Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I have a toothache. I think it's my wisdom teeth which yes, I still have, because in the UK they are normally left alone until they are problematic. Like, now for instance. But no problem, I have dental insurance. I've been paying it for the last year. So I'm covered, right? Wrong. Well, kinda. The problem is, I never registered with a dental practice (observant readers may notice a similarity with the post entitled 'an apple a day'. It seems I don't learn). I can find a practice that takes my insurance, but they won't deal with me until I'm on their roster which will take ... about a month. So I phone my insurance company who tell me there is a second practice in Gainesville that I can be registered with right away. Awesome! All my problems are solved! I call them up and ... they're not taking new patients with my insurance scheme. So I call back my insurance company to be told the only other option is a place in Ocala, about 40 minutes drive away. This would be difficult at the best of times, and somewhat more so when you consider I dropped my car off at the garage yesterday morning. For at least a week. Then, there is also the possibility that even when I see a dentist, my insurance may not cover wisdom teeth. It is dental insurance for some of your teeth. The ones we fancy maintaining. Is this my fault? Yes, I should have registered with a practice sooner. Does that make this soup and softened bread taste any better? No. No it does not.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Entrepreneur

I've heard everyone is blessed with at least one great idea. Today, I've found mine. I'm going to design a programme compiler that produces *&%*%#$ useful error messages. For instance where I previously had:

[submit:03494] *** Process received signal ***
[submit:03494] Signal: Segmentation fault (11)
[submit:03494] Signal code: Address not mapped (1)

There will be:

[submit:03494] *** Variable cannot be assigned value ***
[submit:03494] User did not define it as a pointer (11)
[submit:03494] User is a chimp (All)

This would have saved me acres of time, substantial hair loss and at only a small cost to pride.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Freedom is not free...

... blared the banner carried by the Korean Veterans in the Home-coming parade in Gainesville this year. They were joined by similar slogans from associated armed forces groups. Why, it made me proud to be an American! Oh wait... Senators in classic cars, prom queens in tiaras riding in horse drawn carriages, marching bands (my favourite part), the giant alligator mascots, Albert & Alberta followed by Smokey the bear warning us of wild fires, all went past, travelling in every mode of transport from huge workman's trucks to the Shands Medical Urgent Care Vans. Quite what would happen if there was an emergency is unknown, since all the firetrucks were also in the parade, trapped between the engineering school's Transformers float and a bus full of lawyers. Still, all the city were there so I guess they were in the right spot. The giant blood vans that litter campus rolled passed, still refusing to accept my (undoubtedly) mad-cow infected blood. A bright yellow school bus that I used to believe only existed on the Simpson trundled behind a bus load of possibly the silliest looking barbie dolls I've ever seen, who turned out to be the UF cheerleading squad. It was a great spectacle, huge fun to watch and totally cut off the town's north and south areas since you weren't allowed to cross the road for several miles. Woe betide the poor grannies who had nipped across the street for a pint of milk. They weren't going home for the rest of the day. So after watching the waving, cheering people and the dogs dressed in Gator shirts, I reach the edge of campus and walk across to the department, wondering what on earth the 'traditional mollies of Gainesville' are and why they have a float.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rugby relativity

While not having a real interest in the fate of the England rugby team, I have sufficient curiosity (or boredom with my paper, take your pick) to flick my browser over to the BBC sports page latest action column. There, a heading proclaims: "World Cup final 2007" followed underneath by " LATEST ACTION (all times BST)". Which would be unsurprising except all times are given as minutes after the start of play...

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Pie-Athlon....

8 participants ... 9 bikes ... 16 weight measurement and a truck load of pies... It's the Pie-Athlon 2007 held this year in Gainesville, Florida! Rules are simple; participants weigh themselves at the Publix grocery store on Main Street, then cycle 10 miles stuffing as much PIE into their mouths as possible, before re-weighing themselves back at the store. The person to have defied the benefits of exercise greatest and gained the most weight is declared the PIE winner. Entrants this year were Cherry, 9-inch (the highly disputed 'undisputed winner' of the previous contest), Frenchsilk, Homeslice, Frazzleberry, Shoofly, Torte and Deep-dish. Matching tee-shirts were issued leaving Deep-dish with a surprisingly tight, cropped little number that led her wondering about Cherry's intentions during Gay Pride week. The contest was fraught with tension from the very beginning where a sharp bang signaled an early out by Cherry which saw her limping down the road with a burst tire. Foul play was naturally suspected, but a replacement bicycle saw a handicapped Cherry (no gear changes allowed on new propulsion vehicle; Cherry deemed not up to the challenge by bike owner) back in the running before the official weigh-in. Last minute pie buying ensued when anxiety about not having enough PIE hit home. Even the uncertain Torte was chucking those pies into her basket by the end. Pie eating commenced as the contestants headed down Main Street and on-lookers were treated to manovers such as the 'pie signal' by Deep-dish who flung out her blueberry pie along with her left hand in a turn single, the fluid pie-to-mouth motion from Frenchsilk as he balanced a large Apple pie midway between bike and mouth and the whipped cream fill-up from 9-inch as he sweetened his pie straight from the cannister. Frazzleberry, meanwhile, skipped the pie and just sweetened her mouth directly. Dirty tactics were also on the cards, as certain contestants (okay okay, Deep-dish) leaned in to swipe pie from a less worthy follower. Casualties followed swiftly as the contestants ventured deeper along their trail. First off was a pie-death via Homeslice's shaky pie-cycle-control. That cherry spilled its essence all over the road. May it rest in peace. An evil attack from Shoofly's mount left him bleeding on the leg and only a fortuitous pause to consume pizza saved him from going to same way as the cherry pie. Traffic problems saw Deep-dish stuck at lights while her red-jumping friends sailed past before the stream of traffic poured through. However, they shortly got way-layed by a street concert which sorted them out. A momentary discussion saw pizza reclassified as a type of PIE and it was slices all round as the contestants reached downtown. Realizing a bathroom stop could knock anyone of them out of the running, the last leg back up to Publix was taken at a swift (and cross-legged) pace to stand once again on the weighing scales. An impressive amount of PIE-pounds were gained all round, but the disputed 'undisputed winner' was, once again, victorious with over a 5 lbs PIE bonus.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

When in Rome....

