Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So this is Christmas

Last weekend, I flew to Germany in an attempt to escape the Swedish snow just to find Germany equally white yet ten degrees colder. Several airports were closed, dozens of flights got cancelled, the highways were a disaster. To top things off, when we arrived in Stefan's apartment we found the heating didn't work. You see, the apartment has a brand new energy-efficient floor heating. It's so efficient it doesn't heat. The thermometer lingered at 10°C, Nome, sweet Nome. Landlords are on vacation in Guadeloupe. We sent them a text message saying, I paraphrase, fix the frikkin heating and we wish you a happy melanoma.

This brought up memories of a friend who did his first postdoc in NYC and ended up sleeping in the kitchen during the winter because the stove was the only reliable heat source. No kidding. But, hey, Germany, you're almost there! Consequentially, we thought it's the right conditions for some serious Christmas bakery.

Baking activities start with a visit to the parental kitchen, grabbing everything that looks useful, for example the huge collection of cookie cutters and related utensil (it also never harms to have a look into the fridge and the wine rack). It follows a Google search for the recipes, and sending the husband to the grocery store. You do have a rolling pin, yes? Wait. Last time we used a wine bottle. No, he still doesn't have a rolling pin. Pleasantries of living in German suburbia, stores are closed from noon to 3pm. Let me submit this manuscript then. And where's the maintenance guy who wanted to look at the heating? And can you grab me a coke on the way?

Sun starts setting and it looks like we're ready to go, so turn on the stove then. He doesn't know how to turn on the stove. Never used it before. Can't be so difficult, can it? What's this button for, and what's this light and is this on now. Where's your laptop. The laptop. Yes, for the recipe. Where's the mixer. The mixer. Here's the mixer.

Can't bake, no music. Your laptop can do music right? Wait, here, online radio. Get a bright smile in only 6 months, no braces. Must be an US station then. War is over. Good, butter. Butter is too cold, in the microwave. Microwave doesn't work. Why doesn't the microwave work. Because it's unplugged. Okay, mixer out, microwave in, on, where's the sugar? Did you take the sheet out of the oven? Why aren't the eggs in the fridge. Let's open the wine. Is this your phone ringing? The scale doesn't work, battery is dead. Pling. Shit, butter is too hot now. Why doesn't the mixer work? Because it's unplugged. Microwave out, mixer in. Don't you have a splitter. Jingle bells. Oops, flour on the laptop. Drums please for the cookie dough. Way too sticky. Hand me the wine. Wass the recipe sayin? Put in fridge for 3 hours. 3 hours? Put in freezer for 5 minutes then. Can you answer the phone? Your stove stinks. Did you see this month's SciAm is about the multiverse. No, really?

Where's the 3rd pack icing sugar? The 3rd? Yes, I think two times 250 is less than 600. Ohm. Okay. We'll scale it down. 5/6 times 8 eggs is. Ooh. How much flour? Doesn't matter, scale doesn't work anyway. Here's my favorite story of the year: Plumber goes bankrupt and sets out to blow up clients who haven't paid their bills. That happened only some miles from here. Well, you better pay your bills, man. Here's the splitter. Wait, shit, there goes an egg. Santa Claus is coming to town? Take the dough out of the freezer. Damn, it's frozen to the plate. Where's the rolling pin. Okay, now it's glued to the table. Why did you buy walnuts for the hazelnut cookies? Ohm. First round into the oven! Oops, egg yolk on the laptop. Have we send any Christmas cards yet? Why not? More wine?

Did you put the sugar in the fridge or was that me? Second sheet into the oven. Did you hear that JHEP will be published by Springer from Jan 2010 on? Let's do some little Springer's then. How's your colleagues taking it hat Springer is now part of the Swedish empire? Who's dreaming of a white Christmas? Can you sprinkle some chocolate here? Oops, chocolate on the laptop. I think you could need a new one. These cookies smell very done. Hothothot. Not on the plastic! Watch out, the cable. Did I tell you I've put together the Christmas quiz for the blog. The blog. Yes, the b l o g. What's the phone doing on the baking sheet? When you're done eating the cookies, can you figure out where the cinnamon is?



24 hours later: the cookie turnout rate is higher than 50%, the laptop survived it, and the house is now nicely warm. And in case you missed the essential piece of information: We will continue our Christmas tradition from 2007 and 2008 and have a little quiz for you also this year. It is presheduled for Dec 25th 8am East Coast Time.



Recipes used to heat the house: Butterplätzchen and Haselnussmakronen.

29 comments:

Arun said...

LOL!

Merry Christmas to the two of you! and much happy baking!

Andrew Thomas said...

Yeah, merry Christmas Bee & Stefan & everyone on this blog!

T. said...

Very fun!
Can smell the cakes from Paris.
Joyeuses fêtes!

Uncle Al said...

"As though her physical theorist's brain could contain the secrets of organic synthesis." (apologies to Forbidden Planet)

the apartment has a brand new energy-efficient floor heating. An Enviro-whiner is a Luddite with government subsidy. All they want is everything of value you have. It's so efficient it doesn't heat. QED.

Festivus!

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

From what you relate it appears that my theory where for you the effort increases inversely proportionate to the difficulty of the task is correct by reason of experiment. So what should we call such a law? Now I know why you chose theoretical physics as a profession, since in you assuming it being so difficult for you would require the least effort :-) Seriously though I do hope things go more smoothly for you and Stefan for the rest of the holidays. Also you never said if you found out when they would fix the heating.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Just as I was about to go out to do a little last minute Xmas shopping a name for my proposed law came to mind; that is how about I call it Bumbledynamics:-)

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Looks delicious.

But in the kitchen we diverge. Again this year I'll prepare the Christimas dinner. This means several, elaborate dishes. I send everybody out of the kitchen, permission to enter: denied. I work alone, fast, efficiently, concentrated. No talk, no wasted time, no parallel processes. No one, only myself. No interferences. Otherwise, it doesn't work for me. I do work very well and very fast this way, and then gain some time afterwards. Kitchen can be a time sink. My hunsband is sent to the kitchen to wash the dishes and pans. :)

Best,
Christine

Christine said...

And evidently that's the way I work in *my* kitchen. Otherwise (in someone else's kitchen), I am hopelessly lost.

Best,
Christine

Wayne Farmer said...

And this, folks, is why it's wise to keep theoretical and experimental physicists a safe distance apart. With you two at the controls of the LHC, anything could happen!

Happy and warm holidays to you both. And I love the PI's "Alice and Bob in Wonderland" series! Were you like Alice when you were a girl, Bee? :)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

So you're one of those that firmly believes that to many cooks spoil the broth. It sounds like you pull it off with almost military efficiency. As for the no one else in the kitchen rule, with the past experience here where you’ve been fired up, suggesting risking the prospect of getting a pot in the head I would never attempt to break it:-) All joking aside and before I forget I wish you, Fabiano and Pedro a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.

Best,

Phil

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

Bee - as it is that time of year ConEd has been running seasonal safety tips on the tv and radio, clearly your friend never heard this one:

Do not try to heat rooms with your range or oven. These appliances aren't designed for space heating. Using a range or oven can cause a fire. It can also deplete oxygen levels and cause a buildup of lethal carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that can cause serious illness or death if inhaled in large concentrations for even a short period of time.

Please remember in case the floor shuts off again!

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

I am sure your Christmas dinner will be a full success! I'm afraid I'm too impatient to be a good cook, and I tend to freely reinterpret recipes. Anyway, merry Christmas! Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Wayne,

No, I wasn't like Alice. My voice has always been on the deeper side. Happy holidays to you too! Best,

B.

Christine said...

Hi Phil,

It sounds like you pull it off with almost military efficiency.

Ha! You're right, that's what they say. And that's what working in a military institute does to a civil. :) I'm joking. I've always been somewhat "military" in some activities, specially when it comes to decluttering and cleaning. I've not always been a "cooker" though, nor I consider myself as a particularly fine one. But it is true that marriage forces us to learn on thing or another.

I wish you and your family also a Merry Christmas!

Christine

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Thanks! I hope you have a nice dinner too. In fact, my behavior in the kitchen is the result of some impatience as well, so I try to work as fast as I can, as long as not to disturb the final quality too much. I also tend to change recipes if necessary (i.e., if some not very crucial ingredient is missing).

