nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
( Mar. 18th, 2014 09:59 pm)
I felt the urge to rewrite my introduction so I thought I’d use it as a starting point for a Subscription Meme, as I haven’t seen one going around for a while.

I’ve made a template, which I’ve filled out very wordily below. Please feel free to adapt it to your wishes, and please link this post wherever you like. (Please participate or share? I'm going to feel very sad if this entry sits here alone with 0 comments...)

Subscription Meme template:
<b>People in this journal</b>
<b>About my job</b>
<b>Some random facts</b>
<b>Things I like to do</b>
<b>Social media usage</b>
<b>>Subscriptions, access and commenting</b>
<b>What I’d like to get from my participation here</b>

My responses!
People in this journal
Apart from me, those who are mentioned frequently include:
  • The Bloke, with whom I share house, bed and passion for science, among other things.
  • Humuhumu, our daughter, aged 1.5 years
  • Telstar, our spoiled tuxie cat

I tend not to talk about my immediate family outside of access-lock unless I’m telling a funny anecdote. The same goes for my work colleagues.

About my job
I’m a chemist working in a physics department as an engineer. Specifically, a spacecraft engineer. I wear a number of different hats on several missions, the main ones being:
  • Cluster, a set of four spacecraft flying in a tetrahedral formation around the Earth
  • Cassini, in orbit around Saturn
  • JUICE, a mission to orbit Jupiter's moon Ganymede. This mission is still in early design phase.

I can’t write specifically about my work, so I don’t post too much about it unless something really exciting is happening, such as the recent switch-on of the Rosetta spacecraft.

I also teach in third-year physics labs, give the occasional guest lecture and do a lot of outreach work in schools.

Some random facts
I am closer to forty than I am to thirty. I have been Dr Nanila for almost twelve years. I have dual citizenship. I have lived in the UK for almost a decade. I am mixed-race (East Asian and white).

I am a non-theist. I don’t like the term atheist because it has been tainted by a lot of shouty horrible people.

I have strong feelings about immigration, social justice and the obligations of the privileged and affluent toward those who are not. I consider myself to be both privileged and affluent.

I waited a long time to have a child, and was not bothered by the possibility that I might never have children. I have strong feelings about a woman’s (or girl’s) right to choose if and when she would like to become a parent.

Things I like to do
I like to take photographs. I mean I really like to take photographs. I take dozens, sometimes hundreds, of them a week. I do try to show some restraint in sharing them here, so mostly you’ll see perhaps up to ten in a single post, and I’ll usually put all but one behind a cut.

I have two favourite prime lenses, a 35 mm f/2.0 and a 100 mm f/2.8, which I use regularly on my mid-level Canon dSLR. I used to shoot film too, but since the baby was born, I’ve gone almost purely digital. Someday I hope to have the time to dabble with other cameras again.

We have a funnily-shaped garden behind our house, secreted away behind the hedge along the canal towpath. It’s full of lavender and in the summer, we can hear people exclaiming about the lovely scent wafting from it over the canal.

That is, when the farmer who owns the field over the canal hasn’t just spread fresh manure over it.

I’m not really a landscape artist sort of gardener. I prefer to lend an enabling hand to the bloke’s grand plans, so I tend to go for the weeding, pruning and brute-force digging-over-plots jobs as I’m pointed at them.

I enjoy planned weekend walks with OS maps and proper rain gear, walking with a purpose (e.g. to get to/from work or for a photography trip, probably to a cemetery) and walking aimlessly (e.g. flanage). I enjoy walking even more when I’ve got my camera in my hand.

I like to paint, mostly abstract 3D landscapes (see some examples here). I’m not at a phase in my life where I have the long, uninterrupted hours I need to put into my rather painstakingly slow artistic process. So I haven’t painted much in the last couple of years. As my daughter grows, I hope to interest her in art as well. My hope is that perhaps one day we can both have those long hours to create, together or separately.

