ellarien: Cape Point scene (Travel)
(Flickr set slideshow; 23 photos.)
Read more... )
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
They seem to have finished the new terminal at San Jose, and it's gorgeous -- full of light and space and wide, graceful curves. (The fancy touch-free sensors in the baggage-claim bathroom all seem to be in need of recalibration, though.) Also, the rental car center is back within walking distance of the terminal, instead at the end of a bus ride as it has been for the last few years. This makes arrival a much nicer experience -- though descending from the seventh floor of the parking structure on a tight spiral ramp was a little dizzy-making, like a slow-motion helter skelter.

For once, it feels less humid here than in Tucson. It's certainly a lot cooler, which comes very welcome.
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
I think the gate seating areas of O'Hare's Terminal 3 are overdue for a refit; as far as I can tell they haven't had one in the fifteen years I've been coming through there. The seats are still structurally sound, but they're looking shabby, with bits of rubber trim dangling loose, and the ratio of payphones to laptop-charging stations seems to have been set in the 1990s if not earlier. (The concession areas and bathrooms have been improved, however.)

Tally of things (accidentally) left in Sheffield that I've discovered so far: one pair pink fluffy slippers, three beads, and a rather nice shirt that I might be wanting to wear again in a couple of months.

I was able to get the cable-box reset at 6am on Sunday by pressing buttons on the phone, without bothering a live person at all. This strikes me as progress in one sense, but also presumably means that there are fewer low-level support jobs at the cable company than there used to be.


Jul. 10th, 2010 09:43 pm
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
I'm back at Tucson-home, and the air conditioning seems to be doing something, though it has a long way to go yet. Of course the plumbing leaks a little after a month of disuse, and the cable TV doesn't work, but those are standard annoyances after an extended summer absence. The one that isn't standard is that my favorite lamp -- the one that works from the switch by the entrance -- seems not to be working, which is odd as it has a long-life bulb. Other than that, things look okay.


Jul. 10th, 2010 02:34 pm
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
I'm in Chicago, waiting for the evening flight to Tucson.

I get the distinct impression that I'm not alone in this, but I seem to be coming down with a cold -- probably the one that was going around the French conference, which I thought I was successfully fighting off last week but which the flight from Manchester seems to have given the upper hand. I'm not sure antihistamines are the best idea on top of what's already been an eighteen-hour day, but they're what I have, and in the process of delving in my backpack for them I discovered that I have inadvertently carried a 2-oz bottle of Purell, not protected by a Freedom Baggie, through security checkpoints at two major airports without raising a peep.

Only seven more hours until bedtime, I hope.


Jul. 2nd, 2010 09:21 pm
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
Well, that's over. The meeting ended at lunchtime; I spent a pleasant if warm afternoon wandering the streets of the old town, and later had a pleasant dinner at yet another outdoor restaurant. Now I just have to pack -- I hope I can fit most of the souvenir loot into the conference bag, but I probably shouldn't put the heavy chunk of glass in there -- and wake up to get to the station at the crack of dawn tomorrow. (I didn't go wild in the souvenir department; mostly postcards and soap, and a 100g bag of lavender. I did treat myself to three pretty but rather pricey glass beads at a craft store I stumbled on this afternoon, but those won't take up much space.)

Aix is a very vertical-format sort of place, with its narrow streets of four-storey buildings.

I shall probably not be around here much for the next week and change; after I leave here the next chance at bandwidth is likely to be the Chicago airport on Saturday week. I'm hoping there'll be some mild hiking in my not too distant future. Also naps.
ellarien: Cape Point scene (Travel)

Today was the conference excursion to the little coastal town of Cassis, not far from Marseilles. The day included a boat ride to view some spectacular limestone cliffs and the inlets -- believed to be drowned river valleys -- known as the Calanques. The weather was lovely in the morning; in the afternoon, as we were turned loose to wander the harbor and surrounding streets after a lavish lunch, it clouded over and even rained a bit.

There are more pictures at the Flickr set.
ellarien: Cape Point scene (Travel)
Aix is an interesting town, with a lot of history. We got a quick primer yesterday, on a guided walking tour; most of the visible Old Town seems to be seventeenth-century, consisting of tall "hotels" in golden sandstone, facing each other across narrow streets with most of the display going into iron balustrades and ornamental stone trims, but hiding courtyards and gardens inside. We were also shown a hole in the middle of a narrow street, pretty much blocking it, where a routine utility dig turned up both medieval and Roman sewers, one above the other. Our guide was anxious that we not judge the place by the buildings that haven't yet had the grime of the coal era sandblasted away, but I suspect that to a lot of us the grubbier, shabbier buildings were actually more charming than the manicured ones. Little streetcorner shrines, high up on walls, often protected behind bars or wire mesh, are a common sight, as are fountains. The cathedral facade is topped by a figure of St George, skewering a rather small and disturbingly humanoid dragon. The random colossal heads scattered around the place, however, I gather are just part of a temporary exhibition.


Random comments on prices and amenities )

Made it!

Jun. 28th, 2010 12:16 am
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
Long trip, busy now. But there were no hitches with the train parts of today's trip, and only minor ones with the ancillary bits.
ellarien: Image of the Sun at multiple wavelengths, with prominence (astronomy2)
Would the St Pancras wifi block the AIA "Sun Today" site? Maybe it's just too bandwidth-heavy? (It also has weirdly apple-specific movies, which is annoying, but basically harmless.)

I'm checked in for my train, and still not a whisper of any industrial-action-related problems, so maybe it'll be okay.


