Monday, September 22, 2008

From Leiden with Love

Leiden is one of the best-kept secrets of Europe. A university town of 120,000 inhabitants (about 20% of them students and professors), full of everything one would expect in an old Dutch town – windmills (still working), little canals, winding cobblestone streets, coffee shops, fantastic chocolate emporia, big market on Saturday with almost everything (no kitchen sinks, but other appliances). We stayed at a lovely old family hotel on Rapenburg (Hotel de Doelen), personal and personable, just a stone's throw (but who would throw a stone here) from epicenter of this charming city.
All this peace, quiet and beauty is less than 20 minutes from Schipol itself (by train), 10 minutes from the Hague, and if the clean air and laid back atmosphere here makes you yearn for traffic and pollution, lovely Amsterdam is only 35 minutes by train.
My wife Shuli and I were here visiting our friends Prof. Jan Kijne and wife Irene, to discuss science as it relates to life (this happens sometimes) and give a talk to young masters students on creative thinking. These students are part of a unique masters (M.Sc.) program in which they have to come up with their own ideas for research, often coming up with unique projects on how people and animals behave and think. Most rewarding!
Hopefully tonight, our last night in Leiden, Jan and I will record "The Coomassie Blues", written fifteen years ago on our first trip to this magic place. If you are not a biologist, you may want to know that coomassie blue is a stain used to color and identify proteins on gels (which contain terrible, odious sulfur-containing molecules such as mercapto-ethanol). Tris is a buffering agent .

Here are the original words to the song:

All day Friday at the bench,
Can't get rid of this mercapto-stench
Full of Tris and full of booze
See, I got the Coomassie Blues.

I ain't doing very well,
Can't get rid of this awful smell,
Stink from my head down to my shoes,
Can't get rid of my Coomassie Blues

Got no woman, got no belle,
Got no proteins on my gel,
No Sue-Anne's, no Betty-Lou's
Just the smell of the Coomassie Blues

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