Monday, January 27, 2014

Configured a Cisco switch today. Finally! Got some hands on experience in. It was more fun than watching slides. I got used to some basic commands, set the clock and message of the day, etc. It wasn't bad. Made the class fly by.

I don't know that I'd want to do this all the time, but it was all right. I'm looking forward to Wednesday now.

Still Poking Around

I had to stay up late to download some stuff for a homework assignment, and I ended up going on a Youtube tangent waiting for the stuff to finish downloading. So I haven't gone to bed. Which is okay. I've been sleeping on and off all day anyway.

I have networking class in the afternoon. I'm hoping we get to actually do some lab work this week. We were going to start but there was a hardware issue that kept us from doing anything but sitting through slides. Hopefully that gets resolved, as it's the 3rd week and all. I would remember things a little more if there was more hands on stuff going on.

Instead of reading my textbooks or anything, I learned more CSS stuff. Being stuck in the house really makes me listless. I hope my biweekly out of town excursions will give me the gust of wind beneath my wings I need. Otherwise the next four months will be rough.

I'm hoping I can get there early so I can do my chapter reading and maybe plan out what I need to do this week. I just need time away from this tiny little house and mom. It's stifling. I got some really sharp stomach cramps, likely caused by something I ate, so the weekend would have been screwed even if I had a car. Drinking ginger tea calmed things down a lot, and was better than the sugary juice in the fridge.

I'm hoping to get there an hour or so early so I can buy some tea and snacks. I have to cross that wide, treacherous street to get back to campus, but screw it. I have to use the chances I'm given.

Now I do want to lay down. When you can't think of any more Youtube search terms, it's time to go to bed.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ugh.

Three weeks  into this school thing and I'm just not feeling it yet. One class is a joke, and the other hasn't really gotten off the ground yet. Too late to drop too.

I had two free days and haven't felt like doing any homework assignments. My car is in the shop and I've been housebound. I think that has a lot to do with it. I get depressed when I can't go anywhere, even if anywhere is just to the Dollar General for a pack of candy and back.

The car has been at the mechanic since Wednesday and I have no idea when it will come back. I was hoping it was a blown spark plug or something, but it might be worse. I worry my lack of transportation might turn into a permanent condition.

I'm also hating the fucked up space bar on this laptop. It's taken me twice as long as it should to type this because of it.

I'm not going to sugar coat this and try to be upbeat about a shit situation. I'm cursing the world right now. I wish I could say different.

Maybe I'll feel like doing some schoolwork tomorrow. I'm just too sad right now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A peak instead of a valley: CSS adjacent selectors (aka Specificity is Grand)

I learned something new today!

I learned about adjacent selectors in CSS and used them in my schoolwork.

It's the end of the second week in class, and we had to put up a basic page. I of course decided to try and use some HTML5 and CSS3 since it was going to be on a live web page. When I think it's not going to take that long, it takes longer than I expected.

I spent two hours tweaking things, trying to find a color I liked (I started with a black and white page because I couldn't think of anything) and finally decided on a nice light blue color. Then I was going to use two fonts, one for the headings and one for the body text, but I scrapped that. Then there was all the time I spent trying to get the links to line up with everything else since the content is centered. Finally I got stuff working like it should. The time flew by, actually. I guess I like doing this.

We're supposed to put a PowerPoint presentation on our site. There are slide show creators, but they're tacky looking on an otherwise decent looking page. I deicded to paste the presentation text into HTML. I figured it be the fastest since I can reuse my existing design.

At first everything looked okay. Then the lists in the presentation wouldn't list; they were blobbing up on me, so I kept adding stuff to my style sheet until it looked okay. I was going to call it a day, but I was looking at my stylesheet and it seemed longer than it should be. Too busy.

So the next day I spent I don't know how long (at least an hour, probably more) rewriting the stylesheet to make it tight. I grouped where I could, I commented some stuff out to see if I really needed it or not. Lots of looking stuff up on Google and experimenting.

Then today, not wanting to finish up my networking class reading, I was watching videos about CSS and learned about adjacent selectors. They let you target an element that is directly adjacent to another element. In this case, There was a big gap between the h2 heading and the list in my presentation. I wanted to get rid of it so keep people from having to scroll down to get the next button on a silly little presentation, but I'd given up on it. Then this video gave me new hope.

