Friday, June 27, 2008

Aspergus on mars!

No, no don't be mislead by the title we haven't found aspergus on mars (now that would have been a scientific discovery worth a blog post!) but one of the newest probe exploring mars the Phoenix mars lander has found that the martian soil is much more hospitable to life than we hoped. You can read all about it here on the BBC.

You do realise what this mean right? Colonization is probably much more possible now, the amoungt of terraforming we will need to do is much lower with this discovery. Not to mention that if we have 2 planets in a single solar system with condition that seems to be favorable to life, the probability that life is commun in the universe increase dramatically. Now, those preliminary result do not imply that life exist on mars only that with a little work we could grow vegetables with the Martian soil and appropriate sunlight. But still it is great for colonization and maned exploration as it implies the possibility of growing your own food there with "minimal" effort.

However I have to emphasis that these results are preliminary, there could be a major change and it could be that the soil is not hospitable to our kind of life afterall. Still it is a good news for space exploration.

Particule zoo

I was just made aware of a place for gift for your future geek (take note yofed!) it's a "zoo" of elemental subatomic particules in plush form! Also since this is aimed at geek you'll find that each plush weight is relative to it's "true" weight (i.e photon are lighter then anything except tachyons and stuff like that). So if you got to seduce that elusive particule physicist geekette, you want to introduce your future genius to the wonderfull world of subatomic particules, you want to see what the hell they are talking about on Star Gate when they talk about neutrinos, or you just want to do something sweet but amazingly geeky for that significant other well you've found the right place!

Note: this is nowhere as geeky as computer related underwear.

A secular world is a sane world

Peace, but not at any price now those are words of wisdom.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Computer, one day of walking and if possible an even more tired asaathi

I really think my laptop is dying, it took me 4 tries to boot up correctly today, even the fix of booting up without the batterie doesn’t seem to work correctly anymore. I really hope it doesn’t mean I’ll have to get a new laptop I really can’t affort it right now. Had I not traveled to Europe I wouldn’t like getting a new one but at least I could better affort it. Well at least affort the battery I need.

Anyway, now about my day, well I made a day walking trip suggested by my traveling book, it was nice lots and lots of walking and a few sights to explore off the city center. Nice, parks, a few historical house and coffee shop, I was supposed to visit 2 museum as part of the tour but the long line and 10 Euro entrance fee kinda stopped me. Writing that I am thinking of doing a 20 Euro museum visit tomorrow.. well it won’t be a art gallery kind of museum so it’s probably going to be more fun for me. Oh well I’ll tell you tomorrow about how I decided to go, if my laptop is still working.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Amsterdam, one day, one walk, one tired asaathi

So it’s my second day in Amsterdam and like the first I’ve been exploring the city. A long long long walk around the city, around 9 hours of walk to be exact. I’ve seen a lot of Amsterdam and I now know where most of the tourist attraction are, and some of the prohibitive cost of their visit. I even saw the Red light district, much smaller then what I have expected. It’s at most a rectangle of 4 by 4 street, but there is a lot of red light windows with prostitutes for most (or all) taste. Personally I found only a few of the prostitute to be physically attractive and even then, well the idea of a mechanic sex act is not at all what I want. And I must say that the sollicitating in underwear in their window is just a turn off. Also the area is just weird, you get those hard sex show and theater, with the prostitute in windows right next to small family restaurant and shops. I’ll probably take a guided tour of it latter just to understand the thing. Also, having walked for like 9 hours I’m quite tired I’ll leave you on that. Oh, yeah, sorry I also remove my statement that Amsterdam is expensive, you just have to find the right restaurant.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beer, beer, more beer, and pretzels.

