Thursday, June 30, 2011

La Fontana di Trevi and Pizza Ciro- Best Pizza in Rome

We met up with some Italian relatives, Gennaro and Cristiana, at the Trevi Fountain. Everyone was blown away by how beautiful it was. And as a bonus, the kids were sitting next to Randy Jackson. (Not really, but Jack thought that the guy next to them really was Randy Jackson. And he played along "Dog!" he replied.) The Gelato tour continues, and the gelateria at la Fontana takes Very High marks.

We went to Pizza Ciro for dinner. Ciro came to Rome from Napoli and set up this pizza place many years ago. Gennaro and Cristiana said it was the best pizza in Rome, and we have to agree-- Delicious!! One of the kids asked Gennaro if she could have pineapple on her pizza. The look on his face was appalled. "Please don't make me ask this." he said.
Kathy loves her pizza "Buffala"

This is Ciro with Kathy, the brick oven in the background. 
Our family with Cristiana and Gennaro. Thanks for coming and showing us this gem!!

Il Colosseo and the Gelato Tour Continues

Not much time, and I'm horribly behind in my blogging. So, I'll just put some images here and say that everyone is doing well, sort of adjusting the time zone, and lowering their expectations about leaving the house in a timely way. We are out by the crack of noon. Like a speedy herd of turtles. That's us.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rome- First Images and First Impressions

Our intrepid relatives arrived for vacation jet lagged and only slightly worse for the wear. But, they're up for anything. We walked around our apartment this evening, had dinner in Campo di Fiori and visited the Piazza Navonna. The Gelato Tour has started in earnest, with the marking parameters being  developed and revised by the kids. First night testing gives high marks to"Blue Ice".

Here are some images-

Rome-- An Inauspicious Start

This morning we were headed to Rome to pick up our family members. The start of our trip together!! We were SO excited. But first, we have to get the GPS to find the Rome airport, and we were having a bit of difficulty. So, Kent pulled over and I was fiddling with it, and then SUDDENLY-- CRUNCH!!! At first I thought someone had hit us-- but no. We backed into another car. Kent was trying to get out of the lane of traffic, and saw a spot behind him. He started to back around the other cars and clipped one of them. 

A woman ran out from the local coffee shop, yelling "Madonna!" and practically keening about her car, calling for her son to come out. He came over,  and I apologized in Italian. Then I said I didn't speak Italian well, and did he speak English? He did. Hooray. The damage to his car was minimal, and in fact, most of it rubbed off when Kent washed it with a wet paper towel.  I thought maybe we could be on our way.... Then "lo spettacolo" began. Kent and I wanted to give him 50 euro and be done; there was no dent, and just a little black mark where our rearview mirror had rubbed his car. (Our car looks much worse, and we will probably have to give money back to the people we are selling it to, which is a total bummer).  

He snorted at the idea of 50 euro. He said "Just to look at it will cost 50 euro." Then he acted it out, playing the mechanic, glancing over his shoulder, then holding out his hand for 50 euro. So, Kent went to 100 euro, so we could be all done with this part of the program and be on our way to the airport. The clock was ticking... 

He was insulted with our offer. He said we should just follow him a short way to his mechanic, who could look at the damage on the car. I said "No- we have to go. We cannot go to any mechanic." Kent said we have to go to the airport. We don't have time to go to the mechanic. Kent again offered 100 euro, which he declined. We told him if 100 euro wasn't enough then he would have to take out insurance info and make a claim.  We got out our car papers, and started writing down our Hungarian address and our insurance policy number with the Hungarian info. This was clearly not going the way he wanted. I decided that we should take some photos of the damage to his car, just in case he claimed the damage was worse than it was. I left Kent filling out the paperwork. I got my camera.  Here I am, documenting the damage. 

Then the guy came out and said that he only drove the car once a week to do his errands (the Italian man's version of only driving it once a week to church) and that every year some tourist hits his car.  Very sad story. Kent said "Yes, I'm very sorry." and kept filling out the information for his insurance claim for the practically nonexistent damage to his car.  He looked at me, taking pictures, and Kent, intently filling out paperwork, and realized that he was beaten. He took the 100 euro.

