Tag Archives: trip

Auberge de la Ferme: Wine Choices for Dinner

I never had the opportunity to write about the experience at Auberge de la Ferme. I will do it in another opportunity because now I just want to share our wine choices for dinner. They have an extensive selection of wines in a big cave and every time we go there we spend a lot of time choosing the right one, hoping it is good enough for the occasion.

This time we made a very good choice at a good price. They are:

Montravel

We had a gastronomic dinner with 7 services and most of the dishes demanded a white wine. We choose Montravel, that was one of the waiter‘s suggestions. This is a very good 12% dry and fruity wine 2013.

White wine Montravel
White wine Montravel

Julienas

Some of the dishes demanded a red wine. So, we once again accepted one of the waiter‘s suggestions. The dry, 13% red wine Juliénas 2011.

Red Wine Julienas
Red Wine Julienas

We still are amateurs in the art of wine appreciation. So, I’m saving the choices here for the next time 🙂 .

Great Experience at Frankfurt Airport and with Lufthansa

With all those crazy things going on all around the world these days, I believe sharing good news may help to compensate with good vibes all the negativity out there. It’s a good thing to recognize good actions made by people around us.

Having said that, I devote this post to send a big thanks to Frankfurt Airport and to Lufthansa Airlines. I don’t know how these companies are evaluated by their customers in general. Perhaps, we were simply lucky, but what has happened and the way we were treated are worth spreading.

We arrived at Frankfurt Airport in an United Airlines flight coming from the US (I have nothing to say about this company btw :-/). We were three: My wife, my one year old boy and I. The airport is enormous, but it couldn’t be easier to get directions inside. We experienced good accessibility carrying our baby’s stroller, with a negligible delay in comparison to other ways.

Everybody was genuinely gentle, from the immigration to the arrival in Brussels. No silly jokes, no excessive friendly behavior, just fine 🙂 That was the first contact we had with those people, thus they have no reason to exceed kindness, unless they were selling a false image of the company, which they didn’t. We actually felt relaxed dealing with those people. We needed that after a exhausting 8 hours flight from the US.

Our baby arrived at the airport sleeping and stayed like that until Brussels. That’s what I call the smoothest flight connection ever 🙂 The baby spaces are separated from the toilets and they are accessible within a range of 50 meters maximum. The security check has a special track for people with strollers and wheel chairs. We followed the procedure calmly and fast 🙂  All that is so convenient!

Even things that rarely work were working that day 🙂 We didn’t have our seats marked in the flight to Brussels due to some technical problems during the reservation. We were afraid to have seats far from each other and be forced to negotiate rearrangements within the airplane. Fortunately, the attendant managed to put us together. It never happened before! I may admit we were lucky 😉

It couldn’t be better until the boarding time when our expectations were exceeded! A lot of first and business class people around and the attendant called us to be the first ones to enter in the airplane. She called us out loud using the microphone and explained to other passengers that the baby would require some extra effort during boarding and it would help to gain some time after all. I call it intelligence and good judgment because that’s exactly what I would do in her shoes 🙂

Unfortunately, many airports out there banned such practice, which is the case of Brussels Airport and Washington Dulles, the ones we have been with our baby. Those airports following such stupid rule should give attention to families with babies and people with disabilities because this is not a privilege to a minority, but a necessity. They ignore the fact that it’s tough to travel with a little baby. Thanks to Lufthansa, we arrived very relaxed in Belgium, with a big smile on our faces 🙂

I’m Back, Now as a Ph.D.

Hi everyone, I had to spend sometime far from my blog because I was heavily busy finishing my Ph.D. Since May this year, I have written hundreds of pages, but the hardest part was not writing so many pages, but to review all of them.

The first version of my thesis was ready on July 31st. I submitted it to the jury on August 2nd. After this, I had only one week to summarize everything in a journal article and submit it to the editor on August 12th. I did it, but I had no expectation about its acceptance due to the hurry to prepare the article.

After such a pressure, I dedicated sometime to write my previous post on August 15th. But then I had to stop again my posts in a weekly basis to get ready to the private defense. The private defense is a closed session where only members of the jury, the adviser and the student are present. The student has to present his research and the jury makes an extensive, detailed and tough interrogatory, that might last for hours. My private defense was held on September 12th in a meeting room of my laboratory. It last 3 hours and it was, by far, the most tough evaluation I’ve ever passed. When it finished I went directly to bed to get relieved from the stress. I completely recovered from the stress a day after.

The main issue of the private defense was to convince the jury that I was capable of finishing all requested modifications in less than one month in order to book the public defense on October 12th. According to the rules of the university, the minimum period between the private and public defense is one month, but I had less time to finish the modifications because the thesis should be printed and follow some internal procedures before the public defense. And October 12th was the target date because my family had already bought expensive flight tickets, booked hotel, rented car and everything else considering October 12th. Fortunately, the jury had agreed to allow me delivering a new version of the thesis within 3 weeks and set the public defense definitively on October 12th.

