Monday, October 22, 2007

The verdict

The pie isn't bad. Actually hard to distinguish from pumpkin, except next time I should put the potato into a blender. The little remaining chunks of sweet potato are a little disconcerting.


Time is different here. One way that does bother me is that television schedules are only approximate. The 9:30 show started at around 9:36.

Oh yeah

Just as I mostly finish unpacking, I am going to the States for 2+ weeks. Most of you who read this probably already know that. I'll be in NYC for most of the time (a conference is the motivation for this trip) but stopping in LA on the way out....

Don't know if I'll blog while I'm gone.

Wacky flower blogging

I am having some trouble with the focus on my camera, so these don't convey quite as well as I'd like the wonderfulness of some of my neighborhood flowers. But they are wonderful.

Sweet potato pie

Sometimes my stubbornness horrifies even me. An idle thought of how nice it will be to be able to have the wherewithal to make a pie again somehow got translated into an obsession with baking a pumpkin pie NOW. (Pumpkin pie baking obsession is not entirely new. I had a baking compulsion for a month or so as I was finishing my dissertation.)

This was a bad idea--I'm coming down with a cold, flying to NYC early tomorrow, hardly unpacked (nor fully packed)--but that didn't stop me. I thought it would be nice to take pieces of pie on the long flight with me to munch on during those times that I get ravenous and the flight attendants are MIA. But then, the reality of Aussie life tried to intervene. Aussie stores don't seem to carry canned pumpkin or Crisco. Aussies eat pumpkin soup and carve pumpkins for Halloween, but they don't seem to make pumpkin pies (I remember seeing a can of pumpkin at some point here, since I think that was what triggered the whole anticipation of pie-making.) I scoured all of Glebe for pumpkin and Crisco, with an increasingly hysterical interior monologue running furiously about the cultural and culinary inferiority of Australians. A sane person would have given up.

But no. In about the 4th grocery story, I caught sight of a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are sort of like pumpkins, thought my pea brain. The right color, sort of right texture. So I have now made a sweet potato pie with a butter-based crust, which is currently cooling on the counter.

I'll let you know how it is.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

No more boxes

With one exception (a box full of hangers, which will hang around until I have a place to hang them) all of the boxes are unpacked. This includes some cheating--one shelf in the sunroom closet is chock-full of books. The kitchen in particular is pretty well put to bed.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I slept in my bed last night for the first time since July 7.


I made quite a bit of progress unpacking today, finally. I was interrupted by discovering I had left my wallet at last night's outing. Fortunately, the venue had it and was able to return it, so nothing but time lost.

I am still a bit discouraged by the crazy layout the sofa problem is forcing and by other quirks of the place. But really, life goes on, you know? The air was spectacular today--soft and sweet smelling with a breeze--so who gives a damn about not having ergonomically perfect kitchen design?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The sofa in the sunroom



Unfortunately, I'm not at the after stage yet....


More political detours

I just couldn't resist.


Has come!!! The experience is less exhilarating than I had hoped for, since my sofa does not fit through either door into the main part of the house. So that whole day agonizing over the piano/antenna dilemma? All moot. The sofa lives in the sun room and by default, I'll be having a dining table in the back living room (along with television and comfy chair). Also some problems with broken/damaged/soiled furniture has made me a bit grumpy about it all. Nothing super bad in the grand scheme of things, but still.

I have been taking pictures with lovely repaired camera and will post them soon.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Is finally getting attention from a wonderful seeming repair shop, so there should be pictures soon.

I love my job

....but I have just spent a good chunk of time doing the thing I should have done before I accepted the job--reading through the research interests of everyone on the faculty and looking at the course offerings.

I have come to the sad conclusion that my school is woefully weak in microeconomics. We did hire a promenent labor economist from an Ivy League school, which is a start, but really, he just does empirical work. Which is great, but I am an accidental theorist, and I want to talk with someone about mechanism design (which, by the way, was the subject of this year's Nobel), and there is no one here who would understand it better than I do. Which is sad, because I don't really understand it at all.

Oh, and to my horror, they teach a whole course on the economics of auditing and assurance services (out of the accounting department, no doubt) and anyone who uses the phrase "assurance services" in a course title is automatically signalling his/her ignorance about economics. So they are propagating next door everything I am fighting (pitifully) against.