I used this:

h2+ul{
    padding: 0;
}


Since the <ul> coming after the <h2> was a unique situation on the page, this let me style that specific part without mucking up anything else. I'd been trying to think of a way but wasn't coming up with anything because I hadn't learned enough yet!


I reloaded the page and boom, nice normal space between the slide title and the list. I just uploaded the revised styles and it looks pretty good. I'm happy.

I even did a browser test. It didn't test every old browser version, but honestly, it's just a class and I don't care if this doesn't work in IE7. By the time I can apply for jobs doing this (knock on wood), I won't have to worry about that anymore. I wish I could say it works everywhere no matter what, but I haven't been able to study responsive design too much yet, because I don't know the basics of regular design. In older browsers my centering goes away. It didn't like my <nav> tags. It's still readable, though. I didn't go that fancy.

So this is what I got to do:
  •     Use Google Fonts (it's pretty awesome)
  •     Use a couple of select classes and divs
  •     Use child, descendant and adjacent selectors to style my page

I feel like I'm getting somewhere. Too bad I'm too tired to finish that reading. I have class tomorrow and I really want to go to bed.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bleah

Reading a Cisco Introduction to Networks book is agonizing.I've been out of the school game too long. I know it will get better once I have more stuff to do, but right now it's just...yuck.

The way the text is laid out tempts me to skim and I feel like I'm reading too fast. Probably because it's chapter 1 and it's an overview type of chapter. I wonder if it will sink in.

I have to be done with the reading by Monday. That shouldn't be an issue. I'm just kinda bored.

Persistence.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ooh, almost forgot: Another new (to me) find

I tried my first Monster energy drink yesterday.

I've tried Red Bull and some other stuff a long time ago, but it doesn't seem to work on me like it does some people. I can drink a bunch of coffee, but it seems to work 6-8 hours after I need it, like when I was about to come home from work or school. Those little energy shots don't do anything either.

It kinda hit the spot. It tasted all right, didn't make me jittery. I haven't felt this awake in years.

I think I found something that works for me. I won't drink it too often though. I can't because they cost an arm and a leg.

I'm tempted to use up my Amazon points on a case of this stuff.

No, I have to save up for a decent blender.

Yay.

New finds for the feed, Twitter silliness, and crappy Internet connections

I did find two nice blogs from female developers that I want to keep up with. The first is for a podcast called How to Hold a Pencil. The podcast interviews web developers and how they learned the craft. I listened to two of the podcasts so far, and it's calmed me down about getting into this business. People are coming from all sorts of other professions to do this. That makes me feel less nervous about my ability.

The other site is 180 Websites in 180 Days, the wonderful project site of Jennifer Dewalt. She learned front-end development by building a site a day for six months. It's pretty awesome. Each site showcases a different feature, such as animations or buttons.

I'm sort of doing this type of project-based learning for my own enlightenment, but everything seems sort of blah because of my lack of javascripting skills.This will change soon if I keep my nose to the grindstone. For now, it's messing with one CSS sample layout after another, trying to develop some sort of process, trying to make that process efficient.

I've recently made a private little Twitter list of web developers that seemed interesting. It's tied to my personal account, which doesn't consist of much but fangirling over various interests and venting. I didn't want to mix up my tech stuff with the jrock/kpop/anime/fantasy/scifi/comedian stream I usually deal with.

One nice thing, unlike fans, most webdevs don't post constantly. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for 100 posts from the same person about the same musical group. When someone in my list gets on a tear, they tend to sweep other stuff I want to look at away. Twitter doesn't let you mute these people in the desktop version. The inline image function that someone thought would be helpful is also annoying. I just discovered that Tweetdeck has mute functions in a desktop version a couple of days ago.

This discovery made me incredibly happy, because I'm stuck with a horrible satellite ISP called Exede, and they only give you 10GB a month to play with. When you hit that limit, it slows to a crawl. They have a five hour block from midnight to 5 in the morning that doesn't count toward your cap, staying up late isn't doing me any favors. It really cramps your Internet style. Those good old days when AOL and Compuserve charged by the hour still exist. Way to keep the past alive!

