Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 24th, 2010

Twenty years later, and I am still hurting; (Jan. 28, 2010)

I returned to the USA in 1986 for a PhD program in industrial/Human Factors in engineering.  It hurts to recollect this non efficacious decision that was hasty, as all my previous decisions were, a split-second decision with no turning back.  Anyway, most of my jobs and positions after graduation were not related to my specialty, a specialty that I am still trying to define and explain to myself.

Luckily, 15 years later in 2001, I had the opportunity to teach at a university in Lebanon, on part-time basis, two courses related to Human Factors in engineering.  That was a golden opportunity to write over 50 professional articles, 25 of which were my way to re-discover what this field of industrial engineering/Human Factors is all about, in this fast evolving technological breakthrough, and transmits its concept.   I thus published on the category “What is that concept of Human Factors in Engineering?

I applied for a Canadian emigration visa in 1990, a year before graduation, but it was denied me: the Canadian consulate in Houston did not interview me at all. After inviting me for an interview the consulate told me by letter that since I have a USA visa then I had to go back home for application or something to that effect.

I left with $5,000 of my own saved money, much devalued by inflation. Again, I had no one to receive me at the airport and had no acquaintances to shelter me. It was the same lonely and frustrating process as my first travel.  It was as if I never learn anything from past mishaps, but I knew my destination this time around, and what to expect to see. There were no internet facilities at the time and no versatile communications.

I stayed two days at the temporary university boarding building.  A bright Lebanese undergraduate student in electrical engineering named Ghassan visited me at the dorm and connected me with a Lebanese graduate student in Environmental Engineering who rented a house far from campus. This graduate student agreed to take me in for a week and I used to accompany him in his car, mornings and evenings.

Ghassan was an undergraduate electrical engineer and ended up obtaining his PhD in the same year of my graduation; he got a job with Cisco in Oklahoma City while I was totally exposed to an uncertain future.

I forgot the name of the Environmental engineer: my memory is the weakest element of my brain, especially in recall. I remember that I aided this student during his PhD project; I connected him with the specialized person in data design and acquisition and then I helped him imputing data for statistical analysis. He insisted on paying me and when I finally asked for $100 for an entire month of work (I was totally broke at the time) he got furious for accepting the money since he took me in for free, 5 years ago for a week.  This is a typical Lebanese testing gimmick for loyalty or whatever you label it; they insist and your role is to continue refusing, but I was not proficient in that custom and abhorred it.

In the meantime, I had contacted the university student foreign office and a lovely structural engineering undergraduate, a Tunisian student named Suhail, agreed to share his university apartment with me.  Suhail loved everything that is Lebanese, food, music and all, but I was not up to his expectations.  Suhail was a bright and caring person; he finished his PhD in no time and wrote an “artificial intelligent” computer program for structural engineers; the program would prompt you with inquiries and at the end it would suggest the proper equation to use for your problem or project.

The notion of artificial intelligence was the rage at the time and I had audited a course on that topic because I could not afford tuition; I read many books on the topic.  I was working four part-time jobs at minimum wages, within university campus, because I am a law-abiding kind of guy.

Suhail got married at the same period with a Palestinian/US girl in Norman and got a son; he did all these things while I was plugging in to get past my General Exam. I think Suhail’s wife name was Wafaa and she helped her parents in a restaurant that specialized in Near Eastern food. I recall that we occasionally had the specialty of the day around lunch time; probably Suhail’s visits were much more frequent.

Suhail aided me greatly in writing the computer program for my computer generated experiment. I started writing the program in Pascal but I was not that proficient in programming and Suhail translated my ideas into C++.  I had audited a course in C++ because I could not afford any tuition, but had to stop coming to class: I thought that I was taking an introductory course in C++ but discovered quickly that the computer engineers were already proficient in that programming language. The funny part was that the team I was added to were gracious enough to deliver me the programming instructions of its final project.

The Dean, who was from India, refused me a grant and Dr. Foote, my former MS advisor, would not support me as I expected of him. I had no choice but to enroll in order to straighten my visa status from business visa to graduate student.  I paid the full exorbitant tuition for the minimum 12 credit-hours and was completely broke by the end of the semester. I had to take three undergraduate courses, two of them I had taken but the third one (Experimental Design) turned out to be the most interesting and very important for my field and for scientific mind.

