Friday, August 31, 2007

One week down

It has been intolerably hot here. Good thing the air-conditioning in my car works. I've spent more time driving this week than I have in a long time.

The commute to Lemon (about 42 miles or so) ranges between 45 minutes and an hour and a half each way, depending on the time of day, and condition of the highways. This week I made four round-trips. I feel a tinge of guilt at driving the distance alone in my car, knowing that I am contributing to the congestion and the pollution. There are simply no viable public transport options. This is not what I'd like to do long-term, not if it can be helped.

I've spent most of this week attending to the details of teaching again. I've actually kept a reasonably relaxed attitude, expecting all the worst. So, when it's occurred, I haven't been too shocked. My card key still hasn't been programmed to give me access to my office. Well, actually it's someone else's office (my friend Sara Chaisano). From what I've been told, I have free access to it on Tuesdays, until 5:00. I guess I just hang out in the conference room or the library on Wednesdays and Thursdays!

I made a special request on Tuesday that they program the card key to allow access to my Wednesday night classroom at least, so I wouldn't have to teach in the hall, or get accommodation from the campus police to open the door for me. That was taken care of.

Little problem in the bookstore: the text for my evening class was canceled and replace with the text for another class, which was listed in the bookstore as missing. So, my students had another courses texts, and their students didn't have any. And for my Tu/Th class, the bookstore only ordered half as many copies as I have students. [SIGH] Par for the course, I guess. Water on a duck's back.

I've enjoyed being in a class again. Fairly large classes (especially without TA sections): 42 in one and 40 in the other. At the community college where I taught before, the sections were mostly 25-30. I'll have to mentally prepare for grading time!

I've been mostly distracted by all the details of getting settled in to the academic setting again. It is a treat to have put that "faculty" parking sticker on my car, and to have received my campus photo ID with "faculty" emblazoned across the top. These accoutrements seem real, even though other aspects of my status there seem otherwise.

The job season is now upon us in earnest too. I've decisions to make whether and which academic jobs I will apply for. Partly, Rocket and I need to clarify for ourselves what our requirements are. Do we wish to limit ourselves to living within four hours of her folks. (My mom, visiting this week, was describing her recent trip to the Provence region of France, to which Rocket said "Provence sounds nice... maybe we could move there.") So, clarification is in order.

One unresolved issue is whether I wish to build my business as a solitary activity, or whether I might not like an academic position as a home base. It's all very confusing. I like teaching. I love research. I feel at home in an academic setting. Yet, I'm bitter, terribly bitter, and disappointed that my PhD has left me little better off (if at all) than before I returned to school. I've become disillusioned of academia in ways. Put another way, just because someone has spent a lifetime in one town, doesn't mean it's really home.

1) Clarification of our requirements and expectations regarding where and how we will live.
2) Decisions regarding whether and which academic positions might fit with those requirements & expectations.

And, oh yeah, I've got to get back to my coding, and preparing proofs-of-concept. That's the task for today.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Tomorrow I enter a new phase. Today, I visited Lemon University to get my faculty ID, and work out all the little details of teaching adjunct. Tomorrow I stand up as a professor (albeit adjoint) in my own classroom, for the first time in 7 years. I'm looking forward to it all in a way. And yet, I am ready to keep moving in my new directions.

Rocket and I are looking to figure out if it might not be feasible to simply pick a locale within about a 4-hour drive of her folks, and plan to jump next summer. I still have a good deal of work to do in preparing my various proofs of concept.

I'm planning to talk seriously with an Intellectual Property attorney, and hopefully file one or more patent applications by the end of the year. I'm also planning to make contact with some Venture Capital firms, and prepare some demonstrations of the technology I'm developing.

The goal is still to have some income for my firm before the baby arrives in February. Will I remain at Lemon for a second term? I don't know yet. They chose to offer me a one-term contract. I might as well use their commitment aversion in my favor. I'll decide when I have a decision to make.

Meantime, I'm hoping to enjoy having a classroom again. I'm looking forward to inspiring and teaching (and learning from the experience).

Are we ready to jump? I don't know. But it's time to no longer be afraid of our choices, to no longer be afraid of the possibilities. Will we find a place within a four-hours' drive of her folks? What will the limitations be of getting venture capital?

So many questions. The next few months should provide the answers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Conference: Good!

I'm having a great time at [Applied Research Field Industry Conference]. It's been really one thing after another, confirming that I'm the right track, that the methods I'm developing are not really being done by anyone else, and at least as importantly, that they are of interest to a variety of others. There've been quite a few interesting talks and demos. I've been inspired to define a few more challenges and projects to get working on, in response to some of what's been presented (and from conversations I've had after panel presentations and during the receptions).

