Saturday, August 8, 2009

a pile of updates

so. some updates. a bunch of posts all rolled into one, i guess because otherwise i’ll never get it done.

bedbugs.

my step-mom was of course none too pleased. i bleached everything in my room and only put back the bare minimum in terms of clothing, storing the remainder in trash bags that now live in the back room. she of course doesn’t like the bags, and so i’ll have to move my stuff back into my room in the next week or two, which means it’ll all get reinfected, and my bleaching it all was a complete waste.

when you have bed bugs, treatment is expensive. i had two places come out and both gave quotes of $350 a room, one with a 60 day warranty, and one without. you then have to put cloth encasement things on your bed, and those are expensive to buy. we of course need two -- one of the mattress, one for the box springs.

of course, neither of us can afford the treatment, and so i continue to be bitten.

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school.

last fall, i took six hours to keep student loans at bay at harvard on the highway. i got a b in the math course i took, but i got an f in the geographic information systems class. i blew it off. if i were to study geology, i’d need to repeat it as an upper-division course, so the junior college stuff wouldn't transfer and was basically just three hours that i needed only for financial aid purposes. but the prof couldn't be bothered to update the course materials for the current version of the software. supposed to be a high-level course about geographic information systems fundamentals, and not specifically about the software, i spent more time fighting with the software and his outdated instructions than i did actually using the course material.

i found some of the labs just impossible to do as described -- features in the software had moved, been renamed, or been fundamentally redesigned. the course instructions depended on microsoft access 2003 and hadn't been updated for office 2007. it turned out that access and excel and so on no longer export to dbase iv format files, and so an export step i was supposed to perform couldn't be done. i could have created a vmware box and installed all the crap on it, done the export, and deleted it, but that seemed like way overkill for a bullshit situation. so i blew it off.

so when i reapplied to the real school, they looked at the gpa only of the last semester and decided i no longer qualified for readmission to the big school, even though i qualified for readmission at the junior college. insane. i filed an appeal with the admissions committee, but they didn't even bother to fucking answer my letter.

okay, fine. so i looked around for other schools to apply to. there are lots. i could have applied here but it's $$$private$$$ and i didn't imagine with a 2.9 gpa i had a snowball's chance of actually getting in.

this school is excellent but they don't offer a major in the program i want, only a minor. that was a no-go.

that pretty much left the university of texas at dallas. i could get in, so i applied. and lo and behold, they deigned to admit me.

and so after i got admitted, i did the financial aid application. and lo and behold, they gave me money. not a lot of it, and certainly not enough to live on outside my step-mom's house. but enough that i can go full-time for a while.

now, all that's left is the major and classes.

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goals.

when i last went to school, i had decided that i'd do a program called "interdisciplinary studies," which is essentially create your own degree. the degree i created was a mix of women's studies courses, business stuff, some law and history, and i came out with something that i called "egalitarian business management." except it was really "the business of pornography," but you can't put that on a degree plan.

a large part of that was driven by sue. but now that we're no longer married, her feelings about what degree i should pursue really aren't a factor in my life anymore. she was never especially supportive, and as the marriage failed she became even less so. now i no longer need to worry about her, and i can pursue the degree i want for my own reasons, independent of her feelings.

when i was in second grade, the school's kindergarten teacher did a little course with us on geology. she taught us a little about different kinds of rocks, about how lava is really very hot liquid rock, and so on. i was enthralled with obsidion, a black glass-like volcanic rock.

when i was at harvard on the highway originally, i did distribution courses that would transfer into political science. because i wasn't planning on doing anything that required heavy science, i went for what i considered the light option for a science class -- geology.

so geology was a great option. i didn't need the math of physics. i'd failed high school chemistry twice, and i didn't fancy burning my eyes out on a microscope doing biology looking at swabs of my cheek and stomach cells from a fetal pig. i of course was still interested from when i was a kid, and looked forward to the course.

i fell in love all over again.

as time wore on and i wound up in interdisciplinary studies, i grew to like that less and less, but pressure from sue kept me in. she didn't want me to move to an option that required more math. she'd seen how i'd struggled with the courses i'd already taken, and she didn't think it was a good idea.

but as i said, now her opinion doesn't matter.

it's geology.

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more goals, longer term this time.

i'd very much enjoyed teaching on occasion when i'd done it professionally, and of course continuing to learn is always interesting. science stuff especially.

it thus doesn't seem unreasonable to me that i figure out a way to combine the two. some people think i'm silly for wanting this, but i'm going to attempt graduate school -- a phd in geosciences. i want to teach at the college level.

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so, this semester.

all this is well and good, but where does that put me in terms of undergraduate work? i need to major in geoscience. utd is a good school for that program, and since uta won't let me in anymore, utd is where it's at.

at utd, however, the requirements are considerably higher in terms of math and science. if you're going to be a science major, i guess you really should be a science major. so you have to do two or three semesters of calculus. a lot of geology is about chemistry -- what happens when you put rocks and sediments under pressure and apply heat -- and so you have to take two semesters of chemistry for science majors. you also have to have a decent gounding in physics, and so you have to take two semesters of physics. you have to have the kind of physics that takes calculus.

the last math course i took was trigonometry. that means that i still have precalc to do, and then two or three more semsters of math after that just to get into physics.

then of course there are the geology courses. i'd taken the two intro courses at tarrant county, and that's all well and good. next at utd, there are two more intro courses that i have to take, which are usually both taken in the first semester of the sophomore year. those two courses together open up another 10 or 12 courses that are the majority of the upper division requirements.

so this semester i'm taking:

3 hours - precalculus
4 hours - geology sophomore stuff (i can't look it up as i write this to tell you exactly what it is)
4 hours - chemistry

if you ever took basic math, you know that this adds up to 11 hours. however, if you ever took basic college financial aid math you know that the magic number in these situations is 12.

that leaves me an open hour i need to figure out.

and that leads me to ...

