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Glakked from varina8 [Jan. 24th, 2011|07:52 pm]
Self-admitted travel slut - would like to fill in some holes.

visited 35 states (15.5%)
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visited 15 states (30%)
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visited 8 states (61.5%)
Create your own visited map of Canada
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Do the Limbo [Jan. 20th, 2011|12:20 pm]
Having gotten calls from both parents and inlaws, I just want to state for the record that Melbourne is not under water, nor is there any threat of this. One river in town (Maribyrnong) was rising a bit, but it is sunny now and that river has backed the heck down. There was some flooding in the very arid west of the state and of course in Queensland, including some parts of Brisbane.

Which is not to say that Australia isn't prone to natural disasters or that the floods weren't devastating. Basically, I'm not sure humans belong here, but I guess it is too late for that memo. Having just returned from a place (Japan) where fire, earthquake, and war has flattened the cities on a pretty regular basis, I'm just counting my blessings.

I would REALLY like to get a call about going to Canada next month, but wishing ain't doing any good. It is like not thinking about elephants, though - not so easy. Love me! Want me! Put me in the driver's seat about my destiny!

Why are there forces beyond my control?
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Further Adventures of Stage Mom [Jan. 18th, 2011|10:09 pm]
Accompanied son and daughter to filming of the pilot of Adam Hills' talk show, where the Girl did a little shtick with him.

Don't know whether the pilot will air, but the regular series debuts Wed. Feb. 9 on the ABC. Once again, his production team made a fuss about her, so maybe her stand up mini career will continue.

The Girl was all blase about being backstage with the band Little Red, then her friends have been squeeing all day. Apparently, they are a teenage Thing. I was more excited to see Machala Banas, who starred in Avenue Q.
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The Great Orwell Relapse of '11 [Jan. 16th, 2011|12:32 pm]
I read really quickly, and I'm a picky fiction reader. So my choices to take to Japan were 'The Collected Novels of George Orwell' and 'Parrot and Olivier Go to America'.

To deal with the second first, fantastic novel - my pick of last year's crop, along with 'Wolf Hall'. Made me want to re-read 'Democracy in America' too - which I've been dipping into since I got back.

George, George, George... maybe my favorite political essayist, but very much a product of his times, especially when it comes to women. 'Animal Farm' - probably the first time I've re-read this since high school, and indeed, it is on the Girl's year 9 reading list. It kind of belongs there. What struck me this time is Orwell's deep love of nature, but the political parable is a bit anvillicious, as is the theme of tweaking of the basic principles of human rights until they get corrupted by bad powerful men. It is all about the boy animals - the sole female animal is easily distracted by red ribbons. Thanks, George.

'Burmese Days' - difficult to read because it is so utterly racist, although it has some interesting stuff about the colonial mindset, and certainly gets across a self-loathing main character (Orwell does not, in the main, have very sympathetic main characters).

'A Clergyman's Daughter' - PG had really liked this novel, and I do too. I think Orwell invests a bit too much in the main character's supposed frigidity, but (other than this) he does write her well. Also, chunks of it are taken from 'Down and Out in Paris and London', which he was writing at the same time, but it is a good 'social observation' novel of the 1930s despite or because of it, and the spiritual crisis she faces was affecting to me.

'Coming Up for Air' was the sleeper of the collection. The main character is such a twat, but he ended up sneaking up on me, and the whole novel holds together as a 'you can't go home again' odyssey as well as an insightful picture of the moment (1938) when war was the inevitable in the back of everyone's mind.

'1984' - well, it is a mood piece as well as a period piece, isn't it? Orwell was dying, painfully, and it is a novel written by a person who is dying painfully. In so many ways, 'Brave New World' and especially, 'The Machine Stops', were better dystopian predictions. And Julia irritates me - pure emotion to contrast with Winston's pure intellect? What would attract a young woman to a much older wimp with varicose veins in a world where meaningful conversations aren't allowed? Of course, Orwell did marry a much younger woman just before his death, but shurely there was some Marry the Genius stuff happening there. Anyhoowwww, sets the mood of complete despair very well, and probably not the novel I should have read when I was starting to feel lung-y.

Didn't get to 'Keep the Aphidistra Flying' yet.

Oh, and I watched 4 episodes of s5 Dexter last night. Enjoying that muchly.
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Update: lots of good stuff amidst the scary stuff [Jan. 14th, 2011|11:58 am]
My wonderful husband, who had just returned home with the kids and had a high temperature himself, arranged for me to return by the next plane, which is one of the many reasons why he is my Perfect Guy.

It was the right decision. My productive and pleasurable time in Tokyo had ended, and my arch-nemesis bronchitis just keeps on galloping back bigger and better every time. Bad Horse! Bad Horse!! (still my favorite tiny perfect Joss Whedon production, btw - the Girl and I just rewatched it for the umpteenth time).

Anyhow, antibiotics are still my Hit Girl (to mix movie metaphors), so while still pretty flat, I can breathe again, which is a Good Thing. ::start moan:: Having just come through my third bout of bronchitis in a year, I can say with authority that not being able to breathe is a Bad Thing. I may have to go back on the ventilin, although my asthma is pretty much fine when I'm not sick. It is just the minute I get a cold, my lungs put up this immediate white flag and the barbarian hordes of infection march right in. My lungs are Petainist, that's the problem right there. I had the strep throat side effect this time too, like I did a couple of months ago, which means my throat closes up as well. Not a good combination, alone in a hotel room in a country where you don't speak a word of the language. ::end moan, as I'm home now and fine, having learned that Killer Monster Snow Goons are Bad News::

You know what is worse than lying in bed sick in a foreign country? Waking up without a home in Queensland. Or not waking up. That's where our flight insurance money is going.

