Tag: icarus

Marrakech virtual chip conference heats up

I’m only in Marrakech because there was supposed to be a chip conference going on that got canned. Jerry Sanders III was supposed to be here but the trouble in North Africa and the earthquake-tsunami in Japan was a further blow.

As I’d paid for my air ticket already, it seemed pointless not to come here. And I have had quite a fun time and got too close to the sun – a bit like Icarus but I don’t have waxwings.

So here’s where I’ve been and what I’ve done for my solo chip conference. I am not Michael Winner. I am Michael Magee.

I first tipped up at this Riad – it doesn’t cost a lot – it’s cheap, it’s clean and it’s nice too. From there I ventured northwards to the Grand Place, that’s the place that got bombed last week. There is still quite a lot of tension in Marrakech, that’s for sure.

My Riad, my home from home, has a crimson winged finch that’s quite bossy in making sure it keeps the house sparrows at bay. As I already said on FB,  it’s quite beautiful, the breakfast is simple and straightforward, and it’s quite a delight to stay in this Absolutely Fab place.

Tonight I made the compulsory evening trip past the Old Palace, where former sultans, kings or whatever held court and had plenty of rooms for concubines and where the swifts shriek loudly as dusk descends. Why do swifts take all the effort to fly from sub-Saharan Africa to North Yorkshire braving all the perils the flight takes? No one knows the answer to that question.

Tonight, and this is where the comparison between me and Michael Winner ends, I decided to go a bit upmarket and go to Les Borjs de la Kasbah, about 30 metres away from chez nous. I had a delightful meal complete with a wonderful Moroccan rose, an espresso coffee, a chicken tajine, a bottle of water and wonderful service for about 23 Euro. The Euro is almost equivalent to a quid, as I write this.

I must say that I am not too keen on playing golf and the like. Personally I prefer darts because it’s almost always conducted in a pub under strict rules that mean no ball games are allowed.

The Grand Square was a tense place today, but the tourists as usual wandered around a little aimlessly, no doubt hoping they’d be the target of a chicken cous cous rather than an Al Qaeda outrage.  Nevertheless, there is anti-Western feeling abroad. An adolescent in the Medina screamed at me in French today, telling me to go away.  Luckily, I am Scottish, so couldn’t understand a single word he was screaming.

In these circumstances, I am pleased to announce that Morocco is still a pretty fab place, despite everything. I first came here in 1968 but didn’t catch the Marrakesh Express. Instead, I found myself between the devil and the deep blue sea – in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave. How we Danes, Brits and Yanks laughed at Franco for claiming Gibraltar as his while still maintaining a foothold in North Africa and paying his conscripts about one shilling a month (clothing, food, Fascist discipline compris).

How glad I am to be in Maroc, nearly 40 years later. The swifts are still screaming and it has a Cyber Park! I am not sure if it is a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), like Tangier used to be in the bad, sorry good old daze…

Jupiter's red spot reveals surprises

Scientists have been pondering why Jupiter has a big red spot on the side of its face.

While ruling out acne or stress, the boffins have always thought that it was a huge storm.

But according to Wired when they recently looked at the temperature maps it turned out that the red spot is one of the warmest places on the planet. The darkest red bit is where the life forms of Jupiter would go if they were looking for a nice winter break.

Of course the inhabitants of Jupiter have very low expectations when it comes to the idea of warm. “Warm” on Jupiter is -250 degrees Fahrenheit while cold is an even frostier -256 degrees F. So a bit like the people of Aberdeen optimistically going to Scunthorpe to get a tan.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer Glenn Orton, who led the new study to be published in the magazine Icarus, the difference is enough to create intriguing internal dynamics.

However it is getting smaller and it appears that the storm, which is the size of three earths will be over soon. Probably to be replaced with scattered showers and light winds.

Boffins originally thought that the red patch was caused by sulphur being tossed up in atmosphere.

But Orton’s research indicates it might be something more environmentally related. Perhaps thousands of Jupiter’s inhabitants turning red in the sun?