Thursday, 31 January 2013

Day 57: Back to normal, pretty ordinary...but that's OK, thanks

Day 57 (31 Jan) Woke today to the sound of rain, soft rain, but persistent precipitation nonetheless. It's also the last day of January. That is usually the signal in the life of the ordinary academic that all the intended reading, writing and thinking of the summer break is basically over. Completed manuscripts are sent off for peer review, this year's  conference papers are planned and briefly sketched, the pile of books annotated and placed on their subject-ordered shelves...

Yeah, of course. Apparently that's what used to happen; shame I missed the golden era. Much of January has actually been taken up by paperwork and administration, consultation and meetings. Meetings about meetings to have meetings. 

More rainwater, at 6.12am
Radio programs are returning to normal too following the #bigwet. Time and motion. It is really quite surprising just how much the regularity of radio programs seeps into the subconscious when it comes to determining what part of the day one is at and what one should be doing. Some days, depending on my timetable, breakfast should be had and lunch made by the time of the 'team talk' around 5.40am; I know I have to be on the road by the time the 6.30am news starts; if I'm still listening to AM in the car, I'm running late; the return journey is nearly always the Evenings show. If Phillip Adams is bidding his farewells, and I'm still's way too late. 

Are things getting back to normal? Pretty ordinary start this morning. Found myself out watering the bonsai at 6.12am but also wondered just how much more rainwater the verandah might take, and might we not have time for it to dry out. On the radio, the AM program was talking about Bundy, it is the place that really copped it this time. I can live with the rain in the tropics in summer, I'm not sure I want us all to keep going through these weather events though. 

It's a new academic year, but it is also a continuation. Things don't seem to stop really. A day spent away writing simply means the other work piles up. I was also out of radio range today for much of the working day. That was largely due to meetings...the ones of the type I mentioned above. What passed for news today, simply passed me by (although I did catch something about a train crash in Cleveland this morning). I think there was some comment that the media will probably talk mostly about the prime minister's new glasses, but it was the media making the comment, that they shouldn't be distracted by that...some days...(>%<). Actually, I think she has taken her cue from my spec-style. There was more rain. 

Lecture thoughts, at 6.12pm
I try do get some work done in the office after the last student has gone, colleagues have left, and the security guards have locked the building. I'm starting to sense, through this project, that too often I find myself sitting at the desk at work at 6.12pm. I'm on first-name terms with our building's cleaning staff, each Thursday. This evening it was more prepping for the first lectures coming up in February. That first lecture is the most important one...that's the time you get to convince your students that there will be some worth in spending the next three months is the time to share your passion for the subject; to tell of why you've been intrigued and spent so much time on a subject. For me, that's Japan, Japanese and politics--sometimes all-in-one, sometimes across three different courses. I read a very good article about the value of good lectures easy to be 'distracted' in the quest for professional development. So often these days though, students think the first lecture is one for missing 'did I miss anything important?'...I don't even sigh anymore. 

So it is time to think about the things that February brings. It is the last stage of summer, the path towards autumn (perhaps in a metaphorical sense too). Soon, my day will be marked by hours in a timetable, a certain regularity. Things will run like clockwork. 

Late Night Live is over, the 11pm news is on. I've some reading to do before I sleep, before I wake to the 5am news...for that is the clockwork of my working life. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 56: Let the games begin

Day 56 (30 Jan) It started as an ordinary calm after the storm-type of day...back in the office, developing courses, having meetings, eating lunch and listening to the news... Expecting updates on the flood and water situation in Brisbane, the Prime Minister in her speech to the National Press Club announced the date of the federal election...the actual date. Not, 'we will have an election this year' (yes, we knew that), not 'the election will be held in the latter half of the year', just bang, straight into it. Not many expected it and my twitter-feed went wild. 

I do like that mug, at 6.12am
It hadn't started like that. This morning at 6.12, having read yesterday's paper yesterday (unusual), I was reading over some of the material I found at the Parliamentary Library in Japan, oh, and drinking coffee, of course. This article was a presentation on what Japan might learn from Australia's multiculturalism. There's actually an extensive contemporary literature on this issue in Japan and, as I'm discovering in my research, that really extends back into the 19th century. Hmm, there must have been something in the coffee. 