And it goes dead on a whim. If you don't have to deal with this foolishness, consider yourself lucky. I tried to influence the person holding the purse, but they paid me no mind.

Another thing to do, besides reading this networking book: Find a RSS reader I can live with. I kind of need one now ^_^

Friday, January 10, 2014

Some IT-related stuff, a little Japanese, and my thoughts on IT Instruction from a Newbie Point of View.

Before returning to school became a possibility again, I'd been working with online study materials on and off. Trying to get my head back into thinking like a student again after letting my thinking muscles go a bit slack. I also started studying to try to cut down on the cabin fever I was experiencing. When I first moved to NC, I had decided to take this time in isolation to better myself, but you know, sadness. I only have so much energy before my battery runs out.

Recently, I've been looking deeper into CSS, Javascript and Python. CSS I had taught myself a while ago but wanted to become more intimate with it, and I wanted to learn pure Javascript because the scripting class I took amounted to a "How to Use JQuery" course, and I was doing things but didn't know why or how they worked. I'm a sucker for primary sources.

I started doing the Python to remember what I'd learned in the Intro to Programming course I took a few years ago. I had a decent teacher that made programming seems doable by anyone that could put the practice and time into it. He didn't assume any of had been doing this since we were 10. He was very fair. I wish there were more teachers like him and my Operating Systems instructor.

But yep, I'm working through some Python material slowly but surely. I tried Udacity last summer, but I when learned I was moving into my current place (I hate moving, especially when it's against my will), I lost track of it, and frankly I found it a bit dry. I also felt stupid again, and I didn't relish the thought of trying to catch up on something I'd started months ago.

I finally said "Forget trying to play catch up with this, get a book and start over." And start over I did.

The only other programming languages I had experience with to this point were BASIC (when I was little kid, copying things out of the book that came with the computer) and a Visual Basic I course. I shudder to think of the class I took. I got to a certain point with understanding it, then I hit a wall.

This where I ran into my first "You should know this" teacher.

I'm a person that likes to look things up and find the answer on my own (that History major kicking in), I'm loathe to ask somebody for help unless I'm really stumped. This guy either thought I hadn't looked hard enough or didn't want to bother with me. I got a B in the class, but honestly I sleepwalked through the second half, and I doubted myself. A lot.

I found out later that other students had complained about the guy, so I didn't feel quite so crazy, but the damage to my confidence had been done. Also, since I'm a non-traditional student (meaning not a kid fresh out of high school), my "I don't have to take crap off of you" system kicked in, and I was determined not to waste my time with a teacher that didn't want to teach. The second time it happened, I dropped the class and figured I would take it next quarter, but that wasn't meant to be.

I can understand the throw them in the water and let them figure out how to swim school of thought. In my tech support days, RTFM was a common utterance. But when someone is sincere about seeking out your assistance, don't be a jerk about it. You don't know how much that can fuck someone up. Maybe my liberal arts mind couldn't fully handle Mr. Instructor's l33t brain, but I was trying, dammit. Sometimes even the textbook seemed to skip over steps I thought should have been explained. It was a bit frustrating.

Learning Python on my own is a little less nerve-wracking. No Visual Studio to mess with, which is nice. Now that I'm older, I might be more patient with myself or something, because stuff that would stump me 2 or 3 weeks ago makes sense now. For example, I was having problems writing a proper For loop. I was laying in bed one afternoon, and it popped in my head and I went "Oh, that's what you do." Maybe I'm slow, but it broke through. I'm trying my best not to fall into the "It's too hard so I'll quit" hole.

I wrote a simple calculator program last night. I used modules, a list to print out an options menu, and I even put a control in to make sure the user chose a valid option. I also added a continue or quit option instead it just quitting after one math operation. It's reinventing the wheel but I learned something. I don't want to be the next start up founder, I just want to be able to solve problems when they come up. I want to make a more sophisticated program later with more options. Eventually I might try to attach it to a GUI, but that's for later.

I learned 1500 of the General Use Kanji last year waiting for this school crap to start, I can do this.

