So, after 2 months of living in the middle of nowhere, the end is in sight! i recaptured enough lizards to make a fasible sample, altough not as many as I would have liked. This is pretty impressive considering that I think I've recaptured more than most people woud have expected, particularly considering that the weather got so horrible and hot and humid that the lizards were only really trappable between 6am and aroun 8:30, so I spent a lot of days getting up at 5 and rushing off to the rocks that were already hot and steaming. I'm sure the humidity is good for me, sweating out al the toxins and so on! All in all it was pretty unpleasant and I felt like I wasn't going to make it to the end here without deregistering quietly and moving to sweden or something.
I've also been collecting insects, which hasn't been going too well as I'm trying to catch the things that i've seen the lizards eat, but all those insects are really really tiny, and hard to catch, and to get enough to do a real chemical analsis when I get back, I'm going to need millions.
Watching the lizards has been a whole bundle of fun too... they're really skittish and its hard to get into a position where I can actually see them well enough to identify individuals. on top of that they move superfast so I can't stay in one spot to watch them, and they generally run around for a minute or two and then vanish into a crevice, only emerging afer a few hours.
Then on thursday it started clouding over. By the evening it was freezing cold.By morning it was still freezing and rainy and we had no power. Ingrid decided to go to nelspruit to have unch with a friend. An hour after she left we had a downpour like I've never seen before. The power came back on in the early afternoon and there was no sign of Ingrid. I did all my work in a hurry so that if the power went out again it would be ok. She got back after dark, all the power in Nelspruit was out, so there was a gridlock around every intersection.
It rained for two more days, torrential rain that made me wonder if the Lowveld gets a monsoon season. We even had purple sky at one stage! It was quite scary! And, contrary to our normal experience the power stayed on! I was quite happy about thata, although also glad that I'd made the trek to Kaapmuiden a few days before to get ive to pack around my samples in the freezer in case it went off again. Kaapmuiden is a tiny tiny town around a train station. When I say tiny I mean it makes Kamieskrron look like a thriving metropolis! It's quite scary too, all sort of ding and dodgy, complete with random dogs running around. I can't even say around the streets because there aren't any. It's a train station, about 10 houses, a bottle store and a general store and that's it.
Yesterday was better and I went out bug-hunting, and today is freezing and clouody, so i'm not too sure if it'll clear up enugh to go out today. But I cna't be lazy because I need to get everything done before I GO HOME! i'm so glad I'll be able to sleep in my own bed, see my family and friends and animals again!
Of course the fact that I'm looking forward to it means that I'll get home, be exhausted and grumpy, and then fight with everybody I care about. fun times!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So, after 2 months of living in the middle of nowhere, the end is in sight! i recaptured enough lizards to make a fasible sample, altough not as many as I would have liked. This is pretty impressive considering that I think I've recaptured more than most people woud have expected, particularly considering that the weather got so horrible and hot and humid that the lizards were only really trappable between 6am and aroun 8:30, so I spent a lot of days getting up at 5 and rushing off to the rocks that were already hot and steaming. I'm sure the humidity is good for me, sweating out al the toxins and so on! All in all it was pretty unpleasant and I felt like I wasn't going to make it to the end here without deregistering quietly and moving to sweden or something.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Since I got here, almost 2 months ago, every evening/late afternoon I've taken a walk. It varies, from rather ambitions exploring and finding all kinds of new outcrops and plants and running ito kudu ALL the time, to days that have been hard work and i'm feeing a bit down so I'll walk to one of the outcrops, lie on my back and stare up at the beautiful blue sky until it starts getting dark when I'll walk back. I always hate going back, into the brightly lit house. I take a torch with me, but rarely use it, unless I left a bit later than usual and then get a bit more ambitious than I'd intended. There are a lot of big loose rocks on the roads and paths here, and it can be really dangerous to walk in the dark, particularly with my track record for injury!
For a few weeks I would walk along a really narrow path, through grass that is as tall as me, to a flat bit of road that isn't too rocky, where i would run for a bit. That was fine, but when I got really badly sunburnt and sunstroke it had to stop because moving too much hurt. I'm still relishing the ability to sleep on my back, twist to grab something, bend over...
Lately I've been pretty lazy in my walks. Its been raining a lot, and I got frustrated, but never walked far. When it doesn't rain it gets so blisteringly hot (and humid) that I get home from the field and collapse, having had at least 2 1/2 litres of water in the four hours that I was out and still being thirsty.
Today was a bad day. It was raining when i woke up, so i went back to sleep. an hour later the sun was coming out, so I dashed off, set up traps and it because so hot that nothing moved, and I caught a few lizards for the Masters student, but nothing for me, which was exhausting and frustrating! I came home, did some work with the lizards that I have here and slept until I had to work on the lizard (yes, just one) that I caught yesterday. After helping the masters student (who officially doesn't lift a finger to help me, and it really annoys me) with the lizards I had caught for her, I went for a walk.
There is a tiny little outcrop a few hundred metres from the house, where there is a tiny population of lizards, with one male who I hae never been able to catch. I figured I'd go there, its a fitting place for frustration. In the first few weeks when I was really upset with the other student I would go down there and call Lara for smpathy and advice. I got there in under a minute and then looked up at the road. The first time I went walking was during the first week that I was here. I walked long the road, took a little path and got totally lost in a clump of trees, but managed to find my way back because the lights in the house were on.
I realised that i hadn't taken a proper walk in ages, so I followed the road around the small loop, which goes past the closest outcrop and then back to the house. it's a hilly walk, but not long, probably around 2km or so. I've done the worst parts carrying equipment before and survived. So I walked the loop, stopping only to take a large roll of rusty barbed wire out of the road (I have to dodge it when I'm driving to the farthest outcrop every day and it gets quite hair-raising!). By the time I got back it was almost dark. the frogs were out in full force and it was deafening, but not unpleasant. the moon is a crescent, and looks bigger here than it is at home. I could almost imagine the little kid from the dreamworks logo sitting in it and fishing!
So that was my day!
Monday, November 12, 2007
I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while! I was planning on using this as a record of my first field season, but it just hasn't happened. Firstly, everything here is always hectic, and secondly... life in the field is tremendously dramatic and exciting when you're there, but in actual fact, when I try to explain what's been going on, I always realise how incredible boring it is. Here's my basic schedule:
06h30: wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack equipment for the field
07h30: leave for the field
07h40 - 08h00: walk from car to field site, taking two trips because of all the equipment
08h00 - 12h00: trap lizards, getting sunburnt, exhausted and often injured in the process ( I consider a day that I don't bleed as a day wasted)
13h00: leave field site, get back to the house and process samples. If possible take a nap on he dodgy futon couch thing (photos will be added as soon as I get home to faster connection speed!
14h00: start other work - either processing lizards - which can take hours, or else walking around the farm for a few hours with traps, trying to get extra lizards.
17h00: start finishing up the previous days lizards, do readings on the other student's lizards
That's it, 7 days a week! if it rains, I'll use the opportunity to catch up on sleep, get my work done slightly earlier and take walks for fun instead of for work. Nothing too exciting to write about! Occasionally something will happen - like I'll be bleeding more profusely than usual, or the time I got sunstroke and was unable to sleep for 3 days because I was too burnt to lie down in any workable posiion. Or the power failure the other night, which had a nasty effect on our food which i only realised 2 days ago, after cooking with some of said food and becoming violently ill for two days. There was also the day I pioneered a new lizard-trapping strategy, of hiding in bushes and then jumping out to scare lizards onto traps. it worked very well until I realsied that sme of the farmers from next door had just driven past, and found me tumbling out of bushes to be mildly amusing!
I can't really think of anything else interesting.
Its coming close to the end of this season's work. I'm a bit stressed, I have a lot to do in the next 3 weeks, and am not nearly where I need to be. We lost 6 of the last 8 days to rain, which also doesn't really help too much! I can't wait to get home and see everyone again, but I'm also dreading all of this being over. Its kind of nice, being in charge of my own schedule, knowing that if I don't work hard enough I have to answer to myself. I've also grown to like the farm, its really beautiful, especially at aroun 5 or so in the afternoon, when I take a walk, and its all quiet and cool, and still. I really love the fact that if I can't sleep, I can also go for a walk, without worrying about anything more than disturbing a sleepy kudu along the way. It took the farmers next door 5 weeks to realise that we were here, we're so isolted. It'll be hard to go home to the noise and the rush of joburg, where there are people everywhere and traffic and the noise which gave me such a headace when I went home for a couple of days a little while ago. The idea of having to switch my priorities from catching lizards to having a social calendar and christmas shopping and having people around all the time... I miss the people back home lke crazy, but I'm not sure I can handle going home just yet!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I just realised how incredibly boring the last few posts were! So the daily updates will be stopping, effective immediately!
Right now I am one of two people in South Africa (the other one is the masters student sitting a few feet away) currently NOT watching us play in the world up rugby final. I get occasional updates from people at home, and fortunately I can get an internet connection through my phone so i can watch the "live" score updates, although they're a bit slow to update - obviously the people in charge are kind of caught up in the watching and don't update all to often.
