link to it 26dec04: and other holidays
[special permabubbles from Kate's house] Laptop is in the shop. English muffins were in the mail. Snow was falling today as I drove back to Vermont after a quick tour of 66% of the New England states. Unlike many recent vacation-like excursions, I don't feel like I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. I just need to subsist entirely on salad for a few days or weeks as my digestive system has stabilized after way too many cookies and way too much meat.

Since Kate was taking care of her cats and her roomate's cats and her neighbors' cats [tip: never be the last one in a cat-friendly social group to say "not it" when people draw vacation times] we came down to see her instead of having her come up here. Since we were in Massachusetts, we saw my Mom, and my Dad and Cindy, and my high school pal Lauren, and my good friends Jordan and Louisa. J and L had the pleasure of our company basically because we like them, and they were savvy enough to choose a date and said "We'd like to see you, specifically at this time" thus saving us the interminable "When's good for you...?" tango and waiting for a free weekend to come up in either of our calendars which has not worked well in the past.

Except for the fact that we were unable to diagnose why my Dad can get his Airport Express working on two of his computers and not on the last one [see us working here] I'd call the whole trip a smashing success. At the moment I'm heading downstairs to listen to the two minute phone message that my landlady tells me is "someone who called from India" Stay tuned....
link to it 21dec04: solstice
Matthew sends Solstice greetings our way and I am sending them your way. I'm always happy to see the days getting longer, pleased to sleep warm in my bed on the longest night of the year, and grateful that the sun will be coming up just a little bit earlier, starting today. Also, Greg has a few weeks off before school starts. It's great to have him around. We're planning an enterprising trip to see family and friends which may be the first time I have seen my entire nuclear family around the holidays in years, perhaps a decade. I celebrated by doing what I like best on cold Winter mornings which is staying in bed with a cup of coffee and the music going and reading books in my pajamas. The Jewish Santa will be bringing us snowshoes, so we're saving the early morning hike for a day when we'll be better equipped. Happy longer and brighter days.
link to it 19dec04: broken and not so broken
It only took one more day to start sleeping like a normal person for which I am very very grateful. I had one true zombie day at work. This left me some resolute strength left for when my laptop -- which went all the way around the world with me and back -- decided to up and die a week after it was out of warranty. However, unlike the frozen house which I was utterly unprepared for, I was ready for this. I not only had Applecare, I had the URL of the page on the Apple site where they tell you what to do when your logic board fails. So, I have a box en route that I will mail in and I should have a repaired laptop before the New Year. We also helped my landlady install her brand new eMac (replacing some godforsaken Pentium1 peecee she had with so little RAM she couldn't look at pictures from her digital camera) which is on our cable modem network (call me, no more busy signals!) and available for me to use as a spare when she is out of town M-W. Also, Wal-Mart refunded my money for the power transformer I bought that melted.

It's been a slow week. Greg is done with finals so he is now among the living, and a huge calm has descended on our household. I'm working on an ambitious plan to go down to MA/RI for the holidays and see people instead of my usual hide out at home with movies routine.

In the spirit of Christmas, there was a creche and a Christmas tree on the town commons this year. I told Greg that if it was still there when I got back, I would steal the baby Jesus. Mercifully, I did not have to turn to a life of crime, since someone stole it before I got back, and then swiped the Virgin Mary and Joseph and a few wise men. By the time I got home, there were just a few manger animals left. The next time I looked, the whole thing had been taken down. Removed? Stolen? I don't know what you do with a stolen baby Jesus, but I guess this is a not-uncommon phenomenon.
link to it 15dec04: recap
So Saturday I was sitting in a park in shorts and bare feet worried I was going to get a sunburn before my plane ride. Today I was outside in the pitch dark and single digit temperatures [that's the negative double digits for you in Centigrade land] lighting matches to warm up my car keys so that I could open the car doors which were locked and frozen shut in order to go to work. Sorry to belabor this whole jetlagged/climate change thing, it's just so delightfully weird.

So after a brief pity party with Greg where we each tried to outdo each other in the "who has had the most stressful week" contest [me: international conference, travelling, sleep deprivation, back to work, frozen house him: finals, final paper, frozen house, icy road driving, crazed girlfriend] things are back to what passes for normal. Here's a bullet pointed list of how my trip went, because I realize I've been less than linear here. You'll see a lot of this represented in the pictures I took.

  • First off, a three hour bus ride, a six hour plane ride, a 13.5 hour plane ride and a 2 hour plane ride. Add a half hour car ride on to each side of that for the full total.
    • Sydney: When I flew into Sydney, I was met by Alan, ran around the city looking at things, had pizza, missed my plane to Adelaide, caught the next plane. Virgin Blue airlines is like Lord of the Flies, it's run entirely by children, it's quite strange. They try to sell you copies of the Virgin CEO's book on the plane. No free snacks at all.
    • Adelaide: is in one of those half-hour timezones.
    • My Adelaide pal Tim and I went to Mount Lofty and Cleland Park and I looked at every Australian animal and bird.
    • Went to a cocktail party with 150 librarians I'd never met before and it was really fun.
    • My talk went great! People came up to me all weekend and said that they thought it was "inspiring" which was just a wonderful thing to hear.
    • Alan Smith, the head librarian at the South Australia library slips me a note and asks whether I'd be interested in working there sometime.
    • Dinner party is way too much fun and I notice there aren't really many Australian hipsters who stand by with detatched irony as people start to dance to 80's pop music. Most everyone dances. I get dragged out during YMCA by Alan's former-cop partner.
    • Tim and I drive down to Victor Harbor and Granite Island. I decide I love schnitzel and Coopers beer.
    • I also love watching Australian news on one of their five TV stations. All talk, no animation, an opposition government that gets to comment on everything the main government does.
    • Lunch with Alan at a tony museum restaurant. Coffee with the amazing librarian gals who planned this whole scheme. Nepalese food, then sleep.
    • Sydney: quick flight up, stash bags in lockers at the train station [yes you can still do that in Australia] meet Peter at the book reading I mentioned earlier, dinner with his friend Anne Whitehead and a run by her fancy converted warehouse house. Drive to Newcastle after midnight.
    • Newcastle: wake up on the fold out couch on the sunporch. Eat a lot of mangoes, go for a bush walk, come home and swim in the ocean pool, get bad news about the frozen house in Vermont.
    • Decline the movie, stay on AIM and help Greg deal with propane companies and plumbers. Go to the library & see a giant wombat celebrating xmas, also see espresso machine in the library, $2, a bargain!
    • Secretly photograph the nylon and spices installation art in the gallery next door. The whole place smells like cumin and paprika, excellent.
    • Just barely miss the guy who is researching the Australian Odd Fellows, take the train back to Sydney.
    • Sydney again: Check into my small room at the Sydney Y, hang out with Alan, find wifi at Starbucks get some rest.
    • More walking around at the library and art gallery with Fiona, then Alan, eat lamingtons, get wet in monsoon, see aquarium, eat more food, get more wet, lend Alan 25GB of music for his new ipod, go to sleep
    • sunny day, walk around taking pictures and spending all but my last five Austrlian cents.
  • Return: a half hour bus ride a 12 hour plane ride, two hours in customs, a six hour plane ride, a half hour car ride, 14 hours of straight sleep, a three hour bus ride, a 30 minute car ride.
link to it 14dec04: snoze
[multiple rows of teeth] I woke up this morning at the same time as I went to bed the night before last. I dreamed about Australia. It's really amusing watching my body completely malfunction like this. I bet it will be much less amusing when I go back to work tomorrow. Before the sun was up today I had renewed my ALA and VLA memberships, made a contribution to my IRA for the year [time is running out], and put in a load of laundry. Every day in Australia after the first one, I woke up at 7:45 pretty much regularly. This is quite strange.

Greg is still in Topsham dealing with the freeze up, but I was able to see him for a few hours yesterday. Once I relate to him the entire start to finish story of my trip -- because he's the one who gets to hear it first -- I'll start writing more about it here.
link to it 13dec04: arose
Everyone said that the jetlag coming back is a bitch. I laughed them off because they were wrong about the 12 hour flight being intolerable (it wasn't) and the heat and humidity being oppressive (nope). However, after sleeping 14 hours the night I got back, and only 5 hours last night (from 5 am to 10 am) I may now be a believer. Mercifully, I don't need to go back to work until Wednesday.