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transportation.

utd is a long way from where i live. it's an hour and a half one way by car, or $25 in gas round trip.

but utd offers a cool option -- a free pass to ride fort worth and dallas public transportation, as long as you're a student. it turns out, i can take public transportation all the way from downtown fort worth to ut dallas. get on the tre at downtown fort worth, ride to downtown dallas. jump to the dart red line, and from there, hop a shuttle bus to the campus. yay.

except.

three hours. one way.

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schedule.

it is possible to cram 12 hours into a monday-wednesday-friday schedule, if you're lucky and pick your classes right. i, however, am not lucky.

as i said above, there are two sophomore first semester geology courses i need. one is open, and so i grabbed a seat in it. it's wednesday-friday at 0830. the chemistry lab is on monday at a similiar ungodly hour, giving me a mwf 0830 start time. bruce almighty, that will suck.

which means ... i have to be on the train. at. five. till. five. in. the. fucking. morning.

my last class mwf will end at 330pm. which will put me home no earlier than about 7, and more likely closer to 8. lather, rinse, repeat.

at least that leaves me tuesday, thursday, friday and saturday to do actual work.

except.

i can't get a one hour course on monday, wednesday, and friday. well, i can, but it's a wednesday/friday yoga class, and the prof recommend that i not take it. it's intended for people in better shape than i'm in, and it's absolutely foolish to risk injury in a course i'm only taking for financial aid reasons.

there is something that looks interesting that i've signed up for. it's "the fun of physics." except it only meets on tuesday. so i have a 50 minute class meeting with a six hour commute to reach it.

as i write this i'm on my way out to the school to see if i can unfuck this somehow.

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computer.

i'm also trying to figure out how to manage some school work on the train, including finding the electricity to run my computer. if i can run the computer i can get a fairly significant amount of work done, even without access to the net.

my laptop battery seems to be willing to run for about the length of a one-way trip from downtown fort worth to downtown dallas, give or take a half hour or so. that's a pretty long way, but considering that i'm not doing anything except typing, it's pretty disappointing. i can't count on having enough time to recharge it during class for the ride home, so i'm looking at carrying a supplementary battery (heavy). that will suck.

i'm hoping maybe the have a 12v plug somewhere on the train, but that would surprise me. they'd advertise it. it would make too much sense.

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books.

every time i go to a college bookstore i feel like i've been given a prostate exam with a glove made of porcupine hide. (if you're uneducated, in a prostate exam, the doc sticks his finger up your ass and tries to touch your tonsils.)

custom packages, insane prices, policies that make it impossible for you to buy competatively. it really fucking stinks. we'll see what happens.

and not all the classes i'm taking have books announced.

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financial aid.

as ever, i get a pell grant and loans, and that's it. i had an adjusted gross income that was negative last year, and yet i get nothing in terms of a break.

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housing.

because i have no job, and because i'm getting less than $4k a semester in financial aid, i'm stuck living with my step-mom. she's nice and wonderful and all that, but it is stressful for both of us. but living closer to campus isn't an option. an on-campus apartment would run over $450 a month even with three roommates. (they make a fucking killing on those things!)

and that's before utilities.

so i'm trying to cut expenses everywhere i can. i dropped my ghetto pcs phone, switched back to the company that ass-raped my marriage to chew up my contract. but i get less airtime and more hassle with them, which i don't like.

i may just pay the disconnect fee, get a new phone and piggy-back on my uncle's i can't fucking hear you plan, which would cost about $20 a month, a significant savings even after just one month. i just need to make sure it will actually work and that i can lay hands on a handset i want. they've discontined my palm centro, which i love, and i don't want to switch to a different model manufacturer. i have enough time and money and energy invested in my current palm os setup that i don't want to switch.

we'll see. that's also on the agenda.

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health care.

i don't have any. i haven't had any for years. i would appreciate it if senator no would please stfu and stop obstructing.

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girlfriends.

don't have one of those. would be nice tho.

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divorce.

had the hearing. i get some, she got pissed. was hysterical, like i said. but we still haven't gotten the final decree. it's getting tiring having to wait for the lawyers to get their shit together.

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meds.

effexor and a sleeping pill. the effexor is ... well ... it's okay. makes my skin crawl.

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work.

i've found some freelance work that doesn't even pay minimum wage at a place called mechanical turk. i'm doing some transcription work on there. doglady was actually kind enough to buy me a dictation pedal to use for it, and it's vastly sped me up. i don't make much but on a good day i can clock $20 or $30, and on better days i can snag really good jobs that pay that much at once.

i'm also bidding on freelance jobs on elance but i'm not getting anywhere with those. the site seems to have an abudance of providers for that kind of work. it makes sense -- it's easy to do and doesn't take a lot of skill, just a lot of patience.

even so, it's given me enough money to be able to go back and forth to school a few times, pay my phone bill, pay my storage bill, buy a meal or two, that kind of thing. it's better than not having anything at all.

and the pedal will be very helpful when doing lecture notes. it's a usb device, so it'll work on my crappy little laptop on the train ... meaning, i can do school notes on the train.

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i guess that's about it for now. i'm trying real hard to make all this work, and it seems like at every turn there's yet another problem or reason why i can't. there may be some wisdom in randy pausch's comment that brick walls are there to let us prove how badly we want something, but it gets tiring after a while.

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