Category Archives: Sunday Smiles

Every Sunday I post about the things that I came across throughout the week that made me smile, amused me or that just brightened up my day

Sunday Smiles: It’s back!

Sunday SmilesSunday Smiles has somewhat fallen off the radar.  And by that I mean it has plummeted into the abyss of disorganisation and stayed there for the past two months.  Woops.  The original premise of Sunday Smiles was to give me a way to focus on the positives of the week – things that made me smile or laugh or that were simply just pretty – and aside from being disorganised, I guess I haven’t needed that so much over the last few months because I’m enjoying life in Leigh so much.  But I think it’s time to bring Sunday Smiles back,* which obviously has nothing to do with the afforded opportunity to procrastinate from writing my thesis and everything to do with all the sunrise, sunset and sea view photos that I keep posting to Instagram…

So, time to kick off another edition of Sunday Smiles:

  • You know those sunrise photos that I mentioned?  Well.  I’ve yet to get bored of the sunrises here and I’ve yet to cure my Instagram addiction…  So here’s Wednesday’s sunrise – I just can’t get over the colours:

How ridiculous are those colours?

  • One of my housemates and I have been going for walks around the Leigh area most evenings, resulting in some superb views (generally of the sea…) around sunset.  It’s difficult not to feel happy and calm here (I’ve been informed that I’ll revise my opinion in winter – we’ll see).

Super calm (it's not always like that…)

  • Ok, enough of how lucky I am at the moment, let’s move on to the cutest frog ever.  Seriously.  Since the desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) sounds rather like a squeaky dog toy, it may also be the most ridiculous frog ever.
  • Speaking of cute, how utterly adorable is this little harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina) on a mission?  That is one determined seal pup.  I totally want to try this next time I have a spare surfboard and GoPro camera lying around (so probably never).
  • A couple of my housemates and I went up to Waipu for St Patrick’s and on our way back we discovered a Dutch delicatessen in more or less the middle of nowhere (Kaiwaka to be precise).  The deli (which also sells delicious cheese by the way) sold Chocomel and my favourite hagelslag ever: chocolade vlokken.  I couldn’t contain my excitement and just had to buy some, resulting in quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had, largely because, on the complete opposite side of the world from The Netherlands, it was so utterly unexpected.  Lekker!!  (PS – Chocolate sprinkles on toast is a legit breakfast.  Stop judging me.)

Mmmmmm lekker!!!

  • On a more cultured note, you may have read that Rembrandt’s The Night Watch has returned to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  But have you seen the flashmob recreation of the painting to celebrate the fact that it’s a bit of a big deal?  Isn’t that an amazing idea?
  • And finally, we wouldn’t want things to get too high-brow around here, so we’ll finish off with this excellent take on a motivational poster, which came to me courtesy of Craig (source):

218 - Inspiration

So on that inspirational note, what made you smile this week?

*Even though this is actually going up on Monday, thanks to our Internet completely conking out last night…  Living in rural NZ does have the occasional downside.

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Sunday Smiles: Ukulele death metal. It’s a thing…

Sunday SmilesSo…  Another Sunday Smiles on a Monday.  For once, I was actually very nearly all organised and was going to get the post up yesterday evening.  But then I ended up going to a ukulele gig with some people from the lab.  Yup, a ukulele gig.  How’s that for an excuse?  (You weren’t expecting that, were you?)

Let’s jump right in to this week’s Sunday Smiles, which has turned into a bit of a YouTube special:

  • One of my new housemates brought this YouTube offering to my attention: You forgot the blueberries.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but oh my gosh, hilarious – it had me laughing for a good five minutes (which probably says more about me than anything else).  Also, I’m fully aware that it probably makes me a bad person for laughing (I’m over it).  The funny bit is toward the end by the way.
  • I mentioned that we went to a ukulele gig last night, which was marvellous fun – ukuleles make me feel like I should be on a beach under a palm tree, drinking cocktails.  The warm-up act, Bosko & Honey, were just too funny.  And they treated us to ukulele death metal (yes, really) with their song Tuck Me In.  Bonus giggle points for some of the lyrics if you’re immature like me.

