Thursday, February 26, 2009


I'm doing a volunteer work experience thingy, to keep me out of trouble. It's actually quite relevant to my career goals, so I'm lucky to be able to do it. At a meeting/mini-conference I was attending this week, I got chatting to a woman who said she was thinking of getting out of lab-based science. I asked her why, and she said it was because she was sick of working alone all the time, and wanted a job where she'd have more interaction with people.

Well. I was shocked.

I know that there's the stereotype of the mad scientist, all alone in his lab with his beakers and multi-coloured fluids, but, honestly, that's never been my experience. My experience is that scientists work in groups, usually small groups. I almost always had one or a few other people on a project with me, sharing ideas, hashing out problems, delegating someone to go out to get food while others watched the experiment. Even if, for some reason, I was working at an experiment by myself, I was always in a lab full of other people, or steps away from an office full of colleagues and workmates. I've never felt lonely in lab.

At one lab I was in, there was a guy who much preferred to work by himself. He was the sole user of a specific set-up and he didn't like having to work with others. (Now, mind you, this set-up was still in a lab with lots of other experiments, with people working and going in and out all the time.) It meant no one was ever sure exactly what he was doing; it meant he didn't share expertise; it meant those unfortunate new students or new workers who were assigned to work with him went on to other experiments pretty quickly. Among the other scientists, this person wasn't considered a great addition to the lab.

I find it hard to imagine working all by yourself, all the time, in science. Now, my experience is in chemistry/physics, so maybe it happens more often in other disciplines or sub-disciplines?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food, glorious food...

So I took the opportunity while my friend was visiting to eat at a few places I liked, and a couple of places I've been meaning to try. I am unfortunately very bad at taking pictures.

First place: dinner at Canteen, at the back of the Royal Festival Hall. It's a small chain, and I've heard good things about it. They serve "great British food" or, alternatively, "Great British food". And it actually was quite good. This branch is right near Waterloo, so it'd be good for grabbing a bite before hopping on the train home.

Next up: a late dinner, after hearing the London Philharmonic, at the Anchor & Hope on The Cut (after snacky-type things all day, and, okay, I admit it, after I took us on a huge trek out to Cafe East only to find that it was closed, or closed for renovation). I've been meaning to try this place for ages. I guess it's gastropub, and it does beautiful down-to-earth food. My visitor and I had John Dory with salsify, and The Limey had braised venison shank. They were all absolutely lovely. We shared a table with three other people, and they had ordered the roast of shoulder of lamb, which arrived in the tray it'd been roasted on. It was accompanied by a whole tray of potatoes. The waitstaff arrived with carving knife and fork and a stack of plates and let them at it.
It was supposed to be for five people, but you could have fed twice that many. I don't know what they were going to do with all the leftovers. It'd be great to go there with a bunch of friends on a Sunday afternoon and just eat and eat and eat.

Next: lunch at Asadal, right next to Holborn tube (we walked to the British Museum afterwards). Korean food. They've got a good, quiet dining room and the food is always really good. I like their veggies, very fresh and beautifully done. There's an Asadal in New Malden, but I don't know if there's any connection. I want to try that one, too.

Next: dinner at Song Que. I love this place; it's at the end of a stretch of Vietnamese restaurants. I tell you, the masses of hipster youth you have to fight through in that area of town. Jeez. I had a seafood noodle soup (a seafood version of bun bo Hue) and my friend had a classic beef pho. Lots of greenery came with the huge bowls of noodle soup, and they did not stint on the meat. We also had a plate of soft shell crab. I haven't had soft shell crab in ages (The Limey is slowly getting to like seafood, but this is so far beyond him) and they were excellent. I would have maybe liked a little less batter, or a lighter batter. They were still great. I should also have ordered shrimp spring rolls, but in the hurry to order, I forgot. (The place was packed, and the waiters were rushing around like crazy.)

The only thing we couldn't fit in was dim sum. Well, that just means I can plan a dim sum outing soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This blog has been less than exciting lately, no?

