Friday, May 29, 2009

A fantastic weekend!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a great deal of marking to do...

Thus, I have no life whatsoever and will spend my ENTIRE weekend, wading through the drivel that students hand in and expect to be praised for. I can't wait!

In addition, I have to somehow find time to work on some music, sort out my accommodation in Paris for August (YAY!!!) and my degree (note that it is last on the 'To Do' list...). I have to confess that there are a million thing I'd much rather be doing this weekend! Wouldn't you rather be here this weekend:
Sodwana Bay - Diving!

Or here:A frozen lake I visited when in Germany - Scooting around on the ice!
Or, perhaps, here:
Suikerboschfontein - the most amazing hike!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm enjoying this WAY too much!

For those of you who have never had the fortune (whether good or bad, depends on your outlook) to teach students at any stage, one of the features of the job which can be rather painful is marking. One's responses to students work can range from blinding rage to hysterical laughter. It is the latter that has brought me to write this post.

Over the last two months, I took on my first lecturing job ever. It's been great! I've really enjoyed it immensely! It's fantastic to be able to teach people about something that they've never done or heard of before, and to see them getting excited about what you tell them makes a world of difference!

However, it is when the marking starts that you begin to wonder, 'Are they really this stupid, or am I just a really bad lecturer...?'. Within the last week, I've had to invigilate two exams and I am now in the course of marking both lots. And, because of all the stuff I've read in their exams, I, along with a couple of friends, have decided to start a sister-blog where I shall publish the best of the stupid stuff students write. It is...

Scary things students *think* they know...

I've been told I enjoy the marking way too much and must learn to appreciate the mundane nature of the job...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm not into self-mutilation! It was my cat...!

I have the cutest cat in the world. I realise that that is what every cat owner on the face of our planet says about their pet, but she definitely lies pretty high up on the cuteness scale. Her full name is Lady Amelia Fitzpatrick, but I call her Mia for short, or simply 'kitten' depending on whether she has done something wrong or not.

One of the elements that adds to her charm is the fact that she goes through periods of complete insanity. Early in the morning, she will go tearing around the kitchen, literally leaping off the cupboard doors, spending more time in the air than in contact with any solid surfaces and generally pulling moves that would make the Witkowski bothers exceedingly jealous. but how does this link to self-mutilation, you may ask?

It has more to do with another of her behaviours associated with these spats of lunacy. Considerably less endearing is her tendency to attack almost anything at random during these periods. The victims of her pent-up aggression include anything from a table leg to a human leg, from fingers to fluff. And God forbid you wear anything with tassels or a pull-string! That's fatal!

The other day I made the generous, but foolish decision to engage with my cat during one of her 'fits'. The result is that I now have hands and arms completely covered in scabs and scratches! And they keep coming! This afternoon, I discovered I had a set of kitty-cuts on my right elbow that I never even realised were there! How she managed to slash at my elbows remains a mystery to me (perhaps while she was performing one of her cupboard ricochets...?).

All the same, I love her dearly and to show just how cute (albeit mad) my cat is, I am posting the following video. It's of her sitting in our kitchen sink (a favourite spot for her - she obviously never got the memo about cats hating water...) playing with water as it drips out of the tap. It's my first video upload, so I hope that this works! Ignore the sound...

Be careful what you wish for...

So, in yesterday's post I wished that I could somehow speed up time and that my day could come to an end sooner so that I could go home. Well, it happened. But not in a good way...

I was supposed to go to gym with a few friends after university yesterday. And because I got my wish, I was late for it.

The end.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Well, that's 10 hours you'll never get back...

It's been one of those days. The kind where you end up doing loads of admin but feel that you have achieved absolutely nothing all day. I've been doing statistics for undergraduate students all day, which has been a pain. Mostly because they have no idea what's going on but insist on asking about the most arbitrary points in the hope that I will somehow think that they have a clue.

Now, ask anyone, my stats knowledge is not amazing, but I do know a few things. That's why I got so ticked off with one pair of sibling students that came, with the rest of their group, to sort out their stats. In all fairness, the one sibling had some common sense, so my frustration wasn't directed at them both, only the dumb one...

