Thursday, January 30, 2014

Things I've Liked on the Internet Lately

Wired Science has a great recurring feature on an Absurd Creature of the Week. Check out their recent posts on giant sex-crazed cannibal snails, 12-ton sea cows, mini pink armadillos, and a frog that gives birth through its skin. Nature is insane.
Feel like the national news isn't giving you the whole picture? Have a look at Jess Stoner's quest to understand the United States through its local newspapers, one state at a time.
You may have already caught Frontline's fascinating documentary on North Korea as seen through hidden cameras. If not, you should.
Netspeak is improving English because empathy.
Poetry as written by Google's autofill
Math genius hacks internet dating.
You know how a really good book seems to linger with you after you've read it? It's not your imagination - it's Science!
100-year-old photos of doomed Antarctic expedition recovered from block of ice

Physics kittens:

Saturday, January 25, 2014


As you may have gathered from my increasingly decreasing blog posts, I'm finding blogging a lot harder in Dublin than in Guinea. It's not that there's less going on in my life - quite the reverse, actually - it's just that it's all so appallingly NORMAL. I go to work. I buy groceries and run errands. I go to pubs and the movies with friends. I stay home and watch TV in my pajamas. I do the same things everyone else does. Normal can be nice. Except for the housework, to which I still haven't fully resigned myself and probably never will, my quality of life is undeniably much better here than it was in Conakry. But normal just doesn't make good copy, so I find myself with less and less to say. It's a problem.

While I try to come up with something remotely interesting to blog about, here are some pictures of Dublin you can look at in the meantime:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Assorted Irish Observations

Despite being a committed EU member, Ireland seems to be dragging its feet a little on one particular EU common standard: the metric system. Oh, they go along with the letter of the law, but the spirit seems a bit weak. All the speed limits are in km/hr and liquids come in litres, like they should, but I've noticed that butter is sold in units of 227g - also known as half a pound. I imagine the unit standardization board being confronted by a gang of angry housewives in frilly aprons and pearls, armed with very solid rolling pins, who wanted to keep using their grandmas' recipes. You don't want to mess with those ladies. And then when you're talking about weights of people it's all in stones, which even famous metric holdout Americans find baffling. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Can we talk about The Big Bang Theory? I got the cheap(er) cable package so I don't have that many channels, but somehow, at any given moment, at least three of them seem to be playing reruns of The Big Bang Theory. It's a great show, one of my favorites, but still, that's a lot of nerditry. Is CBS giving it away free in syndication or something? What's the deal?

Deadly. What does this word mean, aside from "fatal"? If something is deadly, is it good? Is it bad? Is it so bad it becomes good again? I've mostly seen this word used to describe Christmas sweaters - or "jumpers" as they are known in these parts - so you can see where the confusion comes from.

Everyone in Dublin walks faster than I do. Like, a lot faster. Even when I'm in a hurry, which I rarely am, small children and little old ladies are still passing me all over the place. Where are they all in such a hurry to get to? I'd follow one of them to see what's worth wearing out that much shoe leather for, but I couldn't keep up anyway. Maybe it's a side effect of living in a habitually cold and rainy place that makes people walk like they're trying to outrace a tornado even when the weather's fine. Ireland should really look at developing an Olympic speedwalking team if they don't have one already. They could just pick random people off the street.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


It's safe to say I had a fairly dismal New Year's Eve. After a happy and healthy Christmas in Texas I thought I had managed to skip my annual holiday illness for a change, but it turns out it was only a week delayed. I rang in 2014 in bed -- but not the fun way -- shivering, sweating, and sneezing out whatever disease-of-the-season I picked up on the plane home. Ugh. Mired in mucus, I was not exactly in the brightest of spirits as I mentally ran through the inevitable New Year's self-review. I found a long list of things to be dissatisfied with: I'm too fat; my house is a mess; I spend too much money; I don't have any friends; nobody loves me. Everything is terrible, and it's never going to change.

After a couple of days mostly spent firmly planted on the couch self-medicating with tea, Sudafed, and Doctor Who (aside from work of course, because there's only two of us in the office), I got a little energy back. Enough to test out my meat grinder and make spicy pork noodle soup, which cleared my sinuses and my mind. My life is pretty great all things considered. I have a lot to be thankful for, and even more to look forward to. Sure, I have some things I'd like to change. Everyone does. But they are minor and completely fixable, if I put my mind to it.

I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions, finding them mostly impractical and overblown. But what the hell. This year I will try:
  1. Eating breakfast. It's supposed to do all kinds of good things for one's health, but I've always been too lazy to bother. But how hard is it to scoop a handful of nuts into a container to eat at work? Not that hard. 
  2. Packing lunch. I used to do this all the time but lost the habit in Guinea. I think perhaps it's time to get back into it and save myself from giant sandwiches and trays of take-out pasta.
  3. Getting out of the house more. It's not THAT cold outside, and there are tons of fun things to do in Dublin if I just make slightly more of an effort to find them. 
Doesn't sound too difficult or grandiose, right? Here's hoping for an awesome 2014!