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Thu May 7 2009 at 06:33:27 (9.1 years ago )
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Thu May 7 2009 at 09:35:26 (9.1 years ago )
mission drive within everything
think about it; get it right; question 'revealed truth'
curmudgeonry, music, physics, acoustics
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I come from a long line of foreigners: both my parents grew up in Iowa, but met in Virginia; I always felt that we were 'in the culture' but not 'of it'. This feeling was enforced when we moved into a rural community in which family trees had hardly ranged over a 50-mile radius since the time of Capt. John Smith.

My high school was very small—60 students in my graduating class. Therefore, every red-blooded male was needed for all the sports teams, every thinking student for the Science club, every musically-talented student for the Band (I filled in as needed in the Chorus; went to a Regional All-State weekend; made the State-level All-State Band in my Senior year) (there was no orchestra until much later—my mother became the initial cello section).

I survived MIT (where my Senior thesis involved the analysis of the beginnings of flute tones—the music connection; among other things, I learned to play the bassoon at MIT)and worked for three years for an acoustics research firm in Cambridge, Mass., before heading West for graduate school in Evanston, Ill. There I found that "survived MIT" translated into a privileged position in my cohort of students. I was fortunate to find that my colleagues included several graduates of Ivy League Universities.

I emerged into an economic downturn in which my wife was eventually employable in an
academic setting. It had to be in the Detroit area (which was still suffering the effects of an auto-workers' strike in 1969)!

After several years of sojourning in the wilderness, I was tapped to be the junior colleague of an acoustician who had been named a Regents' Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. We enjoyed five years of productive research on acoustic diffraction by barriers.

Then my wife, who had gone through a succession of low-level jobs in Atlanta, was selected as one of two for positions at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin. Because of some ill-adroitness by the Chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Dean of the LBJ School, I received only a provisional appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. (This was because they had an Assistant Professor, Noel Duke Pereira, who claimed to specialize in acoustics, who had gone to his alma mater, The University of Hawaii, for a sabbatical year: the UT folks assumed he would be swallowed up by The University of Hawaii); in reality, he was so unattractive that they sent him back to UT!

After a year wandering in the academic wilderness, I established a Visiting Associate Professor position at Texas A&M University, where I taught introductory and advanced mechanics classes.

My efforts to inject interactive computer technology into teaching concepts in elementary mechanics and inclusion of intelligent conceptual guidance (which flew in the face of a contract with the PLATO project) led, ultimately, to my Chairman's decision that a Deanship (at Florida International University, even though it mean moving his boat from Lake Travis, near Austin, TX) was preferable to
his struggle on my behalf with the TAMU administration.

I emerged from this fray to try to encourage the public sector in Texas to employ what we called "Inteligent Advisory Systems" in public policy-making. The first success dealt with decisions in Central Texas about permits for septic-tank systems.

I subsequenty established intelligent information systems to assist information-gathering about the Toxics Release Information System and decisions about the
Corpus Christi Bay Natural Estuary program, then community gardens at schools in Austin, TX.

Through all, I have exemplified a curmudgeon's spirit: at Northwestern University, in the Department of Mechanical Energy and studying thermodynamics, I proposed forming a Musical Ensemble the 'Classical Gas', to be accompanied by the Canonical Gas Law.