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The Velocity of Time (and how we feel it)

Hi michael,

okay, so 4 institutes will go together and become the department of radiation research? which institutes are these?
the movie that you mentioned i have never seen before. Gustafsson is a very common name.
 time pass to fast, unbelivable. just enjoying the free days that i have left. hope time goes slow!
 hope you had a good weekend.



Hi Ghazal my Dear,

So nice reading your mail. I just came in, we went out for a long walk because it was a beautiful Sunday, icecold but sunny. Finally, winter started here as well. This year it was a perfect program:  We had almost later summer temperature till first half of November, and now, two weeks later, already winter climate. This intermediate autumn, with its wet and windy temperature lasted only two weeks.
I went swimming today in the little river next to our house (maybe you remember I wrote you in summer about it, it has several old stone bridges spanning over its cristal water). Swimming is still fine there, the water is warmer than the air (about 6 degrees I guess). After taking a bath for a minute, one gets very hot (think its like a counter-reaction of the body, like adaptive response).

The three institutes of the research-center that officially fused to form a Department are Radiation Biology, Radiation Protection, Cytogenetics and Medical Radiation Protection. I think the idea was more to save the institutes from beeing closed down, since there is actually not very much scientific exchange between the 4 institutes. Its merely political.

The center of Munich is very crowded nowadays. People start X-mas shopping, its crazy. I think people, although they are mostly catholics here, have forgotten that christmas has a non-comercial tradition. But I"m quite sure, you would also like it, to join millions of other people on their caravan through the department stores, don"t you ?  What I like about the winter time in the city center is a big scating course they do on the Karlsplatz/Stachus (you might remember, where in summer-time there was the big fountain). This is really fun, one can do ice-scating, or just watch the other people doing it, or eat some grilled saussages.

I talked last week to Mrs. Friderike E-S, who studied UV-repair her whole life through. I asked her about the problem, if cells of different origin differ in their UV-repair capacity (depending on whether or not they can be exposed to sun-light at their normal position of the body).  I told her that our hypothesis was that cells that origin from inside the body (lymphocytes, endothelial cells, neurons, muscle-cells and so on) might have a much lower UV-repair capacity than cells that are naturally sun-exposed (like skin fibroblasts or -melanocytes or epidermal  or retinal cells).
She explained the following:  There is no special DNA-repair system just for UV-induced damage. The nucleotide-excision and base-excision repair systems are essential to remove DNA damages induced by chemicals as well, like alkylating agents or free-radicals. And since these agents can cause DNA damage anywhere in the organism, most cells have the capacity to repair base-damages,   8-oxo-guanine, thymidine-dimers and all the other lesions, and therefore they are also prepared to repair these damages  if they are induced by UVA-exposure in the laboratory.
I wrote some ideas about this on my blog, in case you want to read. Ghazal, I hope you don"t mind that I wrote it like a scientific dialogue, and it reads as if this fictional person "Ghazal" explains this.  Hope you don"t hate that I put the words into the mouth of somebody else.

You wrote in your mail that you feel your time is passing very fast now, and you would like to slow it down a bit. I think it might depend from where you observe this. If you mean the present time, the moments you are just experience now:  they seem to be short and run fast, if you are busy, if you have something important to do. Like when you did your thesis during the last weeks of September/October, I guess you felt that the few hours of the day passed away like minutes. But if you look back to such a busy period of your life, it seems as if this expanded, because you filled it up with something important.  This for me is most obvious when travelling. If you finally arrive at your destinations in the evening, you just can not believe any more that 12 hours ago you still were at home. It seems as if this was many day ago.  Do you know this feeling, Ghazal ?   I guess so, because last year you also traveled a lot.
But this changes to the complete opposite, if one has nothing to do. Than the time one actually feels at the moment passes very slowly (for instance if you have to wait at the dentist or for a bus that does not arrive). It feels as if the minutes are hours. But later, if you look back, a period of your life where nothing important happened can appear very short.

I hope you are not fed up with all these long essays. You don"t have to answer them all, but I"m always very happy reading some words from you.

