Tuesday, January 28, 2014

All play and no work makes Anna a boring girl...

(This is a post that I wrote a little while ago, and didn't quite get around to posting.  We were both sick when we got back to Germany from the US, and since then, we've just been laying low and trying to get caught up on work, so I'll spend some time getting caught up telling you about previous adventures).

Or maybe that's not how that saying goes. In any case, I'm interrupting the narrative flow of my jealousy-inducing trip to France to prove to you that we do actually do some work now and again here in Europe. I spent the 9-16 of October in Heidelberg for a pair of conferences hosted by the european molecular biology organization (EMBO).  One conference was on non-coding RNA and the second was about "New approaches and concepts in microbiology". 

Heidelberg has a fabulous castle.  Sasha came to visit on the weekend and we played a (very easy) game of find the castle, including the tour of the inside parts.  The castle is big and a major focus of any tourist visit to Heidelberg, which in turn is a major stop on most tourist itineraries for Germany.  It's a nice city, don't get me wrong, but I'm glad we're in Marburg, which has a similar amount of culture and history and beautiful architecture, but is really just a university town and not a university and tourist town.

OK, the conferences were pretty good (the second more than the first) but I just realized that my audience is so varied I don't know how to describe the science so it doesn't bore or lose all of you.  So I guess I'll limit myself to a few pictures.

I presented a poster, the same at both meetings.

Don't I look knowledgeable? Nobody was interested in my poster, but I thought it was pretty cool!

The conference center is cool; the posters go up these helical spirals, sort of representing DNA (but not accurately)

And inexplicably, there were sheep outside the conference center.

Do they do the lab work after everyone goes home, or are they just fuzzy lawn mowers?

There, see? Europe isn't just one long vacation, I do work, too!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy 2014 friends and family!

I hereby resolve to blog more often.  I'm afraid the fall/start of winter was rather busy with work (and play) so I have many, many stories to share that I'll hopefully get around to shortly.

But, the most exciting of all, WE ARE BACK in the US for the holidays!!!  We got to Germany in August of 2012, so it had been about a year and 4 months since we had been on US soil, and I wondered if in some way it would seem strange or foreign (the "reverse culture shock" that people warn about) but I am happy to report that didn't happen for us.  We've had a few moments of "oh right, the US" when, for instance, dealing with the airline representative to follow up on our delayed ski bag and the airline employee spoke fluent, accent-less English (oh right, we're in the US) and cars are much, much bigger here (pickups and SUVs all over!!) but by and large, we slipped right back into feeling at home.

Although for me, I guess that still means doing new things.  A high school friend needed a sub for a broomball game in their broomball league (I played broomball for a few weeks in gym class in middle school, but haven't played since then) and I told him I was in, if he could find me the equipment.  For those of you not from Minnesota, broomball is played on ice like hockey, but instead of a puck, you have a relatively soft ball, instead of hockey sticks, you have small plastic/rubber wedges on sticks (they look like brooms if you use your imagination) and, the largest difference, you don't use skates, but run around on the ice with shoes (although they have these nifty shoes with soles that are sort of a cross between a sponge and a mop that slide around a lot less than normal shoes and feel more comfortable than many slippers).  Luckily, there was a spare pair of shoes and a spare helmet and a spare "broom" for me to borrow, so I jumped right in the game.

I'm wearing number 7

It was fun.  I felt a bit like I was running on ice (perhaps because I was) but so was everyone else.  You can actually run fairly well, it just is a bit tricky to stop or to change directions.  Still, the team won by a healthy margin. I expect that I played a minor role in that, but I had a lot of fun!  I'd join the team if I only lived a bit closer.  This video is just a teaser; Sasha took a few better ones that give you more of a sense of the sport, which I'll try to make a link to sooner or later.  Maybe I'll have to upload it to Youtube or something.  I apologize if you can't view it; I haven't posted a video before and I just got a new computer, which I'm still trying to figure out.

After that, we got to finally meet my sister's boyfriend over brunch (although I didn't get a satisfactory opportunity to impart vague threats about how he better be good to my sister or else... another time, I guess, although perhaps it would be unwise given that they are both lawyers), and we drove back and forth between Minnesota and Wisconsin celebrating with our  families, with occasional cross country skiing outings in the mix for good measure.  I'll spare you the details on the food and cookies and presents and general family time and good cheer.  Oh, except I finished an afghan for my mother in law, and since I think it turned out quite nicely, I'll subject you to the picture.
Look at all the color changing...I usually try to avoid that, but the pattern was so pretty I tried it anyway
You will be happy to know there was birding and there was the annual McLoon New Year's Eve party complete with opportunities to catch up with many of my non-biological family (aka family friends who I've known for as long as I can remember) and after over a year of complaining, I finally got my haircut.  And we got to spend some quality time with Spot, who also wishes you all a happy new year (or maybe he just is looking for mice, it's hard to tell sometimes).

have a happy new...mouse, where's the mouse? (only in the freezer, Spot)