Friday, June 27, 2008

America, Not Belgium: Food Labels

This will  probably also become a returning topic on this blog: small things in daily life that remind you that you are in the U.S. and definitely not in Belgium.

One of those things are food labels and the messages they carry: from the pretty comprehensible ones like ‘organic’, ‘non-fat’, ‘calcium enriched’ and ‘zero sodium’ over the slightly more cryptic ones like ‘no trans fatty acids’ until the downright incomprehensible ones like  ‘no partially hydrogenated shortening,’ it seems like every product has to carry at least one message about how it is going to improve your life… Sometimes it’s really as if you were shopping in a pharmacy rather than in a food store.

But then one thing you cannot really say a big deal about would be fruit, right? Not really…:


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baseball Game

On Wednesday evening, Hilary, Alex, Jimmy and I went to see a baseball game: the Oakland Athletics—the A’s—versus the Philadelphia Phillies. We took the BART to get to the McAfee Coliseum, the home stadium of the A’s


and started off with a beer and some pretzels:


From our seats, we had a really good view on the game:


The A’s were playing at home. As Oakland is right next to Berkeley, they were ‘our team.’ Unfortunately, they didn’t perform very well… Nevertheless, we had lots of fun and some more beers with hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn


until the game finished at about 10 PM. Oakland lost with 0 to 4, but that couldn’t spoil the party…


Another cool and ‘all American’ experience, thanks Hilary and Alex for taking us there!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Congratulations, Tom!

Recently, my brother Tom obtained his diploma of social work. Moreover, he became godfather of my cousin’s third kid Elena. But most importantly, he reinforced the family-bike-collection with a couple of new wheels and some 50 additional horsepower! Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of either the diploma, the baby or the motorbike…

Those who know my brother can send him an email to congratulate Tom and wish him good luck for next year, when he will pursue a further degree in Leuven while at the same time trying to make enough money to lavish on his godchild gifts every Christmas, New Year, school report (not immediately though), birthday, name-day, school year’s end, Easter and oh yes, for a new helmet, boots, gloves, jacket, pants, fuel, insurance fees and taxes for his newly-acquired motorbike. For my part, I will try and help him save a little on maintenance costs (of the motorbike, that is).

Those who don’t know him can of course do so in the comments…

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

BBQ near Point Bonita Lighthouse

Last Sunday we organized a BBQ near Point Bonita Lighthouse with a couple of Belgians who live here in SF. Jimmy and I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit—a railway system servicing the SF Bay Area) to SF and continued by bike to Tom’s place. Tom is from Brussels, and arrived here about one month ago after having worked in Florida for several years. He was still preparing an excellent tabouleh for the BBQ when we arrived at his place:


From there, Tom and I would continue by bike to the BBQ place. His professional biking outfit was a bad omen of the ride ahead: it’s not as flat here as it is in Belgium… Anyhow, we drove along ‘The Embarcadero’ to the Golden Gate Bridge, where we crossed the bay:


After a two-hour drive with a couple of stunning views, a murderous climb and a life-threatening descent, we made it alive to the BBQ spot:

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As it took us a little longer than expected—my bike didn’t quite match Tom’s, must have been that, hmm—the others had already prepared the BBQ and most of the food:

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In the distance you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. Behind it is SF but that is hardly visible in this picture. I found my preferred job at the BBQ:


while the others were enjoying a delicious meal:

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And yes indeed, more flags for you, Eduardo:

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However, I wasn’t the only ‘Fleischmeister’ as Bart put it so nicely:

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Jimmy did like these pictures and he also wanted one—including the BBQ tool. Not that he turned a single sausage however…:


And for once, I was not the youngest in the company, which made me a little envious as you can see in this picture:

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Around 4 PM it was about time to get back. In return for our physical suffering in the hills we still got some amazing views on SF:


on the Golden Gate and the entrance of the bay:


on Alcatraz Island (we certainly plan to visit it—more news later),


and on some nice parks in SF:


And then finally, back into the urban jungle:


and return to Berkeley by BART. A beautiful day, an excellent BBQ and a good night’s sleep afterwards…

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunshine State!

As correctly noticed by Mattias, California is also known as ‘The Sunshine State’. In San Francisco however, sunshine is not always guaranteed:


Although the Golden Gate is veiled in fog here, the nicknames for the states are in general quite telling. Let’s take a look at where my PhD took me so far so you can judge yourself. First we had ‘The Aloha State’:


and I can assure that life is pretty ‘aloha’ over there. Then we had ‘The Empire State’ which certainly didn’t steal its name either:


Next, ValĂ©ry, Eduardo and I visited ‘The District’:


Washington, D.C. indeed breaths ‘governmentalism’ from all its pores. In March finally, Jimmy and I conquered ‘The Silver State’, more specifically ‘Sin City’:


And yes, that 40-dollar chip we had just won later completely disappeared back into the system, as it is supposed to do…

By the way, we still have some open PhD positions at IMEC, anyone interested…?

Telegraph Avenue

Saturday is still scorching hot and moreover we are pretty tired of last week. Therefore, it will be a rather lazy day…

In the morning I went shopping for running gear. A pair of trainers is only half as expensive as in Belgium (exactly the same brand and model) so I just left mine at home and bought new ones here. I plan to go running in the hills east of Berkeley.

