Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone is having a great Christmas, although for those of you in Europe, I guess it's almost over. I'm hanging out with my family, listening to my sister and uncle debate the relative merits of chainsaw versus axe. Fascinating.

Later, we are going to see Sherlock Holmes. It's in English, like all the movies here. That's awesome.

Here's a picture of the Christmas tree, but it's quite grainy. Still, you get the idea.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The View From My Window

Good morning! I took this video to show you guys that it's snowing hard here, but apparently snowflakes (which, as I learned last night are called "ice flowers" in German) don't show up well on my digital camera film.

At any rate, you can see the view from my balcony. The cats are fascinated and confused. They were delighted when I let them out, and now they're staring longingly at the window. Also, please note the appearance of my snuggie sleeve in the video. That is what I'm wearing. Also, a tank top, underwear, and leg warmers. Ah, the joys of working at home.

Also, I finally posted another poll. Sorry, I know I did one about Christmas music last year, but this one is slightly different, and it's likely that you didn't remember anyway.

Ko points out that "Eisblumen" are actual frost patterns, usually on glass. Meanwhile, according to Leo, snowflake is "Märzbecher."

Also, Charles suggested that if I jumped off my balcony I could get better snowflake video, since then I'd be moving at the same speed as the snow. I have not yet attempted this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dresden Christmas Market

You know that there must be something nice about a Christmas market if it can be cold, crowded, and involve shopping - and, somehow, I still enjoy it.

Ko and I went to Dresden last weekend to experience one of the biggest Christmas markets, right about the time that temperatures went from, say 40 degrees in Germany to 20. It was big difference, and very, very cold.

However, I did manage to get all the things that I needed to get, so if you requested that I purchase something for you, it's has been accomplished. So, here are some pictures of the Christmas market.

I spent most of the day pointing out individual snowflakes to Ko. Apparently it really snowed during the night, because this was the view from our hotel the next morning.

Okay, not the best picture, but you get the idea.

So now I'm back in Jena (where it's also cold and snowy) trying to get stuff done before I leave for the holidays. I'll be flying out on Dec. 20, so mark your calendars.

Monday, December 7, 2009

This Weekend

This weekend I was in Goettingen again. Things that happened included:

  1. A visit from St. Nicholas. He brought me a book and a chocolate letter "E."
  2. A moment in which I totally broke down over the job stress deal. Ko handled it very well.
  3. The purchase of a beret. I'm not sure if it's cute or if it makes my head look like a mushroom. My head was cold, okay?
  4. The watching of many episodes of "Bones." Thanks Katy!
  5. Ko and I baked a chocolate coconut cake. Here's the picture:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

St. Nicholas Day

I've been learning about the Dutch holiday, "St. Nicholas Day." Ko refers to the American Santa Claus as "an abomination," which I think it rather harsh. However, many of the Dutch traditions are quite different (certain people have objected, probably fairly, to the term "bizarre").

Here's the deal: St. Nicholas lives in Spain most of the year. He comes to The Netherlands on a steamboat with his horse, Amerigo. He also comes with a little friend, called "Zwarte Piet," or "Black Pete." They leave presents in your shoes on the night of December 5.

Here's a picture of St. Nicholas:

It's quite easy to see how Santa Claus could come from this guy. The thing that really gets me, though, is Black Pete.

It's easy to see why this tradition doesn't really go over that well in the U.S. I was alone in being shocked that a white guy would put on black make-up and play the good Saint's comic sidekick. But he's everywhere in the Netherlands. Ko assures me that he's black because he shovels coal on the steamboat. However, according to Wikipedia, that's only one possible explanation. I also enjoyed this particular quote in the article:

"If they have been really bad, Black Pete may take them back to Spain in his sack, a tradition now frowned upon under the influence of modern child psychology."

Ko seemed to have been told about getting taken back to Spain in a sack, so perhaps it's not that frowned upon.

Anyway, I had already heard of some of this because of David Sedaris story "Six to Eight Black Men." Ko swears that this is not the case, that Black Pete has never been a slave, and his skin is only that color because of the coal. I'll leave it to you to decide.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Phone Interview!

I have my first phone interview at 6:00 pm tonight (noon, EST). It's at a small (public) liberal arts university in the NE. I'm very, very excited. I also interpret this to mean that my application is good enough to warrant consideration generally.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Not great, I think. I'll tell you about it in more detail tomorrow, but we'll maybe chalk this one up to "learning experience."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Please God, Let me get a job!

Anyone who has spoken to me since sometime in October knows that I'm currently applying for faculty jobs. My Ph.D. adviser recommended that I apply to 30. I'm currently about 2/3 of the way through the (grueling) process.

So far, I've heard from none of the colleges or universities, except the ones that were nice enough to send me an acknowledgment of my application (and sometime to ask me to fill out a survey about my race and gender). Two colleges sent me nice letters or e-mails giving me an approximate time line for the process. If those schools are similar to the others, I should start to hear back from late November to late December.

I really hate the automated responses - something like "We don't have time to communication with people directly. If you get the job, we'll tell you."

The thing that's absolutely driving me crazy here is that I have no idea how good my chances are. How many applications do these colleges get? I read an article online (one of those "How to apply to a liberal arts college" things) in which the author said he'd never gotten less than 100 applications for a job. Which, frankly, makes me want to throw up a bit.

I'm also concerned that there's some sort of inside applicant at these schools, and they've just posted the job to follow the rules. Really, Dr. Smith's nephew Jason is going to get the job no matter how good my application is. Sadly, I'm not anyone's inside candidate. Sigh.

Also, this application process is making me (more) cynical. At first, I was totally sincere in every sentence that I wrote. "The personal attention St. Fancypants College pays to each student makes it an ideal learning environment." Now I find myself just using search and replace: St. Fancypants becomes Sterling & Snootyton College. Which, incidently, is also has an ideal learning environment.

