Monday, May 07, 2012

Herzlich Willkommen zur "Benbach"-Hochzeit (endlich auch auf Deutsch)

Ines und Dan wollen Hochzeit feiern, und zwar mit euch! Hier kommen alle Informationen, die ihr braucht.
Wir wollen die Feierlichkeiten mit einem Grillabend am Freitag, 13. Juli 2012, beginnen. Um 18 Uhr werden der Vater der Braut und der Vater des Bräutigams die Grillschürzen umgelegt und den Rost angeheizt haben.
Wo? Sonneberger Str. 35, 98743 Spechtsbrunn

Am einfachsten gelangt ihr mit dem Auto in Ines' Heimatort, denn hier sagen sich nicht nur Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht, es gibt auch keinen ÖPNV. Sobald wir von jedem wissen, wie ihr zu uns kommt, können wir einen Bus- oder Taxiservice einrichten.

Das Hauptereignis wird am 14. Juli 2012 im wunderschönen Schlossberg Hotel in Sonneberg stattfinden. Am frühen Nachmittag trifft sich die Hochzeitsgesellschaft zum Sektempfang. Dan und Ines werden danach ihre Eheversprechen erneuern, diesmal ohne Elvis. Bei Buffet und offener Bar lassen wir am Abend den Tag bis zum nächsten Morgen ausklingen.

Unsere Gäste können sowohl im Schlossberg Hotel als auch in der nahegelegenen Pension Häfner übernachten. 15 Zimmer (meist DZ) hält das Hotel bereit, die für 45 Euro/Person. Reservierungen unter 03675/ 73300 oder Der Preis für eine Pensions-Übernachtung beträgt 25 Euro/Person. Zimmer können unter 03675/ 702684 reserviert werden.

Am Sonntag wird es im Hotel ein Brunch-Buffet geben, zu dem alle Gäste eingeladen sind, auch die, die nicht im Hotel übernachten.

Und wer sich jetzt fragt, mit was er uns eine Freude machen kann: Kommt einfach vorbei! Wir freuen uns! Wem das nicht genügt: In unserem Sparschwein ist noch ein wenig Platz. :)

Update: Die Hochzeitszeremonie am 14. Juli im Schlossberghotel beginnt 13.30 Uhr. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to the “Benbach” wedding!

Ines and Dan look forward to celebrating their wedding with y’all on the 13th and 14th of July 2012. Here is all the information you need to join the fun.

We will start the festivities on Friday the 13th (we’re not superstitious) with a garden party at Ines’s parents’ house in scenic Spechtsbrunn. At 6 pm, the grill will be hot and we hope to meet and greet all our guests. The address is Sonneberger Str. 35, 98743 Spechtsbrunn.
Größere Kartenansicht

The easiest way is to come by car, but once we get some feedback from everyone, we will see if we need to organize a bus or taxi service.

The main event will take place on Saturday the 14th in Sonneberg at the lovely Schlossberg Hotel. We will convene at the Hotel in the early afternoon for a champagne toast, before Ines and Dan re-enact their vows, this time without Elvis. A full buffet dinner will be served in the evening, including an ice cream buffet. The bar will serve beer, wine, punch and select cocktails and it will be open all night!

The hotel is booked for our guests from Friday to Sunday and there are two options for accommodation. There are 15 rooms in the hotel itself (mostly doubles) at the price of 45 Euros per person per night. Call 0049/ 3675 73300 for room reservations or write to The hotel also owns the nearby Pension Häfner, where less glamorous rooms can be booked for 25 Euros per person. Phone: 0049/ 3675 702684.

A brunch buffet will be served at the hotel on Sunday and it will be open to all wedding guests, not just those staying at the hotel.

For our international guests, the closest airports are Erfurt or Nürnberg. However, these are small airports, so the fares may be more expensive. The large international airport in Munich may be the cheaper option; it is about 4 hours away from the wedding location. For those without a car, Sonneberg is reachable by train; schedules can be found here.

Your attendance is the most important gift to us, but if you would like to give something else, then you could deposit something in our piggy bank :)

Update: The wedding ceremony on saturday starts at 1.30 pm at Schlossberg Hotel.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What’s happened since the last post??? Well, the last post was right before the Italian odyssey. How did that go? I spent one week in Turin at the meeting of the European Society of Evolutionary Biologists (yes, I am a member). The conference was both interesting and disappointing. Given that there were 1400 participants, most people could not give a talk. On the positive side, though, most of the talks were of high quality and I really learned a lot. It was humbling going to a conference full of so many extremely clever people, most smarter than me, the humble parasitologist. As for my research, I presented, along with 800 other people, a poster. That was disappointing because, as there were several hundred other posters, people didn’t take much time to stop and discuss my work. I actually spent more time discussing my long forgotten PhD work with a few French acanth researchers than my current work detailed on my poster. Oh well. I’ve decided that the next conference I go to will be much smaller. A colleague of mine says the next international fish parasitology conference is somewhere in S. America…

