26 January 2012

The MSF Podcast: LIVE!

This is the inside of the quietest room in Europe, Salford University's anechoic chamber. I got to visit it during the 2011 Manchester Science Festival.

As y'all might know, I've been volunteering for the Manchester Science Festival for quite awhile now. It keeps me busy, I enjoy doing science-related things, and I've met some lovely people through it. Overall, it's been a lovely experience.

I've been producing podcasts covering last year's festival highlights. It's exciting because I'm trying to get a job in radio production, and this kind of work will hopefully help!

The first episode is about a Microbiology and Art exhibition, a sort of weird art show. Give it a listen:
It's right here. Please leave comments, tell me what you think of it– I need feedback!

Also, I wrote some blog posts for them last year, and I don't think I mentioned them on this blog!

The Environment Is A Cup

An Elephant Packed Into A Cell?

Out of This World

Majestic Fragility

Beautiful Bacteria, Visual Viruses, Fascinating Fungi

23 January 2012


First off: I have been officially told off for neglecting this blog. Beloved Allen Wallen let me know, in no uncertain terms, that this blog is how you all hang out with me, and you have come to expect it, and going for more than a month without an update is NOT OK.

Message heard. Super long post ahead. Enjoy.

This blog, in its three-or-so years of life, has documented many firsts for me. First transcontinental move. First foreign work visa. First Giant Lily spotting.

First summertime Christmas

This past holiday was an exciting one for me. For the past 3 years, I have been overseas for the holidays. And before that, I was usually at Craig's family house for Christmas, largely because my family never did a big Christmas dinner or anything. We tended to visit my family on Boxing Day.

Which is all to say, I have not spent Christmas with my family for about 10 years. And to be fair, our version of Christmas is a decidedly secular affair, mostly about drinking nice tea and giving presents.

So, this past December, I went home for a week. I spent time with my family over Christmas, for the first time in 10 years.


The kids are still kids. They are 7 and 9, but they are still kids. They love bizarre made-up-on-the-spot games and they are sweet and sincere. They just wanted to hang out with me and play games and be weirdos. I keep fearing that one day, they will be too cool for school, and they will not be impressed with my presence or my jokes, but so far, my fears have not come true.

The kids are awesome little dorks. At one point, I was so exasperated with them for not getting out of bed, I put my hands over my face.

"What are you doing?" they asked.
"Um... ?" I said, unsure of what to tell them.
"What are you doing?" they asked again.
Inspiration struck.
"I'm hiding," I said.

Chicky (a nickname for my niece) started poking my shoulder.
"No, you're not!" she laughed, "I can see you!"
My nephew joined in, "We can see you, Nija Masi!!"

Masi, of course, means "aunt" in Gujurati, and more specifically means, "mother's sister."

I kept my hands over my face, saying, "I can't see you, though! So you can't see me!"

My nephew backed off, thoughtfully, and said, "That statement is sometimes true."

What a dork.

Before my flight, I was racking my brains for something special about British Christmas celebrations, something I could take home. Mince pie. Sure. But that's not all that fun, is it? It's just tasty.

I didn't think of it until just before my train left for London... Christmas crackers! 

See, we don't do crackers in the States. In fact, until I moved to Australia, I'd never even heard of them.

Yes, I do question what the point of our revolution was exactly, if we weren't going to keep the cool things like Christmas crackers. As a child, if the choice had been put to me directly, I think I would have taken "crackers" over "lack of Queen."

We had a blast with the Christmas crackers! The kids loved the little crowns and toys and even the wonky jokes. Next year, even if I can't make the holidays, I'm going to send some crackers along in my stead. They are such a lovely tradition, I can't believe American kids grow up without them, especially considering how much America loves things that explode and gunpowder.

My parents and sister and brother-in-law enjoyed them, too, and I was really happy and honoured to have brought home such a winner!

Chicky enjoyed them so much she did a school report on them, and ended up learning that they do crackers in Korea, as well. Hmmm. The happy side of colonialism, I guess.

So Christmas crackers were a first, too... for my family, at least, if not for me!

I spent loads of time with my sister. She's an amazing, giving, caring woman, who often cares about people more than they deserve. We got to know each other even better, and we reminded ourselves how much we really miss each other. We talked, and then something happened that also felt like a first: we didn't just say we loved each other. We promised to make efforts to show it. Feels like good progress.

