Saturday, March 31, 2007

Trust the physicists

Geekman's department is running a pool for the cricket World Cup. These are the betting rules, as sent around to everyone by email:

You email me your prediction of the net run rate (NRR) for the match before 11pm each night that there is a match.

The NRR of the match between team A and team B is calculated by RR(A) - RR(B), where RR(A) = runs(A)/overs(A), where overs(A) is the total number of overs that team A is required to bat. For example, if it is an N over match, then overs = N, unless they are batting 2nd, and win the match in less than N overs. In the case of rain and each team gets a different number of overs, the run rate is the ratio of the actual runrate to the target RR (or score) calculated via the duckworth-lewis system, multiplied by the run rate of the other team.

If you correctly predict the outcome of the game (who wins), you get 1 point (if it is a tie, and you predict a win, you get 0.5). If you predict a tie, and it is a tie, you get 1 point. If you predict a tie, and it isn't tie, no points for you, loser!

You also get up to 1 additional point for predicting the NRR correctly. Specicfically, you get P points, where:

if |diff| < 2
P = 1 - |diff|/2
P = 0

where diff is the difference between your predicted NRR and the actual NRR.

The points are doubled for the semis, and tripled for the final.

If you fail to bet, no points for you.

Each player puts in $5. The winner at the end of the world cup gets a prize (yet to be determined) valued at 75% of the total input. 2nd place gets 25% of the total input.

Now will you join me in laughing at them?

Oooh, pretty colours! Watch them move!

This is just awesome. Or perhaps my thesis has eaten my brain. Or both.

Friday, March 30, 2007

I think I'm doing it wrong

So now I've seen the Battlestar Galactica mini-series and five or six episodes from season one. Yet I still find myself rooting for the Cylons.

They are just so much cooler and more interesting than the human characters. They deserve to rule the galaxy.

I suspect this means I am missing the point.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This just in from Geekman

Geekman puts on his judging hat.

First of all, let me say that I was shocked, shocked at the lack of bribery. Not one person tried to buy me off. How's a hard-working judge supposed to earn a living, hmm?

Anyway, since it looks like I have to be impartial, on with the decisions. Lacking an exact parrot captioning metric, I resorted to the method of narrowing it down to the three I liked best, and then randomly choosing from those three.

So, without further ado, the winner of the caption contest is...

"Two minutes from tire to flat."

Congratulations, bardiac!


Reclaiming my rightful place as owner of this blog, I (StyleyGeek) would like to thank all of you for your awesome entries in the caption contest. They made me snort and giggle, and (in some cases) very concerned about your medications.

I want to add a few honorary mentions here:

Pilgrim/Heretic, for the world's longest caption, at 150 words, and for gratuitous use of American cultural and geographical references.

Shrinkykitten gets the hedging-her-bets award for the most consecutive entries. No more caffeine for you!

And although I told Geekman he could also choose a 2nd and 3rd place if he wanted, he appears to have decided not to share them with you. So I'm going to pick some myself.

In second place is Dr Brazen Hussy: This one is pretty nice. But do you have it in red?

And third place goes to Geeka: The bell is on the other side moron, watch where you are putting that finger.

Bardiac, your winner's postcard is on the way just as soon as you email me your address! (And then you get to wait three or four weeks for the international postal system to screw things up.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Will you do me a favour?

Okay, so in about a week's time, I want you to say to me, "Styley, remember last Wednesday? Remember that feeling of complete unburdenedness—nay! anti-burdenedness—that you experienced after handing in the really-truly-final-and-this-time-I-mean-it version of chapter five?"

And then, after you pause for me to gaze dreamily into the distance, you will add, "Remember the way you were able to spend a whole day doing nothing but leisurely filling out of Immigration paperwork?"

And my eyes will narrow slightly. But you will quickly continue, "And surely you haven't forgotten the sweet (though not sugary) taste of the steak and mushrooms you rewarded yourself with afterwards?"

I will nod, and smile, and go to my happy place. And you will conclude this little speech thusly: "So keeping in mind the wonderful experience of peace and harmony that only hard work can bring, I would like to suggest that NOW would be a FREAKING EXCELLENT TIME TO FINISH ANOTHER CHAPTER."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Don't they sell those at Target?

Dear student who came here by googling: "Thoughts, for exams".

Try having some of your own.

With best wishes for success,

Monday, March 26, 2007

Caption contest

This photo which I took just now is crying out for a caption. I was thinking of calling it "Dreaming of opposable thumbs" or maybe "I prefer racing handlebars myself", but then I realised that the fact there are 20+ comments below on the extremely important question of which hand to carry shopping in demonstrates that my beloved readers are freaks with too much time on their hands willing to rise to any commenting challenge.

