Sunday, December 2, 2007

A genuine danish Julefrokost - Held in the states!

Since Andreas danish boyfriend Kristoffer was visiting, we decided to try throwing a danish christmas party. The party was to be held at her place and we had invited a lot of her friends.
The menu was supposed to consist of whatever we could find in the local supermarket combined with some stuff Kristoffer and Morten and Nicholas had brought from Denmark. (A special thanks to Nicholas and Morten who didn't get any food in return for their efforts, since they left before the lunch date.)
The guys had brought three bottles of Snaps and some red cabbage (Rødkål).

Having done all the shopping we started cooking. This took us all day, but when we finished, we could present the following dishes:
Pork roast (flæskesteg) with a brown sauce, sugarpotatoes and the red cabbage. We also had Smoked salmon on home baked bread and danish meatballs (frikadeller) plus a couple of different salads. And for dessert we served rice porridge (risengrød) and rød grød med fløde (there is no english translation for this one).

To our great surprise, people enjoyed everything we served - even the sugarpotatoes (which lots of danes - including myself - never learned to cope with).
We had thrown a little honey into one of the bottles of snaps, and chilled them in the freezer. This really helped people getting over the infamous 'snaps barrier' and they all yelled 'SKÅÅÅL!'

After way too many shots of Snaps, we moved on to another party. I think most of the Americans were surprised by the sudden effect of the snaps, because most of them left the second party early.

It had been a great night. It was very nice to expose Americans to such a weird part of Danish culture, and succeeding as well as we did. I can only recommend throwing an event like this if you are staying in a foreign country during christmas time.

More pictures of the Christmas lunch

Crap - my trip is almost over

....and I have really not been writing on this thing nearly as much as I had planned. There are several good and bad reasons for this.
First of all, my laptop got stolen and I was computerless for a couple of weeks. Secondly, I have been so busy all the time that I rarely have had a moment to sit down and focus on this thing. My tight schedule has mainly been because of me being in the lab all weekdays from 9 to 7-ish. Besides this I have also been 'socially aggressive', trying to get out as much as possible; seeing as many people and places as possible. This has of course been really good for me, and I feel that so much has happened since I posted the last time.

I feel that it's going to take a long time for me to describe everything that has happened since my last update, so first of all I'm going to give a short summary of my experiences. Later on I will try to update this page with specific posts about some of the different stories.

Ok, let me think... The last time I wrote, my girlfriend had just left to go back to Australia. The week after this, I was contacted by this girl Andrea. It appeared that she had studied in Denmark during the spring, and she even had a danish boyfriend who was coming to visit. I have seen a lot of her and her friends since.
A couple of weeks after this I moved to a new house, where I'm currently living. The house is occupied by three biology students and a biology postdoc. All of them have been really nice to me, and I have been hanging out with them a lot.

Two weeks after moving in here, I went to New York to visit Aske and Julie (who I of course know from Denmark). They were there on vacation for two weeks. We had a great time, but unfortunately our house in Providence was robbed while I was there, and I lost my iPod and my brand new macbook pro laptop. This didn't stop me from going to New York once more though, so I went another weekend to visit Jim, who is married to a friend of my family. I hung out with him and his friends, and he showed me around town. The more time I spend in this city, the more I like it.

Some time after my second NYC trip I got the money to pay for a new laptop, and I was plugged in yet again. So nice.
The next big thing that happened, was when my friends Nicholas and Morten came to visit me during thanksgiving (3rd week of november). They stayed at our house in Providence for a couple of days, and then we went to New York for the holiday. Since Jim was going to Denmark to see his wife, he had lent us his apartment. We had the best five days together there.
The guys left last tuesday, and since then I have mostly been working. Though, I did have time to plan a danish julefrokost together with Kristoffer (Andrea's boyfriend) who is currently here.

Things at the lab have been going well, but slowly. I have learned a lot, but we didn't progress as much as I had expected, but this is probably a typical thing.

To wrap things up, I have had a great time the last couple of months. I'm really looking forward to getting all this written down, so that I will be able to remember it. On one hand, I feel like the stay has been too short and that I should have planned it to be longer. But on the other hand, I already feel like I've experienced so much and I'm really missing everybody back home. (Especially a certain somebody!)

Bye for now,


Sunday, September 16, 2007

A lovely visit

Friday the 7th AK (my girlfriend) came all the way from Australia to visit me. She is an exchange student at Australian National University in Canberra, and she has been there since the beginning of July. She stayed here for a week, and it was so good to see her again. Being more than two months since she had left for Australia, we had really missed each other.
We hung out all week, though I had to go to the lab during the daytime, and we even managed to do a one day trip to Boston on Thursday (where I had a day off).

Boston is a great city. Even though we only went for a day, it felt like we got a pretty good overall impression. Besides getting a glimpse of every part of the inner city, we also accomplished to check out Harvard University (which actually looked at bit like good 'ol Brown). Of course Boston has a lot more to offer than what can be seen in one day. And since it's only an hour away from here, the city has definitely not seen the last of me.

Anyway, AK and I went back from Boston in the evening, completely worn down by all the walking. We spend the rest of out time enjoying the company of each other, until she left last Saturday. It was pretty hard to say goodbye again, knowing that we would have to wait three more months to see each other again.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The lab

EDIT: I've just added some photos.

Sorry about not updating this thing sooner, but I've been really busy. Since so much has happened, I will divide my writing into several posts. This one is about the work.

Last weeks Tuesday I started working at the lab. I met the professor and the two Ph.D's I am going to be working with. They were very kind to me and showed me around the lab. I don't think I have seen a lab this packed with stuff before.

