A multi-site collaboration to study gravity and anti-gravity

Cat Science 4 - Gravity

Published in: on April 20, 2017 at 9:25 PM  Leave a Comment  

More cat science

Pinball has a new poster to share

Cat Science 3 - Boxes

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 3:20 PM  Leave a Comment  

My cat does better science than Trump’s science appointees

In preparation for the March for Science on April 22, the catses and I (with a little help from Eoghan) are developing a series of posters highlighting their scientific achievements.

Cat Science 2 - Climate

Cat Science 1 - Clothes Rack

Published in: on April 14, 2017 at 8:53 PM  Leave a Comment  

Coffeeneuring 2016

Coffeeneuring is where you ride your bike to 7 different coffee shops in 7 weeks in the fall. Details are here. Since my main goal in riding my bike is going to coffee shops, this shouldn’t be such a challenge for me, except I’m not very good at documentation. Last year I did all the rides and never submitted them. This year I’ve already missed the deadline to submit, but I think by one day so I might still be eligible for my patch.

I started all trips from my home in Kingston, NJ, except for Homestead on 23 October, which I started in Frenchtown because I was there for a weaving class, and I didn’t want to get up early enough to ride there (about 3 hours each way). I had an idea that I’d have textile art as a “theme within a theme” but only managed half (my first ride had knitting and three others had learning to weave or arranging to learn to weave).

9 October: 65km to a friend’s barbecue in Trenton, NJ, where I drank hot apple cider

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/740008804 Coffeeneuring 1: Knitting barbecue cider in Trenton


15 October: 116km to Early Bird Espresso in Frenchtown, NJ (with a stop at The Spinnery to sign up for a weaving class) where I had a cortado and some kind of cake and only remembered to take the photo when it was finished. Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/745694729 Coffeeneuring 2: UVA Reunion at Early Bird in Frenchtown, with a side of weaving


18 October: 81km to Brick Farm Market in Hopewell, NJ where I had iced coffee and a pain au chocolate

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/748761521 Coffeeneuring 3: In which Celeste chooses coffee at Brick Farm over her mandatory seminar


23 October: 21km to Homestead Coffee in Upper Black Eddy, NJ where I had a not-very-fresh brewed coffee (it was the middle of the afternoon and had probably been sitting there for a while) and a bagel.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/755015918 Coffeeneuring 4: In which there is no canal in the canal for the ride from Homestead to Frenchtown


29 October: 65km to OQ Coffee in Highland Park, NJ where I had a cortado.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/759456020 Coffeeneuring 5: In which Celeste cycles right past the gratuitous hill on the way to and from OQ Coffee


1 November: 91km to Factory Fuel in Flemington, NJ where I had a cortado and a pastry.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/762877063 Coffeeneuring 6: In which Celeste kicks interlopers out of the kiln at Factory Fuel


19 November: 102km to Rojo’s Roastery in Lambertville, NJ where I had a cortado and apple cranberry bread.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/780134636 Coffeeneuring 7: In which Celeste brings her Harris Tweed Carradice saddlebag to the Bucks County Handweavers show (and also gets coffee at Rojo’s)

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 1:35 AM  Leave a Comment  

#WhyWomenDontReport – from me in 1989

I spent a week angrily composing rants in my head about how every single woman has experienced sexual harassment and aggression. Then I remembered that some decades past, I actually wrote such a rant down on a piece of paper. Posting it here seemed like a good reason to get back to this blog after 7 years.

Disclaimer: The incident took place in a particular country where I studied in college. I do not intend to criticize the country or culture, merely certain notions of acceptable male behavior.

