Monday, 15 November 2010

The littlest astrophysicist

While many a Disney princess had gifts bestowed on her at birth by magical fairy godmothers, the graduate student community offered their own type of benefaction to our newest department member, postdoc Evert's baby son, Arthur.

"If we all start speaking in Klingon, then the baby will become fluent!"

"How many actually speak...?" I cut-off my own question, deciding I didn't wish to know the answer.

Fortunately for Arthur, the languages he is most likely to first adopt are English and Dutch, since his parents are both from The Netherlands. (After which, a bazillion more will be added; because the Dutch roll like that.) Unlike his parents however, Arthur is also a Canadian, by virtue of him being born in the hospital here in Hamilton. As I counted the fingers of the tiny boy, I wondered if an equivalent term to 'army brat' should be created for children who seemingly have a random extra nationality, unconnected to any in their family. Perhaps 'postdoc spawn'. It could catch on!

In celebration of their son's birth, Evert and Tine brought in a traditional Dutch treat for the arrival of a newborn, "beschuit met muisjes" or "biscuits with little mice". This tradition stretches back to the 17th century and consists of a rusk-like biscuit sprinkled with sugar coated anise seeds. Blue and white seeds are used to celebrate the birth of a boy and pink and white are used for a girl. The name 'mice' comes from the little stem on the anise seed that resembles a tail.

Naturally, the birth of a baby results in many challenges for all concerned. For me, it was working out what the hand-made card announcing Arthur's birth said, since it was all written in Dutch. For Evert, new techniques that simultaneously supported stellar evolution investigations and baby evolution support needed to be developed. The currently favoured method is a one-handed devotion to each task. It could be that while Arthur's first spoken language is Dutch, his first written one is going to be FORTRAN.

[While no comment is made in the text, the reader is left to determine the gender-related split between primary interest in baby / food that the above photos suggest.]

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