There's the possibility of some consulting work with a firm in Russia, the possibility of collaborations with a research lab for a European company based in Massachusetts, and interest in the technology I'm developing for possible integration with the software products of another European firm. I become more and more convinced that what I'm doing will work, that it will work fairly soon, that it will be in demand and useful to a variety of clients. This is all very exciting.

Now I just need to finish that coding to get my first proofs-of-concept presentation ready.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Still coding

Apologies to those of you with little interest in or knowledge of programming:

To clarify a point, I needed to create a multidimensional dynamic array, that took input from several files, rather than the keyboard. I also realized in the past couple days, that it were best if I could also create temporary multidimensional dynamic arrays, based on the data in the first ones, to handle the intermediate transformations that the data needs to undergo.

For some reason however, I'm baffled. My earlier attempts today, to simply handle the transformations on the fly so to speak, writing the data directly to a file, through a complex calculation didn't work. This evening, I spent a bit more time creating the temporary arrays, then running the calculations on intermediate data, which in principle should be simpler. But the program keeps faulting out at a certain point.

It's exciting to be on the verge of so much. Yet it's frustrating to have the hurdles and pitfalls elude me. Sleep. I must sleep. Then maybe I can return to this fresh.

In any case, I'm heading off to New York on Sunday morning for [Applied Research Field Industry Conference]. I don't have to solve everything tonight, or this week. In another week, I return to the classroom again, at least for a time. It will be a good test for me. How will I adjust to being a professor (albeit an adjunct)?

This all will come. It just takes time (and patience).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Improving the tool

I keep working on the programming. I don't want to lose my stride. I'm trying to automate as much of the data processing as I can. I think I'll take a break from it now though, to have a look over what I've yet to do for my course preps.

Not much else to report. I've become a hermit of late, focused. Until I get this first proof of concept done (and ideally a couple related ones), I'm pretty mum on it all. If all goes well, they'll provide me enough fodder for writing up the patent applications, and for pursuing funding. Best would be if they lead directly to some consulting or contract work, delaying the day when I'll need outside funding.

It's all coming along nicely.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

World-Class Shovel

A few minor disturbances today. My wife called to ask if I could take the Painter to the doctor's office to get his TB test for kindergarten. It's required, which we've known for a while, but because of insurance and doctor hassles we'd been putting it off. Problem is, he starts school in two weeks, I'm out of town next week, and they need the paperwork ASAP. So... I had to take him to a new doctor's office, with the requisite 98 forms to be filled out. It took about two hours to get a 30-second TB test injection. Aaargh!

I've decided another thing. When I enter a doctor's office (or any waiting room) with a loud obnoxious television on, I'll go directly to it, ask with the tone of a judgmental professor whether anyone is watching (I'll forego this if someone obviously is engrossed), then switch it off. It felt so good to turn that thing off!

In any case, it was unexpected time away. I'm trying to get real comfortable with my shovel before I head to [Applied Research Field Industry Conference]. And I'm hoping to leave myself at least one full day before I leave to finalize my initial class preps.

I did some more tweaking of the C++ code, enabling me to process the data more efficiently. I needed to create a multidimensional dynamic array, if you know what I'm talking about. Yesterday's effort succeeded in setting up a dynamic array for my data, then reprocessing it according to my requirements. But I really needed to add the multidimensionality, which will save me a great deal of work. The data I'm dealing with quickly numbers in the hundreds of thousands of data points, so saving time is essential! I'm still mostly clueless when it comes to programming, but drib by drab I'm starting to get it.

Now, about digging those holes...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big Breakthrough

And wouldn't you know it?... There's no big celebration, no fireworks. Only the immediate realization that only now can the hard work begin.

About 180 lines of code in C++, and I finally cracked a problem that's been daunting me for weeks. I've been trying to figure out a way to compare different sorts of data one to the other, on an even keel. Finally, I've written the tool that will allow that.

It's as if I have 5976 holes to dig, and I've only just now invented the shovel. I guess it's time to get digging.

I've been mentioning this proof of concept that I'm working on. At this stage, I'm ready to start piecing things together. Whether or not I'll be able to pull that off in time for [Applied Research Field Industry Conference] next week (and get my course preps done) is yet to be seen.

But, I'm much more confident that it all can be done in a reasonable time than before I solved this problem.

Maybe it's time to head home and play with the boys. I can work on this more tonight and tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Plus this, plus that

What have I been up to?