Take Care, Ghazal

PS:  Yes, I would have been surprised if you would know this movie with Greta Garbo. I also saw it just by chance in the TV, because Leo Tolstoy, who wrote the novel, died 100 years ago. But if you just click on the youtube-link that shows a short scene from it, don"t you think its amazing, how Greta Garbo appeared trough the steam of train ?


The Great Garbo

Hi Ghazal my Dear,

Thanks for your nocturnal e-mail, for every single word. We had a big meeting in the helmholtz-center yesterday night, it was on the occasion of fusing four institutes into a Department of Radiation Research. It was a big reception, but it was very political (what is not my favorite). I came home quite late, and the more I was happy reading your mail.

Recently I thought of you, when I watched an old hollywood-movie, "Anna Karenina" from 1935. It was re-filmed since then many times, but none of the newer versions (like the recent from 1997 featuring Sophie Marceau) came close the early one from 1935 with Greta Garbo (I think it is considered among the top 100 important movies of cinematography). I don"t know if you (after Breakfast at Tiffanys) are willing to watch another old movie, that is even 20 years older.
Greta Garbo (also nicknamed "the great Garbo" or the Divine") reminded me of you, how she arrived in the movie the first time, through the steam of the train. She had the same extraordinary expression in her eyes and her face as you have, a sort of enigmatic aristocracy, as if she came from another world.
What is a funny coincidence: her real maiden name was Gustafsson, so maybe she was a relative to Lars Gustafsson. I think I have to ask him. Or do you think, that Gustafsson is a too common name in Sweden ? But Greta Garbo (former Gustafsson) did not looked typical swedish, for my feeling she looked more oriental or south european. And before going to Hollywood, she lived in Stockholm.

I hope you don"t mind that again I tell you things you have not asked me about. I hope you are well up, that you fill your days with pleasure and your nights with exciting dreams.




dear michael,

I did not know that Greta Garbo was such an international star. I remember that, quite often when we went to the center of Stockholm with my family, we passed along a little memorial that show a very pale face, and this was commemorating Greta Garbo.


To be honest, I never watched a movie with her, but my parents told me that she was a famous swedish actress of last century. But it was a long time before I was born. And on the memorial plate she looks a bit sad and cold, so I was never tempted to see her acting in a film. But I like the short scene from "Anna Karenina" that you send from youtube, where she arrives by train and suddenly appeares through the steam.
Do you know that, when I arrived the first time in Unterschleissheim by train, and you met me there to help with my luggage, I was feeling the same ?
I had many doubts, I felt lonely and was afraid to be on my own for the next month without my parents. It was good that you came to meet me, not just to carry my suitcases.
Platforms and trains are always the same, does not matter whether in Russia 100 years ago or in Munich in 2010. They all give you this impression of arriving at an unknown, hostile place, but later you stand there again on the same platform and have to leave this place, just when you got comfortable with it.

Hope you have a nice day and night

Take Care



Ghazal my Dear,

That"s strange: when I watched the movie recently I somehow knew that it was not just Greta Garbos eyes and the expression on her face that reminded me of you. I could not tell where this strong feeling of a deja-vu came from. But now you gave me the solution, Ghazal. It was the very scene when Greta Garbo (aka Anna Karenina) arrives by train and she and Wronskij see each other for the first time, and both are like struck by a lightning.
Now I know it was very much like the day in May when you arrived here, and I was waiting for you on the train station. I probably was shivering, when I saw you leaving the train, whereas Wronsky in the movie, behaving in a typical soldiers manner looked rather frozen like a stone statue.
When you said that you did not felt very confident about the project in Munich and how to live here on your own for 6 month, I tell you one could not recognise these doubts on your face. You looked very aristocratic, as usual, very calm and confident. But only later I understoud how experienced you are in hiding emotions.

