Wednesday, June 30, 2010

169, 170/365 - Sun worship!

A sunblock bottle and its shadow.
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An umbrella against the blue sky.
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Two photos from my wonderful (but brief) bit of sun worship last weekend. The lovely Sarah and I visited the Clark family cottage in southern Michigan and enjoyed several days of sun, swimming, and wonderful weather!

Monday, June 28, 2010

167, 168/365 - Light and Leaves

Picnic tables in a light grassy patch.
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Light on beech leaves.
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165, 166/365 - Wind and Rust

Old rust and iron on a Quincy engine.
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A weather station spinning in the wind.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

164/365 - Quincy Dredge

An old decaying dredge, leaning and sinking into the water.
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Here be ye olde Quincy Dredge: a veritable floating factory, whose purpose was to (literally) vacuum old processed sands off of the floor of Torch Lake, and send them back to the mill to be reprocessed for copper.

This photo has a fun story behind it. The dredge is beached at the shore of Torch Lake, not too far from the highway. I parked near it and walked in, where I met two kayakers who had just come to shore after looking around the water side of the dredge. We chatted, and not five minutes after I'd met them, they offered to let me take a kayak out and see it for myself! -- Which I did, of course. I love the UP!

163/365 - Featured!

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Good news, everyone -- I've been featured! I have my very own photo spread in Further North, a new magazine about my favorite place: The Copper Country! Check it out (and maybe order a copy -- they're cheap!).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

160, 161, 162/365 - The Final Days in Opatija

161/365 - A Zagreb Courtyard

And now, time to wind down. The last few days in Opatija were a lot of fun, and involved several fun days on the beach! We left on Thursday and spent the night in Zagreb, Croatia's capital city. It's an interesting place -- a combination of beautiful, historical buildings, delightful parks, mysterious alleyways, huge statues, and soulless Soviet architecture. How strange. Here, my colleague Yuichiro wanders through a little courtyard off a small alley. I could have spent a lot longer in the city.

Taking a brief side trip back to Opatija, this is our hotel's balcony -- not our room's balcony, but the balcony of the hotel lobby. To the right was our cafeteria, and to the left was the Adriatic. We did a lot of math on this balcony!

And finally -- the flight home. Another long flight, another beautiful view out of the window -- and THREE more checkpoints! We had to go through security three times: at Zagreb, leaving Amsterdam, and arriving at Minneapolis. The Amsterdam one was the worst, with individual interviews for everyone. As my friend put it, "A lot of people want to do things to your country." Sadly true.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

157, 158, 159/365 - Sights and Cities

159/365 - Rocks in the water

Today, stories from the beach. The big photo is the view from the "beach" (I mean, cement pad on the rocks) which I mentioned yesterday. This became a favorite hangout for the students at the conference -- a good place to visit, have lunch, or just enjoy the sun. Several days were bright and clear, but even on the clearest days, there was often a misty haze across the water, as in this photo.

This photo was taken late at night, on the hotel's "terrace" -- a large open area, with a variety of seats, couches, tables, chairs, and umbrellas. My advisor -- one of the conference's co-organizers -- invited me to join him and some of his fellow Bulgarians on the terrace that evening. As it turned out, we were joined not only by a bunch of the Bulgarian students and faculty, but also our favorite Macedonians and even some of the Croatians. It was a lovely evening, with a variety of wines and brandy. While I didn't speak the language -- any of them! -- apparently English still likes to make its way into most other languages. The occasional mention of "facebook" or "linear function" was perfectly clear!

At the same time, a large group of rather elderley vacationers was also enjoying the warm night on the terrace. After dinner (out under the stars), the got up and began to sing songs and do dances in a language totally unfamiliar to all of us. One of the Macedonians got up and talked to one of the leaders (in English, presumably), and found out that this was a big group of Icelanders! One of the dances, despite being unintelligible to me, very clearly went as follows: "This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes..."

Back to the photo: these lights are candles which were lit, each night, on the steps of the terrace. I took this photo late at night, after the lovely evening with eastern Europeans and Icelanders!

