Sunday, December 28, 2008

A post from the couch in my pajamas

Sorry I've been so bad about updating my blog since I've been home. I don't really have an excuse, it's just that I haven't been thinking about it. But my brother bought a wireless router, so now I can do it from the couch sitting beside the Christmas tree, which is way more pleasant than sitting in the room where the computer used to be. Also, since it's been so long you may not be surprised that this post will be in list format again. I started off doing a good job of documenting things, but that quickly deteriorated, so there are no pictures of, say, Christmas. Here we go....

1) I've been hanging out with some GT friends. Here they are one day when we went to lunch. It reminds me of how few men I ever interacted with in my old lab. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to an all female lab.

Also, they traced my body on a giant white board that was in the hall by my old office. I think she looks just like me. Although it does make me worry that my hips are really very wide. That quote from R. Kelly was already there (for reasons that I don't understand).

2) My brother is now a college graduate. He's looking for a job, so if you know of one tell me and I'll pass it on to him. In the meantime he continues to be a bagel manager, a job that does not utilize his full potential. Here he is, looking thoughtful after the ceremony. Germans really miss out by not doing the whole graduation thing. The hats alone make it worth it.

3) There are good things and bad things about being back int he U.S. I'll start with the bad - traffic. I was driving home from Atlanta - it's forty miles or so, but it took more than two hours. I tried to document it adequately, but it's probably not a good idea to take pictures when driving. Anyway, I had a hard time conveying how many cars there were all jammed up on the road, and started taking pictures of the Atlanta skyline.

And now for a good thing. Check out the peanut butter shelf in the grocery store. Take that Germany. You may have superior bratwurst, but nothing beats the variety of American peanut butter. If you look at the picture closely you can see a lonely jar of nutella.

I thought I might have taken pictures of some of the Mexican food I've eaten, but I guess not. I'll try and get that before I go back.

4) This is my last day of long hair. I actually have an appointment scheduled for tomorrow, and unless I loose my nerve I'm cutting off 10 inches (25 centimeters). I'm sure that some bald kid will appreciate it. Also, think of the money I'll save on shampoo. Anyway, here I am with long hair a couple of days ago. Sammy also has a lot of hair, mostly because his clippers are broken and I haven't tried to fix them yet.

I'll try to post pictures of the haircut (because why bother blogging if you don't share inane details of your life?) tomorrow. I'm getting a massage immediately before, so hopefully I'll be really relaxed. I've been watching too many make-over shows on TV since I've been home, and the women who get their really long hair cut off always cry. I'm hoping to avoid that.

5) I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas. Like I said, I had stopped carrying my camera around by then, so I don't have an pictures of the Christmas celebration at my grandmother's house, my aunts house, or Christmas morning at home. But really, this blog is long enough, right? I'm thinking of showering and taking the dogs for a walk. Or maybe doing my German homework. But probably the walk.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coming Home!

I'll be back in the good ol' U.S. of A. tomorrow, barring any unforeseen disaster. I've got about a bazillion things to do today, but before I start, let me mention that I'll be in Atlanta until Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m. This is the longest vacation I've taken since I started grad school, so I'm pretty excited.

If you're thinking "wait, but will she have time to see me?" you can stop worrying. I want to see you. I miss everyone. We can go get Mexican food or something (although if you want Schnitzel and Sauerkraut I'm may be busy). Call me. Or I'll call you - but probably not tomorrow, because I'm going to be a little jet lagged.

Okay - off to prepare samples of the microtiter plate reader demonstration that is happening in an hour.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The City of Light

I've sort of given up hope that I can get my sister to do a guest post here, so it falls to me to recount the Paris adventure. However, I'm leaving in less than a week, so I'm including the pictures I have (click on picture) and one story. See below.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen was that I left my wallet on the train. Well, either that or it was stolen, but since no one used my credit cards I think it was lost. This turned out to be a bit of a problem, since you're supposed to have the card you used to buy the ticket on the train, and I didn't. The nice Deutschebahn man wrote a note on the ticket and stamped it (essential for all official German business), so fortunately we didn't have to buy new ones. Everything is okay now - I should have a new American bank card and credit card waiting for me at home. I'm going to my German bank today to explain the situation. I've been practicing (Ich kann nicht meine bankkarte finden...). Feel free to make fun of me for the wallet situation.

I was sort of lazy with the picture taking - maybe once I get home I can post Sarah's pictures as well. Charles is a way worse blogger than me, but I keep hoping that he'll put his on his blog also. Speaking of which - Jenny has pictures up from Thanksgiving. Check them out - you can see how good I am with children. Don't laugh.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Literary Dissapointment

Do you ever worry that you're spending too much time wandering around the Christmas market and not enough time expanding your cultural horizons? I mean, it's certainly optimistic to expect me to keep up with say, the art or music scene. I have limited abilities to grasp the full complexities of these subjects. But I thought I might be doing better with current literature. It turns out I'm not.

