15+

In my work blog, I’ve already mentioned that to show appreciation, the simplest, easiest, most effective way is to, well, appreciate something or someone. That’s sincerely appreciate, not appreciate in the Harvard Business Review sense where you learn how to appear sincere so people follow you willingly. I’d like to add that post here because in retrospect it’s become one of my favorites. I’d proposed a demonstration. I write about a few things that I appreciate and maybe, by example, what I was talking about regarding my bauble [ a 15 year comemorative “appreciation” plaque ] will become clear. And if I’m right, nothing I say will be a surprise because I’m merely writing down things that I’ve felt and responded to, in some cases for 15 years. It should all be obvious.

First, Molly Kline. I don’t know anything about Molly. I don’t know if she’s married or single, has kids or not, lives thirty miles away or lives across the street. I don’t know the difficulties she may have just getting to work. What I do know is that Molly smiles. I know that any time I’ve asked Molly a question she has provided an answer. Neither are common reactions to me. Especially considering that Molly provides answers, guidance, and support to quite a few other people in ITS besides me. And she’s been pleasant and understanding about all the crap a bitter old man can dish out. Thanks Molly. When you ask How are you doing? you sound like you actually want to know.

Next, but in no order other than random selection, is the ETS Radar O’Reilly Barb Smith. I know more about Barb. Barb is raising kids, responding regularly to a widespread and complex family, working while her life partner works a different shift, and she still gets to work before 8 am. She stays till after 6 pm. That’s dedication. I sat on the floor playing cars with her boys back when the youngest wouldn’t speak to strangers. We built forts in the hall of Computer Building on Saturdays while Barb struggled to finish paper work that other people’s concerns kept her from finishing during the week. I’ve raised a daughter close to Barb’s kids in age. I understand when Barb says her family is her number one priority, but that just means sometimes you have to make the job take precedence. Thanks Barb. I hope your kids find great jobs, too.

I have known Brian Young for less time than anyone else that I could list. He’s much younger than I am, much more educated—different in a lot of ways, but the guy can finish most of my sentences. He has a daughter like I do. When he talks about her, I feel every word. I feel it too when he talks about the needs of faculty and the promise of education; his work, his dedication, is completely selfless. It’s common sense. Brian speaks with the most passion when he talks about faculty passion: their dedication, their excellence. Occasionally he speaks with equal passion about hamburgers, but really, for the most part, it’s faculty. Really. Thanks for what we’ll call sanity, Brian; you’ve kept the past year bearable.

These are a bit long. Sorry. Nobody has time to read so much. I’ll try to be brief. Or at least briefer.

Kim Winck taught me how to use a scanner. She was an old hand at computer imagery before I knew how to turn a computer on. Ever since then, I’ve been able to depend on her visual sensibilities. She’s organized, she’s meticulous, but mostly she’s an observant eye and an incisive, reasonable opinion. My work was always made better by her involvement. Thanks for all of that, Kim; but mostly for your friendship.

Although Tara Caimi was taken from our group soon after she started 10 years ago, we’ve collaborated several times since. She does her job, I do mine; she respects whatever I do and I have the luxury of being able to sit back and trust what ever she does. What a joy that is. Another artist who wants nothing but to be the best artist she can. Tara, you’ve introduced me to writers like Jeanette Walls, Abigail Thomas, Frank Conroy, and Sara Pritchard and you’ve helped fill my library with wonderful literary gems. Some of them written by you. Thank you.

When I talk about Pat Besong, it’s easy to mention the humor and easy going viewpoint that he brings to projects. Everybody loves it. Unless you’ve worked with him, depended on him, or asked for his help, you might miss his calm resolve, his resourcefulness, and his massive skill set. Pat will always find a way. Thumbs up.

Even though our paths should put us in the same place most of the time, I haven’t worked with Derick Burns very often. He does large scale stuff and I do small scale stuff. He works with a broad population, I work with one professor. He has an easy manor, while mine is often volatile. Yet in the end we see the same goal. Derick achieves with compassion, understanding and humility. I hope ITS gets to tap in to the talents I’ve been able to see during quiet moments talking with Derick. This is a good man. And in any zombie movie, he’d be alive at the end.

What could I say about Gary Chinn that isn’t obvious? Tremendous intellect, excellent taste, wonderful wit, loving family, funny hair there in the front where it sticks up. I may have worked with Gary only a couple of times, but really, to be around Gary is to be understood and appreciated. You make the neighborhood. Thanks, man.

