nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
2014-03-18 09:59 pm
Entry tags:

[sticky entry] Sticky: Subscription Meme (I hope!)

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>Fandom</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: nellie kim is awesome (purple nellie)
2017-05-25 06:21 pm

Garden addition

Back story: The garden behind our house is a very peculiar shape. It is quite wide at the back of the house for about 10 metres, then narrows abruptly to a very skinny path alongside the canal towpath hedge. It goes along like this for about 5 metres and then ends in a round, fenced-in patch about 4 metres in diameter. The round patch has a concrete pavement in a pretty circular pattern.

We’ve been trying to work out what to do with this odd space since we moved in. It’s a fair way from the house and not visible from the back door. Jacuzzi? Too much maintenance, plus it’s too far to trek on a horrible winter night. Bike shed? Functional but boring, and also bike sheds are ugly. This is a pretty space, ringed by climbing roses and vines.

A few weeks ago we went to the garden centre and found a display of cute playhouses with trimmed roofs and windows, and an interior upper floor reached by a child-sized ladder. The 6’x6’ models were on sale. As we had to carry the children away from them, literally, we thought, perhaps this is the optimal use for that round patch.

Thus far, we have been proved entirely correct, and the expense has been justified. Since it’s been installed, both children come home from nursery, dash through the house and out the back door into the playhouse to draw, play on the tablet or just run up and down the steps and in and out the doors. (There’s an adorable toddler-sized door out the side in addition to the larger front door.) The only things that brings them back to the house in 15-20 minutes are the requests for drinks and fruity snacks, which are then carried back up to the playhouse.

tl;dr version We got the kids a playhouse for the garden. Photos below!

20170523_184119
[Keiki on a wooden chair outside the playhouse. “Oi* shut da door on moi sister!”]

+3 )

* The Black Country is strong with this one.
** There is a whole separate post brewing about how I simply do not understand Danger Mouse.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-25 03:30 pm

I am up to my ears in marking...

...so here, have a photo from yesterday evening instead of hearing me moan about that.

IMG_5yqare
[Humuhumu and Keiki in their swimming costume & swim nappy respectively, eating ice creams in the paddling pool.]
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
2017-05-19 10:19 am
Entry tags:

Friday’s Unscientific Poll: Cheeky door label

Our corridor was refurbished several months ago, and new door labels were applied. The admin staff have since added names and roles (e.g. “Lecturer”, “Research Associate”) to about 70% of the doors.

My officemate and I grew tired of waiting for ours to appear and have thus created our own.
Door_sign_2017-05-18_1600
[Blue and white door label reading “Mr [Redacted] & Dr [Redacted]: Purveyors of splendid magnetometer data”]

We’re trying to decide how long it will be before anyone notices.

Poll #18391 Purveyors of splendid magnetometer data
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 80


Someone will notice our door label

View Answers

in a few days
7 (8.8%)

in a few weeks
3 (3.8%)

in a few months
3 (3.8%)

if/when you ever move office & it has to be replaced
26 (32.5%)

straightaway, but no one will say anything - see “You work in the Physics Department”
41 (51.2%)

nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-18 10:39 am

On a much more cheerful note

Here is Keiki with our first radish harvest from our garden:
IMG_ndairl
He ate all of his. Humuhumu found them too peppery.

Here are Keiki and Humuhumu eating ice creams. Humuhumu is dressed as a pirate princess (outfit concept all hers). Keiki is dressed in one of the two shirts that don't cause him to start screaming as soon as you put it on him, holey black trousers and a single croc.
IMG_ji34i1

And here is Telstar defeating a stick whilst lounging in the porch of the tent in our garden.
20170507_105420
nanila: Your plastic pal who's fun to be with (star wars: k-2so)
2017-05-18 09:00 am

On immigration and empathy

I’ve been seeing a lot of Twitter posts and the like from EU nationals who have been struggling with the horrors of navigating the UK immigration system, trying to obtain their permanent residence permits after decades of enjoying (largely) restriction-free stay in this country.