Fieldwork is going fine, it's been cold and rainy for a few days, which has given me a bit of a break and time to breathe a bit! I've also got used to walking a lot, so I got a bit cranky from sitting around so I carried on with my afternoon walking all over the farms, and occasionally I go running as well. I'm pretty pathetic and don't go very fast or far, but I enjoy it. We're also watching loads of DVDs, nothing particularly inspiring, but we've watched a LOT of stuff (I've watched almost an entire season of Ally McBeal, but reached the point of NO MORE this afternoon. Weird how being in the middle of nowhere makes you enjoy stuff that you'd normally avoid (not that I avoid it usually, but I can't get through that much in one sitting).
With the bad weather (which according to the 5-day forecast isn't going to improve) my entre schedule has been pushed back a few days, which is worrying as I was scheduled to finish retrapping before I have to go back home for a day or 2. As it is I'm going to have a bit of a gap in my data from that. I can only hope the wether is lousy while I'm away!
Otherwise I'm drinking a lot of tea waiting for 10pm so I can measure my lizards again and then I'm going to bed! AAARGH! this rubgy is killing me!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
sorry, I've been super-hectically busy and this is the first evening I've fiished before about midnight. It's ridiculous! thejurnal stopped at day 10 (which was about 10 days ago...) out of sheer pressure for priority from a million other tasks. Here's some of the rest of what I wrote (mildly edited I'm afraid - don't want to offend too many people!)
I woke up to realise that the room I’m staying in is east-facing. And it has no curtains. So I woke up at about 5:30 because it was so bright it was unbearable! I watched the very pretty golden beams of light on the wall before I realised that that was the sunrise and I was missing it. So I jumped up and looked – it was really pretty. So I got up and tried to keep quiet until about 6:30 when I felt like I was justified in getting up. So I went through to shower, waking up my supervisor on the way (he kind of groaned so I felt really bad). We made coffee (in the plunger Jenny gave me) and sat at our desks typing away. Occasionally one of us would get up and have breakfast or go to brush their teeth or something. After about an hour when I’d finally got the testosterone and DMSO to thaw (it freezes really easily!) we made the implants. It’s pretty tricky as it involves squirting really tiny amounts of liquid into really tiny tubes ad then sealing the end with glue. There were a few false starts of reading the numbers on the syringe wrong, but eventually we got it going pretty well.
By then it was really overcast so we went into Nelspruit to get a bunch of house stuff. As we left the farm the sun came out and it was hot! We bought a bunch of stuff, like a new kettle, cutlery, plates and stuff and cleaning supplies. As we got back to the farm it suddenly clouded over. Coincidence?We unpacked and I washed all the new dishes while the others had lunch. After that we loaded skink-trapping equipment into the bakkie and went exploring. It was loads and loads of fun! We drove all over and pretty much followed any road that looked interesting. M supervisor decided he needed to use the four-wheel drive but didn’t know how to, so between my instructions and his reading the manual we managed to get over some pretty impressive roads! I even got to see the spots where they had got stuck the day before; there were some incredible tyre tracks and rocks flung all over the place. It was pretty chilly and although we saw one or two lizards, we didn’t try any trapping. As it was, I wasn’t too stressed as I had to wait a few days for my implants to dry out. I was more worried about remembering where all the spots were – the farm is bigger than most people realise!
After all that we got back and had chicken pitas for dinner. We sat around talking (I got quite a headache from it all!) and then, after the dishes were washed, sat at our respective laptops seemingly working hard while the masters student occasionally broke the silence to discuss things like her ex-boyfriend (again).
We finally had a day that wasn’t entirely overcast, so we headed out (with me driving) to find some skinks. It got pretty hot, so a lot were out, so we managed to catch 15 skinks, a really tiny baby lizard and a baby plated lizard which managed to detach the gluetrap from its presstick and flip it over. He was really calm and I fell in love with him right away. The baby lizard was adorable, and really interesting as it had a blue venter, unlike the white that I'm more used to.
When we got back here we saw my first tree agama, which didn’t have the super-blue head, but it was pretty cool. I also learned there’s a bird that looks like a lark that’s called a longclaw.
After lunch – peanut-butter curry and rice sandwiches (and feeling slightly ill…) we started processing lizards. It took hours. Firstly she has no experience of handing them, besides what we’d taught her that morning of how to get one off a gluetrap, oil it (which she overdid and we had these dripping lizards…) and bag it. So between us we showed her all the morphometric techniquesand I scribed while the two of them took measurements
The funniest part was when she grabbed a juvenile in the bag and he dropped his tail. She was traumatised and felt so bad! And we just laughed and told her it was ok and to try feed it to the lizard… she felt terrible and it was so funny! Another incident was when one of them dropped a lizard and I leapt up to close the door and succeeded in knocking my chair over which promptly dislodged the seat and by the time I’d disentangled myself he had caught the lizard already. And he found it very funny to tell her all about poor number 7 being ‘loose in the lab’ last year.
After all that I started measuring the colours. I’m not sure why I was the one doing it, but I was super-excited to be doing colours again. Her lizards have really interesting colours too, and i got pretty involved. I'll leave out the descriptions here because it's not my project and I dont want to bore people.
We discussed my changing my roject to work on her lizards, and I said I'd think about it, but to be honest, it was a pretty obvious 'no' - my lizards are just so much cooler! and really charismatic and adorable! After all that he made us pizza while the masters student did pretty much nothing and I processed her colour data (involving a long and drawn-out fight with the geekish formulae my brother and I made last year) and then when I offered to do a demo right after we’d done the dishes she insisted on doing the dishes while I showed him. I’m a bit confused – he doesn’t do colour, he has no data that really needs looking at I don’t think. She’s the one who really needs the help. But she seems totally not interested. So if she doesn’t care, I’d be happy to do all the colour stuff, it’s so exciting I never understand why people don’t seem too interested. Maybe I’m just turning into an academic after all!
So I barely slept at all, partly from excitement and trying to plan studies on her lizards, partly from considering whether or not I should work on them. After a pretty horrible night I got up at around 6 and watched two common duikers that were just outside my window. One of them was scent-marking everything and the other was staying nearby, but running off anytime the other one even almost looked at him. Eventually they were pretty much dancing around this banana-palm! I snuck through the house (for once he didn’t jump out of his skin as I walked past!) and showered, and when I got back they were still sleeping so I gathered cleaning supplies and started cleaning the ablution blocks. The men’s area was ok, a few spider-webs but otherwise fine. The ‘ladies’ was a disaster, full of dirt and leaves and rat-droppings and all kinds of stuff! So I swept windowsills and poured Domestos in toilets and started sweeping. After all that it looked a lot better and we went back for breakfast before doing the first performance trials. The treadmill didn’t work, but sort of lost traction and stopped. I changed the tension and it helped, but the others (with some unhelpful comments about the treadmill design) decided that we should make a circular runway for her lizards to run around. As it was raining again we went into Nelspruit and got some supplies. They got wire and cloth and sandpaper, and I got rubber bands to improve the traction of the shaft driving the treadmill. I was in a terrible mood with a bad headache, so I was really super-unfriendly and very out-of it. When we got back we had a lunch break, but I felt too sick to eat, so I dozed on one of the free beds until they were ready to start building the racetrack. They saw I was sleeping and were really polite, whispering until he realised I’d woken up and was right behind him. I was also feeling a bit better so was in a much friendlier mood.
Building the racetrack was fun. We dismantled an old swimming pool (we asked permission and gone ahead anyway) so we will have to buy a replacement as permission WASN’T granted - and made a big circular track. I had a lot of fun cutting wires and using the pliers and figuring out the best way of fitting sandpaper into small places between the wires. I also figured out the way to make the width of the track even and fit the sandpaper properly and all these other things that were just common sense but all worked for some reason! The other student was a complete dead-weight, often just sitting around while he and I worked like maniacs. All in all it took us around 6 ½ hours to finish it. Let’s hope it works properly when we put a lizard in it!
After all that he read the paper while I sanded white standards and she lay across two chairs complaining about how tired she was. Eventually I moved to where he was sitting and he told me all about travelling and what some countries are like and the best way for going around them. It was very cool. Then he made us dinner – fish and potato-bake (forgot the vegetables). While he was cooking I was chatting to Jo and Lara on MXIT so I kept asking for Afrikaans words, which was pretty funny! I ended up on MXIT the whole was through dinner, which I know is rude but I miss Lara so much I couldn’t not speak to her!
It poured with rain all day, so it was really really sucky, but at least it rained or else we’d have lost prime lizard-catching time to building the racetrack without any help from the person who will actually be using it. It was so annoying! She kept sending him these looks (basically saying she wanted to kill me – I should know, I send them about her all the time!) as if I was the annoying one. I’m sorry for helping her! Although it was fun building it! I don’t usually get to wield pliers and wire-cutters and all kinds of stuff! After all that and dinner and everything she went off to bed and I sat typing this when he called me to look at frogs outside. After all the rain there were tons of them! There was either a sharp-nosed frog or a grass frog on the stoep, and a red toad on the steps outside the front door.
