Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lectures...

I had (or was suppose to have) a lecture on Introduction to critical appraisal (aka how to read journal articles and decide which ones are good and which ones are bad) yesterday. I made sure I was there couple of minutes early so I don't have to try to sneek which is impossible as the doors haven't been oiled since the medical school was built!
Regardless of my very unsuccesful attempts (i.e. I haven't got a clue what they are talking about) of small talk with all the other PhD students I thought I'd try again and starting chatting with this guy who was sitting next to me. He was from Persian and had unpronouncable name so I renamed him the protein guy in my mind.
I am very thankful that I did start chatting to him as it turned out that they could not find the lecturer anywhere and were searching for him high and low. It would have been very boring 25 minutes to wait without having anybody to talk to but fortunately I had the protein guy and we had very interesting conversation with the protein guy about Persia, Finland, England and PhDs.
At some point he turned around and asked if my husband was a scientist too...I wasn't really sure what to answer as I wouldn't class myself as a scientist like him (you can't really compare psychology and biochemistry, can you?) I guess I did graduate with BSc so in theory I am kind of a scientist but my idea of scientist is someone like him spending time in his little lab, testubes and cells.
My other lecture yesterday was on Research governance (aka lots of forms you have to fill in in order to do clinical research). As I have applied for some research governance approvals before it wasn't really that new but the lady had some fun examples of what had happened when people had filled the forms wrong. Some researcher had signed on the wrong line and it turned out he personally (as opposed to the NHS trust) was financially liable to cover any problems that occured in a European wide drugs trial for a new drug...I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.
The research governance lecture was in this obscure medical demonstration theatre that was impossible to find and I nearly gave up (I was late) but then I asked one of the lab people that were hanging around the corridors in their white coats and he pointed me to the right direction.
They got these smart cards and some buildings or areas of buildings you can only get to if you have a smart card that is authorised for that area. As I was getting more and more lost looking for this room I was getting very worried that I was going to get stuck in some corridor where I couldn't get out because my card didn't have the right clearance...before I bumped into this lab-coat guy I had opened quite a few doors with my card and I had no idea how to get back to where I had started from...but I lived to tell the tale and I am not vading away in some obscure corridor of the medical school :)

Friday, October 27, 2006

The wonders of interactive internet tools

I have been reading lots about NHS recently, mainly about policy changes, the effects these changes have on service delivery and other equally exiting things. Whilst looking for some of these policy documents I somehow stubled across some fun interactive tools on the NHS direct website. As I was in need of a break from the policy documents I played around with them.
First I took the 5-a-day quiz to see how my fruit and vege knowledge was and I manage to get 4/5 which was pretty good I thought. I got a question wrong about trying to feed the kids vege but I guess I can be excempt from that question due to my lack of practice in the area. Then I tried the safe drinking calculator which told me I was drinking sensibly and within the limits. I was not surprised by this as our student budget just about allows us bottle of wine a week between us :(
Then I got brave and filled in the details for the execrise to calories calculator. Thanks to my cycling to work and taking the dog for a walk it gave me a very encouraging picture of my calory consumption. Thankfully it didn't take into account my weekly chocolate consumption! And on top of that if I knew how much I weighed I could have also tried the body mass index calculator.
Also if I was pregnant or smoker I could have either calculated how much money I save my quitting smoking or to see how my pregnancy was advancing. As I am neither I have to go back to work.
But as far as interactive tools go these ones are actually pretty useful ones unlike seeing which friends character you are like (Monica - they obviously haven't seen our house ;) or which superhero you remind most (Superman).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

NHS for the animals

When Moses had his operation he had these stiches that just melted away, and it all seemed to be healing very well...but last week or so we noticed this little sore looking area and it has just got worse and worse. And it doesn't help the matters that he keeps licking it.
So we went to the vets again - second time in two weeks or so! That dog does not know how to behave on public places, he gets so exited by every furry thing or human who comes throught he door that he starts whining and wants to go and say hello to everyone. It can be very embarrishing especially if everyone else has well behaved dogs or some little animals that can be contained in their cages!
The long and short of it was that it's some post-operation skin irritation and he got prescribed weeks worth of antibiotics (they are pink) and antiflammatory tablets (which apparently smell like chicken). And it was expensive!!! We could have ordered a very nice case of wine for the price of the tablets and the consultation.
We were so shocked and couldn't believe how much it cost just for some antibiotics and then it dawned on us that there is no NHS for the dogs that subsidices the cost of prescriptions. Or rather that's why human prescriptions are so much cheaper. I guess there is at least some benefits in paying taxes!
So if anyone is short of prayer topics here is 2:
- Moses would get healed really quickly
- God would send us lots of money (so we can pay for his medicine and the new lino that needs to be put in the kitchen)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The House

We went to see the house yesterday as mentioned earlier in the midst of the exitement of the hollow wall. We took the digital camera with us so that we could take some pics of the house to show everyone who is willing to look at them.