After “working” in Turin, my holiday began. I flew to Rome to meet Ines and my parents. We spent several days in Rome taking in sites like the Vatican, the Spanish steps, and the Colloseum. Rome was less dirty and more charming than I anticipated, and it is certainly a must-see for any world traveler. But the most memorable part of the visit to Rome was the brutal heat. I’ve spent the last few summers in N. Europe, so I although I yearned for scorching summer temps, I was prepared for the 30 plus degree heat. I am just glad that my folks survived the hikes around Rome without passing out from heatstroke. After thoroughly exploring the treasures of Rome, we headed north to Florence, hometown of Michelangelo. Florence is all about Renaissance art…too bad that we were all sick of the Renaissance after Rome. Nonetheless, we did go to see Michelangelo’s Dave, which was deserving of its reputation. It’s a breathtaking piece of art. We also visited the church in which Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli were buried, which shows what an intellectual center Florence was. After a couple days in Florence, Ines flew back to Germany. On the same day, my sister arrived from Spain, and it was great to see her. The last time we had seen each other was in New York for Christmas 2006, but that doesn’t mean that our sibling rivalry has been settled and forgotten. Whenever she got a bit snotty I had to reestablish my authoritative position as older brother and smack her around a bit. She puts up more of a fight than she used to . The evening before we left Florence, we had a memorable dinner at the corner restaurant Quattro Leonies. The whole fam was tipsy enough after two bottles of wine to engage in a group hug…there’s just something about Italy. The next stop on our trip was Five Chimneys Bed and Breakfast in the Piemont. This little B&B caters to Omahans, of all people, because the Italian owner worked in Omaha for 13 years before getting fired. The newspaper in Omaha did a story on his B&B and he’s been inundated with Nebraskan guests ever since. Situated between the Alps and the Mediterranean, it is in the middle of red wine country. Our host took us on two very nice excursions, one to the mountains and one to the sea. I particularly enjoyed the trip down to “La Cinque Terra”, the five lands. These are 5 little villages located along the Med that look as if they’re about to fall into the sea. They were so charming that my mom wanted to puke, literally…ok, maybe it was sea sickness rather than charm. The highlight of our stay in the Piedmont, however, was not the excursions; it was the food. The wife of our host was a master chef, and she treated us to the best of Italian cuisine. On our first evening, we had a 5-course meal (yeah, 5!, appetizer, pasta, meat dish, cheese, dessert). My dad picked up numerous tips, while I picked up a few pounds. Our hostess went all stereotypical Italian mama on me. She didn’t ask if I wanted seconds, she just piled it on.

Reality was waiting for me after returning from Italy. At the end of September, our Institute was visited by the scientific advisory board. Every two years, the board writes a critical report about the research we are conducting. Their job is to decide whether we deserve the generous government funding we receive. In the summer, we wrote a long report detailing all the spectacular research we’ve done the past two years, and during the board’s visit I, among others, had the job of convincing the board that we’re gonna keep doing great research the next two years. I was surprisingly nervous before this talk to the board, as I felt like my job depended on it. In the end, though, it proceeded like most other talks. All I can do now is hope that the talk was well-received. If not, then I should probably start looking for new work…

So what’s up next? Experiments, yes, but more importantly another fantastical trip. Ines and I are trying to put together a holiday in India. My brother has been in Chennai since September, and we are keen to visit him. Exciting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summer is the time to travel. Tomorrow, I am headed to Turin in Italy to attend the meeting of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology. Must be a small meeting, or? How many evolutionary biologists can there be? A lot it seems; 1200 participants are expected, so this will easily be the largest meeting I’ve ever attended. Hopefully, a few of those 1200 nerds will take a few seconds to glance at my poster. After the conference, I am heading to Rome to meet my parents. Yes, my parents are braving a trans-Atlantic flight to do something they’ve always wanted to do, visit Italy. We plan to see Rome before heading to Florence and Tuscany. Although Italy is sure to be interesting, I’m mostly looking forward to seeing my parents. Actually, this will be my second rendezvous with Nebraskans this summer. I met my old high school/college buddy Ben Retzer in Berlin a few weeks ago. Ben was in the UK to attend the wedding of his fiance’s sister. As he and his fiancé were in neighborhood, they decided to visit Berlin, and I was more than happy to meet them for a weekend in the capital (I’ve often written fondly about my trips to Berlin). Two things I will remember about that trip. First, if you are ever in a bar with psychedelic decorations (i.e. mushrooms sprouting from the ceiling), do not give the bartender free reign to mix the nightcap; it will surely contain too much whiskey. Second, it was a bit weird to be with Nebraskans in Berlin. While Nebraskan dialects and mannerisms are not unusual for me, on a subconscious level I just don't expect to encounter them when I am with my girlfriend in Berlin. It was a sort of reverse-reverse culture shock…my original culture visited me in my adopted culture. Nothing bad about it, it was just a bit strange.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The last two posts have clearly dealt with the theme “rock ‘n roll”, so we are due for a post about parasites. A very exciting experiment of ours came to an abrupt, unplanned end last week. Some background…As a model system we are working with a tapeworm that uses sticklebacks (small fish) as intermediate host. This worm invades the body cavity of sticklebacks and then grows voraciously. The mature worm is so large that it distends the abdomen of the fish and can account for up to 50% of the fish’s weight. A large size benefits the worm, because larger individuals produce more eggs in the next host, fish-eating birds. However, to achieve such prolific growth, worms seem to suppress the fish’s immune system. In a wormy world, this might be risky. By suppressing its host’s defenses, the worm potentially opens the door for other parasites, which might be competitors or on their way to different host’s (e.g. predatory fish). To test this scenario, we infected fish with two tapeworm strains that differed in their growth rates, and then placed the fish in cages in the lake. We intended to leave the fish in the lake until September, so that they would be exposed to a whole summer’s worth of parasites. However, two weeks ago, we observed a spike in fish mortality. So, before our whole batch of experimental fish died off, we decided to undertake an emergency dissection. Unfortunately, the majority of the institute’s technical staff has chosen mid-August for their holidays, so we had to process all these fish with less help than accustomed or expected. Here’s the rough procedure: kill the fish, check the skin, fins, and mouth for ectoparasites, weigh and measure the fish, take a fin clip for DNA identification of the fish, open the body cavity and check for our nasty tapeworm, weigh any worm that is present, take the spleen and head kidneys for possible gene expression studies, dissect the eyes for flukes, squeeze the liver, gonads and intestine for endoparasites, and, finally, freeze the rest of the carcass so the muscles and gills can be checked later. Each little fish requires a lot of work; just checking the eyes can take up to an hour. We had to put in some night-shifts, but we managed to finish the last fish late Friday night. After this dissection-marathon, I’m looking forward to resting my back and not opening another fish eye for some time. I am convinced that the whole effort will yield some very interesting data. Which brings me to a metaphor: big experiments are like binge drinking. We tend to remember the positive parts of it (good data or a nice buzz), but not the negative (an aching back or a wicked hangover).