Germany is in part the land of beer, almost alcool free beer but beer nonetheless. Knowing that you can probably figure that I drunk quite a lot of it, well you aren’t far from the truth on average I drunk 1.5l of beer every day Well actually every evening, during dinner. The thing is that beer is really not expensive, 2 Euros for half a litter of great beer. (5 Euro for the 1L buck that I had to try twice). They have a very nice tradition of the Beergarden (those of you with a little flair for language will notice the similarity with kindergarden) basically a garden where they serve beer. It’s very informal, picknit table like area with friendly staff and one of the only place that the German actually look friendly (well drunk german don’t invade other country so that might be the reason ;-)) . It also serves at least in Garchin very good food, some of the best I ate all week here. Considering the amount of beer we drink in Quebec it might well be a good idea to build such a meeting place. Now about the pretzel I finally understood yesterday why pretzels are good, well no actually I finally ate good pretzels. The monsters two km tall German pretezel that instead of being a dry hard thing are actually moist and tasty. A big contrast with german bread that is usually dry and hard.

Their breakfast are strange with fish and cheese and meat with cold eggs (tho that might have only be in my hotel) and hot milk. The lunch are a little closer to what we are used too but since we had to eat at the Max Plank institute Cafeteria we did not enjoy the quality of food that we might have. Not that it was bad but it was plain, luckily I had access to my trusty live saving Red Bulls (otherwise I do not believe I would have survived listening to talk all afternoon. The evening meal were quite good, my first night there I ate some kind of german sausage with Choucroute followed by a good hot chocolate for desert. Afterward with alternated between typicall german dish and foreign food. Last night we ate at the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been too. Tasty, spicy, hot and good looking food with weird sangria (probably made out of Tequilla or a very sugar filled wine) and beer, always beer.

Anyway I’m getting ready to go on the plane and head out for my vacation in Amsterdam, I only hope for one thing that there are there as many beautiful blond as there is in Munich around the university. It might seem weird for me to mention blond specifically since I really do not have a thing for blond but it seems that in Germany 9 out of 10 beautiful women are blond. Ok, there is a hardness to their face that steal a little of their beauty but not enough to make them plain or ugly. It was quite the sights. My only regret about Germany now is not to have gone to Munich a second time and taken pictures after pictures of that amazingly beautiful city

I betted about that

Before leaving Canada I had betted with one of my co-student that I would have some problem with the Hotel reservation in Munich. So no problem on monday I was expecting to loose the bet… well you can probably guess by the fact I’m writing about it that I did not in the end lose. Yep I had problems, nothing major luckily but enough to stress me quite a bit. I was splitting the room with another student and her part was getting paid by an European agency. So she left before I did and simply left her keys and told them who she was. No problem there, when I got to pay, they hand me the bill, I see the total room cost minus the cost of a single room (which is what the European agency was paysing for my co-student) and the reaming on a separate bill for me. I hand out my credit card and when I’m about to sing to pay I see that the amounts is way more then I should be paying. I point this out to the deskwoman. At first she does not believe me, I convinces her to look into her folders and she looks, doesn’t find anything at first, I continue to insist (it’s around 1000$ you know) and finally she finds the information and apologies. However she explains to me that it would be more complex to unbill my credit card than it would be to give me cash. Believing I was in an hurry I took the cash. Luckilly I already know what I’ll do, pay my Amsterdam hotel with it, I’m gonna save a 5% credit card surcharge. Still you can imagine that I do not like walking around with that much money on me. At least it got solved to my satisfaction and I did not have to pay for the whole room. Not to mention that at least I had a room!

A week in Munich, well Garching

Hi faithful reader, I’m quite sorry that I have not being posting much during my stay in Garching, mostly it is a quest of not enough time to write the post. The days were filled to the brink with conferences and by the time we were done with the eating (and drinking, it’s Germany you know) well it was past time to go to sleep to wake up for another such day. When I’m telling that the conference was filled to the brink, I mean that in 5 days we had 70 talks, most of which lasted 25 minutes. We also had 3 discussions sessions in which many important things was said. Now, I must say that I’m a little disappointed with the meeting, it started very annoyingly for the 4 Canadian that came. To make a long story short I could say that roughly half the talk on the first day where exactly the same presenting the same result from the same surveys. They also took short cut that I find unacceptable and concluded from very little data things that I know are far more complex. The meeting was also mostly about kinematics while I’m working on population synthesis. While you might not know what each of them are you probably realize that with different name come different field.

