Saturday, August 26, 2017

Our updates

In North America, all my friends' kids are going back to school. My kid never left school. Our seasons are upside down. Remember? Here, spring is almost upon us. You may ask how I can tell. The way I can tell is that I look at the photos on my phone. They look spring-like, even though they are stamped with dates from late August. That's how I remember our seasons are upside down.

We had a visitor to our kitchen window yesterday morning: a tawny frogmouth. These birds are mostly nocturnal, so it is very hard to spot them. This one was right right outside the window, though, looking around with its big yellow eyes and trying to decide if this window spot was actually safe or not.

In the end it decided that it should probably go back and hang out in the trees in the park. But at least it posed for a photo first.  Pretty, pretty bird.

In other news, we have a new addition to the household. Last weekend Jonathan and I took a long walk along the river that ended up with a tram ride out to Bunnings (just like Home Depot). Jonathan reminded me while we were walking that I had promised to buy him a houseplant, and I responded with, why not go get one now? Which would have been a better idea had I thought about the logistics of taking home a pot, a plant, and a bag of dirt on public transit. But we made it.

And since then, Jonathan has been watching all sorts of gardening videos on YouTube. He has plans to plant vegetables and grow a terrarium and create a water feature, and most recently to raise bonzai trees for fun and profit. Except I won't buy him more plant stuff -- not until we can ensure the new houseplant survives through the next school holidays. Because we don't need multiple dead plants at the end of the holidays.

I know, you say, I should be taking advantage of this new gardening Jonathan and put him to work. Honestly, friends, I tried. Every spring for eight years while we lived in the house with the mega-garden I tried to get him excited about growing stuff. He had his own corner of the yard to dig in. He could grow fruit, vegetables, anything! And he never really cared. And now that he begins to show some enthusiasm we live in an apartment with no yard work.

No. Don't suggest potted plants. He has to keep the one plant alive until the end of the school holidays before I let him try another.

I guess that's it for news. I do love living here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Some photos

A few weeks ago I was reminded that I never posted pictures of our apartment in spite of having lived here nearly 1.5 years, and in spite of having promised pictures soon after we moved in. I guess we have moved in. So without further ado, here is the much anticipated house tour.

The living room. The door leads onto the porch at the front of the building.

And the dining area:
Kitchen, looking toward the window and back door overlooking the park:
Kitchen looking away from the window:
Jonathan's room, views one and two:

My room, views one and two:

Bathroom one, with the glass wall:
Bathroom two. Ok, just the washer and dryer. It's too hard to take a picture of a little bathroom and have it look reasonable.

And one last picture, of the office.

We used to dry all the laundry in the bathroom, but then it had to be moved around for showers, etc. Somehow it found a better home in the office.

And there you go. That's it. Definitely worth waiting for.

While I'm posting pictures, here are a few more quick photos from my phone.

It is nearly spring, and the golden wattle trees are in bloom. They smell wonderful.

And a view of the Docklands. Jonathan's skating lessons are held in a warehouse-shaped building that you can't see from the photo, but is off to the right behind those tall buildings. Every Monday evening I walk this way to pick him up. And nearly every Monday evening I pause to look over the harbor, and often take a picture. It's very pretty.

See, here is another one from an earlier week.

And another one, from a week even earlier.

I'm glad the view is nice, because shuttling to and from lessons gets tedious.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I shower in the dark. And other winter tales.

Sometimes I shower in the dark.

With only one month remaining of winter, it is staying lighter here longer. But still the sun isn't up until after 7:30, and it sets by 6pm. So it's dark when I want to shower in the morning, and dark when I want to shower in the evening.

The master bathroom has an entire wall of windows.

It's beautiful during daylight hours when the room is full of natural light.

It's kind of creepy after dark when you are standing naked by that wall of windows and the light is pouring in the opposite direction. Ok sure the glass is wavy so people on the other side can't see any fine details. And yes, there is a tree whose branches cover the wall on the other side unless you are right under the window. But still. If you are on the sidewalk just below, and the lights are on in the bathroom, and there is a naked person standing there by that window taking a shower, then you will get to see some skin.

Tim and I have argued about the amount of skin visible in the dark from the other side of the wall of windows. Tim thinks there will be none. I think there will be at least a full body blob of pink nude. No I am not going to settle the argument by going outside to check out the view while Tim is showering. Ew.

So I shower in the dark.

There is enough light coming in from the outside to find the shampoo, if not to distinguish it from the conditioner (hint: the conditioner is on the right). And you have to close your eyes anyway when the soap is running into them. So since I'm already showering partially blind, why not just shower in the dark?

