Castle Forchtenstein

Say “Strüdel” – Enjoying Austrian Kitchen and Kitschen at Brezlgwölb with Duke’s past and future boss.

And a Sunday trip to Burgenland to see Castle Forchtenstein

There is a very deep moat under the bridge.

Leo is defending the castle.

This east-facing “dragon” in the entranceway kept potential turks and other attackers from destroying the Forchtenstein Castle. Heaps of unused weapons and munitions attest to it’s success.

The castle belongs to the powerful Esterhazy family

Sorry, no pictures inside.  Just lots and lots of weapons and a very very deep well.

Taking a nap

There is a small playground behind us, also the black tower which did not get its name from the color.  The castle has many ghosts.


Yesterday I worked out many deadlines with my thesis group so it’s back to work! Grounded theory coding by hand.



The Greatest Week!

I already mentioned that February was fabulous, after our lazy week, we dove into action.

Monday: Duke home from Australia and my brother Patrick and his Girlfriend Vina arrive from Boise – we all go to Figlmüller where the schnitzel is bigger than the plate!


Faschings Tuesday: I send the leopard and polar bear children off to their party at Kindergarten,


and our Tourists to the Hofburg Palace and rush off to take care of something for grad school. We eat lunch at Cafe Central. In the evening we dress up for a Bad Taste party and rock out Austrian style in a bar that looks like a disco in a cave. We party hard!

Valentines Wednesday: After visiting the Upper Belvedere Palace/Art Musuem and seeing Klimt’s “The Kiss,” Pat and Vina have dinner at a restaurant on the Danube and afterwards Pat proposes at the top of the Sofitel overlooking Vienna. They have been given a private corner despite the packed bar. It is so romantic that Vina is surprised and Pat tries to take it back before she accepts! Then he remembers to give her the ring.


Thursday: We all did work in a coffeeshop and the kids played with Uncle Pat


Friday: We went to the Kunsthistorisches Museum and I got to show Pat my favorite imperial treasure, a gold encrusted oversized sheep gall stone called a Bezoar.

IMG_5507 Vina who studied greek and roman art in college went a little fan girl over the collection, and we regrouped over by the mummies before heading up to the oil paintings.

Saturday: We took a train all the way across Austria and then took a gondola up to our village, Oberlech in the Alps.

Sunday: Skiing in the Alps with Duke, Pat and Vina is the best thing in the world!

And that was just the beginning! Pat and Vina went out to Paris and we stayed for a week of great skiing. This was really the trip of a lifetime, amazing skiing, beautiful mountains, and lots of great times with Duke and the kids.



February Break and the Last Business Trip

Wow! What a month, I don’t usually like February, but the Austrian higher education system says that February is a holiday and I took them at their word. The kids were also on holiday the first week and instead of camps or our usually tour of events and museums we decided to take it easy at home. Besides, Duke was off flying business class on the biggest most amazing plane.


We finally played with all the toys from Christmas and watched a lot of my little pony 💜. It snowed and we had a lovely time making a snowman,

IMG_1908warming up, and then remaking the snowman after someone destroyed it leaving a giant ball of snow.IMG_5392

We also went to the dentist, Allison had her first x-ray, and it was a little terrifying to see all those adult teeth just in her face waiting to come through.


Otherwise I am very much enjoying Allison at 6. We had a princess party with three bold girls, two little brothers and an unwitting boy.


This whole time Duke was in Australia riding on boats, walking on the beach and eating barbecued shrimp.


The last work trip! We made it! Oh and don’t worry about Duke, he was just hanging out at the bar on his airplane.



Duke finishes his job in April and is winding down just as my graduate school work has been picking up. I had three papers due at the end of February, a paper on the environmental impact assessment process in Austria (hypothesis: logics of efficiency/process have taken over logics of environmental protection even if the result is the same), a paper on vacuum cleaner robots (hypothesis: getting the robot to perform well takes a lot of work from the operator, but how robots help our work in caring for others (or not having to be cared for) is more important than actual performance), and a paper documenting co-production research on bioethics and biotechnology (consensus based democratic ethics discussions shape what research is done and which medical treatments emerge by focusing on individual rights, while avoiding philosophical or theological questions about the meaning of life). The last paper was more of a reading guide in understanding formal STS academic work and ideas to inform my thesis on bioethics reports on Genome Editing.




