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Lazy vegetarian meal ideas #4 Easy pepper pasta

I will admit that not all the ingredients were made by myself. The vegetables, preparation and inventiveness was all mine, but I had it with some shop bought red pesto. Why red pesto? Because for some horrendous reason it seems that every single pesto in every shop I go in has eggs in it, except for this one red pesto. I’ve had a long day at the zoo (I volunteer there) and so couldn’t be bothered to make the pesto myself (although I have seen some awesome looking home made pestos on this site and am excited to try and make some soon). You could have this without pesto if you used some more oil, either is fine.

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Can be eaten hot or cold (I’m taking the extras for lunch tomorrow)

What you need: Two/three large peppers (I used red and yellow, but green is good too), olive oil, water, pasta, green olives, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, pesto (optional)

Spices: Basil, thyme, chilli powder, pepper, salt, oregano and a bit of rosemary (I also used cumin seeds, but that’s optional)

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Instructions: Chop the peppers finely ( I like mine in small square type shapes) and fry in some olive oil and salt, after a minute or two of frying add the spices and stir

Boil water and add pasta to the second pot (see packet pasta instructions, cook on a medium heat etc). I used brown penne and some fusilli but it would work with most types of pasta

Turn peppers to a low heat after about 4-5 minutes and stir occasionally

Cut olives in half and sun-dried tomatoes to taste

After the pasta is finished (should be around ten minutes) drain and add to pot with peppers in, stir together with  olives, sun-dried tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, a bit of basil, thyme and pepper and the pesto (optional) until all the ingredients have merged satisfactorily.

Add cheese (optional) and enjoy

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Same sex marriage is finally legal in every US state

The 26th of June 2015 (yesterday!) will go down in history as the day that the whole of America officially legalized same sex marriage, couples in every state in America will now be able to enjoy equal marriage regardless of their sexual orientation. It seems incredible now to think that fifty-sixty years ago you could go to jail if you were in a gay relationship, that so many people were jailed and suffered for something so ridiculous as being in love (or just having sex). It sucks that our societies made such a big fuss for so long about people being gay or bisexual, and its terrible how many gay and bisexual men and women suffered for their feelings and were thought ‘unnatural’ for their love and consensual sexual actions. However, it’s also fantastic and exciting that it is within our lifetimes that this is changing, and that decades and centuries of oppression in America and the West over homosexuality are (mostly and sometimes slowly) coming to an end. Homophobia still exists, but I genuinely think now that in another fifty-sixty years it will be almost completely a thing of the past. You can’t change every single individuals mind, but equality in the eyes of the law is an important milestone, and one that should be celebrated.

This is such a simple and obvious thing that its hard to understand why it has ever been (and continues to be for some people and some entire countries) an issue. Same sex relations is not, and never has been, unnatural. It has happened throughout human history from the earliest civilisations, some people have always been and always will be gay or bisexual, and it occurs frequently in other animals (none of whom seem to mind or have homophobic reactions). Love is love, and a relationship can be good or bad regardless of the sex of those in question, but if a relationship is good and if someone has found a person who they love and trust enough to spend their lives with, that should be celebrated regardless of (barring children and animals) who is in love with who. Finding someone you really truly love doesn’t happen often in a persons life, and when it does those people have the right to have it recognised by their country and law regardless of who has (or hasn’t) got a penis. It sucks that its taken so long to get to this point, but I am ecstatic its happened now. Happy pride day, and enjoy your marriages whoever you are. You all deserve it. ❤

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Misconceptions about vegetarianism and why it doesn’t have to be hard

One thing that really annoys me is people who say they want to be vegetarian, but say they can’t because its too ‘hard’, either for money, social or health reasons. Now, I don’t care if you eat meat or not. I have no moral objections against meat eaters and I would never try to ‘convert’ someone or suggest someone is a bad person if they don’t have the same diet as me. But if you want to eat meat, just eat meat. Don’t make excuses for your meat eatery habits based on how ‘hard’ vegetarianism is, because it’s annoying and largely untrue. Here are some misconceptions about vegetarianism over the years and why they are wrong:

1:People will make fun of me.
An ex boyfriend of mine a few years back was complaining about how, if he went out with his work colleagues and said he was a vegetarian, they would make fun of him and he would get upset about it. He claimed this  was one of the main reasons he stopped being vegetarian.

