Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ran around the whole day, again. So I feel like this construction worker from the WTC site:

Ran around the financial district a bit. Trinity Church:

New York really is a green city, there's bloody trees everywhere

Some flowers in Battery Park

more tomorrow, sleepy now.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good Coffee

I have not been overly impressed by the quality of the coffee here in the states. A cliché that is firmly based on reality, it seems. Even the coffee in the Marriot was decidedly mediocre.

But! Enter the Bean&Bean, on Wall Street and Broadway. Guess them bankers love a good cuppa. Organic, of course, we wouldn't want to have an inorganic brew. Still, good stuff.

- tales from the road

Location:Broadway,New York,United States

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

The biggest Gothic church in the world, also known as St John the Unfinished, and the White Elephant of Upper West Side. Impressive:

but unfinished. And you can see where the money ran out if you walk around and have a look at the backside.
It is hard to resist drawing a parallel between the superficiality of faith in general and American-style evangelism in particular, all façade and no depth, but for you, gentle reader, I shall refrain.

And thus the lord sayeth: Thou shalt use razor wire to keep out the unworthy, yea, and the poor so they shall not disturb thy peace.

But I have to give them this: very restful on a hot day  (36 centigrade, relative humidity: insane), without the infernal rattling and whooshing of those blasted ACs.

Relax, and think about your mortality.

Mademoiselle Liberté

as seen from Brooklyn Bridge.

Times Square

The obligatory Times Square photo.

We went to a stand-up comedy show afterwards, which was decidedly mediocre. Mostly very bad (read simplistic) jokes about the ethnicity of audience members: genre, you are Mexican? Don't stab me!

Ha,  ha indeed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Museum of Natural History

Eh. Bones, schmones. I was excited at first, but have since discovered that I like reading about dinosaurs more than I like looking at their bones. I am always am dissatisfied with the amount of information displayed.

I am looking forward to the Guggenheim, though. I could spend days in art collections!
Have an elephant.

- fresh from my iPhone

Location:Central Park West,New York,United States

More Food

Oh, the horror. Went to a Diner yesterday (Big Daddy's or somesuch, 92nd and Broadway), to get dinner. I got a burger, and my mate Victor a club sandwich.

Please excuse the low quality of the photos, but maybe you can see that those burgers are about enough to feed two families. Each.

Don't get me wrong, they were tasty, but yeesh. I just can't enjoy a meal that is so big that I only have to nibble around the edges to get full. Want to know why you have an obesity problem, America? This is your answer, right there.

- fresh from my iPhone

Location:Amsterdam Ave,New York,United States

Brooklyn Bridge, sunset

Mets vs. Twins

 or my first baseball match.

Well. I guess I can see the appeal, kind of. You hang out with your friend, munch some hotdogs, have some beers. It's kind of like a picknick, only without a nice lawn. But the game itself? Nothing happens! Ever!

But obviously I am wrong, because even the Mets drew a huge crowd:

about 40 000.
We had cheap places and were a long way from the action (such as there was), but my long lens caught at least this. Let's go Mets!

Really weird to my European sensibilities where the animation-jingles that played whenever nothing was happening on the pitch, i.e. pretty much constantly.

 Clap, clap.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


A few photos of yesterday's walk through Chinatown. Started from the subwaystation Canal Street:

It's an eclectic mix of American and Chinese, and the back streets are much nicer than the very touristy and tacky Canal Street.

Asian beauty

Food! Lichis and...


Good bye, Sebastian, good bye.

Chilling out in the park

New favourite painting

I think I spent half an hour before this painting in the Met. Sublime.

Claude Monet, Ice Floes, Metropolitan Museum, New York

Ramen place in Chinatown

Getting some much-needed Ramen. Ordered the Devil's Ramen (the one with four little jot peppers in the menu, and 'extremely spicy!' underneath).

And here it is:

Not quite as spicy as it looks like, but very tasty.

- fresh from my iPhone

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Two Jedi, fighting in Central Park, New York City.

Die, Sith-spawn!

That is all.


Only the poor ride the bus, and the poor are obese.

I took the china town bus from Norfolk to New York. First of all, it is ridiculously cheap (35$). Second, I wanted to see who would take a long distance bus in a land that idolizes personal motorized transportation. This is what went down.

I got up rather early, slightly hungover thanks to a crazy (crazy, I tell you!) French professor and his Scottish lackey. I gathered up my things, had a last of the gratuitious coffees and bade the Marriot good bye.

