Category Archives: Conferencing

The lure of landscapes

Just six days until Louisa and I board a plane to Los Angeles and then to Phoenix, Arizona. I am attending a conference in Phoenix before Louisa and I grab a hire car and road trip to Sedona, Arizona; the South Rim of the Grand Canyon; Laughlin, Nevada; and finally to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Just as Ollie and I took a mother-and-son trip to England, Denmark and the Netherlands in 2013 when he was 8-years-old, Louisa and I are doing a mother-and-daughter trip now she is 8.

We are planning to hire an electric bike in Phoenix for a sunset tour of the skyline and go horseback riding at the Canyon Creek Dude Ranch. Later we’ll be staying in a little Nevada casino town on the Colorado River. And then we have three days at Disneyland.

But I am most looking forward to driving out from Phoenix, the “Valley of the Sun”, to the majestic landscapes of:



Sedona, Arizona

and the Grand Canyon.


South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona

I love a big landscape, whether majestic Mackenzie Country on the South Island of New Zealand, which I visited two years ago today;

Mackenzie Country

Mackenzie Country, Canterbury, New Zealand

or the rolling dunes of the Southern (green) Kalahari Desert in north west South Africa, which we visited 3 years ago;


Tswalu, Southern Kalahari, South Africa

or the dramatic escarpments and valleys of the western Blue Mountains, which we visited in January this year.

blue mountains

Wolgan Valley, Blue Mountains, Australia

I love a big landscape! I love thinking about how they came into being; what ancient forces carved and shaped them; what they were like before we — humans — came; and what they will be like when we are gone. I love learning about the wildlife, the legends, and histories of the earliest inhabitants and later settlers of these landscapes.


1832 Settlers’ Homestead in Wolgan Valley dwarfed by the surrounding escarpments

Louisa and I will share our photos and the things we learn as we travel. Please stay tuned!

thelma and louise

A road trip but with a much happier ending! Disneyland!


The day before the day before we leave: Packing

Peter and I are packing for ourselves and the kids — Oliver and Louisa — before we fly to Africa in less than 36 hours. We realised today, as we debated which bags to pack what into, that we have an awful lot of luggage lying around our house. Peter has the original backpack he took on his first journey around Africa more than 20 years ago, as well as the backpack from his 18 month sailing voyage from Sydney to Europe via South East Asia and the King’s Cup in Thailand, across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to the Sailing World Cup in Cyprus. And I have luggage galore from an academic career of conferencing and lab visits around the world, not to mention an ongoing love affair with Crumpler and Rushfaster, among other luggage and travel specialists (Magellan’s, Flight 001, Ciao Bella Travel …).

Our packing task this trip has a slightly higher degree of difficulty because although we each can take 40 kilograms of checked luggage and 7 kgs of hand luggage onto our international flights, we only are allowed 12 kgs of checked luggage and 6 kgs of hand luggage each on the small private plane that will take us 850 kilometres north from Cape Town to the game reserve, Tswalu Kalahari.

We also need to bring formal(ish) wear for dinner on The Blue Train, which will take us from Johannesburg to Cape Town on one of the first legs of our journey. And Tswalu is almost the last leg of our journey after 5 days in Cape Town. So where and how to pack any souvenirs we might like to buy?

So here’s our first crucial piece of packing equipment: a portable digital travel scale. I picked mine up in Flight 001 in San Francisco, but you can buy similar versions very easily. For around $20 you can keep under those weight limits.


I also really love Herschel Packable Luggage. I have a backpack, again from Flight 001, which transforms from a small little soft parcel that is easily stashed in your bag into a good sized, light weight backpack. I use it when I hire a bike during a conference trip or when out and about for the day.



For this trip and for Father’s Day, the kids gave Peter a packable version of Herschel’s duffle bag:


10078-00003-OS_02_0503e114-8135-4a8d-bb99-3b760d2ba317_grandeThis will be perfect for when we need to decant some of our luggage for The Blue Train trip. Our sweet little sleeper cabins (perfectly formed but limited space) can’t fit all of our luggage, so we need to separate what we need for the train journey from everything else, which will be stored in a luggage hold.


