Thursday, December 30, 2010

Already planning the New Year Make projects

funny food photos - Ring of Terror
funny food photos - Gingerbread Tardis
Just gorgeous.

I think I busted a blood vessel in my eye

Trying not to laugh hysterically when there is one other lonely person in the office between Christmas and New Years.

This chick is a winner.  Complete awesomeness.

And I can imagine it happening exactly like that, so it is even better.

I wanna be a writer!

So glamorous!  You get to live in Dunedin and do English PhD's and be my flatmate!

The book page here, and available for preorder here.

How exciting!


So, it's the 30th, where did Christmas go?!  What a whirlwind!

Had the w/e up at my sisters in Chch, all the immediate family came down for it, and the dogs had great fun exhausting themselves each day.

Christmas dinner was at my sisters fiance's family's house - 27 people for a full sit down dinner.  I have never done so many dishes in my life!  Beautiful ham, and my mothers steamed Christmas pudding is always a favourite - this year with brandy cream - amazing.  (to be slightly more honest, by that point I had imbibed enough wine that the cream had the flavour of brandy but I could detect no alcohol.  Shall we leave it at that?!).  That many relatives of an eventual-brother-in-law got a bit overwhelming by late afternoon and I snuck home to play with the dogs.  We did do a secret Santa - since there were so many of us.  The limit was $20 - which is huge for SS, I think.  And then I put mega effort into picking awesome presents for mine and flatmate's assigned people - and it was more than obvious some people in the group had not bothered at all.  Pity.

On a happier note - my present was a Panasonic Lumix GF1 with the 14-45mm lens, combined Christmas and Birthday present from every member of my family.  (Plus I owe Dad the remainder...will deal with that in the new year - its still ages away right?!)

It's beautiful and I love it - but I need to learn all the bells and whistles before I feel I am the master of it.  Fun!  (and then new lenses - oh the anticipation!)
In other news - went for a quick trip into town on boxing day to scope out the days bargains - had about 30mins pushing our way through Riccarton Mall before the earthquake struck, after which the mall was evacuated and my mother insisted on leaving.  We were in Borders and the books were flying off shelves.  Some stupid women in the main mall part started screaming and setting off the crowd - there were criers on the street.  Honestly, it was only a wee baby one for chrissakes.  And I missed out on bargain hunting.  Not happy.

Came home on Monday with Mum and Dad and we have been working on the garden since - trailer loads of river stones later and my garden is looking pretty damn sweet.  The corner just needs a swing chair and it will be perfect.  So much for getting heaps of 'real' work done!

So my house is a mess and there is work stacking up on my desk, and our plans for New Years have been  squashed and I feel like I haven't had a chance to breath let alone relax, I find myself missing absent people which sucks and I am soo tired.

But Christmas was awesome, so it's all worth it.

I suppose I have to take down my tree tomorrow - at least it has had a good  2 months airing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Flurry of Make: Part 1000

Gingerbread Santa's!  About 80 of them, all individually packaged with red and green festive ribbon.

I love ribbon.

Not my best work- by the time I got to the faces I was very tired and super angry - it was a constant battle to keep Trouble away from the cookies and if I locked him outside so late at night he would just keep crying under the kitchen window.  Little shite did manage to pull one off the edge of the bench.  I swear he is a ninja at heart.  Thinks I don't know what he was trying to do.  "just sniffing the ground" my foot.

Flurry of Make: Part 100

DNA bead necklaces.  They look pretty, but by god are they frustrating to make!

The silver seed beads forming the backbones only fit the silver flat head pin one in every 10, and the twisting shatters the glass if you go too fast or too far.  Argh.

Have made one per night and the rest will have to wait for the new year.  The bases are made one at a time with looped ends.

Flurry of Make: Part 10

Christmas crackers - much awesomer than the ones I made last year.  And the craft poppers are so much louder than the cheap, premade crackers you buy in the shops.

And my crackers have jokes (really, really bad ones) magic elves, roses chocolates and animals - dogs, insects and dinosaurs.

Epicly awesome.  (Dinosaurs and insects are so Christmas - I have beetles on my tree.)

30 crackers, all ready for the drive up to Christchurch.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Speaking of Make - Unmake!

Last week we had the annual Lab Cleaning Day, where every single thing in the lab got cleaned, tidied and put in its proper place.  It was a day full of both revelations and hilarity - objects turned up not seen in years and it was common to hear "You had that?!  I've been looking for that for 6 months!".

Schotts were cleaned out, drawers were emptied.  Every empty tip box and tube tub was fulled and autoclaved.  The dirty microwave was scrubbed and the stainless surfaces polished.  I think I did 10 loads of glassware washing over two days.

