A tale of a weird flatmate

I’ve shared housing with others, usually strangers, the entirety of my adult life, as I’ve yet to make enough money to afford my own accommodations (especially in Dublin, geez). Because I grew up a military brat, and then became an academic, I’ve moved pretty much every year or every other year my entire life. This means that I have lived with A LOT of different people. The main thing I can tell you from my experience of living with so many different people in so many different places over the years is that we all have our own ways of being weird. I could even be considered especially weird…I mean, a flatmate once had to actually say the words, “SOIMF* get that chickadee out of the house!” to me.

But probably my weirdest roommate of them all was Shirley**. She was my first grad school flatmate and we shared a small two bedroom apartment. When I moved in, she warned me that ticks sometimes got into the apartment, which I thought was strange, but in the hustle of moving to a new city and starting my grad program, I didn’t think too hard about it. Weeks later, I caught a bed bug nibbling on my neck in the middle of the night. I walked out into the main room with the bed bug in my fingers and confronted her, “Shirley, this isn’t a tick, it’s a bed bug! How long have you had “ticks” in the apartment!?” She’d been living there for seven years, and had had “ticks” for several of those, but when I revealed they were actually bed bugs, she moved out for three weeks and left me to deal with the infestation. Only after I was able to eradicate the bed bugs did she move back in.

Of course, that was relatively understandable behaviour…humans are weirdly squeamish about bed bugs, even relative to ticks, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the intimacy: they live in your beds after all.

What was less understandable was her habit of asking me a question and then walking away the moment I tried to reply. At the time, I thought it was just an expression of disrespect, like her habit of patting me on the head and saying, “Oh, SOIMF” in a patronizing way (she was not the first flatmate to do this, le sigh).

At the time, the wireless chip on my computer had died after a summer of field work in a swamp, so I was forced to connect to the ethernet with a cable, which meant I had to sit in the main room if I wanted to use the internet in the evening or on weekends. This resulted in all sorts of strange interactions. She liked to get take-out from Outback Steakhouse (a thing I didn’t even know was possible), and sometimes she would stand in the living room in front of me while I worked on my computer and eat a steak (barely cooked) with her bare hands.

If you think this was uncomfortable, it got worse. After I had been living there for a couple of months, she developed a habit of watching, ahem, “adult” videos on the television in the main room. This was awkward, because even if I wasn’t using the internet, I had to walk through the main room to get to the kitchen, or even to leave the apartment.

Shirley also had two boyfriends, one of which I never met (she showed me photos of him) because she only went to his house, and one of which only came over to our apartment (she never visited his). I thought this was strange, but she informed me that they knew about each other and were okay with it (I didn’t reallly care because it was none of my business). One time I was an unwilling witness while Shirley modeled a gold bikini for her boyfriend in the main room while I was on my computer… (so uncomfortable).

One night at dinner with some fellow grad students in my program, someone asked me with barely contained fascination what it was like to live with Shirley. I hadn’t realized up to that point that she had a bit of a reputation for being odd in her department. Trying not to say anything rude about her, I diverted attention to the boyfriend who came over to our apartment regularly. We’ll call him Hercules** because that was my friend’s nickname for him. He was actually Greek and Hercules was Roman, but whatever.

I liked Hercules, so I told my friend, “Oh…she’s okay. I like her boyfriend, Hercules. He taught me how to say “I don’t speak Greek” in Greek.”

Her eyes widened, “Boyfriend? Hercules?!”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had inadvertently revealed that Hercules was cheating on his “other” girlfriend in the department. I hadn’t known anything about this, so the revelation was unintentional, but I still feel bad about it anyway.

Shirley and I lived together for two years before she ended up settling for a Master’s degree (after five years in the program) and moved away two weeks before the end of our lease, leaving me to clean up all the junk she left behind.

She had both her boyfriends load all her boxes and furniture into a moving van while she followed them around barking orders in a gold bikini and heels. 

**Names changed to protect the innocent/weird.


On a day, by Rumi

This is just such a lovely, peaceful poem, I had to share.

On a day

when the wind is perfect,

the sail just needs to open

and the world is full of beauty.

Today is such a


My eyes are like the sun

that makes promises;

the promise of life

that it always


each morning.

The living heart gives to us

as does that luminous sphere,

both caress the earth with great


This is a breeze that can enter the soul.

This love I know plays a drum.

Arms move around me;

who can contain their self

before my beauty?

