Monday, April 30, 2007

Amazed and delighted

The Inventor: (playing with the top of our hamper, frustrated that he couldn't get it back on).
Me: Whatchu got there?
Inventor: I can't get da top back on.
Me: I see. Well, daddy will fix it.
Inventor: Daddy, you can't fix it while you are in bed.
Remember... this is a two-year old speaking (to be precise 28 months)! I was blown away.
The Painter: (having just stepped away from working on his 16x16 times table -- he's systematic, he did 5x5, then 6x6, then... you get the picture) Daddy, I figured out a pattern with my nines.
Me: Yeah? What's that?
Painter: Wull... um, it goes 9, then 18, then... 27, then... 36, ... 45, ... 54, ... 63, ... 72, then 81.
I had noticed, a few minutes earlier, that he had written 73 for 8 x 9, but unusually, all the rest of the 8 row was correct. Normally, when he makes one error, it's compounded each time, as he adds to the last one. This time was different. Funny, I had even been thinking about telling him that trick about nines, that each multiple ends with the last digit one less than the previous. But I hadn't said a word. I guess he figured out his error by himself. (If I think of it, I'll post a picture tomorrow. Funny, he didn't fix the error, at least not before bed. I wonder what he'll do tomorrow).

The Painter is five, as of two weeks ago. He starts kindergarten in the fall. He had been declaring that he would never go to school, until of course the Rocket Scientist had the brilliant suggestion that he won't be going to school, just kindergarten. Ah... well, that's different. And now... I think he's more ready for it than I am. Five! Blink and he'll be fifteen. Hide the car keys!

Closing remarks

Hey Articulate- Was browsing around this morning and came across this. Thought you might find it interesting. Hope all is well. [Link to some software relevant to my new focus.]

Hi Paul,

Thanks. Yeah, I think my next task is to invest a bit in some new computers and software. I think I'm going to take Drew up on his offer to make me a Linux box and provide me a copy of their new software, basically at cost. I priced a Sun Microsystems workstation with the minimum requirements at about $2500 or so, so I think Drew's offer is generous. And I'll probably take a couple of my contacts at Apple up on their offer to get me a discount on a new Mac.

I think I'm settled with the projects I've got started: three at present. I've got to learn what I can about what's out there in terms of the technology applications, and see if I can piece bits and pieces together to create a makeshift means for doing what I'd like. Hopefully, I'll have something to talk about and show around at Industry Conference in New York in August. I've also taken on the role of "acting president" of the California chapter of Applied Research Field Society, and will be working hard to get our first chapter meeting by the end of the summer.

Trip to Big West Private in a couple weeks [for a workshop whose keynote will be given by my friend Jon Levitz. Trip to the UK end of June. Trip to Chicago area (to visit Rocket's family, and look up some of my Applied Research Field contacts) in July. Then Industry Conference in August. Last week of August I start teaching part-time at Lemon University as well. Busy is good. Let's hope I can keep my focus.

By the way, thanks again. You know, Paul, what I've realized I needed was not you... it was me. You've helped me get me back. That's quite an accomplishment. And for that, I thank you.

Hey Articulate,

Keep me posted as you explore. Who knows? Maybe I'll show up somewhere you're at. And, as far as getting you hit the nail right on the head with one small exception. You were never gone...some times the world just beats us up to the point that we forget we are there. The real accomplishment is yours...admitting that it had nothing to do with me. That it was in your hands the whole time...and always will be. Maybe some day, over a glass of wine or two, I'll tell you what it was like when the clouds gathered over my head. Three years in hell. The similarities to your story will blow you away.

Go get 'em, Tiger. Stay in touch...and keep gardening.


Thus ends one chapter, as another one begins.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Moving on

Hi Paul,

I'm feeling really good these days, comfortable with the uncertainties, and driven by my ideas. In prep for today's coaching, I want to give you a sense of where I am, and where I'm headed.

Sunday, Rocket & I had a wonderful dinner date at a local tapas bar. We got the chance to really talk through some of our hopes and fears, and most importantly to discuss what risks we're willing to take as we move ahead, and which things in our lives we wish to preserve. We came to an understanding that our bottom line financially is maintaining about six months' living expenses outside of retirement savings. Other than that, just about everything else is fair game to be invested in building a business.

