Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Grant!

May you live twice as long as Michael Jackson and be half as creepy

Sorry it's a few days late!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Congratulations to Dr Kate!

Kate successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis yesterday - yay! A great party followed too - thanks to all for putting that on! I'm having a great time in Woods Hole, busy and lots of meetings, but it's been great, I won't fit it all in before I leave for Canada on saturday, that's for sure! 

The talk went great! 
Elise was astounded by it! 

As was Riley! 
Cutting the fish cake......did not taste like fish luckily, very very rich chocolate instead! 

We were a little shocked BL used a cup at all, but I guess it was purple...

Helping out with emptying the fridge of booze.....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm outta here....

Well, for once it's actually been a while since I last flew anywhere (April in fact, a record for the last few years!), but the trauma of so many flights last year is still with me, and i'm not totally looking forward to getting on a plane tomorrow. That said, I am very very excited about seeing all my Hole-ians again, I really miss my friends out there. 

So what am I up to? Well for the next week I will be in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, MA. I'll be seeing my friend Kate defend her thesis and become Dr Kate, and then spend the rest of the week in meetings and catching up with people. 

And then i'm off to Thunder Bay in Canada. Going way back in memory lane, nearly two years ago it's from Thunder Bay that I started this blog, while in the wind up to moving to Hawaii. I have a project running to develop a method to get DNA out of really old corals (10,000-40,000 years old) using methods they use for mummies and mammoths, so we can look at past distribution patterns of corals in the deep ocean, when the climate was different, and maybe even make predictions about what will happen in the future. It's a cool project, but a hard one, the method is developed (and published), but it takes a really long time to get very very little data. Too long in fact. It's the kind of project that is going to be running for the rest of my career i'm sure. It takes that long to get good data. 

I've also been getting back to my original reproduction research and moving away from genetics so much in the last few years, and to be honest, i've been loving it. I'm an okay molecular biologist, i'm a great reproductive biologist, and though I like the former, I love doing the later. Directing my own research has been so fabulous. So although I am looking forward to seeing some old friends in Thunder Bay, and to doing some lab work, I also kind of see it as looking into my past rather than my future. I'm sure i'll be more excited about it when I get in the lab, I usually do....:0)

So my lack of pictures again today, means the below - I found my old ID card from Saudi Arabia! Me at 5! A number of people now have said they can see a little of me in the photos of my niece Lucy - really?

Lucy lucy!

 I love that my brother sends me the cutest pictures of my niece! I love that I now live in the time of email and digital photos, the world is definitely getting smaller. 

GO Kate!

You're going to do great! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cracked it!

Well I hope so anyway. Yesterday evening I had one of my earache migraines, and this time the drugs (one of many I had to try out) actually worked! Third time lucky! So today i managed to get a prescription for enough to (hopefully) last me through my 5 week trip! Woo hoo for 'Imitrex' is all I can say at this point, two years of sucking it up and finally I might actually be able to control it. 

Ready to go? No. 
More fires than water? Yes. 
Looking forward to see all the Hole-ians? Absolutely! 

Tomorrow is going to be a busy one, last day before I head out. One proposal was fully submitted (yes!) and the other two are going through the very long process of UH signatures. I'm hoping they'll go all the way through tomorrow, really hoping. Had a few hiccups this morning - one extremely last minute budget change by a partner (argh!) meant me running around trying to swop out bits of paper while people weren't looking and the other proposal has had a setback by a rather pompous advisor of a joint student we have. Ego I think is what's going on, but I think I put out the fire and it hasn't affected the student, and that's the goal. Ph.D. students don't have the time to get pissed around in my mind. 

Other than that today has been pretty good, started to get my "work" side together in a pile to take with me (man that's a big pile!), went for lunch and a pedicure with Jenny and Hannah (who is now most definitely smiling, and even laughs at tickles - so cute!), and had a couple of meetings that just went really well. And tonight was the Camp Counsellor debrief at a karaoke bar in town. No I did not sing, but it was fun. They had some great pictures of the weekend, alas none that can be shared by me as they are private to the children, but lots of me in the ocean (either being splashed or falling off paddleboards!) and playing board games with the kids. Cute. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coconuts and classes

A good day all around. No pictures though, I realise i've been remiss about taking photos recently. I'm sure it'll pick up when I head to Woods Hole though, so never fear, the monotonous writing will end soon. 

Today started at 4.45am and heading down to Ala Moana to run the Coconut Chase, another run raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This time 5 miles around the park (double loop) chasing 5 guys dressed as coconuts (read: wearing hula skirts and coconut bras). It was fun, though I was worried when I drove down there - it's literally been just a week since my shin splints cleared up, so I have basically done very little running since the half marathon. But there was quite a diverse crowd so as I got down there I was reassured I wouldn't be the very last person over the finish line. Did better than I thought, though not as good as I wanted when I signed up, but there we go. Finished in under an hour (54 minutes), so just over a ten minute mile. I did want to be faster (and my first 5 miles in the half were faster!), but I'm pretty convinced at this point I am not built for speed! 

And classes - so I am now an official scuba diver - woo hoo! Had the last two dives in the ocean today and it was fun! I'm looking forward to diving with friends when I get back and am thinking of taking the advanced class when I get back too. 

Friday, July 17, 2009

The best laid plans......

3pm on friday and alas, neither of the proposals I wanted to send around for university signatures is going to go today. And not for want or trying either. 

One stumbling block after another - one I thought I had ready yesterday and was putting all the pieces together when we discovered we needed another (friggin) form that needed signatures from everyone - including the guy over on Coconut Island, on the other side of the Oahu. The internal mail is pretty fast over there, but not fast enough to get back to me today, so that's going to be monday, at the earliest. The other one was just waiting on some budget figures, which I just got and had almost finished uploading them online, when the system went into "scheduled maintenance" which is going to last until sunday..........

Can we all say ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH really loudly? At least I know that one will get done on Monday. The third National Geographic one (to look at corals in Alaska) is looking great though, and I'm sure will be done on the weekend, so at least one is behaving itself! 

The other good news for the day is that I do NOT have to move offices before I go, nor will someone try and move me while i'm away. Phew. I just hope it stays that way......

Have a good weekend everyone! 

Flowering Friday

I need some up today, so started the morning (I am back at my house now) watering my garden and seeing how it's changed over the last few weeks. I have some good blooms, and more excitingly, my tomatoes are finally turning red........just in time for me to leave next week for my five week trip......

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bye bye Sidiki

Sidiki, my radiator eating, trouble making friend was put to sleep on the weekend after an inoperable mass was found in his tummy. I'm feeling really sad about it, Sid was quite the character and always made coming home to the UK warm and fuzzy. I'll miss curling up on the couch, taking him for walks on the beach and fish and chips in the back of the landrover. He was looking older last time I went home, but I never thought I wouldn't see him again. Big hugs to Sanchia and my dad. I'll miss you Sid. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scuba scuba doo!

This weeks excitement - scuba lessons! Yes, i'm FINALLY doing it. I've been down to 3000m in the North Atlantic, and yet have never scuba'd at 30m, so as they say, while in Rome.....and what better place to learn to dive than Hawaii?? I also discovered that the university runs courses for PADI Open Water that run at about half the cost of normal dive lessons too, the one catch is they run every night (5.30-9pm) for a week and then all afternoon saturday and sunday, so it's quite a spread out time commitment, and with me leaving next friday, a bit of a squeeze, but one I think will be worth it.

So - every evening in Scuba lessons, one National Geographic proposal to submit by friday, two NSF proposal budgets to finalize and to send into the UH system for signatures by friday, Saturday morning helping organize the Red Cross storehouse, Saturday afternoon diving in the ocean (weeeeee!), Sunday morning a 5 mile race (that I have done NO prep for, so could be painful!) and Sunday afternoon diving in the ocean. 

Like i've said before, all self inflicted madness (except maybe the proposals which are kind of essential to me having a job/life etc.) and the reason i'm still awake and working at 11pm. The good thing is that if I manage to get the NSF proposal budgets in by friday, that actually leaves next week looking much nicer and more relaxed to prep for going I hope that happens! 

Weekend Summer Camp

So it's hard to sum up my weekend, other than I was so tired yesterday I was amazed I didn't fall right asleep during my evening dive class! I volunteered at a "summer camp" for foster children (tweens and teens only) who are separated by the foster process (so siblings live in different homes, mostly in different areas and sometimes even on different islands). Hawaii has many large families and if children have to go into foster care it's often impossible to find somewhere that will take 3+ children, so they often have to be split up, and sometimes will not be able to see each other for many reasons. Project Visitation brings those siblings together for once a month visits with volunteers and this once a year camp for the older children (we had from 9-17). 