She kept trying to come up with 'practical' (read: lazy-ass) solutions to her stats in an effort to have to do less work. She also kept asking really stupid questions like, 'When you say we should make a bar graph with the averages for each variable plotted according to the times they were sampled, what do you mean?', to which I would answer with, 'Well, basically plot a bar graph with the averages for each variable plotted according to the times they were sampled...'

And, to add to the unbelievably annoying nature of the individual, she has a lip-ring. Now, I personally am not against the idea of lip piercings (Quite the opposite! I wanted to get one for myself!), and the design of her ring is simple and silver, but somehow, it just makes this individual SO much mor obnoxious and annoying! It's amazing!

So, having done the stats and a little admin, I'm sitting at my desk, hoping that somehow, just for today, time will speed up and the end of the day will suddenly be upon me, forcing me home...

Off to youtube then to be unproductive!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I recieved my confirmation email for my acceptance to attend the conference in France later this year! I'm so excited! It's a conference on animal behaviour in Rennes, France, which I applied to attend with a poster presentation on the work that I've done with the chimpanzees here in Johannesburg. It'll be my first ever conference where I am presenting something, my first trip to France AND the first time I've ever used a credit-card! I'm SO psyched!

In addition to this, I'm super-excited because it'll give me a chance to visit some amazing places and see some friends who I've not seen in a long time! Laura and out!

That's about all I have to say for the moment. My brain has breathed its last for today and so I'm going to head home shortly...

...excuse the pun.

P.S. I had to help two of my 3rd year student groups with the statistics on their projects that they have been doing at the zoo over the last few months and for the first time in my life, I think I actually kinda knew what it was that I was doing! It's a fantastic feeling when you finally grasp stats! Any sane person who has ever done them will be able to understand...

Friday, May 15, 2009


Wow...I just looked at my clustermap thingy! I've had 3 170 people view my blog since I started up in 2007! That's awesome! You guys ROCK! Thanks for making me feel imporant in an internet-microcosm sorta way!

I'm awesome...It's that simple, really... ;P


So, Sarah has given me an award! YAY! The idea is that I now write 7 things about myself which make me the fantastic individual I am and then pass on the award to 7 others. To elaborate on the title of this post, I shall provide some examples below...

I rock because:
  1. I'm witty. Or at least, so I am told by others. Sometimes I doubt the sanity of some of those who accuse me of being witty, but overall, I humbly (because that's the kind of person I am, humble... :D ) accept the complement and move on with my life...

  2. I can get passionately excited about almost anything. Seriously. It's a pain some of the time because I tend to get all excited and nobody else seems to feel that way, so I feel a bit of a nutter...

  3. I am brimming with useless facts! Really! I was actually famous during my undergraduate years for this. I would sprout forth with all manner of redundant trivia to my bemused colleagues whenever I felt the need. It's actually all because of watching Discovery Channel and National Geographic documentaries. And they say TV is bad for you! Hah! Ideal example: did you know that a pumpkin, by the strictest definition of the term, is actually a berry?

  4. I have good taste! Or at least, I like to think so. My friends are all fantastic people, I like the colour green (You can't go wrong with green! It's timeless! Like black!) AND I am impermeable to distasteful trends in fashion and music (Down with pop-music!).

  5. At this point I would like to say that I am seriously struggling to write this. I hate tooting my own horn...Also, blogger is being stupid and can't stop numbering stuff, so this doesn't count as one of my points, I just can't stop the stupid website from doing that! Aargh!

  6. I'm in love with post-its! They are just about the most amazing invention ever! Step aside wheel!

  7. I'm multi-talented! Not only am I a brilliant scientist in the making, but I write and compose my own music too!

  8. I love art-house movies! There is something particularly nice about watching something that actually makes you think every once in a while. I do enjoy vegetating in front of the tele every now and again too, but the deep stuff is more my style.

Wow...I think I was kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel for some of those, but at least I got something in there...So I would like to award this SUPA-AMAZING PERSON award to the following: Jenny, Megan, Eebee, Athena, Helen, Laura and last, but certainly not least, Tomkins.

