Matt M.

About Matt M.

Northwest Missouri State University student, Interactive Digital Media: New Media major with a Broadcasting minor and Music minor, currently studying abroad at Zuyd Hogeschool in Maastricht, Netherlands.

Winding Down

This week marks the winding down of things here in Maastricht, with friends returning home to families or traveling abroad throughout Europe to celebrate the holiday season in places anew or familiar. For me, I’m only a matter of days from returning to the United States.

Today (Tuesday) has marked the first major departure of several people, whom I now will forever call my friends, to their respective homes or place of vacationing. More will depart tomorrow, and more yet on Thursday. It is a bittersweet moment for all, but one that I knew was bound to happen. I myself will be one of the last to depart from Avant Garde, with my departure officially set for the 23rd.

Where things stand now: I have one more class of Semantic Web tomorrow, with a break of a few weeks then going into play. My plans to traveling to Brussels for a day have been pushed back a few days to accommodate my farewells to my friends, so I’m planning on going to Brussels on Friday (or possibly Saturday). And my hotel has been booked for the 23rd in Amsterdam, where I will be spending my last full day in Europe! At this time, I plan on simply wondering across the city, with possible stops at the Heineken Museum and the Anne Frank House.

Other major developments: fellow Bearcat and Zuyd Hogeschool student Darleen Denno will be coming back to Maastricht for the holidays, which will surely be awesome!

And that’s really about it for this post at this time. I’ve recently completed a music video celebrating the Avant Garde residents’ time in our hall, which has brought nothing but good memories for all! *Please note: I do not endorse in any of the stuff sung about in the song, nor have partaken in activities others would consider to be negative in nature.

I think my next post will be a thorough retrospective of my 4 months in Maastricht, so be looking for that soon!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I’ve probably briefly mentioned things about bikes, cars, and trains from time to time on this blog, but haven’t really devoted any single post to exclusively speaking about transportation in Maastricht. So, let me give my two cents on the matter.

My two cents

Here you go. (Image from 3.bp.blogspot.com)

As is probably stated before, bikes are – by far – the most prominent form of transportation in Maastricht. If you don’t have a bike, you’ll have a hard time getting around the city on your own, for the most part. Regardless of rain or shine, hard freezes or sweltering temps, you’ll most likely be seeing a number of people make their way to and fro on bikes only. The roadways throughout the city – as well as across the Dutch countryside – are designed accordingly to accommodate bikers on the road. Nearly every stretch of roadway has a bike lane on either side of the roadway. And fear not about getting hit by a card: the rule of thumb in the Netherlands when concerning right-of-ways goes as such, with pedestrians, then bikers, then motorists. So far, I’ve had no trouble with other vehicles on the roadway while being about on my bike.

Car and Bicycle

Though they could have had a problem with me. (Image from 4.bp.blogspot.com)

Cars are commonly seen around the city, I might add, but not everyone uses a car, clearly. Most cars around are the small, economically-sized vehicles that are only recently beginning to gain traction within the United States. By far the most popular car around, judging what I have seen, is the Ford Ka. Nearly every street I’ve been on I’ve seen roughly two of these guys either parked or being driven around. Quite the popular little machine, I say.

Ford Ka

They’re really kinda cute, actually. (Image from upload.wikimedia.org)

Aside from compact cars, wagon-styled cars are also a common sight. Up from that would probably be CUV’s, but those aren’t nearly everywhere. There’s also a van now and then, most commonly with a large family in tow. And rarest of all would be pickup trucks, which I have only seen about 4 in all of Maastricht. The rarest treat has been spotting a Dodge Ram 1500 cruising along, which definitely caught me off guard.

dodge ram 1500

“Yeah, let me go get my pontoon ready and we’ll go fishing,” said no one in the Netherlands, ever. (Image from naturalgeographic.net)

As for car brands, Ford may have the edge with the sheer number of Ka’s I see, but Citroën is another brand that seems to be everywhere as well. I’m not familiar at all with this make of car, as there are no Citroën’s I have ever seen in the United States, so I can’t really say much about them. BMW and Volkswagen round out the brands that I most commonly see.

