Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two scientific tidbits caught my attention today. The first one, here, is about smoking. Apparently, reducing the number cigarettes smoked doesn't reduce the risk of death. So to all of the smokers out there, ya gotta quit! No excuses like "I'm just a light/casual smoker". Alternatively, you could just really enjoy your habit and start smoking 5 packs a day. Perhaps that won't increase your death risk. The second bit of science that interested me is here. Some zoologists have discovered that cetaceans (whales) have more complex brains than previously thought. Specifically, they have a type of brain cell that is primarily found in the great apes. This is likely a case of convergent evolution, i.e. similar traits arising independently in separate lineages. What are the characteristics, the selective pressures, that have favored these traits in such divergenet animals such as humans and whales? One major similarity between us is that we're both rather social creatures. Social behavior favors sophisticated brains, hmmmmm.....

Monday, November 27, 2006

The best pumpkin pie ever...

This past Saturday Ines, I, and several friends celebrated Thanksgiving. We missed the actual Thanksgiving holiday (Thursday) for several reasons. I was out of town at an interview (which went fairly well), and everyone else was working. On Saturday, however, we made many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods, such as turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes, so it definitely felt like Thanksgiving...the only thing missing was football. The most entertaining of our cooking enterprises was the pumpkin pie, the traditional Thanksgiving dessert. We started the day by going to the farmer's market in Kassel. Though there were several people selling pumpkins, we decided that it would be easier to buy pumpkin pieces in a jar. Good idea? Apparently not. We soon learned that all pumpkin sold in jars is in a sweet and sour sauce (think pickles), which is not so desirable for pie-making. After this realization, we made trips to about 5 different supermarkets looking for a real, whole pumpkin. No dice. Because I insisted that we have a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, we decided to try making the pickled pumpkins into a pie. After mixing all the ingredients together, we had a pretty good looking pumpkin pie mix. We even added enough sugar to hide any sour taste. We put the pie into the oven confident that we'd soon have a decent pie. A half hour later, we were disappointed to discover that our pie did not solidify at all. It was totally liquid. To make it more solid, we tried cooking it some more and then we tried cooling it off...both methods helped make it more solid, but I wouldn't call either a solution. The pie was still rather fluid. Though it wasn't perfect, the pie still tasted pretty damn good. Where's the point in this anecdote? It's this: make pumpkin pie the american way, from a can. Yeah, it is much easier to buy pumpkin pie in a can. Problem is that you can only buy pumpkin pie in a can in the U.S. (as far as I know). I gotta add this to the list of things to bring back from stateside visits.

Monday, November 20, 2006

For all of those bored people out there, here's a suggestion: watch Dr. Strangelove. It's a classic movie from the 60s satirizing the cold war. It's funny, yet I can imagine how it was also scary at the time. Here's an entertaining quote to entice you from the title character, Dr. Strangelove. The crippled, weapons researcher is discussing whether a Doomsday device can be disabled.

"Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This comic is pretty funny. Now I also want to know if a duck's quack echoes or not. Moreover, the comic also justifies the posting of other pointless musings. For instance, yesterday I wondered why sunglasses are cool or chic, or stylish, whereas normal glasses, on the other hand, contribute to a nerdy, dorky, or uncool image? If anyone has an answer other than "I don't know", post it in the comments.

Monday, November 13, 2006

To complement my post from yesterday, here is a great picture of Lincoln during a Nebraska football game.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thee of little faith...me

Last night, I was listening to American football over the internet. Nebraska was playing Texas A&M, one of the bigger games of the season. Early during the game, everything seemed to be going Nebraska's way. They were dominant in the first half with an efficient offense and stifling defense, and consequently they had a comfortable lead at halftime. Naturally, I was feeling pretty good about the game's direction. I should have known better. Nebraska, at least in the eyes of pessimistic Nebraskans, has been quite prone to choking away big games in the second half. As my mother, a life-long Nebraska resident, says 'they'll break your heart'. I guess this means don't get too invested in the game, lest you end crying when Nebraska blows it. My scientific, rationale side would actually like to know if Nebraska actually gives away games more than other teams; seems like there has to be some statistics which could either validate or invalidate this idea that the Nebraska football team is historically adept at self-destruction. The sports fan in me (far less rationale than the scientific-me) though knows this is the case, no statistics needed. Nebraska has just dissapointed me so many times through the years...and they were well on their way to doing it last night as well. Nebraska played a dismal second half letting Texas A&M come back and eventually take the lead. It was hard to listen to. When Nebraska turned the ball over with less than 3 minutes to play, I dismissed the game as over, turned it off, and crawled into bed dissapointed. I thought to myself "damn, that's the second time in 3 weeks that Nebraska blew a game they should have won". Turns out, I should have had more faith in the Huskers. Nebraska scored a touchdown late in the final seconds of the game and ended up winning. Amazing! Though I was happily surprised this morning, I kinda felt bad about turning off the game and metaphorically giving up on Nebraska. Shouldn't quit on the Huskers so easily...after all, historical trends don't always provide perfect future predictions. So, in the case of Nebraska football, heartbreak may be likely, but it isn't guaranteed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Here is an interesting article on misappropriated money in Iraq. At least someone is doing alright there...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Doppel Blog Tag! (Double blog day rhymes in German...sweet)