Nice picture for the day:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On music

Ironically, without intending to do so I have chosen the same topic for today's post as Eebee did for his. Actually, it's not the same exactly, but along similar lines. For me it was all brought about by my arriving at my lab to discover that our cleaning lady, Sarah, was working away at polishing our countertops, with her cell-phone blaring gospel music in that tiny-distorted cell-phone kinda way. While I certainly have nothing against gospel music, I was a little taken aback at the fact that she felt that it was okay to play music in my office while I was trying to work. But I digress...

In addition to the above musical incident, I was listening to the latest Dido album today for the first time. It's really not bad! My friend David had listened to it and warned me that the vast majority of the album was rubbish but there were one or two tracks that were worthwhile. While I certainly think that there are no tracks on the album (so far...) that are nearly as catchy as some of her previous stuff, it's really not as bad as he made it out to be!

After reading Eebee's post about his top 5 most annoying music 'artists', I feel I have to put my ten cents worth in and rant a little. I have to agree that Nickleback has to be one of the most annoying bands on the planet! They have produced a grand total of about 2 original songs, figured 'Hey! This works!' and decided to clone them for the following 6 ALBUMS!!!

Now, no offense to fans, but they also exploit something in every teenage girl which drives me nuts! They write their songs as these soppy lyrics, masquerading as a rock band. Someone, please have a child by them so that they can go the way of all musicians who have children; an subsequent album with songs riddled with soppy titles like, 'My little angel', following which their career takes a nose dive, never to recover. The world would be a better place! I promise!

Then, Coldplay. I think that both Nickleback and Coldplay suffer from the same problem. Neither are able to inject a smidgen of originality into their music! But I shan't repeat the above rant for them too...

Next on my hate-list is Jay-Z. This man is about as musical as a jack-hammer. While I certainly consider most rappers with disdain due to the fact that what they do is NOT music, his tracks in particular irritate me because of their shallowness and lack of variability. While the backtracks for many of them are really quite good, and in some rare cases, generate that instant tapping foot thing that happens with a good beat, the fact that he 'sings' about how awesome he is and how much money he has, makes me sick. How insecure can you be as a person to feel confident about 'singing' your own praises?!

Then there is the beloved Akon. While I take pride in the fact that he is a fellow African and thus feel a certain kinship with the man, and apart from his various inappropriate stage cavortings with underage children, I would compare his voice to that of a toddler having a temper-tantrum. What possessed music executives to sign him on, is beyond me. What also amazes me is how many people actually like his music! It's amazing!

And thus, I shall end my rant. Sorry to any of you readers who are fans. These are just my opinions and I am a firm believer that music taste is an individual matter and shouldn't be a measure of a persons character.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cause of death: Library shelf

Ten points Megs! ;)

Earlier this week I was diligently writing away at my dissertation. I have really been struggling to get myself to even open the file on my computer lately because I'm so terrified about the idea of having to write it all up and finish my masters degree. But somehow, I plucked up the courage to open it and had actually started writing, when I discovered that I needed a reference. So I did what all lazy post-grad students do: I searched the net for one.

I tend to use a site called science-direct, because the papers that it turns up are the best quality in my field and are generally up to date. So while searching through this site, I came across a paper that I thought could be very useful. There was only one problem. The university doesn't subscribe to that journal.

So, being overly dramatic, I threw my arms up in horror and wailed to my lab-mates about how my life was ruined and that I might as well just give up and open a hot-dog stand because that was my only hope of succeeding at anything in life. Or something to that effect...When Megan, being the voice of sanity and in the process totally killing all the fun of wailing about the meaninglessness of my existence, suggested that I just look on Google Scholar.

I did that and discovered, to partial relief that there was no such article on the web. So I turned to the solution of the non-lazy post-grad: The library.

Our university has a library web site that allows one to search for items based with relative ease. Occasionally you wonder whether the site was actually designed by a pot-plant, given the ridiculous answers it can produce to your queries, but overall, it's really not bad. I searched for the article and discovered that it was located in one of the universities 7 libraries. Which one? I had no idea. It was in a journal called 'The Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology', which as it turned out was discontinued. The reason being that the journal had actually split into several other journals.

Now, the way the library system works here, you are directed through the all-knowing site to a particular library and given the shelf number for what you are looking for. In this case, neither the library, nor the shelf number were evident. So, I assumed that it would most likely be located at the same library where all the psychology journals live and headed there.

