Friday, February 27, 2015

Progress report: Kauai

Flip-flops: check.
Waves: check.
Breakfast: check.
Beauty: check.
Swimming: check.

Check, check, check, check and check.

General state of mind: ignorant bliss.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The February issue

For once, I'm not discussing my seasonal affective disorder; that's getting a little old, don't you think? Instead, I'm referring to the latest edition of Science Spotlight. This time I present the following exciting titles:

Plastic fantastic! Biopolymers efficiently boost T cell therapy
Settling the (risk) score for CGVHD patients

Naturally, both are fascinating in their own way, but if you only have time and energy to peruse through one of them I would recommend the topmost one. I'm not gonna lie: that study is pretty darn spectacular. In fact, our lead editor of the month found it so intriguing he chose to highlight it as our featured article this month. And as if that wasn't enough to make me blush, the story has received a little bit of Twitter attention:

Oh, stop it... It's not that interesting...

Bah! Who am I kidding? Of course it is; now go ahead and read it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Yes, of course it hurts

The other day, mum suggested that I should combat my sullenness by capturing whatever evidence of spring I could find in my surroundings. With camera in hand, I thus went out last weekend in search of buds, flowers and leafy shoots.

My conclusion? Spring is coming.

Not long now... The Swedish poet Karin Boye knew what she was talking about: Yes, of course it hurts (Ja visst gör det ont, translated by David McDuff).
... Then, when things are worst and nothing helps
the tree’s buds break as in rejoicing, ...
Hang in there, everyone!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blank Spot Project

Last Friday I went to an author seminar at the Central Library, featuring Lynsey Addario, an "American photojournalist whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine. She has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo, and has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Genius Grant and the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting." (Quote from

She was showing photos and telling stories from her book It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War, including the horrifying details of her kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war.

The take-home message was crystal clear: it's absolutely instrumental that journalists and photographers are able to travel to the front lines, wherever they may be, and report back to the rest of the us what they see. What they see with their own eyes, document with their cameras and learn from people they meet. Simply relying on information that is "graciously" given by governments who rule through absolute authority is not good enough; we need first-hand testimonies. People's lives depend on it.

If you agree with Lynsey and me (and you should) I would ask you to visit Blank Spot Project, a crowdfunding campaign initiated by Martin Schibbye, a Swedish journalist who was arrested in Ethiopia in 2011 together with the photographer Johan Persson, as they were documenting the ongoing conflict in the Ogaden region. The two of them were sentenced to 11 years of prison for alleged "terrorist crimes", but were pardoned and released after 14 months.

Read about the project; or better yet, support it. Every USD and SEK and EUR and WCYF (whatever currency you fancy) counts. Seriously, instead of going to see a crappy movie (Lex Taken), use those 15-ish dollars (or more!) to support these devoted, brave professionals who risk their lives to tell us true stories from the world's battlegrounds.

Go on, make a difference.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy VD*!

Apparently, Valentine's Day opens up an endless source of wit and inventiveness among sign makers in my neighborhood, as illustrated by this small sampling from my strolls today.

I abstained from both vodka and awkward blind dates but got some pretty tulips to add some color to my quarters.

In addition, I lovingly treated myself to a Big Daddy marshmallow from Theo; graham cracker crust, vanilla-infused caramel and a "fluffy marshmallow cloud" on top, covered in dark chocolate. Not too shabby.

Then what? Tears, and lots of them. Not from general blues this time, but triggered by The Imitation Game (recommended). In the darkness no one can see you cry, but they sure can hear you sniff and snivel... Somehow, it seemed like an appropriate ending to this Valentine's Day.

*Pun intended

Friday, February 6, 2015


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this is not my favorite time of year. To be frank, the past weeks have been hard on me; I've been frustrated with work, anxious about life choices, worried about loved ones and just generally lethargic. All the everyday rituals have been carried out like normal, but without joy. Working, eating, running, sleeping - even dating - nothing has felt really, truly fun. I've lined up supposedly exciting things I could (and should!) do, but kept coming back to the same question: why? Why bother?

Today was Friday and I felt right from the start that it was going to be a sad story. Grey skies and wet streets. The morning workout a paltry yawn. Sitting down at my desk at work I felt utterly sorry for myself, dreading the series of emails I would have to deal with during the day. But then Nancy came into the lab and told us about a postdoc that had been with us for a brief period about 1.5 years ago. This girl had come to our lab from California to help out with a project, but pretty much disappeared merely a few weeks into her stay. She was ill, we learned. Very ill. Hospitalized. After a couple of months she suddenly reappeared and we were all happy to see her, and she started working on her project again. This time, however, she didn't last more than a couple of weeks; she vanished once more from our radar. The last email I sent her was from January last year; I asked her how she was doing, if she was still in the hospital and if there was any way I could come say hi. I never got a response. This morning Nancy told us that she died, just a few days ago.

I never really got to know this girl, but she was my age. And she died. Just like that.

It took me a couple of hours of further self-pity for it to sink in, but after texting with my sister-friends back home, telling them about my February gloom, I realized that it was really quite stupid of me to sit and cry at my desk just because the weather isn't that great right now. Because you know what? I'm alive.

Encouraged by my friends' peptalking I suddenly made a decision. I've been thinking about going to Hawaii quite a while, and I realized that there is no time like the present. Said and done: plane tickets acquired, hotel booked. February 25th, I'm outta here! It's only a short trip to Kauai; 4 nights, to be precise, but it doesn't matter. I'm going, and I'm not dead.

For those who leave too soon, I bow my head. The least we can do is learn something, and I think I just did.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The morning after the night before

I don't know what to say, except that Super Bowl XLIX ended in a very unfortunate and unforseen way, from the Seahawks fans' perspective. The overall feeling is described pretty accurately by this photo that I snapped on my way to work:

Deflated, to say the least.

Still, you don't hear a lot of angry voices; people in general seem to be blue, more than anything. For instance, the Seattle Times tweeted the following this morning:

Oh, this sweet, sweet city of mine... Together, we'll get over this heartbreak! And I must add that although the ending was a kick in the guts, my friends and I had a blast at 9 Mill. The game was a nail-biter from start to finish; just the way I like 'em.

And we'll be back next year, wiser from the experience... Go Hawks!