Friday, December 29, 2006

Why do I not look forward to Saddam's execution?


First, it is quite simple. I take no delight in murder or revenge. They are the marks of animals, not human beings.

As Percy Shelley wrote, in The Mask of Anarchy:
...What is Freedom?--ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well--
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.

... 'Tis to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.

...Then it is to feel revenge
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood--and wrong for wrong--
Do not thus when ye are strong.
Simple enough advice. A measure of strength, I believe.

Murder is barbarism. The death penalty is unbecoming a modern world. Execution is barbaric; it reflects on the victors far more than the victims.

Second, assuming Saddam is guilty of even a portion of what he has been accused (which I have little reason to doubt), the least, the very least, that a civilized nation, a civilized court could offer is a fair trial, which I have little reason to believe his was. The closure that a fair trial, a fair finding of guilty, a harsh but civilized penalty that reflects the nature of the society in which it is issued rather than the bestial properties of the accused.

Pity that. And pity that the animals who led my great nation to war, to exchange barbarism for barbarism, violence for violence, blood for blood, wrong for wrong, who ensnared the innocent in the midst of that, who caused the deaths of thousands upon thousands, who destroyed a portion of our youth, poisoning their lives with death and murder still have not acknowledged their mistakes, their deceit for God-knows-what purpose to attack the tyrant of a nation, indeed that nation itself, in exchange for an attack on our soil which had nothing to do with them.

I grieve for my world, and hope that humanity will return for my children's sake.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I grow weary of the chase

[What follows are the thoughts of a man exhausted from the holidays, full-time parent for the past week, and one more to come. These factors color my mood, I know. What I don't know is who will emerge with my face in the mirror come 2007.]

In his final months, my father and I had a frank conversation. I had been encouraging him as much as I could, to write, to use his mind, to be productive. I have perhaps a couple hours of recordings from that time, of him reciting his own poems. A weary and raspy voice recounts the words he penned in better days. His confusion, and loss of direction in the verse, as he worked to cant the proper tone, are palpable, and sad. That day, he paused in his response: "The hardest thing is... the hardest thing... is not being productive."


Beside me on the couch lies a heap of books: Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market; Guide to Literary Agents; Writer's Market, Deluxe Edition; Nolo's Patents for Beginners and Patent, Copyright & Trademark. I wonder about venture capital, about starting my own company dedicated to the practical applications of my research.

I grow weary of the chase. The hardest thing is not being productive.

I search. I seek. I apply. And I wait. Tired am I.

The time ripens, like a persimmon, slowly, but inexorably. The new job listings are few and mostly fail to excite me. There is one more for me to send off, deadline end of February. That makes about 18 so far this season, I believe. Not too shabby. Not too selective. And I wait to hear more from the schools I've already applied. Yes, I had requests for supplemental material from two schools. Perhaps more will come. I don't know.

Three applications I submitted had January deadlines, so they're still open. Eight closed in December. Of the two who asked for supplements, one closed mid-November, the second at the beginning of December. I am still committed to this season. I may yet harvest fruit where barren branches have taunted me so far.

But I do wonder whether the quarry warrants the effort. I find it ever more difficult to imagine myself next year at 39, pushing 40, sitting just where I sit now, still waiting and wondering.

I begin to think: any club that wouldn't have me... fuck 'em!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Maybe I am all that

Email today from Bidar Aharon, organizer of this conference in the Spring I've mentioned before. In September he contacted me requesting that I prepare a paper and provide some suggestions for others to invite. I was flattered, and wrote him back. I mentioned back then that I understood the difference between "a paper please!" and "we'll pay all your expenses". In corresponding with him, I indicated that I was currently "without papers" so to speak, and would appreciate any support they might offer me, to assist my coming.

A few weeks ago, I was taken aback by his immediate and enthusiastic response to my abstract submittal. Today's email brought the following message from Bidar:
Dear Articulate

I'm trying to procure some funds for you, and some others from the States, and what I'm going to do is apply to [Funding Source] for you and the others to do a kind of keynote panel. We'll see if it works... What I need from you is a cost for travel, and any other expenses.
Wow! Um, yeah, sure. It's nice to be treated like this, even if it's all tentative at the moment. I'm simply unused to being courted like this. I think of Bright Star's recent comments about being courted for a faculty post. Who knows? Maybe that's next.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hommage á Saint-Exupéry

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.

So then I had to choose another career, and I learned to pilot airplanes. I have flown almost everywhere in the world. And, as a matter of fact, geography has been a big help to me. I could tell China from Arizona at first glance, which is very useful if you get lost during the night.

So I have had, in the course of my life, lots of encounters with lots of serious people. I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seen them at close range... which hasn't much improved my opinion of them.

Whenever I encountered a grown-up who seemed to me at all enlightened, I would experiment on him with my drawing Number One, which I have always kept. I wanted to see if he really understood anything. But he would always answer, "That's a hat." Then I wouldn't talk about boa constrictors or jungles or stars. I would put myself on his level and talk about bridge and golf and politics and neckties. And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person.

[The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943), translated from the French by Richard Howard, Harcourt, Inc., San Diego, 2000, pp. 2-3.]
Little known fact about Articulate Dad: he has a collection of The Little Prince, now comprising 15 volumes in 13 languages. Hungarian (Magyar) version will be added around the top of the year. Less known fact about Articulate Dad, he sometimes takes himself too seriously, and is ashamed to perhaps be considered "a reasonable person" by the likes of the narrator of The Little Prince.

I recently mused about the possibility of getting scooped in my work. Recent events have led me to reflect a bit on life and expectations and meaning and worth. My friend WhatNow? writes of coveting and of taking her job search further afield. Yes, life sometimes deals us an unlucky hand. But then, perhaps our luck at cards should remind us to get out of the casino; flowers are blooming elsewhere, just waiting for a nose to smell them.

I can't say I'm ready to quit the academic job search. But I feel myself edging closer and closer to not caring as much. Perhaps, one way or another, this will be my final season of looking, at least looking at this pace. I'm actually okay with where I am. I am committed to my research. But then, I recognize it may all come to naught. What defense do I have against that? Only this: to not take it all so seriously. To ensure that there is else in my life that gives meaning to my works.

My father once said that our choice in life is whether or not we will be good. History alone can determine whether we will be great. My work is important to me. It gives me direction, a sense of meaning, purpose. But... it is not all. In focus, we sometimes forget the day to day.

Too many people live each day as if it were their last, some ensuring that fate. I used to say live each day as if it were your first, with the wide-open wondering eyes of a child. And yet, I find myself too many days losing patience with my children's wonderful curiosity. I need to work hard to remember the things in life that we can control, and those which we can't. I need to recall to be thankful, as my friend Trillwing recently put it, to have "first world problems". Ah yes, these things to remember.

Domestic... (?)

Domestic bliss? Domestic hiss?

Self-identity update: I now appear in the role of house host. I cook. Good food. I clean. I build fires, and pick up toys. I work on my patience. I sit in the living room, and look at my bookshelves, and wonder what all those things are doing there, gathering dust.


Okay, these times come and go. Life, in many ways, most ways really, is very good. But I want so much to have some reason for writing a new year's letter, to have something to say, to show for my effort and time passing.

I've been thinking lately about the practical applications of my research. I think of Propter Doc's recent comment. (When you've got no external support mechanism for your research -- I suppose it's like being a poor misunderstood and neglected artist or poet -- you've got to find the motivation and the justification within.) Oh, there are many. Much of it, of course, is what I deem basic research. It's got to be done. There are few who do this sort of work, who look at these things. But I can see implementations that could really and truly change aspects of our daily lives.

That's good. That's exciting. I have to remember these things as I go about marketing myself, and my work. But I wonder... just like the chemist or physicist or biologist, who spends a lifetime on a problem, finding a solution to it... will I, might I... get scooped just before a breakthrough? What happens to someone who spends years or decades of effort, getting closer and closer to a solution, only to have someone else solve the very problem? Is all of their time wasted?

