Monday, August 31, 2009

Confusion, reunions and general weirdness

So it was an interesting weekend. I started off dutifully dragging my achingness off to the gym on Friday, and discovered that I was actually able to run! My family sat me down afterwards and told me that the TOD is psychotic and this is all rubbish and so on and so on. They were somewhat mollified by my promising to avoid exercise for the rest of the weekend as I had a lot of stuff going on...

Saturday was the vet as usual, where I was joined by the very charming seven-year old daughter of my bosses again, who was very cool this time. She made me business cards (my name is "Hellin" now) as well as making me envelopes so that I could write her letters, and a proper 3-dimensional landscape thing of children dancing around a tree next to a tent on a beach. Seriously, for a sever-year old? Impressive. She also gave me outfit advice for the evening which was seen with great amusement by her parents!

In the evening I rushed off (late as usual) to Tamara's birthday thing. I was pretty scared, particularly walking up the road in her complex. It was a beautiful night, the crickets were chirping and I had the awful feeling that it was the opening scene for a slasher-movie. As it happened I made it out alive (not just because of the flat shoes) and although I couldn't stay long, everyone was really nice, they seemed to like my entrance of "Hi, nice mullet!" and by complete coincidence one of my ex-students was there with his wife. By even creepier coincidence I had been thinking of him recently in the "I wonder if he's still alive?" kind of way.

From there it was a sprint to chief-Goth's house, where I had a mild freak-out at my general lack of makeup (as usual. Seriously, I need to start taking eyeliner with me!) I was distracted when I had to do the eyeliner and nail polish on one of the guys. To his credit he sat very still and it looked AWESOME!

From there we went off to Goth-world, which had a surprising number of normal people there, including one of my students of course. Here I am with La trying to pull emo-faces. Well I tried, La is always smiling! I believe we took this photo shortly after the eyelinered-guy tried to set me up with the bouncer (who was gorgeous!) and we had swapped phone numbers. As I said it was interesting...

And of course we had to find people with hats... This guy was quite into the whole photo things... I had just jumped off the dance floor having gone totally ballistic for about 5 songs in a row (including headbanging to Song 2, fending off some dodgy guy and laughing at someone trying to dance with La who didn't even notice he was there) and so I was exhausted and my hair had decided to remodel itself...

Hat-guy had a scary friend who was actually really nice, but had a weird tendency to appear in the bathroom whenever I was there. hence the panic-face...
I also got to spend a lot of time with one of the people in the social circle who I've never got to know before (beyond the obligatory re-naming and laughing at us when we got a bunch of random strangers to yell at the TV with us one night). The problem is that eyeliner-guy and his girlfriend are trying very hard to be puppet-masters in the whole situation. Seriously, if I want to get to know someone I will do it on MY terms. Don't mess with me, I can make my own decisions! AAARGH!
From there I went to La's house and had hot chocolate and a great discussion about life before crashing until the next morning where we had a great breakfast at MacDonald's (don't tell the TOD!). Then I went home and slept before I went to work with La in the afternoon and Chief Goth brought us milkshakes and we had a great time dissecting the previous evening a La Girl of course...
After all that... Things I learned this weekend:
  • I know a lot more about music than I'd realised.
  • I really suck at being out of my comfort zone. It's amazing how I can be the life and soul of the party and do crazy stuff as soon as 'My Girls' are with me. On my own it's just plain scary.
  • Getting to know the quiet people is immensely rewarding
  • sometimes eating burgers in the parking lot with a close friend is the best kind of hanging out.
  • People are generally nice
  • I should avoid a certain lip-gloss in future (thanks for pointing that out NOW Leia...)
  • I don't like being a puppet
  • I don't speak Girl. Or Guy. How the heck do people read so much into things? I just don't see the fine print. Seriously, I need a sign around my neck that says "Mind Games Prohibited" It would make life so much easier.
  • People really DO say "I can like to" In my case it was a dodgy old guy who said "I can like to chat you up!" while looking down my shirt.
  • Shy people are really good human shields.

Anyway that's enough for today, I'm off to have lunch with Leia as I think we have a significant amount of news to catch up on!

Friday, August 28, 2009

the joy of all things shiny!

So it's been a pretty good 24 hours! Leia finished teaching so we OD-ed on sugar to celebrate, Candice came for tea (not in a semi-comatose state this time) and the stretching really really helped with my soreness, there was a mega thunderstorm which was really exciting and I had to get home early to do something for my mom so I got to take a nap!

The nap plus a generous dose of painkillers meant that I managed to almost walk into my tai chi class! Sadly enough the people I usually chat to weren't there, but it was actually quite nice to get to know the others - they were all really awesome! And once we'd done a few warm-ups and group activities (while dodging the pools of sweat from the aerobics class) we split off and I went with the advanced group to practise the form I've been working on (there is beginner; me and advanced at the moment...).

Once we were done, instead of the group giving me feedback and the teacher leading me off to work on things he said "So you're happy?" and I said that I know some of it needs work, but it's in my head now and it's just a case of needing arms and legs to catch up and I can do that at home. So he asked me (get this!!!!!) if I wanted to start on sword work!!!!!!!

I got the biggest smile on my face and bounced around in total excitement (so much so that most of the group started grinning) and about three different people started showing me warm-ups while I tried to avoid stabbing anyone all the while babbling about the shiny-ness! The teacher (the father of the usual teacher this time) just laughed at the whole situation and said that we're a class of many teachers. They didn't seem to mind.

And so I got to stumble through the form a few times and end up with my word the wrong way or hitting people or whatever (they had been very kind and made sure I had someone to watch at all times - it's hard to follow something when you're turning all the time) and the amazing thing is that even though I had no idea WHAT I was doing it felt really really cool!

After all that the substitute teacher from last week, who has been helping out since the mom and the usual teacher aren't around at the moment took me aside and taught me the first couple of steps, how to hold the sword and that sort of thing. It was SO much fun!

So of course when I finished to find that TOD had come to find me to schedule training for today I was not impressed at all. On the plus side even though I will be in a lot of pain tomorrow, I'm mostly ok today (gotta love arnica!) and he's got me a pair of boxing gloves so I get to hit him! Which is awesome considering the amount of pain he has been inflicting on me over the last week!

Must go and finish running now, wish me luck!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

at least it doesn't hurt to type!

