Friday, June 30


I've just realised that I got the day of Rinnie's birthday wrong and it's actually today! So, Happy Birthday Rinnie! I was trying to compensate for the day difference and I somehow compensated for the compensation and got all out of whack. Not an unusual state of being for me.

And while we're celebrating I would like to note that my dear Josie is now Dr Josie! Her thesis examiners' reports came back with flying colour and a whole lot more! 2 'A's - unheard of (well, not, unheard of but incredibly rare just doesn't have the same ring to it) What a brilliant end to so many years of hard work on what to me was (is) an incredible project. I'm eagerly awaiting the book so that everyone else can enjoy it too! Stay tuned...

That's the end of my celebrations from a distance for today. If I get time tomorrow I might even update you on what happened last weekend. Boy am I ever behind! Anyone would think I've been working ^_^

Thursday, June 29

Not a sausage

I've been teaching my office mate Vince (from Guam) some Australianisms. Mostly because they're things that I say in passing and then have to explain. You realise how weird some of them are when you have to try and explain what they mean and how to use them. For example: not half or pear shaped or my favorite not a sausage (Vince always mucks it up and says 'no sausages' which just doesn't have the same effect). I haven't even tried to explain 'fair suck of the sav'!! I wouldn't know where to start...

Work is flat out at the moment. We've just started to hit a whole range of grant deadlines and we've also had a major shift in the upper echelon politics (for the better) which means everyone has pulled their finger out and is getting stuck into it. I'm working on some great stuff at the moment, and exploring a range of new bioinformatics tool for building and making sense of networks between lists of genes. Neat.

But yay for 5:30 on a payday :) I'm off to the supermarket to get some stuff for bolognase. I have a craving ^_^

But before I go... Happy Birthday Rinnie! Have a lovely day and I'll be thinking of you! As for the rest of you, keep in touch, it's lonely here *insert the sound of tiny fiddles*

Saturday, June 24

Coyote noisy

Hi guys,

Sorry it's been a while between postings. I'm working on a new dataset at work which is really interesting and exciting, so I've been pretty busy. It's all good though :) The data is based on the effects of smoking so I'm pretty happy to be working on that as a project. Hopefully we'll have some incredible findings to report soon, but for now I can at least say, smoking is BAD! (what do you mean we already knew that?)

I must be getting used to the heat because I'm starting to enjoy this time of year. I can now sleep with the AC on 30 degrees rather than having to push it below 25 and still feel hot. The mid-afternoon heat is still not something I want to go out in (unless it's to the pub) but I don't feel as sticky and miserable as I used to. I'm also about to housesit a place with a lovely outdoor pool so perhaps I'm looking forward to hot afternoons with a little more joy now :) I had a lesson on looking after the pool last night. It'll be great to be able to come home from work and have a swim. The pool at my apartment complex is pretty cool, but I feel self conscious swimming there on my own.

We've had a few storms over the last few days. Not a lot of rain, but enough that everything is looking a little bit more clean and green. There are lots of pomegranate trees around that have just finished flowering and the fruit is swelling. They look so much healthier than my little one in Tassie, but I guess the climate here is perfect. There are also these gorgeous crepe myrtle trees everywhere in full flower! They're stunning, ranging from white to bright pink to lilac. They are deciduous and have the smoothest bark, so when they have no leaves they look like the kind of tree you'd expect to see in Middle Earth, if you happened to be wandering about...

I've been woken up in the night lately by the sound of coyotes!! They sound like a cross between a pack of dogs and some kind of high pitched demon, and they're really loud! I mean, the rock trains don't wake me anymore but these guys sure do! You can hear what they sound like here Scary huh? And Vince has just informed me that squirrels are in the top three of their diet prefs... I hope they don't get my squiggle now that I've fattened him up...

Tuesday, June 20

Spirit of Peace

I was brave last night and I went to church on my own! I found a group online that I wanted to check out. They're called Spirit of Peace and they're part of the United Church (not uniting...don't think they're the same). They have a female reverend (although she's away at the moment) and a strong focus on social justice.

Now I'm shy and terrified when it comes to this kind of thing...but I was brave. The first hurdle is that the church is located under that intersection of doom that I showed you a while back. That intersection is scary to cross, but try working out how to get underneath it! I left super early though so I had time (it's a 5pm Sunday thing...very civilised). It was made more complicated by the fact that the exit I had planned to take was closed because of the incessant road works, but I found it fine, eventually.

