The World at Large

Moving to the US

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

LGBT Laws

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am transgender. No, I didn't really want to be. I just am. I hid it as a child, but mental and physical health issues as an adult made me finally confront it last year. But despite not discussing it on this blog before, I'm not actually here to talk about that.

I’ve been looking at all the anti-LGBT bills around the US, and I realize that I haven’t been as shocked by them as I expected to be. I suppose it’s because the bills (that I know of) aren’t “anti” LGBT, so much as they simple allow people to be anti-LGBT. But that doesn’t shock and upset me like it does so many.

I come from Queensland in Australia. Growing up, homosexuality was illegal for people with a penis (to my knowledge, gender identity not being recognized) until I was nearly 19 years old. The penalty for sex was a 14 year prison sentence. To this day, this is still the penalty for anyone under the age of 18, despite the heterosexual age of consent being 16. When I was 14, new laws were introduced to require any premises that served alcohol to expel "perverts, deviants, child molesters and drug users" the first 3 of these groups being the description given to anyone LGBT.

Anti discrimination laws were finally introduced in 1991, which also affected the transgender community. These laws have never been documented to ever having been enforced. Most people discriminated against don’t bother pressing charges. Abuse and assault stats today (not when I grew up, but now) are astronomical - e.g. over 90% of trans women have been verbally abused. The stats for various groups (gay men, gay women, trans men, physical assault without a weapon on each group, physical assault with a weapon) are all distressingly high.

Why discuss all of this history? Because that’s the environment that I think of as being anti-LGBT: actively hostile to LGBT people. I contrast this with these recent laws in the US (passed in NC and MS, proposed elsewhere) which merely allow people to be hostile, without getting in trouble for it. All these laws are doing is legalizing the same discriminatory behavior people already do. At least they don't require discrimination.

Fighting these laws, feels to me like asking for special privilege. i.e. "We are allowed to exist, but it's unreasonable to require people to not hate us." But that's because I grew up in an environment that made me hate me. It therefore seems reasonable for others to feel the same way. Preventing people from acting on their "natural" feelings in this regard is an imposition on their rights, right?

Having to "out" myself as transgender is a stressful experience, and one that I avoid or procrastinate about all the time. I've put off lots of things, including taxes and medical appointments because of it. It usually goes OK, but when it doesn't the fear is redoubled. Similarly, being inadvertently identified as transgender is humiliating, and in the wrong circumstances can be dangerous. It would be nice to have a life where I can just be myself without this fear. Those who fight these new LGBT laws believe that such a life is actually a right, with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment provides that right. With my background, I find it hard to have this faith, but I hope they're right.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Status

This evening I was sending an email to a friend, to let him know what we've been doing lately. I haven't seen much of him since we moved to the US, so I couldn't remember what I've told him and what I haven't. This led to a long email, that also goes into some detail on our recent activities. It's mostly general information, so I thought I'd edit it a little for general consumption, and post it up here for any friends or family who may be following:

We have 3 children now. You know that, right? Luc (5), Nicolas (3) and Mietta (5 months). It's Luc's 5th birthday today, and I've only JUST got him down for the night. I have no idea where the last 5 years went, but I'm sure it was worthwhile.

I can't walk through this place for tripping over stuff, and it's not all the kids' stuff either. We are crammed into a 2 b/r apartment, and need more space. The baby is in our room for the time being, and the boys are in double bunks. The rooms are all large, but there aren't many of them. We're going to move, but it's very expensive in this area (we have good rent at the moment) and we haven't agreed on any other area we'd like.

Ideally, we'd stay nearby, as we really like it here. We're close to public transport, have dozens of restaurants within a 5 minute walk, plus various other specialty stores (books, electronics, comics, clothes, camping, etc). With the exception of school and going to a large (and hence cheaper-than-local) supermarket we almost never need the car. We're also a 10 minute walk from Lake Michigan with it's bike/walking trails and summer-time beaches, the Chicago Zoo (free entry), Lincoln Park (larger than Central Park in NYC), the Chicago Nature Museum (we're members, so free entry again), dozens of coffee shops with free WiFi (fast and reliable enough for video conferencing)..... the list goes on. So, it's pretty nice here.

