It’s all connected

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned in college. I’m a writer, editor, and a historian. I have a graduate degree in history and an undergraduate double major of history and medieval studies. People have told me these are useless degrees, but I beg to differ. I thought I’d share some of what I used in the last few days that I learned in college, so that you can appreciate what you’ve learned or consider what you might yet have to study.

I just finished a large freelance project for a photographer doing advanced detail work in Photoshop. This was not my field of study in college, and the software was in its early stages back then. I did not have the program installed on my computer until two days ago, and had never used the program. The person I got the job from knew this.

Because I went to college:

  • I became a better writer with a more organized thought process. I am more able to express myself well and to get freelance work.
  • I have been able to understand complex matter like learning to install complicated new software.
  • I was able to teach myself an advanced Photoshop skill by watching short instructional videos and figuring out the minimal skills I needed to run the program which I had never used before. Lynda.com really helped. I did the large batch of work and all of the skill learning in two days. I’ve already been sent more work.
  • I was able to do the research I needed to find the instructional materials.
  • I didn’t panic, even though I was warned that it would be a really steep learning curve.
  • I was able to focus and work two very long days because I have mastered the most essential freelance skill–butt-in-chair. I learned this in college.
  • I can work long stretches at a time and meet really short deadlines when it’s necessary because I know that things need to be in on time.
  • I learned that it’s essential to take breaks and walk about and to eat better when you’re facing a large task. I learned that I did better in school when I took time to take care of myself.

I’m certain that I used other college skills in the last few days, and I sometimes even work as a historian, but you get the idea. College teaches you how to learn, and how to think. It teaches you discipline and focus. These are essential skills that can be gained from even the most “useless” degrees. And please note, I think history is a great degree to have. That’s a diversion I won’t take today.

I’ve learned something from every experience I’ve had, from my time in college to a terrible experience I had working at an Italian restaurant (but now I know how to use a corkscrew like a pro!) What have you learned from your time in school or at work? I bet you use it more than you ever realized.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
267. Think about everything you’ve done in the last week or so. Did you learn any of it in school or in the workplace? Take a moment to think about some of the less obvious benefits of your education, wherever you received it.

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Brick and mortar telling tales

Like many an information junkie, I’m happy to be living in the age of the internet. When I was a kid and you wanted to know something you’d have to trek on down to the library and research it in heavy Britannicas or other similarly dusty volumes. I still believe that’s the best way to do certain research—and I certainly confirm things with reliable sources—but I’m excited that my desire to know can often be instantly gratified with some appetizers of information.

I frequently stumble upon these tantalizing sites while verifying spellings and details for the blog. I found one such gem yesterday. The city of Seattle maintains a division called the Department of Neighborhoods, and I found some very useful information while looking up Seattle’s cast-iron street clocks. I surfed around within the site and found a resource that’s going to occupy me for many joyful hours—the Historic Resources Survey with its Database of Historic Properties.

I¬†worship architecture, and I’m an incurable historian. I love to wander the streets and admire the buildings in our town. I’ve also lived in and visited many of our older apartment dwellings. I wonder about the stories of the structures I ogle. This database lists many historic properties by address. You can sort by neighborhood, too. Some listings have more details than others, but all seem to contain a photo, and many give specifics about the architects. The attached descriptions often tell why a building was built, what amenities the buildings had originally boasted (and what remains), and give specifics about the neighborhood at the time.

The articles tell that certain buildings were constructed to satisfy post WWII needs for apartments while others were designed to lure people who might buy homes into luxury spaces. My friend lives near one such place—an elaborate Tudor with a wide-open courtyard. It’s fun to peer in its virtual windows via the website.

This database allows me to satisfy some of my hunger for more info on the neighborhoods and houses I love without begging to be invited in or doing lots of legwork of my own. It might also be a fun read for those outside the area who are interested in architectural history. I love these hidden gems of the information age!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

128. Does your local government provide information you might be interested in somewhere on their website? Explore and find out.

Link, should you desire it:

http://seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/historicresources.htm