Sunday, May 31, 2015

Euro trip, part I

As mentioned in previous posts, my expectations on Warsaw as a place for architectural experiences were not overwhelmingly high. Frankly, I thought the city would be dirt ugly—sort of like this:

...or, at best, like this:

Hotel Sofitel Warsaw Victoria was built in the mid-70's, offering "the highest level of service" at the time.

This was what I expected, along with stern, grey-faced people in outdated clothes and heavy boots. Sure, there were obviously a few buildings that lacked aesthetic quality, but what I mainly found was a busy, modern city full of beautiful young people, lush parks, and countless cafes (with really tasty coffee). Shame on me for being so prejudiced! My apologies—at least I know better now.

The city was more or less destroyed during World War II, but great effort has been put in to restore the old buildings, recreating what was lost. The scars are ever-present, however—holes from bullets and grenades can still be spotted all around, and by chance I happened to stumble (figuratively speaking) on remnants of the old Ghetto wall, marking the area where over 400,000 jews were confined by the Germans during the Nazi occupation.

A word that springs to mind: unfathomable. There is no better way to learn history than to walk in the footsteps of those who came before us, as spine-chilling as those paths may be.

Walking through the city, I often felt like I could as easily have been in Sweden. This stretch of Krakowskie Przedmieście might as well have been Avenyn in Gothenburg:

...whereas this part of Warsaw's Old Town felt just like its counterpart in Stockholm, with its winding alleys and colorful facades:

Some of the buildings surrounding Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town Market Place) were still under renovation, while others were finished.

Parks were plentiful and incredibly lush, as exemplified by Ogród Saski (The Saxon Garden).

Naturally, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make quick stop at the modest Maria Skłodowska-Curie Museum, situated across the street from the 18th-century apartment building where the twice Nobel laureate was born.

Marie and I! And radium (I think). And polonium. Good ol' polonium! (Updated June 2)

Foodwise, I was surprised by the availability of vegetarian options, especially considering the brief research I had made pre-takeoff. Admittedly, the Polish pierogis didn't really do it for me, but their nalesniki (crepe-like pancakes) were right up my alley. Another discovery was that Warsawians seem to be crazy about ice cream. And we're not talking any ice cream—no, really weird-looking, phallic ice cream. The kind of ice cream you don't want to be seen eating in public.

I mean, really...?

That's it for Warsaw—next up is Amsterdam. In a day or two, that is... (I have a job, you know!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The May issue

Europe came between me and my normal Science Spotlight update, but better late than never: here are your new favorite online articles!

The first demonstrates a tremendous improvement in detection capability of rare mutations in individual cancer cells. Cooler yet, the method can be used for analyzing other samples where cells are rare, for instance in forensics or studies of dinosaurs and other extinct organisms. Pretty awesome!

A ground-breaking method for distinguishing needles from hay

Next, a group of Fred Hutch researchers accidentally stumbled on a gene that may be useful as a predictive marker for characterization of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), potentially advancing the development of individualized treatment plans. I love how seemingly random the initial finding was—I find it quite uplifting, to be honest. You just never know where your research will take you...!

An unpredicted predictor of outcome in pediatric AML

You know the drill by now—if you have questions, just hit me up!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Airport introspection

This is not a particularly good photo by any standards, but the feeling I'm trying to convey is one of carefreeness and mirthsipping on a cappuccino in the afternoon sun while talking about life and watching boats go by on the Singel. Top notch family time!

Fast-forward 17 hours: here I sit at Schiphol airport waiting to board the plane that will take me thousands of miles away from my roots once again, back to the New World. Back to the one-person family that is me.

Surrounded by fellow travellers rushing here and there, anxiously checking their passports and smartphones, I'm spending my time re-focusing and preparing for what's about to come: the last trembling months of my current affairs. This will be an intense summer, full of work and planning—but also play and exploring. Busy, yet fun—closure and new beginnings to come.

I'm ready. Off I go!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Love at first sight

What can I say; Warsaw was anything but depressing, brown, grey, or backwards. Quite the gem, really!

Take the colorful plac Zamkowy (Castle Square), for instance—it looks like something out of a fairytale. Adorable!

