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! )
[Admin note: Entry text has been lifted and modified from an earlier locked entry because PHOTOS! Please let me know if Google Photos is still being crap and I'll put them on Flickr. I hesitated to do so because I didn't take these pictures.]

Last week, I gave my first outreach lecture in just over a year. I'm not doing much outreach any more as my schedule is pretty full, but I made an exception for this Year 4 teacher. I've known her for a few years now, from when she worked at a charity called IntoUniversity that runs courses for children whose parents haven't been to university. She was always fantastic at laying the groundwork for an outreach event, arranging for a big audience and ensuring that the children understood that what was happening was quite special. This is a totally underrated skill in outreach and in general, I think. I knew that the students would be studying space and the solar system in their curriculum, that they would know of my visit in advance and thus that they would be able to extract the most from it.

Anyway, this time I unintentionally pushed this poor lass to her limits. I turned up a week before I was scheduled to do so. It was entirely my fault as I'd put the correct time but the wrong date into my Outlook calendar.

She rallied beautifully. It helped that, superstar teacher that she is, she had already been preparing the students and teachers for my arrival ("We're getting a NASA engineer to visit us!"). Her composure outwardly unrattled, she managed to get all the Year 4 and Year 5 teachers to rearrange their lessons, and bring their children down for the lecture. I'll never forgot those 180 excited faces staring up at me from where they were squooshed together on her classroom floor. They hung on my every word and pelted me with questions for 15 minutes at the end. Then they applauded me. Some of them stood up. Some of them were cheering and whooping. This went on for almost two minutes. I have never felt so embarrassed and so pleased in my life. As they were leaving they came up to me individually - one girl just so she could hug my leg.

"Doctor Nanila," said one smiling eight-year-old boy, "How do I become an engineer?"
"Doctor Nanila," asked a serious-faced child, "If you could go into space and live on your dream world, what would it look like?"
"Doctor Nanila," said a brown-haired girl, "I saw the blood moon through my binoculars! Do you know, it was the closest the moon has been to the Earth this year?"

I have permission to post the photos the teacher took from the event. Without further ado, me and her Year 4s doing the Vulcan hand salute. Please note that I'm wearing an ESA Rosetta t-shirt. Sadly the design is on the back.

Live long and prosper! Peace! Five! Uh...fingers!

+3 )

They've sent a bunch of handmade thank-you cards to my work, which I'll pick up next week. They're going to make me cry at my desk. <333333
On Sunday morning, we headed for the excitingly named Devil's Spittleful nature reserve to meet members of the Worcestershire Fungal Society (and their baskets) and go out mushrooming.

Our curiosity was undampened by the cold, misty weather. We were rewarded when the sun burst through and began warming us just as we entered the chestnut wood. The group scattered under the trees, poking under the leaf litter to locate choice specimens.

Heading into the chestnut wood
Humuhumu on her daddy's shoulders, removing her gloves in preparation for foraging.

It quickly became evident that the walk organiser, Diana, was the Fungal Oracle. Everyone brought her their mushrooms for identification, and for each one she would give the Latin and common names, and describe how its appearance changed from sprouting through to rotting. I didn't get to listen to too many descriptions, sadly, as Keiki was not in a good mood (cutting another tooth) and I had to keep moving to keep him from wailing.

Our oracle, Diana, with a specimen
Diana with a mushroom. I can't remember which one.

We departed the wood after half an hour or so of foraging. Most baskets stayed empty, as there weren't too many edible specimens about. Diana's was the only basket with a substantial quantity, but that was because she was collecting inedible items for her records as well. As we walked toward the open field, it was explained to us that the purpose of the baskets was multifold: to maximise air circulation around the delicate mushroom flesh, to facilitate trading of edible specimens, and to allow the spores to drop through to the ground and thus assist the germination of the next generation of mushrooms.

Glistening ink caps
Glistening ink caps.

Hats and coats were thrown off as we left the shelter of the chestnuts for the open air and warm autumn sunshine. The more experienced mushroomers dove into the long grass, looking for the large white caps of tasty field parasols.

Immature field parasol
Immature field parasol. We only found two, but they were still pretty substantial.

It was nearing midday, and Keiki let us know that he would like to stop and sit down for a snack.

