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Relax with a kinetic sculpture

Hi Ghazal my Dear,
Reading you last e-mails I got the impression that you are most excited if I send you links to some "moving pictures" (the origin of the word MOVIE, as you perhaps know). The german translation is KINO, which comes from french CINEMATOGRAPH, meaning "moving or kinetic image" and what gave rise to the english CINEMA.

Why I tell you all this stuff ?  Not only because I remember the films we saw together here in Munich, and the nice time we had before and afterward.
There is another reason, and this I discovered last weekend at the BMW museum (can"t remember if you went there with your family or with Shava). Perhaps the most impressive object in the museum is the so-called "kinetic sculpture", an arrangement of steel balls hanging on wires that can all be individually moved up and down by a machine, thereby generating the most astonishing images of slowly moving 3D-sculptures.

I am almost sure, Ghazal, you will like this. And I am also sure that you work hard these days, same as you did during your MSc project here, and therefore you deserve some relaxing videos at night.
Enjoy, Take Care


As always, I hope you are doing fine and stay as nice and symphatic and strong as you have always been.

PS: Had a look at the swedish word for cinema, and this is Bioskop. No clue what "Bio" means therein. There is a type of apple, which is called Boskoop, but this I guess is a coincidental similarity. And Cinema is written in Persian as
And here, you see, I don"t even know how this is pronounced. So many things I have to ask you.


Social Networks and Loneliness

Hi Ghazal, my Dear,
Hope you are well up, although I have not heard from you for a while. I"m afraid I might have written something confusing or unintentionally something that you felt as assaulting. We had a very emotional argument today in the institute about the value of social networks and whether each of us or even the entire institute should be present in Facebook. Some believe it is essential, to stay visible to others (but to be honest, there are science-specific social networks a lot, like PubMed or LAbome, Wikigenes and others. They are probably most efficient to meet and stay in contact with other scientist). But I agree, to be visible to the general public there is perhaps no way around Facebook. Using this, we might soon be contacted by celebrities who want to use our Cre-Lox gene targeting method to correct the shape of their nose or to get rid of their double-chin. We might also be asked by anxious people about the risk coming from all the atoms in their body. I"m seeing forward to discuss issues like those with them.
The general attitude among the people here in the lab towards facebook was pretty ambigious. IVG was absolutely in favor of it, praising its cabability to stay in contact with friends worldwide. BSB and myself were very proud to be social and very communicative folks without having long lists of Facebook friends. And there were even some, like ZB and OH who claimed that they are post-Facebook generation, i.e. they had a Facebook account but were unsatisfied with it and deleted their accounts.

I very much see a misconception of long lists of so-called "Friends" at the social networks and the value of some long-lasting and solid personal relations, some that are not just for the sunny days but on which you can also rely if you need help. Sometimes I got the impression that the social networks are weak networks, they seem to be devoid of any personal responsibility. The possibility to opt-out of a Friendship just by clicking a button makes it so much easier to avoid any commitment to people you know. I"m convinced that one should accept also difficulties in a relation, and not just choose an easy way-out. I recently heard a paraphrase by german actress, who after some personal tragedies still manages to make a very happy appearance. She said "If life gives you a box of lemons, you better ask to have salt and tequilla with it."
For you, Ghazal, I hope there wont be any lemons at all, but a lot of apples, sumac berries and oranges, not just for Norooz but for the whole year through.
TAke CAre



hi michael,
the three fruits you mentioned at the end of your letter are only a small selection of what is typical for persian new year. I"m going to send you my kucha-pecha presentation that I gave last year at the schneeferner-house to the other MSc students.
Facebook becomes very important if you are away from home, from your family and friends, or if you have to change home frequently. I therefore understand IVG a lot, because like myself she travelled a lot when she was student, master-student, PhD. Like her, I also used facebook a lot when I lived in London one year and last year in munich. But for me, the real relations in life where you meet people face by face are of course superior. I also found that such relationships are much more solid, and you can rely on somebody if you need help. I think you have to have a real exchange of thoughts between two persons, and a track of giving and taking to realy feel bound to somebody. In contrast, one might collect endless lists of "friends" in facebook and still be completely lonely.
I recently read an interesting study in the journal Science about Loneliness and general Health. The full paper is here.
What I found very clear, the author states that “Some people are socially isolated but they are not lonely. By contrast, some people are lonely even if they have a lot of social contacts.”
And the authors found very interesting correlations between loneliness and the risk for several diseases, including stroke, dementia and metabolic disorders. The long lasting assumption, however, that loneliness can cause cancer has been disproven in this study.
Maybe it would be an funny project to investigate, if the number of "Facebook Friends" that people have on their accounts is linked to the frequency of various diseases. Than maybe in the near future you might see a prescription from your doctor saying: "Diagnose: You have got migraine. Suggested therapy: Reduce the number of "Friends" by 50%" or "Jouvenile Diabetes type 2: Stop using the internet at all and ride the bike for 1 hour every day".

