Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ditsong, grad students, limoncello, and labs

Two weeks ago, we attended a public lecture by Dr. Roger Smith at the Ditsong Museum of Natural History. The lecture was fantastic, and covered Roger's fieldwork in Antarctica plus his research on the end Permian extinction. After his talk, we got to explore the museum with wine in hand and graduate students from the Evolutionary Studies Institute by our sides.

This bird specimen, immortalized forever in the museum's collection, has a rather humbling epitaph.

Afrikaans is a funny language sometimes. 

From left: Kathleen (Jonah's honors student); Kimi (Jonah's Honors student); yours truly. In front: a knobbly, cucumber-looking pareiasaur.

Kimi with a massive tortoise.

Postdoctoral fellow Paloma with an even more massive Carcharodon megalodon set of jaws

Kathleen with a GROSSLY exaggerated dung beetle. And somewhat exaggerated dung.

One of the nicer things in the exhibits were these cool batiks showing various insect orders.

Another great Afrikaans word - skoenlappers (which really means 'butterflies') literally means "shoe cloths". Afrikaans-speaking friends, please correct us - is this from the way they flop around?

The Great Hall in the Ditsong, with a modest array of snacks and a rapidly dwindling supply of wine.

For some reason, every taxidermied mount in the Ditsong came complete with anatomically correct dung.

The front facade of the Ditson is lit up at night  in dramatic fashion.

You can see that the Ditsong (formerly the Transvaal Museum) was formerly a glorious place, but that some of the exhibits need a little updating. They'll soon put in a hall of dinosaurs, though, and Jonah is pretty excited!

All that exploring the museum made us hungry! Next stop - Rock N' Roll McDonald's in Sandton. Kimi and Kelsey getting ready to put some serious hurting on a few cheeseburgers.

Well, in other news, it's lemon season here. 
Kelsey's friend Else Uys (pronounced 'ell sa ice') gave us a sackful of lemons from her trees. You know what they say - when life hands you a bowl of lemons, you call Aunt Barb and ask for her limoncello recipe.

Which goes like this: Peel a buttload of lemons.

Apply vodka liberally to peeled lemons.

Obsess over whether it's ready yet

Soak for about a week.

Make a syrup of cream and sugar.

Mix lemon vodka with creme syrup.

Refrigerate and drink in "moderation".

Last week Thursday, we picked up Jonah's graduate student Blair. Blair is just starting his PhD, having returned from a sojourn in New Zealand. Here he is instructing Midas in the finer points of eating pasta straight from the pan, and warning him to never, ever mix whiskey and gin in the same night.


Jonah is teaching his class Form and Function right now, which is taking all of his free time (hence why he hasn't returned your emails). This class is a lot of comparing the bones of one creature to the other. Here are some pictures from one of his labs, where they looked at the bones of various creatures.

Including this chimp...

and these frog skulls....

and this shark splanchnocranium...

and these lovely Nile Crocodiles.