And one last thing concerning cars: manual transmission is the way it is here. As far as I know, everyone that I have spoken with does not own, nor has driven, an automatic transmission, which is a stark difference between Europe and the US. I’ve personally only attempted to drive a stick once before, with little success I should say. So if ever wish to do a road trip across Europe, be ready to know how to drive a stick!

stick shift

I think the “R” means “race.” (Image from autocricket.com)

As for other forms of transportation, trains and buses are a big one. I’ve only used both forms rarely, but they are convenient when needed. Thus far, the bus has gotten me around on my first day in the city, to Aachen, and back to Avant Garde (after my bike suffered its second flat tire in a month’s time). And for trains, just once, when I arrived into Maastricht from Amsterdam.

And lastly of all, planes. I have not been on a plane since I came to Europe and will not be on a plane again until I leave Europe in a few weeks time, but they are still of much use across Europe. As to my understanding with the friends I have here, planes, while the most expensive of the options of transportation available, can get you anywhere in Europe in just a couple of hours time. However, most people forgo direct flights and instead prefer flying to regional hub (the cheapest), then taking a train to the final destination.

That covers everything I wished to say concerning transportation in Europe. It is a bit different than what I am certainly used to back home, but not too markedly so. And if you have any questions regarding this, shoot me one in the comments!

The Home Stretch

As of this writing right now, I can say that I am 18 days our from leaving Europe and heading back home to Kansas City, Missouri. For me, this is the home stretch, with only a couple weeks left and only two class days to attend.

finish line

An accurate representation of me at the moment. (Image from 2.bp.blogspot.com)

Currently, I have finished my second week of Semantic Web. My early review of it is to say that it was not what I was expecting from the start. My initial interpretation of the course was that Semantic Web would be concerned with responsive web design, which is to say designing a website that is both flexible and usable to the end-user across multiple devices – think tablets, smartphones, and desktop machines. But after my first day of class, I learned that Semantic Web is really more about taking raw data and formulating a workable method of presenting that data that is both usable and readable. Essentially, it’s all about making sense of data.

semantic web

Surprisingly, Googling “not understanding” brought up this image. (Image from informationaccess.files.wordpress.com)

Aside from attending two more days of class, a possible day-trip to Brussels, Belgium is in the works. It’s unfortunate to say that I have done next to no traveling while living in Europe, but I honestly feel no regrets in saying that. But with that, a do wish to visit Brussels, primarily to say that I have been to Belgium and to see it’s largest city. I have next to no clue what I would like to do while in Brussels, but I will do the most that I can in a day! And a return to Aachen, Germany may also be in the books, if only because it’s dirt cheap to go back (and they have Christmas decorations galore up and ready for the season, according to word-of-mouth).

With my time running down, these blog posts will, too, be coming to an end. I’m not quite sure how I will wrap things up at the conclusion of my study abroad, though I am sure I want to, at the least, include a post entirely devoted to pictures. Granted, I do have a limit on the megabytes of data I can upload here to WordPress, so I will be ensuring that I choose only the best that gives a good breadth of view to what it was like living in Maastricht.

For now, that is all I have to report for the day. More to come later!

Star Wars rock band

So I leave you with this crazy awesome image of familiar faces rocking out. (Image from cdn.ebaumsworld.com)

Outings, Trivia, and Durak

Aside from bike rides to the countryside, international dinner nights, and heading to Germany, much of my free time is spent doing other activities, typically every other night or so.

