Thursday, June 29, 2006
Rajay: Hey Themos, how's it going?
Me: Not good. Tomorrow we have a joint group meeting with the UCLA group at 9:30am. But the Germany-Argentina game is at 8am.
Rajay: That's sad. You'll have to miss the last half hour of the game.
Me: You mean, miss the first half hour of the meeting, right?
What can I say? Only once every 20 years or so these teams get to both really good and play against eachother. It's the 2nd most important match after the final...
Edit: The webcast will be at the same address: http://184.108.40.206:1680/ (Open url with media player).
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
"It's a plane!"
"Somebody wanted to see me?"
wow wow wow
The avant premiere was funny. I always love premieres here in LA because for once the crowd behaves like a stadium crowd. The hall was packed. About 70% of the audience had superman shirts. 3 guys wore red capes and 1 girl wore the full costume! The audience cheered and applauded every time superman saved someone, or something else exciting happened. It all felt good, and the movie was far better than what I expected.
It is not an action flick (although there are lots of action scenes). The movie respects excellently the original and moves the mythology big steps ahead. I don't want to reveal anything, but I think it will be better to go and see the movie without reading any reviews or spoilers. It will ruin the fun discoveries.
The plot is classic superman story. The saves are amazing, and finally the film technology has improved so that everything looks realistic. What I loved most was tiny little details here and there: the motionless cape in outer space; the mach cone that appears briefly as superman accelerates to faster than sound speed; and many more little original things that he does with his powers.
Kevin Spacey was amazing as Lex Luthor. Kate Bosworth is good but maybe a bit too pretty for Lois Lane. And Brandon Routh is unknown for a goods reason: because people can relate to him better is they don't know the face. They establish a new connection.
Overall, I think this is the best movie of the series. In fact, I believe this is the best superhero movie so far. It is serious, funny, it never gets boring despite the 157min of duration, and remains very close to the feeling of the original. At the end, it is a lot of fun which is what movies should be.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Από 16 ομάδες μείναμε στις 8. Για να δούμε τι έγινε...
Γερμανία - Σουηδία: 2-0
Οι Γερμανοί παίζουν σε κάθε παιχνίδι και καλύτερα. Έχουν και τον παράγοντα έδρα, και τον Καν στον πάγκο να κατσουφιάζει όλη την ώρα περιμένωντας τον Leemans να πάρει καμιά κόκκινη. Καθαρό ματς.
Αργεντινή - Μεξικό: 2-1
Αυτός ο Messi ξέρει πολλά καντάρια μπάλλα. Μακάρι να ξεκίναγε βασικός, αλλά έχει μπλέξει στην καλύτερη Αργεντινή των τελευταίων 20 ετών. Το Μεξικό ήταν πολύ λίγο και οι Αργεντίνοι προκριθήκανε πιο εύκολα από ότι δείχνει το 2-1.
Γερμανία - Αργεντινή λοιπόν. Οι πάνσοφοι books παίζουν αυτό το ματς ακριβώς 50.0-50.0, και όποιος νομίζει ότι κάποιος ότι ξέρει τον νικητή κάτι δε πάει καλά. Μιλάμε για τις 2 πιο φορμαρισμένες ομάδες του πρωταθλήματος, σε έναν δεύτερο τελικό ουσιαστικά. Και ευτυχώς που οι Γερμανοί δε παίζουν σαν Γερμανοί.
Αγγλία - Εκουαδόρ: 1-0
Οι Άγγλοι δεν έχουν παίξει μπάλλα ακόμα, και ούτε πρόκειται. Το Εκουαδόρ φάνηκε στον αγώνα αυτό ότι και πολύ ήταν που φτάσανε σε αυτή τη φάση. Λίγες ευκαιρίες, λίγο νόημα, βαρετό παιχνίδι.
Πορτογαλία - Ολλανδία: 1-0
Το μάτς που όλοι θα θυμούνται μετά το μουντιάλ. Ο Βαν Πέρσυ ήταν κατ'εμε ο πιο εντυπωσιακός παίχτης του τουρνουά μέχρι τώρα, αφού κάνει πράγματα με ουσία που σπάνια τα βλέπεις σε αγώνες. Οι Πορτογάλοι έχουν την καλύτερη ομάδα νομίζω μετά από Αργεντινή - Γερμανία, πάιζουν καλά και γρήγορα επιθετικά και με πολύ δυνατή άμυνα.
Πορτογαλία - Αγγλία λοιπόν. Αν δεν είχαν αποδεκατιστεί στον αγώνα με τους Ολλανδούς θα τους είχα μεγάλο φαβορί. Τώρα, ακόμα νομίζω θα κερδίσουν άνετα τους Άγγλους έστω και χωρίς Ντέκο. Θα ήθελα να δω ημιτελικό Βραζιλία -Πορτογαλία, με τον Σκολάρι αντίπαλο της ομάδας με την οποία κατέκτησε το προηγούμενο παγκόσμιο κύπελλο και τους ξέρει όσο κανείς.
