Monday, June 29, 2009

Return back to Leeds

Monday morning I get my stuff ready packed, have breakfast, then check out. Still some hours, so I decide to drive a bit into Long Island. Cross over a toll bridge into Atlantic Beach. The beaches there have a light sand, there are also many dunes. But it is not possible to freely access the beach: one would have to pay somewhere else to get an admission, or be a resident.

I stop a few times to take some pictures, then drive on.

This little stretch of land has two coasts: one outward to the Atlantic, another one inward towards the mainland.

Time is getting tight, I need to get back to the airport. Have to find a gas station to fill up the rental car. Everything works out in time, and I fly back. During the approach of Leeds (LBA) the Emley Moor TV Tower peaks out of low ground fog.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And back again in New York City

This time I stay in Queens, not far from the JFK airport, near Jamaica Ave. Has actually a good connection to JFK, with the AirTrain. I explore a bit the neighborhood of Jamaica Ave.

The NY subway E train goes express to Manhattan, it takes only about 30 minutes. I get off near Central Park at 5th Ave.

In the Central Park there are the "Victorian Gardens" with lots of attractions for children:

I walk down the 5th Avenue, passing the Rockefeller Center:

Further along 5th Avenue. The street has been closed for some event, it is being opened block by block. Later I realise that there just had been the annual Gay Pride Parade.

Near the Empire State Building:

Near 33rd Street:

Near Greeley Square with a view of the Empire State Building:

In the evening, back at the hotel, I enjoy watching TV: Bill Maher, and then the cartoons on Fox: Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill. I also use the free WiFi to upload the first set of pictures to Flickr and Photosynth.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back to the Countryside of NY State

Again out into the countryside of the Hudson Valley. Through the town of Sleepy Hollow, visiting the large cemetery. This is the hometown of the headless horseman's tale.

Further north very nice view over the Hudson River Valley.

Many antiques in the town of Millbrook. I actually buy something: a headset from an old rotary dial phone. This will make a great extension of my mobile phone!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another Day in New York City

I had gotten a good deal for staying in the Empire Hotel, which is located right across Lincoln Center. But for an extension of the stay the price would go up horrendeously. So I decide to move to another Hotel: the Hudson Hotel. Very strange - this hotel has no sign outside, I almost miss it. There is just "a hole in the wall". Later I learn that the hotel is themed after "Alice in Wonderland".

More walking around the area in Manhattan, Upper West Side.

Views from roof terrace of Hudson Hotel:

58th Street, in front of Hudson Hotel:

And at night:

Dinner at Rosa Mexicano (sic!), a nice Mexican restaurant.

Later I cannot resist going to Times Square, 42nd Street:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New York City: Liberty Island and Ellis Island

I have been in NY many times since 1987, but I never had done one the most important Must-Do-Things for tourists and visitors: visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. There was a long line for buying the tickets, and the airport-style security checks also took time. But then I finally was on the boat. Nice opportunity for many pictures of Manhattan.

The weather first was cloudy, but it then turned sunny. The base of the statue was only open for a limited number of visitors with advanced reservation.

Further on to Ellis Island, the first stop of many generations of immigrants.

This is the central registry hall:

After this excursion, a walk through Lower Manhattan.

A visit at the construction scene of the World Trade Center Site.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lorin Maazel's Farewell Concert at Lincoln Center: Mahlers Symphony #8

All four performances of Lorin Maazel's Farewell concert had been sold out, when I first checked the web site of Lincoln Center for availability. But when checking again, just hitting reload every few minutes, suddenly seats became available. There was a problem with the web reservation - one could click on a seat in the chart, then it was reserved, but proceeding and actually doing the payment did not work. So I called and reserved my ticket over the phone.

The performed work was Gustav Mahler's Symphony #8, which I actually had never heard before. A great work, unusual, with chorus, also called "Symphony of 1000" because so many required performers.

A review of the concert is available from "Classical Source".

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Haven to Poughkeepsie

On Tuesday morning I check out from the accommodation in New Haven. I now have the option to drive in any direction. Have no hotel reservation, so I can completely arbitrarily move anywhere. I decide to drive up Northwest, towards Poughkeepsie. Since my GPS does not have the map data, I drive just following the signs. Very nice landscape throughout Northern Connecticut, into New York State. Drive through the Bulls Bridge in Kent, one of the many covered bridges in New England.

