Crunch Time!

I just officially withdrew from Texas State. Hooray!

I sincerely believe in the importance of continually educating yourself. “Never stop Learning,” is not my mantra, because I do it automatically. I don’t need it as a mantra. The whole concept of continual learning and growth is deeply a part of who I am.

I am cheering because Texas State is the third institution of higher learning I have attended, and the second one that I found to be completely stultifying. Too often, my courses were an impediment to learning rather than a pathway to it.

Were all of my classes that way? No.

I took a great class on ethics, an amazing class on art history that completely changed how I thought about European history, a creative writing class that allowed me to hone my writing and critiquing skills in unexpected ways, and a spectroscopy class that I loved.

However, I could fill volumes with things about my other courses/professors/labs that were frustrating, irritating, depressing, infuriating, and just absurd. One day maybe, I’ll write a book or a series of articles that properly spell out all the absurdities that go along with big universities. I suspect many of those topics have been covered already in books by other authors. Still, I was the 18 year old kid once at UGA blaming myself for not being able to adapt to the university setting. I was that kid who was so proud of her A.P. scores and of her love of math and science, who felt like a failure because she wasn’t getting anything out of her classes.

“You get out of it what you put into it.” I must have told myself that a thousand times. Unfortunately, it is not always true. I actually can’t name a single class at UGA that I believe was worth my time in the two years I spent there. By comparison, Austin Community college reignited my love of chemistry, geology, and math. I still remember the kid I was, skulking at the idea of going to a community college. I was too smart for that, I was going to a ‘real school.’ It seems so naive now.

I hate the idea of all the kids that blame themselves for our ridiculously backward educational model. Someday, I’ll have to write more about it in detail.

Today, I have just over 10 days before the start of Makersquare.

I no longer have time to worry and lament about past wrongs. Now, I am going into a program that I wholeheartedly believe in, run by talented, passionate people that I believe in.  My ambition is to work in a field that has changed the world several times over in my lifetime and yes, I think I will be good at it at some point.

I have finished my assigned pre-work. Now I want to review every bit of it, some of it for the third time. I am going to revisit anything I didn’t quite get the first time, and scan previous lessons for any concepts, commands, or functions that I haven’t yet brought into my practice work. I am going to work a few extra ruby tutorials,  get a firm grasp of how to work with github, make a few more practice web pages from scratch with jQuery/javascript functionality, and try any tutorials that caught my interest in the past. I am even going to rework the command line tutorials to remind myself of any commands I might have forgotten.

I know some of these things will sink in more after I start using them regularly. That is why I haven’t had to revisit the HTML tutorials. I know it because I have used it. I need to be there with everything, and while I realize that Makersquare is going to help me with that, (that is why it is an intensive 40-hour-a-week, immersive program) I want to hit the ground running. I want to excel. I want to minimize the things I have to review and maximize the ‘learning new techniques,’ and ‘working new challenges.’ I want to shorten my learning curve. Now, I am wondering if that is a silly thing to say? Famous last words?

I want to dive in. It’s as simple as that.


A New Approach to Ruby

I have been struggling through the Ruby Bits 1 & 2 courses over at codeschool. They aren’t bad courses, but they get into nitty gritty details that I just do not have a point of reference for. That is the problem with trying to work more advanced topics before you have done enough programming work to understand how and why some of the topics help your code.

I realized that I am approaching this stuff all wrong. I am going after it like it is a college course. You learn x concepts in Ruby, you do a little practice. You learn y concepts in Ruby, you do a little practice. You learn z concepts, you do a little practice. Each set is a little more advanced than the last.

The problem is, too much of it is going in one ear, pausing in a few exercises, and then running out the other. I have worked through the ruby course at codecademy twice and I was still surprised when I came across the next operator not long ago. I didn’t remember it.

I’m trying to shove too much in without a framework for holding on to what I already know.

Continue reading “A New Approach to Ruby”

The Lame Cheetah

Imagine if a cheetah sat down next to you and said, “Yeah, I do this running thing, but I try not to be too good at it. I mean if it takes any extra effort I’m not going to do it.” This is why I want to pull my hair out anytime I hear the phrase “I don’t like to think.” There is a subtext because you are in fact, thinking, and doing so better than most organisms on this planet. You just don’t want to do any thinking that might feel like it required actual effort.

The Textbook-Racket

I just received the “text book” for my creative writing class. The book is about the size of a 5 X 7 photograph, and about a third of an inch thick. The cover is paperback, printed in exactly two colors, and the inside pages have the thickness and print quality of regular office copy paper.

I say this for one reason and one reason only. If I had come across this book at a Barnes in Noble, it was written by one of my favorite authors, and the price tag said $20, I would have laughed and put it back.

This thing has the quality and is not much thicker than the $1.00 copy of Heart of Darkness I purchased new in high school. It screams “budget print.”

How much did I pay for it?

$45 (just shy of $50 with taxes).

I usually buy used but I didn’t have time to wait for the slow pace of regular mail. So I am staring at this book in disbelief: a tiny budget-printed paperback about creative writing for $45. I guess it is just like getting the $5 used copy and paying $40 for shipping (wow).

Dear American public universities everywhere,

You are intentionally creating micro-monopolies in every classroom, handing those monopolies over to book publishers, and then allowing them to exploit your students.


My Love/Hate of Chemistry/Academia

I love organic chemistry, and I’m good at it. I mean I’m good at the theoretical side of it. I am good at drawing reaction mechanisms, working synthesis problems, interpreting spectra, and solving elaborate problems utilizing all three of the above. I am good at drawing and understanding complicated molecules and reactions, and I genuinely enjoy doing it.

The problem… I hate labs, wait not “lab” labs… I mean I like cooking. I like combining all sorts of techniques and understanding the underlying chemistry to make great food, but when it comes to academic science labs… I do not ever want to do another one. They are horrible. I dread the very idea of walking into another chemistry lab, and that is the part that everyone is supposed to be gaga about.

It’s not just labs, its academia. I once told a professor that I was really good at organic chemistry…. eye roll. I had never even met the guy and he immediately assumed I was bragging, and probably didn’t know what I was talking about. The truth is, I took the most challenging organic chemistry professor I could find, and I excelled at it.

Let me explain it this way: I always thought I was good at math until I took geometry. I discovered that I was mediocre at math, that I was really just holding on for the ride and putting up with something that was mostly just a chore. It just didn’t typically take a lot of effort to do well on the tests.

When I got to geometry everything changed. I enjoyed learning it, I enjoyed doing the homework, I enjoyed taking the tests. There was a replacement test you could take if you made a bad grade and I took it for fun. My high school geometry teacher told me that I was the only person to ever get a perfect score on his final.

Then I went to algebra II. Hated it. Calculus was fun but involved a ridiculous amount of algebra, and just did not have the same level of pizzazz that geometry did. Chemistry was the same way. I thought I liked it. I did like it to start off with.

Continue reading “My Love/Hate of Chemistry/Academia”