2014 Year-End Review

Another year, another job, moving on, and beginning to begin again.

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Preface

USAFA ChapelI 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.

Health Sciences Library & Informatics CenterI 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)

  • January-April Recap
  • Stacy Stockdale Trotter
  • Our First MOOC
  • Christmas 2014
  • The Year’s Etc.
  • The New Job
  • Looking Ahead, Inspired

January-April Recap

Because I was four months delinquent in producing my 2013 report, I included three significant items from early 2014 in that post, including:

  1. A surprise 60th birthday party planned, organized, and near-flawlessly executed by my lovely and loving daughter Stacy.
  2. 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.
  3. A video clip I posted on my YouTube channel from a Real Time with Bill Maher interview with Mike Rowe really resonated with viewers. As of today it’s received over 250,000 views and generated over 800 viewer comments, while the full channel (youtube.com/slingingsteve) has received more than 320,000 views and has over 120 subscribers.

Stacy Stockdale Trotter

Stacy Stockdale TrotterAfter 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.
Chris and Stacy Trotter

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:

Not For Sale

“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.

Cheryl, Stacy, Steve
Cheryl, Stacy, Steve
Susan, Chris, Stacy, Cheryl, Steve
Susan, Chris, Stacy, Cheryl, Steve
Stacy's Posse
Stacy’s Posse

Our First MOOC

Guardrail not included
Nobody promised you a guardrail.

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.

Christmas 2014

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.

Freddy, Lizann, Steve
Freddy, Lizann, Steve
Bridges and Stockdales
Tom, Britni, Steve, Fred, Jessica, Lizann, Juanise

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.

Damaged photoA 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.

Antiques Roadshow
Antiques Roadshow, Albuquerque 2014

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.

Helen Harkness
Steve and Helen Harkness, 2014

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.

About the same time, I decided to put together some playlists of song clips I found meaningful. I ended up with three different mixes, each about 15 minutes long. You can listen to the links below, or you can read the names and lyrics of all the songs included here, as well as listen to them. BEWARE: The audio level of the mixes is quite a bit louder than the previous video clips.

Mix #1, 14:56 (R.E.M., Joe Jackson, Dixie Chicks, Jamiroquai, John Mayer, Tina Arena, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger) or Download the MP3 (right-click)

Mix #2, 14:04 (No Doubt, George Harrison, Bon Jovi, Butterfly Jones, “Rent”, Natasha Bedingfield, Barbra Streisand) or Download the MP3 (right-click)

Mix #3, 14:23 (Foo Fighters, George Harrison, Incognito, Billy Joel, John Mellencamp) or Download the MP3 (right-click)

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.

Here’s wishing you your best year ever!

@Nidividuate

2013 Year-End Review

and the first quadrimester of 2014.

And now you know that a quadrimester is a 4-month period of time: “rare in the U.S., this unit is widely used elsewhere to describe an academic term of 4 months duration.” I have some excuses for why this year’s report is a quadrimester late, but no good reasons, so I’ll just note it and move on.

Previously, recall that in my 2012 report, I included this blurb about a place in western New Mexico called El Morro:

A national monument, El Morro (Inscription Rock) is a 90-minute 45-minute drive from Grants. I visited it one Saturday in October. It’s an imposing rock formation that has ancient markings from the Anasazis, the remnants of a pueblo atop the rock, and from 1605 to 1905, inscriptions from travelers. Literally, El Morro was the rock-hard precursor to a Facebook update: “Governor Don Juan de Onate checked in, 1605, +27 not counting slaves.”

Ell Morro
El Morro National Monument, near Ramah, New Mexico

Back to General Semantics, Part 1

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.

With the Parekh's 2007
With Andrea Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Parekh, November 2007

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.

NMSU Grants Website
grants.nmsu.edu

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.

Family

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.

Juanise and Fred
Juanise and Fred, March 2014

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).

Stacy's Profile
From the North Ellis County NOW April 2014

Jim’s Wedding

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.

Wicked
Wicked in the Gershwin Theater

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.

El Malpais Tryptich
Approaching noon on the winter solstice
El Malpais Petroglyphs
El Malpais Petroglyphs

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.

  1. U.S.
  2. U.K. (incl Scotland)
  3. Spain
  4. France
  5. Belgium
  6. Australia
  7. Saudi Arabia
  8. India
  9. Greece
  10. Grenada
  11. Philippines
  12. Switzerland
  13. Ecuador
  14. Russia

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.

Page from our Canvas Network Online Course
Page from our Canvas Network Online Course

Leaving Facebook

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:

  1. The immediacy of searching items on Amazon and then immediately seeing those same searched items displayed in my Facebook ads was unnerving.
  2. The tangled web of associated and linked accounts with my Facebook account was beyond my willingness, if not ability, to understand.
  3. 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?
Leaving Facebook
Leaving Facebook

Of course, you always keep in touch with me here at stevestockdale.com, thisisnotthat.com, Twitter (@Ndividuate)LinkedIn, and my YouTube Channel.

(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.

Concluding Sentiment

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.

Save

Save

Save

2012 Year-End Review

Half-a-Life in 2012

For the fourth time in the last 30 years, I put all my (dwindling) household goods into storage not knowing when, where, or in what state (of mind and residence) I’d be removing them.

The short straw in 2012 went to Grants, New Mexico, where since August I’ve been gainfully employed (for the first time since 2007) as Manager for Instructional Technology at the Grants campus extension of New Mexico State University. This comes as a direct consequence of my May 2012 completion of the Masters degree in Educational Psychology at the University of New Mexico (as an outstanding graduate, I might add). To supplement my job-seeking summer activities I put together an online portfolio website, including a six-minute video resume: http://stevestockdale.com/portfolio/

After re-reading that first paragraph you might have thought I earned a Masters in parenthetical annotations. I’ll try to stop.

Steve and StacyIn 2012, I turned 58 and my daughter turned 29. So I’ve lived, and will continue mathematically to live, more than half my life having a daughter. It also happens that 1983 marked the beginning of my own personal computing life with a TI-branded IBM compatible at work and a Commodore 64 at home. So from now on, I’ll also have lived more than half my life with computers.

By no means am I comparing my daughter to a computer. But it’s just an observation that she and computers (for me) came along about the same time. And coincidentally, we both now make our living by extending what we know about computing to others; she at the high school level with students and me at the community college level with faculty.

I guess you could say we’re engaged in the same business of managing electrons in order to influence neurons.

Missing K.C. and O.T.

Last February 23rd, while killing time waiting for a class at UNM, I checked email on my phone. I saw the always-dreaded Subject line from the Air Force Academy Association of Graduates: “Gone But Not Forgotten.” In this case, I immediately rushed into a computer lab to read the message full screen, because this time the Subject line included “Steinbaugh – 1976.”

K.C. Steinbaugh was my roommate for most of my last three years at the Academy, and if I had a “best friend” at USAFA, it was K.C. Even though he and his wife Liz and his three sons lived in Plano the entire time I lived in the Metroplex, I hadn’t seen him in the last ten years. I didn’t know that he had within just the past few months contracted a one-in-a-million neurological disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (known as CJD). One neurologist compared CJD to Lou Gehrig’s disease on steroids – always fatal, almost always within a year of first symptoms.

I attended his memorial service, then came back and as a tribute to K.C. and Danny Sawyer, another of our squadron classmates who died in 2006, I put together a video to commemorate our time at the Academy. The video and the obituary I wrote for the alumni publication are also available on this page: http://stevestockdale.com/portfolio/2012/spirit-of-76/.