Finally, a story from our biggest non-mathy day: Sunday, the day of the tour. While there had been several other days when we had a bit of time to get out and explore, Sunday was the big one. A tour bus (complete with tour guide!) took us west through one of the longest mountain tunnels in the region, and brought us out into the Istrian peninsula. Istria is a beautiful, rocky, and very sparsely populated area. Tour guide quote of the day: "The main industry in Istria is terrorism. I mean, tourism."

Our first stop was Hum, a tiny medieval walled town at which this photo was taken. The town is apparently the smallest city in the world (because it still has a city charter), with a population of... wait for it... 6! The next stop was lunch -- a multi-course affair involving quite a lot of wine -- at a local tavern which caters to tourists. Finally, we visited Roč, another walled medieval town. Each little town had a beautiful church and tower, and many rocky streets.

The entire area is enormously rocky and mountainous, with beautiful green fields and narrow, twisting roads. I would love to return and spend a month just wandering around the countryside.

Monday, June 14, 2010

155, 156/365 - Views from Veprinac

155/365 - Rijeka across the sea

Today, I bring you some of the beautiful landscapes to be seen in and around Opatija. Above, a view across the arm of the Adriatic Sea, looking towards Rijeka. Rijeka is the largest local city, and a bit less touristy than Opatija. The mountains in the background are the Učka mountains, which run all along the coast behind the cities and enjoyed a variety of picturesque mists, clouds, and fogs at all times!

Did I mention seagulls? Yes, I know, for three days in a row! The statue here is "Maiden with the Seagull", a famous statue in Opatija. Despite the fact that it is featured in almost every photo of the city, every postcard, and all publicity, it is apparently not that notable -- at least according to locals! The story goes that the spot where the statue is located was originally occupied by a beautiful gold-plated Madonna, placed there by a prominent local family in honor of their mother. But the salty sea water was too hard on it, and the statue was moved indoors and replaced by this statue instead. This one is "just a statue with no real meaning" -- but it has nonetheless become an unofficial symbol of the city.

Incidentally, the rocky outcropping where the Maiden stands is pretty typical of the Opatija coast: rocky and rough. There were no real beaches, just rocky cement pads where people could sunbathe. A long rock walkway stretched up and down the coast for many kilometers, running through Opatija and through towns on either side. In many places, the walkway was built right into the rocky shoreline. The walkway runs right past this statue.

Finally, we get to one of my favorite days: Saturday, the day when we got the afternoon free! After a morning lecture, we were free to wander around the countryside. A number of us -- including a Belorussian living in Germany, a Japanese guy from the US, and three Macedonians -- decided to take one of the many hiking trails which lead up into the mountains above Opatija. The trail was narrow but pleasant, with beautiful views along the way -- including this one. We passed along ancient (or at least really old) stone steps, under a modern expressway, and into someone's garden. Following a road from there, we reached Veprinac, a city at the top of one of the mountains. In the city was an ancient (ok, really really old) church, complete with tower and thick stone walls.

After taking a brief but picturesque break, we took another trail down towards Opatija. As it turns out, this one wasn't quite as easy to follow as the last one. At one point, we were faced with two equally likely paths. Which one? We chose one which we thought went in the right direction. After some time, it turned out that we were quite wrong, as we again ended up in someone's back yard. Backtracking, we found a sign pointing us down the other trail -- a rusty sign which had fallen off its posts, hidden in the grass, and had been shot repeatedly with a rifle. After that, we repeated a similar set of mistakes twice more before finally reaching the outskirts of the city.

Regardless, the day was beautiful and the hike was excellent. The saga continues... tomorrow!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

152, 153, 154/365 - Croatia Continues, with only minor unpleasantness

153/365 - The Grand Hotel Four Flowers Wisteria, Opatija

The story continues -- when last we left our hero (that's me!), I had just arrived in beautiful Opatija, Croatia, for a math conference. The photo above is the Wisteria building of the Grand Hotel Four Flowers in Opatija. The architecture in Opatija was... unique. It was a sort of mix of Roman-Italian-Austrian-Mediterranean with some Spanish influences. Everything was brightly colored (beautiful!) with great styling and massive rock blocks. Favorite colors were red, orange, and yellow, with bright red-orange tile roofs.

