Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas cheer

It really can be beautiful in Edinburgh at this time of year. The days are short, the skies clear, and Christmassy-ness abounds - even without a skerick of snow. There's ice of course, in Princes St Gardens. You can skate on it. Here's my dad doing just that, earlier this month...

















A day at the beach can even be had. Here are Fern and Andrew, out in East Lothian, soaking up the sunshine.



And although the days are short, the light as the sun sets is stunning (thanks to all those open fires?). Today we walked the vertigo-inducing Salisbury crags as the sun went down.

It's Christmas already in NZ, and word from Doherty and Taylor households suggest much fun is being had by all. We've got one more sleep to go...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Frenzy?

The run up to Christmas seems to be passing me by this year. I'm surrounded by last-minute panickers, but am unmoved to get in on the act.

A faraway destination for Christmas parcels certainly helps - dad took all my presents back with him earlier this month, so no last-minute shopping required. Food-wise, I just have to make a trifle. Which, if it lives up to its name, should be fairly straightforward. It's winter solstice tomorrow, though. That might be a day (night?) for cooking up a big feed...

In general, I think I'm just waiting around for the year to be over. 2005, despite high points (visits from far-flung whanau, a stimulating new job, producing my first proper film), has been a stinker. I really, really hope that the new year will bring happier times.

Friday, November 25, 2005

not many Dohertys left in NZ

The much threatened "coldest winter in 40 years" has arrived. I arrived back in Edinburgh from Brussels last week, wee brother in tow, to sub-zero temperatures. The sun has been shining (between the hours of sunrise and sunset anyway - 8.09am-3.50pm today!), but without any warmth in it. And today, as I walked up the hill to work, it snowed. By the time I arrived my black coat was white and I sported a grin from ear to ear. Snow just has that effect.

Brussels was an EU conference on Communicating European Research - where I had a booth screening the rough cut of our "stem cell movie" as the scientists like to call it. The funky booth design involving a wall of rolled-up posters didn't quite work out, as the couriers lost our posters for a few days. People seemed to like the film, though.

I picked Kev & Emma up in Amsterdam (much to their surprise) on the way back from Brussels. They've had a whirlwind Scottish trip, taking in the sights of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dollar, Bellshill and Lewis in little over a week, and are now somewhere in northern Holland (I hope it's snowing there too, they were hanging out for it here and left just before it arrived in full force).

Meanwhile, my dad arrived in Scotland on Monday, much to the surprise of the rest of his family and especially the brother he's staying with. Apart from his brother's wife, Kevin, Emma, Andrew and I, no-one knew he was coming. The family party the next day was quite an event (much shrieking and wailing).

Tomorrow we're off to Murrayfield with Dad, to see how the ABs cope with a bit of snow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wildlife

I wrote a wee while ago about mice in our house. In the end, we caught five of the little rodents (tiny, they were, like a 50p piece). Yesterday there was a big froggy toady jumpy thing in the stair, much bigger than a 50p piece. All this cold wet weather's driving them indoors. And making me jumpy - how can such a small thing give such big frights?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Evidence of the beard



Pictured here atop the Eiffel Tower. Last time we went to Paris they closed the top level of the tower while we were queueing. Top of A's list for this visit was to get to the top. We almost didn't - leisurely breakfasting and Batobusing along the river saw us again arriving at peak time, but by taking the stairs, we made it up just before it closed for 2 hrs. Phew.

More photos of Paris.

It's grey and wintry here in Edinburgh. A good day for being warm and cosy inside. Our dining table in the bay window makes a good vantage point for the birds feasting on windfall apples in our neighbour's garden - so I get to keep in touch with nature without getting wet.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

what's that on your lip?

This post's for any Taylor readers out there. Just saw cousin Chris on the telly, sporting exceedingly dodgy moustache and excellent salesman patter. It was an arts feature on Ch 4 news, on the Zoo art fair.

Facial hair has recently been rediscovered by A. too - he's currently sporting a full ginger number - and reports today that colleagues are following the trend he has set. Or are keeping their chins warm for winter. Or something.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

my wee sister

Is much taller than me. Here we are on the Isle of Skye, approaching the weird and fantastic Fairy Glen. Yes, I am wearing pink tartan wellies. They were indespensible in the many peatbogs we trudged through while on the Isle of Lewis.

