Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Painter's contemplations


Painter: Daddy, what's inside our bodies?

What's inside our bodies? Well, there are all sorts of things: there's blood, and bones... and muscles, and organs... why do you ask?

Painter: Well, I was hitting my leg with a rock... and I was wondering if I'd put a hole in my leg.

Me: Oh... well, do you want to see some pictures of what's inside our bodies?

Painter: Yeah.

So, we did a brief stint on the internet, then I called in the big dogs and cracked out an old Biopsychology and an Evolutionary Biology textbook. Never too young to get him started, right? He was fascinated with all the pictures of cells and dendrites and myelin, and especially the drawings and pictures of brains. Oh... and he especially liked the drawings of cats. They've got brains and cells too, you know.

One more shot with the Leprechaun

Dear Leprechaun,

I want to reiterate my willingness to teach any course needed in [Field 1] this coming year. I am prepared to teach courses in [listing of numerous areas in Field 1], as appropriate to my preparation and training.

I'm open to discuss any and all possibilities with you for the coming year. Recent teaching experience is perhaps the weakest link in my CV, which I wish to remedy, and seek your assistance as a recent graduate.

Attached is my current CV. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to discuss this matter.

I thank you for your consideration and continuing support,


Patience and Persistence

The following exchange took place with the editor of the journal that published my most recent article. Martin Chauffeur is an emeritus professor in [Field 1], and an early innovator toward [Real Interdisciplinary Focus]. He was a dean at the time at one of the schools I didn't get accepted to for doctoral work, but was supportive and encouraging then, and on the few occasions we have spoken or corresponded since. He is also a member of [SII] which I've written about here before.
Hi Martin,

On a more personal note than our recent correspondence: The current job search has been among the most frustrating events of my life. I never thought I'd have such difficulty landing a post within the academy. Yet there I am. Recently, I let my [Field 1 College Society] membership lapse, and am struggling with the choices I now face. I recall that you were once an officer of the [F1CS]. Perhaps I should renew, and regain access to the [Field 1 Faculty Posting List], but I just haven't brought myself to do it yet. (I do have other sources for job postings, so I'm not entirely out of the loop). Adding insult to injury, my membership fee to [F1CS] is higher now that I've graduated (though I have no income) than it was when I was a student under fellowship.

I've diligently applied for every seemingly potentially appropriate post in the past couple years, well over 100 in all, perhaps 55 this year alone. I've applied for faculty posts in [Field 1], and a couple each in [Field 2] and [Interdisciplinary Field], one-year sabbatical replacements, post-docs in [Field 3] and brain imaging. The fact that there have only been two or three postings in [Real Interdisciplinary Focus] proper during the past three years, has made it all the more difficult. Perhaps there is more that [SII] could do to support professional development in our field? I've even considered returning to school for yet one more degree (a second Master's or a second PhD). I've gotten very close at times, but each time I've ended up back where I started.

Patience, I hear, is the key. Far easier to intellect than to accept. In any case, any advice or comments you might offer would be most welcome.

Yours in confidence,
Hi Articulate,

I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the job market. This isn't the first time I've heard about the problem from a young colleague, including a few of my own doctoral advisees. In fact one of my earliest doctoral advisees had a terrible time on the job market: no nibbles for two years. I think her experience was similar to yours in several important ways: she was very bright and capable, and had gone through her doctoral program on a multi-year research fellowship--which allowed her to begin building up a pretty decent beginning research and publication record, but which unfortunately also meant that she didn't do any teaching as a TA. This put her into the market without a record of successful college-level teaching, where she was competing with peers who had a record of up to 5 years of teaching college courses. The happy ending to the story is that she received two job offers simultaneously after persisting for that two-year dry spell.

I hope you won't mind if I give you a couple of suggestions, which you're of course free to accept or ignore. The first would be to do whatever you can to begin building a longer record of successful college-level teaching any way you can manage. Your CV makes a strong impression in the area of research, but comes across as comparatively light in the teaching area, particularly at The University of Paradise. Part of this may be in the presentation of the teaching record: there are 6 teaching items in the CV for UoP, but 5 of the 6 state that you were a "guest lecturer." Does that mean that you presented a single guest lecture within a course, or did you teach the entire course with "guest lecturer" the job title? If the former, it's of immense value for you to make it clear that you taught the entire course. Can you draw more attention to your teaching experience at [The Community College I taught at before the PhD]? For example, if you were working as a teaching assistant, I'd mention that; if you had 100% responsibility for lesson planning, grading, etc., I'd certainly mention that.

My $0.02 worth here is that I probably wouldn't consider going after yet another degree UNLESS I could wrangle a teaching assistantship/associateship in the process. The teaching record at your stage of the career is vital. If you can't get the assistantship, is there some way that you could convince an administrator (in [Field 2], in [Field 1], or even in a related area) at UoP to give you the opportunity to teach an overload section on a non-continuing contract?

Incidentally, the CV doesn't specify your bachelor's degree . . . date, where it was obtained, major. I've seen too many bright, promising young colleagues become dispirited when they experience what you've been going through, and I can't emphasize enough that patience and persistence are absolutely critical right now. One of the [Field 1/Subfield 2] TAs I supervised at [Former University] saved the rejection letters he received during the 18 months after he completed his Ph.D. When he finally got his first position he had a cook-out, and burned all of the rejection letters (all 500+ of them!) in the charcoal grill. He's now holding a named professorship. I know it's a cliche, but it's true: the first position is always the toughest one to get.

It is clear that he took the time to carefully read my CV which is encouraging. To answer some of his concerns: The five of six teaching gigs at UoP that note "guest lecturer" were just that, one day of teaching each. The sixth was a course I proposed, designed, and taught entirely on my own. My teaching at the community college was as a fully-entrusted adjunct during the 6 semesters I taught there, responsible for all aspects of the courses I taught, including text selection, and all matters of designing and executing the syllabi. Now, as for my bachelor's degree... hmmm. I graduated (in the seventh year of my undergraduate career) with a general studies degree from a school of continuing studies, at the R1 university I had been attending. While I had been an undergraduate in [Field 1] at that university, at a certain point, with about 50% more units than were necessary for a degree, though they were scattered across numerous disciplines, I decided to simply apply and graduate. Before I finished the last class (whic was taking through distance-learning), I began my Master's program in [Field 1]. I guess I ought to simply list it, no matter.

Meantime, it's patience and persistence for me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yesterday's lunch


I enjoyed our lunch yesterday. Seems like investigating the real [behavior] of real people is a pioneering area. So many directions it could go.

I want to thank you for telling me about [program relevant to our shared research interests]. I flipped through it today, and it looks really useful. Might take some getting used to, but the instructions seem clearer than most. I'm going to try it as soon as I get a chance.

In light of Trillwing's recent discussion of anonymity, I fully realize that what follows may put my own in jeopardy. Though, I also recognize that I am not so completely anonymous here. I have revealed myself to some of you, and others of you have surmised from my not so subtle hints ways of unveiling me (like my erstwhile armchair psychoanalyst, nom-de-plume someone wishing you better, who has continued to visit my sites, and clearly knows who I am). As my friend Trillwing points out however, it is ever difficult to discuss one's research, even if only obliquely, without revealing bits of one's identity. Yet, my research is inextricably entwined with my life, and my being. In any case, I am not ashamed nor jealous of who I am, so while I maintain the semblance of anonymity here, I tread this path without fear.

