One day out of 32872 days

Woke up at 6:50
Prepared avocado-egg-salad, half of it eat on black bread, half I left for Marischa
Watched 15 minutes morning news, about the dreadful stupid fights between Ukrainian military and Russian separatist
Went out with Ivo for a 15 minutes morning walk, realized that it is pretty cold but sunny
Gave food to Ivo
Jumped on the bike heading for work, taking with me the damaged rear wheel of Marischas bike
Cycling through the North of Munich, across the Isar river and through the English Garden
At the junction of Leopoldstreet and Neuherbergstreet, meet Mr. Osenberg, head of our Research Centers financial control department. He is a really small, slim and non-typical sport shape man. But on his bike, he is like a racer, like a grease lightning. Three minutes after we both start at the green traffic light, he is already about 500 m in front of me. I calculate he is about 20km/h faster than me.

Arrive at the institue, and take a shower (poor Mr.Osenberg once told me that they don’t have a shower over there at the administrative department. I’m proud to feel privileged as a researcher in this instance.
At my desk I check my e-mail. Two students, one from the Netherlands and one from Bulgaria confirm their participation on my lecture series. A professor Martazavi from Tehran also wants to participate, but needs a letter from me to apply for a German visa.

Went to the cell culture to check the mesenchymal stem cell cultures. Three out of 10 from last weeks explantations are bacterial infected. Have to sterilise those and discard.
But the remaining 7 cultures are clean and grow well.

Yashodhara comes to the cell culture room to tell me that Life Technologies have problems to continue supplying us with Stem Cell approved serum.  I explain her to request from other suppliers ordinary bovine serum test samples, check them for growth potential on our cells, and just order a large badge of the best charge. As usual, Yasho expresses deep dissatisfaction, as if over there in her Indian home everything would be just perfect. Never had somebody in my group who is so unwilling to improvise or solve problems.

When I pass along the coffee room, I realize that Bahar has birthday today, and she is already arranging her cake.  I feel ashamed, it happened what I was afraid of: that I might forget the birthday of my most reliable, most pleasant and most witty technician. I try her really delicious (and hallal) cake, and tell her that the present will arrive after lunch only.

Back to my office, I close the door behind me and start to write to Fatemeh, my friend so far in Tehran. I send her back one of the pictures showing the Afgani girl, after I added the IPCT tags according to Mrs. Tieth from Ullstein. I know I could write endless letters to Fatemeh, but have to stop here and wait for the evening, because Costanca enters. Once again, she is very nervous and plagued with doubts about the deadline for her master-project. I tell her that she shall focus the presentation of next week on the novel findings in telomerase regulation in mesenchymal stem cells, but not on the problems with low protein concentration of her samples. I tell that with all these worries she reminds me of Sherly Bassie (when Bassie was 50 years younger, of course). She starts to smile a bit, and again asks me why I address her with the polite German “Sie”, rather than with the familial form “Du”. I tell her that with all others we communicate in English, and there is no difference between a formal and this privat form of addressing a person. But in German, I use instinctively the official polite form for colleagues much younger or students.
I promise to organize some of the much-sought-after Amicon protein filtration tubes from another institute. Indeed, Ines from the Pathology institute gives me her entire storage of 14 tubes, which should make Costanza happy for tne next few days, untill our order from Merck is delivered. Next problem with Costanzas experiments is the missing master-mix for the Eliza assay. I call Roche Incs customer service to explain them our problem with master mix shortage. They promise to send some extra tubes free of charge.

Back from phone, I check the status of my submitted manuscript at the editorials office website. It is still of “under review” status (since 4 weeks).

I do the first outline for the manuscript on osteosarcoma, telomere alterations and the Rb1 gene and PML protein status. While reading through the recent publication from Sanger Centers ICGC group and what they called as Kataechis mutation spectrum I suddenly understand that this looks very similar to the AID hypermutations in B-cell lymphoma. I go to Jan to tell him about this possibility. As usual, he has never heard about this molecular process, and me (a physicist) have to explain to him (a biologist) all the basics of this essential process of immune development. As usual, he seems completely drowned in this mass of genome data, but is unable to bringe some sense in. I tell him that I will talk to Jean-Marie, who is a specialist in somatic hypermutation and kicked out from the research center 4 years ago, to find a way to determine if the cytosin point mutations in osteosarcoma are from dysregulated AID somatic hypermutation. I doubt that Jan understands the relevance of this possibility. But the head of his research unit is of similar weak scientific vision.

