Friday, March 30, 2007

Making it easy

Good coaching this morning. I've been feeling a bit down lately, having the flu (or whatever) hasn't helped. Whatever the au pair had has infected me as well, though I've been managing it alright with OTC medicine, and lots of fluids.

But really, I've been beating myself up. I think of BrightStar's recent post. When I'm nice to myself ... when I'm not so nice...

Earlier in the week, I realized that what makes me happy these days is actually doing the work I've chosen for myself, the analysis and such that I hope in the short term will work to the benefit of forgery. I get gassed up thinking about these things. Diving into my analysis, my mind overflows with questions, problems, possible solutions, alternate avenues. This is what I live for.

Paul talks of making it easy for myself. I told him about the SOD rejection letter, and explained that I felt that was a last straw in a sense, that unless something dramatically changes, I don't expect to renew my membership, or to attend their conferences again. I said I've been beating myself up for years, trying to "get" this audience. But right now, I just don't care anymore. I don't get them; they don't get me. Perhaps I sound bitter. I don't wish to be bitter, I just want to move on.

You don't sound bitter to me. You just sound like someone who is coming to grips with not wanting to fight anymore. You don't need to. Make it easy on yourself. Do what comes naturally. Do what you enjoy. And when you're feeling good from your work, your analysis or whatever... that's when you pick up the phone and make a new contact.

I mentioned that I have this addiction to feedback. What's it mean when someone says "no" to you?

No? That's easy. It means I can move on to the next thing. It's when they say nothing that it pisses me off.

So, what's with that? What's with you and feedback? What does it mean when someone is silent?

It means they don't give a damn. I'm simply not important to them.

So it's all about you. What's the truth? The truth is they have lives too. It's not about you. It's about them, about where they are in life, what they need, what they want. But where does it hit you, physically, when you're ignored?

Hmm... I'll tell you where it takes me. It takes me to the playground in elementary school, when I was the last kid picked for the team.

Aha! Okay, so now we're getting somewhere. Now you've identified the personality trait that's running the show in this. (I've got that kid too, inside of me.) But that six-year old isn't good at running your business, is he? You've been beating him up like the bullies did to you. Don't beat him up. Tell him you'll take care of him. Tell him he'll be alright What do you want to say to him?

You can be on my team.

There you go! Let him on the team. Just don't let him run your life.

Now, I need to settle with forging ahead for the next few months, accepting (as a poem I once wrote put it) "time takes time". Either this will work, or it won't. I've got little to lose in trying it, and much to gain, either way.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fun with websearch

In emulation of Lilian's recent post, on Mama(e) in Translation, I just had to note this search:
faulty causation "pickles"
which linked to an archive of my posts from last October, including this post berating pop-science and this one discussing pickles. I do hope their next batch of pickles comes out okay.

Good point

A few days ago, my mom mentioned she had spoken with her ex-husband (the man she met when I was 11, and married when I was 13, with whom she remained married until a few years ago). Let's call him Tom. He happens to be a full professor at a prestigious East Coast University, but he was a far cry from that when I was young. Their conversation turned to me. Tom mentioned that the husband of a colleague of his recently took an industry post in [Applied Research Field], and suggested I might send him my resume to be forwarded along.

Yesterday, I received the following email:
Dear Articulate,

Tom Stepdad forwarded your C.V. to me and we also had a phone discussion about your interest in [Applied Research Field]. Glad to hear that you've taken a liking to our field of study.

I've only had time to briefly look over your resume and take a quick look at your website. I'd like to take a look at your thesis and a couple of your papers to get a better sense of what you've done and where you're hoping to go with it. It looks like your dissertation is on your website and I can view it there; are there one or two of your papers that you'd recommend, and are they on-line? Also, any work involving computing?

I'll take a look at your thesis, and look forward to hearing from you further.

PIC Technologies
I took a look over their website, and sent off a few quick inquiries to some of my contacts in the field to find out what I could about the company, and if anyone knew this fellow. Susan Trout gave me a call at home (I was watching the boys, while the au pair recovered from some bug that gave her 103 fever). It's good to have friends. We talked for about 20 minutes about things. She's one of the few in the field (like Meredith Binowitz and Frank Mayer) who is neither an engineer nor a computer scientist. As she explained, most of them got in somehow through the backdoor, usually by joining a team as a new lab was forming. She said she's sat on hiring committees, years later, realizing that she'd probably not have hired herself. She suggested perhaps a fruitful avenue for me might be finding a small startup that plans to do things a different way. We talked a bit about research and applications. There is a place for me. I will find a path!

Back to the letter. I began drafting a response today. Paul called me in the middle of it, in response to a quick note I sent him this morning asking for feedback on some of what I'd been sending him earlier in the week. Good thing, too. He said, why don't you just send Ven a quick response, and try to get him on the phone. Go to your strengths. You're good on the phone, and in person. Use writing as your fallback, if you need to.

I realized at that point, that I was drafting a rather defensive (perhaps aggressive in the words of Jim Lodz) reply. Not so good. Not really what I want to project. I do have confidence that there's a place for me in this field. Perhaps, like my friend What Now!, examining the prospects of teaching high school, I may even have more confidence in this direction than in continuing to seek a faculty appointment.
Hi Ven,

Thanks for the contact. Glad to see there's some interest. Why don't we try to hook up on the phone this week or next. You can try me at my office [phone number] just about any time, or send me a number and a good time to call, and I'll do my best to oblige.

Paul is right. Go to my strengths. Good point!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Society of Old Dinosars going extinct

The dinosaurs are going extinct--at least in my eyes.
Dear Articulate Dad,

Thank you for submitting a proposal for the meeting of the Society of Old Dinosaurs [location/date]. I regret to report that the Program Committee did not select your proposal.

The committee had the difficult task of selecting only 144 papers out of over 570 submissions. Unfortunately it could not accept all of the promising abstracts that were proposed. Both the Committee and the SOD Board have asked me to encourage you to consider presenting your work at an SOD chapter meeting* or other venues.

If you have questions about this year's deliberations, you may address them to [name], Chair of the Program Committee [email].

Yours sincerely,
Executive Director, Society of Old Dinosaurs
* Well, actually, I did. Last year, I presented a preliminary version of this work at the local chapter meeting.

Out of curiosity, I will write to the program chair to see if I might read redacted comments on my abstract (if such things exist). My impression is simply that old dinosaurs have no interest in my work. If they're not a proper part of my audience, perhaps I should stop trying to talk to them. I don't wish to be bitter. I just wish to understand my audience better.

This was the third abstract I'd submitted to the national conference, having not submitted for about four years. I have presented about a dozen conference papers, having organized and chaired two sessions. Do I really need the SOD to listen?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A little work'll do you good

Here's a little check-in I just sent to my coach. I've got to take off early now, to take the Painter to swim lessons. Paul had suggested recently that my frequent emails or phone calls seem to benefit me, and that he's happy to have them, so:
Hi Paul,

I was a bit down this morning. I'm stressed today by all the uncertainty, and oppressed by my own attachment to feedback. A few of the people I've emailed in the past month have remained silent, allowing the yeast of my mind to ferment in worries. I think of your caution following [Industry Conference West] to not allow myself too much to dwell in my head.

