“Who am I? Why am I here?” *
I suppose my whole life has been about trying to make the case that the cost to bring me into this world yielded a positive return – at least $87.50 worth.
* Questions asked by Adm. James B. Stockdale, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, senior Navy officer held captive in North Vietnam for seven years. In 1992 he was thrust into the limelight of H. Ross Perot’s quixotic presidential campaign when Perot selected him as his running mate for vice president. In that year’s debate between candidates for vice president, Adm. Stockdale opened his opening statement with these two questions. So far as I know, I am not related to Adm. Stockdale. But the morning after the debate, some of my fellow TI/Javelin Program co-workers found this commemoration of the debate served to document something else of a more personal nature.
Answers to Typical Questions
Where are you from?
I have called 20 different cities (or bases) “home” and lived in 35 different houses/housing structures long enough to have mail delivered there. Clearly, the notion of a “permanent mailing address” is one with which I am unfamiliar in terms of maintaining, but quite practiced in changing. The list, in order, so far, including move-backs:
- 1954: Portales, NM
- 1956: Olton, TX
- 1959: Lubbock, TX (2 different addresses)
- 1962: Pampa, TX
- 1966: Norman, OK (2 different addresses)
- 1967: back to Lubbock, TX (2 different addresses)
- 1968: back to Olton, TX (2 different addresses)
- 1972: USAF Academy, Colorado Springs, CO
- 1976: Mather AFB, Sacramento, CA
- 1977: Castle AFB, Merced, CA
- 1977: Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, TX (2 different addresses)
- 1980: Minot AFB, Minot, ND
- 1982: Bedford, TX
- 1992: Lewisville, TX
- 1993: Irving, TX (3 different addresses)
- 2001: Oct-Dec, shuttled between Milford, PA and Closter, NJ
- 2002: back to Fort Worth, TX (5 different addresses this time)
- 2009: Santa Fe, NM (2 different addresses)
- 2012: Grants, NM
- 2015: Albuquerque, NM (2 different addresses)
- 2018: Bridgeport, TX
- 2019: Denton, TX
- 2020: McKinney, TX
- 2021: back to Bridgeport, TX (again)
Not that you asked, but with all those moves I attended several schools. From Grades 1-9, I went to seven different schools in four different cities/towns.
- Grades 1-2: Roscoe Wilson Elem, Lubbock, TX
- Grades 3-6 (1st sem): Stephen F. Austin Elem, Pampa, TX
- Grade 6 (2nd sem): Cleveland Elem, Norman, OK
- Grade 7 (1st sem): West Jr. High, Norman, OK
- Grade 7 (2nd sem): MacKenzie Jr. High, Lubbock, TX
- Grade 8: Smylie Wilson Jr. High, Lubbock, TX
- Grades 9-12: Olton High School, Olton, TX
What do you (or did you) do for a living?
- Curriculum Vitae
- A Virtual Portfolio
- navigated airplanes (our mission was to pass gas at 30,000 ft) and instructed others in same
- engineered systems, managed projects, developed business, managed costs and schedules, and managed programs for a defense contractor(s)
- executively-directed a nonprofit, oversaw purchase and major renovation of a 70-year old building, organized and ran two conferences, taught at seminars, taught at three colleges (full semester, one week, and one guest lecture)
- got a Masters degree shortly after I turned 58 (years, not shades of grey … on second thought, both)
- directed an IT staff, administered an LMS (learning management system)
- deputily-directed the operations of a state university health sciences library, managed the operations of an academic building
- have managed my own website(s) for over twenty years (since 1999) and in a few cases, other websites either as designer, guider, or implementer
Who or what has inspired you?
- The Chip Hilton series of books by Clair Bee.
- “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
- Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. For good and bad, there’s more than a little Yossarian in me.
- The incomparable, irreplaceable George Carlin.
- The thinking and writings of the American Transcendentalists, especially Henry David Thoreau (Walden) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Essay on Self-Reliance”).
- Helen Harkness, PhD. She died just short of her 93rd birthday on 21 Feb 2021. Her presence in my life came along at just the right time. I knew within the first five minutes of meeting her in 2000 that I needed to stay close to her. She may have been the strongest, most fearless person I’ve ever met. I was honored to be included in one of her books, Capitalizing on Career Chaos, that used anonymized client stories as examples.
- “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes not that you won or lost but how you played the game.” (Grantland Rice)
- John Irving’s books, especially The World According to Garp and Cider House Rules.
- Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides: “I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man, still waiting for my real life to start.”
- The Beatles. “I was alone, I took a ride, I didn’t know what I would find, theeeerrrre.”
- South Pacific – “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught … to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade”; Rent – “No day but today … 525,600 minutes in a year.”
- The metaphor of “Not For Sale” from my father and the record produced of his Pampa High School Band playing two concerts with Carl “Doc” Severinsen in 1965.
- Starting with a graduate linguistics course I took in 1979, I was deeply intrigued with the field known as general semantics, formulated by a Polish immigrant named Alfred Korzybski. This became a core component of my life studies and efforts over the following three decades. As much as anything, this has accounted for the world view and personal perspectives I’ve developed.
