Merry Christmas 2004

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all of you, from both of us

A lot has happened this year that I kind of
forgot about until now. Some

Jasmina’s mum Velinka stayed with us
February-May, which was fantastic. We thought she
might be bored, since she doesn’t speak any English & we had to work during
the day. Actuallly she really enjoyed her time and would have stayed longer if
it had been possible to delay her return flight. My Serbian is not so hot,
sadly, but we have a wonderful relationship despite the communication
difficulties — she likes to cook, and I like to eat. It’s a wonder I didn’t put
on more weight than I did. We did some fun touristy things, went to the
aquarium, toured Harvard, & went up to Ipswich to visit Glen’s family. Our friends
also appreciated her cooking at parties, dinners and birthdays!

The biggest thing was switching jobs, both our current ones finished
this year so at the end of last year we were madly applying for new ones.
Imagine our surprise in March when we were both offered the same job at MIT —
we’d thought there was only one position when we applied. Things became a bit
tense when we discovered that a bureaucratic stuffup at Harvard meant that
Jasmina would have to leave the country for a minimum of 2 years before she
could ever work here again. It was really looking like she would not be able to
take up the job at MIT, which would have been bitterly disappointing to us
both. Luckily we managed to correct things and she switched to a new visa
without the 2 year requirement. Oh, the joy of being a nonresident alien
exchange visa holder. I started my new job in July, while Jasmina had to wait
until November. She’s been loving it so far, & has big plans to make the
most of the gym, sports clubs, anime society etc.

We did quite a lot of traveling over the
year; I had trips to Atlanta, New Orleans, Tucson & Santa Barbara for
various conferences and visiting collaborators.
New Orleans was fun — insane,
but fun. More recently we took a trip up to Vermont for a weekend, visiting
several local food and drink producers, including the Ben & Jerry’s ice
cream factory (mmmm). We inadvertently took separate holidays; Jasmina back to
Serbia, where she visited with her mum and all the relatives, and also managed
to get down to the Adriatic coast for a week. I was too busy to go with her,
but I managed to wangle a
trip back home of my own in September. I stayed with
Stuart & Belinda in Melbourne, Stuart now has his own graphic design
business which is going pretty well. I also had 5 days up in Maroochydore,
hanging out with mum & dad and Morag. Because Jasmina’s permanent residency
visa was still processing, she couldn’t come with me; however, we just heard
that her visa was approved, so now there’s nothing stopping us returning to
Australia permanently.

Here in our suburb of Watertown we have a
growing group of friends who live close by, which makes entertaining etc.
convenient. The social highlight of the week is the semi-regular mid-week
drinking club meeting down at Conleys, our local. We also had everyone around
to watch the fourth (and what turned out to be the final) game in the World
Series, which the Red Sox won — first time in 86 years. They take their
baseball pretty seriously round here, it was truly a momentous occasion.

Arrivals & departures — everyone seems
to be having babies at the moment. Dimitrios & Feryal’s new daughter Deniz
arrived on April 14th (also my birthday!), and also Paul &
Jeno’s new son Jordan in December. Roberto, a friend of ours who studied with
us in Australia, arrived from the UK on a 1-year fellowship at Harvard. Sadly
for us (but happily for them) two of our closest Australian friends here both
left, Lisa & Reuben for Hawaii and Andrew, Riki and Jessie for Sydney.

The biggest news of all for us was when I was offered a 2-year
fellowship at the University of Melbourne, to start in July 2005. This week I
accepted! We have a lot of details to work out before the return, Jasmina may
stay for a bit longer to serve out at least a year at MIT, after the epic
battle we went through to allow her to take the job. We are incredibly happy to
be going home, the work here has been fantastic, and we have met some wonderful
people, but it is just not home and doesn’t have anywhere near the same quality
of life as Australia. Being so far away from all our family and friends doesn’t
help either. So with a bit of luck this will be our last long-distance
Christmas communiqué, hopefully in a year’s time we will be more or less
settled in Melbourne and making the most of it all.

We hope this letter finds you well &
happy, all the best for the holiday season and may the new year bring you
everything you wish for

Duncan & Jasmina

Where is my mind?

The Pixies & Mission of Burma, live at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Dec 1 2004

I caught the Pixies — reunited — in Lowell last night, and they nearly took my head off.

Haven’t found any photos yet, but here’s a setlist (unfortunately no recordings available of the December concerts). We were treated to the UK surf version of Wave of Mutilation (they played the fast version near the end), Velouria, Debaser, UMass, Where is My Mind, Gigantic; they also played Caribou, Ed is Dead, Nimrod’s Son, I’ve Been Tired, Broken Face, Planet of Sound, Subbacultcha, Monkey Gone to Heaven. An incredible set, 1 1/2 hours of music but no breaks, no let up from the assault, I was exhausted after 45 min.

The music sounds so much ridiculously better live, a recording simply cannot capture the dynamic range of the live sound. The juxtaposition of the refrain from Bone Machine, immediately followed by hammerblows of noise — I had never appreciated many of these tracks primarily because I’d never heard them live.

The mix wasn’t so hot, and the vocals were a bit muddy, but they were minor complaints. As Yuri said: “I don’t ever need to see another rock show”. Too right.

See also

The first snow of winter

Winter 2004's first snowfallA sneak preview of what’s to come, rather incongruous with all the colour on the leaves still on the trees. Have to remember all those winter tricks now – not parking too far into the driveway (more to shovel out), don’t leave snow on the steps to turn to ice (a painful lesson there) etc.

CJR November/December 2004: Blinded by Science

I just read a nice piece by Chris Mooney on media coverage of science issues, particularly related to climate change. He talks about how the press tend to give undeserved airtime to proponents of viewpoints which have been rejected by the scientific community, in an effort to appear balanced. What’s the solution? Pay more attention to the consensus view of experts in the field, and the accumulated literature.

Red Sox win World Series

Celebrating the Red Sox World Series win at ConleysThe Sox won game 4 vs the Cardinals last night, and with it the World Series – first time in 86 years. We watched the game at our place but once the series was decided went out onto the streets of Watertown, which were wild, let me tell you. Went down to Conleys for a beer which was riotous until Bryan’s behaviour caused the cops to shut down the bar. Quite a night – read Bill Simmon’s take on the whole thing

Australian Tour 2004

Sydney Opera House & harbour ferryJust got back from a much-needed trip home. Caught up with Goran & Lidija in Sydney, then drove down to Canberra for a workshop at Mount Stromlo. After that it was on to Melbourne to stay with Stu & Belinda. I was pretty busy with a talk on the 5th at U. Melbourne and XMM proposals. Finally got to the actual holiday part at mum & dad’s place in Maroochydore, where I spent plenty of time on the beach but also made my leisurely way through Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver (I’m still in two minds about whether to continue with the sequel).