The Road To Graduation, Part I

I’ve been going to San Jose City College on a part-time basis for the last five years to learn computer programming. With Data Structures (CIS 55) approved to continue with only seven students, I’m finally on the road to graduating this semester. I did a lot of walking between the Technology building (Parkmoor Avenue and Bascom Avenue) and to Admissions & Records inside the Student Union building (Parkmoor Avenue and Leigh Avenue) to get the paperwork straighten out. The worst part was that I didn’t need to.

After checking with my instructor on taking Object Oriented Programming (CIS 59) under Directed Study (CIS 98) last week, I made an appointment to see the dean at the Technology building. He signed off on a note that I can make the appropriate substitutions to graduate this semester. When I file my graduation petition in a few weeks, I’ll get a substitution form from the counselor for the dean to sign off to approve the substitutions.

I made my first trip across campus to Admission & Records to sign up for the CIS 98 class to get that out of the way since was the third week of the semester. The clerk refused to do anything since I didn’t have a signed add slip for the class. When I pulled out the note from the dean, he reluctantly accepted that and put into the pile behind him. I pointed out that I needed the paper back, he told me tough luck that I didn’t make a copy as the original now belonged to Admissions & Records.

That’s not what I wanted to hear. I started thinking about if I could hurl 355 pounds of muscle over the counter to get my paper back. A desperate graduate-to-be in desperate times will do desperate things. Fortunately, the clerk’s supervisor stepped in to give me my back my paper. Since the dean forgot to put my name on the paper, Admissions & Records wasn’t going to accept it and I couldn’t register for my class until I have a signed add slip anyway. So double tough luck.

I made a second trip over to the Technology building to see my instructor to get an add slip, have the dean put my name on the note, and maybe have the department secretary make a copy so I didn’t have to stop by the library. Everyone was out of the office. Since I had business on the other side of campus, I made a trip there and back again. When I still couldn’t find them, I went out to dinner. Before class got started that evening, I showed the note to my instructor, who made an announcement to the class that I was graduating this semester, and he sent an email to Admissions & Records to add me to CIS 98.

I haven’t had this much fun chasing paperwork since attending San Jose State University during the 1994-95 school year. I could never find my major adviser to sign off on any paperwork. I’d managed to corner a drunken Russian mathematics professor in his office to get him to sign off on my paperwork, hoping that he wouldn’t keel over dead on top of them. The department secretary took one look at the signature and declared: “This doesn’t have a snowball chance in hell of flying through here.”

The department rejected my paperwork the following week and the university kicked me out the following semester. I’m quite certain that playing Magic: The Gathering card game until the wee hours of the morning with my roommates, running a BBS business on the side, and being depressed over a girl I fell in love with were not contributing factors in getting kicked out of school.

You would think that being in Silicon Valley that everything could be done over the computer without having students chase after pieces of paper. Unfortunately, SJCC is still using the same mainframe computer with the same slow serial connections when I first went to school in the early 1990’s.

Spring Semester 2007

My quest to complete an associate degree in computer programming at San Jose City College wasn’t dead on arrival when I showed up for Data Structures (CIS 55) on Monday night. Just on life support. No sooner than I stepped into the classroom, the instructor asks me about how many more classes I need for graduation. I told him this class and Object Oriented Programming (CIS 59) that haven’t been taught in a while. Since we had six students out of the 20 students minimum needed to run the class, we all wrote letters to the dean that we needed this class for graduation. Depending on what the dean decides, the class could continue with the instructor being paid per-student instead of per-class (which is against union rules), be taught under Directed Study (CIS 98) with a special letter provided by the dean to satisfy graduation requirements, or the class will get canceled.

The instructor gave us a nice overview of the usage of pointers in the C++ programming language when I voiced my confusion over that topic. Java is the default programming language for many college courses, fixing many of the pointer and memory allocation issues found in C++ with automatic garbage collection. The tradeoffs being that Java isn’t fast enough for speed sensitive code such as system drivers. We have a choice of textbooks depending on which programming language we prefer to use in class. I want to learn C++ since Java is the only programming language I have any experience with.

I’m seeing a personal counselor at school to talk about the 2004 death of my mother from breast cancer. The focus has been on helping me to recover my “lost” childhood memories since much of my forgotten childhood was in response to a series of traumatic events that I prefer not to remember. Prior to starting counseling last semester, household objects from my childhood had triggered specific memory responses. I started using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Dial Gold soap that I haven’t used since I was a kid immediately after my mother’s death. The smell of Lava hand soap invoked memories of my father washing his hands and arms in a bathroom after coming home from construction work.

One of the reasons I’m taking Ceramics I (ART 46A) is because I had memories of my second grade and seven grade teachers spinning clay pots on a kick wheel during their lunch breaks before a crowd of students. I always wanted to do that as a kid, but never had an opportunity to do so. I could never fit ceramics into my schedule during my first tour through college in the early 1990’s.

