Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good way to end a day

After a long day filled with presentation and classes what can be better than a good one hour hike? and some beautiful views of the mountains in the Berkshire county from Greylock to the Taconic hights.

On the top

Scenic View

The treat afterwards

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cultural Sunday

After a sturdy rainy week, we, the students went out for a bit of culturalization...forced or not:). In this way, the Clark Brothers Collection exposed in Williamstown, MA was the perfect way to achieve the goal: Home of the best liberal arts college in the country, Williams town is a neat, small place to live.

The 1793 established institution seems that has a lot to offer both in terms of heritage and high educational values. The early European Art(1400-1800) and especially the Dutch school painters along the American Paintings were my favorites. I found John Singer Sargent's works magnificent and pleasantly surprising. After circling around the town, a nice (too big) dinner at a local restaurant outside the town (the Cauzy...something; famous for their fish & chips) was the perfect ending for a nice Sunday contrary to the weather caprices.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Travel Diaries 3 - Back in the US

After a long journey (23hrs) from Barcelona to Great Barrington, MA I think I finally get the chance to rest a bit and enjoy the peaceful and beautiful Berkshire county. Of course, it is not that simple, still I am short of a paper and a presentation here, but I think it is a good slow down of speed after the hecticness of the last couple of weeks and the logistic perks (I got all my connections right on time) of an extended journey.

Life seems a lot simpler and ejoyable here. I even sleep with all my windows open which is strange/unusual for me due to usually, noise and temperature constraints. I will probably push myself to get things done this week and just enjoy the next on, which is the final one also. In the meantime, sports are still predominant on both sides of the pond: the NBA finals are over after the Dallas Mavericks couldn't get it together for the last for games and accomplished a rare counter-performance (only two more cases in history) and lost the series 4-2 games after they had 2-0. Meanwhile, in Germany things get closely towards a closure with the final matches of the group phase. In will be interesting to see if France will make it, which will be just pure luck. Other than that, everything is good. Just need to work some:). Which I plan to do right now.:))...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fuel Efficiency -2-

Top 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars for 2006
By Editors

With gas prices steep as a Himalayan slope, fuel-efficiency is a prime consideration for an ever increasing number of car buyers. For all you smart souls with an eye on the pump, we've compiled a list of the 10 most fuel-efficient cars currently sold in the U.S.
Rankings are based on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) miles-per-gallon ratings for city and highway travel. More specifically, we used the EPA's combined fuel economy formula: 55 percent of city mpg rating plus 45 percent of highway mpg rating. The rating for each vehicle below is expressed in mpg as a city/highway ratio. All ratings apply to base models equipped with a manual transmission, except where indicated otherwise with an asterisk.
Each model was allowed only one appearance on the list. The sole exception is the Honda Civic, which appears twice as a result of being available in both gas-electric hybrid and regular gasoline versions.

Honda Insight — 60/66
Toyota Prius — 60/51*
Honda Civic Hybrid — 49/51*
Volkswagen Golf TDI — 37/44
Volkswagen New Beetle TDI — 37/44
Volkswagen Jetta TDI — 36/41
Toyota Corolla — 32/41
Scion xA — 32/37
Hyundai Accent — 32/35
Kia Rio — 32/35
Honda Civic — 30/40*
Pontiac Vibe — 30/36
Toyota Matrix — 30/36

Fuel Efficiency -1-

The BIG word today is OIL. Another big one is efficiency which derives a series of other ones like biofuels,hybrid cars and the end of oil dependecy for many developed countries. Well, still, it is highly improbable that this will happend in the near future. A couple of reasons why: 1. biofuels are not viable since the return on energy investment is still quite low comparing to what we put in producing it and the constraints (labor, land, water, pesticides, etc) show that is not possible to run (even parts) of the economy on such sources; 2.oil dependency will probably accentuate regardless of the ambitions of one or the other (poles of power in the world) and it is very possible to see quite some bids in the (near) future between countries for the "black gold" 3.hybrid cars in principle are good since they decrease the amount used per km/mile but as Jevon's paradox shows to any economist we will probably end-up consuming more gas since we will be inclined to travel more and take advantage in the latter reduction.
Thus, ceteris paribus, the Hubert peak (of oil) predicted for 2005, may in fact have happened or happening soon. No worries for me though -> no car-> no trouble?:)) but sudden drops can deeply cripple economies, societies, countries and individuals. After all, we are so much dependant on fossil fuels and of course they are finite (especially the high energy content one e.g. gas, oil)

Leaving Barcelona

I left Bellaterra around 5 am heading for the airport to catch my 7:50 am flight. Very tired, basically just had 1 hour and a half of sleep and a 23 hr journey ahead. Still, I felt bad for not thinking to stay some extra days in a hostel and just take advantage of the parties and all the stuff going on in such a vivid place as Barcelona. Well...uncertainty:)) and complexity of the problem could allow me to visualize 3 months before how is going to be and how should I plan my trip here. Bottom line: I really look forward to coming back there and do (slowly) all the things that I have missed in this one.
A couple of pics below:

The Montjuic Fountain 1 - a spectacular show of water, lights and chamber music

The Montjuic Fountain 2

Parc Guell and a panoramic view of Barcelona

Parc Guell-another Gaudi's wonders- a great photo

Parc Guell-Mediteranean vegetation

Palace of Arts and Culture

The TV antenna in the Olympic Village

Building on the famous La Rambla

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The King of Sports is Back

Finally the footbal is king again over the whole world. The 2006 German edition of the world cup is likely to show some excellent quality matches. The usual suspects (Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Italy or Netherlands) along with the young European and South American "lions" are favorites again. For once maybe, it would be nice for an ousider like Trinidad or Cote d'Ivoire to win it. At least the pleasure and surprise will get back into this exiciting. On the other hand, the bookies would not be as happy as the undersigned one. However, spectacular footbal is needed, wanted and (?) to be delivered (hopefully)in order for the full successful social experiment to be complete. Viva el Mundial!

