Archive for June, 2010

We  wanted to spend some time together to relax so we chose to go to Lausanne for two days. I found this cute hotel on the internet so we decided to not just go to the organ concert but also spend the night!

In the summer there are various organ concerts in Lausanne: This evening was an all-Flemish concert with for us unknown composers. It was a great mixture of meditative music and penetrating large volume pieces which showed the range of the player, Jan Vermeire. He was rewarded with much applause even though the audience was sparse. It might have had to do with the world soccer games—once we stepped out from the sacred space, loud screams and shouts greeted us from the cafés. We were able to have a late dinner at a creperie that we had selected previously, in a small outside courtyard . The cidre that one drinks out of bowls was heavenly and refreshing and the crepe very good. We ended the evening with a stroll through old town and a night view from our window of the cathedral.

Breakfast the next day gave an even better view so we enjoyed it.

We then went for a walk through the town and had some tea in a small cafe. Later we went up the hill to a large park and started walking around. We discovered a fancy tower (Signal de Sauvabelin) by accident! It is a marvelous structure and we had a fantastic view on the city and the lake.

On the way back we passed by the town of Mont sur Rolle to do some wine tasting and discovered only one wine cellar was open. (It looked so deserted compared to the cave ouverte weekend….) But wine was good so we bought a supply of Chasselas and some other white ones. Coming home we felt enriched to live in such nice surroundings: beautiful nature, music and good wine!

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Elba Workshop

Sylvia has badgered me to write something about the Elba workshop, so here goes. As we wrote earlier, we spent two days in Torino, where I was giving a talk at the “Flavor Physics and CP Violation Conference.” I will spare you the details, but it is the kind of physics done at our PEP-II particle collider at SLAC when it still ran, and the physics which is to be expanded at a roughly 100 times as powerful facility called “SuperB“, proposed for the Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati (LNF), one of the leading Italian particle physics labs. SLAC is a partner with LNF in this endeavor, and Yours Truly is a part of the collaboration as well. After the Torino conference we had one of our workshops on the Island of Elba, of Napoleon fame (yes, the French are a part of this collaboration as well). With Sylvia having left from Torino for Cologne I was on Elba myself, but it was a great opportunity to meet up with my colleagues from SLAC again (“Hi Stranger!”) as well as a host of particle physicists I know well from days past. We had an intense time meeting, giving talks, and working on specific issues for the design we are pursuing for the facility. It wasn’t all work, though: the setting of the conference was splendid, the weather was good this time (2 years ago it wasn’t) and I even got some swimming in the Adriatic in, although I have to confess that reports of colleagues being stung by jellyfish damped my enthusiasm for more swimming a little bit. See here the logo of our facility, beautifully modeled in the sand by a Canadian colleague.

The SuperB logo in the sand (courtesy of D. Lindemann, photo K. Bertsche)

Now all we need is some funding to build this thing.

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Josh & Kim made a slideshow form their visit in Europe a few weeks back. An what a show it is! So I had to put up a quick link for those not on their email list.

Other than that I just came back from a visit in Germany with friends from highschool, but more about that later.


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Turin in May

Uli was invited to give a talk at a conference in Turin so we were happy to have the opportunity to get to know another city. We left Friday the 28th May and drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel and the Aosta Valley. Although slowed down by lots of road construction we arrived in Torino just in time for the conference dinner, which took place in the Torino Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Torino actually has a glorious history as one of the early world-centers of cinema and film making, and the museum has a lot of objects of early cinema. Introduction to the making of special effects as well as numerous costumes incl. the first superman cape rounded off the experience. At 8 p.m. we were chased out to the restaurant downstairs. We sat at one long table with changing colors. The antipasto items were delicious—one of my favorite foods in Italy. The main course was combined with the pasta and also tasty. Dinner conversation gave us the opportunity to practise our French. To round of the evening we went up a glass elevator inside the building to the top of the tall spire. We could admire the city from there—with lightening and rain (the physicist dared being up there…!!)

Saturday I had time to explore the city and walk around doing some shopping, passing palaces and squares with equestrian statues.