We’re at a carnival and we’re dancing in the streets and we’re having a good time so at first we don’t mind that he’s there but then we get tired and we want to stop but he won’t leave us alone and he’s grabbing our arms and he’s playing with our hair and he’s touching us and he won’t stop and we tell him to stop but he won’t stop so we leave and we go somewhere else but then he’s there too and he’s touching us and he won’t stop so we leave again and he’s there again and he won’t stop and we tell him to go away but he won’t and we try to ignore him but we’re getting upset this is our time and he’s ruining it and won’t They ever leave us alone but They won’t and he won’t stop and he puts his hand in her hair and I hit it away and he grabs me and he’s shaking me and he’s yelling No me toque Ud over and over and I’m yelling it back and he won’t let go and we’re still yelling and I’m yelling in English now cause he’s not worth the effort of Spanish and they try to get me away without any trouble but I want trouble I want to hit him and beat him and smash his teeth in but I know I would lose so I start to go anyway but he grabs my shirt and he yanks me back so I hit his face and I hate him for touching me and I want to pound his head into the street but the Guardia Civil are coming and I can’t talk to them I can’t deal with them not now so we start to go and he kicks me kicks me and it hurts and I keep on walking and I hate him because I keep on walking and I hate him because he made me feel this way just because I was dancing and then I didn’t want to dance and I hate him because They never leave you alone and just once I want to say Bueno Dias back and know we both meant it and just once I want to ride a bus without staring out the window the whole time afraid of accidentally making eye contact with one of Them and just once I want to walk down the street without being molested or feeling vulnerable and exposed and violated and I hate him because I can’t fight back and I hate him for making me want to fight at all and I feel like I’m going to throw up like I always do when They are really bad and I want to cry because he kicked me and I just let him I just walked away when he kicked me and did nothing but I can’t cry because I can’t let him win the mental too so I buy a beer instead and I drink it really fast and now I feel even sicker but it’s better because I know it was self-induced I’m in control but I still keep looking over my shoulder and I keep seeing him but then it’s not him and I hate him for making me like this and for making me think that every man is one of Them because I know it’s not true but you never can tell til it’s too late so I keep looking over my shoulder anyway and glaring at anyone who might be one of Them and I wonder when will it ever stop when will we be human beings instead of animals to be hissed at and abused but they tell me it’s their culture and you can’t change it don’t try just accept it but why should I have to accept being chased by dogs because I crossed the street to avoid one of Them and why should I have to accept wearing this shell whenever I leave my house a shell that even the good ones can’t penetrate and why should I have to accept this horrible FEELING just because I am female but they say you should feel flattered they think you’re attractive why are you so uptight just accept it enjoy it when you leave you’ll even miss it they tell me it’s part of our culture los hombres ticos son muy cariñosos and so they think it’s okay but I think it’s disgusting but just accept it they say you can’t change it so learn to live with it give up just accept it they tell me give up


Published in: on October 20, 2016 at 12:24 AM  Comments (2)  

Life in Huambo

the biggest avocados you've ever seen

the biggest avocados you've ever seen

Since I am clearly too busy living in Huambo to write about it, here are some pictures.

We had some water and power problems when we first moved to our new office/house. Here are the professionals (after many attempts by amateurs) trying to bring electricity from outside the house to inside the house.

A couple of my colleagues play chess on Saturdays in the park. This is not them, but this is where they play.




MENTOR staff at work, packaging Coartem for sale in private pharmacies.







The hills on the edge of Huambo, where I go biking sometimes.

The taste of Ireland – there’s no escaping it.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 8:35 PM  Leave a Comment  

Vamos a praia!

If ever, on a Friday night in Africa, you are thinking about whether to take the suddenly-available project vehicle and leave your house without running water or electricity, for the 3-day weekend, and you go to a cafe because you can’t stand to watch the friend of the brother of the landlord not fix the electricity as the sun is setting, and there you meet a Spanish friend who is in the country for 3 months and her Spanish friend who has been in the country for 3 weeks, and you tell them you’re not sure where to go and they tell you some friends in another city are going to a beautiful beach with amazing fish and corrals and other things, and this beach is just outside the city that is 5 hours due west, and you should all go together and camp for the weekend… just keep in mind that things may not go exactly as planned.

