James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

March 22, 2010

Getting back in the saddle

Filed under: Recreational Travel — James @ 11:41 am

I got back from the maize meeting in Italy last night to find my DSL connection at home was dead again. I’m now at work and think I’m pretty much caught up with the backlog of internet related stuff that accumulated during my absence. So if you e-mailed me, tweeted at me, or commented on a post sometime in the last week, please accept my apologies for not getting back to you before now.

And if you still haven’t heard back from me, please try getting in touch again.

Random thoughts from my travels:

  • Carrying a 40 inch long poster case 1/3 of the way around the earth and back again certainly gives me a new appreciation for the training old fashioned riflemen (whose rifles were much longer than my poster) must have had.
  • Travelling with three other Americans makes other countries seem a lot less foreign. We talked among ourselves in english, and while the language barrier meant we never asked for directions, as a group of four men we wouldn’t have been living up to our stereotype by asking for directions even if we’d been able to. Walk even 100 feet away and the awareness of being in a strange land (and not speaking a word of the native language), suddenly sinks in.
  • German airports list departing flights by time of departure, not the name of the destination city. (It look an embarrassingly long moment to realize flights weren’t simply listed at random.)


  1. Aw, but the language barrier is the fun part! Didn’t you have an applicable language at one point? I’d love to give that a shot, wandering around with one of my dictionaries in hand, puzzling over everyday signs, annoying natives with my terrible accent….that sounds like fun to me! Course, I’ve never gotten the chance to try it, and I’m a bit of a xenophile & think languages are really cool. I’m in my third semester of German now which unfortunately was the only language I could fit in my schedule this semester (I like to have 2-3 per semester if I can).

    I’ve been messing around with my ugly beast of a schedule to see if I can squeeze Chinese 1 and/or Russian 1 in between the cell biology, small fruit culture, and plant growth regulator classes and whatever finance classes I take next semester (doesn’t look good but at least I can take Spanish 3 online). I live an hour away from class so it’s hard to tweek things too much without having to drive there and back along with a 12 hour day, otherwise I’d already have taken them. I can manage Hindi 1 if I don’t mind adding driving time on to classes that go from 9 am-8:15 pm :(. Oh well, if I go all the way and double major (and I might as well, besides a few useful tricks and concepts the only thing I fell I’ve learned about finance is how to baloney my way through, although given recent global events, maybe that will still suffice. Pulled an 88% on my exam, but that was a fluke), once I get all the cool classes like the plant tissue culture & biotechnology class and the plant breeding class and the plant nutrition class, out of the way, I might have time to fit in the fun stuff while I finish up on the lower level necessary for the degree classes, like the ornamental plant classes and whatnot.

    I hope I can go off to some sort of conference thingy like that in a non-anglophone country someday (or get a job that travels internationally doing something when I finally graduate. Maybe I should apply for a job at a large foreign based international company like Syngenta in Basel, Switzerland?)

    But anyway, more importantly, did you find any good pizza in Italy?

    Comment by Party Cactus — March 23, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

  2. Unfortunately the only two I ever studied were German and Hindi, neither of which is any more closely related to Italian than English itself. Sounds like you’d be in heaven working for Syngenta in switzerland. I was talking to a guy from there at the maize meeting, and in addition to their four official languages (I know about German, French and Italian, but had never heard of Rumantsch which is apparently spoken in the parts of the country closest to where we were in Italy) practically every valley has its own dialect of whatever the local language is.

    I had one chance to get Italian pizza, the first night after we landed in Verona, and it was delicious. We’d been walking around the city center for 4-5 hours, and when we were finally ready to stop found this great restaurant built on the ruins of an old church. After that it was off to the maize meeting where all the meals were catered in (though still generally delicious). I wouldn’t give up american pizza for the italian variety, but it was a whole different kind of delicious from what I was expecting.

    Comment by James — March 24, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

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