There are many more adventures to write about (not least the moose in our hoose...which became two and then three. Their addiction to chocolate spread was their undoing...) but we have to get up at 4.30 tomorrow morning cos we fly to France and away from the mice. More when I get back from Paris next week...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Braveheart


Caragh arrived from NZ yesterday. Today we went to the Wallace Monument, in Stirling. It rained a bit, and we witnessed the arrest of a crazy man half way up the tower (handcuffed and dragged away, it was all quite exciting). Notice the similarity of the wallace statue to a much shorter Australian actor. The most impressive thing was Wallace's sword - at least as tall as me, meaning that the man who wielded it would need to be at least 6'6!

Since last post I've also been to Italy with the Taylors and Greece with work - more photos when time & visitors permit!

Monday, September 05, 2005

As the pics suggest, Franz F. are looking more like the Beatles than ever - sharply suited, gorgeously coiffed, ever so cool. They even sound more like the fab 4 than most bands of the moment. The stage set was stunning, almost better looking than the Castle in the background, From the Dr Who intro to the explosive This Fire, they rocked.

At Princes Street Gardens again last night, this time for the fireworks. Spectacular.

Much activity in between whiles - preparation for Taylor visit, then a hectic weekend of tripping about - Pentlands, Modern Art Gallery, rugby, Harvey Nics, Ikea (on every kiwi's must see list, it seems!) - in glorious sunshine. Fat Freddy's tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Beachy

It's been a hot and sunny weekend. Hot and sunny enough to inspire a trip to the beach. We went to Seacliff, in East Lothian, and managed to fit in some lazy newspaper reading, flashy frisbee throwing (pay attention, un-co kids, this is how it's done), a SWIM!!!!!!!!!!! and lavish picnic before the ravenous spring tide devoured the beach at an alarming rate. Even the tide was fun though - watching people who wore shoes on the beach try to avoid getting wet (no, you can't walk on our picnic! take your shoes off, weirdos) and providing the perfect opportunity for much beach construction activity.

Speaking of swimming (yes, it was cold), A. got this t-shirt at Spanish (?) high street store, Zara. Very strange (you need to click the pic to be able to read it). Apparently there's no such thing as the Auckland Aquatic Centre. I asked my mum, and she knows these things. We've subsequently seen the same shirt on TV - someone at the running of the bulls in Pamplona was wearing a red one. So, kids, you heard it here first. Auckland is officially cool in Europe. Or swimming. Or something.

Salty, sunned and sandy, we had no sooner arrived home yesterday than I got a nice text from Welly pal Chloe, who's working at the film fest. Want some free tix? Cool. See you in 20 mins. Remembered (just) to change out of my togs, threw on some jeans and jogged down to Cineworld. Arrived and realised it must be a premiere. Seriously underdressed. Oops. We did get a few strange looks, but the film was worth it (On A Clear Day, good heartwarming stuff with great Glasgow locations). And we got to sit 2 seats away from Gillian Anderson. She stood next to A. for a while as we waited to exit. He was quite excited. Other celebs in the flesh included Peter Mullan (bizarrely kilted out with some kind of purple velvet top half thing going on - foppish and a bit of a mismatch for the Glaswegian hardman. Although that's just the roles he's played... maybe he's a big saftie underneath). Also Billy Boyd and Brenda Blethyn.

It's raining now, and time for bed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On the telly

It's been a busy old week in the brave new world of stem cell research. Our researchers published a paper, reporting that they had, for the first time, made pure brain stem cells. We thought that was quite cool, a major advance, so we wrote a press release about it.

Often, you can write a press release about a science story and nobody notices. But this week they did - maybe because we had pretty pictures in the press release too.

The BBC made a story of it. And then so did just about everyone else. The news making the news.

Enough about work, though. Back on the Fringe, Cracks in the Garden was a wee bit uncomfortable - an audience of only 10 is seldom anything but. Kevin MacNeil was worth getting up early-ish for on Sunday morning - I'd read his new book, The Stornoway Way, cover to cover the night before. It's always nice to hear the voice of a Leodhasach (love that lilt).

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Kiwis in the house

Listening to: The Black Seeds

Over and over, on CD, bought out of a battered kiwi suitcase at the Black Seeds gig in Edinburgh last week. Also Fat Freddy's Drop, bought from same suitcase. The sun's been shining, and Wellington dub is good sunshine music.

