Monday, August 31, 2009

What a day and headed out

I'm done and dusted in the Paleo lab today, good to be finished and things went generally very well, many more results than I had before, and to be honest more than I expected. So a good trip work wise.

Today though has been a bear. So when I arrived here from Woods Hole, I had a reaction to some deodorant and broke out in eczema all under my armpits. Well, one of them got infected and turned into a small abscess. Well that cleared up after a week or so with some good rubbing alcohol, but as soon as it did another appeared. So I treated that and it went away, and another appeared......are you seeing a trend here? Well, 2 days ago almost my whole armpit swelled up, at that point I admitted defeat and called my insurance company to see what I had to do and how much it would cost. Luckily my US insurance works here, unluckily you have to pay out of pocket and claim back. Today I spent a good few hours in the emergency department, they broke open 2 abscesses and have packed them with gauze to drain, to the tune of $625. The bummer is I have to come back each day for it to be redone, until it looks a phone call to the insurance later, and I sure hope they'll come to a deal with the hospital to direct bill them, as otherwise i'm sunk. By the by, injections (local anesthetic, 6 of 'em) in your armpit are horrendously painful, worse than the abscess by far! I am so not looking forward to going back tomorrow.....

The weekend was fantastic though - I moved out of my little Thunder Bay apartment and in with Carney and Kim - they are awesome! We hung out on saturday and then went to the Merillo Fair on sunday, Sammy got to ride a horse, Taylor sat in the trailer while we wandered around, it was awesome and relaxing! We then came back and played in the paddling pool and BBQ'd. A very nice weekend.

And then tomorrow, i'm going to be offline probably until i hit Hawaii, as i'll be in a cabin at the Sleeping Giant Provincial park with Carney, Kim and the girls. I can't wait - and luckily it's only 45 mins from here, so I can drive back at night for my arm.

Some paddling pool fun!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Canada Stinks Eh!

Well, not really, but this guy does. I was lying in bed last night around 1am and swore I could smell a skunk. Then this evening, as I took out the trash, I saw this little fella rooting around. So I ran back in and got my camera, unfortunately a little dark (it was 9.15pm!) for a good photo. But as I was taking his photo a security guy came up and said there was a bear wandering around (and I think he thought I was crazy taking photos of a skunk). So I decided to go for a little walk and see if I could see said bear.

I was just finishing up a circle of the student accommodation and saw a field of bambi. Totally curious too, walked right up to me. Just as I was taking this photo the security guy circled again and came over. He said I was making him nervous and that I should go in now. Poop. No bear for me tonight, determined to see one this trip though! To dark for a good photo anyhow, I need a midday sighting.....

My home, the Avila building on campus.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Few Can-eh-dian likes....

Milk in bags. Are Hawaii and MA the only places that don't seem to do this? I love it, you can buy 3 bags of milk cheaper than 3 cartons (and oh so much cheaper than Hawaii) and it's less waste than cartons too - yes it might be a plastic bag, but carbon for carbon, buying in this recyclable plastic bag is much less waste and energy (both in production and shipping) than a carton. Now if I could find these in Hawaii I would totally do it - here i've been reusing a carton I bought initially (cleaning it out and filling it up), at home I would use one of my glass jugs. Apparently they are hitting the UK too......

In this strip mall city it's good to find the rural - miles and miles of paths for walking and running on. It's fun too - there's a bear warning on campus, quite a few have apparently been seen. Makes for a little extra impetus to run faster......:0) No, I haven't seen one yet - lots of deer and ground hogs, but no bears........yet!

Not an obvious photo, but not having a high point easy to get to, this illustrates two things - 1 - even more trails around the campus, and 2 - this photo was taken at 9pm! Late night light - I love it. In Hawaii even in mid-summer, it gets dark around 7.30pm. I am so enjoying the late night lights! In winter here too apparently you can see the northern lights. Maybe my next visit will be a midwinter to ski and view......

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Thanks to Mireille for sending me this link -

No more releasing balloons - by Rachel Harris of the Marine Conservation Society

In case you didn't catch it - this - is why I dislike helium balloons....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A dip in the lake

Today was a beautiful day, and I had my first swim in lake Superior - it was a wee bit chilly! Fun though, and it was nice to sit on the beach in the sun with Kim, Carney and co. I also managed to get a good amount of work done and got in a 7 mile run, so i'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. Tomorrow i'm going kayaking in the AM with Carney and then to work. Things are going well in the lab, I have far more results than i've had before, this project is finally coming together.....always at the last minute......:0)

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mercury in Fish

A report just came out today showing that even recreationally caught fish in US backwaters have dangerous levels of mercury.