How many years has it been since I’ve worked with Brian Shook? We used to share a cubicle. At 6 am the second floor of Computer Building was empty except for two guys. And we were squashed in a cubicle sitting four feet apart. If you have a daughter, Brian is the guy you want her to grow up to marry. Smart? sure. Driven? that too. But there’s something else about Brian: a warmth? an inner strength? Nobility? Peace?

Regardless of how busy Mary Janzen can get, every time I’ve knocked on her door and asked for help she has stopped to give me help: an opinion, a ruling, an insight in to editorial standards. Very gently, Mary nailed it. Every time. Thanks Mary; lucky for me not everyone knows the depth of your knowledge. Too bad for TLT and Penn State.

TK Lee stops by and when he leaves, I always have more to think about. He doesn’t give me work, just insight. TK thinks longer and harder about the things I think long and hard about. Curiously, it’s often just what I needed to talk about. We’ve never worked together on a project, actually. It would have been epic.

I think it’s important that none of these folks would be surprised by this post. I could be mistaken, but I hope that throughout my lifetime I’ve made positive feelings as well as negative feelings clear enough at all times. There’s no need to hire someone to feed the rabble, and there’s no lexan involved.

moving on

For my family and friends who’ve asked why, especially considering the economy, and deserve some sort of explanation. If this is published before the new year, maybe it will finally be archived, gone, along with the hurt, the sadness, and the loneliness.

I worked hard. For 17 years I was in early and stayed late. I read anything and everything that might apply to what I might be expected to do; and then finally, I looked in to things that might apply if my vision could be fulfilled and I needed to do what I expected to do. I provided illustrations – visual support – for instructional designers. To do that well and be aware of new potential techniques and technologies, I learned pedagogical theory, the use of multimedia in multimedia learning, printing technologies, digital publishing technologies, animation, video, web development. I stayed current, even ahead of the curve so that I could give sound advice and helpful, intuitive assistance. When we all were supposed to blog, I blogged like crazy, sharing what I learned and presenting new capabilities for educators to review and have ideas for learning sparked by my efforts. If anyone asked, I helped: at any time, on any day, for projects that I was assigned to or projects I would never be listed as participating in, on other staff’s personal and family projects or work from other departments. I always delivered more than requested, always got my own regular work done, satisfied all contacts, and managed to share with the larger work group in micro posts and larger blog posts.

I felt that I always did more than what was asked, but it never felt that my work was recognized. A white paper on the Axiotron Modbook and a dozen detailed blog posts had my insights recognized outside of the university, but went unused and unlinked to at home. A special Flash animation developed for faculty was developed by special request when my coworker was bored to death. The animation was picked up by the libraries as a prototype for digital presentation of fragile texts and picked up a $50K grant for the faculty. The work went unmentioned, unlinked to, unreviewed by my own work group. I was asked to develop a lengthy law book chapter of text and multimedia in different digital formats so faculty could test and assess the formats with students. For several months I worked to analyze and produce a series of html, xhtml, pdf, and ePub chapters for testing, demonstrating pros and cons of each, with fairly conclusive evidence that html5 would ultimately be best. I shared the URLs with the work group and faculty, then at our meeting, it turned out that no one had tested, assessed or even took the time to look. I met with faculty, gave one on one support and guidance in downloading the samples, assessing them, and moving forward with the code. She was excited to extend the html version. At our office, I suggested that, since the faculty seemed competent and motivated, our group might loan them an old Mac laptop so they could try iBooksAuthor. The idea was seen as good and very possible. After a month, nothing had happened. I checked emails for the paths of responsibility and asked if there was anything I could do, and I was assured it was out of my hands and in someone else’s court.

