August 2013

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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

by Mark -

Semester 3…begins!

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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…

by Mark -

[XNA] Flyatron…works!

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Check out Flyatron on Github! Gameplay is barebones (you move, you shoot, you die), and buggy, but it runs. Current issues:

  1. Owing to the order in which mines despawn after detonating, bullets following the first bullet will despawn until the explosion animation concludes.
  2. Ordering, again: If the player hits a mine at their spawn point (you’ll see it in the video), you will continually hit it until you lose all of your lives.
  3. The Scores menu does not update correctly.
  4. There are no sound effects.

by Mark -

Grades: January and June

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January:

Systems and Networking: 83%
Digital Media with Photoshop: 78%
Programming with C#: 78%
Games Culture: 88%
Mathematics: 61%
Learning to Learn: 71%
76.5%

June:

Systems and Networking: 89%
Programming with C#: 68%
Web Design: 62%
Database Management: N/G
Games Design: N/G
Mathematics: 70%
72.3%

Eh. I could have, should have done better. A bad anxious/depressive spell did not in any way help me. I seriously lost out in Web (50% from my design project because I missed my end-of-year presentation. Don’t (don’t!) even ask me about my Database and Games Design results – there is a prepared F.A.Q. available. Maths I improved upon, hurrah.

Repeat exams are between August 15 and 31.

by Mark -

Big exams #3 through to #6

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Listos version:

  1. Games Design: Winged it on the strength of a treatise on how sprites are drawn.
  2. Database Administration: I did not go. I had reasons. See below.
  3. Web Design: Oh so easy.
  4. Systems and Networking: Very easy.

Games Design:
One of the two subjects I will probably have to repeat. I hit my big depressive/anxious spell at precisely the wrong moment in the semester. I missed out on the key labs, lectures, and exercises; eventually I made the conscious decision to just fail the initial exam and repeat in August. There was simply too much catching-up needed.

However, the lure of a passing grade did draw me into the exam, and I feel like I did well with a solid explanation of how sprites are drawn on screen.

Database Administration:
Ditto Games. I have a decent smattering of SQL, but this exam was more about performing given tasks in Microsoft Access, and less about actually knowing databases or queries. Again, I made a choice to get N/G instead of some anaemic number. I’ll be repeating both Games and DB in August, like as not.

Web Design:
I had a strong showing all semester in Web, and pre-adjustment* I scored highest in the year for my web design project. The end of year exam was very, very easy, and my biggest difficulty was the UK keyboard layout (I use US at home for historical reasons).

Systems and Networking:
Another strong showing by me. The last exam was easy, focusing on practical material instead of the nightmarish theory I had been expecting. I answered one short question incorrectly, however.

Overall?
Overall, not too bad. I am expecting decent grades in everything except Database and Games. I will be repeating both subject in early August.

*I was docked marks for missing the end of year presentation.

by Mark -

Second Exam

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Mathematics.

Eh. It is a bit nerve-racking when, after the first sixty minutes elapse, half of your year gets up and walks out of the exam hall. At the seventy-five minute mark three-quarters of those remaining get up and leave. I am still sitting there patiently working through some matrix problems.

by Mark -

First exam

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C#

Good: It built. It ran.
Bad: There was a bug I couldn’t fix, and instead worked around. Sloppily.
Good: It formatted nicely.
Bad: You could charitably call my formatting code “obfuscated”. Other synonyms like “Byzantine” or “Walter Bishop-esque”come to mind.
Good: Throwing a stack of copies of “Alive” in the bin is a true feel-good moment.
Bad: I am missing a bunch of features; It outputs everything, and it displays an average. I didn’t touch the search/index.
Good: There’s a bottle of whiskey on the counter at home and a copy of Diablo 3 on my hard disk. They say “there there, it will be all right”.

What’s your story?t

by Mark -

Another C# assignment is completed.

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Oh look, a Pastebin!.

I get incrementally get less bad with basic stuff, even as I try to deal with the spiraling complexities of a larger project. It’s fun, and I enjoy it so far: It allows for great creative expressions, and grants me the ability to solve problems in a system which isn’t so much “right and wrong” as there are varying degrees of efficiency.

Anyway! I am changing from Systems and Networking to Software Development in year two. :D

by Mark -