I haven’t been too successful at this since Humuhumu was born. I’ve finished three books since the start of the year. Two were non-fiction. I used to read about one fiction book a week, but frankly on this list of Things I Like To Do, only the first one gets time allocated to it on a regular basis.

My tastes have changed recently. I used to read quite a lot of literary fiction as well as “classic” fantasy and sci-fi, but since my awareness of the sameness of tropes written by Ye Olde White Dudes has increased greatly in the past few years, I find myself seeking out recommendations from friends who are authors themselves or deliberately look for texts that focus on female and/or PoC protagonists.

I am a big fan of Scottish whisky. I also like gin, rum, wine, ale, cider, perry and pretty much ALL THE BOOZE. (Except Jaegermeister. And Fernet Branca, which I’m convinced is bottled alcoholic earwax. Yech.)

I’m also quite fond of tea, from the humble black-tea-in-bag-with-milk to the super-fancy loose-leaf stuff that should be brewed in a narrow range of temperatures in its own special teapot.

I am a fan of many films and television shows. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Black Books and Ghost in the Shell are firm and lasting favourites. I will watch anything that is even loosely based on Sherlock Holmes, although I think it’ll be a challenge for anyone to eclipse Jeremy Brett as Holmes. Recently added repeat viewings (I watch everything I like multiple times) have included Warm Bodies, Lockout, Pacific Rim and Underworld: Awakening. Woo, vampires, robots, zombies and absurd plots in space!

My fannishness doesn’t often inspire me to write or seek out fanfic. I do enjoy reading it occasionally, hence why I subscribe to [community profile] fancake, which introduces me to lots of good and often unexpected stuff across many fandoms.

Social media usage
I began using the internet heavily when I discovered Usenet, specifically,, in 1995-6. But I feel that the point in my life at which social media became an ingrained, essential part of my existence was when I joined LiveJournal in 2001. I have written blog posts at least once a week ever since. I began cross-posting from Dreamwidth in 2009. I use Twitter, Facebook and to a lesser extent Google+ and Tumblr. I tend not to share content between them. Twitter is stream-of-consciousness, Facebook is entirely personal. I keep G+ going for my immediate family and a small number of friends. Tumblrs are so topical and ephemeral that I don’t keep up with a fixed set of them.

Dreamwidth and LJ will always be my mainstays.

Subscriptions, access and commenting
Although I’m cautious about initiating subscriptions - I’m trying not to be, hence this meme! - I reciprocate subscriptions and grant access pretty readily. I try very, very hard to reply to every comment I receive and to comment often on others' posts. It's important to me to be as interactive as possible. I don't comment on my Circle's journals as often as I would like simply due to time constraints, but I’m always reading. I don't expect a reciprocal level of commitment to commenting. If you rarely have the spoons to comment, I don't mind. I welcome all manner and length of comments, from “♥” to “In Z80012, using hex rather than binary, and converting to a basic ASCII code, I think I E5 A9 08 B7 you.”

What I’d like to get from my participation here
I would like to expand my Circle by subscribing to new journals! I also hope you will enjoy reading others’ introductions and feel comfortable subscribing to one another.
I had three hours to walk around Rome on my return from Frascati to the UK. I decided to wing it, setting out from Roma Termini with no map and my phone off.

Apart from a lot of chaps trying in vain to sell me an umbrella to ward off a few measly drops of rain (I was wearing a coat with a hood), the first thing I found was a tunnel.

Navigation. ) I ended up exactly where I needed to spend my remaining leisure time: The Forum.

The scale of The Forum is mind-boggling. I walked up and down and side to side across the space, pausing many times to look, and look again, at all the layers of history revealed. My knowledge of history is appallingly thin, but even without the depth of context, it gives the impression of a vast and powerful empire, which sank slowly into my stunned brain.

+Many )

I reluctantly turned my feet away from The Forum to see if I could find one more object of interest before returning to the train station. (Notice that despite spending two hours exploring The Forum thoroughly, I managed to miss the Colosseum. *slow clap for self*) But at least I managed to find the Trevi Fountain.

