You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2010.

I’ve uploaded some photos on my Flickr site. Right now, I’m living in Oberreitnau, a village 7 km north of the island of Lindau. There are apple orchards and flowers galore up there. Last Sunday, I spent the day sitting on my porch listening to the children play outside and a cow mooing. I’ve included photos of my apartment and the surrounding scenery. On Saturday, I took a hike in the countryside and those photos are there too.

To give you an idea of the geography, I made a Google map that shows these places. I’ll update it if I travel around Germany.

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For those who don’t know, I’d better tell you why I came over here. Last summer, I attended the Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates. This is an annual meeting held in Lindau, Germany to bring together Nobel Laureates and students from all over the world. It is a week of discussion and lectures, with plenty of interaction between the Laureates and students as well as interaction between students from different countries. Last year, I met Christian Rapp, the director of the communications staff, at the press dinner. He invited me back this year to intern with him in the communications side of the meeting. The scale of this meeting is larger than last year. This is the 60th annual meeting and it is interdisciplinary, meaning that there will be Laureates from physics, chemistry, and medicine. Everything is bigger….the number of Laureates, the number of students, and the press coverage.

My role in the office is starting to become more clear. My main project will be to produce a newspaper that will serve as a recap of the meeting. All the students will receive a copy on the last day of the meeting. I’m excited about this project, but about 2/3 of the content will be generated during the week of the meeting. I am only responsible for conducting interviews and writing articles. The meeting has an official photographer and a graphic designer will do the layout.

Until the meeting, I’ll be busy making some infographics (displaying statistics with pictures) for the newspaper, putting together a video that will show famous Laureates who have attended the meeting in the past 60 years, writing press releases and articles for the newspaper, and coordinating with the American journalists who will be attending. Even though the organization does the same thing every year….invite Laureates and students and host the meeting….they work hard to stay current and keep the meeting fresh. I like that.

I really like the people in the office. Everyone is really helpful, showing me around the office and translating things for me. There is another intern working in communications right now. His background is in political science and media relations. His birthday was yesterday and the whole office went out for drinks after work. It was a fun evening, though we were all quite tired today!

As I  mentioned in the last post, the lady who owns the apartment I am renting until the end of the week does not speak English. I really wish we could communicate better because she is such a dear. She even baked me a cake for my arrival. Since I was delayed several days, she put it in the freezer and brought it to me this weekend. It was quite tasty!

When I came home from work yesterday, she caught me in the hallway. I thought I heard her say “veggie” or something like vegetable, so I brought her my food scraps for the compost. Turns out she was asking if I wanted clean towels. We both got a laugh over that. The german word for towel (handtuch) is nothing like compost (kompost). My ear definitely needs some more training. I have managed to tell her that the apartment is comfortable (Die Wohnung sie bequem) and answer “How are you?” (Wie geht es Ihnen) with “I am well, thank you.” (Sie gut, danke)

I wish I had taken the time to learn more German before I came, but I’m managing OK. Another adventure: working with software where the commands are in German. Thankfully for Microsoft Office, the important things have icons and are located in the same place as in English. Everyone in the office speaks English and they’re happy to help me with any German questions.

Coming up next: more details about my internship and the work I’ll be doing for the next few months.

My work day has ended, but I´m staying later to use the internet. Internet access is spotty around here.

Yesterday I quickly posted that I made it here safely. It was an uneventful trip, but I´ll give you the details. My flight to Zurich left from Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Our flight path took us across Spain and then north through France. The flight was great….very little turbulance and a wonderful landing! Getting through customs took a little longer than the quick nod and stamp, but he let me through without a fuss. I collected my bags and headed to the train station inside the airport. Even though my train ticket was for the previous Saturday, the railway honored it due to all the travel mess. I hopped on the direct train to Lindau and was here by 11A local time. The only sign of any travel disruption were the 10-15 carts of luggage lined up at baggage claim in Zurich.

From the train station in Lindau, I walked across the street to the office. The staff happily greeted me, pleased to see that I finally arrived. Until the end of April, my apartment is in a town 7 km north of the island of Lindau. One of the staff members lives in the town and she offered to drive me to my apartment. On the way, we stopped at the bus station to get a weekly pass, the grocery store, and bank. My apartment is clean and tidy with a fully equipped kitchen. The landlord doesn´t speak English, so I was glad my co-worker was there to translate.

