Though Your Mind is Cool Your Heart is Beating Fast

This page written circa Christmas 2005.

It is late at night in a hotel room in Hamilton, New Zealand, as I start to write this. I have just been offered the Foundation Professorship in Electrical Engineering at The University of Waikato, and I have never been so scared of a decision in my life.
In my last soapbox I emphasized the degringolade within Agilent, somewhat dramatically, and I finished by saying that observing a change in the wind requires one to plot a course to make the most of prevailing conditions. Moving to New Zealand and taking up this position is a proposed course change for the Scott family.

How did I get to be in Hamilton? Dissatisfaction with the USA and disappointment with Agilent, I suppose, and casually reading an advertisement in Spectrum. The whole thing started casually, and snowballed. I was almost offhand with the application.

My frustrations with Agilent can be summarised as the four Rs: Reporting (I have gone from 4 to 6 echelons down from the CEO, on the end of a chain that is too long to be responsive), Recognition (the innovative, out-of-the-box ideas that are my speciality languish until the opportunity is missed or our competitors do it first, instead of gaining me fame for timely recognition of trends and opportunities), Research (I hardly get to conferences, the major opportunity for personal development, a key resource in doing my work, and one of the attractions of Agilent in the first place), Remuneration (I am paid satisfactorily for my rank, but I am doing work characteristic of higher rank in other divisions). These would be fixed if Tech Center had a whitespace initiative and I was in it, if I was free to attend an average of two conferences a year, and if I was either a Master Engineer or paid like one. (In 2005 I managed 4 publications and 4 patent disclosures on four different topics, in the tightest of times, and I anticipated promotion from a tactical to a strategic role. I do not think my expectations were unrealistic.)

Dissatisfaction with the USA is not something I can address, but it is also not so urgent or so close to home, for now. I abhor US politics, and I lament the secondary school system, but neither threatens me directly, yet.

I have received criticism for my right-wing views, yet I openly despair at the actions of the White House of George W Bush. Let me set the record straight: It seems to me that right-wing Western governments have two main aspects: A kind of tight-arsed desire to control that gives rise to laws about abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and other things that are the domain of morality. Often justified through religion, these are none of government's business, or of so small an economic impact on the nation that they should forget about them. The second aspect is an emphasis on competition, capitalism, and incentive that shapes national policies, keeps the populace focussed on progress, encourages survival of the fittest, and prevents national complacency---that feeling that "the world owes you a living"---yet provides a level of services to counter hardship and dissidence. I abhor the former aspect, but embrace the second.

If we move to NZ we will be able to ignore US politics, relax about the kid's education, enjoy the freedom of academic life, add a great experience to our CVs, live on a farm with quiet and horses, travel more easily to Australia, and forget about the existence of garden sprinklers.

If we stay here we can forget about packing up our posessions, forget about finding a new set of friends, forget about finding a house in which to live, and avoid going through the whole house renovation thing yet again, leave the kids at SRCS for a few more years, actually live in our lovely, large, renovated house, enjoy the North Bay climate, and if Agilent is responsive, I can overcome the frustrations that continue to beset R&D in the Tech Center.

It is funny how the same observation can mean two things to two different people. For example, the last Sydney Uni Gazette noted that "There are one million Australians living overseas and, proportionally, this is one of the largest expatriate populations of any country". To them it meant that there was a pool of talent they might be able to bring back to Australia, using suitable incentives. To me it means that there is something wrong with Australia that has repelled a lot of smart people. Would you not think the university wiser to expend its resources identifying the problem, than fighting the tide to gamble on the worth of some expatriot high-flyers? I'd advocate removing the repellent, not applying lavish perfume, but there you are. Amelia's mother could interpret a cartoon in a way that seemed askew to me, seeing cartoons involving Australian Aboriginals as mocking the natives, whereas I saw them as mocking the white participants. Misinterpretation does not seem to be uncommon. I read recently that "When the book [of The Stepford Wives] first appeared decades ago, Levin was excoriated by the feminists for writing what they perceived as an anti-feminist book. As both a founder of one of the first NOW (National Organization for Women) chapters in the US in 1969 as well as co-founder of a men's liberation organization, the National Coalition of Free Men, in 1980, I perceived that the book was mocking men: their selfish, base, and even sometimes violent nature. I wrote to Mr. Levin questioning if this is what he meant, and he responded by concurring with my view."

I am now at home, it is nearly Christmas in California, and I continue to distill thoughts onto this page. You will have to wait for the next installment to hear the outcome. A week of editing this page, and I am still so full of thoughts and so exhausted I am not competent to decide if I am hungry or not. I already feel like a man on the run. This situation may be alleviated by the Christmas break. In the mean time, I am acutely aware that it is possible to draw quite the wrong conclusion from the observations, and this decision needs to be right, for me, for Kay, and for lots of other people. I should hate to be misinterpreting the signs.


Running Man

Al Stewart/Peter White

Before the phone hits the receiver
You're halfway to the door
The voice said 'get out while you can,
There's just ten minutes, nothing more'
Time only for the essentials
Better gather them and run
The false name inside the passport,
The gold bars and the gun
And once again they've come out of the past
And though your mind is cool your heart is beating fast
You've been through it all before
Each time you wish a little more that you could ask

"What do you want from me?
What do you need from me?
There's no rest for the running man
Why can't you let him be?'

It's a long and twisting journey
From the sweeping northern plains
To the outcrops of the jungle
Bowed beneath the tropic rains
In the customs hall the officer
Takes you to one side
And his eyes reveal no feeling
As you hand over the bribe
And once again you've bought a little time
And once again you're fading out of sight
Still the fox is growing older
As he calls over his shoulder to the night:

"What do you want from me?
What do you need from me?
There's no rest for the running man
Why can't you let him be?"

Here, come over here
Beneath a sympathetic moon
We'll sit and talk over old times without a fear
Another beer, from the cafes of the night
The tumbling rhythms of guitars ring loud and clear

One by one they've nailed the others
But you always got away
What it is that keeps you just that step ahead
No one can say
In one last raid the agents
Of the dawn break down the door
Of a house where you were standing
Maybe just an hour before
And still the thread continues to unwind
You take the hidden roads that only you can find
And should they come upon your tracks
There's just a question hanging back you left behind

"What do you want from me?
What do you need from me?
No rest for the running man
Why can't you let him be?"

"What do you want from me?
What do you need from me?"

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