Thursday, 27 September 2007

two feet, firmly on the ground

Sort of, at any rate...

So, stuff has happened. There was a lovely long weekend that was supposed to involve work. It didn't though, as we spent most of sunday and monday at miller's, along with my parents and the puppies [who are soon to be 9 years old, but that doesn't stop them from being puppies]. On Saturday night we celebrated BO's one year with racing [I just watched, it was funny] and then supper at the spur. There were 11 of us, poor waiter. And most people had the special that involved being given lighters... At the very least it was a fun evening and Kenilworth Centre is still standing. On Friday night... work happened. I don't recall anything else happening, but I'm fairly sure it wasn't all work.

Since then, work has tried to happen. I did some chemistry on Tuesday. I didn't do any milling because there was no LN to use ... so I guess it's a good thing I didn't try to do work on Monday - Miller's was a lot better than being annoyed that I was at varsity on a public holiday and couldn't mill. There was no game on Tuesday, though SC & AP are back from Poland. Next week... Yesterday was museum day and I finally [finally!] got through Deano's thesis. Of course, now I have to go back to one of his giant tables 'cause I've decided to add some info into the inventory... oh well. Then there was yoga, all by myself 'casue Button was off with BO somewhere. It was nice and I really enjoyed it. It's been a couple of weeks since I was last there - why archaeologists will insist on scheduling talks for yoga night I will never understand!

Today, there has been milling! Yay! I'm currently waiting for that which was milled to be ready to be sieved. Well, I have to wait for the tube to warm up enough for me to check and see whether there's still powder inside it. Then that powder needs to be sieved. I have a nasty feeling that said powder is not in the tube. And if it takes too long, I won't find out until tomorrow morning, 'cause I've got to go to the museum soonish... Had a very nice chat to LC this morning. It's been a while since I've really had a chance to talk to her and she was both understanding and supportive, as well as being helpful.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

too much

Life is currently being overwhelming. I think it's very rude of it to sometimes be overwhelming and at other times to be unutterably boring. But variety and all that...

I have lots of work. I'm trying to do it all as well as doing important things like getting enough sleep/exercise, remembering to take my medication, eating, etc. I seem to be losing, but I think that's just mid-week perception and things will change towards the weekend. The problem is that the work is not very interesting.

I am an archaeologist because I am interested in people. Why do they do these things [as opposed to those]? Why do it one way instead of another? What do they believe? Why do they believe that? One of my favourite anthropological stories [and one of the most difficult to wrap my brain around] is the story of the Pacific Islanders [I forget which island and which group of people, but they lived on an island in the pacific] who starved to death. An entire population wiped out. Why? Well, their crops failed and there was nothing to eat. You see, fish was not considered 'food', so they couldn't use it to survive. But why not? I don't consider insects as food, or rodents, etc., but you can be damn sure that if I was starving I'd try to catch a few and eat them. So why didn't the islanders try to eat some seafood?

The problem with studying people is that there are so many of them and they all believe different things and behave differently, both in terms of cultural and temporal differences. So how can I ever figure it all out? Do you pick a region and look purely at the cultural and temporal changes in behaviour there? Or do you pick a culture that you're particularly interested in and learn all there is to know about those people? Personally, I'd go for both [pick a region and learn all there is to know about every culture through time], but that's just not possible. So you need some kind of compromise. You need a bunch of people who're experts on one culture. Then you need to come along and look at which cultures were in this particular region at which particular time and see what the experts say about those cultures. Then you somehow need to figure out the most interesting stuff of all - why and how those cultures changed/adapted/altered/etc. Of course, to do that you need a whole bunch of other experts who can tell you about the kinds of things that would be relevant to that sort of inquiry and so on and so forth. Which is why we never get anywhere very quickly.

Of course, by belief I'm not necessarily talking about religious ideologies, more about the beliefs that shape people's lives. Organised religion plays a part in that, sadly, but it is not the whole. There are very few people who, finding themselves starving to death on an island, would not try to catch a fish simply because their religion forbade it. Of course, that's not exactly a hypothesis we could test as people might die - it would lead to all sorts of liability issues I imagine, and probably wouldn't be very good for science overall. People believe all sorts of things and most of them never share their most personal beliefs with others. Of course, many beliefs are simply there, they're never articulated even to themselves, so you can't exactly find out what it is. You can, however, get at an idea of what they believe from their behaviour.

