November 28, 2006

Working at home

My wife is away at a conference. I am working at home & taking care of the kids (transportation, food, entertainment, basic hygeine, etc. etc.). This picture is my workspace on the dining room table. I am trying to finish writing a chapter of a book (a different book, about air pollution, I'm just contributing one chapter). It doesn't happen so often that I am home alone and I couldn't resist using the opportunity to work on some home improvement projects-- painting, light carpentry. These projects have all been on my mind for about three years so its nice to get them done. But I still have the feeling that I am playing hooky by working on my home during a work day. I keep imagining that a film crew is going to come by and document my fraudulent use of company time. I will tell them: Where were you all the weekends and all the evenings when I was working for you on family time, writing a lecture, correcting papers, answering emails, analysing data, eh? Where were ya!?
And, here's a picture of the working man's lunch: a base of three pieces of dense rye bread, diced. Three pieces of fried ham. A two-egg omelette (don't forget a tablespoon of milk for every egg) with cheese, one fried onion, two diced tomatos, washed down with coffee. And, looks like those bananas are ready to eat.

I sat in front of the tube to eat my lunch, what a luxury, haven't done that in years. The choice was between Star Trek Next Generation and Orange County Choppers. Picard was piqued because the new astrophysicist was hogging all the processer time with her model of star formation. Paul Teutul Sr. was getting bent out of shape because they were behind schedule. (Isn't this the plot of every episode??) . 'If this project was moving any slower it would be going backwards!' The Teutul family won-- the bike had barbed wire spokes and an ace of spades pattern on the seat. I just love watching stuff get put together.

November 26, 2006

News from home

Our younger son is recovering from a bout of Scarlet Fever. You may remember this disease from literary classics like Little Women and The Velveteen Rabbit-- and it was Scarlet Fever that blinded Laura Ingalls Wilder's big sister Mary, and killed Victor Frankenstein's mother. So, my wife took our son, fevered, red as a strawberry, to the clinic and the nurse didn't know, and she asked a doctor who asked another doctor and they took blood and saliva and did some tests, and figured out what it was. (I had thought it might be a disease known as 'slap cheek'.) They prescribed penicillin, and after a couple of days the little guy was almost himself again, apart from dried rash covering his face and desquamination on his hands. (That means that the skin peels off). I was home from work a couple of days to take care of him, so was my wife. Right now he is watching Avatar with his big brother, and none of the rest of us got it....

A big pheasant rooster walked through our yard yesterday to wish Happy Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2006

Steger speaks to churches

Thanks to my priceless friends Tim and Francesca for pointing out this news item:

ST. PAUL - Will Steger's message about global warming is drawn from his own expeditions to the planet's frozen reaches, and it is stark: The Arctic is unraveling, he says, and with it the future prospects for polar bears, seals and even Eskimo culture.

And the world-renowned polar explorer is finding an audience for this in a place he didn't expect - Twin Cities churches.

Steger urges audiences to reduce oil consumption and become more energy efficient, and to support efforts toward more use of wind energy, biofuels and grass-based ethanol.

Church leaders said it's a message they want churchgoers to hear. "It started with congregations coming to us, asking for assistance in addressing environmental concerns," said the Rev. Mark Peters... "It's not rocket science to connect our faith to issues of global warming and why we are concerned."

Steger said he couldn't have given his presentation a year ago because it was simply too direct.
"I would have been accused of using scare tactics with people," he said. "That is one thing that really has changed."

Steger said church audiences are ideal for his message. "For me, it's a moral issue," he said. "People are seeing this is a real thing, and there's a moral obligation to act."
To me almost nothing could make more sense than to link faith and environmentalism.

November 20, 2006


I went to dinner a couple of weeks ago with some Danes and some Germans. Someone said how the Danish dream was to sit with your friends and be comfortable (they have a special word for this, 'hygge', it is an art form in Denmark.) I said sometimes it seems like the American dream has been buried under consumer goods from Wal Mart. Someone said that the Swedish dream was a perfect midsummer celebration, dancing around the maypole, eating strawberries, flowers in your hair. I asked one of the Germans what the German dream was. 'There is no German dream,' he said, 'that's the problem.'


I know someone who's family moved to Denmark from Iran when she was a little girl. A few years ago she went back for a visit with her mom. Her Iranian cousins took her to see 'Titanic'-- the censored, Iranian version, just over an hour.


November 12, 2006

Stuck in a meeting

Here's what I did last week.
*1.5 day conference about environmental stress and research schools
*1 day meeting to plan research
*0.5 day meeting to discuss the 'fusion' of our university with the agricultural and pharmaceutical universities
*0.5 day meeting to discuss the new leadership structure at our university
*Meeting of the curriculum committee
*Meetings with students & postdocs & visitor to plan research
There were however 6 hours in which I was not in a meeting or at a conference, and I used this time to prepare for 1.5 days of teaching next week.

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