I woke up to find that I couldn’t even see outside my window because the mist was too thick. It poured with rain all morning. We ran some lizards on the racetrack, which worked pretty well. After about lunchtime (I skipped lunch again for some reason, not sure why) I measured the colours on the baby lizard and we went rock-hunting to find a nice rock to photograph the big lizard. We didn’t find any but I found a very cute frog and we had great fun helping take pictures of it! I was worried about the spec – it showed UV where it shouldn't which makes no sense- so I came back and used the other white standard and measured it again. Still had UV – if not more than before!
It looked like it was clearing up, so we went off to the field and caught 11 more lizards. We photographed the big lizard and let him go, and he promptly ran onto another glue trap! So I picked him up and we took more pictures, on the roots of a fig tree and when I let go he didn’t run off. So we decided I could keep him as a pet. I picked him up again and bagged him, but then the other student went off on this tirade about how cruel that would be, so I changed my mind. The others went off to the outcrop Dee surfed down back in third year and we found a fig tree LOADED with figs! I stayed to monitor the traps and found that she had left all the stuff on top of a rock that had traps around it. So I figured any self-respecting lizard would have run off, and I looked under the rock to see a skink staring at me! So I jammed about 5 or 6 traps under the rock, as far as my arm would reach (this left me smelling like lizard pee).
I was summoned to see the great fig tree (it’s loaded, it’s quite scary!) and when we walked back to pack up she hadn’t found all the traps under the last rock. So I stretched underneath and retrieved them to find that I’d caught the skink! So unorthodox glue-trapping can work! Then I let the big lizard go, after posing for a photo with him. He’d make such a perfect pet! We also decided that if he gets himself caught again we’re keeping him! It was only afterwards that she said she found him creepy – probably a big reason why she argued against keeping him!
We got back to the house and ran the lizards again. After that I got an sms from the chairman of Biosoc saying he’s bringing 20 other students here for the weekend! So I ran off to try and figure out where they’re going to sleep. After that my supervisor went off running again (crazy person) and I went for a walk so I could phone Luke and talk about some of the stuff going on without feeling like the world could overhear me. I nearly got lot again, and only just made it back before it got completely dark - the moon is rising really late and the clouds block the stars, so I would have been in a bit of trouble. So he and I (he did all the tricky stuff, I chopped and stuff) made dinner: tuna, red kidney bean, tomato, yellow pepper and chakalaka pasta (he actually chucked the pasta at the ceiling and it stuck!) with gem-squash and baby marrows. It was good.
Then I cleaned the kitchen and did the dishes while we had a weird conversation about porn and weddings and making people cry. After that she went off to her laptop and probably sat on the internet again. She does that a lot. He watched some Richard Dawkins book reading and sat with is headphones giggling like a little girl! Eventually he showed us some of it, it was boring as well as annoying. Richard Dawkins irritates me so much! And I think he missed the point in discussing the origins of morality, but later I talked about it with him and maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying. So I went to bed and sat up reading the world’s most terrible book. It’s supposed to be about kids in Kenya growing up and struggling with the changing politics, which could be really awesome. Instead it’s effectively Mills & Boon set in Africa.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
So I finally got an internet connection in the middle of the gammadoelas! Yay! Besides the fact that I was going mildly crazy fter 2 weeks without my email, I had a few situations back home to sort out. The university is great at creating admin.
So for the first 10 days or so I kept a kind of diary of what was going on, so I figured I might as well post it. No photos just yet I'm afraid, basically this place is just wet and cold and rainy and miserable, and occasionally so hot and humid you want to keel over and pass out.
Here is day 1:
So I stayed behind to finish getting everything ready and drove up one the Thursday in the gigantic 4 x 4. It was a horrible day, pouring with rain and freezing cold. I also got the news from the zoo that they weren’t happy giving me sheep blood, which is a problem. The drive was relatively uneventful. Besides the handbrake refusing to go down at one stage and the steering going ballistic every time I passed a truck, the car was pretty good. Not as powerful as my little Jetta, but few are!
On the way I stopped at the Zasm tunnel, right outside Watervalboven. It’s a tunnel for trains, built in the 1800s, by Paul Kruger or something. My history isn’t great. Anyway they had something like 2000 people – 1000 on either side of the mountain, tunnelling towards each other. The tunnel isn’t exactly straight, which makes me wonder if they nearly missed, making 2 parallel tunnels! Out of the 2000 they lost about 200 people either to rock-falls or malaria. It’s pretty amazing. The other thing is that steam trains used to go through there, and people would be walking through because it was the quickest way of getting from Watervalboven to Nelspruit. So they made a tiny little ‘room’ on the side of the tunnel, and if people heard a train they’d run and hide there. It must have been so scary!
Anyway, the reason I went there was because I recognised it as somewhere my parents had taken us when we were small. I have a vague memory of walking through it with my family and then walking back and having a picnic while Douglas and I tried to climb the rocks around the tunnel mouth. So driving past with Ingrid a couple of weeks before I got really excited, but we didn’t stop. So this time I took the opportunity to have a look around. The biggest change is that they have tour guides now. I went through with a guy called Ben who was really nice. Apparently the crime in the area was really bad, where you’d park on one side, be mugged in the tunnel and come back to find your car had been broken into. So eight of the unemployed people in Watervalboven made an arrangement with the police to run tours and look after the cars and stuff. It’s for a donation, which they don’t get to keep, they’re actually using it to raise funds for building a coffee shop and education centre or something. Once that happens they should be earning enough to get salaries. It was amazing to talk to Ben all about it. He said he has a little son just starting school now, and he often isn’t even able to give him school shoes. But there’s no work and he doesn’t want to go live in the towns again because he just gets sucked into crime – he’d rather rely on tips to look after his family. At the end he gave me a phone number and said if I come through again he’ll take me on a better tour, up to the top of the waterfall.
So after all that I arrived at the Farmhouse, swearing because I only had half a tank of petrol (forgot to fill up at Nelspruit, no filling station at the next tiny town) and because the road really is bad. I was amazed that we ever managed to get Ingrid’s car over it! So I finally got down the hill to find The American and my supervisor – sans Condor. They asked if I noticed anything missing and I asked about the car – turns out they’d driving into a ditch and were unable to get it out. When we checked the 4 x 4 and found that there was no towrope my supervisor ran off with a spade to try and clear the road and I swept the house and started wiping down tables and things. It was pretty disgusting. Anyway he arrived triumphantly driving the Condor and proceeded to go for a run, while we cleaned some more. I’m really not a neat-freak, but the idea of living in dirt for 6 weeks was more than I could handle! After that my supervisor and I glued up one side of our implant tubes and then we all made dinner – my leftover peanut-butter curry and then we made a stirfry with peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, beans and baby sweetcorn with perinaise sauce. It was good!
Finally after much chattering about random stuff and all sitting at our laptops I decided that I had to go to bed before I collapsed. My supervisor was reading his book and decided to discuss chunks of my project with me. So I stood on the stairs, swaying slightly, trying to decide on the best measures of immunocompetence and frequency of measuring it. Finally I just went to bed.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It's been over 2 months, I'm sorry! Although to be quite honest, since the huge Facebook craze hit SA, nobody's really blogging anymore...
Things have been hectic here, I've changed nature reserve about 4 times, study species twice (so I'm currently on number 3), proect a few times, but lately that's pretty settled although I have asolutely no clue what I'm doing! At least I tend to swing wildly between knowing exactly what I'm doing and getting all excited, even though I know there are areas that still need a lot of work and a lot of learning, and then there are tmes when I just want to jump on the next plane and get away from this crazy idea that I can do a PhD.
Posted by Helen at 11:06 am
Saturday, June 16, 2007
I was doing some work on my proposal today and I realised that the somewhat 'leisurely (i.e. I can do it mostly alone if need be and manage everything) pace I was planning on for my proposal was a bit... awful becasue it'll require about 5 years of field work, not counting all the analysing and writing up time. So now I'm trying to squeeze more than one project into each field session. It's mostly doable, mainly because the nature of a lot of my work is lab-based. I'll probably do it AT the field site because test-subjects are in plentiful supply and I don't need more permits that way. So if I do the actual field work component, while running experiments in the 'lab' might just be able to do the entire degree in the expected 4 years. The problem is I FINALLY saw the point of my whole study as well as figuring out exactly why it is as original as I need to make it really cool. But to do it in that way means cutting out a few sections that I really really want to do. So it looks like my rationale needs broadening once again.
I worked today. As it happened I had to switch shifts to make my boss's life easier and ended up not workingwith LAra, which is really sad because it means I'll never work with her again. She decided now to insist on working my last shift with me. We're going to have an awesome party behing the counter in 2 weeks, including balloons and party hats and making a lot of noise. We'll probably even do a screening of Kung Pow just for old time's sake!
Which makes me sad. A part of me can't wait to leave. I've been working weekends since I started university, so basically I haven't had a weekend for almost 5 years, and the the thought of being able to wake up on a saturday and not have any commitments is amazing! But I'll also miss the weird customers and the crazy jokes and all the fun we have. And the money of course, but I'm not too fussed about that. It means I might not always have spending money, but I think that that won't really be a priority once I'm staying in the bundu with my lizards for a chunk of every year. And my petrol will be paid for then which cuts a nice chunk out of my budget!
