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! )
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Oct. 20th, 2014 12:14 pm)
After returning from Germany reasonably early on Friday, it wasn’t too difficult to muster the energy to journey to Oxfordshire for a visit to the Ai Weiwei sculpture exhibition at (Unesco World Heritage Site) Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim isn’t a National Trust or English Heritage property, so we don’t have memberships that cover it. It’s also an eye-watering £22.50 per adult for a day admission. However, once you’ve paid it, you can convert this to an annual membership and come back any time you like for the subsequent year. Since Humuhumu had a lot of energy to run off by the time we got there (it’s over an hour’s drive from home) and we didn’t get to spend any time indoors, we’re determined to go again in a couple of weeks to at least attempt to see the sculptures that are housed inside the Palace.

It was a blowy, blustery day and Humuhumu loved dashing around the majestic grounds, helping us to hunt down the sculptures. The symmetrical shiny blue-purple stones were the hands-down favourites.

[Image of Humuhumu running through one of Ai Weiwei's sculptures at Blenheim Palace.]

More words and pictures )

Hours of fresh air and exercise tired everyone out, so I’m afraid poor Bloke had to drive home with only the dulcet tones of Radio 4 playing “Under Milk Wood” by Dylan Thomas* to drown out the snorkeling of his passengers.

* NB: I do not recommend listening to this whilst dozing unless you enjoy having very strange dreams.

The next day everyone had a lie-in, even Humuhumu, who slept until almost 8 AM. (Note to Daughter: More Sundays like this please.) Once we were up, we went to the garden centre to get wallflowers and pansies to plant in our front pots, as the geraniums were beginning to flag in the cooler weather. We are once again keeping up appearances in our village, to the relief of the neighbours, I'm sure.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Avoncroft Museum nearby for Trebuchet and Cannon Reenactment Day. We texted some other parents on the off-chance that they were at loose ends for Sunday activities, and to our immense surprise, everyone turned up. Humuhumu was delighted at the company. The four-year-old girl pretty much adopted Humuhumu, and cried when her Daddy tried to take her away before she could give her a goodbye cuddle and kiss.

The other children didn’t much care for the noisy cannon demonstrations, but Humuhumu’s response to every firing was a passionate demand for “MORE BANG!” and “Nani do it!” Oh dear.

Also filed under Oh Dear: Humuhumu has got quite a strong Brummie accent at the moment. Here is an attempt to record her pronunciation of a few words/phrases. I need to get some video of this for posterity before she loses it, which she very probably will when she’s older. She doesn’t hear any Brummie at home or from our friends and relations.

Bye Bye = “Buh Boy”
Like a diamond in the sky = “Loik a doymund in da skoy”
Bus = “Booss”
Daddy = “Dah-doy”

[Humuhumu and Dada at the trebuchet & cannon-firing display at the Avoncroft Museum. She’s in the middle of a request for “MORE BANG” here.]

I've spent the last few days at a meeting in the new Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Goettingen, Germany. The building itself is pretty impressive, particularly the entrance hall, and the Philae lander model merited a selfie.

Details. )

One additional awesome thing about the new Institute: There's a full-time creche (daycare) inside the building. Not just on the University campus. In the building. And the Institute's on-site library includes a children's section. Apparently there are a lot of female scientists who, when the Institute moved from its old site in Lindau, suddenly decided it was time to start a family. Interesting, no? <dry>
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Oct. 14th, 2014 08:13 pm)
I'm presently in Germany, a country in which the rail company staff will apologise profusely because your train is going to be four minutes late, possibly jeopardising your connection with next train (a fast one that only runs every two hours), and puts you on an earlier train. Good grief.

I must therefore post about the weekend before the events of this week overwrite my front memory registers. We were descended upon by a horde of out-laws. The parents-out-law (plus aunt-who-lives-in-Seattle) arrived on Friday, before I returned home from working in London. The bloke conjured up a lovely lamb-chop dinner with the help of father-out-law. Humuhumu graced an assortment of laps before retiring to bed, mostly full of stolen spoonfuls of everyone else's pudding.

On Saturday, everyone went for a walk whilst I made an enormous apple and pear pie. On their return, we headed off to the pub for lunch to meet our friends. Humuhumu and Suki were quite excited to see one another after Suki's two week cycling holiday with her parents (Munich to Vienna). They chased one another around the garden with much enthusiasm.

[Image of Humuhumu in pursuit of Suki. Suki has already made her escape behind the camerawoman.]

Just before the dessert menus were handed out, sister-out-law turned up with Niece and Nephew. This meant everyone got to order a Belgian waffle with forest fruits and vanilla ice cream, and all was well.

