28 July 2008

Guess what I forgot...

Looking at my last post, I find it quite funny that I actually managed to forget my toothbrush, but hey, whatever - I remembered my labcoat & glasses and that's the important thing.

Anyway. No medals for Norway this year, not even an honourable mention (10% receive a gold medal, 20% silver, 30% bronze, 4% honourable mention), so we're amongst the 36% worst of the best in the world (already I'm not making any sense). Whatever. Someone needs to end 212th. I sort of messed up the practical exam by knocking over some acid and my burette was being very evil so I didn't have enough time to do a thin layer chromotography. The theoretical exam was even worse - forgot everything I knew about organic chemistry (which is very little anyway) so I got very little points there. Well, anyway, I'm just happy I didn't end last. I actually got 29 something points, out of a 100, which means I managed to do almost 3/10 of it. w00t!! Lowest exam score ever for me!

But I did have fun, obviously! Easily the best ten days of my life! First two days in Switzerland (/France), to see...
Mont Blanc (I'm on Aiguille du Midi, 3842 m above sea level. We took a cable car up, btw, lol)

CERN (ATLAS is way too big for my camera)

Then Budapest itself: beautiful!

They put our mentors into a 4 star spa hotel on an island in the middle of the Danube, with beautiful views of the city, while we (that is, the students) were shipped off to a uni campus complex an hour's drive from the city. Probably a good thing *coughcheapwinecough*
We had a sightseeing-filled programme. As the only chemistry-related things were two 5-hour exams, there was plenty of time. Basically we were kicked out of bed before 7 AM each morning, then after a rather dodgy breakfast in the even dodgier campus cafeteria (the non-veggie food died sometime back in the 70s by the looks of it and the veggie food was swimming in salty oil) we were hounded into buses each bearing the name of a chemical element. I wonder what I did to deserve the beryllium bus? Oh, don't get me wrong, the other people on the bus were great, but beryllium is one of the nastiest elements around.
The sightseeing left something to be desired, to be honest. Of course we all tried to sleep on the bus but this guide kept telling us to look left and right to look at various huge buildings (which were usually rather uninteresting, big glass & concrete things that were the HQ of some company or other, jeez). And then... "...to the left you can just glimpse the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, and to the right more Roman ruins, but now they're gone. We're not gonna stop here." Yeah, all right, whatever. We had a busy schedule. Had to go to Visegrad to see the medieval knight show.
Rotflol. Actually it was rather good - they could fight pretty well (though it was quite obviously fake) and there were a couple of good archers (plus guys throwing ninja star things, yaay).

Despite the sightseeing (or maybe because of the sightseeing) there was plenty of time to talk to people. Not everybody spoke English very well though, but we became good friends with the Swedes, the Danes, the Germans, the Slovenians, the Canadians, well just about everyone we met and talked to (there were some 250 students there, no chance of getting to know everyone, unfortunately).
Funny things happened at the olympiad. The Dutch team started getting anonymous letters from a fellow Dutchie... *grins* Guess who. I had 'forgotten' to tell them I was Dutch, and spoken English to them from day 1. Amongst other things I failed wonderfully when "trying" to pronounce Dutch words (they were the ones laughing then... but not for long) so that I would not seem suspicious. It was brilliant. Though I deliberately messed up my handwriting they were still comparing it to the team games list (where everyone was supposed to write down their name). Luckily I had, in a moment of paranoia, asked someone else to write my name there for me so my handwriting would not be on the list. Mwahahaha...

All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful time and did not want to go back home. Going from a campus complex filled with chemistry geeks from all over the world, and back to my boring hometown where people don't even know what a molecule is, is probably the most depressing thing I've ever experienced.
To be completely honest - I was having doubts about my uni application. Why the hell am I not going to study chemistry? I had applied for a chemistry study at NTNU (Trondheim uni), but in the end I decided to continue with the ancient history thing in Amsterdam (but damn, I *will* study chemistry as well, even if it means staying up half the night!!).

