Yearly Archives: 2014

Another summer vacation in Budapest

Since Budapest is still Clio’s favourite city-trip destination (and Kürtőskalács-serving location), and my parents would not be very happy without me going ‘home’ once in a while, we spent 10 days in Hungary back in August. (Of course I also like going there, especially as a tourist…) First we spent a long weekend showing the city around to Clio’s father, then after walking ~70 kilometres in three days, we took it a bit easier and spent some time with my family.

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Being a tour-guide for the first days also meant that I got into places I have never been before, such as the Opera and the Café Gerbeaud, while being with my parents gave us not only free food and lodging (I still love you guys!), but they also drove us to the village of Szentendre, the castle of Visegrád, and to the city of Esztergom on two of the afternoons.

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Since the nicest view to The Cathedral and Primatial Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary Assumed Into Heaven and St Adalbert (wow, that is a long name) is from the Slovakian side of the Danube, we also drove over to Štúrovo (Párkány) to take a few pictures of Hungary’s tallest building.

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I also got to kick my brother’s ass multiple times in FIFA 14, but we made up for it by taking him to a nice, hip and trendy hot-dog place. And finally the weather was not too hot either :) Looking at the pictures above you can also tell that we saw the Parliament in its full glory after endless years and years of renovation works (with a bunch of birds circling above it in the floodlights on the evening), and that we went to a huge candy shop to buy more than half kilogram of jelly beans… We will be back for Christmas!

A long weekend in London

Two weeks ago on a Friday morning we hopped on a Eurostar train in Brussels and crossed the channel to spend a long weekend in London. After our arrival we immediately jumped into the jungle of the city, after dropping off our bags at the Qbic Hotel. Since we both have been to the British capital several times before, we decided to visit places which are either a bit less touristy, or which we both like a lot. This means that we have not seen, e.g., the Big Ban or the Buckingham palace even from far away. Instead, we walked across the Tower Bridge into an area of modern office buildings, and to the Butlers Wharf.

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Afterwards, we went to Borough Market, where there were many nice stands selling yummy things. Here I must note that since these days everyone is looking for the hidden wonders of cities like London, these places are quickly becoming as crowded as the more typical, classical sights of the city. From the market we walked along the Southern banks of the Thames (which provides a great overview of London’s horribly chaotic skyline) up until the Golden Jubilee Bridges, where we crossed the river and took the Tube back to our hotel to check in.

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After all the formalities, we had an early dinner in Pizza East in Shoreditch. The restaurant is situated in an old industrial building, so I loved the style (and the food too).

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Since after finishing our meal we still had a lot of time and the weather was great (by the evening the temperature also became bearable), we decided to go to Greenwich, where we walked around a bit and enjoyed the view from the Royal Observatory.

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By this time we were both getting pretty tired, so we decided to head back to the hotel. We had to hurry a bit to make it before the thunderstorms arrived, but we made it. Since the hotel had a very pleasant communal area, we sat there for a while and treated ourselves with some freely available coffee and hot chocolate before going up to our room. After walking more than 26000 steps, we had no trouble falling asleep (under huge pictures of Lady Diana and Justin Bieber)…

On Saturday after having breakfast at a nice coffee place just a corner away from our hotel, we started the day by going to the Science Museum. We walked around a bit, especially inside the gift shop and into the direction of the original Apollo 10 capsule, but Clio did not feel too good, so we went outside to get some fresh air a bit sooner than planned. Luckily the weather improved a lot since the morning, so we walked across Hyde Park before going for lunch. Here a deadly wild squirrel almost attacked me. It was vicious, if I tell you, just look at it!

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After some serious walking we arrived at Bubbledogs, where they serve hot dogs with champagne (or in our case, with apple cider). Mmmm, it was delicious! We did not do much on the afternoon, as we were both still quite tired from the previous day, so we went back to the hotel, had takeaway for dinner (from Miss Chu), and watched TV on the evening.

On Sunday we walked around Shoreditch to check out all the street art, and visited a few Sunday markets, such as the Columbia Road Flower Market, the market along Brick Lane, and the Old Spitalfields Market.

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After grabbing a quick bite from a Prêt à Manger, we took the Tube to Regent’s Park. We walked all the way up to the lookout point of Primrose Hill, which was quite nice. It’s a pity that the weather was a bit dull, so I could not take really great pictures. Then we walked back across the Park once more on our way back towards The City (under really dark clouds, but somehow we managed to stay dry), where we had dinner at Bone Daddies Ramen Bar (which was exceptionally delicious). Then to continue with my tradition of buying comics in London, we spent some time at Gosh! Comics looking for something scientific to read (managed to find 3 interesting books, already read 2 of them since then). After some further walking (and Tubing), we finished the day with around 25000 steps behind us.