Now, quite frankly I think that’s ridiculous. All of my life the majority of my friends and people I have known have always eaten meat, and yes often people do talk about ‘rabbit food’ or try to argue you out of it and will make jokes about animals and meat which may offend you if you have strong moral convictions, but I can’t imagine a scenario that would result in someone deciding not to be a vegetarian because people ‘made fun of it.’ I’m not particularly thick skinned, but at the worst its only ever been a bit annoying. I don’t really see how you can insult someone based on being a vegetarian, because what is really the worst thing you can say? “ooh your so lame with your salad hahah”? Seriously?  The only way I can see it being an issue is if a vegetarian (as some do) was being insulting about meat, acting disgusted and making moral judgements on carnivorous people. In that instance, they may well retaliate, and I can’t really blame them. You are completely entitled to your own opinions and moral judgement, but it is not your place to demonize someone who eats meat or force your opinions on others, and if you do expect people to get angry and treat you in a similar fashion. If you live and let live, you will probably find people will reciprocate

A lot of meat eaters don’t understand why someone would deny themselves meat and may find it a bit weird, but it’s important to remember that there is a difference between insults and banter, and I don’t see the banter as a big deal. At the end of the day (I hate that expression btw) you are a vegetarian for yourself, you choose to do it and you choose who you hang out with. If you’re so easily swayed that someone making a joke at the expense of your diet changes your mind, then to me that suggests you didn’t want to do it in the first place, in which case why do it?

2: All vegetarian food is healthy

As if. We have burgers, pizza, pies and can pretty much make any standard meat dish with vegetarian substitutes. Being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily  mean you are healthy or thin just as it doesn’t mean  you have to be unhealthy and sickly. It depends on your individual diet and what you choose to eat. If you are turned off because you think you will just be eating salad, don’t worry.

  1. You can’t have a balanced vegetarian/vegan diet without heavily relying on vitamin pills.

Again, it depends on your diet. It can be harder to get enough protein and certain vitamins in a meat free diet as you have to think about incorporating it. However, it doesn’t have to be hard, and if you eat a good and varied diet you shouldn’t be missing out on anything. Beans (baked, but also chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans etc) are very important, you can also get protein from nuts, seeds, soya etc. Iron (which can also be harder to get in a vegetarian diet) can be found in mushrooms (as can several other hard to find vitamins). Even without meat substitutes (or egg) there are plenty of resources available, but if you do want to eat quorn/soya substitutes they have a lot of protein too. As long as you eat fruit, vegetables and protein and don’t live on super noodles, you should be okay.

  1. It’s more expensive to be vegetarian

This is one I really don’t get. Meat is expensive, and vegetables tend to be cheap. Tins of beans are cheap, and even quorn and soya is normally cheaper than meat products.  Ready meals and certain foods that are pushed as being ‘healthy’ or organic foods can be more expensive, but even if you only ever ate organic and locally grown vegetarian meals I can’t see how your diet would be more expensive than that of a meat eater. I have found no evidence for this one, if you have please let me know.

  1. Vegetarians and vegans have nothing to eat

As I said earlier, almost every meaty meal can be made vegetarian, and most of them vegan. Some people like to eat as similar diet to meat eaters as possible, and for them there are a range of ‘fake meats’ available, replicating chicken, bacon, turkey, ham etc. I don’t really like those because I’ve never eaten red meat and so don’t really feel the need to eat something that looks and apparently tastes like it, but if you want there are a lot of options available. Quorn is a big maker of these, but there are also soya products if you don’t like quorn/are vegan.

In regards to meals, you can make pretty much all of them with vegetarian substitutes. Chilli con carne can be made with beans, soya/qorn mince, a combination etc and can be delicious, you can make shephards pie, vegetarian fish and chips, vegetarian roast dinners (very easily) vegetarian Christmas dinner, vegetarian pot roasts, vegetarian sausage rolls, sushi and many, many more. I can’t actually think of one meat dish that can’t be made vegetarian, if you can let me know :P. The only time it can be a struggle is if you’re eating out, as a lot of places will only have one or two vegetarian options so you have less choice, and sometimes no vegan option at all. However you learn pretty quickly which places will be okay and which won’t be (Angust Steak house is probably not your best bet as a veggie) and almost everywhere will have something vegetarian and will often be quite nice, although it would be good if there were more eating out options. There are also specific vegetarian restaurants (my favorite are south Indian, check out the ones in Euston!) which can be really good to visit.

6: You have to spend all your time cooking
As my blog attempts to show, you don’t have to be a good cook, spend much money or waste much time to have good and healthy meal. If you want to make everything from scratch that’s great, I love to cook like that, but sometimes you just don’t have the time, patience and money and that’s fair. It is perfectly acceptable to add touches to shop bought meals that make them tastier and healthier without having to make everything from scratch (my heaped nachos is a pretty good example of this) and especially if your just starting out with cooking you can buy ready made ingredients and add or change things according to your taste and to practice cooking further. You will have less choice in ready meals and restaurants so it may be beneficial to learn how to cook (which will be healthier and tastier), but if your cooking yourself being vegetarian won’t limit your choice. So my advise as a life long non moral lacto-vegetarian is, no one is forcing you or even suggesting you have to stop eating meat, but if you want to don’t let misconceptions about vegetarianism being hard or unhealthy stop you. Anyone can have an unhealthy diet whether they eat meat or not, and as long as you have a varied diet with enough protein and vegetables you can be just as healthy and fulfilled as a meat eater.

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Non EU NHS workers face deportation due to new conservative anti-immigration steps

It has been announced that nurses working in the NHS who fail to earn £35,000 or more annually after 6 years of being in the UK will be deported, which the Guardian has claimed cost £20.19m.  Keep in mind that  an average nurses salary is unlikely to exceed £30,000, and the top mark still tends to be below that. The Telegraph previously reported that the NHS was spending a ‘huge’ sum of money on recruiting foreign nurses from un-EU countries whilst rejecting 2/3rds of UK applicants. This may seem to back up the UKIP style argument that foreign workers are ‘stealing’ British nationals jobs. However, this is not the case. It is not the case. From what the news is saying, the last coalition cut funding to train those born in the UK whilst ‘poaching’ nurses from other countries. If the government chose to spent this much money on employing foreign workers, how does it make sense to deport them?

If they want to decrease immigration, surely they need to put more money into training people within the UK. But training does not happen overnight, and it still doesn’t make any sense to deport trained staff because they were not born here. I just cannot see what these new measures are going to help. Even if all the non UK born nurses who leave were to be replaced by training those born in the UK within a few years, by 2020 we would still not have trained nearly enough nurses to replace the ones we sent away, and this does not address the fact that as it cost a lot to bring non EU nurses to the UK this new policy is basically just throwing money away. It won’t even stop the recruitment of non British born NHS workers, in fact it may well increase the need for them because if they send a large number of experiences nurses away,they may well find that there is now a shortage of nurses and so they must recruit new foreign workers who again will be deported after six years. And then what? Repeat the process. Forever? Even if we could in the future train enough UK born nurses, that does not help us now. Some places within the UK (Wales is a good example) have a real shortage of NHS workers now. They need nurses now, not in a few years time.

Nurses who were not born in the UK haven’t done anything wrong, and it will not help health, people or the NHS to remove them. This is especially true in parts of Wales where there is a serious shortage of trained medical staff and who urgently need more doctors and nurses and cannot afford to lose any, in the leaders debates a few months ago, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood defended immigration and used the example that the NHS in wales needs staff /now, and cannot wait for future UK born nurses to be trained.  If the government also wants to increase GP appointments to 7 days a week, how can they fire a massive chunk of their staff? It’s mad. Surely if immigration were a problem it should be aimed at people who don’t work and use the system without giving anything back. But people who work for the NHS not only pay into the system, they help provide one of its main services. I read somewhere that NHS nurses aren’t on a list of ‘exempt’ professions for this new measure, but ballet dancers are. Now I love ballet, I’ve done ballet since I was 7 and ballet is both beautiful and really hard, but can you really say they ‘deserve’ to be here more than NHS nurses who care for the sick? I don’t think anyone should ‘deserve’ to be here, the world is large and amazing and people should be able to see it and move around as long as they don’t want to harm the place they have moved to. However, even if you do believe that non EU immigrants should only be here based on how ‘deserving’ they are, how do NHS workers not fit the criteria? Even if we could train enough nurses in time for 2020 (When the deportations will start according to my sources) I still don’t understand why  we need to get rid of a load of the trained nurses we already have and spend more money on training new ones. In light of the Conservative cuts, I don’t believe they will increase spending on training nurses enough to accommodate the need that deporting current nurses will create. If you want to save money, don’t spend a load of it and then deport the people you spent it on. It just makes no sense at all.

We should invest more in training UK nurses, but that does not invalidate nurses who came here from overseas. They are here now, we have paid for them, and they are contributing to our society and economy in taxes and in working for the NHS and providing vital services all over the country. Keep the nurses we have and invest more in training for the future, but don’t cripple the NHS now for no reason. To boost the number of UK born nurses, you need to train them. Do not deport the nurses who are and will continue to be vital to the NHS.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/nhs/11689202/NHS-spends-huge-sums-on-foreign-nurses-yet-two-thirds-of-local-applicants-are-rejected.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11690480/Nurses-will-be-deported-under-new-visa-rules.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33201189

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/04/nhs-recruits-one-in-four-nurses-from-abroad

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/22/new-immigration-rules-cost-nhs-millions-nursing

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Lazy Vegetarian meal ideas #3 How to make good basmati rice

Lazy Vegetarian meal ideas #3 How to make good basmati rice

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Basmati rice is really easy to cook, but a lot of people have problems with it. If your used to soggy,wet,clumpy or otherwise un-appealing rice, look no further.

What you need: Basmati rice (if you make it well it shouldn’t matter what brand/how expensive), 4-6 cardamon pods, 2 curry leaves, a small pot and water.

Measuring rice:  I always make too much rice, partly because I love it but mostly because I just pour it in without measuring it. If you want smaller portions, measuring cups are cheap (I got mine for free from an environmental stand) and easy to use.

A lot of people wash rice prior to use. I can never really be bothered, and its never made that much of a difference to the taste in my experience, but if that’s how you normally do it feel free to do that first.

1: Boil water, add the cardamomc pods (you can open them and add the seeds or just add the whole pod, although the seeds taste better) curry leaves and rice.

2. Add the water.  Make sure it is covering the rice, but there’s not too much in the pot. It should be about an inch above the rice.

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3. Turn to a high heat, stir through and cover with a lid. Do not remove the lid.

4. When it’s started to boil, turn down to a low heat and leave for about ten minutes

5. Enjoy with curry (see my mixed bean curry post for inspiration :P)

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Lazy Vegetarian meal ideas #2 Mixed bean curry

Lazy Vegetarian meal ideas #2 Mixed bean curry

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This one’s vegan :D.

This is one of my favourite meals. I’ve been making versions of it since I was about 14  and the ‘recipe’ keeps changing (its much better now I’ve stopped my irrational hatred of onions). Its also really flexible, you can use your own choice of beans, and if you’d prefer you could even have it just with vegetables (although then the name would be a bit redundant). You can also (within reason) use your own choice of spices, so if you hate/don’t have some of mine don’t worry. It’s also really cheap to make and its pretty healthy/high in protein.
I don’t really  measure ingredients or know how many table spoons to use, I tend to just sprinkle in the ingredients and, after doing that for a while, get an idea of what’s good and what’s not. Don’t use too much of anything, and use strong ingredients like the hot chilli sparingly.
This recipe isn’t hard at all, you just have to go by sight, smell and taste more than definite instructions, which I think is good as you can cook it for your own tastes (which may well be different from mine). Also, spices are great. I strongly recommend you invest in a range of spices as it really enhances your food and meal options. They are also really cheap, a small spice pots should last you at least you at least a few months and should all be under £2.