And I have a terrible fear that I'll accidently leave in the wrong college name, or not make it personal enough, or forget to attach my teaching statement.... Very many things could go wrong.

Fortunately, I've finished all the applications due in November, so I took a break last week. I was pleased to note that I greatly prefer doing actual science to applying for jobs. But now I've got to get back to it. I've got 5 to complete before Wednesday (when I go to the Netherlands to eat cheese and clomp around in wooden shoes).

I'll keep you guys posted on the job search process. In the meantime - have any of you been on faculty search committees? Do you know what my chances are?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's been more than a week. I have no excuse.

Carsten commented that I haven't updated my blog for a long time. That's true. My goal was always to update once a week, and here it's been 8 days since you've heard anything from me. Sorry folks. Don't worry, though - I should have some exciting adventures coming up soon. Over Thanksgiving weekend I'm going to the Netherlands with Ko. Then there's the blog I've planned for St. Nicholas Day, where I explain bizarre Dutch customs to you. Not to mention Christmasy things, like a trip to Dresden to eat stollen and drink gluehwein. I mean, that's why I'm going anyway.

Tonight, however, I'm going to Charles' house. We're working our way through the original Star Trek movies. Tonight: "The Search for Spock."

I know, I know, my life is so much more exciting than yours. Try not to be jealous.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fun with Statistics

I noticed something interesting on the train this weekend. I was riding to Goettingen, and my train car was very crowded. In fact, 12 people were standing in the aisle. To my surprise, I noticed that they were all women. However, 19 of the 36 people with seats were men. I found myself wondering if this could be a coincidence, so I did a Fisher's Exact Test to figure it out.

Here are the results:

Table AnalyzedData 1

Fisher's exact test

P value0.0013

P value summary**

One- or two-sidedTwo-sided

Statistically significant? (alpha<0.05)Yes

Data analyzedMenWomenTotal

As you can see, there's only a 0.13% chance that such a distribution could happen by chance*, making this results significant.

Now the question is, why? Initially I thought it was because men are pushier and get into the train faster. Alternately, it could be mostly women getting on in Jena and the men were already sitting down. Anyone have any other hypotheses?

* Feel free to criticize my stats or reanalyze if you like.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

7 Quick Things

It's list time! Which is probably why I should sign up for twitter, since my thoughts rarely take more than 140 characters. Oh well. This way I can save them up.

1. I can't stop reading the comments on this post. Read into it what you will.

2. My mom sent me some temporary Halloween tattoos. Ergo, I have a tattoo of a bat on my neck. I think it make me look dangery.

3. I have sent away 9 job applications this week, bringing me to 30% of my goal. I plan to send 4 more out today, which would get me 43% of the way there.

4. I need to get a gift for Ko's parents when I visit them at the end of this month. His mother can't eat gluten or sugar. Ideas?

5. Damn, flights are expensive this year. How much is a direct flight home for Christmas really worth?

6. I thought I might have been somewhat unique in having fall as my favorite season. Turns out that I'm with the majority of my blog readers.

7. Stollen is already in the stores here, and I've really come to enjoy it. I'll miss it next year.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

This year I celebrated a really low key Halloween. No costumes, no party. However, I did show Ko and Charles how to carve pumpkins. It was the first time for both of them. Here they are, hard at work:

Ko and Charles are actually both very detail oriented people, so this is exactly the sort of thing that they do really well. They're the most impressive first time pumpkins ever. Of course, many people first carve pumpkins as children, so they have that advantage. Here's the finished product. Can you guess who carved which pumpkin? Here's a hint - mine is a pumpkin portrait of someone who vomited on my bed the day before.

And then Charles brought some very fancy cheese over, and we ate it. Delicious. Here's Charles doing some fancy scraping thing to prepare the tête de moine (monk's head) cheese.

I'm going to end this post now, so that I can light the pumpkins again. I know that Halloween is over, but I won't get another chance to next year, so I'm going to enjoy the eerie glow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Back

It's still a week away in the U.S., but here in Germany we set our clocks back an hour this weekend. I was in Goettingen, visiting Ko. Actually, neither of us realized it until almost time to get my train on Sunday. Fortunately, Ko discovered the time change, and we decided to go for a walk around the fields north of Goettingen.

I think we made the right choice about what to do with our extra hour. The weather was sunny (!), and not too cold, the leaves are changing colors, and the light had that specific quality that sunlight has in the fall - warm and sort of golden. Sadly, I didn't bring my camera with me, so you'll just have to believe me.

That's sort of what this post is about. What are you going to do with your extra hour? Sleep? Read? Get some extra work done? People always want more time, and once a year we get a little bit of it. Enjoy!


Here's Charles suggestion about what to do with the extra hour:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I heart Lorrie Moore

I finished Lorrie Moore's new novel, "A Gate at the Stairs" this morning. I usually don't write book reviews, because I can hardly ever think of anything to say except "it was good." Sometimes I just recount sections of the book, like "remember that part where she goes through the stones and back in time? That was awesome."

But this book is in my head, and the other option is blogging about the cats (who, by the way, managed to get the drawer so far out that it fell onto the floor while I was talking to Ko last night. Is this normal for cats?). Anyway, this isn't so much a book review as it is a love letter to Lorrie Moore (if you find this blog somehow, Ms. Moore - I love you).

Here's the thing about reading something Moore writes: It makes me want to write fiction at the same time it makes me dispair that I'll never be able to write fiction like her. I've been working on job applications this weekend, writing sentances like "The opportunity to teach at your institution would be a great opportunity," so I think I'm probably right to dispair. When I was a senior in college, Katy had a book of short stories that included "You're Ugly, Too." She was reading it and laughing, so eventually she had to read it out loud so that I could be in on the joke too. It was the first thing I'd ever read of Moore, and Katy and I spent the rest of the year making obscure references to that story (e.g., "Heidi wouldn't complain") that no one else understood.

