Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Forget TV, SciVee is here

via KinasePro

For all you science peeps who still may hang around this blog....

It´s SciVee!!!

Why did this take so long to appear? Now everyone can hear talks even if they don´t get to conferences and maybe a bit more science can make it into popular media.

And is it just me or is Eric Sheeff, the protein kinase evolution dude, wearing a StarTrek outfit?

I don´t think my genetics degree covered it anywhere near as well

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to renovate a VW bus in just 736 complicated steps

Last week DrH and I took a week off to go and park in his parents garden and scratch rust out of The Bulli. It was a grand plan, involving lots of lying in the dirt removing and reapplying under chassis protection and replacing a rusted drivers door (the replacement door having acted as a modern art sculpture in our hallway for the last four months). A grand plan indeed and one which we started by going to our campervan-converter-man for some information on getting some underfloor tanks to hold fresh and waste water.

Well, was that a mistake. We cruised through his shop, fondling doorknobs and cup holders, exclaiming over three-way fridges and quality cookers. We decided that we needed to upgrade our kitchen block from the temporary one DrH had whacked together out of some IKEA shelves ten years ago and only worked with unwieldy plastic boxes (see here). I wanted a kitchen block with drawers and other amazingly modern and useful in-built devices. We bought a three-way fridge. We bought a new sink/cooker arrangement. We have spent all the money which we could otherwise have used for lovely hotels in great cities, so I guess it is just as well we´re now set up for camping isn´t it?

So we whiled away the week rebuilding the inside of the car and not touching a single piece of rust. I sanded what seemed like a square acre of wood to a finish so smooth your hands would glide off it without realisng you were touching something. It was a piece of art, I tell you. My skills with an electric sander are not to be underestimated.

I came to the conclusion that we needed storage space under the front seats (which we replaced last year, this car is in a constant state of flux) so I designed and built some fiddly little holders for maps and atlases and first aid boxes.

Now, with a nifty little fridge, we could remove the old cool box run off the cigarette lighter and move the toilet to behind the passenger seat. This got a brand new box as well and I´ll finish the cushion for it this week.

But it was the kitchen block itself that took most time and effort. With all the skill of the amateurs we are, we forgot that the sink needs a pipe coming off the bottom, meaning that the whole thing was 4mm too short to fit both the fridge and sink in. Hence our surprisingly thick benchtop. To save time and effort I decided to use IKEA drawers, although the sheer weight of these things will increase our petrol consumption considerably. However they work nicely and I was able to convert our lovely wood into drawer fronts. Did I mention I´m equally as skilled at drilling as at sanding?

So it´s still lacking knobs, electric and gas connections, but that will be taken care of in the next two weeks. Then it´s France, here we come!

yes, still alive

Sorry for the unexpected cease in broadcasting, but rest assured we are all well and no one suffered any lingering side affects from the pigs. To answer Bugsy, there´s definately been a huge increase in numbers this year and our current theory is that the mild winter killed off fewer than it normally would have and that hunting is down (based on the fact we´ve seen less people with big cars in the forest in the last 6 months).

And for Vailian, the best brunch place in existence is cafe Istoria on Kollwitzplatz (U2, between Senefelderplatz and Eberswalder str)in Prenzlauerberg. Belluno´s next door is also pretty good. Cafe November up the road does waffles, although the spread isn´t as big and it lacks a lot of the hot food. Otherwise, try Morgenland in Kreuzberg (U1, Görlitzerbahnhof). All cost about 8€ for the buffet which is open until 4pm (Sat and Sun), drinks extra.

Wow, do I sound like a guidebook.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

year of the pig

Most evenings we walk the dog together through the forest here. The Grunewald is a big, wild forest that reaches almost into the middle of Berlin, and survived developement as it was the only piece of nature the West Berliners could easily access in the fifty years of separation. Here´s Berlin with the Grunewald circled and some important landmarks for reference:

See? Really big and very central.

One of the things such a big and wild forest has is wildlife. We walk of an evening, seeing only the very occassional jogger (or in summer, large packs of them crossing the path in the distance). Sometimes we´ve spotted squirrels, rabbits, foxes and deer. This year, almost daily, we see wild pigs.