I settle for the Human Factor specialty within the industrial engineering department because Dr. Purswell agreed to be my advisor next semester, and offered me a quarter scholarships which allowed me reduced tuition fees.  Dr. Purswell was more interested in the health and safety aspects in this field: he had a private company in forensic engineering for work related accidents.

There were not enough graduate Human Factors courses in the industrial engineering department for a PhD program: the human factors field was not well-developed as the other industrial engineering specialties and the university lacked qualified professors in that field. I was lucky to complement my graduate course requirements in many other departments such as psychology, “quantitative psychology”, marketing, accounting, economics, and education which offered me new perspectives and approaches to the human element in all these artificial human made systems.

I enrolled in a couple of graduate courses in the Psychology department and I felt at home; my heart got set on the cognitive aspect of human capabilities and limitations instead of the physical aspects that is known as Ergonomics, and the modeling of the human body versus the functions of the brain.

I had taken many courses in cognitive psychology and various statistical modeling and software analysis programs, frequently used in marketing, business, psychology, and econometrics.  One professor by the name Getty gave me credits for the Pascal programming language, the next semester, when I paid for the course that I had audited and did all the homework and exams.

I was hooked to the cognitive field in Human Factors but my advisor would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation because he was not interested in such a field and it was not in his line of business.

To be fair, Dr. Purswell was more than patient with me and let me write two proposals related to cognition that both were turned down within a year.  I attempted several times to get on teams working on interesting projects but I was turned down on account that I should have security clearances; what? GM requires security clearance for designing a new ergonomically functional board for its cars! Or the other project for selecting a dozen indicators, sort of operation measurement of the mental and sensory responses of individuals for flying military jets.  The project was done and I attended the presentation.  I guess this project is operational in selecting applicants.

Finally, Dr. Purswell had to deliver an ultimatum or he would have no choice but to suspend my scholarships. I was ordered to stop all part-time jobs. I obeyed and within a semester I wrote the proposal.  I then designed the experiment, finished setting up the fictitious chemical lab, and carried out several intelligence testing protocols just to divert the true objective from the over 120 “subjects” whom I enrolled mostly from first year Psychology students: they are required to submit to experiments for credit-hours.

That semester was hectic but a lot of fun. The next semester was the worst of all semesters because I had input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and then the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.

I had Dr. Schlegel in my advisory team and he forced me to use a specialized word processing program, simply because the print was professional and versatile; the problem was that no one could interpret it when I got stuck, except Dr. Schlegel; I had occasionally to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.

What still hurt, after 20 years, is that I was not satisfied with my thesis.  Not that practical applications are expected from an engineer, but because no one controlled the process of my experiment.  What was initially an excellent design of the experiment that turned out to get out of the designed program.

The analysis would no longer correspond to cause and effect designed experiment and I had to contend with descriptive analyses that ruined all the pride that I had as an excellent scientific mind.

I am still hurting; I am glad that the publishing company for dissertations refused to publish it, because the manuscript had a numbered blank page and I could do nothing about it: I had no money at all. to recopy the entire manuscript. And didn’t care for the thesis to be published anyway.

All scarce money going down the drain and no professional future in the horizon.

I am hurting because I hated academia after graduation, and tried my best to keeping academic life at bay, working on lousy jobs hoping that my “unconscious” depression would subside.

This mental block never let go and I had no support system to get on the right track.  Yes, I wasted my life as a professional, but deep in my mind and my heart I know that I have a better and sounder scientific mind than many professionals that I know, and I am still interested in many fields of study and have the capabilities to untangle the good valid scientific projects from the faked ones.

Bono-metrics and more; (Jan. 28, 2010)

            Rock superstar of U2 Bono published his 10 ideas for the next decade in the New York Times.  I selected a few of these ideas with comments.

            Half a million children in developing countries died of diarrhea this year.  There is a vaccine for antirotavirus  that could save millions of children.  The vaccine can be delivered with the other available inoculations.  Super rich Bono has established many humanitarian associations such as ONE and the label of RED products to fighting tuberculosis, paludism, and AIDS. Super rich and supper motivated Bono can start this campaign of vaccination and then play the catalyst for other billionaires, public figure personalities, and international organizations to taking over the movement.

