Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 27 June 2010

The Container Positioning Problem

by on 27 June 2010, under DTU, New Zealand, UoA

What this post is about
I think I have promised a couple of times that this post would appear on my blog at some point. Apparently “at some point” is exactly this very moment (or rather, probably some seconds/minutes/hours/days/weeks/years/decades/centuries ago, depending on when you have decided to read it compared to the time I wrote this). If you didn’t really care for last semester’s post about my studies (which I of course assume that you, avid reader of my blog, has read long ago), there is a good chance that you will find this post pretty boring as well. I will assume it will become quite nerdy. On the other hand, I don’t expect that anyone would ever choose to visit this blog unless they can handle a bit of nerdiness.

What I study
It seems like a good idea to start from scratch, so that’s what I’ll do, even though I would assume that most people who have somehow ended up at this site already have a vague idea about what it is I study. I am currently trying hard to finish my master’s degree at The Technical University of Denmark (DTU), called MMC Master, an acronym for Mathematical Modelling and Computation Master. The name reveals a good deal about what most of my courses are about: Formulating mathematical models and using them to compute exciting numbers. A mathematical model is not some geeky guy or girl going on catwalks. Neither is it a bunch of clay shaped into numbers, symbols or multiplication signs. They can, however, be (partly) responsible for the bad sense of humor demonstrated in the last two sentences as I have spent almost five years studying them by now. No, mathematical models are a series of formulas set up to represent some kind of real life problem. When all of Europe (and especially the UK) got yet another reason for hating Iceland, this time due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull which prevented almost every airplane around Europe from flying, mathematical models were used to estimate the risks of flying through the ash spewed up by the volcano. Likewise, models were created to compute how long the eruption would last and the probabilities that other, larger volcanos in the area, would erupt.

The type of mathematical models I usually deal with are of a bit different kind, however. During my studies, I have chosen to focus on Operations Research (OR). OR uses a combination of statistics, mathematical modeling and mathematical optimization to calculate optimal or near-optimal solutions or proposals to solutions for different decision-making problems. It is heavily used to create production plans and work schedules while it also plays an essential role in route planning and almost any logistic problem you can come up with.

What my thesis is about
My thesis deals with what has been named The Container Positioning Problem. I am writing it with my study buddy, Skott, who was also in Auckland last semester, taking the exact same courses as me. Skott’s description of the project can be read on his blog- it is all in Danish, though, since he’s too lazy to translate it into English. Either that, or he is clever enough to know that it is a waste of time to do the translation since nobody would want to read these kinds of blogs anyway, except for a few family members, perhaps. Many of the people I meet down here seem to be surprised that we are working two people on the same project. I am glad that we do have that opportunity at my university as I’m sure the final result will be more than the sum of its parts. It is extremely helpful to have someone to discuss with on a daily basis about the progress of the thesis, without having to schedule meetings with supervisors who (understandably) don’t know all the exact details of what we have been doing with the project since the last meeting. We have two supervisors, one in Denmark and one in New Zealand who have both been quite unavailable for long periods of time. In those situations it has been even more helpful to be two people on the same project.

The project is about something as exciting as moving containers. When a container ship arrives at a harbor, the containers it brings with it are often paced in a terminal where they will be located for storage for a while, until they need to depart again, either via trucks further into the country, or continue with another ship. In the meantime (between arrival and departure of the containers) it is important to have a plan for how the containers should be moved around at the terminal: A container which is about to leave must not be buried underneath a lot of other containers since the crane can only pick up the ones placed at the top of a stack. It is important to spend as little time as possible to move the containers around; the cranes are expensive to use, especially if they have to be controlled manually, which is still the case at many terminals.

Containers

Containers at Auckland Harbor – can you imagine anything more exciting?

