Monday, August 20, 2018

A weekday night

I was lying on my bottom-bunk bed in a hostel in Liverpool, reading a book and wondering if I would be able to get to sleep if I put on my pyjamas and tucked myself in, when I saw the shadow of my roommate towering over my book.

"Would you like to come to the bar with us?" She asked, gesturing towards herself and our other roommate. When I took too long to answer, she insisted, "Come on!" which was all the encouragement I needed.

We went to a bar across the street. While all three of us were being carded at the door, a middle-aged woman got up from her table and made her way over to us, hugged me, and told me she liked my short hair and that we were pretty, and then said into my ear that it was a good thing that we were being asked for ID (to prevent underage drinking?). I thanked her and looked over at her table. A man with one eye and an orange vest winked at me and yelled at me that I was pretty. I waved back at him and flashed him what I hoped was an appropriately friendly but definitely not a come-hither smile before we went inside.

The bar was really noisy so conversation with my roommates was difficult, but we got to learn a bit about one another by yelling into each other's ears one at a time, and then relaying the information on to the third roommate as appropriate. We had a beer each and watched some more drunk middle-aged Liverpoolians absolutely kill the karaoke. We discovered that the youngest of us was an 18-year-old German high school student and aspiring dancer who staunchly refused to show us her moves, and the oldest of us was a 30-year-old Vietnamese who was finishing up her Master's in finance in Paris and was looking for a job to help her stay in France. They were both solo travellers and just wanted to see the sights.

A young guy asked us, but mainly the German girl, to dance (you know what that looks like) but she still refused to show us her moves and instead just bopped around politely. We finished our pints and went back to the hostel, which has a pool table which you can use for the modest sum of £1. While we were examining the coin slot to see if perhaps anyone had left a pound in there (you ALWAYS must check), a couple of Scottish guys came up to us and asked to play with us. We played a couple of rounds of 8-ball with them, although the older roommate and I mostly chatted with each other and occasionally took a turn. This was okay since our youngest member apparently didn't need much help from us and won the first round, although we (she) lost on the second one. After the second round the Scottish guys were all "Alright then lasses, have a good one" and went away, and the three of us decided to get a coffee.

By then it was quite late so coffee turned into hot chocolate from McDonald's, which is always open. My companions were excited to have me place the order and pay using the touch screen for the first time in my life (this is so straightforward, more places should have this). The only blip was that we didn't realize that our hot chocolate was ready about 30 seconds later, and instead we waited for the orders on the screen to do a full cycle (100 orders) before approaching the counter to collect what was by then three warm chocolates.

This entire time they had had to pee, so we hoofed it back to our room with our warm chocolate so they could do their business. Then we sat on the floor for like an hour chatting about life and our families and pets and whatnot.

I barely saw them after that because our schedules didn't match up, but that was a fun night.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Candidacy

I have my PhD candidacy exam coming up in two days (less, if we go by hours!).

Until T minus four weeks, I read a lot of articles related to my project but faffed around a lot more than I was reading. I also kept doing my behavioural tests and whatever the hell I wanted, basically: I was cat-sitting, tutoring Biology and reading for pleasure. I had some of my essay written, but at this point it was a mish-mash of ideas that turned out to be mostly useless.

After crossing the four-weeks-to-go mark, I worked "intensively" on my essay. This involved reading even more than before, letting the ideas gel, and browsing purse forums.* I wrapped up the extracurricular activities and began to write more seriously.

When there was about a week and a half to go until the exam, and about four days left before I had to send in my essay, I slept progressively less each night. By the time I sent in the essay, I had slept for 3 hours out of the previous 60. I value sleep above few other things, so this is saying something.

Here I am now: 39 hours away from the exam. I have read so much that new ideas are having a hard time penetrating and taking hold in my brain. I am fixing up my slides but that's very boring, so I'm getting distracted again. I'm trying to only do productive procrastination, but my brain is going numb.

I am alternating between being confident I will pass without any major issues, and feeling extremely unprepared and like I won't be able to answer a single question-- in fact, I will probably break down crying and run out of the room. The examiners will exchange looks, shake their heads, shrug their shoulders. "What can you do when the student is that bad?"

I've been having a lot of nightmares.

