May 31, 2006

Dreams: No exit, no pizza.

1. I knew that my visit to Paris's Metro would come back to haunt me, and last night it did. I was stuck in an underground maze in three dimensions, one part airport terminal, one part shopping mall, one part sports stadium interior, all parts French. I needed to find my way to the regional train system to catch a train to Sweden that had left 20 minutes before my dream. I read the televised train departure information. I walked across the sloping floor and took an elevator to another level. I could have been hundreds of meters underground for all I knew and the best part was that there was NO EXIT.

2. I was visiting home and my father ordered a pizza from New York, New York, and I had to go pick it up. I had 10 or 15 minutes to make the drive from Minnesota. It was a dark and windy night. I was driving a Mack truck from the 60s with a 27-speed hyperplex transmission known as the 'triple crown'. The best part was that when you were using the middle crown of gears you could spray fuel directly into the gearbox resulting in a super-overdrive. Just when I had climbed into the cab of the truck my alarm went off. NO PIZZA.

May 16, 2006

Merci de votre comprehension

I worked in Paris last week, and had a chance to see a few of the sights. You could not turn around without seeing an advertisement for The DaVinci Code. The movie promoters had bought half of all of the advertising space (the movie opens the 2006 Cannes festival), both above and below ground. The remaining half of the space was covered with pictures of Peter Falk as Colombo in front of his old Citroen selling auto insurance, proclaiming 'Pas de problem!'

For the most part we worked, from early in the morning until late at night. The first day we worked until around 10 pm and then found our way to a restaurant for dinner, where we ordered fondue. The waiter lit a burner beneath a smallish cauldron of bubbling oil, and laid out forks with long handles and a platter of cubed beef. Tres bien.

One day I happened to read an article in the New York Times about how run-down the Universities of France are, especially those in the suburbs of Paris, take for example the campus in Cretein I was visiting. I thought it was understandable that the place was showing its age (peeling paint, a few dings and holes in the walls), since it was built in the 60s, but then our hosts told us that the university was built in the mid-80s. But they had employed a lot of energetic young scientists, including a guy who used to work for me in Copenhagen. The picture is of the apartment buildings in the neighborhood by the university-- those leaf-shaped things (don't they remind you of an artichoke?) are balconies.

One night we went on a tour of the town after finishing the day's experiments. Starting at 10 PM we went from Sacre Cour to Moulon Rouge, then by subway to Les Halles, past Hotel de Ville (the town hall is called 'hotel of the village'), Seinne, Sorbonne, Pantheon, Notre Dam, and ended up at the hotel at around 2.

May 06, 2006

Walk softly and carry a big stick

Just look at all the time that has passed since my last entry. Where did it go? A lot of it went to correcting exams, teaching and taking care of a scientist from Tokyo. He brought a bunch of great snacks with him as gifts-- roasted bread sticks; dried and shredded fish and squid; strawberry cakes.
I took the day off Friday as a flex-time day. I had worked 14 hours the Saturday before helping host a workshop on photochemistry. And I will be working on Friday next week during the Danish holiday 'the great prayer day'. They used to have a lot of holidays named after various saints and there was a general consensus that it was too much, so they gathered all of the 'little' holidays into this one big prayer day. So I thought it was alright to spend the day at home yesterday. I did some laundry and as luck would have it the weather was simply fabulous, so I could hang the wash out to dry on the line. Worked like a charm. Nothing better than line-dried jeans and t-shirts. The clothes were so dry that the county agents declared them a fire hazard and made me take them back inside, away from all the barbeque grills and the cigarette butts being thrown out of car windows. The only thing was that the whole time I was outside in the sun trying to pin my boxers on the line or fold my t-shirts freestyle, the neighbors new dog was growling and barking at me. The dog is out of control-- very aggressive, looking like it is ready to rush the hedge, leap and shred me from nose to ear. And if I feel that way, what effect will the dog have on our toddler?
Next week I will be visiting the University of Paris to do some experiments. I'm really looking forward to it-- have not been to Paris before. I plan to sneak a few peeks at the city, but most of the time I will be working.
Our 9-year old had a scout overnight last night, a big deal for him because they slept in tents. It was of course wonderful weather for such a trip. His scout group owns an old farmstead at the edge of town-- store their tents in the stable and have a meeting room and kitchen in the house. There are some trees and a fire ring out back-- very nice.
I went to pick him up earlier today and watched their closing ceremony. Each kid got a patch with a tent on it that they can sew on their scout shirts. Then they lowered the flag from the flagpole and everyone saluted except for me. It wasn't my flag that was being lowered. I felt a little self-conscious, but that's just the way it is.
Then I spent the afternoon putting an extension onto the top of the fence between us and our neighbors, so we can't see from our kitchen and dining room into the whole south side of their house and vice versa. It also blocks our view of all the junk they have lying in their yard like a rusty lawn mower, a motorcycle and a two story metal staircase. Good fences make good neighbors, as they say. But will the fence have any effect on the dog?

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