Monday, May 30, 2011


The ladybugs are successfully reproducing on our mint plant. Oh frabjous day! The larvae are crawling all over the plant scarfing down aphids like mad, and the adults are laying more eggs. It is exciting to see them doing so well.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Two offers out

We have now interviewed two post-doc applicants. Both are extremely well qualified for their respective prospective positions. Both seem very easy to get along with, and both have been offered the positions. Neither, unfortunately, has yet accepted. The first because she is scheduled for a competing interview today, the other because she needs to make sure her partner can also get a job in Rostock. If we hire both of them, I will have a wonderful research team. With either one we could make real progress.

We still have one more candidate coming, next week, and if my bosses like him we could offer a position to him also. If we end up successfully hiring all three, I will be very happy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bedside ecosystem

Most mornings I spritz the chocolate peppermint plant on our bedroom windowsill from a spray bottle of water. It loves to be damp. It is growing so well these days, is so juicy and luscious, that the aphids are maintaining a healthy population on it despite my best efforts to squish them and the depredations of the ladybugs. This of course leads the ladybugs to congregate on the mint, as the aphids, thrips and whiteflies have been picked clean off our other plants. And you know what happens when beetles congregate in the spring. This morning as I was spraying, I noticed one of the ladybugs laying eggs on the window frame!

There are about 30 eggs so far and she is still laying. The great thing about this is that labybug larvae are wonderful aphid predators, and don't fly away the way the adults do. So I'm going to transfer the eggs onto a leaf and hope they hatch.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Walking desk

I'm one of those people who have trouble sitting still and working for any great period of time. I frequently find excuses to get up and walk to the other side of the building to talk to someone or check on something. I've occasionally seen articles like this one on NPR touting the health and productivity benefits of treadmill desks.

When I was in grad school I read such an article, then saw a treadmill for sale in a thrift store near campus. I stopped by the office of the acting director of the museum where my office was and asked if I could install myself a treadmill desk. She looked confused and busy but said yes. The next day maybe half an hour after I had moved the mill in, as I was just figuring out how to build a desk over it, she apologetically called me to her office and asked me to remove it from the museum. My wife kindly let me keep the machine in our tiny tiny Berkeley studio apartment until we sold it to a friend.

Now that I have a real job and we have a decent sized apartment, we are reorganizing that apartment to fit a baby and all the stuff that goes with modern babyhood. And it just so happens that I have both another used treadmill and a broken desk. Below are pictures of the result. It is not the world's prettiest construction (built while recovering from a tooth extraction using only materials I had in the room and without taking any measurements) but now I can walk and type at the same time. It will take a little bit of getting used to typing while rocking from foot to foot, but I think I am going to like this, and maybe it will help me remember to use the treadmill.

Here is my wife's shot of me typing this post:

And here's a view from the treadmill. We are in the tallest building in the state, so I have a nice view of Rostock from my desk.

List of materials:
Treadmill from thrift store
Broken desk
Various screws and bolts I had around the house
An old curtain rod

Total cost €90 spent last year

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spring is the season of interviews

Spring has sprung and is sprinting toward summer here in Rostock. The horse-chestnut trees that line many of the parks and roads are covered in big spikes of flowers. There are fledglings all over the place, running around on the ground until their wings are developed enough to let them fly. (Many of them don’t make it and the curious eye will spot the occasional bit of carnage under a bush). In the shallow western end of the old city moat, newts are breeding among the sunken leaves and floating catkins. From one day to the next, the skies above the city have filled with squadrons of swifts, whistling incessantly as they outmaneuver any insect that dares take flight.

The days are rapidly getting longer. The sun might officially go down at 9:02 today, but the twilight stretches to well after 10 as the sun skims just below the northwestern horizon. Early this morning there was light streaming in our north-facing kitchen window.

The spring here brings more than just a physical thaw. Come to Rostock in the winter and you will think the population generally has forgotten how to smile. You will see few people on the streets, and often the only parts of them that are visible are scowling. Now the streets are full of summer dresses and shorts, and their occupants are reveling in sunshine.

This, frankly, is the perfect time to be bringing post-doc candidates to Rostock. Flowers, birds, smiling faces, warm breezes, so much sun. These interviews are as much about convincing people they want to come here as they are deciding which people we want to hire. Having the place at its best certainly helps in that regard. We won’t do any interviewing in February.