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First Real 2011 Post

School

I guess this is the first real post of the year. So far, things have pretty much gone how I should have expected. I started my first term at CSU’s distance masters program in statistics. The program was not what they advertised it to be. They made themselves out to be very helpful and easy going and where students are successful. They also had me purchase material that they said would prepare me for the first course: Probability Theory. I went through the material, and I did not find it different from material I had already done in the past, but at the same time, the material had very few solved example problems (actually, I can’t recall it having any). When the class started, I had to download videos from an FTP site and access their web portal for the class. There were about 18 people in the class, I think. I am not really sure how many students were in the class, because not everyone turned in assignments. The course was pretty disappointing. The lectures in the videos were okay. I understand what was happening. The videography was pretty amateur, but apparently they just had graduate students record them. There was too many instances where the camera wasn’t keeping up with the writing or the focus was off, so I’d miss things in the lecture. The lecture was okay, but there were no real examples given that looked anything like the homework. The book was also useless, again providing no examples. We had no contact with an actual professor. Instead, a graduate student with poor English was assigned to help with the course through a message board. It was all a recipe for failure. Still, I tried my best and was spending 20-30 hours per week trying to pass this class. As I said, the homework looked nothing like anything in the book or lectures, and I struggled to find sources to help me solve the problems. My homework grades were not good, but still pretty average in the grade distribution. I formed a study group with a couple other students in the class, and things were starting to look hopeful. I finally took the first exam. I did the exam and finished a few minutes early. I answer every question, but I wasn’t sure how I did. We finally got the grades posted. It was really bad. Only 5 people passed, and every else failed. I was excited because my grade was listed as “47 out of 50”. Julie and I were about to celebrate, until the graduate student helper let me know that was a mistake and it was actually 47 out of 100. Failing with no possibility of passing the course, along with most of the others. I feel like the program was not designed for student success, and I am just out $1700.

I’ve been trying to make this graduate school thing work for some time now. Term after term I have applied and been rejected. I think this was just the last straw for me. I really no longer feel like I want to keep doing this. I really haven’t felt like the masters degree I already have has benefited me in my career, and in some ways, I think it has hurt me in finding jobs. Julie is almost a 3L in law school, and she has let me know that now is the time to start taking tests and applications again. She says it will be “my turn” soon, but I just don’t think I want it anymore, and that maybe the reason why nothing is working is because it isn’t meant to be.

Work

 

Work has been difficult so far this year. Things were supposed to change for me starting in January. When I negotiated my remote employee status with the chief software architect (my supervisor’s boss) back in July, things were looking pretty good. He was okay with me working remotely here in Gainesville. He also recognized that I wanted to be moved to different areas, like development. He also wanted to give me more competitive wages, and admitted I wasn’t being paid competitively right now. I got a small raise last year, and he agreed in January, I’d start receiving development work and a bigger raise. I even started studying the technology I was going to be working with outside of work hours to help prepare. January came and went. Apparently, there’s been some restructuring higher up. We had a lot of lay offs back in December, and my boss made the comment that he was surprised there were no lay offs in the automation group in the “first round of lay offs” (implying there may be another round coming up at the end of this quarter). Since I am not only group member that is not senior level, this means that I would have been the first to go. My supervisor now has a new boss who does not know me and does not like telecommuting. I have received some pressure to move back to Jacksonville, and I have declined. I think there is a pretty good chance I will be laid off in the next round, if there is one.

Work has been busy. Everything right now is being rushed, and I have been working a lot of hours (including while I was taking that class). One of the projects I have been working on since November changed ownership. The new ownership wanted me to do things differently than I had been doing, and much of my work had to be started over again. Communication has been pretty much the same as usual, which people basically barking and yelling at each other. My input has largely been ignored, so I have been “just doing my job”, and things have not really been done efficiently, because the people who know simply aren’t being asked how things should be done. I am constantly being told to justify why things take so long, and since no one really cares about the details, I just answer that I will work continually until it is done (often translating to 12 hour days). It has been this way pretty much all year so far.

The job search has been mostly uneventful. Again, I have never stopped searching for jobs, before or after receiving the job I have now. This means, I have been searching for work since August 2009 and have received no offers except my current job. I am not happy with my current job. I find the work tedious and never ending, yet mind-numbingly boring. They still aren’t paying me well, and the benefits just aren’t there. The insurance is just too expensive and don’t cover much, such that I don’t have it. They don’t contribute to retirement, at all. Very little time off. The work environment is very hostile; although a bit easier now that I am working from home. Last week I went on an interview with Alachua county. It probably doesn’t matter since I haven’t been offered the job, but it really wasn’t much better. It would actually be a pay cut for me with no paid vacation again. Rick Scott has just destroyed state jobs in Florida. Government jobs used to be less pay but good benefits, but since Rick Scott took over, there really is no reason to work for the state. Still if I get the job, I will have to seriously consider it, just because my current job is so hostile. I don’t expect to get it. I have been on several phone interviews, but this has been my first in-person interview in a long time.

