2019/06/29 Camping+cycling/hiking+BBQ weekend at Effelder Waldsee!

So the heatwave came. This weeks, it marked the highest temperature in France ever, and Germany marked also the highest temperature ever for June, although it did not hit as hard as the southern countries.

Whatever the heatwave was like, our lives went on. And I'm particularly grateful for the people working at our institute to do quite menial jobs, like taking care of the administrative stuff for foreign researchers. We have namely now something called "international office" at our institute, which is occupied by a rather young lady, who is supposed to be an expert of legal stuff for foreigners in Germany, as well as finding apartments and so on. Since I successfully extended my contract, I thought it might actually be a nice idea to extend my visa.

Here's the problem: my visa has expired more than half a year ago. Well, the problem doesn't really come from me, because the city of Düsseldorf asks us to apply for an appointment online. And indeed long before my visa expired, I applied for an appointment, even though I knew more or less that they wouldn't reply. And they didn't. Nevertheless I didn't really care about it, for a very simple reason: I know nothing would ever happen to me without a visa. This is on the one hand an empirical assumption, on the other hand also a logical one, because having a visa or not (i.e. whether being legal or not) is not quite a question of principle or ethics. Behold this example: if you steal something, whether its price is 5 € or 5,000,000 €, it doesn't matter, it's a crime (and it should also be from the ethical point of view). Legal status, on the other hand, is purely a question of merit for the country, i.e. is it more useful to have this person in the country or not. So, even though there are certain rules, all of them can be overwritten. A peculiar case is, in France they say they don't allow any citizen from any country outside of EU to obtain the first visa in France, so that everyone has to have had obtained one before arriving in France, whereas my former boss, who's a professor at the university of Lyon, made them issue one for one visiting professor from the university of British Columbia.

So, in the end I know that Germany is not stupid enough to punish a doctor in theoretical physics at any rate, let alone the one who's just extended his contract for another 2 or 3 years.

While I was rather relaxed, this young lady from the international office obviously wasn't. She actually first didn't quite realize that my visa had already expired. All she did was first write an innocent application mail to the city hall, only to get a horrifying reply.

Here's one thing I don't really understand: I know it's officially illegal to stay in Germany without a visa, but the online application page is still existing and I'm pretty sure that a good citizen may wait for an answer with great concern, even though in fact I later learned that they don't give a reply at all over this online format. So, essentially they are offering a possibility which they know is nonexistent. How can they be so bold to write a threatening mail to us while their offer is not even on the table in the first place?

Nevertheless, this didn't really change the fact that the lady in the international office was horrified by the message she got from the city hall. And even though normally the appointment is something like 4 months away, she somehow managed to secure one for me for the next day. This was another fact of the day: if you are an orderly person and go the ordinary way, you'll have to wait for 4 month, whereas if you are a total jerk and ignore the expiration date altogether, you can get one the next day. Life's fair, isn't it?

And so the next day, I headed to the city hall. My appointment was for 9:50. I remember that I had to wait something like half an hour or so when I went there last time two years ago. My understanding of this "appointment time" is "you may be called at any moment after this time". So I was rather relaxed when I arrived at 9:49, only to realize that exactly the moment the clock changed to 9:50, my number appeared on the screen. Not bad.

There was this serious guy in the room I entered who looked like he had never had fun in his entire life. Well, the thing is I didn't double check the documents (I knew that my insurance certificate was missing anyway, although I didn't care much), and I thought in that moment actually I forgot my passport. As soon as I told it to him, he started telling me that obviously I didn't care about the rules and order. I thought: "Exactly!", though not that I really said it aloud.

By 10, I was already outside. While I was in the city center, this young lady from the international office had already written an email to everyone in my institute, which started with the phrase "In light of recent events, I would like you to check that your residence permit is still valid." The thing is, even some of those who didn't know anything about it knew that it was me.

And this weekend, we had this weekend camping, just as we did last year. And this was one of those things that I had been looking forward to for the summer, with a lot of expectations with this new mode of transport, cycling, which I thought was a great idea to carry all the stuff for camping, which was extremely difficult with hiking. Indeed, it really matters to have half a kg more or less if you are hiking. But if you are cycling, you can carry 10 times as much and you can still enjoy it.

Well, there was one significant difference from last year that I didn't think about: Jen is not here anymore, so I really had to plan everything on my own, from cycling to BBQ and camping. This was, as a matter of fact, extremely exhausting this year. And it became so centralized that it apparently made everyone think I'd do everything. So in the end, I was purely overwhelmed with all the tasks I took on, and my last bit of excitement was turned off when I was scolded for not having prepared everything properly and lack of help for cleaning up the BBQ.

Nevertheless, I'd like to wholeheartedly thank Robin, who acted very much like Jen last year and helped me out all way long till the end. And I'm also grateful for the help I got from Rohith, Minh Canh and Zaman. On the other hand, I might have expected a bit more cooperation from the German boys present there.

Well, in the end, I was somewhat torn apart, but a few days went on, now I think it might be actually worth trying it out one more time. After all the idea itself isn't that bad and I don't really like to give up on something altogether anyway.

2019/06/23 Hiking from Wuppertal to Solingen!

