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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Love of Teaching

In the mid-1970s I began to teach my first classes, television show direction, in the large Council Rock High School television studio. Mr. Metzgar, our TV teacher, allowed me to begin instructing other students how to compose shots with our black & white television cameras, how to use the complex control panel to mix or fade in and out, and how to run the 2-inch video tape recorder. My experience as a photographer was one reason. My total comfort with electronics and technology was certainly another.

Mr. Metzgar was once the stage director of the television program Hollywood Squares. He told me the job was more like being a babysitter for spoiled movie stars. He lost his job, with everyone else, when there was a fire on the set. Being a public schoolteacher paid less but was steady work with better benefits, including a pension. He had a family.

I was chosen to be the morning news announcer for WCRH/CRTV morning news, along with senior Petie Chesner. We wrote many of our own news stories and broadcast all the high school team sports scores. I often got too creative in my writing so editors trimmed down my verbiage. I seem to recall we only had 15 minutes over the high school closed circuit TV system. 
Mr. Stringer, the high school principal, often interrupted us, handing over a special announcements while we were live on camera. Other teachers did likewise.

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I got to know Mr. Stringer very well and worked directly for him as the auditorium stage director for all four years. That job entailed running the lighting board, the film projector, the sound box and setting up lots of chairs. I positioned Leiko and fresnel stage lights, including placing color gels on each, out on the three catwalks.

My work in the television studio complimented the stage manager job. The most important part of both roles, for me, was getting to teach other students. 


I went on to teach manufacturing skills in California, tropical agriculture in Puerto Rico, India and Haiti. I became a full-time business instructor with JCPenney in 1983. On the side I was a computer consultant, after my cousin’s husband, Len Lankford, taught me how to consult. The peak of my consulting career, so far, was 4 international years with Cambridge Technology Partners. To this day I am still a computer consultant, a technical instructor and a photography teacher. Last year I taught 600 Maryland State Election judges how to conduct a U.S. Presidential election

Monday, June 12, 2017

Not LinkedIn Overseas

I'm amazed how often major Internet tools are left to decay by their development teams. LinkedIn is just the latest site to show signs of neglect. I realize they don't make enough money to have any technical support but somebody should still be minding the store!

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I travel overseas frequently but now version 9.1.33 of the LinkedIn app no longer works overseas. My Internet connection works fine. The website version works fine and allows sign-in with my same credentials. The iPad and iPhone apps suddenly act like I've never had an account. This happens in Puerto Rico and France too so I know it is not related to Panama. The app does not accept my credentials or prompt for the usual Pin code. My account had not been compromised as other users experience the same frustration. I'm also surprised to learn they have no online support whatsoever, other than a User forum. As a result LinkedIn will never even know they have an issue. This is as bad as Apple, another large tech firm showing signs of decay. General Motors would go out of business without excellent customer support.

My major corporate clients tell me this is always the case for them. The app is only for U.S.-based usage, several of them say, due to security concerns. This issue cancelled an entire training session for new, young banking professionals in Panama today. The VP of the bank advised he has discouraged his team from using LinkedIn for this very reason. It was once useful but now is only a waste of time.
Years ago LinkedIn was reliable and a useful business networking site. The suggestions from my international training clients indicate that it went downhill overseas after a major hack a few years back. Inside the U.S. it works fine, outside you can rarely get logged in or stay logged in long enough to get anything accomplished.


In order to grow, U.S.-based firms often fail to understand that international growth is where it's at. I began to offer international training services, in addition to serving my U.S customers, in 1986. Both customer bases are still growing but income from overseas assignments is always a reliable and lucrative source of income. The work actually compliments my U.S. training sessions. A firm once as large as LinkedIn definitely should already know this. My concern is that Microsoft is simply neglecting their acquisition or perhaps cutting back on investments in a service where only 25% of the members are active. Microsoft support for smaller clients has never been very good, I suppose this is the case now that LinkedIn is one of perhaps too many Microsoft products.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Delting Disaster

On the morning of 21st December 1900, seven small open boats from Firth, Mossbank and Toft set off for the winter haddock fishing. They were some 32 kilometres (20 miles) away, between the Horse of Burravpoe and Da Snap, when they were caught in a sudden and severe gale from the north-west. Many were lost during the storm which came on in the space of five minutes. The fleet were scattered. One made it to Whalsay, Skerries and Lunning but the rest were lost.

