Tag Archives: Education

Testing The Waters

I have been working (read “struggling”) on my memoirs/autobiography for longer than I care to think about. I’ve managed to write close to 90,000 words and am sure I need to write another 90,000 (at least) in order to feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Some of what I’m including comes from blog posts I’ve authored over the past decade and a half. Now I’ve decided to take a slightly different tack and publish some of my work here in my blog, in the hope I can get some feedback—at least from my friends who sometimes read what I write here. What follows is the first draft of my Preface to what I’m tentatively entitling “A Stunning Display of Intelligence”, the meaning of which is contained therein. If you read this, and have a mind to, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, suggestions, etc. Thank you.


I’ve not been one to toot my own horn, preferring to let my actions speak for themselves. This is, in part, because I suffer from impostor syndrome, or something similar to it. My particular iteration of this syndrome isn’t a cause of great anxiety. It’s more like I’ve always felt everyone knew everything I did and what I knew or was capable of wasn’t all that special. It’s only in the last decade I’ve come to understand how this affected me and began to throw off whatever constraints it placed on my progress and enjoyment of life.

It was the blog of an online friend, someone I have never met in person but, because of our mutual interest in the advent of what was called Web 2.0, as well as social media and its application to the enterprise, that brought me my first glimmer of a deeper understanding. He named his blog “The Obvious” and, when I asked him why that was so he told me it was because his impostor syndrome led him to believe the things he wrote about were “obvious” to others; hence the name.

This work of mine is my way of not necessarily showing off, or displaying my accomplishments, but of sharing my experiences, many of which for numerous reasons I have been reluctant to talk about at all with nearly anyone save for those who were with me when they happened and who helped me plan or plot to accomplish. Some of the things I’ve done, especially when I was young and impetuous, not to mention bullet-proof and invincible, were illegal. My virtue is never having been caught, not necessarily being a good citizen. Although, in my defense I will argue much of those activities might have been illegal, but they were hardly wrong. Enjoying the pleasures of Cannabis is one of them. I will discuss this in greater detail a bit later.

My life, while reasonably normal, has not been all that conventional. By that I mean I’ve done most of the things normal people do, I just haven’t done them in the same order others normally have. I have long suggested I’ve lived a great deal of my life in reverse and I believe I am accurately depicting how I’ve done it. For instance, although I did not attend undergraduate school, I was admitted to law school eight years after I graduated high school, graduating with a Juris Doctorate three years later. Many years after that experience (33 to be exact) I earned a Master’s Degree in Knowledge Management. It was shorty after my 62nd birthday. I have considered getting a Bachelor’s Degree just to complete the backward educational hat trick, but at this stage of my life it’s unlikely. I did some undergrad work at the University of Phoenix and Cal Lutheran when I was working on the Space Shuttle Maine Engine (SSME) program at Rocketdyne. I think I finished a semester at the University of Phoenix and a year or more of work in an adult evening degree program at Cal Lu, but it was difficult to reconcile taking classes designed primarily for 18 – 22 year olds still wet behind the ears. The knowledge I could have taught some of those classes was a bit aggravating too. I will discuss these efforts a little later.

I didn’t become a father until I was 55 years old, when my wife and I, after trying to get pregnant, traveled to the People’s Republic of China to adopt our oldest child. It was a two-year, difficult, and amazing adventure. A few years later, in what I’ve often thought of sarcastically as a stunning display of intelligence, we adopted another child from China. Hence the title of this memoir. Later on I will introduce you to my girls, Fooshie and Typhoon Girl.

A word of caution. As I am writing down my recollections I am also researching dates and locations to ensure my memories are as accurate as one can expect from a seventy-five year old man. I have never been one to exaggerate my experiences, but I know that time can play tricks on one’s memory. I am making every attempt to be accurate, but I realize a few of these memories may be slightly distorted. For instance, I know I was five years old when I had surgery to correct my clubbed left foot, but I’m pretty certain (based on my research of when he played for the Los Angeles Angels) I was five years old when I picked up a foul ball during batting practice and, at his request, returned it to Chuck Connors. I’m not sure I can reconcile being mobile enough to get that ball with having some fairly major surgery done to my foot and ankle. Nevertheless, I have managed to slog through what remains of my mind and am presenting what I remember as best I can.