So with no further ado, I announce the parrot captioning contest! The person who comes up with the best caption* for the above photo by midnight Wednesday** will receive the unbelievably exciting prize of a postcard from sunny warmish autumnal Australia!***


* As judged by the completely impartial and objective Geekman. (He can't help it: he's a physicist.)

** My time zone. You'll have to work out the conversion yourself—I can't.

*** Assuming they are willing to give me their mailing address. Otherwise they might have to settle for praise and gratitude instead.

Quick poll

A parrot that compulsively picks the fertilizer pellets out of my potted plants on the balcony is...

(a) going to be perfectly fine. If they were dangerous, it would know better than to eat them.

(b) a perfect example of Darwinian evolution and doing the species a favour.

(c) in big trouble and my karma is going to suffer for it.

(d) a problem easily solved by [fill in simple solution here].

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Right sentiment, wrong country

Graffiti seen last week (sprayed onto a shelter in the middle of nowhere in the Australian bush):

"Obama for president!"

I wish I'd taken a photo, but people were rushing me so we could do this before it got dark:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

For physicists, symmetry is everything

"Geekman, why are you carrying all the heaviest shopping bags with your left hand?" Sudden suspicion dawns. "You don't always do that, do you? Deliberately?"

"Yes, of course."

"Because being right-handed means your left arm is naturally a bit weaker than your right? And you think this will eventually make it catch up?"

"Yes. It's perfectly logical."

I start laughing. He looks irritated. "It is logical."

"I know it is. But it's still funny."

"I don't see why!"

"I'll tell the internet," I threaten. "And they'll take my side. They'll help me laugh at you."

"That's only because they don't THINK."

Not the most embarrassing underpant story after all, I guess*

I just read something on someone else's blog that left me with an overwhelming urge to tell the whole internet** about my underpants. Why? Because I'm drunk, that's why.

So anyway. I'm going to tell you (that's all of you, including my ex-student who reads here—Hi! Just deal!) about my most embarrassing underpant moment.


I was in New Zealand, staying for a couple of days in a tiny, very pretty town in the middle of nowhere, known only for its thermal pools. Because no one in my family has any money, we were doing the trip marae-style: Geekman and I, my mother, my mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law all sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the local church hall. (I don't think that's relevant. But it adds atmosphere.)

So the first morning we are there, my mother, Geekman and I are getting ready to go to the thermal pools. The in-laws have decided instead to go on a healthy walk in the bush, as you do when you are healthy, energetic Swedes. Soaking in warm water all day is for the Lower Races, like the French or Germans or something. (I don't think that's relevant either. But I am drunk. I have excuse. )

The point is, as we are all standing in the church hall getting our shit together, in-laws and all, my mother says in front of everyone, loudly, "StyleyGeek, are you going to get changed at the pools?"
"No," I reply, "I have my togs on under my clothes. I'll just strip off."
"So you are taking your underwear in your bag?"
I look shifty. All I am carrying is a towel. "No."
"So, you are wearing your underwear over your togs?"
"Does Geekman have your underwear in his bag?"
"No." Exuding please stop asking now vibes at this point.
"Surely you aren't planning to put your wet togs back on under your clothes when you leave? You'll catch cold!"
"You aren't going to walk back here afterwards just in your togs and towel, are you?"
By now EVERYONE is extremely interested in this conversation.
"Well, I don't understand," says my mother, perplexed. "What are you going to do about your underwear?"

Finally I give in to Fate and admit through gritted teeth to my entire extended family, "I'm. not. going. to. wear. any."

And I never heard the last of it. (My favourite comment was from my mother-in-law: "Can one actually do that?")

The End.


* Please to share a better one in the comments.

** Firefox's spell check tells me that "blog" and "internet" are words that don't exist. Oh, the irony.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The great tradition of academic bullshit

In the midst of a fun reading group discussion today in which everyone was animatedly ripping this week's book to metaphorical shreds, all nine of us present eventually admitted that we had read no further than the first five pages.

Considering that all three of my committee members were there, it makes me wonder whether they will take the same approach to my dissertation...

Two gross things

  1. I just picked up a book from the library that totally smells like vomit. Yet I really really need to read it and reference it in my dissertation. Does anyone have a nose-peg and some rubber gloves?
  2. This:

My Immigration battle scars just get better and better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Another immigration battle fought and won

I had my medical tests for Geekman's residency application today. (Yes, they need proof that I am healthy so that he can stay in Australia. Awesome logic.)

They took pretty much the whole day, but I was just glad they were able to fit me in so quickly. Geekman had to schedule his about six weeks in advance, whereas I only make the appointment last Thursday. The actual tests weren't so arduous, either.

First they took all my blood away.

Then they irradiated my chest.

Then the doctor made me perform a series of movements that looked like something from the Ministry of Silly Walks, including pretending I was a duck. (He said it is the easiest way to check someone's joints all work fine. I think he was just having a laugh at my expense.) Unfortunately I didn't get photographic evidence of this.