Ceramics is taught in the 300 building, one of three rows of metal-sheathed buildings built after World War II. The temperature yesterday morning for the all-day Saturday course hovered at freezing point. Despite running the heat at full blast, the class work area was cold. Since clay retains coldness at a lower temperature point, everyone was freezing their hands off.

Our first project was to roll a lump of clay into a sphere, cut the sphere into two halves, pinch each half into a bowl, and combine the two halves into a hollowed out sphere. My sphere turned into an egg with a flatten bottom to stand on. The instructor asked me if I took ceramics before since I did a very good job with my egg. Besides plastering mud (brown clay and water) on the side of the house when I was three, forming the short version of my first name in blue modeling clay on a small chalkboard in kindergarten, and making mud (cement, sand and water) when I worked with my father in construction for a few years, I haven’t done ceramics before.

iTunes TV Mania

iTunes LogoI normally don’t watch TV on TV. What I get over the air is snowy pictures in English and clear pictures in a foreign language. I never got cable TV when I moved into my studio apartment a few years ago since the last guy who lived here didn’t pay his bill and I would have to go down to the office to prove that I’m not the same guy trying to get service again. Besides, cable is overpriced when you only watch a handful of channels. The few TV shows I do watch on a regular basis are available on iTunes for Mac.

TOP CHEF

I thought the premier season of “Top Chef” was very original and refreshing with a fine balance between cooking and drama. The audition tapes shown in the first episode indicated that the contestants got selected for being “bouncy” (women) and “flamboyant” (men) without consideration of being able to take risks cooking in the competition. Season Two got wrapped up yesterday, which was very disappointing.

Several contestants imploded on their own without any help from anyone else, ethical issues kept popping up so often between the contestants that Judge Tom Collichio had to babysit the kitchen for an episode, and they were all too busy playing it safe to stand out from the pack. Everyone decided to gang up on Marcel for being the biggest jerk and threaten his life when everyone got drunk and almost shaved his head shaved.

I’d worked three years as a cook at The Old Spaghetti Factory in the 1990’s. Jerks weren’t uncommon among the kitchen staff. You either learned how to live with them or help them out the door as professionally as you can. On a cooking competition like this, I can’t understand why the contestants would throw away an opportunity to win $100,000 USD by focusing their efforts on the one person who decided that being a world-class jerk was his ambition and he still made it to the number two spot. (Marcel was even attacked at a nightclub during the two month break in taping of the show.) I’m disappointed that Judge Collichio couldn’t throw them out and declared Marcel the winner by default after the attempted shaving incident.

Surprisingly, when it showed the top four contestants at their regular cooking jobs, they act like normal people. Why they become complete jerks during the competition is beyond me. Ian won instead of Marcel, not that either one deserves the title Top Chef. This season was all drama with cooking left on the back burner.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

The second half of Season Three for “Battlestar Galactica” is under way with top notch drama. The recent episode, “Taking A Break From All Your Worries”, alternates between the now captured Baltar (James Callis) being interrogated for his role in the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies, and Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) tries to resolve their conflicting relationships with each other and their spouses.

The interrogation scene gets intense as Baltar gets confronted for his crimes against humanity by an angry President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) that she orders him tossed out of the airlock with him kicking and screaming down the corridors as part of a failed bluff, Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) questions him to the point of death after injecting him with a military truth serum, and his former assistant, Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), stabs him in the neck for not telling everyone what they want to hear. After torturing him, Adama declared Baltar as being a victim instead of a criminal.

There are rumors that a major character will die this season, with Starbuck being the most likely to character to die under horrible circumstances. Keep in mind that Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) from the original TV series disappears in the “Galactica 1980” episode, “The Return of Starbuck,” episode, where his Viper crash lands on an isolated planet and presumed dead as the fleet moves on. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Starbuck does die because elements of the original series keep popping up in the new series.

THE DRESDEN FILES

The newest Sci Fi Channel show is The Dresden Files that’s based on Jim Butcher’s Chicago wizard for hire, Harry Dresden. I’d read seven of the eight books in the series, with book eight, “Proven Guilty”, coming out in paperback this month and book nine, “White Night”, is coming out in hardback in April.

The show begins early in the time line when wizard Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthrone) is still building trust with Lt. Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz) as she hires him to assist with some odd investigations. Loosely based on the novels, there are some minor changes. Dresden drives a Jeep rather than a colorful VW Bugs, his office and residence is a store front in an old stone building instead of an old business tower and a stone basement under a boarding house, respectively, and the loose cannon spirit, Bob (Terrence Man), appears in human form instead of being a set of glowing eyeballs in an old skull.

The first episode, “Birds of a Feather”, a boy who believes that monsters are following him turns to the only person who can help him. Dresden has flashbacks to his own childhood with his non-magical magician father, establishing that his dead mother was a wizard, his father didn’t want him to get involved with the society of wizards, and his wizard uncle takes him in to train as a wizard. The humor between Dresden and Murphy is spot on.