Monday, July 25, 2005

Mr Magoo

On saturday I will be picking up my first pair of glasses. I never thought that I would ever need to wear glasses but as Mel used to tell me, "Your powers are weak, old man." I wonder what it will feel like to be able to see into the distance without the image being blurry? No more waving to people and realising as they come close to you that they don't know you. I'll be able to see the footy at the other end of the ground and read the scoreboard. Street signs in the distance will finally have meaning.

ps. Thank you Elaine for helping me pick out frames which may suit me. It came down to two; one which made me look manly and one which made me look intelligent. Guess which one was chosen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The decline of Western Civilisation

On sunday morning after training, I had breakfast with some of my training partners at the Botanical Hotel. During breakfast, a fleet of the last model of jeep Cherokees appeared on Domain Rd emblazoned with advertising for some car dealership. The cars stopped, and the street was flooded by girls in thier 20's wearing red caps offering free test drives in the vehicles. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked them one of the girls if they were going to the western suburbs with this offer. The girl replied, "Of course, we have cars covering the area between Nunawading and Brighton." and Brighton was said with that 'Brighton accent'. Well there is no need to tell you if you live in Melbourne that the western suburbs are not between Nunawading and Brighton. I didn't have the heart to ask her if she actually knew where the western suburbs were. I don't thing I would have been able to handle her answer of "Anywhere west of Toorak".
I feel sorry for those who live in their enclosed worlds. The sad thing is that they don't know that their world is not the same as others. They have never ventured outside. They are under the illusion that the rest of us live like they do. I wish that they would have really driven out to the western suburbs and offered the same deal. I'm sure there would have been more takers.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Post o'trip: part 2

Team America, Fuck yeah
There was a group of American students lead by a Drew Carey lookalike, aka, Sergeant Slaughter. Now amongst this group there were some really nice students. Down to earth, embarrassed about their country and fun to go drinking with. However, there were also some real dicks. This one girl, Miss Team USA, was a stuck up rich kid, belonged to a sorority straight out of one of those 80's college flicks, and wore a diamond rock on her finger the size of a golf ball. Now she was a bioligist working on anorexia (she may well have been suffering from it herself). Ben asked her what her biological model was. She responded that they deprived mice of food. Even I, a physicist, knows that this is not anorexia, but just starvation. What you need are animals who are no eating out of choice. When Ben pointed this out, she just said that, "No, this is a model for anorexia". Ah, this is what I call the "But this goes to eleven" argument.

Getting to know you
Accommodation in Lindau was an interesting affair. A shared room consisted of two single beds within the frame of a double bed. That is, you basically slept in the same bed as your roommate. That's ok if you know your bedmate. But in a lot of cases strangers were just placed together, with guys sharing with guys and girls sharing with girls. One of the other Aussies, Ben, was shacked up with a pom who he had never met. Ben turned up to his guest house, grabbed the key off the owner and went to unlock his room. The key didn't seem to work. He tried a couple of times and then went back down to get another key from the owner. With this second key he tried again. Same thing, the key wouldn't work. Back to the owner. He explained that the key wouldn't work and that he had knocked on the door on the off chance that his roommate may be in the room. He got no answer. In a dead pan german accent, the owner of the guest house said, "Maybe he is dead.". Not quite the response Ben was hoping for. It turned out that, luckily, the guy wasn't dead and that both keys were just faulty.
How do you handle sharing a bed with a complete stranger? What do you wear consider the temperature is over 30 degrees C? The first night that Ben and his bed-mate lay together, Ben constructed the "Wall of Doona" between them. The reason for this is not what you may think. Ben has been married for ten years and when you are lying next to someone in a bed you can assume it is your partner. It would be a naturally tendency while asleep to cuddle up next to your partner. Hence the "Wall of Doona". Turned out that even in the hot weather, the pom wrapped himself up in his doona. They really are crazy.On the last night, as they get ready for bed, both Ben and the Pom are lying on the bed just in their boxers discussing the day. At this point Ben has that moment of realisation, "What the hell is going on here?". How things change.

No Kidding
What did I learn from this trip? That my philosophies are shared with these guys. Here is a list of principles that a couple of the speakers articulated that I agree with:
1. Family/personal life comes first.
2. Have fun. If you don't enjoy what you are doing then your life won't be enjoyable.
3. Have other interests. Don't just work.
4. Question, always question. If someone in authority tells you something, ask for the evidence, don't just believe it.
5. Science is not done in isolation. Humans are a social beast and you need to talk with others not just in your field, but also outside of it. You won't be able to do it on your own.

That'll do for now, there may be more later.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Post o' trip: Part 1

Be alert, not alarmed
Plane boarded, waiting for take-off. 5 mins go by, then 10, then 20. Captain announces "Sorry for the delay, but someone has got up and walked off the plane. Hopefully we can take-off in a few minutes." An official suit walks by holding a boarding pass, checking seats. He gets to the last row, talks to a man sitting there. Man shrugs shoulders as the suit opens the overhead compartment and removes the only piece of luggage it contains, a brown briefcase. Suit indicates to man to get up and follow him out. Both walk out with the briefcase. I say to the passenger next to me, "We will be getting off the plane." Five minutes later, the captain asks all passengers to gather all their belongings and orderly leave the plane. I think to myself, this is going to be a long trip. Two hours after the plane was supposed to leave, it finally does. Needless to say, the plane successfully landed.

A pot will look so small
Beer. Pint or 500 ml glasses. So tasty no matter what the container. Two weeks of the amber fluid. So many memories. Like the time in a bar in Lindau when beer opened the door to free shots. Like the time in a different bar in Lindau, when after lunch, instead of going to the afternoon session of the conference, we sat around said bar and drank more beer. When it was time to go to a concert organised for us, it began raining and so we remained at the bar for more beer. Nearly 12 hours straight at the beer, sorry, bar. Beer. Cheaper than coke (the drink). Beer. London, a guy taps us on the shoulder. It's Byron. An Aussie who did honours in Physics last year in optics. He's working, you guessed it, in a pub. We visited his pub for beer. If I have one memory for this trip it will be beer.

Silver Foxes
Dirty old men? Not all of them. There are exceptions. Should this be my impression of men (there was only one female out of around 50) who have won the most coverted of scientific honours, the Nobel Prize? Picture this scene. Two women are about to have their photo taken with a Nobel Laureate. One has put her arm around him while the other stands half a metre away. Quick as a flash, his arm extends out, grabs her waist and draws her right next to him. Photo is taken. He holds on for longer. Maybe he is anticipating more photos? Another scene. Dinner is orgainsed where you can sit with the Lauteate of your choice and have dinner with him. As the sycophants gathered round to listen to these men, you could not help notice that some of these men seemed to be more interested in the breasts (or as Kate called them, "Just fat pads") of the women around them. Not that some of these women didn't mind it, some played up to it.
Did these guys say anything of great value? I'll say something about that later. I think Sandra summed up the meeting when she quoted Milhouse from The Simpsons episode 'Lemon of Troy', "Hey everybody, and old man's talking!".