Staying Busy

Recently I have been thinking about what I do with my “non-work” time.  With my career transition, I’m able to use time for “non-work” activities during the day, hopefully to the benefit of others.  Someday I hope that I can combine my vocation and avocations.

This led me to thinking about listing all of the various things that I do.  Some people put them on their resumes, but mine is already too long and I’m not sure what it would add.  So I’ll list my “sideline” things here for your interest/amusement.  I know that once I find a job I may have to cut back on some of these (indeed – several of them have been started since my career transition started with the caveat that I may have to stop at some point).

Work-related

Recently I’ve been providing computer services to others as a sideline.  Mostly this consists of PC maintenance, including some hardware work, installing software updates, and a lot of fixes to things like “my computer does X when I do Y – can you fix that?”.  This is done for various forms of renumeration including lunch and good will.

I’m also going to be helping another church do some brainstorming of what they want on their church’s website.  And yet another church has asked for help with their website, but I don’t know the specifics yet.

Local Church

I have a lot of roles at church:

  • Deacon – currently serving on the Board of Deacons, assigned to the Prayer Team and enjoying serving Communion on occasion.  I’m also the designated “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the people assigned to jobs each Sunday.
  • Open Door – recently completed a stint as co-chair of a task force studying issues of hospitality to visitors and the community.  I’m likely to serve as a member of the new Session committee being created to continue this work.
  • Webmaster – of the church website and the weekly e-mail that goes to almost 400 people.  This role also has me serving as the social networking expert surrounding our presence on Facebook and such.
  • Youth Advisor and member of Youth and Young Adult Council – nothing that I do at church brings me more joy than my work with the Senior High youth group.  I’ve also been involved in supporting the youth director with strategic planning for the youth council lately.
  • Percussion – most members of the church have been surprised to learn that I was classically trained as  a percussionist in high school.  I’ve been using those skills on snare and cymbal, djembe, congas, and other instruments in both the alternative and regular service.  Apparently I’m not as rusty as I think that I am.

Greater Church

  • The God Complex – serving as Webmaster for the new weekly Internet radio show that is hosted by Bruce Reyes-Chow and Carol Howard Merritt.  This involves blogs, web hosting, e-mail and other stuff that I don’t even know about yet.
  • I will be assisting my local Youth Director with the Small Group manual for the next Youth Triennium.  Not in a major way – just reading and editing.  I hope to turn that into a trip next summer, but that would require some creative planning (anybody need someone to man a booth or serve as a chaperone?).
  • This blog seems to provide value to some.  I’m also on Twitter and most of my friends there are church-related

Other Stuff

  • I’m a member of the Delaware Valley Ham Radio club.  I’m a general-class ham – KC2SMS.
  • I’m one of the keyholders for the ham radio emergency equipment for the local Red Cross office.  The Princeton Red Cross chapter is the “center” for ham radio for the state’s Red Cross groups, mainly because we are centrally located.  Monday night will be the monthly equipment test for the Red Cross and the NJ State RACES/ARES folks.

So, I’m keeping busy.  If I were being paid for all of that at a reasonable salary I’d have a full-time job.  As it is, it’s more like 1/2 to 2/3 of my days and some of my non-work hours.  I like to help people, and I usually don’t care whether I get paid or not (though getting paid is important for other reasons).  My hope is that someday I can use these skills for a paying position with some meaning to the world.

This Week

February 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Religion 

This week is “in between” time.

I’m in the middle of the process for obtaining Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute.  I’ve had the skills for years, but never got the certification.  My wife already has this certification.

It’s a lot of work getting this certification.  I had to document 4,500 hours of work leading project tasks over a period including at least 36 months of time.  I also had to document 35 contact hours of training.  The process of documenting that alone took me a solid week.

Then I chose to take an exam prep training class to make up the 35 hours.  I found out later that I already had the 35 hours (my previous boss reminded me of an in-house training class that counted), so I should be able to carry some hours into the next reporting period.

I completed the training class yesterday and submitted my application.  Now I’m in the up to 5 day waiting period while they decide whether or not to approve my application.  Then I pay for the test and either immediately scheduled the test or go through the 5-day audit process.

This PMP certification will open up a lot of jobs that I am qualified for aside from not possessing the certificate.  Many large and medium-sized companies require this certification for project management jobs.