Another long weekend came. It comes always whenever I don't really need one. That's because now the new project started and I'm enjoying doing something, that I truly understand. Here's the short story of what was the problem in the last project and why the next one is going to be so good: In metals, there are different kinds of interactions, like electronic, elastic, magnetic and so on. The material I treated was mainly a composite of iron and manganese. And here, the most prominent effect comes from magnetism.

Here's the problem: I don't understand anything about magnetism. It's really a funny thing to say, because in theoretical physics we are essentially controlling everything in simulations. So all the phenomena happening in simulations must come from something integrated in the algorithm. But here I am, I still don't understand what this magnetism is, let alone what actually happens in the real world.

The systems I am going to take a look at, namely iron carbon, are namely completely different: small carbon atoms are placed between large iron atoms and they create distorted stress field around themselves. Since this distortion is not isotropic (i.e. the carbon atoms do not create the distortion homogeneously around themselves), they practically interact each other elastically. So, here the magnetic interactions are not nearly as important as the elastic interactions, which I also understand much better. The funny thing is, even though the elastic interactions sound like way easier to understand, they in reality aren't, so that it makes sense to spend quite some time to investigate it. And here I am, having done it for quite some time during my PhD thesis, I am very confident that the things look really good this time.

Well, the happy three days were very short to enjoy working. Then the long weekend came, which started off with a horrible weather. I planned a cycling session on Thursday (which was the first day of the long weekend), which I postponed to Saturday (something which almost never happens). As I already announced in an earlier post, this year I'm trying to create a few cycling events, especially because the heatwave of last year is forecast for this year as well. This time, we were 8 people going from Düsseldorf to Moers, where the local street food and music festival was taking place. Despite my initial expectations, this session turned out to be rather a horrible session. There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, I was the only one having the trail today, which was not very surprising, since most of the people don't have a mobile holder on their bikes and therefore didn't want to have to take a look at the map at all. Secondly, the distance between people was so large that it was sort of impossible to tell people whenever they were going in a wrong direction. And lastly, I still find it quite tiring to talk to people while cycling. While trying to keep today's session afloat, I was wondering why I was doing this in the first place, since I could have been doing it all alone. Maybe I'm going to stop posting it on CS and do it on my own.

And yesterday, we had Mami's birthday party at my place, just like last year. Maybe because it was a birthday party, maybe because there was no boardgame session for two week, quite a few people came to my place. The result: my fridge is empty. Well, actually the problem comes from a very small number of people, because most of the people don't drink beer at all and most of those who do bring their own drinks/snacks themselves. And there are the ones who consume a great deal and radically refuse to bring anything. Right after the session I ordered a piggy bank on Amazon. So from next time on, it's gonna cost 1 € per beer if you take it from my fridge :)

So far the weekend looked rather horrible, but the hike from Wuppertal to Schaberg was superb despite the extremely high temperature. Actually when I was creating that trail I thought that was one of the worst trails ever, since there was very little variation on the way, namely forest. But exactly for this reason it turned out to be a great one on a day with endless sunshine. We were mainly going through shadow and avoided the worst of the day in the end. Besides Schaberg is a really nice place to finish, since it is right next to the river Wupper, which is a relatively clean one, so that you can enter the water. Actually this might be a good strategy in summer to finish at a river, even if there's no train station nearby, as long as there's a bus stop. Well, anyway there are a few hiking routes coming up in summer where we're gonna be able to enter the water, so stay tuned and look forward to the upcoming events.

2019/06/16 Hiking to Hermannsdenkmal at Detmold!

So, this week, my project at Max Planck institute went to an end. From the very beginning of next month, I'll start working on a new project (which is an extremely exciting one). Hopefully I'll get a visa to be legally in Germany for the first time this year.

And this weekend again I worked as a volunteer trainer for YFU, i.e. I was being a trainer for new teachers, who will be giving a course for exchange students from all over the world, who're gonna stay in Germany for a year. Being a trainer there is very much like playing a teenager exchange student, which is something I very much enjoyed this weekend. It is certainly not everyone's thing. Some people were obviously confused to see me behaving like a small child during their teaching simulations. The confusion might have been amplified by the fact that I'm a doctor in theoretical physics. But telling nonsense is also part of what we love to do, so from my perspective there was nothing wrong about it.

At the end of the day, we found out that there were not enough teachers for the Japanese courses. And so, I volunteered again, which means I'm going to be a teacher for exchange students from Japan this summer for 3 weeks. And this is going to take place in Kassel (which was my least favorite choice though). So drop by towards the end of August if you want to join us on some hiking events if you have time.

And since I was already in Kassel, I thought it might be actually a good idea to hike in a place somewhere between Düsseldorf and Kassel, so that not only I can spare time to get there, but also I don't have to go back to Düsseldorf all alone. So for this, I organized one in Detmold, which was one of the cities that I wanted to visit at some point anyway. But then the train journey was for more than 3 hours from Düsseldorf, and slightly less than 2 from Kassel. It was nice to see that some people realized only when they took the train that it was so far away. But still I'd claim that the hike was a fairly good one. I was also quite happy to have seen Hermannsdenkmal for the first time, which is one of the most famous touristic spots in North Rhine-Westphalia.