I also cleaned my Desk.  Now - for me this a big deal.  I nest.  I collect. I line my living spaces with important things.  Like my old mp3 player.

This beast got me through 3rd year at Uni.  It got me through honours and 2 months living in Sydney doing nothing but flies at the beginning of my PhD.  At the end of last year, on my stopover in Singapore on the way to Edinburgh for conf, I upgraded to an iPod touch, and upon my return the beast got relegated to a dusty corner of my desk.

Untill last week when I pulled it out - and unmade it.

So.  Much.  Wondrous.  Fun.

Tiny little hard drive and wee pixely screen and teeny tiny screws, and circuits!  Amazing, tiny circuits!


Where is your mind today? Christmas!

Santa?! No - better!  I would wait up to spring a midnight converstaion on this young man:


Nice shirt good sir.

And the book I (don't) want for Christmas:

In a complete flurry of Make

It's Christmas and nothing is better than handmade awesomeness for epically individual gifts.  My sewing machine has been smoking and my craft suitcase permanently in the lounge room (to the frustration of Trouble, who knows there are things inside that would make good chew toys - but he just cannot open it Goshdarnit!).

Due to the nature of the recent industry I have had to refrain from sharing - just in case anyone sees something they shouldn't before the 25th, but some presents I have given early, so shall feel lightened of heart to share a small Make project with you early!

Sharktopus babies!

Made from felt and a mix of machine and hand sewing.

I used cheep pillows for stuffing, and struggled mightily with attaching the heads to the tentacles - how does one hand stitch neatly when stuffing is flying all over the show?!

But finish them I did, and Mother Sharktopus was pleased with her offspring, even if I think I could have done better. (I sense a common theme with my Make projects - always ways to improve...)

About half way through I took a break for dinner, which I ate in the lounge due to my table being otherwise occupied - but in that short amount of time Trouble managed to pull the stuffing bag off the table and into the kitchen where I could not see him from the lounge - and pull all the stuffing out of it.  Thinks he is so cleaver.  I don't know what the fascination is for him in pulling the stuffing out of toys (and pillows and cushions and stufifng bags) - my Mother sent him a wee toy she had whipped up on her machine up North - he had it pulled completely apart and empty of stuffing within the hour.  Amazing destructive skillz.  I just need to translate that to an attack word, and stuffing into badguy-blood and I would have a good little protective killer.

Pity he's still a wee curly poodle.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Neat sink!

From here.  Want in my hypothetical, beautiful, future house.

Food Poisoning

Yeah, that's right - from the Death-Trap Cafe, around the corner from the soul-sucking, life-draining Liggins building.  Don't touch the chicken lasagna.  Just don't.

You don't want to know the details - suffice it to say I was planning on writing this last night.  Funnily enough I was also planning on getting some sleep last night.  Stupid girl. issues, today has been brilliant.  Prof David Lindsey is personable and approachable, the group has opened up some and we had great fun ripping every ones titles to shreds and rebuilding them.  The advice and instruction is logical and easy - brilliant tips and simple solutions.  There were points when I wished he would shut up so we could start writing.  And that was just during the introduction.

We have just finished for the day, and dinner is not till 7, so I am taking a wee break (I am so tired), and then about 30mins of homework to do for tomorrow.  I love homework!

We arrived in Auckland about midday - it was hot and gross and pretty typical really.  However, a delight to my soul - every third pohutukawa is resplendent in vivid crimson blooms and it feels more like Christmas than ever (Chrissie BOP styles - 'hooties everywhere and out in time for Christmas day).

We were graced with the presence of a very large AllBlack on the plane - of whom I cannot remember the name and who the (ugly, old and hag-like) stewardesses hung all over.  Shameful.  (jealous?!)

We spent the afternoon kicking it in Liggins, and as a point of interest I was rocking pearls and chucks all day.  Grabbed a minivan out to the retreat which is here.

Now, I know this might shock you, but I completely forgot to bring my holding cross.  But it's ok, they sell them at reception.  Only $20 - what a bargain!  Also, cause I apparently left my brain at home, I forgot my bible as well.  Also not a big deal - there is one in pride of place on the desk in my nun-cell.  And in case I run out of things to do there is a vast variety of Christian books to be read, also available for purchase from reception.

