euro slideshow

quite a bit late, but here is the first (of 3 if i ever get around to it..) batch of photos documenting my zigzag across a part of western europe + scotland.. many many thanks again to Yvette + D and M (in Zürich) for hosting me. This trip is more on visiting friends than music so i left quite a few people-photos in. Most of them i met during our time in Boston more than 10 years ago so it was super nice and warm to catch up again.. we always wind up settling around listening to 2 of them playing music then capping with a big pot of vietnamese soup and lots of bbq :-). Freshly made is also a new (yet also old) friend in Paris whose conversation on music + arts i really enjoyed (though i looking clueless most of the time..). Now some comments in point-bullet format:

* music: i wanted to use Marie-Nicole Lemieux’ radio recording but apparently there’s way too many photos with no time to sort.. so a favorite Händel’s finale instead which some of you might be already familiar with.
* Marie-Nicole Lemieux is great as Tancredi, super like her commitment to musical expression. I bought tix to originally hear Patrizia Ciofi but must say there was always a little bit of too much embellishment that snaps you out of the moment to remind it is her who is singing and not Amenaïde.. MNL on the other hand was truly committed.
* was nice to catch up with a friend i had known via 2 independent friends (in fact last i saw her were at each of their weddings..) This time, everyone has their little kids, and i having been playing with tons of little nephews and nieces, apparently we can share quite deeper conversation ranging all from life, research, family, kids, etc.. was a bit short but very warm. Also manage to drag her to the opera for the first time since her move there..
* Marseille is very ethically diverse, me like!
* Mediterranean Sea is niiiiice, though i did end up showing Yvette and D how i closed it in my model ;-), all we need to know is salt goes into atlantic ocean and freshwater goes into the sea across the narrow Gibraltar (30km, 265m deep) strait!
* Pertuis fish market!!!! yum!
* rope: aside from rubik cube, D and I also shared a common interest for tying knots… and we independently searched the haus for appropriate rope.. and independently agreed Yvette’s favorite trashcan-lid-rope was perfect… it was also cut in 1/2 so we could put in use our newly lovely rotational-symmetrical zeppelin knot.. everything almost went well until she dropped the lid thinking the rope was still there, “CHOOOANNNNGGGG” ;-).
* met up with 2 more friends (including former officemate) in Grenoble, many discussions on research, sea-ice, advancement in science. also first hike of the year, officially recovered from my nasty spring allergy.
* hike up the hills in Zürich is veeery nice, me like! also super like is the picnic. It’s confirmed, td is super happy in the presence of a baroque orchestra in small haus/hall.. spent alllll evening raving about them!! and i thought Ulysses was a woman.. Sarah Mingardo’s voice is really nice, though methinks in this piece she couldn’t really do much, always dressing in depressive veil crying… BUT!! the opening duet between her and Lliana Nichiteanu is fantastically white-shirt pleasing! M and I unanimously agreed!
* Tonhalle Zürich: if you go there for concert, i’ll tell you where NOT to buy tickets! simply put, i don’t like that hall. for the record, also think that orchestra is not at the same level as Mitsuko Uchida’s playing…
* i need to rearrange my planning next time in Munich coz everyone is away on Whitsun holiday :-). ended up roaming around town by myself shopping for gas carnister and camping stove..
* Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle: i have mixed feeling… mainly coz i was expecting a mass… and for the record, i also thought the pianos were more loud than voices… the last bit was goosebump inducing… super descriptive singing from VK, then s.o.f.t pianos.. then blending in with chorus, quite amazing. one only needs to listen to such short excerpts to conclude she m.u.s.t sing muuuuuch more sacred and baroque music!! m.u.s.t.
* was also very nice to catch up again with new friend from Paris in Salzburg, must have given her the impression i always late for my appointment while totally getting lost everywhere :-). They don’t label street names in Salzburg! only signs telling you where important buildings are… but i only have street names on map…
* West Highland Way: we bought just about every thing to kill bugs.. them midges, they get in your head.. not sure if i’d return.. think next time i go up the Alps where there’s less bugs :-). We did learn though by accident that that collection of chemicals + skin-so-soft lotion actually did deter them from biting… coz only on last day we didn’t apply while on the run that i ended up with some 20 bites that took nearly 3 weeks to stop being itchy.. Unlike mosquitos, them midges won’t bite unless you stop! perfect “motivation” to keep in shape..
* Scottish weather is quite something..
* lovely visit to friends again after running from the bugs.. back when i first came out to my parents, had such a hard time making friends.. and she really showed me how to do it actually: simply get together, have fun time chatting, cooking, playing music, hiking, keep inviting, and friendship grew :-). the beginning of the entire group of friends i made while in boston first time.
* saw the North Sea for the first time! and i have it in my model!
* bowl of noodle soup: lost all my weight, first in very long time i swallowed a whole sandvich and felt like haven’t eaten! that was the first of many bowls i downed after getting back to boston.

