Friday, March 28, 2008


honestly, it's march. this is ridiculous.

and a longer vid with less snow and a slightly incomprehensible story about my reaction to the snow on campus yesterday. i do have an entertaining accent, though.


i'm going to pick cassandra up at the airport now! eee! so exciting to see her! there's snow forecast for today and top of 8, so it will be a proper canadian welcome. it has snowed lightly each day for the last three days. in march! very odd.

i hate airports, though. i'm bringing a stack of marking, so i can make the bright lights, low ceilings, horrible music, etc. just blend into the pain of finding nice, encouraging, productive things to say about excitingly mediocre essays. actually, i haven't found the marking that hard this time, as you can tell by my lack of posts whining about it. i'm marking a bunch of essays about children's literature (including "anne of green gables"), which is always fun, and makes me feel like i'm using my expertise a little. i'm also marking a stack of proposals where the students analyse a real-life situation they participate in for what identity it constructs for them. it's fascinating. i've learnt a lot about the customer service industry (worse here than australia, but still giving me waitressing flashbacks) and have become increasingly disturbed by the number of students self identifying as robots. i've also learnt a lot about topics as diverse as being an identical twin, hockey coaching, working a crisis line and receiving condolence cards after someone dies. i'm really looking forward to reading their final essays, actually. the writing has been a bit better, too, cos the students actually care about what they're writing about.

got another rejection (not going to america after all, which is probably a good thing, really), and have a week or so to decide on my offer in vancouver. i met with my potential supervisor last week for schmoozing and had my first starbucks coffee. don't hate me.

the negotiation process is also fascinating and disturbing. ask me over email.

(here's a flashback to my waitressing days. don't i look perky? don't be fooled. it's all for the camera. vta will tell you. . .)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

over the weekend

over the weekend miriam and i went to mayne island, just for a flying trip while she had a few days off call. it was totally cool - very relaxing and lots of natcha. i know this makes me a walking cliche, but just looking at an expanse of sea and sky makes me feel like the world is a good place to be.

mayne island is a very small island between vancouver island and the mainland, relatively close to vancouver. actually, here's a photo i took on the island which shows a mountain range on the mainland in the background:

look closely - behind the ferry there, see those looming black shapes? and the white on the top, mixing with the clouds? that's snow on the mountains tops. sweet.

the coast of mayne is mostly rocks, all beautiful, sculpted by the wind:

i saw four seals swim past this point. miriam and i went for a long walk round on the rocks, looking at things in rockpools. there were teeny tiny little hermit crabs, and squidgy little anemone things and stunning purple starfish:

this photo doesn't do justice to their purpleness. they were so beautiful. never seen anything like it. i touched one! did you know starfish are hard? and cold? almost scaly? weird as. i always thought they'd be squishy. the things you learn when you travel. . .

i also learnt about s'mores. you roast a marshmallow:

(roasting from the *outside* of the fire, cos it was so hot). then you smush it between two sweet biscuits, with flakes of chocolate layered on so they melt with the heat of the marshie:

very very sweet, but also tasty. i think i would have enjoyed them more if i was thirteen, but it was nice cultural experience.

that's about it for island stories. oh, i also saw deer resting in a field of daffodils and heard a flicker, which is a canadian woodpecker. and saw more arbutus trees. i do love them:

then we hopped back on the ferry and came back to piles of marking (me) and unwritten assignments (miriam).

i think the lump of land on the right is galliano island, but i'm not sure. any ideas? i think the ferry terminal is on the south west side of mayne. remember you can make image bigger by clicking on it.

we have plans for more island hopping in the future. so looking forward to it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

on the physicality of homesickness

i don't think i've mentioned on here how weirdly specific my moments of homesickness are. i'll just be minding my own business, thinking about whatever, and be struck by the memory of walking into the cold expanse of southern cross station, or what is was like to sit under the gum trees at melbourne uni, or climbing the stairs to work, and the particular smell hitting my nose at the turn in the staircase. the other day i remembered floating round in the paddling pool in the backyard in brunswick, after dark, with a glass of wine beside me.

these flashes of memory tend to happen in the morning and, as these examples indicate, are completely 3D, five senses, extremely physical and situational memories. they don't hurt so much anymore. it's just a strange sense of exactly what it was like to be there, so far away from here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

my hood 2

itchy requested more photos of my hood, the east van side. so here's a collection of some of more suburban elements of the drive area, in late winter/early spring weather.