However, thankfully on the second day, talk that have meaning for me (still some with “questionable” science) where presented and I got to discuss with some very interesting people about my project. I found that what I was doing is way in advance of what most of the European are doing and in fact that some of them don’t even think it is possible. So that’s nice, now I also learned that Astrophysics is an amazingly powerful force for technological develloppement. In the next 5 to 10 years because of astronomers need we are first going to double the amount of data of the English internet and then we are doing to DOUBLE the world internet data transfer. Ok, not exactly, new network for large scale interferometers are going to 1st in England transfer each second as much data as the entire British section of the Internet (about 1 Gbps (that Gygabites/seconds)), then either in Australia or South Africa the core of the “Square Kilimoter Array” is going to by plugged into a network that is going to transfer as much data as the entire internet (that 1Tbps, or Tera or 1000 Gygabytes/second). Now those network are going to be independent of the Internet for simple reason, they would actually slow it down! Think about it we are actually talking about doubling the bandwidth of the internet here, the internet which is the largest most extensive data transfer network in the history of mankind. And that only for astronomers, aren’t we nice?

Ok you might say that it will be only for astronomers and that you aren’t going to profits from that technological advancement and it’s true. Except that sooner or latter the computer, optical-fibers and technology that are use for our telescope will be implemented into the global network and then, think about it we can double the data transfers of the internet in a single country. That mean that we can probably EASILLY multiply the internet by 4 or 5 in every country. We’re talking about real time 3D images and data transfer AND manipulation here. That simply amazing.

Well I will talk more about the meeting in a following post when I have time to write them, now I’m waiting for my holyday flight from Munich airport to Amsterdam. I had a few revealation as to why KLM services as degraded since my last flight with them… a merger with Air France! Well ok, probably not but I’m not a fan of Air France except for the fact that I always have services in French. One more thing, the Munich airport is slightly weird, usually you have every check-in counter in the same place (or in two places one for international flight and one for internal flight) but in Munich you have check in counter at each terminal branch, so you have to know where you will be boarding to get to your check-in point. Well it makes the distance between the check point and check-in shorter but you have to walk quite a lot so I don’t know if it is really an advantages because I prefere to walk without my big backpack.

No more news for a while

Short story short: my laptop appears to have died, do not expect any update until this problem is resolved probably when I am back from the Netherlands in a few days. Sorry for all of you that were waiting for my exiting post, at least 3 are still on that dying/death laptop hardrive. Well I'm on a paying computer so I'm not going to be writing more. I hope to see ya all soon with hopefully a working laptop.

edit: Laptop alive, batteries dead. so able to update lucky you!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Madrid airport, a well deserved face lift.

Last time I was in Madrid I was very disappointed by the airport, it felt third world and cheap with dirty terminals, an annoying speaker system and almost nothing in the way of conveniences for the passenger. Well this year I’m happy to report that the airport had gone throught an amazing facelift, it looks on part with modern airport and maybe even as good as the PET airport in Montreal. Sure there are things that are still annoying, the speaker system is still the same but the look, the fell, the services and wireless access (sorry I’m not paying for more wireless access so you’ll only get that post when I’m within a free wireless zone hopefully not to far from the day I wrote it). Anyway, my point is that Madrid airport people and administration really did a great job to make this airport an international one with potential for many many more passengers and flights. So congrats!