One of the most common things that typically occurs is playing the Russian card game Durak; the word “durak” is Russian for “fool.” Allow me to explain the rules here:

Each player begins with 6 cards in hand. The goal is to get rid of all your cards. Once the cards are dealt to the players, a card is placed face-up at the bottom of the remaining deck of cards. This card is called the “boss card”; whatever suit it is means that it’s the high suit. Players play to the left, attacking that person. The person there must defend against the attack successfully, or take the cards. All players must have, at the minimum, 6 cards at hand, therefore taking cards from the remaining deck until said deck is gone. The last person with cards still in hand is declared the fool (durak). 

sneaky person

“You sneaky person,” said in a thinly-veiled British accent. This has become a common catchphrase for us while playing Durak. (Image from video.planetgreen.discovery.com)

There’s more technicalities to the game that are best told when actually playing the game. But right now you’re probably thoroughly confused at this time.

confused person

Thought so. (Image from i.somethingawful.com)

Durak has become almost a nightly ritual for us on the second floor, being the most common game we play (“hide-and-go-seek” and “randomly chasing each other on our floor” being other fun and exciting games). It’s come to the point where we have a deck of cards always available in our little dining room on the 2nd floor of Avant Garde. Chances are you’ll be seeing us playing it a few times a week, usually with 3-4 games in a session.

our dining room

Our little dining room.

Other random things that the lot of us tend to do includes going out on the town to check out a concert shindig at a local pub, which is something that frequently happens (concerts, that is). From my memory, there have been at least 3 separate occasions of multiple concerts happening across Maastricht, as a sort of musical celebration. During the first autumn break, back in mid-October, one of the weekends included a jazz concert series that occurred across multiple pubs in Maastricht. And just this past weekend there was yet another concert series, with a multitude of different music being performed once more at various pubs in the city.

One of these concert venues that I have frequented a few times now is called Edd’s Café, located in the heart of the city center. Every Thursday night they have a sweet jazz concert night that is a joy to watch. The excitement really kicks in, however, at around 10:30-11:00 in the evening, when the jam session kicks into gear. My first night at Edd’s’, I found myself watching a stellar jam session go on from 11pm until near 2am.

Edd's Café

As seen here.

And last to talk about has been the Tuesday night trivia nights myself and others have been doing now with frequency. These trivia nights happen down near the Maas (the river, if you recall), at a local watering hole called John Mullins Irish Pub.

john mullins ext

Exterior of John Mullins. (Image from tephotos.s3.amazonaws.com)

john mullins int

And the (awesome) interior of John Mullins. (Image from vvv-maastricht.eu)

My first trivia night at John Mullins – which was some substantial amount of time ago – our team from Avant Garde placed well in the back of the rankings, so far back I can’t even recall. My second trivia night was also quite dismal, again placing near the back.

However, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a remarkable turn around in how well we’ve been doing. Last week, for example, we finally broke the Top 10, placing 9th overall. And just this past Tuesday, November 27th, we finally came near to winning, placing second overall. It does help to boost your ranking when you see that the 1st place team (at least they were 1st place after the 4th round) using their smartphone to look up the answers.

taken

“I don’t know who you are. But I do know what you want. You’re looking to win this trivia game, but you can’t use your cell phone. If you put your phone away, that’ll be the end of it. I will not give you crap, I will not mock you. But if you don’t, I will mock you, I will tell on you, and I will beat you.” Yes, we did beat that team, given that they fell back to 9th place after we told on them. (Image from cdn.pophangover.com)

With under a month now left in my tenure in Maastricht, I will continue going out for the little concerts, playing Durak with the friends, and rocking out at trivia night at John Mullins. It’s hard to believe that my time here is nearing an end, but I can say now that I hope to return to Maastricht once more in the near-future and visit this wonderful city again!

Gettin’ That Education

This past Thursday marked my last day of class for the Block B courses, as well as marking the end of Hell Week (also known as finals). From Wednesday, November 14, to Wednesday, November 21, it was a solid week of constant working, constant editing, constant studying, and constant preparing. Also, I swear to never use that many commas in a sentence again.

commas

Sorry. (Image from farm2.static.flickr.com)

From early September to mid-ish November (with two wonderful week-long breaks in there as well), I went about to and fro my three classes, learning much anew. So what exactly did I glean from this experience that took up a bulk of my time in Maastricht? Allow me to explain for a moment.

staring

Again, you don’t have to stop and stare. (Image from thumbs.dreamstime.com)

The Narrative

The biggest take away I had from this is gaining the ability to create a coherent narrative and combining that with clever filmmaking techniques and smart editing. What came out of this process was the short film “Stuck in the Middle,” which follows two distinct narrative paths, with one relating to the other. The basis of the movie came from the Mark Twain short story Cannibalism in the Cars, which also includes the two narratives, one relating to the other.