Avoiding all the psychoceramics however, this is a beautiful place.  The view from my room is sublime, it is about 2 minutes to get onto the beach (and least you get the wrong idea, the waves are 2 cm high and the whole bay only a little deeper, there is rubbish and dead diseased weed all along the waterline and constantly full of people walking their little ratty dogs, of which causes my mind-voice to cry in an evil cackle "I'll get you, and my little dog will too!"  Cause you know, he's little - but he's bigger.)  The weather is sublime and the atmosphere is lovely and quiet - puts you in mind of taking a vow of silence (mind control at the gate) and perfectly inspirational for writing.

In between bouts of...awful, last night, I walked the length of the bay.  Trusting to my normal good luck I came across a couple in the water doing despicable things.  I dug a little hole, upchucked my guts, and carried on walking.  I think they got the idea.

Church bells ring thrice daily, I like to pretend they are shark bells.  Especially when couples are in the water.  I have gotten to know the present company a bit better but I have to say - if you shut the seminar room doors, in Aux, when it is hot, muggy, no wind and perfectly quiet - I am not going to like you no matter what you subsequently say or do.

The prof is a very slow typer and is going deaf, when lent itself towards much hilarity.  He is enamoured with English-second-language peeps and quite thoroughly insulted the only two kiwis in the room - myself and beard-stroker (yeah, you know who that is).  He has let loose with some terrific soundbites, which I shall treasure.

Things which I shall not treasure however, are comments from the other resident kiwi.  Such as "we should forbid pregnancy without a license of leanness", in all seriousness.  Don't get me started on priorities - how many abused and mentally retarded children are born and affected by drugs and alcohol and oh my god I am going to start a rant about you extrapolating your simple rat data.  Secondly, "we should put women in cages".  Way to go buddy, you have offended my mothering instincts and my feminism.  When should we start the debate, you horrid, old, sexist, ignorant, pigheaded, ancient, stupid old man?!  Someone hold me back.  I might just pluck out his eyeballs.

*takes a timeout in the corner*

There is a real mix of people here - only about two of us have never written a paper before, and I feel at a wee bit of a disadvantage - but then now is when learning this is going to be of most use, so it perhaps if for the best.  Only three native english speakers and one is American, which doesn't count.

Tomorrow we work on intros and other fun stuff, I imagine it will be another long, but rewarding day.  Hopefully my...issues, clear up and I don't have to be put on a drip.  Joy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is it art? Awesome Roll!

Yes, everyone should do the keyboard and mouse-in-jelly prank.  But not to me or I'll scalp you.
Everyone Should Do the Jelly Mouse and Keyboard Prank
MRI scans of food.  Such a brilliant use of such brilliant equipment.  Go on, guess what food this is!

Is this art?  But it's so small!  (falls into the 'you have too much time on your hands' basket)

Neat Japanese couch and table.  I want to just sit and dream... I wonder if it swings?
Don't Worry, the Balloon Bench Won't Float Out of Your House
Don't Worry, the Balloon Bench Won't Float Out of Your House
And for a little touch of crazy, that I cannot even get my head around it:

Roll of awesome

So I have been slack with the roll of awesome lately and have been saving links to my 'to write about, ha!' folder instead of just writing about them/posting them straight away.  Lets have some fun!

(PS, update on the current state of affairs and situation report after the awesome-roll, k?  Keep you hats on!)

Firstly, amazing/lucky/beautiful photos:

and so on and so forthly neat from here and here.

My kind of pancake


Monday, December 6, 2010

Really? Really?!

Stupidity in the face of all evidence to the contrary makes me so angry I want to cry.  Literally - I cannot even imagine being able to express it in any way and my frustration is hardwired to my tear ducts.

In following an atheist blog and casually monitoring the comments I came across some religious nut (NZ nut, homegrown) posting scripture and so on to convince the resident atheists to repent and bow before his god - of course some people cannot ignore such bollocks posted on their own site and respond.  The argument degenerates and as the final nutcracker, 'craig', to once and for all convince us of his wisdom, posts this:

Author: craig
Here are some questions for you all to think about:

If man created God, who created man?

If we evolved from monkeys, why do we still have monkeys?
Sometimes I wonder if other atheists are trolling these boards - knowing exactly what to say to get readers to selfcombust - or dissolve into tears.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Want waffles!

You know you would love these for breakky!

Phishing Flowers

It is surprising how often technology mimics nature, and in the most subtle of ways. Take for example the phenomenon of email phishing – a probe is sent out to entice the recipient with something they want/need; for example, a MillionDollars!, an OnlineEasyDoctorate! or a ready supply of CheapDrugs! Once enticed, the source gets something it needs – most often, your unwitting money, and depending on how savvy you are – you get something back as well. In your garden this same bait-and-reel technique is being employed by your flowers.

