Photo Posting From My Mac

This is my first photo post, my first blog no less, from my shiny new Apple MacBook Pro. I'm still very much getting used to using it and ironing out the bugs. I've just about worked out how to install programs and I can now send and recieve emails. Unfortunately Google's Picasa isn't available for Mac so I'll have to settle for iPhoto instead, but it cirtainly wasn't too painfull to upload these two recent shots of a lilly I was growing on my windowsil.

Close in on the stamen

The rear lighting on the spikes in the top left corner of this shot is particulary nice - done by bouncing the flash off the window.

Photos from My IAU Conference Trip to Prague

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Shame there is multi-national advertising everywhere, but this happens to make a nice shot. I do not endorse pepsi btw (not even tried it)
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Gargoils on the fancy fairytale turret towers.
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Roofs and spires.
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Begging is quite a popular past time in Prague. Everyone adops the same approach which is to remain frozen in one bent position and not flintch when somone donates or walks past.
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More shots of the Cathedrals many spires with the neutral grad filter
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A side door of the Cathedral. Lovely detail like this is allways nice to come accross
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Closer shots of the Cathedral
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There were crowds everywhere, except very late at night.
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Prague Cathedral in the castle. Quite impressive, but shot into the sun so not that great a view of it
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There was quite a lot of beautiful (art deco?) iron work around the back streets - rich pickings away from the grockle traps.
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Same buildings in contesxt
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Building reflections
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Abstract art with reflections on glass tiles
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The front door of the previous chuch
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Sunset behind one of the churches
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Entrance to the Metro line in the Lesser Town. Not quite sure why this was or what the writing is about.
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"Who? Me?"
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A riot of orange and blue in down town Prague old town. These shops aren't here for the local inhabitants sadly.
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I rather liked this door that I came accross on the first night of the conference. Cracked and pleeling away to reveal previous colours of paint.
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A deserted platform of the Prague Metro
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My new MacBook Pro - lovely

My shiny new MacBook Pro fresh out of the box with that lovely 'new computer' smell, ummmm...
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The Presentation Looms

Tomorrow morning, 9:45 am I'll be doing this here presentation to a gathered audience of world renound people, astronomers and even a bit of press. I'm nothing particulary special at this conference, but you get this homogeneous collection of various bods at all presentations, and as I'm the last person it might be less so. I'm going to be presenting my work, or at least the work coded by Andrew Morley that I've applied a bit and written about.

To be honest, with 15 hours and 25 minutes to go I'm not actually as nervous as I suspected I would be. At least no more than I have been before at the various times I've given small presentations.

I've been quite struck by the general quality of most presentations here. Sure some of them have been pretty rubbish, but for the most part the style has been confident and enthusiastic. These are two aspects that I hope I can build into my talk so that I don't end up shaking and simply reading out my slides. I'd also like to try walking around while I talk as there is a roving 'Britney-esq' headset mic to use which should improve circulation. I'm also tempted to make a mini starting joke about the Britney mic, but I'm not sure it will totally go down well. We'll have to wait and see with that one.

I used to be under the impression that my presenting style is quite good, but over this week I've been able to analise it more critically and I'm not so sure. I'm cirtainly not terrible as I tend to talk along with the slides rather than read through them, but I still distract myself by trying to make sure I cover all the points written down. I've really got to concentrate on giving a presentation on my work and having the slides there to explain and back up what I'm saying. I also need to be more aware of myself and surroundings when I present as I tend to work myself into a mental fuzz so that I don't keel over, a standard self protection mechanism, but this separates my from reality and doesn't allow myself to interact with the audiance. I think that is the critical bit, the presentation is not in front of a wall, it's to an interested audience who, I hope, will be supportive. I must remain in touch and engaged with them throuout.

Can I put this into practice? We'll see!

Inrodes into the Astronomical Community

This is what I'm finding the hardest about attending this IAU conference. The talks are all really good with interesting questions and packed theaters, but the real work comes afterwards when everyone disperses to disucss what's been said.

At these times it's hard being a complete newbie to get chatting to anyone. Partly because there are so many of the top names here and I don't want to embaress myslef, but also beacuse there are a lot of geeks who know each other. So they end up chatting with each other having not been together since the last IAU etc. and thus the newbies are left to try and make inrodes themselves.

