Music lover, history buff, Mr. Fix-it – Getting to Know Bruce Kisliuk

Bruce Kisliuk, then Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Patents, April 2011 at a USPTO clean-tech stakeholders meeting.

Bruce Kisliuk, then Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Patents, April 2011 at a USPTO stakeholders meeting.

Where we left off my conversation with Bruce Kisliuk he was laying out a prediction that wasn’t particularly rosy. Kisliuk ended part 2 by saying what we unfortunately all know to be true — those with more financial resources have advantages, and the system seems poised to survive although not thrive any time soon.

This led Kisliuk to pivot the discussion on a dime. The remainder of our conversation focused on those fun, get to know you type questions that I frequently ask at the end of interviews, this time with a heavy music flavor.

Without further ado, here is the final segment of my interview with Bruck Kisliuk.


KISLIUK: Let’s talk about something — is there anything fun to discuss, Gene?

QUINN: Something fun? You want to do a handful of these fun questions to end the interview like I do sometimes to get a little bit a more personal look at who you are?


QUINN: Okay. So what is your favorite hobby?

KISLIUK: Bicycling.

QUINN: Okay. And what is your favorite sport to watch and then what is your favorite sport to play?

KISLIUK: College basketball is my favorite sport to watch. To play? Well, it used to be basketball; I’m too old for that now, so bicycling — if I can say bicycling is a sport to play and a hobby.

QUINN: All right. And which college basketball team or are you just a fan —

KISLIUK: I follow the Maryland Terrapins although I actually went to Lehigh University. I’m a local, I grew up not far from the University of Maryland, so I’ve been a lifelong Maryland Terrapin fan. And looking forward to a big year.

QUINN: Okay. So what kind of stuff do you read for pleasure? Do you read books, do you read magazines, do you read the newspaper? If you’re going to pick up something to read for pleasure what is it going to be?

KISLIUK: I read on the metro. I carry my iPad with me, so I read a lot of articles. They’ve got some neat new things on iPads, like News for You –you pick topics you like and get current news and magazine articles. I read books occasionally, I prefer non-fiction. I’ve read a couple of the Lincoln books, Team of Rivals was one, which was fantastic. I just read a book about the Wright Brothers, it was really good.

QUINN: Do you have a favorite author?

KISLIUK: Since I just read the Wright Brothers book, i will say David McCullough. I also like Doris Kearns Goodwin. She did the Team of Rivals which was a very good book about Lincoln and his cabinet.

QUINN: How about movies? What’s your favorite movie?

KISLIUK: This is tough. Well, my all-time favorite is Godfather II.

QUINN: Godfather II and not I?

KISLIUK: Yes, De Niro as a young Vito Corleone was great, I think better than Godfather I. And a close second, you’re going to laugh on this one, is Forrest Gump. I like the historical references and humor in that movie.

QUINN: Yeah, it is one of those movies that’s kind of — it’s funny, you know, it’s probably more funny the more often you watch it, right?

KISLIUK: Exactly. I laugh hysterically when I watch that movie.

QUINN: Okay. How about favorite fictional inventor? And I can give you a couple of choices if you —

KISLIUK: No, I know who mine is.

QUINN: Okay. Who is it?

KISLIUK: Because I like James Bond movies, actually a Sean Connery James Bond fan, so my favorite fictional inventor is definitely Q.

QUINN: Really?


QUINN: He is always on the list and when I give the list he’s always on the list and I think you are the first person —

KISLIUK: Oh really? Am I the first one to pick Q?

QUINN: I believe so.

KISLIUK: I’ve read a lot of your interviews because some of the people are friends and past colleagues of mine. I recall Dr. Brown from Back to the Future is a popular choice, but I’m a James Bond guy so I like Q.

QUINN: And Sean Connery is your James Bond?


QUINN: I would have to say he’s my preferred Bond as well.

KISLIUK: I notice, Gene, in your interviews you never ask people about their favorite music– you must not be a music guy.

QUINN: I am. I like music a lot so what kind of music do you listen to?

