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Unit 12 – Moving Forward Laughing

It was a bit difficult for me to relate this week’s reading to my work experience, as I’m currently unemployed. (Or more appropriately between jobs as I freelance and often only work half the year). More difficult, is the fact that part of my goal in coming to SIRLS was to leave my freelance work behind me and move onto something else. So, reflecting is difficult, but valid.

I think the biggest concern I had some of the readings this week is the seriousness of tone, particularly the PMBOK. Does everything have to be a science? I have worked as a project manager on several projects and find that working effectively and enjoying what you do go nicely together. I’m a big fan of a relaxed work environment no matter how difficult the task. For me, I aim to create this by adding humor. If cracking a few jokes means I have to stay a few minutes later, it’s a welcome sacrifice (we would probably be staying later anyway), and the more I laugh and enjoy myself the more I can’t wait to get back to work the next day. 

I understand that this can’t happen all the time, which relates to the best point about figuring out the best way to work. This differs for all and it’s important to connect with others on the level that best suits them. I’m always a big fan of telling people never to treat others the way you want to be treated, but rather treat others the way they want to be treated. I find this successful in most environments, not just work. And, in this manner my staff and co-workers know it’s fine to give me bad news, just as long as you at least try to make it funny. As any comedian will tell you, it’s all in the delivery. 🙂

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Unit 11 – Looking Back

In reflecting on the last few weeks, it might be easier to tell you what I haven’t learned than to list all the new things I have. I started with almost no knowledge. So, we can begin with LAMP, learning what it means, what each letter stands for, what those programs due, and how to use them.

We started by exploring the Command Line. Although I have a long ways to go before I build a home on the CLI, I find myself more and more comfortable in its presence. I have grown to like it, even while knowing I still don’t totally understand it. I see the looks people give me as they walk past my computer in the local library and wonder what on earth I am doing typing these white letters into this black box. There’s something about it that always seems devious and this makes me feel cool. On the other hand, it still scares me and I still feel, after all these weeks, that one false move on the command line will render my computer defunct.

Of all the programs we’ve been exposed to in the past few weeks, I liked building a relational database the most, so I’ll go with MySQL. I liked this part, because it mirrored some of the skills (and a lot of the terminology) I learned last semester in 515 (which I have been reviewing fastidiously in preparation for my GTA in 515 this fall). Vocabulary is something I struggled with all semester, so it was a bit refreshing to see some words I already knew. I also liked working with MySQL as I can see the practical uses for this program, more so than the vagueness of the other letters in LA(M)P.

All in all, there’s a lot of new information swimming around in my brain. Hopefully, some of these terms will become clearer as my studies continue. Only the future can determine if my play-dates with LAMP have come to an end or if I’ve just scratched the surface on what I will one day come to know.

Unit 10 – MySql

As it goes with this class, the more I think I understand something the less likely I can get it to work. MySQL is one of the few terms I knew going into this course. I think I may have even used it before. So, imagine my frustration that I still can’t get the damn thing to work. And, to make matters worse, I’m not even sure how to describe my troubles enough to seek help from the discussion boards. (It might just be a location problem. I find I can never complete these assignments at the library (where I am now). I always encounter problems that seem to resolve themselves as soon as I get home.) And, so I’ve taken to doing the only thing that will prevent me from just pulling my hair out; I’m taking a break. I’m taking a break and writing my blog and hope that when I return to my assignments this evening, they will resolve their issues (this method has proven successful in the past). I really want to make this work, I am excited to see my relational database come to life. It is one of the few skills I have really noticed a sizable, positive change in since starting the SIRLS program. I know I’m still far from a master, but once I resolve this issue, I should be on my way…

UPDATE: So, after another week of attempts in which I was able to get closer and close to completing all of Unit 10’s Assignments, I have hit a insurmountable roadblock. I have connectivity issues. I have tried all the remedies to no avail. Try rebooting, restarting, changing to NAT mode, and on and on. I will take another break and work on Unit 11 in the hopes that when I return to these assignments the connectivity gods will shine down on me and resolve my issues. It seems, with these last few weeks, that I always have to take 2 steps back in order to get ahead. I don’t really mind, it’s a good review. I’m learning how to not get so frustrated. I just wish I had more time. I will keep you posted.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So in the end and only a couple of more troubled hours I was able to change to NAT mode and continue on with this week’s assignment. There is very little time between the sense of relief of solving one problem and the frustration that occurs at encountering the next one, but I’m just glad to have made it through to the end. Perseverance with patience and prudence.