So on friday early afternoon I went to pick up two boys who live close to me and take them down to the "camp". The camp this year was sponsored by one of the Waikiki hotels, so we were actually camping in a wing of the hotel - staying in rooms and having a conference room as our base. It was certainly different! Each family got it's own hotel room and a volunteer (or two) stayed in the rooms with them. I was given a family of three for the weekend - an 11 yr old boy and a 14 yr old girl who live together, and then their 17 yr old brother who lives on the other side of the island. They are new to the project and I will be teaming up with 2 others to run their monthly visits too, so it was a good time to get to know them. We are not told their "stories" for privacy reasons, which I have mixed feelings about. I feel that knowing a little (so not every detail) about how they ended up where they are would have helped me get to know them better and understand a little more. 

The younger two arrived first and the older brother didn't join us until later on friday evening (as he had summer school), so I spent a few hours with them on their own. Both very sweet and very shy, we went out to dinner at Jimmy Buffets, a theme restaurant in Waikiki that had waves and lava coming out of the walls and women on stilts in hula skirts passing out balloon creations. Very fun. The young boy soon warmed up to me a little and clung on to me for most of the night, the young girl, also very shy, did come out and speak out a little. The older brother then arrived as we went to play "glow in the dark" mini-golf. A very tall skinny teenager, very "cool" looking and seeming bored already, again also very very quietly spoken. I knew a little about him in that he didn't want to come to camp, but was pushed into it so his brother and sister could come. I don't know how much people pushed, or whether he was forced into it, but either way, that definitely set his tone. That said in the mini-golf his face lit up as his brother scored a hole in one and he did get into it, it was very sweet to see. I don't know when the last time they had seen each other was, they were very quiet and we were told not to ask only to listen if they told you anything about their background. 

And then as we walked back to the hotel I noticed on his hands and arms he had several gang tattoos. Some generic, some from specific gangs here in Oahu. We don't have major gang issues like some places, but there are a number of gangs here who cause trouble, fueled by poverty in many areas and the lack of jobs. So here I had a quietly spoken and polite 17yr old who is either falling or has fallen down the wrong path, and yet whose face just lights up as his tickles his brother and sister out of bed in the morning. It was heart wrenching in many ways and this is where I really felt I wanted to know what was going on. All three of them had obviously been brought up right - they were very polite (the 17yr old even asked me every time he wanted to go to the bathroom!), they listened to instruction, they looked out for each other and obviously adored each other, they came to camp prepared (some kids are from such poor backgrounds we had to buy them swimsuits and clothes) - how did they end up in foster care?

I think it went well with the kids, we seemed to enjoy each others company and other than the 17yr old I think we bonded well. The younger boy clung whenever we did something new, but once he warmed up he was on fire and turned into a very energetic boy, always wanting to show you something (forward rolls in the ocean, racing on the paddleboards, drawing his t-shirt etc). The funniest thing was in the ocean - we had a whole beach day and were divided between free swim, canoe rides, paddleboarding and surfboard shaping (40 minutes in each). We were first up for free swim and he wouldn't swim without me holding his hand. We then did a race and I swam with him holding his hand. We assumed he couldn't swim well and just encouraged him. Next race he shot off and was around the marker person before I could even hold his hand. He was just shy, after that he was rolling in the water, swimming underwater, sneaking up on us and splashing us - funny! 

The 17yr old just didn't settle into any of it, and i'm not convinced he would with anyone there, but he did respect me, didn't give me much trouble and we talked a little about how he'd made his brother and sister really happy that he'd come and he agreed with that. He did try and consistently splash me in the pool on the last afternoon, and i'm taking that as a good sign....:0) I do feel a little like he actually needs a male figure and would have responded better with one of the guys helping out, but either way it was really emotional seeing this tough 17yr old playing ball with his siblings, and actually smiling when he thought you weren't watching. It's in there inside him, and you just ache for that side to win out. 

So for them they got to see their siblings, for me I learnt a lot about the kids in the Hawaii system, I met a whole new group of people, though exhausting it was rewarding to see each of my kids excel at something different (the younger boy it was the water sports, the girl was a hiking all star and the older boy was cute with his siblings and is an awesome artist), and I even learnt to stand-up paddleboard, which I have wanted to try for a while. 

So that was my weekend. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back from Summer Camp

....and I promise I will write about the experience tomorrow. No pictures for security reasons, but an incredible and EXHAUSTING experience. For me, I am now going to crash out and am trying to decide on whether to run to grab a fast food dinner before I do or not. Since that involves getting off the couch and back in the car, i'm suspecting not......

