May 31, 2005

Interruption of service

I don't think I'll be able to post much in the coming days. The conference I am organising will be this weekend, and one of my PhD students will defend her thesis next week. In addition the Danish Chemical Society is having their annual meeting next week and there are different things for the Society's secretary (yours truly) to take care of. The highlights:

1. This weekend's conference: There are always last minute cancellations and people that need hotel rooms or have problems getting visas. But knock on wood, everything is going well so far. The printers will deliver the book of abstracts tomorrow. In the end we let the man from Azerbeidjan register for the conference. I asked him about his travel plans and he said unfortunately he couldn't make it, but had we published his abstract and could we please send him a copy? I'll send him a bill for not cancelling his registration by the deadline (since we'll have to pay for his room), and if he pays that, I'll send a copy of his abstract.

2. My student has done a great job, nice research results, professional thesis. I will be sad to see her go!

3. I was able to nominate both of the plenary speakers for this year's meeting of the Danish Chemical Society. One will talk about the chemistry of the kitchen, and the other about atmospheric chemistry and climate change.

Welcome back in about a week's time.

May 28, 2005

Woody wierdness

SULLIVAN, N.Y. A woodpecker that's attacking his own reflection is breaking mirrors and wreaking havoc in a central New York town. Car owners are covering their mirrors with plastic bags to curtail the wild woodpecker's mischief.

The fuel that feeds you

I'm no poetry nut but that last poem didn't seem to do too much damage so here is another one. I found it via a great website run by a Baptist minister in Texas. The poem itself is from this site.

Hidden, by Naomi Shihab Nye

If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will benearly invisible
as if the stone has swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

May 27, 2005

Walleye fry

There was a post on Primate Brow Flash about a ski resort in the canton of Uri in Switzerland. Over the last 20 years the glacier there has receded by 20 meters from one of the lifts. To solve the problem the resort had a glacier cover built that they spread out in the summer and then take in again for ski season. This got me started thinking. We all know about the headline-grabbing effects of global warming (increased temperature (NOAA) , epidemics), at least I think we all do, or at least should do. But nobody has really gone looking for the really obscure signs of global warming. Here goes!

1. This one is from a high level source at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The DNR raises walleye fry in shallow ponds. It relies on these ponds freezing in the winter in order to clean out different predators. Recent winters have not been cold enough and so they have started cleaning them out using a product called Rotenone.

2. They have started to produce wine in England, Denmark, Pennsylvania and New York State. A few decades ago this wasn't possible, but the growing season is 2 to 3 weeks longer now each year, allowing the mediterannean vines to thrive at mid-latitudes.

3. This one is due to my brother Lowell-- opposums have been moving north steadily for decades. They used to only be found south of the Mason-Dixon line-- now they are moving into Canada.

4. They are planning a huge sea gate to prevent flooding in Venice, a consequence in part of higher sea levels.

May 26, 2005

Wildlife biologists told not to use genetics

Somebody described Star Wars as 'Space Opera'. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just think of politics that way, as grand theater, a Wagnerian Opera, a Greek tragedy. This approach would maximise entertainment and minimize the psychological impact of policies created by boneheaded ideologues.

Click here for the full article:

Biologists Ordered to Ignore Genetics of Endangered Species
New Fish & Wildlife Service Edict Sparks Internal Protests Over Censoring Science
WASHINGTON -- May 24 -- A new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service policy forbidding its biologists from using wildlife genetics to protect and aid recovery of endangered and threatened species has set off a firestorm of criticism both inside and outside the agency.

May 25, 2005

This just in from the lab

Here's a letter a student just sent me:

The craziest thing happened yesterday. We'd ordered some bottled air for the experiment and were filling up the chamber. Suddenly ozone increased,temperature increased and everything was acting weird. Since it had happened right after we changed a bottle we took the suspicious bottle off andeverything returned to normal. Then we analyzed the bottle on our MS and it contained ~60% O2 and ~40%CO2! Turns out this is a mixture used by the meat industry to preserve the red colour of meat. The meat industry! They'd given us sausage air!Well, that cost us a day of experiments, but will make for a funny story (perhaps it will be featured in the conference speak...).


