What an eventful year. COVID has gone and come again and gone and come again and… we’re acclimating to living and dying with it. The war between Ukraine and Russia has all the features of a 20th-century conflict that could explode into another world war. Inflation is rampant, 45 is still making headlines, the world is overheating, and the floodwaters are rising. Where is the light in this sea of gloom? Dessert.
Dispatches from Abroad: Cancelled by Neglect?
I’m coming to the end of a wonderful four-month fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala, Sweden, a city that celebrates at every turn its most illustrious citizen: the 18th-century botanist, zoologist, and “father of modern taxonomy,” Carl Linnaeus (a.k.a. Carl von Linné or simply “Linnaeus”) (1707–1778). From the eight trails on which he took his students every spring to learn about the geology, ecosystems, plants, and animals surrounding Uppsala—the Herbationes Upsalienses—to his grave in the Uppsala Cathedral, there is some place to visit and something to do every long day of the late spring and summer months to celebrate his legacy. I’ll write more about that another time, but today, I want to write about the disappearance from historical memory of one of his daughters, Sara Christina (1751–1835).
Dispatches from Abroad: Searching for Crème Brûlèes in the Post-COVID Dawn
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts now ranks third in the country in fully vaccinated individuals (over 18), just behind Vermont and Connecticut, and the northeast overall is doing really well. As restaurants and bakeries return to full service, more paths to crème brûlèes continue to open up. And I am hot on their trail.
Dispatches from Abroad: Biking Singapore (IV) – In Search of the Rail Corridor
Although today is my last day in Singapore and I returned my rented bike 10 days ago, my series on biking in Singapore would be incomplete without recounting a two-day adventure across the island and back in search of and eventually on part of the Singapore Rail Corridor trail.
My intention had been to ride the Coast-to-Coast trail from West Coast Park to Coney Island Park (magenta line to the east in the map above) and then ride west to pick up the Rail Corridor at Kranji Road (the northern terminus of the blue line in the map above). But I couldn’t find the northern end of the Rail Corridor, my GPS kept trying to send me across the causeway to Johor (Malaysia), it started to rain, and the batteries on both my phone and my GoPro gave out, so I ended up heading straight south back to home base.
If you’re too busy to read, you can watch the videos here (Part I, Part II). Otherwise…
Dispatches from Abroad: Biking Singapore (III) – Relaxing on the Ulu Pandan Park Connector
For the last month, I’ve worked three days a week out of my guest office at NTU. On alternate days and most weekends, I start the day with a brisk but relaxing 90-minute, 30-km bike ride along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector. Given my home base in the Pasir Panjang area of Singapore, this route has much to recommend it. Other than a few road crossings at the very beginning (and end), it’s completely away from traffic and off the sidewalk. The North Bank extension is quiet and tree-lined, and a destination for the rapidly growing community of Singapore’s birdwatchers. And it’s almost entirely flat, so it’s more like a morning stroll than a heavy workout. Continue reading
Dispatches from Abroad: Biking Singapore (II) – The Bukit Timah Triathalon
That is, a “triathalon” of biking, hiking, and an end-of-the day dip in the pool… Continue reading
Dispatches from Abroad: Biking Singapore (I)
Singapore is an exciting city, but it can be confusing and intimidating to learn about and get around. An island city-state, Singapore has an area of about 780 km2 (about 280 sq. miles)—about the same size as New York City—and about 5.7 million people (more than any other city in the US except for New York City). The excellent subway system is a quick and efficient way to get around, but being underground doesn’t afford much of a view of one’s surrounds or an easy way to get oriented. With its equatorial heat and humidity, long walks are not the most comfortable way to explore Singapore. However, Singapore has an accessible and expanding network of hard-surfaced “park connectors” (separated from the main roads) that make bicycling across and around the island a pleasant way to explore the city and its various parks and green spaces. Continue reading
Dispatches from Abroad: Crème Brûlèe Take-aways
While the long, dark shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted opportunities not only to travel but also to dine inside restaurants, especially in the US and Europe, meals taken-out or delivered can provide a welcome respite from the day-in-day-out routine of cooking in. While take-out is wonderful in the abstract, the reality is that anything that’s spent even 15 minutes getting from the restaurant or bakery to the home table (and 30-45 minutes is more likely) is bound to disappoint. And for desserts, even more so, and a pastry chef I am not. Opportunities for crème brûlèes have been few and far between this past year, but as winter set in, a few presented themselves. Continue reading
Dispatches from Abroad: The (Lunar) New Year Brings a View from the New Normal
It’s been a little over eight months since I last posted anything here. In that time, I’ve been on the COVID roller-coaster with the rest of the United States—holed up working from home, dealing with zoom fatigue and maintaining sanity with daily bike rides, walks, and explorations of local preserves managed by The Trustees of Reservations.
The unBalanced ecoLOGist: #ShutDownSTEM
Initiated by Black astronomers and physicists, this Wednesday, June 10, has been called as a national day to commit to (or continue to) “taking actions that will change the material circumstances of how Black lives are lived — to work toward ending the white supremacy that not only snuffs out Black physicist [and, by extension, all STEM professionals’] dreams but destroys whole Black lives.”
In solidarity with the #ShutDownSTEM community, on Wednesday I will be refraining from my “normal” day-to-day activities that keep the wheels of the STEM enterprise going (e.g., designing experiments, analyzing data, writing and reviewing papers or proposals, editing a journal, sending and responding to emails, and engaging in standard committee work), and instead focusing my attention on taking action to agitate for change in our community(ies).
As the facilitator for Harvard Forest’s strategic planning activities, I have asked all working groups scheduled to meet this week (and not just Wednesday!) to use our regularly-scheduled meetings to identify specific actions (not objectives, not goals)—at local, regional, national, or international levels—that we can take right now to eliminate racism—and specifically, anti-Blackness—at Harvard Forest, across Harvard University, in our own work and in work with our collaborators, and in our home communities.