I am sympathetic to their stress and the torment of waiting for months without a passport for a response that may or may not bring relief. But there is another, less magnanimous, part of me that is thinking, “Welcome to the world the rest of us immigrants have been experiencing for years.” The stack of paper I submitted to the UK Border Agency from 2004 to 2013 probably fills an entire filing cabinet drawer, not to mention the ~£6000 they received from me for the pleasure of applying for visas, visa renewals, permanent residency, and naturalisation. Yes, those latter two are separate and have gigantic fees attached. Did you know you have to wait a year after submitting your permanent residency application before you can again have the pleasure of submitting your naturalisation application, which isn’t any shorter and is also even more expensive? Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I suggest*, therefore, the UKBA replace all of this absurd bureaucracy with some simple, realistic questions and a thirty-minute interview with a border agent. And so I give you:

Immigration Tests, The Microlit Version

Refugee/asylum seeker: "Have you suffered enough for us to let you in?"
Entrepreneur/investor: “Are you rich enough for us to let you in?”
Highly-skilled worker: "Has someone else paid for your education so that we can reap the benefits?"
Low-skilled worker: “Sorry, no.”
Spouse: "Can you and/or your partner afford to pay for your love to exist?"
Aged family member of immigrant: “Can you or your children afford to support you? Actually, even if you/they can, the answer’s still no.

* with a heavy dose of sarcasm
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-17 01:25 pm

A boat ride down the Danube.

Our day of brilliant weather in Vienna happened on the Tuesday, which was nice as it was the one day that the bloke had off from the conference. We took advantage of it to go on a boat ride down the Danube. Granny, Humuhumu and I had done this together a couple of years before, but the others had never been before. Keiki loved it. He sat upright and alert on my lap for two straight hours, watching and commenting on everything and occasionally bursting into song.

Most of these photos were either taken by the bloke or Humuhumu.

[I had meant to add more commentary but this entry has been sitting half-finished in my documents for weeks so I figured it was best to just post it before it got any more out of date.]

IMG_0543
[Me smiling at the camera, with Keiki on my lap, riding at the front of the boat down the Danube. Photo taken by the bloke.]

+11 )

On disembarking from the boat, we discovered that one of the city’s fountains had been turned on in honour of the nice weather.

IMG_0638
[Humuhumu in her green Kenyan dress, shrieking as she runs through the fountain.]

+2 )
nanila: (not good with computer)
2017-05-16 09:11 am

Two apps and a gadget that have improved my life recently

  1. Serial Reader: This app takes books that are out of copyright and chops them up into bite-sized chunks called “issues” (10-15 minutes reading time). It delivers one issue of your selected work to you every 24 hours. It’s been a great help to me in getting me to sit down and read full-length novels again. H/t to [personal profile] fred_mouse for bringing it to my attention. Since installing the app a few months ago, I have re-read most of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries (3-5 issues each), Northanger Abbey (30 issues), The Secret Garden (37 issues), The Importance of Being Earnest (9 issues) and Anne of the Island (32 issues). I’m in the middle of Moonfleet (32 issues), which is new to me, and also Anne’s House of Dreams (33 issues), which is a childhood favourite. I do most of my reading on the train or in the bath, and keeping up with 2-3 serials at once is perfect for those activities.

  2. Fitbit: The bloke got me a Fitbit Charge for UK Mother’s Day (back in March). Just to be clear that this was not foisted upon me, let me assure you all that I asked for it in advance. Exercise and weight stuff )

  3. Spotify: The bloke upgraded his Spotify account to the Family version so I could use and we could put it on the tablet for the kids. I don’t think I’m overstating matters when I say that this, combined with dropping a little cash on a decent pair of earbuds, has improved in my mental health. Over the past few years, I’d gotten out of the habit of listening to new music. Much as I love joking about being an aging rivethead with musical tastes stuck in 1994-2003 (which is still true of my preferences in EBM), I have missed the kick of finding a new song I really liked and listening it to death, seat-dancing to it on the train and memorising the lyrics. Amongst the things I’m currently obsessing over are the latest Goldfrapp album, MØ and the Suicide Squad soundtrack.

    Also, it was wonderful to be able to (almost) immediately download Ukrainian electro-folk band ONUKA’s entire oeuvre on the app in the middle of watching Eurovision. Learning to love Eurovision after moving to the UK is a whole entry in itself, but suffice to say it is now an annual ritual, involving cooking the food of the host country (Ukrainian flatbread and beetroot salad, thank you, the bloke!), drinking silly cocktails and shouting a lot in disagreement at the judging (Azerbaijan was robbed).

    In conclusion: Spotify! Brilliant! Yeah, yeah, I know I’m a decade late to the party. Whatevs. I still love my MP3 library, even if most of it is pre-2004.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-15 09:27 am

Advice I wish someone had given me when I was four

Humuhumu went to a birthday party this weekend. The lad who invited her had invited no other girls his age.

