Tag Archives: Graduate School

I Think This is ‘Writing Face’

The ‘Blog Face’ – I’m gonna need some voodoo-style wrinkle cream in the next five years.

For a day that’s been fairly productive, I’m now wading through the muck with ‘Travels with Molly.’  Trying to write the beginning – and going back to the original music I listened to during the development of the original idea back in 2005-2006.

[Yes, I can chronicle my music autobiographically.  Yes, you can call me Rob Gordon (though I also make obsessive lists, I have little need or desire to revisit past relationships – once was probably more than enough for me).]

The time period was full of genre jumping – but what I remember most was the commute to work in the mornings.  I was a cool kid: I had a first generation iPod (god, how did I live life before an iPod…oh wait – with a MiniDisc player), and I’d listen to it all. the. time.  I rediscovered music, wallowed in favorites, branched out and found new and different tracks, provided gratis from my fine musician and audiophile friends.  Vinyl was still a cherished medium, don’t get me wrong – but now I could stand outside in sub-freezing temperatures, waiting for the train, dancing along to Jet and the Black Eyed Peas and the Caesars…you get the point.  It was a big deal, you whippersnappers.  It brought color and vitality to an otherwise frigid grey day met with dark icy night.  It brought reprieve to the lab job I worked (read: slaved); brought sanctuary to the cubicle job I held (read: became disillusioned with); brought joy and gratitude with each play of Ok Go’s “Invincible” and “Don’t Ask Me” and “It’s a Disaster” – among several hundred other favorites.

That iPod met its untimely death when I dropped a 20lb weight on it at the gym.  It was pitiful.  I cried at Boston’s only Apple Store (and couldn’t show my face there again…until I bought a Nano in January 2006 – which still accompanies me to the gym).

But I digress.

It was January 2006 I remember best: standing on the platform, waiting for the train at Davis Square, stressing as both the train and I were to be late yet again, sick with anxiety, wondering how many other people waiting there on the platform were in devoured in their own personal hells as I was.  I’d known for three months I couldn’t continue as I was; I’d applied to a full-time law program; I’d applied to a variety of new jobs, new hopes, new titles, new responsibilities: and I waited, the clock ticking. slowly. in. my. head.  There was one particular day I got to work early, stimulated by an idea of Langston Hughes – I’d woken before my alarm, thinking of dreams deferred – and without a glance or word to anyone, sat down in my cubicle, opened my laptop, and searched.  These were the days before absolutely everything was on the internet, and I couldn’t find it.  These were the days before coffee (my birthday, September 2006).  This was a day that I gophered above my cubicle, looked over at a co-worker’s empty chair, and made an executive decision: I’d be right back.

And to the Boston Public Library I went.  To the expertise of a librarian, through the stacks, to just the collection: and there it was.  A dream deferred.  And then I wanted to see Allen Ginsberg.  And then Kerouac.  And whisked away through the byzantine library, surprisingly populated for a Tuesday morning.  I absorbed and analyzed and lingered and with sycophantic pleasure, I pursued, now on the hunt for just the right written words.  The clock in my head stopped ticking, the clock on the wall finally flying after months of dreary monotony.

I returned to work the next day without explanation, I think.  I’m sure there was some laconic excuse – there usually was.  It wasn’t worth sharing the truth, that finally I’d pieced together together the puzzles of my despair.   It wasn’t appreciable, not in such a raw, pornographic form.  All I shared was a singular idea, just before leaving in May.  I thought I’d never feel as free as I did that departing day – turns out the albatross evaporates with every good decision, every good move, every personal stand and victory.

And I love it.

Next anticipated date of freedom: maybe July 30.  Maybe August 8.  Maybe sometime in September.  Consider me in full state of preparation, just like the old days, from here on out.

Breakthrough: 2010

My brother sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review on the Breakthrough Ideas for 2010.  In all, they’re about prevention via innovation.  (An aside: the Hollander children are always reading a quirky collection of articles and reviews.  If you’re up on Google Buzz – or even Google Reader or Delicious, lemme know.  I’d love to see what you’re reading these days!)

In short, here are the top 10 ideas:

1) Getting to the Bottom of Worker Motivation

(Hint: it’s not about recognition – it’s about progress.  Head’s up to managers everywhere: if your workers don’t think they’re getting anywhere in their day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year, they will leave.  I speak from tremendous experience on this concept.  It’s time to abandon the autocratic time barriers to promotion!)

2) Technology to Revolutionize Health Care

(Hint: improving care – and medical records – via remote monitoring, whether through kiosks or through wireless updating.  Think about it.  If our mothers and fathers wore a personal health device that could update daily, or in some cases hourly, and communicated with medical professionals, we may reach the pinnacles of preventative medicine.  Imagine warnings generated to your doctor or practitioner – who can then follow-up with a phone call or office visit?  Certainly there are significant privacy concerns to address, but these technologies have an opportunity to (finally) revolutionize cheaper and more effective preventative care.)

