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Stories From the Work Front

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[22 Sep 2006|01:21pm]

It's been over a year since I posted in here, and most of a year since anyone did, so I'll keep it alive.

I'm now a full-time ESL teacher. That is to say, I have two part-time jobs as such, and no other. And after my first full week dedicated to my new career, I'm ready to give you the behind-the-scenes look to which this community is dedicated. But only in a flash; only in one story.

I teach mostly conversation; three of my five classes are called Speak American (which always reminds me of something an ignorant American would tell an immigrant. It's like labeling your class "Learn Some Damn English, Level 2"), and one is Conversation. The other, though, is Reading I. It's reading in name only - in actuality it's about evenly balanced between reading and writing.

So my students have an ongoing assignment: at the end of every chapter (once per week or week and a half), they write a journal entry. Journals are all the rage in my field, as well as education at large, these days because it de-emphasizes evaluation of the final product(s) and allows the teacher to assess the overall progress of the student at the end of the course. As such, individual journal entries are not always assigned a grade, but rather the entirety of the journal is graded, principally on participation and effort. It may seem a little feel-good new-agey to get away from traditional A's, B's, and D's based on how well the language is used, but that kind of thing is what I use the unit tests for.

Anyway, here's where it gets (debatably) interesting. The journal entries are an opportunity to reflect on the chapter, write about their thoughts on the difficulty, enjoyability, or relevance of it, or to write about something related to the content. For instance, last chapter was about Brasilia, so they could write about a place to which they had traveled and describe it. The grammar focus of the chapter was adjectives, so they were encouraged to use as many as possible.

As you read ESL students' writings, you develop a sense of their linguistic capabilities. You know who will write expressively, but with many flaws. You know who will write relatively short, but relatively good (grammatically speaking) entries. You can even tell who goes over their work meticulously, checking for every error, and who writes in a stream-of-consciousness, sometimes producing entries five times the required length. You also get to know their repeated errors: lack of articles, misuse of the infinitive, overuse of -ing, lack of paragraph format.

So it is that when you're reading an entry that suddenly goes from halting and awkward in language use to beautiful, flowing and natural, your suspicion may become aroused. Alternately, as you read a paper, if the only correction that you can offer is that "your commas look too much like periods" - a handwriting issue! - you may think something is up.

Yes, two of my students plagiarized. So far as I can tell, neither used a resource specifically made available for cheating. That would be silly anyway; I was looking for a descriptive paragraph, not a term paper. But one used a paragraph from a travel brochure website as part of her entry, and the other took his paper completely from an on-line city description that was written simply, but probably by a native-English speaker. Both looked entirely out of place.

Next week I'm going to have to explain to them why each received a zero for the assignment with no chance of make-up, and explain (as my school swears has already been told to them) why this is not acceptable in an American classroom. I make that distinction because this may be an acceptable practice in some cultures. In some, the sharing of information is seen as generous and noble, while the refusal to do so is seen as selfish. "Cheating" is culturally relative, and while they may know better, they may not. It's not something I'm looking forward to, but it goes with the territory.
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be nice to your neighborhood pharmacy employees. [27 Mar 2005|06:59pm]

i used to work at a pharmacy as a tech. let me tell you, i will never work with the public again after that job. you may want to think twice about who you take your anger out on when your insurance company screws up. i can't tell you how many times a day people had a nervous breakdown directed towards me or a co-worker because the person DIDN"T UNDERSTAND their own insurance plan. it's not my job to read all the information YOU get from human resources, douchebag! then your co-pays wont surprise you!

anyway, here's why you want to be nicer to your neighborhood pharmacists and techs.
1. we drop pills on the floor CONSTANTLY, and will put them right back into your prescription bottle. but if you are super friendly, i might consider tossing the dirty pills and replacing them.

2. if you are some old cunt who constantly has something nasty to say, and perhaps always complains that we shorted you some pills even when we know we didn't because it happens to be a machine-counted medication, i will PURPOSELY make sure that you are always one pill short. yup, that's right! if you are a nasty old hag, i will take a pill out before i screw the top on. the reasons for this are:
a. it makes you overreact so much, that i want to see you get unnecessarily angry
b. the next person you complain to puts a permanent note on your file that you complained about this. if you keep complaining about it EVERY TIME you pick up your prescription, they add a note that says you lie about being shorted pills. then we are allowed to contact your insurance company to have them fuck with you, or kick you out of the pharmacy all together. hahahahahahaa
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It's what I do [22 Feb 2005|09:51pm]

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[25 Jan 2005|01:18am]

