Monday, April 25, 2016

ANZAC morning

We walked up the street to the Shrine of Remembrance this morning. It is ANZAC day in Australia, a day set aside to remember those fallen in war. One hundred and one years ago today, Australians joined the battle of Gallipoli far away in Turkey in World War I. Australia lost many soldiers in Gallipoli -- young people, thousands of miles from home. The families left behind, devastated by their loss, spared no expense to build the Shrine of Remembrance on a hill just above the river. This would be a place to honor their dead, and to remember, so that they would never, never walk blindly into war again.

Six o'clock in the morning, 25 of April, an estimated 45,000 people were on the hill at the Shrine to remember again. After 101 years, those who never returned are long dead. Those who built the Shrine are dead. Most of their children are dead. But Australians still remember.

Some things are important to remember. I was proud to be a part of the crowd on a cold autumn morning. Remembering.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


My most recent posts have just been life posts, not touristy posts or see-how-strange-things-are-here posts. I guess that means we're settling into normal life, whatever our new normal turns out to be.

This weekend we did go to the National Gallery of Victoria -- art museum.

They have a special exhibit on Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei. One is American, the other Chinese. So not really much to say about the uniqueness of life here.

In any case, art is interesting to contemplate, American and Chinese.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

School holidays

Here is a way to wear out a child over the school holidays. First, make sure that before the school holidays he leads a pretty sedentary life. Sure, he walks to school for about 10 minutes each morning, and 10 minutes home in the afternoons. And Mondays and Thursdays he has gym class. Saturdays he goes to skating lesson. Otherwise pretty sedentary. And then, sign him up for skating camp over the school holidays! Three hours of physical activity on the ice every day, three hours of physical activity off the ice. Drills, jumps, spins, even a little ballet thrown in for good measure.

Anyway, try it out. On Monday, the child will come home tired. On Tuesday, the child will come home sore. On Wednesday, the child will come home sore and grumpy, and head straight to bed at 6:00pm, then wake up briefly for a snack at 9:00pm, and then sleep until morning. Twelve hours of sleep! You will wonder if maybe you should keep him home the next day. But Thursday he might just wake up rested, ready to go again. And then by Friday, he will be getting all the extra physical activity into his system, ready to be a full time athlete! But then the camp ends and he can go back to video games.

I know this because Jonathan tried it out. He really liked the camp, and after three months, he finally found a skating coach at camp, so he's back into the sport again. But it was pretty tiring.


Here is a way to wear out a child's mother over the school holidays. Just before the holidays, have her sit down with the guy over her group at work, and in the course of the conversation, have him list all the reasons she should actually be applying for that major grant this year, not next year, even though she had been planning all along to apply next year. And then she can check the deadline for the major grant, and realize she has about two weeks to put the whole thing together. Happy school holidays! Ready, set, go!

Then, while she's writing the grant, put her on a search committee for five different positions, so she has to read about 200 applications and sit through hours of meetings. Sign her up to give a couple of talks, one at the university up the street, one local. Ensure that her coauthors start putting pressure on her to post papers, and revise papers. Maybe schedule a few early morning Skype meetings in a row with another team on another project. Oh, and how about give her a class to teach at 8:00am on Friday. Mix it all together, along with regular classes to run, homework to set, grading, four hours of student meetings....

And I predict she'll stop sleeping full nights. She'll spend lots of early mornings in front of that computer in those two weeks. Some of her friends and family may start wondering why there haven't been blog posts, phone calls, or other updates.  But sometimes that happens under these circumstances. Maybe you'll hear from her again when the grant has been submitted.

Maybe. Then again, the calendar shows two weeks of interviews, followed by a talk in Canberra, followed by visitors, a birthday, and then international travel. Three talks to write. Coauthors to try to placate: sorry you haven't heard from me in a month... can you give me one month more?



Sorry you haven't heard from me. We've had school holidays here. They've been exhausting!

Friday, April 1, 2016


We moved here more than three months ago. Three months is long enough to get all the major moving things taken care of. We found a place to live. We signed up for insurance. We updated our address, and drivers licenses. We paid bills. We purchased an iron. And a hair dryer. Major things taken care of.

The three month mark is a pretty good time to look around and see what else needs to be done. High on my list: Find a dentist. Find a doctor. Find an eye doctor.

The dentist was the most important, because I have chronic periodontal disease. ... Maybe. At least, for eight years my gums have been all swollen and tender, and my previous dentist was very careful with my gums and gave them special cleaning and treatment every time I came in. I had special mouth washes, special tooth picks. Special charts they printed for me to take to my next dentist so the dentist would know that I have a known problem. And they've been dealing with it. And now, new dentist, you have to deal with it, too.

So I searched for a dentist the old fashioned way. I used Google Maps. Where is my nearest dentist? Then I compared all the dots on the map nearby with the list of dentists allowed by my extras-insurance company -- medical insurance is available to all here, but adults pay separately for extras like dental and vision insurance. In any case, there was only one guy within easy walking distance of home who was also approved by my insurance company. So I called that guy, and set up an appointment. And I warned the guy at the desk on the phone about the periodontal disease. And yesterday I went in.

The appointment started as most appointments do -- ten minutes late. No worries. Chit chat. Xrays. Little pointy gum pocket measuring thing. Oh boy. Here we go.

But what? The numbers he was reading were all 1's and 2's. Just in December, at my previous dentist, the numbers were 4's and 5's. Because Periodontal Disease. I know that 4's and 5's are bad. But 1's and 2's are very good. I had 4's and 5's in December. Maybe is this something I should not share with the internet, the fact that I have chronic periodontal disease and 4's and 5's in the gum-pocket measurement thingy that dentists do. Maybe?

In any case, I sat there listening to the dentist read off those numbers, and I waited for him to find the problem gums, the 4's and 5's, but he didn't. He worked all around my mouth, all sides, front, back, top, bottom. There was only one 3, on the top left. All the measurements were healthy. Totally healthy! Healthier than they've been in eight years! Eight years!

What happened?

This periodontal disease thingy was supposed to be chronic. How could it have vanished?

Maybe, said Tim, you're under less stress here.

I don't feel less stressed. I just moved internationally and started a new job, for crying out loud. I've been working evenings and weekends to try to get teaching prepped and papers written and to read a bazillion files for the stupid hiring committee. I don't think I am less stressed. 

Maybe, said Tim, it's the altitude. Or the humidity. Or just the fact that we now live in such a nice city.

Ok. Could be. Except two years ago I lived in this same city, in this same apartment complex even, for seven whole months. And when I went back to my previous dentist my gums were worse than ever. So that doesn't add up.

Maybe my new dentist measures differently? But it was the same stick. The same units. The same uncomfortable poking in all the tender places in my gums. How could it be different?

And he found nothing!

As I was leaving, I looked him in the eye and asked directly: "No gum disease?"

And he said that my gums looked fine. They looked good.

Chronic condition ... gone? Just disappeared? After only 3.5 months since my last appointment? And all those charts I was carrying, to show how we had been maintaining my poor chronic disease -- he thought they were interesting, and he took a copy, but nothing. Nothing?

And then.

And then I went to the front desk, dazed and confused, and the guy there rang up my charge of three-hundred and twenty-two dollars, and scanned my insurance card, and -- wait for it -- I owed nothing.


No gum disease. No charge. Healthy teeth. Healthy gums.

Who has taken my real mouth and where have they put it???!!

I think this is good news? If only I could believe it.....