To be honest, I’m not going to be able to top the hilarity of ukulele death metal, so I think I’ll just leave it there.  Both videos still have me laughing, which is the primary point of Sunday Smiles.

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: The Monday Elasmobranch Edition

Sunday SmilesWhy hello there.  Welcome to Sunday Smiles…  On Monday.  Evidently I am doing marvellously at the whole being organised thing.  The (mostly) lovely weather and the sea are just too tempting.  I mentioned last week that I only had accommodation until Friday, and I’m sure you were all terribly worried for me, but you’ll be glad to know that that’s sorted (phew) and I’ve moved into a student house which is great, but my blogging time has consequently been even further reduced.  I’ll get myself organised eventually.

Anyway, it’s still Sunday somewhere, so let’s jump into this last week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • By far the most exciting thing to happen this week is that I saw a New Zealand eagle ray (Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) in the wild for the first time ever.  That’s my study species and I’ve been watching them in tanks for the past seven months or so, but it was super exciting to see one in the wild!  Sadly I didn’t have a camera with me so couldn’t get any photos to share with you guys.
  • Sunday Smiles is pretty good evidence that I’m a bit of an Instagram addict, so when I came across a Nickelback parody by College Humour, Look at this Instagram, it made me laugh.  Mostly because it’s largely true.  (Also it contains some swearing.)
  • I’ve been looking for a wine stopper for ages and completely randomly came across this totally amazing shark wine stopper.  Is it not totally amazing?  If anybody is looking to get me a present…  *Unsubtle hint*

Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh-duh-nuh-duh-nuh.

  • I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a bit of a stickler for grammar, and although a lot vs. alot isn’t my personal pet hate, this post made me giggle – not only the point of it, but the style in which it is written and the accompanying cartoons.  I actually came across it a while ago, but happened across the link again this week, and thought I’d share…
  • So you know the shark wine stopper above?  Well, I thought I’d have a look at whether there was anything similar going on Etsy.  There wasn’t, but I did come across this baby shark bath robe – why doesn’t it come in an adult size?!  (Hint hint you crafty Etsy people…)

Why wouldn't you make this in adult size?  Why do baby boys get all the cute stuff?  Huh?  HUH?

  • The finding of horse meat in some burgers in the UK and Ireland prompted a bit of a media storm this week.  And as with any big story, there were some rather humorous reactions on Twitter – here’s a round-up of the best horse burger jokes.
  • Between the wild eagle rays and shark-themed things, today’s Sunday Smiles is turning into a bit of an elasmobranch edition, so I’ll just keep running with the theme.  One of my friends regularly sends me links to shark cartoons, and her latest offering amused me greatly since this particular friend and I frequently have some similar not-so-bright moments. (Cartoon source)

Oh yeah, that's right.  I keep forgetting…

  • And finally, in case you’re still having a bad day, my friend Emma sent me an instant cheer up: 19 people having a worse day than you.  I feel the Lindsay Lohan dig at the bottom is a bit harsh, but the other ones all amused me (bad person, etc.).

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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Sunday Smiles: Uhm… Can I distract you with some eagle rays?

Sunday Smiles seems to be taking a bit of a hit at the moment – well, that’s true for the blog in general actually.  I was full of good intentions about getting back to a regular posting frequency this past week, even though I knew it was going to be a very busy week at uni.  Real life won out and that didn’t happen.  In my last post I briefly mentioned something about moving eagle rays, but left it at that.  Time for a little explanation I think, since those darling eagle rays are pretty much the crux of why things have been so busy (and stressful) lately.  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might already have a rough idea of what’s been happening over the last week or so.

Meet Bombay. Eagle rays hang out on the bottom of their tanks a lot.

