So much has happened since I last wrote.  I have spent one long hot
summer in the land of Oz, as many of you will know, having seen me.
Apologies for those I didn't get time to see in person.  As you will
probably know, I also had a number of job interviews on the way "home"
to England in the united states.  The short version of the story is
that I have taken a job with a small  biotech start-up in Berkeley,
and I am officially starting there on the first of April ( :)  yes I
know).  I will therefore move to probably San Francisco late in March.
The current plan is to finish work here on March 21st.  This is all
dependent on my visa and the goodwill of the American government :)
So, I imagine that you have many questions and I have tried to answer
them below.  Although things are completely out of control with
respect to time and my life in general, it's always nice to get email
from friends so I can keep in touch, so don't be afraid to write!

First work

The company I am working for is called Exelixis and it is very small
compared to the Sanger Center.  It has about 40 employees and they are
mostly biologists.  Their particular interest is developmental biology
and gene networks.  They do a lot of work with Drosophila (a small
fruit fly that hangs around compost heaps typically when it's not
being used to unravel gene networks).  I won't bore you with the
details unless you're interested, but basically they aim to discover
other genes of interest that interact with a given gene, by inserting
the gene into Drosophila and trying to modify its behavior.  As far as
computing goes, I will be part of a very small team, that will provide
all of the computing needs for the biologists.  It will be nice to get
more closely involved in biology again.  The genome project is largely
devoid of interesting biology nowadays ironically.  It's all very
reliable and uninteresting reactions.

I had the option of joining a more established company in Boston, but
decided in the end that I was more interested in taking a risk at this
stage of my career.  This company is funded by venture capitalists and
I may be looking again in 12 months if this whole thing doesn't work
out.  In terms of risk, I am still getting an incredible increase in
real pay to move, so I am not terribly worried.  If it does succeed,
then there is a chance that I will be much better off.  In short, it's
a risk that just had to be taken.  Under the circumstances, I had
pretty good reasons for wanting to get away from Cambridge anyway,
although I am really going to miss it.  It's a very beautiful place,
as I'm sure I've told you before!

Life is pretty crazy at work at the moment.  The large number of
pharmaceutical companies currently looking for bioinformatics people
is really taking its toll on staff levels.  Approximately half my
section is currently leaving, left, or considering going.  It's rather
sad, because things aren't really that bad, the environment is
wonderful, and some really nice work is still going on there.  In the
short-term though, they have a big problem.  I am trying to leave a
couple of projects in a good state when I go, and am basically working
too hard as usual.  It's like being a parent sometimes, and when your
"children" are heading out into the real world, it's hard to let go.

if anyone knows of a nice, cheap apartment in San Francisco, please
let me know!  It's a complete nightmare finding accommodation in that
city.  I have decided to try to live in San Francisco, and commute to
Berkeley by some means each day.  I think San Francisco would be a
nicer place to live and meet people, although I could be wrong.  Just
reading stories about people trying to rent in San Francisco is really
quite scary.  One guy turned down U.S. $1000 that was offered if he
would not rent a place (by the people who got there second :( ).  I
would also like two bedrooms, for when you all come and visit :)  A
view would be a bonus, and parking wonderful.

 Otherwise, I have been in a state of denial regarding moving.  Apart
from drawing up the obligatory list of things to do, I have been too
caught up in social things in Cambridge to get much done.  It's also
hard not knowing if the visa will come through in time, so it feels
premature sticking things in boxes, although I really need to start
doing this if my possessions are to arrive on time.  In terms of
keeping in touch with me, this email address will keep on working, and
I will send out contact details later.  A few of you still have my old
English address as well, so you should at least update it to:

10 Cambanks,
Union Lane,

 although, that will be old pretty soon too.  I plan to rent the flat
out when I go, which is ok, although it's just one more thing that has
to be done.


life has generally been pretty eventful lately.  Travelling all over
the planet in December/January was hard work.  I was perpetually tired
and jet-lagged, although I can't complain, as I had a very nice time.
I have really valued my friends both here and back home in Australia
(and the ones in between :)  it's been hard sometimes to reestablish
my identity without Katriona (the voice recognition software still
remembers her :)  and good times with friends makes a big difference.
I have also tried counseling recently and that has been helpful,
although I generally feel that I am coping with things pretty well.  I
even managed to have a nice evening for Valentine's day recently.  It
won't do any harm moving to Berkeley either.  At least the weather
will be nicer.  It's been rather awful lately over here.  Generally
cold, grey and windy, although I imagine that sounds pretty attractive
to most people living in Melbourne at the moment :) 


 I won't give you a blow by blow description of my holiday, but some
of the highlights are worth reporting.  If you haven't done it
already, spending some time in the Victorian Alps is definitely worth
while.  It was just stunningly beautiful and I have some spectacular
photographs from various walks up there.  Revisiting the caves in
Buchan was good as well, although I am now on a diet having got quite
stuck twice trying to get into a previously accessible cave :(  I
squeezed in eventually, but it was quite a sobering experience.  I
guess the English life-style is more dangerous than I thought it was!

I don't want to make you paranoid, but it was definitely interesting
to see people after some time away.  It's like time-elapse
photography.  I'm sure that you noticed differences in me, and it was
also reassuring to see that some things hadn't changed.  I walked back
into my graduate (Ph.D) office and logged back in, and it was almost
as if I had never left :)    As if to correct this anomaly, the
chemistry department has just rectified that by taking over the office
this month :( 

Other highlights include ice skating in San Francisco (I can't ice-state :),
rollerblading in Sydney, and flying over Denver.  That may seem like
an unusual combination, but they were definitely the moments for me.
It was also pretty inspiring to see just what was happening at various
genome centers around the world.  I visited places in the Bay area,
Seattle, St. Louis and Boston.  People are definitely getting the job
done.   It was strange being back in England again, and feeling like I
had come home.  There is definitely something comfortable about a day
to day life that you can miss after a while.  I had kept in touch with
people pretty much (bless the Internet) including one memorable
evening in an Internet cafe called the Speak-Easy in Seattle that made
the most wicked iced Mocha :)  but it's always nice to enjoy a little
mundane existence once in a while.

Enough rambling.  Questions will be answered, apologies if I haven't
answered my email lately.  There are over 200 pieces outstanding :( I
will make an effort before I leave to get through them all sigh.