Monday, June 28, 2010

Las piramides de parangaricutirimicuaro

This past week has been quite the adventure. We received our midterm exercises (2 midterms and a paper) graded, and it turns out I managed above 80% on everything. Going forward, I'm fairly conscious of where the differences were in what the professors were asking for, and what I did so that when finals time comes around, I'll be better prepared. This week's main focus is getting started with Sermier and budgeting, and turning in the communications paper on Wednesday, which will likely take up the entirety of my schedule on the morrow.

Last Wednesday, as a result of no shortness of puppeteering on the part of one of our classmates who has a personal connection with the man, Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock (some NY Daily News articles that include his name here and his bio here) came and spoke to our group about the island nation becoming a state incorporated into the union of the United States of America, and the benefits that integration might confer. This particular policy proposal was one that I might not necessarily agree with, and whose argument had a few holes, though I will have to argue that at a later post as I'm sitting with notebook in hand where I scribbled various thoughts and counterarguments during his conversation.

Friday was the last day of interviews on Fridays, as the school - pursuant to a directive from CUNY central as a money saving initiative - all facilities, buildings, and so forth will be closed for Friday's during the summer months. However, not to be outdone, I signed up for interviews with CH2M Hill, which has quite a few project happening on privatization of municipal services and where I might be able to infuse quite a few of my linguistic resources and be able to leverage the experience towards language access policy research. The Port of Seattle is in dire need of a fellow to develop a curriculum related to their Workplace Responsibility program speaks directly to my experience writing curriculum, especially for distance learning. New York Power Authority - whose energy sustainability projects really fall in line with my passionate drive to create precisely those types of solutions for the future (they were, after all, a huge drive behind my political choices in the elections) would likely stretch my capabilities, as that environment is clearly something that is outside of my comfort zone. The one organization that had selected me was Indianapolis Private Industry Council, whose inherent need for language ability and someone who has a clear mind of how to engage the immigrant community and develop vocationally related hard skills, as well as codify explanatory curriculums for such was clearly apparent during our conversations. That's an interesting position, and to be clear, there is likely to be a good deal of language access policy to municipal services to be written there. An interesting analysis of the process is delineated at my good friend 4everjung's blog

All of this is happening, I should note, as we're learning about simple vs. multiple regressions in Statistical Analysis, barreling towards a policy position paper deadline (see above,) and having to complete a 3-6 pg memo on the novel "The Little Pink House" which is less of a novel and more of a historical case study of how Kelo vs. The City of New London and starting Prof. Sermier's Budget class this week is swirling about in our brains. In times like these, the concept of 'zanshin' in budo: staring at a distant mountain, not so much a spaced out, disconnected vapidity, but more of an eyes on the prize sort of stare comes to mind. I'll see if I can't track down the kanji and put it in here.

And now for some PAF 9100.... wish me luck.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't mess with my cheddar

This past week has been full of adventures, despite the very interesting interview on Friday. Scuttlebutt has it that a pair of mice ran through a couple of our classmates' rooms in the SVA dorms, and caused quite the sensation. The young ladies whose rooms were effected summarily brought the incident to the attention of the dorm's operators, the program director, and everyone in the class. This dovetailed into a blizzard of discussions over lifetimes of mouse sightings, mouse traps, Dr. Dré's having taken turns with removing mice from his apartment with his sister while they were growing up in Harlem waaaayyy back in the day, etc. I've had to remove my fair share of intruders in my day, but not since the girls have come to live with me, and the building has been renovated (knock on wood). However, No sooner had these conversations begun than I remembered this amusing little video:

The other thing I'm rather excited about, despite the fact that I hadn't the actual coin to get into the official viewing area, is that I was able to witness the first ever Red Bull Air Race in New York City standing in Battery Park for free. Since the official viewing area was in Liberty State Park, and the planes were taking off from Teterboro, NJ, the only real obstruction to our view were the water taxis that apparently were unenlightened to the fact that an entire crowd of observers was trying to watch a string of stunt planes rip through a course at around 180 mph, and the ever present haze that manages to consume the intercoastal region on hot, humid days like yesterday. Check out the video of New Yorker Michael Goulian doing a run through the course:

In the end, I guess I'm just a bit like that little kid, who still thinks planes and things with big engines are still pretty cool. Ah well. These guys were amazing though, absolutely unreal.  And now on to Stats...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Can you spare a dollar for whirled peas?

3rd round of mentor presentations for the NUF program today. In an interesting twist of fate, I've not been chosen for any of the mentorships available for this round. I did sign up for Nexus, the company doing work to bring healthier lifestyles to school aged children in the NYC community, beginning with a beverage replacement initiative, complete with a wide range of possibilities for interaction at a great number of city government and local business/sports/health organizations. I signed up for this one, I think I have quite a bit to contribute, especially seeing as how they mentioned absolutely nothing into the foreign language markets directly where the diabetes and asthma populations are greatest, and taking into account my extensive work within the schools system. None of which, by the way includes my understanding of social media, etc. However, I'm absolutely certain that our fearless leader has a general plan for us, and he wouldn't lead us purposefully astray. And now for more stats; today it's chi-square tests and nail biting over whether or not we passed the midterm because we're not getting it back until next week. Here's hoping...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's about the bureaucracy

Today was the PAF 9100 midterm exam, and that, in effect, was the one that held the most potential for difficulty. Whereas Research Analysis was a simple plug and chug workout which, though strenuous, produced easily predictable results, Public Affairs presented a challenge because we had no basis from which to organize our focus. Perhaps the best thing that one of the 2010 Fellows told us when they made a visiting presentation to our class was; "Write down EVERYTHING this guy says." We all were energetically working to figure out the definitions and rhetorical difficulties we had with the essay writing after leaving the lecture hall and reconvening in the lobby area. I, for one, know now that I had completely misinterpreted the term "Apportionment" and fielded the definition for "appropriations". In all likelihood, a common mistake, and not one that definitionally is not entirely incorrect. Essentially, they both have to do with allotting numbers of variables to certain categories, except that one has to do with budget dollars (appropriations) and the other with number of individuals inside of a congressional district. By way of illustration: Census Bureau Apportionment by Congressional District. I guess I'm not getting that wrong on the final.

Today we also have to turn in our rhetorical analysis of an Op/Ed piece to Prof. Devitt. I feel exceedingly comfortable with that assignment, these types of writings are a logical continuation of what it is I was doing in NYU's program, and I just hope that I can do my previous work justice with the current iteration.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's time for the calculator

This past span of 4 days has been all about statistical manipulation. Bring me a data set and I'll force myself to calculate the area under your density curve! After getting woken up at cat o'clock, feeding the animals, and taking the general for a stroll, I was sitting on the edge of my bed holding my noggin in my hands trying to figure out how to relieve the pressure on the inside. My roommate came in and asked why I had such a long face.

"I've failed just about every math test I've ever taken." I replied. To which he countered,
"But you can explain this stuff to me! If you can do that, you'll be just fine! Besides, you're the professor!"
In reality, I almost got teary eyed; there it was again - that inherent faith that people have shown that I'm on the right path, and I have no idea what I've done to instill that in them. I told him he was right, and I went with the warrior spirit mentality - ichi go, ichi e - one chance, one opportunity, right now, immediate victory.

I managed to get through the initial run through the exam with minimal hang ups, then went back through to check the math at least 4 times. I reworked one problem set so many times I had to stop myself from doing it again after I was convinced it wouldn't yield a separate result. At the end, I was more than 95% confident that I had done a reasonably good job.

I walked out of the class amphitheater with a wave to the professor, and proceded downstairs to sit out in the sun on the patio outside of the vertical campus. As luck would have it, that was also the man travel path for everyone else exiting the exam, all of whom wore faces summed up in an excellent Spanish word: extraviada. The first to come out was C.C., and she appeared nearly on the verge of tears, but after a few minutes of discussing the problems and a few lighthearted jokes, we got back to feeling more positive. About half an hour later, the remainder of the cohort - roughly a dozen folks - swarmed out of the building en masse. A scarce few seemed to have better feelings, and several began invoking a higher authority.

If I've managed to do well on this exam (and, judging by my score of 80% on the first homework, and having done the second one also in a similar fashion,) then I will have finally conquered, for what it's worth, the computational arrhythmias inherent in my linguistically predisposed mind. That's got to account for something, no?

"Masakatsu agatsu"
True victory, is victory over self.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Century ride

Happy Birthday to 4ever Jung!

This morning began the second round of interviews with mentors, and we had seen presentations from The Cleveland Foundation, The Knight Foundation, and the Multiple Sclerosis Society, but there were a few for which I held a vested interest. I first came to know about the Knight Foundation's work during my time at NYU, when I had fond fantasies of someday becoming a well respected journalist, or at the very least, a published writer. Having accomplished that (see the link above) and garnered attention from the likes of, I'm not entirely certain that a syndicated column is necessarily the objective any longer, but more the promulgation of ampliatory effects for the foreign language journalism industry in this country as a whole. Unfortunately, I did not warrant an interview with them, though I did manage to slip a business card (with a cue towards my writing) into Damian Thorman's hand, and I felt this to be a positive interaction, especially since he spent a goodly amount of time speaking on the foundation's work in developing foreign language media after I pressed him on it.

The one organization that did, in fact, express an interest in my abilities was the Multiple Sclerosis Society, where I imagine that I might be able to find a happy home; their newest initiatives relating to developing a diversity council, creating a curriculum for interpreter training and development, as well as being able to readily deploy the program to different locations around the country, produce, direct, and capitalize on web 2.0 media, etc, sounds as if there is a definite possibility of deep connectivity in terms of what I might be able to offer them. Both of us mentioned this during the interview. This could, in effect, be quite beneficial for all concerned, because I would get to remain, as Miguel says, in the center of the universe, and I would also be able to finally bring to bear the totality of my breadth of experience and education in a position where every last one of these skills is appreciated. Let's all of us keep our fingers crossed. But, as Miguel is also wont to say, this is only the second round, and we've managed to see a total of half a dozen, out of a total of 42 total mentorship opportunities, some of whom are looking for multiple mentees. We shall see.

Two exams coming up this week and an op-ed analysis is due for Devitt's class this week in the middle of all of that. This past Wednesday, during the several hours break in between Devitt and Mitchell, I went to the gym with one of my classmates, and after days upon days of sleep deprivation, working out pretty hard, and then not having eaten very much during the day, I suddenly felt as if my mind was short circuiting, and had to sit down as I drank my extra large gatorade. After that I fell asleep atop a pile of folders in the lounger area of the 8th floor, and woke up approximately 30 minutes later. It was surreal, as a linguist, to feel as if my language skills were failing (perhaps this is just my personal neurosis, after spending so long hyper-focused on discreet meanings and semantical analysis of particular phrazing - I should post the diagram of Groucho Marx's now famous "I once shot an elephant in my pajamas..." for the rest of the class to see,)

and then the last year in translation and interpretation, if I feel that the message escaping my lips isn't exacting in diminutive detail, or if I sense the language centers of my brain shutting down due to lack of sleep [because I was up til odd hours trying to finish readings for PAF 9103 AND 'Question of Intent'], I'm immediately frustrated, and this in turn worsens the problem, even if it doesn't seem that way to the radio audience... But, it seems I didn't make any egregious errors, and that, in itself, is pleasing. Tonight is hammering away at the above mentioned David Kessler book, and trying to put something together for Communications. Tomorrow is pancakes and an editing session involving Dr. Dre, presumably June, Dante, and a few others, and pancakes. Lots of pancakes. Tonight, possibly in between Communications and Public Affairs, I need to clean. Amusing how little things like that go by the wayside when the work you're doing is seemingly so much more important. Maybe I need to investigate finding a place with a dishwasher next time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Schroedinger's cat

One of the great examples that Neil Bennet, our phenomenal Statistics professor keeps sharing with us is his supposed 'Neil's black box' in which is contained the totality of a given population, from which a simple random sample (SRS) of sufficient size can be selected. I asked him last week, if that was not somehow representative of Schroedinger's cat, being that the population of Lilliputians may or may not exist at any one given time, though the supposition that they do is the driving force behind the grandiose theorizing that we were undergoing as a result of this class. He got a chuckle out of it and really, that's all I was after...

The process of certification for NYS teachers is a similarly exhausting experiment in logic. One must send funds, frequently the evaluators of the applications are temps who simply check over files for correct entries, and you can never get anyone on the phone. There is an online system in place, though the atrocities committed in logging on, logging back on after a certain amount of time, being able to find the correct information inside the online system, are voluminous. My experience was thankfully somewhat streamlined, though this last piece has been quite the stomach turner. I had submitted the length and breadth of my experience to the New York State Education Department nearly a year ago, more than sufficient time for them to review my qualifications, the fact that I'd been tenured in NYC, my 12 years of full time work, my Master's degree + 30 hrs, my continued professional development in AP Language and Literature, QTEL, SMARTboard, pick a thing for Foreign Languages, I've done it.

Today, fully 4 days before my initial certification was set to expire, and now that there are statewide layoffs of roughly 8,000 teachers expected for this year (6,500 of which are expected from the city alone, while at the same time Bloomberg Eduaction, Inc. has managed to find money to open more charter schools, fund the induction of new teachers, as well as the Teaching Fellows program, and the city's involvement with the Teach for America initiative, but I digress) the Professional Certification arrived in the mail. I think I'll frame it and put it next to the cherished photo of my friend and I at the Yankee Museum during our trip to the new Yankee Stadium during its inaugural season, or perhaps file it under 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams.' I wonder if they'll count studying for a Master's in Public Administration as appropriate professional development to maintain my certificate...?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ichi go, ichi e

Today was the first day of interviews with mentors that are accepting fellows for the current cycle. I purposefully inserted myself into the list, being the aggressive swordsman, and knowing that I had not initially been selected by any of the three organizations initialy, but having strongly caught the interest of all three organizations that were selecting candidates. Perhaps, in hindsight, I should have inserted myself into the third list, if only to preserve my position in the "center of the universe" as Miguel calls it - NYC, but, then again, you don't come here because you want to be comfortable. You come here so that the process will change you. I am prepared for that change, and though it will definitely be outside my normal purview, that's particularly why I came here. I desperately need to acquire wide reaching, universally applicable skills. My first interview today was with Southern California Leadership Network, and I think that there some real themes on which we can make a great deal of difference and then pattern wider reaching lasting evolutions in social policy and Administrative rules with significant benefits for the general population. That and I sincerely think that Kevin Cottrell and I managed to develop an excellent rapport during our brief but very informative interview session. We seemed to be on the same page in some key areas of mutual interest and have, if not similar visions, at the very least similar passions for directions to take the agency. Stay tuned here for all the latest.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Public administration? How do we feel about that?

The question in the title was one that our Intro to Public Affairs professor posed at the outset of his class. Most of the fellows took it as something of a humorous question, but after some careful reflection, I've come to realize that he's ingeniously managed to frame one of the key problems we'll have to continue to solve for the extend of our public service career.

How do we feel about that?

The problem indeed becomes, 'how do we feel about that?' Is it just a job, is it , or is there something deeper. Amusingly, the Woodrow Wilson paper that we had as homework was an excellent comparison of values: are we just a cog in a wheel, or are we passionate Administrative policy making difference engines (and yes, I know the artificial intelligence statistical analysis variant of that term)? Are we the comfortably insulated bureaucrat, or are we the functional, boots on the ground, troop directing field officer? Interesting problems to have, and none too light to consider with a deeper sense. According to our instructor, we're training to be bureaucrats, but then, has the definition of such changed over time? And would we necessarily be involved in a change agent program if we were simply going through a tool gathering mission to arrive at a carefully arranged, comfortably insular place? I think not, and so, bureaucrat, supposedly, must not have as decidedly unseemly a tone as it might have once had. Or I miss my guess.

Public Administration?

Any decently trained public administrator, or one that is effective at creating Administrative Policy changes, are those that bring with them passion, interest, and skills to effect the changes in society that they are desirous of creating. To that end, statistical analysis is crucial, and indeed, essential to the mission. How are results of administrative policy showing up in the population? How are people utilizing the benefits which administrative policy makers are putting into place? Amusingly, the precise areas of statistical analysis that we are covering in the course that we're relentlessly plodding through currently are the very same ones that were a gap in my understanding during my waning years at NYU. Had I but known that invariable utility of a z-score during my doctoral seminars in language acquisition and linguistics, how much better might my analyses have been? If only I'd comprehended the determinance of a standard error calculation, what might have changed in my perception of intake versus uptake? I jest, but, in reality, these are the precise questions playing out in the back of my mind while the professor is busily questioning the other students what the probability of random samples selected from his 'little black box' having income ranges from $25,000 not known, but then, how could I? I had never been in a class that explicitly covered it, it had been nowhere in my electives or required coursework up until then, and I hadn't specifically sought out the knowledge, but neither did I know that I had a need. There is an aulde maxim in education - 'thou shalt not test that which has not been taught', though, experience is a cruel and unforgiving mistress, for she gives the test first, and the lesson after.

Special thanks to the fine gentleman from Atlanta who has affectionately come to be known as 'Dr. Dré' for providing me with this particularly useful Latin proverb: post hoc, ergo proctor hoc
After this, because of this... meaning essentially, if I play the harp every morning just as the sun is about to rise, the doesn't rise because I play the harp.