Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The last post of 2008…hopefully it doesn’t suck. The holidays come unexpectedly every year, but especially this year. A large experiment prevented me from doing normal Xmas stuff, like visiting a Xmas market, drinking Glühwein, and actually going shopping (the internet saved me). So I never really got into the Xmas mood. On the 22nd, after 3 long days of dissecting the copepods, I finished working for the year (at least in Plön). The next day was spent traveling. I went by train to Leipzig, met Ines, and then we drove to her parents in Spechtsbrunn. The next day, Santa came to visit, as he traditionally does in Germany. All I actually wished for Xmas was a few quiet days, much to Ines’ displeasure. Well, I must have been good this year, because in addition to some quiet, work-free days, I got some new underwear, a new guitar hero game, and a new cell phone (it even has a camera…what a technological upgrade for me!). As far as I could tell, everyone in Ines’s family was more than satisfied with their gifts, so I am left to conclude that Xmas was a success. Ines got a new video camera from her family. She has been happily filming everyone. While I am glad she is enjoying herself, I cannot shake the feeling that there are going to be a large number of embarrassing recordings of me in the near future. The scenery in Spechtsbrunn was also appropriately wintery. Despite temperatures well above 0 in most of Germany, there is a decent amount of snow on the ground in Spechtsbrunn. We even went sledding. After Xmas, Ines and I came back to Leipzig and were both immediately sick. I spent an evening puking my guts out, but then made a relatively quick recovery. Ines, on the other hand, has had a cold that she can’t seem to shake. I actually expected to get sick during the holidays. Once the stress of work is gone and I finally relax, I get sick. That is just what happens. Anyways, now we both seem to be in good enough condition to orderly celebrate the New Year. We are going to our neighbors for a James Bond-themed party. I asked the party hosts, why James Bond? As a big fan, I was curious about the inspiration behind the theme. Sadly, there was no real inspiration; they admitted to having hardly ever watched a Bond movie. It was just a good way to get people dressed up. Yeah, so Ines and I (and friend Lena) are bringing in the New Year in style (pictured).
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Nonetheless, the party-lust has not been completely vanquished. Time to time, I really want to just go out and have fun. This week, Ines provided me with an extreme example how to do this. She and a girlfriend went to Belfast to see Oasis play. A flight to Dublin, bus to Belfast, one day there, and then turn around and go back…all to see a band that peaked in popularity 10 years ago? She isn’t even a mega-Oasis fan. I thought they were crazy, and I believe that I said once or twice “aren’t we too old for such trips”. Obviously, I am with a still young and spontaneous woman, and I love it. She pushes me to do things that I wouldn’t do when left to my own devices. That keeps me from worrying (and complaining) about getting old.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I send you CV
The valuable keywords that inspire me to go ahead with my allotted task are “Determination, Dedication and Diligence”
For me 'Science is the Life time mission'.
Sir, working in the field of Molecular Evolution is my burning dream.
Inspiration is an instinct behind every successful effort and this can be achieved by functional objective of doing work, gain vital knowledge so as to make significant contribution to the field of biology.
I believe that if we believe on self, honest to time for work with full determination then surely this time also remain honest from its side and gives us uncountable strength in completion of that work.
i am hard working person and will do my work with enthusiastically. i shell be very thank full if u give me a chance to do work under your kind control and experienced environment. I believe studying and developing new and different strategies that help us in finding the logical answers to the hidden queries would be quite fascinating
As mentioned on the link I am sending my CV along with my CV I am also sending my all necessary certificates.
I am very interesting to your tapeworm parasitology position
Because of gene flow may limit the genetic differentiation and some genetic marker has deviation from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium. Only with DNA marker we may be hard to uncover the evolutionary parasitic mechanism through individual tapeworm and host based approaching.
