Monday, December 28, 2009

My 2009

Because I'm so awesome I'm sure you'll all be fascinated to read a recap of stuff I did in 2009.

1) Leaving Bristol
I moved to Bristol in September 2002 and lived there until March 2009, a huge chunk of my adult life. During that time I completed my Masters and my PhD, but most of all it was where I made pretty much all of the closest friends I've ever had and it was certainly a bit of a wrench to leave.

2) Moving to Nodnol
The reason for my leaving was to take up my first post-doctoral position as a research assistant at the Natural History Museum. I was initially hesitant about returning to London, the city where I spent my (much less happy) undergraduate years, but I found somewhere quiet and pleasant to live and the project I'm working on is really great and ought to lead to lots of quality publications.

3) US Road Trip
Although one of the joys of palaeontology has to be the traveling I hadn't been on what I would consider a "proper" holiday since before my PhD so I spent most of the year looking forward to a US road trip with John and Phil. Our starting point was NAPC 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio, our goal: Seattle, Washington. A good 2,500 miles away. I certainly enjoyed myself and as we never came to blows hopefully my traveling companions did too. We managed to take in Ashfalls, The Badlands, Deadwood, Rushmore, Dinosaur Park, Custer State Park, The Bighorn Mountains, Yellowstone and even Cicely, Alaska clocking up some 3,000 miles along the way. We got to Seattle in under 8 days, just in time for the Independence day fireworks and a whistle stop tour of the city. It was slightly depressing to then fly back across the same expanse in just a few hours.

4) Reading
This was the year I discovered the trick to getting through books more quickly: spend more time reading. This was prompted by a couple of things. Firstly I am now a commuter again after four and a half years of walking to work I now get the tube and hence can read on the way to and from work. Secondly I finally read Harry Potter after seeing the sixth film convinced me it would be worth it. I ordered the paperback box set and plowed my way through them in enough time to go and see the film again before it came off release. I certainly enjoyed them and the process got me back into reading novels and I now read more than ever. A quick scan of my book shelf shows that I managed to finish a minimum of 24 books this year, pretty good for me!

5) Lego advent calendar
December has been all about my Lego advent calendar and I've decided I just don't care anymore if they are supposed to be for kids. Lego is awesome, end of.

6) Footy
Although Liverpool turned out not to claim the Premiership I did manage to make it back-to-back wins in the fantasy football. However this season isn't going well on either front. I did manage to see another live game, but this turned out to contain the now infamous beachball incident. I didn't even get to see this goal as the queue to get in meant I couldn't see the pitch until about 10 minutes in. I'm going off football...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Even more distilled procrastination - animal links

Some more links for your delectation.

It seems that dog torture is doubly popular, as is that traditional pastime of cat-waking. (Although I prefer cat buckaroo.) If you want a guaranteed smile then I recommend this. I have no idea what could have inspired this, but it is just a little bit brilliant.

I recently finished this book about the sadly extinct Thylacine and was directed towards this collection of the only surviving footage of the animal in life. I really liked this gorilla photo and found this bird's appearance amusing.

This appealed to my sense of humour, reminds me a bit of the "Matt Damon" bit in Team America. Finally, didn't someone once say you can judge a nation by the way they treat their animals?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More distilled procrastination

Whilst I wait for some code to run I thought I'd post a little update with some book- and dinosaur-based links partly cannibalised from my stupidly long post. Enjoy, and Happy Christmas!

Dinosaurs

In my limited experience of being interviewed as a "dinosaur expert" I am always asked what my favourite dinosaur is and in all honesty it is still T. rex if for no other reason than our arms are the same length. Not one, but two cartoons make use of this fact to humorous effect. Presumably this is the creationist version of dinosaur extinction. Although this is more season-appropriate. Alternatively this cartoon has an eye on the bigger picture, whereas this is just silly.

Bibliophilia

I do enjoy these lists of books none of us has read most of and found these, what I can only describe as, children's books for adults kind of intriguing. I also shamelessly indulged in this hefty collection of library porn, have now discovered bookstore porn and even ceiling porn. (OK, the latter isn't book-related, but it fits here better than most places.) I found this incredibly useful blog on awful library books as well as this interesting list of things found in second hand books.

I keep finding really cool t-shirt sites, but unfortunately they are pretty much all US-based, like this collection. Other bibliophiles may also appreciate this, this, this and this.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

First Lines

OK, I've added a clue to the last one

I haven't done a meme since my first post so thought I'd try this one stolen from A little bit of babbling about nothing. Basically the idea is I pick ten of my favourite books or series and then copy out the first lines. Then you (dear reader) can make guesses as to what they are. I suspect my readership will have encountered many of these before so no googling and away you go.

  1. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita. Dante's Inferno, guessed by Mike
  2. The late twentieth century has witnessed a scientific gold rush of astonishing proportions: the headlong and furious haste to commercialize genetic engineering. Jurassic Park (I couldn't resist), guessed by Mike
  3. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, guessed by Sarah
  4. Idle reader: Without my swearing to it, you can believe that I would like this book, the child of my understanding, to be the most beautiful, the most brilliant, and the most discreet that anyone could imagine. [Clue: windmills]
  5. On 24 May 1863, which was a Sunday, my uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, came rushing back towards his little house, No. 19 Konigstrasse, one of the oldest streets in the old quarter of Hamburg. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, guessed by Carlos
  6. They put the behemoths in the hold along with the rhinos, the hippos and the elephants. A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters, guessed by Sarda
  7. It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying in the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night, guessed by Sarah
  8. It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days. Remains Of The Day, guessed by Sarah (covertly) and Jenny (via Facebook)
  9. The escalator strained slowly upward. In an old station like this what else would you expect? Night Watch, guessed by Rachel
  10. You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain't no matter. Huck Finn (OK, major clue in this one, but not as easy as the opening line from Lolita I almost included), guessed by Sarah

About Me

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Currently I am founding member, president elect and entire membership of SWEMP (the Society of Wonky-Eyed Macroevolutionary Palaeobiologists). In my spare time I get paid to do research on very dead organisms and think about the really big questions in life, such as: What is the ultimate nature of reality? Why is there no room for free will in science? and What are the implications of having a wardrobe that consists entirely of hotpants?