August 2013

Me at work in 091 Labs
Me on the roof of a car park

I have been slacking a little in manifest textual updates on the blog; Facebook currently has the audience of friends who care about my existence, and it is easy to just dump an update onto my wall and forget about it. Generally, I’m in good form. I’ve started to change my food intake, reduce my dependence on sweet things, and exercise more. I have had great advice on this from friends such as Nicole and Ciaran from the hackerspace, and I’ve had it beat into me that I shouldn’t look at this as some kind of dieting fad with set goals. Rather, I should just make those changes I want to that will improve my health, and everything else will come in time. I already feel better, just by walking by someone lugging a pizza and bottle of soda from the supermarket.

I’ve started to cultivate a taste for beer, if only to get myself away from chugging Coca Cola and Red Bull around the clock. It’s 4am and my current sidebar beverage is a glass of low-fat milk.

College

The biggest bind on me right now is college. To cut a long story short, this is my situation:

  • I cannot apply for a grant renewal with the Galway V.E.C. until I have a letter from I.T. Sligo saying I will be accepted back as a repeat student for the academic year 2013-2014.
  • The staff of I.T. Sligo are on holidays or otherwise unavailable until mid-September 2013.
  • I would like to make plans for either Galway or Sligo now, and not in five weeks.
  • If I cannot return to college this year, then I’d like to plan for it now.

I’ll add my relevant Facebook update here, verbatim:

August 5:

A big question in my life recently has been whether I go back to Sligo and repeat second year, or do something else, whatever that something else might be. I had a breakdown that started at the end of last September, dropped out of college, life, sight, and sound for more than six months. I tried to hang myself. I self-harmed, and I subjected myself to ever flavour and form of self-hatred that you can conceive.

I’ve improved since then. It isn’t noticeable day-to-day, but I can look back at the month before and say that I’ve changed, but I’m still not healed. My temper is as bad: I was assaulted in Galway during the week gone, I snapped, and I left the idiot who attacked me in a heap on the ground; there are still days when I hate myself to the point that all I want to do is take a long walk off a high bridge; I’ve had to walk away from sharp implements more than once in the recent past; and, you know, the rule of thumb is that my self-esteem is nonexistent.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m better than I used to be. Having spoken to Caira, and that she forgave me, was one of the balms I needed, and it’s helped me let go of a lot of the crap I was carrying.

But, Sligo. I’ve cleared hurdles with the Galway VEC about my grant, although I need paperwork from I.T. Sligo for them (who in turn have been like a black hole that swallows all emails and phone calls). Despite this, I simply do not relish going back in September. I know how fragile things are, and I suspect that with a lack of activities in Sligo to catch my interest, I’d just wind back at square one and waste another year staring at a wall.

All this said, I’m going to settle my outstanding debts (~€360), find somewhere to live in the city or county, look for web/programming work, and see if I can get into NUIG or GMIT for September 2014.

TL;DR: Galway, not Sligo.

/wall_of_text

I can’t really put serious pressure on the admissions department of I.T. Sligo, or anyone else, because I’m one student of (I’m sure) several who are in the same boat, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving them puppy eyes over the weekend.

Garrett in a chest of drawers
Caira eating a loaf of bread

Family

Things have really warmed with Mariah, although there are moments where I feel struck through with the pain of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve separated. Honestly? I’m jealous of the fact that she has her own life with friends, where she can meet strangers, while I still hide in out of sight and sound, bury my nose in work (or play) and avoid everyone. Yeah, go me, that’s crazy cat fella Mark for you.

I am proud of the children Garrett and Caira have become. Garrett’s turned into this wonderful little clone of his mum and I. He’s full of energy, picks up everything, is (like his sister) scarily intelligent, and he’s hugely social. He remembers Ireland, remembers me, and still talks about it non-stop. Caira is…Caira; a bastard hybrid of Billy, Mariah, and I, a little girl full of energy and fun, and intelligence, even if she’s troubled. She has to repeat the first grade at school, and a recluse who wants to do her own thing at all times. Caira has amazing perception, even if you practically have to pull out her fingernails will a pliers before she will demonstrate it.

I’m worried about her performance at school. If you do anything with her, you have to do it on her schedule, in her time, or you may as well go and bang your head off the wall. This isn’t compatible with standardized testing, standardized schedules, and standardized school. I’m hopeful that either the counsellors at school or someone in her family will find the key that unlocks her mystery.

