Friday, July 28, 2006

Granada failed MOT

It was just in time that I got the new car - the Ford Granada had this week its annual MOT test, and it failed. The MOT is an obligatory annual examination of each road vehicle, similar to the TÜV in Germany, to ensure that the car is road-worthy and safe. Well, the Granada has some rust in strategically important parts... now I have the choice of dumping it or fixing it. Well, as long as the price for fixing is less than a new car (and I mean here with "new car" the kind of car in my cheap category...), I will just do that. After all, it is still a very reliable car, and I could need the transport capacity some time soon...

Moor Fires

Not only the Manor Park surgery burnt lately... also the moors north of Leeds are burning. As I already noticed last weekend during my travel through the North York Moor, there is the possibility of wildfires.

And since a few days, there is that smell in the air, of burnt hey and brush. It feels like "back at home" in Southern California, where in the past week also wildfires caused havoc. A large cloud of smoke and dust hangs north of the city, and the wind brings it towards south, towards Leeds. It is meanwhile so strong, that the eyes are burning. I had to close the windows...

Moor fire north of Leeds, in the Ilkley Moor, seen from Western Leeds, near Farnley. Posted by Picasa

UK Health System

In the UK, the health system is "nationalized". That means, everybody gets free medical treatment by the "NHS (National Health Service)", without an insurance or ny monthly fee - the system is all financed through taxes. But there is some bureaucracy involved: in case of illness, one cannot just go to any doctor, but has to go to a "surgery" within the resident's area. So when I moved to here, I found four such surgeries to which I could in principle. In order to get treatment, one has to register with that surgery first.

When I got my annual cold last November, I decided to give this NHS a try, and chose to register with the Manor Park Surgery, since that was closest to the Kirkstall Brewery, my residence. When I came there in the morning, all I did was just registering, giving them my contact data and filling out a questionnaire. When I then asked for an appointment to one of the doctors, all the vacant time slots were filled, and I would have to come again next day. I decided then to cure myself teh old-fashined way, with hot tea and rest. And it worked - I am still healthy now. They do actually also have a phone-in service: at a toll-free number, a nurse gives health advise to the callers and makes recommendations about further treatment of minor ailments.

A few days ago, I was shocked to see that this surgery was in the evening news on TV: a fire had destroyed it. Yesterday I got a letter from them, ensuring me that all my records are ok (I did not have many, except about my slight cold I had last November), and advising of other surgeries that I could use in the meantime until they rebuild it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Article about my former Employer, Rockwell Scientific

A few weeks ago, I had gotten an email from Allison Bruce,
writer for the Ventura County Star, a local newspaper in Thousand Oaks and surroundings. She wanted to write an article about Rockwell Scientific, where I worked for nine years until last summer. so I sent her a few lines back. And a few days later, the article appeared in the newspaper. This article then even made it onto the homepage of Rockwell Scientific in a special "RSC in the News" release. My colleagues who still work there, hopefully appreciated my morale-boosting comments... :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A New Car for Summer...

I have been told that this is not typical for England: weeks and weeks of sunshine and picture-postcard blue sky. But here I am, this is my first year here, and the only year I have been here so far, so I have no comparisons to make, except to the reputation and tales of endless rain and fog. So I take it now for granted that in England the sun is always shining. So why I am still driving around in my closed Ford Granada, even without an A/C ?

When going out on weekend trips, I seem to see more convertible cars here than in hot Southern California... but the guys are quite "rough and tough" here. In February, shortly after a rain storm, a bit of a sun ray came out, and immediately I saw on the motorway M62 cars with their top down, the drivers wearing a protective cap and driving through the chilly air. Yes, open air and outdoors are very important for people here.

So last week I decided that it is time to join them. I checked the autrotrader web site, and entered the keywords "convertible" and "automatic" (yes, I am not going to bother with that switching gears and releasing clutch anymore - I want to have my arm dangling out of the window, and just press down on one pedal - I guess I am getting just old...). Set an upper price limit of £4000. About 40 cars showed up in the list. For £3995 I could choose between a 2002 Smart Car and a 1986 Jaguar JXE with 12 cylinders - what a span of choices! Of course, my brain wanted the Smart, while my heart wanted the Jaguar - so I said no to both of them. And instead looked at the very bottom of the list (sorted by price), where the very cheapest car was: a 1991 Suzuki Vitara for £985. Now this would be more affordable right now, and also the dealer was not from South London but within an hour drive from here. So I drove up to them near Teeside, took a test ride, and decided that this would be a reasonable car for me.