We've known about mercury in ocean fish for many years, but not as much in freshwater streams, but it's now looking like many of those fish are also above accepted levels. Fish is so good for you this a real blow, not to mention I also enjoy fish now and then. Where does the mercury come from? A certain amount is in the environment naturally and washes into streams or is evaporated and carried as rain, more is from the mining industry (for both mercury and gold - where mercury is used in processing), and more comes from burning fossil fuels (which have mercury in them that are released when burnt). The mercury gets into the smaller organisms, like plankton, which is then eaten by little fish, who are then eaten by big fish, and so moves up the food chain, getting more concentrated as it goes.

The big difference here is that there was a study that came out a few years ago that suggested large ocean going fish were picking up mercury (or methylmercury which is the 'bad' form) from natural sources, rather than pollution. These freshwater fish though are though to be picking it up from pollution rather than natural sources. The levels of mercury in tuna have apparently not changed over the last 20 years, despite atmospheric levels increasing to much higher levels, whereas these freshwater fish have seen increases in mercury levels over the years.

So here is a recent list of high and low - but even in the high, the EPA still says that eating fish twice a week is still safe.

High Mercury
King Mackerel

Low Mercury
Light tuna

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Best quote of the day....

From a spam email......

"Being alive and being single at this time is a HUGE BLESSING"

I'm not kidding on the capitals either. I guess yes, it is a blessing that I am alive and single, lord knows it would suck to be dead and single......:0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The next must-see film.....

Oh yeah, murder in Antarctica!

I sometimes think I should become a movie writer, i'm sure I can come up with more realistic ideas than some of the stuff out there......

Monday, August 17, 2009

A good weekend...

Two proposals in and even a paper submitted this weekend - can we all say ahhhhhhh! I feel like a great weight is lifted, now just to keep pushing at the lab work, which is going well so far, slow, but i'm used to that now with ancient DNA work. I pretty much have all the samples I need cleaned, prepped and powdered, which considering i'm halfway through, is actually quite an achievement, so i'm happy.

This weekend was so nice too. Saturday I spent the day in the lab and then had Sammy and Taylor for the evening while Carney and Kim went out for their anniversary - the first time they had left both kiddos to go out for an evening. They had a great time out, I had a great time in - spending time playing like a 2 year old, who would not have a great time! Sammy and Taylor are so good too, both sweethearts. We ate pizza, we went to the park, we played playdough (my favorite!) and then we read books before bed. Sunday I was treated to a lovely pancake breakfast and then we went out to Kakabeka Falls, for a fair and a walk around. The fair was pretty low key, but it was interesting. We then had a nice picnic and got kitted up for an hour hike, just as the rain started to pour. So we holed up in the visitor center for a short while before deciding it wasn't going to stop. Ah well. Back to Carney and Kim's place, yummy dinner, a few beers and a game of Bioviva - a fun boardgame and a fun evening - thanks guys!

The best thing is that I now have my extra week here sorted. I booked an extra week at the end of this trip, both for catching up with any final lab work, and to go hiking somewhere - i've done some fabulous hiking here on previous trips. Well, i've been having such a great time catching up with friends I don't get to see very often, that we've decided to book a cabin at the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which is a peninsula sticking out into Lake Superior and not too far away. So the five of us are going to spend 4 days in the park, staying at a cabin, doing some hiking on the trails and hopefully some kayaking or canoeing too. I can't wait, Kim, Carney and the girls are so fun to hang out with, it's going to be a fabulous vacation!

Kakabeka Falls. The sepia made it look less overcast......

Chocolate is good......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

O Canada!

A field of daisies outside my apartment. Even in this strip mall city you can still find the beautiful.

Tonight myself and the Matheson's went out for DQ in support of the Children's Miracle Networks (thanks Sarah for putting me onto that one!). Yum for ice-cream and yay for a walk around the marina! Sammy demonstrated her hopping and jumping and balancing for me and we had a good swing on the swings too!

Coaxing a smile from Taylor! She also had a good swing on the swings too, and was giggling away watching her big sister!

O Canada!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to get dressed for work....

The lab here in Thunder Bay is an Ancient DNA lab, one that works with very old material and forensic material too. This means it's a super clean space, where no 'live' DNA (DNA taken from animals that are alive or recently alive - so there are high amounts of DNA present) is ever analyzed and you need to take special measures to prevent contamination. The methods we use up here are designed to pick up very very small amounts of DNA, so even things like paper cannot go in, as even this has more DNA than most of the samples that go through here. You can't actually take anything into the lab (samples are specially cleaned and put through an airlock), so remembering to upload everything to the computer server before you head in is essential.

Most of the material analyzed here is of human origin, so minimizing human contamination is especially essential. No skin or hair can be left in the lab, even a fingerprint could mess up someone's samples. So here is the procedure for getting into the lab - I have it down to 2 minutes at the moment, a good skill to learn if you have to go in and out the lab a lot to pee!

First the hair net - this is done without gloves on, so your gloves don't touch your hair and get contaminated......
Next the gloves and then the full tyvek suit (it has attached booties). It can get toasty in there, so worth remembering to take off the sweater before putting it on - and taking anything out your pockets, as if it falls out it'll rattle around inside your bootie until you come back out. Ask me how I know this....:0)

Next the mask, limiting the amount of face left uncovered (you have to cover the rest of it with the glasses, which are next). The secret with this is to make sure your hair net is completely covered, as otherwise it comes down onto your eyes as you move around. And to put the nose piece on the mask tight over your nose, otherwise your glasses get a lot of condensation. It's a pest, and you can't take it off or fiddle with it once you're in there.....

Last, the safety glasses and sleeves with a thumb-loop. This stops there being a gap between your suit and your gloves. Now you're ready to go through the air shower (which blows any stray hair or dust off you)! When you get in there you immediately put another pair of gloves on top of that too, completely sealing it up. And whenever you change tasks, tables or rooms, you change those outer gloves.

Now you're ready to go to work, and better have remembered to pee, as you have to take all this off again in reverse order (making sure not to touch suit, sleeves, glasses or mask with uncovered hands) to get back out again!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thunder Bay

It's been a very busy week. Setting up, doing lab work and unlike previous visits, dealing with stuff back at Hawaii. Every other time i've been here I was a postdoc, and to a degree, pretty much just focused on this project. Now I have many projects of my own, a lab to run, proposals to write and students to continue to advise even though I am not at home, so I can't just focus on this one project. It's made some interesting pulls on my time this week and I'm still trying to figure it out really.

It's been good though and aside from Friday productive. Friday was marred by a migraine that the Imitrex did not kill, despite taking the full dose it only dulled. So by lunchtime I was toast and basically came back and sacked out on the couch for the rest of the day. It's worked 4 out of 5 times now, so I'm still happy about it, I think Friday I might have taken it too late for it to work properly, something I had been warned. Lesson learnt.

Today, so much fun. Breakfast with the Mathesons (yummy pancakes and earl grey tea!), followed by some shopping and then a trip to the Thunder Bay Fair. Carney was volunteering with the St John's Ambulance, but managed to sneak out and join us. It's been a long time since i've been to a fair, but it was fun, and I even got to go on the train with Sammy.

Some pretty reeds around my apartment.

Kim with Taylor. Despite this picture I had many smiles from Taylor today, last weekend she had some nasty teeth coming through so was a little grumpy (but still fell asleep on me, an effect I seem to have on babies.....). She's such a cutie!

Carney and Sammy on the ferris wheel, she loved it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I think I forgot to say on here thanks so much for the book suggestions - I ordered Canyon Solitude, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the Year of Past things. I am LOVING Canyon solitude, in fact had to stop myself reading all of it on the plane on the way from Boston to Thunder Bay - thanks so much BSA for that suggestion!

First day went well, some BS back in UH to deal with, but it didn't get in the way of my full orientation, starting my first samples off in the lab and even catching up on some much needed proposal writing. Tomorrow the car goes back, so I did go out and get my last grocery supplies (or at least what I think will be my last).

AND - I found a nice 5 mile running route tonight, feeling a little leaden legged, but it was good to get out and it was great to find a route right out my door that is at least half through a nice park and not all on roads.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back to it.

