Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ten Years: Then and Now

The Aughts have been a pretty transformative experience (although each decade has been, of course).  I entered the 2000s from my bunker in West Texas and will leave this decade while ensconced in my Igloo in Montreal (I can spend endless threads juxtaposing those two places). 

So what has changed for me (I will consider more global changes perhaps later):

  • My daughter is approaching 14, rather than 4.  And that is huge.  I enjoy fatherhood far more now than then.  She was not a horrible four year old, but sleeping and eating were still issues.  She is now far pickier about what she wears than what she eats, and I guess that is better.  More importantly, she sleeps.  No more five o'clock wakeups.  Getting her to go to bed is no longer the problem of her crawling out of her bed, but getting her out of oursas she has become addicted to the same shows that we watch. 
  • We entered the decade with one middle-aged dog and one somewhat younger one and are leaving the Aughts with one old dog and one middle-aged cat.  Definitely not an improvement, as we miss Flynn, who was the Fonzie of dogs--just exuded cool and who proved to be quite strategic.  Instead, we have a neurotic dog who is still pretty healthy and a cat that is, well, a cat.  I lost the male ally I had in the house and gained a male that I cannot trust (the aforementioned cat).
  • My tastes have changed just a bit.  I listen to far more new-ish music now than I did a decade ago.  I discovered grunge and alternative rock in the Aughts.  This was spurred first by the paucity of English radio in Quebec and the availability of one station based in Burlington, Vermont.  So, my best music list of the Aughts actually omits a great deal of music that was kind of new to me, but had been around in the 1990s (Blink-182, Green Day, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc.)  I also found myself enjoying more harder rock--Metallica, AC/DC and the like.  My movie tastes have not changed much, although I have less tolerance for romantic comedies unless they are actually good and clever.
  • I spend far more time online, thanks to poker, facebook, and blogging (mine and others).
  • Professionally, my life is completely different:
    • My students awe me most of the time with their amazing backgrounds, their critical minds, their enthusiasm for the stuff.  My students back in 2000 mostly just wanted to borrow my pen or my phone or get directions.
    • I have herds of graduate students doing all kinds of interesting work, and they have greatly assisted me in my work.  Back then, I had one graduate student and the rest at TTU avoided me (I had standards).
    • I am no longer so worried about being left out of various "reindeer games" as Montreal is far less isolated academically than Lubbock, and as I have developed a higher profile than I once had.  The political science rumor mills online spell my name right, so I must be doing ok.  It has been a good decade for publishing (two more books than the previous decade!), but review processes continue to make me work hard.  
    • I started out the decade with one research partner (the non-terrorist Bill Ayres) and now I have so many that I have lost track!  Co-authorship has become my usual approach these days, as my research agenda has moved from a single strand to a variety of questions, from just the International Relations of Secession to the impact of institutions on ethnic conflict to the sources and solutions to civil war (just reviewed here) to the limits of irredentism to the dynamics shaping how militaries are controlled in far off operations in Afghanistan.
    • I have had significant resources that have allowed me to hire a bunch of students, to travel to Europe and next year to Australia.  The Canadian military flew me to Afghanistan.  So, I have seen far more of the world the past ten years.
    • I have far more media experience.  I can still get things wrong, of course, but I say them better, I think.  Not that much interest in Lubbock for those things foreign.  But in Montreal and Canada a great deal, especially since my ten days in Afghanistan make me an expert on the country's foreign policy focus.  Ok, not really an expert on Afghanistan but on NATO's mission.  So, I can be asked questions that I cannot answer, but can answer some of the stuff.
    • I am more interested in the policy-relevant side of the business.  Rather than just talking to only academics, I am more interested in getting my messages, whatever they are, out to the folks who make the decisions.  Perhaps a year in the Pentagon made a difference.
  • Indeed, one year in the Pentagon made a big dent on me.  I am still a shaggy, frumpled academic, but the jargon I learned has not left me (outstanding!) and I have developed new research interests (civil war, civil-military relations, etc) as a result.  And a deeper appreciation for what others do for the Greater Good.
Consider this post a first draft, as I am sure other stuff will come to me.  How have you changed over the past ten years?


Steve Greene said...

I haven't changed. I'm exactly the same. At least in that, unlike you, I'm far too lazy to spend this much time being self-reflective. A shame, as I certainly really enjoying reading these reflective posts of yours.

Francois Caron said...

Changing country does certainly make ourselve a different man.