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Burton DeWilde | USLHC | USA

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Holiday Peaks

Holidays at CERN continually take me by surprise.

Between ever-pressing to-do lists, meeting schedules, deadlines, and emails, they just don’t demand the same anticipation — and participation — as they used to. Are there no holiday peaks above my day-to-day background?! Halloween was a 2-sigma deviation in an otherwise unremarkable work-week; Labor Day was observed only in theory; Father’s Day got swamped out by a 3D pixel test beam (sorry, Dad!). I mean, if you look up from your code one Friday and realize you still don’t have a costume for or ticket to the Young@CERN Halloween party, and you attempt to print out a Mark Zuckerberg mask to pair with that grungy old hoodie you used to wear, thinking maybe you could crash the party anyway, but the printer on your floor is out of toner, and the IT people are already gone for the weekend, and you could just go to that other party in Geneva where costumes aren’t even mentioned, all you have to do is pay a cover and buy a drink — I mean, physics never sleeps, and it rarely takes a holiday.

Also, for no particular reason, I keep missing holidays by traveling away from the places where they are observed. I spent Memorial Day in Hamburg for a beam telescope workshop at DESY; 4th of July in Paris to visit an old friend; Bastille Day in Cambridge for a conference on advances in radiation detector technology; la Fête de Genève in San Francisco for a summer school on neutrinos; and, most recently, Thanksgiving in Rome to visit another old friend. I didn’t find much in the way of holiday cheer, though I did keep finding the Higgs boson.

Plus, as an American living in Europe, I run into lots of holidays I wouldn’t normally celebrate — or know about in advance. A visit to Paris on May 1st coincided unfortunately with France’s Labor Day, on which even the Louvre was closed. November 5th was Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, which my friends and I celebrated in international company at a British store located in France, complete with fire and fireworks. An upcoming weekend is l’Escalade, a holiday unique to Geneva that commemorates a night four hundred years ago when a hard-working and quick-thinking housewife poured hot soup on an attacking French army and thereby saved the city. Seriously. If the snow clears up (Did I mention that the area has had record-breaking snowfall this week? Winter arrives with a vengeance!), I’ll probably celebrate in Old Town with hot soup and spiced wine. So good.

This post began like a complaint, but it wasn’t meant to be! I fault my opening: I should have written “Holidays at CERN continually surprise me.” It’s true! And without the negative implications and ensuing negative paragraph. (Amazing how that happens…) Yes, some holidays are spent at work, some are spent away, and some aren’t spent at all. Many are spent in unexpected or unconventional ways compared to holidays back in the States. Regardless, sometimes you just have to cut hard on the day-to-day background and celebrate a beautiful holiday peak. Happy Holidays, All!

— Burton 🙂

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