Late Fall / Winter Reading with a Scientist

Written by Chad Cowan

Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do and it remains my number one past time for relaxation.

Late fall and early winter are very busy times for me, both at work and at home. First at home, we have two birthdays to celebrate and multiple holidays. My youngest son, Ellery, joined the double-digit club and turned 10 this October. Ellery has mild autism, and he is deeply fascinated by giraffes. We have gone “all in” with his obsession and his room and much of his learning seems to center on giraffes (or other animals).

Last year at his birthday, his two large stuffed giraffes, Super Doctor Mummy Raffie and Tall Neck, were married by his grandfather a sea Captain at a lovely party attended by friends and family members. This year, the young couple was expecting, and we threw a baby shower for his 10th birthday party. We celebrated the arrival of “twin” baby giraffes with cake and had several baby animals join the party for people to hold and play with. A good time was had by all.

This event was followed by Halloween, which we have perfected if the objective is to collect enough candy to eat until Christmas (we may have over done it and gotten enough to last until Easter!). Next up is one of our favorite national holidays, my lovely wife Lindsay’s birthday. More cake, more stuffed animals, and good times.

Then Thanksgiving, which we hosted for 18 people and made sure we had all the family favorites, turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, pies, cake and of course ice cream. On the horizon is our yearly trip to New York City. We plan to visit the Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum this year. We usually catch a show but were unable to come to a consensus on whether to see the Rockettes or a Broadway play so may skip it this season. Finally, we will spend Christmas in the British Virgin Islands on a sailboat with friends.

At work, we just achieved 95% of our corporate goals for the 2022 (hooray!), finished a private financing, completed our performance management reviews, and set new Corporate Goals for 2023. We welcomed our 50th employee to our rapidly growing team and are moving to our new office and lab space. We’ve been so busy, we’ve all agreed to have our holiday party sometime next year when we can finally catch our breath and celebrate what we’ve been able to accomplish!

The two most selfish things I do every day are exercise and read. Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do and it remains my number one past time for relaxation. According to my Kindle app, I have read for 207 weeks in a row, with a current consecutive streak of 146 days. This year on Kindle I have read 37 novels. I read anything and everything, but still have a soft spot for science fiction and fantasy novels, my favorite sci fi novel this year was “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson and favorite fantasy series was the “Age of Madness” trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. I have to give a nod to a trilogy that I found unbelievably entertaining, “The Scholomance” series by Naomi Novik. I have recently begun reading more non-fiction books and some that made the list this year include, “How Not to Be Wrong” by Jordan Ellenberg (a delightful book about using math to make better decisions), “Algorithms to Live By” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths (more of the same), “Popular” by Mitch Prinstein (which takes a hard look at the neuro-and socio-biology of popularity), and “Behave” by Robert Sapolsky (which integrates psychology, neurology and sociology to help understand human behavior). All in all a good year of reading.

Reading also is one of the main ways our family gets together. We still read either poems or passages from books at every dinner we sit down to. We have recently made this a bit more light-hearted for the boys’ sakes and two family favorites are a book poems, “Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs” by R.D. Rosen et al. and an updated field guide to the birds of North America, called “The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America” by Matt Kracht. These have been huge hits as they are hilarious and irreverent. Caution, they both should come with language warnings as they use some very off-color descriptors to good effect.

Finally, I read almost every night to my youngest son, who in addition to autism has profound dyslexia. I want to make sure he learns to love the joy of stories and books and for several years his mental sophistication has been well ahead of his reading level, so rather than have him pay the price I am delighted to read books of all levels for his enjoyment. We just finished the entire Rick Riordan Greek Myths multibook series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus and the Trial of Apollo). I am proud to report that we co-read the last book together (I read a page or two, he read a page or two), a major step forward in his literacy. Perhaps more enjoyable, has been listening to him read aloud the books we read every December in the run up to Christmas. Just last night he read us, “The Little Fir Tree” by Hans Christen Andersen. It is amazing to see another reader blossom before my eyes.