The weather remains a bit unstable. Sunny this morning but with further rain forecast, it is always a calculated decision about driving 100km up the highway to get to work, knowing that the return leg might be in pouring rain, unexpected potholes, debris, drivers not driving to the conditions. 

'Game on', at 6.12pm
Of course, 6.12pm found me still in the office, in the usual spot, following up on the news of the day. I hadn't had much time between the announcement earlier in the day and getting back to my desk at 5pm to digest the news. That's what I was doing then, listening to PM, the ABC current affairs program at the same time. 

So, the Prime Minister has called the date of the election, 14 September. Is it a masterstroke, or a tactical blunder? This question will dominate discussion for a little while I expect. At the federal level, we don't have fixed-term governments. One of the characteristics of our parliament is that scheduling the election date does become part of the argy-bargy of the political class, particularly in the election year. 

Calling the date now eliminates that element of the discussion. It will be interesting to watch the tactics play out now. It is a clayton's fixed-term in a way, the fixed-term we have when we don't have fixed-terms. The writs will be issued in the usual way, so government continues until August when it goes into caretaker mode. On the radio this afternoon one commentator suggested that this a strategy which might fail, that the flexibility of being able to call an election at will, is now lost. I don't agree. As I was making the return 100km trip home in the rain, dodging potholes and maniacal drivers making up lost time...I recalled the 1983 election when then PM Malcolm Fraser called the election thinking he would go up against then opposition leader Bill Hayden. The Labor Party changed leaders, Bob Hawke led Labor to a victory...and the rest we know. 

From an analyst's perspective, I am very interested to see how this move plays out. It doesn't have the definition of the US presidential term, where a president in his (her, one day) second term can become a 'lame duck' fairly quickly. We've now had that element of uncertainty removed from the political discourse for the rest of the year. This is a game of political chicken between two combatants of the neo-political class. In some ways I find it unhealthy for our political wellbeing, but that is material for the other blog. For now, I'm intrigued and I expect 6.12 moments for the next 220+ days, have been pretty well determined. 

Let the games begin...indeed!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Day 55: A cautious calm after the storm

Day 55 (29 Jan) The day after a cyclone has moved on is always one for caution. Not surprisingly, the clear sky appeared on cue and one could assess the damage anew. While colleagues debated whether or not it was safe to return to work, others determined that a yard clean-up was in order. 

The calm is always deceptive. Just because the clouds have cleared and the sun is shining, the river and creeks continue to swell and the risk of flooding is still great. Driving on the roads can be just as hazardous...potholes, debris, water that hasn't drained away. It was just this scenario that caught me two years ago. Driving to work on the Sunshine Coast  the  day after the rains, I ended up staying up there for four days when, as it happened, I was one of the last drivers to get through the Bruce Highway before it was cut off. 

Blue sky, greeted cautiously, at 6.12am
Although the SunCoast didn't flood to the same extent then, I wasn't able to get back to Brisbane because it was flooding. That hopeless feeling of watching from afar unable to help friends and neighbours losing their possessions still resonates. I'm fortunate I have the sort of occupation where I can sometimes make the call to work on campus or work at home. I made the call to work at home today, just in case...

So, the sunshine and blue sky that greeted us this morning at 6.12 did so with a knowing grin...just when you think it is safe to go out...

Along with that sunshine, comes an incredible humidity. It's the kind of humidity that makes you perspire just typing it. It makes the clean up that much harder, knowing it has to be done while you have the chance to dry things out. 

The cleanup
Work is interspersed with listening to the updates on the radio-where the river is flooding, which suburbs are going under, the businesses which face water damage, again. Our reliance on modern technology comes to the fore as well. People have lost telecommunications facilities, though the twitterverse persists in marshalling the peeps, informing, updating and rallying people to help and support each other. It has its detractors but we have learnt to use twitter for good too. 

This evening, the city is facing up to the post-storm circumstances. Things aren't yet back to normal but we're getting there. Services are returning, but not yet to full capacity. Residents have been warned of restrictions on water...just like we did for the drought a few years ago; the irony. 

At the end of the day, 6.12pm
On the radio tonight, people are telling their stories: harrowing, stoic, concerned, angry, and cheerful...much is made of the Queensland or Australian character in times like this. It is a strong (though not unique) national trait. It's a fair reminder that in the clamour for individual success we still can come together as a community. 

