Thursday, July 30, 2009

Optimism for cynics

For those of you that read the previous post in the two hours that it was up I apologise. I took a walk and had a think and decided that stewing in misery isn't what I should be doing.

Good things that have happened:

  1. Traffic wasn't bad this morning
  2. I went running last night and I'm not stiff today!
  3. My ankle (which is still dodgy from the bad sprain 2 years ago) was protesting rather a ot this morning and a very kind person went to her car and got out her first aid kit so I could strap it (thanks!). So there ARE decent people out there!
  4. Even if Tai Chi kind of sucked on Tuesday, I think it might be better tonight, and it does make me happy...
  5. Last night my friend walked into the lab, took one look at me and knew EXACTLY what to do (i.e. drinks and potato wedges).
  6. My supervisor has decided that my emails are worthy of attention and I've heard from him more than once in the last two days (compared to once in the last month). Good to know he's still alive!
  7. The scary bodybuilders at the gym all smiled and waved to me last night!
  8. I had an incredibly bad dream last night, but when I woke up and realised it was just a dream it made me feel better about life! So in short, it isn't so bad, at elast I'm not wearing strawberry jam as lipstick which grows of its own accord and covers my face so I look like I dipped my head in oil and lay in the sun!

Anyway, I shold ge tback to work. I'm stuck pretending to be a lab-monkey tomorrow so I'll probably be a bit quiet for the next few days.

Oh and as for the title - a while ago someone told me that I was a perfect example of a cnical optimist... The cloud has a silver lining... which will probably kill you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

not a herpetologist, not a physiologist... cue identity crisis!

It’s official – I am not a physiologist! I spent the morning doing lab work, and had some major pipette issues (you know, those cool colour-coded thingies like they have on CSI?) Well I pipette stuff almost every day I’m doing data collection, but accuracy isn’t really all that important because when you’re taking a sample you kind of want the maximum from your sample (once it’s been centrifuged) so it’s more about getting it all out of there…

So this morning, besides my typical oversleeping and being cranky until after about cup 3 of strong coffee I had to sort through all my blood samples, while having a conversation with some random who was walking past and hearing an ex-lecturer go on about thermal gradient in my head (if your samples are in a minus-70 degree freezer, they warm up insanely fast when you take them out, which leads to me scrambling through my thousand-odd samples (fine, 600) to find number 612a_w/x_spring before the rest of them thaw. Fortunately besides having a numbering system that makes no sense to anyone but me, I pack them away in sections so it’s slightly faster than what most people have to do!).

And then with the strike going on of course South African motorists have to gawk and crash into the cars in front of them so I had to dodge two accidents to get to medschool, by which time I had poured coffee all over myself, but managed to avoid it getting near my samples, but then I nearly had an accident in the parking lot when some little soon-to-be-doctor darling came screeching around a corning at about 60km/h, saw me braking to avoid her and burst out laughing at me. What is the world coming to? And so I ran off to the turnstiles to get onto campus and…well... I was carrying two boxes of equipment, my laptop, a coolerbag with blood samples and a normal bag. I got stuck. The turnstile kind of turned halfway and stopped and nothing I did could move it.

Of course the security guard who had been glowering at me a second before miraculously vanished, but some nice students (also medics, which confuses me. They’re not supposed to be nice…) stopped to help. The problem was that our cards will only wipe once for exit or entry and they get denied after that (cuts down on the sneaking friends in and so on) and so they couldn’t help me without getting stuck… finally someone got fed up and used her card, only to be trapped in education campus for all eternity (or at least half an hour) by which stage I thanked her profusely and left her there (I was already late!)

Of course I had to go through another turnstile before I could get into med-school, but the security guard reappeared (I think it was the same one) and let me through the other side so it was ok.

Anyway the guy who is letting me use his lab is probably the nicest person I’ve ever met and he basically took me up to his lab, showed me where everything was, helped me to get started planning and left me to it. It was quite scary as I suddenly noticed exactly how many things I do wrong in a lab (now that it actually matters, fortunately today is a trial run). I also realised that I am SUCH a zoologist. Physiologists are all lab-coated and gloved up and I find it so tedious. I’ll do it, if just to avoid the lovely radioactive stuff I’m working with, but I hate it.
I’ve never known a zoologist to wear a lab coat willingly, except for Luke’s case but that involved working with dung, so of course that changes things. I wear mine if I’m teaching or if I’m doing something really disgusting – although not always – the best part of teaching a dissection is that you get to wipe your hands o the nearest student. As for gloves… it’s fun once or twice, but having fingers that smell and taste like latex gets old pretty darn quickly. The only time I wore them willingly was when we were de-fleshing a mildly decomposing mole-rat to get the skeleton out…

I also quite like the fact that in zoology you face simple dangers – being bitten by a test subject, catching a weird tropical disease or picking up an exciting gut parasite. My doctor has his textbooks ready whenever I make an appointment and I can recite symptoms and treatments for most of the more common zoology-linked ailments in English and Afrikaans. I can deal with these things; I’ve been doing it for years. Working with things that are toxic and/or radioactive… I worry when I realise that I may have to face the consequences in a decade or two when we find out that it was FAR more dangerous than we’d thought…

Physiology is scary – there’s also the fact that I’m working with amounts that barely even register. I’m talking 1/50th of a millilitre – that’s like 1 percent of a teaspoon. So making a tiny little error can really mess my results up. And as nobody has ever worked on my lizards before there is no way of checking if I’m messing up or not. No pressure!

And of course, there’s the simple and obvious fact- lab work is boring. Mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly, boring. Give me a rock face with a sneaky lizard any day! And once you finish with pipetting over and over and over and over, while trying to keep track of everything and take notes and not let things thaw or freeze or explode (I have bad karma around breakable things) you get to sit and wait for it to incubate. For three hours! THREE HOURS! And of course with the strike and the traffic and silly students there’s no point in going back to main campus so I had my lunch with the medics (cringe) and set up my laptop in the lab.

Thanks for keeping me entertained guys! Now I have to do some reall work… only an hour before I get to try to avoid blowing things up again!

