Language and Science

Written by Chad Cowan

As humans, we have always been drawn to stories, whether around the campfire, in print, on the stage or on the screen. It is no different, in science. The scientists I admire take our limited understanding of the world around us, craft a story and tell it. In a way, they are like poets and playwrights for the natural world.

T.S. Eliot begins the “Wasteland” with a line that has always stuck with me, “April is the cruelest month.” Now a resident of the cold northeast where he lived, I understand better than ever the sentiment. Although, I would argue it is March that has proven cruel this year by reminding us of winter’s doldrums. The last two months have been filled with work and colds and dark mornings and dark afternoons, but I see the beginnings of spring. At work, we are busy making plans for more social outings, including a company-wide event. At home, we are packing to go away for two weeks of glorious vacation in the Bahamas. Together these efforts combine what I seek in life, purpose, and joy. It has taken me years to realize that joy is not a private matter but found amongst those we love and those we live with and are together with. A hard truth to come by for a dedicated introvert. So, let’s hope some fun together will bring joy and make April seem less cruel.

As I have been reminded, this blog should speak about how my career path uses writing and language, so to business then. I am a scientist by training and now by mindset. In science, our greatest hope is to discover something worth communicating to others, be it a simple innovation or a deeper truth. As a native English speaker (if we as American’s can claim this), it has been my great fortune that the language of science is English, otherwise I may never have made progress in my chosen profession given my lack of facility in any other language. The reasons for English becoming the language of science are many and not worth re-hashing, but as of today, most if not practically all scientists communicate in a common language. We seek to share our insights and the problems we set ourselves against with the likeminded and learn from those who tilt against their own windmills but have inadvertently solved some of the riddles we seek to puzzle through.

As a result of our common language, I have travelled the world as an academic scientist and attended conferences on almost every continent (Antarctica is missing from my travels). It has been my pleasure to exchange information freely with scientists everywhere I’ve gone because we’ve agreed to communicate in a single language. Science and the community it fosters, transcends nations, cultures and creeds. In a way I have never witnessed in any other endeavor, except sports, it unites us. In my lab at Harvard, we had people from all over the world working together on a common problem. The same was true in the lab next door and the one across the country in California. In the company I’ve founded, it is the same. People from all walks of life gathered around a common purpose and united in their ability to exchange information in a common language.

A final digression, I have taught many scientists over the years how to ask questions and design experiments that will help them understand the answers. The most important lesson I have imparted to those I have worked with the longest is that the best scientists are often also the best at telling stories. As humans, we have always been drawn to stories, whether around the campfire, in print, on the stage or on the screen. It is no different, in science. The scientists I admire take our limited understanding of the world around us, craft a story and tell it. In a way, they are like poets and playwrights for the natural world.

My last words of wisdom for my students, is that whether we tell others stories or not, we are always telling ourselves a story. To make sure the facts as we have collected them agree with the story, we tell ourselves before we tell others. In other words, be willing to rewrite your own story rather than fall in love with the first draft. Otherwise, you may do the world a disservice and communicate a fiction versus a description of the wonderful world around us.

Written by Chad Cowan

One pig – one year – so many mouths fed

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

Traditionally, we process a whole pig in my organic restaurant at the beginning of the year. For us, this is pretty much the most exciting part of our work when it comes to processing animals. The variety of products that can be prepared from the whole animal is pretty unbelievable, as is how much yield we have from one animal and how many people eat from it. …

Traditionally, we process a whole pig in my organic restaurant at the beginning of the year. For us, this is pretty much the most exciting part of our work when it comes to processing animals. The variety of products that can be prepared from the whole animal is pretty unbelievable, as is how much yield we have from one animal and how many people eat from it.

Pork has a catastrophic image due to the slaughter industry, discounters, various scandals and contemptuous forms of husbandry and production. Of course, this is not the path we follow. We select a farm from the area and insist on exceptional quality.

