Happy Chinese New Year

I am back from Panama. Living and working in California. This month I have to do a a lot of bioinformatics. Several datasets are waiting to be analyzed. I am now actively using R Markdown and Jupyter notebooks to make my work more transparent and reproducible. Stephanie organized a workshop for the Carlson, Power, Ruhi and Grantham group at UC Berkeley on data management plans. I found myself in all categories: the planning stage of a project, fieldwork, wet lab, data analysis, statistics, bioinformatics, preparing a paper, and post-publication. This is postdoctoral life. And it is beautiful.

Last week I read this blog several times. It gives me goosebumps because it describes my life in very beautiful words. It touches me right in the middle. What is a postdoc?

This blog post is by Jeremy Yoder, now professor Jeremy Yoder. He is a member in the committee of The Molecular Ecologist. They offered me to write blog posts for their website. I am extremely happy to fulfill this job. The journal Molecular Ecology is one of my favorites and I find it important to make its publications accessible to everybody. Writing for this website is one step in the right direction. I am planning to explain exciting Molecular Ecology articles to the general public and discuss trends in this field of research. Additionally, I am also looking forward to contributing articles about the challenges and strategies of researchers (mostly postdocs) who are trying to juggle work and family. I envision this website as a platform to assist academia in becoming a more inclusive environment. I know that the other bloggers are on the same page and I am extremely thankful that they offered me to become a part of their writing team.

I have been half sick as of yesterday and today. However, as a parent you cannot just lie in bed and wait until you recover. Sorry world for spreading my bugs. Yesterday afternoon, we went to Stinson beach to remember at what a beautiful place we are allowed to life. Today we joined the Chinese New Year party at the UC village. Such parties make this place unique. It feels so special to walk 300m to a community center and meet fellow researcher families from all over the world on a boring Sunday to celebrate the year of the dog. We met people who spoke Mandarin, Bangla, Japanese and English. We used too much glitter, ate good free food and took silly photos. I am enjoying every second of being affiliated with the best public university in this country.

 

Die leere Wohnung

Wenn Studenten und Mitarbeiter an der Uni Berkeley mindestens zwei Kinder haben und wenig verdienen, dann dürfen sie in einem sogenannten Dorf in Albany eine subventionierte Wohnung beziehen. Genau von so einer Wohnung haben wir seit 2 Jahren geträumt. Wir haben sie bekommen. Bereits 2.5 Wochen nachdem wir nach Kalifornien gekommen sind und in einem kleinen Transporter gewohnt haben. Eigentlich habe ich eine Email bekommen mit der Nachricht, dass wir sicher bis im Februar keine subventionierte Wohnung kriegen werden weil viele andere in der Warteliste bedeutend ärmer sind als wir. Nachdem ich aber persönlich mit der ganzen Familie bei den Wohnungsvermittlern im Büro aufgetaucht bin haben sie uns per sofort eine Wohnung angeboten. Klammerbemerkung: Hier in Kalifornien läuft sehr viel so. Es gibt viel Bürokratie zu erledigen aber wenn man persönlich vorbei schaut sind die Leute sehr freundlich und vor allem hilfreich. Jetzt haben wir also so eine Wohnung.

Was braucht man in einer leeren 3-Zimmer Wohnung? Der 50-jährige Mann und die 30-jährige Frau mit 2 Kleinkindern und einem unerwarteten Mitbewohner Mitte 20 sitzen in einer sauberen, leeren Wohnung. Mein Stipendium beinhaltet Familienbeiträge und wir haben Erspartes mitgebracht. Nun können wir die Wohnung füllen. Diese Situation ist spannend und aufregend. Sie beinhaltet aber auch viele Entscheidungen. Fast zu viele Entscheidungen. Was braucht man überhaupt in einer Wohnung um glücklich zu sein. Kann man das generalisieren? Was brauche ich jeden Tag? Einen Wasserkocher, einen Dampfgarer, ein Bett mit einer bequemen Matratze, einen Staubsauger. Das waren meine ersten Gedanken. Dann habe ich an Linnea gedacht. Spielsachen, ein Kajütenbett, Schränke für Spielsachen. Einen Kühlschrank, eine Badewanne, WC Papier, Internet, ein Bett – das sagt Donny. Nichts, ich brauche nichts. Das sagt der Mitbewohner. Ein paar Kartonschachteln. Das sagt der post-doc der nicht mit uns wohnt. Der durchschnittliche Schweizer mit Nationalfonds Geld, der sein Stipendium an der Uni verbringt. Oder ist das mein Gewissen?