Sometimes I shower in the dark.

There is no heat in the bathroom.

We have one gas heater in the living room, and space heaters for the bedrooms for the nights when it is particularly cold. But there is no heater in the bathroom.

If you turn the water temperature up in the shower, you can stand there in the dark enjoying warmth pouring over you. But then you eventually have to turn the water off and get out of the shower and there is no heat and you are all wet and it is Cold!

In a perfect world, I would only shower in the winter on Sundays. On Sundays, I can sleep until the sun is up, then shower in a bathroom lit by natural light, heated by natural sun. No showering in the cold and the dark like I do the rest of the week.

But alas. The world is not perfect. The hair needs washing more than just on Sunday. The body needs cleaning. Hygiene is important. One learns this lesson quickly when one takes public transit.

But oh the bathroom is cold.

Friday, July 28, 2017


A family member pointed out the fact that I haven't written in a while.

It is true. I haven't written in a while. But I have good reasons for not writing.

First, we were going on holiday, and I was getting ready to go on holiday by doing things like ... not writing.

Then we were on holiday and I was not writing because I was on holiday.

And then we were back, and I was not writing because I was just back from holiday and I was in a post-holiday slump.

And then I decided that I liked being in a post-holiday slump and I'd extend it for a while.

Anyway, now that family members are asking what has happened, I guess I'd better start writing again.

We had a lovely holiday. Tim's parents and sister joined us on an island halfway between our house and theirs. In Hawaii. The weather was perfect. The activities were perfect. The people were perfect.

And I came home with a tan line. So perfect.

The one thing that wasn't perfect was the jellyfish that stung me. It was otherwise a lovely beach. And then I encountered just a little thread of tentacle across the front of my foot, that the wave then swept back to brush just slightly across the back of my calves. It totally would have been fine except those jellyfish stingers are filled with neurotoxin. The pain ran up my leg and numbed the whole thing to everything except pain. Pain. PAIN! Yikes!

And within 24 hours it was gone.

Until today.

I am having jellyfish ghost pains shoot through my lymph node in my leg.

Stupid jellyfish.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Things we've been doing

My mother asked me on the phone what we have been doing recently, and I had to think for a while. I guess while a person is in the middle of doing stuff it can be hard to see what is being done, and why others might care. In fact, probably few people do care really about what we've been doing, but for the three people who occasionally read this blog, I can at least offer some words to distract you from the endless boredom of trying to scroll to the bottom of your Facebook feed. (I keep trying to find the bottom of mine, but I can't. The bottom is too far away.)

For me, I am in the middle of exam weeks. Exams take three weeks at my university. After classes end, there is a week of nothing: No classes, no exams. And then there are three weeks of exams, two exams per day. And for the academic staff like me, there is grading. Except it isn't called grading here. It's called marking. The other universities where I have worked required the instructors to grade their own classes. Here, first year classes can be assigned to postgraduate students (called "graduate students" elsewhere). But second and third year classes, especially large ones, are carved up into bits and marked by continuing staff only.

This semester, I was assigned three units to mark: one large second year course, my own small third year course, and one new unit for masters students. I spent a large part of Tuesday and Wednesday finishing the second year course and starting on the masters course.

Then Thursday I woke up with the stomach flu, and spent the day moving between the cold bathroom floor, crouched over the toilet, and my bed, aching under the blankets.

Friday I was able to cut out the crouching over the toilet part, and just stay in bed. But now I am way behind on the marking. Monday, Tuesday will be solid marking. Great.

All things considered, marking is preferable to the stomach flu.

Jonathan has been growing. For him, growing has pretty much become a full time thing. He is as tall as Tim, maybe taller. He has grown about half an inch in the last month. And maybe four inches in the last six months. He probably has stretch marks from growing so fast. If you watch him for an hour or so, you can almost see his height creeping up and up and up.

All that growing has not unbalanced him too much, I guess. He is mastering double jumps in figure skating.
And spins.

A week ago Saturday, he baked something for a cake sale to fund a youth camp at the end of the year. He made a chocolate sponge roll with chocolate cream filling. Although he sold off the cake, he had to cut off the end to make it look pretty. He ate one end, and he gave one to me. And it was so good. Just the right mix of sweet and bitter chocolate. Perfect texture. So good. He hasn't made more yet.

He also won a new tee shirt from a mathematics competition. And a calendar with a new math challenge for every day of the year. In French. And he made it to the semifinals of a French computer programming competition. He makes his parents proud. Except since it is in French, we can't really follow......