Written by Chad Cowan

Of Geese, Ducks and Ham

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

What the month of November also brings to our kitchen is so-called waterfowl, or in other words, duck, geese, and other aquatic birds or winged game. …

Autumn has unmistakably reached Hamburg since my last entry. The last warm days are over. It rains a lot, and it gets dark very early. We live in a perpetual gray haze. Temperatures are falling and the last late summer vegetables from our producers are coming in. We have finally harvested all the vegetables from our own fields as well. It was a great year that produced an excellent harvest and provided us with wonderful new impressions and experiences. Now, it is time to begin pickling and processing all the vegetables we have harvested ourselves or have received from our producers.

What the month of November also brings to our kitchen is so-called waterfowl, or in other words, duck, geese, and other aquatic birds or winged game. Maurice Blank, a longtime companion from Lemsahl-Mellingstedt, a neighborhood in the north-east of Hamburg, has been raising small groups of ducks and geese for us for a long time.

Maurice serves a few private customers and otherwise only our restaurant, and we feel incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy the fruits of his work at the end of the years.

We process waterfowl in as many different way as we do domestic pigs. We make rillette and paté, both braised and pan-fried. We make pastrami. And best of all, we can make our very own cold-smoked ham again. This is only possible in the really cold months. The temperature has to fall below 10 degrees at night so that we can cold smoke the salted pieces of meat over a longer period of time. We can typically do this starting in November, and we truly celebrated this.

The knowledge and craft we use to create our cold-smoked ham has been
fascinating fellow chefs and guests for a while now. Smoked products have been an integral part of our menus and cuisine from the very beginning.

We use ancient preservation methods that help create a feeling of well-being and bring back great memories for many people, including me. Our hams represent the type of cuisine we stand for. They are unique and can only be enjoyed here, at Wolfs Junge, and they unmistakably bear our signature. In the spring, for example, when we will cut open our ham from our domestic pigs after 4 months of ripening and smoking, just in time for the first asparagus, I am always filled with great pride in what we do. The knowledge that this ham can only be enjoyed here, in combination with other unique products, is a superb feeling.

Tomorrow, I will try our first goose ham. After 4 weeks of preparation, it is now ready. Its taste will transport me and my taste buds full into the autumn spirit.

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

A scientist’s weekend

Written by Chad Cowan

I have just changed careers and am challenged every day at my job. For most of my professional life I was a professor at Harvard University, where I taught undergraduate and graduate students and ran a research lab. Eight years ago, I helped start and then led the research of a new company that sought to harness the newly discovered CRISPR/Cas gene editing system to make medicines.

Fall is in full swing here in New England. It is always hard to let the last days of summer go, but with their passing comes the routine of school and work. I am definitely a man of routine. I wake early (5:30am) and spend the first 30 minutes of the day feeding the dog, catching up on reading and the news and getting my kids out of bed. I exercise, a run or a walk or yoga, anything to get the blood moving. Then it is time for work.

I have just changed careers and am challenged every day at my job. For most of my professional life I was a professor at Harvard University, where I taught undergraduate and graduate students and ran a research lab. Eight years ago, I helped start and then led the research of a new company that sought to harness the newly discovered CRISPR/Cas gene editing system to make medicines. We did the early pre-clinical work to build medicines for CRISPR Therapeutics, which now has several medicines in patients. Today, many people with sickle cell disease no longer have any disease symptoms and lead largely normal lives as a result of our first medicine at CRISPR Therapeutics. This forever changed the course of my career and has put me on the path to working on the commercial side of drug discovery, or “biotech” as it is often referred to here in the Boston area. We have combined some of the key discoveries from my academic research lab with several additional advances in the field of stem cell
differentiation to form a new company Clade Therapeutics.