More words and pictures. )

Once the cousins were down and out, the adults were united in wine-drinking and desultory chit-chat until, well, frankly, not very late at all, given how sleepy and full we all were. Nevertheless, I think we can claim the event was a success.
Poll #16022 Chocolate week
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 33

Next week is Chocolate Week! I shall be celebrating with

View Answers

Cheap chocolate
13 (40.6%)

Expensive chocolate
14 (43.8%)

Milk chocolate
15 (46.9%)

White chocolate
10 (31.2%)

Dark chocolate
18 (56.2%)

Hot chocolate
11 (34.4%)

Liquor-filled chocolate
3 (9.4%)

Chocolate cake
6 (18.8%)

Chocolate cupcakes
5 (15.6%)

Mole [chocolate sauce for meats]
2 (6.2%)

Chocolate-flavoured booze
1 (3.1%)

Foods covered in chocolate (e.g. coffee beans, raisins, bacon)
8 (25.0%)

No chocolate, because I can't/don't eat it.
6 (18.8%)

Here is a food covered in chocolate that you must try:

nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Oct. 8th, 2014 12:33 pm)
Humuhumu has been making visits to the next room up (2-3 year-olds) at her nursery, during her last few weeks there. We're moving her to a nursery closer to home at the end of this month. We have mixed feelings about this. Her current nursery, attached to the university, is fantastic and she's settled well there. But it costs the bloke two hours of commuting time per day, mostly in the car, to get her there and back. I use the train when I'm on my own, and that takes even longer (and, stupidly, is more expensive per week than the cost of petrol + parking). It's been getting harder as she becomes more aware of her surroundings and gets bored. And it's dull for him too, especially knowing that the university is less than fifteen miles from our house. That's how appalling the traffic is.

So anyway, we're moving her. She's loving being in with the bigger kids, which is a relief, because she'll be going straight into the 2-3 year-old room at her new nursery. Anyway, one of the carers in the big-kid room made one of my favourite comments about her yet.

"She's got a really strong personality behind her, doesn't she," she said, smiling at me.
"Yes, that's one way of putting it," I joked cautiously.
"She don't take no crap from anybody," grinned the carer. "She's gonna be fine."
In the space of less than 24 hours, I have come across two new British Things that I'd not encountered previously. The first was Revels (mentioned on Mock the Week last night).

Poll #16005 Confectionery
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 29

I have never eaten Revels. Am I missing out?

View Answers

Goodness me, yes. Go and get yourself a pack and rectify this immediately!
10 (34.5%)

Meh, no.
19 (65.5%)

The second was the D:Ream song "Things Can Only Get Better", which was played on the radio this morning. I'd never heard it. The bloke was shocked.

Him: "This was the Cool Britannia song. It was the Labour Party anthem in 1997. Massive cultural significance."
Me: "Heh."
Him: "What?"
Me: "It's just kind of...understated*, you know? As far as sentiments about huge societal changes go."
Him: "Is it?"
Me: "Well, it's not exactly 'EVERYTHING IS AWESOME', is it now."
Him: *chuckles*

* It reminded me of an exhibition we went to see at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham a few weeks ago. The tagline was, "As Exciting As We Can Make It". It amused me no end that they felt the need to qualify the excitement in that way. American advertising would have no qualms about calling it "THE MOST EXCITING THING EVAR!!1!!!!ELEVENTY!!!"

In the continuing saga of things on (or in) my desk, pin badges from various NASA missions, 1999-2004.

Back row, large badges:
Cassini-Huygens Earth flyby: August 19, 1999
Cassini Jupiter flyby: December 30, 2000
Voyager 1 & 2 25th anniversary (2002)
Mars Exploration Rover Project (2003)

Front row, small badges:
Spitzer telescope
SIRTF (became Spitzer)
Deep Space Network 40th anniversary
Jason-1 (Earth observation mission)
Cassini MAG
Genesis (solar wind sample return mission)
Heroes of Columbia (...yeah, I was working at NASA in 2003. That...was not a good day)
Mars Odyssey 10,000 orbits
Mars Exploration Rovers 2003
Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit & Opportunity

I've never worked out a way to display these, so they live in plastic bags in a drawer. I quite like having them, though.
It occurred to me recently that a decade or so of working in and around space science has allowed me to amass an interesting collection of swag. The swag lives in, on and around my desk, depending on size, current relevance and preciousness.

One item that rocketed to the top of the list (and thus currently holds pride of place) was a gift I received at the end of my service at Space Camp in Austria in July. It is a piece of Genuine Space Rock. Observe its Certificate of Authenticity, which is lent additional gravitas (at least to me) by virtue of being in German.

[Image of Asteroid belt detritus]

Next time: pin badges galore!

Yesterday, at 25 weeks into this pregnancy, I bid goodbye to my feet.