Enjoying a PB & J
He very much enjoyed his PB & J and a crawl around the grass, as did Humuhumu.

Basket full of mushrooms
Our oracle's basket was filling rapidly with all manner of beauties, including the very distinctive fire-engine red of fly agaric.

"Something bit my arm"
Humuhumu and Daddy walking the path. "Something bit my arm!" she said resentfully.

Although the fungus collectors' interest showed no signs of waning, we called time on the outing after about two hours. One final treat lay in store for us: we spotted the steam train that runs from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth pootling along the tracks running past the field. We waved our arms madly at the carriages and lots of the passengers responded enthusiastically, to Humuhumu's delight.

Kidderminster-Bridgnorth steam train
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 46

Which of these is the biggest #VeryBritishProblem?

View Answers

Apologising to the delivery person who arrives with your groceries 45 minutes late.
20 (43.5%)

Using the phrase "a bit put out" to describe your feelings when you're experiencing face-melting fury.
26 (56.5%)

Worcester 10k, pre-race
Pre-race appalled face.

On Sunday morning, as an early birthday present to myself (it's tomorrow), I ran the Worcester 10k. This may sound like a weird thing to give yourself as a birthday present, but I signed up in March as a "get fit enough to do this and you will feel good about yourself on your birthday" sort of thing. Despite many doubts - especially the preceding Saturday night - I'm happy to report that this worked out as planned.

Since we have two children under the age of three, getting up early enough for the race wasn't a problem. However, getting to Worcester turned out to be a bit of a 'mare. The drive down was fine. (We would have loved to have taken public transport but the Sunday train service from our little town of BFN is almost nonexistent and doesn't start until after 10 AM.) Most of the centre of town was blocked off because the race goes down the high street for a stretch, so finding an accessible car park was difficult. I ended up jumping out of the car at an intersection, after a small barney with the bloke, so that I could get to the race start in time. Annoyingly, it turned out that he was right to encourage me to get out and walk because it took him 45 minutes to park. I was as gracious about this as might be expected. :P

I trotted off to the start line and placed myself in the "55 mins to 1 hr 15 mins" corral after passing some extremely fit-looking people warming up. One of them might have been Jo Pavey, who won the women's race, but it was so foggy I couldn't say for certain. It was very cold and I was grateful for my fancy hooded long-sleeved running top with the thumb holes. I tried not to hack up my lungs onto the other runners milling about. Eventually I noticed that nearly everyone was wearing their bib number (with integrated chip timer) on the front. I'd carefully safety-pinned mine to my back. After asking around, I discovered that the instructions had actually specified that the number should be on the front. Er. Oops.

Being so far back, I didn't actually cross the start line until over a minute after the starting gun went. I had decided beforehand that I would not worry about my time and instead try to keep running (or jogging) for the entire race. I run 5k quite regularly and I know I can do it in 31 minutes without killing myself. This was running 5k...and then immediately running a second 5k. As the crowd thinned out, I slotted myself behind a runner who'd activated her phone app to speak her pace aloud, so I knew I was going at a maintainable speed, e.g. slower than I would for a 5k.

As I trotted past the 1k marker, thanking race marshals and cheering people as I went, I suddenly realised something unexpected was happening. I was having fun. Between the 2k and 3k markers, I high-fived a number of kids with their hands out, and also kissed the bloke and the babies, who were waiting near a traffic signal to cheer me. I exchanged desultory remarks with other runners.

Approaching the 5k marker, the fog began to lift and I enjoyed the spectacular view over the river. I also learnt from my pace-setter's app that I'd taken 36 minutes to run the first 5k. I still had plenty of gas in the tank, to my surprise and pleasure, so I decided to speed up a tiny bit. I passed her.

At 7.5k, I sped up a tiny bit more. At 8k, a little bit more. Lots of cheering, thanking the marshals, enjoying views from bridges and high fives along the way. Finally, at 800 metres from the finish, I saw a chap slow down to a walk. I trotted up next to him and said, "Come on! Run with me! We're almost there, you can do it." He smiled and said, "Right, I'm coming," and started up again slowly. We ran together briefly, and then I waved at him, wished him luck and sped up again.

The bloke and the babies had managed to make their way to a spot within 200 metres of the line, so I got a second big cheer from my fan club to spur me on to [the closest thing I could manage to] a sprint finish. My chip time was 1:07:20, putting me near, but not at, the bottom of the pile.