Actually, I have this sort of crisis every year when the NY Times publishes it's list of 100 notable books. This year I have read exactly 0. Last year was a little better - at least I had read the seventh Harry Potter book. But since no Harry Potter book was published this year, I can only say that I've read other works of seven of the authors. At this point, I'm really over Philip Roth (and frankly, I don't care if he ever wins the Nobel Prize). Both Annie Proulx and Toni Morrison make me want to throw myself off a bridge (not necessarily a bad thing, but I have to save up emotional energy for that). And - does it count that I listened to Jhumpa Lahiri read from her latest book on NPR? I swear I'm going to read it! But see, um, I have to order English books from the internet here, which limits spontaneous book buying.

Anyway, I'm just now getting around to reading "A Man in Full" and that's partly because I'm borrowed it from Georg at the same time I borrowed one called "Just Friends" with flying pigs on the cover. I don't know if you've read that one, but here's the spoiler: Freya and Jack end up together in the end.

Are other people doing better? On the plus side, since MTV is mostly in English here, I'm more up to date with my pop culture than I was in the U.S.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks

Jenny, Sarah, and I hosted Thanksgiving for the lab yesterday (at Georg's house). We did a really good job, if I do say so myself, of recreating a traditional meal. The menu included turkey and cranberry sauce (homemade!), stuffing, sweet potato soufflé, green bean casserole, corn casserole, broccoli casserole, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, gravy, seven layered salad, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie.

I had a good time, and I think that the lab did as well. But this is the first Thanksgiving that I've spent away from home, and I was sad thinking about everyone getting together without me. But rather than dwell on that, I thought that I'd make a list of what I'm thankful for. So here goes - in no particular order.

1. I'm thankful that it's sunny today. The snow is gone, and its only sort of cold.

2. I'm thankful that my sister is visiting. We're going around to Christmas markets this weekend, and to Paris (Paris!) next weekend.

3. I'm thankful that I have a job doing something I like. This is a pretty serious one, and hard to overstate. Since I spend all day doing it.

4. I'm thankful for my friends. I have, I think, and exceptional number of good ones. Both back in the US, and new ones in here in Germany.

5. I'm thankful that Obama won the election. Maybe it won't make a difference, but I feel optimistic.

6. I'm thankful that everyone in my lab was willing to celebrate Thanksgiving with us yesterday. And actually, the 4th of July and Halloween. It made being far from home much easier.

7. I'm thankful for all the leftovers in the break room for lunch today.

8. I'm thankful that I've gotten the chance to live outside of the U.S. I'm pretty sure that my world view will be forever changed. Not to mention that I can spend my whole life starting stories with "When I lived in Europe..."

9. I'm so, so thankful for my family. I miss you all so much, and I'm very excited that we'll all be together for Christmas.

10. I'm thankful that I'm heading home in 18 days - I'll get to see my brother graduate from college, Sara's defense, and hopefully Katy's baby. Not to mention that I'll be together with Mom, Sarah, and Quinton for the first time since March.

There's a lot more, but writing this list, coupled with the NPR story about people who are missing from the Thanksgiving table is making me kind of weepy. I hope everyone at home had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year. I'll see you at Christmas.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The View from my Lab Window

I'm told it's called snow. It's been falling from the sky all day. Also, it's 4:30, and it's dark.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sarah Passed!

In case you were wondering, my sister passed her qualifying exams. Apparently with flying colors. It turns out she has a "strong theoretical voice" and should consider publishing one of her written exams.

Congratulations Sarah!

I've very proud of you, and your strong theoretical voice.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I finished my legwarmers. Yay! I'm sure that you've all been waiting - here they are:

Here's me wearing them:

They are in fact, quite warm. I actually slept with them under my pajamas last night. It didn't work so well on my way to work this morning. Not surprisingly, they don't stay up so well. So I think I'll sew some elastic in the top to hold them up.

That's all. Also, check out Jenny's blog. There's a picture of me cheating on Sammy. Don't tell him.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Political Limericks

It's been months since I decided to put my thoughts into verse... I'm sure that you've all been suffering. I keep thinking I'll write a sonnet, but 14 is a lot of lines. Instead I'm going to stick with my favorite art form, the limerick.

The economy suffered some trauma,
which lead to more election drama.
"Save us!" We cried
The last president lied.
We're counting on hope from Obama.

They thought that they'd find it smooth sailin'
But soon in the polls they were trailin'.
In Alaska she's right,
But down here she's a fright.
The VP can not be Ms. Palin.

The world heaves a sigh of relief
That the man who has caused so much grief
Our old friend George W.
Can no longer trouble you
There's a brand new commander in chief.

