Friday, November 30, 2007

Two Friday highlights

You know you've got your money's worth (of something), when a variety show act actually makes audience members faint. (It was this. Warning: graphic images. Don't click through if you are squeamish about body modification.)

Our apartment is leaking again. All I can say is SO LONG, SUCKERS. That's what you get for buying a place without an engineer's report.

Wow, I'm all about the Schadenfreude today, aren't I?

I got a job, but if I told you, I'd have to kill you

I got a part-time job writing for a local magazine. But since I stupidly used revised blog posts as writing samples, I have to assume they might be reading here. Also, they made me sign a confidentiality agreement.

So let us never speak of it again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I saw this coming, but I don't know if that helps much.

We have to be out by the 1st of February. Which means 19th January, since we'll be going overseas for three weeks then. Which means before Christmas, since at the beginning of the year the housing market is flooded with students arriving for the new academic year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Geekman wisdom

Geekman sits down at the computer and opens his browser. "Have you blogged today?"

"Yes, just now. Why? Do you want to read it and find out what I've been up to?"

"Exactly. What did you blog about?"


"Then I guess I'll read it and find out what I've been up to."

Yes, it's ALL ELECTION ALL THE TIME, here in the Geek household

Geekman has been coming up with political slogans he would use if he ran for parliament. I think he's aiming for the "at least he's honest" vote.

Vote Geekman: A little bit better than some other quite good candidates.

Vote Geekman: Not totally bent on world domination.

Vote Geekman: My opinion, it's a better one.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I became a vegetarian and celebrated with beef lasagne

I've been wanting to try going pesco-vegetarian for a long time now. Not because any of the environmental, ethical or health reasons are totally convincing to me, but basically just because I don't enjoy meat as much as I do non-meat dishes, so I don't see why I should continue to eat meat when it is also (a) more expensive and (b) at least slightly controversial environmentally and ethically. (I don't feel the same way about seafood, so I'm not about to give that up any time soon.)

My main hurdle is that Geekman is the biggest carnivore of all carnivores. I honestly have no idea how other people manage in a relationship with one vego and one meat-lover. We hardly ever eat out, and cooking two separate meals each night is not feasible. But when we sat down and talked about it, we actually managed to come up with a plan that just might work. So we are going to try it for a month.

Lunches and breakfasts:
These are easy, since we eat separately already anyway. Lunch in particular is where I'll make an effort to incorporate the foods I should probably be eating if I'm going to avoid meat, but that Geekman doesn't like (tofu, whole grains, lentils).

A few times a week we'll cook something which we can add meat to his half of without any extra trouble, e.g. pasta or rice with sauce, stirfry with the meat cooked separately, salads, pizza etc. A couple of times we'll have something which has an easy vegetarian equivalent that can be cooked alongside the meat component: sausages for Geekman, vege sausages for me; hamburgers for Geekman; vegeburger for me. Once a week we'll have fish, which I'm happy to keep eating, providing we find out which fish species are not being overfished and only eat those. And once a week we'll still eat meat.

So that's how I ended up celebrating my conversion to (semi/pseudo-)vegetarianism with a beef lasagne. In case you were wondering.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In case you wonder why this election makes me so happy

"Mr Rudd said he would overturn a number of his predecessor's policies and sign the Kyoto Protocol and pull Australian troops out of Iraq."

(From BBC news).


You know what I'm talking about.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If I can't vote, I'm at least going to drone on and on about my political views. Also, free doughnuts.

In less than 24 hours, our own mini-George Bush will be OUT!

Of course, I said that last election too, and apparently the voting public didn't listen to me.

The trouble with getting a full picture is that I have never met a John Howard supporter in my life. After four years here, I feel totally safe assuming that anyone I meet feels the same way about Howard that I do, because it's worked for me so far. Which means, I guess, that there must be hordes of Howard supporters out in the wops (in as far as this city doesn't count as the wops), all mowing their sheep, or whatever rural people do, and talking about what a lovely boy Johnny is.

Let's hope not.

And as Geekman points out, given the number of people who are threatening to emigrate to New Zealand if Howard wins this one, there'd be no chance of ever changing the government in the future.

Anyway, free doughnuts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm trying to be an academic, dammit!