I should think it would be easier follwing a presentation as then people can come up to you and talk about your work. Unfortunately for me my presentation is tomorrow, the very last presentation of the last day and so I won't be able to benefit from this publicity. Hopefully people will remember what I said, perhaps untill the next IAU when I can meet up again with them all.

Hotel v Youth Hostel

- Hotel -
  • Private room
  • Own bath
  • Nice fittings
  • TV
  • Room service
  • Restaurant
  • Expensive
  • Often new buildings lack architectural merrit
  • Private room is lonely
  • TV is a bad distraction

- Youth Hostel -
  • Cheap
  • Friendly
  • Dormitories help you meet frinds
  • No TV
  • Often have communal areas for meeting people
  • Often in old interesting buildings
  • Can cook your own food
  • Possibly less secure
  • Have to make your own entertainment
  • Large variability in quality etc.

On balance I prefer youth hostels. I've typically had great experiences right across the world from America to China. I love the way it makes you meet people and if arriving in a new city, especailly if travelling alone, there really is no better way to get acqainted, make friends, learn about what's good and what's not and have a good time.

I guess Hotels are better for married people who don't need other friends. But it's youth hostels for me all the way

Catholicism on the Continent

I hear that the Czech Republic had a revolution and became protestant before slipping back in the 1620's to the old Catholic ways (celebrated at the time by 27+ simultanious hangings) .

Now I'm not against Catholicism, there are loads of really good aspects and I've had a very good education from a Catholic school. But on the continent it's quite something else. It's just so incredible backwards, it seams at least.

I took the oppertunity of finding a Church last Sunday on when I arrived in Prague and attending the morning service. The church was not massive, like a big anglican parrish church, but the inside was filled with statues, Mary paintings and a massive F-O alter, and a very few pews.

These slowly filled to a 15% capacity with perhaps 50% being tourists. Hymn books were hidden and when I eventually found one it was difficult to use with the "laser display board" (which gave the currnt hymn number) shooting back and forth when hymn verses were sung in strange orders. And the singing itself was simply appauling - none of the locals sung loudly enough to be heard, prefering to mumble some tune. And even the priest and alter boys didn't open their mouths to join in.

The collection was a pittiful affair, not that it is really legitimate to comment upon, but a very small collection was taken - not generous by any strech (I was confused as to how such a massive church could possibly maintain itslef).

And then there was this collection box at the back of the chuch which I thought I'd donate to (only a little I admit). Now the usual deal is that these have soft interiors to catch the money and prevent much noise being made in the case of coinage. Not this one, oh no! This had two internal metal plates that caught the conis making a pearcing clang clang as if announcing "I've just just given some money - arn't I amazing". This pissed me right off.

How can such an insitute function when there is little apparent desire to be there and no encouragement or excitement in the worship of a living God. Jesus is an awesome dude, God rocks and the Holy Spirit is with us to enable our conection to both above - totally amazing. But t seems that God and the Holy Spirit are pretty much the sole responsability of the Pope with the general Priest (called Father of course) heirachy obscuring them from the congergation. And as for the Holy Spirit, I wouldn't be surprised if she'd just died out due to lack of use.

Like I say there are great points about Catholicism, and the Catholic chruch in the UK is leagues ahead of this (Taze is another amazing example). But these churches still continue in the same archaic manner, firmly refusing change yet perhaps being the sole expression of Chrisitan faith that some locals will ever experience. I cirtainly wouldn't be persuaded that God was worth shouting about had this been my upbringing.

So I guess I'm urging the Catholic Church to get involved in the continent and shake them awake again.

As for me? I'm going to see if I can find a free Church this comming Sunday instead.

Laptop Touch Pads

On ths conference James has kindly lent me the use of his old laptop. This is just fantastic and will make my time much more productive (let alone being able to blog more and watch films in the hotel).

However, it's got this one anoying function that I believe is common across most PC laptops - in that when you're typing and accidentally rub or move near the touch pad (that handy device positioned right in the middle of the wrist rest) the cursor suddenly wildly jumps somewhere else in the screen, selects a bunch of text and imediatly deletes it as you continue typing. Very annoying.

Thankfully I ordered an Apple Laptop that has the nifty feature of dissabling the touch pad as soon as you start typing - simple. Brilliant.

