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Saturday
May132017

Kennedy Space Centre

Guess who was excited to be visiting Kennedy Space Centre?

Watching SpaceX's launch being set-up

"Mission abort!"

Practising his run for the International Space Station

Hayden takes space very seriously. He wants to go the university to study engineering so that he can be an astronaut. He likes space a lot, and Mars is his favourite because it is where all the robots live.

Perhaps one day Hayden's space suit with Mars dust will be on display? Hopefully at the European Space Museum though.

Saturday
May062017

EU open day


EU Open Day at the Commission. Hayden met Captain Europe, but was somewhat dubious.

Every country had a booth. Hayden's favourite was the Netherlands.

Disgracefully, the UK didn't bother to turn up for Open Day.

Fortunately, the official UK negotiator realised the collosal mistake the UK was making, and formally made a plea to re-join the EU.

The Minister for Belgium nominated the UK to rejoin the EU

Seconded by Poland

And the UK is back in the EU! Crisis averted everyone!

Friday
May052017

The Residenz’ wine-cellars

The Prince-Bishops of Würzburg were seriously rich. They lived in a castle above the city, and when castles became unfashionable they had a 300 room palace built in the city. Despite heavy bombing in WWII, much of the palace survived and the rest was painstakingly rebuilt in the original style, so today you can still see how decadently rich the Bishops lived. Gold leaf and marble cover the rooms, with the ceilings elaborately painted frescos.  It screamed the type of opulence that you can only get by giving billions of dollars to someone with the aesthetic taste of a five year old. An American colleague commented that it was such a different world from today. I gently ribbed back, “yeah, it is hard to imagine today a ruler who wants gold leaf covering their toilet and needs their entry to be announced by a fanfare of ‘hail to the chief’”.

The most interesting part of the Residenz is the wine cellars beneath, the largest in Germany and the oldest in the world, founded in 1128. At the end of our conference we got to walk through the stone catacombs; heavy stone encasing the enormous oak barrels, dark shadows punctuated only by candle light. An enormous cheese plater and the tasting of seven Franconian wines rounded out a very satisfying trip.

Clearly this castle doesn't cut it anymore, so time to build a palace:

The wine cellars. No tapping on the barrels, or else: 

Thursday
May042017

The Else-Kröner foundation

I am in Würzburg for a Translational Immunology conference. The conference is hosted by the Else Kröner foundation, which is quite an inspiring story. Else started out with a pretty bad roll of the dice – her father died before she was born, and her mother, struggling as a cleaner for a pharmacy, died while she was still young. The story could easily have ended in poverty, but fortunately Else was adopted by the pharmacist. Even this stroke of luck soon ended, with her adopted father dying during WWII, and a young Else inheriting a bombed out pharmacy. It must have been an amazing story of courage, talent and dedication for Else to rebuild her pharmacy and turn it into a multi-million dollar company, Fresenius, specialising in nutritional supplements. In her will, Else put enough money aside to look after her children until they graduated from university, and turned the rest into a foundation for medical research. The foundation is still the majority shareholder of Fresenius, and sponsors early-career clinical researchers, such as the excellent Translational Immunology program they run in Würzburg. 

Monday
Apr242017

Chile

Sunday
Apr232017

Travelling as a vegetarian

So, inspired by my recent trip to Chile, I thought I would make a map of where it is easy/hard to be a vegetarian. It ranges from:

Amazing: India, Italy and Thailand, oh my!

Good: you don't need to check the menu, every place will have a couple of decent vegetarian options

Okay: you might need to search a bit, but you are not going to go hungry and there are occasional gems

Poor: waiters will look at you funny, but the cook will try to make you an omlet or something

Bad: yeah, expect to have a few meals based around fries and beer. Waiters are just going to say "no".

Food desert: desperately looking for a Subway or pizza place, you'll end up appreciating airline food at the end

Note: a lot of these places can flip dramatically if you eat fish, most notably Spain, Indonesia and Japan

Wednesday
Apr192017

Wisconsin man shot by pet octopus

Madison, Wisconsin: Dwaine Edwards, 38, was hospitalised Thursday night after being shot by his pet octopus. Mr Edwards was rushed to St Mary's Hospital, where he was treated and is expected to make a full recovery.

Pet octopuses are known to be able to climb out of aquarium and perform complex tasks, such as opening jars of food. "Octopussy", the pet of Mr Edwards, is thought to have climbed out and triggered the loaded Glock 17 left next to the aquarium. Mr Edwards, watching TV in the same room, was hit by the stray bullet, resulting in a gunshot wound to the upper thigh. 

When asked whether the incident will change his policy on keeping loaded guns lying around the house, Mr Edwards replied, "No way man, I'm Second Amendment all the way". He continued, "I'm even thinking of getting Octopussy his own set. Can you imagine, some gangbanger breaks into my place, and he gets a bullet through the head from me and eight shots to the chest from Octopussy - how awesome would that be!"

When asked for comment, the NRA President, Mr Wayne LaPierre, replied, "our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr Edwards. While this minor accident is regrettable, we must not forget that the only thing that can stop a bad octopus with a gun is a good octopus with a gun". 

Saturday
Mar182017

Bengaluru, India

Possibly the worst thing to be written on a Supreme Court building anywhere

The Bull Temple

Bangalore Palace, built as an imitation to Windsor Castle

Holi, the festival of colour. We all got inked that day...

Friday
Mar172017

Cartoon wisdom

When I was young, cartoons taught us... pretty much nothing. Mostly that senseless violence is funny, I guess. Perhaps that being shot in the face with a gun is ultimately harmless.

For Hayden, the cartoons he watches are genuinely wise. Peppa Pig includes the best male rolemodel on TV, and a family that uses good humour to live together. My Little Pony teaches about friendship and growing up. Avatar the Last Airbender teaches about diversity and how pain can make good people do bad things. Okay, Adventure Time doesn't make much sense, but this wisdom from Hayden is straight from Daniel Tiger:

Saturday
Jan282017

A year in costume