For someone who I love very much. Happy birthday!

Song for a fifth child

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat a cake, darling, and peek, peek a boo
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard ther's a hullabaloo
but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait til tomorrow,
but children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs, dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby, babies don't keep.

May 24, 2005

Doubt is their product

Here is a great article on the industry of generating the appearance of scientific doubt in order to stop legislative action. Several interesting examples are given of how industry lobbyists were able to prevent sensible environmental standards for beryllium, lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, chromium, benzene, benzidine, nickel, and a long list of other toxic chemicals and medications. Thanks once again to Primate Brow Flash.

May 23, 2005

To do is to be

The existentialists say existence precedes essence.
You are what you do.
You are what you choose to do.
You are what you eat, and what you think, and what your hands and eyes are up to.
Martin Luther said, if you are working, you are not sinning.

May 22, 2005

Kid Jokes

Here are two of the many fine jokes making their rounds among 8-year olds in Sweden.

What do you get if you subtract zero from twenty?

There are eight birds sitting on a wire and a hunter shoots one of the birds with a rifle. How many are left?

Click on comments below for the answers.

May 20, 2005

Evolutionary Medicine

The goal of evolutionary medicine is to understand medical conditions through the eyes of evolution. One of the best examples is sickle cell anemia. About 1 in 12 blacks worldwide carry the sickle cell trait (but only about 1 in 400 develop the disease), and it is also found in middle eastern and indian populations in areas where malaria is found. When the red blood cells of a person with the sickle cell trait are invaded by the malaria parasite they stick to the blood vessel walls, loose oxygen, change into the sickle shape and are removed from the body, removing the parasite at the same time.

Another example involves 'vitamin D' which refers to a group of alcohols that help with calcium metabolism. They are formed when ultraviolet light from the sun is absorbed by sterols found in the skin. The problem is how to generate vitamin D in the north-- not only are there the long dark months, but also the sun is always lower on the horizon, so light must pass through more atmosphere to get to the surface, meaning that there is less UV left even at midsummer. The evolutionary adaptation involves skin pigment. Near the equator humans have developed darker skin to protect themselves from UV light, which can cause mutations, skin cancer and other problems. In the north there is the opposite problem. Light skin and hair have developed to make it easier for the body to synthesize vitamin D from the photochemical modification of fat-soluble alcohols into sterols-- grouped together as vitamin D. (Of course nowadays we add vitamin D to milk so it is no longer a problem.)

I read an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday regarding type 1 diabetes which occurs almost entirely in people of northern european descent. The author had the theory that the disease occurs as a consequence of a glaciation that occurred 12,600 years ago that hit Europe and expecially northern europe quite hard. Populations were forced to adapt or become extinct. When humans get cold, the first response is to shiver-- the activity of the muscles generates heat. But as it gets colder a different mechanism takes over-- the body starts to burn brown ('adipose') fat, and high levels of glucose are needed for this biochemical process to be efficient. In addition elevated blood sugar prevents the water in cells from forming ice crystals when they freeze, preventing frostbite and its complications. Thus people with type 1 diabetes have an evolutionary advantage for surviving in cold climates. The theory is that this adaptation developed at a time when the average lifespan was about 25 years, which is not long enough for the disadvantages of the disease to show up. Doctors have noticed a seasonality in blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetes patients-- they are typically elevated in the winter relative to the summer. Most type 1 diabetese patients are diagnosed in the winter. The other northern humans-- inuits/eskimos, didn't face this sudden evolutionary pressure to adapt, and don't develop the disease. They came to northern areas earlier and have had more time to change. One adaptation is in the shape of the body. They tend to have barrel chests, flat noses and smaller hands and feet. The larger lung volume helps to survive while breathing cold air. I just learned that most of the world's inuit live in Denmark/Greenland, followed by Alaska, Canada and Siberia.

