Monthly Archives: November 2010

A tale of snow and socks

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Yesterday when I was going home, I was knee-deep ploughing through the snow when I was thinking I had never walked through that much snow in my life.

(To be completely honest, I should clarify that I was walking next to the path through the pile of snow which had been cleared from said path. So the snow was only (very) locally knee-deep. Well, not actually knee-deep. But almost.
What can I say, I’m still a little kid sometimes.)

Now, where is the fun in walking ON the path?

But then it struck me: I had. Walked through that much snow, I mean. When I was 10. It was an experience never to forget and I’m sure you’ll soon understand why.

I was on my first skiing trip with the whole family when I was accompanying my dad to one of the ski-lifts. The lift was located a bit off-track, down a small but steep slope and when we got to the top of the slope, my dad wanted to say goodbye (there was no way I could go with him on the lift because the track at the end of it was way beyond my 10-year-old capabilities). But I refused – the line at the lift was long and I thought I could stand in line with him and chat a bit and then return when he got on the lift. I was in full my-dad-is-a-superhero-phase at the time, and I needed to be with him every possible moment ;).
So the moment came – my dad got on the lift and I got out of line to return and wait for him at the bottom of the track he was planning to do. I had learned how to ‘climb’ a slope by taking small parallel steps with my skis, and thus I began to climb the small slope that separated me from the center of the ski-area.

It didn’t work.

However hard I tried, however slowly and concentrated I did what I was taught – the slope was too steep and I kept sliding back down.

Time for plan B: take off the skis, and kick little holes in the slope as to make some stairs to climb up. I soon discovered that it would be hopeless if I also had to carry my skis, so I decided to abandon them (my superdad could pick them up later). But skis or no skis, the snow on the slope was so hard that I couldn’t possibly make the holes deep enough for me to find some stability.

By that time my sister had also joined me – she had found me struggling at the bottom of the slope and decided she had to help me. So despite my efforts to keep her up (“Don’t come down, you’ll never be able to get up there again!”), she came down. And despite her fighting spirit, we found no solution. We were trapped.

I am not so sure what happened next. I remember getting annoyed by the stiff skiing boots that are great for, well… skiing, but not so much for walking around, and even less for climbing a slope. I remember coming to the conclusion that the only way to get out of there was to circumvent the slope and go through the woods, where the snow was softer and the slope was less steep. However, I have no clue what got me to decide I had to take of my ski boots and walk back through the woods on my socks.

You read that right. I walked through snow that was literally knee-deep (for a 10-year-old) on my socks.

I could have well taken off the socks also...

I don’t know if my sister accompanied me on that crazy adventure (I think I “went out to get help”) – my next memory is of me sitting in the hotel, my feet red as they have never been before or after, rubbed by my mum to get the blood flowing again.

So here’s the lesson: don’t follow your dad everywhere.
Oh, and don’t go out at -9ºC when you’ve just washed your hair. It will freeze. Not that I have any recent experience with that. I just thought… it might be useful to know, maybe. (ahum)

Quote on a Sungday

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People ask for criticism, but they only want praise.

— W. Somerset Maugham

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Saturday “Biodiversity” Smörgåsbord

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2010 was is the International Year of Biodiversity. The IYB is meant to help raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, which goes beyond “I want my children to enjoy it” or “Any species could hold the cure for cancer and thus should be preserved”: biodiversity allows ecosystems to recover more easily from disaster, contributes to climate stability, … . Who wants to read more about it, can get more information here and here.
News on the disappearance of the tiger, of many fish species, … reaches us everyday, and draws a grim picture of the way our planet is headed. However, there áre positive stories of conservation and reintroduction, that show that not only are we capable of wiping entire species from the Earth’s surface: if we put our minds to it, we can take responsibility, reverse the consequences of our actions and book success, giving back other species the space they deserve.