Here is the back of the house, the little extension is the kitchen
and the french doors go to the dining room.


Here is the hall from top of hte landing.


The front room with a huge bay window where the sofa will be going or Christmas tree depending on time of the year :)


This is the dining room/breakfast room to be - you can'r really see much but it is really nice and light and will look so gorgeous once we knock the wall down...


And here is the back garden. It is not big but it is a garden. It's got these huge borders all around which we are going to make smaller and increase the lawn, plants some fan trained apples trees along the wall and lots of other things...


PS: we can't wait to move in

PPS: we still need to get the mortgage arranged and the house in Plymouth sold but we are really really exited regardless

PPPS: we will be having a knock-the-wall down party

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The wall is hollow, hurrah hurrah hurrah

...or so we think anyway....we went to see our house-to-be again today and it is still lovely. We have been dreaming and planning the kitchen and how we'd do it. The best plan we've come up with is knowcking the wall through to the dining room and having a breakfast room...but we thought that the wall between kitchen and the dining room is solid/load bearing wall = costs a lot of money to get rid of it (which we haven't got).
When we went to see the house today just to measure some things we knocked on the wall in question and it is hollow, or rather it sounds hollow. And if that is the case we'll have our dream kitchen sooner rather than later :) And we'd also get to knock a wall down in the process and don't have to pay for someone else to do it!
It was a bit nippy here this morning, my fingers got a bit chilly cycling in but apart from that it was a nice and clear autumnal morning in Newcastle and all the Notherners on David's course were complaining how cold it was!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

An eventful weekend

On Satruday we thought we'd go and admire some apples. We had lovely time in Harlow Carr, looking at pretty plants, having a picnic and planning our tiny garden in the new house. On the way back we drove through the edge of Yorkshire Dales that we just gorgeous. My mum use to read James Herriot books to me when I was little and I nearly gave up my dream of either owning a sweet shop or toy shop and becoming a vet instead because of them.
Moses was very exited when we got home. We weren't so exited to see what he had done when we got home. He had totally and completely distroyed the lino in the kitchen (we were far too distraught to take any photographic evidence). He wasn't the most popular dog that night! Thankfully our landlord said that he doesn't mind us decorating (painting) so we are hoping he is not going to mind a new lino in the kitchen...
This was also the first weekend of our church hunting. We definitely had an experience and found one church where we will not be going mainly because we would like to have our hearing intact. The people were friendly when we got there and we got shown to our seats like in theatre (which David didn't mind but I quite like choosing where I sit). Someone mentioned to us when we were in Toronto that Hillsong have real thrive for spirit of excellence so we kind of expected some level of performance but this was totally of our scale...
In the end we walked out half way through the worship, wandered down to the Quayside with our ears still ringing, bought some fresh doughnuts, went to see some contemporary art and were quite certain about that that wasn't our flavour of church. They did seem very relational and nice bunch but maybe we are getting old because we could cope with the volume of music and the smoke machine just made me giggle.
In the afternoon we tried laying some lino tiles (didn't work so we'll have to go and buy some proper lino), had some God time, watched some friends, drank some tea and ate brownies and played some dominos. And got woken up buy upstairs noisy kids at the middle of the night but they are moving out in a week or so so i think we'll cope.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Monkey business

I am sure someone could do a research project on the posters academics have on their walls. Over the last couple of years I have come across all sorts of funny things people decorate their offices in addition to the required wall full of books & files. I saw a hilarious printout of Bush being compared to chimpanzees and it was really really amusing...unless you are a vervent Bush supporter I guess. And good old google found me the website where they were from so that you can admire them as well!
We are still very exited about our new house to be and how close it is to the sea :) And there is a chippy (which I've probably mentioned before), cute teahouse and coffeeshop, some other nice looking shops, Sainsbury's and a pub (an official goverment requirement for any village or town in England to be considered habitable...) all within a walking distance and what is even better the metro station is just around the corner so we don't need to have any more arguements/slight disagreements about who is drinking and who is driving if we are going out - we can just take the metro.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Northern haircut