Since that time I've been reading everything that she's written. I suppose it doesn't hurt that she writes a lot about isolated women in academic settings. But because her writing is so funny I find it a delight rather than being a depressing reminder of my own life. And, oh, the wordplay. I bet she can work a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle with no trouble.

The main character in this novel is who I like to think I was in college, except that I doubt I was either as self-aware or as funny as Tassie. I'm going to miss her - I can literally say that when I read this book I both laughed and cried. Outloud. Even though I was alone in my apartment. Well, I guess the cats were there too, but they're not people. I haven't lived the spinster life long enough to get confused on that point.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

La Casa de los Gatos

While Jenny is hanging around in Florida, I'm keeping her cats. Due to my sister's allergies (and my mother's belief that animals are supposed to live outside), I've never lived with cats before. There are two of them, and yet it seems like there are so many more. At first they would disappear behind the bed for long stretches of time, causing me to believe that they'd jumped off the balcony, but now they're more comfortable with me and they rarely hide anymore. Here's a picture of Ebony in a drawer.

She likes it there. Also, at first I tied the doors to my wardrobe closed so that she couldn't get in, but she spent all night tugging at the door, so now I've given up and she sleeps on my sweaters. Also, I found cat hair on my orange this morning (sort of alarming, because I had just peeled the orange - either it was contaminated really quickly or somehow they managed to get hair inside the orange peel).

I have a picture of the other cat, Mattie, which I'll post soon. She's harder to catch, since she doesn't often hold still for a picture.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Okay, I suck. It's been more than a week since I've posted a blog. But really, my constant confusion over what I should do with my life has prevented me from coming up with hilarious stories about the zany things that Germans do. Martin is in the U.S. now, so those of you in New York (so, no one) or Florida (Jenny) have recently seen some wacky German antics.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for more, but in the meantime, enjoy this year's igNobel prizes. Drumroll please....

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.

LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland's police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means "Driving License".

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What I think: Roman Polanski

I think that everyone else might be sort of over this story, but I've been thinking a lot this week about Roman Polanski. Mr. Polanski is a famous and talented filmmaker. He has a tragic personal story - his parents were killed in the Holocaust and his pregnant wife was murdered.

Everyone knows by now that he was arrested this week in Switzerland for "having sex" with a 13 year old girl 30 years ago. After pleading guilty he fled the country and has lived in France ever since.

Many people, including a lot of famous Hollywood ones think that this is a politically motivated arrest - ridiculous after so many years. CNN keeps playing a clip of a French guy claiming that by asking Switzerland to arrest Polanski we're seeing the "scary America."

I managed to work myself up into an outrage about this case earlier. People: He. Raped. A. Child. He brought a 13 year old girl to his house, took naked pictures of her, gave her alcohol and drugs, and even after she repeatedly said no and asked if she could go home, raped her. What made me much, much angrier was reading this child's testimony before the grand jury. I'll spare you the sordid details, but if you're interested, you can find it here. The fact that he's famous, the fact that his life hasn't been easy, and even the fact that it took place a long time ago shouldn't matter here.

Where does France get off criticizing the U.S. (and Switzerland) for trying to bring this man to justice? Do they have a "oh, you Americans and your prudish sexual hang-ups" perspective on the situation? Is raping children okay in France? Maybe it's just okay for famous people? Rape is a crime. A very serious crime. And if you plead guilty to a crime, you should be punished for it. The fact that it happened 30 plus years ago is irrelevant. In fact, it's only because the man ran away from his punishment (a fact that shouldn't get him off any easier) that the situation hasn't been dealt with by now.

So, my official opinion then: Raping children is wrong. So is running away after you're caught. Hollywood, France, and anyone else who thinks that the U.S. is overreacting to case must disagree with me, because it's hard for me to figure out why you'd support Polanski otherwise.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wordwide Rankings

Just in case you were wondering, here's a bit of information I came across today. I choose not to comment on the results, but please, if you have an opinion, feel free to share.


1. Germany (too smelly)

2. England (too lazy)

3. Sweden (too quick)

4. Holland (too dominating)

5. America (too rough)

6. Greece (too lovey-dovey)

7. Wales (too selfish)

8. Scotland (too loud)

9. Turkey (too sweaty)

10. Russia (too hairy)

In contrast, here are the best lovers. Sadly, there aren't any reasons given here.


1. Spain

2. Brazil

3. Italy

4. France

5. Ireland

6. South Africa

7. Australia

8. New Zealand

9. Denmark

10. Canada

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pictures from Greece

Hello loyal readers! Did you miss me? I got back from Greece on Tuesday evening, but this is the first chance I've had to write a blog. I've got a student now, and so I've got to spend all day working. It's tricky. You can't be like "you go down the the microscope, I've got to post a blog now." Fortunately, I have internet at home now.

Anyway, Greece is a lovely country. Lots of old stuff. Really old, in fact. Apparently, people have be living in Athens for 5000 years. Also, the Mediterranean is very blue. We've all heard this before, but I'm always amazed. Overall, I had a very nice time and I still like Ko, so that's good. Here are some of my pictures (click on it to get to the others). No particular order. I'll try to add tags later. Anyway, this particular picture is of a street in Napflio.

Also, Flickr didn't give me enough space to include this, so here's a video of a place we ate lunch one day. I forced Ko to sit outside, even though it was very, very windy. He was a reasonably good sport though. We got a little splashed by the waves, but it wasn't so bad.

Okay, that's all for today guys. I've got to find my shoes and brush my teeth before I make it to work. I'll share some more stories later.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Ko and I are walking out the door right now to go to Greece, so I won't be updating the blog for a little while. Don't worry, we'll have pictures when I get back.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No More Soup!