So, the gig. Never knew there were quite so many kiwis in Edinburgh. I think I was the most Scottish person in the crowd. How could I tell? Well, apart from the sea of hands in the air when the Black Seeds played a track for "all the kiwis in the house", they also have a look about them (we have a look about us?). A. describes it as "an extra layer of grunge". Guys with shaggy hair (here, they're more coiffed than the girls, a la Becks), jandals, grubby Ts. Girls dressed down, without fake tan.

We've had kiwis in oor hoose too. Actually, a Wellingtonian, currently resident in London, and his girl from Denver - Simon and the lovely Lesley. Their visit was nicely timed to coincide with Fringe previews, so we took in a couple of shows at pleasantly low prices. Definite highlight was Jump - one of those random picks which sounded intriguing in the programme, and turned out to be fantastic. A piece of Korean physical theatre, piled high in the air with comic, acrobatic and kung-fu capers. We laughed a lot at the sheer silliness of it, and marvelled at the gymnastics on show.

The whole Fringe seemed to be running late on Friday - not so good when you're going to a show at 11.59pm. More like 1 am by the time things kicked off. This was Best of the Fest - a pot luck selection of stand up. Apart from the dire, painful Fiona O'Loughlin (although a late and well lubricated Friday night Edinburgh audience, kept waiting for an hour, are not the easiest to please), there were laughs aplently.

Yesterday was rugby day. Enough said about that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Buggy

I'd always thought of cool-climate Scotland as a pest-free zone. When I leave toast crumbs and a sticky knife on the kitchen bench they are still there when I get home from work...no voracious ants to devour them. And on the occasional balmy night, an open window isn't an open invitation to mozzies and other flying biting things.

Nothing like a camping trip to dispel a few myths.

Despite A's entrenched belief that it simply wasn't possible, never mind sensible, to go camping in Scotland, the new tent had to be tested. A-camping we must go.

Friday night, after work, we packed up the car with assorted essentials - espresso pot (but no stove to put it on) food, wine, tent, the ubiquitous fold-up chairs (less than a fiver at Tesco)...the baby boot of our C2 was fuller than it's ever been.

We headed through Glasgow and up the west side of Loch Lomond to Inverarnan. Our campsite was on a farm on the West Highland Way, surrounded by trees and hills, very pretty. No caravans (unusual in Scotland, where they're almost as ubiquitous as those cheap folding chairs), but lots of people and lots of tents. Ours was up in minutes (it seems to be foolproof, so far), the barbie lit, wine uncorked and stomachs rumbling. Our sausages browned, sunlight faded, the breeze dropped, and just as we were about to tuck in, the midges descended. And tucked into us.

Actually, the biting's not so much of a problem. It's more the density of the swarm - they get in your ears, your nose, your food if you're trying to eat...not very pleasant. Fortunately the Drovers Inn was within walking distance for a wee dram and some local colour.

Later that evening...

There's nothing worse than listening to drunken, unimaginative chat up lines, like "what's your favourite sport, " when you'd rather be sleeping. Delivered in a booming Glasgow accent that sounds like it's in the next sleeping bag instead of the next tent. The joys of camping. We resolved to head further afield in the morning.

Imagine our horror when, on the road, the same booming voice was only four cars behind. It even stopped at the Green Welly Shop when we did. Oh no.

Fortunately we managed to lose it somewhere in Glencoe, which was looking glorious in the sunshine, and somewhat different to our last visit.

We took the Corran ferry over Loch Linnhe towards Resipole Farm on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. Lochside camping, an on-site restaurant and art gallery, peace and quiet. A didn't enjoy the single-track road driving, but I'm sure it keeps the crowds at bay.

Wonderful walks to deserted beaches (just watch out for those clegs - yep, more biting insects), ruined castles, and the weekend was gone too fast. We forgot the camera, so no pics. I discovered the only souvenir on Monday night. Alive, and still attached to my leg. A tick. Lovely.

(Don't worry, it's since been safely disposed of. Not my idea of a pet.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Nice things

Listening to: The Magic Numbers (and grinning, how could you not be?)

I had one of those milestone birthdays that end in zero this weekend. No big bash, but low-key delights aplenty...a welcome situation, since this was my first weekend at home in the last 5.

The day started with the postman's doorbell ringing (bills, and junk mail, of course). Hot on his heels were mum, dad and Fayth (my 3 yr old niece) , with various songs down the phone (including happy birthday and what A has dubbed "the kiwi vowel song"). I opened their presents while talking to them - almost like being there.

