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Journal Entries for February 2015
February 3, 2015 9:19 PM

Everything is a race.
I beat you, dad! Both of the twins are in a competitive stage where everything is a race. If one of the little ones walks through a doorway before I do, I hear those words. If one of them finishes a glass of water and there is some still left in mine, I hear those words. Everything has become a competition around our house; even things that should not be competitions! Most of the time I don't even realize I am competing, and yet never has the everpresent watchful eyes of my children upon me been more evident.

Yesterday I came home to yet another very lengthy train track sprawled out across the floor, starting in my son's room and spilling out into the hallway, underneath the piano bench, crossing the top of the stairs and almost reaching into the laundry room. What my children lack in terms of urban engineering they more than make up for in expansionism. Last year for Christmas we bought a train load (literally) of wooden interlocking train tracks, complete with train cars, crossings, bridges, people, tunnels, a turntable and parking garage, and all manner of other small building blocks which have since become the favorite toy, I'd argue, of both our youngest offspring. It's very amusing to listen to them play together as they act out scenes and scenarios involving both their creation and their imagination. Everything from monster attacks to trains getting lost and scared has hit the storyboard.

While it seems that some stages of life are beginning, others may be ending for our oldest daughter who is effectively no longer taking piano lessons. After asking her all manner of questions about her practicing habits, enjoyment of playing the piano, enjoyment of practicing, and the number of times she has gone to the piano to practice on her own (without being prodded by her mother), her piano teacher announced that she was done, that due to her complete lack of interest and motivation, continuing to try to teach her piano was a waste of (my daughter's) time, the teacher's time, and our family's time (and money.) As a parent it was an interesting place to find myself. As a child, I fought kicking and screaming against taking piano lessons; I hated them! I wanted nothing to do with the piano, and resisted at every turn my parents attempts to learn me some music until after a couple of years and three piano teachers' attempts, they relinquished and I was free of it. I can't say that I regret the decision either, it would have been nice to be able to read music now, but the lack of lessons really didn't prevent me from learning to play and learning to love playing the piano. I think for me, it was the fact that I was being taught something which at the time, I saw no value in. But now a parent, I'm considering carefully what my official stance on this subject should be. Both twins have only just started piano lessons and love them, but if anyone else wants to "drop out", I'd like to have a position ready to take if that conversation comes.

One of the things I find the most tiresome about being a parent is what feels some days like a continuous stream of small people coming to me with questions. The more I parent, the more I realize I hate making decisions; especially for other people. It is very draining to have to constantly decide on things. It makes me strongly believe I am not cut out to be a leader, yet find myself in a leadership role daily. Therein lies another variation of my constant struggle: doing what I want to do versus doing what I have to do.

February 13, 2015 9:19 PM

Creating them is even harder than taking them!
My ever-evolving role at Convergint has found me in a position of teaching new hires lately, and part of this transition has necessitated the development of a series of tests that can be administered to both assess the skillset and knowledge of potential candidates before they are hired and to evaluate the effectiveness of the training I am providing. Very quickly I discovered that creating a test is way harder than writing one. Even in simple true/false structure, the wording of the question can render the question ineffective; it is very easy to create a question that is more about the question than about the subject matter.

Tests are interesting too because I have found that every question I craft involves many flavours. First of all, there is the subject matter: Is this a technical question, a question about a best practice, a question that will draw on the test taker's experience or lack thereof? The wording of each question is also a tricky thing. I hated taking tests where you could miss one word in the question or some other subtle nuance that caused to you misinterpret the answer; yet now I see the value in requiring the reader to have a keen sense of observation and attention to detail.

Coming up with multiple choice questions requires you to also come up with three or more wrong answers for every correct one. Sometimes it is easy to make answers wrong, but other times it can really draw out the quality of a candidate to throw out a number of [reasonable] answers that sound like they could be correct. I'm basically building my own Balderdash. These kind of questions help distinguish between a person who can solve a problem with reason and good judgement from a person who has faced this problem before or taken training on this subject specifically where the correct answer is not in fact the most obvious or even the most reasonable one. So far, this has been the most fun part of the project.

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