I'm telecommuting these days, working for a non-profit who are based at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. They also pay for my internet, which is nice: 20 Mbps down (though I've clocked it at up to 28Mbps), and about 3Mbps up, with unlimited data. This so far beyond what I've seen in Australia that I thought it worth mentioning. I'm being paid to work on open source software full time. For anyone who knows me and know what that means, then I'm sure you'll agree it's a big deal for me. Since it's a non-profit organization I can't get bonuses, but then again, no one is getting them these days (except banking executives), so I'm not missing out on much. I'm doing pretty well with the salary though - it's the same amount that Google offered me last year (though they also offered me options, stock, and significant bonuses). Also, since it's a funded non-profit, the position is safe.... for the moment.

Anne has started her own business as well, doing children's art. It's been well received, but she's cut back on it while dealing with pregnancy and now a small baby.

Speaking of the baby: yes, she's cute. :-) She smiles all the time, even while teething. The boys both love her, and their whole day seems to revolve around her. Mind you, the same could be said of me. :-) Luc is doing well, and showing signs of really maturing. He's a very thoughtful young man, when he isn't driving is brother or parents insane. That leaves Nic. This kid is a force of nature. We saw my family for Christmas, and I don't think anyone was quite prepared for what they got there. On the other hand, his behaviour improved out of sight once he was spending most of his time outdoors. This saddened me to take him back to Chicago, and is another motivation to move to a bigger place with a yard. He's very physical, completely fearless, and a problem solver.... a dangerous combination. However, he's very intelligent, and when he remembers, his manners are impeccable, and he is very compassionate. I'm incredibly proud of him and the things that he accomplishes, so it can't all be bad, huh? :-)

As I mentioned earlier, we saw my family for Christmas. Since I telecommute, we were able to take a longer trip with me working out there. This didn't work as well as I'd intended. I didn't always feel like working, particularly with Christmas coming, and gorgeous, sunny Brisbane weather. Even when I stopped procrastinating, Anne needed me to help with the kids (who were out of their routine). Still, I got a little done, and I did get to enjoy some time off as well.

We also wanted to catch up with friends while we were there, but it really didn't happen like we'd hoped. We saw some of our closest friends for less than an hour, or not at all. :-( We did get to see a lot of family.... but that came with its own stresses. Still, it was good to see them, and I was glad for the time it gave them with my children.

My whole family was at the farm for Christmas, which was the first time this had happened in years, and may be one of the last times ever. When you include spouses, children, one fiance (now a spouse) and my sister's boyfriend, we came to 21 people. It was great, but also quite stressful for everyone. Then, just after New Year, my middle brother got married, which was actually a lot of fun for us all.

After that, we went to Anne's parents, just east of Melbourne. That was a lot easier, and I got far more work done there. I got to see some of my family down there as well (some cousins and an uncle), and Anne got to see most of her family and a few friends too. Also, having dedicated grandparents (who weren't also dealing with 3 other grandchildren simultaneously) gave Anne and I some breathing room. So overall, the pace slowed down for us down there.

We left before it got TOO hot in Melbourne (it just touched on 40C before we left) and when we landed in Chicago it was -24C, with a windchill at -36C. Let me tell you.... that's brutal. Given the climate here, I've been watching the temperatures back in Melbourne, and I've been finding it all hard to fathom.

Fires

The fires added an entirely new dimension to this weather watch, and we've been in touch with Anne's parents several times in recent days. They live in a rural area with fires all around them, but so far they've been safe. The Google mashup between the CFA incident reports and Google Maps showed us what was going on in a general sense, but with the news reports coming out of Victoria at the moment (some of them quite harrowing) the extra information may not have been very reassuring. All the same, it was very impressive to see how quickly nearby fires were brought back to a status of "SAFE".

Just looking for those links now, I saw there was a fire right at Anne's parents' place, but it was green (meaning it's safe) and when I clicked on it, it had a status of "FALSE ALARM". I'm glad I didn't see that one when it was first reported!

I don't know what to write here without being trite, but I found the stories of individual tragedy to be overwhelming. And we know that these are stores that happen far more times than we will ever hear about. I suppose it won't mean much for those who've lost their families, but we're going to be sending something back to Australia for the appeal. Cumulatively, I hope that the appeals go some way to helping those who are left get back on their feet.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Health Insurance

New Babies

I'm a little freaked out tonight.

Here in the US, health insurance is provided by your employer, or else you don't have health cover at all. For a non-citizen, that's just not an option. But that's OK, because my visa requires I have an employer, and that means I'm covered... usually. There are occasions that you can fall through the cracks, but usually you wince at the expense and move on. But not always.

