Monday, July 4, 2011


283. A conversation between researchers. Coming back to the offices after a Coke break, I discover that my door was locked. "You could come to my office and see the red pants if you like," Princess Peach offers some entertainment while I wait for Cassandra to come back. "Mmmm," I am mentally weighing up my alternatives. "Or you could just stand against the door," Princess Peach points out that I don't have any. Five seconds later, we are in her office. "See, it's red," Princess Peach holds up the folded pair of orange pants. "Looks orange to me..." "No, it's red," Princess Peach replies, because this is how debates work: Each team repeats its own opinion, preferably verbatim, until one team is bored and gives up. Everyone learns this from kindergarten. "No, it's orange..." 
Before the debate gets the chance to be further repetitive, my office-neighbour walks in. "There is a trap!" he announces, "the chair is broken!" If Princess Peach and I are concerned for the chair that isn't even his, we do not show it. "Which colour do you think this is?" "Bright orange," I helpfully give him a clue. "Come on it's red!" Princess Peach has her own clue. "Well, it can be many things but it's definitely not bright orange..."

Somehow, real work still gets done in our corridor.

284. "There is no ice-cream left??" asks Bowser, entering the coffee room. 
Earlier, an unusually large group of us have gone to La Bastoche for an usually long lunch, as the cafeteria (our normal spot) this week is crowded with over a thousand of participants of an international conference. When the collective payment tallied significantly over the bill and no one wanted to claim the difference, Daisy suggested that we would use the money to buy ice-cream. As a result, less than two hours later, we have taken yet another long break from work for afternoon snack, not that anyone really needs it after all the pasta and fries. Wanting to finish some work, Bowser has been the last to arrive, and now appears disappointed by the lack of ice-cream on the table, except for the little bits inside used plastic cups. After finding out the (obvious) hidden location of the remaining ice-cream, Bowser takes half a cup of the tiramisu-flavoured, then passes the container over to Princess Peach. 
"Here, have some more!" Princess Peach heaps a gigantic spoon onto Bowser's cup. 
"No, no, I have a body, I have a reputation-," Bowswer protests. 
Daisy, Bower's officemate, interrupts, "You had a Twix and two Cokes before lunch..."

285. Late evening. Living room. "So, a state is said to be sticky if...," I gesture wildly at the laptop screen, naively hoping that somehow my hand movements would aid the understanding of a quantum physicist and a public servant as they listen to my applied probability talk. Sitting, the quantum physicist scribbles something down; standing, the public servant frowns, seemingly unable to decide whether to fall asleep on the spot or to laugh. 

Neither had volunteered to be in this situation: the quantum physicist had asked if I wanted to go for an evening walk, citing packing and preparation for presentation, I had said no but offered strawberries and baileys in exchange for his motivating me to actually prepare my talk; the public servant, coming home after a weekly evening theatre class, had begun to listen to the rehearsal out of curiosity, then out of politeness. There is only so much politeness one can have. Slowly, the public servant walks backward, trying to escape unnoticed and failing, because performers usually notice when the number of audience is reduced by half. Caught in the act, "I should, uhm, sleep, but, err, thank you! For the talk...," the public servant stammers. "I feel much more intelligent, now that I know what sticky states are, and when they, uhm, err, travel..," he bravely continues, then mutters to the quantum physicist, "Good luck!" Reaching the doorway, the public servant remembers something and turns around, "Il y a de la bière dans le frigo, si tu veux..."

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