Not much to say today. Leia has been amazing in that she helped me to stretch a lot of the aches out so I can actually walk now!

Last night I went home after spending a bit of time with Chris who was dying at work and needed to vent at someone. Poor kid! And i got to whine about the level of pain I was in which was fun as Leia didn't have to put up with it!

And of course I had promised TOD that I would go back to the gym last night to finish off, and so my mom decided to join me, as I stumbled from the house to the car and sort of managed to collapse into the seat without shutting a limb in the door. I actually couldn't walk. So of course on the way there I get a call from TOD to schedule a session for this morning. I said NO as i couldn't move and I figured it would be a waste.

So after much stretching a hot bath AND shower, cycling a bit (it helps) and much voltaren I can just about walk without flinching. And he's got me boxing gloves for tomorrow. I'm actually quite excited, I could really use an aggression outlet!

And Candice watched out stretching today and found us quite entertaining so at least we're amusing. That's a good thing, makes me feel useful...

I'm just hoping I can manage tai chi without falling over tonight! something tells me the kicks will not be happening! Well not very high anyway!

As it's Thursday, I have the way-back-when song for the week. Today I pick:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tales of doom (or it it Boom?)


(Yes, more LOLcats. So sue me.)

I'm kind of fluttering between attitudes at the moment. On the one hand I am in severe pain - after the two hour-long torture session yesterday morning, followed by an hour of tai chi (with extra stretching - ouch!) last night (it was AWESOME! They let me play with a sword and I only hit myself in the head with it once!) I was pretty much unable to move this morning.

Of course I had a 9am session with the trainer of doom (from now I will call him TOD) so I managed to sort of fall out of bed (I'm ok as long as I don't bend my knees, so getting up from sitting, or sitting from standing hurts. A lot. Walking up stairs is slow but ok, downstairs not ok at all...), eat breakfast (not wanting to risk a repeat of yesterday's lunch-inhale), play with my dogs (slowly) and get myself there.

I met the TOD who was WAY too chirpy and I told him that I was in pain and it was all his fault. He laughed, lead me to a treadmill and blamed the tai chi. And then he made me run.

Here I must mention something. I have "one of those faces." you know, the face that says "I care! I love to listen. Tell me all your troubles oh random stranger and I will listen and sympathise and agree with everything you say." And generally I like the way that I meet very interesting people through their tendency to meet me and spill out their troubles. Of course trying to pass my drivers test while the examiner went on about her divorce and subsequent relationships was a bonus (I don't think she watched me too closely), while working at a vet, it is generally a bad thing (where you end up listening to things like: "And then he stroked the dog and it vomited and he just knew... and that was my fifteenth pet. My sixteenth was a kitten named Fluffy..."

Once people get to know me they tend to notice my total lack of tact and ability to give usable advice and then they can confide in me and I will not repeat what they tell me and I will sympathise because I actually do care.

But when I am trying to run on rather achy legs and not die, I am not particularly sympathetic about anything other than my own unhappiness. so when TOD decided to tell me about his girl-troubles I was most bemused. I mean I'm all for small-talk as long as I can breathe, but when you refer to your sex life as "doing the Boom-Boom" and discuss all four girlfriends in detail... I just want to fall off the treadmill. On the plus side my gasping at the effort stopped my natural response which would be to giggle uncontrollably and leave the room with tears streaming down my face.

And now I hurt. Leia and I were doing our twice-daily stretches in the lab (I will beat these silly short hamstrings of mine!) and I couldn't even get into the stretching poses without using my arms to push my legs into position. I had my legs crossed earlier and I only managed that by literally picking up one leg and pushing it over the other...

And poor Leia has had to put up with me. Because guess what:
Pain Pictures, Images and Photos

And I whine. A lot. Now more than ever. And the poor girl has had to put up with my random ramblings on the awesomeness of tai chi, the pain of whatever TOD has made me do this time, the fact that the guy I really have a thing for went to her high school and a great deal of whining about the pain...

Yesterday she finally caved and told me to suck it up and shut up.

Sorry Leia, you rock. And thanks for knowing all the weird muscle groups and stretches that stop it hurting quite so much... And for listening to all my rubbish!

And of course I apologise in advance for my attitude tomorrow after I go and finish off this morning's exercises this evening and then have another session with TOD tomorrow!

If I ever get around to getting a sword I'll let you try it out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

OK, so should we do pros and cons?

First things first... oh my word I nearly died! I went to my appointment with the personal trainer of doom this morning, and only finished TWO HOURS later! That's including a lot of painful squats and stretchy-type exercises, 20 minutes of running and a 'cool off' of running for half an hour (well I walked 90 % of it because I honestly thought I was going to die...).

And he wants another session tomorrow. Kill. Me. Now.

To be honest, I asked him to push me, I told him what I wanted and he's basically helping me with the things I struggle with, and as a relatively clueless gym-goer I'm loving having some direction. I just wish it didn't hurt so much. And I have Tai Chi tonight so I might just die.

I went off to get a new hair straightener the other day (Vidal Sassoon is AWESOME!) and ran into a promotion for Victoria Jackson products. Apparently they're launching in South Africa and so they need to get it all hyped and so on. I got an awesome kit of a brush set + carry case, an incredible eyeshadow set (well the box is incredible, you push a button and it opens...), 12 adorable mini-lipglosses and a bronzer.

I usually don't use bronzer because I have never been able to find one that didn't make it look like I'd had a nasty encounter with the self-tan, but this one is fantastic! I used some today and Leia said that the gym nightmare must have worked because I looked all glowy :)

And the lip-glosses are the cutest things ever and they're super-nourishing and I love the colours! Bearing in mind that the single gloss I fell in love with at Bobbi Brown cost something around R200 (and I didn't get it) getting 12 of them as a free gift for getting the set is so much better! Cute, no?

And Leia decided that she likes my hair all poofy-curly and she's gone off to a prelab so I'm off to seize the opportunity to plug in my straightener while she's not here to yell at me!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let the torture begin!

I know I promised myself to avoid LOLcats on here but I couldn't resist this little guy!

Anyway, on wiith the story... I was happily pushing and pulling random things at the gym last night, trying to avoid eye-contact (as you do) and watching some little kid helping some old guy to figure out the machines. The kid tried to help me too, but I refused (I mean if I wanted a personal trainer I'd ask for one, right?) And so I was finishing up when I was approached by a random guy who introduced himself as a personal trainer and offered me a free session.