We are about to go and find a place to have David's hair cut which might be interesting. When we were in Canada one of the hairdressers/barbers David went to was a Jamaican place and he was probably the first non curly haired person who they had given a haircut so it looked interesting...thankfully I think there might not be that much difference between northern and southern hairtypes in England but you can never be too sure ;)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Finnish invasion

It was really nice to see my old school friend/s. We met Sanna in town on Saturday, did a bit of shopping, had a coffee and then picked up the dog and went for a walk on the beach. In the evening we cooked a curry and chatted away and then after dinner we met her boyfriend and another finnish boy (who both also went to the same school, than we did) for drinks.
It was really random sitting in a pub in deepest darkest Newcastle and speaking English to 3 Finnish people (for the benefit of David). I can safely say we were the blondest table in the room! I also heard very good explanation from Sanna on why people think of blondes the way they do, the reason is the blondes are the only ones who ask the questions that are bothering them, everyone else is too afraid to ask and that's why people think blondes don't know anything.
The next day we had very lazy day. We had our usual morning cup of tea and spent a long time planning how we would do up the garden in our new house and anything else that needed doing in the house. Sanna and the boys popped over to drop a book in the afternoon (when we were about to take the pooch for a walk) and stayed for a cup of coffee/tea. When they were leaving I came out to show on the map what's the best way for them to drive back so all 4 of us were crowding around this one map and all the locals were very curious to see 4 people each blonder than the other so we got quite a few stares which was amusing.
It is starting to feel quite wintery here, we went for a walk on the fields somewhere outside Newcaslte and it was so misty and miserable that I was hoping we had a fireplace and we could come home and sit by the fire drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate. As we didn't have a fireplace we made a cup of tea and had some chocolate instead.

Friday, October 13, 2006

So....

It looks like we are getting the house - the other people didn't offer more money :) so we are very very exited but are facced with the hassle of getting a mortgage which is a bit complicated as neither one of us works...thankfully we have larger than the standard 5% deposit thanks to our last house. We've been to see our mortgage girl Wendy twice this week and she sent of the application paper work yesterday so early next week we'll now if the application has gone through or if we have to come up with a plan B & experience lots more stress!
Unfortunately the people who are buying our house in Plymouth have found a very mean surveyor (who must have had a bad day when he went to view our house) and he has come up with a long long list of things that are wrong with the house and recommending/demanding a rather big reduction in the price :( which means we are not going to have money to do up the kitchen as we had planned (any donations are welcome) and that the whole process is taking much longer as they have to get various quotes etc before they can get a mortgage and then we have to negotiate a new price.
This week has been a funny one, apart from the house it hasn't been that exiting. We thought of changing Moses' food to a new one. So we bought some of the new stuff and started mixing it with his old food as you are suppose to. We soon found out that Moses' body did not agree with the new food at all, we tried couple of days and it just didn't get any better so we decided to stick with the old food. If anyone would like to buy a bag of chicken and brown rice flavoured dog food we have nearly full one going cheap ;)
But the good news is, we have found nice pet shop (which is surprisingly difficult to do) and also vets. Moses hasn't been wormed for a while so we thought it would be good idea to do so. After seeing the mortgage girl in Whitley Bay we popped into the petshop to ask if they knew any vets locally. There was one up the road, quite close to our house-to-be so off we went.
The veterinary nurse was very chatty & had a lovely norhtern accent. She had some bordercollies herself so she got very exited of the idea of meeting Moses! They only do worm & flea stuff as prescription so we have to take Moses in today to get checked over before they give the tablets. Oddly, Moses loves going to the vets (because they give him treats) so that should be fun, and he gets very exited when he meets new people....it could be interesting, thankfully he has pretty much got over wetting himself when he gets exited (he only does it now if he has been in the car for a long long time, i.e. Newcastle to Dorset)
David got to play around with some large format cameras on his course yesterday so he was very happy. They went to the Quayside and took some pictures. He couldn't wait a whole week for developing the film so he asked the lecturer if he could do it today which he was fine about. So David's day is consisting of developing the large format film with the lecturer, developing couple of other rolls of film, taking Moses to the vet and going to the beach and taking some pictures. One of his assignments is to take a portrait and as we don't really know many people here I get the honour of posing for the pictures.
Haven't really got anything much planned for the weekend. Hopefully will see a friend & her boyfriend who I know from school. They are studying in Leeds and are coming to see a another person (from our school) who is also living in Newcastle. Small world to have 4 people from the same year & school in foreign country living relatively close to each other! David thinks is the Scandinavians secret attempt to take over England again after the vikings didn't manage to rule here forever.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