Harry Strope was the fourth reader on my dissertation committee, the only to provide substantive commentary, and the one member of my committee (though ostensibly the "outside reader") whose work and interests were closest to my own. He is an emeritus member of the faculty in my [Field 2] host department, in fact he was the one who suggested I pursue a Visiting Scholar post here. Over the years, we have had numerous lunches together, informal meetings at which we hash out research ideas, and just enjoy each other's company.

He is charming and delightful, in his own no-nonsense, down-to-earth way. I value his opinion highly. I am inspired by his ideas, and believe that his approval is far more valuable to me (at least in terms of intellectual honesty) than any search committee member's. In some ways, he is a throw back to an older scholarship methodologically, but one to which I am fully committed. To put it simply, he has dedicated much of his professional life to an empirical, observational approach, in the face of trends toward hypothesis-driven experimentalism. My dedication to this approach is in recognition that certain questions simply cannot be meaningfully engaged before a sufficient quantity of observation has been obtained. That is to say, experiments simply cannot answer all meanigful questions, despite the pretense that the scientific method absolutely requires a priori hypotheses.

At the ethologist Frans de Waal (2001) eloquently put it:
The urge of behavioral scientists to proceed in a straight line from theory to data, hence presenting themselves as more naive to the truth than they actually are, derives from a desire to be like physics, a science that has reached the lofty stage of armchair prediction. …

It is unclear whether the behavioral sciences will ever reach the point when logically derived predictions drive progress. Behavior is more variable than the dance of photons, and its explanation involves multiple layers, from the physiological to the mental. We cannot afford to look through a single pair of glasses; we need lots of different glasses to see reality. Theories do assist in this effort, by guiding our attention and making large amounts of data graspable, but they also induce selective blindness (182).
de Waal, F. (2001). The Ape and the Sushi Master. New York: Basic Books.

In this context, I was not particularly put-off by the following response to my recent article submission (though I was quite pleased with their speed):
Dear Dr. Dad,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript [Title] to [Field 2 Journal].

As part of our standard review process, and before recruiting external referees, the editors normally examine articles for completeness and for appropriateness to the Journal. [Field 2 Journal] tends to publish hypothesis-driven empirical research related to [disciplinary subfields]. Although the topic of your paper is of potential interest to our readers, we find that it is not particularly empirical or hypothesis-driven.

Consequently, we will not be able to consider your manuscript for publication in [Field 2 Journal]. We are sorry that we cannot bring you better news.

Sincerely Yours,

[The Editors]
Indeed, it wasn't an empirical paper in itself, rather an expository one, pointing out cross-disciplinary connections that might otherwise be overlooked, and discussing potentials for future research. It was in that way a theoretical paper, rather than an empirical one. Perhaps it simply isn't the right venue for the paper. Or maybe the paper itself simply isn't "publishable" in its present form. No matter. It was worth the effort to seek feedback. Now I have a better sense of what the editors of this journal are seeking. Though I confess to a small inner chuckle raised by their allusion to hypothesis-driven research, as a conference paper I gave a few years ago, critical of some rather prominent research in my real interdiscipline, took the title "Hypothetical Universe," intent to point out the over-reliance on their hypothesis, in the absence of any real-world empirical data to support it.

New news update

Okay, seems like it was a false alarm. The Rocket Scientist has been having a terrible time with this decision. It has been hers, all along, as I have made clear to her, though I have made every effort to be her mirror, reflecting her thoughts, desires, concerns, hopes, fears, amplifying here, obscuring there, adding additional considerations, as necessary.

Yesterday morning, there were some rumors floating about at her work that more layoffs were to be expected, that certain (or all) current projects were slated to be moved to a larger facility a few hours away. She was nervous, or at least concerned. She later spoke with some people in positions to know. It seems that what she heard from them was sufficient to allay her concerns.

She spoke with HR at RC today. Would any amount of money make the difference? I've gotten authorization... No, not really, not at this time. It's just a matter of timing. The work sounds quite interesting. I would love to work at Rocket Central. But the timing isn't right for us as a family. Alright, well, if circumstances change... obviously we'd need to have a position open, but you've certainly not burned any bridges.

Wow! What I wouldn't give to be in her shoes right now. But then... I grin just thinking about her success. I'm glad just to be by her side, as she sails along. Her Honey, I'm home kiss tonight was... quite passionate, shall we say. Her toast at dinner: to steering our ship together. Indeed. I'm quite the lucky one, even as co-pilot.

Everything will work out. I know. One way or another, this ship is ours to sail.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another one down

I submitted another electronic submission today to a [Field 2] journal this time. Again it was short (about 3000 words), but pithy. It was a theoretical paper, describing the relevance and impact of particular work in one subfield of [Field 2] on work that straddles [Field 1] and [Field 2] studies. This was a revision of a paper I wrote a few years ago, but never submitted. One more done. More to come.

New News/Old Plan?

Noch einmal bitte?

Layoffs may be expected
Jumping ship?

Details at 11:00!

New adventures of Dr. Dad

Tomorrow morning around 4:30 am, the au pair gets on a shuttle to the nearest international airport, for a two week trip back home to Germany. We've been driving her crazy with the back and forth about moving or staying, but she's surviving it, and will stick with us another year, wherever we end up. Sent the large payment (annual fee) to the agency a couple days ago. At least it's only about half what we paid them the first year, making it probably less costly (not to mention better for all involved) than sending the boys to daycare. And, as a bonus, my wife and I can have a date night most weeks. For the next two weeks then, I'm on daddy duty, full-time.

I'm actually in a rather good mood now. I'm feeling less despair at my circumstance, and feeling more like we are steering our own ship. The discussions of the past few days have helped to clarify for me and the Rocket Scientist just what is most important in our lives. Although I still seek that modicum of satisfaction in my professional life, the sense in all its crudeness that someone somewhere would be willing to pay me to do what I am best at doing, and which I believe is worthy and to the benefit of society, I am not desperate to take whatever comes along.

We don't know what the next few months, or even the next year or two, will bring. But I am done waiting. I will write, and present, and draft proposals. I will continue, even ramp up, my efforts to find a suitable position for me, and seek the path that will work for my family as well. I have realized in the past week, that while I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a weekly commute, it's far far from ideal, and an option that I would seek strongly to avoid. Yes, that limits our options. But then, the task is for us to find the way. We shall.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Painter's welcome

Just had to share this: The Painter was at his chalk drawing the other day on the front stoop. If you're clever, you might just surmise from his "short name" what long name might give rise to his epithet. Of course, since there are probably no more than a dozen Americans with the same first name, I'm not about to give it away.

Note the copyright symbols, and the mirrored writing. Every bit of this was his own invention. By the way, the lower bumps are "cheeks" and the line on the bottom is a "chin". I was truly flabbergasted, and fatherly pleased.

Two words... already

I'm so proud. The little Inventor this morning picked up a water bottle from the wine rack (we keep wine only on the bottom shelf these days) and carried it over to me, exclaiming "open ... water". Not even 21 months. I was impressed. :) Articulate, that one.

Another feeler

Dear John,

I am currently seeking post-doctoral research opportunities to continue my focus on [Field 1] and [Field 2] studies. I'm sure we've met at SII or [International conference] over the years. I also met [one of your graduate students] in [European City] a couple years ago at [Interdisciplinary Field 1 Conference]. Please let me know if there are any possible opportunities to work with you at Hurricane Magnet U.

I have several projects underway or in preparation which may be of interest to you. The first is my [Longitudinal Project], which I expect to begin preliminary data gathering for this fall. [Description of the project]. A draft proposal can be found at [URL].

Next, I have an outstanding NEH grant under consideration [Description of the project]. The proposal for that can be located at [URL].

Finally, I am engaged in [Field 2 project description], and to compare my findings with [focus of my dissertation].

