Ok, so besides getting my second paper accepted, I also had an extremely successful month on the road bike: 1420 km, 46h 40m, 5550 m elevation gain, 37500 kcal burned, with an average of 30.4 km/h, 158 bpm, and 91 rpm. My best month so far. Yeah!
Let me give a quick summary of my February. I have been sleeping, training, working and eating (plus watching TV series, usually during eating or training). And this covers probably 99% of my activities. My second first-author paper is basically accepted (I got only minor comments from the referee, and the report was very positive), and I worked some days on another topic for Steven’s paper, which also got accepted in the meantime. In general, I was very motivated this month.
You can see my training log for February above. 1188 km, 38.5 hours, 27500 Calories. For a winter month, this is kind of amazing for me. I had a training every day, except for Mondays, which are my highly anticipated and appreciated rest days now (with an extra day of rest on Thursdays, if needed). The goal (and challenge) is to keep up with this throughout the cycling season (and maybe raise the mileage as the days get longer and the temperatures rise), with let’s say a minimum of 250 km per week (and a maximum of whatever I can manage). Of course this is tiring (but in a satisfying way), but as a positive side effect, I have no problems anymore with going to sleep before midnight, which means I can finally get up at 8, and be at work at 9. (In practice, I have replaced a lot of useless internet surfing time with the extra trainings :D) This means that as soon as we switch to summer time (which is now less than a month away), I can have my two hour outside rides still after work, in a much more convenient way (because now it is not so easy to arrange outside rides during the week – for the indoor trainer, it does not matter if it’s already dark outside). Of course I already feel the benefits of the extra training, for example I felt much stronger during the last Velodrome session (staying with the fastest group all the time, even jumping into some sprints with other guys), and yesterday when I went on a training ride with the KU Leuven team, I could follow the first guys on the climbs, and it was me who had to say to two of the other guys after the last climb, that we have to wait a bit, as we had lost the other half of the group… I do not want to be a champion or anything (the other guys do triathlon and/or real cycling races – I was the only one who was not riding in a team outfit -, so they asked me if I was also racing, and they were a bit surprised to hear a negative answer), because cycling is “only a hobby” for me (and because I have started too late for that), but I want to be able to keep up with the best non-professionals, and I want to enjoy group rides, and I definitely do not want to be dropped… I want to feel strong on the bike, this is my main motivation. And a good training can give me a satisfying feeling every day, while it is much harder to get the same feeling after a day of work.
But not the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ;) Anyway, I always publish in Astronomy and Astrophysics… Sorry for the bad astronomical joke… (If you can call this a joke…) But as I had no posts recently on the blog, I have to admit there is no better title for this entry. And this might get more and more common in the future, as my motivation for blogging is lower and lower these days.
Starting with a reference to A&A was not completely accidental, as I spent November and the beginning of December working hard to finish my second first-author paper, which I will submit to the mentioned journal in January. I spent several evenings at the Institute to meet my internal deadlines, but it was not that difficult (the stress is on the relative difficulty, I am not complaining that I had not enough pressure or tasks to deal with), as November is the low season in cycling (which means that I basically did not ride at all), so I had nothing else to do. Now the paper is basically 99% finished, and my supervisors – and me too – are very happy with the work I have done. We still need to wait for the final comments from the rest of my co-authors (I have already received two very positive ones with only minor comments to consider), but then it should not take more than a week of work before I can really submit after the Holidays. So I expect to have a second paper by the time I turn 27. Damn, I am getting old…
No matter how much work I have, I do not work on the weekends, this is one of my principles. This way I could join my friends to Bredene (where we played board games, had a great walk along the nice coast of Belgium across high grass and sand dunes in the wind – unluckily I expected crappy weather so I had only my phone with me to take pictures with, instead of my DSLR -, and we went to the concert of the Symfonisch Orkest van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel in which Ilse plays the French horn), help Tijl in building his terrace, play FIFA12 online (sometimes I rock, sometimes I suck, it really depends on how much I can concentrate, so now I do not play it anymore after midnight), and watch Rules of Engagement (thanks to Clio’s suggestion), which is really great (and especially Season 5 is hilarious).
After I was done with the paper, I had time to do other things too. First of all I took part in our programming battle at work (no results yet – update from January, 2012: I won 2 out of the 4 categories, the precision, and the length (so the shortness) -, but it was a nice task to solve, and I did it using python of course), then – maybe I had a bit too much time in my hands – I have written a small code to do N-body simulations in 3D. It was something I always wanted to try, and it was even useful, because I finally managed to figure out how to do 3D plotting in python, and how to do numerical integration using different methods. So it was not a waste of time at the end. (See video and description on Youtube.)
