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The History Kid

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Blog Entries posted by The History Kid

  1. The History Kid
    In the profession of history, often times we encounter a few choice sayings that the general population has grown accustom to hurling our way.  Each and every time I heard one of these sayings, in school, I would get agitated.  Every time I hear the other, now, I get even more irritated.
    'You're studying history?  So, you're going to teach then!'

    I know this is hard for some people to grasp, but the history field has one of the most dynamic skillsets of any profession.  You require knowledge of literature, ability to conduct academic research, ability to write in an academic format, have organizational skills, have problem solving skills, be able to form theories with miniscule quantities of information, and - anymore - we have to be computer savvy.  We'll ignore for a minute that History B.A.'s are also a favorite path of law schools for perspective students.
    So, that means I could teach (if I liked being underappreciated and spit on by students and probably the administration).  But more likely, I could be a librarian, be a researcher, work in government (local, state, or federal), aid in archeological research, aid in academic research, write, office automation, office administration, secretarial work, archive, work at a museum, work at a historic site, work as a park ranger, be a lawyer, go into politics, work for a publishing firm, work as an appraiser, work as a historian or historic advisor...do I need to go on?
    But this doesn't bother me near as much anymore (mostly because I'm employed and am now at a graduate level - that question is easily shot down), so much as this:
    "You guys only have to study history though..."

    In my undergrad, I worked in the archive where I currently work (though I wasn't getting paid then).  Rather, I just worked in the archive and I don't just work there now.  Anyway...
    Part of my job then was to do the basic historians duty of making heads and tails of what was in front of me.  In my case, that consisted of reading through extremely elaborate and detailed technical reports on various weapons systems.  I read about ballistic studies, engineering reports, studies on digital azimuth's, fire control platforms, and various forms of climatological impacts.  That's just to name a few.  I was tasked with sorting these into a database in a searchable format that people could read and understand.  So, of the 2,500 entries, I had to read them all, make sense of them, and then parse them into something the general public would actually search for.  Chances are you aren't going to be looking for a ballistics study on a gun, but you might look for the firing range or angle of that gun.  I had to make sure that data was programmed and available.
    Likewise, when a historian takes on a subject, they have to assume specialty expertise on that subject.  For example, I could not write a research paper (25-50 pages) on the P-51 Mustang unless I assumed some sort of expertise on the subject.  I may need to know things about the Army Air Force, the Air Force, North American Aviation Company, aviation as a subject, and engineering - to know what the P-51 did that was better or worse than its contemporaries.  If I'm writing on the history of heart surgery in the United States, I am going to have to have fundamental knowledge on the processes and history of surgery and heart surgery (and treatments) in the United States.  That information isn't just present in the realm of history, but to the realm of medicine as well.
    A historian's duty, in a dull sense, is to know "stuff", and report on it in such a way that it remains replicable or applicable.  It is our job to preserve a period or issue in time and ensure it isn't forgotten, whatever the reason may be.  That means we learn history - not as a profession - but as a skill.  To a historian, our degree certifies a skill, the knowledge and specialty comes after that skill is procured.
  2. The History Kid
    Recently, I got approval from my security advisors to begin writing on a 1960s era weapons platform.  It will comprise of a single component of what will eventually be my dissertation.  It isn't so much that the platform is sensitive material, rather than I'm just getting in the habit of working with my security guys.  After all, my career is young, and there may be times down the road when I need a more rapid response to an inquiry than "in a few weeks."  
    This past weekend, I wrote up a short writeup on the project for my other blog.  It's pretty standard for me to want to put out as much information as I can on any subject, and this other blog entry was to be an exercise in the examination of research material that was already out there at large.  However, with any kind of research comes the classic problem: narrowing your search.  Lo and behold, two and a half minutes into this exercise, I have several other search queries with several other search terms input in the fields.  
    "We can't talk about X, without talking about Y, and talking about Y doesn't make sense if you don't know about C, and C is part of project D that was designed to replace platform A which predates project M."  But it gets worse: "Project M has three sister projects that were referenced in X, which didn't make it to production and were instead used in project Z which then went on to be O."

