Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lausanne Mesologue

Here be a record of teachings I find to be worth repeating to the internet.
Yes, sober, serious information for the studious gentleman; it has solved many a world's problem and kicked many an ass. Courtesy of the professors and fellow students of EPFL, and many other people who are around.

More to follow

Photovoltaics Stop Press: Prof. Balliff returns from China! He reports a scene of carnage in the industry: The price war for solar cells are keeping prices artificially low, and crashing many a small company. The selling price is 57¢CHF/Wp, way below the production+sales cost of 75-80¢/Wp. This is good news for consumers i.e. electrical engineers but quite bad news for people who make these things i.e. materials engineers.

Today we were taught how to bend over backwards and make architects happy by turning solar cells a cheerful shade of orange to suit the (Swissy) houses, at a cost of energy efficiency.

So this is how a tree grows: from a layer under the bark, where there be stem cells that differentiate to become the sapwood or the bark. A tree grows layers and layers out of itself, each new layer heralded by the budding.

The budding just happened here (friggin' everywhere).

In the course of the year, there is a period for which the tree grows quickly, and a period for which the tree grows slowly. The wood that has grown during the lull makes a dark ring that is visible in the severed trunk. A hardwood that grows quickly is less dense than normal, while a softwood that grows quickly is more dense than normal, and is more valued for timber for a variety of reasons.

Wooden crates have doubtful standards of hygiene when used for food packaging, all things considered.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Small Places

Niamh Ní Charra, Dudelange (Lux.), 13 Apr 2013

Normally, at this time of the week, I should be mugging my butt off. However, I am feeling up for a goof-off for today for no reason that I can pinpoint at the moment. Perfect. I shall write about Luxembourg and Ireland when I still have the time and will to do so.


Georges Siménon Youth Hostel, Liège

Trip commenced last Friday 12 of April 2013, ended Sunday 14 April 2013.
Friday's Route: Lausanne - Basel - Köln - Aachen - Liège
Friday's Stay: Georges Siménon Youth Hostel
Saturday's Route: Liège - Luxembourg - Bettembourg - Dudelange
Saturday's Stay: Hotel Mille 9 Sens
Saturday's Event: Zeltik 2013, at Lycée Nic-Biever Sports Hall, 1800h to late
Sunday's Route: Dudelange - Bettembourg - Metz - Strasbourg - Basel - Lausanne

The routes covered four countries in 13 train rides: Germany (Rhinelands), Belgium (Wallonia), Luxembourg and France (Lorraine and Alsace). It's a crazy, crazy, compacted trip. I still have no idea how I managed it in three days. I shan't be taking the train again for awhile.

Trip-related expenses: 507.34 CHF (equivalent)

Compared to the scale of the weekend trip, the motivation sounds quite stupid... Tri Yann is touring Europe this year, like they do pretty much every year, and they happen to be in Luxembourg on a weekend, when I'm free and not enjoying all my schoolwork. I wanted to see Tri Yann, and I wanted to see a new country.

The way I took into Luxembourg was chosen for the added benefit of landing me into Germany and Belgium, instead of through Paris. I have likewise never been to Germany nor Belgium before. Going to those two places now grants me the irrational thrill as I do this to my travel map:


My real motivation is Tri Yann, as previously mentioned. They are very important so they go into the next section.

Tri Yann
Tri Yann is a folk-rock band who hails from Nantes. The name Tri Yann means Three Yanns, and sure enough, the three core members of the group are all called Jean (Yann is the Breton version). Nantes is the old capital of Brittany, which is in turn the capital of France. Lately, however, the boring suits at I-forgot-where-they-were-based-at have decided to cut Nantes away from Brittany and then make it the capital of the Loire Valley instead. So the Nantais of today are always ambiguous about the Brittanyness (or Bretonnitude) of the city whenever I ask them about it. What a shame.

Anyway these here below are the three Yanns. As you can see, they debut each act dressing up like idiots. From left to right, they are Jean Chocun, on the mandolin and dressed up as a garden, Jean-Louis Jossic, on the vocals and dressed up like a tea party and smelling of incense, and then Jean-Paul Corbineau, also on the vocals and dressed up as a lighthouse.

The instrumentalists of Tri Yann are the piper Konan Mevel (thatch kilt), the pianist Fred Bourgeois (crusader), the drummer Gérard Goron (slain pirate), the electric guitarist Jean-Luc Chevalier (bear), and the fiddler Christophe Peloil (traffic cones). Chevalier spasms on the guitar, Bourgeois flips the drum onto Jossic by accident and Mevel plays the binioù and etc. with the most anguishingly morose face that anyone has ever seen on a man in a skirt.

