31/8/2005

Bush – Worst President Ever?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:15 pm

I actually don’t think the title question is even judgeable or relevant, but I’ve been discussing it over at Political Grind anyway… 😉

Mind you, this article at Salon about how Bush let New Orleans happen1 makes you wonder…

By the way, Tropical Storm Lee just formed in the Atlantic. It’s no danger to any country, but it’s the twelfth named tropical storm of this summer, whereas by this time it’s normal to have seen more like 4-5. If this pace holds up it would lead to something like 21 over the total season, double the usual number. Still think it has nothing to do with global climate change?

  1. Remember, Katrina missed New Orleans – most of the damage and probably most of the loss of life happened over night when the levee broke.

30/8/2005

Shrapnel Wounds

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:53 am

The old shrapnel wound on my butt is aching a bit today: weather must be about to change. Oh, I was never in any wars, and my youthful experiments with rockets and explosives left me surprisingly intact. No, as Wikipedia says, ‘Shrapnel is also British English slang for loose change.’ My shrapnel wound is the bruise I get on my butt from sitting on a wallet stuffed full of loose change.

The problem is more serious in Canada than it was in Australia for several reasons, and hopefully I can make a few useful suggestions to Canadians that might alleviate the problem:

  1. Australia has actually completely dispensed with the former 1 and 2 cent coins. Prices can still be in single cent amounts – so, most often, something-99 – but the whole bill, not each item, gets rounded up or down to the nearest 5c when it comes time to pay. Saves a *whole* lot of loose change. I loathe pennies with a passion, and my wallet’s always full of them. I always want to get out of the shop in an efficient manner and not hold up the people in line behind me, so I’ll almost never count out pennies to pay for something, just approximate and end up with more change. I’ve taken to throwing them in a jar at home (but then what do you do with it? except take it for copper recycling – which is illegal) or even leaving stacks of pennies on random window ledges and so on (I’ll stop that because no doubt it’s a pain in the butt of another kind for cleaners). So, Canada and America, liberate yourselves – ditch the penny!
  2. Prices are in weird numbers. At the cafeteria in my building a small coffee is $1.07 and a large is $1.93. That means for every person who pays for a large with a toonie ($2 coin) the cashier has to make change, and the customer ends up with change (including a couple of pennies). Everyone who pays for a small is going to give a loonie ($1 coin) plus a dime (10c coin) or a quarter (25c coin), and require change. Or go digging in her purse for nickels and pennies. Simple solution: make the price for a small $1 and a large $2, including GST! I’d be totally happy, as a drinker of large coffees, to pay the extra 7c to avoid having change. The cashier wouldn’t need as much change in the drawer, the line would move faster and, assuming about the same number drink small as large, it’s even revenue neutral!
  3. GST – adding 7% onto the price means that, unless you carry a calculator or are super-good at mental artihmetic, you never know what the exact price or your total will be until you get to the checkout. That means you can’t prepare your change ahead of time, and that means you’re more likely to just hand over a bill and get lots of shrapnel to fill up your wallet. (I know some provinces have provincial sales taxes too, just to further muddy the water.) Australia has a GST too, but it’s included in the price on the price tag, so everyone knows ahead of time exactly what an item is going to cost. Consider it!
  4. This one might just be because I’m an Aussie, but I have issues with quarters. In Australia the coins are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. In Canada they’re 1c, 5c, 10c (way smaller than the 5 – what’s that about?!), 25c, $1 and $2. I just find it much harder to calculate prices and change with multiples of 25, then 5 and 10, than with 20, 10 and 5. It’s something about a base 10 number system… but it could also be just what I’m used to. It means I tend to just lay a 5 buck note on someone rather than root around in my wallet for change, which in turn means I end up with more change.