Distorted imperfections

Stupidities of Policies: 148 Million Bottles of Wine Down the Drain
for the sake of a protected agriculture in which prices and efficiency are kept artificially.
"To avoid a tidal wave of wine and a collapse of global wine prices because of overproduction in the European Union countries that make it, the European Commission approved plans for 79 million gallons of French wine and 69 million gallons of Italian wine to be distilled into undrinkable, industrial-grade alcohol. But Europe's agricultural commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, cautioned that while such stopgap action might bring temporary relief, "it does not deal with the core of the problem — that Europe is producing too much wine for which there is no market."(JOHN TAGLIABUE, NY Times, June 8th 2006)
It seems that this type of stupid agricultural policies that promote paysans to produce less and keep artificial prices high are the ones that prevail in all developed economies. One does not need anymore to go local anymore (as most initiaves are asking to) or support the local farmers. The Government does it for you in the form of subsidies and trade barriers. why? so you can dump/waste whatever is "in surplus"..blah-blah.a lot of nonsense. No market for wine? These people obviously don't know what elasticity of demand is but they sure realize that such dumping actions are UN-ethical. But these policy distorsions are just the top of the iceberg; there are so many examples that we do not need to reenforce the popular thin trust in governance and competenciens.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Travel Diaries 2 - Arrival in Barcelona

Barcelona never looked better than when I saw it from the plane at 7 am in the morning. The sun was just coming out the Mediteranean Sea and the whole city was looking amazing when we came to land from the sea side. After that I had the chance to walk a bit in the centre of the town (the famous La Rambla street/walk) but the luggage was too much so I had to go to my accomodation place (the UAB hotel) located about 20km away, or about 30 minutes by train.
Yesterday I went out with a group of people from the conference and we wondered the streets a bit before catching a dinner and a beer in the town. Lovely street, people and weather. One would definetely has too restrain a lot from not leaving the conference and just hang out in some bars or get a tan on the beach. Everything in its own time. Hopefully:)
The comference/summer school is prooving to be quite different and challenging but I am sure everything will be just fine.

In the Center of the Town

Down by the beach

The walking group

Mediteranean kind of urban landscape

The Famous La Rambla -nighshot

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Travel Diaries 1 - Leaving the Capital Region

Mo, 5th June.12:10 pm.
I am just leaving Albany in the 12 o clock train. Gods smilled on me since the 10:45 and the 11:00 haven't yet arrive and respectively left, the Rensselaer trainstation. Time becomes quite the critical factor in these types of long journeys and I am not used to cuting slack for such delays and it is a dangerous habit. The weather is fine, sun just came out after a couple of cold and long rainy days; here comes summer; however I am glad to leave since I don't really tolerate the humidity + heat usually fouded in all the US (or at least the one that I have visited so far). Again, travelling first class by Amtrak (thus took out my laptop and start to write these things)...this time by conjecture and not by ticket:))..but I have so much luggage that I can't afford to move on the train and the conductor lady was kind enough not to get on my case.I suppose now this ("thank you for travelling amtrak"!) should become my line and not her's.
The Hudson river looks blurry today and the ride again reminds me of home and Viseu river, when I use to take a 14 hr (!!) ride from Timisoara to my hometown. In a month and a half I will be probably taking it again (or something similar). Can't wait to get to NYC; that city really represents me and I just love the energy and the frentic rhythm that is impregnated in it.

My latest outcome

Here is my latest academic child. I started brainstorming for it months ago and finally worked on it since May. Since I am kind of a sinusoidal person workwise, guess the period it isn't justified but the intensity consecrated in many times was high to say the very least. I did it by myself, no help, no major suggestions or advices, which entitles me to take full credit and be even more proud of it, if proven to be a good achievement. Here it is (a scaled down version of it- the real thing is an ISO A0 which is 36 by 48 inches or approx 1 square metter of actual glossy picture, thus pretty big). I will probably show this baby on my summer fellowhsip in Massachusets and afterward to the big European Science Days in Steyr, Austria. I am very happy the way it came out; after print I was worried about too much black (background and all) and sometimes even the best plotters do not deal well with so much solid color and black is the most utilized too, I guess. But the results are spectacular. Take a look and give back some feedback!:)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Net Neutrality - Battle over the future of the web

A push towards regulating the internet and some controversial issues of who should and who should prevails in the new virtual space, which holds unlimited possibilities.
Check out this flash movie: or other sites touching on this issue like(
and act on own opinion in this matter.