I had to put the job search on hold while doing the documentation and training.  I should be restarting it now, but I believe it would be more effective to get the certification and update my resume and then start.  So this is limbo time.

Tomorrow is busy anyway.  I need to drive to Philadelphia (in the rain and/or snow) to pick up a city ID card for my volunteer work with the Philadelphia Digital TV project.  I was recruited by the local FCC office as a ham radio operator to assist with the installation of Digital TV converters for the elderly or disabled.  I may be volunteering this Friday to do this work.  Then in the evening my church committee Project Open Door is presenting our final report to the church Session.

Thursday I’m having lunch with somebody from the church.

Friday as I mentioned above, I may be volunteering in Philly.  There is a Trenton Devils hockey game that night.

Saturday evening is a major event.  The Trenton Devils are retiring the number of Scott Bertoli – who played his entire professional career (aside from a few trips up one league) with the Trenton Titans.  I’m definitely going to that game and getting out all of my old Trenton Titans stuff.

Sunday I have coffee duty for the deacons at church, and youth group in the evening.

A bit of a round-up

October 9, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Ham Radio, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

Hello, readers.  I have been neglecting you lately.

Here’s a bit of a round-up on things going on with me at the moment.

Job Search
– I think I’m going to stop counting days on the blog.  I’ve been making good contacts in the last few weeks, and today I have my first meeting with a “hiring manager” (someone who is in the right position to potentially hire me).  It’s not an interview – just a meeting.  The search is going slower than I’d like, but apparently reasonably on track according to my outplacement coach.  The economy and general financial crisis aren’t helping.

Church – This part of my “non-work” life is busy.  My deacon work is adding a little time to my Sunday mornings, plus I’m serving as the “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the deacons scheduled for a particular Sunday.  My youth work is keeping me busy as well – the time commitment is a bit higher than last year because of some schedule changes for the Sr. Highs, but it’s completely worth it to me.  I was asked to be the webmaster for the church website, and I’m investigating how much time that actually takes – it might be too much.  Project Open Door is moving along nicely to the end of our chartered work – we brainstormed issues surrounding hospitality, visitors, relations with the community, and inactive members last week.  In our next meeting we’ll brainstorm solutions, and then start writing up the report to the Session to be delivered in January.  I’m looking at starting spiritual direction.  Aside from a minor dust-up this week, all is well in this department.  I will admit to my faith taking a beating due to my job situation, though.

Home – All is well.  Carolyn is a conservative spender by nature, and I am one when the situation calls for it.  We’ve pulled way back on our discretionary spending and even made some more economical choices with our necessary spending.  This is setting us up well for a long siege if necessary.  The lack of a job hasn’t hurt my relationship with Carolyn that I can see.  The cats love having me home more often.  The homefront is safe and stable right now, and financially prepared for a while.  Carolyn is still taking next week off from work (a Smith family vacation including my parents and siblings was planned for Orlando – we have to miss it for financial reasons), and I’m taking our anniversary on Wednesday off from job searching.

Ham Radio – I’m still participating a little.  I haven’t been able to purchase equipment beyond an HT (walkie-talkie-style radio) and accessories.  I saw the trouble in the economy coming even before I knew that I’d be laid off, and chose not to spend in this area.  I am staying involved with some emergency management and public safety events, and I’m still attending the club meetings.  I think I’m qualified now to get a key to the club’s radio shack and will pursue that soon – they have LOTS of equipment for club member use there.  Unfortunately, ham radio activities tend to be scheduled at the same time as church events, and between the two church wins.

That’s about it.  As always I welcome any comments, and assistance in my job search.

What’s going on

July 18, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Life, Religion, Youth 

My blog has been quiet, and light on what’s going on in my life.  Most of that is due to the Sword of Damocles question about what I should write here.  (By the way, more input is desired in the Bible Study on blogging.)

Here’s a short roundup of what’s been happening and what is going to be happening.