Quirkiest present is definitely the baby pink polarfleece beanie embroidered with "Auntie Katie". Fayth chose it herself, and the colouring-in poster card that went with it.

A. finally succumbed to my pestering, and bought me a tent for my birthday. It's super-light (less than 3kg), roomy enough for our airbed (for comfort camping), and even has skylights for looking at the stars. I pitched it in the livingroom yesterday - successfully banishing any thoughts of aging by playing camping!

We had a picnic at Roslyn Glen, making the most of this most unScottish summer, joined the hoardes at Roslin Chapel (wondering if we are the only people in the world yet to read the Da Vinci Code), and a very grown up dinner at the Stockbridge Restaurant (as an indicator of grown-upness, my heels got an outing, for only the 3rd time this year!). We dined magnificently on halibut, asparagus, sorbet, parma ham and other summery colourful treats, washed down with some very tasty kiwi wine (Waipara Hills sav, I think).

Here are some pics of Hydra, in Greece. I was there last weekend, on a work research trip. Seriously.

It's an island 1.5 hrs from Athens, with no cars (donkeys and boats and feet are how you get around), 365 churches, pebbly beaches, turquoise water, tasty food, great sunsets and a quirky host of residents and visitors, all trying to find something, or escape something, or both. We met a French-Canadian poet looking for Leonard Cohen (who used to live here). A globetrotting restaurateur. A lady artist. A storytelling sailor. And lots of others.



We saw dolphins too, which as my first non- themepark encounter with these graceful, playful and intelligent creatures was super-exciting.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Live8 in Scotland

Is is just me, or was James Brown an odd choice to wrap last night's Live8 gig at Murrayfield. Sure, he's the "godfather of soul" and a living legend, but his dancing girls and the over-produced nature of his set was in stark contrast to the low-fuss, lo-fi performances of the rest of the evening that had so electrified the crowd. He played to rather than with the crowd.

I didn't manage to get tickets to the gig, despite furious texting, so just watched on telly. Murrayfield is only a couple of miles down the road, but it didn't rain once here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

the bathroom chronicles

For the first time all week, I'm properly clean.

We have been without a shower since Monday, but today we have a white shiny new bath. For those of you who have seen our bathroom, this is quite an achievement (the room is not much bigger than a cupboard).

Tomorrow we get tiles, Friday grout, and Saturday we get to paint and A gets to drill holes in the new ceiling and hope hope hope that his wiring is in the right place! On Monday, it didn't all sound so easy, when the plumber arrived with drawings that were 20cm out.

If you're into Sudoku (people are mad about it here in the UK), my friend Alastair has built a nifty website. He's very clever.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

spring food

I've eaten quite well this week...perhaps inspired by the delicacies on my Copenhagen brunch plate. And the almost summery weather, bringing raspberries and asparagus and other things of the season.

This morning, not quite as bright and early as I planned, but bright and early enough, we went to the Farmers' Market. It's on every week now, instead of twice a month - meaning that you can wake up and decide to go, instead of waking up and trying to figure out whether it will be on before going (I have miscalculated in the past and trekked downtown thinking about yummy things, only to discover an empty carpark where laden stalls should be). This week's delights included perfectly ripe, home-grown strawberries (sweeter than any I've eaten in a long time); still-warm pretzels - shiny, salty, chewy and tasty; home-made ginger marmalade; wild venison pies; blackface lamb and baby beets for a spring sunday roast; organic veges and dry-cured bacon. Our fridge is looking good!

We had perfectly ripe figs earlier in the week - with peppery rocket and topped with Dunsyre Blue from Mr Mellis. And a melon, pink grapefruit and lychee fruit salad another day. Sounds odd, but tasted and looked fabulous.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


abject terror on the Demon

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Copenhagen highlights

Tempted by the prospect of pastries and design from the home of such delights, we snapped up some cheap flights and booked a B and B (without the second B, as is apparently the norm in Denmark) for a weekend in Copenhagen.

Much shopping, munching and mooching made for a nice couple of days. The sun even shone a wee bit, as Andrew demostrates here in Nyhavn. That was just before he terrorised motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike when he took to the streets on a bright red free bike (the bikes are ubiquitous and indestructible, luckily).



