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

Saturday, 18 October 2008


The trouble with blogging is that, much like riding a tiger or drinking banana-onion juice, once you start you have to keep going. I am extremely flattered, and a bit embarrassed, to have had two emails and a text asking whether I'm still on this mortal coil and would like to assure you that I was certainly alive last time I checked.

Things have been a little hectic up here lately - all the fun with not having a passport meant that I missed the post grad registration day, on which I would have been offered iced beverages and canapes whilst the college secretary massaged my feet and David Bailey took my campus card photograph, and was instead forced to register along with the undergraduates. This involved being herded like cattle between department, college, Elvet Riverside and Old Shire Hall at least twice by people with an air of deperately forced jollity and a garish t-shirt with a humourous nickname like Baps or Rozzer on the back. I then queued for at least six hours behind a pashmina princess loudly informing the person next to her of how she caught leprosy on her gap year trip to India, to the general incredulity of all in earshot, before having a webcam waved in my face and coming away with a campus card photograph that makes me look like a perplexed hobbit (although this is at least an improvement on my previous campus card photograph, in which I looked like a perplexed hobbit who had just escaped from a category five hurricane).

Since then I have spent my time attending a variety of safety courses, in which I learnt that the appropriate course of action if you accidentally spill a culture of genetically modified microbes down yourself is to strip naked on the spot and autoclave your clothes (this has actually happened in the department). As I will not be working with gentically modified microbes I'm not entirely sure what the point of explaining this was, unless all female students are warned to be wary of dirty old researchers approaching them with bubbling culture bottles and a glint in their eyes. I have also learnt how to be an effective demonstrator (don't form inappropriate relationships with undergraduates), actually done a small amount of work on my PhD, and discovered that someone had attempted to buy an ipod with my eBay account. I wouldn't have minded this if they had used a) my address and b) their money, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way and so ended my beautiful love affair with eBay ("And we should care why? Customer service? You do know that we have another ten million suckers like you, don't you?").

Other than that all's well. Lou and Ting continue to be extremely generous in letting me stink up their sofa, eat their food and smash their crockery, and living with doctors is certainly educational - you know that any conversation that starts "Talking of genito-urinary medicine, I had a guy in the other day who must have been a professional welder or something" is going to be interesting. After a hairy week in which I feared I may have to change my blog title to Twit in Tanzania when the MRC decided to close the Farafenni research station, it's now looking like I will still be going to The Gambia but to the research station in Fajara instead. This suits me as it is closer to Banjul, which is apparently the only place in the country you can buy toilet paper or any safe meat other than Spam - I swear the stuff is haunting me.

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