Rocket is enjoying her work these days, and feeling committed to continuing a career, but the idea of freedom, the ability to take off if and when she chooses, whether to tend to a new baby, or what have you, is important. That untouchable six months or so in living expenses is a bedrock of sorts that will preserve that freedom for her. It also gives me a sense that it's okay to risk the overflow. Not, of course, that I'm heading to Las Vegas, or that I'll dump all the funds into hastily-executed trips or unreflective purchases of equipment. But it leaves me with what I consider a decent sum for moving ahead, while giving me a bottom line as a measure for when it might be necessary to change course. I'd say approaching that bottom line is at least a good year off, which frees me up to invest some time in bigger projects.

Also, I've been offered a part-time teaching gig at Lemon University, which will put a little more money in the coffers, and as I said before, give me the ability to test the waters in an academic career, build up more self-confidence in the classroom, and challenge me to connect these two aspects of my life (the academic and the applied). Fortunately, the schedule for teaching is light, and shouldn't be too much of a distraction.

I'm quite enthused about the current prospects. I've mapped out much of the next few months, through August. September I will begin my teaching gig just a few hours a week. My target is to have some demos ready for showing people at Industry Conference in New York in August. I've defined three specific projects that I'm working on at my startup firm. I've tentatively recruited my friend Eduardo Montana, a PhD candidate in [Field 2] at The University of Paradise to join forces with me once he files his dissertation this fall.

I've talked to Rocket about looking into some telecommuting, say one or two days per week. My hope is to move into a larger office some time in the next few months. We could set her up with a desk and a computer, where she could work when she's telecommuting. That'd save her about 1-1/2 hours commute each day, meaning more time with the family, which she wants, even without giving up time at work. There'd also be space for Ed to join us.

What I'm realizing these past few weeks, is that I'm regaining my sense of self. In a strange sort of way, while I acknowledge the great strides we've made together, and appreciate how much you've done for me in getting me unstuck, I think it's time for me to move on. What I most need now is simply to dig into the work, and rely on myself again. I begin to need less and less external approval, including yours, which is a wonderful place to be. What I'd like to do, after today's session, is take a hiatus from coaching for a while, to test the waters with my own buoyancy.

If you're willing, I'd like to keep open the prospect of getting back in touch in a month or so, to touch base, see how things are progressing, renew coaching if it seems appropriate then.

Let's have a great session today, and thank you!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A new sort of day

At noon, I have a conference call regarding setting up a new California chapter of Applied Research Field Society, which is the main organizational sponsor of the Industry Conferences. A couple weeks ago, I formalized membership, and indicated my interest in getting a local chapter established. Frank Mayer is the president of the society. Susan Trout is also a board member, and was the one who called today's meeting. The next Industry Conference is in August in New York. I hope to attend, and to have some demos of my current research to share with people. That's my target.

Other than the conference call, I will be preparing this lecture demo for tomorrow night at Lemon University. I latched onto some ideas yesterday about what to speak. I've got about an hour or so of the class to cover, and I'm feeling much more confident about it.

On Sunday, Rocket & I had a date at a local tapas bar, when we had a chance to talk more fully about our current plans and goals, about the risks and the benefits, and about how to proceed. One thing I asked of her (and myself) is an understanding of what it is we seek to preserve, what we're not willing to risk. We're committed to each other and to our family. In terms of finances, which translate into security and freedom, we've decided that six months' living expenses (outside of retirement savings) is our bedrock. Everything else is fair game. That leaves what I might consider a decent year's salary at my disposal, a comfortable sum for getting off the ground.

Not, of course, that I will head to Las Vegas, or the business equivalent. But it puts a frame on decisions. Should I attend this conference? Should I buy this piece of equipment, or this software package? How much will it cost? Is that the most effective use of the funds available to invest in this venture. We invest in the stock of companies we have little knowledge of, and even less say. Why not invest in our own ideas? Rocket likes the potential. I like the potential.

I've talked to the property managers here, to see about moving into a larger office when one opens up. I've asked Rocket to look into the possibilities of her telecommuting one or two days a week, which would save her about an hour and a half in commuting each day. This is because while she has realized that she enjoys her work, is appreciated and well compensated there, she'd like to find more balance in her life, meaning in particular spending more time with the family. She'd also like the freedom to cut back hours or take time off if she chooses. Avoiding the commute would save her time, which seems important. I've asked after an office that would accommodate three or four people. The idea is Rocket could work alongside me on the days she might telecommute (my office is only a five minutes' drive or fifteen minutes' bike ride from our house), and I might be able to bring on a partner or two in my private ventures.

