Fourth Stop: Prague

This is a working draft. We wanted to get the pictures up. Stories will come later!

Day 1: Tuesday, 27 August

  • Arrival in Prague
  • Game night in hostel

Day 2: Wednesday, 28 August

  • Grocery breakfast
  • Old Town Square
  • Old Town tower and astronomical clock
  • Basilica of St James
  • Church of Tyn
  • Bookstores
  • Market for lunch
  • Old Prague Castle in afternoon
  • Dinner at local beer hall
  • Laundry in hostel

Day 3: Thursday, 29 August

  • Coffee breakfast
  • Petrin Hill
  • Train

Third Stop: Vienna

  • Day 1: Sunday, 25 August

  • We didn’t get into Vienna and checked into the hostel till late in the evening. As a result, we didn’t go down to the city center tonight. Instead we opted to get drinks at a local bar, which was both of ours first time in a bar. I got a white local wine and James a red. We enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of a small town on the hillsides on a Sunday night.
  • Day 2: Monday, 26 August

  • Today we started off with breakfast from a bakery that was near the train station. After eating some pastries we headed to St Stephan’s cathedral, which is over nine stories tall! There were lots of gorgeous wooden carvings of saints and God allover the church. We managed to sneak into the main naive to look at the high altar and surrounding areas. They were working on restoring the organ that had been put in after the original was destroyed during World War II.
  • After realizing we had gotten mass times messed up (thank you internet), we headed to Schönbrunn Palace. The Palace itself was large, but the gardens surrounding it were massive. We could’ve spent all day walking around it and saw many locals out running through it. We thought we’d walked through them all over the course of two hours, but only made it through a quarter. It was impressive to watch the people take care of the gardens. In some places they cut the trees smooth to form a natural wall along the paths. We also walked up a large hill behind the gardens to a gate structure, which provided a great view of the city.
  • The gardens really tired us out, so we made our way back into the city and grabbed food as quickly as we could. We got schnitzel sandwiches from a food truck called the Berlin Dönner. They were massive for only 3€ and probably one of the larger meals we’d had. We walked towards the Rathaus, or City Hall, and rested in its vicinity, which was much needed by this point in the day! A bench and some cold water revived us. The Volksgarten had very pretty Greek-esque structures and a public rose garden. We also found Hofburg Palace, but didn’t realize that it was till the next day. We believed it to just be the National Library and Papyrus museum.
  • We took a break from sightseeing to do a bit of souvenir hunting. James found a board game at a second-hand shop to add to his collection of Eurogames. I found a blue skirt at the thrift shop for only 4 €! It will be nice to have a skirt to wear since we got hit with an unexpected heat wave.
  • To finish off the day we went out of the city to the hillsides. We ate dinner at a Heurigen, or wine garden. Food at a heurigen is served buffet style, which was great for us. We could get exactly the amount of food we each needed at very reasonable prices. We both tried a local white wine that came in a glass mug instead of a glass. I was enamored with the idea of a wine mug. After finishing our meal, we weren’t ready for the evening to end. We took a bus up the rest of the hill and were rewarded with a wonderful view. We could see the entire city illuminated below us and spreading off in the distance. The evening was definitely our favorite time in Vienna.
  • Day 3: Tuesday, 27 August

    Before catching the train to Prague this evening we wanted to get the last out of Vienna. We took the trains to Hofburg Palace after another bakery breakfast. We were able to attend Morning Exercises at the Spanish Riding School. We watched the riders train with the world famous Lippizaners while listening to classical Viennese music. The riders were mostly putting the horses through their paces and doing a few lower level dressage movements. But during the third training session (each was 1/2 hour), we got to see a few difficult maneuvers that make it look like the horse is dancing. We even got to watch as they trained a horse to do airs! I almost fell over the balcony watching because of course it was happening directly under us.

    We grabbed lunch at a grocery buffet line. Afterwards we carried out our own tram tour around the Ringstrasse (or city center) using a guidebook to clue us in. After the tram, we headed to the main train station to catch our train to Prague, which we are both really excited to explore. We heard that you can get a beer for $1.50 and bread for 50 cents!