Tomorrow marks "back to it" day. Getting back to many things that have been on hold for a while.

1. Back to work. Last week at WHOI was awesome, and though I got a few work things done and caught up with friends and collaborators alike (which is always important in this business), it's definitely time to get back to the nitty gritty - Lab Work & Paper Writing - both of which need to be done in earnest here in Canada

2. Proposal Finishing - Aug 15th. All the UH side is undercontrol, but 2 proposals still need the finishing touches put on them in my spare time up here. With limited lab hours (because it's a clean lab) I have the evenings. This I should have got to this long weekend, but to be honest, I was getting set up here, doing errands I need with the car I give back tomorrow, enjoying the unusual sunshine and catching up with my friends here, so i'm not feeling bad about it, just realistic I now need to pull my socks up on this.

3. Fitness. Yup, this has pretty much been on hold since my shin splints, but they are completely healed now and I have even been for a couple of short runs with no pain and no tight calf muscles. Just for the record, I love heel cups. Just the addition of those in my shoes seems to have made a world of difference to my calves. I'll also sign up with the gym and pool here, which is literally 5 minutes away and on-campus where I am staying. They have great equipment, limited pool hours unfortunately, but you can't win them all.

4. Eating Healthy. This last week consisted of lots of meals out and booze. Fun, but not so good for the waistline. My diet has kind of been on hold for a bit now, so i've bought some good healthy foods to live on while i'm here, so getting back to that too. I'm still on the cusp of 140lbs (literally, one day 139, the next 141), and really really want to get to 135lbs. So that's another goal for this next month away. Since the weekend has consisted of two fabulous BBQs and a rather large chocolate fondue, I can probably say i've got another extra pound or two to go too.....:0)

So that's my goals for goes nothing!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Last days on the Cape

The Vegetarian Buffet at the Coonamessett Farm - yum! This is a summer staple, every friday they have an all you can eat buffet (vegetarian and sometimes they do meat too) using many of the vegetables from around the farm, as well as extras. The weather was overcast, but this actually made it way less busy, which was nice!

You can also bring your own bottle! Me, Laura and Alison! Breck, BL and Kate (Owens) also joined us for the meal - it was in fact BL's idea - good one BL!

And animals too!

I did manage to go swimming on one day, but the week was mostly overcast and rainy. Falmouth Heights beach.

Hanging out with the Soules, such a wonderful family!

So Budget doesn't totally suck....

They came and picked me up this morning, were apologetic and even gave me a free upgrade to a very swanky Nissan Altima. The woman was nice so I found it hard to be really pissed off. And I was just happy to have a car today to go out and grocery shop. I only have the car for 3 days, as it's expensive and I am living on campus so don't really need it so much, but the first few days to get essentials into the apartment is good.

And i've already connected with my friends Carney and Kim and their 2 babies, going to their house for a "barbee" (they're ozzies) this evening. Fun! Tomorrow is a holiday here too, though I really need to get a ton of work done that I neglected last week, so will probably hole up in my apartment.

This day.

Today I am borrowing some words from a friends blog (and i'm sure she won't mind). 

I choose not to remember this single day in her life. I choose instead to remember all the other days I got to spend with my sister. We had a lot of fun on those days, and it's my choice not to mark this day again. It doesn't mean I don't miss her everyday. 

Sophie Megan Waller, July 2nd 1986 - August 2nd 2003

Sisters. I definitely liked red back then.....
....and she liked pink! 
Watching the waves with Adam. 
Happy Auntie with Jack. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm here...

...and I'm grumpy already. Never book a car rental from Budget. I should have learnt that 2000 times over. I got into Thunder Bay at 11.45. I had a car booked, specifically from Budget because they said they were open until 12.30. Being a tiny airport I was through by 12.10. They were shut. The only other car rental place open was Enterprise and they were sold out. So I went to get some canadian $$'s out a machine and that was broken. Luckily at this point a nice security guard found me and helped me get a taxi that took US$$s (for a bas exchange rate i'm sure but i'm too tired to look it up) and now I am in my little apartment. But wound up. To add to this I have a really bad excema rash in both armpits from a reaction to a deodorant i'd been using, it's been itching like hell all week and is now just awful after all the flying. Trying so hard not to scratch it.....