Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma

Nashville

 

I learned that a young couple of my acquaintances were leaving to Kentucky and would drive through Tennessee.  I had an open invitation from my ex-girlfriend in Nashville.  I asked the couple to give me ride in their tiny VW Beatle; they dropped me in Nashville where a girl friend of mine lived. (I wrote about this trip in “An inch taller than her country women”).  I guess that I spent about three weeks in Nashville but I never had the opportunity to tour “Graceland” even though Shanon, the daughter of Rose, worked there for pocket money. I guess that I could not afford the $40 entrance fees.  I once got a traffic ticket for over speeding in Rose’s new Nissan car; it is impossible to know whether you are speeding in these smooth driving cars.  I never paid the traffic tickets.  There is not much to see in Nashville and I was not in the touring mood since Rose was working hard to make ends meet and I was feverishly applying for jobs. I described in details the door-to door book selling experience in the mentioned piece “An inch taller…”

 

The woman graduate student, Sara, picked me up on her way back to Oklahoma in her tiny beige VW.  I don’t recall that I spoke a word on that return trip. Sara reluctantly let me sleep overnight.  Two days later, Fakhry (a close Lebanese friend whose parents worked in Africa and was married to an American) lent me $100 for the Greyhound bus fare to San Francisco; I was to attend the American Human Factors annual convention; it was an excuse to let go of Norman and start afresh.

Something about the period after my PhD in the USA

 

In the wilderness

 

After I earned my PhD in 1991, I loitered for another 10 years throughout the USA, not working in my field or in any teaching jobs: I was disheartened and frustrated and refused to think about any plans for the future. 

It must have been a case of acute depression not recognized by me, and no one to count on for friendship. I just survived and I still didn’t tend efficiently to all these scars.

All in all, I lived and studied and worked in the USA for 20 years and returned definitely to Lebanon without even applying to a residence status though I enjoyed continuous work permits for many years.

           

After my formal graduation in May 1991 with a PhD in industrial engineering (in the field of Human Factors) I was almost totally broke and the university town of Norman in summer-time was completely boring and I suffocated in this “hole” after over six years and barely leaving it.  The University was closed for part of the summer and I had no idea how to spend my time in this town that swallowed the best of my adulthood.

There was just this corner on the north side of campus with a few bars and Walter Mitty, the nude institution; I used occasionally to go there with Boubkeur during happy hours, between 1 to 5 p.m. and order a pitcher of draft beer at the hottest period of the day and when the girls were not asked to get frantic with their boobs and buttocks.  

In one of the few bars, a clone singer of Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia used to play almost every night; this singer and guitarist was a carbon copy of late Garcia in appearance, attire, and style.  There was this coffee shop that served all kinds of Starbucks varieties and we would meet there most of the time and patronize it anywhere it transferred shops around corners. 

I met there Suzanne in Starbucks; she was a tall, beautiful girl with long blonde hair.  Suzanne was the girlfriend in the last two months of a Lebanese PhD graduate in structural engineering from the University of Stillwater.  At my graduation and her graduation in Law, Suzanne invited me to her adoptive parents’ home; her friends took several pictures in my graduation gown.

I had bought my advisor’s old car three months ago; then the cold weather did not help.  The car needed tires and I preferred to give it away to my landlord instead of sinking in dear money on a car that I had no confidence in its proper functioning, even in the near term. Kirby, my landlord, could not believe my giving away a car and made me sign a paper to that effect, maybe for tax purposes.

This landlord was a good man, straight and kind to me; I paid around $100 for the whole ground flat. Kirby refurbished the upper floor to accommodate two apartments that rented $200 per month each.

Kirby married Rebecca; a half blooded American Indian, who was my previous landlord from whom I rented a room in the upper floor. Kirby was in the business of purchasing properties on foreclosures and then repaired them with his own hands.  

I recall a Christmas Eve when my flat got flooded and the electricity went out and Kirby came and repaired what was needed and then brought the vacuum cleaner the next day to suck out the moisture and dry the shaggy carpet. 

I spent a terrible cold night, alone amid the smell of humidity.