Friday night we screamed our little lungs out on a small but fast and scary rollercoaster (the Demon) in Tivoli, an unDisneyfied funpark straight out of a fairytale. Elvis Costello played there too, another fab Copenhagen freebie, in what became a very dramatic electric storm. Forked lightening, rolling thunder, torrential rain. Great atmosphere, but very wet feet. Which explained the popularity of welly boots - since it's a pair of red Hunters I've set my heart on, I thought I should wait till I got home to Scotland.



More mooching on Saturday, with some tourism activities thrown in for good measure...Rosenborg Slot and the national art gallery - where we saw a man with very long legs.

This gallery was also where I devoured a fantastic brunch plate, comprising:
  • greek yoghurt and spiced blackcurrant compote
  • shrimp salad and egg (Andrew helped me with that one)
  • Lomo and hummus
  • smoked salmon and creamed artichoke hearts
  • a big hunk of pecorino with black olive tapenade
  • fresh fruit (melon, grapefruit)
  • croissant with home-made rhubarb and strawberry jam
  • home-made breads & butter
I could get into this brunch plate concept, definitely.


Late night modern jazz with an anti-Chirac flavour at the Copenhagen Jazz House. The bass player is actually wearing ninja shoes.


5.30 this morning on the way to the airport. Sleepy...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Daisy, daisy

give me your answer do
why are you carpeting my lawn today
and why so many of you?

OK so that was lame, but the daisies look amazing out on the back green in their thousands. Reminds me of making a daisy chain that went right around our house when we lived up in Lewis.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Have wheels, will travel


We're quite excited and delighted to be drivers once more - a lovely man from Yorkshire delivered this wee cutey a couple of weeks ago (thanks Intelligent Finance, yay company cars).

Since then we've clocked up 500 miles or so - work and back a few times (the poor scooter's feeling neglected), plus a couple of longer trips. Last weekend the sun was shining (just like in the car photo taken the weekend before - it's not all dreich and dreary in Edinburgh) so we headed out to St Abb's Head for a bracing clifftop walk (Scotland does bracing very well). Saw lots of seabirds making kamikaze aerial manoeuvres, and lots of old men with binoculars. A bit further south (almost in England, in fact), we stopped in at Eyemouth for a fish supper at Giacopazzi's, followed by home-made Italian ice-cream. Mmmmm.

On Friday, after work, we headed further afield. As we were driving to an outdoor concert (always a risky proposition in this part of the world), the torrential rain en route was somewhat concerning. But the sun was shining by the time we got to Culzean Castle, for the Burns an a' that Gala Concert. Culzean, by the way, is Cullane, and I also discovered on Friday that Menzies is correctly pronounced something more like "Menghis".


This is a blurry pic of Culzean lit up in pink at the end of the concert. It's about 11pm, and not dark yet...one of the best things about Scotland at this time of year.

The main reason we trekked across to the Ayrshire coast was to see this man:

Lou Reed. He only sang four songs, proclaimed Scotland to be "colder than Finland" and was perhaps a touch grumpy , but it was still very cool to see him, live, and in such a stunning setting.

Other acts included the orchestra of the Scottish Opera, Eddi Reader (singing Burns: my fave was John Anderson My Joe), Phil Cunningham & Duncan Chisholm (very nimble-fingered on the fiddle and accordion) and folk singer Dougie Maclean. His Caledonia made me feel very Scottish and somehow sad. Whether I'm in NZ or in Scotland now, I think I'll always miss the other place. The downside to dual citizenship...sometimes feeling torn.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

It's a lockout!

Got home from the pub quiz at the Antiquary last night at 11-ish. 10th out of 16 - a pretty poor performance. A & I suspect we may not be asked back!

So, 11pm, A takes out his keys, and discovers one has developed an unusual curve while in his pocket. Tries to straighten it and *snap*. Broken clean in half. Crap.

We borrow some pliers from a neighbour who's still up, but the haf-key is too short to open the lock. Nobody seems to have the key for the long ladder upstairs. Time to call the locksmith.

Enticed by big ads in the yellow pages promising no call out fees* (beware of the asterisk) we called a few. And discovered that £100 is the going rate for such a service. Per hour. Minimum. Plus of course VAT and materials. Not a buyers market, then.

We waited in our neighbour's flat and watched a rerun of Footballers Wives. There's something comforting about trash TV in moments of crisis. Eventually, anonymous locksmith arrived (later, when things weren't going so well and I asked his name, he refused to tell me).