Kent came over with the papers in his hand and said- "Let's go. He took the money. We're out of here." We decided that a year of living in Hungary had made us much more formidable opponents. The Hungarians would have refused to speak English; they would have yelled at us incomprehensibly and called for the police. We would have thrown more money at them and probably been charged with leaving the scene of a crime and hit and run.  Here- We were half an hour behind schedule. We were stressed. We were out 100 euro. But we were capitol "D" Done and we on our way to meet our family!! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Castiglione Del Lago

The Castle on the Lake. Kent found this town on line and booked 2 nights in a small hotel here on our way to meet Kathy and Steve in Rome. It turned out to be just a great place-- beautiful and not too touristy; more local tourists than Americans. But people speak English and we're brushing up on our Italian and getting along quite well. It's a walled city and our hotel is within the walls.

It's been Really Hot -- today, we went by boat to the Isola Maggiore- the Big Island in the lake and instead of hiking up to the medieval church, we found "La Spiagga"- the beach, and spent the day swimming.

Then we got on the boat for the return trip. I wasn't watching the time, and there were a bunch of people getting onto the boat, and so- we all followed like lemmings. And then we realized that we were headed off in the wrong direction to get back to our hotel.... hmmm... Kent talked to someone who said this boat didn't go to dock we wanted, but she said we could stay on until we got back to the Isola Maggiore, and then take the last boat back to Castiglione Del Lago. The kids were kind of freaked out by this. Maybe this is when Jack discovers his parent's fallibility. Nate's known it for a Long Time-- this is just more evidence of the same.

But I have to say, the boat ride at the end of the day when the sky was beautiful and the day was cooling off a little turned out to be a very good thing to have done.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Croatia: Checked that Box

One of the things we keep hearing is how Beautiful Croatia is. From everyone. And I believe them; it's been on our list of places we wanted to visit, but now we're on our way out and we didn't get there. Except we're staying in Trieste, and it's So Close to Croatia, that we decided to go to Croatia to the beach for the day. Kent was so pleased that I suggested it- he wanted to go too, but didn't want to add to the driving time. It seemed totally do- able.  We asked the man at the hotel who told us that we should NOT go because the traffic will be very bad.  We ignored his advice and we drove to Croatia for the day. 

And it was lovely, and we had a good time. And we tried gelato in Croatia, because it is a requirement of this trip that we try ice cream everywhere we go. 

Then we lived out his warning. The traffic was Very Bad. Very Very Very BAD. The GPS said it would take us an hour to get back to the hotel. It took 4 hours. 

We were cheerful in the beginning- I mean, How Long could it Really take?  At the beginning of the traffic, there were two lanes, going up a rather long, steep hill. Of course, whatever lane we were presently in was the "Slow Lane" and so the boys were encouraging Kent to switch lanes. Every time he relented and did switch to the other lane, the lane we had just vacated would surge ahead. We gauged our progress by a blue VW Transporter. We lost the transporter. We kept choosing the wrong lane at the wrong time.  People were getting cranky.... We needed a diversion, and we had no food in the car. 

We decided to take a poll of our fellow travelers, as Kent jockeyed between lanes. I wrote down the names of several languages in my book.  I wrote them in large letters, so that I hoped people could read them. Then as we approached a car,  we would pretty much hang out our window to get their attention and show them the list of languages. 

"What languages do you speak?" We would cheerfully ask our fellow inmates.  Some people we confused at first, but then most everyone joined in the game. 

Some people remained confused. One woman, early on in the game, looked annoyed. She rolled her window down, leaving her air conditioned sanctuary to speak with us. 
"What languages do you speak?" I asked, showing her the list. 

Cattish (This was Jack's addition)

She was trying to be helpful to us and offered "I speak English. What do you want?"

I said, "We want to know what languages you speak. We are taking a poll. A survey."

"I speak English. So what do you want?"

