Shopping ConCERN

Today we met Emma at Gare Cornavin, bought tickets, and hopped on a tram headed to CERN.

We did not have tickets for a tour, but have heard mixed reviews on the tour anyway. So we were able to go into the Globe,

which is their visitors center. There was a theater with a brief video about the work they do, helping to understand the origins of matter and the universe. Pretty heady stuff! There were some interesting dioramas showing bits of the technology involved. The emotional favorite was Sir Tim Berners-Lee‘s NeXT computer where the first web server was programmed and/or run.

After our brief visit to CERN, we headed back home via the grocery store, and made ourselves a simple lunch. After lunch, we headed back towards the flea market to try our luck on a non-rainy day, and stopped along the way at the Smith Center and had a chance to meet the director there. Unfortunately, the cold and wind kept most of the vendors away from the flea market yet again, so that was a bit of a bust.

To make up for it, we did a little shopping at the nearby thrift stores, and Clara even found a candidate prom dress! From there, Emma had to head off to a class, so we had to fend for ourselves and find our way home. We took a quick bearing and headed in the general direction, and came upon the entrance to a park, and quickly discovered it was the Patinoire des Bastions where we had been yesterday, and from there we easily found our way back to Bel Air, and home from there.

For dinner, we made a simple chicken parm over spaghetti. Only one more day of fun in Geneva.

Old Town Geneva

Today, we met Emma at Bel Air,

and walked from there past all the high-end watch and designer stores. We went into a couple, but it was hard to feel comfortable looking at $10,000+ watches, with well dressed security guards all around, etc. We spent more time in the Swatch store, where we bought Tyler a souvenir, and a watch to give to Clara as a graduation present. From there, we walked by St. Peter’s Cathedral, and looked at some of the sights, then had lunch at the Spaghetti Factory, followed by actually going into the Cathedral and taking the tower tour.

Climbing bell towers is one of our favorite activities when visiting Europe, affording great views of the surrounding city. We probably have over 100 pictures from our brief time there.  After the Cathedral, we walked into the courtyard of the Geneva City Hall briefly, and stopped at Café Bar La Clémence for a quick beverage break.

From there, we walked through a park with the longest continuous wooden bench in the world,

and down to the famous monument, the Reformation Wall.

And for a really special ending to our big day out, Emma brought us to the the Patinoire des Bastions where there is a small outdoor skating rink where you can rent skates for CHF2, and everyone had a grand time!

From there, we walked back to our apartment via Bel Air. After a short down time, we headed out for our one fancy dinner for the week, at the Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge. It was a long, leisurely European dinner. We shared a bottle of local wine, a 2016 Gamay Mondeuse, and we had a variety of meals from steak medallions to a fish souffle, followed by Tiramisu and Creme Brulee for dessert.

Then we topped off the evening with an unintentional viewing of part of the Transformers movie, complete with French subtitles.

Return from Which Mountain?

From Villars, of course! In the morning, we had much better views of the Alps, which are incredibly breathtaking!

We spent a leisurely morning having breakfast and packing up at the chalet, then we took the local shuttle bus into town mostly to do some shopping for souvenirs. After wearying of shopping, we stopped at a local cafe for a snack before taking the train back to Bex, and then Geneva. The railway between Bex and Villars is surprisingly steep, and is therefore a cog (or rack) railway.

We did a little grocery shopping, and then returned to our home base, where we relaxed a bit, then prepared a simple dinner of bread, cheese, and salami, along with some fruits and vegetables. A short while later, Clara realized this was simply insufficient, so she and Tyler went out and tracked down a salami sandwich. For dessert, we later feasted on left over birthday cake and ice cream.

 

Villars

Today, we ventured into the Alps! We took a train from Geneva at 7:30,

changed trains twice, and arrived in Villars by 10:00. We explored the town a bit, dropped our luggage at our chalet, then had some lunch at Cookie Deli.

After lunch, we rented some ski equipment for the kids, bought lift tickets, and sent them on their way!

It was a little nerve-wracking, as it was Tyler’s first time skiing. But in fact we’ve not been there for any of our kids’ first ski experiences. It’s just that in Emma’s and Clara’s cases, they were in the hands of experienced skiers. In Tyler’s case, he was in the hands of his competent, but minimally experienced sisters. In any case, we didn’t let our anxiety get the best of us

It was insanely foggy, and often times you couldn’t see a block ahead on the road. Certainly no scenery was visible at all! We wondered about the visibility for our skiers. All went well, of course, but we did see someone else being carried onto the train back to town on a litter.

We stayed in a Swiss chalet, La Griotte, which was super fun. We all shared one room with a double bed and three twins, and the bathrooms were shared. We got to go into the basement TV room to watch some of the Olympics.

That picture is from the following morning, and our room is behind the window on the second floor. It was cute and cozy, and the host, Rita, was wonderful, and provided us with a lovely breakfast spread the following morning!

Dinner was at a small Italian restaurant about 100m away, called Pasta & Basta which provided us with good food. Clara had pizza, Tyler and I had pasta, and Susan and Emma had a Swiss specialty, Rösti, which is a pan fried dish of grated potatoes along with other things. Good food, especially for our hungry skiers (even if they did have some delicious crepes earlier).

HBTM!

Today was our first full day in Geneva, and as we are still getting on the local time, we ended up sleeping in until 9:00. We had a simple breakfast at home, and Susan and Emma met at the information booth, then returned home. We ventured forth to the train station, and took a tram out to Plainpalais,

which is a big open square where there is a huge flea market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but today there was only a modest selection of sellers due to the rain. After looking around, we went for lunch at Le Gruyérien and met one of Emma’s friends there.

