Saturday, December 24, 2011

God Jul

A little thought at this time of the year.... Since in Swedish the season is called 'jul' and 'God Jul' is what you say.. and no one really feels offended by God Jul since.... it's not a religious thing per se. Let's ignore for a second the pagan thing since most people don't think it is pagan and we're not thinking about the 'blot' (sacrifice at mid winter) - and we are talking about Santa Claus all the time... although, in Sweden we are refering to 'tomten', which is different than the guy in the red suit flying all over the world.

See, we're different. We have these 'tomtar' and 'nissar' who lives under or on top of our old type houses. They take care of the house and the animals, and you want to be friends with them... and if you're not, they can make a mess of things...

All over Sweden right now you'll see these 'straw goats' (halmbockar) which also is part of tradition. You were scared of the 'julbock' before since he came to your door if you had been bad, and took you away (or beat you). So, not coal in a stocking but being abducted ^^

And since most people around me here in the States are "considerate" and say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" (since Christmas is Christian and religious and not everyone likes that), I've replied with "God Jul". They might not know the meaning, but no one can say it's inconsiderate to religious or non-religious people.

As for the rest of this holiday weekend, I am having a lot of "firsts"... I have decided though, that there will be some traditional Swedish 'julmat' a day close by since I really miss the herring, the snaps and the Jansson's temptation.

Next post, Gott Nytt År :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

seeing dead bodies

One of the things I have realised I am grateful for from my undergraduate days has been my anatomy class. Maybe not for the obvious reasons, it was very good to learn about the body and the organs, but rather the time we went for autopsy and the viewings of dead people. Our professor, a very sweet old man in his 70ies, stood in the cold room before the autopsy and showed what people look like afterwards, when sown up and ready for viewings. He stood next to a body and lifted the hospital blanket (typical yellow one) and lifted the dead man's arm and started talking in a soothing voice on how there was nothing scary about touching a dead body, no disease spreading from the cold skin, just another day... and that this was normal, something that happens to all of us in due time... "avdramatiserat" as we would say in Swedish ("less drama?").

Then the class moved into the anatomical theater and proceeded to view the autopsy, without much drama, more in the mood of reverence and interest of our own endings. I still remember my fascination when looking at the brain and seeing exactly how big a liver is in a full sized human.

Anyway, I've come to realise - maybe even more here in this place where "viewings" are customary the day before the funeral, since this is not the case where I grew up - that I am grateful that my first time seeing a dead body was without any drama, no emotions of knowing the person, and that I didn't have to be scared when it was time for me to see a relative dead in front of me. Some of my friends back home have never seen a dead person ever. And when death happens now, not only do they have to deal with the grief, they have some apprehension and fear about seeing "the first dead body" too, with all the thoughts and fear that might come with that.

I won't say it's easy to see violent death, I don't think so - nor do I doubt that you might not ever "get used to it", but a dead body in itself doesn't scare me and for that I am very grateful. And that it happened during a university class where we were fortunate to have an old man talking about it with all the confidence and calm that "this is the way of life, we all die in the end".

At this particular day I wish one of my friends would've had that experience so it wouldn't have been as a tough time... or maybe I am only rationalising too much? What are your thoughts about it? Am I from an odd place, as it seems many a times, where we don't experience death to the same degree that other places do. And that it is one of those things where "shielding" might do more harm than good? (I sometimes think so, since it is inevitable after all. No one can escape death, no matter how much we might wish for it to be so.)

Friday, December 09, 2011

positive or negative?! who knows...

After one day in the life of living with the "cruel mistress we know as science" [Cath], this Friday brought some unexpected joy and giggles (hmmmm).

You know when someone all of a sudden sends you an email, or you're at least cc:d on it, stating "We got the results from the testing by Company P and they say it's negative! But what should it be?!?!" And three scientists respond with the description of the cells and "it should be like the wild-type"... but you think that it should be negative based on the vector and what's in it?

Yes. That'd be my morning....

