I travel the country on business, sometimes the world. Come see where I've been.
Talk about perks, my job has one of the best ones I can think of! I travel in the course of business, delivering classes for my employer. I am a Senior Training Specialist for Motorola Solutions, and teach classes on a wide variety of subjects centered around 2 way radio communications. I'm qualified to deliver approximately 30 different classes, but about half of those are 'Legacy' classes, and are not in demand anymore. My students are technicians, those who maintain, program, calibrate, and repair large 2-way radio systems. Some of these systems are statewide, and use TCP-IP networking to allow sites to communicate with others. Some are small, traditional type radio sites. The size doesn't matter, in each case the systems must be kept operational at all times, since many of them are Public Safety Systems. So I get to travel, sometimes frequently, 3-4 weeks in a row.... where am I this week?|
This probably won't have daily entries, but I will make entries when I get to go somewhere, and keep an updated list of coming trips. My schedule changes faster than the weather, so don't be too surprised to see me list an upcoming class, only to remark later on that it is cancelled, or delayed. Delays are fine of course, but a later date might mean that someone else gets to go instead of me,,, Well, here we go with this, let's see where it takes us.
|Locale: Schaumburg, Illinois
Weeke Of: September 21, 2020
This past week I was in my old haunts, but man has it changed. Motorola sold the entire campus, and there's quite a bit of construction happening where Motorola buildings used to be. Some are apartments, others, I have no idea what they are for. My customer was the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the class was a tailored class of 3-4 courses we put together for them.
It wasn't a bad class, considering I only had 2 students. Both were former Army, both knew quite a bit, but had so much to learn. They were please with the class, their comments showed on their critique sheets. That's the one thing I've never quite understood completely about this. We are graded by the students, yet we do not administer tests, nor can we 'grade them' on their knowledge, attitude, and other things. Guess it's all part of the job.
I know I never describe the classes much for you, and that's intentional, and needed. Some of the stuff I can't talk about, but the biggest reason is that it would make little sense to most of you. I think Robert Waltz and 🌓 HuntersMoon would understand some of it, but I'm not sure who else would. Plus, I'm willing to bet that I'd have the greater majority of you bored to tears in less than five minutes!
On another front, things are slowly coming back to normal, or as close as it's going to get anytime soon. Restaurants have dine-in service for the most part, travel (flying) is not fun at all. I don't mind crowds, even in these times. But don't lecture me (us) about one way to act, then pack us in a plane like sardines. As a result, I'll be driving to every class I can. Right now, I'm in Omaha Nebraska for a class this week, and drove here from Central Illinois. Hotels are iffy at best. Some have breakfast, some don't. None have any kind of housekeeping going on. If you want your room serviced, you have to notify them. Maybe I should notify them every day and see what happens....
I will spend the weekend at home, and drive to Omaha (where I'm at right now as it turns out) for a class next week. Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Sacramento, California
This week finds me in smoke filled Sacramento California for a class with the Office of Emergency Services. It's a 'radio' class, one that covers one of our handheld and mobile radios. It's not an overly tough subject, but it has been a little challenging. More on that in a minute.
Things have gone well really, other than a small bump on Monday. Every once in a while I have a student in class who has been around a while, and either knows A LOT, or wants certain 'pet subjects' covered. In this case, there's a man in class who fits both descriptions. The biggest issue in his eyes, is that he want only those subjects covered, despite the fact that there are newer people in the class who really need the full curriculum. Besides, if I covered only his pet topics, the class would only last a couple of days, and they've paid for five days of training. Believe it or not, I think we've met on a common ground, and for the most part, have gotten along well. So well, that he asked me for my business card today. He either wants it as a dart board object, or to remind him of this class and how upset he was at times, or really wanted it so he could call me with any questions that may pop up in the future. How did we manage to get to this point? I've answered every question he asked, we discussed subjects in radio frequency that a lot of technicians in today's world have little knowledge of. Best of all, we solved one of the issues he was complaining about. To make it short, he complained that in replacing a board in a radio, that it would fail with an error code, even though he 'followed the procedure'. To make sure I knew what he was talking about, he replaced the board in class. I watched him, made sure he was following the steps correctly, and sure enough, at the end, the radio rebooted as it should have, and operated normally. I didn't do a thing. I just watched them do the work. But I think that knowing the procedure, the expected results and all got us (him) 'over-the-hump'.
