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.