Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Throwing Out the Sea Anchor

It's been too long since last I wrote in this thing, three months at least, and I have been seriously adrift. This austral city is beautiful, friendly, and well-cultured. We really like it here (we keep saying that, I know), and little by little, we are feeling more settled. Recently, I found a job and that is making this feel much more like home than a hideously extended vacation.

Today I go in for my first lab meeting with the research groups of Dr. Jenny Stow and Dr. Rohan Teasdale. I am back to being a microscopist. I have been meeting with anyone who will take time out of their day to talk to me about microscopy in Brisbane. Most of the folks I've spoken with have been at the University of Queensland, and they all seemed to be connected to Dr. Stow in one way or another. So I guess word got back to her that a high-falutin' microscopist from the U. S. of A. was looking for employment rather seriously and, from what I can telll, she and Dr. Teasdale cobbled a position together for me.

"So, what will you be doing?" I hear you ask. That's a good question, and I guess I'll have a better answer to that question by lunchtime. Right now my understanding is that I'll be fixing microscopes, taking pictures, making time-lapse movies, learning to use new high-throughput systems, training other researchers how best to use micrographic techniques and working with them to develop samples that will yield high-quality data, and working with computational biologists who are developing bioinformatic approaches to micrographic data, among other things. Whew! That's a lot, but that's part of what makes this new position so exciting.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Reason for all *This*

This installment was supposed to be about the putative dangers of living in Australia about which one reads so much once one starts researching such a move, and I will address that issue in an upcoming installment. However, it has been pointed out that I have said nothing of the circumstances necessitating the move to Australia herein described and that reason probably should be elucidated. The reason is simple: my wife was offered a tenure track position at a university in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

She and I have talked about this decision extensively and decided that such an opportunity is too grand to decline. I have no doubt that we will continue to debate the pros and cons of this move even after the move is made. We will be moving a very long way from home, a very long way from everything and nearly everyone we know (we do know some people in Brisbane). I have no doubt but that we will miss our family and friends terribly. I know I will miss my cats: they simply cannot come with us. We will be immersed in a new culture where people speak what is ostensibly the same language, but that language may differ so greatly in its particulars from the one to which we are accustomed that we may not be able to understand anyone (I rather doubt this, but it is possible). All of the plants will be different, and most of the birds. We are moving to a place without squirrels, with different stars in the sky, with different laws and customs, different sports. I'll have to be bored by cricket instead of baseball, footie rather than football, net ball rather than basketball. (Actually, I'm looking quite forward to going to cricket and Australian rules fooball matches.)

Will we be able to get decent pizza? That question didn't even occur to me until my dad asked me that same question this evening. Will their concept of ice cream be the same as ours, or will it be closer to the English conception of that dessert? If we cannot get versions of these dishes recognizable to the American palate (and bear in mind that our palates are not typically American, but they are American nonetheless), will access to a broad variety of asian foods make up for this lack?

Despite flooding in northern Queensland, the southern part of the state is still in a drought; will we be able to adjust to water rationing? The government has set a goal for all residents of Southeast Queensland to limit water consumption to 170 liters per day, which is about 45 gallons per person per day. Now, this is great for what my spouse does and means that she is readily employable in Queensland and will have plenty of material to study. But how does one actually take a four minute shower? This is the length of shower recommended by the Queensland Water Commission. After a time, I suppose the adjustments we make will seem as natural as separating trash into different types of recyclables does now, but I do wonder how we will adjust.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

OK, so I haven't written anything for a little while and I guess I need to. Two weeks ago Wednesday, Mellini and I drove over to Brooksville(?! I know!) for our medical exams to ensure that we are healthy enough to emigrate to Australia. Doctors have to be approved by the Australian government in order to provide this service, and such doctors are few and far between. I think there are maybe five for the entire US. The doctor in Brooksville is a very nice man from India, from Hyderabad (at least that's where he went to school), and he has a quiet and gentle manner and is quite friendly and forthright: just about what I might want in a doctor.

Before we got to the doctor's office, we had to fill out extensive personal histories as well as 20 page questionnaires asking such detailed questions as whether our great-great aunt's cat had diabetes or gout or the ague (which is totally fine because we're trying to move to someone else's home and they can be as careful as they want about who they let in and who they keep out; I'm really totally good with that; the Australians seem to make a lot of good decisions when it comes to protecting their population from various hazards). Mellini was good enough to drive us over and back, so the drive over to Brooksville went pretty quickly from my perspective.

Once at the examination, we started by donating some of our precious bodily fluids. Then we had our reflexes tested, reflexes I never even knew I had; we were weighed and measured and I'm proud to say that even WITH a potbelly I'm still within the normal BMI range (I used to be off the height/weight charts, but no longer) and the giraffe said that I'm 6' 5"; our ears and throats were examined, our hearts and lungs were listened to, and blood was drawn for analysis. Now, I don't wish to speak I'll of our doctor because, as I said above, he is a very nice man, very knowledgeable and has a great bedside manner; he's a very good doctor, I'm sure. However, he's not a phlebotomist and he did stick me rather roughly when he drew blood and wiggled the needle around in my vein after it was in. I wasn't sore afterwords and I didn't bruise at all so no harm done, but MAN that hurt!

After we were done with everything they could do to us we had to drive further into the wilds of untamed Brooksville to get our chest x-rays to make sure we're not tubercular and then return with our films to the good doctor so that he could check them and make his recommendations. He showed us the films and explained his readings of the films as he made them which was (again) very generous and a great kindness to two meganerds like me and my darling wife. I'ts really neat, but kinda creepy, but really more neat that creepy to see an x-ray photo of yourself. I've only ever seen thoracic x-rays of myself: maybe I need an x-ray protrait done, 3/4 view maybe? Anyhow, the x-rays were pretty much fine and so, four hours after we began, we were done. Except for paying the bill. All $800US of it. Moving to another country is EXPENSIVE! Who knew?

Next installment: when snotties attack.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


So, I'm trying to get a feel for Aussie culture before actually being in Oz so that maybe I won't feel so rudderless on arrival. I 've been reading websites about Australian slang and idiom: some makes sense and some really, well, there's going to be a steep learning curve. Australia even has its own standard dictionary. We've got Webster's, the Britons have Oxford, and the Australians have the Macquarrie Dictionary. I'm going to have to learn to spell again. Australian English seems to switch back and forth between British and American spellings: "color", "honor" and "favor" are sometimes "colour", "honour", and "favour". I've already forgotten the other "irregularities" in spelling, but they're there.

I've also been trying to watch some Aussie TV shows, starting with "Kath and Kim." It's funny, I guess, but not like really laugh out loud funny, just mildly quirky and awkward funny. I guess that's really the only show I've tried to watch (I don't think The Crocodile Hunter counts). I don't know why I expect their TV shows to be possibly amusing or entertaining; so very few of ours are.

Mellini doesn't think going to Outback Steakhouse and gorging ourselves on Bloomin' Onions while quizzing the servers on their knowledge of Australia is a good idea. But what does she know? She's listening to Vangelis! Those servers do have to learn a lot abut Australia and I think Bloomin' Onions would soak up a lot of beer.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This must be the Podes.

So today I can officially acknowlegde that Mellini and I are moving to Brisbane, Australia: I have given notice to the School at which I work that I will be leaving possibly in May, possibly in June. And wouldn't you know it: I got swept! Another Science teacher is moving to Sydney, like, next week! So the news that I'll be leaving before the end of the school year to move to the other side of the planet will fall, like a sand-filled balloon, with an unnoticed thud. So much for drama.