Classes and Coffee
This last week I’ve been busy starting and getting into my classes. I’m taking Spanish I, and Drawing III at the community college here in Fort Collins. However, I’m also taking an Embedded Systems course on edX, which is interesting.
Spanish I has so far been pretty review from my Conversational Spanish class. It definitely moves slower than the Conversational class where we started learning some basic grammatical structure by the second class. But, I suppose it’s good that it’s review so that I have time to get in the routine of my other classes without being too overwhelmed.
Drawing III is interesting. Remember that ‘drawing’ I did of my room, where one side was moving in and one side was depression and decay? Apparently the professor has decided that she wants to submit a work of her own and that work to a gallery in Loveland focused on the mentor-student, or teacher relationship. The only problem is that it wasn’t taken real good care of in the interim between last semester and this semester. Part of that is the way it’s constructed, folding on the painter’s tape pushes the middle little pieces to be folded in tiny bits towards the outside of the picture. The other part is that it existed in my portfolio/carrying case in the trunk of my car all that time. Well, I believe snow got into the trunk and so everything in my trunk suffered mild water damage. So, it’s a bit warped, and needs flattening. We think we’re going to put it between sheets of dry wall to flatten it. We might possibly cut it into quarters and mount each quarter separately. I’m thinking we’re going to have to do that.
I’m hoping the Embedded Systems class is going to be able to get a small foot in the door of being a Maker. I’ve always wanted to learn more about electronics, but I have trouble approaching things from a hardware perspective. I’m still a little confused as to how electricity physically works in terms of amps, watts, ohms, and voltage. But that’s okay, I can work on that. I’m very good coming from an abstract level from the ‘programming side’ of things. We’re using a LaunchPad with a common microcontroller embedded on it that enables USB access for both programming and debugging.
I want to learn more about electronics, and even get to the point of being able to be as good at it self-didactically as I am about programming. I taught myself everything I know about programming, I’ve never taken a formal programming class in my life. My most credible job was when I worked as a professional programmer at a financial statement printing house. There I wrote programs in C to produce PostScript programs (which I also wrote) after accessing a SQL/PLI system for the records.
I taught myself programming when I was seven using a Tandy-RadioShack 80 Color Computer II 16k and the manuals that came with it. This computer barely resembled the technology we have today. It had practically no operating system (simply an input and execution model for BASIC), hooked up to your TV, 16k of memory, a cartridge slot for games, I/O ports for joysticks and the tape deck. That’s right, tape deck: if you wanted to save a program you wrote, you had to hook up a tape deck and record it on to magnetic tape cassettes since the computer had no hard drive. (It forgot everything you put in when you turned it off.) I still remember playing Clowns and Balloons on it, and that maze game, but particularly Dungeons of Daggereth.
This is actually one of the reasons I don’t buy into the whole ‘privilege’ idea. Now, according to the usual practice of ‘privilege’-making, I was pretty privileged. I was white, had caring parents, had access to things like a TRS-80. I give you that. But there were things I didn’t have. In my more-rural at the time small town/county there was no book store. If you wanted any kind of variety of books, such as technical books, you had to buy whatever they had in stock whenever you could get up to Denver. There were also no adult programmers I had access to when I grew up. I’m sure they existed somewhere in the county, but I never had access to any kind of mentor when it came to computer programming, not my parents, not my teachers, nobody. I spent the majority of my young life being the only person I knew that could program computers.
Yet… despite this I still learned how to program. I don’t like to use myself as an example in this argument because it muddies the water with my own ‘privilege’. Sure, there were some things I was ‘privileged’ to have, like a computer with a manual, I give you that. But it would’ve been super super easy to lean back and say, “Oh, I live in a small town with virtually no technical resources, I guess I can’t learn how to program computers.”
It would’ve been an easy cop-out to basically look at what I DIDN’T have and decide those were ‘outside of my control’, and thus directly determined my future knowledge and skill. When people look at ‘privilege’ they are essentially doing this, looking at what somebody DIDN’T have and deciding that those things ‘outside of their control’ directly determine their ‘quality of life’.
This just doesn’t hold up for me. I firmly believe if you want to do something strongly enough, you will do things, whatever they may possibly be, even the smallest shreds, that move you towards those goals. Let’s say you have very little money, and your parents have very little money, but you want to learn about programming. Well, guess what, it is a bit up to luck, but I’ve literally found good algorithmic textbooks I would’ve killed to have for $2 at a thrift store. Or the library, where you can check the books out for free. An example of good resource management with no money? For those that live near a university (and when I say near I mean in your own city, or a neighboring city) get a library card from them, use that ID to access their electronic records, and download and read digital often times DRM-free PDFs covering all sorts of detailed college level engineering resources. This is all free.
If you don’t have internet access, you can gain access at a library and take free classes offered online about how to program from many various websites designed specifically for this purpose. When I was growing up for a long time the only place I could access the internet was at school and at the library. Websites as I have described didn’t even exist. Didn’t stop me.
Another example I’ve seen given for ‘privilege’ is different ‘expectations placed on you by your authority figures.’ Really? So you’re saying because my parents were fine with me getting a B that I am at a disadvantage from parents that would’ve demanded an A? No. One day my father told me that I could repeat seventh grade if that’s what I wanted to do. I could get an F if I really wanted to not try, he’d let that happen. Magically, despite this technical lack of expectation (they did trust me to make the right decision for myself) I got A’s. Weird.
The point I’m trying to make is that you make decisions for your own life REGARDLESS of what is available to you. Because you had un-supportive parents does not preclude you from going to college if that’s what you really want to do. Growing up in gang territory and drug infested streets doesn’t MAKE you into a drug dealing thug. You decide to accept or reject the environment around you. When you accept everything you’re ‘given’, then yeah, your life is subject and determined by and to every piece out of your control. It’s really really easy to do that.
What’s HARD is not accepting your lack of ‘privilege’. Is not accepting what you DON’T have and doing something, anything, even the littlest thing, to take agency over your own life and GET what you don’t have.
It’s hard to accept, but the reality is that we’re not born ‘deserving’ life. We aren’t just entitled to a ‘good life’ because we exist, which is what ‘privilege’ ultimately relies on. We have to act to ensure our survival, we have to act to do things we want, we have to use our own rational capacities to advance our life, living isn’t going to just give it to you. ‘Privilege’ supposes the opposite, that we shouldn’t HAVE to act to get what we want. We should just have everything the most privileged person has just because we exist.
I reject this whole-heartedly.
If I had accepted the idea of lack of privilege when I was younger, I wouldn’t have done anything I did to better myself. I would’ve just said, “Oh well, I don’t have something somebody else has, guess I can’t do that. Guess I can’t learn this.”
Any auto-didact will tell you this.
But I digress.
In other news, I went to the urologist. Another indicator of me getting older. The office was filled with middle aged men. I’ve been having some problems urinating, and my nurse practitioner was very concerned. The urologist said the probable cause was the amount of water and coffee I drink. I drink a lot of coffee and a lot of water.
You know what’s uncomfortable? A prostate check.