Sunday, April 29, 2007

Why I Like Atlanta

Although we have made a deliberate decision to leave for now, I really would enjoy moving back to Atlanta someday. So, pretending for a moment that I never have any complaints about it, here's my list of reasons to like Atlanta (in no particular order):

1. Trees, trees, trees.
2. Midtown.
3. The excellent restaurant scene (Canoe and Babette's have been my favorites).
4. A visibly successful Black middle-class (as opposed to what I left in Los Angeles).
5. The Georgia Aquarium.
7. Piedmont Park.
8. Sweetwater Creek State Park.
9. Redtop Mountain State Park.
10. Northside Hospital (where our son was born).
11. The network of long streets that meander in all different directions without regard to the compass points and change names 2-3 times along the way.
12. Super Target.
13. The Malls (Lenox, Perimeter, and Northpoint are my favs).
14. Three Apple stores!
15. The misnamed Dekalb International Farmer's Market.
16. The general level of politeness of Southerners.
17. Being called "sweetie" by waitresses and women at the cash register.
18. Emory University.
19. Georgia State University.
20. Carter Presidential Library.
21. MLK Center (King's tomb is less than a mile from my office).
22. CNN center.
23. Philipps Arena.
24. A concert (and dinner) at Chastain Amphitheater.
25. Moe's.
26. Willy's.
27. The corner of Virginia and Highland.
28. Downtown Decatur.
29. Downtown Norcoss.
30. The Brickstore in Decatur.
31. Walking in Lullwater Park (near Emory).
32. Our subdivision and general neighborhood (Hunter's Woods and Deerfield in eastern Dunwoody/Sandy Springs).
33. Our house.
34. The birds that congregate at the four feeders outside my window.
35. Grilling dinner in the backyard.
36. The excitement that comes with the chance of snow flurries in Atlanta.
37. The great Atlanta airport.
38. The downtown skyline at night.
39. Seeing Stone Mountain from afar.
40. The Weather Channel (which is based here).
41. Felix at Mint Salon.
42. Jaclynn, our former personal trainer.
43. Spring in Atlanta.
44. Being able to drive to Savannah, one of my favorite cities.
45. All our friends.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Permanent Residents




I am pleased to advise that application lodged for permanent residence in Australia lodged has been approved.


It is also the Government's policy that migrants who arrive in Australia or are granted permanent residence on or after 1 January 1997 and who are not refugee or humanitarian visa holders, will have to wait two years before they can receive Austudy educational assistance. To inquire, ring the number listed under Austudy in the local telephone book.

All migrants/permanent residents will have immediate access to Medicare health services.


Permanent residents of Australia can apply for Australian citizenship. Further information about Australian citizenship can be obtained by contacting the Department of Immigration and Citizenship enquiry line by dialling 131880 from anywhere in Australia at the cost of a local call.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family well for your future in Australia.

If you have any queries regarding this matter, please contact me on (07) xxxxxxxxx

Yours sincerely

Position Number 899
Permanent Business Entry

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The End is Near...

...well, at least the end of the semester is near. Today is the last day of my classes. I still have about 70 papers and final exams to grade, but that won't require any last-minute lecture preparations. I am teaching one more course at Georgia State before we move--a three-week course in social psychology that meets every day for 2.5 hours starting May 14.

The picture here was taken yesterday during a short trip to Zoo Atlanta, which was a nice break from the usual routine. It came about because this semester an undergraduate student from Spelman College worked in my lab. Yesterday she presented her research at a poster session sponsored by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in the conference center at the zoo. Because I happened to be taking care of Will, I took him with me so that we could spend a little time seeing the animals. Unfortunately nearly everything was closing down by the time we arrived. The goats at the petting zoo were just going in for dinner, but Will got a chance to grab at their fur for a few minutes while a zookeeper snapped this photo. One of my friends from work, Tricia, and her daughter, Jamie, joined us a little later, and Will was much more interested in watching Jamie running around than looking at the lions, elephants, or monkeys.

We took care of another important requirement for our move this week--we booked the date when the shippers will come to get our stuff for May 16-17. That means that we will have nearly nothing in our Atlanta home for about 5 weeks, except the things that we taking in our suitcases or that we intend to sell. It's supposed to take about two months for our things to get to Brisbane. I can imagine that we will be very happy to see our things when they arrive in late July. And, by the way, still no offers on our house, although we have had about 4-5 viewings a week.

