Living in Gainesville

School So Far

School is going okay, I guess. I am a little over half way through with my two courses for this term: Calculus 3 and Differential Equations. My grades are not as high as I would like them to be. I mostly blame that on the fact that I haven’t done any Calculus in almost six years, I don’t really find this sort of math all that interesting (I want to study probability and statistics), and I am working a full time job that gives me very little time off. Right now, I have a higher grade in DE; however, I feel like I have a better grasp of Calc3. I had always heard that Calc3 was the easiest of the three and that DE was easier than Calc3, but that hasn’t been the case for me. I made A’s in Calc1 and 2. I still may be able to pull a rabbit out of my hat as I have in the past and do well in them. I will be glad when this semester is over, because I do not enjoy taking undergraduate courses anymore, and I do not enjoy Santa Fe. I have found that I much rather enjoy graduate level courses, and many of the students at Santa Fe get on my nerves. Too many of them don’t really have any respect for the classroom, particularly in DE for some reason. The class tends to get too loud, and it gets difficult to hear what the not-native-English-speaking professor is saying. For some reason in these two classes we also have computer lab assignments every so often. I had never done this in any of my previous classes, and I don’t really see the need of it. Basically, the labs consist of using Maple (and other programs) to solve some of the types of problems we’d done in class. The trouble is that the professor doesn’t really explain the labs too well. It isn’t really a problem for me, as a professional programmer, but other students get frustrated and it adds to the tension in the classroom.

Most of the students in my classes are Pre-Engineering majors, probably around 19 or 20. I found it very odd that there are not really any students older than me and just a couple that are my age. Of course, the ultimate goal of me taking this course is that I will be starting an online masters degree program in math in January, so I haven’t really tried all that hard to make friends, since I’ll be doing something else next term (and they’ll probably be starting their Junior years in college next term). One of the Pre-Engineering majors I have met is planning to start Computer Science at UF next year. I was a bit shocked to learn that Santa Fe doesn’t have an Associates Degree in Computer Science. Anyone planning to do Computer Science 4-year is told to be a Pre-Engineering major. Although Pre-Engineering is mostly compatible with a Computer Science 4-year, it also isn’t. Computer Science majors don’t need to take DE, and most schools no longer require Calc3 either (in favor of Linear Algebra instead). He also told me that he hasn’t taking a programming course yet. Again, by time I finished my Associates Degree in Computer Science, I had taken three programming courses (even though most universities only require one or maybe two by the Junior year).

I also met one other student who has already finished college. Lori, who graduated from UF, is a high school math teacher. I met her before class started, when I overheard her mentioning that she was going to be in UWF’s online math masters as well, and was taking Calc3 and Linear Algebra online at UWF. I figured it would be to my benefit to meet her, so that I might have a study partner locally, although I am more interested in statistics, and she is more interested in pure math. However, it sounds like she’s had some difficulty with her online Linear Algebra course. She mentioned three issues she has had: (1) The course she is taking is in the morning, while she is working, so she only gets to listen to recorded lectures. This probably won’t be a problem for me, since the graduate level courses are all after I normally get off work, and I don’t normally ask many questions anyway. (2) The professor (Dr. Li) requires her to take her exams (which was hand written and scanned to turn in) during normal class time. Rather than offering any sort of flexibility, Dr. Li required her to take time off of work to take her exams. Again, this will probably not be an issue for me, since I should be available during those times, and I do get a very tiny bit of time off to work with if I have to. (3) Her course required her to use Matlab, which is NOT installed on UWF’s eDesktop. When Lori asked how she was to complete the assignment, Dr. Li said that online students can come on campus and use the computer labs to complete Matlab assignments. Of course, Lori and I live about 350 miles away from Pensacola, so the very idea that Dr. Li would suggest coming on campus to complete a simple assignment leaves the taste in my mouth that this department didn’t really think this whole “online degree” thing out very well. I get the feel that one day the faculty was all sitting at a table and someone asked, “How can we get more students in our math masters program?” and someone else said, “No school in Florida has an online masters degree. Hey, why don’t we record our lectures and make students pay to listen to them online?” and that was probably the only planning they really did for this masters program. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think I am. That is a bit embarrassing really. I have done other online programs at UWF: The Certificate in Database Systems and the Certificate in Medical Informatics. Although I cannot say these online programs went perfectly, I can honestly say that quite a lot of planning went toward them. Software was in place to handle all lectures. I never had to scan anything to turn it in, because I did all my assignments digitally. Software was provided to online students for free through eDesktop, SSH, the MSDN Academic Alliance, included with our books, or open source/free software alternatives were used or allowed. Of course, there are plenty of great free alternatives to math software: R can be used in place of SAS, Maxima can be used in place of Maple, and GNU Octave can be used in place of Matlab. I will have to see if I can get away with using this software. Either they will allow me to use these alternatives, they won’t realize I am using them, or I will have to fork out about a thousand dollars in order to purchase software licenses. I have heard other students in my current labs mention that they obtained Maple illegally through torrents, but as a IT professional, I do not steal software. I try to only use free software licenses (GPL, etc), or at the very least I obtain software legally, so this might be expensive. Anyway, Lori is not sure she wants to do the UWF masters degree anymore, based on her experience so far, so I might not have a local study buddy.