There were plenty of other tests, but apart from the one where I peed on my hand by mistake (urine samples must be so much easier for men), they probably aren't worth mentioning. In fact, that one probably wasn't worth mentioning either, so let's pretend I didn't.

In round two of the Immigration Department versus StyleyGeek, the winner is... ME!

Your friendly morning Parrot

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Does it bother anyone else...

... that blogspot looks like blogpost, just with extra typo?

Every time I type a URL that ends in, I have to squint at it until my eyes go all funny, because I'm always convinced I've spelled it wrong.

Participles and nouns, get 'em while they're hot!

One of the sponsored ads that turned up on my Google search just now was seriously weird:

"Looking for verbal suffixes? Auctions on verbal suffixes ending soon! Buy your verbal suffixes, get our best deal!"

I wonder if they have a mint-condition Sumerian subordination marker?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Three things that make me ridiculously happy

(1) I changed the windscreen wiper blades on my car all by myself! Nothing makes a girl feel competent like successful DIY car repairs.

(2) It has rained all day. That in itself would make me happy, but today it also meant I had a chance to watch the wipers go swoosh swoosh swoosh instead of scrape scrape screech and to see them make the windscreen all sparkly instead of just spreading the mud and water more evenly around. Unfortunately, these new clean and friendly-sounding wiper blades completely hypnotised me while I was waiting at an intersection. I must have been swaying back and forth in time with them and cheering them on ("Swoosh-swoosh! Swoosh-swoosh!") for quite a while after the light had changed and before the people behind me hooted me back to reality.

(3) The university wireless network has developed expansionist ambitions. Initially wireless access was confined to a few libraries and other hotspots, but it must have found something to feed on (undergraduates?), because over the past few years it has sent gradual exploratory tentacles out across the university campus. Today I switched on my laptop inside our department and, for the first time, a signal was available! The poor wee thing was weak and intermittent and seemed shy about staying for a whole round of find-the-database, but if I can just keep it, I promise I'll feed it and groom it and take it for walks until it's all grown up. (And then I'll release it on the world and you'll all be DOOMED! DOOMED! DOOMED!*)


* I think I just found a fourth thing that makes me ridiculously happy: typing DOOMED!. No, really. You should try it. I dare you to write a blog entry that requires you to use the word DOOMED!. (Capitals are compulsory). You'll feel so much better.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tiny street art

This guy's art project is fantastic. He goes around putting little hand-made people into tiny scenes on London streets. Curbs become cliffs, potted plants are vast forests, and puddles prime sunbathing locations. It reminds me of The Borrowers, one of my favourite books when I was a kid.

I have a hard time deciding which is my favourite. Drain Guy shows the scale of the scenes the best. But Expelled is wonderfully poignant, as is Mum's Gone to Ibiza. And Pinned Down made me snort coffee out my nose.

If I had to pick one, though, it would probably be Cash Machine, because it's just so detailed.

I wonder how many passers-by notice the little people, and what sort of reaction they have. I bet kids see them and when they tell grown-ups, they get laughed at for making things up.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Contradictory visa form instruction of the day

"List previous addresses of the places where you have lived for 12 months or more, either continuously or cumulatively, during the last 10 years (including Australia). You must account for every year."

So what do you do about the years when you lived three months here, six months there, five months somewhere else...?

Note: the addresses are independently verifiable, since for the ones in Australia we had to officially register our addresses with Immigration, and for the moves involving multiple countries, these had to be listed elsewhere on the form. Otherwise I'd just fudge it and pick one of the multiple addresses and say I lived there for the whole time.

(Incidentally, the space on the form under this question provides room for a maximum of four addresses. I need to give between seven and twelve, depending on whether I choose to disregard the first half or the second half of the instruction.)

So apparently I'm the smart one

It's amazing how sometimes different people's perspective on the same issue can be totally at odds.

My biggest regret with my time as a PhD student has been my choice of thesis topic. It is dry and highly theoretical and while it turned out to be too broad in terms of the scope of what I have to look at for me to be as rigorous as I would like, the applications of its results are too narrow to expect that anyone much will be interested in the final dissertation. Unfortunately I realised most of this after the point of no return.

The other PhD students in my department, on the other hand, all have sexy, fun(dable) topics that not only other linguists get excited about, but which even enthuse random non-linguists at parties. I avoid talking about my topic at social gatherings, because people mysteriously tend to evaporate from the room.

Bear all that in mind as background context to the following snippet from an angst-ridden conversation between me and another student about our futures:

Me: "Sometimes it seems so improbable that we will really finish. And more unlikely that we will manage to get jobs."

Other PhD student: "Well for most us, sure. But you don't have to worry."