Our work space has always been a problem. Some people get awarded large offices while others get cubicles. The directors wanted walls to come down so people could collaborate, but they always went back to their own doored offices. Noise, privacy, focus- all became critical issues. On the weekend before we were supposed to meet with Arts and Architecture students to discuss “space” while at the same time finding time to discuss SRDPs with managers, I thought I’d take conversations we’d been having in the hall to a more public, more creative venue. I made a post to Yammer that perhaps managers could try to find a time to have SRDP meetings in staff spaces finding first hand exactly what the current work environment was and required. Before Saturday evening, our director had nixed the idea saying it was impossible. I answered that that was the point, and perhaps it was good catalyst for an an empathetic discussion? The director didn’t see it that way and didn’t like my attitude. Since I’d been contacted by HR for my advice on the ongoing political tensions in our unit, I sent copies of the conversation with my director to HR- the lack of effective communication between the director and I was on-going: he cosistantly over-reacted, and maybe a meeting could get to the bottom of it. A meeting was set up, I asked my manager to attend as support, but several days later, she told me that she was asked by HR to attend so wouldn’t be going because I asked. I didn’t see a problem, but a few weeks later when the meeting eventually happened, I faced my manager my director and an HR rep all of whom had already met and made decisions with out me. I was a problem. And I was in shock.

The HR rep, on being frustrated by my answering her questions with my questions and my insistence that my blog and yammer posts were intended to have an effect, looked angry and said, “Maybe you just don’t belong in this environment!”

There’s only one acceptable answer to that.

I’d heard that I was being described to new-hires as hard to get along with. One whom I never met prior told me she had a question but was scared of me. Managers were told I didn’t like anything and that they were to give me no assistance. One newly hired instructional designer was walked from cubicle to cubicle being introduced to all of the support staff by his manager, and they skipped right over my cubicle. I could’ve cried.

From April to November my communications with the director amounted to just civil greetings in the hallway. After I turned in my hardware, I still had an experimental digital brush that a developer worked up for my use with an iPad. I though that it was an interesting, creative instrument that I liked but could no longer use. As my last contact with the director, I walked it over to his office, we greeted each other civilly and I set the small, crude wooden brush on his desk. Before I could describe the project, the director shrank back. As I explained the brush’s development and use, the director relaxed and said, “I thought you were giving me a big joint!”

oh well. Like I said. I could’ve cried.

contagion

We have a ban on killing children and it’s failed.

People have reacted, after a fashion; some think we need a more granular banning, Others think we need to meet violence with violence. I think both approaches miss the point. People are killing children. Why?

Society is changing. As I write this, NPR is talking about changes in when young boys reach puberty: 6 months to two years earlier than when I was a boy. Why is it happening? I’m scared of the anger and hatred that I see in Facebook. I thought this past election was one of the most vitriolic I’ve endured, and the chest thumping on social media was difficult to take. Why is that happening? What are these things symptoms of?

From a 1999 paper at Stanford titled The Cause of Crime, its Effects and Rehabilitation

Once the army realized the inability of their soldiers to kill, steps were taken to create a soldier “willing to fire to kill.” The methods worked, and by the Vietnam War, the rate of soldiers willing to kill rose to 90%. Even as these methods are used in the military today to train soldiers to kill, many of the same methods are being found today in society. Through the media and forms of communication around the world, children are being exposed to the military’s methods of brutalization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and role modeling used to train to kill.

A society where we keep children away from violent movies and violent games is fine, but what about the 4 and 5 year olds who idolize and emulate older siblings without any clear understanding of reality? I don’t know. I don’t know the causes or have answers, just an awareness that there is something deeply wrong and we need to do more than nurse our symptoms.

I agree with my friends who react in horror to schools with armed guards; the presence means something that’s difficult to take. But why do we hesitate to guard our children when we readily guard our money in banks? And fast food restaurants? Although I hate the idea, isn’t there a very clear “either / or” in guards for schools? Either we correct America’s trend to violence or we will need to physically protect our children when they are not in our immediate care. Yes it makes me sick, but children being killed makes me far more so. What do we do?

I think one of the first steps is to be better parents. Expect more. Be involved. Let’s start there.

Changes

I’m about to enter the market for a new place to live. About is relative in a college town: with the freshman search for housing and the departure of graduates there’s a cycle that requires a decision on staying or leaving seven months before it happens. So I’m in the market for July. Everything happens in an atmosphere of imminent change.

So far, I’ve been spending a small amount of time wandering around a very small rural community about 25 miles from the roar of State College. I’ve had coffee in their coffeeshop, attended a wonderful event at their art gallery, and sketched on the street. They have internet access, they have a library, they have a bank, a craft brewery/restaurant, some cozy music venues, a laundromat, and one traffic light. One.

I’m not planning on basing my decision on the laundromat. It’s hard to tell if it will be around. But everything else, even the occasional horse and buggy, seems permanent. There’s much more to look at, certainly—an actual apartment, for instance—but so far, everything, including me, seems to be in a good place.