Saturday, January 29, 2011

Joe Cinque's consolation

I just finished re-reading Joe Cinque's Consolation by Helen Garner. For those who haven't heard of the book before, it's a true story about a law student who killed her boyfriend with an overdose of heroine. The case fascinated me because the law student was studying the same course at the same uni at the same time as me (though I never knew her until watching the story on the news).

A few weeks ago, when I was stuck in a three day long committee meeting, I started chatting to another academic, a chemist, who was sitting next to me in the meeting. Coincidentally, he went to the same uni at the same time as me too. I bought up the case during a casual chat over lunch. It turns out that the chemist had shared a house with the killer's best friend (who was also charged and appears in Garner's book). intrigue was reignited and I decided to take the book off the shelf for another read. The story painted a picture of Canberra that was strangely familiar and foreign all at the same time. The physical places in the story I knew well.... The law school.... the Supreme court....Garema Place. It's highly likely I would have crossed paths with some of these people in lectures or at the uni library. But the names are unfamiliar and I do not recognise any of the faces. I guess that's not a bad thing at was a very sad and sordid case.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A former research associate and his finance held their engagement party on the weekend. I met the RA in France in 2006 and he came all the way from Europe to work for me and ends up meeting a fantastic woman...the girl of his dreams. Fate. Among the people that were invited to the engagement party was a bloke named Brad. Brad now lives in South Australia but he and I went to the same school in Canberra. So why was Brad at the party? What was his connection to RA. Well, years before RA came to work for me, he decided to go to the US for a summer course. That very same summer, Brad also headed off to the US for a summer course. They both independently chose the same university and enrolled in the same subjects and became instant friends. So that's the connection between RA, Brad and me. We all knew each other at different times in our lives and in different parts of the world and somehow our lives intersected and we all ended up together celebrating RA's engagement. Fate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Toothpaste refund

Middle aged woman buying toothpaste: "Can I return this if it's not right?"
Check out chick: "No".

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Book of Job

I've been sitting through academic performance hearings all week listening to the problems that can besige people's lives and affect their studies. I'm fortunate I never went through any serious calamities during my university studies. During the course of the week, there has been a few times when I've wanted to get out of my chair, walk around to a student and give them a hug and to tell them everything will be ok (I resisted though...I don't think it would've been appropriate).

Listening to the students' problems reminded me of a story in the bible I once had to read in Grade 8 as part of religious education (I went to a private catholic school). I don't remember much from the Bible but this story really stuck in my mind. It was from The Book of Job which tells the story of a pious character named Job whom Satan had thought was only pious because he had been blessed with good things from God. God believes otherwise and gave Satan permission to test Job's righteousness. That's when everything basically turns to shit for Job. Job's kids all die in an unfortunate building accident and Job, himself, is eventually covered in boils (the writers of the Old Testament sure like to inflict people with boils don't they). Nasty stuff.

But going back to the hearings this week...I really wonder about people's determination sometimes. It's interesting to see how easily some people can give in but others are just so determined to plough ahead. It's been a really draining week for me because some of the stories are so intense (I slept at 9pm last night) but it has been immensely rewarding too to get a sense of people's will.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friendship circles

I went to a party in Brunswick on the weekend to celebrate an engagement. One of the PhD students in our Department recently got engaged to his boyfriend up in Queensland. Last Saturday, they decided to throw a party to celebrate. T and B's friends can be roughly divided into two groups: biologists and architects (reflecting the respective jobs of the newly-engaged couple). It was curious to see that most of the biologists (well, all except me and the PhD student) were straight. This was quite a contrast to the architects, many of whom appeared to be gay. Sexuality drawn down occupational lines. Interesting.

I seem to be working in a very heterosexual world (how many gay scientists do you know?). Work colleagues aside, it seems that most of my friends (both scientists and non-scientists) are also straight. This was quite a problem when I was still single since I was unable to rely on my friends to introduce me to any of their single gay friends because,quite simply, for the vast majority of them, I was it. And unlike some people I know, I never really changed my friendship circle after coming out either (there was no sudden swapping of all my straight mates for gay ones). It is undeniable that gay and straight people engage with each other very differently than when interacting with those who share the same sexual orientation as themselves but I've never really felt like I've missed out having the friends that I currently enjoy. Nathan, meanwhile, is surrounded by a disproportionate number of fag hag types (he works a lot with nurses).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January blues

Ahh...the new year. First week back at work was rather forgettable. The corridors are near empty and students are yet to return for the new semester. The office fish tank seems to be in a state of upheaval with one of the residents deciding to go on a murderous rampage and killing some of the other fish in his aquarium (so much for being a vegetarian).

Work is pretty stressful at the moment. Too many high pressure deadlines looming. I have a book to write/edit and most of the contributors failed to meet their December deadlines. Sigh. I'm also putting in a research proposal for grant money from the Australian Research Council. The process of formulating a sexy (fundable) idea and putting it down on paper is doing my head in (not helped by the ever growing pressures from the University to bring in research income). Add to that two weeks of admin-related committee meetings and outreach programs and I reckon I'll be well and truly ready for another vacation by the end of the month ;-)