Mostly... C++. I've worked my way through about 350 pages of the text, finally at the point where I'll get back to some coding. I realize at this point that what I'm trying to do, while in some ways quite simple, really isn't. In a way, that's really good. Because, if it were really quite simple, I'd have a lower confidence level that it's truly new. Because it's so involved, I have greater confidence that it's not likely been done before. Which, to an entrepreneur, is quite a pleasant thing to imagine.

I've not done much work on my course prep this past week. I received my contract last week, which I immediately signed and returned. It arrived about a month later than they had given me to expect it. Point 2 of the contract read, with a sprinkling of bold face, and all caps, that employment for all new part-time faculty is contingent upon attendance at their orientation session. You'd think they could have given new faculty more than two and half weeks' notice, eh?

Fair enough, normally I could attend a meeting with two weeks' notice... except, it happens to be scheduled at a time when I'll be in New York attending [Applied Research Field Industry Conference]. I've sent quite a few emails to various parties trying to ascertain how to proceed. The word I get is that they require it to ensure attendance, but every year there are some people who can't make it. Problem is, I've signed a contract, which by their composition contains a screaming section explaining that my employment is contingent upon fulfilling a requirement that I simply can't fulfill (rather, I'm not willing to cancel my flight and miss the conference).

In terminology I'm familiar with "contingent upon" means that I will not be employed if that requirement is not satisfied. Yes, I understand (from their mollifying remarks) that it's hyperbole, yet it's legal hyperbole, that protects them, not me. Real problem is I can't get anyone in my department or college to respond to my emails requesting an alternate orientation session (which is what I was asked to do by the chancellor's office). My emails have actually been courteous (I'm bitching here to get it off my chest.)

So, do I leave them hanging? Probably not, but this is really annoying, and a bad start to my return to the classroom. We'll see.

Today, then, is reworking my algorithm to more closely fit the way C++ works (at least as much as I know and understand), and beginning to code the initial test program for the proof of concept. Next week, I suppose, I get back to course prep in earnest (unless of course I'm not to be employed). Frankly, the $7700 (for two classes--they only gave me a contract for a single term, though I had been asked to teach the courses for two) couldn't hurt us (especially in today's market), but we won't go hungry without it. I've tried hard not to feel insulted by the payscale, considering I spent six years getting a PhD (after the Master's) in order to qualify for such low pay (and this, AFTER a 7% pay raise!) Granted, it's twice what I was making for teaching at a community college in Colorado 7-8 years ago. But that's little consolation.

Enough. This simply reminds me why I'm heading off into my own work. In that, lies satisfaction, and at least the potential for reasonable compensation.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Plus what?

C++. You know, the programming is not really all that hard. And while creating an algorithm in plain English can be rather involved, it isn't all that hard either. But getting the darn compiler to work... well, that has proven difficult. It's funny, you'd think they'd have some documentation that'd make it easy enough for someone to just get started. I spent over an hour this morning going around in circles simply trying to figure out how to compile and run a simple test program, without first having to figure out about forms and objects and projects... Sheesh!

I finally figured out a way to do so using the command prompt. But I've yet to figure it out within the Borland C++ Builder GUI. Ah well. The command prompt should serve for now.

I believe I shaved three years off my life this morning by the stress of it.

So I've decided that I need to become a programmer, at least initially. I called around to try and find someone I could hire to write me some code, and hopefully tutor me a bit. But I'm tired of waiting. Today's fortune cookie:
You think too much.
Today means action.
Carry out your plan.
And so, that is what I'm trying to do. I've got a conference coming up in New York at the end of this month. It's the big Industry Conference for Applied Research Field. If all goes well, I'll have a working proof of concept to show around. I'd really like to create some buzz. I want people to be surprised and impressed by what I show them.

How could you do that? What did you do? I mean, wow!

That's what I'd like to hear. And the answer would be... sign this non-disclosure agreement please, then I'd be happy to discuss it with you.

I'm close. I'm really close, at least for this initial proof of concept. There's a lot more work (A LOT MORE WORK!) left to do. But that's the exciting part. The point I'm trying to make now is to demonstrate that certain things are possible, even if they haven't been considered before. To some extent it's creating a market for a product that people don't yet think they need.

But we're not talking an umbrella sun hat with a fan. What I'm trying to create will have real-world, everyday applications. It's just people have gotten used to what they've got. Maybe it's like the first cordless phones, or the first digital text files. Before they came along, most people didn't think they'd have cause to walk in the garden while talking on the phone, or read a memo without holding a piece of paper.

I've been working on the algorithm for various proofs of concept. If all goes well, this first one will land me some consulting work, and at least one patent application. There's more to come. But this is a start.

And so, I'm becoming a bit of a programmer.