Oh and I went spinning with a friend alst night and it was totally not as bad as everyone said! i think I work harder when I cycle on my own though, none of those pesky rest periods... and it's Tai chi day! I've got the form I'm learning on my ipod now so I'm hoping the learning will go faster this time :) w00t!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The dangers of being female

So on Sunday I wound up helping out at the video store and as Josh had his super-stylish netbook with him (I want one!) I got to pick the movie. We wound up watching this:

Josh was quite nice about letting me watch it, and by halfway into it he was watching as much as I was! He explained it in two ways:

1. One day he's going to have a girlfriend who is going to want him to sit through chick-flicks so he might as well get used to it now (not bad for an 18-year-old!)
2. Apparently guys like chick-flicks as much as girls, they just won't admit it. I'm not so sure I agree with that, but anyway...

All I can say about the movie is that I am SO glad I can laugh at myself! I'm typically not the kind of girl who behaves like that, but I could identify quite strongly with some of the stuff going on. There were moments that I cringed and hid my face a little bit though. And I agree, girls are the worst friends sometimes!

I mean, why is it that we have to tell our friends what they want to hear? And we get upset when friends are actually honest... I'm lucky in that my friends are mostly relatively honest with me, and I know who I can trust when it comes to opinions, but at the same time I know that sometimes I will ask people for an opinion, and I'll keep asking different people until I get told what I want to hear...

I suppose we're a bit doomed to pretend until 'the real thing' comes along. I kind of liked that take home message, that maybe YOU are what you're looking for. I'd hate to be someone who needed a guy to feel complete, and sometimes staying in a relationship because you don't know what to do otherwise can be the worst thing ever!

What do you know, I may just be female after all!

Does that mean next time I meet someone I won't: check my phone constantly, worry about missing a call if I'm in the shower and then not answer it if it does ring because I'm too worried about what I might say?

I'll do my best! And at least I know I'm not alone! And if the worst comes to the worst, I have friends who will tell me that he's:

  • Lost my number
  • Moved to Guatemala
  • Is afraid to phone
  • Is worrying about what to say
  • Doesn't want to call too early
  • Is afraid he left it too late
  • Or my favourite: He's insecure because you're so wonderful!

Girls are dangerous friends, but I love them anyway!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We aren't really that crazy...

So last night I had a HORRIBLE dream and once I woke up I sent messages off to two people outlining the awfulness to them. They replied with their dreams, which made me realise just how often I swap dream stories with people.

Luke and Leia and I had planned on having a discussion on music in order to show all you people out there that we aren't all that crazy, but after about half an hour of trying to get Luke to stop working and come and talk to us (he kept saying "I'll be right there... " and then he'd start something new... it was lunchtime! You're not supposed to work during lunch!) so that we could record something before our labmate comes back. So of course half a minute into it the labmate appeared so you can hear him wandering around.

I hope you can understand us, I tend to talk pretty fast and the others don't sit still very often so it can distort... The picture isn't really significant, it just wouldn't load without an image so I put one in...

Oh, and besides the fact that I speakk faaster than I should, what it the general verdict on our accents? Luke and I have both been told that we don't sound very South African, so do we all sound like we've spent most of our lives in Joburg? Or has the accent been educated out of us?

Anyway if you're brave enough you can hear about:

1. each of us has a weird dream story from last night, and Leia added one in from last week where her tooth looked lie a carrot inside (?).
2. The aftermath of our first ever experience with doctor pepper.
3. The return of stationary to the rightful owners.
4. The horror of Lady Gaga songs being stuck in your head.
5. My realisation that I can smell and taste in dreams!
6. The evilness of our security gate.
7.The awesomeness of 2-ply lab paper!

In other news I had an amazing meeting with a collaborator/mentor this morning and I was so excited! I should be getting a huge load of lab work done really soon!
And, being a Thursday I thought I would mention some of the fabulous 90's songs that shaped out childhoods (is that a real word?

Do you remember:
The Chemical Brothers: hey boy, hey girl!
I hated this song SO much! This lead to a big debate in the lab about whether the songs on the list had to be things we had enjoyed, or just songs that were influential. The jury is still out on it.

And based on our discussion last time, bearing in mind that my labmates have yet to see Centre Stage (which was a bit part of my teenager-dom), I feel that I must mention:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers: Under the bridge.

This was one of my favourite songs when I was younger, it made me feel all rebellious and cool. The fact that I had a mega crush on the lead singer didn't hurt either.

And, for the purposes of being stuck in your head for the next few days... do you remember this one? I had completely forgotten about it until we stumbled across it the other day:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do the locomotion...

That awful awful song is stuck in my head now! But quite true, I'm just moving steadily(ish), getting things done, and finding more to do. Leia was going to record something with me tonight but we couldn't decide what we were going to talk about so she went home because her car has been a bit unfriendly lately and she wanted to make sure she got home ok.
And the car broke down, so I got to sit and wait for her dad because she seems to think that sitting on your own is safe after dark... silly child! 
And I'm trying to write an article for the reserve where I do my fieldwork. It was a ot ahrder than I'd expected, but now that I'm getting into it it's not too bad at all! I'm just hoping they're not too strict on the word count!
So everybody's doing... the lo-co-mo-tion...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Po is amazing!

So as she named Norbert, we had promised to write a post on the amazingness of Po. But as I had discovered (to my joy) that my laptop has an integrated microphone, we decided to record a message instead. Of course, knowing us, we couldn't keep on topic at all, so I'm afraid you have to listen to our ramblings before you get to the amazingness of Po.

There are also (gasp!) pictures of Luke wit his broken nose, pictures of many people who aren't Leia, and some amazing audio-editing by Luke to remove Leia's REAL name (whoops). As I don't have a third party audio hosting site thingie, we figured why not make it a movie-type thing, as blogger lets you upload videos but not just sound files for some reason.