Peace is wonderful,

but ecstatic dance is more fun,

and less narcissistic;

gregarious He makes our lips.

On a day when the wind is perfect,

the sail just needs to open

and the love starts.

Today is such

a day.

– Rumi

Take a hike! (with me?) Bull Island, Ireland

Had a nice little hike around Bull Island, which I believe is a man made sand island in Dublin Bay. It’s also a wildlife refuge (or parts of it anyway, parts of it are two golf courses haha) and you can walk around and admire the shorebirds and marram grass.

Bull Island
Marram grass!
Bull Island
Common gulls
Bull Island
Bull Island
Anyone know what these little guys are? I’m terrible at shorebirds, but they’re so cute. They ran sideways to avoid the waves!
Bull Island
Such a fluffy crow!
Bull Island
I love this guy
Bull Island
What a ham
Bull Island
Common gull
Bull Island
Bull Island
Sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias)
Bull Island
Can’t believe we get these beautiful colours in the middle of winter!
Bull Island
The northern saltmarsh
Bull Island
Bull Island
Bull Island
Bull Island
Photogenic photographers
Bull Island
Bull Island
Bull Island
Ah, ran out of time!

Links to share

I can’t say too much about this here, mostly because I have very mixed feelings about it. I was never a fan of Prairie Home Companion, but I was a huge fan of The Writer’s Almanac. I think this article is pretty fair and balanced, but I had a roller coaster of emotions reading it. I guess it’s up to each of us to decide how serious this is: Investigation: For some who lived in it, Keillor’s world wasn’t funny

More fingernail biting about the melting permafrost: Is There A Ticking Time Bomb Under The Arctic?

Silly taxonomists…they named this tiny parasitic fly after Arnold Schwarzenegger because it has big legs: The Tiniest Parasitic Fly in the World Is Named After Arnold Schwarzenegger

In December, I won first and second place in a photography competition (I guess almost no one else submitted photos, that’s how I usually win things) and the grand prize was this AMAZING book called “The Botanical Wall Chart” which has prints of all of this beautiful artwork on plant morphology that botanists used to do. This article made me think of that: The lost art of looking at plants

Preliminary results from a citizen science project in Pennsylvania suggest that feral honeybees have stronger immune systems than managed honeybees: Tracking Feral Bee Health in Pennsylvania, preliminary results 2017

If you’re curious about human history, this article might be of interest. There’s a new fossil showing humans migrated out of Africa way earlier than we thought previously: New Fossil Found In Israel Suggests A Much Earlier Human Migration Out Of Africa

As an expat, this made me laugh. The international concept of “American food” is pretty limited to awful things, but there are a lot of ingredients I thought standard that are hard to find abroad. Examples of things difficult/impossible to find from my experience living in Dublin include: baking chocolate, molasses, apple sauce, apple butter, pureed pumpkin, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and a reasonable amount of nuts of any sort (100g packets are you serious with me?). In Australia, I remember really struggling to find mustard one day and then the only mustard I could find was labeled “American mustard” and it was just the plainest, blandest yellow mustard you could imagine. My Irish friends similarly believe that “American mustard” is the subtlest (i.e. flavorless) variety of mustard.* And the only variety of peanut butter I could find in my nearby Dunnes was “American style” (it was awful). It’s pretty funny to have the opposite experience in the States now, where I bought some “Irish tea” and was appalled. We’re all snobs about something: In London, The American Food Aisle Is Filled With Nostalgia And Preservatives

YES! Important info if you’re a fellow target. Mosquitoes absolutely adore my blood and will bite me seven times before anyone else even knows that mozzies are about. This study shows that even swatting at them without hitting them can help deter them from biting! How To Teach Mosquitoes To Leave You Alone

Hmmmmm…eggplant bacon I could be convinced to try**! I LOVE eggplant, this sounds delish: Eggplant “Bacon”

This sounds like fun…look for land that was used for agriculture by indigenous people before, you know, genocide and conquest and all that, by identifying the plants they domesticated: Hunting for the ancient lost farms of North America

You can follow that blog here: https://ngmueller.net/

I cannot emphasize enough how much people like to blame spiders for everything, when they are rarely the culprit. If you live in the northeast US, you do not have a brown recluse in your house; Brown Recluse: Pest Management Tips for the Spider That’s Not as Common as You Think

*I tried an “Irish mustard” and it did make me cry so there’s that.
**Minus the liquid smoke and maple syrup you can’t find them here.