We´ve come across them in the past. Last year, especially when the days started getting shorter and they were coming out earlier, we´d see one in the distance and hightail it in the other direction. Sometimes they were in pairs, but usually alone. This year, for whatever reason, there appear to be far more around, roaming in larger packs, and getting bolder. It´s a daily event that we see one as close as 10 metres away or, at the very least, hear them move through the bush somewhere off the path.

Several weeks ago we had a nasty encounter with two wild sows, who barrelled out of the undergrowth about 15 metres ahead of us and took out Leon. I really didn´t think we´d get him back alive. They charged him, threw him into the air and trampled him. Both were to my waist in height and luckily not boars with tusks or they would have just skewered him. When he managed to get free he bolted back to us, causing the pigs to also chase towards us and us to run like mad in the other direction for about 50 metres until they were satisfied and retreated. It took Leon two days to recover and the bruising longer to disappear.

So we have become very circumspect walking in the forest. My ears are always straining for the rustle of leaves, my eyes scanning the underbrush for anything vaguely boar shaped.

Today I spotted one about 25 metres away. We were already passed it on the path when DrH realised that only 10 metres to the right another two were standing. They moved, setting off a few more who were on the left of the path and just as close and all of a sudden there was a huge pack of pigs running straight for us. We RAN. I have never run so hard. The path curved to the right and I saw a pig only 3 metres on the right coming out of the bush. It curved left, the pigs cutting straight through bush while we follwed the winding trail that kept bringing us directly in their path. The path straightened and there were pigs behind us, beside us.

I have never felt so sure I was about to be seriously, seriously injured. That a wild boar was about to trample me. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I know I screamed.

We got to a large path crossing and turned to the right. I looked over my shoulder to see three, six, ten pigs dash across the path behind us. In the safety of the trees on the other side they also turned right and kept moving in the direction we were.

All this time Leon hadn´t even noticed them, had thought we were playing. Now he decided to up the game a bit, snapping at DrH´s jeans, accidentally grabbing flesh and causing DrH to fall in front of me.

Another pig ran across the path. This time in front of us. And I couldn´t run anymore.

We slowed and I was hyperventilating. The pigs apparently decided to back off now and let us move forward, watching us from the shadows of the trees. We walked another 500 metres along a narrow, overhung track until we reached a wide pathway and other people. Three hours later I´m still shaking.

Friday, August 17, 2007

gimme that ol´time-a radio

Today I started listening to the Case Closed! old time radio podcast and I am smitten. Original radio shows of the 1940´s, complete with stereotyped detectives called Blacky or Marlowe being overwhelmingly condescending and sexist to their secretaries/fiancees with "Go and pretty yourself up, doll. You got no business here with the men.". It has lines like "just an ordinary bat, but with the dark stains *PAUSE* of BLOOD" *Big Music Sting*. Beautifully overloud fake footsteps going up the stairs, doors slamming, women screaming in the background.

Growing up my biggest dream was to be the voice of a cartoon character. I think I´d change that if I could be in one of these radio plays.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

slips of the tongue

"No, I´m glad I´m working for myself now. I couldn´t do that management thing. I keep wanting to tell people what I really think of them."

"That´d make you the perfect consultant. You can just go in, tell them they´re doing it all wrong and get out without having to deal with the aftermath."

"Well, yeah. But then I´d have to work, like, stupid hours and stuff. And that just doesn´t jive with me."


"I just said jive in a sentence. I cannot believe I just said 'jive with me'."

"I don´t even know what you mean with that."

"Let´s keep it that way. Really, don´t bother to learn that one."

Monday, August 13, 2007

another year bites the dust

So now I´m thirty-two, which officially puts me in the last period where I can claim my early thirties and soon enough I´ll be having to admit I´m in my mid-thirties and that´s followed straight with the late thirties and then the forties, fifties, sixties, nineties and before I know it they´ll be measuring me up for a coffin and discussing which sucker has to give the eulogy.

Actually thirty two isn´t that bad at all and since passing the thirty milestone two years ago I´ve really felt I´ve hit my stride in this whole weird thing we call life. The thirties have been relatively good (despite a few nervous breakdowns but let´s face it, you can get those in any decade) to me so far so I won´t go dissing ´em in case they take offense and start REALLY screwing with my life.

