Tuesday, August 7, 2012

VLA in New Mexico

On our recent trip to the US, Lisa had a conference at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where she gave a talk on data assimilation.  She was awesome!

On the last day of the conference, we were able to head to the Very Large Array.   The VLA is featured in the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster and is one of Lisa's favorite movies. Contrary to what is shown in the movie however, the research at the VLA is not occupied with the search for extra terrestrials, but instead uses radio astronomy to 'view' celestial objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Researchers ask for time "on" the VLA and the 27 radio antennas there capture the data the researcher needs.  The antennas are on railroad tracks and can be moved along a "Y" axis, along with tilting the dishes towards an object in space.

 Because Lisa's conference organizers were well acquainted with the VLA, we were able to get a more in-depth tour than normal groups.  We climbed up the many flights of stairs and ladders to see the cables, electronics, and the dish itself.  I was even able to walk on the inside of the dish.   Since it is white and reflects light, it is BRIGHT in that dish.

 Even though I'm afraid of heights, I made it all the way up.
The VLA is located in a valley, but a valley which still has a relatively high elevation, which makes it perfect for minimizing electronic noise from other sources.  It is protected from noise by surrounding mountains and this also means storms seem to come in pretty fast.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vienna and Budapest

In late April, Lisa had a conference in Vienna, Austria for the EGU (European Geosciences Union). She gave a talk and attended many more talks about climate modelling and data assimilation, over the course of a week. While she attended her meetings, I had the chance to walk around Vienna. Because our baby will be arriving in October, we wanted to take a quick trip to Budapest since it is closer to Vienna and scheduled a couple of days to see the city.

 A typical street in the center of Vienna:

Lisa and I listened to organ music while admiring the interior of St. Peter's church in Vienna.

I was able to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum while in Vienna.  I was struck not only by the beauty and the vividness of color in the paints but also the attention to detail by the artists.  I remember paintings by Titan, Hans Holbein the Younger, Gustav Klimt who was part of the Vienna Secession Movement, 17th-century Flemish painting Peter Paul Rubens and German Renaissance painters like Albrecht Dürer.  There were whole rooms of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and by painters who painted in a small group with Rembrandt.

This painting, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, is entitled The Procession to Calvary.  People who saw the recent movie:  The Mill and the Cross will remember this scene and how it 'came to life' in the course of the movie.


This painting is entitled  Saul's Conversion.  

More photographs of paintings from the Art History Museum in Vienna.

The dome in one of the churches we visited.
Vienna, like Berlin, is wonderful about creating 'green' space in the midst of the city.  There are many parks, fountains, and trees throughout the city.  Travelers are invited to sit down on park benches and admire the history, architecture, and nature in the city.

  Many of these 'chairs' are available in the city center.   As it was beautiful outside most days, I saw most of them being used by singles and families as they enjoyed lunches outside, reading, or taking in a little afternoon sun.

One of the many cobblestone streets that get filled with patio chairs as restaurants open for the day.

Beautiful palaces, parliament buildings, and opera houses adorn the streets.
Street cars run throughout Vienna, along with buses and trains.  Lisa and I found they run more regularly and on-time than Berlin mass transit.  We also loved the old street cars (pictured here) but lovers of new designs can also ride in grey trams.

Roman ruins at St. Michael’s Square or “Michaelerplatz” in Vienna.

Roman Ruins description from "Smarter Tours"

St. Peter's Church in Vienna.
Our trip in Budapest included this 2 hour boat tour along the Danube (Donau in German).  I learned that Buda and Pest were actually two cities and were united in 1873.

The view from our cable car (called funicular) ascending Buda to view the Buda castle:

One of the 'tunnels' up towards the Fisherman's Bastion:

The city view from near Buda Castle.

Matthias Church in Budapest.

Fisherman's Bastion


The first night in Budapest Lisa and I went out to dinner.  She loved the wallpaper at our restaurant. 
Parliament building in Budapest

Part of our boat tour took us to St. Margaret's island where we were able to walk around the island and see the convent and church where St. Margaret, daughter of King Béla IV of Hungary, lived.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Busy Berlin

Lisa's friend Sten came to visit a few weeks ago. Since Lisa had to work every day, I was able to walk around the city with Sten and accompany him as he took photos. I took a few myself and thoroughly enjoyed our 3+ hour walks every day. Sten is great and it is easy to see why he and Lisa are such good friends.

One of the things I love about Berlin is it's state of perpetual motion. At times it is frustrating because of water line construction or the cranes, but since we don't have a car, we are far less frustrated by the constant activity.

A view from the Hauptbahnhof in Berlin, showing several train lines and construction:


Another view of the Hauptbahnhof

A beautiful cafe nestled right in the heart of the city, next to an ancient wall from 1250 AD, partially rebuilt.

One of the clearest exhibits of state controlled (communist) city planning can be viewed on Karl-Marx-Allee, formerly named Stalinalle. I was quite impressed with the grandeur of the buildings and symmetry.

A burned out church; the description was behind a locked gate