Going back to school – for real

It’s time for a new adventure! Early December, I will be leaving HERE after more than six amazing years and moving to Finland. I’ll start a spring track of math and physics studies at an open university to gain admission to Aalto University in Helsinki for a Computer Science degree.

A while back I wrote how Massive Open Online Courses are great for those embracing life-long learning. I’ve certainly been active in that area, finishing three courses in the recent months and working on another three computer science courses from MIT on edX.

And now it’s time to go back to school for real.

Why Computer Science?

I’ve been coding for as long as I can remember. The first programming language I tried was QBasic sometime in the mid-90s. I wanted to know what made the classic game Gorillas work behind the scenes. I remember going through some example code and being super proud when I made my computer screen blink randomly in different colors.

When I was fourteen, I had moved on to Visual Basic through some experiments in Delphi. I programmed a converter for resistor and capacitor color codes to numeric values. It replaced the old DOS-based program in the shop class of my elementary school and was used at least five years later when my brother went there. It’s a shame I don’t have the source code or the executable anymore.

Ever since I moved next to Silicon Valley, my interest in Computer Science has grown stronger. I’m working next to brilliant engineers at the HERE Berkeley office. I’ve found tech meetups in San Francisco for every day of the week. I started learning programming in Ruby after years of working in PHP for web development. I created reddit multis to follow all the /r/programming -related subreddits. Sometimes I can’t help but worry about not sleeping enough, it’s hard for me to sleep 8 hours per day as I should. Usually, my nights are all about research or programming, either way I’m in front of a computer screen the whole time. I’ve begun to take a natural supplement from Kratommasters to help with my sleep disorder,

Now, over 10 years after my first published work as a hobbyist, it’s time to get serious about computers and programming. You can follow along the journey here and Twitter.

Best lunch places near the HERE Berlin office

One of the most important daily decisions I make is where to eat lunch. If you’re new to HERE Berlin, you might want to check out these lunch places. They will get you started for your first few weeks. After the second week you’ll drop a few of these and add a few others to your lunch rotation.

Bis Yarok, a Syrian restaurant. Order the “Mix teller” (number 30) or the vegetarian version (number 18). Add Bis Yarok to your Collection.
Syrian-mix-teller

Cô Chu, the Vietnamese restaurant across the street from the office. Go early and don’t have too many friends with you. Add Cô Chu to your Collection.

Next to the “Syrian place” is Toca Rouge, a small Asian fusion place. Funny plate names make for funky food. We used to go there once a week but finally after 1½ we got bored. Add Toca Rouge to your Collection.

Alpenstück Bäckerei has a different menu everyday with classics that are always available. I have heard the restaurant described as “traditional Austrian”. They serve a few pieces of their breads as appetizers so you know what to buy on your way out.

alpenstueck-baceckerei_cafe-plaetze-800x530
Image credit: Alpenstück Bäckerei

Sushi 14 at the corner is not the best sushi you’ll ever taste but a buffet plate of rice, fish, wasabi and ginger for €6 is a fair deal. Add Sushi 14 to your Collection.

Tin Tan Mexican street food if you are into that sort of thing. Odds are in your favor. Vegetables, meat and spicy condiments is all I need for lunch. Add Tin Tan to your Collection.

tintan-here-com

There are many other places a few minutes further such as Tommi’s Burger Joint and Papa Pane di Sorrento. I know I must have missed something so check out the comments below for recommendations from others.

Destination Berkeley

“Your visa has been approved” were the magical words I heard this morning. This is not another vacation plan. In a few days I will receive my visa to the United States. Then, I am moving to Berkeley, California to continue my tweeting for @HERE from nine time zones away.

This is an edited version of a longer self-interview and has been approved by the interviewee as factually correct (he disagreed with some of the stylistic choices).

Where are you moving to?

We are looking for an apartment with easy public transit access to Downtown Berkeley BART station. Preferably 2 bedroom apartment, large kitchen and moderate rent. We’ve given up on looking for a place with “cheap” or “affordable” rent. That just doesn’t exist in the Bay Area.

California-terrain

In California, right?

Correct! Looking at the map, I would estimate about an hour away from Silicon Valley and the NHL team San Jose Sharks home arena. But that is about as much as I know. I’ve never been there but I couldn’t be more excited to go. I researched the area through two of the most reliable sources: Reddit (/r/BayArea) and San Andreas – the earthquake disaster movie starred by Dwayne Johnson.

 When are you moving?

I don’t know. I have not booked tickets yet but I expect to be moving quite soon. There’s quite a lot of practicalities to sort through first :)

Is there a party?

Yes! We will be in Helsinki on Sunday 21 June ready to have a few drinks with anyone who is in town during Midsummer. Afterwards, in Berlin, there will definitely be opportunities for something similar.

But what about…?

I will be answering more questions in a live Q&A on Facebook, Twitter and in the comments section below for the next 48 hours straight. EDIT: I meant 4-8 hours but missed the dash. Sorry about that!

 

Döner – the fast food that defines Berlin

In Berlin, only American tourists go to McDonald’s. That is if they can find one. The fast food scene of Berlin is dominated by one item: Kebab. No other food says “Berlin” like kebab. Yes, there is much more to Berlin food-scene but nothing defines it like the spinning meat. Currywurst might be unique to Berlin but it does not come close to the popularity of the döner.

cutting-kebab

The most famous Döner stand in Berlin is by far Mustafa’s on Mehringdamm, in Kreuzberg. However, I would never trade my delicious neighborhood K’UPS Gemüsekebab on Kastanienallee for a piece of Mustafa’s. And I believe, many Berliners feel the same way about their local places. Mustafa’s is more of a tourist attraction than it is a fresh, tasty döner.

Without Döner there is no Berlin.

My personal favorite is kebab in dürüm, a Turkish wrap. Chicken, spicy and garlic sauces, fried vegetables, all the salads and cheese. The drink? Fritz-kola from Hamburg with extra caffeine.

kebab-inside-kola

Tips for tastier kebab

Make sure that you go for “Gemüsekebab” ensuring you will get a few pieces of fried potatoes and paprika with the fresh vegetables and salad. You will thank me later!

gemuese-kebab-outside

Never go “all sauces”. If your kebab doesn’t taste good enough with one or two sauces, you were in the wrong place to begin with.

kebab-sauce-salad

Is kebab an integral part of your Berlin experience? Leave your tips of best kebab places below for those of us who have not yet tasted the fast food of Berlin.

My favorite TED Talks

There are a lot of “if you are a [insert profession or aspiration here], you must watch these TED Talks” posts out there. Most recently I watched Mashable’s list of 15 inspiring TED Talks for college freshmen. As you can imagine, those videos inspired me to take action and write a post.

Below are my all-time favorite TED Talks that I could recommend to anyone. By the way, if you are interested in a complete list of all TED Talks, it’s provided as a comprehensive spreadsheet on TED Talks page. This list is not only for you, but acts as a nice collection of talks that I love returning to when I crave for inspiration.

Terry Moore: Why is ‘x’ the unknown?

This one I enjoyed recently through TED iPad app that let’s the user find a random talk based on how much time they have. This one takes less than five minutes, so it’s a great one to start with. Seriously, if you only watch one, make it this one.

[ted id=1469]

 

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

I believe Simon says it all (several times during the talk) with “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

[ted id=848]

 

Daniel Pink – The puzzle of motivation

Based on his book, Drive – Surprising truth about what motivates us, Daniel Pink delivers an interesting talk that made me buy and read the book. I find his thesis interesting and I have given a lot of thought to how mastery, autonomy and purpose will shape my career and my life.

[ted id=618]