In the middle of the lab is a huge table where the femtosecond laser pulses* are generated and modified. This part of the setup takes up most of the space, and is very hard to describe without getting into details.
At the end of the setup is placed a vacuum chamber where liquid mercury can be pumped through. A parabola mirror is placed such that the laser is focused in the middle of the chamber creating a small plasma. This plasma excites the mercury jet, creating a pulsed 'hard'** X-ray beam.

This last part of the setup we have been working with since I started. There are lots of technial difficulties in order for everything to work together, and therefore the setup is constantly altered.

So far, I have mostly followed the others in the lab trying to understand what goes on in there. Even though it's all still a bit confusing to me, I'm beginning to understand more and more, and I have slowly begun to do smaller things for myself. I'm looking forward to the day when I'm able to operate the equipment without supervision from the others, but it will probably be a while from now.

*For those of you who don't know what this stuff is all about, I have created a short description of the project in the bar on the right side of the page. Since I am still trying to learn this myself, there will probably be lots of errors and missing links in the beginning, but I will try to update and correct it as my knowledge increases.

**An X-ray beam with a relative high energy is said to be 'hard'. This originates from the fact that thin sheets of metal are sometimes used to absorp the photons with low energy, thus creating a high-pass energy filter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Finally everything worked out - I'm in the states!

I have just bought myself a laptop, so now I'm finally able to update this thing.

Much have happened since my last post. The secretary finally sent me the documents I needed, so I ordered another airline ticket for the 1st of september. I spent the last week packing down our appartment and waiting for my visa. I got it friday the 31th. Very typical for this whole process. I should probably consider writing a book about all this bureaucratic mess I've been through, but I don't think I have the skills to spice up 350 pages of 'then I sent the paper back to the secretary once again, this time signed in purple ink by every one of my oddly aged cousins as required by American federal law'. I mean no disrespect to the American country, because I know that it is probably a lot harder to get into Denmark as a foreigner. It was just so frustrating to be kept at home because of bureaucracy, when I just really wanted to go.

In spite of all the trouble and postponing, I was actually able to make my plane saturday morning. I said goodbye to the family and flew across the atlantic. I was a bit nervous when I got to the american visa check, but the paperwork seemed to be in order, so they let me in no questions asked. Saturday evening I landed at Providence airport at 6:30, where I grabbed a cab to and headed for the auxillary house I was supposted to live in. I had to stroll a bit around campus (which fortunately was nearby), before finding the place to pick up my key. The campus seemed very nice. Actually it was not far from what I had imagined (and from what you see in American College movies).

EDIT(sunday, sept 16): I have just added some photos of the city and where I live. Be sure to check out my Flickr account.

When I got back to my room, I unpacked my stuff and wandered about what to do to keep myself from falling asleep too early (I was six hours ahead and I had barely slept for 24 hours). I went down to the kitchen where I met one of the other residents of the house. It turned out that she and her boyfriend were meeting up with some friends to go to a student bar. They instantly asked me if I wanted to come along, and I did. The timing could not have been better. I had a really great time, I met a lot of nice people and I managed to stay up until 2 AM.

I spent most of my sunday strolling around trying to get to know the neighborhood. The city is really nice. It's comparable to the danish city Århus in size but more metropolitan with skyscrabers and stuff. Brown and RISD (Rhode Island School for design) has got their own part of the city, 'College Hill', and it's apparent that they are of great importance to the city aswell as the entire state. (Rhode Island is the second smallest state in the country, but still...)
When I got back from my sightseeing trip, I hooked up with the guys from the day before to play some poker. I had a great time, and thanks to the internet, our humor was similar in many ways.

Monday was 'Labor day' and therefore the University was closed. I spent the day preparing for my first day at the lab and I also bought me a cell phone. (I actually only needed the sim card but you can't just get that so I had to buy some crappy motorola.) Anyway, I've got a local number now, so you can write me an email if you need it.

Right now I'm sitting at the local coffee shop trying to stay awake (even though it's only 10:30). Tomorrow I will hopefully write something about the laboratory and what I will be doing there etc. It's all very exciting and I'm sure that I will eventually understand what is actually happening in there.

Good bye for now. I hope to get some comments from some of you. Danish aswell as english.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Postponing my trip

The summer has passed since I wrote the introduction, and I should have left by now, but things got very complicated lately. I actually bought a ticket for the 12th of August, but I was not able to get my visa in time for this, so I had to cancel my flight. Since then I have been corresponding with a couple of secretaries at Brown in order to get the papers I need for my visa. Apparently this process is a lot more bureaucratic than I thought. Buttom line is that I am still waiting for my documents, but that I should receive them any moment from now.
As soon as I know for sure when the paperwork will be done, I will order a new ticket and write about it here.

Goodbye from a slightly confused and annoyed Tobias.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Those of you who read my previous blog knows that I have been planning a trip to Japan since last year. In this trip I was supposted to work in a research project and as a part of a student exchange program.
A few weeks ago I was told that there were some problems with the project, and that I therefore couldn't leave this fall. Luckily the danish professors who were planning this stay quickly contacted another connection of theirs, professor Chrisoph Rose-Petruck, who works at Brown University in Providence in the state of Rhode Island. In spite of the very short notice, Christoph was willing to accept me as a student from August this year, so we started planning the stay.

As it looks now, I'm going from August the 12th until December the 23rd. I still don't have my visa or a place to live, and I know very little of what I will be doing there, but I will figure all this out during the next couple of weeks.