Saturday, September 17, 2011

A computer programming class with no programming...

Hi...miss me? Sorry I've been absent. I could blame it on classes sucking away all my time, or a lack of topics but really it's that it is much faster to read someone else's blog than write in my own, and being sick for three weeks didn't really help. My in-laws visit gave me much blogging fodder, and I can't wait to pass along some awesome pictures.  For example--my husband father in law dressed up as monks for Rennfest and a real nun came up to them and wanted to know what order they were in.  Oh my life is far too humorous not to blog.

All of the fun things that I did with my in-laws made me realize how much I wanted to do that stuff...more.  I haven't been to Rennfest in years, hadn't been to the aquarium at all, and even though I live a short ride away from DC, rarely have returned there since I moved.  Even when I lived there I didn't take advantage of the Smithsonian's that were literally on my doorstep, living a scant three blocks from the back of the Air and Space Museum.  I would like to make a more conserted effort to do stuff like this.  If the husband doesn't want to go, as he is generally more comfortable playing with electronics than being a tourist, then so be it. I'll go with friends, or...*gasp* by myself.  Would I enjoy that? My old college roommate recently did a trip across the West Coast, almost entirely by herself.  In this experience she met new people, did new things and gained personal insight. I also got some awesome postcards.  Maybe this is what I need.  I've always been so afraid of doing things by myself, maybe it is time to step out of that comfort zone.  More on this as it develops.  Today I'd like to introduce you to my computer programming class.

My computer programming class doesn't actually program.  This was one of the first things our professor told us.  "This is a logic class, not a programming class!" he declared.
"Umm...I'm thinking to myself...what have I gotten myself into?"

See, I was (ha and still am) only taking this class to placate my computer god of a husband. He can wave his arms and make magic happen, while I wave my arms and knock something down where it will shatter to a million pieces.  I'm a klutz and he is an engineer.  We previously began to take a free online MIT course where they put up the lectures, assignments, syllabus and notes and you do the rest on your own.  We enjoyed it and I whet my appetite learning a little python.  I've forgotten any of the coding syntax, but the context in which to understand other programming sort of lingers.  Basically that translates to, I understood the first chapter of our book. Now I'm lost and I'm pretty sure I would have given up by now, if it weren't for my husband deciding that he was going to teach me everything on his own, and even start a class for our friends to learn computer programming.  So far, I'm batting a perfect score in class because my homework is awesome and our quiz was really really easy.

So, I'm sitting in class the other night, our class being only one night a week, and I look around.  Well, I sort of think in my head to the people in the back of the room since I want to at least pretend to be paying attention the lecture.  The breakdown of my class is this.  My class has about 15 people in it, I am one of two women, the other who is a black woman.  The rest of the class consists of 3 black men and the rest are white and male.  I sit wondering if my class is representative of the market today--large white, and male.  My husband answers in the affirmative.  The network security class in the computer lab next to us doesn't fare much differently.  There are three women in that class and while there seem to be more black men than in my class, it is still largely white and male (and taught by a variety of white males). I think that this realization (I went to an all women's college) makes me want to work even harder to succeed, knowing that I'm in the minority.  It also makes me ponder why there are so few women in this field, and what we can do about it.

This class is pretty boring.  I'm not sure how I can be bored and confused at the same time, but I am.  The class next door looks much more interesting, from what I can see.  There are windows separating our classes, so I surreptitiously sneak glances pretty frequently.   They are playing with programs called "Hacker Attack" and discussing code injection and data mining. Wow, my husband would really LOVE this class.  I'm blocking out "learning" about class definitions and instance methods, longingly looking at the much more interesting powerpoint next door. I'm not really sure how we are supposed to be learning this stuff, because to me it's like learning irregular Spanish verbs (which I never managed to get).  One day it will, hopefully click.  For now, it's just a million technical definitions with no real prior context for me to visualize it in.  I feel like we are being asked to memorize the textbook to later regurgitate when we are finally able to access the holy grail of Java.

My class has some interesting folks in it, from ones who have just graduated from high school to ones who are older than my parents.  Mostly all are nice, but some are just a little different.

I guess I should start with the professor.  He isn't really a teacher. He is a guy that actually attended this school back in his day, that sort of gets this because he has been working in the field for twenty years, but his teaching skills and classroom management are completely lacking. I think he is actually trying more to stay on topic, but if someone's cell phone rings and beeps repeatedly next class, I will have to step up and say something.  It's sad that I have better classroom management skills but teaching sixth graders did pose more distractions than college students.

