Monthly Archives: March 2011

Happy Pi day!

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Attention – geeky content alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

While I am still utterly confused when I see dates written the ‘American’ way (and indeed flat out refuse to adapt to this) (although that might also have to do with the above mentioned confusion), I am happy to make an exception today – March 14th, aka 3.14. Pi day! And coincidentally (or not!), also Einstein’s birthday.

I find it only fitting that this beautiful number has a day of its own (though really, it deserves at least 3. plus some hours.), but I’m having some trouble deciding on how to celebrate.

Should I memorize as many digits as possible? However… I’m pretty sure I will pale next to this girl:

So… solving a pi-pie-puzzle then, maybe? Nah… last time I ordered a package from the States it took 3 weeks to get here, and there’s no point celebrating in April, is there?

Note this is a DOUBLE-SIDED puzzle...

And while some sources maintain that pi is, in fact, pie

Proof that 3.14 is, in fact, pie.

everyone knows pie is actually 2 pi, so baking in honor of today wouldn’t really make sense either (at least in this universe) …

… unless I would make a spherical pie, of course. Which I would gladly do, but… euh… I forgot eggs at the grocery store. Right! No eggs, no cake. (bring out the disappointment voice – all together now: “oooooooooh”)

I am not quite patient enough to pull off something arty like “Chaos”, a mosaic based on 100 000 digits of Pi after comma

and with even

not helping out any further, I guess there is nothing to do but to sit back, relax and listen to some pi-music
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

while reading silly pi-comics
.

And you, how will you celebrate the geekiest holiday of the year?

via Neatorama, Boing Boing, New Scientist, and Pi Day.

The elephant in the room

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There is one thing that puts a serious strain on my relationship with T. Actually, there’s more than one, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just look at this one for now.

I’m talking about her right shoulder. Or rather, her lack of one.

T’s always been a heavy sporter. She started playing badminton when she was 14 or 15, and when I met her, she was training at least 3 times a week – plus competition almost every Sunday, both individual and in team. She basically grew up in that sports hall (and even dated her trainer for over 6 years). Sports, badminton, her club – that was her life. I was never able to keep her from going to training: whatever it was, it would have to wait.

But some 2 years ago, she had to give up during a tournament because of unbearable pain in her right shoulder. She had been struggling with it for some time, but it suddenly worsened and she was temporarily banned from playing. She still went to train, though without playing, and took physical therapy. When things didn’t improve, sports was banned as a whole, while physical therapy continued. She decided on an operation, during which they couldn’t see anything wrong and therefore just removed some synovial bursae (??). More physical therapy. A homeopath. An acupuncturist. A specialized sports doctor. A different homeopath. She was first allowed play, then not, then she could but no movements above the head, then she couldn’t again. Pain was something she lived with daily, and which no approach seemed to relieve.

By the end of last year, a ‘treatment of the final chance’ was started when she visited yet another specialist, who gave her 3 injection treatments to make a final break with the chronic infection. She was to keep the shoulder immobilized after each treatment until the pain stopped, and encouragingly this time decreased with every treatment. Moreover, for the first time she actually had pain-free days. She was already dreaming of her now dusty rackets when she finally started what should be the final round of physical therapy. Except that she couldn’t – the long immobilization of her shoulder had caused her muscles to atrophy, meaning she effectively had no longer any shoulder muscles. She would have to start from scratch. Very, very slowly. And about 2 months ago, finally, she could start doing low-intensity exercises. She took up running again. So far so good.

Until a few weeks ago, when the pain started to come back. The exercises were cut back, and finally, as of yesterday, completely stopped.

She still goes to after-training drinks, and to competitions, to cheer for her friends from the sideline. But as it becomes more and more clear she might never leave that sideline again, that she might never actually get on court again, she becomes increasingly unhappy. Cheering her up is all but easy – there’s only so many times you can say everything’s gonna be alright, it’s only so long before that looses its credibility. In addition she is much too realistic to let herself be influenced by maybe’s and if’s: as a scientist, she needs proof before she will allow optimism to slip in.
She refuses to adapt her goal – re-enter national competition – though, although she’s been officially removed from the ranking and hasn’t prolonged her membership at her club. I can’t understand why she won’t keep it more realistic, start with being pain-free and be able to cope with the everyday life, and take it from there, I don’t understand why she absolutely has to go running or go to the fitness as soon as the pain diminishes even slightly, and she can’t explain it to me. Words have never been her strongest ally, and thus “you don’t understand” is the only response I get, after which some days of radio silence generally follow.

I go from being sick of the situation and her increasing unhappiness, to wanting to help her but not knowing how. I know there’s no real solution here, and I’ll just have to sick it out until she gets better. I’m just not sure what we’re gonna do if she doesn’t.

International Women’s Day, anyone?

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At the last count, I am currently following 38 blogs, the vast majority of which are personal blogs maintained by women. I’ve often wondered about this, and at one point I actually started looking for interesting, personal ‘male’ blogs – but without much success, leading me to the conclusion that either men don’t have a personal life, or they are not able to write about it. That is, however, not what I want to talk about today. Because I follow all these people, from different nationalities, backgrounds, religions, ages, and even senses of humor, but when I look at what my Reader is presenting me with today, I am baffled.