Out of the automatic doors of the lobby, I immedeatly assumed a spreadeagled position, gasping in the wet, humid soup they laughingly call air in Virginia. Then I noticed that it had barely more than 30 degrees Celsius - it was just the contrast to the over-airconditioned lobby that made it seem unbearable. Why, americans? Why do you insist on keeping it 18*C inside?

But I digress. I took a free shuttle- bus to the main bus terminal, and waited for the right bus, the number 20. As I waited, I observed the crowd. The contrast to downtown Norfolk and the Mariott couldn't have been greater. I was the only Caucasian around. Not unexpected, if bus = poor and poor often equals black. The apparel was generally of the second-hand sort. And many of those waiting weighted in at somewhere in between the rinocerous and whale categories. 'Morbidly obese' sprang to mind. I don't mean the body shape where you think, 'oh my, that's a fat one', I mean the kind of monumental apparition which, when seen in Europe, would prompt me to follow it around for a block or two, just to make sure my eyes were not playing a trick on me.

And here I was surrounded by this. For a moment I became afraid - maybe they would eat me? - but then I realised I could always escape them by affecting a moderately fast shuffle.

I am, of course, exaggerating grossly (<- see what I did here?). But it is true that, in the western world ( and I am not excluding Europe here), obesity is perversly enough linked to poverty, and this was viscerally made clear on the bus. Upper arms the size of my thighs, I kid you not.

After asking the driver to kindly point out my stop to me, since the stops are neither indicated nor posted, I settled back and enjoyed the horror that is the suburbs between Norfolk and Virginia beach. Cars rule here, so much was evident. Perfunctory sidewalks if there were any, intersections for three lane roads without pedestrian crossings, baking asphalt as far as the eye could see. I got out at my stop and settled in to wait for the china town bus.

The china town bus was late. But, before I could get nervous, a fourteen year old Chinese girl and her seventeen year old brother turned up in a big van.

The bus was late they told me and the handful of other passengers. But no worries, they would load us in their van and get us to Newport, where another bus would pick us up. So off we went, with a slightly overloaded van, ment for 10 passengers but containing 5 men, 3 orca and 2 whales. The Chinese girl, clearly in charge, tapped away on her laptop and shouted in Chinese in her cellphone, coordinating the intricate and arcane dance of china town buses, while her brother grimly tried to kill us all by constantly overestimating the stopping power of the nearly nonexistent brakes of the van. I felt like being in an early William Gibson novel.

After an hour, which I spent mainly fending off a Chinese student who insisted on going to sleep on my shoulder and reading the much-too-near license plates of the cars in front of us, we arrived in another suburb. For a moment I was afraid we had gone in circles, for suburbs are indistinguishable for the European eye, but I should never have doubted the Chinese child goddess that had adopted us. The china town bus was indeed waiting, and only the ritual checking of our tickets stood between us and salvation.

Our driver, evidently only a lesser servant, got in a bit of an argument with one of us in the van, who had, as it turned out, no ID. This was, he argued eloquently, because he had just come out of prison, motherfucker.

Luckily for the tranquility of our journey, and the continuing health of the intrepid van driver, our goddess heard and intervened, shouting (her preferred form of communication) something in Chinese to her brother. Translated it must have meant something like 'who gives a rats-ass about his ID, oh brother mine', because the argument was settled and we could board.

The rest of the bus ride was long, uneventful and cold (@&£@ AC!), so I won't bore you with a description. I don't even have photos to gladden your eye, so I'll stop here. Also, typing long entries on the iPhone is a pain, and all errors in the above, orthographic or otherwise, are the fault of Apple Inc. That is all.

- fresh from my iPhone

Location:Between Norfolk and NYC

Friday, June 25, 2010


Been running through the Met for six hours now, it's amazing. Like in the Louvre in Paris, a museum that you could visit for a week without problem. Why don't they have a youth hostel here?

I still haven't seen the whole american wing, only scratched the surface of the rather excellent Egyptian collection (pictured above, the temple of Dendur), and haven't even been near the Chinese, Korean and Near East exhibitions.

Aargh, and I just noticed that there is a modern art exhibition that stretches over two floors! Not to mention the rooftop sculptures...

If I haven't seen anything of New York when I come back, you'll have the Met to blame.

- fresh from my iPhone

Location:Lexington Ave,New York,United States

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Going to New York

today, using one of those China-town buses. You have to hand it to the Americans, when they do offer public transportation, it is cheap. Norfolk  to New York, about 35$ (28 Euros).

