Banana Stew

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Sad what the Georgia Tech alumni magazine has stooped to

It's just to horrible to describe. See for yourself. (Picture #3)


Friday, June 15, 2007

Advice to Graduate Students

A student of my former PhD advisor (previously at Georgia Tech, now at Duke) recently contacted me and asked if I had any advice or anything that I would have done differently as a graduate student. Now, it's been over 10 years since I received my PhD (feeling old here), so a lot has been lost to the sands of time. However, I did come up with the following tidbits. Good luck.

  1. At some point, most (or at least most successful) grad students start to consider their research as a job, not an extension of college. This happens later for some than for others. I worked with grad students who, 5 years into the plan, still hadn't made the transition. They were still coming in late, taking months off in the summer, pulling all-nighters just before reports were due. And after 5 years they weren't even close to having a thesis. The most successful researchers moved quickly out of this mode and into "job" mode: work 8-10 hour days consistently, avoid distractions into too many other projects that don't relate to your own, set goals and work to them, etc.
  2. Learn about the industry. If you want to be in research forever (I didn't), read the trade journals, go to the conferences, meet the leaders in the field. If you want to move into the industry, learn about what's going on. For example, I was working with what I considered high-speed transmission (155Mbps). That corresponds to an OC-3 in the telecommunications industry, so we called it "OC-3 speed". When I got ready to interview for a telecommunications job, a colleague sent me information on OC-3, OC-12, OC-48, and OC-192 plus the SONET framing involved. It was like reading Chinese - I had no point of reference. I should have been reading up on this industry stuff earlier in the process.
  3. Cultivate relationships inside and outside of your program. By the time you get out, your relationship with your advisor will probably be contentious. You've become a valuable resource and your advisor doesn't want to lose you, you started out as the neophyte and are leaving as the expert in your particular area, etc. Don't expect your advisor to find you a job. Go to conferences (if you can afford them). Communicate with others in the field. Keep in touch with graduates. Sign up for on-line programs like LinkedIn. You never know which connection will be the one that leads to a career. In my case, a former student introduced me to his manager at Fujitsu Network Communications and the rest is history.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In tribute: Greg Abbott

The world lost an amazing man this week. Greg Abbott was, among other things, my Director at Dramatech Theater from 1986 to 1990. This will ramble a bit until (and it may never happen) I get the time to change it from free-flow format to something more designed.

The theater attracts a wide variety of folks with all sorts of personality defects, and Dramatech is certainly no different. Oversized egos, fragile personalities, narcissists, drama queens, budding co-dependents, and more were universally indebted to Greg for his calm demeanor and ability to make everyone believe that they were the most important person in his life at that time. At his wake, one former student mentioned that although meetings at Dramatech (among the crew and cast) could often be laborious experiences, all that was required to lighten the mood and make everyone feel better was to have Greg in the room, smiling his famous smile.

That is certainly my remembrance as well. I may not have been part of the in crowd, and I wasn't wedded to the theater like so many are, and that could have led to a smoldering resentment or outright disdain (in either direction) were it not for the ability of Greg to make everyone feel a part. He wasn't a diva or overly dramatic, but the drama devotees loved him nonetheless. He wasn't full of gravitas or overly serious, but the self-absorbed respected him anyway. And he was funny and disarming, so that no one ever stopped having fun long enough to develop resentments.

It is my belief that funerals are, for most involved, a very personal and selfish occasion. As Mark Twain said,
Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.
Funerals are a time where people think almost exclusively about themselves. (Otherwise they wouldn't be crying, would they?) In that vein, I've spent quite a few hours in the last couple of days thinking about how Greg impacted and intersected my life. And a few more hours considering my own mortality.

A Greg Abbott Story

There are a lot of stories that can be told by Greg's students about activities and experiences at Dramatech, but the story that I will always remember about Greg took place over 10 years after my last performance. In 2001, a group of Dramatech alumni decided to put together a "Friends of Dramatech" reception. It had been over 10 years since I'd been in a show (1990), but I happened to be living in Atlanta at the time and thought I'd stop by to catch up on old times.

Greg approached me at the reception. He looked at me for a second and said, "Wait, don't tell me ... Scott Wilkinson, right?" 10 years later, and he pulled my name out of his head. Of the hundreds of students that Greg worked with, he remembered my name over a decade later.

I can't believe that I'm the only one. My suspicion is that Greg remembered nearly all of his students - hundreds of them. And that is truly amazing. It shows a level of caring for people that I will never be able to match. I can remember the names of maybe 3 people that I knew before 1994 ... and I'm related to 2 of them.


Greg was 54 when he died. Not only is that way too young, but it means that he was younger than I am now when he first directed me at Dramatech. The combination is making me feel very old this week.

Greg left behind a son and a daughter that he will not get to see graduate from High School or college, get married, have grandchildren for him. I have a son and a daughter. It is supremely unfair to take someone away that early, and it makes me angry at God and modern medicine that he was allowed to die so soon. The source of that anger is partially empathy for Greg's family, but mostly fear for my own. I don't want to miss out on my kids' lives and more than Greg wanted to miss out on his. I can't imagine a heaven good enough to make up for that loss, and I hope that's just a limitation of my imagination.

Greg's funeral was attended by hundreds - family, friends of his children, church acquaintances, and many, many students. It made me look at my life and those that I have impacted. If I died tomorrow, how many would attend my funeral? A few dozen? This is the reason that people become teachers. Not to bump up funeral attendance, but because of the tremendous impact that you can have on people's lives. And if, like Greg, you choose to use that power for good instead of evil, you'll get the funeral bump as an added bonus.

So, what am I going to do about it? I'm going to do better about keeping in touch with people who have impacted my life (rather than having to run into them at funerals). I'm going to spend more time with my kids on projects and activities so that I'm more than just the guy at home on weekends. I'm going to get more involved with my church or other community activities. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, I'm going to keep open the idea of being a teacher, for that is probably the most noble and awe-inspiring job that anyone could aspire to.

So long, Greg. I'm sorry I didn't see you more in the last 10 years. It's my loss.


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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

At Least it was an ACC Team

Although it's a shame that it had to be UNC. Growing up in North Carolina, we used to say that we'd pull for the Russians over the Tarheels. (See, in those days Russia wasn't our friend. Go read a history book.)

And I would be remiss if I did not point out that Georgia Tech defeated UNC in the ACC Tournament a short month or so ago.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

So Long and Thanks for All the Thrills

Hear, hear! to this posting on the Georgia Tech Sports Blog that bears repeating.
Thanks to:

Barry Jaquawn Elder
Isma'il Aaqib Muhammad
William Bynum
Luke Dean Schenscher
Anthony Duane McHenry

You will be missed and you will NOT be forgotten!!!!!

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Basketball - she is dead to me now.

Please do not disturb me. I am very happy living in my fantasy world where Georgia Tech plays Wake Forest next weekend in the regional finals and my bracket is worth something more than the source of so much red and yellow confetti.

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Friday, March 11, 2005

It's the most wonderful time of the year

ACC basketball. It just doesn't get any better than this.

OK, it'll get a little better if Georgia Tech wins it all.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

We're Number 4! We're Number 4!

I suppose that's not too bad of an outcome in a conference with Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest, all legitimate #1 contenders. But, man, I thought this was the year to dominate the conference.

At least we'll get a first round bye in the ACC Tournament to rest up for that run to the national championship game.
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Thursday, February 24, 2005

All is not Right with the World

No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No!

I may just go back to bed.

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