Thursday, December 4, 2008
Dear Mr Key,
As a scientist at an agricultural research institute, I am concerned that your coalition agreement with ACT commits you to a potentially lengthy Select Committee process before the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) can be implemented. This delay in implementing the ETS may cause us to fall further behind our global trading partners in managing our greenhouse gas emissions. It damages the international credibility of New Zealand’s “clean green” branding strategy at a time when our global markets are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues.
Although in general I would support a rigorous review of the relevant science when setting government policy, in the case of the ETS this work has already been done so recently that revisiting the evidence for climate change is an embarrassment. Since New Zealand has already committed to reducing our emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, I feel that this Select Committee should be limited to examining ways of reducing emissions and ensuring that the majority of compliance costs are paid by the polluters and not by taxpayers. Since climate change is such an important issue, I hope that the select committee will be large enough to allow representation from all parties.
I know that like most New Zealanders you value our unique natural environment and our international reputation, and I hope you will take these into account when deciding on your government’s response to climate change.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Study shows that single mothers are not intrinsically worse parents than mothers who live with their children's partner
Monday, November 24, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Low point: T pooing in the bath... 'nuff said!
Friday, November 21, 2008
Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Gut-wrenchingly, heart-breakingly, it is starting to look like my career as a research scientist is ending. My contract was due to end (spookily) on Halloween, but they were "pleased to be able to offer an extension to our employment relationship"... 20 hours a week until Christmas (how great is that?)... With redundancies pending, I am not anticipating a reprieve.
On the up side, I've got an interview next week for a job managing one of the lab facilities to facilitate other scientists' research... so hey, I might be given the opportunity to observe science. I can't say I'm entirely sure how this will feel...
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Still nothing definite on the long-term contract front, but will probably now be extended until Christmas... who'd be a scientist?
And of course, the weather totally sucks, here too... the power keeps flickering and one of my colleagues is stuck at home because road from Tokomaru is closed and wind was lifting the roof of the school...
Still and all, the early magnolias are flowering, I have seen blossom and early-cheer and even the odd brave daffodil, so spring is coming... And I have more peptides in my samples now than LC-MS-MS can resolve, and another iteration of troubleshooting left to come... so may yet get the resolution I actually need for my project...
Monday, July 21, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
J's favourite "okay then, you can have one poem" at bedtime for the last week has been James K. Baxter's 'Jack Frost'... "Look out, look out, Jack Frost's about", but until this morning he really hasn't been...
Crispy crunch frosty days almost make me love winter!
[And I got my milestone report in with 3 hours to spare yesterday, in spite of T being sent home from creche on Friday, and after our talk on Thursday, a colleague commented that "When you got up, you were in your element weren't you?"... I was gob-smacked! From puking shaking wreck to (apparently) confident professional in only 15 years... I should write a self-help book!]
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Five minutes later I come back to check that my gel is running okay. I glance at the voltage... all good.
I look, expecting to see the blue marker dye migrating down the gel. No blue line.
I turn the rig around, thinking I am looking at the buffer dam side. No blue line. Buffer dam.
I turn it back, hoping I was imagining it. No blue line.
I check the power pack to make sure the electrodes are plugged in the right way... maybe I have run my samples backwards out of the wells? Red to red, black to black, all fine.
I switch off the powerpack and check that the lid is on the right way round. Of course it is... these modern rigs are designed so you couldn't run them backwards even if you wanted to.
I am confused. I dither. Where are my samples? Where is the blue line? I've run thousands of gels (no exaggeration here) and never had the samples just disappear (except perhaps back in the days when you COULD run them backwards). This is an eerie, scary happening and it happened right here in my lab.
I glance over at my lab-bench to where my samples are sitting in the heating block. My samples are sitting in the heating block.
Now my gel is running. Blue line. All fine.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Oh yeah, as it turned out they brought their own, more morally righteous coffee, 'cos they knew I was out! :-)
Friday, May 30, 2008
"March first is Beer Day every year in Iceland. That's right, a whole day dedicated to the world's favorite beverage. This celebrated event began on March 1st, 1989, when a 75-year-long prohibition of beer was lifted. Pubs, restaurants, and clubs all around Reykjavik are especially wild this night. No word yet on plans to make March 2nd National Aspirin Day."
