Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween, I'm leaving today

These are my last hours in JKL....well, not forever, but as a resident. As I was told last night at the Rock (Happy) Hour in Sohwi, I'll be back, but as a guest. Until then JKL...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Still learning

Ok, I’ve been in Finland for over 2 years; I should more or less know all the quirky things about the culture, right? Wrong. I came across this article the other day on an unusual Finnish practice. Finland is the only country in the world to broadcast news in Latin. Yeah, the dead language of the Roman Empire. I don’t really understand the motivation behind this, besides simple eccentricity, but apparently quite a few people listen to it. Somewhat humorously, more people subscribe to the EU presidency newsletter (Finland is currently heading the EU for those who don’t know) in Latin than in French. I had no idea that an appreciable number of people outside of academia could understand Latin. What use does such a skill have besides translating ancient texts and understanding word origins? At least in Finland, you can also be informed about current events.

Speaking of current events…only two weeks until the elections in the states. Polls suggest that Democrats may re-take both houses of Congress. Woohoo! This is absolutely unprecedented (historians correct me) given that the American economy is pretty strong, i.e. the party in power usually stays in power during good economic times. Maybe my country is finally turning a political corner. On the other hand, I read somewhere that the ruling party is often kicked out during mid-term (non-presidential) elections, regardless of the prevailing economic/political situation. To me, this suggests that people are never truly satisfied with their government, which makes sense to my cynical mind. People are rarely happy with their situation; they always want something better. Then again, maybe I’m over-generalizing…

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One week from now I’ll be on my way to Germany! That’s right, only one week left in Jyväskylä. I gotta say, I’m excited and I’m ready, though on the other hand Jyväskylä and Finland in general has been pretty good to me. How’s my day to day life gonna change? I wish I knew, but I can put forth a few certainties. Like now, I will still spend a considerable amount of time staring at the computer, analyzing data over and over again, attempting to write interesting, publishable scientific papers. However, I won’t have any experimental distractions like I’ve had while in Jyväskylä the past two years. That is, I can’t leave the computer to go and do some small, quick, or easy experiments (all those adjectives only apply in my mind; few experiments are truly quick and easy). Instead, I’ll be chained to the computer, stuck writing about the experiments I’ve already done…time to get rid of that data. I also assume that I’ll spend quite a lot of time developing quasi-brilliant ideas to test in the near future, like I do now. On the other hand, I’ll probably take some time away from that task to try my hand at learning German. Language isn’t my strong suit (it’s science if you haven’t noticed), but I gotta give it a try. Everyone wish me luck…on both the move and the language thing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My parents visited me this weekend. Thus I had to think of a cultural programme that could entertain the three of us. And it actually worked better than I thought. On friday we watched Sönke Wortmann´s football...I mean soccer movie "Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen". One day later we went to the theatre and saw the piece "Who´s afraid of Virginia Woolf?". My mum said, she hadn´t ever done so much cultural stuff:) And I made my world-renown sushi (see pic on the left). My mum thanked me with a cake (see pic right). Rock´n´Roll. For those who don´t know my parents, see pic on the left.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Anyone interested in zoology should check this out. It is a blog post on sea spiders, a strange and rare group of invertebrates. Recent research suggests that they may be relatives of some of the more bizarre Cambrian arthropods. Pretty wild! In my invert zoo class at UNL, we got a shipment of marine animals from the Pacific Ocean. For about 3o seconds we thought we had found a sea spider...our excitement subsided when we realized it was just a normal spider that had drowned in the salt water.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


