October 27, 2012

Girlfriend planted some tomatoes in the garden earlier this year. It was a bit too late (circumstances and whatnot) but a few of them had already ripened well. It’s now November and some serious frost has been predicted for the week ahead so we decided to take them all inside and see which ones will ripen on their own.

As far as I know there’s three different kinds; Black Russian (the ugly ones), Gemini (the regular ones) and Vinbärstomat (the small ones).

(click to embiggen)

I sense a salad in my near future.


A to B [Airports]

October 26, 2012

When I was 12 —or thereabouts— my parents booked me on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to newly independent Prague, where I was to be picked up by my aunt. I don’t remember much of it to be honest, in fact the most vivid memories are about the dreams I had the night before. Since then I’ve flown a lot, in fact I have no idea idea how much, totally lost count, though it must be somewhere between 50 and 100 individual planes. It didn’t take me long to develop a healthy hatred of planes and especially airports. In the first installment of this series of posts about travelling I’ll be ranting about air-travel, why I hate it and what can be done to improve it.

Airports have become status symbols for cities and governments, evidenced by the fact that often starchitects are hired to design them. I’ve experiences a few of these modern terminals first hand and the designs are indeed grand and awe inspiring. So why is it that all airports I’ve ever set foot in —to channel Eric Cartman— suck donkey balls? Airports are an insult to your dignity as a human being.

The problem is threefold in my opinion; design, protocol and treatment. Allow me to presumptuously suggest a few improvements in no particular order.

  1. Make it easy for people who don’t speak the local language to get to and from the airport. If you have buses, paint them in a different colour from other buses and adorn them with airplane icons. Display countdowns next to boarding areas so that people know when the next service will run.
  2. Make it easy to pay for tickets in the bus/train itself, in currencies that are likely to be held by those using the service. Or better yet, provide free transport, at least for those with airline tickets.
  3. Airport bus drivers should speak at least a modicum of English.
  4. Provide some seating in the check-in area, so that when you make people wait for 2 hours before they can check-in, they have a place to sit.
  5. People who spend a long time in terminals are most likely transit passengers, they do not care for the local currency, language or culture. Don’t force these upon them. Don’t give me my change in Hungarian forints or Swedish krona when I pay you in Euros or Dollars.
  6. Be more frequent with information and more polite about bad news. “We will shortly start checking in passengers on flight XXXX to YYYY.” “Our apologies for keeping you waiting.” “Flight XXXX will depart from Gate NN instead, we apologize for the inconvenience.” You’d be surprised how far a little decency goes.
  7. Supply more seating in terminals and provide more power outlets, ideally both European, UK and US outlets for transit passengers in addition to whatever the local outlet system is.
  8. Supply showers with clean towels and shaving kits as a paid service for passengers with a few hours to spare at your airport.
  9. Make sure book-stores stock books in many languages, not just Danish.
  10. Examine what sort of books travellers would be interested in, as it most likely differs from your average non-travelling customer. Maybe a good selection of small books that are easily carried, or maybe graphic novels that can be quickly read.
  11. A small theatre that shows short to medium length films would definitely take the edge off a four hour transit waiting time.
  12. Provide lockers in strategic places so people don’t have to haul their hand-luggage around all the time.
  13. Provide different kinds of environments for people to wait long term in. Larger smokers areas with perhaps a tobacconist (I don’t smoke, but seeing those poor lost souls puffing away in their air-tight upright bathtubs is enough to depress anyone). A tropical butterfly garden, a botanical garden, japanese garden, faux lake and I can think of 38 more.
  14. Make a distinction between areas meant for those in motion and those in rest.
  15. Reduce sounds in rest areas.
  16. Have a public customer rating system for all restaurants so you don’t go in blind.
  17. When boarding planes with assigned seats, enforce boarding from back to front to avoid long waiting lines at the gate.
  18. Make it easy for people to learn about local weather conditions at their destination.
  19. Better directions within the terminal, consistent usage of colours.
  20. Provide more locations where people can get quality information about flights, delays, locations etc. It’s a bit lame that the only people who can typically answer your questions only appear at your gate 10 minutes before boarding.
  21. A continuous system of luggage carts driven around the gates so you can jump on, tell the driver your gate number and be certain to arrive there relatively quickly.
  22. If you’re running a 24 hour airport, don’t close down the shops and restaurants at 8 o’clock in the evening. Serve all day breakfast and dinner. People are coming in from time-zones all over the world for chrissakes.
  23. Have a wider selection of merchandise available at shops. I don’t need clothes (I’ve already packed them), I don’t want hardware (I’d rather buy in a store where I can go back to for warranty issues), I’m not going to need massive amounts of alcohol, chocolate or perfume on a business trip. By all means, have those shops, but also provide alternatives. People at airports will be more likely to buy something weird and expensive as they cannot easily return to the shop at a later date. I’m thinking minerals, curta calculators, hobby supplies, wool, fossils.
  24. A big problem with shopping while travelling is having to carry your new possessions. It would be great if shops could deliver to your home or hotel address. Surely a proper international chain could handle this across borders.
  25. Please dispense with the whole security, undressing-in-public, making-people-wait-in-serpentine-queues circus, you’re not fooling anyone.

