Kansas City Social Dance - KCDance.Com - Copyright © 1998-2009 Mike Strong All rights reserved
At various times I've earned my living (in no particular order) as a massage therapist, a geodetic and astronomic surveyor, bartender, waiter, photographer (school, sport teams, commercial, portrait, wedding), computer programmer, web guy, newspaper reporter, radio disk jockey, radio news reporter, one-person black and white photo lab, technical writer, software documentor, bartender's school administrator. I've also earned very early money (not a living) in high school as a librarian, glazier (window-glass guy), and baker's assistant.
Photography is my first love. I've been taking photos since the summer of 1967. Later that year I learned to write for radio. I learned to write for print in 1974 when I took a newspaper job as a reporter in upstate New York after leaving a radio station in Geneva, NY. My first computer programming experience was during my first year in college. Later in the Air Force I learned to program the machines we took with us in the field. Personal programming began in 1980 on a pocket computer and began in earnest - as part of my living - in 1983. In that year I developed a mailing database as part of a marketing plan.
I started college in the fall of 1966 and graduated in January 1991, after a number of changes tons of in-between course credits from various institutions and a two-year AA degree in 1973 from what was then Auburn Community College in Auburn, NY (Now Cayuga County CC). I may be one of the few people who managed to get two (count 'em), two "F's" in algebra and trig (in my first confused year in college) and who went on to work in mathematical or logical fields. The military taught me what I really could learn.
In November of 1968 I joined the Air Force and they sent me to the army engineer school at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. My military technical trainers didn't bother to ask whether I wished to tackle spherical trig or whether I wanted to be a "geodetic computer" or whether I had the "pre-requisites." The military assigned me to the job because their tests showed that I could do it. To my surprise, I did! And darn well. Good ol' military. Today, as a programmer, I do graphics programming for a very sophisticated application.
At one time, while applying for a job as feature writer, I stated that I was probably the only reporter they would have who had earned his living meeting people in the nude, referring to massage. I probably couldn't use that line if applying for a bank job but it got me a job offers from newspapers.
But if you ask me what I really do I will tell you that I dance. Evenings find me dancing at least three if not five or six nights a week. I'm having a great time. And I am telling everyone I come across to get into dancing. Especially all the guys (and, to me, a surprising number of gals) who say, "I don't dance." In fact I even put out a brochure telling folks who ask where they can get lessons. The brochure lists the best ongoing, inexpensive (group) lessons in town. It also has a list of dance studios (who charge a lot more) for those people who want, and can afford, a more customized program.
Most of my web site is a dancer's resource for partner dancing in the Kansas City area. It lists various events, places of instruction and where to go to dance. It began in early 1997 as a brief page of information for those people I met out dancing who wanted to know where to learn. I would print the page and take it with me so I had something printed to hand to people who gave us compliments and requests for information. Originally it was just a page about the KC Swing Dance Club, because that is where I learned.
That quickly led to information about other ongoing, high-quality group lessons. When I began asking where to go I found that even the very experienced dancers had very short lists and I found that the nightlife listings in the local papers didn't address dancing. I began to compile a list of where to go to dance in KC. I put that on my site and I print it out as it changes and take it to the various dance clubs. The site's URL had been long and hard to remember. It was my former dial-up location. In the spring of of 1998 prices for domain-name hosting became low enough that I felt I could afford to get a domain name. So my URL (http://users.solve.net/~imagebin/dancing/) changed to http://www.kcdance.com.
Here is a job rundown. These overlap, sometimes greatly, so they are in a semi-order of most recent to oldest.
Jobs review: starting with the most recent (though there is some overlap):--
KCDance.com - 1997 to present - while technically not a job and not revenue producing, this is a service to the Kansas City community and is a major focus of activity for me. Over the years this represents an archive of local dance and in particular dance photos. This site keeps a database of dance events, lessons, studios, companies and other dance activities. I wrote in (I'm the programmer, of course) community access so that anyone can put up the schedule and notices of their dance events. Please visit (http://www.kcdance.com)
Photographer and videographer (present)- (Note earlier items in Commercial Photographer section below) - Covering mostly dance, but also other arts. I cover social dance and performance dance, folkloric, ethnic, KC Ballet, Wylliams/Henry, UMKC, City in Motion, Dance in the Park, KCMO schools dance program: Culture Through Ballroom Dance, Local studios and their events - Ballroom Fever, Dancing with the Stars in KC / Higginsville, etc. - dance events at the KC Fringe, Nritya Indian Classical, Dave Stephens gigs, swing, salsa, ballroom, Kansas City Two Steppin' since 2002 and anything else with dance. Much of this finds its way onto my KCDance.Com website (see item above).
Direct instruction for Dance Technology (2007-present) through the Dance division of the UMKC Conservatory. This is a course based on DanceForms software which animates 3D computer dancers as a form of recording, creating and proposing choreography. Recently we also added four sessions of photography and videography for dance in the dance production class.
Online instruction with UMKC's PACE department - January 2001 to present - This began with a request to put up a database course. I was already working in the field (see ACTP below) so the job fed heavily into the course construction. Later we added a block of courses in web development with media - streaming, writing (mechanics) and video for the web. In the summer of 2010 I was asked to add a section of Introduction to Web Design, which had previously been a prerequisite filled by other teachers. Feel free to visit: http://www.artfuldancer.com/lessons - I keep a link from my course listings on Blackboard to this server.
Programmer with American Crane and Tractor Parts - March or April 2000 to March 2003 - American Crane is in the west bottoms (across the road from the Kemper). Essentially it is a car parts store, except that the parts are for Caterpillar tractors and other equipment, sold across the globe, wholesale to other wholesellers and to dealers. The sales pages are far more complicated than shopping cart pages because they need to accomodate dealers who are looking through long lists of parts (sometimes several thousand at a time in a row and column format and they need to be aware of special considerations for the way in which various items are sold, or are sold only in groups, or what their original number have changed to. Then the program needs to be able to determine warehouse operations from stocking to picking and packing orders and deciding how and whether to combine them. All of this needs to be sent across the web to remote locations from the US, to South America, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, to computers which may have very slow connections.
Web Monkey (programmer) with UMKC's now former Computer Science Program - the BIT program - January or February of 1999 to the end of 2000 - I came to the program as a web programmer doing underlying code and architecture to support the new online learning we were developing from scratch. This included the pages, quiz structures, data structures to support quizzes, grading and more, as well as media delivery for both audio and video - and training the professors who were using this. This is the program Dick Hetherington built up to more than 740 students at the time of his retirement.Freelance again and job seeker - October 1998 - Preco decided to end the AutoScript division (see below) so I'm loosed on the community once again. Eventually, I joined up with UMKC in the BIT program (see above item) .
Programmer, technical writer: Preco Industries. I originally began work in late 1989 as a contractor cleaning up their sales database. (It was in Smart.) Then I wrote the manual for the second version of AutoScript (named AutoScript 5). AutoScript converts AutoCAD drawings into PostScript so that the technical drawings (blueprints, mechanical drawings) can be brought into publications for pre-press use. I used Ventura Publisher and designed the entire book, the layout, typeface, styles, table of contents, index, tutorial and all the illustrations.
Later, because I could act as intermediary between the programmers and "real" people I began to suggest internal program changes. In June 1992 I was hired as a salaried full-time employee. I then bcame the programmer for the third version (named AutoScript 6). This is in Windows (3.xx, 95 and NT 4.0). This version also gives an on screen preview, direct windows printing and separations and dozens of further enhancements. During most of a three-year period I worked from my home. This was until their new building was contructed in 1997.
This job ended in October 1998 when they decided to discontinue the AutoScript division and perhaps sell it. I still do contract work with them for other things they need, such as producing the computer graphics to give them film so that they can make customer-sample screens for the web-fed screen print press they manufacture.
Massage Therapist: Kansas City Club, KCMO. June 1987 to November 1989. The Kansas City Club is an exclusive private club and I worked out of the athletic department as their massage therapist. I introduced one-hour massages (they had been 15 minutes), almond oil, music and clear air (no smoke in the massage room). The old timer there on Saturdays was a true classic right out of a 30's gangster movie, smoking over the client and slapping away mineral oils and rubbing on some gawdawfull-smelling mess of ointment. Wonderful to see but not for my environment.
Massage was like a meditation for me. To truly massage you must truly listen, with ears and hands. By the end of a massage not only did my client feel wonderful, so did I. There are two basic lines of thought about massage; 1) mechanical 2) spiritual. I originally trained in massage as a means of exploring events in my life which were deeply spiritual; a visitation, a life-attitude change surrounding an event and a pair of precognitive events regarding a job in 1983. After two and a half years of massage I left to return and finish my degree and get on with my life.
Commercial Photographer, writer, computer instructor, programmer, database specialist, and bottle washer: (Note: update at the top) for myself, from late 1987. I began taking jobs shooting pictures for ads. I also, later began shooting portraits of sports teams for a local school-photo outfit. I can tell you what it is like to shoot close to 750 kids in a day, one at a time, posing with their basketball or soccer ball and maybe a buddy, at 20-30 seconds a kid. Yuh gotta have a system. Parents have often asked me how I can be so unflustered and even patient in the middle of so many screaming, jumping, biting, spitting, even smiling adorable kids. I just tell them these are their children. None of them go home with me at the end of the day.
Somewhere in this period I also spent a year or more working as an instructor in an AT&T computer training program. Electronic Office Supply in Independence, Missouri had the contract. I tought dBASE III, Ventura Publisher and beginning DOS. The course required that student rate the instructor and I always got top ratings, except for one woman on an exceptionally bad day. Even though her reaction to me was an exception I had to do a little consulting on that one. The program took quality instruction very seriously.
The only jobs I am currently taking in terms of any carryover are a few commercial jobs for small catalogs, just because I like to keep my hand in. (I told you I loved photography. Recently I even took a shopping trip to C&J just to breath in the smell of cameras and darkrooms.) In case you are wondering, the wonder of commercial photography is that in addition to requiring very exacting technical skills with lighting, framing, composition and exposure it also requires prodigious quantities of ironing. Ironing shirts (with prototype logos which smear badly should you touch them with the iron), ironing soft-side luggage, and cleaning and polishing any number of hardware items. Glamour has its price.
Meeting coordinator and mailing list programmer: (July 1983 to October 86) I fell into the coordinator job when a friend recommended me for it as a replacement for a coordinator who was returning to school. I'd never heard of such a job but was able to turn around and finish putting together a 20th anniversary meeting for more than 1,000 past and current clients of a management training firm. It was held in two hotels in Kansas City and involved room blocks, menu planning, meetings room arrangements, banquets and mails promoting the event.
That was to have been a three or four month job, ending with the 20th anniversary meeting. The firm kept me on in a position of building their first ever computerized mailing lists. We used a Commodore 64 and Superbase. I wired a switch panel into the keyboard so that the person we hired could turn out as many as 1,200 envelopes a day on a 12-character per second Brother daisy wheel printer. Eventually we had more than 14,000 names on the Commodore and then moved the data to the first IBM compatibles and built the list to 35,000 before I left.
Commercial Photo Lab: (a one person lab featuring me, 1980-1983) I did custom-quality work. This included doing the conversions for Macy's advertising (when they were in KC) from color transparencies used in their catalogs to black and white prints used in the newspaper ads. I still don't know why no one else seemed to get the consistently excellent quality in their conversions. I can only assume they didn't stick to the technical basics of exposure and development. I've always been very good in the darkroom.
This actually started for me when I joined a photolab undergoing a transition when their founder died in a plane crash. The guy who was taking over new color but wanted a black and white guy. He had the space and I had the black and white equipment and expertise. He paid me a percentage of the gross on my tickets. At one point, a large set of receipts, he had kept back money earmarked for me in order to pay rent. As a result he let me stay without rent for one year, then we went our separate ways.
I kept the business by word of mouth. I didn't know how to market myself however. It was just a good thing that I was so good at giving fast and high quality service. Still, my lack of marketing set me on the course to an eventual end. I was rescued a the last possible moment by the meeting coordinator job.
Bartender, waiter, bartender's school administrator: (1977-1980) It all started with a bartending course I took early in 1977. When the school needed a new administrator they remembered me and gave me a call. They offered me what was then, for me, decent money. They kept shifting me from one school in the country to another as they lost administrators. After four months or so I got the message that this was probably not a stable company. People kept resigning and I kept replacing them. So I resigned. I returned to me current apartment, in Kansas City and got a job as bartender in the fancy restaurant in the Radisson Muehlbach Hotel. That led to another job as bartender and also waiter at The American, another fancy dining spot. By that time I had located the photo lab job that I wanted.
Reporter: Newspaper, Radio: The Geneva Times (now The Fingerlakes Times) 1973-1976 in Geneva New York; WGVA in Geneva New York and WMBO/WRLX in Auburn New York. (You probably didn't think I could remember those call signs, did you?)
The Geneva Times was where I really learned to write daily for my living. I started for them after leaving WGVA. The Times was a Monday through Saturday paper and I was responsible for everything but the sports in the south half of Seneca County (between the two largest of the fingerlakes, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake). I came from radio where a long story may have been three paragraphs, with three variations for successive newscasts and where no one really remembered much of what you said. On the newpaper the paper itself was a memory people could hold in their hands. And in a small community it was true that the folks already knew the news, they just wanted to see how well you wrote it down. Even big-city journalists don't have that to contend with.
I will never know how many meetings I covered but I can tell you communities seem to live on meetings. And on their schools, their volunteer fire departments, ambulance corps and the VFW's in which they spend the rest of their time.
U.S. Air Force - geodetic computer, geodetic surveyor, astronomic surveryor - Staff Sergeant (E-5), Nov 7 1968 - Nov 8 1972. I really thought I was going to get a job as photographer. The recruiter said so - I even developed and printed some risqué pictures for him. (So that's my recruiter story.) I had never heard of geodetics. I thought I was in the Air Force and they sent me to the army for tech training. I had gotten my only-ever F's in algebra and trig less than two years before as I flunked out of engineering school. Then the army engineer tech school dumped hugh books of logarithm tables and spherical trig formulas on us. Downright amazing what you can learn when the only thing assumed is that you can and you will. The military did good things for me.
We had a very small unit with order from Defense Intelligence Agency (not the Air Force) and very often wore civvies on the job. We were always TDY (Tempory DutY - means we traveled) and received per-diem money. We worked in small teams at any hour of the day or night, just depending on the type of work needed: levels in the day, or angles or azimuths using the north star or astronomic positions (latititude and longitude) using stars to faint to see easily by eye but just the right brightness for a T-4's cross hairs. Very delicate work. Very satisfying.
Reporter: Radio: KTTT in Columbus, NE. May - Oct 1968 - Collected the morning news from any number of sources in my small home town. Basically I was clueless but so are a lot of journalists (I've become a critic in my great old age of 49+). Worked in a small booth to read the news and actually had a tape of the teletype (we still had those) playing under the news sound. Seems pretty hokey now but it was exciting then. I also engineered for a Polka show from time to time. That is another story. It includes Al Grebnik and the Boys, Happy Louie, Big Joe Siedlic (SHED lick) and more.
Photolab assistant in U. of Nebraska Journalism school, Fall 1967- Spring 1968. What can I say. The darkroom became my dream. I loved it. All the smells. It was a big deal to let the paper developer get under your nails, oxidize and stain your nails brown. You could swagger around with brown nails proclaiming that you were a real film-developing, print-making photographer. A primal creature of chemicals, water baths and drying plates. It never occured to us (maybe I should just say me) that not everyone would realize why our nails had such a noxious shade of brown.
Baker's assistant as well as pot and pan scraper, flour refiller (you know!): Gloor's Bakery - Fall 1965 to August 1966: Columbus, NE. I began by scraping the pans after school and refilling the flour bins. On the weekends I scrapped and also fried donuts, turning them in hot oil with a stick as the sound of the sizzling died down. I learned to form rolls and breads. In the summer I continued my scrapping but in the morning I got to form rolls and breads and cookies in large quantities. I even got to deliver the products and put them on the grocery shelves. Reinie Gloor let me learn everything I wanted to. I even began to learn cake decorating. I was hungry to learn. It was my earliest best experience of learning new and interesting things on the job. I felt capable and important.
Glazier (glass shop) Midwest Glass, Columbus, NE - early 60's (no, I don't remember when) - put in window glass, puttied windows, put in car glass. I learned to respect glass. I always cringe when I see the knuckleheads on TV or in a movie jump through glass, giving the idea that this is a good idea. The stuff is so sharp that you sometimes have to check yourself just to see whether you've been cut recently. Jumping through glass is horribly dangerous. But I know how to use a glass cutter.
Librarian: Columbus Public Library (a genuine Andrew Carnegie library building) and St. Bonaventure High School - before my 1966 graduation (changed to Scotus Central Catholic HS at the start of the 1965-66 year) . I learned the Dewey decimal system and could handle all the books I could imagine. I loved books. I learned to repair and re-bind the books, sewing them by hand and binding with library tape. I still love the smell of books, and printer's inks and even the musty smell of old books on old, dry wood shelves. Books were precious to me since I was a small child and working in a library was "way natural."
That's it for now folks.