At Clade, our goal is to make cell-based medicines accessible to everyone. The success of CAR-T cell therapies, wherein a patient’s own T cells are modified to express a chimeric-antigen receptor or CAR that targets cancer cells has proven the value of cellular medicines in fighting and in essence curing otherwise lethal cancers. The problem with these therapies is that they are only available at a few very highly specialized research hospitals, and they cost millions of dollars to produce. We aim to change that by differentiating induced pluripotent stem cells into T cells that look and function the same as the T cells taken from patients. Arm these with a CAR, and you now have T cell therapies for everyone with a given cancer. We hope that by changing the scale and consistency with which these cell medicines can be produced we will also change their costs, so that in the long run these medicines become available globally for every patient in need. Day-to-day, I am excited by working with our research team to overcome some of the technical challenges that stand in the way of making our goal into a reality. I enjoy the process of solving hard problems together with some enormously talented scientists. This part of my job is not so different from running an academic research lab. The new challenges for me lie in learning to build and lead an organization that has all of the critical skills and know-how to make new medicines. In particular, I am not a gifted people manager, so learning to listen and understand everyone’s perspective and knit those together into a tapestry of teamwork has been my biggest learning experience. I love learning and I am blessed that my new career has stretched both my academic knowledge and my people skills to their limits.

After work, I love spending time with my family. An important part of our day is dinner all together whenever possible. We sit at our dining room table, light the candles, eat on the fancy china, use the silver, and discuss our days. One of favorite things to do is to have one member of the family read a poem aloud. We keep several volumes of poetry next to the table for just this occasion. We have an eclectic mix of poems, some based on science, some from the acknowledged masters of the art and a few irreverent items such as poems from Cookie Monster and those told from the point of view of family pets. No matter who the author is we usually have a laugh or a thoughtful moment.

As my sons are both young and full of energy, we also have a new family rule that if you leave the table without asking to be excused you have to do a “chicken dance”. We get one of these almost every night and it leaves all of us with a smile on our face.
This weekend we have the regular fall sports for our guys, soccer and tennis and the Annisquam Village Arts and Crafts Fair. The Arts and Crafts fair brings together artists and craftsmen from all over Cape Ann (this is the small island we live on that has the larger cities of Gloucester and Rockport). I volunteered to work the “floor” on Saturday helping people with their purchases and keeping an eye on the merchandise. All of the proceeds will go to benefit the local church and the Annisquam Village Hall Association, which is a community center, library, community theater and gallery open to everyone. So, a packed weekend with fun for all ages.

Written by Chad Cowan

An 80-year-old gladiator and his wife

Written by István Javorek

As you already know from my introduction, I am István Javorek, a youthful eighty-year-old gladiator. Today, I would like to tell you what’s on my mind and what I have been up to lately.

Written by István Javorek

As you already know from my introduction, I am István Javorek, a youthful eighty-year-old gladiator. Today, I would like to tell you what’s on my mind and what I have been up to lately.
Unfortunately, as it is sometimes the case with elderly gladiators, I recently slipped down the stairs and broke my upper arm. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, my dear wife developed a terrible backache that has rendered her completely immobile.
So you see, gladiators have their problems, too. What’s important is how we deal with these problems.
As a trainer, I have been active all my life, so I recover from injuries more easily and get over illnesses faster. Easier and faster, but not without willpower and perseverance! Obviously, as a sportsman, I have always trained on a daily basis. For the time being, unfortunately, my upper body training is very limited due to my injury.

