How I know I’m ready to move house

Guy spotted with a sawed off rifle in my neighbourhood yesterday. Arrested. Found in possession of drugs and other weapons.  Through the gun in the schoolyard. School goes into lockdown. 

Then receive this description in my neighbourhood watch email later in the day. 

Hoon Hotline – 13HOON (134 666). Hoon On-Line Form.

This site describes Hooning as any anti-social behaviour conducted in a motor vehicle—a car, van or motorbike—such as speeding, street racing, burnouts and playing loud music from a car stereo. Hooning includes any number of traffic offences, such as dangerous driving, careless driving…

The term can also be used to describe a person, as in, “There were a couple hoons driving down the block this arvo making noise.”



I like your accent 

People seem to respond one of two ways when they hear me talk for the first time. Either they don’t hear my accent or choose not to draw attention to it and go about their business or they zero in on the fact that I sound different and ask where I’m from. 

Note: when we run into other Americans, they all want to know exactly where we are from and proceed to identify someone else they know who lives in that area. It’s expected. 

Quite often we get told by people that they like our accents. I usually find this hilarious because, of course, in my mind I don’t have an accent. And when I lived in Wisconsin or Minnesota or Iowa, I didn’t have an accent that was noticeably different from the majority of people around me. Or maybe I did. I’m sure some people, and I guess I can think of a few students, who commented on my accent. 

This weekend we stopped at the local bakery for coffee and a croissant and the girl behind the counter noted that she liked our accents. Dan indicated that he liked hers. Her response? “Do I have an accent??” The grimace that accompanied that question was surprising. “Do I sound really bogan?” she continued. (Bogan would by synonymous with lower class). 

Just like me, in her mind she doesn’t have an accent. She believes she sounds like everyone around her. And if we point out her accent then we must be commenting on how she’s different from the standard, in this case bogan. 

But really Aussie accents are wonderful. Even though the longer we are here the less we actually hear them. 


Things I never thought I would be doing at work

I have an interesting job. I mean, I work at a university and I help design and build and run online classes, but the day-to-day tasks I have don’t seem typical. 

For example, in the last couple months I have done the following:

  • Scoured high resolution pictures from NASA to try to find the “hermit crab” on Mars
  • Pretended to be an employer for an Australian airline in a mock job interview
  • Prompted “actors” with their lines about calculating gravity and centripetal force 
  • Researched how to create a visual tour of Outback Australia and big city Australia to help people understand the differences between rural medicine and city medicine in the Austalian healthcare system
  • Conversed with students on discussion forums dedicated to people learning English
  • Wrote fake essays to help people test assessments
  • Created attribution tables to cite images used in videos that are Creative Commons 
  • Talked about the drawbacks of tables in code and discussed alternatives
  • Reviewed ethics application procedures 
  • Watched someone drop a stuffed bunny with a parachute attached from a cherry picker
  • Helped someone take video of a book being dropped in the grass
  • Copy-pasted the same lines of code over and over to fix a problem in a course
  • Skyped with someone in the US about how to handle and prepare for trolls in courses

I guess it’s nice to be doing something different every day. 


Just a list

It’s a brand new year. Time for new goals, which means making some sort of attempt to update this thing occasionally.  No guarantees. I’ve downloaded the WordPress app to my phone so I can write on the train in the way home. 

  • I’ve been back at work this entire week after only 10 days off (25 December – 3 January). The true disappointment of Christmas was that we didn’t get to the beach at all. The weather just didn’t cooperate. There was rain, cool weather and wind. There’s nothing fun about going to the beach when it’s windy. All that sand pelting you can be quite annoying and frustrating. This weekend is looking good for the beach though, so we will cross our fingers for sun and 30 degrees. 
  • This week I was reminded of this piece of writing, and it was a good reminder. 
  • I don’t gamble, but this week I couldn’t stop laughing about the fact that two of my office colleagues and I created a syndicate and bought Powerball tickets. The idea of a syndicate….like we’re organised crime or something….kept me entertained. We did not win. 
  • We went to Korea in October. It was gorgeous and fun and interesting and a great holiday.               
  • This is the last train station on my commute to work.  
  • In this new year I’m trying to read a poem a day, listen to more podcasts on the way to work (Limetown, Serial season 2, As It Happens, Love and Radio, Lore) and drink more good coffee. 
  • We are also contemplating buying a house and getting out of our neighbourhood. It’s getting worse and more units are going in behind us. I’m lucky I work all day so I don’t hear the crazy, but poor Dan isn’t as lucky. 