    Second Stop: Munich

    Day 1: Friday, August 23

    After a long train trip and a few delays, we arrived at the central station in Munich. Then we had to face the difficulty of finding the train that went to Munich. Munich’s transportation system is as large if not larger than Amsterdam’s. There are ICEs, which are the intercity trains; R-bahns, which are the regional trains; S-bahns, which are between the R-bahn and U-bahn in size (possibly suburban); U- bahns, which are underground trains with many stops. Then there are also trams and busses like in Amsterdam to cover short stops in the city and out in the suburbs. We rode every transit in our stay in Munich to get around. Peter even took us on the autobahn when he picked us up at the station to show off the finery that is a BMW M8.

    We got ice cream (eis) with Peter, then returned to his house to rest for a bit. After a walk around a nearby park, Peter helped us lay out a great path through the city for the night. We took the train to Marienplatz and walked around the area, passing the Glockenspiel and Hafbrahaus on the way. We ate dinner at a local German pub kind of place that we absolutely loved. James got a beer on tap and I got a glass of wine. We split a plate of sausages and potato-salad, which is probably our favorite meal so far. After dinner we walked through the “cool” part of town and walked along the river. We didn’t get back to Peter’s till after midnight, but we still sat and talked with Peter and his cousins for a bit.

    Day 2: Saturday, August 24

    Today was the day we were to explore all of Munich. We started off the day in Odensplatz where we saw the Residenz and the Theatrekirche, which was gorgeous inside.

    We then got lost on our way to Marienplatz and ended up near Wienerplatz, where a market the locals converge at is located. But we did find a local palace with a great view of the city to rest for a bit. We then found our way back to Marienplatz by tram. We walked through St. Peter’s kirche and marveled at all the relics. We finally found a drinking fountain outside of the kirche (church) to refill our water bottles! We got a meatloaf sandwich from a stand in Vitualmarkyt (spelling?) and found a salad at a local store. After lunch we headed toward the Englischer Garten. We saw the famous surfboarders on the river and walked past the Biergarten that is in the park.Afterwards we took the U over to Olympiapark and BMW land. We saw the Four Cylinders building and gawked at the cars in the BMW Welt. There were all the Minis, and the 2 series, 3 series, and ALL the electric vehicles like the i3 and i8. I was so excited to see them all.We ended off the day with dinner at a local Biergarten where we tried the Bavarian special and Bavarian meatloaf. I even enjoyed my first beer!

    Day 3: Sunday, August 25

    Today we went to Dachau before heading to Vienna. Since Dachau is a memorial, a place to remember and reflect, we did not take any pictures of the sight. We both took our time reading and looking at everything in the museum there, that we only made it through half of the museum. We saw a short documentary on Dachau and how it served as a model for the terror the Nazis unleashed at camps across the continent. I visited Dachau once before in sixth grade and I was overwhelmed by the tragedy that took place where I stood. Today when I walked in I felt that same overwhelming feeling, especially when visiting the Crematorium and Gas Chambers. But I also learned about how people survived there, despite all of the inhumane, unimaginable tortures they faced. None of the people I saw visiting today were old enough to be alive when these tragedies occurred, but we all were there to listen and learn. We must be the ones to speak out and uphold human dignity when we see it endangered. Where there was once darkness and pain, one can now see trees full of leaves, babbling brooks, and sunshine pouring down trying to cover, to hide the scar that Dachau is on history. We came to the site, learned, and were impacted deeply.

    First Stop: Amsterdam

    August 21: Day 1

    Today was our first day in Amsterdam and boy did we see a lot! We landed in the city around 5:30 am and did not stop moving for long until crashing into bed that night. We started off by going to a family friend’s to drop off our luggage and freshen up. Then we headed to the Albert Cupmarkyt, to see the market being set up and opened for the day. Since we had our large backpacking backpacks on us still, we went to the hostel to drop off the packs.

    From here we started out our adventure for the day: walking the entire city. James’ dad had informed us that the best way to beat jet-leg was to walk, which we found to be true. Both of us have switched over to the time zone pretty easily. I’m just going to list everything we saw and then describe them a bit.