Just as a recap, I moved to NZ in February for an MSc, with a thesis hand-in deadline at the end of February 2013.  So that’s in six weeks.  Currently, I have no results of any sort, which makes it a little difficult to write a thesis.  Basically, over the last nine months or so, my MSc has been steadily going nowhere, mostly because I’ve been having major issues with the technical side of my experiments.  Issues that I haven’t been able to solve since I’m not an electrical engineer and the electrical technician to whom I went for help has been rather useless and I wasn’t pushy enough about it.  Without access to Hermione’s Time-Turner, magically resolving all those technical issues, collecting all my data and producing a coherent 40,000 word thesis in the space of six weeks is evidently not even remotely realistic.  Thankfully, I’ve been granted an extension until the end of May, which is a huge relief.

But an extension itself doesn’t solve the technical hold-ups.  Luckily, the electrical technician up at the Marine Labs in Leigh (I’ve been based down at the School of Biology in Auckland, although I am actually a Leigh student – they’re different departments so it gets a bit complicated) is supposed to be a lifesaver and super helpful.  And he’s also back from paternity leave, so I’m basically pinning my hopes of a solution on him.  Fingers crossed.  But we’re still left with the teeny tiny issue of my experimental subjects – I have three adorable New Zealand eagle rays (Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) that have been hanging out at Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium in Auckland, patiently waiting to be the stars of my experiments.  Kelly Tarlton’s have been looking after them very well (obviously) and have been incredibly kind about housing them for so long, but they need the tank space back, so my eagle rays were effectively homeless.  The School of Biology doesn’t have suitable facilities for housing them, so the only option was to take them up to the Leigh Marine Labs, which does.

Leigh Marine Labs

So we transferred my rays up to Leigh on Thursday – not a complicated operation, but as with anything which involves transporting live animals in tanks of seawater, rather stressful nonetheless.  Both for us and the rays.  Thankfully the rays have all recovered wonderfully and gobbled up their food the next day like little pigs – the best indication that they’ve settled into their new homes (if they weren’t settled, they wouldn’t eat).  So that’s another massive relief.  So now for the final bit of news.  I’ve just told you that my rays are up in Leigh, I’m looking after them, I’m supposed to be talking to one of the Leigh technicians and conducting experiments in Leigh.  So guess where I am?  That’s right, in Leigh.  I’ve moved up for a few months until I’ve got all my data and we can release the rays.

"Hello!  Do you have food?"

Sidenote: the rays tend to move a little too fast for my phone to take sharply focussed photos of them, so apologies for the quality, but that’s the male (I’ve got one male and two females) being inquisitive and probably wanting to be fed.  He was named Winky by the Kelly Tarlton’s aquarists because he only has one eye (he’s always had only one eye, so please nobody get in a tizz about it).  I’ll probably write more about my rays in future posts, once I have some better photos.

All this means that things are a little bit up-in-the-air at the moment.  I’ve got temporary accommodation at the labs until Friday, but after that I have to find somewhere else to live.  There’s no public transport here, I don’t have a car and the nearest supermarket is a 25 min drive away, so I’m very dependent on other people, which I don’t particularly like (being dependent that is, not the actual people – everyone I’ve met so far has been lovely).  So that’s a bit stressful at the moment.  But on the other hand, I can see and hear the sea as I type, with a lovely view of Goat Island.  I’ve been swimming in the sea every day since I got here (my bikini is obviously going to be earning its keep over the next few months).  It’s idyllic.  I’ve only been here for four days and I already love it.  Try not to feel too sorry for me.

Goat Island.  It doesn't have any goats on it anymore, and is surrounded by a marine reserve

So that’s what’s been happening in my life outside the kitchen – with real live elasmobranchs instead of inanimate oven glove ones.  Although I did bring my oven gloves with me (don’t judge – my previous experience of big shared kitchens has been that oven gloves tend to be crusty and gross), and I did whip up a batch of double chocolate muffins yesterday afternoon with the double intention of kick-starting Operation Make My New Labmates Love Me (And Thus Help Me Find Somewhere To Live And Drive Me To The Supermarket) and testing out the ovens here.