During the hike, Kai and I were talking about the possibility of inviting one more Japanese guy from the orchestra, a young boy who has actually never seen any of the activities at my place without Japanese people. A surprising fact is that actually it's his mother who wants him to join us, at my hippie place. This is something I sometimes don't really understand about Japanese people. When they raise a child, they clearly prefer a very well defined way with no exception, but then they find what I've been doing quite good, or even in this case they might want their child to follow my way, which is certainly farther away from any of the Japanese people they could have seen. Well, anyway that's the thing. Kai will invite him and we'll see what it is actually like.

Today, we had a clear blue sky, but compared to the weather of last year, it is still not quite summer-ish. It's true that it was a catastrophic one last year, but in two weeks we'll have our camping weekend. Let's see how it's gonna evolve in the coming weeks.

2019/06/09 Hike Dutch in Arnhem!

It was another stormy week this week. First, I had to go to Strasbourg for a project meeting, which no one from our institute is currently working on. Nevertheless, I made a presentation out of void. In this kind of situation, I tend to be honest and say "I didn't do anything", but since I was essentially replacing our boss, I still had to present something. I know it's just formally anticipated that we give a presentation, but I wonder how much we could potentially gain if we stop wasting time for this, only if we are allowed to simply skip a presentation when we didn't do anything.

And on Friday, when the business trip was over, I went directly to Weimar, to attend a seminar as a trainer from Friday to Saturday. This seminar was meant for young teachers, who are going to give courses in the summer for exchange students (or rather: pupils) from all over the world, who are going to stay in Germany for a year. This was a course that I attended as a student in the summer of 2004 (which I talked about in a recent post when we hiked to Wermelskirchen) and I myself worked as a teacher in 2014 and 2016. Now since last year I'm invited as a trainer to the preparation seminars, this week in Weimar and next week in Kassel. It is a weird feeling to be there, among a group of students studying German for foreign students, as a doctor in theoretical physics. It is, as a matter of fact, an enormously refreshing experience. Why? The thing is, the focus is on how to tranfer knowledge to someone (to a pupil in this case) who may or may not be interested in what you are talking about. This pedagogical aspect is something entirely absent in the world of theoretical physics, even though every one of us is painfully aware of the fact, that we are doing science because it's interesting, therefore it is crucial to tell what is so interesting about it. In reality, however, this aspect is hopelessly neglected in the scientific community: young researchers such as Ph.D students usually concentrate on making their presentations as "professional" as possible, which usually results in overly esoteric content with hardly explaining anything (at least not in a comprehensible way). Some professors sometimes give interesting talks, but they don't really have anyone who evaluates the quality of their talks, so that after years of neglected performance, it is not rare to see poor presentations, which make you wonder how they can possibly survive in the era of great performance youtubers. And here I am at these seminars this weekend and next weekend, where we seriouly talk about how to transfer knowledge. Sure, I'm not paid for that, but I'm still more than glad that they invited me there.

So yesterday (Saturday) in the evening, I took a train from Weimar around 8pm, to go to Frankfurt around midnight, where I stayed in a hotel and went back to Düsseldorf this morning to join the hike. To be honest, I couldn't sleep well anywhere this week. The fact that I stayed in a high quality buiness hotel last night hardly made any difference.

And so it was clearly a bad idea to choose Arnhem for the hiking of this weekend, since Arnhem was one of the cities I was looking forward to visiting. In the end I didn't have enough energy to visit anywhere and I simply went back home with all other people.

Next week will see the end of my current project (not officially, but I'll write the final report and it's gonna practically end). Then I'll probably be able to enjoy the summer. Anyway, I'm happy to be able to sleep in the comfortable bed of my room again. :)

2019/06/01 Hiking from Wetter to Witten and Kirmes!

There was a drastic transition this week. First of all, for those who don't know the situation in Germany: here, you can rent a furnished or unfurnished flat, where mostly it is unfurnished, which is probably the same in many countries. However, when it's unfurnished in Germany, usually there is no kitchen at all. What does this mean? It means, in the kitchen (or in the room where a kitchen is supposed to be installed), there is a waste water pipe, water sources and some electric sockets. There is no sink, no stove and nothing. To make sure for you to understand it correctly: there is really literally nothing in the kitchen when you rent an unfurnished apartment in Germany. Accordingly, when people move out of the apartment, they move out with the kitchen, which of course is a huge waste of time, money, and often materials. Therefore, often you see low quality kitchens. It is hard to believe in this eco-friendly country such a wasteful thing is going on.

In my case, luckily, the kitchen was partially installed by the former occupant who had to vacate the flat very quickly and left everything there. But there was a huge vacuum below the sink, which was not really used. In our small kitchen, it had been a fatal error, since quite some stuff was randomly placed there, so that it was practically impossible for more than one person to do something. Even though we were aware of this problem for almost 2 years, we didn't know what to do. This week, right after I came back from Rurberg, Stefan asked me if I needed his help, and the same day he came over in his car. Then we went to the nearby IKEA and bought all we needed. Two days later, he came back with all the utilities needed to install the stuff. And here you are, all of a sudden we have a real kitchen. As we managed to put all the stuff into the drawers, now we have so much more space. Now we can probably even organize cooking sessions etc. Well, we'll try to be creative to see what we can do.