Compensation: An Experimental mind

 

I recall my advisor telling me once in frustration “At your age I was professor and had raised a family”.  He had two grown up sons and a daughter who just got married.  I didn’t need this reminder to comprehend my desperate situation: I am just plainly stubborn with no imaginations on earning money.  These long years in a PhD program in the specialty of Human Factors, at the age 35 to 41, should be considered a waste of time for any career-minded student but they were valuable for my mind. My exposure to the methods and vocabulary of five other different fields of study in psychology, business, marketing, economics, and education permit me to think that I acquired an experimental mind, a mind that not many could claim to explicitly have.  I was exposed to various experimental designs, not necessarily cause and effects designs, and inevitably to different statistical results and interpretations.  I witnessed graduates focusing on the technicality of terms and so many “point statistics” that basically means nothing, and a fortiori meant nothing in the minds of the graduates but their experimental minds were lacking in comprehension.  The end result is millions of graduates publishing papers not valid scientifically and unable to interpret results.   

When someone asks “how” (the mechanical process or procedure) it is tacitly understood that he comprehend the why and what of the subject matter or the system; that he knows all the factors and variables that may affect the outcome of a system, including the human element within the system.  Maybe a practicing or a professional knows his particular system, (he should though implicitly most of the times, as engineers learn), but the fundamental question remains “has he acquired the generalized method and rationality to investigating systems outside his discipline?” 

I know what I am talking about but the difficulty is to express and disseminate the problem.  I have taught engineers who had no understanding for discriminating among variables such as dependent, independent, or controlling variables; you think that they implicitly know how to differentiate among the variables; wrong, they don’t. Even after three sessions coupled with examples they were still in the dark and still wondering what is all the fuss about. You think that they can interpret graphs, extract wealth of information and comprehend pages of written materials from one meaningful graph, they generally cannot.  I can testify that 30% of my engineer classes could not read; another 30% could not understand what they read.  It was a pleasure to educate a couple of good minds.  I have written several articles on that subject in my category “Professional articles” for further detailed clarification.

Worst, undergraduates are almost never exposed to research papers.  Most Master’s graduates barely comprehend or interpret correctly research papers.  Graduates join the “work force” of the rational minds practically illiterate; they cannot resume any continuation learning programs for a simple reason: they are illiterate in reading and comprehending research papers.

 

My contention is this.  If you acquired an experimental mind then you should be eligible to comprehend any field of study by reading the research papers in the field.  The major contraption devised my professions to discriminate among one another is a flimsy mask targeted in changing the technical terms and vocabulary; a secret ritual inherited from ancient times to creating castes of literates. Other than that, the experimental methodology is fundamentally the same.  When you acquire an experimental mind then all disciplines are one course away; you need to learn the slang, a new language that sound familiar, but with terms that have different meanings and connotations.  The ultimate goal of teaching is for every university graduating mind to be trained to comprehend research papers of other disciplines.

May I refer the reader to my current article “Rationality Fraud: Can our leading minds pass Socrates’ dialogue test?”

Introspection (continue 40)

 

Psychological testing

I recall an event in summer of 1985 at the University of Oklahoma (Norman); I had just arrived from Lebanon a week ago and I was waiting for the fall semester to start.  I was roaming the campus re-discovering the various facilities and programs offered after 8 years of absence after I earned an MS in Industrial engineering.

I stumbled on a program, free of charge, which claimed to provide aid, comfort, and psychological evaluation to students. 

I had time to spare and I am curious by nature.  I sat for this long 2-hour psychiatry test, the kind of paper and pencil test that I cherish very much, hoping for enlightenment in that venue. I diligently answered the couple hundred questions as frankly as I knew.

Since I didn’t know myself, I assume that many of the answers about my characteristics and attitudes might be wrong, but I had to give a grade for each general question. I still keep the results that the computer generated. I have to dig up the results and restudy them.

As far as I can remember, most of the indicators were average, the indicators with good connotations were lousily rated and the ones with bad connotations were highly rated. I submitted my results to the intern graduate psychology student working at the facility who repeated what was written and could not provide me with any satisfactory explanation of who am I. He suggested that free psychological sessions are offered, free of charge, for us who have taken the trouble to sit for two hours for the test. I guess these tests were kind of a final year project to the graduate student. 

The appointed graduate student in psychology read the results but was not qualified for evaluation; he referred me to attend a meeting.  I am by nature curious and I obliged.

