Archive for May, 2009

May 22 2009

Published by under Status updates

I saw squeegee people in Geneva today! Not where I would have expected to find them.

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May 21 2009

Midnight Rice Noodles

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12:45 am

Seth, from bedroom: “mumble mumble”
Jackie, from living room: “what?”
Seth: “mumble”
Jackie: “huh?”
Seth: “rice noodles.”
Jackie: “rice noodles?! Does that mean you’re hungry and want me to heat you up rice noodles?”
Seth: “no.”
Jackie: “then why are you talking about rice noodles?”
Seth: “we should make them.”
Jackie: “are you talking about rice noodles in your sleep?”
Seth: “No, I just…Oh.” silence

There are occasionally some advantages to Seth going to sleep early and my staying up late to write papers. Such as allowing me to know he was dreaming about making rice noodles. Awww, he’s so cute.

Dear professors, dear viruses:
When we are forced to eat too many rice products because we are too busy writing papers/combatting viruses, we start to dream about rice noodles. Please leave us the time to cook quinoa on occasion, maybe with something other than zucchini on top.
Thanks for your understanding,

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May 18 2009

Published by under Status updates

I have four finals, one research paper due, and many classes to attend in the next 11 days. I miss reading period!!!

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May 17 2009

“Prochain arrêt: Avenir” (next stop: Future)

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For months, Jackie’s been reminding me that there’s a very important blog post that I need to write. It all started in February, during our trip to Italy with Michelle, when I found out through e-mail on a serendipitously-open WiFi link in Rome that the computer science PhD program at EPFL (the school I’ve been working at) accepted me with a very generous fellowship to support me for my first year. I’d be unattached to a lab so I can explore what areas of comp sci interest me (something I didn’t do too much of as an undergrad), which is pretty exciting. On the other hand, 4+ more years in Switzerland? Jackie only has one more year left for her program. Uh oh. Decisions, decisions…

Celebrating in Rome

Then in the month of March as I thought about the decision and waited for the visit day at EPFL (it took place 3 flights up from my office with some people I knew, but still, I got to meet the other students and hear the pitch). The visit came at the end of March, I got a sweet t-shirt from EPFL, met the incredibly diverse group of accepted students (Serbian, Greek, Turkish, American, Iranian, French, Czech, Chinese, and more…) and then it was up to me to make the decision. But I didn’t feel like blogging the visit and my indecision.

The first week in April was really crazy and then we were off to Israel for Passover. I e-mailed my decision to EPFL at almost the last minute using another serendipitously-open WiFi connection in Israel and then we flew off to Turkey. By the time I got back to Switzerland I was up to my ears in finishing up beta launch of the website/research project I’ve been working on practically all year:


I was spending really long hours working out all the bugs, going back and forth with our designers and then finally, on May 7th, we beta launched! Here’s a picture from a conference at the University of Lausanne called Forum des 100 (forum of the one hundred—important, influential people in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, that is), where they announced our launch:

Please visit, play with, find bugs on and share The basic idea of the website is that it’s a tool for exploring indicators of world cities. You can use it to build your own ranking of cities and find out how cities compare to each other.

I wanted to put up a post about it at the time, but then I got really sick. Nothing too out of the ordinary (and I hope, not at all porcine); probably just the result of me staying up too late. It wouldn’t go away even though I just slept or watched movies most of the day, every day—for the last week! Meanwhile, Jackie’s in the midst of finals now, so she didn’t exactly have time to play nurse this past week. But I think, maybe, fingers crossed, I’m finally almost better. Which is great because I just lost a week of work on what was going to be a short amount of time in any case to create a presentation. I get to present our research at a conference in Paris in June. A month or two ago they asked us to send them a portrait of ourselves. Here’s what I sent:

Portrait of Seth

Little did I know they’d be turning it into this:

Line-drawn portrait of Seth

Hah. But where’s my beard? And why’s my chin squiggly?

Some announcements you don’t want to miss:

  • July: we’re spending it in Paris. Jackie’s parents are visiting while I’m doing Klezmer Paris 2009 for a week (and David Krakauer is apparently coming for some workshops!) Then for the rest of the month we’re both taking Yiddish classes at the Summer University in Yiddish Language and Literature. Come visit us!
  • August: we’re spending it in the USA. This poses a problem as there are many of you family and friends to see and the U.S. is much bigger than Switzerland. Chicago and New Jersey (NYC of course) are certainly on the agenda. Seattle? Boston? D.C.? Philly? Make your case in the comments, let us know when you’ll be where, and help us figure out how this is possible.
  • September: class starts September 14th for me and Jackie so we’re hoping to travel in Europe the first two weeks of September. Have you traveled anywhere lovely this time of year in Europe? Seems like a great season for decent weather and fewer tourists.

Oh yes, I did in fact take the offer from EPFL. Wheee!

David Krakauer at a concert we went to in Nyon last March

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May 08 2009


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My choir has been busy rehearsing and singing this spring.  We have gone through the Dvorak Mass in D Major, a couple smaller works by Mendelssohn, several reprise concerts of Jean Balissat’s Fete de Vignerons, had a gig with our standard repertoire at a town festival, and this week, we moved on to Aigle’s 47th Haut les Choeurs, a choir festival for the Canton of Vaud (Lausanne is the biggest city in this canton).  We’ve also gained a huge number of altos, who now make up by far the largest section…but that’s ok, altos are always hard to hear anyway.

This time, we had to memorize our music by heart.  Yikes–I am so out of practice with memorizing choral stuff.  In Melvinland, I thought to vertically and about tuning (though about line also!) such that practice music on my own without the choir around me to tune to was a daunting task.  Plus there were a lot of words in foreign languages for this concert–the killer was Spanish with an Argentian pronunciation.  Anyway, I got all the notes, all though occasionally had to sing them on a neutral vowel sound…oops.

Friday we had a performance with the pre-teen choirs of Vaud.  That made me re-realize that I am not so fond of this age group and get them even less now than when I was in middle school.  Also, with 300 or so of us on the temporary stage and them jumping up and down rhythmically on it (Swiss people clap together with a beat after the end of a performance, it’s really weird, and the ados on stage chose to jump instead), I thought it was going to collapse.  This concert was not judged, thankfully, because it was in a large tent and there were 12-year-olds gossiping and texting all the way through our performance.

On Wednesday was the competition, which went pretty well.  Not much exciting to report, except that we found out today that we’d won gold out of the 11 choirs in our division (I am totally unclear how we choirs are placed into divisions, so don’t ask).  We will be performing in Aigle again in the Concert of Competition Laureates at 11am.

While I am on the topic of my choir, let me entertain you (especially if you happen to be associated with a Holden choir or are a choir nerd at large) with some fun factoids about my singing experience in CJL.  Continue Reading »

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May 04 2009

Weekend a la Milanese

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On Friday afternoon, Seth and I decided we were going to Milan for the weekend.  It is just a 3.5 hour train ride, the same as to Paris, and we were able to stay in the apartment of one of Seth’s colleagues.  So with very little advance planning, but with a New York Times feature on Milan and Lonely Planet Italy on hand, we hopped on the train at 8 am on Saturday morning.

Here was our big mistake: in our eagerness to take advantage of the good weather and get tickets to see the opera since rush ones were actually available, we spent Saturday seeing the sights instead of shopping.  And thus, because day 2 was a Sunday, and Europeans like to shut their commerce down on Sundays, we really missed out on a Milanese pastime: fashion. It didn’t help that things were extra-closed because it was the labor day weekend.

On Saturday, we had some very tasty pizza at a local pizza place near the apartment, which seemed surprised to have two Americans from Switzerland (?) show up.  And oh-so-easily Seth ordered a cheeseless pizza with zucchini and eggplant.  Italians seem to appreciate tomato pies in a way that most Americans couldn’t fathom.  We then went into the center area of town to get rush tickets and took a walk on the rooftop of the Duomo.  We stuffed down antipasti as dinner at a bar north of the opera house for the price of an expensive drink and then headed to the opera!

Duomo Roof
On the Duomo roof!

We were pretty excited about this opera.  La Scala is a very famous opera house.  My knowleadge of opera is severely limited, far inferior to my knowledge of musical theater and classical music and more on par with my knowledge of ballet.  We saw the Rake’s Progress, composed by Igor Stravinsky.  I’ve really liked Stravinsky’s music that I’ve heard in other forms, so I assumed this would be a crazy, but wonderful, opera.  Not the case.  The plotline was totally inane and old-fashioned in a politically incorrect kind of way, Robert Lepage’s setting of it in 1950s America made it particularly confusing, and the music was uninspiring—not what I’ve come to expect from Stravinsky.  Our seats were horribly obstructed, which didn’t help matters.  Anyway, it was pretty cool even so to see the inside of the opera house, look at the groomed opera-goers sitting in their boxes, and watch an opera there.

La Scala
Our view of the opera…I mean of the operagoers

On Sunday, we discovered that most of Milan had shut down for the day.  Darn.  We tried to get brunch at a highly-reputed restaurant/bar, and after making the long and hungry trek there, discovering that brunch only opened at noon, waiting for an hour, and finally discovering that brunch was in fact not happening at all this weekend, trekked further to the area that supposedly resembles Venice.  Fortunately, we were able to obtain some coffee and pastries on the way.  We ate an atmospheric lunch along the canal and got some gelato/sorbetto before making our way to the fashion quadrangle for some designer darkened-window shopping.

Porta Ticinese
Waiting for the elusive brunch by some columns

Then it was off to collect our belongings and head back to Lausanne.  We stopped on the way to the station, though, to collect some very tasty pizza for the ride home.

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