Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spying on Scandals

By popular demand I have been asked to put a halt to my laziness and address my online fan club with what they want: juicy details of my self styled gossip page life. Well true to form I had serious multi-cultural mid-week drinkage. A european coworker of C had birthday drinks at a georgian restaurant to which half of the mid 30s diplomatic corp of Tel Aviv was invited. I met an envoy from germany, an indian-canadian security expert, a counsul from the republic of eire, and a whole bunch of wives and husbands, not to mention the "europeans" (EU staff) themselves. The crowd was bordering on espionage. They all had this way of talking: alot of "between me and you", "off the record", "unofficially" and my favorite "someone told me..." I got some nice info (yes I am self impressed, just like these 30 somethings getting DANGER PAY for living in country with a crime rate 1/1000th that of their home countries). Well I dont want to repeat it here in the middle of cyberspace, but suffice it to say that alot of talking head pundits on Fox arent too far off the mark. It made me feel special - like I was a small but significant tweed wearing scientist who may have some secrets burried in his brain to which the 007s of this world must try and gain access. Did I mention I had enough zubrovka to drown a georgian bison in Alexander Litvinenkos polonium infested miso soup?

Speaking of politics for those of you who dont follow the ins and outs of Israeli politics it reads like the gossip collumn of Variety. Or make that the crime section of the Harlem Times. Basically these days, the highest echelon of the Israeli political elite have a serious problem keeping their hands off women. The Justice Minister Haim Ramon, has just been found guilty of forcing a 21 year old soldeir to kiss him (there is irony in a justice minister getting convicted). I think what angered the country so much is not just that he forced his tongue down her throat, but that he did it a few minutes before a cabinet meeting on the second day of the war with Lebanon. Two IDF soldiers are being tortured in some hole in Beirut, the country's about to go to war to rescue them and the justice minister is smooching a 21 year old subordinate. Great. Far more serious is the Presdient of Israel (a mainly ceremonial position), Moshe Katsav will be indicted on charges of rape, sexual harrasment, more sexual harassment and more rape. RAPE!!! How can the president of a democracy be a rapist? Its sick. To be fair I dont believe in trial by media and the man is innocent until proven guilty, but still the alegations and (possible) indictment are enough. Last but not least the right honorable Prime Minister is being questioned basically over insider trading - on when he knew what regarding the privatisation of one of Israels largest banks (Leumi - my bank as it happens). And it doesnt end there. Omri Sharon, the son of the vegetable former prime minister Ariel, could face prison over illegal fund raising. Oh and did I mention theres a low level civil war raging in Gaza and yesterday there was the first suicide attack inside Israel in 9 months (it killed 3 bakers) ...

I've made it. I'm off for a beer.

Just had it pointed out to me that my baryon fractions paper has received its first citation! Better still, the second author of the citing paper is one J. Ostriker. A certain friendly Canadian co-author has also informed me that he has 3 pre-prints ready to go to press, each carrying a citation. Yes! A nice surprise on the day I resubmitted the revised manuscript, which I hope will carry past the referee.

Now, where are my cigars?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

2007 and all that (Rob's take)

Ok, a bit belated, but January 2007 has been a rollercoaster of a month. So I'm going to take stock, make my plans for the remaining 11 months of the year, and give myself something to look back on sometime around 2008 when I'll be even more stressed about time than I am now.

The key stake in the ground of January was the Lorentz/Virgo meeting in Leiden. The meeting, and in equal measure my preparation for it, has determined the direction of my PhD and I'm pretty happy about where I'm going. This is a marked change from only a couple of months ago when the best answer I could give to people about what I research was "galaxies". I've got a plan in place, and armed with my GTD book (thanks Sam), I'm going to nail the bugger to the wall.

Also, I've thrown an abstract into the fray of the Heidelberg "Dark Universe" conference, which I'm dearly love to go to. I think it'll be a great meeting and I'd love to use the opportunity of going as an excuse to get the missus and I on a holiday for the first time in two years. Here's hoping SOC members Drs. Alexander and Smail fight my cause!

