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Category: my travelogues


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Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

DC reporting in, #19: Halftime

I can’t believe that half my time in the US and at the Library of Congress and the Kluge Center is already over, but there you have it, and so it is. It feels both much longer … have I not been doing this for months upon months, years even? … and not long at all … did I not just get here two or three weeks ago?

I do not feel like I am half-way done with my research, and yet I also know a lot more about the field I am investigating than I did when I got here, and have gotten a fair amount of research done. It’s easy to forget how much that is, until I look at the size that the “Kluge fellowship” folder has grown to, or realize that I ordered the last batch of the Grushnikov Children’s Book Collection boxes that are relevant for my research just today, or … .My “Kluge Fellowship” folder stands at 11.5 GB as of right now, containing 2.973 files in 161 folders. I don’t have a precise record of what it contained when I got here, but as there was nothing in there except admin files (application, PDF of flight details, … ), even if we give it a very generous 100 files that still means that I have generated … rather a lot of files in the last 3.5 months. The Earth from Space, let me show you it … and it, and it, and it, and it, and it, and … . Or – according to Citavi – read you one of my 762 descriptions of it (or of Mars, Venus, or …tbf). (And no, this folder does not include photographs I have taken with my camera or iphone that aren’t work related … those are in an entirely separate folder).

So, I guess I did get some work done, even if it doesn’t always feel as if I am working fast enough or being focused enough or getting enough enough enough DONE!

Still, it is strange to think that the tipping point of more-days-ahead-than-behind has been reached. It doesn’t feel like it’s June, either, partially because the weather here is so different from what I am used to that it seems kind of timeless, and partially because night falls so early here in DC. It’s dark by 9pm, without fail, whereas darkness falls some time around midnight in Flensburg, this time of year. It’s also been hotter here than it ever is in Flensburg for days upon days, also without fail, so there is that … :-). It’s different, and interesting, and, as I said, makes the internal seasonal clock rather useless.

So, things are good, more work needs to be done, there’s a TON of grading on the horizon/arriving (yep, it’s BA thesis season…), and I ought to go to bed as I have an early morning coming up. Here’s to the next 3.5 months in DC, and the months upon months upon months upon months, years upon years upon years, and decades upon decades in other places after. :-)

Friday, June 12th, 2015

DC reporting in, #18: Presidential Mansions (3-5)

Montevideo

Montpelier

Close to the southern end of Shenandoah National Park one can find the plantations / mansions of three former US Presidents – Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. Over the course of the weekend I went to see all three (they are pretty close together), and listened to three different versions of “how one might best try to integrate the fact that they owned slaves with still adoring these guys 100000billion%” – none of them worked all that well, frankly.

Ash Lawn - Highland The yellow part of the house was added on by later owners.

Ash Lawn – Highland
The yellow part of the house was added on by later owners.

Monticello

Monticello

What is left of the old Ash Lawn – Highland is tiny, but apparently there was an annex right where the yellow part of the house now is – still, it remains the smallest of the three Presidential homes, by far. Of the three I liked Montpelier best, both because it was far less busy than Monticello and because they had an interesting tour on James Madison and the Constitution, which meandered slowly from empty room to empty room and took you around the Estate in 2.5 hours, rather than the 30 minutes rush-rush affair that the overrun Monticello is.

Although at Monticello, in my opinion, they do the better job of dealing with the question of slavery.

And, that all said, the tour guide at Ash Lawn-Highland probably knew the most about her subject, of the three.

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

DC reporting in, #17: Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah NP

Blue Ridge Mountains

Two weeks ago – see how we are slooowly catching up? – I rented a car and spent a weekend hiking in Shenandoah National Park (along paths that divert from its Skyline Drive), just about two hours away from DC. The weather was varied – sunny and muggy and overcast and throughout rather hazy with a torrential downpour or three interspersed, and the mix of it all made for a beautiful long weekend and a great variety of photos and experiences. I saw quite a variety of wildlife, including a black bear! My first bear encounter in the wilderness – but as the bear was ‘only’ sitting in a tree and looking down on us hikers somewhat skeptically, it wasn’t scary so much as tinged with respectfullness of the distance one should give a wild animal such as a bear.

