Friday, September 29, 2006

My new carrier as an actor.

Today as I was walking towards my terrifying applied probability class, I passed Tommy Trojan (the statue that Dorte is inspecting on the right...), and I noticed it was covered in plants! Strange.. I thought and then as I looked around I noticed banners reading "Yale: Parents Weekend". Apparently I was in the middle of a "Gilmore Girls" episode shooting. I've never watched this show, but supposedly the mother and the daughter (characters in the show) were right there couple of meters away from me. It was pretty weird.. Anyways don't be surprised if you see me walking in the backround at Yale University while watching the Gilmore Girls...


Sunday, September 24, 2006

In the ghetto

Yes I live in the ghetto. This is no joke, the yellow house on the figure is actually where I live and the car next to it is my car. The neighbourhood, which is located in South Central, is called West Adams. The racial breakdown is something like 35% blacks 45% hispanic and rest poor USC students that couldn't afford anything better.... or like me just naive foreign students that got ripped off. I'm paying like at least 200 dollars a month too much for this place.

But actually its amazing how easily you get used to living here. Although you can't go for walk after dusk, since there's a great chance of being robbed or something worse, it is actually not that bad. People are really open, they'll great you out in the street, and are very willing to engage in any conversations.... although they sometimes speak in spanish. I personally think that they appreciate all students in the neighbourhood, but this neighbourhood used to be alot worse just 10 years ago. Then no students dared to live here and gunshots in the night were a everyday event. Today this area is patroled by the campus-police (as well as the LAPD), which I think the residents here really appreciate.

Although things have improved alot in the past years, this neighbourhood is far from being safe. Almost everyday there are police helicopters flying over my house, and at least once me and Dorte woke up in the middle of the night hearing horrible screaming followed by flashing lights of what was probably the campus police. Another student, a chinese guy I met that lives nearby, also woke up last month to a gunshot and witnessed a gun-fight in his street followed by police sirens. And of course the ice-cream salesmen walking around the neighbourhood with their children melody playing aren't just selling ice-cream... I also thought it was a bit strange to hear these stupid children melodies going past my house at 10pm in the evening.

It's really not that bad living here, in some sense its only cool to be here. Its here or close by where a bunch of cool rappers and mucisians grew up. Its probably also just healthy to be exposed to the fact that alot of people have to struggle through life everyday. Not everybody is as lucky as I am, I have an education and a health insurance, something that many people here don't. Anyways, I think I'll be moving in february as soon as my lease runs out....

Have a good one.

Friday, September 22, 2006

USC - University of Severe Courseload?

It was not exactly an easy thing to get into USC, I mean it took time and alot of effort. I went to London to take exams, the GRE and TOEFL. I had to fill out long lists of forms, write several "statements of purpose"s, get the right recommendations from my professors. I had to apply for an US VISA, pay several hundreds of dollars and then pick my words carefully in several interviews. After we arrived it continued, we had to find a place to live, lend money, buy a car, get a social security number, californian ID, etc. But now when I've got almost everything in place, I can't help asking myself: Why the hell did I come here? The reason is that all of my classes here require a tremendous amount of work, unlike most of the classes I took in Denmark. For example, I have an algorithms class which started with an examination or a quiz on the prerequisits, which you had to pass to be able to take the class. This quiz also weighed 5% of the final grade. Each week we also get tough homework on which we must answer more than 45% correct in order to pass the class. And the funny thing is, as a PhD student, you're not allowed to get anything below a B, or you'll be kicked out of the program, let alone flunk a class. Actually that's not funny at all.. I mean, the workload here is much much greater than what one is used to in good ol' Denmark. For example some PhD students here at my institute actually have matrices to sleep on in their offices. This way they can save time by not having to go home at night!!! In my opinion that's just insane! I, hope I'll never have to resort to that... besides Dorte would probably kill me if I would.

Anyways I just wanted to get this out of the system.. Well I better go do some work again, I have three midterms coming up soon, all of which I'll have to pass in order to stay in the PhD program....


Monday, September 18, 2006

Fight On!

It was gameday yesterday (saturday), which is the day USC had its first homegame in football against Nebraska, and everything went suddenly CRAZY here. It was amazing. I woke up hearing my neighbours out in the street shouting "30$ parking", where people were selling parking spaces in their private parking lots to arriving USC fans (although I live about 2.5km from the stadium!). And even though the game started at 5 pm people arrived already around 11-1pm.... well because of the tailgating parties! The tailgating parties are basicly barbecues or grills where the fans bring their own tents, chairs, food and alot of beer and just enjoy life before the big game. The whole campus was just like one huge festival filled with people dressed in red and yellow, it was amazing. When you walked around campus absolute strangers offered you their own food and beer, I have never ever experienced that in Denmark or Iceland. People whom you've never met were suddenly your best friends just because you happend to be studying at the right school. It was awsome! It was impossible not to get captured by the trojan spirit and join in the whole em.. "celebration"?? Well the game hadn't started yet but people were partying like they had just won the world championship. Some of my european friends even ended up buying USC T-shirts and had instantly become hard-core USC fans! GO TROJANS! (USC students are nicknamed trojans).

Even though the stadium, The Coliseum, takes about 100.000 people it was sold out a long ago, as with almost all homegames this season! Some games are so popular that the black market ticket price is at least 2000-3000$ for crappy seats!!!!! But this is of course the game against the archrivals UCLA bruins. Anyways we didn't get tickets to this game, (although students can get pretty cheap tickets), and we therefore watched in on TV. After the game (which we of course won 28-10) there were houseparties everywhere, it was alot of fun (the picture is taken at one).