Überwältig von Emotionen

Echoes start as a cross in you,
Trembling noises that come to soon.
Spatial movement which seems to you,
Resonating your mask or feud.
Hollow talking and hollow girl,
Force it up from the root of pain.

Never said it was good, never said it was near,
Shadow rises and you are here.

And then you cut;
You cut it out,
And everything
Goes back to the beginning.

Silence seizes a cluttered room,
Light is shed not a breath too soon.
Darkness rises in all you do,
Standing and drawn across the room.
Spatial movements are butterflies
Shadows scatter without a fire.

There’s never been bad, there has always been truth,
Muted whisper of the things she’ll move.

And then you cut;
You cut it out.
And everything
Goes back to the beginning.

Never said it was good, never said it was new,
Muted whisper of the things you feel.

I love being flooded with intellectual provocations

Rustin Cohle: People out here, it’s like they don’t even know the outside world exists. Might as well be living on the fucking Moon.
Martin Hart: There’s all kinds of ghettos in the world.
Rustin: It’s all one ghetto man, giant gutter in outer space

Rustin: I’d consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I’m what’s called a pessimist. I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, that accretion of sensory experience and feelings, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everbody’s nobody. I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand in hand into extinction. One last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.

Rustin: We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. This accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody when, in fact, everybody’s nobody.

Dress code

It is already a fact that I take care of Donny’s attire. Lately I went a bit wild…

Moby Dick BY DAN BEACHY-QUICK No reverie begs “light” in the blind eye. Reverie says: dig this depth-of-blank Deeper. Dig deeper With the Whale below the white-capped waves— A twitch of his tail, a twitch of his white tail Birthed from ocean-bed the wave That broke calm water into each cracked plank Of the harpooner’s boat, made that man sway, And cast him on the spear his arm meant to cast At you. Beneath the sun’s evil weight Men burn nightwards but never darken Past night. There’s always the moon’s hook On still water to deny them. But Whale, you dive down Until the ocean’s ground begs you solid, “Stop.” Whale, you do not stop. You beat your head against the jagged rocks. Blind in depths so dark light itself is blind, You knock your head against the rocks to see And scratch the god-itch from your thoughts. Flame is jealous of flame, once lit, it ever Reaches higher. You wait, match-tip, White Whale. I see how you wait in silence for silence To say: write it in, tell me who I am now.

Moby Dick
BY DAN BEACHY-QUICK
No reverie begs “light” in the blind eye.
Reverie says: dig this depth-of-blank
Deeper. Dig deeper
With the Whale below the white-capped waves—
A twitch of his tail, a twitch of his white tail
Birthed from ocean-bed the wave
That broke calm water into each cracked plank
Of the harpooner’s boat, made that man sway,
And cast him on the spear his arm meant to cast
At you. Beneath the sun’s evil weight
Men burn nightwards but never darken
Past night. There’s always the moon’s hook
On still water to deny them.
But Whale, you dive down
Until the ocean’s ground begs you solid, “Stop.”
Whale, you do not stop.
You beat your head against the jagged rocks.
Blind in depths so dark light itself is blind,
You knock your head against the rocks to see
And scratch the god-itch from your thoughts.
Flame is jealous of flame, once lit, it ever
Reaches higher. You wait, match-tip, White Whale.
I see how you wait in silence for silence
To say: write it in, tell me who I am now.

humpback on a bicycle

humpback on a bicycle

my white horse; And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder: One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see." And I saw. And behold, a white horse. There's a man goin' 'round takin' names. An' he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won't be treated all the same. There'll be a golden ladder reaching down. When the man comes around.

my white horse;
And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: „Come and see.“ And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.
There’s a man goin‘ ‚round takin‘ names.
An‘ he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same.
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Die Idee hier ist, sich nicht ablenken zu lassen. Sich nicht mitziehen zu lassen. Die meisten Leute eilen durch das Museum. Rennen von Aquarium zu Aquarium. Lassen sich mitziehen. Wir waren langsam. Wir haben uns ein paar schöne Aquarien gesucht und haben da verweilt. Für eine richtig lange Weile.

meine allerliebsten Freunde

IMG_2836

Erinnerungen an meine Buckelwal Feldarbeit

Erinnerungen an meine Buckelwal Feldarbeit

Thunfisch Sandwich.