Unit 9 – New Vocabulary

When I think of the struggles I have encountered in this course they all seem to stem from the challenge of observing new vocabulary. Even this week, which seems so familiar to me as it stems from a lot of the information I picked up in 515 presents vocabulary challenges. I’m starting to realize that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I wish there was another way to say that! There’s more than one way to teach XML and Relational Databases. There’s more than one way to refer to the procedure of creating a database, but there’s also different vocabulary that can be used. I think figuring out that this new word means that word I learned last semester is a bit of challenge.

Perhaps a greater challenge is looking at relationships. (This week that’s even true for human relationships as well) Next time someone asks me to do an XML schema, I’ll do books. Last time I chose diamonds. this time I chose bridges. I think I’m moving in the right direction. But I get a little muddled on the relationships. Lets assume that a bridge has one designer. (I understand that a bridge could have more than one designer, but if that happens I’ll considered that group of a designers an individual group (The Design Firm of Batman and Robin)). So a bridge (Arizona Bridge) has one designer (J. Smith). That’s a 1 to 1 relationship, right? But one designer (J. Smith) could design many bridges (Arizona Bridge, California Bridge). So that’s a 1 to many relationship, right? So, do I show to arrows one pointing from bridge to designer in a 1 to 1 and one point from designer to bridge in a 1 to many? God, I hope so because that is what I did. If not, I’m really confused because how could you show both sides of the relationship with an arrow that only points in 1 direction. It sort of makes my head hurt thinking about it. Maybe the answer will come to me while I’m playing tennis.

Update: After giving it more thought, I realized my mistake… The relationship has to work the same way in both directions. So, in other words, my thoughts at the end of the last paragraph are wrong. I have been thinking about one bridge, when the table contains many bridges so the relationship should I think of in this way: Many Bridges can have One Designer and One Designer can have Many Bridges. This still accounts for the fact that each bridge (One Bridge) will have One Designer, which is what i was getting tripped up on before. So Many Bridges can have One Designer and One Designer can design Many Bridges. Just like Many Bridges can go over One Body of Water and One Body of Water can have Many Bridges. So glad I cleared that up. Even though if I think about it too long I still get confused.

Unit 8 – Readings

I already mentioned on the discussion board which reading was the most helpful. The one that helped me greatly while working on my brother’s resume. But I found so many part of the other readings interesting. One thing that really jumped out of me from the Chabrow article was the shocking fact that the government spends 65 billion dollars on It projects every year. And, this article was written almost 7 years ago. I wonder what we are up to now. I know it seems like a large number, how many lifetimes would I have to work to make 65 billion dollars. But a larger part of me thinks that really it’s not enough. We need so much more technology projects implemented all over in schools, police departments, fire departments, in all government offices, the post office, etc. So many of our public areas seem so technologically-lite that it’s scary. So even though it’s a big number, it’s really not big enough.

Unit 7 – XML – It still works!

I’ve spent the last week visiting family on the East Coast. I have been amazed by my oldest nephew about to turn 4 in just a few days and how much his brain can absorb. It is a sponge. I, in sharp contrast, feel like I may be the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This week’s material was a bit refreshing though as I at least felt like I had a firm basis of understanding from having taken 515 last semester. I found the sample provided by Professor Fulton to be extremely helpful and just like last semester I spent more time thinking of what I should catalog then typing the metadata into the schema. I have also been refreshing my memory sporadically throughout the summer as I am TAing 515 next semester. If only I could learn to catalog the metadata in my brain as well as I can organize it in an XML document…

In other news, I have not had the best time getting through this week’s materials due to the unpredictability of my traveling this week. I’ll be traveling most of the day tomorrow and settled back in Tucson by Thursday at which time I hope to revisit the topics covered in this unit a little more closely. I will continue this post at that time.

