Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Not likely to launch my career as a footwear model

Thought you might like to see the jungle boots I bought (and just for Imogen, my awful eighties tights to make up for being unable to find my awful eighties jumper):

The boots cost £39.95, and I got four pairs of army tropical socks (padded underneath, thin with lots of ventilation on top) for £6.95 eack, leaving £13.25 to put towards desert boots later. Thank you again for your kindness, everyone.

Right, I'm off to steal a tank and invade EuroDisney.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Putting my foot in it

Obviously there is no part of my body that I am particularly keen to see swelling up, becoming infected or dropping off in The Gambia, but the body part I am least keen to have any of the above happen to is my feet. They are also the body part likely to be subjected to the most insults; thorns, blisters and little wormy things that burrow into your soles then crawl up into your brain and make you like The Feeling or something. For this reason I have devoted more than the usual 4.6 seconds that momentous life decisions tend to merit for me to choosing the most appropriate footwear.

After a lot of research and an afternoon spent having my feet examined at great length by someone who I am increasingly coming to suspect was not an employee of the Cotswold outdoor clothing company but a cunningly disguised foot fetishist, I have decided to go for a pair of army surplus desert boots for the dry season and jungle boots for the wet seasons rather than a hugely complex monument to Goretex that might possibly be able to handle both. Not only are two pairs of army boots cheaper than one technoboot, they come in width fittings for those such as myself who are somewhat gallumphing of hoof, and I like the idea that something designed for combat will be used to help research into reducing human suffering. As a bonus I am hoping that they'll prompt someone to say to me "You're thinking it's Sunday, I'd rather be in Apocalypse Now".

Both types of boots have reinforced soles so that thorns, rusty nails and the splintered bones of your fallen foes can't impale your feet. Desert boots don't have airvents to stop sand (or in my case dust) from getting in, but are made from nice breathable suede to stop your feet from broiling. They beat sandals hands down as thorns, mosquitoes and the aforementioned wee wormies can't get at your feet, and you can wear them with socks without looking like a tit.

Jungle boots are not actually waterproof - that would just make your feet rot when water got in and couldn't get out, but instead have cunning little vents in the soles so that the movement of your feet pumps water out. They are also apparently leechproof, which rather surprised me as I had always assumed than all boots would be proof against any leech that hadn't learned to untie shoes laces (a category into which I would, perhaps complacently, have placed the vast majority of them). However as leeches are some of the very few of God's creatures I find truly repulsive (the others being David Cameron and those horrible bald cats that look like a cross between a gargoyle and a scrotum) I have decided to be reassured by this.

Choosing the right sock is as important as choosing the right boot, and can be the difference between blisters and, erm, fewer blisters. In my extensive googling I came across something called "The Two Sock System" which is fascinating for two reasons; the first is that wearing two socks over each other dramatically reduces blisters by ensuring that the sheer stress is propagated at the junction between the socks rather than between sock and foot, the second is that someone bothered to give the practice of wearing two pairs of socks a name and felt the need to teach it as a course to soldiers. Interestingly I also read that the inner, breathable sock is often made of a material "like pantyhose" - ever since when I've seen footage from Iraq on the news I've been wondering if the soldiers are wearing suspenders under their uniforms.

Where were we? Breathable inner sock - check. Outer sock - wool and synthetic, no cotton as it becomes waterlogged, padding at heel and toe but thin upper to keep feet cool - check. Waterproof outer sock to wear over a dry sock in wet boots in the evening - check. (I wonder if I've just invented "The Three Sock System", and whether I could copyright it). Right, I think that's footwear sorted. To the army surplus store!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Killer cola

Just when I've reached the stage where I can drink a pint of coke in under an hour without twitching, wincing or complaining so much the my friends suddenly realise that they can't stay in the pub with me any longer because they have to get home to clean the oven, descale the kettle and worm the baby, the Guardian goes and publishes this.

I feel evil now.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

I'd like to thank my analyst, my hairdresser...

I'd just like to thank everyone for giving me such wonderful sendoff(s) - after all the Botanist food, tea, cake, cider, more tea and single malt I won't care if I get noting to eat but millet porridge in The Gambia. Thank you also for your very generous contributions to my footwear fund, which I hope to deploy at Camden's army surplus store next weekend.

I can honestly say that it's been great fun working with every single one of you. I could come up with a funny story or a time you've helped me out for everyone, but you'll forgive me if I limit myself to thanking four people by name; Roxana for making the day fun and for the very amusing plaque that I probably won't be allowed to put on my office door (although I certainly intend to try), Imogen, always a pleasure to work with and for a couple of blog posts that made me feel all warm and fuzzy and extremely embarrassed, Dave for giving me the job in the first place, rescuing me from that hellhole of a property developer and allowing me to claim that I'd been headhunted and to Charlotte for stunning me in the pub by asking whether animal eyes acted as a reservoir, a question I had never thought to ask. Which just goes to show, even if undertaking some slightly unsavoury research you should broadcast it about as widely as possible because you never know where insights might come from (although in the context of my PhD, "broadcast it about as widely as possible" might have some rather unpleasant connotations...)

Thanks all. (Dries eyes and rides off into the sunset singing Edith Piaf songs)

Friday, 12 September 2008

Lady Muck

Roxana's come up with a great nickname for me. Wish I hadn't already picked a blog title now.