Friday, January 29, 2010

Santiago-A Coruna-Leon-Oviedo-Ferrol-A Coruna-Santiago

I'm busy these days reading up on a new line of research with some of the others here in Santiago, and enjoying it hugely. It's nice to see things afresh and coming across a few authors whose work I have never read before but I find to be superb writers is a pleasure. Anyway, as I let the new thoughts sink in I thought I'd update the last weeks events.

Last weekend I headed away with a Couchsurfing friend to Oviedo, in Asturias (just East of Galicia) via Leon, where we enjoyed some rich morcilla and fine embutidos before gorging on Asturian fabada and some of the finest cheeses in Spain. Both Leon and Oviedo have picturesque, traditional old centres, centering around a Cathedral, with windy streets leading off, easing into the newer areas of the cities. On a Sunday afternoon, when everyone else is with their families or siestaring, these are lovely places to walk aimlessly around.

Getting back to Santiago was a rather mammoth task as we took the train (Feve), six and a half hours through the lush Asturian and Galician countrysides, up along the Northern coast. The view is stunning and if you are not in a rush I would highly recommend taking this trip. The train arrives into Ferrol which, at 9.30 at night, is not well connected to Santiago so I found myself couchsurfing in A Coruna before heading back early the next day to Santiago on the train.

Anyway, now we find ourselves at Friday once more and the weekend looks to be full of reading, but from where I'm sitting this is quite an enjoyable option for now.

I'll leave you with a few photos taken from my flickr photostream. More can be found here and all can be seen in larger format.

The cathedral roof in Leon:

church roof black and white
and that of a church in Oviedo:
church roof HDR
plus a little fun with the zoom lens above the Cathedral in Oviedo:
spire and moon
and Santa María del Naranco, a pre-Romanesque shrine overlooking Oviedo:
Roman building 1
Currently the first photo on the stream is that of yaure, a Cuban friend whom we met in Oviedo. A trumpeter who, when asked if he had seen the Bueno Vista Social club responded coyly that he was IN the Buena Vista Social Club! We will definitely be seeing them next time they are touring in Spain!

Anyway, for now have a great weekend!

Friday, January 22, 2010

negligible friction in the time direction - no slowing down!

A Flamenco concert on Monday night was a wonderful surprise. Having seen an opera, styled in Flamenco in London last year I was a little put off by the florridity of it all, impressive though it had been. These regular concerts which take place in a tiny bar in Santiago every couple of weeks are intimate and powerful, with none of the waving of polka dot skirts and machismo which I'd always connected with Flamenco. The concert was a simple performance by a female singer, a guitarist and a drummer, playing songs about love and loss with far more emotion than I could take from the large scale, touristified version in London. A great way to start the week and I'll be back in the future.

Wednesday saw my first attempts to make home made tofu, turning it eventually into mapo dofu. Cooking for a friend from Sichuan meant that the pressure was on, but though the texture wasn't quite right and the flavours weren't strong enough, I didn't feel too embarrased by the attempt. Again, a repeat attempt will happen soon enough.  Chicken marinated in home made kimchi paste, Korean kochujan and soy was a big success!

Thursday night saw a return to the climbing wall after a five year absence and while my mind knew exactly what to do, my body was having none of it and I became tired and frustrated at an embarrassingly early stage. A little meditation on the evening has left me feeling more positive and I can see already the areas that I need to concentrate on to get back into climbing shape.

Work-wise the week has seen the proofreading of a major review paper by one of my colleagues which should be out soon enough, the beginnings of a couple of projects on flavour backreaction (though I'm forced, in professional circumstances to call it "flavor" - yeuch!) and some really exciting work on bubbling geometries - a subject which I'm new to, but frankly it's about time I tackled something a little out of my field of 'expertise'.

Tomorrow I head off on the train, papers in hand, to go to Asturias - a mere three and a half hours by car but a mammoth 8 hours by train. I'll be taking the train along the scenic route which takes you along the Northern coast of Galicia and Asturias and I'm looking forward to that a great deal. I'll be heading to see my sometimes flatmate who spends half of her time studying in Asturias while she's not in Santiago, or Romania, or Paris.

Speaking of which, exciting plans are afoot for an Easter vacation of distinctly exotic proportions. Tickets are pending.

Right, I gotta review some basics before I give an introduction to modern physics to a friend tomorrow who devours such discussions with gusto along with some of the most perceptive questions I've ever heard.

Friday, January 15, 2010


My mind is awash with fuzz and noise as I stare blankly after a week of almost non-stop work, give or take some time in the gym designed to make my morphology less Christmas turkey/man combo. Calculations are sinusoidal with moments of clarity from the peaks and confusion in the troughs. The weekend should bring a wave of therapeutic kimchi making which will both bring wonderful wafts of chili and ginger to my flat and provide an accompanying dinnertime buzz for the next few weeks. Lectures on N=2 gauge theories have been beautiful and the absence of enough time to study such things is a sad indictment of our cosmology. In the meanwhile three separate seminar groups have been born, ranging from the vintage to the general to the modern hep-th of which I have taken charge of at least two.

Now my brain is asking for respite and I'll leave you until another week inflates ahead of us.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Toomanytribbles - A year of breathtaking pictures

Toomanytribbles, whom I've written about before, is a friend from my Beijing days though we had a chance to catch up in Athens a few months back. In 2009 she started a year long project to post a photo on her Flickr site every day. This has now finished and frankly it's been a huge joy to watch her photos evolve over the months. She has just created a video montage of her photos which is well worth watching. It's wonderful to see them together, but there's nothing better than going and spending an enjoyable evening browsing her photostream. Helen, I really hope you continue to use this fantastic gift you have into 2010 and well beyond.

Christmas snaps '09

The Christmas break is almost up and I head back to Santiago early next week. Having spent Christmas catching up with family back home I spent a few days in London with old friends. Christmas day itself we headed to the University Parks in the centre of Oxford to go for a walk, bumping into old friends as we strolled in the low winter sun. Getting to the river the golden light was fantastic, shining off the trees across the water:

University Parks on Christmas day
As more family turned up after Christmas day we headed towards Port Meadow, accompanied by bright sundogs:
sun dog
and although we weren't kitted out to get muddy in the fields, clearly other people were:
Port meadow at Christmas
Time in London flew and I'm back home now, but I fitted in a reasonable amount in a few days, starting with going to the Moctezuma-Aztec ruler exhibition at the British Museum (goes on until the 24th of January) which was extremely impressive and well worth going to if you're in the city in the next couple of weeks.

Unfortunately one cannot take photos of the exhibits but the building itself is great photography fodder. The wide angle (10-20mm) lens takes in a good swathe of the remarkable Norman Foster architecture:
British museum

After a little Brownian shopping along Oxford Street, some Covent Garden mooching and a trip to the National Gallery to go to see the newly acquired Titian (Diana and Acteaon) I headed with a friend to Vauxhall bridge to see the New Year's countdown and fireworks. Through an hour of cold we stood with the festive crowds as a million people gathered around the London Eye. The fireworks were fun but frankly nothing is the same once you've spent a Spring Festival in China. Given the freezing temperatures however, and despite the lack of clouds, the smoke from the fireworks seeded the sky, and the frozen footed were treated to a local blizzard of snow a few minutes after midnight. A really wonderful start to the New Year.

Have a great 2010 everyone!