On that point, I've tentatively recruited the first. Eduardo Montana is a friend of mine from The University of Paradise, he's a cohort of mine, and a PhD candidate in [Field 2], with a strong interest and background in [Field 1] as well. We talked on the phone last week, and he was quite excited by the prospects. He's on target to file his dissertation by the end of the fall, leaving him open to working with me after that. He had applied for some post-docs which failed to materialize. Like me, his interdisciplinary interests seem to be a liability in academia. So, we shall see.

Meantime, I'm learning what I can about business plans, about financing options. For now, we can probably spend our own money. I set up my first business credit card (on Amazon) the other day, when ordering some items as inspiration for one of my current projects (a new and exciting one I haven't mentioned yet, but which affords me the chance to bring many strands together into one rope).

And all the while, I'm wondering what will come of these various openings in academia. There is no going back. But, I like the thought of traveling multiple paths simultaneously. On that point, I realize something significant about my relationship with my coach. I seek and need his approval less and less. My self-confidence increases, and my willingness to trust my own judgment grows.At times, it would seem he wishes me to make decisions sooner than I feel properly prepared to make them. For instance, I put off making a decision regarding these two upcoming conferences in the UK, delaying the decision several times. I had only set a deadline for deciding at Paul's urging. But each time it approached, I felt unwilling to discard it. I wanted to hear back from them. In the end, the second one came through. I wouldn't have wanted to let it go.

To some extent, I think Paul has been pushing me to abandon my interests in academia. But I'm not sure that's true to me. What I have rejected is the waiting game, even though at times it is necessary to wait for word from others. I've thrown off the costume of the perpetual supplicant, begging for scraps at the base of the ivory tower. But wishing to not act the dog at the gate does not mean I give up hope to enter.

The point is, I've gained a great deal from these coachings, but I enter a new phase now. Perhaps it is time to begin the transition. When we began, Paul suggested an unbinding commitment of six months. We're entering the fourth month now. When I have my coaching on Thursday, I will suggest we move to bi-weekly sessions. I think it's time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A break in the silence

I'm sorry my friends for my recent silence. It's been a long five days. I've been busy. My ideas for heading off on my own are beginning to congeal. Ideas pour forth like rain, some to wash off in the gutters, and some to nourish the seeds and seedlings of my garden.

A couple weeks ago, during my coaching with Paul, I developed a metaphor of my career as a garden, and me as the gardener. I realized my role as perpetual job seeker in academia had made a leaf out of me. And leaves, as we all know, are individually non-essential parts of a plant. I was withering, browning, and cracking.

I prefer the role of gardener.

And wouldn't you know it, it's just now that especially the academic side of my career begins to heat up.

I mentioned during my recent family trip (when I also got to meet the wonderful WhatNow? and her beloved D in person!), that I had been contacted by the organizer of a workshop in Canada, to request my attendance and participation. I spoke with her one evening last week, and she indicated that they would likely be able to fund my trip, and that she would bring this up at their next meeting. The next morning, I got word that funding had been approved to sponsor my trip to one of the conferences in the UK, to serve as part of a keynote panel. Unfortunately, the dates for these two events conflict. I wrote to the organizer in Canada to mention the conflict. Currently, she's trying to find a way to bring me out there just before my trip to the UK, and requested a brief abstract of my interest in their event.

The first of the two conferences in the UK (for which I had prime poster real estate) was only able to offer me a token amount, enough to cover the registration fees. I respectfully declined, and regretfully withdrew my submission, for lack of funds to attend. I got email today from one of the organizers of that first conference, whom I've known and corresponded with since perhaps 1998. He has at times been listed as a reference for me on my CV. Indeed, this morning he sent his regrets that they were unable to find sufficient funds for me to attend the conference, and to request a current copy of my CV, since he's been contacted by Midwestern City University to provide a reference for me, and wants to include the latest.

This coming Wednesday night, I head down to Lemon University for a teaching demo. I was a bit apprehensive about it, since the materials that the instructor requested I cover were a bit out of my comfort zone. I gave him a call to discuss it. He was open to me covering related material that I felt more knowledgeable about, and intimated that he trusts Sara Chaisano's opinion, but that the dean requires a teaching demo before an offer can be made. It sounds to me like the gig is mine to lose. As long as I don't blow it, I should be fine. Sara also indicated that they expect to be hiring one or two more faculty in the next year or so, and that having taught there as an adjunct would give me a big leg up. (That is in fact how she got her current job there).