Take Care, Ghazal



full moon and wild geese

hi michael,
I don"t know what was wrong with your sophisticated calculation, but I could not spot any meteor this time ! I went over to Shafa, since her windows faces southward, and it is always fun to be with her and have a chat. So we were sitting in front of her big window, with tea and some sweets, but all we could see was the hugh full moon shining through the clouds. But unlike in August, when we were in the Park in Unterschleissheim to watch the Perseides, this time the sky was almost 100% covered with clouds. So I don"t know, whether we were blinded by the moon, or the stjaernfallen were all obscured by the clouds, anyhow there was nothing that looked like the amazing meteor we saw together in summer.
Have you been more successful ?

Thanks anyhow for the calculation - I have never seen your handwriting before.

take care

PS: I have not jet found sufficient data from the journals to make a firm conclusion about different UVA-repair capacity in different cells of the human body. You asked, why people study UV-repair in lymphocytes, considering they are in their normal physiological situation never exposed to UV-light.
But you should consider, that what we call UV-repair is in fact a DNA-repair mechanism that can process a larger class of damages, not just UV-induced ones. Base damages, nucleotide damages, O6-methyl-guanine and the like are all repaired by the NER- or BER-system that we study after UVA-exposure. And because lymphocytes (as well as other cells of inner organs) can always be affected by those types of DNA-lesions (for instance after free-radicals or just by replication errors), they are probably able to repair UVA-damage es well. The cell, at the end, does not know where the damage comes from (UVA or free-radicals), it just feels the damage and responds to it.


Hi Ghazal, my Dear,

Yes, you are probably right, I had not considered this before. But I guess at the moment UV-repair is not so important, I mean because there is just no sunshine. At least here in Munich.
Hope it is more pleasant over there in Sweden.

So nice you acknowledged the calculation, although the clouds were not considered therein :-(
But at least the moon was visible from here and from your place, have a look I did a photo of it. And by chance there was a flock of wild geese flying across. Might be they came from Skandinavia, on their way to the south. Maybe you also saw them a couple of days before, while they were just starting their journey in Sweden.
Yesterday I passed along the cafe, where we went in May (think it was the 19th, after you did the test for the german course at the Gasteig evening school). I remember that you had an iced chocolate then, and I had a tea. The waiter was asking you where you came from, and you had to explain him all the details of your odyssee from Stockholm via London to Munich.
Yesterday, there were only a few people sitting inside the place, and all of them looked like regular customers, who use to go there frequently. They all seemed to be very cool, I guess none of them had any reason for an emotional irritation as I had, when I was sitting there with you. When I saw the place again yesterday, it all came back to my mind in a second. I hope you keep the place in good remembrance. I think you should, Ghazal, because at this time in May you perhaps haven"t been very confident about your MSc project yet, and how you will manage it. Maybe you have been afraid that this whole formal genetics would all be too complicate, and it will cause you only lots of stress but no scientific satisfaction. I hope so much, that now, after this half year you can laugh about the doubts you had in May.

Hope everything is o.k. with you, and that you enjoy every day.




A Joint Meteor Party

Hi Ghazal my Dear,
You recently raised the issue of spotting simultaneously the same meteor from your place in Stockholm and from here in Munich.
It appears it is not as simple as you thought, since you cannot compare it with the moon, sun or stars that, if they are high enough always look the same from here and from there. The difference is, that meteors, once we see them glowing, have already entered the upper layer of the earth atmosphere (about 100km altitute). And therefore, it is a matter of whether they are still above the horizon of an observer or below, and this determines if they are visible or not. Trigonometric calculation (see below) shows, that a meteor coming down as far as 1121 km from the location of an observer would still appear above the horizon (and therefore be visible). Munich and Stockholm are exactly 1310 km distant from each other (on a direct line, not motorway, railway or flight), and therefore each meteor coming down halfway between the two would easily be visible (since the distance to each of the two observers would only be 655 km).
And even more, all meteors coming down within a +/- 54 degrees radiant around the direct line could also be visible (i.e. about one quarter of the whole skies circumsphere, what is not too bad). So my suggestion for the Leonides meteor-shower on the 17th of november is: If we two agree on a defined observation time (maybe one hour around midnight), and we both look in the right direction, and there are no clouds, and we are lucky, and we believe in this calculation, and the Leonides shower has not choosen another trajectory this year, and there are now vampires biting us at night, and there are no drunken guys distracting us, and no haloween - kids begging for sweets, and no snowmen melting next to us and and and ....
then we might be really lucky and both spot the same meteor at the same moment. Our wishes, most likely will neutralise each other, I"m sure, so life will carry on.