When I sit, and wonder which direction to go, I wallow in misery. Rocket says not to worry about her, and we've looked over the finances, and I know that we'd survive. But I worry nonetheless about making an income. I know: one thing at a time. I've got time to get there. October (the soonest she might take off from work) is a ways away. June 1st is my target for the first "sales call." Patience. It will come.

I finished reading over the articles by Matt Suliman yesterday, and typed up my notes. I went over them a bit today, and got the courage to send him an email with some questions and comments. Then, I dove back into my analysis. I really enjoy this work. God, I want just so much to find a landing spot. I don't have to stay there, but I want somewhere to pause, to have the leisure to complete a project, knowing that I'll get paid for it, that it will lead somehow to the next one.

It's like swimming across an ocean. I want some places to pause, check my heading, to be sure I'm not swimming endlessly in circles.


Get up and do something

That's what I started to say to myself, after penning the last post. I realize that part of my problem is in the description there "I sit in my office, wondering what to do."

Of course, sitting, and wondering, is like navel-gazing, most conducive to stagnation. I finally got the motivation to write up an email to Matt Suliman the founder and president of SciFi Now!, whom I met at [Industry Conference]. He had sent me a couple articles that he had published on issues we had discussed at the conference. I finished reading them and typing up my notes yesterday.

Normally, I'm quite a gregarious person. But I hesitate at times, when I feel a particular contact is important. This is a fellow I hope to be friends with for a long time, as we share a great many interests. But it's sent off now.

Part of my problem today, and what has either lead me to a bit of navel-gazing, or at least has made that "sitting" more painful, is that I've been a bit in the waiting stage. I've been anticipating hearing from several people or institutions, who have remained silent. I need to get beyond the waiting, stop thinking about it, and accept that that's the way it is. Move ahead. Get working again. So, that's what I'm off to do.

Silent phase

I've been silent a few days. Haven't felt like I had anything to say. Not really sure what to write now.

My brother-in-law and his wife were in town (last Thursday through last night). That was nice. In part it might explain some of my silence. And, there're taxes, which have taken up some of our time lately.

I'm just quite uncertain right now. Several of you fellow bloggers have been writing about writing, or about conferences, or about grading and teaching. I sit in my office, wondering what to do.

Partly, there's some confusion, coming from my wife's ups and downs about her work. She's dealing with an existential crisis herself. Part of her is pulling her to spend more time at home with the family. But there are hidden hands gripping the bars of her career, unwilling to loosen their grasp. Figuring out why they are holding on, and what the bar represents has been distracting both her and me for a while.

These uncertainties impact me in determining how much and when I need to bring in income. Thinking about that weighs on me, feeling an emptiness from taking. Having no income makes me feel like a fat, spoiled 20-something lying on a couch, watching sitcoms, and playing video games all day. Sure, I contribute at home. And I handle the finances, pay the bills, manage the investments. And I know the guilt is fruitless.

I haven't been lying on a couch. But I'm reminded of the lesson I learned years ago, about auditions. They don't care how long it took you to learn the part. They don't care how hard you tried. They care only about whether you pull it off. Today, I feel like I haven't yet pulled it off. I've been shirking a role that seems ill-suited to me. Yet, I'm still trying on costumes, reading over scripts, wondering if this one or that is a better fit.

I've been doing more reading recently. But days go by that seem to be rather unproductive. Accomplishments seem inordinately small in comparison to the time spent.

Mixed signals. There's still a tug for me to the academy. Yet, the academy has pushed me off, repeated, consistently, for years. The bitter taste still dwells in my craw. But I realize the acridness is mostly self-induced. Like with feelings and thoughts, it's up to me how to proceed.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Some clarity?

I got a reply this morning from another company I had contacted. This contact was interesting, a bit off the track. This company produces educational products that are a bit tangential to Applied Research Field, more user, less developer, but in some ways right up my alley. Thanks to Trillwing for her comments and challenges. Also, in light of Paul's urgings, I think I'll be shifting my strategy a bit, once again more toward fact gathering, and friendship building. I've a deadline for my first "sales call" tentatively set for June 1. I've got some time between now and then to learn more, make more contacts, and work on my research. Nonetheless, this was a bit more encouraging a reply than what I got from Swiss Forgery yesterday.
Dear Clarity Products:

Attached please find a copy of my current CV. I received a PhD in [Field 1] & [Interdisciplinary Field] from the University of Paradise in 2005. I have spent the past couple years as a post-doctoral researcher in [Field 2]. The core of my work has involved [area]. My dissertation focused on [description]. I've recently made a shift in focus from an academic career toward one in industry, concentrating on Applied Research Field.

Currently, I am engaged in work on [focus], with an aim to better incorporating these within Forgery systems. I've also been engaged in [description of work I presented at Field 2 conference]. I believe both of these projects should be of interest and value to Clarity Products.

My first entry to Clarity Products was the purchase many years ago of [product]. I was amused and impressed. I would be delighted for the chance to help make improvements to the fine products you produce. I am open to discussing any appropriate opportunities to work with Clarity Products, either as employee or consultant. Please contact me at your convenience.

[consultancy sig file]
Thank you!
We have received your resume, and we greatly appreciate your interest in Clarity Products. Your resume is being passed directly to the hiring manager for review. If your background and objectives seem likely to meet our current needs, we'll contact you as soon as possible. Then it will be our turn to see if we can meet your needs. We realize the people we want have many options, and that hiring is a mutual process.

You can learn more about our company at [URL]. Thank you again for contacting us.

The Human Resource Group of
Clarity Products, Inc.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Getting out of my own way

Get out of your own way! That was the concept from today's coaching. How do you make it difficult for yourself?

Hmm... Paul was rather intent on helping me realize that "getting a job" is not exactly what I want, and frankly, it's not an easy task for me.

But why, in the universe, am I the only one this is tough for? I mean, okay, this is what people do: they send off their resumes, someone calls them. Easy. I thought that was the easy route. I've been trying to become a professor. That's hard.

Easy is a relative thing. The problem with taking someone else's path is that you don't have their eyes, and you bump into things. It's not your path. You're good in person, on the phone; you're interesting, engaging. Much better than in emails. Get off the computer! Make some phone calls; take some people to lunch. Ask them questions.

Okay... okay!

Thanks to apparently for her comment to my earlier post. Grace and courage to move forward are what I need.

Where is love?

Dear Mrs. Miner,

I have recently made a shift in career focus from academia to applied research in Applied Research Field. Attached please find a copy of my current CV. I received a PhD in [Field 1] & [Interdisciplinary Field] from the University of Paradise. Since August 2005, I have served as a Visiting Scholar there in [Field 2]. My principal interest regards [specifics].

My Ph.D. dissertation addressed [details, and their relation to Applied Research Field]. I recently gave a talk at the [Field 2 conference], presenting [details]. At the conference, I met [researcher from Switzerland], whose work on [details] is close to my own interests.

