“Accelerating economic, technological, social, and environmental change challenge managers and policy makers to learn at increasing rates, while at the same time the complexity of the systems in which we live is growing. Many of the problems we now face arise as unanticipated side effects of our own past actions. All too often the policies we implement to solve important problems fail, make the problem worse, or create new problems. Effective decision making and learning in a world of growing dynamic complexity requires us to become systems thinkers—to expand the boundaries of our mental models and develop tools to understand how the structure of complex systems creates their behavior.”
John D. Sterman, Business Dynamics — Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World.
Innovation — Charting New Paths
By nature, I'm a listener and a problem solver. The two go in that order. It doesn't get you far to solve the wrong problem simply because you didn't take the time to listen. I also learned years ago, as a user consultant (and carry today into other consulting activities), that some people solve their own problems if you simply listen. They'll slow down and organize their thoughts for someone attentive in a way they don't do just for themselves. About midway through their problem explanation, there's this sudden, “Oh!” It pays to listen, however, even when it goes beyond that and particularly when, like I do, you keep a finger in a number of different pies. Innovation often comes from walking the boundary lines of concepts and disciplines. Often the parts and pieces already exist, but a change of perspective needs to occur to reassemble them in a new way. The late strategist John Boyd used the analogy of creating a snowmobile. The parts existed in other mechanisms, but analysis (disassembly) and a new synthesis were required.
Given the modern explosion of recorded information, being a Renaissance person in the strict sense has become impossible, despite my polymath inclinations (see my résumé). There is a practical limit to how many vocations and avocations one can pursue simultaneously while maintaining close participation and connection with family and community.That said, my graduate degrees in “Applied Science” were a shot in that direction; an indication that I've always found it more interesting to be the cat that walks the fences between knowledge domains rather than to own the backyard of any single domain. There is a trade-off, however, in the depth an interdisciplinarian can achieve in any single area. There are only so many hours between one sunrise and the following one — the Earth continues to rotate and, short of moving to a planet with a longer day, I abide. I've long had to prioritize the immediate focus of my efforts, letting the rest lie fallow for a time until it's again their season — boredom is only a problem when my mind and body mutually insist that I take a break from pursuing both physical or mental interests.
It was the range of my interests that led me into physics and applied mathematics, into being a massage instructor, writer, activist, web designer, folk dancer, runner, and backpacker. It was participation in that diversity of endeavors that gives me a broad viewpoint. It is that same range of interests that is now leading me to focus more on science writing as I transition from being a “kept physicist” into being an interdisciplinary freelancer and wordsmith mercenary. The old feathers no longer suffice for the journey, hence I'm in career molt while the new ones grow out. Part of my change process was taking the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop at the end of May 2007. That experience and input, however, was placed on top of years of writing a column for Massage Today, organizational experience with helping to start the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) in 2005 and continuing work as co-chair of the Massage Therapy Foundation's best practices committee on developing a process to create evidence-based practice guidelines. Part of the transition will also develop some new sections and cotent for this web site. Bear with us while some of the site organizaton shifts a bit and some newer pages that are still stubs take on their intended content.
Previously, I've spent a large fraction of my days pursuing nuances of atmospheric physics and applied mathematics. As scientific interest probed into more complex systems and computer facilities increased to meet the challenge, simulation became a third branch of science to join with theory and experiment. Applications for simulation range from studies of climate into the dynamics of populations into interactions within the human body and nervous system. Due to the many interactions and reflex loops, medical simulation may eventually shed more light on interactive systems than any experiment that can be performed physically. Science News had an interesting article on “In Silico Medicine” in the 14 Dec 2002 issue. Michael Batty, of University College London, has an intriguing book on Cities and Complexity.
It generally has come as a welcome change to turn from the ongoing and often relentless physics project schedules to instructing a highly motivated class in the art and practice of sports and deep tissue massage. Beyond and underlying the essential techniques, there are the very much in the present nuances of communicating through touch. In becoming a massage practitioner, one takes on the mantle of becoming a kinesthetic role model to clients and acquaintance and the responsibility of facing one's own dragons regarding touch and our existence as embodied human beings.
As time permited, my I've let my feed carry me onto a dance floor to either form a set of couples for the interlaced patterns of a Scottish Country Dance or to practice the delicate Scandinavian dance art of turning with a single partner. There's more on this under the “Dance” navigation section.
If you can walk, you can dance; If you can talk, you can sing — Dinka Sudan proverb
Winter solstice music -- With my two sons and wife all actively taking music lessons, my own dabbling with my recorder has increased in frequency. I've also been prompted into playing around with midi sequencer programs a bit with the following results included -- Land Beside the Sea & the Abbots Bromley Horn Tune. If massage licensing ever comes to California despite my efforts, I already know that I'll both leave the world of massage behind and spend a lot more time with playing and music theory. This universe is a place with many fascinating facets.
Along the way, I've collected a few recipes worth sharing. Mostly these are the kind of things that can be made in a large batch to keep the wolf from the door for several days.