Boston truly is one of the most exciting places in the world. It certainly is one of the epicenters of my research topic, and I was able to meet many of the most productive and knowledgabe researchers in that field. So now I have a lot of things to look forward to. First and foremost of course seeing Line and my family again, then the marvelous vacation we're going to take, finding a new place in Basel, and finally getting to work on my PhD project in Mike Hall's lab. What more can you expect from your last major summer holiday...
You can learn so many interesting words by just watching ads on TV:
- male enhancement: I love the fact they dedicate 3 minutes of TV ads to a product providing "male enhancement" but they don't actually say what it does. Well ok, you do get SPAM, so you probably know
- total rootkill: Refering to a weed killer that kills the roots of the evil plants but not the good ones. Sorry to disappoint all the Unix users.
- ultimate ice man fighting: a mixture of Thai kick boxing and wrestling, taking place in a frozen cage... Probably ment for all those fed up with sissy sports such as "normal" boxing.
- whitening coverage: the percentage of space between your teeth that is reached by whitening gel
Today was a beautiful one. I started off by making my traditional weekend lunch, namely waffles with maple sirup and a good hot homemade chocki.Today was a beautiful one. I started off by making my traditional weekend lunch, namely waffles with maple sirup and a good hot homemade chocki. I proceeded by helping Rose, my landlady setting everything up for her big fest today. The jews celebrate Passover this whole week, and so some 25 people or so from her family will visit and have some special dinner. As it was beauuutiful wheather out, I felt inspired to get out and do some street photography, something, you really have to be in the mood for to do some good shooting. Near Coolidge Corner, I discovered the used book cellar from a bookstore that I fell in love with (I bought The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov and The Double Helix by Francis Crick, along with Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Murakami). I then took the T (tram) to Hynes Convention Center, which is next to a long street with a lot of shops and fun people to watch and shoot (with a camera that is). Something in between the Groussgaas and the Champs-Elysés. So that was good. Then I entered the amazing central park of Boston (actually it's two connected parks and I keep forgetting their names). I've been there before, but now that it's really getting hot out, it was beautifull with tons of people. I strolled a bit around, before continuing to Chinatown, which at that part of the days smells like an Asian Gourmet's heaven. I bought an Iced Tea at DD which actually is freshly made and consists of Ice and Tea (and a lemon). That was much more refreshing and good than what I had expected (like that Lipton/Nestea junk) and I set in the park for a while, eating my donuts, enjoying the sun, Chopin / Guns and Roses (it's actually a nice combination) and my books.
When I arrived back things were heating up at Roses place, and after a while I left for my lunch out with the guys from my lab. June and her husband had suggested a Japanese Shabu-Shabu restaurant (called Shabu Zen, in 70 Boylston Av). I ran into Kristen on my way there, and we found Cheryl already waiting at the restaurant. June and Taka did the ordering, and we got a million plates with tasty tasty food to do some delicious shabu-shabu-ing. If you don't know the food it's kind of a fondue in a special broth, sort of what we call fondue chinoise. Highly yummy!
Most of us non Americans know of ready-made cookie dough from the Simpsons etc, but you gotta give it to them: It may be an invention for the very lazy, but it sure is a sweet one!
I became aware of these awards given each year by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. Basically, they give the awards to people violating this freedom (first amendment). Here are a couple of examples, to show you where the US stand in regards to freedom of speech (not that Europe would be better...):
- In response to the church’s protests, at least 38 states have passed laws restricting how close protestors can get to a military funeral. Yet despite the fact Phelps-Roper had a permit and held her protest well beyond the 300 feet required by the Nebraska protest law, she did something that provided the Bellevue authorities a pretext to arrest her anyway: she allowed her 10-year-old son to place an American flag on the ground and stand on it. When this was observed by a Bellevue police officer, Phelps-Roper was arrested and charged with violating the state’s flag-desecration law, negligent child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and disturbing the peace.
- In the fall 2006 first-degree sexual assault trial of Pamir Safi, Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront granted the defense’s motion to bar witnesses from using the words “rape,” “victim,” “assailant,” “sexual assault kit,” and “sexual assault nurse examiner.” The language ban left all witnesses, including the alleged victim, Tory Bowen, essentially with the same word—“sex”—to describe both consensual and non-consensual intercourse. Prosecutors feared that the ban would damage Bowen’s credibility with the jury. Compounding their concern was that the judge also ordered that jurors were not to be told of the ban. The trial resulted in a hung jury.
Last October, Dawn Herb of Scranton was in her house when one of its toilets began to overflow. With the water leaking through the floor into her kitchen below, Herb yelled to her daughter to get a bucket and mop, and then she let loose a tirade of foul language directed at the toilet itself. So loud was Herb in expressing her frustration that a neighbor heard her. The neighbor, an off-duty officer with the Scranton Police Department, yelled to Herb to keep it down. When she continued, the neighbor called an on-duty fellow officer on the latter’s cell phone to report Herb. That officer arrived and issued Herb a citation for disorderly conduct, a charge carrying a possible sentence of 90 days in jail and a fine up to $300.