I would be very interested to discuss with you what opportunities there might be for someone with my background and interests, either at Swiss Forgery, or more broadly within Applied Research Field. I welcome any and all feedback from you, or from anyone you might refer me to. I look forward to hearing from you.

Articulate Dad
Dear Mr. Dad

Thank you for your application for employment with Swiss Forgery.

We regret to inform you, that there is no open job postition for your profile in the moment. What we can do, is keeping your CV, and we would come back to you in case a suitable job opening occurs in the future.

We would like to take the opportunity to wish you every success for the future.

yours sincerely,
Jessica Miner
Must I continue to get this crap, wherever I turn? I really tire of this.

Patience... Perseverance. It will come.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Moving forward

Hi Mauricio,

Talked with Harry Quill for about an hour yesterday. Thanks for the introduction. Nice guy. Honest. Open. He didn't offer me a job, but he gave me quite a few ideas for moving forward.

Just to let you know: I submitted my resume and materials for 5 positions at [Subtle Products], hoping to break into the field whatever way I can. This is my path; I just have to figure out how to get on it.

The positions I submitted for are:

* [title] in Belgium
* [title] in Belgium
* [title] in the UK
* [title] in Massachusetts
* [title] in Massachusetts

I don't know what they'll be looking for. I'm not sure where I'll fit. What I do know is that [Applied Research Field] is my new home, however it comes.

Meantime, I'm not holding my breath for anything. I'm starting a consultancy [name of consultancy, electronic business card attached] to keep me busy, focusing initially on [details] and finding ways to incorporate this element into existing Forgery systems. Hopefully something will take. While I'm waiting, it sure is good to do some practical research.

Now... when are you coming for dinner? You just let me know when you'll be in the Rocket City area.


Thank you again for the kind invitation!

Glad you liked Harry-- he is a great guy. I used to work with him (and the rest of his team) and have enjoyed staying in touch with him.

Please send me another copy of your resume (I didn't keep the old one) and I'll forward it internally to the hiring managers for all of these positions.

Are you looking to relocate to the UK, Belgium or Boston?


Mauricio Huppman
Global Sales Manager
[Subtle Products, Inc.]

The day moves, but slowly

The day moves, but slowly (3/20/2007)

The day moves, but slowly,
as heart and mind race
through time and place
with rampant pace.

Have I moved, even slowly, myself?

I see through a fog
that movement is slow
while thoughts are quick,

but quickest
when cogitations come ruminations,
those ruminations turn musings,
and musings find outlets to be
realized and free.

Monday, March 19, 2007

et tu, Tasse?

Dear Articulate:

Sounds like you're doing lots of great things. I had a long conversation with the folks at [Alternate University] less than a week ago, so I hope something comes of it.

I'm very sorry it's all been so frustrating; obviously, that wasn't what you wanted. Your plan to start a consulting company sounds quite rich, and I hope you'll send me material so that I can pass it along to others.

As usual, congrats on your successful paper presentations and your other work.

Warm regards to the family.


Tasse Plein
Professor and Chair, [Field 1]
[Big East Private]
At some point, we all grow up. My father died more than two years ago. In his later years, an unspoken realization was that I had surpassed his accomplishments (though surely not his late-blooming wisdom). He was very proud of my degrees, and anticipated with relish the completion of my PhD. It was, for me, a proud moment when, faced with a desire to return to writing, he trusted me with critiquing his poetry, in preparation for a fellowship application. Even the many times I disregarded it, I miss the opportunities to hear his advice.

When he died, my mother said I was "head of the clan": I'm the stable one, the married one, the well-degreed. The implication was that I am a finished product, ready to be packaged, shipped, and utilized. When I was younger, I often called my mother with one principal intent: merely to hear her say "it will be alright". I'm sure she'd tell me the same today. But I need to hear it in my own voice. I shudder. This, now... is all on me.

Unfinished Business

My earlier post was not the whole story. After writing it, I piddled for about an hour. I was still home at the time, having woken up a bit under the weather (probably allergies more than anything, as the local air quality is poor today). I had been delaying making a phone call, following up on one of the references that Mauricio Huppman had set up for me. I wanted to be in the right frame of mind. I finally made the call which lasted nearly an hour. It was free-wheeling, and encouraging. The upshot was he thought I'd find little resistance on the consulting path I'm setting up.

The letters had put me in an odd mood, thus the delay. I can't say I was really depressed by them. I'm not even sure how I'd react today if one of those schools called me up for an interview. It's an odd place to be.

In the back of my mind as well were this morning's emailed comments by Paul, goading me to jump from the plane, to trust my parachute. I had written him about the possible adjunct opportunity at [Lemon University]. Some of what follows is raw, so forgive me the lack of focus, the flightiness. Some ideas fly away with the wind like chaff. Some of this surely is chaff. I'm thinking out loud. Think of it as brainstorming, rather than edited copy. I had noted in my email to Paul:
It's a tough call for me, since I've been working and hoping for this eventuality for years now. Now that it seems likely, I'm torn. I keep saying I'm not quite ready to give up the aim of becoming a professor, and yet my sense of self-identity has been shifting. I need it less, if at all. This, of course, would simply be part time. There are logistical issues, in particular what the pay would be, and what the commute would look like (would I be teaching two days a week, three? days? evenings?). Certainly those factors would play into my decision.

But they're not all. Rocket & I have been talking about a default "exit strategy". She and I need to hash this out a bit more, but one idea we've been floating around is that, by the end of this year, unless something else takes hold to belay it, we'd plan to move back to [Former City], where we have friends, where we love the location, where there is easy access to a hub airport to conveniently fly just about anywhere in the states, and around the world. We haven't worked through all the details, but it's a thought that appeals in ways to both of us.
I had also kept Paul apprised of my correspondence with Joe Krowicki.
Thanks for the note. Great to connect with you and Rocket this past week. My gut tells me that it's time to make a decision on the Professorship. From what I gathered on the call on Friday, you both seem "done" with the idea of a Professorship. And, there is some unfinished business with you and the academic job hunt. My guess...if you get the offer and say no, you'll be able to put this phase of your life behind you. Again, just my're an entrepreneurial spirit. Teaching? Maybe. But, probably after, or while you are in the process of making your mark.

The move to [Former City] will get a lot more conceivable once you have a few accounts under your belt or have a job that pays you what you feel you are worth and challenges you in that all important dinner party way.

I agree with Joe. He talks about there being a lot of networking involved in starting out on your own. You love to network. And, you're great at it. Having been an Entrepreneur for almost 20 years now, this I can tell you for sure. The merit system works in the business world. If you're the best, are willing to let people know that in a non-threatening way, help them see how you can make them better and do what you say you are going to do, you win. In other business...the cream does rise to the top.
So there you have it. Where do I go from here?

Trickling rejection

The academic rejection letters trickle in, day by day. I mentioned a couple days ago that I had received the official letter from Joe Krowicki at [Lake View U.]. A few others have been crossing my transom.

Today brought three more:

The expected disappointment:
Dear Dr. Dad,

On behalf of [Research Center] at [Big West Private], I would like to thank you for your interest in our junior faculty position. It was a pleasure to review your supplementary materials with the members of the search committee. However, I regret to inform you...