 

Image via Wired Science

Fifteen years ago, America’s last eastern panther population had shrunk to several dozen individuals, riddled with genetic defects and too inbred to survive much longer. In a conservation attempt, 8 females from Texas were introduced to the population, with success: the panther’s population has tripled, and the occurrence of genetic defects is now reduced. In order for the success to continue, additional translocations will be necessary, and the population (and the habitat … ) needs to expand further, but the future is sure is looking a lot brighter for the Florida Panther. (via Wired Science)

Image via De Morgen

The Wild Coffee Forests of Kafa (does “Arabica” ring a bell?) in Ethiopia have been recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The former kingdom of Kafa, 475km southwest of Addis Abeba, holds more than half of the rainforest left in Ethiopia, and harbors a wealth of animal and plant species. As in many countries, the forest was cut on a large scale for decades, to make room for farm land, and for the production of charcoal and building materials. Fortunately however, this has changed, and with the help of Farm Africa, the local farmers have learned to grow coffee, fruit, … indigenous to the region which are less vulnerable than the crop plants they grew before. In addition, they can harvest honey, herbs, … in specified regions in the reserve. The new approach has been a success for both the farmers and the wildlife preservation, and resulted in the UNESCO recognition – a sure sign they are on the right track. (via De Morgen)

Image via US Forest Service

Crawford Path, one of the oldest and most popular recreation hiking trails in the US, used to be home to more than 95 percent of the world’s Robbins’ cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana), concentrated on just one acre of land. However, as popularity with the backpackers increased, the number of Robbins’ cinquefoil decreased accordingly, until the flower teetered on the brink of extinction. A recovery plan was issued, and in a conservation effort that took over 20 years, the plant was gradually reintroduced to the area, until it could be taken off of the list of endangered species some years back – the ultimate measure of success. Follow-up studies now show that the established population has remained stable and healthy, and the beautiful yellow flowers can now be found blooming again on the mountain slopes. (via US Forest Service)

The story of the Iberian Lynx is not a success-story (yet), but it may very well become one, and a very remarkable one at that. One major threat of biodiversity is the introduction of new species, which can easily destabilize a whole ecosystem: viruses previously unknown can do unseen damage to indigenous species who never had the chance to build resistance, new predators can virtually kill an entire species – the list of human-introduced invasive species is impressive. However, climate change may cause this type of invasion part of the strategy to save entire species. While this sounds contradictory, it may prove to be useless to preserve a species in its “natural” habitat, as that habitat changes and becomes unlivable for the “saved” animal. Other regions, on the other hand, may develop to be a more suitable habitat than the “historical” one. However, the widespread occurrence of one particular species (i.e. Homo sapiens) may strongly inhibit the animals to reach the new Promised Land. So why not help them a hand? It is called assisted migration and seems highly interesting, albeit controversial. But who knows, it may be the preservation technique of the future (and is certainly easier to do than genetically manipulate to species to adapt to its changed environment). (via Oregon Expat)

 
There is much more that could be done – that should be done, even, and it is highly unlikely we will be able to stop the rapid extinction of species any time soon, but the above stories show that it is possible, and that, in and of itself, opens possibilities. Who wants more positive stories may find some on the site of the Nature Conservancy, or just keeps an eye on his/her local journal: positive stories are everywhere, you just have to want to find them.

This post wasn’t very labor-intensive

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Remember my !!! Smörgåsbord from Saturday?

Well, here’s what I’ve woken up to for 3 days now:


 
 
 
And if that’s not enough, my sister sent me this pic today:

I'm gonna be an aunt!

But ssshht… ;)

Städdag (aka cleaning day)

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Today was “städdag” at work, aka cleaning day. Apparently, next week we will have inspection and everything should be clean and tidy which, in a biochemistry lab, isn’t exactly… easy.

Many people have this idea about scientists and their lab where it is always dirty, with dust piling up on old equipment, mold growing in the fridges, bacterial cultures and reagents which have been standing there for years, desks piling with articles and grant applications, … .

I will tell you this: it is all true.

My working space... it only looks this nice after cleaning day.

I have worked in 4 labs until now, and it has been the same everywhere I went. In theory everything is perfectly organized, but reality shows a different picture … . I don’t know where this stems from: whether we are just so occupied with our work we don’t have time to clean, whether we are immune for dirt and just ignore it, or whether it is simply because we have to clean our own desks. The thing is: in most companies there are cleaning ladies/gentlemen who take care of the hygienic situation at work and who clean the desks etc. In a lab, however, that is not possible. You cannot simply throw everything out in the sink or the bin, go over it with a sponge and that’s that – there’s some toxic substances around, which should be disposed of properly, and other substances which are not exactly toxic, but could cause trouble when mixed. Basically, you need a masters degree to be able to clean up a lab. In others words: we need to do it ourselves. And thus, every so often, a day is organized on which everybody puts on their lab coats, disposes of molded cultures, old buffers, and cleans up a drawer or two (the rest is for next time).

We had to be in the lab at 9. I woke up at 9.45. I’ve always been great at making good impressions on crucial days. So, to make up for my being late, I took on the kitchen. And whoever thinks that was the easiest part in the lab, think again. We found cereals that expired in 2002 (I must have been in kindergarten when those where bought), and some Tupperware boxes have been thrown directly in the bin: there is no way they could have been sanitized ever again, and I’m pretty sure inhalation of the spores of whatever was inside would have had us landed in hospital had we dared to open them.

Anyway, we survived (and got free pizza from the department for lunch!), but I just hope the inspection here is not half as strict as it was back in Ghent, cause I don’t think we would pass… .

But best of all – tonight I finally managed to ask my professor about Christmas holidays: I was planning on taking the last week of December and come back January 3rd because he didn’t seem too happy on me taking a week of to be with T last time, and I didn’t want to piss him off… but he suggested himself I’d take the first week of January also because, well, nobody would be in the lab anyway. So I’ll actually have TWO WEEKS of Christmas holidays! Yey for me!

Quote on a Sungday

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I love life…Yeah, I’m sad, but at the same time, I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like…It makes me feel alive, you know. It makes me feel human. The only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I’m feeling is like a beautiful sadness.

— Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park)

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Saturday “!!!” smörgåsbord

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Initially the Saturday Smörgåsbord was intended as some kind of “happy news” item since I read this post by Jane from They call me Jane in which she sadly had to discover that while bad news is free, good news seems to come at a price. Literally. So I thought: why don’t I try to gather the positive things I read on the internet and post them according to some theme? But I quickly started to digress and instead just came up with whatever 4-5 items I could find on whichever theme came up in my head this week. So while I’m gonna try to return to that original spirit in the future, this week I’ll give you some things that may not directly make the world a better place, but that make me happy – which in a way is selfish, but as I often say: it is hard to make other people happy unless you’re happy yourself. So here goes my !!!-list:

 
Being with T makes me happy. It is not easy – it never has been and I don’t think it ever will be: 2 sets of female hormones multiplied gives not linearly or even squared, but exponentially magnified emotions. We are very different, we come from very different backgrounds and we have different interests, I sometimes feel we have more stuff keeping us apart than we do keeping us together. But in the end, after 2 years (yes, that’s a record, applause!) it’s still us. Her and me. Me and her. Us. We. And it makes me happy.

 
My new friends here in Lund make me happy. Many of them will be leaving soon, because that is how it goes in science: projects of a year, 2 years – people come and people go as the seasons change. It is hard for me, I like to build up something durable, friendship that lasts, and I find it not so easy to invest in a relationship which you know will end in 2 months. But that’s what I’m here to learn (well… partly) and judging by the people I’ve already met, I’m sure I will meet many more, interesting, lovely new friends.

I love snow! I admit – I had forgotten all about how wet and cold it can be if you actually have to wait for an hour to catch the bus after a Lady Gaga concert at 1 am, but there are few things that give me such pleasure as taking a long walk through a snowy landscape on a freezing clear blue sky-morning. There is something about the serenity of it that is soothing, and calming. So I was very happy when yesterday I woke up and saw the snow whirling from the sky… it only lasted a day, and I am so looking forward to the thick blankets of snow I hope will be covering Lund soon – and long. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to ski again this year … . Now thát would make me happy.

Dancing the Lindy hop in Atascadero, Californi...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned my love of dancing before, but just in case I didn’t: I LOVE dancing. Tomorrow will be my last class of Lindy Hop this semester, which I’ve been dancing as a lead (never like a guy to tell me what to do :) ), and while it’s becoming more and more challenging, I’m already looking forward to the second series next year. For those who don’t know Lindy Hop: Wikipedia and YouTube are your best guides. The best thing is you can dance solo jazzroutines, if you like, or grab a partner – anything goes. Also: it is one of the few partner dances where the girl actually also has a say (unlike the stiffer ballroom dances I have done before). I love watching, I love the jazzroutines and I love the partner-Lindy, there is just so much joy to be found and variations are endless. So if you like dancing and haven’t done it yet: do Lindy Hop. You’ll love it. I promise.

“From November 10 to 20: Change your profile picture by a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do likewise. Why this game? So we can see a real invasion of childhood memories on Facebook!”
I am normally not one to follow Facebook-statuses… but I did this time, and so did many of my friends. And it indeed brought some great childhood memories back.

 
(For more !!! visit Momalom or Bad Mommy Moments.)

Merry Christmas!

