The lab xmas party begins
This is me and my officemate B* in our Santa hats, which we wore to the bitter end (around 9:30 PM). Our lab Christmas party begins in the office with Irish coffees, after which we traipse across Hyde Park to a seekrit squirrel location (aka a pub) for 1 PM, when we commence eating and drinking in earnest. Later, there are Bananagrams, arguments about politics, and maudlin reminiscences about Christmas parties of the past. (There are no photos of this.)

Anyway, between organising, participating in, and recovering from, this party, there hasn't much time for updating Dreamwidth. I'll endeavour to rectify this over the next few days. Happy Solstice, everyone!

* In case you're wondering why he looks like a giant, he is. He's about 6'5". I'm a foot shorter than him.
Nature & brutalism
This section of crumbling wall is in the middle of Imperial College London's South Kensington campus. The ivy Virginia Creeper (h/t to [personal profile] sillymouse for the botanical correction) that masks it is presently changing from red to green, drawing attention to the contrast between it and the functional brutalist buildings surrounding it.
I recently scored tickets to a recording of the long-running BBC Radio 4 programme "Just a Minute". For those who are unfamiliar with it, four panelists are given, in turn, a random topic by the host and must speak for one minute on it without repetition, hesitation or deviation. The other three panelists try to catch them out, and if they score a correct challenge, they take over the topic and continue speaking. A single round can take quite a lot longer than one minute whilst the panelists and host argue over whether or not the challenges are in fact correct. Or end up chatting about something else entirely.

This was the first recording I'd attended that wasn't at Broadcasting House. It was in the Shaw Theatre, between Euston and Kings Cross stations, and it has greater capacity than Broadcasting House. Unfortunately, it isn't air-conditioned. It was also packed full, because "Just a Minute" is a cultural institution and is still very popular. Nicholas Parsons has been hosting the show for almost fifty years, and the adulation he received at the start and end of the recording made it practically impossible to hear his greetings and farewell.

We had a little unintentional pre-show entertainment. The ticketing system works thus: You turn up an hour before the doors open, present your ticket and are given a sticker with a number on it. When the doors open, the production guests (wearing wristbands) file in first, and then the ticket holders are allowed entry in groups of fifty. It all works in quite a civilised fashion despite the crush in the lobby, because British people love queuing.

However, once we'd (nearly) all sat down, it became evident that there'd been some sort of cock-up involving the seating of the production guests. Four people wearing viridescent wristbands were stood at the front, looking up at the full rows of seats with evident displeasure. One was a blonde woman in a white jacket with a formidable aspect. I should not like to have been the young production assistant attempting to mollify her and receiving the pointy end of said displeasure. Hands were waved about. The small number of solitary seats scattered about the theatre were indicated and obviously rejected. Eventually, some audience members were convinced to shift around slightly to permit the foursome to sit in pairs on opposite sides of the theatre.

This had all taken a good ten minutes, by which point the ostensible start time of the recording had passed. The drama had now attracted the attention of literally every person in the audience. When the formidable woman sat down, the entire theatre broke into a cheer. She stood up a few seconds later to hand her empty drink cup (two will get you seven that it was a large gin and tonic) to a frazzled usher. The audience booed. Unfased, she turned around, smiled beautifully and resumed her seat gracefully. I was impressed, as I suspect most of the rest of the audience would have died of embarrassment right then.

It was not until the very end of the show when Nicholas Parsons was bidding us farewell that we had the measure of what had transpired. "If," he said, with a twinkle in his eye "you happen to run across the fellow who tore the sign reading 'Reserved for Nicholas Parson's wife' off the seats in the front..." He made a small, meaningful gesture with his cane.

The four panelists were Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Zoë Lyons and Julian Clary. I shall say no more of the two very funny shows that were recorded, but I think I can safely share another pre-recording anecdote. Nicholas Parsons asked each panelist to speak into their microphone for the sake of the sound engineer at the back. Not one to pass up an opportunity for innuendo, Julian Clary put on his most deliberately camp voice and said, "Hello, David, are you receiving me in the rear?" Nicholas Parsons: "Yes, I think so. Poor David. He can't hear anything now."