Me: "Huh? I have more to worry about than any of you! My topic's so boring it even makes me fall asleep. You guys have interdisciplinary connections, people in the Real World who care about your research, and enough enthusiasm for your topics that there's no way you won't see it through. Plus, you could probably get jobs in your areas even without a PhD if you wanted."

Other student: "No, you have it all backwards! I was talking with [bunch of other students] just the other day, and we agreed that you're the only one of us who's like a real academic. You're doing stuff that sounds like Real Linguistics. And you're on track to finish on schedule. You're exactly the sort of person who will end up with a high-flying academic career. The rest of us just bum around making up shit about fun ideas."

So either this demonstrates the prevalence of imposter syndrome, or it shows how easily people mis-equate "boring and incomprehensible" with "true academia". Personally I think "making up shit about fun ideas" is how some of the best research comes about (maybe with less emphasis on the "making it up" side of things, though). But for now, I'm not too devastated that they all think I'm the smart high-flyer. Now I just have to find a way to extend the same delusion to my committee, the examiners and a few people with large amounts of funding...

The 8th Carnival of GRADual Progress...

... is up at Half an Acre! Hooray! Thanks to everyone who sent in links. The next one will be held here, but volunteers for future carnival hosting are still welcome.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Einen Antrag auf Erteilung eines Antragsformulars

As it turns out, I really do have to indulge the Immigration department's every whim when it comes to their new requests for documentation. Thank you to the commentators who suggested checking out the legal side of things: I did that today. As I had suspected, we are under no legal obligation to provide them with this new set of documents/test results/etc, and they can't change my residence status based on whether or not we comply, but they are also under no legal obligation to grant Geekman residency. So basically, unless they ask for something blatantly illegal (e.g. bribes), we have to humour them or they will get the pip and reject him out of spite.

The good news, however, is that we got a written apology from them today for having waited so long before telling us they need all this further information. So if they do at some future date end up rejecting his application due to the lack of time left on his contract, I think this admission that they are at fault for being so slow would give us grounds for appeal.

The other good news is that I strode bravely into the fray today for my first piece of documentation and survived the first battle. The application for my German police record is now winging its flappy little way towards Europe, where it will no doubt sit on some bureaucrat's desk for six weeks before they reject it for being written in the wrong colour ink. Even sending it off was more complicated than you might expect, since I had to get my signature on the form witnessed at the German Embassy. And incidentally:

  • No, they cannot provide you with the form: you have to download it yourself from their website.
  • No, you cannot pay the processing fee to them: you have to get a bank check drawn on a German bank (which costs $28 in bank fees as well as the $27 that they actually require).
  • No, you cannot leave the form with them: you have to take it away again and post it to Germany yourself.
But you still have to drive all the way over there (between 9 and 12: they don't work afternoons) so that you can pay them $25 to watch you sign the bit of paper that you printed out yourself and will have to send away with payment by yourself. They did stamp the form, though. Which makes it the second most expensive stamp I have ever paid for.*

The surrealness of the experience was almost worth the money anyway. Especially the bit with the baffled-looking little man in the booth at the gate.

"Good day. Vot is your business here, plees?"

I stand there struck dumb for a minute because I kind of planned to speak German, but it seems rude not to reply in English when he started it.

"I need a... a..." The English word fails me. I planned on German, damn it. I need a Formular to be beglaubigt. "... I have a form. It needs... witnessing. For my signature."

"Vot form?" He looks disbelieving. I brandish it at him. "For vot is zis form?"

"For a... criminal record."

"You haff a criminal record?" Now he looks terrified.

"No. It's for Australian immigration. They need proof that I don't have a criminal record."

"I see. You vill go to the consular section, plees."

"Where is that?"

"You haff not been here before?" He looks even more disbelieving.


"It is behind that tree." He waves his arm vaguely. "Now you vill put all your knives in the drawer behind you, plees. The drawer marked 'vun'."

"I don't have any knives!"

"Are you sure? Vot about in your pockets?"

"Of course not!" I start to giggle.

He looks at me with extreme disapproval. "Knives are a very serious matter."**

Eventually I convince him I am unarmed, and head through the booth. I start to wander in circles looking for the mythical "consular section" behind some random tree. The little baffled man finally pokes his head out of his booth again and calls, "I gaif you very precise directions! Vy are you not looking? It is up zere!" And points again. As I finally wander off towards the right door he calls after me in exasperation, "If I had known zat your English vas so bad, vi could have speak Cherman!"


* The most expensive was in Germany when I needed to have my student visa stamped by Immigration to say I was allowed to work a part-time job. After they made me cry ("What is the number of your faculty? No, that's the number of your department. The faculty number should be four digits. I need your faculty number. It's no good knowing the name of your faculty. I need the number. I find it extremely difficult to believe that you don't know your own faculty's number. What sort of a student doesn't know basic information like this?"), they charged me 80 Euro for the stamp.