The blue ridge mountains are indeed blue when covered in haze and seen at twilight, but for the most part they were hazy but still wildly green and verdant, so that they were really green ridge mountains, rather than blue. Which, however, did not prevent me from having both “Country Roads” and “The Wide Missouri” as earworms (as the word Shenandoah pops up in both…).

The Shenandoah NP is beautiful, and from time to time reminded me quite vividly of driving through the Palatinate back in southern Germany, as the combination of roads-trees-hills felt very similar to me (albeit there are no bears in the Palatinate, and altogether more small hamlets and coniferous trees).  It was good to get out into the countryside and just to walk and walk and walk and carry my camera around :-) – it made me recall just how easy it is to get out into the countryside from Flensburg, and how often I do it there, for a weekend day hike, and how much I’ve been a city girl these last months. It was good to see trees upon trees upon trees upon trees for a while.

Bear! Bird!
 Sun!  Rain!
 animal...  Deer!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

DC reporting in, #16: DC Days

I was going to skip two weeks, but on looking back at my calendar I have to acknowledge that quite a bit happened in them and so skipping them would not do them justice … things aside from long days in the Kluge Center, filled with images and books and different reading rooms and database building.

Among these are – as far as photographic evidence goes – the WWII flyby (which meant lunch outside for us LoC scholars on a sunny Friday, instead of inside … only without actual food) and a Sunday out in the outside area of the United States Botanical Garden (about a 20 minute walk from my place) which I spent re-reading some Jules Verne (relevant to my research) and also taking some photographs. There were also lectures at the LoC and another baseball game (this time against the NY Yankees, with much better weather), a barbeque (the other Sunday) and a board game day on which I was introduced to “Fortune & Glory” (fun, & roughly a WWII/Indiana Jones version of Arkham Horror – and for which I imitated various European accents), and also a tour of the National Archives where I saw the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, among other documents (no photography allowed – but think “National Treasure” for an idea of the layout of the place). More photos from these days might show up here, but now you know what day-to-day DC days are like (the ones that aren’t merely “go to the LoC early, return late) – in brief, anyway, and we’re almost caught up (so we can fall behind again shortly :-)).

Research-wise, my image collection now stands at 514 – not counting Russian images or images that haven’t been sorted into the main image folder. Which reminds me that I need to write about my image processing process at some point… .

WW 2 crowds

WW 2 flyby crowds

 WW 2 flyby
   

Monday, May 25th, 2015

DC reporting in, #15: The SCOTUS

Back in April – we’re still in April here, nevermind that May is almost over – I had a rather SCOTUS – Supreme Court of the United States – intensive week. Now, the SCOTUS is located right next to the Library of Congress, to the extent that you can actually see the front steps of the SCOTUS building from the far end of the Kluge Center, including the protesters outside in front of (and on) them.

There were rather a lot of protesters there on the last Tuesday in April, as the oral arguments of Obergefell v. Hodges were being held on that day. I’ve pondered long and hard which photographs to include here, but decided in the end that, nevermind my personal sympathies, I would in fact give you images depicting both sides, as I am – in a limited and invariably subjective fashion – want to and am reporting on what life in DC is like, and simply ignoring half of the protesters would of course to some extent entirely negate that ambition.

And then, on the last Wednesday in April, some fellow Klugians and I met up in front of the Supreme Court at 7am, in order to get into the line to actually go and hear an oral argument. We were by no means the first people in line (see big photo), but were, on the contrary, lucky to get in, as admissions stopped just two people behind us, the actual court room being then at capacity. The case we got the hear was Glossip v. Gross (transcripts and audio recordings of which are available on the SCOTUS website), and while the case was also a morally controversial one it was really interesting to get to observe the different styles and personalities of the 9 different justices (or as much as one can observe those during an oral argument, anyway). N and I also stayed for a chunk of Mata v. Lynch, but not having read up on it quite enough beforehand and not being able to quite hear everything (we were seated in the back row) I got tangled up in the Sua Sponte details of a 5th Circuit Court ruling and as N seemed equally lost we decided to make our seats available to some other folks waiting and to head back to the LoC.