For us, it is worth looking at the pig and the task entrusted to him on the farm. As an omnivore, the pig is responsible for using up leftovers on the farm – unused vegetables, unbackable cereals, catch crops, maybe even whey from the farm’s own cheese dairy. In return, the pig produces offspring, fertilizer for the fields, and of course, the entirety of his/her body, which we then process into food. The farms from which we obtain pigs have entrusted their animals with these tasks, in contrast to factory farming, which is about producing meat in the most effective way, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

In general, we only use old breeds of pigs, which, in contrast to industrial animals, offer significantly more fat and are in much better health. This year we processed a field pig for the first time. These animals are on the pasture all year round and can pursue their natural behavior, such as wallowing in the mud. I visited the farm last year with my daughter to get an idea of the ​​animal husbandry and to get to know the people who are responsible for the farm. We exchanged ideas extensively, got to know each other and learned a lot about farrow-to-finish pig farming.

We agreed to take over an animal in January.

When the time comes and we pick up the slaughtered animal, the kitchen is on high alert for a week. It is an enormous challenge to process a whole animal in so many different ways while still keeping the restaurant open to our guests. We are talking about almost 150 kg slaughter weight and well over 15 different ways of preparing and preserving the product. For example, we process blood and offal into blood sausage, black pudding, and coarse liver sausage. The head is boiled and made into jelly and baked pralines. We salt a large quantity of ham, to use over the next few months and especially during the asparagus season. Then ham is also cold or hot smoked, air dried and cured. We make sausages for lunch, cook rinds for sauerkraut and prepare many pieces for main courses. Then rillette, lard and other sausages are boiled down. All in all, it is a lot of work and also a technical challenge. It requires a lot of organization and impeccable teamwork.

Once the work is done, we are eager to taste the products ourselves and are very proud to serve them to our guests at the restaurant. It is an absolute rarity to work with such exceptional quality and to prepare dishes from it.

I have acquired the tools of the trade over the years by reading specialized literature, attending internships with butchers, visiting slaughterhouses and participating in trainings digitally. Then came the time to try out what I learned, in practice, on actual products.

We at Wolfs Junge process the animals whole, because when we consume meat and take the life of a living being for our food, it is our responsibility to make sure it is treated with respect and used fully.

“Nose-2-Tail” is not a marketing strategy for us, but an integral part of the concept behind our restaurant. There is so much waste in the industrial slaughterhouse and in the wholesale trade, and the animals are treated anonymously and with such lack of dignity, that I would find it repugnant to use such products. Were we to order from these providers, we would know nothing about the origin of this meat, who raised the animal, where the animal was raised and what it was fed, where it was slaughtered, and and and … For us and our restaurant, it is essential to know the animals we process and to have a relationship with the people who raise and slaughter these animals.

By now, we have completely processed the pork in our kitchen and are in the process of serving it, little by little, much to the delight of our guests. We serve it in a variety of ways: at lunchtime we have the bratwurst described above, in the evening we roast coarse black pudding with olives and raisins as an intermediate course, and for the main course we grill the neck and combine it with beetroot from the surrounding area.

We are absolutely committed to the high-quality of the food we serve. We wish to educate our guests and to explain why we think pigs are important on farms, how diversely they can be processed, and what cultural background these processes have.

What actively moves me personally are the moral and ethical foundations and problems that come with the consumption of meat. But to write about this here would go beyond the scope of this blog entry. At the moment, what I can say is that I take on this responsibility for myself and for my restaurant and that I look forward to the time when we can cut and taste our self-smoked ham in a few weeks, right on time for asparagus season.

Written by Sebastian Junge; Translation by H. Runte

The French Way

Written by Valérie Luebken; Translation by H. Runte

The French Way for me is the attention to detail, small nuances that, without necessarily being flashy or expensive, attract attention, make you cheerful and beautiful, or enhance an interior or an outfit. …


Question Dr. J: As a diplomat, you have lived in several different countries. What aspects of your daily routine remained French, regardless of the country you were living in, and what habits or rituals did you pick up from your stays abroad?

Answer Valérie Lübken: I would like to start by emphasizing just how much this topic has preoccupied me throughout my career: as a diplomat, how do you find the right dose of, on the one hand, representing your country abroad, and on the other hand, integrating into the life of the country you are working in? It’s a question of balance between finding comfort – physical, human and intellectual – that comes from „being part of the local culture“, and maintaining a necessary distance from the representation and the defense of the image of the country for which we work every day?

I would say that my answer to this question has been chiseled by my experiences, and the parallel evolution of my professional and family life. Things happened naturally with the birth of my daughters in the United States to whom I instinctively wanted to pass on my French culture during our stays in Los Angeles and Washington DC.