To be honest I have been plateauing a bit lately and I've been considering asking someone to help me write a program that I can follow, particularly when I go off on fieldwork and there's no gym or tai chi (sob) or anything besides hills and lizards and heavy buckets.

So anyway I accepted and he started interrogating me about my routines and what I do and my goals (apparently wanting to be able to squat with my heels on the floor, run for twenty minutes without dying and manage those nasty kicks in tai chi are not good goals. Wanting a nice butt and to lose 10 kg IS a good goal. Whatever!), and he basically told me that I have no clue what I'm doing (true) and that "it's not going to be effective unless you figure out a routine based on real knowledge and understanding and hey are you south african? You sound American!" Yes, born and bred.

Next thing I know I'm' being lead off to the contraption of death which measured my BMI and body fat percentage (kill me now) and then, once he'd berated me for having rather a significant portion of me being padding and not enough being biltong (to be fair, he was really nice and I didn't flinch as much as I'd expected, except when I mentioned how unfit I used to be and he wanted to know why on earth I would let myself go so badly... well you know, I started a degree and then whoops, a few years vanished and none of my clothes would fit...), and then I got lead off to an "assessment room" where I was poked and squeezed by callipers and demonstrated exactly how ticklish I am (i.e. very) and we discussed my goals.

So tomorrow morning I am going to go and meet him at the gym to begin a series of assessments where he can see how tough I am and plan a programme. I'm excited about it - it'll be nice to have some direction, and he's promised to try and help me to squat properly with my heels on the floor which will make tai chi easier. But at the same time I'm quite terrified of having someone keeping an eye on my progress.

Which is why you should never talk to strangers. They might try and help you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I want these!

It's no secret that I love socks, the funkier the patterns the better! But now that I've seen these ones, mine seem somewhat lacking.

I want to run into these guys!

To do tai chi without falling over.

To live down the awfulness of losing my parking ticket and being rescued by the stand-in tai chi instructor last night!

To have brightly coloured hair again (picture from here). I have a box of bright red dye at home, and I still have my blue extensions... but at the same time my hair is behaving relatively well at the moment and I don't want to ruin that!

Ignoring the hair straighteners I have already (my 'good' one decided to flake the ceramic coating off the plates, the next one wasn't hot enough and the next one was a cheap stopgap until I got paid), I'd really like a decent one. I've kind of got my heart set on the brand that Jo has at the photo studio, so we'll see!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


So I know a lot of blogs do a tmi-Thursday theme. I tend to avoid this because as I've been studyng Biology for a rather scarily long time, my idea of TMI tends to be a bit far across the tmi-line for most normal people.

But today I have a problem, and I wouldn't mind some advice on how to proceed...

So there's this guy in the lab. We get along pretty well, and everything's been great for the past few months. Then, on Monday... lets just say he can't have been eating very healthily and he "released" something in the lab. I gestured frantically ot Leia, who gestured back the universal signal for "WHAT?" a few times before it reached her. It was so bad we actually had to leave the room. We giggled in the passage before someone found some deodorant and made a big show of applying it very liberally (more around the room than anything else) so that we could get back to work.

This morning I arrived at the lab to find that Leia had attempted to help the situation by putting flowers in the lab. These had the fortunate side-effect of kickstarting my allergiies for the day, so I've been unable to smell very much. Once the Releaser gets going though it is actually powerful enough to break past the infected sinuses. I don't know what the guy has been eating, but WOW it's bad! Fortunately I have Leia as an early-warning system - every now and then I get a message on Gtalk to say "he just let another one go...its bad!" and then I can have a desperate urge to check my mailbox, go to the bathroom, or just take an impromptu walk.

The thing is, I don't know what's worse, the fact that we have to live in a lab full of noxious gases (and not the usual ones we use in experiments), or the fact that we're English enough to do just about anything to avoid mentioning it. I mean:

  • We have code-signals
  • We have an early warning system
  • We have flowers
  • We have excuses to leave the room
  • we blame in on the drain that used to be blocked
  • Leia managed to survive a particularly nasty one this afternoon by shoving a teabag over her nose and mumbling "Is this normal tea or Rooibos?"

I mean WHAT is so hard about saying "Oh my gosh! WHAT is that smell?"

And now that we've ignored it for almost a week, how on earth do we address it? I'm all for getting one of those auto-release air fresheners...

Anyway in the spirit of changing the subject, I forced my rather conservative parents to watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights last night. I started ahvng second thoughts when I remembered some of the scenes that I'd forgotten about, but rather than freak out they laughed like crazy and even finished it AND watched the special features after I'd left for gym!

So I figured I'd leave you with one of my favourite bits from the whole thing:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If only it came in yellow

Well Spring is officially here! Well it's freezing, the wind is trying to remove the roof from the house and I'm layered up like a champion, but our apricot tree is blossoming and along with it I have the age-old symptom of impending Springness (no not a heart full of warm and fuzzy feelings...) HAYFEVER!
I ran into an old classmate today and she was suffering from party-induced laryngitis (really) and I was sniffling and talking like Macy Gray (I try to walk away and I stumble...) and we got to see the medical students' complete swine-flu paranoia kick in. At least I HOPE it's hayfever, I have no time to be sick right now!
Anyway I thought I should say thanks to all you bloggers who were so nice to me after my last post. I haven't gone the chocolate milkshake route for fear of adding milk-products to my rather busy sinuses, but I DID have a chocolate croissant today! And it was really nice! And I barely went to gym, so maybe I'm on my way back to couch-potatoeness after all...
For the record, plan C sucked so I have plan D and E worked out, and I'm just waiting for the crazy Russian to get back from his dentist appointment tomorrow to decide which one is better. The superV and I will have our yelling match early next week. Deep breaths Helen, you can do it!
Did I mention how hard it is to go from super-stressed and functioning on less than two hours of sleep to learning new things in tai chi? Whooo-boy was I a dumb blonde on Tuesday night! I tried practising and got stuck, so I'm hoping the others can help me tomorrow night and I won't end up back in beginner-beginners!
So in the spirit of taking my mind off things I spent today in the guise of a lab-monkey doing the rest of the labwork that I started two weeks ago. It went suspiciously well (except for one minor-mishap where (while being uber-careful and not taking the usual physiologist shortcut of squirting  the radioactive stuff on the ceiling) I managed to misalign the tissue paper and... you know when you put your hand over a hosepipe at just the right angle? It was less than 1 ml, and I doused myself in water immediately and changed my labcoat and jacket, so I hope it's ok...
Oh, and I figured out how to use the thingamajig (I think it's called a stepper-pipette? Po?) which is basically a mega-pipette you fill up and then it has special attachments that you can set how much it dispenses with each click. I think it shaved about two hours off my lab-time! I used it before but only for the radioactive stuff and I'd got the guy helping me to set it up, but today I figured out that if you read the labels it's actually relatively simple. As the title says, I would marry it if only it came in yellow. Either way I wasn't a total wreck at the end of the day!
I like yellow! My test-tubes are yellow, my pipette-tips are yellow, my bedroom walls are yellow... why did they have to make the super-amazing thingamajig blue? sad times...
So tomorrow it's off to get the results (lets hope there's no more law-of-physics-defying results) sort out the details for plans D and E (and maybe make plan F?), organise with the Russian, sort out the undergrad I'm supervising, write protocols for the stuff that applies to her, try and figure out tai chi (before the actual lesson) and cut down on the coffee because it's been making me feel sick lately...
Sounds like a plan!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Sorry for yet another miserable post. Here goes:

My project has been crashing and burning in the last few weeks. the thing is, I probably have enough for a PhD at the moment, but not a good one, not an interesting one and the novel cool stuff I've been waiting to do is currently hitting a brick wall (the experiment is, I'm not planning on throwing lizards around in construction sites).

basically I've been organised and had everything planned, and now at the 11th hour I have been let down y pretty much every single person who had promised to help me. I'm talking "Sorry, this person spent all your research money, you can't order anything right now!" to 'Oh dear, this chemical costs R5000 per milligram and I seem to have lost the bottle! Don't worry, I know you need it this week, but it only takes 6-8 weeks to deliver if you order it now!" kind of let down.

So last night I lay awake trying to make a Plan C (A and B crashed and burned already) I began to feel the panic attacks as they came and went and I might have sobbed into my pillow a little bit more than I'll admit to. Add on that I'm exhausted and can't sleep and this level of panic makes me nauseous which doesn't help and I'm hitting hay-fever season so I have a cough and a runny nose and a sore throat... I made a plan and lay in bed on Google (I love having mini-google on my phone) researching the possibilities while trying to ignore the fact that tai chi has become really difficult and I'm not looking forward to it and the people I would usually go to for advice on this (i.e. my mentor, an older PhD student who knows her way around these things and Luke) are all off overseas and I felt REALLY alone...

When I realised a few things:

  1. I shouldn't have this much responsibility. While I've always been very independent, being totally alone at this level is ridiculous and I don't know why I put up with it.
  2. I need a supervisor. I need someone to help me and tell me what to do. I can't keep on doing everything by myself. It's just making me sick.
  3. If it doesn't work out, I'm still 24, as much as I want to finish next year, the world won't end if I don't.
  4. I can always do fieldwork later the lizards are active until March-April at least.
  5. Breathe in, breathe out. Breath in... breathe out...

So at 3am I got myself up, found a scary price-list for everything that I need and sent it to myself so I could handle it today, sent an email to my superV demanding a meeting and managed to get a few hours of sleep.

So maybe there's hope... either way I can sort of breathe again, as long as I think calm thoughts every few minutes!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Because there is very little of interest in my life lately

I thought I'd leave you guys with this to brighten your Monday!

Keep out of reach of children

So on Saturday I got to work to find that my boss had brought his older daughter to work. She's 7, precocious, quite friendly and one heck of an artist for her age. Seriously, she drew some incredible pictures, including an entire 'bird book' with things like parrots, blue cranes, peacocks, sunbirds...

Unfortunately I had done sprint-intervals cycling on Friday evening as well as staying up late doing paperwork and so when I stumbled in and headed straight for the kettle (I don't usually have time on a Saturday to make coffee, this time I decided the sick and bleeding animals could wait) I was not very enthusiastic at the prospect of being the impromptu babysitter for the morning. There was a rabies scare recently in a nearby suburb, so people were streaming in, my least favourite client kept calling and hanging up on me when I couldn't give him updates (I'm sorry, I can't ask the vet when he's busy with a cat the got semi-eaten and an owner in hysterics) meanwhile I'm trying to do everything I usually do with a seven-year-old perching on the counter in front of everything I need. NOT a good time for rehashing every Hannah Montana and Mr Bean episode ever made (and writing scripts for new episodes)!

When its your bosses child it's also quite difficult to do the usual babysitter style thing ("No sweetie, I don't think the cat likes being dragged around by its head. No, I need to put something in that drawer, no I don't want to make up a story because I have a queue stretching out the door right now..."). Fortunately she charmed most of the clients which made my life moderately easier. She also wrote a letter to my sister-in-law (I was going to the birthday party that evening) and decorated the envelope and got very involved in the whole thing. My sister-in-law loved it, so it was very cute.

I also worked a shift at the videostore because it was Jo's brother's birthday and he didn't want to work, and it was fun the guy I worked with used to be really annoying because he was so busy showing off to the boss (who isn't even there) that it gets really irritating and I just want to give him a gold star to shut him up. This time he had decided it wasn't worth it and he's going to resign, so we had a fun afternoon where we got everything done and still managed to watch the whole of Kung Fu Hustle - the only bad part being that people would ask us what it was about. I watched the whole thing and I still can't explain it. It was funny though!

I also found brand new bad-horror cave movie! I can't wait to watch it!

And now I'm sitting with my coffee trying to get everything done so that I can track down the incredible disappearing Scientist so that I can get chemicals from her and take them to the crazy Russian and get back to med-school to finish the rest of my samples.

Fun times!

Friday, August 14, 2009

If we were supposed to kick our own ears we would have been born with spaghetti-bones!

So lately I've been having an ugly few days. You know when you wake up in the morning and your skin is bleeeuh and your hair stands on end and you have that LOVELY pillow-crease down one cheek? This was all exacerbated by the fact that I've been feeling a bit sick for the past few days. Why?