Here’s to hoping for more than one post this year. 


It’s been a while

For the past few months I’ve been rather busy. I mean, I haven’t been so busy that I couldn’t post here, but when I get home from work at the end of the day that last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer and write.

What have I been up to?

1. Sending emails that go out to 13,000 people

The job I started in June involves designing free, online courses that are taken by thousands of people around the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? If you read the Chronicle of Higher Ed, you have. I design MOOCs (massive, open online courses) at my university through a project that was started by Harvard and MIT. The best thing about this job? I’m not the one teaching the course. I have no grading or marking to do, no prep, no work to do at home. Okay, that last bit isn’t entirely true. There were many weekends that I was adding code, writing transcripts, watching videos in preparation for their release later in the week, or checking quiz questions. Or solving problems that were discovered late on a Friday night. The course I was assigned to help design and develop was an anthropology course, a subject I wasn’t super interested in, but I really enjoyed it. I learned quite a bit about indigenous people in Australia, refugees in Malaysia, water scarcity in the Atacama Desert in Chile, and material culture in Cuba. The stuff was fascinating. The faculty member I worked with gave me lots of freedom to add what needed to be added to the course. This involved writing the emails that went out to all of the students every Monday. But let me tell you that it’s a bit stressful to hit send on an email that’s going to go out to over 13,000 people. I would try to write the email Sunday night, send it to the faculty member for feedback, test the email to make sure all the hyperlinks worked, and then finally hit send and hope that I hadn’t made a typo or included a broken link. But now the course is over, and I’m just starting to look at the data for analysis and report writing. Work is slowing down a bit, but I’m already starting work on the next course (one on climate change) and prepping for some other projects.

2. Loving the people I work with

Seriously. There’s a core group of us who work in the The Back Room: three media specialists for film editing, recording, and animation and four learning designers (including me). We also have a fantastic project manager, a data analyst, faculty research fellows, a data czar, and other very inquisitive and interesting people in our work space. It’s really the best combination of people who are laid back and crazy smart. On the days when we have Skype meetings with the office at Harvard I have to pinch myself because it’s so hard to believe that I get to interact with these people.

3. Making friends on the train

When I tell people about this, they think I’m crazy. Although I have talked to the sleepy guy a couple times, usually to tell him we are at his stop, I chatted up the cop about a month ago. We had a great talk about the legal system in Australia and the upcoming G20 summit that starts this week. A couple weeks later, I sat across from him and his wife and we all chatted again. I know I shouldn’t be chatting so much in the quiet carriage on the train, but I figure if I’m chatting with a cop no one will give us a hard time.

4. Taking a holiday

I’m saving most of this for another post actually, but I might as well preview it in this one. Dan and I took a week long holiday at the Whitsunday Islands. This involved hiring a car and driving 13 hours north past the Tropic of Capricorn to some of the most blue waters and white sandy beaches you have ever seen. It was the first real vacation we’ve had since coming here, and Dan needed that time off. Our holiday involved lots of pool and beach time, lots of reading, and that’s about it. It was exactly the kind of vacation we like. We also had a couple minor adventures including a helicopter ride to a secluded island, a boat trip to Whitehaven Beach, and a drive up the coast a bit more to take our chances swimming even though there were signs posted to watch out for stingers (jellyfish). No worries – we made it out alive.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the blue skies and bluer waters that we woke up to on holiday (and the Woolies in the bottom left corner).