We've a few more days to go of this, some repairs may take weeks, some, months. There's perhaps no longer a 'normal' to return to anymore, one senses these 'once-in-100-year' events are going to happen a lot more often. Underlying our 'take-it-as-it-comes' character will always be a cautious calm now, I suspect. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Day 54: When common sense should prevail

Day 54 (28 Jan) Ex-TC Oswald continued to dominate the day and indeed, most of the evening. It was a long night, staying awake punctuated by the occasional sleep, rather than the other way around. The wind gusts were quite incredible, trundling towards us like a low-flying cargo plane only to hit with a roar and rush through the trees. 

The verandah, at 6.12am
By the time 6.12am came around, just like yesterday, I'd already been up for a while surveying the aftermath. The low pressure system was supposed to have made its way down the coast overnight but its present was still felt. I was coming in from outside at the appointed time...the verandah was still as wet as yesterday and it just felt like it was never going to end. There were branches and leaves blown all around the yard, no real damage fortunately and still with power. Many had lost power overnight and by day's end were waiting for it to be switched on again. 

I opted to spend the day indoors again notwithstanding that the weather was supposed to clear during the day. 

At different times, there were brief moments of sunlight and we thought it was over and out. It has come back again, and as I write, the weather remains doubtful outside. I had an opportunity to clear some of the debris around the yard but its never a pleasant task. 

Listening to the radio then, and working on the Meiji project were the orders of the day. The radio stories today have focussed on the impending flooding throughout Southeast Queensland with Bundaberg set to cop the brunt. Ipswich, Goodna, Rocklea, the shops and restaurants on the banks of the river through the city...the vision and reports all day have been strong, visually and emotionally. Later in the day, it was the Lockyer Valley in the news again, and that is still far too raw. As I noted yesterday, it is still too close to two years earlier. 

Politically, the 'flying' visit to Brisbane by the Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott has been met with scepticism...he filled a couple of sandbags, wished people well and was away. The Premier spoke to the public again several times but the growing frustration of lack of facilities and utilities simmered below. 

Reading material, at 6.12pm
The good and the stupid in people stood out again today. The wonderful spirit of people shone as they baked, helped sandbag properties, helped people move to higher ground. But too many times the radio announcers were imploring people to not go out and sightsee unnecessarily, to not drive unless necessary, to not take risks. People do though. There have been several incidents of people being swept away by swollen rivers, hit by falling trees. I am as curious as anybody (I couldn't research in my field otherwise) but at times like this our common sense tends to take a back seat. I wondered what subconscious strategy was at play when I found myself reading one of my books, A Political History of Common Sense at 6.12pm, listening to the updates and thinking about dinner. Timely it seems. 

So with a long weekend so dominated by a weather event and so many schools closed tomorrow for the first day of the new school year, it is hard to know what tomorrow will bring. It is quiet outside right now, my twitter feed tells me the storm has headed to Sydney. Some common sense is needed.  

For now, it is back to work, the Japanese prime minster has made his keynote speech to the Japanese parliament today so there is much to analyse. There remains so much to compare between our political leadership, for better or worse. 

Kudos again today to those in the various services keeping us informed and safe, to the extent our common sense permits. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Day 53: The agony of the X-TC Oswald

Day 53 (27 Jan) There was a band in my youth that took the name XTC. I think it was one of the earliest 'word plays' I came to appreciate in that 'cool and groovy' way of a certain age, once I worked out what it was saying. It was like SMS, before it was invented. 

And so, with ex-TC Oswald running through my twitter timeline, I've had XTC's hit song earworming me all day...luckily, it's not a bad one. But we've all been rather captivated by the ex-tropical cyclone (the ex-TC) Ossie today as we've watched the #bigwet unfold down the eastern seaboard. 

The deck, at 6.12am 
It is Queensland, it is summer, these weather events happen. Trouble is we still bear the scars of the summer of 2010/11 and we'd rather not have another right now, thank you. This one has been accompanied by tornadoes coming down the coast and I'd been listening to the radio reports since about 4am. 

At 6.12am, I was up and on the verandah just getting the remaining 'loose items' tied down. The rain on the verandah only reaches this spot when the wind is quite strong. The lorikeets had started huddling by this stage and there was no sense of the day clearing at all. 

It is Sunday, it's a rainy day and usually you'd like to stay in bed a little longer, but on days like this you have to be alert to all sounds. It is some 39 years since my family moved to Queensland from Sydney and my introduction to this weather was the Australia Day flooding of 1974, it doesn't get easier. 