Well lately I've been getting healthier and healthier. Without realising it I'd stopped eating junk food, exercised more and yadda yadda yadda... And so when having an ugly day I did what every other girl (I hope) does. I got chocolate. Which quickly turned into me eating more junk food in 3 days than I have in the last month. Stomach ache much? And of course trying to use said stomach muscles to support me in tai chi... not so much.

Tuesday was awesome, I kind of just ignored the nausea brought on by having bought lunch instead of packing it in the morning, as well as having ice-cream with someone I'd rather forget... and it was so much fun! So much so when the class ended we thanked the teacher and ran back to our spot to carry on practising! Then having had a mega-bucket of popcorn on Wednesday (and skipping gym in order to go to a girl's night movie evening) and going through a lot of chocolate and biltong-flavoured crackers (which rock) yesterday, I went off to tai chi to find out that they expected me to do this:

And this:

This morning I kind of hobbled in to the lab with legs of jelly... (the jelly flavoured like pain) and resolved to eat properly, stop skipping gym to eat popcorn and try and find someone who will sell me an IV filled with coffee. And start pilates again so that I can build up some kind of core strength. Mine is gone (I had some! I promise!).

On a happier note four of the searches that have found my bog lately are (drum roll...)

horst kleinschmidt
parents and pocket money uk
how to make shoelace don't drop off when running
lizards eat beef

Which I think is far funnier than the previous ones (of which my favourite was "If something happens to me, I got people" or "What do you do if a lizard on head while sleeping")

Makes me want to start an advice column...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

If I was green I would die

I had an epic trip to Pretoria this morning to meet a chemist person about some of the work I need to do (of course he was an hour late because he was at the dentist...) and then back to the lab to meet my sister-in-law for coffee. Fortunately she was late too!

And I was diced this morning in my neighbourhod by some idiot who had baby-on-board stickers on their car. I mean REALLY!

Anyway being Thursday means that we have to reminisce about some of the musical classics from the 90s. Of couse this wont let me embed, but it made me dance around in my chair, so check it out! Of course this lead me to reading a lovely series of comments in youtube arguing about the lyrics. Someone is totally convinced it says "I'm blue if I was green I would die" and now that I listen for it I can see their point! Of course the homophobes jump in with "I need a guy" instead. Anyone hear anything different?

Of course when I was a little teenager it was cool to go and listen to bands on weekends, my particular favourites (among others) being Tweak, Sarongas (which became Seether) and of course these guys:

The drive out to Pretoria today also brought back a lot of memories from my first job when I was 15, my boss would pick me up in the morning and we'd drive out to Pretoria for the day. One of the songs I remember lsitening to on the way in to work was this:

And because I actually still kind of love those songs, I thought I'd have to put in one that makes me cringe. A lot.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If you're going to (i.e. accidentally crashing) a Tim Burton-themed wedding reception

It helps to have a cool hat. And to be mildly scary (the one in the red was actually really nice, if a bit creepy).

Besides wearing enough makeup to make blinking difficult, cultivating the emo-face is very important. Smiling might crack the makeup (although La isn't very good at keeping a straight face).

If you don't have a cool hat of your own, it's OK to adopt someone else's. In this case we adopted both the hat, and the owner (who had a very nice waistcoat and a steady hand with the eyeliner).
The only bad part is that we weren't able to find the bride, so I'll just have to imagine what she did with her dress...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Crawling for coffee

You know those silly cartoons with people crawling along in the desert looking for water? Well that's basically what I did this morning, looking for coffee. Last week I was annoyed to find out that Monday had been taken away because of the public holiday on Sunday (we have a rollover to Monday if it falls on a Sunday, if it's on a Saturday we just lose it), but I must admit that having yesterday off was exactly what I needed.

This weekend was AWESOME! I can't actually write about all of it because I do need to do some work today, so I will list the highlights. If you want any more detail let me know and I will elaborate on points.

Anyway this weekend I:

  • Was on time for work
  • Had insanely dodgy conversations with friends of friends
  • Went out for dinner and ordered a salad because I felt like lettuce.
  • Laughed a LOT
  • Found out that with one more trial run I've got the job as freelance photographer at Jo's studio!
  • Bonded with a makeup artist at the studio (the poor girl has had a tough few months) and learned a bunch of new makeup tricks!
  • Convinced my boss to start geocaching
  • Met a lot of guinea pigs (I blame that movie...)
  • Went out pre-goth clubbing, and was proposed to by some random guy I'd met 45 minutes before. Escaped by accompanying a friend to the bathroom and not returning.
  • Was protected by Chief Goth who refused to let anyone ask me questions without her okaying them first
  • Went goth clubbing and met a bunch of people at a Tim Burton-themed wedding reception
  • Begged a bunch of scary goth guys to let me wear their hats. Took photos.
  • Adopted a random goth boy (with very impressive guyliner) and wore his hat a lot. He proposed. Nice waistcoat.
  • Started off the dance floor when the goths were too cool to dance.
  • Was "Do you come here often?"-ed by someone on the dance floor while trying to escape from his scary friend with the beard and one of my undergrad students who happened to be there. Later on we danced and he poured a drink down my back. He also asked me "where does it end?" a lot (turns out he was asking my name. Whoops).
  • Raced a car through a drive-through (on foot). Won by a technicality (that I could stand between their bumper and the car behind).
  • Got yelled at by Chief Goth who took us home, said goodbye to the others and burst into tears.
  • sat up with Chief Goth trying to be supportive (until 4am).
  • Had coffee for breakfast while sitting on the grass. It was nice, but the coffee meant I was unable to sleep for the rest of the day. had hectic conversations with CG, I'm hoping I managed...
  • Had a braai to celebrate my mother's homecoming
  • Saw EEbEE who had come to Joburg for the weekend! He has hair now.
  • nearly died having had an hour and a half sleep the night before and staying up late talking to people in the parking lot.
  • Washed and vacuumed my car!
  • Cleaned out a cupboard (this led to interesting philosophical debates, like "why was it ever a good idea to buy black velvet pants? and "Who even SELLS black velvet pants?")
  • Spent time with my brother and his wife.
  • Cycled about 80 km (over the whole long weekend)
  • Nearly killed people for talking loudly in the gym.

So ja... that was my long weekend! Do you understand my need for coffee?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Up, Up And AWAY...

