The Adama Publications (adamapubs) site is somewhat a serendipitous accident; I had been laying out a top level scheme; for my music company’s web site, adamamusic.com, drawing it out on a large white
envelope recycled from some company correspondence. I suppose in the same recycling spirit I’d had the idea to recycle some of my earlier work as a writer, or at least organize it, just to think about
what I had written, considering other projects I had thought of, but not yet finished.
There are always so many “rabbit trails” to go chasing down, that we, like the dogs in the woods, are easily distracted and prone to overcommit in the passion of the moment.
When I was done, it struck me that while I’d started out thinking of the web site as a music site, but with some “oh by the; way, here’s some written stuff too…”, it was more like “here’s a writer who
does some music too.” Okay, I guess I can live with that.
As a Gemini, I’m supposed to be versatile, and I’ve always had interests in many different areas, some in tension with others, at least superficially. I don’t like being put in the convenient little
boxes with labels categorizing every thing they’ve thought of by now, (who knows how many categories they might still be missing?) so even as a writer, I have done things in several different genres or
areas of interest.
As a child I wanted to be a Rocket Scientist, grew up taking things apart and putting them back, very directed at becoming an engineer.
During my days at UT Austin Engineering, in pursuit of an ME (Mechanical Engineer; actually my second pass at it after my Air Force days in data processing; I returned to Austin in January, 1971.), I was
watching some people marching by outside one day, protesting something, Vietnam probably. With something of a start, I thought to myself that it was odd that I had no idea what exactly the protest
involved; odd, real odd.
Like all technical curricula, the engineering catalog specified nearly the full four plus years’ worth of courses, with one or two electives in the final year (130 hours then). They suggested something
fun like “Linear Algebra” if I recall correctly, for those electives. No time for much in the way of “what’s going on out there in the world” except as how it would apply within engineering. It’s a
tough program, and many drop out for academic reasons; many opt for the business school and other less math intensive programs.
As part of the “regular” public, I’m glad that it is tough and that licensing keeps only the best and brightest out there on our behalf, so that our buildings stay up, bridges don’t fall, etc.(I made it
through Differential Equations my last semester, not flunking anything. 8) But, I realized that while the engineering world could tell you how to build a weapon, and teach you how to aim it precisely, it
couldn’t (and didn’t pretend to) tell you who to aim it at, nor why.
Those decisions are more (at least in our society) the realm of politics, acted out by the Congress, President and courts. The other major area in our U.S. scheme is the press, the so called Fourth
To the extent democracy itself is real in our society (another discussion entirely), public opinion is of great import; to the degree it is shaped and manipulated, the media collectively is the key
factor, counterbalanced by legislation, court rulings, etc. So who is supposed to be the advocate for the public interest?
Even the corporations make a pretense at being interested in the public good these days, and to the extent that “enlightened self interest” is part of their company philosophy, it’s a good thing.
While our political types are public employees, and are supposed to be working in our interest, it’s essential to keep an eye on them. That’s the job of the news media (I have hypothesized that there’s
now a “Fifth Estate” that is all of the collective public interest groups, e.g., the Nader groups, Common Cause, etc., that certainly do factor into shaping public opinion these days
.Back in high school (Lanier HS, Austin, Tx 1966) my English teacher Mrs. Dorothy Oswalt had asked me one day after class if I was going to college or what? After I told her I was going to be an
engineer, she said “too bad, you’d have made a good writer.” I’d kept that remark back there in my mind all those years, and pretty much believed it I guess, so after a year and a half doing
mechanic work, etc., (After dropping out of school altogether, partly from exhaustion; another set of stories to be sure.), I wound up transferring over to the Journalism school as I went back to
UT, the third time around. This was in fall 1974, when the lessons of Watergate were fresh in our awareness. Woodward and Bernstein were giants,had brought down a President and his knaves.
“What did he know, and when did he know it?” spoke to Richard Nixon’s direct knowledge and therefore culpability; nowadays it’s in the language, more or less formally.
While doing Mobile Mechanic, I had taken advantage of some forced leisure at home (i.e., waiting for a part etc.) by watching the actual Watergate hearings, and like many, got hooked. It had been an
incredible exercise in democracy in action, a real time cinema verite of sorts. Absolutely stunning performances by Sam Ervin and others, recalling a heroic Spencer Tracy in “Inherit the Wind”, but of
course, this time, it was for real, and the country itself was at stake.