Then (while writing this post), I just got an email back from Matt Suliman. It has been nearly a month since I wrote him. His email was apologetic for the delay, but encouraging, supportive, and friendly.

I am just overwhelmed. Good things are happening. I feel it. The soil is fertile and moist. Which seedlings will grow? Only time, with patience and perseverance, will tell.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


This according to Thomas Bartlett and Elyse Ashburn at the Chronicle of Higher Education:
It appears that Mr. Cho may have been planning the massacre for more than a month. According to the Associated Press, he went to a Roanoke, Va., gun shop five weeks ago and walked out with a Glock 19 handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition. Mr. Cho also used a .22-caliber handgun in the slayings.
This according to Andrea Hopkins and Patricia Zengerle at Reuters:
The gunman who went on a rampage at Virginia Tech had been confronted by university police in 2005 over complaints he was bothering women students and was sent to a mental health facility because of worries he was suicidal, police said on Wednesday.
And they let this guy have a gun!

This according to the Economist:
IT IS surely an American oddity that, after the worst mass shooting in the country’s history, some are already saying that such horrors would be less likely if only guns were easier to own and carry. Americans love firearms.
Can we speak of a culture of violence?

This according to a Reuters report from Baghdad:
Car bombs killed nearly 170 people in Baghdad on Wednesday in the deadliest attacks in the city since U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a security crackdown aimed at halting the country's slide into sectarian civil war.
And our president wants more fire power to... what? ... fight fire with fire? Oooh boy, we see how well that works!

Nota Bene (full disclosure): the author of this post was once a member of the NRA, at the age of 13, while attending a military academy in Virginia! I have shot weapons at paper and clay targets. I wish never to aim one at a human being. I own none. My membership to the NRA has long since expired.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What a difference a week made

We returned from our trip yesterday evening. This morning, I stepped onto the back patio, with a fresh cup of joe, to peer at the garden I had left behind a week before. The jungle that appeared before me bore only some resemblance to my memory. I picked the first two zucchinis, each about a foot long. Green tomatoes appear in profusion, promising a deluge of red come May. The beans are in bloom, and the first blossoms peek out from the tiny pepper plants. A couple plants provide recognizable though immature acorn squash. The carrot tops are six inches above ground.

Abundance and growth. Out of what? Letting go.
Is this a metaphor for life?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Upside down/Inside out

The world... the world appears upside down and inside out. The events of this week confuse me.

An email last Sunday arrived from the organizer of the [Field 1 & Field 2] conference where I have had a poster accepted in the UK next month. I was ready to send my regrets and withdraw. But I looked over the schedule and presentations. Really interesting, some of which seems squarely relevant to both an academic career and one in [Applied Research Field]. Then, I noticed my name listed in the first slot for the first of three poster sessions. I don't suppose the placement is part of any hierarchy, but it certainly adds a degree of prominence to my name. I began to think I ought do whatever I can to attend. I would likely learn a lot, and gain a good many more contacts (as well as see many of my disparate friends whom I know from other conferences).

Today, I received an email inviting me by name to participate in a Workshop in Canada by the professor organizing it. It just happens to take place at the exact time as the conference in the UK. I'd be their guest and a participant, but they suggested travel costs may not be covered. We have a rather limited travel budget and request participants to seek assistance from their universities. Um... considering circumstances, not likely I'll find any university assistance. But it's nice to be wanted.

Then, a few minutes later, I received an email from the producer for a nationally syndicated radio show, asking if I would be willing to be interviewed as an expert for this week's show.

I'm ... just flabbergasted. And... I'm supposed to be on vacation. I'm really bad about vacations, especially when I'm feeling I've nothing to vacation from. [SIGH!] I'm overwhelmed. Are these good developments? I would think so. But I'm just not sure how to respond.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lemon Zest

Here I am visiting my mom. Activity continues unabated. When I applied last week for the local one-year post, I made contact with Tasse Plein and with Jim Lodz to request (expedited, electronic) letters of recommendation. Both were happy to oblige, and both mentioned that they had just received requests from Midwestern City University for letters on my behalf (they had asked merely for contact info in the application). I had attempted to contact a third recommender (who as it turns out is recovering from a broken leg). So, I asked the third letter be sent from my grad school placement file.