His initial proclamation that we were in real trouble because the lock on our door was more at home in a jewellers shop and was impossible to open didn't fill me with confidence. Since it was now well past midnight, the volume of his delivery and propensity for swearing wasn't great either. Still, he had a box of tools. There must be something in there that could sort it, right?

Wrong. Said box contained a motley assortment of re-purposed and homemade junk. Not a purpose-built gadget in sight. The torch ran out of batteries about 2 mins into the job (yes, you guessed it, "materials" and therefore chargeable). A noisy half hour later, after much cursing and pulling scarves through the letter box (but magician he wasn't), I remembered that our spare key might be within reach. Off he went to get the fishing rod. Really. A fishing rod. Probably still had bait remnants smeared on it. Didn't work.

Next he had a hissy fit and noisily packed up his "tools". Didn't really want to stand on a ladder in the dark and rain to get in the window. He was a master locksmith. We could call anyone we liked. They wouldn't be able to get in either. Our flat was impenetrable. The only way was to drill out the lock, but that couldn't be done at night in a common stair. Stomp shout.

Suddenly, I was reminded of a TV programme I'd seen called something like "all locksmiths are dodgy", which showed that in 95% of lockouts they drilled out the lock rather than using less invasive procedures, so they could charge you for more materials (at a premium). Suddenly, I was glad of the late hour, and understood his bad humour. No drilling allowed.

Somehow, he changed his mind and decided he would get his ladder out and try the window. Must have been that vision of big fat wads of cash. More noise and harumphing. But once he was up the ladder, he was in within 30 secs. So why didn't he try that first?

So feeling a bit tired this morning, and determined to make some kind of a spare key plan to avoid ever having to experience a master locksmith again.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More on bunny rabbits

Real live ones this time though, with bouncy legs and cottony tails. We saw lots of them this weekend, at the nature/sport themepark that is Center Parcs. Lots of ducks too (check out the photo), and squirrels and big fat woodpigeons. And tadpoles and squashed toads (I thought the "toads crossing" sign was a joke until I saw the squashed ones).

Someone at work today asked me why I had gone to Center Parcs - they had the (quite reasonable) opinion that you only went there if you had children. We did see a lot of children. Hooning around on bikes, poking aforementioned ducks, screaming in the swimming pool. Even more dangerous on the bikes, however, were the adults who had forgotten how to ride. Wobbly. Everyone's on bikes, you see, because you have to leave your car in the carpark - it's a car-free environment. I guess that means that the toads were squashed by bikes.

We were at CenterParcs among the trees for a reunion of one of the branches of my family. 44 kith and kin (of whom I had met only 4, including A, before the weekend) - some closely connected, some more tenuous, some I still haven't figured out.

The sun shone, we had a big barbecue, people told their favourite stories. It was nice to meet the extended family, but still feels strange to be so far from my immediate family.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Save Tob(e)y

It's amazing what people will spend their money on. I've always found the wealth (in both senses of the word) of animal charities in the UK a bit disturbing. Are we so dislocated from each other that it's easier to give to animals than to fellow humans?

Taking things a step further, animal lovers are now shelling out thousands to stop someone eating their pet rabbit. Clever chap has already raised US$28,000, and been on telly.

Our pal, Al, never one to miss a trick, suggests there's another Tobey out there that we could all save, if only our pockets were deep enough. Go on. Dig deep. Save Tobey Maguire.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Painting

It's a year since we bought this place here in EH1o. About time I sorted out the kitchen, thinks me. Anniversaries seem to have that effect - a good motivator to do something.

I thought it would be a small job, just stripping and painting a couple of walls. But then A said all the woodwork should be painted too. Fine. Still should manage this long weekend. Hah!

Stripping the walls started well, with the paper coming off easily. The second wall, though, had seven layers of paper (including quite a few vinyl layers). Aagh. It soon became apparent that all that paper was holding the wall together - as the paper came off, so did bits of the wall. Lucky I'm so experienced in the art of Polyfilla.

Back to wall one, which seemed so easy. But the wallpaper paste was actually superglue, unbudgeable despite sugar-soaping. Only sugar soap applied with sandpaper would do the trick.

A bit more sanding this morning, then I'm ready for painting.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

No posts

This blog has been a bit gappy lately.