Oh, and don't panic when there are areas with a black screen, I decided that we had enough pictures!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting things done

So in a fit of good admin-Karma (and long may it continue!) I went to see a physicist today who was really really nice, super-helpful and has basically said that once I submit my forms I will be able to start the next phase of labwork! And I contacted the guy who runs that lab I'll be using and he was really helpful (although in his case it was only surprising becasue he agreed to let me use his lab about two years ago and I haven't been able to get through the red-tape until now. He's always been incredibly nice to me).
I also planned a meeting for tomorrow with one of the undergrads who is going to be doing a project using some of my data which should make my life easier in the long-run (there's a lot of computer work that needs doing and I wouldn't mind having someone else doing the clicking), as well as getting some extra teaching experience which is always a plus!
I've been panicking because there's some super-urgent labwork that has been delayed for over a year which is incredibly urgent now as I have to be done in six weeks time in order to go back out to catch lizards in time. The lady who originally agreed to help me pretty much vanished off the face of the earth about 18 months ago and I haven't been able to track her down. So, walking back from an accidental meeting inwhich I had to explain all the creepinesses of the farmhouse to our HOD who apparently fixed the toilet and the leaky gas pipes a few weeks ago (score!) guess who I run into in the passage?
Well not run into as much as see her talking to two other members of staff, so I got Luke and Leia to stand in the passage and make conversation with me until their little group broke up, when I ran and intercepted her and had a long long conversation where she was incredibly helpful and it looks like I might make it in time!
And as it happens the 'easier' method I was thinking of using looks like it may be easier after all and I will be able to use it, which makes my last phase of labwork a little bit less stressful!
So everyone, PLEASE think good admin-karma thoughts for me for the next while, I really need things to carry on going well! I don't want to be doing this PhD still ten years down the line (particularly not if I'm going to change the world, but I will explain that tomorrow... duh duh DUHHHHHHN! Cliffhanger!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

To make the most benign situation into a crisis, just alter your perception!

So last night I was supposed to go and get diving gear for this weekend so that I could go diving with a friend. Of course now it looks like she doesn't need a buddy so I'm quite glad i didn't waste my money, particularly since she still hasn't let me know... whining aside, the clubhouse opens at 6:30pm and at 6 I was sitting in the lab reading some books on using applied chemistry in nuclear physics calculations when Luke and Leia's supervisor came past to say goodbye and to ask me to keep an eye out in case some visiting French researchers who were supposed to have arrived in the afternoon.

I might have scared him slightly with my enthusiasm for the calculations I was working on, as well as the fact that i have discovered that the best way to concentrate while reading physics is to paint my nails at the same time. The only colour I had with me at the time was black. I'm not seeing the problem but other people seems to find it a bit alarming. Add in the fact that I'm having some sort of allergy attack which makes my eyes water a lot (it looks like tears) and you have a super-enthusiastic, physics-quoting, black-nail (and eyeliner)-ed up apparently crying PhD student. I must admit, I'd beat a hasty retreat as well!

Anyway I got a phone call a few minutes later from the superV saying that he'd had a call from the French people saying that they were lost in the centre of town! For those of you who don't know, the centre of town in Joburg is a pretty scary place at night (and during the day) as it's dark and scary and people (mostly taxis) drive like crazy and you kind of remember all the stories of people not making it out alive...

He decided that rather than come back to the alb and figure out a plan he would leap straight into the area and try and find them. I mean, imagine being a foreigner who barely speaks English trying to understand convoluted directions over the phone while scared out of your mind... and in the meantime I tried to figure out where they were with the help of Google Earth... while he proceeded to get more and more lost. I can understand a map being out of date, but seriously, a streaming satellite image should be pretty much what's really there? Either he didn't follow my instructions or there was something seriously Twilight Zoneish going on because nothing went according to plan!

Meanwhile time was going by rather quickly and I was starting to stress out because Tai Chi starts at 7:30pm and I usually leave at about 6:45 so that I have plenty of time to get there and change and lock my stuff away and all that. By ten past 7 I was starting to stress out. I had told Leia by then that if the girl who wanted me to dive with her wanted me there, SHE could get me gear because I'd had nothing from her in the last few days and renting gear is expensive, particularly if you don't end up diving. I was not prepared to leave the map or my phone for very long because the whole situation of the lost people is REALLY dangerous! (And for the record she already made plans without me, so basically it's a good thing I didn't waste the time and/or effort).

Eventually I got a call at 7:10pm to say that the SuperV had found a sign to the place where the French were waiting, so I sprinted (I can honestly say I've never run that fast before) down to my car. it was FREEZING so you know that feeling when you take a deep breath of ice air? So as I was gasping away the superV phoned to say he's found them and they were all OK. Five seconds later, with my phone complaining loudly at the lack of battery life, the guy from last weekend started calling me and I was trying to drive up to the building so I could change and dash off to Tai Chi and I didn't really want to kill my phone because I don't like to be driving around at night without it and I was also waiting to hear if Luke had survived surgery or not so I just couldn't talk. He was pretty understanding (the fact that I wasn't speaking too slowly because I was all adrenalin-ed-up probably didn't help) and so i dashed into the lab, changed while crouching behind the lab bench behind Leia's desk (you don't realise how huge the windows are until you need to change, I don't care if the glass is frosted!) and somehow made it to Tai Chi in time!

And I learned a ton of new stuff so now I can officially get through the arm-up exercise (the whole group does the beginners form) without getting lost! And it was also a totaly relief to get there and do the calming breathing exercises (where you rpetend to hug a tree).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blogger just ate my last post, which was almost finished and had pictures and everything! Rather than rethink it all I'm going to leave you with this quote from a friend of mine who was giving me advice over herbal tea last night (thanks EEbEE!). Basically I explained that being dumped really sucks and he replied with (paraphrased with my random comments removed):

"Wait. You think the dumping thing is bad!!! It's the BEST thing EVER. you are getting away from someone who doesn't like you instead of having one of those fake relationships. Look just stay away from anyone who thinks less of you. best recipe for a good future. So there."

Not bad for someone who claims he's useless at relationship advice!