I arrived at the library and asked one of the librarians at the front desk if they could help me. After explaining my woes, the librarian looked up at me and, in a sweet but obviously couldn't-give-a-rats-ass tone, asked 'Have you tried looking on the Internet?'. A little annoyed at the patronisation, I told them that I had and had found nothing. They smiled and proceeded to look on the Internet and then tell me all about how they had found nothing.

Defeated, the librarian passed me onto another of her kind. This one repeated the condescending procedure, complete with couldn't-give-a-rats-ass tone and the Internet search. Eventually, having given up, and leaving me feeling a little frustrated, he suggested I go speak to the woman upstairs who was in charge of journals.

We climbed the stairs and approached her desk. After making a half-hearted attempt to explain my saga to her (I'm not kidding! He started speaking to her in another language and, with apparent frustration turned to me and said, 'Tell her your problem...'), she began to try and help me. Her first response: 'Have you looked on the Internet?'

In all fairness, she was much more helpful than the last two had been. She managed to decipher the search results on the library site and discovered that the journal was indeed held in that library. She also managed to find the shelf number for me. So, having found the info we needed, this unlikely couple, a skinny white boy and a rather rotund black librarian, plodded off to the basement of the library where the journals reside.

Once in the basement, a sanctuary for the socially inept and dust mites, we began to check the shelf numbers on the rolling shelves for the section that I sought. For those who have never encountered rolling shelves, they are a fantastic invention, essentially a set of normal library shelves set on railway-like tracks which can be pushed back and forth on the tracks. This allows the library to have many more shelves and books for the same amount of space. The only real down side is that if you move the shelves, you can only really access one section of books at a time. And, any normal person who uses them cannot help but imagine that some unsuspecting student may move the shelves when you are in one of the temporary aisles, crushing you in the process.

The pair of us eventually found the section we were looking for and started to push the shelves back so that we could access the books held within. As we were doing this, we discovered that one of the shelves was stuck! This meant that the maximum space that was available for me to access the journals was an aisle about 40cm wide. Immediately, the librarian decided that she would go seek help and left me at the mercy of the dust mites (the socially inept aren't all that likely to attack, you know, the whole 'they're more afraid of you than you are of them' saga, so you're fairly safe around them...)

Up until then, the whole book-hunting ordeal had taken up about 30min of my time and so I decided to risk becoming human paper and entered the 40cm chasm that we had created in the wall of books. I frantically scanned the book spines on the shelves before me, all the while images of some mildly surprised individual 40 years down the line opening up the shelf as a crispy, paper-thin Luke floated down from the recently separated shelves. To my horror, I realised that the book I sought was located on the very bottom shelf at the end of the aisle. I could never get to it in this scenario as that would require that I be able to kneel down, a feat impossible with only 40cm of space in which to move. Reluctantly I retreated to the outside, resolved to wait for help to arrive.

As I exited the aisle, both the librarian and I, completely unaware of one another's presence there gasped as the two of us nearly collided. She had returned with one of the other librarians and was looking to see if I'd been foolish enough to enter the aisle just as I had been exiting. After some embarrassed apologies, we turned to the second librarian for an education in moving rolling shelves. As it turned out, all we had to do was pull the shelf along with the shelf before it. So we did this and it worked! Thanking the man sheepishly, I returned to the now decently sized space that had been created in search of my book. I managed to grab it and with my librarian assistant, headed back up to the main checkout desk to take the book out.

We arrived at the desk and we discovered, to my horror, that I was actually the first person, since the libraries on campus had gone digital to even look for the book, never mind take it out. So this meant that it wasn't even catalogued in the library system. Screaming on the inside, I graciously passed the book over to my assistant librarian who, with a jolly looking smile, waddled over to the lift to take the book up for cataloguing on the forth floor.

She returned about 10 min later, after I had been asked several times by clueless undergraduates whether I would let them print documents from the computer at the desk behind me, with the tome in tow. She had managed to get it catalogued and it was ready for me to take out! Jumping for joy on the inside I thanked her profusely and had the book checked out. The whole thing had taken 45 min but I finally had what I was looking for!

I got back to my lab and scanned the article, using our school's Bizhub (I am in love with a machine...). Once I was at the safety of my desk, I read through the paper. It was only then that I realised, as I read, that the article was almost completely useless to me...