Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time for a change of tune

Another year has passed, as they do. (Quicker and quicker, it seems.) This time I explored the djungles and wonderful beaches of Costa Rica, revisited Victoria, had countless cups of coffee in Vancouver and went to St Louis (twice).

I enthusiastically watched Seahawks win the Super Bowl, Germany win the World Cup and on a warm summer evening I suddenly found myself on a floating bed in the middle of a Lake Union sail race. I went kayaking and hiked around Mt Rainier, joined the Seattle Pride Parade and practiced my Italian sign language. I achieved a much wanted science writing goal and was appointed co-chair of the Fred Hutch postdoc organization.

I went to two magical farm parties, including the burning of a straw Guy Fawkes on a starry fall night. I had friends and family visit me, tried numerous restaurants, had too many drinks and sang karaoke way too loudly. I dated, and met some truly wonderful new friends. I found love and lost it again.

2014 was good to me, but it ends on a low note. Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new year - a year that I hope will bring solace, healing and less misfortune to my loved ones.

Be well, all of you, and have a sparkly, funky, kooky and absolutely extraordinary New Year's Eve! Let's make 2015 the best year yet.

Gott Nytt År!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This is all very random

I was really terrible at taking pictures when I was home; I'm not blaming the fever, but it might have been the fever. (Ok, I just blamed the fever. The fever can have it.)

Anyway. Here are a few random photos that make me happy, in no particular order.

Being in Sweden means catching up with as many friends as possible, as many times as possible. This trip was no exception, although there is little documentation of the social events I attended. Luckily, some of my very best companions are selfie-addicts; thus, I can at least prove that I got to spend some time with these lovely creatures:

My faithful sisters in crime, how I miss you (and your little saplings) when I'm away!

Christmas Eve was rainy, as tradition has it, but the weather gods kindly offered a couple of crisp, cold, snowy days after that.

I'd say it qualifies as a White Christmas, especially seeing as this guy suddenly showed up at our doorstep:

Hullo, fellow Frost!

When I wasn't out frolicking with snowmen and childhood friends, most of my days in Halmstad revolved around yummy treats like these:

The not-too-shabby view from my sickbed (i.e. the living room couch):

Biathlon! For those who don't know, Swedes can't get enough of it. It's a genetic disorder we share with the Norwegians.

This year we didn't bother with putting the Christmas gifts under the tree until about 10 minutes before it was time to open them. I just kind of forgot about it (damn you, fever!). I have to say that mine had the prettiest labels, though; handcrafted by yours truly.

Yeah, and Gothenburg was pretty too.

Ok. That's all, folks. You can go home now. (Damn you, fever!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Admittedly, I could be merrier. Had I wished for fever, headache, a sore throat and an excessively runny nose for Christmas, then this would have been the final proof of Santa's existence. Still, it's lovely to be home and I'd rather be sick in good company than on my own in a faraway land. Believe me, I'm being excellently cared for as I'm recuperating in the warm glow of our Christmas tree.

With a bit of luck, I'll be back to my normal, bouncy self in a couple of days. If not, then Santa's dead. DEAD, I TELL YOU.

From all of me to all of you, a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night

I'm off! Take care, lil' Fremont. Have a happy holiday and I'll see you in a couple of weeks.

Sweden, brace yourself.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bittersweet memories and an American classic

The past week was... interesting. It's Sunday evening and I'm completely exhausted, physically as well as emotionally. High highs and low lows; I've had some amazingly good times and fun encounters, but they've been mixed with severe anxiousness, frantic frustration and plain ol' sadness.

Yeah. This lady is singin' the blues.

That being said, Friday was one of the most magical nights out I've had in this city (and that says a lot), although technically it was a farewell party. Without going into detail, there are certain memories that will be kept deep inside my heart for a long time to come; equal parts thorn and feather.

Saturday was spent recuperating at the Frayos, drinking glögg, decorating their tree, eating freshly made Christmas cookies, sipping on wine, nomming down dinner, watching Elf and snuggling with Cian.

