This is me trying to be a writer. Of fiction. Do I look writerly? Maybe I should have a cardigan and a pipe. Let’s just stipulate that I have those, but they don’t show in the picture. I think that’s convincing then. A writer.
After a lifetime writing academic nonfiction that nobody read, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to tell stories for fun that somebody might read. Easy transition!
But no. Turns out, there are few skills that transfer from nonfiction to fiction. Spelling and grammar, sure, those are the same. Mostly — more grammatical freedom in fiction. But the sentence structure is very different, so is the diction, and definitely the thinking process. It’s like starting over.
So I fight my academic instincts while I hope to write one good thing before my time is up. Your comments are appreciated. Without feedback, I’m a blind mole rat groping in a deep cave.
Here is a summary of my career points which matter not a whit, but which are customarily presented as biography.
As an academic psychologist, I was especially interested in how the mind works. Until recently I was an adjunct Professor at Chapman University College, which became Brandman University, an online division, so I taught online, never meeting the students face-to-face.
Chapman is a 150 year-old private liberal arts institution located in Orange, California, with numerous campuses on the West Coast. Brandman is the name of a guy who donated $10 million to purchase immortality. Brandman University serves the “adult learner,” people who have families and jobs and yet somehow take college courses at night or online. I respect those students enormously for their efforts. Online teaching and learning is neither better nor worse than the classroom type. It is simply a different species. You can do things and say things online that you never would in a live classroom. This is especially true for the quieter, introverted, less prepared, or timid student. I taught a wide variety of courses, including Personality Theory, Cognitive Psychology, Abnormal, Developmental (“Child”), statistics, and critical thinking.
It was grading the relentless flow of statistics homework that finally overcame me. I tried to automate the whole evaluation system with a series of “intelligent” online examinations that were self-scoring and rewarded mastery of topics. But it was a failure. The students objected to the $25 premium for the testing service, and the other instructors couldn’t understand it, so the whole thing was scrapped. It was perfectly obvious to me, so I assumed it would be to others. Story of my life.
In the 1990’s I was the Manager of Information Services for The Casey Family Programs, a nonprofit organization providing long term foster care to homeless children throughout America (www.Casey.org). I designed and implemented a national information network for them, hired and ran the IT department from headquarters in Seattle.
Prior to becoming meaningless management overhead, I had been a productive software engineer with various technology firms in the Seattle area. Information technology was my second career, the one that actually paid a living wage. However, working in a bureaucratic, quasi-governmental, corporate environment was not for me. I spent 50% of my time resolving “personnel issues,” the other 50% creating and wrestling the annual budget, and the third 50% in meetings.
On the positive side, installing and running a national computer network involving over a dozen field offices stretching from Honolulu to Baton Rouge gave me plenty of excuse to escape the stultifying office and travel around America. Since the firm dealt with homeless kids, what I saw was mainly impoverished urban settings and Indian reservations. That was extremely educational. I was also lucky to be engaged in the field during the beginning of the internet age, although at the time, it felt like extreme frustration, not luckiness.
Prior to my IT adventureI had taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology, sociology, and statistics at the University of Wisconsin, University of Maryland, and The College of Idaho. With University of Maryland’s University College, I traveled around the world for several years, living in Tokyo, Izmir, Venice, London, Luxembourg, and Heidelberg; with long journeys through China, Thailand, and India. I often wonder about people who haven’t traveled much. What do they think about the rest of the world? Anything? What you see on TV is not it. Travel is its own kind of education.
Education-wise, I have a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, with a specialization in computer science from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I did a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University with James Gibson in perception and cognition. I didn’t fully understand my own doctoral dissertation until the 1980’s and I couldn’t properly evaluate Gibson’s contribution to my thinking until the 1990’s. Some ideas are much more complex than they seem on the surface.
I am married, coming up on a 40th anniversary, although I am unsure of the exact date (uh-oh!). I have no children, or as I think of it, I am child-free. I live in Tucson now. (Yes, it’s hot, but you don’t have to shovel it.)
Currently my passion is writing fiction. The siren song of philosophical psychology is not entirely silent in my head, but I am by now too far outside of mainstream thinking to make a contribution. Every field and sub-field is a club, and if you’re not a member, well, who invited you? But I might write some crazy stuff just because I can.