In any case, I look forward to hearing from you regarding possibilities.

Best regards,

Hi Articulate,

Yes [Grad Student] and I remember you. How are you? We would be interested in getting you here, of course.

I don't have any postdoc lines available right now, but I have 3 grants in ... so there are possibilities.

What is your time frame?

I am leaving on sabbatical one week from today. I'll be at [big name school in our interdiscipline]... but you can send me email at this address.

Could you send me your vita?


Back to square one

I wrote a couple of days ago that we had decided to move. As Gene Wilder (in the original "Willie Wonka") would say "scratch that... reverse it."

Um... yeah, well... see, we've moved and returned a dozen times in our heads over the past week. But I think this time, it's pretty much decided. We're going to stay, for now. The Rocket Scientist and I went with the boys to Rocket City on Saturday (it's about a two-hour drive from Paradise). My wife and I took another trip today by ourselves, to look around neighborhoods, check out houses for sale, compare to rentals, etc.

There's one neighborhood we adore, filled block after block with 80-100 year old crafstman bungalows, like the one we used to own. We would love to live there. Problem is, it's a terrible time to buy a house right now, especially in that market. The asking price on houses in that neighborhood is more than twice the price we sold our old house for (comparable to the ones in that neighborhood). Let's say they're over-priced (of course they are!), even taking loaction into account. But by how much? When will the market come crashing down? Most importantly, how could we risk purchasing a home now, when we can't be sure we'd even keep it beyond a year?

Ah... there's the rub. I've got little here and nothing there, nothing yet at least. The job would be different for my wife, possibly more interesting, most likely a bit more secure, than her current position. But the question keeps coming back to this: do the potential benefits outweigh the accompanying difficulties? Our real goal is to find a locale where we can both meaningfully pursue our chosen careers, someplace we could reasonably expect to stay for at least 3-5 years. That's not here in Paradise, but it doesn't seem to be Rocket City either.

So, we're back to square one. In sailing, there's an expression: when in doubt, let it out. Perhaps the one we've adopted in life is: when in doubt, hang about. No, we're not entirely cautious by nature, nor would we wish to be. But here, for now, we're limber, we're free. Any and all obligations have been fulfilled. We could make any decision at any time, to pack up and leave, then we're off. If we go to Rocket City, we're owned for the next 12 months, or we'd need to repay all the relocation benefits, which last I checked are a hefty sum. If we bought a house, we'd be locked into that. If we rented, we'd have a lease.

Here, we've remained past the 12 months requisite for the past relocation, and we've lived in our house past the 12-month lease (we're month to month now). If I get an offer somewhere, and my wife can find meaningful work in the vicinity, we could leave in a month.

In the end, Rocket Central would be a good place for my wife to work... but the timing is just not right, the circumstances are not quite embracing. And you know, Paradise ain't half bad a place to be stuck for a time. We're determined not to regret this decision. It's been a hard one to make. But we made it together. And for that, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Been trying for days!

Blogger is doing something REALLY SCREWY. I've been having trouble logging into my account for a couple days now. Wow, just a fluke, but I got on. We'll see how it goes. But just know, I haven't been avoiding you folks. There's so much to say here. I'll try to get some words in later. Bedtime now for the boys.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The saga continues

Dear Patrick,

I was told that email is perhaps the best way to contact you. My wife and I are considering a relocation to the area, for her to accept a position at Rocket Central.

I am quite interested to discuss with you the possibility of some sort of affiliation with your group at Rocket U. Currently, I am a postdoc in [Field 2] at the University of Paradise. I received my PhD in [Field 1] and [Interdisciplinary Field] a year ago. I was pleased to read of your brain and humanities work, and believe it would be a good match for my interests and background.

Attached is my current CV. For more details about my research and activities, take a look at my website [URL].

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Hi Articulate, sorry for being so hard to get in touch with-it's been one of those summers (a large grant and a book project have made for an especially busy time). I would enjoy discussing the possibility of an affiliation etc., with you. My limitation at this point is that I'm a bit over-committed already in terms of my funding, so I don't have any funds in the group for positions. If you're in need of funding, you might also want to inquire with some of the other groups, such as Anton Rolio, who works on emotions and is also interested in brain-humanities links.


Great, Pat,

Thanks for the reply. I understand about busy. The life of a post-doc as you know is in fits and spurts. I will try to contact Anton Rolio as well. My principal motivation in reaching you at the moment was to ascertain what sort of welcome might exist for my work there. If nothing else, an open door might provide us some fodder for negotiating with Rocket Central. I don't know what sorts of support are available through them or the university, but it's possible there's startup funding around for spousal affiliation, which might bridge me through until I can obtain a grant or something. I've got an NEH proposal under consideration now, but I won't hear until December. Meantime, I'll be working up others as well.

Dear Anton,

Pat Crystal suggested I contact you. I'm currently a post-doc in [Field 2] at the University of Paradise where I received my PhD a year ago in [Field 1] and [Interdisciplinary Field]. My research focuses on the x and y of z. While my background and research focus is on p rather than q, there's a great deal of crossover, via the expression and comprehension of emotions, between my work and yours.

My wife has been offered a position at Rocket Central, thus I'm pursuing appropriate opportunities for me in the area. The brain and humanities research at Rocket U. makes an affiliation there quite attractive to me. I'm eager to learn what more I can about brain imaging and cognitive neuroscience. I've read the literature, but it's not the same as hands-on experience. I'd be pleased for the chance to discuss possibilities with you.

Attached is my CV. For more information about my research and activities, take a look at my research website [URL] .

One project I'm planning to get started this fall is [longitudinal study, along with brief description]. A draft proposal for the project can be found at [URL].

I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Articulate, I think there's a lot of potential fits between your research and the research interests of people involved in humanities-brain links at Rocket U. You may also want to get in touch with Tam Suzuki, who is a faculty member in the [Not-really-up-my-alley] program, as he has broad interests along these lines as well.

I'm out of town this weekend in Southern City, but am back next week if you're around, or we could chat via phone. In general, the brain imaging research community at Rocket U. is very open and so would be welcoming to your research interests.

Dear Articulate,

I've now had a chance to look over your CV and website and discuss things with people here. Unfortunately, I don't think that I could offer you a position in my lab. There are two main reasons for this: I'm already pretty much full (both space and funding-wise), and your background does not have sufficient math, programming, and biology so that it would be quite difficult to do studies of the kind my lab is involved in (which require those background skills). Otherwise, your work indeed sounds fascinating, and I wish I had the resources to branch out to encompass it, but at this stage I do not.

With best wishes,

Meantime, the Rocket Scientist has talked with HR at RC. Their take is maybe spousal support is commonplace in academia, but they've got nothing to offer. The letter from Rolio was a bit of a downer on a rather marvelous couple days. No matter. It's not going to get me down. I am going to start my longitudinal study willy-nilly once we're settled (oh... didn't I say?, we've decided to move). I'm going to continue working up abstracts and talks for conferences. I'm going to continue to submit articles for publication. I have quite a backlog of talks and papers to re-edit and send off. And I'm going to get moving again on both the NEH proposal work, and another [Field 2] project that I started earlier this year, but haven't done much with for a few months.

Damn it! I'm here to stay, whatever it takes. And if I become an independent scholar, so be it. Get Famous! That's my motto now.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Submitted, today

I clicked send. It was an article I had submitted a couple years ago to another journal [Field 1/subfield 1]. This time I submitted it to a [Field 1/subfield 2] journal, where perhaps it better fits. It's a short one, in stark contrast to my most recent 20,000+ words publication, under 5000 words this time. It's a theoretical paper, simple and direct, addressing some definitions of terms essential for clear methodological choices in the field.