One of the highlights was getting a very special Christmas present. I've started working on a bucket list with things I want to do, see and experience before I eventually leave this part of the world; even though it breaks my heart just thinking about saying goodbye to Seattle, I've got to be rational and make sure that I'm not missing out on unique experiences by being in denial. Therefore, the list includes activities ranging from seemingly trivial endeavors to more adventurous enterprises. The gift from the Frayos might perhaps land in the former category rather than the latter, but it doesn't make it less precious.

On my list was: eat a Twinkie. This super processed, nutritionally horrendous sponge cake with "creamy filling" is an American classic; an "an icon of junk-food snacks and guilty pleasures", and I had not yet had one. So, Shani made sure that I could cross that item off the list.

How it was? Well. Pretty terrible, I have to admit. Nonetheless, "Eat a Twinkie": check! (In case you were wondering, Shani's sweet cookies were several orders of magnitude better.)

Sunday started with work from 7 to 11, but things improved radically after that. Most importantly, Seahawks kicked some Californian butts, knocking the 49ers out of the playoffs. (Hah!) Had a fun time at 9 Mill watching the game, making friends and enjoying the overall holiday pleasantness.

Monday and Tuesday will be a ticking clock, counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until I get my behind in the airplane seat and head eastwards. I have a ton of things to wrap up at work (and at home) before I go, however, so there will be no downtime to talk of.

Better that way, says Melancholy Molly.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Busy bee

Starting today, I'm counting down nine days until it's time to board the plane to Sweden. In those nine days loose ends will be tied up, articles finished, experiments crammed in, holiday parties organized, meetings attended and friends bid farewell. Besides everything Fred Hutch-related, I need to also do my laundry, clean the apartment, wrap gifts and pack a bag or two for the upcoming travels on the 17th. But you know what? It's going to be great.

However, my busy schedule leaves no time for writing letters to Santa. Instead, I'll let Lindi Ortega sum it up: All I want for Christmas is a cowboy. Now you know.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Festivus for the rest of us

Here's a post that probably won't make much sense except for the Seinfeld nerds out there, unless you do some research. Ever heard of Festivus? If not, read up.

...done? Great.

Life in Fremont is the source of constant amusement, and I was honestly not the least bit surprised when I started seeing posters about Fremot Festivus taking place on December 5th. Somehow, I had managed to miss this tradition in 2012 and 2013, but luckily not this year. Besides the customary Festivus practices, the celebrations also included the annual Lenin lighting; or, as the organizers so nicely put it, a chance to "Celebrate the start of the Fremont holiday shopping season by helping light up a bronze statue of a dead dictator!" Eh, count me in.

The hour-long festivities included everything you would expect, such as Airing of Grievances, Feats of Strength (at least, a version of it) and a proper Festivus pole.

In addition, the celebrations included some things you might not expect, such as representation from the city in the form of Miss Seattle. Yes, seriously. (The one with the tiara, to the left.)

Shani and I decided to make this event into a proper girls' night out, and after the decorated dictator was lit up we spent the evening going from place to place, happily shopping, eating and drinking; basically enjoying everything that makes Fremont such a gem.

The rest of the weekend was equally lovely; on Saturday Amanda and I met up at the University Village outdoor mall for a Christmassy breakfast/shopping date, which turned out to be not only super fun but also super efficient. Sunday meant football at Eastlake Bar & Grill (go Hawks!), after finishing a few things at work and then crossing off the last items on my Christmas list. Finally, as I'm writing this, a batch of just-made glögg is cooling on the stove behind my back; one bottle will be brought to work on Wednesday, and the other to the Frayos next weekend. Good times they are a-comin'.

Happy second Advent, from me and Vladimir!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A (not so) short marathon report

If I ever get the stupid idea of running a full marathon during wintertime again, please smack me in the head with something hard. Like, really hard.

I don't want to be too lengthy in my descriptions of the difficulties of running with numb feet, or trying to open energy gel packets on the go with lobster claws where hands should be. Neither am I going to overly stress how tricky it is to drink water from a squeeze bottle when you can't feel your lips. Or hands. (Meaning, no squeeze.) Well, then you can always drink the water provided at the water stations, right? You just need to remove the ice layer floating in the cups first. And then swallow the freezing liquid. When you're already numb from cold, everywhere.