Ιταλία - Αυστραλία: 1-0
Άδικο, εντελώς άδικο. Οι Αυστραλοί πάιξανε σοβαρά και οργανωμένα, κάνανε φάσεις, βγαίνανε μπροστά. Οι Ιταλοί μόνο για ένα κάλπικο πέναλτυ ήταν ικανοί. Όσο το σκέφτομαι τσαντίζομαι. Πάμε παρακάτω.
Ελβετία - Ουκρανία: 00-00 (0-3 πεν.)
Ωχ, τι το ήθελα. Το χειρότερο ματς που έχω δει σε μουντιάλ. Οι Ελβετοί τόσο άσχετοι που ούτε με πέναλτυ δε σκόραραν. Οι Ουκρανοί τουλάχιστον έχουν τον Σεβτσένκο να δίνει λίγο ζωντάνια. Τουλάχιστον στο Ολλανδία-Αργεντινή 0-0 δεν προσπαθούσαν καν να παίξουν. Εδώ ιδρώνανε και ξε-ιδρώνανε απλώς για να φτάσουν στην μεγάλη περιοχή.
Ιταλία - Ουκρανία λοιπόν. Η πιο κωλόφαρδη ομάδα εναντίον της πιο αδύναμης (θεωρητικά) σε αυτή τη φάση. Το οποίο σημαίνει ότι η Ιταλοί περνάνε, εκτός αν οι Ουκρανοί τους φέξει.
Βραζιλία - Γκάνα: 3-0
Η Γκάνα έπαιξε σαν Βραζιλία και η Βραζιλία σαν Ελλάδα στο Euro. Φοβεροί οι Γκανέζοι, πολύ καλή κυκλοφορία μπάλλας, αλλά κάντε ρε παιδί μου κανένα σουτ στην προπόνηση πριν τον αγώνα! Η Βραζιλία μέχρι τώρα δεν έχει ζοριστεί, ελέω Ρονάλντο.
Ισπανία - Γαλλία: 1-3
Μπράβο στους Γάλλους. Για εμένα είναι η έκπληξη αυτού του Μουντιάλ. Με ένα χάλια προηγούμενο παγκόσμιο κύπελλο, και με 2 ισοπαλίες από Κορέα και Ελβετία, μέσα σε 2 αγώνες αλλάξανε πρόσωπο για τα καλά και κανείς δε περίμενε τέτοια εμφάνιση, να γυρίσουν ματς από 1-0 σε 1-3. Συν το φοβερό γκολ του Ζιντάν.
Βραζιλία - Γαλλία λοιπόν. Αν περνάγανε οι Ισπανοί, θα είχα τους Βραζιλιάνους σίγουρους για τα ημιτελικά. Τώρα όμως θα πρέπει (για πρώτη φορά φέτος) να παίξουν καλά, και μάλιστα ενάντια στην ομάδα (την ίδια!) από την οποία φάγανε 3 την περασμένη φορά. Θα έχει πολύ ενδιαφέρον.
Έχουμε και λέμε:
Ημιτελικά θα ήθελα να δω Γερμανία - Ιταλία και Βραζιλία - Πορτογαλία, αν και οτιδήποτε εκτός από Ουκρανία και Αγγλία θα με ευχαριστήσει.
Πάω να δω αποδόσεις στοιχήματος τώρα. I'll be back...
Monday, June 26, 2006
Me and Stavros bet $5 that Ghana will win after 90 min ( 10/1 chances). Then I bet $5 that Brazil will win 4-2 (50/1). Pgal got into the game, and he bet $200 on Brazil to qualify! (1.1/1). Then Andrew bet $5 that Ghana will win , and Shane (through Andrew) bet $20 that Ghana and Brazil will draw!
I also made a small $3.08 bet that Spain will qualify, and with Stavros we bet $10 that first half will be a draw and seond half a win for Spain!
It is a crazy, crazy day tomorrow. Me, Andew, Stavros, Pgal, and Mark will watch here in my house at 8am. Good luck to us all.
Apparently we will webcast everything: http://220.127.116.11:1680
Start at 8am PST
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The time is 21:44 on my windows XP clock at the bottom right corner. The location, I don't know exactly: somewhere above Pennsylvania, at a height of 36,000 feet. I am flying from New York back to Los Angeles on a Friday evening, after 4 weeks of experiment at Brookhaven Lab.
The aircraft does not have internet; I am writing these words in Wordpad and I will upload later. But I do want to try something new. I will just keep writing until the battery of my laptop runs out. It should need an hour or two; we'll see.I will write about whatever comes into my mind. I tend to do a lot of thinking in airplanes. And I do love writing. Due to the nature of the task though it will be more of a collection of random thoughts rather than a coherent sum.