Ah, there must be more in life than work? But what about the work? Perhaps the process is more important (or at least at times like that, it must become more important) than the product. Perhaps it enriches the individual, even if the resolution fails to serve the greater world? Is that enough? What is the worth of an individual, dedicated in life to their work, if the sum product of that work is... an empty set? I think of the recent suicide of Bright Star's friend, or Denise Denton's back in June. How sad to feel so empty. No one should ever feel that low. I've had practice keeping myself above those depths, but what can we do for others?

Oh, there is more to life. That I know.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On this night we celebrate

Happy Hanukkah to all.

This is the holiday when we celebrate the miracle of eating fried foods for eight days... and not gaining a pound.




Over the past few days, every time I worked on preparing the supplemental materials for the job at Big West Private, I felt tired, or distracted, or... I really want this job. That adds to the nerves. But, I'm being realistic. I may not even get a campus interview. But it's that excitement, and fear, that kept me from simply sending everything off.

I wanted to rework some of my earlier work, maybe submit it to a journal, so I could mark it as "under consideration." But, in the end, I decided that what I am today is what I have to offer. As Jim Lodz put it, this is the chance I have to represent myself as I wish to be represented. I just need to be me. Frankly, I'm most interested in landing a post, where I don't have to pretend. So, I sent a bunch of stuff, mostly brief (except for my dissertation distillation article, which numbers 35 single-spaced pages of 10 pt font).

  1. The dissertation distillation article.
  2. An invited commentary on a target article.
  3. Two abstracts for upcoming conferences: the first already accepted; the second I'm hoping will be.
  4. A description of my [Logitudinal Project].
  5. Student evaluations [oops, just got an email from the administrative assistant saying please disregard their earlier request for student evals. So I sent a reply asking her to disregard their inclusion in the email I already sent].
  6. [Oops oops. Sent another email to attach yet one more item] A conference paper I gave in 2003, which seems particularly relevant to this position.
I like that this group prefers electronic submissions over hard copies for these materials. It says something about them being in the 21st century. Of course, their retraction of the request for student evaluations seems to put them even further in the research category. I'm okay with that. As I've heard over and over, I look like a researcher. I do want to teach also, and it would seem that this position would give me that opportunity, but likely not overburden me with lecture hall service courses.

The good thing is, it's done. I sent everything off, cc'ing my recommenders, following up with personal emails to each of them. Now, I can try to forget it. My excitement for this post has all but swallowed up my worrying about Western-Flagship. That's good. Best to not think about them. I'll either get the calls or not. I'll either be invited to campus or not. I'll either be offered a job, or not. Those I have no control over, certainly not at this point.

So, I keep plugging away at my work. Fortunately, I'll have a break as well. The au pair is going with a friend to South America for Christmas, leaving tomorrow night. She'll be gone nearly two weeks.
As I wrote yesterday, my brother and nephew arrive on Monday. They'll be staying until Sunday. My wife's parents arrive on Tuesday, and they'll be staying until Monday. It'll be a full house here at the Articulates. Good thing I like to cook, eh?

And now that I'm done with my emailing and blogging, I'm off to my (temporarily I hope) internetless office to do some work that requires silence and concentration. Hopefully I can sneak away a few hours each day while the inlaws are here, to continue. It's work that I haven't been doing for months now, but which feels really good to get back into. It's also work that needs to be done for my February/March conference talks.

***On another note: I finally made contact with someone at a local field site, who can help me get started on data collection for my [Longitudinal Project]. I'm quite excited, though nothing is settled yet. Have you ever tried to get a longitudinal human subjects project off the ground with absolutely no institutional help? Cultivated naivety, that's the only way. Don't tell me it's impossible. I'm not listening. Na na na.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oh the joys

Well, the good news is, apparently Oldest Brother has managed to get his disability pay reinstated, so he'll be earning... well, let's say he'll be making about as much as I expect to make if I land a junior faculty post, as disability payment. There is a possibility then that he'll remain where he is (though frankly I think it's not likely, and his financial situation would be much better if he did move in with us). I'm not going to force the situation though. Lord knows it wouldn't be easier on me.