Speaking of which, I need to finish those last 300 something kanji. I was doing both at once, but then the computer stuff started taking over, and since I'm a night owl anyway, I'd be too tired to do my drills. I would do them every other day, then the intervals got larger. It's what happens when you've been bummed out too long. Concentration wears thin easily. As often rolls through my head these days:

人生は難しいです。(you need Japanese encoding on to see this.)

If you just see blocks or gibberish, the above says  jinsei wa muzukashii desu, which translates to life is difficult. Ain't it though?

Need to get on that before it's another case of "I could have been done with that." Still kicking myself for not being done by new year's, but life happens. We should all be more forgiving of ourselves.

From Backstory to Present, Part 2: The Present!

Now I'm back in the place of my birth.

I was born in the country. The town part consists of a small section of the interstate that contains the town hall and the post office. We have a Dollar General AND a Family Dollar right next to each other. After being raised in a city with hundreds of thousands of people, it's a culture shock. For me, it's always been a place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Lucky me.

A little further down the road (~10 miles) is a small town that is bustling in comparison. I'm not going to mention the name for the sake of keeping a little bit of anonymity. Any future references to "town" will be to this one.

Until recently, there was one grocery store in town that had self-checkout, and it they only left that option open until 8pm. Now there are two stores with self-checkout as of November of last year. The town recently got a "super" Wal Mart that's open 24 hours and the parking lot was packed when it opened up. That's how small of a place I live in.

I never thought I'd say I was grateful for a Wal Mart, but it's the best shopping in the hills, it really is. For some reason, they carry Japanese curry roux, Japanese rice and Korean ramyun (that's Korean for ramen). I'm not questioning, I'm just happy it's there. The place is also seeming to break up some of what I call the "captive economy" this place has. There's probably a better term for it, but imagine a convenience store near a hotel that charges way more than similar stores further away. It's that sort of thing. Stores charge more around here because they can. It's buy it here or make the long trek out of town to try to find it somewhere else and still pay too much for it. Unlike where I'm from, sales are rare and when they do happen they're extra, extra pitiful.


But anyway...After climbing out of my depression enough to try to form an escape plan, I started looking at my education options again. There is a community college in town, but they don't offer a web development track.So I had to go a few towns down the road, about 30 miles. Here are my hopes for school ver 2.0 and the realities that dashed them to pieces.

Great, they should do most of this stuff online so I don't spend a fortune in gas, right? The IT department is usually ahead of the curve on that stuff.

Not really. I just started back to school this month (January 2013) and I have to go there two days a week. It's a networking class, so I understand, but that's an hour on the road each day until May, and gas is not cheap out here in the mountains. I could have done a completely online degree with another CC in Charlotte or Greensboro, but I thought closer would be better in case something had to be resolved face to face, and I just need to get out of the house. It's a lonely life out here as it is, and staying in the house even more isn't going to alleviate any of that.

Still, I hope this changes a little, because I can imagine a situation where I have to go out there three or four days a week and it gets to be cost-prohibitive. No Saturday classes that I've seen, and the IT course overlap is ridiculous, which is why I ended up only taking two classes this term. The other course was online, fortunately.

Surely with no job, I'll get some kind of financial help like I did in Ohio. 

I'm ineligible for financial aid. I'm paying for this with begrudging help from my mom, cash money. Even at in-state rates it's going to be expensive. Two classes at nearly $600 plus books. I can't do two classes per term if I expect to get done in a decent amount of time with my sanity intact. I got help in Ohio, but I'm not sure if that was because I was on unemployment or there was a special program at the time or what.

Since I've never had a "real" job in NC, I'm essentially off the radar. The biggest things around here seem to be retail and medical, and I'm not good enough for one and not trained in the other. Yes, I can't get a job stocking shelves. I'd LOVE a job stocking shelves. Not for the rest of my life but for the time being. I need money!

My transfer credits will speed this up, I'm sure.