I couldn’t write such nonsense if I tried. Who knows, maybe they just stuck their CV into Google translator and sent around whatever came out. In any case, this gibberish reinforces the lesson I’ve learned: it is bloody difficult to find a good PhD student.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Onto something of more general interest, or perhaps not. Rock. The last three CDs I bought were all electronic-oriented: Mindless Self Indulgence, Ladytron, and the Japanese Popstars. Mindless Self Indulgence is one of my favourite bands. As a teenager, I saw them open up for Korn and remember thinking ‘what a stupid band’. When my musical tastes widened in college, I downloaded (those were the lawless Napster days) their first album (30 tracks arranged in alphabetical order). I and several of my friends were hooked for life. Ladytron is an indie electro band from England. ‘Destroy everything you touch’ was their hit, and their new album is full of similarly catchy melodies. Finally, the Japanese Popstars was an impulse buy in Dublin. They are an Irish band (which makes their name confusing) that is straight electronic, yet with funky enough beats to keep them out of the ‘techno’ bin. After all this electronic kick, I thought to myself ‘man, don’t forget about the guitars’. Therefore, I ordered some pure rock/metal albums to stay true to the musical roots. They are the latest from Slipknot and Every Time I Die, as well as the debut album from Scars on Broadway. The strange thing is that from all these albums, I had listened to about one song from each. I never used to buy an album before listening to at least half the songs, usually via downloading. Perhaps I have gotten too lazy or scared to download music, or perhaps I just started spending money more freely since I finished my PhD. Weird…I have not given up the student lifestyle altogether (I still eat a lot of frozen pizza and live in a cramped little apartment with crappy furniture), but more and more I realize that I have an adult lifestyle. Perhaps maturity is something inevitable. I just hope that I don’t start enjoying music considered ‘oldies’, ‘classics’, or ‘easy-listening’.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
After Switzerland, it was back to work for a week, before the next trip. Ines and I went to Turkey for a week long tour. We did a package bus trip, because we did not have time to plan a trip ourselves (and we were a bit lazy too). We flew to Istanbul and then took a bus to most every tourist site in west Turkey, mostly ruins from Antiquity, but also some beautiful hot springs and a beach or two. After a week of riding the bus, we flew from Antalaya back to Hamburg. The highlight of the trip was probably Istanbul. It is a huge city with a rather convoluted history due to its geography; it is a gateway between Europe and Asia and thus a boundary between the Christian and Islamic worlds. The history of the city was not the only thing that impressed us. We were also struck by the vibrance of the city. There just seemed to be a lot going on. Unfortunately, we only had one day there, which was not enough to really experience the city. Consequently, shortly after the trip began, Ines and I decided that this was our first and last package tour. We just missed the freedom to set our own agenda. Every part of the trip (food, hotels, destinations) was well planned, making the whole thing rather stress free. Even a case of food poisoning (involving me) could not disrupt the group’s itinerary. At the end of the trip, Ines and I both had positive impressions, and would someday like to return to Turkey.
After Turkey, Ines and I returned to Ploen together. I, naturally, went back the lab. While I was working, Ines was terribly bored in Ploen, so she invited some friends of hers to visit. To be specific she invited a couple and their 3 year old daughter (Ines’ godchild). Now, let me just say that my apartment is meant for one person. When Ines stays with me, we manage, but on a more long term basis, we would need a bigger place. Given that we crammed 5 people into my little flat, the whole visit was a bit stressful. As an aside, I would just like to emphasize how happy I am to have no children.
The day our visitors left, Ines’ parents arrived. The next day the four of us (me, Ines, and her parents) flew to Dublin. This was probably the most proper “adult” holiday I ever had, and was accordingly one of the most expensive. We stayed in a nice hotel (instead of a hostel), rented a car (instead of trying to get around via cheaper alternatives), and ate out twice a day (instead of going to the supermarket). That said, Ireland was pretty cool. We spent the first day in Dublin. My personal highlight was a trip to the Guinness brewery and of course drinking a few pints of the world famous stout. I have to say, the Guinness did taste better in Ireland, though some subconscious bias may shaped my impressions. The next day we drove into the Wicklow mountains south of Dublin to visit some ruins from medieval Ireland. Everything was how you would imagine it…stone ruins, green meadows, bogs, rain, and of course sheep. On the third day, we drove all the way across the island to the east coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. I was surprised how small the island is; it only takes about four hours to drive all the way across. The cliffs themselves were impressive, but teeming with tourists. Actually, Ines and I both thought that the whole island was like a big tourist attraction, but this may have been because we basically just did the stuff in the tourist book. The most negative thing I can say about Ireland is how similar it is to America. The greasy food, big cars, citizens that talk without hesitation…all very American. Of course, that is not inherently negative, but when I travel abroad, I want to experience something novel and exotic. When I want American culture, I’ll visit Nebraska.
So, that was the summer holidays. Now it is back to work until Xmas. Hopefully, I manage to collect some interesting data about parasite life history strategies.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
No risk, no fun...so they say. Several researchers here at the institute are doing experiments in which they erect fish enclosures in the Groesser Ploener See, the large lake in Ploen. Basically, they raise the fish in the lab, then stick them in these enclosures in the lake to see which parasites they get and how well the reproduce. While erecting the enclosures for this year's experiments, they came across a WWII-era bomb (see pic). Apparently, towards the end of the war, a whole heap of ammunition was dumped in the lake, and bombs and other explosive knick-knacks periodically wash into the shallows. The chances of this bomb exploding were very slim. It had been underwater for over 60 years. Nonetheless, bombs in the lake do add a tad bit more excitement to experiments in fish evolutionary biology.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Hiring someone seems like a trivial task, but lately I have discovered how difficult a job this really is. A few weeks ago we posted an advertisement for the PhD position that we hoped would have been filled a few months ago. Curious readers can check the ad out here. So, the past weeks, I’ve been receiving CVs in my email inbox. Most of them are rather good, yet not outstanding. That is what makes this so difficult…how can you differentiate all these people with good grades and varied experience in research? Somewhat unexpectedly, the majority of the applications are from East Asia, mostly India, but also China and Pakistan. These applicants have respectable CVs…but in the wrong field. Most of these people are working in applied fields like molecular biology and biotechnology; none of them seem to have much background in evolution. So why would they be interested in my basic research? My only conclusion is that they desperately want to come to work in the west. Though this probably sounds prejudice, I doubt I’ll give them that chance. I think I could only hire someone after actually meeting and talking with them. This is only reasonable, because I’ll be working closely with this person for the next couple few years. Next week, I think I’ll make a short list and try to invite some people to give talks. We’ll see how that goes…
A miscellaneous addition to this post, I watched a great movie last weekend, Bubba Ho-tep. This is a strange, yet awesome movie, and it happened to be on TV last night when I came home from Edgar’s Cocktail bar (“hippest” bar in Plön). The story is brilliant. Elvis is not dead; his impersonator is. Elvis stopped performing after his career peaked, let himself be replaced by a gifted impersonator, and then lead a quiet life outside of the limelight. Now, he is stuck in a Texas retirement home, depressed, impotent and waiting for death. What could bring back a little rock n roll back into his life? A soul sucking mummy. Yeah, awesome. As residents start dying in their sleep, Elvis teams up with Jack to stop the mummy and thus be free to die with an intact soul. Jack is a black retiree living in the home, who believes he is JFK (they painted me this color!). More awesome. Elvis is played by Bruce Campbell, a cult hero for his performances in Evil Dead and Army of Darkness. It comes highly recommended from me (as if that meant anything).
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I think we skipped spring here in Germany. A couple weeks ago, I made the yearly decision to switch from wearing my winter coat to wearing my rain jacket. This is always a tough call…is it gonna stay warm enough or is it get really cold again? This year, though, I seem to have switched directly from a winter jacket to no jacket at all. As soon as I began to wear my rain jacket, it was so warm that coats of any kind became unnecessary. So, I ask, what happened to spring? Not that I’m complaining, the warm temperatures are enjoyable (though they also hamper productivity…who wants to work when the sun is shining?). It is just peculiar to go from a winter jacket to t-shirts in a matter of weeks. I expect those kinds of apocalyptic weather swings in Nebraska (they had quite a nasty snow storm a few weeks ago and now it is tornado season), but not in boring, predictably dismal N. Germany.
In any case, with warm weather, people begin to strip off their layers of clothes, making their figures more and more visible. Most of my adult life, I have inhabited so-called college towns, in which a substantial part of the population was rather young. Thus, at the risk of sounding chauvinistic, summer was always a pleasant time of year to observe women in far more revealing outfits than one was accustomed to after a long winter. Now, though, I am living in Plön…population 13,000, hardly anyone between the age of 20 and 30, and a disproportionate number of people over 60. Not much to get excited about. In fact, in my subjective opinion, I find the residents of Plön to be rather unattractive. Maybe in small towns there is less incentive to stay fit or to wear clothes bought in the last decade. I could imagine that there is a real relationship between average attractiveness and city size...though I’m too lazy at the moment to search the literature databases for such a study.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
I really can't believe we got this experiment published in Proc. B. So, out of pride, I felt compelled to post this.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
I have now been back in