Two enormous bouncy castles were involved, as were a number of balls. I showed Humuhumu how to dribble and how to shoot at the hoops, and whilst we were practising, a bunch of the boys joined us. She could throw the ball higher than all apart from one boy who appeared to be about six years old (the rest were between four and five).

Then we invented a game with one of the softer balls. I stood on the outside of the bouncy castle, Humuhumu on the inside, and we threw the ball back and forth to one another over the wall. Very soon, three or four boys wanted to join in, and it all got a bit rough. Humuhumu was upset at being bowled over, so we stopped.

"That boy pushed me over when I was trying to get the ball," she wailed.
"The boys are all over-excited," I replied, cuddling her. "Don't wait for them to apologise; they won't think of it. Ignore them and focus on yourself, and grab the ball whenever you can. Okay?"

She nodded, sniffed, and got back into the bouncy castle. She took my advice completely to heart and had a grand time.

Later, we were all sat at a table after lunch. It was time for cake and the birthday boy was recovering from his third or fourth meltdown. Humuhumu lounged on my lap, placidly consuming her cake, whilst all around us the screaming rose up in waves. Other parents tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that my daughter was the most chilled-out child in the world.

"Yes," I replied, trying not to sound too smug and probably failing, "I know."

20170514_185925
[No Limits: Humuhumu jumping off a bridge over the canal onto the towpath.]
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
2017-05-09 01:12 pm
Entry tags:

Time-sensitive Cassini post

Friends, Cassini is currently using not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Deep Space Network ground stations for an experiment. You can watch this happening here until about 15:40 BST.

This is so cool.
nanila: me (Default)
2017-05-08 03:38 pm

On being an atheist

I’m an atheist. I’ve never practised any religion of my own volition. I went to a Catholic school as a child, but all that’s left me with is a fondness for elaborate churches with stained glass windows, as I spent most of my time staring out of them and daydreaming.

I find it odd when atheists trumpet themselves as more conscientious and intelligent than believers. OK, so not having a religious doctrine to give you a moral code for “free” might seem like it requires more mental effort. However, you also have legal and social frameworks to provide you with a moral code, and those are probably a bigger deterrent for bad behaviour in practical terms. No one wants to pay large fines, spend time in jail, or be Billy-No-Mates. I think those are the things that keep most people, religious or not, from being arseholes.

The assumption that every practitioner of a religion believes in the same moral code also bothers me. Have you seen the news at all, ever? I can only imagine what it must be like to be a practising believer, well-versed in one’s doctrine, watching some dickhead on television saying he’s just slaughtered a bunch of people who were worshipping in their house of faith, which they thought was a sanctuary, because God told him to. It must be heartbreaking, seeing someone who’s allegedly read the same texts, extracting that message from them.

As for intelligence, the very definition of which is highly problematic, especially when people get competitive about it, what makes anyone think that atheism is an automatic pass to ranking oneself above others? There are atheists who are also stupid, who speak and act illogically, and are ignorant and determined to stay that way. There are people of faith who are not.

Anyway, the point of this ramble was really to send a message to my friends who are believers: I don’t think I’m better or smarter than you because I’m an atheist. I think this is worth saying because there are an awful lot of atheists who do. If you want to talk about your faith with or around me, please do. Or don’t! That’s also okay, of course. I love you.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-08 08:58 am

Five days of butterflies: Day 5/5

Owl butterfly (Caligo eurylochus) feeding on banana
[Owl butterfly (Caligo eurylochus) feeding on a banana.]
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-05 05:28 pm

Five days of butterflies: Day 4/5

Tropical Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) butterfly
[Tropical Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) butterfly, at rest underneath a waterfall.]
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-04 04:14 pm

Five days of butterflies: Day 3/5

White tropical butterfly
[White tropical butterfly perched on a fake (!) white orchid.]
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-03 03:45 pm

Five days of butterflies: Day 2/5

Heliconius (?) butterfly
[Black tropical butterfly (Heliconius?) with red and white accents, perched on a cluster of small orange flowers.]
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-02 10:26 pm

Five days of butterflies: Day 1/5

Malachite butterfly
[Malachite butterfly perched on a leaf at the Schmetterlinghaus, Vienna.]
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-05-01 08:27 pm

Happy May Day

Happy May Day
[Humuhumu wearing jeans, t-shirt, pink fluffy dress, feather wings, new blue crocs, a tiara and a wand, jumping for joy in our garden.]

Hello, hello neglected journal; I send my apologies. We returned on Saturday from a fantastic (and also sleep-deprived, for Keiki and me) week in Vienna and plunged straight into bank holiday weekend activities. I have been keeping up with curating photos but not with arranging them into journal entries. I'm hoping to catch up with that this week.

