Thursday, August 31

Best quote I heard today "Silence is golden, duct tape is silver"

It rained last night. Not a lot (you could see the real storm off in the distance) but it took me a good minute to remember how to work my wipers!

I've had insane heartburn and anxiety all day. Must be the visa... I can't imagine how Jo must be feeling but I hope she's sleeping right now!

Tuesday, August 29

Visa stress and general news

Greetings all. It's been a busy week already and it's only Tuesday!

As some of you know, Jo is about to have her visa interview. The weeks leading up to this point have been extremely stressful. Much more so for her than me, but it's a horrible feeling being here and not being able to do much (anything) to help. I think we've done everything we can do, in terms of getting the volumes of paperwork together, now it's all down to the person on the day of the interview. It's such a full-on thing to have a government department decide if you can be in the same physical location as your partner, especially a government department from another country! Please keep us in your prayers.

As far as other news goes...Dinner at my place went well on Thursday night. We had a big roast chicken (free range) and lots of vegies, although I overcooked some of them (not used to the mega oven yet). There was still plenty of good stuff left so no dramas. Much wine was consumed by all - Tom and I stuck to the aussie reds again. Joanne made a fab lemon meringue pie that topped off the dining experience perfectly ^_^

The weekend was pretty quiet. I went shopping on Saturday morning at my favorite outdoor mall. It was fun to just wander though different places and look at stuff. Got a bit hot though! Speaking of hot, people are saying that this is the hottest summer on record for San Antonio, but I haven't been able to verify that yet. Even if that's not entirely true, it's still jolly hot! The max temps aren't getting hotter but it's just not cooling down at night now. Unrelenting! I got excited yesterday because they were tracking rain for the first time in over a month, but it didn't reach us :( Apparent;y we're in a cold front today though, which means the max temp is below 100 for once! (ok, so it's 99 but it's still below the magic number) The chance of rain has dropped to 20% for tonight, so it's not looking likely.

But enough boring weather talk. I'm off to the supermarket tonight. Simple things make me happy ^_^

Thursday, August 24

New look... not much different to the old one!

So, the migration to the new blogger let me make a few changes, but it's made other stuff messier, like the profile text that no longer takes code! So now you get a wall of text rather than my categories :(

Again, please, if you have any issues seeing anything on here let me know. It all looks fine on my screen, but I don't need to see it!

Going home now, it's late!!

More nonsense

I just did a very scary thing and migrated my blog across to the new version of blogger! It probably doesn't look any different but for a while there it was just GONE! eek. All seems to be working fine, but let me know if anything looks a bit off now, especially you *cough* mac users.

As for news and such, I've been working pretty hard the last few weeks so not a whole lot to report. Work is going really well though and my current analyses are finally coming together! I just have so much data to work with. As Vince says, it's an embarrassment of riches, and he's so right.

Having a few people over for dinner tomorrow night which should be fun. Yesterday morning I made a wish (while showering...) that the WoW servers would go down so I could clean my house, and they did! That's got to be the first time I've ever been pleased about extended maintenance. My house is now close to spotless which is making me feel much better about life. I just need to mop the floors tonight and it's all good. One of tomorrow's diners in a fussy eater, so looks like the menu will be simple roast chicken and a range of vegies, grab what you like style. I'm out of chicken stock at the moment so it's perfect timing. I also have lots of tarragon growing on my deck, so there's another reason to go with chicken! I'm surprised my herbs have survived this long; not only do they need about 2Ls of water per day to survive this heat but my squirrel has taken to digging in the pot(grapes don't store well...) It's only a small pot!

One last thing (just to keep the food theme going) I've discovered the most wonderful chocolate! Now, I'm a big time dark chocolate fan. I like the sweet and bitter combination AND the fact that it seems to be good for your health (in moderation) and a better cough suppressant than codeine. I usually get the Lindt 70% cocoa but I don't really like the slightly dry texture it has and it's a little too sour. Anyhow, the other day I discovered Lindt "swiss bittersweet" dark chocolate! I can't tell you what the cocoa content is here because FDA allows some very weird labelling... For example, the second ingredient is chocolate! It's still got the bitterness of the 70%, but it's a little smoother and softer (hmm...guessing more fat?) and a tiny bit sweeter and it's totally wonderful!!! I'm no chocoholic, so one or two squares is enough for me for the whole day, which is why I'm not phased if it is higher fat. Anyhow, if you can find this stuff in Oz and you like dark chocolate, try it, it's good!!