All my pictures from Australia are uploaded and available. Belated thanks to my short-term tour guide Fiona who is the only person from Australia who I met whose blog I had been reading beforehand. We had a nice tour of the Sydney Art Gallery and drank coffee while I sampled lamingtons, one of the tasty Australian desserts. No I did not eat kangaroo, no I did not have any Vegemite. I did, however, go to dim sum for my first time. However, since I'm not actually an adventurous eater, or a seafood eater, the experience wasn't too crazy. Thanks again to Alan, he tried.

The biggest surprise to me about the trip was how non-ubiquitous wireless Internet access was. I had no problem finding places to get online in general, but finding a place to get online with my own laptop was actually a bit of a challenge. Here's a short list of my Internet attempts and successes. All prices are in Australian dollars which are worth roughly $0.75 US, unless otherwise noted.

Logan Airport, Bostonwifi $9US/hour, lots of signs pointing out "hotspots" not listing costs
Los Angeles Airportwifi $9US/hour, coin op internet kiosks unknown cost, two free terminals totally taken over by slackjawed teenagers
Sydney Airportwifi $9/hour, coin-op internet kiosks $6/hour, couldn't install ssh software
Hilton Adelaideno wifi, weird little office Internet cafe available at $12/hour
Unley Library, Adelaideno wifi, one hour free bookings available, suspicious unfriendly librarian
gamer cafe, Adelaideno wifi, $3/hour Internet with USB jacks for my key drive, OK to install ssh software, Flickr uploadr, etc
Starbucks, Sydneywifi $9/hour, freebie cards available if you ask the barista
State Library, New South Walesfree wifi, but not yet operational. you are told to ask at the info desk for a login and when I did they said "oh that won't be running until December 20th. Astonishing.
State Library, South Australiasupposedly has free wifi, didn't try it
random office buildings, Sydneywifi with choice of ISP ranging from $8-$13/hour
Kinko's, Sydneyno wifi, computers with net access $6/hour and ass slow, couldn't use key card, could install ssh software
YWCA, Sydneyno wifi, four broken internet kiosks. "in-room Internet" offered means a phone jack where you can dial-out to an ISP

I even used the National Library's website and "ask a librarian" feature to find out if there was free wifi anywhere near me and they basically said "Have you tried your local library?" That said, the big news around here is that I didn't get the job I applied for at Goddard which is a bit of a crushing blow because I thought I was perfect for it, and yet somehow not so bad because it may not have been perfect for me (do I want a full-time job? can I even handle a full-time job?). This is mitigated to an absurd degree by being offered some contract work in Adelaide at the State Library should I want to come back. I was on the fence about this, but I'm less so now. I will, of course, keep everyone posted and won't be going anywhere for at least six months, but if I play my cards right maybe, just maybe, I can be spending Christmas in Australia next year.
link to it 10dec04: unfroze
[yes I know, seems gross but colorful huh] So the freeze up seems to be mostly taken care of; propane is delivered, furnace is on, and hopefully Greg got some sleep. I'm not sure if it was a blessing or a curse that everything went down during the 36 hour window when I was able to stay online and check in [and micromanage?] or not. In any case, I'm in Sydney and heading out tomorrow crack-of-dawn. I had a few things planned. However, I may just hang out with my local guide Alan who, feeling somewhat responsible for me missing my plane to Adelaide last week, has decided to make it up to me by taking me on a breakneck face-stuffing tour of Sydney's fine pan-Asian cuisine. I have not been disappointed so far, but I warned him that I do need to fit in only one seat for my return trip.

