In a saner world, where science and the law meshed more precisely, a case like Firstenberg v. Monribot would have been dead on arrival in court. But that is not what happened.
Earlier this month, five years after the lawsuit was filed, the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that Arthur Firstenberg, an outspoken opponent of wireless technology, could not seek $1.43 million in damages from his neighbor, Raphaela Monribot, for damaging his health by using her iPhone and a Wi-Fi connection
To begin the third Charlie Rose Brain Series with Dr. Eric Kandel based on the theme of Brain Science and Society, they address the subject of aggression. Their expert panel includes: David Anderson of the California Institute of Technology, Richard Tremblay of University of Montreal, Johanna Ray Vollhardt of Clark University, Emil Coccaro of University of Chicago, and Adrian Raine of University of Pennsylvania.
In the sixteenth and last full episode of the second Charlie Rose Brain Series, Charlie and co-host Dr. Eric Kandel talk about problems associated with sight that result in blindness. Their panel included Sanford Greenberg, Chairman of the Board of Governors of Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute ; Jean Bennett; Steven Schwartz of the Jules Stein Eye Institute; and Eberhart Zrenner and Carla Shatz of Stanford University.
Another year, another job, moving on, and beginning to begin again.
(This page contains about 300MB of media data to download if you click on all the video and audio links. You may not want to view it on a mobile device if you have a limited data plan.)
I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976. Two year later I applied for a faculty position there in the English department. I was accepted into a program whereby the Air Force would send me to school for my Master’s degree in 1983 with assignment to the Academy starting in 1984. In 1982, however, I decided it was time to move on and resigned my Air Force commission, foregoing the opportunity to work for my alma mater.
I completed my Master’s degree in Educational Psychology at the University of New Mexico in 2014. Two years later I applied for a position at the UNM Health Sciences Center (the medical school). For reasons I still don’t understand, the position was classified as a faculty position. After a three-month application and interview process, I was offered the position. This time I accepted the offer and started the new job with my second alma mater on January 5, 2015, as the Deputy Director for Operations of the UNM Health Sciences Library & Informatics Center (HSLIC) in Albuquerque.
Funny how things work out. And wherever I go, irony seems to tag along – the lowest grade I earned at the Academy was a “D” in Life Sciences (i.e., Health Sciences).
In this year’s report (the 21st in the series – see the sidebar links)
Stacy Stockdale Trotter
Our First MOOC
The Year’s Etc.
The New Job
Looking Ahead, Inspired
Because I was four months delinquent in producing my 2013 report, I included three significant items from early 2014 in that post, including:
A surprise 60th birthday party planned, organized, and near-flawlessly executed by my lovely and loving daughter Stacy.
With two colleagues (Mary Lahman from Manchester University in Indiana and Greg Thompson from BYU in Utah), collaborated to design and deliver a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on general semantics to over 1,300 students from 67 countries.
After being together for three years, and engaged for two, Stacy and Chris eloped in July. Deciding to forego a conventional/traditional wedding, they opted for a destination/travel wedding, or planned elopement. Because so much of Stacy’s life revolves around photography, she wanted to have her close friend and fellow photographer Allison Harp take her wedding photos. Allison was in Oregon for the summer, so they picked a picturesque spot overlooking Crater Lake in southern Oregon for the July 28th ceremony.
They hosted a reception for family and friends in Dallas on October 4th. I put together this 10-minute video of their wedding photos that ran throughout the evening.
Stacy asked me to make the first toast. Not trusting myself to extemporaneously do justice to the occasion, I wrote the following:
I’d like to offer the first toast to my daughter Stacy and son-in-law Chris by relating two personal stories.
In 1965, I was a 5th grader in Pampa, Texas. My dad was the high school band director and arranged for Doc Severinson to come to Pampa and give two concerts with his high school band. (If you don’t recognize the name Doc Severinson, think of him as to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show as Questlove is to Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show).
As a young record collector with two Beatles albums, I was very excited when my dad announced they were going to make an album of the concert recordings. “We’ll be rich!” I thought. Then the box of sample pressings arrived. The first album my dad pulled out of the box had a completely black cover with three words in big white letters:
“We’re not going to be rich,” I realized. As we finished listening to the recording, I heard the narrator explain: Unlike the commercial recordings on the market today, the memories of this night, the musical lessons it has taught, are … well like the cover on the album says … NOT FOR SALE.
