Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hooray for the fortuitous things in life

I am a commuter now, and I feel pretty proud of myself for that. My commute originally consisted of a twenty minute bike ride, a half hour train ride, and then a fifteen minute walk. Inverse and repeat to return home. With planning to arrive early enough to not miss my train (has happened once already…) this ends up being about an hour and a quarter each way. All in all I really enjoy the time, but I was thinking that it might be even more enjoyable to turn that fifteen minute walk into a six minute bike ride. I had been thinking about starting to search for a used bike that I'd be able to keep on the other end.

Two bikes in Sweden. I am just really living large!

I wasn't looking forward to starting the search process, so I was dragging my feet a bit. Used bikes can sometimes be stolen bikes, and I wasn't sure how I was going to go about that process. And then I went to the astronomers' pub night, and I met a guy who lives in the city where my school is. We chatted a bit about the long, straight, flat walking path (used to be a railway) between the train station and town. I mentioned that I was thinking of buying a second bike to keep there. He mentioned that he had a bike there that he shouldn't be riding because it is too small for him and gives him pain in his knees. Four days later I bought his bike from him(:

And in case you were wondering, I did check to make sure the bike was a nice color (silverish-blue) and more importantly, well-named (Bellevue by Logan), before buying it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On my new endeavor

Soon I will be taking up my new post as a full-time student in a Swedish folk dance course. I guess I don't have too much more to say on the topic, actually.

I am really super excited.

The culture of the folky world is sort of the opposite of the culture of the academic world. This was an important change I wanted to make for myself, and I seem to have done so to the extreme.

There are many things I'm looking forward to, and also a few things I am nervous about. I hope I can keep it a place where I commit to speaking mostly in Swedish and seldom in English. I haven't had many opportunities to make first-impressions while only speaking Swedish, and I'm curious how I will come across. Mostly I don't want people to think that my bad Swedish skills mean I am unintelligent.

To be honest I hope the course improves both my dance skills and my language skills. I am interested to see which has greater improvement after the year is over.

So that is the new endeavor. I was a physics post-doctoral researcher, and now I'm becoming a Swedish folk dance student. Ta Da.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On leaving the field

I am technically no longer a part of the academic system of scientific research.

It is often the case that if you are in the academic system, there is an expectation that you will stay put. Talking about leaving is reserved for quiet conversations among friends. The expectation comes in both the form of 'what you ought to do' and 'what people assume you will do as it is most likely.'

It is hard to break the expectation - to tell people you aren't going to do what they think you ought to, or that you aren't taking the path they suspect you will take. Probably most people can hear that I have chosen to leave the system and just say 'okay.'

But to me, it feels like I will get much stronger reactions.

And it is sort of the case that I am getting much stronger reactions, and these few are the ones that stick with me.

In the extreme case, it feels like I am letting people down and that I am disrespecting those who I worked immediately under. It is hard when you have a lot of respect for those people, and yet, making a choice about your own personal life can reflect just the opposite of that. In the not-so-extreme case, you know that people will judge you. You will now always be talked about simultaneously with "that guy who decided to pursue a career in photography after getting a PhD in physics … why even bother getting the PhD??" (not a hypothetical quotation, sadly)

I still like science. I still think my area of research is incredibly fascinating. I just have more compelling reasons for knowing that a career in the academic world is not for me.

And so I am leaving.

I don't feel like a failure and I don't feel like I am making a bad decision, and I'm trying my best not to absorb those feelings from people who think I should feel that way. It is an emotional and strange time, but I certainly don't feel sorry for myself and I hope no one else will either(:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photos Lately

1. Remember that time I got excited about the pink beer we made? Well the pink beer will remain a dream, because this is what became of it.

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Maybe the photos are self explanatory, but I'll write some words to go along with them. Maybe writing words can be part of my grieving process.

The pink beer was over-carbonated. We've never had a batch of beer over-carbonate, so this was a new experience for us. Normally when home brewers face this problem it means exploding bottles---glass and beer and danger everywhere. I guess we were lucky though? I managed to not put at least one cap on properly, so one evening we just heard it start to make a fizzing sound. Greg sprang into action, knowing the cap had to come off to avoid the risk of an exploding bottle. If I was as quick on my feet as he was, I would have made him wear the safety glasses. The first bottle got its cap removed indoors, and as you can see from the above photo, this resulted in pink beer dripping down our wall. The rest of the bottles were opened outdoors, using the open-inside-a-plastic-bag technique we learned from our experience eating surströmming.

2. Our garden is not a complete waste!

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We got these three carrots recently. I was really excited to grow these because of their unique radish-like shape. They may be small, and not very substantial when split between two people, but we were really happy considering the last time we tried to grow carrots they got eaten/trampled by a cow (I have never owned a cow).

3. We took a long-ish bike ride to explore a new section of town.

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4. I made some really delicious pizza.

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I used this recipe and this recipe, both of which I'd recommend.

5. Right now there are blue skies, but about an hour ago there was a total downpour, resulting in all sorts of rainbow delight.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Two tales

Here are two tales about what it can be like in Swedish class.