It is almost lunch time, and I remember that I have to buy a birthday buket for Bahar and bring Marishas bike wheel to the repair shop. So I jump on the bike and drive over the field towards Euro-Industrial-Center, the last 5 min through the abandoned military camp, which is now the camp for the asylum seekers. The security guards are liberal today and allow me to drive through this by-pass-road. At the bike shop, I buy a new rear wheel and the service guy changes the gear set from the old to the new one. Great, seems to have worked out.
On the way back, I feel that the pneu on my own bike is flat: I must have perforated it while drove over a sharp stone at the asylum-serkers camp. Walk back to the bike-shop, to exchange the pneu. This costs me another 20 min and my hands look dirty as pig. But finally, I can drive back to the institut. Stoping over at the the flowers shop, I find a beautiful buket of long, red-yellow roses.

Back to the instute, I can finally congratulate Bahar, and she is honestly amazed by the buket. I understand that it is a stupid stereotype that muslims don’t acknowledge flowers. Muslim or not, Bahar is really happy about the roses, and she askes all other peoples in the lab who has ever been given such flowers from the boss (I complain with her again about her addressing me her boss). I know that at the age of 32, Bahar is not completely free of worries regarding age. I tell that know, 12 years after she started working with me, she still looks the same, and this is a big compliment for her, considering that she got 2 kids meanwhile. And she says that indeed she still feels like an18 years old, but that she also  never believed that I am 20 years her senior, in particular after we went recently to a couple of rock-concerts together. So we are a good team at work, we know how much we can trust each other and although so different educational and cultural background (muslim versus bloody atheist), we usually stick together like “tar and sulphur”. The only thing I disliked was that 8 years ago she stoped wearing a hijab.
So after another piece of her birthday cake, and with the buket, I told her to take the afternoon off to celebrate with her family.

The afternoon I went back to work on tne manuscript on the osteosarcoma hypermutation and our genome profiling. I found an older paper that claimed that osteosarcomas mutational spectrum indeed resembles somatic hypermutation, but for some unclear reason they suspect the gene APOBEC to be the underlying cause, rather than my hypothesis favoring AID. But AID would be more logical, since it is a DNA editing enzyme, rather than the RNA editing activity of APOBEC. But APOBEC is ubiqiously expressed in many tissues, whereas AID is restricted to lymphoid immune cells. But it could be that AID becomes ectopically expressed in the process of osteoblast transformation, and hence exerts its DNA editing activity to the entire genome, causing wide-spread hypermutation.

Suddenly Anna from Michas iPS stem cell group calls and says that tomorrow she will have differentiated cells from her ES and iPS models to give us for assaying telomerase activity. I tell Costanza that next day she should expect additional cell samples for her experiments. As expected, she wrinkles her brows showing her unease with this extra work.

At 4:30 p.m. I decide I had enough fullfilled my professional duties, and now want to go to the cinema to watch “Her”, a movie by Spike Jonze, featuring Joaquin Phoenix as a young man who falls in love with a computer OS. Since it is a love which mainly manifests itself as dialogues by computer chat, I thought it could explain a bit why I feel so much confidence with Fatemeh. But the movie is a sad story, and Theodore, the main character of the movie, is a poor victim of his fears and LA typical undecisiveness in terms of partnerships. So Samantha, the computer OS who he falls in love with, is programmed such that it behaves as the ideal girl of his dreams. So this virtual relationship is rediculous, whereas my attraction to Fatemeh is to a very real person, and objectively, we are very different, she a very creative artist, religious, and very open and positive about meeting and learning about new people every other day. Me, scientist, atheist or pantheist, and readily bored or pissed off as soon as I meet stereotypic people. But anyhow, there is a deep emitional and spiritual link between the two of us, and nothing in the world is currently so important for me as Fatemehs opinion about me. Since I lack any religious higher instance to judge my deeds and my person, I have choosen Fatemeh, whos words I rely so much.
The movie “Her” has nothing of this mutual trust. In the movie, Theodore simply needs a projection for his unfulfilled phantasies, but he does not really expects Samantha to challenge his concept of life.

