Thursday, April 16, 2009

I have some catching up to do. We went on our spring vacation last week, and I was hoping before I left to write some background as to what we were doing, but it didn't happen. And to explain that requires going back even further, to last fall. I mentioned during November that I was taking classes at our local community college. I finally gave up on finding a good job-- not only are good jobs hard to find in this area, but since I don't really have to work, in the current job market it seemed frivolous to take a good job away from someone who needs to feed their family. So I decided instead to go back to school, which would serve the dual purpose of staving off boredom and also possibly picking up some skills that might come in useful at a later date.

So last fall I decided to take a programming class and a foreign language. The programming class made sense in terms of possible later usefulness-- although I was an English major, my first job out of school was as a technical editor, and when I showed an aptitude for computers, I was quickly adopted by the IT staff. I've done database programming, SAS programming, CAD, desktop publishing, manned the help desk, done phone support, all sorts of technical stuff. But I'd never actually done real programming, and I'd never taken a computer science class-- most of my technical education occurred on the job.

The foreign language was just because I wanted to challenge myself. Up until the night before I registered, I was trying to decide between Russian and Chinese. Russian made more sense because there is a sizeable Russian population in the area where we live and it could have actually come in handy-- schools and the hospital are always looking for volunteer Russian interpreters. But I was intrigued by the idea of learning Chinese, and Russian was only offered at night (which is difficult if you have a family), so I found myself standing in line last August registering for the first semester of Programming in Java and Elementary Chinese.

It was the usual routine, register for your classes first, then go to the financial office and pay up (which at our small community college means walking about fifteen feet across the hall). As I was paying, the woman who was taking my surprisingly hefty tuition check said casually, "So, are you going to go on the trip to China next April?" Which I knew nothing about at that point. "It's an incredible deal," she continued, "Less than $2,000 for an eight-day tour all-inclusive." All inclusive?? Yup, airfare, meals, hotels, bus, and entrance fees at various different attractions. Even my fiscally conservative spouse agreed that it was too good a deal to pass up. So we signed up-- me, my spouse, and my eleven-year-old son. It was such an incredible opportunity that I couldn't quite believe we were doing it.

But (to take things in sequence), I had to get through fall semester first. Both classes were a great experience, even though (or maybe because?) I was the only student over the age of about 21 in either class, not to mention being older than either of my teachers. I felt like the den mother. In fact, it was so much fun that in January I signed up for the second semester of each class, plus Discrete Math, better known as math for computer science majors. I hadn't taken a math class since I took calculus in my freshman year in college (and you've heard me harangue enough about how old I am to know how long ago THAT was), so it was pretty intimidating. But it had occurred to me that it might be useful to actually have a degree in computer science, and Discrete Math is a requirement, so it made an odd sort of sense as well.

And at our community college, once you get up to a certain number of credits, the next four are free, so I figured what the heck? I might as well sign up for something else as well, since it would be free. Who needs free time? So I signed up for a one semester class in C++ programming. It was nuts. I was busy enough before I took any classes at all, and here I was with my usual life plus 17 credits. Which is why the night before we left for our long awaited trip, I was up until 3:30 a.m. finishing a take-home test for my math class (well, and packing, too) and was unable to write all this out before I left so you, my loyal readers, would know what was up. In fact, things were so nuts that I ended up dropping the C++ class, even though I really like C++. Better than Java, in a lot of ways, but it didn't make sense to drop the second semester of a two-semester sequence. I might be able to pick up C++ again some other time, I suppose. And (hallelujah!) I didn't have to take the C++ test which was scheduled for about 16 hours before we were supposed to leave.

to be continued.....

No comments:

Post a Comment