my hood is home to:

a lovely independent nursery, run by two incredibly buff chain smoking gay men. this place is on the way to the house of the college prof i do marking for, so every time i go round there to pick up or drop off essays i come back with a plant. i'm eyeing a monstera right now.

nice community gardens for apartment-bound hippie folk:

trees just coming into bud. spring is coming! spring is coming! i love the way the seasons are so well defined on the west coast. it gives you a good sense of where you and where you're going.

it's also home to monstrous big houses (split up into two or three apartments, usually):

low temperatures and monstrous big cars (i see so many cars that are bigger than my loungeroom):

a fire station (staffed by chirpy clean-living types who are always playing ball out front or practising climbing ladders up the side of the building. they keep a water dish topped up for the local dogs):

some cool graf:

and lots of pretty murals:

great flocks of crows, who fly east to settle here each night, cackling loudly:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

crosswords are fun, as is MLA

my nose piercing is, well, EEEEEEEEW.

that's enough about that. i have a massive stench like tea-tree oil.

teaching today was fun. we did MLA and "what's the point of using sources?" i think the students enjoyed it more than last week, which was a little quiet. they seem excited about their next essay too. i'm looking forward to reading these ones (actually! not like when i say in class "i look forward to reading your papers.") cos they're talking about their own experience. there should be some good variety.

i got this fabulous new toy - the little flip book of new york times crosswords. so much fun! there's about 40 monday crosswords, then 40 tuesdays and so forth, with the answers on the back. cos the NY times puzzles get harder as the week progresses, you know. i tried a wednesday once. it was very tricky. the mondays i'm doing now are certainly very challenging, but also very satisfying. i have a disadvantage doing american crosswords, cos i don't know geography, history, sport, politics or slang. but i muddle through. actually, there was the first australian clue i've ever seen today! the clue was "animal in the qantas ads". the answer was "koala".


no more news on the phd front. i have a bottle of bubbly waiting for me for when i make a decision, any decision.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

mushrooms don't send letters of acceptance either, though.

i'm worried about my mushrooms! they've stopped their growing spurt and are starting to look shrivelled! am adjusting their humidity. no more photos til they look healthier.

in other news - i finally got an acceptance letter! actually it was a letter and a bunch of forms and a shiny brochure, which says things like "choosing X university for graduate study is one of the most important and rewarding decisions you can make!"

it also says:

"If you don't live here, you probably already have a position impression of Canada - a beautiful country with a peaceful, progressive society that welcome all ethnicities, nationalities and creeds into its cultural fabric. Did you know that Canada is also a major world power in academic research and that Canadian-trained researchers and professionals are in top academic industry and public sector positions all over the world?"

and so on. brochure-wank aside, it's an exciting phd program. i'm running around getting a wide range of advice and information on the program, the institution and the people. will keep you up to date. still checking the mailbox obsessively. there's two letters yet to come.

also in the mail was this:

thankyou, itchy! it's very sweet.

i gave my picturebook lecture again today, which was good fun. i was much more confident this time, and gave a better performance. i also spent a lot of time clearly signposting what i was about to say and had just said, and i could see the student taking notes easily and following what was going on, so that's a good thing to remember for my next lecture, whenever that may be. the prof is going to let me mark some of the papers the students will write on picturebooks, using this lecture and a worksheet i put together, which will be very interesting. i want to see which bits they pick up on, and how they interpret my ideas.

oof, and i had a traumatic loss-of-nose-piercing yesterday. i didn't notice til it'd been out for good knows how many hours and the hole had partially closed up, so i had to spend the afternoon running round to different tattooists finding another stud (i met a very ordinary looking young woman with a large python concealed under her jumper) then about half an hour essentially re-piercing my nose, which was painful as hell. i was very tempted to just let it close up, but i've had the piercing for nine years, and am attached. now i have a dyke-a-tron spike in instead of that neat silver ball. i'll post a photo when my nostril is not so red.

that's about all my news. spring is coming, spring is coming! (shh about that snow a few weeks ago). the cherry blossoms said so:

(blossoms c/o miriam. ditto the radish card in the background there - it has radish seeds sewn in the front there, which i'm going to plant soon.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

on the inability of mushrooms to send letters of rejection

urg. i got not one but two rejection letters in one day, so i spent a couple of days wallowing in self-pity. now i'm back on the well-adjusted band wagon. at least narrowing my options helps the decision making process.

that's canadian money hiding my identifying marks, btw. the two-tone one like a euro is a toonie (two dollars), the gold one like an australian dollar is a loonie (one dollar). they have a polar bear and a loon (type of bird) on them, respectively. the next biggest is a quarter, with a moose on (25 cents). then there's a ten cent piece (small and silver) and a five cent piece with a beaver on (bigger and silver). sometimes they're called nickels and dimes. then there's the copper penny, with maple leaves.

my mushrooms allow me to feel successful and competent. see how they've grown!

so happy! i have set up a mushroom environment under my desk, which i monitor with a themometre and humidity-measurey-thingy. there's also a wet sock tucked in there, to keep the humidity up.

okay, it's weird and obsessive. but soon i'll be eating delicious homegrown shiitake mushrooms!

i have to go dress like a grown up now, and teach freshers how to make essay plans. ooo, maybe it's time for my patented "how to use the OED" lesson! what do you think?