"Yes, I can see that you speak English. What other languages do you speak?" (Because she clearly had a very think accent, and spoke something else before she spoke English)

Now she was getting annoyed that we didn't understand her beautifully spoken English. "I am speaking English! What do you want?" I tried another tack. Simply showing her the choices wasn't working.

"Parla Italiano?" "Sprechen Sie deutsch?" She still was unclear on what we were doing. She said, loudly and slowly, "I AM SPEAKING ENGLISH." She drove off, as her lane was moving faster than ours and she clearly thought we were insane. 

One other woman in a car full of Italians asked "Perché state facendo questo?" (why are you doing this?) Then she smiled and motioned around with her hand at all the traffic and said "Passare il tempo" (to pass the time) "Si!" She smiled, and played the game. No English in that car that they admitted to. Tutto Italiano. 

One "way too cool for us" 20-something pretended to be on his cell phone every time we got within asking distance. He finally couldn't avoid our inquisition and answered "English". I asked what else. Croatian. (Now leave me alone) We left him to his misery. 

We had a lovely chat with a couple from Austria who said we should have driven further south to Rovinj because it was nicer than where we had been. Thanks for the tip-- next time. 

Not one person spoke Hungarian. (Magyarul) Not one. Most people literally laughed out loud when we asked them. Hungarian? You gotta be kidding!

We were in back of the Funniest Dog Ever- he looked like an Ewok, and he seemed to have the front seat to himself. There were other people in the car, so if he did have his own seat, perhaps he really was an Ewok. 

When we got to the top of the long hill, the second lane went away. Now we were isolated in our private cell. Now we were Bored. 

But it was downhill. So, Kent shut off the engine and used the emergency brake and we coasted down the other side of the mountain. One kilometer. Two hours. People were getting out to walk, and to walk their dogs. 
Kent said "Oh, she had a dog? I didn't notice the dog."

Jack had to go, too. We opened both the car doors and he stood in between them.  A couple of guys ran down the hill, throwing a tennis ball back and forth. We spotted some snails congregating on a mile marker. Why? Was there something there to eat? Clearly, it was the snail "Place to Be"

We made it back to Trieste at almost 10 PM. Grabbed a couple of pizzas and ate on the square. We were happy the man at the desk wasn't there to say "told you so." Still, it was worth doing. And it would be wonderful to go back, just not along that road. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We drove to Trieste for the fist day of the Last Hurrah. It's a lovely city by the sea and we went to the main square down near the water.  Nate brought his soccer ball and within minutes there were three other kids joining in the game. 

 This is some monument to WWII; my history is so bad (bio major) that I don't know what happened here. Need to do a little research.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Peer Pressure, Parent Edition

The other day Nate said he wanted to go to the movies on Tuesday. I said okay, but he asked when I was kind of busy and a bit distracted. I asked what he was going to see. The choices here are quite limited, as most things are dubbed in Hungarian. He said he and his friends wanted to go see Hangover 2. I never saw The Hangover (Part 1) but am not surprised that a sequel was made. Money follows money. But, that doesn't mean I want my Not-Quite-13-Year Old to see it. I asked what it was rated. He said he thought it was PG. I Doubted it Very Much, but didn't say anything. I would find out for myself.

Last night his friend called just to say they would pick him up at 1 PM and that he could stay over and that everything was all set. I could tell he wanted to get the okay, and move on quickly. He didn't want a lot of questions about the movie. I was asking them though. There were "some other kids" meeting them at the movie. I asked him what movie it was. He said The Hangover 2. I asked what it was rated and he said on the cinema web site it was rated appropriate for 12 year olds. Nah..... I don't think so. 

I asked to talk to his mother. He started to splutter. He said "I've already told the other kids the time and we can't change it. It's all set." Now I could smell the fear- the 13 year old fear that some mother was going to ruin their plans. He wasn't liking where this was heading.