TAKE CARE, my Dear




Hi michael,

So your calculation shows that if I would look southward from here and you would look northward from Munich, we might both spot the same meteor tonight ? Does your calculation also considers by chance the outside temperature ? You can"t expect me to wait outside our house for an hour tonight, since we have already snow here and its freezing cold. And anyhow, even if I would spot a meteor tonight, knowing that the same one is visible from Munich, it would not be as wondeful as at was in August, when we saw the "Stjaernfallen" from the park behind the guesthouse. Then it was warm, a nice summer night, and it was fun to be there together. I think I will skip the meteors tonight. But your calculation should equally hold true for next years Perseides in August, right? But then, who knows, maybe I"m back in Munich, and the distance between us shrinks from 1310 km to just a few cm.

I wish you a pleasant night anyway

Take care


PS: I could stay inside and try to spot some of the meteors tonight through the window, can"t I ?


Ghazal, my Dear,

Assuming there is a clear sky tonight, you might spot a meteor through the window, why not.
Which side does your window face ? north, south ?



Dear michael,

I checked, the window of my room faces north, and our kitchen to the west. What is the best ?



I guess if you watch through your window northward, you perhaps wont see the meteors, but you have a good chance to see Polar-Light. By the way, since Polar-Light comes also from the upper atmosphere (like the meteors), the calculation is equally valid for them. This means, you might see the same Polar-Light looking northward as an eskimo in Greenland or a reindeer farmer in Lappland.
But they don"t know about you, they have never seen the magic of your blue eyes, my Dear. Maybe for them the polar light is something very common, or even something frightening. And unlike me, they don"t associate it with a particular person, whom they miss a lot who might watch it at the very same moment.

O.k., I have to accept that the Leonides meteor shower is not the most suitable to watch it outside in Sweden, despite all my calculations. However, in case I spot a meteor tonight, I"ll imagine that at least in your dreams you see the same one, and that it takes you on to an angel flight through the night sky.

TAKE CARE, enjoy



Lang Lebe das Freie Berlin (Lars Gustafsson)


Diesen Montag, genau 2o Jahre nach dem sogenannten Fall der Mauer (oder "Mauersturz" wie es im Schwedischen genannt wird) endet ein ganzes Jahr voller Erinnerungsveranstaltungen, mit extra dafür geschriebenen Büchern, mit Augenzeugeberichten, Ausstellungen und jetzt mit einer Reihe von Konzerten. Und diese Veranstaltungen werden sämtlichst an historischen Orten stattfinden: Auf dem Platz vor dem Reichstag, am Brandeburger Tor und auf dem Potzdamer Platz. Natürlich mit einem Feuerwerk, und mit prominenten Rednern wie Michael Gorbachov und Hans-Dietrich Genscher, mit Rockmusik und der Staatskapelle Berlin unter seinem Dirigenten Daniel Barenboim. Aber es wird auch Veranstaltungen mit einem gewissen Witz geben, wie zum Beispiel eine anderthalb kilometer lange Mauer aus bunten Dominosteinen, die dann ebenfalls umgestossem werden wird, fast so wie es mit der richtigen Berliner Mauer geschah. Das wird voraussichtlich bei allen echten Berlinern grossen Jubel auslösen.
Denkt dann wirklich noch jemand, dass das alte Westberlin irgendwie interessanter war mit seinen Agenten und seinen Künstlern, oder dass die frühere DDR tatsächlich idyllischer und schöner war, mit seinen Plattenbauten und seinen Trabantenstädten ? Gibt es noch jemanden, der sich die Schüsse an der Mauer und versteckte Mikrophone zurück wünscht ?
In den Tagen während dieser Feierlichkeiten wohne ich in einer grosszügigen Etagenwohnung in Schöneberg, deren hohe Räume einen ähnlich hallende Akustik haben wie das Stockwerk, in dem ich nur 500 meter entfernt im November 1972 wohnte. Dort war ich ständig mit Schreiben beschäftigt und dort entstanden meine beiden Bücher "Yllet" und "Sigismund". Der einzige Unterschied ist der grosse Park hier gegenüber, der jetzt in den schönsten Herbstfarben erstrahlt. Und die fast ausserirdische Kälte, nicht zu vergessen.
Dieses Berlin des Jahres 2009 ist eine fast völlig veränderte Stadt. Und von vielen Berlinern hört man, dass sie selber das Gefühl verspüren als wären sie von einer Stadt in eine andere umgezogen, ohne sich selbst wirklich fortbewegt zu haben.
Besucher aus Schweden, die in den70er Jahren aus Ostberlin zurückkehrten, waren oft voller Begeisterung. Egal ob Seeleute oder Kirchen-Mitarbeiter, sie alle brachten scheinbar neue Ideen von dort mit. So übernahmen wir aus Ostberlin zum Beispiel die Idee der "Einheitsschule" (schwedisch "Einhetsskola"). Und vom Theater am Schiffbauerdamm kamen neue Impulse von den Aufführungen der Stücke von Brecht.

