Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Andrena burrow model

As some of you may be aware I have been spending much of my work time recently on putting together new insect displays for the museum gallery. I have about 4 dioramas to make as part of this and this is the first one that I have completed.
is a genus of bee that dig burrows- at least the females do anyway, and they then create little nests at the bottom for their eggs so I created a fullscale burrow with fake plants around the edges (note my wonderful dandelion plant wot I did make- am very proud of myself for this one!). The base is made from florists oasis which I cut to shape and coated in various layers of PVA, clay pebbles, sand and bits of soil (microwaved first to kill off the woodlice). It has about 10 layers of all these things and then it had been painted with both a wet and dry coat of different coloured paint so that it has texture and resembles soil as closely as possible without actually being soil. The leaves are all made from florists wire and tape (the kind they use for decorating cakes) which is then cut and bent into shape to try and make it look as authentic as possible. As a finishing touch we used some real dead bees. The female is the ginger one at the edge of the burrow whilst the male is circling above her awaiting his chance. Giggadee.
This one is only a small model- it's finished dimensions is 4x4x4"s or thereabouts. The model I'm making for the Forensic Entomology display is much, much bigger and we are only in early stages with that one but you can expect pictures as soon as there is anything to see!

Am now feeling better

Am finally managing to shake my cold which is great as I suddenly have some energy again. My caffeine intake is still quite high as I am not yet 100% but I should be feeling fine by the weekend which is good news as I am off to Cambridge to see the best friend do some lindyhopping and I shall get the chance to knit socks all weekend whilst I cheer her on.
And speaking of socks I got a great picture through from my mum this morning of her wearing the alpaca socks that I made and they fit her much better than they did me- which is lovely to see. I shall now be tackling round 2 on the husbands socks and try for a re-knit to make them bigger. I have just finished a second pair of baby socks so if I can avoid starting anymore of those then there's a good chance I can get the husband kitted out in some flashy stripey socks by the middle of Feb. Then there's some socks for me that need making up and at least three more pairs of baby socks.
At some point I might actually get round to knitting something other than socks (I realise that this is rapidly turning into 'sock blog') but I asked the husband for sock wool for Valentine's Day so I'm really sorry folks but it looks as though this trend is going to continue for a while yet!

Friday, 25 January 2008

I still fell ow...

...and it's only getting worse so you will all have to forgive me for not posting at the moment. My brain has turned to goo and all I can manage is sitting and coughing in a pathetic manner. I am going to escape work early today and have an afternoon snooze to see if that will help me to feel any better ( I really do feel as though I could sleep for a week at the moment). The house looks as though someone has dropped a grenade in there and run away giggling. We have people visiting this weekend so I have to get it all clean and tidy which is going to use most of my energy. I think we will be employing the method of throwing things into the front bedroom and shutting the door on all the mess. That way we can pretend it doesn't exist whilst creating an illusion of being diligent householders who look after their home. At least the kittens will be happy to see me. They love having someone in the house during the week as it means that they can run round and trash stuff. They are currently working on a project to push all the CD's off of the shelving and if you've seen our CD collection then I'm sure you can appreciate just how much of a mess that that is making. I think the kittens only do it to see if the cases all make the same noise when they hit the floor. They have a habit of pushing one off, looking startled when it makes a noise and then they pause and consider it for a bit whilst casting suspicious glances at the case on the floor. Then they push another one off. If any off them don't fall quite right then they just look offended. We are going to have to install baby rails on the shelves at this rate, along with those catches that make it impossible to get into cupboards!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

I feel ow

Blurgh. Have a horrible headache and sore throat (which is a pet hate of mine- nothing is more annoying than a sore throat bar losing a limb) and I just want to go home and curl up in my bed with a hot water bottle. Except that tonight is knitting night so the husband is not expecting to pick me up for another two and a half hours and then from the other side of town. Have tried calling him repeatedly to play the pathetic wife card down the phone with added sound effects etc but he's not answering. Bastard. Just when I needed him to be all sympathetic and caring. Now I'm going to have to resort to 'pulling through' and 'braving it out'. Huh. If he was ill we'd all know about it- in fact I'm sure that it would be deadly serious, on deaths door type stuff. Shall now mope and act like a teenager for no good reason other than I'm feeling a bit off and I want to. Meh. (Rubs throat and whines a bit). To add insult to injury I am also completely knackered as because I am coming down with a cold I was snoring a bit last night which kept the husband awake. Apparently the way to deal with this is to constantly roll your partner around the bed so that they get several hours of highly disturbed sleep. You have to wait about 20 mins so that they are entering the deep sleep part of the cycle and then jolt them nastily to get them to stop snoring. This is the perfect moment to really fuck them up. Of course it never occurred to him that maybe I was snoring for a reason i.e. I'm coming down with a cold and therefore maybe the best thing to do would be say, fetch a warm drink and some decongestant, or, at the very worst, relocate himself to another room rather than taking the snoring as a personal affront and waging a pointless war that ended up with neither of us getting any sleep. Not that I'm huffy about this at all you understand. It's just that I don't feel well.

Monday, 21 January 2008

A piggy weekend

Thanks to the wondrous friend who took this photo! It really made me smile this morning as I hadn't realised just how blissful the pig looked when having its ears scratched.
This is me at Mudshute Farm this Saturday when I was out for the day avisiting a friend. It was a trifle muddy as I'm sure you can tell. They also had llamas to laugh at and turkeys to hide from. We had a great day trotting round though I have to say that scratching the pig was the best bit.
We managed to make it to Portebello Road which was wonderful- it's the first time I've ever been there though I did have the compulsion to sing the song from 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks'. It was on repeat in my brain the entire time as we walked the length and back again; I managed to restrain myself to a hum however. We also visited Greenwich, rode around on the DLR, saw Canary Wharf up close (which made me feel as though I was being eviscerated) and walked the underground tunnel that goes under the river and drips water in an ominous fashion. All in all it was an awesome day though I repeat- pig scratching beats everything else hands down!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Men think about sex every six seconds

and apparently I think about socks every six seconds- at least according to the husband!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

That will teach me...

To always always always do a tension square when knitting from a new pattern. Have been a complete idiot over the last couple of days. I started a new set of baby socks the other day and because I was thinking how fantastically good I am at them now I just waded in without giving it a moments thought and got on with the knitting.
I had very nearly finished my first sock last night but it was bothering me- something was not right about it. The sock seem to be proportioned incorrectly. At first I thought that it was the pattern (how very arrogant of me!) but then I sat down and did some calculations this morning and it turns out, ahem, that my tension is way, way, way, way, way off. This should have been an easy problem to overcome- all I had to do was scale down the sock to fit the gauge that I had but I didn't think of this when I started so I now have sock that is far too long in the foot. They are effectively clown socks to fit in those overlarge clown shoes that they have, which is amusing but of little use if your feet aren't actually that size.
So I have two choices. I do some tedious calculations that may or may not work out what length the sock should be and then rip it back and make it shorter. This involves me working it all out from scratch as there is nothing to help me on this- I'm essentially unventing a new process for doing this hence it may be a bit hit and miss as to whether it works. It doesn't help that I have nothing for reference as far as actual foot sizes. I can't find any sort of chart of average foot size in relation to age anywhere.
My second choice is that I just finish it off as is and keep the odd sock as a warning to myself to always do a tension square BEFORE starting a project and then go away and make a pair properly.
I should have known that just subbing a ball in without really thinking about it was going to cause problems. It's because the pattern was a Lionbrand one. This is an American firm and there is only one stockist in this country for their yarns as far as I'm aware. Obviously this makes it very difficult to get hold of the correct stuff and you have to be pretty dedicated to the pattern to hunt it out. Replacing it with another kind shouldn't have been a problem- IF ONLY I'D THOUGHT ABOUT IT FIRST! D'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh, d'oh.
I'm not sure yet as to which course of action to take. The pattern is lovely to knit and was pretty quick so keeping this one as an odd one doesn't seem like an entirely bad idea although it would be a bit a of a waste. On the other hand, whilst doing those calculations would indeed be a bitch to work out, it is somewhat of a mental challenge- I've already started plotting how to program excel and get it to take tension into account as well as foot size etc. Hmmm. I shall have to have a think about this I can tell.
In the meantime you can all continue laughing at my moment of complete stupidity. It will take me down a peg or two at the very least.
Oh! and on a final note I did manage to find a handy little website this morning that you can use for calculating circumferences and diameters automatically. You need never remember any of the Pi formulas ever again!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Quick note

If you have any time to waste today fiddling around on the internet and are not feeling too righteous about what you read then I suggest that you check out this article provided to us by the glorious MSN (well known for its top reporting). It has the unfortunate fate of being about one Mr R. Williams of the terrible genre of music known as 'pop' (you know the sort I mean- I'm sure that each and everyone of us is guilty of getting absolutely wrecked and dancing around like at prat to this kind of music at some point in our lives).
Back to the article however, which is, on the larger scale, about the problems within the music industry and the shake down that's going on at EMI at the moment with regards to how much artists are paid and how records are promoted as a consequence of the impact of cheap, large capacity mini MP3 players, internet downloads, file sharing and illegal copying. In my mind it can only be a good thing to make music cheaper and more freely available (taking the consumers stand point) despite all the associated arguments around this topic. Anyway, the article explores these issues much more eloquently than I could. I have to say it is well worth the five minutes it will take you to read it if any of these kinds of issues interest you at all. It's also reasonably amusing to a cynical or slightly childish person like myself.
For anyone who just can't be bothered I've included my favourite bit for you below:

"....What it is about EMI that Williams feels particularly upset about isn't immediately clear. Clark goes on to say, "They do not have anyone in the digital sphere capable of doing the job required."
Allow us to be 'Kids' just for a second, but is anyone else thrilled at the idea of working in a digital sphere? We imagine it'd be like The Matrix – only rounder....."

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


I'm not feeling particularly inspired today- it seems to be taking a lot of effort to think things through which is proving problematic as I have a lot of tricky tasks that I have to get done. Am starting to feel as though I have to work my way through a corkscrew without touching the sides. Very Granny Weatherwax.
So because of lack of inspiration, or possibly having too much of it, I have very little to comment on or report today other than to say 'Look at my sock wool- isn't it lovely?'. I seem to have become completely and totally addicted to socks which is something I would never have imagined. I started a new pair of baby socks yesterday just because I read a newsletter from Lionbrand that featured a nice stitch and I wanted to try it. I have no idea who the socks will actually go to in the end- I just wanted to make them. Luckily for me we seem to know lots of people who are having babies at the moment so I'm sure that they will be suitable for someone and they are rather natty I have to say. Check out the slide show for a starter picture (yes, I am that enamoured with them that I've put a picture of them on already and I've only knitted an inch or two of the first sock!)

Monday, 14 January 2008

'Super Paper Mario' or 'How to keep a OCD sufferer happy'

I've manged to waste about a day of my life on this game over the past week and it's now seriously starting to cut into my knitting time. The only problem is that I can't stop playing it! The game itself is relatively easy- none of the baddies have caused me real problems as of yet and I'm advancing through the levels fairly rapidly. The only problem is the 'extras' or side-quests that they have tacked on. One involves collecting 'cards' which is essentially the computer format of top trumps only you don't duel with them. Each one represents one of the characters from the game and it's a case of finding them or buying them with coins that you collect as you bounce through the levels. There are 256 possible cards to collect so of course I'm completely addicted to getting each and every one.
They also have a similar function for recipes. For this you find items such as an egg or cake mix (which act as power up items for health) and then you take them to one of two chefs who cooks them up. In most cases this creates a better power up item with special abilities (such a curing poison) that you need to heal yourself. You get a little recipe book that logs the stuff you make so you know what gives you the best power ups etc but at the same time it turns into a game of trying to work out all the possible combinations to make the best stuff. There are 96 recipes in all so of course, I'm also trying to get all of these!
And if that wasn't bad enough they also have an arcade section with mini games where you have to try to get the top score and thus win tokens. You can trade the tokens in for power ups and cards- argh!
Whoever designed this game knew exactly what they where doing and I'm not sure if I love them or hate them for it. It's bringing back the computer game geek in me which on the whole I don't mind as I find it very relaxing to play these sorts of games but they are so addictive! I keep catching myself thinking about the game and planning my evening around playing it for a few minutes (ahem....hours). I see that I'm going to have to go cold turkey- it's the only way I'll ever get anything important done ever again.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Thanks once again...

...to my bestest buddy for pointing out this website
Not only can you make your own knitting journal but you can create an endless amount of knitted mushrooms! Get your fungi here!

The sea is calling me

I really miss living next to the sea so it seems really odd that I ended up in one of the most land locked places in Britain. There are just enough green spaces round here to keep me happy with plenty of little nature reserves and woodlands to potter through but there is something about walking along a beach that just can't be topped. I used to spend entire summers on the beach when I was little. I always thought I would end up working or researching squishy things that live in shells. Strangely enough however I do not have a passion for boats or sailing about on the water (I have been known to get extremely seasick on occasion). I love snorkeling and enjoy scuba diving although I will always be a bit of a edge creeper rather than a deep diver. I just don't like bobbing about on top of the water. I also have strange phobias about seaweed and sharks. Maybe that's why I prefer the beach- it feels just that bit safer. It's also much more interesting as far as its ecology goes as it's a transitional zone. It's where land meets sea and the mighty battle of erosion and deposition takes place. The fauna and flora have all kinds of amazing adaptive strategies and have evolved any manner of bizarre body forms. Colour and texture are used and explored to the full which in some respects is even more weird as colour is of much less use to creatures that live underwater as the sea acts as such a wonderful filter for light.
But at the end of the day, a beach is just the perfect place to walk the dog, party with friends or just sit and watch the sun go down.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Additional desires

As anyone who knows me should know, I am a complete fanatic of Studio Gibli creations. I have in the past attempted to knit myself my very own Totoro (follow link for the pattern I used. It's from the Smarty Girl website/blog) although I was disappointed with the results to say the least (though in fairness to the pattern I did just knit it when in actual fact it's for felting). I have been meaning to rewrite it and do it again but, obviously, much better. In the meantime I have been having a look round for other patterns that might work so as to save me all the effort of writing my own. I haven't yet found what I wanted but I found a wonderful site that has a pattern for a Totoro baby bonnet which I shall now be forced to make for someones child. It also has pictures of some truly fantastic entomological mittens that have beetles down the back. Can you guess what I'm going to be making this weekend?

Japanese magic

I have just found an amazing website full of wonderful Japanese toys and things. I now have 'want and need' list as long as my arm so if anyone feels like getting me any presents then check out this website for ideas. It has a wish list option which I might have to utilise at some point but just for now and for entertainments sake I think you should all check out these items:
Tattoo shirt
Cat bus
Link in his phantom hourglass incarnation
Ninja sword letter opener (classy or what?)
Domo pen drive which I WILL be purchasing at some point
This one I'm including because I really can not believe they make it- or that someone would buy it! but here it is- R2D2 sauce bottle (also available as a pepper mill)
And finally, here's one that I picked out especially for my best friendWelcome one and all to the wondrous place that is Japan!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Wonderous octopi


I would love to take credit for this great discovery but it's all thanks to the bestest friend that I am even aware of this marvel of creation. Needless to say I am extremely jealous of Christmas time in this persons house so I'm determined that next year we will start a similar tradition of our own. I already have a mini tradition of getting one new decoration from the shops each year but come December I'm going to start making them myself. Admittedly I'm probably going to end up with a tree covered in insects but that can't be a bad thing can it?

A musical coincidence

I just walked into my office to find 'When will you come back home?' by Ryan Adams playing. Seeing as how I have spent the morning thinking about friends who are currently MIA it resonated with my mood somewhat so I thought I would share my favourite verse from the song with y'all. Think I will go and change my play list to something a bit more cheery now however...

When, when will you come back home
No one leave the lights on in a house
Where nobody lives anymore
Loaded like the boxes up in the bedroom
Coming off the hinges like the door
The shadows dancing up in the window
They're not who we are but who we were
And I'm not gonna break, but if I do
I'm gonna shatter like the glass I turned your heart into
I'm broken like the windows in the house where I used to live
And If I could find my way back home, where would I go?
When everything about me, I used to be,
Shivers in the sheets and the blankets of snow
I'm lost out in the woods looking for you
When, when will you come back home
No one leave the lights on in a house
Where nobody lives anymore
Everything about me you liked is already gone
Everything about me you loved is gone
When, when will you come back home

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Donithorpe is dead and buried

I finally finished the last of the Donisthorpe collection. It was the other half of the project that I was grant funded for and what has been paying my wages for the last 18 months. I was bought on board to conserve and rehouse two collections on this grant money. By far the larger part of that was the Wollaston Collections which has taken up about 90% of my time and involved major relabelling and databasing. The other part that was tacked on to bulk out the grant application was the transfer of Donisthorpe's Windsor Forest collection which is a historic collection made in the 1930's and is a full reference collection of the Coleoptera of Windsor Forest. Donisthorpe was the only person ever given permission by the Royal Family to collect in this forest and it contains many examples of rare species only found within this ancient forest. Windsor Forest is the best example of an ancient woodland in Britain as it has had Royal protection for so long hence the importance of the collection.
And now its all done. Its been moved into new storage which involved transferring specimens from their original housing of a rather nice mahogany cabinet into new plastozote lined unit trays and lime wood drawers. These are put in pest proof steel cabinets and then the door is locked and I get to walk away whistling. Yippee!
On a final note it's worth mentioning Donisthorpe himself. He was absolutely binkers which makes a nice footnote to the story. He used to be a bit of a canary fancier and wore a large top hat and used to stick any of the feathers that his canary shed in the band around the outside. He eventually blew his own brains out with a shotgun or some such thing and it turns out that he was suffering from syphilis. One of his final acts when he was in his fully mad stage was to try and get a family of beetles renamed after him because he felt that his work was so important that he deserved to go down in the annuals of history and have his name preserved for perpetuity. Ironically it was the shotgun that ensured that this was so.

Pangolins and Tarsiers

This is a baby Pangolin. Ain't it cute? For some reason I have been struggling to remember what these things are called for the past week now. I'm not even sure of why I am thinking of them in the first place but for some reason I have them stuck on the brain. These little critters come from south east asia and are one of the few beasties that I have a real desire to see in the wild. This is mostly because there are only 3 kept in captivity as far as I am aware as they eat ants. I'm not sure why anteaters should be any easier to keep than these- maybe it has something to do with quantities or type of ants but there you go. One has to visit China to see two of the three or San Fransisco for the other I think. As with all the cool things these are an endangered species. (There are about 8 different ones including a 'giant' pangolin that's over a metre in length all told!). They are mostly endangered due to illegal hunting for supply to Chinese restaurants where they are considered a delicacy though I can't see how anything that eats ants can taste that nice.
I'm sure no one will be surprised to learn that I am working on a knitting pattern to make a cuddly version of a pangolin but don't expect me to get far as I'm pretty sure that I have bitten off more than I can chew on this occasion.
One of the things that I did get to see whilst I was in Sulawesi last summer (and one of the few things that made the seven day journey there and back worthwhile) was a tarsier. This photo doesn't do them justice at all as it just looks cute whereas in actual fact they are one of the most odd little creatures that I have come across. Apparently they give you a big toothy grin when they are threatened. They can't move their eyes as they take up too much room in their skull and there's nothing that they like better than a big fat juicy insect for their breakfast. Which they eat at about 10pm what with them being nocturnal and all.
I got to see one as we put out a light trap to try and round up some insects and we found it eating moths from the sheet. I couldn't believe that it would come down to a light source that bright - or that it wasn't put off by the 6 people all sat around chatting about bugs. One thing the picture doesn't show is just how long it's tail is as they are easily as long as their body and have a little bottle brush tuft of hair on the end.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


As you can all see I am now back at work- hence the update! Just a quick one though to wish you all a happy new year. I hope that everyone had a great xmas break (I certainly did!) and that you are now all rested and ready to attack the new year head on. Regular service shall resume as of tomorrow (promise). I have now managed to catch up on all my e-mails, sort nearly all of the remains of christmas out into the various recycling bins and stop playing on the Wii 24/7. This has been the worst part out of all of it as it is very easy to build up a Wii addiction esp when you receive a pile of new games over the xmas period. I think I have now officially got a permanent Wii injury that makes my elbow ache whenever I play Wii bowling (although I did mange a game where I scored 8 strikes, 5 of which were in a row! Yay me!). I did also complete some knitting- like there was ever going to be any chance that I didn't- pictures of which I have added into my Flickr account although you should all be able to see them right now to the left of the screen.
So go on, LOOK! :P