His mother got on the phone with me and said that it sounds like all the other kids in 7th grade have seen it and that it just sounds like a "silly movie". She seemed okay with them going. Was I really the only one who thought this was inappropriate?  I said I thought it might be a "little old" for Nate, and was supposed to be kind of raunchy. She didn't like the sound of that. Her radar was on now; she had heard the sanitized version of the movie from her son, and was going along. I could still hear her son in the background saying "All the other kids in 7th grade saw the first one and it's FINE"; it's just stupid and funny, and they wanted to go, and the web site said it was okay for 12 year olds... While we were on the phone together, I googled it, and it's rated R in the US. Um.... Nope. Not happening. I told the other mom I didn't want Nate to go. Then, the moment of truth. She said she didn't want her son to go either. I could hear him trying again. Because Everyone Else is Doing It. 

I have to say, I felt the peer pressure myself. When the other mom said that everyone else had seen the first movie, I felt like I was out of step- a buzzkill, a prude. And I think I'm not those things. I think I'm usually pretty fun. But why is it that Everyone lets their 12 and 13 year old watch a movie like this? I was going to have to be the bad guy. Usually I'm up for the job, but Nate is leaving, and this might be the last time he'd see his friends and he had such a hard year socially and I was killing his last chance to hang with his friends, and blah blah blah....  I could feel myself starting to give in, not wanting to be the bad mother, not wanting to be The One Who Says No.

But then I remembered that was my job. Sigh.... And someone has to do it.

I did it. I said No. Maria said No too. It made me feel better to have company in the Land of No. More of us should live there, I think. Our kids would be better off, and we'd feel less inclined just to give in because everyone else is doing it, if we knew there was another soul in the country who Wasn't doing it.

So, Mothers of the Land of No Unite. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Movers Are Here!

Today is the start of the end of our year in Europe. The movers are here, wrapping everything up, including some things that we didn't want them to wrap up. I've only had to ask them to unpack one box so far. They're Quick!! They're leaving the dining room table until tomorrow so we have some place to sit. We do have the plastic deck furniture, so we won't be reduced to sitting on the stairs like we were in the beginning.

Here's some pics from the day.

Mimi uses the word "Commode" to mean "toilet" and both ate and jack make fun of it. Today they got a kick out of the movers use of the word commode- for Nate's drawers. 

Jack has some things that are very precious to him and he wants to make sure they get home okay. I liked the first spelling, but Nate corrected him. He has a "single ladies' outfit of his own design. It's pretty funny I have to say.
Here's how the house looked at the end of packing Day 1. Then the guys loaded it into the truck and the house was empty.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Things I Know- GUOT

I'm not sure if this is the right format, but I linked up to a blog "link up" this weekend.  She said add a "Things I know" post, and link back to her. I'm not sure how to do that, but here's my attempt.

Things I know:

GUOT- Good Use of Time, is an acronym we use in my house. It came from my lovely friend Gretchen who used to work in a residential treatment center for girls. When the staff would write up the events of the day, the girls got points (toward privileges) for good behavior and for using their time wisely- doing homework instead of fighting with their roommate, etc. It has become shorthand in our house. It's pronounced "Gwaht".

Today GUOT would be organizing for the movers on Monday. We need to pack some interim bags for after our stuff gets shipped back to the US and before we go home. Packing would be GUOT. Writing here is not GUOT. But it is good for my mental health, and so maybe that counts.

Instead of cleaning on a macro scale,  I have been washing the insides of the cabinets. A little OCD, and Definitely Not GUOT.

I'm also cleaning out the cabinets and refrigerator, leading to some random food choices. I thawed some chicken stock I had from who knows when, and cooked some pasta. Added a can of white beans and the rest of the Romaine lettuce from the vegetable drawer. GUOT and GUOL (good use of leftovers)

The boys have just finished school and are at that itchy stage where they're not sure what they should be doing yet. Yesterday I sent them out to make "bows and arrows".  I wasn't really worried that they would be altogether successful (and "put out an eye" or anything). One hour successfully negotiated without fighting. GUOT.

Summer Vacation- plans. We are spending a week in Barga, Tuscany with Kent's brother and his family. We will also be sharing a house with another family. We're going to have a local chef come in and teach us to cook some lovely Italian food. Definitely GUOT. I'm really looking forward to it as the "last hurrah" for our time here.

Time is passing and the day is wasting-- gotta get going.
What's GUOT for you today??

