Don't Look Up

This page written circa 24 December, 2021.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Don't Look Up is a brilliant satire of the times, with a star-studded cast. The title comes from a Presidential campaign late in the film, promulgated in response to the news that a meteor will soon kill all life on Earth. One glance up can confirm your fate... .

I have been through analogues of the five stages of grief, watching the demise of EE at Waikato U. The five stages of grief are a bit different when it is an institution. Gone long ago was hope (denial). Gone the anger and expectation that anyone will wake up to it. There is no bargaining, for surely nobody is listening; management communication is strictly one-way. Gone now the depression. Time to let go.

You could not sell this as comedy. The campus ITS is a kind of dictatorship. My desktop is now all but useless. Apps often start and then vanish. Some take minutes to start up. The command-line compiler can take a minute to start, or not start. You have to make an appointment to get remote help. Papers are being stripped out of EE for cost reasons: students graduating this year will not have seen Transmission Lines or Antennas, nor Integrated Circuits, nor can they program a micro or wire up an ADC in my final-year Mechatronics. They have never officially seen a FET. Decisions are made solely on questuary concerns and without consultation. No honest authority would accredit this degree. A colleague in management and another in CS just announced their departures. The sky seems to be falling, but management won't look up.

I vividly recall a brilliant sunny day late in 1973 when I walked away from my high school for what would be the last time ever. I was quite sad... for about a kilometre. Then I realised that I had actually not liked that school at all, nor many in it. By the time I got home on that day I was lighter, happier, and feeling more free than ever. I never looked back.

So what next?

In the short term I want to go and live in our little red brick submarine in Newtown. Better to winter there than here. People to see. Friends with whom to catch up. Some to farewell. I hope my brain will clear, something we have seen watching Alone.

I have several grad students. I would like to see them through. It is usual for the school to have such an arrangement. Someone pulled me aside and told me that nothing was being done about this. You are not surprised about this, are you dear reader? It is on my new-year to-do list.

There is talk of a startup based on my growing IP portfolio around battery management. I would love to see all that work fly, and I would love to work with the ladies who have been putting it together. Maybe I could be the CTO, but I will believe this when there is actually cash on the table.

Various possibilities have been mentioned were I to be in Sydney.

Kay wants to live "near a beach". Large apartments in Cronulla go for eye-watering sums. My friend Ann was here last week and commented that I must love living in this house. I do, but there will come a time when Hamilton is no longer where I need to be. Perhaps I'd trade everything in Hamilton for a place on the east coast, perhaps Cronulla or Byron in Australia, or somewhere between Coromandel and Napier in New Zealand.

One plan is to build a tiny house in the drive, and then move it east and live in it. Sounds fun, and I do need to be building something to be happy. So, plenty options.

I recall another brilliant sunny day in 1996. I had just resigned from Sydney U. Walking along I bumped into Hugh Durrent-Whyte who had started not long before. I mentioned that I had just resigned. He asked where I was going. I replied that I did not know where I was going, but I was quite sure of where I was leaving. I heard it was like that, he remarked.

Red Brick Submarines

(to a tune rather like a submarine of a different colour)

In Newtown where yuppies spawn
and live in flats the size of cans
We retired for a short time
to see if we were Sydney fans

So we took our little flat
barely large enough to swing a cat
And we stripped and re-equipped
It like a red brick submarine

We all live in red brick submarines
red brick submarines, red brick submarines
We all live in red brick submarines
red brick submarines, red brick submarines

There's a bed that folds away
and a table that goes too
There's a washer than can dry
and a bidet on the loo

Turn on the espresso machine, Mr Engineer! (pssshht...)
Fire up the induction cooktop, First Mate! (Tick, tick, tick)
Aye aye, Doctor; Is the sun over the yardarm, Captain?

And our friends would come aboard
Neighbours too who live next door
Drinking gin and playing games
We all live in red brick submarines
So self contained but you can't float away

We all live in red brick submarines
or concrete submarines, or high rise submarines
We all live in red brick submarines
or concrete submarines, or high rise submarines

And we choose a life of ease (a life of ease)
Everyone of us has all we need (all we need!)
Air is blue (air is blue) and food is green (food is green)
But there's no garden in a submarine.

We all live in red brick submarines
red brick submarines, red brick submarines
We all live in red brick submarines
red brick submarines, red brick submarines

So we miss our distant shore
Home is calling more and more
Sky of blue and fields of green
You can't find 'em in a submarine

We all live in red brick submarines
In concrete submarines, in high rise submarines
We all live in red brick submarines
In concrete submarines, in high rise submarines


Big life decisions have to be made with care. There's not a lot of jumps left in me. The received advice is to do your best to imagine vividly or test what a scenario might be like.

The Switch

So when all things come to an end
Deadly switches all close at hand
Make your dreams and duties mingle
Laws and morals finally bend
Holy switch, will you defend?

Switching all the time
Switching ain't no crime
Gotta change the climate
Gotta raise my rate
You see a boy in motion
Is never much too late

Switching's easy
Oh it's essential and you know
When you flick it
You can start a new episode

Warm love can costume hatred
And the truth could be a lie
Yes a man can switch to lady
Of indiscreet last goodbyes
And a blade can switch behind you
When you expect shells from the sky
Oh you go when it's your time

Golden Earring

All the previous large jumps in my life were made to a place that looked new and interesting, and a lifestyle that was fixed by work. Right now I cannot think of a place that appeals particularly, and I no longer want to work, at least not full time.

My default plan is to split my time between Sydney and Hamilton. In Hamilton there is a lovely house, a comfy office, I have students and I can be involved with the battery work. In Sydney there are old friends, plenty of plays and music, sumptuous produce, and companies I can chase up with no agenda.

About 25 years ago we tried living in Newtown and Wentworth Falls. They were only 90 minutes apart. This proved to be a bad plan, simply because we were doing maintenance on both resiences, plus travelling. It seemed like we spent all our time sorting problems that had cropped up while we were "at the other end". I may not want to rest, but that is not what I have in mind either.

It remains to be seen how the split feels. The Sydney studio is lock-up-and-leave. Hillcrest is lock-up-and-leave-to-Edwin. The plan is not to switch often.

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