singing, conferencing, programming: last week

Three short descriptions of things I did last week.


Rib-like walls arching wide, the inside of the Cathedral  recalls bones in more ways than one: the stone walls are a tawny color and the fine pillars, porous like bones, that stretch up the ceiling seem at once delicate and strong. They are themselves a contradiction of description, much like the Domkyrkan itself, where Holy Crosses and runic inscriptions stand beside one another.

“Men du…o Gud, som gör vår jord…” we sing. The last and most serene verse of the Sommar pslam fills the body of the church . But it is the short, unnannotated pause that our choir director leads us in just after the word “du” that is my favorite part of the song.

When the voices stop, the silence expands. In that single breath of air, the Domkyrkan is filled with the sound of the choir’s collective lung inflating and collective heart pumping along with the whispering sound of the audience’s eyes and ears.  I am flooded at once with an understanding of much of music is in the power of reflection, of un-noise amidst noise, and in the fact that silence itself is a tone.


How is anyone supposed to take us seriously when we’re not even wearing shoes? That was the thought that kept on flitting embarrassingly in an out of my mind during the 24-hour conference on sustainable development I was at last Tuesday through Wednesday. We would get to some important point in the group discussion and everything seemed so important until I would look down and realized that everyone was in socks or fluffy slippers.

The Nanoengineering class I was in, the one about creating a sustainable roadmap for the construction and operation of the new European Spallation Source (ESS) had it’s pinnacle moment last Tuesday: the conference in which 41 Nanoengineers and one physicist (wow, I wonder who that was…) sat down and talked it out. A detailed, journalistic report of this experience and what we came up with is underway, but for the moment I would like to comment on more hilarious details.

The conference center was probably the most Swedish place I have ever been in, period. Not only were we not allowed to wear shoes inside, but the building was owned by the Swedish Church, we had four daily fikas and three daily meals (at each of which there was coffee and pickled herring avaiable), and we had to sweep our rooms after we left. Even the real Swedes (read: everyone at the conference except me) seemed to express that it was a bit like overkill. Secretly, I think they loved it.


And just then I realized: I have never looked or felt this much like a mathematical physicist ever before throughout the course of my life. I slowly ran through the details in my head:

Last night I fell asleep on the floor waiting for my code to compile. I slept in the same clothes I had worn that day. I had gone through several versions of the same program simply because I had fiddled with it and messed it up myself. Then, I woke up at four AM to type the report. I had trouble forming coherent sentences. I finally finished, put on the only clean clothes I had, and rushed up to Fysicum to hand it in. I looked down at my clothes and realized I was wearing the gray shirt my grandma gave me to wear as pajamas, the also gray ‘dressy’ pants I bought at Ross five years ago, orange socks, and pink off-brand converse (the cheapest tennis shoes I could by in Lund. Also, I couldn’t remember the last time I took a shower.

I handed in the paper, went outside and laid down on the grass outside of Fysicum. Then I promised never to let myself sink so low into mad mathematical science-dom again.

On the other hand, the Monte Carlo simulation I wrote pretty much saved me from not passing the class.

It’s a give-and-take in this crazy world of Physics, after all.



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2 Responses to “singing, conferencing, programming: last week”

  1. Sabrina Says:

    You’re awesome.

    That is all.

  2. tornspira Says:


    That is all.

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