Category Archives: Musings

Jobs I’ve Done

Usherette in a cinema



Chef’s assistant

Data entry clerk


Janitor in a school

Farm worker

Telesales person



Voice over artist

Scientific script writer

Tutor at a med school

Post your list!

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H-Mart open in Central Square!

H-Mart, the Korean grocery store, is open in Central Square and 7pm last night it was carnage in there!

I can see I’m going to have a love/hate relationship with this place. Love because it has all of the best aspects of an Asian supermarket and more. Hate because everyone else is going to love it and it’s always going to be busy!

The Central Square H-Mart has a mini food court at the front on the Mass Ave side of things. There is a Paris Baguette sandwich and patisserie place, a Go-Go Curry! and a Sapporo Ramen place that last night was sold out of ramen. Everyone loves ramen.

I couldn’t take an exhaustive tour of the store because it was so packed but I did get a bargain on some pork bulgogi ($2.99 a Ib) and bought a tray of accompaniments to the Bulgogi ($11.99) and some Asian snacks.

As I left (via one of the side exits to avoid the crush of disappointed ramen hunters at the front of the store) a young woman handed me a melamine dish painted with fruit and homely scenes saying “free gift”. She didn’t seem to have an H-Mart uniform on so maybe she was using me a mule for her shoplifting. Anyway, the joke’s on her as I now have a rather kitsch melamine tray holding my planting supplies. All in all a successful first trip except for the ramen.

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Asking questions is fundamental to being a scientist. This morning’s questions: “Why did you put empty ice cube trays in the fridge?”, “Why do the bananas smell of fish?”.

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I work on aging. Specifically, ways to ensure healthy brain aging to stave off neurodegenerative disease. Maybe this career direction suggests a preoccupation with aging? Maybe here’s why.

I’m taking to my Mum on the phone.

MUM: How’s the gluten free stuff going.

ME: Great. I feel a lot less bloated and it’s not difficult to do.

MUM: Yeah, because at your age your gut starts acting up. I remember a consultant saying to me about Nan “all old people become obsessed with their guts” and I came to realize as I got older that actually your gut does ruin your life.

Then follows a 5 minute monologue about how my Mum got podgier around the middle as she got older and how her gut is ruining her life.

ME: But I’ve always had this bloating. Even when I was at Oxford (and henceforth rowing and super-fit), even at Keele (and aged 18-22).

MUM: Yeah, but you find it gets worse now you’re older.

After the phone call finishes I walk to the living room where my husband sits eating a sandwich.

ME: I swear my Mum thinks I’m 45-years old.

HUSBAND: You’re only in your low thirties.

ME: I’m 37 this year.

HUSBAND: Shit, you’re old *chokes*.


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The 3pm panic.

Today has been a nice relaxing day. I planned out a talk that I need to give in February, made some food and spent the early afternoon reading something fairly edifying under a blanket on the sofa with my husband. All rather idyllic. Until my mind screams “I can’t be on this sofa anymore. I have to DO something”.

The thing is that there isn’t actually anything that NEEDS doing right now. I did all the cleaning on Boxing Day so the apartment is in a relatively pleasing state. I guess I could work on my presentation or next grant submission but I have a feeling that this festive period of comparative laziness is actually having quite a restorative effect on my motivation and creativity as well as my scientific luck (I ran a PCR with 7 year old Taq yesterday and it worked!). In fact the only issue is that it is 3pm and either my circadian clock or psyche has a strange relationship with 3pm.

It’s like 3pm is the defining part if the day. If I’m working on a manuscript or grant and close to a deadline, 3pm is always the the point at which the panic sets in: “It’s 3pm and I haven’t done enough work for it to be 3pm!!!”. I get inexplicably grumpy if I don’t feel that I’ve achieved all that I should have by 3pm. I don’t even need to look at the clock to know that it is 3pm. The feeling of restlessness let’s me know.

I wonder if this is linked to growing up in a country where the sun sets around 4pm in winter. My circadian clock wants me to do the things that need doing before it gets dark but if this is the case why does this still happen in summer when in the UK it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. Also, if this is the case then why doesn’t everyone in Northern Europe suffer from the 3pm panic or similar? Maybe it’s linked to growing up with my Grandmother who always seemed to want to accomplish all of the days chores by 3pm. Whatever it is, it is fully ingrained and a hard habit to break.

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The Library


Today I had one of those rare moments of realization when you really remember who you are. On a cold December afternoon in Boston, following an afternoon of immigration appointments, with my arm raging at the tuberculin embedded in its epidermis, I joined a library. I didn’t expect such an unremarkable action to provoke such an emotional response.

After signing up for my library card I headed into the new arrivals section where my eyes fell upon the large print hardcovers. Immediately I was a little girl in Hackney library with my Nan. We used to spend hours in the library, it was the one place where I could hang out unsupervised and lose myself in all the pictures and stories while my Nan chose which large print hardcovers to take home that week.