Monday, August 21

Some random pics

At the moment I'm making a batch of meat sauce (for work lunches) so I thought I'd put some photos on the blog while it simmers. I've been a bit slack with pictures, mostly because I update the blog on my work computer, but the camera only talks to the laptop at home.

Anyhow, here they are ^_^

For all you mosaic buffs out there, this as a HUGE mosaic on the wall of the hospital in town. It's even more impressive when you're standing at the base of it.

One of my little friends who hangs out near my office window.

This is an old shopfront I found on the edge of the city during my travels with Tom. I just love all the textures ^_^

Great place to make a nest!

This is one of the rock trains that goes past my place. The driver thought it was a great idea just to sit on the horn while I was trying to take the photo. Nearly burst my eardrums!!

And finally, the absolutely delicious chocolate tart that I had a La Frite. mmmm

Till next time...

Saturday, August 19

Electronic art

I took this post down because the vids were slowing down the blog too much. Different story had they been mine, but there were just random stuff!

Friday, August 18

Now while Government announces Australian History Prize is something to be pleased about, somehow, some small but highly cynical part of me knows that it'll end up going to a windschuttle clone *sigh*

Dinner went well last night. We had salmon, mussels, clams and prawns in a spicy, garlicky white wine/tomato soup with a tonne of fresh herbs. Hot, crust bread to mop up the slops. Oh, and a couple of bottles of good aussie red :) It was wonderful to be able to cook for other people again! Everyone is back from the Australian conference now so while I no longer have cats, cable, a washing machine or a pool, I do have friends again ^_^

Wednesday, August 16

More food!

Hi All,

Struggling today. I've been sleeping really badly lately and it's starting to kick in. Think I'm going to have to dump the doona and get some kind of ultra light blanket. I have the AC on but not too cold because then I hide under the doona and then I overheat! Not sure if it's the heat or if I'm just having a rough patch but I hope it passes soon!

Work has been happily busy today. I've been switching from the Sun to the PC all day, which is fine except for the enthusiastic moment where I swung around and banged my knee on the sun box! Doh!

Tom and Matt are coming over for dinner tomorrow night so that's a good excuse to cook my bouillabaisse variant. It's a variant because it's easy! There is wonderful and fresh seafood available here at the moment, so I'd better live it up before Jo arrives. The local figs are just so gorgeous at the moment so that justified buying little blue cheese to share, doesn't it? There's also a wonderful soft cheese that I can find once in a blue moon. It's a little like the King Island Scrubbed Brie (one of my all time favorites) but not as soft, but it does have a similar yellowish mold on the outside. It's called saint something... I'll have to pay more attention next time I find it, but trust me, it's wonderful!

On Friday night I went out to a place called the Scenic Loop Cafe to celebrate one of my co-worker's birthday. This place is known for it's outdoor dining and live music, and there was a fab bluegrass band playing while we were there. The menu looked good, too many potential options for once, but I went with the Jackson salad (because Elan used to call me Jackson). I've learnt that salads here are usually HUGE, and more than enough to feed me, plus this one had artichokes, palm hearts, bacon and gorgonzola, as well as grilled chicken. It was yummy. The side of steamed asparagus was a let down, but it stopped me from ordering the fried okra so it's all good. The wine of choice was a pretty decent Australian red called Nine Stones (shiraz). Australian wine is very popular here, although my rule of thumb* is to avoid anything with a brightly coloured and stylised aboriginal drawing on the label. The drive to get there was a little nerve-wracking, not only because I didn't really know where to go (and it's easy to get lost around here) but also because I was on one of the rare 2 directional access roads that run along side the highway. Not only did I have multiple people drive straight towards me because they forgot or didn't know it was two way, but having oncoming traffic to my right (on the highway) was making me flashback to driving in Australia for the first time since driving here, and I had to keep telling myself out loud what to do and which side to stay on. Eek! Driving home was better because the highway traffic and I were going in the same direction, although working out how to get onto it before I hit the big crossroads that I knew were coming up was a little tricky! Being here has made me realise just how good our roads and road markings are in Australia!

*I heard today that "rule of thumb" is derived from an old English law that you couldn't beat your wife with anything thicker than your thumb! I'm hoping its not true and is just one of those things that goes round the 'interweb' but I'm not sure...

Friday, August 11

Back in black

Hi all,

I'm back, and so is my little lappy :) Mostly fixed and raring to go. I say mostly because it's still turning itself off, but after another fruitless interaction with tech support I've given all hope of SONY fixing it and I'm doing what I can instead. I'll spare you the details, but new bios and graphics settings will hopefully help! I'm also thinking of getting one of those fan pads to sit it on. They circulate cold air under the laptop. It seems the vaios are notorious for getting too hot, but I'm not surprised given the specs of the thing!

