School days

First week of classes done - though it's a short week due to the holiday and a professor's medical appointment.

The Intro to Comp Sci honors class is the one I was most worried about - mostly because it's 1) honors and 2) a complete unknown when it comes to workload.  At this point, I think it'll be okay.  The professor is brilliant and has a lot of facts and tidbits that go with the data (some of which I think are dubious, as I've head them contested, but at least it's all interesting).  Also, given the fact that it's an Intro course, I've already got far more background on the subject (at least from a practical standpoint) than most of the class.

The physics professor seems like he really knows his stuff and is also interested in students learning physics.  He went so far as to say, "If you come up with an integral on a test that you can't do, come up to me and I'll do it for you.  This is a physics class, not a math class."  I also know two of the people in my lab group from past semesters, and the third is in my math class.

The math class is possibly going to be the easiest.  That sounds weird, since it's multivariable calculus, but much of what we're going to learn (skimming through the material) is related to concepts we covered in linear equations.  The professor is also fairly young (I'd guess low to mid 30s) and seems like he really enjoys the material.

So, a fair bit of homework to do this weekend, since I want to try to get ahead in at least physics and calculus, but I think the semester will work out well.

The calm after the storm

Had a nice lazy weekend.  Actually, started reading the next physics chapter, since I'll have to get homework and such done by this weekend - I want to end up a chapter ahead as early as possible so that I won't be on the edge all semester.  But really, most just lazed around the apartment.

Classes start tomorrow, and I'm actually somewhat nervous.  I think it's mostly just jitters - I've been out for 8 weeks now, and this is going to be a high workload semester (essentially two labs), but there's nothing here I really need to worry about.  My biggest concern at the moment is that I haven't gotten my parking pass yet; it should theoretically arrive in the mail today, but I'm not sure if there's mail delivery due to the holiday.

Things to do for school: 1) meet with honors counselor to go over education plan 2) meet with DSPS counselor to go over accommodation plan 3) start working on personal statements for scholarships and applications 4) prep to take the chemistry placement exam so I can take Chem1A over the summer.  That last one bothers me a little: I'm not sure why a placement is needed for college-level chemistry.  My understanding is that it's mostly about equipment and valence and such.  I'll have to review a bit just to make sure, but I've already found an online resource that should be decent.

The boss told us all to work from home Friday if we could, so I managed to avoid going out in the rains.  It wasn't so bad in my area - about 3.5" total for Friday - but there were flooded or mud-covered freeways all over the southland, not to mention all the usual accidents.  It's funny and annoying: everyone always claims that "people in Los Angeles don't know how to drive in the rain", but it's actually people who come from elsewhere and think they know how to drive in the rain that cause more accidents here.  See, the first rain after a dry spell  of even just a week or so results in highly slick freeways; it's closer to driving on ice than on wet pavement.  Us natives know this and know how to compensate (drive a little slower, leave more room, stay out of certain lanes, don't make sudden moves, etc.), but people who didn't grow up around it think it's just a little water.

There's more coming in this week, and most weeks for the foreseeable future.  We're definitely out of the drought, even if groundwater hasn't recovered yet.  Most of the reservoirs are dangerously full, and we haven't even hit snow-melt yet (which is usually what fills them).  I'm actually wondering if this year isn't in fact one of the 150-year floods but that the water management efforts of the state and years of drought have (mostly) managed to contain it.

To put it in perspective, Oroville (which has been in the news a lot lately) when from 40% to 100% full in a week.  That's 2,000,000 acre-feet in a few days in just one reservoir and what caused all the drama there over the last few weeks.  Since the entire state uses about 50 mil acre-feet in a year, that's basically a couple weeks' worth of water flowing into a single reservoir in a single week.  Without Oroville Dam, that all would have hit the central valley, almost assuredly flooding out most of it.

Spent a while looking at my retirement accounts.  Even if I didn't put any money in while going to college, I should be okay projection-wise; being able to continue contributions for those years will just put me that much more ahead.  Of course, that's assuming I don't have to pull any money out for school; doing so changes the math a bit depending on how much it ends up being.  Realistically, if I don't get some major funding support, I'm not going anywhere expensive (as much as I would love to go to CalTech or MIT, I'm not going in debt for $200k for a degree).  The UCs will be more about $40k-60k, and there's a far greater likelihood I could get scholarships to cover it, but pulling $40k out of my plans wouldn't be a show-stopper (essentially, that's my SEP).

I wonder how many college applicants plan on using retirement savings to pay for their first bachelor's.

