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.