As V. described it yesterday, the whole move has taken on a surreal feeling. We are still pretty much going through our daily routine, seeing all the people we normally see, driving through the familiar neighborhoods, and shopping at our regular places. It's hard to believe that in about two weeks the first of the major disruptions will take place. In fact, soon I won't even be sitting at this computer (the desktop Mac in my wonderful upstairs office) writing these blog entries, with Sammy snoozing next to me as the morning sunlight comes through the window.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's My Dahling's Birthday!

Yes, the mother of my child and my young wife of oh-so-many years is celebrating her own birth today. We started things off with Huevos Rancheros (my own version consisting of salsa, scrambled eggs, and cheese) for breakfast, followed by flowers, cards, and some dancing in the kitchen while Will watched with a bemused look perched in his high chair. Later V. went to a spa for a leg waxing and haircut (her first since Will was born) while I had lunch in Piedmont Park with Irwin, a long-time and close friend. Later David and Cathy will join us for a night out, which will begin with attending a reception at the Dean's house for those of us who recently received tenure and promotion, and then dinner at Babette's. We are leaving Will at our home with David and Cathy's daughter, Rachel.

It's a good day. And I'm an extremely lucky guy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Give Me a Cuppa!

From The Age (the best newspaper in Australia, in my opinion), comes a story about perhaps the world's most expensive cup of coffee:

But Hervey's Range Heritage Tea Rooms located at the top of the Hervey Range, west of Townsville, now has a $50 cup of coffee on the menu.

The rare Kopi Luwak beans that make the expensive brew are retrieved from the droppings of the Luwak, a cat-like member of the civet family which is found in the jungles of Indonesia.

Tea room owner Allan Sharpe said the Luwaks eat the ripe coffee cherries, but the inner bean is not digested, meaning they can be retrieved from the animal's droppings.

The beans, which are then washed and given only a light roast so as to not destroy the complex flavours - cost $1250 per kilogram.

If you can get past the thought of drinking something extracted from animal droppings, the taste of the coffee is actually quite sweet and smooth.

I wonder how that would taste in a Starbucks Mocha...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Missing the Dogwoods

Spring in Atlanta this year has been strange. We had about 10 days starting in late March when the temps got to about 80 F and the pollen counts hit near record levels. All the beautiful blooming trees, plants, and bushes started to come out in their full glory. Then, all of a sudden, we went back down into the 20s for a couple of nights, and nearly all the blossoms disappeared. In the week since, we continued to have very cool weather, which culminated in a miserable Sunday yesterday. We had planned to go to the annual Dogwood festival, which takes place in Midtown Atlanta. I have been to it nearly every year since about '98 (I moved to ATL in '97), so I was especially looking forward to having a final glorious day watching the frisbee dogs and wandering among the crafts booths. This time we would be able to let our son roam around on the grass in the sunshine as well. Alas, the temps didn't exceed 41 degrees (5 degrees C), and the wind was blowing at gusts of 30 mph. So, instead we drove to an outlet mall where we had to walk around in our winter coats. My guess is that the dogwoods had stopped blooming before this year's festival had even started.

The picture I have posted here was taken at last year's Dogwood Festival, when we met up with our very good friends Larry and Lisa, and their three kids, Alana, Hannah, and Alec. They have since moved to the DC area and we miss them a lot, but I'm glad that what has turned out to be our very last DF was shared with them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Floor Show

Who needs to pay the big bucks to go out at night when you have this entertainment at home?

Spider Land

Check out this post with a picture of a spider in Queensland on Mooselet's blog. When you click on the link you'll see a gigantic spider on the wall in her house! (I believe it's a Huntsman). I let out a nervous laugh when I saw this. Just the day before, V. was complaining about the roaches and other many-legged insects that we occasionally find in our house. Although they are definitely ugly, our Atlanta bugs certainly don't inspire terror in a mere photograph. Check out Australia's Wolf spider in this picture! This comes from a web page titled "Spiders in Australia," and contains a photo line-up that rivals the FBI's Most Wanted list. Despite all these spiders with their scary sizes and hairy appendages, the website warns that "two spiders should be avoided, the Sydney Funnel-web and the Redback because their bites can be painful for some days." This website really downplays the perceived danger of these spiders, pointing out that no one has died from a spider bite in Australia since 1980 (a Sydney Funnel-web bite) and nobody has died from a Redback bite since 1956 because of the development of antivenoms. That's a relief...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Up and Down

This is an important week. I have a self-imposed deadline to notify my current employer of my final decision about Australia by Friday. On Monday my good friend and Chair of the department pulled out all the stops to try to get me to stay. But the following day, in a rebuttal of sorts to those persuasive attempts, a senior colleague told me a version of events he had heard about why I am leaving, which included a load of crap that stirred up all sorts of lousy memories of the past seven years. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law has been visiting from England. I had to make a very early morning trip to the airport so that she could fly to Jamaica...twice. She missed her first flight on Tuesday so I had to roll out of bed the next day at 4:30 to try again. She will be coming back to Atlanta in two weeks. Yesterday I spent three hours getting our application for our permanent residency visas ready and sent it off by Global Express. In addition, a moving company came to the house to give an official estimate for The Big Move we plan to make in a month. So far this week we have had one viewing of the house by a potential buyer that probably lasted 5 minutes tops! But, we did receive some very good news this week... our temporary visas were approved on Monday night, so that means we can start working once we have landed.