If anyone wants to write their own limericks (about politics or anything else) send them to me and I'll post them. But if you send me one that includes the word "Nantucket" I'll know it's not original. This is a family blog people. Let's keep it clean(ish).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

News Flash: Women are judged by looks, not only ability

I kinda knew this, but here it is. Criticize Hillary Clinton (and Sarah Palin) all you want, but they're fighting an uphill battle. Women political candidates need to seem competent and attractive, but men only need to seem competent. Here's the AP story about it. And if you're really motivated, here's the link to the journal article.

Here's a somewhat confusing graphic from the paper.

I already used up today's rant talking to Matt today, so I'll just leave this story here and you can think what you want.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another List!

I'm sure that you've all been wondering what my life is like in this post-election world. I've saved up a couple of things to tell you, and I haven't made a list since, like, September. So here it is....(drumroll, please).....the exciting list of things that are happening in my life!

1) I'm learning to use the past tense in German! I feel like this will seriously aid conversations. For example, if I wanted to say "I work" I would say "Ich arbeite" but if I wanted to say "I have worked" I would use "Ich habe gearbeitet." Just a note - I didn't check that so it may be wrong. Figuring out the perfect tense is hard. Anyway, even if the Germans are reading this they never comment, so I'm safe.

2) I have a package that was given by the post office to my neighbor. I thought I had figured out which neighbor it is, but when I finally spoke to her last night, she told me that it's actually the man upstairs (Herr Frankenburger) and that he's out of town until Friday. Sigh. But the neighbor I spoke to is very friendly and told me in English that I could knock on her door if I needed anything. So it worked out well. Except that I won't get my book of crossword puzzles until Friday.

3) Charles and I took apart the coffee machine. You may remember that I mentioned it in a post a long time ago. There's even a picture if you look really hard. So the deal is that the machine occasionally needs to be cleaned out, but often, even after you get rid of all the coffee grinds it refuses to work. Next comes cleaning in three easy steps:
a) gentle wiping
b) vigorous scrubbing
c) violently hitting the machine and swearing.
When even step three didn't work Charles and I decided to take it apart and really clean it well. I took pictures! Here you go - the inside of the coffee machine.

And if that weren't enough - here are some more exciting pictures, including Charles hard at work. The bananas are a nice touch, right?

I'd like to say that when we put it back together it worked perfectly, and that's sort of true - I mean, after the horrible grinding noise stopped. It turned out that those extra screws weren't really so necessary after all. As for the original problem, it's um, somewhat alleviated, but not entirely cured.

4) German chemistry students are both adorable and hilarious! Remember the Chemikerball? Okay, so apparently every Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. the students who will be hosting the next year's ball do a little presentation in which they announce their faculty sponsor for the the coming year. Guess who it's going to be next year? That's right. Georg. This presentation involved making the professors compete in games, producing silly chemistry-themed advertisements, and (my personal favorite) a dance involving little cations. Oh right, and my real favorite - bratwurst and gluehwine after the presentation. Next year's ball will be June 6. I'll have to go dress shopping before then...

Okay, that's all for now. There are a couple of other things I could share with you - like learning to do PCA on my LC-MS data, but I really think I should get to work now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can't stop posting about the election....

I'm in agreement with Flea and Black Snob. Stop blaming Sarah Palin for loosing the election. If she's incompetent and unqualified McCain has no one but himself to blame. And in case it's too much work to click on the links, here are Flea's thoughts about Palin as a token and a scapegoat.

"God, it's predictable. I can only assume Palin was one of those women who thought she was the exception, the special one that didn't need feminism, just can-do conservative bootstraps to pull herself up with. She was the one who didn't need to "play the victim." And she was perfectly willing to sell out all other women who weren't as special as she is, because there can only be one token woman, anywhere, anytime.

Sucks for her to find out she's not special after all, she's just a slut in a towel that can be blamed and shamed like the rest of us, so the McCain boys can slink away, untarnished by their own cataclysmic mistakes."

You might be wondering about the towel comment. Well apparently Palin once greeted campaign members wearing only a towel. No wonder she lost the election for McCain.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A City upon a Hill

I've spent the past couple of days thinking about what the results of this past election mean - for America and for the world.

The Assimilated Negro asks why America is so important to so many people. Good question. I guess part of the answer is that we've got a big army and a big economy. We buy a lot of stuff, and can protect or punish countries depending on what we think of them. One of the lab members here claims that the U.S. is a big deal because we think we're a big deal. We expect people to pay attention to us and so they do. It's hard to deny that the world is watching the U.S. While I knew the name of Germany's chancellor before I came here, I have no idea who she ran against in the elections. I have no real concept of her platform, and only recently learned her political party. In contrast, I went to the doctor this week and she asked me about Obama. I went to a dinner party last night and spoke with several well informed Germans about the outcome of the presidential election. The world watches the U.S.