Then, as you eventually cross the finishing line and someone hands you a power bar (which you can't get out of the box without help - lobster claws, remember?) and a water bottle (whose cap there is no chance whatsoever you will be able to unscrew), it's a little problematic to hold on to the aluminum foil blanket they hung over your shoulders, so you lose it immediately but are too stiff to bend down and get it so you leave it. You then limp all the way to the bus stop in wet, sweaty clothes, carefully cradling the water and energy bar you so badly need but can't uncork/unwrap. When you get there, the bus is waiting at the stop but your legs just won't move fast enough so you inevitably have to see it leave right before you get to it. When the next one shows up about 15 minutes later you almost cry of joy, and then you almost cry for other reasons as you try to enter the vehicle. The bus driver sees your struggle to lift one leg after the other in some sort of organized manner, and loudly exclamates OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH!!! so that everyone in the entire bus stares at you as you not-so-elegantely flop down on a seat. Then you almost cry again as an older gentleman solemnly applauds your effort (because you're still in marathon gear; bib, medal and all).

Finally, when you get off the bus (not very elegantely either) your entire body has started shaking uncontrollably to the point where you're nearly incapable of getting the house key into the lock. (Again, lobster hands are not helping.) Once inside, you see yourself in the mirror and get a slight shock. What the heck have you been eating, and how did you get it all over your mouth? It almost looks like dirt! You're confused, until you realize that it's neither dirt nor food: your face has become blue from the cold.

At this point, only one thing matters: to get warm. So you do the only right thing: fill your bathtub with hot (!) water, bring a cup of hot (!) tea to the tub, plus the power bar and water bottle you still haven't been able to get to. When the water gets too cold, you empty the tub and continue with a hot (!) shower. To hell with global warming; all that matters is that your icy bone marrow melts.

So... Without going in too deep into detail of my endeavours (I really don't want to bore you) I'll just conclude that running marathons in negative Celsius is not my thing. But damn, did I do well! 03:35:55, ladies and gentlemen.

Pre-race mirror selfie. (Yes, I look a little tense, because I was a little tense.)

A closer look at the result.

The course.

I'm now sitting in my little Christmas-decorated place, happy and proud, and still full from the late brunch that David and Amelia treated me to after I regained some color to my face (anything but blue).

Perhaps I should try a summer run next time...? (Hah.)

Thank you all, for encouragement, thoughtful comments and happy cheer! It means the world to know that you've all got my back, and that I can share my happiness with you. Extra gratitude goes to Paprik, for excellent long-distance coaching (in dual sense).

Love to all!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ready, set, go!

It's 9:15 Saturday evening and I'm going to bed in about 30 minutes. This, my friends, is the life of a marathoner. Granted, I have no idea what the other runners are doing tonight, but I'm guessing few of them are out partying. My alarm is set for 4:55 am, which leaves plenty of time for a hearty breakfast to settle before I take off towards Seattle Center and the 2014 Seattle Marathon.

The starter pistol fires at 8:15 am (17:15 CET), and powered by a combination of stubbornness, stamina and good fortune I'm hoping to cross the finishing line sometime before noon (21:00 CET). Supposedly, those who are interested should be able to get continous updates on my progress through Twitter. Otherwise you can check the results afterwards, and search for either my name or bib No. 691.

But as all Swedes are well aware, tomorrow is not just marathon day; it's also Advent Sunday, marking the start of the season of Advent. Without coming off as a religious nutcase, let's just say that to me it signifies the official countdown to Christmas, or rather, the first day that it's actually okay to listen to Christmas music and indulge in holiday treats. Besides mentally preparing for tomorrow's challenge I spent the day scrubbing and dusting my little place, and then decorating it with some essentials. Advent candles, check; calendar candle, check. And then some glittery stuff.

Lovely, innit?

