Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Happy New Year!

It's 2018! This summer it will be ten years since I received my PhD from Cornell University.  I used to think of 2018 as being in the very far future. Growing up, movies portrayed the far future by involving flying cars and robots. David is talking to his phone in the other room asking "what will the weather be". So, while car-flying is still unsafe, we search the web constantly for advice. We consult the world wide web instead of simply looking at the sky or asking the neighbor next door for an opinion. The future from old movies is not very far off. As cars become self-driving they will be tracked precisely and perhaps made to fly. Machine learning is teaching robots to be human, and will progress in time.

My future so far is with my children. James is one, Edward is seven and David is ten. This month marks the first year when I have not been working since I started to work at 18. Yet with three children, I have had less time than ever before. I have often felt like a failure. My house is never clean. The children don't have very good grades. My yard and garden are a big mess, and I have been screaming and complaining to and of the aforementioned children way more often than I should. I have two shirts and two pairs of pants that I have been wearing day after day and a dress for when it's really warm in the summer. Most of my clothes are impractical for home-life and stay in my closet or in various bags. Nobody really cares how I look. It does not make an impression on the children or on the animals. Although, one of the roosters attacks me more when I wear my red pants. Most houses in the neighborhood are empty or populated by older people without children or with grown children elsewhere.

So, what comes to mind when I think of 2017?
    David and Edward on Mars

  • Some of the men in my life and Marcel
    The year started and ended in Lugoj because it's where the children go to school. Both Edward and David passed their examinations and are now firmly in third and sixth grade. They have learned a lot, and will continue to do so. Many of the subjects they study in school are not interesting enough for them. So, their grades are far from perfect, but then perfection is for heaven if there is such a place. If I ever I get there,  I want the saints to remember that I spend most of my time this year when I was not putting James on his potty doing homework with either Edward and David. Even though most of it is in German (they attend school in German for continuity's sake after coming from Switzerland), I still don't speak German well, which gets me back to being a failure. 
  • I submitted the paper on measuring planetary spin from space-craft tracking After constructive interaction with referees, it was published in the Frontiers journal.
  • We spent February in Tenerife and celebrated one year since the first gravitational waves detection and David's tenth birthday. I wanted the children to see the ocean again, and get a bit of sunlight in midwinter. Edward, David and Andy climbed their third volcano. Mount Teide is the third highest volcano on Earth with a summit at over 3700 meters.  Its caldera was formed some 180 000 years ago through movement of the tectonic plates that caused a gap.
    Mount Teide grew in response.   The children loved the Mars-like territory and the pumice rocks that had air trapped in them and were still warm. They are rocks that float. 
  • I mostly stayed 'home' with James and my parents in our rental from Icod de los Vinos. We saw what they claimed is the oldest tree in the world,  some plants from the same family as the dandelion that grow into trees, and lots of chicken living by the road-site and in a Cactus garden near the house. In Galapagos, similar trees grow to be hundreds of meters tall, and bring moisture from the clouds to the islands.
  • Sometimes you can buy love -- animals are quite easy to purchase and they love us almost unconditionally. In June we bought Lady Edward (or Edwina Cleverbrain), Lady David (Davina Cleverbrain) and Lady James (Jamesina Cleverbrain) from the village of Tormac. They can open doors, untie knots and even eat with a fork. They avoid mud puddles, which makes them cleaner than my children, and unlike James, they do not eat food after it falls on the ground. Our guest for the holidays was Marcel -- a male goat. He stinks -- most male goats do -- but is very friendly. He is, however, not as smart as our ladies. He belongs to the director of the hospital here. He even has eagles and vietnamese pigs and more goats than us, which shows that I am not the only educated person in the area with animals. 
  • Andy went to the veterinary Farmacy and asked for preventive worm medicine for farm animals. They gave him some for cows because as an American they thought he must be a cowboy. It made no sense to explain he was a professor somewhere and so instead he said "no, I only care about goats. Does it work for goats?" (note that Andy is almost always very serious when he speaks and this was no exception). So, the person at the counter wrote in black the goat dosage: 10 ml/goat.
  • I am the editor of a new topic in Frontiers that is trying to attract more women to publish in its pages. 
  • We went hiking with Ed, Gab and Werner