But he is going to come down (with the Nephew) for Hannukah. Latest plan is they'll arrive on Monday. And how long do you plan to stay? Oh, I was thinking we'd stay until Sunday. [The wife chimes in:] Um... OB, you know, um... my parents are arriving Tuesday. [Me:] So, we're going to have a full house for a week.

Good thing the au pair is taking a vacation with friends to South America. We'll have her bedroom to use as well. [SIGH] What are you going to say? Family!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oh, nothing free lasts forever

Three weeks since I wrote Office Internet. Sad to say, they've moved, today. I am once again internetless at the office. (I came home for a visit to check email and such). Another neighbor in the building agreed to set up wireless access to his connection, if I bring a network transmitter. I guess that's still my best bet, since it'd be $60-100/month to set up my own connection, and possibly a minimum of a year contract. Since I'm hoping against hope to be somewhere else by the time my nine-month lease expires in August, I'd rather avoid that.

***Updated to add:

Nothing Free lasts for ever, part two

Remember my ethical dilemma from October, regarding the stereo received we bought ourselves for our ninth anniversary, when the company sent us two, then credited our account when we returned the second? Well, they finally caught up with themselves. I got a voice mail yesterday evening saying they needed to clarify the situation. When I called back it was explained that they had somehow inadvertently sent us two receivers. ("No, duh... look at your notes, I called, explained the matter, then returned the second one"). But they apparently figured out (two months later) that the customer service agent I spoke with had written things up wrong, and thus they processed the return, and credited us for the one charge. ("Uh... yeah"). So, now they'll be sending us a new invoice for the receiver. ("Um... yeah, sure... we're happy to pay for it.") So, that is that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More than anything

More than anything, I'm just plain scared. I want... I want so much to just accept where I am, what I have, to be happy, content, satisfied. In many ways, I do, I am. Two lovely boys, a wonderful wife. A crazy but loving and deserving extended family.

As my dear friend Tracy says "Things are happening". Indeed they are. My friend at Lemon University is pulling to have me hired as an adjunct next year (possibly even this spring). I've received two requests for additional materials in one week, for tenure-track gigs. I'm still submitting applications for other jobs. I very well may land myself a job that I've so longed for, and quite possibly in a locale which would prove promising for the whole clan.

It's not that I'm not excited. It's not that I don't welcome the virtual hugs of all my blogger friends. I do. It's just, I can't escape the fear. More than two years, I've sat on this path, enduring the trials, the loneliness, the isolation, the self-doubt. More than a year and a half since completing the dissertation. I know, there is at least as much a chance that I will land flat, where I've been already, no job, no direction, no sense.

I do believe in what I do. I trust that the research I have begun, that I wish to continue for a lifetime, is worthwhile, is valuable, is meaningful. Despite it all, I retain a faith in myself as well, the strength of my own harvest of talents, my drive to inspire, my honesty. They are to me tantamount. My work, my spirit, my desire to give, to teach, to contribute, these things define me in ways that nothing else can. Yes, I am and wish to be husband, father, brother, son. But somehow, I'm not me without the rest. I can not fully fit those roles without my self.

And so, my fear is real. Those of you who were so lucky as to land a job straight out of graduate school, I doff my hat to you. You are, I am sure, quite worthy of your own success. I wonder how many of us, like me, there are, who seek, and seek, hold on to that dream, that goal. How many of us are there who still believe that we as well are worthy of that success, desire it, require it, demand it. No, that we cannot do. We can merely wait, and accept it, or accept our own... our own.. f... fate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Take care of your family

My mother reminds me that I'm the "most stable in our family." I've always been counted on to do the right thing. When my father was depressed after my step-mom had died of cancer in her fifties, I took it upon myself (with full support from my wife) to invite my dad to move in with us. We bought a house together. When the Rocket Scientist and I moved out west for my doctoral studies, we rented the main floor of the house, permitting my dad to live virtually for free. When he got sick, with cancer, we moved back into the house, to keep him better company, and help take care of him. Then we went overseas. I had been granted an extension to my Fulbright, but chose to forego it, since my dad's health had in the interim taken a decided turn for the worse. We moved him up from the garden-level basement to live on the main floor with us. I am convinced that my interventions kept him alive several months longer than he would have mustered without us.

