Sunday, October 29, 2000 3:56 PM
part 3

Someone who hasn't read this told me that I had a hint of a tan, and suggested that perhaps I was not working hard enough. I told me so. Then I began to wonder what a hint of a tan would be like. "Hey kid, go outside. Come on, you know you want to. The first time is free for you. Everybody's doing it. Try it - you won't get addicted. Your friends will think you're cool". Or perhaps it's more like a paint sample - a stripe of colour to give one an impression of what the surface would look like if it were covered completely. Or it might be that I am a darker shade of pale. In any case, he didn't tell me which of those, if any, it is.

The two main exports from California are leather, known formerly as skin, and straw, known formerly as hair. Both are produced by spending too much time in the sun.

The rainy season: the mist reaches the ground, two days in a row.

Working in a cubicle seems to have an effect on some people's perception of their surroundings. I have seen people send e-mail to the person who is sitting on the opposite side of the partition; telephone someone who would be within reach if the barrier were not there; or even speak loudly into the air, in the general direction of the person who is visible if one stands on a chair. I tend to walk around instead. So far, no-one has said anything about it.

I went to a see a movie. Movies in the USA are quite a different experience from Iceland. The tickets are bought in a large room. There is space to actually walk around. There are no queues to get into the cinema. The doors open and people stroll in. Women and children can enter without the fear of receiving grevious bodily harm. Armour is strictly optional and not required, weapons are checked at the door ("yep, still got all mine, no worries"), and there is no break. Say nei to the hlé! If that makes no sense to you, go and read Life in Iceland right now.

There is a street performer here who paints himself gold and pretends to be a robot, moving around as though he were mechanical. I find it fascinating to watch, having in mind the exquisite muscle control required to do that. I could watch him all afternoon and not get bored, but Atli seemed less interested, so we didn't stay. The last time that I saw an act like that was in 1988. I used to watch her for hours at a time. Madame Zoe. sigh.

We saw a silver man, who has a similar act to the gold man. The silver man acts as a statue until money is put into the cup that he holds. Then he reacts in some way, depending on the value of the money, empties the cup into his money box, and resumes his original pose. I didn't find that to be quite as interesting.

When I was in Iceland, if a group of the guys at work said "let's go out", I got the impression that the result would not be "let's have some fun with the Australian" (ie we all go out and have a good time), but "let's have some fun *with* the Australian" (ie something that they will find enormously amusing, but I won't enjoy). Perhaps the emphasis is different, but here the result would be clearly the former.

The Virus Bulletin conference this year was in Orlando. Several of us arrived at the same time, so we decided to take a taxi together to the hotel. While we were waiting for the taxi to arrive, we looked at each other and our luggage, and someone commented that we looked like we were musicians in a band. Eric, with his cerise hair, was obviously the singer. Atli, in his suit, was obviously the manager. When the taxi driver looked at us, he immediately assumed the same thing. He asked us where we were playing that night. We told him that we had the night off, so he suggested that we go to a certain club, where BB King was going to play. At that point, the band image dissolved, because I was the only one in our group who got excited at the idea. In fact, I was the only one in our group who knew who BB King is. What kind of band would we be if we don't know who BB King is? Shame, shame.

We use the same words, but speak a different language. When one is sufficiently immersed in a language, one tends to acquire the accent, so if I were to introduce myself, I might sound like "G'day, moi name's Poida, and Oim from Orstrayyar". Not that I ever say "g'day", of course. Perhaps that is what is meant by the phrase "When you're in it over your head, keep your mouth shut".

Back to Australia.

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