The earlier submission had been the second one to this particular second-tier journal in my field. The first had been an exposition of a relatively new domain of research (which had been the subject of the panel I had organized in Belgium). It was rejected out of hand, which quite discouraged me. The second article had been submitted after a former professor of mine had taken over the helm as editor. He was polite, but thought it wasn't ripe enough to be published, and that possibly the fuller version might be more appropriate for certain other journals.

I can't say I have a high confidence level that the article will be accepted without major revisions, but I wanted to get something out there. Hopefully, I'll get some good feedback even if it is rejected. And, with a little luck, I'll get a "revise and resubmit" order, giving me some drive to move ahead.

There's always more to be done. I'm still coasting in neutral, wondering which way to turn, which path to tread. I feel like I'm almost capable of lurching in any number of directions, successfully landing on the best option. But that almost keeps staring me in the face.

And, on a somewhat unrelated subject: we still haven't fully decided to move. Last night, my wife and I began drafting a response to the offer from Rocket Central. We've largely settled on the tack that we should at least make it clear that the only way she could commit to being there for the long haul would be if I were to land some sort of a post to continue my work in [Field 1] & [Field 2] studies. They are affiliated with (administered by) a University. There must be options.

One thing I realized last night, in conversation with my wife, was the following scenario:
  • She accepts the offer at RC.
  • We move, accepting the relocation benefits, which require her to remain for at least a year.
  • I remain without strong or permanent affiliation, thus continue to actively pursue research and faculty opportunities.
  • I receive an offer for employment somewhere (either where she can also work, or because the post is so ideal I can't turn it down)
  • Then I'm left with either having to accept an offer, without the ability for my wife to pursue employment in the area at least until she'd fulfilled her promise, or being inclined to turn it down because of the difficulties it would present to our family life. Would I be able to accept a post under those circumstances, where I would either need to commute (possibly a great distance) for an uncertain period of time?
The point is, our main goal at the moment is to find a place to settle (at least for 3-5 years) where we can both pursue our careers. Further, one of the attractions of the possible move is the prospect of buying a house again. Yet the housing market in that area is still greatly inflated, and itching for a crash. If we bought, we'd have to buy low (meaning offers significantly below asking, and the likelihood of a long home search).

Such is the life of a family.

The planet is achanging

In other news, Pluto becomes a "dwarf planet," along with Ceres and Xena.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's time

Dear [Field 1 Acquisitions Editor for Publisher],

It's been a while since we met in Belgium at [International Field 1 Conference] to discuss possibilities regarding [Subject of a Conference Panel I had organized and chaired]. I'm now finished with my PhD and well-ensconced as a post-doctoral researcher in the area of [Field 1] & [Field 2] Studies, including the study of [conference panel subject]. I wanted to make contact with you again, as I am now prepared and committed to dedicate a good deal of time to writing, and would like to discuss the possibility of publishing my work with [Publisher].

The first prospect is my dissertation, [Title], which focuses on [Topic], dealing both with the historical matters of [specific historical focus] as well as more timeless questions regarding perception and the relationship of [Field 1] to [Field 2]. (The complete document can be downloaded from [URL] on my PRW. The target audience is scholars in [Field 1/subfield 1] and [subfield 2] interested in 19th & 20th Century subjects, including [interdisciplinary area] and [Field 2 scholars] involved with the [Field 2 focus area]. An abbreviated and updated version of this work was recently published as the lead article in [Journal Name] and can be found online at: [Journal URL]

The timing is perfect to publish this as a book, as two separate related projects are currently underway by [European Country where I did my Fulbright year] scholars: the first by the [Foundation Name] to publish a complete edition of [focus of the dissertation]; the second by a group at [University] and the [Archives] to digitize the entire collection, facilitating further research. In addition, I am encouraged that [Field 1] & [Field 2] Studies is a fast emerging area of research.

There are several upcoming conferences in 2007 which focus on this area. One is at [Big Name Old University] in the UK, next May; another in August is the third Conference on Interdisciplinary [Field 1 studies] to be held in [Northern European Country]. Further, there is increasing interest from [Field 2] and from interdisciplinary groups interested in the cross-sections between [various research areas]. I recently presented a talk at [Conference Name] in Edinburgh, and anticipate giving another such paper at the annual meeting of the German Society of [Field 2] in [German City], this coming Winter.

I am currently engaged in a group of projects, dealing with different aspects of [Field 1] & [Field 2] Studies, each of which I expect to turn into publications. I will shortly begin gathering data for a longitudinal study of the [focus of study] to document and test questions regarding the impact of [data points] on the cognitive development of infants and children, correlating the inputs from earliest life to the children's later [Behaviors]. This is the first such study to include [Field 1] and [Field 2] on an equal footing.

Another project, currently under consideration for a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a follow up to my dissertation work. Using [topic of dissertation] as a jumping off point, I am surveying the history of [subject], and developing a system usable for [Field 1] & [Field 2] in order to best facilitate comparisons across these domains.

One area that I wish to help develop in [Field 1/subfields 1 & 2] studies is the [description of methodological shift]. I gave preliminary presentations of this work at the joint Southern/Nothern California meeting of the SOD, and as the invited speaker for the [Field 2] Colloquium at the University of Paradise both last May. The material under consideration included [description of materials].

Last March, I created a website dedicated to the integrated study of [Field 1] and [Field 2] [URL of PRW], which has steadily received 10-20 visitors a day since inception. I am thus encouraged that a growing audience exists for this work. Attached you will find a current copy of my CV. Please let me know if any of these projects pique your interests and seem appropriate to [Publisher]. I look forward to hearing from you. Perhaps I will see you in November at SOD in [City Name]?

Best regards,


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Not all waiting.

Did more cleaning and "purging" today. Cleared out the back hallway entirely, sorted through a bag full of stuff from my Fulbright year abroad. Finally got that sorted, and tossed what I don't want to keep. Pulled several boxes out of the backmost closet; some scrapbook stuff of my wife's (she can sort that); quite a few pictures that we ought to give away; a box full of old (mostly antique) cameras that my dad had been collecting, that I may be ready to part with now; some odd metal music boxes (also my dad's) that I definitely am ready to part with.

If we do move (which is quite likely) purging will help us become and stay more limber. Can't say how long we'd stay. No telling. At least a year (at least the family would stay the whole time) since my wife's relocation package would require that. It's hard to act "as if" even though I'm not ready to give up the applying. I did some internet searching today, looking into possible corporate positions. My heart is really in the research. I like teaching, but it's simply not in my hands to decide that right now.

So, the research has to be my focus. Is there a place in the corporate world for my research? Don't know. Could I get venture capital or a corporate grant to get moving ahead, with the contract that offers "first right of refusal" to any patentable work? The onus now rests squarely on me to figure all that out. Could be fun. I long most of all these days for a little stability, a little certainty about where I am and where I'm going.

For now... it's patience!

Back in town, ready to move on

Tick tick tick. I feel too much of my life of late has been spent just waiting for something. I'm one of those people who'd rather take the longer route, if it means not having to wait in traffic or at lights. I'm not much of a waiter.

It looks like the decision to move has mostly been made. Mostly, I say, because anything is possible, and because unfortunately, the choice to move is not an ideal one. Ideal would find both me and the Rocket Scientist happily and meaningfully employed in the same geographic area, and allow us to settle down for the next several years, cultivating a garden, building a treehouse with my sons, plugging away in my chosen field.