A dozen students where seated in a circle around a moderator. Soon, the session took a turn that was highly disturbing to me. Students started divulging, in total candor, their inner troubles, failings, and sufferings. Many cried telling their stories and many others sympathized by sharing with their cries. I was sitting still, stone faced, and stoic during the whole session.

I kept coming for all the duration of the program, of maybe 5 sessions, because I felt it would be rude of me to quit and admit that my enrollment was a plain mistake. I never spoke a word or felt compelled to deliver a story, lacking imagination and not recalling that my upbringing was an excellent subject for shared compassion.

I was completely sure that I am not one of them and that it was just a one time experience. I laughed inside and did not resume anything.

I sincerely doubt that I can open up to a shrink, even lying down on a sofa: I have a sick ego and I am too sarcastic and critical to pull a session through.

 

I knew that my emotions and feelings towards my parents are sort of neutral, a sort of tacit recognition that we have responsibilities to our survival as a family but no overt expression of affection either verbally or in writing. 

I may guess that this is the worst case in psychological imbalances because we lack the constant opening up in our relations. 

Maybe our angers surface occasionally when we realize that we needed more care and encouragement to mingle than be sheltered as immature kids.

I believe that genetically the emotional development of my younger brother, my younger sister and I were lacking because many other kids were also confined in boarding schools and their parents were not as providing as our parents and somehow they turned out enterprising and raised better than normal families of their own.

Maybe emotional development has nothing to do with being successful to the eyes of the community.

In our case, my brother, sister and I, the development was worsened by the ignorance of our parents in bringing up kids.  Neither their past nor their characters nor their level of education and upbringing offered my folks the means to express their feelings frankly and openly, especially my father who lived separated from both his parents for many years since his childhood. 

My dad might have decided to dissociate emotionally from us on the fact that mother was showing signs of being over protective and as her sole responsibility, save the financial side. (More on these topics in later sections)

Habitat

 

            The first semester I could afford to rent an apartment with a roommate.  The second semester I had to move out and join three other roommates.  By the third semester I had to find accommodations with elder ladies who lived alone and wanted someone to sleep in their houses for security and safety reasons; which I did.  An American friend by the name Charles connected me to Frank (a retired engineer) who lived in Houston and whose mother lived alone.           

For two years I shared the homes of elder ladies. One lady was over 80 years and had lost her memory and slept most of the time. Her son Frank lived in Houston and her daughters also lived far away; her eldest daughter was mean and I apprehended her short visits.  A nurse was supposed to come once a day and care for her but she failed in her duty most of the time and I was stuck with the awful smell emanating from her room.  I often reminded Frank and her daughters that their mother is to be moved to specialized centers; they could afford to pay for their mother transfer but I still have no idea why they preferred her to stay at her home.  For a time, the supposed nurse moved in to the basement and lived with her drug addict boyfriend; they were planting marijuana in the basement. The nurse did her best to kick me out so that they get a clear field of action and her boyfriend threatened me.  Frank came from Houston and chased them out of the basement but he did not transfer his mother to a decent location.

The second lady was functional but resented that I sit in the living room or to cook; I was supposed to just come a sleep in my room.  She was tall with long reddish hair and she believed to be attractive.  She would occasionally take only sponge baths.  I wrote a piece on her “She wouldn’t take a full bath”; in was also the time when I met Josephine “Twenty kitties around Josephine”.  Finally, enough was enough and I rented rooms where no old ladies lived.

Part-time jobs within campus; (Ch. #38)

 

I was denied any kinds of scholarship in my first semester (1985) and my saved money ($5,000) had evaporated by the second semester.

In the second semester I received a quarter time scholarship that enabled me to pay tuitions at the same rate as US students. My scholarship was raised to half-time the next year. 

Throughout my PhD program, I had to work on at least three part-time jobs, at minimum wages inside campus by regulation, to make ends meet:  I could not earn a residence status to work outside the perimeter of the campus. Not many foreign students cared about these mean limiting laws, but I was raised to obey the law!

