Columbus Revisited

Formerly lurking, kind reader Doug was sad to read of my problems in Columbus (as you might see in a comment to the prior post).

Let me be clear – the problems in Columbus were those of my cold virus, a car rental company, and an airline. Columbus has always been a gracious and pleasant place for me to visit – everyone is seriously NICE! That’s probably a middle-of-the-country thing that’s also related to the pace of life far away from the loons (like me) on either coast.

I haven’t seen much of the town yet – I usually fly in, work, and fly out again. However, I may try to visit during one of the nicer-weather times of the year … though it wasn’t too bad for mid-February: rain and 40’s is way better than snow/ice and teens. I’ll let you know, Doug!

Through the cold, another school assignment turned in each of the last two days. That and a few hours and a few hundred bucks on new tires yesterday. Sigh. I’m still on track, and it’ll get a bit better in another two weeks, once the one class is done with. Two eight week classes with overlap leads to a hellish pace during the overlap time. I’ll have to pay attention to scheduling for the summer session, or the garden might die…

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, died February 18 when his U-28 aircraft was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa.
  • Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Georgia, died February 18 when his U-28 aircraft was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa.
  • 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Oregon, died February 18 when his U-28 aircraft was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa.
  • Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, died February 18 when his U-28 aircraft was involved in an accident near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa.
  • Sgt. Allen R. McKenna Jr., 28, of Noble, Oklahoma, died Feb. 21 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. Joshua A. Born, 25, of Niceville, Florida, died Feb. 23, in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit came under small arms fire.
  • Cpl. Timothy J. Conrad Jr., 22, of Roanoke, Virginia, died Feb. 23, in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit came under small arms fire.
  • Lt. Col. John D. Loftis, 44, of Paducah, Kentucky, died Feb. 25 from wounds received during an attack at the Interior Ministry, Kabul, Afghanistan.


Out the Wazoo

So, the good news is that I’m back on the upslope. Pending a relapse, I’ve gotten the better of this cold. I even got several hours of (non-contiguous) sleep last night. I did, however, fail at taking a nap during the day. Heck of a holiday weekend, eh?

What I did do today was as much of the week’s reading as I could manage. All of the Geology reading is done, and I’m slogging through Chapters 8 and 9 of my Principles of Software Engineering book right now. Slogging is the politest term I can come up with – I don’t find Roger Pressman’s writing very accessible. For example, in just one paragraph, I count sixteen references. And it’s not a very long paragraph, a mere seven sentences to support all that weight. Wow! (Thus, references are flying out the wazoo!)

Additionally, I love statements like this footnote (in Chapter 8): “You might consider reviewing Chapter 15 at this time.” Dude. If you consider the material in 15 to be prerequisite to Chapter 8, then you reorder the chapters. It’s a writing failure followed by an editing failure, IMO.

Tomorrow, back to the work world. I should rest, but I think I’ll read some more Pressman first. Ciao!

Plodding along.

Someone who’s had a  bad cold in the last couple of weeks decided that I was lonely, and needed a cold, too. Thanks, Hon! Aches (but no fever), head congestion and throat pain. I sound like Kim Carnes on a bad day after a couple of packs of Parliments. But I make up for that with the loonie sense of not having gotten much sleep in the last two nights. I detect a little improvement, and hope to sleep better this evening.

How I feel has no bearing, of course, on the work that has to be done for school this weekend. I ended up writing about 29 pages of material in the last two days, and doing a couple of geologic diagrams, too. I used GIMP for one, and AutoDesk’s Sketchbook Express (SBX. Sounds like a new Cadillac model, eh?). GIMP is great, but it is a complex X11 application, and performance on OS X is teh suck. So I went poking around until I found SBX – it does a fine job for what I needed to do. Oh, yeah, school. I have three more weeks of overlap, then three weeks of just one course to finish out the Spring session. Then I’ll be four classes away from the finish line. Huzzah!

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

Pfc. Cesar Cortez, 24, of Oceanside, California, died Feb. 11, in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, New Jersey, died Feb. 10 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyler L. Estrada, 21, of Maricopa, Arizona, died Feb. 14 as a result of a non-combat related training incident in Djibouti.

Sgt. Jerry D. Reed II, 30, of Russellville, Arkansas, died Feb. 16, in Paktika province, Afghanistan.

Petty Officer First Class Paris S. Pough, 40, of Columbus, Georgia, died Feb. 17 during a port visit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Gladiators: second door, down the hall, third office, please.

Yeah, apparently there’s going to be a game of feet-baal or something like that. The pregame show was on the tube when we awoke this morning apparently, and may have been on before we retired last night, for all I know.

I’m all caught up on schoolwork for the moment. I have some reading to do for Geology, and an assignment and midterm for that class this week as well. My Principles of Software Engineering class starts tomorrow. I’ve done the first week’s reading for that, but there’s an assignment there, too. This new eight-week pressure cooker format is going to suck, I can just tell.