I headed downstairs to the fiction section and remembered what it was like to browse (you know, IRL) and to read purely for pleasure. To be able to choose any book that took your fancy because you liked the dust jacket or the title. I’ve always loved book shops too, but book shops are tainted by fiscal restrictions and the knowledge that you can’t afford to take home all you want. With the library your only constraints are the 20-item limit (wow!) and your reading capabilities over a 3-week period.

Continuing my explorations I headed up to the second floor reference section, and suddenly there I was in Southend library poking around the biology section for my A-level assignments. Memories such as these are not particularly remarkable or life affirming, but seemed to provoke my mind to acknowledge “I was there once” with the unconscious implication of “and I am here now”. This latter thoughtfeeling was intensified when, while continuing through the stacks, I chanced upon a book written by someone that I know.  At that point I was completely immersed in the present moment, and became aware that those library-loving younger selves would never have imagined that this situation could arise.






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Almost depressed? Almost anxious?

Two Harvard faculty psychologists are releasing books on sub-clinical depression and anxiety. As someone who has experiences prolonged episodes of profound sadness without apparent cause, but has never considered herself ‘depressed’, I look forward to reading Dr Carson’s and Dr Marques’ books.

Link to the Harvard Gazette article here:

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All the Way


All the Way previewed in Cambridge at the Loeb Drama Center last night and I was there! Written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Harvard alum Bill Rauch, this performance starred Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson. It’s 1963 and following the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr LBJ becomes an “accidental President”. From the outset he champions JFKs civil rights bill, primarily as a as a political maneuver to increase his chances of winning the  1964 election. However, as LBJ later explains to Dr Martin Luther King, a “war on poverty” is his primary goal which will be beneficial to people of all races. We learn how LBJ’s desire to help the poor stemmed from his own childhood experiences after his family was plunged into poverty.

The primary focus of the play is the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but LBJ the man is also given center stage. As history notes, the bill was met with significant resistance and LBJ encounters this in his own back yard from his inner circle of Southern democrats. We the audience see the decision making process behind the various iterations of the bill, and the political maneuvering that LBJ used to counter attempts by Republicans and Southern democrats to block the bill. Throughout the play LBJ’s huge personality and rough charisma is at the fore, and this goes a long way to keeping the audience engaged in a political play that runs over three hours. Prior A.R.T performances such as last year’s The Glass Menagerie have moved to Broadway, it will be interesting to see if cuts are made to the length of the play if All the Way follows them.

Although the play is quite long it is never boring. Momentum builds as we move towards the 1964 US election. The murder of the three Mississippi Civil Rights workers Cheney, Goodman and Schwerner and the riots that followed are covered. At times actors enter from the audience delivering speeches that made me want to stand and applaud. The stagecraft of the play is excellent. The set easily conjures the benches of the House and Senate and the interior of the Oval Office. Throughout the play characters sit in the benches and appear to overhear the events on the stage. This is a powerful device. especially in a scene where the Southern Democrat Good Ole Boys make disparaging remarks about black Americans while two black cast members sit in silence on either side. How would you modify your speech if you knew that the object of your ire was listening? At other times, those listening in appropriately enough include J Edgar Hoover.

All Cambridge performances of All the Way have sold out, no doubt in part due to the presence of Bryan Cranston in the lead role. Prior to watching the performance I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see past Walter White after binge watching Breaking Bad this spring on the insistence of my fiancee who is an avid fan. My concern was bourne out for about 5 seconds. Bryan Cranston makes the role of LBJ his own and it’s easy to become lost in the play to the exclusion of all else. Bryan Cranston isn’t the only familiar face in the Cambridge cast. This cast includes Michael McKean (Spinal Tap, Best in Show and most recently Family Tree), Dan Butler (The Silence of the Lambs, Quantum Leap, Frasier, Crazy, Stupid, Love) and Dakin Matthews (True Grit, Lincoln) among others.

Overall this is an excellent play. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking. It’ll be weird watching LBJ trying to evade capture by the FBI on Breaking Bad this Sunday evening.

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Finding my way around

It looks as though the weather has broken in Boston after a week of ~100°F temps. This and the accompanying thunder means that my run has been cancelled so I’m doing some more work on the website. I’m new to WordPress and just finding my way around. I really like the interface so far. I’ve had some successes (actually creating the existing pages of the website) and some failures (attempting to create a child theme from the parent template). Using WP brings a whole new language into my life. I’m considering the merits of spending the time to learn HTML/CSS code but as with everything there’s a time cost to be considered.

There was an interesting article on Lifehacker recently talking about teaching kids to code. Given the fact that so much of day to day life now involves electronic media it makes perfect sense to teach this alongside reading, writing and arithmetic. I guess that’s a pretty persuasive argument for learning some sort of code. No-one wants to look like a total Luddite in the eyes of the younger generation.

Link here:


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