another sleepless night

We've had another sleepless night, or two in fact, since the noisy kids upstairs episode. We went househunting on Monday. When we were looking for house in Plymouth it tooks us literally months to find a place we liked so we thought finding a house is going to be a long drawn out exercise again.
When we came looking for flat to rent we had lunch in Whitley Bay on the coast and thought it would be really nice place to live in so off we went Monday afternoon going around some of the estate agents in Whitley Bay and we even manage to organise 3 viewings for the same day.
First one had loads and loads of potential and it was stone through away from the sea, David was getting rather exited of the idea of doing this house up, it was definitley a challenge. The second one was quite a bit too small for all of our belongings but it had a big garden. We had little bit of time before we were going to see the last house and we took Moses for a walk on the beach and this time it didn't rain!
And then we went to see the last house and it was perfect. It had a garden, big rooms, original doors, nice neigbourhood and all it needed doing to it was a new kitchen. So we got exited and put an offer in which the owners accpeted (up here the owners do all the viewings ratehr than the estate agents!) but they had another couple coming to see the house later on the same evening so we spent the evening being very worried that they were going to offer more money than we did!
After seeing the third house we got fish and chips and parked the car buy the see and still couldn't really believe what had happened, we'd seen three houses and found a really really lovely one straight away! So we didn't get too much sleep that night, we were both thinking of the house. At 3am we were both awake and it turned out we had both been thinking of how we'd do the kitchen and if we could do a similar knock through to the dining room than Dan & Lil had in Exeter!
Last night it looked like that we were going to get a good night sleep, the other people hadn't offered more money (not htat we know of it anyway) so we didn't have to worry about that, we had replanned the kitchen and the kids upstairs were quiet...so we dozed off happily...and slept happily untill 1.30am when a car alarm went of outside - thankfully it was our car alarm so we could turn it (there is nothing more annoying than car alarm going of for hours in the night) but it meant we had to get out of the bed, find the keys etc and after it took me a longtime to get back to sleep.
So that was our third sleepless night in a row :( I don't think the middle one counts though, it's quite nice being so exited that you can't sleep! So now we are hoping and praying (and would be very grateful if you do the same:) that
- our house sale in Plymouth goes through as quickly as possible
- all the arrangements in this end go smoothly especially getting mortgage etc
- our landlord doesn't mind us moving out before the 6 months contract is up

Monday, October 09, 2006

No sleep :(

We got back about 9.20 last night and thought we would have a nice early night...but unfortunately teh unruly kids who live upstairs had other thoughts (or their paretns have very different thought about what time to put a 2-year old toddler to bed than we do). So we had a nice cup of tea when we got home, brushed our teeth, put our pjs on and pulled the duvert on and closed our eyes in order to get some well earned rest after drving for 6+ hours (we did total of 970 miles over the weekend).
We had both been looking forwards to having a good night sleep (=long, peaceful & quiet) but the for the next two hours we had army of kids jumping, shouting and screaming pretty much solidly...every now and then you get fooled into thinking that they have finally fallen a sleep but then they start again.
So what do you???
a) bang on the wall/ceiling - next door neighbour on the left did that
b) shout - David did that
c) bang on the wall again - next door neighbour on the right did that
d) go and knock on their door and tell them to be quiet - no one did that as they don't speak any English apart from yes and no (we have tried)
And the result...no change = no peace & quiet => no sleep
So here is the challenge for all you guys - we would be extremely grateful for any ideas on how you get your upstairs neighbours to realise that 22.30 is not a time to start putting kids to bed and that they are causing 3 other households not to sleep. We've already tried all of the above as well as getting our landlord to talk to them and their social worker/council person to talk to them and none of them have worked and we are really running low on ideas, neighbourly love and patience.
And if that wasn't enough...they got up at 5:50am, thankfully David didn't wake up so he got a bit more sleep than I did. Moses snoored through happily all of this :)
On a bit happier note. Have you heard about spoof nobel prices organised by the improbable research society, I quite often get comments about the silly things academics research and how out of touch with the real world the academic community is...some of the projects on the improbable research website have been real research projects...I can fully understand how finding out why chichken prefer pretty people is not probably the most necessary and important research topic ;)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh dear...

