Saturday, September 30, 2006

countdown: 2 days to go

It's two days to my presentation.

The version on my flash was totally corrupted, but fortunately most of it was backed up. I'm meeting with EEbEE and maybe some other people early on Monday to do a run-through.

Trevor's back, but he's starting a new job on Monday so I don't know if I'll be seeing him again in a while. It was nice to have someone to talk to in the lab!

I got an email from my supervisor saying the usual 'wow you're calm!' and good luck type stuff. Plus to try and avoid making last-minute changes. Last-minute is all relative. Isn't it? I really don't care anymore, I just want to get away from wits. The idea of spending another 2 months there before I get a break is HIDEOUS!

I made almost all my graphs today, just a representative colour one and another set of weights graphs to go. I am now a official expert at Statistica graphs. and I found where they'd hidden the post-hoc tests, but I don't understand the printout, but it looks like I may have a significant result in behaviours! Lets hope the people I practised on don't think I'm lying when they see a different set of results in the trial run and the final!

I think I'll also feed the roof lizards tomorrow instead of on monday (so they get their 'weekend' 2 days off a bit later) because I won't have time on Monday and I don't want to have to feed them in the dark. Plus I have to move a couple more up there so I might as well.

In other news I had a huge fight with my friend James. He's become very much a high-school girl type guy at the moment. It's hard to explain. I also had a long talk with Justin and I think we'll be shoe-shopping again soon. I also worked the other night, which was really cool because I got to work with my boss for a bit (she's a really good friend as well as my boss) and then with Matt, who's one of the nicer kids. He spent the shift showing me all the life-lessons to be learned from 'The O.C.' and an eight-year old girl told me all about how she watched Dr Phil every day.

My parents are being all supportive, which is strange. They;re watching Inspector Morse, so I'm safe for another hour...

This is from Ireland. I'm thinking of sending it to my boss as a suggestion for expansion. DVD's, videos, sunbeds, manicures, squash courts...

Friday, September 29, 2006

The world hates me :(

I did my presentation for somebody else's supervisor today (seeing a pattern here? anybody?). The whole group was really nice although my presentation was pretty far from what it needs to be. They even took me through it slide by slide, mentioning everything, from changing fonts and recentering pictures, to changing entire slides.

After that I fed animals and then got to work. Luke got me an awesome map (thanks Luke!) and I redid almost all the formatting stuff, which just leaves graphs for tomorrow. Then things started to go nasty.

The iguana went psycho again. Everybody else went home. And my flashdrive crashed.

The annoying thing is that I almost never work right off my flash, I work on the actual computer, but because I was planning on leaving soon and bringing it home with me...

the entire flashdrive lost everything. I even looked at properties and it said it was all free space. So I ejected it and it said it was ejected, but the light was flashing. So I pulled it out and put it back in again and it recovered most of the stuff. I'm not sure if anything's missing yet. But in the slide-show all the work I'd been doing was gone. All that was left of it was the new graph.

So I was really really angry (weird how people failing you makes you sad, but technology breaking down makes you angry. Especially considering that breaking technology is a result of people letting you down), and I decided I didn't care and went home.

When I got home my dad arrived suddenly and said we were going out for dinner. That was the cue for him and my mom to start fighting, so we had a rather frosty meal and came home.

As I got home I got an sms from my supervisor to say that he was having trouble downloading my presentation. I sent it to him on Wednesday morning. My presentation is on Monday. And he waits until now to try and look at it?

So I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and try zip it and sent it again. So I smsed him to say I'd try again and it should be there in a few minutes, and got a message back saying: 'Sure. But if u are happy with it thats also okay' in other words 'I don't care about the fact that I promised you'd be my number one priority once I got back from sabbatical. I don't care that I'm away during your big presentation. I'd rather not be involved in your project. My work is far more interesting than yours.' and so on.

I'm so angry right now. I'm sorry, if you're going to take on a student, then you should be prepared to do it properly. I'm not saying don't do any of your own work, but the other people who are away right now are all on huge international conferences. A couple even sent us their apologies that they couldn't make it. I'm so sick and tired of this 'she's calm and independent' attitude. I want someone who will actually do what they promised.

He got so upset that toher people were trying to 'steal' me. My feelings right now are: I want Thursday meetings. I want someone who replies when I email. I want someone who will talk through my stats with me so I don't have to redo it 12 times over a period of 3 months before I figure out what I'm doing.

I'm overreacting, I'm sorry. I'm just stressed. I'm sure I'll be a lot calmer by the time I start my masters. Let just hope I get to go to Edinburgh so I won't be around long enough to strangle the guy!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I just realised I didn't post a picture yesterday, so I figured I'd post extra ones today. I'm measuring lizards today so I won't have time to post, I'm just using the extra time I saved by Oliver helping me catch lizards earlier...

This is what we did for EEbEE's desk when he turned 21. You can't see it here, but everything on his bookshelf was individually wrapped!

This is my brother on the beach in Galway. It was about 3pm when I took this photo. A good lesson in visiting Ireland: go in Summer!

This is Melville. Isn't she pretty? this is from before I started helping look after her. The tank is a lot cleaner now!

Ok, I'm off to measure lizards again!

Monday, September 25, 2006

I really don't have time for this...

Blogging is dangerous. It's so nice having a good bitching session that it becomes almost addictive in a way!

Today was nice and relaxed. I got to wits to find that Luke still had my key, so I sat and chatted to Neva and Oliver and they laughed at me a lot. I battle to stay on one topic for long and they find it hilarious how I get all excited all of a sudden and jump from a conversation about Tanzania to one about the Placebo effect. Oliver said he thinks I have ADD. And all these years I thought it was just enthusiasm...

When Luke got to Wits he came and helped me feed lizards (Luke, u is ROX!!!!) and then to clean Melville's tank. She's developed a weird tendency to rip up the newspaper, I hope it's nothing serious. She ran all over the lab. It was really cute, at one stage Luke was sitting at my computer and she climbed up on the chair next to him (it's the Australian's chair but it tends to gravitate to my computer because there are always people coming to visit) and sat looking up at him. Occasionally I got a malevolent look. Do iguanas go through adolescence? I had some definate babysitting flashbacks!

Then Luke picked her up for the first time (I wish I had a camera!) and put her back in the tank. After all that we went to go analyse some more dung and wound up chattig to Megan for ages. She's really awesome and interesting to talk to and it's easy to lose hours chatting.

When I got back to the lab I found that Melville had tipped her waterdish over and ripped up her newspaper again. I think she was too hot because it was a warm day and her tank is right by the window. When we got her out (after a lot of her sitting in her waterbowl threatening to attack) she made a beeline for behind the fridge. I had horrible visions of having to write to my supervisor to say I'd lost another lizard (and not a Platy either). Luke managed to fend her off until he sat down again and she climbed onto his lap and we managed to pick her up. She responded to my carrying her to her tank by trying her hardest to climb onto my head. I have cuts on my hand as proof. Fortunately Luke was stull there and he helped me untangle myself and we put her back. She promptly tipped over her waterdish again.

Otherwise it was a really nice day. I came home and semi-slept (i.e. lay on my bed making To Do lists in my head) for a bit and then actually chatted to my mom, which is a very rare occurance. I think it's because my brother is home again.

I sat to work on my presentation for next week (it keeps growing, it's 32 slides long already! I'm just scared to leave stuff out because the chances are I'll forget it entirely if it isn't on the actual slide show which is what happened last time). When my dad got home he yelled at me for getting home late because he thought I'd be home by lunch so i could go and visit my grandparents with him. Then my mother came and told me that she told my other grandmother that I never visit her because I hate her. She does this from time to time which always results in me making a very awkward phonecall. It's hard to tell an eighty year old that you don't hate her.

I responded by yelling back that I'm stressed and under a lot of pressure and I don't have time for this and slammed the door.

Right after that one of my lecturers phoned me to say that I have to be in by 6:45 tomorrow to give him some stuff from the lab. I was planning on going in early because it's a measuring day, but it still sucks!

So I'm going to go to bed now and sulk because my family ruined a perfectly good day, once again. Plus I just realised how much stats I still have to do for this presentation!


Sunday, September 24, 2006


I didn't go to wits today! It was so cool! I slept in, watched some extras from the Lost season 2 part 1 box set and then went to work.

At work Chris behaved himself and we actually almost had fun working together again. Justin was working at the bookshop and I went and had a nice long chat with him, which was fantastic, I've missed him so much.

We also watched 'Saw' - a really gruesome movie that we started watching a while ago but stopped because we were eating. Today I forced myself to finish it so I'll never have to watch it again. It was really nasty, one of those movies that is gruesome for the sake of being all gory and disgusting. Had a really cool twist at the end though that I really didn't see coming! I don't think I'll be watching Saw 2 though. As much as blood really doesn't bother me, I don't like movies that just splash it all over the place for no real reason (Tarantino and I just don't get along...).

