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Mina Förädrar Kommer Hit May 28, 2007

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Greetings and happy (almost) summer. And..*drum roll please*..we have a winner for most stressful month ever…congratulations May, you suck! In all seriousness, May is terribly busy, am I right? Its a liminal period, one of transition, upheaval and (sometimes) welcome change. Time just flies by. June on the other hand is a breath of fresh air, a time to take a deep breath, hopefully. Right about now, I’m so ready for that deep breath. Just…*breathe*.

My parents came just yesterday, and we are having an amazing time so far. I’ve done my very best to show them the highlights of the city I have called home for the last 10 months, a city so dear to my heart. Balancing classes, labs, friends, my parents, studying for finals and sleep is no small task. I’m not the best person to play “tour guide” but I do love showing people new places and informing them of fascinating things therein. Here are a couple places, a view from the castle and a picture from the viking burial mounds of Gamla Uppsala. I love it here.

Stupid weather. Oh well, it didn’t detour us from exploring. They will be in Stockholm tomorrow, then I will join them on the 30th to celebrate my wonderful Mom’s birthday. Happy early birthday Mom, love you! More to come as I take more pictures with my parents, so stay tuned or something. Peace.

Dr. Watson, haha May 26, 2007

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Yesterday, in conjunction with the Linnaeus’ tricentennial, many world famous scientists gave short talks at Uppsala. I had time to go to a few, including one by Dr. James Watson, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA. You’ve heard of Watson and Crick before right? This is one of the most famous pictures in biology, ever.

It was just hilarious to hear this guy talk. Among his more memorable quotes:

“Study something important. Most of you in this room will fail. It is better to fail at something important then to fail at something unimportant.”

“As a researcher, don’t be afraid to talk with your competition. If you kill your competitors then you will have no one to talk to at all.”

One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.”

Many in the audience burst out laughing after many of his self described “pearls of wisdom”. He is also like 79 years old (looks around 100) so I was afraid at many points during the talk that he would simply fall apart. What I didn’t like is he kept making fun of one of my personal heroes, two time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. I love Pauling. This guy practically revolutionized science single-handedly by discovering the nature of the chemical bond. As history would have it, had Linus had one more month or so he would have been the one responsible for finding DNA’s structure. He even showed Watson and Crick all the work he had done independently a few weeks after their famous publication. Sigh.

Last night my friend Jan and I had the privilege of cooking dinner for two Germans that are very special to me. Well, actually, Jan did all the cooking and I took half the credit. Stephi and Mela, I will take home so many special memories with you two. Nothing could possibly keep me from coming to visit in Germany next year, consider that a promise.

Yum! Das ist allis.

Grattis Linné May 23, 2007

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“Gud skapade, Linné ordnade”

“God created, Linnaeus arranged”

Today, the 23rd of may, is Carl Linnaeus’s 300th birthday. While there are many Swedes who have shaped science, medicine, math, art, politics and our world in general, there is only one Carl Linnaeus. In Uppsala, 2007 has been a perpetual celebration of this man and his work at this university. As a biologist myself, I feel privileged to be a part of honoring this great man in the city and country that he loved. Today there are leaders from around the world that have gathered in Uppsala, including the emperor and empress of Japan. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and somewhere I’m sure Carl is looking down and is pleased. Enjoy the spring time, go and smell the roses and take time to admire the wonders of nature around you. I can think of no better way to honor tricentennial birthday of this “founding father” of modern biology.

Dr. Larson? May 21, 2007

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Thats my dad’s name. Always has been. If everything goes well it will be mine too, several years from now. I’m here to announce that I began the long, hard road through hell….er, I mean medical school applications, a few days ago. Med schools make life nothing short of hell to get in, its just universal. Essays, MCATs, recommendations, transcripts, interviews, fees and mountains of paper work. I can’t wait!!! This is what its all about right here; these are the tasks I’ve been preparing now for over 4 years. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Its not even a question. I actually laughed out loud when someone first asked me why I wanted to be a doctor. It just seemed so silly. No this isn’t for the money (I would have studied business instead), no this isn’t because of parental pressure (they DISCOURAGED me from studying medicine) and no this isn’t for the women (doctors aren’t jocks, they’re nerds). I’m not saying I don’t have doubts / regrets / frustrations / nightmares et cetera, but when the rubber meets the road I was born to save lives. What I am not born to do is toxic animal experiments with rats. Hmm. Oh well, just one of countless stepping stones along the way. Don’t freak out, the rat was far into dream land before any of our work began.

And like any good researcher, I have my lab monkeys…er, I mean friends, Lars and Diana from the great land of Germany. Say “ost” guys!

Lars, seriously man, what have I told you about wearing shorts and flip-flops to lab. This isn’t the O.C., its Toxicology! Oh well.