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Sunday I’ll be going to Copenhagen with some friends to visit a certain museum (the fact that I don’t even remember which one only shows how eager I am to visit museums) (It’s not like I don’t wanna go. I do. I feel I have to work on my general culture/knowledge. But that’s really the only reason I’m going. That and my friends :).) and as we were making arrangements, one of them suggested we’d go a bit early so we could taste a bit of the “Christmas atmosphere”.

Is it Christmas already?

The thing is: she’s right. It is perfectly possible to go to a Christmas market mid-november. I was in Copenhagen last weekend. I was in Göteborg the day before when there was the grand inauguration of the first part of the walk of light (3,4kms in length) and the christmas market at Liseberg. And you know what? It ruins Christmas.

Seriously.

I like Christmas, I really do. I like the tree and the presents and the lights and the candy and the christmas market and everything else surrounding it. I even like the family dinners, uncomfortable as they are. And the cities are simply beautiful in the evening, with christmas carols playing and lights everywhere.

But it’s too much too early – Sinterklaas hasn’t even come yet! (the fact that Sinterklaas (the ‘real’ Santa Claus) doesn’t come to Sweden or almost any other country is thereby completely irrelevant.) And really, I get cranky from all this Christmas stuff. Christmas means holidays, so I get all happy and holiday-ish – until reality strikes: I got to work another 5 weeks. It’s depressing. But at least they’ve gotten rid of the “X-mas” thing that seemed to dominate decorations the past few years … .
Christmas lasts one day, but it’s celebrated for almost 3 months: once Halloween has passed, the Christmas decorations quickly take their place (when I was shopping for my Pippi-costume on October 30th, the boxes with Christmas cards and stuff were already standing in the store, ready to be unpacked and placed in the racks) and they won’t disappear before end of January (or if they do, they are replaced with Valentine stuff. which is worse.). So basically, we celebrate Christmas 25% of the time.

I suggest we bring this percentage down. Drastically. And thus I present: my personal Christmas-celebration-manual.

Tivoli, Copenhagen

First of all, I like the lights in the city – it’s a bit depressing and all, this whole winter- and early dark-thing – so they can stay. But I don’t want to see any Christmas market, fake smiling Santa’s, toy commercials, decorated trees, Christmas cards, … before December 6th. December 15 (my mother’s birthday) you’re allowed to set up the tree: this gives you 10 days of counting down. 10 days is a nice number to be counting down from, and then you can actually look forward, because it’s REALLY coming closer. Next, there is a week of holidays between Christmas and New Year – yey! The tree and everything else can then stay another week or so, but by January 6 (Epiphany) all decorations should go back in the box, until next Christmas.

It will be a great month.

Rudolf, employee of (next) month

So here I am

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… on my own again.

I will have to get used to it – a fact which was demonstrated only now when I got home and wanted to open the front door by pressing the handle instead of using the key: for the past 2 weeks, someone was waiting for me here, and the front door wasn’t locked. It was great fun and we travelled around quite alot, although I managed to arrange some drama here and there with tears on both sides – I really have to learn when to shut up. Or actually, simply to shut up. Generally I know perfectly well when I should, the problem is I don’t. Maybe I’ll come back to this later, when I’ve arranged my thoughts on the subject a little bit better.

We’ve taken a whole lot of pictures, and thus I take advantage to change my header image to something of my own making – the Öresund bridge is very pretty, but everything is just so much prettier when you made it yourself ;). Below is the complete stitch (click to enlarge) which is unfortunately too wide for the header. I’ll try to post some of the better pictures in a later stage, once I’ve had the time to sort them all out and photoshop those in need of a straight horizon (seriously, one would think half of the pictures were taken while standing on a rocking ship!), but right now I’m just tired and wanna go to bed – I have just gotten home from work (it’s 10 pm) and it’ll be early day tomorrow (don’t feel too sorry for me… I only showed up at work around 1 pm today). Oh, and there’s 200+ posts waiting in my feed to be read…

Tomorrow…

Kullaberg, Sweden (courtesy from myself)

Quote Poem on a Sungday

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I know that love is spring.

The snow fell slow and monotone
as if saying … oh well, let’s get it over with.
It was much too late for the time of year,
there was green.

And while I was keeping you warm,
and held you in my arms,
there fell a large white flake
on our kiss.

That’s how things go with love,
snow falls on the fire,
The first time, it makes you jump,
but it grows on you eventually.

I love you, I love you,
a day, a year, a life.
I know that love holds lots of spring
but also bits of snow.

— Toon Hermans

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