Sunday, May 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Marshalls!!

We had a fabulous afternoon and evening yesterday celebrating with two Marshall Scholars whose birthdays were 19 and 28 May. It's finals season in the UK, so poor Michael was rather distracted during his actual day. But we made up for it in fine style with a fantastic picnic on top of Primrose Hill in Regent's Park.

I cheekily told Rafael's parents they needed to go on a date so I could steal the baby. We were quickly the most popular of the attendees, entirely stealing the spotlight from the birthday boys.

Our friend Hayden is blind but still able to detect some light. So of course we had to stay in the park till it was super late and he could see his cake!!


Quite possibly the most beautiful use of a bank holiday weekend Saturday night ever. :)

Happy birthday to Michael and Hayden!!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

NerdFest 2016

A friend from the old days is in the country.

Kate and I were Honor Scouts on Mackinac Island together...and went to the Battle Creek Area Mathematics and a Science Center together...and went to Michigan State University get the picture. 

Anyway, her globe-trotting job finally landed her close enough to the UK that she came to see me. Cue what can only be titled "NerdFest" 2016. 

On Monday we day tripped to Cardiff specifically for the Doctor Who Experience. Much fun was had with Daleks and aliens and monsters.

We did sneak in a quick visit to Cardiff Castle. When in Wales...

And today, just to make like even better, we went up to Leavesden for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of Harry Potter. This would be (and has been, previously for me) fantastic enough. But Tuesdays are also my babysitting day. And somehow I talked Rafael's parents into letting me drag their son along with us. So we got to play with the young one. Many adorable photos were taken. Including a rather cheeky recreation of infant Harry being left at Number 4 Privet Drive...

All in all...this has been a rather fantastic way to spend two days. :)

Friday, May 20, 2016


Summer is starting...which means the American tourists start pouring into Britain. ;)

Currently in town are a few of Anne-Marie's cousins, one of whom tries to come every year and a half or so. She is also the benefactress of Iorwerth's most delightful Spider-Man pyjamas. So naturally we modelled them after dinner on Monday. And feeling British, he apparently also needed to have his dressing gown on. 

And now I am en route to Heathrow to find Kate, a friend from the Battle Creek Mathematics and Science Center and a fellow Mackinac Island Honor Scout. She's touring about for a week or so. Monday and Tuesday are "Nerd Fest" - we shall be touring the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff and then visiting the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios in London. 

Bring on the geektime. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

10000 Words + 10 Laps

I was on lock-down this weekend (staring longingly out the window at still more unironically gorgeous London weather) writing a bunch of articles. All good stuff, great to think about and write. The Media Association for Peace, my Lebanese research partner, is rounding out their Environmental Media, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Project with a publication featuring the training retreat, public discussion, and national conference as well as a variety of local voices reflecting on the connections between media, peace, and the environment. I was honoured to be asked to contribute a theoretical introduction to environmental peacebuilding for the book. I also talked the Kuwait Dive Team and FoodBlessed into reflecting on these issues and worked with them to write peices.

Some colleagues from my food days at Michigan State are editing a book based on the conference I attended last summer. They're including innovative practitioner vignettes at the beginning of each section. FoodBlessed was invited to write the intro for the "Food Justice in a Global Context" piece.

Those all got written and sent off to my various partners.

And then, today, 10000 words later, I happily ventured out of my loft. time. :)

The young one I'm watching a few hours a week turned four months old on Saturday. He and I celebrated this morning with our first swim together. Absolute delight. They've a heated indoor pool in their community gym. It's generally very quiet. Cue the good mornings of bouncing and quicking while Becca sings nursery rhymes and generally makes a fool of herself!

I got more of a workout than I was expecting...the way to get him most actively kicking is by swimming on my back holding him up but just in the water and swimming underneath him. Which means I'm only using my legs, kicking frantically, to move us all and keep us upright. The pool is under 1.5 metres, so I'm able to catch us easily. But he's definitely happiest when I'm swimming rather than walking. Leg workout via kick-kick-kick, and arm workout via holding up ever-growing baby! Then, of course, there's the reward of the giggle. Good stuff, my friends. Good stuff.

We definitely did more than 10 laps. But I didn't actually count.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dar Si Hmad presents "Water RISEs"

For World Water Day, my Moroccan research partner Dar Si Hmad asked its urban youth programme participants to reflect on the importance of water. This week, we're highlighting some of the incredible submissions over on the DSH Blog.

The series includes incredible photography like these pieces from Zahra.

One of my personal favourites is Abdellah's cartoon, which captures a multiplicity of global issues in an accessible way.

Each piece is being presented with a biography of the young artist or author and an artist's statement. They've some very powerful words to share. Head over to the other blog and read more!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Zoo Day!

Good heavens above, what a day.

I managed to plan, a few weeks ago, to take Iorwerth and meet some mates at the ZSL London Zoo on what just happened to be the most gorgeous day of the year thus far. 

We had a rather fantastically wonderful outing. 

Hayden was not allowed to bring his seeing eye dog, Fathom, as the Zoo has a policy against them due to other animal behaviour and stress. ZSL is currently working with some organisations in London to figure out if they can make at least parts of the Zoo accessible. I will certainly be advocating for them to do so. However, Iorwerth and I were able to go meet Hayden at his house and take him with us while poor Fathom had a bit of quiet time. Iorwerth got to meet Fathom and give him a treat before we left and, quite adorably, said to Hayden the first time he met him "Hello. I'll be your seeing eye dog today". He then proceeded to (more or less patiently) guide Hayden around the zoo, describing the animals and showing off statues to feel and tactile displays to explore. The dung beetle statue was the source of a great deal of delight...

After seeing the tigers and lions (but no bears, oh my), petting Pygmy goats, and stuffing ourselves with ice cream, we went back to get Fathom. Cue the hour in the park of wild glee getting chased by Dan and rolling in the grass. 

The last stop of the night was my favourite Thai restaurant for a fantastic dinner. And then home to bed wayyyyy too late, where Iorwerth fairly immediately fell into bed, exhausted beyond belief. 

A most excellent way to spend a day. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

New Baby!!

A new child has entered Becca's life...I've taken on a few hours a week caring for the young infant of a recent King's PhD grad. 

Iorwerth, though entirely adorable and wonderful, somehow no longer cuddles like a baby. The curse and blessing of time...

In any case, it is nice to have some time with a sweet young one. I don't know this family well, so I'm also enjoying the process of getting to know an interesting young London couple. 

I know, I know. Rocking a baby to sleep is not exactly writing my thesis. I promise I'm getting to that, though. But in the meantime...sweet dreams, little one. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Home again, home again!

I am back in London...for real this time!

Just landed from a wonderful weekend in Istanbul. And when I say "Istanbul", I really mean "AMENDS". Some very valuable time with my Fellows family. We did a few solid days of workshops and planning for the organisation's future. As always, these folks gave me a massive boost of energy and excitement. Really incredible stuff going on with their initiatives - healthcare and social support for the female sexual victims of ISIS, education on programming and entrepreneurial skills for youth in Jordan, a programme encouraging girls in Saudi Arabia to enter the STEM fields. To name but a few. AMENDS now has some 150 Fellows across 5 years of Stanford Summits, so the Reunion crew is never the exact same group. And I always get to meet some folks who I've worked with online but not spent physical time with. A truly rejuvenating weekend. 

But now - back in England. For a solid month! Cue the Saturdays spent with Iorwerth playing around London, weekdays at King's analysing data, and a full four weeks of avoiding airports like try plague. :)