Sunday, May 15, 2016

England plans

So that last post was actually written back in January, but I didn't post it until today.  I'm thinking I might as well revive this blog to keep people informed about our England plans, which yes, are still in progress.  It's generally the worst idea to talk about a thing like this before the actual commitment is there, due to the psychological phenomena I've seen mentioned a few time recently, whereby announced plans tend to fall by the wayside because announcing them gives your brain the payoff ahead of time, leaving only the drudgery of execution.  And man, is there some drudgery ahead.

Still we are pushing on.  We've kind of settled on Bristol as a target - it seems a vibrant city, with weather less miserable than most other UK cities - though it is still very much up in the air.  A lot will depend on where I can find a job.  (Of course, the whole plan depends on if I can find a job.)  I found a massive database put out by the UK government, of companies that are willing to sponsor new hires for Tier 2 visas.  It's in PDF form, with ill-formatted text, and so was a fun challenge to convert it into plain text, filter out the ones with "software" in their name, and geocode them all so I can see them on a map:

A lot are (of course) clustered around London, which may be where we end up out of necessity.  There's only one such company in Bristol (to the left by the controls).

But I can't really apply until we're a lot closer to ready, since I want to be able to actually accept a job and not leave Marjorie in Australia to take care of everything.  So we're in the process of sorting out our stuff.  And it's the same headache I posted about in the early days of this blog, when we were moving to Singapore: every single item in the house involves a store/ship/toss/sell decision.  There's plenty to do on top of that as well, of course.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Next steps

Marjorie and I have moved around a fair a bit at this point, but have been in Melbourne now for close to twelve years.  This is not to say we’ve settled.  We both love Australia in general and Melbourne in particular, but it feels a bit like golden handcuffs.  We’ve talked in the past about buying a house here (we’ve been to a number of auctions and talked to mortgage brokers even) but it just never seemed to happen, probably in part because of a vague dissatisfaction with the idea.

We also have talked a fair bit over the years about trying somewhere else.  Maybe back to the States?  Some places we’ve considered, roughly from most interested to least:
  • San Fran - cold, expensive, and Marjorie has a better chance of scoring a job some place that’s a seat of government..
  • Austin - would be living in Texas.
  • San Diego - unknown to Marjorie, and same job issues for her, but we may go look at some point, Still California-expensive.
  • Boulder - cold and small?
  • Seattle/Portland - cold and gray.
  • Atlanta - feels like going backwards.
  • New York - too hectic for Marjorie.  And expensive and not dog-friendly.
  • Boston - cold, both weather- and people-wise (my opinion - I’ve just never latched onto that city.  Marjorie likes it a lot more than me).

Add to all of them that the USA just seems nuts to us now.  We’ve considered some other places overseas as well:
  • Germany - cold, and language barrier
  • France - cold, and language barrier
  • Spain - language barrier
  • Japan - culture shock, language

It’s harder to move now that we’re older (just because it would be harder to find jobs) and because we have a dog we love dearly.

So yesterday (30/1/2016) Marjorie and I had an idle discussion, as we frequently do, about what we’re going to do.  And for once, an idea seemed to take hold: move to England.  Not London proper, which would seem to be a lot to deal with, but an outlying suburb or anywhere to the south, like Brighton (in hopes of marginally better weather).  We’re in the very early stages of feeling it out, obviously, but we both seemed to latch onto the idea and I think it might actually happen.  We’ve done the overseas move before so we know what it entails, and know we’re capable of it.  And we know enough to keep a lid on things until we nail something down, which is why I’m writing this here.

Lots to do from this point, but it’s exciting.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I can't vouch for the numbers, but this website still gives me a good feeling about being here.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Our suburb

We moved to Moonee Ponds a few years back just to check out life in Melbourne's northwest suburbs.  After a few years, we'll say it's not a bad place, but not as dynamic as we'd like.  But I just found this video about it made by a realtor if you're curious.  The park and race track they show are both about a block from us.  Moonee Ponds is also famous as the home town of both Dame Edna and the actor who portrays her.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gainfully unemployed

Yeah, so, I came back from our trip to the USA to find I no longer had a job.  Retrenched, redundant, downsized.

I'm not distressed.  It's a bad time of year to be looking for work -- not just because of Christmas, but because Australia seems to have an additional holiday immediately afterward known as "January" (similar to the one in Europe known as "August").  But there still seem to be jobs to be had out there.  If I find something before Christmas, great; but if not, I'm not going to sweat it.  I'm just trying to get my ducks in a row -- rework my CV, skill up, canvas lists of companies, etc.  My days are full and I'm a far sight from unhappy.  And of course the dog is happy to have me.