+1 )

Finally, yours truly, about to depart for Fiumicino Aeroporto.
Week 12: In Rome
nanila: (kusanagi: aww)
( Apr. 12th, 2014 09:38 pm)
The bloke, Humuhumu and I paid a flying visit to Norfolk last weekend. Since I arrived home from Italy at 11:30 PM on Friday and we left on Saturday morning at 9 AM, you can imagine what state I was in by the time we arrived.

Fortunately, there was Victoria sponge and tea awaiting us. Unfortunately, Humuhumu appears to have a taste for Victoria sponge.

“Oh sorry, was I supposed to save some of that for you?”

Baby/Grandparents/Daddy )
Poll #15211 Like a boss
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 40

There is a tedious task that only needs doing once. It's below my pay grade and I should delegate it.

I'll take the time to explain to the person(s) who should be doing it, even though it takes longer, rather than do it myself. It's the principle of the thing.
2 (5.0%)

Ugh, I can't be bothered. I'll do it myself.
38 (95.0%)

There is a tedious task that will need repeating many times. It can be shared, but only if others are taught how to do it.

I'll write out a procedure for it and teach others to follow it. The initial time investment is worth the future recuperation of shared energy.
34 (87.2%)

Ugh, I can't be bothered. I'll do it myself.
5 (12.8%)

There is a tedious task that is above my pay grade that I've been asked to do.

I'll flag it and send it up the chain of command.
19 (47.5%)

Ugh, I can't be bothered. I'll do it myself.
21 (52.5%)

Would you like a chocolate Magnum ice cream bar?

Yes please.
22 (56.4%)

Hell yes.
14 (35.9%)

No, thank you.
5 (12.8%)

And a cup of tea, thanks.
25 (64.1%)

As you may have noticed, I spent most of last week in Italy. I’d never been to Italy previously. Even though it was a work trip, it was still hugely enjoyable.

ESRIN is the European Space Agency centre for Earth observation. It has quite an impressive entrance and some very swish office buildings, but not a lot in the way of otherwise space-y accoutrements. Because let’s face it, what we all want when we visit space agency centres are awesome spacecraft models and big dishes. ESRIN has none of the former and only one of the latter.

What it lacks in visible space gizmos and decent WiFi ESRIN makes up for with a fantastic canteen and rather good coffee. The canteen brought to mind the episode of “Spaced” in which Brian takes Twist to view an exhibition of white paintings. The first puzzle you have to solve is which of the white cubicles along the entrance hall might hold the (white) trays and (white) napkins. Next, you must work out which of the white stands artfully arranged in the white interior is concealing the drinks refrigerator, which the salad bar and which the pasta. When you’ve sorted this out, you walk to the white register to pay the white-clad cashier. It’s as much participatory performance art as it is lunch.

ESRIN’s one big dish.

More from ESRIN )

Frascati by day
Frascati is on a hill. A very steep hill. The hotel we were staying in was very nice, but it was also at the bottom of the hill. To get to the centre of the old town once the day’s business was done, we had to climb the hill. This was perhaps for the best, as the evening meals tended to be long and involved.

Frascati by day )

Frascati by night
One of the best things about participating in this particular well-established space mission is that everyone gets on really well. When it comes time for the evening meal, almost the entire quorum gathers to eat together. And we’re not talking about a quick bite in a pizzeria. No. We’re talking about a three hour, minimum-three-course session with wine, followed by gelato (since we were in Italy) and drinks at a bar. I’m grateful to have worked on this mission for so long. Our team delivers our data on time and have done for years. I can sincerely say that I put the effort in not just from professional pride, but out of love.

The fetish pig from the photo meme post resides in this restaurant.

Gluttony )

I’m looking forward to seeing all these faces again in Madrid in June, when we have our Operations Review.
Request #17: Something orange. This person fit the bill in multiple shades thereof.

Request #24: Something rainbow. These earrings in a shop window caught my eye.