The service was great. They were a very small group, but friendly and interesting. I was overly awkward, since I couldn't hide in a small group, and became even more awkward when I realised they'd run a stall at "San Antonio Pridefest" the day before and probably though I'd come as a result of that, but I guess that's not so bad. The service was short (Catholic length) and the sermon was excellent, about the many faces of Paul (or the many writers *gasp*) and focused on radical Paul (using Philemon). A few souls may have been horrified by the line "I mean, some of Titus is just offensive" but the focus was on believing in a God revealed through the bible, not the bible itself (the word of God filtered through the words of men). The byline of the UCC is "God is still speaking". All good ^_^

The other thing I really liked was that the entire service was focused on social justice, on putting this stuff into practice rather than endlessly debating the finer points. The message seemed to be that perhaps we don't all agree on the nitty gritty, but we probably never will, so lets move on and enjoy life, love people and do some good, eh?

The downside to the who event, other than trying to sing stilted hymns from a book I almost couldn't lift, was the awkward 10 minutes after the service (the news-sheet says "please stay for refreshments and a chat") where I stood about, clearly not knowing anyone, in a small space and was (pointedly?) avoided by all and sundry. Maybe my imagination, but it was awkward and uncomfortable and after wandering aimlessly reading all the posters etc I eventually slipped away quietly. But, experience says you have to give these things a few tries so I'll be back ^_^

Sunday, June 18


I was woken up early on Saturday morning by a storm and the blessed sound of pouring rain! I never thought I'd say this but what a brilliant start to a Saturday. It continued to storm on and off all day, finishing off with thunder, lightning and hail at 3am on Sunday morning. Now the air is clear and everything looks green and shiny. Lovely ^_^

We went out to lunch on Friday with the technical staff from the lab to thank them for all their hard work over the last few months (finishing some big projects) and to farewell one of the girls who is leaving. It was Mexican (again) but tex-mex this time! I had grilled vegie quesadillas... Cheese and vegies between two grilled tortillas, kinda like a Mexican pizza! Yummy but you couldn't eat them very often. They also had chicken fried steak with cream gravy on the menu...

After that we took some of the lab staff bowling! Now most of you know that I am NOT the queen of sports or in any way gifted with coordination, but after bowling a rather dud first game, me and my slow bowl with the little 10 pound ball came home to whoop some booty for the rest of the time! I even managed to bowl multiple strikes in a row! After a couple of games we decided to play left easy task! But since I had nothing in the way of gifted skill and was bowling technically, I bowled almost exactly the same with my left hand! It was lots of fun. They gave you all sorts of stats with each bowl, including your speed, so matt worked on breaking the 20mph barrier (I was lucky to hit 10). I worked on not hitting myself in the leg as I bowled, and letting go of the ball during the forward motion, rather than backwards.

After bowling we headed over to the home of one of the guys who works in the lab (who came to lunch but not bowling). He's from Nepal and has his family here now, and they cooked us the most amazing dinner. There must have been 20 people! We had Chicken dumplings (called momos) and a chickpea curry salad and gorgeous goat stew and a chicken stew and for main we had dahl bhat tekari (lentils, rice and vegetable curry). So good! My favorite was the beaten rice (chuira?) which was like flat dried rice with toasted peanuts, coriander and little slivers of salty fried mushrooms. A great snack and so yummy! It was sort of like eating dry, toasted museli without the fat :)

Well, short and sweet but that may do for now. I'll post more soon ^_^

Thursday, June 15


Well, I've completely embraced my inner geek and started playing World of Warcraft, a fantasy based massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORP). This basically means I can wander round a fully interactive fantasy world and hang out with some of my Aussie friends. I spent most of last night just following Andrew round getting a tour of the place and working out how to get my ill-proportioned character to make chicken noises and dance. I've switched to a slightly more mysterious if still badly drawn night elf now but so far I've only wandered through the forest culling the local pig population, fallen out of a tree sustaining only minor fractures and been killed by something resembling Dobby the house-elf with bigger teeth. Dying is cool because you turn into a wisp and race through a now black and white version of the world searching for your outer geek. This should keep me occupied for a while (the game, not the dying I hope!)

My, what big ears you have!Here's a quick screenshot of my night-elf hunter (glorified groundsperson at this point) at pathetic level 3 status. I found the frock just before I logged off for the night, before that it was skimpy shorts and a singlet - no wonder my skin in blue! Looks like I'm part rabbit with those ears too. Need to level up and get some better threads ^_^

In other news I took the IRB's "Protecting Study Volunteers in Research" exam today so now I'm ethically ok and all that stuff. I'm just stoked because it means I've finally finished reading through the book of regulations, which means my coffee intake can probably go down now. Mind you, some of the case studies were fascinating and some were really hard to read, given they're based on real scenarios. Some of the things we do in the name of science! I'm hoping to have some new data to work on in the next few days, then things should get exciting again!

And finally, Happy Birthday Chris! I hope you have a good one. I'll be thinking of you and hoping you don't have to work so you can do something special, like OD on buffy ^_^

Wednesday, June 14

Still life

Sorry about the lack of updates. Nothing wrong with blogger this time, I'm just being incredibly boring! I'll try to get a life again soon, but for now I'm making potato and leek soup (even though it's 40 degrees outside) and watching the Simpsons.

So how about some news from someone else? Just click the comments button below this post. I'm getting lonely here!

Love you all ^_^

Tuesday, June 13

Lost in Translation part 1

The slogan of my local pharmacy, housed within my local supermarket, is Drop while you Shop which I can only assume means drop off your prescriptions rather than drop dead!?

Sunday, June 11


I bought myself flowers the other say. Sad, I know, but they do make the house look good! Peonies are close to my favorite so I couldn't really resist.


What's even more sad is that I spent my entire Saturday cooking and cleaning! However, my house is spotless and I now have a huge pot of gorgeous ham stock. I had the ham bone in the freezer left over from the weirdness that was the baked Easter ham. For once I'd like to have baked rabbit for Easter!

I did leave the house briefly to feed Joanne's cats and do some washing. Bad plan. It was another cloudless 100 degree day so I thought I'd try driving with the windows down rather than the AC blasting and see if I could make it though the 1.5kms without melting. Just as I was getting used to the feeling of the winds of hell blowing through the car I came across a patch of road covered in water. A main had obviously broken and was spewing out perfectly clean drinking water, covering the road to a depth of half a foot. I took Petey through gently because I wasn't sure how deep it was at this point and I didn't want him doing any slidy action, and while concentrating on said crossing some huge 'Texas Edition' tank came flying along in the other direction and sent most of the puddle through my now forgotten open window, totally drenching me from head to foot! Who expects to come across water in Texas? A puddle of oil I'd understand. Anyway, I learnt that windows down and dripping wet is a good alternative to the AC in terms of keeping cool. Doh!

Friday, June 9

Happy belated Birthday B

Happy Birthday Briony! I would have sent this earlier but the blog has been nothing but trouble for the past 2 days. The last message took me 6 tries before it'd finally send.

B, I tried to get some NP together to get you a Darigan paint brush, or a bit closer to one, but lost 60k instead... Just proves I should never do anything risky with real money!! I have backup neopian treats that'll be coming to an inbox near you soon ^_^

I'm having local blueberries and Californian strawberries to celebrate. Wish I could share them because they're really good! Miss you all.

Blogger is a bit busted

There's been some problem with Blogger for the last 2 days so it's making it tricky for me to update. I'm assuming they'll get it fixed soon but if you don't hear from me, you know why!

We had a science fair at work today where different companies come to show off their wares (small pieces of equipment that cost more than I'm worth). Now, most of you know how thoroughly I detest the lab, but when they have free marble slab sundaes and all the companies give out free candy and squishy polar bears just to get you to slow down as you pass their table, who could say no? And in this wide land they don't even blink when you ask for double caramel fudge sauce with m&ms...mmmm

Thursday, June 8


The Australian government has disappointed me yet again.

SBS World News Headline: Govt to scrap ACT gay laws

Just when I thought we might be making a small step forward.

No need to comment, I know not everyone supports me on this one.

Wednesday, June 7

Happy Birthday Sylv!