    We all like to joke about how this is a meme.  However, in the world of research it is an absolute fact of life.  A coherent thought is what begins here, though you wouldn't notice it if you aren't accustomed to the process.  Why?  Well, it looks like this.  Which is fine and all to a researcher, but the real world isn't interested in X, Y, C, D, A, M, Z, or O.  They want to know A, B, C and/or X, Y, Z.  How they get there is inconsequential to them and the responsibility of the author or presenter.
    So what is a rabbit hole exactly?
    A rabbit hole is the terminology we use to define the path that leads to a "hairball."  A hairball is essentially what that well known meme is depicting - a bunch of lines connecting topics, thoughts, books, papers, research, theses, and commentaries.  You could think of a rabbit hole as a first-draft, or an early stage annotated bibliography, where the hairball is the collection of the topics assembled into a muddled up mess on paper.
    What is the real world practice of this?
    The project that I am working on is on a key-note weapons platform that eventually did go on and get used in the first stage of a modern-day system.  None of those systems are used anymore, which is why the topic was approved.  However, within that line of thought there are over 35,000 independent systems that went into the project, 14,000 contracts, and over 60 different projects that grew from it encompassing over 150,000 systems and contracts combined.  And no, a security review wasn't done over the rest of those.  Sadly that means that while I have the approval for the one, I still don't have the freedom to move around like I should be able to in order to conduct the research as necessary.  So goes the plight of a researcher.
    So too goes the definition of a rabbit hole.  Lucky you, you just read a blog entry on research (of an ambiguous weapons system) on an anime forum.  Sorry tinfoil hatters, there's nothing groundbreaking that will be in here.
  3. The History Kid
    It's an old adage - one that certainly reaches back farther than you or I have been alive.  "Embrace the Suck."
    So why is this such a big deal to me?  Well...I actually have an anime spin on this one - "omg, gais Michael's gonna post some anime stuff!"  Calm down there, Mr. Roboto.
    I have an automatic turn-off when it comes to main characters in an anime.  Mainly those who do not "embrace the suck." (Michael, what the frig does that even mean?) I'm glad you asked member that's talking to me in my head!
    "If it ain't rainin', we ain't trainin'." - A saying that gets drilled into your skull in basic training.  It also gets hurled at any DAC who has labor in their job description.  Those who complain about things are told one thing: "Embrace the suck."  The internet version is: "Deal with it."  (Hay, look! I made my cover photo relevant.)  But it's these two sayings that I've adopted as my own since I turned 18.  They've become more part of me today more than ever.  So much so that they direct how I handle interactions with people.  They also steer how I expect an interaction with someone should go.
    So naturally, when I'm face to face with a little twerp main character in an anime, it irritates me.  The indecisive one.  The non-committal one.  The one that would rather eat an overcooked steak than go back and ask for it medium rare because who the ever-loving-frig would ruin a good steak.

    Now, the problem with this is that there's a real major disconnect in the attitude of many characters out there today.  They may seem to have an "embrace the suck" mentality, but in reality, they're just as whiny and pissy as the next guy. (I'm officially calling out Kirito, Sora from Kingdom Hearts, and Shugo Kunisaki (the later of which really needs to get run over with an Abrams tank and then tube fed into the mouth of a baby shark).)  These characters irritate me more.  Why?  They're the epitome of fake.  What I can't stand even more than whiners are fakers.  

    These characters single handedly can ruin an entire franchise, whether they're a main character or not for me.  Not only that, but they also set a precedent for the other series that might fall into the genre.  I can not count how many people are actually whipped into liking these character archetypes either.  (No guys, I'm not talking about people who are just shy - hell, I'm shy sometimes too - I'm talking about people who just for the love of everything can't decide whether or not to take the damn red pill or the blue pill.)  They create some of the most fantastic and annoying fans as well, and it honestly just amazes me.

    But I digress and go back to the point of my argument.
    "Embrace the suck" - "Just deal with it."  Cadence's to life.  Why?  Because, a lot of the time life does suck.  It sucks sometimes for all of us.  Just deal with it.  You have to.  Why?  Because only those who just deal with it can ever hope to change it for themselves or anyone around them.  The suck is a good thing.  So deal with it.

  4. The History Kid
    As I get more and more into anime, I am sure I'll start lampooning something with anime.  Right now I could go on and on about how tacky I thought Soul Eater's ending was, how gut wrenching Chrono Crusade's ending was, or how I really despite Hetalia despite the fact it's supposed to be a historical concoction.  However, until that time comes - I figured I'd let people get a glimpse of my day-to-day, and my thought process therein.  
    A historian, that is a Federal Historian (read: Golf-Sierra 0-1-7-0) is rarely "just" a historian.  They have functions that reach far beyond that of what you would associate with a historian.  It is not my intent nor duty to tell you about those things.  However, different historians in different commands or agencies get tasked with different responsibilities.  In my case, I fulfill the role as a (as in one of a few) installation historian.  In of itself, as a historian in a senior command on any post, that means you get tasked to give tours to the public and to other agencies on the post.  That's right, one of your tasks is to be a glorified tour guide.
    In my case, that could mean a number of things.  Whether you're running people through the post museum, the officer's living quarters, or packed on a bus and blabbering on about the post as you drive around it, you're going to be talking with hopes that they might get ten percent of what you're saying.  I've found children to be the most difficult audience.  Why?  Short attention spans, poor self-discipline, no respect, and lack of understanding.  Trying to explain force projection or materiel integration to a 9 year old probably makes about as much sense as explaining geography to a flamingo.  The next hardest group is the elderly.  This becomes especially trying when all they want to talk about is how "awful war is."  I get that ma'am, and I agree, but I don't sign the deployment orders - someone else does, and they also sign mine.
    Bus tours can be whirlwinds, and today was no exception - thus the reason I write this pilot entry.  Today we bused around twenty-eight Rosie the Riveter's and their families and talked about the role of women workers during the World Wars.
    Rosie the Riveter became an American icon in 1942, and has remained an icon for female industrial workers ever since.  Originally, "Rosie" was attributed to Women Ordnance Workers or "WOWs."  In 1942, this term applied exclusively to women who were working in U.S. Army depots, but by the time the nation had fully mobilized in the middle of 1942 into the beginning of 1943, this term expanded to include any women in the defense industry.  That included women working in private foundries, factories, and production lines.  As companies such as Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors revamped their production lines to produce more and more war materiel, the number of men leaving their factory jobs for the front lines increased.  The result is that many women had to step in to fill the shoes of the men who were deploying.
    My grandmother and grandfather were examples of ordnance workers in the private sector.  In 1942, my grandmother worked at Indiana Steel Works in Valparaiso, Indiana.  My grandfather was too old to deploy - so he too got a job in manufacturing.  Indiana Steel produced metal slabs for use in aircraft, tanks, and armored cars.  The role of a steel grinder, my grandmother's role, was to grind down smaller and misshapen steel for melting so that it could be molded to a usable shape or form.
    For the tour, the Rosie's were packed on buses, and away we went.  On our installation, WOW's were employed to manufacture belt links, assemble machine guns, rifle M1903 Springfield's (in World War I) and M1 Garand's (in World War II), aid with the transport of materiel, and even load ammunition.  The installation was able to claim many progressive firsts, including the first use of WOW's outside of the office, the first woman to be authorized to drive heavy machinery, and the first installation to hire minority women employees.
    The catch for this tour however: it was to be no more than 15 minutes.  Sadly, when you have as much history and content to discuss as this, such a tour is nearly impossible.  While it was enjoyable to be in their company, I am truly glad to be done with it.  Hopefully they at least got a few bits of information about themselves, or others who had not worked at this site in the past.  Such is the challenge of all tours...
     

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