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On a given day, a lot of time is spent working on pronunciation of two specific letters. This is a thing that is done every Tuesday. We are working our way through the alphabet, slowly but surely. Today was a day for R and P. P and R, maybe I should say. There is a Q in the swedish alphabet, but it is rarely used.

The teacher mentions that there are some words that have a P or an R next to another consonant, and in those examples the P or the R can be silent. Actually the example she used was the word psalm, which is identical in spelling and meaning to the english word psalm, so that is convenient.

Then a student asks about another combination of two letters in a specific word where one of the letters is silent. The teacher explains that yes, there are a lot of cases where this is true. She writes a few more examples of various letter combos on the board, along with specific words where this is the case. She talks about it for several minutes. And then she says, "We can talk more about this tomorrow, since our main objective right now is pronunciation with P and R." Except she says it in Swedish. And I have a pretty good idea that the student could understand her, but either chose to not listen or just push her own objective, because she pressed on, repeating her initial question word-for-word, as if no answer had already been given.

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Many times the teacher says something, only to have a student completely not understand and do just the opposite. It makes me laugh a lot, and I like laughing so it suits me just fine. An example is when we were gathering around a table to discuss a topic. The teacher said, "Oh we are not too many people, so we can fit around one table if we just bring over a couple more chairs." And two students looked at her, looked away, and then moved two chairs out of the way so that they could pull a second table over. The teacher just shrugged and said, "or not," which I guess makes sense, because what else is there left to do?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday thoughts

I understand essentially everything my Swedish teacher says. Of course, she is speaking slowly and using simpler words, so it is not a huge brag for me to say so, but it is still a little bit of a brag. She still manages to use some words I don't know on occasion, but I can always hear what word she is saying and look it up. Hearing what word is being said makes all the difference. When normal people speak Swedish, I hear a new word and ask what does dayjorja mean? And the problem is that they were saying three simple words that I know and can use properly.

And here is a thing. The bathrooms in my school have some sort of weird feature where sound just travels between them (they are individual rooms, Sweden isn't really into a stall-system) incredibly well. The other day it sounded like a person was standing next to me talking on their phone. And today, just as I was about to flush the toilet I heard someone start chanting? I'm not sure what was happening, but I felt SO disrespectful to just flush a toilet in the middle of it.

Anyhow.

Today is another super hot day. I 'cooked' veggie wraps for dinner. Sometimes I start thinking about how there are days (maybe consecutive) where I just don't eat vegetables? I've been trying to avoid this by eating a carrot appetizer if there is not a vegetable included in my dinner choice. Today's veggie wraps had spinach, zucchini, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, avocado, and a pesto+mayo spread. Pretty delicious. Pretty friendly for a warm day.

Yesterday Greg started a trend of playing classical music while dinner is being prepared. I continued the trend today, because I like the idea of giving myself some musical education. Yesterday was a little Bach, today a little Vivaldi. Did you know that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest? And that Bach was influenced by Vivaldi's work (even though Vivaldi was only 7 years his senior)? The things you learn! Thank you wikipedia.

Did you know that rocket boots are a real thing? Leonardo DiCaprio knows it. Apparently a friend of a friend is 'rich and has fun toys' including a set of these things.

Enough topic changes without segues. Time to publish!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cultural research

Sweden has been unusually warm lately. Since it is not typically so warm, most homes do not have air conditioning. There is just no need. Except for the past two weeks there has sort of been a need. Our apartment is on the second level, and it has been getting unbearably warm in there. We are getting a nice routine down for keeping the apartment as not-warm as possible. No oven use. Minimal stove use. Keep the window shade drawn. Hang a white sheet over another window that lets in a lot of sun but doesn't have a shade. And by hang, I mean, pin it to the wall, because sometimes that is just how things are done in our household.

And then there is the increased ice cream consumption. Swedes seem to eat a ridiculous amount of ice cream. I base this on the number of ice cream stands located throughout the city. And since it has been so warm lately, I've also decided to just go ahead and eat a ridiculous amount of ice cream. Partly, it is a way for me to cool off, and partly, it is a way for me to experience more Swedish culture. I am not like the children of Sweden who grew up eating Piggelins.

I like to think of it as cultural research to try out all of the different options. And if it weren't for this mindset, then how would I have ever discovered how amazing the Hilda is?! This is strawberry ice cream, coated in a thin layer of white chocolate, and covered in sprinkles. The box has a picture of an anime character, Swedish style.

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Aside from the fact that the real-life colors of the sprinkles are hardly as sparkly and aesthetically pleasing as the picture on the box, this was a super amazing treat. If it weren't for Greg and his reason, I'm sure the entire box would already be gone.

On a similar but different topic, there is a very similar type of ice cream treat which is made by a different company. As far as I could tell, the difference is that there are layers of white and pink ice cream in the center, and maybe the sprinkles are a nicer color. The other difference is that the name of the treat is Sitting Bull and it features a picture of a cartoon native person on the package. I feel like this is sort of a questionable thing, and I don't know if I want to be seen purchasing such an item. So, as much as I like to eat ice cream in the name of research, I think I might be sticking with the Hilda.