A bit more rain than I like. 
Twitter has, of course, added a new dimension to the communications around the place. The incredible value of the twitter community, near and far, is highlighted at times like this. Other conversations happen as well but the focus is on help, assistance, warnings and checking on each other. 

Trying to get any work done is punctuated by checking that the branches you hear crashing aren't causing damage to anything, that the downpipes are clearing, that the sirens you hear aren't going to a disaster. At times the wind and rain combine to a point of helplessness and all you can do is stand inside and what it all unfold. The rain today reached a 'record' high point at my place, I've never seen the furniture so drenched. The rain just doesn't 'fall', it comes in at all angles in this weather. 

The Premier Campbell Newman has held a press conference, along with his successor in the Brisbane City Council, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk. It didn't carry the gravitas of Anna Bligh's statement two years ago. It is quite interesting to see that people seem to have less confidence in the dam flood gates being opened at this time...the nerves of 2011 have not yet completely healed. And there was too much sensitivity in deflecting possible litigation. 

Dinner was being served,
just, at 6.12pm
Flooding is occurring here in Brisbane as I write. Power is out in places, we are all making due preparations for ... the floods ... again. We try to distract ourselves with the tennis final on down south, but that constant drip above me, within earshot, refuses to reveal itself. I know it is residual rain trying to break the barrier between the tiles and the ceiling. 

By 6.12pm, I'd managed to negotiate power outages and dinner was served. I was in the kitchen but better you see the spice rack rather than the plated menu...a compromise meal, just in case the power goes midway, does not a pretty photo make. 

And although this blog is not endorsed by Brisbane's 612ABC, but has a tangential relationship to the community, I would like to unreservedly offer immeasurable appreciation to everyone involved in putting the information to air, all day and all night--the presenters, the producers, the reporters, everyone. They do it brilliantly. Thanks too to the twitterverse, the emergency service workers, the public transport drivers who maintain essential services. It's a cliche, but the community really does come together. 

There's a line in that XTC song about senses working's probably a more telling line than that group ever imagined. 

Stay safe everyone. (Dammit, another siren just went by...)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Day 52: The wettest 100 hours or so

Day 52 (26 Jan) Today is Australia Day. It is a day celebrated, commemorated, excoriated, debated... It recognises white settlement in Australia (well, Sydney Harbour) and has truly become a day of national debate and discussion. Australian of the Year (Ita Buttrose) settles into day one of civic duties and we read again of the men and women who received Australia Day honours, in the usual and approximate ratio of about 4:1. 

It has also been very wet here in Brisbane and the greater SE Queensland region. There have been several tornadoes north of here, the usual flood alerts and advisories, and sterling work by all the emergency services and media people.

There's the #hottest100 on TripleJ, the women's final in the Australian Open and one of the pretend cricket games. When we played that version as kids, it was called hit and giggle; now it's in a 20 over format and blokes get paid ridiculous amount of money. 

Anyway, a rainy day, it was the sort of stay-at-home day that can be good for...not much really. Catch up on reading, think about rearranging the study, realise that you really need to go out and get some emergency some time. 

But today was also an interesting day as far as unanticipated outcomes for this little ongoing experiment. I actually captured two moments taken 12 hours apart (although I did do a few things in between). Can you spot the difference (apart from the angle, and the venetian blind)? 

                    The rain, at 6.12am
The rain, at 6.12pm

The am shot I took when I got up and went to look outside to see the extent of the rain. The pm shot was taken from the same spot, because I happened to be getting ready to go out to the shops (for those emergency supplies). 

As an amateur photographer, the light has always intrigued me, and on a fine, sunny day, there would be a marked difference in the light across the 12 hours. I've not paid that much attention to the light on a rainy day...the 12 hour difference here has taught me much about light and the camera lens today. Intriguing. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Day 51: The bucket overfloweth

Day 51 (25 Jan)'s a funny topic of conversation. Icebreaker, misery-maker, highly-anticipated, hot, cold, dry, wet, humid...all sorts of ways we respond. 