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Pack Out Begins

I'm thinking a lot about the move, and both kids are too. We all have things that we want to keep safe and make sure that they get home, and Jack is no exception. Here's what he wants to Be Sure makes it to the US safely.

Yes, it's his "Single Lady's Outfit". This whole thing started with a 'Teacher Dare" fundraiser at school, where the high school was raising money for disaster relief in Japan. The teachers were asked what they would do to help raise money-- eat something disgusting (Kent agreed to this one), have their legs waxed (men only on this one; women already do this and not for charity), get "slimed" (this is the one Kent ended up doing) or pie in the face, or sumo wrestle, or do a dance to Beyonce's "Single Ladies". Three men teachers signed up for this one.

Jack was transfixed by the guys in drag, prancing around the stage.

As a result, Jack has devised his own costume,  and here he is in it.
He wants to be sure that the prized costume makes it home, so he can wear it again. There's also a cape that goes with it- a pirate-themed item that his Zia Giusy gave him. It's a nice combination. I don't have a picture of that, unfortunately.

The movers are here Monday and Tuesday. Then we're camping for a few days on the floor in the empty house, and then heading to Italy on our road trip.
Almost as exciting as "The Single Ladies" outfit.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Packing out. Last minute panic.

Today Kent called me from school to say that we needed to turn in a form for immigration- 4 very small pieces of paper that we got at immigration nearly a year ago.  They've been living in our passports, securely kept in place by way of an elastic band. Yep. I knew I was sunk. Sunk. I know I lost the thing. For sure I did. I had it in my passport for most of the time, but the last time I travelled I noticed that it wasn't there. Not sure where it got lost, probably from being moved several times over the past 12 months. The elastic broke on about week number 3 when I was still carrying my passport everywhere. It was only a matter of time before it got lost.  I hadn't really thought too much of it- we have these official resident visas stuck on one page of the passport with picture and official seal and signature. I thought that these other things we kind of like the receipt or something. I thought they just stuck them in each passport with the rubber band to organize it.  But no.  Capital "I" Important apparently.

Kent said he couldn't sign out without turning them in. Said he wouldn't get paid if we didn't have them. All of them.  Ugh. I definitely DON'T have it. I tore apart the house. No ridiculously small, easy to miss, piece of anonymous white paper anywhere..... Have I said UGH yet?

All day I've been sick to my stomach, thinking about how I'm going to fix this mess. Kent just called. Said "Don't worry; it's fine." That check list is old and out of date; we don't need those pieces of paper.

Everything is fine.
Except for my mental health, which is shot to hell. I think I have PTSD from the Littering Incident.

Monday, June 13, 2011

There are signs, and then there are "Signs"

I think this one is a Capital "S" Sign. I think it tells you about more than just the driving rules.

The top yellow diamond with the black slash through it means "End of Priority Road" so, after this you don't have the right of way anymore. After this intersection, the "Right Hand Rule" applies and whoever is on the right has the right of way entering a road.  That is a pain in the rear, in my opinion and seems pretty much an accident waiting to happen. Then there's the red and yellow lights together, which is telling you that the light will soon turn green and to get your car in gear. Everyone drives a standard transmission here, and Budapest is Very Hilly. So, you need the warning that the light is changing so you don't stall the car.  

And the stop sign-- no idea. When does that come into play? I've already been told I'm not the priority anymore, but I have a light which I think gives me the priority to go. hmmm..... After being stopped and screamed at by the rendőrség, I don't want to do THAT again. It leads me to the smiley face, which seems to have the attitude that no matter what, it will all work out okay. I'm going with that one. That's the message for the day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"You're a Foreigner. You're going to get ripped off. Full Stop."

Angela said this to me the other day. We were hiking and I was talking about how tiring it is to have to concentrate so hard not to get ripped off by people.  That was her answer. "You're a Foreigner. You're going to get ripped off. Full Stop." All in her lovely Welsh accent.  She added, "It's the national pass time, isn't it?" And then she proceeded to tell me that everywhere they've lived it's been the same. It made me feel a bit better really; that I'm not just stupid, or some overly smiley American looking like an easy target. It happens to everyone.