I really need to fix up my slides, though, because I want to practice the whole talk several times. I always make changes to my presentations and then forget about them, so they catch me by surprise and I have to stop and read my own slides and figure out on the fly what the hell I was thinking when I wrote X or Y, or fill in an information gap that I hadn't noticed I left.


*I own two purses whose main characteristics are "small" and "large", respectively, but I dream of owning a fancy one that I can't take anywhere because it doesn't look good with my jeans and T-shirts. Nor with the fine coating of cat fur that is on all of my possessions and my person.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Midyear resolution

Lately I've been feeling the itch to get back to blogging. But I'm afraid that if I start it up again, my efforts will fizzle out after only a couple of posts, which I don't want to happen!

In 2011 I resolved to read 100 books. I only made it to 53 books by the end of the year, and it's safe to say that I wasn't really into the classics (I recall a lot of chick lit). But reporting back to the blog on what I'd been reading kept me blogging consistently, and I liked that.

There are 206 days left in 2015, and my midyear resolution is to watch 100 documentaries in that time, and blog about them. This is partly to keep me consistent with the blog, and partly to give me something to talk about. I'm not the most skilled conversationalist and I'm not the most informed civilian, so I need a little help.

If my 2011 choice in books is any indication, most of the documentaries will not be about philosophy, technology, biographies, etc. Rather, I can easily envision myself watching films about how candy is made, chronicles of natural disasters, and footage of sharks swimming around and eating things. But I will try to include a good mix, and not just stick to the easy stuff.

Anyway, I'm going to watch my first documentary now (although I'm supposed to be working on my thesis...) and report back.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Woodpecker

I feel lazy about writing. I think it's because now I can tweet whatever I'm thinking about 100 times faster than I can write a blog post (and mind you, composing tweets takes a long time when you're used to writing loooong sentences, but are suddenly faced with a character limit). In my rational mind I'd rather blog because it seems more permanent –and I'm terrified of forgetting– but I'm so damn lazy that I don't get around to it.

Last weekend I went to Veracruz with my Animal Handling class (or whatever I've called it in the past). Oddly, I was pretty okay during the 8-hour bus ride, but from the afternoon and onwards, I kept throwing up in dainty mouthfuls and was feeling nauseous and disgusting, and I'd generally have liked to stop existing for a day or two until the feeling passed. The HOT HOT climate didn't help at all, as one might imagine.

We gathered to set up some Sherman and Tomahawk traps baited with oatmeal-peanut butter balls and canned tuna, respectively. My boyfriend was urging me to go back and rest in our tent, and I was like, "Uuuurugurgggghhh… but… I want to set my… ugh… trrraaaaap…" so he spoke to a teacher. She gave (him to give to) me a chewable Pepto-Bismol tablet. Then the group set off into the night.

I made it about twenty meters before vomiting (pink at first, because of the Pepto-Bismol) through my nose (that burns as badly as it is disgusting). I went back to our tent. I'm not sure what happened there except that I lay there feeling horrible and then got up to puke some more. I must have eaten something off, because after that I was fine. HOORAY!!

You know, I don't know why I'm going into so much detail about this particular episode. It's written, though, and I ain't erasing it.

The next four days were much better. We set up a trap line for amphibians and reptiles, a scent station (and got some rabbit prints!), mist nets for birds and bats, collected poop (thankfully it was all dry), birdwatched, caught frogs (I suck at catching frogs. I kept dropping them. Luckily they're not too skilled at getting away), spotted some crocodiles, and listened to birdsong (technically I didn't actually do this activity because I slept in that day. But you might also say that those damn birds wouldn't shut up during our midday naps** so in a way I did hear more than my fair share of birdsong. In a way.

The mist nets were interesting. We set up two nets, and waited in a nearby palapa, checking on the nets every twenty minutes or so. You HAVE to check the nets, and you can't just go off for lunch or something and leave them set up, because when birds get caught in the nets they go nuts and flap around and get themselves all tangled up (especially if they're small birds, because it's even easier for their little heads to go through the net and get it wrapped around their necks). And detangling a crazed bird is hard to do and can take, like, ten minutes.

So we had set up our nets, and only one of them was getting any traffic. We'd gotten three or four birds (one of which died, sadly), measured, weighed and identified them, and then let them go. We were ready to break for lunch, and a couple classmates went to each of the nets to fold them up. The rest of us were leaving the palapa and heard some distant yells: "Teacher!! Guys!! There's four birds here!! Five birds!! Six!!! TEACHERRRRRR THERE'S A WOODPECKER IN THE NET COME QUIIICK!"