But my legs are fine, and I have no problem walking! While I do my physical therapy and work on regaining movement and strength in my injured arm, I walk eighteen thousand steps every day at a nearby park with lots of rolling hills, and I try to eat healthy.
In my wife’s case, because she has been quite inactive for several years, a recovery is considerably more complicated. However, she, too, must try! And if she can do it, believe me, so can you!
Due to the complete or partial seclusion of the two-year pandemic, the population of the world is in dire need of exercise. Each and every one of us should be doing some program of exercises on a regular basis. The exercises have to be easy to perform and should be tailored to everyone’s specific needs and time limitations. And this goes especially for the elderly! Only, I don’t like to say the elderly, so I refer to my clients in my age group as the Aging Youth.
During our short life on earth, we should take care of our health, our most precious treasure, because the longer we are healthy, the longer we can enjoy the small pleasures of the „Dolce Vita.“
The sad fact is that, unfortunately, most of the time we start exercising only after an illness knocks us out, and, instead of dumbbells, we „press the bed!“ The secret to a long life is movement, action, work done with pleasure, and a balanced lifestyle in which exercise should have a prominent place.
I believe that if your cells are filled with joy, they retain their vitality for longer. I try to remind my clients and athletes every day that crying takes a lot of energy and makes you depressed, while smiling is all you need to feel happy!
So, right now, life has thrown me and my wife a few curve balls. But every morning, we still try to do our best. For my wife, for the moment, this means waking up with a smile on her face, despite the pain she is experiencing. It means having the willpower to go regularly to her physical therapy and believing that tomorrow the pain will be less.

It means taking small steps and celebrating every single achievement – being able to sit, being able to tie her shoes, being able to stand and cook again (one of my wife’s favorite activities)! For me, it means helping my wife as best as I can while not forgetting to take care of myself. It means going out into the sunshine and reconnecting with nature. It means staying as active as I possibly can. But it also means having to accept that my body cannot do what it could when I was not an aging youth, but a young man! And throughout these realizations and efforts, it means staying positive and hopeful and optimistic about the future. So let me hear you all say it: “Yes, I love it!” And that’s what’s on my mind these days. Let’s see what I have to say next month.
In the meantime, let me leave you with these two images of my wife and me exercising. My wife is using a little device I developed to help her stretch. It’s very practical, because she can just put it on one of our doors. As for me, I am outside, in my favorite park near our house.

French women in politics and women diplomats

Written by Valérie Luebken; Translation by H. Runte

This being my first article for the 4Corners blog, I would like to tell you a little about French women in politics and women diplomats.
When asked to speak about France, one of the topics I like to discuss concerns the representation and the career paths of women, because a lot of progress is being made in this area! Please judge for yourself…

Written by Valérie Luebken; Translation by H. Runte

Dear readers, I am slowly getting used to my new role as French Consul General to Northern Germany and am delighted to have started discovering the cultural richness and diversity of the magnificent city of Hamburg. This being my first article for the 4Corners blog, I would like to tell you a little about French women in politics and women diplomats.
When asked to speak about France, one of the topics I like to discuss concerns the representation and the career paths of women, because a lot of progress is being made in this area!
Please judge for yourself:


At the national level and according to figures from July 2022, there are for example:

  • 35% women in the Senate
  • 37% in the National Assembly
  • 20% in town halls, 45% in municipal councils
  • 20% as county heads, 51% in the county council

We can therefore see that the higher you go in the hierarchy of power, the less women are represented. An example: only 20% of mayors and less than a third of regional leaders are women. In the National Assembly, only 37.3% of women are represented, i.e. 215 out of a total of 577 deputies. We are still far from having achieved perfect equality, even if, for the first time in the history of France, a woman has been elected president of the National Assembly, Ms. Yael Braun Pivet.
In the Senate, the proportion of women is increasing, but this trend is slow and parity will theoretically only be achieved in 2026. Women now occupy 35.1% of seats compared to 25% in 2014, partly due to a commitment to parity, which requires candidate nominations from both sexes.
A brief reminder of the laws that have facilitated these changes Laws for parity in politics:

  • In 1999, a constitutional reform that sets quotas for women was adopted: parties that do not include at least 50% of candidates from both sexes have to pay a fine. Two laws in 2000 and 2007 support this regulation.
  • The law for effective equality between women and men
  • The introduction of paternity leave (in 2021) is also part of recent reforms, thus furthering greater equality between men and women
  • The French experience therefore shows that real equality between women and men can only be the result of a collective political will – not a happy coincidence of history. France sees quotas as a useful tool to achieve gender equality.
    Equality laws have helped improve the position of women in politics, but women still remain largely excluded from leadership positions.

