Thursday, May 24, 2007


A note to all my relatives, real and virtual co-workers, friends and ex-lovers: YES! I got your emails, all of them! And yes, I am still alive, but not in the mood to type on the BlackBerry till my thumbs fall off. I am still in California, but connecting from random wireless networks causes me some security problems with the firewall back home so I'm having trouble with my inbox. You might vaguely recall that in the ancient times before email, people used a funny thing called the phone.

Besides being on a work trip, giving a seminar at USC and trying to convince Clifford's students that phenomenology is the thing to do, I have put myself on a parallel mission. I will tell you details sooner or later (when I have found out why I am doing that to myself).

Anyway, despite all the running around, it is nice to be back in California. I indeed missed the people here, most of them are completely nuts, but kind of irresistibly cute. Yesterday a couple of students talked me into explaining what a center of mass is, bribing me with red-white-blue cookies. "Nah, wrong color" I said, which of course initiated a longer discussion about nationality and food color in general.

Yesterday, the hotel staff didn't know where to place my accent and, faced with my Canadian drivers licence, I was mistaken for being French Canadian. I realized that I involuntarily picked up the Canadian's funny pronunciation of 'ou' (like in 'out' or 'about') and can't get rid of it. Well, but I have also learned some new vocabulary on my trip - it's always worthwhile to talk to British guys ;-) So I found out that one doesn't sit between chairs but is caught between stools (German: Zwischen den Stühlen sitzen), and you don't have a soup and eat it, but have a cake and eat it (Die Suppe auslöffeln). Makes me wonder why German has a soup where English has a cake.

... shit... room service again... how do I get rid of them? I don't speak Spanish, and they don't speak English? GAAH, take that vacuum cleaner away, gee! Sorry, I am off for now...

Quote of the week:

      "Look at all these rumors
      Surroundin’ me every day
      I just need some time,
      Some time to get away
      From all these rumors,
      I can’t take it no more [...]"

~ `Rumors' by Timex Social Club


  1. Poor Bee!
    Next week in Germany everything will be better!No one is cleaning!
    WLAN at home works,sun is shining- 30°C and holidays are near-Pfingsten!
    Best Mum

  2. :-) Except that I will have an awful jet-lag, and have to leave after two days... That reminds me, I will have to prepare the next talks (my timing yesterday was incredibly bad). See you... B.

  3. Dear Sabine,

    jetlag can be cured by Viagra. "irte a la mierda" may be enough to get rid of the Spaniards.


  4. Dear Lubos,

    sounds like a good idea. Will tell my husband to have a couple, could indeed help with my jet-lag. Best,


  5. America has 17 million documented undocumented aliens. More than 20 million of them live in the American southwest. Rather than risk your homicide with basura to mojado through pendejo, try

    ¿Dónde está La Migra?

  6. Hi Sabine,

    you should try the new google translation service looking for something to get rid of the room service - [url=]an example[/url]. Even the linked pages will get translated (the downside is that google knows your every move).

    CU in Frankfurt,


  7. Weirdest case I heard of was a friend who grew up speaking German in her family, largely because she lived with her grandparents who didn't speak English very well. Her grandmother spoke a German dialect which was spoken in Koenigsberg (or Ostpreussen in general), which was the dialect my friend ended up learning when she was young.

    The first time my friend went to visit West Germany, apparently not many people in Munich, Frankfurt, West Berlin, Hamburg, etc ... really understood what she was saying whenever she spoke in "German". In the end she found it easier to communicate in English, than in her acquired Koenigsberg dialect.

  8. Good luck with converting Clifford's students to phenomenology. (Too bad viagra doesn't cure string theory.) The problem is the human attraction to elegance over elementary techniques. I like elementary things because they leave me feeling closer to the physics. On the other hand you guys have now motivated me to go to arXiv and read all of Clifford's papers. I certainly learned some things from Lubos's work.

    One of my current projects is to derive all of the "tests of GR" calculations from the (elementary) equations of motion around a black hole. That way I can make changes to the equations of motion and see directly which GR tests they violate. The Schwarzschild / Painleve coordinate simulator is a part of this. The underlying philosophy is that nature is elementary rather than elegant.

  9. Carl, my comment about Clifford's students was meant humorously. There's no cure for string theory because it's not a disease. Of course, I am convinced my field is the most interesting one - so is everybody else. Thats how its supposed to be.



    PS: Oh wow, I admit I did not read all of Clifford's papers!

  10. That's ok, Bee. Clifford sometimes barely remembers what's in most of Clifford's papers!


  11. Hi Bee,

    How did Canadians come to pronounce "ou" that way? It sounds like the letters. Did the English-speaking world once talk that way, and they are the last hold-outs? Or maybe some French Canadians learned their English from books?

  12. Sorry, "caught between stools" sounds too much like a going-to-the-bathroom kind of thing. ;-)

    Viagra, the cure-all of the 21st Century! ;-)

  13. "I have put myself on a parallel mission."

    "Let them eat cake" said Marie Antoinette during the food riots in Paris, when the people complained they had no bread

    "Four square meals a day" from Nelson's days when the British navy sailors ate their food on 'square' plates.

    Yep plates were not always round, makes sense not having too many 'round' objects rolling about on a boat.

    PS - e-mail is sort of 'free'
    whereas mobile phone charges are still a little expensive in Europe expecially on transatlantic calls (though they are set to fall by 75% for all EU calls from Britain).

  14. Lumo,
    "vete a la mierda"
    would be more accurate, when giving someone a suggestion of where to go
    "irte a la mierda"
    is a bit like what a speaker might say when the speaker wants to tell someone where to go on hols ie: to disappear up his own blackhole.

  15. Quasar9 - thanks for correcting the lubosian Spanish; I was going to correct him but you beat me to it.

    Bee: good luck with your talk...and the jet lag.


  16. Hi Quasar,

    funny, when I was writing that post the same quotation from Marie came into my mind :-)



  17. Maybe I have a bias in such a commentary (since I do not live in the wealth side of this world), but it certainly sounds bad to my ears (or eyes) to see people considering the mexican background of the cleaning laid when complaining about the noise that she is ordered to do.
    And I will not even comment about the following suggestions people gave of educated words Bee could pronouce in the moment. Das ist doch unhöflich, to say the least.

    P.s.: It is not that I am fascinated for politically correct behavior - when something touch the feeling of others, it is about correct behavior with the next one.

  18. Hi Clovis, I wasn't complaining about anything in particular, except that I don't like noise, and that I find it very annoying that I don't speak Spanish. I have the best intentions to learn it, but it seems I never come around to do it. When I moved to Arizona, and later to California, I was pretty shocked to see how much this really is a two-class society. Best, B.


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