We all legged it over to the net and got to work picking the birds out of the net. I got a tiny little guy who kept pecking at me, and was free in under ten minutes. The teacher (who is a very experienced ornithologist) detangled the woodpecker, who had gotten his tongue caught in the net and had gone beserk.

Eventually we got them all out (although I think another bird died at this point). We were all, "let's measure them now, we can wait an hour for lunch! They're all stressed, poor things." But the teacher was like, "Nope. After lunch. Fold up the nets." She didn't win any points from us for this, needless to say (and anyway it's so hot there that I never felt like eating. I'd rather free some birds).

Off we went, we ate lunch, and rushed back to the birds that were stashed in their cloth bags hanging from a bunk bed. We took them to a palapa to measure & weigh them before tossing them into the air so they could fly off and have nightmares about their abduction (of course we were all squabbling over getting to free the birds again, as you may imagine). And when the woodpecker was pulled out of its bag, it started SCREAMING.

I mean, if you think of a bird vocalizing, you think of tweeting and singing and squawking and whatnot. This bird was screaming, really screaming-- in birdish it was saying something along the lines of "HOLY SHIT SOMETHING HORRIBLE IS HAPPENING HERE OH NO OH NO OH NOOOO PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11". When we taped its beak shut (to prevent someone losing a chunk of finger) it screamed through the tape.

And, you know, it's screams worked! Two minutes later, there were two woodpeckers jumping around in the trees right next to us, calling back to our bird. When we let it go,  all three of them flew off together into the sunset, looking over their shoulders only long enough to curse us all.



** When we got to nap, that is. But in that climate, naps are a necessity because it gets TOO DAMN HOT TO THINK, especially if you are like me and take heat very badly. My boyfriend makes fun of me because of this, as I want to go to Australia someday but won't be able to do anything when I'm there.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Whiny books

The power went out a few hours ago, just as I was about to click "print" on my genetics article. Oh, well. I hate genetics, anyway.

Plus my genetics my teacher is bitchy and won't admit her own mistakes. Also her teaching is kind of confusing. And, you can tell how she feels about us by the faces she makes when someone says, "But wait, couldn't it also be caused by a lethal allele …" or, "Actually, the wording of that problem made me think it was like this: …". Or by the way our homework, freshly handed in, was sitting on top of her textbook the other day and she picked it up with her fingernails and sort of flung it onto the desk with a flick of the wrist.

I got sidetracked, sorry. Back to the power outage.

So I sat down on the couch with a book. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, is supposed to teach you to follow your instincts about dangerous people. That way, you won't get into dangerous situations and will instead tell dangerous stalkers to get lost, tell dangerous men in stairwells to get lost, and possibly some other type of dangerous person to get lost, too. Also walk out of a convenience store with bad vibes, and then you won't get shot.

That's about all I learned from the book before I got bored and put it down to go eat some rice crackers. My mom said she thought it was boring, too, and that it's probably only interesting to people with stalkers, abusive mates, etc. She's probably right. The closest I've ever come to being in any kind of danger was when a guy stole my phone last week. For about a minute*.

So after I left that book and ate three rice crackers with hummus, I sat down again to read Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell. My boyfriend and I rented the movie last year and watched 15 minutes, tops, of it before giving up and doing something else. I rarely hate a movie, and have even squeezed limited enjoyment out of watching Nanny McPhee on a bus ride, but I couldn't stand this Julie character. SHE WAS SO DAMN WHINY.

I somehow ended up with the DVD at my house, where my sister watched –and loved it– before I returned it to Blockbuster. And later I saw the book at a secondhand bookshop, and picked it up for her. I found it again a few days ago. I'm about two chapters in and this Julie is a little less whiny, but the book isn't worth it because there's no redeeming Meryl Streep. Ergo, no point in reading it.

I was in this sad situation when lo, the power returned. So, here we are.



* He ran past me, grabbed it, and kept running. Only I didn't let go of my phone, which lead to us wrestling while he tried to run. Then he did run, and I fell over because I was still holding on to him. I got up and chased him around corner, but stopped because I didn't want to leave my school bag lying on the street behind me. I could lose my phone AND my pencil case.

