Sunday, March 18, 2007

Acting Out

One of the expat blogs in Oz I enjoy reading is kittenDownUnder, which is authored by a woman who has written some honest, from-the-gut entries about what it's like to migrate to the other side of the Pacific. In her most recent entry she laments how little her friends and family have corresponded with her since she moved, and that gets me a bit worried. You see, I can already sense how my own friends and family are starting to "act out" about our impending move. Some have reacted as if I told them I have a terminal disease. Others have expressed how happy they are for us, but also admit they are feeling angry about our decision. One friend disclosed to another some confidential information I had shared, presumably because it won't matter because I will be gone in a few months anyway. Another friend is holding me personally responsible for her lack of sleep and loss of happiness over all this. Gawd! Is it any wonder that Australia is looking more appealing now? But honestly, as "kitten" indicates, I know that I am going to have some bouts of the blues once I get there and realize that this part of my life, including my current batch of friends and maybe even some relationships with relatives, is over. I am already starting to miss all of this, and I haven't packed a box yet.

For Your Reading Pleasure

Despite its original intent, this blog hasn't had much to say about social neuroscience (SN) lately. Perhaps it's because I have been a little preoccupied with plans to move to the other side of the planet?! Anyway, three SN-relevant books have recently found their way to my home, and I hope to write complete reviews of them in the next six months (what a weak promise!).

The first is co-edited by the granddaddy of SN himself, John Cacioppo, as well as Penny Visser and Cindy Pickett : Social Neuroscience: People Thinking about Thinking People, published by MIT Press. Despite the corny title, this one contains original chapters by many of the leaders of contemporary social neuroscience.

The second represents a more "junior" group of social neuroscientists: Social Neuroscience: Integrating Biological and Psychological Explanations of Social Behavior, edited by Eddie Harmon-Jones and Piotr Winkielman. There is quite a bit of overlap in the list of authors and chapters between this book and the Cacioppo, Visser, and Pickett one. I am more excited about this one, however, as it has a broader coverage of topics and includes some people who appear to have been overlooked by Cacioppo et al.

The third book every budding social neuroscientist should own is the third edition of the classic Handbook of Psychophysiology, edited by Cacioppo, Tassinary, and Berntson. My complimentary copy arrived just this week (check out the chapter on facial EMG--I'm a co-author!). My first impressions are that this one is going to be much easier to carry around, as opposed to that 12-pound monolith that was the second edition...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Secret That Got Away

Well, it's no longer a secret to the people that matter most to me here in the States. I have told nearly everyone that would be affected that we are moving to Oz, and it's quite a relief. Today's big reveal was to my six graduate students, who, while very supportive of my decision, looked quite stunned as they walked away. You see, my current dean will not allow me to stay on in an unpaid capacity for the coming year so that I could direct them while they finish off their dissertations and theses. Instead, the most I can hope for is to play the role of "consultant" or "external committee member" on their projects. They are left trying to figure out who will be their next mentor, and, more importantly, what they will do once our Social Neuroscience lab is shut down in '08.

On a more positive note, our son Will has started pointing to objects when asked about where they are. He can now identify a plastic butterfly, the lights, the TV, the clock, and each of his parents when prompted. How can such simply activities appear to be so miraculous? I guess only parents can really appreciate "the little stuff!"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Psyched Down Under

That's a picture of my new workplace (in about three months) taken last October at the University of Queensland. The School of Psychology is huge compared to my current department at Georgia State. My new position will be in biological psychology, but it will have clear connections to the social psych folks, making this a truly "social neuroscience" position. I'm excited about all the new colleagues I'm going to have, although I will be leaving some great ones behind in Atlanta.

I got a lot accomplished this week towards our move, including telling most of my family members about what's about to take place. I also discovered that the wait time for an employer-sponsored permanent working visa could be as long as 5 months, so I'm simultaneously applying for a temporary visa (processing time=2 months). I also began the many steps in getting our cat, Sammy, ready for the move. Yesterday she was microchipped (a chip about the size of a grain of rice was injected between her shoulder blades) and given her rabies and other vaccinations. We go back in 30 days for rabies titre test that will then need to be approved by a USDA official in Conyers, GA.

In the meantime I worry about getting the house sold and timing everything just right in terms of the shipping dates, selling our stuff, and flying to Oz. Thank goodness I have our little family as a source of comfort!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Brisbane, Here We Come!

It's official! We are moving to Brisbane, Australia this summer. In case you have never moved to another country before (like my wife has), you need to know that there is a freaking huge amount of things to do:
-sell the house in 3 months
-sell nearly everything we own, as we don't have much of a budget to move things
-get rid of nearly all the electrical appliances
-apply for visas (which begins with fingerprinting and FBI background checks)
-get quotes from different international moving companies
-figure out how to transfer money and maintain U.S. accounts after we leave
-get our cat ready for the quarantine process
-enjoying our last chances of eating good Tex-Mex (but looking forward to an abundance of excellent Indian food)
-telling everyone we know that we are going to the other side of the planet, and then waving them all goodbye
and trying to "smell the roses" along the way.
Oh my!!

*I took the picture above in Oct 2006 from a cafe in South Bank, along the Brisbane river. Australia is incredibly caffeine-friendly...