... England has just played miserably against Macedonia which is not good :( Finland drew as well but that's more forgivable - there is even a vain hope of Finland getting through to the actual competition.

We are back in the south west. We've just returned from Plymouth with the last car load of stuff. It was very weird seeing the house empty, didn't really feel like home any more. We saw Tony for lunch which was really nice. We also got a new lead to replace Moses lead that he had chewed through, good thing that we bought a lead with a lifetime guarantee after he chewed through the first one ;)

And now we are watching Robin Hood and waiting for delicious dinner David's mum has prepared for us...and crumble for pudding :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Quote of the day

I've been reading through lots of stuff today and came across some quite good/interesting quotations that had been used in a presentation to lighten it up a bit - it did really need it because it was all about the political aspects of change linke to the modernization of the NHS...so here they are:
“Kids, you tried your best ….
And you failed miserably.
The lesson is ‘never try’”
Homer Simpson

“Counterfeits of the past, under new names, can easily be mistaken for the future… We must be wary of the trap”
Victor Hugo: 1872 Les Miserables
And here are couple of others that are quite fun as well. (If you ever get stuck for quotations try this.)

"One of the indiciments of civilizations is that happiness and intelligence
are so rarely found in the same person"
William Feather (1908 - 1976)

"The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts needing altering"
Doctor Who
"I have a new philosphy. I'm going to dread one day at a time"
Charles M. Schulz (1922 - 2000), Charlie Brown in "Peanuts"
"The key of being a good manager is keeping people who hate me
away from those who are still undecided"
Casey Stengel (1890 - 1975)
"He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches"
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), Man and Superman (1903) "Maxims for Revolutionists"
"All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind"
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)
"It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea"
Robert Anton Wilson
I had a lecture on health and safety yesterday, Newcastle apparently has one of the best records for health and safety amongst the big universities in England and they are very keen on keeping it that way...so we had this hour long talk on what not to do, basically not to leave firedoors open and not to let any of your cells escape (that was for all the biochemists who spend their time in labs).
The guy who gave the lecture was a total safety geek (he read health and safety reports for fun) but he was actually very interesting. But I learned that according to law companies are required to make every effort for your health and safety as long as it is 'reasonably practicable' i.e. it doesn't cost a fortune and there is no other cheaper way of doing it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beach & rain

We've tried to go to the beach twice now. And it has rained both times! But the beach looks amazing, one of them is surrounded by sanddunes which is pretty cool, very different than beaches in Devon & Cornwall.

Moses appreciated the beach as well. Our ladies next door in Plymouth bought him these two rings and he loves running after them and chasing them.

It is funny being here. We know it was the right to move up here but at the moment everything seems a bit out on a limb, apart from going to uni we don't really feel part of anything yet...David has just made me a cup of tea so I'll stop and enjoy my morning cuppa :)

Monday, October 02, 2006

biochemistry and other scary things

I've had my induction lecture to the graduate school of faculty of medical sciences today. It was very scary event...pretty much everyone else is doing their PhD relating to biochemistry, medicine or dentistry i.e. are going to spend majority of their time in a lab with white coats and test tubes where as I am going around interviewing people :)

It was very interesting trying to make small talk at the coffee break. I had a chat with couple of people but both of them were doing something chemistry related, I did ask one of them to explain what it meant in understandable language and basically he is going to spent the next 3 years looking at the medically beneficial properties of type of seaweed and the effects it has on diabetes and other chronic illnesses...

As far as social sciences go psychology (by most non psychologists) is usually considered to be the most scientific out of the lot but I felt exteremely non scientific today being surrounded by all the biochemists and physicians. Apart from feeling very out of place hte introduction was fun and they organise lots of exiting training (if you are into research) but I was very happy when it was time to come home and I can have a cup of tea with David and actually understand what he is talking about!

The weekend went quickly, did couple of walks, one along hadrian's wall (though we didn't see the wall because it had disintergrated and we walked along where the wall should have been) and the beach which was fun - it started pouring down with rain 5 minutes after we got there so we might go and give it another go this evening, I'm sure Moses will appreciate it.