"It's okay for me to call you 'sweetie', in our culture that's a positive thing to call someone"
"When is outcha?"
"What? Oh, I said Our Culture"
"Oh, where does he live?"
"I wasn't talking about a person... culture is what makes people from a certain area..."
"No not dead... " (I pause to think... J loses interest and wanders off... when you're 3, death really is more interesting than culture!)
Thursday, May 29, 2008
(But seriously... awesome news for people with spinal cord injuries.)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I would've used fertilise in preference, but apparently both are acceptable in English and etymologically fertilize is better, deriving directly from Greek, rather than via French... I never reali(s/z)ed I was such a Francophile!
Friday, May 16, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008
In the first instance, I rang a friend on Sunday, and thought, on being told that she was too hungover to chat, "How could she be so irresponsible?"... I then immediately unthought it, but still...
The second example is more disturbing... I sent an incoherent email yesterday in which I said (among other babblings):
I don't know who I'll vote for, but if I vote in self -interest (which I may even though it goes against my socialist principles… when I was at uni/in the Bolshevik Club I used to spoil my voting paper or vote for the 'cuddies*) I will vote for Labour.
I also said this:
People I talk to seem to be blaming the government for the rise in the cost of living/food costs/petrol prices even though this is a global phenomenon. People (even those with families) also imagine that a 1-2% tax cut will make them better off. Working for families gives me $260/fortnight. No taxcut is going to make up for losing that!
It's not much… maybe not enough to motivate you to vote [for them]…and I hate acting as an apologist for Labour but I think people, esp families underestimate how much worse off they will be under a National government…just saying…
I wish I hadn't said.
In the past, although my world wasn't quite as black and white and red all over as for some of my more politically astute comrades, I had principles and I acted on them... I have always derided people who elevated pragmatism to a political philosophy, but now I seem to be one of them.
Someone said to me recently that she thought National winning the election might be a good thing, not because she agrees with their policies (or lack thereof), but because New Zealanders need a a change to see how good they have it now. I disagree... it's not so good at the moment, especially (as NO RIGHT TURN points out) for those on benefits, and in my political memory, we've had 15 years of new right government, first under Labour, then under National and peoples ideologies shifted and the left disintegrated... to the point where many New Zealanders claim that our current centrist Labour government is left wing.
So what's the alternative? (in my current risk averse state I certainly lack the stomach for a revolution, and find it hard to imagine one succeeding) I'm an environmentalist, but also a plant scientist. I strongly believe that GE is necessary, both as a tool for bioremediation, to mitigate our effects on the environment, and to adapt our food supply to the rapidly changing climate (might post more on this soon, given the current food crisis?)... so I'd find it hard to support the Greens. If all the options are bad, does one simply vote for the best, and as the options get worse, vote for the best of a badder bunch? That's not much of a philosophy...
Blaaaaaaaargh! Watch me vacillate!
*Please note that voting for the McGillicuddy Serious Party was totally against the programme of the Bolshevik Club, I was just had difficulty bringing myself to spoil my vote paper
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Routes of Entry: Inhalation. Ingestion.
Toxicity to Animals:
WARNING: THE LC50 VALUES HEREUNDER ARE ESTIMATED ON THE BASIS OF A 4-HOUR EXPOSURE.
Acute oral toxicity (LD50): 3000 mg/kg [Rat.]. (okay, so that's 1g/kg of rat killed half of the rats in the study)
Acute dermal toxicity (LD50): >10000 mg/kg [Rabbit]. (... and bathing in 10g/kg killed half the rabbits but that's a pretty salty stew!)
Acute toxicity of the dust (LC50): >42000 mg/m3 1 hours [Rat].
Chronic Effects on Humans: MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast.
Other Toxic Effects on Humans: Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation.
