Funding

Recently we received the DFF 2 research project grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research, which will support a number of investigations into synesthesia.

The Synesthesia Project

dff-logoThe Synesthesia Project have recently received a grant for a three year project on the perceptual effects of synesthesia and how they relate to prior experience, entitled “Synaesthesia – the Roles of Association Learning and of Differential Brain Development“. The project involves three full-time positions including part time involvement from a number of researchers already part of The Synesthesia Project; from Denmark (Thomas Alrik Sørensen (PI), Maria, Nordfang, Morten Storm Overgaard) and Iceland (Árni Gunnar Ásgeirsson). Moreover, the project has a number of international partners which recently was extended to include partners from England, Iceland, USA, China, and Japan. Currently the project is set to begin in the fall of 2016 and run over a three year period (announcement from the Danish Council for Independent Research).

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Brain Awareness Week in Denmark

BAW 2016.jpgWeek 11 is the international Brain Awareness Week, so during the last week I have been organizing a number of talks over three different cities in Denmark; Århus, Aalborg and Copenhagen. We received a grant from the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Dana foundation to support the events. The aim is to raise awareness of brain research and brain diseases for the general public, by having researchers make the different topic available for a broad audience. Over the duration of the week a number of good colleagues from Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience in Århus gave talks on topics from all areas of the brain (the full programme in Danish can be found on facebook.com/hjerneuge), also in the middle of the week we opened the doors for tours in the MEG/MR and PET labs. Additionally, two afternoon sessions one in Aalborg (tuesday) and one Copenhagen (thursday) allowed to make four different presentations including researchers from Universities in both cities.

During the planning we discovered a newly found network coordinating information on brain related events during week 11; hjernen i fokus (= the brain in focus) and added our events to their programme. Below is a map modified from hjernen i fokus of the events during week 11 in Denmark (our events highlighted in orange).

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Hjernen i fokus did an excellent job at gathering information of the different events and providing news updates throughout the week.

Thanks to all who attended our events, FENS and Dana, hjernen i fokus and the numerous people who helped advertise our events (University Extension and Universities in the three cities as well as the academy of young talents and the high schools in the regions) – and a huge thanks to all the different speakers who gave memorable presentations on the functions of the brain, how to investigate the brain, what happens when the brain fails, and how the brain relates to concepts like religion and consciousness. With the successful conclusion of the event I hope we can make a similar contribution to week 11 next year.

Hot dogs and Cocktail

In the heart of one of the old worker districts of Copenhagen, the now trendy Vesterbro area in walking distance from the central square and the main railway station you can find Foderbrættet, which is a nice place to grab a drink and a fast lunch – or even dinner.

When first I heard of the combination of hot dogs and cocktails I immediately thought of one of my favorite speakeasy bars in New York City – Please Don’t Tell – tucked away behind a secret entrance in Crif Dogs on E 8th street. Foderbrættet is not a speakeasy and also not primarily a cocktail bar, but the cocktails on the menu are well made and the hot dogs are elevated to a higher level compared to what you usually find around the city, making this a very nice pitstop on Vesterbrogade. They have a variety of sausages including pork and lamb, that have a very nice meaty texture as well as being flavourful. This provides a solid base for the different less traditional gourmet hot dogs in the menu, and the combination of Infected mushroom in the company of a Dark ‘n Stormy (see picture above) seemed to work very well together. Hot dogs and cocktail – a great combination (see also Harry’s New York Bar in Paris).

 

Lost in Beijing

I have waited a bit to write this post, but one of my absolut favorit places to dine in Beijing is Lost Heaven near the Forbidden City in the south-east corner of Tiananmen Square, located in the area I believe housed the US embassy until 1949. Lost Heaven have two restaurants in Shanghai, and the one in Beijing, and serve Yunnan cuisine (which is one of my absolute favorite areas for food in China).