Ok, so I guess if you're teaching an ESL class (English as a Second Language) sometimes a student may come up to you after class when everyone else is gone and say, "I have a letter for you to read," and after you figure out that this is a letter for her that she doesn't understand, not a letter for you, you have just enough time to notice that it's from her doctor and it's her mammogram results before you feel your breath catch and you say to yourself, "Holy shit! don't let her have cancer! and maybe this is really selfish, but if she does, don't make me have to tell her about it, 'cause this is only my second day as an actual teacher, and i didn't sign up for this, I'm just here to teach her how to fill out a job application and maybe open a checking account, I don't know if she even knows what cancer is, how the hell am I going to explain that?! I was just showing her when to capitalize 'city' (as in 'New York City') and when not to, and I SURE AS HELL didn't sign up for telling this lady about a 'suspect growth' or a 'spot on the x-ray' or even an 'uncertainty that will require a follow-up visit'," all before you can actually read it and explain to her that she's just fine and try to remember that your scare was only momentary; her's lasted from before she opened the letter until that moment.

English skills are crucial to surviving in this environment. This, among other reasons, is why I do what I do.
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Teacher [05 Oct 2004|02:21am]

I was called "teacher" today for the first time.

So I guess that's also what I do now.

OK, to be more accurate, for two hours a week I'm somewhere between a Teaching Assistant and a tutor, strictly volunteer - in a classroom of disparate experience levels, during the lesson I help out those who aren't quite understanding it. Following the directions I got last week, this morning I took the El to 63rd Street (almost to Upper Darby for locals - six blocks this side of the Tower Theater), walked two blocks north and looked for a certain street address that was supposed to have a double set of red doors. "Double set of red doors" + "Philadelphia" should have =ed "church" for me long before I got there.

Have I mentioned that this is an ESL (English as a Second Language) course?

I wandered about the church without seeing anyone for long enough to make me patently uncomfortable, but as I prowled around upstairs I finally heard people, and followed the sounds into a large room with folding tables and a man reading aloud from a bible to about seven senior citizens. This, obviously, was the reverend, who introduced himself and told me the teacher would be along presently. The gist of his talk (as it really was, not a sermon or a straight reading) was that Jesus wanted them to take their medication, that even in this great country of the best police force in the world security is not a certainty, that they should have their houses in order, that they should pray for their children, and that I would be here to help with the classes on Monday from now on.

Then he left.

I got to know a few people before the teacher showed up and we all learned the names of various American coins. There were eight or nine seniors by then, all from Liberia (as was the reverend), and all refugees. They have been in America anywhere between a month and a little over four years. As far as I can tell, none had any experience with the written language before arrival in this country; the one month lady can't write her name yet. The four year guy, though, is proficient enough in English that we had a stilted conversation. He's been here since 1999, but fled Liberia in 1990. He kicked around other countries in Africa for those nine years, including spending five of them in a refugee camp in Ghana, where, if I got it right, the rest of his family still awaits the opportunity to join him.

And learn English.

Possibly from me.
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experimental [27 Aug 2004|06:39pm]

Today at work I got to walk out of my building with a laptop bag slung over my shoulder, holding a piece of equipment in my right hand that is worth more than my house, and another one just like it in my left hand. I got to drive for a half hour to an airfield. I got to stand awash in kerosene-flavored jet exhaust as our big airplane pulled away from the hangar. I got to hook up this unit that I've been programming for the last 6 months to a real live aircraft and make interrogations of other real live aircraft, interrogations of a type that Honeywell has never made before, and quite possibly NOBODY has ever made before. I got to watch as my code failed, curse at it, debug and rebuild on the fly, and then reload the unit and watch my code do what it was supposed to. I got to return home in triumph.

My job is fantastic.
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any advice about getting a job.. [24 Jan 2004|10:33pm]

[ mood | stressed ]

Hi there...I am currently looking for work in retail, and was wondering if anybody could give some pointers on how to get a job in this field. I've never had to approach stores before and plead for work and i was wondering if anybody knew of a classy and sophisticated way of approaching this.
I spent all morning looking up the phone book, the paper and the net for local business addresses and phone numbers. I figure i'll call the store managers a few days before i bombard them...you know, to give the heads up. I have no idea what to say to them though. Do i come right out when i first meet them with "so...how bout a job now?" or do i ease my in there with false praise and flirtation "what a lovely...suit you are wearing...it really brings out the color of your...highlights..(i have no idea)". If anybody reads this and had any suggestions...i'd be more than happy to hear them.

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Please describe your job to help others choose one. [15 Dec 2003|07:41pm]


I just started a new community, aboutmyjob, where I invite all of you to post your thoughts about your current or past jobs. I'm hoping my community will help young people to answer that very difficult question "What do I want to be?".