Just before the election I listened to Sarah Vowell's latest book, "The Wordy Shipmates." It's about the Puritans who settled in New England. Vowell spends a lot of time considering John Winthrop's sermon "City upon a Hill." The text of the sermon is a favorite of presidents - most notably Regan, who use those words to claim that America is an example to the world. That we're beacon of freedom and democracy in a world of injustice and tyranny.

But, as Vowell points out, Winthrop meant something else. He said

"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world."
Meaning, everyone is watching, and when we fail it's going to be a big deal. It's hard not to hear those words directly as a criticism of the past eight years. When the ideals that America proclaims so loudly are in direct conflict with our actions everyone knows, and we have been a "story and a by-word through the world."

The Puritans believed that America was ordained by God to have a special place in the world, and like Sarah Vowell, I know that's a ridiculous claim. However, like Vowell, I also find myself unable to shake it. I've been thinking about the 4th of July parades that I used to take part in as a child. Sarah and I would go over to the Smith's house wearing t-shirts decorated with red, white, and blue puff paint and ribbons, decorate our bikes with red, white, and blue streamers and balloons, and ride through Fairfield to patriotic music with the other children. I've been thinking of putting my hand over my heart every morning in school and claiming that "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America." I've been thinking about how when I was ten, my favorite song was "Proud to be an American." I remember asking, as a child, whether the U.S. was the only free country in the world, and getting "well, it's the free-est" as a response.

Americans are taught as children that our country is special. We're taught that the story of America is a noble struggle of brave men and women to escape tyranny and establish a new kind of government. A "more perfect union" if you will. And even though the "more perfect union" has come at the cost of the lives and culture of the native people here before us, and even though it was built by the toil of slaves, I cling to the belief that at it's core the idea of "America" are the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality.

The country has been going through a rough time recently. September 11th made us afraid, and we used our fear to jusitfy injustices while the world watched. We're bullies abroad, and our domestic politics are characterized by such extreme polarization that we see the other side a villains rather than fellow citizens.

I know that it's naive, but I feel that with the election of Barack Obama we've turned a corner. The despair that I felt November of 2004 has been replaced with (I know, it's cheesy) hope. I hope that I can reclaim my childhood patriotism. I hope that he will remind us of the noble ideals of America without letting us forget our bloody past. I hope that he will restore our reputation abroad so that our "City upon a hill" is an example for, rather than a warning to, other nations. I hope that this man who won 52.6% of the popular vote can unite the country.

The part of John Winthrop's sermon that I like best isn't the reference to the city upon a hill. It's a few lines before that when he warns the settlers of the difficulty of their work, and how dependent they are on each other.
"We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body."
No wonder people joke about Obama being the Messiah. His task is nearly impossible. How can any president heal our relationships with each other and with the world? And yet, I'm hopeful. Look at any of the pictures of people weeping with joy as Obama's victory was announced. As a nation we're better than what we've become. I hope that we can be inspired to be citizens rather than consumers, to uphold the ideals of freedom, equality and justice, and to "rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together" no matter our political party or our race.

After all, the world is watching.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

Congratulations, America! I'm so proud of us - and glad to finally vote for a presidential winner. We can have a fresh start in the country and in the world. Since I have my finger on the pulse of European opinion, let me say opinion of Americans has gone up. I smiled at everyone I passed on the way to work this morning, and while they didn't smile back (Germans don't do that) I could sense a certain warmth.

Jenny and I stayed up all night to watch the results come in. I watched Obama's acceptance speech standing up, because anytime I was sitting I fell asleep. Hopefully I'll be able to be more coherent tomorrow.

Also, although Georgia did not go for Obama, the final numbers ended up being reasonably close. And I just saw that Newton County is blue! Good job, everyone!

Yes, we did!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I'll save the election commentary until tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the photos of the Halloween party.

Click on the picture to get to the rest.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mister Mitteldeutschland

I forgot to bring in my camera today, so they'll be pictures of the Halloween party tomorrow, I promise. In the meantime, let me tell you how I celebrated Sara's birthday. I touched Mister Mitteldeutschland (Middle Germany).

So you see, yesterday the Goethe Gallery was open. The Goethe Gallery is sort of like a mall, and I was shocked (shocked!) to hear that it would be open on a Sunday. In general, nothing is open on Sunday, no one is out and about, and if you don't want to spend the day quietly at home with your family, you're sort of out of luck. But because the Miss and Mister Mitteldeutschland pageant was being held, the shops were open as well (which is a good thing, because I really, really couldn't squeeze any more toothpaste out of the tube and oral hygiene is important to me. But I digress).

Anyway, the pageant was both disturbing and hilarious. The part I liked best is when the little girls came on the stage during intermission and pretended to be beauty contestants. Because you've got to start training them young. The good thing about this pageant relative to the ones in the U.S. is that men were competing as well, giving Charles, Jenny, and me the chance to debate which of the men looked best with no shirt. The contest was fundamentally unfair, because the women had to wear bikinis, while the men were wearing jeans and no shirts. What's up with that?

