lolcat: science

The Friday Five on a Sunday + LEGO Space shuttle

1) Do you like to drive?
In a word, no. I do it because I have to. There are very specific circumstances under which it is enjoyable to drive, and they almost never exist in the UK. I have one memory of fun driving here, after dropping my parents off at Heathrow, on a warm sunny morning. The M40 was virtually deserted and I bombed home to Worcestershire in under two hours.

2) Do you own (or have regular use of) a car? What kind is it?
I do. It's VW Golf. It is by far the most fun car to drive that I've ever owned.

3) What is your favourite optional feature on a car?
To be honest, getting this car was such a massive step up from the previous one, everything about it felt like a gift: the bluetooth connection to devices, the built-in satnav, the power windows, the acceleration, the friendly clutch, all of it. But probably the most delightful unnecessary feature of it is the sunroof.

4) How much does gasoline petrol currently cost where you live?
It's about £1.26 per litre. There are 4.55 litres in a gallon. So it costs £5.73, or US$7.85, per gallon. I've been in the UK for almost 17 years now and I'm still shocked by that.

5) What is the longest car trip you have taken?
I think it's still the one where my parents and I drove across the USA the summer before my ninth birthday. We started in Seattle and the furthest East we went was to visit family in Pennsylvania.

And finally, LOOK at what my fantastically thoughtful and generous friend Josh sent me for a super-early birthday present!! Building this is going to be my reward when Semester 2 teaching finishes in a few weeks.


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me: ooh!

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Last week we went up to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for an outdoor playdate with the bloke's sister and the cousins. As with every trip to Leeds, we had prepared ourselves for a frigid trudge through the rain and wolfing down sandwiches in whatever poor shelter we could find under some trees. We were pleasantly surprised to have both sunshine and warmth, and ended up going for a 6 mile walk up into the surrounding forest.


As it was our first lengthy car journey for some months, I decided it was time to introduce Keiki and Humuhumu to Cabin Pressure. We listened to the first two episodes on the way up. They were instant fans. Keiki relates to Caroline, and Humuhumu to Douglas. If this is the model for their future sibling relations, I expect to be very entertained over the next few years.

Keiki: "If anyone is Sir, *I* am Sir!"
Humuhumu, drily: "Pass the tomato sauce, oh Sir of Sirs."

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me: ooh!

Cross-stitch grows in complexity

I bought this cross-stitch from Hobbycraft because I had a voucher to spend, and because I wanted to practise other types of stitching (back-stitching and lazy daisy) before trying my hand at the funkier bespoke designs off Etsy. The contrast between the rather mushy quality of the cross-stitch alone and the crispness after back-stitching is quite dramatic, as you can see below.

Front and back, cross-stitch only



Front and back, all stitching complete



There are 3 or 4 mistakes or "deviations from the pattern", but I don't think they're ruinous. I find the pink plastic hoop that came with the kit a bit naff, so I'll get a wooden one to finish it off. Question for fellow stitchers: Do you bother with doing anything other than trimming the cloth to the edge of the hoop? I've been leaving an inch or so and doing a running stitch to pull it tight at the back, but I have seen some very nice and more effortful finishes involving felt, which I'm tempted to do on the ones that will be gifted.

Next up: Behold, the field &c!
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me: ooh!

Cake pops == cake wrecks

This is my first Easter holiday attempt to catch up with the dozens of posts I've been meaning to make and have had no time to write.

About a year ago, Humuhumu found an American cookbook called "Cake Pops" for 50p in the second-hand bookshed at our local National Trust place. She was mostly attracted by the photos of beautifully crafted confectionery, and has been periodically asking to make them. Sadly, none of us had the energy to follow through until quite recently.

I can safely say that we will not be offering any competition in the Artistic Baked Goods category any time soon.


They were delicious, though.


Smug cake pop eaters.

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kusanagi: amused

Cross-stitch rediscovered

I got bored with the 365 question meme after the end of February and have no plans to restart it. I can, however, thank it for one thing: reigniting my interest in cross-stitch. I was taught to cross-stitch by an eccentric great-aunt when I was around eight years old, on the plastic frames with thick yarn. As I grew older, I graduated to the Aida cloth patterns, and eventually to linen before I lost interest in my teens.

The offhand answer to one of the meme questions prompted an Etsy search and I purchased a couple of beginner-level kits from KnitKnotKrafts (UK). Behold, my first cross-stitch in over twenty years:

  Map of Africa

The back is a hot mess because I had forgotten that you don't tie knots in the thread, you just leave a tail and stitch over it:


I just completed a second, which is a gift for my Cthulhu-loving sister-out-law.

Octopus (sans eyes)

Much tidier back:


I feel this is an excellent step to be taking toward my bonkers blue-rinse little-old-lady aspirations.

I'm spending my Easter break on a more difficult pattern with flowers and hummingbirds. Once I've finished that, I'll get some more from Fandom Cross Stitchery. No prizes for guessing which is my favourite. This entry was originally posted at The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.
me: wrong side of the mirror

Sheep herding


A friend, who owns a smallholding a few miles down the road, invited us this morning to help with rounding up some lambs, and stand around in a big pond in our wellies. Who could resist such inducements?

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If any of the children's actions are puzzling you, just approach the photo with the perspective, "How can I get as filthy as possible in this situation?" and all will become clear.

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me: abby

International women's day

It's been a rough couple of weeks but today was a joy.

I opened a science festival (virtually) for a primary school - 14 classes of very excited students together for the first time since before Christmas. They peppered me with questions.

My children have been in school since January, but it was still a special day since some of their closest pals have only been faces on screens for months. Keiki stood alert waiting for his pal J at the school gate and practically fell over from joy when he appeared. Humuhumu and her bestie were instantly reunited and subsequently inseparable. 

I attended a Women in Engineering event and heard some fantastic and highly resonant stories from women working in academia and industry. It was an inspiring, uplifting and well chaired session.

Finally, I went to a talk (by a woman) about the future of the space sector which was for corporate partners of a learned society. It made me optimistic and hopeful for the future.

I feel like I've done a week's work already. Fortunately I'm now energised to face the rest of it.
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me: ooh!

2021 questions (52 and 53/365)

February 21

How does the weather affect your mood?

It affects me a bit, but not so severely that it rules my ability to do stuff. It’s not so much the weather that can bring me down - although prolonged grey/rainy periods do make me feel sluggish - it’s the darkness. I use my full spectrum light a lot on winter afternoons. 


February 22

What would you change if you knew you could not fail?

Woo, magical thinking! If we’re talking about big-picture global-scale decision-making, I would make worldwide energy production carbon-neutral. I’d also end the massive disparity in wealth distribution.

If we’re talking about me, I would make it so that I stayed fit without ever having to exercise again. I don't object to doing so occasionally for fun, but being obliged to several times a week is a constant source of irritation.

One day it might be feasible for me to take up nightclubbing again and then I can use dancing as my exercise. Old goth lady at the club, yep. Anyone want to come with?

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