Since Katy would like to look at something other than the poop soup, here's something Sara sent to me the other day. Funnier than the hedgehog, but slightly less cute. Only slightly.

Okay, hopefully that put the "sausage" out of your mind. But, while you're here, I'd like to share this with you. I couldn't embed it in the blog, but if you're interested follow the link. It's an interactive NPR thing showing what the various health insurance proposals could mean for you depending on which group you're in now. I find it helpful, especially if you're like Jenny and have started a facebook war on the subject.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Yesterday's Lunch

Martin asked that I post this picture of this delicious lentil soup served in the student dining hall yesterday and today. It actually wasn't that bad, but look at the sausage. Mmmmm. Remind you of anything?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Butterfly in the Sky

I heard on NPR that Friday was the last day of Reading Rainbow. Apparently, there's a shift in focus away from teaching the love of reading and towards teaching the how of reading. It was on for 26 years - starting in 1983. Anyway, I thought I'd take the time to thank PBS and LeVar Burton for making this show. I suppose that today's kids have other TV shows, but allow me a moment of nostalgia here.

Also, Reading Rainbow had a kick ass theme song. But you don't have to take my word for it:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm pretty sure that living in Germany is making my English worse. Partially because I sometimes find myself saying the British word for things (e.g. "I'm tired. I think I'll take the lift to my flat to get my jumper.") but also because Charles (other people too, but mostly him) is trying to deliberately sabotage my beautiful language.

It started out with adding "ish" to the ends of words. As in "this cake is awesomeish." But since then it's deteriorated. Some classic Charles terms include "hotnicity" (i.e.. the charachteristic of being hot) which is closely related to "hotitutde" and the verb "to hotify" (i.e., to heat). My personal favorite was the German/English hybrid word "genauicity" which, I think, means something like "truth."

Anyway, I found this comic this morning that makes me think of Charelian English.

Although he might have actually said "dangerousish" or "exhibits dangerocity."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Embarassing Thing About Europe

I get that the prevailing opinion in Europe is different, but let me share the thoughts of almost all Americans.

Sorry, if anyone (and you know who you are) is offended by this. I saw this graph today and I couldn't resist pointing it out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stop Embarassing Me, America!

Astrid came into my lab just a few days ago to ask about the health care debate in the U.S. I believe her question was something like "Is that how you discuss things in your country?"

Yes, sadly. Whenever it's important and we feel strongly about something the conversation degenerates into accusations of "Death Panels." Jenny and I have been ranting to the Europeans about how ridiculous the situation has gotten.

I think that almost all people can agree on certain things:

1. Our current system is not working.
2. Health insurance ought the be available for everyone and reasonably affordable.
3. No one should kill anyone else's grandmother.

As you may know, I'm now living in (socialist?) Germany and the health insurance system seems to work reasonably well. Here are some things I've noticed.

1. People are not afraid of loosing their insurance coverage.
2. People go to the doctor a lot, and seem to be able to choose a doctor.
3. German grandmothers are not subject to death panels.
4. People don't have to wait in line to buy bread.

Now, if we could all talk about this rationally. No one is going to turn the U.S. into Russia. I've started a campaign (by which I mean I e-mailed a link to Jenny) to get people to e-mail Obama. Here's the link. I found it satisfying. I'm considering e-mailing him just to say how my day was.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Misogyny = Violence Against Women = Bad

This isn't a real post, since I'm not going to take the time to construct even a half-assed argument about it, but take a look at this if you have time.

I agree with Bob Herbert in this piece, of course, but it amazes me and sort of infuriates me that an op-ed article can say things like

We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem...

Really? I'm shocked! And misogyny leads to violence against women? Shocked again! How is it possible that we don't already know this? I'm glad that Bob Herbert wrote this article, I guess, but why are issues so critical to the fabric of our society dealt with and then dismissed in a cursory one page editorial?

Damn you, Michael Pollan!

It looks like I'm not doing better at posting in August than I did in July. Sorry people - by which I mean sorry Katy and Mom. Maybe I really should start twittering, since most of my observations that I think I'd like to share with you aren't really worthy of a whole blog post. For example, last week we had and International German Teacher conference in Jena, so the town was full of people from all over the world speaking German. It made me a bit worried, because I'm pretty sure the the people I spoke to over the week thought I was a really bad German teacher. But I thought that explaining "No, I live here, it's just that I speak very badly" wasn't better so I let it go.

This particular post, however, did have a point. It's Michael Pollan. I can't decide how I fell about him. He had a lengthy article in the NY Times magazine recently. Basically, the idea was that Americans don't cook anymore, instead we watch competitive cooking shows on TV (i.e., Iron Chef America). He was also interviewed on Fresh Air about it.

Americans don't cook, we don't eat real food, we don't eat good food, we're controlled by giant food corporations. It isn't that I don't agree, it's just that it makes me feel so tired to think about it. Actually, I listened to the Fresh Air interview, went home, and ate Uncle Ben's 2 minute rice for dinner.

That's the whole problem, of course. I got home at 8. I was tired, and the thought of spending at least half an hour cooking something seemed overwhelming. So I ate my bowl of rice while reading, although I had the TV been in English I might have watched a cooking show instead. On some level, I understand that we have time to do the things that we make a priority. As an aside - it drives me crazy when people tell me that they don't have time to read. Mostly because the implication is that they're busier than me. You could read, but instead you choose to work/watch T.V./play soccer/play video games/etc. We do the things that are important.

The same can be said for me and cooking. I like food, but I don't enjoy preparing it. I don't hate it, like say, I hate cleaning the bathroom or something, but I rarely want to do it. So it becomes just another thing that I should do: I should get more exercise, I should do my German homework, I should be a more informed consumer, I should clean my apartment, I should take more care to select and prepare locally grown organic food. But that list makes me exhausted.

Which, I guess, is how the giant food conglomerates get me. I'm not willing to put up a fight and so I'm generally willing to eat the food-like products marketed to me. Because honestly, they're cheap and easy and taste okay. And so I watch Michelle Obama plant her vegetable garden and think I should, I should, I should. But I don't.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I need vacations like Hobbits need breakfasts

It's official. I'm going to Greece in September. I'm trying to sort of be European about these things (I deserve 30 days of vacation per year!) and not feel bad that I already went to the U.S. this summer. Also, I'm pretty sure that Greece will be awesome. And, sadly, Jena starts to get cold around the end of September so it's an excellent time for a second vacation.

The plan for this trip was hatched by my friend Ko (the one I went to see in Göttingen a while back). Ko has been concerned about how and when he might be introduced to my blog reading public and suggested that this might be a good place to mention him. I had other ideas, but he vetoed them. Probably just as well. Anyway, Ko has wanted to see Greece, and I really enjoyed the setting of "Mamma Mia" so it seemed like a good idea to me. I think it looks sort of like this:

Plus, I keep thinking that I should travel as much as possible while I'm in Europe. If I don't like Ko after spending ten consecutive days with him, then probably it wasn't meant to be. Although it'd be best to keep that to myself until the end of the trip, since Ko's the one who has been listening to Greek tapes. I just plan to speak English loudly. People appreciate that, I've noticed.

I'm sure I'll be posting more about this in the future. And I definitely need to get a camera sometime soon (I've gone through two since I moved here - I think it's me) so I can document things for all of you. In the meantime, I've been learning about Greece from the CIA world factbook. It's pretty useful, like wikipedia but more reliable. For example, did you know that Greece is slightly smaller than Alabama? Or that it imports 527,200 billion barrels of oil per day (compared to the 13,710,000 billion barrels imported into the U.S. each day)?

Perhaps I'll come up with some exciting Greek poll to put over there on the side. In the meantime, I'm gonna work really hard. Except that it's sunny outside.... I hear it calling me....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another, um, cultural difference between the U.S. and Europe

Do you know what I've been thinking about recently? Circumcision. My friend the internet tells me that while most (about 79%) Americans are circumcised, the rate is much lower in Europe. Germany wasn't listed, but Wikipedia claims it's under 20%. Based on an informal survey (NOT a visual inspection!) I suspect the rate is much lower than 20%, at least among white scientists ages 25-35.

Somehow I was unaware until recently that the the US differs in it's circumcision policy from most of the rest of the world. Jenny and I had a few questions about exactly how the procedure is performed, so we turned to the internet again to figure it out. Click here for a computer animation of what happens. And, if you've got the stomach for it, here's a real live video. I was shaky for a while after I watched it.

So. I guess I doubt that the baby was in so much pain the the second video - he was probably just mad. And I doubt that any of the circumcised men that I know suffer much from the trauma of having this done. Also, I'm aware that there are some benefits - easier hygiene and less chance of spreading STD's. But doesn't it seem strange to cut off a part of the body when it's not medically necessary?

Ah well. Since ASLO is a hypothetical child I don't have to make a decision for him yet. Perhaps I'll let his hypothetical daddy make the decision.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back in the Lab

I'm back in Germany, and sort of adjusted to the time difference. The weather could be worse. It's warm, but it's also raining. Sigh. It's looking cool and sunny for the weekend. People seem mostly glad that I'm back, or maybe they're just glad that I brought the giant Spock sticker for the freezer in Charles's lab. And a whole lot of peanut butter candy.

Anyway, I thought I'd provide just a few pictures for you all. Here's my family one night while were were at the beach. First, here are my lovely siblings:

Here's one of me with Mom. Notice the difference in skin color. Really, it's insane. In theory, I have half of her DNA. Part of it is living so far north, but I think it's mostly genetic.

Here's one of me with my friend Tiffany and her new daughter, Shelby. Shelby is six weeks old, and has feet sort of like mine. Sorry Shelby. If it keeps up this way, shoes are going to be an issue. Sammy is on my other side. He's jealous of the baby. I think you can see it in his eyes.

The final picture is what awaited me when I got home. It turns out that you really shouldn't leave coffee in the coffee pot when you're going to be away from a couple of weeks.

So the message here is that I don't really take pictures. The ones from home are courtesy of Quinton. Unfortunately I don't have one of me holding Wendy's baby or with my friends or extended family. Oh well. I think there's something to be said for enjoying a moment rather than trying to document it all the time. Anyway, I had a great time and it was good to see everyone. Now it's back to work, although at the moment I'm posting this blog rather than actually working.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dispatches from the couch

Quinton and I are hanging out for a while, since we've finished packing the car and vacuuming and stuff. When Mom gets off work we'll head down to Florida. We managed to get everything in the car - only one unpacking event when we realized that we forgot to include the beach chairs.

So far my time in the U.S. has been pleasant. It's warm here. In Germany my feet are always cold if I'm not wearing socks. Now I don't have to worry about that.

I bought some bathing suits yesterday. It was traumatic. I managed to get two, but it involved a lot of staring critically at my body in the mirror. From the experience, I can recommend that no one look too closely at the back of my thighs. It's not pretty - I should know. I guess that's the other nice thing about Germany. A person doesn't have to wear a bathing suit so often when their feet are cold.

What else? So far I've eaten some tacos, biscuits and gravy, and pimento cheese. I've also decided to open another restaurant in Germany. In addition to the taco stand and the deli I think Jena needs a barbecue joint. I think I can probably manage it with the money I'll make from my vending machine empire.

Also, American television is awesome. For example, I'm watching a commercial now about how to "lift and firm your booty" by doing "flirty girl dancing." Lots of hip gyrating. Apparently it involved a chair dance, and for advance students, a stripper pole. I'm wondering if it could do something about the back of my thighs.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just a quick note...