Please accept our wishes for much success in your career, and thank you for your interest in [Big West Private].

Larry Strope
The impersonal send-off:
Dear Dr. Dad:

I am writing with regard to your application for X at Y. The Search Committee has completed its review of the submitted credentials, and I am sorry to report that your application is no longer under consideration for this position. The Committee was very impressed with the quality of the applications submitted. The selection of candidates from the overall field was not an easy task...

[Name], Dean
And, the heart-warming heartbreak (to be noted alongside the recent letter Trillwing presented):
Dear Articulate [Middle Name] Dad:

Thank you for your application for the Assistant Professor of [Subfield 1] at [University].

In most faculty searches, the university receives from one hundred to four hundred applications. Nearly all applicants are qualified by academic training and degree program, so the task of each search committee is a daunting one. Our hiring process calls for the committee to present ten to twenty files to the dean for review and ultimately to recommend a small number of candidates, normally three, for campus interviews.

We are painfully aware that many excellent candidates exist in what are sometimes very crowded fields. I can assure you that your application was read with attention and evaluated carefully. In this case, however, you were not among those finalists for the position who were invited to campus. One of those finalists has now been offered and has accepted the position.

The search committee and I thank you for your interest in [University]. We wish you the best in your effort to find an appropriate and attractive faculty appointment.

[Name], Academic Vice President
The pain does not diminish.This last letter hit me the hardest. Such a fine pool of qualified and talented candidates. What a stupid waste for society to not use those talents. And why am I here? Why do I still torture myself, with almostness?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Torn by a Lemon peel

Last week, I wrote to my friend, Sara Chaisano, to renew my invitation for her and family to come over for dinner (it's about 40 minutes to an hour's drive), and to update her on my current career thinking. I'm torn, because it seems the prospect of them offering me some adjunct teaching for next year is shoring up. What do I want, now? Not sure.
Hi Articulate! Sorry to take so long to respond. Life is really crazy. Newborn schedule and my current administrative tasks. So I am checking email about twice a week only.

Anyway, thank you for the invitation for dinner! It is very kind of you and we would love to come up there. [Detailed Logistics]. So maybe April would be better. But then it's so hard for me to find time to grade now that I spend so much time baby-tending, that it might be better after the semester is over! Or maybe we could meet half way?

Good luck with your faculty job search. That's too bad about [Lake View U.]--do you know why they did that? Here at [Lemon University] it looks more and more like we'll probably need someone to cover our [Field 1] 101 course for the fall and spring next year. I'm not sure about anything else yet, but also possible the [broader crossdisciplinary] class. Nothing concrete yet---but if it works out would you be interested in teaching 101 for us? I already have my two [subfield 2] colleagues on board to approve you.

Take care!
I've got to reply in the next few days. I'll have to discuss this with the Rocket Scientist. I'd be loathe to turn aside an opportunity that I've spent years working for (even if it's on the bottom rung), without something else to hold on to. This is a really tough call for me. But I respect Sara too much (and my own sense of propriety) to lightly say, yeah, sure, I'd do it, unless I have a good sense that I'd be willing to follow through. To some extent, it would depend on logistics: what would the pay be, and what would be the schedule, both of which would help me to decide the practicality of the commute vs. the costs in time and money for travel.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

How well do you know me?

As seen on the Clutter Museum:
Create your own Friend Quiz here

Baking improvements

I have not yet achieved mastery of baking, but recently dedicated myself to improving this lack. One motivator was the fact that we fell in love with the bread we could purchase daily and cheaply in Central Europe during our year abroad. In Paradise, we were fortunate to find a wonderful bakery that provided us with "multigrain basket" bread, a rather good approximation. But there is nothing of the sort here in the Rocket City area. Below is my most recent attempt at a sourdough multigrain loaf. The size, shape, flavor and texture are closer to my aim, but still not quite right.

Actually, the pictured loaf was a bit big. We were used to purchasing 1 kilo loaves in Europe (often half, or quarter loaves). This one weighed in at 1.6 kilos! I've got a sourdough rye loaf rising at the moment, a smaller one. We'll see how that turns out. The difficulty is in making a free-form loaf that doesn't fall flat. It needs enough density to hold its shape without becoming a brick.

And, below, this morning's crop of apple-banana-mango pancakes (served with Articulate's homemade mango and strawberry jam, of course). Don't worry, we had ample leftovers to put away.

Again, this is a not-quite-perfect creation. The boys adore pancakes. Part of my aim is to get more fruit into #1. While #2, at 2 years old, is still content to eat just about anything, #1, at 4;11, attaches himself to certain rather arbitrary refusals. He loves mangoes, but won't touch apples or bananas these days (unless they're disguised). I've taken to blending up the fruit and mixing it in with the batter. I've created some delicious but rather mushy results, realizing that the proportions are not quite right. Today's included about 1/2 cup each of chopped apples, mangoes, and bananas (blended it comes to just over 1 cup total), two eggs, 3 cups of flour, 2-1/2 cups of milk, 2 tbs. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Good, but I still want to do better. I could probably reduce the baking powder to 1.5 or even 1 tbs. But I'm not sure what other adjustments to make. Any thoughts?

My garden (for Tracy)

My dear friend, Tracy (blog restricted to members), asked a while ago for pictures of my garden. Not much to show yet, as many of the plants are still tiny seedlings. What you see on the right of this picture is mostly "volunteer" tomato plants, many transplanted from pots which had been filled with homemade compost, thus the volunteers. Tiny sprouts of peppers, beans, zucchini, eggplant, cantaloupe, carrots, watermelons, cucumbers (I think that's all) dot the remainder of the ground. In the back, you see a screen door which shades the abundant crop of lettuce, arugula, and broccoli. Below, you see a "volunteer" lettuce head, of which I am truly proud. The picture was taken just before harvesting this past week.

Inventor as explorer

Visiting the local botanic gardens not too long ago, the Inventor went exploring in the land of giant cactus:

Paint by numbers

Lest any of you forget my domesticity, I begin a series of posts that highlight that aspect of my nature. Perhaps, in emulation of my dear friend, Lilian, a proud show of domesticity may help rub some of her family's recent good luck on the Articulate clan.

The Painter, a rather methodical sort, has discovered a great interest in numbers. Here, and below, evidence, from two different afternoons this past week.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Redacted Joe

Be sure to read my post below. Then read on:

Gripe away! I couldn't agree more. (And by the way, sorry that I did not flag that form letter before it got sent. My only excuse is that I'm writing you from sunny [EuroCity].) I too had trouble getting my foot in the door, and I know someone with a Ph.D. from Harvard who never did manage to please all the right people on the right day. It's a crazy system. I think you should give research/consulting a whirl to see how it goes. I believe a good deal of networking is required, and probably a mentor "inside."

Let me know if I can help, and I hope you'll keep me in the loop.


Beginning the break

I have a habit: when I wish something to become real, I put it in writing, and send it off to someone.

In 2001, while serving as the de facto director of a center for the interdisciplinary study of [Field 1] (I had a 100% TA-ship attached to the center, with Tasse Plein as my advisor), I drafted the bylaws, giving it a structure, and I designed it's logo, which stands to this day.

