Henrietta Lacks

This was the book I have chosen to cross the Atlantic with me; so it went with me to all airports and planes I have been to going and coming back from home. I had started reading this story a while ago, but ended up not finishing it, and put it on hold for a time when I could dedicate all my attention to the reading, as from the beginning I felt the impact of this true story on me. Now I am on the second half of the book and I am impressed not only with the narrative style of Rebecca Skloot, who I had never read before; but mainly with the story, including the story of how/why/when she wrote the book.


I am not sure if I will be able to write a review that will make justice to this book, but before that, I just wanted to highly recommend this book to my readers. It is impressive! I am absolutely loving it.


P.S.: I am also in love with Fry’s English delight, which I had heard parts of the series on BBC 4 and now I bought the audio book.  I already heard series 1 three times!! [Well, but with me being Mr Fry’s biggest fan that does not surprise anyone or does it?]

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Choosing presents

We have been invited to a double birthday party of two brothers who are friends with my two little ones. The older boy is turning six and, as my son, he is pretty much interested in Ben 10 stuff. Therefore, I have considered several different toys following my son’s advice that it should be from […]

The new year at last

It has been such a slow process for me to embrace 2011 in full. It probably sound strange that I am talking about new year at May! And it is indeed. However, I needed to sort a few things before I could say that I was done with 2010 issues. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to […]

Welcome, 2011

This new year arrived before I could notice it. It has been a tricky time for me and blogging has not been even an option. However, I know things will sort themselves out and I am going to be back pretty soon. Meanwhile, I am working on getting my degree completed. Have you consider earning […]

Reflections from my first year as a PhD student

However, this is the eightieth Christmas away from home, apart from my mum, brothers and sisters. Therefore, I am certainly even more nostalgic and homesick than ever.

Still talking about names

Another search for a name that marked my early days in life was my brother’s disability. He was four and my parents had not had any consistent label given to his difficulties to walk and communicate. This lack of information made up a huge empty space in our understanding of his condition. I was frequently confronted with other people’s questions about what was “wrong” with my brother. I believed that a name to answer that question would have been of great help. I could have just said he is this or even he has that. Instead, I had to provide long explanations about how he used to react, his preferences, his sense of humor, and his dependence, to provide a picture of his difference which did not have a name.

I believe these two conflicts with names became part of my existence, part of the way I positioned myself in the world, part of the way I have related to the world and to others.

Although my study was not an auto-ethnographic research, and not an essentially autobiographical one either, I am aware that my research journey embraced my previous searches for meaning in life at the same time that it incorporated the impact of my personal journey; which took place simultaneously with the research journey itself. It has been a dialectical multilayered process, which can only be fully understood when all these elements come together at the starting point and are taken into account when the destination is eventually reached.

I have embraced this narrative now as another dialogic moment. I am presenting my research to known and known readers, discussing what I accomplished so far, presenting the research process, its completion and what comes next, but I want to reflect here basically on the subjective journey within the academic process.

My main objective here is to draw a picture which helps me to draw a reflexive account not only of the theoretical and possibly political frameworks and methodological decisions I have taken, but also glimpses of my subjectivity in doing so.

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One major explicit aim of my research project involved an interest in finding out how children have been naming themselves and their peers in relation to their notions of what ability is and the meanings of having a disability. Thus, the whole research process revolves around this search, the search for names, and the search for their meanings. However, this search has its roots in my timeless conflicts with my own name/s. I explain.

When I was born I was given a name which was literally invented especially for me. My two then teenager sisters played around their own names and made up a third name which resembles their own. The problem was that the name they made up is hard to pronounce and hard to spell correctly, because of a misuse of a phoneme in Portuguese (that does not sound as my sisters believed/expected). In addition,  it is hard to be memorized due to its uniqueness which makes the name awfully forgettable.
Ironically that is my second christian name (it is common in Brazil to have composed christian names like Ana Maria, Teresa Cristina and so on), which would give me the option to be called by my first name (Maria), but for cultural reasons three of us share the same first name. So being everyone’s name it ends up being a “no-one’s name”.

The conflict related to that first name and its impersonality only became utterly manifest much later. Therefore, during the course of my life, my name was always part of my uniqueness as a person, which pleased me most of the time, but also disappointed me eventually.

After the event of the Internet and search engines, I could confirm the myth that I am the only person to hold the name Hilrani! Is that bad or good? I am not sure yet. Anyway, to make my life easier, since I came to the UK I adopted a short that some friends used to call me (Hilra) and that is less unique. Even a Morgana Hilra exists in Second Life, Google tells me.