Hey everyone! I think I have something like 54 hours before I begin my journey home. It starts when Goeran drive me to Erfurt at something like 4 Thursday morning. Obviously, I will love him forever for this (but not in a weird way, in case he's reading). My train leaves from Erfurt at 5:18, and arrives in the Frankfurt airport at 7:50. My flight leaves at 9:45, and from then it's just a quick 10 or so hours before I arrive at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (or, ATL).

International travel is exhausting. I can say that because I'm so worldly and well traveled - sophisticated, one might say. Especially since I was wearing a cowboy hat, star stickers on my face, and the colors of the flag while I was dancing around the yard waving a sparkler and singing "God Bless the USA" this weekend. Unfortunately, no pictures. But you've got that mental image to keep with you.

Right, so I'm trying to get some things done this week before I go, so if I didn't e-mail you back it's both because I'm a bad person and because I'm trying to get a rough draft of a paper written before I go. I'll be home at 1:55 on Thursday and leave at 4:25 Tuesday the 21. Call me. I'll have my U.S. cell phone. Georg is German in his thinking and believes that no work should be done over a holiday, so I'm going to keep to that, but at some point I'll be going with my family to Jekyll island for a few days. I've seen the ocean in the past year, but it was cold and that seems wrong, somehow.

Wow. Boring post. Also, if I had a stalker they'd probably be able to track me down, which is kind of creepy. Anyway, I'll see you all soon!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Emily's Craft Corner

I haven't put a knitting related post up in a while, and I'm sure that my audience has been wondering what I've been up to. In keeping with my desire to 1) avoid counting stitches and 2) finish all projects within a couple of hours I made some felted beer cozies. They're different sizes because beer comes in differently sized bottles here. I personally feel that they look better in person, but I don't hold that against them. I'm not so photogenic either.

Anyway, it turns out that the concept of a cozy (I thought it might have been coozy, but according to my friend the internet, that's a vulgar term for um, something else) is pretty much unknown in Germany. But they're also much less concerned about the temperature of beverages, so I guess that all makes sense.

I saw a girl the other day with some felted flowers in her hair, so I'm considering making some with my leftover yarn. I'm so crafty, I know.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fallen Princesses

Check this out. I really love this website somehow*. It's about the Disney princesses. The artist says:
"In all of the images the Princess is placed in an environment that articulates her conflict. The '...happily ever after' is replaced with a realistic outcome and addresses current issues."

I'm not sure which one I like best. Maybe this one - just because she looks like I feel some days.

Plus, I like the bar. It seems like hard drinkin' kind of place.


* Jenny points out that both of us have started ending sentences with somehow. I think it comes from Charles. So I may start speaking like a non-native English speaker. It happens when you lead a glamorous life abroad.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I went to visit a friend in Göttingen this weekend. If there's a market for science tourism (and it's hard to imagine that their wouldn't be) Göttingen has it cornered.

See, perhaps the most exciting thing about Göttingen is that the motto (slogan, whatever), "Stadt die Wissen schafft" is German play on words and I almost understood it without looking it up. For those of you who don't speak the lovely language of Goethe, let me explain. See, literally it means (and this is my translation so if you're German and it's wrong please correct me) "The city that creates knowlege." However, since "Wissenschaft" means science, it's also the city of science. It makes me realize how many little jokes must be happening all the time that I don't understand.

Right, where was I? Okay, so Göttingen (according to the tourism website) been associated with 43 Nobel Prize winners (I think all in science). Eight of them are buried there, so I made a pilgramige to see the cemetery where all the famous dead guys are buried. Fascinating tidbit of information - Max Plank has his constant on his tombstone.

I also saw this statue (the Gänseliesel):

Apparently she's the most kissed girl in Germany (although really, how can a person possibly know that?) because after students at the university finish their Ph.D. they have to kiss her and give her some flowers. I think it's sort of sweet. I wanted to kiss her also, but I don't think I've met the requirements.

Anyway, Göttingen is a lovely city. It was sort of comparable to Jena in some ways: about the same size, big university, lot of science - but sort of more impressive. I'm sorry Jena. At least Goethe never lived there (at least, as far as I know).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Like Life

You know, the major thing I've learned from living in another country is that it's not glamorous. I think the word "abroad" has always sort of filled me with anticipation. "Abroad" causes my mind to fill up with vague images of cafes, cathedrals, elephants, pyramids, and crowded markets. Also, I think it conjures the smell of some slightly exotic spice - cardamom, maybe, which isn't available in the Covington grocery store.

I haven't posted anything in more than a week (I like to think that you noticed, loyal readers, but I can't be sure) because nothing is really happening. I gave a seminar in lab meeting yesterday. I'm watching the 7th season of the Gilmore Girls. A new bar opened up by my house. I'm going to learn about the genitive case in my German lesson this week. While walking to work last week a fly flew between my eye and my glasses and got stuck there for several seconds until I ripped off my glasses to release it.

But when I talk to people from home, it seems like so much is happening. Babies, jobs, weddings, etc. Big stuff. Dramatic, life changing events. I was considering leading this post with the fly story (because I was concerned at the time that it was a wasp - imagine the dramatic consequences there) instead of the "I'm getting married, having a baby, and buying a house" news that everyone else seems to have.

It's not that I'm jealous. The news is as often bad as it is good. It's just that I sometimes feel like I'm just waiting for stuff to happen. My days are mostly pleasant and uneventful. Jenny frequently jokes that everyone's life is better than hers. But I don't really think that - it's just that everyone's life seems more lifelike than mine

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chemikerball 2009

Chemikerball 2009 was a fancy affair. It's fun to see your colleagues all dressed up (note to the Germans - I did not claim you as friends).