It is also nigh on to impossible to refer to many of the organizations I worked for or the places I visited and which meant something to me and my development or experience back then, because some of these memories are from a long time ago. As an example, one of the companies I worked for and which played a bit of a role in making my visit to Cuba somewhat strange was purchased long ago and, in fact, was re-branded sometime after that purchase-and that was a long time ago.

A substantial portion of this memoir was written over the past 10 – 15 years and posted on one of the two blogs I’ve maintained since early 2006, when I published my first post at The Cranky Curmudgeon (http://crankycur.blogspot.com/). I posted there for a few years until 2014. I did not publish very often the last few years because I had started another blog with WordPress, which I call Systems Savvy (https://rickladd.com/). My first publication there was at the beginning of 2008. I have since published there sporadically and continue to do so; currently a bit over 700 times, not including saved drafts. Some of those posts were simple, short, and sweet while others were somewhat lengthy and more complex and nuanced. Several of them recount experiences of mine, while other reflect on lessons I believe I’ve learned from work or life.

Long ago I came to the conclusion the only thing that mattered for me, in terms of what I accomplish in my life, was that I gained wisdom. When I first began to feel that way I was only in my thirties and I knew that you can’t just hang out a shingle and declare oneself a wise person. I also knew that wisdom comes with time and experience; some would say after a great deal of false starts and failures too. Whether or not I’ve reached that particular plateau will be for others to decide and I am hopeful you will find a nugget or two buried in my remembrances, especially those that are from the more seminal experiences of my now fairly long life.
I’ve struggled to find my voice for, well, pretty much forever and I’m not sure I’ve managed to do a good job with this memoir.

However, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to believe I can at times sense the hot breath of the grim reaper on my neck and I feel a strong need to get this done before it’s too late. As well, I want to leave some coherent (ha!) record of who—and why—I am for my daughters. They lost two fathers before they were old enough to understand what was happening to them and I want them to have something to hang on to after I’m gone. I am, for the most part, the only father they can remember.

For years I considered writing memoirs about certain parts of my life and experience; mostly my political and counter-culture activities and my becoming a first-time adoptive father so late in life. However, various circumstances militated against my doing so, not the least of which was my inability to just sit down and write, as well as organize my thoughts and memories. In this work I have decided to go through my life and get as much of it down as possible. As I began outlining and organizing my thoughts I found it increasingly easier to link various parts, the sum of which can be confusing when taken all at once.

I have therefore attempted to organize my thoughts in such a way the reader can get a sense of what I have learned from a particular part of my life without having to understand the entirety of it, the gestalt if you will. I think you will find it easy to skip over portions that aren’t terribly interesting to you and still get something of value. At least I hope that is the case. I know my life has been unconventional. Not all of it, but substantial chunks of time and experience. I’ve tried to convey what I’ve learned from those periods, as well as the more normal everyday experiences we all seem to go through. I hope you’ll find it of interest, if not enlightening.


Back In The Saddle

I posted the following to LinkedIn two days ago. It was the first time I’ve posted there in approximately two years. I was very apprehensive about sharing some of these personal details on the site, as I’ve always used it strictly for business, but I felt it necessary to explain to my over 1300 connections where I’ve been for the last two years. I’m gratified to be able to say it was more than well received and I am now jumping back into the fray as carefully (and delicately) as possible.


Hey everybody. Well, at least the people who know me and, perhaps, have wondered where I’ve been. Two years ago, my youngest daughter announced she wanted to drop out of school. She was a sophomore in high school at the time.

Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing and concentrated on helping her deal with the issues that were causing her to feel like giving up was the best course of action. As an older, internationally adopted toddler, she was saddled with some difficult learning issues and has struggled to get through her classes. Fortunately, she has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which allows her teachers and the school to take those issues into consideration.

She is now a senior and is attending a school that is an independent learning academy. During the pandemic lock-down of our local schools, she thrived working at home. She has a problem with other children and having to work with dozens surrounding her has always been a challenge.