The overflow, Clancy, at 6.12am
Summer, in Queensland, is inevitably about the the wet and the dry. The wet has been on its way for a few days and overnight it finally arrived in time to coincide with the Australia Day long weekend (and the kerbside clean-up in my suburb...). I DO like to wake up to the sound of falling rain; I DON'T particularly like driving too far in it. Inevitably, as the rain falls, the first task of the morning is to go out and check the rain, where it has accumulated, was there any damage. The tank overflow bucket I checked at 6.12am this morning was empty yesterday, full to overflowing this morning. That's quite a bit of constant rain in the last 24 hours.

The preliminary lori huddle, also at 6.12am
The other indicator is to look at what the loris are doing...huddling, also at 6.12am. At this moment, they were still in the trees, later in the day they huddled under the eaves of the back deck. The lorikeet rainfall huddle has reached 18 birds at its height, it is quite a sight. 

So, a work day at home mostly, with a couple a meetings to attend later in the afternoon. The rain has increased over the day. While one likes to be positive and optimistic about the rain, when it rains all day like this, there is the spectre of flooding, as we did two years's always there; news that the government planned to open the flood gates on the dam at some point, ostensibly to prevent the overflow of a couple of years ago. There's just a touch of nervous anxiety. 

Today's paper today,
at 6.12pm
Friday night is beer and pizza night, as we know from earlier posts. It happens, rain, hail or snow (OK, the latter is highly unlikely here, maybe). Ordered at 6.10 and waiting to pick up at 6.12pm. With time on my hands I got to read today's! What a rare occurrence (as we now know from the 50 day assessment in the last post). I really shouldn't waste the opportunity. 

It will be a weekend or so of a wet Queensland weekend. Still, there's work to do, and this year, my (work) cup shall runneth over too, in that good positive way (I tell myself).

Fifty days in: is it all so predictable?

Fifty days in, one hundred moments captured...

Thought I might take a moment to pause and reflect on what twelvepastsix has done until now. If we recall its purpose is to capture a moment each day, then given the moments (6.12am/pm), there is a surprisingly 'complex sameness' about things, whether at home, work, or in Japan. 

I didn't expect to capture two photos each and every day at the beginning, nice if I could, I thought, but I have managed to do so until now. Can I keep doing it for the next 315 days? 

Anyway, a bit of a breakdown of activities so far (there's some doubling up): 

Breakfast/coffee: 5
Cruising at 612, so far...
Making breakfast/lunch: 6
Reading yesterday's paper: 5
Reading today's paper: 0
Just reading: 4
iDevicing/TV: 8                                                              
Garden: 2
Feeding the lorikeets: 3
Being kept in the dark: 6
Wake up call: 1
Sunrises: 6
Washing: 3
On my bike (almost): 2
On a plane: 2
612ABC Studio 400: 1

Dinner: 6
Office: 6
Reading: 3
Reading today's paper: 1
iDevicing/TV: 7
Housework: 3
Garden: 2
Sunsets: 3
Commuting: 10 (trains, planes, buses, cars)
Shops: 5
Just passing through...: 4

Well, the commuting number is a bit of a surprise, I don't feel like I spend that much time doing that, but then, 200m return each work day, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. Too much time in the office clearly but reading...that's what I do. 

To the next fifty days...

Day 50: Seed funding...

Day 50 (24 Jan) Began the day with a brief but spectacular sunrise which quickly turned to grey and wet. Much-needed rain of course but never fun knowing there is a drive to work ahead. 

Seedy, at 6.12am
Still, the lorikeets this morning reminded me that I hadn't left seed out for a couple of days. I try not to be too habitual with the seeding, I wouldn't want them to become dependent. Nonetheless out I went and there at 6.12am I was leaving the seed for the birds. Of course, as an academic, 'seed' can have quite different connotations and I knew today was one of those days where I would have to think about funding and get us started on a project we are supposed to apply for 'seed funding'. I always think of my lorikeets, they have much more success than I do. (Perhaps I ought to squawk at sunrise.)

Rain, we've not seen this
wet stuff for a while
The rain continues to fall, it started this morning and has kept going. It's due to rain right through to next week. The floods of two years ago remain uppermost in people's minds so the return trip from the SunCoast to Brisbane in this sort of weather can lead to a touch of anxiety when driving on the highway. Two years ago driving *to* work, we were about the second-last car to get up the highway before the river flooded and cut the road. I ended up staying up the Coast for four days...

However, got into work and discussions with colleagues about...yep, funding, ensued. 'Seed funding'. In recent years, I've paid for my own research by-and-large. In the end, it is easier than  spending too much time seeking too little money to undertake extra work for which there is generally not enough time. 

