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North Dakota College Students

It has come to my attention that an ad agency has requested a file containing the email address you were required to establish through your university. You may have consented to the release of your personal information, but I bet few did this in order to receive political ads. I am not blaming either political party because all might be interested in an easy way to contact nearly 50,000 individuals with ads. I apologize for the tone of my linked source – if you doubt my interpretation, you can search for other accounts of this situation using Google.

In my opinion, political ads are a poor way to make a decision as to how you should vote. The information provided is too sketchy and crafted to present a slanted view. Your own critical thinking capabilities should make this clear to you. It is difficult to acquire useful information for making a logical decision, but long form sources are likely more useful. Try reading a newspaper.

Regarding unsolicited political ads. The U spam filter will be unlikely to protect you. The willingness to provide your email address knowing the intended use would seem inconsistent with the willingness to then block the spam that follows. A simple action you can take on your own appears in the image appearing below.

junkmail

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Before you come for my piano

We are selling our home and leaving North Dakota. You may or may not have gone through this process, but it is not fun. We have lived in this house for 35 years and accumulated a lot of stuff. Getting out requires a lot of work – sorting, packing, donating, throwing and cleaning. To sell, you move out much of what you actually own and make certain what remains looks attractive. The house probably ends up looking more interesting than it has looked in years, but it is no longer yours to enjoy.

Houses in Grand Forks are moving quickly so we have decided to get out of the way and allow the real estate people to do their thing. Today our home goes on the market so last night was the final push to finish things up. It is likely we will spend little more time here.

I finished up a few things at my desk before I went to bed so what I am working on would be available online from the cabin. When I finished, I decided to take a picture of the location in which I have spent so much of my time. It certainly looks different without all of the books and papers piled on the desk.

loadout
When I saw the image on my phone it sparked a connection to a song by Jackson Brown – The Load Out.

Now roll them cases out and lift them amps

Haul them trusses down and get’em up them ramps

‘Cause when it comes to moving me

You guys are the champs

But when that last guitar’s been packed away

You know that I still want to play

So just make sure you got it all set to go

Before you come for my piano

 

Read more: Jackson Browne – Stay Load Out Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I told my wife about the connection and played the song for her. She said it was so sad. Not so. There is nothing wrong with appreciating where you have been and the friends you have worked with. These were great times and great people. It is important to appreciate the opportunities you have had. It does not mean you are not moving on to the next adventure.

But we’ll be scheduled to appear

A thousand miles away from here

More to come from a new location

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Generational differences

A recent post to the Thesis Whisperer proposed that there should be a mandatory retirement age for “older academics”. The focus of the Whisperer blog is to offer advice to younger academics and I sometimes wonder whether posts such as this are the result of a lack of perspective, honest beliefs, or an attempt to stir up some interest in the site.

I do qualify as an “older academic” and for the record I did make the decision to retire. The benefits of age as an employed academic include perspective and institutional memory. I do remember my thoughts related to senior faculty members when I was young. I cannot say that they should “just leave”, but I did feel that the decision making apparatus of my department vested too much power in their hands. At the time, there was a top down promotion control process in that those at a higher rank voted on the promotion of those at a lower rank. This did seem to me a barrier to some kinds of change and I did work to change the process. I did not object to different individuals having different opinions, but I did object to different individuals having different levels of influence in decision making.

There are certainly examples of individuals who stay too long and do not contribute. However, an example here or there is often the basis for flawed anecdotal reasoning. This is one of the basic lessons researchers learn. It would be equivalent to suggesting that young scholars with young children cannot respond in the same way to job demands as more senior and less encumbered faculty members. Clearly, there are specific cases that fit this concern. As an academic culture we both acknowledge certain differences and take a broader view. It may take some time to take a less personal view.

Did I think when I approached retirement that I had limitations relative to many younger colleagues? Yes, I did. I felt that my field have moved to more sophisticated statistical procedures that were not part of my training, but were important in the kind of research I was doing. On the other hand, the pressures of tenure tend to engage younger scholars in piece-meal research. The pressure is often based on publication count than on significance or working toward a larger goal. I assume that it is the tenured junior faculty members that the Thesis Whisperer assumes are being limited.

