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From hobbituk [Feb. 27th, 2011|03:51 pm]
And can we hear a 'duh'?
What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on Memegen.net

Canada. You probably get irritated when British people and Europeans think you're from the States, but over here we wouldn't make a mistake like that.

If you're not Canadian, you're either a Minnesotan, or you're a Westerner who over-thought some of the questions on the quiz.

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

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The Floating World [Feb. 26th, 2011|12:11 pm]
Last night, PG sat in a bar on Station Pier, watching the Queen Elizabeth float off. It is new and huge cruise ship, on its maiden voyage. Melbourne is an increasingly popular stop for cruise ships, bringing as it does to Americans a slight exoticism amidst a sea of cultural familiarity.

Evertually, Supergirl and I arrived late. Driving through downtown on a Friday early evening was a serious mistake - we should have taken the tram from just north of the CBD where we live, to the Bay just south.

Then we went through 3 rounds of security, including a health check, before we were allowed aboard the Crystal Serenity, a smaller but still massive cruise ship. My aunt and her daughter and son-in-law were on board, and they had invited us to dinner.

Inside, it was like Las Vegas. 14 floors of shops, bars, restaurants, health clubs, pools etc, all in gilt. We had a drink (the Girl's first Shirley Temple - she'd never had a marachino cherry and there were four inside her glass!) while watching the local entertainment, which consisted of a string quartet followed by some aboriginal dancers. "Very different from the Maori dancers in New Zealand", said my aunt's admirer, a dapper 85 year old from Chicago. I got very pedantic with the Polyensian and the Melanesian, until my cousin rather drily suggested I should apply to be one of their on-board lecturers. There are several uni profs and four star generals who get to stay free for part of the voyhage in return for talks. Since I'm a complete travel slut, I quite seriously said I'd consider it.

Then we went to a very American Italian restaurant, where we all ate wayyy too much fatty food (if you put mayo on carpaccio, do you then need to cover it with olive oil and parmesan? I think not), and had a lovely time. I like my aunt infinitely better now that her husband, my mother's brother, is dead. He was a world class bastard. My cousin is a very right wing judge, but she is also kind of nice (she has a bit of her dad's bitter tongue) and her husband - who has MS - is a dear. They are very much in love, and it is nice to see people that happy together. I remember their wedding, a couple of months before PG and I eloped - so 25 years ago, and how she was just that much older (8 years) to seem sort of glamorous when I was growing up. Anyhow, they love cruising, have already signed up for one next year. They were in Christchurch a week ago and of course we talked about the destruction of the centre of that lovely town. They had come ashore today, but just seen a bit of the downtown.

In the abstract, I know I would hate a cruise ship - the regulation, the brief glimpses of places worth exploring for more than a few hours, the sheer unreality of it all - but I also saw the appeal.

We went to a lounge with dark wood panelling, with a piano man and waiters who knew my family well enough to bring them 'their' after dinner drinks. Then at 11 we turned into pumpkins - back onto the dock and then home again in our real world.
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Weekend at Andi's [Feb. 20th, 2011|05:30 pm]
Such a nice weekend in the country. Birdsong, mist, and nice smells outdoors. Jigsaw puzzles, lying around reading, and great chats indoors.

Andi is a lotus eater like me. Came here 25 years ago from Canada and didn't look back. She's had this place, 70 km north of downtown, for 15 years - living there sometimes, renting it sometimes and keeping it for the weekend sometimes, like now. It is right at the epicentre of where there were the most deaths in the bushfires 2 years ago. Miraculously, her wood house survived, while her neighbours on either side lost their homes. We drove along the road that was closed for a few months after the fires - the Scouts had gone to an adventure camp that is just now rebuilding, the trees were regenerating around their blackened stumps. All hopeful and somehow Australian - this landscape that is constantly undergoing creative destruction. But the disturbing thing were the thousands of new houses - Whittlesea is slated for 60,000 homes in the next 20 years. Right about where 40 plus people burned to death 2 years ago.

It is so depressing teaching planning here sometimes.
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Yoof [Feb. 11th, 2011|10:43 am]
I got emailed some pictures of my Boy in Israel yesterday, the same day that an old friend of my Guy posted some pictures on Facebook from 1982. My future husband was 18 then, the same age the Boy is now. I met him a few months later. In the photos, he looks 12. Also, so uncool it is as if he is aiming for the effect. My son looks a bit more hip in his photos, and I also note that there are 3 guys and 9 girls in that Jerusalem apartment. Not a bad ratio for a kid who is tracking straight thus far.