Merry Christmas to you and Stefan!

Christine

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee, hi Stefan,

so this story with the heating system that doesn't work is on the top. Indeed very efficient.

Merry Christmas to you two and all on this blog.

Best Kay

Anonymous said...

So this blog mutates from Backreaction to Back-Reaction. Fröhliche Weihnachten! :)

Zephir said...

P.F. 2@1@ 2all backers of backreactionary bakers..

http://kecy.roumen.cz/vesele_vanoce_2009.jpg

Giotis said...

Why i have to pay for the article of SciAm? If I'm poor I don't have the right to know more about the multiverse? Internet is revolutionary exactly because it permits free access to knowledge. Ordinary people can now spread knowledge and ideas for free without any restrictions or intermediates. So as a first reaction to this, I propose not to link articles that need subscription.

Andrew Thomas said...

Maybe you have to pay in your universe, but the article is free to read in mine.

I can just see where this highly-speculative "Life in the Multiverse" idea is going to go. Within 10 years we'll have papers describing the sort of animals which would live there, then within 20 years we'll have CGI TV natural history programmes featuring all those strange new animals.

Bee said...

Hi Andrew,

Yes, I had a very similar thought when I read the SciAm article :-) I liked it, though it's more fiction than science. I'm not a multiverse fan, but the article actually gets across a lot of particle physics. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Before I miss the chance, let me extend my heartfelt wish that the authors of this blog, all those contributing comment or torment and all others of the same more basic genome, to have a Merry Christmas, born of having aspirations to be able realize happiness and joy which are universal to all.

Sincerely,

Phil

Plato said...

So as a first reaction to this, I propose not to link articles that need subscription.

I agree with you Goitis and from this point I will do same.

Best,

Bee said...

Giotis, Plato: Sorry, I'm not with you on that. I'm all for open access, but that's not the way to achieve it. When I find an article worth mentioning for whatever reason good or bad, I'll mention it and link to it. It is unfortunate, but quite a few of the articles I've written about on this blog were subscription only. And the guys at SciAm have to live from something too. I can afford writing unpaid, but they probably can't. Until there is a better solution. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Should probably add that I don't have a subscription either. For this reason it happens very rarely that I mention a SciAm article. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I agree that at this point in time those who publish things must have some way to be able not just to make a living yet also cover the costs in their infrastructure However it would be nice that perhaps for just one day a year,with tomorrow being a most worthy one that all the online journals and magazines allow free and open access.

Also in connection with this as we speak Jimmy Wales being one who has carried and worked so hard towards its realization is making a appeal for those that can to have us help make it happen. I would suggest tomorrow would also a be good day for all not to simply say we wish good things for the world, yet take the action necessary to have them to be realized.

Best,

Phi

Giotis said...

If you advertise these articles then you prompt implicitly the readers to subscribe. If millions of people subscribe then more and more will adopt this policy and you'll end up with a closed, privatised Web. We don't want this to happen.

In that respect Plato made a good decision.

Bee said...

There's no good solution, the question is which solution is the least bad. As I said above, I'll link to articles I mention, and I'll mention what I find interesting, whether that's subscription or not. I have no inclination whatsoever to constrain my commentaries or links to open access articles. However, as I said, since I have no subscription to any magazine, this is unlikely to happen often. Anyway, I'm off now for the Christmas dinner :-) Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

So in order to prompt the availability of free food I guess it would be best to take action to starve all the farmers who currently provide it while and before we find another way. I say stop seeing only negatively as to take negative action as being the solution to the world’s problems and rather take charge as I just pointed out by way of positive thoughts prompting positive steps. Not that I mean to implicate anyone, yet I would wonder of all those that cry for free access how many have ever contributed money or their resource in adding something to its writing or editing. In my way of thinking talk is cheap, while action costs, with no way around it. So I would rather have us ask ourselves, particularly at this time of year, whether we are either givers or only takers and then act accordingly true to ourselves.

" the unexamined life is not worth living "

-Socrates (long before him many whose birth they celebrate tommorrow)