19 July 2012

Another week, more moaning about work...

So at the moment life is very busy, except for when I am at work procrastinating. I would like to not be procrastinating, but sometimes the amount of work I can do in the lab is limited by what actually needs to be done, and I'm struggling to motivate myself to work on writing stuff up. I dislike sitting at my desk all day on the computer - I would rather be doing some sort of more active work. Like a couple of days ago when I went out to beaches, having a little look for washed up barnacles and putting up posters to appeal to the public. The weather was pretty grim and there were no barnacles, and I don't like long car rides, but I do like going to the beach so it was a pretty good day. Hopefully I will go out again next week and hopefully the weather will be nicer.

What I am busy with at the moment is dealing with all sorts of  people after sending out a press release to ask for help in looking for stupid barnacles. Though the press release doesn't call them stupid. Instead it makes my work sound interesting and exaggerates how applicable it is. Unfortunately for all of those people out there, I am not actually looking for barnacles in order to extract their glue and use it as a surgical adhesive. What I actually need more animals for at the moment is to collect the adhesive for some microscopy work - there is this microscope that uses lasers to look at the chemical bonds holding things together and we are hoping it will tell us something interesting. And I need more animals to do more structural work - if the lab work goes well in the next couple of weeks I will have DNA sequences to work with, and I will make probes that will attach to that sequence in the tissue - which means that I can look at sections of the animal and see where this DNA is expressed, and if it is in the right place then I will know that it is adhesive-protein DNA. Fingers crossed that it works because I really want to finish this bloody PhD!

So anyway, the press release has so far got a lot of responses but has not yet brought me any barnacles. We released it yesterday, which means that the university sent it to all of the newspapers and radio stations on their mailing list. There was a piece in one of the national papers yesterday and I was called up by three radio stations. Hope I did an OK job of the radio stuff. There is a much bigger radio interview next week but I'm not sure if I am doing that or my supervisor is. And then this morning I was called up by a television person! However, it's for an Irish news show (on national television though). So that means they want an Irish speaker. It will be really good coverage so perhaps my supervisor will do it. And hopefully all of this will eventually mean that somebody will call me up and tell me that they have seen live barnacles that I can then go and collect. I don't need much, just a few good healthy ones would do. The thing is, this is getting so much attention that we really should have done it right at the start, but nobody suggested such a thing back then. I have also got one bad response already, some marine person that contested the newspaper's statement that these animals are rare and that extracting their glue is a feasible idea - well of course things are made simple for the wider public, stupid man who thinks he knows better than us who have been working on it for 3 years or so. I wrote back to him with very lengthy explanations.

In other news, Wilbert the snake is doing very well; he is eating loads of mice and growing very quickly. Except last month the mice I got were not so good and I didn't realise until I had already fed him quite a lot of them. When I got them from the pet shop that had mostly thawed already but I thought it would be OK to refreeze them. Wilbert ate most of them just fine, but then he started refusing his food and he took ages to moult. I think he was not very well. But now I have better mice from a different pet store and he is much happier. He is growing so much that I will try him with a larger size - the extra large mice are called monster mice, which I find amusing so I would quite like to feed him monster mice.

And I went away for the weekend, to Limerick for a day long tag-rugby tournament. The games were just 15 minutes long and it turns out that our team is not so good at short games - we got our butts kicked. It wasn't just that though, we were also playing teams that were better than us and that had real rugby players on them. We only won one out of four games, but at least we won by a lot for that game. And I got a try! It was very exciting. Then this week we lost again - it was the last game of the tournament and if we had of won it we would have won the whole thing, but they were a good team full of real rugby players, and we were off our game after the long weekend. The last time we played that team one of our players had her head split open so at least there were no real injuries this time. Except I have a giant bruise on my shin - someone must have kicked me.

Now it is about lunchtime and I should go do some work. I have DNA fragments to clone and sequence and more sequences waiting to be analysed. Lab work makes me tired, makes me just want to go home and bake something, or sit in front of the tele, or finish knitting that hat that I started the other day. Or finish making the dress that I started weeks ago and then stopped when I got to the finishing touches. Or just go to sleep. But at least I can listen to music while I work, on account of having a brand new ipod. It's pink. My old one finally stopped working - the buttons just wouldn't do anything anymore. It had survived a lot though, it was a good few years old and had been dropped countless times, plus once into a glass of water. But I don't like the new one, it is too small - it is only about an inch and a half square! Plus it has no buttons, it's all touch screen! But then again, all I want to do is listen to music and it does that, so the other things don't really matter. And it has a built in pedometer to measure all my steps, so that's fun. Yesterday I walked 10,000 steps! That seems like quite a lot. Makes me feel justified in going home and blobbing out on the couch.

