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Martha and Susan’s Excellent Adventures » 2008 » November

Archive for November, 2008

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #12: Freiberg (x2)

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

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After Crete, my flights didn’t quite work out the way I wanted them to, so I got 2 more nights in Germany. I spent my extra day back in Freiberg at the Fraunhofer. This time I crashed with Shelly and Emily, and Emily once again took me in to the Fraunhofer with her. The institute was having a grand opening for it’s module testing research facilities this time, so I saw some experiments in action. The most impressive was the hail-resistance testing set up. They make spherical, 2cm dia. ice balls, and shoot them out of a ice cube gun at a solar panel. We wore eye goggles. It was awesome.

Later I met with Daniel Kray, a researcher in the laser doping area who came to Sydney in August (remember his awesome kids?). He gave me another, much more thorough tour of the labs. He has access to a lot more stuff, and is more senior then Emily, so I actually got to go in everywhere as opposed to just look in the windows. And most impressively, he took me in to the laser doping lab, so that I could see it in action. It’s quite different to the way we do it at UNSW, and personally I think our way of doing it is easier, but whatever. It’s all research.

That night I went over to Daniel’s for dinner. We cooked, his two little girls played with us, and after they went to bed we went for a walk. He lives in this tiny German village surrounded by all these vineyards. We ate grapes, walked up to an old, old church at the top of some hill, and then I caught the bus back to Emily and Shelly’s. Wished them good bye and thanked them, Karo and Werner dropped me off at the train station, and I caught the midnight train to the Frankfurt airport.

An all-nighter on trains, then at the airport, trying to catch cat-naps on benches. I thought my flight was at 9, but it was actually later, so I probably could have just gone in the morning, but oh well. I caught the plane to Taiwan, for 2 more nights there before my return to Sydney.

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #11: Crete

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

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Vacation time!

Crete town from boat

Hiking

Crete Sunset

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #10: Wiesbaden

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

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This was a bit of a random one. On the Tuesday morning after the BP Solar visit, our Fellowship was finally broken. The last of us travelling companions - Budi, Nino and I - went on our separate paths. Budi and I left for the airport, Budi to go to Munchen, I for Frankfurt and then Greece. Nino slept in, then caught the bus south to the coast, then the ferry to Morrocco (!).

In Frankfurt, I caught a bus to Wiesbaden, where I met up with Karo and Werner and we stayed at their friend Philip’s house. Philip used to be called Matthew though. He just started calling himself Philip one day in uni, and now everyone calls him that. But Werner knew him since he was little, so some times he messes up and forgets he has a new name now.

Philip and his girlfriend were very nice though, and had a lovely apartment, and we had a great dinner at some German patio restaurant. We had to get up at 4am? 3am? something that was still pretty much night time to take a taxi to the airport, and then on to Greece!

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #9: Madrid

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

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Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of Madrid :( I’m relying on Nino for these, as Budi also doesn’t have a camera, and it’s just the 3 of us who went.

So after the conference ended our numbers started to dwindle slowly. Yael went right back to Sydney, and took all the posters with her. She’s been in Germany the whole month preceding the conference to do some research at ISFH, and wanted to get back. Stanley flew back to Taiwan for a few more days before heading back to Sydney. Roland flew of to the US for a digital fabrication conference with Alison. Nicole went to Germany to meet up with her Grandmother and accompany her back to Sydney. And Budi, Nino and I went to Madrid for one final European PV stop (for Nino and I at any rate): BP Solar.

Nino and I spent the weekend hanging out, going out, having fun in Valencia and then Madrid. I don’t know, I can’t get used to the Spanish pace. Restaurants don’t open until after 9:30pm, everyone is late, nothing is open in the morning, I spend most of my time being frustrated or starving. But it was warm and sunny, so whatever. Madrid was beautiful. Our last night we went on one of those back-packer pub crawls. Budi and I only stayed ’til midnight since we were flying out early the next morning, but Nino had a blast and got back around 5am. Totally his type of country.

Setting up the BP Solar visit kinda fell to being my responsibility once Anita decided not to come to the conference. It didn’t really get finalized until the day before the visit, when we were already in Madrid. Not due to me neglecting things though, it was just that slow and disorganized at BP. But I must say I was quite impressed when I saw the plant. One of the arguments against solar cells is that they use a lot of energy and resources to make, and the by-products from production can be rather harmful. Well, the BP Solar facility is built in a nature reserve. So not only do they have to make sure they’re not polluting, they actually have to meet stricter guidelines than any other factory. So, since they are able to safely operate without affecting the surrounding area while still making a profit (I assume), I was quite impressed which made the visit worthwhile after all. Budi and Nino and I gave presentations to the engineers there about our work, and then our contact gave us a bit of a tour (we were able to look through the windows into the production facility, not go in, but it was still alright).

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #8: Valencia!

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

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And finally, we get to the reason for the whole trip: European Union Photovoltaic …. 2008 in Valencia, Spain! I was co-authored on two papers, but Stuart saw fit to send me to the conference anyways. I’ve promised lots and lots of journal papers in place of future conferences.

