Monthly Archives: August 2017

Hello World

It’s me again. But, who else would it be? It’s always me when I speak, I think it should stay that way. As a fledgling student scraping off the digital rust of programming languages from my previous go at the university, I find myself getting excited at the prospect of my future.

“Hello World” is pretty much the first thing that any programmer learns in any language. Sure there are exceptions and getting a program to simply post those words on a screen is no large feat, but it is the most basic step towards understanding. Many teachers and professors will still include this, if for nothing else, then for tradition. It’s also kind of beautiful I think. Look at the simplicity and motivation of saying “Hello World”. When you learn a foreign language, probably one of the very first things you learn is how to say hello or greet someone. You know, usually before the “me llamo Guillermo” (USUALLY).

As an aside, I thought it was weird that sometimes in learning Spanish my teacher went out of the way to explain things were not direct translations or that we had to practice talking to each other after assigning ourselves more Spanish like names, hence my Guillermo. I can’t tell you how hard my teacher reinforced “me llamo” is not “my name is”, it is “I call myself” though it is of little consequence because we use them exactly the same way in Spanish, maybe the distinction was just there because she wanted us to verb better. Additionally I was proud that I irritated the teacher so much that I got to miss the Justo Lamas concert because even though I didn’t get to go on the school field trip, no one was at school for the rest of the teachers to do anything so it was just board games all day. Anyway…. I accidentally switched rails there. Let me find where I was again.

Hello World, I lost you for a second. Maybe you were just compiling. Hello World, I can’t wait to see what I can do. Hello World, it’s time for me to imagine and create. Hello World, I’m going to work to solve your problems. Hello World, this is me, discovering my place in you. Hello World, I just found you and found something inside me.

Hello World.

I’m going to be a programmer. Hopefully work in cyber-security, saving the world or you know, some irresponsible man’s identity so he doesn’t get his life ruined. My mom needed someone like that. Maybe if she had one that heart attack wouldn’t have happened so soon. So I feel like I have a personal vendetta against these people who brick businesses for hostage situations. Many of them hide under the guise of thieves with anonymity so tight they won’t be traced. Maximum profit for minimum effort. These hackers start off with small things and work their way up believing they aren’t really hurting anyone. They rationalize that money can be replaced and that attacking businesses is better than harming individuals. Then there are those who outright will sell individuals information to people who will take advantage of medical records to fill prescriptions or make claims to fill their own pockets, and somewhere along the line all these people sort of shrugged at the thought of people’s lives being ruined.

I wonder what they would think. The people who bricked the business where my mom worked. It was just her for the office staff. The other person owned and ran it. But she relied on my mom to be able to stand straight in the morning and keep her life together, even sometimes after work. My mom helped. She was loyal to a fault.  So when all of their files became encrypted and held hostage, she was incredibly upset. She didn’t have any offline backups either, so it seemed like a dire situation, very stressful for her. But I really wonder, if I somehow met those people what they would say if I told them they effectively killed my mother. Would they plead ignorance? Maybe rationalize how it wasn’t their fault? Assuming they moved past my confrontation, would they do anything different with their lives? Does their anonymity allow them to simply shrug and believe that people don’t really matter on the other ends of their attacks because they never see them?

Hello World, I’m learning about you, I’m building skills to engage you in a way to protect others. Hello World, maybe you can help me build a better you. Hello World, thanks for getting me started.

 

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I Hope You Find Your Place

When we tell ourselves that we don’t have talents. When we downplay our skills in favor of modesty or belief of inadequacy or when we fear higher expectations following our performance. When we do these things, and convince ourselves or others that what we’ve done is nothing special, what good does that do?

Perhaps it does some, certainly it is contextual. If it weren’t so, then modesty wouldn’t ever be considered a positive trait, and I like to think there are scenarios in which it is.  I like to think the “good” people are the ones who support, encourage, and lift up other people’s talents to remind them of their place in a good way, but at the same time I don’t think someone is necessarily bad if they lift up their own talents, even if they are a bit cocky. Again, I think it’s all contextual.

I’m still not sure if I have found my own place. I know I am good at reasoning, structured thought, and improvising. All of these talents have a broad application, but I would like to use them in programming as I develop my future. Still, part of me wonders if this is where my talent belongs. I also kind of want to teach? Weird right? Teachers don’t get paid a lot and I really could care less about the whole “summers off” thing. I like to help kids, I had a few good teachers in my life and they really inspired me or turned things around for me in a personal way. I think a lot of teachers won’t invest in their students, or won’t adapt to different teaching styles to better educate.

Maybe I should pursue that. Maybe I can do it later in life after some of my financial destiny is secured. I don’t know. What I do know is that there are moments in which I find myself in awe of my talent and thinking I didn’t know I could do that. And that is probably one of my favorite feelings in the world. I think other people really enjoy that experience in the same way. And for this reason, I believe we should be supporting each other the same as we support ourselves (and yes that means if you support others more, time to believe in yourself). We should dare to dream, as cliche as that is. I don’t like dreaming, it feels like a different world. A world where things go right, and our world is anything but. However, if we don’t dream, we become husks of what we want to be. I don’t want to be some locust of a man, and even though I won’t “aim for the moon and land among the stars” I’m not content to just let dreams be dreams.

