Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things that go bump in the night

I just went out to return some (probably overdue) library books tonight at around 10 pm, and ran the gamut of nocturnal animal and insect adventures.

First off, I saw a beautifully constructed spiderweb in the light of my porch with a proud little spider sitting at its heart, smack in the middle of the arch over the path to the gate. Fortunately, the little guy seems to have constructed it well, with no anchors down, and it is just high enough to pass under.

Then as I was about to reach my gate (this is all of 3 steps, mind you) I saw a HUGE spider suspended in mid air. Fortunately, he was not over the path, so again I could pass unmolested.

When I got to the library, I think I saw my first flash of Aussie possum moving out of sight. They are furrier than the US version and therefore more appealing. I was so excited about the possum that I ran smack into a big spider web with a big spider in it. Full forehead full of silk. Fortunately, the spider stayed out of my hair.

I walked very carefully home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Sydney is, unfortunately, famous for its roaches as well....

Science experiment

I'm starting a new sourdough, growing my own yeasts, and when I added the newest round of flour and water last night, the mix was sort of a yucky grey slurry that filled less than an inch of the container. When I woke up, this is what it looked like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So much for the puritan work ethic

It is 10:12 am on Wednesday and I am still in my pajamas. Typical for me these days. Not good!

Creepy Crawly update

I've decided that the really scary-gross flat black things that showed up in my bathroom are leeches. This is based on no evidence at all. But it has rained a lot recently, so I am totally paranoid every time I go to the bathroom....

Another recurring fear came true last week: I stepped on a slug in my sun room. When I was a little kid, I stepped on a slug and it squished between my toes. Ever since, I have had a real phobia of slugs. I am proud to report that I did NOT scream this time. I did NOT have a heart attack. I did get grossed out...

Strangely, if you give a slug a shell, it becomes cool in my book. There are some fabulous snails here. I saw one the other day (again, lots of rain) that was out of its shell and in its full glory. Pretty fabulous, 3 inch long translucent beast with an inch high shell.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I finally feel like I've had a proper Thanksgiving: my one American colleague had me over this evening for a Thanksgiving meal. Very nice time had and it was even rainy and cold the last few days to help with the mood. We bonded over the lack of Libby's pumpkin. The hostess had bought a pumpkin in the fall (read: June) and boiled it down and froze it in anticipation of the holiday, but I'm not sure that is the right approach. I'm rather pleased with my sweet potato pies, particularly now that I have a food processor. And apparently, there is a store in Melbourne that sells Libby's and has a website, if I get desperate...

A small point

A spelling curiosity: the act of working is spelled labour but the political party is spelled labor. Make up your minds!

Aussie politics

The labor party routed the liberals in the national elections today. John Howard's 11 year run is finally over, and the Bush bubble just got a bit lonelier.

The political scene here is incredibly difficult to follow, starting (but just starting) with the fact that the right(er) wing is the liberal party. The voting rules are also incredibly complicated and involve listing preferences and passing votes forward towards the two main parties from all of the small parties. Makes the electoral college sound easy to understand....

According to the negative campaign ads showing on tv leading up to the election, the Australian economy is just about to get "stuffed" by Labor, and we'll be having violent strike after violent strike.

Can't wait!

Monday, November 19, 2007

I still CAN work

One good thing:

I had been having occasional anxiety flashes about my ability to ever work hard again. They are gone now. I have proved that it is still possible.


Well, I didn't succeed in finishing the overhaul in time for the conference deadline, so I had to submit an old (far inferior) draft. REALLY frustrating, though in some ways inevitable. Even if I had finished the quick and dirty version of my new approach, it would still be scary to send it off without some polishing. I was using techniques and modes of argumentation that are new to me and I do not know how to evaluate whether I am successful in expressing myself.