Before I started Calc3 and DE, I told myself that I would either continue on with this masters degree depending on how well I did in these two classes. The trouble is trying to juggle work and school. Right now, with Julie in law school, my primary purpose needs to be to make da money, at least until Julie gets a job. I do want to get a PhD, and I’m leaning to either Computational Science or Biostatistics. Either way, slowly working on a masters degree in math makes sense, since a masters degree in Computer Science really doesn’t have all the math I need for those programs. On the other hand, I have to do decently in this degree so that working doesn’t completely screw up my academic record. I do not come from a big name school, and I tend to do poorly on standardized tests, so I need good recommendations and a high GPA to make it up. I tend to do very well in Computer Science and Statistics courses, and I do okay in math courses, so I hope work doesn’t get in the way too much.

Other Stuff at Home

I think we’ve settled in well in Gainesville so far. I really like Gainesville. It is about twice the size of Pensacola, but it does not have that horrible big city feel that Jacksonville had. I feel safe going out at night, and most people generally seem nice and happy. I still haven’t found my new sushi place yet. In Jacksonville, we had a great place just a block down from where we lived that had great sushi. Although, we have gone to a few good sushi places, most of them were a bit too pricey and not as good as what we used to get. We’ve gotten back into the bad habit of spending too much eating out, but that’s largely because I am too busy to cook, and we having been willing to get cheep and fast dinners. We aren’t in any trouble money-wise, we just don’t like to spend too much, even when we can.

I don’t think I have mentioned Milo yet in a previous blog. There were many stray cats in our apartment complex in Jacksonville. Julie began feeding them, despite my light objections/warnings. Anyway, Julie managed to fall in love with one of them, and we ended up taking him along with use to Gainesville. We ended up naming him Milo, even though he isn’t orange. His vet visit went pretty well. All of his tests came out healthy; although he had a bad ear mite infestation that we had to take care of early on. We found that Milo had already been micro-chipped by a previous owner. After talking to the micro-chip folks and our apartment complex, we put it together that Milo had been left behind by a tenant that was evicted. Milo was then taken in by another tenant and left behind again. We are Milo’s third owners, and it kind of comes out in his personality that he has abandonment issues. Milo has settled back into being an indoor cat very well. He very rarely leaves our bed though. He is either on top of it or under it. Getting our current cats settled with a new cat has been a real challenge. To my surprise, Deli has been the easiest. At first, Deli would hiss at Milo, but they never had a physical confrontation. After a few accidents of being closed in the same room, Deli and Milo has reached some sort of settlement. Deli doesn’t hiss at Milo anymore, and Milo doesn’t run from Deli anymore. Yesterday, I saw Deli touch noses with Milo, which is a cat’s friendly greeting. This morning, I woke up to Milo and Deli both curled up next to me. At first, Darwin was just curious about Milo. They didn’t fight at first, but as time has gone by, they’ve had more physical confrontations. When Darwin sees Milo, he charges at him. I am not sure why he does this; he may even be trying to play, I am not sure. Anyway, this freaks Milo out, and he either runs or defends himself. It is clear that Milo has had more experience with hostile cats. Darwin has some scratches on his nose, but luckily there haven’t been any eye hits. Milo doesn’t show any signs of injury from Darwin. I am hoping Darwin and Milo will start to get along better soon. I don’t want to get any expensive vet bills or end up with a blind cat.

