Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 in Review / 2016 Ahead

Gaynor has been through a bigger year this year than many in recent memory. Apart from the turmoil at the beginning of the year with a husband looking for work and the uncertainty that meant of where she may end up living, Gaynor carried on with quite a few hours of part-time work at the local schools. Then I left for the US and she took on the tasks of organising to ship our goods, selling, throwing or giving away what we weren't taking with us. On top of that, cleaning and final preparations for renting the house kept the stress levels at DefCon 4 until leaving for the US in mid-July. She seemed fairly happy to have me around again and so I took that as a good sign. The rest of the year was re-acclimating to southern California for everything that was the same as last time and acclimating to the new things about San Diego. Drivers licences, getting the children into school and dealing with that bureaucracy, setting up more of the house, unpacking our goods when they arrived, ... you get the idea. This year promises to be not much less eventful than recent ones. Though she'll still have all the children on the forefront of her mind with only three needing immediate, at-hand help she has a little more time available. She expects to fill that, initially, with volunteer work and -- probably around late August, after the children return for the new school year -- will be looking for paid employment. Exactly what is yet to be determined but she's not a great fan of typical US employment practices.

Joshua After a tough last half of 2014, Josh continued working on his comedy, developing and performing various shows at a number of locations around Canberra and Melbourne. He resumed his university studies in the second half of this year, moving in with a couple of friends after we fled the country. I think 2016 will be more of the same with shows at the Canberra Comedy Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival already on his radar, as well as running a room in Canberra that regularly hosts comedy acts. University may also get a look in as well, if nothing else, 'to keep Mum & Dad happy'.

Elijah continued his volunteer missionary work in New Zealand and is set to complete that late June/early July. He has been enjoying his time there and sends almost weekly updates about his activities. We look forward to spending more time with him again when he returns. Unfortunately, my work visa conditions means that he won't be able to stay with us longer than three months unless he decides he wants to stay on his own terms, say as a student. I don't think anything is set in stone at this point, so we'll see how it turns out as the year progresses.

Mara successfully completed her first year of university studies where she is undertaking a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance. She has really enjoyed the learning, the fresh challenges, and the performances. I don't think she has enjoyed the regular early mornings so much, taking strongly after her father in that regard. Her and Josh were both able to join us in the US for Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was just lovely to have them around, enjoying regular interactions again. There's been plenty of laughing to be had. :) Mara is looking at another year of the same -- more challenges, more learning -- as she develops her talents. Contrary to her opinion, I don't think she needs to develop her chocolate eating skill set much further.

Ariana closed out 2015 having starting Year 11 twice, once in Canberra and again in San Diego. As always, she's been taking her studies very seriously -- the common thread between both high schools was the International Baccalaureate program she enrolled in -- and continuing to try her hand at all and sundry extra-curricular activities. In Canberra, outside of her school's purview, she played cricket during the summer, representing the ACT in regional competitions as well as playing in a local boys team. In school in San Diego she's become involved with the academic league (glorified trivia) and improv groups, and helping in the library. Outside of school she's followed in her older brothers' footsteps and has taken up rugby. They have a seven-a-side season first with a few high schools combining to field a team, followed by a full 15-a-side round of games. The latter most depends on how many girls they can recruit to join up. Having watched a lot of rugby over time as well as plenty of backyard mucking about with her siblings, she has a good sense of the game and how it's played. Now she just needs to further develop the skills to go with that. With this year having two weeks away from home at Girl's camp and FSY.

Bryna enjoyed her last semester at her school in Canberra, participating in many sports as well as bringing home a decent report card. Ballet is still her main activity besides schooling and she's keen to take that as far as she can. We loved her dance school in Canberra and part of the challenge of a transition to a new area is re-finding institutions of this nature that will be up to the standard -- not to mention sporting the right kind of culture -- that will enable reaching one's potential. She's been attending two different schools, with a class each, and it looks like one is more our style of place so she'll continue there, picking up more classes.