Noteworthy Restaurants: (There's no dining in here in Sacramento, it's all take out)
Kabob King https://www.kababkingonline.com/ I went there tonight, ordered a couple of small appetizers, and a Shrimp Buryani. The appetizers were an order of 2 Samosa's, which I thought were small, as they have been in the past, and an order of Fish Patora. First, the Samosa's were the size of my fist! The Fish Pakora was in a small styrofoam box, but dang, that box was packed! We won't mention how huge the Buryani is. Let's just say I have lunch for the next two days of work.
Bonchon Natomas https://www.bonchonnatomas.com/menu I'm loving all the oriental food I can get around here. Their Shrimp Shumai and Bulgogi were excellent. I had the Bulgogi for lunch the following day since it was also pretty large
I will spend the weekend at home before going to Schaumburg for a class with the Transportation Security Agency next week. Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: At Home Still
This week finds me in still at home, teaching another class online. This one was a bit special, and in many ways, I really wish I could have done this one in person. My class was for the US Embassy in Lagos Nigeria. Well, it was supposed to be, but my students were together in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. I would love to have gone there, but the Department of State lists Nigeria as a pretty dangerous place to travel to, so there's no way my manager would let me go.
Luckily, English is the main language spoken in Nigeria, though there are numerous local dialects spoken also. I only had three students in class, but that was fine. The three of them had decent backgrounds in Radio Communications, and all three were CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Administrators). After our first session on Monday, they told me they had more to learn than they thought. That's the reason you have a class though, is to learn! I smiled at that statement, knowing they probably underestimated what their system would contain, and what it would take to be really comfortable working on it.
This was the first class I delivered where I was able to use my 'new whiteboard'! Using this in my classes is important to me. Not because I invested a whopping $50 to get it, but because trying to draw in Adobe Connect (the application we use for our online deliveries) is tough to almost impossible. Like most instructors, I almost have to draw when trying to discuss a subject in detail, so using the whiteboard is almost mandatory. How have I managed to deliver classes so far without using it???
Work remains busy for all of us, and I'm really glad I scheduled 2 weeks of Vacation the first part of October. Right now, other than those two weeks, and the holiday weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year, I am booked solid every week between now and the end of March! I do have this coming week free too, but that's because yours truly has been selected for jury duty next week. I may not be called in at all, but I have to be available, and call in each night to see if I'm needed the following day. So, I will work on curriculum revisions on the days I'm not there, and also review upcoming courses I will deliver soon. One of them I haven't taught since April of last year! I thank God every day for this job. At least I'm still employed and working at a job I love in these trying times.
I will spend next week home as I mentioned, then head to Sacramento on 9/13. After that I have a class with the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), then will head to Sarpy County Nebraska for a class. If anyone is in those locations, let's meet for a cup of coffee! Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Bloomington, Illinois
As I mentioned in a previous entry, I have been working from home all month. It was really good to get out to Washington DC and Bradenton, Florida, but I have to confess that it wasn't the same as BC-19 (Before COVID-19). It's hard to put my finger on it exactly, maybe it was me eating meals in my hotel room, maybe people's attitudes seem to have changed. I don't know. Despite the lack of travel, I have been busy, and September will see me traveling for three weeks.
I've also been busy establishing a mini-classroom of sorts in the basement. I have my work PC there of course, and am pretty well set. My desk is an old white table, plenty large enough for my laptop, and two 27" monitors. Next to the table is a horizontal filing cabinet, and right now it's full of equipment for next week's class. That whiteboard I found will work nicely, but I really need a good webcam I can use during the class so I can write on it, and the students can see it. So that's still a work-in-progress.
In my last post, I said I had only three field deliveries the rest of 2020, but that's now five. As of now, I am going to Sacramento, California in two weeks, then Schaumburg for a week, followed by a class in Sarpy County, Nebraska. In October, I have 2 weeks of Vacation scheduled, but that will probably just be me staying at home not working, followed by an online class for a utility company in NY, and a trip to Henderson, Kentucky. November & December are just as busy, with classes in Springfield Missouri, and either a trip to Toronto, or teach that class from home. That one is up in the air it seems. I am already scheduled for two field deliveries in January, an online class in February, and two field deliveries in March. Life goes on, doesn't it.
This past week, my manager texted me with a customer's system drawing, and asked which classes I thought they needed. This is another Embassy, and in Singapore. Sadly, it's for one student only, and will be an online delivery. He told me he would go teach those classes before he would send me, even though he's not qualified to deliver them.... He wasn't serious really, but I know we'd all love to go to Singapore!
I will spend next week delivering a class for the Lagos, Nigeria US Embassy, but it's an online delivery. (Think of all the airline miles I'm losing out on!) The following week I am scheduled for jury duty, and have to call in each night to see if I'm needed. Oh well... Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Bloomington, Illinois
I've taught from home the last two weeks. It was a different class each week, and will be that way the rest of August. My schedule can change faster than you change a baby's diaper, but right now I have three deliveries in the field the rest of 2020, about 6-7 weeks working in Schaumburg, the rest of the time I will be teaching from home. That's fine by me. I miss the travel, but it's not the same now as it was BC19 (Before COVID 19).
I mentioned being home all of August, but that's also true for September. Well almost. I will be in Schaumburg during the Labor Day week, and there again that last full week of September. Right now, my scheduled field deliveries will be in Henderson Kentucky, Springfield Missouri, and Sacramento California. I will fly to California of course, but drive to Kentucky and Missouri. There's also a class with Bell Canada, but that one may be a field delivery, and may be a Virtual class (online).
I do have a couple of interesting classes coming up though, even if they will be delivered online. I've taught three classes for the United States Department of State (Frankfurt Germany, Bangkok Thailand, and Springfield Virginia), and will deliver a fourth one for another Embassy. This one is for the Lagos, Nigeria Embassy; there's no way management will send me there, so we're doing that one online. To support that class, and my class next week, I will drive to Schaumburg tomorrow, and pick up some equipment. I have to take good care of this stuff though, it's all worth over $100,000.
To help me improve my online deliveries, I found an old whiteboard for sale last week. The price was only $50, which is not bad. It's not just a whiteboard though. It has a sheet that runs horizontally around it, and by pressing a button, you can move to the other side. Not only that though, if I ordered an adapter cable, I can connect it to my laptop, and anything I've drawn on written on the board can be saved to my laptop! (Assuming of course that I can find a compatible Windows 10 driver). I still have a couple of things to purchase to improve things a bit more. First, a portable webcam. A shop light (sort of) that I can hang near the whiteboard to give it better light. Slowly but surely, I'll get there, and some day soon, will be able to deliver a class as if I was in front of the students. Now if only my manager would let me have all the equipment, test equipment, and cables (Power. Ethernet, Serial, etc) here at home permanently so I can deliver any of my classes here. But heck, I might as well be wishing for the moon.
I have to confess that I have not delivered this week's class in over a year! It's okay though, it's a 'radio' class, and if you can deliver one, you can deliver others. I've done classes like this since 2001, so I'm not worried.
As I've said, I am home essentially the next two months. I look forward to my trips, we'll see what happens as time passes. Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Bradenton, Fl
Week Of: July 20, 2020
Well, I managed to deliver my fifth class at a remote location this week. I was afraid this class would become a virtual one like so many I've been scheduled for have. But things worked out, and I drove to Bradenton, Florida for this delivery. I'm glad I did because I managed to do a couple of things.
One of my best friends at Motorola retired in January, I hadn't seen him since sometime last year. He moved to Mount Pleasant, Tennessee a couple of years ago, and while on medical leave last year, he decided it was time to hang things up. Driving to Bradenton would give me the chance to take a small detour and visit him and his wife. We're the same age, and I know (as does he) that we may not see each other again in this life. No, neither of us plan on dying any time soon, but I learned long ago that tomorrow is not guaranteed. I left a day early, stayed at a decent hotel on my dime that night. Okay, I didn't spend a penny, other than dinner. I used hotel points. We met on Saturday morning, and spent about an hour catching up and kidding around like we always did.
The drive Saturday was not all that pleasant. I drove down I-65 to Montgomery, Alabama before angling Southeast through the state. The drive from Birmingham to Montgomery is supposed to take a bit more than an hour. It felt like this one took eight! In actuality, it was close to three hours due to construction, and an accident that had us almost completely stopped for over an hour. As a result, where I'd hoped to get to Gainesville Saturday night, I only made it to Tallahassee. It was fine though, the next day drive was short. Except for the accidents, again.
While in Bradenton, I managed to visit my father-in-law, a man I haven't seen in about 10 years. I saw him four of the nights I was there, and we conspired to surprised my sister-in-law with a pizza night. She had no idea I was in town. When she saw me, you could have knocked her over with a feather. I also avoided crowds, and didn't dine out. The nights that I did have dinner there, I got food to go, and ate in the comfort of my room.
So why did I drive? Just read the news about flying right now, and you can understand. Did it tire me out? Definitely. Was it worth it? Yes, definitely. The drive home was uneventful, I even drove through Atlanta, spending Friday night just south of that city. The whole trip, I was amazed at the number of accidents I saw on the roads. I didn't count them, but I'd guess there were 9-10 on both drives.
I will spend the weekend and next week at home. There's still a lot going on at work, I am scheduled to teach from home all of August, before going to Schaumburg to deliver a tailored class to the State Department. Right now, I am booked every week between now and Christmas. I do have the Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks free right now, but that could change. Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Bloomington, IL.
I will be home this week after all. I was originally scheduled to deliver an online class to the Los Angeles World Airport, but that was changed last Monday night. Instead, I was now going to visit High Point NC again. That all changed (again) on Thursday. The manager of the radio shop I was going to be at, has a family member who tested positive for COVID-19. So, it's cancelled of course. Now, I'll be here at home working on preparing to deliver a tailored class next month.
The class last week ended up well it seems. Their radio system is unique as I mentioned in my last entry. One of the things their system supports, is the use of cell phones interfacing with the radios. Cell phones are really radios that operate in what's called 'Full Duplex'. The difference between a cell phone and a radio? Full Duplex means one can transmit and receive at the same time. Radios are half duplex, meaning they can do one or the other, not at the same time. Plus, cell phones operate at different frequencies than radios, so that may make you wonder some. And of course, there's an answer for that too. As I've mentioned several times in other entries, our radio system uses the same kind of devices that the internet does for wide area communication. It's all 'IP' based (Digital, 1's and 0's, not a frequency). So, we use IP devices to interface between the cell phone network, and our radio network.
The drive home was something else, and very tiring. Once class was done Thursday (about 2:30), I drove to Virginia Beach to visit a friend of ours. I arrived there about 6:30, and while there, I picked up an Akita puppy she had from a recent litter. I was there almost an hour before heading out. I drove another 3-4 hours, and finally stopped in Charlottesville for the night. (Sorry Robert Waltz , I was only there overnight, and far too late, so made no plans to drop by. We could have made plans to meet, but I'd hoped to take the northern route for a couple of reasons). I was finally in bed by a little after midnight (I'd woken at 4am that morning), then got up at 6:30 to get the puppy walked and such before hitting the road at 7:30. The drive was long and tedious, made more so by me following the GPS directions, and not questioning why at a certain point.
In West Virginia, there's a toll road near Beckley, and a previous driver had set the GPS to avoid toll roads. When the GPS directed me off the Interstate, I thought it was a shorter, faster route. That wasn't the case at all. Because I was on state/county highways now, there were a lot of hairpin turns and slow downs. As a result of all this, I lost at least 1.5-2 hours of time. To top it all off, as I was leaving Huntington WV, just on the west side, traffic came to a stop. MAJOR accident about a quarter mile in front of me! Thank God I wasn't near it or involved in it. But, traffic was at a dead stop for at least an hour. So, I lost three hours of driving all together that day. That was nothing compared to those in that accident. I don't know if anyone was killed in that accident, I never heard any news, never saw the wreckage. By the time traffic moved again, everything was cleaned up, except for minor debris. As a result of those two delays, I didn't get home Friday night until a bit after 10. Another long day.
I've decided to drive on my next trip also. Sarasota Florida. I'll leave about noon on Friday, visit a co-worker from Motorola who retired in January (lives in Tennessee), and avoid Atlanta. This means I will most likely drive through Alabama, north to south along I-65.
I will spend the weekend and next week at home before heading off to Florida. Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Washinton DC
This week finds me in Washington DC to deliver a class to a customer I've never taught before. The White House Communications Agency. Before you all get all excited or upset about my customer, just know that we are no where near the White House for this class. The training location is south, across the Anacostia River from DC, on the Anacostia/Bolling Joint Base.
Their system is a pretty unique one, a bit different from other customer's systems. I guess it figures, being they maintain communications for the White House staff, President, and such, especially when he travels. I'm not sure what all they support/do for the White House, but their system is large, and as I mentioned, setup in an unusual way.
I chose to drive here for this class, and the drive was pretty interesting. I posted in the newsfeed about seeing a Semi on fire in Indianapolis. The firefighters hadn't arrived yet, and the cab was fully engulfed in flames. I could feel the hear through my car's rolled up window, even though I was on the far right lane going the opposite direction the truck had been going. The other thing that was unusual for this trip, is that my credit card chip decided it was a good time to malfunction. The card itself is fine, it can be swiped, everything is fine with the account. But the chip can't be read. I called the bank about it, and the guy told me it was probably their card reader. I had to explain to him that I'd tried using it in three different locations about 10 miles apart. He still didn't think the chip would go bad. His words, "That's very unusual, those chips don't fail." I couldn't believe that he was refusing to think the chip could fail, and kept insisting it was the card readers. I contacted the Motorola department that handles this stuff, and a new card is on the way. To my house....
Once I arrived here, I had a message from our scheduler. I was scheduled to deliver a Networking class from home next week. Now I'll deliver the same class, in High Point NC. The instructor scheduled to go was a last minute replacement due to us losing two instructors to retirement recently. He can't travel though, so him and I swapped classes. I know it wasn't possible, but it would have been nice to know about 3 weeks ago. We could have planned a 3 week work-cation, and drove here to Washington DC, then to High Point NC, then down to Sarasota Fl, then driving home. How nice that would have been! As it is, I will get home Friday, then fly to Greensboro NC via DFW on Sunday, fly home Friday, then fly to Sarasota Florida on Sunday, and home on Friday. Then I'm home for 2 weeks before having to travel again.
I will spend the weekend at home before heading off to NC. Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Bloomington, Illinois
Well, here I sit at home once again. Work has picked up for all of us. We have a backlog of classes to deliver, some that we need to complete after having completed the theory portion online, and it keeps piling up. Our management team is doing a fantastic job in supporting us. Both of our immediate managers are former instructors, and our Instructor manager still deliver classes when needed.
This past week was same class I've delivered on line two or three time in recent memory. Remember, this is a pretty new class for me, and requires learning a new form of configuration software, as learning more about the Master Site and its software. After delivering it four times, I understand what needs to happen with this class. Even though I edited it/re-wrote it in March, it needs a complete tear-down and re-write. Our software changes, sometimes pretty fast, and you have to keep the course material current. That didn't happen with this class. So, while it's not a complete 'back to the drawing board' effort, it will be close. I have finally decided, or realized, what sequence the labs (Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet work) need to be done, and know that the current labs just won't fit the bill. With the help of a co-worker, we exported the necessary portions of the configuration software to a CSV file, and I will use those to generate the new labs. For me, the hardest part was deciding what order they should be completed. I've decided.
Did I say work was picking up? Well, if I didn't, it has. Early this year I scheduled two weeks of PTO for myself (in October), so I can get home to New Mexico for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. If it is still scheduled. So I have those two weeks free. I have the week of July 4th free. Other than that, I'm teaching classes every week until Thanksgiving.. Even Labor Day week. This is VERY unusual for us. But it's not just me, all of us are scheduled the same way, we're all just as busy. But I love it.
The second class in Washington DC has been delayed by the customer. Their Technicians want the class in person, their management wants it done remotely. The thing about technical classes, is you NEED that hands on time to learn how to do things. We'll see what the future holds, and when that class gets re-scheduled.
I will spend the weekend at home here before teaching class from home next week. If I do end up getting to travel again, you'll be the first to know! Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!
|Locale: Bloomington, Illinois
Well, here I sit at home once again. I can't believe it's been three weeks since I posted an entry, but a lot has gone on at work. We are seeing some people leaving/retiring at work, and changes made to our delivery process, and the use of contractor end-user instructors. What that means is, our work load is more than doubling, but out instructional staff isn't. Gone are the days of us teaching a maximum of three weeks, with that fourth week being a mandatory week off. I have to say that I've never been a fan of that policy, mainly because of this thought process. I'm an instructor, I'm supposed to teach classes. There are those in the public school sector who do far more than I'm required to, and only get time off during the summer. Except, their time off is spent preparing for the next year, getting things in order, and maybe attending mandatory classes to further their education. So to me, I should be ready, willing, and able, to teach a class every week. Just MHO.
Well, I get my wish, and as they say, be careful what you wish for. I had the entire month of March free, with no delivery. Add half of April to that. Since then, I've been pretty busy, (and I was pretty busy those weeks off too) teaching classes. I'll give you an idea of how things are changing. In the first two quarters of 202, I delivered 59 days of training. That's right at the desired number of days per quarter that management wants us to deliver. Now as I say this next part, understand that my schedule can change on a moments notice, with classes at least 2 weeks to a month away being added or dropped. Right now though, I am scheduled for 56 days of delivery in the 3rd quarter alone! That's almost as much as I delivered from January through June! And no, while I know classes may come and go on my schedule, I don't think I will see less days scheduled. So if you wonder if I'm busy while still remaining home all this time, "Yes, I am." And I'm thrilled, while also asking myself, "What have I gotten myself into?"
I am scheduled to go to Washington DC the week after July 4th, and again two weeks later. Those deliveries may become 'virtual' online deliveries, teaching the classes from home. I'm also scheduled to be in Los Angeles between those Washington DC classes, that too may become virtual. When I say virtual, what we do with the class, is teach all the theory we can, while also doing demonstrations on the equipment. At a later date, the students will have to come to either Schaumburg, or our Fort Lauderdale facility to perform the hands-on activities. The advantage for them though, is they can complete 2 or 3 classes (perhaps) in one week! The drawback is, how much time will have passed between their 'theory' portion, and actual hands-on portion. It remains to be seen. All of this is still a work in progress, for us, as well as our customers. We'll see what the future holds.
I will spend the weekend at home here before teaching class from the next two weeks. If I do end up getting to travel again, you'll be the first to know! Til next time, be good to yourselves and those you love, and WRITE!