After the movie is over, I drop in at Lehmkuhls bookstore to buy Wäis Kiani’s “Behind the Moon”, to give it to Nineliah for Eastern. On the way along the University Hospital I meet Birgit Luber, to hand her over the exam protocol and review of Sebastians master project. We chat a bit, and I remember the box of white chocolate pralines in my suit-case. And she is suprised to receive an Eastern present from me. But it feels nice to make unexpected gifts.

Arriving home, I realized that Ljowas has a friend visiting him at school holidays, and they are in his room, with the sun blinds completely turned down, and all lights inside switched on. This pisses me off, and I sneak silently into the house and down to the basement to pull the fuse to Ljowas room. After the two sit for a few seconds incomplete darkness, Ljowas comes down to check the fuse box in the basement. This is a good chance for me to scare him off, explain again my dissatisfaction with turning on the ekectric lights at daytime. Ljova says he met a mouse in his room. What has this to do with leaving on the electric light throughout the day?

Rest of the evening is as usuall: watching some international TV news, laughing about the ridiculous stupid Western comments and helpless attitudes of NATO officials with Marisha, having some simple sandwiches for dinner and going out for a walk with Ivo.

I hope that tonight the sky will be clear enough to make a photo of the full moon, as I wanted to send to Fatemeh.
It was a good day, with some ups and some downs, but the best moments where when I wrote the e-mail to Fatemeh. Maybe she has answered already.

Summary: It took me more than 3 hours to write this 4 page summary of today, what I did over an period of about 14 hours. It is nothing I will do on a regular base: 3 hours to write down what happend within 14 hours: thats not very efficient.

Echoes of Addiction

With words like a virgin vine,

you wettened my dust covered lips,

to make me speak again,

using words taken right out of your mouth

I asked for more of this magic elexier,

which you browed in a room of your own,

And when I was drunken from all these words,

in a glimpse of a second your gentle fingers lifted a blue vail,

and uncovered the smiling eyes of the prophets only daughter.

But you pretend to be nobody,

who can change the colours of the rainbow,

for the rainbow is a nobody as well.

The sweet words you gave me so plentiful made me addicted for more,

and they fire my imagination of your dark voice that will say them one day.

Metamorphosis behind iron bars — a butterfly turns into a poisson insect

The recent news from Ukraine made me mad.  Mrs. Julia Timoshenko, for whom I still felt some compassion recently, now appeared in a completely new light.  She did not denialed the validity of a You-Tube footage of a telefon conversation, in which she expressed her intention to “shoot Putin with an AK47 in the head, and eradict all Russian people from Ukraine territory by dropping an atom bomb”.  This is horrific, I have to say, and it shows a complete absence of proportionallity.  O.k., what Putin did was a bit of rowdy-like.  Not really gentleman style. But in fact he only changed gouvernmental status. Life wont change for the Crimean people a lot. They lived under a corrupt system before, and they will live under another corrupt system from now on.

But what Mrs. Timoshenko now dreams of is really killing the Russian people and their president. Thats not nice, Julia, and it shows that you turn into a lunatic. A few weeks ago, I was still feeling compassion for you, being kept in prison away from your family since 4 years. And I was wondering why the Ukrainian opposition did not demanded your immediate relaese and gathered behind you. I was even sending posts to social networks asking “Where is Julia”,  when everybody was just talking about Vitaly Klitscho and the other strong man on Kiews Maijdan square.

Now you are free again, and the first statement we heard from you is your dream of shooting Putin and dropping an atom-bomb onto all Russians.  What happened with you, these 4 years in prison ? You underwent a strange metamorphosis, did not you ?  Four years ago, you represented the human and liberal and sophisticate faction of Ukrainian politics. Now your voice turned into a militant and primitive sound.  These 4 years in prison were like a cocoon, where a benign larvea turned into a poisonous insect, armed with a sting to be used against anyone you identify as enemy.