May 18, 2005

Rock on

Here is an unforgettable link sent by Eldon Potter, frontman of the Treefrogs. You have to see it to believe it. Imagine that we share the Universe with beings like this!

Blogger's Passtime

Blogger's Passtime: If you see someone playing the game (see 'Interview Game'), you can ask them to post five questions for you to answer on your own blog. Here are my answer's to Kate's questions, Kate of Kate Sandwiched.

1. Why does Johnny Cash remind you of your father?

Like Johnny Cash, my father outsold the Beatles in North America in the late 1960s. They both did military service as young men, my father in the Pacific in WWII and Cash in Germany in the 1950s. They both had humble beginnings. JCs medium was music and my father's the pulpit, but the message of both was advocating the dispossessed-- my father working with troubled youth and alcoholics, Johnny giving a voice to those who needed it, for example American Indians and prisoners.

Now I certainly don't know Johnny Cash anywhere near as well as I know my Dad and so anything I say about Johnny is me seeing his undoubtedly carefully managed public persona and projecting my own thoughts onto that. Here goes! The music goes straight to the reptile brain, there is a fundamental biological tie that is similar to the tie I have to my father. Johnny's music is deceptive-- so simple so my intellectual brain is tempted to trivialize it or make fun of it, and this is the beauty of any great thought, deceptively simple, revolutionary-- I Walk The Line, Boy Named Sue, Ring of Fire. Similarly, my father has a way of talking that can seem trivial but at the same time is revolutionary with its focus on empowering the individual. He may ask you about the weather or your health, or them Twins and when he does it it means nothing and everything. It is existential-- you are a spiritual being in the moment, you are being invited to walk the line. Although unlike Cash my father has been inducted into neither the Rock and Roll nor the Country Music Halls of Fame, he can hold a room and he has a dangerous twinkle in his eye. Style: Cash never adopted the glittery dress normally associated with country/western acts and instead became the man in black, accorcing to his obituary it was 'symbolic of his intolerance of injustice.' (Note that my father is still very much alive!!) My Dad told me once that when he first moved to the church in Owatonna some of the members told him he should get some nicer shoes, that he needed to look sharp to represent the image of the church (including the country club set). That wasn't my father. I remember how he polished the same pair of plain black shoes week after week to prepare for the Sunday services-- an action of respect, utility, economy, comfort. Rather than the church representing the business owners my father told me the center of mass was with the members who showed up more than once or twice a year-- many of them farmers, just regular folk. And last but not least, like Johnny's wife June, my mother comes from a musical family.

2. What does "get beyond myself" mean?

I have a fair assortment of formative experiences. They are good, they are the foundation I stand on. They are bad, they might cause me to have blind spots. For example I am trying to explore the blind spot I have as a youngest child. It means it is quite normal for me to let others be in charge. When I have a student who looks to me to be a leader, my natural instinct is to duck that role and instead I should make a conscious effort to use it as an opportunity. I expect the students to find their own way, as I did-- mostly I've learned because I have been driven and have pushed myself and when I do something I try to do it right. I need to recognize that for some people it is necessary for a leader to place demands on them in order to perform, to show the way, to set the tone. That's what I'm thinking of.

3.What does "better father" mean?

Partly it means getting beyond myself. I am a bad father sometimes when I am tired and have a hard time paying attention to my kids, I can get snappy. I should take the initiative more often to make just this day or this bedtime story a good one. I had a dream two nights ago where I took Anders (1.5 years) shark fishing. I checked back on him and he had one hooked and I was so proud. It didn't matter to me that he was completely underwater because he was still hanging onto the rod and reeling in the shark. That's my boy! After a few minutes I checked in on him again and he had completely disappeared. In a dream last night I was shouting at Fredrik over some little thing. These dreams are warnings.

