My mind and heart is in Australia

It is early in the morning on Sunday.

Last night, I spoke to Keller. In this economy, it is tough being a young postdoctoral researcher even when your novel idea has been accepted by BioScience, an Oxford Journal, with a high impact factor.

A photo of our grandson Fletcher, who lives down under, helped me worry a little less:

El Tigre

El Tigre

RGK

The fun of flying

I have previously written about what a pain in the butt it is to travel by air. Flying back from Hong Kong, the poor woman I observed going through customs in Chicago only to be pulled out of the line because the TSA beagle sniffed out a banana in her purse is a good example. After a snarky lecture about bringing fruit into the US of A (incidentally United Airlines offered everyone a banana on the flight to the States), and the seizure of the offending banana, the beagle and her handler, resplendent in her military outfit, strolled away with her sidearm at her hip stoney-faced but triumphant.

Guess what, that sort of nonsense is not limited to Amerika. Our son, Keller, recently visited his sister in New Mexico. She bought Keller’s little boy, Fletcher, a cowboy outfit with a toy gun and a holster. Keller dutifully packed the outfit in his checked bag, and flew off to Australia. Arriving in Sydney yesterday on his Australian passport, he was pulled out of line and questioned extensively as to why he had gun in his baggage. When he calmly explained that it was a toy as clearly shown on the x-ray machine by the orange stopper in the barrel, he offered to open his bag and show the screener.  Oh, no. This called for questioning and a search by the Australian Federal Police.

toy gunAfter the search was over, and the offending toy seized, Keller was informed never to do that again. While he was not fined or arrested, and was treated pleasantly, he was firmly informed that a record of his offense (having a toy gun in his baggage) would be made. If he ever did that again the Aussies would come down hard. When pressed to explain where it says that you can’t bring your Australian kid a toy pistol from the US, no explanation was forthcoming. Just don’t do that again, he was told.

So, Keller is apparently on a “no fly” list, sorta. He can keep himself off the list so long as he does not shop at Toys R Us. At least he was not accosted by a Beagle with an attitude.

RGK

 

 

Sleep comes late when it is fall down under

Second infusion of the third cycle today. Given steroids by mouth for 14 days and oral infusion of more steroids today. Supposed to serve as an antidote for allergic reactions to one of the chemo drugs.  Cancer also doesn’t like these steroids. Moreover, they are also prescribed to keep your weight up.  Downside:  it is hard to sleep, and tonight at a little past 3:00 AM I am blogging.  And that reminded me . . .

It is fall in Australia. We received photos of our Australian crew today. I don’t know why but I worry incessantly about our kids and their kids. I guess that is what parents and grandparents are supposed do. Anyway, and, right now, late at night, I feel so far away from them. I ought to go to bed, but I won’t sleep.

A "selfie" of Fletcher, Stacey and Keller

A “selfie” of Fletcher, Stacey and Keller

 

A boy and his dad

A boy and his dad

 

Beechworth in

Park in the Australian Alps near Beechworth

RGK

 

 

 

Far away

Keller, Petra, Milan and Fletcher

Keller, Petra, Milan and Fletcher

Karel took his (very good) high school soccer team in China to a couple of tournaments, and that gave Lisa, Petra and Milan a chance to fly to Australia to see Keller, Stacey and Fletcher. It takes nine hours to fly from Hong Kong to Sydney and then another hour or so by air to Albury. Albury is on the southern border of New South Wales and Victoria, three hours or so north of Melbourne by car.

photo (23)

The families visited an Australian farm near Albury and by the looks of things had great fun.

The "Beastie Boys." Fletcher (Keller and Stacey) and Milan (Lisa and Karel).

The “Beastie Boys.” Fletcher (Keller and Stacey) and Milan (Lisa and Karel).

They seem so far away.

RGK

 

Billfish and boys

programBoyo (R. Keller Kopf, PhD) is in Taiwan speaking about Billfish. He doesn’t get paid much in his gig as a post-doctoral research fellow at Charles Sturt University in Australia, but he does get to travel to neat places.

Among other things, he will give a talk in Taipei on “Latitudinal Life-History Gradients in a Highly Migratory Species.”  I am sure it’ll be great, but I am also positive that you can’t dance to it.

After that, Keller and his family will fly to Hong Kong and then enter the mainland to visit with Lisa and her family. Fletcher–Keller and Stacey’s yellow-haired boy–and Milan–Lisa and Karel’s “baby Buddha”–will have a great time together pestering Petra, Milan’s older sister, by pulling the heads off her Princess dolls. (I taught them how to do that!) They will race around expending never-ending energy. Just thinking about those two makes me tired.

Some things are more important than others.

RGK

On being a dummkopf

As my name implies (assuming you know a bit of German), I can be thick-headed. Dumb, if you will. My terminal stupidity broke out again last Spring, and this post is about my mistake. As I have said earlier, this blog allows me to own up to big blunders. Hopefully, such public admissions by a senior district judge serve an educational purpose for less experienced judges and others.  Or maybe I’m just a narcissist and a masochist. Anyway, here is the background.

A law student was terminated from the University of Nebraska College of Law. He sued claiming, among other things, that he was discharged because he subscribed to the Muslim faith and because he was an Arab. There was a fair amount of publicity surrounding the case. The defendants were the College of Law, various individuals at the law college, the Board of Regents, and the University of Nebraska.