Here's Alex doing her best to keep Martin in line. It's a tough job, but if anyone can do it, she can. Click on the picture and you'll get to see all of the other photos.

Also, I should point out that if you google "Chemikerball" you get my 2008 post. More text, fewer pictures. But most of my observations held true this year as well

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mysterious + hormonal = woman

I was going to post about the Chemikerball, but Jenny doesn't have her camera cord and I think the whole thing is pretty silly without pictures. So in the meantime, I thought I'd pass this article on to you.

In case you don't want to read it, it's written by a man who, as part of a treatment for prostate cancer, was taking a drug that suppressed testosterone production. Overall he found that it gave him hot flashes, he cried all the time, and he was unable to control his food cravings. Apparently he was much like his menopausal wife.

His conclusions from this time:

"Even though I only got to spend a brief time on the outer precincts of menopause, it did confirm my lifelong sense that the world of women is hormonal and mysterious, and that we men don’t have the semblance of a clue."

When I read the essay I felt conflicted - the same way I feel about talking about women's hormones or health issues in general. I'm sure this man means well, but he's furthering the stereotype that women are irrational creatures ruled by hormones rather than reason and self control.

On the other hand, men get passes for biology all the time. As in "Sure, he caught the house on fire/jumped off a cliff/had an affair. But what can you do? Boys will be boys." And, although I have not lived through menopause myself, I understand that hot flashes are intense and unpleasant and probably have been historically minimized because they happen to women. Probably that's generally true about most women's health issues. As in "stop being a crybaby and take it like a man."

I read the comments on the article and the general consensus was "finally, a man who understands." So maybe my concern about furthering gender stereotypes is unfounded. Or maybe it's just my time of the month.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I want this

Have you ever seen a more delicious looking picture? I'm coming home July 9. And I may eat nothing but tacos while I'm there.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Words I Hate

I realize that English is not the most beautiful language in the world. I also realize that it's constantly evolving, and that, unlike other languages, we have no official set of rules to tell us what is and is not a word. Still, I find some words especially irritating.

I mean, I found the term "staycation" annoying, but then I saw this thing on NPR about a "nocation" which isn't really a thing. It's working. Which we already have a word for.

And then I was watching "Larry King Live" after the whole American Idol thing finished for the season, and the term "bromance" came up repeatedly. Turns out that a bromance can end in a "dudevorce" which makes my skin crawl.

Research on this topic led me here and here. And, realizing that "Brangelina" is also a frankenword (okay, I kind of like that term) made me feel more justified in my annoyance.

Of course, I eventually realized that I use a lot of these words too: Informercial, workaholic, spyware, and even (I'm sorry to say) blog.

But I still think "bromance" is stupid.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Four mini-posts

I kinda couldn't decide what to write about today. Plus, I only have about 4 sentences worth of material for any one topic, and text is easier to read if it's broken up with bullet points. Jenny's mom said I should write a book. I wonder how many have been written in list format? 'Cause paragraphs are sort of exhausting.

  • The Germans seem to have no solid grasp on summer food. Which is odd, because strawberries and asparagus are in season now, and you can only get them during this time. Still, if I go to the mensa (student dining hall) for lunch it's stuff like beef roulade with roasted potatoes and red cabbage. Delicious, to be sure, but sort of over the top for 80 degree weather. I'm looking for something like a chicken salad sandwich with a side of fruit. And possibly an ice tea or lemonade. Anyone who wants to open a restaurant - I really think that Jena could do with a sandwich shop. Subway is the only competition.

  • The birds have started building a nest on my balcony. Clearly, I'm a crappy nature writer since I have nothing more specific than "bird." Still, I was watching today and they're bringing little bits of mud and sticking them to the side of the house. About half the time the mud stays on the wall. Other times it falls immediately onto the balcony. But they're persistent and I try not to discourage them, even though they wake me up when the sun comes out (something like 5) with manic chirping.

  • Larry King Live sometimes get on my nerves. Today's show revealed that women have problems with self worth. I was shocked (shocked!) by this revelation. I also appreciated that Lucy Liu could explain it to me. I always enjoy it when beautiful actresses can tell me that in order to overcome my self esteem problems, I should love myself more. Very helpful.

  • Yesterday was my 29th birthday. Although I know I'm only a day older than I was the day before, something about birthdays causes a person to want to take stock of their lives. I try to avoid introspection as much as possible - it makes me melancholly - but I'm afraid that I'm turning into a character in a Lorrie Moore story. I think maybe the main charachter in "Anagrams," who, among other things has an imaginary child that she talks to. I've recently gotten my own imaginary child (I call him Aslo - story for some other time), but until recently I hadn't made the connection. This is a bad path for me to go down, I'm sure, since almost all of her characters are women in academics who are misunderstood and alienated from the world around them. On the other hand, they usually have sharp wits and enjoy word games. Plus, I could reread her short story "You're Ugly Too" a hundred times and not get tired of it. So, you know, it could be worse.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It comes in a pink wrapper? I'm in!

It's been a while since I posted about something that isn't Star Trek (and let me tell you, I've been holding back) but Katy sent me this link today. It's a candy bar marketed toward women.

You can tell because of the pink rapper and the cursive writing. That's how women write, you know. The thing that pisses me off, isn't, as NPR points out, the fact that the candy bars are called "fingers" and the promotional slogan is "pleasure yourself." That's creepy, to be sure, but whatever. The problem is that gender specific candy bars are being marketed at all.

It's not just candy bars. Apparently, diet soda has been traditionally sort of, ya know, feminine and Pepsi is making a bid to change that.

Men are opposed to girly things, but like, if it's made out of a nukular submarine it's worth giving it a shot.

So here's the question I have about these ads. Do they reinforce ridiculous gender stereotypes (i.e. women are dainty and frilly while men are tough and stupid)? Or are they somehow subversive - portraying those same stereotypes ironically?

