January 12, 2005

Hands off my freedom pastry, eh?

One of the points of light in the former Laboratory for Molecular Spectroscopy (former, because one of the guiding principles of administration is that all organizations must be reorganized, all the time) was Else Philipp. If you needed a rare, isotopically-labelled sample of some compound, Else could synthesize it. If you needed a hard to find gas fitting, ask Else. If you are in Stockholm and your plane to LA gets canceled, call Else. Else was cheerful, optimistic and great fun to sit next to at the annual Christmas lunch. But alas, there is no one around these days to punch Else's time card, and her desk sits empty. Why you ask. It's because Else's husband is a diplomat. The first hint we got that something was up was when she started studying French in the evenings. It took about a year before she could tell us why-- Mr. Else is the new Danish ambassador to Canada, and at the end of last summer they moved into the Danish Ambassador's Residence in Ottawa.

It turns out that Canadian-Danish relations are not all that could be hoped for and that the new ambassador has his work cut out for him. The ill-will reached the point where a bill was introduced into the Canadian parlaiment to officially change the name of the Danish to 'Freedom Pastry.' The land of maple syrup and the land of pork are involved in a vicious territorial dispute over an island to the north of Greenland. Each year Her Majesty's Navy sends an expedition to this small rock to put up a Danish flag which they hold in place with a pile of stones. Each year the Arctic winds shred the flag. Each year the Canadian army has exercises on the island to assert their territorial claims. The reason they care is that the ice cap covering the north pole is getting thinner and smaller all the time, and many people believe that by mid-century, THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE will be open. And this island is right in the middle of the shipping lane, a perfect place for a gas station. But whose flag will it fly?


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