Herschel Packables also include a messenger bag and a tote. I often buy a cheap tote bag from the airport book store to carry my overflow water bottles, coat, magazines etc, but Herschel’s likely would be more long lasting.


My final go to bag when packing is my Crumpler Dry Red No 5 backpack. I have blogged about this before and have been singing the praises of this bag far and wide. Recently I purchased two of these bags in black for our memory research team, so they can transport our electronic and audio equipment back and forth from Sydney to Melbourne. This carry on bag safely stores my laptop, iPad, kindle, a change of clothes, wallet, some toiletries, paperwork and other odds and ends.

I adore Crumpler bags and have far too many or not enough. This is one of my favourites:

Crumpler Dry Red No 5 Backpack

Crumpler Dry Red No 5 Backpack

So back to the packing. The only other challenge we face is that Peter and I both are reasonably seasoned travellers; at least for work travel. So we each have our own preferred luggage, methods of packing, tricks and lists. Yes, so back to the packing and the negotiations. Next stop: the airport.










Back across the Bay

I am reviving this blog for a couple of weeks to record my upcoming trip to the 64th Annual Workshops and Scientific Session of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis in Berkeley, California, across the Bay from San Francisco. This venerable Society was founded in 1949 following the success of hypnosis on the battlefields of World War II. SCEH formalised these clinical successes as well as capitalised on an experimental history as long as any other area of psychology (and perhaps longer than psychology itself).

SCEH 2013


My personal history in hypnosis also is entwined with SCEH. My very first international conference was SCEH's 45th Annual Meeting way back in 1994. It was held in San Francisco's Hotel Nikko in Japan Town.

I remember:

  • Meeting all of my heroes in hypnosis, who I only had read about: Ernest Hilgard, John Kihstrom, Kenneth Bowers, Jean-Roch Laurence, Erik Woody, Bob Nadon, Steve Lynn, Mike Nash;
  • Feeling like a Martian who finally had returned home to her people (because almost nobody else was doing hypnosis research in Australia when I was doing it);
  • People coming up to kiss me and congratulate me after my talk; my first big international talk;
  • My parents standing proudly up the back listening to my talk;
  • My supervisor trying to get us into a bikie bar!

It will be lovely to be back in San Francisco at the same conference nearly 20 years after I first attended; seeing some of the same faces again.

Following my PhD I spent time as a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, working in Professor John Kihlstrom’s laboratory and living in Berkeley’s beautiful International House. I-House stands at the top of the Berkeley campus, at the foot of the Berkeley Hills, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay. The building itself is gorgeous; built in Mission style and opened in 1930. Although I have been back to San Francisco many times since that postdoc year in 1998, I have not been back to Berkeley. I am looking forward to it.

International House, Berkeley, California


So I will post to let you know the latest from the world of hypnosis and from San Francisco, one of my favourite cities in the world.

If only the America's Cup was still on!



Ten tips for travelling with kids

Although I have travelled many times to conferences and for work, my trip with Oliver to Europe was the first time one of my children accompanied me. Now that Oliver and I are well and truly home, here are my top tips for a great work or holiday travel experience with a kid (with the caveat that I travelled with just one kid; a pretty easy going 8-year-old kid at that). These things worked for us:

1. Maintain bedtime

In England, Denmark and the Netherlands, the sun didn't go down until very late; after 9pm. In fact, we travelled just before and after the summer solstice, so during the longest days of the year. It was tempting to make use of these long days. But on the advice of my friend Jennie (who recently travelled to London with her similarly aged daughter), I mostly maintained Oliver's usual bedtime; around 7-8pm with only a few exceptions. When we first arrived in London, jet lag meant Oliver was ready for bed even earlier. But after he was mostly over his jet lag, I still tried to stick with early nights. This became difficult in Rotterdam where conference activities finished late and everyone then headed to dinner. We stayed out late our first night in Rotterdam (bed at 10.30pm) but on subsequent nights we skipped these dinners and ordered room service. In return, Oliver was fairly well rested for the busy days and the cumulative stress and exhaustion of travelling. Lights out at 8 o'clock was a little boring for me once I was over the jet lag, but I just wrote our blog or watched TV on my iPad (Season 1 of House of Cards!).