3 days after Mietta was born I got in touch with my work to say that we needed the new baby put on our cover. I have no direct contact with my insurer, and those occasions when I have tried to get in touch with them, for some reason they won't recognize my details. That hasn't really bothered me, as we've been covered, and work handles these things anyway.

It's been a few years, but I recall with Luc and Nicolas that I was able to get in touch with Medibank Private (in Australia), and add their details over the phone. Easy. My work knew about the baby (they all sent flowers), and so I thought that the request to add Mietta was really a formality.

2 weeks later I got back an email that had been forwarded from the insurance broker. I was to fill in a form before Mietta was 30 days old. This is where things started going wrong.

For a start, I had trips to New York and San Francisco. I had no access to the internet in New York (I was presenting and speaking with people the whole time), and my access in San Francisco was also restricted. My hotel in SF charged a lot of money for internet, and I saw no point, especially given that I was getting to my room late at night, and leaving first thing in the morning. During the day I was in meetings the entire time, so email was completely out there as well. So for nearly 2 weeks I was pretty much incommunicado.

Then the other day we received a large bill for pediatrician services in the hospital. The insurance details listed were old, so Anne rang to give our current details. That was when she was told that they had the current details as well, but that hadn't worked either. So I got in touch with work to find out what had happened... and that's when I was told I hadn't submitted the paperwork. I've been so busy that I swore I must have filled in something so important, but apparently not.

The form was trivial. I just needed to give Mietta's name and sign at the bottom, but now it's been submitted 11 days late (presuming they submitted it straight away - which is a big presumption). I can only presume that she was completely uncovered for her first 41 days.

During that time there were some concerns with Strep B and several blood tests were done (from experience, these are often over $1000 per test). Mietta's "accommodation" cost several thousand. Then there were the pediatrician visits, and her 1 and 4 week checkup visits. So far the bills are about $7000, and we still haven't received any of the pathology bills. I'm expecting the final bill to be somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000, though it could be more. Of course, this is money we don't have.

So tonight I'm a little freaked out.

I am left wondering why both my work and the insurance broker didn't ask me about this before the due date. But ultimately it comes down to my own stupidity for not following through in a paranoid fashion. After all, the US health care system constantly reminds me that I don't understand it, and you just can't afford to take risks.

Birth Certificate

Meanwhile, it's tempting to just skip the country, abandon my career in the Semantic Web, and go back to Australia. Only that's not actually possible. For a start, it's too expensive. But more importantly, Mietta is a US citizen, and we don't have a passport for her. That's going to be a problem in December when we're supposed to be seeing our family for Christmas.

Getting a passport requires a birth certificate first. 2 weeks ago I went downtown and waited for over an hour to be served in order to get her certificate. However, given that it was now "late" in the day, they could not give me the passport, and would have to mail it. The Columbus Day holiday was going to delay this, but after making full payment for certified mail I was promised that I'd have the certificate by Friday. It's now Friday morning 2 weeks later and still no birth certificate.

I went downtown today to see if I could get the certificate by hand (again), but both the pamphlets from the hospital and the website have the wrong hours. On a Thursday they are only open from 2pm-4pm, and I had work commitments at that time.

Once we get the certificate we can apply for Mietta's passport, but we don't know how long that will take. Hopefully it won't be long, as we are starting to run short on time now.

We also want that certificate so we can start the process for Mietta's Australian citizenship. This will be particularly important over Christmas, as it should enable us to apply for a Medicare card for her... I hope. Even so, I think we'll need to make sure that she has traveler's insurance before we enter the country.

Mietta is a beautiful little girl with a bright and ready smile. She reaches out for me all the time, watches me as I walk into a room, and "talks" to me if I'm not looking at her. I'd do anything and pay anything for this little girl. But having her was supposed to cost next to nothing, and my employer and I pay so much in health insurance that I'd really prefer not to be in debt for the next 5 years. Wouldn't that money be better spent on her education?

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Doing too Much

My brother recently sent around an email telling everyone in my family (I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters) what he's been doing lately. When I realised that I was interested in the most mundane things that he's up to, and that I'd done some similar things lately, it occurred to me that I should tell them what I've been up to as well. But why would I write an email when I have a blog?

SemTech 2008

There's a conference on Semantic Technology, held in San Jose in May of each year. I went to my first one last year, and my second was just 2 weeks ago. My work is centered around semantic technology, so this is an important conference for me.

