This weekend, for the first time ever, I had a public showing of my art!

As a bit of history, I started painting in 1997, while studying in the US. That’s where I first discovered oil pastels and I loved them. Then I moved on to oils and I loved them even more 🙂 Now I also like to use ‘buttery’ acrylics that can recreate the thickness of oils but dry much faster. After 2001, I painted less as I was too busy enjoying life 🙂 However, this year, after moving to Greenwich, I got so inspired by the strong artistic community around here that I decided to restart and accelerate my art-related activities and, for that, I rented a studio nearby, at Second Floor Studios in Woolwich. When I visited the site I was very impressed with the size of the community as well as the variety of artists working there. And, as they hold annual Open Studios events, this was my first one. Here is my studio, as it looked over the weekend.

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Overall, it was an amazing experience as I was able not only to show my art to strangers and get some very nice reactions and comments but I could also go around and see what other people create across the site. I’ve met lots of neighbours and I saw lots of interesting things and techniques.

Here are some photos of the studios I visited and art pieces I liked:

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During our last trip we managed to see the Severn Bore once in the dark and once during daylight. Even though the one I filmed was a smaller one (3* out of 5*) it was still really impressive, considering that it was near Newnham, where it starts picking up. The Severn Bore is one of the biggest in the world. You can read more info here.

Here is a 5* Bore I found on YouTube:

One of the main goals of visiting Italy this time was to get to Cinque Terre. The web is full of pictures from there and they look so fascinating that I was anticipating an amazing place with great opportunities to take pictures. Sadly, I have to say that I did not like it much. We went to Riomaggiore and Vernazza and it was quite enough to ‘experience’ the place: it is very over hyped and overcrowded.  Considering that it’s a very touristic area, I found the infrastructure support quite poor, with no dedicated train connecting the villages, as I thought it would be based on the things I’ve read online. Instead, the trains run very sparse, around one an hour, which makes it very difficult to enjoy moving from one place another.
We parked in Riomaggiore as we wanted to drive from La Spezia there as it seemed to be a very scenic drive. The drive was indeed very nice but the weather was not good enough to allow us to see the view in all its splendor. From there we took an overcrowded train and went to Vernazza to shay check that one out. Based on the descriptions from the tourist guide, I was expecting Vernazza to be sensational but it was far from that. Badly maintained houses with washed out colours. Around lunchtime waves of tourists started coming so we just rushed to get out of there. Sadly, we left Cinque Terre after spending there less than 3 hours! We went to see how Portovenere looks and the good thing is that we liked it a lot! It’s pretty and it had beautiful views over the sea. Highly recommended.

Here are the photos we took in Cinque Terre and Portovenere.

The various reactions I’ve seen recently to a transgender person winning the Eurovision made me realise how hard it is for people to accept what they believe is “anormal” and how hard it is to open your mind and question your prejudices.  Here are some quotes I like that are related to this.

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” 
― Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” 
― George Eliot, Middlemarch

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” 
― Isaac Asimov

“The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” 
― Albert Einstein

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” 
― Mark Twain

“It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth.” 
― Milan Kundera, Encounter

After a considerable length of time in Colchester (the longest I’ve ever been in a single place after Romania), we moved to Greenwich. Well, we are still moving, actually, but the essentials are moved.

Over the past week we started to explore the areas around and tried to find replacements for the places we got used to in Colchester. In Colchester was probably easier as most of the stores were all grouped together. Here we seem to need to look within the neighbouring areas too. On the other hand, we had 6 years in Colchester to find all the places so…

I am looking forward to finding new places in and around Greenwich and I created a map that will be used to ‘collect’ our impression about all the new places around.

Here are a few photos from our new location:

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Yesterday we stopped by Bletchley Park, the place where a large community of people from various domains and walks of life gathered during World War II in order to break the German codes.
It was a totally different type of visit than before, as the buildings themselves are quite uninspiring and gloomy but the history behind them is extraordinary.
There is a lot of information to take in and you definitely need a second visit to find out more.
I did not find that the multimedia iPod device provided by them was very helpful as the screen is quite small and the controls pretty bad. I find that having a device to fiddle with while you are trying to visit a place or exhibition is not a very good idea as it decreases the experience on both sides. Anyway, once you get the hang of the place and start going around the Mansion, huts, blocks and cottages, all becomes more enjoyable. The very extensive exhibition in Bloc B, where the Entrance is, would probably be the best place to start with even though you might end up spending so much time there that you’d be too tired to get on to the other places 🙂
If you are interested in this part of the human history or, as myself, you are amazed by Alan Turing and his contributions to computer science, it is a very enlightening experience. Also because you understand that Turing, no matter how genius he was, was part of a large community and they all contributed in various ways to breaking the German codes and shortening the WW2.

Some interesting links I found:

And here are the photos I took there:

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Last week we went to Lancaster and, in our way up north, we decided to stop and rest at a National Trust property. Being very well located off A1,we choose Woolsthorpe Manor, the place where Isaac Newton was born and lived for some time. While initially was meant just as a relaxing stop on our way, it became a very powerful experience when we saw THE apple tree that he said inspired him and we saw his room, where he devised various experiments and started some of his main theories. It’s unbelievable that after so many centuries, we can still see this place and experience some of the atmosphere that he lived and worked in.

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Audio+Movement+HeartRate

Yesterday I finally had my viva and I am quite happy that it’s all behind now! It lasted quite long (over 3 hours) but it all ended well and, even more importantly, I’ve got some very nice feedback about my work from my examiners 🙂

I wanted to have a more ‘objective’ view into my experience so I used the Zephyr HxM monitor to record movement and heart rate and the AIRS platform to record other data and annotate at certain points, so here are some of the graphs that include the ambient noise levels (i.e., talking), my movement levels (i.e., based on the accelerometer), my heart rate levels and my annotations. The viva started at 2:30pm  and ended around 6pm. It seems that my heart rate went up before the viva (actually it started going up a few hours before) but it started coming down during the viva, which shows I was getting less stressed 🙂 Then it got up again while I was waiting for the result outside the room and pacing and also kept being up because of the excitement 🙂
The other graphs also show my waiting outside the room (the 15 min before 6pm): increased movement and low noise on the corridor.

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This week I attended the “Thinking Architecturally” workshop organised at the Computer Lab in Cambridge by the EINS EU NOE project. The workshop aimed at bringing together people from various disciplines that talked about designing and creating architectures within their domain.
The attendance list was very impressive and the viewpoint presentations brought in lots of discussions (some in agreement, some in disagreement). The discussions generated showed the differences between various communities with regard to what aspects should be part of an Internet architecture. My favourite presentations were by Aaron Sloman and John Doyle, because they were very thought-provoking (at least for me!). It was quite an amazing experience for me to meet Aaron Sloman during this week, as I’ve known some of his work for such a long time. I first saw his CogAff schema in 2000 and it is one of my favourite representation of various levels of reasoning. On top of that, he is such a nice person to talk to and listen to. Every time he said something I was in awe 🙂 This material includes what he presented during the workshop. John Doyle talked about biological structures as an inspiration for architectural thinking.