I wish we’d gone to more hearings and done this sooner, as, like I wrote, it was truly fascinating – and made me vividly remember that I do actually hold a BAequiv. in Public Law (Öffentliches Recht).

Oral arguments seem to fall somewhere between a really really tough oral exam and a horse-and-pony-show (judging from my sample of 1.5 of them, so really, what do I know … very little) (although I have of course read and listened to others).

the SCOTUS, shortly after dawn – waiting in line to hear Glossip v. Gross

 Obergefell v. HodgesObergefell v. Hodges
 20150428-Foto 28.04.15 12 08 15  20150428-Foto 28.04.15 12 19 23

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

DC Reporting in, #14: K&S in DC!

To decrease the backlog a bit here’s another report from DC, right on the heels of yesterday’s one! Also connected to it, so … for, you see, right after FKO and our CN Tower adventures K & S spent a week in DC, visiting museums, going to concerts, and doing tons of other cool stuff (some of which I got to participate in! :-)). I did library things during the daytime, obviously, but we did manage to meet up quite a bit on weekday evenings and on the weekend, and our adventures included good food, cycling down the Mall, a great Mouths of Babes house concert, a cool dinner in Alexandria with S & P (who I got to meet there for the first time!), and a visit to Mount Vernon.

Mouths of Babes

Mouths of Babes

 District Chophouse

the view from George Washington's porch

the view from George Washington’s back porch

 Washington's Needle  Jefferson's Books

Monday, May 18th, 2015

DC Reporting in, #13: The Edgewalk

Lalala, backlog what backlog … .

I went to Toronto for FKO and early on decided that I was going to stay an extra day, and while at FKO I convinced K, S & W to do the Edgewalk on the CN Tower with me! Which was a tad scary but mostly awesome, and I am really glad that we all did this together. (Basically you walk around the tower, on top of its restaurant platform, outside).

CN Tower EdgeWalk-4
the Edgewalker
The tiny red guy is the Edgewalker who went on the walk after us, as seen from the Skypod on top of the Tower

Monday, May 4th, 2015

DC reporting in, #12: Tools of the Trade – a) Text

tools of the tradeIn this post I want to talk a little bit about my work process, as I think that might be an interesting glimpse “behind the scenes,” so to speak – and because that it also something that I am dealing with and using pretty much every day. I’m not posting about it much here on G&G, but the reality of my time here in DC is that I am spending 8+ hours, 5-6 days a week, at the LoC, working. (Reading, scanning, quoting, … building databases).

The least useful tool I have is one that I bought especially for this project, ironically enough – and not because it isn’t doing what it is supposed to do, but simply because technology has surpassed it: When I was gathering material for my PhD the first ScanPen I owned was sometimes (so it felt) worth its weight in gold – reliable, quicker than typing a quote into the text editor by hand, and far easier on those carpal tunnels as well. I bought it back when I was writing my second Master’s Thesis, IIRC, and so it’s been with me a good long while and still been a trouper and working fine on my old computer back in Flensburg (which used to run XP) … but alas, not under Windows 7 (which my laptop runs on), as the software to support it wasn’t being developed anymore – and the software for the newer ScanPens was not compatible with it. ‘Fair enough,’ I thought, ‘I recon technology has been marching on, and the new ScanPen is probably far advanced from my old one. And this thing has ben super useful … .’

And so I bought my second ScanPen – the current model. Which does its job, indeed, better than the old one … but not as well as an app for my phone that cost me ~10% of what the ScanPen did.