Anyhow, all is well. I had a good weekend of shopping, cleaning and gaming. On Sunday Tom called and invited me on a tour of the West Side of San Antonio, so that was a lot of fun. Aside form the fact that it was, of course, stupidly hot which restricted us to short hops out of the car to take snaps instead of really being able to wander around. We briefly retired to La Tuna for an intermediate beverage, and later hit the saucer for another beverage and some food. I tried their bratwurst platter (excellent - included a mustardy potato salad and a tonne of sauerkraut) and Tom had their chili which was also delicious and stuffed inside a cobb loaf. I'm having wing withdrawals though since it's been about a month since I last had any!

Last night Tom and I went to dinner at a little Belgian place that we'd heard good things about and had driven past on our Sunday tour. It's called La Friet and it felt a little like somewhere small on Lygon St, Melb. Of course we both had a huge bowl of mussels and fries, and the food was wonderful! The broth for the mussels was perfect. From the options of curry, tomato and "normal" we chose normal, which was white wine and cream with lots of garlic, shallots and herbs. Delicious. Even the fries were good and tasted like they were hand made from real potatoes. We had a half decent French red to go with it and topped the whole thing off with an incredible chocolate tart that was bittersweet and smooth and simply wonderful. Go San Antonio!

On the other side of life here... Within hours (or less) of the latest terrorist threat that saw the orange globe get replaced by a red one we were issues a travel safety notice for work that states:
NO LIQUIDS OR GELS OF ANY KIND WILL BE PERMITTED IN CARRY ON BAGGAGE. SUCH ITEMS MUST BE IN CHECKED BAGGAGE. This includes all beverages, shampoo, sun tan lotion, creams, tooth paste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency.
Exception: Baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child is traveling; prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger'’s ticket; and insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines, which all must be presented for inspection at the checkpoint
One thing that has always surprised me is the sheer volume of baggage that you are allowed to take as carry on on US flights. One of those big roller cases and a smaller (slightly) duffelbag. No wonder it takes an hour or more to get through the screening at the airport here! Oh well, at least I won't have the problem of my moisturiser leaking all through my bag and laptop again, but no toothpaste? No waterbottle? It goes on to say that drinks purchased in the airport have to be consumed before getting onto the plane, but does this throw a spanner in the duty free market? I guess we stay tuned. But I'm so glad I'm not traveling today.

Miss you all ^_^

Oh yeah, I also have photos from our Sunday this space.

Saturday, August 5

The Graduate

My bestest girl is graduating today! I'm stoked and sad, all at the same time. Messy! One of the worst things about being here is missing those important milestones in life, and having important moments that aren't shared memories. I'm also miffed that I'll miss friends and family all frocked up for procession!! Not many people get multiple academics processing for them out of more than a sense of duty! Anyhow, needless to say I wish I could be there, but I can't be so I have high expectations of many photos filling my inbox from multiple sources...

So, Dr Richardson the Third, I'll be there in thought and spirit. I hope you have a truly wonderful day. Lap it up, you deserve it ^_-

Room with a view

Amazing things I've seen out my office window today:
- A skinny, hyperactive squirrel
- A mother bird feeding worms to a big, demanding baby bird
- Multiple butterflies, including a yellow one, a white one, a brown one and an orange and black one
- A mini-twister that looked like a column of sand but taller than a house, and a startled workman with his earmuffs on standing right next to it!
- A rabbit with an incredibly varied nutmeg coloured coat
- A plane the size of an apartment block that reminded me of the line from the Hitchhiker's Guide describing the Vogon fleet "the ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't"

(Note: My window looks out onto 3m2 of grass and a construction site, so any one of these is an amazing occurrence, but so many in one day?? Why am I spending so much time looking out the window today? Because it's 30+ degrees in my office!)

It seems that Mr New Office PC doesn't want to talk to Mr Camera, so unless I find some common ground, or a card reader, I'm photo-less till I get my laptop back. Sorry about that guys, but I'll continue to snap and see if I can collect some interesting pics for y'all soon.

This weekend is a 'tax holiday' which means (I think) that we're exempt from sales tax for a few days. Sounds tempting since sales tax is 8.5%, but I don't know how widely it applies and I'm sure there will be crowds of shoppers out and about which probably means attempting to even leave the house just isn't worth it. The tax break seems to be targeted at the 'back to school' shoppers so maybe only some stores apply it, but there sure are a lot of sales on this weekend. I wonder if it applies at the supermarket? I'll keep you posted.