Memories from Toledo

Well I got back from visit the medieval city of Toledo yesterday with something to fill up my luggage. You see sword, and other medieval weapon are a lot cheaper in Europe then they are in Canada (and by a lot I mean something like a factor 5 or 10) so I took the opportunity that I had while I was there and bought a dagger. Joy to bring it back to Canada don’t you think. Anyway aside from my unplanned, unbudgeted for purchase I also visited the city of Toledo. It as one of the most majestic church I had ever seen in my life frankly at least for my taste Notre Dame in Paris is nothing compared to this church. It build on a plan very different from the tradition Catholic church of America, in fact it is more like a fortress for it’s design then a church. Also, it feature a lot of 6th century Visigoth art and it as been added upon in the centuries following it’s construction. Unfortunately I could not get any picture, photographies where forbidden within the church (and since we got in while their was a mass it would have felts wrong to take any.) Speaking of mass, the hearth of the church is an amazing example of baroque art and the mass itself is told according to Visigoth tradition! During that day I also saw a few reliquaries, with the relics in them, I must say that I find the idea of keeping the bones of saint for centuries after their death well a little morbid. Not to mention that there is apparently the head of some saint or another as a relic… we saw a wax one, perhaps this is the relic but like creepy!

Anyway, Toledo is an amazing and beautifull medieval town, build around a castle and many many church. I think we visited 4 or 5 before getting tired of paying the 2 Euros entrance fee. Not to mention that in one church the ONLY thing we saw is a single painting, yes it was a master piece, but 1 painting for 2.30 Euro is a little on the expensive side of my taste you know. Well one thing is for sure if I ever do my visit the castle and city of the Templar tour of Spain I’ve got to go back there (of course it is one of the city associated with the knights Templar, it’s in Castille!). well honestly even if I don’t do that tour I’ve got to go back to that city and spend a few days there just to see the sight, understand the history and find a way to bring back more swords and dagger to Canada.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Any song that has to be introduced with: it,s not that type of song, it's the type of song you sing siting in bed with bubble head Darth Vador, is a great song. It as to be! I'm nost sure about the Velma-Daphne action but hey the rest of the song is fun!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Now that freakishly disturbing poor girl

Like YEEEEEWWWWW! pervert psy. It does make you what to refrain from going to them for help no?

Science, where we hide all the cool stuff

Well physicist (who else) have proved that it their is a way to levitate object, not a way your usual mystic would do but a way that might actually work. Read the link it's facinating. Now, let me just put a damper on things, the levitation bit is probably just the journalist fantasing since the physicist work on the Casimir effect an effect that only work at very short distances by definition. But still it is cool stuff and you learned of it throught science remember that!

Friday, June 06, 2008

4th Edition...and D&D PSA 50!

So funny, oh and my internet connection here is not too good.. it took me 3 hours to be able to see that 15 minutes clip!!! that annoying.

Another day, more fun!

Well today marks an end to my first week in Madrid, and since I’m only here for 3 more days I won’t be seeing a second week. Kinda of annoying since I was just starting to get used to Madrid and the group there. But anyway it has been quite fun, now today I made a presentation about the work I do. Well I had one hour, and guess what with only 30 slides I finished the whole hour! Hoory for me, well frankly that not much of an exploit, I did a 1h30 presentation with only 25 slides once but it normally not when talking about my project and mostly no feedback from the audience. Even more strange, Spanish student apparently are taught not to ask question directly during or after a presentation. So the only questions where from one of the teacher there, luckily these were very good question, question I’m very happy to have had now instead of at my thesis defense. Well mostly because I’m now pretty sure I’ll get one of those questions at my defense and now I can find that answer. Aside from that well I will probably go to Madrid tomorrow again, see some sights and stuff. Oh and I’m very happy that the mosquitos in my room hate the A/C so turning it on reduce the amount of sting I receive! Oh and watch the PSA from the previous post it’s hilarious.. if you’re a D&D geek.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Who would have guessed...

