The blog of DAVID KOUŘIL

Thinking about the blog, visiting Prague, and other things

I took some time off from writing the blog but now I’m back.

After coming back from USA the days have been different. One thing is that the weather took a rapid change (for worse). The days are shorter and usually there’s not much daylight anyway. It’s not very pretty to look at.

It took a while to adjust to this timezone again and the weather wasn’t helping. There have been some public holidays which is nice. I’m not gonna lie, I definitely had a little post-travel sadness. I was wishing to go back to sunny California, planning how I can do it so that we can move there. But the thing is that I kinda like Europe. I like living a little bit detached to where “it’s happening right now”. I like being the outsider, somebody who’s unknown and comes pretty much out of nowhere (but that’s a thought for a completely different article).

About blogging

On September 28th it has been a year since I started blogging and I’ve managed to do it pretty regularly over the course of the one year. I’m really happy that I captured this part of my life and it’s so much fun to scroll down and look at all the photos.

However, I didn’t like that at the end it was mostly just writing about what I did that week. The idea was that I would be posting every Sunday and I wanted to make sure that I have a deadline, that I will just have to figure out something to write about. And I can say that it worked—many times I thought there’s absolutely nothing to make a blogpost out of but in the end at least one idea I was able to put down.

But my vision for the blog is different. I want to not only write about things I did, I want to think more deeply about things that are going on in my head. I want to write more in-depth articles.

I think it was fine for this one year to write about my life, and give these “weekly updates”, I wanted to start writing and that’s hard. You need to ease into that. I see this first year as exactly this, easing into writing, finding the voice, topics, getting used to publishing regularly.

Now for the future. I want to try and do two things differently:

  1. write more articles that focus on one topic, have a better structure, and are more in-depth, and
  2. write articles that capture mood, show a certain atmosphere or style of the time period, ideally put more work into the photos.

A short visit to Prague

We (me and Manu, a colleague from VisGroup) went to Prague for a few days to deepen the cooperation between TU Wien and CVUT.

About work

At work I was starting to think about the approach of my first paper of the PhD. Ever since I started in spring this year, I’ve been working on things but they weren’t directly contributing to my PhD, so now I finally had the time allocated to (mostly) just that.

It took a few weeks to get into the topic but yesterday I had an idea that I think is worth trying. The problem is that there’s a lot to do to even get to the point of trying this idea out.

It however reminded me why I like working on things. There’s this idea in your head and it’s just on you to make it happen. I’m so attracted to the process of having this intense motivation, this picture of how it should look like and work, and then it’s about me making it happen. If I don’t do it, it’s not gonna happen.

It’s of course very frustrating at the same time. Life gets in a way and if you are trying to do something non-trivial it’s gonna take days if not weeks. And that’s the challenge of just keeping up, believing in that idea you initially had.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t really like the pre-Christmas season. I’ve always had it associated with stress in school which gets multiplied by all the Christmas busyness.

It makes me want to make more colorful art. Something to compensate. I should do that.

That week after I came back

I was almost considering that I’ll skip a week for the first time since I started blogging but that would be terrible. So here I am, 5 days later, and this is how the week after I came back from USA looked.

I arrived on Monday in the late evening. I was expecting to have troubles sleeping that night but it wasn’t a problem at all. However I slept through half of Tuesday. After that I thought I’m already good, I went to work on Wednesday, survived that, but still I had to be taking afternoon naps for the rest of the week.

I have to say that I was a bit sad when I adjusted to the normal timezone. It’s stupid, it was like the last thing, last connection that I had to that place.

Nonetheless, I’m back and I’m ready to do stuff! I want to work on things that will allow me to travel somewhere else as well.

In other news, my parents visited us in Vienna on Saturday. We went to Stephansplatz and Schönbrunn.

David goes to USA: final part, the road trip

The final part of my trip to USA was a road trip on the west coast with three colleagues. I think I already mentioned that it was a big deal for me to go to US (farthest I’ve ever been from home, fulfilled a dream of going there) and I had a chance to experience a lot on this road trip.

I’ll put my tips first: if I’d do this again (and I want to!) I would:

  • plan and book the accommodation beforehand; we had to figure out where we’re gonna sleep on the fly and it made it a little bit more stressful (but also more adventurous, depends on what kinda person you are)
  • get an US sim card with mobile internet; from my experience the wifi coverage is not as great as I read on the internet before leaving. Also we had problems to reach some US numbers from our phones.
  • make sure that I can pay with my credit card; one hotel pre-authorized a large sum of money of my credit card and I couldn’t raise the limit because I forgot the phone I use to authenticate internet banking actions at home. You should also make sure that you don’t have a geolocation control/lock activated on the card.