Usually, I complain that most Chinese food served in Europe has been modified to an extend where it rarely is possible to link it back to its origin, and as there is so much delicious Chinese food, this is often a crime. The Yunnan food at Lost Heaven seem to have been modified for a European pallet, however, this must be the exception that confirms the rule. Especially, the Lijiang Stir Fried Beef, Shrimp Spring Rolls, and Samosa are extraordinarily good – and never forget to order the Copper Plate Pot Sticker Dumplings, that are absolutely brilliant. Finally, as an added bonus they serve splendid cocktails at Lost Heaven as well. The staff varies slightly and some are better trained than others if you want to move outside the menu, nevertheless, if you stick to the cocktail list you won’t go wrong. So order your dumplings and a Yunnan Mule, and for dessert go for the Paperback Daiquiri.

Lab moved (again)

Today our lab moved back to Kroghstræde 3 and we have set up two interim experimental rooms for testing where we hope to begin collecting data again some time next week or at least by early November. Currently we have three projects starting up one on synaesthesia, one on attention, and finally, some piloting of methodological issues.

We will try and get the lab fully up and running before the end of the year, but this is somewhat dependant on when our office space is freed up for the furniture currently occupying large parts of the lab space.

When the lab is up and running – hopefully around the beginning of the new semester – we will try and hold an official opening of the lab, where we also present some of our work. More on the official opening data – probably some time in January.

Visiting the hutongs of Beijing

The hutongs of Beijing are a very nice area to walk around in experiencing the more traditional housing from an age before the invasion of the skyscrapers. I especially like the area near the drum tower on Gulou Dongdajie and Nanluoguxiang. Nanluoguxiang is a walking street filled with various small shops, bars and restaurants, and is usually a fairly crowded area. There is a metro station for line 8 in the south end of Nanluoguxiang, line 2 north of Beiluoguxiang at Andingmen station, and finally line 2 and 8 goes to Yonghegong Lama Temple. Both Lama Temple and particularly Confucius Temple a bit to the south of Yonghegong station are worth a visit.

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Beilou Ace Bar

I discovered this small roadside bar earlier this year and not only do they make very nice cocktails, but both the staff and the owner is very nice and hospitable, making this an ideal refuge from the otherwise buzzling Nanluoguxiang. Beilou Ace Bar is a combination of cocktails and coffee bar and as such is open during the afternoon. The local charm and atmosphere of the place combined with good craftsmanship behind the bar makes this one of my favorite places to hang out in the inner city. Here children are playing in the street while people and life passes by in a simple pace, as you sip on a daiquiri – or just a good cup of coffee.

Mai Bar

Mai bar is located a bit further north of Beilou bar, also on the right hand side, and this more traditional cocktail bar typically opens around dinnertime. It is a fairly popular venue focusing on both making good cocktails and developing own variations on more traditional recipes, making it a nice place to spend a few hours with friends after dinner.

Amilal Whiskey Bar

The final bar in this post is the Amilal Bar near Goulou Dongdajie. This bar is tucked away a few meters down an alley from the main street where you can sneak through a small door into an even smaller courtyard and into a very charming small whiskey bar. So if you are a fan of whiskey this is definitely a must on your visit into the inner city of Beijing. The bar has a very nice selection of different brands, and the traditional interior and wooden structure nicely complements a glass of whiskey.

Mr. Shi’s Dumplings

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If you are in the mood for traditional Beijing dumplings I think Mr. Shi’s is the place to go. There are two venues just parallel to Beiluoguxiang; the main shop and kitchen on the east side of the street and an additional place to dine a bit more to the south on the west side. Here you can order most traditional chinese dishes which are very good, but the main star is really the traditional northern dumpling that looks a bit like a meat-filled pancake. The number of different dumplings you can order is overwhelming including different meats and vegetables. You cannot find my favorite Shanghai dumplings at Mr. Shi’s, but somehow you easily forget these when served with the equally delicious fried dumplings from Mr. Shi.

Dali Courtyard

Hidden away in one of the small alleys of Goulou street is a gem of a Yunnan restaurant. It can be somewhat challenging to locate as it only have a small slightly anonymously sign hanging in the alley. However, once inside you will find yourself in an immensely charming courtyard restaurant. This is probably my second favorite Yunnan restaurant – and no spoilers for a later post on my favorite. The restaurant has a set menu and the only decision the customer has to take is on drinks and when they ask for allergies, so that the kitchen can avoid these dishes. This is particularly a nice place if you are a smaller group, as the number of different dishes seem dependent on the size of the group. The food served is much more vegetable based than I usually prefer, but the seasoning and also a variety of meat dishes actually works surprisingly well. The food have a very rustic and authentic feel to it, and eating under a clear evening sky in the center of Beijing is amazing.