What happens usually is this. I stop to buy some fruit, and ask for 1 kilo. The man at the stand measures out more than one kilo, talking all the time, "Is this okay? 1.4 kilos?" It's already in the bag at this point, and he's using his calculator to figure out the cost. Then he shows me the calculator, and I pay it. I get into the car, feeling slightly uneasy, as if I've forgotten something. I have-- the rest of my money!! Damn-- happened again. I am always adding in my head on the ride home, realizing too late that I've been had again.

At lunch one day (have I become a lady who lunches? It's the end of school and people are leaving, so I've been lunching a bit more to say my goodbyes.) people were talking about being ripped off. One woman told us when they first arrived her husband was unclear on the currency, and paid a taxi driver 30,000 forint instead of 3000 forint (about $150 US dollars instead of $15) Her husband apologized for not having a tip to give the driver. The driver looked disappointed and said "It's okay...."  Another woman said she repeatedly got ripped off at the gas station. She would give them a 20000 forint note (we all agreed we hated them because of the potential to lose a lot of money in one go). She said the cashier would count out the change to make it up to 10000, but not give the other 10000 note. She'd drive away and then realize it. But too late. The cashier had No Idea what she was talking about.

Last week, I gave Nate a 20000 note at the gas station. We put 10000 of gas into the tank and he and Jack each wanted an ice cream. I said "Count the Change!!" He came back to the car and said that the change was wrong (Well, he had counted it, just not done anything about it when it was wrong.) Not that I blame him-- it's hard to speak up and you question whether you're really in the wrong. We went into the gas station to talk to the attendant. She looked perfectly lovely and respectable. I showed her the money, and said "Nem jol." I'm usually much more articulate than this.... My limited Hungarian really makes it hard to have a conversation. "Not good" or "Not right" is all I could come up with. She said something that I had NO IDEA about, probably swearing at me the whole time, and looked like we were all set now, and that I should leave. I said it again, "Nem jol." Then I actually managed to say "ten thousand for gas, and 2 ice cream." I fanned the money out again and said "Nem jol." She handed over 1 thousand forint. I said "Thank You." and left.

I feel triumphant!!! I realized it BEFORE we drove away. A first!!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recycling, Roma-Style

We shipped our RODTaC-- Ratty Old Dining Table and Chairs over here, thinking that we would find something lovely to replace it and then we would simply swap one for the other in the shipping back to the US. But no; didn't work out quite that way. 

We ended up buying an IKEA dining table from one of the other teachers for not much money, and  we never did get around to getting rid of the ratty old stuff. It's been hanging over my head and as the time to leave gets closer, I've been getting anxious about it. Last night we loaded the car up to bring the stuff down to the local recycling where the Roma men hang out. They're mostly harmless, but the first time I brought my recycling and they came over to the car to remove it from the back, it kind of freaked me out.  I also wanted to keep the bags that I had all my stuff in (they were the only bags I had at the time and I wanted to re-use them) but of course I couldn't explain that, and so- off they went with them.  Now, I save the returnable bottles and bring them there, happily handing over my bag. I thought this would be the perfect answer- bring our RODTaC down to the recycle bins and ask if they want them. 

We tried and failed the first time. No one was at the recycling center. They must have gone home for the night.  We drove back to the house and unloaded the whole lot of it back into the garage. This was not what I had in mind. 

Today we tried again, a little earlier than yesterday. We hoped they would be at their usual spot. They were not... Now what? We most certainly did not want to bring RODTaC back to the house AGAIN. But after my "illegal dumping" incident, I didn't want to leave it anywhere. It's clearly not recycling; it's trash. Every time we saw a guy in a truck, Kent thought we should stop and ask if he wanted it. I felt pretty sure the only people who would actually say yes were the Roma. 