Have a cozy advent morning folks, and I'll see you on the other side...!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Things that make sense in some parts of the world

Holiday season is upon us! BRING OUT THE CHOCOLATE SALMON!

I just... I don't... No.

(Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writer, check. Photographer, check.

Imagine my surprise when a photo I shot in May for a Thank you-package to some generous donors suddenly showed up in my Twitter feed today. Following the link, I found this nice little collection of quotes from patients, researchers and other Fred Hutch staff, all in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

My lab bench and some utensils; a contemporary still life from the reality of another grateful individual.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Classy sassy

Saturday brought another first for me: a classical concert at Benaroya Hall. Seattle Symphony played Beethoven's Fifth, and judging by my untrained ear they did so quite well. Better yet were the Gioacchino Rossini and Ottorini Respighi pieces, which were slightly more to my taste in terms of musical qualities, but the entire evening was highly enjoyable.

Seriously, any excuse to dress up nicely, have a cocktail and experience something new is a success in my book; another addition to my list of I-should-totally-do-this-more-often items. (It's getting longer and longer...)

Sunday, November 23, 2014


My friend Isaac sent me a link to this video about the incredible supporter culture that thrives in Seattle; a fun little film that I recommend to anyone that's curious about the atmosphere at a Sounders game.

The coolest part is that it was filmed during the playoff game against FC Dallas on November 10; a game that we happened to be at. What's more, a lot of the footage was shot from the ECS (Emerald City Supporters) section at the arena; i.e. the section we were in. In fact, the reporter was standing just a couple of rows in front of us. Provided almost-x-ray vision and knowledge about our exact location, it's therefore possible to catch nanosecond-glimpses of us here and there during the clip, for instance around 2:28 and 11:58.

I might be hiding behind someone's armpit, but I'm there. (Wearing my Sounders scarf, of course.)

Have a look-see, why don't ya?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The November issue

For each edition of the Fred Hutch newsletter Science Spotlight one of the five editors is appointed head editor and thus bestowed with some extra tasks and responsibilities. We go by a rotating schedule, and if the November issue looks stunningly credible or surprisingly kooky, this person is to blame:


Anyhow, here are the two articles I wrote for this month's edition:

The two faces of NKG2D
AAT: A double whammy for leukemia

Read! Ponder! Form a study group!

Finally, before you say it; I know, I need to learn how to be more concise. (I just love words too much!)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baby, it's cold outside

Cold outside, cold inside. Biting, yet beautiful. (Painfully so, if you ask my hands.) Last week brought gorgeous weather, with clear skies and spectactular colors at dusk and dawn.

A few snapshots from my everyday walk to work; a treat to mind and eye.

Hello! A happy gal in her new Betsey Johnson beanie. The bow on top doesn't quite show in this pic, but I can assure you that it's super cute (yes, I know you were worried).

Pink skies on the way back home.

November at its very best!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No need to go postal

Mail! Ragged, patched, torn and bandaged mail. Postal services of the world, you sure do a... job. Of some sort.

Nevertheless, packages from mum are always a treat, no matter how much tape it takes to keep them together. Crossword puzzles, glögg napkins and a calendar candle; I'm all set for November and December. Amazingly enough, the candle was intact, even though it looked as though the envelope had been run over by a caravan of lawn mowers. A genuine Christmas miracle!

Tack mamma!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bonfire night

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

Seriously, it was four days ago; if you don't remember it you might want to have that checked out! You may not be fully up-to-date with the events that took place on November 5th 1605, however. On that night, Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding some 20 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars underneath the House of Lords of the British Parliament; gunpowder that was part of a failed plot to assassinate King James I of England.

Long story short: the catholic conspirators were caught, tried in a court of law and found guilty of high treason. Their punishment: ugh. (A not-so-pleasant death.)

Anyhow, the Brits commemorate the failure of the so called Gunpowder Plot with fireworks and the burning of Guy Fawkes effigies. Friends of mine in Seattle figured that this is as good an excuse as any to gather a bunch of people, eat well, drink well and have a big fire. For the fifth year in a row, they therefore arranged a bonfire party at their farm outside of Lacey, WA yesterday. We were in luck; the weather was wonderful all day, and as darkness fell around us we were warm and cozy under the starry sky, telling stories accompanied by the comforting sound of the crackling fire.

