This year…

…has been… difficult.

There has been a lot of good and a decent helping of “okayyy I would rather this not happen” and then a bunch of “ouch are you freaking KIDDING me, life?”.

But I am convinced that the worst is over, for now:  in a couple of days I travel to Japan for a conference and short vacation (YAY).  When I come back from Japan, I’m moving apartments. I am sad to leave my current place, but my new apartment is cheaper, closer to campus, and I’ll be living with some interesting creative folk so I’m really excited for the move.  The past few months have reminded me that I have marvelous friends, who have all been wonderful and supportive during a phase in my life I can probably best describe as “sad, cranky and anxious”.  And I can start to see some outline of long-term career goals through that hazy fog that I see when I try to look beyond the PhD.

I’ve been pre-occupied with pulling out the weeds in my life’s garden. Desperately trying not to let them take over because I know if I don’t keep on top of them, they might start to strangle everything else.  All that time spent dealing with the weeds made me feel terrible about not tending to the rest.  But as I start to feel like I have control of the weeds, for now, for the first time in months, I look around at my little wild garden, and it’s still rather lovely. Messy, sure, but it’s beautiful, and it’s still there.


Rocket show

As warm north rain breaks over southern houses,

Streaming on window glass, its drifting hazes

Covering harbour ranges with a dense hood:

I recall how eighteen months ago I stood

Ankle-deep in sand on an Otago beach

Watching the fireworks flare over strident surf and bach,

In brain-grey ash, in heart the sea-change flowing

Of one love dying and another growing.


For love grows like the crocus bulb in winter

Hiding from snow and from itself the tender

Green frond in embryo; but dies as rockets die

(White sparks of pain against a steel-dark sky)

With firebird wings trailing an arc of grief

Across a night inhuman as the grave,

Falling at length a dull and smouldering shell

To frozen dunes and the wash of the quenching swell.


There was little room left where the crowd had trampled

Grass and lupin bare, under the pines that trembled

In gusts from the sea. On a sandhillock I chose

A place to watch from. Then the rockets rose,

O marvellous, like self-destroying flowers

On slender stems, with seed pods full of flares

Raining down amber, scarlet, pennies from heaven

On the skyward straining heads and still sea-haven.

Had they brought death, we would have stood the same

I think, in ecstasy at the world-end flame.


It is the rain streaming reminds me of

those ardent showers, cathartic love and grief.

As I walked home through the cold street by moonlight

My steps ringing in the October night,

I thought of our strange lives, the grinding cycle

Of death and renewal come to full circle,

And of man’s heart, that blind Rosetta stone,

Mad as the polar moon, decipherable by none.

James K Baxter

So many months

…without a post.

I took today off work to recover from a cold, and my day in bed was spent being completely lazy. Which I guess was the point. Anyway, I came here and read through a few of my old draft posts that never got published on this blog, and let me tell you, there are good reasons I never hit “Publish” on those bad boys. But, because I’d totally forgotten about all of them, I find them utterly hilarious.

One of them was clearly written at 4 am some time, and all it says is: “I was just woken by the most terrifyingly loud thunderclap I’ve ever heard in my life”.

Maybe after my trip back to Aotearoa this August I will be re-inspired to keep this blog alive for my family to see what’s up… but most of them (you?) are on Facebook, so sometimes I wonder what the point is.

I am undecided.

Bits and bobs #3

Here are some things that happened recently (my definition of “recently” being fairly loose…).

1. The whole lab went to a conference at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, which is a research institute located in an idyllic bay on Long Island. CSHL also publish my favourite journal. This was early October, so still kind of warm and beautiful. We saw lots of SCIENCE and chatted with people and drank some beers and went swimming in the harbour and danced to terrible pop music and took terrifying photos for the lab webpage:


2. I started work on a new afghan, and of course the first afghan is still in progress but starting a new project is SO FUN.



3. I saw Lawrence Arabia live in Cambridge at the Middle East Upstairs. It was so lovely! Made me miss Aotearoa a lot. Had a yarn with them afterwards, they’re nice folks.

4. HRCM sang a pretty concert on November 3rd, and so many wonderful friends came along, it still gives me warm fuzzies that they made the effort to come and share our love of singing. Or maybe it’s because we’re all so thin and popular…


❤ with other HRCM singers Miranda and Darrick. Photo credit Ariana Baurley.

5. Lab holiday party last weekend! So of course we tried to set ourselves on fire…

6. Thanksgiving with some of my USian family up in Boxford, Mass. It was so lovely, despite my immune system relaxing and letting me get sniffly. But there was lots of amazing food and scotch and wine, and we went birding the day after the meal, so I had a marvelous time with Bob and Ellen. So nice to get out of Boston for a wee while. No photos, sorry! I forgot to charge my camera battery, boo.

