Sunday, 28 October 2012

When academics get together....

The life of an academic is not always an easy one, but it definitely has it's perks. For me, conferences and workshops are some of these. Granted, they can be crap and scary but that depends very much on the people in attendance. I t also depends on the location of the venue. Things seem to work best when all delegates stay in the same hotel or B&B, etc. I guess it's the whole concept of work hard together and play hard together.

I'm currently at the 2nd Synthesis Imaging in Radio Astronomy Workshop partly funded by the SKA Africa project. It's based in Saldanha on the West Coast of South Africa if you're rusty on your geography. It's beautiful. Plus the workshop has about 50 participants, including all students, lecturers and facilitators. That's a good size; not to big nor too small. I've been to one of these before, about a year ago, in Australia. If I compare the two, if it wasn't for Jono, the Aussie one would be trailing quite far behind. That's not to say I didn't enjoy last year's trip – I did, this experience is just more so. My reasons?

  1. I know more people here. I didn't expect to, but turns out I studied with quite a few of the students back in my UCT days. So it's good to see them and socialise again.
  2. I am chummy with some of the main organisers. We've worked together and partied together and that makes me feel very at ease around them.
  3. As for the people here who I don't know well or whom I have never met before, it's been good. There are some highly entertaining and interesting people in this world. That's the same at as the Aussie one. The Aussie school had a one-up on this one though... I've yet to meet my Jono-equivalent here. I don't think there is one.
  4. I'm in a position of chilledness what with being a facilitator and all – not a student and not giving a talk means my only stress is the tutoring during practical sessions and so far those have gone well. I was nervous at first, wondering if I had enough knowledge to be of use, particularly when I compare my expertise with those of all the other facilitators who are all postdocs – had some serious inferiority concerns. Turns out it's ok. So far.
  5. The venue is decent – overlooks Saldanha Bay and on sunny days the water is a magnificent blue, seagulls calling in the skies and bobbing along the break line. Tranquil.
  6. And finally, I am learning more at this one that at the Aussie one, but I think that's because I have the general background now so when they speak about the higher-tech stuff it hits the top of my forehead rather than shooting straight over me, metres above.

The only bad thing is the lack of decent internet. We're nerds. We need almost continuous connection. Surviving though. 

The main thing to mention though has yet to be mentioned: 

academics + booze = interesting times

To be continued....

Monday, 22 October 2012

A Slice of Life

--- CAUTION: The following post contains images that sensitive viewers may find distressing. If you suffer for looking, it's on your own head. ---

So I was told that I needed to blog again (Hello Martin!). I know that it's been a while but to be honest I haven't had much to say, other than depressing I-have-issues topics. I've considered writing every so often over the past month or so but due to my recent apathy for almost everything, it's felt like too much effort. Plus, nothing much has happened.

BUT NOW! Ha. Something has happened. It's a little thing, and not very noteworthy, but it comes with pictures! "What is this you speak of?", I hear you ask. Well....


Yes that's right, I've sliced myself. Again. And I was doing so well! It's been almost two years since I have maimed myself in the kitchen with sharp implements. Mainly knives. Although I think kitchen scissors have come to the party once before... But I digress. This beauty is from last night, and what you see above is my also my first proper view of it.

So here's what happened: the knife slipped while I was attempting to remove a rather slippery pip from an avo (that's avocado to you fancy people). Now I was obviously not thinking things through, because what idiot holds the avo during this process in such a manner as to enable significant damage to one's phalanges? Oh right. Me. I have performed this task enumerable times before, without incident. Last night was a blip. Then again, I did walk into the fridge door a few minutes later. Perhaps my brain had taken the day off.

So yes. Knife in avo pip. Knife slips and slices through flesh. Kenda gives a brief shriek, more from surprise than pain, and immediately dashes to kitchen sink and runs cold water over said injury. Still hadn't felt much pain by this stage. Plus I was on my haunches in front of the sink with my hand held way above my head. I also hadn't inspected it. That may have something to do with it. The brain is a powerful thing - not having an explicit picture in my mind of what it looked like may have helped me not think of the fact that it probably hurt and shouldn't I be feeling something? End result: my mother patched me up, not before exclaiming of the depth of the cut (I will take her word for it) and looking a little queasy for a moment.

So here I am, sitting at the office the next day and cursing quietly as I remove the plaster to put a fresh one on. I don't think I've ever removed a plaster with more care or lack of speed. It doesn't hurt, provided I don't touch it, attempt to move the finger in any way, pick up with my left hand anything heavier than an empty mug, or brush against anything, even if it's barely a hairsbreadth of contact. Needless to say driving was interesting. Squeaking every time my finger brushed against my indicator stick; having to use my right hand to pull up the handbrake when parking (yes even that causes me to fear blood spurting from my gash).

Off to Saldanha for a week's workshop so gotta remember to pack those plasters. Also, as an aside, you look ridiculous with your hand held above your head while performing menial tasks such as eating, talking to people, and watching TV. Yes, you.

Oh, and apologies for not having a 'sensitive viewers' disclaimer. Wait, let me put one in now....


...Ok, now what I just said is redundant but I'll keep it in anyway. I hope no-one has fainted or regurgitated breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day you know.

Right. That's that. Cheerio for now. Hopefully it won't take me injuring myself to jot stuff down again.