Sunday, August 30, 2009

happy birthday!

Lots going on recently, lots to catch up on... Today's my 35th birthday (Aug 30). It's been a jam packed weekend, including a minor shopping spree (e.g. my wallet finally disintegrated), a trip to the taste of melbourne, and a sleepover at the newly built house of our great friends Tony and Emma. Last night I started to have amazing-food fatigue due to Emma's mouth-watering fresh-picked rosemary, white bean, salt, and olive oil on toasted bread, a beetroot, cream, and Parmesan carpaccio, rafts of savory dips, building up to a homemade thick crust three-berry cheesecake. I proposed to the white bean dip, but then remembered I was already spoken for. I was also touched by the card they made for me.

I suppose there's some expectation that there'll be looking forwards and backwards on a birthday. A recent conference in Melbourne included many US researchers that I knew from before moving here. In particular, I saw my grad school advisor Soroosh for a while, which has become a rare treat.

It's cliche to say that youth is wasted on the young, but it always seems to take some distance to appreciate the exceptional opportunities I've had. Similar to my old supervisor Phil, Soroosh is a charismatic visionary, knows the technical details, and he knows how to get people to do their best individually and as a group. It's one thing to get people to work as a "team", but it's a whole other thing to spread passion that others will keep for years to come.

Don't think I'm exaggerating when I feel I've sat at the foot of masters. Occasionally without even knowing it... I remember the time that Soroosh invited some of his younger students to a lavish dinner party at his house and I sat next to Bob Corell and asked him "so uh what do you do?"... Bob is impossibly famous, often described as the George Washington of the US Global Climate Change Research Program... I had a knack for it, doing the same when Soroosh introduced me to Thomas Dunne and later James Dooge, both titans of hydrology.

Of course, everyone dreams of being 21 again, knowing what they know now. I'm coming to appreciate that not being able to go back is not something to be remorseful about, because, if anything, some never had those opportunities in the first place. Better to have those once in a lifetime experiences, I guess, than to never have them at all. Tom

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