Eye of Sauron

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Norfolk - cruise

One of the social events during the ICOPS conference - a cruise on the "Spirit of Norfolk". And yes, some scientists know how to have social events. Not me, of course, but some.
Anyway, here is the Spirit in all her splendor:

Spirit of Norfolk: pretty, hm, big.

We saw some of Norfolk Naval base (I think), the biggest naval base in the world, which certainly is impressive.

Going back the sky lit up pretty nicely,

and even Norfolk itself is kind of pretty, at dusk.

Monday, June 21, 2010


So, Norfolk. What's to see aside from religious taxi drivers?
First, supersized hotel-rooms:

I don't know why I suddenly rate two double-beds, but I won't complain!

Ran around a bit in the sweltering heat.

Hot hot hot humid hot. Also: barrel-distortion

What astounded me most was the Barnes&Nobles I peeked into: A whole wall with religious books. I couldn't even get them all on my camera, so you'll have to take my word for it. But it wasn't just one or two shelves, it must have been over a thousand books, everything from the bible to How to groom your dog like a Christian (not an actual title, although it should be) . I don't know if you could even find a bible in a normal bookstore in Austria or Switzerland. I knew that they take their religion seriously in the states, but it is one thing to know that in an abstract way, and another to really experience it.

Freemaison historic district: Very quaint.

Quaint like a quilted quail in a quagmire.

This little guy was singing his heart out, then dancing a little bit in the air, then back to singing. I feel I should now the species, but I don't.

or... is that bastard mooning me?

 Tomorrow morning I'll give my talk - wish me luck!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Somewhere in Norfolk, VA

 Finally made it, and only seven or so hours late! Thankfully the taxi driver knew where to go, 'cause I am too tired to care. As an aside, when in the States, don't tell your taxi driver you are an atheist, even if he asks. Nearly ended up in the ditch, the poor guy was so surprised. Saw afterwards that he was driving with a bible on his knees ;) 
Now sleep. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stuck on the Tarmac

Stupid piece-of-shit Boeing 767 ain't going anywhere. Some kind of pressure-valve problem. If we don't lift off in half an hour, and we won't, I'll miss my connecting flight to Norfolk.
At least the stewardesses have gone into crowd-control mode, and are dispensing sweets as fast as they can fling them.

Below: big waste of metal that doesn't fly.

Update: deboarded the plane, and it looks like somebody is opening up the turbine. The captain said he'll be able to tell us more in an hour - I am not holding my breath.
Update 2: boarding again. Maybe second time's the charm? 4 hours delay all in all, I hope they'll rustle up another flight to Norfolk for me, today. Still, I won't complain too much, because: Crossing the Atlantic in (now) thirteen hours? Still awesome.
- fresh from my iPhone

Location:Route des Batailleux,Grand-Saconnex,Switzerland

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bollocks to this...

... I am off to the States. First Norfolk, VA for the International Conference On Plasma Science, then New York City and maybe Washington, DC.

I hear they have the internets in the US though, so I may post some impressions.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Emotions - surprise

Next to last in the emotions-series (previously: fear, sadness and rage).

Do not forget your Tyrannosaur-EXTM deterrent when venturing into the primeval jungle!

I am quite happy with how the riding-lizard turned out - I want one! I probably could have spent some more thime on the foilage, though. Also, the claw of the poor Tyrannosaurus is and looks lika an afterthought. But! I drew the trepid explorer without a reference, and her anatomy works, more or less. Horray for me!

Lastly I thought it would be interesting to show the preliminary sketch I made, where I figured out where everything would go. Normally I need to make more than one of these, but this picture sprang more or less fully formed into my mind, like a hungry tyrannosaurus, or a bad metaphor.


Both drawings pencil on A4 paper.

Edit: Ahem. I actually was drawing surprise, not fear as previously stated. Fear I've already done. Corrected in title and text.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Eastern Dragon

Busy finishing my paper. Have a dragon while I work.

orientalischer Drache, aus Add. zu den Unaussprechlichen Kulten

Re: Your report of the 12 th of May, Anno Domini 1247

Your Excellency,

despite delving in the deepest archives, our librarians could unearth scant information about the creature you describe. The only clear descriptionn was found in Bloch's unholy De Vermis Mysteriis, and two of our brethren went mad before we knew only to use illiterate copyists which cannot be tempted to perouse the foul volume. We also had a few copies of the addendum to the Unaussprechlichen Kulten, one page of which I enclose in this message - it bears the only clear depiction we could find.

May our Lord be with you,
I remain you most obediant servant,

Pencil (B, 4B) in my sketchbook, some patterning and cleaning up of the scan in photoshop.