Then in November I heard that O.T. Ryan, the long-time band director at Plainview High School and one of my dad’s best friends, died. I had visited O.T. and his wife Pat in March 2011.

It’s hard to escape the parallels – my best friend from college and my dad’s best friend as an adult died in the same year. And they both went by their initials.

A third death touched my life when, just a week before I was to vacate my Santa Fe apartment, my landlord Dennis Leon died at his home in San Miguel, Mexico, after steadily failing health over the previous year. He and his partner Roger normally came to Santa Fe every year at the end of May to do maintenance on the property, take care of local business, and lease renewals. I delayed my departure a couple of days in order to visit with Roger. I consider them good friends after three years as their tenant and commend Roger for his yeoman efforts to nurse Dennis through a very difficult year.

Reflections

Disparate things on my mind … next month will be the 20th anniversary of “The One-Minute Poem.” I honestly can’t say if I’ve made much progress in stowing away my self-criticizing red pen.

During the summer, after graduating and before I accepted the offer from NMSU Grants, I stayed with my sister and brother-in-law. I had a lot of time to think about the paths I’ve taken and the choices I’ve made. I came to the conclusion that more than anything else, what I want to do is have quality time to think about the things I want to think about.

A national monument, El Morro (Inscription Rock) is a 90-minute 45-minute drive from Grants. I visited it one Saturday in October. It’s an imposing rock formation that has ancient markings from the Anasazis, the remnants of a pueblo atop the rock, and from 1605 to 1905, inscriptions from travelers. Literally, El Morro was the rock-hard precursor to a Facebook update: “Governor Don Juan de Onate checked in, 1605, +27 not counting slaves.”

El Morro Inscriptions

The first week I was in Grants, I ate at a local Chinese place. I got the obligatory fortune cookie when I finished. But far from the usual insipid and trite bromide that has come to pass as a digestible “fortune,” I kept this one.

fortune-250

I don’t presume this as a forecast or prediction. But I will admit it’s always been a motivator that I haven’t always lived up to.

More

Stacy is now engaged to Chris, who surprised her with an engagement party I was able to attend just before I left for Grants. In addition to her teaching job, she’s developing a real photography business for senior pictures, weddings, special events, boxing matches, and anything else that needs to be graphically captured for posterity. Visit her website at http://justbreathephotos.com/ and her personal blog at http://justbreathe-stacy.blogspot.com/.

Stacy's engagement party
Susan, Chris, Cheryl, Stacy, Steve

Stacy and Chris took me to the new Perot Science Museum in downtown Dallas after Christmas. Here’s my version of “Roger and Me” (as in Roger Staubach) and why Slingr is, well, Slingr.

I had a great weekend visit with two dear friends, Andrea and Alta, in September. I needed it more than they.

For awhile I tried to maintain my interest in examining and scrutinizing what I believe are … suspicions … about the management of CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe. I went so far as to request over 600 pages of county documents under the state’s public records act. But one can only fight so many battles and I’ve come to the realization that I can’t win this one.

 

Unexpected Pleasures of 2012

  • Downton Abbey (PBS)
  • Sherlock Holmes (BBCA)
  • The Hour (BBCA)
  • The Newsroom (HBO)
  • This young lady from Spain and her bass covers. I don’t know why but I instantly fell for these two videos of hers:


and

  • And for some reason I’ve been hooked on these classic Queen videos. Maybe I’ll need to come back to these later.

Radio Ga Ga

Under Pressure (the song starts at 2:00, but Freddie’s call and response with the crowd is pretty amazing)

 A New Hope for 2013

Love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the light
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure.

There are a lot of people around the world and across the street who, for whatever reasons and causes and circumstances, exist “on the edge of the light.”

My hope for 2013 is that the Time Magazine will be justified to select as their collective Person of the Year, “The Other.”

2011 Year-End Review

What to say about 2011?

Stacy and Steve at Marisa's weddingThings didn’t quite work out as I expected a year ago.

I didn’t finish the novel I mentioned. But I did write nine pretty good chapters.

I didn’t finish the Educational Psychology Masters degree last spring as I intended. But I’m only two courses short and unless something unforeseen occurs, I should graduate in May.

I didn’t anticipate that WordPress was going to preoccupy a good portion of the year. I started the fictional memoirs of Annie Armstrong as a blog (the aforementioned nine chapters). I re-designed my personal site (this one, stevestockdale.com) and migrated it to the WordPress blogging/website platform. I also redesigned my DiscernThis! blog and gave my ThisIsNotThat.com a bit of a facelift. I did some other work in WordPress explained below.

I also didn’t anticipate knee surgery, or a 48-hour fear that I had suffered a retinal tear.  The knee has healed nicely and the eye is okay, if your “okay” is calibrated to include intermittent floaters moving in and out of your field of view.

Mine is. Now.

We Are New Mexico insertI anticipated, but didn’t fully appreciate, how much time I would devote to issues related to the union contract negotiations between the Santa Fe hospital, CHRISTUS St. Vincent, and the nurses and technicians union. Given my negative opinion of the hospital, I didn’t have any trouble finding reasons to criticize the hospital’s paternalistic, autocratic, and authoritarian handling of the union contract negotiations. Not that I didn’t also criticize the union, but they (the union) thought enough of what I was able to do through my blog that they thanked me in a special post-negotiations newspaper insert.

Stacy came out for a few days in August to coincide with the wedding of our mutual friends Marisa and Aaron. I went to Dallas in March to help her move into her first “on her own” apartment, a really cool loft conversion in an old downtown Santa Fe railroad terminal building. And after a short trip to Tulsa to visit my dad and his wife Juanise, I returned to Dallas in November to take advantage of a gift certificate she won for two nights in the Aloft Hotel across the street from her place (also in a former Santa Fe railroad building). At which time I got to meet the new man in her life, Chris.

The second night I was there was the night of the 5.8 earthquake centered near Oklahoma City. I was on the hotel’s third floor and, in the words of Carole King, “I felt the earth move under my feet.” Seriously strange feeling.

I suppose a general theme of the year was learning. I guess my challenge for the coming year is to figure out how to take advantage of that learning and apply it to something productive … like a job.

Here’s a summary of some of the things I spent my time on in 2011.

Writing

The first nine chapters of Annie Armstrong’s fictional memoirs, written as her blog, are posted here. Thanks to my friend Lana for giving voice to Annie and recording these chapters for those who’d rather listen than read. I also made a video to accompany her reading of Chapter 1, The Cerro Grande Fire.

8 Passages for Uncertain Career Journeys” was published in the Journal for Career Planning and Adult Development that was distributed last January. This journal issue was edited by my friend and mentor Helen Harkness.

I contributed an essay titled “Suspended in Stereotypes” for the Reader on Race, Gender and Other Minorities, compiled and edited by former colleagues at the Schieffer School of Journalism at TCU in Fort Worth, due for publication in early 2012.

Some academic attempts:

During the summer I started blogging for a new website, SantaFe.com. For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t totally into this outlet, but I wrote a few things I’m proud of under my blog name, “From Here to Discernity.”