My favorite part about visiting home is re-discovering things that I have missed. I've long since become accustomed to living in Germany, and I don't spend much time longing for things that are uniquely American. After awhile, the things that I miss become difficult to even recall. So, when I return home, I am constantly proclaiming "oh yeah, I remember this!". Take, for example, drinking fountains. These water dispensing devises are ubiquitous in America, but unheard of in Germany. Now I admit that these things are probably extremely unhygenic, but they are certainly convenient for quenching a spontaneous thirst when on-the-go. Actually, Americans must hate being thirsty, because drinks there are enormous (in many cases bottomless) and cheap. The first morning in Nebraska, I went to the gas station to buy some coffee; the smallest size available was 16 oz (about 0.4 L). That is a lot of damn coffee. The same overindulgence applies to soda. In a restaurant, you can get as much soda as you can drink for less than two bucks...here you would generally pay over two euros for exactly 0.4 L of soda. Though I tried to avoid too drinking too much soda, I did enjoy some old favorites that are unavailable in
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The visit from the second prospective PhD student was in some ways far more successful than that of the first one, though the end result was about the same. This student actually survived two full weeks of working with me, and we did some fairly tedious, boring work (depending on your prospective), stuff that will, apparently, drive many people to flee. He could handle our tiny animals, which was a necessary skill to demonstrate. Such skills, however, are only part of a PhD; there is an academic component as well. Unfortunately, he did not convincingly demonstrate his abilities in this regard. From the outset, it was clear that he was a really shy guy. Though this is not necessarily a bad thing (lots of intelligent people are withdrawn), it made it difficult to evaluate whether he understood what I was telling him. After spending a lot of time giving monologues, I began asking questions, perhaps excessively, so as to get him to open up, share ideas, and demonstrate understanding. On his last day in Plön, I even had a colleague help me in this task of pestering him with questions. All for not. His responses remained limited to things like 'interesting', 'yes', 'maybe', etc. We were really left with a difficult decision; he could manage with the system, but would he be able to develop his own ideas and pursue them semi-independently? Well, luckily, in the end we didn't have to make this decision. He emailed us and said that he had decided against doing his PhD in Plön. So, happily, we avoided a tough decision, but, unfortunately, after taking about a month of time to deal with unsuccessful prospective PhDs, I am back where I began. Oh well. Perhaps Frosty is right (see comments on previous post), I may be a tapeworm nazi that no one can bear working with. Strangely enough, just last week, we received another unsolicited application of a prospective PhD student keen to work with Schistocephalus. He'll visit next week. Hopefully, I won't collect my third strike.
In other news, for those that are not already aware, next week I'm flying to Nebraska to visit my folks. It has been over 2 years since I was there, so I am pretty excited about it. This trip was quickly put together; I just bought the ticket about two weeks ago. A few of my experiments did not work, so instead of trying to start new ones, I simply decided to take two weeks and fly to Omaha. It is a bit strange actually. Instead of taking a vacation because I had planned to or because I felt as though it was earned, I am taking a vacation because it is convenient…there is time to get away, so I'll take advantage of it. A bit weird, and I actually feel somewhat guilty about it, which is probably not healthy. On the other hand, my timing is pretty good. For the first time in two decades, Omaha is playing host to some opening round games of the NCAA basketball tournament. My Dad, being the high roller that he is (sarcasism intended), managed to score some tickets for me. So, instead of watching the games via a low quality stream over the internet, I will be there in person! Very cool. This won't, however, help me fill out the my brackets for the family pool, which Ines will probably win again this year.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
I had a strange experience last week. Last Monday, an Italian guy arrived in Plön to spend 2 weeks working with me. He had contacted us and expressed interest in doing his PhD in Plön on parasites. Prospective PhDs in our department are required to spend 2 weeks in a practical course, in which they more or less have the chance to exhibit their capabilities. For example, to work on parasites, one must be able to manipulate and handle very small organisms. So, I was given the task of assessing whether this guy could work with our in-house tapeworm species and their miniscule planktonic hosts. We knew the answer to this question after two days, not two weeks, and it was a resounding NO. Just as a side note, it is really difficult to keep someone occupied for 10+ hours a day, especially when you have to show them how to do everything. Management is much more difficult than you'd think. Makes me glad that I usually work independently. Anyways, the Italian and I spent two days sorting and infecting copepods, work that involves moving small amounts of liquid (containing living things) between containers. This is typical, mindless work for me, but he was having a tough time with the little beasts. I pointed out his mistakes, which probably didn't help his self-confidence. But, hey, this isn't Kindergarten...it's science and it should be done right. On Thursday morning I came to the office looking forward to another hectic, managerial day. Instead of finding a motivated Italian, however, I found a note on my desk that said "I have realized that I am not interested in this type of research and have decided to leave. Here are the keys". Quite a surprise, especially since he was supposed to present his Master's work to our department that morning. Actually he had to give this presentation to receive reimbursement for the trip (the Institute reimburses invited speakers, but not students). Thus, by skipping out of it, he essentially forfeited the money for plane and train tickets to and from Plön. Stupid decision. Even stupider considering that his return plane ticket was 2 weeks away, so he must have had to find someplace to stay for a week and a half or buy a new ticket. I hope that his straightforward explanation for leaving (i.e. not interested in the work) is actually the honest truth, and that my perhaps dictatorial managerial style was not responsible for his departure. In any case, next week we get another potential applicant, also from
