Unintentional political comment

The Science Museum of Minnesota plans to shut down during the Republican National Convention next year so it can host convention events. Presumably they’ll cover up the scary exhibits with drop cloths.

Larry Craig and restroom etiquette

This week the ACLU decided to stick their oar in regarding the vexed question of whether Larry Craig should have been prosecuted for soliciting gay sex in a restroom stall in Minneapolis Airport. Their logic was interesting. There is apparently case law in Minnesota to say that one has an expectation of privacy when in a bathroom stall, even if the stall is in a public place. Therefore, the ACLU argue, it is entirely legal to have gay sex in the stall of a public toilet in Minnesota, since you’re doing it in private.

Minnesota thoughts

It wasn’t too bad when the wind stopped–only about -3 to -6 Celsius. When we arrived in Minneapolis, it was actually slightly above freezing. I managed to screw up my back somehow en route. I’m not sure how. I think it was a combination of nasty airplane seats, improvised pillows, five hours of journey, and cold gray weather. We managed to rent a Prius. The logic was that although it isn’t 4 wheel drive, on icy roads it’s better to know exactly how the car will handle and how effective the brakes are.

Memo to self re: Ecco

In Boston I bought a pair of Ecco shoes, only to have them fall apart in under a year. Failing to learn the lesson, I bought some Ecco winter boots. They were fine when we left, only worn a few times, but after 8 days in Minnesota the soles have shredded away. No more Ecco footwear for me. Sure, it’s light, but it’s expensive and it doesn’t last.


Yesterday I found out what tamales are. I am another step on the way to being a Texan. (Hey, if George Bush can do it, so can I.) Today I started packing for Minnesota. I am somewhat concerned about whether I will be able to pack sufficient warm clothing.

Interesting research

Scientific American, February: Money is an incentive to work hard, but it also promotes selfish behavior. Those conclusions may not be surprising, but psychologists at the University of Minnesota recently found that merely thinking of money makes people less likely to give help to others. The researchers got people to think about money by showing them words related to money, having them handle play money, or revealing a poster with pictures of money on it.

Oww, my head

The house has returned to normal Minnesotan levels. Our guests have left me with a cold, so I’m probably going to spend most of the day in bed.

Hamburg introduction

I have to admit that Hamburg had never made it to my shortlist of places I wanted to visit. Apparently I’m not alone in that respect, because research soon revealed that there weren’t any English-language guidebooks about Hamburg in print. I started assembling what information I could from online sources, while rothko purchased 2 German guidebooks and started reading those.

The reason for our choice of destination was simple: both sides of rothko’s family can be traced back to Hamburg. It was to be a visit to the ancestral homeland, and a chance to do some genealogical research. We would be staying with some distant relatives who had visited Minnesota many years before.

The shortest air journey from Austin to Hamburg is two hops via Continental. Unfortunately, the timing is less than ideal; the first flight leaves Austin at 06:30, and on arrival in Newark there’s a 6 hour gap before the connecting flight to Hamburg. Factoring in the recommendation that you arrive 2 hours prior to departure, drive time to the aiport, parking, shuttle buses and so on, I realized I was going to have to wake up around 04:00 at the latest.

End of year wrap-up

So, it’s the end of 2004, and once again my life has changed in major ways. In less than a year I’ve: sold my flat in the UK, learned to drive, packed up my worldly possessions and put them in storage, bought a car, gone on a road trip half way across America, moved to Texas, and made an offer on a house. The house thing is still stalled, however. Right now the critical path bottleneck is that the people buying the house next door feel that they need to get the property lines re-drawn.

Hooray for science

Nature reports that scientists at the University of Minnesota have experimentally verified that it’s just as easy to swim in a pool full of syrup as it is to swim in a pool full of water. Cussler and Gettelfinger took more than 300 kilograms of guar gum, an edible thickening agent found in salad dressings, ice cream and shampoo, and dumped it into a 25-metre swimming pool, creating a gloopy liquid twice as thick as water.