Sunday, October 14, 2007


I spent pretty much all of yesterday, a gorgeous sunny Sunday, worrying about television antennae. I hate being in these situations where I really just do not have a clue as to what to do.

Yesterday unfolded this way:
1. My furniture is coming sometime this week (yay!) so I need to figure out as best as possible how I am going to lay out my house.

2. I'd really like to have a place where I can easily have largish sit-down dinner parties.

3. The sun room is not large enough to hold a table that will sit more than four (and four tightly).

4. So if I am going to have my wish, I need one of the two public rooms in the main part of the house to have a dinning table.

5. The obvious room for that is the back room, which is next to the kitchen.

6. The back room is about a foot longer, front to back, than the front room, and the door to the bedroom in the back is placed closer to the corner of the room than the equivalent setup in the front. As a result, the back room has significantly more usable space.

7. Both public rooms are narrow, so my sofa (6 ft+) will fill up whatever wall it is on, which means that I cannot have my preferred tv arrangement where the tv is at the foot of the sofa. I do not want it to share the wall across the way with my armchair, since almost all of the time, I like to watch tv sitting in my armchair, and I believe that the angles are such that this won't work (though as I type, I think I should investigate that assumption further....)

8. The "tv point" as it is called here--the jack along the wall that connects to the roof antenna--is on the back wall of the back room. I can (and currently am set up this way) arrange to put the tv against the wall shared by the bedroom in the back. This is a nice solution to the tv placement problem if the living room is the back room.

9. If I do this, however, the back room is out as far as a dining room. Given how long a trek it is from the kitchen to the front room, I don't think it makes sense to set up as a dinning room. Though I could do it, since I'll have a small table in the sunroom and will eat there on a regular basis, and maybe the trek is worth it on the occasions in which I want to have a real dinner party. (Much as I'd like to do so regularly, I suspect it will not happen every week!).

10. I know this is torturous, but this is my day yesterday, chasing these thoughts around in circles.... Anyway. I have two other large items that need to be reckoned with (and why this is important to figure out now): a desk, which is really a door laid across two filing cabinets and therefore huge (also will take up an entire wall) and a piano. The piano has a far smaller footprint than the desk, but will also take up most of the wall it is against. It is also very heavy and not easy to move around if I change my mind.

11. I could put the piano against the back wall of the front bedroom, turning it into guest room/piano room. Which is a little less gracious for the guests (but not horrible) and makes sense in other ways, since it is unlikely I'll be practicing tons when guests are around (or ever, really) so if that room is to be dual purpose, that is a sensible pair.

12. There is no point in putting the piano in there if I'm not going to have half a room dedicated to a dining room, since then there would be one room with just the desk in it. (Again, as I type, I think maybe I should examine this assumption as well). I might as well leave more room in the guest room for bedroom-y sorts of things, and have the front be joint desk and music room.

13. So to my mind at least, I need to decide the dining room conundrum in order to figure out the location for the piano, which is the one piece I'd really like the mover to put in place then not move again.

14. Which brings me back to antennae. My tv reception mostly sucks. I get terrible ghosting (see, I have learned the technical terms--not a good sign!) on all channels and a weak signal on some. Also probably some other forms of interference, which I haven't positively identified. There are two possible reasons for this: my area gets bad reception or my antenna is out of whack.

15. I actually got up on my roof yesterday (no broken neck, mom!) to investigate the situation. There are actually two antennae up there. One attached to the chimney that appears to be facing a slightly different direction than the neighbors' antennae. The other lying on its side on the kitchen roof. Clearly not functioning. Both were connected to the wall jack through a splitting device that was probably installed wrong. I took out the splitting device and replaced it with a joiner for just the antenna attached to the chimney. The picture improved significantly, though still has problems with ghosting and is sensitive to exactly how the cable lies and the tv is turned etc.

16. (This has a point, sort of, I promise) I did lots of frustrating googling, and found that digital set top boxes can improve things remarkably under some conditions. So I bought a set top box at the local electronics store. It was unable to find any channels in its search and so utterly failed to help.

17. My current conundrum is this: if it is true that the problem with the box was with the box, not the rest of my set up, I could get a different box with a much better result. If it is true that a digital box will improve things markedly and if it is true my antenna is misdirected, it may be true that a good set top antenna plus a set top digital box would provide good enough reception for my tv wants. In which case, I could easily and cheaply have the living room in the front.