The other one, of course, is the same in Oz as in Canada, and in most other places I’ve been to. Dear shopkeepers, do you really think we still look at something priced at $39.99 and in our heads think, ‘Hey, thirty dollars!’? Of course not: we’re all very good at the mental rounding up. So why on earth not just mark it as $40.00 (or even better, as $40.00 minus 7% so that it comes to exactly $40.00 at the checkout). Then you tell us the price, we hand you two twenties and get no change! Sweet, simple, and makes life easier for everyone. It even has the added bonus of not insulting our intelligence.

29/8/2005

What price idiocy?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:33 pm

So Hurricane Katrina is currently having its way with New Orleans. Nothing to do with global climate change, though, right? I definitely don’t want to make light of it – a heap of people will lose their homes and some their lives before the saga is over (as of this writing Katrina is down to a Category 1 storm and diminishing).

But I heard this morning that there are hundreds of people stranded on the rooves of their houses in New Orleans, and it’s still too windy for rescue boats and helicopters to be able to get to them. Tough for those people, of course, but they were the ones who intentionally chose to ignore the mandatory evacuation order and remain. They’re actually lucky that they’re safe on their rooves: the worst-case scenario was water 30 feet deep over the city, which would completely cover most houses.

It makes me think, though: presumably rescue people will have to risk life and limb by boating and flying in wild weather to rescue these people. How fair is that, when they made a decision to ignore the warnings and stay there? Personally, I’d be inclined to make all operational decisions with the safety of the rescue workers on a much higher priority than usual… the consequences of the stupidity should, in all fairness, fall on those exhibiting the stupidity. Or do you disagree?

28/8/2005

While we’re promoting assassination…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:10 am

As you probably know, Pat Robertson, the TV evangelist who pretty much put together the Christian Coalition to get churches working politically for the Republicans, suggested on his TV show ‘The 700 Club’ last week that US spooks should assassinate Venezualan president Hugo Chavez, then claimed he’d never said it (kinda tough to maintain with the video out there), then apologised.

I think maybe he’s a little confused about Jesus’ attitude toward murder, personally. I guess there are a fair few stoning offences in the Bible, at that, but maybe I missed the abomination against being a leftist and not giving the US all its own way on oil…

But while we’re pronouncing fatwas, perhaps we can lay one on Fred Phelps? S’lucky I’m not God, really, ‘cos if I was Phelps would already be a rapidly expanding cloud of noxious vapour above one of those cool glass thingies you get when an extreme lightning bolt melts the soil…

27/8/2005

A little Republican comedy

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:36 pm

From Salon.com:

There also were some heated moments at the pro-Bush rally when Bush supporters mistakenly identified two people as war protesters. The two walked in with a sign that read “Say No to War — Unless a Democrat is President.”

Many Bush supporters only saw the top of the sign and believed the men were war protesters, so they began shouting and chasing the pair out. One man tore up their signs.

When Will Marean of Minneapolis kept repeating that he was on the Bush side, one Bush supporter shook his hand and apologized.

Switchers Anonymous

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:38 pm

Sue sometimes asks why I’m so determined that my next laptop, and likely my next office desktop, will be a Mac. (I’ll keep a PC for my home desktop for gaming purposes – currently enjoying an oldish game called Dungeon Siege that’s a lot of fun.)

There are lots of reasons, including the goodness of OS X, the media editing and use capabilities that are built in and the general sweetness of Mac hardware. The fiasco I’ve just gone through with the home PC also illustrates the reasons nicely, though…

It started randomly blue-screening and dying, then refusing to reboot, claiming the NT (basis of Windows XP) kernel was corrupt and requiring a reinstall. Unlike earlier versions of Windows, there seems to be no easy way to reinstall XP but keep all your installed programs and settings: reinstall XP and start from scratch (I’m happy to be corrected on this.)

Did that, which was a huge pain in the butt: every time you install XP now it takes 3 or 4 reboots to do the install itself, then at least as many more to get it up to speed with Windows Update, then there’s downloading and installing all the drivers and software, finding the keys to register it, and so on. Then it happened again… Grrr!