After a delicious and leisurely lunch, we walked to the Patek-Philippe Museum where we got to see many, many watches. I was expecting more of a history of watchmaking (think the mechanical aspects), but it was more of an exhibit about the artistic aspects of watches. Cool stuff, and made us think about how watches are (generally…) less a piece of artwork/jewelry today, and more utilitarian. On the other hand, most people today could afford a watch, whereas in the early days of watchmaking, presumably only the wealthy could. Lots to think about there. Also, the heyday of watches sort of passed when nearly everyone began carrying a cell phone, which has a built in clock. That said, few would accuse a Patek Philippe (or indeed any of the famous Swiss brands) of being utilitarian.

From there, we headed to see Emma’s digs, but stopped on the way to have a coffee at Boréal Coffee Shop which is Emma’s favorite local cafe. And finally, we headed back to our apartment, where we shared a simple dinner.

Switzerland

So, we made it to Geneva, and Emma met us at the airport. She helped us buy tickets for the tram, and that took us as far as the Cornavin train station, and from there we walked down to the Lac Léman (a.k.a. Lake Geneva) and waited until it was time to be let into our AirBNB apartment where we are staying for the week. We settled in, and some of us napped while Emma went off to run some errands. When Emma returned, we walked to the train station (which also has lots of shopping in it) and bought a local pre-paid SIM card for one of our phones, and did some grocery shopping. We returned to the apartment, had a light dinner, and then ventured out on a surprise outing that Emma had arranged to have fondue at a restaurant (Bains des Pâquis) on the lake. We had a great time there, the fondue was delicious, and the setting was lovely. Plus, we learned a thing or two about ordering fondue.

Travel Day

On Thursday after school/work, our good family friend Alexx drive us to the airport. We arrived around 4:00 for our scheduled 6:10 boarding and 6:40 flight. The Air Canada section of the terminal was small and quite crowded, but we were able to find 4 seats relatively close together. And after a flight or two left, we were able to be all together, though Clara wandered off to the big charging table to top off her phone.

The 5:40 flight to Montreal was significantly late, and we began to get a bit anxious about ours, as the plane had not arrived by 6:00. I’m not sure exactly when it did, but they turned out around relatively quickly, and we left sometime around 7:20. It’s a short flight, but we didn’t have a lot of leeway in our schedule. Our flight out of Montreal was scheduled to depart at 8:50. We got to Montreal around 8:20, but everything takes a while, and as we were hustling to the departure gate, which of course was basically at the other end of the terminal, they announced final boarding for our flight. So we really hustled the last bit only to stand in line at the end of the jetway. That flight left about a half hour late, but got to Geneva on time.

EDC

If you weren’t aware EDC stands for Every Day Carry — the things you keep with you all the time so they will be handy. Here’s what I tend to carry on my person (thankfully, my pants have good pockets):

Top row includes:

Bottom Row:

And about in the middle we have the Nokia Go step tracker. Of course when I got it, it wasn’t Nokia, it was Withings, but they were purchased by Nokia.

Maybe someday I will do a backpack dump, but that would take a lot more work.

Hello, World!

When you start programming, or pick up a new programming language, often the first program you write is referred to as a “Hello, World!” program, because for the most part all you want to do is be able to produce a working program, so printing something like “Hello, World!” to the screen often feels like a great start. Once you have that working, you can expand upon it.

So we have a MOD-t 3-D printer that we bought a couple of years ago, and I’ve printed a bunch of things on it, but they were all things that other people designed. I’d always wanted to be able to do my own designs, and had two particular projects in mind. One is a part of a cover for a Starbucks travel mug. I have one that I really like, but the small piece which closes over the mouth hole keeps coming off. It doesn’t really stay in the cover, and is constantly at risk of being lost. So I’ve wanted to create a replacement. But that would seem to require considerable design skill. On the simpler end, I have a portable phone charger that I carry, which doubles as a flashlight. I like it, but periodically the light will come on in my pocket, and I may or may not notice. If I don’t, the battery will die. So I’ve wanted to create an end cap for it, to protect the switch from being pressed accidentally by all the other things in my pockets.

And so I have! I created such a cap using the program OpenSCAD which allows you to design things by describing them with code. For this particular item, it is essentially 3 things: a pretty flat cylinder for the base, a hollow cylinder for the body, and another hollow cylinder that sits just inside the larger one, which is very small to make a tiny ridge inside the body, enabling the cap to “snap” fit on the device at its seam. On the 8th try, I have something I am now happy with:IMG_2764

And I have “published” this design to a site called Thingiverse, which is the biggest repository of shared 3-D designs on the web. We’ll see if anyone else finds it useful.

Yay, Physics! Boo, Traffic!

I always enjoy Rhett’s articles. I rarely try to follow the math completely, but good stuff nonetheless. This one is pretty simple physics. I could probably still work out projectile motion problems like this. He often does nifty things with video analysis, although not in this piece. But what really struck me about this particular article was the secondary bits about traffic jams. The last video was cool, demonstrating just how little of a perturbation is needed in order to create a traffic jam of sorts. But the one before it, with Bill Beaty showing how to (help) defeat traffic jams was really awesome. I’ve done similar things in the past, trying to drive at the average speed, but I usually end up getting annoyed or frustrated when others cut in. His is a great reminder to have a Zen attitude about the whole thing. Imagine if everyone drove that non-competitively!! Spread the word!