    • Albert Cupmarkyt: the market where the locals shop
    • Bejinhof: this is a 14th century convent where we think a Eucharistic miracle occurred (the sign was in Dutch)

    • Centraal Station: The main transit station in the heart of the city. All the city is wrapped around it.

    • St. Nicholas Basilica: a basilica that was a nice retreat from the chaos of central Amsterdam; it is right across from the Centraal Station
    • Dam Square: this is one of the main squares in Amsterdam, I would liken it to Times Square: crowded, street performers, and probably pickpocketers.

    • New Church: this was on Dam Square, it is a Catholic church that has been turned into a museum and cheesy store
    • Blue Amsterdam: This was probably my favorite stop of the day. It was a restaurant shop located at the top of a tower near Spui Square. We sat here for an hour enjoying coffee, tea, and one of the best views of the city.

    • Mint Tower: right near Blue Amsterdam, this tower is famous among Potheads for being built in the year 1620 (4:20 pm)
    • Floating Flower Market: The different stores stand on floating platforms and have many tulips, both live and wooden!
    • Nine Streets: An area of shops and restaurants that was close to our hostel that was definetly the arts area of Amsterdam.
    • Skinny Bridge: This is the one of the oldest bridges in the city and I was surprised to find that it was a drawbridge.

    Besides seeing all of these highlights, we just got to experience Amsterdam. As a local told us the best way to see it is by walking through the streets and walking along the canals, which we surely did. We also got to to marvel at the vast transit system Amsterdam has. They have high speed metros, trains, double trams, trams, busses, and ferries. We rode on all of them except the busses. I think our biggest surprise was getting on the double tram and finding a man working at a full-size desk on it!

    August 22: Day 2

    Today was a bit less chaotic than yesterday. We were very appreciative of a good night’s sleep and made an effort to pace ourselves more today, since we almost fell asleep at dinner yesterday. We got to enjoy a hot breakfast at the hostel, including hot drinks to help us wake up.

    Today was museum day. We started off with an early morning to Anne Frank House, which brought her story to life. We took an audio tour through the building, which read different bits of her diary aloud. The moment I walked into Anne’s room I knew it was her room before I had seen a sign or heard the guide tell me.

    After leaving the Anne Frank house, we took the tram to Vondelpark for a walk and picnic. We picked up sandwiches and carrots at the grocery on our way over. The park is very large and was full of people. We ate lunch under the shade of a tree near a splash pool where children were playing. We found the most magical tree, which reached out over the water. We sat in its boughs for a good rest,enjoying the tranquility of the park.

    The Rijksmuseum has a large collection of art from many centuries and includes many famous artists. We saw work from Goya, Van Gogh, and Remembrandt, but our favorite pieces were not from the famous of the famous. We also walked around the museum gardens, but they were nothing compared to Vondelpark. We did see a movie being shot though.

    We tried stroopwaffels after the museum. I found them to be very sweet, but James liked them a lot. We spent the evening hanging out at the hostel, talking with the other visitors and the workers there. We had the chance to eat dinner with them as well and found ourselves switching between 3 different languages! We both really enjoyed just getting to sit and talk with people, swapping cultures and stories over Indian food.

    That night we went on a canal boat tour, which allowed us to see parts of Amsterdam we hadn’t seen on the great walking “tour”. All the houses have hooks on them, so that they can lower furniture out of the windows when moving instead of taking them through the house because it is so narrow. The tour was in an old canal boat and was a great way to spend our last night in the city.

    A Stop in Columbus, Ohio

    I had the chance to spend a week visiting the home folk before I head out on my next adventure. Besides seeing family, I got to see all the new things happening around Columbus.

    There’s a new farmer’s market in Dublin, Ohio in “New Town”, or Bridgepark. The area is very cool and has the feel of being downtown, while being located in the suburbs. There are restaurants, shops, and a favorite bar called Pins Mechanical and 16-Bit arcade, where you can find duck bowling and old time video game machines. The market has a great mix of vegetable, pastries, and all sorts of other treasures!

    A Day as a Tourist Downtown

    I got to spend one day as a tourist in my hometown, walking all throughout downtown. We saw the new areas along the Scioto River and visited the revitalized Short North district.

