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'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 Italy strangely enough, so I have another chance to try being a manager.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Time to say something about rock n roll. Sometimes, when doing mindless work, we listen to the radio in the lab. Though the banter of radio DJs can often be annoying, it does give me a chance to learn German as spoken by the young, cool kids. For example, the phrase "geile Mucke" can be heard relatively frequently. Basically, this translates to something like cool music. To my foreigner ears, though, Mucke sounds a lot like Mücke (the u and ü are bloody difficult for me to distinguish). Mücke is mosquito. The adjective here, geil, literally means horny, though nowadays its use is more akin to the word cool. So, when I hear geile Mucke, it is easy for me to think horny mosquito and not cool music. Yeah, language can be endlessly entertaining. The other night I had a long discussion with a colleague about the use of formal and informal forms of the German pronouns for you (Sie and du), but that topic could be a whole post in and of itself.

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 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.