Special Remarks on Toxicity to Animals: Lowest Published Lethal Dose (LDL) [Man] - Route: Oral; Dose: 1000 mg/kg (so someone once died from eating 1 g for every kg of body weight... so eating >60g of salt in one sitting might be a bad idea... I guess if you had really bad munchies and lots of potato crisps?)
Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans:
Causes adverse reproductive effects in humans (fetotoxicity, abortion, ) by intraplacental route.
High intake of sodium chloride, whether from occupational exposure or in the diet, may increase risk of TOXEMIA OF PREGNANCY in susceptible women (Bishop, 1978). Hypertonic sodium chloride solutions have been used to induce abortion in late pregnancy by direct infusion into the uterus (Brown et al, 1972), but this route of administration is not relevant to occupational exposures. (I should hope not!)
May cause adverse reproductive effects and birth defects in animals, particularly rats and mice (fetotoxicity, abortion, musculoskeletal abnormalities, and maternal effects (effects on ovaries, fallopian tubes) by oral, intraperitoneal, intraplacental, intrauterine, parenteral, and subcutaneous routes. While sodium chloride has been used as a negative control n some reproductive studies, it has also been used as an example that almost any chemical can cause birth defects in experimental animals if studied under the right conditions (Nishimura & Miyamoto, 1969). In experimental animals, sodium chloride has caused delayed effects on newborns, has been fetotoxic, and has caused birth defects and abortions in rats and mice (RTECS, 1997).
May affect genetic material (mutagenic) (okay, that's kind of scary)
Special Remarks on other Toxic Effects on Humans:
Acute Potential Health Effects:
Skin: May cause skin irritation.
Eyes: Causes eye irritation.
Ingestion: Ingestion of large quantities can irritate the stomach (as in overuse of salt tablets) with nausea and vomiting. May affect behavior (muscle spasicity/contraction, somnolence), sense organs, metabolism, and cardiovascular system. Continued exposure may produce dehydration, internal organ congestion, and coma.
Inhalation: Material is irritating to mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Today after Thomas's lunchtime feed I delivered a cake with lollies on (so another way my righeousness has slipped is that it was Pak'n'Save's not-quite-finest 'cos I couldn't bring myself to spend the time baking one with J, even though he was desperate to, and then I refused to buy the $25 super-special Eeyore gateau), birthday candles, a bag of chippies, wrapped presents from each child (okay, and so I also let J choose the presents, and took him to Toyworld, and said they should be things for them to play with with Daddy, so the wooden peg and hammer set and the playmobil pirates might not have been N's first choice), a card I organised for them to make at creche, 2 carrots (he asked for them) and 2 mandarins (J asked for them at the supermarket when we were buying the cake). I also did a bad job of explaining why I wasn't going to Daddy's party when I did last year (a disturbingly last-suppery affair the week before I forced him to leave)
On my birthday I discretely bought my own present and my folks wrapped it with J, and Mum and J made me a cake, but since N's parents are far away, it falls on me to be civil and civilised. I have done my tooth-gritty best.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Professor Andrew Watson postulates that 4 critical developments are required for this to occur: single-celled bacteria, complex cells, specialized cells allowing complex life forms and intelligent life with an established language. He assesses this probability as 0.01 per cent over four billion years which is pretty darn unlikely, I guess... but I'd still like to believe that someone was out there:-) And after all, you know what they say about assumptions...
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Now, I embrace my uncoolness, I'm even prepared to admit I'm middle-aged (though I hope to live well past 74)... but please someone, anyone, manyones affirm my Wellingtoness...
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I looked at my spider through the glass. It was beige and brown, a caricature of a spider with eyes on stalks and delicate stripey legs, the front pair longer than the other six. It was beautiful. I let it go outside in the darkness, feeling safer.
J, who is unhinged by his father coming back to NZ after 10 weeks in the UK (as, I guess, am I), said to me this morning "I'm feeling fragile". It's scary being responsible for such precious fragile things (especially when I'm as tired as I will be tomorrow).