In the afternoon I went for a stroll along Telegraph Avenue:


According to my Lonely Planet travel guide this is “undeniably the throbbing heart of studentville in Berkeley, pumping out a sidewalk-flow of students and shoppers, vagrants and vendors, brisk walkers and sluggish strollers, those trying to squeeze their way out an those who never seem to leave.” On a Saturday during summer however, the place is pretty calm:


Noticed the carillon tower in the back? This avenue indeed runs more or less from our place to the university campus. It is known for its ‘alternative’ shops – often second-hand places like this bookstore


where I found a second-hand copy of ‘Atonement’, ‘One hundred years of solitude’, ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ and ‘Lolita’. I indeed resumed my plan to tackle Time Magazine’s top 100 all-time novels

I also got a shirt at ‘Buffalo Exchange’, a store where you can buy, sell and exchange clothes. The odds are high that Evi is going to spend a couple of hours here when she comes to visit me in August! The second-hand trade also applies to music, the most famous store being ‘Rasputin Music’:


Not really my cup of tea though. Finally this street has some charming typical brick buildings like this one:


All in all indeed an enjoyable avenue for a leisurely stroll!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Welcome, weekend!

It’s been another busy week. We had a couple of really interesting meetings and discussions. I feel that we are going in the good direction for the internship project. More about that later…

In general, the evenings in San Francisco are rather chilly. Not yesterday, as Friday was really hot. This allowed us to spend a nice evening in the front porch with our ‘roomies’ Hilary and Alex:


Of course, a couple of good beers were indispensable. It didn’t take Jimmy and me too long to find where we could get them:


We have already tried quite a lot of American beers here but honestly, the Belgian ones have not met their match yet ;-). Moreover they are not much more expensive than the local ones so the choice was not too hard…

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Noppie, tijd om Engels te leren!

Beste Nederlandstaligen onder mijn lezerspubliek,

Waarom schrijf ik deze blog in het Engels? Voornamelijk voor het niet-Nederlandstalige lezerspubliek op IMEC en –wie weet?– op het CLT. Eigenlijk weet je met een blog nooit helemaal wie er meeleest, en met Engels bereik je natuurlijk een breder publiek.

Aangezien de grote meerderheid onder jullie toch Engels verstaat (of binnenkort zal verstaan en voorlopig wel wat hulp kan vinden he Nop) is de keuze snel gemaakt. Alleszins gaan Nederlandstaligen vaak prat op hun goede  kennis van het Engels dus voor wat hoort wat! ;-)

Wie weet wil Marleen af en toe zelfs een foutje tegen het Engels verbeteren in de commentaren? Zo kunnen we allemaal nog wat bijleren…

Hoe dan ook, aangezien een tekening –foto– meer zegt dan duizend woorden, probeer ik sowieso veel beeldmateriaal op te nemen zodat iedereen optimaal kan meegenieten.

(Tenslotte vermijdt ik in het Engels ook het risico op dt-fouten…)

Laat zeker je mening horen hieronder!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Campus Tour

Let’s have a look at what U.C. Berkeley’s main campus looks like. We enter the campus every morning via Telegraph Avenue (I’ll come back to this cool street in a later post – remember that you can follow via this map) and pass through this elegant gate:


We then turn right and pass by the campus’s main hallmark: an elegant tower with a carillon inside it:


This place is really no less than a beautiful park…


perfectly maintained…


with some really magnificent trees (my limited photographical skills didn’t allow me to fully capture the beauty here…):


Some places look like a real forest, including small streams of murmuring water:


Most buildings perfectly fit in the ‘park’, like the library:


and the Botany building:


Inevitably, right in the middle of the campus we find the American flag (especially for you, Eduardo) and below it the mascot of U.C. Berkeley (a bear, not visible in this picture):


Even a field of grass is suitable for some ‘PR’ (‘Cal’ is the common abbreviation for ‘University of California’ of which U.C. Berkeley is part – now you know at once what the ‘U.C.’ means):


And finally, there is ‘The Pomodoro Orb’:


Apparently, a couple of these things can be found all over the World and one of them happens to be here. I don’t have a clue why it should be here or what it signifies but it is a nice piece of art. Google can probably satisfy your curiosity should it be pressing (please do share your knowledge in the comments).

Want to take a look inside the lab? Keep reading the blog!

Good Food: Korean BBQ

Hmm, I feel that this is definitely going to be one of the returning elements in this weblog: food… Contrary to what some may claim, in my opinion America has a really fine food culture. I know, you might argue about the ‘Americanness’ of Korean BBQ. But then again, that is what America is –or at least should be– all about, no? Absorbing cultures, accepting them into the big melting pot while at the same time allowing them to keep their distinct identities?

Anyhow, you can eat very well in the U.S. for relatively little money. Yesterday, Jimmy and I had a fine ‘Korean BBQ’ meal:


In the bottom right corner of the picture you might discern a tool that does not belong on a Korean table. In the top left corner however, I demonstrate how it should be. It took me some effort to convince Jimmy that the meal actually does taste better if eaten with chopsticks. Here is the resulting scoop: Jimmy handling chopsticks!


Monday, June 16, 2008

A Closer Look at Our Place

Let’s take a closer look at our place. This is our street:


No, the blue air has not been ‘Photoshopped’ and yes, that is actually a palm tree standing right there in our street… This is California, remember! If we turn around 180 degrees, we see our house:


That would be this one:


It is a wooden house, typical for this neighborhood. I especially like its porch and the way it welcomes you by creaking warmly every time you come home:


Entering the front door and immediately turning to the right brings you into my room:


On your left is my desk:


And on the right is a large window:


Altogether it’s a rather small place but there is plenty of light everywhere and I really adore the hardwood floors. I’ll show you the living room and kitchen later, for now they are still a mess ;-).