So in case you didn't notice, I haven't been the happiest of campers
lately. The last couple of weeks were particularly bad. An existential
crisis will do that I guess...

Anyway, in the meantime I learned a lot about life and me and the
people I care about. And of course the viability of using exercise as
therapy- mentally it's good, physically not so much... I feel like I
have the joints of a 90-year old and a new appreciation for metal

Anyway what I learned was that it's ok to admit to being miserable,
and it's ok to ask for help- having a support system is more than

So after forcing myself to discuss things, and admit that everything
is NOT ok, I was taken off to dinner last night where I had the time
of my life, and I'm being taken out tonight... And while it's not all
that different to what I'd usually get up to, it feels different
because I think I'm different.

And I was early to work today, because getting out of bed wasn't
difficult anymore. I'm not reluctant to face the world.

So I guess it's just thanks to everyone for putting up with me! I
don't promise to be happy all the time, but I will try and stop doing
it all on my own!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Things they don't warn you about

I remember seeing a very clever ad campaign in the newspaper a few years ago. It was for one of those silly "drink this tea/shake/nasty stuff and lose 500kg in a week! No Effort required!" products and the advert was in the form of a letter complaining about hidden costs. You see this lady took whatever it was, lost x amount of weight and then complained that she had to buy new clothes.
I remember a friend reading it out loud while we were in a car while someone's mom dropped us off or picked us up or whatever and we chuckled at the cleverness of the campaign, while thinking that it was a GOOD problem to have.
So I started exercising regualrly about a year ago, in an effort to make the transition to fieldwork easier as well as to try and feel better about myself. I figured that I feel so awesome (when I'm not bruised, bleeding and otherwise exhausted - so basically on rainy days!) in the field because I'm outdoors using various muscles other than the teeny-tiny one between my ears (yes, the SMILE muscle). In November I started going to the gym regularly (i.e. 5-6 times a week) and working hard, and I've loved it!
I had no idea that exercise was so much fun, that I could think through my day while doing something that pumps endorphins through my bloodstream (seriously, the post-running high is second only to the post-tai chi high) and listening to awesome music (I cycled 25 km to the gladiator soundtrack on Wednesday and it was AWESOME! In a very epic way...).
Back to my main point, besides feeling healthier and happier, WANTING to eat healthily (and feeling sick after fast food), having tons more energy and feeling more at home in my own skin than I have in years... my clothes still fit. The same as always. But for some bizarre and obscure reason that I have yet to determine, my underwear does not. Seriously, nothing stays where it's supposed to anymore, I have to wear vests to keep... things... from emerging to say "HI" and seriously, try doing Tai Chi or pilates when things... move. Use your imagination as to direction.
So this weekend, between an awesome visit from EEbEE (yay!) and spending some time with LA and the crazy semi-goth crew (yay!) and having my mom come home and doing the cooking again (you have no idea!) I need to go shopping. Maybe next time I'll need a new belt as well, I can only hope!
Oh, and as an aside: how the HECK to guys wear boxers (besides the obvious one leg in and then the other)? I have some girl-boxers I sleep in and I wore them the other day and had to make several trips to the bathroom to stop them from doing a very stylish ballooning out ala prison...

And I thought it was just me?

If these don't have you giggling (or blushing) over the momories, and/or bouncing in your chair then you're too old or you spent the 1990's living under a rock. Yip, it's Thursday and so we have to remember those songs that influenced our childhood and teenage years as well as maintaining their ability to get well and truly stuck in our heads!

As I didn't manage last Thursday (I was too busy being gosh-darned miserable) I'll put up two songs today!

This one was one of those songs that I heard a million times sing by a million people (notably my counsin who I know reads this. HI!!!) and yet it was years before I heard the original. I kind of suspected it was one of those songs that people now by magic or osmosis, like school bus songs!

And this one, well, I like the violin part! And it's cool. And it made me feel all rebellious while longing for a leather jacket...

Ok fine, I'll give you three, just because I suddenly remembered this being my favourite music video at the time! Except or that one where everyone is lying on the street and someone is trying to figure out why. I get hte feeling it was Radiohead, but I'm not sure. Anyone got any ideas? I'll give five points to whoever figures it out!

Happy Thursday everyone!

I think there is a conspiracy...

OK well there's something in the men in my family that they are OBSESSED with the news. As a kid spending time with my grandparents, we used to watch my grandfather's evening ritual of reading the paper, watching the news at 6pm, 8pm AND 10pm! I elarned later that he had a tendency to fall asleep and so three news bulletins gave him a pretty solid picture of what was one one of them... Speaking to my Dad while the headlines were on was discouraged and when he was late home from work we had to record them (on our trusty Betamax machine, followed by a real VHS a few years later).

I hate to admit it, but I'm not great about keeping up with the news. I read the paper on weekends and Iw atch teh news if i'm home, but there's something exciting about hearing about the big things later. I don't ahve a TV (or any desire for one) when I'm in the field, so I tend to get the news in snippets. Like "Who is that guy and where's Thabo? - when we randomly got a new president last year and I was away. Or "Pirates in Somalia? Is that a new movie?" It's a different way of hearing it, and I like to think if there's anything important enough to affect me on a farm in the middle of nowhere, I'm pretty sure someone would let me know, or we'd all be obliterated, while woefully misinformed.

Anyway you can imagine our excitement (well not necessarily mine but anyway...) at the creation of the ETV 24 hour news channel. CNN and Sky had been kind of substituting before that but they're a bit US/Eurocentric and when we have people being shot in the streets it's nice to hear about it from someone with the appropriate accent and lack of basic grammar and syntax.

They tend to play the same report over and over and over with someone different reading the headlines, which means we can nitpick the grammar and pronounciation more than ever! IT's awesome!

Until you get to the weather and I have to leave the room. They have this "American" weatherman. So besides his complete inability to pronounce ANYTHING (and when you're listening out for the weather in Nelsproooooeeet" as for Phalaborwa...) and the completely annoying energetic excitement about fire warnings (true story) we have to handle him having an Americanised Afrikaans name (van Dam, should be vuhn duhm, not Van Dahm). Now I have nothing against Americans in principle, really! Promise!

