Ugh, school

I have hit the wall early this time. It always seems like a great idea for me to go back to school as I sit in my grey cubicle dreaming of education as some infinite stream of knowledge funneling its way into my brain like a freaking rainbow into a cloud.

But then reality hits sometime around the fourth week, and I realize that I have signed up for a shitload of homework and tests and—oh yeah!—I am still the world’s worst procrastinator. Luckily, my procrastination gene is located right next to my getting-shit-done-at-the-last-minute gene and is easily activated, so I haven’t fallen behind yet.

What is frustrating, though, is the professor. I want to like her, I really do. She’s an old school programmer who learned on the job and then went to school to hone her skillz, but despite the fact that she’s been teaching at Nashville State for more than a decade, she is one of the most goddamn-confusing professors I’ve ever had. Anywhere.

The class is a hybrid web course, which means that we meet for two hours once a week (instead of the traditional three) in the classroom, and then have numerous assignments to submit online before the next class day. There are two texts for the course, and each week’s assignment consists of reading the next chapter, a chapter pre-test, a chapter graded test, three debugging code exercises, one or more other exercises, and then generally a few exercises from the secondary text.

That is a lot of fucking work.

But it’s not just that, it’s that we have to look in about three different places online to even determine what all is due any given week, though I’ve kind of gotten used to that.

What irritates me the most, however, is that after four weeks of this I’ve only gotten feedback for one of the assignments I’ve turned in. She just hasn’t gotten around to grading anything else, I guess. And I would be all well and fine with that, since I’m sure grading is a pain in the ass, except she’s graded other people’s work. She’s graded Ian’s work, and he’s turned things in AFTER me.

And I would be happy to chalk this all up to some community college administration bureaucracy and give her the benefit of the doubt, except that when it comes to actually teaching? She’s just really not that great of a teacher. We go over a new chapter in the main text each week in class, but instead of explaining things in any semblance of order, she will start throwing shit up on the board and having us work out various things, and there never really seems to be any rhyme or reason to the order of things. And even after reading the chapter five bajillion times, there will be these crucial elements that don’t make any fucking sense in the text, and she will just kind of gloss over them.

This class is aimed to teach the logic of programming, and I’ve used the analogy before that it feels a lot like trying to learn to spell without being able to use actual words. And in that same vein, the best way to describe her teaching style is that we’re required to form complex English words before we’re taught what letters can and cannot be used together in the English language.

Luckily for me, Ian (who’s taking this class with me) has a programming background. The most amazing thing to me is how the professor can spend 15 minutes talking about something and just as my head is about to explode in confusion I can turn to him and say “Wait, but what the fuck does this mean?” and he will say “Oh, it’s this and this” and I will completely get it. He’d be a great professor as long as he could work at a place that didn’t mind him occasionally throwing out a “you dumbass” as he is enlightening minds.

On the other hand, this is the same man who got me to understand linear algebra in 45 minutes the night before the GRE, resulting in my pwning the math section of that test, so maybe he’s not so much a good teacher as he is a goddamn miracle worker.

A suburban tragedy in my head

Last night on our way home, Ian and I stopped at a beer & tobacco store near our house that sits in a small strip mall. The strip mall contains two buildings: One larger one in the back occupied by Olympus Gym, and a smaller one up front that houses a Whitt’s Barbecue, the beer & tobacco shop, and a room for Olympus’ group exercise classes.

As I waited in the car for Ian to grab his beer and tobacco, I watched about 20 women, all in their late 20s or early 30s, doing some sort of rhythmic exercise I can only assume was zumba. And despite all being dressed in impeccably chosen exercise outfits, I felt a tinge of embarrassment for them as they stumbled through their routine, trying desperately to keep up with the perky, even better-dressed instructor with bleach-blonde hair without betraying their feelings of insecurity to the other women around them.

I imagined their lives, and saw them as bogged-down suburban housewives grateful for one night away from the kids, trying not to think about whether their husbands would remember their instructions for the bedtime routine or know how to help with homework. And then I felt sad for them. Wasting their one night of freedom in some stupid class, feeling like they would never be as skinny or pretty as they used to be.

And suddenly I wanted to burst through the doors, hug them all and tell them they are great just the way that they are. And that maybe they should get a babysitter more often.

But then Ian got back in the car, and I realized that I had seriously just spent like 5 minutes making up a fake backstory for a bunch of women in an exercise class held next to a Whitt’s Barbecue that started with me deriding them but ended with me wanting to hug and empower them.

So, yeah.

This burning the Koran business

Let me start out by saying, in case you’re new around here, that I do not support all this stupid Islam- and Muslim-bashing that’s suddenly come into fashion lately. I am no fan of any organized religion—I mostly identify as an atheist with the occasional pagan bent—but I tend to view Christianity in an especially negative light due to my own experiences and the overarching manner in which Christianity is used in this country as a crutch to hurt, exclude and bully others. For a religion whose chief text preaches tolerance, that seems to be the first thing to get thrown out the window in situations where I’d think it would be needed the most.

ANYWAY. So about this burning the Koran. I understand why people are upset that some dude is getting all the crazies riled up and excited about burning it. What I don’t understand, however, is why people keep talking about it, effectively giving this mustachioed nutjob a worldwide stage to preach his intolerance.

Maybe I’m naive, but I assumed people burned books all the time. I mean, there have got to be people in small towns still burning copies of Catcher in the Rye and Heather Has Two Mommies, right? I just assumed people burned books like the Koran as well as any other random texts they might find that deal with religions other than Christianity. Hell, aren’t there some fringe Christian groups that burn Bibles different from their own preferred version?

I don’t mean to be insensitive, and I get that a big display of burning a religion’s holy book is not going to be good for our foreign relations, but why are we paying so much attention to this guy?? It’s just some asshat in Florida, not President Obama or Paris Hilton or Oprah or some other big-deal, influential celebrity that’s running the show here, guys.

So what’s my point? I don’t know. I’d like to think that on one hand, if every time some whackjob decided to burn something in a grand display of ignorance we just ignored him, flicking the mention of him away like you would a fly buzzing around the adult table at dinner, people would get the concept that if you don’t feed the trolls they eventually get bored and disappear.

But I also realize that, as a whole, people are stupid. And there are bound to be those who would interpret the silent treatment of the offender to mean not “This is so dumb it doesn’t deserve a response” but instead “Silence means consent!” and decide to jump on the intolerance bandwagon to bigotsville, where a large, angry, jingoist mob lives.

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that I’m getting really tired of all of the intolerance in this country, and the way that it’s being spun as patriotism and morality instead of the ugliness, hatred and fear it really is.

Back at it

So if you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Flickr, you probably already know that I am back in college. Community college, but college nonetheless. After getting deeper and deeper into digital media at my job, two things have become apparent: 1. I really, really love web development and can see myself in this field for a long time, and 2. Not ever being formally trained in any kind of computer science is frustrating, to say the least.

And despite having taught myself everything I know, I need to be realistic. I am one of those people who just learns better when taught in an academic environment. Our company has a subscription to Lynda.com, where I can log in and do tutorials on pretty much anything I want to learn, but in the past year I just never have been able to find the time.

But paying an institution a few hundred dollars changes things. Well, that and the fact that I have enough fear of authority and that “good student” mentality left in me that if a professor tells me to do my homework, I will do it promptly.

So, yes, I am enrolled at Nashville State Community College, as oddly enough out of all of the schools in the area (save for Belmont, but who has $20k a semester to blow? Not this girl) it offered the best program for what I want to learn.

And surprisingly, I might actually pilfer a degree out of this experience, too. I wasn’t planning on it, but if I declare General Technology as my major and enough of my credits from MTSU transfer over, all I need are 15 hours taken at Nashville State to earn an associate’s degree. And there are at least five classes I see as being helpful, so we’ll see how that works out.

The first course I’m taking is called Program Logic and Design, and so far it seems to be a great introduction to programming in general. A bit confusing, but luckily Ian is taking the class with me and, as a former computer science major, he should be a great tutor. (Because he works for the state he gets one class a semester for free, and since we carpool he figured why not take the class?)

It’s a bit odd to have to worry about things like homework and tests again, but I’ve always felt that I would be a perpetual student. After spending six years in undergrad, this will be the third time I’ve gone back to school: Once when I briefly thought I wanted another bachelor’s degree (in Electronic Media Communications) and one long year in grad school—both endeavors that were terminated after I realized the programs were not really going to get me anywhere I couldn’t get on my own. And now this. But I will always love the smell of new books and the premise of new knowledge—especially in this case, where I can see how it will eventually help me in my career.

What I don’t know is how, back in college the first time, I ever took 12-18 credit hours, worked full time Monday through Friday and managed to party pretty much every night while still pulling off a 3 – 3.5 GPA every semester.

I was either brilliant, a huge nerd or really lucky.

I’m falling apart

So after suffering an entire week, barely able to walk because I could hardly put any weight on either of my knees, I went to the doctor on Friday. After calling me a dumbass in the nicest way possible, he informed me that the joints in my knees are inflamed because I tried to do “too much too fast.”

Yes, folks, apparently if you haven’t run in 13 years you should not just start right out of the gate trying to run 2.5 miles in old, worn-down shoes. And even if the shoes you wear look nice on the outside, they still probably won’t have padding left after five years of wear and will still aid in your knee-fuckage.

The doctor did say he admired my enthusiasm, but that’s not going to help me recover. Drugs, however, will. So he wrote me a prescription for Mobic and told me to take it easy for a few weeks, and when I’m ready to start running again I need to start verrrry slow. As in walk for a while, and when I feel like I’m ready to run I shouldn’t do more than an eighth of a mile at first, working up from there adding only 10 percent to my distance per week.

Unfortunately, though, after spending the entire gorgeous Labor Day weekend cooped up inside resting, these old bones don’t feel any better. I’ve called my doctor’s office to request an anti-inflammatory drug that’s a bit stronger, as he advised I do if the Mobic didn’t help. So we’ll see what happens. It’s a strange feeling to have to plan out my trips to the top level of the house since going up and down stairs makes my life flash before my eyes. I have a new appreciation for old people, at least.