2. Let the kid decide

Whenever possible I let Oliver decide what we would do and see. In London there were a couple of things I definitely wanted to do, such as the Tower of London. But otherwise, I suggested options to Oliver and let him choose. For instance, in London we went to the London Zoo two afternoons in a row. Oliver loved it and wanted to go back. Once in the zoo, he cycled over and over between visits to the gorillas, monkeys, and meerkats, with a little of the tigers, african hunting dogs, aquarium, and reptiles. This is what he wanted to do and I let him, rather than pressure him to go to new places I thought he would like. He's still talking about the meerkats! A similar thing happened in Rotterdam. One morning he went with Nina, John and Doris to an architecture museum. The next morning when I had free time he didn't want to go somewhere else, but back to the same museum to show me what he had seen.


3. Don't crowd the days

When travelling to new places it is tempting to squeeze in lots of sights and activities; after all, how soon will we be back in Denmark? But a string of long days wears everyone out. We tried not to do too many things in one day and tried not to feel obligated to stay at any one place. For example, one morning in London Oliver and I visited the British Museum. You could spend days there. But Oliver was ready to leave after 90 minutes; so we left. We missed things, but when I abandoned any idea of a list of “must do” sights, it didn't matter. Given this is what worked best for us, next time I wouldn't buy the London Pass. It's really only value for money when you do a number of things each day.


4. Allow plans to change

Some days I made plans in my head of our likely itinerary. But then it didn't pan out. In London we abandoned our plan to go to Legoland Windsor after I read terrible reviews on TripAdvisor. Another day we planned to go to the Tower of London but my day pass for the train was off peak, meaning I couldn't use it until after 9.30am. So instead we wandered to Buckingham Palace and got sidetracked by Churchill's War Rooms. We also planned to take a tour of Chelsea Football Stadium, but then Oliver realised the football season was over and a tour meant just seeing the stadium not the team. Our plans changed again. I realised that as long as we were having fun it didn't matter if we missed some things I originally planned.

A somewhat related issue was money spent on unfamiliar food or drinks. In Aarhus, for instance, Oliver and I took a break in a cafe and ordered a skim milk hot chocolate and a smoothie (or so we thought). But things are made and taste differently in different countries and Oliver didn't like his drink. He tried it but didn't want to finish it. I learned not to sweat money “wasted” on such things (see point 9 below).


5. Remember “trival” things can be just as fun

Amidst our busy travel and conference schedule, Oliver enjoyed many simple things. One morning in London he asked to go feed the ducks in Hyde Park. All this cost us was a half a loaf of bread we didn't plan to eat anyway. In return Oliver spent a wonderful hour in the park. He also enjoyed learning the London Underground, meeting and patting people's dogs in the various parks, kicking a cobblestone around the streets of Aarhus, and sitting in cafe windows and watching people go by (noticing differences between them and people at home). Unplanned, seemingly trivial activities often were just as fun as the big outings and sights. They certainly were a lot cheaper.


6. Your company and attention are worth as much as the sights you will see

Oliver was four when his sister, Louisa, was born. Since she was born he has fought to focus some attention away from her — she has been quite demanding — and back to him. To my mind, one of the very best parts of our trip was the one-on-one time that Oliver and I spent together. I know he enjoyed almost everything we saw and did together but I'm pretty sure he enjoyed as much the fact that he had (almost) my undivided attention. I loved when he said to me after our trip to the Natural History Museum in London that his favourite part of the day was spending it with me!


7. Schedule a rest day

I think it is really important to schedule down time. In London, between morning and afternoon activities we often went back to the hotel for an hour or so rest. I find travelling exhausting and I've travelled a great deal. It must be incredibly overwhelming and tiring for kids. In Aarhus we spent an entire day — the Sunday — doing almost nothing. This allowed us to recharge before we raced off the next day to Legoland and then on to Rotterdam for our last, hectic leg of the trip.