And of course, the ultimate goal is publication in a top journal, not the conference, so none of this is for naught. But still, I feel flat, and I missed out on frisbee and yoga in the dash to finish, so have no opportunities for group physical activity to let off steam.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ah, just like the good old days

I am having serious flash backs to my dissertation-writing days. I am working to try to totally overhaul a paper of mine within the next 24 hours to submit to a high-powered conference. I had a great break-through on Friday and have a totally new, much better conceptualization of the model I have been sitting with for the past 3 (?!?) years, but it requires a total re-write, and some brand new modeling. I find in these times of real creativity, I need to get up and walk around or eat something...or blog...every half sentence. Slows everything down significantly.

I think standing on my head might help too. I might get over my inhibitions of doing headstands in the office, at least on weekend evenings!

More Sydney fashion sense

I guess I haven't been out and about on weekend evenings until now, because once again, I am struck by the fashions, which, to my eye, are fairly hilarious. 20 somethings here really do dress straight out of the Reagan years. I saw another fabulous get-up tonight: a waistless navy blue mini dress with the bottom hem falling one third of the way down her thigh and finished with a sort of cuff that is smaller in diameter than the skirt above it, causing the skirt to puff a bit. The dress had a mock turtleneck and possibly even puffed cap sleeves (not sure I quite remember). The only updating was a circle cut to display too much of a silicone-enhanced cleavage. Opaque dark stockings and white precariously high heels. Frosted highlights and a suspiciously even and dark tan.

Sorry, I feel a little snarky and mean talking about fashion here. I AM being patronizing. But it is nice to feel snarky and patronizing sometimes when so often here I am the clueless one....

Cutting it close

I really should be trying to squeeze out a bit more work on my paper that is due tomorrow evening for a conference submission, but I don't think I will. I've been so tired lately that I think I should try to unwind and get some sleep....

A small mystery solved

I finally located (by accident) the cafe that I ate at back in April when I was here for my interview. I had woken up before dawn and when the sun (finally) started to come up I went for a walk around Ultimo and Glebe to try to get a sense of where people lived. After a couple of hours of wandering around, I had a very satisfying plate of eggs at a cafe.

Now that I am living here and understand the geography I had expected to place that cafe, but hadn't passed it before this evening. It is just a block off of my now normal orbit....

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sydney styles

I was out tonight for one of the first times in the hip night club area of Surry Hills for the birthday celebration of a coworker. Nightclub districts are distinctly not my style and I usually feel horribly schlumpy and unfashionable. Not so here. There were the fabulous drag queens and punks with hardcore mohawks, but in general, I felt like I was in a Soho (the architecture and decor of the area are pretty hip) that had been mysteriously taken over by New Jersey teenagers circa 1983. On my way home, I was walking behind a girl dressed in a leather jacket with huge shoulder pads, a silver lycra mini skirt, opaque black tights and, pulling together the ensemble with a je n'e sais qua flair, 3 inch white leather pumps. Oh yeah, she had a nice high perm and I could just imagine the blue eye shadow and chewing gum. She was representative of the sample, too.

I suppose I probably was schlumpy and unfashionable, but I was okay with it.

Visualize this

I walked through Hyde Park this evening at dusk, and saw what first appeared to be large black birds circling around. Think a murder of crows. But they were a bit hunchbacked and then, looking straight up at the underside of one, its silloutte looked awfully reminiscent of the batman logo. Not a bird at all. Bats. Lots of them and huge.

I must say, the animals in Sydney sure are interesting.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another friendly visitor

Another skink came for a visit this morning. I managed to grab my camera before he scuttled back into whatever crack he came from.


I am determined to have this cat keeping me proper company soon. S/he runs away when I come near, but used to only sleep at the very back of the garden. I take this as a sign of progress. I think I may have to break out the cream bribes.

(Note the change in weed density from below)

Not your friendly northern hemisphere weeds

Look at the thorns on this baby.

(Note: I recommend clicking on this on the picture for full effect)

It's a jungle out there!

(I've got a bit of a backlog with the photos, so this is a bit out of date)

It rained a lot while I was gone and this was my backyard when I got back. The grass roots were very tenacious and it is really a vine, so the effect of my weeding is rapidly fading.