I got offered a full-time IT job today. I nearly pointed out that being willing to employ me for an IT position is evidence that they have no idea what they are doing and therefore the last people I would want to work for.

Groucho Marx's principle might work for clubs, but refusing to work for any company that would have me as an employee is probably not a great career strategy.

So I politely explained that I'm not looking for full-time work right now. Why aren't people so forthcoming with job offers for areas I actually WOULD like to work in?

Monday, November 19, 2007

NZ has cool birds too

These videos of Woof Woof, the talking tui, are amazing. I especially like the first one.

All the tui we used to get in our garden in NZ were very aloof, so I never saw them close up. I never realised quite how much green and blue is in their feathers until now.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Balance of compliments

Geekman: "That's a nice hat. My hat makes me look like a freak."

Me: "You can wear my pink baseball cap if you'd rather."

Geekman: "Baseball caps just look freaky in general."

Me: "Are you saying I should stop wearing it too?"

Geekman: "No. It looks good on you. It's like supermodels. They can wear a paper bag and it looks great."


Ten minutes later, when I have just about finished swooning over such a lovely compliment, we are walking outside in the worst heat we've had so far this summer, and I am holding my arms out from my sides a little to try and drip dry.

Geekman: "You look like a lumbering gorilla."

I give him The Look of Doom.

Geekman: "What?! I complimented you earlier!"

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I love Geekman's parents

We have been pressuring them to tell us what they would like for Christmas. Today we received this email.

Hi [Geekman],

I have thought what I want for Christmas. Cranberry jam. Mamma wants the same so maybe we could have a jar each?


Friday, November 16, 2007

Rosella school: the version with pictures

Learning about glass, and how it makes eating difficult when it stands between you and your birdseed.

Learning about "up". And how it puts the birdseed slightly out of reach. (Hint: you're a bird. Use those wings.)

Tired and pensive after all this hard learning stuff.

There goes the rosella training schedule

I was unemployed for a whole 16 hours.

My lecturing contract officially expired at midnight last night, and I spent most of today procrastinating on revising my CV to send to HR for them to put it in their giant bin of potential temp manpower. At 4pm I decided I was being ridiculous procrastinating on such a simple task, and that if I carried on like this I would have no income all summer and only myself to blame.

I opened the file—

—and there was a knock at the door.

The department wants me to create a website for... well, they don't quite know yet. They think it should be for graduate students. In the department. For them to share their research. But maybe also for other students from other departments so that we can lure them in with the awesomeness of linguistics and then poach them. And maybe it should appeal to international prospective students as well. Because they pay fees. So it will need information about studying here. Or maybe it should be secret and password protected so that people will feel comfortable sharing work in progress.

Hey, we know! Why don't you just create the website and THEN we'll decide what it's for?

I can see this job stretching over many, many meetings...

Which could be really rather lucrative.

What I do now I'm officially unemployed

Have begun a rigorous training program to teach my favourite rosella critical thinking. So far it has passed two tests with flying (ha!) colours, and we are working on a third.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Important questions

I realised I haven't been blogging much of substance of late. Well, I'm going to blame that on the fact that I have been totally paralysed by an all-consuming question: which chocolate bars to buy. Let's see if you can all help me out.

The supermarket near campus has started getting in all sorts of crazy imported American treats. Not only the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Butterfinger bars that it has stocked for over a year now, but recently the imports have also expanded to new and unfathomable creatures with names like Milk Duds, Oh Henry Bars, Junior Mints, 100 Grands, Whatchamacallits, Zero bars, and 3 Musketeers. (They are also now selling Cherry Coke, Root Beer, and Dr Peppers, but these don't interest me beyond mere intellectual curiosity, since I'm not a fan of fizzy drinks.)

So my question to those in the know is: which of these chocolate bars are worth the excessive price tag and environmental damage of imported chocolate? (I have to admit that I fully believe both Butterfingers and Reese's are worth every centimeter of rising sea levels, but Hershey's kisses, not so much.)

If it helps your answer, my non-American (un-American?) chocolate preferences are as follows:

Nougat Honey Logs, Crunchie bars, Pixie Caramels, Pinky bars, Picnic bars, Moro bars: I would swim across an ocean to get my hands on these.

Mars bars, Milo bars, Perky Nanas, Milky bars: I would walk across a few football fields for one.