05 July 2012

It's been a really long couple of weeks here in Galway. The last post ended with chocolate caramel cupcakes, which were a huge hit for my mate's birthday, and after that I did nothing for the weekend. Except run 10k. It was called a mini-marathon, which is sort of insulting really, because it's nowhere near a marathon. Still, it was really hard. Way harder than 8k. I managed to finish in 56 minutes, which is two or three minutes faster than last year. And I decided that running really isn't my thing, and I don't enjoy it enough to want to do an actual marathon, or even a half. I will stick to short runs and the odd 10k for a good cause.

When I finally decided to try do some work, I realised that what I had been planning on working on was already finished, I had just done it so long ago that I had forgotten. On the Monday I had my GRC meeting, which went just fine, and made me determined to make my stupid lab work go well, so that I can finish this stupid PhD. However, that's much easier said than done. So it's pretty much agreed now that I will try to finish enough to write up my thesis at the end of this year. Which is good.

Then later that day I fed Wilbert the Snake a mouse, which must have not been a very good mouse, or maybe I defrosted it too quickly, because when he bit it and wrapped around it the mouse's tummy burst open and spilt guts everywhere! It was gross. He still ate it though. He has been very boring since then - he is getting ready to molt, but sure is taking his time about it. He would not eat his mice this week, which is very annoying, because they went to waste and they cost me 2 euro each! However, after I changed his bedding and water he did get right into his water, his whole body, and went for a little swim, which I had never seen him do before.

After Wilbert's dinner it was time for rugby practice, where we played a practice game against another team and my legs were hurting me so much that I decided I should really go to the physio. I did so the next day, and she was really good. She used some ultrasound thing on my legs to get rid of the shin-splints, then did dry-needling to fix up my calf muscles so that I wouldn't get more shin splints. Which hurt. A lot. Dry-needling is exactly what it sounds like - needles are stuck into you. There were at least four needles sticking out of my calf muscle and she wriggled them around, which made all my muscles twitch. For the rest of the day I was limping and felt as if somebody and tried to tear my calf muscle right out of my leg. But on the bright side, my legs are almost all better. Unfortunately that hasn't made me much faster for rugby. Yet despite my lack of speed I got my first try in our game last week! Yay! It was a very exciting moment.

So that was all the news of last week, and then over the weekend the Volvo Ocean Race festival started. It involved a lot of noise and huge crowds. There is a little 'village' set up down at the docks, with loads of food stalls (really good ones) and little shops, plus a huge stage. A stage with such hugely load amps that I can hear the noise very clearly from my apartment, which is blocks away. So when the boats came in on Monday night and I was trying to get a good night's sleep (which I needed because I had a cold) I was woken up at one in the morning by the sound of Split Enz 'I See Red' and some incredibly annoying woman shouting through the microphone. I listened for long enough to, first, gather that the NZ boat had come into Galway first (but we didn't win overall, sadly) and, secondly, get so annoyed with that woman at the microphone that I hunted in my earplugs and slept with them in. Which is very uncomfortable! The next day I went down to check out the boats and they were much smaller than I expected. To think that a group of people spent 9 months on those little things, sailing across huge oceans with big waves!

Now it is Thursday and I have had to sleep with earplugs every night. The crowds are huge and the rain is not dampening their spirits. For those of us that live here it's pretty funny that it won't stop raining - now everybody will know what Ireland is really like, instead of being fooled by the bouts of good weather that often show up just for tourists. However, the rain has not improved my cold at all, which has gone from a sinus cold to a gross phlegmy cold to a sore throat cold. I was getting better, but then yesterday it rained on us for our entire rugby game. And then as soon as we finished it stopped. Chocolate cookies helped, and so did going home and making soup for dinner. Yesterday was July the 4th so for the Volvo Race Week it was America day, and there were fireworks out in the harbour. They were really good, and the first fireworks I'd seen in ages! It didn't last long enough though. Apparently fireworks are illegal here, to the point where even the cities don't hold a fireworks display at New Years. How crappy is that?!

I have given up on working for the day. It's nearly time for my first yoga class. Because I joined yoga this week. Which made the physio much happier with me. I am very un-stretchy, and it would be easier on my legs if I was more stretchy. I reckon it is going to be hard, but all my friends do it and say it's great. So I guess we'll see.