            Soccer “world cup” games for 2010 are organized in South Africa. During the games, many African civil wars will declare cease fire for the event. Between now and then, soccer is enflaming enmities among peoples instead of letting politicians fight it out: it is a shame that Egyptians feel so strongly of Algerians simply for a soccer game. In this century, people can still exhibit small mindedness; as if knowledge and simple common sense decency have never touched them.

            Each individual should have the right to sell his polluting conduct to the heavier polluters and receive the money for his sustainable life behavior. The Ethiopian who is polluting the environment with 200 kilos of CO2 related chemicals per year should be paid by the US polluter of 20 tons.

            I love the European Union dynamism: Do you remember the “Spanish auberge” movie where European students study in any EU State?  Well, there is an extension to that program for small entrepreneurs.  The Erasmus program offers stipends for entrepreneurs who manage to contact skilled entrepreneurs to be mentors and learn new techniques in administration and managing their business.  Damn, I love to have dual citizenship with any EU state.

            For example, the Netherland allocated one billion to cover salaries of part time workers so that companies retain qualified employees for better economic periods.  What a better strategy to keeping people off the street and feeling worth as a person during downturn period.  It is amazing that small Netherland, with no raw materials, and with flat land under sea water level can progress as a super wealthy society.  The EU should move most of its institutions to the Netherland and be kept up to date to notion of courage and organization.

Part one.  Let’s make sense: “How can I win war on “terrorism”? (Jan. 28, 2010)

            Terrorism is winning by default: people waging war on terrorism failed to make contact with people who have plenty of common sense: The players failed to communicate to people with common sense why they are fighting them; they failed to make sense for peace, security, working civil administration, freedom of opinions, and opportunities to learn and work.

            You are reading me: that’s good enough to me.  You have plenty of common sense, regardless of your inherited opinions gathered from your close community and the discrimination tendencies that you are subjected to. 

You have the luxury to read; if what you read make sense then you are doubly fortunate: You have the opportunity to connect, gather intelligence, dialogue, and discuss.  You are on firm ground to believe that mankind has the potential to think rationally when emotional weighty issues are respected as part of community heritage. 

            You read: you are very fortunate as an individual and fortunate that you live in a society that connects you with the outside world.  If you can transfer your imagination to remote rural regions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia then we are set to commune common sense.  

You are living in a region with no schools (at best religious schools teaching you how to read a Book); no presence of any State civil administration, no infrastructure for clean potable water coming to homes; no waste discharge facilities; no means to communicate with the outside world in your own language.  You are living within a close-knit tribal and clannish community that extends survival means and protection.  Are you with me so far?

            One morning, a drone drops bombs and missiles targeting “a terrorist” leader in your tribe, killing countless civilians.  How would you react?  The sky is conspiring to destabilize your peace and security; a “foreign” enemy is blatantly provoking you to kneel and submit to an idea or power that were not communicated to you:  all you know is what your community “preacher” has told you and who taught you at school.  Why should you submit to an opinion that you have no idea what it is and that does not relate to your current way of life? 

You do have plenty of common sense, but your “ghost” of an enemy is not revealing to you that he is endowed with any common sense.

            Your enemy (US military power) is a coward savage that cannot speak: he can only make war from a distance.  Hell, the sky is conspiring with an enemy that you have never seen his face or heard his voice.  There is total failure of communication.

Even if you care less about religion and the value system of your community you cannot help it but to fight this coward enemy playing ghost to frighten the bejesus out of your mind.

            Islamic extremists are winning by default: they are on the field and the enemy is in the air.  The enemy is setting foot on the moon and exploring the genesis of the Big Bang but he is scared to making eye contact with you: he is fighting you but failed to show up:  The enemy has no decency to tell you why he is fighting you; he could at least warn you or declare war!

            War on “terrorism” is a mental attitude: You cannot win this war if the people on the field are disconnected from the outside world.  If you failed to communicate in the language of the land, to learn the customs, and win first of all the State civil administrations, how can you start military campaigns of intimidation?  If the State civil administration is backward, corrupted, ignorant, and not willing to set foot in remote area then who is to communicate with tribal communities?

            The “terrorist” people didn’t declare war on you: you are doing what suits your ego trip as a superior race.  Time to differentiate between terrorist organizations and those poor and wretched people succumbing to internal obscurantism and external barbaric western military machine.

Part one set the foundations; part two will venture into details.  As I wrote in a previous article “The devil is Never in the details”




January 2010

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