- Australian students (certainly those who study psychology) don't like to buy books after the first year of uni, and often their instructors merely suggest books, rather than require them for the final exam. A couple of reps from academic publishers told me that it is really difficult to sell textbooks here (compared to the States), even though there isn't really a huge difference in price (maybe 5-10% higher here).
- Three-hole punch loose-leaf notebooks are available here, but the two-hole paper punch and notebook are much more the norm. Why anyone prefers just to keep their papers in such a notebook (the two holes are near the center of the page, leaving the tops and bottoms hanging around pretty loosely) is a mystery to me. Of course, this mystery goes in both directions. I once asked a student to use my American three-hole punch with a three-hole notebook for a lab project, and she responded, "Why?"
- They're called brackets, not parentheses, here. I don't think there is a way to differentiate between () and  in normal Aussie speech, although perhaps you could say "square brackets" when referring to the latter. And, quotes (' ') are referred to as "inverted commas."
- If you don't have the rank of Professor, be happy being addressed as "Dr." Of course, the students will probably call you by your first name anyway. In fact, the only people who don't use my first name when they first meet me are usually international students from Canada or the U.S. Back in Atlanta, where much of the etiquette is full of strong Southern tones, I worked with a PhD student who called me "Dr. Vanman" the entire five years I knew her--even though I repeatedly insisted that she call me "Eric."
- The document created by a Master's student here is called a "dissertation" and the one produced by a PhD student is called a "thesis." That's exactly opposite of the American convention.
- PhD students here don't normally have to defend their thesis orally. In fact, the examiners of the thesis don't even come from one's own university. When the student submits his or her thesis, it's sent to two examiners with an international reputation who have 6-8 weeks to write a report about the thesis. The student then responds to any suggestions/criticisms when the reports come back. Back in the States, a student gives an oral presentation of their dissertation, followed by questions from their dissertation committee and the audience. Then, they continue with another 1-2 hours of interviews with the 4-5 members of the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee is made up entirely of faculty members from the university, unless there is a need to have someone outside the university with special expertise. Finally, after the defense, there's usually a celebration with champagne and nibbles. Here, because the examination process carries on over several months, it's much harder to feel like one is done at some particular point.
- Australian academics like really, really long PhD theses. I was the examiner for one that was nearly 400 pages long. By contrast, my own PhD dissertation was about 50 pages long. This norm appears to be changing, as international assessors of Aussie theses often refuse to examine such long documents.
- Australian universities like forms. There's a specific form for any activity here that a student undertakes. It's driving me nuts.
- Australian undergraduate students like to focus on their "Assignments" during the semester (they can usually tell you exactly how many they have across all their subjects), and then, and only then, do they start to think about the final exam when they have heard the last lecture.
- School (or Department) governance is more often run like an oligarchy or is even completely concentrated in the all-powerful Head of School. This is changing in my school, where input from staff members (i.e., "the faculty" in U.S. parlance) about major decisions is increasingly welcome. Back in Atlanta we spent countless hours discussing nearly every matter as an entire faculty group. More democracy occurred there, but it was also a lot of wasted time. I am much happier with the benevolent (and competent) dictator model here.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Poor Will was watching this live at home, and when I disappeared from the screen, he ran to the front door, opened it (for the first time!), and began screaming for me. Perhaps he sensed the quick fall from stardom that I now faced...
Thursday, May 21, 2009
From the day Mr Trujillo started on July 1, 2005, to the day of his departure last Thursday, Telstra shares have fallen 37.8 per cent compared with a 13 per cent fall by the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index. Based on total shareholder returns, which takes into account dividend payments, Telstra shares have underperformed the wider market by 18 per cent, according to Bloomberg data.
Since the peak of the stock market in late 2007, the S&P/ASX 200 is off about 44 per cent, while Telstra shares are down just 32 per cent. Still, Telstra shares never moved more than a few cents past the $5.06 mark when Mr Trujillo joined the company and closed yesterday at $3.21.
And this is how someone earns $30 million in four years? Running a sub-standard company that doesn't even benefit its shareholders, let alone its customers? Fortunately for Trujillo's successor, most Australians don't seem to know how substandard their telecommunication services are compared to the rest of the industrialised world, and therefore expectations are pretty low that it's ever going to get better here.
After digging around a bit, I discovered that before he came to Australia in 2005, Trujillo was the CEO of US West until a hostile takeover by Qwest in 2000. Then he became the CEO of Orange, the French telecom, which has an infamous reputation as an ISP provider in the UK. He's still on the Board of Directors of Orange today. Gee, I sure hope that someone asks to see Trujillo's resume before he's allowed to "fix" his next company.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
- I no longer know what time it is back in the States (in any time zone). I used to think about it constantly, but now depend on my computer to figure it out.
- I no longer need to convert the temperature to Fahrenheit. In fact, I know that a max of 25 C is 'perfect,' and that anything below 12 C will require a jacket. I don't even know what those temps are in F, but I could compute them if you want me to.
- Occasionally we come across some celebrity gossip from the States, and I am surprised about how many of the new 'celebs' are people I have never heard of. I am not sure what "The Hills" is all about, for example.
- I phoned a friend today back in the States and accidentally slipped into the conversation "nappies," "cot," and a few other Aussie words for which I momentarily forgot the American equivalent.
- I now pronounce 'tomatoes' the Aussie way when I order a sandwich at Subway.
- I regularly use my $1 and $2 coins these days. This took a long time to master.
- When the seasons occur (e.g., referring to winter in June) is starting to make sense.
- I was listening to our voice messages from our American number, and was startled when I heard someone with a Georgia accent. That's one I now rarely hear, if ever, here.
- I am starting to greet co-workers and friends by name when I see them--this is one of those amazing aspects of Australian hospitality that has taken me way too long to reciprocate.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
11 million are retired.
That leaves 9 million to do the work.
There are 5 million in school
Which leaves 4 million to do the work.
Of this there are 2 million employed by the federal government.
Leaving 2 million to do the work.
0.1 million are in the armed forces preoccupied with killing Osama Bin-Laden.
Which leaves 1.9 million to do the work.
Take from that total the 1.5 million people who
work for state and city Governments. And that leaves 0.4 million to do the work.
At any given time there are 18,800 people in hospitals.
Leaving 381,200 to do the work.
Now, there are 381,198 people in prisons.
That leaves just two people to do the work.
You and me.
And there you are,
Sitting on your ass,
At your computer, reading jokes.
Nice. Real nice.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
So, I did a little research and discovered that there are in effect several minimum wages in Australia. With the exception of certain professions and union agreements (and that covers quite a few people), the standard Federal Minimum Wage (FMW) is $14.31 per hour, or $543.78 per week. [As a comparison, on July 24th this year, the U.S. minimum wage will increase to $7.25 per hour, or $9.82 per hour in Aussie dollars]. However, people under 21 are considered 'junior employees' in Oz, and thus are not entitled to the full FMW:
A junior is any employee who is younger than the age set down in an award, or in other industrial instruments, defining adult (or senior) employment status - typically this can be an age between 18 and 21 years. Most awards and agreements set different wage rates for each age group up to senior status. Usually a junior would receive a percentage of the appropriate minimum adult rate. source hereAn example of these percentages from the Queensland web site are:
- 17 years and under or 1st year of experience as an apprentice: 55% of FMW
- 18 years or 2nd year of experience: 65% of FMW
- 19 years but less than 3rd year of experience: 75% of FMW, etc.