We were planning on spending the day in the world´s largest hanger. Come now, I know that each and every one of you has secretly wished to spend a birthday in giant airship hanger and aren´t you just spitting chips that I live so close to it? Actually, since the economic collapse of the company who constructed it in the 1990´s thinking that giant airships were the way of the future, the building has been converted into a giant water park with slides and beaches and rainforests and the whole thing is so big that it actually has it´s own micro climate, forms clouds and rains. Now it sounds interesting, hey?

But we didn´t go. Nope, slept in too long, couldn´t be bothered, decided instead to use my present of a year´s pass to all the State Museums here instead. But once we got to the latest MoMA exhibit (really, the MoMA seems to like shipping stuff to us here- with over 170 museums and galleries, do they honestly think we´re lacking for culture or what?) we decided the line was too long, it was raining and what I REALLY wanted to do on my birthday was spend money on myself so I went and bought books. Lots and lots of pretty books. With pictures. And I´m one happy not-quite-yet-mid-thirties year old.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

families and how to survive them

I´d forgotten how nice big family get togethers were. The Christmases of my childhood were filled with cousins and aunts and friends of the family and were always big and loud and action filled. I´ve missed that a bit over the last few years. So it was nice to be in the 50-odd people on the weekend who were all somehow related to DrH´s family.

The nudity wasn´t anywhere near as extensive as it could have been considering this was in the depths of the former East, home of the act of sedition against the socialist state that´s known as getting your kit off. I exposed some lily white flesh to the harshness of the German sun, but managed to not cause too much mental anguish amongst other participants. I hope.

Saturday was a christening in a 14th century church, followed by lots of cake, swimming in a chilly lake and then eating and drinking till the wee hours. Once DrH had convinced the DJ to stop playing such much-loved hits as I´ve had the time of my life and move on to more Prodigy, Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte the party really took off with several 70+ year olds up wiggling it on the dance floor with us. Even one of the 8 year olds was still grooving along at midnight. Both ends of the age spectrum certainly showed more stamina than I had.

DrH ended our evening abruptly with a sudden realisation that copious amounts of wine and beer don´t mix too well, and after a half hour conversation with toilet I managed to get him into bed. As a man who´s heavy drinking is usually restricted to sharing a shandy with me of an evening, seeing him that drunk was an amusing change. After we checked out the following morning, he put the bed up in the car and slept there for a few more hours while the rest of us went and swam some more.

Next year´s get together date has already been announced and the location is currently under discussion. Looks like England may be on the cards, but I´m pulling for Jamiaca.

Friday, August 03, 2007

a little competition never hurts

Occassional commenter Jan arrived last night. For those who may be a bit confused it´s Jan in the german way, meaning he´s a guy and it´s pronounced a bit like yarn.

Cute isn´t he? And single. Not that I´m pimping him or anything.

As seems to happen when a couple of guys get together, especially ones that are somehow related, the evening resulted in a let´s-see-how-many-chinups-we-can-do competition and a discussion of the finer points of chinup technique. This included (but wasn´t restricted to) hand grip, arm extension and bar height. The last point is of particular importance to two guys that aren´t pushing the upper limit in human height.

Today we all head down to Leipzig for a family reunion weekend. Unlike the last big reunion, this one will probably be a little lighter on the history stuff and a little heavier on the skinny dipping stuff. At least, so I´ve been warned.

However, I have no doubt that the whole event, nudity included, will be as equally well organised as the last one.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

obviously I´m addicted to tweaking things here

Welcome to August! The new header has no particular meaning, except that I had fun making it and I thought it was cute.

The second and far more important update is that I´m changing my site feed to run through feedburner. I´m guessing this means that the current site feed will no longer throw any content out. So if you are subscribed via bloglines, blogrolling, iGoogle, live bookmarking or whatever other rss aggregator you use to the blogspot address, I think you´ll have to change it.

The new feed is

Update your aggregator now, for it shall be switched tonight!

Edited to add: if you read directly on the website, don´t worry about this. Just keep popping by the same address as always.