Here's a journal I wrote during my 51st year reflecting back upon the first fifty years of life: State by State.
As I mentioned on my home page, I am a computer scientist and information scientist trying to bridge the gap with art and design to bring the full potential of simulation, visualization, and computer-mediated communications to an augmented human mind for better understanding of a mindful life interconnected with nature. You might say I took the long route here. To know me is to know my story.
I grew up in Norwalk, CT which at the time was just your typical suburban, sprawl city — housing New York City's workforce for a ten hour nap. I have to say I am proud of my hometown now as it has developed quite an artisan flavor on Washington Street and has done its share of stealing business from the big city.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) resides there as does Pepperidge Farm, Stew Leonard's, and other recognized firms. I proudly share my hometown with Calvin Murphy of Niagara U. and Houston Rockets basketball fame and Mo Vaughn, former clean up hitter of the Boston Red Sox, California Angels, and New York Mets. Although my High School (Brien McMahon) is smaller, younger, and eternally underrepresented in the local press, I have fond memories of my peer group and my teachers in Math, Science, and Foreign Language.
My ancestors came from Scotland to the US and were shipped off to Nova Scotia, Canada where some migrated to Ontario before my parents moved back into the United States in 1958.
Want to know more about me? You can take a look at Cyber in Seattle, Jon Marmor's article for the Wisconsin Alumni Association. I was just coming of age with a stride in my work life when Jon interviewed me for the Insider magazine.
Or, here's more of my cut on me:
I studied accounting at The University of Delaware where I received my BS. The school has won many awards for its introduction of fiber optic cable to all buildings, student rooms, and phones on campus. I attended UD at the height of President Reagan's popularity and it seemed 95% of the campus were Young Republicans — conservative in dress and opinions. I was thankful my degree requirements contained many courses in Science, Philosophy, History, and general Business. John Beins, Michael Daney and I were the sole Democrats in our Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter of 105 brethren.
As an accountant, I worked for Ernst & Whinney (E&W, now E&Y) in Boston, MICARD Services (part of Marshall & Illsey Corp.) in Madison, WI and as a project accountant for Malm Luggage in Corte Madera, CA and Labatt's USA in Darien, CT.
Accounting is a safe, secure, and lucrative profession if you follow the FASB guidelines. But, it is not for me. I soon found myself delving into spreadsheets and databases and realized that work could be as rewarding as play. I decided to make a career change and headed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study Information Science when it was still a joint program between the Business School and Comp Sci Dept. The University awarded me a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) fellowship which kept me debt-free throughout my time in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin.
I spent my time in Madison being enchanted with the city's beauty, her people's friendliness, and the University's resources. I spent equal time in the Business school, Department of Computer Sciences, and with the latin community as I was very committed to speaking fluent Spanish by the time I finished my degree. Life was good. I like to pay back the University of Wisconsin-Madison by remaining active through alumni activities. I was President of the Connecticut Badgers alumni club from 1992 to 1995 while in Hartford and was acting Secretary of the Rain City Badgers in Seattle from 1997 until 1999. I then recruited often for both RPI and UW-Madison at local career fairs.
After realizing that Madison did not have the technology market to support a developing career (a lack of markets being one of her best attributes), I decided to head back east and to The Travelers' ACCENT professional development program. I finished the program in 5 years and owe most of my experience to those individuals that started and supported the program. I had a wonderful peer group — well-versed in current technology and technology management. And, I had access to the best technology an insurance company should acquire. The Travelers supported my continued education at Rensselaer-Hartford.
As I decided I enjoyed technology research as much as technology implementation, I realized that it was time to move on. I moved to Seattle in the Fall of 1995 looking to get involved with the Human Interface Technology Lab at The University of Washington. After volunteering and working half-time for over a year, I began working full-time for the lab in January 1998. Collaborations with the Center for Environmental Visualizations started soon thereafter. I taught some exciting, heady, eight hour-long technology courses for Catapult, now part of IBM Learning Services. I also taught every chance I got in the evenings at Seattle Central Community College where students seem to have endless motivation and spent two quarters as an Adjunct Faculty member teaching 3-D modeling at the the ITT Technical Institute in Tukwila, WA.
After teaching heavily during my first six years in Seattle, I enrolled in the PhD program at the UW's Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. The UW Tuition Exemption program for professional staff greatly helped pay for my continued study in Seattle. Upon acceptance to study the departmental qualifying classes and fill electives with distributed systems classes in the UW computer sciences department, I also accepted a position as Lecturer to teach third and fourth year seniors and first year graduate students the wonders of Web-Enablement. Passing the departmental qualifying exam was a relief, but didn't stop me from taking a slew of interesting classes right through 2007. I passed the General Exam in 2008 and defended my dissertation in 2010, finishing the program at my own pace to absorb all I wanted to absorb without ever wanting to look back. When I do look back though, I'll never forget the years of working with a fascinating team of researchers looking at visualization techniques for improving community emergency response.
