Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Old oaks

Oktoberfest and fall have arrived in Munich. The days are cool and frequently rainy; lederhosen and dirndls are seen everywhere; and leaves are covering the bike trails. It's this time of year that I start to notice the really big trees, whose trunks are usually hidden in greenery in the spring and summer.

The Fuerst, or prince (brother of King Ludwig), must have really loved oak trees, because he lined his forest avenues with them, and even spellt out his initials with a planting of oaks. In most of the Forstenrieder Wald, the oaks are continually replaced and rather young looking. But here and there, on the back paths, you can spot what look like ancient individual trees. With the exception of the main botanical specimens in the Eichlgarten, these trees are pretty gnarled, with maybe one or two massive branches still alive. But the foresters seem to treat them like honored grandparents. They are mulched, and the underbrush is cleared away, so they still hold the space that they once must have dominated.

I am always a bit touched by the sight of these old oaks, even just glimpsed as I'm whipping past on my bike. They remind me of a different scale of time and living; a notion of patience, maybe, or "wohlgefuel," that has been hard to come by in my stay abroad.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Tangled Bank carnival is coming

To all science bloggers: the Tangled Bank carnival of science weblog entries is coming up soon, and will appear in Preposterous Universe . So get a good blog entry together and email the link to hhim!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Feeeeed me

I was away for a few days and watched my traffic go from a pittance to nothing at all. No new posts, and it just wilts. Just like the plant in the little shop of horrors.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Laws of Nature

1. Why is it, that given a teddy bear and an old shoe both lying on the ground, a crawling infant goes straight for the shoe?
1a. Is this why dogs always get the teddy bear first?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


It looks like the solar wind samples in the Genesis capsule can be recovered after all. Click on the title bar for the link!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Three grand old oaks

I was reminded yesterday by a newspaper clipping that three people I have admired from afar- Julia Childs, Elizabeth Kuebler Ross, and Czeslaw Milosz- all passed away this summer after very long and productive lives. I couldn't possibly do justice to the lives of these three, and actually have read only smatterings of their works. But what I got was enough to help me along with my personal journey. For me they each were like distant pole-stars, representatives of a philosophy which accepts and then celebrates the cold clay of life. I was brought up on St. Augustine's manic Manicheism, in which the daily world was at best a distraction to higher aspirations. It took a long time for me after college, starting with Karl Rogers but with Kuebler-Ross not far behind, to realize that for me life has got to be about living. Cooking, loving, dying, it all *is*, and it makes me happier to try to think it's all good.

I wrestled with that last line; the kids at Beslan came back to me.

Good bye, you three. May other oaks grow in the places you left.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Genesis crash

The Genesis probe has crashed to earth instead of being caught in midair. This spacecraft was holding miniscule samples of solar wind matter, which may well be lost for analysis if they were contaminated with even a few milligrams of earth dust upon impact.
What a bummer! I can't help thinking about the Ph.D. students and others who really wanted to see these samples. Keat's telescope-- astronomy really has that potential for just thrilling new possibilities. And, being in the career grind myself, I can just picture the professional delays for everyone who wanted this project to be the basis for their next career step. I have the luxury of clicking onto the Mars probes or the Cassini mission, but the career people do not. Please don't worry, people, it's all good.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Chapman's Homer

Here is the link to the poem I mentioned in the first post.

Up and running

Hello world,
This is my absolutely first weblog post of any kind. My biggest motivation for this blog is the upcoming election, and especially this week the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I'm pretty excited to start the linking game etc. and even to get some control over this blog's behavior!
The title of this blog refers to a phrase in Keats' poem On first looking into Chapman's Homer in which Keats alludes to the huge thrill a scientist feels when seeing something completely unexpected. These moments (they have been few for me, but vivid!) shape a lot of my take on the world and my fundamental optimism about people, which in turn becomes a political stance.
My next effort in this blog will be to add the crucial links, the bloggers I'm reading and mentally engaging all of the time.