The freddo jar, a different perspective,
at 6.12pm
Not surprisingly, at 6.12pm was still in the office, still at the computer so had to think of another angle really, just to keep the images interesting. I did happen to be looking at the pile of work on the other weekend work. I also noticed that the lolly jar is running low again. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I am keeper of the freddos... and this is the freddo jar, just with a variation at the moment: freddos melt in the heat. They are there for colleagues really, not me, some days are like that...

Our politicians and wannabe politicians continued to grab the headlines and commentary today. Debate ensued about the pros and cons of the prime minister's 'intervention' or 'captain's choice' approach to selecting Nova Perris as a candidate for a Northern Territory senate seat. Meanwhile, over at Katter's Australian Party, a candidate was, by the end of the day either suspended or disendorsed by the party for comments made about gay teachers. Our politics...our society...? It seems we still have quite a bit of work to do. 

I need to make another research trip to Canberra soon...some seed funding might be nice but perhaps I'd be better of grabbing the lorikeets' leftovers, as long as I'm not left feeling just plain seedy. 


We've reached Day 50 of this venture...6.12 each day times two, so far. Tomorrow, I'll have a bit of a pause and reflection on what patterns we can discern so far...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Day 49: occupational hazard

Day 49 (23 Jan) Is it possible to have an off-switch in this job? It's a question I ask myself from time-to-time. As colleagues return to work and enquire about your 'break', how does one answer that without sounding like some kind of automaton...or perhaps even an automated 'bot'? The trip to Japan chronicled here in earlier posts was less a break and simply shifting the focus of attention. But still, people assume an overseas trip must be a holiday. 

Yesterday's paper, today,
at 6.12am
And so it was today, not a day in my office on campus but a day of work nonetheless. People ask why do I read the newspaper, particularly when it is yesterday's paper today (which is what, yet again, I was doing at 6.12am). Indeed, I've generally kept up with the breaking news during the day via the various sources to hand these days: twitter, news websites, radio streaming etc; when I read the paper I'm generally looking for examples or stories for lectures and tutes; I read the op-ed pieces to engage with debate around ideas or controversies. I read the letters to the editor pages too, they're as useful as talkback for gauging a further dimension of 'public opinion' on issues that I might be able to use in class as a talking point. 

A brief diversion today from desk work when I went to have a chat with Anthony Fensom, a fellow member of the twitterati and contributor to 'The Diplomat', about the recent election and Japanese current affairs. Always enjoy talking about Japanese politics, so is that 'work' as such, sitting in a cafe, over a coffee? 

Current affairs and historical contexts, at 6.12pm
Back home and time is focussed on my forthcoming presentation at the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Qld Chapter. I'm enjoying the challenge of bringing to life the musings of Watanabe Kanjuro as he roamed Queensland 120 years ago. So much of the story is fast becoming relevant in ways I hadn't anticipated. So this evening at 6.12pm I was looking at some of the books I bought in Tokyo, new publications which similarly are reviewing the thinking and politics of the early 20th century in Japan and the lessons we might learn or come to appreciate in the present. 

One more thing I need to do before retiring for the night is to examine the statement on security announced by the Prime Minister today. International security is my area of specialisation academically and I'm interested in the statement and its relevance to the Asia-Pacific region. Whether the Prime Minister's comments were explicit or implicit with regards to the region is for me to consider and write is my job as an educator and commentator to read, listen, think and synthesise the things that make our world tick. It's a full-time job really, wherever and whenever I might need to do so. 

It will keep me busy. I'll look for that 'off-switch' next time around.

Day 48: A touch of serendipity becalms the day

Day 48 (22 Jan) Up and at it early, awoken by retreating possums, to light rain again and a regular work day ahead. Working at a university can be run of the mill ordinary work and sometimes, just sometimes, the magic breaks out. Today ended up as one of those magic days. 

Little did I know that at 6.12am when I was making lunch, a variation of a Japanese soba dish, that the day would end up tying up otherwise disparate strands of my current research project. 

Making lunch, at 6.12am
An early conversation at work this morning centred on my research project, the Meiji political scene and implications for present-day Japan. Most people I speak to think it draws a long bow and similarly, convincing research granting bodies is equally challenging. That was part of the conversation day, that my research is unlikely to convince of that link. 