It's not that I'm entirely altruistic. It's not that I didn't complain, and add my share of grief to the mix. It's simply that I did the right thing. Years ago, I learned a simple lesson. One father's day, just after my grandmother had died, I decided to call up my grandfather, to let him know I was thinking of him. I spent perhaps three minutes on the phone with him, but to him it meant the world. I learned that often we make a small effort that has a great impact on others' lives. I established a rule to live by: if it's easier for me to do someone a favor, than it is for them to do without, then it's done.

It's normally an easy motto to put into practice. Only rarely is it difficult to decide.

Today, in the middle of writing my last post about a nibble at Big West Private, I got a call from Oldest Brother. He was laid off from his job. He's broke. He can't afford his rent, and it's going up $200/month at the top of the year, when his lease comes up for renewal. He wants to come down this weekend with Nephew to spend part of Hannukah with us, and... he wanted to know if he might be able to move in with us for a while, until he gets back on his feet. He thinks he can help out with the rent. He should be able to get back on disability, or certainly unemployment. Give him a chance to reduce his expenses, save some money, get out of bankruptcy.

I've talked it over with the Rocket Scientist. There really is no saying no. He's family. I love him. The question is one of logistics. How, where, when, how long. Maybe something else will come through. Maybe he'll come up with another solution. But... he wouldn't have asked, if he didn't feel at the end of his rope. That I know. Wish us all luck in getting through this trial.

Another nibble, and yaiiee, this one tastes good

Got an email this morning from the administrator for Larry Strope's Center at Big West Private University.
Dear Dr. Dad,

Thank you for applying to the position opening at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in [Field 1] and [related science field] in the Department of [Field 1] at Big West Private University. As our committee proceeds with the search process, we would greatly appreciate additional materials for consideration.
The letter goes on for three more paragraphs.

Excruciating. Not pain... nerves. Ooh this would be good. Here's from the job posting:
Teaching responsibilities at the undergraduate and graduate levels will include courses in the candidate’s areas of expertise.
Um... like, I'd be teaching what I'm really interested in? This would be, from what I can tell, a well balanced research/teaching post.

I think I want this job. Relax, relax.

But can I just say that, after a year of virtually nothing (other than the interview for the one-term gig at Beautiful Nowhere), to get two requests for supplemental materials in the one week is quite exhilarating.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Two years old

Just a quick note to say "Happy Birthday" to the Inventor. My little boy is two.

I am a very lucky father and husband. For my family's love and health, I am grateful.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Any club...

It's when I get reactions like this that my "any club that'd have me" response bubbles up. Yesterday, I submitted an abstract for this conference next Spring on the same subject as a conference panel I organized five years ago (the one on which Pam Bridgeport participated).
Dear Articulate

Good to hear from you with this very exciting abstract. I'll enjoy circulating it amongst the conference committee.

All best wishes

I'd like to think that I'm that good, that I'm that sought-after. Yet, my immediate thought is: God, they must be desperate. I wonder if they have too few submissions. The deadline's in a week. It's hard to retain self-confidence when I've been all but ignored for two years in my quest for a university post. If I'm really all that, how come no one has hired me?

No self-pity. Just keep at it. That's the advice I keep hearing. At least it's the advice I wish to listen to. Keep plugging away. Keep writing. Keep presenting. Keep my chin up. Maybe in some circles, I am that good. If you want to be a big fish, choose your pond carefully.

Some words of...