Budi, Roland, Stan, Nicole, Yael and I rented a 6 person apartment for the week - super cheap, in the old section of the city, half way between the conference centre and the beach. Nino, Lara, Ivan, Jeanna, her husband, and Sangwook also rented a 6 person apartment. It was a fun week. Lots of papers, tonnes of industry booths, and lots of free dinners and parties.

The only disappointment, really, was the quality of the oral presentations. Some were really good, but most were a waste of time - either not relevant to my topic (but there was nothing else to watch), or it was some company announcing their latest efficiency, but not actually talking about what they’re doing. Sheesh. It gave me lots of hope and plenty of ideas for my own papers though.

Budi Stan conference

Roland Valencia paper

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #7: Barcelona

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

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Yaaaaayyyy!!! A country I haven’t been to yet! I liked Barcelona! We went to Camp Nou, the Gaudi cathedral, the Gaudi park, the hostel was like a hotel, the food was good and cheap. And hot! Hot hot hot! The way August in Europe should be. Nicole joined the us travellers at this point, and she was our Barca tour guide, seeing as she’d been there before. So much awesome architecture!

Budi Nicole Mars Gaudi park

Gaudi cross

Gaudi cathedral

Gaudi Lizard!

Roland Camp Nou!

Barca champions cups

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #6: Paris

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

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Paris was the best city for the boys, however by this time we’d learned something. Stanley (and to some extent Roland) is not really interested in art or history, so when he asked what was next on the plan if it was art, his interest dropped a bit. If it was history, it dropped even lower. If it involved paying money of some sort, that was pretty much rock bottom and he wouldn’t really be into it. So, Europe not the hit that it could be in some respects. Also, they’re not into hostels. After the rather run down one in Rome, the decided no more, it’s hotels for them, so I stayed at the hostel in Montmartre as planned, and they went off to a 4-star hotel on the Champs Elysee and had a grand (but pricey) old time. Budi’s parents happened to be visiting Paris at the same time as us, so he spent most of his time in Paris with them.

Rona Stan Champs Elysee

The thing that they did love about Paris is the amazing transit system. There’s just no waiting. Any time you go down into the metro, there’s a train arriving. So Roland was in love with that. When he’s the dictator of some country somewhere, expect excellent public transit based on the Paris Metro and RER. Stan loved the shopping on the Champs Elysee, even though I tried to stop them (so expensive!), and all the lambourghini’s you can see cruising on it at night. It’s the biggest, busiest city we were in, and Roland made the concession that, unlike the rest of Europe, this was a city that he could live in.

Rona and Zidane

Roland and I hit most of the tourist spots (Les Invalides, the Pantheon, Versailles, Place de la Concorde), and Stan joined in for la tour Eifel and the Louvre.

Rona's palace

Louvre at night

Lafayette with Stan

Paris at night

La Tour Eifel at night

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #5: Rome

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

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I asked Roland and Stan, since they hadn’t been to Europe before, what were the must see locations for them. Paris and Rome were the must-sees. For me, that was great too because Sharada was in Rome working for FAO at the time, and so I was able to stay with her during our time there.

So we did the Colliseum, all the piazzas, churches, gellato, but the best stories are the Stanley stories at the Vatican.

We were going through the Vatican museum. It’s full of interesting art, historical artifacts. Turns out Stanley is not really an art or history buff (so not too impressed by most of Europe), but he does like the ancient Egyptian stuff which the Vatican has a fair amount of. We’re looking at this old, Egyptian mummy, preserved behind glass, so many people that Stanley’s pressed up beside me, and we’re both pressed up to the glass. Stan turns to me, and says “Martha, do you think it would be, like, rude, to take a photo?” (you know, because that mummy is a dead body, it used to be someone). Pressed up against Stanley’s other side, a man with an enourmous camera focusing in on the head of the mummy stops and looks at Stan. Stan: “Sorry, sorry! Not you, I meant for me! Not you!”.

Mummy

Cut to a little while later. We all got separated, I got lost for a while, rather traumatizing. I finally get back to the guys, and Budi, Stan and I are waiting for Roland to return from the search in this Octagonal Garden courtyard. Stan asks me “So Martha, of all the Asian countries - China, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand - which one is your favourite?” I said I don’t know, I haven’t been to all of them yet, but perhaps China. It’s really large, diverse, has so much to see. He says “Oh, Korea. I don’t like Koreans. They’re very rude.” Budi’s whispers “Stan! Stan!” and starts pointing. We’re sitting right beside an enormous Korean tour group. “Oh! Why didn’t you guys tell me?” We didn’t know what he was going to say! Oh, but we laughed!

Stanley paying his respects

Cut to a little later. Roland and Stan are walking down the street at night, back to the hostel. Stan asks Rona “Ok, so of all the countries we’ve been to, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, which one do you think has the prettiest girls?” and Roland started to laugh. He said “Stan, maybe you should look around and see who’s listening before you ask and more questions.”

*****

Okay, I have to put these in too. The first is of all of us at Sharada’s “bohemian” apartment. The second is just after I took a sip of the coffee she made me.

Bohemian Apt

Salt water coffee

There was salt in it instead of sugar ;P