3) Research & Development Centers for the Financial Sector

(Hint: The overwhelming complexity of our financial systems have come to light in the recent meltdowns of lending and spending.  The author here advocates for a system similar to military R&D where research, development and spending are overseen by the government with little intervention.  I hesitate on this one to ask the simple question: how much good are the national security centers doing?  Certainly, what comes out of the centers is relevant and intriguing, but how much of the information is practical as it filters into bullet point policies and procedures?  To me, both systems are nuanced and complex – if anything, the breakthrough idea should be interdisciplinary in all regards, but the increased pressure to ‘see everything’ also lands us to where we see nothing.)

4) Changes to the Big Pharma Business Model

(Hint: business models are a’changing.  Finally.  In just a few years, there will be no need for an alphabet of the same type of drug (at least those in which we understand the mechanism).  By standardizing drug assets – that is, what types of drugs are in the pipeline across partnerships – not only can drugs hit the market faster and cheaper, but more medical conditions can be addressed, innovative developments can be researched and developed, and smaller, advantageous markets can be reached.  One caveat: regulations for intellectual property must be developed.  Sharing is one thing; stealing another.  Whether it be carrot or stick-based, innovation starts with regulation.  Then allow the partnerships to nourish themselves in free-for-all standardization.)

5) Capitalizing Green Technology

(Hint: Much ado in finance and investments is how to capitalize green technologies.  The promises of these technology hold no bounds, but first, as with everything, those with the money to finance such technology development and implementation need to figure out how to get their own ROI.  Enter green bonds, green credits, and a variety of other newfangled investment mechanisms.  This snippet addresses only municipal opt-in bonds, affecting only those who invest in the technologies and implementations.  But the idea is much much larger.  My own idea is larger than this, extending to a new sort of “stock,”  one held at a near constant number and available for purchase/sale on the open market (one location, however) only once a year.  No daily fluctuations in price; steady long-term investment instead, designed particularly for research, development and implementation of green tech.  This idea is already in the oven, the recipe from savvier financial experts.  But this is one of many potential markets for a wholly new investment mechanism.)

6) Lab to Market – Re-thinking Technology Licensing

(Hint: Allowing a monopolistic university technology licensing office has been sub-optimal with dreary results.  This idea allows for inventor-professors to step out and find their own licensor for their inventions, rather than allow them to languish on the shelf.  I find a hybrid system more beneficial than a free-for-all market, a situation to not only improve the university’s licensing process, but also manage a professor’s time to her actual duties – educating and research.  What this looks like precisely, I’m not sure, but certainly it would address the negatives from the university’s monopoly while regulating a capitalistic time-suck from university educators across the US.)

7) Work Hacking – Better Utilization of Tools in the Workplace

(Hint: get this!  You can’t control how your employees perform their work, especially in the name of productivity.  It’s neither practical or possible – and it’s highly likely those employees committed to the company’s higher vision recognize this also.  Should work hacking be unmitigated?  Certainly not!  Hacking comes in all forms – the innocent, the wary, and the sinfully guilty – all of which should be monitored for ethical and legal obligations.)

8) Warning Systems for Economic Bubbles

(Hint: as with anything, the ability to identify problems comes with the tools and data available to identify a problem.  This snippet suggests using current tools with different data pattern identification to find warning signs of an economic bubble – think of dot coms and housing – and prevent widespread bursts.  Combine this with the financial R&D idea from #3 and we’ll not only have more tools, but more data to interpret.  An aside: when combining these ideas, I get a mental image of a guru with a Magic 8 ball sitting in a lofty office…even if that’s what these two ideas are precisely intended to avoid.)

9) Charter Cities

(Hint: Use the Hong Kong model…of colonization?  To me, this is a half-baked idea (great in theory; misguided in practice) and requires WAY more incentive, planning, and enforcement than what’s available for countries facing issues of economic development.  It’s so economic hitman-esque.  While I agree small steps are the way to go in this regard, there are significant cultural barriers to understand and hurdle not in a sprint, but in carefully planned steps to avoid the stank (no, not stink – stank) of nineteenth century colonization.

10) Engaging Non-State Actors via Independent Diplomacy

(Hint: the world is a kindergarten sandbox, full of burgeoning and breakdown alliances.  Some kids play well together; others don’t.  Engaging those lone wolves has proved difficult, especially through the hard-line rhetoric popularized following recent American terrorist events (“with us or against us,” anyone?).  Punishing those who throw sand may not be the best way to keep them from throwing sand in the future; instead, independent engagement through established channels, rather than marginalization, may limit extreme behavior more effectively.  This idea, in a smaller nutshell: established lobbyists for independent, non-state actors, to bridge a marginalized voice with the established channels.  A compelling and fascinating idea – one which adds some shine to an otherwise tarnished profession.)