Videos

  • I had a brain MRI in 2010. For reasons known only to that brain, I created two videos with different musical accompaniment choices to display the MRI images.
  • What Difference Does it Make?” — Rather than give the expected Powerpoint for my final presentation in my Biological Bases of Behavior course, I made this video. It’s about brains.  Here’s the paper that accompanied the video.
  • Partially due to one of my UNM courses, I made this little video for “Visualizing America’s Manifest Destiny.”
  • The Only Game in Town” — An attempt to summarize issues related to CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe.
  • The Local Community Hospital Game” — In the CHRISTUS Health system, there is no such thing as a “loal community hospital.”
  • Different Shades of Cool” — Just because I felt like it one day when I woke up, this includes short clips of 20 different live performances that, to me, exemplify “different shades of cool.”
  • Last March I attended a press conference at the old Albuquerque Railyards at which grand new redevelopment plans were announced. I was inspired to create this video to commemorate it. So far as I know, nothing has progressed on the project in the last ten months.

Websites

For a couple of months last summer, I thought I was going to be working with a friend to do website design based on WordPress. That didn’t work out. But I’ve continued to work in WordPress as I’ve found it a useful framework for organizing information.

In addition to my SteveStockdale.com and DiscernThis! sites I’ve already mentioned, I created two others recently.

Ndividuate Yourself is a site that contains a well-written (natch!) endorsement of WordPress and a soup-to-nuts tutorial for how to setup  and use WordPress that’s targeted specifically (and exclusively) to beginners. My presumption is that if you have a Facebook page, know how to upload photos to a site, have ever bought anything online, and know how to use a word processor, you have the skills required to create and manage your own website with WordPress.

In addition to the well-written (natch!) tutorial, I’ve created more than 20 videos that supplement the written articles as an actual website is created through the lessons.

I also decided, after discussions with one of the Santa Fe County Commissioners, to create a new site for the community to exchange information CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital. I migrated “The CHRISTUS Files” from my Discern This! blog and created The Accountable to Santa Fe Network at www.A2SF.net. It’s intended to become a multisite network with online discussion forum. We’ll see how it evolves – I start promoting it tomorrow. The timing is good as the current scandal involves a $3M embezzlement by a former Chief Operating Officer whose named accomplice is the current “significant other” of former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez, who happens to be running for one of the three New Mexico congressional seats.

So we’ll see what happens this year. There’s a good chance I’ll be moving again. Might as well get started … where’s that editable resume?

2010 Year-end Review

My 2010 Year-End Review

Steve in Santa FeThree weeks ago, I became the object of a discovery that resulted from a misunderstanding. (Sort of like America, but on a slightly smaller scale.) The consequences of this misunderstanding will play out over the course of 2011, but since it currently occupies a position of prominence in my prefrontal cortex, I thought I’d go ahead and lead off my 2010 Year-End Review with it.

Recall from my 2009 review that I had self-published an eBook titled Here’s Something About General Semantics . After initially trying to sell it via PayPal, I decided to offer it as a free pdf download. I was therefore quite surprised when, on December 10th, I received an email asking me to autograph two copies of the book. It seems that some unknown person had printed out a few pages from my eBook and left them in a major university library. The sender of the email had come across the pages quite by chance and mistakenly assumed they were photocopies of a “real book.” The email sender liked the excerpts well enough to place an order with a local bookseller for two copies of what was presumed to be a “real book,” then contacted me with the autograph request.

During the subsequent exchange of emails, I clarified that there wasn’t really a “book” to autograph. The email sender offered a humble assessment that the eBook was worthy of publication and, if I didn’t already have an agent, would be happy to contact a few on my behalf as the sender was … let’s say “familiar” with the publishing industry.

So for the past three weeks, I’ve had to reorient my thinking about what my next few months are going to look like. As it turns out, what “someone” is interested in is a novel idea (or idea for a novel) that I started ruminating about in 1999. When I moved to Santa Fe in early 2009, the idea and characters relocated as well. I haven’t actually written anything, but I’ve researched and developed the story enough to talk about it, as I mentioned last year. Now that “someone” has expressed an interest in the story, I really have no choice but to start writing.

Right after I clear out a backlog of To-Do’s, which includes this 17th in my series of year-end reviews. At the moment there’s no video version available, but maybe I’ll get to that later.

The most significant ongoing activity for me in 2010 was “back to school.” Last February, after prodding from my daughter, I determined I had exhausted all reasons for not getting a Masters degree. Searching online, I found the Educational Psychology program at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, applied, interviewed, took the GRE (again, 35 years after the first time), and was accepted in April. I took two courses last summer, four in the fall, and planned to finish the 33-hour program this coming May with five courses in the spring. Finishing in May probably won’t happen due to my writing re-prioritization. But I’ve really enjoyed the stimulating educational experiences and making some new friends.

Other items of some significance:

  • StacyI went back to the DFW area for a visit in May, primarily to help my daughter buy her first new car. She was just finishing her second year of teaching high school and just beginning her fourth summer of working for the Texas Rangers baseball club. On the day she bought her car, she proudly drove me to a game just as a massive thunderstorm hit Arlington. Fortunately that storm didn’t include hail. I got to attend two games that trip, then rooted the Rangers on from Santa Fe as they won their division, then the American League and got to play in their first ever World Series. Stacy got to work several of their home playoff games, including a World Series game, and I can’t articulate the feelings of pride, envy, and happiness for her experiences.

ballpark merge photos

  • I got some minor media attention locally. In January I had a 10-minute interview about my eBook (remember, it’s not a “real” book) on “The Journey Home” drive-time talk radio show. In April I got a burr in my butt about an activist trying to block the growth of wireless technologies in the Santa Fe area, so I devoted some of my blog to the “Electrically-Sensitive Trail of Arthur Firstenberg.” That drew a mention in a column in the Santa Fe Reporter. In September and October I re-engaged in some analytical criticism of the one and only hospital in Santa Fe, Christus St. Vincent, which resulted in an abruptly-ended email exchange with their PR guy. I’ve also begun criticizing a series of murals in the Zimmerman Libraryat UNM that I view as historically and sociologically problematic.Kenneth Adams murals
  • At the end of May I was fortunate to participate in the annual Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop conducted by noted authors (of “real books”) Sandra Blakeslee and George Johnson. It was held the week before my summer classes started and really helped me gear up mentally for the intellectual and academic challenges ahead. I learned a lot and met some terrific people.
  • I volunteered for a few weeks at the prestigious Santa Fe Institute last spring. It’s quite a place, hosting people like Nobel physicist Murray Gell-Mann, author Cormac McCarthy, and former CIA agent-turned-author Valerie Plame Wilson. I didn’t do anything other than answer a few phones and stuff some envelopes, but it was an experience and I met some good people including the other volunteers.
  • In August I completed an article for my friend and career mentor Helen Harkness. She had been asked to edit a special edition of a career planning and development journal on “Chaos Theory and Positive Psychology,” and invited me to submit an article. I ended up writing about my own career experiences and philosophies, organized by eight quotations that have inspired me, and I titled it “Passages for Uncertain Career Journeys.” (See below.) The journal is scheduled for publication this month.
  • Back to last year’s Here’s Something About General Semantics (third mention, too many?) … a few other nice things resulted from that effort, even before someone mistook it for a real book. My friend and colleague David Hewson in Australia led a study program by the Australian Society for General Semantics based on the eBook. A professor from the University of Wisconsin system used it in an online course he conducted last summer. And I was approached by the online training firm MindEdge, Inc. about offering some of their online training curriculum on my ThisIsNotThat.com site.
  • RallyOther than my classes, the highlight of the fall was attending Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on 10.30.10. I’ve posted a video that explains why I chose to attend it, and one that shows some of the signs I saw that I felt were … video-worthy. These are just two of a dozen or so videos I felt moved to make during the year. They’re all available on my home page, www.SteveStockdale.com.