Anyway that's about it. My supervisor went off on holiday for a week on the spur-of-the-moment, which annoyed me. I'm thinking seriously about asking someone to cosupervise me. I know the perfect person, who is already helping me a lot, and if he says no I have someone else who is helping me a whole lot, so there shouldn't be a problem getting someone to agree. The only thing is getting my supervisor to think it was his idea. I think it's doable, but I'll have to see.
So that's what's going on here at the moment. I'm going to go and get some sleep now. I've worked hard today and I think I deserve it!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Time is slipping away scarily fast right now. I can hardly believe it's June already! Next month is the third year fieldttrip, thes tart of my actual project and my first conference. I shouldn't get so freaked out about the conference, it should be relatively small and I was supposed to present last year but decided to go to the desert instead!
So last week I decided that it was time to get my butt in gear and get to work properly. I submitted my abstract, my animal ethics and got my proposal in some kind of shape so I can actuallty work with it instead of pulling my hair out and crying whenever I thought about it!
Then early on Saturday morning Luke and I left to deliver a car and some equipment to Ben, a friend who is working on owls in the kalahari. It was a totally unforgettable weekend! First we got lost. I was looking for a turnoff that I'd been warned was rather small and hard to see. We went past a sign that I thought said we were 30km frmo the end of the road. Turns out we were actually 50km. So we turned around and drove back, realised that we were ketting a little bit too close to the town we'd just passed through and turned around again. As it happened, we had been 4km from the turnoff when we'd turned around the first time! The worst part was that there was a donkey-cart with people in it that we had to pass 3 times!
Molopo, the reserve Ben is working in is really amazingly beautiful! I've been to the kalahari before, but it had been a bit of a disappointment, but this was incredible! There was nothing except for a few trees and soft soft sand. Occasionally a tuft or two of grass, but it was real desert! Tswalu, where we went before had had a lot of rain that year and was really densely vegetated and I'd been really sad that I'd missed the sandy desert I've always wanted to see!
We'd been warned that it would be really cold at night and had packed accordingly (Luke even made me get a hot water bottle...) but it was actually perfect weather. We had so much fun, the conversation never died down, we laughed almost non-stop and we both got to hold the cutest little owls! They were so well behaved and never mauled us (unlike my pet birds...). We had gemsbok fighting around our camp, tree rats (we never saw them, but heard many stories, and saw a dead one) and ground squirrels stealing socks and there was sand everywhere. It was AWESOME!
I also ate enough meat to last me until about August, but it was all really nice. Luke also blew up some gemsquash, so one evening we had these little yellow strands of vegetable matter flying everywhere!
It was really hard to go home on Monday, and Wits has been really horrible and cold and entirely non-desertish, which is never fun. taht's the problem with Joburg. I love it and it'll always be home, but every time I go away it's harder to come back! I'm also starting to get excited about my fieldwork. Just because it'll be nice to get away for a while and do something other than sit behind a computer trying to think scientific thoughts!
Friday, June 01, 2007
I tag Sarah, Jeff, Angela, Meva and... Kymmy!
First Add a direct link to you below the name of the person who tagged you!
Include the city (or state) and the country you live in (a great way to score links and find new reads).
Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
Velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
Tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [Ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Chris (Boyne City, Michigan, United States)
AB (Cave Creek, Arizona, United States)
Johnny Yen (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Bubs (Mt Prospect, Illinois, USA)
Jintrinsique (Manitowoc, Wisconsin, USA)
Dino Aka Katy (Newport News, Virginia, USA)
Angel (Gauteng, South Africa)
Tom Cat (Joburg, South Africa)
Mangaliso (Joburg, South Africa)
Helen (Joburg, Gauteng, South Africa)
Second: List your 5 top eateries where you live!
1. Thai Cafe in Paulshof. There's also a branch in Dainfern, but I haven't been there. It's next door to where I've been working for the last 3 or so years and they make
INCREDIBLE peanut butter curry! It's also run by a Thai woman who brings all her staff out from Thailand and all the decorations and everything is authentic and really beautiful. Some evenings they do traditional dancing as well, usually if there's a big function.
2. Angelo's in Bryanston. I'm not usually a fan of sitting outside on benches while I eat so I can look 'cool' like all the rich people who think it's fun, so I'd advise getting takeout and going somewhere nice that has couches... but they make really really nice lamb, chili and roasted vegetable pizza. It's not on the menu anymore, you have to ask for it, but it's awesome!
3. Radha's in Melville. It's a tiny little place that only sells vegan indian food. It's really cheap (R30 for a HUGE tub of all these weird and really nice dishes) and it's run by a really friendly guy who's name isn't Abdul. We just call him that.
4. Primi at Melrose Arch. I know some people don't like it, and it does get really noisy from the whole 'ware-house' design, but if you ask you can go upstairs and there's all these couches and it's really nice. Their food is expensive but really good and usually enough to split with someone. Last time I had some of Laura's gnocchi and it was really good! They also have teapots, which is always fun!
5. Mythos in design quarter. It's really not too great because it's squished in between a primi and somewhere else nice that I've forgotten. The only reason I'm posting about them is that as a starter you can order pita bread with humus dip. And it's really really good!
Third tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they’ve been tagged.(see above)
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Maybe blogging really does help, because since I posted I've been able to work properly like I used to! It's been really frustrating to try and work and get confused and battle to put things together. Then about 2 days ago I had a minor epiphane while in the shower - I realised why I've been battling so much! To put it simly - my project has two major components (broken down into about 6 sub-components, each of which is a huge project in itself). BAsically one of the big components doens't really fit in, but I really want to do it. So I'd been rather vague in determining my aims so that I could work it in.
The thing is, if you want to plan a really good project you need very definite aims, and then you link every single little thing back to them (so pretty much if you sneeze you have to do it in a way that will help you in accomplishing your aims). So I was battling because I didn't have an actual solid frame of reference to pin things on. I was just writing stuff and hoping it would fit together once I was done.
So yesterday I planned out a brank spanking new proposal and started over. And I think I did more good writing yesterday than I have in the last 4 or 5 months. And as nerdy and sad as this sounds, for the first time in ages I enjoyed sitting in the lab until 9pm last night because I was actually making progress and I found myself remembering why I love being a student (besides the opportunities for travel, the awesome people and the flexible workign hours).
That's all for today. I have a lot of work to do!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I really missed blogging! I got a lot more stuff donethough, I didn't realise how much time I spent blogging and reading other people's blogs (I missed all of them too!). But I just realised it's almost 2 months since my last post and I think you all deserve an update.
My proposal is currently in the form of a very well though out and organised 2-page long list, that I've tried to translate into fuull sentences and ended up with 40 pages of stuff that doesn't really make sense. I took it to workj today to work on and then left it there. So I'll be trekking out up north tomorrow to go and retieve it. not that it's really necessary (besides saving the trees by not printing another copy), but I was working in an old book that has some notes in it from a subject I really loved when I was in second year. So I want to hang on to them. I went off to the Northern Cape for just under a week in April. I spent y birthday with mylizards. the place is so incredible! It's beautiful! And everyone was really nice. The people camping near me were really friendly and kept trying to feed me when they saw I wasn't doing the traditional "make-a-fire and cook half a cow" south african thing but rather having a sandwich and going to bed at 7pm.
Every night it was someone different. I had the old guy from Upington with his son from New Zealand. This guy had cycled over 8000km around south africa and then bought a motorbike and done about that around Namibia. He's leaving next month for Australia where he has planned a 3-month cycling trip from Sydney to Perth (or the other way around. I forget). The next night was a very sweet family from Cape Town ('we made too much Potjie. PLEASE help us eat it!) who sat on the steps of their camper-vans playing the harmonica and then started up sokkie-treffers and sokkied the night away next to my tent. After that was a lovely family, also from Cape-Town who I got very fond of and spoke to them a lot. They'd pretty much taken their kids to the Kgalagadi transfrontier park for a month even though it involved their daughter missing a week of school because they figured she'd get a better education on a trip like that. When I told them about my lizards they got very excited and actually saw some the next day and took a really nice photo which they gave to me. There were also the strange conversations in the bathroom about what the word in afrikaans for bath-plug was because you had to bring your own and stuff. The night before I left a very motherly tannie chased me out the bathroom because I was leaving early (I left at 4am) and should go to bed. this was on my birthday so the whole way through my phone was ringing and bleeping while I was shooed to my tent by a middle-aged lady in curlers and pyjamas with fluffy pink slippers.
What was really amazing was how friendly the Afrikaans people were. they were mostly from the Cape. Gauteng people made really tight circles with their cars (almost like oxwagons ;)) and put their tents inside and didn't speak to anyone. I almost wanted to cover my number plate on my car so I wasn't linked to them in any way! It was a really amazing trip though. As muich as I didn't want to go on my own I'm glad I did. Partly it was a chance to prove to myself that I could manage a 940km drive on my own (it was actually quite fun1), and partly to have some time to be quite completely alone. I was out with my lizards from about 7am until around 4 or 5pm, and I didn't have to worry about anyone else and if they were bored or miserable or tired. And then I went to bed at about 7 (sunset) so I caught up on tons of sleep and got home ready to really get started. I got excited about my project for the first time in months anbd it was fantastic!
