Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't Believe Everything You Read

Earlier in the week, my company was profiled (along with a couple thousand others), in one of the nation's (remaining) major newspapers, as part of an implicitly nefarious national intelligence build-up. It seems to these reporters anything even remotely linked to the intelligence community, has been broad-brushed into a dangerously out-of-control post-9/11 top secret fourth tier of government.

Um... you know, my office faces a main drag in a blue-collar midwestern town, with large glass windows, and the logo prominetly emblazoned on its front. We've got a website that while not giving away trade secrets, makes no effort to hide what we're up to. And despite the seemingly widespread belief among locals, we're not really spies.

The irony of it all is that after years of trying to safely land in academia, I finally found a mechanism via government grants and contracts that funds seed-stage basic research with an eye toward commercialization. The secret to me was that academics are simply not well-informed of the possibilities to engage in basic and applied research beyond the confines and constraints of academic institutions.

I think back to an exchange I had about four years ago with a research professor at a major East Coast U.S. institution, who essentially poo-pooed my suggestion that a lowly recent PhD might have ideas worthy of independent funding. The sad thing is, I believed it, until two years ago when my eyes were opened to the opportunities available to for-profit small businesses (even those that existed only as a lone researcher with untethered ideas and a lot of pluck).

And so, I've proven one of my favorite adages: everyone who got where they are started where they were. My former interlocutor, Karl-Heinz was wrong. At least to some who fund research, innovative ideas and the ability and willingness to pursue them to their logical ends, at the end of the day is really more significant that having convinced an old boys' network to let you play on their field.

If this sounds a bit like sour grapes, so be it. Today, where I am, pursuing my research passions, creating jobs, outside of academia... I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Closing a Chapter

We've been working on purging our house, making more room. We won't be getting a new au pair next year. Our current one departs in October. RocketMom is still working for my firm part-time, about 8-10 hours a week. She's getting a new laptop next week, to facilitate more working at home. We really don't need full-time childcare. Yes, we're home schooling, but the boys are mostly self-directed in that regard. We plan to hire some part-time help to cover the hours Rocket is in the office, some time for her to get away and be herself during the day, and some time at night or weekends to cover for both of us so we can have a date every so often.

We'll be reclaiming one small bedroom once M leaves. We've been listing things on Craigslist and Freecycle: a weight bench; a second mixer, a couple old kitchen cabinets. We're thinking of unloading our piano (the first piece of furniture we bought together), and getting a smaller electronic keyboard. In the dining room there are still two large bookcases covering an entire wall, that hadn't anywhere else to go. They cramp the space, and are less than half used at the moment. Over the years, we've discarded, sold, given away, or donated, on the order of 500-1000 books. One (even larger) bookcase remains upstairs in the hallway, packed to overflowing. I've got a full bookcase at my office with just about everything related to my present vocation. There are also several large filing cabinets with articles and documents, as well as personal materials.

So, I was revisiting a bottom shelf of one of the large dining room book cases, filled with music: scores, xeroxes, handwritten manuscripts. About 60% now rests in a pile a couple feet high or so, to be donated, discarded, sold, or given away. I . am. no. longer... I... I am... I am no longer a singer! at least not professionally, at least not for a career. There I said it. It's done.

That was... difficult! More difficult than what follows, which to you who have been reading is not news: I am no longer an academic... at least not for now... not for the foreseeable future. What need do I have for obscure bits of music, that I don't plan to sing, or write about? None is what I concluded... and so they stand in a stack two feet high, awaiting another residence.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad

He would have been 75 today, had prostate cancer not claimed him at 69. I miss him!