I've little or nothing to keep me here, but nothing yet in my corner where we're likely going. I will continue to pursue things in many directions at once, even if I've decided to forego an administrative career at this stage in my life. Easy to say when I've chosen not to apply.

Just now, as much as I hate it, I'm waiting. I'm waiting to be sure where we will be in the fall. I'm ready to get started on my longitudinal project, whatever it takes (but it will take a modicum of geographic stability). I just need a place to work, an office of sorts, some quiet and remove. The rest will come. I'll make sure of it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Golden check-in

Here in Golden, visiting friends. Really, really nice. Friends are good. I didn't mention it before, among the things I found in my box of wonders was a Christmas card from 1993 from a friend whom I confess I had forgotten. But, from the letter, we must have been pretty good friends. So, I looked her and her husband up. I found an email, and sent her a blast from the past (without admitting that I really couldn't recall her). She wrote:
Wow! Hi Articulate. I'm totally thrilled to hear from you! I've actually been thinking about trying to track you down were always one of my favorite people at [Final Undergraduate School].
I'm so pleased to be renewing old friendships, even if it'll take me a few contacts to refresh my memory. So many moves, so many friendships faded. It's time for me to renew them, time to replenish my youthful exuberance, my dreams, my passions.

I don't know what the next few years will bring. But I'm determined to not lose myself. Life is just simply too good.

Be well, my friends. Many of you I will meet some day. In the meantime, I will enjoy my trip, and I will find a way to shine brightly again.

Flying to the mountains soon

We'll be leaving for the airport soon. I hate to leave you, my friends, with the down post of yesterday night. I will endeavor to enjoy these days, visiting friends in the mountains and the valley. And I will smile as my wife recounts her own success, and as my friends ask and tell about life.

Exciting things are afoot. Change is good. Even if we stay (the decision is ours alone), it is wonderful to be steering our own course, to be standing side by side in this tour of life, and finding direction from outside, even when the storms blow in swirls within.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I wish I knew

I wish I knew how to express my joy and delight in other's success in the face of my own repeated and ignoble failure. I wish I could convey that I truly believe that the triumphs others achieve reflect their own merits and worth, that everything they receive is in measure of all that they contribute, that they indeed deserve it. I don't really want them to feel too overly lucky in comparison. It's not really fair. It's not simply luck. Success is not the result of random chance.

I wish that I could say all those things, and have them be believed, despite the sinking depths of my own despair that the same can not be said on my behalf. I wish I could truly allow others to understand that my own depression (while motivated by circumstance) has little or nothing to do with comparisons to their own opposing circumstance.

I dread to be with friends who I know will ask me, in all good meaning, how things are going, and what I am up to these days. I need to practice the art of talking about others lives without mentioning my own.

Tonight, my wife said that she had hoped I would work with a career coach in part because she feels she can no longer be my counselor. I will fall silent. I am the turtle in my shell. But I will hide myself too much I fear. Perhaps. But maybe I will clamp shut just enough, avoid discussions of the things that bring me down, long enough for the circumstances to possibly change.

It is always up and down. Fake it 'til you make it, I guess.

Decision time

The Rocket Scientist finally got her call back from HR at Rocket Central. She has a verbal offer (they explain they'll put nothing in writing until they have a verbal acceptance and a tentative start date). The offer is basically dead even on salary with what she's pulling in now (though we suspect the cost of living is somewhat cheaper there, at least housing is almost assuredly so).

We head to Denver for about a week tomorrow morning (lots of vacations this summer, much more than I'm accustomed to). So, we'll have time to think. [Anyone in the area want to meet up?]

My gut says, new is good. My head tells me maybe it's time to be out from under the spell of the University of Paradise. Cut the umbilical cord so to speak. There's little here (professionally) to keep me. But there's nothing for me yet there. I've sent out feelers, but I've got nothing in return.

Downside is, we might find ourselves in the same position in a year. Maybe I'll have an offer in hand, and we'd have to consider yet another move, or I'd be commuting to who-knows-where. Yet, that's down the road. It might be the same if we stayed here. I'm always the one who's game for change. The Rocket Scientist is a bit more cautious by nature. In part, it reflects our upbringing. She lived in two homes before she went to college, having moved from a condo into a house when she was about 4. Me? Well, I lived at least 8 different places before college, but bear in mind, I started college at 15. Then I moved another 7 times (we're talking cities here, not households, that'd be about double I guess) before meeting her.

Professionally the decision is hers but I think her leaning in that regard is clearly on the side of change. Her present employer (at least in this location) is making weird moves, leading rumors to fly that they may be shutting down this facility in the next year. Right now, we're in a good position for a move, other than the likelihood that I won't find permanent work in the area, meaning either a commute for me, or another upheaval for the family in a year or so. Who knows?

Decisions decisions.

Another page from the box

Found in the same box of wonders I wrote about yesterday. This is undated, but I'm guessing it was from around 2000-2002, before my first son was born.

The things I want in life
- Close, intimate, honest companionship
- To raise a happy family with the Rocket Scientist
- To give to my family, friends, and community
- Leisure to enjoy the simple pleasures in life:
- good food
- nature
- music
- reading
- theater
- To always be learning
- To be a part of education, and forwarding human knowledge
- To know that my life is a positive mark on the history of humankind
- Good health
- Simple comforts
- expenses without worries
- comfortable furniture
- lighting
- plants

Not too much really. And, on most counts, I've succeeded. In any case, I'm not too far off track.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nostalgia, life, and time

First, a poem that I had completely fogotten, and don't recall having written, but whose handwritten form and style is unmistakably mine (undated, but likely from around 1995).
Birth and Old Age
not like the old lady
at a hundred and three,
who stands on her porch,
and smiles...
through the gape in her teeth,
and cackles ...
as only old lades,
at a hundred and three,
can cackle,
at a stranger passing by,
on the walk that fronts her house for the past eighty years,
and says,
with as much a glint
as the eye of an old lady,
at a hundred and three,
can manage to glint,
"You know? Today I am a hundred and three,"
as much to herself,
as to the passerby,
as much of disbelief as belief,
as much to the wood paneling
of her walls for the past eighty years,
as to anything alive,
and falls off silent,
nothing much more to say ...
than that.

not like her.

when I am old,
and I shall stand on my porch,
and glint,
and smile,
and gape,
at a passerby,
unsuspecting of my life
or my intent,
I shall say,
"You know? Today I am a day old,
This is the day I am born!"
My wonderful wife reminded me over the weekend of the full form of the motto we once recited together, the latter half of which I've mentioned here before: Live each day as if it were your first, with the wide-open wondering eyes of a child.

I was cleaning up this weekend. There is a box, in a back hallway, that has been sitting since we moved in, more than a year ago, gathering dust, the top half opened, awaiting my attentions. On top, were oversized x-rays of the progress of my father's invasive bone metasteses from the prostate cancer that slowly killed him, over three excruciating years. I finally put them, gently, into the waste bin. What am I to do with them now?

Underneath, was a box full of papers, writings, essays, letters, poems. I began sorting through them, tossing only but a tiny portion of pages, random notes which have lost their meaning. I spent a good long time rereading letters sent to and received from lovers past. I smiled at it all. The love was true, even if the pain that accompanied those relationships was as well. They formed me as much as any school I attended, or job I held. They are a part of my life. It is good to remember.

And I smiled at my life today as well. I saw in my scribblings from years ago, a desire to be happily settled in a relationship, to have children. Those were goals I had held from my earliest memory. And, I am there on both counts. 38 years is not so old, and yet it is a long time to have gathered experiences and memories. There are so many lives there. Sad, reading over letters received and postcards, there are so many "close friends" whom I have entirely forgotten, unable to draw forth an image of their faces, unable to hear their voices in my head. I read their words, and wonder what ever happened. Why have I forgotten them? Why did I let our friendship fade? Except of course the lovers, whom I recall in vivid detail, despite the time that has passed. I can almost smell them, feel their skin, touch their hair, hear their laughter.