During the last couple of weeks, work has been keeping me busy and away from internet access - I was at a conference in Milan, and before that a meeting at the gorgeous Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio. If only our punishing 8am-10pm schedule (wall-to-wall stem cell science!) had afforded more time to enjoy the stunning and luxurious surrounds. At least I had trompe l'oeil ceilings, elaborately carved columns and huge gilt mirrors to distract me when the data, proteins, transcription factors and other scientific detail became too much for me. And meals were always a welcome interlude - especially the "molecular cuisine" we enjoyed on the first night. This meal included nitrogen-frozen ice-cream of the smoothest possible texture, created right in front of us by a virtuoso chef of the Ferran AdriĆ  school of cooking.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

weird things

There is a guy lying on the pavement across the road. It's cold and damp, not really the kind of weather for lying on the street. He is youngish, though (hasn't collapsed there), and seems quite happy - wiggling his feet and chatting to my neighbour who was I guess concerned about a guy lying on the street.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Professor Doherty?

I got an email at work today, from organisers of a conference in Milano that I'm going to next week (yes, I have scheduled a day's shopping at the end!), which began "dear Professor Doherty". Naturally, I corrected the mistake. The next email I received was addressed to "Dr Doherty". It seems that in the field I work in, it is inconceivable to be a lowly old Ms. It's OK, though. I'm getting used to being the least educated person in the building!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tell me a story - plot generator

Since DIY's been on the back burner, we've been busy building something else instead. A plot generator.

A what?

A nifty gizmo that's guaranteed to while away hours of your time, producing Hollywood-style plots at the click of a button. Give it a shot. It's a throwback to A & Steve's code geek days (they also made a programme that produced cocktail recipes), rewritten in PHP and housed on my nice new website.

Let me know what you think.

We caught up on a couple of movies this weekend too, Closer and Sideways. London and California. Art and wine. Beautiful people making a mess of things, and not so beautiful people making a mess of things (but not so irredeemably). I liked both, but Sideways wins for making me want to hit the bottle (in a wine-appreciating way, of course!). And for making me laugh lots.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Springtime?

It feels like it. Today was a home-work day, and I had windows open, bare arms and sockless feet as the sun streamed in. It's been like this for days, unseasonably warm and spring-like. Crocuses are sprouting all over the place. It's enough to distract a girl from the dangers of climate change for long enough to enjoy the moment!

We hired a car this weekend, as we had a family 5oth to attend in Uddingston (much like the family 60th in Uddingston). Nobody in my family lives in Uddingston, I hasten to add, but for some reason St John the Baptist Church is a favourite venue. Must be the cheap beer (£1.40 a pint) and liberal smoking policy, which to me seem incongruous with a church hall, but it is like a different country over west. Uddingston is a Glasgow commuter town these days, but hard to commute to a) from Edinburgh and b) on a Saturday night. Hence the car.

Anyway, with such splendid weather and a car to play with, the Pentlands were a good choice. If you've been to our flat, they are the hills we look out on. The hills were nice and high (for lowlanders like us) and the views right nice:

View from Carnethy Hill, the Pentlands

Those of you who hang out for DIY updates (or should that be DIY, A?) will be pleased to know that we now have two shelves in the study, nifty floating bracketless ones that were a complete bastard to mount on our crumbly masonry. It's starting to feel like a proper office now. Progress on the bathroom has been slower, and our designer curved ceiling is yet to materialise. Maybe we need a designer's help?


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hokey Pokey Squiggles...

...quite possibly the best biscuit in the world. I'm tucking into my Christmas stash. mmmmmm. Thanks mum!

I survived a week in the world of science

Thursday lunchtime, and it's the end of my (formal) week's work. One of the perks of being part-time (although I'm less part-time than I was at the beginning of the week - I've been upgraded to 3 days/week).

I've learned lots of new words, like transgenesis and hematopoietic (nothing to do with verse), attended a seminar which felt more like a piece of avant-garde theatre (incomprehensible but lots of juicy words), and discovered that posters are not what you and I might think of as posters. But I'm not quite as green as I was on Monday, and already have trips to Brussels and Bellagio in the pipeline. I still don't have a lab coat, though.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Snow, new job

As I type, Edinburgh is being blanketed in white. It's funny how the weather sometimes seems to be attuned to events in my life.

Today I started my new job, at EuroStemCell, as communications and outreach officer. The role will involve dealing with the media, developing an "outreach package" (including a short film, website and leaflets), and a lot of translating cutting-edge science into plain English. First, though, I need put together a communications plan.