Just as abrupt this transition was the temperature this weekend. From the still-early-spring cold weather, we saw the temperature skyrocketing to something like 30 °C. And so came another long weekend this week. Out of four free days from Thursday to Sunday, I had to join the orchestra on Thursday and Sunday, since there was my last concert on Sunday in this orchestra. On Friday, I organized a cycling session from Düsseldorf to Cologne, which in my opinion was not particularly convincing. You can read more on this page.

On Saturday, we hiked from Wetter to Witten. If I put the phrase just like this, it might sound easy, but actually this is a really frustrating area. The problem is simply there are not enough stations in this area, so that it becomes extremely difficult to create a beautiful trail going from one station to another. In the end, I couldn't make it shorter than 18 km. Nevertheless, I managed to make one that went from Wetter to Witten.

In my effort to make as many events as possible in this summer and from last week's trip to Rurberg, I must have been exhausted today from the beginning to the end. I didn't really feel like talking to anyone. The problem is of course as an organizer people, especially the ones who came for the first time, talked to me. I guess I appeared really unfriendly today...

Well, the hike itself was pretty okay today. I was probably partially saved by the summer-ish weather with a great place for a break on the way.

2019/05/25 Weekend hiking trip to Rurberg!

When we had the weekend camping trips in Haltern am See and Effelder Waldsee, it became clear that it is actually fairly difficult to find a place which fulfil all of the following conditions: 1. There's a lake where we can swim; 2. BBQ is allowed; 3. The campsite it fine with a group like us; 4. It is fairly easy to reach from Düsseldorf (but not too close). After some research, I spotted one place: Rursee. Just as everywhere, the campsites in Rursee were not well equipped with modern technology called internet, so that their websites were not particularly useful. The same was the case for swimming situation there. At least here in Germany, it is often forbidden to swim, although it is often tolerated. In the end, I wanted to take a look at it.

During the preparation period, I was having a few problems:

  • Rursee is inside the Eifel region, which is very famous for its supposedly beautiful nature and everyone's expectations were high.
  • The area between the nearest train station (Heimbach) and Rurberg is massively green, not offering variations in landscape.
  • The youth hostel seemed to always have vacancies, which is usually not the case for popular youth hostels.
  • The youth hostel is on top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere.
  • The youth hostel doesn't have a bar (so that we'd be essentially forced to have drinks in the city).
  • I had to transfer 200 € in advance, so that I didn't have the possibility of cancelling the stay.

Together with all these problems, we had an additional one: the weather has been utterly gloomy this year. This hit us on the weekend where we were supposed to hike in Rurberg (May 11). Not surprisingly, there were people trying to cancel their participation in the last minute, but fortunately, I could postpone the event by 2 weeks, in the hope that we'd have a better weather. It got somewhat better, but not that good that we'd be able to swim. Anyway, we decided to go there in the end, with my expectations dreadfully low.

As I indicated above, the youth hostel seemed to have enough space for everyone, so that I kept the registration simply open. It went through a roller coaster of participants list in the last 24 hours. I was myself in Paris on work, but we got 2 or 3 people dropping out first, then got around 8 people joining, out of whom there were still a few people who disappeared. In the end, I counted 24 people, which essentially meant that the number of participants didn't change.

Then in the last minute, I got another problem: the ticket I was thinking to buy was not the right one, but I didn't know which one would be correct. More about this problem is described on the hiking page. So problems after problems, although this one was something I am responsible for. Luckily, on the rambling train taking us from Düren to Heimbach, they apparently didn't really care about tickets.

It was a relatively weird mixture of people this time. Out of all the participants, I'd say I knew half of them well. The others are not entirely new to me, but it means that most of them didn't know each other well or at all, since I'm usually the one who knows the people the best. It is rare that there are so many people joining a weekend hike without having joined many regular hikes, but still this happens every now and then. I still don't know exactly what are their expectations, but maybe it appears somewhat attractive to stay over somewhere else, maybe this gives sense of vacation.

Quite surprisingly, the trail was not nearly as bad as I had thought. Actually it was a very good one. This was probably because we could still have great view at some spots on the way, and the pleasant hiking paths along the Rursee. I'm pretty sure that there'd be tons of cyclists along the water in summer, so we might have been lucky that the temperature stayed somewhat moderate.

While having a break in a café on the way, I realized one thing that I should have done better: I knew that my phone wouldn't survive the entire day, so I took a charger myself. But of course other people had exactly the same problem, so I should have taken a multi-socket USB adapter (which I bought during the cycling trip through the Alps).

Today's hike was pretty tough, but not too tough to go to bed directly after the hike. So, it appeared to me like a deadly mistake to have chosen a youth hostel which didn't have a bar and had nothing nearby, until we checked in. The thing is, we first got a key for a seminar room, which was meant to be used for the breakfast. But then the lady at the reception told us that we can order beer and wine as much as we'd want beforehand, and pay just as much as we consumed the next day. You will never know how much I was relieved when I heard this. This was the very moment which made the already relatively good hike a decisively perfect one. It was indeed painful to go to the city center after having climbed up the mountain to reach the youth hostel, but it turned into a negligible problem for me.

Obviously there were not so many people who thought about what to do in the evening. There was two sets of UNO. That's it. First, we were indeed playing UNO, but then the room turned into more like a party room. There were some people who obviously got too drunk, but then they also had to go to bed quite early. We stayed there until 2am. There, I wasn't even sure anymore if we'd be able to hike the next day.

