Catching up

2/08/2009

I have been traveling, search well, we have been traveling and this has left little time to post. Now recovering from a small surgery I can have a peek at the wonders of the interwebs and check what these times passes as news.

In a first approach nothing really important happened. That’s right, besides the odd celebrity dying, the ups and downs of the world economy and the typical storms in a glass of water of the tech industry, there was nothing to catch my eye. In a second approach, same thing, and this was a relief because it supports the sempiternal suspicion: most of the things that we believe are important are not. Taking a little bit of distance, of perspective, smoothes things out, the single details (for which we live or die) become a continuum and we start seeing trends. Take too long and trends become useless, because we can’t use them (trends have inbuilt ‘best before’ dates). Take too many snapshots and we drown in noise.

This time the pause was granted by air travel, driving, accommodation with spotty wireless coverage, red tape, friends with luddite dial-up connection (in 2009!) and too many things happening to take time off in front of a computer.

The first two weeks I was based in Ames§, Iowa (go Cyclons!), which felt like going to a different planet. It was hot and humid (particularly coming from winter in Christchurch), flat and with majestic storms. Two tornado warnings in two weeks, friendly people and research teams doing amazing things. When I visit a place I always ask myself ‘Could I live here?’ (and I have lived in many cities in five countries) and the answer was ‘I don’t know’. On one side it is too flat, with too few forests, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. On the other, people were nice and they were doing very interesting, meaningful work.

The next three weeks I was based in Corvallis§, Oregon, which was similar to parts of Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand. It looked familiar and we have very good friends in Corvallis. The question again ‘Could I live here?’ had a similar answer: the landscape, climate and people are good. However, I did not click with the university and its research. Maybe it was an anticlimax because it came after Iowa State and Pioneer—working with crops—to deal with trees, which move much more slowly.

I think that there is an issue of attitudes: in agriculture (working with crops or animals) one can feel the pulse, the drivers with more immediacy. Trees provide too much time to look for excuses and why things do not seem to work OK. In some issues it is a lot harder to make changes in forestry, although from another point of view one has too convince fewer people: there are fewer players.

But I digress, the most important point is perspective. Talking with a researcher in Iowa I pointed out ‘I’ve been away from genetics for a while, things have moved on and I do not have the time to catch up with everything that has happened. Therefore, I have ignored everything else but X and Y.’ It is a bet, but an informed one (I hope) and we will see how things pan out in the next couple of years.

It was good to be away for a while. It is good to be back as well.

Hiking with friends

Hiking in Oregon with old friends.

Filed in miscellanea, travel

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