Friday, December 16, 2005

distant sounds

It is as if the chair underneath me had dissolved. I feel completely detatched from the material world. A dense envelope of sublime harmony engulfs me. The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1, and Boris Berezovsky is caressing the instrument as if it were his muse. It's an evening to forget reality, to sit back, relax and let music elevate the spirit. My thoughts wander on their own volition.

Things I miss about Salt Lake come back to my mind. Endless months of sunshine with no rain that would spoil nights out. The Roasting Company serving the tastiest coffee within a few-hundred-mile radius. Walks at sunset when the last rays would soak green lawns and red brick in a intensly golden softness. Riding my mountain bike down the Original Trail on the other side of Big Mountain in summer, or dropping into four feet of powder the day Mineral Basin opened. Hearing Beethoven's Fourth symphony at Abravanel Hall.

Abruptly I awake. Is it possible to miss cultural sophistication after leaving Salt Lake, the city of Temple Square, rugged outdoors types, and endless suburbia? A few months ago I started to long for classical music. The desire became a craving, unfulfillable. Now I'm suffering badly from deprivation because Grenoble doesn't have a symphony hall. French cultivation is outclassed in the music department by a hick town out west. And Boris Berezovsky keeps visiting my CD player. Night after night.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

good bye, blue sky

About two weeks ago, it looked like winter was finally arriving. I awoke in the morning to a good 15 inches of snow on the ground and had to take the bus to lab. The snow started melting almost immediately and was only a wet memory two short days later. Since then, it has rained almost every day. The mountains had probably got a good amount of powder, but that was hard to tell from the valley. The clouds hang so low that the mountains were invisible for more than ten days.

This weekend brought change. Sunday was the second dry day in a row and for me the last day of the year going on a ride. It was pretty cold, but I was bundled up in five layers and not afraid of the frost. I really needed to move, especially since skiing season still hasn't started yet, despite all the precipitation.

So I grabbed my Cannondale and rode along the Isère to warm up. After about 15 miles I ventured into the Vercors. Since it's always arctic up there, I didn't plan on riding all the way to the top. I just wanted to give my legs a last little workout and see where the snow started. In the end I climbed quite high and was surrounded by nothing but white for a good while. Eventually, my frozen fingers made me turn around. They warmed up on the descent by some bizarre biological process all the while the wind sucked all heat from the rest of my body.

It ended up being a good two-and-a-half-hour ride without much pain or undue suffering. Still, I was amazed to see all the other riders out there. In summer I was wondering why so few are out on their bikes. Now it seems that about the same number (and probably the same people) ride in winter too. You might just have to be hard core to enjoy cycling around Grenoble where every other climb is a Cottonwood Canyon. I'm in good company.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

shoot to kill

You have to be stupid or drunk to claim, aboard a commercial airliner, to have a bomb in your backpack. Especially if you don't have one. You must expect to have guns pointed at you by those whose job it is to keep us safe. You will be neutralized. But how? In light of recent developments in the field of efficient interrogation and detainment techniques, what are your options?

If you are not a seasoned terrorist but a deranged fool or just an imbecile, you might think it's better to get killed by a rifle shot than being transported to an undisclosed location where Vice President Dick Cheney is personally going to pull you toe nails out. You would of course be wrong because the Vice President doesn't get his hands dirty, and dead.

All those who are still alive, and not being tortured, should take a few minutes to contemplate where our world is drifting to. This is the second time in a few months that a person has been killed in public space by law enforcers. Is shooting to kill at a slight suspicion the right response to the dangers that Western civilization faces? And what are the gravest dangers our civilization faces? Whose zeal is more worrying? And what are you going to do when the officer in black calls your name from behind you?