Anyway I got home to find that my supervisor finally responded, and it's a mix of option 1 and option 3 (i.e. he wasn't checking email and isn't angry). He was really really nice and kept telling me it was ok and happens to the best of us and so on.

After that I went to church. I ended up driving my mom there, which was fine until she kept braking on the passenger side (you know, hitting the phantom brakes) and then getting all upset because she thought I was offended.

Church was interesting, the speaker was someone I've heard a few times before and really respect, but I had huge issues with what she was saying. It was basically that if you pray for something and don't get it it's because you were given a very little bit of power and should have prayed harder/longer. I sat there going hmmmmm...

Afterwards I just came home and found that my friend in Canada was on MSN! It's so exciting when that happens because with a 6 hour time difference we don't log in at the same time very often at all.

Anyway it's been a pretty good day overall, and I'm feeling a lot better about the upcoming week than I did on friday.

I'm going to go read ecophys papers now.

here's a pretty sky shot to start your week!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I surprise myself sometimes!

I don't believe what I did today!!!! More on this later. Being a control freak I'd rather settle my day in chronological order.

I had an early start by going to make up a quarter of the female population at a 'men's club' breakfast thing. No, I'm not confused, I was invited because my cousin was giving a talk on his masters project, and I was invited. It was actually really interesting and I'm so proud of him because he's done such amazing work. Not that I can really call it proud, I never really knew him that well until a year ago when his little sister (the cousin I'm closest to, being that we're exactly a month apart age-wise and spent our childhood being inseperable and not admitting that we were cousins becuse that would in some way invalidate our friendship) decided that I needed a mentor and he needed a 'mentee' and got us to email each other a lot. So I'm not really proud in the "I knew you could do it!" sort of way. More that he's part of my family and he's actually going to do amazing things and I can say "that's my cousin!" and stuff.

After that I rushed over to wits to check on my lizards, and then I tried very hard to start on my presentation for next week. I made 2 slides and then didn't even bother saving them.

When Luke finally woke up (shame, he's tired. Silly kid works too hard...) and got to wits I helped him with dung analysis, which wasn't all that bad because we had music and we could talk and I found a locust leg which was pretty cool! We managed 8 samples between us, which is pretty good, considering as far as I understand it he usually gets through about 3 or so in a session. It smells bad though, I think I got the damp samples...

After that I rushed off to work to try get there early enough to talk to the girl who works at the pet shop because she's organising for Free Me to have a stand at Yebo Gogga (one b, I got it right!) and the people who were supposed to email me didn't. when I'd finished all that I saw that Jo and Lara were having coffee next door so I joined in to listen to Joey bitching abut Justin who has now got a new job at the bookstore and is cutting down on his shifts with us.

In a kind of bad way I'm glad he's being nasty to other people because we used to be really good friends, and lately he never talks to me or anything and I was feeling all 'I did something wrong'ish about the whole situation. He's become a bit of a brat lately, and at one stage he decided that, even though he doesn't need it and isn't even planning on going to university, he will die without a R13000 Apple mac laptop. He even told his parents to draw money out of their bond to pay for it. I'm so glad his dad said no!

The rest of the shift was fun, Lara and I always have fun when we work together, we ended up watching 'An American Tale' which I'd never seen. we're restricted to watching family movies at work because the kids like to sit on the carpet and watch and anything with a PG rating is out of the question. It's the movie with the 'somewhere out there' song. it turns out that it has a singalong version as a bonus, so La and I ended up singing along to it really badly with lots of giggling and I think we scared some customers. I also met a friend of Lara's that was in my class in first year, although we don't remember each other.

Anyway, back to the title... one of our customers came in while I was in the shop alone (I think Joey and Lara went outside to smoke and Chris went with them and I ended up chatting to a customer who wanted every Vin Diesel movie ever made because she might be having a meeting with him in the next month or so. It turns out she's partners with that Michelle lady (I forget the surname), I think for Top Billing and they make all kinds of wildlife documentaries and stuff together.

When she left I told Jo all about it and she got all excited about Vin Diesel and so on. Anyway this lady and the Michelle person (I'll remember the surname at some stage) were having drinks next door and we did a lot of casual 'walk-bys' and at one stage I heard them on the phone talking about wild dogs and I got all excited and did a lot of 'why did I let an opportunity like that pass by...' and so on. Finally (and this is where I shock myself) I went over there and introduced myself and begged like crazy to be allowed to go with them at some stage and see how they shoot footage and handle the animals and so on. Michelle was in the bathroom at this stage.

The other lady was really keen to hear all about my project and wanted to film it (it's really a boring to watch, lab based thing, so not suited, as I kept telling her!) and it turns out they love filming people's stuff from masters and PhD stuff and they know almost everyone at wits (it seems biocontrol and the snake lab mostly) and it's so cool! when Michelle finally made it out the bathroom she was all really really nice and very keen for me to go along on a shoot and they gave me business cards and told me to get in touch.

I can't believe I went and did that. In reality I'm extremely shy around people I don't know, and could never do that!

Anyway, I'm all super-excited now, I'm going to email them first thing on Monday.

Oh, and Lara agreed with me about Chris, which felt fantastic. He was all sulky again today, but it was fine because she was there, Tomorrow should be interesting!

So I'm feeling a lot better about life in general. All that's missing is the stupid lizard in the wall :(

Here's a sunset picture from Suikerbosrand. It's not from the usual sunset spot, so it's a bit interesting!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Quote of the day by Luke:

"You don't even know what she is! I mean who she looks like!"

Just had to share that.

Also yesterday Vanessa left her water bottle in the DP room, so we put it back on her desk with a rude note attached (it said "a rude note").

ALso, just had to share it.
I'm coming in tomorrow to check on lizards and help stare at crap, so I'll probably blog then.

And Campus Health is evil! I got a lecture about how they aren't a chemist and I need a consult to get drugs.

Anyway ahve to go to a really boring Yebo Gogga meeting and Luke is twitching because we're going to be late and miss all the good biscuits (again)!

It's all in the mind (insert weird finger movement here)

Yesterday, while I was semi-doing stats, I had the world's worst headache. It was horrible, I even used some of the snake-lab's extra-strength disprin and it didn't help.

Basically yesterday was just a full-blown awful day. I didn't manage any stats until about 2 hours before hand-in and finally I just handed in half a good project that I've been working on for ages and the other half was literally thrown together in a hour. I even used stats to prove that analysing my other data would be useless.

We also had a lot of admin to do because to display live animals you need animal ethics clearance, so we started doing the paperwork, but I decided that we would call it off and eventually Luke agreed. We have to tell the committee, whichshould be interesting, but considering that the people who were put in charge of the stand hadn't even started on cleaning a tank for them (which is all thatwe asked the to do), I'm pretty sure it was a good call. I just don't like to be responsible for someone else's animals when I'm not able to be there all the time.

Anyway I got home at about 6, and fell onto my bed and carried on reading a book that I always regret reading because it's so sad, but invariably carry on reading regardless.

It's by Bryce Courtenay, who is one of my favourite authors, an dhe talks about his son who was born a haemophiliac and then gets HIV through a blood transfusion.

Anyway, maybe because I was reading about someone in terrible pain, my ehadache vanished. This morning my head was fine and I got up and came to wits. A block before I got here, my head started hurting, and I ended up sitting in my car in the parking area for about 20 minutes because I couldn't bring myself to walk up the hill and sit here all day. It's feeding day too, which means I'll be terribly busy all day and not actually get anything done. I also don't want to go to the unit because there's a possibility that one or two of the animals will have been euthenased and that's horrible.

So it's not a good day right now, I think I might just feed the animals and then go home. Except that I have a huge amount of work to do at the moment and that's a bad idea.

It's day 26 in a row at wits today.

Here's another photo from Dublin zoo.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I don't handle change well

Today was pretty much a write-off as far as work goes. I got in early, and spent pretty much the entire morning and part of the afteroon feeding lizards and cleaning tanks. Tas and I had another bitching session and I'm beginning to worry about her, she's a lot more stressed out than usual. She's really awesome though, she has a way of listening to your problems and then getting really angry and yelling at the world on your behalf. Occasionally I tell her something and she gets all angry and yells at me because I think she just gets angry and whoever it is isn't there (displacement behaviour?)...

In the afteroon I kind of arbed around, doing a bit of stats but not really anything significant (no pun intended). I had to go to the optometrist, mainly because I'm on my last pair of contact lenses and partly because I haven't had my eyes tested in a while and I've been getting headaches.