- Several historians starting with Isaac Asimov and biographers. The best articulation of the value of studying history is this from Martin J. Sherwin, co-author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer:
Nothing in human history that flowed from the decisions of governments has been inevitable. No historical event ever had to happen the way it happened. The counter-factual, the “could have been” in history is a unique and essential aspect of human intelligence. And it should always be recognized that options existed. Alternatives always have been available, and they always will be available.
Have you done anything of interest, or had anything noteworthy happen to you?
- When I was in the first grade, my next-door neighbor and I each stole a piece of candy from the corner Ben Franklin dime store. We got caught. I got a spanking, maybe two. Instilled in me a value for honesty that was reinforced by the Cadet Honor Code at the Air Force Academy twelve years later.
- When I was in the 4th grade I appeared onstage as a boy in the town band in the Pampa High School production of “The Music Man.” When I was a high school senior I appeared onstage as an ant scientist (i.e., an ant who was a scientist) in our One-Act Play performance of “Under the Sycamore Tree.” I was named Best Actor in our district competition. Then in 1975 I wrote an award-winning one-act play titled, The Unveiling of Ourselves. It’s not really biographical. Not at all. (DISCLAIMER: Anytime you hear or read “award-winning” you should ask, “which award?” Mine was for First Place in the Drama category for an annual cadet creative writing journal, Icarus. I believe mine was the only entry in the category.)
- I ran for Student Council President in both junior high and high school and lost both times.
- When I was in high school and receiving the standard college recruiting materials, one piece of mail stood out – a personal letter from Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys, on behalf of the Naval Academy. Even though I turned down the appointment to Annapolis, I kept the letter. In 1992, Staubach led his fellow Navy alums against West Point grads (led by retired general Pete Dawkins, recipient of the 1958 Heisman Trophy) in an annual flag football competition in Dallas. For this special Army/Navy game with two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, the referee was Chad Hennings, Dallas Cowboy and Air Force Academy graduate. I went to the game. After the game, I waited in line with all the kids and got Roger’s autograph a second time on the same letter I received two decades earlier.
- I’ve flown inverted in the back seat of an F-4 fighter, and pulled 6G’s in a simulated dogfight with the new (at the time) F-15 during its pre-production flight testing at Edwards AFB, CA. Both as a camera-holding, picture-taking, cadet passenger.
- The last real football game I played in was against Notre Dame, in South Bend, on Thanksgiving Day. It was nationally televised by ABC and the late Keith Jackson mentioned my name twice on kickoffs – once for a tackle. After giving us a season-ending beat-down for which we had little to be thankful (other than the memory of playing at Notre Dame on Thanksgiving on national TV), Notre Dame went on to defeat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to claim the national championship. Their stars included Dave Casper, Tom Clements, Ross Browner, Mike Townsend, and Al Hunter – the guy I tackled. (Note: did not realize until scanning the cover that the game was played on the 10th anniversary of JFK’s assassination.)
- Also from the “Insignificant but Self-Serving Name-Droppings” file, in that 1973 season I can say that I (along with the rest of team) shared the same field not only with the national champions and their legendary coach, Ara Parseghian, but also with that year’s Heisman Trophy winner, John Cappelletti, and his legendary (if now more infamous) coach Joe Paterno and their Penn State team.
- I’ve navigated a jet airplane across the Atlantic Ocean using no navigational aids other than a sextant and after 8 hours enroute (that’s approximately 3,000 miles), when we reached a ground-based radio beacon we were 7 nautical miles from my dead reckoning position. That’s pretty good. Or in the vernacular of the Air Force, “SIERRA HOTEL.” Or as I honestly look back on the accomplishment, I felt like Ferdinand Effing Magellan.
- In 1994, I was one of five contractor negotiators (two from Texas Instruments, three from Lockheed Martin) to close a $200M first-year production contract with the U.S. Army for the Javelin anti-tank missile system. That program was projected to be worth over $3 billion over a 13-year planned production. According to Raytheon (which purchased the TI defense electronics business in 1997), Javelin “is scheduled to be in the inventory until 2050.” [UPDATE: See this May 20, 2022 article from the Denton Record-Chronicle].
- My website was mentioned in a New York Times Magazine article by the late William Safire in 2000. This led down a winding path that eventually took me back to Notre Dame for one of the worst speaking engagements ever. On the positive side, I learned a lot from the experience.
- I had the terrific good fortune of traveling northwestern India for three weeks thanks to the beneficence of a nonprofit supporter and Mumbai businessman, the late Mr. Balvant K. Parekh.
- In 2014, I collaborated with two colleagues to develop and deliver a six-week online course that attracted over 1,300 registrants from 67 different countries. See the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)
- My primary YouTube channel has over 1.2 million views and over 600 subscribers (as of 2019). DISCLAIMER: 87% of the viewers and virtually all of the followers are due to one clip I posted of Bill Maher interviewing Mike Rowe about blue collar jobs.
- I’ve now been to all of the 48 states in the continental U.S., plus that District of Columbia thing. By “been to” I really mean “driven through, in my own car” and I’ve spent at least one night in each state and D.C. In all but one, “driven through” in my own car.
- I cut the umbilical cord to help bring my daughter into the world. Definitely my best assist.
And Finally …
Leave it to my daughter to encapsulate the core inner drama of my adult life: