Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy New Year

2008 is no more.
It was very much a mixed year, with some great highs and some rather upsetting lows. But that's life.
A few people have told me that felt the same way about 2008; which is interesting. Perhaps there was something in the stars :).

Highlights included some great holidays: a trip to Port Douglas for my 30th, a weekend in the Hunter Valley with friends, what is becoming an almost annual trip to Europe (this year mainly around France, plus a little of Italy, Germany and the UK), and a couple of days at Terrigal across new year's.

On the PhD front, I had the first journal article from my PhD published, and I was really pleased that it was in a good physics journal (PRE). I also had 2 conference papers at ALifeXI in Winchester, another conference paper that I was a minor author on, and the year ends with 2 other journal articles submitted. ALifeXI was a great experience itself, as was GSO-2008 (see previous post), and I enjoyed lab visits at The University of Hertfordshire (UK) and The Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (in Berlin). Unfortunately though, a significant amount of my experimental work went nowhere this year, particularly in the second half, which has been quite frustrating. That's the nature of research though: if everything turned out the way you thought/hoped, it would be engineering rather than science.

I enjoyed my part-time engineering job this year, feeling like I made a solid contribution to the team. It was nice to have a large role in our latest client implementation. For most of the year I was doing 2 days/week, but just before Christmas they've accomodated my request to drop down to one day/week. This will allow me to focus properly on my studies and get a decent night's sleep!

On the home front, our renovation work has mostly ground to a halt, although we did undertake one major project: the front garden. There are a couple of items still to complete, but I'm really happy with the results. I also finally built a myth-tv box (a home-brewed hard drive recorder), which was quite satisying from a geek perspective.
Turning 30 wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be, helped by two great parties my wife organised for me.
Speaking of whom, late in the year she was accepted to start her doctorate this year (in Education at The University of Technology, Sydney), which was really exciting. I know she's going to love the experience, and make an excellent contribution to her field.

The downsides were mainly health related.
I broke my ankle the night I arrived home from ALifeXI in August. It was the first time I've broken anything, and to be honest I didn't cope very well (mentally) for the first few weeks on crutches. But I had an awesome physio (Rick Reeve at West Ryde) who was really on the ball, and made a big difference to my mental health as well as physical. It was as simple as a break can be, but a break is a break and some 5 months later it's still not quite back to normal.
There were a couple of other health issues for us, which I don't want to go into here right now, and these really threw us on a number of occasions. For the moment, things seem to be back on track, but only time will tell.
There were some serious health issues for friends and family as well, including cancer, and the outcome there remains uncertain.
If all of this has taught me anything, it's the importance of staying positive.

Finally, it's been a tough year for our families. My in-laws bought a country pub, and it's been a lot of hard work for them settling into it. My parents started the year facing a few challenges, but things seem to be stable now, and importantly they seem happy.

What does 2009 hold? There's only one way to find out ... bring it on.