Spring has just started here and I feel quite lucky to get two springs this year! I have pictures to post, but I can´t upload them on this computer. I´ll find a place to do that. Time to run and catch the bus home.

I arrived safely in Lindau via plane to Zurich. No problems with any travel. Will update more later.

Well, I made it to the airport, through security, and to my seat on my plane to Philly. Then a gate agent came and told me that my flight was cancelled. I collected my bags at baggage claim and took the train home. Right now, I’m on hold with the airline’s reservations desk and I’ll update this post when I have more information.

UPDATE: My flight was rebooked for Tuesday April 20th. I’ll try again then!

Packing started as this….

and 5 hours later, it ended up like this…

When I traveled to Europe in high school, I learned the importance of being able to handle your own luggage. The teacher who organized the trip had all of the students come to her house with our luggage packed. She had us walk down the street and climb stairs with our bags to see if we could carry them. Those who struggled during the test run also struggled in Europe. They found other students to carry their bags during the trip.

I think I packed, unpacked, and repacked at least 5 times today as I tried different combinations of luggage with the bags I found in the house. During my test walks down the street, I felt most comfortable pulling one bag and carrying a backpack. We even had a duffle bag large enough to serve as a cover for my big backpack. I’m hoping that will keep the straps from getting chewed up by conveyor belts! In the future, I think I would put my clothes in vacuum bags to save space and minimize the amount of luggage.

As of now, the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland hasn’t disrupted my flight from Philly to Zurich tomorrow. Lindau, here I come!

Last Friday, I felt like playing around in the kitchen. Cooks Illustrated had published a recipe for deep dish pizza that looked amazing and I thought I’d give it a try. But…I wanted to take the challenge one step further and make my own mozzarella cheese as well.

Some time ago, I bought a cheesemaking kit. I’ve used it once with near success. By the end of the process, I had something that resembled really soft mozzarella cheese. For this second attempt, Chris joined the fun.

This kit doesn’t use any active bacterial cultures to make the cheese. It relies on acidification and addition of an enzyme to separate the curds(the proteins in the milk) from the whey (the liquid).

First, you add citric acid and heat the milk to a specified temperature.

Then, you add the rennet, which contains enzymes that chew up the proteins in the milk and cause them to coagulate. In this kit, the rennet comes from calf stomach, but a vegetarian form exists too. After 15 minutes, we saw the curds separate from the whey.

For the last step, you pour off the whey, heat the curds, and stretch them like taffy to make the cheese. Everything seemed to be working well until we heated the curds. Instead of melding together, they stayed separated and we ended up with something that looked like ricotta cheese. According to the website, this can happen when the milk is ultra-pasturized (heated to higher temperatures than pasturized milk). This damages the proteins in the milk and causes it to form a weak curd.

Not wanting to waste our curds, we added some basil and turned them into a dip. Then I went to Trader Joe’s to get some mozzarella. I still wanted some pizza!

To make a long story short, the pizza was delicious. The recipe is time consuming because the dough for the crust has to rise twice, but it’s totally worth it. Next time, I’ll freeze some of the dough to see if it can be made ahead of time. Either way, this recipe is a keeper!

My defense went well. I’m pleased with how my talk went and the questioning session wasn’t too bad. While I was being interrogated, my mom and Chris set up a great reception. If you ever need a bakery in St. Louis, I recommend the lemon raspberry cake at La Bonne Bouche.

This is how I would like to celebrate receiving my PhD:

I’m still working on finding a pile of puppies. I spent most of Tuesday sitting on the couch watching TV. I needed the brain break. I woke up on Wednesday ready to take on the world. Even thought it is cliche, I had the feeling that it was the first day of the rest of my life. I could finally tackle the things that completed the sentence “When grad school is over I can….”

I started by going to the  mall and replacing some of my clothes that were destroyed by chemicals. Then, I did some cathartic cleaning around the house, scrubbing away the grime from months of quick cleaning to wash away the stress from the past few months/years. Today, I’ll start working on the revisions for my thesis. I’ll have some fun too….I’ve got marigolds to plant and dinner to cook!

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