I woke up at 9am today (I actually slept at 5am after killing and removing at least 8 bugs, spiders and ants that were occupying my room - they surface when it gets hot). I went to the lab to take some more data with Vitaly (the director - Russian, smart, abrupt, thoughtful). We tried to measure the so-called CTR signal: it is a form of radiation (light) emitted when an electron crosses a surface.I had to leave at 2:15pm to catch my flight from JFK. As it has happened many times before, everything started working perfectly at 2:10pm and we started getting data. It's always the best experience when you see a measurement for the first time. You look at the data points and ponder: what does nature want to tell me? Why is there this shape? Why so much noise?
Vitaly was joking about the fact that I should have booked a next day morning flight to leave (not cool for me though). But then I am *sure* that everything will just start working later, just before you have to go. He explained how they got some data just before they had to close once: every year the shutdown the major accelerator machine in the lab to perform maintenance, and it stays like that for 2-3 months, and then they need another month or so to get back up to speed. So all the data and experiments have to be done by the shutdown day.
On that summer (98 I think( the electrician was to come at 7am to shutdown the power. They have been trying for weeks to get the data they needed, and they only succeeded at 6am of the shutdown day! They published 2 Physical Review Letters Papers from those data (This is pretty much the best journal you can publish at other than Nature and Science).
I left the lab at 2:45, after taking some interesting pictures. Vitaly hopefully will email me the rest of the data.
(Battery level: 85%)
Next to me this time I have the best passenger I ever had in any flight. She is a 25 year old classic Californian blonde, with long hair, tight teared-up jeans, and a small t-shirt that barely cover the top half of her body. She is pretty and interesting to discuss with. There are 3 seats together in the middle of the plane. I am in the rightmost one, she is in the center to my left, and another guy on her left. Right now she is sleeping so I am able to write about her without her realizing it. (But I may have to switch at any moment). The guy next to her works as a cartoon designer in LA. He is handsome, blonde, in his thirties, and muscular. He is trying to talk to her as much as possible (he shared his iPod and his laptop with her). The Californian girl said when we sat down: "I feel very safe between two men" (she's also scared of flights a bit).
(Battery level: 83%)
I also made a new good friend over this trip. Sumer Banna (With who we went to the Broadway show together last week) is an very clever 0.5*Israeli+0.5*Arab postdoc here. He had 8 publications by the end of his phd, and, like me, he is deeply a theoretician although he does experiments now. He is also one of the very few persons I know that know about the Wiener-Hopf technique - a mathematical method to solve some complex electromagnetics problems. Professor John O'Brien at USC (from Caltech) and my friend Thodoris Dikaliotis are the other two people that have discussed with for this method. With Thodoris we took this class together back in Greece on Wiener-Hopf. Al semester long we solved 3 problems - that's it! But I since then I can now always remember that a sine function can be written as a product of two Gamma functions! The gamma function is essentially the factorial function (you know: 4!=1*2*3*4, 3!=1*2*3 etc) extended to non-integers (you can have 3.5! for example). That mathematical property of the sine function has always intrigued me since then, I think it is my most fun mathematical property ever. Now that I think about it I promise I will find a way to put it in my thesis somewhere.
Back to Sumer now. We discussed a lot about science and the politics of publications. For example, there is the question on who do you put in the author list in your paper. It is easy when the paper is theoretical, where you just have the people that worked in the theory, usually not more that 2-4. But in an experimental paper it is not so obvious. For example in our case we have Ilan, the former director of the lab that initially proposed the experiment. He had to leave the facility immediately after the experiment was approved. He has never had any contribution whatsoever in the experiment, and he doesn't even know what the progress is. However he is the father of the idea we investigate. Do we put him in the author list? (We will probably do). Then there is the other end of the spectrum. Karl is a technician at the lab. He manages the gases, installs various equipment here and there, sets up computers etc. He is a permanent there, but although he has done stuff without which our experiment couldn't be performed, he does not know much about the real science behind it. He just does what has to be done in terms of everyday (yet useful) tasks. Do we put him in the author list? Sumer will not do so, because he says this is a facility that has to provide equipment to the users (Sumer and me), and you can't have everyone in the author list. On the other hand I think that we will have him in the authors, because at the end we need him for what he does, despite the fact that he will not even probably read the paper (when we are fortunate enough to write it). In this way Karl has more publications than me, since his name is mentioned in every experiment these guys do. It all comes down to this: What is the criteria to have someone as author? Do you have everyone that has even the slightest contribution as author, or you have a threshold of contribution and have everyone above the threshold as authors?
(Battery level: 75%)
(The Californian girl is sleeping. Shhh....)
Actually, the bathroom looks empty and there is no turbulence - I should pay a short visit.