Thunfisch Sandwich.

Honu

Honu

hammergeil

hammergeil

Monterey Bay Kelp Forest

Monterey Bay Kelp Forest

California love

This post is a mix of English and German, partly about work and partly about family life.

Linnea und ich sind vor gut 2 Wochen nach Houston geflogen. Die Reise ging sehr gut. Nichts kann uns aus der Ruhe bringen wenn wir zwei alleine sind. Ein tiefes Gefühl der Verbundenheit gibt mir Mut. Im Flugzeug, auf dem Londoner Flughafen, in der langen Warteschlange in Houston. Nach mehr als 12h non-stop Reise mussten wir 3h in Houston in einer Schlange stehen und warten. Grenzwertig. Ich am Rande des Nervenzusammenbruchs, Linnea völlig cool. Auch das haben wir zusammen überstanden. Nachdem ich ihr mehr als 12h geholfen habe, eine angenehme Reise zu erleben hat sie am Schluss mir geholfen, diese Unannehmlichkeit auch noch zu überstehen.

Über dem Atlantik

Über dem Atlantik

In Houston lebten wir mit Donny’s Eltern. Viel Schlaf, kleine Ausflüge und Spielen im Garten füllten unsere Tage schnell aus. Ich konnte immer schlafen. Eine tiefe Müdigkeit hat mich immer wieder und wieder übermannt. Zu müde zum Lesen, zu müde zum Schreiben und noch müder, wenn ich an meine Doktorarbeit dachte. So habe ich das Vermieden und die ganze Zeit mit Linnea verbracht. Spielen, Essen und viel Schlafen. Als Donny in Houston ankam fühlte ich mich ausgeschlafen und frisch.

Hanging out at Scribner

Hanging out at Scribner

With Donny’s parents I had a good time. We lived together and I tried to fit in. They convinced me to do some small activities and made me forget about my worries. Houston is so far away from small Switzerland that I usually succeed. Simple activities and a lot of sleep help cool down the fire in me. When Donny arrived I was cool enough to go out again. Donny always wants to go see friends, buy stuff and enjoy a lot of music and concenrts in town. I was prepared. And that was what we did.

My white horse

My white horse

Der Flug quer durch Amerika von der Ostküste zur Westküste verlief extrem friedlich. 4h, 2h davon zurück in die Vergangenheit. Donny und Linnea haben gemalt, Geschichten erzählt, geschlafen. Ich war nervös. Viel zu nervös. Voller Erwartungen. Völlig ignorant, was Kalifornien wohl zu bieten hat.

Angekommen in San Francisco haben wir ein grosses Auto gemietet, in der Grösse eines Lausanne Universtität Busses, und sind direkt nach Berkeley gefahren. Das Auto sollte für die nächsten Tage unser Zuhause sein. In Berkeley haben wir sogleich Beni zum Zmittag getroffen und uns das Städtchen und den Campus angeschaut, zusammen mit Beni – unserem Guide. Der erste Eindruck von Berkeley hat mich so überwältigt, dass ich nur noch eins wollte: weg. Das altbekannte ich in mir, das am liebsten immer sofort wegrennt und sich versteckt. Zum Glück hat Donny für den Abend schon entschieden nach Sacramento zu fahren für ein Kings NBA Spiel.

For the next couple of nights we stayed in Davis and made day trips from there. I met Bree Rosenblum at Berkeley and we discussed research. Donny, Linnea and I saw Ben giving a talk about the most interesting results of his PhD time at Berkeley.

We hung out with some Berkeley grad students and I had some more time to give Berkeley another chance. This time I was much more relaxed and extremely happy to see Emilia Huerta-Sanchez again. She is cool. Unlike most of the other people I met there. But I am a snail and I retract too fast into my happy place when intimidated, so I can’t judge so well. Ben is definitely cool. His talk was fun and I am proud to see the chapters he completed.

Check out their website.

Ben’s website

his current group

his future group

Almost happy to leave Berkeley we spent another night in Davis. I must specifiy here that I am highly confused and take everything very seriously. Donny fell in love with Berkeley and he would tell this story totally differently. It made me feel sad to see him secretely suffer about my intimidations. He thinks it is about time I start selling myself.