I had several new features in the software I work on (Mulgara) which we wanted released in time for some publicity at the conference. The more people to use the software, the more likely I am to have budget for the coming years, so getting things completed in time was very important for me personally. Besides, I've been looking forward to getting some of these things done, and having the conference there was a good way to keep me on track.

With this sort of pressure on, I've been concentrating on my work, to the exclusion of most other things, in the last couple of months. Luc and Nic are always there to make sure I don't forget the really important things (usually at about 6am), but most non-family activities had to be abandoned. All, the same, I got some swimming in, and have been getting back into running now that the weather is warmer (at long last!).

The conference itself went well. I spent a week in San Jose, but barely left the hotel the whole time, so I can't comment much on San Jose (except for some of the downtown restaurants). It was colder than last year, so I didn't use the pool deck either - not that I would have had time.

My conference schedule was essentially:
  • Wake up, get showered, dressed, etc.
  • Go to the breakfast put on for conference attendees.
  • Speak to 3 or 4 people at breakfast.
  • Attend conference sessions - unless someone corners me and I end up in a discussion for that time.
  • Lunch time. End up in conversation and have to remind people that I'm hungry and we need to eat now.
  • More sessions - unless someone has grabbed me again.
  • Break for the evening. Run back to my room to freshen up.
  • Go to dinner with boss/corporate contacts/other friends (well, all the corporate contacts are friends, so that's a blurry line).
  • Talk shop all night.
  • Get back to hotel, and discover friends drinking in Foyer.
  • Have more drinks bought for me, all while talking shop.
  • Get to bed after midnight, wondering where day went.
Most of the conversations were ones that I wanted to be in, but it was completely exhausting for me! I didn't have to buy drinks all week, but after my first night of that (no, I didn't have many) I took it easy - unlike some other attendees. :-)

The outcome for the week was 1 serious job offer, and 3 casual offers. The release of the software got some attention in the right places, which is part of the reason I had so many people wanting to talk to me. It's nice to feel wanted. :-)

Another thing that came out of it was a number of comments by various people that I need to be involved in the next round of standards relevant to the semantic web. It's not highly visible involvement, but it's a big deal in terms of the web. It's a small corner of the overall standards process, but still a little humbling to think that these guys want me involved in helping set some of the standards for the future of the World Wide Web. I'm on the the committee yet though, so I'll see how that pans out.

Overall, the whole week was completely overwhelming for me. It's nice to see what kind of a reputation I've built up, but I know that part of that comes from the good word of several close friends. It has really set the scene for my coming year of work.

Back

I got back to Chicago on a Friday night, about an hour after bedtime for Luc and Nic. That hardly mattered, as they were both out in an instant to welcome me back. Luc was all smiles, and Nic was practically speechless with happiness that I was back. Anne was happy to see me too, but I think she'll be the first to admit that her demonstrativeness paled next to the boys.

The next day Luc and I went to Costco to buy a couple of staples (mostly fruit) and a bike trailer. It had been many weeks since I'd spent most of a day with just Luc and me, and I was really impressed at how enjoyable his company has become. He's turning into a thoughtful young man, and I had fun just talking with him. He was also ready to help with every little thing, often without being asked. I hope he understands how much I appreciated that.

The following morning I was up with both boys, as we did Bike the Drive. Lakeshore Drive is closed to cars on the Sunday of every Memorial Day weekend, and it gets opened up to cyclists for several hours. I did it with Nic last year, but this time I could do it with both boys in the trailer. Many people do it very slowly, but I'm used to triathlons, so despite my lack of practice and the heavy weight on the back, I did it in good time. The boys enjoyed the festival afterwards, as there were free samples of cheesecake, fruit juice and balloons. There was also a Beatles tribute band playing, and Luc was delighted that he knew the music (yes, we have Beatles in our music collection at home).

That night I tried to get a few things done, which led to only a couple of hours of sleep. Obviously the bike ride was hard on a body that hadn't cycled in months, and the previous week of hard living, combined with lack of sleep all took it's toll. Tuesday morning I was taking out the trash, and while avoiding toys in the corridor I felt my back go. I do this every so often, so I know how to handle it, but it's never nice. I was pretty much over it in about 4 days, which is a fast recovery, so I was lucky. I need to keep the swimming up to avoid more of this, so I was back in the pool again this morning (I hadn't swum in 2 weeks).

Getting Laughed At

The last big thing to mention is something I've been threatening to do for years, but always had some reason or another to put it off.