And Tim. What about Tim? Well, Tim works from home. I was home, too, all day Thursday and Friday, and therefore I had the perfect opportunity to see Tim at work all day. As far as I can tell, he stays in his office all day. Although he could have been in the living room and I wouldn't really have known. He was definitely not puking with me on the bathroom floor. Nor was he huddled under the blankets in bed.

All things considered, his work is probably better than the stomach flu.

So that's what we have been up to: marking, puking, sleeping, growing, baking, working. Now please excuse me while I go look for the bottom of my Facebook feed.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sydney in lights

I was invited to speak in a seminar in Sydney. After the misery of the one day visit to Adelaide, I decided to plan the Sydney visit more carefully. I found flights that would get me there the night before, allow me to rest and be ready for the visit, and then fly home at a reasonable hour the following day. It was a much nicer trip.

And Vivid Sydney is on now, which is an event where they light up the city. I took a train to the Sydney Harbour two nights in a row to see the lights. It was surprisingly fun. I was sorry not to have any friends along to share it with. So now I'm sharing it with you.

The roof of the Sydney opera house was lit up. 

As was the city behind.

There was a walk through the Botanic Gardens, with lots of light exhibits set up by artists. The pictures didn't work out so well there, but there were lots of lighted trees.

Trees on fire.

Fairies in the trees.

Yeah, phone camera is not so great. But I offer a panorama.

The second night I walked the other direction, towards the bridge through the part of the city called the Rocks. I took a lot of bridge pictures.

And more opera house pictures, although the opera house ended up looking a lot farther away on the screen than in real life.

There were a lot of people out and about and also taking pictures, eating food. It was fun. And kind of bizarre.

I'm glad you came along with me.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Kind of visiting Adelaide

I've been to Adelaide now. I was invited to give a talk and stay a night. And then I was invited to give a second talk the same day, but not to stay a night after all. Just fly in early in the morning and fly out in the evening. Their travel agent contact me with suggested flights. I ignored that request for a long time, because I'd never been to Adelaide, and coming and going in one day sounded tiring. But then I decided ... whatever.  If I went and returned in a single day, then wouldn't have to pack, and I wouldn't have to spend a night away from the family.

So I flew to Adelaide early one morning, arrived in time to give a talk, go to lunch, give a talk, attend a reception, and fly home. I saw pretty much nothing of the city. And by the time I was through I was sick sick sick. The migraine started in the morning, so I took medication to squash it. By lunch it was coming back, so I took the second dose to squash it. By the time I was back in the airport it was coming back again, but I'd taken the maximum 24 hour dosage. And instead of being able to go somewhere quiet after a long day and rest it off, I had to get on a plane and a bus and a train. I was wiped out with a massive headache for the entire weekend.

In retrospect, I should have known better.

I'm angry at myself for accepting the suggestion to commute to and from Adelaide in a day. The trip from Adelaide to Melbourne is more than eight hours by car, so it isn't a trivial journey even by plane. I'm angry that I didn't get to see anything of the city except the inside of a couple of university buildings. I'm angry that the department was too cheap to pay an extra AUD $150 to host a speaker in a reasonable manner. Or that I didn't just pay my own AUD $150 to stave off a weekend of migraine.

So I've been to Adelaide.

Very disappointed. Very.

To my future self: Self, you are older than you think, and even though it doesn't happen often, you get pretty bad migraines, and travel doesn't help that. So remember to travel smart and rest up and pay the extra money to make the travel more pleasant. Thank you, Self.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sneaking into winter

It seems like there are a lot of words about seasons here on my blog lately. But I really like the fact that everything is upside down in Australia, and we're heading into winter. On Facebook, old friends from my old neighborhood are celebrating the last day of school, and the onset of summer. But here the days are getting dark, and the trees are really losing their leaves. A couple of mornings in a row as we've headed off to the bus stop we've seen a local possum hanging out in the top of a stripped down tree. And in the park, while the grass will stay green all year, the deciduous trees are losing their green very quickly.

The semester ended for me at the university. Thursday was my last day of teaching. I have lots of grading to do (they call it "marking" here). But then I'll slide into full time research for a long time. Which is good. While I have a lot of projects ongoing, my pipeline of submitted papers is drying up. Time to write a few more drafts. How boring.

Oranges are in season. Last week we bought a batch of perfect delicious fresh ripe oranges. They tasted like Christmas. And the gas heater in the fireplace is on, making the living room cozy and warm. I'm wearing fuzzy socks and a warm housecoat. It's a perfect time of year to snuggle up with hot chocolate and a novel or two. Or a few.

Nearly June.

So very fun to be living in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Reading old posts

I've been browsing my blog archives, reminding myself of the lovely chaos that has been life since I started this blog in 2008, nearly ten years ago. Wow. Really ten years? That's kind of sad and sobering.