So yeah, I was really slow, but hey, I was ill and I had a baby nine months ago, and most importantly I enjoyed myself immensely. I'm counting this one as a win.

Worcester 10k, post-race
Me with my medal right after the race.

(PSA: Neither Google Photos nor LJ's scrapbook are playing nice with DW. For the moment, if you want to see the photos, please go to the LJ crosspost as that's the only place they seem to be showing up. Sod it, I've reverted to using Flickr. It should be visible everywhere now.)

I can't remember if I shared this here or not, so I'm putting in this post. Here is Keiki having his first taste of custard tart, facilitated by Grandpa, back in June.

And here is Keiki earlier this month, laughing because the bloke is tickling him. This was one of the first times (if not the first) that he laughed - a real full-throated laugh, not just a giggle. YouTube video, about 10 seconds.

Humuhumu in an astronaut outfit, with Telstar.

Meant to post this on Caturday, but there was no time, what with the parkrun and going to look at bicycles and gardening and general parenting of one very active toddler and one baby who's just learnt to crawl and has markedly more suicidal tendencies than his sister, including a blatant disregard for the spikeyness capabilities of the cat.

There was a dress-up day for charity at Humuhumu's nursery last week. Every girl in the toddler room was a princess.
I'm a migrant. I came to the UK in search of new opportunities, a new job and a better life. I came on an aeroplane. I had a visa. And I was lucky enough to find all of those things.

A refugee is not a migrant. A refugee is someone who is so desperate they'll pay their life savings to put their toddler on a leaky boat in the sea on the slim chance they'll find safety somewhere else. Even the thought of having to do that to my children makes me physically ill. No one does that who is not at the absolute end of hope. No one.

It makes me ill that the British government's position is that it has been doing enough to help these people. Yes. By doing such helpful things as cancelling funding for the boat rescue service that could have prevented them from drowning. Very helpful. Because you don't have to offer asylum to corpses.
nanila: (kusanagi: amused)
( Sep. 3rd, 2015 08:16 am)
So yesterday was my first day back in the London office since I went on leave. There were many pleased-yet-awkward greetings with my work colleagues, but this exchange took the cake.

Me: *goes for hug*
Him: *proffers hand*
Me: *already has left arm around one shoulder, but tries to proffer right hand anyway*
Him: *sees me going for hug, aims for kiss on cheek*
Me: *realises too late that kiss on cheek is option, kiss ends up somewhere in the air over my opposite shoulder*
Both: *give up on the attempt, step apart and carry on with embarrassed mumbly verbal greetings*

The best part: he's originally Polish and I'm originally American. Oh, Britain. This is what you do to your immigrants. We used to know how to greet people smoothly and confidently. And now we can't. THANKS A BUNCH
It's the end of the week and I'm fighting off a throat infection. Have a kid picspam; I know I need one.

These lecturers just keep getting younger and younger.

We went to the university this past weekend so that the bloke could have an office tidy and we could take the children to the Barber Institute (art gallery) and the Winterbourne botanic gardens. Ms Humuhumu took the opportunity to sit in his comfy swivel chair.

And brush up on her aerosol chemistry. As you do, of a Sunday.

+2 )

Over the past few weekends, we have encountered about twenty of the 200 owl statues gracing various locations in Birmingham and its environs. Below the cut: Humuhumu, with owls.

+7, last one not an owl )

Telstar, stretched out on the spare room bed. Someone please explain to me how I'm supposed to get any work done with this going on in the room? I mean, could he possibly luxuriate any harder? I THINK NOT.

Humuhumu was really tired when she got home from nursery yesterday. It was her first day wearing her glasses, so we let her lie down on the sofa and watch CBeebies for a while until she felt better.

Once she felt better, she got down on the floor in the front room and started playing with her toys. It was then that we started to see the true extent of the difference the glasses were making to her perception and her physical confidence.

More words and pictures )

She wanted to put her glasses back on as soon as she got out of the bath in the evening, and again when she got up this morning. I don't think we're going to have any trouble getting her to keep them on. She clearly comprehends the improvement they're making, although it may be a few days before she becomes fully accustomed to the enhanced visual input!