On another, less-interesting work theme, much of my time has been consumed by report-writing. Every two years, the institute is evaluated by a board of international experts. Essentially, it is the board’s job to assess whether all that government money produced some high-quality research, and it is our job to convince them that we have done lots of spectacular research. In a long, boring report, we detail our work, results, and future plans. I imagine that most of the board members barely read the report, instead browsing through the publication list, checking in which journals we published and how often. Nonetheless, the time devoted to this is excessive. We had two epically long (3-hour) and boring meetings (shoot me) to discuss the content and outline of the bloody thing. And guess who was elected to proofread the 40 page report? Yeah, damn my good English.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I’d been living in Plön for about 1.5 years in the same flat, so naturally, I was getting restless. I moved at the beginning of July to a new apartment. It’s a bit bigger, a bit cheaper, a bit closer to work. But that ain’t so exciting. More entertaining is that, while sorting my junk, I found a DVD with most of the files from my old desktop. I’ve only owned one desktop in my life, and I received it as a gift before heading off to college. That computer, and its monstrous 10 GB hard drive, got me through a 4-year bachelor program. After leaving for Finland, the computer collected dust for several years in my parent’s basement before it was given to charity. But before donating it, my brother burned all my old files on a single DVD and sent them to me. I never really sorted through them, but upon finding this DVD during my move, I had a look. The music was most interesting (this blog is supposed to deal with rock ‘n roll, you know). I had this computer during the lawless Napster days, so shortly after hooking up to the dorm network it was full of miscellaneous obscure mp3s. Browsing through this music nowadays brought about a variety of reactions, ranging from “oh man, what was I thinking” to “awesome, I remember those guys”. A few examples falling in the first category: Bloodhound Gang – Bad Touch (in my defense I was still a teenie when they released that one), Evanescence – Bring me to Life (damn the radio senders still spinning this!), a thrash metal cover of Welcome to the Jungle (I don’t even like the original), a number of unreleased Limp Bizkit tracks (it took me longer than most to outgrow the Bizkit), and Hot Action Cop – Fever for the Flava (that’s probably the low point). Although the presence of such tracks on my old computer causes me shake my head, it also makes me smile. It’s about the memories; nothing says turn-of-the millennium like radio rock hits from Breaking Benjamin (remember them? I didn’t until hearing their songs). Happily, not all of the old archive was so embarrassing. Here’s a short coolest-of list: Ben Kweller – Wasted and Ready, Basement Jaxx – Where’s your Head At?, The Distillers – City of Angels, The Darkness – I believe in a thing called Love (this was nearly assigned to the embarrassing list, but it’s so kitschy it’s cool), Liars – Mr. You’re on Fire Mr., Our Lady Peace – Superman’s Dead, Prodigy – Baby’s got a Temper, Sev – Same Old Song (they were on the Farmclub, remember that short-lived program?), Rorschach Test – Fornicator, Sleater Kinney – More than a Feeling (any Boston cover is bound to be good), and VAST – Free. I can’t really claim to have an emotional connection to any these songs. If I did, they probably would have successfully migrated to my next computer. Actually, I’m glad they didn’t make it, because going through the old files was like opening a time capsule from 2002. Reveling in such musical nostalgia inspired me to go out and download some cool skins for Winamp (it still whips the llama’s ass).