Please check out the description via the link above. If you want to post, there's no need to join the community, you can do so right away.

Thanks in advance for sharing, and helping.
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I'm going to sound like a little boy. It's because today was exciting. [11 Dec 2003|10:57pm]

I work at Honeywell, on a product called TCAS. That stands for Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System. I write software, right now I'm only working on support tools for the development group, but it seems like there are a number of other things I can move on to after this project and I'm hoping that I can actually get to writing code for one of our products. I dig hardware. Right now my job is sometimes interesting and sometimes boring, but it's a good job. This story illustrates today, a day on which it was a GREAT job.

TCAS is mandated to be installed on most aircraft that fly in the US and probably Europe too, and what it does is monitor aircraft in your vincinity and their altitudes. It warns you when you gets close to other planes (a Traffic Advisory), and then it really warns you when it sees that a collision is likely and tells you what you should do to avoid it (a Resolution Advisory). Honeywell also makes Radar and Ground Proximity Warning Systems, in addition I'm sure to a large multitude of other avionics stuff.

So we have a hangar of test aircraft up at Paine Field in Everett. Today I got to go on a test flight where we use the equipment under development. See, we are getting close to releasing a new version of our TCAS product, and currently going through the final testing phases. Apparently it is an industry standard test to prove your system can hold a Resolution Advisory for 2000 seconds (around a half hour, which wouldn't really happen ever). So to do this, we got two aircraft to fly in formation, about 1/10th of a mile (500 feet) apart, for about an hour, alternating quadrants, back and forth along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The weather wasn't the best but it was good enough to see some mountains and the ground part of the time. It was fun, because I like flying.

The one aircraft was a fairly large one, a Convair CV-580 I believe. The second craft was much smaller, a Beechcraft King Air 100. I was helping the guy who coordinated the test, a coworker of mine named Clay, install the equipment for the test (I always think things I don't know about are very sophisticated, and I'm always wrong. The data-gathering equipment was a laptop computer running the same software I run back at my desk in the office.). Clay said "Okay, we'll put everyone in the Convair, except me and one other person who'll ride in the King Air." And I said "I would like to do that." Sometimes I have felt sheepish for stepping up like this and claiming opportunities when others might have also wanted them, but I'm realizing more and more that if I don't, I'll end up screwed. Like sitting in the Convair for an hour wishing I was somewhere else. We milled around the hangar for a while and the pilot, Mike, came out and was more than happy to talk about the plane. I asked a lot of questions. Planes are neat, I like machines.

When we were ready to go, Clay told me to sit in the copilot's seat and I helped him go through the pre-takeoff checklist. Pilots have lots of checklists. Then we took off. We got in the air a while before the Convair did, so to kill some time Mike flew around this island. He said "Now if I do this turn right, we'll get two Gs. Okay, not yet, but... now." And my stomach relocated to the very bottom of my abdomen and my arms got pretty heavy. Cool.

We eventually met up with the Convair and flew in formation back and forth over the Strait for around an hour. I played around with the instruments and it was really cool to see the product I was working on actually in use- since my job is support stuff and we're so cramped for time right now, I haven't really gotten a chance to get into the lab. I learned a lot about how TCAS actually looks on the outside and a bunch of the other systems in the plane.

When we were done gathering data, the big plane broke formation with us and went about it's business. Mike says to me "Okay, you take the yoke like this," and in about ten seconds he's instructing me in how to make a banked turn. It was that quick and nonchalant. He pointed to a few instruments, explained how when you bank, the aircraft will slip to the side so you compensate by giving it a little bit of rudder, and the nose will drop too so you pull back on the yoke to maintain altitude... and then I did it. Left, right, left, and some straight and level flying for a few minutes. Boom. I flew a plane.

After that we made our approach back to the field and did an approach on instruments through some gnarly clouds. The coolest thing was that Mike was explaining stuff the whole time. There is so much to know, I can see why being a pilot takes so much training. I love it when people who are experts want to explain things that interest me, because I like knowing things. Today was an incredibly good day on that count. It would be really cool to be a pilot. I have thought about joining the air force, but I don't know if that would ever happen, and I don't know how much it would cost to get the training independently, and doing it as more than a hobby would probably just be unrealistic. But imagine having this job. This is what Mike does at work; fly a plane. An experimental plane. I am envious.

Oh I also got a coupon from my boss for $15 off a Butterball turkey, so today ruled.
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I've been poisoned with poppies. [18 Aug 2003|12:49am]

Sing-a-long Wizard of Oz has done some very bad things, perhaps irreparable things, to my psyche. Even with the radio on I can still hear Scarecrow singing. All of the characters, actually. And all of the songs. Wish it would stop.

But the point is this; sometimes I really enjoy one aspect of my job. I know I wrote about liking that I feel that I am a hidden fixture in people's lives as a projectionist, but this is a little different.

One night recently I ran Wizard of Oz and Rebel Without a Cause back to back, and I got to thinking about how people must have received them when they came out - these iconic cinematic milestones. Especially Wizard: I picture old-timey people flocking to theaters in droves, talking excitedly about the spectacle while lining up to go in, then just sitting slack-jawed in awe of color on a movie theater screen. Then I think about them all being dead, almost to the last individual. They never thought of me, never considered me, never wondered how many years in the future would this movie be running, kept as true to the original as possible.

So now I think about that. Is there a parallel? Is the age of technological or cinematic wonders over or will there be a projectionist in seventy years running a film while thinking about the influence it had on cinema as well as its impact on society as a whole? Is that film something I've run in the past decade? To me was it just a "Holy shit, it's pretty busy here tonight" film? Was it even that?

Film preservation as a concept may fall away. I probably won't care about it; I'm not even sure I care now. But I might just be living in somebody's golden age of cinematic art, and I may just be somebody's relic.
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[10 May 2003|02:55am]

It's a beautiful house. Tri level, wooded hills surround it, all the furniture is ikea, all the food is costco. Everything is so clean, it's spacious. And everyone in the house is asleep.

I creep through the house, as silently as my steel-toed boots will allow me to. I'm wearing work clothes, ben davis, and my clothing is either drab grey, or coal black. I itch my stubbly face and adjust my black wool beanie cap.

I shine my flashlight around into the upstairs rooms. There's nothing but sleeping children in them.

Standing in the hallway, holding the flashlight, with the light clicked off, melted into the shadow, I hear one of the children shreik out, voice tight with panic.


Suddenly, I'm there, flashlight clicked on and pointed to the ceiling to illuminate the whole room, slipping swift and silent into the doorway, responding in a low voice, to let him know I'm comming.

"I just had a bad dream."

I tell him that he's safe, I'm kneeling by the bed, I ask him if he knows where he is, I ask him if he knows who's working tonight. He does. I tell him that we won't let anything happen to him. He says he knows.

"I just want a staff to sit by my door..."

I smile in the illumination of the mag light and tell him that I've been here this whole time.

Yeah, I've been at this machine for a good three hours. Getting up just to walk from one end of the very very short hallway, to peer into the other rooms, to make sure everything is safe.

Ninja Shift Workers. Guarding children's feelings of sleeping safe and sound.
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What, and leave show business? [01 Apr 2003|03:19pm]

Well, this won't give anyone any spectacular insights into what I do, but I was thinking some the other day about it and here are some musings on the subject:

In case anyone doesn't know, I'm a projectionist. I'm also a theater manager, but I prefer to think of myself as a projectionist; management is for monkeys - I do nothing all day. Besides, I work at two theaters, and at one of them, I really am just a projectionist.

Now I've been working in movie theaters for just under ten years now, all but one of them in projection. Sometimes I feel a little juvenile, being as I started in a concession stand right out of high school, so in a way, this is the same crappy part-time job. But sometimes I think about movies in general, and what they mean to the public at large, the place they hold in popular culture, and I can almost convince myself that I have a distinguished profession. I think back to my first movie experiences, how terrified I was when the lights would go down for my fifth viewing of E.T. or my first of Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Empire Strikes Back, not because I was scared of the dark, but because movies are scary things at that age. I think of how a movie would stay with me for days or even weeks, replaying scenes in my head, getting really worked up over any character who suffered or died, even knowing it was fiction. I can remember seeing a crack of daylight under an auditorium exit door and thinking about how "out there" it was daytime and people were bored and leading the lives that they always did, but in here it was dark enough for people to really start thinking it was night, and grand exciting things were happening.

But I also think about the other role which movies play in all our lives - the date. More specifically, the first date. Don't know someone too well yet? Dinner and a movie! Two awkward conversation-free hours, giving you two a common experience, a story unfolded to you simultaneously, putting you on level ground, conversationally speaking, for dinner. It's not his job, her family, where this one's from, what the other one did yesterday, it's a mutual foundation.

Now, in all that time, I've run movies to audiences of anywhere from one to 450+ people, one to twelve shows on an average day, five or six days a week. I can only imagine how many first dates of which I've been minor, incidental part. Statistically speaking, of all those first dates, some must have worked out. Are there married couples out there who started their relationship with me, bored and tired, threading film and pushing buttons in the dark high above and behind them? Are there children running around out there whose parents I handed a bag of popcorn back when they barely knew each other?
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Hey, I've finally found the community for me [13 Mar 2003|01:49pm]

[ mood | creative ]

Call me the Beck, I'm so happy to be here. I'm at work right now ( don't tell on me okay) Actually I'm on the internet all the time at work, yup I'm a web designer! Really I'm a graphic designer but I pretend to be a web designer during the week, it's my cover. Anywho, I'll have alot of crazy stuff to talk about since I work with some crazy people, myself included.

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[14 Feb 2003|02:49am]

[ mood | tired as hell ]

Someone. Please. Call in the fucking dogs. I'm so tired. Just let me sleep for 30 minutes. Fuck working alone.

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[12 Feb 2003|10:10pm]

I guess I have a job. It's not really much of one but I now have the ability to see a doctor or dentist if I need to and not everyone can say that. At the moment, it feels like I am in a massive rut. I work at a "public access television station." Some people act impressed if I tell them where I work. I guess it's probably because anything having to do with "television" sounds cool somehow? Well if you have ever watched the public access channel on your cable then you might have some idea of how not-impressive a job I might have. It's not that hard to stand in front of a camera and talk for a half hour. It IS hard to be interesting, even for a few minutes of just standing there talking.... but there are people who come down here every week and do just that. Crazy church ladies, conspiracy nuts, dudes obsessed with anime, etc. There is one guy who calls himself "The Hip-Hop Republican" who goes for a whole hour when he's really got about five minutes worth of something to say. I help all these people with the equipment. In some ways, it's not unlike being a kareoke DJ...actually, that would probably be a whole lot more fun. I'll set up the lighting, plug in the mike, position the camera, give them their cue... then surf the internet until they are ready to wrap up and I'll look in through the glass and give them the "wrap up" signal as we say in the "biz."
I fell into this because I had my own show down here in the late 80s... it was the obligatory "goofing off with live phone calls" type show that every public access station in the world must have in some version. I was sort of on-and-off with doing my show all the way into about '95 when I found myself in between jobs and the station manager asked me if I wanted a job because I'd been around so long, I knew all the equipment. Here it is, 2003 and I am still here. I have found that many years of public access tv experience doesn't qualify you for a job in the "real" tv industry. It could possibly get you a job at another access station but this one here is kind of top in the country. Top of the bottom.
My old "real" job was production artist for print. Now that so much time has passed, my skills in that area are obsolete. Even though I've grown completely tired of this job,if I lost it tomorrow, I could be right back to square one.
Gotta go... time to go give the "wrap up" sign!
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Transmissions from Space Station Zebra [08 Feb 2003|12:13am]

[ mood | lonely in the great overnight ]


I know that Oakland is just outside of these doors, and beyond that, the rest of the world. But when I look out the windows all I see is blackness. I may as well be alone in the universe, tonight.

The only crew member in this floating space hulk, with sleeping cargo, sending out beacons to the nearest cruiser, frieghter or even someone in a shack on an asteriod.

Isn't there anyone alive out there, tonight? Send me a bounceback.

I'm on AIM and Yahoo under the handle: Ninja Shift Worker

Someone bounceback this beacon, tonight. The great velvet plains of the universe are cold and lonely tonight. Tell me I'm not the only survivor adrift out in this freezing darkness, waiting to get picked up by the great starcruiser known as Sunrise...

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For my fellow night shift workers [04 Jan 2003|06:41am]

[ mood | the flavor of afterthoughts ]

Sure, smoking is a dirty habit...but tobacco is a stimulant. A pot of coffee, a pack of Lucky Strikes, and some No-Doze (in case shit gets REAL bad) are the supplements used to keep a motherfucker sharp at this ungodly hour.

Know that.

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What's the opposite of a skeleton crew? [04 Jan 2003|04:38am]

[ mood | tense like a pointman... ]

He's fourteen years old and he's HOW fucking big???Collapse )

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Any gamers or ex-gamers out there? [29 Dec 2002|01:45am]

[ mood | bored, crabby, tired ]

Character Class: Overnight Awake CounselorCollapse )

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Video killed the video star [26 Dec 2002|06:57am]

Working at a video store (yes, that one) has it's ups and downs. For a long while I would have cool managers but then they leave for better pastures and I get crap ones.

It was amazing the power I had. I practically ran the damn place and I had access to so many credit card numbers and addresses and names. Even with all that, I still got paid bad.

When the cool managers were in charge, things rocked. Annoying in-store ads were turned off, I got all the free cd holders I wanted and if I took home the old magazines they were throwing away, well, nobody saw a thing.

And cover box fights were fun. Hee hee hee.
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