The Pursuit of Happyness

This page written circa 6 March, 2011.

How do you tell if the other fellow's grass really is greener?

Within hours of the shuttle Challenger exploding in 1986, shuttle jokes appeared. Some were brilliant, so smart I have no trouble bringing them to mind all these years later: What do astronauts drink? Seven-Up with a dash of Teachers. Did you hear about the astronaut with blue eyes? One blew this way, one blew that way. Not that the accident was a cause for humour, but that the human sense of humour is very strong. Henry Beecher said "A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs---jolted by every pebble in the road". A sense of humour helps you cope. Now about two weeks after the second Christchurch earthquake, and not a Christchurch Earthquake joke to be found, at least not by Google.(*) In an ugly way life has always been cheap, but it was much shorter and harder in the past. I think Kiwis have forgotten that.

Many months ago, a colleague sent me the link to a job in Sydney. I read it over but did not take it too seriously. In December, mistakenly believing the final submission date to have passed I felt a sudden pang. In accordance with Hart's Law of Decisionmaking, I realised that I felt a hidden affinity with the job and that I should have applied for it, even though I have yet to be convinced that I would want it. I put together a response. In about 60 minutes flat I had crafted a very neat application simply by merging my CV with the list of requirements. I am reasonably certain that this job was not written with me in mind, but the thought has to occur. I submitted a positively off-handed quickie of an application. Perhaps the SKA effort is drawing a lot of mind and time, but I have yet to hear any word, in spite of email exchanges. I am not rushing them either.

I am not at all sure I want to move to Sydney. I have come to love living in Bywater Grange. My work colleagues are excellent people and if the management is imperfect it has not seriously impacted me. I have an oversupply of research students, and so many projects on the boil that I redesigned my work web page to list the WIP and the upcoming offerings lest I lose track of them. I suspect I am well regarded by the university. I have got used to the single-lane, business-unconscious, low-budget, Kiwi lifestyle. One has to admit that NZ does not really take EE seriously, compared to environmental and agricultural pursuits, but it will take a long time for this to come back and bite. In favour of Sydney, the culture, food and produce are superb, but against living in Sydney are its over-regulating government, clogged streets, and the ferocious cost of houses: Australia is reported to have the world's most overpriced real estate.

Family opinions are divided. Merinda wants to live in the city. She is loving Berkley so much she awaits the passing of weekends in order to return to the action, but she finishes there this year and has said she wants to be in Sydney. Edwin does not want to move, indeed he barely wants to trek between his computer and the dining table, and most certainly not as far as the bath tub. Kay is not able to deliver a definitive, constant opinion, but she sure has an itch.

Kay has shown significant signs of dissatisfaction lately. I have thought for a while that she had worked out "the rural thing". She now regards Bywater Grange as too much work, although she does not want to part with the sheep or the chickens (or the bloody parrot). This vague dissatisfaction has had other effects already. She has resigned her job. She was offered a part in a play being put on by the Cambridge dramatic people but it clashes with Edwin's school camp and she caters that, so passed up the play. Kay reminds me that she felt miserable for some time in Santa Rosa before we left. I suggested that she ought to spruce Bywater up and sell it, figuring that is a good test of committment. She has taken to searching real estate in Hamilton and in Sydney, and we talk to agents in desultory fashion.

I am not going to agonise over this. Let the dice fall as they will, I think the path will be clear when the time comes for a decision to be made.

* As a footnote, there may not be jokes a la Challenger, but there is humour. One resident, when speaking about the sludge that wells up all over the place, said "When it's wet its not so great, but when it's dry it's not so great." Another resident is described as "wheelbarrowing sludge from the lake in his yard and putting it onto the lake on the road." A friend drives past, in the suburb to help out, and hollers at him to clean up the place. He says "The way I look at it, property prices will rocket, 'Look! Waterfront.' " It is hard to cope with humour alone when your insurance company tells you this quake was not considered to be a new event, presumably meaning some limit applies to the sum of loss in the two earthquakes. In another incident homour mixes with genuine compassion: A rock that fell into the hall of someone's house in Christchurch sold on the local version of Ebay for about $50k. It was advertised as a joke, with "pickup required", rather than delivery being offered, with the thought of getting it out of the ruins of the house. The money goes to the appeal and "Rocky" goes to a ski resort.

In the mean time, Kiwis carry on their lives with that peculiar resignation to hardships that we see along with the humour. Consider for instance the outdoor live concert held last week at the event centre across Mystery Creek Road:

What you need to know about this concert, that shows up only indirectly in the image, is that is it bucketing down rain, 20mm of it between 5PM and midnight during the concert, as part of 80mm in two days. The organisers handed out plastic ponchos. Everyone was soaked to the skin anyway. Merinda is down there, she returned looking like a drowned rat. Kay and I abandoned out VIP tickets, as foreigners might, and observed from an indoor party in a neighbour's house. Mad dogs and Kiwis go out in the midday downpour.

PS: Following closely on the Christchurch earthquake and this essay the 8.9 quake and tsunami hit Japan. Merinda reports from the web: "There is a news flash---the Hawaii Surfing Championship has just been won by a Japanese gentleman on a wardrobe!".

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