Thursday, 27 November 2008

Five Things

Michael Barton tagged me with the Five Things Meme. And so, without further any ado:

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:
  1. Mourning the loss of my father
  2. Mourning the loss of my grandmother
  3. Enduring the mid-PhD doldrums
  4. Enjoying the company of my the fellow residents at 2333 N. 58th Street in Seattle (including Luna the malamute, may she rest in peace)
  5. Starting my second season of telemark skiing
5 Things On My To-Do List Today:
  1. Finish manuscript for submission to Molecular Ecology Resources (or Systematics and Biodiversity, haven't decided yet) and circulate to co-authors
  2. Assemble, edit, align and export DNA sequence data for another paper I'm working on
  3. Buy plane tickets to North Carolina for ScienceOnline'09
  4. Try to forget that, back home, everyone is getting today off of work and gorging themselves on turkey and stuffing
  5. Write this blog post (check!)
5 Snacks I Love:
  1. Tortilla chips and homemade guacamole
  2. Whole wheat toast with butter and raspberry jam
  3. Green & Black's Milk Chocolate
  4. Pretty much anything from the deli at Carluccio's
  5. Innis and Gunn
5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:
  1. Give £60,000 to the Galapagos Conservation Trust for their Floreana mockingbird campaign
  2. Give £5 million to to The HMS Beagle Project
  3. Send anonymous money-grams to friends and family in financial stress
  4. Donate to various environmental, humanitarian and progressive charities
  5. Buy a small house with a big garden and then hire Ten21 Architecture to make it into the eco-home of my dreams
5 Places I've Lived:
  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Colorado Springs
  3. Fort Collins
  4. Seattle
  5. London
5 Jobs I've Had:
  1. Veterinarian's assistant
  2. Tour guide at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs
  3. Research assistant
  4. PhD student (yes, that most certainly does count as a job, thankyouverymuch - worked hard, got paid ...a little)
  5. Research scientist
I'm not going to tag anyone right now. Too lazy. I might add some tags this weekend.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Shake your frozen assets

I got hip to mobile clubbing when I read (and, I admit, wept over) a Guardian piece appropriately titled An Explosion of Delight, which describes the scene at London's Liverpool Street station on an October evening in 2006, just over a year after the horrific terrorist bombing there, when hundreds if not thousands of people who had moments before seemed to just be going about their daily commute, suddenly broke into dance at the appointed moment.

And so it was, that on that evening, by participating in a public expression of joy and solidarity with hundreds of perfect stangers, Londoners took back Liverpool Street Station from the terrorists:

There's another mobile clubbing event coming soon, this one timed to help us all shake off some of our financial frustrations by shaking our booties frozen assets this Tuesday, at 6:20pm, outside the Bank of England. For more info click the bank note:

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Everything's gonna be okay: Obama is a Mac

This is a new series in which I plan to highlight how everything's gonna be okay* now that we've elected the anti-matter opposite of George W. Bush to the highest office in our humble little land.

Part I: Obama is a Mac

Obama uses a Mac. I love the idea that there will be a Mac laptop on the desk in the Oval Office. I mean, how cool is that? And is that a photo of Martin Luther King Jr on the table next to the Mac? And is that a clever little Pac Man sticker on his Mac eating the Apple? Oh, I like what I see, Mr. Obama, I like.

...and so is Biden! Somebody pinch me.

*yes, I know that Obama's not a silver bullet (no such thing as a silver bullet in our complex world) but he's as damn-well close to it as I can possibly wish for at this stage in our history, and I intend to celebrate that, so there.

Monday, 10 November 2008

'Mama Afrika' dies at 76

I first came across Miriam Makeba when my friend Jennie (Stella's mum) put me onto Makeba's mind-bending, world-expanding Qongoqothwane, (The Click Song). From there I ran out and bought the album Africa (back when we still physically ran out to buy albums).