What annoys me about this guy is that his accent isn't consistent. As my mom is away and I have to be home to cook I've had to sit through a lot of forecasts (and I can't find the weather in Mafikeng all that riveting) and his accent is slightly different every night. Plus he always starts off a bit shaky. Last night I could have SWORN there was a word or two in a lovely flat s'effricen accent. AS he progresses it gets more and more american.

So my thoughts are: Is he really american? Or is he a nice boy from Poffader (I've been there!) faking it for a publicity stunt?

And does anyone have a clip I can upload?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My ten things to do list!

So this morning there was a list on one of the blogs that I LOVE;
 (it's a great blog, check it out!) and I decided that I should make one too. The idea has been rattling around in my head for a while, but I'd never thought about getting around to it..
10 Places I Want To Visit:
The huge rock formations in Mali (heck, Mali itself looks incredible! It has Timbuktu!)
Madagascar, to see the geckos! And lemurs and chameleons and tree frogs...
Tanzania, for the lake and everything else!
Malawi - one of the guys I work with comes from there and the stories he's told me about it make me very keen to go and see it for myself! Lake Malawi is a plus as well!
Namibia - I love the bits of desert I've been to and I'd love to see real desert, and spend some time going along the skeleton coast. My grandmother grew up in/near Windhoek and I'd love to see her country!
South America - I'm not sure where exactly yet. I'd like to do a mega tour and spend a few months there. The rain forest has always fascinated me and I'd love to see it for myself!
Mongolia - ever since I watched the Long Way Round I've wanted to go there, it looked incredible!
Japan - after all of Sarah's stories as well as the stories from Ms MC's trip earlier this year I have to go and see it!
Antarctica (i.e. my obsession since I was about 10)
Australia - Great Barrier Reef! Plus I've never seen a kangaroo (not even in a zoo) and I feel that it's unfair that I've fed kangaroo to a cheetah without seeing a live one...
10 Random Things I Want To Accomplish
Get a PhD (very random, I know!)
Run 10 km (I can just about do 3 now!)
Do the Freedom Challenge (it's a mountain bike race from The Drakensberg to Cape town, over a maximum of 26 days) besides the obvious training and stuff I'd have to do, my main holdup is that you aren't allowed a GPS and with my sense of direction I'd probably end up cycling to Swaziland by accident...
See a cuttlefish in the wild. They're totally my favourite animals!
Go abseiling. I tried once but I was WAY too scared of heights. as I'm mostly over it now (thanks lizards!) I'd like to see if I could. Kind of like poking an old bruise to see if it still hurts...
Fly in a microlight.
Go in a hot air balloon. Or a helicopter. Either really.
See real snow (that one whole centimetre we got a few years ago doesn't count! I want to build a snowman and have a snowball fight and drink cocoa while shivering!)
Have a photograph published
Climb Kilimanjaro (I know I know, it's lame, but I really want to!)
10 Things I Want To Try
Ice-skate outdoors
Dune boarding!
Stay here
Thai food in Thailand
Real sailing, like a long-term mega-trip (so I can get over the pesky seasickness)
Jump on a  random train in Europe and see where I end up
Make meringues without setting the house on fire (true story!)
Going to a metal concert in Finland
Chocolate in Switzerland

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

It's official

Yes, that's right. Yours truly, while in the role of lab-monkey pipetter-extraordinaire, has managed to break the laws of physics!

So I went to the lab yesterday to finish with Friday's samples to find that the one and only set of keys for the room where we work with radioactive stuff was in the gently glowing pocket of someone who had left early for the day. Rather than pester the people who have been incredibly kind to me I went back to main campus and had an awkward lunch with the IT guy and went home to cook dinner and take a nap.

Oh and for the record: cycling 23km while listening to metal = good for the psyche when you've had a bad few days. Cycling 23km after eating dinner followed by ridiculously sweet toffee pudding (thanks Woolworths) = not so good. So I had a fun night of sore legs and nausea.

Back to the laws of physics... I went through to the lab this morning and started playing with the radiation measurers and getting data. Started with calibrations - looks good. Controls - look ok. First batch of samples - check. Max and min calibration - all good. About 80 samples in I got a result I didn't understand. There shouldn't be an answer higher than 100 % right? Like 7000 when the maximum possible is 3000...

So I recalibrated, checked the controls, checked a few of the ok samples, and went back to the tricky one. Still funky. The next 50 samples were weird (well the next 60 with one or two ok ones scattered throughout). So I went to the friendly Physiologist and asked him what was happening. He said:
"7000? That's not possible."
"Uh... but I rechecked and everything else was fine. I used the other counter, I remeasured-"
"What? But that's not possible. I've been doing this for long enough to have made every mistake possible, there's no way you'd get 7000!"
"But I did! On 7000 samples!"
"Oh. Maybe you- no... what abou- no... if there was- no...maybe the compan-no..."
Finally he shrugged.
"just remeasure the samples if you can. It'll be a mystery forever. You'll never know..."

Monday, August 03, 2009

And it's not even mandated by Hallmark!

I know that Mothers Day and Fathers Day are long past, and to be honest I find both days annoying. Why is there never a kids day? I mean we have Youth Day but that's actually in honour if people who did stuff and... stuff...

But lately I've realised that they both deserve some pretty sincere appreciation, so here goes:

My mother has taken her 4 degrees off to Oxford for a 2-week conference and left me to keep an eye on things and feed my father (who for some reason has a cloud of bad kitchen-karma. He tried to roast potatoes once when I was a kid and I can still taste the ash in my mouth...). I don't mind cooking, I've been helping out with it ever since my mom came up with the idea of letting us cook to earn extra pocket money (it was that or weeding the garden) or as punishment (which is a bad idea unless you want to be fed mashed dog food. I don't get mad, I get even).

But I hadn't realised how much changes when you have to be home to let the maid and the gardener out, or have dinner ready before Tai Chi, or have packed lunches ready and waiting in the morning, or make sure the laundry doesn't pile up. And somehow my mom manages this while working full-time, including weekends. It's pretty impressive and I must admit I will be supremely relieved when she comes home this weekend and I can sleep in safe in the knowledge that I can stay at the lab until 8pm to get my work done.

