Notes while ramping up fast

I'm sorry I've been so absent. This quarter has just about knocked me over already, and we're only three weeks in. I'm taking three classes. SQL, .Net programming, and Web Authoring. I'm already behind in two of them, because I can't install the programs I need on my Mac, since they're Microsoft crap and there are no OSX versions. And I've missed classes due to sleep problems, which means missing out on lab time to work. I'm TAing for a class I took last quarter with a different instructor. This quarter's instructor for it is one I loved when I had her for another class. She's great fun, and her sense of humor matches mine. Deeply, deeply geeky queer woman. Yay! And I love TAing for her, it's lots of fun, and I'm getting the stuff I felt like my teacher for the class (who was neat in his own ways, and I look forward to having him for other things) missed covering. But it's exhausting. I spend two-and-a-quarter hours twice a week running around the class helping different people with whatever difficulty comes up (which is always something; it's tech). And I'm still tutoring, but where it was very slow at this time last quarter, and a typical day had more tutors than students in the lab, now I'm helping three to five people at a time, running around all over the place, trying to get people through things. Many of them are not very computer literal, are ESL students, or both, and need a lot of attention and aid. They don't necessarily know things like that bibliography and works cited are synonyms, and therefore in Word you would look under the Bibliography drop-down for a Works Cited page. I don't have time to work on my own homework in there, the way I did last quarter. I haven't put in any time on the book since the beginning of the quarter, as much as I'd like to. I get home and I just fall over. I hardly have time to decompress. I haven't made it to any meetups or anything, either. My personal life has gotten more interesting. I'm struggling to maintain a daily practice at all, much less to do yoga. Last quarter I coasted. This quarter is more challenging....

What I Learned This Quarter (Fall 2016)

by Rebecca, age 39 I learned the basics of programming in C# (ITC110), including but not limited to: How to write a console program How to receive inputs and return outputs How to use math operators How to use selection, or if statements How to do for, for each and while loops How to populate an array and what to use it for How to write and execute methods How to write and execute classes Some things about troubleshooting The basics of how to create web forms using ASP.NET I learned the basics of how to design databases in SQL Server, MySQL, and MongoDB, including but not limited to: How to create a Requirements document The basics of relational design The basics of the first three normal forms How to create an entry-relationship design model diagram How to create a SQL database from an ERD How to test a SQL database The basics of what NoSQL is How to create a MongoDB database We also covered some things in Database Design class that I already knew: How to create a database using SQL How to populate a database using SQL How to write queries using SQL How to create inner join queries in SQL I learned a lot of scattered things in Operating Systems and Development Environments: How to research and write a white paper What a virtual machine is The uses and history of virtual machines Some online virtual machines, including Cloud 9 and Amazon Web Services The basics of Git and Github Some things about licensing, closed- and open-source The basics of agile development, scrum, and kanban What stacks and frameworks are About software testing and test-driven development I learned a huge amount this quarter, and enjoyed most of it....

The Pun in Hex.Ink

There is one. Do you see it? I'll give you a hint. It's the same pun the venerable Sir Terry Pratchett used when he named the Discworld's first thinking engine. Any ideas? I see you smirking at the back. You already know. I'm talking to everybody else. (All four of you.) See, in addition to being a word for a magic spell, especially a malicious one, hex is also short for hexadecimal, which is a base 16 number system. Hm. What's that mean? Well, our usual number system is base ten, or decimal. Base ten means that it has ten digits that are used to count with, and then recycled in combinations to keep counting. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9... and then we recycle 1 and 0 with 10. Hex uses 16 digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, a, b, c, d, e, f... and then it recycles, again with 10, only now 10 stands for 17, or f + 1, just as in decimal, 10 stands for 9 + 1. Oh, dear. I've definitely lost a few of you now. OK, look. How we count is an invented thing. We, marvelous creatures that we are, invented it. Numbers don't exist without someone to count them. Math is a language we created to describe certain aspects of the world, and numbers are the characters we write that language in. It's all made up. It's also all real, mind you (I should really do a piece on that, actually, how math is like mythology), because it is an accurate language. But it's important to know that we made it up. So the reason we count the way we do, from 0-10, is because just about everybody has ten fingers, physical and genetic accidents aside. There's nothing natural or absolute or even real about the way we count, it's just that we figured out counting with ten fingers. Now, try to image for a moment how you'd count if you had, and had always had, eight fingers on each hand. Because that's what hex is. It's counting for sixteen-fingered aliens. This becomes relevant because programmers encode a great deal of data in hexadecimal. Colors, for example. Much of what's sent between one computer and another through various internet protocols, too. It gets encoded in hex, because sixteen is a power of two, making it easily convertible to and from binary... What's binary? Oops. Binary is counting for aliens with only two fingers, ok? It's counting with only 0 and 1. It's how computers count. How computers do pretty much everything, actually, because they do everything by counting from 0 to 1, over and over and over. Look, find me sometime in meatspace, and I'll teach you to count to 1023 on your fingers, in binary, and also the geekiest way ever to flip someone off. So now I'm in school, setting out to study database design and administration, which is a kind of programming. I'll learn a few other kinds of programming, too. Which will make hexadecimal important and useful to me, and indeed I'll probably have to learn to do at least some math in it. And we've been talking in one of my classes about binary and learning a bit about it, and have sort of touched on hex, which we'll come back to later, and which I'll study in more depth in the spring. So now hex has two meanings that are relevant to my life: one is programming math, and the other is magic. And they're both important to me....