**He is obviously from the South.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Remember this?

In the end, getting hold of all the police records, other official documents, and official translations from each country took around three months. Geekman was finally able to submit his permanent residence application in January, just in time for the new two-year employment contract to kick in (you require a two-year contract to qualify for permanent residence under the category he is applying in).

A couple of weeks ago, Immigration contacted him wanting to know why he had applied when he (now) has less than two years on his contract. He explained that he did have a two-year contract when he submitted the application and they seemed mollified.

And now he has just had an email from Immigration saying that they now need ME to jump through exactly the same hoops he did (police records from every country I have lived in, extensive medical examination costing hundreds of dollars, official translations, etc). This despite the fact that, as a New Zealander, I can live in Australia for as long as I like without going through any of this crap. And I am sure there was never anything on the original forms saying I would have to do this.

The worst thing is that even if we are extremely efficient, the long post times between Europe and here (and the "up to three months" processing time for some police record requests) mean it will probably take months to get the required documents. So by the time they come to process Geekman's application, he'll be lucky if he has much more than a year left on his contract. And I can just see them using that as an excuse to reject his application out of hand (while retaining the $2500 non-refundable processing fee).

We are so screwed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Random snippets of Geekman: the talking to invisible cameras edition

Me: "... and so it turns out that she—hey! Where'd you go?"

Geekman has crossed the road without me noticing.

Geekman (in an aside to a passing tree): "You too can master simple changes of direction and lose your wife."


Geekman: "Are you ready to watch the DVD?"

Me: "One minute. I just have to email these files to myself." (My low-budget back-up system).

Geekman (explaining patiently to the computer): "She's emailing herself because she has no friends."

Seeking hosts for future carnivals

The next Carnival of GRADual Progress will go up at Half an Acre in a few days' time. So if anyone wants to volunteer to host the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), that would be fantastic. Just send me an email to the address in the sidebar here. Hosting isn't too arduous, it's a great way to increase your blog traffic a little, and there are answers here to some of the questions you might have.

This is probably also a good time to remind you to round up your posts from the last month about grad student life (or posts you have read on other people's blogs) and get the links to Acre in any of the usual ways.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cockatoo play-date on my balcony

Sometimes it's fun to invite your friends over for a party.

It's especially fun to pretend you're about to crash through someone's French doors.

It's even more fun to slide down their guttering, squawking madly.

Until you see something better happening somewhere nearby...

And you have to hurry off to make sure you aren't missing out.

The persistence of student bicycles

This melty-looking bicycle is pretending to be a painting by Salvador Dali.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Is this even possible?

I'm going to have an internet-free weekend.

Just to see if I can.

So if you spot me wandering through blogland between now and Monday, give me a smack and send me home again. Thanks.

Bring out your losers

Note to self: If you accidentally leave out the c in the word closer, you can end up with most unfortunate typos like, "...which shows the need for a loser examination such as this one."

My thesis is a loser examination. (The only question is: is that an examination of, or an examination by?)

How to spot a PhD student in their final few months

I'm staying at home today because it's too much effort to put on clothes that don't have holes in inappropriate places or fall off entirely when I stand up.

Is this how agoraphobia begins?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Do I win the award for biggest dork?

I have labeled each subsection of my thesis with the name of a Dungeons and Dragons monster and for each one I slay rewrite, I award myself an appropriate number of XP.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish my Coffee of Dazzling Competence (+5 to intelligence, +10 to speed), and then I'm off to destroy a hook horror ("The diachronic implications of Downing's word order correlations").

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I prefer to learn from other people's mistakes

I just started a new blog! Never fear, it's not replacing this one. It's just that I realised how much I love reading about the stupid fun new stuff you crazy internet people are always experimenting with. Like Steve Pavlina and his polyphasic sleep, that guy who decided to try living in a ditch for six weeks, Kyle and his One Red Paperclip...

My supervisor once told me: "If nobody's done it before... there's probably a bloody good reason why not." She was talking about my thesis topic, but the same applies to weird-ass lifehacks of the sort I've become a fan of reading about. The beauty of the internet, though, is that if nobody has done it before, you can pretty much guarantee that someone will not only try it, but post photographic evidence of their hilarious failure (or success, but that isn't quite so funny).

So I've decided to start cataloging this sort of thing on a new site. The template is just a place holder, but I have a few days' worth of posts up there already. So head on over there and let me pretend I have some traffic.

Just noticed...

...that a whole bunch of feeds from my Bloglines have disappeared in the last few weeks. This includes some of my favourites, like One Bright Star, Always listen to your pig-puppet, and Present Simple.

I've re-subscribed and they seem okay now, but if any obsessive stats-checkers out there are all sad because they have lost Bloglines subscribers, it might not be deliberate! And if I used to hang out at your blog, but I haven't visited in a while, it might be that I've lost your feed and not yet realised.