I hope all is well with you all. The photo above neatly encapsulates Humuhumu's feelings on the subject of the recent week and a half with her parents, I believe. <3
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
2017-04-21 12:08 pm

Cassini’s last Titan flyby

As many of you know, I work on the Cassini mission as an operations engineer and have done for over a decade.

Tomorrow is the spacecraft’s final close flyby (T126) of Saturn’s moon Titan.

Just to put this into perspective for you, this may be the last time in decades that we get anywhere near Titan. There are no missions to Saturn or its most interesting* moons, Titan and Enceladus, currently funded or being built. That means there’s a minimum of ten years before a new mission could be launched. Given that the transit time to Saturn is, at a minimum, seven years and on average more like ten, that’s two decades until we can repeat Cassini’s observations.

Cassini’s impending demise makes me sad, of course, but what bothers me even more is the lack of continuity in our exploration of our solar system.

You can read the details of tomorrow’s Cassini’s observations on the NASA-JPL press release here. It includes an animation of the flyby over the surface, from the perspective of the spacecraft.

* “most interesting” being ever so slightly subjective, of course
nanila: YAY (me: abby)
2017-04-21 09:20 am
Entry tags:

Friday’s Unscientific Poll: Most Useless London Underground Station

(New Circle members: The Unscientific Poll is a semi-regular feature of this journal on Fridays. Topics vary wildly, although food is the most common one.)

Poll #18243 Most Useless London Underground Station
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15


Complete this sentence: Pimlico is the most useless London Underground station

View Answers

on the Victoria Line.
6 (54.5%)

in Zone 1.
3 (27.3%)

on the entire Tube network.
2 (18.2%)

If Pimlico is not the most useless London Underground station on the entire Tube network, what is?



Context )

ETA at 10:19 AM: *KLAXON* MORNINGTON CRESCENT HAS BEEN MENTIONED ALREADY. That took even less time than I thought it would. *hands a banana to [personal profile] miss_s_b*
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
2017-04-20 01:34 pm
Entry tags:

Lesbians with unusually large vegetables

Birmingham Open Media art exhibit

This wasn’t the post I was intending to make today, but having discovered the above on my phone whilst searching for something else from about a month ago, I felt I must share this with my Circle immediately. It is a series of three delightful photographs on display in the toilets (no really) of BOM, the Birmingham Open Media gallery. BOM is a little odd corner space a few tens of metres from one of the exits of New Street Station, over the road from an Adult Entertainment Shop (™?). It features tiny exhibitions celebrating “the intersection of art, technology and science”.

The caption for the photographs reads as follows.

Gemma Marmalade
The Seed Series, 2015

The Seed Series is a series of photographic prints by artist Gemma Marmalade, which explores the possibility that those of homosexual persuasion may be more likely to have a visceral impact on the cultivation of plants.

During studies of communal lesbian gardeners in the 1970s, German botanist Dr Gerda Haeckel observed accelerated growth, crop abundance and increased vegetational health. The Seed Series depicts some of Haeckel’s original subjects and their finest vegetable specimens.


Pardon the awkward angle of the photograph - it was not easy to take whilst holding a toddler who was frustrated at the thought that I was about to steal his dirty nappy and replace it with a clean one.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
2017-04-13 11:49 am

A weekend in Dublin

All photos taken with my phone - we brought no luggage apart from our rucksacks & I didn't have space for the dSLR. Quality is variable, especially since Aviary on Flickr is still not working so everything is SOOC.

Last weekend, Humuhumu and I had our first mini-break together.

I picked her up from nursery slightly earlier than usual and we took the train to Birmingham International. We had our tea in the airport. The server behind the counter took a shine to her since she asked ask so politely for her hot chocolate, and presented her with an absolute mountain of whipped cream. Apart from that, her dinner consisted of an apple, carrot juice and an oatmeal bar.

20170407_182754
[Humuhumu eating her dinner]

Slightly unbelievably, we ran into some cousins who live in Cheltenham and were flying to Mallorca for their Easter holidays. Humuhumu was growing tired – it was nearly 8 PM – so spent a lot of the conversation cuddled up in my lap with her blankie.

We boarded the plane. Humuhumu’s disappointment at the lack of films on the plane (it’s a 45 minute flight) was mitigated by being given free reign over the tablet.

Once we’d landed in Dublin, it took about 30 minutes to get through a second immigration check. While we waited in the queue, we were treated to a rant on the subject of unhelpful security measures by the elderly Irish gentleman in front of us, who was fervently pro-freedom-of-movement. It was rather lovely.