Some years ago I decided that I'd like to try taking all my hair off. Anne was never keen on the idea, but also understood that it was something I'd really like to do. I first got it into my head that I wanted to try it out in the early 90's, so it's been on my mind for about 15 years. Back then it was a big deal, but these days you can't walk a block down the street without seeing someone who has no hair at all. It's very popular for people with a receding hairline, but more and more you see people with a full head of "stubble" sporting this particular hairstyle (or lack-of-hair style). I've never had much of an opportunity, as I usually had a visa photo, job interview or something coming up. Either that, or the weather was just too cold, and there's no way you'd want to be without a layer of protection in a Chicago winter!

Anyway, with the warm weather finally arriving, the conference over, and not being due into the office (in New York State) until August, I thought it would be a good chance to finally do it. I won't say that Anne reluctantly agreed. It was more that she didn't disagree. The person it bothered the most was Luc.

I made sure Luc came along with me when I got my hair cut, and he told me on the way that he'd rather I didn't. Once it was done he said that I wasn't his Daddy for the moment, but that he still loved me, and was looking forward to having it grow back out so I could be his Daddy again. But the thing that made him seem to finally get over it was when his brother saw me. Nic just looked at me, and killed himself laughing. "Daddy, hair GONE!" He thought it was a joke all day. This attitude was infectious, and before long he had Luc laughing at me as well. Even Anne seemed to get a kick out of it.

Going on my usual rate of growth, I'll be back to a "short" hair cut in about 2 weeks. This is a one off thing, so Anne is keen to get a photo while she still can. She is still yet to take it, but you may see it on her blog soon. Meanwhile, I'm also taking advantage of the new exposure of my scalp to have a dermatologist check it out. Tith short haircuts over the years I've been burnt there a few times, and coming from Queensland I have to be checked out pretty regularly. They do check your scalp, but I've never been confident that they've definitely seen it all. So with an appointment coming up, this was yet another reason to finally give it a go.

Frankly, it feels comfortable, but it looks weird, so I'm more than happy to let it come back. At least I won't be curious about it anymore. :-)

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Girls

This morning I found myself thinking (again) about how the Hollywood movie experience is about men. There are occasionally some good movies with female protagonists, but these seem quite rare. I suppose those films attract a smaller audience, since they are usually what we call "chick flicks", meaning they mostly appeal to women, and not men. In contrast, "popular films" (which are usually about men) are designed to appeal to our cultural tastes, regardless of gender. Books and TV are similarly about the male experience.

Of course, like most people, I can relate to the lead character in most plots. This is the point - if you can't relate then you won't care about the character, meaning you won't be interested in the story. However, this is partly based on the fact that the lead characters are usually male. I can care about a female character, but not by "relating" to their experience in the way that I do with a male role. It's more like imagining the scenario for a partner, or a friend.

This makes me wonder if the same is true for most people, and in particular, for women. I should ask Anne if she agrees (this post should remind me to do just that). I acknowledge that it's not a big issue for most people, as this is the cultural experience that we have been brought up with. Men can relate to being a male character, while women might relate better to knowing or maybe being with most characters. This is the way we've always known it, so it doesn't bother us like maybe it should. Or that's my thesis anyway. :-)

I was thinking all of this because an advertisement for "Angelina Ballerina" was playing at the time. Over the last few years I've possibly seen 5 or 6 halves of episodes of this (maybe even a whole episode or two), and I usually don't "get it". However, for young girls it must be nice to see something written directly for them, as opposed to those shows about boys, like Jakers, Caillou, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Noddy, Kipper, Fireman Sam, and so on. Even Sesame Street has a bias of Elmo over Zöe, giving Elmo his own "sub show" called Elmo's World (this is broadcast separately in Australia, but is just a part of the hour-long Sesame Street episode here in the USA).

This partly comes from an attitude adopted as late as the early 70's, which pretends that boys and girls are essentially the same, and advocates that they are each treated identically. TV shows, movies, and books seem to aim at this "androgynous" approach by taking a male perspective for the most part.

However, recent studies are showing that there are fundamental differences (it only took us 3 decades to rediscover what had already been known for thousands of years), and that not acknowledging these can be detrimental to a child's progress. Note that I'm NOT talking about "inequality" here. Just that there are innate differences. There is evidence to show that neglecting these differences leads to boys being disruptive in school at a young age (where there is a female orientation to early childhood education), and teenage girls performing worse, on average, than boys do in mathematics and physical sciences (where the teaching approach is geared toward male thinking). I'm summarizing a lot of sources here, but a good central reference for finding this stuff is Leonard Sax's book, Why Gender Matters.