I promise to give a more extensive report after my return to Seattle—if I make it back, that is. A couple of hours ago I stepped out from Station Amsterdam Centraal and was blown away, more or less immediately. I'm not sure that I really want to catch that flight back to the States on Monday as planned...

Europe, I've missed you! More than I realized, apparently.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Witamy w Polsce!

The bag is packed, my presentation is coming together okay, and my nerves are under control. In short: I think I'm ready to go to Warsaw.

Before I go to bed I'm going to read up on a few ”useful expressions” (says Wikipedia). Because of my generous nature you get to share my newfound wisdom. Everyone's a winner! Here goes:

Dzień dobry good morning/good afternoon [Jean Dough-bree]
Dobranoc good night [doh-BRAH-nots]
Do widzenia good bye [d-oh veedzenia]
Dziękuję thank you [Jen KOO yeh]
Jak leci? what's up? (lit. how's it flying?) [Yah-k l-eh-chee]
Na zdrowie! Cheers! (or Bless you!) (lit. For health!) [nah zdroh-vee-eh] 
Nie zawracaj mi głowy, nie widzisz, że jestem zajęty/zajęta? don't disturb me, don't you see I'm busy? (speaker: male/female) [Nee-eh zaf-rah-tsai me gh-wh-oh-vih, nee-eh vi-tsish, sh-eh yea-stem zah-yea-th-ih/zah-yea-th-ah]

Finally, something that may prove somewhat interesting for me, personally:

Jestem wegetarianinem (male)/ wegetarianka (female) [yestem vegetarianinem/vegetariankauw] I'm a vegetarian

    According to a guide I found, ”being a vegetarian is still a surprise to many.” Awesome. I'm expecting a lot of brown, amorphous, cabbage-type food—I'm glad I'm not sharing rooms with anyone...

    Updates to come! Dobranoc.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Building momentum

    If you're wondering what I'm up to these days, the answer is simple: working, and fretting over not working enough (or rather, not being efficient enough). Next week will be awesome; I'm flying to Warsaw for a targeted alpha therapy symposium, which I've been looking forward to for months. I will be presenting my latest research, but also meeting with old colleagues, new colleagues, and some prospective future collaborators. All in all, it will be great. However, before I get to the point where I can feel confident and happy about the talk I'm giving I have some serious work to do. Slightly less thrilled about that part.

    Still, I'm super excited about what happens after the symposium as well. It just happened that the airfare was way cheaper—about $1000 cheaper, in fact (yes, for real)—if I agreed to stay in Amsterdam for a few nights on the way back to Seattle. We-e-ell... What can I say? I'm not one to spend precious travel funding if I can save a dollar or two, so I graciously agreed to stay in Europe over the weekend and fly back on Memorial Day. Better yet, my parents are taking the train down from Sweden to meet me there, so we get to spend the entire weekend together. Yay and hurray!

    But first: work and work. And fret and panic. Then work some more. Then give up, before getting back on the horse. Then work and fret and work and panic. Then? Tour de force.

    Sunday, May 10, 2015

    Hi mom!

    Second Sunday of May means Mother's Day in the States. Highly appropriate, seeing as I think of my mother every time I walk past the flowering wisteria across the street—and by every time I mean literally, every single time.

    See you soon, mamma (and pappa)! Rendezvous in Amsterdam in just 12 days.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    Fika like a Swede

    I couldn't help but smile a little when I saw that Seattle Times recommended a book about Swedish fika traditions today, Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. Apparently, Brones will come to The Book Larder in Fremont (!) to talk about the book over coffee and sweets next weekI might just have to go.

    Read the comment here: The pleasure of Swedish coffee custom.

    Sunday, May 3, 2015

    Looking up

    I made it through to the other side! No, I didn't pass away from my common cold—this is not a ghost blog from the great beyond. I'm just happy and it's sunny and I can breathe through my nose again and won't have to wake up at night on a pillow soaked with drool because I'm forced to sleep with my mouth open.

    Anyway. Woo-hoo!

    (Let's not tell anyone that that purple thing I'm wearing actually is some sort of pajama, okay? They will never know unless you tell them.)