The University of Washington has a strong and established reputation built upon establishing respect with funders from well-endowed, serious, science organizations. Our HIT Lab was quirky, collaborative, and qualitative — not exactly the traits that get you ahead in an old-school organization heavily vested in the status quo. We worked on one-time $10,000 grants instead of $1,000,000 renewables. We did a wonderful job of extending our lab through a partnership with The University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. They've perhaps shown us how to do things better than we could do ourselves. Time will tell, but for now my legacy lives with time spent at laboratories in both hemispheres. Everything is temporary. Everything passes. Ten thousand years is but a blink of an eyelash in the grand scheme of things. We did something incredibly marvelous in running a lab for over 15 years at a major university without giving in to a status quo culture completely. I owe a huge part of my happiness to the interactions I had with dreamers and zealots who demand to see and serve humanity in all of our technologies of the day.
A string of deaths and aging family members begged a question: Could I reproduce my life back on the east coast where I could be more useful to others I love? After three years of living near both coasts, I had my answer as I had set up a passionate life in underrated, revitalizing Providence, RI (the Renaissance City emerging to become a Creative Capital City). Brown University's Visualization Research Lab showed me a place where virtual reality research was still thriving with a pro-human focus. The Rhode Island School of Design gave me the opportunity to continue teaching my technology classes to motivated and creative students. The Providence Green Drinks community gave me the opportunity to network with passionate environmentalists, and Providence Geeks promised the opportunity to stay current in tech talk if I could find the time. The Ocean Project provided me with meaningful work marrying environment, ocean, and technology. A 2012 sabbatical in Singapore, France, Switzerland, and South Africa challenged my assumptions, but I found myself happy to return to Providence to foster local collaborations.
Providence summers have become more rainy and reminiscent of Seattle — Providence winters snowy and reminiscent of my childhood and Wisconsin. There is the occasional unacceptable hot and humid summer day, but the longer New England autumns feel that much more well-earned the more the summer unleashes its humidity. There are many wonderful Connecticutters here who have found Rhode Island to be more their pace. There are many fun and friendly Seattlites here who believe Providence feels like Seattle in 1973. There are transcendent New Yorkers who swear Providence is Greenwich Village in 1968. I guess I am getting older as I think the visions from the past perfect for my tastes. I didn't expect to find Nirvana on the east coast — here's to the little islands of my life of Providence in New England and Madison in Wisconsin. I guess I am here for the duration? I seem to be saying Road-Die-Land a lot less these days — even the cycling is enjoyable as I enjoy the city in every corner.
I believe we are at a very significant place in human culture evolution. The development of the Web and the computer as an imagination and communication tool will change the way leaders lead and educators educate. I am very interested in the New Science that studies the cultural implications of making the change from a focus on Newtonian dynamics to quantum mechanics. We have to consider all the ways things evolve, not just the evolutionary path of us humans. To anyone who is feeling depressed or alone, I recommend reading about the new theories that cut across the sciences and waking to the excitement of these new ideas. Why not consider yourself part of a much bigger picture and forget about your troubles often? Convinced, but don't know where to start? I recommend reading Out of Control. It's all online!
Of course the Web should be a place for creativity. I believe we all have a base human creativity that most of us get beat out of us in our formative schooling years. Taking and finishing my Creative Writing Certificate reminded me of how important creativity is in our lives. Hours whizzed by as I dug into characters and plots in faraway places (well, Traverse City, Michigan for example). Up at four to write three hours before heading to work is a great way to spend one's life, should they be so lucky to do so. The Web needs your creative perspective. Trust Me.
I am a sports highlights junkie who would be a waste case if it weren't for the ESPN Sportcenter half hour. I believe heavily in Big Brothers Big Sisters and had a great little brother through their standard program. I also have received much in return for sponsoring six children in Ecuador through the Childrens International program at the extra-special, extra-well-run facility in Guayaquíl. I am definitely a cat person (three lovelies living with me today) more than a dog person although I inherited a dog from a dog lover for two years who showed me a path to dog-loving. I enjoy ethnic variety, international travel, and domestic travel. I focus my efforts on knowing the United States of America and Canada. I have traveled cross-country five times by car, visiting all of our states and so many fascinating people who love their local home but have thoughtful global insight as well. Outside of Madison, WI, Seattle, WA, Providence, RI and places I love because of the people that live there, I especially like to imagine myself in the following places when things are going too fast or in the wrong direction:
The Plaza in Albuquerque, New Mexico is a place to slow down, breathe deep, and share culture with the people of Native Indian and Mexican/Hispanic origin. The best food in the world surrounds that square and its history is deep and thriving. The music that often can be heard is emotional and harmonic. My respects to the Spanish Plaza for providing a place for the community to share a laugh and reflection on a Sunday afternoon.
The Peace Fountain in Windsor, Ontario is placed proudly within the Detroit River and Heritage Park. Some of the simplest, yet colorful flower arrangements in North America can be seen there along with a riverside view of the mighty Motor City. We have let our nations' cities down by running to the comforts of suburbia. Even the most forgotten cities still have tremendous charm and promise as this viewpoint of Detroit suggests. I like to sit and watch the ships bring the raw materials Detroit residents shape with their own hands to support the GNP of our country.
Music: 10,000 Maniacs and Midnight Oil
To Nan: I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky and the moon turns red over One Tree Hill. 'til then, I'll miss you.