27 October 2011

This week in Galway ...

So the news from these parts is not much, everything exciting happens elsewhere. There is major flooding in Dublin so I guess that is where our rain has gone - the weather here has been kind enough to be clear and frosty all day and only rain at night! There is only a month till I am on holiday so I have finally stopped procrastinating and am working long hours (though I still can't seem to get anything done in the evenings and weekends). The sun is coming up later and going down earlier but it is not so bad, I am not walking in the dark yet. I have lots of writing to do and lab work to do, and sadly I'm going to try work this weekend even though it's a public holiday. I won't go into the office though, definately staying at home. My respite from work lately has been more work, in the form of the undergraduate practical labs. The 2nd years are studying arthropods so I volunteered because these labs involve interesting creatures. Of course, I didn't get to handle many of them becase I'm not to be trusted with anything remotely dangerous and there's the possibility of my freaking out over spiders. So I got to show off the scorpions and for my trouble got a pinch by one of the giant claws.

This guy is a giant mysore scorpion from India and doesn't have a name. His claws are huge because this type of scorpion doesn't have much in the way of venom, which is why he's safe to handle. The other one that I had was in a sealed container so that there was no chance of escape because despite being tiny it was the most dangerous animal in the room. Unlike the one above it had iddy-biddy claws, but it's tail was really fat, which is generally the way they are when they have really strong venom. This one up above is not overyly happy in this picture, you can tell because his tail's sort of raised, he's wary and getting into his attack pose. That's because I had to keep picking him up to show the students all of his little details. Not with my hands though, I had a great big pair of tweezers. It's safe enough to let him sit on your hand, but eventually he got fed up and grabbed onto my had with his claws so after that I let him stay on the bench.

The previous week was centipedes and millipedes, which are cool in their own way but sort of gross to somebody like me that isn't a fan of creepy-crawly things. Next week is insects, which should be interesting, then crustaceans. Vertebrates are more fun though, I don't mind admitting a huge bias. They are not featured in this semester's course but there is a new lizard in one of the downstairs labs so maybe I will go take photos of her, seeing as I have no interesting tales at the moment. All I am doing is working, and I am not even really doing that quite enough. The only good thing about going to work so early and leaving late is that the streets are quiet and the light makes the city look nicer. So let's end with a photo of the canal and I will try to find stories for next time.

15 October 2011

Recovering from surgery

Did I mention that I was having surgery this week? If not, I guess that's because it didn't really seem like such a big deal, just a real quick thing that is pretty commonplace. I went in on Wednesday, had surgery that night and was out Friday morning. It would have been even sooner but there were complications so the procedure took them over 2 hours. Luckily though they still managed it by keyhole surgery so I'm not left with a huge gash across my stomach. Just 4 small ones. The one on my bellybutton is a bit sore - it is the biggest one and the most bruised, and that is the one that they pulled my gallbladder out of. I have painkillers to take for a week and last night I had the craziest dreams so I hope that settles down because I would prefer a proper night's sleep. I was advised to be up an about so instead of staying in bed all day I joined in pizza night last night, which then turned into ice-cream night because the doctor did tell me I can now eat whatever I like. Maybe today I'll rest on the couch a bit more though. The rainy day outside is putting me off.

Of course being being in recovery mode means that the road trip for this weekend had to be cancelled, so no new places to see or Irish countryside to look at. It was to be a work trip but health and safety concerns say that I have to refrain from fieldwork till I have the doctor's say so, which is about 10 days. That's OK though, a trip would have been fun but there'll be plenty to do here over the weekend and I have loads of work to do next week so a rest will be nice. Except I won't really be completely resting, I have work to do. I got into a research day competition in which I am one of 10 PhDs to present my research and there are 3 money prizes. That seems like pretty good odds to me! Only the presentation is to be no more than 5 minutes so that will be rough. So I am half read, I have plenty of older talks to fall back on, but I will need some practice time.

However this week I am finally getting off my butt and getting back into labwork so I will have no time to spare! I have been working on writing up my first set of results for publication in a scientific journal and now I have the re-write back from my supervisor so I have to deal with that. At the same time, I am beginning work with a colleague to dissolve the glue I have collected and look at the proteins. But that doesn't seem to be a hugely successful avenue to go down so I am also beginning this week to look for the expression of genes for adhesive proteins that have already been discovered. It doesn't stop there however; the week after, as I continue the molecular work, I'm also starting a new type of microscopy that is supposed to tell me about all of the organic chemistry within my adhesive. That's three new, huge things all at once! Plus a presentation competition that I'd really like to win!!

Luckily I prefer to have more work than less, it's easier to concentrate. When there is not much to do I get distracted and don't do anything at all (or so it seems, maybe I have been doing stuff though). Plus I don't much like just resting for days on end, I would get so bored. I have books to read, and movies to watch, but everybody else is busy working anyway so that's not so much fun. I have been trying to knit a hat - it will be my first and if it is good and I will knit many more! It's really fast too, much faster than a scarf. I would like to get out my sewing machine and make stuff but fabric is so expensive here! I found some cotton with cupcakes printed on it though so now I really want to make it into an apron. Plus halloween is coming and I need a costume. Speaking of which, now that October is here there are finally real pumpkins to buy so I am going to go and get dressed and go down to the market to get one. Then I will have to get somebody to chop it up for me since nobody seems to trust me with big knives. But then there can be pumpkin pie! And pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread and anything else I can think of!

03 October 2011

More barnacles, the bane of my life ...

In the last week Galway was surprisingly warm, trying to fool us into thinking that it is not such a bad place to be at this time of year. Really strange stuff has been happening over this side of the world in terms of weather actually, with record-breaking high temperatures for September and October. Apparently there was something about earthquakes somewhere and a potential tsunami too, so between that and the spring tide the sea level here has been really high. Here in Galway the town is built right on the bay, with a main road and wide pavement right alongside the beach (in other words, a pile of rocks and smelly seaweed). Last week however the beach was barely visible; people were fishing from the sidewalk and actually catching fish. I went out to a small beach along Galway Bay looking for fresh samples and for once luck was on my side and I actually found some!

The weather was nice and the beach was covered in seaweed. Luckily on this occasion I managed to stay on my feet and not fall in any. I was just walking the beach, enjoying the chance to be out of doors on a relatively nice day and not expecting to find anything at all, seeing as it is pretty unlikely that my species will wash up. The sea had been pretty quiet the last few days and there had been no strong winds so the beach was free from rubbish and debris. But then as I was walking along I began to find goose barnacles! Very crushed up goose barnacles. I thought that it was a bit odd that here were my animals all crushed up, and so many of them. I kept looking, hoping I would find a live one, and wondering how they got to be so crushed. It looked like somebody had ran them over. Finally in pools of water around the rocks I began to find a few that were not crushed, and then a few that seemed to be alive. Then as I kept walking further up the beach I saw a big log that on closer inspection was covered in the remnants of barnacles! I guess that explains why there were so many on the beach, and all crushed up - the log must have been washed up and then bashed against the rocks with every high tide.

Some of the animals on the log were still alive so it can't have been there too long. I carefully chiselled off what I could and brought them back into work to show of my success. I have about a dozen live animals but they probably won't last long. It's better than nothing though and will keep my supervisor happy and off of my back (I hope). Unfortunately, now I have to actually do something with the animals, which is not really so hard or time-consuming but one of those annoying little things that you would rather put off. Now that a new week has started working with live marine animals is especially unattractive as the weather has turned awful again and I have a cold. The plan had been to go to the beach for another look-sea over the weekend but it is probably for the better that those plans went down the drain. Much better to stay in with a hot drink. Now it is October and only two months till I am in NZ, where summer had best be in full swing. I have a lot of work to try to do before then, and my health just keeps getting in the way. I would love to use my cold as an excuse to stay home but really shouldn't (instead I have a little heater under my desk to keep me warm and toasty while I sit at my computer, but I think that it might be against the rules so have to keep it hidden!). To end on a positive note, I have got my surgery moved forward to the 26th of October, so I will be all better for my birthday (yay!) and for lots of good Christmas food (double yay!!). Now if only it would stop raining!