Of course, this isn't a direct issue for me (for now, at least), as we are raising two boys. But it still bothers me. Other than simple concerns about being "fair", it makes me wonder if a cultural experience like this is what leads to some boys growing up without enough respect for girls and women, and for many girls to grow up with less confidence. These attitudes can have a big impact on individuals and, by extension, society in general.

When I hear people express concerns on these points, I notice they are usually dismissed as far-left liberals. This is a shame, as I think it is an attitude being perpetuated by the very cultural norms I've just referred to.

Still, progress is still made every so often. Just a couple of hours after I was thinking about all of this, I saw that television actress Danika McKellar has published a book for teenage girls, entitled Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math and not Break a Nail. Danika may not be a lead character on a TV show, but it's still great to see something like this coming from a figure in popular culture.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rememberence of Fathers Day

It was some time ago, but I clearly recall Fathers Day this year. We went to the Shedd Aquarium, looked at the globes, and continued walking up to Ohio St Beach, where the boys had a swim, and Anne and I cooled our feet in the water. Afterwards, we went back to Navy Pier for lunch, and let the boys play in the nearby fountain (a public fountain specifically designed for playing in - I love these things).

By the time we got home, I was totally wrecked. The boys were happy to do their own thing, and so I lay down on the couch, glad for the rest.

"Are you tired Daddy?", asks Luc.

"Yes Luc."

"You should close your eyes Daddy."

"That sounds like a good idea," I said, and closed my eyes. I felt like I could sleep for a week. What a considerate, empathic, son I had raised.

Suddenly I had a feeling that all was not right with the world. I couldn't pinpoint it, but something just felt wrong. So I opened my eyes....

Just in time to see 18kg of maniacally gleeful 3-year-old in a full swan dive from the end of the couch, about 30cm above me and falling rapidly.

Somehow I caught him... but it was a close call! Surely I didn't do this to my own father?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

San Jose

This post initially went to my technical blog, since it was about a conference for work. However, the preamble ended up being a collection of observations from before the conference even started, so it makes more sense that I put it here.

Sunday saw me brave the torrential rain in order to hail a cab for Midway. These cab trips are expensive, so fingers crossed that the reimbursement comes sooner rather than later.

I met Chris at the airport, and then we were off for San Jose, and my first visit to California outside of an airport. We arrived late, checked in, and went to bed.

Being in a later timezone, and having no children with me, I had no problems waking up early the next day. Looking out from the 14th floor was really impressive. While in the middle of a very urban setting, you don't have to go far to see that we're surrounded by dry hills. It's an attractive contrast.

The immediate local is quintessentially California/Bay area. The bright skies of lower latitudes (I miss that) palm trees (I think I miss them too), and a dense network of trams (cool). The only detractors were that I would be too busy to get out to experience it up close, and the brown tint to the sky down towards the horizon. I've heard that Chicago has very clear air because of the lake. I suppose that it right, as this is a region with fewer people yet the air seemed dirtier than I can ever recall seeing in Chicago (and certainly Brisbane). On the other hand, I don't get up to the height of the 14th floor very often when I'm at home, so maybe that's just a perception thing. If this is the Bay, then I shudder to think Los Angeles would be like.

The room is nice, but I was a little surprised at the water situation. Every hotel I've visited in Australia or the USA for the last couple of years has had a notice saying that they would let you reuse your towels if you hang them up, thereby saving water. California is just on the cusp of a major water problem as the winter snowpack diminishes, and yet there was no such notice about water savings.

I thought that the hotel may be trying to pick up its savings with the reduced (nearly non-existent?) flow of hot water in the bathroom sink. However the cold water and the shower changed my mind. I was pleased to discover that the shower was easily set to a comfortable temperature, but dismayed to learn that the flow control's only settings were "off", and "Help! I can't swim!"

I wanted an early start, so I decided to forgo exercise and go straight down to the conference. I spent money on an exorbitantly priced meal, before discovering that the conference was providing this for free in a separate area. Sigh. At least I knew about it every subsequent day. I'm currently typing this in an antisocial fashion while sitting at breakfast on the final day. It's a nice bit of downtime after a very busy week.

See the technical blog if you want to know about the conference itself, but given that you're reading this blog then the other one probably isn't of interest.