Plants achieve sexual reproduction via flowers – and the combination of egg cell and pollen granule. To achieve maximum genetic variation, the flower needs pollen from another plant. This is facilitated by wind, and, to a greater extent, insects transporting the pollen on their legs and bodies. The bloom entices the insects with scent, colour and potential rewards in order to have their pollen dispersed by the insects. Sometimes the insects are rewarded with food; other times not, and they leave as disappointed as the hundreds of people who fall for email scams every year.

The production of nectar separates those plants that reward pollination, and those that trick the insect into visiting the bloom without a reward. Such deceptive flowers use the colour and scents of attraction, without a nectar or prey reward. These flowers can mimic sites that insects like to lay eggs in, offer fake food, or even imitate members of the opposite sex. This sneakiness delights the secret criminal in me – which rejoices in getting something-for-nothing. How smart are these flowers to be achieving pollination through such a deception?

In October a paper was published detailing a new method by which a species of Orchid fools Hoverflies into visiting their blooms. The Orchid gives off a scent normally produced by adult aphids, which the Hoverfly larvae eat, to entice the Hoverfly to visit the flower and pick up some pollen. In this situation the aphids are the reward, food for the next generation, and occasionally a small drop of nectar for the adult as further encouragement.

Imitating a site on which to lay eggs is one of the most-used deceptive tricks by orchids to attract insects. Orchids copy structures where insects lay their eggs, especially using colour or scent to fool the egg-laying insect into thinking that shelter or food exist on their flower.
This research paper examines how a particular species of orchid attracts its pollinator, a hoverfly. Hoverflies are awesome insects; adults feed on pollen and nectar, thus pollinating flowers, while the larval form feeds on aphids. So the flowers the hoverflies visit would ideally have aphids for the larvae to feed on after the eggs have hatched, and nectar to feed the adult while laying. The larvae cannot move far once hatched, thus the site of laying must be chosen wisely by the female hoverfly.

The hoverfly uses scent to locate perfect flowers; semiochemicals, produced by the aphids and plants, used for communication. Female hoverflies can tell the difference between types of plant, and whether they possess a colony of aphids. So a female hoverfly can detect plants that are good hosts for offspring, and contain aphids to feed larvae once hatched. She uses colour to find the flowers, but the colour alone will not induce her to actually lay her eggs.

The researchers in this study noted a type of orchid that was being visited by hoverflies, who were laying eggs, but had no aphids. Knowing that the larvae require aphids to survive they hypothesised that the flower was somehow acting to trick the hoverfly into laying her eggs in a poor location, and thus achieving pollination. This particular orchid has warts on its petals which look a bit like aphids from a distance, but these alone are not enough to induce egg laying. The flowers are producing some form of scent to trick hoverflies into visiting the flower, and laying eggs.

The researchers collected samples of both the plants and the hoverflies, and recorded the volume of nectar produced by each bloom, and most excitingly – the types of scents. They did this experiment by encasing the whole plant in an oven bag with a filtered tap on it. Drawing collected air out of the bag, through the filter, traps any chemicals on it - from where it can be analysed. Scent chemicals from aphids were extracted in a much more ‘barbaric’ manner; whole-body crushing and ‘scent’ extraction. The scents were analysed by a technique called ‘gas chromatography’ which works a bit like how you would separate the different colours out of a sample of black ink – place a drop on some thick paper and put one end in water, the colours are drawn out of the drop sequentially depending on their chemical size.

To test whether the hoverflies were able to detect the scents from the plants, the researchers removed their heads and attached electrodes to the antennae. When the scents are wafted over the head, if the detectors in the antenna recognize that scent, an electrical impulse will be produced and detected by the machines. Chopped off heads and tiny electrodes? Brilliant! It worked; the hoverflies could detect the plant’s false aphid scent.

The final experiment in the paper was to see if the hoverflies would lay eggs in response to the scent produced by the plant. They did this by puffing a synthetic plant scent, made in the lab from the components they had identified from the gas chromatography, on to bean plants. It turned out that the gas does induce egg laying- the hoverflies laid eggs on the bean plants despite their having no flowers, nectar, colour or aphid mimicry.

The researchers managed to show that this orchid (E veratrifolia) was able to mimic the same scents produced by adult aphids (in this case M viciae) to great effect. The flower is sending out chemical signals that pretend aphids are present on the flower. The hoverfly is being fooled into thinking those aphids will make a tasty treat to feed its offspring, when in fact this orchid never has aphids on its blooms at all. The orchid is pollinated, and its job is done – just as email phishing does, occasionally, persuade innocents to part with their money.


This post appeard on SciBlogs yesterday, also.