Well, 2009 is here, and it’s a time of change for sure.
There’s that whole US election thing of course, which made me a happy non-participant in the democratic process, but more importantly it’s a time of change in the Sponge household. After 10 (is that right? maybe more) years of life in the United States, experincing Dayton OH, Colorado Springs CO, and Fairfax VA, we’re heading back to the Old Country at the end of March or thereabouts. Not out in some gods-forsaken wilderness either, but just a shade west of London. Ten years ago I’d had enough of London, and maybe I still couldn’t take living there and commuting into the city five days a week, but it’s a fine place to be near and I’m looking forward to be back close enough for a stroll around Hampstead Heath, or Greenwich, or the Inns of Court.
Mixed feelings in the house about it of course. Nervousness for the kids (5, 7 and 9), who still miss the mountains and sunshine of Colorado. Despite the inherent dangers of the area (yes Jennifer, “escaped lion” makes me react with “it’s a little concerning” also), Numbers 2 and 3 sons have decided to go to college there and Number 3 will live in Number 2′s house. I’m not sure that I planned ahead that far when I was their ages, but it’ll be nice to have somewhere sunny for me to visit when I’m in my dotage.
Well, it’s been hard to be so far away from family for all these years and it’ll be good to be back in England, just a drive away from siblings and their own families, and a short flight away from parents. I smell an extended summer vacation for three lucky boys and four mixed-fortune grandparents! If they need me, I’ll be windsurfing or summit.
Anyhoo, in retrospect it was a simple business to move over here, though it didn’t seem so at the time. There was the paperwork and bureaucratic waiting game of the visa process for me, but that aside there was just some furniture, some boxes, and an airplane ticket. In ten years it seems that you can pick up a lot of possessions — a cat, a couple of cars, a TV or two, three kids, an artificial Christmas tree … the list seems to be endless. The tree aside they all require their own confusing set of paperwork or other accoutrements. Importing a car is no easy matter, and anything electrical requires transformers and converters and whatnot. We have to find a school for the cat, get the kids vaccinated and into quaranteen kennels, and get new passports for both. It’s a confusing business that will take our organisational skills to a whole new level.
Plus, we’ll be missing out on several years’ worth of East Enders when we move, but with the local PBS station only broadcasting two episodes a week we weren’t catching up. Just to give you an idea of how far behind we are, Tom just died trying to save whats-his-name from the fire in the Slaters’ house that Little Mo accidentally started after what-his-name doused the place in petrol with the intention of scaring Little Mo into staying with him. The bastard. Still, Tom had that tumor so he wasn’t going to be around much longer. And that new manager at the Old Vic is obviously a bad sort.
Trevor, that was his name. The guy with the petrol.
So, there is enough to be done with this move that I didn’t feel that I could juggle personal and work commitments for the next three months, so I left XM Satellite Radio almost on the last day of the year and I now kid myself that I will be a Gentleman of Leisure for a while. XM and Sirius satellite radio companies are now but a single entity so there’s a certain amount of merging and sorting and whatnot to be done, and many challenges ahead that I really couldn’t have put all of my energies into. It’s been interesting to see how two companies that were pretty much the only ones of their kind in the country are similar in some ways and poles-apart in others. I can certainly say that there were many organisational and philisophical differences in the two IT organisations, which were almost complete opposites of each other in many aspects. And that’s all I have to say about that :)
I’ll miss much of it, of course. I worked with some people there who I hope to be in touch with for many years, some of them in strange foreign countries full of poison frogs and monkeys. Oh, they’d deny it if you asked them straight, but if you work ‘em for 40 hours straight they’ll confess it all. Really, we’d lure people to lovely Washington DC with promises of an easy couple of weeks getting to know us and helping out with a few things here and there, then work them relentlessly every single day and return a wornout husk of a person to their next of kin — a mere hollow shell. “On the way out I passed Henrique at Sao Paolo airport — I thought he was a homeless guy! What did you do to him?”. A real and unsolicited testimonial from one of our wonderful developers in Curitiba.
Good times. I’ll miss those crazy Brazilians and the special Anglo-Saxon vocabulary we used on a daily basis to keep ourselves sane.
Moving along … aside from that whole “relocating to a different continent” thing, I have a number of other pursuits to keep me entertained.
Firstly, I have a little list of technical topics to write about. Some parallelism things, some SQL stuff. I’d also like to get more familiar with Oracle’s other data warehousing technologies, so I’ll be fiddling with them as well. I had a brief and not very technical encounter with OBIEE a year or so ago (the same project that destroyed poor Henrique, I think) and the architecture was very appealing (Henrique might differ). It’s one of those “why yes, that seems like it would work very nicely” ways of doing things that I’m keen to know more about. Also, after around ten years of working with Informatica it will be interesting to see how Oracle’s own data warehouse ETL toolset handles. I dipped my toe in that water many years ago but at that stage I think that I was looking at a less than mature application, and I’ve been hearing good things about itfor a while now. Time to take that plunge.
Secondly, there’s that whole “gained X pounds in weight while living in America” thing to deal with. Giving up the smokes, working too many sedentary hours, and the dining-out culture have really done a number on my waistline. A sparkly new membership at the enormous local fitness club makes me wonder why I didn’t do this before, and hopefully will help me get to grips with that. I’m no fan of that sort of thing (“what is this strange salty fluid exuding from my pores?”), but it has to be done. It’s been OK so far. You know, bearable.
Lastly, the kids will be out of day care and under Direct Parental Supervision. Now that should really be interesting.
However before all of that begins I’m off to the UK and Spain for a couple of weeks first, reminding friends and family what it will be like to have us back within unexpected-visit range and giving them a last chance to change names and move to a different city. I like to think of it as a Mental Health Vacation for me to decompress from a couple of years of rather hard and stressful work, and to get me refreshed for the next few months of what will doubtless be one of my more interesting years of family life.
“Happy New Year”, everyone.