4. What does "better teacher" mean?

See answer to # 2. Sometimes it all comes down to engagement and a willingness to listen and a willingness to help. I know I teach until I am tired in my mind and body, I give it all the resources I have at hand. Is it enough? Is it ever enough?

5. You say that "the message of Christ" lives in Johnny and in your dad. Does it live in you too?

I try to do my best. I'm probably a pretty shallow Christian but I try to use what know and I feel like it is a fundamental part of my being. I seek and try to learn. My reflex is not always to help.

May 16, 2005

From Bromley to Kenosha to the red planet with a bang

Here's a good quote from Bick:

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
-H.G. Wells, writer (1866-1946)

Made me think about Herbert George Wells, (as opposed to thinking about GHWB), a quite interesting fellow and the youngest of four. His father was a gardener, shopkeeper and professional cricket player in Bromley England. H.G. broke his leg when he was 8 and passed the time reading, which changed the direction of his life. Later his father had an accident which ended his cricket career and the family was forced to send their sons out as apprentices, H.G. going to the local draper. He was a failure as a draper and turned to the world of ideas-- science and socialism, he won some scholarships and became a writer. One of his best known works is The War of the Worlds (Pearson's Magazine, London, 1897) in which he foresees the invention of the infrared laser:

'Many think that in some way they (the Martians) are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This intense heat they project by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, in a parallel beam against any object they choose... However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat is the essence of the matter...Whatever is combustible flashed into flame at its touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls on water incontinently that explodes into steam.'

Wells' War of the Worlds was used in a radio broadcast in 1938 by a man from Kenosha Wisconsin by the name of Orson Welles, no relation. Orson's mother passed away when he was 9 and his father started drinking, and Orson had to fend for himself.

In one novel in 1914 Wells wrote about a process that would speed up the rate of radioactive decay. In the novel this invention was used to create bombs of incredible force. The physicist Leó Szilárd acknowledged that the book inspired him and led to his discovery of the nuclear chain reaction.

Things to blog about.

1. Why Johnny Cash has always reminded me of my father (deep voice, authentic, you can see how the message of Christ lives in them...)

2. Overcoming myself in order to be a better father and teacher

3. Its spring and our house is surrounded by flowers-- cherry trees, apple, lilacs, tulips.

4. Yesterday we went fishing for greenbone (garpike) at a little harbor town and saw a half dozen people or so go swimming. They were teenagers on the cutting edge of the season and they screamed with pain and excitement.

5. We planted a linden tree on Saturday and I built an octagon of stone bricks around it. That was fun-- put a stone cutting blade on the angle grinder in order to cut triangular bits to fit the eight corners. The enterprise generated an enormous cloud of fine dust and I was covered from top to toe when the stones were finished. But you can't help liking any job that involves leather gloves, ear protection, goggles, a breathing mask, a shower of sparks and a hammer and chisel.

May 15, 2005

Global Warming

Here is an interesting and readable discussion of global warming from The New Yorker. Thanks for the link to Primate Brow Flash. The CEOs of British Petroleum, Ford, General Electric, Exelon, Duke Energy and Xerox can't be wrong?

"I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created." The Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, New York Times, March 10, 2005

May 10, 2005

Thou shalt not....

I have wished for many years that I could remember more of my father's sermons. I do remember a few real gems though. In one sermon my father told the story of two priests were talking and one priest was complaining that he couldn't get the people in his town to obey the ten commandments, especially 'Thou shalt not steal.' His saying the commandment wasn't enough-- people seemed to have a hard time putting the idea to work in their daily life. They agreed with the idea in principle, of course, and they complimented him on what nice sermons he was giving. It happened that the priest's town was on a river. Loggers upstream would cut trees and mark the ends of the logs with a company stamp and throw the logs in the river, and then at the collection pond just outside town they would sort the logs according to the marks-- if the log didn't have the right mark it would be sent on to the mill in the next town. Finally the priest had had enough and in his sermon the next Sunday he said, 'Thou shalt not cut the ends off of the logs and restamp them!'