That I would need mosquito repellant in my dorm room in Madrid? Yep, there are mosquittos in my room, at least 3 or 4 of them, female of course so they sting. Don’t worry I’ve check there is no case of malaria in Spain that came from Spain. It might be because they usually have such a dry weather. It’s an annoyance, a minor one at that but still.

An interesting talk

After the anecdotic encounter I meet up with one of my fellow astrophysic grad student in the physic’s kitechennet and we had a very interesting talk. He knew French and English so it definitively helped getting the ball rolling. Anyway we talked a little about everything but mostly about Spain and how it got where it is and maybe what’s in store for the future there. First off he started by explaining the very very few Spanish have a second language, must less a third, it as something to do with the post World War II isolation and from having too many educational reform in too few years. Apparently the older Spanish know French but they do not know English something to do with the proximity to France and the league of nation whose official language was French. Now in recent year young Spanish have decided to take up English but… no one can teach them! The teachers know French but not English and those that do teach English are learning at the same time as their student. Not a good idea.

I also learned that the Spanish where very wasteful in term of energy and water, well energy I can understand since they have plenty of it (and with lots of sun their sun power industry is growing well). But water is more of a puzzle, water is kinda rare in Spain, since it as very few above ground lakes and river. But they are apparently very wasteful of it.. and here I was in my room trying to conserve it as much as possible. Oh well shows you what I know. Anyway back to the energy waste, Spanish people like to live in an American way (not because of love of the americain but they apparently have similar mentality) and they like the A/C unit. Now running an A/C full blast is a waste of power anywhere but in country where there is no isolations in wall it is a double waste. Most of the energy you’re spending end up wasted by the heat transfer from outside.

We also talked about something I found very interesting the similarity between how Spain is governed and how Canada is governed. Both use a model where the central power power’s is deniable in many areas by the provincial power. With the same result we see in Canada. Very interesting to see such similarity in two places that are very different.

An Anecdote

Well first the anecdote, I was ordering food this afternoon and the waiter ask me a question, fast like Spanish are usually talking and with a tick accent. I don’t understand it, I try to understand the cafeteria is pack, then a girl tries to help the waiter with her broken English. She said it’s a sandwich with tease and ham, ok, ham I understand but what is tease? So the situation is getting a little comical with the girl asking her friends tease, you know tease without any success. Finally a guy steps in and “translate” the girl’s accent… She meant cheese! Funny no? and the whole thing was simply to confirm my order, apparently the fact that I selected, paid and took a meal ticket with what I wanted on it is not enough to confirm that what I ordered is what I ordered. In the moment I felt pretty embarrassed and even a little lost but looking back it must have been a very comical situation. I’m sure that if my life had a laugh track it would have been running all along.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Working more then 6000 km from the lab

A lab is a lab apparently, I’m working from the astrophysics labs in Madrid and well while the language is way different (tho something with our two Spanish speaker it sometimes sounds the simillar) the ambiance just about the same. The only major difference up to now seems to be that the student lab is not climatized. It might be a problem normally but for some reason Madrid is experiencing an unusually wet and cold spring. Well that and no one is playing poker while complaining that some people are talking too loud, but I guess that this is a particularity of our lab. I just spend the day there, working, differently that when I’m at home I wouldn’t say better but differently. I accomplished roughly the same amount of work I do back home but it was more tiring as my laptop screen is so much smaller then my usual lab computer screen.

Tomorrow I’ll be going to Madrid, visit a little I’m guessing. My colleague will be busy and she suggested, twice, that I should take the opportunity to visit the city. I’m guessing I either look dead tired and in need of an holyday or that she wants me far away not to embarrass her in the day. Speaking of which my lack of Spanish is more and less of a barrier then I though. More of a barrier because I end up being excluded from every natural conversation around here, also even if I can figure the meaning and broad stroke involved in some conversation I can’t get the details and when people are talking normally (I’d say fast but I’m guessing there are no speed speaker amongst them) I have a very difficult time finding individual words in a sentence. It is less of a barrier because well they all understand English and because they do not speak as much as we normally do in the lab. Some people would love that I’m sure.