Wenn man sich jetzt die Reste der Mauer auf den Zeitungsbildern anschaut, wirkt das ja sehr pitoresque mit all den Graffities, als wäre die Mauer in erster Linie als eine riesige Freifläche für künstlerische Experimente errichtet worden.
Zu leicht vergisst man dabei, dass es hinter der für uns immer bunt bemalten Vorderseite auch eine Rückseite gab, die nur grau war und die zusammen mit einem Mienenstreifen und Selbstschussanlagen eine absolut tödliche Zone darstellte, verziert mit Stacheldraht and Scheinwerfer-Anlagen. Das war die eigentliche Mauer, und diese richtete sich, einmalig in der Welt, nicht gegen eine Bedrohung von Aussen, sondern zielte nach Innen, auf seine eigenen Bewohner.
Die Selbstschuss-Anlagen, wahrscheinlich ein Begriff der wegen seiner
Abstrusität nur in wenige fremde Sprachen übersetzt werden musste, waren geschickt konstruierte Geräte, die an Pfosten entlang des Grenzstreifens angebracht waren und durch elektrische Kontakte ausgelöst auf einen Grenzflüchtlig eine tödliche Salve von Schrottschüssen abgeben konnte. Diese Anlagen arbeiteten nicht nur äusserst "effizient" 24 stunden am Tag ohne erkennbare Ermüdunsgerscheinungen, sondern sie befreiten auch das Grenzpersonal von der unliebsamen Pflicht, selber einem Schiessbefehl Folge leisten zu müssen.

Ich erinnere mich, wie ich eines Morgens irgendwann im November 1972 in der Feiherr-von-Stein Strasse zu Frühstück ein Buch las und miterlebte, wie zwei junge Leute in dem Wasserlauf entlang der Grenze ertranken, nachdem sie auf ihrer Flucht durchs Wasser von tödlichen Schüssen der Grenzer getroffen wurden, und wie die Westberliner Feuerwehr untätig zuschauen musste, weil es ihr nicht erlaubt war, mit dem Schlauchboot auf das Grenzgewässer hinaus zu fahren um die Verletzten zu retten.
Am Grenzübergang Friedrichstrasse gab es immer beleidigende Situationen, wenn die Grenzpolizisten erst unter dem Zug alles mit Spiegeln und Lampen an langen Stäben absuchten um sich dann dem Inneren unserer Koffer zuzuwenden, in denen ja verbotene Bücher wie F.Nietzsche versteckt sein könnten. Mich würde sehr interessieren, wie meine jungen Mitstreiter in der schwedischen Piratenpartei sich wohl damals verhalten hätten.
Nachdem dann diese Mauer gefallen war, kamen viele Geheimnisse ans Licht, die vorher unverständliche Ereignisse plötzlich durchschaubar machten. So weiss man jetzt, dass der Polizist, der den Studenten Benno Ohnesorg während einer Anti-Schah Demonstration erschoss, in Wirklichkeit ein bezahlter Mörder des Ostens war. Westdeutsche Terroristen bekamen Unterstützung von staatlichen Stellen der DDR und Schriftsteller schrieben mehr Spitzelberichte als Belletristik.
Kurz und gut, der Fall der Berliner Mauer war ein gewaltiger Sieg der Freiheit, und wie der Paukenschlag in der Ouverture Leonora 3 zu Beethovens Fidelio, beendete er ein langes und sehr schmerzhaftes Ringen um Selbstbestimmung, das nicht in Deutschland, sondern bereits 10 Jahre früher in Polen, Ungarn und der Tschechoslovakei begonnen hatte.
wenn am Abend des 9. November die grosse Party am Brandenburger Tor beginnt, ist eine endgültige Bewertung dieses Umbruchs aber immer noch schwer zu erhalten. Soll man wie Tenger sagen. "Die Wahrheit setzt sich durch" ? Oder es eher mit Hans Magnus Enzensberger halten und seinem "Der Sozialismus funktioniert nicht. Punkt. Aus." ?

