Thursday, February 17, 2011

The quickest of photo updates

I'm just coming to the end of my days in Valencia, which have been excellent. The conference has been a lot of fun, seeing some good talks and spending lots of time with friends and collaborators and today I went for a bit of an explore of the city before going and hiding myself away to start writing a new paper. I'll put up some photos when I get back to Munich. In the mean time I promised last time a photo of my new apartment, furnished over the last couple of weeks with second hand furniture from across the city. The desk you see here I had to carry on my own through an evening rain back to my place and then up four flights of stairs. I was utterly exhausted in the end, but I think that the place is looking pretty good now. I've got a large Chinese calligraphy to put up, and a lot of photos, but apart from that it's almost there.

Edit: I notice looking at it again that the distortion with the 10mm lens makes the desk and table look tiny. The table is big enough to seat perhaps 6 people pretty comfortably and the desk is about 1.5 m for scale.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Of time to sit and think

So, we're a little over a month into the Munich adventure and many of the teething problems have now been solved. I have a phone, I have a flat, and thanks to a huge forum of English speakers, called Toytown (named by its instigator because Munich, though a large city, doesn't have many of the things that we associate with such places - it's really a collection of posh villages welded together with cafes and bookshops), I also have furniture.

My place, as many places in Germany do, came unfurnished but I managed to organise a week of pickups from around the city, collecting bookshelves, cupboards, sofas plus some miscellaneous and probably not necessary additions (a soda maker which I will be using for high pressure marinades, though in a dream I figured out a way to do this even more easily...ok, I dream about some weird stuff!) either free or second hand, and now have a pretty presentable looking flat. Although there are only two rooms (plus kitchen and bathroom) there's bed space for seven (double bed, double futon, double inflatable mattress, plus a large sofa) and I expect to be putting up friends over the coming months.

Unfortunately, somewhere in the move the cable needed to transfer photos to my computer has vanished and so photos of the new place will have to wait.

On the work front, things are amazingly busy. I'm currently working very actively on three projects which seem to be making exciting progress, plus another three or so which are all on the back burner. It'll be good to get some meaty papers out after a year of networking but little sit-down-and-calculate time last year.

The other hugely nice thing about the flat is that there's no internet in sight, and no television, so I spend my evenings reading for hours and hours and catching up on the teetering shelves of books which I sent from Spain, or bought while I was in China last year. Read last week and thoroughly enjoyed: Harpo Speaks, Waiting for Barbarians (ok, enjoyed isn't the word, but appreciated), Suffer and Survive, and having got my parcel through from China, I went back through Landau Lifshitz on classical mechanics, a wonderful book, and one which I'd love to put into a Mathematica format to make it interactive.  This video from the Wolfram blog, describes just the sort of thing I'd like to spend some time on in the future:

Previously, while in the guest house of the MPI I read Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar, a brilliant little book of philosophy told in the language of jokes plus Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, a book that had been recommended to me as I'm interested in finding out more about the KIPP system of education, having previously been a little disappointed by the lack of detail on the actual process in Bill Gate's TED recommendation Work Hard, Be Nice.

Language progress is still in its infancy, but after next week, when I'll be in Valencia for the Iberian strings meeting, I'll be starting morning lessons in German for an intensive couple of weeks, followed hopefully by Chinese lessons in the evenings. I'm reaching a bit of a plateau with my Chinese and feel that now's the time to give it a bit of external help.