Under water

Oh boy.

Big news today is that the company we'd invested in to take over my project is folding.  The CEO before the current one essentially blew through millions of dollars in a year without telling anyone; he was replaced, but the damage had already been done.  So, the IP and all the assets and clients are reverting back to us.

... Except that the product I currently support is pretty simple and easy, and the new version that they developed takes a whole team to manage it.  My original assumption was that if their company failed, we'd just get out of that line entirely; that is apparently not the case.  So I have no idea what is going to happen.  I'm not even sure that management understands exactly what it is they might be asking me to do here.

Considering how in-over-one's-head one feels at the moment, one sympathizes with the dam at Oroville.

This has, however, opened up a potential solution to another problem.  My assumption has always been that I'd have to quit here when I go to school: I'll likely have a part-time job somewhere, but I didn't think there'd be any justification for keeping me on here at my current company part-time.  Now, granted, I have no idea (outside of freelance stuff) where I'd make anywhere near the money I make now (over $50 an hour), especially under part-time conditions, but that was something to deal with later.

With this change in situation, my manager has expressed interest in keeping me on part-time even if it means working from home half the time and only coming in once or twice a week (given the variability of school schedules, that's a necessary condition).  So, if I get into pretty much any of the three schools I'd like, I could likely keep my job in a part-time status.  It'd be a fair bit of a drive for some of them, but I'd certainly prefer that to most of the other options (would you like fries with that?).  Even if it was only short-term until I found something else, it would save a lot of stress.

Classes start next week; I ordered the two books I needed for the programming class, and they should be delivered by tomorrow.  I'm getting the usual nervous-excited feeling.  It's going to be a tough semester, but I think it's also going to be fun.

Schedule A

I made a temporary decision and put my veggie box "on hold" for the next six weeks - not really a cancellation of the service, but they won't charge me while it's on hold.  The idea is that I can see if I miss it or how well I go about eating healthier without it.  I contacted a local CSA - literally local, as it's run by the school district in my area - to see if they actually have the half-order they say they have.  If I could do that, I'd try it for a few months: it'd be cheaper, less food, and 50% tax deductible (the food is grown on the school farm, mostly, and the school uses it to teach agriculture and raise scholarships for students).

I also filed my taxes this weekend.  Mom of course did the "hard" part (my taxes are simple, but she feels better if she does it), but I pushed the buttons when asked and signed the papers.  Turns out I'm getting about $2200 back, which is awesome; it's usually around $1300.  My first thought was to get a Surface, which I've been wanting for a while; however, I'd probably spend more than the $800 or so that I'd be willing to put into it, so I'm putting that off.  While I'd like the notebook, I'd also like to get myself better prepped for quitting in 18 months.  I might compromise and get a Surface 3 instead of a 4 and only spend $500 or so on it.  We'll see; I don't even have the money yet (one is going in by mail, while the other was submitted electronically).

Amusingly, my Asus Transformer tablet seems like it's dying, so I might actually need a tablet to replace it.  The Surface would obviously be that.  Alternatively, I could skip the surface and find another android tablet I like; right now, the tablet's the only place I can install a lot of apps, since most things are made for Android or iOS but not Windows Mobile.  At the same time, I'm going to have to replace my cell phone at some point, and I'm not sure if there will be Windows phones in the future.

... Yes, I actually like the Windows mobile OS.  I feel like they got screwed by anti-windows 10 hysteria rather than because of the system itself.

Didn't hang out with L last weekend; he told me (Friday night) he was going to dinner with some other friends.  I'm perfectly fine with that, though the last-minute nature as a little annoying; I'd rather plans be last minute than cancellations.  This is the last month we'll have the regular standing thing, though, so I don't have to put up with it much longer.  We'll probably be hanging out this coming weekend.

School starts back up two weeks from today (the 20th is a holiday).  I'm looking forward to it, but it's going to be a tough semester.  I've already started getting up earlier, and I'm planning on starting my "booster" pills in the afternoon to make sure I'm acclimated to them before classes start.

I also need to file my FAFSA - not that I am going to get any scholarships or aid, and really not that I need it at the moment.  But, I'm going to want to sign up for scholarships this year to prep for next year.  I'm also going to be applying to schools this year.

-- Holy crap, I'm going to be applying for schools this year.  That totally just hit me.  I think I need to go think about this a bit, since I just sat staring at the keyboard for a solid minute.