Thursday, February 21, 2008
... And he has his 1st tooth as well (or at least the 1st wee sharp bit through his gum).
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
At morning tea, two of my workmates were complaining about how their teenagers did nothing to help around the house. I felt smug!
Monday, January 28, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
"Did you see any diatoms?" asked R's Mummy when I enthused about the uni-cells (and the awesomely destructive rotifer) that I'd seen under the microscope in my 1st year Cell Bio lab. "What's a diatom?" I asked, so she showed me some pictures and described diatoms in such loving detail that they immediately became part of my personal mythology (I learnt a lot about passion for research from R's parents).
R's D, who also worked on diatoms, once described them as "siliceous micro-fossils", which rather lacks romance and (pick the geologist) also ignores the fact that there are thousands of diatom species still in existence, but does prove that diatoms rock!
I suspect the computer chip thing is pretty speculative (and maybe a bit of manoeuvring for grants), as what they have actually reported is identifying 75 genes involved in silicon processing in one species of diatom (Thalassiosira pseudonana) from a screen for genes expressed during silicic acid starvation. They've chosen 30 genes for further study, of which 25 have no similarity to known genes, so I'd guess they have a lot of knock-outs to make and/or proteins to express and a lot of characterisation to do before they fully understand the function of even one of these genes, let alone describe the process and learn to manipulate it in any meaningful way... So unless they have an enormous and unusually well-financed team, diatom-fabricated computer chips are probably a lifetime away. Still, it's a magical idea, and to me, it's ideas like these that justify pure research in fields as apparently esoteric as diatom genetics.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I want to write about Kapcon and some cool science I read about today, but I also want to sleep. Sleep wins...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Denaturing, annealing, and extending.
Well it’s amazing what heating and cooling and heating will do
And the chorus:
PCR, when you need to detect mutations.
PCR, when you need to recombine.
PCR, when you need to find out who the daddy is.
PCR, when you need to solve a crime
Disclaimer: This is in no way an endorsement of Bio-Rad, although I do use some of their products because they have me trapped into a dependancy cycle.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
More disturbing (but probably also contributing to the block), was Study reveals sex bias in science, which showed that after in the 4 years after double blind peer review was introduced by Behavioural Ecology Journal, 8% more female authors were published than in the preceding 4 years... actually, I think I should really read what factors were considered in the original article, because I can think of a number of reasons other than outright sexism why this might be the case... not least the tendency of senior researchers to prefer research done by their mates (on the surface this really can look like a boys club).
Also extremely disturbing and sad, the unsurprising 'news' from a study in The Lancet that a third of child deaths could be prevented similarly by adequate nutrition of children or their breast-feeding mothers. I wish I knew where to start...
David Attenborough's next series Life in Cold Blood, should hopefully help to popularise reptiles, which is just as well given that, sadly folk medicine is causing many reptile species to become endangered. The Critter cams of the title really are pretty cool though!
In further dodgy social science... smelling chocolate chip cookies can make you more likely to break your budget, so watch out for yummy smelling clothing stores!
More usefully (glad to see there is still some research funding for medicine), it looks like researchers can detect protein markers for the early stages of breast cancer in saliva and are currently trying to develop a 'lab on a chip' saliva test which they postulate could be administered by dentists. Here's hoping they'll succeed and the test is not prohibitively expensive!
At home packing (can you tell?) to head off to Welly to express my (even) geekier side at Kapcon, so tata 'til Tuesday at least...
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Last night at 10:30 when James came to say his leg was hurting and it wasn't getting better ( a regular occurence) I offered him a sticking plaster and he said "No Mummy, that won't help... I need one like that". Desperate for sleep, and concerned for future nights, I lied and said I didn't think we had one handy. I am a bad Mummy who tells the truth about Santa but not crepe bandages!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Lunch claimed to be chicken pita and appeared through the glass of the cafe cabinet to be a sizable pile of chicken, pepper and spring onion, stuck on with melty cheese with mango chutney coating the whole thing liberally, but strangely, when I took it out of the bag at work it had metamorphosed into rubbery penne pasta in white sauce with 2 small pieces of chicken and the other things merely decorating the top. Not so delicious. Feeling ripped off.