I just loved that one because that's how it is, isn't it, we rationalize away and before we know it we have a good reason for cutting the ends off the logs and treating them as our own.

One of my current moral dilemmas is that our neighbor has the world's loudest lawnmower and a knack for firing up the behemoth at exactly the wrong times-- when you are putting the kids to bed, or when you've just fired up the grill and are ready to sit in a chair, breathe in the fresh air and watch the kids play in the sandbox. This lawnmower sounds like a cross between a primitive helicopter and a monster truck-- fast, loud, angry, and looking to gain altitude. I've spent many hours thinking about what to do. Can't buy the guy a new mower. I'd talk with him but he's not so easy to talk to and I don't think he'd take it well. For a while I was considering sabotage pretty seriously. All it would take would be a few shots from a watergun spiked with salt and vinegar to rust out the evil un-muffled demon, and then he'd have to buy a new one. It'd be easy, right? I could hide behind his woodpile (where the rats live) and squirt away, there's no way he would see me from the house.

Another dilemma has been generated by a conference I am organizing. We usually have guests from all over the world. This year, in addition to all the usual applications from the EU, North America, Russia (and even two from Brazil), I received applications from Azerbeijan, Nigeria and Nepal. Only one of the three has submitted an abstract for the program, and they all have yahoo email addresses-- not institutional/university email addresses. I'm pretty sure that all they want is a letter of invitation that they can take to an embassy in order to get an entry visa into the EU, and that they have no interest at all in our meeting. It'd be real easy to just not reply to their letters, but I can't make myself do that. I want to give them a chance to prove themselves and so I ask for abstracts, CVs, lists of publications, a letter from the head of their institution, for faxes, letters and emails. So far Nepal has given up and the man from the 'Azerbeijan National Aeronautic and Space Agency' is looking doubtful. (What is Azerbeijan doing with a space agency anyway? Turns out it's a relic of the Soviet days.) The man from Nigeria is getting indignant, but in that case I know he's a phony because the Danish ambassador to that country has told me that the 'Environmental Ministry' this guy say's he's from doesn't exist. Maybe I shouldn't even try to guard the integrity of Fortress Europe, I certainly don't have the resources, the time or the training. But what if one of these guys has a legitimate interest in atmospheric chemistry? But what if I am responsible for getting some really bad man across the border?

May 09, 2005

The harpoon mechanism

You can run off on the craziest tangents while writing lectures. Tomorrow's lecture will discuss the rates of chemical reactions. There is a special kind of reaction that is unusually fast-- one of the reagents throws an electron at the other and in the process they both become ions. The two ions are then attracted to each other by Coulombic force giving the reaction an unusually large cross section. This kind of reaction is said to take place by the harpoon mechanism, and so I went surfing to find a cool old picture of a whale hunt. Here's part of an old tale of the sea that I found:

The Whale Ship Essex On the 20th of November 1820, the Nantucket whaling ship ship Essex (87 feet long with a 21 man crew) found a group of sperm whales in the South Pacific, the whaling boats were launched and the hunt began. A man named Owen Chase the first mate harpooned a large bull which trashed about with its hugely powerful flukes and smashed a hole in the boat. The men on the boat managed to stuff some cloth into the hole, reluctantly cut the whale loose and made it back to the Essex safely.

This in itself was not an unusual occurrence, whale boats not uncommonly sustained damage from whales and a certain amount was expected. What Owen Chase and the other whalers saw next however was most definitely unusual. The stricken whale had come close to the ship and was swimming headlong towards it, Chase recalled "He came down on us with full speed, and struck the ship with his head ... and he gave us such an appalling and tremendous jar as nearly threw us all on our faces."

