Archive | August 2008

View from my flat

Its a dank day here in Birmingham and this morning we could see a nice misty scene..

A short stay in France

Over the last few days of had a great time in the Loire Valley region of France. The weather was Sunny and the evening skies were fabulous (I’ve never seen the Milky way looking so wondrous, I reckon this was the first time I’ve seen the gas clouds).
We flew into Poitiers since there is a cheap flight between Birmingham and there. Its a quaint little airport that was quite nice to go to. A nice change from the massive multiple terminal airports. [Poitiers] itself is a fairly small town but has a number of nice places to visit. One of the places we visited was the Church Notre-Dame la Grande which is the oldest Roman church of Europe. This a quite remarkable building:
with some fascinating stained glass windows (I do like stained glass windows in Churches):
On the second day we went to [Blois]. We visited the famous Château de Blois, a Renaissance château once occupied by King Louis XII. He can even be seen on the outside:
Once inside the first thing that took my attention was the staircase tower, an example of the intermixing influences of French and Italian design during the construction of the François I wing (during the renaissance period).
Inside the building you are met by a range of beautiful furniture and at times very over the top wall paper.
The emblem of François I, the salamander can be found through out this wing, quite an odd symbol really.
The Saint Calais chapel has some lovely stained glass windows in it. This chapel was built by Louis XII and was consecrated in 1508 but the stained-glas windows were done by Max Ingrand in 1957.
In Blois, we also went to La Masion de la Magie… which offered an interesting afternoon magic show and a number of intriguing optical illusions.
During the short stay we also managed to take a trip out the to the former [Royal Château de Chenonceau].
The Château de Chenonceau was built on the Cher in the 16th century by Thomas Bohier and this involved razing the castle-kepp and the fortified mill of the Marques family. The Marques tower was kept and now lies in the forecourt of the Château.
During the second world war the Château entrance was in the occupied zone whilst the Southern door provided access to the Free Zone… an advantage many people would have taken:
The Château has a large amount of grounds with some very well kept gardens, fountains and even a maze!
If you fancy seeing more of my photos from this trip see [here]


DOOFAAS stands for Dumb Or Overly Forced Astronomical Acronyms Site. A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this site the other day, very funny and actually quite useful when you want to figure out what the hell some of these acronyms mean… acronyms are the scourge of modern astronomy (well I think they are)… but at least some of them are funny (e.g. FATBOY). Take a look at the site [here].

Europe 2008: Venice

I’ve just about gotten around to start thinking about my travels around Europe this summer, I’m not sure if I will actually get around to blogging about it all… but lets start, Venice. I wrote this on the train between Venice and Rome.
Venice is just different. I don’t think you can really make an analogue with anywhere else, well nowhere I have been to anyway. It is beautiful in its own way. It was also very, hot, busy and at times very annoying.. but fun.
We got to Venice later than planned due to our night train from Salzburg being a whole hour later than planned. Very annoying. The night train was good fun though. I slept well and it was quite convenient. I’d do it again. I was not prepared properly for the stewardess to take our tickets away but to be honest it makes sense. I was just tired and she was not really dressed like what I expected the Austrian conductors to look like. Oh the aircon did not work which became a problem on the long wait into Venice, especially after she had locked the toilet doors!
Venice itself – the train station is a dump, I moan about Birmingham’s but after this I love New St.! The left luggage had huge queues and was a complete rip-off but again I expected that.
Venice is a place you could easily get lost in, well I don’t think you could (with the sings), full of lots of street alleys and close housing. (I bet anyone from the USA would get a bit more disoriented – no grids here!). The housing makes good shade from the Sun. The first day I got
completely wiped by the lack sleep (we got on the train at 1am) and the Sun, which resulted in a long (I guess like the Italian’s do) lunch. Good pizza! We then walked over the Rialto and down to per San Marco. We looked around the main square but as time was getting on and I was feeling dodgy we got a boat (well the bus) down the Grand Canal to the bus station,
which when the new bridge is built will be very easy access to the train station. We spent the night at a nice little (probably not that little!) camping village. We had an ensuite shower in our 2 bed room – this went down very well!
On the second day I and Lizzie went around on our own as the other were going home. We walked gently up to the San Marco looking at the sights, all a bit later than expected due to the huge queue at the station left luggage again (it took 40 mins!). Due to time constraints (we had a 2.30pm train to Roma) we only had time to go around the Dodge’s palace. It is well worth the entrance fee, especially as a student (7.50Euro). Lots to see in this palace but I think my highly was the bridge of sighs and the fantastic banquet room.
If you would like to see more of my photos from Venice, see [my flickr page]

Science in Birmingham…

I wrote into the Birmingham (Evening) Mail the otherday in response to a comment made about the lack of adult science activities in Birmingham. It actually got in to the Mail yesterday, ohmy.gif. Anyway, I’m not sure I should post a copy of it here, but I’m going to… take a read if you want (though I expect you will need a larger version, see [here]:
evening mail

Home sweet, home…

… is not in Alabama! I’m from Birmingham in England (the original Birmingham!) but it seems our city council are destined to think we are actually in Birmingham, Alabama…. [Chiefs admit Brum skyline mix-up ]. Bloody idiots. Anyone who has lived in Birmingham for a few years would easily be able to tell you, though it looks like a city environment, that is not the Birmingham city centre skyline… oh and I think I have one of those leaflets somewhere!

Bash rename

This is one more for myself than anyone else as I keep forgetting how todo it…. but if anyone is interested. I normally don’t use bash – I’m not entirely sure why I don’t (if you don’t know what bash is, then I wouldn’t worry – its the Bourne Again Shell and is based on the Bourne shell, sh, the original command interpreter). Anyway, this is a very simple thing todo.. but every time I come todo it I have to look it up, so I’m going to just look it up here…
Just to add some text at the front:

for i in *; do mv “$i” “photo${i}.jpg” ; done

To remove some text in the string:

for i in *.jpg; do mv “$i” “${i/Yourself}” ; done

and to rename as a numeric string… my most common task…

for i in *.jpg; do mv “$i” “$number” ; (( number += 1 )); done

Partial Solar Eclipse

On Friday there was a partial solar eclipse over the UK – suprisingly we actually managed to observe it – though the clouds did their best to stop us. We even got onto the television….(ITV Central).