More relaxed, but still very busy improving the thesis, I saw an open call for a book chapter related to the technology I used to develop my research application. I wrote an abstract demonstrating my great interest to be part of the book. However, I had no big expectation of having my proposal accepted. My family was about to arrive and after my public defense we planned to travel to many places in Europe together before they went back to Brazil. But then my book chapter proposal was accepted and I was supposed to write it while my family was here. Arghs!! Well, maybe I could handle this since I have a lot of content ready in my thesis, but not yet published. Then I received the news that my journal article had been accepted too, the one I submitted on August 12th, but reviewers requested a lot of modifications. God! A book chapter to write and a journal article to modify right during vacation with family?! It was unexpected and undesirable. 🙁 Even worse, I couldn’t start writing earlier because I was getting ready for the public defense, preparing the presentation, training the speech and many other administrative tasks. I was about to collapse.

The day of my public defense finally came. On October 12th 2010, I presented the final version of my thesis to the jury, to my family and many other friends. It was very good. I finished on time, answered all questions comfortably, and got the Ph.D. degree. It was so nice that I got very motivated to finish my two other responsibilities: the book chapter and the journal article. However, my body could not follow my wishes. I didn’t have a single minute of relaxation after my defense because of the trip with family. During the day we were visiting monuments, museums, theaters and restaurants and during the night I was lying on the laptop, writing as much as I could. Going to sleep late, waking up early, and walking all day, I was about to collapse. Really! At some point I said to myself to give up, then I spent one day doing nothing. Somehow, this day off was enough to recover my motivation.

There were more dramatic details but this post is already getting too long. The good news is that I could finally submit the book chapter and the revised version of the journal article. I’m writing this post now because I finished the whole journey just yesterday. I missed my blog a lot but I definitely couldn’t come earlier. Now I’m back and full of pending topics to write about. I would like to thank all my visitors that didn’t stop visiting and commenting my posts even after this “sabbatical” period. I’m really happy that I could write texts that have been permanently useful for the community.

What about my PhD?

My PhD is something that was not planned but it is happening. The full story about how I got into it is too long and too complicated, but to summarise, it was a consequence of some good results I got at work, which gave a good confidence to my adviser to put me in. I couldn’t say “no” because the opportunity to do a PhD in a prestigious university like UCL was really good.

For a guy who had a long experience in the corporate world, the decision to do a PhD was really tough. I don’t have the practice and the personality of a researcher, but as an entrepreneur, I like to take risks and face challenges and a PhD is definitively a challenge. Surprisingly, it is working well. I didn’t expect that because the way the research environment works is pretty different and I had to get used to it.

A week ago I did my PhD confirmation, which is a kind of acceptance of the work performed so far. I had to present my research to an internal committee composed of local full professors. Besides the feeling of uncertainty, everything went well and they approved my research. In some sense, I was expecting such approval, but I didn’t expected that it would come without any serious remarks. I’m almost sure that it was a consequence of the publications I’ve been doing. Since other scientific committees had a look on the work before, then nothing very disparate would come out from the confirmation committee at that moment.

Of course, a positive feedback is a great motivation to continue my research, but nothing is compared to a bunch of opportunities brought by the PhD student status. Some of these opportunities were actually a dream for many computer science students (mainly those who don’t live in the US, of course). Last summer, I presented my research in a PhD Consortium hosted by the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Definitively a dream for me because the Java programming language was created and evolved by people who graduated in that university. The prestigious Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is located there and it was responsible for one of the biggest revolution on the software engineering field with the creation of the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration), a process improvement approach used by several companies worldwide to prove they are ready to perform complex software projects under restricted constraints of cost, resources and time. Not least, the CMU School of Computer Science was also the lab of Randy Pausch, a computer graphics researcher who passed away because of a pancreatic cancer, but before that, he left a vast contribution on his field and also created a project called Alice to teach programming to children. His testimony is published on the book The Last Lecture (a must read).

Fortunately, CMU was not the last big dream to come true during my PhD. Tomorrow, I’m going to Boston to present my work in a conference at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Wow! Yeah! Difficult to believe, but it is real. I can’t wait to blog about this experience here. 😉

When 55 Does Mean a Big Number

Last Saturday we were committed with what seemed to be a pleasant and relaxing tour through the interior of Belgium. A friend invited us to follow her family in an exciting bike experience, cycling during some hours to complete a route of 55 km called “De 8 Van Zemst”, a Flemish name that means “the 8 of the city of Zemst”.

Yes, it was a pleasant and exciting tour, but it was far from relaxing. Actually, it was surprisingly challenging because we never knew that 55 km “not walking” would be so tiring and painful. The good news is that we survived. The bad news is that now we need a pad to seat everywhere. I don’t know about you, but every time I restart practicing cycling I never get used to the saddle within the first week because of an annoying pain in my butt. Last Saturday I’m sure that I cycled the equivalent of a whole month in just 5 hours. You can’t imagine how it hurts.

Looking at other participants I was wondering if they were feeling the same pain. Well, they certainly would say “yes, we feel that pain” but I would hardly believe that, since they looked perfectly smiling, talking and joking sometimes. They are going to repeat this journey during seven days in their July holidays. Well, all we can do is wish all of them a really nice trip! We will be waiting for the news in a safe place in Louvain-La-Neuve.

What I’ve learned in addition is that there are dozen of other routes in the Belgian territory. The picture below shows the sign of our route on the bottom and the sign of other routes above. I can’t really understand the green one but it shows how well organized Belgian people are when dealing with trips and adventures. This is indeed a motivation to explore this nice country, choosing easy routes and progressively migrating to complex ones.

This post is one more opportunity to say Thanks to the family who gave us such a warm welcome. To celebrate and remember this experience we have produced a video with some images of the get together. Enjoy it!