Thursday, October 20, 2011

what would you do?

So, say you're writing a book chapter, and you have a colleague with whom you sometimes write these chapters with, and you're not writing it in your native language. Say furthermore that your writing style tends toward literary flourishes and parentheses within whole parenthetical paragraphs, not really the clear and direct scientific ideal.
Your colleague is, however, a native speaker and something of a grammarnazi, and for a few chocolates you can count on her to put the text into shape. And to rein in your wilder speculations.
Do you:
A) plan out the chapter with her and keep her informed both of your progress and of the looming deadlines
B) don't bother the colleague with boring information, wait until the reminders start coming from the editor before starting, and then the day before it's "really" due, ask your colleague if she might have a few spare minutes to look over a couple of pages?
What would you pick?

Friday, October 14, 2011

5-ingredient Jam

and now, for the Poetry Jam...

I heard a laugh, and turned.
A shadow like a ghost
faded hastily behind the edges of the laundry.
Sheets fluttering in the dying breeze.
Was it coming for me?
biding its time,
steeping me in anguish,
Or was it just the beer?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

If you haven't thought twice already...

Travel alert for U.S. citizens, courtesy of CitizenInfo, Paris
(a service of the American Embassy)
Do not go to Yemen today.
They will not welcome you there.
Put off sailing around the Horn of Africa if you can help it,
with your sleek happy yacht full of expensive stuff.
A backpacking trek across wildest Iran is perhaps to avoid,
we cannot go saving you one by one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Love II

Another one for the Jam, for once I finish a more or less serious poem before the theme is gone & replaced by another.

Those halcyon days, when it was just me at the bench,
doing my experiments,
trying to get some answers.
Late nights
long coffee conferences
Knowing things nobody knew.
Hopping from one discovery to the next
into the unknown.
The exhaustion
The disappointment
the exhilaration.
Going ahead by the fruit of my labors
and of the days spent thinking.

Then it was decided I was proficient at that.
And instead of doing it all myself I gained
other hands to do it for me.
And then more, and more,
a whole rugby side.
Pushed away from my bench
by this new position of Leadership
I wither in my office
directing, evaluating, but not getting my fingers wet.
How much I love my life of Before.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Love poem

A post for the Jam, at last! This week's mission is a love-poem.

She's so black!
So fluffy
She allows me to scratch her chin.

Monday, October 3, 2011

a night in Paris

It must be admitted I'm not the young traveler I used to be. Used to be I'd find the cheapest digs possible and always carry a large towel with me, for use as a towel but also on occassion a blanket. Never did go so far as to carry my own sheet around, though there were times that would have been nice. I don't like sharing my sleeping space, so I avoided hostels unless I was with friends, going instead for cheapo-but-private, even if the bathroom was down the hall.

It was last Monday day when I found out I was expected to go to this meeting in Paris on Thursday. Fine. But there was this other meeting in Lyon on Wednesday, and I thought it a better idea, instead of getting up horribly early both days (with an exceptionally early meeting here on Friday as well), to just take the train to Paris from Lyon and spend the night there. Good plan.

I've never had a problem finding a hotel in Paris. Sure, sometimes it takes a few tries, and sometimes I have to walk a bit to find something in my price range. But there's always something. Wednesday evening I arrived at 7:30, looking forward to a nice walk, then setting my stuff down, and spending a quiet evening with a book and a glass of wine, just relaxing.
So I set off in the direction of Bastille, skipping the low-end places close to the station and the high-end places scattered about. I walked a bit farther than expected, and turned toward the Latin quarter and on toward the Pantheon, then the Odeon neighborhood with my preferred bookshops. Still nothing. Hmm. No matter. The evening is young and warm and there are plenty of hotels in Paris.
After a detour toward Montparnasse I figure I'm getting far from tomorrow's meeting place, and turn around, taking the metro to a the far side of my starting point. Plenty of hotels around Nation, right? Sure, but still no vacancies. As I walked back toward the Gare de Lyon, checking every hotel on every side street, my standards went down, down, down, just as my price limit kept rising.
Back at the station it's 10 pm and I eat the pear purloined from my buffet lunch. So much for a glass and a book! at this point I just want a shower and bed. At the Ibis on the corner they practically laugh when I ask for a room, and snigger when I inquire whether there might be something, somewhere, anywhere, this is a big chain isn't it? can't you ring up some colleagues for me?
There's a hostel just around the corner from the station, and when I passed it before I did so thinking - no way. No way am I ever staying in a common room or setting foot into the common shower.
I make more enquiries, and consider taking the shuttle out to the airport where there are thousands of rooms. Talking to some more hotel people that the airport is usually full up at this time of night too. What a disaster to go out there and find myself stranded.
Back at the hostel they do have a bed, in a room for three and there's only one other person so far.
I am now so tired and discouraged (mostly discouraged, I have been to a lot of hotels this evening and nobody even had a suggestion of where to go, when usually the concierge will ring up his buddies and find a place down the street. I'd happily walk another half hour if only I knew at the end of it there was a bed for me!) that I take the hostel. Sheet & towel extra, but they're freshly laundered.
Maybe 15 years ago I would have been fine with it. My roommate is a woman my age who missed her train, somebody with a job and kids and a house, not a vagabond traveler looking for somebody else's luggage to pick through. The beds are not very comfortable, but alright. It's terribly hot, past 90°F, so the window is open to the noisy street. The bathroom, er, I go down to the bar on the corner for a cup of tea just for the priviledge of using their bathroom. The shower, well, a shower in the morning is a must. And I must say, the shower on my floor was in much better shape than those on the other floors. Could have been worse. And I did cheat a little by taking my pillowcase and using it as a bathmat. That kind of made it bearable. 
I think the hostel experience would have made for a decent night's sleep (the shower was the very last thing in the morning), if only we didn't acquire a third roommate at 1 am. Or if the first roommate didn't have to get up at 4:30. Or if the other one had been able to get back to sleep after that and thus did not attempt to read by flashlight in a miniscule room covered with brilliant-finish paint. When I told her to please stop that, she decided to get up, repack her abundant luggage with its numerous crinkly plastic bags, and then spend an hour in our sink area on the phone to her friends. Hey, chick, there is no insulation here. Can hear every word. I could practically hear what her friends were saying.
I did survive.
I'd better not be doing that again.