OK, I am back. Last night I finished watching Sex and The City (SATC). I mean ALL the show, all 6 seasons. I started watching from episode 1 with Dora, with who we watched up to season 3 (a little bit of it in the Chinese bus on our way from New York to Boston back in March). During my stay in Brookhaven the last 4 weeks I gradually watched the last 3 seasons with an average of 2 episodes per night. And I have to say I am impressed.
I didn't give the show much credit before, but it is awesome. The characters are unique, and the dialogue is to die for. I haven't seen more natural flow of dialogue in any series - it just keeps going very naturally and it never feels weird and it never feels pushed. Another great pus is that everything is filmed on Manhattan, my favorite city in the world (with Barcelona #2 - gaudi is just splendid!) - the 5th girl of the show, as they call it. They also cover pretty much everything there is to cover about sex - I really can't think of anything else. Their best season was #4 BY FAR, where on top of the parties and the guys they also have a good story for each girl that they follow through: The marriage, the child, the boyfriend. Seasons 5 and 6 were not so good, I think they ran out of ideas and it is a good think they finished the show before it was too late. I also liked the (admittedly Hollywood) ending, with Carrie being back with Big (or should I say, John?)
(Battery Level: 68%)
(She is still sleeping. The stewardess came to give her the change from a sandwich she bout on board, but of course she wasn't available)
(let me put some music on. What do I have? Bolero de Ravel, Παπαρίζου, Λούφα και Παραλλαγή, Carol of the Bells. hm.)
At the airport I purchased 3 magazines to read on this flight (after my battery dies). The new Wired and the new Scientific American. I also subscribe to them, but I couldn't wait to go back home first - I really needed a good science read! Wired always has some amazing articles - it is the most popular technology magazine in the US. They had a great article about pigs. Apparently they take a pig, open it open, cut two arteries, remove all the blood, and replace with some special cryogenic mixture, and then they seal everything again. The pig remains almost dead (but alive!) in the so called suspended animation state: almost dead but not quite. They leave the pig like that for 1 to 2 hours, and then they reverse the process and put the blood back in. Amazingly enough, the pig regains life and continuous to live normally. They have done this to over 200 pigs and never observed anything unusual.
Why is this useful? (and not scary?) Because with suspended animation you can "pause" the state of an organism, even for humans (in principle, no actual facts there yet). What if someone is going to die soon and there is not enough time to be treated properly? What about the person who will die because he is in the wait list for an organ (these lists are HUGE)? You can perform any operation you want without the stress of time, and then be back to life again. Of course this technique has poses some serious moral issues (playing with god etc) but if we get past this, it is one of the holy grails of medicine if it is applied properly.
(Battery level: 57%)
(She woke up for a bit, but now she is back to sleep. At least she removed the blanket)
Last Friday I presented some of our data measurements to the rest of the people in the facility. Among them is Igor, another Russian that is 70 years old - a very respected and experienced scientist with lots of publications and great ideas. So his comments are, to me, as a phd student, very important. So I present a graph with about 20 data points (dots) that although they do not vary very much, there is some significant deviation between 50%-100%. It doesn't look very pretty, but hey, this is a raw measurement. It can't be perfect.
What was his comment then? "When you have such scarce data, you should plot them in a logarithmic scale so that they seem closer together". Boing!
After 40 years of doing science and experiments, a senior scientist's advice was to try and manipulate the data so that it doesn't look ugly! I cannot that. First, this graph was not for a publication or a paper, it was just an informal presentation of the results. The point is that I should try and present the bare facts, so that we can discuss about them. We can't hide behind our finger, it is like cheating in an exam: you only hurt yourself at the end. Second, the proper thing to do is to try and explain why the data looks weird. There must be a reason behind it (there always is), and if we understand it we will better understand our experiment, and ultimately we will be better prepared next time.
I say all these nice things now, but is there a chance that I will become like Igor in 40 years and realize how wise he was back in the 2000's?
(Battery level: 47%)
(She is now leaning towards her left, the other guy. She wears a Victoria's Secret bra). She had to wake up once because of an announcement to fasten the seat belts, but now she's back to work)
There are discussions about allowing cell phone calls in flights lately (once they make sure that they don't interfere much with the equipment of the aircrafts). I don't like that: then the flights will become like the bus, where every once a while a phone rings waking you up, and then you have to sustain all the talking. I actually like the silence and privacy of an airplane flight. I prefer to do my usual stuff: Read books, watch a movie, solve Sudoku, play some gameboy, read a magazine. An then again and again, especially on trans-atlantic flights until you reach the other continent.
(Battery level: 42%)
(he is also looking at her breasts. Hm.)
It recently dawned on me: no great work of art can come without its maker having a personal strong experience that he or she wants to let other people know. I don't think anyone that has a normal, happy life could produce a great work. You need to have some kind of life-altering experience, and then you decide to put it on the paper (or whatever) in order to let other people know about it. Even if most of the times it is not clear at all what the original cause is.