UPDATE: So after a few missteps in which I had to go back and redo something from Unit 6, I finally got through all of Unit 7!! I am always so amazed when something goes right and my browser reads “This is User1’s homepage” just like it is supposed to. I don’t know if it’s just the result of things actually working, but I feel like I am starting to catch on with what we are doing (maybe also in part to a nice tutorial from fellow student Melissa). I’m also hopeful the the rest of this class wont be as taxing on my brain as I’m reaching the limits for new information allotted for this semester. Is it a sad day when XML starts to seem like a long lost friend and the word LAMP makes me want to throw my computer out the window? I wish I were having a true light-bulb moment. Although, I’m starting to feel like I’ve found the light-switch.

Unit 6 – HTML

I had a love/hate relationship with this week’s assignment. At first I couldn’t get anything to work. Then, I seemed to get it all to work. Then I think I got overly ambitious and nothing worked. Last semester we got extra credit for posting part of our assignment to our website, so I was able to somehow load it onto my main page. Other students made separate pages and I wanted one. So I was hellbent on creating one. It took a few hours. I made some pretty big missteps, but I succeeded in the end. I now have two links to two separate pages on my homepage (one for the class from last semester and one for this class). I’m so proud that I finally figured it out. Is that sad? So I think these are called subfolders. Now if only I could figure out how to make subdirectories. And what the difference is? I consulted lots of websites, mostly W3C (including http://validator.w3.org/check and http://www.w3.org/International/getting-started/). Sometimes it helped. Other times I felt more confused then when I started. The validator frustrates me because it finds more problems than I am capable of fixing. I seem to understand enough to know where the mistake is, but not necessarily how to fix it. I prefer to look at the source code from other sites. To see what others did can help me to figure out my own mistakes. I find this extremely helpful. Maybe that’s cheating, but when it comes to websites I don’t think it’s always necessary to start from scratch. This is, however, how I got in trouble. I saw something I wanted to emulate and tried to copy the code into my site and next thing I knew my website wasn’t showing anything anymore. It’s a terrifying feeling to think I’ve erased everything, but with patience and lots of cursing or prayer (you choose), I think I resolved it all in the end. My site is still pretty bare bones, but it’s way more than I could have done 180 days ago.

Adding to my frustration was 10 minutes or so when I was pretty sure I had accidentally deleted this blog posting. One minute to realize I had lost everything. Eight minutes of walking away from the computer angry at myself. One minute to return and realize that it had been saved as a draft. The good thing about frustration is that it can’t sustain itself for very long.

Unit 5 – Polite Computers

Disclaimer to the Polite Computer: These packets were sent to the MAC address of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient, please be polite enough to not open the packet.

Disclaimer to the System Administrator: You may be as impolite as you like. Packet-sniff away.

Continuing the theme of etiquette, I must apologize in advance to the world of computer technology for the following post. As far as my learning style goes, I prefer to learn as far away from screens and technology (beyond paper and pen).  So that’s any screen. No matter what’s on it.

So I print everything out (visual) and keep away from the computer for as long as possible. (Terrible for a digital information course, I know.) And, this might be even more unbelievable, but reading on paper keeps me more active and engaged. I like to make lots of notes in the margins and attach post-its with more notes. I like to flip through my post-its after I’ve done my initial reading and go back to things I’ve highlighted or left for later. It’s interactive (a word we’ve set aside for computers, though I don’t see why).

Reading on the computer is dull, boring. I’ve got nothing to do with my hands (kinesthetic). The light from the screen hurts my eyes. Clicking on links and watching videos is distracting. I find it harder to stay focused. As a result, my style has resulted in several reams of paper that have died for this course. But I consolidate the readings on as few pages as possible and plan on recycling everything once mastery of the information is achieved.