So, instead of scanning text line-by-line with the ScanPen, I am now scanning text pretty much page-by-page with TextGrabber. It’s not as good at recognizing letters and symbols, overall (quotation marks often don’t show up or are wrong, an its line breaks are atrocious), but it is still a faster process to edit what it produces than scanning the text line-by-line and then checking that for mistakes would be.

My process is: scan the text – fix the mistakes – email it to an email address dedicated to this purpose (title of email = “Author – Page”) – open email – c/p into Citavi.

It’s a bit of a roundabout approach, maybe, but it also means that I am building an emergency fallback archive in the form of these emails (which, once dealt with, get sorted into folders named for the Author & Book the text came from) in case I ever lose my Citavi archive and all its backups (I hope not!) – and that I get to look at text a second time and then sort it into categories and assign tags in Citavi*. What I also like is that TextGrabber has the option of keeping the images it scans from (which I am also sorting into dedicated folders), so if I ever need to go back because I maybe did not write down if some misspelling was, indeed, [sic], I can go and check. I try to be very good about doing it the first time round, but backup is backup … . And if there’s one thing I learned from my PhD, then it is that no matter how careful you are, there will be a misspelled word in a quote somewhere eventually – without you knowing if it’s your mistake or not. (Or you might have a long quote that says it’s from “page 15f,” … … … without any note where the page change happened. So if you want to use only one sentence from that quote … yeah. Good luck with that. These days, I Always Put The Page Break In. One learns … from re-ordering 5 interlibrary loans, just for checking those page breaks).

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It also means that I can do the scanning with my phone and leave my laptop in my room, and then come back in the evening and sort out my quotes of the day. And (real reason): not drag the laptop to some evening event or other. I do take the laptop with me almost every day anyway, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do it to be an efficient collector of quotations.

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

DC reporting in, #11: Cherry Blossoms

20150411-DSC_8034
Dear friends and readers, let me take you back two weeks, to a weekend much like this one (in the sense that it was also a weekend), to when the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin and pretty much all over DC were in full bloom. Now, DC has thousands of cherry trees – most of which were given to the people of the United States in 1912 as a gift of friendship from the people of Japan, with almost 4’000 more added in 1957 (and they are being replaced by newer ones once they reach the end of their life, afaik) – and so the time when the trees bloom is a Big Deal, with websites that will tell you when to expect the “peak bloom,” lots of tourists, a Cherry Blossom Festival, and all.

It being the weekend I ventured forth to gaze at this arboreal spendor, and indeed, lo and behold, there were millions and millions of cherry blossoms (and scarcely fewer spectators, it seemed) all around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park. They were indeed quite picturesque (the cherry blossoms, that it, although the meandering masses held a fascination all their own).

Cherry Blossom Wanderers
It was a cold, windy, but sunny day, and I spent most of it (I ventured out at the crack of dawn, hoping to beat the meandering masses there, which I only half succeded at – there were noticeably less people than later on, but nevertheless already lots of people out) wandering around the Tidal Basin and then out to Hains Point (the very tip of East Potomac Park) and back, being very glad to be able to have a warm bath at the end of a chilly and walkabout-ish day.

Cherry Blossoms

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

DC reporting in, #10: Baseball

the field & the crowd, 2nd inning

the field & the crowd, 2nd inning

My expericence with the US’s iconic game in one sentence:

Baseball is a game where it’s cold and wet and which takes a long time to finish – nothing much happens for most of that time, albeit sometimes there are 30 or so seconds of manic activity (in between lots of balls going where they aren’t supposed to). :-)

BaseballOr, in a slightly more verbose version:

Five of us Klugians went to see the Washington Nationals play the New York Mets at a game that was supposed to start at 7:05pm but which was delayed until 8:05pm on account of rain (which it, alas, did). It was a cold, wet, windy, and rather dreary evening, so not the best of weather for a first encounter with baseball in any case – the game itself started off quite dynamically, with a home run for the Nationals in the first inning (cue all of us newbies thinking: “Yes! This is going to be an exciting and action packed evening!”), for which the score in total was DC 2-0 NYM. After the second inning the score (in total) was DC 2-1 NYM. Alas, DC 2-1 NYM (in total) was also the score after the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eights, and ninth innings. A lot of people left at some point, but four of us persevered. (I wore my winter coat, long johns below my jeans, bought a blanket – and was still freeeeezing*). It was … a long evening. Baseball’s getting one more chance (we’re aiming for a 4pm game in late May, possibly against the Yankees, in the hope that sunnier weather and a further advanced season will improve the experience), but so far, I’m not feeling the love… .

the field & the crowd, 9th inning

the field & the crowd, 9th inning


* Thus I now own a smallish and overpriced Washington Nationals blanket that is shedding red synthetic threads like crazy. R, can I beg off of bying that pennant for my office? I feel like an overpriced blanket is enough… .

Monday, April 13th, 2015

DC reporting in, #9: Miami

Lizard

I’m behind behind in posting my reports – so much has happened in the last 12 days that I’ve got to play catch up (but then more things happen and one gets further behind, and also what with photos needing to be edited and sorted … la la la). Anyway: so, yes, Miami. As you could already see from the two iphone photo snapshots I posted last week I went to Miami. Precisely I went to visit my friend E, who is there right now, and we had a lovely five days, full of sunshine and meeting E’s lovely friends and lizards and boats and walking and fooood and Corona (a beer made from rice and corn, who knew? I wish I had!) and verdant grenery and Banyan trees and and and … it was great! I did get a bit of a sunburn on the last day (seems that I am incapable of leaving Florida without one, as that makes it 2 for 2).

I’m running a bit late with my needing-to-go-to-the-library-ness, as I’ve been doing website admin things on various pages for the last two hours (so it’ll be a late night @ the LoC, I reckon), so that’s it for now … but I leave you with two Miami photos, in slightly larger than usual-for-a-report-from-DC size. As always, click to enlarge.

plam trees and beaches

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

DC reporting in, #8: 3 Reading Room Tours & 1 Lecture

LoC tunnelThere’s not that much to report from DC at the moment – H&R were in town again before their flight back to Germany, and we went out to a basketball game (this time the Wizards even won!), took a trip to Alexandria, played some shuffleboard, visited the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum that’s here in DC on the mall and did some other fun stuff – which was all good fun, but (see [by now] numerous other postings), as I don’t talk about non-public events involving other people if they don’t want me to/without asking, there aren’t any photos etc. to share, only the barest bones of an itinerary :-).

I’ve also been fighting a cold, which means that I’ve spent the last days mostly to-ing and fro-ing between the Library of Congress and my room, without any big diversions in between. That said, spring seems to actually have arrived in D.C. at long last, and so I am writing this post from my back porch, where it is a balmy 20°C at 9pm at night (so it’s actually a warm summer nights, if one is thinking in Flensburgian weather terms). So far and in my subjective experience, DC seems to be in a climate zone that skips the 12-17°C bracket – it was freeeeezing cooooold on the weekend, and then, bam, 25°C two days later.

LoC tunnelToday, fellow Kluge fellow Joseph Genetin-Pilawa gave a great talk on “The Indians’ Capital City: Native Histories of Washington D.C.”, which was my knowledge-highlight of the week. Joe’s working on a larger project on the Indigenous histories of Washington, D.C., and hearing him talk about it is always fascinating. Here’s an interview on Time.com with him that gives you some insights and further info.

There are, in fact, so many interesting projects being done by fellow Klugians right now that the lunchtime and hallway and photocopier etc. conversations often make you feel inspired about your own research and are definitely another benefit (besides all the resources available) of being in the Kluge Center.