Could it be that being held  in detention, isolated from social contacts at all, triggers a kind of metamorphosis of personality ?  I have to think of Nelson Mandela, whom they kept on the Robben Island prison for half his life. And he also changed a lot. Before this, he was part of the militant ANC fraction Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), not really on the forefront of a liberal and slow conversion of the apartheid regime in South Africa. After the fall of the Botha regime, and he was released from prison and elected new president, he felt committed to build a multi-colour country.  After beeing imprisoned by the white South African regime for half his life,  many expected him to use his new power to take revenge. But exactly the opposite took place:  Mandela was the main force behind a peaceful cohabitation of the former white elite and the coloured South African majority.  Any attempt by former ANC factions to expell the white population he opposed with the power of his popularity.  Nelson Mandela had became a messias of humanity, after being turtured for 27 years in prison.

So there seem to be something specially happening to people if they are kept in isolation, in prison.

I had the “privileg” to spend only 2 days behind iron bars in my life, when in 1989 I was careless enough to take part in the liberal movement against the communist regime in East-Germany, and in my juvenile naivity thought that making some super-8 movies of the brutal East-Berlin police force would be a cool idea. It wasn’t. But at least I experienced something each man should have seen once in his lifetime: Finding himself locked behind bars, alone or – as in my case – with a couple of other “bad guys”.

rummelsburg-KnastThese two days spend in detention changed my attitude quite a lot.  Before this, I thought that being kept in a prison might be a good way to escape the daily noise and indoctrination of daily life, and be in perfect isolation with ones own thoughts and phantasies.  But in fact, it is exactly the other way around. In prison, you can never be sure if a guard or any of the other inmates wants to humilate you. There is simply no escape. And you have no rights. An even if you would have the right to complain (maybe bacause of violations of the UN human rights standards:  What a fun), you can not simply grab a telefon, let alone writing e-mail or a blog post. Nothing of this. Being held in prison is not so much an issue of not moving around, not being allowed  to go for a walk to the park or attending a party, but in prison they try to keep you in intellectual and in social isolation. But this isolation is only one-directional: Whereas they can put a wall around you that blocks every exchange of ideas between you and outer world, at the same time they are allowed to humilate you or allow other prison inmates to humilate you.  Although in my case it was only a two-days detention in the rediculous Rummelsburg jail, I can imagine what people in the Evin prison have to go through. If you have any more questions, read “Kissing the Sword” by Shahrnush Parsipur.  To make a short story, even shorter:  Every day you spend in prison is a wasted day of your life.  If you want to find some quiet time to contemplate, book yourself a hotel in a remote place out of season. If you want to have some time to read a good book, go to a library or a large book-store where you can sit and read a whole day. If you want to write a blog post or an article, wait till late night, when the family sleeps. If you want to play some music, meet with some friends in a garage and jam the whole night through.  But don’t think that the isolation in a prison cell can turn you into a better skilled or enlightened person.

Happy New Year – سال نو مبارک

Haft Sheen: The 7 S…, a set of objects all starting with the persian letter Sheen
People in and from Iran, Kurdistan and Afghanistan celebrate the beginning of their new year today. Using a very sophisticated astronomical calculation it will start in about 5 minutes, precisely at 17:57:07 GMT.  Astronomers have calculated that at this very minute the duration of day and night is equal (vernal equinox) and – most practically- (since this is defined by the position of the earth on its orbit around the sun) it is universal for the whole world (simply converting GMT to your local time zone). So unlike western new year, which “roles” around the globe within 24 hours from the far east (Tuvalu) to the farest west (Hawai), Nowruz can be instantaneously celebrated by the entire mankind in one and the same second. Really global, really monumental.
For today, I’d only like to wish all Iranian people a happy Nowruz, hoping that 2573 will bring freedom, peace, happiness and prosperity.
Seven things one might manage to do in 5 minutes left:
1) Polish an Apple
2) Grinding a Garlic
3) Cuting some Barley shots
4) Nail a Pudding on the wall
5) Light a Fire
6) Look into the Mirror
7) Fill a glas with Vinegar



Books of the week: Crimea changed sides

In 2010 I had the pleasure to visit Crimea, on the occasion of a genetics conference in Alushta. What a magical landscape, I thought, and I met Russians there and some Ukrainians and many Tartars. The Tartars invited me to a after-wedding brunch in their own restaurant at the beach, when the shops and cafes run by Russians or Ukrainians were clossed at this out-of-season time of late October. Later I visited Bakhchisaray, the old palace of the Crimean Khans. Aside of the muslim study rooms and the paradise and rose gardens and the turkish bath, Alexander Pushkin was commemorated there where a dripping spring inspired him for his poem “The Fountain of Bakchisaray”.

