mercredi 30 mai 2007


I am going to participate in the next IARC Monograph, which starts next week. For those of you not in the public health biz, IARC publishes monographs several times a year where they review the scientific literature and give the final word (more or less) on the carcinogenicity of various toxic substances. This monograph is on butadiene (a chemical in rubber and a major byproduct of car exhaust), ethyl bromide, and vinyl halides (including vinyl chloride).

We had a quick pre-meeting yesterday among the IARC staff, and it sounds like it could be a fairly contentious meeting. IARC invites representatives from the relevant industries to observe-- not to comment or participate, just to observe-- and it sounds like they will be looking over our shoulders for any errors or anyone saying, "oh, I haven't had a chance to read that yet," in order to refute the findings. Someone from the American Chemical Society has already sent a letter to the head of the monographs program in order to try and strong-arm him into allowing industry-sponsored documents into the meeting. Which goes against IARC policy-- only peer-reviewed articles may be considered.

Plus at the last meeting on butadiene (9 years ago), there were 2 separate votes, with 2 separate results, on whether it should be a Class 1 or 2 human carcinogen-- meaning whether it is either definitely or only 'probably' carcinogenic to humans-- and people were really angry. This is a serious distinction, as it makes industries liable for diseases in their employees.

Should be an entertaining meeting...


Frank is leaving IARC this week. We sent him off with a few drinks at the Wallace last night. I guess it is the nature of working at IARC, but it is rough making friends to have them take off a couple of months later.

This sucks!

mardi 29 mai 2007


I had a lovely time in Paris seeing Pardis and Victoria. Victoria is getting married in August, so this was something of a last-hurrah girls weekend for us. We were only sad that Karin couldn't come. The 4 of us sat next to each other in ISERP last year and bonded over our dissertation-writing and Friday lunch seminars, where we forced to eat hummus all year long. I like hummus, but damn! You can get a little tired of it after a while.

Fortunately for me, both Pardis and Victoria have spent a lot of time in Paris, so no one suggested seeing the Musee d'Orsay or the Eiffel tower. What a relief! We went window shopping along the Faubourg St Honore, and sat in cafes having coffee and croissants. We also had a very good dinner at Market, off the Champs-Elysees, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten venture. We had dinner and danced at the Thursday night dance party at the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art museum. It was highly fun and they played a wildly varying music playlist, everything from Surfin' USA to songs from the 40's and 50's to 'Blame it on the Boogie.' The dance floor was outdoors and we could see the Eiffel Tower's nighttime light show-- that's right-- laser Paris. On Friday, Pardis and I also hit another dance club, but I don't remember the name.

Here they are checking a map while resting in the Place Madeleine.

On Saturday Seth made it to Paris, and we all had drinks at the Cafe de Flore.

dimanche 20 mai 2007

You can't always get what you want

Tonight I am having a dinner party. I plan to make quiche with asparagus, salade, and have bread and cheese and a little tarte for dessert, which I picked up at the place across the street. Bon appetit!

I went to a nearby English pub yesterday, the Wallace, to watch the Manchester United-Chelsea football match. The Wallace seems to be the unofficial IARC pub; there is always someone there from IARC. Yesterday it was Paul Brennan and this guy from the IT department. Chelsea slipped past Man Uni with a goal in the final minutes of overtime, which they called 'Extra Time'. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to see a sudden death win in penalty kicks, but Jon said to get used to it because football is all about not getting what you want.

I also went to see Bloc Party play last week. They were OK but nothing special.

Lucky You

It has been a low-key week. Thursday was a holiday for Ascension day, so many people went out of town for a long weekend; work was very quiet. I'm getting geared up for an all-day meeting on Monday.

The other thing that happened this week was that Amir and Amy's jobs ended, and they returned to the US to start jobs at the U of Maryland. They will be Terps. I am bumming to not have Amir around to have coffee with every day.

I've seen 2 movies this week: the first was Zodiac, which I thought was pretty good. It has some good performances and featured a interesting assortment of 70's fashions.

Second, I saw Lucky You, which was just terrible! Wooden acting and dialogue. How did so many respectable actors get involved with that movie? I mean, Robert Duvall has an Oscar-- can't he be more choosy than that? The best part of that movie was Eric Bana's hairstyle, which deserves a best supporting actor award. The only other part of the movie that was interesting was hearing new poker terminology. They called the last card down "the river."