KISLIUK: Now that I asked myself the question, right?

QUINN: Yeah, go ahead.

KISLIUK: So my 1970s roots are going to come through little bit here. My all-time favorite band is the Allman Brothers, also like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I do like some more modern — not really current because it’s probably 90s — but I like Pearl Jam too.

QUINN: Yeah. It’s funny that you mention it because I am a music guy. A long time ago invested in an independent record label which is a good way to lose a lot of money quickly.

KISLIUK: Okay, we’re going to have to talk about that sometime.

QUINN: Yeah. You’ll have to interview me on that one.

KISLIUK: I can’t wait. Give me a guest blog to interview you on your music history.

QUINN: Yeah. And then this summer I did what I called the Firecracker 25. And it was on what I thought the top 25 songs of all time were.

KISLIUK: Oh, nice.

QUINN: And one of the things that somebody pointed out was that they could pretty much tell how old I was just from looking at those.


QUINN: Because your idea of what is great music kind of gets solidified at a certain point.

KISLIUK: Yes, music is very much an era thing. My junior high, high school and college years spanned the 70s. So that was my heyday of music. Even today when I hear those songs it’s like oh, that’s a great song…

QUINN: I tried to keep my list true to who I am and true to the most played songs on my iPhone — I use my iPhone as my iPod but —


QUINN: I’ll throw this one at you because this may be from your genre, your years as well. I had as my number one song Werewolves of London.

KISLIUK: Oh, Warren Zevon.

QUINN: Yes. And part of that was I’m a Warren Zevon fan. I don’t know that if you put me on a lie detector I would say that’s my favorite song of all time, probably not, but I think it is a little bit unfair that Warren Zevon’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

KISLIUK: Yeah, it was sad when Zevon passed away. You know my favorite Warren Zevon song — I do like Werewolves of London — but my favorite one is Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.

QUINN: Oh, that’s a great song.

KISLIUK: It’s got a little story in it, you know?

QUINN: Yeah. And that’s what I liked about his songs, they’re interesting stories and I think one of the things that I always gravitate towards is a story.

KISLIUK: Yes, I agree.

QUINN: On the list — on my list is — and I don’t know how up-to-date you are but I had that song by Wiz Khalifa, See You Again.


QUINN: You know, because it’s a story and I can relate to that and when I hear that song I think of my mother. I was very close to her and she passed away three and a half years ago and to me that’s what music is about. Music is about, and art of all forms, not just music, but paintings and sculptures, it’s all about creating that visceral feeling, I think.

KISLIUK: I’m with you. No matter what I’m doing, certain music puts me in a “place” when I hear it. It’s funny because you mentioned words and music. I do like a good tune and a strong band, but I also gravitate to words in music. My wife laughs because she claims she doesn’t ever hear the words, all she hears in the music.

QUINN: Well, she’s got to love this stuff today because they just seem to say the same words over and over. I thought we had gotten past that with the Rolling Stones and what Start Me Up had what like six words in the whole song. But there’s this one song out there and I don’t know how popular it is. I hear it every once in a while when the kids are listening to their latest stations or whatnot and it’s I Really Like You I think is the name of it and the verse is I really, really, really, really, really, really like you. I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really

KISLIUK: How creative, right?

QUINN: You know, it’s like one of those like love letters that you might write when you were like 11 years old or something. So that’s good.


QUINN: Because I am a music guy and I could talk about this stuff, you know, all day long, let’s move past that and get to some of the more important questions.

KISLIUK: But there’s nothing more important than music.

QUINN: No, I think you’ll like this question because you say you’re a history buff.


QUINN: Which person from history would you most like to meet and have a beer with or have dinner with and why?

KISLIUK: Oh, easy. Abe Lincoln.


KISLIUK: Hands down. Yeah, he’s my favorite. I’m also a big fan of the founding fathers. I remember reading the McCullough book on John Adams, which was really good. But, you know, Lincoln — what he did, what he stood for — he’s my favorite American historical figure.