This week, I put that creativity to work on my own consultancy. I designed a business card and letterhead. I printed them up. The first thing I did, was package up some homemade jam to send off to Susan Trout, one of my new friends from [Industry Conference West]. She works for [Corporate Giant], and became a fast friend and advocate for me, while also offering some pointed criticism. Enclosed in the box with the jam, I put a new business card, and hand wrote a note on my letterhead.

Had a good coaching this morning, jointly with my wife. It was mostly occupied with interactions between her and Paul. I think it was quite productive, and will give us some jumping off points for moving ahead with collective dreaming.

I feel the break with an academic career search building, even while the possibility of being hired by [Alternate University] looms. I might be quite content to pick up some online courses, while building a future of my own design.

Here are some excerpts of emails I sent today to Joe Krowicki and Tasse Plein. Put it in writing, and it becomes real:
Hi Joe,

Life goes on. Just got your official [Lake View U.] "thanks but no thanks" letter. I suppose you're in Europe, or somewhere in between. I hope the trip proves productive and enjoyable for you.

Here's my latest, since you asked to be kept informed. I attended [Industry Conference West] as I mentioned. It was quite inspiring. The projects that are underway in [Applied Research Field] are really something. I left the conference with about 20 business cards from contacts I had made, along with perhaps another 20 or more names of people to follow up with, many of whom I've already sent inquiries to. So far, nothing concrete. But I decided in the meantime to get started on some research which I hope will serve to improve [Forgery]. As a vehicle for these efforts I've started the shell of my own consultancy. Attached is a symbol of this new persona.
While I still believe I would enjoy the role of professor, indeed I have confidence that I would play it well, I've tired much of the role I've been playing these past couple years, of perpetual job seeker. It's discouraging, disappointing, and seemingly useless: much effort for no reward, and no benefit to others. At least if I've got a classroom, I know something will get through to the students. But to send off application after application to bored and tired search committees, with uncertain agendae, administrative diktats, imposed curricular requirements, is wearing in the extreme. This is not what I signed on for when I went back to school for a PhD.

I like research. I like working to solve real problems, grounded in practical needs. I haven't been trained for that. It's a different sort of focus than I'm used to, a more broad audience. I can't say I've fully given up the goal of becoming a professor, but I'm less and less inclined to fit myself into the pre-ordained roles defined by visionless administrators and search committees. I suppose I should apologize for the bitterness that comes through. I've worked hard to accomplish something as an academic; I've trod on the path through the woods, only to find a barren field at the clearing. Damn it, I'm going to find a path that leads to fruit!

Thanks for being a mentor to me in this, and for your patience in hearing me gripe.

Hi Tasse,

It's been a while. I suppose you were likely contacted by [Alternate University] this week. I applied to them on a whim, having seen an ad for their opening on some website about a month ago. It might be nice to have some use for my training in [Field 1]. Other than that, the academic job search has continued to net me little but silence and frustration. While I haven't fully given up the hope of finding meaningful work as a professor, I've realized that I hate the role I've been playing these past couple years, of perpetual job seeker. I don't play it well.

A few weeks ago, I attended [Industry Conference West]. ...then headed off to Europe for [Field 2 Conference]. I got back a couple weeks ago, and have been clearing my plate of obligations, seeking a new direction to move forward. I'm not sure where this will all lead, but I am certain that the path I've been on has lead me to nothing but misery and self-doubt. I didn't go back to school to wander aimlessly after completing a PhD. That wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I want to make a difference. I want to contribute to advancing human knowledge. If I'm denied a classroom, I've got to find myself a different venue for moving ahead.

I've decided to create the shell of a consultancy as the vehicle for some of my present research. With any luck, I'll be able to sell some of my ideas in [Applied Research Field]. Who knows where this will lead. But it's a far more enjoyable way to spend my time, than reading rejection letters from university search committees.

I hope you are well, that [your wife] is enjoying her present state, that the children are thriving. All my best to you, Tasse.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tacky Schmacky

Tackiness be damned. I wrote earlier in the week of my dilemma regarding possibly lost emails. I decided, what the hell. There were only about a half dozen people whom I had written to in the past week or so from whom I had been expecting replies. I wrote them all brief notes this morning indicating that I had had some server problems earlier in the week, causing some senders to receive bounced email messages. I asked that they resend any emails that suffered that fate, apologized for the inconvenience, and said in any case that I looked forward to hearing from them. At least that's done.

Now, on to more analysis, new contacts, and working up my personal syllabus for life to send to my coach tonight. Rocket will be joining us for the coaching tomorrow for the first time. Tomorrow is one of her Fridays off, due to her 9/80 work schedule. I hope (and expect) the coaching will benefit her as well. She's been back and forth lately. It's been a not-so-great week for her at work, which means she's leaning more toward the dream of taking time off. But it's not so clear. I hope the joint coaching will help clarify matters.

Perhaps it's hormones

[Apologies for the following medicinal report]:

My wife is fond of the phrase "maybe it's just hormones" to explain occasional or pervasive feelings of ambiguity or uncertainty. And so, I wish to note that on the occasion of my latest relapse to self-pity, I was suffering from a rather large protrusion on my forehead, covering the right half from my eyebrow nearly up to my hairline, from the crease in the center almost to my temple. The swell was dramatic, sticking out nearly a half inch. Think of it as a lump about the size of an adult ear.

Why was it there? I wasn't sure. I mean, it could be a rather sudden tumor. No memory of banging my head. Not really painful, except, I was beginning to get a headache. I finally settled on the belief that it was sinus congestion. It seems my supposition was right. Despite my dosing with sudafed and tylenol or ibuprofen, on top of my daily allegra and flonase, during the past couple days, it hasn't fully gone away, though it has reduced.

Last night, perhaps partly in response the the compression and pressure point stimulation I applied to reduce the swelling, it sank, and my right eye is swollen. I set an appointment with a physician this afternoon. It would seem I have a raging sinus infection. I will credit that discomfort, at least in part, for my passing mood, and leave it at that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

3:00 am, 4:00 am...

3:00 am, the Painter enters our room, mumbles something. My wife takes him back to bed. What did he want? I don't know... something about, he wanted to get the water bottle out of the corner of his bed, or something... Oh, okay.

... I couldn't get back to sleep. Too many thoughts. Thoughts are good... it's just the anxiety of them, the urgency at 3:00 am. I'd rather be more thoughtful and productive when the sun is out.

I got up, went to my computer, dealt with some minor nuisances regarding my PRW (which is STILL DOWN by the way)--I needed to update my billing information... still waiting.

Then... I typed up some notes for contacting one of the founders of Steel Industries, Evan Gray, who was recommended to me at [Industry Conference West] by Matt Suliman, the founder and visionary of a very exciting small startup company SciFi Now. I decided, I need to get back to making contacts (even if I'm in temporary hiatus because of the lapse of my domain name). And, there would be few better contacts to make than Evan.