8. Watch for signs of jet lag meltdown (tired, hungry)

Both from Sydney to London and from Rotterdam to Sydney, we travelled approximately 30 hours door to door and crossed many, many time zones. This is hard enough on an adult, let alone on a kid. During the trip I was vigilant for signs of “jet lag meltdown”. Sometimes Oliver didn't realise that he was hungry or tired because his body clock was so out of whack (although he slept brillantly). He just felt unhappy. So we made a pact to be patient with one another when we were feeling a bit cranky; I made sure Oliver got as much sleep as possible; and I encouraged him to eat when he might be hungry. For breakfasts, I bought simple food from the corner store to eat when he first woke up (which in London was quite early) then we had a second, later breakfast when we were out and about. So my advice is to plan for the hunger and tiredness and count to ten!


9. Find familiar foods

Oliver was happy to try new foods. He especially enjoyed the Dutch pancakes that the breakfast chef (who took a bit of a shine to Oliver) made for him in Rotterdam. But he also appreciated familiar foods, particularly since his eating schedule was thrown entirely off kilter by jetlag. In London, in Marks and Spencer, Boots or Pret a Manger, we easily found ham and cheese sandwiches and apples (two favourites), which helped his transition to the new time and environment.


10. Choose hotels with wi-fi (and bring a device or two)

We spent a lot of time in transit and Oliver spent a lot of time in conference venues. He maintained his good humour in part by listening to music, reading on, or playing on his iPad mini. Occasionally he wanted to download new things or to play online. In Aarhus, he was lucky to find another boy at the conference and they played side by side on their iPads while I was giving my talk. So I was pleased and mildly surprised to find that every hotel we stayed in and the conference venues all had free wi-fi for an unlimited number of devices. This contrasts with my most recent stay in the US, where wi-fi cost me $16 a day for one device. Free wi-fi also made my blogging much easier. Many European hotels include free wi-fi. It is worth looking out for it when booking accommodation.


So those are my top tips. What are your best tips for a great trip with kids?


Our last days in Rotterdam and Europe … heading home

Oliver and I fly home to Sydney tomorrow. We are packed and ready to check out in the morning. Once we check out, we catch a metro train from our hotel to Rotterdam Central, then an express train to Amsterdam Schiphol airport, then a 3 hour or so wait for our first flight, then a 6.5 hour flight to Dubai, then a 2 hour lay over in Dubai, then a 14 hour flight to Sydney, then immigration, customs, a taxi and home to our beds!

We will spend the better part of 30 hours travelling door to door. I'm not looking forward to it because I caught a cold somewhere on our travels and feel pretty ordinary today. A man at the conference, who also has a cold, told me tonight that 25% of people develop a cold within a couple of days of flying!

Although Oliver and I have been busy at the conference — Oliver has made a lot of friends amongst the conference delegates — we squeezed in a few final fun things together.

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, Oliver took a swim in the very fancy hotel pool. The pool deck has amazing views of the Rotterdam skyline.

Our hotel pool


On Friday Oliver also visited The New Institute (or Het Nieuwe Instituut in Dutch) with Nina, Doris and John. Oliver was keen to take me there this morning and navigated us back past Rotterdam landmarks without any trouble. Rotterdam has many wonderful museums and art galleries. Het Nieuwe Instituut “celebrates the innovative power of architecture, design and e-culture”. Right now it is staging an exhibition called “The Ruins”. Architecture seems to play a very important part in the history and life of the Netherlands. Rotterdam is considered the architectural capital of the Netherlands with a daring and impressive skyline. You can read more about Rotterdam architecture here.

It struck me as we walked to Het Nieuwe Instituut that old and new co-exist easily side by side in Rotterdam; a testament to the success of rebuilding following the devastation of World War II.