Between the events, the contestants wandered around the Goethe Gallery just like normal people. You know, except more attractive. Charles and I had come back from browsing through the toy store during intermission when we noticed contestant number eight standing around talking to his friends. I tried to get Charles to touch him, but as he is less of a freak than me he refused. So I cleverly positioned myself in such a way that our shoulders touched when he (contestant number 8, not Charles) walked back to the stage. I'm pretty sure he felt the sparks as well.

I also think that when his shoulder touched mine it gave him the little something extra that he needed. Because when he went back on stage and the winners were announced he was crowned Mister Mitteldeutschland. Except the men weren't actually crowned - they just got a sash. Anyway, if Mister Mitteldeutchland 2008 happens to be reading this just no that I wish you luck in the Mister Germany competition. And if you'd like me to touch you for good luck I'm available.


Here's a picture of Mister Mitteldeutschland take from Charles cell phone. Unfortunately, it's while he was wearing a suit.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Political Clip: Air Quotes

My sister, the women's studies graduate student, pointed this clip out to me.

Awesome. "John McCain has finally put the concerns of women where they belong. In derisive air quotes."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Woman's Quest for a Taco

Devoted readers may remember that shortly after I arriving in Germany, I ate at "El Sombrero" - Jena's Mexican Restaurant. The food wasn't too bad, but it didn't resemble any Mexican food I'd eaten before. Since that time I had Mexican food in Berlin (at a place owned by Mexican people). I think I have a picture of that somewhere... hold on....

Ah. Here it is.

Anyway, Berlin is slightly over two hours away by train, which is a little far to go for Mexican food. And since I've been here I've heard that Weimar has a decent Mexican place. So this weekend Jenny, Charles, and I took the train (only 20 minutes), then wandered around downtown Weimar until we found it. I got a burrito. It looked like this:

It was a little strange, because it wasn't actually wrapped in the tortilla, so much as sitting on top of it. But I'll take what I can get. See that jalapeño? Very spicy. All in all, I give it three stars. If the Mexican food in Jena bears no relation to the Mexican food in the U.S., then the Mexican food in Weimar is something like American Mexican food's cousin. They're not exactly the same, but you can see the family resemblance. Here are Jenny and Charles enjoying the meal.

Oh, and I think it may actually be illegal to mention the city of Weimar without also mentioning Goethe. So here's a picture of me with the big statue of Goethe and Schiller in the town square.

You can't really make out their faces, but now I've fulfilled German law. I've decided that Goethe is to Weimar (and actually most of Germany) what Martin Luther King Jr. is to Atlanta. A super important historical figure with his name plastered all over roads and buildings. Although, other than the thing on Freedom Parkway, I'm not sure we have a big statue of MLK Jr. anywhere. Something to consider.... But I digress. Here's the point of this post.

Should you find yourself living in East Germany and craving Mexican food, your best bet is Berlin. But if that's too far the place in Weimar will suffice if you've been away from home for a long time.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Quick Favor...

Okay, so Jenny has posted pictures of our trip to Zürich and the pumpkins we carved, so check it out. Also, we need your help in identification of a certain plant. So if you're a skilled botanist, or a recreational drug user look at her blog and help us out, okay? The link is here.

And now, for a pressing political concern

I've haven't been doing such a good job of blogging recently, and I apologize. But I've been neglecting other things as well. For example, I've only been checking the U.S. presidential election coverage three or four times per day, as opposed to the previous average of 48 times per day. But since I know that Newton County has received my ballot, I sort of feel like there's nothing I can do. It's a little sad. I really like going to the polls on election day. Plus. there's the whole sticker thing. I mentioned that I like the sticker, right?

Anyway, I've noticed that the NY Times has done a series of articles on Sarah Palin's wardrobe. I feel like I shouldn't dignify this topic by writing about it, but let me be honest: I think she looks great. Apparently the campaign spent $150,000 on her wardrobe. Maybe I should be outraged, but I'm not. I mean, if I were going to be campaigning for VP, I'd like for someone to spend that much money outfitting me. I like the way the Times discusses things so seriously.

"It is not yet clear whether Ms. Palin chose her new wardrobe or worked with stylists and other advisers, or what message her clothes were intended to broadcast."

Clearly I'd need to meet with stylists - since I'm anxious about whether or not to wear my legwarmers. I can imagine the meetings where a bunch of advisers were sitting around a table saying things like "Okay, we've got to discuss Sarah's wardrobe. We want her to look feminine and approachable, but not weak. And we should avoid the pantsuit - you-know-who has already taken that look. I want everyone to stop and think for a minute about what message we'd like her clothes to broadcast."