As best as I can tell it was a single bad sector on the hard drive, but it just happened to be right where Windows wants to write its kernel, so reinstalling, even with a format, just put me back in the same place… So I tried a trick of putting another partition early on the hard drive to cover that area and installing Windows in a higher partition. Before doing that I ‘low level formatted’ (wrote zeros to every block on) the hard drive, as someone suggested that would help with the bad sector problem. Takes about 6 hours though…

Seemed to have worked, so I rebuilt everything. Had it all running well, so I decided to use my newly purchased Acronis Disk Director software to switch the drive letters so that the one Windows was in was C:, just because lots of software expects that. Should have been trivial, but Disk Director screwed it up somehow. Result: redo from start. Triple ARGGHHH!!!

I’ll be asking Acronis for my money back (online purchase): if they are disinclined to aquiesce to my request you’ll hear about it long and loud here and in every forum I can post to… Oh, I’ll tell you if they do the right thing too!

So partway through the second low level format, Suzie said “This hard drive may well be toast and stay unstable – why don’t we just put a new one in and put Windows on that?” Made sense to me, especially when I saw that my friends at A & A Computers had a 160 GB SATA hard drive for $110. Did that and I’m just about to install that drive and start the Windows install again. A couple of hours and 10 or a dozen reboots later, we should be back in business…

Now I just have to hope that the backup of the Dungeon Siege game we have maybe 20 play hours invested in, that I made while the computer was limping along, will work!

26/8/2005

Take this softwood 4×2 and….

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:49 pm

The American ambassador to Canada had the temerity to scold Canada for ’emotional tirades’ in the softwood lumber dispute (the US imposes heavy punitive import duties on Canadian softwoods moving into the country, which have cost Canada someting like $5 billion so far). That’s a bit rich, given that NAFTA has just ruled that the Americans’ position is illegal, and that’s been the ruling in every court and every hearing throughout the process. Where’s the incentive for Canada to go back to the table and negotiate in good faith if the US is determined to continue flouting the laws and their own agreements? Where’s the guarantee that any new agreement that’s signed will be honored?

25/8/2005

Digital Natives

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:17 pm

I’ve talked before about Marc Prensky’s ‘digital immigrants’ and ‘digital natives’ idea, but that was one of the posts that got eaten by a server glitch a while ago.

In brief, the idea is that no matter how technical we oldies get, we’ll always be immigrants to the digital world – learning new language and customs, and maybe having to do some translation in our heads, and sometimes mixing up the grammar. Our kids are natives of that country, though, and much more fluent than us. I have my misgivings about the scheme (people vary more within than across generations, IMO), but it’s a useful way of thinking and talking about the issues. And then my kids just tend to confirm it.

Alex is 11, and a big fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She decided that on her login to my laptop she wanted the desktop picture to be a photo of Spike (James Marsters) the killer-cheekboned, peroxided vampire who falls in love with Buffy and gets his soul back. She searched the Internet, but couldn’t find one that she was happy with, so she figured out, by herself, how to capture a frame from a Buffy DVD while playing it on the laptop and make that image the desktop wallpaper.

24/8/2005

Deadline 3 Passes

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:12 am

As of now the extended deadline has passed, there’s not voted agreement on the Iraqi constitution, and no real plan for talks to move toward one.

23/8/2005

Deadline 2 Passes

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:04 am

The deadline for voting on a new Iraqi constitution was August 15. It wasn’t met, so the assembly gave itself another week. The new deadline passed last night, which should have triggered a dissolution of the assembly and whole new elections in Iraq, but they’ve given themselves another three days. Given the magnitude of the issues still up in the air – including basically the balance between federal and provincial power and who gets the access and ownership of the oil fields – that’s also looking increasingly unlikely.