I'm sweet enough already

People in the comments to the last post asked a few questions about my sugarfreeness, and I thought I'd answer them in a post instead of writing the world's longest comment.

Profgrrrl asked:

How does it feel to be sugar free after a month? Aside from the shock of eating it again, I mean.

(And Ianqui and Jana had similar questions.)

The main benefit I have noticed is that healthy food like fruit and vegetables, grains, etc, all taste so much better than I have ever remembered them tasting. I think sugary food was dulling my tastebuds. Right now I seriously cannot think of any yummier foods than brown rice, broccoli, grated carrots (not all together) and as a sweet snack, a mango or some papaya.

Over the last few weeks I've hardly ever felt the desire to snack on junkfood, or even to snack much at all. Back in my sugar-frenzied days :) I used to bounce from one snack to the next, always thinking about what I would eat next. Lately, I eat a small breakfast, have an apple around 11 o'clock, a sandwich for lunch, a substantial snack (another sandwich, a kebab, noodles, tuna on crackers, or similar) around 3:30 or so, and then dinner in the early evening. I often don't feel like eating after dinner, and I hardly ever think about food in between each of these. (I'm not denying myself food apart from sugar, though, so if I do feel like eating an entire bowl of nachos with three types of cheese, I go for it. It just doesn't happen very often).

I think I have finally de-coupled the psychological associations of food with certain events, too. It used to be that I always bought a chocolate bar when I went shopping, I always bought sweets at the movies, I pigged out on chocolate biscuits every week at our Monday department afternoon teas, and I always ate some chocolate or biscuits when watching TV in the evening. The hardest times during the early parts of last month were these, but now, I can do all of these things without thinking about snacking, so I'll only eat something if I'm actually hungry.

I think maybe sometimes I forget to eat when I am hungry too, which could be a problem. When I first stopped eating sugar in December, I lost three kilos in the first two weeks, then with my relapse in New Zealand, I put it all back on again (which was fine, because I'm not overweight, and this wasn't a weight-loss thing). Now I'm once more three kilos below my former weight, and I don't want to lose much more. I might have to start eating bigger meals.

Finally, I think my energy levels are a lot stabler when I'm not eating sugar. I used to always get very sleepy in the early afternoon, perk up mid-afternoon (which was when I usually ate some cake or chocolate) and get sleepy again around 4:30. I haven't noticed this happening at all in the last few weeks.

Rageyone asked:

Why did you decide to celebrate now? Are you reintroducing sugar back into your diet?

I was only ever planning to trial this for a month and see what effects it had. But seeing as they were all positive, and seeing that I really didn't enjoy that dessert last night (and still feel crappy for it), I might just stay sugar-free-ish. I'm not going to refuse dessert at other people's houses or pass up free chocolate, but I think I might continue not to eat sugar as a regular part of my day, and keep avoiding the high-sugar versions of things like yoghurts, muesli bars and cereals.

Ianqui asked:

Are you planning on splurging once a month or whatever, but generally staying away from sugar?

That's not a bad idea. Right now, the thought of anything sugary makes me feel like throwing up, and I can't imagine wanting to splurge again even in a month, but in the unlikely situation that I start to think an ice cream sundae or piece of cheesecake is a good idea, I could make it a once a fortnight/once a month-type deal.

But really? I wasn't joking when I said I thought I had poisoned myself last night. I had hot flushes, jitteriness, couldn't concentrate on anything, and my stomach did back-flips all night long. Worst of all, the whole sundae/brownies deal tasted terrible (and I know it wasn't that I screwed up the brownie recipe, because Geekman loved them.)

I think I'll have no trouble staying off sugar for at least another month after this.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I think I poisoned myself

I just celebrated the achievement of going one whole month* without sugar.

My celebration consisted of double chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, nuts and sprinkles.

I think I'm going to die.


* Technically I've been on this sugar-free thing since December 27th, but I had a bit of a relapse in New Zealand in mid January (courtesy of the Cozy Cake Shop and its $1.50 cakes), and again the first week of February when they were giving away free chocolate at Orientation Week. So today marked the first time I've kept at it for an entire month. (Good thing February's short, huh?)

An excellent day for parrots

I saw gang gangs today for the first time since November. After I took the first photo, they even all crowded around to see what I was doing and to pose for the camera (and wow, they are bigger up close than I had thought: according to Google, around 40 cm/16 inches high, and a wingspan of around 75 cm/30 inches).

Unfortunately after taking the picture above I adjusted my camera to try and compensate for the oncoming twilight, which automatically reset the zoom without me noticing. So the rest of the pictures I got (including some of some lovely king parrots, which I haven't seen around at all over summer until today) came out badly.

But I did get this one of a cockatoo in flight, which makes up a little for the rest.

But they started it!

Apparently we need to stop being mean to Australians.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Warning: this entry ends in a joke so bad it might be hazardous to your health

Our department partially reopened today, although all the lecture rooms are still out of commission, so classes are taking place in the tea-kitchens instead (which, for anyone who usually makes tea and coffee as often I do, is the greatest tragedy of the storm so far).

I was one of the lucky ones and the only damage to my office is a lingering smell of wet carpet. (In a incredible case of bad timing, our building had just had its carpets steam cleaned last Monday.) One poor student down the hallway had packed up all her books and files into cardboard boxes ready to move offices, and everything got soaked right through (and then stood in 30+ degree heat for five days, turning it an interesting shade of furry). The many academics whose filing system consists of piles of paper on the floor also lost a lot of work.

The main library is still mostly closed, as apparently the ceiling on the top floor has caved in. The foyer with the returns desk is open though, and the whole place smells like a graveyard for rotting books and carpet. Our departmental library, on the other hand, was miraculously spared, except for the mysterious case of two books that were completely soaked while everything around them stayed dry.

While I was taking this picture and indulging in fond daydreams of selfless little books throwing themselves bravely in the path of the oncoming floodwaters to soak it up and save the others, ScaryLecturer walked past. He smiled gleefully and rubbed his hands, "The phonetics books are fine, you know. Are all the semantics texts destroyed like that? Because that would be *ahem* such a shame."

I couldn't help pointing out that while he might not think much of semantics as a field, he had to at least admit that John Lyons' arguments hold water.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The more the merrier

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Parrots in peril!

Miss M., another local blogger, has posted her photos of the storm damage, including one of the rescue of a rosella that had taken a bit of a blow to the head in the hail, poor wee baby. (S)he looks so bedraggled and confused (the parrot, not Miss M., although I suspect that being evacuated into the storm caused much bedragglement and confusion among the students too).

Driving me up the fruit-loop

Ianqui just posted about a guy in her department who, among other irritating personality traits, always says 150% more than is necessary to get his ideas across. This made me think that we should set up a talk-off between him and my mother. I'm pretty sure that's a competition my mother would win.

I always try to listen politely while she is taking the scenic route through a sentence, but to stay sane I play the game of rephrasing each of her multi-paragraph-long spiels into a one sentence summary. Here's an example from a phone call the other night. (Obviously it isn't word-for-word what she said, but I am pretty sure I have accurately reproduced the right amount of superfluous information.)

What she said: "I thought I'd call you instead of waiting for you to phone tonight because, you remember Jenny and Michael? That amazing English couple from church, who, well Michael has been over here for years now, and he met Jenny when he went back to visit his brother a few years ago and after a whirlwind romance she came back here with him? Well they have this adorable little labrador puppy who—oh goodness, you wouldn't believe it, did I tell you what my new definition of optimism is? My little dog saw their puppy in the park the other week and he ran over and climbed on top of her, and goodness me that was funny, because even as a puppy, that labrador is about four times his size, bless him—but Michael, well, he has had an unexplained pain in his ankle for months now. It started when he was playing tennis, and has got worse, and he went to see his doctor, who said, "Goodness me, that doesn't look very good," and Michael said that it had been hurting ever since he played tennis, and the doctor said that it might be tennis ankle, which is bit like tennis elbow, you know, like Jim used to have before that unfortunate event with the tractor. And so the doctor was MOST concerned and rushed to order some tests, but the hospital here doesn't have the right sort of machine, so the doctor called up the hospital in Dunedin and asked them to see Michael, and Michael was just DEVASTATED that he would have to travel all that way, but then Jenny said, why didn't they make a week of it and drive around and see the bottom of the South Island while they are there, because it's absolutely gorgeous down there this time of year, but what would they do with the puppy? And I said that puppies absolutely can't bear to be on their own at night, so just having someone come in to feed her wouldn't be enough. And they said that their last puppy didn't seem to mind. And I said that this puppy might and so I would be perfectly happy if they needed me to stay over at their house and keep the puppy company. And they were just so OVERWHELMED with gratitude that I would do that for them, so I packed a bag and that was terribly stressful because it's always hard to know exactly what you will need to take with you, and I had to buy a new weekend bag because my old one was a bit worn, and then I packed up my dog and drove over to their house and am staying there now, which is just so wonderful because their house has cable TV so I can sit here and watch the sports channel with both dogs here beside me and make myself a cup of tea whenever I like, just like at home."

In my head: "Michael and Jenny have gone away for the week, so I'm dog-sitting at their house."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Five Questions

Wolfangel was kind enough to send me five questions so that I could pretend to be the sort of famous person that gets interviewed. This way I can kid myself that I blog about stuff that my readers really want to know.

1. What country that you have never lived in would you choose to live in next?

Sweden. Canada.

