Thursday, 26 February 2009

London, Pan Cakes, A New Tutor, and "Hi! Kifak? Ca va"

Tuesday Feb 24th, 2009:
I went to London to meet up with Walid. He came to London on Sunday 22nd to attend a two day conference and was leaving on Wednesday 25th so we agreed to meet up to catch up. I had a class from 3 - 4 p.m. so I ran off after class to catch the bus then the train to London Waterloo station. He had told me that he was staying in a hotel near Hyde Park so I took the tube to an underground station called 'Hyde Park Corner'. After I got off I called him and he said that he was near Lancaster underground station *damn. So, I went back and took the tube again to meet him there. We first passed by a Disney shop where he bought gifts for his two daughters. Their favourite Disney character is the little mermaid; so naturally he bought them little mermaid stuff in addition to other toys. We then decided to go for dinner and we walked into a restaurant, which turned out to be Moroccan. The food was nice and the restaurant was very well decorated. We talked about a lot of stuff - none of which related to my previous job lol. After the dinner was over we walked back to the underground station where we departed and I went back to Waterloo station and then to Southampton.
By the time I got home I was tired and it was late; but Sheena, George, Becky, and Hardy were making pancakes because it was Pan Cake Day. That was a sad disaster lol. Frankly, I wasn't impressed by the pancakes - I thought they tasted like undercooked dough lol. Also, unlike Sheena and Becky, I was able to flip the pancakes perfectly (except for one which wasn't properly cooked so it was torn apart) and they weren't able to hahaha. Also, Sheena, Becky, and Hardy suddenly decided to go watch some movie which made me wonder why they made a big deal of the whole evening and then just left (the kitchen in a mess hahaha)

Wednesday February 25th:
We were introduced to our new tutor Adam Prugel-Bennett. Our former tutor Craig Saunders has decided to change jobs and is going to France. He resigned sometime in mid-February and we learned about his resignation by chance when one of our lecturers was telling us that he will change the coursework because Craig has quit. We were surprised by what he said and how casually he said it. We were a bit nervous because we didn't know how we will be assigned a new tutor and who he might be. Steve later apologized to us for making us nervous and for telling us the news without realizing that Craig hadn't told us. I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with all this. The MSc program I am enrolled in is running for the first time this year. Up until a couple of months ago they were still changing some things. Also, the person responsible for the whole program was Craig. Craig has been our tutor since day one and though we didn't need him so far, it is after Easter that we will need our tutor because we will have to choose our topics and supervisors after Easter. So, I guess it is natural for us to feel a bit lost with all this going on.
Also, I was chatting with Nabil - one of my high school friends, today. Nothing interesting there except for the below piece of conversation lol
Nabil says (10:42 PM):
w kif kil shi?
(and how is everything?)
Amun.t says (10:42 PM):


kholes semester 1 ekher jan
(semester 1 ended in late jan)
w balash semester 2 awal feb
(and semester 2 started in early feb)
Nabil says (10:42 PM):

cava in england, ur 100% lebanese


It is really funny, because if you are not Lebanese or you've never been to Lebanon you won't realize that we actually speak (and hence chat online) three languages in our local dialect. Also, one of the things that we - and other people - make fun of about ourselves is the way we greet each others. We use the English "Hi", followed by the Lebanese "Kifak?" - i.e. how are you?, and confirmed by the French "Ca va". It is in fact a 'trademark' and tourists who come to Lebanese buy t-shirts with the expression "Hi! Kifak? Ca va" printed on them :). Which reminds me; I want one so I will email Badr to bring me one when he comes here next month *yeey

Monday, 23 February 2009

For the Love of Cinnamon - and THE Cinnamon Girl!

Gassia Anoushig,

I have prepared a video for you. It features Sheena making Cinnamon Rolls! I can imagine you laughing while watching it, and I know you will want to make Cinnamon Rolls once you've seen it (which is actually the whole point of me making this video in the first place :P).
Enjoy it (with high volume)


Later Entry: after I posted it, I played it and it had really bad resolution :( I dunno why, it has good resolution locally on my laptop.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Pillow Fight and A Gig 4 Gaza - And Another Fire Alarm!