Yesterday, I spent about 20 minutes or so on the phone with an older colleague, Pam Bridgeport, whom I've known for about 8 years, who teaches at the remote campus for a big name university in my old hometown. Three years ago, when I was overseas, and still writing my dissertation, a position at her school was one of the first I applied to (that year, I applied to a mere handful). She has always been supportive of me and my research (she served on a conference panel I organized about five years ago). But she had rather discouraged me from applying then, saying it really wasn't a place for me.

A new post is open at her school this year. Same story. To hear her tell it, only circumstance (her husband is also an academic on their main campus) has kept her there. The teaching load is moderately heavy (3-4 classes per term), the payscale low. There is no rank or tenure at that location. The courses are rather entrenched traditional. She said she's somewhat lucky since she's the only one teaching [subfield 3], which gives her more freedom.
No one knows what I'm talking about anyway, so I can teach it however I like. But for [subfield 1] they'd want to know that you can teach [Field] 1, 2, 3, 4 over and over. You'd have to love teaching. I mean love love teaching. You'd never have time for research, and it wouldn't be institutionally supported. I'm thinking of retiring so I can get back to it.
Okay, I get it. Back again to square one. What do I want? Honestly: teaching and research, fairly balanced, inquisitive minds, a supportive administration. I've applied to about 15 jobs this year. Yesterday, the Rocket Scientist and I ruled out two more schools in a state where we don't really want to live, which offer few opportunities for her. Done. But once I rule out one or two, then a third (Pam's school), it's easy to keep ruling them out.

There's another one nearer to our current location. But it's not an ideal school, also with a heavy teaching load (20 semester credits per year). I spent some time on the phone yesterday with the committee chair. I had sent him an inquiry for more information on the post, along with my CV. He responded shortly, saying he'd looked over my CV, and he'd encourage me to apply. It wouldn't necessarily be my first pick. But I'm not that picky. But, seven courses a year, at a middling school, and 100 miles from my wife's closest opportunities... You see my dilemma.

Add to that the odd feeling "any club that'd have me, I wouldn't want to join" and I'm paralyzed.
Dear Articulate,

The University of Western-Flagship [Field 1 department] is narrowing the applicant pool in our search for an Assistant Professor of [subfield 1]. At this point, we would like to read a sample of your research. We ask that you send us electronically an example, such as an article or two chapters from your dissertation. Please send whatever you think best demonstrates your abilities for [subfield 1] research.

Thank you, and we look forward to reviewing your materials.

Sincerely yours,

Joe Wilbert

Well, of course I sent them my dissertation distillation article. Don't worry, I'm not really professionally suicidal, even when I'm unsure about which way to head. But no high hopes yet. This is very preliminary. I'm not even assured a campus interview. But nibbles are nice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I regret to inform you

So, it's official then:
Dear Articulate Dad:

I regret to inform you that your application to the 2007-2008 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships competition has not been approved for funding.

... In this cycle, we have been able to fund only 11 percent of the proposals we received.

Applicants frequently revise and resubmit their proposals, often with positive results. The next deadline for applications is May 1, 2007.

We appreciate your interest in the Endowment, and we thank you for the opportunity to learn about your scholarship.
Disappointed? Yes
Free to move on to other projects? Yes
Will I revise and resubmit? Don't know. Not sure this is the right audience, or the right project.

You may recall, early on in this application process, I discovered that the NEH constitutes single-subject committees, rather than interdisciplinary ones, which I suspected would be a mark against me. I was informed that [field 2] is almost never represented, and that I'd have a choice between traditionally-defined [field 1] or [field 99, somehow tangentially related in a convoluted way to field 2]. I opted for the [field 1] audience, and attempted to write a proposal that I hoped would appeal to that audience. In the end, it was a project I would have enjoyed, but not necessarily the one I would have chosen (namely my [longitudinal project]) had I been submitting to a multi-disciplinary committee.