Hmmm... Midwestern City University. Ah, interesting; but I've been on long-short lists before. As I said to Jim Lodz: Not holding my breath anymore; it makes me turn blue. Won't even think about it too much. If I get a call, I get a call.

Then, I got an email from my friend Sara Chaisano. Here is the latest in the saga from Lemon University:
Hi Articulate,

Please forgive me for taking so long to respond! As I mentioned, I'm insanely busy this semester... I'm catching up on all my email now.

... I am also emailing to let you know that we've gotten the go ahead to hire some adjuncts to teach certain courses. If you are still interested, would you be willing to come back to Lemon to meet some other faculty members and do a little teaching in one of the classes?

We're looking at [Course #1]--which you've taught before, for non-majors, and our major [Course #2] The first is Tu/Th I think from 1-2:15, and the second is Wed. evenings 7-9:45 or so. I will find out for you what the pay rate is. I know that since you have a doctorate it will be at the highest level. If you're interested, [Other Prof], who coordinates the #2 courses here, would like for you to come do a little lecture in class some Wed. evening. You could come down and we could do dinner around 5 then you could talk at 7. He would tell you just what to talk about, I'm not sure how long--30 minutes, an hour--he would let you know.

It would be like an interview. Of course I already know you and have seen you talk at conferences and teach in a classroom, so it's a little more relaxed than otherwise. Let me know if your interested and we can arrange things!

Take care, and hello to your family,
Hmmm... I'm mostly just confused. As I've said before... close a door, and someone will knock. If I follow the path that begins to open for me, which I've spent much of the past three years hoping for, and fretting over, will I become less than my dreams?

How strange to now see opportunities as consolation prizes. Three years is a long time to be beaten down, long enough to make one question everything, to expect nothing. Misery really. So, now I have the strong likelihood of being offered a teaching gig, albeit part-time, and a couple more nibbles regarding full-time teaching, one tenure-track.

Talked with Rocket last night. Can't really see any reason not to move ahead with the opportunity at Lemon. I think getting my own classroom again would be a wonderful boost to my self-confidence. And, the income wouldn't hurt. As WhatNow? recently commented teaching could be a good complement to building a consultancy. The schedule Sara outlines sounds quite doable, since I could likely avoid rush-hour traffic.

I guess I'm cautiously excited. We shall see.

Friday, April 06, 2007

On the road again

Tomorrow morning, Rocket, the Painter, the Inventor, the au pair and I all head to the airport to spend about a week visiting my mom for part of Passover. Happy Pesach to all appropriate parties. And... I'm so looking forward to my first blogger meet up with a virtual friend!

Life is pretty good right now.

Funny thing happened today. Recall that I had mentioned how I had decided to forgo applying for the one-year post at the local big university, until I got a call back yesterday. After my talk with their former chair yesterday, I left a message for the current chair (contact for the posting), just to touch base with him.

Sometime this morning, I realized woops! the priority deadline for the posting was April 1. Hmmm... what to do? Then, I got a call back from the current chair, who said they received a letter of recommendation (electronically) from Tasse Plein this morning. (Tasse sent me a copy... lovely, really lovely!). Current chair mentioned that the deadline had officially passed, but said they'd accept my materials if I sent them electronically today, which I did.

It feels good to have applied, and we'll see what comes. I'm in a good place now, not needing this, really. Though I'd still be pleased to consider an offer.

Be well, my friends. I might be posting lightly the next week or so.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's a whole new ball game

Wow, what a whirlwind I'm in. I'm on top of the world and flying.

Last night, I made a phone call to a big name player in the field for which [specific goal] would be most applicable. Let's call him Walter "Wally" Williams. I had left a message for him the day before, but I'm impatient. I called him at home after dinner, for a brief chat. He seemed interested and open, gave me some ideas for what he'd be looking for, and gave me his email address, so we could keep in touch.

Earlier today, I got a call from someone whose name I recognized, but I simply couldn't place him. Remind me again where you're calling from? University of... Oh, yeah.

So, this guy was calling me back from an email I sent him beginning of last week (it seems a month ago). He's the former chair of the program in [subfield 1] at a local big university. They have a one-year gig open, for which there was a very vague posting. I met him a few years ago, when a friend of mine was a graduate student of his, and I had come down to campus from Paradise to attend the lecture by my friend Pam Bridgeport. He and I spoke again after a presentation of his at the SOD conference, when I had a lot to contribute in the discussion section.

