Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shadow on the Moon

I managed to snap this shot about an hour ago, just after the peak of a beautiful lunar eclipse. I wasn’t really equipped to take such a photo, so I simply mounted the camera on the railing of our verandah and opened up the shutter for about five seconds. Although it’s not so clear here, the moon displayed a range of beautiful red shades of light as it passed through the earth’s shadow.

The big news for us--most of our stuff is finally here! And, most of it is still in boxes on the two verandahs. Last night we finally got to sleep on a bed again, and it was marvelous! We also had dinner sitting together at our table using real glasses for our drinks. Yes, one appreciates such simple pleasures after being separated from it all for over 3 months.

Yesterday was also the first day that Will went off to daycare. This photo was taken just before V. dropped him off while I stayed behind to supervise the movers. He did very well, and never cried the entire morning. When he came home, however, he seemed to find everything very disorienting. It’s hard to tell whether he actually recognizes his toys and the other items from our house in Atlanta. V. and I have been trying to unpack as quickly as possible, but we both had to take a break tonight when we realized that we are going to have to pace ourselves. Much of the challenge has to do with organizing so much stuff in such a small space. I can’t even enter the home office because so many boxes of books are crammed in there.

President Bush arrives in Sydney in just a few days. The newspapers are full of stories focused on the security costs and disruptions to life for Sydneysiders caused by his visit and the APEC conference that starts a couple of days later. Apparently, W. has already made a mess of things by deciding to come to Oz a few days early and then leaving APEC early to go back home for Sept. 11 services. The latest news is that Laura isn’t going to make the trip, so Mrs. Howard doesn’t know what she’s going to do with herself. Hey, she’s certainly welcome to come up here and unpack some boxes!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Drying Out

After seven days of rain, the sun was once again shining early this morning as I walked to the local 7-11 to buy the Sunday Mail. I still don’t feel comfortable subscribing to a paper, as the two newspapers that are available in Brisbane, The Australian and The Courier-Mail, are both owned by Murdoch’s News group. So, I end up browsing several news websites everyday, including some in the U.S. But on Sundays I have been permitting myself the delights of The Mail. Sure, it provides information, but it’s really more entertaining than anything else. Think of it as a nice mixture of People magazine, USA Today (i.e., fairly short stories) and a small-town paper. I spend about a half hour reading my copy at the Newspaper CafĂ© in Toowong while sipping a flat white. I then head home to have breakfast with V. and Will.

Yesterday I gave the first talk at a day-long conference in social psychology in Brisbane. I had spent several days preparing my presentation, and I feel good about how it all went. In the evening there was a post-conference party at a house just a few miles away, so V. went with me while Will stayed at home with our babysitter. The party started at 5:30, and was still going strong when we left at 10:30. Last year’s party reportedly went to 4 a.m., but V. and I are lucky if we can stay awake after 11. All in all, it was a really comfortable setting and a nice way to get to know my new colleagues better. V. remarked that it was typical of an English party, but I really didn’t understand what she meant. It certainly wasn’t like a party in Atlanta--people always seemed to go home at 9 back there!

Early tomorrow morning a truck will be pulling up in front of our home to unload our belongings. We are a bit stressed about this next part of our move. I’ll keep you posted on what happens…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rain, Facebook, and Ms. Knightley