Also I thought having made a giant list of songs form the 90's that shaped our childhoods, I wouldn't want to waste all that reminiscing. So I think in future I will post something on that on a Thursday. So basically the list of songs is about 3 pages long, but if there's anything that you remember that you really loved let me know and I'll add it onto the list if it isn't already there!

This week we have:

This was used in a play at my school and I was on backstage duty, I had to wait for the"He drinks the whiskey drink, he drinks the vodka drink" line to know when to start moving things around!

And of course we can never forget the way that only cool people listened to Fatboy Slim (and I absolutely adored this music video and spent an afternoon glued to MTV so I could see it once!)

And of course there is Radiohead. Maybe this was the start of the emo-mindset? All I know is that I spent several of my teenage years (when I wasn't pretending to like boybands or listening to angry music on the Night Zoo while hiding under the covers to muffle the sound from my headphones) identifying very strongly with this song!

Anyone got any particualr memories of these three?

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Don't fish if you don't want to catch anything

This post is partly a rant. I'm sorry but there are some things that have been bugging me lately:

A while ago a friend of mine sent me an email asking me to critique something she had done. i thought that what she had done was awful and just... it sucked. So after a few hours of getting advice from a few people around me as to what to say to her, I sent a carefully worded reply where I basically said that she was very creative, but it's not my style and I suggested a few things to make it a bit more... I think accessible was the word I used.

Either way I am very aware that I am fussy, people have very different tastes and I do think it's good for people to experiment a little bit because sometimes the things that work are quite surprising and are only found by trial and error and experimenting.

That was the last I've heard from her. And from what I gather from the other people she asked for advice is that she thought that her 'experiment' was awesome and everyone else dutifully told her so, so I have been removed because I'm not sticking to the script! It's not like I was mean or anything...

Seriously, if you ask for my opinion, don't be surprised if that's what I give you! And if you're just fishing for compliments, then say so and I'll be nice! And I'm not being silly - if I do something I'm proud of, I will call people over and say "Look what I did! Isn't it awesome?" not "what do you think of [my geranium garden]?" or whatever. Geranium, Pelargonium, tomayto tomahto....

Next up, is the age old "I put something out on the Internet, how on earth was I supposed to know that anyone could access it?" rant. so I started a blog in 2006, and 've become rather fond of it I've considered making a new one and using fake names and writing fictitious stuff to throw people off my true identity and blah blah blah, but I just don't want to. I like this blog.

I accept the fact that I'm putting things out there that can be quite personal, and at the same time I don't often write anything that I wouldn't say out loud. This blog is not a secret look into the inner workings of my mind. Those are mostly private and occasionally shared with very close friends, if I ever get around to acknowledging them in the first place. I try and avoid talking about people much if they don't ok it first and if I do I try and avoid using names or too many details that could 'expose' them.

Fair enough. At the same time, I like my privacy. I deal with a lot of different people on a daily basis and a lot of that is in a vaguely professional context. I don't really want everyone I've ever met reading about what I do on my weekends. You follow?

And so I was checking out my statcounter history this morning to find that someone had used a comment that someone who reads my blog had left on facebook (which is fast becoming the bane of my existence) and used it to google my blog.

If you want to read my blog and you know me in real life, then you should know that while I don't broadcast the URL from the rooftops, it's not really a big secret. So why not just ask me? Let me know that you're reading this/ want to read this? It's only polite. There's not much you'll get from here that you wouldn't get from a normal conversation with me anyway, but I think that 'sneaking around' trying to find someones blog is akin to trying to read someone's diary, which is totally dumb when I would have given you the address anyway.

What do you guys think? Are you ok with people you know reading about you? Or do you keep your identity top-secret?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Introducing... Norbert!

I'm afraid I've been a bit slack in concluding the super-awesome Name That Cactus Competition. Priorities start shifting when begging for large amounts of money become the main focus of the entire lab (fingers crossed that we get it!). Anyway, as I'm sure you can see from the poll on the right, by a totally democratic process, the cactus has been named Norbert! And just in case you didn't believe that we would follow through:

He's been tagged and everything!

Special mention goes to Hannah and Henno for their choices of Reuben McGarrige and Gulliver respectively. It was pretty close!

Of course, the glory all goes to Po, for suggesting the winning name, and as such we must give her TEN POINTS and of course discuss her awesomeness!

I will not mention the awesomeness until I've got the others locked into the lab with me (the weird thing about postgrads is that you mention 'writing' and they vanish and you have to coax them out from under their beds with donut crumbs and the promise of free food... It's almost as bad as the postgrad reaction to words like 'statistics'; 'graduate' and 'what will you do when you've finished?') although I don't think it'll be that difficult!

In the meantime, as promised, Po, I give you TEN POINTS and a group hug:

We couldn't find a photo of Po, so you'll have to use your imagination!

Yet another random encounter at the gym

It was a little known fact that George liked to plant daffodils in his free time. He also liked to play with kittens and experiment with accessories**.

I seem to have random encounters a lot! Anyway I'm still busy begging for money, but I thought I had to share this story with you guys!

There is a group of bodybuilders that go to the gym around the same time as me. I try to avoid them, as they scare me a little bit and at one stage one of them mimicked what I was doing from across the gym, which made me rather annoyed and freaked out. I worked next door to a gym for a year or so, so I knew a lot of body-builders and they were usually quite cool people, but I also learned how to tell which point they were at in the steroid-cycle quite often and you DON'T want to mess with someone that size who's in the cranky phase...

So anyway I was at the gym last night, keeping to myself, and I saw them. It's one huge (and rather ugly) guy with his entourage of three or four others who seem desperate to look like him, and his girlfriend/wifey. I went to a different area because they scare me and later on when I went back downstairs to the change rooms the main entourage guy stopped me.

I was mildly annoyed that I had to take my earphones out, and I was rather tired and hoping it wouldn't turn into an insult-slinging session. So you can imagine my reaction when he introduced himself, said they'd seen me around and all been really impressed with my progress, and to keep it up! Then he shook my hand and they left.