So I did a multiple regression quickly (why? because I can!) and it didn't work :( so I rushed off to the optometrist and was late because I got stuck behind a stupid cement truck that cut me off and then proceeded to go along the road at 10km/hr while nobody else had a problem, because up north everyone else drives Porsches and they aren't afraid of the right hand lane, whereas good people like me who keep left get stuck behind all the slow moving traffic (which is pretty abundant considering just anout everyone is either building or moving at the moment for some reason). On the way I stopped at a robot and called the optometrist. It went something like this:

them:"Thank you for calling Eagle Vision, how may I help you."
me: "Hi, ihave an appointment at 4pm and I'm afraid I may be a bit late, is that all right?"
them: "Ok!" and hung up.

So anyway after handling parking and fending off car wash people and car guards (when we already pay for parking...) and dashing around the centre avoiding incredibly slow people in designer shoes (connection?) I bolted into the optometrist and introduced myself to a receptionist I didn't recognise (I don't handle change well!) and she yelled out "Jaco! Your 4 oclock!"

And a complete stranger walked up and glanced at his watch and made a snide comment about how lucky I was he was free after my appointment and she leapt to my defense and said I'd called. And he snorted and did the whole "follow me" thing and stalked off while I was running through those anti-thesft barriers and around counters and things trying to keep up.

Let me explain. My optometrist has been , for the last 6 years or so, a really weird Croatian guy with way too many consonants in his surname. He's also really nice, actually talks to me and is really good at his job. When I called to make an appointment they said he'd be in so I was expecting this guy to appear and everythig would be ok, (new receptionist aside). Instead I got a weird Afrikaans guy with a comb-over who either snorted or yawned the whole time.

He was so horrible! Firstly he did all the measurements at a set of machines and instead of letting me hold my glasses he forced me to put them down. Then to go to the room for the rest of the test he took my glasses and let me stumble around blindly. It was so rude! You do NOT force a total control freak like me into an unfamiliar situation and then take their eyesight away, It's cruel! After that, he had the weird swinging-mask thingy they use to slot all the lenses in and make adjustments and stuff over my face,and between section, whenever he didn't want me to do anything he put the opaque lenses over BOTH eyes (they usually use them to work on each eye independedntly) so I just had to sit there blindly.

He also never gave me different letters to work with (it's been 12 years, i can recite the charts for you,so please don't insult me with LCNK and RKBD over and over!).

Anyway it turns out my left eye needs a stronger contact lens, so hopefully the headaches will stop.

He also said I should use my glasses for computer work, but my glasses are too strong and I'll get headaches. The gist of his argument was: When you work at a computer you strain your eyes. Also because you are concentrating on the screen you don't blink enough and it dries your eyes out. Because my lenses are quite strong, to use a computer I'd have to sit really close to it which is bad. He repeated this over and over and then said: 'but some people are fine wearing contacts while they work on computers!'

So it looks like I might need reading glasses to correct my contact lenses when I'm reading or typing a lot. I gave up and went to buy iguana food.

Now that that's out of my system I can concentrate on stats!

Anyway I just a had a church group at my house. it really annoys me that they take over my house every Wednesday night. We've all started referring to them as "The Christians" in a mildly derogatory manner. It's not that I don't like the church. And my faith is very important to me. I just don't like Christians very much. It's complicated. anway I abandoned them so i could do some stats(I'm up to page 30 now!).

Tomorrow I have to do a loglinear model (Luke, I need help!) or maybe a logistic regression, although Laura was really wanting me to do a multiple regression with indicator variables. and my huge big repeated measures ANOVA. I also want to break it down and look at interactions between some colours (like chest and stomach, if one gets brighter does the other one get darker?). After all that I think my stats project will be finished!

So far I've done chemical trials and visual trial weights. and in all the millions of tests I only have one significant difference and it's irrelevant :(

So right now I'm going to organise the data so that all I have to do tomorrow is copy and paste.

This is the grown-up Jesse attacking Max. She does that a lot.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dee is rox!!!

I'm saying this because he just gave me 2 cds with about 800 journal articles on them. I'm really battling to find articles for my lit review for my thesis so it's a very very welcome addition to my camputer! Some of the other people in the snake lab also said I can use the updated database in their lab anytime and search on their special search engine type thing. I love the snake lab people!

It's days like today that I really notice how lonely it gets in this lab. I love it, but I've also been the sole occupant for most of the year, and when there are people it's generally either Trevor (who works like a maniac) or the Australian who was here for about 2 days. Or my supervisor when he can't find something (in which case I generally either mention the fact that we never had whatever it is, or else find it for him).

Down in the snake lab there are a lot of people who hang out there all the time and when they find articles they put it into a huge database that anyone can access. The senior postgrads help the junior postgrads who help the overenthusiastic undergrads. It's so cool!

Here it's just me and the iguana (shout out to Melville!) and very occasionally the freakishly underenthusiastic undergrad who will probably end up being the freakishly unenthusiastic honours student here next year. Just a note: she doesn't get my desk! Even if I go overseas it's MINE until I get back.

Anyway yesterday was a rather bizarre day. We did a lot of admin without actually getting it done. Then I fed animals and had a bitching session about the animal unit with Tas, a PhD student who fights with the animal unit people more than I do. I think it's because she fights back. I try, but I'm always sared they'll revoke my ethical clearance.

I also found out that they're going to euthenase one of my lizards. It's a female, so it doesn't affect me in terms of research, but I have got to know all of them this year and it really does hurt me when I have to say goodbye (insert sob and tear). I understand that she's really sick and pretty old and probably in a lot of pain.

In the afternoon we all got crazy and giggly and it was a lot of fun until Luke went home and I actually got some work done.

Today I've been pretty unproductive. We had a meeting about our next phase of Ecophys, which sounds awesome because it's focussing on deserts which means that a) we get to look at lizards and snakes a lot and b) I'm fascinated by deserts and determined to go to one at the end of the year, whether by means of catching mole-rats or merely dragging my brother with me and making my own way (the brother is due to the fact that my mother is paranoid). So we get to learn about it before we go!

Anyone interested in planning a holiday in Namibia in December?

I also had to email my supervisor and tell him about the missing lizard, which was a scary thing to do. I hope he doesn't get angry, and if he does I hope he gets it out of his system before he comes back here.

I also had to show someone from the animal unit how the lizards on the roof are housed. Then the biocontrol people locked us on the roof (again) and Luke had to come rescue us.

On the plus side I can almost move my finger again!

Also: for the Yebo Gogga thing we're in charge of 2 students who are going to plan the stall with the mole-rats. They were supposed to meet with us yesterday and didn't show up. So they ended up asking for us at the IT guy's office. Today they came looking for me in the snake lab. Fortunately I was there at the time and managed to organise a meeting. They came a few hours ago and talked to Luke and myself. Basically they're disorganised and not very enthusiastic and/or bright. I'm a bit worried about leaving them in charge of animals on loan from another university, but I'm also pretty sure that we stressed pretty firmly that they can't touch the animals or leave them unattended.

They also know absolutely nothing about mole-rats. Unfortunately I'm way too busy to babysit them, so I told them to do some reading and Luke did the same and hopefully they'll cope. If not... I don't even want to think about it.

I guess I was probably the same. I started this year knowing very little about lizards and completely clueless as to how to look after them, handle them, even weight and measure them. Maybe that's how my supervisor felt about me. and besides number 7 I've done an ok job so far.

Anyway I need to do more stats. I just had coffee so I have about 2 hours of excellent work ethic before I get dizzy and nearly pass out.

This is a mole-rat. More accurately this is a heap of mole-rats. they're so cute in the way they all pile up and go to sleep! these guys are Cryptomys damarensus which are quite large and relatively docile compared to the Cryptomys hottentotus ones who are really agressive, quite small and make really cute squeak/grunt noises when they're angry.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A really long bitching session about my boss's brother. And a bit about Lost.

I've just been watching Lost again. I don't know why I bother, all it does is confuse me! Actually I'm pretty badly addicted, and I've got a whole bunch of episodes to get through. I'm watching the second season and I'm almost through episode 18.

The weird thing about Lost is that they never tell you anything and then in one episode they'll explain a whole bunch of stuff in a way that's either a gigantic letdown (a pillar of black smoke?) or leaves you more confused than before. I like it because it's all a 'big picture' in that they have to figure out what's going on, but not like '24' or 'prison break where there's a set time-frame so I just get frustrated because I know they aren't going to resolve anything because they still have x number of episodes to get through. I like Prison break though, but I was watching it at work and I can't remember how far I got. It's on my to-do list for December.

Today has been an extremely frustrating day. It started off raining, which is bad because I can't get any data from my experiment. I went to wits anyway, just in case. I left for work and on the way there got a call from work which I couldn't answer. When I got there Chris, the kid I work with, yelled at me because he'd been really busy. He's my boss (and friend) Jo's little brother and as soon as she (or the other staff who are good friends with her) isn't around he treats me like complete rubbish which really annoys me. I was already in a bad mood because the traps didn't catch anything and the lizard is still on the loose, but I hung on to my temper and was very polite back to him.