So on Saturday I got a train ticket from Leeds to Thornaby, to pick up the car. When the train came to the platform, I immediately got in, without much thinking. I was a bit surprised that it left even before the scheduled time - then I realised that it was the wrong train... oh man, am I an idiot! The overall direction was right, the platform was right too, but the real train would have arrived a few minutes later... Well, so I get out at the first station (Selby), and take the next train back. Fortunately the trains are so frequent here... even on a weekend it is no problem getting around. Well, at least one rare and unforeseen opportunity to visit the train station of Selby - nicely renovated. I shall come here again sometime.

Train station of Selby. Posted by Picasa

After being back in Leeds, I take the right train this time - so I am just one hour late for my car activities.

From bridge within train station of Leeds, view towards west. Posted by Picasa

As I arrive in Thornaby, it begins to rain. I do the formalities in the post office (car registration in the UK is done at post offices), then a real strong rain storm falls down. Is that why I bought a car with open roof?

Ok, so the first few miles I drive back with the roof up. Just out of curiosity I visit the harbor of Hartlepool.

The historic quai of Hartlepool, north of Teeside. Posted by Picasa

If I had more time, I would look for the remnants of the historic Stockton-Darlington railway, the first purpose-built passenger railway in the world from 1825. But instead I head back south towards the northern edge of the North York Moor. Wonderful lonely landscape, as usual. And the sun comes out, so I can finally enjoy the warm air without the roof!

The new car: 1991 Suzuki Vitara. Posted by Picasa

I could even go on dirt roads and try the 4x4 capabilities... but there is too little time today, so I head further towards south, back to Leeds.

On a country road through the North York Moor.  Posted by Picasa

Heather is blooming in the moor. Posted by Picasa

Country road through along heather fields. Posted by Picasa

A great sandwich store in Helmsley. Posted by Picasa

Flowers are often on those countryside buildings.  Posted by Picasa

Now I have a fun car with which I can enjoy the hot and sunny English summer!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Student Graduation

From Wednesday to Friday, the student summer graduation took place in those tents on the Acre of the Headingley campus of Leeds Met. A total of 5000 students received their degrees in these days, each with up to 3 guests.

The Graduation tents. Posted by Picasa

On Wednesday afternoon, it was the turn of students of Creative Technology and Engineering in our faculty Innovation North. The academic staff assembled at 1pm and put on their gowns. Since in Germany we do not have this tradition of gowns and hats, I had rented mine. However, as I realised then, I got the wrong hat - a PhD is supposed to have a round hat, but what I was wearing was the Master Degree's hat. Well, next time I know. I might actually buy the complete set - but I have to check with my university in Germany about their colours...

So after we all got dressed in the academic outfits, we formed the "academic procession" and walked in, 2 by 2, into the tent where the graduates and their parents were already seated. Brass players played fanfares and accompanied the marching in. The academic staff sat down in front rows, then the university management and leadership teams moved onto the stage. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Simon Lee, made a speech.

Then, Dame Fanny Waterman, the founder of the Leeds Piano Competition, was given an honorary Doctorate in Music. The first time I had gone to one of those classical music concerts in the Leeds Town Hall, back in January, someone next to me pointed out that there was sitting Fanny Waterman, the most influential person in Leeds' music life. In 1963 she has founded the now world-famous Leeds Piano Competition, and has been very instrumental in much of the classical music activities. So I already knew who she was. She is 86 years old, one year younger than my grandmother. And she looks a little like her. After the ceremony, I briefly spoke to her and mentioned this, and also the fact that my grandmother is a piano teacher too.

After the graduation ceremony, the academic procession again walked out very dignified, then formed a corridor through which the students were walking out, and we applauded them. Then there was food and drinks.

A quite grandious ceremony! From students' parents, I heard the sentiment that this ceremony at our university was far above any other ceremony that they had seen at other universities... quite a compliment!