After departing the Shaw, I arrived at my place of sleep around 22:30. I walked in the door and was greeted by the smell of freshly baked apple & rhubarb crumble and vanilla custard heating on the hob. A whisky glass was placed in my hand and unopened bottles of Lagavulin and Scapa presented upon the kitchen island for my perusal and selection.

Sometimes, I am a very lucky Nanila indeed.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Jul. 14th, 2016 02:00 pm)
Corridor on my floor, reflecting the national mood

The 15-year anniversary of my LJ passed quietly by on Saturday, 11 July. I rarely post on Saturdays, being fully occupied with family at the weekends. Still, I see no reason why the celebrations can't continue, given that I started a month in advance. I'll finish off my projects, and after all, I still have to make a drunken post from the bath about SCIENCE. Don't want to miss out on that opportunity.

The photo above is the corridor outside my office at work, which is having its overhead lighting refurbished. It's also doing an excellent job of convincing us we're all trapped in a post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmare. Given the state of the nation, and particularly the omnishambles of the last few weeks in UK politics, I'm not certain the corridor has got it wrong.
Westminster flags lowered for Jo Cox

I took this photo last week, after MP Jo Cox was assassinated. I want to make it very clear, for what I hope are obvious reasons this morning, that this photo is about her death.

In the hope that others could also use the distraction of an Unscientific Poll:

Poll #17530 Telecon Unmute Bingo
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 24


Whilst on a work-related telecon, I have heard the following “participant unintentionally unmuted” actions

View Answers

sneezing
17 (77.3%)

coughing
16 (72.7%)

burping
7 (31.8%)

farting
4 (18.2%)

swearing
10 (45.5%)

typing
16 (72.7%)

boiling a kettle
6 (27.3%)

attempting to dial another number
5 (22.7%)

conducting a separate phone call on a different device
13 (59.1%)

deriding the person currently speaking
6 (27.3%)

deriding the chairperson
2 (9.1%)

flushing the toilet
1 (4.5%)

I can escalate this:

(These aren't appearing in chronological order. My apologies. They're appearing as I catch up with curating, editing and uploading photos and writing the associated words!)

Not long before the Shauns left London, Keiki and I stole a day during the very short gap between our trips to Turkey and Washington DC in May to take a final shot at bagging all the sculptures. We’d nabbed 16 on our first go and done the hardest of the four trails, so I thought we had a fair chance of doing at least two more. As it turned out, we managed exactly two trails and 17 more Shauns before my feet and shoulders called time on the adventure. I reckon we could have gotten halfway through the third trail before we had to get our train back to Birmingham, but I would’ve been crying by the time we got home. It’s not so bad carrying a baby, a rucksack full of baby stuff and a dSLR for a couple of hours, but when you’re spending the whole day on your feet, it can get to be a bit much.

We popped out of Oxford Street tube station around 11 AM and immediately set about our first task: Shaun’s Trail, involving 11 Shauns.


Baa-bushka, Carnaby Street

+17 including several ridiculous selfies )

Since I was still feeling pretty strong and Keiki had had a nap and a feed during the first trail, we headed back up toward Covent Garden and launched directly into Timmy’s Trail, which involved 7 Shauns.


Me, Keiki and Flash! Photo by some nice French tourists.

+12 )

I began walking toward Temple station with the intention of doing a bit of the trail in the City before heading back to Euston, but once I arrived at Temple and sat down to await a train, I realised I was not up for it and would be better off returning to Euston, having a coffee and a bit of cake and then boarding the train home. So I did, regretfully abandoning the London hunt at 34 out of 50 Shauns. Still, I think we didn’t do too badly!
nanila: (tachikoma: celebratory)
( Jul. 22nd, 2015 03:30 pm)
(I posted this entry to [community profile] flaneurs as part of the Three Weeks for Dreamwidth fest earlier this year. Keiki and I managed to bag 34 out of the 50 London Shauns. As I've now been to Bristol for my first Shaun-hunting expedition of the sculpture exhibition there, which runs until 31 August, I thought I'd better start playing catch-up with my entries!)