Saturday Feb 22, 2009:
I did three major things today. I worked on the Cinnamon Rolls Video for Gassia. It is starting to take shape. The actual time it took us to make the Cinnamon Rolls was about 2 hours - without the time needed for the dough to rise and bake, I have already spent about 5 hours on the video and I am only half way through!
I participated in the first flash mob in Southampton. It was a massive pillow fight in city centre :). People were supposed to gather outside WestQuay shopping centre with their pillows hidden so no one suspects anything. An organizer would sound a horn and everyone would take their pillows out and fight. Fleur, Lotte, I took the bus to city centre. We were excited and we were feeling like kids again lol. We were about a minute away from where the fight was supposed to take place when we heard the horn. We started running but we we got tired really quickly because Fleur and I had been sick for the previous few days. We got there and there were A LOT of people fighting and we quickly joined in. It was so much fun, hitting people and getting hit WITH PILLOWS LOL. The horn was sounded very-shortly afterwards and everyone hid their pillows and casually walked away. People were very surprised with what was going on. A couple asked Fleur and me what the point was behind it and we shrugged our shoulders and said that it was just for fun. Some participants uploaded videos on youtube. We then went to ASDA to do our shopping, and for the first time ever I bought less stuff than Fleur lol
In the evening we went to a fundraising Gig for Gaza organized by the Southampton University Amnesty Club. We were 7 - Lotte, Fleur, Sheena, Hardy, Becky, George, and I - and of course the person who handled organizing the logistics of reserving the tickets and getting people there was me lol. We left Glen Eyre at 8 PM thinking that gigs never start on time. We got there half way through the performance of the first band - which was the band one of my course-mates, Mike, sings in. We only listened to their two last songs. Then a second band played and they were horrible. It took forever for them to finish and they kinda killed our mood. Afterwards a guy sang as well and he was much better than the second band but still not that good. Finally a really good band played and got everyone all active again. After the gig was over we walked home chatting very loudly, telling jokes, and laughing all the way.
Before calling it a night, I told Sheena that there would be another fire alarm tonight because it was a Saturday and a pattern of fire-alarms-being-set-off-on-Saturday-nights has started to emerge lol. And, I was right - of course! :P - and at 2:30 a.m. the fire alarm was set off! I had only gone to sleep at 2:00 and so I was half awake/half asleep and at first thought I was dreaming. But the alarm was so loud that I had to actually get out of bed. I went out to the lobby but then quickly decided to go back in. I snuck under my sheet and placed my pillow on my head. The sound of the alarm was very loud and annoying but I was not willing to go through what I went through last Saturday and decided to stay in bed. Thankfully though, this time it only took the wardens and security guys ten minutes to turn the alarm off and I finally went to sleep at 2:40.

George's Birthday

George's birthday was on Wednesday Feb 18th. He turned 31! We had agreed without his knowledge to make him dinner to celebrate it. We told him one day before but he decided to go to Brighton to celebrate it with his friends there.
So, we agreed to celebrate it with him on Friday. Each of Sheena, Fleur, and I would make something for the occasion.
Sheena made Cinnamon Rolls (Gassia, I will create a special post for you about that). I made Manakish with Cheese and with Zaatar. The cheese ones were really good but the zaatar ones were OK. The dough rose in the oven :S and when I asked my cousin Ghada she told me that I had put a lot of yeast :$. Also, I almost triggered the fire alarm because I accidentally spilled oil in the grill so it heated and started producing a lot of smoke. We directly controlled the situation by turning off the grill, opening all windows, and covering the smoke sensor! That really makes me wonder what people who always trigger fire alarms would be doing and how they do it. I mean there was a LOT of smoke in our kitchen but we directly acted to prevent the alarm being set off. Why can't other people be a bit mature about how they handle cooking/illegal-smooking-indoors instead of constantly setting the fire alarm off?
Fleur made Banoffee pie. It was really good and we got to keep it in our fridge - George and I just split the last piece.
Becky, Hardy, Peter, and Verena also came along. We played cards and had some "fun conversation" until it got a little late and Peter and Verena excused themselves. Later, Fleur and Lotte also called it a night and left. I had emailed Bassam earlier to come as well because I made manakeesh and he might want to have some. He was out watching some play and came along but there were only Hardy, Becky, and Sheena left. We chatted for a while and he had manakeesh and thought the cheese ones were really good - even though he did remark to Sheena the usual "If you liked Iman's manakeesh (?) then you can imagine how really good actual Lebanese manakeesh in Lebanon are"; sadly though he did have a point :P.
Finally we all decided to call it a night and Becky slept over at Sheena's.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