The last couple of years research has been done to try to solve the problem using OR methods. In 2008, Louise K. Sibbesen, a Danish Ph.D. student from DTU, wrote her doctoral thesis about the problem. Her approach was to use a so-called metaheuristic, a method in mathematical optimization which often results in “good” solutions without guaranteeing that the found solutions are also optimal. It is often acceptable to find just “good” solutions (measured in e.g. profit) to many of the problems which occur in real life. These solutions can still easily be better than what a human being would be able to find manually. Even if the solution is “only” on par with the ones that can be found manually there is often a certain value in having a computer program being able to compute these solutions automatically. Often it can be done much faster and the labor cost can be saved. In my bachelor thesis I (and two other people) developed a heuristic to help plan which teachers should be assigned which class to teach during a school year in the high schools around Denmark. Already before the thesis had been handed in, the heuristic had been implemented in the commercial product Lectio, used by the majority of Danish high schools. Later we were awarded the prize for best bachelor thesis at DTU by McKinsey & Co as I also mentioned on this blog last semester.

Optimal solutions are of course always attractive. Therefore, a student from The University of Auckland, Antony Phillips, decided last semester to look at the problem once again but from a different point of view. He wanted to prove that there was another approach to solving the problem which, possibly, could lead to optimal solutions in the future, without using heuristics. Using heuristics is in some circles seen as “cheating” since they don’t necessarily lead to pure, perfect solutions. He wrote about the subject in his Fourth Year Project which is kind of similar to a Danish bachelor thesis. Here he found a number of different mistakes and deficiencies in the original doctoral thesis by Sibbesen.

Skott and I are now trying to carry on the torch with our project. Our goal is to get closer to be able to solve real life sized problems to optimality. We spent the first month on going through the two previous theses about the subject and did find some more mistakes and deficiencies we found it necessary to take into consideration in the mathematical model. The ideal for a mathematical model for problems such as the one we are dealing with, is for it to follow a specific structure which makes the problem linear. Basically this means that there exist certain rules for how the mathematical formulas describing the problem can be set up. The special thing about linear programming (LP), as it is called if the formulation follows this structure, is that there exists certain solution methods (The Simplex method), which can be exploited. These are methods which run extremely fast and have been perfected through many years. Therefore it pays off to comply with these restrictions, even though it also means that a certain amount of thought is required to formulate these models. A mathematical model which describes an LP problem consists of two parts: An objective function plus a number of constraints. The objective function describes the goal for the optimization, which in our case is to minimize the use of the crane at the terminal. The constraints define what is meant by a feasible solution. For instance, our mathematical model contains constraints such as “a container can only be picked up if it is on top of a stack”, “a container needs to be at either exactly one position or be moving at any given time” and “a container needs to arrive to/depart from the terminal at the times specified by the given data”.

After we had spent some time looking into the previous theses we created our own model which corrected the mistakes we found in the original ones. At the same time the model is now more realistic since it captures more details of the problem as it exists in real life. For example the model now constraints how fast the crane can move, not only when it carries a container (which was the case in the original models) but also when it doesn’t carry anything at all. We have also implemented a solution technique which uses a “rolling time window”. Instead of trying to take all containers into consideration which might arrive or depart within the planning horizon, we cut down the focus to be a subset of the full period. In container shipping there often exists great uncertainty about the precise arrival and departure times for the containers. Often precise information doesn’t arrive until fairly close to the actual arrival or departure of the containers themselves. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to make big, detailed plans for every single container since there might very well arrive new information later which can completely ruin the meticulously laid plan. What we do instead is to focus on containers which are about to depart or arrive in a given period. The placement of a container which doesn’t depart until much later is fairly irrelevant as long as it doesn’t create conflicts with a container that is actually about to depart which need to get to the top of a stack so the crane can pick them up. The solution technique we use thereby focuses on the containers which are about to depart within a foreseeable future (a day or two). It is a continuously running solution process which moves the time window focused on as time goes by. Not only does this solution technique represent the reality much better than an assumption about all information being known from the very beginning; working with smaller time periods also makes the problem significantly easier to solve, resulting in faster solution times.

With this method (and a number of other clever techniques) we have accomplished some pretty good results so far. A problem which took 3000 seconds to solve previously, after Philips’ modifications to the original model, now takes about 50 seconds to solve. That is a fairly good improvement. Our program cannot yet solve problems so big that they could represent real life cases, though. Especially Skott has also spent a good deal of time on implementing a Graphical User Interface (GUI) from which I have included a couple of screenshots below.

Problem generation.png
Our program can be used to create random data sets.

Solution process.png
The solution process.

Gantt Diagram.png
A Gantt-diagram which shows the solution computed by our program.

3D visualization 1.png
3D visualization of the solution.

3D visualization 2.png
Example of a container being moved.

And that is pretty much our project. We are supposed to hand it in in the beginning of August and present it a couple of weeks after. We will be using the last available time to test our program, discuss the results and make some conclusions on our formidable work.

What these headlines are doing in this blog post
Pass… Maybe it is a weak attempt to make this text, full of technical terms and container talk, seem more clear and less boring. I think I failed (but at least the container pictures are colorful).



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Taranaki, Wagamama’s and Eurovision

by on 18 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

Interesting fact: The following post the very first this semester receiving the tag “Me complaining”. That specific tag was one of the most heavily used last semester. In comparison “Ankles” has been used three times this semester and “Anti climatic endings” four times. Thank you, Wagamama’s for ruining a good run. You can see all the different tags I have used on the blog on the right, including old favorites such as “Public toilets”.

Wooh! It is time to actually (almost) catch up with the present on this blog after having been several weeks behind. Yay! And so much enthusiasm as well! Three exclamation marks in just two lines – and here is another one: !

This semester I have really wanted to go on some hikes but due to several different circumstances (waiting for other people to have the time and the car to be willing to drive) it didn’t happen until a couple of weeks ago. The trip went to Taranaki which had also been the plan a couple of weeks earlier. We were seven people who went in two groups: Skott, Tor and I (the Scandinavians) in one group and Ilana, Jeremy, Mickey and Max (Americans + a Frenchman) in the other. We, in the first group, left fairly early in the morning (especially considering it was a Saturday) while the other group followed some hours later since Max had to teach some tennis lessons before he could go. We were going on a two days’ hike where the first day was fairly short (about 4 hours according to Department of Conservation) while the next day was supposed to be much longer (7-10 hours). The plan was for the two groups to meet in the hut after the first day’s short hike. The first group had to buy and bring the food for the rest to minimize the risk that the second group had to walk too far in the dark.

Mount Tarankai/Egmont is fairly easy to locate on a map due of its very iconic cone shape, as I also mentioned in my last blog post. Unfortunately it was too late in the season to actually climb all the way to the top of the mountain without having to use ice axes and cramp-ons. It would be possible to rent them but you would have to prove that you actually knew how to use the equipment – such an unreasonable requirement. The hike we went on was therefore not straight up the mountain – we did have it in background for most of the hike, providing a pleasant scenery. I had been a bit nervous that the hike might be a bit boring with just an even-leveled path since we weren’t going up the mountain. Luckily I had no reason for such fears. It was actually a quite interesting hike; some places it was hard to see that it was actually a proper path since rocks were lying everywhere. When we realized that the other group was so delayed that they would have to do the entire first day’s hike in the dark, I called them and warned them not to do it. It didn’t really seem like a very good idea to climb around on those rocks in the dark with a scary chasm at one of the sides. We had enough trouble just crossing in daylight. They didn’t really seem to listen to me, though.

As is tradition: Haka before the hike
It has become a tradition to start our hikes with a haka

Tramping on the edge
A small example of some of the rock slides we had to cross the first day.

Norwegian, scouting for the path
Tor, scouting for the path.

We arrived at the hut exactly as it got dark which was pretty lucky since none of us had brought flashlights. We spent a good deal of time trying to light a fire which proved to be quite difficult since none of us had thought about bringing matches or a lighter either (I guess we weren’t really well-prepared). However, since we were three engineers we figured that we should be able to create fire somehow. Immediately Skott started trying the well-known “wood-against-wood-makes-fire” trick. Since the hut was lit by light bulbs powered by solar collectors we also considered the possibility of short-circuiting one of them, giving rise to a useful spark. We spent some time considering different options until I in the end chose to take the lighter hanging on the notice board and suggesting we could maybe use that.

4) Stab the piece of wood
Skott, trying to create fire.

When it was about 9pm we figured it was time to go to bed. At this point we had realized that the others had probably chosen to listen to my warnings and skipped the hike. They arrived at 10pm after having spent five hours on the same trip we spent two and a half to do.

The second day was very nice with a view of the mountain most of the day. About halfway through the hike, which ended up taking about eight hours, the nature of the path changed dramatically. While the first part had consisted of either stairs or level ground, the second half offered almost vertical drops which made for some quite interesting climbs. There were also a couple of rivers we had to cross by walking around on slippery rocks. During the last half hour I managed to throw away my lens cap for my camera and twist my ankle (as I had predicted I would do in the beginning of the day – I love my ankles) – these were two separate occurrences. Just as we were done with the hike it started to rain. It kept raining for the six hours it took to drive back to Auckland. Such a nice end.

Traditional pre-hike haka. Max (and partly Ilana) didn't get the idea
We tried to introduce the other group for the idea about starting the day with a haka. Max (and to some degree Ilana) obviously didn’t manage to grasp the concept.

Mount Taranaki and a group of posers
Mount Taranaki with Max, Skott and Tor posing in front of it.

... and still climbing down
As I mentioned, some places the path just went straight down. Luckily, ladders were placed at the worst parts

Some places the track was hidden pretty well. This sign says "Track", quite helpful
The path was sometimes quite hard to find. The sparse markings with signs did however help us find our way.

The suspension bridge where I threw away my lenscap - and minutes after twisted my ankle. Yup, I am a genius
The suspension bridge where I chose to throw my lens cap away.

The following Monday I went to Wagamama’s for the first time for the dinner which is held for the PSV residents once every semester. It was a very chaotic and messy dinner. We were split up at three long tables and the dishes arrived in an order which appeared to be fairly random to me. A lot of people got their main before the starter and long before a lot of other people at the table had received any food at all. We quickly found out that you just had to eat whatever you were served when it was served since you had no idea when anything else would arrive for either you or the others sitting around you, staring hungrily and jealously at your food. I think our table got the desserts before those sitting at the last table got their starters. The serving of the dessert was also disappointing. Many (including me) had ordered cheesecake which the waiter didn’t have any problems with. When the others around me started getting their desserts and I could see I wasn’t about to have any, I asked the waiter where my cheesecake was. Apparently they never had it. One of the alternatives, a chocolate cake with ice cream, they only had five pieces of. Not too organized when you know a big group is coming. The food was fine, though.

Tuesday I went (alone) to the cinema to see Kick-Ass which I am really happy I did. It is an amazing movie about a relatively geeky guy who wonders why nobody has tried to become a superhero in real life. After this realization he naturally decides to try it out himself. The movie develops into something completely different by the end – almost as if it is three different movies of different genres, each extremely entertaining. The end of the movie contains action sequences which reminded me of some of Tarantino’s amazing movies which is probably one of the strongest recommendations I can give.

Thursday I had been invited for dinner at Jocelyn’s, one of the two Frenchmen who I went to Samoa with. crêpes were served and wine was drunk in a truly French manner. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday I got up at 7 to watch the Eurovision with Tor. Unfortunately we missed about 10 songs in the middle of the show because the stream died. We did get to see the random stuntman running onto the stage during Spain’s performance (I thought he was part of the show until the hosts pointed out that Spain of course would get to sing again since their song had been ruined), Moldova’s amazing attempt to one-up last years winner by not only having a fiddle, but a glowing one (with a lot of other craziness added). We also got to see Germany’s winning song and Denmark’s performance. I was very happy when Denmark received top points from the first two countries after which Lena from Germany started getting all the points which in the end resulted in her winning. Tor was happy that Norway managed to (only just) beat Moldova and I was amused about the fact that the UK, which is secured a spot in the final each year since they put so much money into the Eurovision, ended dead last with only 10 points (Denmark had 12 points after the very first of 39 countries had given their votes). Tor and I agreed that we were content with Lena winning, though, since that resulted in a memorable interview with an extremely nervous 19 year old girl who didn’t look comfortable on the stage at all. It didn’t help that she had to be interviewed in English which was obviously not her language of preference. Classic moments such as a very cautious “Hiiiii” as answer to a number of questions she did not understand or “I… I don’t think I am strong enough… to carry this… the whole time” about the trophy she had just been handed immediately appear in my head. The same does the image of the poor German girl who tries to hide by wrapping her head in the German flag when the whole situation becomes too much for her and at last her surprised expression when she realize she has to sing again (“Do I have to sing… NOW?”). Luckily the stream continued for a bit after her song was over: They just let her stay on the stage without anyone helping her. She had no idea what to do or say and in the end she had to switch to German in order to at least manage to mumble something remotely coherent until they unfortunately turned off the stream.

Later that day Ilana, Max and I went on a small trip to Rangitoto Island, a small volcanic island close to Auckland. It was a nice little walk up and down the volcano. We had a very nice view of Auckland from the top. The weather was perfect with the sun shining from a cloudless sky. I am still amazed that it is possible to have such beautiful weather, now that we have officially entered winter here in New Zealand. I don’t get where the annoying, bitter cold, the persistent darkness and the horrible snow, that completely ruins your chances of going anywhere without getting your feet wet, have gone. It is definitely not winter, as I know it, and I am quite happy about that.

DSC_1896
View from Rangitoto. Auckland is the city in the world with most boats per capita.

As I also mentioned last time I have been quite bad at writing blog posts this semester (thereby not implying I was doing a good job of it last semester either). Hopefully I will manage to write at least a couple more before I leave New Zealand. However, it has started to dawn upon me that I will have to leave soon. Students all around me are busy with exams which is usually a sign that the semester is about to end. At the same time a lot of people have started talking about leaving resulting in the mandatory invitations for goodbye parties. Indeed, some people have already left which of course is very sad. Unfortunately that is how it always goes with these studies abroad, as I have now started to get so accustomed to.

Coming up: A post about what it is I spend my normal weekdays on down here!

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Wine tasting, comedy and rugby

by on 6 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

I have been pretty bad at writing blog posts this semester; to the disappointment of a lot of people, I am sure. Last time I teased about stories about wine tasting and a failed attempt to go on a hike – but wait! There’s more! Included in this month’s edition of my blog post is also comedy and rugby, amongst other things. Very interesting indeed.

But we start at the wine tasting which at this point took place more than a month ago; proof that I have been horrible at producing these amazing blog posts people have become so used to. On the other hand, there is always guarantee for quality, fun and clever remarks. The first weekend in May was the one I spent so much time on last time: The one with air guitar, kiwi fruits and quidditch. A quick side note about quidditch: I will probably not get to see it in NZ. The people who arrange the tournament have chosen to place the matches at a school a bit away from here. I think it might look a bit suspicious if I showed up at a school, in the middle of a weekend, to watch a bunch of kids playing quidditch. But back to the wine tasting: Kirsty, Ilana (again, people from Flat 15), Max (French guy who at this point is as big a part of Flat 15 as I am, without any of us actually living there) and I chose to complete an amazing weekend by going to Waiheke Island on a sunny Sunday. Waiheke Island is located about 30 minutes by ferry from Downtown Auckland. It is (by my personal experience) a sunny island, filled with fantastic beaches and a very laid back atmosphere. The island is well-known for its plentiful wine production and is a popular place for people to go visit and taste the different wines each vineyard has to offer. It was a very enjoyable way to end the weekend. We went to three different vineyards which all had different approaches to how they presented the wines. At Stonyridge Vineyard we bought two glasses of wine to share among the four of us. We enjoyed these wines while sitting outside, enjoying the sun and the green fields surrounding us.

Tasting wine at Stonyridge Vineyard. We all quite enjoyed "Luna Negra"
Stonyridge Vineyard – it was here we found our favorite wine on the trip, Luna Negra.

Wine notes or lyrics creation...
As the the true Frenchman, Max is, he felt a sudden surge of inspiration with the first taste of proper wine. Here he is in the midst of writing lyrics for his song.

From Stonyridge Vineyard we continued to Te Whau where we got to taste the same wine from different years. Here they did do a better job of actually presenting the wines. The wine reminded Max of his home region, Bordeaux, to such an extent that he had to invest in two bottles of wine.

Te Whau Vineyard
People sitting, enjoying their wines at Te Whau.

The final stop of the day was Mudbrick Vineyard, one of the most popular vineyards at Waiheke. Here the presentations of the wines were a bit more like we had expected before the trip, with six different wines in six minutes, with a brief description of each attached. We got the abridged version of the wine tasting since a wedding reception was about to take place. That someone would choose a place like that to host their wedding did make a lot of sense – the surroundings were amazing.

Bride and groom arrives at the wedding held at Mudbrick Vineyard
Bride and groom arrive at the wedding reception at Mudbrick Vineyard.

The plan for the following weekend was to go to Taranaki to do the first hike of the semester. Taranaki is an area 5-6 hours drive Southwest of Auckland. The destination was Mount Taranaki/Egmont, a very iconic volcano which is easy to spot when looking at a map of New Zealand since it is almost perfectly shaped like a cone, meaning it appears as a clear circle (or, to be correct, a disk since a circle technically only refers to the circumference of the complete area) on the map. The plan was that Ilana, Mickey (Ilana’s friend), Tor (Norwegian whom I know from last semester and sometimes play squash against) and I had planned to leave early Saturday morning in order to go on a two day hike near the volcano and still be able to be back before the weekend was over. The trip never took place, though since the dear Subaru Legacy, which has been acting so loyal ever since Skott and I bought it last semester, chose to simply stop after having driven a couple of hundred meters. It happened in the middle of The Domain, the park Parnell Student Village is placed right next to. After having tried to start the car for a couple if hours (which among other things involved asking random runners for help with pushing the car) we had to cancel the trip. In the end the battery in the car had been so drained that not even the hazard lights functioned anymore. I had to pay 80 NZD to get the car towed back the 500-800 meters we had managed to push it through the park. The membership Skott and I bought from AA (Automobile Association) was only in his name which meant he had to be present if we were going get anything out of it. Skott and I met at my place the following Monday to get the car repaired somehow. Before we tried anything else, Skott wanted to try one last time to start the car. None of us were very hopeful, though, as it is seldom very easy to start a car with a dead battery. It worked, though. We drove it to a repair shop where we were told they couldn’t really find the problem until the car wouldn’t start again. Since then, the car has been working fine.

That week in general was pretty eventful with plans for every day. Tuesday meant yet another of my weekly salsa lessons. I still don’t really know why I did take those lessons but I did manage to survive the eight lessons I payed for (although I only showed up for six of them). After Salsa, I went to see Iron Man 2 with Skott and Vegard. I have almost completely neglected going to the cinema this semester which is stupid of me since the tickets here are extremely cheap (10 NZD) compared to what I would have to pay in Denmark. I must try to correct that mistake during my last month in the country. I feel like using the good old cliché “OK, without being anything special” to describe the movie (at least, something similar is a quite well-known phrase used over and over for movie and video game reviews in Denmark). However, that does not really say anything about it. I remember the first movie to be much better and more entertaining, resulting in a slight disappointment about the sequel; a bit too much empty-headed action and a completely irrelevant side story only used to try to setup the upcoming Avengers movie which I do look forward to, mostly because Josh Wedon has been chosen as the director. Vegard complained that the movie was too unrealistic – I’m not quite sure what he had expected when he walked in to see a superhero movie.

Wednesday I participated in a sports tournament (interres) for the second week in a row. This tournament has taken place during most of the semester and requires the different student housings to compete against each other in different kinds of sports. I represented PSV for two weeks by playing handball for them. It was very interesting since nobody down here really knows about the fantastic (Danish) invention, handball is. Those who have been following my blog ridiculously closely might remember that I in the beginning of the semester signed of for “Beginner’s handball”. Contrary to the salsa lessons I only showed up for the very first handball lesson where I realized it was a bit too much “beginner’s” for my taste. I was offered to play matches for their “Advanced” team. Unfortunately I never did pull myself together to contact the relevant person about it. I also think their matches were placed at bad times, though. The interres tournament was a good opportunity for me to get to play a bit of handball again. It was very entertaining to see people’s take on the sport. Naturally it ended up looking more like basketball than normal, European handball. Most people seemed to enjoy it, though, which I guess is the most important part.

Thursday we went to see a comedy show. It was the last week of the three week’s comedy festival so it was one of the last chances we had to get to see one of the many comedians who performed during those weeks. The biggest difficulty was deciding on a show since there were so many to choose between. They all had descriptions which basically stated that the show was funny and since we didn’t know any kiwi comedians it was very hard to tell which shows would be good and which would be bad. Kirsty and I spent a whole evening cutting down the big list of candidates to just one person. The process of elimination included removal due to unforgivable traits such as “being British” (Kirsty’s request), “being a woman”, “having a bad description of the show” or “appear so far down the list of candidates that we cannot possibly include anymore for the next round”. Of course the process did not stop here. Thorough YouTube research was applied along with the creation of a complex point system based on e.g. show length, price and extra features such as being able to sit around tables. We ended up being a group of eight who went to see Brendan Lovegrove who is apparently a fairly well-known Kiwi comedian. He had a couple of jokes which were quite funny but in general it was a bit disappointing. His show seemed to aim at the lowest common denominator (intelligence wise). Most of the jokes had some vaguely racist tendencies or included silly masturbation gesticulations. Our group had been spread around most of the room since we were told to fill up all the tables in front. They didn’t want empty spaces since the show was being recorded. Even though we had been spread out like that, Brendan still managed to pick out almost every single member of the group. He kept returning to me which wasn’t really that surprising since I had managed to place myself on the first row, directly in front of him. Unfortunately the man seemed to be too unintelligent to be able to come of with any kind of relevant jokes concerning me (that should be quite easy, I would say). He did keep returning to the subject of Denmark, clearly not knowing the slightest thing about it. At least I wasn’t accused of being in a boy band which has happened twice before (out of three times) when I have gone to see standup in Denmark. I guess that is progress.

Friday it was time to celebrate Esther (another Flat 15 member) in occasion of her birthday. This was done with dinner at an Indian restaurant followed by a variety of cakes back in Flat 15. I have become pretty used to going there for cake or other baked goods.

Saturday we went to see rugby. Auckland Blues against Hamilton Chiefs. Going to a rugby match was still left on my list of things I needed to do before I leave New Zealand. It was fairly entertaining (the home team, Blues won) and it was nice having Max by my side so he could explain the rules as the game was progressing. I don’t think it is a sport I will ever really get. There are too many breaks and far too many situations with men who throw themselves into a big pile to hug each other.

Another scrum
I feel this situation is very typical for rugby: A lot of men hugging each other.

That's one popular pole!
At times the rugby players also share their love with different objects. Here they are cuddling with a pole.

Being thrown high into the air
Throw-ins in rugby are quite interesting. They are not only throwing the ball but also each other.

I am still a couple of weeks behind in telling about what I’m doing in New Zealand. I also need to post something about my thesis. But that will be another time since I have already spent far too much space writing about (for the common reader) fairly irrelevant events. I’m not certain this sudden end qualifies the post for the famous “anti-climatic endings”. But it is my blog, and I decide, so of course this is another post with that tag attached to it.

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