I resigned from my job last week after the politics got too much and I got so stressed out with university and work and people that I actually made myself sick (not in the finger-down-the throat way, in the I'm-so-stressed-I-can't-sleep-and-get-all-nervous-and-nearly-pass-out-and-can't-keep-anything-down kind of way. Kind of like the end of honours last year). It was really sad. I felt ok about it, considering the politics of having the manager's brother hate me and her listening to him were really childish and resulted in her phoning the owner literally seconds after I went to speak to him to demand an explanation for me going to see him. but I'll really miss working with Lara who can ALWAYS make me laugh! and when I saw the pile of horrible christmas music we have to listen to every december I got a little bit emotional. And I'll really miss the free movies! But I think it's for the best and I'm really looking forward to having my weekends unstructured and empty soon.
My supervisor is being a moron. I helped him out and with something for when he was away and all he could say afterwards was how much he had to fix up everything I'd done. Loser. I think it hurt so much mainly because I was quite nervous that we hadn't done a good enough job even though everyone else said we had. Maybe that's why I wanted him to supervise me, we have roughly equivalent standards when it comes to work. But it doesn't change the fact that I've lost a lot of respect for him as a person.
I'm finished with my first year's for the year. I'm glad that the course is over, but sad to see them go. I had a really nice group this year and we got along well (I even gave them chocolate for working hard! I've never even thought about doing that before!). A lot of them said they were thinking of doing Zoology next year, so I'm sure I'll cross paths with at least a few of them in the future. It was really frustrating though because I only had 2 students who were failing (out of 16. this is very unusual, usually at least half of them are struggling if not failing) and finally, about 2 or 3 weeks before the end I sat down with one of them and we talked through was should go in a drawing, what you should and shouldn't label. How to make your work look nice and neat (like tracing a drawing if it's been redrawn and erased and redrawn on top of itself in heavy pencil), and how to write answers that are relevant. He finally started coming right! It was so incredible! He was still failing, but he'd just about doubled his marks and was borderline-passing by the time we finished! I felt a little bit validated considering everything else going on.
The third years on the other had have been a disaster. they have lied to me, moaned at me, had a screaming match over their marks withme, complained to the lecturer about me, requested that I don't mark them... and so on. Fortunately they're really not very intelligent liars so it's easy to shut them up, but considering :a) my third years hate me; b) my proposal is proving to be tricky; c)I can't do a simple job well enough for my supervisor and d)I couldn't get along with a little 17-year-old well enough to stay at my job; and e)I found a grey hair last week (I'm22! I can't be going grey!) I've been feeling a little bit miserable lately.
so I took things to extremes, skipped the social-after-work/varsity friday evening and went home and had soup. It wasn't enough, so on Saturday (yesterday) I had more soup, and dyed my hair.
Now I'm feeling better.
Tomato soup and hair-dye rocks!
(not together obviously!)
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I've been thinking a lot over the last day or two (I would have said this sooner, but I think blogger was down, it wouldn't let me post), and I've realised that my priorities in life are severely skewed and I need to fix it. My work, which should have been my number one priority, has been falling behind, and I'm not stressed enough about it. The people who were supposed to be supportive, evidently aren't, so I need to fix things properly myself.
I've decided to take a break from blogging so I can focus properly. I also got a bit tired of people knowing what was going on inside my head, I need some privacy. So thanks everyone, it's been real. If anything noteworthy happens in the next month or two I'll make sure to post it, but until then I'll be pretty quiet.
It's been real.
Monday, April 02, 2007
ok, I know according to the desperation-style tone of my last blog, the question is kind of redundant, but, over the last few days people have all been trying really hard to encourage me. I'm not talking 'Go to south america! My astrologer said it's safe there!' (true story) kind of encourage, but the real "I know you. I know you can do this and I'll stand up for you!' kind of encouragement. It's awesome, but really sudden.
For example, Jo threatened to fire me last week for going away on fieldwork and taking Luke with me. As far as I know, the second she put the phone down Lara started yelling at her and defending me. WhenI saw her yesterday (Lara, not Jo), she kept on telling me that it'll work out and Joey has no right and so on. It was really nice of her!
Random customers keep asking about my studies and how they're going. I don't remember discussing them with many people but apparently they know me. It's nice, but kind of creepy. Like the world is watching me. I'm not sure I'm ready for it.
Then today the Australian gave me a talking-to about burnout and keeping a balanced life and how I'm intelligent and just need experience and I've got the right personality to be a scientist and so on. It was really nice, but I got the feeling that he wasn't talking about me. The same way that I felt I've been faking it in my studies so far, maybe I've been faking my personality for just as long. It was nice having him around though, we laughed a lot. My bat(rechristened Vlad, Dalv and Rodney, currently Edgar Rodney Smythe) was 'mysteriously' hung from the ceiling over the weekend and now dangles over my desk. Whenever I need to procrastinate I swing him around and then dodge his flights around my head. He also made me two CDs, one didn't work, so I got a blank CD, the other Bonobo, is really cool. Chilled, Cafe-del-marish but not, if you know what I mean.
Otherwise I've been pretty unproductive. I realised on the weekend exactly how tired I was, and I ended up sleeping a lot, between work and stuff. I also (at work) watched Happy Feet (disappointing), Zoom (better than expected), The Holiday (I didn't finish it, I got bored), Bee Season (a freaky movie that I didn't like much. My fascination for spelling bees continues though. I just don't get it!) and something else that was obviously mediocre because I forgot what it was. I also got along really well with Chris, which was weird. He's got addicted to the teddy bear machine and gave me 2 frogs and a fluffy toadstool thing. I planned to give one of the frogs to the australian but forgot.
Of of the honours students found sperm for the first time today. There was much rejoicing! The other one came back from very unsuccessful fieldwork, empty-handed but very happy with himself for getting an all-expenses paid holiday. I'm finding him more annoying by the minute.
I'm reading articles on personality research in animals. In one study people dressed up as ghosts (complete with buckets on their heads) and measured the dogs' response. Weird.
I'll say something more interesting when I have something to say...
Thursday, March 29, 2007
So it's now officially post number 100! *throwing confetti!* I'm sorry, I should have reached this prestigious landmark quite some time ago, but by actually working in the real world lead to me neglecting my blog a little bit.
This week has been odd. My supervisor has been back, but I haven't seen too much of him, besides one meeting and a few strange conversations. the Autralian came back today and there was much hilarity. I had no idea a labelling tool thingy could be so much fun!
I've been working hard this week, finally making some real headway into my proposal and getting things done. I'm still floundering slightly, but I think if I work properly it should be ok. the main problem is that there are a lot of things I know NOTHING about and I need to learn a bunch of new techniques. That generally involves me writing emails to random academics and begging for help. It's awkward! I hate writing "Dear so&so, I am a PhD student..." I don't FEEL like a PhD student. I feel like an honours student who has faked her way this far and is about to go horribly wrong.
So I'm a bit depressed. I just get the feeling that I peaked last year and it's all downhill. Like those kids at school who were straight A students, captain of whatever sport and so on who got to university and failed and dropped out because it wasn't school anymore. The gap between honours and what I'm doing now is just as big. I ended up spending about 2 hours with Luke (and Laura a bit later) getting more and more depressed as we realised that we were both feeling the same way and how horrible it is. I think we should switch supervisors. I can get excited and throw ideas around and learn so much when I'm talking to Luke's supervisor, and he seems to be able to talk to mine. The trouble is I don't like what Luke and his whole lab study. It's interesting, but nothing like as cool as what I'm going to be doing!
so I'm exactly where I want to be, doing what I want to do, and I'm so incredibly depressed. Lets hope I get over myself soon and get back to work like a sensible person.
Oh,and I'm going to mycoke festival! It's going to be awesome!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
so Friday I didn't even go into wits. Instead I delivered wine to the reception venue, then went to the church to practise walking down the aisle in my shoes. Halfway down the aisle I thought 'Hey, I can DO this!' and took a confident step, only to slip and hold onto a pew to keep from falling. the guys polishing the floors managed to keep straight faces which was impressive! after that I went makeup shopping - I wear makeup quite often, but I hardly ever wear heavy makeup and the colours I needed I didn't have and so on. From there I had my toenails done, my nails done (they are currently about 2 inches long and I have gouged my eyes from trying to remove my contact lenses), and my eyebrows done. All this while rushing home to help pack cars with all my brother's stuff to take to the new house and battling with the 'I'm not at wits!' guilt.
After all that I went home and collapsed, waiting for 4:30 to arrive so I could go and collect Carla's honeymoon luggage. My brother decided to move some more stuff accross and I joined him. their house is HUGE! It's a double story with 3 big bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (2 baths AND a big shower and a whole load of other rooms. from there we went to get the luggage from a highly emotional Carla and then my family (my parents, my brother and me) went out for dinner.