An interview with Cinderella (which, by the way, was hilarious). Baby bumps. The start of lent tomorrow. One-uppers. Chickens.

Carbon bloody laundering.

It is March 8th!

International Women’s Day, anyone?

The 100th edition of it, even?

I mean, I understand I’m 6-9 hours ahead of the rest of the world, but really? Not even a glimpse of a shimmer of a mention?

And I admit – what are we supposed to write about? What on earth have we, women in over-developed countries, to complain about? We have access to birth control, education (in Belgium, more women than men have higher degrees: 31,5% vs. 27,4%), we can vote, we can build a career if we want to, … sure, we kinda need to work on the equal-pay-for-equal-work-thing, and there’s this “glass ceiling” everyone refers to, but really, has anyone ever seen that?

That’s what I thought, yes.

But only last week, in the Belgian Chamber, an agreement was made that will force listed companies to have (at least) one third women on their Board – currently a mere 6% of board members are female. Yesterday, in Belgium, one woman’s contract was not prolonged at the shop she was working because she refused to take off her veil. Today, during coffee break, the gasps were audible through the uncomfortable silence when one colleague explained she doesn’t want children. Meanwhile, in large parts of the world, women are denied the right to work, to speak, to vote, to refuse men access to their body, to stand up, to organize themselves – even to think.

We are far from gender equality, or even from gender equivalence, if you prefer that term. And yes, that was, is, and will be a desirable, obtainable, and above all necessary goal. Because, as women, we are a group that is systematically denied rights and privileges based solely on the fact that we are women, something we may cherish, love or despise, but which we never chose, and which can therefore never be a ground for discrimination. I am not a feminist, I have much to learn about how the world goes round, and I’m pretty sure I don’t realize half how privileged I am. But it is therefore exactly that I need to commemorate today all those women who have stood up and fought for what should be their birth rights, that I need to raise awareness for the little, unconscious acts of discrimination we even barely recognize as such (how is a man who stays home with his kids not a real man?) and that I really, simple just want to celebrate today, which is my day as well.

Happy Women’s Day everyone!

Eve Ensler’s “Refuses”
International Women’s Day website

… and I’m not the only one, apparently.

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… who’s back, I mean. Because guess who showed up on my doorstep this morning?

T!

I wasn’t supposed to see her until April, which meant we wouldn’t have seen each other for almost 3 months, and to tell you the truth I was starting to contemplate taking a lover of some kind because DAMN 3 months is a bloody long time!

But here she is.

Wíth Belgian chocolate, I might add ;).

Apparently she booked the flights over a month ago, which means she was able to keep the secret that long, and didn’t even blink while I have been nagging her for quite some time now that 3 months is waaaaaay too long to not see each other and we are never doing this again. T may not like surprises, but I do – and doesn’t she know it.

In addition to that, I actually have a promising lab result for the first time in, like, forever.

Aaaaaaaaaaah…. .

This is gonna be a great weekend, I can feel it in my tiny toe.

Surprise!

… and back!

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… or well… sorta… ;).

With over 300 unread blog posts in my Reader, my articles still unfinished, the dishes still waiting to be done (as is the laundry and the ironing) and the experiments still failing, but with 2 handed in grant applications (which I don’t even know I want to get accepted) and still not quite back on my game after a frankly quite tiring outing to Iceland.

And you know what I was thinking when I conjured up the “Add new post” tab?

I have no effing clue what I’m supposed to write about! :D

There you have it, over 2 weeks complete absence in the blogosphere and I got a writer’s block – you’d think I’d have something to say, at least… . Makes one happy they didn’t pursue that ‘I wanna be a writer’-dream, doesn’t it ;).

But I digress…

Iceland! Where anything over a foot tall is called ‘a tree’ and getting lost in the forest is therefore a seldom event – should it occur: just put the cork on the bottle and get up. Where geysers kill you with their foul smell before they boil you, and the tap water is so rich in sulfur your silver rings will turn gold if you dare stay in the bath for more than 5 minutes (true story. only i was in it for over 30 minutes.). Ah yes, Iceland… a beautiful country indeed.

To ease my coming back in the blogosphere (I can’t really be expected to splash 500+ words right at you, can I?), and because pics say more than a 1000 words (or so I heard), here’s some photographic evidence of my trip. Not that these pics were not taken by me and you are therefore not allowed to copy, reproduce and/or alter them in any way.

Do you have the expression "to sell air"? Yes, well, somebody needs to tell the Icelandics it's an expression...


The Strokkur geyser, right before the surface tension breaks. (we were a bunch of scientists on a trip. for us this is cool.)


The plains of Þingvellir, at the Mid-Atlantic ridge, where the oldest parliament of the world (930 AD) used to assemble.


Remember Eyafjallajökull? This is a branch of its gletsjer.


The walking path running behind gives you some idea of the dimensions. Quite impressive.


Sun setting over Iceland's black beaches...


Reynisdrangar rocks - these are trolls turned to stone when they were too late to get to the cave before sunrise - although scientists claim they are basalt uprisings. What do they know, right?


The blue lagoon - more money than it's worth, but you kinda need to have been in an outdoor 38ºC swimming pool while it's snowing at one point in your life.