Didn't I enlist to stop doing this stuff?

I don't write about work much. This is largely because it's not that interesting--certainly not compared to home right now.

Since the text translation job didn't pan out, I've sort of been in limbo. I have done one more translation for that project, since they had literally no one else to do it. It was a "high priority" task about a military vehicle that has been in service almost 40 years; it's hard for me to imagine what could possibly be high priority about an article that itself dates back to the 1980s, but whatever. This is one of the big beefs I had with the project--limited resources, and horrible allocation of those resources, with very limited communication between the people who can actually read the documents and the people who are deciding what documents get translated.

Anyway...

My orders specifically call for "Russian language training," which we have sort of expanded (with the tacit agreement of the guy who audits us) to mean "support for the language program, which may include studying Russian from time to time." So here's what I do to support the language program:

  • I make coffee. The importance of this should not be underestimated.

  • I do Office-type things. Example: They ask me to do a graph in Excel. 10 minutes of conversation reveals that what they actually want is a database, information from which can then be put into a graph. And yes, I end up doing the graphs, too.
  • Computer support.
  • Web-wandering.

The aforementioned database is for tracking a unit's linguists, their language proficiency test results and dates, their training, and their language pay orders. This was to fulfill a requirement for our language funds audit under the Army Language Program. The Command Language Program Manager for the Nasty Guard had been working with me to find and adapt something for our use, but it turned out to be easier to make my own. He liked it so much that he has been talking about making it available Guard-wide for other units in other states who have linguists.

Computer support: We have eight very fancy Dell Precision workstations (about $4000 each when purchased two years ago) that were given to us by another organization. The details are not terribly important, save that for the work that these were intended to do, they had to be on a commercial Intarweb connection, which meant none of the Guard intranet apps and configs--just straight Windows XP and Office and the like.

Some enterprising officer sent these over to the Guard IT people to be loaded with the intranet WAN image. Later, an enterprising Specialist adapted these system images to work on the commercial Internet connection--this bastardized setup is what I inherited when I arrived. After a good deal of effort finding out what happened and getting the original software disks and other silliness, I have been working on and off for months to get these set up with a clean, functional Windows XP environment with the apps that are needed for language study and general Army use, and none of the extra garbage. They are about as idiot-proof as I can make them, and I declared Victory on Thursday when I finished loading the last one. Aside from some networking still left to do, I'm done doing IT tasks for the foreseeable future.

This leaves the last bit of my job: web-wandering. The Army has recently become hip to the whole technology thing and has done a few smart things. Our parent brigade (the largest Reserve component linguist unit in the US military) scored 30 gig video iPods for every linguist in our battalion. These are designated solely for language study--no English-language material is allowed on them at all. Part of my job is to find useful foreign language stuff to put on iPods. This means I spend a lot of time at video.google.com.

[For the interested, I have created a (private, for now) Google group to trade Russian language resources targeted at people who already have a working proficiency of Russian but want to maintain or improve their abilities. Shoot me an e-mail if you fall in this demographic and are interested.]

So yeah, my job right now consists of fixing computers and doing Office things and websurfing. Not exactly what I signed up for.

But it will get better. SSG Smallville jumped ship for another unit that is heading back to Iraq, and it looks like I will be covering his full-time job at Fort Lewis for the duration of his absence. This will be work more directly related to my job and will be a good learning experience. This will start sometime in May or June, hopefully.

The only downsides to my new job are a) even farther to go (another 15-20 minutes in the car per day) and b) even less posting during the workday--like none at all. But I'm looking forward to the change of pace.

There's also a TDY to Florida coming up at the end of April--more on that later.

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