I had sent him an email to find out more about the position, and to see if it would really be compatible with my heading. I had given up on his response, had marked the job off my to-do list, and thus was a bit taken aback that he called, especially since I couldn't place his name. The upshot was that he encouraged me to apply, but there's no telling. I think I will. I worked a bit on the CV, and the cover letter, figuring I'll mention my new interests and activities, and see what comes. Like adjunct teaching at Lemon (but certainly on a bigger scale) this could be a nice balance for me. But, as I wrote recently, I'm so over this. It's not quite that I just don't care, but I'm not worried about it any more. That's a great place to be.

Next, I called up Drew Davidson from Steel Industries. He had written me back yesterday with a rather encouraging tone. He replied to my inquiry saying that yes, well, some of their clients were working on something connected to [specific goal], but that it really wasn't necessarily what I was thinking of. Then he closed: What's on your mind?

I took that as an invitation. So, we talked for nearly 45 minutes today. He actually said something along the lines of: we see you as some sort of a power player, able to influence the field. I'm gasping for air! He proposed that he'd like to get their newest rollout system (which sells in the five digits) in my hands to fiddle with, in hopes that it'd provide me many of the tools I want, that I might be able to help them to develop it into a better system, and that hopefully I might be able to pitch it to Wally Williams and the like.

Oh... okay!
This ... is fun!

Now, I'm still spending my family's money, and I've nothing directly to show for my efforts that might permit Rocket to take some time off from work. But... there's time. Did I say it? This is fun!

Oh, and I forgot to say, I think I've shocked Paul a bit. I've hit him with a deluge of activity, ideas, and emails. Yesterday, he had written (in his response to my third email):
OK, DUDE. Just spent about an hour ( and quite an enjoyable one I must say) on you and I've got a busy week with some deadlines. Keep me in the loop and ask for responses if you need them from here on out. I'll read, stay abreast and look forward to speaking with you on Friday.
This morning, I opened my inbox to read:
At a rare loss for words: You're a FUCKIN MAD MAN!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Putting together a team

Below is a note I sent my coach yesterday, and some of his response this morning. For those of you playing along at home, I realize you may be wondering who this guy is who has hijacked the blog. You might not recognize me as much anymore. I've been huddled in the corner, muttering to myself and anyone who'd listen, for the past two years. Funny, the corner hasn't gotten any larger, warmer, or better lit, nor the audience any more appreciative. And now you see me, center stage, with a megaphone.

Is the purpose for this blog coming to an end? Am I finding the rainbow at the end of the blue? I don't know. It's a rollercoaster. Classic manic-depressive perhaps. Right now, I'm up, and I'm not particularly looking forward to a crash. One thing I know for certain: there's no going back.

Before I go to the interactions with Paul, let me give you the bullet points. Yesterday, I sent off a few notes to people I know in [Applied Research Field] to find out what I could about who might be working on [specific goal]:
  • Frank Mayer wrote: "I don’t recall knowing of anyone in the community who’s focusing on [specific goal]. Sorry."
  • Meredith Binowitz wrote: "Good to hear from you. I don’t KNOW of anyone actively working on that but I imagine that Contrafazzione and Subtle Products have seriously considered it."
  • Mauricio Huppman (from Subtle Products, remember) wrote: "I have never come across anything like this. I'll copy our forgery product manager in case this rings any bells with him."
  • I also sent an email to Drew Davidson from Steel Industries. I haven't heard back from him yet.
  • Also, wrote a couple weeks ago on a different matter to some people from Contrafazzione, whom I met at [Industry Conference West]. I haven't heard back from them yet either. But I suspect if they were working on it, another one of these players would have heard something.
Hi Paul,

Yesterday and today, I've been thinking about pulling together a team. I realize that one of my biggest laments of late is being alone, inventing it all by myself. What it is, seems to be morphing. But I feel a major shift going on inside of me, from wanting a job, wanting someone to hire me, to guide me, to direct me, to being the one in charge, to creating the challenge, pulling together the people, summoning the inspiration.