Someone happy shouldn't bother writing a book, making a movie, or writing a song (unless you do it for money; but then it may be good but not great). However someone that has had problems, someone that is struggling to survive, someone that THINKS (and you usually think because you need to make something better or because something is troubling you a lot), that someone wants to do something about it. He wants to let people know his feelings. He has a vision, and he wants to accomplice it. It is not an accident that all great structures, buildings, temples, etc, from our ancient history on this planet was done for one of two reasons. First, love. Second, God.
The Parthenon was a temple to worship Athena and Zeus. The Taj Mahal was built because the guy lost his beloved wife. The Pyramids of Egypt were huge temples and cemeteries. Stanford build his university to honor his beloved and lost too early son. Most of the great paintings in history are religious one way or another. The list is endless, but there is always a common denominator.
(Battery Level: 30%)
(The battery level drops nonlinearly I think. Or is it the music?)
Once I was returning back to LA from Greece, and we were flying over Greenland. I could see some seemingly large blocks of ice floating of the water. I wondered: how big are they?
I decided to measure it. I extended my right arm out, and then raised my finger. I placed the finger in view between me and the block of ice, looking through the window. I noticed that my finger almost completely covered the ice block. That should be enough to estimate its size.
Basic geometry is all I need. My finger has about 1cm thickness, and my arm extended is about 1m. So the angle projected by my finger is approximately 1cm/1m, or 0.01 radians. We were flying at 60,000 feet, or about 20km above the surface. Since the angle projected has to be the same (the finger is covering the view of the ice block), the size of block of ice must be angle times the distance, or 0.01*20,000m = 200m.
I love real life calculations!
(Battery level: 25%)
(She woke up for a second. "Oh, you write a lo tof stuff, don't ya!" Then went back to sleep.)
The first time I came to Brookhaven for this experiment I though everything would be set and we would do all the measurements within a week. Clearly, I was faaaaaaar from the truth. 2 years later, we are struggling a lot, and we have devised and improved a lot of our measurements. But we will still need time to get to the ultimate goal.
It is like a good RPG. You have a main quest, for example to kill some ultimate bad gut or save a girl. But then as you move on there are sidequests. You see things that are interesting and you start looking closer. You also meet other people and exchange items and talk to them, and sometimes you may devote some time to help on their quests too. Before you know it, you are investigating areas that you were not supposed to, but they look interesting and will give you extra armor and spells. And of course, not matter which sidequest you pick, you always gain experience. And you need the experience and the armor in order to fight the big bad guy, because you can't do it if you are weak.
Everything from the above applies to an experimental thesis. You have a main goal, but on the way you find other interesting things to do. So your main target may take a while to be reached.
I don't know whether we will see the ultimate effect we seek in this experiment by the time I have to finish my phd (which is 2 years from now). But on the way I will have learned so many stuff, so many *new* stuff, that just the trip will be worth all the attempts and sleepless nights (όπως θα έλεγε και ο Καβάφης). And if, by any chance, at the end I am able to contribute a small tiny piece of new knowledge to mankind, that will be even better.
(Battery Level: 19%)
(She asked me whether she can use my arm a bit to lie her head on, since her leg is sleeping (μούδιασε το πόδι της ελληνιστί). "Go ahead, I'll survive". Now she is sleeping again.)
World Cup. I was lucky that in the east coast I could in principle watch all the games in normal times. There were matches at 9am NY time, which is 6am LA time. I could have never watched these matches in the west coast so early. Tomorrow the match between Germany and Sweden initiates the round of 16, and it is live at 8am. I tried to convince Stavros to watch with me, but he doesn't seem likely to wake up so early. I'll try to talk to my German neighbor, Mark, who told me he wanted to watch the games with me (but I left for Brookhaven shortly after).
Tomorrow is also the world premiere of pirates of the Caribbean 2 in Disneyland, just 45min away from my home. My lovely Keira will be there, along with a bunch of celebrities. I tried to convince Dimitri to go there and watch the red carpet arrivals (it's impossible to watch the movie itself, it comes out in 2 weeks for the public), but he wasn't in the mood. ^%^&&*&*^%^(&%#@@
I also reserved 2 tickets for the premiere of Superman:Returns next Tuesday. The show is one day before the official wide release at 10pm, in IMAX, and in 3D! It is the first live action movie that will be at least partially in 3D. According to my sources 20 minutes of the movie have been converted to IMAX 3D, and there will be indicators on the screen to let us know when to put our 3D glasses on. I went to watch Matrix:Revolution in IMAX on that theater almost 2.5 years ago with Yao and his friends. It was the very first commercial movie to be released in IMAX and it was a lot of fun, but the picture was actually kind of grainy (because the screen is bigger but not the quality and resolution of the film too, they mostly just expand it). I am curious to see if the technology and quality has evolved since then, now that almost everyone captures the movie in digital CCD arrays (rather than film) and truly everyone edits in digital domain (with the sole exception of Steven Spielberg - he is the only one in Hollywood to edit his movie analog - by cutting and pasting pieces of film together).