18. If I need the roof antenna to get reception, then perhaps I need to hire an antenna person to come and focus it properly and help with the digital set up. And then I probably want to keep the living room in the back.

19. I could give up entirely on broadcast tv and get pay tv. The cheapest of which is 39.95 per month, which isn't too bad, but I promised myself I'd live cheaply if I were going to pay so much in rent. And I don't like, on moral grounds, to pay for tv.

20. And it isn't clear to me how pay tv works here. As far as I can tell, it may be the case that the cable is actually attached to the antenna and the same wall jack would be used for pay tv. In which case I am back in the back room.

21. Or I could pay someone several hundred dollars to create a tv point in the front room. Now I'm paying lots of money (though just once) for tv again. Though in some ways, it would be buying a dining room, which I approve of.

22. Yuck! What should I do??? Where should I put the piano???

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I miss my books

Through a long and random series of events, which I won't bother recounting here, I have developed a near overwhelming desire to have my book of Edna St Vincent Millay sonnets to read RIGHT NOW! I thought about including her in my FedEx package (along with my other longing, Home Comforts) but then thought I could survive for a couple of months without a book of poetry that I only occasionally want to read.... Sigh!

Anyway, in a desperate attempt at a substitute, I have started to write my own Millay-ish sonnets. The results of the attempt will most certainly NOT be posted here, but one consequence is that I have iambic penameter running as a drumtrack in my brain right now. I wonder if that might be the solution for my writers block on my game theory article.....

"The earlier attempts to model fraud
are limited in mutitudes of ways....."

hee hee hee.

More on Aussie slang

I actually used "g'donya" (a contraction of "good on you" that is a multipurpose phrase: for a full exploration of all of its possible meanings, go watch The Castle. Go watch it even if you could care less about "g'donya") in conversation the other day. I used it ironically and in a gentle mocking of an Aussie colleague who had just used it referring to me in a patronizing way. But I did use it. 'Tis a slippery slope I'm on!

Monday, October 8, 2007


My god it is raining hard. And with a corrugated metal roof, it is loud!!!!

Fauna factoid

According to my new friends and aquarium-going buddies, there hasn't been a death from a spider bite in Sydney since the 1980s when they developed a new antiserum. Somehow, that doesn't make me feel particularly good about my resident arachnids!


Yes, I heard this wonderful example of Aussie slang used in a sentence today. With a straight face. By a well-educated, relatively dignified septuagenarian in a conversation about the journal ranking exercise the Australian government is going through right now.

I did sort of want to hit the stop button and cackle with glee, but I guess that is what a blog is for.

Still more fauna

There was a really disgusting worm slowly oozing along the wall in my "dining room". We aren't talking about your friendly neighborhood earthworm. This was more primitive, oozier and sort of what I think a tape worm must be like. Gross.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I went to the Sydney Aquarium today, finally, meeting for the first time some more friends of friends and their 2 little boys. I'm definitely thinking about getting a season pass and going back (regularly?) late on weeknights when it isn't quite so full of kids. It is pretty amazing to watch a HUGE sting ray swim overhead.....

Saturday, October 6, 2007


The whole moving to a new continent all alone thing really sucks when one is home alone on a Saturday night. Stiff upper lip and all, but it sucks.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

More on the local fauna

Yesterday I got some warnings from my officemate about spiders and moths. Apparently in the summer, the moths come, sometimes in plague-like swarms, and munch holes in all of your clothes. There are two on the ceiling right now and really quite a lot flying around the garden near my open windows and I hope they don't find my clothes until I can figure out how I want to cope.

Apparently, the poisonous spiders in Sydney are small and harmless-looking. The officemate doesn't like to kill spiders--in Finland it is considered bad luck, and besides, they eat other pests--but when in doubt she does kill spiders here. Apparently the bad ones also hang out in places where one is likely to reach with blind hands too.

I think the Bill Bryson book talks about a museum dedicated to all of Australia's poisonous beasts. I should go and get educated.

Off topic

I really don't want this blog to become political (unless it is ruminations on Aussie-US relations or how my view change in response to being over the really big pond) but this is funny and somehow, perhaps, is relevant in an obscure way because I find it funnier after political discussions with my Finnish officemate.....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Interesting fauna

Another encounter with a strange beast this morning:

In my bathtub was an insect that looked exactly like a eucalyptus leaf. The "stem" was its head (I think), which retracted when I went to scoop it out and put it outside.

No clue how it locamoted into my bathroom!