Her new school, coupled with a new medication for depression she started taking (and which seems to be working) has tamped down her anxiety, which means I’m not living moment-to-moment awaiting her next trauma and having to deal with it.

So – I’m just coming up for air after two years of trauma, exacerbated by the pandemic and my having been infected with Covid at the beginning of this year. I am still experiencing some long-haul symptoms, but am doing remarkable well for someone my age, with my comorbidities.

I may not be fully functional until next June, when she graduates (God willing and the creek don’t rise,) but I’m working on it and will be spending more time on LinkedIn as I seek a few clients/gigs. I’m deeply thankful I was in a position to spend as much time as I have with her, but I’m really looking forward to having more time to spend on myself and my continuing desire to be useful to others.


Is There A Doctor In The House?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I suspect just about everyone is aware of the flap over an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding our soon-to-be First Lady’s credentials. Written by Joseph Epstein, it’s entitled “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” and subtitled “Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.”

My most recent job was as the Business Manager for a Machine Learning (AI) Software Development firm, the co-founder of which had a PhD in computer science. When last I spoke with her, which was at least a year ago, she was not using her title, which she feared was seen as somewhat presumptuous. I’m not sure how she feels about it now, and I’m inclined to agree with those who see this op/ed piece as misogynistic and hollow. Frankly, I have often wondered if I could use the honorific “Dr.” in front of my name because I have earned a Juris Doctorate (JD) when I graduated Law School in 1976. However, I’ve never done so because the amount of schooling, and the quality of work, required for the degree don’t match up to that of a PhD or EdD. Actually, I tend to agree with those who suggest calling oneself “Dr.” when in possession of a law degree is ridiculous and pedantic.

It’s been discussed at great length by now, torn apart and analyzed by people far better at it than I, but I’d like to bring up what I think is an ancillary issue to that of the rank sexism and hypocrisy that exists wrt men and their seeming inability to accept women as their equals. What I’m referring to, which affects both men and women, regardless of race, creed, or color (though there are differences in degree and approach) is the depth of anti-intellectualism that has come to seemingly dominate our public life.

Just look at how many people are not only comfortable with, but are absolutely adamant about, ignoring science, facts, and reality-based analysis/synthesis. The number of people who believe most scientists are only doing what they do for the money is astounding. It’s likely one of, if not the, main reasons we’re doing so poorly in handling the pandemic here in the States.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Hardly! I recall deciding in the third grade (that would have been around 1955) I didn’t want to be seen by everybody as an egghead, which changed the trajectory of my life . . . and probably not in the best way it could have. I remember feeling at the time that I wouldn’t have any friends if I continued on the path of academic excellence I had been on. Part of me wishes I hadn’t made that choice, though my life turned out pretty well regardless. It’s just that, in retrospect, the decision was made because of the negative view most people I knew seemed to have about being too intelligent; or, at least, being willing to use that intelligence in a positive way.

I believe this is one of the reasons the United States is in the bind it’s in right now. We’re just coming off of a four-year bender with the sleaziest and dumbest President in our nation’s history. He came to power as the result of years of anti-intellectual posturing and reality TV-informed ignorance. I am thankful I have never watched one reality TV show, especially not The Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice. It’s clear Donald Chrump managed to suck a large portion of the nation into believing he was a highly successful businessman when, in fact, he’s a serial fuck-up who managed to burn through tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars given to him by his father.

These past four years of the worst “leadership” of my lifetime has been brought to us by our nation’s well-developed sense of anti-intellectualism. This does not bode well for maintaining our position as a preeminent nation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Our quality of life in the United States is what it is in large part because of our scientific accomplishments. It amazes me so many people don’t recognize the value that science has added to our lives, be it at work, home, or play. Virtually every aspect of our lives is enhanced by science and the products and enhancements it brings to us on a heretofore regular basis. I fear we’re going to lose that edge. Perhaps we already have. More the pity.