I need to find a second person to go with...
(Battery level: 13%)
(She is still asleep. I try not to move my arm at all, it is very tough to write like that. The guy fell asleep too.)
I think I will save the last 10% of the battery. The time is 00:15 in NY time, and the movie they project (8 below) is 2/3 in. We still have 2 hours of flight I think.
What am I looking forward for in the next few days? First, watch the World Cup (ALL the remaining 15 matches) in beautiful 92" High definition picture in our home, rather than the crappy 23" CRT TV I had in my room at Brookhaven. Second, I have to carefully go over the data we got and prepare a presentation for Friday's group meeting (I asked explicitly to present, because it forces me to go thoroughly over the material and learn it well. Then I can understand better). I also have to prepare my apparently first conference presentation for the week of July 10th. It is in a resort at Lake Geneva, and on the weekend me and Erdem will drive to Chicago and spend 2 days there. Because of the World Cup final on Sunday July 9th at 11am local time, we had to book afternoon flights (6pm or so) which means that we will reach the resort around 2-3am. Brilliant! We also decide to return with a 6am flight on the next Monday morning, so we probably won't need to pay for a hotel on Sunday night.
(She is still asleep, although she thanked me first for letting her rest on my arm. She hugs the pillow. And we do have some turbulence. See you back in LA.)
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Οπότε τί έχουμε μέχρι τώρα? Γερμανία, Πορτογαλία, Βραζιλία, και όπως φαίνεται Ισπανία έχουν κάνει το 3 στα 3 και προχωράνε ακάθεκτοι. Από αυτό το γκρουπ θα ήθελα να αφαιρέσω την Ισπανία (λόγω εύκολου ομίλου - δεν τους έχω για τόσο καλούς) και να προσθέσω την Αργεντινή, που έχει παίξει την καλύτερη μπάλλα μέχρι τώρα και μόνο λόγο καταστάσεων δεν έχει και αυτή 3 στα 3.
Γκάνα και Εκουαδόρ θα είναι απόλαυση να τους δούμε στην επόμενη φάση - ευχάριστες εκπλήξεις. Ειδικά το Γκάνα-Βραζιλία θα είναι όλα τα λεφτά, όπως και το Πορτογαλία-Ολλανδία. Είδωμεν...
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
It all started from the airport. The day before we (I) had driven for over 10 hours back and forth to Key West, so I couldn't make the early morning flight 100%. I just slept on the floor.
Monday, June 19, 2006
In Brookhaven no one watches the matches. I try to do my best to keep up, although I have to work between 9-9: watch the weekend games live, watch spanish re-runs in the nights (or early mornings), watch at least the highlights in espn and ABC, and install this Firefox extension that runs in the low bar and has live pop-ups whenever a goal is in.
Germany is looking very strong, and although Equador is the big surprise of the game so far it is very critical who will win tomorrow for the first place, mostly for psycological reasons.
My least favorite group. I always like Sweden in every World Cup, and I would love to see them beat the English and get the first place. Remember, the runner up will probably play Germany in the next round, so their match is very interesting.
Argentina VS The Netherlands. Now, that's a match! The first place doesn't make much difference, but if Argentina beats them as easy as they beat the other teams, the moral factor only will lead them very far in this tournament.
Portugal VS Mexico. It is highly unlikely that Mexico will be disqualified from Angola, and they both deserve the first place. It will be an interesting match.
Now is starts to get interesting. If Ghana qualifies (they can even go first place!) it will very good for football, to see and African team in the next round. The Americans just suck, I don't believe they are capable of winning. Hence the most exciting match of this round #3 will be Italy VS Chech Republic... Remember, the runner up plays Brazil in the next round. Θα πέσουν κορμιά.
Australia VS Croatia. I really don't know what to expect here. I would rank them #2 in terms of how interesting the match is, after the Italy VS Chechs.
The real group of death. First, let's assume that France beats Togo (or else they shouldn't be here at all). Then all interesting kinds of scenarios start arising. If either the Swiss or Korea wins their match, then they will qualify along with France in the second round. However in case they tie, there is a 3-fold tie between the 3 nations. The goal dofferential will count then. Switzerland will have +2, Korea +1, and France +(whatever they win Togo). It gets more complicated after that, as they can tie in goal differentials too! Hence the goals that will be scored at the last minute will change who is first and who is 3rd... wow
Everething clear here. Ukraine may have started badly, but I don't think they can lose this.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Last Sunday, it was the first weekend since we came that we weather was actually nice (warm and not raining). Patrick wasn't in the mood to drive the hour-long trip to Manhattan, so I went on my own after the footbal matches.