There is something cleansing about reading over an over "I love you" written by different hands. It is validating of its own truth, though past. I do not long for those days, but I am happy I had them, that I was able to share them, to experience them. There is pain in the passions of a teenager and a twenty-something. But there is also glory and wonder. At least for me there was. It is good to remember.

So now we wait. My wife received a voice mail from Rocket Central on Friday, but was unable to reach them after lunch. She should speak to them today. She and I talked and talked, and walked on the beach, and had dinner, and made love, and talked more about today and tomorrow and the next few years, and life, and careers, and family.

Whatever the next few weeks bring should have a major impact on what we do over the next year or two or three. We may choose to stay here, holding out for yet one more season. We'll set our exit strategy in place. We are not stuck. The wheel is firmly in our hands, even if we let loose the sails a bit, to see which way the winds will turn our vessel. The heading is ours to decide, ours to recover if the wind's choice is not to our liking.

Friday, August 11, 2006

As High Valley remains unapplied for


You always have a way to make me smile. Ah... so the grass is always greener on the other side, but the other side keeps shifting positions, eh? As for the dean's post, there's nothing for you to do. They'll contact you if I'm on the short list (assuming I go through with the application).

Sure, it's tough to let go of my ego, to hold onto silence as my friend, to single-mindedly pursue my work in the face of repeated failure to attain what it is I think I seek.

I'm trying to keep that 5-10 year goal in mind. Three years is a long time, at least long if I don't know the direction. To some extent it feels like the last 6 haven't gotten me any closer to my goal. Of course, in sober moments, I know that can't be true... I'm just stuck (for a time) in Xeno's paradox: I'm closer, yet it's still out of reach.

Back to your three-year fellowship. What would I do with my time? Partly, I would work on publications and presentations. I'm doing that, perhaps not as much as I would be, if I could simply let go of my worries.

In part however, the projects I wish to work on (like my [Longitudinal Study]) require a bit more stability than I have at the moment. The [Field 2 project I've been working on periodically since finishing the diss] and my [crossover project (the NEH grant)] are things I could be working on more.

I would like also to hone up my knowledge and experience in brain imaging, with the hope that I can bridge some gaps between the humanities and the sciences. I've read a good deal of the neuroscience literature relevant to x & y studies.

Collaborating with researchers in that domain (even unpaid) would give me more street cred with that crowd, and just as importantly, would help rebuild my confidence level, which I confess has been shot through from the experience of this past year or so. Let go, but keep my eyes open. Maybe that perfect job is just around the corner.

I'm with you Tasse. Thanks for sticking by me. I do wish I better understood the machinations that go into hiring decisions. Even if I let go of worrying now, I do eventually wish to land a post. The Leprechaun paints a picture of fearfully conservative committees rejecting nearly out of hand anything new or unusual. Mike Horowitz says that's how mediocre departments work, but not the outstanding ones. Yet, he adds: "Victory goes to the bull-shitters. Get the job first, then do your work." [SIGH]

Well, I'm here, and I'm staying on the path. I'm too damn stubborn to give up now.

Dear Articulate:

Make your inquiries the center of your professional life. As long as you feel you're learning, and as long as you keep thinking and writing, none of the employment stuff matters. At many of the places you could get hired, you'd "grow old quickly" teaching sections of intro to [Field 1] or elements of [Field 1] for dummies. I know how much you want to find something, but it will come when it will come. You don't want to be like the girl who marries the first guy who looks at her and spends the rest of her life regretting it.

In our fields eventually the work one does speaks for itself. Focus on doing exciting things, try to imagine important journals, etc. etc. and keep moving forwards. Damn man, when you do get your interview, you want to project the notion that you are perfectly happy doing what you are doing, and that while you'd consider their job, you don't need it. You'll be more relaxed, and even more impressive.


Tasse Plein
Professor and Chair, [Field 1]
Big Eastern Private University

(Un-)sheltered childhood

Prof. Me's recent posting got me thinking. I too am a parent who tries not to shelter my sons from reality. I'm the type of father who simply can't resist showing them the way to do things, open cabinets, turn on machinery, even if I know I may regret the results. But I figure knowledge is to be shared, and better they learn under my supervision, so I know they know how to do something, than they discover on their own, while I'm not watching.

She mentioned 9/11/01. I found this note hidden away on my computer. The Painter was but two months into gestation at that point.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

To my yet-unborn child:

I sit here and wonder what kind of world this will be for you to be born into. And yet I know that the world is as it ever has been. And even people are as they have always been. Mostly good, some strong, some weak, a few exceptional in any way. And among those few exceptions, there are those whose actions lead us to conclude they are evil. This week we have seen the consequences of this apparent evil.

And all the while, you float in the protective chamber of your mother’s womb where you grow, unknowing of these things in the outside world. I told your mother that I think her most important job right now is tending to your growth and birth. She agreed. Many have often despaired of the conditions of our world, going so far as to forego pregnancy, in the thought that this is no kind of a world to bring another life into. But I take a different tack: the world needs more good people. It is our fondest hopes, designs and expectations that you will come to be among those needed good people.

When I was a child, my parents, your grandparents, taught me that my life had a purpose: to make the world a better place for my having lived. At times this purpose has been a burden, and yet an unshakable one, because I have ever felt that such a purpose was my duty. In Hebrew, an ancient language of some of your ancestors, there is a phrase tikkun olam, which means “heal the world”. It is a long-standing heritage that I pass on to you. Guard it well, and don’t despair if at times it seems an unbearable task. It is yours for life, just as it remains mine for as long as I live. I hope in both case that that shall be a long time yet to come.

As I hope to raise you, I will try not to trouble you with so much of the evil and sadness and grief of this world. I will attempt to fill you with wonder and love and hope instead. If at times I fail, please forgive me. That is why we need you, my child, to improve on us, and to bring your own unique perspective, grown of your experience in life.

I love you,

Your Father (yet-to-be)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Karl-Heinz writes

In response to my email from a week ago:
Hi Articulate:

It is good to hear from you. I am not quite sure if I have the kind of
position that you are looking for.

I have an NIH grant on x & y under review. That grant has a postdoc position in it, but I won't hear about it until November. I have currently one postdoc position that is not filled, but there is only 5-6 more months of funding left. It is an x & z project. I might get a second year of funding, but I won't know for another few months.

You might be eligible for a National Research Science Award. These are postdoctoral fellowships from the NIH. You would need an advisor that has NIH grant support (which I have). I would be willing to sponsor you for this grant category if you want to work with me.

Hope this gives you some information. Let me know if you want to explore this further.


updated to add:
Dear Karl-Heinz,

This all sounds good. I'd like to hear more about your x & z and x & y projects. Could you send me the proposals or an abstract? I have an outstanding NEH grant myself on [related area]. I won't hear back on that until December. Thinking about my 5-10 year goal (to be a director of a center for the study of x & y), a post-doc in cognitive neuroscience today, honing up my knowledge and experience in that domain, especially in your lab which is focused in my area of interest, would be quite useful. So, I'm flexible on details. Let's keep talking.


What makes you happy?