  1. At last, it has been raining in Brisbane on and off for the last three days. To appreciate the significance of all this moisture, read this entry by another of my favorite bloggers, Mooselet. She, by the way, has some sort of unending reservoir of physical and emotional strength for parenting that I used up two days after Will was born. Just so I'm clear about the value of rain in Australia, it is measured in millimeters, not centimeters or something bigger. A forecast can include the chance of 5-10 millimeters of rain--that's not even a half an inch!!
  2. I am now on Facebook. Why would a "middle-aged" man do such a thing? The answer is simple: peer pressure. EVERYONE in my immediate social group at UQ seems to be on this. I'll report back once I understand the benefits of all this "social networking." If you're on Facebook, please consider adding me as a friend...I am desperate to become popular.
  3. The other night we watched "Pride and Prejudice" (the Keira version) on a DVD that I bought here in Oz. Guess what?! Viewers in the U.S. saw a different ending. Elizabeth and Darcy are shown cuddling and whispering sweet nothings to each other in the U.S. ending, but the rest of the world saw the credits hit once Elizabeth got her father's blessing for the engagement. (I've heard the Swedish version had an even racier ending involving Jane, Elizabeth, and Darcy, but this is unconfirmed. Maybe Sven will check on this). It appears that Americans can't be happy with their romantic movies unless they have a little kissing in the end...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Evening at the Cinebar

V. and I had our first “date” in months this past Friday night. Our babysitter is a caregiver at a neighborhood daycare whom V. met while walking down the street one day, and who is entirely overqualified for babysitting but very cheap, by American standards. Once we waved goodbye to our son, who was really indifferent about our leaving, we headed off to Rosalie, a little neighborhood a few minutes from our home, where there are plenty of trendy restaurants to choose from. However, we opted to spend the entire evening at the Blue Room Cinebar. For a fixed price, we had a Thai meal on the cinema’s outdoor balcony and two tickets to see a Danish film, “After the Wedding.” The food was excellent (it comes from the kitchen of a Thai restaurant just below), and the entire concept was wonderful. Each of the two theatres has about 24 seats that were stuffed like reclining chairs with a sizable side table for two between each pair of seats. One can order a bottle of wine or other drinks that are brought to you during the movie (we didn’t actually try this out, but someone behind us had a bottle of champagne). You can even have your dinner in your seat during the film. It is all very cozy and convenient. The movie, by the way, was quite good--full of repressed emotions and family tragedy, typical of any good Scandinavian film.

I want to make special mention of the blog penned by Audra “Bryson”, an American who moved to Sydney in January. These two recent entries describe the exact Aussie appliances and the strange bathroom drain that we have in our home in Brisbane. It’s a bit eerie reading someone else’s description of what I thought was our unique experience!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Friday Routine

My Friday afternoons now go like this. There is almost always an alternating weekly seminar at 3:00--one week it is the “School Seminar” and the other it's the Social or Psychonomics Seminar (click here to see the current schedule). After each seminar, a graduate student rolls a trolley cart into the room with plenty of wine glasses and about 6 bottles of red and white wine (always different each week), chips, and possibly other nibbly bits. It is this student’s job to cater this little function and clean the wine glasses afterwards (all on the School’s budget!). Then, at around 4:30 some people start to walk over to the staff club, which has a very nice pub atmosphere and outdoor seating. I have gone each week for about an hour and sat next to grad students and faculty (called staff here) from the different programs and chatted about all sorts of interesting stuff. I then walk down to the ferry landing to catch the 6:09 pm boat home to V. and Will. It is all very civilized (or civilised, depending on my mood) here in Oz.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Exhibition Day!

August 15 is "People's Day" or Exhibition Day in Brisbane, a day set aside so that people can attend the Ekka. Ignoring the mid-week holiday, I went to work but found no one there and every shop on campus closed. A light rain was falling on students who were making their way to the ferry dressed like they were going to prom. I later learned that they were going to a special race day at Eagle Farm. People in their 20s going to watch a horse race in their nicest clothes...you just don't see that where I come from!

Still no word on our container's journey at the port. We have now gone more than a month eating our dinner on beanbags.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gone Whaling

I have been a very bad blogger this month. I’m sorry. Prepping new lectures for the courses that I’m co-teaching has taken more time than I thought, primarily because I’m covering the material more deeply than before. Getting home each night, I have been trying to be a good dad and husband until my loved ones fall asleep, and I have slowly put together several shelving units that we bought from Ikea a few weeks ago. We still don’t have any of our things yet…the container ship should have arrived last Thursday, so we’re just waiting for ours to clear customs, which can take 5-15 days.