I was planing to go to central park, because I hadn't been there the last time I came with Dora, and also it is most fabulus in the summer and especially on Sundays when all the New Yorkers are out. On my way there, I saw thousands of Latinos walking around in the streets near the park. The streets were FULL of them. After asking around a bit I realized it was the Puerto Rican Day, and the Puerto Ricans were in the streets parading. It was definately not what I expected to find!
In Central Park, the view was unique. Thousands of people were out playing, running, eating, having fun.
There may not be a beach nearby (since we are in the middle of a jungle of scyscrapers!), but that does not prevent people of playing beach volley:
You can also find lakes with boats that ride up and down:
There are also playgrounds for kinds, with the buildings watching them as if there were their parents:
These are my favorite shots. Only in New York you can find a beautiful park to play with the skyscrapers in the background. It just feels weird for me every time I am there, it is something I am not used to.
Then I headed over towards Times Square to catch a movie. On my way there on 7th Avenue there is this beautiful building
and under it I found a british young playing with his soccer ball next to the subway station... reminded me of the tv ads of Nike and Adidas with people playing football in the middle of the most weird places. I talked to him, and it turns out that the New Yorkers are more organized for football that the Angelinos. metrosoccernyc is their website, and apart from the official leagues they gather for kickarounds every Sunday afternoon during the world cup...
1X Times Square
The americans are almost never down to earth when it comes to blessing their own.
"Welcome to the center of the universe". It seems arrogant (and it is), but to a point it captures the feeling you get when you look at times square: that if all the world outside Manhattan suddenly vanished, they would care! "The ball drops here", the sign reads, and it is not wrong.
I went to Lowe's on 42nd street, one of the oldest movie theaters in the US. I wish I could see this movie:
... but it doesn't open until July 7th. Instead, I went to the highly anticipated Pixar's Cars.
Well, I have only one thing to say: Pixar did it again. To me this is their best movie so far. Pixar is the most succcesful company in movie history (and Steve Jobs has something to do with it...): they have released 7 films so far, each of which has grossed over $200,000,000 . No other film studio has had such success. And when you think that their movies cannot get mych better, they simply do.
In the beggining of Cars I noticed the crazy action in the Nascar race. Then I noticed the truly beautiful animation, which is by far the best thing to show up on screen until now. The colors, the moves of the cars (they feel more humans than many actors in dumb movies), little details here and there, everything was perfect. Then I noticed the not so adult (but still higly mature) story. Then I noticed the voices of the cars. The I noticed the perfectly chosen music. Then I laughed on the really fun jokes they have (some sequences are hilarious in a Shrek-type way). But after several minutes I couldn't notice anything: everything blent into a whole, a beautiful story that unfolded beyond my eyes. I forgot were I was, I forgot that I was in a theater. And when a movie does that, it is a great movie.
The Pixar films dop not offer anything original in terms of story; however whatever they do, they do it extremely well. You have your classic characters: the young arrogant man (sorry, car) that will learn the power of honesty. The hot girl (sorry, Porsche). The old wise guy. The funny companion. The mean enemies. Everything has be done before, but it was so perfectly done that I fell for it... Keep up the great work, Pixar.
On my way back to the car and Brookhaven (gee), I passed by Radio City Hall, the most prestigious showroom in the city. At that time the Tony Awards ceremony took place (these are the Oscars for Broadway theatrical shows). A bunch of limos were parked outside.
Now, let's move on to this past Saturday (boy, this is going to be a long post or what). After I dropped off Patrick at the airport on Friday (it took me 2.5 hours to get back from JFK to Brookhaven instead of the normal 1 hour with this crazy NY traffic!), I went by the lab to get the day's data and then I talked to Summer: he is a half Israeli and half Arab postoc here at ATF with 8 first author publications before he finished his phd. We went for dinner together and then we decided to go to Manhattan together. He's young and fun to hang out with, and none of us had anyone else nearby to go with, so...
Our plan was to get to a Broadway show. They have this deal that they sell same day tickets of the shows if they are available at half price, if you are willing to wait in the line for a bit. The booths are open from 10-2 for the afternoon shows and from 3-8 for the evening shows, so we decided to get there before 2 for the afternoon shows.
First, we had to find parking. The first times I visited Manhattan I didn't know and I paid about $30 for the parking each day. Now, on Sundays you can park on the streets, but on Saturdays? Summer knew this parking lot, at 33rd Street and 9th Avenue that is open and has a weekend deal of $15 for all day parking. It is a great deal so we left the car there (it is behind the post office building).
Opposite from the parking lot there is a store called B&H Electronics. They claim to be the cheapest electronics store in American, and although I have no way to verify that I cannot disagree that they have some amazing prices. It is huge with more than 50 employees usually helping out the customers. We soon realized though that since they are Jews they are closed on Saturdays. However if you ever visit the city and need any type of electronics gadgets to buy, pay them a visit.