In any case, Blogger told me that I had 29 unpublished drafts of posts, the earliest from 2010. I looked back over some of those posts, and most were just little things I began but never finished, including several awesome titles that never developed accompanying text. (Like "Going places" and "Through a glass darkly".) Some of the draft posts were more complete, but never published for various reasons, reasons such as the topic at hand was a little too private to post on a public blog (family planning and my parents), or my thoughts were too scattered or too controversial and might affect my position at G.O.D University (religious issues).

I really liked the following post, though, from June 2015. At the time, I was worried about moving and starting a new life in a new country. And change. Change is scary.

But reading this old post, and knowing that almost two years later I still swim in the same sea of lovely chaos and worries about the future and attempted optimism, every day, I think that maybe the change was not so huge. Sure the seasons are completely swapped around, and the living arrangements are entirely different. But we're pretty much still the same, that me then, and this me now.


Friday, June 19, 2015, Mountain West, USA

Little things that keep me up

There are scars on my lungs. No sign of disease, but scars on my lungs. You would never know it, unless you took a picture of the inside of my lungs. And why would you want to take such a picture? Someone wanted a picture for a visa application, along with a police report from every country we've lived in over the last ten years, and my entire life work history. I didn't tell them about the time I taught piano lessons to the neighbor girls for ten dollars per week when I was in high school. Do you think that will be a problem? Why would I have scars on my lungs?

This could be a pretty good life right here, summertime. Hollyhocks starting to bloom. Raspberries turning from white to pale pink to dark red to black juicy ripeness. Mountain breezes sweeping out of the canyons late at night. What am I doing, swapping this life for an unknown life? In the unknown life, I will have to lead the group, and train the students, and bring in grant money, and walk and talk as though I am Senior and Intelligent and a Leader. Some days I don't feel like a Leader. Not even a leader. But then the next day, the guy in G.O.D.'s grants office refuses to budge on my financial request. Refuses! Because he is made of refuse! And I get really, really, unnaturally angry. Thank goodness I am leaving! I can get angry at the grants office people somewhere else. Important to spread the angry around the world.

And speaking of grants, I received preliminary reports on the grant proposal I wrote for Australia. The grant was sent to four external reviewers, and now I get to respond to their assessments. I haven't ever been able to respond like that in the US. But the assessments were extremely positive! Extremely positive! They think I can be Senior and Intelligent and a Leader. They know nothing of my fatigue and inability to get that one result I've been working on for the last month. And I won't tell them. I won't tell them about how sometimes, lately, I find myself just staring at the wall and wondering what in the world am I doing? I shake it off, and I remind myself to keep writing. And I'll fake it and be fine. Panicked underneath, but fine.

In my ice skating lessons, I am learning to skate forward on one foot, and then without switching feet, to turn my whole body and continue skating backwards. I have learned that the only way to do this move is to start by pushing off as hard as I can, to go as fast as I can, with my leg bent as deeply as I can. And then somewhere with the speed and the muscles and the pure fear of death coursing through my body, I twist, and it happens, and I'm skating backwards on my left foot. And I'm awesome! Did you know that I'm awesome? Nothing says awesome like a one foot turn. Especially on the left foot. Inside edge.

The new job is like learning to twist from forwards to backwards on one foot. You just need to push into it, as hard as you possibly dare, and bend that leg as deeply as you can, and then go for it! Go for the turn! And suddenly you're skating backwards, on one foot, because you were already awesome. Already awesome.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Flat Stanley's visit to Melbourne, Australia

Stanley's Trip Report.

Date: 1 May, 2017
City and State: Melbourne, Victoria

Dear Diary,

I, Flat Stanley, have been having a lovely visit to Melbourne, Australia. I left Oregon where the weather was cold and rainy, and spring was just beginning to arrive, and then spent a very very long time in an envelope making my way across the Pacific Ocean to the Southern Hemisphere. Because of the long journey, I'm getting back to Oregon later than all my friends. But believe me, it was worth the trip.

When I arrived in Australia, I noticed that many leaves were falling to the ground. I had forgotten: when it is spring in Oregon, it is autumn in Australia. In June and July when it is warm in Oregon, it will be dark and cold and winter in Australia. Upside down seasons!

Here is a picture of me with some cool looking mushrooms, standing in fallen autumn leaves.

The first thing we did when I arrived was head to the market. There is a lot of shopping in the Central Business District of Melbourne. We went into the Central Station to shop. Here is a picture of me with the big clock in the station. This clock opens up and plays Waltzing Matilda once every hour. (In case you didn't know, Waltzing Matilda is an Australian song.)