When I come closer to Poughkeepsie, I suddenly see a large wooden derilict building on the right side of the road, hidden behind bushes and partially overgrown. I stop and take a few pictures, for later assembly into a Photosynth:

It turns out to be the former Bennett School for Girls near Millbrook and has been decaying for more than three decades. It appears to be a quite magical place, and there are many sympathetic posts on a forum with many entries about this building and its history.

I continue driving and soon am in Poughkeepsie in the Hudson River Valley. Appears to be a relatively sleepy town at the River Hudson, where the river banks have some remnants of former industrial installations.

A large bridge across the Hudson Valley captures my eye: it is very rusty and appears to be no longer in use, but there is construction and repair around it. Later I find out that this is a former railway bridge which is being converted into a pedestrian bridge. This will be the largest pedestrian bridge in the world!

It is getting towards evening, and I soon need to find a motel. When browsing the web, I had seen several motels in the area, but when driving now, I seem to be in the wrong area. I decided to drive for a few more miles north of Poughkeepsie, then I will return and search the south side of the town for a motel. But luckily I see a nice place appearing shortly after passing the Culinary Institute of America: The Golden Manor Motel in Hyde Park looks very inviting, and the do have a vacancy at a very reasonable price: $55 per night. So I found my next stay for the night.

In order to use their free WiFi, I have to do a strange thing: enter a pin number which is printed on their router into a form which appears on my laptop... no other guest ever had to do this.

I briefly have a look at the FDR Presidential Library which is just across the street. Very interesting museum and gift shop.

Afterwards I have dinner at the nearby Applebees. There are a few special offers: get two small beers for the price of one, and have a combo of three different small dishes. I have Chicken Wings, Burgers, and Mini Quesadillas.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sightseeing around New Haven

After the conference I have now some time to do some sightseeing. The cemetery of New Haven appears to be quite a landmark, with its pseudo-Egyptian theme.

There are nice old houses in the downtown area. Overall, about 2/3 of the town center area appears to be the Yale University Campus, with its grandiose buildings.

All my pictures from New Haven are here in this Flickr set.

In the evening I head towards the coast, have an appetite for some nice seafood. And indeed, I spot the place: from far away it seems unremarkable, but I know from Southern California how these places usually look. And indeed, this is an excellent place: Sage American Grill and Oyster Bar.

Very nice atmosphere inside, with a fine dining area below, and a less formal bar area upstairs. I go to the bar area and order a lobster bisk and small lobster rolls - tastes delicious!

After this dinner I drive a bit further along the coast, to Bridgeport which has a very nice park along the coast.

MCM 2009 is Over - Was Great!

This morning was the last session of the 4-day conference Mathematics and Computation in Music (MCM) 2009. It was a great opportunity for the academics and practicioners in this area to meet and discuss. Was very well organised, sufficient catering, excellent venues. My photos about this event are on Flickr in a separate set.

My poster got a lot of queries and discussions - I will follow up and prepare a full paper on this, probably submitting to the Journal of Mathematics and Music:

MCM 2011 will probably take place in Paris, at IRCAM.

And I am looking forward to the Windows version of OpenMusic, which the developers said will be out in 2 months from now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Conference MCM 2009

Today in the afternoon the conference Mathematics and Computing in Music began. 6 presentations, each 30 minutes long. Some with very deep mathematical topics. Afterwards a keynote about the change of music theory between 1300 and 1500. Very interesting. The venue for the keynote and the reception afterwards was the Beinecke Library, a very interesting building: From the outside it looks like a windowless structure, ...

... but inside one notices that the outer wall panels actually are semi-transparent and let some light through.

In the centre there is the actual library, with the books shelves behind glass, allowing the view as if there would be a gigantic bookshelf!

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Haven - First Look

In the morning I get up at 7:30 local time. Have to get a parking permit from the Housing Office. The parking is in 15 minute walking distance, not very close but doable. Hope it does not rain too much.

I walk through some of the streets of New Haven, have breakfast (am quite hungry now, since for my internal clock it is already afternoon, and no breakfast or lunch yet). Similar to Cambridge University, this is a "City as Campus". Monumental buildings, streets with shading trees, a very pleasant atmosphere. But not far away outside of the campus, there are poorer neighborhoods, some run-down houses, closed factories. Almost feel like back home in Yorkshire with its closed mills!

