Archive for the ‘August 2012’ Category

Day 19. Listening

In August 2012 on August 31, 2012 at 10:52 am

Living in the era of the podcast makes me happy.

Yes, I love information and yes, I love technical details. But put me in front of a huge essay and I’m likely to reach tedium pretty early on unless the writing is absolutely superb. Television largely annoys me due to its capacity to dominate an entire room.

Audio-files grab me instantly however; I guess I just love to listen. Whether this is a result of nature or nurture I’m not sure – it’s probably both.  Casting my mind back to childhood and teen years, I recall long drives to Coober PedyAndamooka and Roxby Downs (being a child of a geologist) listening to ABC radio, including Ben Johnson’s controversial 1988 Olympic win in the 100m.  A long and tedious case of chickenpox was relieved with tapes of Rolf Harris telling stories through the speakers of a cranky old player in my pink bedroom.

Still now, I listen to a lot of radio, both live telecasts (especially Conversations with Richard Fidler) and downloadable files. A podcast that grabs me every single time is Radiolab,

“a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”

Episodes frequently bring me to tears, not because the subject matter is necessarily sad but because the production method manages to tap in to the core human-ness behind every story.

Other favourites are the more traditional but still solid Radio National Science Show and new-kid-on-the-block Facts for the Post Factual, put together and presented by Upulie Divisekera and Will Grant. All are perfect accompaniments for long walks and runs, or couch meditation (note for the newbies: kids tend to leave you alone if you have headphones on, give it a try). You can drift in and out of concentration to suit the way your brain works.

Are you a listener or a reader? Or do you prefer another platform? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[photo thanks to Daniel Booy on flickr]


Day 18. Trees for Life

In August 2012 on August 30, 2012 at 10:50 am

I’m trying to convince a retired member of my family to grow seedlings for Trees for Life.

Without putting too fine a point on it, benefits such as regular social contact, a daily committment and positive feedback with success would follow.

With grower workshops running in October and November, it’s the perfect time to commit.

Do you fit the criteria?

TIME: Daily attention is required from November to May. Allow:

• 15 mins per day – watering & monitoring; and

• 1 hour per week – maintenance; plus

• The initial set up – this is time consuming. Tube filling takes one hour per box with one person (we recommend you get some friends to help out here).

AN APPROPRIATE SITE: You must be able to provide a space in direct sunlight for a minimum of 8 hours a day. Six boxes take up one square metre.

A RAISED GROWING BENCH: It is critical to keep your boxes off the ground away from slugs, soil-borne diseases, weeds and animals so you will need to set up a growing bench at waist height. Your bench must be sturdy, free draining and allow good airflow.

SHADECLOTH: You will need to cover your seedlings with a 50% density shadecloth during the early stages of growing.

WATER: Some bore water and saline water may not be suitable. If you can grow vegetable seedlings you should be able to grow native seedlings. We estimate that growing ten boxes may add up to $8 to your mains water bill.

See here for more details. I’ll let you know how I go with the subtle pressure….

Day 17. Dreaming

In August 2012 on August 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm

In-between cranking out some serious science writing for a client, today I’m dreaming.

Yesterday science online guru Bora Zivkovic posted a link to a list of 25+ top journalism & freelance writing conferences for 2012-13.

I can’t tear my eyes away from it! Imagine the freedom of being able to hop in a plane and scoot off to Be a Better Freelancer! Resources for a Successful Editorial Business. Or Science Writers 2012, with sessions such as How Lives Unfold: the childhood roots of adult health and life success, or The search for human origins in the age of the genome.

The one I’d really like to save up for is Science Online 2013. Failing that, a local get-together for viewing of live-streamed sessions might be in order. Watch this space….

Day 16. Chips

In August 2012 on August 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

Even children can be informed consumers.

I made my kids laugh on the weekend by reading out at great speed the list of ingredients for  ‘Twisties Cheese Flavoured Snacks’:

  1. corn
  2. vegetable oil
  3. whey powder
  4. cheese powder
  5. salt
  6. flavour enhancer (621)
  7. hydrolysed vegetable protein
  8. flavour
  9. yeast extract
  10. cream powder
  11. milk powder
  12. natural colour 160A
  13. natural colour 160C
  14. food acid 270.

Then I languidly described the components used to make ‘Smiths Original Crinkle Cut Chips’;

  1. potatoes
  2. vegetable oils
  3. salt.

They got the message.

Day 15: I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!

In August 2012 on August 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

School lessons featuring live text chat with scientists? Ask anything you want? Anything??

That would have been my dream 25 years ago.

Today the interactive experience I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! starts for 33 schools across Australia. Classrooms full of kids are matched with 5 scientists in each of 3 zones – Boron, Disease and Organs. Over a 2 week period, kids participate in online Q&A and chat sessions and then vote to decide who should be the zone winner. Scientists pairing good science with that hard-to-define knack of communicative genius end up as winners, with a cash prize to spend on science communication.  Losers just get to go home.

A few questions asked so far might tickle your fancy:

Could a small intestine be used as a skipping rope?

Do black people absorb more heat than white people?

How do some people ‘pop’ out their eyes?