And of course, the day didn't end straightforwardly: later in the night, when we were (hopefully) all in bed, fire alarms went off. Despite my maximum effort to continue sleeping, it persisted for maybe half an hour, which in the end forced me out of the bed. It took like forever until the firefighters cleared the problem. Well, I'm not really sure if there was a real problem, but next day we learned that it went off because of some people partying near the youth hostel after some wedding nearby, who put bonfire which evoked the fire alarm in the youth hostel. So great that there were people who contributed to our exhaustion of the day.

But actually we were surprisingly fit the next day, so that we could as planned hike back to Heimbach. It's true that we had more breaks, but we definitely enjoyed the second day as well.

On the way back home, just as always I was writing down the timeline of this trip and all the things which went well and not so well. I'm certainly more interested in things that didn't go well, which I can probably do better from next time on. I'm not going to enlist all these points, because they are all already distributed in the text above. This self-evaluation is not an important part of the trip anymore, at least compared to the very first ones, like the one in Traben-Trarbach or the one in Blankenheim, I spend significantly less time on this part nowadays.

While doing so, I was asked a fundamental question: why was I doing this? It's true that there is no need for me to guarantee that the next trip is going to be a good one, since I am not making any profit out of it. But in my opinion, the world is too obsessed with the separation of "work" and "leisure". Especially nowadays, this distinction is getting less and less clear, which is a good thing. So just as much as the work is enjoyable, I think it is important to make sure that the leisure time goes well, since you can enjoy it only if it goes well. And by doing so, I can also somewhat expect that the next one is going to be better than this one, so that I can even more look forward to it. So, I don't have to be a perfect person today, but tomorrow I'm going to be a better one. Life should be like that.

2019/05/19 Hiking around Hohenlimburg!

So far, I must say 2019 has been a deceiving year. Now it's May. You won't know how much I had been looking forward to this month, especially after the nasty last winter. The fact that I postponed the trip to Rurberg last week looks now very much like postponing the trouble. Well, I'm going to look forward to the weather next week.

On the other hand, it is still the perfect weather for board game sessions. This week, thanks to Hussain who gave me 25 € Amazon gift card, we got a few more new games. We first played settlers of Catan, and I lost, again. Well, anyway I won in all other games so it was fine in the end :D

Looking back at May 2018, it was just warm everyday. We were I guess already concerned about the drought in that moment as well. This year, it looks like the country was transformed into something completely different. Wet and cold, everyday. For today, it was supposed to be cloudy. It was indeed cloudy, until some point. Just like the hike a few weeks ago, it started raining all of a sudden. No idea how we could have avoided it. From the experience of that time, I took an umbrella and I could avoid the worst. But not so surprisingly there were also people who didn't have anything to protect themselves. They must have soaked all the rain that never stopped till the end.

This was one problem that I couldn't have avoided. There was, however, another problem, which potentially I could have avoided: there was a restaurant on the way which we had visited on a hike before. Since I really liked it, I took the same place for the break. And today, it was closed. Due to lack of staff.

I can also simply say it was a bad luck. However, I could have at least opened their website, where actually it was indeed written. Even if it hadn't been written, I should have called them, because it takes only a few seconds to know whether it is open, especially regarding the fact that not having that place was impossibly devastating. This one was an important lesson for next time...

2019/05/12 Hiking around Duisburg 6 Seen Platte!

After I wrote last week's article, I found out something quite dramatic this week. You might know that I joined a Japanese orchestra in Düsseldorf last year, which is run solely by Japanese people (at least currently). Even though I'm not a big fan of racial segregation, every now and then I go to a restaurant or organize some stuff at my place with them. And this week I was in a Chinese restaurant with them, when the Japanese girl sitting next to me took out a book, which she imported from Japan because she absolutely wanted to read this book,..., written by Naoki Hyakuta. Now, if you thought "who's that?", that's perfectly fine, or rather you can be happy about not knowing him. He is essentially the Japanese version of Neo Nazi. A notorious revisionist that I had never thought would be mentioned in my entire life. And here you are, I was sitting with someone who imported one of his books and was sharing the greatness of this book, with people who obviously share the same value. Well, to be fair, there were just 4 of them, and quite obviously there are more people in the orchestra. So I wouldn't directly make judgements. Yet, there was the leader of the orchestra there, and apparently they can safely talk about this, so I'm probably not extremely wrong if I say they are not the only ones. Fortunately, I can safely assume that they all don't understand English (and as a matter of fact, they don't even really speak German), although I don't really mind even if they read what I write here...

But my experience threw one big question: isn't it frustrating to live in a country in which revisionists are not welcome? Well, maybe they simply want to be angry, or maybe the Japanese community here is so closed that they don't have to care about the local society. One way or other, I can't imagine to be part of such a community. There'll be one concert in June and I guess I'll take French leave this time.