News story from the Honolulu Advertiser on the Summer Camp - here 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good book suggestions?

Today marks 2 weeks before lift off and i'm not back until September 6th - wow! 

With my last few cruises I seem to have burned through what I thought was an enormous and never ending pile of books, and now have none in my collection I haven't read! Any suggestions out there? I suspect i'll get through 3-4 books on this trip, and am only in Canada where I know there must be books! But it's always good to get a few suggestions to pick up from the store quickly, as I haven't been paying attention recently as to what is out there at the moment! 

To give you an idea, at the moment I am re-reading "The Constant Gardener" and I have recently enjoyed The Kite Runner, Omnivores Dilemma and anything by Barbara Kingsolver. Though I liked the God of Small Things I didn't get on with the writing style so much and I usually intersperse fiction with non-fiction, though a good story relaxes me more than a non-fiction. 

Any suggestions on what you have enjoyed recently would be much appreciated! 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Moanday update

Okay, so i'm not grumpy anymore and I have actually managed to sleep this week which has been nice. Still overloaded? Yes. I'm not quite sure why I do this to myself, it's pretty much mostly self-inflicted. Tomorrow I have to drop off the dogs at their other sitter, then i'll go into work for the morning, then I go and pick up two boys i'm taking to camp and then i'm spending the weekend at camp with 30 foster children and around 20 minders. It should actually be fun, and I am kind of looking forward to it. Then next week I took on a diving course, which I know i'm going to love, but runs EVERY evening next week. Every evening. Why do I take on these things? 

It's really the 3 proposals and two papers i'm trying to write, 100 corals I need to process and gazzilion meetings I have before the 25th of July that are bugging me. AND today it was announced that I have to move offices BEFORE I go away too. ARRRRRGHHHHH. I'm moving to a nice office, so can't complain, but the previous occupant is moving out literally 2 days before I go away. I do not need to be moving offices before I go, I really don't..........

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Paper Water Bottles

Yup, the newest alternative to the disposable plastic water bottle - a bottle made of recycled paper and bamboo fiber and even has a sealable lid. 

Personally I think very cool, and I hope they plan to keep prices low. Though I try hard not to, there are those times when you're traveling or out and need a drink badly, it would be great to have an alternative to plastic bottles or aluminium cans.  

Monday, July 6, 2009


Ug. Can today be over already? I am so tired and so cranky and I have no idea if i'm going to manage to sleep tonight. My insomnia has been really bad for 5 days now and hasn't let up, I really need some decent sleep. I went for a 6 mile run yesterday evening (it went great!) hoping that would do it, but no, I was awake at 3am worried about everything I need to do before I leave on the 25th July (I head to Woods Hole for a week to see Kate graduate - go Kate! And then to Canada for 4 weeks to work in a lab up there). Way too much to do. 

This morning I spent a lot of time getting ready for an afternoon meeting, then the afternoon meeting didn't happen (postponed for tomorrow). I'm so tired and cranky it's probably a good thing too, as the meeting is with what I hope will be a collaborator on a cool project in Alaska. Wouldn't have made a great impression today. So this afternoon I went about making up a blog site for some upcoming fieldwork projects for my lab - take a look and please give me suggestions. It might have been doodling, but at least it was semi-productive in that this is something I need to do sometime. I just did not have the patience for proposals today. 

So tonight, I'm making pasta, sausages and I think i'm going to have a beer. Maybe that will help. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The great outdoors...

The sunflowers are in bloom....

The echinacea is starting.....

And the tomatoes are still green! They've been green for over 3 weeks now, will I ever have some cherry tomatoes for my salad?

The best thing about the great outdoors? Lots of good smells! Barkley enjoys the bark park.... 

And Goofy too....

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A few of life's mysteries.....

1. Terro usually works great. But for some reason no matter how much Terro I put down over the last week, it just seems to encourage more ants rather than kill them. I don't understand it, but now I seem to have twice as many ants as I started with......

2. I am finally under 140lbs. Took a long time to loose the last 2lbs (my post-1/2 marathon chocolate binge probably didn't help there). So I've now lost somewhere between 12 and 15 lbs (depending on which scale you use) - why has my waistline not changed even a centimeter??? Yup, for all that hard work, not a change in my clothing size, don't get me wrong, I feel great and very happy where I am at (my ideal by the books is 130, MY ideal I think is 135-138ish), but where the hell was I keeping that extra 12 lbs......

3. My desk is yet again a bombsite. Didn't I just clean that? Think it's the signal proposal writing has started once again.....