OK, this is so not funny anymore. The fire alarm went off on Saturday night at 2:45 A.M. I had to get out of my room but didn't leave the building because it was so cold. I stayed in the lobby - like I did every time - waiting for a security man to come in and turn it off.
The security man and two wardens came in and they wanted to turn it off but couldn't :S. The warden then started acting all important and asked us to go outside the building because it is against regulations to stay indoors if the fire alarm has been set off! I told him that there was no fire anyway and it is really cold outside - and we were in the ground floor lobby!! He said that those were the regulations and we have to comply. So, I said "fine, I will go get a jacket", to which he answered: "No, you can't. You shouldn't go back into your rooms until the alarm has been turned off". I thought that was the stupidest thing - THERE WAS NO REAL FIRE - so I said very firmly "I am going in to get a jacket because I will get sick if I go out in the cold" I turned and walked back to my room - initially not intending on coming back out but the noise was really loud so I got a jacket and went outside.
We stood close to the building door and watched how the warden struggled to find the correct key to open the switch box! We couldn't believe it took him almost TEN ******* MINUTES to finally open the switch box :@ :@ :@ talk about stupidity! After finally opening the switch box, the warden struggled for another 5 minuted to turn the fire alarm off. And it worked, yeeey! But a few seconds later it was set off AGAIN. He struggled for a few minutes before turning it off; then it immediately was set off AGAIN!!! That went on for a couple more times and we were starting to get really angry at his stupidity. He then left the building to make some calls; so we tried to go back to the building but the security man stopped us "You are not allowed to go back in the building before the alarm has been shut off". We got really frustrated; so the security man tried giving us the execuse of: "if you go back to your rooms while the alarm is sounding and if then a real fire starts then you won't know that bcz the same alarm is sounding - and that is dangerous" PLEASE! what is the probability of a real fire starting (given that no real fires have happened AND that all those times the fire alarm was set off there was actually no real fire)??? I can calculate that...and it is very close to nill :P
Afterwards the warden came back in and tried to turn the alarm off some more times with no success and then he walked back out again. We then asked the other warden what the deal was and she said that there was some fault in the machine and that they will call the engineer or whomever is responsible! Do you know how much time that would take? Calling the engineer and waking him up and waiting for them to get dressed and get down there and then handling the issue? AND BY THEN WE HAD BEEN STANDING IN THE COLD FOR 30 MINUTES!!!!
Suddenly, everyone started moving and then another security man came and said: "Everyone walk to the back of the building"; WHAT?
- "Why?", I asked.
- "The warden said so", The security man answered.
- "But why?", I asked again.
- "I don't know, I just do as I am told and I was told to move everyone to the back of the building, so move".
- "I don't have an answer to that, but those who don't comply will have their IDs confiscated and will be fined in the morning"
We were really pissed off and we even speculated that the warden asked that we move to the back of the building because he couldn't stand us watching him not being able to turn the fire alarm off. After about five minutes of standing with the crowd behind the building the fire alarm was finally turned off -yeeeey; so we finally headed back to our room to get some sleep. It was 3:30 A.M.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Lebanese Valentine's Dinner