Sometimes, nonetheless, those conversations give one a bit of encouragement, and little impetus to keep at it. During lunch, as I glanced I my twitter timeline, a link to a newspaper article had me shaking my head. Reference was made to a Japanese finance minister of the early 20th century and parallels made with the present economic and political situation in Japan. A journalist had talked up a bit of a scenario that, based on my work, was a little unrealistic. In fact, it seemed to be an extraordinary extrapolation of an observation made by a Japanese political commentator on Japanese television a few weeks ago. The observation had been made that the current Finance Minister (and Deputy PM) Aso had also been prime minister previously and he shared this fact with two other politicians in Japan, Miyazawa Kiichiro and, going back further, Takahashi Korekiyo, the subject of the article. 

With the radio news backgrounding most of the day with Obama's inauguration and speech, the excitement in Washington DC was punctuated by news of a huge economic stimulus package in Japan. 
A touch of history

...stay with me...there's a story here...

A second commentator made the Abe/Takahashi connection. I went to my bookshelves to get more info on Takahashi, saw one book, but put it aside. Went back to search electronically for some more information; a reference online was the exact book I had on my shelf...a text I had to use in my undergraduate studies in Japan, nearly 30 years ago. Takahashi was a leader of the same political party for which my two 19th century protagonists stood, and were elected, on their return to Tokyo from Queensland.

The record of Japanese parliament,
newsmaker of the day, Takahashi,
comes to light on my computer at 6.12pm today. 
By 6.12pm then, I was still in the office tracking down more references, not just to Takahashi but also Satoh and Watanabe...the interesting connections of a century ago I had been examining over the last little while were beginning to come together in an exciting way. One part of my project is to track through the Japanese equivalent of Hansard, c. 1910s to see if these politicians drew on their Australian experiences in shaping the new Japanese nation. I've started working my way through that resource, and it is the stuff of my work that sometimes makes it hard to drag myself away. 

Some days at work have their little magic was the entree to tying together politicians and nations through the century. 

The serendipitous moments that make the rest worthwhile. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Day 47: A little rear vision

Day 47 (21 Jan) Mondays always come around far too quickly. No sooner has one finished catching up with work over the weekend and feeling ready to relax than Monday's alarm goes off, or the sun comes up or something says: 'Monday!' That's today. Oh yes, the bike riding starts today...seemed like such a good idea yesterday. 

Awoke to hear of another interesting quirk of the US Presidency: President Obama was sworn in today, not with the usual parade-like inauguration flourish but with a brief 30 second swearing in ceremony in the White House. Turns out, the president must be sworn in on 20 January, but given it is a Sunday this year, the big inauguration must wait until tomorrow. More puzzlements about US ceremony to ponder on the way to work. 

Well, I hope it doesn't rain on his parade tomorrow (Monday in the US), which is what much of Brisbane awoke to this morning. Not a lot, but just enough. This time two years ago, we were flood-bound through the city...such is the weather. Now we want the rain, really badly. What would we do without the weather as a topic of conversation, an 'ice-breaker', a blog topic?  The weather holds a similar place in Japanese conversation can spend a lot of time talking about the weather. 

Breakfast, at 6.12am
At 6.12am, with a drive up the coast ahead, in the rain, I was getting breakfast listening to the AM program. Getting breakfast, thinking about what to make for lunch, wondering if 350 photos of making breakfast is going to be any more or less boring than 350 photos of exercise biking? Maybe I should go out for a walk every morning at 6.00? Who knows, but this is what I do. There is *some* variation in the fruit at least. 

Work today includes a two-hour meeting about...something. It's interesting following on from a weekend discussion about the academic profession more generally and the increase in the number of meetings, usually to tell us how to be better...award-winnning, grant-winning, prize-winning people when really, we'd rather be writing. Still, colleagues are beginning to return from leave now so there's always some interesting chats in the corridor. 

University offers for students too mean new students coming to the university, many for the first time...and lots of questions and enquiries. I might get time to eat that lunch I prepared earlier. 

An earlier than usual return this evening, hopefully the Monday evening rehearsal routine will commence again soon, that was the plan at least. After dropping off a colleague at her car, at 6.12pm, I was about to reverse out of the car park to continue the trip home. I guess it makes a change from the office scene...

