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.