I’m sure this is not what Felder and Soloman had in mind when they wrote about active learning, but I think it’s a complimentary parallel. I like to work in groups, but find this difficult due to the structure of the course. This is why I may push for a study group earlier than Sunday, when we’ve all pretty much mastered the information on our own. The class has written a lot about visual learning on the discussion boards and it was interesting to read a professional definition, after which I concluded that I may not be one after all (which supports my flip-floppiness on the GUI vs CLI discussions). I found Kolb’s model to be too boring even to read, so I can’t imagine I’d fit into that model. I like the model proposed by Gregor. I’ve often alluded to these concepts in my former life in education publishing. It’s interesting to consider perception in learning, as oftentimes a subject that starts off as concrete can become abstract (like mathematics and the sciences).

All in all, I must be like most: a combination of lots of styles (depending on the material, weather, and what song comes on the radio).

Unit 4 – This Incident Will Be Reported

In keeping with our ongoing command line versus graphical user interface debate, it’s a bit refreshing to see so many ways to complete the same tasks. This makes me think that computers or those that program them are aware of this great debate and therefore offer their users a variety of ways to get things done. Options. Maybe the CLI v GUI debate doesn’t need to be resolved. It’s a bit refreshing.

I am finding the assignments ‘a piece of cake’ to complete but slightly harder to digest. I can follow directions, but get hung up on the overarching concepts. I’ve been reviewing past weeks before moving on to new ones and that seems to be helping me a lot. If only, to remind myself how far I’ve come and all the new terms and commands I’ve learned and remembered. Assignment 1 was simple enough to follow. Although, I first tried to complete it at the public library, which did not work. I am unable to confirm IP addresses at the public library. I wonder why this is. I have tried this for several assignments with no luck. I find this both frustrating and ironic. Trying again from home, proved successful. When encountering the alert message in Firefox, I for the first time ever, actually read what it said and felt like a warrior clicking on “I understand the risks” (because, honestly, I didn’t).

I much preferred adding a user using the command line over the gnome desktop admin utilities. However, if left to my own devises I know I would choose the latter. I struggled with the webmin approach, but because of my own oversight and not the computers. It still left a scar. I still hold it against webmin. Overall, I’m starting to warm up to the idea of the CLI. I’m more focused. I think I would get distracted when working in any other option. At work, distractions are often the curse. The phone rings, an email comes in, human beings start talking to you… something about the command line makes me think I would remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, where I left off. If I were interrupted at the gnome desktop admin utilities or using webmin, I think it would take me a bit longer to remind myself where I had left off… or forget completely. You may notice that my affinity towards one over the other waxes and wanes almost daily. Maybe by the end of this course I’ll pledge my commitment, but don’t hold your breath.

Unit 3 – It Works!

Before running away to Library School this winter I spent most of my professional career as an editor. Playing around with the text editors this week resulted in some wonderful memories and some horrible flashbacks. I’ll begin at the beginning…

I was unable to ping Wikipedia despite a stellar internet connect. Update: You know how sometimes you just have to complain about something to make it step up and take responsibility for itself. Well, after posting on this blog, so publicly and for all the world to see, that I was unable to ping I gave it another go, and it worked, of course.

But ifconf worked and this comforted my previous failure.

I went on to explore the VIM tutorial. It was awesome to see so many wonderful keyboard shortcuts and I wondered if Microsoft Office had similar commands or just as many that I had never taken the time to investigate. Shortcuts like getting to the end of a line or the last character in the nth word, the put command, and many others would have been super helpful. The tutorial was easy to navigate and pretty straightforward.  I went through it several times and found the commands were becoming more and more second nature. Of course l would be right, how logical, how sensible. Nonetheless, I was beginning to remember or at least my fingers were many of the commands. I did, however, struggle with a few commands. I was unable to master the lesson about using the command line prompt within the tutorial, I could only get the copy and paste features to sort of work. I found it very difficult to find the words through searching. Even though I was able to do this successfully without so much as a blinking curser to show you where the word you were looking for was, I found myself scanning too man words before I finally found the discreet underline at the word I had search for.

I had much less of an emotional or intellectual connection with nano, as I was in and out before I ever realized what was happening. I configured something. If not for the summaries is the assignment section, I would have no clue what happened. I hope this will become clearer in the weeks ahead. I did come closer to understand what bashrc is/means, I think. Like I said, without those summaries I’m afraid I would be completely lost. It’s a strange feeling to be both done with this week’s assignments and lost, but I’m getting used to it.