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Let’s blog

I have blogged for years, but always in my first language. Actually I have at least one blog in English, but it is not for common blogging purposes, it is a research journal, which happens to be online. I don’t normally call it blog anyway.

Therefore, this is my very first blog written entirely in English. But I am still reluctant about it. I have thousands of ifs and buts in my mind right now regarding this simple activity. I have so much work to be done, I have so little time for everything, why on Earth am I adding something else to the to-do list? Also, there are plenty of good blogs out there, written in good English, by intelligent and articulate people; so who would need mine? Moreover, for what? What can I offer?

Fine, I have all the answers for my questions and I don’t like them, and I am going to start blogging in English anyway. I will be probably talking to myself, which is not totally an unhealthy activity. I can do worse things in my spare time. Not that I have any time to spare by the way.

So, I won’t bother about ifs and buts, never mind the answered questions. Let’s blog.

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Sustainability and environmental management

At the global scale and in the broadest sense sustainability and environmental management involves managing the oceansfreshwater systems, land and atmosphere, according tosustainability principles.[1][2]

Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the biosphere because alterations in the relative proportions of land dedicated to urbanisationagricultureforestwoodland,grassland and pasture have a marked effect on the global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles.[3] Management of the Earth’s atmosphere involves assessment of all aspects of the carbon cycle to identify opportunities to address human-induced climate change and this has become a major focus of scientific research because of the potential catastrophic effects on biodiversity and human communities. Ocean circulation patterns have a strong influence on climate and weather and, in turn, the food supply of both humans and other organisms.

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Eco-friendly gifts

Eco-Friendly Glossary*

Bamboo Garments – Bamboo is 100% naturally grown and sustainable, it is also naturally antibacterial & Bamboo fibre is 100% biodegradable. As the fastest growing plant in the world, bamboo grows to its maximum height in about 3 months and reaches maturity in 3-4 years.Bamboo is known to improve soil quality in degraded and eroded areas of land.

Biodegradable – The ability to break down, safely and relatively quickly, by biological means into the raw materials of nature and disappear back into the environment.

Bonded Leather – A recycled synthetic material containing elements of recycled leathers, leather scrap & tannery leather fibers, which otherwise would go to a landfill.

Compostable – A product made of materials that will break down over time in a landfill.

Corn Plastic – Derived from corn & 100% biodegradable

Cotton-Organic – Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, growth regulators, chemical pesticides, irrigation or genetic engineering.

Cyclepet – Recycled PET into fabric prevents it from ending up in the landfills.

Green – The movement that incorporates environmental awareness, social responsibility, bioregionalism, and nonviolence.

Organic – Products created through a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers.

Organic Leather – Made from skins that are tanned using only vegetable extracts and chemicals approved by TUV. All possible by-products are also re-used. Non allergenic.

PET – Polyethylene terephthalate is the most popular thermo-plastic packaging material used for drinks and food. It is lightweight, transparent, and has a good moisture barrier.

Polypropylene & Non-Woven Polypropylene – Made from carbon and hydrogen, and manufactured without any dangerous emissions. Can be recycled, incinerated, or land filled without any harm to the environment. When burned, polypropylene will give off only water vapor and carbon dioxide, which is converted by photosynthesis. Sometimes known as “pp”.

Post-Consumer Material/Waste – Term used to describe material that is being reused/recycled after it has been in the consumer’s hand (i.e. soda bottles, yogurt containers).

Post-Industrial Material – Term used to described scrap or excess material that a manufacturer reuses or recycles throughout the manufacturing process.

Recyclable – Materials that can be reused. Includes glass, paper, aluminum, asphalt, iron, textiles, plastics and biodegradable waste.

Recycled – Term used to describe material that has been separated from the waste stream, reprocessed into a new product and then brought back to the consumer as a new item.

Recycled Cardboard – The material is made from cardboard that has been discarded or once used by a consumer.

Recycled Content – The amount of pre- and post-consumer recovered material introduced in a material production process, usually expressed as a percentage.

Recycled Leather – Material is untreated and is made with leather scraps – recycled to save waste. (As opposed to scraps going into a landfill, they are recovered and reprocessed to make leather material.)

SAFE Plastic – Truly biodegradable in landfills & composting, environmentally safe, no toxic effects, can be recycled.

Soya Bean – 100% biodegradable & Non-toxic.

*Source: Halo/Lee Wayne Green Promotions, 2010
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