My story picks up on the dairy farming story given by Rob weeks ago. I grew up on a small farm in rural Michigan. Michigan is in the United States, up near the Canadian border. If you ever meet anybody from Michigan they will lift up their hand - because Michigan is said to be shaped like a mitten surrounded by the Great Lakes. You can always remember those Great Lakes because their first letter spells out the name HOMES: Lake Huron, Ontario,
Michigan, Erie and Superior.
I grew up in a tiny little farm of about 180 acres about 73 hectares right in the middle of the map. The nearest town was about 40 km away and was smaller than Taree, and is much smaller now for the same reasons that Rob talked about.
 
 
We had about 12 cows, prize Durac Hoggs, chooks, rabbits, kittens and a dog. This is my sister Barbara riding the pig. Mom and Dad and I’m  on  the tractor. Dad would lift me up and put me on the seat because I was too tiny to do anything but hold onto the steering wheel and keep the tractor moving forward. Dad would hop on at  the end of the row and turn the tractor around and I would steer it to the other end of the row. We all pitched in on the farm. That’s where that word pitched comes from, pitching hay.
Rotary has a mission of community service. We pitched in there too. Dad was first to fix any doors, railings or whatever needed fixing at the local school. At community events, mom dressed as Pockets the Clown and kid surrounded her for lollies and cuddles. They supported Vietnamese migrants coming to the United States after the Vietnam War, taking in a family.
Mom and Dad didn’t have a lot of education but they taught us to read and write and our numbers before we went to school. Barbara and I were supposed to wash evening dishes while Mom and Dad went out to milk the cows.
We had about 12 cows, prize Durac Hoggs, chooks, rabbits, kittens and a dog. This is my sister Barbara riding the pig. Mom and Dad and I’m on the tractor. Dad would lift me up and put me on the seat because I was too tiny to do anything but hold onto the steering wheel and keep the tractor moving forward. Dad would hop on at the end of the row and turn the tractor around and I would steer it to the other end of the row. We all pitched in on the farm. That’s where that word pitched comes from, pitching hay. Rotary has a mission of community service. We pitched in there too. Dad was first to fix any doors, railings or whatever needed fixing at the local school. At community events, mom dressed as Pockets the Clown and kid surrounded her for lollies and cuddles. They supported Vietnamese migrants coming to the United States after the Vietnam War, taking in a family. Mom and Dad didn’t have a lot of education but they taught us to read and write and our numbers before we went to school. Barbara and I were supposed to wash evening dishes while Mom and Dad went out to milk the cows.
Why mathematics?
Haven’t we all looked at the infinity of stars in the night sky, and were attracted to its mysteries. I can remember learning to count, 8+1 is nine,
9+1 is 10, 10+ one is 11,… And realizing that the numbers went on forever and I could always add one and get another. Mom was religious, and I am also. When she talked about living forever in heaven, as a tiny child I think I equated that heavenly forever with the foreverness of numbers. There was a mystery there.
Mathematics is mysterious. It is logical and you can prove things. For example, if we agree that parallel lines go on forever and do not cross, we can use that to prove there are 180 degrees in a triangle. Math is practical. We wouldn’t have mobile phones or modern medicine without math. I like math but have always found it difficult. That is another part of my personality -- enjoying a challenge.
Using scholarships and working part-time, I received a Masters degree at Louisiana State University and later a PhD at Cornell University in Ithaca New York. Ithaca is about five hours away from New York City. It is nicknamed Mooo U of the Ivy League because it’s out there with the cows. I was glad to be in the countryside. I’ll always be a farm girl in my heart.
I was at National University for about a dozen years, on track to become President of a small university somewhere, when I met Mike through mutual mathematics friends. We wanted to work together and travel together, so I changed direction and entered the field of computer science and algorithms.
I married while I was in Louisiana, and then lived for a while in Mississippi, before moving to New York where I had my son Jimmy. The reason we are in Old Bar is to be near Jimmy and his surfer bride Mel, and the four adorable grandchildren: Ocean James, Island Frances after me, Reef Joshua, and Shell Jane. Di has taught them all how to decorate cakes. Everyone in the family surfs.
I served on many committees for the Mathematics Association of America. The annual meetings host about 5000 mathematicians, and back then there
was still a lot of discrimination against women. A couple girlfriends and I bravely established a Skit Program that depicted true grievances against
women that had taken place between the last meeting and the current meeting, only the names changed to protect the guilty.
We recruited brave men and women mathematicians who came on stage and acted out the little skits. The auditorium was full, and the laughter was uproarious as people recognized themselves in the skits. The program lasted for over ten years, and Major changes have been made in the Math Association since then, and I do believe the skits played a role.
After Mike and I married we moved to Wellington New Zealand and were later recruited to the University of Newcastle in Australia. I was delighted because I love Australia’s big blue skies. At the University of Newcastle, we were at the beginning of the Science and Engineering Challenge, and I am sure we visited Taree.
Australia has another Challenge called the Bebras Challenge, meaning beaver in the Lithuanian language. This is an online math challenge given out to schools once or twice a year. I spoke with the founder of Bebras when she visited the University of Bergen. She was so enthusiastic, that I was encouraged to start the Bebras Challenge in Norway. That challenge is in about 40 countries.
While at Newcastle, Barney Glover, head of research was our boss. When Barney became Chancellor at Charles Darwin University, he invited us to follow him there. In 2013, I wrote a grant proposal and received $50,000 from Australia Google, and other money from Australia mathematics and from CDU, to establish what we named the “Creative Mathematical Sciences Communication” conference series, with the purpose of creating innovative activities to encourage kids in computer science and math.
The new area of research founded by Mike, is called: Parameterized Complexity. Complexity refers to the amount of resources required to run an algorithm or computer program, such as the amount of time it takes and memory requirements. It may seem surprising, but many problems take too long for us to wait around for, even on the fastest machines. 
Problems are made up of lots of features or parameters. For example, if we want a robot to pack boxes into a shipping container, parameters might be
length, width, height, weight, maybe the value of each box. Isolating parameters can help in the design of faster algorithms.
It is easier for people to understand the new technology face to face, so Mike and I have been invited around the world to give workshops on parameterized complexity and on math for kids. We visited the University of Bergen many times. After Barney left Charles Darwin University to become the Chancellor of Western Sydney University, the University of Bergen beckoned us.
We are in Bergen about eight months of the year, and then return to the Lucky Country. I breathe deep as we crest the hill, coming on the highway towards Taree from the South, looking across that gorgeous, vast Manning Valley, Brothers in the distance. It always makes me think of what Mae West once said: “Too much of a good thing is… Wonderful.”
Thank you. - Frances
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