    I got a chance to ride the electric autonomous shuttle that is being tested along the Scioto. The shuttle is small, but functioned well. There is a similar shuttle that will be going into a local neighborhood that is a food desert to help with access to services.

    The entire effort is being coordinated by Smart Columbus, which is helping oversee the transportation grant that Columbus recently won. They are the organization that brought the shuttle we rode in to Columbus. They are also bringing the digital boards pictured above to Columbus City streets. These boards can help you find restaurants, things to do, and even a place to sleep if you are facing homelessness.

    The walk along the Scioto River (near COSI) has brought a lot of new green space to Columbus. There is a music trail with many different percussion instruments, a playground, and benches and swings.

    The Short North has many new shops and restaurants that take advantage of its central location on High Street. There are food halls, boutique stores, and a new candy shop called Rocket Fizz. Some of the original shops are still there like Big Fun, a store that is more action figure museum than shop.

    That night we went on an Uptown Ghost tour in my hometown of Westerville. We were sad to find out that the ghost stories were not very factual and did not share some of the well known stories of hauntings. Hopefully in the future there is a tour that can tell the history of a town that was once the center of the prohibition movement and people passed through on their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

    Adventures in Minnesota: My Last Weekend

    Thursday

    My seminar group went to a place called Can Can Wonderland on Thursday night. There is a putt-putt course there where every hole was designed by a different artist. There are also a bunch of video game machines from different eras. The oldest of them were only mechanically powered (the Themed Entertainment Association at ND would’ve loved it)! We didn’t get to putt-putt like we had planned because we got there at 8 pm and there was an hour weight and after 9 pm it was 21 over only. But we played a lot of the video games, explored the place, and got some treats!

    Friday

    After work today I went with a friend to Minnehaha falls to see it before I left the city. Everyone that I had run into said that I had to visit the Falls, so I was expecting them to be very large. We took the train to the station that was directly across from the park. I had come prepared to hike and enjoy being in nature. It took us five minutes to walk to the falls. If anyone is from Ohio, I would liken it a bit to Old Man’s cave; the area is well-traveled and easy for anyone to visit. The falls were pretty, but my favorite part is an area where you could wade in the creek. The water was clear and cold. If I had known you could I would have gone swimming, but instead we just walked through the water.

    Saturday

    Visiting the Basilica of St. Mary, the oldest Basilica in the US

    Saturday was my last great tour of the city. I started at the Basilica of St. Mary and ended at the MIA. I left the dorm before 9 am and took the bus to the Basilica, which was very dark on a Saturday morning. The architecture was pretty, but I prefer the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame.

    The inside of the basilica

    The next stop was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is a collaboration between the Walker Art Museum and the City. It had a wide variety of sculptures and was very fun to walk through. One of my personal favorites was a collection of beams with a swing that moves with the vibration of the beams. Two of the most famous sculptures in the garden is a cherry on a spoon that acts as a fountain ( the water flows from the stem) and a blue rooster on a white box. I don’t know why they are so iconic. The Walker Art Museum was free (first saturday of the month), so I popped through it and saw some of the exhibits. It think my favorite wall was one of all types of different soup cans. A lot of the exhibits made you stop and think for a long time. I probably could’ve spent a lot more time there, but I wanted to continue my journey.

    A sculpture garden
    where dogs may walk and kids may play
    A silent bell swings as the neighbors ring
    A bunny forever still among the flowers
    A room with a scholar forever thinking
    A collection of still beams to teach of dynamics
    Overall, a blue rooster stands guard
    to say Cock-a-doodle-doo at dawn

    A mile walk along Hennepin Avenue, with a short stop at Sebastian Joe’s for iced tea, brought me to an art fair that was happening in Uptown (near the Chain of Lakes). It was one of the largest art shows I had been to and I walked around it for hours. There was one artist who was making pictures out of old computer boards and microchips. Every ten stands or so there was a collection of food trucks too. At the very end of the main row, people were passing out free food and samples. I got a box of pasta, multiple bags of pretzels, and even Haribo gummy bears! Inside the square they had allowed local children to sell their artisan goods as well; these were much more reasonably priced! At this point I was pretty wiped out, so I took the bus down to the MIA (Minneapolis Institute of Art). Across from the stop I saw a place that sold pizza by the slice, so I grabbed a chicken-parmesan stromboli-like thing. I didn’t last long at the MIA; it was much larger than I expected. After only half-an-hour and getting very lost, I caught a bus back to campus to rest from my adventure for the rest of the day.

