Monday, October 29, 2007

Running

During my university years in Valencia(2000-2005) and in Toulouse (2005), I used to go running with friends, such as Toni or Pedro. If I didn't go running at least twice a week I really felt something in my life was missing ;-)

However, in Strasbourg, life became more complex and it was really cold. I ran a couple times (I even ran once the distance from ISU to Strasbourg, around 10 km, because the tram was not running any more at that time at night). Here in Leiden, I tried to start over again several times but it is usually rainy and windy and I didn't feel like running while getting drenched. But now, things have changed!

Last thursday, I bought a pair of good running shoes, Mizuno Wave Genesis and plan to go running quite often:



For the moment, since last Thursday evening, when I bought my brand new running shoes, I have ran twice, that same Thursday evening and this morning. I am following the same track, which is the ring of outer canals around Leiden. Today I checked in the Internet and found out it is 6.1 km long. That makes 12.2 km in 4 days... and with respect to the pace, the first time I just checked in my watch the starting and ending time, which was around 29-30 minutes; this morning, I used the chronograph and stopped it after 29min 4sec. That means 4min 46sec per km... I don't know if it is good or not, but this morning I was happy. It is only the beginning and my legs could recover properly after a 6 km run on Thursday, after such a long time without running.



My plan from now on is to run this path three times a week, which makes 18.3 km, and to try to improve the time per km progressively. I know it'll be tough when it becomes rainy and windy... which will happen in a few days or weeks...

Some advice from any veteran runner? ;-)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Party in Leiden

Yesterday, there was a nice Halloween party in Witte Singel 53, the kind of official ESTEC party house. ;-)

Everybody was dressed up with nightmare customs. Of course, I also got some make-up, mainly blood, in order to look like an undead for some hours! and this is the result!



I looked scary didn't I? XD

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sueño de una tarde de otoño

Mis ojos se cierran bajo el influjo del estupor de la tarde. El sofá me atrae hacia su interior y mi cuerpo se hunde en él … caigo… el sol radiante en el horizonte me ilumina la cara y me ciega… es un calor agobiante, creo que me evaporo… un rato más y pasaré a formar parte de las nubes que llegarán al caer la tarde… esas nubes que del calor que soportan andan teñidas de rojo, como tez quemada al sol… o heridas por el tiempo lento de una tarde de verano… esas nubes que viniendo una y otra vez recuerdan la ciclicidad del tiempo… la felicidad pasajera, la brevedad del gozo… nubes que sabemos se irán al cabo de un rato, cuando el tiempo imparable, como flecha envenenada, dicte la llegada de la noche. Las nubes se irán y con ellas el sol que las hiere, persiguiéndolas por el horizonte, en una carrera sin final. La pálida luna, temerosa que de los rayos del sol dañen el blanco de su rostro, asomará tímidamente por el horizonte. ¡Ánimo Luna, puedes salir, el Sol se fue! Las flechas del tiempo, rasgarán la bóveda celeste y harán que aparezcan las estrellas, titilantes en la oscuridad de la noche, una por cada pensamiento agradable que pasó fugaz por nuestra mente… La arena de la playa, el canto de las aves marinas, la brisa del mar, me susurra al oído palabras que no alcanzo a comprender… Mi mano llena de arena, grano a grano cayendo al lugar de donde procede… polvo eres y polvo te convertirás… los granos de arena que parten de mi mano, siguen trayectorias dispares, el viento juega azaroso con ellos… se creen dueños de su destino, de su caída, pero no son más que juguetes de la brisa del mar… ¡cuán parecidos a nuestras vidas! Poco a poco gano consciencia y me encuentro tendido sobre el sofá… sus ganas de tragarme han pasado y el sueño me deja escapar de sus fauces. Me incorporo, es el final del sueño, la vida comienza otra vez.

My birthday celebration in Leiden


It can sound weird, but I celebrated my birthday in Leiden with my friends just yesterday night!!



I had tried much before but everybody was leaving for holidays or the city was on celebrations... so finally, I decided one month after was already too much and fixed the dinner date for yesterday. Finally, many of my friends could make it and we enjoyed a very nice dinner at a Greek restaurant.




And I got two nice presents with their respective birthday cards! Those were a doogi to practice karate and a squash racket!!



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

News about space

These days there is a lot of interesting stuff going on up there!!

With respect to the ISS (International Space Station), a new Shuttle launch (STS-120) is scheduled for today at 17.38 (ECT) with an Italian ESA Astronaut and Node-2, the necessary node to connect the European and Japanese labs, Columbus and Kibo, to the ISS. You can check that launch on-line at NASA TV!



Ariane 5 also performed a required experiment for the launch of the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) at the end of the year. It consisted of the reignition of the upper stage engine and it was succesful. The ATV will provided the ISS with supplies for the crew and maintainance of the installations and will reach the ISS without any crew!!

