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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Makeup Tastes Nasty

I'm home!  And it is sweet.  Got in Tuesday night, and not surprisingly I was exhausted; didn't get the chance to have a decent (decadent) sleep-in till this morning, I didn't wake up till 8am.  Bliss.  And my UP band tells me I got some decent deep-sleep cycles in there.

This evening we are leaving for the Great Hawkes Bay Visit, probably kipping the night in Taupo, depending on how late we leave.  It will be a super early morning on Friday, as we all want to get to Hastings with plenty of time to spend at the HB Show.  Can't wait.  I haven't been in years.

Incidentally - we're hoping to get to a winery for tasting and luncheon at some point.

Will be good to see The Ickle Brother again, and his girlfriend.  And some old favourite haunts, perhaps.

In the meantime I am trying to catch up on non-contract work, write a couple articles and ignore the two dogs sleeping on my bed behind me, and the kitten clawing up my ankles while pretending she is playing with a dead spider.  She's fooling no one.

Tuesday night the Ohope fire station had their training - right out front of our house.  They played with the flood lights, unrolled the hoses, sprayed some water about, rolled them up, ran about in their kit and then seemed to...chat.  For ages.  It was dusk when they arrived, and very late by the time they left.

On the wee cloud-hopper plane home to Whakatane on Tuesday, Dan Carter was a passenger - apparently visiting some peeps in Opotoki who won a Healtheries competition (he totally turned around and stared right at me at one point, before I knew it was him.  I was all indignant for a couple seconds).  He jumped in a rental car at the Whaka airport and tried to drive forward over a rather high curb; I had a good old giggle.  Totally something I would do.  The man is very little in real life.  Quite short, too (though my height standards are above-average...).  In more exciting anecdote territory, there was a wee girl sitting on her Mum's knee a row in front of me over the isle, staring.  I pulled a face, she giggled.  I did it again, she laughed.  So on and so forth (I think the adults noticed but were politely ignoring us) until I licked my nose (yes, yes I do have that skill) completely forgetting the makeup I have on my face when working in Auckland.  New knowledge: makeup tastes nasty.

It is a fabulous day here, and this is the view from my office chair.  How is one supposed to not feel enticed to go lie in the sun?!

Monday, October 14, 2013

On the Radio

While I was in Dunedin on contract for Genetics Week, the lovely Veronika Meduna interviewed the thesis Supe and I about my PhD work.

The short version played today and you can hear it here, should you wish to abuse your sensitive eardrums.

It universal, right - that everyone hates the sound of their own voice played back to them?

Back in Auckland

[Monday 7th]
I'm back in Auckland for work and so far...its going great!  (10 hours in...there's still time for things to change).

---

Like not finding time since to write anything down?!  (fun writing, not the work kind.  Plenty of that).  Last week was crazy nuts.  I'm not sure what it is (I lie, its the work, and the specific contract) but I have no time.  Its actually a little great - I definitely work my best when I'm slightly stressed, and having tangible outputs and deadlines is fantastic.

I snuck up to Whangarei on a bus Friday night for the weekend with The Bustling Metropolis One and her new live-in.  They were cute.  It was disgusting.

I kid.  Mostly.  It was only a little disgusting.

We baked a cake in a robot tin to take up to her sister and new baby.  First time I've used a 'novelty tin' and had the cake come out in any sort of acceptable form.  We made roast chicken and wine for dinner and watched Requiem for a Dream, which is not a happy movie, if you were wondering, but is very powerful.

We brunched on the waterfront in the morning and then saw Mr Pip, which was amazing.  Completely unexpected, I had no prior idea of plot or expectation, and TBMO had only read a wee bit, so the movie hit us like a slap in the face.  Very impressive performance by Hugh Laurie.  Just...amazing.  Go and see it.

We had a wee picnic-ish lunch on the deck in the sun, and finished with my first strawberries for the season.

Auckland is...traffic and clouds?

I'm hoping to catch up with The BioFuel One for dinner this week, and The Baby Cousin too.  I was due to fly home on Thursday but they've changed my flight to next Tuesday, and we'll be working over the weekend.

I'm awaiting my ride back to the house now, otherwise would not have found the time to write such frivolous words.  Will try to check back in before the end of time.  The Hawkes Bay Show is in my future, this month - and we are road tripping down in the Parents new camper truck.  Should be fun/horrific.

I have some new things on the go with regards short term employment opportunities, but shall hold those in reserve till confirmed.

It is so good being employed and busy.  And despite my constant whining to the contrary, being in Auckland isn't actually that bad, this time around.  We grabbed some last minute $22 tickets to The Flying Dutchman last week, by NZ Opera.  It was amazing and very much re-established the potential advantages of living here, in my mind.  I'm hoping to make it down to the Art Gallery this week, but we'll see.
That box-thing on set in the right hand picture contained $22k-ish worth of LEDs!  Crazy.  Pretty cool set though, and the orchestra was fantabulous.  They had 'Opera Exposed' during the interval, where they keep the curtain raised so you can see the set change happening, and they pull the director out for a wee chat.  It was cool.

Walked through the Domain to work one morning and made a friend.  He wasn't at all worried about my presence, though I think he might have eaten my face off if I bothered to get further up in his grill.

I had to find the Auckland Uni clocktower building last week, to get my face photographed for an ID card (and I wasn't asked for proof of identity etc either - anyone want to rock up with a number and claim a card?!) and while their building is far inferior to Otago's gorgeous clocktower, they have some pretty cool (though caveman-like) stone work and mosaic floors.

I'm hoping to have time to pop into some shoe shops while I'm up (unlikely).  I want open-toed shoes this summer, by gum.  No lab work = no shoe restrictions, and I am going to take advantage.  Also - the shoe shopping in Whakatane isn't exactly what you would call varied.

Rock on!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Golden Snitch Bracelet

So a couple of months ago I was a bit bored and designed a Snitch Bracelet, after spending probably hours perusing the lacklustre options for the same, on Etsy.

When I got a job, I promised myself - I would get it made.

Well, I succeeded in landing a couple of part time contracts so treated myself.

This was the design brief I sent the manufacturing jeweller over at Mount Maunganui (have I mentioned lately how much I adore my graphic tablet?!):
I had sourced the wing charms and centre bead from various online stores, the beads are actually gold plated, which became a bit of an issue.

Apparently, during the soldering of the centre chain, the gold plating was flaking off due to the heat.  There was no point in replacing it with one of the other beads, since the same thing would happen again.

So - it looks a bit naff now, but I suspect when the rest of the gold plating wears off and only the bead remains it will look pretty ok.  The bead itself is copper.

No a perfect result - but a pretty damn good one.  My only other complaint would be the centre chain being a bit too long, but that was probably as short as he could make it and still adhere to my soldering-only order.  (I didn't want naff jump rings all up in there!).

There's something about taking photos that makes the animals come running.  First the cat, demanding a pat, and then The Mother's Dog pushing my hand out of the way to get to the kitten.  Ridiculous.
Pretty stoked, at any rate!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DNA Day at the Otago Museum: Genetics Activities for Kids!

This past week and a half I was in Dunedin for a short term contract, in the majority for writing and designing the print media for use at the DNA day hosted at the Otago Museum, by Genetics Otago.  (the flyer to the right was the Museum's own design, I did the activity posters stuff).

It was fantastic, and I loved it immensely.  If I could do such writing and design for SciCom as a full time job I would be in heaven every day at work.

I don't think I actually have any photos of my work in situ at the Museum; we were all crazy busy playing with DNA models etc with the kids, but if I get more photos from the others I will be sure to pop them up.

Side note: If you are interested in seeing the resources I developed for re-use or adaptation, please flick me an email!

My favourite activity was the Inheritance Tree - I designed the leafless tree poster with trait options written on the branch forks and had visitors to the museum put green stickers on the branches for each trait option they possessed.  Really (overly) simple stuff like attached earlobes or widows peak hairline - but the accumulating 'leaves' gave a really nice, simple and completely visual representation of trait distribution in the general population.  I think having such a poster up in a classroom, for example, would be a really great way to get the kids introduced to inheritance and genetics, and hopefully start some conversations.  And to top it off - I drew it using my mouse, since my graphic tablet was obviously still at home.

Another activity we had up was 'Find the Glitch' - a string of nucleotide AT/CG code with one base substitution.  This activity allowed us to introduce the ideas of DNA base coding, what the genome looks like with regards the basic 'information', and mutation.  If the kids found the substitution, they got a chocolate fish.  Since I had somewhat carte blanche with writing and design, the snippet of code came from the sarah gene in Drosophila.  Good times!

For each activity I made both sign posters and explanation/fact posters.  It was actually super fun being able to use slightly more creative fonts than is usual with making scientific posters for conferences, for example.  (though I believe we scientists as a whole need to do better with the visual design side of conference posters, too.  SciCom baby!  More important than you thought!).

We had a table running a basic DNA extraction from banana - hot water and ethanol, so- much more highly supervised than the other activities, but the kids finished with a tube of their own banana DNA and an appreciation for the basic principle of DNA extraction.  You can see the activity table here, with a couple of the PhD students demonstrating and several enthralled kids.

There was a 'Build an Edible Helix' table, where we had bags prepared for the kids containing two strips of red licorice, various fruit puffs and toothpicks.  The fruit puffs were attached between the licorice with the toothpicks, as 'bases' and the kids twisted the ladder form to make the helix.  Again - lollies are always going to be popular with the kids, but those who managed to make the shape before consuming the lollies - now possess a basic understanding of the helix formation of DNA.

The old Supe had managed to get his hands on a bunch of DNA model sets from the epic Molymod, and both kids and adults alike seemed to delight in assembling the models.  I know for a fact that most of the PhD students and helpers wanted to obtain a model of their own by the end, too.  (Want! I want one!).

We ended up getting some delightfully interpretive DNA models.  It was a lot of fun playing with the models, with the kids.  I was actually a bit surprised with this one - I figured the older kids, if any, would be interested.  But it was actually pretty much all ages - young kids wanting to play with the 'puzzle', older kids showing their mettle (more likely to want to prove themselves able of getting it perfect) and the adults again - playing with the 'puzzle'.


It was a really nice reminder of the level of genetics knowledge in the general public, too.  You definitely tend to forget the (low) amount known, and the shear fascination even the simple genetics facts holds for the lay person.

The last activity I wrote and designed was a colouring in competition - a series of 6 generic Genetics research-associated images with a paragraph of explanatory information.

They also had a wee stage set up and had several talks running throughout the day, and Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith was there with her sample collection table for her Africa to Aotearoa origins study (podcast, press release).  The Genetics Otago Publicity Manager also had a host of beautiful banners up, highlighting a couple of their key researchers work.

From a learning perspective, I certainly gained a lot.  The space was massive, and the sign posters looked tiny in perspective, despite all being at least A3.  If I was to do such a thing again, I would run with the poster printing facilities of most printshops these days and have massive table-long title banners up.  We also wanted to have a series of 'did you know?!' fact sheet posters up, but I just ran out of time.  For writing and design of such a big work brief I certainly should have arranged a contract longer than 7 full-work days.

My major hiccup was the missing banana protocol poster - the departmental printer guy (who is amazing and a complete sweetheart) missed printing the file, and I didn't take the time to do a printing stock-take.  This is certainly something I will always do in future.  Luckily the Supe had access to the departmental A3 printer after-hours and just popped back to print some out.

Once you start thinking about a day like this too - you come up with more and more activity ideas.  The potential is massive and I think the model very translatable to museums/schools around the country.

Overall - the best work contract of my employed life, to date!

YouTube Round-up!

*shudder* Gosh but that was a horrid photo in the last post, wasn't it?!

Quick round-up of fantastic YouTube offerings before I get settled into writing something substantial.

First - the Desolation of Smaug trailer is out and spine-tingling!


Yay!

Secondly - the ever fantastic Tom McFadden has released the next vid in his Battle Rap Sci History series: Alfred Wegener vs. The Fixists (Continental Drift).


Those kids are very cool.

And, because my taste in movies is permanently crippled and I am excited - the new Riddick movie, which I am going to catch with The Baby Cousin next week in Aux:


Oooooo...his voice.  Yay!