Mathlete

The new semes­ter has kicked off and any sem­blance of a hol­i­day has final­ly left the build­ing. The class I’m tak­ing for the next 4 months is Applied Quan­ti­ta­tive Rea­son­ing. The instruc­tor doesn’t appear to be a hard-ass, but he’s play­ing every­thing exact­ly by the CSU pol­i­cy guide. I get the feel­ing because it’s eas­i­er for him to let the pol­i­cy already in place do the work. This class is basi­cal­ly a part-time job; sta­tis­ti­cal math­e­mat­ics for 16 hours per week.

It’s going to be a chal­lenge, but I always rise to those. I’ve not exer­cised my math mus­cles in a decade, so I expect there will be some nec­es­sary cob­web-blow­ing in the first weeks.

Today

I had to take the day off of work because Bram has an ear infec­tion. First we had to spend an inter­minable 2.5 hours at Metro­Health, but get­ting his $3 pre­scrip­tion one door down from the pedi­atric clin­ic was nice. It’s that pink stuff that tastes like bub­ble gum.

Instead of study­ing for my Intro to Pub­lic Admin­stra­tion final, which is tomor­row, I baked. Dark choco­late brown­ies (so dark they look like coal), 7 lay­er bars, and choco­late-dipped pret­zel rods. So much to do, so lit­tle time left before the hol­i­days.

Autodidact

Today was long and fruit­ful. I learned much, but the main thing is some­thing I fig­ured out just now as I fired up the brows­er to write this post. This last year has been a sub­con­scious seek­ing of new path­ways and chal­lenges. I start­ed two new blogs, joined the W3C, joined Gov­Loop, start­ed the pur­suit of an MPA, found a new tim­bre to my own par­tic­u­lar voice and phi­los­o­phy and just recent­ly decid­ed to get back into the swing of things around here. I broke out of my root ball and made myself stretch into new soil. I’m even up on HTML5 and CSS3, though noth­ing vis­i­ble has come from that yet.

I still have a hard time admit­ting that I’m wrong about things. Thank­ful­ly my rela­tion­ship with Deb­o­rah has helped me be bet­ter at say­ing “I don’t know” in both my pri­vate and pro­fes­sion­al lives. I’ve got­ten bet­ter at sup­port­ing my own argu­ments and posi­tions, and hope­ful­ly more tact­ful as well. I’d like to think that the result is a more refined and mature ver­sion of myself, but I’m still quite aware of just how far I have to go. Aware­ness of the extent of my faults is anoth­er bonus. The take­away from this is that I am a per­son who is going to con­stant­ly be set­ting myself tasks for learn­ing, teach­ing and grow­ing.

We even got the Christ­mas tree up.

Civil Service

My favorite dis­cus­sion this year in my Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion class cen­tered around whether civ­il ser­vice was a call­ing [or not]. This led me to think about why I get so much sat­is­fac­tion out of my gov­ern­ment web design gig. The answer I usu­al­ly shell out is because every day I get a chance to improve the way gov­ern­ment inter­acts with its cit­i­zens. Despite this being true and the most imme­di­ate reward of my job, I fig­ured there has to be more. It’s my fam­i­ly, and Catholic school.

My grand­pa fought in World War II and then was was a mail car­ri­er with a rur­al route for the Post Office for years. My moth­er taught spe­cial edu­ca­tion her whole life. The Holy Cross broth­ers at Notre Dame also empha­sized ser­vice. After awhile it gets ingrained. I enjoy work­ing for the gov­ern­ment because it is ser­vice-dri­ven, not prof­it-moti­vat­ed. When­ev­er I get a call for­ward­ed to me from the help desk, I always make sure I don’t send them around on anoth­er bout of trans­fer-tag. If I can’t answer their ques­tion or help them out, I make sure that if I do have to trans­fer them, they get sent to the exact­ly cor­rect per­son, not just the cor­rect office. The reward is their grat­i­tude.

So, I guess it is easy to see where I fall on the argu­ment. I feel called to civ­il ser­vice, so I think it is a call­ing.

It might seem like an excep­tion, but the Selec­tive Ser­vice (a fas­ci­nat­ing Wikipedia arti­cle), and the fact that I had to reg­is­ter for the [non-exis­tent] draft in order to receive fed­er­al stu­dent loans is a big rea­son why I nev­er signed up for the Armed Forces. I’m non-com­bat­ive by nature, but I’m also stub­born as hell when some­one tries to force me to do some­thing. It is fit­ting then, that I would resent sign­ing up for the draft; it is an enforced civ­il ser­vice (among oth­er things), and there­fore incon­sis­tent with my opin­ion that civ­il ser­vice is a call­ing.