Future

 

When I am not working overtime, I have a lot of spare time on my hands now that I am not taking classes. I am not really sure what I want to do with it. Julie is out most weekdays doing classes or volunteering. On the subject of Julie, it really does seem [to me] that her dreams are starting to be realized. She started out at a tier four, and through her hard work, she is now at the best law school in the state. Summer 2010, she volunteered at the Jacksonville public defender. This term, she has been volunteering setting up a law conference, doing people’s taxes, and filling out divorce papers. She scored a judicial externship for this summer with the Florida appellate court in Gainesville, and another externship this fall with a firm that works with civil rights. I think she is well on her way to having a job when she graduates.

As for me, I am not really sure what to do with my spare time now that I have it and will have it for a long time. I have been thinking about things I used to do and now have time for again. I have been considering the ideas of joining a community band and/or astronomy club in Gainesville. I haven’t taken any steps yet. I would like to find a way to transport my marimba from Pace. I haven’t had it for a long time now. I think I would quickly get back to playing if I had it and could maybe get back to playing well after a few months. Julie bought me a reflector telescope for Christmas, but I don’t know of any observation areas in Gainesville (which is what an astronomy club might be able to provide me). I’ve also thought about maybe taking some just-for-fun classes. There’s an astronomy certificate online (not a degree) that I could do and would probably enjoy. I just don’t know what I can responsibly commit to at this stage.

Geek Stuff

 

In technology, I am very, VERY disappointed that it looks like T-Mobile is being bought out by AT&T in the USA. I have enjoyed T-Mobile’s services with my non-contract Nokia n900 for about a year now. It has been one of the few unlimited data plans in the USA. Although, I never really come close to the typical 2 GB limits most web plans have, there is another big issue: The Nokia n900 only supports EDGE on AT&T (not 3G), and AT&T says they will be shutting down T-Mobile’s 3G. I guess whenever that happens, I will just have to cancel my phone plan. It looks like that will probably be a while off though. Maybe 6 months for the buy out deal to be finalized and maybe another year after that before they shut down my 3G. By then, I may be able to switch to the Nokia n950 Meego phone, if it ever actually comes out. Realistically, with T-Mobile being bought out, there really isn’t any data deal worth spending money on in this country anymore. Please, if you don’t know about it already, check out this website: stopthecap.com

I have been thinking about maybe getting Julie a 3DS for her anniversary in July. At the same time, I am not sure how much she’d actually use it. Julie seems to prefer playing 2 Wii player games, and Julie and I rarely share tastes in games. Maybe it isn’t a good idea.

I registered daniellwells.com. I plan to migrate my site to the new domain name, and perhaps redo my site. I still have bigmalletman.com registered and plan to continue to have it registered.

The Seagate 1TB hard drive (link) in my HTPC died after just 4 months of light use. From what I have read, these Seagate drives have a very high failure rate. I have replaced it with a Western Digital Caviar Black drive (link). I went ahead and filled out the RMA on the Seagate drive and paid the return shipping, but I will consider it an unreliable drive. Maybe turn it into an external enclosure drive or something.

I’ve always been a big fan of free Internet streaming radio though Shoutcast, but this year I have become a big fan radioio.com.

I’ve been kind of wanting a Tablet, but haven’t been interested in what I have found. I definitely do NOT want a Windows tablet. Not really interested in the locked-down iPad. A full touchscreen laptop (the pre-iPad kind) is too expensive, but one could run Linux distributions. However, I have found some pretty interesting stuff at www.alwaysinnovating.com

Julie has become interested in getting a new phone (she currently has a dumbphone, the LG Shine with AT&T). She kind of been interested in getting a smartphone. Might be interested in maybe getting an iPhone 4G at some point. Not sure if it would be with AT&T or Verizon.

I haven’t been on Facebook in about a month, except for a profile picture change from time to time. My statusnet feed replicated to twitter and then to facebook, but I have disabled commenting and replying for now, since I don’t want to be on Facebook. I’d been wanting to get off of it for a while now, and one person finally did push me over. I am not deactivating my account (even my myspace is still in existance), but I won’t be on it for a while or maybe the foreseeable future.

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