Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from November 2007

Haven of hafnium

November 29th, 2007 · Comments Off on Haven of hafnium

Niels Bohr

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Hafnium was discovered here at the Niels Bohr Institute, and christened after the Latin name for Copenhagen. Its Hungarian discoverer was just one among many young physicists who flocked to Denmark from all over the world in response to the invitation of Niels Bohr…

…who is seen here in a handsome portrait sculpture, on display in the Niels Bohr Archive. It was a young Nobel Laureate who made this sculpture–not a physicist, but a laureate in literature (Johannes Vilhelm Jensen).

My point, and I do have one, is that Niels Bohr created in Copenhagen a center of very wide-ranging inspiration.

Tags: Science · Wide wonderful world

Waiting for Santa is hard, wherever you go

November 29th, 2007 · Comments Off on Waiting for Santa is hard, wherever you go

Nyhavn with Christmas market

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

One of the many good things about traveling is that it gives you a new perspective on home. For example, in the US I often hear complaints about how awful it is (and how dreadfully “American”) that the stores all start “Christmas shopping” so early.

In Stockholm, Christmas got started when October ended. And, here in Copenhagen, outdoor Christmas markets have been open for business since mid-November.

So the US is not the only place on our planet where storekeepers look forward to Christmas with all the eagerness of five-year-olds longing for Santa.

Tags: funny · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Stranger in a strange laundry

November 27th, 2007 · 4 Comments

Fläckar är bra för livet…

Originally uploaded by JohanPez

When I was a little girl I longed to travel–and I still love it. I love meeting new people, hearing new languages spoken, admiring new wonderful things from mushroom dumplings to mermaids.

But oh! I’ll be glad to say good-bye to Swedish laundries, which have frayed all my sleeve-cuffs and thinned down my favorite old black pants until they just ripped straight across the now paper-thin seat…blessedly, on a cold day when I also had on black longjohns.

Laundry day here in Sweden is a much bigger event than it would be at home. In our Stockholm building, there are just four washers (and only two dryers), so everyone signs up for once-weekly, to do stuff all at once.

That means, when our day comes, I have, in a literal sense, almost nothing to wear.

Today, for example, my outfit was long underwear, dryclean-only jacket, and an insane pair of white denim trousers I still can’t imagine why I brought here from the US.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to order a whole pile more turtleneck shirts from Lands End to be waiting for me when I get back to the US next month. But if you happen to meet me between now and then and notice the slightly frayed cuffs on a shirt that I’m anyway wearing…blame Swedish washing machines like those you see in this picture.

They look very tough…and believe me, that’s just what they are!

Tags: Sweden · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Bush makes time for Nobel laureates, including Al Gore

November 27th, 2007 · Comments Off on Bush makes time for Nobel laureates, including Al Gore

According to the Washington Post, George W Bush did something different this year when he “met” with Nobel Prize winners.

He actually met with them, or at least with one of them. And that one he met with was the President-elect of the year 2000 (at least by popular vote), Peace Prize winner Al Gore.

It’s easy to let eyes get hazy over this photo–just imagining how the whole world would be different if Al Gore had become US President back in 2000 instead of George W. Bush–starting, maybe, with a President who paid attention to memos with titles like “Bin Laden determined to strike in US.” Or at least a President

  • more focused on Bin Laden than on Saddam Hussein
  • with nobler priorities than cutting rich people’s taxes and killing Social Security
  • whose patriotism cares more about our Bill of Rights and less about flag pins

But that’s not how it turned out, and doesn’t George Bush look delighted!

Tags: Editorial · Nobel · politics

Finding new Polish roots–in Chicago and Warsaw!

November 26th, 2007 · 7 Comments

Ciconia ciconia

Originally uploaded by namq

Frank and I went all the way to southeastern Poland to learn more about the roots of his Polish grandmother, in Babice.

Now, by way of email, news of Frank’s Polish grandfather just came to us! An independent Chicago researcher who studies Haller’s Army just sent us new details about “Jan Wilczek”–who was born (it turns out) November 15, 1892 in “Mikanow, Nowomieski, Warszawa.”

Now we have even more stuff to find out about, next time we go back.