Oh boy, so much things to care about. And we are still trying to see the minuscle effects of irradiation.

Hope you are okay, take care (but don"t take the study about loneliness too personally)


Hi Ghzal my Dear,
Why you think I might take the study by John Cacioppo et al from Chicago about the health effects of loneliness personally ? I don"t feel lonely, not at all. If I say that I miss you, it does not mean I"m lonely. I manage very well to keep myself busy, here at the institute, at home with my family and house and the dog and playing music and reading books. But none of these activities take away the feeling that I lost something very precious when you left.
With the study design I have to check the original paper by Cacioppo et al. I would like to see how the study was done. I guess, like people always design the epidemiologic studies it was a case-control study. The problem therein is that the correlations found (as in this case between loneliness and mental illness) only shows a link between two independent observables. How one can exclude that loneliness is just coming from a gradual loss of mental fitness, and this can be a very early step of dementia. So it might equally be that the pathogenesis of dementia includes as one of the earliest symptoms loneliness.

I hope, of course, that neither you nor me and any of your friends and your family has to worry about this. It is really a very frustrating disease, since absolutely no working therapies against it (just some to reduce the symptoms).
Take Care , my Dear



The Green Wave

Dear Michael,
How is life in Munich. Have you been to the movies recently ? You said you wanted to see "No-one knows about persian cats", the movie about the rock-band in Teheran. We got it here from a friend of Shava in DVD. Its not exactly my most favorite style of music (a bid to rough and fast), but I like how the kids were fighting for their dreams, and was so funny that they not only had these "offical" problems with the politics that wanted to block their music cause they were afraid of young people searching for a free life. But they also had to worry about their parents, which just did not accept the "weird" style of their music and how they dressed up. I liked this a lot, because this situation I know myself very well.

I want to ask you for something, hopefully you can help. I read in a iranian news blog ( about a very impressive movie about the 2009 students protest ("The green wave" by Ali Samadi Ahadi). The movie was produced in Germany, and is planned to come to the cinema only in spring this year. But I googled and saw that the german TV channel "Phoenix" is going to show it already on the 11th of January, i.e tomorrow. Do you have a possibility to record the program ? This would be great. If you cannot record it, at least try to see it and tell me what it is about.
I hope you are doing well,
take care


Hi Ghazal, my Dear,
It was nice reading you e-mail and hearing that you are well up. What a nice co-incidence, that you've got something that I was looking for since month (the movie "No one knows about Persian Cats") and I will soon have something to give you in exchange (the record of the movie "the green wave"). It indeed will be shown on Phoenix TV tonight, and I set everything up to store it on hard-disk. Thanks a lot for this information, I probably would have missed it otherwise.

Have you started your PhD project already ? I guess you are quite bussy, this is normal at the very beginning.
Take Care, Michael


Dear Ghazal,
The recording of the movie was successful. "The green wave" (german title is "Wo ist meine Stimme" aka "where is my vote") is amazing, it is a real piece of cinematographic artwork. It is mainly a record of the political protest during summer 2009 and the violent reactions of the police. Most of the scenes are drawn in  a cartoon style, starting with vivid colours showing the peaceful student protests and their battle for a free iran. With the rising violent reactions of the police and security forces, their brutality against unarmed protesters and torture of the imprissoned students, the coulours of the movie turn more and more into a dark grey. These diary-like cartoons are supplemented with comments by Shirin Ebadi, Mohsen Kadivar and Mehdi Mohsen.


One of them said with a lot of frustration, that the people in the west are only concerned about the iranian nuclear activities, but did not care about the situation of the people in Iran. This might be true if you listen to the politicians in the west. But I can assure you that many of the educated and intellectual germans (and I guess europeans in general) follow the heroic fight of the people in Iran with great sympathy. When I saw the movie yesterday, a lot of memories came back to my mind of the political fights we had in 1989 and before, to tear down the iron-coutain in germany and to end the unjustice of the ruling political system, where a single party leaded by a handful of senile men decided about the life of 17 millions. I would say the situation was not easier, in the sense that their were only very few people brave enough to openly show their protest, much less then in Teheran. These were small groups, and when the security police came with one truck, then every single protester was guided away by two of the police men. Even among the students the number of those who decided to speak out loudely their disgrace and go out on the streets was absolutely neglectable, if I compare it to what we saw 2009 in Teheran. The pictures with tens or hundreds of thousand people walking on the streets of Berlin or Leipzig and demanding freedom were only seen after the political system already lost its omni-power. The more I admire the courage of the people in Iran, not to accept the unjustice and the lies of their gouvernment. I think hardly any other nation in the world deserves more freedom and justice than iran, since they have such an intellectual and cultural tradition.


