Monday, December 10, 2007

geekfest 07

Ten months ago Mark Coster, my boss, relocated to Griffith University (Brisbane) from the University of Sydney . He had a large research group in Sydney . One student (Sean) one post-doc (Kylee) came with him, and I joined them here, but the majority of the group (Sam, Adam, Katie, Katelyn, Josh, Hendra and Cody) chose to stay behind and, although now co-supervised by another professor, finish their PhD projects more independently than most. So Dr. Coster’s group is like a family split in two. And as might be expected, we get together for the holidays. Actually, for just one holiday: Geekfest!

About a hundred clicks north of Sydney there is an old university research station out in the middle of the woods. It is a large cottage that sleeps twenty’ish and is used mostly for the study of Aussie plants and animals. Many years ago, this facility was donated to U of S by a nature loving rich woman who willed it to be used by zoologists or botanists or other hippies for research. We rented it for Geekfest! It was a Thursday to Sunday holiday consisting of a day and a half of chemistry seminars, a day and a half of relaxing family time and… well, three nights of heavy drinking. Here are some pictures.

First, the group from left to right: Hendra, Sean, Kylee, Me, Katelyn, Josh, the boss, Katie, and Sam. Two others, Adam and Cody, missed this picture.The 'research station'.

Inside, we set up a nice little classroom.
This is Mark Coster going down to barbecue town, medieval style on this old stone beast.
An Australian brush turkey. No relation to ours, and harmless (although not very afraid of people). We shared the facility with a few of them and with with an older gentleman doing some very intensive research on brush turkey mating behaviour. Apparently, they are special due to an unusual lack of parental care. Like Britney :)
The birds and bees of brush turkeys are as follows: boy turkey builds a large nest (a meter-high mound of leaves and crap), various hot young girl turkeys come around to mate with him. Usually on his mound. Later the ladies lay their eggs in daddy's mound. Daddy's job is now to defend and maintain the mound, which is warmed via exothermic decomposition of biomass. (In sharp contrast to my lab, where exothermic decomposition is usually a very bad thing. Geekfest.) Sadly, when the young whipper-snappers come digging out of the mound, neither mom or dad want anything to do with them. Kinda harsh for bird behaviour I think. Furthermore, apparently big daddy doesn't realize that some of the little'ns in his mound are (of course) not his. Pimpin ain't easy.

We could not have a 'geekfest' without a geek car or an outdoor movie theatre that played recently pirated films and (when moved indoors) doubled as PlayStation heaven!
I was happy to introduce the game we all know and love to the Aussie chemists. Beersby is spreading fast, as it should be. Soon the frizbee will be sold at the beer stores everywhere. (As with most things here, the cottage was not far from ocean and beach.)
Sean demonstrates a rye and coke Aussie style. Pre-mixed coke and CC in a can. They bottle and can a lot of mixed drinks here. But the real hero at geekfest was Captain Morgan.
After a long flight and months in the closet, this shirt finally came out. Behind me is a Kookaburra. A pretty but vicious little carnavore that makes sure your hotdog is dead (by bashing it against something a few times) before eating it.
And the moustache is now gone, it's December.

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