I thought I had the uni application mess sorted out, but nooo.... I still haven't got a room. I've subscribed to this room organization, and I will get a room sooner if I can prove I live in Norway. Unfortunately, the city council is being unusually slow. Then there's the scholarships. I decided to get a Norwegian one because Dutch bureaucracy sucks. Now I need to prove that I am a student at Amsterdam uni. I have a proof of admission thing from the uni, but it's in Dutch, and it doesn't say what I have to pay in tuition fees (which the Norwegian scholarship people want to know, obviously). So I sent the uni a very nice email asking if they could please send me some proof of admission in English, where it also says what the tuition fees are. The reply: "We sent you a Dutch proof of admission. Get it translated".

Sure, no problem. Dutch to Norwegian translation by an authorised translator. Cheapest thing in the world *urge to kick something*

Ah well. Two weeks till I leave! Somehow I'll get it all sorted out (payed my tuition fees today... tuition fees suck. Education should be free!) and find a place to sleep. I'm looking forward to seeing my Dutch family again, plus the Dutch chemistry olympiad team (though one of them is still a bit pissed at me because of the letters, lol).

Buda castle by night! They'd hired a luxury river boat for the evening after the last exam, and we got to see our mentors again. Except for the rain storm that came out of nowhere, it was wonderful :) And no, it wasn't just the wine (which wasn't cheap on that boat, it was free, lol)

8 July 2008

Budapest! Budapest! Budapest!

Lalalala! *does a little happy dance*

Lab coat? Check
Lab glasses? Check.
Oversized chemistry textbook? Check.

That's all I need, right? Oh, toothbrush. Right. Well, see you all in about two weeks!

*shoves Geravan, Marcus and Imerix into a nearby cupboard and puts a ninja guard outside*

3 July 2008

I'm going to CERN!

Omg! Omg! OMG!!!!1

Uh, yeah. CERN fangirl :)

Those profs at Oslo uni decided to take us along for a short trip to Switzerland before going to Budapest, so we'll get to see CERN! We'll get to see ISOLDE and ATLAS, according to the website. Can't effing wait!

I've just come back from Oslo - four days of chemistry. It was great, as usual. Spent a couple of hours messing around in the lab (organic lab is particularly awesome, except that the smell of ether makes my head go fuzzy) and some more hours with those bloody prep problems. By now I'm sure that at Hungarian universities, you can get a master's degree for completely butchering Nernst's equation without bothering to explain what you're doing, just because it suits your present needs.
And btw, I now have my very own labcoat!

Time for a meme? *glares at Gabriele* No, actually this one is pretty cool.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who've read six and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles– Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis (well, I don’t love them all. The Last Battle positively sucks)
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (can I have those hours of my life back, please?)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47 Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
(my aunt keeps bugging me to read it, so I guess it must be good)
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
(I read it when I was about eight and liked it and want to read it again, so)
74 Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – A.S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web – E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (I started it once but didn’t have time to finish it)
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
(wouldn’t that be covered in Shakespeare’s complete works? Lol)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (one day I want to read it in French. That day is not today)

I've got most of the books I've italicised on my shelf, but I lack the time to read them all. The reason I've read so few of the 'classics' is because English classics are no big deal in Norway. We read Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men during English a few years ago and that's basically it. We do have literature history at school (or we did, since I just finished school, omg), but that's all Norwegian literature. So we'd learn about rather obscure authors like Hans Kinck and Nini Roll Anker, while Dickens (just to name someone) isn't even mentioned. We hardly even read anything written by them, it was mostly excerpts. I've read, let's see, three works of literature at school - Bjørnson's Synnøve Solbakken (zzzz), Ibsen's Gengangere (zzz) and Gunnlaug's saga (no zzz).

Right, that was rather off topic. Right now I'm reading a book about organic chemistry. Theoretical organic chemistry is also rather fun, though there's a lot to remember.

Edited because I just finished Lord of the Flies.