Luckily a couple was near the corner that Mr. Robber and I had just turned, and they were all, "What's going on?". And I was like, "He took my phone!". And they were like, "You shoulda said, we could've got him!!". The guy was still running away down the street, so I was like, "Well, if you want to help me, we can go…". So the man and I ran after him, and the woman hissed at us to tell him to drop the phone.

I didn't think that would work, but after she said it a few more times I figured, why not. So I was like, "DROP IT!!!". And whaddaya know, the guy dropped my phone.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Birds

I'm really bad at genetics. But I'm over the hump; two months into the semester and half of the students have stopped showing up. I found an easy-to-understand genetics textbook and now I just read everything and make notes about a week before we see things in class, and I can keep up okay. It's hard to make myself do because not only am I very slow but also I don't like genetics. But it's not so bad.

On other news, I'm doing my social service. The girl who's doing the project is marking sparrow and finch eggs, then marking the nestlings and seeing how many die in each nest (such is the life of birds). So first, we have to find nests. Which means walking around campus and parks and craning your neck under every tree, looking at nooks and crannies in buildings, and shoving your torso into shrubs. For about six hours.

Only one nest has had eggs in it so far, but it was thrilling to find them. We have a mirror attached to an extendible aluminum stick, which we put above a nest to see if it's empty or not. Seeing those two tiny, white eggs was rewarding and kind of an "Oh! My babies!" moment, if you see what I mean.

But I'm starting to like birds; I'd never payed much attention to them before because all I ever saw was sparrows, feral pigeons, grackles and the occasional hummingbird or parrot. But I have not only learned to appreciate sparrows and grackles (feral pigeons are kind of gross*), I started to notice a bunch of other birds. I've seen vermillion flycatcher, an oriole, robins, thrasher nests, a fallen hummingbird nest and even an inca dove who was busy incubating**.

And my wildlife handling and management class went to a park, where we saw a ton of ducks, a stilt, some hawks, pelicans, etc. etc. and now I'm on a bird kick.





*Although let me tell you that there was a small rescue mission a month ago, for a pigeon fledgling who fell out of its nest and was running around the corridor underneath. A girl asked my boyfriend –the tallest guy available at the moment– to put it back into its nest. So he stood on a chair and returned it, kicking and screaming, while I stood next to his legs freaking out because if he fell the wrong way he would plummet 12 meters onto a concrete floor AND the bird wouldn't get back home. Afterwards, I got him to wash his hands really well in case he got pigeon herpes or something. And although I'm still no fan of feral pigeons, that fledgling was cute. I mean, it was a baby!

**Incubating birds (or at least inca doves) apparently let you get REALLY REALLY close. They've already invested so much in their nest and eggs that they don't just fly away in the face of danger. They stay put.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

No me niegues mi champurrado, amor

I watched a video recipe and enjoyed the song even more than the pictures. I looked around and the song isn't well-known and nobody had ever written the lyrics anywhere, so here they are in case anyone wants them. And looks for them. And finds them.

The video here is the video recipe, but the entire song is on YouTube if you search for it by name.

You can tell this guy's from Texas. His accent sounds great in the song; he says "orguio" and "tuio" instead of "orgullo" and "tuyo". 




"No me niegues amor"
by Balde González y su Orquesta

Qué pasó con tu maldito orgullo
Se acabó tu falsa vanidad
Creíste que el mundo era tuyo
y mira a dónde fuiste a dar

Mi sufrir para ti no era nada
Te ofendí cuando te hablé de amor
Dijiste que no me comparaba
y mira a dónde fuiste a dar

No pensé que fuera yo a encontrarte
Como un tiempo anduve yo por ti
Causa tuya vine a dar aquí
y aquí vienes por mí

Qué pasó con tu maldito orgullo
Se acabó tu falsa vanidad
Creíste que el mundo era tuyo
y mira a dónde fuiste a dar

No pensé que fuera yo a encontrarte
Como un tiempo anduve yo por ti
Causa tuya vine a dar aquí
y aquí vienes por mí

Qué pasó con tu maldito orgullo
Se acabó tu falsa vanidad
Creíste que el mundo era tuyo
Y mira a dónde fuiste a dar