This morning I rushed out early and got my hair done, amid frantic phonecalls from Carla and then calm and then frantic phonecalls... they did my hair really nicely, so of course it rained like crazy and I had to do the whole jersey-above-head-rush-to-car thing, rush home, do my makeup, have lunch (at 11:30) and then go off to Carla's house to change and help her get ready and so on.
The wedding (after a good 3 hours of preparations) was really beautiful. I didn't trip or slip on my way up the aisle, my brother did a happy-dance (literally) when he saw Carla, they both burst into tears in the middle of the first hymn, she cried in the middle of the vows so he had to pull faces at her to get her through them , and the 2-year old flowergirl/ringbearer who had flat-out refused to walk down the aisle or sit still at all at the rehearsal, sat on the altar cushions quite happily eating the jellytots that had been hidden in her basket.
From there we went to the reception, where all the trouble started. We were having photos in the garden, but as it had been raining we kept getting stuck when the heels on our shoes sank. I had a list of all the photos that needed to be taken, but it turned out that the photographers didn't so they took mine and sent me off to fetch petals. In the meantime I was needed in pictures and got yelled at and then Carla yelled at me for not organising people for photos because I had no list. When I said that the photographers had it she got even angrier and kept screaming that it wasn't my list, it was theirs. And that ruined my day a lot.
The reception was also really annoying. For starters, I was at the main table,which is a long table where you only sit down one side, facing the room. I was almost on the end, next to my dad (not exactly renowned for talking at family functions) and the best man, whose girlfriend was 2 tables away. Every time there was a speech the video people put these BRIGHT lights on us and the photographers were everywhere. It really annoyed me. Like after the first dance it was the father-daughter/bridal party dance and I was dancing with the best man (neither of us knew what we were doing) and we kept bumping into the video guy. It was so irritating!
I'm sorry, but I think a beautiful day was slightly marred by the need for 2 photographer and a vido guy. I have big problems with people who spend so long trying to save bits of memories that they don't actually live them, and I felt that that was what was happening tonight. That and getting screamed at by my new sister-in-law was fantastic. She was still 'not speaking' to me by the time that they left. which really upset me.
The other thing that upset me was the way that everyone thought I'd had my makeup donw professionally. When I said I had done it they got all shocked. I felt like saying 'YES! I KNOW WHICH END OF THE LIPSTICK TO USE!' Just because I don't plastr on makeup like that doesn't mean I can't...
and not I'm tired and grumpy and I'm going to bed.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Yesterday was a public holiday, and now it feels like monday. It was awesome to have a break though! I was EXHAUSTED!
It all started on Monday, with an hour prelab for the Bird Prac (play ominous music), where I had to fight giggles the whole way through. Hearing the lecturer, who is very English and 'well-mannered' (for lack of a better word) say things like 'cock-up' was a bit more than an early morning brain could handle.
The prac itself was a disaster, it should have taken an hour and a half and ended up taking 4 hours. The thing is, it's ordered in stations, with questions at each station and 3 minutes to answer it. The lecturer kept complaining that there wasn't enough time, so we had 8 minute stations, 15 minute stations, half an hour stations...
Then on tuesday, on top of a whole pile of bird pracs to mark, I got my first-years' pracs in my pigeonhole. I also started coming down with flu, and ended up falling asleep over my computer wearing 3 jerseys and shivering. I ran off at lunchtime to see Carla's wedding dress (it's SO stunning! ) and then to see Jo at work and try and make peace. That done (it's all more or less normal, she's doing my nails tomorrow, I'm buying her a carton of cigarettes for her birthday and dying of guilt if she ever gets lung cancer).
After that I went home and collapsed and slept for around 15 hours. At one staeg I got an sms, hear the tone, looked up, fell asleep. Reached for my phone, fell asleep. Realised it wasn't there, fell asleep. Reached on the other side, fell asleep. It took me an hour to find my phone and read the message.
Yesterday, feeling much more human, I went off to my friend Trishya's 21st. It was nice, very relaxed, just sitting around listening to a whole bunch of geology students getting excited about rocks, and one really annoying girl going on andon about rainbows and pink teddy bears and pink hearts...
Eventually I spent about 3 of the 4 hours talking to Lynne, her sister and it was really nice. I haven't talked to her properly since my 12st, which was just under a year ago.
After that I went home and started marking. I got through all the bird pracs (I must post the amusing answers sometime, I made a list. They weren't as funny as usual this time though), and most of the first year pracs. Those were shocking. I have a nice bunch of students, and they all do pretty well, but I think they're getting lazy and put very little effort into it. It's actually an insult to me, that they don't bother with their work and expect me to put hours of my time into marking it and giving them constructive feedback. It's too bad that I'm not going to be there tomorrow, or they would have got SUCH a talking to!
Anyway I must finish my marking now and get back to work.
Posted by Helen at 9:40 am
Saturday, March 17, 2007
No, I'm not going to talk about something like oil and coal and war and why I drive around instead of taking the bus. I'm going to talk about people. How is it that some people have this boundless energy? And others just run out so quickly? What makes some people able to jump up and down when it's necessary, while others just collapse?
I'm thinking about this because I finished at wits today completely exhausted. My first years were not the most cooperative today, they were bored by the material I think (tapeworms and so on) and tired from writing tests all week. Eventually I finished and settled down at Biosoc with a bunch of people to try and relax enough to be able to go home without nervous twitches (but not relaxed enough to fall asleep on the lawn and wake up covered in hazard tape).
Then my brother called. It turned out that Tree 63 - a South African band that has settled in the U.S.A but has been here touring - was playing a last concert about 2 minutes drive away from my house. Carla was so busy being stressed out about wedding plans to go, so her ticket was free. I refused because I knew she'd love to see them and should probably take a break. He called make a few minutes later to say that she was going, but there were still tickets from friends who couldn't go, and I must get home ASAP to make it in time.
So I went sprinting down the hill, where I ran into Ben, a masters student studying owls. Turn out he's going on a Happening weekend - a kind of camp type thing, hard to explain - and I ended up chatting to him for ages before I realised the time and dashed home.
The concert was really good except that 3 little teenage girls (all: 'watch me dance! I'm so pretty! let me swish my hair into other people's faces so they can see how shiny and soft it is!') kept dancing into my way so I'd shuffle to the right a bit until I ended up separated from my brother and Carla and behind a rather stocky afrikaans guy who kept yelling stuff like 'Vrystaat!' and 'Boerewors!' and who had obviously eaten something too rich or something before he came, because the smells emanating from him every five minutes or so were enough to knock out a full grown lion from a 25m radius.
A cool thing was also that I ran into someone I had in my group when I was a staff-member on Happening. I had been very fond of him, but lost his number somewhere along the line. It was so nice to see that he's doing well and still laughs a lot and jumps around. He's a long story of mine that I won't be telling here. But I will say that the fact that he is laughing like that means a lot to me. He's going to be delivering stuff to people for me tomorrow.
Anyway, seeing him, and chatting to Ben and being too tired to walk after TAing and jumping around made me think about energy. How is it that sometimes you have this hidden reserve and sometimes you don't? Like today, I wanted to collapse, but I was able to have a great time at the concert. Another time I was on a camp as staff and we were so exhausted one day we all fell over and lay on the floor together. The minute the kids arrived we were all on our feet dancing and jumping around and doing silly things. Where does the energy come from? And why can't I harness it more often?
It's all run out now. I'm going to bed.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I've really fallen out of the habit of writing here. Maybe that's because I'm actually moderately productive at the moment. Vanessa sent me an article yesterday about how boring scientific articles are, and how we're trained to write in a really boring style. I managed to read the whole thing without losing concentration, which is the first time that's happened in ages. So maybe I'm struggling so much because of the boring style of scientific writing. The scary thing was that in the list of things to do to keep your writing boring, I identified with a lot of them! So my writing is boring too :(
On a positive note, the honours students finished their presentations yesterday. The first one was ok, not great though. The problem is that he's doing the whole 'my supervisor must contact me' thing, so a lot of his points were completely confused. Especially the experimental design, the stats and so on. Often he's start a sentence with something like "I'm not quite sure how I'll do this yet." As I said, he's still a K-I-D-S in a lot of ways. He's heading off on fieldwork in a few days, but doesn't know how he's going to store the animals there for 2 weeks, what to feed them and so on. He really needs to talk to my supervisor, but I don't know if he will. the thing is that my supervisor tends to forget about pretty much everything that's not in his immediate vicinity. It's annoying but you have to work around that and actually remind him of stuff. I'm not getting involved, so this should be interesting.
The other student's presentation was a lot better, she'd actually sent it to both her supervisors and me for feedback. So the supervisors corrected the science side of things and I commented on stuff like fonts and slide layout. she also did an extra practise session with me, so it came out sounding pretty good. There were a few issues, like the fact that she has absolutely no history with behavioural ecology and that sort of thing, so she's confused about the main issues that she's investigating. She's learning quickly and I'm sure she'll sort it out. At least she's not too proud to ask for help!