I was totally floored, and I'm still a little bit in shock about the whole thing! But at the same time it was pretty awesome to get a compliment so totally out of the blue like that!

**not my picture. Don't even know the guy. Don't beat me up!

Monday, July 13, 2009

When I grow up

I want to be Neko Case...

I'm all out of words, been applying for funding all day and I probably won't get it because I skipped a degree and therefore have all the beurocrats scratching their heads in frustration over which box to tick...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Word to the wise

Word of advice: don't be me. Weird things happen to me and to those around me (IF I happen to be there)...

So anyway, after an awesome Christmas in July celebration on Friday (being in the southern hemisphere, our Christmas is boiling hot and eating Turkey and pudding is unpleasant - we do it anyway - so we celebrate it in winter as well!) I dragged myself off to work on Saturday morning.

It was a quiet shift, made interesng by the fact that we had the world's cutest puppy looking for a home, and it stayed with me all morning ion order to be more visible to potential owners. It was exhausted from crying all night (missing brothers and sisters I assume) and so quite often someone would hold it and it would fall asleep and they would sort of look at it and melt. As for me, I was a big pile of goo by the end of my shift!

At the same time I was working on some nuclear physics problems I have to solve in order to get the people in the radioactive science department (name of department, not a description) to let me use their equipment. I asked the vet if he could help, but after about half an hour of brainstorming he ran off and got his old textbook. Bearing in mind that he studied at the only veterinary science usiversity in the country, which happens to be bilingual, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did that the book was in Afrikaans.

The vet is fluent, and I'm not bad, but between us it took about an hour to find the right chapter and once we had we were pretty useless, so we played with the puppy instead! I'm hoping to get a chance to talk to a physicist friend of my parents tomorrow or so and get some help there.

After all that I went off to Bobbi Brown and had my makeup done (the staff were being evaluated or something and I'd been invited along to guinea-pig) which was a lot of fun as usual! And from there I headed off to a birthday party. This was also awkward as I knew very few people (I think I had met the birthday girl once before) and the music was so loud that we were limited to talking to the people right next to us, rather than the table. Birthday Girl was quite annoyed that we weren't mingling, but she wouldn't understand that a big group was impossible at those volumes!

I met a few cool people, heard some really dodgy jokes, caught up with La and giggled at the male models on FTV and the random camera angles they use, and found myself confused as to why on earth the bathrooms are at the top of some really steep stairs... Towards the end I had included myself into one of the dodgier in-jokes, with my friends apologising profusely for exposing me to such awful guys (not realising that I was giving as good as I got because I'm pretty used to that level of humour - we're biologists for heaven's sakes!) and giggling helplessly.

And then I wound up spending half an hour chatting to a pretty cool guy. I was completely thrown five minutes later when he took my hands, stared into my eyes and asked me out. Of course I couldn't hear him so I said "WHAT?" and he had to repeat himself about three times before I said "WHA-Oh!"

So before The Date I visited La and we were panicking about the whole situation, while shrieking with laughter at the fact that the guy she was working with was wearing a thong (under white pants) and reliving the dodgier stories from the night before, only to look up and see BOTH my bosses had come to get movies. With their kids. And they were looking mildly freaked out!

For the record, it wasn't all that bad, I had fun. Which I guess is why you should give people a chance before freaking out about spending time with them!

And I did Tai Chi this mornign and there was no instructor so we basically went through all the forms, so I got to join in the 24 and 42 hand forms! It was insane, there's so much going on and htere were some high kicks and I fell over a lot, but I also had a bunch of the advanced students helping me so it was a lot of fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lazy eye... lazy tongue... lazy leg?

So Tai Chi was totally awesome as usual again last night! I may have scared the teacher a bit because he asked me after class if I was enjoying Tai Chi and I think my enthusiasm may have scared him slightly...

Anyway after making walking a little bit more complicated we finally learned some new steps because one of the beginner guys did something I can't pronounce that included aspects of Tai Chi and so he was getting bored and asked the teacher and i joined in. I can't remember past the first two steps but it was fun after doing the same 5 or so for a week...

The other interesting part was watching the teacher prioritising students. Prioritising is a bad word for it, but basically he would ignore the people who were there for the first time (I sidestepped this issue during my first lesson by asking questions ALL the time!) or the people who weren't trying too hard. So basically the people next to me were doing things upside down or backwards or missing steps entirely and he let it slide, and just told them to make sure they were expressing themselves and to try and 'feel the energy' and other abstract concepts.

The new guy who is totally better than me was picked on for not making his stance stable enough (I was picked on for that as well, but not as much) and I was corrected for the tiniest things like how I held my head or if my hands were too far apart or if my toes pointed in or not. This suited me well because I'm really loving the way that it's slow enough for me to really concentrate on getting each step right.

Anyway the whole point was, when we were walking I was stopped because whenever I balanced on y left leg and then stepped out with my right, he could hear my right foot landing. One a wooden floor! bearing in mind that the stance is something like this: (you start on the back foot and step out transferring your weight to the front foot once it's in position)Do you see why he might hear something when i put my foot down (and said foot is wearing running shoes with thick soles which doesn't help I don't think).

As it happens when I start on my right foot there's no problem, so basically my left leg isn't strong enough to control my entire body, complete with shifting centre of gravity until I'm ready to stand on my right leg. Weird.

So now I spend many hours doing this:

But just on my left leg :)

As long as I dont end up like this guy from Lady in the Water...

On the plus side I wore my new black and pink boots today and everyone has loved them! And according to one of the masters students I was speaking to this smorning, gravitating to pink things is a sign of change. And I think change is a good thing!

Here's a photo from my phone because I'm too lazy to find a real camera and I know that if I dont post a picture I may be lynched!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

when the world gets too confusing, just live in the past!

It's Tai Chi night! I'm so excited! Really, I just did a little happy-dance in my chair. I never thought I'd get that excited over it, particularly when you only started doing Tai Chi in order to loosen up Pilatesised muscles...

