Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If you're still around

Dear friends,

If you're still around, please visit my new blog: ofi/ofo.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Head poke

Just poking my head in. As you must have surmised... I'm on blog hiatus. I've let my bloglines reading lapse (over 300 messages taunting me), and I've let my voice here go silent.

I'm in transition, seeking a new path for my current trajectory, and a fuller understanding of just where I'm headed. I've contemplated starting a new blog, for my new self, letting PhDBlue fade as a closed chapter of my life. But is it closed? I suppose, one can always reopen a chapter, reread the lines.

Last night, Rocket and I were talking. I spoke of some of my new fantasies. Not necessarily fantasies about if and when I reach great success. But ... well, I said there's a part of me that would be happy to take a job like the one in Beautiful Nowhere, settle down to being a professor, buy a small farm, raise chickens, grow vegetables, open a little restaurant or B&B, can my own jams and sauces, sell them, on days I don't feel like being elsewhere.

She said, you know, it's okay to have different parts of your self, and to let them come out. It's okay to be complex, and to appreciate that complexity.

So, just now, I'm trying to settle in for the long haul that my current projects require. The screenplay will take me sometime. If I can "sell" the idea, it will take even longer to realize. And my analysis: I'm trying to do something quite different with Applied Research Field than has been done. I'm trying to look at things in a way that has been overlooked. And I'm trying to learn as much as I can about what has been done, and how, so that I can piece together many of the tools that are currently available. No need to reinvent the wheel, when I just wish to make a better chassis.

If I do start a new blog, I'll let you all know. Meantime, friends, thank you for being there these past couple years. And thank you for your patience with me as I enter my cocoon. Who knows? Maybe life as a butterfly awaits.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Who are we, anymore?

When I began this blog, I was motivated for change. I wanted to find a community, a home, a sense of belonging. I was adrift, lost in the current, without navigation. Things have changed... but, (in honor of the recent French election), la plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. And yet, things are different.

As my wife, the Rocket Scientist recently put it: the time for self-reflection is over; now is the time for action. Indeed, but we must retain our mirrors, glance every now and then at windowpanes and puddles.

Today was slow. I'm sick. By coincidence I had my annual physical exam this morning, scheduled to coincide with the Painter's 5-year check up. When I finally arrived at my office, I was thoroughly uninspired.

This afternoon, I checked my mail to find a small package from Amazon.com. Not a book mind you. I've been ordering a few movies of late, to inspire me. Today's package brought The Human Stain, a fine movie, based on the book by Philip Roth. The cast includes Anthony Hopkins and Gary Sinise, two of my favorites.

But why am I watching movies for inspiration? I'm writing a screenplay. It's project #3 on my list. Three tasks I'm working on, well, four perhaps, depending on how you count. That is my work. Quite a treat to be driving again.

I find myself still seeking my ground, wishing to tie my horse to a post, wondering if this tavern is to be home for a while. It's been since February that I've entered the waters of Applied Research Field. In many ways, it feels like home. The screenplay is not a distraction. In a sense it's marketing. The storyline is about the work I wish to do. In fact, for the movie to actual be realized, it will require my company to do a great deal of the work. That's part of the point. I'm enjoying the chance to draw so many of my disparate interests into a single project, and one which points toward so many more.

Nothing is certain. Sometimes, the journey is most of the fun!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

So far behind

I'm so far behind on reading your blogs my friends. Friendship... that's a hard one for me. I'm moved around so much in my life. I've lost more friends, than many people ever know. But I admire those whose friendships last. I'd like to be one of them.

I'm a rather social being, outward, obvious. I have a way of making myself known, and knowing people. To some extent, I think it arose out of my early childhood experiences. I had a terrible time in elementary school, in part because of a bully I thought was my best friend in second grade. I was also almost a year younger than most of the kids, and smaller. Long story. But the upshot is, I learned to navigate the murky waters of cliques by always being a satellite, never in enough to be expelled, never out enough to be ignored. And this technique allowed me to have several groups of friends. But it also kept me somewhat of an outsider.

That sense has lived with me ever since. I've wrapped it up with my self-identity as a secular Jewish American.

All that said, I don't wish to lose the friendships I have developed here. Many of you have been a crucial part of my path from there to here. I've been blogging for nearly a year and a half. Your companionship has been my life raft. But I fall silent a bit lately.

In many ways this silence is a good thing. Beneath the derma of my extroversion, lies a skeleton of self-reflection, quietude. I've been busy lately. Busy with my work. That has been good. I'm not really miserable anymore. Sure, there are slips. But I'm steering again, no longer adrift in the waves without a rudder.

But steering takes more concentration than I've given it. And that takes time away from other things. I hope you will not mind my slowly catching up on your lives, my likely commenting on some posts late in the game.

I am still here. In fact, I'm back like I haven't been in years. As they say in Czech: Drž se, přátele. Jasně, se držím.*

* [NB: This translation can not do justice to the original]
Hold on, my friends. Clearly, I will.

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 back...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.