So a lot of us wound up in Journalism, putting our youthful idealism into some kind of action (or at least that’s how it seems some 20 plus years later 8). As a U.S. Government trained computer guy, I
gravitated toward those kind of student jobs (I had had a full time job computer operator job, overnites, during my earlier 71-72 stint at UT.), so I kept my hand in the game just in case. Good thing, as
things developed: my last year in J-school (1977) I heard the statistic that there were some 100,000 journalism students in the U.S., but only about 2,000 jobs. After some brief forays in that job
market, I wound up back being a computer operator in Denver, though that period also gave me the sort of time and space needed to try starting a News Service of my own.
I was too dumb to know how many of the rules I was breaking, but eventually, the lack of interest shown made me think that the thing was not going to make me a living, so I dropped the effort (but
some of the pieces are here). My specialty while at UT was as the “Energy Writer”; being shortly after our first official US Energy Crisis (gas lines, etc.), there was a lot of (mostly bad) press about
the topic. Having a technical background, I was more able than most writers to make sense out of the discussion. My other favorite general area is public affairs. I assigned myself to cover the Austin
City Council meeting, every week for about 3 years, actually outside of any schoolwork (although I let the political types assume what they liked), just to see what was really going on in my hometown.
My luck was to be there as the (highly) progressive (Mayor) Jeff Friedman council took power. For the first time (my impression), decisions were really happening out in public during the council meetings
rather than in private closed door meetings. That was about the time the Open Meetings (Sunshine) laws were coming into effect, which is a foundational issue for journalism, but Austin was already
doing it. Highly educational, and like the man said, you’d really rather not know how sausage, nor law, is made.
I came away with an upfront and personal knowledge of how things worked in Austin, Travis County and Texas (easy access to all three levels right there in town), with some national and international
conferences facilitated by the LBJ School of Public Affairs. It was also eventually obvious why so many in the journalism game get to be cynical old (sometimes young too) drunks: it’s kind of depressing
to discover how much of our system is “just for show”. So much of what gets decided and done is a result of quiet deals done in quiet places, with a charade of sorts for the public eye.
Partly because of that, and partly because I began to feel cramped in my (journalistic) observer-only status (it’s considered to be unprofessional to push your own causes via your reportage), but
certainly cemented by the more attractive prospects back in the computer arena, I left the field.As I often say though, I use the skills every day (even as I write this too!), being the master of the two
minute memo, email, etc.
While working at a subsequent computer job at CU Boulder, I got my masters in Telecommunications (CU Boulder,1982,which involved doing a thesis, included on the site. The first part of it was also
published as a magazine article in “Cablevision Magazine” in 1982. The thing that’s cool about the Internet is a function of what H.L. Mencken once said (paraphased):
The power of the press belongs to guy who owns one.
So, it means that anyone can own a printing press on the Internet, and with that inherent anarchy comes a mixed blessing, an absolute plethora of every kind of word eruption, some good, some bad, some to
your taste, lots not, etc.Probably the only thing that’s roughly equivalent would be the massive pamphleteering of our own Revolutionary period, many of which were published anonymously (e.g., Tom
Paine’s Common Sense, etc.)So herewith, a very eclectic collection of my own writings about things great and small, some still in draft form, others finished, some in between and some just as
As majordomo of the whole shebang, I reserve the right to make updates as time goes along. As with music, it seems I have a certain amount of compulsion to get some of these things off my
chest, somewhat like doing a data dump to hard copy, which (like writing songs for me) seems to serve some therapeutic function. Until or unless a deal is reached with someone to put out any of these as
a physical book (which will get to be more of a commonplace as we go truly into “Internet time”), the texts are available only online.We do intend to formally publish some as “on demand”
paperbacks, probably via Amazon or one of the large national copy chains as demand warrants.
This text and everything else on this site is copyright 2003 (for now), by Ernest Wylie Harkins. Please mail comments, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are four basic areas of interest to me that have resulted in something to publish, or at least something to say, with; a fifth for miscellaneous. Hopefully, there will be something of use to the
MS Thesis (CU Boulder, 1982)
Computer Management with Unix tips (in progress)
CM (Change Management/Configuration Management) stuff (future)
(with all apologies to Frank Zappa) A Metaphysical Cosmology (1977)
A Personal Belief System (in progress)
Fathers I Have Known (2002)
How to Go to College without Going Crazy (future)
Daily Texan clips (1974-77)
E-Syndicate columns (1978)