My two beloved ones at Berkeley

My two beloved ones at Berkeley

The next morning at Davis with Jonathan Eisen. Huge campus. A building full of light, miSeq sequencers, PacBio sequencers, and friendly people. Jonathan took me out for lunch and sent Donny with Linnea to the playground. On the way he gave Linnea a little frog to play with. Then we talked science. I immediately fell in love with that place. Back in the office Jonathan introduced me to a few people in his group. Most of them spent this week in Florida where they were supposed to send some microbes into space and sample the space station. I talked about my boring salmon eggs and Jonathan caught fire. I was sad to leave a bit later and Donny was confused when he had me back. I had changed so suddenly and he could not understand why somebody would prefer Davis over Berkeley. I got the impression that I could have a lot of fun with Jonathan and his group. I think he would let me go wild doing my own research and support it well. I wanted to stay at Davis and check it out more but he put me in the car and drove me away. Far away.

Linnea was allowed to keep the frog from Jonathan!

Linnea was allowed to keep the frog from Jonathan!

Die letzten paar Tage haben wir Kalifornien voll ausgekostet. Zuerst haben wir Sam Crow gesucht. Jackson and seine Brüder. Stockton, Farmington, Lodi und Charming. Ein extremer Kontrast. Biker Bars, Frittiertes, Hektaren mit Farmland. Bauern, Hell’s Angels und andere grimmige Gesichter. Nicht gerade eine Gegend zum Verweilen. Trotzdem haben wir uns in die Biker Bar in Farmington gesetzt und ein paar Biere getrunken. Linnea hat derweil die Servietten und das Ketchup neu arrangiert.

Ridin‘ through this world
All alone
God takes your soul
You’re on your own
The crow flies straight
A perfect line
On the devil’s back
Until you die
This life is short
Baby that’s a fact
Better live it right
You ain’t comin‘ back
Gotta raise some hell
Before they take you down
Gotta live this life
Gotta look this world
In the eye
Gotta live this life
Till you die
You better have soul
Nothin‘ less
Cause when it’s business time
It’s life or death
The king is dead
But life goes on
Don’t lose your head
When a deal goes down
Better keep your eye
On the road ahead
Gotta live this life
Gotta look this world
In the eye
Gotta live this life
Till you die
Read more: Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers – This Life Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Nächstes Ziel: Monterey. Hungrig nach Ferien und nach schönen Orten die unsere Seelen nähren würden sind schnell weiter gefahren. Das Auto unser Heim. Und so habe ich mich in Kalifornien verliebt. Es ist schwierig, das in Worte zu fassen. Überwältigt von Eindrücken und bestätigt in meinem Wunsch, Forscherin zu bleiben, vielleicht mit Jonathan, habe ich mich völlig auf die Naturschönheiten eingelassen. Es wäre schade, noch mehr Zeilen mit Worten zu füllen. Ich zeige lieber ein paar schöne Fotos:

Unser fahrendes Zuhause:

Für Linnea und mich ist dies das erste Mal am Pazifischen Ozean! Linnea möchte alles untersuchen. Wenn wir unterwegs sind hat sie meistens ein anderes Ziel als wir und möchte Stunden mit kleinen Dingen am Boden verbringen.


Und jeden Abend haben wir uns irgendwo hingesetzt und zugeschaut, wie die Sonne im Meer versinkt. Zum Beispiel in Carmel. Oder Halfmoon Bay in der Nähe von Santa Cruz.


Now we are on the way back to Davis. We stopped quickly at Palo Alto. Donny is surprised and almost disappointed that I did not set up an appointment with anybody at Stanford. To make him smile again I brought him and Linnea to the Baseball fields where Rice beat Stanford. Let’s behave like tourists.

Tomorrow we will see Jonathan again. He will introduce his family to us, show us Davis a bit more and I hope we can chat some more about science.

Now I am also looking forward to go back to Berkeley and meet Stephanie Carlson soon and hang out with Sébastien. I am ready to give Berkeley another chance. I could not be more relaxed after the natural beauties I have seen during the last couple of days.

Pure California love. More about the Big Sur will follow later in my next post!

Pure California love. More about the Big Sur will follow later in my next post!