I've begun to think of myself as directing an effort to transform [Applied Research Field]. I'm thinking of a Manhattan Project for setting the industry ahead. I have latched on to this challenge of [specific goal] as a motivator for change. Progress in the domain of forgery and certification has been slowed by the ever-more-limited scope of those working on the problems. If they won't have me on their team, perhaps it's time to form my own. (Some of this may sound like the Runt asserting himself, but it doesn't feel like a six year old's ideas and plan.)

I feel an urge to draw a disparate crew of people, from various backgrounds, together in attacking the problems. I've made a few phone calls, or sent emails, as feelers. I feel the drag of waiting for them to get back to me. But I'm doing my best not to worry about it. I've been diving into the work as well, the analysis, and some brainstorming for the sorts of tools I'll need to make this a reality.

I'm thinking of trying to pull together a sort of brainstorming retreat, that I would sponsor, to get the various people together for a few days, away from distractions. I'm thinking maybe I could rent a condo or cabin somewhere, for three or four days. I'd put them up. If I can swing it, maybe I'd even get them tickets (I've got about four frequent flyer tickets, so it might not be such a deal). We're not talking a great many people, on the order of 5 or 6. I'll have to look over the budget, and discuss details with Rocket before moving ahead, but I think it's doable. The idea would be to see if such a hodge-podge could congeal into a team, capable of forming a company. What would it take to get them all moving as a team? What would it take to get all of us salaries, and an office, and the necessary equipment? Is that a business plan? The next problem (next?) would be getting the startup cash to get moving. Where do I go for that? No idea.

Rocket's a bit taken aback with the whirlwind of my thinking. As she admits, she's slower to change than I. Am I changing too much, too fast? I'd been thinking about [specific goal] as a longer term project, 5-10 years to start up a company. But I'm thinking now that it will take some time to develop the product; why wait to get started? What have I really to gain? The point is, I think the problems will be solved by getting a crew of dedicated and intelligent people together. I could work slowly, gaining knowledge of what others are doing, but that might not help me much. Or, I could forge ahead with cultivated naivety, forgetting to ask whether any of this is possible. Sometimes, even the impossible is possible.

The one thing I've made clear to Rocket is that the one thing I will not risk losing is my family, is her, and my boys. She understands that, and accepts it. She really doesn't know what to make of me right now, but I think she's behind me, understanding that we've got far more to gain, than to lose.

Good Morning Articulate,

Wow! Some exciting stuff here. Responses below.

-->the Runt asserting himself<--
The "runt" may or may not be asserting himself. You may or may not be making a choice that let's the runt know that you will take care of him. The key is to make sure that you are not doing this to right the wrongs that were done to that runt....or to get back at the people who did those wrongs. That's an adrenaline fueled will exhaust you in the long run. It doesn't seem to me like this is the case, but keep an eye on it. Motivation matters. What's yours?

-->Where do I go for that? No idea.<--
Me neither, but we'll figure it out. This is how big things start. Couple of people sit in an office and say...."No idea, let's get started." Next thing you know, they're reviewing a marketing plan. Self promotion moment. If you decide to bring in a facilitator, please let me know so I can throw my name in the hat. Seriously, I love doing this type of stuff. Really juicy for me...and I'm pretty good at it if I do say so myself. OK, back to you...

-->cultivated naivety ... Sometimes, even the impossible is possible.<--
Pay attention to this: How can I use this experience to fuel my career ambitions AND create more peace and harmony in my home? Notice the emphasis on "and" in the questions. We often fall into the trap of believing that it's one or the other. Work satisfaction or harmony at home. It's not. You can have both.

Go get 'em, Tiger. This is exciting stuff.

Best, Paul
I think back to something Tasse Plein once said to me, that while I was sitting by the phone, miserably waiting for it to ring, it wasn't too much of stretch to imagine me avoiding the phone, in hopes to put off the decision between multiple offers a little while longer. All I can say is... time's have changed!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Alien Puppet-Maker

I feel the past few days, my body has been seized by an alien puppet-maker, who has designs for me far different from the ones I had been pursuing before.

I seem to have stopped being the victim in a tragedy, to writing the play myself. I have gone from being the scrawny runt, never picked for the team, to not only choosing the team, but the sport itself.

I have gone from thinking of a possible goal being 5-10 years off, to figuring out a way to get started tomorrow.

