Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 5

Flying back home today. Some random facts, observations and lessons learned:

MUC is a pretty nice airport. Lufthansa has this Senator Café in addition to the usual lounges. The Senator Café is excellent; serviced bar + nice food, such as freshly squeezed juice, pickled herring, and cherry mousse.

FRA, in contrast, is a pretty horrible airport. To access the lounge located in the same terminal as my flight, I have to go through *2* security check points and walk over 20 minutes (and I walk very fast). Could anyone tell me why they want to put multiple security check points within the same terminal? If it were the summer season with more travelers I might have missed my flight.

Germany (at least Munich) is surprisingly vegetarian friendly. Some restaurants even have separate menu sections for "vegetarisch" (the only German word I learned). There is even a posh vegan restaurant in Munich. Myth buster: Germans do eat veggies other than potatoes and sauerkraut.

While chatting happily with my neighbor about the best coach class seats we got, I was moved to the business class. It is kind of unusual, as I did not ask for upgrade, the flight is not full, and my booking class is Q. What kind of algorithms do the airlines use for upgrading (and more interestingly, pricing)?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 4

The jetlag finally got on me, and I would not have woken up on time had I not set the alarm clock. It is ironic, as today is the only day that I have to wake up for my morning presentation.

(U-Bahn Marientplaz station that I switched from S-Bahn to U6 to TUM. I like this station because it is very large and well decorated.)

The presentation with Sylvain went pretty well. Even though I did not practice, I got the timing about right.

(Sylvain talking. To avoid disturbing him I turned off flash of my cell phone camera; this seems to increase motion blur due to longer exposure time.)

(Sylvain talking, viewed from high up)

The dinner party will take place in, guess what, the "booze house" that I photographed a few days ago. I checked the menu to make sure there are things other than potato and sauerkraut that I could eat.

(Hofbrauhaus, i.e. the booze house)

(U6 from TUM to Marienplatz, a rare sunny day in Munich)

(Marienplatz in sunny afternoon)

(Marienplatz in sunny afternoon)

(The dinner party)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 3

I finally finished a reasonable draft of slides for my talk tomorrow. I also did a quick check of the room that I am going to use; it is the kind of ancient European-style lecture hall with cascading rows of chairs so that the lecturer is essentially at the bottom of a tiny coliseum. Very interesting configuration. I will see how the effect is tomorrow.

I also attended a session for the first (and probably the last) time of a half-hour fast-forward for short papers.

For dinner, I went to Prinz Myshkin. It is claimed to be the best vegetarian restaurant in town, so of course I will have to check it out. Overall, the décor is excellent and I saw several of “the kind of chicks with blonde hair + white skin + long figure + luxury clothing that you would expect to see in either a German fairy tale or a posh vegetarian restaurant”.

(Prinz Myshkin)

For food, I ordered “Sojamedallions”, described as “In a deliciously creamy mushroom sauce, served with fresh arugola spätzle (german noodle speciality)”. In plain English, it is mushroom sauce over fake meat and irregular lumped shaped noodles.
The food tastes quite good, but a bit pricy, even compared with “Pure Lotus” in Beijing, one of the poshest vegetarian restaurants that I have visited. The service is also a bit slow; obviously the waitresses have too much to deal with.


(Spanish Fruit House in Marienplatz)

(Marienplatz at night)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 2

I finally got my registration done. For some reason, my badge shows only my name, not my affiliation. It is kind of nice as for people who do not know me they would not be able to figure out where I came from.

(My badge; just my name there, nothing else.)

I spent most of the day chatting with people. Here is the interesting thing. The conference took place during the final week of SIGGRAPH review before the committee meeting, so we all know we are not supposed to talk about it. But without that, it is kind of hard for people to talk about something else, and eventually the conversations came (dangerously) close to SIGGRAPH.

To avoid this pitfall, I decided to spend some time sliding down the tubular chutes inside the TUM informatik building where the conference located.

(Entrance of TUM Informatik building)

(Chutes, birds eye view)

(Chutes, side view)

(Chutes, floor view)

I went to Voila Café for dinner. The lonely planet guide described the restaurant as having creative vegetarian dish, so I decided to give it a try. The décor is a definite local bar, and the menu is in German. Initially I thought I would have to scramble to find the “creative vegetarian dish” but I got very lucky; the menu has a designated section for “vegetarisch” and I simply pick the one containing the restaurant name. later on the waitress dropped by and asked me if I need a English menu, and I surprised her by telling her that I am ready to order.


The dish consisted of the usual materials: potato, broccoli, chili, cucumber, tomato, and eggplant, but it is superbly cooked. The potato is probably the best I have ever had for a long time; “juicy” is probably not the word that one would usually associate with potatoes, but that is exactly how the dish tasted like.

(Vegetarian dish)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 1

I tried to cash in some traveler check in the morning, but the American Express branch that used to be in Munich city center has gone already. So I ended up having to visit a local currency exchange, which charged exorbitant commission for traveler checks. I guess I should just bring cash next time.

Afterwards I tried to make the conference. But for some reason the conference management could not locate my registration, and they told me to try to come back the next day. This is excellent because I really did not feel like attending the talks anyway. So I came back to the city center and spending time there for the entire afternoon.

I had dinner in an Indian restaurant, and glad to finally have some vegetables.

(Funky building, front view)

(Funky building, side view)

(St. Marien Church, court yard)


(Isar river, near my hotel)

(Old city center entrance)

(Some plaza inside old city center)

(Booze house, front door)

(Booze house, inside)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 0

I was heading to Munich to EG09 for a STAR paper (state of the art report which is kind of like a short course). Initially I did not feel strongly to go as a French co-author could manage to cover everything, but then the company budget cut policy made international travel very difficult, so I decided I must make it. ;-D

On the flight from SFO to LHR I tried the Bose noise-reduction headset. It is pretty effective in reducing regular engine/body humming noise, allowing me to listen to the movie audios for the first time in flight. However, the headset does not seem to apply for other kinds of less regular noises such as people talking. This is to be expected; if you think about that you will see it is much easier to cancel a regular waveform (frequency locking + phase cancelation) than an irregular one.

After arrival in MUC, I took S-Bahn (suburban train) from the airport to my hotel, which is located near downtown. I preferred that than the conference recommended hotels which all seem to be located in the middle of nowhere. Since Munich weather appears to be similar to Seattle, living in a desolated place does not seem like a good idea.

(Photo taken from S8 Bahn looking out towards the northern suburb of Munich)

Following lonely planet guide, I barged into a local Bavarian restaurant for dinner. I have little luck deciphering the dishes even with an English menu, so I ended up having a soup (with a soaked pretzel) and a plate of two cheese balls (with a dry pretzel). I guess these must be authentic Bavarian cooking, but not exactly for me.

(Dinner with one mug of soup and a plate of cheese balls)