Took a few pictures, will probably upload them tonight.

Driving to New Haven, CT

The rental cars at JFK are at one spot that can be accessed by the AirTrain. There is no rental shuttle bus from the terminal, as it is customary at most other airports, but one uses the driverless train to go to the station "Federal Circle" - a map shows the route of this train.

The car is a Chevy Cobalt. The usual mushy and soft handling of a typical US car with automatic driving and soft suspension, but this is also a welcome change to the rough surface-deficiency-detector that I am usually driving (Smart Car). It is slightly raining, but quite warm. I head north, through the evening rush hour traffic of New York City, through Queens on the 678 Freeway, then further on the I-95. The traffic appears to get denser the later it gets and the further I am away from NYC... where are all these people going, on ah Thursday night around 21:00?

When I want to upload my map set from the laptop to my GPS, I realise that this laptop does not have the dataset... so I am without any map. And I had not printed out anything regarding directions... all I have is to rely on my instinct. Well, it works well. Arrive in New Haven around 22:00, and just follow the signs for "Yale University". Once in the city center, I can use the Campus map which I did print, and I find the dormitory fast.

The room is quite sparse, is a suite with two separate single bedrooms. But should be ok for the next few days. Tired and exhausted I fall asleep - did not even twitter my arrival.

Difficulties at US Border Control

Just when I was getting ready to do the final preparations for my travel, checking emails for the last time before closing the browser, I got an email from, where I had registered our Leeds Met Caedmon Webcam: the camera status was inactive. And indeed, when I checked, there was only the image from Tuesday morning there...

This meant that after one hour of sleep and before driving to the airport, I had to stop at the Uni campus to fix this - otherwise the image would not be updated for the duration of my absence. The guards let me in at 3:00 am... and I was able to fix the problem. For some reason I had forgotten to check the "send image to ftp server" check box...

I had a nap on the flight from LBA to AMS, then again at the AMS airport in one of those comfortable sleeper chairs that are in the upstairs lounges.

Since ages I always made a stop in AMS at the food bar between the gates D and E: that is the only one which serves a delicious hering roll with frehsly cut onions over it - a delight especially for the seat neighbours in the plane (keeps them at a respectable distance). And with it I always had ordered a DeKoninck beer, that looked so nicely amber and tasted great. They were the only bar that had this beer, fresh from a tap. But now they did not have anymore this beer, but only the omnipresent Heineken (which is also ok, but that one can get anywhere).

Boarding went ok. Due to the new ESTA regulations which require getting advanced approval for entry into the US, they had abolished the individual interviews which had been conducted with each passenger before boarding; that was what still was done 3 years ago when I travelled to the US last time. The flight took ok at the scheduled time.

I had again a nap to catch up on some of the lost sleep, especially since I also would have a 3 hour car drive ahead of me after arrival. But I also could not resiost browsing the nice on-demand video selection. Watched "The Reader" - excellent film! Wanted to watch "Slumdog Millionaire", but then was too tired.

After arrivel I already expected trouble with my entry: my Green Card which I had since a long time, was formally still valid for a few years. But I knew that there was the regulation that one must not remain for more than one year outside of the US. Well, my last entry into the US had been 3 years ago, and I was not quite sure how to handle this now. Just in case I also had filled out the regular green entry form for visa waiver and have gotten the ESTA approval. When I showed my green card at the Border Control, the officer told me to go into an office to clarify. There I waited, with a few other unlucky souls whose entry status was unclear. AFter 15 minutes the officer sent me away to another office. Again a 20 minutes wait. Then I am called to discuss the situation, and I tell them everything. They send me back again into the first office. Another waiting. Then the officer there calls me. They do have on their computer screen all my data: when I have entered the US, stayed there, paid taxes, just everything. And they explain that the green card is not a replacement for an entry visa. What I should have done after staying out from the US for more than one year: gone to the US embassy in London and gotten a new entry permit. Well, I did now only want to stay for a few days, and I explain to them that I also was already prepared for "the other route", through the regular visitor visa waiver program. But there is just this bureaucratic problem that I do have this green card, and this actually requires me to relinquish the green card after it basically has lost its validity. Another waiting, the officer discusses in a separate room with her superior. Then she comes out, but deals with another case. There appears to be a bit of psychological pressure being applied... but I remain calm and smiling, have nothing to loose. Then she calls me and tells me "we are going to do something very nice to you". And she explains that they let me in now, on the basis of my green card. But when I am back in UK, I will have to go to the embassy and relinquish this card. Ok, sounds fine to me. So no ESTA, no I-94 visa waiver form, the officer puts the stamp onto the blue custom form, and off I am to the last control, the customs officer. The whole procedure took 1 1/2 hours.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Ready for Conference