I was saddened by the loss of two friends whom I’d neglected to keep up with over the years. Mike Parsons was a year ahead of me in high school. I shared one of my most formative teenage experiences with him, a car wreck when I was a sophomore. Mike was a great all-round athlete and won the 1971 Texas Class AA state championship in the mile run with a time of 4:15.7. He went to SMU on a track scholarship and was one of the reasons I had initially wanted to go SMU. He graduated and went on to law school. His wife J. Carol was also a high school friend. The last time I saw them was at a party in 1996.

Danny Sawyer was one of my roommates my last year at the Air Force Academy. He was from North Carolina and the first true basketball junkie I met. He majored in Civil Engineering and apparently loved it; on the bookcase over his desk, where the rest of us put pictures of family or girlfriends or inspiring mementos, “Dano” had a cinder block. The last time I saw him was at Pete Trump’s wedding in the summer of 1976.

For Christmas, my sister Lizann gave me a USB turntable for transferring my old (pre-1985) collection of almost 200 record albums to digital MP3 format. I’m about three-quarters of the way through the conversion process and it’s been wonderful to re-connect with sounds that were so important to me in the 60s and 70s. More than just reminders of what I was listening to, they’ve also resurrected reflections on what I was thinking about then.

It seems an appropriate way to end this particular year, which has involved a lot of looking back. Perhaps this year past will serve as prologue for spending the coming year writing a story that will involve looking back to 1942. I’ll be inspired by my daughter’s hopeful wish for the new year:

Stacy's Card

We’ll see if I can get the writing right enough to “make a noise.”

Steve

The Passages from “Passages for Uncertain Career Journeys”

  1. I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man, still waiting for my real life to start. (Pat Conroy)
  2. The self explorer, whether he wants to or not, becomes an explorer of everything else. (Elias Canetti)
  3. By midlife, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves. (John Gardner)
  4. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. (George Bernard Shaw)
  5. There is no coming to consciousness without pain. (Carl Jung)
  6. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. (Marcus Aurelius)
  7. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  8. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. (Steve Jobs)

2009 Year-end Review

January 1, 2010

And then suddenly … 16 years have passed. I started these year-end reviews in 1994. Since 2001, I’ve adopted metaphors that seemed relevant to commemorate the preceding year, such as: “Crossing Rivers” in 2001; “From Turning to Turned” for 2002 and 2003; “Balance Sheet” in 2004; “Living Patiently Frustrated” in 2005 … okay, that was literal, not metaphorical; “Chasing Rainbows” in 2006; “Work to Do” for 2007 which was part metaphor, part irony mix. Last February I wrote about 2008 and explained how I had landed temporarily in Santa Fe, “The City Different.” (Update on my brother’s health: he’s recovered and doing well. So well, in fact, that a few months ago he moved back to Texas, and even has his own blog on the Lubbock newspaper site.)

So the “Year Different” in the “City Different” seemed like a no-brainer title for this one. I’ll leave it to you to determine what’s an appropriate label — metaphorical, allegorical, literal, ironic, or even (gasp!) rogue.

Preface: Not that I’m defensive about the decisions I’ve made and the paths I’ve pursued, but I draw some measure of validation, if not justification, from the wisdom of Gloria Steinem and Steve Jobs.

While channel surfing across the local access cable channel, I caught the end of an award to Ms. Steinem as a “Woman of Distinction” presented by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. In response to a question from the audience about future roles for women, she said something like, “you need to do what only you can do.” I like that.

After hearing a reference to it on some talk show, I looked up the 2005 commencement address that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford. His speech consisted solely of three personal stories, including one about a calligraphy class he audited after he dropped out of college, and what that eventually led to. He observed:

“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

I like that, too.

Having said that (any “Curb” fans out there?) … I feel more assured in admitting: 1) I’m doing what I believe only I can do; and 2) I’m trusting my gut-karma-intuition that, when the One Great Scorer comes to connect my dots, they’ll show how I played my game. Whether the dots reveal a “winner” or a “loser,” well, I’ll leave the labeling to you. And the One Great Scorer, of course.

I completed and self-published my first book in electronic format (pdf), Here’s Something About General Semantics: A Primer for Making Sense of Your World (ISBN 978-0-9824645-0-2; 290 pages). This was something I’ve had in mind for a long time, that I felt I had to do before I could move on to other projects. It’s primarily a compilation of published articles and columns I had previously written, but I also wrote some new stuff and provided some organization to it such that I’m pleased with the result. I initially offered it for sale, but within the first two weeks I ran into some logistical problems with the payment and downloading process, plus I hadn’t sold but about 15 copies, so I decided to just make it available as a free download.

I completely redesigned and reorganized my ThisIsNotThat website. I now have almost 200 individual video clips available online that support my GS-based work “toward an informed world view.”

I took all the personal stuff off of ThisIsNotThat and created this new vanity site with the very creative address of SteveStockdale.com

I also created a blog in conjunction with ThisIsNotThat that I call DiscernThis! I can’t say that I’ve been as regular or prolific as I envisioned, but in August I used it to aggregate a lot of information and resources regarding the local hospital, St. Vincent, which had accepted a 50-50 merger with the Catholic health system giant, CHRISTUS, in 2008. Many Santa Feans (rhymes with sayin’s, not beans) had concerns about access to health care and procedures that were not consistent with Catholic doctrine as documented in their Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs). I also had questions regarding their operations as a nonprofit corporation, so I started digging around online, collecting documents, and trying to understand what was going on. As the volume of documents and references grew, I thought it might serve a community purpose to make them available, so my first use of DiscernThis! was a wee bit of “citizen journalism.” It got a brief mention in the weekly Santa Fe Reporter. Not that many people read the blog, but apparently two who did were the chairman of the board of the hospital and their PR director. This led to two hour-plus meetings with them and the president of the hospital to respond directly to some of my questions and comments. Recalling Steve Jobs and not knowing how the dots you make will get connected … last month I got a call from a freelance writer in New York who was working on a story related to healthcare reform and had found my blog. We talked for over an hour about the situation here in Santa Fe, but unfortunately the stuff we talked about regarding St.Vincent was edited out. Still, you never know what may become of blogs, or dots, or … anything.

AAFIn March, Leslie from Amarillo stumbled across my website and found it worthwhile. She invited me to come to Amarillo to give a lunchtime presentation to the Amarillo chapter of the American Advertising Federation. I put a lot of work into a Powerpoint presentation with video clips. When it was over, I added an audio narration track and created a video of it, titled, “Lay Off of My PERSUADE Shoes.” You can watch the full 50-minute presentation or read the transcript with smaller pieces of the video here.

Oh, yeah … I moved to Santa Fe. ‘Permanently.’ As I mentioned last February, I rented two rooms in a large house on the eastern outskirts of town through May, keeping all my stuff in storage in Fort Worth.

MovingAs the end of May approached, I had to move, but where? After a short visit to Las Vegas (NV) in early June, I decided to move in (again) with my sister Lizann and her husband Tom outside of Fort Worth. However, I kept checking craigslist for Santa Fe rentals, and when one came available that sounded almost too good, I jumped at it. Three quick round trips between Fort Worth and Santa Fe and two weeks later, I was here, with major thanks to my daughter Stacy who helped me load and unload the truck, then drove my car behind me. She flew back on the inaugural flight of American Airlines between Santa Fe and DFW, which ended up being two hours late but they served chocolate-covered strawberries in the terminal while Governor Richardson spoke.