This takes place in a worrying international context.
Women and girls are the first to be affected by poverty, conflicts (the example of the Ukraine) and climate change. Their place in society confronts them with difficulties and discrimination everywhere and in all areas, a reality exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and its consequences.
In some countries, sexual violence is also used as a weapon of war to terrorize the population.
Finally, the consequences of the pandemic are particularly serious with regard to the decline in economic activity and the loss of jobs for women. The sectors most affected by the crisis are tourism, gastronomy, and service providers.
This is why our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has placed equality at the center of France’s external policies and actions.

Since 2016, France’s policy has been based on a strategic document entitled „France’s strategy for external actions for the benefit of the population that improve citizens’ rights and sexual and reproductive health for the period of 2021-2024.“
For us diplomats, this strategy includes:

  • a) A vade-mecum on equality between women and men – The practical implementation of parity at headquarters and in messages;
  • b) The appointment of correspondents for gender equality in each department of the ministry, permanent representation or embassy;
  • c) The promotion of equality between women and men in the framework of bilateral dialogues and international negotiations;

Things are changing, very positively, but of course, a lot remains to be done! The pay gap between men and women, for example, remains very high in France: in 2020, women received an hourly wage 15.8% lower than that of men.

And this is what I wanted to share with you today. Sincerely, Valerie Luebken

A new beginning after a busy year

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

Today is the last day of our fall holidays. Strictly speaking, this means that it is the last day of vacation for all of my other employees, myself not included. As a self-employed restaurant owner, I need to look over our inventory, repairs that need to be done, orders, etc. at least 2 days before we actually open again.

Today is the last day of our fall holidays. Strictly speaking, this means that it is the last day of vacation for all of my other employees, myself not included. As a self-employed restaurant owner, I need to look over our inventory, repairs that need to be done, orders, etc. at least 2 days before we actually open again. Menus have to be created and written, technicians have to be ordered for the broken equipment, the answering machine wants to be listened to and answered after a week’s vacation, not to mention email correspondence, bills, and general mail. It doesn’t help that I had to have 2 teeth pulled this morning.

The German word for self-employed is “selbstständig”, which is the union of the words, “selbst,” as in the self, alone, by itself, and the word, “ständig,” as in always, constantly. So, in German, when you say self-employed, you are basically saying always on-call and forever self-reliant. And this is so true! So, when the doctor asked me this morning if I needed to be written off sick, I just smiled and said, “No, thank you,” thinking of all the work that was awaiting my attention at the restaurant.

My thoughts are always somehow on the restaurant. Even during my week of vacation, after my family and I got over a Corona infection and recharged our batteries briefly, my thoughts quickly turned again to future business and errands.
You can never really switch off the needs of the restaurant! We are actually facing a fresh start at the restaurant. My deputy head chef is leaving the company in the third week of October. He worked for us for over 4 years and helped me remodel the restaurant and set up the kitchen. Another cook is leaving with him – I may tell you this very special story in another month’s entry. We also parted ways with our first host this year. By the end of the month, all the original crew members will have left and been replaced. But, we welcome these circumstances and see in these developments and opportunities for change and improvement.

However, it all still creates a lot of dust and work.
Ultimately, I am responsible for all processes, decisions, and transactions at my restaurant – sometimes more, sometimes less. When managers leave us, of course there is more work for me. On the other hand, this opens the door for upcoming employees, and there is enormous potential to awaken undiscovered talents and to develop the restaurant even further.
Whether facing a small or a substantial new beginning, we have always managed. We mastered Corona lockdowns, survived a kitchen fire and the lengthy renovations that followed, and many other new beginnings, and will manage again this time. We are coming out of 2 very exhausting pandemic years, in which we were plagued by many worries, and we are sliding into the next crisis, with no time to even take a deep breath. It is therefore once again a new beginning without a chance to rest up beforehand. I am not really in good spirits, but I do still have strength and an unconditional sense of perseverance and determination!
In this first entry, I have written little about our culinary art, but have hopefully given you some insight into my unsteady, chaotic, and challenging everyday workplace.

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte