Saturday, March 17, 2018

Unlocking life achievements

Although I may not be unlocking blogger achievements, I am doing important life things.

Like cleaning my refrigerator.
And spending quality time with my son. There was no school on Monday or Thursday last week, and Tim was away. So Jonathan got to come with me to work. In addition to doing homework in my office, he decorated all my whiteboards.
He and I also took a walk around the botanic gardens on Sunday.
And went to the Moomba festival -- basically a carnival on the river -- on Saturday night.
There were a lot of intense carnival rides. After watching people ride the Death Hammer and the Puke-O-Swinger, I asked Jonathan if he wanted to come with me on the ferris wheel. He said no. So we just walked around and then went home.

It still counts as a life achievement even if you don't go on the Death Hammer.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

First week of autumn

It is autumn now. The season officially changed on the first of March. You could tell it was coming, though, by the way the sunrise came later and later, and the sunset earlier and earlier. Last week, sunrise happened after we were all awake and dressed and eating breakfast. Although I do like the early sun in the summers, it is nice to be able to enjoy the sunrise without getting up at a crazy hour.

Another sign of autumn are the little yellow leaves appearing everywhere. When the breeze blows while you walk through the park, they scatter and swirl all around you. The borders of the path are lined with them. That looks like autumn.

So autumn. Here we are.

As I mentioned last week, I've started teaching again. That's also very autumn-esque. The first week went very well. I'm all prepared for the first day of the second week, too, and I expect it will go well. But I'm not prepared at all for the second day of the second week. I did that on purpose. I've been trying to regulate my teaching prep time. I will spend too much time over-preparing if I let myself. So I have consciously held back. I have time on Monday to get ready for Tuesday. Because only 10% of my salary goes toward teaching this year, but 80% of it goes to research, I should finish the research paper first, and prepare for teaching later.

But then things come up. This time, a colleague had a family emergency, and I was happy to step in to cover her classes next week. But knowing I'm teaching twice as much next week, somehow I feel twice as nervous about not being prepared -- even though I actively stopped myself from preparing, and even though I still think that was the right thing to do. Stupid brain. Calm down. Chill. Everything will be ok.

Happy autumn.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


I've been trying to write something here every week. I don't know if you've noticed. I figured that enough things happen in a week that I should be able to come up with at least one interesting thing to share with the people who read this blog. And things do happen, and I can write about them. But today I find myself feeling boringly introspective, and struggling to crawl into my posting-in-public suit to make an appearance here.

Classes start tomorrow, and I'm teaching a new class (to me). I think I'm ready. I think I'm excited. I think the fact that I'll be teaching again might be why I feel a little more anxious than usual, and a little less like writing -- even if my posting-in-public suit looks awesome. Picture a wet suit with a bright floral pattern.
Next week I will write and tell you how awesome it is to be teaching again.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Watching the Winter Olympics on a summer day in Melbourne

Four years ago I wrote a very short post about how surreal it felt to be watching the Winter Olympics from Australia in the heat of the summer.

This year, four years later, it doesn't seem as surreal. I am a little more used to our upside down seasons. I don't see the snow covered mountains on the television and think that snowy mountains look like home. That's not what my home looks like anymore. Then, Australia was temporary and exotic and strange. Now, Australia is home, and the snowy mountains are more exotic. Although Home becomes a complicated thing when you speak with an accent and live a life that doesn't quite fit anywhere in the world.

But Olympics. I know a little more about figure skating this year than I did four years ago. I can't quite tell the difference between a loop and a lutz, but I can spot the difference between a double and a triple, if not a triple and a quad. I know if the leg is in the air with body sideways it is a camel spin, and if the support leg is deeply bent it is a sit spin. I sit on the couch and watch the fancy footwork and tell Jonathan that he should do that because it's Amazing! And he rolls his eyes and shakes his head. Neither he nor I are really willing to put in the time to be an Olympic athlete.

On the television, the commentators' breath frosts and the snow flies around the athletes. In our living room, a breeze blows from the outside, whirling in seeds and dust. I hear the sound of a leaf blower, and I smell freshly cut grass. We turn off the television during the ski jumping, and I put on a light jacket as we walk up the boulevard to the White Night summer event in the city centre. Art and light and fireworks, and my jacket is actually a little too warm for a summer evening. We come back and the skeleton is on, women hurtling themselves face first down an icy track. Such a strange sport, I think as I change into summer pajamas, and open the window a little wider to let in the cool night air.

Australia has won fifteen medals in the Winter Olympics ever. For some perspective, Germany has already won seventeen medals just this year. Norway twenty-two. The Aussie announcers proudly point out that although our medal numbers look small, we are still the only country in the Southern Hemisphere to have received medals so far. And then the local athlete, who actually lives and trains in Park City Utah, comes on in an advertisement for Swiss multivitamins.

I take it back. Watching the Winter Olympics from Australia is still surreal.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


I cut into a perfectly ripe pear this morning. As I smelled its perfect sweetness, I felt a sudden wave of nostalgia for the late summers of my childhood, when the air is still hot and dry, but with an edge of coolness in the evenings, and the pears are spread out in the shade to ripen to perfection, sending out a scent of sticky sweetness.

It was a very brief moment of nostalgia. My subconscious brain just wanted to remind me that it liked ripe pears. My conscious brain, on the other hand, reminded my subconscious brain that when the pears started to smell like that, the parents would gather us children around the steamy kitchen table for hours and hours to cut and core and peal and bottle and seal pears, until the house was a mess of sticky brown pear juice and my fingers were wrinkled with it.

But I guess my body knows we have reached late summer, which makes my subconscious happy. The air is still warm, but the mornings aren't as bright. And the late summer pears have reached the urban supermarkets.

They call them William pears here. At home, we called them Bartlett pears. I suppose it makes sense to call them William in Australia, where most people are on a first name basis. Actually, it's likely that in common use, within their homes and among friends, Aussies refer to them as Will or Billy pears.

I've started an online mindfulness course. I've already learned great truths, like stress goes away if you actually just immerse yourself in the project that needs to be done. And while I know that is true, I find myself with a few too many projects to be done. My moments of quiet contemplation sometimes leave me with reminders of one other urgent task to put onto the task list. Luckily, bottling pears is nowhere to be found on the task list. Nor is cutting back hollyhocks. Late summer is more peaceful in the city.

Finally, Cynthia says I should post more pictures, although I don't think she actually ever comes here anymore. But in case she does, here is a picture of Jonathan looking at a flower in our park. I don't think this is the kind of picture he would approve of, but I don't think he ever comes here either.....

Sunday, February 4, 2018

School again

Jonathan has gone back to school. Here he is in the full uniform.
And here he is with his dad.
Last year he was a couple of inches shorter than his dad. This year he is a few inches taller. While we bought his uniform to be a little large two years ago, needless to say he had grown out of it by the beginning of this year. So we forked over about four hundred dollars for a new set this year. They didn't have any long trousers or long sleeved shirts in stock, which means we'll go back and spend another hundred or so in March as it starts getting colder.

So five hundred dollars for school clothes for two years. Is that better or worse than buying non-uniform school clothes? I was going to write worse. But possibly that's not true for a teenager. Certainly I spent a lot less than $250 per year on clothes when I was his age, but that was in another time and a much cheaper place. Also, I was one of the oldest children in a family with lots and lots of children, and my parents always made it clear that there was very little money to spend. Here, the super cheap jeans made in a sweat shop by third-world children cost at least $40, and then there are shirts and sweaters and jackets that must be rotated as well. So I guess I could see us spending over $250 per year on school clothes without uniforms. Perhaps I will stop complaining about the cost of uniforms.

For me, school ended. My January summer school class is over. I still have to finish writing the final exam and do some marking, but I'm looking forward to the month of February with no teaching. I hope to finish a couple more research papers and get back to writing my text book. And yet, looking at the calendar, that whole huge empty month of February only has three weeks left, as we actually start just before March, with one week taken by a panel I'm on, and another week taken by a visitor. I guess I had better be really really productive during that one remaining week.

Why do calendars always do that? They contract ages of time remaining down to imminent deadlines. I hate them.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Australia day

Friday was a public holiday. No work, and there were fireworks. It Australia's national holiday, for celebrating all good things Australia.

It's an awkward holiday, though. For traditional reasons, the day is celebrated on the anniversary of the English landing in Australia in the 1700s. But that also marks the date that the English began their instigation of a brutal policy of genocide. Over decades, they systematically murdered estimates of between 250,000 to 3 million people. Native Australians see the date of the holiday as a date of mourning. And I agree with them. There is nothing to celebrate about European policies towards native peoples. There has been a push to change the date of the holiday, to something that all can celebrate and something that doesn't represent the beginning of genocide. And I think that is a very very good idea.

And yet knowing that, I still really really appreciated the three day weekend. I kept stopping and smiling all day Friday, remembering that I didn't have to go to church the next day. That I still had a Saturday and then a Sunday before the work week started again.

We went to the beach. We were planning to go further south, down the Mornington Peninsula, but we looked up the water quality and it was poor further south of the city -- I have no idea why. The more urban beaches were clean. Jonathan didn't want to go to the closest beach. He has decided he doesn't like that one. So we took a bus a little further and tried a new beach.

Because of the public holiday, public transit was on a reduced frequency schedule. We walked about 30 minutes up the coast to get back.
And caught the tram outside of Luna Park.

Our beach timing was good. It started raining hard soon after we got home. And that was a problem, because we had planned to go see the fireworks in the evening. Perhaps they would be canceled.

We went out anyway, equipped with umbrellas. The crowds were thin. But the festivities were still on. Dinner at the food trucks. Music and entertainment. In the rain.
And then fireworks! I didn't take pictures of fireworks. I didn't want to waste time trying to get that perfect shot when I could be enjoying the show.

But I took a picture of the harbour as we headed back home.
Happy Australia day, Australia. We are grateful to you for all the good you do. And we remember those who mourn on this day as well.