Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nerves and Pimping

2 Things currently making me *very* nervous:

1. Job Interview. You might remember a while back I was in the process of responding to selection criteria. Well, with a bit of help from my friends, I obviously got them right, because next wednesday morning I have a job interview. For a real job. Here at the University. Full time. For at least seven years.

I'll be honest; I'm crapping myself.

The last time I sat a job interview was in 1994. That consisted of a ten minute chat with the principal of the school I'd applied to, a firm handshake, and a tour of the college. This one'll consist of a 'panel' of persons unknown. God knows what they'll ask me. Hopefully they'll ask about my current research, because that bring us to...

2. The research 'Work In Progress' paper I have to deliver to the faculty here next Thursday Afternoon. That's right. The day after my interview. It's on the research I've been doing into Y.A fiction, specifically the reconception of adolescence in the Australian YA marketplace. I've got the research all done, no worries, but have to pull it into some sort of coherent form, and then present it for an hour or so. I've never done this sort of thing before and, frankly, I'm terrified. So I keep putting it off. (Don't ask - that's just how I work, for some reason.)

Pimping: If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention my Wife's brand new blog I'm very jealous of this idea, as it's something nobody else seems to have done, and I think she's going to have a *lot* of fun with it. She's into magazines, is Imogen, but has decided to diversify her reading somewhat for the next 12 months or so. It's off to a really fun start, I think, and she's got some great ideas in mind.

Why am I blogging? I should be writing my paper, or reviewing the University's operations policies. AAAAAARGH

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So.... Did you miss me?

I'm back! Two weeks in the good old U.S of A, and now here I am, back in my little office at Uni, having just spent the last four hours working through a frankly frightening backlog of marking, and with the half-edited draft of Daywards sitting on the corner of my desk, glaring threateningly at me.

So it occurs to me that I *really* should post something about the trip, but the further I get from it, the harder it becomes, so here's a sort of edited highlights package. Kind of like the 'year-in-review' package that you get at the end of the evening news every new years eve...

Highlight One: Meeting my nieces. Okay, one of them - Meri - I did actually met about 18 months ago when she was 9 months old, but the other - Katie - she's a relatively new addition to the family. And, oh boy, is she gonna keep her parents busy during the next few years... They're both gorgeous.

Highlight Two: Seeing my sister and brother-in-law. They're witty. They banter.Not much good at board games, though... ;) Catching up with Sue and Rob was lovely, as we don't get to see them nearly as often as we'd like . Toby had a ball playing with his cousins and, as an added bonus, we got to visit Houstin, Texas, which leads me to...

Highlight Three: Watching a 9-year-old girl get measured up for her first gun in a shop at the local outlet mall. I am not making this up.

Highlight Four: Meeting a bunch of nice folks who, until recently, were just names on a computer monitor. For some years now, we've been online friends with a whole range of people we initially met through the web forum of a particular author we all enjoy reading. When we announced that we were going to visit with them during our trip, and even stay with a couple of them in their home, people were skeptical. Hell, if I'm being honest, we were a little uncertain about it ourselves. But in reality, it turned out to be a lot like meeting penfriends. Without exception, everyone we met in the states turned out to be just like we'd expected them to be: warm, welcoming, and perfectly normal. We got to see Minneapolis, eat Bloomin' Onions at the Outback steak house (don't ask...), eat home fried chicken on the most gorgeous back lawn you've ever seen, and eat awesome Kosher food at an L.A. Deli. (Eating turned out to be something of a theme in our trip. For some reason, this tends to happen with us...) Along the way we cemented some firm friendships, and made a few new ones.

Highlight Five: Experiencing the best that American domestic air travel has to offer. (ie: Delayed and missed flights, a 16-hour re-routing, lost bags, unhelpful / incompetant ground staff.) On the bright side, we did get a completely unanticipated trip to Vegas (for about 15 minutes, but that's okay - they have pokies beside the departure gates in the airport...) and fly over the Grand Canyon. We also got to go shopping for clothes at Target in LA, and send the bill to the airline.

Highlight Six:
Coming home on the new Qantas A380 Airbus. Okay - I'll admit it, I'm the aeroplane equivalent of a trainspotter. But, damn it, this is a *very cool aircraft*. Big, too.

Highlight Seven: Clearing customs and Immigration at Sydney Airport. This wouldn't be a highlight except for the fact that it took two frigging hours! Welcome to Australia, folks - now please excuse us while you stand by a baggage carousel for 45 minutes, and in the process miss all your connecting flights...

Of course, there's a lot more I could write about: Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker in the lobby of our LA hotel (Small, kinda thin. Looked like a well-groomed stick insect) Visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, Driving our rented car (which was roughly the same size as our kitchen back home) on the Houstin Freeways. Eating Brazillian BBQ in Texas, finally discovering how to make a Starbucks coffee palatable (smallest size, triple shot, double sugar), slapping baseballs around in the batting cage, the lovely people we met at a Houstin Astros game... and so on.

Unfortunately, though, my marking pile isn't getting any smaller, and my book isn't editing itself.

see y'all later...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't *Ever* Fly Northwest or Delta.

Just Don't. That's all for now. Details later, when I'm less in the mood to strangle someone.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2 Major Disappointments...

1. I was really, and I mean really looking forward to flying on the new Airbus A380 - we booked our flight especially after checking to make sure it would be the A380. And then we got to the gate in Sydney, and it wasn't. It was a fairly clapped out old 747.