I can’t give a grade yet on this project, as I am still waiting to hear back one what that will be, though I am happy to report that the film had a positive reception among my friends and classmates here in Maastricht. I found it to be a fun and exciting project to undertake, especially in the aspects of editing. I’ve edited a few films before, but this was the first one that I have done where I truly felt like I was making something special and had a blast doing it.

As of now, I’m looking to creating a blooper reel for the film over the next few days, as well as doing some possible re-editing of the final film, as there are some cosmetic changes I wish to make to the film itself (I’ll be re-embedding the link from a couple paragraphs back when that does occur).

User-Centered Project Management

This class became infinitely complex as it wore on, making it become more difficult with each passing week. The final itself took the 3-hour allotment, an exhausting effort for myself, especially when the entire test was short answer, i.e. I had to write all of my answers done. While I do enjoy handwriting from the perspectives of artistry, I cannot say the same for writing answers that take up two pages per question; I am a born typist and find handwriting a near-crippling effort that pains the hand to no end. Teachers, take not: typing is much easier to come by and allows me more time to formulate my answers than to write them out by hand.

typing

I googled “typing” and this image came up. Kinda disturbing, if you ask me. (Image from techiemania.com)

Aside from the grueling final exam, one thing that became sharper for me, with the help of Multimedia Management, was giving presentations. Twice in this course I had to give an extensive presentation covering my team’s efforts towards creating a prototype software. While the content of the presentations may have been lacking, according to my professor, the actual presentation itself (how the information was presented) was considered well done. Compared to the presentations I gave not more than 4 years ago, which were nothing more than me iterating note cards, that was a compliment that I could certainly walk away with.

The real professional aspects that I learned from UCPM was a product’s development cycle, from finding reasons, to creating solutions, implementing design, and prototyping. I’ve never had a class that quite provided me with this process before, though previous courses I have had at Northwest dealt, in some way, with developing a prototype/product/solution, but just never at this scale this class did. It was hard work, where I spent many a good number of hours online with my team working into the night to create or write something that needed to be turned in within a few hours of time.

Multimedia Management

As with UCPM, this class really built up my ability at delivering a presentation to a whole class. The final itself was essentially one big, 20-minute presentation covering the development and selling points of a game that my team developed for a fictional European Union department. There was quite a bit more of a cultural element to this class than I had reasoned before; looking back now, and noted in the presentation, was how the use of cultural really affected the way our game was developed.

Of the game, we created a product called Europe United, an augmented-reality base tablet app meant to be played primarily among 14-18 year old teens. What started out as a sort of tactical role playing game morphed more into a creative first-person shooter, as we became more and more aware of our target demographics’ desire towards FPS-based games, such as Call of Duty and Halo.

Our concept for the game was based around the need to bring different nationalities, in the European Union, together to create a stronger sense of a European cultural ideal. This crisis is something that I have mentioned a while back when I first arrived in Maastricht, and continues to be a point of contention among Europeans a few months later. So, to create a game that would work towards our goal of bringing Europeans together, we turned our game into a war game; looking into the history of Europe in general, the main highlights of unity tended to be during and immediately following wars that struck the continent. Having a game being a war game, where players must combat and defeat a nameless/faceless enemy through collaborative effort, appeared to be the most logical method for us in development.

 

And with that, I’ve concluded my Block B courses at Zuyd Hogeschool in Maastricht! There’s a much greater dearth of detail to share with each of these 3 courses, but I presume most of your probably aren’t up for reading for more than 10 minutes.

sleeping at the desk

Called it. (Image from localseoguide.com)

Up next now is 4 weeks in a new course, called Semantic Web. I still have no real idea of what to expect with this course, but I am nonetheless looking forward to it.