Otherwise I went to Claire's kitchen tea on Saturday. It was in Boksburg at the House of Ribs. TI was fun, very small. It's looking like this wedding is going to be a lot smaller than the huge ones I've been going to, which is nice. I'm glad I got a chance to meet some of the people who will be there.
Chris has been running the shop for Jo while she's away for 2 weeks. HE's gone a complete power-trip, taken practically all the shifts, kicked me off a shift (I wanted to go at 5 or so on Saturday when it got busy, he refused, and then told Jo I hadn't offered anything). she got really angry when I organised for Matt to work for me this Saturday so I can help with stuff for my brother's wedding. It turned out Christ had asked Matt already and then not told me. Then he called Jo and said I was refusing to work. She sent me an angry message and I called her immediately and she screamed at me. So I'm working on saturday and Carla is angry with me for not helping. I can't win sometimes :(
I watched some interesting movies recently. On Sunday I watched half of 'Little Miss Sunshine' before it went out. It was awesome! I can't wait to see the rest of it! I was laughing so hard at some points! I will make more substantial comments when I've seen the rest of it. After that I started watching 'Spellbound' which is a documentary folloiwing a few of the kids going to the national spelling bee in america. They show it on ESPN! It just really shocked me to see how long some people spend learning to spell words that they will probably never use. And the kids work so hard! Why does anyone care? It's spelling. And there's no international contest because nobody actually cares. I just feel really sad for kids who spend such huge chunks of their life doing that, What for? Will it actually get them anywhere. I guess they learn to perform under pressure and apply themselves to studying for something and so on, but really.
Then yesterday I took my huge piles (2 piles) of marking home to mark in front of the tv. I had a movie called Enigma, with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet. I enjoyed it so much I kind of forgot about my marking pretty early on and just sat there watching it, so I ended up sitting marking until quite late last night. I left one set of memos at wits, so I only got through one pile, but at least it's done now. I don't know why I liked it so much, it's very different to the sort of thing I usually watch. I don't know, but I liked it.
Anyway I must go and read more boring papers. then mark a HUGE stack of drawings.
Friday, March 09, 2007
And now we reach the end of yet another week at Wits. It's been entertaining, while mildly productive. I've got to the 'start-writing' phase of section 1 of my proposal, but am putting it off in favour of reading for chapter 2.
I also spent countless hours TAing, marking and doing general admin around wits, while sitting her until late at night working on my actual research. It's weird, we are ehre primarily as research students, but have to squeeze in the research among all the rest of life at wits.
I saw a lot of people's photos - Sarah's from Dubai and a new student from downstairs showed us so many amazing REAL desert photos that I really want to travel again. I'm thinking that Sunday at work would be a good time to sit down with some maps and start planning. Just because a trip is 4 years away doesn't mean that I can't start getting excited!
I'm still babysitting the honours student. Rather 1 of them. The other one is really calm, as was expected. So far there was one very anxious day but otherwise he's as relaxed as is possible! The other one is a bit calmer because the Australian, her cosupervisor (and thus someone who actually UNDERSTOOD what was expected of her), came back for a day and helped her a lot. She emailed me a copy of the big presentation but forgot to attach it. Oops.
Anyway, world war 3 is still going at home. I gave up on fighting, it's too much effort, so I'm just avoiding most people. It's less draining.
Otherwise I had a lot of funny things happen, watch this space and I mightr write about them. I laughed a lot this week, which counts for something!
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I'm sorry I haven't posted for a week, it's been super hectic.
Firstly, I have plans for saturday that didn't go with work, so I had to ask for time off, to find out that ALL the staff are off on Saturday. I resorted to grovelling and got someone to work for me. Yay!
I'm still behind schedule studies-wise, but making headway. I'm starting to get a 'feel' for the literature and stuff and I'm getting to know the questions I'm asking in a broader context rather than just in my study animal, which is AWESOME!
My supervisor is ignoring all of us again. I'm pretty used to it, and glad I'm not being watched as I very slowly read about 3-5 papers every day (which is nothing), between cartloads of teaching duties. the honours students are presenting their proposals on monday and tuesday next week and are completely freaking out. It's weird to see it from this angle. It's not quite deja-vu, but almost!
I had a huge fight with my mother today. Basically, at the kitchen tea, Carla's sister made a huge show of thanking one of the bridesmaids who had done nothing other than arrive the night before to tie ribbons onto glasses and then complain that only me and her husband could tie bows. I got a 'oh, and Helen was there too!" thrown in. I felt, understandably I'd think considering the amount of time I'd spend doing stuff for it, a bit upset but decided to leave it.
Then this morning my mother asked if I was going to the dress fitting. It was the first I'd ever heard of it, and it turned out that Carla was having a fitting for her wedding dress and had invited my mother, her mother and her sister to go and see it. Apparently I was invited too, but never heard anything about it. I was a bit upset because I had specially asked to see the dress when it arrived, but figured it was a parents thing and thought nothing of it. My mother insisted I call Carla and ask but I refused , figuring that if I asked where my invite was it would be forcing her and making her feel awkward.
So my mother did the 'natural' thing - went to Carla, told her that I hate her and my entire family and therefire hers by extension and that I had not been thanked at all for the kitchen tea and yadda yadda yadda. So I got a really upset sms from Carla and then got called by my mother who said that I have to 'build bridges' and make up with her.
Thanks mom. And good job of BURNING ALL THE BRIDGES I've been working on for the last 4+ years. Something tells me that when I'm finished this degree and I go overseas I'm not coming back. And then if my mother tells everyone that I hate them (she did it with my grandmother already) I won't have to deal with it. I can't handle this anymore!
I've been trying to sms Carla for 2 hours now. I just don't know what to say. I think she'll be upset, but I can't allow myself to reply when I'm still angry.
I'm going home now. I have to, sooner or later.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
As Luke, who should be my PA, explained, the dog is a lot better. He had cellulitis as a secondary thing to an allergic reaction to something, probably grass. He's on all kinds of medication, some of which got lost and was found in the fridge. My dad tried to pretend he'd done that on purpose.
And for the record, KIDSes (pronounced K-I-D-Ses) are undergraduate students. It comes from a fieldtrip (that I did not attend) where the lady in charge of catering got upset by someone's offensive language and yelled out "Don't say @%^$# in front of the KIDSes!"
It's been a very hectic few days, Saturday was Carla's kitchen tea, which was a lot of fun, but also quite crazy to set up as she was sick and hardly left the house all week (update: she's a lot better). So I ended up sitting in the kitchen, trying to tie bows on champagne glasses at something like 10:30 at night, rushing home, colapsing and then leaving super-early the next morning to cut bits of wire and arrange beads into boxes and so on.
The whole event was quite fun, very relaxed and quite tame compared to others that I've been to, but I'm pretty sure that was a good thing! So I got home afterwards and passed out on my bed to be woken 2 hours later by a phone call about another kitchen tea coming up. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! But I had to get up anyway to go to a 21st birthday party, where I ended up spending about 3 hours on a trampoline. I hurt the next day!
I was going to post whenI got home, but then I saw in the History on the home PC that someone in my immediate family is reading this, and it upset me. I don't know who it is, but I'd really appreciate it if they actually told me...
And then yesterday was running around like a maniac, giggling through pre-labs and the TAing a neverending flower-prac. Speaking of which, I have marking to do...
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I worked today! Not that much, but enough to be able to go to bed knowing that my waking up actually had some purpose besides getting a sore head and neck (bad dream, fell out of bed). I'm nowhere near where I planned to be today, but it's all progress and I'm starting to get excited about my project again.
On the downside my dog is sick. He was looking a bit ...not right... yesterday and he was licking his paw. Tonight he has almost no fur on his mouth and his paw looks HORRIBLE! it's almost hairless too... so I put some disinfectant on it all and a sock over his foot to stop him licking it (he looks adorable!) and I'm going to see how he is tomorrow. I can't get him to the vet until at least tomorrow afternoon, unless it's really bad, in which case Luke and Kelly will be TAing all aloooone! *evil laugh*!
One of the students from the field-trip made a little movie-thing of photos and videoclips from the trip and screened it today. It's really cool, I wish we'd done that for our third-year fieldtrip. I remember getting really depressed coming home from that because I missed it so much. That's the crappy side of being a post-grad. you get to go on trips, but it's hard to actually go the way we did when we were KIDSes. Anyway the movie we saw today was awesome, but I must admit, the clip of me falling over in the mudflats was a lot cooler in my head (less - for lack of a better word - ungraceful). Still funny though!
I also chatted to one of the new honours students in my lab today. She's actually really nice, I think we'll get along ok. She's also started her own CC - a homeschool tutoring company, and said I can work there occasionally. I'm not sure if I'm going for it, but at least the opportunity is there. I saw the other honours student too, but he and I don't see eye-to-eye much. he's still very much an undergrad at heart (aren't we all) and hasn't learned to distance himself from the KIDSes too well. I'm not saying that being friends with them is bad, it's just that he doesn't spend any time with the people in his own class (who are nice kids, really). So a) he'll have little/no authority when it comes to teaching his 'friends' and b) when the pressure starts, which it will, no matter how chilled he is, he'll be all alone with friends who have no clue about what he's going through. I would never have made it through last year without all the help and support I got from the honours room. I doubt he's even got a desk there yet. And every time I try to show that I'm around if he needs anything he freaks out because he thinks I'm stressing. I'm not. I just know what happens if you leave stuff too long. He's a really nice guy, I'm just not sure we'll be hanging out too much in the next year!
Anyway I'm going to go to bed to fall asleep over another paper. I missed working hard!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Sarah just sent this to me. I generally don't like sending these around because I know a lot of people get annoyed by the 'send this back!' part. I'm also too lazy to make a real post because (short of going to a dress fitting, downloading articles and making a bead coaster) I've been pretty unproductive and have nothing interesting to say.
Remember to send yours back to the person who sent it to you!
a. Ever been so drunk you blacked out?
Once. I promised myself it would never happen again.
b. Put a body part on fire for amusement?
At work we used to pour Benzine on our hands and light it and then high-five the flam to each other. It was hot, but it didn't really burn us. It was so much fun!
c. Kept a secret from everyone?
Yes, I have quite a few. The trick is to keep quiet about the existence of said secret and then nobody bothers you about it.
d. Wanted to hook up with a friend?
Does making friends with someone because you wanted to hook up with them count?
e. Ever thought an animated character was hot?
The captain in Mulan...
f. Had a New Kids on the Block tape?
g. Been on stage?
--- Favourites ---
This stuff my mom got me that smelled like bubblegum. I've enver been able to find it again.
The Clicks moisture burst range.
Yellow and blue
It depends on how much sleep I've been having
f. Favourite TV series?
Lost or Prison Break.
Tomato soup, peanut butter curry, anything with creamed spinach and/or feta
h. Favourite Advert
that Cell C one where the lady keeps hurting herself.
i. Favourite Movie
The Boondock Saints, Thank You For Smoking
--- Right now ---
I just had lunch, which was a chicken, lettuce and tomato sandwhich on wholewheat superhealthy bread.
Jeans, slops and a blue tshirt
l . HAIR is?
dark brown. Straightened at the moment thanks to my fantastic boss!
n. Thin king about?
Getting to work! Must. Stop. Procrastinating!
o. Listening to?
The new Faithless album. It's really awesome!
--- Last 24 Hours ---
r. Meet ANY new FRIENDS?
s. Cleaned your room?
--- Do you believe in ---
b. Your friends?
c. Santa Claus?
not anymore. We used to booby-trap our rooms every christmas. I think the mousetrap in the Christmas stocking is what ended it for us.
d. Tooth Fairy?
I had the tooth mouse when I was small. I used to leave seeds for him with the tooth in a slipper by my door.
I think we make our own.
--- Friends and Life ---
a. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
no. I think it's a good thing at the moment.
b. Who have u known the longest of your friends?
Cathy. we meet when I was 2 weeks old.
c. Who's the shyest?
d. Who's the weirdest?
that's about a 20-way tie. We're scientists...
e. Who do you go to for advice?
Lara, sometimes Jo.
f. When do you cry the most
When I'm stressed out.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I've decided that the root of all my problems is that I'm too social. After I left the wedding at midnight on Saturday and came down with flu on Sunday, proceeded to get very little done at wits all day today and now have to take a day off to do wedding stuff tomorrow... I've had enough.
The problem is that I just like people too much. I mean, in general, I wish there weren't so many, that they behaved better while driving and so on, but I like spending time with certain people. Today, after giggling our way through a prelab and getting horrendously bored during a tree identification lab, Luke, Kelly, Luke's sister and I went to have tea in my lab. Then Laura joined in and Brett and it was really nice. So I got to wits at 9:30 worked until about 11, went for coffee, got back to work, got lunch (my mom packed me a slightly dubious sandwich) went to the prelab to the lab and then only left about 2 hours later.
And every time I think about the huge workload that's being procrastinated I cringe and then carry on messing around. To make things worse I found an old PhD, and now I feel all inadequate. Maybe I'm just not ready. The only thing that's stopping me from deregistering and leaving the country is the fact that if I were doing masters I'd be just as ineffective as I am right now.
Anyway, I'm going to attempt to do some work and then go to bed.
Sounds like fun.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I haven't blogged forever. I'm sorry, but being so unproductive tends to leave me feeling extraordinarily guilty and I hate to admit it anywhere!
Last week was vry unproductive. I did do some stuff. Like go shopping for wedding gifts for two of the three weddings coming up, going to spend some quality time with my boss (who is one of very few people in this world who can straigthen my hair without the associated Diana Ross effect (i.e. it comes out smooth and un-poofy). I nearly fainted at a dress fitting and realised that if I'm going to stand for a whole ceremony I have to practice wearing the shoes more often. I also put a whole to-do list for the month togther, finalised some things with my supervisor and organised all my readings into folders. All the while spending a huge amount of time at Biosoc.
The thing is, my project has to be divided into 'chapters' and it's really hard to focus on each thing all alone. so I was wheelspinning because I dodn't know where to start. I hope this helps, because otherwise I'm deregistering and taking a one-way flight to Russia or something to hide from allo the people who have been so supportive.
Thursday was Luke's birthday. I gave him a jar of marshmallow spread in the morning and we went shopping for a present for Laura and got falafels for lunch. I also went along to the zoo and went inside the room with the lizard display. Sungazers are SO cute! They also showed distinct evidence for appetitive behaviour and learning... probably just my anthropomorphism shining through, but hearing the keeper arrive and running over to where the food dish usually goes is pretty obvious.
On Thursday night I went to Primi in melsrose arch for Luke's birthday. I got there first and ended up reprising my role as Luke's PA when I was shown around by the waiters and chose an area to book. It was a real awkward-turtle moment! It was a really nice and chilled evening, we sat around and chatted and drank teapots and took bizarre photos.
Friday I decided to be productive, so I sat and organised my readings, helped out some honours students with a variety of things, went to an awesome talk on Macaws in south america and went off to biosoc. After that I went home, changed and headed out to the other side of the world to Laura's birthday bash. It was also fun, albeit mildly awkward at first considering I got there before anyone that I actually knew, but I got to know a few people and it was fun. the place was strange. It had couches and things to sit and chat, but the music was really loud so it was chatting by way of screeching things to your neighbour and repeating yourself a lot. I also got them to make me a special drink that Joey always makes me, so Luke, Laura and I ended up with blue tongues. More hilarious photos followed.
Today I woke up feeling horrible, staggered over to Joeys house so she could do my hair, came home and collapsed for half and hour and headed of to a wedding. I really didn't want to go, but I'm so glad I did! It was a stunning wedding. I'm not generally prone to the whole girly 'awww' reflex, but seeing two people whon I really care about glowing and crying and really meaning what they said was so special. As someone who has been to literally dozens of weddings (when you're little and you sing, people make you perform at weddings for the pure kitsch factor) today was really really special.
So now I feel like a total Scrooge in the way I've been treating my brother's upcoming wedding. I'm really excited for it now, not just because I get to have a really fantastic girl as a sister, but because it really is worth all the fuss.
Anyway, I must be off, the reception starts in an hour and I have no idea where the place is...
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Weird stuff is still happening. I've got to the stage where I can say "Oh look, a goldfish just carried a man out of a burning building"as if it were perfectly normal. Not really, but it's getting to that.
I got my flashdrive from my supervisor today. It's really pretty, white, 2Gig, quite fast data transfer (at least into m laptop, not my desktop). At the moment I'm typing this to pass the time while I copy the last batch f music from my desktop to put it on my laptop. i have a pretty big usic collection, so that's taken quite a while!
I had a dress fitting for the wedding yesterday. My blood pressure plummeted after about half an hour and I nearly passed out (high heels and all). I fund out that sugar water really does help and that it is possible to retain your sense of humour when you're feeling awful and nobody around you can speak English. I also had a really long talk with my future sister-in-lw, which was fantastic!
Today is my last day with my supervisor around for a while, so I'm trying desperately to get everything sorted out so I can just get some work done while he's away without needing him to ok anything. I haven't really succeeded because there are so many distractions at wits. to be honest I think i'm going to spend the next week or wo at home just working like crazy. I intend to have a draft of my proposal ready by the end of next month, so I ust get my butt in gear for this. I refuse to be apathetic about this!
Otherwise I've been spectacularly unproductive for the last few days and that's about it. My music is copied, so I am going to attempt to ge back to work.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
They're beige, rather than the goldish colour that Carla wants, but I'm sure I can get them sprayed for the wedding. More importantly they fit, they're comfortable and I'll definitely wear them after the wedding (I'll put up photos of the other shoes if you want. They're... not my style...).
From there I rushed off to work (amid a rather nasty rainstorm) and found that Lara was working with me. so I bombarded her with all my troubles and she did what she always does: listened, sympathised, put it all in perspective and yanked me out of my comfort zone.
Unfortunately we couldn't go for drinks after work, as is our tradition, because Joey wanted her to go and keep her company while a bunch of her husband's friends were at her house watching rugby. When I explained how annoyed I was she agreed to straighten my hair tomorrow, so I'm not angry. To tell the truth I'm just tired and I'm going to bed now.