Sights on our way to Het Nieuwe Instituut


The displays at Het Nieuwe Instituut were fantastic and strange. They rather defy description. I think they aimed to express what architecture means to peope in the Netherlands, but i wasn't entirely sure (I guess like all great art?) Better to see (below) than to have me try to tell.






Whatever they meant, Oliver loved them, running from one display to the next, pointing things out. At the end he played for ages in a large building space. Here he used giant foam blocks to create his own architecture.


This afternoon Oliver and I sat in the hotel lobby and said goodbye to our conference friends. Some we will see at home, some we will be in touch with, some we won't see again until the next SARMAC conference (in Canada in 2015; Oliver is already planning to attend).

Tonight we had a final, quiet dinner with Rochelle — my wonderful, long term conference companion — and ran into still more conference friends starting to make their own way home.

Rochelle and Oliver at our last dinner in Rotterdam


Oliver is asleep now. And I will be soon. The last day and night of a wonderful trip together.

Thanks for reading about our adventures. We will see you soon in Sydney.

Amanda and Oliver

My favourite image of Oliver from our visit to Het Nieuwe Instituut


Rotterdam: A city rebuilt

On Wednesday morning Oliver and I packed our bags yet again and walked to Amsterdam Central Railway Station where we bought tickets to Rotterdam. I wish I had the knack of packing light because our bags have grown heavier with each stop; they now are full of solders, knights, books, soccer gear, Crumpler bags etc etc.

Waiting on the platform at Amsterdam Central Station


We arrived in Rotterdam after a slower than expected train journey then a race to the conference hotel in a pricey cab. My first conference session had already started, but I arrived just in time to give my 5 minute talk.

After the talk, we checked into our hotel. For reasons unexplained we were upgraded to a room in a 5 star hotel next to the conference hotel (at no extra cost). So our room easily is the biggest and fanciest we have had on this trip. The room is spacious. We have a spa bath (after no baths only showers everywhere else) and a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror! This morning Oliver enjoyed a bubbly spa bath while watching TV. We are on the top floor of the hotel with a wonderful view over the port of Rotterdam. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the 5th largest port in the world.

Our room at the Mainport Hotel, Rotterdam


So Rotterdam very much is a working harbour, like Sydney, and we have wonderful views day and night of many different vessels.


Today I've been at the Biennial Conference of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition: giving two talks (one for myself and one for Penny Van Bergen; both went well), tossing around ideas, and lining up new connections for our team. Five other members of our team — Adam Congleton, Aline Cordonnier, Doris McIlwain, Amanda Selwood, and John Sutton — also gave talks today, which were very well received. Tomorrow and Saturday Rochelle Cox and Misia Temler, also from our group, will present their talks. So, busy.

Oliver went out and about today with the lovely Nina McIlwain, Doris and John's daughter. Oliver has loved being part of the conference scene, talking to people in the team and to researchers from all around the world. I think he is enjoying the limelight as the only kid at the conference. Nina was that kid once, as the daughter of two academics who have travelled far and wide to conferences. She is incredibly smart, articulate and warm and I hope Oliver turns out just like her!

This evening we went to a reception at the Rotterdam City Hall, called Stadhuis. The City Hall, completed in 1915, is one of only two buildings that survived bombing by the Germans on 14th May 1940. On that day, German bombers razed to the ground almost the entire old city, much of it dating from medieval times. Here is what Wikipedia says about the Rotterdam Blitz:

In total, 1,150 50-kilogram and 158 250-kilogram bombs were dropped, mainly in the residential areas of Kralingen and the medieval city centre. Most of these hit and ignited buildings, resulting in uncontrollable fires that worsened the following days when the wind grew fiercer and the fires emerged into a firestorm … Although exact numbers are not known, nearly 1,000 people were killed and 85,000 made homeless. Around 2.6 square kilometres of the city was almost levelled. 24,978 homes, 24 churches, 2,320 stores, 775 warehouses and 62 schools were destroyed.