Cherry Ripes, Bounty Bars, Milky Ways: I might bother to get out of bed if it was being offered in the next room.

Aero bars, Kit kats, plain chocolate, anything with wafers in it: Unless I was really desperate, you'd have to pay me to eat one of these.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The War on Birdseed

Now that the rosellas have stopped being scared of the wood pigeons, these scenes are pretty much representative of the on-going defensive action.

(And yes, I am using my Macbook powers for good.)

Never fails to make me happy

I finally managed the necessary contortions to lean out the window with my camera in one hand and birdseed in the other. Which meant I got (along with crampy arms and shoulders) at least 30 photos of a windowsill where a parrot had just stepped out of the picture.

I just realised this is my 1000th blog post. Kind of fitting, really.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Geekman gives a lesson in driver safety

"Geekman, did you know the speed limit here is 70? You're only doing 60."

"The speed limit isn't compulsory. You're meant to drive to the conditions."

I look at the clear sky, and the dry, well-lit, empty road. "What conditions are you driving to?"

"Tight trousers."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Crazy answers from student exams

Question: Although Old English had contact both with Celtic languages and Romance languages, it was far more heavily influenced by Romance than Celtic. Explain briefly why this was.

Actual student answers:

"The Celts were inferior."

"The Romans were more evolved."

"Dutch is very similar to English." (Yes, I know: WTF?)

"Celtic was always a minority language." (What, including when it was the ONLY language family in the country?)

"Language influence generally spreads from the people conquering to the people who get conquered. Romance conquered the French, and the French conquered the Celts, and the Anglo-Saxons conquered the English. Celts didn't conquer anybody. They just fought a lot. So only the Anglo-Saxons and Romance languages influenced English."

Almost, but... no.

And this is why 90% of the exam was problem sets rather than short answers. Otherwise if the giggling fits didn't kill me, the urge to throw myself or my students off a bridge would.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Special consideration

I'm marking exam scripts this week, and for the first time it strikes me that I'm actually going to have to do something about all the special consideration requests that I've been putting in my binder with a mental, "Poor kid. Of course I'll bear this in mind."

Note that these are exams with clear right and wrong answers: think maths rather than English literature. So does special consideration mean I should give them partial credit for wrong answers? Should I mark normally and then scale their grade up a bit? If so, what reasons deserve what degree of scaling? Does the student who miscarried last week get bumped up higher than the one whose uncle just died, or vice versa? Does the fact that a student who gets panic attacks stopped writing in the middle of a sentence halfway through and never finished the exam mean she was panicking? And if so, do I give her partial credit for questions she never even attempted? Does a minor car accident an hour before the exam trump finding your budgie dead in its cage?

Assuming university systems in other places have something similar to "special consideration" requests, what do you do about them?

Monday, November 05, 2007

This blog has crossed a threshold

A threshold relating to the percentages of people who read here who I know in real life. It has reached the point where I find myself unable to post about a visit to the gynecologist.

So I won't.

Even though it makes a rather good story.

At a loss

My students had their final exam today. As I faced the rows of pale, tragic-looking faces at the start, I noticed something very odd: a student who I had never seen before in my life. I went and inspected her ID and she is indeed enrolled in the course. But she hasn't completed any of the course work. Hasn't attended a single class. And had the wrong textbook sitting in front of her (for an open-book exam).

I have absolutely no idea why she was taking the exam, since it was only worth 30% of the grade, and she hasn't got any of the other 70% at all. It can't be that she didn't know there was other assessment. She is a third-year student, and there are few, if any, courses at this university where the exam is even worth more than 50%, let alone the full grade. She can't be expecting useful feedback, since they don't get their papers returned, and she won't even get a grade, just an NCN on her transcript for "incomplete". So I don't even have to look at her answers (although I did, and it looks like she probably would have scraped a pass).

The mystery isn't why a student would enrol in the course and not attend classes or do the work. We get that all the time, from students who need to be enrolled (but not pass) in order to keep their student visas. The mystery is why she bothered with the exam.

Any theories?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Once again, physicists view the world differently

Geekman: "How did you get bruises from kicking a rugby ball?"

Me: "I wasn't kicking it. It was hitting me."

Geekman: "Relativity bites."