“Here” is a 850-sf apartment with 76-inch ceilings (74-inch right in front of the refrigerator), one of five units in a modest compound just six blocks north of the Plaza. The location can’t be beat, with mountain views to the east, nice quiet neighbors and conscientious out-of-state (well, Mexico) owners. I have a little private deck that’s at roof-level that offers a small place to sit and relax while cooking on the grill. It’s right off the Old Taos Highway, just across from the Fort Marcy recreational complex. All in all, it couldn’t be better for my purposes. It’s what I want.click to enlarge

I applied for at least a dozen jobs, most of which were offered by the federal government or local nonprofits. With my former military service I theoretically get a few extra points of consideration for federal job openings, but apparently not enough to overcome my general lack of specific employability. So now when I’m asked what I do, I can honestly say “write” since there are, literally, no alternatives. I did volunteer with the phone banks for the two local public radio station semi-annual pledge drives.

Click to enlargeI spent a lot of time reading, and since I’m now “a writer,” I guess I can also call it “researching.” The first topic that grabbed my attention even before I moved to Santa Fe is the period of the Manhattan Project from 1942-1945, which resulted in the detonation of three atomic bombs. Los Alamos is about 35 miles from Santa Fe, on the other side of the Rio Grande, past several Indian pueblos and cave dwelling sites that have served as ‘home’ for somebody for over a thousand years. The fact that these ancient lands became the temporary home for dozens of the most brilliant physicists in the world, for the purpose of unleashing the incomprehensible power within what only they could even imagine, holds important stories and lessons that I believe have yet to be told, learned, and comprehended. Otowi BridgeThis is one subject I’ve been “researching” in order to tell just one of those stories, from a personal, fictional, point of view. It’s involved learning about the famous physicists from the Manhattan Project such as Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, and also the less well-known, but in some ways even more intriguing “real people” like Edith Warner, Dorothy McKibbin, and the Indians of the San Ildefonso pueblo near the crossing of the Rio Grande called Otowi … “where the river makes a noise.”

The second arCristof Kochea I’ve immersed myself in developed from my “research” in the Los Alamos library. Since 1972, the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee has sponsored an annual lecture series featuring distinguished scientists, authors, and others from a variety of disciplines. The Los Alamos public library has the more recent lectures available on DVD. Last April I came across the 2005 lecture by neurobiologist Cristof Koch with the intriguing-to-me title, “The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach.” (Also the title of his book.) I checked out the DVD, and bought the book, and found myself amazed at some of his visual demonstrations. I say “amazed” because he was illustrating the same neurological principle — that we each manufacture, or generate, our own sensory representations of what we call reality within our own individual nervous systems, and these nervous systems are flawed — from which Alfred Korzybski derived his system of general semantics over 70 years earlier. I asked Koch for permission to host excerpts of his presentation on my website, and he graciously agreed. You can view four of these eye-opening (pun) demonstrations here, and then compare them with Korzybski’s low-tech “fan-disc” demonstration here.

Jeff Hawkins

As luck would have it, the Oppenheimer Memorial Lecturer for 2009 was another neuroscientist, Jeff Hawkins, author of the best selling On Intelligence (with Sandra Blakeslee), and co-founder/inventor of Palm Computing and the Palm Pilot. I attended his lecture in July and found it so engrossing I contacted a member of the Committee and offered to prepare a transcript of Hawkins’ lecture. They took me up on my offer, and here’s the resulting transcript. You can also view video clips from Hawkins’ lecture here. Like Koch four years earlier (and Korzybski, seventy years earlier), Hawkins emphasized that: “Your perception of the world is … really a fabrication of your model of the world.”

So what, you may ask, does the World War II atomic bomb project have to do with 21st-century neuroscience, other than the geographical coincidence of Los Alamos? How do THESE dots get connected? Well, since these two subjects will occupy my life (such as it is) over the next 12-18 months, I’ll attempt this explanation … Physicists and other physical scientists best understand the processes and mechanisms that explain our physical world. Neuroscientists and other physicians/surgeons best understand the processes and mechanisms that explain how we as a species function within this physical world. My interest as an uncredentialed, innocent-but-curious observer, is this: To what degree does our everyday language appropriately incorporate what these experts understand about the worlds outside, and inside, our skins? And conversely, to what degree does our everyday language ignore, or even contradict, what the experts tell us? Simply put, I’m preparing a critique of humans who use language with recommendations for how to revise our attitudes, our language habits, and world views to be consistent with what “those in the know” know. (If you’re a human who uses language, don’t take it personally.)

Now returning to planet earth … did you see my hiking video from last May? Down to the Rio Grande just a few miles from Los Alamos? It’s on the top of this page if you missed it, or if you just like to hear obscenities.

For two months last summer I was a party to a relationship that I thought “had the makings of a real good thing.” Like the summer, it didn’t last, but it provided me with many memorable moments, experiences, and memories, including an “unforgettable but bittersweet” camping trip in southwestern Colorado.

Coming off the disappointment of the ended relationship, I participated in a cathartic, ritualistic, and pretty “hot” annual event here in Santa Fe — the burning of Zozobra, started by artist Will Shuster in 1924, or 1926. Zozobra is the stage name for “Old Man Gloom,” who every year, just prior to Fiesta, is tried, convicted, and burned by the good citizens of Santa Fe “for being a menace, for making our dogs howl at the moon, for haunting our dreams and upsetting our peaceful way of life. With the execution of Zozobra we will release all anxiety, suffering, heartache, and gloom in our fair city.” One of the participatory aspects of the ritual is that the locals can stuff their own flammable symbols of anxiety and gloom into the monster marionette before he’s “executed.” Andrea and Steve - 2007I availed myself of this opportunity, as you can see at the end of the video.

My First Zozobra

However, my Zozobra-fication didn’t completely take. I spent a couple of days in Tulsa talking with my dad, who was there for me when I needed him. Then in October I spent a few days in Milwaukee with my former GS colleague and Asian sub-continent traveling buddy “Ms. Andrea” Johnson and her husband Tom. (Tom and Andrea, I don’t know what my final Kleenex tab was, but I promise I’m good for it, one of these days.)

Not surprisingly (since I moved out of state), along with family the most important people in my “year different” were people I didn’t even know existed twelve months ago. That’s a hopeful thing, I think. Thanks to all of you.

StacyOf course, one constant has been my amazing daughter Stacy. She’s in her second year of teaching high school multi-media computer programming near Dallas, and next summer will be her fourth year working for the Texas Rangers baseball club in charge of player will-call tickets. I can’t say enough about her, so I’ll just say … I love her. And I should credit her for the better photos in my video review.

Speaking of which, I’ve chosen an appropriate-to-me tune to accompany some of the sights and sounds of the past year — “You can’t get what you want (till you know what you want)” by Joe Jackson. After reading all the above, I hope the video is understandable.

As I say at the conclusion of the video … Here’s wishing for you to know what you want in 2010.

Steve, in Santa Fe

My 2009: The Year Different

2008 Year-end Review

SteveEmail to Friends and Family (February 5, 2009)

Subject: Yes, I know the way to Santa Fe

Once again, my preceding year didn’t really end in conjunction with the calendar.