I also need to start composting...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


One scary aspect of this move is that Aussies follow British spelling conventions. Many of you who read this may not know this about me, but spelling is VERY hard for me. It devastated my grades in elementary school and I have traumatic memories of NEVER getting words right. I remember a time in 5th grade (Mrs Rose's class) where we were studying ei vs ie and had "their" on our spelling test. I actually managed to spell it correctly that first test, but many other people didn't. So Mrs Rose announced that it would appear on every spelling test until the entire class got it correct. I spelled it incorrectly many, many more times than anyone else in the class.... To make matters worse, spelling quizzes were graded by passing them on to our peers, so each time, someone in the class knew it was me that was the one to keep it on our test... Mortifying!

With the help of spell check (I still study carefully where I went wrong as the computer offers the correct solution), I have learned to spell well, but it takes intense concentration and I can't always be sure that I am correct. Having all of these "misspelled" words around me is eroding my confidence in my eye! In the same way that I have a far more flexible attitude about time (I carry multiple hours, days and seasons around in my head simultaneously) I have to have a flexible stance towards spelling. And that is NOT GOOD.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Effin' Sydney drivers!

I almost got hit twice today on my short walk to work. I was never in any real danger, but it was scary. Both times drivers of utes (a pickup truck with no sides--never hear of the name in the US but are popular here) were driving erratically because they were clearly changing their mind about how to respond to whatever traffic pattern they were facing. Both totally ignored the fact that I was crossing in front of their path as they accelerated suddenly towards me.

Now, in my mind, no matter what the formal right of way conventions are, when you are driving in such a way that it is not easy to read, it is incumbent upon you to give way to everyone and everything, since people around you cannot be expected to stay out of your way since your way is difficult/impossible to predict. But this is obviously not so in the Sydney driver's mind! In general it is scary how little right of way the pedestrian has here, but both of these cases seemed really beyond the pale.

UPDATE: I corrected the misspelling. Sigh. At least I was able to figure out the correct spelling without looking it up.....


While I have my mind on the local fauna, the lizards in my backyard are skinks, a very common type of lizard. They eat bugs and are good to have around.

Spider update

I've decided that the spider in my mailbox is a Huntsman spider, whose bite is not a big deal (at least by Australian standards). It was certainly not a funnel web, which are the ones that can kill you. I feel much better.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I finished my PhD one year ago today/tomorrow. Not sure how to celebrate events across the date line, particularly US-centric ones.

Nevertheless, who knew that act would get me to where I am now??

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Please, please, please

Still more apologies about political digressions, but, damn, he is good.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Airplanes must agree with me

I was pleasantly surprised at yoga this morning--I did my very first honest-to-god chaturanga pose in class! I actually did it each time we went through the vinyasa. I generally flop fish-like onto the floor, smudging through that part of the sequence, but lately (in the very intermittent yoga classes I have been going to) I've noticed that the floppiness was getting firmer. But this morning, I was definitely holding the real pose--hands and toes on the floor and the rest definitely not touching the floor (no butt in the air or elbows out to the side either). Admittedly could have gotten there in a more controlled way, but hey, I got there! Ha!

Should go stand on my head for a bit....

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Creepy crawly update

The massive rain has brought out the creepiest and crawliest. In particular, I will never reach cavalierly into my mailbox again. Also, this morning there were two leech/tapeworm/gross black thingies sliming around my bathroom. I didn't think to take their picture, though. Just flushed them down the toilet.

Guess I'm not in the U. S. of A. anymore....

Seems so...three months ago.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


An Aussie dollar now purchases US$0.955.


Going home

It is very strange to type that title while sitting in the LAX boarding area on my way back down under.

It has been a very productive trip professionally and satisfying personally. Sydney feels very dream-like right now--it feels like I have been away for months, and I am hazy about what I am going back to. When I think of home in Sydney I visualize an empty house....

But it will be nice to be back and finally getting started on creating a new normal life there.