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I love random adventures, and currently I’m in the midst of one.

Last Thursday I flew from St Louis to London where I spent a couple days recovering from jetlag somewhere that I (almost) speak the language, and then yesterday I flew on to Munich where I am now working with other International Year of Astronomy folks to build the Portal to the Universe.

While getting to London was more of an adventure then intended (my luggage was lost again), the too few hours I got to spend in the UK were wonderful. On Saturday I took a train out to the east side of England (Audley End) to meet some of the wonderful folks behind Galaxy Zoo, including Steven Bamford, whose journal articles on galaxy morphologies and galaxies in cluster environments I’ve been gleaning inspiration from for over a year. Sunday was another day of happy meetings involving trains and train stations. I was able to finally meet Astronomy Blog writer Stuart Lowe for the first time, as well as seeing Chris Lintott. The three of us met at St Pancreas / King’s Cross train station – I love public transit, and luckily so do they. We met, drank coffee, and then found some lunch as we discussed new media, astronomy, and just how different British English and American English really are.

For instance “pants.” After my luggage was lost (yes, again) I was promised by British Airways that I would get all my things, but probably 24 hours after I actually needed them. This led to me shopping. There is an amazingly cheap store called Primark that offered me almost everything I needed. Almost. As this store caters primarily to teenage girls (judging from the swarm of skinny 14 year olds that were flirting with mirrors), I was very lucky to find anything that fit (for better or worse, I am not shaped like a teenager). My luck ran out just shy of finding a pair of what I would call pants and what a Brit would call trousers. This probably wouldn’t have been a problem accept that “pants” in British English means underware, whereas the type of pants I referred to would have made up the publicly viewable lower half of Ms. Clinton’s ubiquitous pants suits. (I really need to find out what Brit’s call pants suits). Thus, my struggle to fund “pants” led folks to believe I was on a quest to find panties. You can see where this might lead…

But I survived and I think I’m going to try and start writing down all the random new words I keep encountering.

But London and the trains and train stations that allowed me to meet cool people are temporarily behind me (although I’ll be back and will meet any of you up for it at Mabel’s Tavern on Sunday November 23 from 2-5pm. With me will be Galaxy Zoo’s Chris Lintott). Instead of confusing British vocab words I’m now dealing with even more confusing German. It has been a good day and my two years of High School German have sufficed to allow me to kinda-sorta interact with shops and restaurants. Everyone at ESO / ESA (they share a building) speaks English at some level, so once I’m to work I’m fine, and I’ve been enjoying the adventure outside of that safe science center. It is good to know that knowledge sometimes sticks (and I actually looked up my old german teacher in Westford and emailed him a note of thanks).

I’ll put up pictures tomorrow (I forgot my camera today).

Working at ESO is fun. Space exploration is in the air and the walls are lined with pictures of space and of the ground-based and space-based instrumentation that allows us to explore the universe’s most distant corners. The group of people working on IYA are under the guidance of Lars Lindberg Christensen and Pedro Russo. Between them and their staff, well – this is where all the IYA magic is happening. I’m not sure how many of the international cornerstones are coming out of the offices here, but I know Mariana Barrosa, Lars Holm Nielsen, and Rachel Shida are all playing roles along with staffs of graphical artists and programmers too numerous to list but all deserving respect for the cool and global projects they are making a reality. Lars Holm Nielsen is one of the main programmers making Portal to the Universe, the IYA international website, and many other websites function, and he’s been patiant with me working on Portal to the Universe as I stumble jetlagged through our python and java code. (Thank God the coffee at ESO/ESA is free!) Hopefully in the next couple weeks we’re going to have something really great to show you.

For now though, I find that I sadly need to get some sleep. And just in case you haven’t heard me say it before, Go Register Your Organization, Your Astronomy Business / Department / Facility, Your Astronomy Blog / Podcast / Vodcast / Image of the Day Feed for Portal to the Universe! Go do it today!

Pictures coming …