Friday, May 30, 2008

Yet Another Reason to Love Iceland...

Colleagues who've lived in Iceland were talking about cool Icelandic public holidays including Beer Day. I thought they were having me on, but look at the Icelandic Tourism Board site:

"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."

Cultural misunderstanding

"Don't call me that Mummy, It's mean, I'm very angry at you"
"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..."
"... Dead?"
"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

Is there life on Mars?

Doesn't really look like it from this picture, eh?:-)
Check out the new images from NASA's Phoenix spacecraft...

I may yet get my prehensile tail...

Look! A mind controlled prosthetic arm that a monkey can use to feed itself... Next stop, Perdido Street Station . I'm sure a few brain probes would be a small price to pay for an extra limb!

(But seriously... awesome news for people with spinal cord injuries.)

Red Letter Days?

Last week I had my second period in 4 years (there are some advantages to pregnancy and intensive breast-feeding, at least in my body) and last night and today I have my first proper hormonal migraine in that time... I had forgotten the stomach-emptying, head-splitting awfulness... also the lop-sided pain that makes you want to head-bang like a BSE mad cow or scrape off the pain like a sheep with the same. Five days of sick leave left, which I really need to save for the next time one of the kids is plague-stricken, so here I am at work... and I guess I should do some.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Self medication

Need cheering up? Try burning frankinsence!

Jungle music

Just been to the Vector Wellington orchestra Baby Pops at the Regent and it was awesome... sadly our group didn't march through the orchestra, as we were sitting up the top and had too many kids per adult... but before the concert started, the tuba, a trombonist and a trumpeter all came and had a musical chat right where we were sitting. If you live in Welly or Palmy, you've missed it for this year, but if you have wee people, check it out next year... and they have circus proms coming up in Wellington in July, which sounds even more amazing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What has it got in its pocketses?

A colourful triangular rattle, a duplo person with a blue hat, a floral box of tampons, my spare set of keys, a used tissue and my phone. what do you deduce, Mr Holmes?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Job Satisfaction... a moment of peace and the illusion of control

The pristine, decluttered benches (in advance of next week's MAF inspection) and anticipation of the 6 month absence of the boss, create a serene medatative aura in the lab... tubes await gel aliquots, pretty in a pink rack... my sample currently nestles in the 30 degree heatblock under a blanket of tinfoil. And I'm working in hope (unusual for recent times) because last week's prep yielded 29 mass-spec-identifiable proteins (count them again to be sure), and though I need ten times that many (and more convincing peptide coverage too) for the project to be viable, a ten-fold improvement seems more feasible than pulling something out of the nothing in my empty thinking cap.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Universal advertising

This morning, a rainbow with its end over Massey... like a giant cheesy comment on the value of education!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Whether to fertilize or fertilise

Discussing American vs English spellings with my Chinese office-mate and found this. Wiki rocks!

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!


So d'ya think it'd have gone through if I'd been going to the movies instead of buying groceries? :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Not another non-specific viral rash

Jack's other house

"This is the priest all shaven and shorn that kissed the man with the crumpled horn" giggles J... and I laugh too, of course, which delights him, so he laughs even more.

Friday, May 9, 2008


In the last week there have been two incidents which have demonstrated to me that post-children I have become risk averse to the point of hypocrisy.

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

Some trees are not green...

... and xanthophyll is such a pretty word

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The evil that men (and women) do lives after them...

Some penguins for Ruth...

A disturbing New Scientist Environment newsflash came today about work done by Heidi Geisz, a marine biologist at Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester in the US. (As you probably know) DDT was widely used as a pesticide from the late 1940s onwards, but was banned in many countries since the 1970s and these days its usually only used to control disease-bearing mosquitos However DDT has been showing up in tissue samples from Adélie penguins. If this was DDT that had been around in the foodchain for 30-40 years, then the scientists would expect to find DDE (a DDT breakdown product). Turns out, there were large deposits of ice in Antarctic glaciers in the 1950s and 60s and the DDT has been sequestered there for the last 50-odd years, only trickling out now as the glaciers melt. Fortunately, the levels aren't high enough to harm the penguins, but they're worried that other toxins (eg dioxins, PCBs from refrigeration) may also be being released. It really makes you realise how even relatively short periods of pollution can have long-lasting, far-reaching effects (cos I'm guessing DTT was never sprayed in Antarctica!).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Living in the future!

I just walked back from the glasshouse with two gigabytes of data storage capacity not making any kind of bulge in my pocket and suddenly thought of the 1st PC that R and I shared... an aging XT clone, bought in the 2nd semester of 1992 for about $600. We named it IGOR because it immediately needed a brain transplant. IGOR died completely (and inconveniently) the following year in the throes of Honours essays and was mourned briefly and replaced forthwith with a not-quite-so-venerable 286 (which took about half an hour to process a round of Civilisation). My memory stick has approximately 200 times more capacity than IGOR at less than 1/20th of the price... We live through incredible changes, oblivious.