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Back to the point, I have some geile Mucke to share. In the last few weeks, I've bought (or received for my bday) a number of CDs. Top of the list: HORSE the band. I got their "new" album (from early 2007), and it is great. It is hard to imagine a better mix of 8-bit nintendo sounds and death metal. Though that may sound awful, even Ines admitted that their track "Sex Raptor" was nearly spinnable. High praise indeed. I also finally bought their Pizza EP, a record featuring all pizza-themed songs. There is even a tribute to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; we all know how much they love pizza. As an aside for any German readers, the actual CD looks like a pizza, which raises the possibility that die Ärzte stole this idea for their recent album. I also bought the debut album from Polkadot Cadaver. This outfit rose from the ashes of Dog Fashion Disco. Happily, the eccentric and creepy tones of DFD live on in Polkadot Cadaver. If you want to impress (or alienate) your friends with some original music, this band would be an appropriate choice. I also picked up few albums that would appeal to a more broad audience. For example, the new Tegan and Sara album is a mainstay on my mp3 player. The songs are clever, punchy, and great for singing along. I must admit that enjoying a girl, indie pop band is something of a guilty indulgence. Also along the lines of pop indulgences would be the band Freezepop. Strangely enough, I first encountered this band in Guitar Hero. For whatever reason, playing the electronic chords on their track "less talk, more rokk" (which obviously originate from a synthesizer, not a real guiter) suckered me into buying their album. While entertaining, I wouldn't rate the album as a must-have...like HTB. Two other recent buys: Fair to Midland and Shiny Toy Guns. Though I got the CDs in the mail earlier this week (there would be no way to buy these CDs in a German shop, let alone in Plön), I haven't had time to listen to them yet. I discovered these bands on myspace, so there is a certainly a chance for disappointment. If you want to know if this Mucke is geil, then you are gonna have to write me or berate this blog with comments.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I spent two days last week in
Other observations...a major similarity to the
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Sunday, January 06, 2008
To stay in touch with the title of this blog, maybe I should say a few things about the project I'm working on. The project is called "evolution of complex parasite life cycles", and essentially we want to understand why parasites use so many hosts in their life cycles. Parasites commonly have up to 3 hosts, but why they do this is a bit of an evolutionary conundrum. That is, wouIdn't it be easier to survive and reproduce when only one host is used? Well, parasites that add a host to their life cycle that's higher on the food chain (e.g. a bigger fish) may actually be able to grow larger and produce more offspring. A parasite that adds a host lower in the food chain may be able to increase their probability of transmission if the new host is frequently eaten by the old host. Though interesting, these ideas are difficult to test because most parasites have set life cycles, so there is no variation that can be used to design experiments. Instead, an indirect approach is necessary, such as examining the costs and benefits of parasite traits likely related to life cycle evolution. In this vein, I plan to examine the growth strategy of a particular tapeworm species in its different hosts. Here are some of the questions I hope to test…Does faster parasite growth increase the likelihood of host death? Natural death or death by predation? If it is costly to grow fast, what do parasites gain by growing fast and large? Do these costs and benefits apply to every host, or just some of the hosts a parasite uses? Is there any flexibility in parasite growth rates and what factors influence this? By pursuing these questions for the next 2 years (maybe more), I hope to further our understanding of how parasites divide up their life cycle (why do they grow a lot in some hosts, but not much in others?). In about a week, I'll go to the
What else has been going on the last couple months?? Ines has been furiously writing her Diploma thesis. Her deadline is in a couple weeks. Afterwards, she will be a high-earning, diploma-carrying journalist! Maybe then I could quit my job, and become a professional blogger. Or better yet, a profi gamer. I got completely addicted to Guitar Hero over the Xmas holidays. For those who don't know, Guitar Hero is a playstation game in which, using a guitar shaped controller, you have to press buttons and strum chords to the rythym of different rock songs. Here in Plön, I'm going through withdrawl. I felt a bit bad about my addiction, because I actually gave the game to Ines for Xmas. I was hoping that it would add to our playstation-based party games, such as singstar and eyetoy.
We spent New Year's in Leipzig, which was a blast. Ines and I went to a party at a friend's apartment. After , we went dancing in the most famous indie club in