Overload

I'm taking two math classes this summer. Both of them involve online work. One is a normal class, with four days a week of class time, most of which is spent going over the homework, and very little of which is spent on new concepts. None at all is spent on concepts that are new to me, so I'm just going to start bringing in my laptop and doing all my homework in class until we get to something I don't remember how to do. (I did all of this stuff in high school, it's just that high school was twenty years ago. My placement scores weren't high enough to get out of this.) The other class is a hybrid class, meaning that most of it is done online, but there's one day a week of classroom time with a teacher to explain things. It uses a system that I (mostly) really like, called ALEKS. ALEKS tests you at the beginning to see what concepts you already know, and then you don't have to learn those again. (This is a godsend to me. Thank you Athena, thank you Hermes.) Then it teaches you stuff you don't know in small, discrete chunks. It tells you after every question whether you got it right or wrong, gives you a chance to correct it or to view an explanation if it's wrong. The thing about ALEKS is that I'm supposed to spend five hours a week on it, which is a lot for me. I can do about one hour's worth of that in class, but I still need to be on it every weeknight for an hour in order to get it all in. Now, this wouldn't be a problem at all... if I had net at home. Unfortunately, our previous option has gone away, and we have not yet waded through the bureaucracy necessary to get the new thing we want. So I can't just sit in the comfort of my own home, taking turns doing problems and writing and dinking around on the net and doing some other homework and reading comics and back to problems about five to ten minutes later. (This is a common way for the ADD brain to work. It's actually more efficient for me. I learn better this way.) No, I have to go to a coffeehouse, which is a very bad place for me to learn, and sit in uncomfortable chairs and feel like I have to focus a lot more on it because there's time pressure. I have to get a lot done before closing time, no matter how numb my butt gets. Nor are the math classes the only ones with online work to complete. My class on Microsoft Office does, too, although I can get a lot more of that done in class. I'm still researching and writing the death rites, too, in bits and pieces as I have brain power, and working on converting the first of those rituals into something to be posted on the Polytheist Death Guild site. I'm still getting ready to open the Rewriting Death blog, on the process of writing the death rites. Oh, and I might have a job doing some freelance writing. So I'm feeling a bit overloaded at the moment. Which is not to say that I won't be posting here. I certainly mean to try to post at least once, and preferably twice, a week. Expect lots of talk about math and computers, though. I've been perusing this list of back to school magics, and I'm considering going over one or two of those at some point. I haven't talked about magic here in ages....

Back to School

I'm going back to school for the first time in almost ten years. And this will be a very different experience. Last time, I went for a degree in culinary arts, which involved mostly long hours in kitchens, with some lecture classes. Now I'm going back for a certificate in database design and administration. Lots of sitting-down lecture classes, with, eventually, some computer lab classes. This quarter is all prerequisites, with two math classes, a class on Windows applications, and something called Introduction to Information Systems Concepts, with a description that sounds like it hasn't been updated since the 80s. I only hope the class has been. I don't expect to enjoy this quarter much. Fortunately, being summer quarter, it's short. Classes start tomorrow, so don't expect any posts this week. Give me a chance to get settled in....