Even though I'd like $150,000 to spend on my wardrobe, I've been looking at a slideshow of Palin's clothes, and while she looks really good I think I'd decline being Veep if I had to dress like that. All those buttons and suit jackets. I really like for my shoulders to have their full range of motion. Because you never know when you're going to need to throw something at someone. It makes me glad I decided against dressing as her for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Lab Is Full of Dorks

Jenny has the pictures from the pumpkin carving, so I can't post those today. Instead let me share the e-mail that a certain member of my group sent to us. The subject: A change in time for journal club. I won't tell you who it is (because most of you don't care), but it starts with a "Ch" and ends with an "arles."

to stay in Matt's style, but to make it more universal :

01100101010101110010100101000000 -> 01100101010101110101000001010000

and for the ones being in the second (and last) group of the 11 groups
of people (the one not understanding binary numbers, as I realise that
if you are not in the first group of the 11 groups, you may not
appreciate the subtlety of separating people in 11 groups)

11:00 15 A 08 -> 11:00 16 A 08 (note the presence of A, which should
help you to define which coding is used)

And if it is not helping, then, just be aware that the journal club is
not taking place on stardate -314194.78 but on stardate -314189.32 (why
the hell are the decimals different??? if someone can explain this to


I confess that I looked up the stardate online, but I don't even know what the middle code is. Can anyone help? By the way - Charles, if you're reading this, I say "dork" with admiration and envy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Boiled Peanuts

I was talking to Kristina this morning about things that my family traditionally does in the fall, and it made me miss some things. Specifically, boiled peanuts - one of the most delicious snacks known to man. It makes me feel sad that so many people don't know the joy of boiled peanuts, but incredibly lucky that I'm from a section of the world that appreciates them. If any non-Southerner (or non-American) is reading this, boiled peanuts are hot and salty (oh yeah!), and sold by old men on the side of the road. Should you be driving through the Southern U.S. and see a stand, you should immediately pull over and buy some. Don't be fooled by creative spelling - "bolled" and "boilt" peanuts are the same thing.

But it's still nice and Autumny here, and there are many things about Germany to appreciate. I went to the market on the square this morning and bought some pumpkins for carving. I also got some bread and sausage from one of the stands. Then I went back to Kristina's house with her and she fed me breakfast. I'm going to work for a couple of hours now, then head to Jenny's house for some pumpkin carving. It may be a little early, but hopefully our Jack-o-lanterns will survive until Halloween.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Let me start of this blog by saying that until the past week, Jenny and I were the oldest people in the lab. So we've been attempting to prove that we're not old and lame for a while now. Mostly this endeavor has taken the form of staying out all night (in Jena or, as mentioned two blogs ago, in Erfurt). But over coffee one day Kristina looked up and asked "Do you want to go to Zürich this weekend?" She had planned to go with her boyfriend, but since he couldn't she was trying to unload the tickets. And since we're still young and fun, Jenny and I agreed to go.

For the most part, Zürich was a lot of fun. Here's a picture tour of the things we did. First, we visited the Grossmünster and Fraumünster churches.

We went up in the tower in the Grossmünster. Here's the view:

We took a boat ride around the lake. Here's the back of the boat, and a Swiss flag (as an aside - the Swiss are at least as proud of their flag as the Americans).

We hopped off the boat to go buy some Lindt chocolate. The factory is in Zürich but the don't give tours anymore. Here are some pictures from the walk to the chocolate, when Jenny was forcing me to take 90 bazillion pictures because she forgot her camera.

Here are some pictures that sort of prove that we saw the Lindt factory. They're hard to make out, I know. But look on the top of the building.

The next day we went to the botanical garden, the museum of skin diseases, and the coffee museum. It turns out that while skin diseases may sound fascinating, they're really quite disgusting. Especially when they've been recreated in detail on wax models. Just a tip: Syphilis should really be avoided if at all possible. In the coffee museum we tasted substitute coffees. You know, for times when coffee was rationed or too expensive for the common man. Here's a second tip: avoid substitute coffees. They taste like dirt, and they don't have caffeine. So really, what's the point? We couldn't take pictures in the museum, but here's me with a fly on my head in the botanical gardens.

I should point out that I woke up that morning feeling like death, and pretty much unable to speak above a whisper. But I bought some magical Swiss cold medicine, which didn't restore my voice, but did enable me to function for the rest of the day. That evening Sven (formerly of this lab) met up with us. I tried to stay out and not be old and lame, but I was sick. And, after an hour in a smoky bar, could no longer speak at all. I was mouthing the words for Jenny to translate to Sven (because English lip-reading was hard for him). This isn't as much fun as you might think, unless you thought it was no fun. It's hard for me to be quiet for an evening. So I decided to go back to the hostel and sleep. Negative fun points for Emily. But when I heard Jenny come in at 4 a.m., I was incredibly grateful for my warm bed.

The next day was nature day. We went on a hike outside of the city. It looked like this.

I think if you look in the background you can see an Alp. But it was pretty overcast the whole day, so they're hard to make out.

Also, Jenny likes to touch any animal that will hold still (she pet a hedgehog - I'm pretty sure this will end in rabies someday). So, here's when she was licked by a cow.