Marcia is doing her home physical therapy right now, stuff with weights and rolled up towels and strips of fabric – all in the service of extended bending and stretching and such. She’s doing GREAT, frankly. Stairs and all! Marcia starts back to work tomorrow.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. William C. Stacey, 23, of Redding, California, died Jan. 31 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Lance Cpl. Edward J. Dycus, 22, of Greenville, Mississippi, died Feb. 1 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province,
  • Brig. Gen. Terence J. Hildner, 49, of Fairfax, Virginia, died Feb. 3, in Kabul province, Afghanistan.


Catch-up Time…

Weirdly, the other night (Wednesday?) both of the touch lamps we use as bedside light broke and would no longer light. The proximal event was a light-bulb blowout on Marcia’s side (one of three small bulbs). I’ve observed in the past that the touch lamp circuitry, while incredibly convenient, seems to be terribly fragile (at least in consumer-grade gear) to spikes and dips. So yesterday evening I trundled down to Lowes and picked up a couple of three-way manually switched lamps and a pair of three-way CFL bulbs. Bloody profit-taking on the LED “bulbs” keeps those prices too high.

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In Marcia news, on Tuesday evening, she sprained a hamstring attachment point while straightening her leg to sit in the recliner. The surgeon’s office was called on Wednesday morning, and they waved her off of PT for the day, and saw her on suture removal day: Thursday, in the morning. 30 staples were removed, and two different PAs (Physician Assistant) evaluated her issues. With a modified PT order in hand, she went to PT on Thursday evening (where she ROCKED, and was graduated from walker to cane) and again on Friday morning, where she pushed really hard again. She’s making great progress, but pain is the price of progress. She doesn’t like that part so very much.

On the extra-good news front, they’ve told her she can stop taking rat poison on the 30th, and terminate the wearing of the compression stockings then, too. The process around the blood thinner and the stockings is pretty intense, and consumes a not-inconsiderable portion of each day.

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I’m finally getting caught up on the school work. The geology class is rolling, and has lots of reading and a fair amount of writing involved. I’ve finally done all of the work for week one, and forging ahead into week two’s work, since I want to be well ahead of the game before my Principles of Software Engineering course starts on 6 February.

Physical Therapy with a Chance of Walking

Marcia continues to make stellar progress with her PT exercises – straight leg lifts that could not be done without an assist four days ago are now done on leg strength alone, and twice as high as before. Rockin’! She’s also doing 10-15 minute sessions of laps on the main floor of the house with her walker, and pain management is improving daily. Some neighbors dropped by today, with conversation, balloon, and chocolate to share with Marcia – she enjoyed the little bit of company, I think.

MLK day tomorrow, then I’ll do some work in the ensuing four days, maybe even some AT the office. Maybe the work will amount to half- or three quarter-days, wrapped around blood tests, staples out, and physical therapy for Marcia.

School “Spring” session starts for me on Tuesday, as well. Of course I’ve been pre-reading… The first class this session is also the last of my general education requirement courses, I’m taking Geology 100. I’m sure to learn a thing or two. The next class starts a couple of weeks down the road: Principles of Software Engineering. It’s an upper division elective class – all I have left are those.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Staff Sgt. Jonathan M. Metzger, 32, of Indianapolis, Indiana, died Jan. 6 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Robert J. Tauteris Jr., 44, of Hamlet, Indiana, died Jan. 6 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Christopher A. Patterson, 20, of Aurora, Illinois, died Jan. 6 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Brian J. Leonhardt, 21, of Merrillville, Indiana, died Jan. 6 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Pfc. Dustin P. Napier, 20, of London, Kentucky, died Jan. 8 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from enemy small-arms fire.
  • Pfc. Michael W. Pyron, 30, of Hopewell, Virginia, died Jan. 10 in Parwan province, Afghanistan.
  • Pfc. Neil I. Turner, 21, of Tacoma, Washington, died Jan. 11, in Logar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident.

Process and Paranormal

Process and Paranormal – it’s not a Jane Austen parody, although those are surprisingly popular these days, especially those with zombies baked in. I’m just thoughtful about two different things right at the moment and rather than make progress on anything, I’ll stop and discuss things here.

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Process is much on my mind not just because of my on-again, off-again forays into the land of productivity porn. My in-field class this upcoming Winter session has Pressman’s Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach as the text. Software engineering is all about process (as is personal and work productivity). I’m pre-reading the text before class starts – it’s a practice that I’ve worked at with some little success since I enrolled at UMUC in 2008. Sometimes I merely skim the material, other times (like this one), I’m properly reading the book, and taking a few notes where the process stuff might be immediately useful to me, or when a referenced work might be worth acquiring for further reading.

This depth of reading also means that I manage to stumble over sections, statements or phrases that cause me difficulty one way or another. Sometimes the difficulty is because I don’t know enough about the topic and need more of a mental framework within which to properly hang the information I’m assimilating. Other times I’m catching errors of fact, omission, or commission that make me question the quality of the passage (or if there are enough of them, the value of the whole work).

