Thoughts from a “Vulcan-Betazoid”

 This morning I posted on my Facebook and Twitter pages that I had been called a “Vulcan-Betazoid” as part of an “intense discussion” earlier this week.  I ended the post by saying “I think I’m flattered!” Several comments of interest came in. One person said that if I were a Vulcan, I wouldn’t be flattered! (So true!) Another friend just came out and said that flattery was illogical. But perhaps my favorite was a statement saying that if I were a Betazoid, I wouldn’t have to think about whether I was flattered or not.

I find the whole discussion interesting, especially since the term “Vulcan-Betazoid” is intriguingly oxymoronic. Trained as an engineer and scientist, but a lover of music and literature, I’ve always said that I am right-brained, but “left-brain-trained.” In other words, I may not take books on ill-posed problems and algorithms on a beach vacation for “pleasure-reading” (you’ll have to ask the Mr./Dr. T. about this one!), but I’m not afraid to be in a conversation about semiconductors or signal processing. Afterall, my favorite math class was differential equations. (Do I remember it now? No. But that’s not the point of this post, right?)

I find that as I get older, my keen awareness for logic seems to be growing. I filter out explanations that don’t make sense and I challenge excuses for mistakes that were clearly avoidable. So, perhaps there is a little bit of the Vulcan mentality there. (I wonder if my students detect this?) But then I am driven by the ancient passage “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” and I generally try to put myself in other’s shoes to feel how they are experiencing a situation before I make a judgement that will have a severely negative on affect them (e.g., cutting off funding, firing, giving a negative evaluation, or giving the dreaded “C”, “D”, or even “F”.) Even when I was a professor, I gave students every opportunity to try. But I did give F’s when there was clearly no effort. Even then, I tried to see if there was something else going on in the student’s life that would cause them to earn such a poor grade.

I’ve had varied experiences. I’ve been in engineering meetings and thought, “Wow, we should really take some more time to look at the problem from the human side.” But then I’ve been in meetings where there were few to no science and engineering people and thought “Let’s just get to the solution; it’s so clearly obvious!” Above all, I try to respect my colleagues and students. I try to see things from their side so that I can understand their thoughts and subsequent actions. But I also like to cut through extraneous rhetoric so that we can arrive at a mutually agreeable, workable solution.

So Vulcan? Maybe a litte bit. Betazoid? Perhaps a little bit more. And, yes, as illogical, and oxymoronic as it is, I accept the description, and I am flattered. Do you feel me?