Café Zarah 

Named after the daughter of German friends to the owner, this café has recently undergone a thorough renovation, and is as charming as the story behind the name. The menu looks very similar most western cafés and is a very nice place to go for lunch as well as for working on your laptop. After the renovation of the café they also made an expansion into the courtyard, as well as a small rooftop area which is usually open in the evenings around the weekend. You can find more information about the café here on their homepage.

Vineyard Café

Another nice café with a more western menu is the Vineyard Café close to Lama Temple. Here you can order burgers, pizza, as well as eggs Benedict for those weekend mornings where this is needed to kickstart the day.

Places to go near Workers Stadium

Going to the Sanlitun area of Beijing is a great choice as there are several good places to eat and hangout. As Sanlitun often is very crowded I tend to prefer the area around Workers Stadium a bit west of Sanlitun. Unfortunately, this is just between two metro stations (Dongsishitiao at the 2nd ring road and Tuanjiehu at the 3rd ring road) – so it is either to go there by taxi or there will be a small walk if you chose the Metro. It seems that line 17 is planned to go by the stadium some time in the future, but for now line 2 or 10 are the best options by subway. Also, as Sanlitun is a very crowded area it tend to be a challenge to get a cab of the street in the evening, however, if you ask a waiter, then they are often very helpful in calling one through the Chinese taxi app.

Foodie maps

Great Leap Brewery

If you grow a bit weary of the very thin pilsner like beer you get served most places, then Great Leap Brewery is the place to visit. They have two branches one near Workers Stadium and another close to Houhai. I have only visited the one near workers stadium which is located a bit of the main road, nevertheless, it is still fairly easy to spot once you pass it. When you enter the place it has the feel of a combined sports bar and micro brewery, and the food and drinks are very pub-like. The food is probably best described as greasy pub food, but it is still quite tasty, and if you have not had a decent burger in a while, this seems to do the trick. However, the main star of the venue is the beers in all its variety seem to be somewhat stronger that the typical Tsingtao. So if you fancy a porter, stout, or a pale ale this is definitely the place to visit.

Da Dong Roast Duck

This is probably one of the more well known roast duck restaurants in Beijing and is typically mentioned in the guidebooks. It is located on the back of a larger building and can be a bit difficult to spot, but most taxi drivers know where to find it. It is not my favorite roast duck restaurant, but it is both very popular and also serves up some good food.

Iki Korean BBQ

Another very popular spot is the Korean BBQ near Workers Stadium so you really need to make a reservation if you do not want to risk waiting for an hour for a table. The staff is usually very friendly and helpful. Once where I had not made the proper reservations we had been waiting for some time in the bar, they served some smaller dishes on the house for our patience.

Each table is equipped with a grill in the middle of the table and then you order the different types of meat and vegetables you like from the menu. These are then served raw with different spices and marinades for you to grill directly at the table, and sometime if they are not too busy the waiter can assist in the process – although I also think it depends slightly on how hopeless your BBQ skills looks. When the meat is cooked it is served in lettuce with kimchi and different spices. Especially, their sausages are very nice, and a must in any order.

Hidden House

This speakeasy is probably my favorite cocktail bar in Beijing. Like any speakeasy there is no sign from the outside signalling anything of particular interest, and you really need to know of it’s location. In the summertime people may be sitting outside revealing the location of the bar, but as the weather grows colder it get increasingly difficult to spot. Once you enter the fairly anonymously door from the outside street, you will find yourself in a fairly small room dressed only with some shelves and a single door. However, the door only seem to lead to a restroom, but as you press the lightswitch for what looks to be the lights, one of the bookshelves slide away revealing a hidden bar on the other side. The atmosphere is very relaxing and the bartenders know what they are doing serving up traditional cocktails as well as their own variations on different themes. This is an ideal spot to go for an evening cocktail after dinner – or if you forgot to reserve the table at Iki, before dinner. Although in the latter case you may run the risk of never getting back to Iki.