Who could have imagine, that now, just three years later, another kind of books might become useful again to understand what is going on there at this beautiful peninsula, that was once the melting pot of Russian, Greek, Jewish, Tartar and other people. 

Reaching for the Stars

Dear Michael,
last weekend we saw a nice movie with mom and with Shafagh. The movie is a Danish/German/Swedish co-production, but the plot is set up in Iran and also filmed there. “Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars” is about a young girl from a middle-class Teheran family who becomes fascinated by astronomy. Together with friends she goes out to a self made, improvised observatory to watch the stars. When they were celebrating a large meteor of the Leonides shower, I had to remember when we went out in August 2010 to watch the Persides in Munich, and how sceptical I had been initially, until I saw this really impressive head-on meteor.  Mom liked the story about my own first star watching night.

Here is more about the movie, that was awarded a price at the sundance festival.


In a rural village far from Tehran, the night sky glows brilliantly, unimpeded by light pollution, and a teenage girl named Sepideh dreams of becoming a renowned astronomer. Lugging a telescope as tall as herself, Sepideh spends her nights stargazing, inspired by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space. But achieving such a lofty ambition is easier said than done for an Iranian girl. Her uncle threatens something rash if Sepideh persists in her unladylike behavior, and her widowed mother warns that she cannot pay for the necessary schooling. Unphased, Sepideh composes impassioned missives to Albert Einstein and keeps her eyes on the prize. Yet when she’s passed over for a university scholarship and suitors come knocking at the door, her determination is seriously tested.

The camera is everywhere we want it to be in this magical documentary—charting the strained, yet devoted, relationship between daughter and mother and capturing unexpected moments that will change Sepideh’s life forever. Shots of breathtaking constellations are windows into Sepideh’s interior world and the vast universe that enthralls her. (from Sundance Festivals Homepage).

I could imagine that you like the movie. If you watch it, tell me what you think of it.

take care







Timeless Dream

Woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m., with a jet-lag related insomnia causing this asynchronity between my internal neuro-biological pace-maker and the local time. I had a dream that initially appeared strange to me, because what I saw there did not seem to make sense at all. More than a year after we stopped exchanging e-mails, you suddenly came to meet me. You were not alone, but accompanied by your family and Shavagh and some close friends. When I entered the room, you started to shout at me, accusing me of being just another ignorant coward, and that you now see clearly that all my promises were just standard lies from a “How to successfully carress a girl and get away with it ” textbook. For the first time I saw you driven by natural human emotions, a type of pain that broke out of your mind in an eruption of uncontroled anger. After one year that you apparently had accepted my silence, you now decided that the time had come for a fierce attack.
At this moment, when you lost all your social self-censoreship it suddenly became obvious that under the surface of your pride and not masked by your pursue for respect and self-control, there is still a hidden sensitivity for this classical feeling of pain after a personal Loss, like the phantom pain after a limb amputation.
If this expression of anger would have been only driven by an assault of your female pride, it would have ultimately distract me for a long time. But understanding that against all predictions you were occasionally waiting for some written words from me, and that you considered this sudden stop of our 3 year lasting conversation a violation of a given promise, this could change the image I have of you. I say “could”, since clearly it was just a dream. But dreams are perhaps manifestations of a hidden truth, like alternative realities that happen in a parallel universe.
Despite my dedication to reason and logic, I have to admit that this dream has changed my view on you. Although you might manage your entire life to hide this other side of your personality from the world, I will always believe that it exists. Somewhere, hidden behind a smooth and controlled facade.
There is no doubt that this dream not only revealed some previously unknown features of your complex personality, but most likely it tells even more of how I always wanted you to be: less concerned about the image that people have of you, more confident of your very own values and desires, and not afraid to use your own voice.
Not sure if it was only the 8 hours jet-lag after the flight from Japan back to Munich that triggered this dream, or the movie I was watching on board: “Ghost World” with Steve Buscemi and Thora Birch.