Yes and no. They took some credits but not others, and at the time, Ohio was still on the quarter system while they do semesters down here, so the credit hours were rounded down. The math and English I took don't count for shit. So I get to spend hundreds of dollars taking things I've taken before, unless I can finagle my way out of it somehow. I've been paid to do a little writing for money, and I was humanities major in a past life, meaning I can write long papers without blinking, so I'm hoping I can at least get the English out of way. To put it in the nicest way possible, I'm annoyed. Especially when one of the instructors I have this term put up an introductory message full of spelling errors, including the infamous there/their mix-up.

If I sound downtrodden, you're right! The past five years have been one clusterbomb (I'm really trying not to swear, but I know at some point my inner salty sailor is going to come out; I'll try for one post at least) after another, and the light at the end of of the tunnel is a pinprick, and it flickers out occasionally.

I'm trying to stay positive, but it's hard when I find myself in a place with few opportunities and resources, no friends and not much of a support net. My mom's thoughts on the subject of going back to school consisted of "Once you're done, does that mean you can work from home? Oh well, at least you can get a job around here." Problem is I want to get out of here as quickly as possible. Even if I did want to stay in the woods, there aren't any tech jobs around here, and the place is too small to scare up freelance work. I was born a country mouse, but raised a city mouse, I can't deny it, I can't stand it here.

So that's my story. If some employer finds this post in the future, at least you'll know what I've been through, and hopefully I will have tasted enough success by the time you meet me that I will be the upbeat and confident employee you guys like to hire.

From Backstory to Present, Part 1 (skip if you're a TL;DR type)

Once upon a time, I went to college. I earned a B.A in History, and instead of going to grad school, I wanted to get a real job for a while. In that real working time, I sort of kind of lost my lust for grad school but kept the reading, writing and research skills.Was told by people that these were transferable skills that would help me get a nice, steady office job somewhere.

That cake was a damn lie.

My job history consists of office work and technical support. In both cases, I was treated not so great. In an office, people treat you like crap when you're a lower rank than they are (or worse, a temp); in technical support you get yelled at by strangers, which really messes up your hearing when you have a headset strapped to your head all day. And the bosses STILL treat you badly, especially when you're naturally helpful but all they're worried about are call times and if you followed the script or not.

I was laid off twice in the space of a year. Between those two layoffs, my father's cancer got worse and I helped take care of him until he died a few days before my birthday. After the second layoff I decided to go back to school. It wasn't like I was doing anything else. Without a job, it gave me the time to concentrate on studying. I enrolled at Columbus State Community College to work towards a Web Development degree. I was able to get financial aid somehow and the schedule helped me alleviate some of the insomnia I had developed after my dad passed away. I thought I was getting somewhere, despite a few unfortunate experiences with some of the instructors at school. They were of the "you should know this already" type, and that's all I'm going to say about it.

Then curriculum interruptus happened. Mom says we're selling the house and going home, home being NC. By not knowing when the house was going to sell, I was reluctant to go back to school, lest I have to pay back my financial aid. I was depressed and fought this move tooth and nail. It took a while, but it eventually happened. Real estate people aren't my favorite, no offense.

To be continued...

Introduction


Hello, my name is Amy and I don't have a job.

My aim is to become a web developer. I started this journey a few years ago by taking classes at Columbus State Community College, but because of a lot of factors that were out of my control, my coursework was interrupted and I ended up in Western North Carolina two years ago, way, waaaay out in the country. This is my record of trying to get out of the worst predicament I've ever been in in my life.

It's literally do or die. If I don't make it back to an urban area with job opportunities and people I might have a few things in common with besides DNA, I'm going to die here. The thought of that hurts my heart. I want to be proud of myself for once, have a job that allows me to live comfortably and independently, and that isn't just another office job where I'm treated like a peon. At least, I want to be a different level of peon if at all possible. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

If I succeed, I can look back on these entries in wonder and be glad that it's all in the past. If I fail, well, I don't know what I'll do at that point.

I want to chronicle some of my IT-related wanderings. One day I might even have an opinion on industry matters, but not right now. It's just a beginner trying to find her way to a new place in life.

If you comment, all I ask is that you don't be a dick. I've had a couple of nasty computer science teachers, so I hope the entire IT community isn't like that, otherwise I've really fucked up when it comes to choosing a career.

Onward!