Since then I’ve learned and experienced what that means. A NOT FOR SALE moment may be recorded and photographed and described, but it cannot be replicated or felt or experienced as it was in the moment of the experience.
The second story involved a dinner I had with Stacy when she was in the 6th or 7th grade. We were at Old Spaghetti Warehouse in Bedford. I don’t think either one of us was in a very good mood. She seemed kind of mopey and I was agitated with the slow service. I complained about it until she had had enough.
“Dad!” She forcefully put her right forearm out in front of her, vertical with her hand above, then slowly rotated at the elbow until her forearm was parallel to the table. The non-verbal message was clear: Bring it DOWN!
When our food arrived I was shocked and embarrassed to see Stacy eating her spaghetti with her fingers. With no patience at all I made it clear she was to use her fork. She kept eating with her fingers. “Stacy! Stop that! People are going to look at you. Nobody eats their spaghetti with their fingers – that’s not the way people eat spaghetti!”
She looked around and shrugged. “Well, that’s how I do it.”
I have to confess that response is not what I expected and not what I wanted to hear at the time. But in hindsight it did not completely disappoint me.
Now, over the past 38 months, Chris and Stacy’s life together, including their elopement and even this celebration, hasn’t exactly gone according to any relationship blueprint or wedding planner’s guide. But in their own ways and through their own love and caring for each they’ve already created three years of memories that are NOT FOR SALE.
So please join me in toasting the marriage of Chris and Stacy Trotter and wishing them many NOT FOR SALE moments in the future, which may include, if their own spirits so move, eating spaghetti with their fingers.
Our First MOOC
In June I attended my second InstructureCon conference hosted by the company that produces the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). This year I went as a presenter, delivering a 30-minute (planned) session titled, “Our First MOOC” that related the experiences that Mary, Greg and I had in designing and delivering our online course mentioned earlier, “General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Communication.”
If you’re interested you can watch the video, read the transcript, and/or view the Powerpoint slides on my ThisIsNotThat site, or watch the video as posted on YouTube:
In my 2013 report, I shared a video clip of surprise musical guest M.C. Hammer dancing on my table. Last summer, the great surprise musical guest was one of my favorite New Swing bands from the late ’90s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. It’s a shame there was no advance promotion and the weather was cold and dreary, but they were consummate professional and gave a great show to the few dozen who stayed to listen. Here’s a clip.
Before moving to Albuquerque, I spent a week in the DFW area to spend Christmas with my sister and family, then met up with her family and my brother to visit my dad and his wife Juanise in east Texas, and finished with Stacy and Chris in Dallas.
The Year’s Etc.
With the help of my sister, I got into eBay trading in a medium-sized way. I primarily bought and sold Apple devices, after which I am perilously close to facing accusations of becoming a fan boy. Not every trade worked out, but I was able to significantly upgrade my personal Apple computers, phones, iPads, iPods, etc.
A friend in Albuquerque had given me an original photograph of J. Robert Oppenheimer that, according to her research, had never been published. She thought it might be worth something and gave it to me for safe keeping, in case it might come in handy if/when I get back to my historical novel about the Manhattan Project. The PBS “Antiques Roadshow” happened to come through Albuquerque last summer and I was able to procure a ticket. As I suspected, the photo was too damaged to be assessed due to a spilt liquid stain, unless/until I paid to have it professionally restored. But it was fun to be a part of the crowd and see what goes on behind the scenes of the show.
As the Bill Maher clip kept driving viewers to my YouTube channel, I put some effort toward developing a trailer for the channel.
The New Job
Last August I received an email through a listserv that goes to IT leaders throughout New Mexico higher education institutions and major school districts. I found it intriguing in that it described a position with experience requirements that seemed almost impossible. It was for a medical school library, but “the library” was more than just a library – it included an IT department and a biomedical informatics department. (What is biomedical informatics?) The job posting emphasized experience in project management, process improvement, cross-functional interdisciplinary organization, and several other competencies. After re-reading it, I thought … I don’t think anybody is qualified for this, but I can make a pretty good case for myself.
I submitted my application on Labor Day. The following week I received an invitation for a Skype interview on September 29th. Next came an onsite interview on October 21st. The second week of November there was a follow-up conference call and initial discussions about an offer. I didn’t receive the official offer until December 4th and signed a contract as I was leaving town for Christmas on December 23rd.