Jun. 26th, 2010 08:46 pm
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
So far, after an hour or two of hotel wireless, the poor bandwidth-starved laptop (offline for a whole week) has slurped down four Norton updates, three Windows updates, a Firefox version and a Flash player update. This may be why I wasn't getting much of anywhere with it using the free Wifi at Saint Pancras Station, though I did manage to get Google to divulge the address of the hotel, of which I had unaccountably failed to bring a note.

I hope I'll be taking the train to Lille and on to Aix-en-Provence tomorrow morning. There was a rather worrying email this morning from a colleague who arrived in Paris to find he'd been bumped from his connecting flight due to knock-on effects from industrial action earlier in the week, which apparently affects the TGV as well, but we'll see. I can't find any information indicating I might have a problem tomorrow, and as the TGV seats don't seem to be reservable anyway it may just be a case of a more crowded train.

I had a nice week in Sheffield. The warm dry weather has been ideal for peonies; they were lovely in the Botanical Gardens, which otherwise seemed to be suffering somewhat from the lingering effects of the severe winter, or the recession, or both, and amazing at Chatsworth -- huge delicate confections of light and sweetness in white, pink, and red. Yesterday was all about the waterfowl on the Round Walk -- a heron at Wire Mill dam which took exception to being photographed and took off, complaining loudly, after one not very good shot, lots of tiny ducklings as well as adolescent ducks from earlier broods, baby coots, and a delightful bunch of tiny moorhen chicks, which I got the distinct impression that their siblings of an earlier brood were helping to feed.

This afternoon, after locating the hotel, I took off to the South Bank to drop in on some colleagues at the Royal Society science exhibition and take in some of the other displays. I was interested to see the UCL entry on ice and water -- including an iPhone game arranging water molecules. Back in my grad student days, I spent a lot of time contemplating arrangements of water molecules, with the help of colored pins, paper clips, and index cards. When I couldn't stand the heat and crowds in the exhibit hall any more, I wandered out onto the river bank, took some photos of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, and crossed the Jubilee bridge to catch the tube back at Embankment.
ellarien: Cape Point scene (Travel)

It's traditional, in my corner of the astronomical community at least, for a week-long meeting to include an afternoon outing. So this afternoon, two coachloads of astronomers toured the Jylland frigate and the little town of Ebeltoft, as well as climbing to the 137-meter top of one of the highest hills in Denmark and visiting an ancient dolmen and stone circle. The weather was perfect, the guides were amusing and informative, and a good time was had by all.

The frigate was built in the 1860s, part of the replacement of the Danish fleet after it was confiscated by the British at the Battle of the Baltic, and fitted with a steam engine and retractable propeller as well as 2000 square feet of sails that could move her at 14 knots. Wooden warships were pretty much a dead end by then, and she was both the longest ever built and one of the last. She saw action once, standing off an Austrian ship in a two-hour battle. What stands in the dry dock at Ebeltoft today, carefully supported and haavily restored, is at least 60% modern, but quite impressive, and fascinating to a Patrick O'Brian fan. (It seems like cheating to use a modern crane to set up the rigging.) As usual, you can click through the photo to see more on Flickr.

The town had its heyday as a walled market town in the 1600s or thereabouts, and then went into decline as the harbor deteriorated and trade shifted elsewhere, so that it got to keep a lot of its half-timbered buildings instead of replacing them with modern brick.

From the hill, we could see blue see in two directions, and wind turbines in threes and fours, lazily turning in the distance. And there were poppies, bright scarlet in the fields, and lupins in colorful clumps by the highway, and wild roses.
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
There are some sketchy characters hanging around downtown Aarhus of a summer evening ...

ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
Not so much with the automobiles, unless you count taxis. Right now, I'm on the train en route from Copenhagen to Aarhus. Denmark, much like England, is lushly green under gray skies.
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
Back at the old familiar Palo Alto Super 8, the roving Tucson helioseismologists' home away from home. And while I'm waiting for a file to download that would have taken seconds at home, I snatch a moment to mention that the hills around LA are amazingly green, and there are wildflowers blooming in the scrubby grass between the runways at LAX. Also, bright pink patches of something -- iceplant, maybe? -- all over the shoreline around Oakland, which surely has one of the prettier views from the terminal that can be found in US airports. This part of the world takes me by surprise with sheer prettiness nearly every time I come, but particularly in the springtime. There's a huge camellia tree, laden down with blooms, just down the street from here, and we passed a passionflower vine on the way to the Fry's Electronics (which closes early on Sundays, boo.)
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
There don't seem to be any direct London-Aarhus flights any more, or at least not that Expedia knows about. I know there was at least one in 1996, because I remember I was in the air for about as long as I spent on the tube getting back from Heathrow to my East End flat. (And flew right over said flat on the way in.) Now it doesn't seem to be doable in less than about thirteen hours and two changes -- but I could fly direct to Copenhagen and presumably get a train there.

(I hope that volcano has calmed down by June.)
ellarien: Blue/purple pansy (Default)
At some point between the London days and now -- probably the point in 2006 at which I lost control of my suitcase and nearly took out a colleague in a Copenhagen commuter train station -- I seem to have lost confidence in my ability to safely negotiate escalators while wrangling luggage. I suspect the progressive glasses don't help with that, either. I'll go out of my way to find elevators instead, or failing that climb the stairs the hard way. Yesterday's trip via MARTA from Peachtree Street to the airport involved a lot of stairs, mostly downward, by the end of which my knee was protesting. Today the knee is right enough, but my calves are stiff and sore.
ellarien: sheep, baa! (sheep)
for end-of-year memes.

"List the towns or cities where you spent at least one night away from home during 2009. Mark with a star if you had multiple non-consecutive stays."

8 )

And that was a relatively light travel year!

Mission Statement

Reading, writing, plant photography, and the small details of my life, with digressions into science and computing.



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