I definitely have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, it would be dishonest not to admit to a certain satisfaction with saying “Told you so” to Bush and his Neocon Posse. It was pretty clear all along that this might be the outcome, and their bungling at every stage has just made it more and more probable. On the other hand, none of this is the fault of the people of Iraq, but they’re the ones who are suffering and will continue to suffer. And probably not only until a constitution is formed, but in on-going tensions between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurd areas within the country. It also seems inevitable that the new Iraq will not be a democratic republic but an Islamic republic like Iran, with sharia law as the determinant of civil law. This will likely mean a significant rollback in the rights of women, even compared to their situation under Saddam.

So I really, truly, hope that it’s possible for the people of Iraq to pull together a functioning country – one without the daily risk of death and the on-going lack of basic services and utilities. I would delightedly forgo the pleasure of an ‘in your face’ to the Bush Administration if it meant that the Iraqi people got a better deal. Sadly, that’s looking less likely by the day…

22/8/2005

Playing Poisonball

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:13 am

Over at Lorne’s house yesterday afternoon, chatting and watching his kids and ours play ‘poisonball’ on the trampoline. For those unfamiliar with the game, it involves having a tennis ball on the trampoline as people bounce around, and if you get hit by the ball you’re ‘out’ and have to sit at the side of the trampoline for the rest of the round.

Or at least, that’s the vanilla version. There is an almost infinite number of variants – later on they were playing the one where the first hit means you have to bounce on your knees, second on your butt, and then you’re out.

It’s not that profound or original an observation, I don’t think, but it seems to me as though a very important part of the activity of play is this kind of on-going, consensus renegotiation of the rules. Every kid will tend to try to move the rules round a little to his or her own advantage, but since there are a number of people playing, all trying to do the same thing, and since a game with no rules just doesn’t work and is no fun, the process becomes a negotiation. It becomes necessary to convince all the players – or at least a majority, or the bloc with the greatest power and loudest voices – that there are advantages for everyone in the proposed rule change.

Not a bad education for negotiations in life – and one of the reasons I value play so highly: you can’t teach this stuff in school with anything like the level of sophistication with which kids learn it in your average game of poisonball.

18/8/2005

Synchronicity City

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:11 pm

15 years ago in Melbourne I played rhythm guitar in a blues band. The lead singer and vocalist was a big solid bearded bloke named Phil Barker – a good guy. I ended up parting ways with the band, mostly because I was more into the John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters rougher tougher end of the blues, with a rock edge, whereas Phil was much more into fifties rock’n’roll and the B B King smoother end of the blues. (And because I was doing a Masters and had a baby girl and didn’t practice enough… and was a really a metalhead with big pointy guitars!)

Phil made me a tape that had Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1980 album ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts‘ (samples at the link) on one side and Faith No More’s 1989 ‘The Real Thing‘ (ditto) on the other. It survived moving to several states and three countries and I had it until about a year ago, then lost it. On Monday I heard ‘Epic’ – the big single off ‘The Real Thing’ – on the radio on the way to pick up Cassie from her music lesson, and cranked it up and sang along (how many dads in their 40s are secretly headbanging in the minivan? quite a few, I imagine). Someone also mentioned it in the ‘Lyrical Free Association‘ thread I started in the William Gibson Board.

So tonight we were shopping and I took refuge from the girlie shopping stuff by wandering into a HMV. In the store was playing Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Backdoor Man’ – my kinda blues. Then I spotted the CDs of those same two albums, sitting side by side in the same section.

I just had to buy them both, and I’m listening to ‘Bush of Ghosts’ right now.

17/8/2005

Perilous neatness

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:04 pm

As I may have mentioned, my stepmotherinlaw1 Nene is staying with us for a couple of weeks at the moment. She’s been great – hanging out with the kids on the holiday while Sue and I have been working, making them some clothes (lots of clothes) for school this year and keeping up with the laundry in a way that never happens here. My shirts are actually ironed before the morning of the day I use them! We haven’t asked her to do all this housework, and in fact encourage her to take it easy, but she tends to get bored and just do it.