One of the first people I contacted was Helen Harkness, who I started with as a career advisor/coach back in 2000. I’ve kept in touch with her through all my moves and fits and starts, including a short visit last April. I wrote to her to explain why I was excited about this job:
One of the exciting things about this position for me is that it will take advantage of every one of my previous jobs/careers. I can’t tell you how validating that feels. This is a case that proves the aphorism that every step you’ve ever taken is on the path that led you where you are today. But for now I just want to share the news with you and tell you again how much you and your program have meant to me.
I returned from the DFW area on the 29th, rented a moving truck on the 30th and moved all of my big items, and started work on January 5th. The UNM Health Sciences Library & Informatics Center (HSLIC) has a staff of about 60 people. My job title is Deputy Director for Operations with responsibilities that span the organization. So far, it’s been challenging and invigorating.
Looking Ahead, Inspired
As 2014 neared its end, a friend wished me well and, knowing of my moves, wished me the “best year ever.” That stopped me in my tracks. With the exception of my senior year at the Academy, I can’t ever remember thinking in terms of anticipating a “best year ever.” As an adult, especially since I’ve been doing these past 21 annual reviews, I’m quite cognizant of impending change and uncertainty, but I’ve never really expected or anticipated the possibility of “the best” ahead. For 2015, though, I have to say … yeah, maybe.
A good part of my optimism comes from two sources of late-year inspiration. In the fall I watched “Sonic Highways,” the HBO series created by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. Throughout the eight episodes, in which the band recorded a new song in eight American music recording meccas, Grohl related his own philosophies and ideas about music, musical history, and the creative process. His comments really resonated with me. One clip in particular, that concluded the episode in Nashville, I found inspiring enough to excerpt it here.
What struck me was how similar the sentiments expressed by these musicians – Dave Grohl, Dolly Parton, Zac Brown, Emmy Lou Harris, and Tony Joe White – are to the comments I noted in 2009 that were stated by Gloria Steinem: you need to do what only you can do.
Look for opportunities to do what only you can do. Break a senseless rule. Ask, “why?” Challenge authority. Take your own road. Sing your own song. Write your own verse. (Seriously, have you ever known anyone of consequence who was best known for following the rules? For just going along? For blindly conforming? “Yeah, that Harvey … he’s a terrific follower!”)
And if you should happen to one day feel an overpowering desire to ‘eat spaghetti with your fingers,’ what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll bet the world won’t end, nor will it probably even notice.
Looking ahead, I’m armed and fortified with some powerful sentiments to accompany me. As Dave Grohl sings in “In the Clear” (Mix #3), “there are times when I feel like givin’ in,” but looking ahead to 2015 I also know that “there are times I begin to begin again.” 2015 is one of those times. Again.
In January 2014, I got the news that Mr. B.K. Parekh died in Mumbai, India. Mr. Parekh was responsible for my unforgettable 3-week trip to Mumbai in 2007, with Andrea Johnson, to present a series of lectures and workshops on General Semantics in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Baroda. More about the 2007 trip.
A few weeks later I was invited by Dr. Deepa Mishra to contribute to a collection of articles about General Semantics to be published in Mr. Parekh’s honor. From February until the fall, I spent a great deal of time getting back into General Semantics to prepare something worthy of Mr. Parekh. Despite several attempts, however, I wasn’t able to adequately articulate what I wanted to say. Dr. Mishra was gracious enough to extend my submittal deadline several times, until I finally had to reluctantly and humbly admit that I wasn’t going to be able to complete it without delaying the publication schedule.
Months later, some of that ‘unproductive’ time and research would bear some fruit.
“The IT Guy”
In August 2012, I took a position at the community college in Grants, New Mexico, which is part of the New Mexico State University system. I was hired as “instructional technology manager,” with the primary responsibility of administering the online Learning Management System (LMS) known as Canvas, used by faculty to teach online courses.
After a few months, I accepted an additional duty of redesigning and maintaining the campus website. Fortunately for me, the entire NMSU system was in the process of moving their websites to the WordPress platform, which I had been working in for the previous three years. The redesigned NMSU Grants website went live in April 2013.
A month later, I became the IT Director with additional supervisory responsibilities. While I’ve always known a little more than average about computers and the Internet, I didn’t consider myself an “IT guy.” But fortunately we have two really good support guys who are most definitely “IT guys.” We spent a good portion of 2013 overseeing the installation of a dozen “smart classrooms” with the latest instructional technology, and an even better portion of 2013 trying to figure out: a) how it works; and b) how to make it work when it didn’t want to work.
In June 2013, I attended the annual user conference for Canvas held in Park City, Utah. I had a great time, learned a lot about how Canvas was being used by other institutions, and where the company behind Canvas (Instructure) was going with their new initiative to offer free online courses (known as MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses). Instructure was making a big push to develop a catalog of free online courses using their Canvas Network platform and actively seeking new courses to offer.
And I earned the dubious distinction of having MC Hammer dance on my table.
My dad has experienced some health issues for the past couple of years. Approaching the big 8-0, he and my stepmother Juanise decided to sell their house in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and move into an assisted living apartment in Jefferson, Texas, where Juanise’s daughter Ann lives. Over Labor Day weekend, they made the move. My sister Lizann, brother-in-law Tom, and niece Britni and I went to Tulsa to help with some of the last-minute details and packing, then the three of them drove my dad and Juanise to Jefferson.
A couple of weeks later, I returned to Jefferson to spend five days with my dad while Juanise and Ann attended Ann’s son’s wedding in Washington, D.C. We had planned a small family celebration for my dad’s 80th birthday over Thanksgiving weekend, but a few days earlier Ann’s husband Ron lost his long battle with Parkinson’s disease. We decided to forego celebrating my dad’s birthday, at least for awhile.
My daughter Stacy continued her extraordinary life with her fiance Chris, her high school students, her growing photography business (Just Breathe Photography), and her work on behalf of Toms shoes. In fact, based on her fundraising and promotion work she’s done over the years, she was selected by Tom’s in 2013 to travel overseas and personally deliver Toms shoes. However, due to some administrative and medical constraints, she wasn’t able to make the trip. She was profiled last month in a local magazine for her teaching and her work with Toms (online edition, starting on page 8).
In October, I received a special invitation. One of my two best friends from high school, Jim, was getting married to his partner of 20 years, also named Jim. I wrote about Jim in this 2005 column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Unfortunately, they planned their wedding reception on the Saturday following Thanksgiving when we had planned my dad’s 80th birthday celebration. After we decided to postpone my dad’s thing after Ron died, Stacy pressed me to go to our first same-sex wedding. Thanks to her prodding, we made a quick two-night trip to New York to honor great friends.
And we saw Wicked on Broadway.
A Solstice Hike
On December 22nd, I took an off-the-trail hike with three guys from work. The destination was a set of seldom-seen petroglyphs which included a “sun dagger” that marked the annual stages of the sun. We were a day past the actual winter solstice, but we did observe the shadows approaching high noon and documented the moment when the shadow line bisected the center of the square spiral – the highest point of the sun on the shortest day of the year.
Back to General Semantics, Part 2
In July, I received an out-of-the-blue email from Mary Lahman, Ph.D., a professor at Manchester University in Indiana. I met Mary in 2002 when she attended a GS seminar at Alverno College in Milwaukee. She wrote seeking my permission to use some excerpts from my e-book, Here’s Something About General Semantics, in a course textbook she was preparing for a course she’s taught since the 1990s. We exchanged a few collegial emails about the course, then I asked if she would be interested in teaching an online course on General Semantics via the Canvas Network. (Recall the “big push” Canvas was making to establish an extensive catalog of online course offerings.)
She enthusiastically agreed. Then I contacted Greg Thompson, Ph.D. at BYU (with whom I had corresponded for a few years and only just met in person in June on my way to Park City). He was also game for collaborating on an online course.
Based on the course that Mary taught at Manchester called Language and Thought, we agreed on a course title (General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior), a short catalog description, and submitted our proposal to Canvas in September. To my surprise, they immediately accepted it and we were off and running to develop the six-week course for a January 13, 2014, start date.
Speaking for myself, the course was an incredible experience that greatly exceeded whatever expectations I had. We put it an awful lot of hours, both in preparation and in execution. Here are some of the highlights:
We ended up with 1,325 total enrolled, with 575 enrolling after the course opened.
407 completed a pre-course demographic survey prepared by Canvas that reflected:
Participation: only 43% expected to be “active participants”; the others described themselves as “passive participants, drop-ins, or observers”.
74% expected to spend less than 4 hours per week on the course.
Education attained: short of a 4-year degree – 26%; 4-year degree – 24%; some graduate work – 8%; Masters – 26%; doctorate, JD, MD – 12%.
English as primary language – 64% yes, 35% no.