Monday, March 03, 2008

what i'm reading

this pile is kind of cheating, cos it's mostly made up of things i just read and things i'm about to read, but it's still a snapshot of where my brain is at right now.

from the bottom, then.

the big red one is a MA history thesis about the history of X university (where i just finished). winifred and i are using the thesis to put together a radical history tour of campus. it's very exciting. the campus used to be a hotbed of politcal activism and excitement. lots of photos of mounties lined up, waiting to arrest people.

the next five books are ones i've just read.

first is night watch, by sarah waters. i disliked this book the first time i read it, but really enjoyed it this time round. i love waters' other work, particularly tipping the velvet and other classics.

then the nice stripey one: the slightly true story of cedar b. hartley, which i got randomly from the library. i enjoyed this a lot, and it made me all nostalgic for brunswick and circus. recommended.

then luna, one of the only young adult books about a transgender character. the writing is not so good, but the politics are very good. often a flaw of issue novels. i expect julie anne peters' work will improve as she goes, and i'll keep an eye out for her stuff. recommended for the queer teen in your life.

whales on stilts is silly and fun. middlemarch is *not* silly and fun, but it does have a gripping story, and it makes your brain work in different directions. i read this for a class when i was 18 and hated it thoroughly, but it makes much more sense as a 25 year old. now i'm old enough for george eliot, i wonder if i'm old enough for virginia woolf?

then is the longman anthology, which i'm going to try and finish reading paradise lost in. i love the writing of PL, but you do have to concentrate very hard to follow it.

i'm part way through the worst witch, comfort reading, very good, and ex libris, also comfort reading. it's a book about liking reading. well written and entertaining. i read it all in one night last week, and now i'm going again more slowly, to pick up any details i may have missed. (i am my mother's daughter.)

haven't started the long walk yet. it's next on the list. i want to read it cos it's by the author of the phryne fisher books - let's see what her young adult lit is like.

and then on top of the pile there's we are everywhere, a collection of stories about anti-capitalist actions around the world. australia gets a story about busting refugees out of woomera. the book is kind of inspiring, cos it's all about communities working together for positive change, but also kind of depressing, cos it's about people being tear gassed and arrested and assassinated, and how big corporations and the WTO are fucking people over. so i'm reading that in chunks, and trying to be inspired to do some sort of activisty stuff instead of spending my time playing online scrabble.

though scrabble *is* kickarse fun.

this blog encourages other readers to send me a photo and/or description of their current book/s for posting.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

extra! extra! read all about it!

bbb (right), with Our Julia!

you are, like, totally famous, bbb.

we must grow slowly like the mushrooms

the mushies are at a crucial stage where i must cut the bag and give them room to grow.
i have also constructed a "loose poly tent" (ie. a large clear placcy bag propped over the top) to preserve moisture. it's hard work being a mushie-mama.

i have decided that sardines is the best game ever. bethan had her 31st party last night - we played kids' games all day. sardines was best after dark, everyone running round quietly peering under beds and behind trees. my favourite hiding story:

J hid in a cupboard in the dark and waited. miriam opened the cupboard, looked, looked again, reached out and prodded him in the belly. H found them both hiding and crept in too. i opened the cupboard, looked and saw white faces in the gloom and jumped in fright, then crept in with them. C opened the door, squealed in terror and leapt a foot in the air. we all squeezed in together and giggled and giggled, waiting for the others to follow the noise.

still plodding through the marking and waiting for offers. i'm finding it very difficult to concentrate on anything in this waiting period. grot has instructed me on the importance of coping with change and returning emails. i've been sending postcards and letters again. if you don't receive anything in a couple of weeks let me know you're in need of a little maillove. paper and pen is more reliable than the damn connection through the ceiling.

i've been reading lots of nice things lately. maybe i'll post about that next. any other requests? (itchy, "my hood 2" is in progress, just collecting material.)