Berlin Groove

Who says that cool moves come only from the teens and twens ? BS, I say, not only after we accompanied our son to its dance-lesson-exam ball, and were shocked that all of his generation stood shy and helpless along the walls, whereas their parents like us were dancing the whole night through.

But here comes the ultimate proof: A local Berlin entertainer, with not so juvenile shape and some silver in his hair is doing the ultimate groove on the streets of East Berlin. The places between the Prenzlauer Berg and the Barn-Quatier in Mitte have not so much changed, since I went home there a quater century ago.


(Solomun: “Kackvogel” featuring Friedrich Liechtenstein)

I think it’s a pitty that they have not revealed who was behind this Bear mask. It would be cool if Mr.Liechtenstein ripps off the mask and discovers the face of the red dressed girl who was dancing on the opposite of the road before.

Blogs I recommend to de-follow immediately

Hi Michael, You know my main access to the social media world is by Facebook. But through your blog and the various links on it, I also got used to read what people post on their own blogs. Some of them are really unique and inspiring, others are boring.

Therefore I set up my top 8 list of Blogs I used to de-follow sooner or later:

  • Blogs that talk about cooking and show endless rows of pictures with dishes, which would probably cause me nausea only by their smell . Because I know that most of them are inedible and I can cook better than 99% of people who write blogs about it.
  • Blogs which only write about traveling and show the 12.839.431st image of the Sangra Familia cathedral in Barcelona or  this special pub in Dublin.  Because if I want to see these places, I’ll go there by myself. And I think it is a sign of intellectual deficiency if people are not able to find inspiration to write a post while at home.
  • Blogs that intends to teach you how to do things right.  This is for sure one of the worst and proliferating pests not only on the book market, but in internet blogs as well.  They should be made legally responsible for anybody who is silly enough to follow them and fails.  Like financial advisers can be made liable if you lose an invesment by following their recommendations,  these “super-intelligent gurus” in the social media should be stoned in front of a public web-cam, each time  they publish another “8 ways to successfully change your leadership potential” or “12 questions one should never  ask his lover after a one night stand” etc etc).    People who still follow posts like this or even link and further recommend such sites should not forget the following:  These “super-intelligent gurus” are not inventing their 100% success proven recommendations out of pure altruism.  They make money with it, and this just goes by increasing web-traffic and placing ad-banners somewhere on their pages.  In fact, they don’t give a damn on any problem you want to solve.
  • Blogs which are set-up by girls and boys to present their latest fashion purchases. If I want to see something really inspiring in this sense, I better follow the bill-boards of Desigual or H&M along my daily bicycle ride to work.       
  • Blogs which are set up by girls to present their latest attempts as make-up artists and describe in detail how much work it is and how much it costs at the cosmetics store to look really overpainted, rediculous and awful.
  • Blogs which cite the daily news and add their own short comment in a style as “I hate this man” or “Funny new information” or “I was not aware of this”. The plain news is usually informative enough without your extra phrase.
  • Blog which attempt to spread religious or national surpremacy, whether it is on a christian, muslim or buddhist background. Honestly, sometimes I enjoy such blogs for some minutes, for the absurdity that really makes me laughter.  But in general, I think for any people who don’t have my senseof humour, such religious blogs are doing more harm than fun.
  • Blogs which want me to belief that a particular national minority would do much better after achieving independence, and that they would do even better after gaining indenpendence if they could expel any other minority, or at least deprive them of their equal rights. Sorry for all bloggers from Catalunia, telling me again and again how superior their province is compared to the rest of spain, sorry also for bloggers from Croatia describing how much more civilized and culturally developed they are as compared to the other Balkan countries (sorry, but you are still a Balkan country), sorry also for the Walloon and Flemish blogs proposing independence, but not a single word of excuse for de-following any Hungarian nationalistic blog. They should simply be blocked from any web-presence. I know that you fit much better into the European Front of National Freedom Fighters than in the internet.

I hope that this very decisive list that is now posted here does not qualifies your blog itself for category 3 (“list for things I recommend to do”)

Take good care


Blue Knockouts rock Seeon

Our first concert took place in a remote place called Seeon. I guess it is the German spelling for Zion.