I’ve also been learning more about the Library of Congress in general this week, as I’ve been taking three of its reading room tours – they’re offered at the beginning of every month (I was too overwhelmed and underorganized to take advantage of them in March), so I went on three for reading rooms that I thought might become relevant to my work as my time here progresses, namely of the Newspaper Reading Room, the Science & Business Reading Room, and the Rare Prints & Photographs Reading Room (the Newspaper RR tour was the best and most helpfulLoC tunnel one, for me, albeit talking to the S&B librarian after the tour was also very helpful [though I won’t need much of their material] – I think I won’t need the Rare Prints & Photos RR as much as I thought – which is no fault of theirs, of course!).

So, quite a lot to report, after all!

The photographs in this entry show the subterranean corridors that connect the three LoC buildings (Jefferson, Madison, Adams) to each other (after hours – they’re really busy during the day).

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

DC reporting in, #7: Syrian Music and NBA Basketball

Syrian MusicYesterday was quite an eventful day, as it included both one of the noon concerts of the Library of Congress’ Folk Life Center AND an NBA Basketball outing with some fellow Kluge scholars. The concert was “Traditional Arabic Singing and Oud from Syria,” performed by Lubana Al Quntar and Kenan Adnawi, and the basketball game featured the Washington Wizards vs. the Indiana Pacers (and Lionel Messi, as the Argentinian National Soccer team is in town for a friendly against El Salvador on Saturday and they apparently decided to go and hang out at a basketball game. I felt a bit bad for the other Argentinian players, as everyone was like “who is that? Why are they showing them on the big screen … oooooh Lionel Messi *cheering*”).

Syrian MusicBut, to keep the report kinda chronological: the noon concert was lovely. I didn’t understand a thing of what Ms Quntar was singing about (as I don’t speak Arabic, sadly), but she introduced the songs really well and thus gave one a feeling for what they were about, and the music itself was lovely. And the Oud is a fascinating instrument with a lovely range of sounds! (And, knowing nothing of Oud playing as I do, I think it was being really really well played)!

The basketball game was sooo close (Wizards 101-103 Pacers). The first half was kinda slow, to be honest, but the game picked up after the half-time break and turned into a nail-biting and close-fought match in the end. (Also everyone present won a free Chick-a-something-or-other chicken sandwich, as one of the Pacers’ players missed two penalty baskets in a row. We think he wanted a sandwich).

Wizards - PacersGenerally speaking I am really glad and grateful to be amongst such an excellent bunch of fellow Klugians here – outings are great fun, and yet if one doesn’t manage to participate in all of them that’s perfectly okay as well. I’m looking forward to all our future shenanigans! (And I’ve been here for four weeks already – which seems not to be possible, somehow … time has just flown by … six more months and then I’ll already be packing my bags, and there’s so much more to research and do and write and and and … eek! :-)).

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

DC reporting in, #6: the Leipzig String Quartet

Leipzig String Quartet TicketAnother Library of Congress themed update, this one about an event that took place on Saturday. The Library of Congress has a concert program for which you can both get tickets in advance as well as on the day (if there are any left over).

Same-day tickets are free, you’ve just got to be there 2 hours before the concert starts to see if there are any left, and maybe you can get one straight away, or if not then you can get a so-called “Rush Ticket,” with which you return 30 minutes before the concert and then, maybe, get in (rush ticket numbers ‘keep your space’ in the queue, so you don’t have to stand there and wait for 2 hours).

concertWhen I got to the Library on Saturday I saw signs downstairs that said “Rush queue this way” und “Rush Tickets here” – and it being 11.40am (the concert started at 2pm) I – after a quick check to see who was playing (oops) – got in line (I was third in line) to see if I could get a rush ticket. I got even luckier and got an actual ticket (there had been some returns in advance) and so knew that I’d get into the concert for certain. Some digital messaging and knocking-on-cubicle-doorways later I’d found some other Klugianists who were also going or who also wanted to go see if they could get in (we all sat in different places). The concert was really good (even though, yes, it’s ironic that I travel for ~6’000 miles and then the first concert I go to is one performed by a German group). The Leipzig String Quartet played BORODIN’s String Quartet no. 2 in D major, STRAVINSKY’s Three Pieces for String Quartet, WAGNER’s Albumblatt (für Cosima Wagner) (which was a bit of a cheeky program item, as it’s maybe 1:30 mins long in total) and DEBUSSY’s Premier quatuor in G minor, op. 10 (and a song by J. S. Bach as an encore).

