Tagged: life

Where the hell is Wageningen?

As some of you probably know, I recently moved in Wageningen for my second postdoc. The main question was “where the hell is Wageningen”?

First hint: it is not in Switzerland (sorry Johnny to disappoint you).
Second hint: it is in the Netherlands.

Let’s see… Wageningen is right in the middle of the Netherlands, in the middle of a triangle with Utrecht, Arnhem and Nijmejen:

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It’s in the intersection of the well known Pumerend-Mönchengladbach and Friesoythe-Bergen op Zoom.

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And naturally, as most people should know, in a worldwide map it’s right in the centre of Canada-Russia/Brazil-Finland/Greenland-Saudi Arabia.

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The weather is amazing with sunny spring/summer and super dry and hot autumn/winter. Just a few rains when it’s really needed for the fields, but also in this case, the temperature is almost fixed on 20C. There is also a mountain (something like 30/40m high), and naturally the chemistry department is up there.

Speaking of department here some pictures:

Safety in the campus is one of the main concerns here. I still have to understand if this watchtower is for keeping an eye on undergraduates or staff members…. Anyway it will be very useful in case of zombie apocalypse:

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The second one is a bunker, no idea whatsoever:

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Then I found this wall, and I was checking if the holes were pointing to something in the far distance (the Goonies style):

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Jokes aside, Wageningen University is worldwide ranked 70 on the Universities overall ranking, and 2nd worldwide in agricultural studies.
The city has something like 35.000 inhabitants of which c.a. 10.000 are students. If to this number, you add the PhDs, staff members and other university workers you can easily understand that half (or more) of the population is somehow related to the University. Mainly the city is just like a huge campus.
The Veluwe is the biggest forest in the Netherlands, and apparently there is also a nudist beach somewhere nearby (for journalistic reasons I’ll check and report it later)

Fun with Flags: the city flag is just the polish flag with something that reassemble an orange on the top (but actually it’s a wheel). 

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Fun with Hitchhikers guide to the Netherlands:

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What’s going on? May 2013

It have been quite a long time since the last blog post. Let’s say that I’m quite busy at the moment, so I’ll just highlight what happened last months (naturally in random order).

1- The video “mario bros column chromatography” won the best tweet of the #RealTimeChem week. As prize we’ve (me and Mathieu) got a super nice labcoat. We tried to fit both of us, but it didn’t work out: 

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2- Did an intolerance test….



3- I saw this video n times but only recently I realized how bad were the few “scientific” scenes. Upside-down separatory funnels, smoke everywhere, graduated flasks used as collection flask, bubbling stuff in the separator funnel and so on…




4- The RSC is organizing a conference on Mercury…. The hassle of bringing people there with space shuttle, bringing oxygen and water… It’s going to be tough 



-5 Some people in our group start taking safety issues very seriously 

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-6 Discover that finding a rocking chair in a corridor of the department is not that difficult

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-7 Apparently one way of dealing with leaking instrument is to stuff them with paper

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-8 on a more serious topic, I’m moving to Wageningen next month. This is the main reason why I’m so busy at the moment, trying to finish stuff here in Groningen, start packing for moving, and dealing with huge amount of bureaucracy.

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it was one of those days

Sometimes you have one of those days… Today, it was definitely one!

Everything started this morning when I spill my tea in the microwave. At that point I was still optimistic. Although the microwave was full of hot water, it was first morning.

Then I went to the university, and we had to move the stuff out of our office because they are going to refurnish it. It was anticipated, so we were almost organized for doing it. Naturally, when there is something to do in the lab, some people magically disappear in a cloud of silica, no way to find them anywhere. After many years in the lab I’m not ranting anymore for this attitude. I still think it’s not fair, but I don’t care anymore. However, we discover quite a lot of crates of beers in the office (Figure 1, farewell parties, feierabend and so on)

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Finally, before lunch I managed to set up my column chromatography. Start eluting and noticed that probably I used too much cotton and sands. It was definitely too slow. So I decided to not go for lunch downstairs, but to load the column and eat in the office.

Few minutes later, a labmate show me an inflatable house build in the middle of the university garden…. (Figure 2)
An. Inflatable. House.
I was going to run outside and check if it was done with marzipan, but, no, I had to finish the column. There were also some people trying segways in the garden.
Segways in the university.
No, I had to finish the column. Focus. Damn. Focus. Column. Product before tonight. Focus!

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I was strong enough to resist the temptation of going outside when one guy come almost screaming in the lab: “who is the lab-assistant in this lab?” ” you need to empty the second office before 16.00 today”…. Are you kidding me? Two hours advice? OK, I close the column and start moving stuff outside our second and shared office.
Another “set” of labmates disappeared again. Calm down. Calm down.
One labmate come back from his way home for helping us in the moving. Respect!

Now, you may think that things in north Europe are perfectly programmed and functional. I don’t want to disappoint you but it’s not like this. It’s definitely not like this.
We discover that the “empty-you-office” order was given to all our floor. This resulted in a crap-overcrowded corridor (Figure 3, and yes we do have bike wheels in our offices, we are in the Netherlands…).

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One hour later, someone from the high floors realized how much crap there was in the corridor, and come back with another brilliant order: “you should bring the important stuff somewhere else, otherwise it will be trashed”.
To the legit question “where the hell are we supposed to put this stuff?” the answer was “here and there, maybe in the glovebox room”. I was too tired to complain and we just move stuff again. And again, and again. Now also the second office was empty.
What do you do with an empty office? Playing squash of course (Movie 1, the guy who enter in the room is actually the one who told us to move all the crap in and out, right and left).

Still something in the corridor, no more space anywhere. We just put a poster on the crap, hoping that we will find it again tomorrow (Figure 4).

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God Lord, the day was almost over, I was watching the column. I really didn’t have any strength for finishing that stuff today (children: don’t’ try this at home, if you start a column, finish it during the day!!!). The best thing for finishing one of those day is with a beer. (Do not drink and then come back working in the lab. Never ever and ever. Not even a beer if you have to do active work in the lab. The lab is a dangerous place. It’s fine if it’s just a beer with labmates before going home. Do not come back to work after drinking!!!)

So I open one and relax with some labmates watching some Monty Python sketches  (Figure 5-6)

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After that I was going home when I realized that my “new” bike had the infamous “dynamo” (someone two days ago stole my bike and I had to buy a new second-hand one). I was unlocking the bike and at the same time cursing most of the known Gods.
The dynamo needs something like 356.2% more effort for going at normal speed. And I had to bike for 6km to go home….
Anyway, after the first couple of meters I realized that the front light was point somewhere in the middle of the sky. Something in between looking for aliens on other planets and the Batman signal.
Coming back home I blinded I don’t know how many Dutch bikers with my pointing-to-the-sky-light. Unfortunately no signs of Batman.

And now finally this weird day it’s over (Figure 7).
Many many thanks to all the selfish and smartass labmates that didn’t move a finger for helping in the moving.

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And just for the sake of fun (as always): during the moving we discover:
Three beers with expiration date 2009,2011 and 2012. We merciless drank them.
An onion, unknown origin. Wating for carbon dating.
A vaseline can.
German books from 1902.
1960-70 safety goggles (Figure 8-9)

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