In December I restarted training on the indoor trainer (this is already the beginning of the next cycling season), and the AstroTeam went to the Velodrome in Gent again, now in our custom cycling kit, as a real team. I was a bit annoyed by the fact that I had forgotten my helmet at home, so I had to rent a crappy one, but besides this small mishappening, it was a great evening. I did three twenty minute sessions, and in the last one (which was the best of all) while I was riding with a fast group (at approximately 40-45 km/h), high, near the top of the curve, the guy in front of me crashed (after touching the rear wheel of the biker in front of him), and although I had already accepted the seemingly inevitable, that I would unavoidably crash into him or his bike turned across the slope in front of me, I passed him by centimetres as he slipped down the steep banks quick enough… I was a little bit shocked. I have never been this close to a real, classical bike crash. It was really something you normally see on the TV.
Now I am back in Hungary for the holidays, so I might have time to write about other (hopefully more interesting) things during these two weeks.
Again a full mont passed since I posted anything here. I do not have the same motivation as before (to write regularly), but still, I would like to remember what happened with me, and my – built in – memory is not sufficient to handle all the information. So I write a post every month – at least. Now I am flying over Spain towards La Palma, with the clouds below, so I have time again :) Pictures are slightly randomly spread over this time. Figure out what is what ;)
First of all, this month, I have biked a lot. And when I say a lot, I really mean it. If I look at my calendar on Garmin Connect, it is full of rides. There were times when I rode too much, I could tell it from the way my legs denied to move as fast as my mind requested them to do. So with all the KUL trainings, the Brabantse Pijl (the sportive version, not the Race – which was the first out of the four wins for Gilbert early in the season, making him the ‘Armstrong of the spring classics’ this year), the first ever AstroTeam ride (with colleagues), the usual lonely rides to Mechelen, and a really good day to the citadel of Namur, I rode 885.44 kilometres (spent 29h 28m 08 s in the saddle, and burned ~25000 Calories), which made this April my best month on the racing bike ever. And I could have done more if I wanted, but there are other things in life, not just cycling. (Yeah, shocking statement, I know :D) But I enjoy every second on the road. I really fly on the bike :)
Work is OK, but a bit slow. Sometimes I have my ideas but I don’t feel like woking them out. I know the road which leads to the solution, but I don’t want to walk along it. And then it is sometimes really hard to force myself to stay concentrated on the details… But after Easter, we had a four day workshop at the Institute on binary stars and the Kepler satellite, and it was really good, I have learned a lot of useful and new stuff, which I will be able to use probably very soon.
Thanks to the workshop, I have met some old friends, and we had great dinners all week long. Just to mention one from the many, I had the best salmon of my life in the Lodge in Heverlee. Also, I served as the official photographer of the event, taking not just a series of static, but a full HD group ‘picture’ too ;) Everyone liked the idea – you can check it out for yourself on YouTube.
Just like last year, my mother came for a visit – and brought cake, wine, and Túró Rudi with herself :) Everyone asks the same question, so I have to make it clear, that I would have been happy to have her around even without these nice add-ons ;) But I would be a terrible liar if I were to deny that this way it was even better :D We had a nice weekend together, and this time the weather was also fine. In general, the weather in April was almost unbelievably sunny, warm and dry. Belgium is not a rainy place at all, the two years I have spent here really forces me to draw this conclusion.
And at last, but definitely not least, I spent three great days with Elise, whom I got to know last month in the Stuk. First, on the 20th after a morning meeting with my supervisor, I went to Antwerpen, where she gave me a tour around the city, but avoiding all the shopping streets :)
This really improved my opinion about the city a lot! Then on the last day of April, we went to Den Haag to the Netherlands – again for a picturesque city trip. It was the Queen’s birthday, so the abundance of people dressed in orange was extremely high.
We took quite a large amount of pictures too! Oh, and just to mention one special thing, I sat in the drivers seat of a tram – which we later took to just go around the city. And we ate delicious bread and cheese :) Then, to close the day we went back to Antwerpen to a nice Italian restaurant, where they served the best pizza of the city.
Finally – when I was almost on the train back to Leuven (I have already filled out my Rail Pass for the trip), we decided to have another trip on the following day (and be surprised, I was happy to cancel my cycling plans without any doubt), as the ticket inspectors were not too active on the trains that day (it might have something to do with the fact that crowd dressed in orange were blocking the aisle…), and our weekend ticket to the Netherlands stayed untouched ;) So I slept on the couch at Elise’s place (though I almost had to fight for it with her cat :D), then after a delicious breakfast (what a smoothie she made!), we left to Rotterdam.
I have seen some parts of the city when I was there last year to photograph the Tour de France and I already liked it a lot, but now it was even better. We walked around a much bigger area (so I have seen things a have not seen before), had an amazing clear and sunny – but not too warm – weather (perfect to lie or sit down on a square or at the river banks and just enjoy being there), and – the most important of all – I was not alone.
I really like the city, it is modern (has amazing architecture) but with a lot of green, and some well preserved and integrated older parts too… This was my best weekend for quite a long time. (We are just leaving the coast of the continental Europe behind while I am writing these words.) I really enjoyed taking pictures and talking with Elise, and then checking out our images on the trains back to Belgium. We had a wonderful time.