Location: North America – 49%; Western Europe – 22%; Eastern Europe (incl former Soviet Union) – 5%; South America and Australia/South Pacific – 4% each; Africa and East Asia – 2% each; Southeast Asia – 1%; Central America, Carribean, Middle East – each greater than 0 but less than 1%.
Gender: 61% female, 38 % male.
Age: 44% under 35; 33% between 35-54; 18% over 55
We had at least 120 individuals complete at least one of the six modules to earn a badge, and about 38 people from 14 countries earned the course badge.
U.K. (incl Scotland)
It’s worth noting that completing each of the six modules required at least 2-3 hours per week of reading, watching, and participating in online discussions and assignments. So those who completed all six modules made a significant investment of time in the subject.
Mary, Greg, and I offered the course under a Creative Commons open license whereby our materials are available for anyone to use, provided they attribute the source of the material and offer it under the same open sharing license. The course remains available, without student content, on the Canvas Network site at https://learn.canvas.net/courses/191. I also have the entire course content posted on my thisisnotthat.com website.
On the Ides of March of 2014, I terminated my Facebook account. Of course, Facebook being Facebook, I can’t say for sure that my account is indeed “terminated” and if all of my photos, comments, posts, etc., are actually deleted or just in some unavailable-to-me hard drive in the cloud somewhere.
I had three primary reasons to just say no to Facebook:
The immediacy of searching items on Amazon and then immediately seeing those same searched items displayed in my Facebook ads was unnerving.
The tangled web of associated and linked accounts with my Facebook account was beyond my willingness, if not ability, to understand.
I’m sympathetic to the premise and argument espoused by Jaron Lanier in his Who Owns the Future? In a nutshell, why should I be contributing my content at no cost to enrich others? Why shouldn’t I be paid for the content I’m providing?
(Speaking of my YouTube channel, last July I posted this clip from Mike Rowe’s appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. Amazingly-to-me, that clip has received 170,000 views and over 800 comments. I guess it resonates.)
Leaving the ’50s (Surprise!)
At the end of March, I planned a week off to return to the DFW area, as requested by my daughter. Apparently her request was not arbitrary, as it coincided with my 60th birthday. She arranged a surprise party which, all things considered, was about as good of a time for the surprised (me) as is possible with a surprise party. Here are some of the pics, taken primarily by Stacy and Mark Gunderson.
One of the many reasons I’ll be forever grateful to Stacy is that she collected 60 notes of memories and remembrances contributed by my family and friends. No matter where I go in my life meanderings, I’ll take those notes and memories. Thanks, Stace, and everyone who took the time to write something about me.
A 2012 song by the group Incognito has been banging around my head for the past few months. I think it could’ve been one of my theme songs for most of my adult life. It means something to me. I hope you might ponder it and consider, in whatever ways make sense for you, to “say goodbye to yesterday.”
I keep dreaming ’bout where I could be About the places and the faces I’d see This is bigger than myself I know that no one else Can do what’s clearly up to me.
It’s never too late to change your fate Right here and now, I’m gonna turn my world around.
Well, I used to think I was stuck on red Now I know that it was all in my head But I’m done making excuses Can’t fool myself, it’s useless I’ll follow my own lead instead.
In this special segment of the second Charlie Rose Brain Series with Dr. Eric Kandel, journalist James Gorman of the New York Times discusses a project of Washington University to develop a “wiring diagram” of a living human brain. This 21-minute segment aired on January 6, 2014, and can be viewed online.
In the fifteenfth episode of the second Charlie Rose Brain Series, Charlie and co-host Dr. Eric Kandel discuss hearing with David Corey of Harvard University , Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University, Ruth Bentler of the University of Iowa and Dr. Ingeborg Hochmair.
In this special episode of the second season of the Brain Series, Charlie Rose and Eric Kandel host an esteemed panel of neuroscientists to discusss President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. Joining Charlie and Eric are Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health, Story Landis of the National Institute of Health, Cornelia Bargmann of Rockefeller University and William Newsome of Stanford University.
The excerpt below includes the introduction to the episode and some of the highlights. The full episode can be viewed online here.
While searching for a particular photo of my mother, I found a stash of letters from the ’70s, including the first letter home after I started Basic Cadet Training at the USAF Academy. This was written on July 4, 1972.
In the thirteenth episode of the second Charlie Rose Brain Series, Charlie and co-host Dr. Eric Kandel discuss the Public Policy Implications of the New Science of Mind with Alan Alda, Daniel Kahneman, Michael Shadlen, and Waler Mischel..