For example, when said Spanish people tell you they’ve been somewhere before and know exactly where it is, don’t be surprised if they later tell you, when you are looking for that place (perhaps a place to camp when it is already after dark), that of course they are not seguro, nada esta seguro. And if they take you to a garbage dump by the seaside and tell you that it is a beach and that you’re going to camp there… but I am getting ahead of myself.

First we drove for a few hours in the rain, with our bags imperfectly covered in the back of the pickup, and passed a car on its side with someone trying to climb out. I thought it was children playing on an abandoned car, but we turned around to check and it was the immediate aftermath of a rolled car. There was a man sitting on the side of the road with his ear partially detached, a woman trying to pull another woman out of a window, and another man still in the car. Lots of other cars stopped, they got the woman and the man out of the car and they were fine, although the driver may have been drunk (at noon). Someone took them off to the next town that had a doctor. We got back on our way. We drove for a few more hours, met the Spanish and French friends in Benguela, spent some time trying to find groceries, and by 4pm were ready to head to the beach, hoping to get in at least an hour swimming before dark at 6. Then we had to stop to get gas.  Angola is a petroleum huge producer. Gas is about 40 US cents per liter. This is what a gas station looks like.

Then we were given wrong directions and drove a good way on the road back to Huambo. Then we turned around, and met the Spanish/French, who were at the roadside drinking beer. Without asking us or even saying what they were doing, they dismantled our rain cover and took our bags into their car. (This should have been a sign.) Then we stopped to by charcoal. Then one of the Spanish/French drivers lost his car keys. This is what the locals thought of the situation:

Then we continued driving on gravel roads until about 6pm. Then the French decided to stop for another beer at the road side. We asked if we were almost to the beach. They laughed. This was a sign. Words were exchanged in multiple languages. It turned out that it was maybe 3 more hours to the beautiful beach. We had been in the car for 11 hours. We agreed to go to a nearby beach that was just an hour away, on some roads that would probably have been terrifying if we could have seen more than the area in the headlights. Instead they were just unpleasant. We arrived at the beach. I went for a walk and then drank the French peoples’ beer and we ate barbecued meat and I felt like I was finally having the African adventure that everyone talks and writes about. When I went to go to bed, I discovered that the blanket I’d taken out of the closet to sleep on for 2 nights (no sleeping bag) had previously been used to wrap around animals on their way to the slaughterhouse. Or something that made it smell equally revolting. African adventure seemed suddenly less appealing. I did not sleep much.  But when I woke up, the world looked like this:

So that was okay. The French/Spanish packed up to drive as far south as they could before turning around to drive back home again.

But they didn’t get very far, to our amusement.

I went swimming and was stung by something in the water, and ended up looking like this (a day later, after the swelling went down):

After maximum sun, we decided to head to another beach that was closer to Benguela, which would give us a shorter drive home the next day. Much driving later, we ended up at garbage beach. I offered to sleep in the car. I have issues with garbage. We drove some more and found a tiny, lovely beach. We waited until the enamorados left and pitched our tents on the strip of dry sand, where the rising tide would not reach us.

Right. At 2:39am, we frantically packed our things and relocated to higher ground. Somehow we found a flat spot with a beautiful view and the sound of waves far below. We pitched the dry tent and guy who wasn’t at all seguro slept no ar livre. I was jealous, until we were awakened again (at a thoroughly civilized hour) by rain. By then we were experts at repacking and got everything into the truck and covered with the tarp before the heavy rain started. And then we drove home for only 6 hours, where we had running water for a cold shower, and electricity and internet for a little while. And cortisone cream. God bless cortisone cream.

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 8:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

Angola: nicer than you’d think

After having no internet for almost a week and knowing I won’t have it again for at least 4 days, I feel like I have to write the next post now. But I’m not ready! I meant to take some photos to post and show How Nice Huambo Is. But so far I only have photos of Coartem malaria meds and a rapid diagnostic test. So I will tell you a little bit about how nice Huambo is.