Many thanks to Dr. Paul S. Valasek, whose self-published book about Haller’s Army we will definitely buy! The book doesn’t yet have a website of its own, but when that’s corrected, I will add that information to this blogpost.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Visiting Poland while Stockholm was full-up with reindeer

November 26th, 2007 · 2 Comments


Originally uploaded by Jom Manilat

Catching up on local news now that we’re back in Sweden–apparently we missed a protest in downtown Stockholm augmented by reindeer.

Reindeer-herding Sami have been hiking back and forth between winter and summer pastures since long before there were any “Sweden” or “Norway.” But now Norway has ruled that some Sami they’ve declared “Swedish” can no longer drive reindeer into Norway pastures that Norwegians say are “too far west.” (At least that’s what the Swedish news in English says.)

Whichever side is behaving wrongly on this should be very worried about getting coal in their Christmas stockings–I’m sure Santa Claus keeps careful watch of these reindeer!

Tags: funny · Sweden · Wide wonderful world

Beautiful soup

November 26th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Beautiful soup

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

The beautiful red beet soup with mushroom dumplings is part of traditional Christmas in this part of Poland. In the background, you can see a plate of varied sausages, including kielbasa, which Frank’s Polish grandmother used to make.

Can you see that steam is rising from the hot soup? Mmm, making me hungry!

After the school festivities, Babice’s local hotel and restaurant treated us all to a Christmas dinner augmented by folk songs.

The hotel, whose food is delicious, is Hotel Plowiecki. The "l" in Płowiecki is a special Polish letter that has a slash through it; my keyboard won’t make it but I copied it off the Internet.

Tags: food · Frank Wilczek · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Frank’s family tree?

November 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on Frank’s family tree?

Frank’s family tree?

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Here, in beautiful Polish/Galician Babice, Frank is posed next to a tree that is next to the former homestead of his Polish ancestors.

Frank’s Polish grandmother, Francziska Zybura (her married name was Wilczek) was born in Galician Babice in 1902. After getting excellent marks in the local school, she left for the US in 1921.

I’m back now in Sweden but with severe Internet-lag, after four days in a charming Krakow guesthouse with wonderful beds but no way to upload my gorgeous photos. I will be posting the best of my Babice photos on Flickr over the next couple of days–for example, Frank’s Polish relatives, who look just like him and the photo of 13-year-old Frank his great-grandma sent home to Poland–not to mention the wonderful food there and amazing people we met.

The stories of who did what and how great it turned out can be found in the sequential captions of all those photos, so go there and read them!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Blogless after Babice

November 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on Blogless after Babice

Liffey Treetrunk

Originally uploaded by Cormac Phelan

You cannot fall twice into the same river, because the river is different every time. And so are you.

This river is not the river of beautiful Babice, the Galician village about four hours from Krakow where Frank and I spent a magical yesterday, visiting the school where his grandmother Franciszka Zybura earned excellent marks in the early years of this century. Many thanks to the friendly people of Babice and their talented children for a wonderful welcome, about which I plan to write more once I get to someplace where my own computer, and the 133 photos I took there, can connect to the internet.

Right now, this hotel computer and a search through Flickr for a photo both “autumn” and “river” have to be stand-ins. Thanks also so much to the Piotr Haszczyn, the correct spelling of whose name is in my computer and not this one, the talented rector of Babice’s primary school, who arranged all these very complex events that I should now be packing instead of blogging about!

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world

With Michael York, in Cracow

November 23rd, 2007 · Comments Off on With Michael York, in Cracow

Michael York Cracow

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

So here we are in beautiful Cracow in Poland, shooting a film with Michael York

Not really!

Michael York is in Cracow making a film on the beautiful Wawel hill, with castle and cathedral in the background. We happened by, midway between physics and travel, with the wonders of Wawel Castle in our recent past and the magic of Wawel Cathedral just ahead.

I couldn’t resist taking one photo–from a very respectful distance, I promise. This is a blow-up from one tiny bit of one snapshot.

I am so glad that Michael York’s life has turned out happier than that of his character in Cabaret, for whose foolishness I cried buckets, long years ago.

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world