Ok, it is only kinda a double blog day. I started the previous post a few day ago, but only finished it today. Anyways two new posts available for viewing today...if anyone is still reading this given the inactivity of the blog of late. What could inspire the second post in a day? A change in the political landscape in my homeland, that's what! The democratic party won an election for the first time in over a decade. Democrats now have control over the house of representatives and they may get control over the senate too. As I write, the final deciding senate race is too close to call, but whichever party wins it will be in control. Polls have predicted this victory for several weeks, but there is something satisfying about actually seeing it come to fruition. The past 6 years, the Bush administration, mostly with its confrontational and divise do-as-we-say foreign policy, has done all it can to damage the image of Americans. While abroad, I've experienced the negative sentiments towards Americans from time to time. In a somewhat selfish sense, I hope that with today's shift in political power anti-Americanism will decrease, and I won't have to experience that uncomfortable awkwardness associated with my nationality nearly as frequently. Moreover, I hope, though don't genuinely expect, that America will return to being a more progressive place in which documents like the Constitution and Geneva Convention are actually recognized and adhered to. Only time will tell. Yep, election night 2006 was pretty satisfying; let's all hope that election night 2008 will bring similar good news.

Friday, November 03, 2006

My first post from Germany is about actually getting here. The weather in Finland on Tuesday the 31st, my departure date, was atrocious. My flight was delayed about 4 hours, and I basically had nothing to do during that time. I stupidly did not bring along enough good literature, so I was quite bored. In desperation I put pen to paper and tried writing something. Here's what came out, word for word:

Here I am at Tampere airport. My much awaited and much anticipated departure from Finland is gonna be delayed awhile. This Halloween in central Finland brings a winter storm...you know, snow blowing sideways. Because of boredom, frustration, aggravation, exhaustion, etc., I'm writing this to keep my mind busy and distracted; perhaps a good strategy to retain my sanity. It has been 2 years since my last big move, which was from Nebraska to Jyväskylä. I've avoided and to some extent forgotten what a pain it is. Though I foggily recall how anxious my arrival in Helsinki was and how stressful the final leg to JKL was. Enough of those ill memories lingered to remind me that today was not gonna be fun. Problems started early. While finishing packing and cleaning, Ines alerted me to my mis-interpretation of Ryanair's baggage allowance. While I thought I was allotted 20 kg/bag, in fact it was 20 kg/traveler. Needless to say, this cost me. The anxiety followed me throughout the day; the next source was a realization, i.e. I realized I forgot something. Specifically, I forgot to get Rico's bike key back to him. Sorry man. The train ride to Tampere went smoothly; train was only a few minutes late. The train stop initiated my mad dash, heavy bags in tow, to the Ryanair bus. I made it with just over a minute to spare, a minute I used to gather myself, catch my breath, and stop shaking. At this point I was feeling pretty good, like the hardest part of moving was behind me. Despite the exhaustion, a culmination of the day's travels and the taxing week leading up to today, I was feeling ok as I boarded the plane. On the plane I was even lucky enough to get an exit row seat, a seat I was glued to for the next hour plus. During that time, the plan didn't budge. According to the pilot, there was a lot of de-icing to do. Meanwhile, the weather went from bad to worse. Eventually, given the extremely low visibility, they moved all passengers back to the terminal. That was about 45 minutes ago. So here I write. There hasn't been much progress since departing the plane, and the weather doesn't seem to be improving. Essentially, no one knows what is gonna happen; whether we'll ever get off the ground to fly towards more balmy latitudes. One bad omen: when we the passengers were escorted back into the terminal, most people immediately began reading over the terms for flight cancellation compensation. I'm still hoping it doesn't come to that. Ok, I feel that I've thoroughly detailed the situation up to the present (I feel like I'm writing a description essay like the kind we had to do in high school English class), so I'll move on to something else.

Ok, that's it, that's all I wrote. If you need some closure on this story, here's how it ended. The flight eventually did take off (people clapped when it got off the ground, which I thought was premature...first time I've experienced that in any case) and make it safely to Frankfurt. The scene at the airport wasn't as romantic as you might expect. Ines wasn't waiting outside the gate; she was getting us a hotel room. That's ok, we were both too exhausted to be romantic.