Basically a Sunday morning shift is really horrible because we have a lot of returned movies to process. A returned movie goes through 3 stages: it's handed in and checked and scanned to return it on the system. Then it's added to a pile by the credit card machine. From there, when the pile gets bigger, it's taken to the back and switched for the pretty cover (which is empty) and put in another pile. The third step is to take the pile of covers and put them back on the shelf.

There's already a minor conflict here, Chris and I both prefer putting the movies in the back to putting the covers on the shelf. Every Sunday for the last year and a half he's tried to force me to agree to do all the covers while he does the back. It's minor, but after this long it really annoys me that he tries this every time,just because he can bully all the other kids (I'm an adult and thus 'in charge' of the shift. I also get paid more than him) into doing what he wants. Generally I try to handle the covers he's processed and make sure I do my fair share in the back.

Today there was already a huge pile of covers because I'm allowed to come in late on a Sunday and Chris had taken full advantage of being alone in the store (kids aren't allowed to work alone), so I returned all the covers and then handled a whole heap of other returns and made a new pile. He ignored it. I kept adding to the pile and it kept getting bigger and bigger. He hogged the main computer (where the returns are handed in) and processed more returns. I put the covers away but left the big pile that I'd handled for him to sort out. He ignored it. This went on for about 2 hours. Finally I took a heap he'd done and told him that he must handle the other pile.

He walked over to it, looked at the movies and then, looking me in the eye he told me that I must, because he'd done them all and he particularly remember putting one of them away. For the record, I remembered it becasue it's the only copy we have of that particular movie and I'd been keeping an eye on it in case he argued to show that I had done it. He knows the movies really well and there's no way he made a mistake about it. So I lost it. I turned around and yelled out something along the lines of "Don't you lie to me!" and so forth. He stalked off, and a bit later startin slotting other covers into the pile I'd made to make it look like a new pile. I was watching him and I pulled out the new ones and put them away and left him with the pile. Finally he got all angry and put them away.

Then he came back and again said "I'll do back and you must do covers." I said "No" and he said "yes" and so on. After that he refused to leave the main computer for the rest of the shift, banged everything around like a sulky teenager and if i asked him for change for a customer he threw it at me (it got a few raised eyebrows from the customers, particularly because they all know him as the one with no people-skills who never knows how to talk to them).

When Jo came in a bit later I told her what had happened and she took his side as usual. It really annoys me because if it was one of the other kids she would have kept an eye on them and done something if she had to. This all sounds really really petty, but I'm stressed out and cranky at the moment. I've also been putting up with him acting like he owns the place for a really long time. It even got to the point where I've been trying to give up the shifts I work alone with him, but it's not going too well. I'm not quite sure what to do, the other people alsop have trouble but a lot of them have known Jo for longer than me and he knows that they talk to her, so he behaves a bit better. Most people just don't talk to him.

I feel really bad being nasty, because he's home-schooled with absolutely no people skills and all he has in his life is his job. That's why I've been nice to him for so long. the fact that he lied to my face and refused to apologise has ruined everything though, it's the one thing in life that I really can't handle.

I just reread everyhting and realised how petty it all sounds. I'm sorry. I guess when you're stressed out little things can wear you down. I also nearly got fired from my last job becasue the manager and her daughter decided that they didn't like me. I guess it's a bit of a tender point, but it made me a bit insecure about working with people who are related to each other.

Anyway I'm going to stop wingeing and go get some sleep. I'm sure I'll feel really stupid about all this in the morning!

Here's a pretty picture in the meantime. It's from Suikerbosrand, while I was waiting for Luke to finish getting GPS coordinates.

Apparently the baboon group climbed this hill at some stage. If they did, my congratulations are heartfelt!

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Just to elt you know, a little while after my post, Luke came and helped me, he was so awesome (Thanks Luke!) and helped me put glue traps EVERYWHERE! We set about 100 traps so hopefully the little guy will get caught and I can start breathing again.

I also released the rest of them on the roof, and everything went pretty smoothly, or so it seemed. I'm going to go home now and have lunch and then go to work. I know I was planing on finishing the first part of my stats project today, but I don't think I'd do a very good job if I tried!

No photo this time. Sorry.

Oh, and by the way, this is my 20th day in a row at wits. Which is why I'm writing like a zombie. The sad part is that I have another 27 to go before I can take a weekend 'off.'

The healing power of...

I was goig to put "The healing power of lizard urine" in the title, but it's not true. Yesterday they peed on my hands so much that my bandage was soaked, and my finger felt a whole lot better. I restrapped it with a clean bandage aftrewards and then today, once I'd been well and truly peed on again, I took off the bandage to find that although the swelling has gone down I can't actually move my finger. Or touch it. Or use it to touch anything. I think I'll go get it xrayed on monday. For now, due to the overwhelming lack of anything useful in the lab (but a lot of interesting stuff, last week we found a vervet monkey skull in a box full of camera equipment), I have now strapped up my finger with electrical tape.

My worst nightmare just came true. I was weighing and renumbering lizards this morning, and the third-last one got away. He's in the wall between the study and the lab and I don't know what to do. I've found a replacement in the stock for the experiment, but that's not the point. There are 3 scenarios: firstly, I could catch him by some complete and utter miracle and everything would be fine (I'm likeing this one the best). Secondly he could get out and run across the lab and into the building and I'd get into a whole lot of trouble. Third, he could be stuck in the wall forever and starve to death. As I said: my worst nightmare.

There were holes in the wall inexplicably filled with crumpled paper so I lay under Emily's desk for about an hour enlarging the holes with some scissors (as I said the lab has nothing useful, would it kill them to get a screwdriver?) and clearing out all the rubble inside (a lot more crumpled paper and some gravel). I put a glue-trap inside but it didn't fit nicely, I'm just hoping! I also put 2 traps in the lab and another one in the study. I'm considering baiting them with catfood, but with the amount of cockroaches in the lab I think he'll be pretty well-fed if he gets through!

I'm really really upset, partly because I've never lost one permanently before, there have been a few close calls, one actually got out on the roof once but I caught him, but this is such a nightmare. I don't know what to do. And to be quite honest I think that there isn't anything I can do.

Anyway I'd better go and put the others out on the roof and feed them. I have to be at work in a few hours so I have to hurry. If I finish in time I can stop and get some bandages on the way, electrical tape looks a bit ridiculous!

This is from Nottingham. The sky is the wrong blue. Nothing beats a South African sky at the end of summer when it's so blue it looks like it's been painted. The trees in Nottingham are awesome though, I love huge big trees that are really established. Here the tall tall trees are generally really skinny.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So that's what trusting people does to your life?

I took the word verification off my comments section yesterday, and got here this morning to find comment spam (gasp!). I'm so annoyed. I mean, if I don't turn it on again how long is it going to be before I end up with adverts for viagra, preapproved loans and free stock advice all over my blog? And word verification is so annoying. I mean when we had the fight in Sarah's comments ( it was a lot of fun, but imagine if between each nasty remark we had to sit typing njkwdri or jefiernf? I guess it's one of those things that's there because it's a good thing but you wish you didn't need it. Maybe in time we'll have a revolution to change this spam-infested world we live in. I'm tired and listening to the australian's music, which is why the whole paragraph didn't make sense. I'm sorry!

Our lectures are exhausting, we have 5 lectures in 4 days, with between 5 and 7 articles to read for each class. We're all fried and I think I made a groundbreaking record of stupid coments/questions in class. I did say one or two things that AAA liked, but mostly it was just him looking pained and saying no a lot.

Anyway my supervisor and the Australian left yesterday. I think Phil felt pretty bad about me staying here all alone, he looked pretty sheepish (hee hee, sheepish! Sheepish! hee hee! that's funny!). My supervisor pretty much told me to keep him updated and to make sure I water the plants. Translated that means he's about to drop off the planet for a month, and I must try keep his plants alive or else be the object of ridicule for the rest of my academic career. I said to have a good trip and that I had an hour and a half after he left before something would break or explode.

Weirdly enough, just over an hour and a half later I was faced with a decision regarding euthenasing a bunch of sick animals (my equivalent of something exploding, I really love the little guys), and then I dropped a rather huge brick on my finger. It was more like I was swinging it to put it down somewhere (so it was moving pretty fast) and as it landed my finger got in the way. I said a lot of flowery anglo-saxon phrases (my co-supervisor would be proud) and proceeded to watch it swell to ridiculous proportions and change colour.