If you're interested in one of my favorite feminist blogger's opinions on the subject, check out her posts here and here. I think I may have linked to one before but I never get tired of reading about what a big load of crap femininity is. One of the best things about Germany is that the pink marketing campaigns are blessedly few and far between.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Live long and prosper

I mean, I know I should be embarrassed about this, but I'm not. Well, except that it's not an especially flattering picture. Also, I think jeans have fallen out of fashion in the future. Which is a shame, really.

Do you know what hasn't fallen out of fashion? Miniskirts and knee high boots. Only for the women of course. Men still get to wear pants.

So while I liked the movie (and get that they were trying to be true to the original series), I'm disappointed that the future is going to be a lot like the present. We'll have token females chosen in large part because of how good they look in the outfit (Sarah Palin, anyone?).

Sunday, May 10, 2009


What would happen if you took two of my favorite things, and merged them into one? This:

I'm going to see the new Star Trek movie tonight - it's in English! (As an aside - I was willing to go to Berlin for this, but it's happening here in Jena). Charles said that he'll let me wear his science officer uniform. He's not enough of a dork to wear it to the movie premier, it seems. I definitely am.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Haircut, take II

This is another post about the minutia of my life. I'm never sure if I should focus on bigger issues, but I think that it's probably best to tell you about what I'm actually thinking about. So those of you who talk to me frequently might know that I didn't like the haircut I got in January. I thought that if I just gave it some time I might come around. Alas, four months later and I still hated it. The problem was that it was puffy at the bottom and flat at the top, giving my head sort of a triangle effect. I have a picture somewhere.

See! Definitely a triangle quality. Anyway, when I tried to explain it to the German hairdresser (Tanja) it went sort of like this:

Emily: "My hair is a triangle"
Tanja: tilts head to side and looks knowingly at my head "Yes"
Emily: "So I want it not so short, but not so triangle"

It turns out that was enough. I like my haircut. Although it was odd because Tanja didn't try to make small talk with me at all. I guess it could be because small talk is less necessary in Germany, or she was convinced that my supply of German was exhausted after the triangle conversation.

Anyway, here's the final result. My face looks weird, but you can see the haircut. If you're in Jena, I suggest Tanja.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Leisure Time

How much do I love reports like this? The answer: a lot. Something about all the statistics and the figures. It's very satisfying. It's very hard for me to break it down and show you the graphs that are the most interesting. That's why I posted the link. Enjoy.

Basically, this is a report comparing the lives of people in 18 different countries. I have no idea how rigorous the scholoarship is here (Katy?), but since I like comparing the US and Europe and I like having data portrayed in graphical form, here goes. I'm focusing on leisure time here.

First, the percent leisure time per country.

Perhaps we should all move to Belgium. Or out of Mexico, at any rate.

I was shocked (shocked!) by this graph. Men, it turns out, have more leisure time than women in all of the countries measured. But good effort, Norway. And Italy! You should be ashamed of yourself.

Next: Holidays. Guess which country has the least? That's right, the good ol' U.S. of A. It turns out that we're the only country that doesn't legally require any paid holidays. I included the legend with this one, 'cause I thought it was hard to interpret.

Despite the fact that Americans don't have a lot of leisure time, it turns out that people living in the U.S. are still pretty happy. In fact, we're kind of an outlier in the lovely linear regression done here. Although, frankly, I'd like to know that the slope of this line is significantly non-zero before I move to Denmark.

Okay, that's it for today guys. Check out the link for more fascinating social trends.

Friday, May 1, 2009

So cute it hurts

Matt sent me these pictures. Really, I can't even talk about it without having to express myself through a series of high pitched squeals.

Everyone was amazed by the cuteness (he had dirt on his little feet!) except Jan. He's cold.

Also, check out this blog. This guy is a genius. I wish Germany would get some delis. I miss sandwiches.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Word up!

First of all, how are y'all doing over there with the swine flu? If everyone I know could please make an effort to avoid dying in an influenza pandemic, I'd really appreciate it. So far it looks like it hasn't gotten to Georgia yet, but I suspect it's just a matter of time. Probably it's coming to Germany too, though. It may be time to quarantine myself in my apartment.

Secondly, I've been a bad blogger of late. I realized I haven't posted any Helgoland pictures. Here you go. First, I give youth Pohnert group. Yes. There are a lot of us.

Second, here's a picture of some rubber boots. One of the gray/blue pair is mine. Something like 9 euro at Aldi. That's some dope shit. Nothing makes me feel as sexy as walking around in rubber boots all day.

Next, please turn your attention to the bathing beauties on the beach. They don't seem to realize that it's cold. Please note point number 6 from the April 18th post.

And finally, we came across some rather unusual marine life while in Helgoland. The rocky intertidal is truly a fascinating place. You'll have to look really hard in the picture to see it - he's rather well camouflaged. We're doing feeding assays with him later to determine whether the chemical defenses in the algae help him avoid predation, or if it's just that he's more cryptic.

That's all I got for today. Oh, and the 90's hip-hop phrases are brought to you by my Swedish friend. Nothing's funner than a Swede saying "Word up!"

Peace out, yo!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NPR listeners like pot

NPR is doing a story about legalization of marijuana, which I should confess, I haven't read or listened to. But you can - here.

I did, however, look at the poll results. I was expected something like 60% in favor, because, honestly, we all know the political persuasion of the average NPR listener. Instead, it was much, much, higher. See?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes, but only for medical purposes

Total Votes: 12,234

Either NPR fans are way farther to the left than I expected or the people who follow NPR online are not representative of the larger listening audience. Which, now that I think of it, makes sense. I guess a lot of the elderly fans haven't quite figured out how to access the wide world of internet polls.

That's all I got today. Just thought I'd share.