There are wide, well-paved roads in the center of town, many of them tree-lined. There are parks with grass and decorative plants. There is a main square with fountains, a children’s playground, a chess table and–get this–a bike rack! You hardly see any bikes here, but it’s actually a really pleasant place to ride a bike. Except for the whistles. Speaking of whistles, no one pays any attention to you at all EXCEPT when you are a woman in shorts on a bike. You can walk down the sidewalk (because yes, there are sidewalks! and crosswalks! and cars stop if someone is in the crosswalk!) and not one single person tells you that you are white. It is altogether unlike Africa as I know it. The main drawback really to living in Huambo is that all the locals are so much more fashionable. And the water and electricity comes and goes, but the air is clear, you can walk outside day or night, and as a former Portuguese colony, they have really good coffee and fresh bread. And as a tropical country, they have the mango and avocado and papaya and thunderstorms that are pretty impressive, even when you are out riding a bike in one.

Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 7:12 PM  Leave a Comment  

I will absolutely never, ever… okay, maybe.

For a number of years, one of my career goals was to not go to Nigeria. Then in a moment of weakness/unemployment, I agreed to go to Lagos in October 2008. I was only there for two weeks, staying in a fairly low-density area not far from the airport. The hotel was pretty poor value, but it was kind of like being in a college dorm again, but this time full of pilots from developed countries who would spend half their time flying planes in Nigeria and the other half back home, a South African film crew, and other random people you tend not to meet in countries where you can leave your hotel at night. But it was in a neighborhood where I could walk around during the day, taking care not to fall into an open sewer or walk into a wire dangling from an electrical pole and shooting off sparks. Aside from one four-hour trip across town and back for a 15-minute meeting, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. The people I worked with were really sharp, hard-working, and friendly; the local food was good; and I never once felt I was in danger of losing my life or winning a million dollars from a prince.

This all could mean only one thing: I had to pick a new country to never go to. One of the South African film crew suggested Angola. He gave some pretty convincing reasons that I can’t remember exactly, but they definitely involved streets full of dead animals and garbage. There are lots of things I fear or don’t like, but dead animals and garbage are up there with inadequate sanitation and drug-resistant syphilis. And since it was pretty likely that an African country recently emerged from a decades-long civil war also had inadequate sanitation, I figured Angola was a pretty good choice for the One Country I Will Never Go To, and so I declared it in October 2008.

From May to August this year, I took five vacations: the County Kerry, Poland, London, France and Italy. I had a contract that allowed me to work for essentially unlimited days until September 1, but in 4 months I spent nearly 2 months on holiday. I came back from three wonderful weeks in Italy on August 19, ready to work 12 hours a day to get ready for the close of the ten-year project, and on August 20 got an email from DC saying, “You’ve been a great help. We don’t need you any more.” I counted up how much money I’d spent on my five holidays, and began to panic, so when a friend sent me the terms of reference for a two-month consultancy in Angola, I thought, Angola is the One Country I Will Never Go To. There is clearly not even a decision to make. But simultaneously I thought, This could be a great opportunity. Because I have some trouble making up my mind. So I thought about it for a few days, sent an enquiring email, and with shocking speed ended up with a contract where I agreed to do something I wasn’t quite sure I knew how to do, in a language I don’t really speak, in a place I fear and where the average number of rainy days exceeds Dublin’s, for two months, with a massive pay cut.

In the six weeks it took to get visa and travel sorted, I spent a little bit of time studying Portuguese and learning EpiInfo, and a lot of time telling everyone I saw that I was going to Angola for two months. And then suddenly I was here (okay, 40 hours in transit is not so sudden, but I was barely conscious the last 24), and it’s actually pretty nice. But you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out more.

We just moved house so at the moment have no power or hot water or enough water pressure for a shower, but the de-miners down the street let me take a shower at their place, and I have a brand new ultra-powerful headlamp.

Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 6:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

Avoid other swimmers grabbing your ankles by putting Vaseline on them before the race starts.

This was one of the swimming tips on the Windsor Triathlon website.