As the post-concert afternoon and evening turned into a drinks&dinner excursion with fellow Klugians (I still don’t know what our collective noun is), it was an excellent day all around.

PS: Yes, C., I’ve seen … there’s going to be Stockhausen!

Friday, March 20th, 2015

DC reporting in, #5: The Blumberg Dialogues, pt. 1

The last couple of days have been quite busy (as you could see from the last photo I posted, I made it out to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum) (for that’s where the Discovery is these days – H&R were here for a long weekend and we made it out there last Sunday), but as I don’t talk about other people on my blog without their permission, nor post non-public photos of people without those people being A-OK with it, let me now, rather than showing you photos of people eating dinner, talk a little bit about an event that took place yesterday, namely:

The Blumberg DialoguesThe first installment of the Blumberg Dialogues on Astrobiology – “Astrobiology and the Religious Imagination: Notions of Creation, Humanity, Selfhood, and the Cosmos.” The Blumberg Dialogues brought together astrobiologists and religious scholars, who spent two days discussing various notions, ideas, concepts, and questions (apparently, that part was unfortunately :-( not open to the public) with it each other, and then culminated in a podium discussion of what they had gained from their dialogues. I really like this idea, but the format defeated the idea a little, as it was not really a discussion but rather a collection of statements, and unfortunaltely the four astrobiologists went first and were then followed by the five religious scholars, so rather than alternating sides and thus being able to build on one another you got this big chunk of where-astrobiology-is-at-right-now and then scholars of the five different religions responded/made statements of how life on other planets might or might not be problematic for the belief systems they study. And then there were some questions from the public, and that was … it. No proper discussion amongst the people on the podium. The astrobiologists said nothing about how religious notions might be problematic for them or influence them or play any part in astrobiology at all … it rather was a “science states was is, religion must deal” kind of vibe, so all you leared is that, depending on which religion you look at, integrating life elsewhere into that belief system might be more or less problematic. (Which … d’uh?)

I thinkLuminaries why I was a bit disenchanted might also simply be because there wasn’t anything really new for me in there (ok, yes, the giant jade mountain, which is apparently a thing in Buddhism). I keep up with astrobiology research publications for the lay person, and what was mentioned never went beyond that (Mars, Europa, Titan, Enceladus, Webb Telescope, … ), and likewise the religious aspects were mostly yep, okay, check, true … I think it’s because I never really stopped reading and thinking about science/religion after writing one of my Master’s theses about just that relationship (in novels). And I AM NOT mentioning these things here to brag, but only to say that I think a lot of the audience liked it far better than I did, and I think that’s true because for them more of it was things they didn’t know (IE: life on Enceladus? What? What and where is Enceladus in the first place?!) or hadn’t yet worked on and with so much, whereas for me the overlap was a little too great for anything to be new or mindboggling or … you know? I wanted to learn more than I already know, but because it was for the public, they covered the basics and that was that. So, uh, wrong format for me? (Also I suspect all the ‘let down your hair’ interesting discussions went on in the non-public part of the event!!!)

At any rate, there will be more of these, and I am going to go again, hopefully to learn new things and if not to sit there attentively regardless and go … ‘okay, gotcha’ … :-).

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But what I gotta say is: Dear religious scholar #3, No, people in Columbus’ time Did Not Think The Earth Was Flat! Even if you don’t know this (which I think you kinda should), then at least logically infer that going one way (west) to end up in the place where people have been going to the other way (east) would make No Sense if you feared falling off the side of the Earth in between. Like, how would that even work? Unexpected continent in the middle of the ocean? Yes. Flat earth? No. (Sorry! Not sorry.)