I was blown away by the power of her voice and its comforting, encircling maternal resonance. Maybe that's what earned her the nickname 'Mama Afrika', though I suspect that was only a small part of it - she truly was an African icon - a exile of South Africa during apartheid. From the New York Times:
Widely known as “Mama Africa,” she had been a prominent exiled opponent of apartheid since the South African authorities revoked her passport in 1960 and refused to allow her to return after she traveled abroad. She was prevented from attending her mother’s funeral after touring in the United States.

Although Ms. Makeba had been weakened by osteoarthritis, her death stunned many in South Africa, where she stood as an enduring emblem of the travails of black people under the apartheid system of racial segregation that ended with the release from prison of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the country’s first fully democratic elections in 1994.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Mandela said the death “of our beloved Miriam has saddened us and our nation.”

He continued: “Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.”

“She was South Africa’s first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours,” Mr. Mandela’s was one of many tributes from South African leaders.

“One of the greatest songstresses of our time has ceased to sing,” Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement. “Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid and colonialism through the art of song.”

For 31 years, Ms. Makeba lived in exile, variously in the United States, France, Guinea and Belgium. South Africa’s state broadcasters banned her music after she spoke out against apartheid at the United Nations. “I never understood why I couldn’t come home,” Ms. Makeba said upon her return at an emotional homecoming in Johannesburg in 1990 as the apartheid system began to crumble, according to The Associated Press. “I never committed any crime.”

Music was a central part of the struggle against apartheid. The South African authorities of the era exercised strict censorship of many forms of expression, while many foreign entertainers discouraged performances in South Africa in an attempt to isolate the white authorities and show their opposition to apartheid.

From exile she acted as a constant reminder of the events in her homeland as the white authorities struggled to contain or pre-empt unrest among the black majority.

Ms. Makeba wrote in 1987: “I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realizing.”

Her path was marked by the stars of the southern hemisphere
and she walked the length of her days under African skies...

Goodbye, Mama Africa, and thank you.

Too bad the Obamas aren't a good-looking couple

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I voted: can I have my free coffee and sex toys now?

Vote, people!

Black Bromptons bearing bounty

pip-pip gives us this wonderful photo of a quintessentially English Brompton folding bicycle (be still my beating heart) with a lush harvest of leeks from the allotment. Two years ago last week I snapped this photo of our Brompton with a truly ginormous butternut squash from Wimbledon Farmers' Market:

Coincidence? Perhaps.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Stella by starlight

Welcome to the world, Stella! Your mother has put out a request for lullabies but after having racked my brain for two weeks, I couldn't come up with anything, and though I do plan to ask my own mum, she is on an RV trip right now. However, a little searching yielded this, something that I know both of your parents will dig:

Languages from the Cradle is a European Union funded project to collect the lullabies of Europe. Learn more in this mp3 from United Nations Radio (did you know there was such a thing? neither did I) including a lovely Sudanese lullaby, and don't miss the Languages from the Cradle wiki.

I also offer two lullabies from my favorite British songstress, Kate Rusby. The first is a real lullaby and the second and third are two versions (second one is live and I love how the audience embraces it ...I even see some young heads nodding off) of a traditional song that works well as one:

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Scientist Pin-Ups: Kitty Joyner

Thanks to Darwin-dispersalist Michael Barton who suggested this pin-up, asking, "do engineers count?" I was pondering my response to the question as I clicked through to the link he sent me and as soon as I saw the oh-so-pinuppable-in-that-1950's-you-know-what-I'm-talkin'-'bout-way image I knew my answer had to be hell, yes.

Kitty Joyner, electrical engineer, at Langley in 1952 (NASA Images).

On top of being aesthetically beautiful, this pin-up is hot for the following reasons:
  1. I have a soft spot for NASA
  2. Kitty Joyner is not a household name and as such provides another much-needed example of a 'normal woman' in science
  3. Even in 2008 a woman engineer is a relatively rare thing (in the US, only 12.4% of electrical engineering bachelor's degrees went to women last year); I can't imagine how rare it must have been in 1952 ...perhaps this is the tail-end of the of the Rosie the Riveter era?