It's a part-time job, 2.5 days/week, leaving me plenty of time to develop other projects. I'm based at Edinburgh University's Kings' Buildings, a 25 min walk from here, in a building that sometimes smells of mouse. I haven't been issued with my lab coat yet (although it's on my orientation list!).

Monday, January 10, 2005

The MORI Lady

Scotland has been in the grip of some crazy weather in recent days. Edinburgh has been spared the brunt of it - no floods here - but it's been unpleasant nevertheless.

So when the hapless MORI lady rang my doorbell on Saturday afternoon, looking apologetic, damp and windswept, I couldn't send her away. She promised her questions would take only 20 minutes, and would be interesting, so as I'm a pushover, I invited her in.

A torrent of hard-hitting, personal, political, bizarre and just plain daft questions was unleashed. First up was "who would you vote for at the next general election", and some general, opinion poll, impression of the government-type questions. They also asked about the biggest issue in education, and a lot of questions about retirement provision - would my parents be living with me in their retirement? - would my children be providing for my retirement? - and other such crystal ball material.

One of the most bizarre questions involved looking at pictures of egg cartons, and identifying whether they were free-range, barn or battery. As they all said what they were on the cartons, I'm not sure what the point of this was - reading test? I also had to pick my favourite real and fictional double acts - French and Saunders, Sooty and Sweep - perhaps Gordon and Tony have decided to work on their relationship and are looking for guidance.

I saw Scorsese's latest, The Aviator, on Friday. It's the story of aviation pioneer, eccentric billionaire, filmmaker and wooer of leading ladies, Howard Hawks.

Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a fantastic, nuanced performance in the title role, surrounded by a big-name supporting cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda and Ian Holm. Blanchett, in particular, manages to capture the essence of Katharine Hepburn - a character who borders on caricature - without overdoing it.

The film, at 166 minutes, is long, but flies by in a whirl of Hollywood glamour, fabulous costumes, business by instinct (huge decisions in split seconds) and airborne adventures. Yet accompanying the glamour and Hawks' outward ascendance is his inner turmoil and descent into madness. Hawks embodied the classic dichotomy - genius and madness . Scorsese treats it well. While mental illness frames both the film and Hawks' incredible achievements, leaving the viewer wondering what happened to Hawks, the darkness isn't overpowering or bleak - just human.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Long Tail

An article in Wired that I found really interesting, analysing how media markets have changed, fragmented, specialised...and what that means for producers and consumers. Chris Anderson argues that:
"The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream...

Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture)...

Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare."

It's worth reading the whole article if you're interested in the impact of things like Amazon.com recommendations.

I'm in web research mode, as the above might suggest. A's back at work, so I'm thinking about work too - what that might mean in the year ahead.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

white, shiny and new

It's that time of the year...contemplation, resolution, overindulgence, bad TV. Makes you wish it would just snow, make everything look clean and white, provide a meteorological distraction.

Last night, it did. We went to the movies (saw Garden State on a second-hand but reliable recommendation (Morg) ) and A said it would be snowing by the time we came home. It was. I don't know how he does that. It was especially exciting as the first snow of the season, and it's nice that it snowed on New Year's Day.

I really liked the soundtrack to Garden State, and the film's quirky randomness - images like the boyfriend in faded armour, the boat atop the crevasse, the beige Canterbury helmet, "we'll go after we've buried your mom, I guess," seem to have stuck in my mind.

Today my Bellshill rellies came for lunch. We ate split pea and frankfurter soup - sounds weird I know, but apparently all those round golden things are symbols of prosperity and just the thing for New Year feasting. I hope my unrisen bread didn't reverse the effect. We also ate "smelly socks cheese" (except the person who called it that), gooey brie and chocolate cake (but not all at the same time), washed down with gallons of tea. There were three Dohertys in the house, after all.

My uncle gave me a yoga book for Christmas, and I did a nice winter practice this afternoon (the book's chapters are in seasons). He also gave me a book about world peace and how I can help make it happen - I'll give it a go and keep you posted.

New Year's resolutions of sorts (may be updated after reading said book):
  • Find a new way of making a living (that one's been forced upon me, but I am embracing it)
  • Laugh more, fret less
  • Blog more
I've got a Site Feed now, so you can find out when there are new posts, if you're that way inclined.

Happy New Year, y'all.