Anyway, last night I was looking through a cupboard for an old camera box for Luke (long story and he can tell it) when I came across my old diary from when I was in high school. I used to be a total diary-geek and kept several, the first being pastel shades of purple, with scented pages and a lock that was amazingly easy to force open...

This one is slightly less awful looking, bright blue in a gellish cover that's a bit squishy and has flowers and pastic crystal thingies on it that sparkle. and I think I got it shortly before I stopped writing a diary so it's mostly empty. From the few entries in it I learned a few things about myself:

  • my handwriting used to be HORRIBLE! How the heck my teachers ever managed to understand my work baffles me!
  • I still feel like nothing much has changed, I'm the same person I was 10 years ago and so on, but reading through the old entries taught me that I definitely am not that much like my teenaged self! I think it's a good thing!
  • I was not a very nice person.
  • My spelling has improved dramatically! I used to be appaling and write things like 'sux' and 'RULEZ' and ;get with' and other things that make me cringe! I was also a big fan of writing in capital letters whenever I freaked out.
  • I really loved multicoloured pens!

Anyway to illustrate just how far I've come (and to make you all giggle at the inanity of me at 16) I will provide you all with some excerpts:

I wrote a really bad essay fo Afrikaans, but Mev R-T loved it. It was al about trusting my friends when I was scared or some crap like that. Now it's going in the school magazine** which sux. The only one that was kitscher was someone who wrote about "Die lewe is soos 'n toffie"*** which was all about her puppy called Toffy who died and that life can be sweet like a toffee, but sometimes it's just really hard to chew."

"Since the last round of concerts I'm' really loving music. It sux bcuz I know I can't have it as a career bcuz I suck. I'm playing in 5th pos now. It HURTS!"

"He's such a loser! I mean he's not much older than me and he already has GREY HAIR and he's just a total LOSER. And he uses HEAD AND SHOULDERS**** and he LEFT IT IN THE SHOWER! and I totally tripped over it like 6 times, and he STARED at me like the whole way through lunch. And people knew he was coming to stay with us so I have to figure out what to tell them. Maybe I'll just say I didn't see much of him? I mean he was so BLATANT."

"Went to movies with G tonight and ran into KD. He invited me to a party tonight but I didn't go. It was just kinda late notice and I have like nothing to wear. I woulda liked to go tho, too bad KD's in boarding school and I totally never see him."

At the same time there are some entries about the holiday I spent volunteering at a preschool for kids with disabilities and how powerful and amazing the experience was. So maybe I wasn't a total loss!

It makes me sad that I've lost a lot of the innocence of the time, but also really glad that I've grown up a little bit!


***life is like a toffee

****anti-dandruff shampoo

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Chicken or beef?

So after an AWESOME tai chi lesson yesterday that actually made me realise just how pathetic my ankles are (we did something called a "Tai-chi walk" which had a lot of swivelling and lunging and then swivelling the other way) and how I've picked up bad habits already, I woke up not feeling the whole Pilates thing this morning. On the plus side besides my original four different Tai chi steps, I can totally turn corners now!

So anyway, I managed to force myself out of my lovely warm blanket-cocoon and dragged myself off to the 8m pilates class. It's cold at 8 in the morning, so we get to wear our socks instead of being barefoot! Last week the instructor told us to wear more interesting socks - my lumo-giraffe socks weren't even close to the coolness of his retina-blasting yellow and red toe socks.

So today we lined up in our stripy or polka-dot socks and got started. I love the instructor. Seriously, if I could compress him down to an mp3 and have him on my ipod, the world's depression problem would vanish! Besides being a walking ken-doll with every muscle imaginable around a waistline that's about as wide as of one of my socks, he's also incredibly INCREDIBLY camp and he likes to have 'girl talks' with us.

It makes clenching your stomach muscles while throwing your arms and legs around incredibly difficult when you find him amusing. The others don't seem to have a problem, and I've been able to hide my giggling enough that he thinks I have no core muscles and therefore no sense of balance, when actually I'm just falling over from laughing too hard!

For instance he started off this morning by telling us about the gelling agents used in ice-cream and how they are also used in the manufacture of rubber. And there I was thinking they used algae in ice-cream and rubber came from trees. Either way before I could get confused he pointed to his stomach and said "So if you have a spare-tyre..." And I fell over.

Later someone was struggling and he went to her and said:
"do you feel like you want to kotch**?" she nodded, trying to maintain her position, and he continued:
"You see ladies, if you eat your nice bowl on jungle oats before pilates you're going to be bloated. Jungle oats is such a good breakfast, lots of slow release energy. Yip it tastes like snot, but it's so good for you. But then it sits there and you can't use the muscles because you're just squishing the snot around."
The lady who had been struggling started turning kind of green. I had given up and I was sitting on my mat refusing to make eye contact with anyone.

One of the 'teacher's pet' types chirped up with "but then what do we eat?"
"you eat that snotty jungle oats! No ladies, I don't want to know what you had for breakfast, sardines on toast... yes that's high in protein! Do we have to discuss the difference between carbs and protein again?" (he did, but I won't go into detail because there;s no way I can do any kind of justice to a muscled-up ex-gymnast in a shiny yellow singlet acting out farming).

Teachers pet started again with "but that means we must eat our breakfast at six in the morning?"
"Yes Tracey, you eat at six, or you don't eat and you have breakfast an hour after you exercise. Eat a banana, do you like green-yellow or yellow-yellow bananas?" we all mumbled something to show that we were listening while Tracey sat up straight and said "Yellow-yellow!"
"Oh dear Tracey! You're on the way for a fat attack!"

Anyway after an hour of complete entertainment Ken-doll broke the news that he's leaving to become 'cabin-crew' for an airline. So sad!

And now I have to start teaching on Wednesday mornings so I'll have to find a different pilates class to go to. Sad times!

*** kotch is a delightful term for vomit

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

All girlied out

Thanks so much those of you who've voted to name the cactus! Please keep voting, the poll is up until Friday!

So anyway after an awesome weekend of braaing, doing yoga on a wiii (videos might follow but I'm not sure how keen the people are to have their hula-hooping broadcast, and it's one of those 'you-had-to-be-there clips), being attacked by a lamp with a necklace doing an impression of a wind-chime at the same time, and spending an awesome evening playing Guitar Hero World tour (that's the one with the microphone and the drums and the two guitars and you play in a band!) after I was invited by telepathy and then yelled at for not RSVPing...

For the record, I really really really want to learn to pay the drums now! It was so much fun! And anyone near me got whacked by my flying drumsticks, so be warned... And of course when I mentioned the yoga to my boss on Saturday he and I ended up practising our yoga stances in the waiting room, between clients! It was bizarre!

Anyway it was also a bit of a weekend to be girly for me. I spent a long time having a chat with Chief-Goth, who's not very happy at the moment, and she's decided to do Pilates with me, so I'm hoping that'll happen. As much as I like gym as 'me' time, I want her to feel better more.

I also got these awesome earrings:

some awesome legwarmers (they're grey and black and I love them! and a pair of Converse-style canvas boots that are pink and black and lace up to just below the knee (hence the legwarmers, having boots on without tights or something makes me feel like I'm wearing shoes with no socks and that's disgusting!) and an amazing shirt that's made out of something called Lenzing-Modal or something, but basically it's made out of cellulose from beech trees! It's really comfortable and it'll be suitable for the goth metal music festival I'm going to in a few weeks!

The boots are amazing, except that I have to lace them up pretty tightly to get the laces the whole way to the top, so I went hunting for shoelaces and ended up buying these ribbons instead:

The laces are white at the moment and I love the look but the super-neon pink (it's brighter than it looks here) is amazing too, so I'm going to have to go home and try it out!

Anyway, after all that, and a relatively quiet Monday, Leia and I went shopping this morning. I've been promising to take her make-up shopping for months and we finally diarised it and went, although it was a bit 11th hour because her car isn't too reliable and I thought I might have to dash off somewhere else halfway through the morning, but as it happens, we made it, albeit about an hour late because I had managed to lose my car keys.

After only a brief stop at Rage and Aldo (who had the most awesome shoes but not in my size, the joy of it being on sale and therefore the last pair) I delivered her to Lizzy, the amazing person at Bobbi Brown. Lizzy recognised me! How scary? I introduced her (as she was kind of sputtering - Leia, not Lizzy) as my friend who needed help, and so Leia sat for about half an hour having her makeup done while Lizzy explained what everything was and how to use it. The only awkward part was when I was bouncing around (I ran off to check out MAC a few times, as well as looking around Red Earth which looked like there had been a tornado through the aisle) she gave us both a lecture on using black eyeliner and black mascara. For the record, my hair is super-dark brown and as much as I like brown eyeliner, it's too much effort maintaining two sets of everything, particularly when mascara goes funny after three months anyway! She also told me that as my eyebrows are basically black and my hair is brown I should TINT my eyebrows to match my hair to match my eyeliner. uh, how about NO?

Anyway after all that she sat me down and did my eye-makeup which was awesome! and of course resulted in me splurging on this:

And we also promised to go through on Saturday when they have a visiting international makeup artist visiting. I'm not sure what to expect, but she said we'd enjoy it and we'd have our makeup done again. I can never say no to free pamperage...

After all that, Leia looked vaguely shell-shocked but also decided that she wanted to check out a dress, so we ended up trying on outfits for a while. I liked a lot of stuff, but I have learned to go away and think for a day or two before committing to clothes, in an effort to avoid my cupboard filling up until the shelves collapse. She got herself a LBD and I was very proud!

I made it up to myself by going past my favourite accessories place and getting these:

I totally fell in love with the penguins! They also came with these:

Sorry for the fuzzy photo, they're tiny! And also perfect for teaching the snail dissection! And these:

so totally adorable!

Anyway after all that I'm totally girlied-out and I feel the need to play paintball or climb rocks or go quad-biking or something. Not that it wasn't awesome fun though!

And it's Tai-Chi tonight! I'm SO excited!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Name that cactus!

So the weekend is over and it's time to VOTE! Thanks again to everyone who suggested names for the cactus. If your suggestion isn't on the shortlist I'm really sorry, but please don't let that stop you from voting!

Without any further ado, the final list of potential names is:

  • Leroy
  • Norbert
  • Gulliver
  • Edmund
  • Reuben McGarrige

I'm putting a poll up now and it'll be there until Friday, so please vote for your favourite!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Because I haven't given an account of my various injuries in the name of exercise in rather a long time