Please note that in the pictures there are potatoes/rice etc that don’t feature in the recipe. This is because  I made a side dish and realised that rather than write a massively long post that no one would read, I should split it up into three (this one, one about how to make good rice, and one for the herby potato/aubergine/pepper extravaganza) which will be posted soon.

Mushrooms: I don’t really like mushrooms in all honesty, but as they contain a lot of stuff that it can be hard to find if your a vegetarian/vegan I try to eat them fairly regularly. If you don’t like mushrooms, try cutting them up really small and adding them to a meal. You will barely notice them, but you will benefit from them. (see mushroom facts: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278858.php)

What you need: One large white onion or two/three small onions,  olive oil, two tins of chopped tomatoes, one tin of chickpeas, one small tin of red kidney beans, one tin of lentils, mushrooms (if you want them), a large pot and a small pot
Spices:  Garam masala, hot chilli, cumin seeds, pepper, fenugreek, dried garlic, curry leaf, coriander seeds, salt. Use the salt and hot chilli sparingly. If you have any curry powder throw some of that in too.

Instructions:

Pour some olive oil into the large pot and turn on a moderate heat, add some fenugreek and lightly stir (this is for an electric cooker that takes a while to heat up, for gas probably don’t do this step until you’ve chopped at least half the onion)

Chop the onion.Turn on high heat and fry onions until they have turned slightly brown/become translucent . Now turn onto a low heat and leave them to slow cook for around ten minutes.

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Add mushrooms (if you want) and a sprinkle of the spices, add one or two curry leaves and stir,

Add the beans, sprinkle a bit more of the spices (not too much though, use the chilli powder sparingly or don’t include it in this step) and stir

Add the tomato, add some more spices and stir thoroughly to make sure there’s not one load of spice in one particular bit of the curry

Keep an eye on it, stir frequently  and cook for 10-15 minutes

Serve with rice and enjoy!

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Coming soon: Herby Potato, Aubergine and Pepper extravaganza!

 

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Tim Hunt

The response to Tim Hunt’s ‘trouble with girls’ comments went too far. It is one thing to be angry about the comments he made, and he definitely needed to apologize for them, but his being forced to resign, kicked out of various organisations and basically being shunned from the scientific community for the rest of his life seems a bit of an over-reaction. Not an over-reaction to job inequality itself, but to what Tim Hunt actually said himself. Doesn’t it seem a little extreme that someone was fired and his reputation ruined for saying girls cry, something that you’d get a telling off and be made to apologize for in school or the work place? I would say yes, it is very extreme and actually a little unnerving. It has been taken out of context and used to highlight issues that are important, but are not the fault of Tim Hunt.

What he said was insulting. His exact words (as has been quoted everywhere and that will probably now haunt him forever) were: “Three things happen when they are in the lab, you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

This was a really stupid thing to say. Men and women can work together and not fall in love, and a lot of women are not going to cry if you insult their work (although I did find Boris’s comments on male and female tears quite interesting) . To suggest women cry whenever you criticise them has a lot of sexist connotation to ideas of women being infantile and emotional. Suggesting labs should be segregated is also a stupid thing to say (and not a good thing to imagine). However, it is important to remember at this stage that 1: there is a lot of evidence to suggest he was supportive towards female scientists, 2: He fell in love with a female scientist and may have had her in mind for the first part of his statement, falling in love at work doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and 3: He never said women made bad scientists. He implied that they were emotional, and that men and women may be better suited working separately, but he did not say women could not or should not be scientists.

It is understandable that this spurred frustration. A lot of STEM related jobs are dominated by men. Women are still less likely to be in positions of influence (partly because there are less women in the professions so the stats are going to be lower, but they may also find it harder to be promoted) and some are still insulted and stereotyped by their male co-workers. There are still gaps in pay, pregnancy is still being used as a reason not to further women’s careers, and some men are still misogynists.  A lot of this is probably because as there are less women in STEM careers (I saw a figure that said around 15%) there are less women to fight for equal rights and discourage sexist behaviour (not to suggest men won’t also discourage it, or that all men will be sexist as they really won’t). Female equality in the work place has still not been around that long, and its still not perfect. It’s far better than it would’ve been forty years ago, but in some areas it still has a while to go. Attitudes towards women have also greatly improved, but some men still see female co-workers as lesser than male co-workers and will treat them as such. Women can also be sexually harassed by make co-workers, and may feel in danger. All these things are true and should change.

Less girls on average will study certain STEM subjects at A-Level and degree than boys (I remember at my university there were far less girls in the engineering department than boys) and this is partly because we do encourage girls and boys to be good at different things (you will find more girls studying history and english than boys most of the time).  We need to encourage children to pursue what they are interested in regardless of their sex, and do more to help girls that are science and engineering pursue their ambitions.  We also need unions and points of contact if anyone in the workplace does feel mistreated.

There are also of course wider issues of sexism and unwanted sexual advances in everyday life which I won’t go into now as I wouldn’t say its relevant to the Tim Hunt argument itself, but it is an issue that almost every woman will have experienced at some point (often frequently) in her life, it is disturbing, it is not at all pleasant, it can result in sexual violence and rape and people need to know about it and know that it’s not okay. This article does not address these issues, but don’t think for a second that I don’t take them seriously.

However, we don’t need to use individual men who said stupid things one time as a scape goat for all the injustices that women face in today’s society,. Tim Hunt is an old guy (72) and belongs to a different generation. From what I can gather (as I don’t know the guy) he has a good relationship with his wife, he doesn’t advocate violence towards women (or practice it) and he has supported male and female scientists. Nowhere in his interview did he say women should be murdered, raped, hurt, or that (apart from being emotional) they were any lesser than men, and he didn’t even say women couldn’t or shouldn’t be scientists. I won’t deny that his comments suggest he has stereotypical and outdated views of women, but in light of his age and from what we know of his typical behaviour towards women (that we can know of based on newspaper interviews) he was not an abusive man or a terrible colleague who tormented women in his daily life, in fact it appears he encouraged female scientists and was in favour of women being in the field.

As he has caused a lot of offence he should have been forced to issue a public apology, UCL, The Royal Society and other organizations associated with him should have issued statements along the lines of “nothing Hunt said represents our views, we are committed to diversity” and they may even have used some of the bad press to promote women in science. I understand why they fired him in view of public opinion, but I don’t believe they should have.  In the grand scheme of things, he is an old man who said some stupid un PC things (not unlike a lot of our grandparents) and who got told off by his wife for it. If he had suggested that women shouldn’t be scientists than the response would have been more understandable, but he didn’t. It does appear to have been a bad joke that severely backfired and has been read into too much. People are bringing up real issues that need to be taken seriously, they are just blaming the wrong guy for it.

These attitudes may make it harder to work in this field, but I find it extremely hard to believe that someone who really wanted to be a scientist would be put off by some dated remarks like this. To suggest that women are so timid and easily swayed that something this small could put them off a career they wanted to pursue is as insulting as what Hunt said in the first place, in my opinion anyway.  His dated views are luckily not the norm any more, but should he be that severely punished for what he said? Hunt is not the reason for unequal employment experiences between men and women, he may remind us of it but he is not responsible for it. You can’t blame this one old man for your own experiences of inequality, and it isn’t fair to suggest he is responsible for or even advocating inequality. Please take a moment to read what he actually said, and feel free to be annoyed at the dated stereotypes, but don’t take it for anything more than it was. There are serious issues here that need to be improved, but these issues are not because of Tim Hunt and it seems unfair and quite cruel to blame him for them.

Reading

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-hung-out-to-dry-interview-mary-collins

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jun/11/nobel-laureate-sir-tim-hunt-resigns-trouble-with-girls-comments

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/12/tim-hunt-trouble-with-girls-in-science-comment

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/society/11674257/Male-and-female-are-different-hardly-earth-shattering-news.html