As I was going to the lab this morning, I noticed a pleasant, white frost coating cars, grass, and most anything else. Last night, the temperature must have been at or below zero (call me captain obvious). This may not have been the first frost of the year (I'm not terribly observant), but it was the first that I noticed. For some reason, this is somehow a magical event in my eyes...at least the first time I notice it. Growing up, I always eagerly awaited the first frost. I suffered from hay fever every autumn in Nebraska, and I looked forward to a good, hard frost killing the many plants responsible for my misery. Fortunately, I haven't had the same symptoms in Finland, so the changing weather doesn't really benefit me by ending my seasonal allergies. Nonetheless, I still think the first frost is somehow magical. The air feels fresh and crisp as you breath it in, and the visible cloud you exhale reminds you that things are changing whether or not you want them to. Magical or not, the frost struck me enough to post about it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I watched the movie ‘Dogville’, directed by Lars von Trier, last night. Ines and I tried to watch this movie together about 2 years ago. If I remember right, we watched about 10 minutes and decided that it was either too slow, or dramatic, or boring, or something, so we stopped watching it. Last night, I actually managed to get through the whole 3 hour movie. And what a movie it was; it has been quite a long time since I’ve seen such a powerful film. It was about as far from a feel-good movie as imaginable, typical for von Trier. A major theme was the ease with which human corruptibility, greed, and exploitation arises when given an opportunity. Furthermore, the movie points out how oblivious people can be to these negative aspects of human nature, both within themselves and their friends and family. Exacerbating the movie’s bleak message was the manner in which in was filmed. There were no sets, only a black stage with white chalk drawings on the ground and a sparse scattering of furniture. This artistically risky approach provides few distractions from the rather depressing events transpiring on screen. Like I said, very powerful. After watching the film, I checked what critics had to say about it at rottentomatoes.com. Very mixed reviews. Some people loved the artistry and originality in the movie, while other found it pretentious, boring, and/or excessively long. Apparently, many people were not affected by the movie to the same degree that I was. Thus, all I can suggest is to see it when in the mood for a dramatic, provocative movie and make up your own mind.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Update time...About a week and a half ago, I decided to try living on 2 meals a day. Basically, I wanted to know how my body reacts to a lunchless life. As I expected, after just a couple days I stopped getting hungry at a normal lunch time. Instead of being hungry around 12, I got hungry around 3 or 4. This was convenient in some ways...I was able to work most of the day without being distracted by hunger and I didn't have the normal desire to take a post-lunch nap. On the other hand, by 4 or 5 I would be really hungry; so hungry that all I wanted was to go home and eat. And most days this is exactly what I did. Eating "dinner" so early also had consequences for my daily schedule. First of all, I would have at least an extra hour to do something else in the evening (which I usually wasted anyways). Second, I was hungry again at 9 or 10. As far as I can tell, I have not gained or lost any weight during this little experiment. So what can I conclude from this? I guess I would have to conclude that lunch exists for a reason. If it didn't everybody would be leaving work at 3, or they'd just be (more) irritable and (more) unproductive in the late afternoon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Finally I´ve found some time to write a new post. Actually, I haven´t had anything interesting to write in the last few weeks. But here´s something which got me excited:))

Yesterday Luki visited me on his way back to Berlin. We went to have sushi and afterwards we made badges with my new badge-it-machine:) I bought it in Leipzig in a toy store. Well, it´s actually a children´s toy. Now I can make buttons of all my favourite bands, sayings, pictures, friends, things,... It only takes a few seconds per badge.
Thus if anyone of you want a special button: I accept orders.

Ok, that was my story about the badge machine. I´m watching a show on TV about a guy from Nebraska who weighs 1000 pounds. That sounds impossible. They had to tear down a wall to carry him out of his house. I can´t tell more about him because I have to change the channel.


I thought this cartoon was hilarious…non sequitar usually is. I think I’m going to put Dana’s sentiments into the cover letter for my next manuscript.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Editor,
Please find enclosed a manuscript on such and such. While considering this work for publication, I would like to remind you that questioning the details is unpatriotic and only serves to aid the terrorists.

Now what editor could possible argue with that logic? If only it worked like this…

p.s. Three weeks til Germany!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stupid time zones

As I have previously posted, I absolutely miss college (American) football. In Nebraska, cooler weather means that it is time for football, and people (including me to some degree) get crazy about it. By now, the season is nearing its mid-point, and the Huskers (University of Nebraska’s nickname) are playing pretty well, at least compared to past seasons. For the third consecutive year, after going to every home game for 4 years, I haven’t been able to watch the Nebraska team. However, I typically try to listen to the games over the internet with streaming audio. It isn’t the same, but it is still better than nothing. Usually, Nebraska is playing at 11:30 in the morning or 2:30 in the afternoon local time, which is 7:30 or 10:30 at night Finnish time. I can easily stay awake to listen to these games. However, the last two weeks Nebraska has been playing under the lights, which for me means the game is starting around 3 in morning. Generally, I don’t stay up that late unless I’ve been drinking. Thus, in one sense, doing a bit of partying on Saturday night is a good idea; it will keep me awake so I can listen to the game. As it happens, both of the past Saturdays, I was still up at 3 to hear the start of the game. Unfortunately, I was also slightly intoxicated both times, so I was sleepy, and both weeks I fell asleep before halftime. Oh well, I guess I just need to accept that the time zones have defeated me.

