The Times They Are a-Changin’

My intent for this blog is to serve primarily as a notebook – a place where I can capture important details concerning my amateur radio activities and then refer back to them if needed. This includes interesting websites, hamshack successes and failures, equipment settings, as well as plans for the future. Occasionally the subject matter on the blog opens a bit broader… beyond amateur radio <gasp!>.

The cliche about some long time hams of having life “take over” at some point in a ham career is a cliche for a good reason. Sometimes the balance tips and radios are put on the backshelf. I’m at a mid-life career transition point, retiring from the military and moving into “the next phase”. Plan A is to become an elementary school teacher. None of my previous academic work really supports this transition and despite popular misconceptions, in the state of Kansas… you can’t just show up and say “Hey, I’d like to be a teacher!” It is actually a somewhat difficult process. Fortunately a nearby university has a well respected program that I am not too far from completing. The program is time intensive (this semester I am taking 13 credit hours… while working full-time). This is my last semester behind the desk. I start my retirement transition at the end of December and in January I start student teaching.

One of the great aspects to the program I am in is that I get plenty of time inside elementary grade classrooms so I have a clear idea of what I am getting into. Over the last 12 months I have had the opportunities to visit numerous classrooms seeing various grade levels and teaching styles. It is great going into this transition with my eyes wide open.

However, this educational experience (along with work) has been time-intensive. My time in front of the radio (or submitting blog entries) has been seriously limited. The hamshack has become somewhat of a dumping ground (for my other hobbies of O gauge model trains and 80’s arcade games) and only recently was I able to did a path out from the door to the operating desk. My goal is to adjust the balance just a bit and spend a little more time with the radios. We’ll see how it goes.

Kansas City Explorations

One of the reasons I like living in the greater Kansas City area is that vast variety of museums and cultural venues around. I am not originally from this area and I think my family has a hard time understanding what it is I like it about the area. Not only is there a lot to do, it is often not that crowded which adds to my enjoyment.

Today was one of the last days before school starts for my soon-to-be second grader and also a day off for me. We started the day out at the Kansas City Public Library. The library is housed in what was once the First National Bank. The building alone is impressive with marble floors and vaulted ceilings. The children’s collection is on the second floor and has a great selection. This summer I took a class called Aesthetic Experiences which focused on integrating the arts with other elementary level subjects. For some of the projects, I required children’s literature and found the library to be a great resource.

There is a librarian who is on duty and provided ample help in finding books that were not the shelves but held in the back storage area. My girls enjoy the play area in the middle that has a full-sized stuff cow for climbing on. There are also materials out to color and huge Lego bricks for building.

After picking out a few books (the second grader got three, I picked two), we walked around the different floors of the library looking at the art on the walls, taking in the sheer number of books available, and looking out the windows on the higher levels at the impressive views offered of Kansas City.

On our way home we passed a sign for the Wyandotte County Museum. I have passed the sign about a million times and have never stopped to take a look. With time to spare, I turned right and headed for the museum.

The museum is dedicated to the history of Wyandotte County from the earliest days of the indigenous Native Americans through Kansas statehood and into the 20th Century. While not a large museum, it did have several hands-on exhibits that are perfect for elementary school students. Now that I know it is there, it is a location I want to return to in order to do a bit more exploring. This place would make a great field trip destination.

Laptop Blues

Looks like the days are numbered for my Dell Studio laptop. I have had it since 2009 and it has done a great job. I’ve had a dual boot setup, running Ubuntu as the my primary OS and keeping Windows 7 to meet various requirments: (1) assignments for school that I need to do in MS Office knowing that often OpenOffice does not do the job (PowerPoint is a great example), (2) iTunes… although I don’t need it very often on the laptop, and (3) RR-Track which I use for designing layouts for my O gauge trains.

I use my laptop a lot. I mentioned “school” above… I have been in a program at the University of Saint Mary to earn a Kindergarten through 6th grade teaching license. Next year I retire from the Army and teaching elementary school will be my 2nd Act, my back nine, my mid-life career change. I have been attending night classes since last fall and have completed six classes with five to go, plus student teaching. About at the halfway point now.

I’m looking back to Dell for my next laptop. I’ve had a long line of Dells… the Studio and an XPS before that. Can’t forget the Dell Mini and I am typing now on a Dell Inspiron Mini (a bit bigger than the Dell Mini). I had an HP laptop for a while, which was not a great experience (this was the days when WiFi was just becoming popular). Before that I had an Alienware laptop. Since then, Dell has purchased Alienware and I have decided to give Alienware a go again. I am not a “gamer” but I do appreciate solid hardware and good video performance. I like a fair amount of real estate on a laptop to include both keyboard and screen. My intent is to dual boot it again between Ubuntu and Windows 7, primarily using Ubuntu.

So – why not a Mac? I’ve read a bit on trying to install Ubuntu on a Mac and it sounds like much more trouble than it is worth. Last year I got my XYL a Mac-Mini when her desktop quit. I like it. I used it to edit a video I used last semester when teaching a lesson in a 4th grade class. The video editor was much better than anything Ubuntu had to offer. But ultimately a Mac is not as versatile as a PC that will allow me to load different OSes.