Copyright (C) 2011 by Steve Litt. All rights
Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for
use to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. All rights reserved to
copyright holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise
free software source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided
User assumes all risk and responsibility for any outcome.
| Back Issues | Linux Productivity Magazine ]
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. -- Quote from a guy who just doesn't get it.
By Steve Litt
Tens of thousands of public employees, many of them teachers, gather in
the streets of Madison, Wisconsin to protest upcoming legislation
stripping them of collective bargaining rights. In Florida, Governor
Rick Scott is pushing for teachers to start giving 5% of their salaries
to their pension funds, after five years without a raise. Listen to
talk radio and you hear slur after slur aimed at teachers unions, and
it seems to me a lot of those slurs are aimed at teachers at large.
Listening to talk radio I get the impression that most teachers are
But I know better, because teachers have shaped my life. Special examples include:
This month I write of the teachers who contributed so much to my life,
as a tribute to teachers worldwide. Without good teachers, where will
we get Troubleshooters, Engineers, Programmers, Database Admins, and
research scientists? Where will we get literate people? How will we
- Miss Massey
- Miss Krenwinkel
- Mrs. Troyer
- Mr. Gebhart
- Mr. Wendland
- Dr. Armington
- Mr. Hull
- Mr. Fransosi
- Mr. Little
And contemplate this: If we never give teachers raises, if we make them pay
ever more of their benefits out of their modest wages, eliminate the
right to collective bargaining enjoyed by everyone else, and then, just
for fun, make them the scapegoat for society's ills, where will we get
good teachers? How many excellent potential teachers study law or
business instead, just so they can have a reasonable house in a safe
neighborhood and maybe some professional respect?
By Steve Litt
Do you like reading Troubleshooters.Com? Thank Miss Massey. Without her I very well might be just another guy in prison.
Things didn't go well for me in elementary school. I was always in the
three or four "dumbest" kids in the class. I came close to flunking
third, fourth and fifth grades.
Sixth grade brought me to Skokie Junior High School in Winnetka,
Illinois, to Miss Massey's classroom. New school, nobody knew anything
about Steve Litt. Miss Massey apparently hadn't heard the story of
"that dummy Steve Litt", or maybe she chose to ignore it, or maybe she
even took it as a challenge.
When I accidentally tied for the highest grade in the class on the
semester's first science test, Miss Massey praised me both publically
and privately. It was the first praise I ever heard from a teacher,
other than "I know you're smarter than you perform" or "you're
underachieving." It felt good, I worked harder. Second science test I
got the highest score. Miss Massey praised me, taught me, helped me.
Long story short, every subject -- science, history, English and math,
in sixth grade my grades were the highest in the class.
I never again considered myself stupid. Thank you Miss Massey!
By Steve Litt
Seventh grade brought Miss Krenwinkel. It wasn't til well into
adulthood that I appreciated Miss Krenwinkel's contribution to my life.
As a matter of fact she and I fought like cats and dogs. I misbehaved
in her class, she singled me out. Unhappy days were here again.
Miss Krenwinkel taught the class to outline. She taught the whole
class. She forced us to turn in an outline of a composition before we
wrote the composition. We hated it. But she kept pushing us.
Grudgingly, I learned to outline.
As an adult I've used outlines to plan events and trips, design
computer programs, design books, and many other things. As a guy with a
short attention span, I shudder to think of life without outlining.
Miss Krenwinkel gave me that.
If you'd like to read in more detail of Miss Krenwinkel's gift to me, you can see it at http://www.troubleshooters.com/lpm/200310/200310.htm#_Genesis_of_an_Itch.
By Steve Litt
By eighth grade we were getting ready for high school, and so we had a
different teacher for each subject. Mrs. Troyer was my English teacher.
Whenever Mrs. Troyer spoke, it made sense. When she taught us how to
parse and diagram sentences, she did so in a logical, simple, "just the
facts" manner easily and quickly learned and remembered. This woman
By the end of eighth grade I spoke absolutely perfect English. Not
because I'm smart, and not just because I came from a home that spoke
English correctly, but because Mrs. Troyer had given me the tools to
figure out, in real time, how to state my case with correct grammar. I
could diagram sentences in my head.
Unfortunately I made bad choices in the 70's and became one more Boomer
trading in proper English for Jive, Urban, whatever you want to call it
incorrect English. Over the years I forgot Mrs. Troyer's teachings, and
you just can't find books to teach sentence diagramming any more. Even
so, to this day I remember enough of Mrs. Troyer's teachings to express
Do you like reading Troubleshooters.Com? Thank Mrs. Troyer. Without her I'd write real bad you'd have trouble with reading me.
You know what I mean?
By Steve Litt
After high school I went to Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
They had their share of "can't speak English" instructors and
whiteboard facers, but they had some good instructors too, and Mr.
Gebhart was one of them.
I can still see Mr. Gebhart at the bottom of the auditorium, lecturing
a couple hundred students and actually getting through. He taught
Statics and Dynamics, a tough, tough course for a sophomore. Mr.
Gebhart wasn't special like Miss Massey or Mrs. Troyer. Instead, he
simply used common sense teaching techniques:
I didn't appreciate Mr. Gebhart until they yanked me out of his class
early second semester because I was one of the top 10% of the students
in his class, and they put me in an "advanced" statics and dynamics
class taught by "Mr. X", a French speaking whiteboard facer who was
just doing time teaching the class. I got a C second semester.
- He spoke loudly and clearly, not too slow or too fast, in grammatically correct and reasonably accented English.
- He faced the class, not the blackboard.
- He had a personality and let it show.
- He looked like he was having fun.
- He used diagrams to make things more understandable
Steve Litt teaches courses on troubleshooting. You can email Steve here.
By Steve Litt
Late in my Electrical Engineering curriculum at IIT brought a course
called "Switching Theory", which was the math/logic of digital signals,
as I remember. It could have been a very tough course, but not with Mr.
Mr. Wendland was a character. If I remember correctly, he was about six
feet tall, in his late 20's or early to mid 30's, had bright red hair
combed like a 20 year old, fashionable threads, and wraparound shades.
Tragically hip, he could have been the object of lampoonery, except
that he was SUCH a good teacher. Mr. Wendland made it impossible not to
Every class, he'd hand out mimeographed sheets (mimeographing was a
sloppy blue inked type printing preceding laser printers) describing
upcoming classes, homework, and how to do things. These were especially
important because they represented the prioritization of the material.
If you wanted a 100% A grade and a Ph.D. you'd study both his handouts
and the textbook -- if you wanted an 85% to 90% to learn what you
needed to ply your trade, his handouts were pretty close to sufficient.
Mr. Wendland also had the other requirements of a good teacher: He
spoke loudly and clearly, his sentences transmitted the facts without a
lot of noise, and he faced the students instead of the whiteboard.
By the time I took Mr. Wendland's class my days of academic achievement
were over. I viewed school as a way to avoid getting shot down in a
rice paddy for somebody else's civil war. I just didn't care. I ditched
class, goofed off, partied. But Mr. Wendland's notes and teaching
method absolutely prevented non-learning -- in his class you'd learn in
spite of yourself. The morning of final grade day I went in to argue
about my grade (before even knowing it). I was drunk as a skunk on the
fourth of July. He gave me a B, and I drunkenly argued for an A for
fifteen minutes. Mr. Wendland cut the legs off my credibility by
pointing out that my shirt was mis-buttoned.
Later I heard from friends in the class that while I wasn't there, Mr.
Wendland mentioned that "judging from his test and homework scores, Mr.
Litt should have gotten an A, but I just could not in good conscience
give an A to someone with his attitude, so I gave him a B." Thinking
back on it, here's what I would say to Mr. Wendland about that B today:
"That's OK Mr. Wendland, the B was just fine, because without your
great teaching ability, I would have flunked the class, and worse would
have not learned the material. B is far better than I would have done
with a lesser teacher, because you're right, my attitude stunk."
By Steve Litt
The semester before Mr. Wendland's class I took my hardest EE course,
Systems and Signals, other wise known as Transmission Lines. Ugh! Even
without the rotten attitude described in the preceding article, I'd
have flunked this course.
But I got a C. Because the way Dr. Armington taught this course, it
felt like there was a firewire cable between his brain and mine. He
spoke slowly, clearly, logically. Only relevant information crossed
that firewire cable between our brains. He knew the course was insanely
difficult. He'd repeat until things sunk in. He'd draw diagrams. He'd
have us draw diagrams.
All the teachers described in this document were great. Dr. Armington was one of the two spectacular
teachers I ever had. You know, the kind they make movies about. He made
an impossible course possible, even for a guy who just didn't care.
By Steve Litt
Time moved on. The Vietnam war ended. I never served, I never died in a
rice paddy. In 1977 Jimmy Carter gave amnesty to the draft deserters.
The nation's wounds from Vietnam were healing.
In the early 1980's, nine years after graduating IIT, I took computer
and business courses at Santa Monica Community College (SMC) in Santa
Monica, California. Mr. Hull taught Intro to Pascal.
Now in my 30's, my attitude was different. Attending class took away
time from my business, so I was going to get my money's worth and learn
like a sponge. Unfortunately, my computer programming skills and
experience were far behind those of my classmates. Mr. Hull helped me
get an A, helped me develop an appreciation for programming, and gave
me some of the design skills that would help me make a lot of money.
First of all, Mr. Hull had big-time credibility. He was smart. He
worked at Rand Corporation, for gosh sakes. All the red-hot computer
science students at SMC scrambled to take Mr. Hull's courses. When Mr.
Hull taught you functional decomposition, you listened and did
functional composition, because he had credibility. When Mr. Hull told
you that there was a tradeoff between data complexity and procedural
complexity, you listened, remembered it for the rest of your life, and
one day used that fact to become a better programmer.
I worked hard. I listened very carefully to Mr. Hull and did what he
advised. I asked for help when needed. And somehow with his help I
eaked out an A.
The schools elite Comp-Sci people went out to dinner with Mr. Hull at a
Mexican Restaraurant every Thursday night. I was nowhere near the
elite, so I never even heard about these dinners. But a year after
completing Pascal, I'd worked my way up into the school's Comp-Sci
elite and was invited. If you think Mr. Hull was effective in the
classroom, wait til you see him at dinner, pondering questions I could
never even think of.
You know, great teachers are ubiquitous. We've all had them. To quote
the credit card commercial: Tuition for the Pascal Mr. Hull taught me
-- $20.00. Restaurant check for the dinners where he taught me the
larger Comp-Sci ideas and idioms -- $6.95. The love of programming he
taught me -- priceless.
By Steve Litt
How do you spell "professional"? I spell it F-r-a-n-s-o-s-i. Midway
through my rather long stay at Santa Monica College, Mr. Fransosi was
my instructor in a class whose name I no longer remember. Now you might
think he couldn't have been a very good teacher if I don't remember the
course name. But you'd be wrong to think that.
Mr. Fransosi taught us to use structured programming. Always. He taught us that someday we'd be professional
programmers, and in the corporate world hacking and kludging don't cut
it. By day Mr. Fransosi was a button-down corporate programmer, and by
night he taught us to follow in his footsteps. He taught us
professionalism. He taught us to love being professional, and to take
pride in it. Upon completing his class I knew what was acceptable in
business programming and what wasn't, and I resolved to do only those
things that worked in a professional setting.
It's a lucky thing he taught me that, because three months into his
class I got a my first programming job, and due to Mr. Fransosi I knew
exactly how to perform at work.
By Steve Litt
Remember Dr. Armington and his firewire cable from his brain to mine?
SMC's premier instructor, Mr. Little, had that same firewire cable,
qualifying him as the second of the two spectacular, Olympic class
teachers I ever had.
Everybody wanted to take Mr.
Little's classes. Word was out that Mr. Little was a spectacular
teacher, and with him as your instructor you could learn prodigeously.
Unlike Mr. Hull and Mr. Fransosi, Mr. Little was a full time instructor
-- that's what he did for a living. There are those who might quip
"those who can, do, those who can't, teach." OK fine, whatever, but the
fact is that hundreds of his students went out into the world and did
Mr. Little's "doing" for him. As for me, Mr. Little gave me knowlege
and appreciation of various programming techniques and when to use
them. I attribute most of my success as a programmer to my SMC
instructors, especially Mr. Little.
The Myth of the Self Made Man
By Steve LittThe same radio waves that denigrate public
schools, teachers unions and even teachers put the "self made man" on a
pedestal. The guy who pulled himself up by the bootstraps to run a
billion dollar corporation is our new national mascot. But the way I
see it, there's no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Here's why...
Unless you were home-schooled, your teachers helped mold you. Helped
make you. Helped give you the edge you need. Helped you speak well
enough to sell what you offered. Helped you acquire the critical
thinking skills to compare, contrast, ponder and prioritize.
In your reach for greatness, never forget the teachers upon whose shoulders you stand.
The American Dream
By Steve LittIs the American dream just a matter of a poor
person being able to get rich? Or is it something more; the feeling you
get belonging to a country whose citizens are richer, smarter, and more
educated than their counterparts in other countries?
If your vision of the American Dream is being a big fish in a little
pond, many countries beckon. Pre-revolutionary Egypt, Tunisia and
Bahrain just to name a few.
But if you want the chance to get rich in a big, strong pond, a pond to
be proud of, a pond that protects you, then you need a pond with an
educated populace. And that means lots of good teachers.
You want to attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession.
You don't want to scrape the bottom of the barrel after it's been
picked over by every other profession, because that's a certain road to
mediocrity, both for the teachers and for the nation at large. Teachers
must have liveable salaries and decent health insurance that's
affordable on their salaries. They must have the right to bargain
collectively, just like everyone else, so they continue getting a
living wage and aren't subjected to undeserved, arbitrary and summary
firings or discipline. And most of else, they must have respect.
They're our key to restoring our nation's greatness.
If you feel the way I do about teachers, let everyone you know
about this web page. Publicize this web page. And for gosh sakes, next
time you meet a teacher, thank him or her.
Letters to the Editor
All letters become the property of the publisher (Steve Litt), and
be edited for clarity or brevity. We especially welcome additions,
corrections or flames from vendors whose products have been reviewed in
magazine. We reserve the right to not publish letters we deem in
(bad language, obscenity, hate, lewd, violence, etc.).
Submit letters to the editor to Steve Litt's email address, and be
the subject reads "Letter to the Editor". We regret that we cannot
your letter, so please make a copy of it for future reference.
How to Submit an Article
We anticipate two to five articles per issue, with issues coming out
We look for articles that pertain to the Troubleshooting Process, or
on tools, equipment or systems with a Troubleshooting slant. This can
done as an essay, with humor, with a case study, or some other literary
A Troubleshooting poem would be nice. Submissions may mention a
but must be useful without the purchase of that product. Content must
overpower advertising. Submissions should be between 250 and 2000 words
Any article submitted to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine must
licensed with the Open Publication License, which you can view at
At your option you may elect the option to prohibit substantive
However, in order to publish your article in Troubleshooting
Magazine, you must decline the option to prohibit commercial use,
Troubleshooting Professional Magazine is a commercial publication.
Obviously, you must be the copyright holder and must be legally able
so license the article. We do not currently pay for articles.
Troubleshooters.Com reserves the right to edit any submission for
or brevity, within the scope of the Open Publication License. If you
to prohibit substantive modifications, we may elect to place editors
outside of your material, or reject the submission, or send it back for
Any published article will include a two sentence description of the
a hypertext link to his or her email, and a phone number if desired.
request, we will include a hypertext link, at the end of the magazine
to the author's website, providing that website meets the
criteria for links and that the
website first links to Troubleshooters.Com. Authors: please understand
can't place hyperlinks inside articles. If we did, only the first
would be read, and we can't place every article first.
Submissions should be emailed to Steve Litt's email address, with
line Article Submission. The first paragraph of your message should
as follows (unless other arrangements are previously made in writing):
Copyright (c) 2001 by <your name>. This
may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth
the Open Publication License, version Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999
at http://www.troubleshooters.com/openpub04.txt/ (wordwrapped for
at http://www.troubleshooters.com/openpub04_wrapped.txt). The latest
is presently available at http://www.opencontent.org/openpub/).
Open Publication License Option A [ is | is not]
so this document [may | may not] be modified. Option B is not elected,
this material may be published for commercial purposes.
After that paragraph, write the title, text of the article, and a
sentence description of the author.
Why not Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999 OR LATER
The Open Publication License recommends using the word "or later" to
the version of the license. That is unacceptable for Troubleshooting
Magazine because we do not know the provisions of that newer version,
it makes no sense to commit to it. We all hope later versions will be
but there's always a chance that leadership will change. We cannot take
chance that the disclaimer of warranty will be dropped in a later
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
(R) is a registered trademark of Steve Litt.
URLs Mentioned in this Issue