This has been a very pointless post. I’ll try to add some more weight to it by telling everyone to check out The Decemberists. Ines and I both like them, so you know it’s gotta be good.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Brain chemistry and scientific humor

For a few hours today, the sun was out. This was the first time I’ve seen the sun in at least a week. The Finnish fall can be incredibly and incessantly gray. I’m not necessarily complaining about the weather (maybe a little), but I was just struck today by how surprised I was to see the sun. Though I’m not 100% certain, I believe that sunlight (or lack thereof) indirectly affects brain chemistry. That’s likely part of the reason why our moods vary along with the weather. As I was consciously pondering the chemicals in my brain, it started to rain again. Oh well, it was still nice to be teased with a bit of sunlight.

Onto a more interesting topic: Science has a sense of humor! That’s right, science can do more than confuse the general public and provide a livelihood for nerds. It can also make us laugh. To support this claim, I refer you to the Ig Nobel prizes. These awards are given out annually to researchers that have done improbable research that “makes people laugh and then think”. I look forward to these every year because there is always some bit of research that is strange, perhaps pointless, yet nearly always interesting. I think my favorite piece of research among this year’s winners is the peace prize. Someone invented a device that creates a high-pitched, annoying noise which is audible to teenagers, but not adults. Apparently, shop-owners can use it to drive away loitering, bored teens. I also like the work on dung beetle feeding preferences; that research must have been tough on the nose. There have been some classic Ig Nobel prizes in the past too. My all time favorite was a study that found a link between country music and suicide rates, though a study which found a particular fish species that communicates by farting is a close runner-up. Of course, after you finish chuckling about these awards, you have to wonder why people did this research. I would imagine that much of this work was accidental. For example, if recall correctly, the fish-farting study originated when aquarium workers heard strange noises when they turned the lights off. However, much of this work is obviously planned. People set out to answer these improbable questions (e.g. how many pictures you must take to ensure no one in a group is blinking). I think that humans are naturally curious and we want to know how everything works. Even if we aren’t curious about some particular topic (e.g. why spaghetti breaks into more than two pieces) we expect that someone else is. Consequently, when people come to academics with the most absurd questions (e.g. do woodpeckers get headaches?) they still expect some kind of answer...and ‘no one knows’ is never a satisfying answer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Try Something New

Change is good. At least that's the expression. Eventually, we get bored with some aspect of our day to day lives and we want to try something new. So, from this introduction, I am obviously in the mood to try something new. What exactly? Well, for reasons that are not clear even to me, I'm going to attempt to change my eating habits. The past two days I haven't had time to eat lunch, and amazingly I haven't starved to death. So I wondered, could I completely re-invent the way I eat? Could I stop eating lunch entirely, and train my body to adjust to a new feeding schedule? Here is my crazy experimental plan. For the next 1-2 weeks, I will only have two meals a day. For the first meal, I'll have my typical breakfast. The second meal will be around 5 or 6 when I come home from work, and, essentially, I'll eat as much as want. There are few things I want to figure out from this "experiment". First, I want to know if I can actually change my habits. Second, I want to know if my body can adjust and I actually stop getting hungry around lunch-time. Third, I would like to see if I lose or gain any weight (doubt it, but we'll see). Finally, I want to finish all the rice, pasta, and other food in my flat before moving at the end of the month.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Title Trouble

Ok, which of these 2 titles sounds more pretentious?
(1) Proximate factors affecting the larval life history of Acanthocephalus lucii (Acanthocephala): interactions among resources availability, competition, and ontogeny, or (2) Determinants of infection intensity and larval infrapopulation dynamics of Acanthocephalus lucii (Acanthocephala). Any opinions?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mission accomplished…time to hurry down

Two weeks ago I had a manuscript accepted for publication (good news). However, manuscripts are never accepted outright; they always require some degree of revision before they can be published. As expected, this manuscript required a fair amount of revision. Unfortunately for me, the editor only gave me two weeks to make the revisions (bad news). To complicate things, I was at the university’s field station for the entire first week I had to revise the manuscript. For all intents and purposes, I’ve basically had the past three days to perform all the necessary revisions. All told, the revisions took about 24 hrs of work. Whew, it’s been hectic. But mere hours ago, I completed the revisions and re-submitted the paper. Mission accomplished. Now it is time to hurry down….Huh? hurry down? Yeah, a consortium of my friends has decided it is time to introduce the term ‘hurry down’ into the English language. Basically it means the exact opposite of the phrase ‘hurry up’. If you need to go from being busy to being relaxed, then you need to hurry down. I can’t claim to be the originator of this phrase. It was coined by another Daniel, from Spain. But the underlying concept can be used to twisting phrases to create new meanings, e.g. chill in, hang in, etc. Post any good ones you can come up with in the comments.