The Ball

Oh the ball! We had a really and truly lovely time at the Ball der Wissensschaften (Arts and Sciences).  Duke arrived home just a few hours before from Jamaica, and I went off to get my hair done at the only place open past noon on a Saturday, DM (basically like a salon inside Walgreens). We had dinner, and managed to get the kids ready for bed.  I did my own makeup, and put on my gown.  Duke pulled on his wedding tuxedo and we tuned into you tube for a waltz refresher (we took a class a few years ago, but it’s not like we go waltzing everyday).  This was really nice because they kids got to see us all dressed up and dancing.   We had a quick champagne toast at home and headed out the door.  The ball was at the Rathaus, which is the City Hall and such an amazingly beautiful building.  When we were only halfway up the red carpeted stairs, we already saw friends (even though I might have walked right by them).

Just after we went inside the first person I saw was my friend Tova, who knows everything about the ball and told us the best spot would be the balcony.  I know the layout of the Rathaus very well from the board game festivals for the kids, and had tried and failed to get to the balcony before, so I knew just where to go.  We found a great spot and before long the debutants opened the ball.

We danced along in the balcony, grateful that we didn’t have to worry about the crowd below, carried away in the waltz.  Near us, a fantastic older lady in a red dress waltzed alone until her date, getting embarrassed in front of all their friends, got up and danced with her.

We danced for awhile in the balcony before heading down to the floor and running into more people.

We made a full tour of the place, stopping in at the disco and cocktail lounge.  Every chandelier sparkles, I especially love the ones with pink glass, which I heard once on a tour was just fantastically expensive, the place is just so beautiful.  At midnight we returned to our balcony for a fashion show, but then rushed to the dance floor for the Midnight Quadrille.  This is a social dance where you move back and forth and switch partners and so on, but no one could hear or see the explanation and there were so many scientists and other nerds that is was just exuberant chaos.

At one point I was eating a tiny ham sandwich and waiting for Duke to get a beer from the special beer bar, when I realized I had joined a couple of Americans, students from SAIS (Johns Hopkins international studies program, where a bunch of former colleagues and friends studied) who were part of a group of 130 students there.  Such a small world.  It all seemed so familiar, and yet, like I was in a complete fairytale.

We danced and talked to new and old friends until late in the night, I think we left around 3am.   Another small piece of magic is that the kids slept in the next day.


Jamaica, Winter magic in Vienna, and Head Injuries!

So while my husband was cruising around on a Yacht in Jamaica, snow drifted through the air in Vienna, magic that disappears on contact with the earth as the kids and I walked through the streets . Both are great, but we all know where we’d rather be. I have lost count of which business trip this is, all I know is that it’s the second to last. I’m stocked up on chicken nuggets and we’re working our way through our first ever jar of peanut butter (duke is allergic).

Last week I went with Leo to the hospital after he fell on his head at kindergarten. He was fine, just a bump and insisted on going to his pre-ballet class a fee hours later (Allison has Jazzdance at the same time). Pretty exciting. We asked for a print out of the x-ray and they said to get it I could pay the €800 for the ambulance ride and visit (which the Kindergarten guilted me into doing anyway). The whole hospital was set up for resolving workers comp issues, a weird approach to care. The system worked seamlessly and everyone was friendly, there were no bills and someone else handled the paperwork. Even so, access issues aside, give me the US medical system every time.

We went to a Kid’s carnival part (here the call it Fasching) at the dance school and had our first (?) disco. There were film cameras from the TV station so I might have made it onto TV. Our TV doesn’t work with European digital signals so we have to watch through the internet, and then it rarely occurs to me to watch Austrian TV. Austrian netflix does have one weird show called Böstererreich (naughty-austria) that apparently filmed on my street once. I’m so close to fame.

Everything we know about Jamaica comes from a Garfield sticker album about islands from the grocery store or the Kermit song, Caribbean Amphibian, and my college friend Jovan who memorably described goat head soup as a great party food.

University is in full gear, I wrote a paper on the cybernetic origins of the term genetic code and the ways in which it frames current ideas and practices in genomic research. I wrote another paper about losing sight of meaning in the formalities of the environmental impact process in Austria. I’m developing an idea for a paper about generic vacuum cleaner robots and the uptake of robotics in the home. I’m writing about Jasanoff’s theory of co-production and how it’s been used to understand developments in biotechnology and I am thinking about how to start coding (with grounded theory) the reports on genome editing for my thesis.