I spent loads of time with my mom and dad. My dad even let someone get a picture of me kissing his cheek! My mom made loads of my favourite foods, and packed my suitcase full of Indian snack food. There are some things about those two goofy Indian people that will always make me giggle happily. I enjoyed their company.

There was a huge thunderstorm while I was there. Lightning and wipers flying away! I missed those. It was wild.

I also had a lovely time catching up with friends. Jeremy and Katie held a little party at their beautiful home in Grant Park. Lemuel and Allen (and her Lance) and Superman came along as well. I felt so lucky to still be in touch with these amazing people, to still be close to them.

Jeremy and Katie are such wonderful people... they are such grown-ups. Their house was all Christmassy, they had a fully decorated tree and loads of presents beautifully wrapped under it.

They always remember to send birthday cards on time and they had already done their Christmas cards. They have their shit together. But more importantly, they are truly skilled at being good friends. They know how to keep in touch with people, they know how to care. Every time I think of them, I think... I need to learn to treat people the way they do.

(look they've even got a nativity scene set out!! like real grown-ups!)

And their cat is awesome. Terzaghi Varner, in his second appearance on this blog. He's so dramacat.

Lem is an inspiration. He knows what he wants to do, which is "be a drummer," he's dedicated to it, he works at it, he's single-minded and focussed. He practices all the time so that he can kick ass all the time. I wish I was like him.

Superman! Thus nicknamed because he looks sort of like Superman. I mean, he's so tall. I really appreciated him coming out to this party, because he'd never met any of these folks before. He's that amazing sort of person who can walk into a room and be comfortable, around anyone.

And then, of course, dear Allen. The most awesome and fabulously supportive neighbour/friend a girl could ever hope for. She, like Lem, kicks ass all the time. She's brilliant, strong, smart and funny. Really funny. Like leave you speechless on the floor laughing so hard you can't breathe funny.

Her new fella, Lance, seems to keep up. Which is hard. I can't keep up with Allen. I know a lot of people who can't...

And dear Christopher sat in a coffeeshop with me and illustrated my holiday cards for me. I don't have a picture of that. I wish I did. He just yesterday got out of the hospital with a concussion after a car accident. He's ok, don't worry, just send your happy healing thoughts his way, please.

It only took one week in Atlanta for me to see that I have friends and family so wonderful that words will never live up to them. That was not a first. I am a lucky person, and so I get to see that often. I always treasure it.

New Year's was spent with Mark in Glasgow at a friend's flat, and it was a nice night. There were super fun remote-controlled helicopters. I texted Craig to wish him a Happy Birthday, and he wished me a happy New Year. Another first happened that night: I drank Gin & Cava. That is a first I will not be revisiting.

But most of the week, we were in Prestwick with Mark's family, who are lovely and welcoming. And the weather, well, it was winter in Scotland. Which is to say, it was not a funny joke at all.

One night, during a nasty storm, Mark and I drove down to Prestwick beach to watch the waves. The waves crashed over the promenade, the waves were caught mid-air by the wind, and the wind hurled the waves across the coast. It was astonishing. Definitely a first.

The next morning, as we walked along Prestwick Beach with Mark's parents, we saw enormous chunks of driftwood on the beach, looking like the sea had spat them out.

Just a few days before I got to Prestwick, Mark had been offered a job in London! He's already moved down there now, and he's staying with his brother at the moment. It was very exciting that he got the job after so long trying and waiting. But I am a little sad that I won't be visiting Prestwick or Glasgow again for a while. I was beginning to see something really wild, dramatic, exciting and beautiful about the West Coast. The weather, the coastline, the islands, the forests. I'll miss that.

Other updates:
1. I am still looking for work. Trying to claw my way into radio production. My claws are not looking so hot these days, because I have been working my arse off.

2. My dear Manchester-based friends Joe & Gem are going to be in NY for three months, because Joe got the coveted Hype Machine internship this year! I'm so excited for him, it's less than he deserves, but hopefully it ends up being more than he'd ever dreamed for! Wish Joe luck! Wish Gem the fortitude to not buy everything she loves in those NY vintage stores!

3. I will update this week! Even if I have nothing to tell you and no pictures to show you! I will update!