It's so hot here that the chocolate started melting a little as I chopped it.  It's a hard life.

Anyway, I will try my hardest to at least get Sunday Smiles back up and running, but it might take a little while to settle back into a regular blog posting routine – I hope you all understand.  I’m sure you’d pick snorkelling over sitting at your laptop, too…

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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Sunday Smiles: A wee catch-up

Sunday SmilesAfter a wee breakSunday Smiles is back!  Well, sort of – I haven’t spent much time online in the last few weeks, so there aren’t any memes or random entries this week and it’s more of a little recap of what’s been happening since my last Sunday Smiles post.

Sunday Smiles (and the blog in general) will be back properly next week, but in the meantime, let’s go on what is essentially a little trip through my Instagram feed from the last few weeks:

  • So for a start, the world didn’t end (in case you hadn’t noticed).  Which is hardly surprising, but jolly good news nonetheless.

Good news indeed!  Also, free wine.

  • I mentioned that my mum and I went on a little jam-packed tour of NZ.  It was amazing.  To be honest, I’m still sort of processing everything that we saw.  I’ll go into more detail about various aspects of the trip in later Toothy’s Travels posts, but in the meantime, here a few photos:

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  • Just in case you live in a cave (with internet access) and weren’t aware, The Hobbit was released.  NZ is going all out – from banks

What about hobbits?  Are they welcome, too?

  • …To Auckland Airport.  I’ll be honest, I love it.  I also got to watch the Hobbit-themed Air New Zealand safety video on an actual aeroplane when we flew back up from Christchurch which was terribly exciting (even if it is rather silly and cringeworthy).

Guarding the… uhm… information desk.

  • Cherries are in season!!  My mum and I were able to get some straight from a producer when we were down in Central Otago, and they were so tasty.  Cherries are one of my favourite fruits but seem to be incredibly expensive here so I don’t think I’ll be eating very many this summer sadly.

CHERRIES!!!

  • Unfortunately, all holidays must come to an end, and after three wonderful weeks, my mum had to go back to Edinburgh.  We don’t know when we’ll next see each other, which is tough, but her departure was made a little easier by the fact that Kat arrived to visit for ten days (although sadly she leaves tomorrow) on her way to Australia, which was super exciting since I haven’t seen her since February.

Kat arrived, and so did the sunshine.  Our tans mostly come courtesy of the Instagram filter though.

  • We went on a little Hogmanay wine tour around Waiheke Island which I think might well be the best thing to do on Hogmanay ever.  Plus it was sunny and warm and the scenery is beautiful.  Oh and the wine was good.  And I got photobombed by a bumblebee, which I didn’t notice until we got home and I looked at the photos properly.

Bumblebee photobomb!

  • We watched The Hobbit, which was super exciting since we were in actual NZ (as opposed to not actual NZ…).  Have you seen it?  What did you think?  There were a few niggles and I’m not keen on the high frame rate and 3D thing – they seemed a little gimmicky to me and I’m not really sure what they actually added to the film – but overall, I loved it.

There was (good) wine involved.  And a cheese platter.  That's right – a cinema with cheese platters.

  • Having watched The Hobbit and re-watched the Lord of the Rings films, we had a bit of a geek-out and went to… Hobbiton!  I’ll write more about it in a future post, but suffice to say, it was a marvellous day out.

The ubiquitous Hobbiton shot.  Anybody home?

  • And finally, I’d just like to share this hilarious little gecko* that was just chilling out in his display case at Auckland Museum when we visited.  I think it sums up the wonderful NZ attitude pretty well.

What's up, bru?

What made you smile this week?

*So… I got so distracted by the actual gecko and its little pose that I forgot to note the actual species…  I think it might be a Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii), but I’m not 100% sure about that.

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Sunday Smiles: Knackered by a volcano

Sunday SmilesSo here we are heading into the second week of December, and I’m not entirely sure how that happened – in keeping with the rest of 2012, December seems to be flying by.  And yet it feels like I wrote my last Sunday Smiles post seems an age ago.  I think part of the problem is that I’m utterly knackered this evening and actually struggling to keep my eyes open whilst I type this post (but I’m still forcing myself to do it, otherwise I’ll end up skipping Sunday Smiles on a regular basis, which somewhat defeats the point).

So I’m going to keep it short, and we’re going to head right in to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • You know what’s great?  When a teabag makes you smile (minds out of the gutter people).  This week, my camomile tea asked me how I was doing.  Or more specifically: “‘Sup brew?”  As groan-worthy as it may be, it actually made me laugh.

Don't judge me for my terrible sense of humour…

  • The hands-down most exciting thing to happen this week was my mum’s arrival in NZ on Friday.  I haven’t seen her (Skype doesn’t count) since I moved to NZ in February, and she’s here to visit me for three weeks.  Even whilst I was waiting for her at the airport I couldn’t quite believe she was actually finally arriving.  Anyway, this was definitely the highlight of my week and probably explains why last Sunday seems more than a week ago.
  • Today we went on a little expedition to Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s most recent volcano (recent as in 600 or so years ago).  The island is made entirely of volcanic rock, but surprisingly has around 200 species of native plants growing on it, many of them apparently quite rare (I’m very much not a botanist, so I’ll believe the guide books on this one).  Anyway, we climbed to the summit, were treated to some truly stunning views, acquired some super-hot backpack tan lines and ended up thoroughly knackered by the time we got home.  If there are any grammar or spelling errors in this post, or if it quite simply doesn’t make sense, then that’ll be why.  I also haven’t had time to upload all the photos from my camera to my laptop yet, so you’ll have to make to with this particular offering from my phone:

Can you spot the Sky Tower?

  • Rangitoto is also home to the world’s largest pōhutukawa forest, and the pōhutukawas are starting to bloom in earnest.  Since the flowers are red and most abundant around Christmas time, the pōhutukawa is nicknamed the New Zealand Christmas tree, and trees in full bloom really are stunning, particularly in contrast to the black volcanic rock of Rangitoto and the impossibly blue sky and turquoise sea that we were treated to today.

Volcanic rocks, flowering pōhutukawas and beautiful sky – welcome to NZ (on a sunny day in December)

  • And finally, I just love pōhutukawas so much that I’m going to leave you with a close-up of the flowers, which are actually made up of a whole bunch of stamens.  I’m sure that these won’t be the last pōhutukawas to feature in Sunday Smiles

Close-up time!

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: Hurrah for science!

Sunday SmilesIt’s December you guys, and you know what that means?  No more bah-humbug, it’s time to get excited about everything Christmas!  The facebook shark fin icon in my sidebar even has its Santa hat on (hey, don’t judge, that took me a long time to draw last year – graphic design is not my forte…).

So, on to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • You know what else December means?  It means the end of Movember, which is very popular here in NZ.  And the end of Movember means goodbye to those moustaches, many of which were just plain creepy.  Don’t get me wrong, Movember is a worthy cause, but I’d be significantly more enthusiastic if there had been more Poirot moustaches.  Because those are awesome.  Paedophile-esque moustaches, not so much.
  • You know what really warmed my heart this week?  Reading about the Sesame Collider, which is a science collaboration between several different countries in the Middle East, including …, Iran and Israel.  The project is providing opportunities for academics to work together, even though their respective countries have more or less vowed to obliterate each other.  Definitely a win for science.  And dare I say it, could it be a tiny, tiny, little glimmer of hope for the Middle East?
  • How amazing is this idea of filling balloons with coloured water and freezing them?  I wonder if you could make swirly patterns with the dyes – you’d probably have to flash freeze them in a -80°C for the water to freeze quicker than the dye evens out (if that makes sense).  Anybody ever tried flash freezing a water balloon?  You know what else would be fun?  Adding glitter.  (Image source)

Oh my gosh awesome!  Can we add glitter?!

  • I really enjoyed these photos of ballerinas in NYC – the incongruity of the ballerinas in their surroundings is what makes the photos really interesting.  That said, I think the last one (which is probably the least incongruous) is my favourite, because of its serenity.  Sidenote: I wish I had even half the grace of a ballerina.  Further sidenote: why is there a car parked on the pavement in the sixth photo?
  • So you’re probably all utterly sick of Gangnam Style, but I came across a Dutch version a couple of weeks ago, and since it’ll be Sinterklaas on Wednesday, I think it’s time to share it: Zwarte Pieten Stijl.  By the way, if you’re not familiar with the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, I realise that this paragraph probably didn’t make much sense, and the video probably just came across as completely bizarre.  You can read a bit about about Sinterklaas here, if you’re interested.
  • And finally, now that it’s December, it looks like the Sky Tower is all excited about Christmas, too!  Yay!

Sky Tower all dressed up for Christmas!  (At least, I'm assuming that's why it's red and green…)

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: Skyfall. That is all. Well, ok, not quite… (but it rhymes)

This hasn’t been the best of weeks – I feel like I’ve spent most of it running into a brick wall.  Actually that more or less covers the last few months, but this week feels like I’ve been sprinting into said brick wall.  Happy days.  Anyway, I don’t really want to go into details – this isn’t meant to be a wallow-in-pity post.

So let’s move right along to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • To be honest, this week was more or less single-handedly saved by Skyfall, which was finally released in NZ on Thursday.  I’ve already mentioned how amazing it was, but I just feel the need to re-iterate that.  It’s a serious contender for my favourite Bond film ever.  I could almost stop my Sunday Smiles here – finally seeing Skyfall actually made me week.
  • But I’ll carry on with these adorable photos of baby hedgehogs, or hedgehoglets.  Hedgehogs are actually covered in fleas, which is a little disgusting, but they’re so cute (from a distance further than a flea can jump).  And I’m guessing these adorable little ones haven’t been infested yet, so we can just revel in their cuteness: everybody saw awwwwww!  (Photo source)

  • One of the main purposes of the internet is to provide us with cute baby animals (right?) and it came up trumps twice this week, because there’s also a hilarious baby red panda that is even cuter when it gets taken by surprise.
  • Ok, enough cute baby animals, let’s move onto some killer whales that made an appearance in Mathesons Bay near Leigh.  One of them came right up close to the beach and seemed to be seriously considering snacking on the dog that was paddling around in the shallows.  By the way, this isn’t in Sunday Smiles because of the poor dog (which displays a fabulous doggy version of the “oh shit! face), but rather because it’s rather awesome to see them so close to the beach, and the free-diver’s not-so-elegant clamber onto the rocks.  I did actually think the whale was going to beach itself to try and catch the dog.  A couple of my labmates went free-diving in the same area a week or so later but didn’t see the whales.
  • Mt Tongariro had a little eruption this week (this is the same volcano that erupted back in August).  It seems that it wasn’t really that big of a deal, just venting off some steam – kind of like the volcanic version of a burp from what I can gather.  Rather awkwardly, apparently the scientists thought that Mt Ruapehu was likely to go off in the next two weeks, rather than Tongariro (lucky we’re not in Italy then…).  Anyway, since nobody died or anything, we’re allowed to laugh and what with The Hobbit premiere next week, the NZ Herald’s cartoon made me laugh. (Cartoon source)

  • Time for some low-brow now, courtesy of Susan Boyle’s PR company.  Apparently she’s releasing/has released a new album, so they decided to come up with a hashtag for it and settled on… #susanalbumparty.  Uhm, woops?  How unfortunate, but it did keep me amused for a whole day (it’s been a bad week… and my immaturity always wins out).
  • Public safety videos are usually either all school-marmy or overly graphic and shocking.  Here’s one that’s fun, clever and animated (so it won’t put you off your lunch): Dumb ways to die.  My favourite one is “use your private parts as piranha bait” just because it’s such an idiotic idea.
  • And finally, apparently Christmas is officially here because today was the Farmers’ Santa Parade, an Auckland institution which consists of lots of floats on a parade around the centre of town.  (Farmers is a department store here by the way, not farmers as in agriculture.)  I’m usually a total scrooge about Christmas until the 1st of December, but I made an exception today.  Anyway, it was slightly surreal to see children dressed as snowmen when it’s 20°C outside, but my favourite surreal part was the floats that were shooting out fake snow.  A lot of it wasn’t particularly Christmas-themed (a haunted house float (?), Chinese dragons, cheerleading squads, etc.) which was somewhat perplexing but it was still fun to watch.  And of course, there was Santa, and all the kids in the crowd got totally excited, which was lovely to see.  I was minorly disappointed that Santa’s sleigh isn’t pulled by kiwis here – how amazing would that be?  But no, he has reindeer here, too.  Oh well.

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: (Don’t) stare into the sun

We’ve been treated to every weather multiple times every day for the past couple of weeks (so just like Scotland, but warmer).  We even had hail on Monday (it was 16°C outside, so I’m not sure what that was about).  Spring weather in Auckland isn’t turning out to be as lovely as I’d hoped.  According to my labmates this seems to be a particularly damp year and one of our technicians has been complaining that it’s November and she’s still in jeans instead of shorts.  Never mind El Niño and La Niña, I’m pretty sure my presence in a country is enough to attract all the rainy weather systems.

So in order to ignore the current simultaneous sunshine and downpour situation happening outside my window, on to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • I heard what may well be my favourite ever description of Boris Johnson on Russell Howard’s Good News: “How can you hate Boris Johnson?  He’s like a human bumblebee that’s swallowed a thesaurus.”  A very good point.  And also a brilliant mental image.
  • On Tuesday we were treated to a partial solar eclipse (you had to be in northwestern Australia to see the full eclipse).  I find eclipses terribly exciting, and since this one rather conveniently lined up perfectly with our coffee break we spent a good half hour looking at it through bits of x-ray and camera film that we’d scavenged from the lab and (unsuccessfully) trying to project it onto a piece of paper using various microscope lenses.  Obviously at no point did any of us look  directly at the sun, because that’s a really silly (and dangerous) thing to do.  Ahem.  This may well be the only time I’ve ever been happy about there being clouds since they decreased the brightness enough for our phones to be able to take photos.

  • I know the US elections are well and truly over, but I only just came across this Gangnam Style (you know that really annoying South Korean song that seems to be number 1 in the charts everywhere) spoof this week: Mitt Romney style.  It amused me, though having the tune stuck in my head was not quite as amusing.
  • I came across these photos of a winter light festival in Japan.  It looks utterly stunning, particularly the second one, and the fourth one which has dolphins (not real dolphins, just to clarify).  Just wow.
  • If you’ve ever pretend-thrown a stick or a ball for a dog then you’ll be familiar with the adorable look of doggy confusion.  I know it’s mean, but it’s a look that never gets old…  (Source)

  • Have you seen this new library in The Netherlands?  Apparently it’s been named ‘Book Mountain‘ and it looks rather amazing inside (it does look a little weird from the outside) and is full of natural light.  And books, obviously.
  • Speaking of books, I finished reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel this week.  It’s the prequel to her latest book Bring Up the Bodies which was awarded this year’s Man Booker prize.  Wolf Hall actually won the Man Booker prize in 2009, so no pressure for her next novel…  It follows Thomas Cromwell during Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn and of course the huge schism with the Catholic church that resulted.  I really enjoyed it – it makes you think through what’s happening in the story since some thought processes aren’t explained straightaway and you do have to keep track of the characters and their various names and titles which are used interchangeably (it probably helps to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of that period of history) but I like that because it means you actually have to pay attention and think as you read.  I just had one gripe – I didn’t really like the tense that the book was written in.  I found it rather frustrating and a little confusing at times.  Despite that, I’ve added Bring Up The Bodies to my to-read list.  Have you read Wolf Hall?  What did you think?
  • After finishing such a tome, I started something completely different: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules which is a short little book and a quick read.  I was aware of Michael Pollan’s quote “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” since it gets bandied about a fair bit, but I’d never actually read any of his books.  Food Rules seems to sum up his general advice on eating well (I believe the nutritional science bases behind his statements are covered in his other books), though I must admit that so far, it’s mostly been common sense – don’t eat super processed foods, etc. – but he writes well so it’s an enjoyable read, and refreshing, too.

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: A surprise and a relief

We acquired a new labmate this week – a Kiwi guy, which puts him firmly in the minority… twice.  I acquired a sudden keen interest in horse racing which lasted for the whole 3 minutes of the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.  This may be more to do with the fact that it was an excuse to temporarily escape the lab and watch the race in the nearest pub than anything else.  And I lost $1 because the horse I picked in the sweepstakes didn’t finish anywhere interesting.  I won’t be launching myself into a gambling addiction any time soon.  I’m afraid not many funny things came my way this week, so today’s Sunday Smiles is rather short on content (I’ve made up for that with rambling though…).

On to this week’s (rambly) Sunday Smiles:

  • I went to the Armistice Day memorial service at the Auckland Cenotaph this morning and was rather surprised to discover that Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were also in attendance.  I knew they were visiting New Zealand as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations but I didn’t think they arrived until next week.  I’m clearly a poorly-informed subject.  They did a little walkabout afterwards and I was just close enough to manage a photo of each of them (I thought it only fair to let veterans get to the front to shake their hands, but apparently not everybody felt that way).  Aside from it being a sombre occasion, it was pretty exciting, I won’t lie.  I think I may be in the minority, but I actually really like Camilla.

  • Speaking of royalty and, by extension, the aristocracy, series three of Downton Abbey came to a close this week.  Goodness, it was a roller-coaster of a season and kind of all over the place, but still totally addictive.  I can’t wait for the Christmas Special!
  • Yesterday I headed across the Waitemata Harbour to Devonport to go climb Mount Victoria and North Head, both volcanoes on the North Shore of Auckland.  They aren’t particularly especially high – at 87m Mount Victoria is the taller of the two – but they make excellent view points, especially of Rangitoto, Auckland’s most recent volcano.  It was wonderfully sunny and warm yesterday so perfect weather for a little picnic lunch on top of a volcano (as you do).

  • I don’t know if you heard, but the US elections were held this week (it wasn’t mentioned much on the news).  Unlike the last elections the time zones were very much in my favour with the results coming in through the day rather than in the middle of the night.  Did you see Chris Rock’s hilarious (and swear-word-containing) endorsement of Obama?  From a rest-of-the-world point of view, I was mightily relieved that Obama has been re-elected.  And I was amused by many of the election-related memes that exploded across the internet, particularly the ones involving Sesame Street.  And then, once the election was called for Obama, we switched to Fox News in the lab, which turned out to be a great source of amusement (I’m a bad person, I know).
  • Still on the topic of the US elections, I can’t remember which of the debates it was but I’m sure you’ve heard of Romney’s infamous “binders full of women” quote.  Not only was it turned into a whole bunch of memes (this is my favourite), but I’ve just discovered that it bubbled over into Amazon’s review section as well.
  • To finish on an uplifting note, though still on the subject of the US election, apparently Obama’s victory Tweet became the most retweeted Tweet ever – a record previously held by… Justin Bieber.  Thank you Obama, perhaps there is some hope for humanity.

What made you smile this week?

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