Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A day in the life

  Photos from a typical day at the office (this will actually get a little interesting at the end, after the excruciatingly boring part, so stay tuned :->).  First I catch a streetcar just outside the guesthouse:

  The streetcars come extremely frequently, which is nice; almost never a significant wait.  After a bunch of stops, it drops me off at a cafe where I like to get a cappucino if I have time:

  They have some very yummy-looking desserts which I haven't tried yet.  From there, I catch the bus to Laxenburg:

  Maybe a half hour bus ride later, I arrive in the sleepy little town of Laxenburg:

  From the bus stop, I walk through some very scenic streets:

  That's Laxenburg's city hall, in the last photo.  One of the nicest buildings I walk by is a church, which was completed in 1724:

  After all this, I finally (I know, the suspense has been killing you) arrive at IIASA.  A remarkable thing about IIASA is that it is housed in the former summer palace of the Habsburgs!  I'll blog about IIASA's history some other time, but for now, just check out these digs:

  This building is part of the Schloss Laxenburg, or Laxenburg Castle; it was acquired by the Habsburgs in 1333 (that is not a typo), although I believe this particular part of it (the Blauer Hof) dates to only 1745.  The first photo is of the front of the Schloss.  The second photo is from the side; there is a very extensive park behind the palace, which I have yet to really explore, but you can see a bit of it in the photo.  Also in the second photo, you can see the tower, called the Belvedere, that is the highest portion of the building.  It's built around a central courtyard; my office is in a sort of side wing.  Many of the rooms are quite ornate, but my office is quite plain, so I haven't bothered photographing it.  Instead, here's a view of the main staircase:

  Not bad, eh?  Well, as far as a typical day goes, we're almost done.  Here's my group (Ecology & Evolution) at lunch:

  Ulf Dieckmann, in the yellow shirt, and Rupert Mazzucco, in the plaid, are my supervisors.  Lunch is usually at this spot, which is more or less a cafeteria.  Their motto seems to be "if it isn't fried, then why would we want to serve it?"  Or is that Austria's motto?  :->  As you perhaps can see, I opted for a big plate of broccoli, to try to get past the fried aspect; but even that had a thick layer of butter-fried bread crumbs slathered over it.

  This day, I also met with some folks from the National Academies of Science, the organization who is footing the bill for me and other U.S.-affiliated students (not necessarily U.S. citizens) to attend the YSSP.  Here they are:

  That's Simon Levin in the middle, who was the ringleader of the show.  Next to him are Margaret Goud Collins, and a professor whose name I didn't catch.  It was an interesting meeting; Simon Levin turns out to be rather a scintillating intellect.  It's good to know that at least some positions of power in the infrastructure of science are occupied by people like him, not by faceless MBAs and lawyers.  I'm reading Levin's book Fragile Dominion right now; I'm only a few pages in so far (not much free time to read!), but I think it will be quite interesting.

  Well, so, that's my day, with all the actual work omitted (if only it were that way in real life, eh?).  Then I ride the bus and take the streetcar back home.  Then I usually eat a doner kebab sandwich at the shop across the street.  A soccer game may get watched at the pub a few doors down, with some others from the YSSP.  Then I sleep, wake up, shower, and do it all over again!  Some life, huh?

  In other news: I have been informed that the bacterium that caused me so much trouble last week is Campylobacter jejuni.  According to Wikipedia, it is "one of the most common causes of human gastroenteritis in the world," but apparently it is not common in Austria; my doctor told me that I should expect to be contacted by the city of Vienna to be interviewed about where I might have contracted it, so that they can contain any possible outbreak.  I have always felt that if one is going to be sick, it might as well be with an interesting illness, so I am pleased by this development.


  1. Simon Asher Levin has an informative article in Wikipedia, which seems to show that his research interests align nicely with yours. No info on the Fragile Dominion book, though.

    As for the schloss near Vienna, it appears to be (or resembles: we're not home to look it up) a huge and remarkable place we visited during our Amsterdam-Germany-Danube-Budapest river tour a few years ago. Are there hundreds of tourists hanging around there many days?

  2. Yeah, Levin's interests are quite congruent with mine. I have a feeling I will encounter him again. :->

    There are some tourists, but not vast numbers. There are many, many such places around Vienna, and they all seem to look roughly alike, down to the Austria-standard shade of yellow paint they all use. I'd be surprised if you made it down to Laxenburg, there are easier and more famous schlosses to visit, and more open to the public, too.