Less dramatic was today's hike, though it marked an important point this time. So, according to our initial plan, we should have been at Rurberg over the weekend (so from Saturday to Sunday with an overnight stay at the local youth hostel). However, the polar wind was apparently coming this week, so that both the weather and the temperature were just miserable. And not quite surprisingly, people started to cancel their participation. Almost at the same time, I contacted the youth hostel and they allowed us to shift the plan by two weeks. Well, it probably also makes sense for them, because they probably also prefer that everyone really comes, not that they have to get by with the prepayment. Anyway, I was relieved to hear that, because usually the weather is okay in May in Germany (although our experiences in 2017 and 2018 cannot directly underpin my claim here...) and Rurberg is very famous for its lake, where we can also possibly swim if it's warm.

Anyway, that's not really the point. The point is, there was Sajjad, who's on Ramadan and therefore didn't want to join us on the weekend hike, who therefore organized a short hike in Duisburg. So, in the end, these circumstances made me join a hike that someone else organized, for the first time since I came here (at least in the VRR area).

I am still just motivated in hiking as I was two years ago, but not being the organizer apparently made me think that I can potentially do something else. This thought was conjugated with the fact that Duisburg is flat everywhere, which makes it really unattractive for hiking. At some point, I was thinking I could simply go cycling instead of hiking. In the end, Sajjad made me an organizer as well, telling me he doesn't want to organize it alone. So, it was weird to see that whether being an organizer or not makes the impulse to going to the hike or not that much.

Anyway, after the wasted Saturday and the spontaneous movie session, where we watched "Bram Stoker's Dracula", which was our first horror (?) movie, although we essentially made a comedy out of it, I joined the hike.

While everyone still considered me as the organizer, I felt like I was more a mere participant, even though in practice, there was no difference. It was just how I felt, and nothing else. The newcomers must have been wondering what we were talking about all the time.

There's something that's been puzzling me for some time now. The hiking events that I've been organizing are not really for someone, who truly wants to hike. It is more like a compromise between meetup and some activity. So usually, people enjoy the company. But every now and then, there are people who seem to not want anything else than moving forward. And so today, it seemed like some people simply didn't want to stay longer at the break and at the end of the hike, they simply wanted to go back to the train station. Of course I have nothing against them; everyone can enjoy doing whatever they like. But still I wonder, what is exactly their motivation to join the hikes. Is it because there's someone who does the navigation, or because they don't have to plan a trail themselves, or maybe they do enjoy walking with other people in reality; it's just, maybe they don't really want to talk. That would be a fairly complex form of friendship, where you want others to be there, but you don't want them to talk. I guess I'm gonna go for this possibility and leave them in piece. After all, they do come back, so they must enjoy it in a certain way.

At the end of the hike, we could have ice creams. It's May, even if it's still fairly cold. Well, let's look forward to a brighter future.

2019/04/28 Hiking from Ronsdorf to Schwelm and beer festival!

Finally! The season of beer festivals started --- well, apparently not really. At least not today, even though there must have been a significant number of people who signed up for the event because of the beer festival in Schwelm today, that I had announced for the (planned) great ending of today's hike. It was more like a short break before the next heat wave arrives. At least last year's heatwave is forecast for this year as well. We shouldn't be complaining about the bad weather, probably.

Yesterday, we had the second game session. With more or less the same number of people, we had no other choice than werewolf, although with Soheila's version (which is called One Night), everyone, including the narrator, could play. I must say, werewolf is a great game for people who can tell nonsense all the time, like me. Anyway, we started at 9pm and played until 1am. I still don't understand how we can be so absorbed in one activity for such a long time. By the way, this photo is from last week, because I forgot to put it there.

So, just like last week, we were going to the hike with very little sleep, and the weather was horrible, and the hike itself was horribly organized, and I got the most expensive beer I've ever had at the beer festival. You can read more about the hike on this page.

At the end of next week, I'll be in Bamberg. Luckily (though I actually don't really care), Sajjad took over the organization of the next hike, for whom I guess Ramadan should be starting. And the week after that will be our next weekend trip to Rurberg. So even though it's not so far, I'd like to talk about one important event in Japan this week: abdication of Akihito, the current emperor of Japan.

Akihito is the son of the war time emperor Hirohito. Since he was only 11 when the war was over, he couldn't have had any impact on the outcome of the war, but for his heritage, he's often made responsible for various atrocities committed by the imperial army during the war. But whatever his responsibility was, here's an interesting fact about Japanese politics, or maybe about war in general: It is true that Hirohito was an emperor. However, late 1941, he was desperately trying to avoid a war with the US, and nominated Hideki Tojo the prime minister, who was believed to not have wanted a war with the US. His predecessor, Fumimaro Konoe, as well, did not want to start a war. A few months later, under the direction of Isoroku Yamamoto, who until the last moment opposed the war with the US, the war started.

Sure, in Europe it might appear simple. People blame Hitler and Mussolini. But by doing so, we might be distorting the real picture. This is at least what the example of Japan shows, as there was no particular person who wanted a war. Yet it started; things got out of control.

Akihito's era started a few months after I was born. Over the 30 years since then, he reiterated the same phrase: We must not forget. If I had lived at the end of the war, I would have probably wanted to get rid of the imperial family altogether. Now, after decades since the end of WWII, I am more concerned that we might need them more than ever.

Akihito's era goes to an end. It's now up to us to see whether it's about an single person's whereabouts, or an entier society's whereabouts.

2019/04/21 Hiking from Werdohl to Altena!