I used to wake up at 4 a.m. to start my first job cleaning libraries and class rooms, buffeting the floor, vacuum cleaning the sofas and on. I then rushed to attend a few classes, and off to serve lunch in banquets of hundreds of persons… I tried to study some more and then back to the main library in the evening to dumping the waste baskets, cleaning the restrooms before it closes at midnight.  I had to keep clean from trash four ultra vast floors of the university. A clean space for the students to have a proper place to study and chat:  The Students job was to dirty the floors again and again.

Other “sanitation engineer” employees would make the round once before closing; I did more than two rounds.  I had a kernel in the library to study in isolation, but I mostly used that tiny quarter for moments of solitude.  In addition to all these menial chores, I had to correct and grade countless homework and exams to satisfy the requisite hours for my scholarship.

The worst part was that I was excluded from the exciting projects that I applied for, of grants received by my department from companies. Most of the time, I was denied access to projects under the pretense of military or security credentials. For example, operation and quantifying the capabilities of jet pilots, or the control and displays in the redesigned new Ford motor series.    

I had attempted twice to present proposals not in the line of my advisor’s wishes, until he finally gave me an ultimatum to do according to his directives because he would no longer extend any grants.  I thus worked hard for a semester on his project that was related to safety and risk perception within a make-shift experimental chemistry lab environment. 

I have to mention that the company contracted by the university to publish dissertations sent me a letter stating that there is a page lacking and it needed corroboration or correction and I was no longer in the mood of handling anything related to my dissertation. 

I had paid over $100 for my dissertation to be published and for a copy left in the main library. All that I know is that I borrowed money to officially graduate, and I paraded in my gown, taken pictures and my diploma handed to me by my advisor.  Enough was enough. 

The light at the end of the tunnel was barely visible and my Golgotha road was just starting.

I experienced all kinds of part-time jobs after graduating PhD in Industrial engineering: Working at all kinds of fast food chains, all kinds of small and large restaurants, facilities for the elderly persons…

My dad had sent me a letter telling me that Maitre Emile Bejjani managed to reserve a position for me at the AUB in Beirut, but this harrowing and grueling period for graduating forced me to shun academic positions for years. 

I recall that I filled the application to the AUB but didn’t send it: I had to experience life in the USA a little more, and get my fill of humiliations and indignities. 

The Tunnel (Ch. 37 of autobiography)

 

The Dean, who was from India, refused me a grant as a former graduate in Industrial engineering. Dr. Foote, my former MS advisor, failed to actively support me as I expected of him.

I had no choice but to enroll in order to straighten my visa status from business to graduate student. I paid the full exorbitant tuition for 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.  I settle for the Human Factor specialty within the industrial engineering department because Dr. Purswell agreed to be my advisor the next semester.

Dr. Purswell managed to offer me a quarter-time scholarships that allowed me to reduce the tuition rate.  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 course requirements in many other departments which offered me new perspective and approach 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.

Thus, I ended up taking courses in various departments such as marketing, business, economics, education and others to fulfill the required number of graduate credit-hours.

I had taken many courses in cognitive psychology and various statistical modeling and software analysis programs that are frequently used in marketing, business, psychology and econometric  

One professor by the name Getty gave me credits for the Pascal programming language that I had audited and did all the homework and exams as I paid for the course the next semester.  

I was hooked to the cognitive field in Human Factors but my advisor would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation: 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. 

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, 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”

The subjects were mostly first year Psychology students because 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 to input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.

I had Dr. Schelegel 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 the error in the program and fix it when I got stuck except him. I occasionally had to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.

Introspection: Suhail, (continue 36)

 

This is my second trip to the University of Oklahoma at Norman, 1985. I am planning for a Ph.D degree in Industrial Engineering.

 

In the meantime, I had contacted the university student foreign office and it was run by Sue. A lovely structural engineering undergraduate student, Suhail from Tunisia, 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 and read many books on the topic.

 

The next year, Suhail got married 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.

 

Suhail obtained his Ph.D before me, and was working with his advisor, capitalizing on the artificila intelligence program he had written. I met him once before I left Norman and he had a son already and had visited Tunisia with his wife.

 

Note: The cynic in me could not find a fault in Suhail: He has all the capabilities and rare deficiencies that I could think of. He his handsome, smart, sober, funny, smiling…and can be all he sets his mind at doing and being.  I hope that Tunisia after the Spring upheaval will find a place for Suhail to prosper and be the change that this lovely people deserve. It love Suhail and it would be nice to meet with him again.