Three major aspects of my life have always remained “French,” regardless of the country where I have lived:

1. The rhythm of the days, the “temporality”

Even after many years in the United States and Germany, I continue to get up later, I take a longer time to eat, and I take a break for sports around noon. I work best in the late afternoon, and I love going out late and living in the night. For example, I was rather frustrated during an exchange with the German Embassy in Vienna where I had taken over the position of press adviser for a few weeks. The press meetings started at 8 a.m. on Fridays, and we always finished by 2 p.m. at the latest. Afterwards, I wandered the streets of Vienna aimlessly, and felt a vague sense of guilt…

2. The second aspect is a lot more typical and expected, but I have to mention it: the food

I paid a fortune in Arizona to eat a little cheese, or traveled miles to LA to find foie gras (which is banned in California, by the way).

I have to mention the French ritual of long dinners with friends that extend into the evening without a set time where guests have to leave. During these meals, we recreate the world, as they say, and we discuss politics, a behavior considered impolite in the United States, for example.

3. Finally, French literature. It is an anchor for me when I miss France. It is my buoy, my compass.

Let’s say that I read foreign literature when I’m in France and a lot of French books when I’m away from France!

The habits that I have adopted now come to me unconsciously, but here they are:

  • I love the American warmth in human contacts and especially when meeting new people. This is so important, and we still don’t always manage this in France.
  • And then… I adore German bread and the habit of having a solid breakfast in the morning!


Question Dr. J : When I cross the border into France, I walk differently, talk differently, I react differently to jokes, comments, criticism, etc. How are you different when you are in France? And do you feel different when you do get to be in the Hexagone?

Answer Valérie Lübken: Yes, I am different in France, especially when I approach people. Things are less formal. I am less careful. I often use humor to solve problems, and it works most of the time. Even with serious topics, I use a touch of irony that I know how to mold and navigate when the cultural environment is more familiar to me.

But I must also admit that, as soon as I arrive in France, I instinctively adapt a more „grouchy,“ critical tone, an attitude that “everything is going badly,” when in fact, this is only a façade: life is beautiful, but you are not allowed to say this!


Question Dr. J: If asked to name a few people who, for you, represent France, which persons would you mention? What politicians, artists, writers, scientists, etc. are typically French, or could best represent France today?

Answer Valérie Lübken: There would be dozens of them, but let me start with the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, as well as the European deputy, Nathalie Loiseau, for their beautiful European convictions, Annie Ernaux and her sarcastic declarations, but also Simone Weil, Pierre Soulages, who continue in their own way and beyond their disappearance, to represent France and its history, Thomas Pesquet, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Alain Ducasse and many others.

I am very proud of all the foreign artists or artists of foreign origin who have succeeded in France and made it their homeland. They are perhaps the most typically French.


Question Dr. J : The French are known for their “savoir vivre” and that “je ne sais quoi” that makes them special. What advice would you give to all those who, like me, stand in awe of the “French way” and strive to be just a little more like the French?

Answer Valérie Lübken: The French Way for me is the attention to detail, small nuances that, without necessarily being flashy or expensive, attract attention, make you cheerful and beautiful, or enhance an interior or an outfit.

This lies in the charm of finding those hidden little gems, accessories from a flea market (a scarf, a belt), or in incorporating contrasts, for example, between the top and the bottom of an outfit – a chic dress with more sporty boots – or wearing bright lipstick with barely any eye makeup.

Very small things that mark and express a personality.

Written by Valérie Luebken; Translation by H. Runte

Coach Pop’s Views at the Start of 2023

Written by István Javorek

New Year’s resolutions are not for me, because I see the new year as a mere continuation of the previous year. For example, I begin 2023, looking forward to continuing an activity I started last year. A little while ago, I started helping Szekler (Székely) children from the villages in Hargita County, who have chosen ice hockey as their favorite sport. I have been …

I. Question Dr. J: It’s 2023 … As you went over into 2023, what were you thankful for and what New Year’s resolutions did you make?

Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):

I didn’t even notice that a year ended. Ever since the pandemic started, I have been losing track of what day of the week it actually is, even though I am quite busy with daily gardening, other chores around the house, conducting one-on-one training sessions and keeping in touch with my clients over the Internet. Does time sensitivity decrease after retirement?