Graduation ceremony of Innovation North, Creative Technology, in the tent on the Acre. The Vice Chancellor, Simon Lee, is speaking. Posted by Picasa

Graduates, some of whom I was involved with teaching. Posted by Picasa

Graduates in front of the James Graham Building after the graduation ceremony.  Posted by Picasa

James Graham Building in the summer sun. Posted by Picasa

Entrance / exit of the graduation area on the Acre. Posted by Picasa

Caddy Sold - to Sweden!

The Caddy finally was sold today. Two guys from Sweden picked it up in Thousand Oaks where my wife (Thanks, Lena!) handled the actual transaction. Then they drove it to Long Beach where it went onto a ship.

Now that I am back in Europe, the Caddy will be in Europe too... next time I am in Sweden (Uppsala), I will visit it! I hope the guys who bought it, will have lots of fun with it - it was in excellent mechanical condition, just a few minor things did not work so well (for example, it does not have a roof...). But with a little investment, this car will be again a showstopper on the road!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Charity Dinner

On Wednesday evening, after the first day of the graduation ceremonies, Meg Soosay from Leeds Met organised a charity dinner for friends and colleagues. She prepared excellent Malayan food, and we had a great time chatting - and gossiping! Very interesting, what goes on "behind the scenes" of the daily work routine at Leeds Met... (but I will be quiet, and not divulge any of the stories I heard...).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bicycle Stolen

Quite a disappointment. I wanted to go for a bike ride on Tuesday evening, but when I opened the locked bike storage room, my bicycle was gone. The guards only could tell me that there were several keys going around, and that they had no control over the access to that room.

This is quite disappointing... that one of the students who lived here in these accommodations, had the nerve to take my bicycle. It had been locked...
Well, it was a relatively inexpensive model, but I had used it only a few times yet. Ok, I will now cast a spell to that individual who stole that bike: may that individual suffer unhappiness as a consequence of that theft, and may he/she break a leg, falling from that bike! (I am not Jesus, so I do not have to be always nice to everybody...)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Summer Prom at Leeds Met

On Sunday afternoon, the first "Summer Prom Concert" took place on the Acre in the Headingley campus. For two weeks now, there had been construction activities on the Acre for building large tents for the graduation. And the concert on Sunday was the first event in those completed tents.

Construction of the tents for the summer graduation at the Headingley Campus. Posted by Picasa

A few days later, the tents are nearing completion. Posted by Picasa

These tents will provide sufficient space for the 20,000 guests that are expected during the graduation ceremonies (not all at once of course). Posted by Picasa

Lots of space is inside - all air-conditioned. Posted by Picasa

From inside the tent - view towards James Graham Building. Posted by Picasa

On the Acre, these tents are designed to hold all the visitors and graduates of 2006 who will be present during this week. Behind the tents is an area for getting drinks and some food.

Behind the tents: hospitality suites. Posted by Picasa

There came many visitors of the Summer Prom Concert, wearing comfortable summer clothes. As usual at classical music concerts here in the UK, the majority of the audience was older than 50. The tents inside were air-conditioned, providing a very pleasant atmoshpere.

Before the Summer Prom Concert. Posted by Picasa

The program of the concert:

Black Dyke Band:
Olympic Fanfare and Theme (John Williams)
Academic Festival Overture (Johannes Brahms)
Czardas (Vittorio Monti), with Tuba solo

Yorkshire Youth Brass Band:
Adventures in Brass (Ray Farr)
Rio (Peter Meechan)

Black Dyle Band:
Jupiter (Gustav Holst)
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (arr. Alan Fernie)

Leeds Met Singers with Black Dyke Band
Zadok the Priest (G.F. Handel)
Speed Your Yourney (Guiseppe Verdi)
Halleluja Chorus (G.F. Handel)

Black Dyke Band:
Fantasia on British Sea Songs (Henry Wood), solo singer Bridget Budge
Jerusalem (Hubert Parry)
Pomp and Circumstance No.1 (Sir Edward Elgar)

The concert featured works played by the Black Dyke Band, a partner of Leeds Metropolitan University. The Yorkshire Youth Brass Band gave its inaugural concert at this occasion.

After the concert, there was Strawberry and Cream served, and the Yorkshire Youth Brass Band played tunes in the hospitality area behind the tents.

After the concert "strawberry and cream" on the Acre, accompanied by the Yorkshire Youth Brass Band. Posted by Picasa

Gathering in the hospitality suite. Posted by Picasa

A nice British summer event, opening the graduation week!