.... visit a museum or 6. Interesting fact; the Romans rarely bothered thinking up their own sculpture designs and instead copied Greek statues. However, since they crafted marble rather than hollow bronze, the statues needed additional support by way of an reinforced base, tree limb or, in the case of Eros, the god of love, a huge.... well, let's just say if said object were attached in the usual position, trousers would have been out of the question.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lugholes #2

The setting: A conference meeting in Zurich on computational models in astrophysics. It's the end of the third day and the discussion section on the presented talks has just started.

Chair: So today's results can be summed up as "Your simulations suck!".

Audience member: Don't you mean, "Our simulations suck!"?

Chair: No, no, I mean your simulations suck!

Audience member: Okay. Just so long as we clarify that.

And so begins a debate on one of the oldest topics in the world; are girls really better than boys? Oh, wait, no, I mean the other longest debate... particle codes or grid codes?

[An hour later]

Chair: So what we're really saying is it's all the observers' fault?

[Mass cheering]

Thursday, September 6, 2007

deja vu

Elizabeth: Excuse me, do you sell marzipan?
Supermarket assistant: Um. What exactly is that?

*sigh* I think we've been here before. I didn't attempt icing sugar.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Live and learn

It was the labor day of the undead. Until the early evening, the campus had been eerily quiet, like something out of '28 days later'. Not a soul moved, except at Starbucks which was operating as normal. Now, finally, students were braving the outside, hoping the zombies had all left. Either that, or they'd just rolled out of bed. As I walked across campus, I spotted a figure on a skateboard heading towards me. Since the road he was going down was not on much of a gradient, he was slaloming across its whole width to keep momentum. 'Hmm' (I thought) 'that looks somewhat dangerous. Oh well, I guess you live and learn.' As the student came into clearer focus, however, I noticed his arm was in a plaster caste. So I guess, sometimes, you just don't.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Jonathan:"There's usually one morning of a conference where I'm just too tired to go in."

Elizabeth: "Wait, there's only one day left of this conference and the talks are on galaxies!"

Jonathan: "Well... there's always the bus."

Elizabeth: "I could just take your car."

Jonathan: "You don't have the keys."

Elizabeth: "You'll be unconscious. I'll steal the keys."

Jonathan: "I'm hiding the keys."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Message in a bottle

Genuine question at the star formation conference (asked to Mordecai): "If you could put a message in a bottle and send it back to a star just forming, what would you tell it?". Answers in a bottle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Florida... an idyllic spring runs through thick green trees and brush that form a leafy canopy above the cool clear water... at least, it's rumoured to be clear. On Saturday, however, every last square inch was covered by a person in a bright yellow rubber ring ("tubes"). This could well have been due to the radio broadcasts in the preceding week that said "Heat wave! Temperatures due to reach 110 F. IF YOU WANT TO LIVE, SUBMERGE IN WATER!" Well, okay, I'm paraphrasing, but clearly the whole of Florida took the same message as me and headed straight for Ichetucknee Springs. People swimming, people tubing, tubes with 1 person, tubes with 5 and some tubes with no people at all. While there was a distinct lack of turtles and other wildlife, there was still plenty of biology to observe from the Homotubians themselves. Darwinism was seen in action as groups of teenagers dived head first from the overhanging trees into the water. Whether any of them lived to re-emerge is impossible to say... though there is the issue of the empty tubes. Occasional pile-ups had to be avoided as one tube would get stuck on a log causing a crunch of yellow inflatable plastic ending in a few limbs sticking out at odd angles. A photo would have been great, but it probably would have been the last my camera ever took. At the end of the run, tubes were piled onto a cart and the homotubians onto another to be wheeled back to the car park, where yours truly exposed herself to all nearby traffic in an effort to get out of her swimsuit. But really, integrated over (a shockingly short) time it was no worse than half the bikinis I saw.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Stranger in a strange land

So it's been three years since I moved to the US and, largely, I feel I know my way around; traffic comes from the right, to relieve yourself you ask for the restrooms and if someone says they like your pants a "costume malfunction" has not (necessarily) occurred. However, occasionally things still throw me, normally involving activities I don't do often. Like baking a cake. I have a recipe. I have a shopping cart. How hard can it be? Eggs, no problem. Flour, no problem. Caster sugar... ah. No where to be seen. When I ask a friendly shop assistant he looks blank and asks me what exactly that is. Well, really, I don't know! It's called caster sugar and goes into cakes. I know no more. A phone call to a friend results in the question 'isn't it just finally ground sugar?'. It's a better guess than mine and the packet for that had a carrot cake recipe on the back. Near enough. Then we hit 'mixed spices'. These don't exist either, but hey, I've got some nutmeg and cinnamon. I'm sure that'll do. Finally we run up against sultanas and glacier cherries. Are sultanas different from golden raisins? I thought they looked near enough. I then cornered some dried cherries which I'm sure will make do - at the very least, they are the right fruit. The contents of all the above is now in the oven. As for the eating... I'm taking it to a pot luck which is strangely appropriate.