  • Car Accident – This happened back on June 20.  As I said before – minor damage and no injuries.  My car has been repaired.  I’m apparently at the beginning of the subrogation process – my insurance company has decided that I’m not at fault and has submitted a claim to the other driver’s company.  The other driver got a ticket for Careless Driving, so it should be an easy decision in my favor.
  • DirecTV – I have two DirecTV DVRs.  One of them developed hard drive problems and was randomly rebooting.  That has since been replaced for what amounts to Free.  It was just a pain, but much less of a pain than expected.
  • Deacon – I perform my first deacon duty this weekend.  I’ll be putting juice and iced tea on the table in Fellowship Hall after the service.  As one other blogger said, “They also serve who stir and pour.”  I’ll be greeting in August, and Officer Training and Installation will be in September.
  • Camp Johnsonburg – I’ve assisted twice with Sunday check-in.  Once I was a medical check person for the “no medication” line, and the other time I managed the medical form paperwork process (an all-paper process that is a bit labor-intensive for 200+ campers).  I was pleasantly surprised to run into one of my youth group members checking into the camp’s Leadership Training Program (a 3-week program that is essentially Counselor training).  I’ll be back again in August for one more Sunday.
  • Youth Group – I drove the youth mission trip to and from Philadelphia where they stayed at and worked with Broad Street Ministries.  By all reports a good time was had by all and several report transformational experiences.  I’ll be going with the youth group trip to Montreat for the Youth Conference (week VI) starting next weekend.  I’m a smidge nervous about that – the last time I did a week road trip with a bunch of youth was my trip to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in 1986, when I was a youth.  I’m hoping that a mostly out of shape 40-year-old can keep up.
  • Birthday – it was quiet, which is the desired result.  I didn’t ask for much, and the presents that I received were thoughtful.  I got a lot of cards with old people on them for some reason …
  • Ham Radio – I participated in the national Field Day at the end of June.  I was only able to help set up in the morning and operate for a few hours in the afternoon.  This event is when amateur radio clubs and individuals all over the country set up their equipment in the field (we were at Mercer County Park) and demonstrate their ability to operate in an emergency.
  • Home, Wife, Cats – all about as good as usual.

Blogging will be non-existent between July 25 and August 3 or so due to the youth trip.  It may be light until then, unless I think of something compelling to say.

Busy Weekend

June 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Life, Religion 

This is going to be a busy weekend.

On Saturday, I have to be at ETS in Princeton by 6:30am in order to work with my fellow ham radio operators to support the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure bike race.  We’ll be providing radio support to handle bike rider problems, such as needing the sag wagon to get taken back to the start/finish line, needing repairs, or getting into accidents and needing medical attention.  There are 3 races occurring simultaneously and it should be complicated.  Right now I’m scheduled to be a “net control”, roughly equivalent to a central dispatcher.

Sunday I’ll be at church for worship, followed by the Annual Congregational Meeting.  That meeting will take a while because this is the meeting where organizations make their annual reports.  There is also the election of elders and deacons.  In the afternoon I’ll need to get the lawn cut and get bills paid and such.

End of Week roundup

January 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Life, Religion 

Here’s what’s going on.

  1. I managed to decompress from the congregational meeting last weekend.  There are still some hard feelings among the young adults who work with youth, but we’ll get over it.  I did express my feelings to my pastor.
  2. Last night my committee co-chair and the pastor and I had a conference call.  We’d had to cancel the committee meeting because so many members were unavailable for the meeting (including a disturbing number who chose to drop out and prioritize something else higher – after they’d agreed to be there).  We have a strategy for moving forward (but I can’t discuss it here until we’ve announced it to the team).  How do you staff church committees when the really involved people are also really busy?
  3. I passed my ham radio Emergency Communications course, with 100% on the test and 100% of my assignments accepted on the first try.  Next month or in a few months I’ll take the Level II course.
  4. Tonight Carolyn and I are headed to the Trenton Devils game.  We’re skipping Saturday because 3 games a weekend is too much.
  5. Sunday the church is doing a service project in lieu of (or technically during) the worship service.  We’ll start in the sanctuary, but then break early to spread out around the building making School and Baby kits for Church World Service, and hygiene kits for the Crisis Ministry of Trenton and Princeton, and sandwiches and wrapped utensils for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.  Then we’ll gather for lunch and close worship.  It’s Levi Sunday (named for the Levites – get it?  We’re supposed to wear jeans).
  6. Sunday afternoon the Sr. High (and some Jr. High) youth group will go to see the Trenton Devils hockey team (ECHL).  My season ticket plan includes one free luxury suite a year, and I’m treating the youth.  It should be fun!

I have been tagged in the book meme, but I don’t know if I’ll get to it today.  Maybe later.

So what’s up?

January 18, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Religion, Sports, Work, Youth 

So what’s going on, Mark?

I’m glad you asked.

This week has been eventful.

Earlier in the week, we got the news that the company is looking into some form of ownership change for all or part of the company.  I’ve already written about that.

Today we actually got good news.  IT has gotten permission to give an allowance to IT employees who are required to be on-call for support issues.  The department will pay up to $75 of our home broadband Internet and cell phone charges.  For me that means $40 for Internet access.  My cell phone usage for work is minimal and always within my plan.

At church I got the Project Open Door meeting scheduled for next week – we’ll be going over inactive members and how to interview them gently.  I had a good Sr. High youth evening last Sunday and a great Youth and Young Adult council meeting on Tuesday.  The YAYA council actually reduced the amount of logistical stuff that we go over to focus on the substance and theology of our program.  We’re going to be more intentional about linking our activities to our theology in the future.

Hockey – there are 3 games this weekend.  I’m going to tonight’s game with Carolyn, and tomorrow night’s game with Carolyn, my sister and a friend of hers.  Sunday’s game will get skipped – 3 in a weekend is too much.

Ham Radio – I got voted in as a member of the Delaware Valley Radio Association last week. Last weekend I went to their radio “shack” and got an orientation on the building, antennas, and radios.  I’m also nearly finished with the ARRL EC-001 Level 1 Amateur Radio Emergency Communication online class.  That class will teach me how to be useful in an emergency (like a flood, hurricane, or other disaster).  The class is going really well – my mentor told me that I’m the first student out of the 100 or so that he’s worked with who managed to format all 4 sample emergency messages correctly on the first try.

In the Presbyterian world, things have been busy.  We’ve had a presbytery approve a lesbian candidate as ready to receive a call to ministry, we got a young adult candidate for General Assembly Moderator (for the non-presby’s, that means roughly “head Presbyterian”).  These actions (particularly the first one) have prompted the expected reaction from the conservative wing of the church.  Our General Assembly this June will also be considering a complete re-write of the Rules portion of our constitution.

At my own church we have a congregational meeting this Sunday that will consider a change to the bylaws to loosen up the rules on the number of Elders and their term length.  This is intended to allow the church to ordain it’s first Elder under age 18 for a term shorter than 3 years (because the youth probably couldn’t serve a full 3 years).

Life is a roller coaster, but in retrospect it’s been more up than down this week.

KC2SMS

November 28, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Ham Radio 

For those of you who don’t recognize it, KC2SMS is a United States amateur radio call sign.  It’s used to identify the station and operator of a “ham” radio station in the US.

It also means me.

I’ve been interested in radio for many years.  During college I was a member of the Rutgers Amateur Radio Club (WA2NPP), but I never got my license.  I just didn’t want to go to the effort to learn Morse Code.

Earlier this year, the FCC (and ITU – the international body governing radio) eliminated the Morse Code requirement for all amateur radio licenses.

When I decided to stop flying, I looked for a less expensive hobby that could be done on my schedule (flying is clearly neither).  I tried some online version of the ham radio tests after doing 20 minutes of looking at a study guide and to my surprise I passed both the entry level (Technician) and middle level (General) tests.  I seem to have learned a lot of the information over the years from one source or another.  I decided to do some studying and take the tests.  It only costs $14 for a testing session and you can take as many levels as you pass for the same fee.

On Saturday, November 17 (the same day that I handed in my keycard to the flying club) I went to the Pennington branch of the Mercer County Library and took my tests.  I got one wrong on the Technician test and to my surprise only one wrong on the General test – a score of 97% on each.  I tried the Extra (top) level and only got 1/2 of the questions right.  That test is harder and I’ll have to work to pass it someday.

Yesterday the paperwork went all the way through and I was issued my call sign and license.  I have a Yaesu VX-6R handheld VHF/UHF radio on order that should arrive later this week.  In the future I’ll look into a mobile (car) radio that handles all bands and can be used at home as well.  I don’t think I plan to install a major antenna farm or tower at home – I’ll probably get field antennas and put them up when I want to use them.

I have already contacted the ARES/RACES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) folks in my area.  I’ll start working with them soon, though there is a pause in activity for those groups in December every year.  I also may get involved in traffic nets – the passing of short messages via radio from members of the public to other members of the public with the intent to train for the need to pass important messages in an emergency.

Besides, being an IT person by day, being heavily involved in church, and flying airplanes wasn’t nearly geeky enough.

73