In this case, 2008 concluded, and my 2009 started, on Groundhog Day when I left Phoenix for Santa Fe. I’ll be here at least through May, and with any luck, longer.

How did I get here? (“I took I-25 up from Albuquerque” … [rim shot])

On the day after Thanksgiving my younger brother Freddy went to the emergency room with a repeat attack of pancreatitis, which he had been treated for a few months previously. He immediately developed complications and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, AZ, just east of Phoenix. I went out there to help out.

 After three weeks of frustratingly little progress and enduring a breathing tube, a tracheostomy, failing kidneys, dialysis, pneumonia, high blood pressure, and almost perpetual sedation, he ‘woke up’ a few days before Christmas while our sister Lizann was there and I was back in Fort Worth. On December 29th he was moved to a longer-term specialty hospital for weaning him off the ventilator and beginning the long road to rehabilitation. From his first full day at the specialty hospital, he reached major milestones virtually every day until he was deemed “good to go home” on January 8th.

His recovery was remarkable. Consider this: we had a conference with the primary doctors and hospital staff on December 18th, at a very low point when he was not awake and I felt his condition had not appreciably changed. The primary care doctor adamantly stated that he was not in a life-threatening situation. He was still very sick but was positioned to recover. He said we should expect that he would be well enough to return home in 2 to 6 months.

Since I had to find a new place to live anyway, and he and is wife Kay could use some help until he was back to normal, I put my household goods into storage, packed my car, and drove to Phoenix anticipating I’d stay there until at least through March.

Instead, he was home three weeks from the day of the doctor conference, rather than their best case estimate of eight weeks. He began physical therapy and, despite a couple of scary but non-threatening trips to the ER, as January ended, it was clear to me that he was just about back to normal and it was probably time for me to move on.

After considering a variety of options, I decided for a variety of reasons that Santa Fe might be a good fit for me. I applied for a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, 35 miles northwest, and regardless of how that turns out, I hope this will constitute a sort of re-boot for me. Last fall I kept thinking I was ready to go someplace outside of the DFW area anyway. Yeah, it’s a big risk. But metaphorically, I look at it as though I was in a particular orbit. In order to change my orbit, I had to exert a lot of energy in the form of risk in order to try and find another body to orbit around. (Okay, read that however you want.)

I needed to find a fully furnished place for less than a six-month lease. Enter craigslist.com. Before I left Phoenix on Monday, I had found about a dozen possibilities to check on when I get here. I took the first one I looked at on Tuesday, and moved in yesterday. It’s a rather sweet 2-room suite that’s part of a 5-bedroom house on 1.5 acres on the outskirts of town … but just 10 minutes from The Plaza, which is the Santa Fe that everybody thinks of. All utilities are included, including DirecTV and WiFi. And some pretty nice views for a … can I say it? … former Texan. Here are some pictures from my move in. (See my 2009 Review for more.)

Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge

In “Rent,” Collins and Angel sing wistfully about escaping their New York misery to “open up a restaurant in Santa Fe.” But then it’s the heart-broken Roger who hocks his guitar to buy a car and flees to Santa Fe to write his own song. He finds he can’t make music with a car, so he sells the car, buys a guitar, and ends up taking the bus back to New York.

So I’ve come to Santa Fe and I’ve found a place to rent. Fade out as the curtain falls on Act 1 …

Steve

Other 2008 Highlights

  • Other than teaching my one class in General Semantics (GS) at TCU, I didn’t have a job. I tried but failed to raise money to establish a full program in GS at TCU. I rented a house owned by the parents of Kristen Harford, who worked for at the Institute.
  • Stacy found her dream job, teaching Computer Multimedia and Animation Technology (CMAT) at a suburban high school near Dallas.
  • I wrote four columns for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a Community Columnist again, as I did in 2005. I was particularly proud of some of the topics I addressed, including learning more than I cared to about Chesapeake Energy and their marketing/propaganda campaign in the DFW area. You can read the columns here.
  • I took the opportunity to watch a lot of educational documentaries and television shows, many of which I recorded and incorporated into my GS classes. Among the more meaningful: Discovery Channel’s “100 Greatest Discoveries”; “In the Shadow of the Moon”; NOVA “Science Now” series; Ken Burns’ “Jazz”; the Summer Olympics; and the U.S. Open. (Yes, I used clips from the Olympics and golf for class … legitimately.)

Videos (watch below)

  • Semester Review Spr 08: A summary of over 70 clips used on class throughout the spring 2008 semester. Taken as a whole, it’s not only entertaining, but it also provides a reasonable 30-minute overview of general semantics.
  • Fall 08 Review 1: Covers the first eight classes of the fall 2008 semester, accompanied by Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Some of the slides go by too fast to read, but remember … it was a review.
  • Fall 08 Review 2: Covers the second block of classes that dealt with language revision, accompanied by No Doubt’s “It’s My Life.”
  • Walking Wisdom #6: Just something I was inspired to do on a walk. Includes a bad word.
  • The Tyranny of Categories: Sometimes we put so much emphasis on mand-made, abstract “categories,” we forget what’s important about what is being categorized.
  • Word-Up Sarah: After viewing the 2008 vice presidential debate, I couldn’t help myself, aided by Cameo’s “Word Up.”
Spring 2008 Review Video
Fall 2008 Review of First 8 Classes
Fall 2008 Review of Next 6 Classes
Walking Wisdom #6
The Tyranny of Categories
Word up, Sarah

2007 Year-end Review

Email to Friends and Family (January 11, 2008)

Subject: a brief personal update

I knew I had created a set of unrealistic expectations when a former boss wrote me the other day to ask what was going on, that he had expected to hear from me and my “year-end” report by now. (Thanks, Stu.)

Here are a few important points to bring you up to speed with what’s been going on, and about to go on, with me as 2008 begins.

  • After 15 years as a member and 4 years as Executive Director, I am no longer associated with the Institute of General Semantics. I ended my employment there on December 31st due to situations with certain trustees that had grown, for me, beyond tiresome, way past troublesome, and several months south of tolerable. I gave them an ultimatum and the board determined it was more important to keep the trustees than me, so there you go. I mean, there I go. All indications are that the board will decide to sell our Read House building here in Fort Worth and move back to New York “because of the more favorable intellectual climate” there. (Seriously.) The alternative would be to consider an offer from the Schieffer School of Journalism at TCU to become fully affiliated with the university, but I guess that’s not “intellectual” enough. I commemorated some of my GS experiences, including the move from NY in 2002, the renovation of Read House, through the trip to India, in a 3-minute video you can watch below. It’s time for me to find a new group to hang with.

 

  • I’ll be moving somewhere by January 31st. For mailing purposes, it’ll be P.O. Box 11063, Fort Worth, TX 76110-0063. But cable and broadband aren’t available there so I’ll be looking elsewhere to live. For those of you in the DFW area, if you know anybody with a “special situation” where they need somebody to occupy an empty residence, let me know. Or, if you know anybody who might be interested in my personal ad that’s placed under the heading, “Willing to Be Kept,” feel free to forward.
  • I’m still teaching my course in General Semantics at TCU and have 46 students enrolled this coming semester. It’s likely I’ll do some more work with TCU this year, in addition to whatever else I end up doing to pay for the P.O. Box and place-to-be-named-later. (Assuming I end up not being kept, of course.)
  • Other than ending my relationship with the Institute, the biggest thing this year was my 18-day trip to India in October and November. You can read about that at http://stevestockdale.com/personal/india.html. I put together a 5-minute video with music and photos from the trip.