I wanted to put these down mainly for myself to remember. So let’s get into the trip itself!

We started in Phoenix. On the way to San Diego we slept in El Centro (still not sure how that’s pronounced) and continued the next day. We went to La Jolla Cove and I really liked it. It had a great atmosphere and we arrived at a perfect time when the sun was setting.

We slept in a motel in El Cajon. It was probably the place I liked the least of the places we slept the whole time, big motel in a big city, lots of noise and weird people.

So I was very glad to go to Sequoia National Park the next day. Sometimes I’d rather face the nature than the people. In this case we had to face the cold at night. It was a good decision to bring Gabi’s sleeping bag.

We slept in Grant Grove Village (which I think is technically Kings Canyon National Park but they are very much connected so…) and met there the most friendliest guy at the reception of the camp.

After Sequoia we drove to Yosemite National Park, sleeping in a tent-cabin in Half Dome Village.

Yosemite is simply breathtaking. We did one big hike to Nevada fall and some small walks around the Yosemite Valley. Once again I was amazed by how well organized the national parks are. I simply have to come back to explore more of it, the 2 or so day we spent there are just laughably short amount of time for it.

For the last weekend we stayed in San Francisco and I have to say that I think I fell in love with this place. We stayed very close to Market street which might have been a mistake but hey, at least I’ve seen this part of SF/USA as well. I was just amazed that I’m there. I’m in the place where so much has happened, where so much is happening now, the place I’ve heard, read, or seen so much about. I was happy to be at this place even if for such a short time.

Our flight home was from San Francisco International with Lufthansa to Munich and then from Munich to Vienna with Austrian. I was actually very surprised how easy the flight was, it didn’t feel long at all! And the flight to Vienna was almost funny—we ascended, flew for maybe 10 minutes and then the flight attendant announced that we are starting the descent to Vienna.

I’m now back home in Vienna and I have to say that I’m suffering a bit from post-travel sadness. And jet lag (I thought I’ve recovered already but yesterday I passed out at 8pm and woke up at 1am…). But I’m happy to be with Gabi again and I’m really excited to be working on things now. There’s so much I want to accomplish and experience in life. I’m happy to be back at working on the life I want to create for us.

David goes to USA: part 2

The main reason of coming to the US was the IEEE VIS 2017 conference so that was what this week was all about. The conference was held in a Convention Centre in Downtown Phoenix.

It was my first big conference so there was a lot to process. I wasn’t there for any specific reason. I wasn’t presenting a paper, I wasn’t there to meet people I know. I was just really curious about how the field of visualization works in the bigger picture, outside of the groups I know so far.

I took notes throughout all of the conference, here’s some of them:

  • My biggest takeaway probably is that I want to learn how to be a good speaker.
  • Other thing that I wasn’t expecting is how easy (and inconvenient) it is to get sick while traveling. Especially here in Phoenix, where outside it’s hot, and inside it’s freezing because of all the AC. Next time I’m going somewhere I need to prepare my immunity system for that.
  • Demos, videos, pictures, GIFs…any of this is better than trying to describe what you’re presenting.

I got to explore some of the food in Phoenix. Cornish Pasty was very good!

But the best thing I had was a burger at Welcome Diner, a place close to the motel the receptionist recommended.

Downtown Phoenix is kinda cool. It’s amazing however that you can walk somewhat short distance and suddenly you are in a not-so-nice area.

We left Arizona for California. The plan of the road trip is pretty fluid right now, hopefully we figure it out somehow and will have a good time.


David goes to USA: part 1

This was my first time flying to US and also first time on a long haul flight. First flight with Austrian (close to 9 hours) went perfectly well, they distract you with food and drinks, and I had podcasts to keep me entertained.

The other flight was with United (for around 5 hours) and I got lucky, I was sitting next to a lady who shared a Philly cheesesteak with me.

The immigration checks (or whatever it’s called) went smoothly too (it’s something I’ve heard is kinda random).

We went to SLC for a meeting of people working in the same field and I got to say that I left feeling very inspired! I really liked having Salt Lake City as my first contact with USA, the mountains are super pretty, the city itself looks very clean, and the University of Utah campus looks like a typical american university campus (very nice).

From there we drove to Grand Canyon. But we are stupid and didn’t book any accommodation for that night and it turns out it’s kinda difficult to find a room around Grand Canyon at 11pm in the night.