Germany doesn't have as many public holidays as for example Japan (although as far as I know Japan has the highest number of public holidays), but for some reason, most of them are from April to June, within these 3 months. The first one, Easter, happened to be this weekend and just as every year I couldn't come up with a decent idea. And just as every year, I ended up staying at home, which in fact turned out to be a good idea, as the temperature skyrocketed this weekend and even this area had a lot to offer.

For me, getting older itself is not really a problem, but at some point, if everyday and every year becomes the same, the life starts to become bland. So this year, in order to remember the year 2019, I decided to run a full marathon in October in Cologne. And since I found it boring to run all alone, I decided to deliver the same destiny to Melika, who has never run more than 10 km, who was obviously not convinced that she could make it. So we decided to run a half marathon privately this weekend, saying if we make it this time, we'll do the full marathon together. We made it. It's always a great feeling to succeed in something, even if it has no practical contribution to life.

Since the day is getting longer, I stopped organizing movie sessions (it's kind of weird to watch movie when it's bright outside). Instead, yesterday I organized a board game session. Not quite surprisingly, there were more than 10 people, and there was essentially no board game that we could have played, except for werewolf. This one turned out to be a huge hit; the night became extremely long. Apparently we're gonna have a few werewolf sessions over the course of this summer.

The next day was still a holiday, so I decided to offer the hike from Werdohl to Altena, which was one of my oldest trails. I just couldn't offer it for such a long time because it was 20 km; far longer than what we usually do. Maybe it was the longest one ever except for the weekend hikes. Great to do a real hike after a 4h sleep.

There was a warning in the couchsurfing description, and I wrote a warning again in the WhatsApp group. Still there were 60 people in the group. In the meantime, a rare thing happened: there was someone organizing a hike as well, though in Cologne. There, there were .... 3 people... I was almost sorry that even people from Cologne were also joining our event.

Today, during the hike, I was talking with Michael, a local from Hagen. He was saying, there might be people like the German railway who'd be interested in knowing the trails that I've organized so far. Indeed, there's this thing called wunderbar wanderbar, which is a handbook promoted by the German railway, although the PDF file offered here contains only qualitative descriptions with handwritten maps, which are outdated and not quite informative. I don't know exactly why I should be interested in promoting my trails elsewhere, but it might be some sort of goal that I can stride to. Well, I don't think I should be truly focused on this, but I guess I'm going to make significant changes to my website in the coming days first, because anyway I'm not really fond of what it looks like right now.

I must say, I survived the hike really well after the half marathon and the never ending game session. Especially, we went cycling the next day, doing more than 60 km in a day. It's good that I don't have to do anything in particular right now at work...

2019/04/14 Hiking from Velbert-Langenberg to Nierenhof!

And one year went away. This year, lack of creativity made me reluctant to organize something on my birthday. It was only in the last moment I decided to invite "only a few" people and throw a "small" party at my place. It just went against my expectations, as most of these "only a few" accepted my invitation, and regardless of whomever I had invited, people simply came. It was almost like watching The Great Gatsby in real time.

After the bitter experience of last year during the hike after my birthday party, apparently I learned what not to do. While many of the people at the party didn't show up today at the hike, I was feeling quite well from the beginning to the end.

A little bit of luck was also with us today: there was a construction work going on along the line S9 (Wuppertal-Essen line), between ... Essen and Langenberg. And we were going from Wuppertal to Langenberg, i.e. up to the final destination of the train. Those who were coming from the other side (i.e. Essen) had to take a bus to come there.

There was this one Italian guy, Filippo, with whom I talked for quite some while in Italian. Whenever I speak Italian, there's this inevitable question that I get: "How did you learn Italian?". The peculiar fact with Italian and me is that I actually never learned Italian, at least not in the way people usually imagine. It was the pure necessity of communication with Italians that made me speak this language. But then, it was all during the Erasmus parties in Göttingen, where I studied years ago. Erasmus parties are something rather frowned upon, or maybe tolerated, but probably not something they encourage. But then, as it turned out, they served as a full Italian course for me. The same thing happened with Spanish. Today, whenever I hear someone starting to visit a language course for Spanish or Italian, I always wonder why they didn't go to the Erasmus parties at the university.

Since now it is the beginning of a new term, there are quite a few people who joined us for the first or maybe second time. It might have been a little bit shocking for them to see that depending on what kind of trail it is, we sometimes have to be flexible, like today, at the end of the day, when we had to climb down a cliff. We all managed to do it, but I'm pretty sure that something's gonna happen some time in the future and I might face a serious problem. Well, facing problems is not something that started today. I'm gonna continue doing it and see what happens...

A great day like this for sure doesn't end straightforwardly: we got a train just in time at Wuppertal Vohwinkel, which was supposed to go to Düsseldorf Hbf (central). This one seemed to go to Düsseldorf directly, and then stopped just a few hundred meters before Düsseldorf Hbf, from where we could already see the building of the station. A few minutes passed, then came the announcement "the train cannot enter Düsseldorf Hbf for this and this reason". Uhm, wait, what about just letting us get off here? A few more minutes later, the train was forced to go back to Wuppertal Vohwinkel, not only making a 20 min journey to Düsseldorf completely useless, but also forcing us to take a train that was hopelessly overcrowded. These days, there have been quite some discussions going on around Germany to revamp the railway system here, for obvious reasons. One of the current problems is the fact that it's underfunded, which is an argument that makes me wonder why they privatised the German railway in the first place then (although the privatisation of the German railway happened during the privatisation spree in the 90s just as in many other industrialized countries, so maybe it wasn't really based on reason...). But regardless of this question, I still often wonder what is the amount of loss in economical terms compared to the amount of money required. At least today, we all lost one hour, which sums up to quite an amount of money if we look at all of the passengers.