The whale had made a hole in the stout timbers of the ship and the crew began to pump out the water and attend to the hole. A few minutes later however and one of the crew shouted out "Here he is - he is making for us again!".

Chase said "I turned around, and saw him ... coming down apparently with twice his ordinary speed, and to me at that moment, it appeared with ten-fold fury and vengeance ... The surf flew in all directions about him, and his course towards us was marked by a white foam ... which he made with the continual thrashing of his tail; his head was about half out of the water, and in that way ... he came upon, and again struck the ship."

May 07, 2005

Phylum Chordata Subphylum Vertebrata Class Actinopterygii Order Beloniformes Suborder Belonoidei Family Belonidae Species Belone Belone

You always hear people who go out fishing say it and I'm no different: it would be fun even if you didn't catch a thing. Watching the waves, seeing the sun on the water and the clouds, a few birds flying around, it can seem like fishing is just something to do with your hands while your consciousness breathes in the natural world. And then, they start biting! These feisty beasts the beak pike like to spear their prey. They hit fast, and either they're hooked or they leave you wondering if that really was a fish, or was it a weed or a rock or just wishful thinking. A few times they would fly out of the water as they tried to skewer my lure from below. Fredrik was getting some bites and then I got one one my hook. He fought like a cross between a northern and a swordfish, dancing on his tail, running fast to the side and then I had him in my net and the hook came loose. There's no substitute for a net! His back was dark dark green and his sides and stomach shiny silver (like the stomach of a Rapala lure), good length, thick body. Then the wind came up, big waves hitting the breakwater and it started to rain so we went home. Cleaned the fish, washed the filets, dipped them in flour and fried the meat in a hot skillet.

The beak pike or horn pike or horn fish depending on if you are in Sweden, the south of Sweden or Denmark, spend winters in the Atlantic and then go to the beach at the Danish/Swedish coast and lower Baltic during the spring and summer to lay low and soak up some rays. The latin name of the fish is belone belone and the English name, needlefish. It amazes me that this fish can roam the high open seas of the North Atlantic and weather hurricaines and then come back to exactly this spot where I am standing and fishing. Another quite amazing property is that this fish has the same smell as good fresh clean fish in Minnesota-- the scent in the air after you've brought in a few bass or crappies or northerns. Beak pike aren't as slimy as northerns but the taste is almost exactly the same, just a little creamier. Yum!

We're going to go out again tomorrow if the weather is right. Fredrik was a little annoyed that I caught one and he didn't, but I told him it was only fair since last year he got one and I got skunked. Anyway, kids do tend to have better luck fishing and that is as it should be.

May 06, 2005


While writing the previous post I was wondering if there was a deeper reason why the worst thing that can happen to you in Sweden is that something could be boring or tedious. I started thinking about when I was in confirmation class and my father told us about Hell. Hell is a metaphor of course, but one basis for the concept is a real place, a valley outside of Jerusalem that was used as a garbage dump and which would sometimes catch on fire. One of the prevalent definitions today is that hell is the absence of God, or hope, a state of loneliness. One interesting point is that in nordic myths hell is a place where it is cold and foggy, whereas in religions originating in the middle east (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) it is portrayed as being extremely hot.

May 05, 2005

Tedious Sweden

The Swedish word traakigt means boring or tedious, but for me at least, it is interesting to see how it is used. Its a very common word, and about the worst thing a Swede can say about a given experience. For example I was reading yesterday's newspaper this morning (today is a holiday, Ascension Day, so there is no newspaper and I don't have to go to work). There was an interesting article about some adventurers who went on a 10 month journey along a river in the heart of Siberia. They got around by canoe and dogsled and became friends with the Inuits. During the winter it got down to -60 F, and at those temperatures you learn what the 'F' stands for.