And after calling several companies that make said vector and cells find out that everyone of them gives"It should be positive" as a first response, but when you ask "really, based on that the insert is in the middle and it has a repressor..." they change their tune to "hm, let me put you on hold and check that out for you". And after a few minutes' wait (2-10) they come back and express "indeed, it should come up as a negative..." You don't say? (insert little dance of joy and giggles)

Now, I only have to wait until the big meeting later this afternoon to share my joy with all the other email recipients ^^ *

You don't have more fun than you make for yourself some days :)

Happy weekend indeed!

*might be slightly sarcastic here. I'll most likely be quiet until we arrive to the row in the paper work dealing with the "negative result" and then say "as it should be based on the manufacturing"... who knows though, I might have a smile on my face since it is a positive result for us...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Long day's journey into night

That feeling when you have spent too many hours in a day, too many days in a week, and too many weeks in a month working on that assay to get those results that will get you all you wanted... and the data comes out looking, not bad, not even "the opposite of what you wanted" but, baffeling and very odd.

That feeling... when all you thought was that it would make sense... that the day was "just another day in the life"... and then you have no answers. And you know that tomorrow you will embark yet again on the "trying to make sense of the data" - at least explain what went wrong; what happened; WHY does it look like that....

And you can get just a tiny smidge of tired...

That feeling though, after leaving the lab and the analyzing, when you open a door and realise that there is a lovely smell of homemade cooking, sounds of humming and happy times, maybe a bubble bath and warm and fuzzy slippers..... yes, that feeling can really make a tiresome Thursday turn into "tomorrow will be a new day with happy possibilities of making it all work".

Sometimes it's just those happy times!

Sunday, December 04, 2011


It's that thing about secrets. You all of a sudden get them, from someone else - or you make something that you want to keep a secret - and then they tend to haunt you.

As for this, it's not as much secrets I guess as "being someone's confidante" - I really can't think of an English word for it. In Swedish I would think of a word, but in English I'm currently drawing a blank. Anyone have a suggestion, I'd be more than happy to exchange the 'confidante'.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks my head and ego have been boosted - to a sort. I'm feeling grateful that I have friends who really confide in me, their thoughts and feelings, and who wants me advice (feedback might be better wording here) on their current situation - don't get me wrong. It is just that right now I'm feeling slightly confused and conflicted. Not to mention a lot of thoughts and feelings, and I shouldn't and won't betray their trust. So, all in my head.

I won't make an analogy about "confessions" since I'm not trying to pretend I would have help from God or some Higher being, but rather my own thoughts about some dicy situations and that I am not entirely sure on what to do.... nor advice (if I end up doing that, which I'm hesitant to anyway) but rather what to do with all my feelings and thoughts after "their ventings" (or what to call it) since it is more of being a sounding board and trying to give some questions to help them navigate what ever they are trying to sort out. It's about "being there and listening" and not giving judgement nor advice, but to just be there for them. And the last few weeks, it's been quite heavy stuff that makes me, not only think about my past, but to that whole "what would I do" and "what I am currently doing with my life" and also having to face that I'm not good with this whole "there is nothing I can do to fix the things" - I can 'only' be there for my friend. Ah well, meet type A - Dr chall. Happy to be of service.

I don't feel comfortable writing more in detail here - maybe I shouldn't even post this (but since this is fairly generic, maybe it is acceptable to write this little rant here?*)?

In short, I'm tempted to dig a hole in the ground and shout the secret(s) into it and put the soil back in. Then again, in the story that really didn't work out that well.... so, maybe I'm left with voicing it out in the night to the stars, face the scary and hope and cross my fingers and toes (and/or pray) that things will work out.

Right now though, I'm truly thinking and hoping that if only people could think and care about someone but themselves (I see the irony, don't worry) most of these secrets (situations) would've never happened. And truly, many people wouldn't have been hurt.

As I'm thinking more about it, maybe I simply needed to write it down here and post it for a second or so before removing it and get some of my frustration of the whole situation out?

*Most of them revolve around family, and how to go from this to something in the future... as I am trying to explain, mostly to myself, I'm usually pretty good with this due to my training but convergence of the season and multiple things are slightly overwhelming when coupled with some IRL things in my own life... ah well, I think this post in itself helped a lot. Will see how much remains after a night's sleep ^^