Bush and Terror

Dear Lord that fool, the President of the USA, the dumb-ass George Bush (whether or not he actually is a dumb ass or not is quite irrelvant for the purpose of this rant) is currently wittering on about the cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon.

He just speaks bollocks about how America is striving for freedom through forcing democracy on them all (the infadels). This is from a man who one his first elections through a range of dodgy tactics. He spouts useless shite about how good Israel is - umm, nothing to do with America funding them to a stupid degree then - and how evil and terror-filled Hezbola is.

They just don't get it these Republicans. They just can't see past their own fat fannys, see beyond their own pre-concieved (and thus totally correct) world view. They have no capacity for self evaluation or self criticism. How can they possibly be allowed to function on their own. These Rebublicans are just scared little bullyish children that should really not be in charge of anything as big as America.

And I've not even mentioned their fucked up vision of Christ and faith. Someone please smack them.

Confront Terror. Fight for Liberty. Strive for Freedom. We care about the loss of innocent lives. Terrorism is the fight of the 21st century.
Sounds great (if you don't engage you brain that is), shame it's all bollocks.

You might well be able to find this Bush conference on CNN. That's where I'm listening to it.

UK terror threat level downgraded

The terror threat to the UK has been downgraded from "critical" to "severe".

I'm reminded of the Red Dwarf comedy line:
"Are you sure Sir? That does require changing the bulb".

Just to mention that I was caught up in this fiasco late last week when I was due to fly to Prague for this IAU conference. Thankfully I wasn't flying out till Saturday morning, so some time was there for the situation to cool off, and my flight was from Southampton Airport not Heathrow. Nevertheless, I duly turned up to the airport with just my wallet, passport and a tissue in a plastic bag and was passed through customs (despite the terrorist-esq beard).

When I arived at Charles de Gaule for my connecting flight there I was, in my suit, with a clear plastic bag (the type you get vegetables in) of belongings while everyone else had their laptops, bags, phones and looked generally more prepaired.

Hopefully with the threat down graded, and the allowance of some hand luggage, I might be able to return with loads of space in my suit case as on the way out it had to contain my camera rucksack too - nice.


Here I am in Prague, City of a thousand spires.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately my luggage only arrived late last night. Like I advise everyone - DON'T EVER TRAVEL THROUGH CHARLES DE GAUL!!! See this for starters: AirFrance letter of complaint.

But everything is good now. I have my luggage, I have clean clothes to wear and I finally have my camera (I've been setting up shots to take while I've been wondering around over the last two days). I'm also singed into my conference and looking forward to an interesting week of talks etc. Im not yet looking forward to Friday when I give my presentation, but I'm sure it will be just fine. To be honnest I think I'll have grown board of worrying about it long before then so I might well be quite relaxed, or at least blasé by the time it comes around.

But till then, just a load of, hopefully, interesting seminars, talks, debates, discussions and a hell of a lot of coffee. YAY! Also with this wi-fi connection I might well be able to get on with some solid blogging. So this is a week to keep up with this blog.


Off to Prague

I'm off to Prague in the morning to give a presentation on my work next Friday. I can't say I'm entirly excited by the prospect but I'm sure it will all turn out OK in the end. I'll try and blog while I'm away and I also hope to get some fine shots of the city and acritecture to upload.

Till then...

This was anice shot I caught at my friends wedding last Friday. I was on my 105 macro so I couldn't widen it to get all the reflections unfortunately.
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I had to pop out to Shirley to pick up a DVD from the Royal Mail sorting office (you see I they missed me when they tried to deliver the package as 12:55 mid week - no shit! I was WORKING).

On my way back to work I stopped by at Sainsburies to pick up some stuff for tomorrows Bonfire-B-Q. This included some pringles which were on offer. Unfortunately I brought these back to the office with me and accidentally opend the salt and vinagar ones...

There's under half the packet left and I was supposed to have a pizza tonight. *Mistake*

The following is a link to the website of this rather nice chap I met at a wedding recently (he was the best man). He's been on some amazing adventures and is a rather good photographer:

A hawk moth that landed in James' room the other week. I gave it a bit of a heavy photo shoot but it was a tought subject. This shot prooved quite nice with some depth of field interest.
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