It is also a bit scary in Victoria - pretty much non-stop rain since my return 2 days ago, and we are keeping a close eye on our local Merri Creek, which did flood away back in 2003, the year we arrived. At that point, we lived on the sucker (east) side, but somewhat miraculously, the waters went a foot up in the garage and left our (then) house alone. The Girl wanted to go the beach with a friend, but between the weather, and landslides near Lorne (where she was headed), we've delayed her departure by a day.

Also, the tv comedian she has worked with before, Adam Hills, is taping a show and asked for her to come on again. It is odd, she doesn't think of herself as a performer, and I certainly ain't a stage mom (I've got enough of a life of my own, thanks, don't need to live vicariously through my daughter), but people do see something in her. My mother's friend Elaine used to attract people like that - we tell the story about how the rabbi's wife in the small town I was born in used to refer to Elaine's "charisma", with a hard "ch" like "Chanukkah", and SuperGirl has It, whatever It is. She might as well use It.

My Dad is worried about my Stepmum, and now I am too. I'm just arranging for a short visit to North America in February - I'm already crossing my fingers and toes. And doing my research, of course.

So, to summarize: lucky escape; others are less fortunate; comedy tonight; hope for tomorrow. Pretty much my life story right there.
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Tales from the crypt [Jan. 10th, 2011|01:10 pm]
(the previous post was from a few days ago - I've had some issues with internet access)
Two weeks ago, the Guy had a nasty cold. He pushed through as is his wont, and I thought the Girl and I had somehow resisted it (the Boy had a lesser variant). But yesterday they all left, and I was definitely under the weather.
I left the family at the fast train counter and got together with the main reason I came to Tokyo: a wonderful professor who basically ran away in one of the ‘anti-individualism, pro-collectivism’ drives in my Faculty. As sometimes happens with friends, I met him at Shibuya Station at 3 and we talked for 4 straight hours as though it had been a day instead of a year apart. He shares my absolute fascination with the unique aspects of city planning in Tokyo – that until recently, all the high density was accomplished at fairly low height limits, the complete absence of what we would consider ‘public space’ (there isn’t a word or concept for it in Japanese), the importance of obeying the rules that leads to insanely low crime rates (I’ve seen thousands of vending machines across Japan and never one vandalized) and children being able to walk by themselves at 4 years of age, but also leads to extremely high rates of depression. In short, we talked about urban form as a reflection of cultural values, and whether it is possible to have some of the cultural values we consider positive without some of the cultural values that drive us up the wall. Darko is still his sweet impossible self – he has been in Tokyo for 3 years and refuses to learn the language. As a Serb from Bosnia, he says he’s seen language as a divider, and English to him is this nice neutral tool that everyone should use as an alternative to Esperanto. This has created problems at hospitals etc. He also told me some insanely funny and sad stories about both small and capital P politics in the Faculty that made me wonder if there is somewhere less childish. Ironically, his idiosyncrasies are not only tolerated, but worshipped in Tokyo – as the only foreign professor, he is expected to say outrageous things. He has landed well.
We found a lovely coffeehouse, walked through a big cemetery and talked about the politics of intensification in relation to cemeteries, and then ended up in a terrific grill house that was used in Kill Bill. In short, an insider’s view.
I got home at 10 (having left at 7.30 and taken 3 trains – distances in Tokyo are incredible) and promptly started shivering with a high fever. Bad bad night alone in my bed, very sick indeed. I’m still here for 10 days – the main work portion of my visit, so I need to figure out how to get better stat
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Lost [Jan. 10th, 2011|01:00 pm]
in case you were wondering about further adventures in JapanCollapse )
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Koya San and Naoshima Island: two equivocal Shangri-Las [Dec. 27th, 2010|10:41 pm]
photos to followCollapse )
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Kyoto [Dec. 20th, 2010|12:34 am]
Kyoto is the anti-Delhi, that's for sure. We saw one piece of trash on the streets today, in a 15 km long walk. I think I heard a discreet carhorn beep once. It is also the opposite kind of experience: with all the (nuclear) family, not alone and then with friends and colleagues. It is equally fantastic, though.

We walked and talked and ate a ridiculous amount today. As the Girl said: this is our Eat Pray Love tour.

ETA: What we learned about Japanese planning today (because it WAS the first day of study leave - with the help of PG and the kids):Collapse )
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Mentally, I'm already in the next place [Dec. 15th, 2010|12:19 pm]
It always happens. Just as you are about to go away, tons of last minute work emergencies come up. Nothing too serious, just the usual suspects when you are working on 5 major research grants at once. Personalities, budgets, time lines. If only people didn't think they were unique in their problems. Easy for me to say, I'm just managing the situations.

The Boy was a little disappointed in his high school leaving exam results. So was his dad and I. He did well, just not as well as he would have if he'd put his back into it. He knows it and we know it, so we're leaving it behind. It isn't as if we took high school all that seriously, 30 years ago. He'll have his gap year in Israel and then re-think his university options. It wasn't as if we were going to pay for a big shot American university without some kind of full scholarship.

As for the Girl, so many possibilities, so little time. She has to decide between Jewish camp, and more time with friends in Melbourne/ opportunity to do some stand-up comedy again. Up to her, of course.
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