 

  • I also had a hand in coordinating the redesign for the Institute’s website. A professional firm (Rassai Interactive) did it, but several of us made some contributions. They’ve since re-designed it again. (sigh)
  • It’ll be a good year if I don’t have to go to court. Last October I was called to testify in a murder trial. Even though I was only on the stand for about 5 minutes, I had been called by the defense and for two weeks I had to wonder why the defense would subpoena me unless they were going to try and point the finger at me somehow. (Thanks, Perry Mason.) The defendant was convicted in about an hour.
  • I lost about 20 pounds using Nutrisystem last summer, gained back 5 in September, lost 5 while I was in India, and just about gained it all back over the past six weeks. That may be TMI, but I’m looking at a big unopened box of cardboard food so it’s on my mind at the moment.

Best wishes for the year to all of you and I hope to resume friendly relations as I remember how. Oh, and I’ve been granted another round as a Community Columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this year, so you can look for my columns on Feb 9, May 10, Aug 9, and Nov 8. My taskmaster there has insisted that we focus on “local, local, local” so again for those of you in DFW, if you have any good ideas let me know.

Until there’s a reason for another update I remain,

Steve

2006 Year-end Review

Email to Friends and Family (January 1, 2007)

Subject: Last Year (2006)

Following the laws of evolution, today marks a milestone in the natural progression from:

Primitive Christmas Card … to Neanderthal Year-End Letters … to So-’90s Webpages to …

Personal Vanity Movies (PVMs)!

That’s right, my annual year-end review goes digital and audial (?) this year. Don’t try this without a broadband Internet connection, but as long as you have a (flash)media player you can view my “Last Year (2006)” inaugural film.

It’s a little over 5 minutes long, which doesn’t hardly do justice to a whole year … but I tried. These links as well as links to the previous lame-ass HTML year-end reviews are on my home page.

 

Best to all for 2007,

Steve

p.s.

Fall 06 Semester Summary Videos

Classes scheduled for the final day of the Fall 2006 semester at TCU were canceled due to weather. My General Semantics for Mass Communications class was affected. Since I had planned to give a summary review of major points that would be on the final exam, I recorded a total of 40 minutes worth of video, incorporated some Powerpoint slides, and posted the result online so that students could access it prior to the final exam.

Video 1 of 3

 

Video 2 of 3

 

Video 3 of 3

2005 Year-end Review

My 2005: A 5-Quarter Year of Living Patiently Frustrated

Steve 2005

So there was this year, see, that had so much packed into it that it couldn’t be finished in just 12 months, or even 4 quarters. That year was 2005, which for me took another 3 months, another quarter, and another birthday to catch up with where I felt I should’ve been 3 months ago. And the deal is (well, one of the deals is) that most of what happened in 2005 was … nothing. Unless you count waiting as “something.” But for those “somethings” that did count, they came without waiting, sometimes without warning, and sometimes without wanting.

It was the 5-quarter year, a year that required me to learn patience and tolerate frustration and, I’m not ashamed to admit, in the process sent me to the time-out chair with rapped wrists on more than a couple of occasions. But it was my year and it was the only year I had. So it’s what I have to document with minimal embellishment. So if any publishers are reading, this constitutes an attempt at creatively-written memoirs, not creatively-remembered fictionalized memories.

Read House

The theme of “frustrating patience” (or “patient frustration”) applies first and foremost to the various trials related to the renovation of Read House, the building purchased by the Institute of General Semantics in November 2003. “Read House” honors its namesakes and benefactors of the Institute, Charlotte Read and her husband Allen Walker Read. As Executive Director of the Institute, I bore the brunt of the responsibility in ‘managing’ (oh, sweet delusions of control!) the project which was originally intended to provide a new home for the Institute, and me, by the middle of 2004. The beginning of that tale was recounted in last year’s “Balance Sheet.”

The renovation tale resumed in mid-January 2005 when the city of Fort Worth finally granted us a building permit to begin the 4-month project. (A 4-month project? A 3-hour tour?) Thinking we would be moved in by the end of June at the latest (5+ months for a 4-month project, that’s sufficent margin, right?), we committed to have the formal, official, can’t-change-it-once-it’s-set Dedication event on September 23rd-24th. That’s a good 4 months to get settled in and ready … plenty of time, right?

Cue Frustrating Patience, or Patient Frustration, whatever the hell his name is. After rain, drought, theft, vandals, changes, increases, delays, and waits, we finally received an occupancy permit to move in to the building on September 16th … a full week before our can’t-change-it-once-it’s-set Dedication event. With the stroke of a bureaucratic pen, Frustrating Patience morphed immediately into BallsToTheWall Panic. The move began, and in many respects still hasn’t stopped. We got the Institute’s stuff moved and I moved my personal stuff into the rear apartment in the back of the building. (Sorry, but I’ve also had to learn redundancy and it can be a hard habit to break). The Dedication event came and went to positive review, even as it coincided with Hurricane Rita which interrupted some attendees plans. We have a complete photographic summary of the project, along with photos from the Dedication, on the Institute’s website. Here are a few Before/After images:

Front Then  Front Now
Apartment Door Then  Apartment Door Now
Kitchen Then  Kitchen Now
Living Room Then  Living Room Now

After moving, the “renovation” challenges lingered or transformed into “maintenance” issues. And worse, I had to deal with vandalism that hit me, and the Institute, where it hurt$. I had my car window busted out twice in a month, with nothing stolen, and somebody shot out one of our front windows with a BB gun. In the 5th quarter, I’ve had a lawn mower and barbeque grill stolen when I thought I them secured with a cable lock. But I have to say, I enjoy living here. If anything, the problem is that it’s too convenient to “cocoon” and keep to myself here. And you can’t beat the commute and “traffic jams” I face every morning.

car window  Front Window  Traffic Jam

Not that anybody’s counting or giving Green Stamps for such things, but I had four addresses last year — two apartments through July, a Comfort Inn for August and most of September, then Read House. That’s three personal moves, plus I handled the Institute move mostly by myself with some help from Stacy, a moving truck, a dolly, and the back I used to have. And if you’re not family, you may not realize that the Read House address of 2260 College Avenue, originally built in 1932, is just blocks down the street from 1812 College Avenue, birthplace of my father in 1933 and home to my great-grandparents from 1920 until the mid-60s. The cycle of life, indeed.

Highlights of the Year (sans whining, for the most part)

January

My Assistant Executive Director, Jennifer Carmack, gave her notice after working with us for year. She stayed on as needed on a contract basis throughout the year, but it wasn’t a good way to start the year. The renovation on Read House started on January 13th.

February

One of the great experiences of the year was the privilege of being one of 13 “Community Columnists” for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I had the opportunity to write four 720-word columns with the assurance that they would be published, for the most part, as I wrote them. One of the learning moments for me in writing this first one was the realization that, from the standpoint of my own conscience, there’s a tremendous burden of responsibility when you write something and know that it’s going to be published and delivered to tens of thousands of readers. The first of my four columns was a blatant effort to “spread a little general semantics” in what an editor titled, “A word by any other name.”