Few pictures, no pictures of knitting, haven't done much of bloggable interest. Or even non-bloggable interest.

But I have a friend visiting this weekend, so maybe I'll get pictures of some of the things I love to do around London. I must remember to take my camera around with us. Although, he's an amateur photographer, so maybe I'll just rely on him.

What should I try for pictures of? Places I like to eat at? Yarn shops? London street scenes?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Would you get a matter/anti-matter explosion?

People, I have found the very antithesis of the yarn/knitting show: the beer festival.

Bright colours? No. Soft, fuzzy piles of pettable things? No. Women? Very few. You know how, as you approach a knitting show, you can almost feel the waves of estrogen emanating from it? Well, in this case, you can definitely smell the beer and testosterone fumes.

The Limey and I went to the 19th Annual Battersea Beer Festival yesterday. They took over the giant Battersea Arts Centre, with the hall filled with steel scaffolding holding the beer kegs. There was no attempt at any sort of decoration; the names and prices of the beers were written on pieces of A4 and stuck on the kegs; bare tables and folding chairs were set up wherever there was room.

Actually, it was quite nice. They had lots and lots of beers from British brewers, especially small ones, as well as a few foreign beers. You could buy in pints, half-pints and even third-pints. Unlike in pubs, where I'd never hear the end of it if I bought a half, here, everyone stuck to halves and thirds so they could taste more beers. It was truly filled with beer nerds. People carried around little notebooks and made notes on the beers they tried. The place was packed as the night went on.

I'd just like to note here that although I'm holding two glasses, I was only having a taste of The Limey's beer. I wasn't drinking multiple glasses of beer at once. No. Banish the thought.

It's still on for a couple of days- if you're in London, get yourself over to Clapham!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Am I to be bested by a few pieces of string and some sticks?

As you may know, my only new year's resolution was to do more colourwork. I have an idea I want to try and have been collecting colour cards and different yarns for it. Meanwhile, I did some practicing.

I've done two small colourwork projects before: the Endpaper mitts and the Squirrel and Nut mittens.

Now, I'm a continental knitter. I can knit English, although I'm slower at it. For my previous stranded knits, I knit with both colours in my left hand, always making sure the foreground colour is stranded under the background colour. I was reasonably happy with this- my stranding wasn't too tight, my stitches seemed to be even, and I managed to do both at a fairly good clip, although, of course, slower than normal knitting.

However, everyone is always going on about how the "best way" to do stranded knitting is to have one colour in each hand. I practiced this, and it was painful. My tension was terrible, my stranding uneven, the knitting slow and awkward. There is one plus: the yarns definitely didn't tangle up in an unholy manner, as happens sometimes with both yarns in one hand.

The problem, so far as I can see, is that, when I knit with both colours in my left hand, I use my right hand to do two things: manipulate the right needle to knit and to space out and separate the stitches on the right needle so that my stranding is loose enough. When I knit with one colour in each hand, my right hand is now asked to do three things: those above and to hold and tension the yarn. Apparently, this is too much for it. (For the record, I'm right-handed.)

I know there's no knitting police, and I should do whatever works for me, but I hate the idea of being beaten by this technique. In other "(falsely) binary" areas of knitting (magic loop vs. dpns, in-the-round vs. seaming, toe-up vs. cuff down, raglans vs. set-in sleeves, etc.) I definitely have my preferences, but I can do, and have done, both options. So I feel like I have experienced the pros and cons before I make my choice. In this case, I find myself unable, as yet, to do the two-handed colourwork.

The question is: do I keep at it, and -hopefully- get better, or do I go with using one hand and not let it keep me from starting my colourwork projects?

Or, to put it another way: How stubborn am I?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Watch out on the roads!

But not because of the snow, oh no, because of this:

I figured, what better way to spend some of the redundancy money and make use of my free time, eh?