Finally, ESA made public the candidate missions for the "Cosmic Vision 2015-2020". Two of these nice missions will be selected and flown to unveil some misteries of the space. You can check the detailed information here. They introduce some concepts as formation flying and the use of the Lagrangian point which are quite novel. Some deal with planetary exploration and some with basic science... but all present a high complexity and are challenging.



And at the same time, Selene is already around the moon and will start taking really valuable scientific data from December!

Good luck for all these missions!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Inside a spherical mirrored ball

Raikkonen, F1 World Champion!!

Incredible but true!! Congratulations to Raikkonen and Ferrari for a great season!!

Alonso couldn't make it this time but Raikkonen winning is fair enough for me! The miracle ocurred! Ron Dennis, Hamilton, his famous father and all the whole McLaren Mercedes team got what they deserved. They have being showing such an hypocritical behaviour all these months... and don't forget they stole Ferrari's designs for this year's car! And made Alonso's life impossible! I hope Fernando moves to a new team next year and can enjoy again as so many drivers did before. Raikkonen couldn't do anything for that team and has won his first championship in his first year in Ferrari!! Montoya left and he is doing fine in Nascar races... There is something rotten within the English team... Alonso vete de ahi ya!!

I know what I am going to say is cruel but they really deserve it: One year watching formula one, one year seeing how Alonso's performance was compromised for the stupidity of his own team, one final race with three pilots being able to win... Hamilton and McLaren losing everything... PRICELESS!!!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

My future

Well, I promised some time ago in a comment that I would soon talk about how my future looked like. Actually, things appear to be becoming clearer and clearer. Let me explain a bit the background...

First of all, I decided at the beginning of the year that I would apply for a PhD program somewhere in the world: US, Japan or Europe. For the US, I applied for the Fulbright Scholarship in Spain; for Japan, I contacted a professor through my former supervisor in JAXA; and for Europe, I talked to people in ESTEC. After that, the Spanish Fulbright commision contacted me and asked me if I was interested in applying for an international award given by the US Department of State. Of course I agreed and prepared the required GRE exam. Months passed by and the first bad news arrived... I could not go to the Fulbright scholarship interview in Madrid, coz it was coincident in time with my trip to New York, Chicago and Washington...

After that, I was really sure I would end up in Japan. However, on 23rd September, yes, on my birthday, I received an email saying I had been awarded the prestigious International Fulbright Science and Technology Award 2008!! That means the US Department of State will pay for all my PhD and I will go to one of the best universities in the country! For this award, the national commisions of 109 countries proposed their candidates and only 40 people were selected. And I was amongst them!! I had had the honour of representing Spain in such a prestigious prize and I had got through!! Therefore, they will apply on my behalf to 5 universities I chose this week: CalTech (JPL), MIT, Stanford, UCLA and Ohio State University.

In parallel, I still continue with the application for Japan, for Tokyo Institute of Technology, just in case I don't get accepted in Caltech... in that case, I would possibly have to reconsider US or Japan... but it is hard to turn down a fully funded PhD in the US.

So that is how things are at the moment! So don't be surprised if I move to California next September (Caltech, Stanford or UCLA)!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The "other" trip to Brussels

Yesterday, I told you about my trip to Brussels last Sunday. I showed to you the monuments and important places and customs of the city... So, what is missing? What is missing is what the great Spanish writter Miguel de Unamuno called the "intrahistory", the small moments than compose an experience and which help to create the overview picture of what something was, the small elements behind the scenes.

On Sunday, not only did i have fun taking photos of the monuments, but also of the people and circunstances around. And these pictures are also very nice!!

Here we are trying to find our way in Brussels... we tried even with a GPS receiver...



Laura with her tripod and trying to explain how we should position to get a nice picture taken.



A random mother playing with her son in a park in a sunny Sunday.



And us in the same place, trying to recover from all the morning walk...



Andrea was really interested in the street musician and took some videos.



It was a long time since I last saw a clown in the street!



On Sunday morning, it had been Brussels' Marathon and some people were checking later their results in the race. However someone from the organization came and retired the panels where the results had been put... the result was people on their knees reading the papers on the ground...



Wow, that is a huge waffle! Sure it is!



And on the way back home... enjoying a beautiful sunset after such a nice day!

Brussels

Last Sunday, I went to Brussels (Belgium) with some friends from ESTEC. We went by car and took a bit more than 2 hours to get there from Leiden. Our intention was to visit the city in a relax way and to see the most important places and enjoy the local food and drink ;-)

Some of the places we passed by are:

-The Royal Palace



-The central square full of ancient and beautiful buildings


-The Manneken Pis. Thanks to Andrea for his sense of humour ;-)



-The European Parliament



- This is the full group in the European Parliament. From left to right: Andrea, Alvaro, Marco, Davide, Ilaria, Laura, Diego and Daniel.