So I guess that was that then. Now I'm sitting at the Findel Airport as some guy is trumpeting Heechtecher aus der Stadt, waiting for my flight to Amsterdam, which will depart in an hour or so. The last week was great, I really had a good time at home, but as you certainly could tell from my absent posts, time was always too short. It felt good seeing Line and my parents again, not to forget my friends. We spent a couple of days in Berbuerg, did a lot of cooking (recipes will follow) and in the end I did some more photo shooting in the Palais de Justice, as this was probably the last time I spend in that building where I grew up (the Palais de Justice will move to the Cité Judiciaire at the Helleggeescht, and my parents will move to Berbuerg then), so I took a debilitating amount of pictures. In parallel, we watched Gérard Dépardieu running in front of the building as they were shooting some movie there on Sunday (you wouldn't believe the number of movies that there are being shot in front of the Palais de Justice... Unluckily most of them are crap...). So now I'm looking forward to returning to Boston, even though I feel a bit lonely right now. Guess the next 3 months will pass just as quickly.
In the meantime, I arrived at Amsterdam, probably the only Airport in the world without power plugs...
The rest of the trip went pretty smoothly too. I had so many movies on demand in the small screen in my economy class seat (North West Airlines) that I didn't know what to choose (Tweeney Todd, There will be blood, Atonement, No Country for Old Men etc). So time flew by. In Boston, I took the subway to get home, where I found Rose, my landlady celebrating a 50 anniversary birthday party for a friend. They had invited a drum teacher giving African drum lessons. But they didn't do much harm to my much-needed sleep.
From a recent TV commercial:
If beef was ment to be frozen, wouldn't cows come from the arctic?
That "logic" may sound harmless, but if you think about it, it reminds me of the ramblings of creationists (them again)... As in: If man was ment to live forever biologically why did God stop it from happening
...at least that was what I felt I was eating. The label though was telling me it was a chocolate birthday cake "with artifical flavor and sodium benzoate" that stays fresh for over 1 month...
I realized how quickly you learn to let TV messages right past you. Still I took the time and actually listened to 2 commcercial breaks this morning. Don't know if I should laugh or cry...
- if you want respect, never back down
- they stole the American dream
- 20% more meat than the McDonalds cheeseburger
- Call now (they say that about 1 every minute)
- It's waaay better than fast food. It's Wendy's
- Fall in love with creamy cheese!
- Don't drink energy drinks! Drink 5 hour energy. It's not a drink, it's more of a sip!
- Life tastes better with KFC
- Nothing brings people together like boating
- Eat all you want and still loose weight. And we couldn't say it on TV if it wasn't true. Visit eatallyouwantandstilllooseweight.com now!
... walking home from work at a Friday evening, through a snowstorm and 30cm of fresh snow, empty streets, and listening to Civil War by Guns and Roses. Sweeeeet!!!
Yesterday, I found mysef in a sudden lust for cooking, so I decided to make some pasta sauce for the next weeks. So after buying the meat, tomatos etc, I had to visit the Liquor Shop to buy some wine. That's right, in the US you usually have to visit special Shops to buy ANYTHING containing alcohol. No the thing about liquor shops is that they do not necessary look from the outside like an high-end wine cellar, but more like a second class Sex shop. That doesn't really make me feel very comfortable, in a way that I even stopped buying my traditional every two week bottle of wine like I used to in Switzerland. I'm not a heavy alcohol consumer, but every now and then I like to enjoy a good glass of wine. Visiting the Liquor shop and having to show my PASSPORT, I somehow felt so guilty but I'm not quite sure why. And I'm pretty sure the people they are aiming at with this don't feel the same way. Oh yeah, if you buy higher % beverages than wine, you got to have a Massachusetts Liquor ID, which I think is a good idea but I'm not sure what people have to do to get one, so in the end it could as well be just pro forma... So in the end, I'm not sure if the US model concerning alcohol consumtion is the right choice. I don't like seeing youth (or anybody else for that matter) getting drunk over (often very cheep) alcohol. But you can't just eliminate the problem by making it unavailable until a certain age... But I don't have a better solution either...
Now I regard myself as a healthy living person. However, every now and then I crave for a greasy pizza, and there's nothing like a nice weekend movie evening with a pizza fresh from the oven. In Switzerland, I had found one single brand of frozen pizzas that met my criteria, I have failed to do so here so far. However, I tried two different pizza deliveries, one from The Upper Crust (one of Boston's best pizzarias near-by). They had good pizzas, but it took 1:10 hours for them to deliver (they also told me so while ordering). After some conditioning from TV ads, I tried the Dominos pizza delivery service. They have a great online ordering site, that seems to be designed for geeks like me. And they were accurate by nearly 5 minutes as well. Pizza was great by the way, better than the usual American "Pizza Hut" style.
For those of you wondering if I'm actually still doing science stuff, I can say that I'm setting up a major labelling experiment. This is of somewhat a pain because nobody has used the hot room for 2 years, so I have to scrape some things together and actually managed to find an old Eppendorf centrifuge for 500$. Now I'm expanding my cells, hope they will not sense their upcoming damnation. I'm happy that I have some background working with radioactivity, but handling 5 milli Curies is no joke, one has to prepare the experiments very carefully!
