A Year of Change

Wenton L. Davis

Before leaping wildly into this year's discoveries, I want to apologize for failing to put up anything for 2013.  As most of you know, I had been dealing with a nerve pinch since August, 2012.  You can see here how it was affecting me in February of 2014.  Not fun! So, my 2013 Christmas greeting never got written.

2014 was a strange year.  It started with getting approved and scheduled for surgery to fix my pinched nerve.  I say "approved and scheduled" because the two are even more different that they seem.  See, when the insurance "approved" my surgery, the surgeon was "IN" their network; the "scheduled" day of the surgery, he was not.  This lead to many months of battling, trying to get the insurance company to pay what they promised to pay.  In the end, it was paid (just before Thanksgiving.... 8 months after the actual surgery!), but the real lesson to learn is... for those of you that got insurance under the Obamacare plans, you do not have what you are paying for.  The Obamacare plans and the non-Obamacare plans, even through the same providers, are not equal.  The plans have different networks and different rules governing them.  It is still just one big fiasco, and probably will be for the forseeable future.

Beyond that, I am sad to list the year, 2014, as a year of failures.  I have finally been forced into a position of admitting a great many shortcommings of mine, and I thought I'd address them this year....

First (and second), one of the most difficult failures I have faced this year (or ever) has been in my profssional engineering career.  Throughout my career, I have always thrived on being told, "you can't do XXXXX," and then succesfully proving everyone wrong.  I don't know if it qualifies aon "conceit" or not when I can claim that I have always found a way to do the impossible.  Nearly every bonus or award I was given was for accomplishing the things that were said to be impossible, and finding solutions for them.  Until..... this year.  I was given a project under the "let's see if...." description.  We did find a series of solutions, but none of them fit all of the project requirements.  We could solve one requirement at the sacrifice of another, or we could accomplish the second at the forfeiture of the first, but none of our initial solutions satisfied the full set of requirements.  So, in true "Wentonian" form, I redefined the problem, creating a new theory (and subconsequent project) that satisfied the original set of requirements.  This is, simply put, the trick I have used throughout my career.  Redefine the impossible to make a workable solution.  Think "Kobayashi Maru," for those of you that watch Star-Trek.  (The rest of you can think that too, but it just wouldn't mean much more!) This, for the first time in my career, was the failure I have never faced.  My creative solution was brilliant, and it satisfied all of the initial requirements.  It also, unfortunately, mis-understood certain proporties of electromagnetics.  E-mag was never my strongest subject, and given the number of people that were supporting this research, I was not alone in this misunderstanding.  Still, the group failure did not really lessen the blow imparted by this disappointing stage of my career.  Yes, "live and learn;" and I did.

Second, it seems that I am not Superman; I can not heal by flying to the yellow sun, but at least I don't die from exposure to Kryptonite! After the surgery, I knew I was not going to heal overnight, but in no way was I prepared for the surgeon to tell be in the post-operation appointment that I was going to heal in 15 years.  "Wait... 15? As in... 1 and then 5?" Yes, and the real cool part... I am 30%-likely to repeat this process within 10 years.  Yay, me! But, on the plus side, I only need 600mg of drugs per day instead of 2700mg!

Third, partially a residual effect of the second, is that I am not Ralph Resier.  "Who?" You see... Ralph was one of my professors, one of my favorite professors, during my undergrad studies.  I have tried my very hardest to model him these past 14 years that I have been teaching.  Ralph was a model for dedication and integrity that surpassed anyone I had ever known.  (This is still true, many years later.) I have spent many years wishing I could understand how I could achieve the level of professor he was, and had he not died many years ago, I would have been on his doorstep asking him how he did it.  I also find it rather difficult to thank him.  Perhaps some years in the future, if Christian teachings prove true, I will get that chance.  In the mean time, I can only strive to reach that goal.  However, this will not be done in the roll of "professor," as I have finally come to the conclusion that I am no longer suited to the world of acedamia.  Perhaps it is no longer suited to me? The problem for me is not with the students.... at least... it is not with the students that are willing to work and study.  The problem is actually with the way students come to class totally unprepared! And not just for the lectures; I have had many students earn an 'A' in Electronics 1, then come into Electronics 2 seeming to have never even taken Electronics 1.  They perform complete brain-dumps between classes, and never take into account the concept of "prerequisite material."  This situation becomes exasperated by students that the dean/chair wishes to "help" by letting students take classes based on availability and not preparedness.  But such seems to be the practice in the modern world of education.  "No child left behind," hear you and I, yet years later now, little left but to sit and cry.  Watching some of these kids come into class that gre up in the era where no team is given "first place;" but all are given "participation awards."  This is why I challenge the world by saying that acedemia is no longer suited to me.  So, in November, I formally resigned my post, closing the story of "Professor Davis" on December 28th, 2014.

And finally, although hardly a new revalation as far as "failure," my dating life continues to be just laughable.  I finally went out with a girl, not once but twice, for the first time in years.... and it was..... hmmmmm.... I am not sure there is enough vulgarity in any language to describe it.  We had a great time on the phone and in email, but put is side-by-side, and it was abominable! Several hours each time of teenage-awkward inability to communicate.  Granted, she was from Russia, but she spoke fairly decent English.  Still, it didn't matter because no matter what we did, neither of us could find a way to start (or carry) a conversation.  When even I give up, you know it's bad!

And so, as the end of this year approaches, with horrifying speed, I contemplate my Year of Failures, as I have come to know it.  I question many things, ranging from self-doubts to doubts about many people around me, finding that many of my "friends" have let me down many times over the last few years.  Of course, we are all human, so it is natural to not be perfect, but I have found many people to be far (FAR) less perfect than I choose to tolerate.  Those of you reading this can probably consider yourselves "safe!"

My funny little tree