(english translation A.F.
german translation M.R.)


Sentenced to death for adultery - the cruel face of iranian justice

Hi Ghazal,
Thanks for writing about the case of Mrs. Sakine Ashtiani in Teheran and the threat of her beeing killed by stoning. I did not knew about her, but what you wrote is shocking. I don"t know what is worth, shooting people at the Berlin Wall or killing an innocent woman by stoning (and having this "officialy" approved by a court sentence). I read that although the original court decision to stone Mrs. Ashtiani has been withdrawn, she still faces death penalty by hanging.
I found a website of an initiative to protest against this injustice, one can click here to sign a petition .


More information about this case is available in an article of the german newspaper FAZ and in the New York Times.


Meteors and Walls - both fall down in November

Dear Ghazal,

Befor too much time passes away, I further translated the text by Lars Gustafsson (which you brought into English some month ago) and put a german version on my blog. I also send it to Mr. Gustafsson, maybe he uses it further. Do you also want your english version have it published ? The reason I did it today was that in a few days will be the 21st anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Ghazal, my Dear, I suspect you are not too much involved in these political events. Thats fine, I understand this.
If possible, one should try to use this precious lifetime for creative things, rather than to fight against walls or against political unjustice. Unfortunately, too often the political circumstances dont allow us to live in peace, and one is reminded on the poem by B Brecht:
(B.Brecht: An die Nachgeborenen)

Hope you are fine, and happy and in a sort of harmony with the world and your life.
In case not, maybe you can dream of it, and this can help to make it come true.

Sleep well, Take Care,


Hi michael,

I did not know so much about the Berlin Wall and what happend there, I think I was much too young when this was an issue. You are right, I am probably not very interested in politics, think that there are more crucial problems in my life. But maybe it is because here in Sweden there was never a lot of political fight. Therefore, it is only when I hear some news from other countries that suddenly can make me very angry, and then I would like to fight against injustice.

Maybe you heard about a case in Iran, that a woman, Sakine Ashtiani has been sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. I was crying when I read this. I am probably very emotional in this case, since I know some of my relatives are living there and also I love the home country of my family a lot, for its people, its great cultural heritage and so on. And the more I got angry when I hear that an inhuman gouvernment in Teheran can keep people in custody, tortures them, kills them.

And yes, you are right, that when we hear about political crime or injustice, we can"t enjoy any more the nice things in life. For instance something very basic, but amazing like a meteor shower that is expected next week. I doubt it will be as impressive as the one we saw on August 24th in the park behind the Guesthouse, but who knows.
The Stjaernfallen expected in the night from 17th to 18th of November belongs to the Leoniden.

I"ll try to watch them in the night of the 17th, and in case you also go out, we may even spot the same meteors. Or do you think that I might see some here in Stockholm, and you see different ones from Munich? They should be the same, for my feeling. I mean we also see the same stars and moon and sun, why should we see different meteors then ?

For tonight, TAKE CARE