By the time I got home last night it was the size of my thumb and black (it's my little finger). I went to a braai and showed it off to some very impressed people. Then one guy decided that it was his life's mission to kiss it better and I stopped showing it off and concentrated on annihilating the opposition in a game of 30 seconds. We won but I got annoyed because my friend Helen (another one) is just way too nice and every time the other team made a mistake and should have a lost a point she gave it to them. Every time.

We played again in different teams a bit later and I won the personal high score (getting my team to guess 6 words in 30 seconds) but we tied with another team and played 3 very intense tie-breakers tieing each time. So we gave up and went and ate a lot of meat. It was quite funny because the third team was really lagging behind so we all started helping out, so their person would describe the words and all the other players would try guess them. It didn't help them much.

My parents got back from the Cape yesterday. My mom thinks it's a nice thing to do to show me all the photos of the whales they saw in Hermanus while I was stuck in the lab. And she took a lot of fuzzy photos of blobs that she swears are birds, so that I can identify them for her. So I identified the trees that the blobs were sitting on (or rather made up names, I'm not great with fynbos).

Here is a (censored) photo of my finger. You wouldn't want to see the unwrapped version. Actually I don't know, I'm scared to look myself, although the swelling has gone down a lot since yesterday. It looks a lot more impressive in real life! And it really hurts (sob). I'm going to go read articles now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cat power!

Teh Australian just gave me some music. He has a strange taste in music, very chilled to the point of Bob Marley, but all Australian artists. I don't really like Bob Marley (sorry EEbEE) but the Aussie equivalent is pretty awesome!

Right now he's playing a something by 'cat power' which is kind of Norah-Jonesish but a bit more upbeat and she doesn't sound like she's suffering from emphysema (I love Norah Jones, when I have the flu I can sing just like her!).

Anyway yesterday was insane! I had two elctures for Ecophysiology which meant I had to read 12 papers. the first 5 were ok, and we had a pretty cool discussion in class, AAA was actually very cool compared to his last set of lectures. EEbEE managed to get picked on and shot down and it was really funny.

The next 7 were really nasty involving lots of maths and fractal geometry (which I understand now but not knowing made reading the papers was a bit difficult!)

Anyway I have 5 to read for about 2 hours time. I've read 3 and a half. They're written by MORONS! the one I'm on could have been written in less than 10 pages, but for some reason they felt the need to use 19. NINETEEN!!!! It's a cool topic but I'm losing patience!

Anyway, back to yesterday... Sarah met the Australian, it was really funny! I had to focus very hard to concentrate on my stats project. Oh, yes... I forgot... the stats marks are up and I got 88% which is second only to Laura who got 90%. I know I really shouldn't be as annoyed about her beating me as I am, but I looked thorugh the lsit and had a "I'm top of the class!" moment, and the Luke had to say "no, there's a 90..." So now I'm annoyed. But I'm also pretty happy because I was scared the exam would pull my average down and it didn't. :)

My brother and I have been watching 'The long way round,' it's a series with Ewan McGregor and a friend going around the world on motorbikes. It's really awesome and makes me want to travel! Anyway we finished that yesterday and I'm quite sad, it was fun watching something with him, we never really talk anymore so I enjoyed having some QT.

My supervisor also didn't leave because they couldn't pack in time, so they need an extra day, but he's so distracted that I can't really go to him for help without coming out exceedingly confused. It's like I'm having one conversation and he's havig another one with someone I can't see! But I need to submit an abstract for the conference and he said he'd help me. It's just a bad time and I really don't care about the conference. They said I'd only get funding if I presented, then they said they ran out of funding, but I still have to present. To be honest, I don't particularly want to go. It would be cool, but I'm such a reluctant herpetologist and only by default, I can see it being really awkward being surrounded by people like Dee and Bryan.

Besides, at the end of the year I intend to have a quiet nervous breakdown and go on holiday. If I end up mole-rat trapping and doing a project with Dee and TAing on the field trip I won't have a break from December until the end of my masters.

Anyway, enough whining, I have work to do! I think I'll go to the honours room and sleep for a bit. I had coffee yesterday and spent most of the afteroon trying to not pass out (how's that for a split infinitive!), so I think I'd better find an alternative way of boosting energy levels!

These are English birds that tried to attack me. I don't know what they are. I suck at bird identification (but am remarkably good at tree identification. Which is strange because I love birds and hate plants!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

vita c is good!

Just thought I'd share that with you!

It's been really hectic, and my home internet has been a bit ridiculous lately, which is why I haven't posted. Anyway the stats is still not cooperating. I sat down and clamly and logically listed all of my predictions, handled the data, tested all of them and all are not significant. I've got one Chi-square to do still, but my sample size is far too small to pick up a difference (stupid degrees of freedom!) so I'm not hoping.

Anyway yesterday, beween generous helpings of stats (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) I met the new guy in our lab. he's really nice and very Australian. Then I settled down to do more stats after feeding all the animals and skipping a seminar on biocontrol and was asked to help out making testosterone implants. It was really awesome because I've read about them a million times, just never had an opportunity to see what they actually look like. Particularly since I'm supposed to be using them next year.

Basically it's a really finicky process, you cut a tiny length of silastic tube, glue one end to seal it off and wait for it to dry. Then you use a micropippette (I had a mini-tutorial on how to use one :) just because it's cool) and put a tiny bit of testosterone-DMSO mixture inside and the glue the other side. They're so little you have to use little forceps (even finer than the ones we use in dissections) to hold the tubes. My job was basically holding the tubes while the new guy filled them (no pun intended?). It's harder than it sounds because if you squeeze too hard the liquid doesn't fit, but if you don't squeeze hard enough you drop it. I dropped 3, one or 2 just didn't work so we chucked them and one broke the seal at the other end and squirted me with testosterone.

It was actually a lot of fun to get away from the computer and actually do something productive. Plus the new guy is awesome in that he talks a lot. I've really been lonely in the lab this year. Trevor is way too dedicated to chat about movies and music and what a twat Locke is!

Anyway after that I organised with Dee (who is back from fieldwork!!!!!) to give the new guy a tour of the animals in his lab. They have some awesome stuff, like bullfrogs, frogs, an eggeater, some geckos, a stunning legless skink and a new snake that Dee called a centipede. I'm not sure but it's really pretty but freaked out at my handling it so I put it back.

After all that it was about 4:30 so I rushed to finish my stats so I can show it to my supervisor today. Nothing exciting, just the usual round of non-significance. My supervisor said I won't have a problem publishing, and I know that a 'no' is as much of an answer as a 'yes' but it sucks!

So I woke up this morning to realise that in all the excitement I had entirely forgotten to read the 12 articles for lectures today. I read 5 of them in bed this morning, for the 11am lecture and then I'll have to read the next 7 before the lecture at 2pm.

This is a picture of part of the African Plains section in the Dublin zoo. The zoo is so fantastic, I'd love to work there one day! They're about the same size as our zoo here, but they use the space so much more efficiently and the enclosures are fantastic!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Butternut soup

I love butternut soup! It has a way of making everything so much calmer. I don't know why, but if you're all stressed and you sit back and have some soup everything clicks into perspective. I like tomato soup too, but that's more for when I'm sick or cold or miserable.

I'm writing all of this because I'm sitting in front of the computer with about 8 journal articles (make it 7) and a big cup of butternut soup. It's all because of stats.

I understand that stats is evil and horrible and invented by totally crazy and sadistic people. I also half-wish that I was living in the 20s when a t-test was the essential test and nobody asked questions. I also must admit that I do kind of like it, in a weird, quasi-masochistic kind of way. It sucks, and it's complicated, and it takes forever just to handle and process and format your data into something that you can use it on, but it's also the tool that can turn your data from a series of pretty pictures and meaningless numbers intosomething real.

After today I am a firm advocate of the "Lies, damned lies and statistics" school of thought though. Here's what happened:
I spent a week of my life cooped up in a smelly basement room (actually it's ground floor, but it's in the middle of the building at the end of long and gloomy corridors and locked doors and it has no windows. Hence: basement), running trials.
I spent another week of my life looking at video-footage of the trials and taking notes and writing down times and so on.
I spent about 2 days actually typing 200 hours worth of data into a computer.
I spent an afternoon doing stats on it.

The result: NOT SIGNIFICANT!!!

So I looked at it, retested a few things, saw that my data was arranged wrong and the pairings weren't actually pairings at all and felt a glimmer of hope. Reran the stats and... NOT SIGNIFICANT!!! So I retested things and transformed my data and reran the stats. The results... NOT SIGNIFICANT!!! At one stage I even transformed my data into proportions so that I could use an ARCSINE transformation, but then I figured it was time for soup.