I've made up my to-do list for the spring. Immediately, I have one conference abstract to prepare and submit: today's primary goal. Due in January, I have six possible job applications, which I'll work on today and later this week. Then, I have to work up my [field 2] conference talk for the end of February (and possibly a related one for the beginning of February, if that's accepted; should hear in the next couple of weeks). Assuming my conference submission for May is accepted, that's next, followed by the June conference talk I'm preparing the abstract for today.

Otherwise, I'm free. Free to set a course, test the wind and the sails, and head off. The heading is mine to choose.

*Updated to add:
Got the comments from my NEH panelists. Mostly helpful. I've not been trashed for being a fraud, merely coaxed to make better arguments. If I'm judged average or slightly better than average among a class of top-notch individuals, is that so much to feel bad about?

Morning rising

6:43 am: The radio on my wife's side of the bed presents a faux-Medieval styled arrangement of a round for mixed chorus, gentle, soothing.

The image in my mind is of me, alone, in a rowing scull, or kayak, the only sound that of my oars entering and departing the water. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. The sun rising in the distance. Nothing but me, the boat, the water, the sun, a stray tree on the shore.

I sit up.

Good Morning, says my wife.
Good morning.

She presses off the radio. The house is silent. I stretch a little, then take a shower. The Rocket Scientist and I sit to a breakfast of cereal, fresh mangoes, orange juice, and coffee.

The house is silent.

7:23: The Painter, followed by The Inventor enter the kitchen.

Good morning.
Good morning, my beautifuls.

My wife and I smile. The day has begun. I can't recall the last, peaceful morning, that my wife and I sat to breakfast in quiet. Perhaps we should rise early more often, and hope the boys stay in bed. They normally arise about 6:30, before we'd like to wake.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pseudonym as Synonym

Pseudonymously yours. In my small blogging circle of friends, there has been a good deal of energy spilt these past few days on the issue of pseudonyms and quasi-anonymity. I say a good deal of energy, because though much of it has been spent by me, ever the scientist, I can't quantify the actual number of posts, or bloggers involved. We each will make our own choices, for what serves our purposes best. I respect those who remain anonymous as well as those who shed that raiment.

Some of my friends on this blog have commented that my pseudonymity doesn't mask my personality, nor diminish my genuineness. I hope not. I confess my pseudonym here is in large measure calculated to permit me a degree of honesty that my real name publicly on the web might hinder. I have a public face on the web (several in fact). I've maintained a near-constant web presence, under my real name, since about 1994. As I've said here before, I am not jealous of my identity. What I wish to avoid is for a websearch of my real name, likely by a stranger wishing to learn more about me or uncover dirt, to turn up this blog.

But for me, as Ianqui reflected in My Alter Ego and as the comments by New Kid on the Hallway and Sheepish affirmed, the pseudonym permits me to speak frankly of my insecurities, my fears, my doubts, which my public face to the world might hide.

I think about our social interactions. There is some truth in the stance of epistemic solipsism. In a sense, are we not all anonymous to each other? The point is, we never really know what is inside another person's mind. Even language permits us only a glimpse, as our idiolects differ by degree from others. Think of my use of jealous above. I prefer its secondary or tertiary meaning, but I risk being misunderstood when I do so.

Others have remarked in the past that I do a good job of shielding the specifics of my research on this blog, that from my posts they'd have had no idea what my [field 1] and [field 2] in reality are. I fear however, if I professed those details here, it might make my experience just a little bit less accessible to others. This blog is in large part a reflection of my personal situation, but it would lose a great deal if it failed to serve as well as mirror for others looking on.

Years ago, when I was more romantic than today, and perhaps even more foolish, I devised a definition of love that said in part love is seeing in others a reflection of oneself. The aim of serving as looking glass, enabling others to see themselves, is a worthy and giving one, and one towards which I aspire in these posts. If the looking glass is too much self-portrait, our shared characteristics might become too obscure.

And so,
I remain pseudonymously yours,

Articulate Dad

Monday, December 04, 2006

America to rejoin the world of civilized diplomacy?

John Bolton resigns his post at the UN.

Can we celebrate yet?

Latest from Lake View U.

