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 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.