November 2010


Is it any wonder that I’m in a permanent love affair with Italy? Take this morning for instance. I came into the restaurant Gambero Rosso this morning, in from a drizzle, invited in by the owner Alessandro when he saw me hovering outside by the pier. I’ve already been here twice mind you, two days ago for a brunch with Sean and Kim and then again last night with Sean (Kim having left for Milan earlier in the day) just for after dinner drinks and once I found I could, for their internet usage. Which was the reason I was back here this morning.

Anyway, as I’m sitting with my computer, he first brings me a plate of anchovies marinated in olive oil and lemon and some homemade foccacia and Prosecco, and a little later comes to me with the query, “would you be my taster?” And then brought out this plate of a delectable creamy mixture of faro, white beans and some ceci, garnished with a succulent, fat-as-two-fingers jumbo shrimp and some (naturally) olive oil on the side. All just for sitting there. Like I asked, is there ANY wonder why I love Italy?

This isn’t even the highlight of my trip – just one of many, both foodwise and otherwise. Like our last evening in Rome (seemingly a lifetime ago but really less than a week past), over dinner at the locally recommended restaurant with the long name I’ll have to look up and enter here at some later date (“where the real Roman’s eat,” I was told by the nice sales girl at Pandora, the gift shop in Trastevere’s main square). Over there the waiter had one look at my goggle-eyed look of wonderment as he mixed a plate of spaghetti carbonara for a pair of diners a few tables over, and just offered a little to us on a plate right off that one just like that! Or the charming no, make that enchanted,  bed-and breakfast outside Siena – Agriturimo Marciano – and our unit with its fireplace and couch – with the right person, one need have never left that room for the entire trip! Except for the breakfasts that Nadia cooked up – the croissant and pastries hot from the oven – of course. Oh and there the matter of her dinner (on request) with the heartwarming ribolita, and the awesome olive oil.  The Tuscan villages of Monteriggioni and Montepulciano, the latter part of the tour led by the inimitable, one and only Roberto [check out his website here], waves crashing over the pier in Vernazza, and indeed all the magical vistas of Cinque Terre, which I’ve now witnessed in more than one season, and will be back for more, the amazing drive from Levanto to Porto Venere with Christian today, taking the high road as it were… the list can and will go on. But I’ll stop for now and be back in a few days (maybe?) with pictures as well.

Meanwhile I have to add a word about my travel companions par excellence – Sean and Kim. Thanks Sean for following up on my ravings about Italian trips past to instigate this one, and also for “showing off” as you put it to Kim so that she joined us as well. Our waitress has already told me twice to give you her best, and so I might as well publicly acknowledge your awesomeness though not without the eye-rolling caveat. Kim is joining me for the latter I’m sure! Ciao Bellos! Until next time.

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Silver linings would not exist if there weren’t dark clouds that needed them to begin with. Earlier this week, I shared the good news about my latest publication. That was the silver lining. Today I was doused with the reality check from the cloud. A rejection. The first of many no doubt, since I have already submitted 14 (and counting) new applications just since returning in September. The rejection today was actually for an application I had already worked on before the beginning of the term. It was the reason I was ‘Ulm-inating’ for the better part of the summer.

So am I heart-broken? Not really, Disappointed yes, but the summer had already taught me that perhaps Ulm was not the place for me. Meanwhile, I got to expand my professional network by a tad, and add a new referee to my list. Plus I put in some solid hours thinking about a new topic, which I’m hoping will have positive outcomes. Certainly it helped me formulate better proposals for other universities.

But disappointed I certainly am. The von Humboldt is a great award to get and a good family to become a member of. Getting it would have given me better bargaining power should I ever get an offer. I am soo… tired of this application business. WHEN oh when will it be my turn to get that nice job? But worry not, my long-suffering readers, I am not going to play that stuck record at any length … at least not today. Italy is waiting and with that prospect for tomorrow, next year and it’s troubles seem far away at the moment.

Yay again. Back in May I’d received word that my paper was accepted. Now it’s published online. Fully citable and everything. Here’s the reference/full citation:

“The Bacteriophage, Its Role in Immunology: How Macfarlane Burnet’s phage research shaped his scientific style.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. (2010) doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.10.012.

Meanwhile the publication that was accepted last year in the Journal of the History of Biology is now in a print volume with bona-fide page numbers and everything.  Here’s the updated reference on that:

“Mutant Bacteriophages, Frank Macfarlane Burnet, and the Changing Nature of ‘Genespeak’ in the 1930s.” Journal of the History of Biology, 43 (2010): 571-599. (First published online 18 August, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s10739-009-9201-4.)

Oh yeah, actually the complete citation would have my yours truly on there first. Neeraja Sankaran, or Sankaran, N., depending on preferred style. Either way, that’s me. And now awaiting results on another submission to Oz.