So then I went to church and tried to concentrate on a really interesting sermon, but all I could do was think about how to restructure my dataset for a contingency table. On my way there I got a phonecall from my friend Dee who was panicking about tomorrow's 12 readings because he just can't seem to download them and I realised that in my stats bubble I'd entirely forgotten that we had a double lecture with readings tomorrow. I have all of them at my computer at wits, but I think 12 readings tomorrow morning isn't going to be possible with all the lizard duties and so on, so I tried to download them. I managed to get 7 of the 12, which is enough of a start. Generally when I have to read stuff for lectures I either sit at my desk at wits with a strong cup of tea (I miss coffee!) or else i wake up early and read them in bed, making notes in the margins so when I fall asleep again I have some record of actual thought processes. So 7 in bed and 5 at my desk should work.

Anyway now that I have had some soup, I have come up with a gameplan:
write out my hypotheses and preditions.
Figure out how they link to my data.
Run simple tests to see what's going on.
Restructure data for complex stats that I need my stats programmes at wits to run.

So: Lies. damned lies and statsitics? I'll translate it into my terms: "If I can't get the results I want, I'll find statistics that will give them for me!"

The problem is that it's hard to be calm when one supervisor has left now and the other one is leaving onTuesday morning and I want to go over the stats with someone who should understand what's going on.

Anyway I'm going to go and wash my soup cup and do some more stats.

Oh, and exciting news: it turns out that Live is coming out here to do a concert again! And Lara and I have organised to get tickets tomorrow! The bad part is that the concert is 5 days before my thesis is due, but I figured I'll be needing the break. Live has a very special place in my heart mainly because when they came out here the first time it was my first concert. I went with my best friend Gloria and we had such an awesome time! then in second year they came out here again and it turned out that two of my friends who I had met more recently had also been at the first concert and I ended up going with my friend Linda. they've also booked this really awesome SA band called the Parlotones to open for them. I was the first person in my group of friends in highschool to know their music so I'm so excited! When Lara told me about it at work today we ended up doing a very girly jumping up and down in circles squealing thing. It was really funny.

This is what should happen to all alien invasive plants. This is the remains of a prickly pair that we stimped on, ripped out of the ground and then hung up in an indigenous tree. I would name the tree, but that would be just too sad.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I know I should really limit myself to posting once a day, but I figure I miss out on days sometimes, so I might as well keep going whenever I get a chance!

I got to wits really early today and cleaned the iguana's tank (it's really dirty and it bugs me that she has to live in a dirty tank. Her new bigger tank should be arriving soonish though). Then I went and watched the last of the footage from the experiments (yay I'm finished!) and also managed to get some screenshots and videoclips. I also checked on the other little guys in the next set of trials, they were mostly hiding though, I really hope none of them got out!

After that I was going to come home and grab some lunch before work, but it turned out that Vanessa was at wits and had had an awkward moment in my lab (long story, she seems to have a lot of them ;) I'm not sure why) so I decided to stay while she had lunch. It was actually really nice to sit in the sun and chat, every time I sit and talk to her I realise that I don't know her as well as I'd like to, which is sad.

So anyway I ended up rushing straight to work and I actually took the highway! Driving is definately getting better! Work was hectic as usual but I managed to mark 2 essays, one of which was TERRIBLE and one was brilliant to a state of being overdone. I actually ended up resenting the person who wrote it because I just couldn't fault her! I also realised that I ended up with 2 clever people, one reasonable person and a total moron. I've only got 4 to mark at the moment because everyone else got their fair share and I have to handle all the late submissions that got special extensions for next week.

So anyway I just watched "Stay" with the guy from "The notebook" and Ewan McGregor. It's definately the weirdest movie I've watched in ages and I didn't enjoy iy while I was watching it, but now that I've had a few minutes to think about it I think it was actually really good. It made me think a lot. It's also one of those with a really confusing plot that's only explained in the final few moments, but there are still loose ends that I'm going to be thinking about for a little while. I'm glad I watched it, but I don't think I'll be recommending it too much, mainly because it appealed to my rather strange taste in movies. I know Chris would hate it!

Speaking of Chris, Lara and I finally got him to drink alcohol for the first time tonight. It was the 'Saturday night special' which is hot chocolate and amarula. We really shouldn't be drinking it at work, but I'm not really caring too much at the moment. I'm really tired right now so I'm going to go to sleep.

This is a really bad photo of Jesse when she was a puppy. It's the only photo we have of the night we got her. She's a lot bigger now and a total brat. She's a beautiful dog though and everyone loves her because she's pretty shy around strangers and doesn't bite them like Max does.

If you can't trust you can't be trusted

I was listening to Ben Folds this morning, he wrote the music for the movie "Over the hedge" Which I thought was one of the best animated movies since "Finding Nemo."

Anyway my friend Luke had one of his CDs so I borrowed it and I've been listening to it in my car. Anyway there's this one song where he talks about a girlfriend who is completely paranoid (If you can't trust then you cna't be trusted) and it got me thinking. I remember hearing someone talk about psychology, and I think it's Freud who said that what you hate most about others is actually what you hate the most about yourself.

It really upset me, because I always thought that what I dislike about people (being rude, irresponsible, disorganised (although I knew I fit that category pretty well), inconsiderate and so on) is what I always try so hard to avoid. I know I get cranky when I'm stressed and then I can be a bit abrupt, but otherwise I try really hard to be nice to people. The stuff that I know I have a problem with (absolutly no tact, being supersensitive sometimes, messiness and gossiping for instance) I try and give people some leeway because I know I do it too. But why do really bad/aggressive drivers annoy me so much when I'm supercautious to the extent of being paranoid? I guess most of Freud can be taken with a pinch of salt though, he definately had some parent issues...

Anyway I haven't been blogging because I'm starting to panic about the nearness of the end of the year and I'm nowhere near where I need to be with anything. I've been working hard, but a lot of the last few months has been me working like crazy and not getting anything done, so I have to pick up about 3 months of slack. It's pretty scary! I was also just about to blog on thursday nioght when a really good friend of mine who emigrated years and years ago logged into messenger. So I figured that priorities had to be shifted!

Which is why I got to university at 8am on a Saturday. That and some people without building access need to get in later so I said I'd be here. The game plan is: watch some more experiment videos, check out the little guys in experiments, watch more footage, hopefully capture all the data, go home and get lunch, go to work, get home from work, collapse.

A lot of people seem to think it's impossible to be doing a postgraduate degree and still work part-time. I just find that I really need the petrol-money and I enjoy doing something that isn't studying! Plus I get free movies and the chance to hang out with some really good friends and get paid for it.

Anyway I'm going to make myself some strong coffee and get to work. Sorry this post has been so unfoccussed, I'm not thinking too well at the moment.

Picture of the day:

I got a whole email about a week into April with this whole story about a tortoise adopting a pygmy hippo. According to a whole bunch of people it was an April fools day joke that someone hadn't caught on to and had sent it around after the first of April was well and truly over. I'm not sure because the person who sent it to me thinks it's true. Anyone know anything about it?

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I didn't blog yesterday because my connection was REALLY slow and I was tired. Too bad actually because I had my photo of the day ready and everything! Not that anyone actually reads this, but I like to think that I have a responsibility to this.

I'm going a bit crazy at the moment. I always thought of myself as someone who liked a bit of quiet time. I always get a lot done when I'm on my own and I was kind of looking forward to having some time to myself this week. But it's horrible. I'm getting a lot of work done, I've got about 200 hours of video to watch and I got through about a third of it yesterday (by watching 4 videos at the same time, often on fast forward). I'm capturing the data for that now, it's taking a long time, but it loks good and I'm even a little bit excited to start analysis, but that's a long way off still.

Everything here's been a bit horrible, I was ina really bad mood yesterday, particularly when Luke and Vanessa and EEbEE and Brian came back between fieldwork to drop stuff off and didn't come and say hi. So I called Luke and yelled at him and now I feel horrible!

I also found out that a scholarship application of mine has vanished before one of my referrees could fill it in. So I went to watch video footage and I felt a lot better after that, so I went running off to tell my supervisor all about how awesome the camera system is, and all he wanted was to find out if I've bee speaking to my other supervisor.

The thing is, she's really nice, and she explains stuff well and she's an expert in a lot of areas. I've also spoken to her about 3 times in my life so far. It's not that I don't want her help, it's just that right now things are vaguely under control and I don't feel comfortable involving her just because she's here. I was also really tired so I said I'd talk to her and thenI went back to sit with Neva for some sympathy and when I left to talk to her I saw her walking off on her way home. She's sitting in here now, but I'm not going to do naything just yet, firts I'm going to go and have some tea and then go and see how my test subjects are doing and then go and watch some video footage. After that I have stats club (yes, I'm a nerd) and then I'll chat to her.

Oh... the title. well the squeaky mouse wasn't helping with my tentative grasp on sanity, so I just changed it for the mouse I brought from home a while ago. When I click it's so quiet! You'll never understand the annoyance of a squeaky mouse util you're clicking and dragging data all voer a spreadsheet!