I'm heading up to Paris on Wednesday to rendez-vous with Pardis and Victoria, friends from the ISERP program at Columbia, who are each passing through. Pardis is on her way back from a trip to Iran; Victoria, I believe, is en route to a conference in Berlin. It will be nice to see them. We will be staying in the Marais at the Hotel du 7eme art.

mardi 15 mai 2007


The strangest thing happened today. There is a Italian guy at work called Andrea, whom I spoke to for the first time today because he enrolled in my French class. In the French class, today we had to describe our hometowns, and he told me he had been to Chapel Hill-- in fact, he had taken a year in the US in a little town called Wenatchee, and his host family there had a daughter who had gone to college at UNC. Good heavens! He knows Heather!

Worlds colliding!!!

dimanche 13 mai 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy mothers day to all the moms out there!

And congrats to Katherine for running a 5K yesterday!


Although it was pretty windy, we decided to take the boat to the island of Delos for the morning on Friday to see the ruins. After Athens we were feeling pretty blasé about seeing more ruins, but Delos turned out to be quite interesting. First of all, the scope of it was so grand: at one point, it had been a city of 30,000 people and was among the most important and wealthy cities in the mediterranean. In fact, Cleopatra had lived there. Secondly, things were well preserved because it had just been up and abandoned and no civilization has lived there for a long time. So, there was a lot to see.

These statues of phalluses were dedicated to Dionysus. Here were some lions which had been dedicated by the Naxians in the 7th century BC. These statues were in Cleopatra's house.It was also nice to see mosaics, since the painting and coloring on most ruins elsewhere has pretty much faded. Afterwards we took the boat back to Mykonos and spent the afternoon at Platy Yialos beach. ahhh...

Down time in Mykonos

After nonstop activity in Athens we did practically nothing in Mykonos, other than eat Greek salads and stroll around the town a bit. Here is Su, pre-tan, lounging by the pool in the morning.We were about a 10 minute walk from Mykonos town. At the top of the hill below are Mykonos' famous windmills, which were not actually functioning for some reason, because there certainly was a breeze.

Off to Mykonos

On Wednesday we flew to Mykonos. Gorgeous! Here is a pic of the sunset from our hotel, the Hotel Tagoo.So relaxing! Since it is still the off-season the hotel was fairly deserted. It was us and 4 other single female travellers, all Americans. Very low key. The hotel just below us on the hill was where the single male travelers stayed in order to meet one another.

Athens second day

On the second day we went to see Roman monuments. Notably, while the Greeks roped off the Greek monuments so you couldn't walk on them, they allowed everyone to traipse all over anything Roman. Eff those foreigners!

Here is Su in the Roman agora.Here are some piled up stones in the Roman agora. Apparently they aren't too worked up about reconstructing it.Here is the Palace of the Winds, which was a astronomical tower. I liked it. The carvings at the top are different Greek wind gods.Here I am standing in front of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was enormous! Only 15 columns remain of the original 104. The temple was completed by Hadrian, who also put an large statue of himself inside, next to one of Zeus.Athens has so many ruins that carved marble stuff was lying around everywhere. They would just rope it off and not say what it came from. Athens has many feral cats and dogs roaming around. We read that it is city policy to sterilize them rather than to kill them. The dogs were generally harmless and would be dozing in some spot of shade, while the cats tended to hang out at outdoor cafes hoping for an ear scratch or a bit of food. They were cute! Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of them.

After the sights above, we spent the rest of the day walking around the National Archeological Museum, which had some amazing stuff, and then we hiked up to the top of Lykavittos Hill and enjoyed a great view of the city. We then watched the changing of the guard at Parliament and had dinner in the Syntagma square area, after which we fell asleep almost immediately.


We arrived in Athens in the late afternoon on Sunday. We headed into the Psiri neighborhood, which was a few blocks from our hotel, for dinner. Psiri is an up-and-coming area with lots of restaurants and bars. Lots of folks were sitting outside in cafes there; Greece is the land of the outdoor cafe. I tried an ouzo which may have contributed to us getting confused and walking in circles trying to find a place for dinner.

The next morning we got up and hit the major sites: the Acropolis, the ancient agora, the Kerameikos, and at the end of the day we strolled along the pedestrian street that circles the Acropolis, the dionysiou areopagitou. I think we could now write a section for guidebooks called: how to see everything in just 2 days!