Regarding the lack of innovation and openness to new ideas the blog post addresses, again this is likely an individual difference. None of my junior colleagues were bloggers and none generated professional content for the general good. They work on publications or grants and that is pretty much the focus of their writing. I am not certain whether this is good or bad, but it is certainly not the impression provided in the post I am evaluating. Individuals at all ages respond to the priorities imposed on them.

I do recognize that I held a senior position that tied up salary money. On the other hand, it took many years and sacrifices to get to this point. The present system evens things out over time. I reached the point at which I felt comfortable – others may not get to the same point at the same time. If I could change one thing about the way the seniority system works, I would allow for greater flexibility. Rather than retire from higher ed because I was tired of scholarship, I retired to focus on my personal scholarly interests. No one must feel obligated to pay me for what I now produce. I can pay myself or rely on my ability to compete in the market. My interest in technology and technology applied to education did not fit well with my teaching assignments in psychology. Educational institutions tend to be divided into small clusters of individuals allowing considerable pressure to be exerted within these clusters and without allowing for a broader perspective.

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To the Dump

Your first trip to the dump is a right of passage. Here is the official account of grandson Porter’s introduction to the dump.

The first thing to be learned about taking garbage and recyclable stuff to the dump is the official dump song. The song is based on the William Tell Overture – a song of prominence appropriate for a dump run.

To the dump
To the dump
To the dump, dump, dump

To the dump
To the dump
To the dump, dump, dump

One of the first things you learn about the dump is that it is populated by characters. These characters are kind of gruff and scary at first, but if you are a cute little kid you can get away with about anything. Grandpa on the other hand gets into trouble by trying to sneak some paper into the cardboard bin.

dump2

It is hard to know how the different dump workers acquire their positions, but it is clear that they are specialists. The guy who takes your card to make certain  that you are eligible to dump garbage, the guy (woman today) who runs the compactor, and the recycling guys keep the same jobs week to week. I would think you would rotate to keep things interesting, but it may take some time to develop the necessary skills.

dump1

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In the summer the dump smells and in the winter the temperature is cold. The dump guys sometimes burn wood in big barrels to keep warm in the winter.

I wonder how many people have never had the opportunity to visit a dump. When I was a kid, we just burned the stuff that would burn and threw the other stuff in a hole we dug in our grove. Big city people just throw stuff in a big plastic rolling garbage can they leave at the curb and never give a second thought to what happens next. You have to kind of be somewhere in between a farm and the big city to visit a dump yourself. Pretty cool.

dump5

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Curmudgeon Eats

My son-in-law has decided I need some purpose in retirement. Knowing my fascination with coffee shops, he thinks opening a shop here in the North woods would be just the thing. He did locate an appropriate location near Target stadium, but that place was evidently sold before we could make an offer. A successful coffee shop located near our cabin has rekindled the idea.

We even have a name for the proposed establishment – Curmudgeon Eats. My role, as the curmudgeon, would be to show up at the shop from time to time and be grumpy. I would kinda be like those ex-jocks who now own bars or steak houses. I am not certain my reputation or persona would be sufficient to attract customers, but it sounds like a great part-time gig. I could slip behind the counter to steam some milk and complain about the other  shops that are all show and no caffeine. Who buys into the value of running some hot water into your cup before the coffee or pouring a little hot water over the grounds to release the oils before adding the full volume of water? We used to make coffee while camping using a Melita device purchased in the camping supplies section or K-Mart. Hard to find a $4 cup made with this device a taste pleasing value. I also plan to offer watered-down Folgers, for those who are not really into the coffee shop experience. I bet no one has thought of that before.