So after over a week of rambling about nothing in particular that is pertinent to my life (when I'm not clinging to rocks in the quest for small and very adorable reptiles, life is pretty gosh darn boring here) I guess it's time for an update.
First, I'd like to thank all of you amazing and wonderful people who have responded with names for the cactus! I will leave it open for ideas until 8am on Monday (Central Africa Time) which is about an hour ahead of GMT at the moment I think? We don't have daylight savings so the rest of the world kind of confuses me! Once all of the options are in we will have a lab argument (I mean discussion) to select our favourites and I will put up a poll at some stage on Monday, so watch this space!
Anyway I decided that now that I've been going to the gym for over a year (and regularly for eight months) I was getting kind of bored with the routine of it. I still enjoyed it, but I was kind of hitting a plateau and getting really dejected and I was afraid of ending up all demotivated and slumped over on my hair (we really need a couch in the lab. We have nowhere to slump dejectedly right now). So partly out of desperation and partly in the spirit of sorting my life out and facing fears and so on, I decided to be brave and try a class. This took guts - I like to do things on my own, new people scare me, and last time I tried a class at the gym it was the yoga session run y the horrible psycho woman and I could barely move for days after she decided that we didn't need any training or experience to try the difficult stuff.
So on Wednesday morning I went to a Pilates class. As an aside the name makes me giggle because on a field trip a few months ago we were playing 30 Seconds with the students. That's the game where you have to describe things to your team who has to guess what they are, in under thirty seconds. Anyway one girl waited until after the end of her turn and then yelled "What the HECK is Pohn-tee-is Pih-lah-tees?" Seems she confused the biblical Roman with an exercise regime. Could happen to anyone.
Anyway I had a blast! The instructor looked like a walking-talking Ken doll and he was so incredibly camp that I was tempted to ask his if he wanted to join me next time I go shoe shopping! He was really nice and let me in even though I was late, even if "You've missed the warm-up dahling!" and proceeded to make me laugh so hard I barely managed to get through some of the routine.  The best part was when we'd finished kicking "Like a merman! Kick like a merman!" he told us to check where we'd felt tension. When some of the women said that they had done it differently and suggested that they knew better, he threatened them with developing love handles. Almost without exception all the women around me (the lone confused-looking guy just kind of shuffled his feet) dropped and began doing the exercise again!
For the rest of the day i was worried that something was wrong with me - it seemed  that I had done a repeat of my previous experience and stumbled into the advanced class - noting hurt! I hadn't even broken a sweat. Admittedly it was absolutely freezing as it has been all week, but still, I bounced around all day and even did a demonstration in the lab (we'd had the floor cleaned recently so it was safe lying on it). The next morning I woke up and couldn't move my arm to turn my alarm off. The blinding blinding pain! And everyone laughed at me when all I could do was type (slowly) or move a computer mouse (carefully) and opening doors or lifting anything heavier than my coffee cup made me gasp/sqwawk in pain!
And so last night I decided that maybe Tai Chi class would be a good way of loosening up my muscles, so I went and did that, and it was amazing! The instructor was really nice and super-patient and it was slow enough that I was able to really focus on getting things right and it felt so awesome! At the beginning we (myself and two other beginners) were practically falling over our own feet and by the end it was feeling... right. And I felt graceful - which I haven't in a really long time! admittedly we learned four steps in nearly an hour and a final step at the end, but it was so awesome!
I can't wait for Tuesday's class!

Thursday, July 02, 2009


So back on the day of me dragging Leia around the paintball course in search of a geocache, we got a cactus for the lab. We already have a plant (Spaz), a bryophyte (Kermit) and a while ago we had a fish (Spot) with an aquatic snail called Gary (who randomly gave birth to Basil).

So now that the cactus is firmly established in our little family, we need to name it. and that's where you guys come in.

Please will you suggest some names? We just can't make a decision. If there isn't a clear winner then we will set up a poll to decide.

PLEASE help us on this! Arguing over names is seriously denting our productivity!

After much discussion we have decided that the person who picks the final name will win:
  • a digital group hug from all of us

  • a special post about your awesomeness (can be exchanged for a guest blog from one of us, you can choose who writes it)

  • A specially made award badge for your blog

  • 10 points!

Sounds like it's worth a try doesn't it?

Good luck and get naming! Multiple suggestons per person are allowed, but please put them as separate comments so we don't miss any!

More about me

Being Brazen did this quiz and so I figured I'd be lazy and copy her idea! It's the basic introvert/extrovert test and is pretty short so I didn't have to feel too guilty about doing it over my morning coffee...

Here's what it says:

You Are 10% Extrovert, 90% Introvert

You avoid people at all costs

You aren't one for social interaction

And you limit your interaction to a select few

Thank God for self checkout!

Not really surprising, I had a battery of tests done when Iw aas younger and hadn't picked a career yet (not that I have decided yet).
If you feel like doing it for yourself, the link is here. Let me know what you find out!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I was tagged by the lovely Suvvygirl from Tales and Adventures of Suvvyland for yet another meme!
The basic idea is to pick 6 unimportant things that you love. So here goes:
1. ice-skating

Picture from here

I did ice-skating when I was in high-school, mainly because I was good at it (years of falling off my Rollerblades had got my balance issues sorted out) and I loved it! I was just starting the advanced/freestyle class when I took a break to write my exams when I was 16 and never went back. I still go to the local rink occasionally (there's one nearby now, I used to have to go out to krugersdorp ever Saturday. I can't do much anymore besides go forwards and backwards and the odd little step I sued to do, but I still love skating around and around, not doing anything special, and just letting my mind empty and relax.

2. Eyeliner

This is not me although I would love pink AND blue hair! The picture is from here (along with an awesome guide to emo makeup that ends with advice to keep it light to avoid 'looking like a poser' I think the emo community would be quite annoyed to find out how adorable i find them! In a cute puppy kind of way...)

For some reason, around the same time as I figured out how to wield a hairdryer, I figured out that eyeliner isn't all that difficult, and since then I find it difficult to leave the house without it. It's a bit like mascara or lip-gloss - makes you feel pretty instantly! Gosh I such a girl!

3. hanging around at a friend's house on a Friday night watching bad movies or playing guitar hero or just plain hanging out and talking nonsense...

I adore guitar hero as well, although the random character selection seems to be biased to picking the one we've officially (and not very affectionately named 'that skanky blonde one' or the KISS guy. I like this one: purple hair AND awesome socks! Winner!

4. Bad horror movies. I fin most horror movies hilarious, the more B-grade the better, although I actually went and saw Drag Me to Hell twice because it made me laugh so much! Other favourites include The Cave (where we've names each set as a different level so changing scenes you have to yell "Level up... it's the Aztec Level!!!" And of course if someone dies you have to make the appropriate "Game over" noises. The Descent (which has t be watched right after the Cave for full effect). Mirrors, the Fog, House of Wax (just to see the oh-so-famous death scene), Dark Water and that sort of thing.

5. Exercise. now that it's so flipping cold the only way I can feel that my feet are still attached to my legs is by warming up by exercising. I've been going to the gym since last March, but regularly since about November and I'm loving the way I'm sleeping better, feeling more awake during the day and just generally enjoying feeling vaguely healthy. I went to my first ever Pilates session today and it was a lot of fun! Way better than that yoga-tastrophe a few months ago!
6. My big puffy winter coat! It doesn't get cold enough for me to wear it often, but right now I'm all bundled up and cozy!

I'm supposed to be tagging people, but I'd rather they chose to do it... so if you want to write about 6 unimportant but oh-so awesome thing the please do! Just let me know so I can link to you!