Our weekends have been very full. The pictures here are from our whale watching trip on Aug 5 with the Clarks. We went on a great cruise put on by the Australia Zoo, which was Steve Irwin’s home. It was a bit surreal on the way out of Mooloolaba to watch videos of Steve from the last series he was working on--called something like “The Ocean’s Deadliest Creatures.” Unfortunately, the sea was choppy that day, and a lot of people were filling up the vomit bags that were readily available. Although we never saw a whale breach the water, we did see several pods of humpbacks during our four hour cruise. Will had a mostly good time, although he was more excited by the water spray than anything else. His mother fared more poorly, but was still happy we went.

This past weekend we went to the Ekka, a sort of state fair for Queensland. It goes on for 9 days, and has a huge mix of livestock competitions, exhibits, scary rides, and “Aussie” food. We tried a Dagwood dog, which I think is just a corndog, downed some “old style” ginger beer, munched fresh strawberries, and licked an ice cream cone together. We took a brief walk through the showbag pavilion. This must be uniquely Australian. Many companies (e.g., Cadbury’s, magazine publishers) throw together bags of goodies from their company and sell them in all sorts of combinations that cost between $2 and $20 at gigantic booths, with hundred of people moving like cattle from booth to booth. V. also watched a sheep shearing demonstration while I was soothing Will after he got some sunblock lotion in his eyes. I really would have liked to watch the butcher show--in which several cuts of meat were to be lectured about--but we had to cut our trip short due to our son’s next fastly approaching crash.

Thanks for being patient with my blogging. And I do plan to reward you with some new pictures very soon. Late last week I received a copy of the new iLife, which has some great features for posting photos on the web. I hope to have it mastered soon, complete with a new way to view our photos…

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Some Peace

I haven’t written for nearly a week, mainly because our lives have become much quieter as we continue to settle in. On Sunday we said goodbye to our "old" friends, Patrick, Grass, and Isabella, who had come up from Sydney to visit us for a week. Unfortunately, our home is so inhospitable at the moment that they had to stay in a nearby motel. They moved from London to Sydney back in January. On the last day of their visit we drove up to Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast (our second trip since arriving), where the surf, the beach, and the temperatures were simply perfect. Will (who turned 18 months old this week) discovered the wonders of playing with beach sand, but there was the worry that he would throw it in his face, so we had to watch him closely. By the way, this photo of Mooloolaba comes from Trig's flickr page, as I still don't have all our photos properly edited. We head back to Mooloolaba this Sunday, when we go on a whale watch. I promise more of our own pictures then.

I have been spending a lot of my time at work on my first lectures. I am also getting to know my new colleagues, who (surprisingly) represent a wide range of nationalities. My undergrads were just as charming during the second week of lecture, with many coming up to me during the break and after lecture to ask more questions about the material. Another pleasant surprise about Australian university life is the mixture of informality and respect between students and academics. The students are used to addressing their instructors by their first names, and I noticed that my colleagues always introduce themselves to students that way. However, the students are also very polite and appreciative of their instructors, so the informality in no way undermines a sense of faculty “authority.”

We have received word that the big shipment of our belongings arrives in Brisbane a week from today. It could then take between 5 and 14 days in customs before it’s delivered. That's nearly 3 months since it all left our home in May. We are starting to worry about what we are going to do with everything. Our townhouse is about 1100 sq ft., but we’re moving from a house that had about 4800 sq ft! We do have two large verandas, so we may be putting some of our inside furniture on the outside. Yes, I can hear Jeff Foxworthy saying, “You might be a redneck if…” I guess ten years in Atlanta had an effect on me after all.

Oh, and I just have to mention something I posted on another blog. I bravely ordered a chicken quesadilla at a restaurant on campus the other day. When the server brought it to my table, she said something like, “chicken kwehs-a-dill-a, sir?”

Si, muchas gracias!