View into a courtyard in Torino

After lunch with some of Uli’s colleagues in a cafe with end of the century decor, Uli and I went walking under colonnades and then up a hill with a view (Monte dei Cappuccini). It was fairly warm so we decided to sit down and have a refreshing  ice cream. I could not miss the Egyptian Museum—the second largest collection after Cairo. The room with big stone statues was the most impressive—dark, the statues lit up and the room surrounded by mirrors. In the evening we had dinner on the Piazza Vittorio Veneto.

The next day we both planned to go to Elba where Uli was going to have a workshop; alas, we received a phone call from Sylvia’s family so she flew to Cologne instead. Luckily we were still in Torino, this made it much easier to catch a flight to Germany. Uli went on to Elba by himself.

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Our pastor Mary from Trinity Presbyterian Church in San Carlos came to visit us to immerse herself in the roots of Protestantism and to see how we live here. She brought the sunshine from California with her, and we finally had gorgeous weather!

Mary arrived Thursday, the 20th May and we explored Ferney Voltaire together, reading up a bit about Voltaire at his statue in the center of the city. Then we took the bus to Gex, a neighboring town at the foot of the Jura, where we sampled good small cakes  and smelled lilac as well as look at the church and view.

Friday was spend in Geneva visiting St. Pierre, the Reformation Museum and the Wall of the Reformation. We both learned a lot about church history during turbulent times. In the evening we went to a small restaurant just around the corner in Ferney that has superb food for a reasonable price.

Mary in front of the Great 4 Reformers.

Saturday Uli took Mary to CERN for a visit to the “Microcosm” exhibit since the accelerators are all running and inaccessible. Science meeting faith is always stuff for interesting thoughts and discussions, esp. when, as in the present round of experiments at the LHC, the questions posed are truly fundamental on a grand scale.

After all the tough stuff we headed up the lake to Rolle (not far from Lausanne) for the “Caves Ouvertes.” As the name says, all the wine cellars in that area are open for tasting. We took the train to Rolle and then a shuttle up the mountain. The weather and view were spectacular as you can see in the photo. For 10 Francs we bought a glass and could taste as much wine as we wanted at the 30 or so local wineries! The vintners poured generously, and we had to give up at the 10th tasting place. The chasselas, a white wine only grown here, we liked very much while we did not care so much for the red wines. We were also offered some home made bread straight out of the oven and in one yard adorned with sculptures (presumably by a local) we could sit down for a rest & more food.

Mary & Sylvia in Mont sur Rolle

Sunday we went to Geneva to the Lutheran Church—our church while living here. What a priviledge to be there at Pentecost. The Swedish congregation celebrated with us so we had songs and text in that language as well. In all we estimated about 25 different nationalities were present. An African infant was baptized in the orthodox tradition (plunged into the baptismal font and held up high thereafter to show the congregation!) during service as well. The most moving part was the singing of an African song outside the church in a huge circle. We were a “tourist attraction”!

In the afternoon we went to Lausanne to hear an organ concert at the Lausanne cathedral with its magnificent Fisk organ which was built in 2003. Played by the organist of the church,  the Messe à l’usage des Paroisses (Mass for usage in the Parish) by Couperin, framed by Bach’s famous Prelude (before) and Fugue (after) in E-flat major, enchanted us and the audience and the well deserved applause got us an encore.

Monday I spend time in Nyon with Mary enjoying the town in the gorgeous weather. We discovered lilies in all shades of colors in a public garden.

Lilies in Nyon (Photo M. Graves)

During all these days we loved the cows outside of our living-room window—their bells making for a constant and at times meditative noise.

It was a most enjoyable visit that had to end when Mary left to continue her trip in France, and we ourselves shortly thereafter to Italy.

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For the last month or so we had a permanently changing display in our backyard: One day a herd of cows appeared and began grazing the large meadow behind our building (technically, they were either bulls or oxen, but we called the cows anyway). “Cow watching” became a daily enterteinment for us and our guests. There was actually something quite soothing about these peaceful animals as they went about their business (which is eating) and occasionally chased each other. All this to the never ending clanging sound of their bells, sometimes fainter, sometimes quite intense depending where they happened to be.

A part of our herd of cows

Note the bell on the left one! (Picture: Josh)

But alas, everything comes to an end and as I came back from my last trip (conference on Elba), they were all gone! A faint clanging from a more remote meadow indicated the presence of other herds still in the area, but our herd now presumably is somewhere on a mountain meadow…

We liked our cows! Maybe we’ll see them again when they come back from the mountain in the fall?

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