Micah didn't find the first school we enrolled him in particularly satisfying. Lunch and recess breaks that were too short left him not enough time to make friends. Since Micah is a very sociable, this is, in our opinion, much more of an indictment on the system and format they had at the school. We managed to wrangle him into another nearby charter school that follows principles and guides much more inline with our preferences. They even offer German as the second language, which works well around our house. :)

Fenton mostly feels like he's been doing whatever has been needed to provide for the family. He finds it easier to think of this in the third person. :) I think the new job should work out well on a long term basis -- as long as they don't fire me for incompetence -- with plenty of opportunities in a thriving research environment. So, you know, should be good that way.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas 2015

Wishing all an enjoyable Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Also, this is how we regularly prepare dinner.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Odd Three Months

I've been Stateside for a few weeks now and I'm looking down the barrel of another couple of months before Gaynor and the younger three join me. Due to a variety of circumstances -- children's schooling, house readiness, and a need for income among them -- we are doing this move differently. I'm going ahead to start work, find a place to live, schools, vehicles, and buy half a household and Gaynor is staying with the children to sort, sell, throw, and ship our goods and to finish getting the house ready to rent. We've decided to not sell it. So much work has gone into it that, in short, I'm not ready to part with it yet. It will also be nice to have a sizeable asset we can return to at some point.

Both Gaynor and I have our work cut out for us. I know Gaynor will get a lot of help from our fabulous friends nearby but I think it will still be very stressful for her. On the other side, I have a lot of research to do and big decisions to make and the don't always lend themselves to an afternoon of cool, calm collectedness.

I've also realised that the oddest thing about these three months is that it will be the longest I have ever lived by myself. Growing up with parents, grandparents, and six siblings in the same house you get used to always having someone (usually many someones) around or, on those precious few occasions when you are by yourself, someone about to be around. Given that our children showed up early in our marriage, that feeling never really went away. Though I do not doubt my self-sufficiency skills to survive in an apartment by myself, it will be strange walking into a room you have previously tidied and find it in the same state.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Into the West (by Heading East)

One of the downsides of physics research can be the unpredictable nature of the funding. While there are plenty of instances where physics research can almost immediately be made into a commercial product (thus justifying its value in the minds of some, I'm sure), there are many others where the research is 'pure' or with such a long term before its intended payoff that really the only moneyed interest is a government.

Our return to Australia was on the basis of a fixed contract, as part of a defined project. And while it has been extended on a couple of occasions, the short of it is, there isn't sufficient on-going funding. This isn't news to me -- nor should it be to anyone in Australia with an inkling of the system here -- but we had initially hoped that it would parlay into something more permanent. After all, you never quite know how things will pan out or where you'll end up!

During the past year, I've come to the understanding, with my position and skill set, that it would either be not physics or not Australia. Since we had bought a house and were generally living a good life, I spent considerable time pondering 'not physics'. Teaching secondary school, a role in IT, patent attorney, physics outreach, and technology transfer were some of the opportunities I considered and pursued. And while I have no problem with working your way up from the bottom the couple I thought I would quite enjoy doing meant extra schooling and a significant cut in initial pay. So, though money has never been a main motivator for me, I did still have children to support and they don't get any cheaper as they get older.

As per my usual technique when I'm looking for employment, I told anyone and everyone. I've found offers often seem to come in the most serendipitous way when you are really chasing them down and this time was no exception. A 10 minute conversation with a collaborator of a colleague, who used my office during a short-term stay, meant he passed my resumé and relevant publications onto his colleagues in a different area of where he worked. They had a job advertised that had slipped through my searches. A call in January asked me if I was interested in pursuing a position with them. At this time, through other channels and means, I already had two other offers and so, eventually, it came down to three places that wanted to employ me for the skills I already had. To be sure, a nice position to be in, though not one of them was in reasonable commuting distance of our house.

The decision to move back to the US -- and San Diego is not a bad place to end up -- was the most difficult one of all our moves. There was a lot of discussion, negotiation, and a few conditions put in place. And even though I believe it was the best long term choice and we've done it three times before, it won't make the move really any easier. I do think, however, that it will likely be our last for some time.