Steel Industries
is really my first target to hire me, either as an employee or a consultant. I need to understand, as well as I can, how their technology works, what issues they are already dealing with, what they have in the pike, and how my research can fit into it. I have a suspicion that I'm on to something. But I need to make sure I'm not reinventing the wheel. Humility, commitment, persistence.

3:45 am... I return to bed. 4:00 am... the Painter is back... What do you need, sweety? Nothing... I just want to snuggle. He crawls into bed with us.

I had a dream that there was this boy, and he asked why we should be alive. Hmmm. I think we should be alive because life is pretty wonderful. What do you think? How is your life? Well, it's sort of medium. Alright, dear. We'll have to work on that. Good night. Good night, daddy!

I could sleep after that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Harder, but not impossible

A few days ago, I wrote that it's harder to get depressed. Harder, yes... but not impossible. Today was a down day, partly due to circumstance, as you may have read in my earlier posts. I still have no email. But more... I'm caught up in self-doubt. Of course, I know it won't serve me. Who cares if I'm unsure? Either I act, or I don't; and the latter choice is rather untenable. I have to move; I have to act.

But it's a slippery slope, once I let myself slide. Life's unfair... I'm stuck... I'm unappreciated... dumb luck...

[SIGH] But it won't serve. As my wife reminds me (echoing Paul) "you're in your head... get out of your head." It's true. Very simple really. It's easier now to identify the markers, to see through my own attitudes, the lies I tell myself (as Paul might say). Indeed.

But some days... I still get down, lonely, afraid. Today was one of those days.

Bloody Great!

I'm still waiting for my website and email server to come back up. I wondered will the email simply sit and wait, or will it be bounced as undeliverable? So, I sent a test message:
I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below.

For further assistance, please send mail to [postmaster]. If you do so, please include this problem report. You can delete your own text from the attached returned message.

The Postfix program
<articulate@prw.url>: Host or domain name not found. Name service error for name=prw.url type=A: Host not found
Which, of course, means... the emails (if any) will simply be lost, and anyone who has attempted to contact me via email will discover that I no longer exist, will possibly have no other means to contact me, and [SIGH] who knows...

I wonder, how tacky would it be to email everyone I might have liked to have received email from to inform them (once the server comes up again, of course) that indeed there were email problems, but they have been resolved?

I think that's a rhetorical question, but the answer is probably, VERY! [SIGH] The problem is, I simply can't know who might or might not have emailed me during this interminable period, and sending a note to the 98% of people I would have liked to have heard from, but who most likely hadn't attempted to contact me would be... tacky.

Damn damn damn! It had to happen NOW, right? Ah well. It will pass, and life will go on. And if I lost contact with some people... let's hope there are occasions for me to renew that contact and let them know I still exist. All I can do really.


This morning, I couldn't access my primary email account, which is on my Personal Research Website (PRW). I couldn't load up the site. Sometimes it goes down, unexpectedly. The host is cheap, but occasionally unreliable. Mostly however I'm quite satisfied. But it was down, for hours.

I finally called... and got a voice mail that said they only deal with emergencies via email, but fortunately a site being down qualifies as emergent. Also, fortunately, I have other email addresses off the PRW that I can access. They responded rather quickly... checking... then... your domain name has expired, please renew.

Apparently, my webhost sent 90-, 60-, and 30-day renewal notices... but I didn't get any of them. See, they had my old email address, one which was provided by our old ISP in Paradise, but since they don't service our area near Rocket City, we changed ISPs. I didn't think to check with them, and unfortunately, my permanent email forwarding address (at my first graduate institution) was set to forward to that old email as well. Aaarggh!

I wonder how many emails I've missed. Nothing for it, now. I renewed the domain name (I had prepaid for 2 years on the hosting contract, but the domain name was only registered for a year, I guess). But it may take "up to 72 hours to propagate worldwide," meaning, I suppose, that I may lose 3-4 days worth of emails. [SIGH]

Nothing for it. Let's just hope nothing important slips me by.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Close a door, and someone will knock

Dear Articulate Dad,

Thank you for expressing your interest in teaching at the [Alternate University]*.

We are pleased to inform you that the academic program director in your area of interest has reviewed your application and would like to consider your candidacy further. We ask that you arrange for an OFFICIAL transcript of your highest degree to be sent to our offices as soon as possible.

If you provided the names and contact information of five (5) professional references on your application, we will need no further information. We will be requesting that each reference respond within five business days.

The academic department will contact you once they have reviewed your completed application packet.

Again, thank you for your interest in [Alternate University].


Steven Hulk
Director of Worldwide Faculty Recruitment
* [Alternate University] is an accredited institution dedicated to providing students around the world the opportunity to achieve their goals through online instruction.

And just how did I come across this opening? Not through the usual channels. I didn't see it on the Chronicle's website. It wasn't posted on the vacancy lists of my professional societies. I saw an ad on some blog a month or so ago. No, this isn't a tenure-track gig. But then, maybe it's something to keep me busy while I get a consultancy off the ground. Who knows? Don't know where it'll go from here. But we'll see. Meantime, I'm happy just being where I am.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Is it hard to say goodbye?

Rocket asked a rather astute question last night, after we put the boys to sleep, while we sat on the couch, exhausted from a full day:
Is it hard for you to say goodbye to an academic career, for you to leave it all behind?
Hmmm. I thought, for just a moment, Well, there's nothing really I am leaving. So, no, it's not hard. The only thing really I'm saying goodbye to, is to my role as a perpetual job seeker within academia.
Truth be told, I think I could rather enjoy being a professor. The academy has been the constant for more than half my life. I entered college at age 15 in 1983, taking off a few years here and there before receiving my PhD in 2005. It was home.

I was teaching as an adjunct at a community college in Colorado 1998-2000, after having completed a master's degree in [Field 1]. I rather enjoyed it. The classroom for me, was like a stage, but the script was partly gleaned from experience, partly from the text, partly self-written, and a good part improvised. It was fun. But I haven't taught a classroom full of students in years. I have given a few guest lectures for other's classes at several institutions, and I taught one interdisciplinary seminar (of about 8 people) at my doctoral institution, while ABD. But the last time I had my own classroom was summer 2000, just before heading to Paradise.

At that point, I had decided to go back to school to get my PhD. I assumed that I would simply slide into the role of professor after completing it. It seemed the logical assumption: I was teaching at a community college with a master's; I was well-liked by my colleagues and students, had high evaluations; I had ideas that consistently raised people's interest, and a drive to completion. Why wouldn't I be able to move back into teaching at a college or university after finishing? I never really expected otherwise. It has been a great shock.

But, while I could enjoy the role of professor, I abhor the role of seeking. The past couple years have been terrible for me; they have sapped my energy, my enthusiasm, my drive, my self-confidence, my sense of purpose and direction. And for what? An unexamined assumption!

Now, I begin to examine it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The grass

Last night at the gym (yes, Rocket and I have joined a gym, and have begun going a couple times a week!), I confessed to her that there is a bit of the "grass is always greener" syndrome going on. I admitted that I found myself a bit (just a bit, really) down over her renewed enthusiasm for work. You see, I'm envious of her success, but the feeling diminishes when I can believe that underneath it all the grass really isn't any greener on the other side. But, if she's successful and happy, satisfied and rewarded, well... [SIGH] it's much more difficult to abide.