Aside from that there are minor inconvenience, the dripping water noise the toilet makes is distracting at night, the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to get warm water this morning for my shower, and my lack of energy to get food, well strangely I’m simply not hungry. Well the last one my be part jetlag, part language barrier, try going to a restaurant, a campus restaurant where no one seems to understand English and ordering a meal. Anyway, from my room in the residence I’m feeling lonely, more exactly I’m realizing I’m always feeling lonely lately. I don’t know I feel like I should be with someone else on this trip, you know, a girlfriend type of person.

Oh and one last thing because I go to sleep, if I can kill the headaches that killing me, one thing struck me as I got to Madrid, how much is stunk of cigarette smoke. Everywhere outside you smell cigarette and many place inside! Hell people smoke in non smoking area all the time and of course the doors of every building are crowded with smoker. And of course the windows of the lab open close to an area smoker like so it’s smells like smoke too!!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Working from the airport

One thing you’ll find surprising I’m sure is that I’m not on vacation for the moment I’m actually working. Well yeah I’m working from the airport on a presentation I’ll be giving in a few day in Spain. You could say that not the best place to work but seriously I don’t know when I would work beside this hours before my flight’s boarding. Working on a presentation from my lap is not really what I’d recommend for the best presentation possible but hey when you don’t have a table you work with what you can.

And now my plane as docked with the unloading bridge to obviously unload the previous flight passenger. They’ll clean the plane and in about 1 hours I will be able to get in. Should be fun it’s a big 747 instead of a smaller planes like we where supposed to get I just hope I get enough room for my legs. Speaking of room in flight I just though about a problem we might have in the near future with airplanes. Passenger weight, as the average weight of people increase it should get harder and harder to fit as many people as we do in planes. Something will have to give and probably it will be something like a maximum total weight, passenger+luggage or simply a maximum weight for passenger.

Asaathi is on the road again!

Well I’m once again on my way to visit the old countries. I can’t really say that I’m more prepared that I usually am but hey that allows for the fun of travel. Now, seriously I must say that I wonder about a few things at airport. You’re (according to the website) supposed to arrive more then three hours before your flight. Well ok, sure no problem but it’s now 2h30 before my flight and I’m waiting for it to arrive… it took all an all a big 15 minutes to get check in and go through security. Ok, I arrive about 4 hours before my flight but still if I have to arrive MORE then 3 hours before my flight it should mean that on average security and check in should take at LEAST an hour (the extra too hours to account for boarding and problems) because come on who needs three hours to check in and go through security???

I’m guessing you’ve been missing my ranting so I’ve decided to try and rant a little more while I’m away it’s gonna be hard since I’m quite satisfied with my trip but hey I can rant about minor inconveniences no? Ok, now to continu and sideline this rant I have to speak about a few of the problem of public transportation. Namely the time constraint, I’m guessing that quite a few people that take the bus from Quebec to Montreal do it to go to the Airport. Ok, it’s probably getting smaller because Quebec airport is getting bigger and is getting more flights but still I would expect they would try to time the arrival of their intercity bus with the shuttle to the airport. Well I was wrong, and because of that inconsistency I had to leave an hour earlier. Quite annoying, I’d prefer to leave latter and get more sleep. Oh well at least I had a few laugh on the trip; apparently I found the point where my holyday started. Yep an hotel told me in bold latter that my holyday started here. Amusing no?

Oh nice I just noticed that Air Canada has changed it’s planes color, from black white and red to some kind of ugly pale green and red. Sorry I did not have time to take a picture and post it here, maybe next time. Oh speaking of pictures I will try to have some when I post. Which should be every day until the Amsterdam part of my trip. Anyway, you’ll see and I hope enjoy my many comment on life and travels. Don’t worry I’ll try to be my usual geeky self.