Below is a painting of Rotterdam sometime between 1890 and 1905, before World War II and the German bombing. You can see the Tower of St. Lawrence' Church, built around 1660, in the background:


Now here is a photo of Rotterdam after the German bombing. Again you can see the Tower of St. Lawrence' Church, this time in ruins:


This photo reminded me of the destruction in Christchurch, New Zealand, still very evident two years after their devastating earthquakes (including the February 2011 earthquake). Here is a photo I took with my brother Gary in April this year. Like Rotterdam, almost all of Christchurch's buildings were destroyed and/or need to be pulled down. An entire city centre gone for all time.

The Christchurch Cathedral after the February 2011 earthquake


Will Christchurch be able to rebuild as Rotterdam has done so successfully? Circumstances are, of course, very different but it was inspiring to visit the beautiful Rotterdam Stadhuis — almost the lone survivor of an earlier age — and then walk outside and around their new Rotterdam.

Inside Rotterdam City Hall or Stadhuis

Inside Rotterdam City Hall or Stadhuis

Outside Rotterdam City Hall or Stadhuis

Modern Rotterdam


Tomorrow is more conferencing while Oliver and Nina seek out some fun. Then later in the day I hope to see more of Rotterdam with Oliver before final conferencing on Saturday and then we fly home from Amsterdam on Sunday. We will let you know what we discover!


Social Perspectives on Autobiographical Memory

It is Thursday here in Aarhus, Denmark, and today Oliver and I attended an academic conference called “Social Perspectives on Autobiographical Memory”.

About 115 people from around the world have gathered to hear lectures on autobiographical memory and to present their research.

This morning there were three keynote talks: one on memory errors and distortions, one on social influences on children’s memory, and one on memory and identity. All fascinating!

After lunch we had a “poster session”. This is where people pin up posters that describe their research. It’s the same idea as a poster for a school project, except the posters are usually bigger and printed on fancy material.

You hang your poster on a board and then stand beside it for 1-2 hours while people at the conference walk around, read the posters and talk to the owners of the posters. This afternoon five people from my department and research team at Macquarie presented posters: Adam Congleton (top left photo below), Aline Cordonnier (top right), Rochelle Cox (bottom left), Amanda Selwood (bottom right) and Misia Temler (who escaped my camera). They got lots of comments and questions.


Adam Congleton (top left), Aline Cordonnier (top right), Rochelle Cox (bottom left), Amanda Selwood (bottom right)

I presented a poster for Penny Van Bergen (bottom right photo below), which also got lots of useful comments and questions (which I will email to you Penny!). Finally, we saw many of our colleagues and friends from around the world presenting their work, including Charlie Stone (bottom left photo below) who did a PhD with us at Macquarie, is now finishing up a postdoctoral fellowship in Belgium, and soon will be on his way to a new job in New York.


Sitting in the first keynote lecture (top left), Aline discussing her poster (top right), Charlie Stone presenting his poster (bottom left), Penny Van Bergen’s poster (bottom right)

Oliver was very happy to make a friend today. A nine year old boy from Turkey, Selim Tekcan (right photo below) who attended the conference with his father, academic Ali Tekcan.

Oliver and Selim kept each other company throughout the day, swapping suggestions for iPad games, playing Minecraft together and generally hanging out. This meant that they spent what could have been quite a boring day in good spirits and very well behaved during the formal talks. Everyone at the conference thought they did brilliantly and enjoyed talking with them.


Oliver outside the Aarhus Town Hall (left) and Oliver and Selim (right)

This afternoon we went to a reception at the Aarhus Town Hall – a very beautiful and quite famous building (left photo above). Then we went to the conference dinner, where Oliver sat next to Charlie and had a grand time. He’s hoping to see Charlie again tomorrow and then in Rotterdam when we all head to our next conference.

Everyone at the conference made Oliver feel extremely welcome and he made me proud with his excellent behaviour. In fact, I think he enjoyed being the centre of so much adult attention, especially in his fancy conference dinner jacket!


Oliver in his fancy jacket at the Conference Dinner (left) and Oliver with Charlie (right)

In the morning I give my keynote talk, which I hope will go well. So I better get some sleep!