How To Be A Patriot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It seems to me that anyone who really cares about their country, who is a genuine patriot, has to care for everyone. Life is NOT a zero-sum game, where the gains enjoyed by others are a loss to you and yours. No, life and human society are highly complex, interdependent systems where every part has a role to play, and when we don’t provide optimal conditions for the health and well-being of some of the parts, the whole body suffers. Would you want your car’s engine to go without one of its spark plugs? While it would still get you to where you were going, it wouldn’t do it as efficiently, nor as effectively. In the end, it would almost certainly cost more to deal with the results of an imbalance in the engine than it would to ensure all its components were kept in good working order.

Yet many approach life as though they are living on an island. It’s difficult to fathom the level of insensitivity, blindness to reality, and the callous lack of empathy it takes to turn one’s back on people who may not directly affect your life in a way you can feel immediately, but who nevertheless impact the organizations and institutions you deal with all the time.

For instance, by not ensuring all children receive healthcare, adequate nutrition, and early education, we ensure our up and coming workforce will be less prepared than they otherwise could be for the kinds of jobs that will be available in the near future. The net result is we not only handicap those children, we also handicap their families, their friends, and the entire nation. By guaranteeing they need more help for far longer than might otherwise be the case, we add to both their burden and ours.

We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self. Instead of understanding, celebrating, and taking advantage of all the ways in which we complement and enhance each other, too many of us turn those virtues into imaginary vices and use them to divide and separate us. What a pity.


For My Eyes Also

California Lutheran University Campus

I’ve begun work on something I have wanted to do for a long time but, for numerous reasons (some of which actually make sense in retrospect) have not been able to accomplish. I’m speaking of writing a book. Actually, I’ve had three books in mind for a few years: One sharing my blog posts; one about the years I spent in the Peace & Justice movement, with special emphasis on the movement against the war in Vietnam; and, my memoirs. I can say with reasonable objectivity, I have had a rather unconventional and interesting life.

Since the beginning of March of 2018, I have been working part-time as the business manager for a small AI software development firm. In doing so, I transitioned from my Mac to a PC laptop in order to comply with the company standards. Today I moved my Mac out into a place in our living room where I can sit quietly and write. Since this is the first time I’ve actually spent a while at the Mac, I have been going through my files and am somewhat pleased to discover there are a lot things I’ve written over the years that should prove helpful in writing (at least) my memoirs. Some of the things I’ve written are only a couple of sentences or a paragraph or two, but they convey the essence of a thought I can expand upon. On the other hand, some of them are completely unintelligible.

What I’m going to do here, however, is use this blog to publish a term paper I submitted 19 years ago, when I was attending classes at California Lutheran University, in their Center for Lifelong Learning offering, ADEP (Adult Degree Evening Program.) It’s 22 pages long, so I’m going to post it in sections, as I wrote it. Today I’m sharing the intro. As I’ve re-read parts of it, I’m reasonably certain some will end up in at least my memoirs, as they are part of my unusual education.

Introduction

Although this paper is being written as part of the requirements for a grade in Organizational Management, its impetus and content are driven by a real life situation at the company I work for, Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a business unit of the Space and Communications Division of the Boeing Company. As suggested in the course syllabus, I selected a subject which I felt had some relevance to my company’s activities and my position within it.

As with many organizations throughout the world, mine is struggling with understanding and implementing the concepts of Knowledge Management. These concepts, and the issues surrounding them, are numerous and complex. As an example, one question which must be asked is how does an organization determine the importance of the information it uses and how does it weight that importance? How does it determine who needs it, who wants it, who might benefit from knowing of its existence, or whether or not it should be available to everyone who might wish to make those determinations for themselves?

Furthermore, there are numerous software developers who are touting their particular method of capturing data and making it available to a company’s workforce. Each of these developers will attempt to convince you their method is best for your application. Of course, this situation is hardly different from that faced by anyone who has to determine what method they will use, or what software they will purchase, for any task. Nevertheless, at this early stage of the game it doesn’t make the task any easier.

I propose, in the following pages, to set forth some of the history of Knowledge Management, from tribal times to today, and the perceived need for Knowledge Management, both in general, and with particular emphasis for my company, Rocketdyne. I will look at what knowledge management means, and briefly mention some of the tools which are being used to develop its use. The definition of tacit knowledge, and the importance of understanding it when implementing Knowledge Management will be discussed, along with a brief look at how we acquire and share knowledge. I will close with a glance at what is probably the most daunting task facing a company which desires to utilize Knowledge Management to its advantage, the need for dramatic cultural change.