I hope you have a great day/week/month of celebrations :)

And here's a special hello from my favorite show-off, Mr Squiggle ^_^

Loss of the unknown

I have a conference abstract due today which of course means I needed a distraction (to help me think) so I went back to my old faithful, William Gibson's blog, and got nicely distracted by the discussion forums. I'm interested because there's a new book due soon, and he seems to be wandering further from science fiction each time. These was a discussion of an interview transcript with Gibson where he says science fiction is dying.

Interviewer: "Does science fiction now seem an inadequate tool, no longer the right bag of tricks to deal with the rate of change, the ratcheting up of the truth-is-stranger than fiction factor? Is it no longer a viable way to grapple with the present?"

Gibson: "Yes, I agree with that. Science Fiction was a part of the 'modern' project. There is no longer a long enough 'now' for us to extrapolate anything out of it."

He says he doesn't write the future... "the world of Virtual Light and Idoru is not imaginary, not really the future, it is the present with all the knobs turned up to the highest setting" and now it seems that turning the knobs doesn't make things stranger than they already are.

He also says "In the future, every inch of the world will be densely annotated, it will take a religious effort to ignore it." And I'm contributing to that, busily attempting to annotate the human genome and all its complex interactions.

So what does this mean for the new book??

There's also talk of Pattern Recognition being turned into a film with Peter Weir as the director.

Well, that was a distraction that got me absolutely no-where. But at least my abstract is done ^_^

Monday, June 5

Pattern Recognition

There were some incredible colours and patterns in the landscape flying over Utah.

My favorite out of all of them are these 'ponds' on the edge of the great salt lake. The colours look just like one of the pics from my old microbiology textbook, except they were of Yellowstone park so we're talking a totally different temperature range! Beautiful though.

Deliciously drizzly Portland

Hi all,

I'm back in San Antonio now but I had a great time in Portland. It was so wonderful to be somewhere cool and green. I got so excited when it rained that the locals thought I was nuts, but it's been so long since I went outside in the rain! It either doesn't rain here, or it comes in buckets with the chance of golfball sized hail and the dents in my car are enough to convince me to not even think about going out in that!

But back to Portland. I was there for work. We're collaborating with one of the research groups there and I was helping them put together a grant proposal and set up the infrastructure for some basic analyses. They worked me pretty hard but they're a great group so it was a pleasure, and there was plenty of time for good food, shopping and lots of walking (in the rain!)

Portland City

I was staying in a spunky hotel in the centre of downtown that had wine tastings every night and 24/7 cartoons (and they expected me to leave my room???). I spent one evening wandering downtown, in the rain, and managed to find myself a great teapot from a place called Kitchen Kaboodle. It's green (the teapot) and doesn't dribble. Yay! Mind you, I got soaked through walking back to the hotel and went to the wine tasting looking like a drowned rat. Oh well, the wine was pretty blerky anyway. There was an Algerian red that tasted like pinebark and water and a Portuguese red that tasted like it had lemon juice in it. I wondered if the hotel had found a convenient way to get rid of their nasty wines and the joke was on us. There was a lovely sav blanc though and I'm not usually a fan (maybe it was just in comparison to the others). In general I've stayed away from US wines and stuck to the old koonunga hill, bit I tried a few Portland pinots when we were eating out, and they were pretty good. Doubt I could fine them in Texas though, the Aussie stuff is easier to get hold of (although "Yellow Tail" seems to have a monopoly here and I don't think I ever noticed it in oz). But again, I digress...

Portland was lovely. Admittedly, I probably saw the nicest parts of town, but it was so lush and green, with the river running through and forested hills everywhere. The trees were huge and varied and driving through those areas just smelt so green!
I liked that there seemed to be lots of small, independent shops (still plenty of chains but less conspicuous than a huge cement parking lot with a massive shop in the centre) and there were also lots of small, spunky restaurants that were doing interesting things with food. Yay! My only condition when I got there was 'please, not Mexican, Latin or tex/mex food, please' but it was all good. We had 'fancy American' one night (I had a halibut steak on delicious oyster mushrooms and vanilla bean creme brulee to finish...mmmm) and Italian for lunch a few times (fresh made pasta, simple crab or mushroom sauce, lots of garlic) and we even had good Japanese for lunch, including delicious tuna nigiri. The chain restaurants were there, but only in some districts and not close to the density of what you see in San Antonio. The most alarming thing was the 'starbucks on every corner' phenomenon which was almost literal. Every second corner perhaps. How do they not put each other out of business?? I love the Saturday Night Live prediction for 2000 that said 'starbucks will make franchise history but opening a starbucks inside a starbucks'. Maybe not 2000 but it can't be far off!

cool rose
Portland is the 'city of roses' and the rose garden is amazing. It's high up on the hill, looking over the city, and they have a bunch of 'test gardens' there. Rose season was just starting so I got to see plenty of lovely blooms, but not the full splendor of that entire garden in bloom. It must be amazing! I didn't take many pics at this point because it was pouring :) Yay for my columbia jumper and walking shoes (plug plug).

Portland from Rose Gardens
That's not smog in the background, it's rain!

On Thursday we went walking through the Japanese garden in our lunchbreak. The garden was incredible. It's high on the hill above the rose gardens, completely surrounded by forest. They have all sorts of rules about being quiet and not eating, but the garden was very extensive and so well looked after. It was raining (again) but that seemed to fit the atmosphere. We just wandered about quietly and it was so lovely and peaceful. Who would have thought that highly tortured trees could make you feel so calm?

Japanese Garden

Anyhow, after a great trip I made my way back to San Antonio where is was 35 degrees at 11pm when I stepped of the plane in full cold weather gear. Ahh Texas. Hopefully the grant will get funded. I'd like to go back for a weekend and go to the markets and China Town. I'm so predictable!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the DVD

I finally watched the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on DVD last night. You'd think I would have already seen it, since it's an adaptation of my favorite book, but I was holding back warily and for good easure it seems. The film was ok, but I was disappointed with it. I new the storyline had been seriously cut and altered to fit the length of the film, and Addams had been involved, so that was all cool. I guess it was disappointing mostly because it didn't manage to carry any of the quirk or complexity of the incarnations that precede it. In a nutshell, it was dull.

Oh well, it was also free since I seem to be a frequent shopper at the CD exchange. Sad and pathetic, not me!
(you can all me that after I buy all six seasons of Xena - Warrior Princess)

Friday, June 2

On a jet plane

(this post may not make too much sense - it's late! I apologise in advence)

Before I backtrack let me just say that Portland is lovely! Not only is it deliciously cool and wet but it's green and the trees are beautiful and the city is lovely and there are lots of non-chain restaurants and well designed houses and... I like it ^_^

The flight from San Antonio to Portland was amazing. Well, I only had a window seat from SAT to Salt Lake City so I didn't get too see the view flying into Portland, but the first part of the flight was incredible! I'll let the pics do most of the talking.

After miles and miles of desert the landscape started to get a little more interesting. After a while there were more and more fields, but they were all round and different shades of greens and browns so the looked like a big spotty rug! Then we started flying over wind farms, miles and miles of them, and you could even see the blades spinning!

Then we started flying over larger mountains, and SNOW! At first I didn't believe it. I thought it was some kind of erosion to begin with, since lots of the rock here is pale yellow, like sandstone. But then there was so much of it, it could only be snow.



After a while the snow thinned out at the shape of the landscape shifted again, to sharp ripples and peaks. It was beautiful. No real sign of habitation though and I had no real idea of where we were, except for somewhere in the vicinity of salt lake.


more ripples

And then we flew into Salt Lake and that was really cool. Huge mountains that just drop off to utterly flat fields! I haven't included any pics of the city proper but it was really interesting... It looked like a model city that had been designed by a clean freak. Everything was straight and neat. It didn't look real!

You can see how those huge mountains just drop away to utterly flat ground. The whole area was surrounded by them; thick, snowy peaks.

Cool fields huh. The first of the lakes is just beyond them (to the right) but I don't think it's the major lake, that's further in.

This was the view from the airport runway. Stunning huh? But I only had enough time to run to the next terminal to make my connection. On the next flight I was on the isle, and the person with the window kept the blind down for the whole flight so I missed seeing the mountains near Portland. I might get to see them on the way out.

Anyhow, enough scenery. All is well here. I'm staying in a spunky hotel and the folks here are working me pretty hard during the day. The hotel has terrible internet but 24/7 cartoons so it's all good ^_^

I hope you're all well. Keep me posted. Comments on the blog are always a good start!