Also, because I no longer wish to be limited to a "good" train line when I find my next job (this is, after all, what leads to having to live in horrible commuter towns), this will widen the geographical area in which I can look for jobs.

I've just had my first proper lesson and it went quite well. The instructor said I was very good at starting up and changing gears (maybe some of those friends' lessons did help!) and he was pleasantly surprised that I had no problems with driving on the left side of the road. I told him three years in Ireland and a year here has conditioned me to thinking that cars go on the left.

I'm not so good at the stopping, mind you, but then I do come from the land of the California roll.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


There are a few foods for which I eagerly await. I am in so much anticipation for strawberry season, for example, that I can never stop myself buying the first punnet I see in the stores, even though it's April (or March, sometimes!) and I know they will taste sour. Or asparagus- there is nothing like British asparagus. As soon as I see bunches that haven't been flown in from Peru or Egypt, I snap them up. And fava beans! (Or broad beans, as they call them here.) It takes forever to de-pod and de-shell them, but by the Gods, they taste good.

So I'm always on the lookout for the stand-out foods of any time of the year. Unfortunately, in January/February, not much is out. Well, except for these:

Not very pretty, are they? They're Seville oranges. I bought a whole bag of ten for a couple quid, with absolutely no idea what to do with them. They're not very pretty on the inside, either:

They aren't eating oranges, although of course, you can't help but try some anyway, can you? They have a sour taste that goes on to become bitter. They also have an aftertaste that reminds me of something, but I can't think what. Maybe orange-flavoured liquers? That gives me an idea- you could probably steep a few slices in vodka; I bet that would be good.

Apparently, the thing to do with Seville oranges is to make marmalade. These make the best marmalade, I'm told. Unfortunately, I've never been a big fan of jams and marmalades. I gave The Limey the option of using them this way, but he declined, so off I went to look for recipes for these specific oranges.

Well, honestly, what's better than cake?

This recipe (scroll down) uses the orange zest for the cake itself, and orange juice for the syrup. It's lovely, and is reminiscent of Nigella's clementine cake, but with bite. I found that the syrup came out too runny to be called syrup, but I'm not complaining, because when you pour it over the cake, it absorbs it and the cake/syrup concoction becomes beautifully moist, but not mushy, although it's close. If I do this again, though, I'd add more sugar to the syrup.

This is not one of your light, fluffy cakes, oh no.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Old news

Right before my Thanksgiving trip home, I was laid off (or "made redundant," for the Brits) from my job.

Now, let's get this straight: being laid off sucked. Huge donkey balls.


This does rather solve a lot of problems for me and The Limey. The silver lining shone quite brightly, as a matter of fact. My commute was getting increasingly unbearable- almost everything had moved to the science park outside of Southampton and I was spending upwards of four hours a day getting to and from it. And the golden lining behind the silver one: there is now no reason for us to stay in Woking!

Oh yes, as soon as I find a new job, we are out! And now, of course, I have a much better idea of what kind of commute I can tolerate and what kind of work I want to do.

Sure, job-hunting sucks, as it always has, and not having my income sucks, but we can live pretty much indefinitely on The Limey's salary. I'm so glad now that I insisted on renting a place we could afford on one income. Without my hugely expensive monthly train ticket, we can get by pretty well. There's not much money left over, mind, so I can't go jetting off to London whenever I want, and- horrors!- we've had to stop shopping at Waitrose, but we're comfortably in the black. Plus, I got some redundancy pay, which went directly into a savings account for the house/flat/whatever we want to buy eventually.

Anyway, what this means is I have the luxury of time in finding a new job. I'll need it in this job market, for sure, but it does mean I can look out for exactly what I want.

I didn't post about this on the blog because, unlike the last time I was job-hunting, it is now easy to find this blog with a search on my full name. And any hiring manager worth his/her salt would do such a search, I believe. But not working has such a big effect on my day-to-day life that not blogging about it seemed weird to me. So, although I won't blog about the job search itself, I will be able to talk about what the heck I'm doing with all this free time.