I spoke to Caira on Friday gone, and she seemed pretty happy when she finally stood still and said hey. She wants a photograph of me, and Garrett wants a toy robot.

Ella making faces at the camera
Ella and I making faces at the camera

Coding

I’ve finally started to give coding serious attention for the sake of experience, learning, work, and eventually money too. I find coding is 20% cool brainstorming, 50% writing, 15% debugging, and 15% crying into my beer because the fucking thing doesn’t work. I’ve moved from C# into PHP, (better formatted) CSS and HTML, a brush of JavaScript, and a lot more shell scripting. Self-directed learning without peer review is awful-and it’s a good deal of why I want to return to college-because I don’t know if my work is good or bad, if it is good but I have bad habits, or actually, genuinely not-bad.

I think I’ve picked up a few valuable lessons to date (that the available documentation will always be awful is a good one), and struggled through a lot of self-dissuasion about handling larger projects. I’ve already had one offer for effectively an internship with a developer in Galway that I want to pursue if I stay here for the winter.

I am also in the final stages of wrapping up a large project for a group at NUIG-the final handoff is this week, and I will hopefully share screenshots, and thoughts on the project after that point.

That’s it for now. For the lack of anything else to close on, here is Killer:
Killer on her back



Year 2, week 1

Not too bad so far, although I’ve already missed an afternoon of classes because I had to sort out matters relating to my grant and payments; also, if you consider my proclivity toward doing everything at the last possible minute, and the weird little things that always happen around me, everything has been eerily smooth.

I changed my address on the campus, and my letter of enrolment arrived at my new address. I visited the Social Welfare office on Friday to deliver the letter, and my new proof of address. I was in the door of the office and out again in under five minutes.

Scary stuff.

Speaking of scary, my lecturers have been very, very busy explaining how this semester will faceroll us with new concepts. I don’t think it is as bad as they make out:

  • JavaScript: JS scripts tied to HTML/CSS tags.
  • Web Programming: C# code tied to HTML/CSS tags.
  • Windows Programming: C# code tied to XAML/WPF tags.

That’s three of my six subjects. Software Analysis appears to be planning software design through UML, Database is (fucking finally!) SQL and actual relational database work, and Mathematics is, for some reason, 2D geometry.

Home is a loft bedroom of a townhouse on of an apartment that is on top of a shopping centre. My house mates seem to be quiet types: One’s a stoner, one effectively lives at her friend’s house, and the third is reclusive to the point of making me seem positively outgoing. Don’t get me wrong – they are all perfectly nice people! They clean up their own mess, they wash the dishes, and they don’t run the heating 24/7. The complex itself is a touch grotty, but quiet, central, and a straight walk across the river to school. I can’t complain. Internet is being installed on Tuesday.


Semester 3…begins!

My lecturers are universally saying “ERMAGHERD, ERXPERNERNTAHL KERV!” about this semester’s difficulty, but so far I am only truly frightened about mathematics. I have six streams up until December: Mathematics, Windows Programming, Web Programming, Client-side Scripting, Software Analysis, and Database Development. Out of the six, I am only really concerned about Mathematics, because fuck math. There’s a lot of genuine difficulty there in encompassing a lot of what is presented to me, and in applying it to programming. The relevance between math as taught and programming has (so far) been low. Database is starting from scratch, and actually teaching us concepts that we need to know. I already communicated in class that we (and I) didn’t learn much of anything useful in Semester 2.

Client-side scripting (JavaScript) I am really looking forward to, Web Programming is just a different application of C# than I am used to, Windows Programming doesn’t seem to be outside of anything I covered over the summer, and Software Analysis seems to be much-needed theory.

The biggest worry? Attendance. That fucked me badly last semester. I missed a month of school in February (depression) and missed important lectures in two subjects, a key presentation, and was finally docked for lack of attendance in a fourth subject. And then to compound it, I completely missed out on an entire fucking repeat exam on August 23 because I didn’t read the schedule fully. I looked at it for one thing, found it, and closed the page. Fuck.

I mostly did pretty well last year after I got settled in. I am mostly confident that if I actually turn up every day I won’t completely fuck matters up. Mostly…