Something about my second university period in the USA (1986-1991;continue 35)


I applied for a Canadian emigration visa in 1984 in Jounieh but it was denied me; the representative in the interview did not interview me at all; he told me never to apply again.  The unique question that he asked me, but that he was not interested in hearing the answer, was: “Why did you lie saying you had no job?”  I have been told that my job is at an end since the construction project was over in Maameltein.  But the arrogant Canadian representative did not wait for an answer; probably, Canada had reversed its decision for further immigration of Lebanese due to the desires of the Maronite Patriarch.  I thus decided for a PhD program at the same university, the University of Oklahoma at Norman, with a tacit understanding that I would benefit of a partial grant.

I obtained a visa to the USA for 5 years and bought a returned ticket; I never used returned tickets in both trips. I did not apply for graduate studies or anything.  It was a decision of the moment and I obtained a business visa. My parents were taken by surprise as a climate of peace was rumored to last.  A month after I landed in the US, civil war resumed in Lebanon and this time it was between the Lebanese Army of General Aoun PM and the “Lebanese Forces” of Samir and it was localized in our district. This round of civil war was among the Maronites and in the mainly Christian districts and it was the worst; people huddled for 6 months in their basements.  I had to contact the Red Cross in Oklahoma for news on my folks and relatives.  I received encouraging news two weeks later by mail from the Red Cross.

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 learned anything, 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 means.

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; he agreed to take me in for a week and I used to accompany him in his car mornings and evenings.

Ghassan was to obtain his PhD in the same year of my graduation and worked with Cisco in Oklahoma City. 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 a whole month of work (I was totally broke at the time) he got furious for accepting 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.

Note:  Most of my jobs and positions after graduation in 1991 with a PhD in Human Factors Engineering were not related to my specialty, a specialty that I am still trying to define and explain to myself.  Luckily, 15 years later, I had the opportunity to teach at a university in Lebanon, on part-time basis, two courses related to Human Factors in engineering and I ended up writing over 50 professional articles to explain this discipline to myself and also for lack of textbooks and professional magazines that the university dragged its feet in acquiring them.  Twenty five of these articles were my way to re-discover what this field is all about and transmit its concept; I thus published on wordpress.com the category “What is that concept of Human Factors in Engineering?”.  I think that I learned to think properly in designing experiments in my PhD years and getting familiar with the various Statistical packages mostly used by social and economic disciplines


Lawton, Oklahoma

 

Fouad was one of my numerous roommates; he was a Lebanese student majoring in pharmacy, used to travel two hours on weekends to work as a bartender at an Army base in Lawton. He rented a house there for the weekends and then spent the rest of the week studying to be a pharmacist in Oklahoma City, one hour away the other direction to Norman where he rented with me. He used to pick me up in his Spitfire to Lawton, a “hole of a town”. He could afford a Spitfire; he sold me his old fashion VW, an engine cooled by air. This car was wrecked by a drunken lady at 2 a.m. at an intersection; I was lucky to be alive and the insurance paid what the car was worth on the market and the lawyer received as much in compensation for depositing a claim for health damages.  At the time, it was common for anyone who had car accidents to sue for “backlash” and the physiotherapists were glad for this booming business and they cooperated well with lawyers.

Fouad married a US “Philippina” and then divorced after he obtained his US passport.  I expounded on details in my piece “Raine’s my initiator; or maybe not”. On my second trip to the U, Fouad had re-married and then enrolled as a surgeon at a Mexican University and commuted everyday from El Paso until he graduated.  He participated as a surgeon with the US invading troops in Panama.

I finished my program in two years but I was displeased with my thesis which was suggested by my advisor, Dr. Foote, another Zionist inclined professor.  I was just inputting random numbers in a written computer program that another student had written and dealing with stochastic production demands. The results didn’t turn out encouraging and I suffered grueling months, very unsatisfied with the whole project. I am reminded of this expression a “bullet shit” of a non-fighter joining a fighting group who is loaded with ammunition so that the fighters could eventually use his ammunition if he dies; that what happens to many graduate students who have no idea for a proposal. I decided not to pursue a PhD program.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

May 2021
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