7. I have also decided to do another open mic night, this time solo. Aiming for next week, which seems terribly soon and scary and I may still change my mind. Ha.

Whanau who I haven’t skyped in a while (I’m thinking The Jones Mob, specifically…), LET’S TALK SOON I MISS YOU!

Coming up soon: Party at my apartment! My first Extalab project might get submitted for publication in 2012! I’m going back to London! K-Sco and I might even make it over to the continent for a few days! I’ll start my actual for realsies PhD project! Updates posted here when I’ve finished recklessly editing all my photos in Photoshop to make them look like my life is more hipster and fashionable than it really is!


Four more years


The Harvard Crimson are also relieved:

I must say that I was surprised to see very high support for Obama within Harvard’s community. I’m sure there is a strong Republican base here amongst the nation’s most privileged students, but perhaps I just don’t know very many of them?

In related news, word on the street is that disappointed Romney supporters are declaring they will move to New Zealand now. HAHAHAHA whoooops your complete ignorance of New Zealand politics!


One year later

Oh, dear. How many times I have thought “I must write a new post immediately”, then decided that it should wait until my work was done. Of course, by the time I finish my work day the last thing I want to do is stare at my computer screen and squeeze some sensible words from my wrung-out brain. So, now I must resort to writing in the morning, before I head into the lab on this grey Sunday.

October has been a month of intense work, for me and many others. It started with a week-long conference and will end with the last frantic push to put together my year’s work for publication. I have been here over a year! It has flown by, but also so much has happened that it feels like an age. I’m happy to report that I am much more at peace than I was this time last year. The homesickness has mostly passed, I have my own space in a beautiful apartment, and the once fragile web of friends and colleagues has been fortified such that I now feel like a part of this place instead of a foreign transplant.

This summer I discovered my American family. Incredible, wonderful people who have welcomed me as kin because we share some distant Irish ancestor. I have many stories to mention, which are so numerous they must wait for their own posts. But for now I will just say that during the time I spent with them I finally started to understand the USA instead of being some alien observer making continual comparisons to home.

Experiments beckon, but I will write again soon.

Birthday Girl


Twenty years ago today, I got a beautiful and talented sister for my birthday. This year marks the first time since then that we have celebrated our birthdays on different days – it is the 14th in NZ today, but still the 13th here in the US.

This isn’t the first time we have been apart on our birthday, but it feels extra separated now, perhaps because of the large expanse of planet earth in between us.

Happy Birthday, Jessamy. Congratulations on leaving your teens behind! I love and miss you, wish I could be there, hope you have a wonderful day.


It is almost time to hop on a plane and spend a week in a new place. One more day’s work and I’m on vacation, and I’ll be in Washington DC for the week. I spent this morning reading, organizing from home, and the afternoon will be spent in the lab making sure that experiments are ready to fly when I return.

Sleep still hard to come by these days, although my time in the gym helps. Working my muscles to failure, pushing my physical and mental strength. It feels good, but still sometimes I lay awake in the early hours of the morning, my brain refusing to play nice with my exhausted body. I’m hoping the vacation will alleviate some of this trouble.

Back to work.

The Borrower

In recent weeks I have been feeling a bit of the old familiar homesickness creeping into my days like an irritating fog. In an attempt to counteract it I had an extremely pleasant weekend that consisted of reading, cooking, practicing music and meeting up with lovely people. I recently received a large box of goodies from my mum, and along with the requisite antipodean snacks, she sent me a novel called The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai. I just finished it today, and it was fantastic. Thanks, mum!

I don’t have many words today. Just music.

Heat induced insomnia

I write this at a time when I ought to be sleeping, resting, dream-processing today, preparing for tomorrow. It is very hot in my bedroom (and not just because I’m in it, harhar). I regret forgoing the purchase of an air conditioning unit in favour of flights to DC next month. Although, I feel I may need the vacation more than I need an air conditioner. It’s hard to say. The heat this past week has been enough to halve my regular shut-eye, and I’m starting to lose my grip on reality. That could be an exaggeration (spoiler alert: it definitely is) – I am still firmly in the real world, but feeling increasingly unsettled.

Amping up on exercise this week (in an air conditioned gym, phew) in an effort to banish the insomnia, but so far no dice.

There is a lot of good stuff this past week though. New cross trainers in an extremely pleasing shade of aqua lifting my spirits. A few days ago I spent a very pleasant morning with my old high school principal, showing him around the lab and Harvard’s Museum of Natural History. Plus after over a week of trouble-shooting, I finally got an experiment to work today. I guess fourth time’s the charm.