The year begins with me being grateful for the fact that, except for a small upper arm bone fracture as well as some joint discomfort related to age and performance sports, I can call myself healthy. Thanks to my 14,000 – 15,000 steps a day, walking fast in a nearby park, and my daily training with light weights, my resting heart rate is now 40 bpm and I have almost kept my body weight. Unfortunately, my muscles have lost some of their former tone and I am six kilograms lighter than my competitive body weight. To look on the positive side, though, I have not gained weight and will be able to keep the same belt for my pants this year as well.

New Year’s resolutions are not for me, because I see the new year as a mere continuation of the previous year. For example, I begin 2023, looking forward to continuing an activity I started last year. A little while ago, I started helping Szekler (Székely) children from the villages in Hargita County, who have chosen ice hockey as their favorite sport. I have been developing suitable outdoor training plans for them and providing them with all sorts of advice. I have also been mentoring the coaches of the Gyergyószék and Csikszék Jég-Vi-Har (Jégkorongozó – Rural Hargita) school hockey teams in the area of strength and conditioning. Being able to contribute to the development of rural children from thousands of kilometers away, fills me with overwhelming emotion and gives me an unbelievable sense of satisfaction and joy. I hope this venture will be successful, and I would be very happy if more children from these hidden villages in Hargita County could grow up to become successful ice hockey players.

II. Question Dr. J: By the time this blog is published, you will have turned 80 years old. How do you feel? How are you better at this age and what has become more difficult?

How old did you say I was? Good God!  My joints will disagree, but the rest of me still feels 28 years old.

All my life I have enjoyed creating something new. I have always carried a small notebook to jot down spontaneous ideas. I still have new ideas to this day. For example, I have been training a 12-year-old boy with some physical disabilities. He motivates me to developed new training plans for him, and I take tremendous pleasure in watching him develop into a healthy athlete. He may not become a world champion, and it is a challenge for me to decide on the most suitable training methods for his particular physical and emotional needs and abilities.

Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):

But to answer your question specifically, I feel better now, in old age, because I have accumulated experience and have only gained in confidence over time.

What is more difficult now? Nothing. I have always been an optimist and have never looked back. I have always believed that there was a solution to every problem. You just needed to analyze the situation thoroughly, believe in your success, and fight relentlessly.

I have always tried to instill a positive attitude towards life in my athletes and my students. I have taught them to consciously choose to laugh and be cheerful, to seize opportunities and to overcome difficult situations.

III. Question Dr. J: Do you think aging is a hardship or a privilege? How and why?

Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):

This is not a question I ask myself. As the French say: “C’est la vie,” as in, “That’s life!” I do not consider old age to be an advantage or a disadvantage. It is the natural manifestation of life on earth.

IV. Question Dr. J:You were a coach all your life. In very general terms, what advice could you give us about working out?

Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):

In sports, as in all areas of life, there are always new methods and new innovations. According to the innovators, the training methods have irrefutable advantages. It is interesting to me that even new variations of thousand-year-old yoga are invented, especially by those so-called experts who tempt naive clients with some sensational exercises. But also, if we look at my field of athletics, weightlifting and all-sports physical fitness training, the sport itself has not changed, only the equipment and the technical implementation.

Today, it is difficult to imagine modern physical training without the huge repertoire of exercise variations made possible by weightlifting (including barbell and dumbbell exercises, calisthenics, etc.).

Dumbbell exercises are my favorite, because they are generally safe, do not require a large practice area, and are easy to teach. They can be done simultaneously and very efficiently with a large number of athletes, the exercises are dynamic and have a large range of motion, and a wide variation of movements is possible. Dumbbell exercises help develop muscle strength, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, flexibility, and general fitness. 

Dumbbell exercises should be combined with a variety of plyometrics, ballistics, and stretching-shortening exercises.

V. Question Dr. J: What are you looking forward to the most in this 80th year of your life?

Answer István Javorek (aka Coach Pop):

To see the Javorek clan together. To hug my daughter and my grandchildren. And, as I wrote in a poem in the first difficult months of my escape from communism in 1982:

“…Believe, my little darling,
We will be together again next year,
We will have fun and travel the world…”

Written by István Javorek

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