Like this person, who we'll call Adela. She would never accept this description of herself, but it's based on her behaviour and may well be a reflection of many things - subconscious beliefs, fear, insecurity, religious dogma, not thinking things through for herself but merely accepting what she's been told, etc. There are many reasons for her to behave the way she does. I don't understand them, but I find her utterly fascinating. She is extremely narrow-minded, if you disagree with or question her, you are being mean to her. If you don't agree with her she gets offended and tries to avoid the conversation - presumably she either dislikes arguments, is afraid of conflict or has simply learnt that I'm not going to concede to the weird religious beliefs that she does admit to. On the few occasions that you do manage to get her into a discussion on anything, she will not use reason. She will just state her beliefs or feelings, over and over again, until you either concede or she can't take it anymore and runs away. Your world must revolve around her, you must drop everything to attend to her whenever she wants your attention and you must agree with everything she says. She's also incredibly manipulative to get you to behave this way - she does not think that she's manipulative [or at the very least won't admit to it], however. Once you're aware of her manipulations they're so obvious and puerile that they've easily avoided.

And in spite of all this [though some may argue it's because of all this] I actually like her. It's not just that she fascinates me or that I think she's some kind of 'project', I actually genuinely care about her. I don't know why - my best guess is simply that it's because people are weird. To be fair, this is a completely one-dimensional view of her, detailing the behaviours that so particularly fascinate me about her. Also, I'm quite sure that I see some of the same behaviour in myself - I've got a clearer idea of the reasons behind it there though.

Anyway, that's been building for a while and is part of something that I've been doing in my breaks or while waiting for wendell to finish up in the mill, etc. I've been making a wishlist on of all the books I want. An overwhelming amount of them are either biographies, histories, or archaeological type books. There are quite a few that integrate history and weird beliefs for that matter. And just a smattering of fiction. But since I pick up most of my fiction at the market and currently don't have much time for reading the ones I'm busy with.

There's just too much work to be done...

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

all aflutter

so there I was idly paging through uct's monday paper as I ate my lunch and what did I find? One of my favourite people in the whole world [though you wouldn't think so given how little we see/talk to each other]...
The article doesn't make complete sense, but here it is for all of you to see.

UCT graduate can lead orchestra
New heights: Patrick Goodwin has been appointed as the new deputy concertmaster for the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra.

Dream come true for young violinist who takes up senior position with Cape Philharmonic. UCT graduate and violinist Patrick Goodwin has been appointed as the deputy concertmaster of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). In what he described as a "dream job" and a "fantastic opportunity", Goodwin will sit next to the concertmaster and occasionally lead the orchestra. His appointment came after he performed as a soloist with the orchestra for the first time in 2005. "It has always my dream to play as a soloist with the Cape Philharmonic since I moved to Cape Town," he says. He graduated from UCT in 2004 with distinctions in violin performance and chamber music. Goodwin was also a member of the National Youth Orchestra from 2000 to 2002 and became concertmaster of the UCT Symphony Orchestra and String Ensemble. Goodwin recently obtained his master's degree in violin performance with distinction from the De Paul University in Chicago. He is the first UCT graduate to be appointed as second chair to the CPO, and is just 24. Professor Peter Klatzow, director of the SA College of Music, said they were surprised but delighted that Goodwin had been appointed to such senior position at his age. UCT student Paula Fourie is now a full-time member of the CPO's viola section. While at UCT, Goodwin studied under Professor Farida Bacharova, who is also Fourie's teacher.

Monday, 17 September 2007


It's monday morning, classes started - which is to say I had to get up really early - again today, wendell was being uncooperative... however, I have lovely new glasses and am determined to mill that bloody cow to within an inch [or, really, a micron] of its life and get it through that sieve. Perhaps this sieve isn't working and I should switch to a different sieve.... there's a thought. Something to look into anyway.

So... the weekend happened. Saturday morning saw button and I up horrifically early [what kind of person thinks it's a good idea to drill into the wall in a block of flats at that hour?]... morning routines finished, it was off to get the glasses :) They're very pretty, but while I'm vain enough to keep wanting to look in the mirror while I'm wearing them [I expect that's going to wear off by next week though] I'm not quite vain enough to take a picture and put it up here for all of you. If you want to see them, you'll have to come visit me.

Later in the day, I saw mary, who was having a birthday. That was a fun afternoon, though we did little else than wander around the waterfront looking at pretty things and watching an old movie again. In the evening, button and I were planning to go see some artsy thing at hiddingh, but miscommunication happened and we stayed home and watched Kiki's Delivery Service instead.

We spent a lazy sunday morning wandering around the craft market, yet again buying an extremely large pile of books... Yesterday's major event, however, was the opera - Mozart's Magic Flute, directed by Willian Kentridge. It was visually stunning - and I mean that in the strongest sense of the word. It was fantastically beautiful and incredibly well done. The cast was well put together and played their roles exceptionally well. In fact, the only thing I didn't like was the story, which is rather sad as it made the whole thing far less enjoyable for me than it should have been... Afterwards, button and I went out for dinner, which was very nice, so the evening ended well.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Happy to be alive

Right, well, I had a meeting with JS, which resulted in me having a working mill. This is very happy news. The mill I was using is being made to work, as well as an even older mill than the old mill that I'm currently using. Hopefully the new mill model has found a way to solve the problems of both previous models. Hopefully. The point, however, is that the mill worked! I milled Wendell and he stayed in his tube, there was no leaking! This makes me very happy!