What Maastricht Has Done to Me

I’ve been falling a little behind on posts lately here on this blog, thanks mostly to my 3 classes at this moment. At this time, I’m working on editing the short film for my Narrative course, studying for my User-Centered Project Management final, and putting together the big final presentation for Multimedia Management.

Busy office worker

Me at the moment. (Image from corbisimages.com)

However, I’ve had time to reflect upon these past few months, namely on the things that Maastricht has done to me as a person. After all, I’ve been here since August 28, so there’s certainly been new perspectives and habits that I have developed since my arrival. And here following is the list, as to what I have now this November 16:

 

I cook nearly every meal for myself.

With a central community kitchen in my residence hall on this second floor, I’m usually in there twice a day preparing a dish for myself from scratch. More often than not, chicken is the primary meat, with onions and pasta serving as auxiliaries to the dish. I’ve mixed and matched other veggies and foods over time so as to keep things interesting for myself and not get dulled out by the same thing over and over again.

So far, I’ve prepared dishes ranging from the standard spaghetti and sauce (sometimes with chicken, ground beef, or a steak), BBQ chicken with Gates/KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce, Oriental-esque pasta with numerous veggies (and usually chicken), and chicken salad. Basically, chicken is my specialty and I know now how to prepare it in various manners.

Dinner

LIKE A BOSS.

 

The bicycle is my bst friend. 

In order to get around Maastricht, a bicycle is a must. The city is easily accessible by bike, much easier than any car or bus could do. I use my bike to get from one end of the city to another to attend school (a 4 mile/6.3km trek); to make grocery runs to Albert Heijn, Lidl, or Jumbo; and to get away from the city and out in the countryside.

So far, my bike has given a little trouble from time to time. First, I suffered from a flat front wheel, which necessitated the replacement of the tire and inner tube, a small expense. Then there was the matter where my bike tried to murder me by greeting me with a wall in a bike tunnel, which could have been a far serious accident if I didn’t the ground the way I did (am finally healed from that incident, which occurred over a month ago).

About to Crash

This really did happen to me. (Image from media.egotvonline.com)

And my front brake has decided it doesn’t want to be a part of my bike anymore, which leaves me with only the backward pedal brakes as my way of stopping (which work well on their own thankfully).

 

I get out more often. 

Thanks to having a bicycle, I do seem to get out more often then I realize. Sure, there are long stretches of time where I am away in my room, working over some project, but in the end there’s always the occasion of getting out and going somewhere with friends. While I’ve only gotten out of Maastricht once, I do not feel troubled that I have not been anywhere else. This city is quite a delightful one to live in, to which I surely will visit again in due time!

I’ve also had a few excursions out into the countryside of the Netherlands, making a few trips out east of the city and into the beautiful hillsides near Valkenburg. I hope to make another such trip soon before the weather turns truly bitter, but for the time being my attention lies on accomplishing my courses.

Dutch sunset

Sunset on the Dutch countryside

 

American politics matter to people abroad. 

If there was one thing that I was not prepared for, it was the intense discussions I would have with others regarding the 2012 elections. I was often asked by other Europeans about my views on Romney and Obama, as well as if I had yet voted for the election. Nearly all such discussions were never brought up by myself, but rather the other who would engage me in talk. At times, I would hear other students speak about the 2012 elections themselves, with not me around to lead the discussion; they went entirely on their own free will. Even such political news as Todd Adkins’ ridiculous remarks made the news here with Europeans (and the Middle-easterners) that I’ve come to know here.

And I’ve had the opportunity to talk with all matter of people on American politics, ranging from Britons, French, German, Dutch, Lithuanian, Latvian, Finns, Norwegian, Bulgarian, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, and Spanish, and all the way out to Iranians, Afghans, Azerbaijani, Japanese, and Australians. No such small talk can be had from merely living in your hometown.

Old men chatting

Not how you get international perspectives on important issues. (Image from ebsqart.com)

 

New perspectives on 9/11. 

Yes, the terrorist attack from 11 years ago in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were horrid to all Americans, and it was just as much to anyone else in the world. I talked with a few from my building on the matter of the terrorist attacks and they all remarked about their feelings from that day. Most remember where they were when they first heard the news of the attack, just as myself and many others of my generation do as well. The event was one that was felt globally and continues to be felt the world over.

 

No haircut for 8 months.

Yes, I haven’t had a haircut since late April, when I moved out from South Complex at Northwest and back home to Kansas City. I can easily say that I have never had my hair this long ever in my life!

Presidents, Politics, and False Truths

This Tuesday, November 6, marks the fourth presidential election of this 21st century. Over the past couple of months, I have had the time to share and hear opinions regarding the upcoming election. In a prior post I remarked how nearly all of the Europeans that I’ve come to know have a positive viewpoint regarding current president Barrack Obama. While my viewpoint of Obama vary from meh to… just meh, I still came to really enjoy what others have come to say.

barrack the rock obama

I think Obama would become instantly be more popular if it turned out his alternate personality was really Dwayne Johnson. (Image from i50.tinypic.com)

And with talking presidents, other issues related to politics, society, and customs somehow always come into play. A few nights ago, during another large gathering of residents in Avant Garde, I found myself spending a lot of time talking with a man from Tehran, Iran and a young lady from Kabul, Afghanistan. If the news media had anything to show right now, you would think that Iranians are out to destroy America (and only America) and everyone in Afghanistan lives in constant fear or is a terrorist.

Let me say right now that any of those notions regarding people from those countries are completely unfounded and should be shoved down the throat of any news anchor (or writer) that feels compelled to force down into us. As I conversed with the two throughout the night, I couldn’t help but find myself believing that these two are some of the nicest persons that I’ve come to know while here in Maastricht.

One story that struck me the most was that of one the lady shared with me about someone she knew (forgive me for not recalling exactly whom the person was). She told me of when American troops, in a moment fear or hate – be it hard to say – killed this man that she knew, for no reason it would seem. It’s beyond belief that such a thing would happen, though the sad truth remains that stories such as these happen from time to time. Needless to say, I gave her a hug and told her that I was sorry for such things that have happened.

Other political discussions were had, ranging from gun rights, abortion, and capital punishment, just to round it out. People’s perspectives vary on those topics, and to avoid any confrontation, I won’t delve heavily into the matter on those since it’s contentious enough as is. But if every abroad, take the time to converse with others; gleaming upon the views of foreigners from lands afar is the healthiest thing you can do.

mountain biking

But not as healthy as mountain biking, though talking tends to have a lower risk of death than the other. (Image from www.sidiergo.org)

Dear Friend…

Yesterday, the 29th of October, which may also be referred to as Frankenstorm Sandy Welcome Day/Earthquakes in Arkansas Day, marked my 11th handwritten letter to the United States. What started this old-fashioned way of communication? Before leaving for the Netherlands back in August, a friend of mine decided that we should stay in communication via letters, just like how things used to be up until recently. I thought this would be a great practice to undertake, so I dove into writing once I had the particulars of the Dutch mail system down (where to buy stamps, how to write addresses, what was my address, things of that nature).

clippy

Thankfully, with handwritten letters, there’s none of this crap. (Image from 4.bp.blogspot.com)

More recently – Wednesday of last week to be precise – I realized that I had an abundant supply of stamps that I had bought, with them going unused for a month. I thought it would be time to see if anyone back home desired a simple letter, allowing me to use up my supply of stamps without worrying of having leftovers. I wrote a mere, slight comment about it in a status update on Facebook, expecting maybe just 1 or 2 interested parties…

… Instead, I got about 9 requests from others back home. This excited me to no end, but upon finishing my first letter (after nearly 3 hours of writing, thank you silly script hand for being a slowpoke), I realized this was going to be a far more daunting task then realized.