I did go on some recent road trips. On Oct. 10 I drove up to Atlanta to see Kenny’s wedding. Since it was a 6 hour drive there and back, I didn’t really get to stay long though. I don’t think Kenny even really saw me there. If I had more time off work, I would have been able to stay longer. On Oct. 15, I had to do my quarterly check in to the office for work, so I had to drive up to Jacksonville to work. My supervisor had also been there that week, so this was my first time meeting my boss in person (he works in CA). Going back to Jacksonville to work felt a bit awkward to me, and I didn’t really do anything special. I basically just worked a normal day. Julie had gone with me (well, to both trips), and she hung out with Anshul and Jun at her old school. She had an strange experience there… After work, the four of us ate and hung out for a while, and I didn’t get home until after midnight. I was pretty sick of driving by the end of that week.

My parents stopped by for a visit the last weekend of August. I was a little surprised they were able to make the trip, as I wasn’t really expecting to ever see them unless I came home. I feel kind of bad that I do not ever get to see my family. I will get a couple of days off for Thanksgiving, but I may need those days to prepare for my finals. I also do not get any time off for Christmas except for two three day weekend for Dec. 24 and Dec. 29. I am not sure how any of that will work out since I don’t have any vacation time to spend for that month.

Work

Work is still has boring and frustrating as usual. There isn’t really anything much new to talk about there. I have been taking some online tutorials on ElementK through my ACM professional membership to learn more about Visual Studio and C#. Although I do not care for M$ software, and I find C# to be a shameless rip off of Java, there are some things I like about C# none the less. I like that I can run C# executable on Linux through Mono, and I like how simple it is to build graphical interfaces.

I mentioned before that I applied for a Java Developer position at Santa Fe College. This was some time ago now, and I haven’t heard anything from them. I contacted them again, but they said it is still in review. I think it probably is a bad sign that they haven’t contacted me yet. I also applied for a C# Application Developer position at Sage Healthcare Software. I had an initial phone screening and a phone interview. I felt that my interview was pretty weak, but they did like my qualifications and my interest in Medical Informatics. They assigned me a programming sample project for them. I completed that, and I felt that it was a strong finish, but I haven’t heard from them again, so either not enough time as passed or I am out of luck. I haven’t found any other positions in Gainesville/Alachua for me, so it is possible that I will be working remotely for Fidelity until Julie finishes school.

Voting

I normally vote on election day, but since that falls on a Tuesday, my schedule did not permit this. Instead I early voted at the county offices yesterday. I don’t mind sharing who I voted for so… For Florida governor, the decision was pretty easy. I voted for Alex Sink, because she is pretty moderate for a Democrat and because I felt she was the most qualified for the job, but really, I voted for her because Rick Scott is a total sleaze. For US Senator, I voted for Charlie Crist. Although, I find Crist to be very ambiguous politically, his current positions on issues I felt were the least radical. I was very unimpressed with Rubio, and I really never got to know who Meek was. However, I do not believe Crist will defeat Rubio. For Attorney General, I voted for Pam Bondi, because I felt she was most qualified. Erm… as far as everything else on the ballot goes, if you want to know, just ask me, since everything else on the ballot is pretty local or uninteresting.

Tidbits

If any of you are Star Trek and/or Star Wars geeks (and you probably need to be pretty hardcore), I recommend you go check out Red Letter Media and look at the Plinkett Reviews.

Not too long ago I ordered and received the Game Gripper for my Nokia N900. It is genius. The N900 has a ton of game console emulators for NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, N64, PS, Sega, and so on and so on. The problem is that it was just about impossible to actually play them with the keyboard, with so many tiny buttons. The Game Gripper is basically a slab of rubber with plastic game controller buttons. It simply fits over the keyboard and presses down on specific keyboard buttons when you press the plastic buttons. As I said, it is a really simple thing, but it works great. At the time I wrote this, there are Game Grippers designed for the Samsung Moment, the Motorola Droid, the Nokia N900, the Motorola Backflip, and the Motorola Devour. I have three complaints about the Game Gripper though: (1) The buttons are a bit too hard. This starts to get a little uncomfortable after a while. Some of this might actually be the N900’s keyboard though. (2) Mine isn’t a perfect fit. It usually isn’t a problem, but sometimes it feels like it is going to come off. It hasn’t yet though. (3) Too few buttons. It has a directional control on the left, four buttons in the center, and four buttons on the right. This is enough for most games, but not the N64. I suppose this is a space limitation though.

I have made a few site updates. I posted the schedule of classes I want to take in my MS in Math on the Classes page. I also posted some new applications on the Software page.

I just got home from seeing Paranormal Activity 2, so I am a little freaked out right now.