I'm feeling a bit better about life right now, the pressure is mounting but I think a I'll survive, as long as I have some tea. Tea makes everything ok!

I know these birds are really common overseas, but I'd never seen one before I was in the uk in December, so I spent a lot of time stalking them trying to get a picture and looknig like a total tourist. This was the closest I could get. They also scared me, so I didn't try to get that close!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I forgot the cool title :(

It's been an ok day, particularly considering what yesterday was like!

Last night my parents only got home at about 9:30, by which time I was already in bed. My mother got all sympathetic "Are you tired my girl? You deserve to be!" and so on, which is very unlike her, and not much appreciated by me (I'm a stalwart of the 'stiff upper lip' tradition).

I woke up aching all over and just couldn't bring myself to get out of bed. Considering I'd measured 19 lizards yesterday (WOOHOO!!! 19! 19! YEAH!!!) I figured I could move slowly, so I got here by 8 (by some mystery it's always 8 when I get here) and measured the rest of them.

I fetched a STACK of marking (if any of the tAs are reading this, be prepared, there's a LOT of it!) and then ran into one of the second years, not very affectionately known as 'the annoying guy' by most people. I use it because it's convenient, he's actually a pretty sweet guy, albeit obnoxious at times. He was battling with a project with group members who had bailed on him and left him picking up pieces. It involved using a computer programme that I'm vaguely familiar with, but he didn't even know how to open files in it. Did I mention that this project was due by last friday? Well I did now.

Anyway he was all very grateful and promising me alcohol, which was very sweet and made me feel a lot more validated than I have in a while. It was also nice having someone to talk to, as everyone else is on fieldtrips except for one or two people who I don't normally spend time with (me? cliquey? NEVER!!!) but I'm getting to know them now!

Anyway back to the lizards: By the time I'd returned the ones I didn't need and fetched the ones I did need, and measured the wrong ones a few times and then put them all into the next lot of experiments and fed them it was about 4pm. I got back to the lab all exhausted to see my other supervisor walking down the passage. She lives pretty far away and i think I've spoken to her twice before, and my other supervisor isn't around at the moment, so it was mildly awkward, but I really do like her and she's really nice, so it was ok. She came and looked at the setup with the lizards, didn't say anything, which I hope means it's ok and then sat at her computer and worked, like everyone else in this lab does all the time. I feel like such a slacker sometimes!

So that's pretty much my day, except for one thing: I got a new mouse, a sleek little laser thing (before I ahd a really lousy ball-mouse so I had to bring a mouse from home to avid going crazy) and every time I click it squeaks and no, that's not a pathetic pun because I'm tired. It sounds like there's a rusty spring inside or something and every time I click it's like an old gate being opened and closed. And opened and closed. which can totally ruin your day! Just thought I'd mention it!

anyway here's the picture of the day:

I love penguins, I think they are some of the coolest animals on the planet (except for my lizards of course!)!

Monday, September 04, 2006


Today is one of thaose days when everything is just .... bleh!

I woke up exhausted (and late) this morning and semi-rushed to wits. well I didn't rush really, I just somehow got here by 8. I was so tired that clearing the experiments took hours and setting up the new ones also took ages. Then I went and sat in the honours room weighing and numbering lizards. My supervisor is nowhere to be seen, so I can't find out if it's ok or if I should have given them another day off.

I have to start measuring them tonight so I can get them into trials tomorrow morning. I'm just so tired. To top it all off one of the guys ion the other honours room has been playing choir music at full volume all day. Someone tried to go ask him to turn it down but he was swept away by enthusiasm and made her sit and listen to a whole piece.

Part of me is really relieved that the labour-intensive-volatile-chemical stage is over, but another part of me really doesn't want to start trials tomorrow. It's labout intensive every ten days, inbetween I'm stuck at university every day and the idea of being tied to the place again is not a happy one! I love it here but lab work has a way of making me very depressed. Besides it's a beautiful day outside and I really feel like lying in the sun until I fall asleep and then going ice-skating. I really want to go skating. I think we must make a plan.

Anyway, I have to go find strong coffee and start measuring lizards. I've got about 28 weighed and numbered, which means if I get through 25 today I'll only have 8 in the morning. Realistically I think I'll manage about 10 or so.

Everyone else is off on fieldwork together and I'm all alone, so the prospect of walking down to my car in the dark is not happy. The prospect of no highly amusing tea breaks with everyone freaking out about something entirely random for a week is even worse. I think I'm depressed :(

I have no idea where I took this, I think in Ireland because when I was in England it didn't rain (What are the chances!). It looks suitably bleak.

I'm sorry, I'll try be in a better mood tomorrow!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I'm glad I'm not getting married

I was planning on working on my writeup this afternoon, but it didn't happen. First ALL the roads were blocked off on my way home, so I took the highway again and ended up getting off an exit too early and stuck in terrible traffic in small roads because all the big ones were closed. The highway was definately easier the second time.

Anyway when I got home I found out that my brother was actually here, which is very unusual, in the 6 weeks he's been engaged I think I've seen him twice. His fiance was also here, which is nice, necause I really like her and we get along well, but also awkward. Ever since the nice-but-awkward lunch the two of them have been arguing about wedding plans. I'm beginning to understand why Claire and Darryl got a wedding planner. Basically they've had a 3 hour long fight about how long the photo session at the church before going to the reception will take. My brither wants half and hour, his fiance wants it to take as long as it takes, with a ceiling at 2 hours. Personally I'd rather have a quick session because I'ma bridesmaid and I can only smile for so long, but I'm happy to do whatever they want because it's their day. anybody reading this with extensive wedding experience? Any input much appreciated!

So I felt really awkward sitting listening to them fight, so I took my birds out and let them run around my room while I slept, taking only a quick break while my brother was out the next room to try calm down the fiance. Apparently the bridesmaids dresses are to be a dark wine-red, each in a different design according to what we want. I like it already!

So anyway I'm about 6 weeks past the deadlines I set myself for my writeup and a week behind what my friend's supervisor set him as a deadline (I'm using it as a guideline) which is worrying. My supervisor is awesome but a bit too relaxed at times. Did I mention he's leaving for a month next week and he didn't even tell me?

I'm off to church now, at least it's less awkard than sitting here!


This is Amber, the youngest of the chimps at the zoo. She's really cute! I won't mention the log-licking incident here though!

Why do stupid people write essays that are so much LONGER than clever people's?

I've jyst been marking. Well, first I got up, swore because I was late again and tried to rush to wits. Except there's a cycle race or something so all the roads were blocked off so I had to take the highway. It's the first time I've been on the highway inmore than a month. After my car accident I've become a somewhat nervous driver so I'm afraid of going fast. Or turning suddenly, or being surrounded by cars. I refuse to see it as a problem just yet though, because it's getting better.

So anyway when I finally got to wits I chatted with some of the people who were about to leave on a field trip. Melanie was there. She's one of my supervisor's prospective honours students for next year. She followed me around for about a week to try talk to me, then I was nice and she's ignoring me completely. Did I mention that she's the world's most unenthusiastic prospective students? I remember being nervous and a bit withdrawn when I was first getting to know my supervisor(s) and not being too sure of what to do, but I really don't think I was as bad as her. So she ignored me again so I hung around to make sure she felt really awkward. I don't like being ignored.

After that I set up trials again. I'm getting better, although I guess it's a bit pointless to be proud of setting up in record time today, because it's the alst big setup. I just have to do 4 trials tomorrow then this section is over and I get to watch it for hours and hours and hours. literally. The joys of videotaping trials!

Anyway when I was done wioth that I tried to mark an essay and I'm so frustrated! It's not one of the best students, and the essay is appalling. At least it's relatively short, some of the KIDSs got really longwinded. But the way the memo is structured it works out that he gets an A. So I'm really annoyed because it's not fair on the ones who did good work to get the same mark as this guy. So I'm going to go whine about it tomorrow and try get a scale system going.

So last night was Vanessa's birthday party/thing. It was literally 2 minutes from my house at a pub type place that I've walked past a lot of times and never actually gone into. It was a lot of fun, although somehow it was another karaoke night. I seem to end up at those a lot. Fortunately I'm a responsible drinker so I've enver used the opportunity to unleash my singing voice on the community. My alcohol tolerance has definately gone very low, probably because I don't get out much at the moment. I reached the stage when nobody could understand me (I talk fast when nervous, excited or tipsy) and was about to reach the "sitting in a corner crying because I'm about to make a fool of myself" stage when I went home. It was really nice to get out of the house/lab for a bit though, and make a lot of noise and stuff.

Anyway I think I'll go home now, my family has this Sunday lunch tradition thing, where we all sit down together on a Sunday and have a huge meal. I usually work on Sundays so I miss it but I have the weekend off because of running experiments. Plus I really don't feel like working. So I'll go home, feel all guilty and then work on my writeup. Sounds like a plan!