Okay, so here's an observation and a question. The thing I've learned is that the grass is always greener on the other side, it's just the other side is always... well, the other side. :)

No matter how much you have in life, there is always something lacking. Our dreams change, our expectations alter, our goals shift. Out here in the academoblogosphere, I learn that while I am miserable about this job search, about the uncertainty of my status, of whether the effort in this direction or that will pay off down the road, I realize that there are many others who have the things I ostensibly want (a tenure track job, for instance) who are truly none the happier for it.

There are those who suffered like I for years seeking a post, getting ever more bitter along the way, only to attain that dream, then have it shattered by closed-mindedness and bigotry, or what have you. And there are many more who look at what I do have in life with great envy. I mean, I have a wonderful spouse, two beautiful creative boys, a comfortable amount of savings, and a great deal of freedom to choose my path.

I don't want to be bitter. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and makes it harder to enjoy all the delicious foods I cook. As What Now? recently put it in a comment on this blog:
My friends hung in there with me, but I didn't like being around me!

And there you have it in a nutshell. But the question remains, what makes someone happy? How do we get there? BrightStar recently asked similar questions.

I recall when my wife was miserable those many years ago, before we moved to Paradise for me to pursue the PhD. What I recognized in her was that it was all attitude and expectations. She had entered her field with wide-eyed idealism. She wanted to change the world for the better, colonize space, explore the universe. And what she wound up doing was working indirectly on television satellites, so people could have 113 channels instead of 103.

She was ready for a change, and we took one. She contemplated going back to school, or entering a different field entirely. She's the scientist with the soul of an artist, and I'm the artist with the heart of a scientist. Together we make a pretty good pair. In the end, she figured the move 1100 miles was change enough, so she stuck to her work. It was a known quantity.

I asked her this morning whether she were happy with work. Pretty much, sometimes. Ah, so there's the clincher. It's us, not it. Look inside, my friend, myself. Find what it is you want.

High Valley, step two (but will I apply?)

Hi Tasse,

I just saw this post come up at High Valley Community College. Deadline is this Friday. I'm planning to apply. At least I know the Rocket Scientist could get a good job within about an hour's drive, and it'd finally give me a jumpstart on my career. My 5-10 year goal is to be a director of a center for the study of x & y. The question is, how do I get there. Wallowing in unemployed uncertainty, even actively pursuing publications and conference presentations (which I'm doing), isn't necessarily going to get me there any faster.

I have been considering options for postdocs in [the science end of things]. Yet, the director of a lab in the UK, where I applied for a recent opening stated that she'd have shortlisted me, but for the fact that I'm not an EU citizen, and they must give preference to EU candidates, as long as they meet the minimum qualifications. So, the idea of finding a post in the UK is pretty much shot, though I keep trying. At least in that case I know why.

We've taken the attitude that our principal goal at the moment is to find meaningful work for both of us (ideally within an hour's commute of each other) that will keep us occupied and satisfied for 3-5 years. The hope is that the next 3-5 will get me closer to my 5-10 goal.

In any case, attached is the CV I've worked up for the dean position, and the job description. I've also asked Dean Horowitz (with whom I had lunch a couple weeks ago) whether he'd be willing to serve as an additional reference. Not holding my breath on this one (as I'm not on any of the jobs I apply for). But I do think it's getting to be time for some positive developments. I begin to tire of my own impatience.

Let me know your thoughts, I know this is territory you have some experience with.



Dear Articulate:

Ah, so your ego can't take my idea of the "three year fellowship"? I don't blame you. it's hard, really hard to make that work. Although, i might add, that once you get involved with your "meaningful employment" you'll realize how much crap there is in that world too, and perhaps you'll long for the good old days. (Some of this is on faith, but I have the example of Wife, M.D. before me. Believe it or not, she got fired from her job as department chair in March. She was devastated, of course, but I seldom recall her being happier than she is now...)

Anyway, you can always count on me for a rec.

Sending you warm wishes, and a special brucha or two towards the job you want.


Dear Michael [Dean Horowitz],
I'm planning to submit this Friday an application for a Dean's position at High Valley Community College. If it were to work out, it'd be a good opportunity for my wife and I to work in the same geographic region, and for me to finally jumpstart my career in academia. Would you be willing to serve as one of my references?

Attached, for your perusal, is the job listing and the CV I've worked up for the application.

Best regards,

Dear Articulate,

I'd be honored.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Five year plan dilemma

High Valley Community College
Division Dean of X
Salary: $98,439-$113,398/Annually
$100,369-$115,328 (earned doctorate degree)

Advocate and promote quality instruction and student success; develop and maintain a campus climate based on trust, collaboration and respect; and encourage and facilitate change. Under the general supervision of the Assistant Superintendent/Vice President for Instructional Services, the Division Dean, X will provide leadership for the division and will be responsible for the management and supervision of programs and staff.

Deadline date: Friday, August 11, 2006
Alright. First off, do I qualify? Let's see:
  • knowledge of state laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to community colleges (uh... nope)
  • collective bargaining contracts (I'm like, what, a union specialist here?... nope)
  • budget management (Sure, I can handle a budget, but the budgets I've managed are small... but hey, I've been treasurer of a small professional society for 8 years now. That should count)
  • grant proposals and fundraising (uh... check! I've gotten myself quite a few grants. I've got over five years fundraising experience, 3 for a university foundation, and another year or so for a non-profit relevant to the division's focus)
  • experience with the diverse needs of non-traditional students (um... yeah. Look I've been a non-traditional student much of my life. My bachelor's degree -here's a tidbit for you- is a B.G.S., that's Bachelor of General Studies, albeit with High Honors, from the College of Continuing Studies at a major state research university. I've attended, all told, for varying lengths, count 'em, SEVEN post-secondary schools, community colleges, research one universities, and private liberal arts schools. I've taught at a community college for non-majors, and lectured for graduate students and faculty in R1 programs. I'm good)
  • individualizing the instructional program (ha! You mean for me, or for others? I think I could do this. Check)
  • manage relationships with private and public employers and community-based organizations (I think so. I've served on the board at a community theater, a big brothers/big sisters league)
  • professional organizations (yeah, done that. I think I could handle it)
  • Posess a Master's Degree or higher (uh... yeah. Got that.)
  • Significant experience or educational achievement in one of the disciplines (uh, yeah, I think so)
  • Three years or more faculty experience at the secondary or college level. (Probably. I taught six terms, including summers, at the community college, before my PhD. I was the principal instructor for a graduate course at my doctoral institution. I taught privately, but at the college level, for another three years. I've guest lectured for 7 classes over the past five years, all at the university level. Additionally, I've given 6 invited lectures at universities during the same period)
So, then, what would keep me from applying? Well, is this where I want to be? Now, or in the future? See, that's the clincher. I know where I want to be in 5-10. I want to be director of an interdisciplinary institute or center on my area of study, bringing together researchers and faculty from a variety of disciplines and methodological backgrounds to focus on the subject matter. I want to live and work in the same general geographic area as my wife and family. I'm talking ideally within an hour of where she works, so neither of us would have too much of a commute. I want both of us to have meaningful work, where we are productive, appreciated, and well-utilized.

That said, we're on a five year plan. What happens over the next few years is in service to that 5-10 year goal, period! This opportunity is about 80 miles from a place where the Rocket Scientist could likely get work in her area of expertise. It's also about 50 miles from another location, which though she hasn't heard any recruitment mumblings from there, we do have a friend who works there, someone she worked with in the late 90s.

Those are all on the upside. Also, just look at that salary range. We're talking a good twice what I could be making as a junior asst. prof. somewhere, if I could even land such a post. I like being a leader. I think I listen well, I handle challenges reasonably well, I'm able to grasp various viewpoints, and the needs of disparate constituencies. I'd make a good dean. I always thought it was something I'd move into after gaining years of experience, but why not start at the top and work down?

Downs: well, do I really want all the stress of management? Would the distractions keep me from getting any research done? Would I get stuck, and eventually forget the 5-10 year goals?

I don't know. It's still a lot of work to hone that CV for an administrative post. But, maybe I should do it. What a life. One day, I apply for adjunct positions, with no benefits, no job security, and pay somewhere south of janitorial staff, the next I'm thinking of applying for this.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What I am doing

Thanks to my friends for comments, sympathy, and encouragement on my downer post from yesterday.

Yes indeed, I am doing things to stay afloat. Yesterday, I submitted a conference abstract for a [Field 2] conference in the coming winter in Germany. I've got another abstract to submit this week for a conference in the UK. This latter one was brought to my attention by one of the organizers in a request that I add it to the conferences page of my PRW. The focus of the conference is the exact cross-disciplinary topic of my research website.

I'm trying to keep up on deadlines, and keep up on my summer goals as well (though I won't fret too much if I don't actually submit four articles!). It's the job applications, and the associated inquiries, that get me down mostly. I keep looking ahead and all I see is a massive tangle of options, like some nightmarish futuristic vision of highway cloverleafs in 5 dimensional space! Aaaaahhh!


I just have to share this with you. The Inventor, at 20 months, has become quite the articulate one (albeit still holophrastically). His latest favorite ritual is to find me at the laptop, wherever I may be in the house, look me dead in the eyes and state "up" or "done", followed quickly by a sweeping hand gesture and the word "close". It's so charming that I have to oblige, at least 80% of the time. That's all.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What have I become?

Years ago, a friend of my wife's (let's call her Kay) would call, every few weeks or so, with one purpose alone: to bemoan the state of her romantic life. She would flit from one deadbeat to another, each relationship lasting a few spare months or weeks, usually dangling on by a thread for the longer than the shorter, just to make her that bit more miserable, and to enable her to bore me and my wife to tears as she recounted the horrors of her existence. As you might suspect, my wife (as ever) had more patience than I. Fortunately, Kay eventually found a fine fellow (though I can't account for his sense of taste!), and we attended the wedding.

The point of this is neither to introduce you to Kay, nor to discuss relationships, but rather to introduce an annoying element of people: their undying propensity to bore others with their whining. And, as the song says "... and here I go, again". What have I become?

I'm a whiner. I'm a sad sack, miserable, mumbling, can't get anywhere kind of a guy. I don't smile enough anymore. I'm not as nice to people as I would like to be. I more often recognize their incompetence than their humanity.

Sheepish on Happy Ending recently posed the question: Work is what you do, not who you are. Agree or disagree?. But... what I am right now is miserable. Sure, my work is merely one aspect of my life, but just now, I'm stuck... because without that aspect of my life on track, any track please!, I'm adrift, lost without a compass, no heading, no wind, no stars, just... empty.

And thus, I find myself become a wretch with whom any of my former selves would shirk to associate. Indeed, even the wretch of myself that I am becoming recognizes this, as his eye contact (with anyone) is kept for the most part to a bare minimum. Not me. Not like me. I'm an outgoing, jolly, happy, sociable, clever, fun, roll-with-the-punches, chameleon kind of a fellow. But what have I become?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Coming soon... the book meme

Okay, so now I've been tagged (at least) twice on this book meme, by Trillwing and Propter-doc. I guess I need to step up to the plate and swing. Coming soon...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Time on my hands...

... and I guess that's why they call them the blues.

For everything... there is a season.
I suppose for me this is the season of existential crises.

Not all is bad. I feel we still, as a family, are on the cusp of something, some big change. But you can only trim the sails, according to the wind. There are some things we have no power over. The winds are still unsettled, and our course is yet to be charted.

The inlaws afforded the Rocket Scientist and me some well appreciated (and I think well deserved) time to take our next sailing class, together for once. We took a private lesson, just the two of us with an instructor, two full days (9-5) on Thursday and Friday. The tests were yesterday morning, and we both passed.

We're now certified to sail (and operate) a vessel about 30 feet in length. On Sunday, we take the whole crew out (the boys, the inlaws, the au pair and one of her friends) on a 42 footer. I guess the folks at the sailing center trust we'll do well enough to rent a bit above certification. It should be nice.

But then, the time passes, and I'm back where I am, wondering which path to tread. There's a postdoc opportunity in the mountains far away from here. It's similar to the one I was recently passed over in the UK. I checked the airplane commutability of it, from the nearest airport to Rocket Central (assuming, of course, because we've yet to hear anything official!). In my strange fantasy of a world, it's manageable (if I could work only 4 days per week on campus). Possible.
Dear Steve,

I just noticed your posting on My PhD is in [Field 1] and [Interdisciplinary Field] from the University of Paradise. Currently, I am a postdoctoral Visiting Scholar in [Field 2]. My research interests focus on [Research Focus].

My work has included a great deal of study of the neuroscience and psychology literature, however I've yet to engage in hands-on imaging myself. Moving my research directly into the realm of brain imaging has long been my intention. This post-doc could provide me the perfect opportunity to develop those skills and experience, while contributing to the field through my background and training in [Field 1], [Field 2] and [Interdisciplinary Field].

I attach my current CV. You may also visit my research website at [URL], which includes several research proposals. As an indication of my background in these areas, see in particular my [Relevant Annotated Bibliography] listed in the sidebar.

Please let me know if [your lab] would welcome my application for this post. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

You sound like you have an interesting background. I'm looking for someone with neurobiology background, but your research approach might be applicable. I've also attached a couple pdf's so you can read up on some of my lab's recent work. If you think this might be within your sphere of interest, by all means send in your application.


I'm reading. But the more I read, and the more I think about moving into the science end of my interests, the more it feels right to me. I'm saddened by the thought that I have wasted much of the past six years, pursuing a degree in the wrong field. But then, in sober moments, I realize my true field is amorphous. I know what I'm studying, it simply doesn't fit squarely within the confines of an established university discipline. That's alright. I've chosen my area of research, because it is what most interests me. And, frankly, while I admit it's within the realm of considerations, I'm not really planning to go to medical school next year. What can I do as a post-doc, starting where I am, to most efficiently get where I want to be?

When I mentioned the prospect of a long commute for me to Young Mountain City, my wife proposed that she of course could look for work in that area. Ah, yes. That's our plan, our goal: find meaningful work for both of us in the same geographic area; find someplace that we can live and settle for the next 3-5 years. Can't ask much more than that for the time being. Nothing is certain. But it's a goal.

Which way to turn? That's the question.

[Here's from a colleague, someone I admire and respect who happens to work in my research area from the science end. He had written to congratulate me on my recent publication, and this is the result of the ensuing email exchange]:
Hi Articulate,

I guess one fundamental choice you have to make is whether you plan to stick to [Field 1] or move into [Field 3]/ [Interdisciplinary Field]. If you choose the latter, you'll probably want to consider getting some training (e.g. at least a Master's degree). Probably more school is the last thing you want right now.

You have a strong background in [Field 1] and I imagine that you are a gifted teacher, so my personal advice would be to look for a position in that field.


[Sent to another lab director, whom I met at an SII conference a couple years ago, and with whom I've kept up occasional contact]:
Dear Karl-Heinz,

I am currently on the market for appropriate research opportunities. I very much wish to move more into the realm of imaging studies, and to develop my skills in that domain. I would like to inquire as to what opportunities there might be for me to serve as a post-doctoral researcher in your lab. Attached please find my current CV. For further information about my interests and activities, you may visit my research website at [URL]

Best regards,