As I mentioned yesterday: Seagulls. LOTS of seagulls. I spent half an hour one afternoon just hanging out on my balcony, tracking seagulls (which were doing various interesting things) with my longest lens. Speaking of which: I brought my wonderful Nikon 18-200mm lens, an all-around flexible walk-around lens, which I thought would be perfect for the trip. It was, but (as you will see later), many many places would have made great ultrawide photos. Sadly, I left the ultrawide at home, so I had to do with my relatively non-wide lens.

But, not everything was beautiful windows and funny seagulls. The photo to the left is the one and only photo which I took on a certain day. Early on in my stay, I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible stomach ache. When I finally got to sleep again, I slept through the entire day, missing everything -- a lecture by a famous combinatorialist (Rick Wilson), and a tour of nearby Rijeka in the afternoon. What caused it? Perhaps a sinus infection. Maybe drinking the water -- oops, only bottled water after this! Maybe a totally messed up sleep schedule and tons of travel. Maybe extra-rich food in the hotel's cafeteria, where we ate delicious meals each breakfast and dinner. Whatever it was, it was gone by the next day, and I was as good as ever!

And yes, tons of people smoked in Croatia. It was much more common than in the US. It was also very annoying.

The story continues tomorrow, with a tour of Opatija, the mountains above it, and the rest of the Istrian peninsula!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

149, 150, 151/365 - The Croatian Saga Begins!

151/365 - The view from my balcony in Opatija

I'm back! After two weeks of math, sun, and beautiful weather in Opatija, Croatia, I've successfully returned to the states. Over the next several days, I'll be posting photos and telling stories from my travels. For those of you who missed it, here's the beginning of the story.

For the past two weeks, I've been in a resort city (Opatija) on the Adriatic coast of Croatia -- right on the edge of the beautiful Istrian peninsula. The reason? Math, of course! I was at the NATO-sponsored "Information security and related combinatorics" conference, which brought together some of the best minds in modern combinatorics with a wide variety of students, for lectures and time to work together. The conference was a great success, and we had beautiful weather for almost the entire time. In addition to sitting indoors doing math for much of the day, we still had plenty of time to enjoy the beaches (er, I mean rocks -- there was no sand), get lost hiking the countryside (more of that later), and eat at local restaurants.

The first image above is the view from my hotel room's balcony -- looking out over the Adriatic sea, towards the rest of the Istrian peninsula. The architecture was amazing, as were the bright colors of the buildings and roofs. You can see the old stone railing in that photo, which was completely normal. Almost every building was made from huge cut blocks of stone, with decorative railings on the balconies, and red tile roofs. I'll feature more photos of these soon. Opatija is a resort city, and has been for centuries -- in fact, they've made something of a business of their history of tourism. They now try to attract tourists by advertising how historical their tourist district is!

The second photo is a simple view out of my plane's window on the way to Croatia. The traveling was long -- we were in planes, airports, or shuttles for more than 24 hours -- but totally worth it.

Finally, there's this third image of... seagulls! Wherever you go, there they are. There were tons of them around our hotel, and these two had an interesting interaction. I spent quite a bit of time one day just taking photos of the seagulls in the air, interacting on rooftops, and generally looking silly.

More news, stories, and photos will follow each day, until I'm completely caught up!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Croatia and Wireless

Sadly, there is no photo to go with this post! The reason is, well, let's start from the beginning.

As many of you know, I am (professionally) a mathematician, but (mostly amateurly) a photographer. So, professionally, I am spending two weeks in beautiful Opatija, Croatia, at a conference highly targeted at my area of study.

On the upside, Opatija is on an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, and I'm getting some beautiful photos every day. So, my 365 goes on!

On the downside, internet access in awful here. The only access I can find blocks all photo sharing sites, so I can't upload (or even look at) photos until I'm back home again.

So, fear not, there will be photos -- a whole bunch all at once. Until then, Do viđenja!