We ended up sleeping in a car on a parking lot next to Horseshoe Bend. At least we got to see it on sunrise the next morning.

We did two hikes while in the Grand Canyon national park: short one on Saturday and brutal long one on Sunday. The short hike was along the South Rim. The long one we hiked down on the South Keibab trail, then changed to the Tonto trail, and finally hiked up the Bright Angel trail.

After that we drove to Phoenix and now we are here at the conference. The conference ends on Friday 6th and after that our road trip starts.

Preparing for the USA trip

I’m going to USA in a few days and I’m excited (and just a little nervous) about it.

First, we have a meeting with collaborators in Salt Lake City and afterwards we will attend VIS 2017 in Phoenix, trying to squeeze a Grand Canyon visit in between those. After the conference, me and three other colleagues are going on a road trip on the west coast. Plan is not exactly clear for the road trip yet, we want to go to national parks mostly but I would really like to see some of the big cities too. We are flying back from San Francisco on Monday, October 16th. That’s almost 3 weeks I’ll spend there and I’m just super hyped for that.

I’m looking forward for all three parts: In Salt Lake City I will meet people that I’ve only talked to online so far, I’m sure the conference will be inspiring, and the road trip afterwards is going to be awesome too. I’ll be giving a short presentation in SLC, nothing at the conference, I’m only coming there to watch, get inspired, and network.

But most of all I’m looking forward to just experience US. Ever since I’ve been a teenager, I’ve been living in the US world through the internet. Even though I’ve lived in Europe my whole life, I know a lot of the American culture from second hand. You get the feeling that this is the place where it’s all happening. I’m really curious to see how is this world experienced in person.

I’ll try to continue with writing updates on blog (with lots and lots of photos) but besides that I think it’s to be expected that I will be posting a lot of my instagram.

Vacation!!!

This year we spent a week in Kardamili, a town in Peloponnese, Greece. We did a similar thing as last time: rented an apartment, got a car, and traveled the area as much as possible.

We’ve been to: Polylimnio waterfalls, Methoni, Koroni, Pilos.

Beaches: Kardamili, Kalamitsi, Phoneas, Voidokilia, Kalogria

Unfortunately I had sun allergy again. I’m pretty fair-skinned so I’m used to getting sunburnt, but getting rash from the sun is something even worse. It seems that there are ways how to prevent that so I’m gonna try some of that for the next year!

Btw. I love flying. If I was deciding right now what I want to be I’d sat a pilot. I don’t really know why I like it so much, it just seems so cool to be flying planes.

One thing I like about going on vacation is that I leave my computer at home, no working, which makes me think a lot. I think about what I’m doing, what I want to do, how should I be doing it, what are my goals, how I’m gonna reach them, what future I imagine for me and Gabi, … I write it all down in my phone and then go through it back home. It’s very easy to lose direction once you are back in your regular life, it just feels like one day after another. At that moment, it’s nice to look at these notes and see if you are working towards something in there, or if you need to navigate the life a bit better.

We have some very nice photos (mostly Gabi did them but sometimes I pushed the button):

Autumn’s here, let’s go on a vacation!

Autumn weather has arrived to Vienna and we are preparing to go for our vacation in Greece.

After the triumph at the Magistrat on Tuesday not much has happened. Gabi went to Brno because she needed to pick up some things and also work at her company’s office. I’ve been trying to finish up some things at work as well but it didn’t go very well. Somehow the project I’m currently working on is just dragging on. I’m not really sure why, I have the feeling that the requirements are not really clear, I’m not sure how it should look like and I don’t know where I need to cut the corners because of technology limitations. And I don’t like that I’m the only one working on this one part. Other two people are involved but they work on their own parts. I totally get that, I myself have enough work to do that I don’t want to care about the work of others. I guess that there should be somebody above us who’s caring about this, knowing the technical details, and managing everything.

I’ve started to put the things I’m working on in my calendar few weeks back. I allocate blocks of like 1 to 4 hours and then put what I’ve been working on into the name of the event. It’s useful to go back and see what I’ve been actually doing and see the things that were absolutely unnecessary in the end.

So yeah, work has been a bit frustrating lately but it also might be because I reeeeeally want to go on the vacation already.

I need some time to think things through again. Last year the week on Kefalonia has helped me a lot. I figured out what needs to be done, figured what I want to do, and then over the year I just did it. Starting this blog has been one of the decisions I made on the vacation and it will soon be a year of me writing it. I’m so glad I started it and then kept on writing. I’ve had an interesting year (writing the master thesis, finishing the university, getting my degree, moving to a different country) and I freaking love that it’s documented somewhere.

So it’s an understatement to say that I’m excited for Wednesday when we finally go! I’m still going to go to work on Monday and Tuesday, try to complete things as best as I can and then I’m off.

Oh and as a sidenote: I’m choosing an acoustic guitar. I want to do more music. I have a shitty Stratocaster that I’ve had for maybe 10 years now. As a teenager I completely ignored acoustic guitars (typical..) but now I’m somehow attracted to an instrument that play without any amps and it’s just about how you learn to play it.

Hell yeah!

I’ve been waiting with the blog post this week because of one reason. I was a bit stressed out because there was this one thing that needed to be taken care of.

When you are a citizen of EU (or Switzerland) and you come to Austria, you have 4 months to go to the Magistrat and apply for a permission of longer stay. They tell you this when you register (Meldezettel).

This wouldn’t be that bad, however I heard only bad things about the Magistrat. Mainly that you go there and you wait for hours. And that they don’t speak English. Because of that, I’ve been postponing going there for a long time, but Gabi is the good one and she wanted to have this done right. So I knew that before the end of August we should do this.

Today we finally went. Luckily a friend from work (Haichao) offered his help and I’m so glad that he did. I can get around with English and a little bit of German but there needs to be a will on the other side as well. German is an official language in Austria (and I really want to learn) so I’m fine with the offices only speaking German. It’s just very inconvenient for us. And stressful.

Everything went smoother than I expected. We arrived half an hour before the opening hours and there was a line. However then they opened the door and the Magistrat itself was huge and well organized. I love that in Austria they have waiting numbers everywhere. We actually didn’t need to wait that long because the have so many offices. We almost didn’t have enough time to fill out a form and we’ve been called to an office.

Having this done is a huge burden lifted out of my chest.

This week I need to finish up one more thing at work and then I can prepare for our vacation!

I guess I’m really going to the USA

I’m gonna be visiting US for a conference this October! I’m part of the people from Vis-Group attending IEEE VIS 2017. It’s gonna be the first (bigger) conference I’m gonna attend.

I am also the one given the responsibility of planning the traveling. I bought flight tickets on Friday, it was really a pain in the ass. I was buying a multi-city tickets because we’re gonna make a road trip after the conference and we would be flying out of San Francisco (the conference is in Phoenix). I don’t know what’s the best way to book flights, I was looking them up using Google Flights but then I realized that I still need to look those flights up on the website of the airline. And then things happen…like when you try to pay, you can’t choose certain countries for the billing address.

I’m pretty excited. I’ve wanted to go to USA for a very long time and although I’m kinda growing out of wanting to live there, I’m still very curious to see it.

There’s still a lot to happen until then however. Like our vacation for example. I’m really looking forward to that, our vacation last year was game changing for me.

But I need to finish some things before I leave for Greece. We have a big projects that’s coming to an end and I need to still implement some things for that. I hope everything goes well, I have about 2 weeks for that.

As for this week, there was a public holiday on Tuesday. I stayed at home on Monday too, but I was working from there. It sucks that both me and Gabi work on a different public holidays schedule. It’s rare that we get to have it on the same day so usually either one of us still needs to work.

There was a dinner with a guest visiting the vis-group happening on Wednesday and we went there. It was in a place on the edge of Vienna and it looked typically austrian I’d say. We drank some wine and had schnitzel. It was nice.

On Friday we tried the second IKEA in Vienna (the north one). We found out that IKEAs are pretty much the same everywhere. But they didn’t have the suitcase we wanted so that was pretty disappointing. At least I got the hot dog and we brought zimtschnecke.

Last thing I wanted to write down is that I think something is switching in my head when it comes to programming. It starts to click. For a long time I had a really hard time actually putting down my ideas into the code. I was always getting guided by a library or an API that I was using. I felt like there’s no way for me to make the code my way, go with my ideas and actually make things work. But now I’m figuring out that I can. I’m realizing that the most important thing when programming is to keep it at the right level of abstraction. At certain point you just need to abstract things into separate modules and rely on them to work. I guess I’m a really bad programmer cause I’m figuring this out just now. But I don’t really mind.

I think using git and branching a lot helps tremendously. That way I’m less scared that I’m gonna fuck something up, I know that I can always come back to the working version of things.

Oh and we went to Schönbrunn on Sunday.