They had planned for a three-person expidition consisting of a husband and wife and a friend, this was their fifth such trip. The woman handled the logistical planning. About a month before they were going to leave they all had medical checkups and it was discovered that she had a heart defect, and the doctor strongly advised that she not make the strenuous journey. She insisted that her husband and the other guy still make the trip. 'Of course it was traakigt to get this news and have to stay at home' she said, closing the subject in a typically Swedish way.

Traakigt is as bad as things can get in Sweden. Is that why Lou Reed says Manhattan is fine but Sweden scares him?
Note on English spelling of Nordic words:
a with a ring over it = aa
ö=o with a slash=oe
ä='ae' joined as single letter=ae

May 03, 2005

News from behind the iron curtain

I enjoy meeting people from former Warsaw pact countries and hearing their stories. One of the students helping us with experiments right now is from Lithuania. At lunch she was saying how one time she and her friends visited Gdansk, Poland. None of them could speak Polish and so they asked somebody for directions in Russian, and this person pointed them in exactly the wrong direction. The next time, they used English, and the Poles were very friendly.
In another story, some of her friends went on a trip to Minsk in Belarus. The police put them in jail for 2 days for no reason, and then kicked them out of the country. None of them have been back.

May 02, 2005

2d May

How was your day? Here was mine:

6.05 Woken up by a screaming toddler
6.20 Alarm goes off
7.55 Out the door, take F. to school, have a few minutes to talk with his English teacher. Missy is from Florida and loves to talk, much more than I do. Drive out on the highway-- need to get to Copenhagen to get the signature of the Institute Administrator on a final budget that was due to the funding agency a month ago (they gave me an extension). I don't usually drive to work, today's an exception and it ends up working out pretty well to have the car.
8.40 On the road, approaching the last train station in Sweden. Debate whether to park and take the train into town or drive the whole way and pay the toll for the bridge. It is raining cats and dogs (or as they say in Sweden, it is raining nails), and I figure I can stay dry and save time by driving and that I wouldn't get that much work done on the train anyway and that I can get my job to reimburse me for the toll.
8.45 Pay toll, drive over bridge, across the artificial island they built and through the tunnel. Get caught in rush-hour trafic while driving through the city center.
9.30 to 11.30 Get to work. Lots of things to do. Get that d%&/(#¤/ report signed, copied and sent to Oslo together with appendices. Find out how quickly I can get the external censor to correct the exam papers and end up writing a letter to the administration warning them we will be late in reporting the results. Try to find the gas samples that were sent by overnight express from the US 10 days ago. Turns out the Danish customs office won't release 'toxic gases' and they want to see me about it in person. Try calling the immigration office about my work permit but, just like the last 30 times I called them there is not even room in the phone que for my call. Make some more calls and track my package to the freight terminal at the airport-- arrange to stop by after lunch.
12.00 quick lunch of Danish open faced sandwiches. Whole grain sourdough rye with egg & ham.
12.30 driving again.
13.00 get to the airport and they actually give me the toxic gases rather quickly. I think they were glad to be rid of them. The airport is by the bridge so by 14.00 I am driving back to Sweden.
14.45 get back to Maxlab. Talk to students about the weekend's experiments. Problems with the program that runs the spectrometer. Manage to solve some problems.
17.30 Get home, dinner, kids playing outside then time for bed.

My wife read an article in a parenting magazine where they asked parents what they had given up in order to have a family, and 98 % said 'friends.'

May 01, 2005

The beak pike are calling

The exact timing depends on the weather and the moon, but there is a window of about 3 weeks each year when the 'beak pike' swim close to shore, offering some of the best fishing found in these parts. The fish are long and thin, like a northern pike on a low carb diet. They are silvery and have long beaks full of sharp teeth, kind of like the garr I remember seeing in the Isaac Walton league cabin at the Steel County fair when I was a boy. I hope to get out to the coast next weekend with Fredrik. Last year he almost brought one in. When they're hooked they like to dance on their tails, flashing in the sun. Their bones turn green when you cook them and they taste great, tender white meat, a little creamy. In Denmark they call them 'horn fish.'

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