    Week 8: Week of July 22 & Week 9: Week of July 29

    Week 8

    Brains! That was the excitement of these weeks. I started working on Plan B: Myelin Maps. One day this week I spent all day reading over 15 papers on myelin maps, so that we could learn how to create the myelin maps based off of other studies. We decided to go with the method laid out in Glasser and Essen 2011 where they create the myelin map by taking the ration between T1 and T2 anatomical scans.

    This week I also started working hard core on my final poster and abstract. I worked on designing figures for my poster and finished my final abstract. I also had a chance to finally do some statistical work on the results of my behavioral study. Surprisingly we were able to get significant results with only four subjects! I prepared the Harmonic-Inharmonic Test to interface with the MRI. The code has to be able to receive the trigger that the scanner is started, so that they are synced. Also, the test has to be able to receive indications from a button box that the subject can use in the scanner instead of the keyboard interface that it was programmed with initially.

    Average myelin maps for 10 different subjects. The highly myelinated regions are purple.

    Week 9

    One of the most exciting things this week was we got to check that the test software I built interfaces correctly with the scanner. We went to the scanner one night and loaded the software. We initially didn’t think the button interface was working, then we realized we forgot to plug in the button box! After weeks of work, it was awesome to see my interface working with the scanner and to hear the sounds coming out of the MRI-compatible headphones! That night we also built the scanning sequence, which is the directive for the computer on how to run the fMRI for our study.

    We also had another researcher in the field,Bill Whitmer, visit and give a guest lecture one of the days. He talked about psychophysical approaches to hearing aid fittings, specifically how to correctly set the appropriate gain for a hearing aid user. The goal of their research was to get the patients more focused and engaged in the fitting of their own hearing aids. This was a good continuation of a thesis defense we had gone to the week before where the defender had talked about allowing patients to fit themselves.

    From the meeting that we had with Chris Plack a few weeks ago and talking with Andrew, we have decided that we need a measurement of the pitch salience of each of the conditions before we continue on with the project. As a result, I spent the later parts of this week adapting an old code to use our stimuli in a melody task. The goal of the melody discrimination task is to determine a measure of the pitch salience of both the harmonic and inharmonic sounds before furthering testing with the Harmonic-Inharmonic tones. To allow for the direct comparison of the results of both tests, the harmonic and inharmonic tone complexes are created using the exact same function as in the Harmonic-Inharmonic Test. The f0s cover a larger frequency range (one octave) to make the melody task detectable.

    My birthday cake that Anoo made me for the lab July birthdays celebration.

    Another fun thing in the lab this week was that we celebrated all the July birthdays on the first day of August :). Every birthday girl or boy got their dessert of choice; Urie had a strawberry pie, Coral had vegan chocolate chip cookies, and I had a vanilla cake with lemon frosting. Everyone sang happy birthday to us at once and we were laughing so hard as they just called out our names at once and turned it into a jumble. It was the third birthday cake I have gotten to have this summer!

    Week 7: Week of July 15

    This week found me doing a lot of code work for another post doc in my lab for a side project. A post doc in our lab is working on a large multi-side study, which means coordinating software and making sure that everyone runs the experiments the exact same way. Working on this project gave me a chance to work on figuring out ways to sort multiple different types of data. I had to use algorithms to compare springs of words and build another code that could sort subjects based on information from a database.

    Another hearing scientist from England, Chris Plack, came to visit our lab on Monday. He gave a long lecture explaining a lot of the various projects he has been working on in the past few years. We went to a lab lunch and then my team had a chance to meet with him to discuss our current project.

    This week we also decided that we did not have enough time to get subjects in the scanner between the 3T malfunctioning and the fact that there were only a few weeks left in the summer (only two weeks till posters are due!). So now we are coming up with a plan B, so that I have results to put on my poster.