We skipped through the airport and into a taxi. The taxi driver was listening to a programme called “Leap of Faith”, to which Humuhumu promptly fell asleep. I listened quietly as they discussed the results of a survey on the church-going practices of Dublin-dwellers. I giggled when they thanked the 2,130 respondents who said they belonged to the Church of the Jedi Knights. The taxi driver said, “Oh, you were listening, were you?” in some surprise. “This isn’t the same country I grew up in, I tell ye.”
“And is that a good thing?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” he said. “It is. The way it used to be, with the church…” he shook his head. “Too many young lives ruined.”
He got a disproportionately large tip.

[personal profile] emelbe met us in the lobby. We headed promptly up to our room, as Humuhumu was blearily trying to process 10 PM. While she snuggled down into her bed, [personal profile] emelbe and I exchanged gifts.
“I brought you tea and whisky,” she said.
“I brought you tea and whisky,” I said.
We celebrated with wine.

The next day dawned bright, sunny and warm. We went down to the hotel buffet and discovered they had a magical pancake-making machine. Pancakes with Nutella and maple syrup were duly consumed.

We headed outside with the Leprechaun / folklore Museum in mind as our destination, via parks and playgrounds. It took us over an hour to reach the Museum, where we were told (and good on them for it, too) that it was not suitable for children under seven. Having failed at culture, we opted for shopping at the Penney’s mothership, where we discovered sproingy hair bobbles and Finding Dory colouring sets.

20170408_111625
[Humuhumu in the hand of the giant at the Giant’s Playground.]

20170408_111956
[Humuhumu clambers over the dog-insect-thing]

20170408_113208

20170408_113309
[Humuhumu inspects the flower beds in a park.]

We walked back over the river Liffey and into Temple Bar so we could go to Gallagher’s Boxty House for lunch. Humuhumu had the “child-sized” portion of fish and chips. It was enormous. I had the stew and [personal profile] emelbe had the boxty.

20170408_142338
[Humuhumu colours in Dory before our lunch arrives.]

We waddled outside an hour later stuffed to the gills and headed through the Saturday 3 PM crowds (who were 9 PM levels of drunk already) to find our route blocked by a large protest about water tariffs. Detouring around it, we arrived at our destination: the Natural History Museum, aka the display of truly alarming taxidermy. Humuhumu: “It looks like the scary lady’s room in Paddington!” (Scary Lady == Nicole Kidman’s character, who wants to stuff Paddington.) We investigated the displays for about 45 minutes whilst [personal profile] emelbe went to buy whiskey and to the Archaeology Museum to get postcards.

Displays of taxidermy varying from innocuous to MY EYES MY BEAUTIFUL EYES )

We returned to the Giant’s Playground. Thorough sun-baked and tuckered out, we meandered back to the hotel, where we flopped out until dinnertime, which ended up being smoothies at the hotel bar because we were still full from lunch.

20170408_171157
[Inexplicable corporate art is also for playing on, yes yes?]

Humuhumu went fairly easily to sleep in my arms, as did I. I managed to rouse myself briefly to taste the bourbon [personal profile] emelbe had brought for me to sample, but bedtime was still pretty early.

The next morning was significantly cooler and cloudier, conforming more to expectations of Dublin in April. We took our time in rising and going to breakfast, checking out at the last possible moment. Even with that we were still too early to check into the canal barge where [personal profile] emelbe was to spend the rest of her holiday. We strolled up the quayside and stopped off for a pastry and tea at Il Valentino before going to the docks.

As soon as we met the barge owner, I knew I'd made a tactical error in going to the hotel. I had been afraid to stay on the water because Humuhumu can't swim. It turned out that the barge was both firmly affixed to the docks and could be locked securely. Also, there was space for Humuhumu to play, and games and toys for children. Lesson learned.

20170409_125626
[Panoramic view from the back of the barge.]

20170409_125757
[Humuhumu pointing out the seagulls.]

We spent the afternoon playing and talking. [livejournal.com profile] omniana, whom I haven't seen in 8 years, came by. We drank tea, ate apples and caught up on one another's lives while Humuhumu and I coloured in Finding Dory pictures.

20170409_151327
[Lounging on the barge.]

Hours flew by and then it was time to get back in the taxi to the airport. After the short journey back to Brum, we were met by our sunburnt boys at the airport. Joyful reunification was swiftly followed by sleeping in the car.

Verdict: Daughter is A+++ traveling companion, would mini-break with again.