Yesterday, the Boy's two BFFs dropped in and started raiding the fridge. They just wanted to hang out with me - after all, I'm their former Scout Leader as well as substitute mom. I was a combination of touched and a little irritated. We watched an episode of Generation Kill and then an episode of The Daily Show and then I threw them out, partly because what I thought was a jar of iced coffee they brought with them turned out to be Baileys. Ewww, I'm so glad I'm not 18 any more.

Then the Guy got home from a Scout meeting. He and I both left 'the movement' last year - combination of his severed achilles tendon and our mutual frustration with some other leaders in the group our son and then our daughter was with. That group has sorted itself out - the two problem people left and some dads of new scouts have taken their place - and the Guy has been tapped on the shoulder to set up a new scout group downtown. A combination of kids from public housing and university students... yeah, that will work. Anyhow, they want me to work with the university age students in the oldest Scout group, Rovers, the 18-25 year olds. I would need to be an advisor rather than a leader, basically just watch over them while they drink and shag and occasionally pretend to organize activities for the younger Scouts.

Yeah, sure, I'm up for it.
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People Amaze Me [Feb. 10th, 2011|09:52 am]
Although I was working on a deadline yesterday and the website I was using went down SIX TIMES in a half hour (damn you, Australian Research Council website!!), I can't say I don't love my work at the moment. I finished a revision of an article yesterday. I knew the first draft was a dog's breakfast, so I sent it to a journal with good reviewers. And indeed, they slated it, but were helpful in suggestions. I then sat for months on the draft - and finally a couple of weeks ago sucked it up and rewrote the article entirely. MUCH happier with it now. It is hard to think. It is easy to get distracted (pats livejournal). It is satisfying when I actually challenge myself.

Now two days of boring paperwork (a long overdue book review and an ethics application) and it is back to the thinking trough.

I saw '127 Hours' last night. Because it is only opening here now, the guy whose life the movie is based on, Aron Ralston, was doing a Q and A at the theatre last night, along with his dad. Amazing what people can survive. Really good movie, by the way - it kind of shoots 'True Grit' down, because the story behind 127 Hours IS true grit.

And today I'm having lunch with a woman whose breast cancer recurred last year, just as she was finishing her master's thesis. She was depressed for a while (and I feel guilty for not keeping in touch with her), but now she is feeling better both physically and mentally and wants to do a PhD. She's over 60.

How can I whinge, when I meet these people?
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Shopping Therapy [Feb. 7th, 2011|10:36 am]
Saturday night I couldn't sleep for gnashing of teeth. Sunday I took the only cure I know works - a long walk. This was encouraged by my wise partner in life. We walked down to a weekly art market that we had heard about - maybe a 6 km walk both ways? Rose Street Market in Fitzroy: very nice. I bought a new purse and the Guy got some cufflinks.

We had minestrone for dinner - because the middle of summer this year means cold weather, pelting rain, and floods, as opposed to impossibly hot weather and bushfires. At least yesterday that was the weather on offer - who knows what tomorrow brings in this crazy country? The Girl sorted out her stuff for The First Day of Year 9, while we watched all the new tv that is on offer now that school is back (Modern Family! Bones! and tomorrow... Glee!!), we all spoke to the Boy (who, after a lightening tour of Haifa, Tel Aviv and the Negev, is in a shared apartment in Jerusalem and looking forward to his classes at the Hebrew University for the next month), and I slept like a baby.

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Eh, the third piece of bad luck was pretty lame [Feb. 1st, 2011|07:09 pm]
That wonderful cool Southern wind came through at 3 p.m. today, like an outdoors air conditioner. It ended three days of vicious heat.

I spent most of today dispensing advice to people. First, a colleague took me out to coffee so I could give her feedback on her grant application. She took notes and said "wow, that is exactly the advice I need". Very flattering. A student went out to lunch with me and introduced me to a new good Japanese place on campus - I think I gave her good advice, but time alone will tell. Another ex-student stopped by to shoot the shit, then yet another student asked for advice on an article she was writing. I sent 60 emails, mostly to people I liked. The day went quickly.

Somewhere - the coffee place? - I lost my keys. So I had to take the tram home and leave the bike at work.

The Girl and I are now watching 'Generation Kill' - we started watching with the Boy, but it is good enough to keep on watching ourselves. Also, Alex Skarsgard For the Yum.

The Boy called - he's safely arrived in Israel. The consensus around here is: life could be a lot worse.
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Big Idea Boy: an appreciation [Jan. 30th, 2011|10:44 pm]
We just finished our last family games night for a while, and I sent the Boy to put away the dishes. I suppose I should ease up on him his last night in Melbourne, but it is hard to abandon our routine of nag and parry. He accepted cheerfully enough. He is usually a pretty cheerful and easygoing cuss.