As things get finalized (or "finalised," as they spell it Down Under!), the bouts of anxiety, sadness, and regret have become more frequent. Fortunately, we found a great website about Australian tourism that has a wonderful (but controversial) ad called "So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" Both Vikki and I are finding it to be the perfect booster shot for morale...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

A Wondrously Venomous and Toothy Country

We are about to leave Atlanta with its troublesome squirrels and gentle deer to go to a place with a few more natural challenges.

I was re-reading Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburnt Country" last night when I came upon this vivid description of the "delicate and diaphanous" box jellyfish, which lives along the shores of Queensland during the summer:
In 1992 a young man in Cairns, ignoring all the warning signs, went swimming in the Pacific waters at a place called Holloways Beach. He swam and dove, taunting his friends on the beach for their prudent cowardice, and then began to scream with an inhuman sound. It is said that there is no pain to compare with it. The young man staggered from the water, covered in livid whiplike stripes wherever the jellyfish's tentacles had brushed across him, and collapsed in quivering shock. Soon afterward emergency crews arrived, inflated him with morphine, and took him away for treatment. And here's the thing. Even unconscious and sedated, he was still screaming.

Good news! This will not be the only jellyfish to worry about in our new land. The Irukandji jellyfish, a highly venomous creature only about an inch long, was recently spotted in Hervey Bay (near Brisbane), forcing the filming of a new movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson to move to a safer location. I also found this story about a recent stinging by one of these little critters in a pool in Townsville. I like how the story reports that the teenage girl was "severely stung," but there is no other word about her condition. I guess "still alive" is considered good enough.

And then there are the pythons. Apparently they are commonly found around Brisbane, although pythons are not one of the 14 species of Australian snakes that are poisonous. When I was at a group dinner last October, one of the staff at UQ told me about the python that once slithered up on his veranda while everyone was enjoying the sun, including his cat. A few minutes later there was a muffled scream--his cat was being crushed by the snake. The End. Everyone at my table (all Australians) chuckled at this story and then went on sipping their wine.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Promise of Something Better

As I write this we have about as many days to go before The Big Move as the characters on "Lost" have been wandering around that enormous island with those scary spiders and beautiful beaches.

I was recently asked on the Yanks Down Under forum to elaborate about a comment I made. I had stated that we are moving to Brisbane because of "the promise of something better." What does this mean? Well, first there is the job at UQ. It certainly is better for me both professionally and personally. Professionally, it's going to reconnect me to my research interests and give me much more time to concentrate on my lab, write articles, and maybe even read! Personally, this job should give me some more time to spend with my wife and son as well.

Besides the job, there is the promise of many other things too...the adventure that includes experiencing a different culture and country (for at least a few years), being near the ocean once again, the relative safety and better quality of life in Brisbane (compared to most major cities in the U.S.), being able to have a short commute to work (I am hoping that I can walk to my office from home), a slower pace of life, a more family-centric society, the possibility of traveling to other places "nearby," the shedding of all the junk we have accumuated back in the States, a chance to re-energize our lives, and a place where Victoria can reconnect with her British roots.

Besides, it will be a real treat to hear Will say one day, "No worries, mate!"

Monday, April 2, 2007

Split Personality Blogging

I have had a hard time trying to write this next blog entry, although I have thought of dozens of things to write about in the past week. I believe the problem is that I don't have a strong enough focus for this blog. Currently it's devoted to talking about social neuroscience and related academic issues, but I'm more inclined to write about other things that catch my fancy, such as our move to Oz in a few months. And then there's the issue of my intended "audience." Do I really want to talk to other academics exclusively, or am I more interested in having my family and friends read these entires? Or, do I have any intention of attracting a regular audience of any type?!

The answers to these questions will be sorted out in the coming weeks. I think at present I am going to make it a more personal blog, and leave the more academic aspects to my lab website , which has its own blog about journal articles, etc. I also want to invite my close friends and family to this blog after a few more entries, so that I can bring them along in our travels. Thanks to "Tori" for this suggestion!