As I think about what's ahead, I guess there's a little looking back as well...glancing in the rear vision mirror, occasionally, helps. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Day 46: Grateful for a 'mundane life'

Day 46 (20 Jan) It's another Sunday and another warm one. Having plans for the day, it was important to be up and at it by 6.12am. Yes, the washing awaits (as does the mowing apparently) and so it was that I was heading to the clothesline then. 

Sunday, washing day, at 6.12am
I have decided since last night that the bike riding shall occur prior to 6.00am each morning lest this exercise turns into approximately 320 photos of life atop an exercise bike. That might prove the point about creature of habit though. The riding starts tomorrow. 

A large chunk of the day was going to be set aside for a three hour unusual Sunday for me. Still, Les Miserables is down as a must-see. I've played selections of the music quite a lot in various bands and orchestras, just not sure what I will make of Russell Crowe...

...and...back. Wasn't expecting singing Crowe nor Jackman for that matter...must get back to that Japanese article from earlier in the month.  The music was quite stirring, especially 'Can you hear the people sing', that generally gets a rousing reception when we play it. 

Pegs against a setting sun, at 6.12pm
Home and now the clothes had to come off the line. Well, that would appear to be a rather mundane day 6.12am to 6.12pm. In the middle though a movie, lunch with friends, conversing with the twitterverse and more reading for work. A bit of writing tonight too perhaps. 

I'm also preparing an application for a library fellowship so I can get some time to do some research. Yes, I know, that's supposed to be part of my day job, but we're actually expected to apply for such things...not sure how 'seeking to understand the socio-political conditions of 1890s Queensland' will go. 

There are some sketchy reports currently coming through regarding the killing of hostages in saddens me as an International Relations specialist that this continues to happen. It's like being a doctor with no suitable cure confronting a patient. We do our best and yet the world still fails us. 

The one-day cricket match has been called off, the tennis continues and Brisbane awaits the rain. Hardly 'miserables' in the larger scheme of life...for some things--a mundane life--we should be grateful. 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Day 45: Time to...get on my bike

Day 45 (19 Jan) The time has come. Each January, about now in that lull post Christmas-New Year and just weeks before classes begin again, I get that sudden realisation that there are many things I must do and this is about the only time to do them. They're not what I'd call new year's resolutions but I always set out in my own mind, things I'd like to achieve in the next few weeks. 

Mind you, the list usually begins with the things I didn't quite finish last really, it's a never-ending story. 

Reading is a big part of my job. I read daily newspapers, I read fiction and I read much non-fiction. I don't stick to a narrow focus with my reading either, since I like to draw on a wide range of materials when I teach. That simply increases the reading load, and then, when you add in equal amounts of reading Japanese materials, then that's quite a bit of reading to do. 

Finish that novel, at 6.12am
So at 6.12am, I was awake but aiming to finish off a book, a novel, I'd started before I went away. I will finish it by the end of the week...I'm sure. I've also resolved during the day that I will put some reviews of the Japanese books I bought on the other blog. I didn't have the blog last time I went to Japan so I'd bring back books and just read I've decided to give them a broader audience. I'll start that tonight...

The back deck, at 6.12pm,
a Queensland tradition
It was another hot summery day in Brisbane and I headed to the Gold Coast to have lunch with my mum and take her computer to get fixed...

While driving back I thought about the things I wanted to write and there is much. My main project at the moment of course is the 1890s Japanese politicians and their political philosophies. I still have the 'great Australian novel' floating around in the back of my mind and lots of other research-related materials. Yes, I'd like to write. 

On returning home, it seemed appropriate to sit on the back deck and read the paper which I hadn't had time to do this morning. It's a Queensland tradition, the back deck. So at 6.12pm, it was reading and the back deck, hoping the clouds above would convert to some cooling rain...not to be this time. Never mind. 

But there are other things one must do besides read...the bike is just out of the picture here. It also occurred to me that this blog, by its very nature, could actually make me be 'on my bike' at 6.12am's there's a thought, and a time, to act. But can the blog sustain daily pictures of an exercise bike...

Halfway through the Australian Open tonight, Tomic has just been defeated by Federer; the Brisbane part of the twitterverse is hoping for rain and I think that professional cyclist is still making the news today. 612ABC newsreader Shelley Lloyd and I have just discovered we both went to school on the Gold Coast...there you go!  It's been a most interesting day.