My main impression so far -- besides the friendliness of Australians and the sharp "cluey"-ness [to quote my pal Peter] of Australian librarians -- is one of hustling. Australians I have met are generally much more laid back than folks in America, and yet they seem to go on holiday with a sort of aggressive zeal. Since I tend to treat my non-vacation life that way, for me a vacation is a chance to unwind, not do much, and generally sit around being happy not to be working or freezing for a few days. I think sitting in a comfy chair in a park reading a big book is how I envision it. Since it's Winter in Vermont pretty much, I had already resigned myself to some serious sitting around and putting on an extra layer of fat. Instead, I'm in shorts and a t-shirt, sweating laboriously [and, I feel, American-ly] to keep up with my gracious hosts while I hurtle past as many Australian landmarks as I can possibly see in the available hours before I collapse, exhausted, into whatever rental or loaner bed I've found myself in. As a result, my orientation into Australian culture has been both broad and also not particularly thorough. The food has been great, however, as has the music, the general companionship, the wildlife, the coffee, the libraries and the trasportation system. Not quite up to par have been the wireless availability and the high price of everything which, even though I was expecting it, has been a bit of a drain.

So, tomorrow I get a taxi to the airport and settle in for a long ride in a comfy chair reading a few big books before I return to the New England Winter, already in progress. Postcards are probably on the way, though it's possible they may not be. Big thanks to the spunky and msart ALIA crew for being so supportive of my trip out here, and Peter, Tim, Alan and Alan for being my wonderful hosts.
link to it 08dec04: downunder asunder
The fact that noting is being posted here indicates that I'm having a pretty good time. Pictures are accumulating in the Australian photo set on Flickr which you may want to check out, or just wait until it's all full up by the time I get back. I'm in Newcastle today where I just went on a bush walk with my pal Peter McGregor and went swimming in a salt water pool that was right up on the side of the ocean [no sharks, no jellyfish, practical!].

My pals have DSL which is also why you're hearing from me. Previously I had to pay a few bucks an hour in the Asian gaming salons to check email, or make eyes at the folks in Starbucks [yes I know, so sue me] to get them to toss me a prepaid Wifi promo card which I guess are all the rage lately. Wireless in Australia is more of a fee-for-service thing than just a free-like-beer thing. That, or I don't know where all the cool kids hang out these days. I did go to Gleebooks and saw an excellent set of speakers talking about the current crisis in East Timor over oil rights. The Australian government is basically saying "We saved them, we should get to decide how much money they get from their oil" and the activist community is predictably appalled. Nice to know that even in this tropical paradise the ugly spectre of bad political behavior and general disregard for the poor and indigenous is alive and well. For a second I was thinking of dropping everything and moving here. I was even offered a sort of a job, but more on that later on.

I returned to the world of chat and email to discover that my house in Vermont has frozen solid when the propane ran out in a complicated series of mishaps that could basically be anyone's fault but sucks like it was my fault, and Greg has to deal with it like it's his fault, poor guy. I've enjoyed being a homeowner but it may be time to call the whole "playing house" experiment a wash. I don't get the right sense of feeling like an adult person from owning a house and though the place is amazing, it's a money sink. Since I've chosen to live a life with less money, I have a choice to make, one that is hard to seriously think about while swimming in a salt water pool in eighty-five degree weather. If you'd like to help out, send Superstar Greg some well wishes. You can get to him through his web site, even though he's not there much.

If I wrote any more, I wouldn't have time to enjoy it here, I'll try to check in before I head back, but if I don't I'm back stateside on December 11th.
link to it 04dec04: downunder
No monthly turn over here until I get to a place with reliable ftp and shell access, or a wifi node. I finished my talk this morning and it went really well. If you want to see it, click here. I've got one dinner to go to with the librarians and then I'm officially on vacation. I had the predictable bad dreams about being laughed at my a roomful of librarians, but, of course, that did not come to pass. I've uploaded some pictures which you can see if you click on the photo on the left there. I've already got a sunburn and a hoarse voice, but it's been fun so far. I've met some wonderful people. I can't stress enough that the flight, while long, is really no huge deal. Everyone should try to go to Australia at least once and see how happy people are with four weeks guaranteed vacation, free health insurance and unemployment and a really solid minimum wage. It's uncanny.

Jessamyn is in...
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02dec... ALIA
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08feb... MTM fest
11-13apr... NJLA
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