Before beginning, however, I would like to quickly explain the nature of this paper’s subtitle, “Breaking the Information Bottleneck”. Here, the word bottleneck has the same meaning we use when speaking of a traffic jam. Most of us have experienced being caught on the freeway when suddenly we come to a crawl or dead stop. Usually there is an explanation for the delay. Sometimes, however, there is no apparent reason.

In the same way that freeways experience bottlenecks, so too does any system which requires the smooth flow of some activity or commodity. On the shop floor, it is generally components, though it can also be tooling, raw material, or usage hardware. In the office it is generally data or information, and when its flow is restricted the organization suffers.

I believe, with the advent of computers, and their widespread use through Local Area Networks and intranets, and with our increasing dependence on technology to solve our problems, we have forgotten how sharing knowledge actually works and, in the process, created huge information bottlenecks which will not go away until we learn once again how to manage knowledge.

Unfortunately, the scope of this paper is woefully inadequate to fully treat all the issues involved in this major change now occurring. It is my hope that I will be able to expand upon and use it to help melt the glacier of resistance which surrounds my organization at present and makes change painful and tedious.


WTF Happened?

I just introduced #WTFWednesday, as in WTF happened, on Facebook. Here is the photograph I presented to my friends that I just discovered in my seemingly never-ending caches of paperwork, photos, etc., that keep popping up. I believe this is my 1st grade class at Chase St. Elementary School, in Panorama City, California. After WWII, Panorama City advertised itself as the “Heart of the Valley,” the San Fernando Valley, that is . . . like totally.

I only know what happened to one of the kids in this photo; the one in the Hopalong Cassidy shirt, third from the right, third row up. The kid with the large, goofy ears. Last I heard, he was still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


Restarting A Knowledge Management Program

Tseng College at CSUN Logo

My Alma Mater

I received my Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the Tseng College of Extended Learning at California State University Northridge (CSUN) in 2009. Shortly afterward, the University decided to cancel the program. Recently, I received a request to participate in a survey being used to determine if it was time to reinstate it.

 
As a result, I not only took the survey, but also shared some of my thoughts about the program and its importance. Today I am meeting with the person at CSUN who is leading the effort to make the determination of whether it’s worthwhile to start up again. I also expressed my interest in teaching a class or two.
 
I’m still quite convinced (at least my interpretation of) Knowledge Management is an important part of how organizations can make the most of what they know and how they use it to further their efforts. It may need to be re-branded, as KM seems to be a term too loaded with baggage, especially the concept of “managing” knowledge. Frankly, I’m not sure, but I’d like to be part of the conversation.
 
I’m not expecting much, but it would be nice if they brought the program back and, even better, if I can play a role in making it truly meaningful and relevant. Far too many think of it as something like library science on steroids . . . and I think that characterization misses the point. I’m of the opinion connecting people day-to-day is far more important than developing a repository of lessons learned and better practices. Not that they aren’t necessary; I just believe facilitating continuous conversation aimed toward more useful collaboration and greater innovation (especially wrt internal processes) holds more promise for most organizations.

How Do You Talk To Children?

Came across this on Facebook and wanted to share it. I have seen adults doing these very things; in fact, I believe I’ve been guilty of it myself, though I make every effort to be engaged with children, especially my own.

I recently attended a new school orientation, as my 12-year-old is beginning 7th grade and it is her first encounter with middle school – we chose to keep her in her elementary school through the 6th grade, which we believed was useful for her special needs. I was very encouraged by the welcoming and uplifting tone everyone at the school took when dealing with the children. Better yet, my daughter’s 1st grade teacher is now the Director of Student Services at her middle school, and my wife told me she’s the only teach she had who didn’t complain about our daughter. Encouraging.

Take a look at this video and see if you recognize anyone; yourself or your child’s teachers or some of the administrative staff at any school. They’re not all like this, not by a long shot, but it’s important to keep in mind how easy it is to dismiss children and affect them in ways that will stay with them; possibly for their entire lives.


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