And that goes for all of you too. I mean if you're going to have a wonderful job and all, and a good relationship, delightful children... at least complain about something, so I don't feel quite so bad, okay?

Of course... I started my coaching with Paul this morning by explaining how pissed off I am over the fact that it's just too hard to get depressed anymore. I mean, sometimes I feel like wallowing in self-pity, embracing an indignant sense of injustice about the way the world has treated me. I mean I deserve it, right? It's just, now, see... I can't get myself all worked up in those endless loops, because, well... they're not terribly productive. And while they are familiar, they haven't done much to get me on the road to success, which, I have to admit, is rather more what I wish for myself.

So, it's back to analyzing forgery and figuring out what I can. I wrote to Drew Davidson, the CEO of Steel Industries who donated some of their software to my research to ask about a matter regarding my research. Let's say, I'm analyzing how forgery models colors, okay. Well, each forgery engine goes about segmenting the spectrum a little bit differently, so it's not so useful for me to simply impose my own arbitrary classifications on the analysis. I asked whether it would be possible for me to gain access into Steel Industries' paradigms for segmenting color.

The reply was swift. Here are a couple of commands you can enter into the system to output color segmentation data. WOW! How great. I mean, that saves me so much work, and enhances the relevance of my analysis a thousandfold. As I said to David in my reply, This is fun!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wouldn't it be funny if...

You know, I just had a rather odd and disconcerting thought, as I walked downstairs to check my office mailbox, a box which has been empty all but three times (only once with mail for me) since I started renting here in November. Our old postal carrier, in Paradise has got to be the absolute worst, least considerate, laziest, postal carrier I have ever encountered. In fact, I have had some wonderful, considerate, thoughtful, intelligent, giving carriers in my day. But he... was not one of them. In fact, he refused, outright refused to care one iota about his job. You'd think after the sixty-ninth time reading deceased sprawled over a letter to my dad, he'd have the sense to realize the next one would reappear in the box the same way, the next day. (You know, like the old Saturday Night Live skit: our top story tonight, Francisco Franco is stiiiill dead!) That was just one of the issues. Believe me, there were more.

But... I'm fairly certain that he'd completely disregard the forwarding order that we put into place, which because it saves us from having junk mail forwarded is not entirely a problem (we have had only a spare handful of forwards received at our new location since arriving in October)... but, I've become a bit curious that I've heard back from next to none of the schools I applied to for faculty posts. Now, granted, if they were interested in interviewing me, you'd think they'd call, or email me at least. Our phone numbers haven't changed, thanks to the wonders of Vonage, and the cell phone industry. But, I do wonder if some of the correspondence I would have been getting from these schools, which by rights should have been forwarded to me, was not rather delivered to the new tenants of our old house, who after the sixty-ninth time writing "not here" on the envelopes, tired of the procedure and simply threw them out. Makes you wonder.

Retreat, Release, Discard, Accept

A few days ago, I wrote that Rocket looks like she is closer to realizing that what she really wants is to take a break from (or leave behind) her work week and career, to spend more time with family and nature. Hmmm.

Tuesday, she spent the day in a class at work. They pay her to sit all day in a classroom, learning about the sorts of tasks other people do, the sorts of tasks she might do, if she chose to switch roles at work. (They pay her a handsome wage to learn. Not the pitiful wage of a TA, but a real wage. I can't even imagine. I wonder if she has the slightest understanding of just how much I relish that, how envious I am even). The class let out early. According to policy, she bills her hours by percentages, not by hours, to whatever "programs" she's assigned to. 100% of time that day to the class. So... she came home early, with only a slight tinge of guilt over it.

Yesterday, she left for work around 7:30. I spoke with her around 4:30 or so. She said to expect her around 6:00. I watch the boys from 4:00 these days. I normally start cooking dinner when she gets home. 6:15, the boys and I were playing in the backyard, the sky was darkening to evening. The phone rang. My wife. Oh, sorry... I'm just leaving work now. I'll see you in about a half hour?

[SIGH]. It was alright. We were having a good time. I decided to put on a movie for the boys, and get dinner ready: pasta shells with a white clam sauce, fresh salad (with lettuce and arugula from the garden and homemade clover, alfalfa, and fenugreek sprouts).

When she arrived, I noted that perhaps she was not so ready to chuck it all as she might have thought. Good days. Bad days. But what does she want from work, from life? Balance, she suggests: time for being intellectually useful and time for family. A worthy goal. But just what is that balance? And just what is being intellectually useful?

She mentioned surprise a bit at my drive to start a consultancy. But a few weeks ago, you said that all you wanted was for someone to hire you. Indeed. But no one has. I take it as it comes. There are many things I have wanted these past couple years, many things I expected, many I felt I deserved. But they have not come. No one has hired me to teach, or research. No one pays me to learn what might be useful or interesting to me. So, I grasp at the wind, throw my net in the water, turn over the rocks in the field, climb trees and shake the limbs. I wander in search of a home, a home for my intellectual and professional pursuits.

Ah, to be intellectually useful. That would will be great! In response to Paul's question how I sabotage myself, I said (in all honesty): By holding on to my sense of injustice... By an unwillingness to move on. Paul's reply:
Would have bought this when I met you. Don’t buy it now. You’re not doing this anymore. ... Feels to me like you’re getting pretty damn close if not already doing it. What am I missing?
It were quite easy to hold on, to focus on the imbalances, my lacks. It were quite easy to compare myself to others, and wonder why, and how, to feel wounded, and neglected, wasted, unsure. In short, it would be quite easy to sabotage myself. But then... I've got better things to do with my energy and my time. Sure, I feel those things. But just like ideas, feelings are the easy part; it's what we do with them that matters.

The road ahead is not the one I have built; neither was the one behind. But I've left my mark on the past, and will inscribe myself on the future. There are choices we can make, and some options we simply need to accept. I am thankful for the success of those around me, my wife, my friends, whether any of them fully appreciate these successes. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to develop myself as I have, to have learned the things I know, and for the support and strength that others have given me.

This isn't such a bad place to start building tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The road ahead

It seems I have passed the crossroad. I look ahead of me, and see a winter path through the woods, trees barren of most leaves, brittle detritus on the ground promising to turn leafmold in the spring, nourishing the soil that gives life to the verdure. I know the chill wind will warm, the sun will tarry longer each day, as we enter more into the spring, then summer. I step lightly, but determinedly, not quite sure when I will encounter a fallen trunk, or the charred remains of what once was vibrant, left behind by a fire recently burned. Not quite sure how I will handle each obstacle to my forward journey.

Paul seems excited by the prospect of my starting a consultancy. Rocket is delighted as well. For me, it is the path that lies ahead. I have two papers accepted for upcoming conferences in May & June. I submitted another paper for the SOD conference coming up in November. I'm not sure which if any of those I will attend. The work I am most committed to just now lies in a somewhat different direction. If I can figure how those papers would move me along this path, I will do them. If not, perhaps, I will simply let them go. There are the schools to which I have already sent applications (and a few more with upcoming deadlines that still sit in the job applications folder on my laptop). Otherwise, I am free. Only a few objects mar the perfect line of horizon before me. The sail awaits it's lifting.