Oh yes, today's picture...

I took it at about 5am while I was waiting on the beach at Sodwana bay for the skipper so we could go diving. I only became an early riser when I started diving - I'd wake up easily at 4am because I'd be so excited to go diving. I really want to go on a diving trip at the end of this year. I was thinking Mozambique. Although I could always just go to Sodwana again and then go up to Namibia. I'm dying to go to Namibia! And a bunch of other places. I'll type up a list at some stage.

Anyway, I guess I'd better get going. At least my lap is dry today!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

kind of an awkward moment

Everything went pretty well today, down in the 'smelly room' I cleared all of yesterday's trials, fed and watered those guys and set up todays set. then I actually managed to carry a bucket of dirty tiles up to the lab. Usually it takes two people to carry it. It only had about 42 tiles, rather than the usual 60, but it was pretty heavy!

I couldn't make myslef go down to the animal unit though, so I scrubbed them all in the lab. However I didn't notice that, along with a psychotic tap that sprays like crazy, the sink is positioned at a height just below pocket height (for lack of a better word), so after washing the tiles I looked down and saw that the psychotic tap had sprayed me all the way from my waist to my pockets. Putting it indelicately, I look like I just wet my pants.

Which is why I'm sitting at my PC with paper towels all over my lap, hoping to draw out the worst of it before I have to go and walk around. On the plus side it's a saturday which means very few people that I know are here, and all of them are locked in offices working furiously. On the negative it's a Star Schools day, which means that half the country's high-school students are milling around campus right now. I think I'll go and have a cup of tea and sit by the heater.

Drama drama drama!

Here's a picture also from Wollaton Park. I went a bit nuts in the uk because we don't really get big trees here (I'd explain why but I've given up ecology. It's a bad habit). So I have a lot of tree photos.


I was thinking about my relationship with alcohol this morning. Well actually I was thinking more along the lines of 'OH CRAP I overslept, hope the lizards are still alive!' but then I igured I might as well relax because I only have to set up 4 experiments today, so I can move slowly.

So anyway, I was wondering, why the heck do I actually drink? My history with alcohol is pretty normal I think, I went through a hectic teetotal phase when I was 14 or so, when I wouldn't even eat food prepared with alcohol. then when I was about 15 I got pretty angry about life (as you do) and starting drinking like crazy, but I really hated the feelnig of being drunk, so I generally behaved pretty well in terms of pacing myself and stopping at the right point.

Now I'm a pretty light drinker. I go out for drinks a lot, especially after work with my friends. And there's Biosoc on a Friday and that sort of thing. I like that, although now that I'm actually thinkig about it, alcohol doesn't really taste good, it dehydrates you and stuff and considering your body tends to panic to banish the 'toxin' from your system, it really doesn't make sense.

I was hiking a few weeks ago, around the botanical gardens in roodepoort, one of my favourite places in the world, also where I had my 21st party/picnic. WhenI got to the end I REALLY wanted a drink. Just because I was hot and tired and felt like sitting back with a Hunters or something. Unfortunately my mother was there so we went for waffles instead.

So anyway I was just thinking, is it just a marketing thing? I mean for a control freak like me to actually choose to drink alcohol is crazy!

I was just talking to Trevor (who is here (at Wits) on a Saturday again), and he said to ignore Kevin because all he wants is to get people through the system quickly. So I figure that I'll apply for masters here, as well as the one overseas and the various overseas scholarships. Then I'll get started on my masters, do pilot studies and proposals and things, and if I get to go overseas, I'll finish the section I'm workig on (there's 3 months between getting a scholarship and actually going) and put my masters on hold for a year. Once I've got my masters overseas I'll come back and convert this masters to a PhD. So if I don't get a scholarship (which is highly likely) I'm still on track and if I do it's also ok. And I also get to have a PhD before I'm 25! The only thing that could mess this up is if I actually get NRF, but according to the financial aid office I'm not in the best demographic group, so it's unlikely.

So now I have to go and talk to the other university and try and line up a project and a supervisor. I also have to talk to zoos and stuff about applying what I might learn overseas back in SA, which can make my application much more attractive to HESA. Then I have to find second and third choices (which is awkward because I want to go overseas because Scotland is the only place in the world that offers what I want).

Here is a photo from Wollaton park in Nottingham. It could be symbolic if you like that sort of thing, but then again, if you like that sort of thing, what isn't symbolic?

Right now I'm going to go feed lizards and breathe in more volatile chemicals. the joys of academia!

Friday, September 01, 2006

I wish I could think of a better title than 'second post!'

I should feel like a loser because I'm sitting typing this on a friday night instead of running around like a maniac with my friends. It is spring Day after all. Although in general it's been a pretty lousy day in terms of Spring-dayness.

Firstly I had to leave the house early this morning to go and breathe in some more noxious chemicals for my experiments. I got in later than I'd planned becasue it was freezing this morning and my bed was just too darn comfortable. Plus if I lie in bed and wait to hear my dad getting up I don't have to wake up all the animals (which is unpleasant because they're all full of energy and I'm not).

So I rushed in to wits and had just enough time to wipe all the tiles with alcohol before I had to run off and meet Linda for coffee. It was nice, although I was a bit worried because lately I had to give up coffee because it made me pass out a lot and combined with all the chemicals it's generally not a good idea. But it was nice to talk to Linda again, and coffee is the non-glue that binds us together. aLthough without Claire it's always a bit wrong to have coffee together. Claire is my friend who was studying Microbiology but she deregistered and now is very happy looking for microbes in consumables before they make the finished product.

Then I went and finished setting up my experiments for tonight. It's a bit annoying because one of the cameras broke literally the day after it was installed, so now my experiments have to be staggered around the available cameras. Which means a lot more work for me.

After all the animal feeding I had to contend with handing out essays to mark which caused some anger when people wanted to know why they got all the stupid/longwinded/annoying people. Which makes me worried about the class when 4 people, each marking 8 essays all think they got the stupid people. Once I'd done that I had a Twilight moment with my supervisor again. It happens regularly. I also got some letters of recommendation from the head of school so I can apply to get scholarships to study overseas next year. I made the stupid mistake of opening one of them. It was... for lack of a better word... glowing. It was all about how fantastic I am, which is great, but it also said he has no doubt I'm better than a masters student and when I get an A for my honours he'll push me to go straight to PhD. NO PRESSURE! Part of me is petrified, but part of me also couldn't stop smiling.

I had a meeting after lunch to plan for the Yebo Gogga exhibition we have every year ( if you're interested). It's a lot of fun, but I'm so swamped this year I thought I'd be in the committee to bolster my rather pathetic volunteer work/not studying stuff for my scholarship. So I decided to just sit there and not volunteer to do anything. But somehow I got sucked into the enthusiasm and wound up volunteering to do a whole bunch of stuff.

We were planning to go to the Biosoc Spring Day party, but we got back from the meeting to find out that Biosoc had not only run out of alcohol, but they had no intention of buying any more. I really don't like the new committee, the old people were always running off and coming back with crates of stuff. So my friend Luke and his cousin Duncan and their friend David and I all went off and got cocktails and nachos. And then I came home. The sad part is that I'm exhausted. The sadder part is that all I could think of on my way home is the realisation I had at 4am today that I must redo my stats looking for interactions between my dependent variables, because out of the 20-odd dependent variables, a whole lot of them are related. So I may actually get something significant!

When I got home I found a package on my bed. It's a statue of St Francis that my mom's friend decided to give to me because I like animals. It's hideous. I'll post a picture at some stage. It also came witha long letter all about it. I'll spare you the details, but I'll copy the beginning out because it made me laugh.

"On 12 July 1985 our wanderings brought us to Barcelos in Portugal - famous for the original "flamed" chicken - and the origin of all the red cocks one sees everywhere in the country."
For some reason I thought it said "all the real cocks" so I laughed.

I'm actually so tired I feel sick. Which is bad, because last time I felt like this I ended up in bed for 3 days with a stomach bug. So I'm going to go have some soup and go to bed. The restorative powers of soup really are amazing! At least they'd better be, I have to go breathe in more chemicals first thing in the morning.

This is a picture I took one evening while I was 'helping' Luke and Brian with their fieldwork. I love it because a) it's pretty and b) I laugh when I see it because I remember how we'd always stop and take sunset photos at EXACTLY the same spot every evening. And the one night we stopped about 5 times in the space of 2 minutes to take sunset shots because we were running late and missed the sunset at the usual place. I wound up nearly killing myself in the long grass to get to the right spot by the tree. Then I proceeded to take about 20 pictures of it. I have close tree, far tree, centred tree, tree on the left, tree on the right, and several fuzzy tree shots. I like the tree on the right. Hence the photo.