A German friend. of mine said this gameday reminded him on the World Cup in Germany this summer. I mean this was big, I've never seen anything like it. I spent almost 7 years in Copenhagen and I never really became a fan of FCK or any other team there, but after only one game here I've suddenly become a USC football fan, although I probably don't know the rules. It's simply impossible to escape the atmosphere surrounding it. Anyways, this is how it's going to be every other weekend for this semester... and that's awsome!

Go Trojans

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Loony Los Angeles

On the 28th of July we finally left the big apple for our final destination, Los Angeles. Already on the plane we were exposed to the loony atmosphere of Los Angeles where the head sterwardess, Barbara around 50, said on the speakers "If there is anything you want just ask and we'll do it. Really anything at all.. (short pause), if you want me to dance I can dance, act, anything at all and we'll do it." Then she went on to explain all the cocktails she could make and how delicious they were using gestures and sounds like "mmmhhhm". It sounded like she was really really drunk or on drugs, and although it was very funny we were just hoping the pilot wasn't on the same stuff as well. Later on we however realized that this is just typical Los Angeles in the sense that this city is filled with crazy people, many of which originally came here with big dreams of becoming movie stars but ended up in other less demanding roles, such as for example being airline stewardesses. Even the girl sitting next to us on the plane, Andy a red-haired comics-reading girl, had moved to LA to become an actor. Perhaps she'll end up perfroming on the streets in front of the chinese theater with Freddy Kruger and Jack Sparrow, although I hope not.

We were glad to get out of the airplane alive. The weather in Los Angeles was nice when we landed, sunny and 25C, like always, much better than the humid 40C in New York. We took a taxi to the USC campus. We were shocked to see how dirty this city is. Although the freeways are huge typically 5-8 lanes in each direction they are often bumpy, littered, and of course covered with graffiti. It's obvious that this city is actually really poor. The per capita income in LA is only 20.600$ well under the average for USA as a whole. In fact more than 1/5 of the population here is below the poverty line. These are typically blacks and hispanics and these people live almost all in East LA (hispanics) or South Central LA (blacks and hispanics), and ironically thats where the USC or the "university of spoiled children" is located...

When we arrived at campus we were amazed by the stark difference between the surrounding neighborhood and campus. Unlike the surrounding neighborhood the campus was clean and very cozy. In fact USC was the cleanest and nicest university I had ever seen, completely incomparable with Copenhagen University. The picture is showing Dorte walking around on campus. Later when we then went to get dinner at the cantine we found a huge free selection of foods. Mexican, grilled brugers, pizzas, fish, meat, vegetarian, jucy tropical fruits, tofu, salads, cakes, deserts, you name it it was there. It was of course all you can eat. You people eating at August Kroghs cantine or HCØ really don't know what you're missing!! They have everything here from sushi to mexican or indian food, you name it you can find it here on USC campus. Anyways I'm hungry so I'll continue later..


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The big USA

After more than one month here in Los Angeles things are finally calming down so that I can find time to blog. So how have things been here so far. I'm going to go back to the first days here in the big USA.

Well to sum up I have to say that this whole travel experience to the US has been a tremendous cultural shock. We entered the country on the 24th of July, almost without problems. First there was New York, the city that never sleeps. It's really a fantastic city.... that is if you look past all the garbage piling up on the sidewalk, and disregard the stupid "no alcoholic beverages in public" regulations, and of course the incredibly extensive ID checking at bars (wow do I really look younger than 21!?!). Some bars didn't even accept passports as an ID!! Anyways, the city is nontheless so big, so cool, so beatiful, so dirty, so impressive, so full of everything that you're quick to forgive the americanos for their stupid alcoholic regulations.

Daniel's family were extremely nice in offering us an great studio appartment on 16th Street in Chelsea in the middle of Manhattan. This tiny little appartment (22 square meters) had a rent of whopping 1500$, I used to pay 350$ for a bigger studio appartment in good old Amager in Copenhagen, but thats not Manhattan. Daniel invited us also to a family reunion on our second day in New York where we ate an all-american breakfast, that is pancakes with sirup, some more sirup and even more sirup and then a little sugar as well. There we met among others Daniels aunt which offered to rent us a small pool house in Beverly Hills where her sister lived. We were thrilled! Later we however found out that this small 5 bedroom poolhouse was a bit too expensive for our modest budget.

We spent five days walking around Manhattan with Daniel and his girlfriend Susanne gazing at the huge skyscrapers towering over our heads. We checked out the view from the 86th floor of the Empire State building, stared at all the colorful huge flashing billboards on Times Square, ate at cool restaurants, (ethiopian, japanese, NY deli, at orthodox kosher places (in Brooklyn)), checked out the UN building, and finally got lost in the huge Metropolitan museum when the heatwave hit (around 40C and humid). There I even found a nice picture of a close relative of mine, the famous half-ICELANDIC and half-danish Bertel Thorvaldsen, but the brother of his icelandic father was a great great great great great grandfather of mine. Here's a picture of the lad.

Susanne wrote a great blog about the trip Iceland and New York, which can be found here if you're interested. We however traveled only together for the first ten days (24. July - 2. August).

Thanks for now..