The last mode of reading problem I have is this: I read something that sends me off on a train of thought that leaves the work at hand tangentially, sometimes so quickly that I’m stuck out in left field. This might, were I in grade school these days, be diagnosed as one or another of the attention deficit disorders that seem so popular among the education set as an excuse for their inability to teach. Me, I think that it happens as a confluence of three things: a momentary lack of mental discipline, combined with a fertile imagination, and a capacious memory for that which I have read before.

Tonight, for example, a sentence from text reads (almost as received wisdom): “People derive as much (or more) satisfaction from the creative process as they do from the end product.” Immediately, I want to know where I read “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.” Surely that’s a paraphrase, and one repeated by more than one author of my acquaintance. The intarwebs, courtesy of Google, gives me a University of Manitoba page which quotes Farley Mowat as saying nearly precisely that. But that’s fairly recent, only 20 years ago, and it is a much more universal thing. Others attribute it to Robert Louis Stevenson. The preponderance of attribution seems to go to Dorothy Parker though, with this version, “I hate writing. I love having written.”That has the ring of truth to it: short, pithy, and very DP. I imagine Wilde might have uttered something similar, too. Even Heinlein acknowledged in his fiction that writing was equal parts obsession and curse, making the writer not fit company. I can’t but think that this may be true for other creative types. And now I’m quite a distance from the text that I was supposed to be reading … and I’m writing about the diversion, not the reading!

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What, you want to know about the Paranormal part? Well, there was this weird dream I had of trying to save someone, a young girl or woman, from something vaguely troll-ish, by hiding her in my house which was constructed much like a wooden ship. Yah, not very paranormal, but the troll was fairly erudite, although not very forthcoming about how he disposed of his prey (but she was gone, gone, gone).

You want paranormal? This is the right season for it: The Carol of the Old Ones will darken your day, your spirits, and your final hours on this ball of dirt.

On the value of shorter class sessions

With this Fall Semester, UMUC fully transitioned all of their classes to an 8-week format. Most classes previously had been 12 or 13 weeks in length. The price is the same, and the number of units granted for completing the class are the same, but the material, and time, there is less. Here’s the pertinent commentary from one of the course evaluations I’ve written this Fall:

This course suffers from the shorter (8 week) session length. The ONE value of the shorter courses is that they’re shorter. It’s like 1.5 quart ice cream for the same price as the old half gallons. They’re lighter, but that’s it. Otherwise, only value had been subtracted from the courses, but they still cost the same.

Not much more to say, really. I’m still making big efforts to get as much as I can out of this work, but the school isn’t making it any easier with this Education-Lite policy. I’m sure they’ve got some perfectly rational explanation for what they’re doing, and probably some education theoretician backing up the move with brilliant data, but that only works in the computer models. Like with climate, and unlike the world for practitioners of Null-A, the map is NOT the world.

Another week spins by

Whoa! Really? Mid-November? Where are the years going?

This week the ‘A’ for my Social Gerontology course landed at the Academic Records Office at UMUC (I made that name up, but it sounds good). Of course, the class wasn’t about whole societies getting older, civilizations dying, etc. Mostly it was an overview of the field of research into anything nontechnical on the subject of aging. You could, I guess, call it Gerontology for non-science majors. As usual, I learned some stuff anyway. The biggest thing I learned, though, was this: To do well in school (as I didn’t do the first time around, and as I am doing this time around), work to excel in the boring classes as well as the interesting ones, too. In 1981, I was politely asked to leave, since I wasn’t passing enough classes. I passed every course… every course I was interested in. Now I’m getting an ‘A’ in every course. Motivational rockin’.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

Lance Cpl. Nickolas A. Daniels, 25, of Elmwood Park, Illinois, died Nov. 5 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Pfc. Cody R. Norris, 20, of Houston, Texas, died Nov. 9 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Pfc. Theodore B. Rushing, 25, of Longwood, Florida. died Nov. 11, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

One Nation Under A Groove

Thanks, Funkadelic, for brightening up my afternoon!

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Busy week (huge surprise there, eh?) – four days working at the office, including a day of racking new gear and helping to get the electrics run properly for the new gear. Friday was an appointment in the morning, followed by writing and coding for school. I’d been working on the final paper for the Social Gerontology class for a couple of weeks, and yesterday I finished it and submitted it. In the evening, I worked on the Java project that’s due on Sunday evening (or, confusingly, Monday, but I’ll go with Sunday – that’s safe). I just finished that up, including testing, documentation, etc. So I’m all caught up with the world at this moment. Yay!

Now I need to find a longer (or better shielded) audio jumper cable – the one I’ve got running to the Logitech gear from the windows box picks up noise from the ethernet cables. Shielded is *always* good, but longer would allow a route away from the noisemakers. So I’ll go with either if I have such in my stash.

Other tasks include cleaning out the front flower beds, cleaning up my filing system here in the home office, and cleaning up my woodshop. None of that sounds very exciting right now, so I’ll do something else, instead.