The event is run by Australian company Bridge8 – baby of Kristin Alford, also my former employer.  I helped out behind the scenes in the 2011 version of I’m a Scientist, and it was an absolute blast.

Good luck to all the scientists and teenagers involved! We all know who the overall winner will be….science of course.

Follow the action on twitter via @IASAus.

Day 14. Good health

In August 2012 on August 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

Yesterday I read a beautiful article about health and life.

Thanks to Steve Hopkins, I found a lovely website created by Brooke Sachs. Brooke’s most recent blog post describes ‘why I do what I do‘, and provides an insight into the thoughts and battles and choices which have created her current way of life.

My favourite part is the following paragraph:

Because health isn’t what you see in hospitals. Health is families having picnics in the park; health is the cyclists on their way to work; health is the fresh food aisle. Health is the smile and laughter on your friends’ faces after you make some terrible joke; health is getting quality sleep; health is being able to let go of your worries.

I love the fact that Brooke is a medical student and has such a ‘big picture’ view of what constitutes good health.

Day 13. Home office

In August 2012 on August 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Working as a freelance writer from a home office has many benefits. My time is run the way I want it, I can squeeze in work around children’s commitments and obviously it’s cheaper than leasing corporate space.

The one big downside is the difficulty in being able to physically remove myself from the household chores.

A dash to the bathroom? Piles of laundry looks at me as if to say,


Each trip to the kitchen I hear a whisper in my ear,


So here are my top 10 tips for surviving the home office experience as a working parent:

  1. Breakfast cleanup: do it on the spot, before the school run. Even if it means getting up 20 minutes earlier. Nothing better than coming home to an empty house and a clean kitchen.
  2. Make a rough meal plan when you do your weekly big shop. Ascribe a meal to each day Monday-Friday, write it down and stick it on the fridge. It will help you remember what you planned, and help the kids feel more comfortable with what’s coming up. (‘Oh you don’t want lasagne? Sorry, it’s in black and white. Talk to the list’).
  3. Washing: rather than let it pile up to tackle on the weekend, do at least 1 load per day and make the hanging out a break from the computer.
  4. Morning showers are optional. Who’s gonna care what you’re wearing, and whether you have perfect hair? Make a shower a work break, and tie it in with your exercise routine.
  5. Speaking of an exercise routine: prioritise it! Keeps you sane, and gets blood pumping.
  6. If in the morning the house looks like a bomb has hit it, DON’T TIDY WHEN NOBODY IS HOME. You’ll waste precious alone time, then the kids will get home and trash it all again anyway. Let them get home and eat, play, wreak havoc. Then make them help you tidy up before dinner – with dessert as a reward.
  8. Say yes to coffee mornings at school and other activities which involve people you like and with similar needs and interests. You need social stimulation.
  9. Make Saturdays and Sundays different from your weekdays. Groundhog Day after Groundhog day will slowly do your head in.
  10. Make your home office a pleasant room, somewhere you want to go and hang out. Nice lights and flowers can do wonders.

Number 1o is my priority in the next school holidays. Ikea here I come.

Day 12. Winter sun

In August 2012 on August 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say my family is obsessed with north-facing windows.

On the hunt for a new house recently in Adelaide, my parents basically got a car and cruised along seeking FOR SALE signs on the Port Wakefield side of each west-east oriented street in suburbs of interest. Perhaps I’m exaggerating somewhat….but they did exclude anything in their internet and newspaper searches without a north-facing rear. For my Mum, and also for me, having windows which let in low arc winter sun is crucial to ensure optimal mental health through the dark winter months. For some, this could even play a role in preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

It’s also damned handy for drying the washing.

Day 11. Ovulation

In August 2012 on August 23, 2012 at 6:28 am

I’m going to be an aunty!

Baby sister is now well and truly ‘Up the Duff’ (have sent her this book, by the way), with the wee one due to arrive around Valentines Day 2013.

As if picturing your sister in baby-making mode wasn’t gross enough, today she forwarded me an article detailing how factors in human semen can trigger egg release. Yes, my pregnancy-avoiding friends, apparently it’s not just a matter of timing your bonk fest to avoid that middle-of-the-cycle ovulation window. Any old time of the month can mean danger.

Unless of course you’re planning to get pregnant. In which case, my advice to you would be: say goodbye to those traditional reprieve-from-action-days immediately post- and pre-menstruation. Hammer and tongs, all month long.

You know you want to.

Day 10. Robinson Institute

In August 2012 on August 22, 2012 at 6:37 am

Life comes full circle sometimes.

This year, I’m really excited to be returning to my old stomping ground at The University of Adelaide to do some work with the Robinson Institute. Many moons ago I studied for my honours and PhD degrees in a pre-cursor department of the Institute.

My tasks is to write a regular column highlighting top-notch research across a really interesting spectrum of science including health of women and babies, reproductive health, early origins of disease and regenerative medicine. What’s also really cool is I get to work with world class clinical endocrinologist and scientist Professor Rob Norman, general manager and strategist Kate Irving and go-get-‘em scientist and marketer Dr Joanna Brooks.

This is going to be fun.