Looking through my photos I realize that the actual burning of our straw man looks quite horrifying, but I can assure you that it was  less dramatic than it seems.

A fascinating tradition and an extraordinary night, in the company of some really tremendous people.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Resident Evil meets 28 Days Later; walking through empty Fred Hutch corridors in late October is slightly disturbing and spine-chillingly exciting at the same time.

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, Tonight is Halloween!
- Dexter Kozen

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Home alone

Mother is on her way back to Sweden and my little place is suddenly all empty and quiet. Now what?

Answer: pedal to the metal; work, work, work. Seven weeks from now I'll be the one flying across the time zones, and I have a ton of deadlines to meet until then. I have a feeling December will be coming up pretty fast...

See you in a bit, mummy dearest!

(Photo from Fan Tan Alley, Canada's narrowest street.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

The October issue

Lo and behold! My first two articles for Fred Hutch's electronic newsletter Science Spotlight.

Mixed signals: The liver's perspective
Age is just a number

This is so much fun! I'm already looking forward to writing up my next two stories. If you have any constructive feedback, please feel free to share it with me; I'm doing this to learn, after all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A place to grow old

Swedes, help me out here; this is not a very good name for chocolate covered raisins, is it?

Best ever! I think not, Canada.

On the other hand, The Great White North is apparently a place where one can happily go to retire, resting safe in the knowledge that there is Bridge Mixture to be had. And before you ask: yes, they have Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts too (and plenty of it!) - it is the Commonwealth after all.

Rendezvous in, let's say, 40 years?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Double, triple, quadruple V

V for Vancouver and Victoria - for visa and victory. I'm back from my exile in Canada, and what a great intermission it was! The weather was perhaps not the jolliest during the Vancouver visit, but mum and I were quite content with the single somewhat sunny day that allowed us to explore the city by foot after my interview at the American consulate. The other days were of the more drizzly kind, forcing us to sit at various cafés, restaurants and bars in cozy Gastown, sipping on coffee, wine and cocktails, reading books, writing postcards and solving crossword puzzles. Life was hard, but we pulled through.

An inukshuk in the city's West End, off English Bay.

Steel and glass, glass and steel. (And boats.) Very Vancouver.

Next, we set sail for Victoria, British Columbia's lovely state capital on Vancouver Island, where the entire Frost family spent a couple of days last summer. This time, mum and I teamed up with my cousin, aunt and grandmother, and went sightseeing all over the place by means of feet, double-decker bus and rental car. Some attractions were revisited, others were new; high tea was ingested and vistas were viewed. A certain amount of confusion was ever-present and patiently endured (most of the time).

Colorful houseboats! Makes this Seattleite feel quite at home.

Butchart Gardens, again; almost as colorful in fall as in summer. The sweets equally filling.

The beautiful veranda where we indulged in the goodies; not too different from that of my parents' house, in hue and atmosphere.
Onwards! Through the greenery.

An enchanting cove, hidden behind the Japanese garden.

From Butchart we drove on to University of Victoria, where my cousin is currently studying. She showed us around campus, and the general impression was: lots of trees and lots of rather awkward deer.

Close to UVic is Mount Tolmie, an excellent spot for students to park. Great view, nonetheless!

Disneyland? Nope, just the British Columbia Parliament Buildings twinkling prettily during my last morning walk.

This somewhat spontaneous vacation had to end eventually, and seeing as my passport had been successfully returned to me on Friday there were sadly no more excuses. I hopped on the Victoria Clipper back to the US this afternoon, while the rest of the gang will keep exploring the island for a few more days. I wish I could stay too, but alas! Work is calling.

Beware, however, because on Friday, mum and grandma will make Seattle shake...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vancouver update

Application approved! Celebrations are in order. A sip of glacier water, perhaps?

Bye for now, from the Olympic cauldron.