Years ago - I was probably 17 - I was working at a retail store after school.  I didn't have a car yet, and we'd get done usually at about 9:30-10pm.  Sometimes I'd get a ride from someone, sometimes I'd take the bus, but often I'd just walk home - it was only about 3 miles down one of the busiest roads in town.

Well, busy most of the day, but it often let up at night.  There was a stretch, about 3 or 4 blocks long equivalent along a dirt lot (now a series of shopping centers), where there were no streetlights at all on the north side; the south side was lit fine.  I have one memory in particular that has always stood out.

It wasn't really raining, as such, but a heavy mist hung in the air.  I don't remember why I specifically decided to walk home that night, but I did.  I was dressed in shirt, tie, slacks, and a long black coat that I still have.  I turned the collar up and just started walking.

The streets were mostly empty; a car would occasionally pass, but it was pretty rare.  Mostly, all I could hear were the click-click sounds of my dress boots as I walked on the sidewalk.  The mist killed most ambient light; what was left were these little pools of light, almost perfectly defined, beneath each streetlight along the sidewalk.

I just walked steady, passing from one pool of light to another.  I must have been nearly invisible in the shadows, and something of an apparition in the light.  And always just the steady, regular sound of footsteps in the silence.

And then I stopped.  I got to the last pool of light before the empty stretch.  I could look up and see, in the distance, the stoplights and the next streetlight down at the other end, but between me and it lay this vast, empty darkness.

I wasn't afraid - I'd walked this many times before.  I'm not altogether certain why I stopped in the first place.  But once I had - once I looked out and saw the black unknown, and looked down and saw my own shadow outlined perfectly in a pool of light, I just started thinking.

About the known vs the unknown.  About walking down paths with unsure footing.  About the moment when we decide to step outside the safe and comfortable, even if we can't tell where it's going to lead.  About how we light of light - sunlight, starlight, moonlight, candles, any kind of illumination - as comfort or security or something positive, but that it was really a trap in which we could find ourselves caught.  About how the light only really matters when we first figure out how to shine it into darkness.

And I stood there, at the edge of the light and dark, staring at the border between them.  To anyone passing by or following, it would likely have made an excellent photograph: a single dark figure, standing in the last pool of light before the darkness (some day, I may have to commission someone to paint something along those lines).  I'm not even sure how long I stood there.

But then, without even really thinking about it, without any sense at all that I'd even stopped, I stepped out of the light and into the darkness.

Once I had and my eyes adjusted, I realized that the moon and stars were faintly visible in the sky through the low mist.  That the sidewalk could be seen, if barely.  That it was the light that had made the dark seem deeper than it actually was.

When I got home, I wrote the phrase that popped into my mind at that moment:

"And so I say to you: walk your own path, for the night is young, the air is crisp, and the stars twinkle in anticipation of your eye."

Thought for food

One of the things I started doing when I moved into my current apartment was participating in a community-sourced agriculture company.  Essentially, I paid $20 a week ($23 now) to get a small box of produce every week.  The original idea was to expose myself to new and different foods; I've been horrible about fruits and veggies for most of my life, and I wanted to try to break that a bit.

Well, that was 5 years ago.  I've certainly expanded my tastes, but the whole concept has a snag.  You see, the box is well worth the money, but it's too much produce for one person (at least, too much for me); it's intended to feed a family of 2 to 4.  So, when L was always broke, I started giving him part of the contents (I pick it up Saturday, and was hanging out with him Saturday night, so it worked out).  It started as about half, but at this point I realize I'm giving him most of the box every week.

As a result, I'm probably going to cancel the service: it makes no sense to pay for stuff I'm not using.  I'd still like to continue something like it, though, but I'm thinking more about those meal delivery plans.  The problem is, those are far, far more expensive (from what I can see) and usually assume a household of two people.  Like, HomeFresh isn't bad on a per-person-meal basis ($9.99), but it's always for 2 and has a minimum of 3 per week; that's $60 a week, and I'm not sure how well I could split the "leftovers" to make two meals out of it.  Other services I've seen are even more expensive.

I really need to think about how I'm going to handle food going forward.  Yes, cooking for myself is far cheaper, and I do that - to a point.  But especially with school, I often don't have time: this semester, I'll be away from home from about 6:30 in the morning (for work) until 10 pm three days a week.  Easy or prepared meals would be great.  I can always go back to the lean cuisine style meals, which I actually generally think are okay but haven't had in years, but I was hoping for something fresher.

I also could just cut the delivery back to once every two weeks, or even just see if I start using more of it if I'm not giving it to L.  I just don't think, with school, that it's going to work out well.