But, even more disappointing:

2. Standing in the immigration queue at LAX, surrounded by homeland security officers with guns and grim expressions, I look up and see Kyle Sandilands standing at the head of the queue. Just my luck that the only time in my life I'm likely to be in a position to chuck something hard at Kyle Sandilands occurs when I'm in possibly the only place on the planet where it would get me arrested on grounds of national security. Sigh.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Holidays! (and meeting strangers you already know)

So tomorrow morning at 0900, Imogen, Toby and I get on a plane to L.A. (well, technically we get on a plane to Sydney, which will then connect with the plane to L.A, but you get the general idea...) We're off to visit my sister and her husband and two little girls (one of whom we've never met, and the other of whom is my goddaughter) in Houstin, Texas. This should be awesome.

We're flying on the new Qantas A380, which probably doesn't mean much to a lot of people, but which - to an aviation geek like me - is worth the price of the trip just on its own.

We're also doing something else which (I think) is rather cool - we're also going to see a bunch of people who we've never actually met in person before, though we've been in touch with them for years. (since, I believe early 2003, when we all met through the website of a particular author we all like...)

Yep. We're meeting our internet friends.

In person.

For the first time.

Some of them are doing fried chicken, which is never going to be a bad thing, in my opinion.

This should be equally awesome. (Meeting our friends, not just the fried chicken...)

So if my blogging isn't quite as frequent during the next week or two, then I beg your forgiveness. Don't give up on me, though - I promise to post when I can. With pictures.

In the meantime, I should probably start packing, and get some sleep in preparation for the impending 14 hour intercontinental flight with a nine-month-old, teething toddler.

Have a good few days, everyone.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Move over Gorgon Gas... here's a bigger Chinese trade deal

The Girl In The Cave has just been released in Chinese! I discovered this when two copies of the Chinese edition arrived in the mail today. This actually proved to be the perfect end to a very surreal day, which included (among other things) me keeping a sick parrot in a box in my office for several hours. But that's beside the point.

The funny thing is, TGITC is the only book of mine not to have done all that well here in Australia (It's still on its first print run, six years after it was originally published), and yet it's also the only one of my eleven books to do at all well (ie: anything) overseas - first in France, and now China. C'est tres strange. So I'm really pleased about this. I've got a soft spot for this book - it's very Roald Dahl-y (my favourite author as a child, and probably of all time) and is based rather loosely upon the stories my father used to tell me when I was a little kid, so it's sort of a sentimental favourite, and I've always been a little disappointed that it didn't pick up much attention here at home. 

I've also always wondered what my name would look like in Chinese. I still don't know, because I've got absolutely no way of reading the cover, but I'm assuming it's the tiny letters in the top right hand corner.

Either way - thanks, China!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spring has sprung, the grass is Riz...

There's a scene in Douglas Adam's The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul where his character, Dirk Gently, is too scared to open his fridge, as it's been six months since he last did so, and he's afraid of what might have grown inside. In the end, he just dumps the fridge and buys a new one.

Unfortunately for me, you can't just dump a backyard, and so today, metaphorically speaking, I opened the fridge...

And, trust me - not fun!

I'll explain.

Since Toby came along, it's funny, but a few of the things I used to get done regularly have sort of... slipped. Take mowing the backyard, for example. Generally I used to get this done about once a month. Not a difficult job, takes about half an hour.

But the arrival of son#1 has meant that I've been finding much more enjoyable things to do with my weekends and spare time. Playing, for example. In short, our backyard hasn't been mowed in nine months.

And boy, has it flourished. Day of the Triffids style. Apart from a couple of well worn game trails where the dog runs up and down and gives anyone on the walking path over the fence a hard time, we'd reached the point where you wouldn't want to venture into the middle of the yard without a map, compass, tent, food and an up-to-date last will and testament. Our yard had become the sort of place you'd expect to bump into the Victorian minister for water. Things came to a head last night when I discovered a guy calling himself Mr. Walker* living with a tribe of pygmies in a skull-shaped cave underneath the ornamental plum tree.

Add to this the fact that this is our dog's territory. And, like all dogs, Chelsea creates... byproducts. As a general rule, these get picked up and disposed of every couple of days, but with all that verdant forest to hide in, it was pretty obvious that, at some point during the course of the next mowing, the shit was, quite literally, going to hit the fan. So, like all such problems, I ignored it.

Note to self: Bad idea.

Anyway, push came to shove, and with our impending overseas trip looming, and a housesitter expected, it was decided that this afternoon one man and his dog would indeed go to mow a meadow.

Step 1: Start Lawnmower. This took fifteen minutes, half a can of WD40, a new spark plug, three of the knuckles on my right hand and one smashed pot plant. About normal, really.

Step 2: High level mowing. This took about an hour. Took the top layer off, using the lawnmower on its highest setting, in order to reveal the hidden delights below. Discovered: Large amounts of dog byproducts. Five dog toys. A bourbon bottle (most likely thrown over back fence, probably at dog.) Three mouldering bones. Four feet of rope and (oddly) a dirt-crusted squeaky toy I had never seen before in my life.

"This is exciting! I thought. Kinda like archelology, except without all the Nazis"

Step 3: Remove Dog byproduct. The less said about this, the better.

Step 4: Low level mowing. Blades close to the ground. Whirling around, really fast. You'd think that after 20 minutes and 3 shopping bags I'd have managed to remove all the dog byproduct, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong.

Step 5: Shut down mower. Start whipper snipper. (See step 1, above, except with more swearing.)

Step 6: Trim edges, fenceline, tree bases, toes, dog.

Step 7: Remove dog from yard.

Step 8: Restart whipper snipper. (See steps 1 and 5, above)

Step 9: Finish yard.

So that was my afternoon. Fun in the yard. On the bright side, I learnt a valuable lesson about yard maintainance, and we managed to get rid of those damn pygmies...

(*for the ghost who walks)


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