slowpoke

A visual representation of my hand. (Image from media.photobucket.com)

I did have to make a trip to purchase more stamps, which I was actually totally cool with, and continued my journey to write. I cranked out roughly 2 per day, juggling between the letters and classwork. In the end, after more than a dozen pages written (on various sizes of paper, no less), I accomplished my task!

first time internet kid

(Image from knowyourmeme.com)

So, what be the point of this post? Sure, email is great. Facebook is fantastic. SMS is a godsend. But that old school method of pen and paper is about the best technology has to offer. It’s by far more connective of the writer to the reader than any form of communication, aside from that which is conducted in person. Script writing itself is an art form, and practicing any form of art is good on the person (aside from a sore wrist of incessantly writing for 3 hours).

I Dislike Cursive

Let me just take a moment to say that I feel like I wasted way too many elementary school hours – nay, days! – on practicing cursive. I’ve never used it once in my life. (Image from farm5.static.flickr.com)

Just as much as I would encourage to take up biking to get around town, I encourage all to take up hand writing when making casual communication with a fellow friend or family member. It’s a greater, more communicative interaction – sure, you may not be able to send those lovely animated gifs or auto-tuned news stories, but don’t you get a little of those after a while?

I know that I will be taking up letter writing more often when communicating with friends and others.

Aachen, Germany

October 17 marked an important occasion for me: my first excursion into Germany! It was a short trip, and not a terribly far distance from Maastricht, but it was yet quite a lovely day to visit a wonderful city with some wonderful ladies (all friends of course, mind you). This trip would also mark my second time visiting a new country outside of the United States (not counting the United Kingdom because, seriously, I was only at Heathrow for barely an hour).

So here’s the part where I am going to post a bunch of pictures with brief explanations and y’all can gawk and enjoy!

 

Charlemagne's casket

This particular photo above I wanted to pull out of the gallery specifically because of its historical significance with the giant gold thing in the background. It appears to be a gold cathedral-looking thing, but in reality it’s a casket made in 1215 by Frederick II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Within the casket houses the remains of (WHAT FOR IT) Charlemagne, King of the Franks, first emperor of the Carolingian Empire. Chances are you may have slept through this awesome part of history class, which is unfortunate because this man had a vast influence on the Middle Ages (or the Dark Ages for you backward hillbillies who insist nothing happened between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance).

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 420 AD – by that point in history, the Roman Empire had split into Eastern and Western divisions, with the Eastern Roman Empire taking on the name of the Byzantine Empire and existing for another millennia until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD – there was little in the way of kingdoms for a few hundred years. The shining beacon during the Early Middle Ages was the rise of the Frankish Kingdom (thusly, the name of France deriving from the Franks). The Frankish Kingdom was not a particularly large kingdom, but eventually a man by the name of Charles I came into ruling. Within time, Charles would eventually take on the name of Charles the Great, aka Charlemagne, and founding the Carolingian Empire, which would come to rule a vast part of western Europe for nearly a century.

So I got to see the gold and silver casket of a long-dead European emperor. Definitely the highlight of the Aachen trip.

A Little Thing Called Classes

So I’ve been in classes now for over a month, but I haven’t devoted so much as a word as to what I’m actually doing at Hogeschool Zuyd. If you got a moment to spare from your busy, busy lives, I’ll give a little insight as to what exactly I’m learning.

staring

But you don’t have to necessarily stop and stare. (Image from thumbs.dreamstime.com)

Currently, I’m in three courses at this time – The Narrative, User-Centered Project Management, and Multimedia Management – with a fourth course starting up in late November (Semantic Web). The three that I am currently taking are all full day classes, which means I go to the university three times a week and am in class from 9:30am to 4:30pm. While it can be a little exhausting spending much of that time learning and such, I’ve become acclimated to it the schedule and found the full day classes to be nearly more rewarding then having each course split up throughout the week.