Anyway, I think I have the model for my business. A Valley City (North Dakota) entrepreneur has a coffee shop without employees. (I would make some sarcastic comment at this point about the strangeness of using entrepreneur and North Dakota in the same sentence, but I do admire this guy.) You show up, serve yourself, and leave some money. There is video surveillance and the owner evidently knows everyone so he can yell at those who cause trouble or freeload. I would not have this social knowledge, but I thought I could decorate the walls of my establishment with photos of freeloaders. It would kind of fit with the theme. I also think my presence at a small desk in the corner would add to the ambiance. I would not really have to talk to anyone, but I could write blog posts and stare at the customers. Like most coffee shops I visit, the wifi would only work occasionally and as owner I would deny any knowledge of what the problem might be.

I am seeking silent partners who share my vision.

 

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Amateur Archeologist

The first major task of my retirement has been the preparation for moving. Not much fun. If I did not believe the task had an end, I would have kept working.

Some people believe we should clean house in Washington every 4 years. I am starting to believe we should take the clean house thing more literally. What did I ever think I was going to do with all of this stuff. I have so much stuff I cannot even find the new stuff. I did find several pairs of pants and some shirts with the tags still on them. Unfortunately, I must have purchased this clothing with I was 30 pounds lighter and Hawaiian shirts were  in vogue.

I attempt to play mind games with myself to find some enjoyment as I do what must be done. For example, if I must make a large number of trips into the basement to carry up boxes of this and that, I use my FitBit to note just how many more stairs I have climbed than would be the case on an average day. All of that exercise must be good for something (see previous comment regarding extra weight).

I have also decided that I am discovering many interesting things from my past. I had more interesting experiences than I realized at the time. Digging through my desk, file cabinets, closets or basement is very much like an archeologist digging through the levels of time. The most interesting things are buried deep and give a glimpse into personal history. Some things even require a few minutes thought (which also provides a nice break) in order to remember what some object is and what it was used for.

For example, I found what I eventually determined was a PDA. At first I was puzzled because the object was obviously a technology tool of some type, but it seemed to have no way to connect to the Internet.

Regarding technology, I seem to have collected a large number of phones. I think I have unearthed half a dozen. The number confused me. Why would I collect this number of phones. This is one of those questions requiring an understanding of the history of the period. I decided the number grew because as I purchased a new phone, I learned that if I lost the phone I could use my old phone again and did not have to immediately purchase a new one. This was likely what I thought was a way to get by until the required delay had passed and I could purchase another subsidized phone. Of course, I did not lose any phones and the temporary storage location for the “just in case” phone was buried under additional layers of stuff resulting in the accumulation. I even had a Blackberry at one time. It must have been during one of my tours of duty as an administrator. The Blackberry was buried pretty deep, but I found a Treo in the deepest layer of debris.

Early on, I also seemed to have a fascination with paper. We all made use of paper and probably still have a legal pad around somewhere just in case we might want to use a pen or a pencil. This is not what I mean. I seemed to like specific kinds of paper. For example, I have several reams of what I remember being called engineering graphics paper. It is this peculiar yellow paper with lines going both vertically and horizontally dividing the page into a grid of sort. In addition, every fifth line or so was bolder than the rest. This resulted in kind of box within box pattern. I seemed to like to take notes on this kind of paper and I also seemed to always use a pencil rather than a pen. Perhaps this indicates I lacked confidence and felt I needed to always be prepared to make adjustments.

I found some onion skin (paper). Pretty wimpy looking stuff. This was for making copies when you entered text with a typewriter and needed to generate a second copy using carbon paper. The paper, carbon paper, onion skin sandwich got pretty thick so the onion skin was made thin. It would take too long to explain using a typewriter so I will skip the description. You can Google “typewriter” if you have an interest in history.

80colcode

I found this other strange pad of paper. It also was ruled both vertically and horizontally with 80 vertical columns. I immediately remembered what this paper was for. My earliest tech experiences involved a mainframe computer and the need to enter data on punch cards. There were a limited number of punch card machines so you had to go to the computer center ready to input your program or data. To prepare, you first entered data on paper so you were ready to focus on data entry when a machine became available.

I gave the data coding paper away to a colleague who thought he might use it. I kept the yellow, engineering graphics paper. There was something nice about writing and sketching on this paper and I might give it a try the next time writing becomes a chore or I am experiencing a writer’s block.