I'm reconnecting with my Playstation now that I don't have the laptop, and playing Kingdom Hearts II, but it's a little lame. I'll give it some more time thought because I'm still in the early stages and Square do make excellent games, but I'm just not a big Disney fan and I don't think having random disney characters appearing in my manga world is helping me suspend my disbelief. Oh World of Warcraft, how I miss thee! Pathetic I know, but I never pretended not to be a geek.

This little geek should get back to her geeky work ^_^

Friday, August 4

I'm melting...

No wicked witch story here, the AC in my office is broken and the temperature is gradually climbing from uncomfortable to horrid to I might just pass out on the floor. However, I feel more sorry for the maintenance guy who is now up in the roof trying to work out what the problem is. I bet it's a whole lot warmer up there!

Jamie said he's watched a news story that was saying we were having a heat wave. But how would you tell? I don't think it's been below 98 for months! Whit is it about us humans that we insist being able to live anywhere and bending the climate to our will?

The increased frequency of the number of cars flying small American flags from their aerials tells me Bush is in the state... Oh, and the news that is.

Thursday, August 3

Bad start to the day...

Gashed my hand on my newly sharpened kitchen knife that was sitting in the drying rack, dizzy swoon minor shock and nausea, cleaned up, went to post office early to send parcel, signed wrong customs form, back to the end of the queue, get to counter, no wallet, go home, no wallet, paid by cheque, got to work late, wallet on desk!

I need a coffee and a nap. Or a hug.

Wednesday, August 2

Slack Jac...

Hello dear friends, hopefully I haven't lost you all during my virtual leave of absence. It's been fairly hectic here every since I returned from Boston and I've let a lot of things slide, including the blog, housework, showering... ok, not showering, it's still 100 degrees so that'd just be gross!

I've had to send my laptop away to Sony after another failed onsite repair, this time the technician not only managed to avoid fixing the original problem, he also permanently disconnect the trackpad and mouse with an enthusiastic lack of remorse, before closing the job and calling it a day. Needless to say I was furious, since I was heading to Boston the next day! I called support again and quietly bit my tongue as they calmly told me the three strikes and I'm out rule which meant sending it to California for repairs that may take two weeks, maybe more. Seems somehow it was my fault it was broken! Anyhow, I still took it to Boston (with clunky Mr External Mouse) because I needed to keep working, but yesterday I packed it up in it's little FedEx bed and posted it off to CA :( So now I have no internet at home. It's weird how much lonelier that makes the place feel. The hours that I'm online at work are almost exactly when most decent Aussies are happily sleeping. And the hardest part is going cold turkey on WoW! I was about a day away from level 40 which means not only being able to wear mail armour, but also being able to get myself a huge cat to ride! Oh well, something to look forward to :)

Work is busy and quiet all at the same time. Busy because I have a lot to do, which is great, but quiet because not many people are here and those who are seem to be hibernating in their offices! Guess everyone who is here is just as busy as me. It's hard knowing that some many of our group are going to the conference in Brisbane, but I think if I was to go home now I might not come back again!

I found out the other day that I've been assigned a platform (talk) at ASHG, the big genetics conference here. Scary! But much better than being assigned a poster I guess. The conference is in New Orleans in early October, and I think perhaps the location may reduce the numbers a little compared with previous years, but we'll see!

I had a horribly sad experience driving to work this morning. Something was flashing up on the huge overhead traffic warning screens on the freeway, and it took me a while to realise it was the description and rego of a car involved in a kidnapping :( I hope they found them and all is well now... I've been up close and personal with a high speed chase here, where I had to get the car off the road and out of the way very quickly! I've also watched a few of the really big ones on live tv. Luckily the ones I've see have all worked out fine. As awful as they are, there's also something horribly fascinating about watching them, more so knowing it's live. You just can't look away - and they way they're broadcast here is almost like a national sport. I guess making that kind of news such a big deal keeps the public eye nice and close to home and not wondering what's going on elsewhere... For those who know there is an elsewhere that is!

That said, watching the world news at the moment just makes me want to cry. I'm not going to go on a rant about internal politics and public opinion here. I got sucked into that at the pub a few weeks ago and it was a truly depressing and draining experience. In response I went shopping and bought myself a bright green 'practice nonviolence' t-shirt to wear to work.

I should wrap up this eclectic post and get back to work. Matt had a spare 5.1 surround system that I've just hooked up to my office PC, so I'm now wired for sound ^_^
It is no coincidence that Texas is shaped like a t-bone steak.