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22 men were drowned, leaving 15 widows (5 of whom were pregnant), and 51 children. Firth was hit the hardest. Many of the men were great fishermen and the disaster devastated the Delting fishing industry, which never recovered. The women continued to work the crofts. Children grew up and moved away, leading to a rapid decline in population.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Jefferson v. Kushner

Various journalists and commentators have been comparing what Jared Kushner did, that is, attempt to set-up an illegal back channel to Putin, to actions taken by President Thomas Jefferson.

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Here is what a well-known documentary filmmaker* recently had to say about comparing Kushner and Jefferson:
  1.  President Jefferson himself was the communicator or "back channel" via the American Ambassador to France, Robert Livingston — not, say, his son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph, an accomplished public servant Jefferson never dreamed of bringing into his own White House.
  2. Jefferson was the most experienced diplomat in the land — stark contrast — as Washington's former Secretary of State and Ambassador to France.
  3.  There was a paramount public purpose in the National Interest: the acquisition of New Orleans, control of the Mississippi, and acquisition of midwestern lands that would double the size of the U.S. — unlike Kremlingate. 
  4. The communication did NOT happen during the transition.
  5. There was no hint of conflict of interest — no equivalent to Vnesheconombank. Jefferson never personally profited from the Louisiana Purchase (a different president — ahem! — could have).
  6. Russia was not attempting to meddle in American elections circa 1800 — unlike in 2016.
  7. Above all, the influence was U.S.-to-France. With Flynn, Manafort, and possibly Kushner/Vnesheconombank, the "back channel" of influence may well be Russian influence over the U.S. 
*I have not included the individual's name here in order to avoid any deluge of responses in his/her email Inbox. This scholar merely shared these observations in a very public forum. I share them here, as a lifelong student of American history, for educational purposes only.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ann Coulter's Freedom of Speech

With the ouster of Coulter as a speaker at Berkeley once again everyone is raising the issue of free speech. We must realize free speech is also the reason she is not delivering that talk in California.

Speech is not restricted to a person standing before an audience. You are practicing free speech when you talk openly to a friend or write a letter to a school administrator or talk over the phone to someone that can make a difference. When everyone is permitted to speak freely, no matter what the venue, society functions. 

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So Ann Coulter was asked and agreed to speak at Berkeley. Students and perhaps alumni or local residents decided to speak out, in particular about the messages Ayn Rand, whoops, Ann Coulter typically delivers. Ann Coulter is a well-known, and certainly well-spoken television guest, writer and public speaker. She proudly waves the far-right conservative flag here in the U.S.. Anyone who understands the Berkeley community would expect the mass of liberals in Oakland and the surrounding areas to voice an opinion or two about Ms. Coulter. 

I wouldn't be surprised if one or more wealthy alumni called or wrote to someone at the school. The groups sponsoring Ms. Coulter, in other words, the people prepared to pay her huge speaking fee, backed out. 

An organizer of a large event, such as Ann Coulter's speech, must carry the correct amount of insurance to cover any possible situations for which they might be held liable. My guess is the event insurance policy cost suddenly went through the roof. So the free speech of certain insurance company executives might have stifled Ann Coulter's Constitutional rights.

If the school insurance policy was somehow involved, you can bet leadership was aware of that. One of the Berkeley administrators even said the location was 'a school, not a battleground.' We'll have no Kent State here. 

A few conservatives have become quite violent in certain protests lately. The current occupant of the White House did his best in the campaign to stoke right wing groups, including a request for them to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights in regards to his opponent. He's getting them riled up about public lands right now.

The homegrown militias need only a little stirring to rekindle the fires of yesterday. Lone wolves, the human kind, probably outnumber actual wolves, the howling kind. Every good old boy seems to have an AR15 in the closet, and a piece in the nightstand. So long as those weapons are not back at the pawnshop. They're worth a lot of money you know.

Ann Coulter's rights are not really being impinged. She can still go anywhere in the United States, stand on the street corner and say anything she wants. There are hundreds of groups that would invite her to speak to their members, if they could only afford the fee, or if she would speak for free. Speak freely, Ann, and all others. Free speech means so much more than just a presentation before a large audience.


The author holds a degree in Speech Communication from Pennsylvania State University.