With the shutdown I was really reminded of everything back home, probably I’m the only person who felt homesick due to a government shutdown. It’s such an ambivalent feeling, knowing the waste but always happy for a day off. I try not to think about politics. I am ready to get the flag out and get pretty patriotic with the Olympics coming up though.

We are also getting ready by getting out on the ice and practicing the traditional Jamaican cheer: Feel the Rhythm, Feel the Rhyme, Get on Up, It’s Bobsled time!


Mid-December – Everything is Right on Time

My graduate program in Science, Technology and Society has gone from making observations about the contingency of scientific work and need for more reflection in tech development (light) to darker and more abstract theories about what it means to be human, the political use of scientific knowledge and creeping boundary between empowerment and control. This is I think very Viennese in a way, superficial and then deeply psychological. Particularly through always on/always with us technologies like physical activity trackers, but also genetic testing and the gradual replacement of the self with data. I’m working on a paper now dealing with the metaphor of genetic “code” and what it means when we forget the biochemistry and work behind the translation.

This is somewhat related to my thesis about genome editing. The thesis will analyze two reports, looking at how promises and social challenges of tools like CRISPR-Cas9 are presented, and how the reports guide the direction of R&D and governance.

Just as class was wrapping up for the year, Nana and Grandpapa arrived, hooray! We got a tree and decorated it, something that *SHOCKED* our friends, because in Austria they don’t decorate the tree until Christmas Eve.

Saturday we went to the Christmas markets at Rathaus, Maria Theresa Platz and Karlsplatz – we bought a new tree topper, called a “Spitz”

By 4 o’clock its dark out, and the lights make everything magical. It was hard to leave, especially when one quick ride on the self-powered scrap metal train turned into a 30’minute wait (queuing Austrian style is a contact sport) and an amazing 30 lap ride. Not even 6 and those girls either tricked or charmed the operator into letting them stay on. We couldn’t say goodbye so we brought our friends home and Duke cooked a delicious spontaneous pasta dinner for Allison’s best friend and everyone else.

Sunday we made a day trip to Bratislava,

the markets there are also wonderful and I enjoyed the cozy cafes and charming streets. Even the bus stop was cozy and charming!


Post- Thanksgiving Dark Days

An old note from November— posting from the train.

Grad school is in full swing with the ups and downs of deadlines and revelations about life. More stressful is trying to find the balance between discipline and comfort for two little people ruled by their emotions.

The Christmas markets are already open and we met friends last Sunday for a lovely, but cold and dark afternoon, they have a manger with pigs, goats and sheep – the highlight was a tiny baby, but he belongs to my friend. Allison enjoyed playing in the hay and a rollercoaster you have to pedal yourself.

We also cooked a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a Turkey that barely fit in our European oven.

Meanwhile, advertisements for Black Friday Sales range between describing it anthropologically as an American tradition or a historical study of internet shopping.

Der „Black Friday Sale“ ist ein in den USA traditioneller Einkaufstag mit vielen Aktionen und gilt als Startschuss für das Weihnachtsgeschäft.

Mittlerweile ist der Black Friday nicht mehr nur ein US-amerikanisches Phänomen. Denn durch die Zeiten des Internethandels, in denen viele Leute bei den großen multinationalen Versandhäusern einkaufen, greift der Black Friday immer mehr um sich und erreicht damit auch Europa. In Deutschland bot erstmals Apple im Jahr 2006 die aus den USA bekannten Rabatte auch in den deutschen Stores an. Seit dem folgen immer mehr Händler Apples Beispiel und starten auch hierzulande am Black Friday mit dem Weihnachtsgeschäft und besonderen Preisnachlässen.

Someone else ran an ad that Black Friday was Darth Vadar’s Birthday. It’s all a bit silly, since there is no Thanksgiving. A darker Austrian tradition is the Perchtenlauf- Devils Run- when St Nicholas’s evil sidekick, Krampus runs amok stealing bad children on Dec 5. It might be more fun to see a combination of the two dark days while the days are also significantly shorter and darker.