I held a hearing on a request for a temporary restraining order. The parties adduced evidence and argument. I then denied the motion, and referred the case to Magistrate Judge Zwart for further progression. With that, I forgot about it as the excellent lawyers for both sides prepared to get the case ready for a jury trial.  In the interim, my son, Keller, and I were talking about the end of his post-doctoral fellowship in Australia and the possibility that he might come back the States. It is then that I made a bone-headed mistake by contacting a senior University administrator (who was not a named defendant) about my son’s job search.

Here is I how I described my error, and the subsequent recusal decision, in an order I issued soon after I awoke from my brain-dead slumber:

Following the institution of this lawsuit, a personal matter arose last week involving one of
my adult children and that matter causes me to recuse myself from this case. My son, a graduate
of the University of Nebraska, is completing his post-doctoral studies in Australia in the field of
biology. He is seeking positions with American universities. In that connection, last week, I wrote
an official of the University of Nebraska requesting help in my son’s job search.  Although my
motivation was innocent, I realized over the weekend that my contact with a party, while I was the judge assigned to this case, was improper. I apologize to the parties for my mistake.

IT IS ORDERED that I recuse myself from this case and the Clerk shall refer this matter to
the Chief Judge for reassignment.

AL-TURK v, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA COLLEGE OF LAW, et. al, No. 8:13CV74 (D. Neb., April 8, 2013) (Filing no. 36.)

So, what is the lessons learned from this fiasco. While the life of a federal trial judge is chaotic, the judge must constantly be aware of what is on his or her plate. A good heart but an empty head is no excuse. Trial judges screw up all the time. Admit your mistakes and do so in honest terms. Move on. Old dogs must constantly relearn old tricks. Kopf is a dummkopf.

By the way, Keller stayed in Australia. His university got additional funding, the powers that be hired him to continue his research, and I pine over the continued inability to see my first grandson, Fletcher, more often. Oh, well.

RGK

Letters to a young scientist

It is early, very early morning in London. My flight leaves from Heathrow, and since I am on the east end, the car will take an hour to get to the airport. I have decided to stay up until I leave at 4:30 AM when I will trudge out of the overly modern hotel and into the stubby, funny looking taxi. It is misty, and that fits my mood.

Keller gave me a gift today. It is Edward O. Wilson’s Letters to a Young Scientist. Regarded as one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson spent his boyhood exploring the forests and swamps of the American south, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants–ants became his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Ants” and “The Naturalist,”  Wilson is a professor at Harvard.61EVHwilv5L

Keller told me that Wilson’s book was deeply inspiring. He said the little book truly played a major role in Keller’s decision to continue working as a biologist and ecologist far away in Australia despite the crap fledgling scientists must endure, not to mention the miserable pay. As this recent piece in the New York Times demonstrates, even grizzled biologists have been inspired by Wilson as well.

I asked Keller to inscribe the book on the inside cover. He laughed at me, but grudgingly did so. It reads, “To: Dad, Love Keller, London, 2013.”

From the depths of my most unscientific heart, thank you Professor Wilson.

RGK

London and Keller

I am now recovered from the flight.  Attended Keller’s presentation today.  He did well.

Must have been the day for Australians. The plenary conference speaker was an Australian.  He was great. He spoke about coral reefs. He has done some amazing stuff including a very inventive collaboration with Google (see below). Keller is Australian (he holds Australian and American citizenship). The moderator for Keller’s presentation was Australian. One of the questioner’s for Keller’s presentation was Australian.

In any event, I think Keller was pleased about how his talk went. I was, of course, proud. But, I resisted anything overt such as standing up and shouting “that’s my kid!”

Despite the Aussie invasion, this is a large conference at a huge conference center with people from all over the globe. It is the 100th anniversary of the British Ecological Society, and that is a big deal. Topics are broad ranging.

From a lay perspective, one of the neatest things I learned is that Google Maps will now allow you to “dive” on corral reefs.  See here. Google did this project in association with ecologists from Australia. By increasing the number of regular people who are familiar with coral reefs due to having “dived” on them, the hope is that governments will be spurred into action by their citizens to deal more fully and seriously with the dramatic decline of coral reefs throughout the world.

I may get back to legal stuff tomorrow.  But, for now, some photos follow

RGK

The conference center is where the boxing and wrestling matches were held for the London Olympic Games.  It is adjacent to the Thames. Ultra modern and huge.

The conference center is where the boxing and wrestling matches were held for the London Olympic Games. It is adjacent to the Thames. It is ultra modern and enormous in size–about four footballs fields long and all under one roof.

Keller at the conference.  Compared to everyone else, he well dressed. Apparently ecologists never put on dress suits. Truly, out of thousands of people, I was the only one in a suit including the plenary conference speaker.

Keller at the conference. Compared to everyone else, he well dressed. Apparently ecologists never put on dress suits. Truly, out of about a thousand of people, I was the only one in a suit.

RGK getting ready to ride light rail into the center of London.  I was so tired last night that we simply rode in to the center of London, and found an old pub. We had a drink and a nice talk and then back to the hotel for sleep.

RGK getting ready to ride light rail into the center of London. I was so tired last night that we simply rode in to the center of London, and found an old pub. We had a drink and a nice talk and then back to the hotel for sleep.


A small portion of parliament from inside the very expensive cab ride from Heathrow on the far west to London Excel on the far east.

A small portion of parliament from inside the very expensive cab ride from Heathrow on the far west to London Excel on the far east.

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