Request #25: Something that makes me smile. I always like it when people make the effort to beautify something that is inherently quite functional and usually ugly, like a shop security shutter.
Request #9: The ceiling. You have inspired me to take lots of ceiling photos over the last day and a half, but I think you'll quite like this one. It's the ceiling of the train from the airport to the centre of Rome. Note the little 8-bit train rendering! We were only mildly disappointed that no one had thought to program it to move from one side to the other with the motion of the train.

Request #21: Something purple. A cake shop off the central square in front of the cathedral in Frascati has some pretty over-the-top window displays, each themed by colour. This is a small part of the purple window.

Request #22: Something pink. This pig was sitting on the bar of the restaurant we were in last night. It is inappropriate, inexplicable and incongruous. Also, pink.
Piggy is possibly NSFW )

Bonus picture: Nerds enjoying themselves, with the assistance of wine. Lovely, lovely wine.
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Mar. 31st, 2014 10:18 am)
For Mother's Day, Humuhumu gave me:

  • Hot chocolate
  • "Cabin Pressure" on CD
  • Tulips
  • A fancily wrapped slightly smushed fairy cake

  • ...and a rather disturbing card on which I have blue hair, a displeased expression and enormous blue hands.

    Well done, Humuhumu.
nanila: (old-skool: science!)
( Mar. 28th, 2014 03:27 pm)
This week has been intense. On Tuesday I gave a guest lecture for the “Sun, Stars and Planets” course that’s an option for second-year physics students. Since it’s the last week of term, they get to have “fun” lectures as opposed to the material their exams will be based upon. I enjoyed talking about Cassini at Saturn and JUICE at Ganymede, and I think the students enjoyed it too. There were a few (good!) questions at the end and they all took away one of the Saturn lithographs I brought with me. One of the proper lecturers in my group caught the last 10-15 minutes of the guest lecture and he praised me highly, which was unexpected and a nice ego boost.

Immediately afterward, I went to greet a visiting seminar speaker and began shepherding him through the group, in between getting work done and teleconferences. The speaker was from the Department of Informatics at UCI and his earlier work had been looking at large datasets in genomics and public health, so the space science sector was new to him. He gave a good seminar about information sharing in science, and then I took him for drinks and dinner. Dinner finished after 9 PM so it was a knackering day, since I’d left Birmingham before 6:30 AM.

The next day was packed with meetings and a visit to the workshop to discuss the design of a couple of interactive elements of the upcoming exhibit about the Rosetta mission to Comet 67P. Also there was a surprise task from my boss, trying to distil some information from about 40 pages of documents into a neat, five-line table.

Four meetings and a telecon later, I went home and fell over.

I’m currently preparing for a trip to ESRIN next week. ESRIN is the Earth Observation centre run by ESA. It’s in Frascati, Italy - south and east of Rome in one of the “Castelli Romani”. Functionally this seems to mean “picturesque village full of stately homes built by wealthy cardinals in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for when they didn’t want to be in Rome any more”. Also, it means “drink wine while you’re here, lots of wine.” I have to give a talk, but I’m scheduled to be the first one during the three-day meeting so hopefully that means I can take the latter piece of advice heartily on board for most of the trip.

My apologies for not getting back to everyone who’s responded so wonderfully to my Subscription Meme. I aim to catch up on replies this weekend.


Four more from the garden + Humuhumu update. )
Poll #15150 Moooosic
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 31

The bloke & I got tickets see Kate Bush live at the Hammersmith Apollo this August.

View Answers

21 (67.7%)

She's playing live shows?!
8 (25.8%)

4 (12.9%)

This makes you officially old.
3 (9.7%)

I'm so, so thrilled about this. I never thought I'd be able to see her play live.

Poll #15112 Anthropomorphic Earth
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 28

My immediate perception of the Northern/Southern hemispherical divide is more

View Answers

5 (18.5%)

22 (81.5%)

My immediate perception of the Eastern/Western hemispherical divide is more

View Answers

18 (66.7%)

9 (33.3%)


View Answers

6 (22.2%)

8 (29.6%)

What are you on about?
16 (59.3%)