On my way home I found another reason to be very happy. I left uct, just in time for a shuttle to hiddingh, which was good as it was getting quite cold and miserable. The shuttle arrived at hiddingh without incident. So I started walking to the car, so I could pick button up from sahra. Three or four steps before I turned the corner out of hiddingh, there was an accident. And I'm very grateful that I wasn't walking faster. I was taking my time, daydreaming along slowly. There was hooting, squealing brakes and the black car hit the white car and skidded across right in front of me [and another white car, which escaped] and hit the railing and came to a stop. Had I been walking just a little bit faster, the car would probably have hit me as well. But I wasn't, and I'm very happy about that. So, by the time I got to button I was a little upset. And it took a good long while to get there 'cause I walked all the way. Why did I walk all the way instead of phoning him and telling him to meet me at the car, or something? Well, I left my phone at home yesterday. And I didn't think to borrow someone's, or head down to the museum and use a phone here...

In the evening, Button and I met Mom and Dad for supper at Mano's. It was very nice. They only take lunchtime bookings, which suggests that it's much busier for lunch than supper. But the food was excellent and there was a lovely atmosphere. While the restaurant wasn't empty, there still weren't that many people there - under ten tables. The windows above the doors, etc, are beautiful and there was a fantastic rain storm going on outside.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Long day already...

Well, it's been a while, and things have happened. I [finally] worked out what was [still] wrong with the mill and spoke to JL about it. We came up with two possible solutions, one of which Button and I tried out yesterday afternoon. It worked reasonably well, with the simple problem of me not being able to get the tube out afterwards, because it was in so tightly. This is a problem, but at least the sample stayed in the tube!

On Friday evening Button and I went shopping. Theoretically this was going to be grocery shopping, but it didn't end up that way. While shopping for funeral shoes for him, I'd spotted a nice pair of black sandals that said "buy me". They've got a slight heel, but nothing to difficult for me to cope with. And they'll go very nicely with just about every item of clothing I own and ... well, the only exception I can think of is my [numerous pairs of] tracksuit pants, which I'm very fond of, but don't usually feel the need to wear heels with, so it's okay. Considering the funeral, Button had put the idea of a little black dress into my head. While I have one, it's a light summery thing and simply won't do for more formal occasions. So we wandered about trying to see if there was something suitable, which we didn't find. Though I even tried on a couple. Then we wandered into one of the expensive stores and spotted a lovely dress which was on sale for less than R100, so we bought it.

Saturday morning it was off to the optometrist. One we'd never been to. I'm getting new glasses [I can't wait for Saturday]. Poor Button however, received the news that his retinas were damaged [which abysmal idiot thought it would be a good idea to have white site forms in the desert?] - he's not getting new glasses 'cause he doesn't really need them, though apparently he needs a different kind of contact lens for the one eye... In the evening we went off to Edgemead for D&B's engagement party. I wore my new dress, with pants underneath and my pretty sandals. Aside from having cold feet, it was really nice and quite fun. Hopefully the wedding won't clash with the conference that's happening around that time...

Yesterday Button and I [prior to doing some milling] rearranged much of the house. We like it better like this and I'm pretty sure that the plants do too...

Thursday, 06 September 2007

late-night milling.

Or not. So, I have after hours access to liquid nitrogen, so that I can work in the evenings, maybe occasionally on a weekend. Do I have any difficulty getting into the Geology Department? No. Do I have any difficulty getting into the lab with the LN? No. Can I get LN? No. It would appear that the thing on the end of the hose, that enable the LN to liquidise into your flask has been hidden for the evening. Unfortunately there was no one else there to help me and I couldn't find it...

there is other stuff to say, but I'm tired and cranky and can't find the words right now...

Wednesday, 05 September 2007

rainy rain

I was going to wear my pretty red shoes from chinatown today. I haven't really been able to wear them 'cause one of them was refusing to accept that it was supposed to have a heel attached to it. Eventually I gave up trying to fix it and removed the other heel. So now I can wear them. Unfortunately they are not designed for inclement weather, so I decided not to wear them today. Very smart of me, as it turns out, as I haven't seen this much rain all at once for quite a while.

I didn't make my lecture this morning. I was going to, but then sleep needed to happen. Apparently I slept very deeply [though Button claims that when he came to bed - and had to move me so that he could fit in the bed - I only woke up long enough to tell him that I hadn't fallen asleep yet. I don't remember this and have no idea whether or not it's true], and sometimes when that happens I really just can't wake up until I've slept enough. Which was apparently until just before eight, this morning. On the other hand I feel really good now.