We went shopping today to pick up some last minute items he'll need for his months in Israel - as usual, a minimalist set of things (a pair of deck shoes, to go with his two other pairs of shoes - runners and hiking boots; a pair of dress pants in case he needs to be dressy) and as usual, the Girl ended up getting more clothes. He's not a materialist. He lives in his head, and doesn't much care what he wears. He could easily live - and he has lived - without a bed or even a sleeping bag, without a tent, without food for three days. He's a tough and resilient fellow, but he loves a good hug.

He made me laugh a lot today, as he always does. He generously shared advice and possessions with his little sister, as he always does. We watched the Daily Show, cuddled up together, and talked about politics and decency and ideas, as we always do. The girl is finishing up her going away present - a camp blanket with lots of Scout badges sewn on - and I know he'll sleep with it, because he's a bit of a sentimentalist at heart.

A few months ago, when I was in PNG, I met a bright eyed young man who had just started work for AusAID in infrastructure development. "I never thought about disability inclusive road development," he said thoughtfully over an iced tea, "but it sounds like a good idea. Tell me more!" I thought I was seeing the Boy in a few years time, and I liked what I saw.

I'm going to miss having the Boy around. But this is going to be good for him, and he is treating it calmly and optimistically, like every other adventure he has embraced.
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In which I use LJ to praise Facebook [Jan. 28th, 2011|12:32 pm]
The internet is a beautiful thing. LJ has given me the discipline to keep a regular diary for about 6 years. I go back and re-read bits of it to remind myself of particularly good and bad times.

Not only does it allow some of my family to keep track of what's going on (which of course means I'm a bit circumspect, but surprisingly uncircumspect), but it has become a magnificent opportunity to create several quite deep friendships with people who I met on a fairly arbitrary basis (mutual obsession with a television show - Buffy the Vampire Slayer). We have gone on to meet in person (but not yet, alas, varina8), and to share other details of our lives. I like hearing about their daily lives, like I would with any friend.

FB is a completely different scene - the difference between a relatively private and select coffeeklatch, and standing in the internet equivalent of the town square and seeing which random is going to pass by. I don't search for friends, but people find me. A lot. One lovely incident occured about a year ago, when I started on FB, and a good friend in Uni who I hadn't seen in 20 years contacted me. We had fallen out for a reason related to my relationship with PG - to put it bluntly, she didn't like him (for good reason) and I don't do well with people who don't like my loved ones. But that doesn't mean I didn't miss her quirky humour and generous spirit (she's a big supporter of the RSPCA). I'm so glad she friended me. I find her posts amusing, her life interesting, and I'm happy things have turned out well for her.

Similarly, yesterday I heard from someone who had literally dropped off the face of my earth 26 years ago. We were very good friends in high school - she came to our school in grade 10, after her parents had gone through a difficult break up. My BBF and I immediately took to her, because she was intellectual and questioned things and there were precious few of us - so we huddled together for warmth. She left Montreal to go live with her dad in California when she was 17, at the end of high school. Her dad freaked me out. He couldn't help growing up in Germany during the Nazi period and being in the Hitler Youth at 13. But he could help joining another cult, Scientology, as an adult. My BFF and I visited Monika in San Francisco when we were 18 and she was still her glorious sunny self. But then she too joined Scientology. We had a stilted meeting at 21 - she had married and was living in Big Blue (Scientology's downtown LA headquarters), working in publicity for them (she was always very clever with words), and that was a bridge too far for me. No contact since then.

It was such a relief to hear from her yesterday. She left her husband and her 'church' after 20 years, re-married, went into advertising (or perhaps I should say, took on a different client), and had a kid last year, at 47. Fortunately a healthy and cute kid. I wonder whether there is a word that is the opposite of schadenfreude? I took great delight in hearing that she turned out okay. Please forgive my judgementalism, if you don't think Scientology is toxic and incredibly stupid, and any exit from them is a victory for humanity.

I don't want to be great friends with her, but I am glad to catch up. I find it remarkable that I can live at the other end of the world, and people can find me like that. Of course, some people I 'ignore' or even 'block', but there are advantages to checking in at the town square on a regular basis.
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Further Adventures of Supermom [Jan. 24th, 2011|08:17 pm]
I had 5 teenaged girls and 3 teenaged boys over for dinner tonight, after a full day of work. Huge pasta salad, huge bean salad, loaf of bread, ice cream in freezer.
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