Up next, trains.

There is going to be a special publication of Architectural Design Magazine with guest editors Xavier De Kestelier and Brady Peters. It will be called Computation Works; The Building of Algorithmic Thought and it will have contributions from all kinds of interesting people, yours truly included. I’m not entirely sure when it will be published but the author deadlines have since come and gone and my responsibility has ended. Obviously I won’t be posting the text here as that would be both silly and probably violate the copyright agreement (buy the magazine when it comes out!). I can however show you a few of the images I made as the copyright for those remains with me, AD magazine is merely allowed to use them as they see fit.

My article is about the theory behind generic solvers, but without a specific focus on Galapagos. It was unfortunately a bit short but they ended up accepting 1300 words, which was almost double my initial allowance.

I’ve been slowly rediscovering the joys of hand drawn graphics (as shown in one of my recent posts) and I definitely want to try and improve my line drawing techniques in the near future (especially the dotted shading is difficult to get right).

Also, here are some midnight cookies, the pattern reminds me of Smale’s Horseshoe.

Acadia Award

October 21, 2012

About a month ago I learned that I was to be awarded the Acadia Innovative Research Prize 2012. There was a scheduling conflict and I could not attend the conference, so I made a short acceptance video which was to be shown at the ceremony.

It took me far too long to record & edit stuff, but I managed to upload it one day before the actual event.


For those of you not familiar with the Dos Equis commercials that served as the inspiration for the introduction, there’s a good collection on YouTube.

Ben Ryé

October 20, 2012

I’ve been very busy with a couple of tight deadline projects which are still somewhat secret, though once the copyright issues are clear to me I’ll upload some of those details. So in the meantime here’s another wine related post.

My parents came over this week for the celebration of my Grandmothers 80th birthday. They brought with them the last remaining (physical) souvenir from their 2001 holiday to the small Island of Pantelleria.

They went there specifically for the wine, as they were served a glass in a restaurant the year before and the stuff is apparently not for sale anywhere else. They brought home a couple of bottles, but we didn’t drink the best one until three days ago.

For a white wine it is incredibly dark and potent. Definitely not the kind of stuff you can drink by the bottle. I sort of suspect that I’ll never have another glass of this fantastic stuff ever again…

Culinary week

October 7, 2012

For some reason we ended up cooking something really nice every day for a while. To wit:

  • Tuesday and earlier: damned if I can remember.
  • Wednesday: Skillet fried goose-breast with rice, spring onions and steamed broccoli.
  • Thursday: Goose-legs in carrots, mushrooms, peeled oranges, honey and red wine (oven dish) with oven potatoes.
  • Friday: Pork sirloin in sweet ketjap-manis sauce with rice.
  • Saturday: Home-made curry paste with left over pork and veal meat, bulgur, freshly baked naan and yoghurt/coriander/mint/cucumber/garlic sauce.
  • Sunday: Chicken shoarma in wraps with fresh salad and the second half of the yoghurt sauce.

Halfway done with the Shoarma seasoning.

I wish I had good pictures of everything but we were too busy eating it. Now I’m going to have to talk girlfriend into making her awesome ribs again someday soon and I think I’ll try my hand at lasagna tomorrow.