So, my optimistic predictions:
1. United to pip Chelsea to the title
2. Chunky GIMIC-based paper by close of the year
3. Dalsim will get finished
4. I'll stick to using some form of GTD methodology
5. I'll resist buying a Macbook but will relent over a Samsung telly and AppleTV.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sweden in Netanya

I have started a semi-routine of working from home. This would otherwise be fine except that when i am at home im prone to lax concentration, due in part to my neanderthal upload speed which makes ssh'ing and scp'ing a semi-nightmare. So in between calculations I inevitably read papers and browse the internet. My work situation has gone through a major face lift: new desk, chair and imac aquired. I have spent some time installing software on my new computer - this has turned out to be a bit of a mess, because appearently the x11 program used by os 10.4.x has a bug in it (you instal new software and it doesnt work and your convinced that its your dumb fault only to find out that the geniuses in silicon valley arent perfect coders either!)

My work is semi-shaping up. I am starting to become a gadget-runner efficienado and have succesfully simulated a spiral galaxy. this would be extremely noteworthy if it werent for the fact that I am simply reprocuding previous results. Well I guess thats one small step on the long arduous road to originality.

Last weekend cilia and I went to ikea and bought half of sweden. I love Ikea. they have super cheap great quality furniture. For a few hundred quid (and a few hours of outsourced furniture building) our flat was transformed from prehistoric cave dwelling into a 21st century lux pad. A freind of mine noted the fact that the liberal left is always up in arms about the disneyfication of the world via McDonalds, Starbucks, etc but no one seems to care that Ikea is doing the same thing to the world of furniture. Who can honestly argue with the swedes?

Why would anyone buy mass produced canvas paintings from Ikea? bookshgelves I can understand, but art?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Technical difficulties

Seems the /gal/sr2 RAID at work has gone down. Sadly this is where I keep all of the media for the blog, so for the immediate future there'll be no pics online. Many apologies.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Zak hooi!

Jeepers, it's been a while since I last blogged. So, here I am in Leiden - having found a break in the Virgo proceedings. I've been in Leiden now since Sunday which seems so long ago now that this place has almost become my brain's default setting. That's perhaps due to the Leffe / Duval / Kastell etc etc. However I shall never get used to Dutch cuisine.

The conference was pretty tiring, as usual, but the Lorentz Center (the venue for the conference) is very comfortable and provides unlimited free coffee, resulting in me being pretty wired all week. Notable this time around was a willingness on the part of Virgo's upper echelons (need I name names?) to lay the smack down on unsuspecting students when disagreements arose. A number of times it looked pretty ugly. Fortunately my own talk passed without incident and a number of people commented that they liked the movies (and wanted code). The whole OWLS/GIMIC thing is shaping up to be an exciting project to work on, and the young guys in Leiden are a sharp and helpful bunch. So - looking forwards to cracking on and hopefully having a lot more to say at the next meeting.

Incidentally, the weather here has echoed that in the UK. No trains were running in all of the Netherlands and as far as I can tell Schipol shut down. Here's hoping I can get home, before the beer or the coffee kill me.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

2007 and all that

It has been a very long time since that white snow fall on jerusalem! So much has happened around here that I wont bore my onlive fan-club with the details. Simply put:
1. I found a great flat in Tel Aviv
2. I moved into aforementioned great flat with cilia
3. I purchased necessary things for the aforementioned great flat (including, but not limited to, bed, matress, sofa, table, chairs, stove, oven, fridge, tv, cable, internet)
4. I set up my home office that allows my to work (occasionally) from home.
5. I realized that despite having a killer 3Mb/s download speed, my pathetic upload speed of 150kb/s may be prohibitively slow to allow my to work from home.
6. I hade a vintage Yarden wine which was so good it convinced me that any negotations involving giving back the parts of the golan that include the vineyard should be fought tooth and nail.
7. Cilia started her job as an junior EU diplomat.
8. I greeted 2007 with a stomach full of squid.

2007 will be an exciting year. Israeli intelligence chiefs have warned of a possible "flare up" on the northern border with (both) hizbullah and syrria (flare up = war). After the Baker commision recommended to slowly pull the troops out of iraq, GWB is going to do the opposite and send more in (I'm undecided on whether this is good or bad. However, judging from experience any decsion GWB takes tends to be bad...)