Of course, singing and playing on stage with Tri Yann being very strenuous exercise, they shed their costumes little by little along the way. But not too much.

You might have thought me a bit of a Tri Yann junkie. Well, I met a couple who were such diehard fans of them they put me to shame. The Italian dude and his wife seem to have sold all their belongings, gave the proceeds to the poor and then set off to trail Tri Yann in their European tours. I bought a shirt with the Tri Yann logo on it and stood with them right to the front of the stage. For three hours. Three deafening, Breton-chanting, chorus-screaming hours with spontaneous line-dancing.

Now excuse me while I put up more pictures to satisfy my irrational glee

The bands from Ireland, Luxembourg and the Moselle

An Erminig - Interestingly enough, a German band playing Breton music and now based in Rouhling in France just over the border. The dudes sported neat moustaches and sang well, so I bought their CD.

Luxembourg Pipe Band - The local bagad kindly graced the opening and the middle (midnight) timeslots and primed our eardrums for the other bands / made sure we never heard anything else ever again.

The Luxembourg Bagad

Niamh Ní Charra and Ciorras - Two younger bands from Ireland, from where I learned finally the meaning to the song where the dude gets married to an old but filthy rich lady, and all his friends made fun of him. It's strange how I went all that way to Ireland and then came to see them again in the deepest darkest reaches of the continent here in the Lux.


The other small places
1. Köln
A year ago, Tina came here to Cologne for a short trip an hour long. All she saw was the cathedral. All I recalled about the place was that all the trains were late; they came late to the station and departed late too, and I miraculously did not manage to miss a single connection. I had ten minutes to spend in Cologne and here's all what I have to show for it.

The church is too large to fit into the camera frame, but never mind. Frankly speaking, I have had quite enough of churches for purposes other than mass, and it felt weird every time I stepped into a place of worship with a big camera rather than sit down and think about the universe or something to that effect. Moving on to Liège.

2. Liège
Liège is on the river Meuse (Maas) rather than the Rhine. Its relation to the Rhine is ambiguous. As is evident from this map, the Meuse flows from France and approaches the Rhine, going alongside her in the Netherlands, flowing ever so close to her but never actually touching her throughout his course, before giving up and dumping himself into the Zeeland delta. I had heard that Liège is a little dangerous but have never really felt it, but it could be because of the thunderstorm that drove the loiterers indoors, leaving me outside because I am badass.

The next day I had two hours free to walk in the city. I apologise for touring a church again (Cathédrale Saint-Paul de Liège) but frankly it was quite a great feeling to be inside.

I am very tempted to assume that this guy is Saint Paul and this shot re-enacts the time of his conversion.

Also, Ireland has a way of catching up with you.

3. The Lux (in the country)
I have said before that Sweden is the national embodiment of sexiness. If that is so, then Luxembourg is the national embodiment of cuteness. It is a nice and fun-sized place. Hills are short, gorges are shallow and meadows are plentiful. Anyway, here's a picture again, because I am Asian, and Asians are physiologically required to take a picture every six breaths we take, lest our mothers berate us.

O well, you get the point

4. The Moselle
Here is where every other small town has a name that ends with -ange. It's only in the area just around Thionville and a sliver of southern Lux where this happens. Where this suffix comes from is a mystery to me.

The river Moselle flows through Thionville. I had evidently startled her without her make-up on, and she was yellow and stagnant and clogged with rubbish. What a shame.

5. Strasbourg and Alsace
Here is the bit in France where all the places sound German and the only French things apparent from the train window is the SNCF logo. I had a stopover in Strasbourg, where I had twenty minutes of recovery from taking the train.

Well Strasbourg had a church again, but I found their trams really cute.
It also thrills me to find out whenever you look at the train station from the outside, you can see the rest of the city.

Okay, that's enough traveling for the month.
Talking about churches, I did manage to return to Lausanne by 7pm to attend the 8pm mass at Renens. It was my biggest achievement of the whole weekend.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Dublin Airport, Overnight

I don't know how many times a traveler has to endure this kind of situation before he becomes somewhat salty. In any case, today is my first time missing my flight. I have to get out of Ireland anyway so that I can meet Angi in Lyon, and I promised to arrive by train. And NO ONE ever breaks a promise made to a Finnish guy.

The new flight cost me like a kick in the nuts. I shall spend the night in this airport, then check in my whole jolly backpack tomorrow, because I might as well use my money's worth. Ryanair, suck this! I'm glad to be from Asia!

Hello again, London.
Ireland was good. I will blog soon about this country. No, Ryan, you're not in this.