Altogether, was a very nice and warm trip seeing old friends and making new ones. I spent a bit of time explaining what i do and sometimes encountered questions of relevancy of our research to humanity.. I supposed on a very basic level we’re guided by our curiosity as to how the world functions and try to explain it with physics.. but beyond that basic curiosity, advancement in understanding of how nature works can surely benefit (wo)mankind, even in the most basic form of “knowing” and “predicting” a system. The analogy to the human body is one i often use (perhaps naïvely coz i terrible in biology): research is needed to understand how blood flows or how chemical signals travel so that if someone comes in with a symptom we can diagnose based on our current (limited) knowledge. And like planets and other complex systems, the body is non-linear, you could inject something and it might not respond until chaotically at some point.. so a basic understanding is needed and is what’s driving our continuous research, all in the hope to advance mankind. there, my hand-waving big-picture explanation :-).

happy friday

gigantic platform for fireworks in middle of Charles River, 1-july-2011

In case you’re ever in Boston around July, it’s one of the best places to hang out for 4th-July.  Sitting here with this window view, i somehow can’t get rid of this totally unrelated tune in my head :-).  The week before July 4th, the above platform is delivered to the middle of the river just between the Havard and Longfellow Bridges.  Then on the 4th, all streets surrounding the river are closed to traffic, which allows this little kid to roam freely on the busiest Massachusetts Ave

she’ll be here this year as well, 1 year older.  People show up on both sides of the rivers along the Esplanade by the thousands (last year estimate was 4 hundred thousands) for free music by the Boston Pop.  If you can get yourself on the Harvard Bridge, it’s the ideal place to see the spectacular fireworks.  The bridge is close just before sunset so get on it before then.  We were lucky last year to get a wonderful obstruction-free spot for viewing.  The show is always sync to some themed music and finishes with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.
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rose parade 2011

whew, had great fun at the rose parade. was a very long combined new year eve and day. the good news is i’m not sick! the two poor sisters are as sick as dogs. i hope the kids enjoyed the show in super BRRR weather.

image found on google

rose parade is a tradition here in Pasadena. This year marks the 122nd event. People from other parts of the US travel long distance here to see it the 1st of every year. Typically, the “event” begins around noon on Dec 31st when people start occupying blocks on the sidewalks to reserve space. If you come a bit too late, you park yourself around small street corners. Then the waiting game starts in plunging temperature. Even though it’s Los Angeles, temperature can drop to below 10°C after sunset. That sounds quite warm except if you sit around killing time for 18 hours. Then at exactly 11pm on new year’s eve, the police blow the whistles, and madness breaks out. Everyone at once rushes to the street behind a taped blue line to claim front row seats. push and shove is not uncommon at street corners where the late people are trying to grab the same spot. I did this once with a friend visiting from Munich. everyone was rolling up sleeves ready for a fight (not me of course!) luckily no blood was drawn…

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a day up mt. baldy

departure: 9.37am
at top: 1.00pm
at bottom: 3.45pm
elevation gain: 1190m (3900 ft)
distance: 17.7km (11 mi)

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my favorite walk

Happy to report I figure out how to make an HD video (!) just in time to post a slideshow of my favorite walk along the Charles esplanade (I think you have to click on the 720p in resolution to get HD, default is 360p.)

ubuntu script:
ffmpeg -r 0.216 -i MyPicture/pix_%2d.jpg -vcodec dnxhd -b 18000000 -s 1280×720 -aspect 16:9 -i Track7.wav -acodec copy -ss 00:00:00 -t 00:07:18.38 myslideshow.avi
(-r 0.216 –> 1/.216 = 4.63 sec / picture)


Update 10/11/10:
the LA times reported ~100000 people attended CicLAvia.
I tried several ways but didn’t manage, somehow the slide show is blocked in germany.

Less than 12 hours from our LA opera outing, we excitedly started another one. It’s the first ever CicLAvia in Los Angeles:

As the organizers said, it’s an event to promote people to get off the car, explore the city, and see that you can get from point A to point B easily via walking, biking, buses, metro.  We decided to bike to CicLAvia instead of taking the metro.  I was very glad we did, as I had for the first time a chance to explore the connection between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles via in-city streets.  We weaved through several small cities, saw many nice buildings, came across a green-energy festival,

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một công vạn chuyện (one effort billions accomplishments)

The equivalent saying in english is “kill 2 birds with 1 stone”, but… why would you want to kill birds? and why start a saying with “kill” anyway??  so i think the vietnamese version is more appropriate here.  Anyhow, first, the end result:

It’s a simple slide show of some random pictures (of my latest hiking trip) to a _beautiful_ soundtrack of Frau Kasarova and Frau Gruberova duett.  It did take me 5+ hours to accomplish, and in the process I achieved several goals, Read more of this post

a day on the mountains

spent a very nice day on Mt Wilson today.  Though the mountain is practically in front of my place, I’ve never quite found the right opportunity to go up.  Roughly, it’s about the same as hiking roundtrip from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River in term of elevation gain, but is ~4km shorter.  I was originally invited to hike up Mt Whitney but it didn’t happen…  May be it was good anyway since I might not have survived the high altitude.  All the same, I was so hyped up about hiking the whole week, it was the right time to attack the long trail in my “backyard”.  A last-minute hike companion finding made the trip even more fun.  With the hot LA weather (16°C @ 6am, 31°C @ 2pm), an early start is the best:

@ trailhead, 6am, elev in feet.

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