Button and I went shopping last night. We had to buy him some shiny black shoes to match his suit 'cause he has to go to a funeral today. We also ended up going out for supper [again] as we were starving and not nearly ready to head home to our empty fridge. We did a little bit of grocery shopping so that we could eat breakfast this morning [pasta leftovers make a great breakfast before 7am, fish not so much]. There were a few heart stopping moments when our cart [with Button's shiny new shoes, et al.] disappeared. Luckily the people behind us had just taken the wrong one - obviously the most distinguishing characteristic of their cart was the screaming child in it and now that they'd let it out, they couldn't tell which was theirs anymore. Or something...

Tuesday, 04 September 2007

it all starts with Cthulhu

I expected to go home last night, and do some chemistry in preparation for today's practical. That didn't happen. Some archaeologists from Toronto were in town and Button happened to know the guy in charge as he'd been MC's student once. So Button was tasked with organising a dinner for MC, his 4 students, DB and his wife and Button and I. It worked out very nicely in the end - we went to Limoncello, a lovely Italian place in Gardens. I had the same thing I had last time - their ravioli of the day, both times a divine lamb ravioli in creamy mushroom sauce. I had it for breakfast this morning too :)

Anyway, dinner was great, not least because it's always fun to sit around and chat with a bunch of archaeologists. The students were interested in finding out about UCT - possibly to do post-grad stuff here. The one is busy with her masters and the other three are finishing up their undergrads. I have some interest in Toronto, though I'm not entirely sure that it is the right place for what I'm interested in. I also found one of them [the masters student, actually] shared a number of non-archaeological interests with me and we chatted for ages. It all started when DLG and I were talking about tutoring [TAing to them] - she mentioned some guy who was trying to explain [and failing miserably] how he'd go about excavating the underwater ... lair[?] of Cthulhu. Which of course led to a discussion on more general interesting topics... It's always exciting to find someone that crosses over your two [usually mutually exclusive] areas of interest.

In other news, it's been a while since I've had lectures and I've forgotten about what it's like to get a really good lecturer. We had our first lecture by Susan Bourne and she's utterly fantastic. Aside from that, there's not much more to say. I'm going to get down on my knees and beg JL to weld the plug to the cylinder so it works properly ... or at least doesn't fall apart. I hope.

Monday, 03 September 2007

glitter in my hair

So, the show happened on Saturday. I wasn't particularly nervous and I really enjoyed being backstage with the other women. I hope those few of you who came to watch us enjoyed it. The music was a little iffy, but overall it was great. And, of course, we all looked wonderful and most of us [my group at any rate] were well-practiced and got off with minor hitches. The finale was fun, if not very interesting [how else will you get 138 dancers to be on the stage at the same time?] I still have glitter in my hair and last time it took me nearly a week to get the stage make-up to disappear completely...

I spent most of my time backstage trying [and failing] to get hold of DB - a gentleman I've known for his entire life, who had gotten engaged on Friday. It's very exciting [though more than a little weird] and Button and I are off to an engagement party next weekend.

In other news, Button and I spent yesterday morning at the Green Point craft market. One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday morning... We were in the mood to be shopping, so we bought a rather large pile of books [the one guy was selling 3 books for R5, what would you have done?] Most of those will make their way to whatamireading at some point. The colour atlas of human anatomy won't, though.

This morning I had my first test in a very long time. Aside from going completely blank when first faced with the questions, I think it went reasonably well. This morning is also the twin's birthday - so HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Selan and Kiri, though I doubt they'll read this...

And did I mention the mill? The evil mill which my sample sat at the bottom of it for the whole weekend? And which is still not dry? I have no words to describe how I feel about the mill...


So, Becky gave her seminar on Primate Hybrids and Human Evolution. It was a simply phenomenal talk, covering her work on known hybrid populations. One of the big problems with hybrids, which result from populations that were diverged coming back together and interbreeding after sufficient separation to cause genetic differences between them... Anyway, one of the huge problems with hybrids is that you don't have controlled populations, so you don't know what's a first generation hybrid, what's the product of backcrossing [where hybrids breed with non-hybrids of either parent population] or what happens when hybrids breed. Becky has been lucky enough to be working with a controlled population and found a number of interesting things - additional sutures where they shouldn't be, bilateral full-size supernumery mandibular teeth, extra maxillary canines [which are the big scary ones in baboons] and so on.... More importantly from our [archaeological] perspective - if a hybrid can be identified in the fossil record [and that's a very big if!] from some of the dental characteristics - that can suggest things about selection for a whole suite of ectodermal characteristics. Things like skin colour, hair colour, hair location, hair length and thickness, sweat glands, etc. Fascinating stuff, if you're interested.