As for my Dad... we've always been a musical family. My parents met in a choir after all! I have a clear memory of my mom trying to teach me to play the recorder when I was 4 (which was quickly replaced by a weekly music class when she realised that we just liked making a noise) and when I was 6 my brother and I (and a bunch of friends) were allowed to join the church choir.

when I say 'allowed' I'm not kidding! The choir was run by a gentleman (no other word for it really) who had won scholarships and all kinds of things and been in some of the bigwig music schools in the uk before moving to Joburg. We sang Latin and harmony and all kinds of stuff. I think I may have been reading music before I could read words.

Anyway once teenage rebellion set in and my brother and I left the choir my parents stayed and we saw the choirmaster from time to time. We were always taught to be respectful to him (I still feel awkward referring to him by his first name) and we liked him because he used to pay the kids when we sang at weddings! I think it was the princely sum of R2, which was a lot to me considering I got R4 a week in pocket money (and made dinner for R10!). Am I giving away my age?

As the choirmaster was once an awesome singer and has now settled into his eighties, my father decided that he should give a concert. Did I mention that he's an organist in his spare time? He plays at a mega-huge church most of the time and at our church occasionally. I was the only kid at school who had an organ at home... So he and my dad picked a programme, practised, retuned the organ a gazillion times because the weather kept making it go funny and so on.

As my mother is off in Oxford, I got the enviable task of turning pages. basically that means you sit on the organ bench and follow the music and when you're a few notes away from the end of the page you turn it so that the organist (who is already playing with both hands and feet as well as pushing buttons all over the place to change which pipes get used) an keep going. Sometimes if it gets tricky the page-turner gets to push the buttons as well. I had a mildly stressful piece where I had to push the button that is RIGHT NEXT to the one that you must NEVER push (the one that turns EVERYTHING on and blasts the poor people in the congregation into oblivion).

And I realised two things:

  1. It's been years since I've read music and even longer than tat since I read music of more than one line (viola has one, piano has two (left hand right hand) and organ has three (left hand, right hand, feet) and organ with choir tends to jump from 3 to 5 every now and then). It was really difficult to follow the music! The mega voluntary at the end was particularly bad where I was relying on sort of being right and hearing a 'NOW!' if I was late.
  2. My dad is pretty darn good. There was one piece that he was literally just about tap-dancing on the pedals while playing on the keyboards like a maniac an I was stunned by how good it was.

So Ja... I guess it's time that I appreciated that my parents have done a lot more in their lives than produce the two of us, and that they're pretty darn talented in their own right.

And now I must go back to the lab so I can get home in time to make dinner before spinning class!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pass the pink

It's freezing! It's been raining all day (apparently it started around 3am) and I'm totally unable to get warm. I went for a run on Wednesday and pushed myself a bit hard and now my ankle is punishing me - partly for overexertion and partly for not moving to the Sahara or Mexico or something. I swear I'm going to be one of those 90-year-olds who can predict the weather based on ankle-twinges.

I've been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster lately. I guess there was some truth in what that person said when they said that my wearing pink signified that I was looking for change. Thigns ARE changing, but it's not a pleasant experience. Wednesday was one of the worst days I've had in a long time, although I was rescued by a friend who didn't quite know how to handle me and so talked about other stuff. I felt better after that.

Thursday was one of the hardest days I've ever had - mostly a result of Wednesday. I won't go into details, but there were some things that needed doing, and I did them. I spent a lot of time inwardly cursing Hollywood as well. It's all their fault! They make it look so easy and then you realise that while ripping off the bandaid (so to speak) may be the least painful method, it doesn't mean it's pain free, particularly when you're a slow healer...

And then there was Tai Chi. I know, I've had complaints that I talk about it too much. It's my blog and I will discuss the art of looking graceful (or trying to) while kicking someone (imaginary) in the shins if I want to. So THERE!

Anyway Tai Chi was my saviour. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I had my ankle strapped to the point of non-mobility and I wanted to crawl into bed and cry rather than be sociable with the Tai Chi crowd (who are actually pretty awesome people, even if most of them are 20 years older than me and far more flexible that I ever will be). There were two beginner-beginners and me, and the advanced folks, so the other two were given some stuff to start on while the teacher (well the temporary teacher anyway) basically taught me a ton of new stuff! Bearing in mind it took me 3 1/2 weeks to learn the first form which only had 13 steps, I think I learned 11 this week of the new form! And one of them is the coolest thing EVER! It's called 'single whip' and it's SO much fun! I bounced out of there feeling so much better about life!

For the record the teacher totally thinks I'm crazy now! I think he noticed that I wasn't really myself and he was super-nice to me, while he fixed a lot of stuff I think he let more slide than usual because he knows I love learning new steps. His son (the real teacher) said he'd take over us newbies next week, which makes me quite nervous. I know the basics but there's a lot of polishing up I need to do to get it perfect.

I was on the Tai Chi high pretty much until halfway through labwork, when exhaustion set in and by the time I left (after 10 grueling hours in the lab) I was barely able to walk, and I had to go home and make dinner which woke me up somewhat.

So now I'm stuck with the dilemma- I'm freezing and I've got aches and pains. Is this punishment for the last week? Or is it the start of Swine Flu? I really wish I knew because right now I'm shivering with a blanket around me and I'd quite like to get to the gym and warm up, but obviously if I'm going to get a fever or something that's a bad idea. I tried practising tai chi but my house is too full of furniture and WAY too cold!

So for the record: "what's your problem?" is not something I want to be asked. In whatever code. It's nasty.

6 weeks to catching lizards and being able to breathe again! Just 6 weeks! 42 days and counting! I want to get away right now. Maybe I need more pink?

Tales of a lab-monkey

So I spent yesterday in the lab, all dressed up in the world's biggest
labcoat (I LOVE it! I can wear a full trenchcoat under it and it's
still too big!) prepping samples...

I kind of got into a 'zone' where I was totally focussed on what I was
doing and towards the end I noticed that I was tired, my shoulders
ached, my back was stiff, my ankle was NOT impressed with me, my right
hand was cramping from pipetteing, my left hand was numb from the

I put my samples in to incubate and tried to guess what the time was.
I'd started at about 8:30, and done 150 tubes, most of them i'd
diluted in other tubes first...

I'd heard people chatting, so maybe it was lunch? 12? 1pm?

Guess again, I looked at my phone and almost passed out- 14:37- i'd
been pipetteing for over 6 hours!

What with the 3 hour incubation, I've left the rest of that lab test for monday!

Happy weekend!