This night I will have to get up before 3am... for a flight to the US. I will attend over the coming weekend the Mathematics and Computing in Music (MCM) Conference 2009. Have a poster there, about the Riemann Tonnetz. My contribution was to determine a numeric parameter of this model, but I made an assumption that was critisized by the reviewers of my submission: I put out the theorem that Major and Minor third are equivalent in their "tonality consonance". I put forward some argumentation for this, but there remained some doubt... I hope to be able to convince the experts that this is a valid approach that I proposed. The consequence would be a metric for determining the degree of "consonance" in a music piece, allowing to judge the melody or the harmony for consonance in quantitative terms. This may be useful for analysing / searching / retrieving online digital music.

At Investment Forum, York

Today I spent the day at the York Racecourse, where normally horses run around in a big oval, and people win or loose money when betting on them. Is a very big thing here in the UK, and 3 years ago I actually had been at one, as a part of a Leeds Met uni charity event. But today was no horse race, instead it was a race for money. For the money of investors, who had the choice of investing into companies who presented their case in front of a panel. This event was organised by Connect Yorkshire.

Was indeed very interesting: there was a mix of startup companies and established ones, covering a range from the IT sector to traditional shipbuilding. I was mentoring one of those companies, which gave me a nice insight into this process. The presentations of the companies were very interesting, and I hope that some of them will attract investment.

In the afternoon there was a TechTalk organised as a continuation of that event. The Oracle VP of Business Applications gave a keynote about the development of business software. The discussions with the panel and the participants then turned to "cloud computing", which is a hot topic in the IT world since about 2 years. I personally do not quite share the optimism in this technology development which was expressed by almost every speaker: for me the trend towards outsourcing software and data storage creates new dependencies on hubs and communication and is in some ways a step back to the mainframe technology from the 1960s and 70s. But I do agree that in situations where collaboration between users is required, cloud computing can be a very sensible way of enabling this collaboration.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Problems with Windows Mobile Phone - Miraculously Solved

This past Tuesday, at 10:54, something must have happened: this was the last time when my Windows Mobile Phone (HTC TyTN II) synchronised its email with our server at work. I could not identify the problem... the calendar sync went ok, there was a connection to the server, just when it came to email, all that was displayed was "connecting...", then "0/760", trying to get the emails over. I had contacted our tech support, thinking it had to do with something on the server. They could not find any fault, so I kept trying with the phone, changing sync settings etc. Internet connection on the phone worked ok, anything else also seemed to work fine. Then yesterday I found another fault: tried to run Google Maps which I had installed last year, and that gave an error: "Google Maps cannot be opened. Either it is not signed with a trusted certificate, or one of its components cannot be found. If the problem persists, try reinstalling or restoring this file". Now that was strange. I had used Google Maps a few weeks ago, it was working fine. A couple of phone soft phone resets did not help. I hesitated to do a hard reset, fearing I would have to install all my applications again.

I installed the latest version of Google Maps, worked ok. Except when I wanted to set GPS options: a crash with an error message occurred then.

Not sure what the cause for these problems was. There must have been something in the memory. Maybe an overflow? I still had more than 47M available. I deleted manually all emails in my inbox on the phone - more than 250. Tried again to sync, but still did not work.

But when I woke up this morning, the email problem had "healed" itself! The inbox was filled with new emails, and the connection to the Windows Exchange server seemed to be ok. Not sure what solved this problem... I will try to monitor.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Scorching Heat here in UK!

The summer has arrived here in England. This weekend had been plain blue sky, without any cloud. The heat reached unbearable dimensions: the thermometer climbed up and might have even exceeded 25 C (75F) - unbelievable!

But I had to work: deadline for marking students' work was today, and I could not use the nice weather but had instead to read reports. My bad mood about this is of course reflected in the marks!

(just kidding)

Here is a picture of our Leeds Met campus in Headingley: the Caedmon Building. My office is the room right above the entrance door.