Keiki and I went to London in May to hunt sheep on the Shaun in the City sculpture trails. We bagged the two farthest-flung sheep in Canary Wharf and then headed back in to London Bridge to complete the longest of the four trails.


Keiki and me reflected in the face of Shaun the Golden Fleece in Canary Wharf.

+23 )

We ended up completing three of the four London trails by dint of doing two in one day. Sadly that was just before the London portion of the exhibition ended, as we were out of the country for substantial chunks of May. There are 70 Shauns in the Bristol exhibition and thus far we've found 10. I'm hoping we can go down for a weekend next month and do more than one trail at a go!
Today is the tenth anniversary of the (most recent) London bombings.

I was living in Camden at the time. My LJ posts on that day are here.

If you'll excuse me, I think I'll be spending the rest of the day cuddling my baby son and watching the Tour de France.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Mar. 30th, 2015 08:19 pm)

Two dual nationals and their Daddy. The sticker on Humuhumu's shirt is Neptune, from her Usborne "Space" sticker book. (This means that her version of the solar system as recorded in the book has only seven planets.)

+1 )

Last Friday we headed to the embassy in London to register Keiki's birth and apply for his other passport.

When we did this for Humuhumu, the bloke's trousers split as we were navigating the packed morning Tube. He got to swear his oath of truthfulness before the consular officer with his jumper artfully tied about his waist to keep his pants from peeping out playfully from beneath his trousers. We were therefore anticipating some manner of sartorial disaster to befall one of us during the adventure.

It didn't happen during the commute, which was unnecessarily exciting due to the cancellation of our first train. We hustled to get on a train going in the opposite direction so that we could travel instead via fast train. The fast train, by virtue of being fast, was also rammed, so we ended up getting on the next slow train, which stopped at the station we started in, only 15 minutes later. Humuhumu, who loves public transport, entertained morning commuters on the busy platform by gleefully greeting the arrival of every train with, "OH, TRAIIIN!", whilst her parents attempted to disappear into their hats.

Despite the delay we still arrived a comfortable margin before our appointment to go through the security checks and unintentionally play "spot the celebrity". (Last time it was Jay Rayner. This time it was Rita Ora. Her assistant interrupted our initial check-in to determine where to go for a VIP appointment.)

Once we were through into the citizen-only waiting room, Humuhumu gravitated towards the soft play area and promptly befriended a small boy. Or rather, attracted a small boy follower whom she scarcely noticed. (This is a theme at her nursery as well. She has a staunch attendant there who always fetches her coat and bag when we come to pick her up.) He toddled loyally after her, presenting her with blocks that she could integrate into her sculptures, which she then kicked over gleefully.

After paying the fees for the registration and passport, we settled down to wait until we were called before a consular officer. Keiki woke, realised he hadn't been fed for a while, and squawked. I arranged my cover and sat down to feed him. When he was finished, I removed the cover to find that the sartorial disaster had struck. These days I find I don't have much leakage from the opposite breast whilst feeding, and when I do, a breast pad is more than sufficient to soak it up and protect my clothing. But of course, not this time. My entire right side was soaked. There was no way to conceal it without putting my wool coat back on, which I did, even though it was tropical in the waiting room.

In the end, I swore my oath of truthfulness to the consular officer whilst sweating profusely and smelling faintly of stale milk. Classy.

Nephew being a lion atop the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe bench, the back of which is adorned with a magnificent painting of Aslan.

Yesterday, we took the train down to London for the day to meet the bloke's brother, his partner and our nephew. The bloke's brother has worked in Bloomsbury for over a decade and when he heard that I wanted to follow the book bench trail, he volunteered to take us on the best path. We gratefully accepted.

Lots of photos. )

This weekend was the last hurrah of the Books about Town, so sadly we had to leave the last trail (the City trail) unexplored. We also missed out on Around the World in 80 Days and The Day of the Triffids. But I'm pleased we tried.
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