Monthly Archives: May 2015

5 Careers You Didn’t Know You Wanted

Thank you to Career Addict for publishing me.

So a few years ago I found myself on the job meat market after spending a while in the military. I hit up the usual places looking at the usual categories and found myself sifting through the usual jobs. Sales rep. Fast food shift supervisor.  Part time tutor for five year old genius. The typical and boring role call every job seeker wades through.

Before long I had developed a complete dislike of the job market. It seemed like every job out there was designed by faceless suits whose entire goal was to choke the fun out of the workplace with a standard issue necktie. “Where,” I kept asking, “are all the interesting jobs? Who is advertising an opening for something that will turn heads at parties or become a best-selling autobiography?”

Eventually I did find a job, and it proved to be a pretty decent one. It doesn’t turn heads at parties, and it isn’t exactly going to land me any movie deals, but it pays the bills, and I do enjoy what I am doing. I do find myself wondering, though, what might have happened if, back then, I had been aware of jobs like these:

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Top 10 Fantastic Roads in The World

Thank you to WondersList for publishing me.

Roads. They are indispensable to the modern world. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association estimates there are over four million miles of road in the U.S. alone. There are roads on all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica), under the ocean, and which go nowhere at all.

Out of all of those miles of roadway in the world, here are ten that are particularly fascinating.

Read the rest of the article here.

Why the Department of Transportation Has Made Me an AI Agnostic

This actually happened.

I recently wrote an article about some high tech infrastructure options that I feel fairly strongly about. My target for this was the “Fast Lane” blog on the Department of Transportation website. After finishing the article, I sent it off to them with the following note:

 Customer By Web Form 05/18/2015 01:18 PM
I’ve written an article for Fast Lane regarding possible future commutes. It brings together technologies such as driver-less cars, solar powered roads capable of charging electric cars, and environmentally sound commuter practices. I’m hoping you’d be willing to run it as a way to wet the appetites of concerned citizens and policy makers alike as we look to tomorrow’s infrastructure.

Unsurprisingly, the initial response I received (within seconds) was automated. Being automated it simply lifted key words out of the initial message to give me search results for materials it thought were related. These included such things as information on Toyota recalls, fuel economy statistics, and so forth. This had nothing to do with my reason for contacting them, but it is a fairly standard practice for larger organizations, so I expected it. I chose to wait and see if I would get anything further, this time from a non-automated process directly addressing my article.

Instead, what I got was this:

 Response Via Email (US DOT Reference Service) 05/18/2015 04:05 PM
Dear Jamie-
Please visit the web page posted at:

Sincerely,

Reference Services
National Transportation Library
Bureau of Transportation Statistics
Office of the Secretary for Research
U.S. Department of Transportation

Okay. http://www.its.dot.gov/ is actually fairly relevant to the topic. It is a page that links to information about future transportation infrastructure and smart tech. You have things on self-driving cars, smart cars, green initiatives… but nothing on actual solar power generating roads and their interrelationship with electric cars and future infrastructure.

Since this did not address the article, let alone give me a cut and dried yes or no on publishing it to the blog, I followed up.

 Customer By Email 05/18/2015 04:21 PM
So does this mean you are not interested in publishing my article to Fast Lane?

At this point I was already fairly convinced that the article was not going to be published. I just wanted clarification so that I could feel confident about looking somewhere else for this.

Here’s the response I received:

 Response Via Email (US DOT Reference Service) 05/19/2015 12:02 PM
Jamie-
Can you clarify what you mean by “wet the appetites” ?  Does this have something to do with water?
Also – “FastLane” is an internal publication of the Office of the Secretary.

Sincerely,

Reference Services
National Transportation Library
Bureau of Transportation Statistics
Office of the Secretary for Research
U.S. Department of Transportation

At this point I am pretty certain that I am talking to some sort of robot. I can find no way, whatsoever, to convince myself a human can jump from the oh so common phrase “wet the appetite” to somehow assuming my article discussing electric cars and solar power roads has something to do with water.

Seriously, if this represents the Federal Government’s capabilities in terms of Artificial Intelligence, I will never be able to watch Terminator again without laughing myself senseless. Skynet will be far too busy getting confused by phrases like “High as a kite” and “raining cats and dogs” to “jump the gun” and try “putting us on ice”.

I’m sure that there will be future updates to this, because, seriously, you just can’t write fiction like this.

UPDATE!

So I poked at the DOT on Twitter as part of this, and they’ve been quite responsive. I don’t know who runs their twitter, but it’s been a good conversation. Props!

Twitter - Notifications.clipular

UPDATE to the update.

I have to give big props to the folk at @USDOT on twitter. I’m not going to show the final end of our discussion, but they were very helpful in providing an e-mail I could use to contact their social media folk. There are no guarantees that anything will come of my sending the article that way, but the fact they took the time to do this speaks volumes. Thanks!

Solar Paneled Roadways Vindicated

Thank you to Infrastructure U.S.A. for publishing me once again.

Last year I wrote a piece discussing the possible use of solar panels as road surfaces. In it I discussed a project by engineer Scott Brusaw intended to take our decaying roadways, contributors to climate change, and repurpose them to become part of the solution. Solar power generating roadways, he argued, could virtually eliminate dependence on carbon emitting fossil fuels for decades to come.

The article generated a good bit of discussion as both supporters of the concept and detractors weighed in on a healthy debate over the project. Supporters backed the confidence of Norwich Civil Engineering professor Edwin Schmeckpeper. Opponents, however, remained unconvinced. Ultimately, the disagreement between the two sides came down to one simple problem, a lack of hard data to support or rebuff the concept.

Read the rest of the article here.

News Flash: China is Building Islands in the Middle of the Ocean

Thank you to IVN for publishing me.

Immigration. Same-sex marriage. Health care. Gun control. Welfare.Taxation.

I could go on, but I don’t think I need to. The list of political hot potatoes dividing the nation are all too familiar to anyone paying attention to American politics. Looking over the list, and the activities the political parties have taken in regard to them, it seems easy to conclude one thing: The only thing the parties can come together on is an agreement to leave moderation and cooperation on the curb.

There is, however, an issue that the parties might actually be able to come together over: China and its insistence on building brand new islands. Both major U.S. political parties have staked out policy positions that put them firmly in the same camp when it comes to Chinese actions in the South China Sea. The question is, will they take advantage of that to bridge the divide between the halves of Congress.

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Education And The Disabled Veteran

Thank you to the Military Guide for publishing me.

When I left the military owing to disability I found myself in a bit of a fix. Though I had my army training and skills, and years of experience with them, I was distinctly lacking in the things that the civilian world could recognize. Sure, I’d been an NCO with demonstrated leadership skills under fire. But I didn’t have a degree, and without that, I wasn’t getting interviews.

I already wrote about what I could have done while still in the military to avoid that situation, so I don’t need to repeat the story here. Instead I’m simply going to state that, being in that situation, I bit the bullet and did what I had to do. I grabbed my ruck, filled it with textbooks, and began sitting in classrooms full of 19 and 20 year olds to obtain the degree that I needed.

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The Classroom in a Virtual World

Thank you to Degree Diary for publishing me.

There’s a growing trend towards online education these days. Numerous universities have moved into offering specific degrees through the online sphere, such as Norwich University’s MBA, or the Geographic Information Systems degree from the University of Southern California. Other universities have even gone so far as to launch entire online programs, like Rutgers and Ohio University. Even children’s education has been getting in on the act, with an estimated 53% of all public high school students enrolled in distance education courses in 2010.

Given this, I thought we’d take a quick look at virtual worlds as classrooms. I’ve had a little experience with this, having attended classes that were conducted in Second Life, and I’ve researched purpose-built educational platforms that use the virtual world concept as the setting for education, like the Radix Endeavor. This rundown will specifically be for anyone engaged in using virtual worlds for education, either as a student in one of these classes, or as an instructor at any level from Kindergarten to post-doctorate.

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