There are actually two things I absolutely like about American food. One is their apples and the choice of apples they have. The second one I only discovered yesterday: Elephant garlic. You'll basically find two sorts of garlic in Trader Joe's, one being gigantic garlic (that's the one you find in Europe), the other being elephant garlic. It's nearly the size of a grapefruit and saves you the pain of peeling and chopping 10 of those tiny ones to get some proper pasta aglio e olio... Fantastic!
I'm convinced that every once in a while, you have to do something that you would never dream of doing. Something absurd, some sort of a paradox to shake the foundations of your everyday life. I'm exaggerating of course, but still, yesterday was one of these days. I've been invited to an informal dinner by the McKinsey consulting company. It's the second invitation I got from them, and to be absolutely honest, I'm not quite sure why they invited me. Of course they got my contact from the Fulbright commission who are sponsoring by studentship, but still.
Anyhow I had decided that I would just drop by for funsies and see what would happen. As a molecular biologist, you don't happen to get invited to such events very often anyway. I could tell you about the jargon used in the invitation and the proposed dressing code, but I'm going to skip those parts. Anyway, I thought I would drop by early, one one hand because I had never been in that corner of Cambridge, but mostly because I was extremely hungry.
I had marked to name of the street, as indicated in the first part of the invitation, 1 Kendall Street, in my Moleskine, and drawn, as usually, a small simplified version of the surrounding streets as well, just in case. Thanks to this, and my sense for orientation, I was standing at 6:30 (RV was 7:00) in Kendall Street. Now it's pretty difficult to describe that particular area of Boston, but if you're familiar with Lynch's movies, you'll get the idea. It was pretty much an abandoned area, some huge construction sites, a couple of very new an luxurious seats of major companies, every now and then a guy in a suit passing by. There was steam coming from the canalisation, and the street was lit by shimmery lights. OK then, I thought, I just walk around a bit until I find the building, then I pass some time and enter. The first building in Kendall Street was an empty parking lot, the second a parking house marked 350 Kendall Street, then the third building was 500 Kendall St and it seemed like a huge conglomerate of several companies. And that's it. No 1, just 350 and 500... Hmm. After a while, I entered the 500 building, and was a bit surprised that I could just walk in there. There was a huge hall, with lots of TVs and fountains and a small waterfall... After some exploration, I found a reception and the guy told me that this was not what I was looking for. I got out, circled the square a couple of times, then finally entered the building, similar to the last one, that marked the corner of Kendall St, while having the address from the main Street. The situation was similar to that other building, apparently this was an luxurious apartment building with some private offices as well. The lady at the desk was quite helpful, even tried finding the McKinsey office or the address I indicated, without any success. Luckily, they had some computers in their lobby, so I used them and checked the invitation again. I discovered that they had indicated two different addresses in the invitation, probably by mistake, one it was 1 Kendall Square and once 1 Kendall Street. As I had established that there was no 1 Kendall Street, I google mapped for the Square and found it a couple of blocks away. So I moved on, by now it was 7:00, and after 10 minutes arrived at the building 1 Kendall Square. Well in fact, it was not a single building, but something like 10 huge buildings, and after a while I discovered a table marking the Blue Room, where we were scheduled to meet. I entered that building, but soon found myself again in front of a reception with a guy explaining me I was wrong here. I had to get out, descend some stairs and was finally at the right place.
Now the evening itself was a bit absurd as well. Not in a bad sense, more in a funny sense. Here I was, a cancer researcher, in midst 30 MBAs (mostly from Belgium as this was organised by McKinsey Brussels and Luxembourg) with most of them either having done an internship at McKinsey or just about to. There were some "scientists" as well, but these were guys doing their PhD in material science etc and then continuing into consulting. Service was fantastic though, we got plenty of drinks and I talked to a couple of people about anything, but I suppose they were all wondering about this mysterious guy that nobody had every seen before. Dinner was very good, and I had one of the best Earl Greys I ever had after the hot chocolate cake dessert, still the discussions over dinner were pretty interesting in an extremely funny kind of way. I must add that I can be fascinated by almost any subject, and I could imagine myself studying a lot of different things, I just happen to have chosen the one I liked most. So it was interesting hearing about money and consulting, and money and private equity, and VC (which does not refer to Viet Cong as I learned) and money, and the Kennedys and.. you get the idea. It was also interesting to hear about the practises of Harvard Business School that some of these guy frequented, I had no idea how these things are actually organised! But of course it was also very abstract, it was a bit like me explaining the principles of Wobble base-pairing to a room of buddhist monks... Each time somebody asked something about why I was there (they didn't really asked it literally, but I could see they wanted to...) I was vague, saying that I was interested in a lot of things and considered a lot of possibilities... After all, I couldn't say that I actually had no idea what I was doing there. Then the discussion turned to Belgian cyclists and their escapades for an hour or so, and finally at 10 or 11, we were leaving. It had been fun after all, much in the same way than yoga and meditation can be fun... And it was the best dinner I had had in Boston so far!