The one slight challenge is that we have a lot of stuff that really should be either tossed out or placed in a filing cabinet or bookcase – books, papers, DVDs, folders, letters and so on. But we don’t have a filing cabinet at home at the moment and need more bookcase space than we have apartment space. So she very carefully piles it up into neat piles to make the place look a bit neater. That’s great – until you need something from a pile, when you discover that it’s precariously balanced, and is composed mostly of things with slippery plastic covers, and is holding up the pile next to it…

But I definitely appreciate what she’s doing – it makes the whole notion of an extended family under one roof make more sense… Mind you, it means I have to find something to wear to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

  1. She married Sue’s father, who passed away a couple of months ago, 16 years ago after Sue’s mother died

Bikes I have loved

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:25 am

I’ve talked before about the bikes I’d love to love: here and here (dang, this was a post that got eaten in a crash – the gist was nakedness). I haven’t talked so far, I don’t think, about the bikes that I’ve owned and loved in the past.

Dad owned a BSA Bantam for a while, which I was occassionally allowed to ride around and around the house:

My first, which I can’t find a photo of, was an ancient 50cc Bombardier machine (Canadian made!), a 2-stroke dirt bike.

My second was a Yamaha DT100 – kind of a dirt bike, but with a daggy front mudguard low over the tire: how I envied my best mate’s YZ 80 and his later Suzuki RM 250.

DT 100

Mine was blue, but otherwise very much like this one.

My first road bike was a Yamaha RZ 250 R: early 80s pocket rocket extraordinaire.

RZ250

That one put me in hospital with a badly broken leg, and then my brother took it out for a ride while I was still in hospital and basically destroyed it (but managed not to destroy himself).

Losing the RZ cost me money, even though it was insured, so when I could ride (and walk) again I ended up getting its older brother, an RD 250 LC:

RD 250 LC

I can’t remember now why I sold that one…

In Melbourne I got my first Honda and my first 4-stroke (and my last bike so far), a CBX 550:

cbx 550

It was a heap of junk from the moment I bought it and never really ran at all, just sat there sucking up money for a year until I virtually gave it away.

16/8/2005

What do they eat?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:58 am

This is a metaphor that I’ve been using lately in talking to people, and it seems to work for my purposes. I almost put it in a paper I was working on this evening, but it didn’t quite fit. I’ll probably work it into a paper somewhere along the line, where it fits more neatly, but I thought I’d kick it out there in this venue to play with it a little more first. I’m going to illustrate it in my particular work context, but it works just as well for other kinds of negotiations and collaborations.

Think of any group of people who might want to work together as an ecosystem containing a number of different species. The key question, then, becomes ‘What do they eat?’

Let me give an example. Researchers in education often want school teachers to work with them on their research projects. The current fashion, furthermore (and there are good ethical reasons behind it), is that rather than swoop in as Greek-godlike1 experts from afar, grab the data and carry it off, we should make the teachers ‘collaborators’ and ‘co-constructors’ of the research project. In return for their collaboration, researchers often offer teachers the chance to co-author the academic papers with them. This is a significant gift from the perspective of the researchers, because publications are what academics eat. Our promotion, tenure and salary are all tied to the ‘research productivity’, which translates to the number of publications in high quality refereed journals. The researchers are often shocked and a little offended when the teachers turn down this magnificent feast and refuse to collaborate.

But that’s because teachers don’t eat publications: they get virtually no benefit, apart from the small thrill of seeing their names in print, from an academic paper. (And, given that an academic paper has to be written in academic language, their role in the writing is likely to be small anyway, and it’s even possible they won’t want to read the paper when it’s done.) Teachers are more complicated than researchers, and they eat a number of different things.