Got a call a little while ago, from Joe Krowicki at Lake View U. I have written about them many times here. Regarding this most recent posting, I indicated I was a bit unsure. As it turns out, from Joe's explanation during the call, the post is no longer really open to [true subfield]. The dean has nixed that idea. As Joe put it,
I've been asked to rewrite the description, and send a letter to all those who have applied, asking if they wish to still be considered for the post. It looks like innovation is on hold at Lake View U. Terrible thing to say, but there you have it.
Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but it is really good having a colleague like Joe. Silence is the enemy more than anything else.

It's disappointing because Lake View U. is one of less than a handful of schools in the States that has an established program in [true subfield].
I wouldn't say that [true subfield] is dead at Lake View U. but it's on life support.
That's how Joe put it.

Any ideas?.
Um... no, not really. You're pretty entrepreneurial. You'll think of something, I'm sure.

Despite the lack of specific guidance, it was quite a friendly conversation. I get the feeling that many who know me and my work are really pulling for me, trusting that something, somwhere will work out for me. As it turns out, Joe was one of the letter writers for Sara Chaisano's successful tenure-review. Small world.

There still remain 14 other schools (okay, mark that down to 13, since the first school would have called or contacted my references by now if they were interested) which still might pan out. And there are several more with January deadlines.

Meantime, I'm working on getting an agent for my children's books, and working up conference papers. I've got one more abstract to prepare (assuming I'm going to submit) in the next week or so. Then, there are the revisions of my dissertation, and continuing my compilation and editing of my dad's writing for that memoir. And, I've got to recruit volunteers for my [longitudinal study]. Much work. Too little time to feel sorry for myself. Who knows... maybe when I blink, good news will come knocking on my door.

Will the real Articulate Dad please stand up?

Years ago, bored in the afternoons after school, latchkey kid that I was, seeking noise to accompany my silence, distraction to partner with my half-attentive homeworking, I would turn on the television. One of the shows I occasioned upon was "the Dating Game" from which the unforgettable phrase "will the real [name] please stand up" emerged.

The past month or so, visits to my PRW (personal research website) have rivaled or surpassed those to this blog. Which represents the real me? Both, of course. Both different sides of the real me. I think of Ahistoricality's comment to yesterday's post.
you put up less of a persona than most
I take that as a compliment. But I realize that what I share online is only part of me. This blog presents a side of me that needs to be released. I hope that by sharing the trials I am going through, others will see that they are not alone. But I am not entirely altruistic: I like to have a soap box, and I find that writing can't help purge my demons.

The PRW represents a side of me that is very real as well. The side my intellect most associates with, my work (or rather, part of it). I don't discuss personal issues there. Each compartment to its own function. Together they make (more of) the whole.

As many of my regular readers will know, a back-burner project of mine is a memoir of my father, including a collection of his writings. Back in July on a blog I keep dedicated to my father's writing, which serves in a way as a sketch for the memoir/collection I wish to eventually publish, I mused at how often we have on our shelves a collected works of one scholar/scientist/author or another, and how insignificant their life's work may somehow seem, when contained between the covers of a single book. The book, as we all know, contains only a part, but a recoverable, public part. The rest is lost in transience.

It is alright. Life is like that. Transience makes the day to day ever more precious. Something to remember.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Am I become a caricature of myself?

My friend on Acade(me) has decided to move on, leaving behind a parting post calling into question the honesty of her own and other's blogging of late. It's much for reflection.

What is the purpose of this blog? Has it fulfilled its aims? Is it still useful, to me or others? December 19 marks the anniversary of this blog, and my anniversary as a blogger. Perhaps the next two weeks will see me reflecting more and more on this space, its function in my life, and its impact on the lives of others.

I have seen many of my blogging friends move on from their ABD'dom to faculty or staff posts. I remain in many ways still where I was a year ago, in post-doc limbo. Somethings have changed, for sure, some external, some internal. But many of the questions, and doubts, and fears, and hopes remain little altered.

Much to reflect. We shall see.