There's an old historic tower near the central station, too. When they built the shopping around it, they just put it inside a huge glass ceiling. Now you can look at the building without getting wet.

Ok. Shopping is kind of boring. What I really wanted to see were Australian animals. They have all kinds of weird animals in Australia. So our next stop was the Melbourne zoo.

We took the tram to get there. Melbourne is famous for its trams. Here is a picture of me on the tram heading to the zoo.

At the zoo, the first thing we saw were the koalas. Here is a picture of me with a koala. Koalas live in eucalyptus trees. They pretty much just sleep in trees all day, and eat leaves and poop otherwise. Sounds like a good life to me. Except the part about eating leaves. Yuck.

Here's a better picture of the koala, sleeping.

Australia has lots of really big and pretty birds, too, like these red-tailed black cockatoos. These big black parrots live about as long as humans do. They make their nests in burned out eucalyptus trees.

Did you notice how both koalas and cockatoos live in eucalyptus trees? Eucalyptus trees grow wild in Australia. But sometimes people cut them down to make a lot of toilet paper. The zoo doesn't think it's a good idea to turn koala and cockatoo houses into toilet paper. Would you like it if someone turned your house into toilet paper? To remind people not to buy toilet paper made out of animal houses, the zoo had funny signs all over. Like this one:

And they had a giant toilet paper roll. I bet none of the other Flat Stanleys got their pictures taken with a giant toilet paper roll.

Next stop: kangaroos and emus. Kangaroos are big jumping mammals that carry their babies, called joeys, in pouches. They live all over Australia. You can see them out in the fields outside the city at dusk.

Emus are the second largest birds in the world (after ostriches). They also live wild in Australia, although my host family tells me they haven't seen as many wild emus as wild kangaroos. In the zoo, the emus and kangaroos were hanging out together. Here we all are together.

And a little closer shot of just the animals:

Next, I really really wanted to see a platypus. A platypus lives in the water. It has the body like an otter, flippers, a tail like a beaver, and a beak like a duck. And it is a mammal, but it lays eggs. What!? Oh, and the male platypus even has a poisonous spur on its back foot. When the English people first arrived in Australia, they told everybody back home about the crazy platypus, and their friends and family didn't believe such an animal really existed! They thought there could be no such thing as an otter with a duck bill. Surely it was just a joke!

Anyway, I saw a platypus, and it is not a joke. I did get a picture with a platypus, but the platypus was swimming pretty fast, and it was dark inside the platypus home. In this picture, you can just see me and the platypus's beak. It really is a duck bill, I promise.

Final stop at the zoo: the butterfly house. In the butterfly house, butterflies from all over Australia flutter around and even land on people.

After seeing all the Australian animals in the zoo, we were pretty tired. We headed home on a tram again, passing the Queen Victoria Market, where people buy and sell all kinds of stuff. But remember how shopping is kind of boring? We decided not to get off the tram to check out the market. I did take a picture of the outside, though.

Do you see that sign with a 60 in a circle? That's what a speed limit sign looks like in Melbourne. And be careful! The 60 means you can only go 60 kilometers per hour. That's about 40 miles per hour. If you go 60 miles per hour on the road next to the market, you will have to pay a lot of money for a speeding ticket!

We stopped next on the south bank of the Yarra River. The Yarra River is the river that runs through Melbourne. There were a lot of people out walking along the river, because it was such a lovely autumn day. There were also non-people out, I guess kind of like me.
We could see the city skyline from the river. Melbourne is such a beautiful city. In this picture you can see the orange coloured Flinders street train station, and the spires of St Peter's cathedral, and other buildings. Notice that I spelled coloured with a "u" in the middle. They do that here.

We stopped very briefly at Federation Square, which is the central square near the river and just across the street from Flinders Street Station. There wasn't anything big going on, but they sometimes have shows and things in the square. The buildings you see include the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (a museum all about movies), an art museum, and a cafe. It's a lovely square. And did you notice how I spelled Centre? They spell it that way here.

Final stop: One of the most famous buildings in Melbourne: The Shrine of Remembrance. During World War I, over 100 years ago, many Australians left Australia to fight, and many many young people were killed far away from home in places like Turkey. Their families were so sad that they built a beautiful building, called the Shrine of Remembrance, to help them remember how much they loved their families, and how sad it was to fight wars. This is a picture of me at the Shrine at sunset.
And looking back at the city from the Shrine:

I had such a lovely time in Australia. I hope I can come back soon, next time with my good pal Jake and his family. There are a lot more things to see and do!