On Monday morning we fist walked to Leadenhall Market, then we hopped on the DLR to visit Greenwich again. This time we went for the temporary exhibition Ships, Clocks & Stars at the National Maritime Museum. It was very interesting and well presented, so even though it was quite similar to an exhibition I saw a few years earlier at the Royal Observatory, I enjoyed it a lot. After this, we picked up something to bite in a small supermarket, and ate it sitting at the riverside.

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On the afternoon we headed back to the hotel, checked out, and took the Eurostar back to Brussels. It was a nice weekend, with lots of walking around, nice food, and (I hope) a few nice images too. I used my new Canon EOS 6D on the trip, and there are even a bit more images on my Flickr.

Conference in Toulouse

Last week I have been to The Space Photometry Revolution – CoRoT Symposium 3, Kepler KASC-7 joint meeting in Toulouse (France), to present the results from my latest paper. My talk was very well received, many people came to me afterwards to congratulate and/or have a discussion. But I don’t really want to talk about the scientific program (which was great, by the way, except for the once-again useless wireless connection), since this is more of a personal blog, so let’s see what happened outside the conference-room.

Memorable moments from the week: 1) torrential rain upon arriving in front of our hotel, which made us wait ten minutes not more than 100 metres from the reception. It’s been a while since I saw such a thunderstorm, the roads immediately turned into 10 cm deep rivers… 2) Germany trashing Brazil 7:1 in the semi-final of the FIFA World Cup, which was just shocking. I watched it from my hotel room, and at 5:0 I really started thinking if I was just dreaming. That was definitely sports history in the making. Every football match which does not have 5 goals in the first half hour feels boring since then… 3) Since Belgium lost the quarter-final against Argentina (thus finishing the tournament at 6th place), I did not get to give my talk wearing my original Belgian jersey with a blazer on top. Such a pity, it would have been very cool. 4) Conference-excursion to the city of Albi and to a local vineyard: the UNESCO heritage episcopal city (see pictures below) and the cathedral were all very nice, but it’s a pity it was a guided tour and not a free-for-all three hour stay, since I could have seen so much more by myself (or with a few people).

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The vineyard was a bit boring, but the wine we bought there (I don’t want to say names, but it was not me) was quite nice (to enjoy on the bus on the way back – also by me). 5) The conference dinner was fancy (live music, pretty location), with great food, nice wine, and pleasant people around the table. 6) The pizzeria (La Pastasciutta) suggested by the local organising committee was simply perfect!

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24 hours of Zolder

Three years after participating in the 8 hours of Spa-Francorchamps, this year I decided to go for something longer, sunnier, and less hilly, thus I joined my cycling team (WTCOOL) for the 24 hours of Zolder. We competed in the category of teams with maximum 8 riders (although we were only 6), and I rode two sessions of ~2 hours, with the first starting at 5 on the morning… This also meant that I had to get up at 3 AM, after a good four hours of sleep. We had our own party-tent in the paddock, so between my rides I could sit down and relax, which was really cool. My first session took off before sunrise (which was a glorious, golden-orange impressionist scene over the misty circuit), and went on for almost exactly two hours with an average speed of 39.6 km/h. Then after two hours of resting (and sleeping) I was back in the saddle for another session.

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By this time, both the temperature and the pace of the leading group had risen significantly, and as a consequence, after one hour and ten minutes, I could not keep up anymore. I should have really not done any work at the front of the peloton, but I felt really bad about sucking wheels all the time. Unluckily after finishing my last pull, when I decided to go to the very back of the group to recover a bit, I could not accelerate anymore when I arrived there and I was almost immediately dropped… A this point my average speed for the second session was already 41.0 km/h, and things got only worse in this group later on as the race got closer to its grand finale. I still went on in individual time-trial mode for twenty more minutes – trying to at least present the photographers with the perfect opportunity to make money out of my lonely suffering -, but I felt way too tired to complete my two hours, and asked for an early change half hour earlier than planned.

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I got off my bike after 138 kilometres with a nearly 40 km/h average speed (details on Strava). At the end, we finished the race with 234 laps (936 km, 39 km/h, 24 hours), at the 49th position overall (out of 190 teams), or 28th in our category (out of 83 teams). This is a very nice result, and we were all very satisfied with it! Next year we will try with more people, and more sleep ;D

My fifth “first-author” paper is accepted + FWO Postdoctoral Fellowship!

I am happy to report that my latest paper entitled KIC 10526294: a slowly rotating B star with rotationally split, quasi-equally spaced gravity modes is now in press for the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. It contains the results of the work I have done since last summer. If you are an astronomer, or simply have nothing better to do, you should definitely have a look at the non language-edited – but other than that final – version on arxiv.org.

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But there are even better news connected to my carrier: I have been granted a 3-year Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Fund for Scientific Research (FWO). In practice this means that I have job security until October 2017, so I can continue producing papers like the one above :) This is probably the greatest news of the summer, since it is not so easy to get such a fellowship; the acceptance rate is only ~25%. (I was the only one from our institute who got it this year.)