One of those is time. They’re always too busy and too overloaded, so if you can find a way to give them some more time by releasing them from the classroom (buying in a substitute teacher) or in some other way, or even just to reassure them that your project won’t cost them time, that’s likely to work.

They eat standardised test scores too. They feel a bit guilty and frustrated about it, because they know darn well that standardised test scores are empty calories – educational junk food – but their teaching is evaluated in terms of their students’ test scores, so if they want to succeed, in the terms that’s defined in in their world, they need to be convinced that your innovation will serve up a steaming plate of test scores.

They eat student enjoyment and engagement too – if you can show them stuff that’s cool, that their students will think is cool, and that will get their students fired up about learning, they’ll happily eat that up. And finally, and most deeply, they eat students’ deep understanding of their subject. They want to see their students grow, develop and succeed, and they believe that really understanding science or maths or whatever their subject area is will help the students do that.

Determining what students eat is pretty simple, by the way – they find interesting, engaging teaching a nice treat when it’s in season, but their staple food is grades. So if you want them to get involved in your study, it had better promise pretty plausibly to improve their grades. That raises whole other problems if you have a ‘control group’ class that doesn’t get the new treatment, and still other problems if the course is graded ‘on the curve’ so that it’s impossible for everyone’s grades to go up, but that’s your problem as a researcher, not theirs: they eat grades.

So it’s actually not that hard – in any collaboration, you have to make sure that all the participants get fed what they eat, not what is food to some other species, otherwise they’re unlikely to thrive. They won’t die, but their participation and collaboration will. It works for other fields too2 – if you want someone to do something, it’s just a matter of figuring out what they eat…

  1. I mean their behaviour – all the swan-molesting and shower-of-gold-fornicating and so on, not their looks – I couldn’t carry off the latter, you’ve seen my picture…
  2. possibly even marriage – won’t be showing Suzie this column!

15/8/2005

Bittersweet

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:53 am

So many people have said it, in comments here, in e-mails, phonecalls and face-to-face: it’s bittersweet news. It’s exciting and a great opportunity for us, but there are so many great friends we’ve made here in Edmonton who have been so kind and supportive, and with whom we’ve got really close, that leaving them is not going to be easy. We’ve really been incredibly blessed both at work and at church with great friends – kind hearts and gentle people – who have welcomed us. As I said in a note earlier, don’t say ‘good-bye’ just yet: we’re still around for the best part of a year, and given that I’m going to have on-going working relationships with people in Edmonton, I suspect {best Arnie voice}’I’ll be back…'{/Arnie}

We’re Going to Queensland! (probably)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:49 am

So the offer of the job in Queensland is on the table.

Lawn photo UQ

The University of Queensland (UQ) is what Australians call a ‘sandstone university‘ – not quite like the US Ivy League because they’re all public universities, but these are the oldest, richest, most influential universities. UQ is a member of the Group of Eight top universities in Australia. It was established by law in 1909 and took in its first students in 1911, so its centenary celebrations will happen over the next few years. There’s a virtual tour here that shows you the three main campuses – St Lucia in the city, Ipswich out west and Gatton. I’d be based at St Lucia but teach some classes at Ipswich, which is about 40 km away.

Here’s a Google image search on Moreton Island which is just off Brisbane, and here’s one on the Sunshine Coast which is just north of Brisbane. The Gold Coast is south of Brisbane and is also really nice but maybe a bit over-developed and commercialised, depending on your tastes. We’ll be looking for a house with a pool, and it’s basically warm enough to swim all year round, but never gets ridiculously hot like Perth sometimes does.

At this stage I have the offer, and the conditions and so on are excellent. I don’t yet know at what level (and therefore what salary!) they’re willing to appoint me, and won’t until early next week. I’m almost certainly going to accept the offer, but I haven’t yet until I get that final piece of information. Certainly the whole package – job, place to live, cost of living, climate, beaches – is awesome, and we’re likely to stay there for a long time.

14/8/2005

Congratulations, Raj and Neelam

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:16 am

Yesterday we attended the several weddings of my friend and colleague Raj – who often comments here as ‘idarknight’ – to Neelam. The Sikh wedding at the Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) began at 9:00 am, followed by a Hindu wedding at 11:30, through until 1:30 or so. There was a lull in the afternoon (for us at least, probably not for the happy couple), then the reception started at 6:00 pm and was still going strong (the dancing had just started) when we left after 11:00.

Both religious communities were great about interpreting the ceremonies and their meanings for us clueless Anglos, and it was a great experience to just see the ancient, ageless and still new love of a young couple for one another – which was very obvious all day – enacted in the context of completely new music, symbols and ceremonies.

So let this be a public thanks to Raj and Neelam for inviting us, and our very best wishes for a long, happy life together.

12/8/2005

‘sup, lurkers?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:43 pm

Reading an MEd thesis by one of my students today I stumbled upon her reference to a research study that suggested that in pretty much any online community the proportion seems to be around 90% ‘lurkers’ (those who like to read the posts but never or rarely post themselves) and 10% active participants. That’s probably about the case for blogs too, I imagine, or maybe it’s even more tilted in the direction of lurkers because the blog sounds so much like one person’s voice. It doesn’t worry me that much that not a lot of people respond, and I really value the faithful few who regularly do, as well as the Constant Readers who respond rarely if at all. It’s interesting, though, and makes me keep thinking about the ‘critical mass’ required for a forum to take off: seems like you need a total membership about 10x the number of active participants you need to make it really work.

11/8/2005

Wish me luck

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:42 am

Job interview today, by videoconference, for the job at the University of Queensland. I’m just pulling together my notes and thoughts, and trying desperately to find a copy of my application package so I can remember what I claimed to know and be able to do! I have a horrible suspicion that my application letter was actually one of the casualties of a Windows meltdown yesterday on my main computer that meant I had to format the harddrive and start over from scratch…

I have to give a short seminar first on (a) the most urgent research questions in my field and (b) what I’d do to get my research program up and running at UQ. This is made more complicated by the fact that I feel as though I have three research fields, not one. I also try to make my research responsive to the context, so it’s not easy to specify ahead of time what I’d do.

Should be an interesting experience, though, and if I need motivation I just have to check out houses like this one1: close to the beach, big, with a pool, lots of tropical vegetation with huge windows and not too expensive to rent2. There are really nice ones to buy, too… And no snow and ice, never ever3!

And the job will be great too! This one feeds more into the science education side of my personality, and would give me opportunities to expand my research on science teachers’ explanations of ideas to students. I think it will also be more relaxed in some ways than my current job, at least for the first year or two: I’m at the point here where I’m getting invited to do lots of things, which is nice because it suggests people think I’m highly competent, but can make the whole work-family balance tough to maintain. Maybe I should be merely adequate in any new job! Nah…

  1. Around houses, we each have our own special issues. For Alex, dogs must be allowed – the whole point of moving house, from her perspective, is to be able to get a dog. For Cassie, she wants a room of her own (she and Alex currently have to share), and ideally a bathroom of her own too! Suzie isn’t as fussy, but a jacuzzi/spa type tub, or even better a big outdoor one, would definitely be very welcome. I want to be relatively close to the beach or at least, in the case of Brisbane, to the bay, and a pool is definitely a big plus in a warm climate. A big undercover outdoor entertaining area is nice, too… and someone to mow the lawns, maintain the pool and do the gardens – or some very low-maintenance gardens – is a bonus too
  2. This one is around $1600 a month or just over. By way of comparison we’re currently paying $900 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment, and if we’d gone to Scotland we would have been paying at least $2250 a month (£1000) for a small 3 bedroom cottage with one bathroom
  3. It’s the middle of summer here in Edmonton, and the middle of winter in Brisbane right now. Our maximum temperature for today is 17o C and theirs is 20o C!