March

Capitalizing on Career Chaos

For the second year, the Institute sponsored an exhibit booth at the local Entrepreneur Expo trade show at the Fort Worth Convention Center. And this really happened in April, but to even out the photos, my friend and ongoing career ‘advisor’ Helen Harkness came out with her third book, Capitalizing on Career Chaos. Noteworthy for me, I was in it … believe it or not, I qualify as one of her “success stories” (no disrespect to Helen, of course). Click here to read the excerpts related to me. (1.5MB pdf file)

April

Stacy in NYC

The month began with a 4-day stint in Dallas manning the Institute’s booth at the annual convention for the National Science Teachers Association. It ended with a combination business/pleasure trip to New York City for the Institute’s quarterly Board of Trustees meeting and annual banquet/lecture. Stacy, her mother Cheryl, and our friends from high school/college Ken and Betty and their daughter Sarah joined me in New York for the weekend. We had the great timing down so that we also spend one evening with another best friend from high school, Jim and his partner Jim. For theJim-Steve-Cheryl-Jim-Betty-Ken banquet we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Ocean Grill. (And celebrity-watched, spotting Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Mark Wahlberg dining at the same time.) The lecture, given by anthropologist Robert L. Carneiro, was held at the American Museum of Natural History. The joy of the New York trip was tempered by the news that my dad’s wife, Donna Stockdale, died after a long bout with cancer. I stopped in Tulsa on my way back from New York, driving a rental truck with GS archive materials.

May

Stacy's GraduationMay was highlighted by Stacy’s graduation with the Class of 2005 from McMurry University in Abilene. It’s hard to believe, on one hand, but then it seems like the natural progression of the next logical step. I can’t help but remember when she started in 2001, one of her firm convictions was that she wasn’t one of those “sorority girls.” As it happened, in her sophomore year she pledged to the TIP social club on campus and has never been the same since. She even created their official website . Now she’s a college graduate with a Communication degree looking forward to the rest of her life. As I write this on April 1, we’re leaving tomorrow on a 10-day road trip to Las Vegas and Anaheim, CA. Details next year. My second Star-Telegram column was published. This one came out during the service academy graduation periods, titled “The code of our country.”

June

When I thought we’d be moving into Read House, the workers were barely starting to put up sheetrock. I made a trip to San Francisco to represent the Institute at the National Media Educators Convention. The most interesting part was that I arrived at the hotel in the middle of the 35th annual San Francisco Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade. (Sorry, no pics.) I finally was able to find a capable administrative replacement for Jennifer and welcomed Kristen Harford, who began working on a half-time basis.

July

Response Side imageOn July 1st, I submitted an email to a panel discussion on National Public Radio’s The Diane Rehm Show. The panel was discussing political language. My question: These kinds of panels invariably concentrate on the supply side of political talk — the spin, the propaganda, the doublespeak. Seldom does anybody bring up the listener’s or reader’s individual responsibility to critically, sometimes skeptically, evaluate the messages they hear and read. Why isn’t there more emphasis on educating people as critical thinkers and evaluators? That line of thinking led me to develop some thoughts in an essay that was published in the Institute’s quarterly journal, ETC: A Review of General Semantics January 2006 issue. The title of the article was “Response Side Semantics.” Later in the month, I traveled to MilwaukeeAlverno seminar group for the 5th consecutive summer in a row. I was part of the staff to teach a GS seminar-workshop at Alverno College.

August

By August, with no end in site for the Read House renovation, I turned pretty jaded, skeptical, disillusioned. Maybe even a little … realistic. But I got a huge break out of the blue with a phone call from TCU, asking if I’d like to teach a graduate course in general semantics in their Communication Studies Department. With three weeks notice, I put together a syllabus, sketched out a plan for the semester, and began a new “additional duty” as Adjunct Professor. The class met weekly for 2.5 hours, and I must say that I put as much into that class as anything I’ve done in a long time. I found teaching this particular class to be everything positive I could imagine. It re-energized my own curiosity about learning and re-validated that this general semantics stuff is indeed an important area of study. Three of the grad students signed on for an internship with the Institute beginning this past January and one of them, Erica Gann, will join us full-time after she walks across the stage with her Masters degree. Some of the final projects (left) completed in December reflected the range of creativity and understanding from this terrific group of students. At the end of the month, my third Star-Telegram column came out, which documents the irony that four years ago I couldn’t get a high school teaching job because I wasn’t “certified,” but here I was getting asked to teach a graduate class at TCU. Go figure. An editor titled this one, “A long winding stream,” which I think is a bad choice, but … wha’ ya gonna do?

Erica's Project  Kerine's Project  Tali's Project  Diane's Project

September

with David LinwoodFinally, the renovation work wound down to details and we were able to get a city permit to occupy Read House. The Dedication weekend was considered as a general success by those who braved the threat of weather associated with Hurricane Rita, which never materialized. If you’re interested in reading about the weekend, including the transcript of the presentations by our architect, W. Mark Gunderson, and the tributes to Allen and Charlotte Read by Bruce and Susan Kodish, click here .

October

I’m sure something happened in October, but I guess I was too busy trying to find sox that matched, lost files, misplaced computers, boxes temporarily hidden inside of cabinets, the can opener, and all the other joys of unpacking after a hasty move. Oh yeah … the vandalism. That happened in October.

November

Jim-Steve-KenMy fourth and final Star-Telegram column was scheduled for the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. However, I was able to switch dates with another columnist so that I could write mine the weekend following Election Day and Texas’s Proposition 2. This Proposition was the fear-and-hate-based initiative to “save marriage and families” by denying marriage to gays. Anticipating the outcome, I wrote my column about my friend Jim (see April above), titled “Friendship: football, band, church, and a major talk.” Still in the midst of recovering from the move, getting settled, filing police reports, and all that, I took off a few days before Thanksgiving to join IGS Board President Andrea Johnson, Trustee Gregg Hoffmann and his wife Pauline to represent the Institute for the third year at the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention in Pittsburgh.

December
GSB 72 CoverClick to Download the Bulletin

Still unpacking and settling and arranging, we got around to shopping for furniture which actually arrived in January, but the work was done in December. There was also a huge effort over the last three weeks to complete editing and putting the Institute’s annual yearbook, The General Semantics Bulletin.
Conference Room  Lee Seminar Center  Berman Scholars Area

The calendar year ended in Tulsa on a note of celebration with my dad re-marrying Juanise Weatherman.

As busy as I was last year, and as much as I worked to the detriment of anything resembling ‘balance,’ I did allow some time for reflecting on my life so far. I admit that this came about toward the end of the year, after we were in the building, and well into the semester with my TCU class. I couldn’t help but recall my college days, to the degree that the Air Force Academy could be considered a college. More than once during class I caught myself wondering, “What would I do with my life if I was sitting in those chairs, at their age, in these times?” Of course, I couldn’t have been in that class pondering that question had I not attended the Academy and lived the life that followed. And of course, knowing where I am now, if I had it to do over again, if I was sitting in one of those chairs in that TCU classroom, I would’ve changed everything which, of course, would have resulted in me being someplace else entirely. And so it goes.

But it does seem appropriate here and now, as I’m reflecting back on there and then, to recall a piece of faded red construction paper tacked onto my bulletin board at the Academy. I typed this then as a reminder and as inspiration. I recall it now more soberly as an indictment, and embrace it with a greater sense of urgency as I face the future that I have before me now. As far as faded notes go, I think it’s a good one to end with.

USAFA '76   Christmas '05

I’d Pick More Daisies

If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things I would take seriously. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers and watch more sunsets. I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I am one of those people who lives prophylactically and sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead each day. I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, aspirin, and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would go places, do things, and travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play hooky more. I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident. I would ride on more merry-go-rounds. I’d pick more daisies.

Anonymous, c.1972