Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Effect of coffee

The effect of coffee on me in the morning.

Inspired by my fangirlish comic-tribute I have started drawing doodling for fun. Prepare to be subjected to examples of my lack of progress from time to time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tribute to XKCD

XKCD is the nerdcomic. There is none other. I mean, the guy who writes and draws it wanted to build a couch, and ended up with a ball-pen, for Christ's sake! I am in awe.

Anyway, a recurring theme in XKCD is 'raptors. And Cory Doctorov, but that's another story. Raptors are awesome, and they will kill us all, eventually. But you can hold out (for a bit), if you raptor-proof your house.

But is that enough? I think not, and I drew the following comic to illustrate why (click to enlarge):

Lessons learnt while drawing this comic:

  • My drawing skills are... limited
  • Yes, that extends to stick-figures
  • Cleaning up even a stick-figure drawing in Gimp takes time.
  • It is not so easy to draw a stick-figure that suddenly turns around when it has no face.

Lessons I did not learn while drawing this comic:
  • TEM, because I was drawing instead of listening to the lecture.

Oh, and the stupid spellcheck of blogger does not know "learnt" - let's all point at it and laugh!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Journal Reading

can occasionally be really funny - who would expect to find the following gem in the venerable Physical Review E?

Vulnerability of a killer whale social network to disease outbreaks - art. no. 042901 Authors: Guimaraes, PR; de Menezes, MA; Baird, RW; Lusseau, D; Guimaraes, P; dos Reis, SF Source: PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 76 (4): 2901-2901, Part 1; OCT 2007

When I find an article like that, I immediately stop reading and try to imagine what it could be about - especially simple here, because you can easily imagine a killer whale social get-together:

"Well, I heard she got it from Gustav - he always was one for the ladies, you know."
"No really? Gustav? But how could she do that to Jason? He was always faithful."
"Ha, thats what you think. He might never have waved a fin at you, but it was just last year that he made bubble-hearts for a girl, and I can assure you that it wasn't her!"
"Why you..."

Killer-whale cat fight follows...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How not to store fibre-optics

To continue my "look-how-stupid-I-am" series (see first installment here), I will show you how not to store a fibre-optics cable. See evidence on the right.

Thing is, the fibre in "fibre-optics cable" is made out of glass, and while very thin glass does bend a bit, it will not be happy if you bend it too much. So while the method to the right saves much precious storage-space, it does not save precious fibres, alas.

On the other hand, I can now order my own nifty fibres!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Idiot me

See also here.

A tragedy in one act.

A secret laboratory in the deepest dungeon-level of the EPFL. Mysterious laboratory equipment blinks and hums in the background. Boris (in a white lab coat, bien sûr) and Christian (in a blue mechanics overall) are standing before a small vacuum chamber. Boris is waving his hands in the search for words (although the conversation is in French it is reproduced here in English) while Christian is looking at him in dawning comprehension.

Boris: "You see, I is having new match-box and electrodes. New. Need cooling. With water."

Christian: "Ahh, I see. And would you like me to put them on the general cooling circuit, or on the deionised water?"

Boris: Yes! Cooling!

Christian: No, I mean... The circuit you use for your generator here. You know, the one where you have to switch on the pump.

Boris: Pump?

Christian: Yes, the pump behind the lab.

Boris: I have to switch on pump? Oh. Maybe that why generator always overheats, yes?

Christian: "..."

Photo: Lac Leman, Pully.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Sunrise this morning: The Zurich insurance building in Lausanne.

This photo is entirely unmanipulated, and the colours pretty well match what I saw this morning from my balcony. Stunning, isn't it?

I tried to make the same photo with my Casio, and this is where you see one of the differences between even a cheap SLR and a small point-and-shoot: The automatic white balance of my Canon EOS 350D is much better than the one of the small Casio EX-V8.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Yes, bleak was January in Kaltenleutgeben (The cold knelling if you want, although the word comes really from Kalk, German for lime), the village of my parents. Actually, the whole east of Austria was covered in fog since mid-December - bleak, bleak, bleak.
I am quite happy to be back in Lausanne. Fog is frequent here as well, but at least there are some days where you can see the sun...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Conversation with my GPS

Yesterday I was driving along contentedly while the dulcet tones of my GPS guided us through the labyrinth of one-way streets and cul-de-sacs that is Lausanne.

GPS: "Turn left in 250 meters"
Me: "Are you sure? It seems to me..."
GPS: "You are a filthy liar."
Me: "What?"
GPS: "Turn left."
Me: "Hang on, what did you just say?"
GPS: "Turn left."
Me: "No, the other thing."
GPS: "Recalculating route."
Me: "%&*#@&(@!!"
GPS: "You lied."
Me: "What?"
GPS: "You wrote the journey from Vienna to Lausanne took 11 hours. Untrue."
Me: "You read my Blog?"
GPS: "Turn right in 100 meters."
Me: "Ok, it might have taken only 10 hours. Happy?
GPS: "It took precisely 9 hours and 33 minutes. Liar. Turn right."
Me: "What? But I drove extra-slowly because of the rain and ice!"
GPS: "Your average velocity was 102 km per hour. Liar."
Me: "But I know there was a time after Innsbruck where I had to slow down to 100km/h for an hour. How the hell was I not slower than going to Vienna, when I had sunshine all the way?"
GPS: "Drive for 3.4 km."
Me: "You know what? There was one other difference: The route. Going back to Lausanne, I ignored your advice and didn't go via Munich. I went via Innsbruck, which you said was slower."
GPS: "Turn left in 800 meters."
Me: "But it wasn't. Despite having to slow down because of torrential, freezing rain, and don't pretend I didn't, I still made the same time."
GPS: "Recalculating route."
GPS: "Recalculating route."
GPS: "You are still a liar. Turn left.

That's the problem with those damned things. They always have to have the last word.

The photo? Fog this morning at the EPFL. Taken with my new Casio Ex-V8.

Monday, January 7, 2008

First direct sunlight

The photo on the right shows the first sunlight I have seen since approximately December 13th or so. The wait may have been worth it, but then the clouds closed again and it started raining.

The photo was taken on my way home (Vienna -> Lausanne, ~1000km) which normally takes around 9 1/2 hours by car, but took me about 11 hours yesterday, because of rain, snowfall, freezing rain, ferocious bears and totally crazy Germans on the road.

But it wasn't as bad as it might sound (well, the Germans were, and one Italian who thought he was German and drove accordingly - all hail ABS!), because I discovered the thing for long drives: audiobooks. Before leaving Vienna I, ahem, acquired Phillip Pullman's "The Golden Compass", and burned it to a measly 9 CDs. Then off I went, and for the next 11 hours the mellifluous tones of the voice actors were only occasionally punctuated by the soothing announcements of my GPS and the harsh curses I sent after drivers who wanted to kill me.

That is the way to travel - if you can't go by train, that is.

In other news, I took approximately two and a half boatload of photos with my new lens, and am still deliriously happy with it. Also, I have a new camera, a small Casio EX-V8, courtesy of my Japan-fairing sister (Oh, how I hate her: She even got paid for that trip!), which is brilliant and small and will henceforth ride in the breast-pocket of my jacket. The photo above? That's the Casio. Well, and some tweaking in Picasa.

As evident by the long post, I have much to tell, so expect regular boasting posting again, with details about the new camera, many new photos, how I liked Pullman, bookbinding and much, much more!