Recommended activity today is label-reading. Turns out I spent much of last week trouble-shooting my PCR (polymerase chain reaction to make more DNA from other DNA) because I can't read! Instead of using cDNA (DNA made from mRNA), I was using (repeatedly) the control tube from which the reverse transcriptase (the enzyme that makes the DNA) had been omitted (I didn't carry out that step myself, which I think is a slight mitigating factor, but the label WAS clearly printed). I'm soooooo blonde!
Turitea opened again today. It is so good not have to drive home and back twice in the hot car to feed T. And my PCR is working again! I feel light, frivolous and on the verge of mediocre discovery!
Friday, January 11, 2008
Some cool examples:
- These rhesus macaque monkey mathemeticians scored almost as well as university students in a test of mental addition (I'm guessing the scores in the article are means and I wonder if some monkeys scored better than some humans?)
- And these five-year-old chimps beat adult humans (though also their mother) at correctly remembering a sequence of numbers (I wonder how human five-year-olds would compare)
- Tamarins, although not tool-users show evidence of "motor planning ability", grasping an object in the correct orientation to use it
- Elephants (my favourite putatively sentient species), as well as recognising themselves in the mirror and imitating trucks, can apparently recognise potentially hostile groups of people by scent and clothing colour (so don't wear red on safari!)
Weirdly though, we may be using the kind of olfactory intelligence we usually ascribe to dogs and pigs to decide whether we like a new person or not.
Finally, only tenuously relatedly, and obviously still a long way from reality, this research suggests it might be possible to build a machine that can read your mind (at least if you let some dodgy scientist type close enough to implant electrodes in your brain).
Thursday, January 10, 2008
'Home' in Palmy since Sunday, to childcare chaos (thank goodness Turitea re-opens on Monday) and no hot water (fixed now), weather ranging from humid, grey and showery to torrential monsoon, and gut-wrenching loneliness that is slowly being eroded to mild homesickness by the day-to-day camaradie of work (how do at home single parents survive?).
Best decision of 2007
Realising I would be a happier person and a better parent alone and that I would be unable to cope with a new baby, J and N and arranging for N to leave
Greatest Challenge of 2007
Parenting a new baby and a toddler without a partner
Happiest event of 2007
The birth of our wee T on 12 July
Biggest (though not only) thankyous for 2007
- My wonderful parents, who came from Wellington to stay with me for several days when N left and then for a whole month around the time T's birth, looked after me and J and helped me set up systems to cope with parenting alone, then had us to stay for a further 10 days soon after
- The lovely Ruth, who listened patiently to my whinging almost every day for about 6 months, had N to stay for 9 fraught weeks after I kicked him out, and who came to stay for over a week when I went back to work at the end of my maternity leave and, among other useful things, helped me pack up N's stuff, a job I was dreading!
- My amazing midwife, who was supportive far beyond the call of duty and who even lent me her digital camera for a month so I could take lots of photos of my wee darlings (I finally bought one on Monday, so expect many pics!)
- My workmate T, who was the 1st person to say I should kick N out, who was hugely supportive throughout and who I have to admit, is usually right.
Resolutions for 2008
- To find a new way to enjoy raisins every week
- To live in the moment, work hard and be the best I can be as a scientist and as a parent, but not to let home stresses affect my efficiency at work or vice versa
- Not to lose my temper unless it is really warranted and even so, to think before I speak or act
- To treat this year as my last ditch attempt to make it as a scientist, but to start seriously researching my other options. If by October when my current funding runs out (or maybe a bit before if that is where things are heading) my work is still unpublishable and my contract still tenuous I will cut my losses and find a 'real' job and a fab childcare arrangement in Wellington.
- Not to spend longer than 5 minutes at a time beating myself up about 'slippage' (a lovely word from our milestone forms) in these and other goals ;-)
Happy New Year everyone! Lunchtime is long since over so I better get on with it.