Monthly Archives: August 2011

War and Stationery


Post it notes make up a huge portion of my day. I am a list writer. A To Do list is my anchor for the day. My recipe to get me from the 9am to 6pm!

In fact, it is not unusual to find me compiling a hot pink or fluorescent green log of even my more relaxed weekend activites, just to avoid a devastating error in the planned itinerary.

So today, I find myself in the wrong city entirely. Paris is at war! And what, you may ask, is the weapon of choice?

The POST-IT. If I were to choose a mode of warfare. This certainly would be it. The pen is mightier than the sword is it not?!

Vive La Papeterie!

The Aftermath


Eating through an earthquake and then sleeping right through the hurricane this week has been somewhat disappointing.

I tried to stay up for the big winds on Saturday night but instead responded to my drooping eyelids and soon I was fast asleep in my safe house, snug as a bug in a rug.

When I resurfaced a little late on Sunday morning I was highly frustrated to find that the excitement was well and truly over. The high winds had whistled through the skyscrapers briefly and heavy rainfall had created deep but manageable puddles, scattered across Manhattan. Elsewhere the damage had been more profound but for us the severe storm was over before it had even begun. A stroll around Central Park revealed fallen trees, overflowing bodies of water and an excited population unable to partake in normal Big Apple fun. We were left to wander in the blustery day and marvel at the aftermath of our first hurricane.

Irene from space!

The storm approaches

The trees had no chance. Nowhere to go!

Quite a bit of rain by the looks of it

Coney Island felt the brunt of Irene’s wrath

Hurricane Irene


This week is going to go down in history in the tri-state area for a mid-week record breaking earthquake. Hitting 5.8 on the Richter Scale and shaking the city in more ways than one; that was what we call Tuesday. Now it is Friday night and having been mocked by the San Andreas fault-liners for an over dramatic response to a little jiggle, the city is now in full drama again preparing for an absolute lock down in the face of a Level 2 hurricane, quaintly nicknamed Irene. Hurricane Irene has been running amok in the Bahamas for the last week and now is moving its 600 mile wide stormy self up the East coast.

This is quite the spectacle. Today, I have witnessed the hospitals/labs on the Upper East Side in emergency shut down mode. Outside paraphernalia is dragged inside while fridges, freezers and all other essential equipment is powered up to generators for fear of an electricity outage. I have been encouraged to plan for the worst, pack a go-bag (flashlight, water, biscuits etc.) and run away to higher ground, in what seemed like hourly Hurricane Emergency email bulletins from the Institute. And in an effort to do my weekly grocery shop before the city’s transport network officially shuts down for 24 hours, tomorrow at noon, I have queued outside Wholefoods for over 30 minutes just to get into a desolated store. What I found was surprising. What I didn’t find was… well anything. Not one lettuce leaf in sight. The banana shelves ransacked for what I can only imagine was an unnerving fear of potassium starvation. A calamity that could only possibly result in mild cramps?

It was as if the terrified population had looted the place.

Now as I sit in my apartment, painted in yellow on the evacuation map, which as you can see from above is only a suggested evacuation spot thus far, I am watching the nonstop TV coverage of this impending doom.

Mayor Bloomberg says, “stay indoors for at least 24 hours between 9pm on Saturday through the weekend.”

Mandatory evacuation spots are being patrolled to confirm everyone has successfully escaped incoming Irene. Weather analysis teams on high alert as they come into their own on this blowy final weekend in August. And for a country that takes pride in weather commentary, they definitely appear to be revelling in this storm.

After 12 noon tomorrow I will either be trapped on Roosevelt Island for the long haul or I will have been forcibly evacuated to safer ground.

Anticipate regular updates as this potentially bored individual is housebound for the weekend!

5.8 on the Richter Scale?


It is a Tuesday afternoon and as I relax briefly, taking stock over lunch, before returning back to a lab bench of gruelling, torturous labour, I notice the glass of water in front of me rippling, seemingly unprovoked. Glancing around me, sensing an impending doom, I rapidly considered the potential causes of this unrest.

1) Could this be a loose Tyrannosaurus Rex, cloned illegally in a nearby Upper East Side lab, only to have broken its chains (?) in order to bolt down York Avenue away from its captors, crushing yellow cabs in true dramatic style. Not only causing havoc to life on the sidewalk but also creating enough impact to successfully jiggle the liquid in the cup sat in front of me.

Jurassic Park influence?

2) OR could this be an earthquake. I heard somewhere the 125th Street subway station is only above ground because a faultline runs directly through Harlem there. After 200 years of silence I could imagine it is due a shake about.

Having no time to either add to this list of theories or validate them, I looked frantically around for support just as the second tremor hit. Glass tumbled from above as my colleagues and I dove under the scattered picnic tables to protect ourselves. Chairs clattered around us and a lone scream echoed in the complex sending a shiver down my back. The buildings swayed almost unrealistically as the vibrations below tormented their foundations and each of us, surprisingly calm in the face of this disaster, held on tightly, eyes pursed shut. The shock could have lasted minutes for all I was aware: our paralysis in the moment preventing any sensible time frame. We clung firmly for our lives in those seconds; driven together by the fear of Nature’s wrath. Holding on with every inch of our will.

And yet slowly, slowly the dust began to settle. The devastation was becoming apparent. Havoc surrounded us now, yet gradually we felt more confident that the worst of the Earth’s grumblings were over. I could make out others clambering from under their shelters and seeking out others for comfort. Days passed. We had been rounded up by police and fire services hours after the event and were evacuated out of the city. All the bridges had been severely, if not irreparably, destroyed so it was a couple of days before the authorities could effectively relocate us all into tented camps in the countryside by boat, away from the high rise risk on Manhattan island. The city was a ruin. Wrecked so severely by the earthquake it would take more than a Presidential speech from Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Michael Douglas (The American President) or Harrison Ford (Air Force One) to motivate this deflated population to rebuild their lives, not to mention in such a depressing economic condition.


and then I wake up.

No Beth, you’re not on a movie set. I KNOW you recognise every corner as a site from that film or another, but you must FOCUS on the fact that these memories are fiction. King Kong did NOT scale the Empire State Building. Will Smith did not wrestle with evil, human-killing aliens to secure our future on this planet, and NO that comet near miss was not avoided through the sheer bravery of a certain Bruce Willis These memories did not really happen. In fact, you didn’t even feel the teeny weeny tremors that “shook” the city earlier today. YOU were eating M&S mackerel (in tomato sauce) on some excellent Le Pain Quotidien nutty bread with a beefsteak tomato and salad garnish. YOU were fully immersed in lunch and thus utterly and blissfully unaware of any ripples on the surface of neighbouring drinks. YOU have no right to claim any affiliation with this “Act of God” so YOU are just going to have to wait for the incoming hurricane that is currently plaguing the southern states and see if YOU will need an umbrella or not.

50 academics talk about God


Taken from Open Culture:

Jonathan Pararajasingham has pulled together a montage of 50 renowned academics, mostly all scientists, talking about their thoughts on the existence of God. The list includes includes 16 Nobel prize winners, and a bundle of recognizable names, including Richard Feynman, Steven Pinker, Oliver Sacks, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, and Leonard Susskind.

Watch it in full here

One contributor is Richard P. Feynmann:

“On the infrequent occasions when I have been called upon in a formal place to play the bongo drums, the introducer never seems to find it necessary to mention that I also do theoretical physics”

Richard P. Feynmann was an American physicist and Nobel Laureate

Working in the field of Quantum Mechanics for much of his career he once famously said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Well if he doesn’t understand it??? I really don’t know why they bothered to try to teach me repeatedly at university!