So, as I wrote above, my birthday was this week. It's hard to believe that one year went away since I wrote an essay to my 30th birthday, which unexpectedly got quite some reactions afterwards. In that text, I named quite a few people who changed my course of life, which makes me think that it is actually possible to change other people, even though this goes strongly against my basic idea "intelligent people do not try to change others; they change themselves", originally stated my former flatmate, Adrián. Of course, still I will certainly not go to the street to join a demonstration (at least in the purpose of changing something) or endorse any slogan politics.

We share some sense of ethics, moral and ideal. And I'm certainly not wrong to claim that from school grading system to economic inequality, there are certain points in today's society which we don't really like as they are. In the above mentioned text, I talked about my success after having fully ignored my grades. Today, whenever I have a new student, I tell them how important it is to follow the principle (i.e. physics in our case) and not social norms (i.e. number of papers published). I often clash with other people on this point. To be honest, I cannot utterly claim I'm right. Probably this is a mixture of the assumption that I deduced from my experience and my wish, because I'd sincerely want the society to be a place where real contributions will be rewarded, not like number of papers. But even if the bulk of my claim consists of my mere wish, I don't know how stupid it is to stick to it, because it is certainly a wish that I can share with majority of the people. Along this line, behold this one phrase in Anne Frank's diary "Intussen moet ik mijn denkbeelden hoog en droog houden, in de tijden die komen zijn ze misschien toch nog uit te voeren" (In the meantime I must hold on to my ideals; the day might come that we'll be able to realize them). Now, 75 years later, we know that the day was to come, just as a vast majority of people at that time must have craved for it. And who knows, today we might be living in a time, in which we're trying to hold on to certain ideals, thinking they'd be empty dreams, only to realize years later that they were coming true.

And so, I might not be rewarded with a prize or money, but it might still make perfect sense to be true to my ideals. In this regard, I might not be able to customize other people, but if I go the right way, they might follow, especially if the world I head for promises a brighter future. In the end, maybe I'm not contradicting Adrián, because what I'm doing is explore my way; but its consequence might bring the changes that I hope for.

2019/04/07 Hiking to Belgian-Dutch-German border at Aachen!

As you might have noticed, I'm a scientist. And scientists go to conferences sometimes. For the scientists in Germany, there's this thing called DPG, which is a huge annual conference to which essentially everyone goes, although it takes place at different locations depending on the research area, but still you'd see a quite a chunk of people. This year, I could successfully dodge this conference, which took place in a small village somewhere in Bavaria, because I had a different conference taking place at the same time in Aachen, the so called "High Manganese Steel conference". And just as much as the name shows no sexiness, there's nothing attractive about this conference for me from the scientific point of view. I was essentially watching a great number of distinctively well dressed engineers presenting how cost efficient their products were. Well, I actually knew that I wouldn't be interested in this conference, so instead of taking a hotel, I decided to commute between Düsseldorf and Aachen, which takes around 1+1/2h. But then, this allowed me to have a ticket for an entire week, which was valid until Sunday. So, for the very first time since I arrived here, I could travel for free, and this up to Aachen.

I got this plan a few weeks ago. And as soon as I got the train ticket, I posted the event online. I had the feeling of being punished for some time as there was no one signing up for the event. But then, it kicked off at some point. And in the end it reached 104 people. By far the highest number of people registered. I had to double triple check the route to make sure that I'm not going to end up being mobbed by this huge amount of people.

Quite obviously, there was a problem with the German railway again. Apparently there was construction work going on between Cologne and Aachen. The situation was made even worse because today, there were quite a few Erasmus (exchange) students who recently arrived in Germany, who of course are not quite used to all the troubles that they could expect with the German railway. I simply waited for them at the train station. And quite obviously with this large group, it was easy to catch up. They were stuck in front of a huge cherry tree, with full blossom. Yes, it's spring à la japonaise, although what people maybe don't know is that cherry blossom is associated with sadness in Japan; over there, you first see the blossom of plum trees, which makes us look forward to the cherry blossom, but then when it actually arrives, they start to think of its end. So you might hear them saying "by the time the cherry flowers fall", which practically means "by the end of the spring", but then there's some sadness attached to it.

The group stretched out endlessly, so that I was not quite sure if everyone arrived at the triple point, where we had a break. To make the situation even worse, there was no mobile internet connection there. Well, it's also a bit useless to hike with so many people. Also this is a touristic spot. Everyone would figure out what they should do.

At the end of the day, we were essentially doing sightseeing in Aachen, which is actually a historical city with quite a few monuments. Behind the Roman bath (?), there was a large field, where there were many people picnicking when we arrived there. It was clear evidence that finally we were coming back to this beautiful season, which I didn't appreciate much before I started organizing hikes. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I guess it's coming exactly in the right moment.

Hiking: