Doctors in Berlin

Andrea and I have now been in Berlin for a 9 whole months! I don’t know where the time has gone. In the time we’ve been here, we’ve had a few times when we’ve had need to see a doctor.

Don’t worry, nothing serious.

The public healthcare system here in Germany can seem a bit strange, depending on what you’re used to. You pay a given amount of health insurance (depending on your salary) each month to a public insurer of your choice. When you need to, you go to a doctor of your choice (that accepts your health insurance, which is most of them), and they take your healthcare number, that’s it.

And there are lots of doctors to choose from. Too many perhaps. I got a web-site (only in German of course) from our insurer that allows you to search for a doctor by district, speciality, and languages they claim to speak. I say claim, because their actual level of that language is available anywhere.

This doesn’t give you a lot of idea of what the doctor is like, so last time I searched, I started googling the doctors that I found to see if I found anything about them online.

This is how I discovered that, in Berlin at least, there are reviews of doctors on Yelp.

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Welcome to the North: 2015

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We’re reaching the end of another year, and so it’s time for my annual wrap-up. This post is also making up for how little I’ve updated voo-du in the last year. I will try to do better next year.

The year started with lots of work. While I defended my Ph.D. in December last year, I still had classes to teach until the end of February (Algebra and Galois Theory), as well as writing up my thesis in the form of a journal article. The article is currently in review, a process that can take some time, but there is a pre-print available on arXiv.

Of course, as soon as the new year began, I also started working on the mobile game Spring Cat. This was a big project for me, as well as all the others who contributed the artwork, music, sound effects and ideas. I wrote the entire game myself, using the Cocos2d-x framework so that it would run on iOS and Android.

During all this time, Andrea and I were also job hunting. We had set our sites on Berlin as our next destination and spent most evenings looking for jobs, writing CVs, and applying for work.

Before the middle of the year, our hard work paid off. We packed up our apartment in Cerdanyola, shipped off a bunch of boxes, then filled our car with the rest and drove the 1800 Km from Barcelona to Berlin to arrive on the 1st of June.

I started working at HERE as a mobile application developer in the middle of June. By that time, Andrea had been offered a job at Uberall as a backend developer, starting in the middle of July.

The next 6 months passed quickly in a whirlwind of house hunting, moving, and then buying furniture. Andrea and I had lived in a furnished apartment in Barcelona, something which is particularly hard to find in Berlin. This meant that we’ve had to furnish our apartment completely.

We found a nice, brand new apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, one of the trendiest areas of Berlin and conveniently close to both our places of work. It’s now mostly furnished and we’re very happy with the result and comfortable in our new home.

We’ve even had a first visitors to our new apartment. Thea and Bruce visited us in September and Sonia and Toni visited (sans kids) in November. It’s been great getting to know our new city with family, and we’ve already seen some great sites around Berlin.

As usual, we’re passing Christmas in Granada with Andrea’s family, a much needed holiday (something we haven’t really had in the last year).

2015 has been an incredible year, full of changes and the beginning of a new, post-academic life for the both of us – and all in a new country! Of course, 2016 holds many more special events – events which I will do my best to write about in a timely fashion.

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Jaguar InControl Route Planner

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Last Thursday, the app that I’ve been working on since I started at HERE went live in the app store.

This app is by far the biggest project I’ve worked on. Different to the previous apps I’ve made (predominantly for Titan Entertainment and BTB Advertising), I was one of a team of iOS developers working on the same app. The project has been ongoing for some time, and I came in with less than 6 months to go before the first release.

It’s been different working as part of a team, rather than by myself, and I’m already a better developer for it. I’m lucky that the team I work with is full of talented individuals, who are always looking for ways to improve what we do.

The app itself is called the Jaguar InControl Route Planner – it works together with an in-car navigation system in some Jaguar models. It allows you to plan a route on your mobile and have it synchronise (via the “cloud”) to the car. There is also functionality to guide to to your car from your current location as well as saving places and routes for later use.

As the page on the App Store states, you do need a connectivity package in order to use the app – which basically means you need to own one of these new model Jaguars.

This isn’t the end of this project. We’ve got new versions in development for the new year and other (related) projects as well. There’s lots more where this came from.

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Andrea at Uberall

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A couple of months ago, Andrea started her new job at Berlin based startup Uberall. She’s working as a backend developer, as you can see on their company page (and the screen grab to the right).

Funnily enough, Uberall is also a location services company, although in a different way to HERE, where I’m working. Actually, in German “überall” means everywhere. So to continue our bad jokes, I work here and Andrea works everywhere.

I’m really late with this post. Blame it on moving house, buying furniture, and all that.

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I’m in HERE


Firstly, I’m very sorry about the pun in the title, I just couldn’t help myself.

I’ve just finished my second week in my new job. I’m working at HERE, a part of Nokia as a Mobile Application Developer working on an as-yet unreleased iOS app.

The first couple of weeks have been getting to know the code base and getting stuck into fixing bugs in the current build. The rest of the team have all been really great in helping me get up to speed on the code and processes.

I’m sure there’ll more news in the coming weeks.

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MaxMin article preprint

A preprint of my latest article is now available on arXiv:

The article is based on the contents of my PhD thesis (perhaps confusingly, of the same name).

I’ve submitted the same article to a journal (which is the normal way of things), but it will probably take quite a while for it to make it through the academic review process.

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Spring Cat

Spring Cat Icon 512

It’s all well and good saying I’ve been busy for the last few months, but what have I been doing?

Well, one of the main projects I’ve been working on has just become available today.

Spring Cat is a mobile game that I developed for Bravo Tango Bravo which is now available for iOS and Android.

It’s an endless runner, in which you control the titular Spring Cat, guiding him through a cityscape obstacle course, collecting Kit Koinz and power ups. The original idea came from Josh Schooling, who’s still at school, so that’s a big win for him.

The game was developed in Cocos2d-x, a cross platform C++ game engine, a branch of Cocos2d-iPhone which I used to develop Dambusters a few years ago.

As is perhaps usual for game development, it ended up taking a bit longer than I expected, although we did get Game Center and Play Game Services running for launch. This means that you can compete against your friends (and everyone else) for the best scores and there are also a slew of achievements that you can try to get.

Here are some screen shots:

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You can buy Spring Cat now on the respective mobile app stores:

If you grab a copy for iOS, see if you can beat my high score.

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Things have been a bit quiet here for the last few months. As usual, this has coincided with an especially busy time elsewhere.

So, as the first post on voo-du since February, I’ll stick to the big stuff.

Andrea and I have moved to Berlin.

We arrived yesterday. I’ll be starting a new job on the 15th of June and for the time being Andrea will continue her work for iMath remotely.

That’s it for now. I promise I’ll post more in the next few days and weeks.

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Second-class language

One of my current projects is a mobile game that I’m developing for Pete Schooling of BravoTangoBravo in collaboration with his son Josh.

I won’t get into the details at the moment, but I’m using the Cocos2D-x game engine to build the game.

Cocos2d-x is an interesting beast. It’s a port of the very popular Cocos2d-iPhone (now -Swift) game engine to C++ in an effort to make a multi-platform engine. I’m not sure exactly who runs most of the development work at the moment, but a lot of it is based in China.

This is giving me a novel experience, as a native English speaker, of not necessarily being the target audience. The documentation for Cocos2d-x is pretty scarce – something which is being constantly improved upon – but I get the feeling that if I could read Mandarin, there would be a lot more documentation available. If you look at the showcase of games on their web-site, you’ll see a lot of them in only Mandarin, or made by Chinese companies.

I’m in no way complaining. Firstly, it would be good if online communities understood that English isn’t the be-all and end-all and secondly, the English speaking and bilingual community is doing a fantastic job of bringing a lot of the documentation to English, it’s really getting better all the time.

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In Germany they have the concept of a Doktorvater (or Doktormutter obviously). It translates to “doctor-father” or “doctor-mother” and refers to your Ph.D. thesis advisor. It is quite common for someone to mention that so-and-so was their Doktorvater. In my case, I have two Doktorväter

Of course, the analogy of family can be taken further, if two people share a Doctorvater, then they would be Doctorgeschwestern (doctor-siblings). In fact, you could create an entire doctor-geneology based on who are the descendants of whom.

In the case of mathematics, it’s already been done. You can browse the Mathematics Genealogy Project and see which mathematicians were advisors to which students and who their advisors were and so on.

For a couple of extreme cases, we can see C.-C. Jay Kuo and Manuel Bryennios. C.-C. Jay Kuo has the most students of any advisor in the database, 125 at current count. Manuel Bryennios has the most descendants in the database, with 120,596 but only one registered student from 1315.

My own “line” goes back as far as someone who was an advisor in 1941 in Argentina, Alberto E. Sagastume Berra. I’m the only Stainsby in the database it seems.

As you can see, I’ve got a somewhat sordid family history, where one of my Doktorväter is also my Doktorbruder, but we can skip over that.

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