After our Lebanese meal during the Christmas vacation, Sheena and I agreed to go for another Lebanese meal on Valentine's. As Valentine's came closer, we started getting more and more excited; mostly because the food is really good and partly because Sheena couldn't stop talking about it (don't get me wrong; I love the fact that Sheena has totally fell in love with Lebanese food :P She also once said: "Once you go Lebanese, you don't go back" lol). Fleur was also excited because she knew that Lebanese food would be great - based on the stuffed zucchini experience :P. I told Bassam and my Korean friend Ji (the other ECSWomen secretary) to come along as well and they were also excited. Bassam later opted out and I didn't ask him why. Also, when I met Noura for coffee I invited her along because I knew she would appreciate it a lot. She told me that she might have to go to London to visit her sister; but if she didn't then she will come along. Sheena invited Becky to come along also :)
Meanwhile, while I was inviting fans of Lebanese food to come along for our Velentine's meal in another city, Sheena was receiving attention from a secret admirer ;) On Sunday Feb 7th, someone blue-tacked a card on our flat door addressed to Sheena asking if she had plans for Valentine's. Sheena thought it was George playing with her. Then, on Thursday Feb 12th, the cleaners came in with a letter from Hardy, the secret admirer, asking Sheena out for Valentine's. They told her that the guy was outside waiting for her answer. She recognized him from break dancing class. She didn't know what to answer so she told the cleaners to tell the guy that she will think about it. Sue, the chargehand, told her jokingly "Do it like the British women, go out with the guy for a free meal. Then when he asks you out another time just tell him that you have a headache" lol. When the cleaners left she told me that she doesn't want to miss our Lebanese meal. She then asked me if it was OK with me to bring Hardy along and I was of course OK with that. He had to be warned though that there will be four girls accompanying them two lol (Fleur, Ji, Becky, and myself duh :P) On Friday night, Noura confirmed that she was coming and she was bringing Reena along. Poor Hardy was now going out with Sheena and SIX other girls LOL. He wasn't scared away though and told Sheena that he was coming along, brave guy!
On Saturday I was planning our trip with Fleur. The reservation was made for 7:00 P.M. We had to walk to the interchange, take a bus to central station, take a train to Bournemouth and then either take a bus or a cab to the restaurant. We left our flat at 4:45 and it all worked out like a charm and we actually walked in the restaurant at 7:00. Reena and Ji, however, didn't come along. I don't remember why Reena changed her mind. Ji had to stay in Southampton because her brother was visiting her. Also, Hardy brought Sheena a very big and pretty red rose.
Noura and I handled the ordering of course. We ordered everything like last time: hommous, tabbouleh, cheese sambousek , spinach fatayer, kebbe. They didn't have vine leaves :( so we ordered batata 7arra. We also ordered grills. And of course we took loads of pictures (there is always time for the silly and the weird :P). Finally we ordered baklawa which were also very nice. The restaurant was very busy though and it took them half an hour to get our check and take their money! We then made our way back home to Southampton very pleased with the evening.
After we got home, Becky, Sheena, Fleur, and I played cards in the kitchen. Darko also came along so we all started chatting (and nagging about ECS :P) till 1 a.m. We then decided to go to sleep because by then we were very tired.
I tidied up a bit, uploaded the pictures on facebook, commented on Sheena's pictures, and finally decided to go to sleep at 2:00 a.m.
I was just about to sleep when ... at 2:45 a.m. ... the FIRE ALARM WENT OFF ... more about that in a later post ;)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

I Walked The Walk

Wednesday September 24th, 2008: My new international friends and I decided to go shopping for stuff that anyone who has newly arrived to a country needs (kitchen utensils, toiletries, food, etc ... ). We had been here for only a day and so we didn't know our way around at all. We met in my room because they were still in their temporary rooms and so didn't have Internet connection - Peter and I were the only ones who were able to move directly into our permanent rooms because Verena's and Fleur's rooms were not yet 'ready' (when I accepted my rent contract, I nagged Glen Eyre management to have my room ready before moving in and they made sure it was lol). We decided to go to a Tesco (some supermarket place someone suggested) which was supposed to sell what we needed so we got directions off google maps and decided to walk there as it was only about 2.0 miles away. We started walking there and it started raining and we were getting frustrated because when we would ask people how long it would take us to get to Tesco's they would say at least 2 hours (then 1.5 hr then 1 hr); so after about an hour - and Peter giving up and going back home - we decided to take a bus to where someone had given us other directions. We met a sweet lady at the bus stop and she told us that Sainsbury (another supermarket) is a better choice than Tesco because none of the Tesco's in Southampton sells the stuff we wanted to buy. She was very nice by giving us new directions (and later even getting off the bus with us to walk us to Sainsbury). I remember that when we were waiting at the bus stop my parents called and I was talking to my brother Tarek to agree on a time to meet him when he comes back to England. He then told me this: "Listen, I didn't tell you this when you were still here because I didn't want to say anything in front of your Mom so as not to scare her. Southampton is not a safe city so be careful where you go and how you go back. If you are outing at night never go back home alone; always go out at night WITH GROUPS and go back home IN GROUPS". I thought he was being overprotective but when I told my friends about it the English lady confirmed what Tarek said. She told us about a man who was stabbed two weeks earlier. She also told us that robberies and attacks are common at night and have a very high rate in some areas. (By the way, the University was very clear on that as they gave us THREE safety and security lectures during International Freshers Week and then ECS also gave us ANOTHER safety lecture during JumpStart Week!!!). So, anyways we finally got to Sainsbury's and then after shopping for our stuff we decided to take a cab back home as it was much less hectic than taking the bus since we were carrying heavy things.