We finally got to a big tower that overlooks Zürich. Here it is! And here's a picture of some people on the tower so I can prove that I climbed 178 steps to get to the top, even though I was deathly ill. Jenny refused to go.

I'm going to wrap this up.... Zürich is a lovely city. The pictures don't do it justice. Shortly after the hike (and a trip by Starbucks - I'm sorry okay. I just wanted it) we boarded the train back to Jena.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Bradley Effect

I went to Zürich this weekend, and I promise I'll post some pictures soon. It's a lovely city, but unfortunately I caught I cold and currently feel like my head might explode. Anyway, I'm not feeling funny, so I'm going back to politics.

Right now it seems like we might have an Obama landslide. States that I never thought would be go Democrat are being discussed as toss-ups. That's right - I'm talking to you North Carolina. I occasionally hear Georgia mentioned, but I think it's unlikely. I'm just happy that it's a light red in some maps.

So that's all good. But there's talk about something called "The Bradly Effect." This is basically the idea that people lie about who they plan to vote for in order to give a more socially acceptable answer. Here's a link to the NY Times article about it. The name comes from the African-American mayor of L.A. who was predicted to win by a wide margin, but actually lost by a narrow margin.

I'm not really sure what to say about it, except that I hope that it's not gonna be a factor. And really, I think that it's probably not. But I can imagine lying to a pollster to produce a more PC answer. Because this one time I got asked to record my radio listening and send it in for some national polling company. Those of you who know me know that I pretty much listen to NPR all the time. But at the time I was also carpooling to work with people who listened to 96 Rock (and it was while "The Regular Guys" was on - few things in this world are more horrible). I was tempted to lie - because I didn't want the ratings of 96 rock to go up because of me. I also considered lying and including radio that I don't usually listen to, but probably should - like "Democracy Now."

I tell this story because I like to talk about myself, but also to illustrate my point about how a person might lie to a pollster. Because it's not really gonna make that much of a difference, right? And if you were asked by a person who you thought might want some particular answer it would be really easy to tell them what you think they'd like to hear.

So should you get called by a pollster, you should probably tell them who you're really going to vote for. Also, don't say that you're going to vote if you're not. And, in case you were wondering, I ended up being honest about my Radio listening habits.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm a Georgia Voter

Do you know who I think is funny? Sarah Silverman. I mean, I feel bad about it, but it's true. Anyway, I saw that she made a video in support of Obama, so I thought I'd share it with you. By my calculation I have zero Jewish readers, so it's mostly for entertainment value.

Also, I thought I'd share with you that I voted! Yay! And the nice thing about the whole absentee ballot thing is that I can share this moment with you.

Here's the thing about voting: Usually I end up being surprised by some of the things on the ballot. I mean sure, I know who is running for president, but I rarely know what I think about the constitutional amendment to create tax allocation districts. If you find that you have the same problem, you can go here and fill out a sample ballot. It's pretty nice, because a lot of times the candidates have submitted information about themselves and you can read about it. For some reason it didn't have any information about the Georgia Court of Appeals race, but if you go to this website you can find interviews with each of the candidates (on the sidebar on the right).

I'm a little sad that I wont get to go to the poll on election day, but I'll probably survive. But if anyone wants to send me a GA Voter sticker, I'd be really grateful.

UPDATE: I just walked down to the post office and mailed my ballot. It cost 4 euros. I hope Obama appreciates that. Crap! I gave away who I vote for...

Monday, October 6, 2008

German Unity Day

Friday was German Unity Day, so it was an official holiday. Because I worked on the 4th of July, I felt totally justified in not working. I wanted to celebrate in the traditional German manner, but as far as I can tell there's no activity associated with the day. I mean, the holiday was first celebrated in 1990, and I guess it takes time for these customs to evolve.

Because there wasn't anything official to do, Kristina, Jenny and I hiked up to this tower on a mountain near Jena, had some coffee at the restaurant there, then headed back to my place to make little animals out of chestnuts (and matches) and watch the Gilmore Girls. So, pictures!

Here are a few from the hike. And here are some of those little chestnut animals things. These are Kristina's creations. I made some more yesterday, but I haven't taken pictures of them yet. But they have ears, so that's pretty exciting.

Kristina was also going to make a crown out of leaves, but it turned out to be sort of tricky to make it round, so it became a table decoration.

Then we tried to watch a rebroadcast of the U.S. vice-presidential debate, but CNN interrupted it to show us the final vote on the bail-out plan. I'm glad it passed, but I wanted to see the debate. Overall I was impressed with Sarah Palin. After watching her interviews it didn't take too much to impress me, but still. She's learned a lot in a short period of time.