QUINN: And what would you ask him if you had one question to ask him?

KISLIUK: What would I ask Abe Lincoln? That’s hard…I’ve wondered how much he was influenced by what other countries thought of what the US was doing at the time. Looking back historically some say standing up against slavery was one of the things that put the country on the path to true greatness. I’d also like to ask him how he compared dealing with his cabinet members versus dealing with his union generals. That’s a bit of my curiosity about his management style.

QUINN: There’s so many questions you can ask him and they would all be fascinating. Okay, so now maybe a little bit more mundane. Star Wars or Star Trek?

KISLIUK: I’m gonna say neither.

QUINN: I knew you were gonna say that.

KISLIUK: Yeah. I know you knew. When I was growing up when the original Star Trek ran — I guess that was what mid-60s, late 60s?

QUINN: Yeah, I think the late 60s.

KISLIUK: I was watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

QUINN: Hmm. Underwater science fiction.

KISLIUK: Yeah, I wasn’t into outer-space stuff then. I never really got into Star Trek or Star Wars.

QUINN: Really? Not at all?


QUINN: Interesting.

KISLIUK: Odd as that sounds. We’ve had this conversation, you and I, before about it.

QUINN: Yes, I know we have, but it still amazes me that you didn’t get into either at all.

KISLIUK: What made you interested in science? I know that you are big proponent of the exploration of space, and actually I’m a big fan of your articles on NASA and space.

QUINN: Do you want to tell people why you’re big into NASA at the moment?

KISLIUK: Well, one of my daughters works for NASA as a contractor. She is very involved in space and astronomy and has worked both at NASA headquarters and down at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

QUINN: And I know we’ve had this conversation before but what was it that got you into this whole engineering and science field?

KISLIUK: I’m going to say my dad, but not just genetically speaking. Although I do think people are genetically predisposed for thinking a certain ways, for example, some are natural problem-solvers. My dad was a natural “fix-it” person. He fixed everything himself. He worked on the car — the electrical — the plumbing. And as I was growing up watching him I just felt that’s the way things were, right, so I learned through him and the way he approached things — that anything is fixable, you just have to think it through and tackle it. I kind of fell into that pattern too. I’m an engineer, and both my older brother and younger sister are engineers, too. So it runs in the family.

QUINN: So family gatherings have to be really nerdy?

KISLIUK: Yeah. Pretty intense.

QUINN: So, now that I brought that up, I always refer to myself as a geek or a nerd. Do you wear that too as a badge of honor?

KISLIUK: Oh, absolutely. When my neighbors needed something fixed — it’s a little geeky but — I would grab my bucket of tools and walk up the street. I was proud they would ask me — even more so if I could actually fix it! So I think only a geek would be proud to spend their Saturday helping their neighbor fix something.

QUINN: Yeah, but in the end the geeks are the ones that rule the world.

KISLIUK: I’m going hold that one dear, Gene — the geeks rule the world.

QUINN: So I guess the last question, which I normally ask, is Kirk versus Picard and you probably don’t have a —

KISLIUK: You’re right, I don’t have a favorite. Although I do like — what’s he doing, Shatner does those ads?

QUINN: Oh, Priceline?

KISLIUK: Oh, yeah. He’s funny in those.

QUINN: Yeah.

KISLIUK: He’s a funny guy.

QUINN: That’s hilarious. Not only are you not into science fiction, but you focused on William Shatner as the ad guy for Priceline.

KISLIUK: The ad guy for Priceline. Exactly.

QUINN: Rather than the greatest — potentially greatest — character role of all time. Oh, that’s fun. No, but I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.


QUINN: And this was fun. You know, we get to know you a little bit in these last few questions and that’s what this is all about.

KISLIUK: I don’t know that anybody really cares, but I enjoyed it. My kids will probably enjoy some of it, too.

QUINN: You’ll be surprised. You’ll be surprised, I think. All right, Bruce, well, thanks a lot.

KISLIUK: Hey, Gene, thank you very much.


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