Fast forward five months.

Friday February 13th, 2009: I decided to walk to the same Sainsbury's we went thru the huge hassle to get to on the second day for us being here. I needed to do some shopping but that wasn't the reason. The weather was very nice and I really needed to take a walk so I decided to get to know the city - more like my way around the city lol - and walk a very long way to get my groceries. I used to love walking around in Beirut and taking different routes every time to get to know new streets and sometimes even getting myself lost lol; it is very relaxing by the way - getting lost in the streets between people and their homes, the cars and the children, the trees and the concrete ... and then finding yourself in a very familiar place :). So, I printed the directions off Google maps and started walking. It took much more than the 38 minutes that Google had suggested :P but I didn't mind. I got there in no hassle (thanks to the map lol), went into Sainsbury's, and did some shopping. I was queuing to pay for my stuff when I noticed "Emergency Chocolate" bars LOL. I thought it was the FUNNIEST thing ever :D. I also saw girthControl Chocolate bars. I thought these things were the coolest things so I had to buy them (for myself and also to take pictures and show them to my friends). I then took the bus home and the next day I showed the bars to Sheena, Becky, Fleur, and Darko and they also thought it was the funniest lol :)

Friday, 13 February 2009

Few Updates

Wendy's talk was on Monday. It was raining heavily. I put the food and juice that Pinky and I bought on Sunday in my handbag and dragged it to the Seminar Room. I had to use my handbag because carrying 6 liters of juice would have given me backache for a couple of days lol. I helped set the room up a bit but had to run off to class. After class I also ran back under the rain to attend what was left of the talk. Of the things I heard was how passionate Wendy is about the Web Science Research Initiative that she, Tim Berners-Lee, and two other profs at the uni of Southampton are in charge of. She also talked about how she ends up running any committee or organization she join; which kinda reminded me of how I do the same :) She, however, apparently can't park a car to save her life; while I am an expert on parking cars :P (no laughs, especially you Sarah, I did become an expert - conveniently after you went back to D.C. lol). Speaking of my handbag; people always make comments when they see me dragging my hand bag. They assume that I am either going on vacation or coming back from a vacation - I wish! Some think I have loads of books in it - ya, right! I just find it very convenient to throw my heavy things in it instead of carrying them :)

Fleur and I went to an exhibition in uni on Tuesday. Art works from ArtSoc and PhotoSoc were displayed. She had only two photos in the exhibition. There were photos, paintings, and pottery works. Most of them were very lovely displaying talents of their makers. I met Fluer's friend Ella who is also a PhotoSoc member and had several of her photos exhibited. We chatted for some time listening to a band playing music. I enjoy that type of music played at exhibitions, relaxing and energizing at the same time. Then it was time for a raffle and I won! My number came up second so I chose a kettle :) We finally walked back home and Fleur was very energetic jumping around, commenting on how lovely the full moon was, and trying to tease me by pretending to drop my kettle lol.

I attended the ECS Careers Fair on Wednesday; not that I have made my mind up on getting a job here in this country. Some companies were defense companies and so I didn't bother asking the representatives what vacancies they had. Some representatives said they don't have vacancies for people with AI experience and that I could work as a software engineer or developer - which I may end up doing though it is the last thing on my list. Also, one representative from a game development company wanted to hug me when I told him I was an MSC of AI student lol. Great old IBM said that they don't sponsor non-UK/EU nationals for a work permit - their loss ;).

I met with Noura over coffee today. She is a Syrian PhD student whom I had met on the first week here during ECS jumpstart program (a week of activities and lectures organized by ECS for new students). We caught up on what had been going on in our lives and promised to meet again before she travels to the U.S. in March. That reminded me of my uni friends Fida, Samar, and Nora. After graduation we agreed to meet au moins une fois par mois (at least once a month) - which ended up being once every three months in practice lol.
Also, speaking of coffee; I had my first cup of coffee yesterday and being a coffee addict it was definitely GOOOOOD :) For those of you who don't know, I stopped drinking coffee after my exams and was clean for two whole weeks lol; though was also sleepy most of the time haha.

Final thought: our grades won't come out till the 24th!!!!!!!!! that my friend is what I call torturing students :P

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Week of Feb 2

Semester 2 has started, oh no! But hey Amber was here to take our minds off that :D

Monday Feb02: back to class! I only have three courses this semester - double credit courses though! It should be less hectic than last semester - same hard work though because two are tough courses. I also have group projects this semester *doh.

Wednesday Feb04: I cooked Stuffed Zucchini in Yogurt Sauce (كوسا بلبن). YES! I cooked that! I had been postponing cooking it because it is a lot of hard work, even though it is one of my fave Lebanese dishes. I was telling Fleur about it once and she was impressed by the description so I decided to make it and invite her over. Since Amber was here I thought it would be fun if I cooked for them both. I also invited Sheena, George, and Bassam. George wasn't at all impressed by the description and declined the invite - his loss *roll. Bassam had other plans with friends so he also declined. So, it was us girls and it was FUN :D. Fleur and Amber came over to help and they were impressed by the way I emptied the courgettes and then stuffed it. That was even trickier as the courgettes were slightly bent so I did end up breaking two. Then when it was time to cook them, we discovered another problem. None of our pans were big enough for all 8 courgettes! lol we are all students and our pans are not made to feed more than 2 people, let alone 4 haha . So, we split the courgettes into two pans and cooked them separately! All in all, the whole meal took THREE HOURS to prepare! But it turned out to be great :D yeeeey for me! They all expressed their hmmm and yummmm and 'this is so good' :D
We then had Oreo Cheese cake that Fleur and Amber had prepared earlier and it was also very yummyy :)
My friends and family also expressed their opinions about me cooking courgettes:
Badr: "bass shu hayda ya naja? koussa b-labaaaann ?!!?!?!?!?!?
2aleeleh...wein elli ma kein ya3ref ya3mil pasta? halla2 sorna mna3mil koussaaaaa? :D :D :D...yalla bravo *clap" -- that was immediately added to my list of fave quotes LOL
Souha: "KOUSSA B LABAN eh bade 100 sene ta2a3mela hala2 na2arte koussa w hashaytiyon????????? Walla walla smalla 3layke"
Ghada: "
Mum: "walla ana halla2 khalas ma ba2a lezim 2e3tal hammek"

Sheena named me a Culinary Goddess lol :)

Thursday Feb05: Amber and I went to the City Art Gallery. It was a lovely visit though we only had one hour so we couldn't tour it all. Later that evening I went over to Fleur's to watch a Dutch movie about
"Sinter Claus", which is the Dutch Santa Clause except that he visits Holland on the 5th of December not the 24th! It was a lovely movie. It had the same theme as 'Love Actually' so it made us all feel good about everything. We also had Apple Crumble that Fleur and Amber made. George joined us half way through the movie because he had to work. He told us about two of his mental patients who walked out of the hospital and didn't come back! They did eventually find them, thankfully!

Friday Feb06: I made Lebanese Manakish! Finally! Sheena and I had been talking about that for ages as well and so we also said that we should make them while Amber was there so she can have some as well. We made Zaatar manakeesh and Cheese manakeesh. The cheese ones were a bit undercooked but both were really nice. We later went out for dinner as it was Amber's last night in Southampton. Sheena took loads of pictures and we made all sorts of silly faces :) It was a really fun night that ended with lots of hugs because Amber was leaving :( It was fun having her around and we will all miss her!

Saturday Feb07 and Sunday Feb08: I did fuckall and I enjoyed it LOL. I had been planning to study during the weekend but I ended up marathon-watching the Lebanese series Ghariba! Fleur and George went to see My Bloody Valentine on Saturday but I decided not to join them as I was totally in doing-fuckall mood. I should feel guilty about that but I was also in a don't-care mood LOL (apparently these two moods accompany each others most of the time :P). I think I still haven't gotten back to studying mood because I only had a few days of rest after my final exams.