Airlie Beach




I really like my commute in the morning. Yes, it takes just over an hour for me to get to work and sometimes the train or the bus is crowded and sometimes I end up running down the street to catch my bus, but overall I like it. Even on those days when it takes me 2 and a half hours to get home because of electrical problems on the line at Carseldine or when I hear an announcement about the evacuation of the central office and end up sitting at Central Station for an extra 5 minutes. I can read or check email or chat with friends online or just stare out the window at all of the suburbs I fly by.

One of my favourite things to do, however, is watch the people on the train. And I have a couple regulars I keep tabs on.

1. Cop and wife

When I catch the train at Dakabin, the cop and his wife are always in the carriage I choose. They sit close together and chat occasionally. She texts or reads and he reads legal documents or stares out the window. She gets off at Fortitude Valley and he usually gets off at Central.

2. Sleepy Guy

This guy cracks me up. When I get on the train, he’s already asleep. Some days his head bobs up and down and other days, like today, he sleeps soundly without a movement at all. I figure he must have some kind of narcolepsy or other medical issue that causes him to fall asleep as soon as he sits down on the train. The other day he bobbed up and down for 40 minutes, but when we got to Central he was sound asleep. It was a good thing we were stopped at the station for an extra minute because all of a sudden his head shot up, he looked out the window, realised where we were, grabbed his bag, and rushed out the door just as the doors were about to close on him. Now I’m prepared to wake him at Central in case he doesn’t wake himself up.

3. Kids in straw hats

There are lots of kids who ride the train or bus to get to school, but there are a couple schools that must require their students to wear straw brimmed hats. I feel like I’m in some kind of old-timey film whenever I see one of these kids wearing the hat and uniform. It would be more convincing if they weren’t texting or listening to music on their phones, but it still makes me smile.

I also like that when I get off the bus at uni I can walk to the coffee cart, order a large flat white, and walk the couple hundred metres to my office to start the morning.


No more Mondays at the beach

I suppose I can say this: I started a new full-time job last week Wednesday.

I waited to apply for jobs until we knew we had permanent residency, and this job was the first job I applied for. It took a couple months for the process to start, but when it did it went fast. I was contacted for an interview on a Tuesday, interviewed on a Thursday, was offered the job the following Wednesday, and started a week later. So last Wednesday, I was up at 6am, at the train by 7:20, and getting a cup of coffee at the cafe next door to my new building by 8:30. It’s been a blur of orientations, accessing new systems, getting id, learning names, and taking in new information. I alternate between knowing exactly what people are talking about and having absolutely no clue. It’s interesting and challenging work. And it doesn’t involve teaching my own classes, which is strange. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a job that didn’t involve grading and prepping. I’d tell you more about the job, but the details are too overwhelming for me to talk about even now.

Perhaps the strangest thing I’m acclimating to is the commute. I’ve always liked public transport; I have fond memories of riding the bus with my friends and colleagues at MSU or exploring the city using the NYC subways and buses, but it wasn’t something I did in Iowa. There I drove to work every day. I hated those early mornings in the winter battling snow and ice and fog to get to school – especially when I was driving out to Dunkerton on county roads.

My current winter commute is nothing like that. I may stand on the chilly platform early in the morning wearing a fleece jacket, but when my train arrives I get to find a seat and open a book or take out some grading to do for my online classes or get out my phone to text Kayla or FBChat with Trudy. I ride the train to Roma Street, walk from platform 10 to platform 2, and catch my bus to UQ. When I get to UQ, I walk by two small lakes, past gardens filled with native grasses and trees, watch out for bush turkeys, and make my way to my building.

One of the mannerisms that I find both fascinating and completely adorable is the way people exiting the bus call a “thank you” to the bus driver. It’s not something I recall happening when I took the bus to MSU for all those years, but here it’s normal and expected. I’ll admit that I haven’t done it yet (partly because I exit at the middle of a really long bus), but one of these days I’m going to shout my own thank you to the driver for getting me to work on time.

Last night as I was packing my lunch and getting my clothes and bag organised for the morning, I realised that normally I would have been thinking about which beach we would be visiting the next day. While I’m definitely going to miss the freedom I had for the past year, I’m happy that 364 days after I arrived in a brand new country, I was able to start a job that is letting me explore a whole new part of my home down under.