I missed the cheerful atmosphere a lot when I finally went home to Leuven, especially because I had to spend the next day with preparing and packing for La Palma, but I was very happy about the time we spent together. And for a side note, I really hate packing. And even though I really wanted to finish in time now, it was 2 AM when I finally closed my bike box. I have no idea how can I pack for such a long time… And now comes the funny part of the story. As usual, I have asked for a cab for the morning (5:15) from the same taxi company I always use, but it did not show up… I was waiting with my 60 kilograms of luggage in front of the house, and nothing… I tried to call them, but there was only voicemail. As I did not know any other companies, and it was pretty much too early to try to phone someone for help, I walked (rushed/struggled) to the station with all my stuff (I think I was quite a sight on the streets of Leuven – even for people who are used to see students travel with their suitcases every Friday and Sunday evening – with my backpack in front, the huge – and I am not kidding here – North Face XL travel duffel on my back, and pulling the bike box next to me – thank God it has wheels…), and took a taxi there. Luckily I was still in time, so if everything goes well, I will land on La Palma in one and a half hour :) Now it is two weeks of work and a week of holiday (cycling up and down) on the Canaries. This is the part of my job I like the most ;)
Hey, I know, I know, it’s been a while since I wrote anything here, but I had no time to do it. Or maybe I just did not devote time for it… Anyway, lets see what happened in the last weeks. (I am watching the Ronde van Vlaanderen, so I have some time to write finally…)
First of all, I am working on my second article (it looks very interesting), while my first one is already out on paper in the April 2011 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Also, when I was observing on La Palma in October, I discovered a new variable star (while monitoring a list of candidates, so it is not that special before you start asking), which turned out to be a rather interesting one, and resulted in a publication (a Letter in The Astrophysical Journal), on which I am the second author. And there are other ongoing collaborations, which will result in a co-authorships… Fulfilling the official requirements of the PhD won’t be a problem :) And to make things even better, my KEPLER Guest Observer Proposal was accepted, which means that I will have enough data for the rest of my PhD. And extremely good data! It happens once or twice in a while, that I think about what if I did not make the right choice when I went for being an astronomer (ok, this never happens while I am observing), but when I got the email about the acceptance, I became so happy, that I knew immediately from the feeling, that I am doing what I should do. Being happy always means that you are doing the right thing :)
As spring came into Belgium, flowers started to bloom, leaves started to grow on the trees, and I was finally able to leave the indoor trainer and go cycling outside again (but I will come back to this later). And besides cycling, we started to play soccer again (and after spending two hours sliding around the artificial grass field I decided to buy real soccer shoes for the first time in my life – and they are great). I made my travel arrangements for my upcoming observing run (and cycling holiday) on La Palma (in May), and for the CoRoT Symposium in Marseille (in June), and as my travel bag started to show serious signs of falling apart, I bought a TNF Base Camp Duffel (red, XL, capable of carrying 140 liters of gear, two years of all-around guarantee), which should serve me well in the following years, and survive even the rough handling of the airport staff of IBERIA :D And now I feel the urge to travel to the North, to Iceland or Scandinavia, and – among others – watch the northern lights.
To make myself useful, I assembled some IKEA furniture and helped a colleague/friend with doing electric assembly in his future house too on two days. Once we were there from 5 PM to 4 AM, but I really enjoyed it, because first of all it was something I have never done before, and on the other hand, I had some very good ideas (especially about arranging the cable-chaos into a nice order – as it can be seen above -, and about things which involve symmetry), and it was great to see them coming true (getting up the next morning was not that great, but we had fun, and that’s the important thing). Sometimes it is really relieving to do something different.
And now about cycling. As I have already told you, there was no need to ride on the indoor trainer this month, because the weather was generally (surprisingly for this time of the year) nice, dry and relatively warm. This – and being quite motivated – resulted in my best month on the racing bike ever (so since last year February) with 673 kilometers. Of course this is nothing exceptional even on an amateur level, but I am happy with it (given the conditions). As you can see on the picture above (notice the typical Flemish bricks and cobblestones :D), now I use my new aero wheels, and I also bought a 2cm longer stem (for better position), and a new saddle (a fi’zi:k Antares for comfort). The combination is pretty sweet, I expect some very good times coming up this season ;) I started working on a python script for automatically plotting my workouts along with providing detailed statistics (much more useful than the tools on Garmin Connect), but I will write about this later in a separate post. Very early into the season, I have already done a more than 200 km ride (to be precise, this was my longest ride ever, with 213 km), and just before the end of the month, I joined the K.U.Leuven University Cycling Team (it might sound serious, but it is far from that) for a training (which was pretty OK, I had no trouble keeping up with their pace, and I even felt strong in the last 20 km in pouring rain, and gave some really strong pulls for the team)… As there are some colleagues at the Institute who like cycling, we decided to participate in a 24 hour race during the summer, and to design our own AstroTeam cycling kit :) It will be very cool to ride in such a jersey on La Palma while working at the Observatory :D
Then, the month ended with a very nice evening – having dinner and watching a theatrical play (in English!!!) in the Stuk… Let’s see what April brings!