I remembered that there were usually some guys standing on a corner trying to sell magazines while you stop at the light. We headed downtown, hoping for them to still be there. They were! I had practiced my line: "Szeretne ezeket székeket és az asztalra?"  (Would you like these chairs and this table?) I barely stumbled through "Would you like..." motioning into the back of the car and the man immediately said Yes, and motioned where we should pull over to unload it.  They were Very Happy to take our RODRTaC and we were very happy to be rid of them. And we made sure that our name was not on them anywhere. No more "illegal dumping" fines for me!

Added Bonus- Now when we threaten to sell our kids "to the Gypsies" we know right where to go, and that they'll take them!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

I picked up this book at school at a sale of used books. It was written in 2002, so it's not a new book. Just new to me. It was really terrific. I knew that there was a woman who was involved with discovering the DNA molecule, but didn't know her name.  (I know that's shocking, given that I was a biology major at a women's college; you'd have thought they'd have had a whole class on her, right?) Her work was used by Watson and Crick without her knowledge or permission when they then "discovered" the helical structure of the DNA molecule. This is a wonderful biography of her work, and her life which was cut short by ovarian cancer. As I found myself reading about her work and her relationship with her colleagues, it brought me back to my days working in research labs. She was a complex person who could be witty and charming to some, and cold to others. Many women in science are judged harshly for the same character traits that are highly prized in male researchers.

After her work on the DNA molecule, she went of to study the structure of TMV, tobacco mosaic virus, which advanced the knowledge about viruses and their mode of infection. Alan Klug, who worked under her though found her to be a wonderful mentor and teacher was full of praise for her in 1962 when he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He later found a missing manuscript which showed that she was much closer than anyone had realized to solving the structure of the double helix.  But here's the thing. In an article he wrote for Nature he said "For the feminists, however, she has become a doomed heroine, and they have seized upon her as an icon, which is not, of course, her fault. Rosalind was not a feminists in the ordinary sense, but she was determined to be treated equally just like anybody else." (Maddox, p.326)

But-- isn't that the point? There used to be a bumper sticker that said "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."   Ha-- just looked on Amazon, and now there's a mug with the same quote... Just in case you really need one, I've posted the link. ;-)
And so, yes, it's logical that she would be a feminist icon. One of the reviews on Amazon of the book shows why it's still important.  Here's a partial post of what (I'm assuming) this guy wrote: (I added the underline and italics)

But the fact remains that, while she had the information, she did not make the discovery. Watson & Crick did. Could she have arrived at their conclusion give more time and more research? Perhaps. But the question is irrelevant. She didn't. They did. Watson & Crick did not "steal" her discovery. They made it on their own - no doubt with the invaluable help of her data. 

But that is the way scientific discoveries are made. The great breakthroughs are always based on previous inconclusive research and data compiled by other scientists. Such information is the common property of the scientific community, not the private property of individual researchers. Progress is made through the sharing of data, studies and findings. Science progresses not in secret, but through an open system of shared information.  

The fact is that such discoveries are often the result of a combination of painstaking research and illuminating insight. Rosalind Franklin was a painstaking researcher. But it was Watson & Crick who had the brilliant insight.

This review made me really mad. It's like saying I'm a better poker player if I get to see your cards, but you don't get to see mine. He says research finding are not the private property of individual researchers, and this it's common property of the scientific community. But left out an important caveat-- AFTER it's published.  I don't begrudge Watson and Crick their "Brilliant Insight" but where was the sharing and collaboration?  Did they share their data and findings?  Not at all- it was a one way street.

Okay- this has turned into a feminist rant. that was not my intention at all.  I haven't been overtaken by such fury since my days at MHC.  But, it does a body good; gets the blood flowing!  I hope more people read this book; she was a brilliant researcher and she deserves her name to be more widely known. Bravo to Brenda Maddox; a great piece of work!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spring Thunderstorms Brewing

It's been hot here- more like summer than spring.  Everyone says it's unusual, which is how they have been describing the weather since the day we arrived. Maybe there is a collective a short memory here; maybe it's real.
There have been some storms that get all ready and then-- nothing.  Here's the latest- several rounds of thunder and flashes of lightning, and then it all blows over and cools off.

 I love the view from our house. I'll miss it when I'm back to watching my neighbor's TV from my living room window.