Tag: personal

A pear tree

Right outside the study in our house, there’s a pear tree. Technically, it’s our pear tree, although it was here when we bought the property and odds are it’ll be there when we leave, so I find it hard to put any notion of ownership on it, like somehow we’re a superset of it just because we can sign paperwork.

The pear tree is visible from the study window. In fact, when you look out one window it’s virtually impossible to miss. It’s like that window was built specifically to frame the tree - and again, given the relative age of the two, it’s entirely possible that this was the case.


Jason Kottke, on regional seasons:

…the four “traditional” seasons of summer, autumn, winter, and spring are not universal and mainly only apply to the mid-latitudes. Other places on Earth observe different patterns. For starters, the polar year is split into light and dark while the tropics typically have a wet and a dry season.

How to live on 30kg of worldly goods

As of last week, I live in the United Kingdom.

It’s taken us the better part of a month, but we’ve finally sold off the majority of our belongings, packed up what we had left, given some precious possessions to our immediate families (either to be gradually mailed over to us, or to be stored for our eventual return), and closed up shop in New Zealand. There’s been a good bit of stress, some heart-felt goodbyes, sudden realisations (generally of the “why do I even have one of these?” variety), and a good bit of making-do as we divest ourselves of the things you use to live your life.

A quick personal update

I tend not to post personal updates to this blog, as I figure it’s a site for professional (or at least hobby) articles. The content should be interesting to you regardless of who I am. However, enough little things have happened in the past month or so that I feel it’s worth posting a short note here.

First, about three weeks ago I managed to expose my laptop to a small liquid spill - partly through my own absent-mindedness, but mostly (I’d like to think) due to the vagaries of fate. Thankfully, the machine was insured, and I had been keeping backups. Unfortunately, the last backup was from late September: I ended up losing all my data from the month of October, including a massive rehaul of this site’s layout and css. Since I got the machine up and running again, re-creating the new site has been my top priority, which at least somewhat explains the lack of articles on the site.

Reducing my internet profile

In a fit of cleanliness, I’ve recently been cleaning up unused accounts on the internet. This post by Sven Fechner is a great help in working out which passwords you use and which you don’t: I’ve been using a very similar system to track which accounts I no longer use around the internet. Daily deal sites (where I bought one–inevitably terrible–product and then forgot about them), forums I no longer frequent, old sign-up pages for conferences, software websites with sign-up-only free trials…the list goes on. Since 1Password has been busily collecting every password I’ve used, it’s suddenly a lot easier to find all these old accounts.


When I decided I should regularly cycle/spring clean my passwords, I thought that “every six months” was a good frequency. There’s a problem with this: I vastly prefer small, do-every-weekend tasks over large dedicate-an-afternoon tasks, and faced with the sheer magnitude of logins stored in 1Password (624 at the time of writing), I simply gave up. “I’ll deal with it next time the task comes up” I thought, merely delaying terrible feelings for another six months.

"That" vs. "Which"

I know, this is hardly science. However, the only reason this comes up is that I’ve been editing papers recently.

Microsoft Word has a number of hang-ups that can be described as “cute” when you’re editing a page-long document, and something considerably stronger when you have a 10-page scientific paper you’re trying to spellcheck/format. One of these is the dreaded “that”/“which” dilemma, which seems to haunt it constantly.


I sit1. Which is to say that every morning before I start work (or even side-projects like this, writing for the blog) I sit down for somewhere between ten and twenty minutes and practise focus and mindfulness.

It’s something considerably different the rest of my day, which tends to consist either of:


Later on today I’m bound for Sydney to attend a conference. I’ve booked my own accommodation, and I guess I’ll get to find out how comfortable/exciting it is to stay in a backpackers’ for a week.

The thing is, I was supposed to head out yesterday. Or, more to the point, I was supposed to head out on Saturday, but along the way my brain switched that to Sunday, which meant when I woke up on Sunday morning and decided to check my boarding pass, I got a nasty surprise. Thankfully, the nice people at QANTAS were able to switch me over to a flight today with a minimum of fuss, and while I’ll be arriving at my conference a day late, I’ll still catch the majority of the action and hopefully get to do all that networking stuff you’re supposed to do at conferences.

Graveyard shift

It’s twenty-five past three in the morning and I’m sitting in a tiny room in an airport-hanger sized hallway waiting as a stream of X-rays impacts a sample.

One of the many reasons I haven’t been posting recently (apart from my vast to-do list of other things) is that my research group has been preparing for our trip to the Australian Synchrotron. It’s my first visit and it’s been somewhat overwhelming. I’ve had to learn two new techniques from pretty much the ground up, and since time on the machines here (for those of you with any knowledge of this, we have the soft X-ray beamline for two shifts of 24 hours each to do XPS and NEXAFS is limited and valuable, we’ve been working literally around the clock.