Chocolate Baby

But not nearly as rewarding as chocolate. (Image from australiaentertains.com.au)

Now to move on to what these classes entail:

The Narrative

This class deals, in part, with film analysis, but is mainly geared towards developing a logical narrative and executing said narrative into a visual presentation. The presentation itself of the narrative is up to the group of persons on execution; animation, film, or a comic book are just some of means that could be utilized, if desired.

Schumacher Effect

Just try to avoid emulating Joel Schumacher’s coolness, it’s just not ice. (Image from www.zecatalist.com)

At this time, I’m no longer meeting in a classroom setting for The Narrative, as we have now moved into the narrative project phase, i.e. the main bulk of the class. I suspect that my group will stick with a standard film presentation of our narrative, once that narrative itself has been developed into an executable story.

User-Centered Project Management

This is probably one of the funnest courses that I have taken thus far in my college career. The concept behind this class is to work with a client on solving a particular internal problem that they are having. Skills involved inquire assessment, formulating a solution, and executing that solution in a manageable and logical way. What has made it fun is that of the 13 of us in the class, we’ve split into groups where we act as the clients and solution providers. On one hand, we tell the solution provider (another group) of the problems we are having without explicitly telling them our exact problem that needs fixing; and on the other hand, we act as the solution providers for another group, where we must analyze their problems and come to a solution to their problem via a software application.

poker

To be honest, it’s a lot like poker. (Image from graphics8.nytimes.com)

Working with my team of two other guys has proven to be exceptionally rewarding. Many of the discussions we have concerning our solution to our client are done via Skype, since one of my team members lives within another region of the Netherlands, making physical meetings impossible save for during class. Aside from heavily utilizing Skype to accomplish course work, we have wholly embraced technology for our use, namely by way of utilizing Google Drive and its collaboration and editing features. Documents are typically written by all three of us, sometimes at the same time with nary a problem in instant communication.

At this time, we are on our way from creating a mock-up of our tablet app that we’ve been developing to actually developing a working prototype, though not one that will necessarily run on a tablet.

Multimedia Management

This class has turned out to be an interesting, yet challenging, course that has put more than just my management skills to the test. The main challenge in the course is developing a game for the head of the European Union (not actually, I should say), to which it was wanted that this game will help bring about a European unity regarding identity. As I had pointed out before in a previous post, there is a widespread issue of crisis of identity among Europeans, which the game that I and my team are developing is meant to alleviate that crisis.

crisis

But a bigger crisis is ever-looming giant clocks that plague people’s lives day-in and day-out. (Image from economiccrisis.us)

To create the game, the class of about 45 students that I am in was split into groups, but that process itself was not a simple one. It began with 9 team leaders, myself included among that original 9, who volunteered to be in the position of team leader. Once the 9 of us had volunteered, the rest of the class divided into groups of people based upon their specialities: Design, Videography, Programming, and Marketing/Communication. It was then the responsibility of the team leaders to go around and find a member from each sub-group that would become a part of the team leader’s team. In the end, my team consisted of a diverse team of talents, ranging from 2 Designs (a Spaniard and a Frenchman), a Videographer (from Belgium), and a Marketing/Communication specialist (from Poland). All that can be said is that having a diverse group of persons is hugely beneficial for the scope of the project!

magic school bus

As diverse as the Magic School Bus, perhaps. God, I miss that show… (Image from sharetv.org)

At this time, we’re currently in the works of finishing the final designs of our game, which is a hybrid of an augmented-reality tablet app with real-world location-based missions. While we aren’t building a literal working augmented-reality app, the implications of our design and process are meant to convince the head of the European Union (the professor) that our concept is solid and is worthy of financial pursuit.

 

So that’s all I’ve got happening in my classes at this time. Three courses may seem rather light, but that are anything than that. At times, course work can drag out to 7 hour continuous stretches wrapped in one, long Skype meeting. Sitting around has never been more exhausting…

sitting around

Exactly. (Image from images.businessweek.com)