Things are going to be really, really busy until I leave Uppsala. I have class everyday, a project to present in two days, my parents coming in 6 days and lots of stress in between. I’ll try to get an update before then, but I’m starting to wind-down a bit. Certainly there will be lots of pictures and stories with my parents, especially when we go to Norway the first week of June, so stay tuned for a big report on that. As you may have guessed by now I’m not going to finish my days in Russia, there is just too much to write and too little time. If you (for some reason) really want to hear about it and see more pictures I’ll do a personal “show & tell” the next time we meet. Needless to say it was amazing. Thats all for now, until next time.

Viking celebration May 19, 2007

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Uppsala has long had a history with vikings. Uppsala was once a viking capital, the most important market place for trade, and more importantly the center of worship of the Nordic gods. Some of the most important viking kings are buried in massive pyre-mounds here. It is a place practically dripping in old Scandinavian history. Over the last few days Gamla (old) Uppsala has been invaded by vikings. The meat eating, mead drinking, beard growing, marauding and pillaging kind. I love vikings and always have. They represent something that has been completely forgotten in Sweden – masculinity. Vikings don’t mess around. They kill first and don’t bother to ask questions later. They are strong, fearless, passionate, remorseless, hairy and effective. Viking men worship Odin above all. Those who are “glorified” in battle by bloody death dine with him in the never ending feast that Valhalla provides. How can you not love the vikings?

So this group of vikings set up tents, sold hand made goods and did a series of reenactments for a sizable audience today. It was great to watch. Here is a duel video I took…intense:

There were also several group battles, it was great to see the look of sheer amazement on many Swedish children’s faces. Jan, Christian, Melony and Anna were there with me.

As were Stefi and Mela (David and Simon not shown). You guys are the best!

Annnnd, last but not least my good friends from Toxicology, Lars and Diana.

My goodness, thats three different groups of German friends in one night! What can I say? I’m a Deutsch magnet! I really really really need to learn German, as I was the only one in our big group who couldn’t speak it. How embarrassing and frustrating to make everyone speak English because of one uneducated American. Sigh.

The evening ended with the a torch-lit pagan ceremony to Odin, Thor and Frey in a grove of trees nearby. Traditionally the vikings would sacrifice animals and hang the corpses in groves of trees as offerings to the gods. I understood only a little as the ceremony and chanting was in Swedish, but it was all quite educational and the atmosphere was very charged with tradition and pride.

All in all it was a fantastic evening among the vikings. More and more I feel the desire to read about their history, customs, religion and influence. More to come later, sorry that this post is poorly written, I’m tired and its really late. My parents will be here in one week, ack! Time to buckle down with my work until they arrive. Have a good day.

Croquet and Comedy May 17, 2007

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When the going gets tough, the tough play croquet. What a great spring-time, outdoor game! Anybody back home have a set I can borrow? Yes, I’ve officially lost my mind.

Yesterday I had the privilege of experiencing Swedish comedy. Now thats an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard of one. As predicted, I didn’t understand much, but I don’t think that was really the point. Sometimes it’s just fun to laugh with a group of people, even if you have no idea whats being laughed at. Its sort of like cheap therapy. Seriously, there’s something so releasing about a good hard laugh, you should try it sometime.

Good times. And now (drum roll please!) the one, the only, Ryan Avery juggling while riding a bicycle. What a stud.

Have a great weekend.

A melancholy Tuesday May 15, 2007

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In medicine people live and people die. Death is sort of a part of the job, something you see on a regular basis, something you ultimately become numb to. During my years of volunteer work I’ve seen people crawl from the pit of certain death, with seemingly no medical explanation behind it. Miraculous really. On the flip side, I’ve seen perfectly healthy individuals rapidly degenerate into nothingness, ultimately dying from seemingly unknown causes. Its curious, its tragic, it makes you wonder sometimes. So today I decided to wonder. I’m convinced that it comes down to love. It comes down to a choice. It comes down to holding on to a reason for living. Seriously. Whats your reason for living? Maybe you haven’t thought about it in a long time. Start. In biology, we learn that every species of organism has need of two essential things: 1. a source of energy (i.e. food) to live and 2. a means to reproduce (pass on genes to the next generation). The bird you hear chirping annoyingly outside, the spider you just squished, the bacteria living in your stomach are programed to “think of”, and live for two things: food and sex. I imagine (and hope) that your reasons for living are a little more complex and refined. My point is I think its often too easy to rush through life without taking time to stop and examine. You get busy with school, with your career, with responsibilities or even with trivial pursuits. Often it takes gut-wrenching, life-changing, heart-breaking pain to wake you up to the most important and fundamental questions in life. But not always. Sometimes it just takes a casual reminder from a friend, one who cares a great deal about you. Don’t blow this off; its an important part what makes you who you are, whether you are aware of it or not. So I’ll ask you again, what is your reason for living?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

(1 Corinthians 13 : 1-8)

The beginning of the last days. May 13, 2007

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Its sort of surreal to think about. You make yourself a new home, you acclimate to a culture that ultimately becomes your own, and as soon as comfort and security sets in…its time to move again. Its that time of the season, both love and change are in the air. Let me tell you, it does wonders for the emotions. Don’t you just love spring? On my last day in this wonderful country I honestly can not tell if I will be in tears or jubilation. Most likely both. Sweden is as much a part of me as Seattle. Both are as much a part of me as my right hand. Can one man love two places the same, can he call them both his home? Perhaps. Come what may I will be state-side in a mere month. Lately I have been savoring every day as if it was my last. Carpe diem, and all that. Part of that includes spending as much time as physically possible with the amazing human beings I have had the privilege of getting to know this last year – those who I will be so forlorn to leave behind. Just as every good thing begins, so must it also come to an end. And now, a few pictures of friends from last week, I love you guys.

(Mela, Mada, and Stephie)

(Meg and Ryan)

(Petra)

(Theresa)

(Jan)

And those of you who aren’t included (you know who you are), thebigswede still loves you, your time will come. You guys make me feel like the luckiest man alive, truly. It is you all that make leaving Sweden the hardest. May there be many good times to come before then.

I also wanted to briefly congratulate my little sister on finishing her first year at The Boston Conservatory a few days ago. How did she grow up so fast?!?! Lindsey: I am the proudest big brother ever. Seriously. You are dedicated, talented, competitive and mature beyond your years. Grats on all the amazing success that year #1 brought you. Luv ya.


To another close friend, David Aaron Engle, I want to wish a giant congratulations on graduating from Columbia University. I wish I could be there in person to see you receive the diploma, but we will have to wait and celebrate big time once we are both back home in sweet Seattle.

More to come later, Toxicology is kicking my butt at the moment and I have to read a chapter on “Toxic Responses of the Respiratory System” tonight. Who signed me up for this whole pre-med thing anyway? Is it too late to get a refund? Hehe, kidding. More pictures and things to come in the next few days, and a possibly trip to Tallinn in the works. Exciting! Stay tuned.

Dalarna May 7, 2007

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This last weekend my friends Ryan and Megan asked if I would like to accompany them to the center of Sweden, the heartland itself, to Dalarna. This area was home to many of Sweden’s most important sons: Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, King Gustav Vasa, Carl Larsson and many others. Dalarna is also the home of Sweden’s most iconic hand-craft, the Dala Horse. Up top you see me hugging a massive one in Arvesta. Jag älskar alla Dala Hästarna.

Woot! You ride that horse cowboy. So it happened that we rented a car and drove all over the place in central Sweden. Leksand, Mora, Rättvik, Falun, Sundborn, Gävle and many many more. The things we did and places we saw…lets just say it would take days for me to write it all out. And honestly I’m becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole idea of blogging. It takes a lot of time to write quality, and I’m not sure anyone cares (besides me) all that much. So instead of going into the usual gross detail I’ll just leave you with some highlight pictures which should speak thousands of words by themselves anyway. I’ll let you use your imagination as to what we did, its more fun that way anyway. Enjoy.

(Above: Only in Sweden can you find a no-cross-country-skiiing sign, *laugh*)

(Above: Finish line of the world-famous ski race, the Vasalopet, in Mora)

That last picture is one of my favorites, taken at the home of artist Carl Larsson, whose art I just adore. Honestly in that entire area it just felt like you were entering a fairy tale, and that everything was right in the world. If I lived in such a place of unspoiled beauty and quiet I could see myself never leaving again. Dalarna, you are spectacular, I’ll be back soon.

Valborg May 1, 2007

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Unbelievable. You train your liver your entire life for a day like today, but even the wildest college bacchanals cannot prepare you (not that I would know, of course!) for a day like this. Nothing can. I had been warned about Valborg even before setting foot in the country of Sweden. I remember seeing a faint glazed look in the eyes of my teacher as he described the highlights of his youth in Uppsala; first and foremost Valborg. Yes, people were drunk by 10 in the morning. Yes, there was wide-spread public urination. Yes, Uppsala looked like it had been hit by an atom bomb of garbage the next morning. Yes, it was all wonderful.

I’m going to just cover the highlights: 1. I found a fantastic spot on the Fyris river to watch the very traditional float race with my friends Ryan and Meg.

2. I succeeded in my goal of both spraying and being sprayed by Theresa…with 4 bottles of champagne at the student nation’s ‘champagne gallopet’. Yup, thats us at the top of the post, soaking wet. 3. I had sill (herring) and potatoes in the park, which made me feel very Swedish.

4. I got to hear all the traditional student songs being sung by Uppsala’s student choir at an evening concert – very beautiful.

5. I grilled hot dogs for dinner, hung out with good friends, drank hot chocolate (because it was cold!!!) and had great conversation late into the night.

This is a day I will never forget.