The genealogy of mice (part 2)

Hi michael,
While searching for a paper that Matts recommended me to read about UV-repair, I found an article reporting a new study about the migration of house-mice throughout europe during the last 10 000 years. I remember you once wrote me a story about the colonialization of europe by the two mouse species M.musculus musculus (eastern-mouse) and M.musculus domesticus (western-mouse). Interestingly, this new paper shows that the western house-mouse travelled like a blind passenger together with the civilisations that managed to grow and store grains. And this started (you guess it) in Iran (and probably further east on the indian sub-continent).

So you see, whithout the ancient agricultural developments in Iran, the progress in experimental genetics (including my MSc-project !!) which is so much based on M.musculus domesticus would not be possible. House-mice were known in Iran already 13 000 years ago. They arrived in Germany (including Neuherberg) only 3 000 years ago. Do you know, if the two strains that I studied in my MSc project  (the albino FVB and the spotted JF1) belong to M.musculus domesticus ?  Would be so nice for me to know, whether they are also descendents from the iranian mouse population.
Enjoy the winter time

PS: If you write about going-swimming these days, I assume you discovered a hot spring somewhere around Munich ?

Hi Ghazal, I very much admire that you spend some of the holidays to learn for your PhD project and - what is even more unusual - that you still find something exciting related to your MSc project (like the mouse colonialization paper that you mention above). It is interesting, indeed, not just from a genetics point of view, but also considering the house-mouse as a companion to the civilized men, that populated the world together. Have you seen the dotted line on the map, that runs north to south across europe ? This line as I wrote before separates the western mouse (M.m.domesticus) from the eastern mouse (M.m.musculus) world. We believe, it coincides with the cold-war demarcation line between the "socialist" eastern-europe and the "free" western-europe. How this co-incidence happened, nobody knows. Obviously, the mice were there much earlier (according to the study at iron-age), wheres human did the east-west-separation just 60 years ago (and it lasted only for 40 years).
The separation line between M.m.domesticus and M.m.musculus runs also along the Isar-river here in Munich. So during your staying in Unterschleissheim, you have been surrounded by the house-mouse, which as you mentioned above originated from Persia. What is a pitty, I think, that in Stockholm you are clearly east of the separation line, i.e. you now live in the world of M.m.musculus, which originated from central Asia (I guess mongolia).
These mice are known to be much more wild in their behaviour, unlike the FVB or JF1
that you worked with in your MSc project. Therefore, if you meet one in your house in Sweden or in the field, be careful. They wont let you do tail-clipping, ear-marking or measuring incorporated Iodine-activity as you did in your MSc project. They tend to have a much stronger self-defence instinct than FVB or JF1. Both are, by the way not pure M.m.domesticus strains. FVB/N is a laboratory inbred strain derived from hybrids between M.m.domesticus and M.m.musculus and contains alleles from both. JF1 was bred in Japan by fancy breeders (just as a hobby) and goes back to the mixed line of M. molossinus, which developed my matings of M.m.muscullus and M.m.castaneous.
Hope you are fine, Ghazal

Take Care, Michael

PS: I have not discovered a hot spring here in Munich. Therefore, I go for swimming in the little river next to our house. But it has a constant temperature of 8 degrees celsius, which as compared to the outside -10 degrees appeares quite warm.


Happy New Year

Dear Ghazal,

I was very relieved to read that you did not caught cold (as the cryptic text may have suggested), but that you are well up. I go to the lab approximately every second day, usually it is pretty empty there, what is good to write some stuff.
The day after X-mas we went bowling, which still causes me muscle-fever. And after seeing the whole family scoring much higher than me, I decided not to go there any more.

I recently promised you to put a video of our dog playing Hockey in the snow with me.You can find it by clicking here. (Don"t be chocked by the weired music) Do you still recognise her ?   I also want to show you that she is usually not as sleepy as she appeared on the Kucha-Pecha presentation about REM dreaming.

Ghazal, I know that the next year is very important for you, for your future both in private life and science career.
I wish you all the luck that is possible, happiness for every single day and fun. Don"t get impatient, my Dear, there is no need for this. You are so strong and lovely, you will achieve everything to become 150% happy at the end.

There is a very nice song by the Rolling Stones (called "you can"t always get what you want) . The message of the song is:

You can''t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

I hope so much that you will find out yourself what you need. I"m sure you will, and your parents and relatives will help you.


PS: Please also say Happy New Year to Shava.


Hi Michael,

What is this, happiness ?  Do you have an answer ?  Is happiness what we experienced the last summer in Munich ? It might have been one particulare type of happiness. Probably like the one that Erasmus of Rotterdam had in mind when he wrote:

The highest form of happiness is a life with a certain degree of crazyness.

Take Care, yours Ghazal