Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saint Bernhard

It has been almost a month since my last post, which I think is a record. It was wise of me to avoid posting for a while. After an inspired and prolific July, August was a horrible, stressful, mundane, excruciating, totally undeserved political mess. I had nothing positive or witty to say, and am stretching now. I tried twice to force something to mollify the masses chanting "Encore!" and stop my fans from overloading my ISP with plaintive appeals for more. Well, I did get requests from a majority of loyal blog readers (my mom and Gerv). But the spark wasn't there and it showed, and two feeble proto-posts without witty titles were abandoned. My dad once told me that Baudelaire said that he could detect a sip of sherry in a man's prose. Stress tastes much more intense and bitter.

The trip to Switzerland and the Millan lab was reinvigorating. My 9 hour train ride from Bremen began with the realization that my laptop did not work. (Yes, 9 hours - Bremen will not pay for any flight if a train ride takes 12 hours or less. Similarly, I have an 11:15 train ride from Bremen to Graz next month.) No entertainment was forthcoming from any of my seatmates, all loud Italians who spent most of the time on cell phones, gesticulating so energetically that I had to glare at them after one of them accidentally smacked my book with overcharged spretzatura. The train was packed and I was stuck. I figured that I could keep busy reading for a few hours, and then the scenery could keep me company. Finished several articles, looked up, and spent the next few hours in green eyed wonder. The Alps got better and better. The train (Basel to Visp) went around a corner near Thun and we were suddenly in a valley designed by God in one of his rare good moods. 30 seconds later, a lake came into view on the left side of the train and elevated it far beyond a petty religious experience. Even the Italians shut up. 10 minutes later, when I recovered, I thought, damn, I can write about this in my blog, but I'm still fishing for a witty title. (I take great pride in my blog titles). Would Thun fishing fly?

I was saved after arriving at the hotel and seeing tours of the great St. Bernard hospices and breeding kennels. You can go hang with the Saint Bs, and they have one that tows a little wagon for kids. I then checked email and got some long overdue but badly needed email from Bernhard Graimann about our new grant proposal. Bernardo does not really look much like a dog, but he is friendly, loyal, and dependable. And a cheap target for a blog title. And he never reads this blog. Jackass.

My meeting with Millan will never be forgotten and will become of minor historic significance in my life. We hit it off very well. I only met him once, in April, and now we advanced to a first name and hugging basis. He is one of the most senior guys in the field, knows everyone, and is the leader of our grant cluster. He is the lead and coordinator of TOBI, which was funded in the same call as BRAIN, but is bigger and the EU put him in charge of our cluster. Strategerie. My blog readers know the details of the August mess and why I cannot talk about it here now, but the details will be posted here at an appropriate time, and are juicier than a Dutch orange grove.

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