Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My little sister

Gosh I hate blogger sometimes!! I had written up a whole post, and then tried to copy/paste it, and now it refuses to paste! AARGH!!!

Anyways, the point of todays post is to showcase my sisters artwork. She's doing her BA fine arts, specialising in sculpture. Today she has to exhibit all of her works from the whole year to be marked. I'm not entirely sure how one goes about marking an artwork, but anyway...

So here are the results. I'm rather impressed with it all! If you happen to be at Wits today, I'm sure she'd be chuffed to have you waddle through and 'Ooo!' and 'Aah!' at it... ;)

For this piece, their directive was to do something for a full 24 hrs. So what did my sister choose? FRENCH KNITTING!!! Of all things to do...The amazing thing about this piece is that it really does preserve the 24 hours in a tangible way; she used different coloured bits of wool for each hour, so the result is a long woolen sausage made of multiple coloured bands, each a chronicle of that hour. She can even point out at which points she fell asleep...The wool on the wall is the response piece to her knitting. The class had to respond to her work and so she got them to unravel tangled wool (the same colours as the piece itself) for an hour. The total that they unraveled was wound up into a wool ball and laid at the floor of each tangle.

For this piece, she made casts of her feet in plaster. The moulding and casting process was loads of fun! We got to play around with the awesome silicon-rubber moulding stuff! It's bright purple and requires that you mix two chemicals together; one bright blue, the other bright pink. Very 5 year old birthday party, just without the screaming children and the nausea from eating too many sweets and potato chips. She then poured resin over the feet to represent the washing of feet (mirroring the story in the bible of Jesus' feet being washed). I'm not entirely sure what the significance of this all was, but it looks cool and we got to play around with some awesome chemicals!

My personal favourite: The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For this my sister took a real tree (or at least, part of one...) and coated it in aluminium foil. The leaves were all hand-made by her and the rest of us. We then helped her attach them to the branch. The idea, apart from the fact that she just likes foil (as you will see later), is that the tree itself reflects the observer. It's also a dynamic piece as the reflections are constantly changing, depending on where you stand around it. I asked her if I could have this one, but she'd promised it to someone already...

Her last piece, and her favourite, is a statue of St. Lucia, again, coated in aluminium foil. My sister's name is Lucia, so this might be why she likes this one so much...Surrounding the piece are hundreds of origami lillies, also made of foil. We were all recruited to make those too. They are not easy to make at all! Folding foil like that is a mission! But, with the help of the extended family and a few friends, it got done.

Just to confirm, my sister is in fact fascinated by religious iconography, so that's why the themes for most of these are of biblical/religious origin.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The hell-hound strikes again...

I am once again house-sitting for my aunt and uncle. It's a fantastic job except for one thing; their dog. I've written to you all about the hell-hound before, and this story follows another of the little *&^%$#'s adventures...

Once, during the house-sitting stint in the post linked to above, I made the mistake of leaving one of the house windows open when I left for university. It is a very low-down window, practically on the floor, but it is part of a wall-like window setup at the main bedroom. The window has bars across it, so I figured, it's safe, nobody will get in through there. So, blissfully ignorant to the peril that awaited me, I left for varsity, confident that all would be well in the world.

Many hours passed, and the day progressed uneventfully...

I returned to the house that evening. I opened the door to find the dog in the main entrance hall. My first thoughts were something along the lines of, 'That's odd...he was locked out earlier...' and immediately graduated to 'Oh no...someone has robbed the house!!'. So, as I frantically ran from room to room searching for evidence of thievery, the true horror of the situation began to dawn on me. Nothing was missing. All the doors were closed. The only possible entrance could have been the window I'd left open!

I sprinted through to the master bedroom and there, glaring at me like a defiant child who has just been refused their demand for sweets in a supermarket, was the open window. A little confused I looked around and again, confirmed that nothing was missing. It was only when I returned to the living room that the true horror of it all sank in. And given how many horror movies I watch, that's pretty bad!

The dog had come in through the window and devoured the entire lounge! Okay, so not the chairs and sofa and stuff, but almost everything else was gone! He had chewed up their grass-weaved basket, a wooden puzzle that they had bought on a previous holiday (it remains unreplaced...) and several garden game tools, including an entire volleyball set...

So, since then I have ALWAYS ensured that the window remains sealed shut. That is, until this time...

So this morning I left the house to head out to my grandmother's for lunch. Once there I suddenly realised that I'd forgotten to close the window!!!

I had too much to do to head back to close it at the house, so I ended up spending all day with the sickening fear in the back of my mind. At the same time, at the end of the day, I was determined not to let the terror get to me and so tried to appreciate the skyscape as I drove along the highway:

When I arrived at the house, I couldn't help but scanning the house from outside for movement. My eyes, darting around furiously, revealed nothing and I breathed a sigh of relief. I soon gave myself a mental slap. The hell-hound could have been somewhere not visible from the outside!

As I opened the door...

...he was there, with the facial expression typical of dogs that says, 'HI! I'M HERE! AREN'T YOU PROUD OF ME?'

My heart sloshed around my ankles...

But, as I moved through the house, surveying the damage, I began to realise that there was...none! The house was intact! Behold, the proof!


I was SO happy that I gave the dog a MASSIVE sinew-bone-hide-thingy. You can *just* see him in the picture below with the bone in his mouth looking very pleased with himself...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Evil men in white coats

Following a comment on my last post (and Eebee's not-at-all-helpful response...) I would just like to clarify that, yes, we do experiments on animals, but no, they are not of the stick-the-needle-in-their-eye-and-see-what-happens. Almost all of the experiments we run are along the lines of trying to find ways to improve the housing conditons of captive animals and to try and figure out what causes the behavioural problems we see in captive animals and find ways to fix them. So, in short, we are the good guys. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

What Fridays are all about

One of the massive perks to being part of our lab is that Fridays are generally accepted, here anyway, to be a complete write-off. We get absolutely nothing done on a Friday. Even my supervisor admits it! In our lab, this is what Fridays are all about:

Yes, that's it. Coffee and doughnuts. What more can you ask for?

Today was a prime example! I arrived late. I'm house sitting at the moment so I took a little longer to get in today. On my way up to my lab from parking, I picked up some doughnuts. The lady at the shop was very generous and gave us an extra doughnut (which I may have to take home as nobody seems to want to eat it...) and, after skipping the entire paying queue because of the bulk-order, I headed up to the lab. Once there, the 'meeting' began.

I say 'meeting' because we did have meetings on a Friday, but due to lack of attendance, they were discontinued.

We chatted, drank coffee, ate our glazed delights and all had a fantastic time. The rest of the day was occupied with an undergrad lecture on oestrogen mimics (disappointingly tame...) and moving animal test subjects around. That's ALL I DID TODAY!!! And, now I'm going home :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

All in the name of science...

Every two years, our department runs an undergraduate course on Reproductive Biology (coincidentally, the name of the course!). Students in general hate the course as the majority of it focuses on the reproduction of plants and fungi, but a small section of it relates to reproduction in animals. For this particular section, the amount of giggling and crude jokes that are made during the lectures of the students is, unsurprisingly, high.

For this section of the course, the practical that the students have to do is rather fun.'s not what you are thinking...but is instead an examination of the role of perfume in mate selection. It requires that the blindfolded students smell a selection of perfumes on male and female 'models' and state what they think of the perfumes. This year, Luke and Leia were the smell models.

For those that don't know me, I am closer to an ape than most people. In short, I have rather hairy forearms and this complicates matters when the students are not supposed to be able to distinguish the male and female models (shoving your nose into a hairy arm does kinda give away the sex of the model...). So, the solution?


So, both Leia and I had to shave our arms for science! It was actually a fascinating experience! My arms are surprisingly smooth and I've discovered a whole bunch of scars that I had no idea I had, not to mention the shaving techniques that I learned which I can apply when and if I decide to do cycling competitively!

Here are the pics:
The shaving process at work: By shaving in one direction and then pushing the razor backward, it cleans the razor! Nifty hey?! :D

The process at work...Thank goodness we have sinks in the lab. The bathrooms would have been awkward to have to keep explaining to people what I was doing...

Before and After! Great insulation and comforting fluffiness converts to silky smooth and a map of past traumas!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Step aside Indy, this one's alive!

This was a conversation that I had with EEbEE earlier today. The paper that the exerpt came from is at the bottom of the page. Step aside Indiana Jones, this is how REAL monkeys do it!

Luke: A charming little exerpt I had to share with you: 'Most people with first hand experience of primates will be impressed by the animals' tolerance of injuries and their rapid healing. One example, observed in a large group of tufted capuchins (Cebus apella), concerned a young adult male with a head wound exposing several square centimetres of scalp. The wound was frequently groomed by other group members, who also dipped potatoes in it. Although we might expect that this would be a painful experience for the wounded individual, his behaviour appeared quite normal. In fact he appeared to enjoy attention from the others, and actively sought more of this treatment (see also Dittus & Ratnayeke1989). The wound eventually healed without any human intervention.'
It's from a paper I'm reading. It stopped me in my tracks...
Ebrahim: !!!
who'd have thought
didn't expect that at all
Luke: The mental image is very funny though, in a sick sorta way :)
Ebrahim: hehehe. i admit... i laughed when i read it
Luke: I was just so shocked! I actually jumped back and gasped! Lab-mates must think I'm insane...
Ebrahim: lol. i can't wait to attack my next first aid situation with a bit of potatoe
Luke: It's the ultimate first aid tool! Ambulances should be filled with bags of potatos!
Ebrahim: imagine the look on the face of the guy with a missing arm when the ambulance shows up :O "all you brought were some POTATOES!!!"
Luke: ROFL!!! Yes! I was also wondering what ambulance chase scenes in movies would be like if the vehicle kept shedding small tubers as it roared through the streets of downtown New York...

Chips and ketchup, anyone?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

There's more than one way to kill a cat...or die trying...

Sunday evening was no different to any other. The weekend was drawing to a close and the heavy blanket of depression that is the realisation that the next day is Monday was slowly settling over all, but trying very hard not to be noticed while at it. I was in my kitchen, preparing my dinner; nothing exciting, just a toasted sandwich.

It was a normal Sunday evening...for all except one. Fate had other plans for that one...

At some point, I heard my cell phone ringing. Like a parent who hears their child cry, I dropped what I was doing and hurtled down the long dark passage of my house to answer the call of my electronic child.

Our house is long and thin, so we have one straight passage that runs the full length of the house, from kitchen to garage. Due to the fact that it is the central backbone of our house, it is very dark, with doors leading off on either side to bedrooms and the like. From the kitchen heading down, the first door on your right is my sisters room. It was at this junction that the incident occurred.

As I sprinted down the warren that is our passage, something large and black shot out of my sisters room, aiming itself directly at my ankles. Instinctively I leaped up, hurdling over my dark assailant. My attacker changed its course of action. It had realised that I was considerably larger than it was and that fleeing might, in fact, be the better option. However, it was the mode of escape that could have used a little forethought.

It was my cat, Lady Amelia Fitzpatrick, who had launched herself from my sisters room. The problem was that, as only a cat can do, she had chose to run by moving into every space that I tried to put my feet down and with the inertia I already had, I was not likely to stop any time soon.

So the two of us performed a bizarre zig-zag hopscotch down my passage, me trying very hard not to stand on my cat, which by this stage looked more like a tiny spruce tree than an animal. We finally ran out of passage and the cat continued her puffy, angry sprint into my parents bedroom. I followed her, by this stage having successfully slowed to a walk, finding it very hard to control my laughter. The cat was nowhere to be seen.

As I fumbled in the dark, looking for my parents light switch, I heard a loud hiss from under their bed. In the dim light coming through their bedroom door, I could just make out her VERY large, angry eyes glaring at me.

In her defence, as traumatic as the experience may have been for her, she will get her own back. As the video below shows (sorry about the poor quality; I used my cell phone to record it) she loses her mind daily and when this happens, anything and anyone is fair game. She bullies the dog and we all live in fear of having our legs adopted as claw-sharpening posts, or our ankles considered to be the most viable alternative to actually eating the food in her bowl. Take special note of the final display where the cat attacks the door frame for no apparent reason...