The Parthenon is undergoing a reconstruction in order to repair mistakes made in an earlier reconstruction, so they were taking down stones, tagging and rearranging them.We liked this little horse's head peeking out because it seemed very mafioso. Here is a amphitheater on the south slope of the acropolis. Athens itself was a not particularly gorgeous city, with blocks and blocks of unbeautiful midcentury apartment buildings. Although I wonder if that architectural style will come back into favor as the midcentury furniture has-- but that is a different story. Anyhow this theater is called the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. After lunch we walked around the ancient agora, which was a sprawling area which included the main squares and marketplace in ancient times as well as the buildings for the senate, other administrative buildings, and the prison where Socrates died. This is a view across the agora to the acropolis.
Here is a building in the Agora. We were instructed that the Greeks pretty much invented everything, including democracy, theater, our architecture, philosophy, the legal system, organized sports, etc. Not to mention the pythagorean theorem and the hippocratic oath. They also could not have a block of marble without someone carving it.
And here is a cute little church called the church of the holy apostles, from the 10th century, which was built to commemorate St Paul's teachings in the Agora.The Kerameikos included an ancient cemetary and ruins of the old wall that surrounded the city. Here is a bull on top of the Tomb of Dionysios of Kollytos.
And after all this we had a drink in the Plaka!

samedi 5 mai 2007

Susan's visit

Susan arrived on Friday. Bienvenue! She already seems to have conquered the jet lag. I am impressed. We've eaten some real frenchy food: moules-frites for dinner last night, a croissant for breakfast, coq au vin for lunch today, salade de chevre chaud, salade lyonnaise, and boeuf for dinner. As usual, eating out is meat-o-rama around here. I was lucky to see a stray carrot on my plate tonight.

Today we rented a car and went for a drive in the Beaujolais. We used my guidebook, Drives in the Rhone Valley, which I found just a smidgen vague in the driving directions department. It pretty much looked like this, with hills, vineyards, and little towns as far as the eye could see in every direction, with windy roads veering every which way. We drove in circles for about an hour and then were able to get on track.The grapes are still very tiny!

We drove to the top of this hill to look at this chapel, which was called La Madone. It is just outside the town of Fleurie.The view from the chapel.
It was rather windy up on top of the hills.I liked the lettering on this boulangerie so I took a picture.Our last stop was the town of Oignt-- I decided it must be pronounced like WAH but I am not entirely sure. WAH turned out to be a nice little town with a friendly cave where we bought some beaujolais. It is in an area known for its golden stones. Here is a pic of the buildings there. WAH! WAH! Here is another shot which shows the color of the stones.

Tomorrow we leave for Greece for a week!

mercredi 2 mai 2007

Rainy days

I'm making the most of the Velo'v bike rental program these days. Since there was no metro yesterday, there really was nothing else to do than go for a bike ride. The destination was the Parc Miribel which has a loads of bike trails, along with a lake, a little beach and an outdoor restaurant/bar which is perfect for a break. It was making for a very relaxing Labor Day until on the way home there was a massive rainstorm; of course at the time we were 45 minutes away from home, with no public transportation to jump on. Oh well. Apparently the endless sunshine and heat of April have given way to cooler weather and evening rainstorms most days.

I also saw Spiderman 3 this weekend. Go Spidey! This picture of him in the rain seems appropriate.

My next houseguest is coming on Friday. Bienvenue, Susan! On Sunday we head to Greece for a week.

What I gleaned from New York magazine tonight-- which Liz gave me a subscription to for my birthday-- thanks, Liz! --was the existence of this website to promote Miranda July's new book. It is rather endearing.

mardi 1 mai 2007

Utrecht, anyone?

Yesterday was Queen's Day in the Netherlands, so Amir and I went with Frank to the Amsterdam Pub to celebrate. Queen's Day celebrates the queen mother's birthday, and it is a national holiday there. Tradition dictates that one must wear an orange shirt and drink beer. Orange is the color of the Dutch royal family-- I didn't even know until yesterday that the Netherlands had a royal family!

Frank told us all last week that his apartment in Utrecht will be free for the month of June, so if any of us want to visit the Netherlands they can use it. Utrecht is a college town about 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam on the train. Having never been to the Netherlands before, I may take him up on it. Here is my chance to check out some de Stijl art and architecture, which Tim and I studied in our modern design class at UNC. Tim, I wish we could take a field trip there together!