Work Archives

June 22, 2007

Signed with Love

J. and I write a lot of email back and forth. I tend to sign my emails with love.

My office also uses a lot of email.

I find that at least once a day I have to go back and delete the "Love" that my fingers have typed at the end of a work email.

I think this is not unusual. But I had to mention it.

That is all.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:38 PM | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

The American Siesta?

I have been working an odd schedule recently, and apparantly I am not alone in doing so.

We go through our morning, eat breakfast, and then drop the boys at daycare before J. and I head off to work.

I am then usually the first one out of the office, leaving before 5:00 so that I can get home to pick up the boys, have dinner, and do the other fun family things. (They are fun, even when elder son shows signs of turning into a pre-school psycopath.) Then, after the boys go to bed, we work for another couple of hours before we go to sleep.

The way I describe it to my single co-workers is that they will work 10 hours, then go out and play. I will work 8 hours, then play, then work 2 more hours. It is like taking a siesta, only at dinnertime so I get family time.

It appears to be a more and more common pattern these days, as people try to juggle two careers, family time at home, and the long American work week.

Is there a better name than "American Siesta?"

Posted by Red Ted at 08:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 08, 2006

Multiculturalism and Idealism

Blog it to get it out of my head.

I was reading Diane Ravitch's book The Language Police, well skimming it really, and I was struck by something she said about history and history standards.

As she presents them, the history standards that Gary Nash and the crew at UCLA put together for the National Council on History in the Schools are built around cultural equivalence. They open with the paradigm of "three worlds meet" and explain how Native American, African, and European people and beliefs all became part of the new nation. This, sez Ravitch, is a very good way to approach the history of the various people who lived and live in North America, and if that is what we mean by the History of the United States then it will do.

But, she argues, what if the history we want to teach is the history of the ideas that formed the nation. Those ideas did not grow directly out of North America or Africa, but instead grew out of the European Enlightenment and English common law. If we are teaching the history of the nation-state, then shouldn't we give primary focus on the history of the ideas that formed the nation state?

I am writing a high school history course - part of why the blogging has slowed down is that I feel restrained when talking about collaborative work while I will write endlessly about my own personal work. But, I think I can break the academical wall of silence on this one because I am blogging away at a background issue.

I decided to follow the NCHS standards and to start my class with the three worlds meet paradigm. And yet, I have as one of the stated goals of the course, that we will be teaching critical citizenship - the goal is that students will understand the ideals of the American nation so well that they will use those ideals to judge past, present and future people and leaders against those American ideals. An ambitious goal, I admit, but you gotta aim for something.

What Ravitch misses in her op-ed style dichotomy between cultural equivalency and the history of the nation state is that these ideals never existed in a vacuum. They were accepted and articulated by particular people in particular places and then used to help them solve particular problems. And, as these ideas were used and phrased, they had consequences. People from other backgrounds encountered these ideas, adopted them, and used them themselves.

Furthermore, accepting that there the people who form the United States came from three continents and many nations and languages in each continent, does not mean that all have had exactly the same and equal impact on the nature and future of the nation. Far from it. Ideals are tied into power, and power is never equally distributed. When we examine the spread of ideas and ideals, we are examining the actions of particular people, and the consequences of those actions across power boundaries. George Washington warned that the British Empire was planning to reduce the American colonies to the status of "the Blacks we Rule over with such arbitrary Sway." Washington later advertised for the slaves who had run away from his plantation to promised freedom with the British Army. In both cases, Washington was using the language of liberty and power, expressing enlightenment ideals, and mediating between people and customs from many different groups.

That was incoherent - which makes sense because this blog post is a brain dump before I get back to work on how to write about these things without getting caught up in answering Ravitch. The point I am groping toward is that we need to remember that
1, people came from many different cultures, continents, and backgrounds.
2, the nation of the United States is unusual because its founding documents are grounded in the language of enlightenment radicalism and British country politics.
3, this language and these ideals have never existed in a vacuum, but have always been internalized and expressed by particular people
4, particular people mediate their language and ideals across unequal power boundaries, creating a middle ground of mutual accommodation but creating it in a way that favors the people who hold power.

If I can keep that tension between multiculturalism and the ideological basis of the American experiment going, I think I might just create a pretty darn good history class.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:32 AM | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

When Standards go Wrong

I was working with state history standards again today, and I went and double checked one of them.

Arizona 1SS-E20. Describe the aims and impact of the Western expansion and settlement of the United States, with emphasis on:
PO 3. the American belief in Manifest Destiny, including how it led to the Mexican War

Now, maybe I read too much of Freehling’s Road to Disunion and Holt’s Political Crisis of the 1850s but I normally teach my undergraduates that manifest destiny was a partisan issue, not a widely held belief. Or rather, it was a Democratic Party issue that the party was pushing hard during an era when it won a lot of national and statewide elections. Did most Americans believe that they had a manifest destiny to go to the Western Shore? Well, remember that President John Tyler started talking about annexing Texas because he wanted to create an issue that would break apart the Whig party (that had kicked him out) and the Democratic Party (that he had rejected because he thought Andrew Jackson was behaving like a dictator.) He got the idea because Abel Upshar and a batch of folks in the deep south were worried that Texas might emancipate in order to receive foreign aid from Britain.

Manifest destiny, on the other hand, was Polk’s campaign platform in 1844 after it became clear that Tyler had opened up the can of western worms.

I argue that western expansion was driven by the politics of slavery, but remember that a batch of very smart Whigs were pretty darn sure that they could win elections by arguing that westward expansion would undermine American economic development, and that the future of the nation was in the cities of the east and not the wastelands of the West.

This is rambling - a sure sign that I need to stop working and go to bed. But that simple darn assertion in the Arizona standards bugs me because, well, it reverses things. Westward expansion created an ideology of manifest destiny, not the other way around.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

Do not curse the Microsoft

I am convinced that there is a Daemon outside of Seattle who listens for people who take Microsoft's name in vain.

I say this because, after a week where I cursed them a LOT while getting used to MS Outlook, I had one heck of a crash Friday night.

It was a windows crash where my first concern was to figure out if it was a motherboard or a hard drive failure. I finally figured out that, even though Windows would neither boot nor install, the motherboard's control panel looked pretty clean and I should try to swap in another hard drive. The old 10-gigger worked and I was even able to backup my data. I was about to order a replacement hard drive when I realized that the big Western Digital was still under warranty. I started to fill out the RMA and found a link to their diskette-based disk tester. When the hard drive passed the test, I knew that the problem was probably a software problem.

So, Saturday night I rewrote the drive with 0s, then spent Sunday re-installing and patching. I am still putting software back on the big grey box.

I even got an hour or so of work done on Sunday night.

That was a good crash.

Posted by Red Ted at 01:12 AM | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

Ms Outlook

Why is it that Microsoft programs are more likely than ANY other software to leave me speaking "words they never said in the Bible?"

I think it is that the (#*&#$(*& small little buttons, unhelpful help, and #@*&^$&*$^ preference of format over content are just completely alien to the way I prefer to work.

I think Outlook might well be very powerful, but it is reducing me to profanity on a regular basis.

I wish Corel had an equivalent product (and that it could deal with a ms exchange server)

Posted by Red Ted at 03:17 PM | TrackBack

February 22, 2006

Pointy Hair?

I feel like I need to replace the buzz cut with some pointy hair.

You see, the new gig has me jumping from adjuncting straight to middle management. I do not have a lot of experience managing people older than 19. So, I am making my mistakes in public.

Still, it is fun and most definitely challenging.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:48 PM | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

Project management software?

One of the way cool things about the new gig is that I will be doing some project management.

The largest project I have managed so far is my dissertation, and that has gone badly behind schedule.

I want to avoid my inherent scatterbrained nature by doing a Ben Franklin, and acting like the sort of organized person I wish I were. Because I know that I am forgetful, I have been being good about taking the yellow pad from every meeting and then typing up the notes. (Earlier today I discovered that a really cool fairly expensive piece of custom content is going to be coming out of my budget - glad to see it, hope to steal some of the bits to use elsewhere, but now I have another passle of people and tasks to keep track of and I still don't yet have company e-mail!)

So, how to keep track of all the bits, all the people, all the tasks and deadlines? The other folks at the gig tend to use a mixture of Word, Outlook, and Excel and just sort of bash something together. For the moment I have based something together in WordPerfect (chosen because I think well in WP). I think I will wait until I get my email address and my access to the vpn and then will see if I can use some combination of Outlook, Excel, and wordprocessing documents to keep track of everything. That might work, especially if I can get my home computer to talk to their central outlook server.

Otherwise, I think I want a simple task, time, assignment, deadline, status tracker that I can set up on my account out of a sql database or a set of php or perl scripts. Perhaps even some cold fusion?

I think my plan here is to
1, get company email and work on getting outlook set up properly at office (and then at home)
2, if that works, go with an outlook/excel solution
3, if that fails, then look into either creating a web-based system or somehow serving the master excel file out of my ftp directory.

And so to think. (was up late prepping for the presentation that confirmed my next 3 weeks of work and seems to have gotten me several months of project management work. am tired and stupid.)

Posted by Red Ted at 09:02 PM | TrackBack

February 07, 2006

By what I can not say

Work is going well.

I did sign a confidentiality agreement, and I believe in not blogging anything recognizable and not blogging anything you would not be willing to say to the people you are talking about. So, don't expect a lot of workplace blogging about the day gig.

I will simply say that it is fun (at the moment), and that with any luck I am a little ahead of schedule on the contract. But, I will also be losing all my evening time this weekend, and losing some time to daycare problems next week (scheduled day where we have to cover younger son.)

Oh, and I am working on an older PC, although still far younger than my 486-powered laptop that won't talk to modern networks. It gets the job done, especially now that I have installed Wordperfect on it, but it does so without any of the amenities of the home machine. I still get more done there than I think I would manage to get done here.

I have a contract gig - I can work anywhere. I asked them to make me some office space so that I could work at the company's local office. I did so because there are fewer, or at least different distractions there, because I was getting SICK of staying at home and working in this office, and because I wanted to be able to grab people for a quick question while I figured out what exactly I was supposed to be doing.

I do like taking the train in, and I am very happy that the office is just a short walk from the PATCO station. In fact, once upon a time my dad worked for a different company on the upper floors of the same building, and I used to work in the building across the street. I like the energy that comes from being in the city, being surrounded by people, even the train ride gives me a chance to get my head into the day in a way that walking the hound just does not.

We will see how things go, but for now I believe that I am being enough more productive in the office environment that I am willing to eat the Philadelphia wage tax (and the tedious extra book-keeping that goes with it.)

And so to do the dishes and laundry, and then think some more.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

When it rains it pours

When it rains, it pours.

I just got a phone interview for a small college in the rural midwest. It is worth looking into - if they can find J a job within commuting distance we would probably move there. I am just amused because one of their preferred dates for phone interviews is my start date for the high school design gig.

And back to writing. See next (above) post where I will hash out what I am trying to do.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:32 PM | TrackBack

New Gig

Well, I am a mite happy.

I interviewed yesterday and walked out with a gig working on ( hmm, how to say this without violating any confidences ) teaching materials for high school students. I have 2 weeks that should turn into 6 weeks and will then likely become a full year of interesting, annoying, work that will set me up for the alternate career path.

And so to walk the dog on a bitter cold day. Well, bitter cold for Joisey. There are places where 25 dgress f and windy would be considered time to take out the lawn chairs.

Posted by Red Ted at 06:25 AM | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Death to Ernie!

Death to Uncle Ernie!

No, not the guy from Tommy and not the guy from Sesame Street, the bearded fellow buried down in Key West.

I have a temp gig grading highschool papers - don't want to say more because there is a confidentiality agreement.

One of the things were learned during training was that high schools these days are teaching - and grammar manuals are endorsing - the use of a comma as a separator between to independent clauses.

I used to be a notorious offender on this one - early drafts of the dissertation were chock-a-block with comma splices. I now have the zeal of the reformed drunk. Seriously, a while back I was reaching for something to read to the littler man as background noise while he fell asleep (he was under a year at the time.) My hand lit on The Old Man and the Sea and I started in. I could not read it aloud. The run-on sentances that slip under your eye when reading silently become jarring body blows when you read out loud.

And now we are teaching the kids that this is the correct way to write!

But, it is a paying gig and it should help me get a little better at grading papers in my own teaching.

So, I shall stifle the urge to take a shotgun down to Key West, dig up Hemingway, and shoot his corpse just on general principles.

Mostly because I do not currently own a shotgun.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:17 PM | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

Less depressed

I am feeling much less depressed about the job search.

For a while there I was sending resumes out into the middle of nowhere. Since then I have gotten an interview with callback, a phone interview with followup, and a couple of folks asking for my resume so they could pass it around.

And, both of the things that interviewed me seemed like interesting jobs. No details - I don't kiss and tell - but it looked like fun.

The odd part was taking a basic computing skills test. I had told the HR guy that I would do very well on the general aptitude section, do OK on the basic computing skills, and would bomb out on the SQL section. Sure enough, I got to the last two questions, looked up, and asked "can I give you the Fortran instead?" I then hacked out some psuedo-code showing how to approach the problem, and it must have been good enough because they called me back.

You don't see much Fortran in the help-wanted section anymore, although I did notice one company hiring a Cobol programmer.

Posted by Red Ted at 01:57 PM | TrackBack