There is the kid who is obviously on the autism spectrum (I'm guessing that he has Aspergers Syndrome from the way he talks, lack of eye contact and the way he holds is body) who, for the first two classes couldn't stop talking about unrelated topics.  Even when he stopped talking, he would mutter under his breathe most of the time.  He wants to learn video game design and wants to learn it NOW.   He is a nice kid but this behavior was really getting on my, and the rest of the classes nerves.  Before the last class I had an opportunity to chat with him and asked him if he had unrelated questions, to write them down and ask after class.  He said "sure," and mentioned a history class he was taking where the teacher constantly went off on tangents. I told him this was exactly my problem, that I could understand what was going on when they happened and it seemed to click for him.  This past class he asked copious amounts of questions but all related to the class. It was a glorious moment for the entire class.  Even my classmates had to agree that this week his questions were actually helpful as he helped us draw connections between the different areas that were being taught.  Sometimes asking politely gets you what you want.

There is only one other woman in my class. She seems nice, and wants to get into the field of computer programming, but I worry that she isn't really getting the material either. The way that she asks to look at my work, and seems to want to just copy it reminds me a little too much of high school and being a little less than honest on our math homework.  She plays on facebook during the lectures, although she takes pretty good notes. I question her maturity level especially after I caught her going to a magic 8 ball site last week and typing in "Am I pregnant?"  My opinion of her was solidified, but that doesn't change that she is a friendly face in a class.  By the way, the ball's answer was "yes."

There are people in my class who are already working in the computer programming field, and have been for years, merely needing this insanely easy (to them!) introductory course to get the credits that they need.   The majority of us are just slogging through the material waiting for that magic moment when it all clicks into place.    

I am enjoying the interactions with other students and actually being back in the classroom. I struggle daily with my online classes, if for no other reason than not having a professor to actually explain what they want, and how they want it. Email doesn't convey messages the same that speaking does. I also have difficulty reading people's discussions questions which we have to respond to, as they aren't always very well written.

Going back to school is an adventure and I hope to share more of it with you. Next time--lots of Santa pictures.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Insanity comes to visit!

Where to start?  I made a big mistake in life. I somehow must have said, written or thought that I didn't have anything to blog about anymore so all of the sudden more insanity has occurred in the last 3 weeks than in the last 3 years.

I need to preface this...entry by saying that I had a grande pumpkin spice latte a couple of hours ago and I am really buzzing.  I think I could probably fly right now if I tried hard enough, so excuse the many run on sentences and chock them up to way too much coffeeeeeeeeee....

In a sentence....we had an earthquake, my inlaws come, a really bad sinus infection, really annoying badly explained classes, a hurricane, a week of horrible hives, my parents came, with a kitten, it rained...and rained...and rained...and of course my basement flooded, our AC broke, I still have some hives but I'm not allergic to my cat and there might have been sort of a fight in an Olive Garden thrown in there.  What? You want me to go on?  Well...if you insist.  

My in-laws came in on a Thursday. I'd been feeling awful with this horrible chest cough for a couple of days, so when my ears really started hurting I gave in and decided to go to the redi-med place to get some antibiotics.  She also gave me a steroid in hoping to open the passages between my sinuses more so that I could actually get better from this sinus infection.  I thought "great! I'll be better and life will be grand" and  went on with my day. dot dot dot... six days later (last Thursday to be exact) I woke up a day after finishing those steroids and had...some hives.  "Mysterious," I think to myself, but I am far too busy with a luncheon today and class this afternoon to take benedryl and be out of it all I just made a pact with myself not to itch and went on with my day.  That seemed to work until I got to school, went to pay my bill and touched behind my ear to find that there damn neck.  I went to the bathroom and they are all over my neck, chest, legs, arms and ITCHHHHHH.  I make up my mind to go to class long enough to hand my homework in and go home.  Only problem is...that my teacher was 45 minutes late for class.  People had already started leaving when this guy just sort of rolls into class like it's nothing.  I handed my homework, caught up with a classmate in the parking lot to tell him that the teacher finally showed up, and headed home. Days of benedryl later, and I wasn't any better.  A trip to the doctors office where this arrogant jerk of a 'doctor' ignored how much pain and discomfort I was in and instead told me 'not to swear', gave me MORE steroids that didn't work and set me home, and I was about to lose it.  By the time my parents came on Friday I couldn't walk because my feet were so incredibly swollen from the hives.  Monday I ended up in the ER since whenever the hives got bad, I started wheezing, couldn't breathe well and realized that the benedryl wasn't cutting it anymore.  Whatever they gave me in the ER seemed to kill the hives long enough that I got an appointment with my new favorite doctor--my dermatologist, today.  I explained what was happening and he said basically that I most likely had virus hives from being sick, and that all the steroids were just making it worse, and they shouldn't have given me so many and so much and here have this antihistamine and relax.  Did I mention that I love this doctor? This is the man that solved my 20 years of dandruff problem with one shampoo.  Love!

So my in-laws have been here 2 weeks, my parents were here a week and I've managed to go out to dinner with them. Unless you count my mother in law coming to two different doctors appointments with me and my sitting in Starbucks with my mom.  I'm just really disappointed that I've felt so crappy and haven't been able to do stuff but at the same time I feel so incredibly blessed to have had 5 adults around me when I was sick that wanted nothing more than to help me.  Laundry, dishes, kitties fed, love and Starbucks. It was wonderful.  I'm not used to having company come and it being less work for me...I could really get used to this.  Seriously though, I am going to try really hard to do some fun stuff with them this last week of their visit and be happy in the knowledge that they were able to come out and spend time with us, which was the most important aspect of all of this.

My parents came and brought their adorable little kitten Charlotte.  She is about 4 months old, short haired, grey, incredibly curious and in love with Newton.  All we had to do was hold her towards Henry and he would hiss.  Henry did NOT appreciate the kitten at all.  Newton really appreciated having someone to play with for a week. My parents left this morning and he spent all morning looking for her.  It was sad. I think Newton needs a kitten but I also think that a kitten would break that last tenuous thread on reality that Henry is clinging too.  Poor neurotic Henry.

My parents came with all this AMAZING produce from their garden.  They brought the biggest most delicious beefsteak tomatoes that we made bruchetta from with fresh mozzarella.  They brought squash that we ate like mashed potatoes, and carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and more roma tomatoes that I knew what to do with. My dad spent a lot of time canning most of the roma tomatoes into delicious sauce, and he also made refrigerator pickles.  I didn't know that I liked pickles--but these ones are great, and really low in sodium.  My floor looks forlorn and empty without all of the buckets of produce. I think that I might have to make pizza with these beefsteak tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese though.  Oh yum!

So far in my life I have dealt with stress somewhat well. Publically I hold it together quite well and then privately I sort of lose it.  Yesterday, I didn't hold it together so well and I'm feeling very fortunate that my in-laws were here. My mother in law heard some noise coming from the laundry room and went to investigate where she found brown muddy water GUSHING up out of a pipe.  Just GUSHING everywhere and yelled for me. I grabbed some cups from the storage room and sent her upstairs for a pot and started grabbing towels while my father-in-law started collecting the water and attempting to keep our carpet from getting destroyed.  I just sort of lost it at that point and wanted to crawl into a corner and not come out.

Apparently our sump pump, which works (for the record) is hooked up to just dump water out the the back of the house. Not really away from the house and not really in anything drainage like. Nope, just dump it out of the back of the house.  Well, when you get something like a foot of water and there is already water where the water is trying to comes back INTO the house and apparently into my laundry room.  Yeah it was gross. I'm glad it was just muddy water and not sewage though!

Last night after spending far too much time playing this addictive game 'coin dozer' and attempting to fall asleep with the windows open (because our AC wasn't working either!!) a particularly loud crash of thunder  roused me from bed where I saw that the 'Lake' was forming behind our house again. I warned the hubby that the basement was going to start flooding again,  and he, at 2 am, went downstairs and outside to dig a trench to help move the water away from the house.  My hubby is my hero.  Oh yes, so are my in-laws.

So...this is enough of my adventures for today.  What craziness is happening your way? I can't be the only one with lots of crazy happening! I'll try to add some pictures later, but I just needed to write it all out first!

p.s. I got like 5 hours of sleep max last night and I'm too tired (okay lazy) to proofread this well....just saying Hubs, no criticizing!