The time off also gives me time to get my life in order a bit.  People write entire self-help books about it but here's what works for me:

  • Actively using an online to-do list site.  I use (but there are lots of others); I've been on it for a long time but not actively until these last two weeks.
  • Only schedule for tomorrow.  In the evening pull in a short list of tasks you think you can get done.  Leave everything else unscheduled.
  • Make sure you have at least one simple task in the day's to-do list.  If you don't have a simple one to pull in, make one up.
  • Do the simple tasks first on a given day.  This gets the ball rolling and starts the feeling of accomplishment.  And the harder, more important tasks will be a lot easier to concentrate on when you have fewer tasks hanging over your head.
  • Make sure there's something each day that gets you out of the house!
Still, I'm finding it curious that (like everyone else it seems) I'm capable of putting in eight hour days for forty-some weeks of a year doing stuff for other people, but the idea of doing a solid eight-hour day doing stuff just for myself seems onerous.  I'm continually breaking up my tasks by running Hamish up to the cafe or something.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Thoughts on our most recent trip back to the USA

This visit back was a reminder of how pretty the United States is, especially in Autumn. We don’t have the same dramatic colours here in Melbourne. Culturally the US seems more and more foreign to me each visit back as well. I think this is probably equally attributed to my getting older and just being out of touch with pop culture as it is with the time away.

Crystal Bridges museum is definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the vicinity (Bentonville, AR). The museum was truly world class, all that Walmart money is good for something, and there’s a lot happening outside the main building as well, including a Frank Lloyd Wright house and a beaver in the creek both of which I will have to return to see as it was way too cold to spend time outside the day we visited.
Rainbow narcosis, a video installation I watched at Crystal Bridges is so bizarre and oddly delightful (though warped) that I needed to link it here:

New York - This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well, but my opinion remains unrevised, while I enjoy visiting I really don’t want to live in NYC. Mark on the other hand would love living there. For me, the city's too crowded, I'm too claustrophobic to ever really relax in New York, though I do like the mania.

The slogan for the New York lottery is “hey, you never know” this amused us muchly during our visit.

This was an especially busy return trip for me as I had reunions with several friends I hadn't seen in years. I caught up with several friends from my university days (Tim, Tom, Bob, Rich and Lana) and finally caught up with my good friend Karen, and even managed to see a friend from Melbourne whose moved to North America (Elise). Inevitably there are people we don't see on our return visits though, and we can only hope to catch up with them the next time round.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


So we're back in the USA for a visit.  Flying into and out of New York City just because we'd been meaning to make it back here for a while.  We just have a day here -- today -- on the front end so we just bopped around midtown, shopping and such, for most of the day.  We're staying in a hotel that backs onto the Empire State Building which is pretty cool.  I could write a long post here about New York but I want to talk about something else.

The differences between our home and adopted countries remains a continual source of interest.  After twelve years away it's mostly subtle things that come to our attention, or things that we've always noticed but never fully internalized, and sometimes it's complimentary to one country, sometimes the other.  The theme of this trip seems to be how much Americans overshare their personal lives, and how they all seem to have pet opinions that everyone must surely be interested in.  These are distinctly unAustralian traits.

On the leg of this trip where we flew from LA to NYC, the people in the row behind us had a loud conversation for much of the trip, which we had no real choice about eavesdropping on.  In the middle was a beleaguered Russian immigrant who was going to be working as a translator.  On either side of her were two New Yorkers who regaled her with their life stories, in exquisite detail.  The guy (Barry) especially -- I know so much about his life right now that I could do an identity theft on him, no doubt.  This went on for at least an hour.  The Russian woman was only giving polite, modest answers; we can't help but wonder what her opinion of Americans is from this.

Then at dinner tonight at Grimaldi's, we were forced to eavesdrop again.  At the next table a young software developer regaled his date with an unending monologue about his opinions about everything; opinions he clearly held in high regard.  She didn't get more than five seconds of uninterrupted dialogue for the whole hour.  We wanted to punch him by the end.

Obviously you can't generalize about a whole culture from a few isolated incidents, but these things certainly match America's reputation, and we've almost certainly been guilty of them ourselves.  And of course a few negative traits do not define a country; we're having a great time here amongst "our people" and have also seen a lot of small kindnesses.