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If I had some bailing wire

profconditionerI post this picture to dispel the unfair stereotype that we academics have no practical skills. For the third consecutive year, I was able to install this device without help. Note that the installation required I use a screw driver and also make creative use of duct tape. I did learn last year that it is called duct tape and not duck tape. I do have to stop watching so much reality TV. Anyway, not everyone would have had the creative insight to use duct tape as a way to keep rain and mosquitoes from disturbing scholarship.

I admit that not all academics have such skills. My colleague on the third floor – a distinguished professor even – dropped his conditioner when attempting a do it yourself install. Luckily the university had the fore site to keep all buildings away from sidewalks except for the necessary entrances. We are under strict orders to reduce drop outs. The maintenance folks have since screwed his unit into place preventing him from taking any independent action. They tried the same thing with me, but I found a screw driver in a secretaries desk and have been functioning independently ever since.

I had hoped to avoid this chore since I am soon to clean out my office and move on. However, the 85+ temps in my office made it rather uncomfortable when I tried to work. The brain power required to read and write must generate a lot of heat.

I grew up on a farm. My brother the engineer claims that the Iowa State engineering programs prefer to accept farm kids as students. Evidently, farm kids have practical experience from working around machinery that allows them to make sense of what they learn in class. What I got out of my farm experience evidently prepared me for certain aspects of my job in ways those city kids could not hope to match. I actually do not remember my dad using duct tape, but I do know he found many uses for bailing wire. I wonder how you get your hands on bailing wire now days.

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Bait (follow), then switch (mute)

Business types learn to describe practices in a way that makes them sound desirable even when on closer examination they might seem sleazy. For example, the “fair and balanced no spin zone” thing still gets me upset.

Anyway, Twitter has introduced a new way for connected Twitter users to avoid the content generated by those they follow. This may seem strange – you follow someone and you want to avoid what they say. Nope – I think I have it right. Instead of blocking someone, you can mute them. Translated, bait someone into following you by following them and then avoid their content while they continue to deal with yours by use of the “mute” feature.

Sounds like a plan.

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Retirement Festivities

retirementparking

This pretty much makes it official. The Psychology Department hosted a very nice reception to recognize my retirement. I had a chance to shake the hand of many folks I have known for a long time. Very generous gifts and kind words. There was also the opportunity for several colleagues to identify my eccentricities, but in the spirit of most roasts I had the last word and was allowed to return the favor.  This place has played such a major role in my professional and social live it will always be with me even when I live somewhere else. These are good people.

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Massages and therapy dogs

A cold rain is falling today. After my morning lecture on depression, I cut through the union to avoid the rain for a bit and get a cup of coffee. I saw a sign that got me thinking. Finals are coming up and evidently some students are experiencing stress. The Wellness Center is offering massages and therapy dogs to help students cope.

Wow. Talk about expectations, change, and not having to walk to and from class uphill in a blizzard both ways. I am sorry students. These are the good times. This is a semi-protective environment where poor performance because you did not feel like going to class has only minimal consequences. You do not lose your job – we need to keep you for the tuition. You only get a C. The idea is to ease you into the real stresses of life. Therapy dogs and massages may establish unrealistic expectations.

Anyway, the thought of a massage creeps me out. Whatever my level of stress, I would require several drinks before I could tolerate a massage. My wife says a massage is wonderful. Perhaps we are stressed by different things.

therapydogHere is a picture of my therapy dog. See if you can pick him out. He is kind of aloof with an attitude. He thinks he is special and does not like other dogs. He does not like people much either. You have to be careful when petting him. You are likely to get nipped. He also does not like his hair trimmed even when he gets uncomfortable. He bit the last groomer and after receiving an official notice from the county sherif I had to have him observed by a vet on multiple occasions to make certain he was not rabid. I could have told them this was just his way of expressing himself. It costs about $600 to have him sedated so his hair can be cut. His method of comforting is to allow you look at him while he sleeps. A curmudgeon therapy dog for the curmudgeon.

We all have our own way of dealing with stress. I think I will take a walk in the cold rain just so I can feel the sensation of the rain on my bald spot. This is a form of therapy that makes you feel alive!

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