Coffee for Science, Cake for Fun

I have said before one of my favorite things about my new job is the coffee hours. Not only does this mean I never have to make coffee for myself and that I am regulating how much coffee I drink by being lazy but it is also a great built in way for new members of the department to get to know people and it fosters collaboration. It is easy for a student to ask a senior professor something simple as you can ask it casually at coffee hour. As I am not very good at remembering to go to coffee hour I have been setting alarms to remind me to stop working.

However, on Friday afternoon I need no alarm, partially because duh it is Friday but also because I eat a smaller lunch so I can have CAKE!

Today’s coffee hour was perfect, the cakes were wonderful and there were even a few that people had brought back from home to share (i.e., one from St. Petersburg) and there was lots of chocolate. But the best part was that because everyone comes to Friday coffee hour and everyone sits down for a while to eat their cake I got to witness 3 collaborations forming and 2 problems solved by helping each other. There was much catching up…”what have you been up to lately”, “oh I am annoyed ___ isn’t working” etc.

I really like this structured yet informal way to provide both socialization and collaboration. Is there a way this could be implemented in American research groups effectively? I am still pondering the ways…

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Moving around the world with 3 suitcases and a computer bag!

So the crazy (expensive) charges for luggage have become excessive and annoying but when you are moving across the world on a flight they mean the difference between another dress you love and the shampoo that makes your hair not crazy (that they don’t sell in the new country). Disclaimer: I am a “stuff” person…my suitcases are always at the weight limit and I always over pack, thinking of all eventualities…so when packing to live abroad for 2 years what makes the cut?

Packing for me is a puzzle…how much can you fit in and how do you stuff just one more jersey dress into the corner of the case or between the heal and bottom of a pair of shoes. I have nesting suitcases where the smallest fits in the overhead bin. I see packing them as a challenge, fitting everything is almost never an issue but weight always is.

2nd Disclaimer: I was in Sweden in May for one of my cousin’s bröllop (wedding). Since I had a cheap plane ticket from Chicago to Copenhagen with one free checked bag I decided to pack my bag full of things to leave; however, my parents were also attending the wedding and they bought expensive tickets that came with 2 free checked bags…so I shipped 50 lbs of stuff from Chicago to Texas for my parents to bring on the plane. So how much did I really move to Sweden with? Well I left 2 suitcases full of stuff in Sweden at my aunt’s house. I took shoes, clothes I don’t wear often, bottles of bathroom products, and all of my winter coats and clothes.

After the wedding in May I had to move out of my apartment and into a dorm room so I put all of my belongings I was keeping in storage and packed up my 3 suitcases plus about 10 bags of extra stuff and moved into the dorm (purge #1). While in the dorm I sorted mercilessly, clothes that weren’t flattering or I hadn’t worn in a year = gone, medicine that was old/expired = gone, makeup and bathroom products that I could buy in Sweden = gone, shoes that weren’t my favorite = gone (purge #2). Then I started packing to move out of the dorm at the end of October and realized I still had too much “stuff” for it all to fit into my cases so the great purge began (purge #3). I made a huge box of stuff I couldn’t fit, could replace, or didn’t really need, plus some stuff I probably will need at some point but not right away or not often.

After this great purge I got everything to fit into my suitcases but was pretty sure they were all over weight. Of my nesting suitcases, the largest case is 20 lbs with almost nothing in it so keeping it under the 50 lb normal limit means leaving it partially empty. Full of just clothes this case is easily 60+ lbs. When I began weighing my cases after getting all of my stuff to fit in them the largest was 83+ lbs, the middle one was 50 lbs exactly (score) and the small was 38 lbs (but I have lifted much heavier cases into the overhead bin. Now to get the cases down to weight was a tricky business…what more wasn’t really necessary (purge #4)? Things like my cutting board that I have had since my dorm room in college that I had kept to use in the dorm had to go. That one extra dress I don’t really need = gone. Finally after much juggling I got the cases down to 70, 50, and 30+.

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I got one free case up to 50 lbs and then would have to pay for the second checked case and the extra 20 lbs of weight. All packed! Nalle (in the picture) and I are ready to move to SWEDEN!