually sticks out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of ancient Roman ruins. Built for the first king to unite Italy, it is impressive with the columns and very unimpressive without.

The Trevi Fountain is packed at all times of the day but its not as beautiful as it is in the movies. The light reflects off the white stone during the day and the lamps nearby overpower the fountains lighting at night.

Piazza della Republica reminds me of Karlsplatz in Munich in its dimensions.
Santa Maria degli Angelil church has an amazing feature, some sort of meridional line running through it, cutting through the marble pattern on the floor. The organ as some weird tourist pointed out to us is no situated in the middle but off to the left.

San Carlo Quattro Fontane is an intersection with a fountain on each corner. There is one fascinating fountain featuring the wolf with Romulus and Remus tucked behind some foliage. Its pretty hard to photograph or even admire these fountains as there is no viewing space in front of them, only car lanes (we nearly got ridden over).

Fontana del Tritone on Piazza Barbaerini is wonderful and probably on of my favourite fountains of Rome. This is also the start of my questions, why are there 3 bees on the fountain, again on the Palazzo Barberini and in Castel Sant' Angelo. Next question is why are there 2 keys? Almost everything is in Rome has 2 keys on an emblem, sometimes also featuring bees. My last question is why is there a clam shell featured so prominently in the Vatican (more later).
The Spanish Stairs were pretty crowded when we eventually got there in the afternoon. Notice the large number of obelisks appearing in the photos from now onwards. There are an amazing number of obelisks in Rome that are situated in Piazzas sometimes coming out of fountains or statues.

Piazza del Popolo is this large area flanked by many many churches (not a surprise in Rome) and access to the Pincio (with more stairs) and the Villa Borghese gardens.

When in Rome...

Rome wasn't built in a day but you can visit it in 2 days. Flying into Rome through some pretty bad turbulence we landed at 7.30am and eventually arrived at our apartment at 10ish via taxi. After getting instructions in Italian because the caretaker doesn't speak English we searched out a good breakfast spot.

After breakfast we parted ways with Markus and I heading into town to visit THE sights of Rome. The first was the Colosseum in which we skipped the massive queue with our Roma Pass and ended up a trifle damp from the thunderstorm hovering over Rome.

The Colosseum was fascinating after years of Latin classes. I half remember the tales of gladiator battles from setwork translations. After reading the touristy info I also discovered that they could flood the arena for mock sea battles. How cool is that. I was very impressed by the pulley models that built to show how they worked in this mostly forgotten era.

After a wet Colosseum we visited the ruins of the Forum and Palatine Hill. Without a proper guidebook we guestimated a lot of what the structures looked like before. Following these pretty impressive ruins we visited the most unimpressive Circus Maximus which is just an empty green area that was once a racing ground.

The Domus Aurea, once Nero's Golden Palace lies in ruins close by but lacks any real impact. Walking down Via S. Fr. di Paola I got the sense that it was used as a movie backdrop complete with musical serenading from a street performer.

At this stage we took a break for lunch a cute Pizzeria on the intersection with Via dei Serpenti.

The photo on the left is from the side of a building. These appear throughout Rome either with places for candles or lights in front to light it day and night. I think they are blessings for the various buildings but if someone can explain the true meaning I would be most grateful.