New week tomorrow, should be busy as well. Wendy Hall's talk is on Monday. Grandpa's birthday is on Tuesday (I can't remember if he is turning 83 or 84 shame-on-me). I miss him loads and I can't wait to see him again! I am planning to attend the ECS career fair on Wednesday. I am meeting up with a Syrian friend on Thursday and I have no clue what I will be doing on Friday :P

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Organizing an ECSWomen Event

Prof Dame Wendy Hall is a going to give a talk and I am co-organizing the event

Prof Wendy Hall was head of the school of Electronics and Computer Science from 2002 to 2007. She also chaired the British Computer Society in 2003/2004.
She was recently elected President of the Association of Computing Machinery for the 2008-2010 term.
And because of her achievements and contributions to science and technology, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

So, after all that intro about Wendy; now comes the reason for my blog post. She is going to give a talk about Web Science Research (and possibly about Semantic Web) on Monday and I am co-organizing the talk. The talk is from 12 - 2 P.M. Too bad I can't attend it all as I have a class from 12 - 1 *doh.
Organizing a talk is not at all challenging - once you have a speaker lol. Reena, the past chair of ECSWomen, asked Wendy to give a talk that would be organized by ECSWomen. Wendy is/was Reena's PhD supervisor so all Reena had to do was nag Wendy a bit and we had our speaker ;)
Because Reena and Kate had been organizing most of the ECSWomen events, they wanted other people on the committee to volunteer and organize this event. Pinky and I volunteered. Pinky is a first-year Computer Science student from Romania. Her real name is obviously not Pinky; it is Raluca. But she loves pink, has to have something pink on her, has pink hair highlights, and loves being called Pinky; so we all call her Pinky. She reminds me of myself - a much nicer, sweeter, pinkier self though lol.
Pinky and I met a few times and took care of everything. We produced a poster for the event:

We also took care of organizing most the advertising stuff, like creating a facebook event and emailing everyone about the event. And we also took care of SHOPPING! We went shopping today and discovered that the budget we had was a bit tight, ONLY £20 lol. We bought crips (a.k.a chips for anyone who doesn't live in the UK), muffins, shortbread cakes, juice, and plastic cups and plates. Tomorrow we will meet before the talk to hang up posters that Joyce, the Marketing Manager in ECS, had prepared for another event that ECS organized to celebrate Wendy's "Damehood". Joyce offered that we hang the lovely posters because it would make Wendy happy.
Everything is all set and ready so all is needed now is a good turnout of attendees and we can call it a successful event.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

When All Else Fails, Go to Bournemouth!

Sunday Feb 1st, 2009:
We missed the bus!! Oh, No! But hey, we can always hop on the next train going anywhere!

Two days earlier my friends and I held a very important meeting in my room, we were deciding where we wanted to go on Sunday :P lol. No seriously, we considered a few choices and then decided to go to Bath. We checked the attractions online, and we printed the bus and train schedules, and we agreed to meet at 9:00 A.M. outside Glen Eyre to catch the bus to the train station and then on to Bath.
Sunday morning: Sheena, Verena, and I missed the bus LOL. Sheena and I were all ready even before 9, we thought we would wait for a few minutes before going together and suddenly Peter came knocking on our door urging us to run as the bus was due to arrive (apparently we lost track of time and stayed in for a little longer than we had intended to). So, we ran outside but we missed the bus by just one minute. Oh, No!
But, Verena wasn't there. She had overslept. The reason for that was her alarm didn't go off. She had set it on the proper time but it rang one hour earlier. Her alarm is German and though she tries to put it one hour behind; the very-German clock keeps adjusting itself to the proper German time! So, Verena woke up an hour earlier and decided to re-set the alarm to an hour later but the alarm never went off again!
So, we were standing there looking at each others discussing what to do next and someone said let's go to the station and check when the next train leaves to Bath, Sheena and Peter said that it would be two hours before the next one, and so I suggested that we can hop on the next train going anywhere!
So, we went to the station and sure enough there were trains going to Bath every two hours. We looked at the train schedules and there were trains going to Reading and to Bournemouth. Peter went to ask the salesperson which choice is better and he was told that there was nothing in Reading and that we would be better off going to Bournemouth. So, we bought tickets to Bournemouth and went there :)
We got there and walked to the tourists information office where we were told that there was an Oceanarium (yeey :D !) there. We took a map and decided to walk there. The street that led from the station to the Oceanarium was named Bath road! There was also a hotel named Bath! (signs :P) LOL
We got to the Oceanarium which was next to the beach. I was very pleased because I miss the sea. Back home I used to see the sea every day. Also, one of the reasons why I chose to come to Southampton was because it was on the sea-side. But, I rarely go to the sea-side and there isn't even a beach here! Anyways, we took some pictures and went in the Oceanarium. It was lovely and I took loads of pictures especially of weird fish like the razor fish and the transparent fish. I was thinking about Yasmin most of the time knowing that she will enjoy the pictures once I post them on Facebook.
We then had lunch and some rest and then decided to walk to the City Center. We passed through a park where there was a bird aviary. Again we acted all touristy and took loads of pictures. We continued our walk to City Center where it started snowing so it was nice. We finished our tourism-round :P and then decided to walk back to the station and back home.
So, that was it for that weekend. It was fun forgetting all about coursework and exams for two whole days :)