  • Mihai and I gave invited seminars in Majorca at the Einstein Toolkit Meeting & Ed fest. Edward Seidel was my first advisor. He turned 60 this year and he and Gab remain persons I deeply admire. Ed still climbs mountains better than me and is responsible for connecting science and industry for universities in Illinois. It was fun to see physicists again. James took his first steps there, and has had his picture taken with Bernard Schutz, Gabrielle Allen, and other world-famous scientists who shaped my understanding of the world once-upon-a-time. 
  • I gave a seminar in Southampton in November. James and I also attempted to help Andy settle in his new reader position at Portsmouth. Andy's new apartment has lots of steps, and before he turned one, James learned to go up and down steps there. The departments at Southampton and Portsmouth are still largely intact after our visit. James participated in the after seminar discussions dressed as an elf. Andy had to explain he was not one of the good elfs because he was rearranging their journals and furniture and took the opportunity to draw with permanent markers on the seminar table while we were scrambling to put pieces back in place. We are planing a second visit to Portsmouth in February when I am giving another seminar.
  • I submitted a fellowship applications to be able to join Andy in England. If I pass the first phase, I will have to go for an interview. It will break my heart to leave Lugoj again, and tear all the little roots the children have built here. This year is marks the first time when Edward wants to go to school because he has friends there. On the other hand, we will have to spend some of the year there, and we cannot do so without health insurance. It's easiest to get insurance if I work. Update: My proposal had very good reviews, but I did not get the fellowship. So, I do not need to worry about going back to work yet.
  • the 3D boson star code from 2006 works on modern computers. While Gregory Daues, Jayashree Balakrishna and Christine Corbett-Moran and I are still debugging, we are aiming to produce a paper in 2018 and release the code so that other people can build on it. My first physics project involved boson stars. Much of what I have done in the past two years is to revive old houses. I am now trying the same with technology/code. The equations have not changed and so it should not be too difficult if I ever find the energy and/or time to work, which is very challenging for me.
  • In December, Edward, David and I published our third book for children: You, me and the dinosaurs. This book is more theirs than mine. Mihai criticizes it for not being deep enough and for not saying anything that he considers worthwhile, but depth comes with age and the children and I like it the way it is for now.
Somehow I still feel the need to motivate my choices so that if I am not around to tell them or if I forget, my children understand why I made them. Also, plenty of people ask these questions and it's only fair to provide answers now and then.

Have I always lived like this when in Romania?
No, my parents are doctors. We've had a few cats and dogs when I was growing up, but but no farm animals. My grandparents had some chicken. My grandmother and great aunt were mathematicians. My grandfather was a silvic engineer. They lived in this house in Lugoj before me. In fact, I've never had a goat myself before finishing my second postdoctoral position.

Ok, so are all Cornell graduates crazy? Cornell is in the US and after all and that country has a "very stable genius" for president. While I do not guarantee everyone's mental faculties, as far as I know my former classmates from Cornell are goat-free and chicken-free. I have this information from Facebook. Some have faculty positions, some have positions in industry, some teach at other levels  and some stay home for now to raise their children. 

So, what's wrong with me?
I am using these animals to connect my children to the real world. When I go to school for updates on their behavior, we are told that children today are three years ahead of our generation. Teeth grow faster, puberty happens faster, and I backed up a bit in an attempt to slow down this time I have with them. Once we moved to Lugoj, Edward's teeth stopped falling. In Zurich, before he turned six he had changed both upper and lower teeth. We still eat food from the store, but some comes from the market (at least in spring and summer) and some from the trees in our back yard. The eggs are from our chicken and the milk from our goats. I hope that they will grow up to be healthy and have the courage to change the world. To prepare for this we travel, do math, read, and take care of things-- animals, plants, etc. They are children, and so my mother and I do close to all the work (David does milk Devina and Edwina twice a day), and I always worry we strive for too much, but somehow I am not able to stop. I also worry about their future in world where our leaders are too old to lead and cannot adapt and understand or support new technology. They destroy to stay in charge, plunge countries into pointless wars and take decisions that affect us all.

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