The last place we visited was the Atomium, one of the most famous symbols of the city. I expected to find a 2-3 metres high structure and instead I found a huge and magnificent monument! Really nice surprise!! A really beautiful place which was superb with the sunset light...




Of course, we enjoyed the good things in Belgium!!

-The beer!



-And the chocolate!!



A really nice day in company of nice people! ;-)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kinderdijk


Today, I have been visiting Kinderdijk, a windmill park located south of Rotterdam. This place was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1997, and yes, it is well deserved.

It is a perfect example of the struggle Dutch have with the sea to maintain their country without water being most of it below sea level. It is composed of 19 different windmills and from some positions, most of them can be seen together. When you arrive there, you found hundreds of tourists and many windmills... Have a look at this picture to get the point:



There are three kind of windmills; circular thatched, octogonal thatched and like this one:



Without any doubt, the most beautiful aspect of the park is the perspectives the windmills create together with the rivers and canals. Enjoy some of them now! I think these are some of the most beautiful pictures I took today.



Friday, October 12, 2007

The peacock in ESTEC

One of the most curious things in ESTEC is the peacock which wanders around out of the main building. There are many legends and nobody knows why it is there. Is there a male and a female peacock or is there only one? Nobody knows...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Davide's birthday

Last Tuesday, 9th October, was Davide's birthday. For those who do not know, Davide is my office mate Manuela's boyfriend. ;-)



I was invited to their home and enjoyed an extremely good Italian dinner!! Manuela's mother had come from Sicily and she cooked delicious Italian/Sicilian food:
1st dish: Pasta called "Spaccatella al burro"
2nd dish: "Cotolette di Pollo"
3rd dish: "Gamberoni con Salamariglio"
+ Birthday cake and nice wine to accompany the dishes

IMPRESSIVE!!



The dinner was too good and so was the evening. Next day, I couldn't have breakfast and dinner but it was well worth it!



To end, Davide, "Buon compleanno! Auguri!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

TEC-ETM Dinner

Monday last week, all the microwave section of ESTEC gathered together for a non-related-to-work dinner. Of course, some people couldn't come... the head of section amongst them.



We went to an Indian restaurant in Noordwijkerhout, this is, in the middle of nowhere. The food was good and the environment ended up being nice. I was worried about that. Getting together all these people from different countries (many from the North of Europe) has some risks... and it can be really boring... but it wasn't.




Now it is time for important news. After one year of fruitful work in the microwave section, I have decided to move to another section in order to complement my training period here. The chosen section has been Antennas! After much thinking, I have taken the plunge and asked for a section change. So, maybe this dinner was my last time with all these people at the same time. It has been a pleasure to have been working with you!! "Que les vaya bonito!"


Monday, October 8, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Rugby World Cup. Quarter Final Day 1

Today, I have watched the two quarter final matches of the Rugby World Cup... The teams playing were Australia-England and New Zealand-France. The supremacy of the teams from the Southern Hemisphere has been clear in the last years and Australia and new Zealand were the two big favourites to become world champions.

I started being interested in rugby after my stay in Toulouse from February to August 2005. That year the team of the city, Stade Toulousain, won the European Cup and played the final of the French league. Of course, I supported the team with my local friends and after that, I started liking it! However brutal it looks, it is quite a noble game.

Well, today Europe proved to the world that rugby here is not dead. England defeated Australia and France did the same with New Zealand!! Unbelievable...

They have won because they know how to compete and try everything to win... that's what is missing in Spanish football national team. Congrats to these two great teams and to the other two, as well, for the great show displayed!!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

3rd October

This week the main annual festival in Leiden has been held. Dutch were celebrating Spanish left the country after the War of the Eighty Years and we Spanish celebrated we moved to a warmer and nicer country ;-)

Well, the thing is Leiden become a chaos in terms of transportation, sleeping at night, etc... but gained quite a lot in night life! The "big night" was from Tuesday to Wednesday and we started with a birthday party at Paula's home. The birthdays we were celebrating were Ana's and Paula's, my fellow Spanish Trainees at ESTEC. After that and having drunk many cocktails, we moved to the big party... and went to bed really late...





The real pain was waking up early next morning to go to work at ESTEC. In Noordwijk, where ESTEC is located, it wasn't a local holiday!

It was funny, coz on 3rd October at ESTEC, all the food was traditional Dutch food:

-Starter: Haring -- raw fish with some onion and sometimes accompanied with bread



- Main dish: Hutspot -- historical dish consisting of potatoes, carrots and onions puree, altogether. The legend says that they got this from a Spanish camp once the Spanish left the siege of Leiden. As they were hungry after the siege they ate it on the original 3rd October... For a more rigorous explanation go here.



- Dessert: Vla -- like Spanish "natillas" but a bit denser



Back to Leiden, I didn't take any pictures of the streets at all... but I still have some I took last year! It looks like the typical "fiestas del pueblo"... hehe...