Yesterday I began work towards a consultancy. One of the contacts I made at [Industry Conference West], the CEO of a leading company involved in [Particular Aspect of Applied Research Field, let's call it forgery] allowed me access to some of their technology, in the form of software. Donating it, as he put it, to my research in [Field 1] & [Field 2]. Let's say that [Forgery] has come a long way in the past couple decades, but it's still far from convincing. My role in all this is to help make it better, more real.

What I've begun to do, is analyze the products, comparing them to the real thing, in hopes of uncovering some points where I can make suggestions for improvements. In a sense, it's as simple as that. It's time to put my potential to the test, to ground my ideas in practice, find applications for the hypotheticals. That is the road ahead.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Five word responses

While I was overseas, Paul wrote to me:
You want to be careful about getting caught up in the stories and circumstances of your life when you are making big transitions. If you find yourself rewinding the [Industry Conference] experience by recalling minute details of conversations and trying to figure out "what they mean" to you, you are "in your head" That won't serve you as you move forward. Analysis has its time and place, but, for now, you want to be focusing on your "Big Agenda," the things that make you feel good and the values you want to be honoring moving forward. Honoring your values will get you to the life you want much faster than analyzing the past.

When you are thinking about your career and [Industry Conference], discipline yourself to ask questions like the ones below: Five words or less on the answers. Your answers will remind you what your big agenda is, what is really important to you. They will also help you to get clarity on big decisions. Stories and circumstances rarely help with clarity. They often lead to open loops or analysis paralysis.
  • What do I want now?
  • What am I building?
  • Who am I becoming?
  • If I were at my best and had no fear, what would I do now?
  • What is the most powerful interpretation of the week I had?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • How do I sabotage myself?
  • Why am I taking this action?
Remember, five words or less. The truth is always short and to the point. It is always in the moment. Never in the past or the future. It never needs to be defended or backed up with evidence or stories. It's just your truth and it always sets you free.
Yesterday, I sent him some responses:
  • What do I want now?
    • A career in [Applied Research Field]
    • A happy family
    • Stability, security, comfort
  • What am I building?
    • The foundation for the next 3-5 years
  • Who am I becoming?
    • My true self again
    • Happy, contented, contributing husband & father
  • If I were at my best and had no fear, what would I do now?
    • Start a consultancy for [particular subarea of Applied Research Field]
  • What is the most powerful interpretation of the week I had?
    • Ideas are the easy part; the work lies in following through.
    • I am not to be measured by the originality of my ideas, but rather by how I put ideas into practice, whether I thought of them first or not.
  • What am I grateful for today?
    • My wonderful, wonderful family.
    • The overwhelmingly beautiful relationship I have with my wife.
  • How do I sabotage myself?
    • By holding on to my sense of injustice.
    • By thinking that my choice to get a PhD was motivated by an end goal (becoming a professor) rather than simply the process of being a doctoral student.
    • By an unwillingness to move on.
  • Why am I taking this action?
    • Because I wish to choose my life.
    • Because I have found the role of seeking a faculty position to be rather unpleasant.
    • Because I will enjoy the role of seeking a career in [Applied Research Field].
Talk soon, eh?
I think back to the top of the year, and my post "Welcome to tomorrow". My friend, WhatNow? asked "So what would striking out on your own look like?". The picture is beginning to emerge. I think this phoenix is about to rise.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Playin' hooky

The Rocket Scientist called in sick today. To be fair, she has been a bit under the weather. A cold made its rounds of the household while I was out of town. But... I think she decided there were other things she'd rather put her energy into today than the tasks she's assigned at work.

We had a date last night. A nice evening out: dinner, a couple cocktails, and conversation. We finished dinner around 7:00, which was way too early to head home, since the boys go down for the night sometime after 8:00. So, we went to a park, to walk, and sit, and talk. It's a wonderful thing, ten years into a marriage, to still enjoy each other's company. A wonderful thing.

This morning, the au pair took the boys to the zoo, and Rocket and I had a leisurely breakfast, then sat outside on the back patio (the weather here is like summer; not exactly looking forward to August I confess!). She took out a journal, to think through what she wants.

It looks like she is closer to realizing that what she really wants is to take a break from (or leave behind) her work week and career, to spend more time with family and nature. And I... I have realized this past week that the reason I went back to graduate school was not to become a professor, though that was my honest expectation, but rather to play the role of doctoral student, a role I admit I thoroughly enjoyed, one which I played well. It's just the past couple years since graduating, I've been miserable.

I never wished to be cast as the PhD endlessly looking for a faculty job. It's not a role I play particularly well, not a role I really enjoy! I've realized that I have a choice now, a choice of roles which I wish to play. No, I can't choose my career, because I have no control over whether or not I get hired to work in [Applied Research Field]. Even if I build a consultancy, a strong possibility at this point, I can't guarantee that it would succeed, that I would gain clients, that I would make the sort of living that I seek. But, I can choose to follow that path, to pursue such a career. And honestly, right now, the way I feel, that is a role I think I will enjoy!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Die Konferenz endet

The [Field 2] conference has now come to an end. A rather enjoyable, educational experience. I participated in a workshop which was one of the concurrent tracks of the conference, lasting its entire length (other than plenary talks), with papers all regarding one particular aspect of [Field 2] which most relates to my interests and my work. I gave the absolute last paper of the session. Made some new contacts, learned quite a bit more about what is going on in this area of research. I am pleased, and though this was an academic conference, I am further convinced that my current focus on applied research in industry is perhaps the best course for me.

One idea that came out of [Industry Conference] and which is confirmed in my experience here is a shift in terms of my self-identity within the broad field of research. In part, as an academic (at least for me) there is a sense that one's ideas, especially their originality, are equated with one's self, and one's self-worth. It was reflected in my recent fear about "being scooped". It seems in industry, in applied research, what is most important is not who thought of what first, but rather how these ideas are implemented. It takes some of the burden off being completely original, reduces the need to be first and only, and rests it squarely on what one does with ideas.

I have sometimes mused at the difference between Haydn & Dvorak as composers. Haydn opined that the hardest thing for him was coming up with a musical theme, everything else was easy. Dvorak for his part, perhaps singed by the view that as a "peasant musician" melody just came to him natural, reflected that musical ideas were easy: the difficulty lay in their development.

And so, just as my listening preferences lean toward the latter, I identify more with Dvorak's view of work: the idea itself is the easy part; it is merely the beginning; the real work lies in what one does with the ideas. With this new-found (or reborn) approach, it is easier for me to delight in the work of others that may advance or precede my own. Much of this is new work; there is certainly room for my contribution. Rather than feeling inadequate, or thrown off course by discovering others who have accomplished research that I have only contemplated, I am able to delight in this fact, wishing to gain from their collective wisdom, accepting my role as merely a cog in the wheel, or a ball in the bearing, rather than the engine that drives it all. I think this humility is something I have sometimes lacked. It will serve me well.

Tomorrow I head home, to begin a new journey.