Do I have to pick just one? Then Sweden. It's a lot like Denmark, which has probably been my favourite place I've lived so far, but Sweden is not as anti-immigrant, so I wouldn't have to cringe with shame at my good fortune every time one of my immigrant friends gets hassled by the police or, you know, deported. Sweden has lots going for it: good health system, good schools, other good social services, not too much poverty. Fun language. Geekman's family is there, so we'd have people to go hunt moose with. And it has pretty scenery:

Oops. I mean:

2. What single food item would you be unwilling to give up?

Last year I would have said cake. And biscuits. And lollies. And chocolate. (I'm not very good at counting to "single"). But I'm doing quite well without any of those so far in my little experiment. I don't know if I could give them up forever, though.

What else? Maybe the food of the Versatility Gods (glingleglingleglingle) otherwise known as potatoes?

3. If you could change one thing in your field, what would that change be? (Not a change in the culture of academia generally -- specific to the field.)

Ooh, that's a fun question.

I think a change that might just fix all my gripes with my field would be to make a broad undergrad education in a whole bunch of different theories of linguistics compulsory before students were allowed to toddle off and do research. Currently, at most universities I know, undergrad teaching is very polarised. If your institution is a hotbed of Chomsky-flavoured syntacticians, like mine was, you will wind up believing that that is the only way to do linguistics and that everyone else is misguided and out-of-date. If it is any other flavour of department, you will come out believing that Chomsky and his merry band of Minimalists are the Antichrist. (Collectively.)

The linguists whose work impresses me the most are those who aren't firmly in any particular camp, but who do heavily data-driven studies (using real! human! speech! Or, in the case of historical linguistics, actual attested texts). They then explore these using theory as a tool to try to work out what is going on with language, rather than using language data (all too often straight out of their heads) to try to work out what is going on with the theory.

It's always nice when people remember that theories are human constructs for visualising and talking about data, rather than absolute truths with independent existence. And when they remember that language is something created by and spoken by people, and that language doesn't do stuff or know stuff; people do.


4. What song have you most recently listened to obsessively (many times in a day, even in a row)?

M├ętisse: Boom boom ba. Lisa Ekdahl: Olyckssyster. Carla Bruni: Quelqu'un m'a dit. (Looks like I still can't count to one.) I have had these in a 3-song playlist playing repeatedly for the last two days.

Before that it was Sarah McLachlan's Adia and Galileo by the Indigo Girls.

(Help, I can't stop linking Wikipedia!)

5. Mulled wine or hot apple cider?

Mulled wine. I'm not even sure if we are on the same page with regard to apple cider. I've heard rumoured that when Americans use the term "cider", they mean something like apple juice rather than the fizzy alcoholic stuff. I don't know if that applies to Canadians too.

I once got drunk enough to experiment with heating up (alcoholic, fizzy) apple cider, but it wasn't one of my best ideas.

If anyone else would like me to come up with five questions for them, I'd be glad to.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Biggest reason for NOT working from home

Telemarketers. I've had three so far today.


The last one just called me "darling".

More storm: now with extra supercell

The local newspaper's story on the storm is here. The photo they printed (and that I then blithely stole to repost here) was from just after the storm, unlike my photos yesterday which had been taken 12 hours later.

I just can't believe that this could happen in the middle of summer.

In other news, we were woken this morning by an unscheduled visit from Tony the Renaissance Man, who is pioneering mind-reading as a tool for identifying the location of roof leaks. The last three times he has been around to "repair" our roof (and I use that word with intentional irony), the conversation we have had with him has gone something like this:

Tony: "So yous had a bit of a problem in the rain the other night?" (Like that's new and unexpected).

Geekman: "Yes, and I went up into the crawlspace under the roof while it was raining, so if you come up there with me now, I can show you exactly where the water was coming in."

Tony: "Na, 's all right. I'll jis' go up on the roof an' take a look."

[clamber clamber]

Tony, yelling from up on the roof: "Oh yeah, s'bloody obvious, mate! Yous've got some big holes up here. I'll just plug them up."

Geekman to me: "So if it's so bloody obvious (mate), why didn't he spot them when he was here THREE DAYS AGO?"

Tony, coming down: "Yeah, she's right now, mate. All fixed."

Geekman: "Are you sure? Because the place the water was coming in from was actually more over the other side. Just come up to the crawlspace and let me point it out."

Tony: "Nah, it'll be fine. Yous won't have any more problems now."

And we don't. Until, you know, the next time it rains. At which point you'd think he might actually let Geekman show him where the problem is. But I think we got away pretty lightly this time, considering people without our ongoing roof leak problems also had flooding and damage. And our good, kind, assertive (and Geekman says to add here 'and really hot') landlady is coming by in the weekend to discuss battle strategies, which will hopefully involve disposing of Tony the Renaissance Man altogether.