Monthly Archives: June 2011

A proper thunderstorm

After two days of 33-35°C, yesterday evening a quite massive storm-front brought this short hot period to its end in Belgium. The storms came in waves, there were at least three of them passing over Leuven (and Belgium) – the first one arrived only 10 minutes after I arrived home from work. (This was not coincidental – I was checking the weather radar almost constantly to make sure I can still ride home without getting completely wet…) After I finished my dinner I decided to take some pictures, so I set up my tripod at the open window – inside enough to not get wet, but outside enough to capture a big portion of the sky. Then the rest of the job was mostly being lucky enough (and good settings of course :D)… At the end (after midnight), I had quite a lot of pictures with lightning on, and it could have been even better if there were more ‘outside the cloud’ lightning and not that many sheet lightning (inside the cloud, with the actual discharge path being hidden) instead. But I can not complain, as I got some really nice ones. (Unluckily I do not have the one which made me jump back from the window :D)

Keep calm and bike more!

The last three weeks with no cycling had a quite nasty effect on my condition, now I am ~2 km/h slower on average compared to the beginning of June (when – I have to admit – I was in a very good shape). This is not good. But what can I do, I will just ‘Keep calm, and bike more’ – or how was that exactly… (Matching music comes here.)

Talk in Marseille

After the long weekend two and a half weeks ago, I had to work day and night (literally, with an average ~5 hours of sleep per day, and leaving from work usually after midnight) to prepare my talk (and especially to produce some final results which are ready to be presented) for the 2nd CoRoT Symposium for the week after (so for last week). It was not easy, but these pre-deadline rushes happen, when you are a PhD student. And before that too… And they will never stop happening anyway, just to make it clear. After I presented my talk to my supervisor on Friday, and I made the minor corrections which we agreed on, I was so tired, that I just stayed in my office for two more hours, sitting in my chair and staring at random molecules of air, before I finally managed to go home… Yeah, but at the end, everything was ready for the conference, so I was happy that I can take the next days easier, and I don’t have to stress that much about my forthcoming talk. On Sunday, after packing in for Marseille, doing the laundry – which I still hate so much, and cleaning up a bit, I spent the afternoon with Elise. It was very nice, and not only because she brought my home made small cakes :) We always have great conversations.

Then on Sunday, I took the TGV to Marseille. It was a direct train from Brussels, with a journey lasting five and a half hours – and on first class! Yeah, on one of my lonely mornings at the telescope back in May I managed to find a cheaper than 2nd class option on the French TGV site, which was quite well hidden on the Belgian page ;) That’s how I got my separate (Solo), big and cosy seat! It was really comfortable, I spent the trip watching some episodes from the BBC series Wonders of the Universe, listening to music, looking over and over my slides, and measuring the speed (~310 km/h) with the GPS of my smartphone ;) It was much better than a flight, especially with no hassle about the luggage and check-in… Probably not as good as a first class flight with all the free food and beverages, but still very good. Then on Monday I walked around Marseille after lunch for a bit with Jonas, who is really in love with the city. Unluckily for me, Marseille is only a big, crowded, dirty and stinky place, so I did not enjoy it as much, but tastes are different, and that’s good, this makes us individuals. On the evening we had a welcome reception, then the symposium kicked off on Tuesday morning at 9:30. It is always good to meet other people from the field, to put faces behind the names – at the end, this is the main reason we go to such conferences. And to present ourselves to the community. That’s why PhD students give talks. That’s why I gave a talk (and of course to present my results). It is even an official requirement from the University to get a PhD… I gave my talk on Wednesday (after rehearsing in my hotel room on Tuesday afternoon, and a bit on Wednesday morning, plus listening to it on my iPod :D), between the first coffee break and lunch (the best time ever), and it went quite well, without stress. I did not receive difficult questions either, so I was very happy after I sat back to my place among the audience. And several colleagues told me that the talk was very good, so even if only half of this is true, I can be happy about it!

We had the conference dinner on the evening overlooking the port of Marseille, under the eclipsed Moon… The place was scenic, but the food was not that good, though I have to admit that after the delicious lunches we got every day (and I really mean those were pretty awesome), no one was complaining. The last two days I have been to all the talks, and I looked at all the posters, so I got quite tired by the end of the week. It is a pity that I did not like Marseille a bit more, because this way I felt it a bit useless to stay for Saturday and go home only on Sunday, but I had the tickets already, so there was no choice. So I just tried to enjoy the city as much as I can for an extra day… Luckily I was not alone; some colleagues helped to get the best out of the situation.

But then I was really happy to be back in Belgium (FYI: the TGV is also cool on 2nd class if you can sit next to the window), even if it was a bit rainy and much colder compared to the Mediterranean, but I still feel much better here. That’s how I am. This week I am mostly dealing with paperwork and travel arrangements, plus I have to supervise exams for one and a half days. So it is less research for now, but I need to do these things too once in a while… And I just managed to get another observing run in October on La Palma, when I will be the support astronomer of the master students, like last year. This way I can work at the telescope even as part of my teaching duties :) Four observing runs this year!!! Really cool.

Sports-wise I did not do anything since my last ride on the 4th on June (lot of work and then the conference…) till the day before yesterday, when I joined the others to play badminton… I played more than three hours (very intensive three hours), so yesterday I felt some pain in my legs (and saw Midnight in Paris on the big screen on the evening BTW), but today I can barely walk or sit down/stand up (cycling is almost painless though, luckily). I hope it will get better for the weekend, because I really need to get back on my racing bike…

Chicken salad

I’ve got a bit bored of all the pasta and ALMA food, so yesterday I made my own chicken salad. It’s far not the most difficult thing to prepare, but I really liked it. The original plan was chicken with pineapple sauce, but when I saw the vegetables (especially the small tomatoes) in the supermarket, I immediately wanted a big salad. With chicken, of course. Finally (as usually I am not really in the mood for experimenting with new stuff) I have found a very good soft abbey cheese too (Le Chimay à la Bière), plus I bought a bottle of French Muscat wine, which turned out to be a pretty good one – at least for my taste.

At the end I ate almost 0.5 kg of chicken, with ~1 kg of vegetables (four times a full plate…), and some other things before and after (grapes, yoghurt, chips…), and still, this morning I was only 70.3 kg in weight, which is a record low since I bought a scale in January… Before you start to worry about my health, this is normal after the quite strong rides on Thursday (~140 km) and yesterday (~100 km). Next week I have to finish my work for the upcoming talk in Marseille (so do the remaining tasks by Wednesday, then discuss the results with my supervisor, prepare the talk by Friday, discuss again, and then it should be all settled and ready for the conference) – and although I planned to do some things already during this long weekend (as we had Thursday and Friday off in Belgium), it did not really worked out… Now I am hungry (again :D), but after I have something to eat, I will work a bit (check some minor things, calculate error-bars, and write two emails), to make sure everything will be all right. Enjoy what’s left from the weekend!