I’ve seen Breaking Away, so I know that pro cyclists are competitive and dirty enough to stick a pump into the spokes of a geeky teenager from Indiana. But only the most pathetic amateur athlete would grab the ankles of a competitor and pull him or her underwater in order to swim over them. Right? And certainly there was no chance that I’d be in the water with these losers (or winners?). Right?

My friend Elaine convinced me to sign up for the Windsor Triathlon on June 14, 2009 in celebration of her 40th birthday. I know a lot of people who did marathons or climbed mountains when they turned 30, or 50, so I figured it would be my turning-40 accomplishment as well. This was in December or so. In March, I met a number of women who were very inexperienced cyclists and they were doing triathlons, which I found inspiring. I heard about this triathlon on May 30 in Athy with a “downhill swim”, which was supposed to be a good first triathlon, and I figured if I was going to put in all the training to get ready for one triathlon, and invest in a wetsuit, I might as well do a couple. So I signed up. It would be fun, they said.

Okay, there is fun and there is fun. I am all for putting yourself into situations of suffering or discomfort or pain, and think that can make you a better person. But I don’t confuse that with “fun”. Fun is playing in the waves wearing only a bathing suit, in a place with warm air and warm water, where you get out and lie on your towel to dry off in the sun and maybe eat an ice cream. Stuffing yourself into a second skin of neoprene, putting an extra swimming cap on over your goggles so that no one knocks them off, and then swimming half a mile with 150 other people through an icy brown river is… something else.


Someone hauling you out of the water when you get to the end of the swim—now that is fun.

For about 15 seconds while you try not to fall over on the floating dock. Then you run to your bike, if you can find it, and try to peel your wetsuit off, which is harder than you might think. In the franticness of it all, you forget you have a towel to dry your legs so getting neoprene knee braces on is a bit challenging. You remember the towel for your feet and brush off the gravel before putting on socks (yes, a real triathlete does not wear socks) and shoes. A real triathlete also wears a form-fitting lycra one-piece racing suit, but aside from my body image issues, I can think of nothing more unpleasant than cycling and then running in soggy bike shorts. (Okay, I can think of many things more unpleasant, like this: http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=150441&start=1 but I prefer not to.)  So I also had to pull on loose running shorts and tank top, and sunglasses (because it was SUNNY and WARM, and of this I am thankful), and fix my hair, and stuff a snack in my pocket, and put on my helmet, and then run to the bike mount line. All this took me nearly 4 minutes, which is a pretty slow transition in TriWorld, but I did enjoy and appreciate my socks and clothes in the bike and the run, and it was really the wetsuit that slowed me down.

I thought I was a rock star on the bike, cruising past cyclist after cyclist (or perhaps more accurately, person on borrowed hybrid after person on road bike who couldn’t figure out how to use toe clips). No one passed me for the first 10km and then about 4 or 5 people did in the last 10km, but my post-race theory is that all the fast people were already ahead of me, and the folks who were passing me were the ones who started 15 minutes later.  Anyway, I did 20km in 43 minutes, which was about what I’d hoped to.

Bike to run transition was fine (thanks in part to my special new laces!), until I couldn’t remember where to exit the transition area to start the run. After a bit of confusion and running around in circles, someone pointed me in the right direction. So I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran—somewhat slowly, I admit—and I thought I just might make it to the finish, when I saw the sign that said “1km done, 4 to go!” I think that was the low point. The high point was watching everyone roasting in their form-fitting black lycra while I breezed along in my loose, cool, not-very-tri clothing.  And I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran (then they handed out water), and I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran, and I ran and I ran (somewhere around here there was more water) and I ran and I ran, (1km to go!) and I ran and I ran (there was Eoghan ready to take a photo! then some children jumped in front of me so he only got me running away, but at least I didn’t fall)

and I ran and finally finally I ran across the finish line into a crush of people, one of whom thankfully gave me a bottle of water. 

Drinking the water was pretty fun.

Published in: on June 6, 2009 at 2:53 PM  Comments (1)