Saturday Jenny and I took the train to Erfurt to go shopping for Halloween costumes and decorations. I haven't seen any Halloween stuff in Jena, but Erfurt is a bigger city, and apparently the holiday is starting to catch on. We got some stuff, and were about to head home when we saw that Erfurt was having some sort of Oktoberfest. Strange, since it's mostly a Bavarian thing, but we went into the beer tent and made some friends who spoke very little English. Here's one of them with Jenny.

The night got sort of strange after the beer tent closed. We went to Burger King (we were hungry, okay!) and met some guys wearing Lederhosen. Unfortunately, at this point I'd lost interest in taking pictures - but we hung out with them, I swear! We went to some club that played a bizarre mixture of music and danced with the Lederhosen men for a while, realized that we'd missed the last train back, then hung out in a bakery until the next train left of Jena (at 4 am). Part of the idea here was to prove that we're not old, and can still go out and have fun. Which is true, except that I fell asleep at the bakery, and again on the train to Jena.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Of Dreams and Donuts

I'm supposed to meet Jenny at a bar (to hear a rockabilly band) at 10, and I needed to do a thing in the lab at 8:30. So in the meantime I'm drinking some coffee to try and stay away past 11, and trying not to get freaked out by how dark and creepy it is alone in the lab at night. I could also do something productive, but I realize that it's been a while since I told you about my dreams, so here's the one I had last night:

I was back at GT walking from the lobby to my office. Gathered around the elevator were a bunch of current grad students speaking to each other in German. I stood there for a while listening to them and trying to figure out what they were saying, but no luck. I felt really left out. But the dream got better because when I went down the hall there were three dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. At first I thought that they were for everyone to share, but then I realized that everyone got three dozen donuts. I ate one, but the dream donut didn't taste as good as the real thing.

That's it. I think I must be at home here. For the most part my dreams now take place in Germany, and clearly Germany infiltrates even my American dreams. Probably I can take two things away from this dream. First - I like donuts. Second - I should probably do my German homework.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rügen: Part III

This is definitely going to be the end of this story. Here goes: Kelly and I didn't want to go back to the country line dancing immediately after leaving the museum, so we decided to take the bus to the tourist town of Binz, eat dinner there, and take a nice walk back to Prora. One of the coolest things in Binz was not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. I also didn't take a picture of it. But along the shore was a series of sciencey sculptures. They were great - one of them involved turning a crank to make a tornado in a big plexiglass tube. The one called "The Storm" was the coolest, but it's also difficult to describe. But it did a good job of showing turbulence. Some of the statues I didn't understand - there were signs nearby, but as expected, they were in German. One of them looked like a giant raisin. I have no idea what it was supposed to demonstrate, but Kelly has a picture of me clinging to it. If she sends it to me I can post it.

Anyway, then Kelly and I sat together and stared at the water. It was romantic, but I'm not sure how she would have responded to gay chicken, so I kept my hands to myself. We ate dinner, then began the 3ish mile walk back to our campsite and the line dancing. I was really excited when I realized that the beach we were walking on was an FKK beach. I've been fascinated by this since Luise explained it to me. I took a picture to prove it.

One of the problems with walking along the beach is that it's hard to know when you've reached your destination. We couldn't tell, so every so often we'd walk up the paths leading away from the beach. At one point we started we heard voices in the woods, which was a bit creepy. So we scurried back to the beach, where a fireworks display was going on in the distance. I suggested that it might be coming from the linedancing, and Kelly didn't believe me - but now I realize that I was right. According to the flier about the festival, "Sonnabend etwa 22:00 Uhr dasFeuerwerk von Fred Feuerstein" were scheduled. But at the time it seemed impossible far away.

Eventually, we figured out where we were from the Nazi ghost buildings. The story is this: The Nazi originally planned to make Prora a major holiday destination. So they build several kilometers of these barrack-style buildings along the coast. I foolishly didn't take any pictures, but they're huge gray buildings that loom over everything. They're mostly unoccupied now, except for a few museums in the bottom floor of some of them. Apparently, the Soviets tried to blow them up and failed. So now they're just creepy, silent reminders of Germany's ugly past.

This picture, which I borrowed from the internet, was right across from the campsite.
Once we left the beach, we walked along the road with theses sinister buildings to our right for maybe 2 kilometers. I keep saying creepy. The thesaurus suggests "macabre, ghoulish, eerie, and ominous" as alternatives. This picture was in the daylight, but they're more eerie at night. Anyway, we made it back, but we were too tired to participate much in the festivities that evening.

The next morning we decided that we'd see the beach in the daylight as we walked back to Binz (before taking a train to Bergen and then on to Jena/Leipzig). The beach really is beautiful there - you can see why the Nazis chose this spot. Here are some pictures. Also, it turns out that everyone on the FKK beach was clothed. Maybe because it was too cold.

We made it back in time for our train, and Chinese food for lunch, but not much else. And, since we rode first class on the way back, we decided to have beers brought to us in our seats.

And that, my friends, is finally the end of the story.