This is a very strange, and scary, and overwhelming feeling. But I have a sinking suspicion that the puppet-maker... is me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

So totally over this

Dear Articulate Dad

Your interest in the Assistant Professor of [Field 1/subfield 1] ([subspecialization]) position has been received and reviewed. While you clearly have many talents and gifts to offer to this role, I'm sorry to say that we are currently considering candidates who appear to more closely meet our job match.

Please do not let this discourage you from applying to other positions within the University that you may feel qualified for.

Good luck with your employment search and thank you for considering employment with [University].

Human Resources
Can I just say, my friends, I am feeling so totally over this today. It comes down to remembering who I am.

Another part of the conversation with Rocket over the weekend that I mentioned in an earlier post was an understanding of what I was interested in when I went back to school, what I worked on throughout my doctoral studies, what aspect of my dissertation work most excited me.

The reality is, I have always been interested in [Field 1] & [Field 2] studies, focusing on cognitive and perceptual issues. That is what I was excited about after completing my Master's, and that was what motivated me when I sought to go back to school. I wasn't interested in an existing discipline so much as I was seeking a means to study what excited me. I entered the doctoral program in [Field 1/subfield 1] not because I wanted to remake myself as one of them, but because I wanted to study the work of [Protagonist of my Dissertation]. I did that. Now, I want to use what I've learned.

The biggest change that's going on inside of me just now is a sense that I am in charge again. I'm adopting a new attitude as I move ahead. I'm no longer begging. I'm not on the ground, hoping for crumbs. That means, my thinking is not that these companies will hire me as an employee, or as a consultant, but rather that they have some of the tools that I need, to do the things I wish to do. I want to work with them to help develop the rest of those tools. This is a new attitude for me.

I realize that what I am about to do is risky, but also that none of the things that matter (mostly, my family!) is on the line. So what have I to lose?

Sunday, April 01, 2007


A few weeks ago, I ordered a copy of "Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution," by Michael Rubin. It arrived a little more than a week ago. I spent a night or two finishing up my first ever reading of "Catcher in the Rye." Then I dug in.

Recently, I had an off-blog discussion with my friend Tracy. We reflected on how our state in life has an impact on how we view other people and events, how we take comments and criticism. I recall my sometime motto: everyone who got where they are, started where they were. Indeed. I realize that I am at a point where what speaks to me reflects the voice I have suppressed, which is seeking its release.

Today, I am taking inspiration from the stories of Francis Coppola and George Lucas. The reasons why they are inspiring me have much to do with where I am in life, and where I wish to go. Today, I am taking back my life, reclaiming my voice, allowing myself to dream with confidence. I shake off the past couple years of waiting.

Another point of Friday's coaching, which I didn't mention in my earlier post, was a question Paul posed to me at one point: what are you angry at yourself for?

Angry? at myself? Hmmm. I talked... but I couldn't quite put a finger on it. Was I angry at myself? It's part of Paul's style to ask questions like that, when I seem stuck, at an impasse. What was I angry with myself about?

He ventured: I have a suspicion that you're angry at yourself for waiting.

Hmmm. I had mentioned that much of the past couple years my modus operandi was to draft up abstracts for conferences, send them off, and wait. They were projects I had some commitment to, but also ones that I thought might appeal to that audience. If I got the green light, I went ahead with the work, and prepared a talk. If not, for the most part, I dropped it.

I did the same thing with job applications, sending off bits of myself, and waiting for a green light to develop that part of me. I tried to envision myself filling out the role defined by some committee or dean. In honesty, I never fully gave up myself: I encapsulated my interests in cover letters, and revealed it in my CVs. No one was buying. I worked harder to sell, chiseling away at my self, wanting some fish to bite, forgetting that trout was what I had a hankering for, not snapper.

Last night, I reflected with my wife that I didn't regret completing my PhD, writing my dissertation. But that, somewhere along the path, I had lost my voice, my passion, my drive, my confidence. Rocket said, she thought it wasn't so much in writing the dissertation, nor in being a grad student, that it happened. But in the time since, along with applying for jobs.

She said most all of the grant and fellowship applications, and much of the conference abstracts, and papers that I had worked on as a graduate student were true to me, reflected my interests. But since finishing the dissertation, my focus has been on finding a job. And the rejection has sapped my confidence, has reduced me to becoming more them, and less me--which, frankly, I'm not any good at, being them.

We talked about research, and about practical applications. I was excited, engaged. There was my voice. I heard it speaking again. Let me use it to succeed. Go to my strengths. Confidence and drive. This will come.