We had a short lunch near Times Square and then at 1:55pm we reached the ticket booths. We saw them closed but on the side there was a huge line of about 150 people...
We soon realized that this was the line for the 3 o'clock opening!
Apparently this is one of the best ways to get tickets in New York. They are 50% off the regular high price, which is usually $110 (full price). Each of the previous two times I watched a Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera and The Producers, I paid $116 each (incl. taxes). Now, we would pay $58 each of us. But for which show?
Luckily the people next to us waiting in the line were experienced Broadway attendees. The lady was living in Bronx (too expensive to live in Manhattan!), and came to get tickets for Hairspray. The guy next to her was a father that wanted to get tickets for his sons to go and see the Producers (on top of that he had been the previous day to Chicago and the next day to the Lion King. 3 shows in the row! He doesn't live in New York but he visits every once a while, so he goes to the shows whenever possible.
Summer had watched the Lion King and he liked it, so he wanted us to get tickets for Beauty and the Beast, which is another Disney show. I don't have to tell you that I never wanted to go to that show because it is (in my mind) childish and banal, and I couldn't find any way that I could possibly like it.
We talked with this lady and the guy for various Broadway productions for about 1 hour (as long as the wait in the line). They had seen several shows each so it was a stroke of luck to have them there and advise us. The guy had seen Beauty and the Beast, and he said they had beautiful and most elaborate stage effects and sceneries. He also suggested Mamma Mia, as Broadway classic. At the end I agreed to go and see Beauty and the Beast for 2 reasons: First, Summer had seen Disney productions and he loved them, and second, when it comes to Broadway what you can find here and nowhere else is the scenic design. So I had to experience it.
It was 3pm so we had some time before the 8pm show. We briefly visited the Lincoln Center of the performing arts, a unique place that they have all kinds of performances, from classic orchestra to theater, libraries and music performances. It wasn't so interesting in the day though.
Then we caught the subway and went downtown to the NYU area and Washington Square. It was beautiful, with hundrends of people enjoying the warm weather and having fun. Here's two ladies dancing in the fountain at the sounds of a nearby band that was playing live:
And here's a more artstic picture of a child in the fountain waters:
Then we headed to Broadway Street, a street with unlimites stores that is packed on Saturdays from shopping people. In a corner, I couldn't help but notice that although Americans don't give a shit in general about football and the World Cup, well, there was something there to remind them:
A huge ball outside of the Adidas store and people watching the games on the big screens (it looked beautiful on HDTV... I can't wait to return home in LA and watch them too in HD!).
For an early dinner we went to a french restaurant that Summer knew, Gavroche, located at 212 West 14th Street (between 7th & 8th Avenues). As soon as I walked into the garden on the back, I remember the Sex and the City scene with Carrie that walks into a similar place and says something like "oh, I would love to have one of these restaurants with a small area on the back garden that you have to book months in advance to find a table". Well, it was like that (but no reservation required!):
We met the French owner of the place, she was really nice. They have this deal before 6pm, you can have a 3 course meal for only$19 (I paid $25 including tip and tax), which is great when the avearage dinner price in NY is $35 ($45 in London; $65 in Tokyo!). The service was friendly and the food was great, but it is french so don't expect huge meals.
At 7:15pm we were at the theater, just 100feet away from times square. My expectations for the show had risen from 0 to something during the day, so I couldn't wait.
What can I say? The show was amazing. It is the best of the three I have seen so far. The Producers are of a different kind as it is comedy-driven, but it was very similar to the Phantom. Great acting, great singing, great design. There were many laughs that made the whole thing highly enjoyable and not at all childish. And when it came to the staging, the scenes were just great. It was really like watching the action happening live in front of you... I was deeply touched, more than I could have been with any movie...
The indoor of the castle is the most amazing set I have seen in my life... you just cannot avoid saying "wow". But the best part was the last 20 minutes or so... it was truly the best of the best. The room that the Beast and Gastone fight is about 1/3 of the total stage. As they fight, they go outside through the door... then you see the whole thing rotating and coming closer, showing us the back side, which was the balcony.... as they keep fighting for the final time, rain starts to fall with an amazing light effect that I have never seen before... lightinings and thunders can be seen and heard throughout the battle, as they move over to the edge of the bridge, and teh orchestra giving its best... it was a memory that I will never forget.
One of the final shots is where the Beast transforms back to a human. I don't know how they did the transformation technically, but it happens right in front of your eyes in just a few seconds... the body of the Beast lifts, levitates, and then starts rotating... quickly enough it is turned into a man that slowly lands down to earth... it was a most magical moment... it feels stupid and unreal in tv, but when you actually watch it happening in front of your eyes... it is not fake anymore... it just hits on you...
As we walked back to Times Square, I took a look around, and I notice up there in a corner, my first time, eternally mine:
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