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.