Tourists in London

Saturday Jan 31, 2009:
I didn't miss the train yoouuupppiiii LOL

Amir and I had been trying to meet up for the last 4 months, but when one of us was free the other couldn't make it. So, we finally agreed to meet up in London after my exams for an all-day tourism. I got to Waterloo station at 11 a.m. carrying with me printouts of attractions so we make full use of our day :D (and make up for tourism deprivation :P)
We first rode on the London eye, the queue for buying the tickets was rather long but when we arrived to the ticket counter the salesperson told us that that queue was nowhere near long and that on the weekends it is usually triple its length! So, we got on and of course took pictures of London from above :) There was a couple in another capsule who not only had a waitress to serve them champagne but also had their capsule all for themselves!
After the ride we went to the Madame Tussaud museum. We took pictures with celebrities ;) though I was expecting more but apparently they change the figures every now and then depending on world events and latest movie releases. We also took the black cab tour in London which drives through the last few hundred years of London history. We were enjoying it but there was a malfunction and the ride stopped somewhere between Sir Francis Drake and Shakespeare. It did continue a few minutes later. The history of London up until the last century is a very sad one filled with death and hard living conditions. It progresses to a much happier one after the Second World War. We also went into the Scream Chamber! I was kinda nervous before going in because I knew that if someone touches me out of nowhere I would be really frightened; but before going in the guide was explaining the rules and the first rule was that actors will come close to visitors but they won't touch them. He also asked visitors not to touch as the actors "You no touch, We no touch" LOL. We went in but it turned out that the Scream chamber wasn't at all scary :P lol. There was also a section which depicts the Oval Office in the White House with Obama standing next to his desk so visitors can sit on his desk and pretend to be "The President", it was kinda cool and of course everyone was posing as the president with some even 'answering' the phone placed on the desk :)
We then had lunch in a cafe near the museum. The food took forever to arrive but we took it as a chance to catch up and share our experiences here and compare our universities to AUB. By the way, Amir is doing an MSc in Theology and Political Science in Oxford University.
We then took the tube to Buckingham Palace. We toured around it and took pictures and then went for a walk in St James Park. The park was really lovely with all sorts of ducks. Amir told me a story about two Korean students who went to some university in England (can't remember its name now). On the first week of their arrival they were walking around campus and found a small lake with ducks swimming in it. They were so happy to have found "dinner" lol, they hunted the ducks, cooked them, and ate them for dinner. Unfortunately for them, the ducks apparently belonged to the Queen or were part of a group of ducks that belonged to her majesty so when it was found out that they had the ducks for dinner the poor students got kicked out of university and DEPORTED out of the country! LOL ... I think they were harsh on them by deporting them but frankly I can't believe that people might actually HUNT, COOK, AND EAT the poor ducks HAHAHAH
We then walked to Big Ben and the Parliament, a very beautiful building with amazing architecture. We also walked to Trafalgar square and then to China town and finally to Picadilly Square and Leicester Square. Those names reminded me of Monopoly lol. I think I still remember that Leicester Square had the yellow color and Trafalgar Square had the brown color :) We also passed by Ripley's believe it or not museum! I was so excited because I used to watch the series and wanted to go in but it turned out to be 5 levels and we were running out of time and we were already very tired from all the walking so we decided to keep it for another time. We then decided to go home so we went to the underground and said our Goodbyes and we each headed home in a different direction.