Build Me Up to Let Me Down

I had a fantastic opportunity last week, and I mean it was phenomenal. I get a text message from my current boss a week ago saying that his supervisor has posted a job looking for a programmer. Now, I am still a student at university and am about halfway through my program to earn a computer science degree. So I knew I would not qualify before even checking out the listing. But regardless, I thanked my boss and did a quick look.

Sure enough I didn’t meet the demands. It required a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a couple of other fields. It required experience I have had and proficiency in programming languages I’d never used. Still it felt like a road map to success. I figured if I followed it and learned a lot of these things prior to graduation then I would have greater opportunities and success.

So I go in the next day and thank my boss for the notice and explain that gives me some information on what I should pursue to have relevant skills in the field for a career. He says that I’m welcome and we move on to the daily business. I get a text after I leave work that day saying to call him when I can that he as some news that might interest me. He then tells me that his boss is interested in hiring me to this position. I explain my lack of skills and he says his boss still wants to have a sit down with me. He tells me of the benefits it would include, although it would be full time which could be difficult for a student. $38,000 a year. As a student who has never made more than 24,000, that is a ton. I would get a free class every semester, better healthcare and some other benefits.

So next day I have a sit down with his boss and am told he wants to hire me. He explains he knows I don’t have all of the programming skills he’s asking for right now but that’s okay. He tells me he’s very proud of how I have been doing since I arrived. He’s impressed that I have written a couple of my own scripts from scratch in the department (I studied different scripting languages for hours, meaning I did some cool stuff with computers). He loves my attitude, how I am willing to be upfront, direct, and still positive. He tells me that one of his senior programmers is willing to take me under his wing to show me what to do and how to develop on projects. Essentially having a well paid mentorship. He tells me of how this is a great career builder and how employable I will be by the time I graduate, but he would also love to have me here. I’m pretty damn excited at this point, sign me up!

He does take care to remind me it is full time but he thinks he can sway  HR to allow me to adjust my schedule to accommodate classes. So I go home and I apply. I tell everyone the potentially good news. Life is about to get better among other things. Then I go in the next day and he requests I have another sit down with him. I find out he talked to HR about hiring me and they put the stop on it. No full time students they said. They have tried before and recently even, and it didn’t work well.

It stung, it still does really. To see such a promising opportunity in so very many ways and to just have an anticlimactic ending of, sorry HR policy says now, is disappointing. It would have been nice. That experience, that pay, those benefits, and in my situation right now, trying to pay for a wedding while my fiance is also currently out of work. It’s stressful. I know it will be okay, but it’s stressful still. I don’t know, it sucks, I was really looking forward to all that, and instead the rug was just pulled out from beneath me. Oh well I suppose, life has never been one to really treat me well, I’ll continue on with the status quo.

Why You Are Better Than Me

The author weaves a story with voices, both in out of the characters awareness. The narrator may bring much to the table, lest the characters exclusively take his role.

Even so, the character’s mind brings more to the scene than we might in our own. Are we the characters in our story? The heroes and champions of our novel like non-fiction? Or are we the writer, putting much of our heart into what happens, subtly manipulating events in hopes to achieve a goal. Do we reach that goal? Or perhaps our audience misunderstands and under-appreciates our efforts, instead casting their own ideas, blanketing all that we prepared. Or. Perhaps we ARE the audience, interacting with this entertaining display to reach our pleasures. Or, perhaps we feel the narrator is more in keeping with who we are someone else dictating our thoughts and impulses, feelings and motivations.

Maybe we like move around. I think people are fluid like that. But even so, when we change from author to audience, how much really changes? Don’t we have something characteristically “us”? Don’t we bring our own inescapable perceptions with us no matter the role?

I’m…. inadequate. I have an inferiority complex. I need to show others why I am smart, and then act humbled when I am complimented on my efforts, ideas, and results. I need that constant validation to remind me that I am who I want to be. I don’t look down on others, most of the time I truly feel that they are worth more than me. When I dissent with people, I am frustrated, but often relent, both because that feels the right thing to do and because they may have more value in this world than I.

An example: We have a very strong-willed and agitated neighbor. She has a couple of children, one of which is autistic. I don’t rightfully know the age of these children, but the autistic one seems to probably be around 3 years old. We ran into a huge confrontation with our neighbor, our yard was continuously being flooded. This was because the water would run in their yard directly from the faucet for hours at a time on occasion. It did not appear our neighbor was consistently watching her kids, seeming to rely on the older child to keep the younger one safe.

During our first confrontation with our neighbor, we did not know the child was autistic though we had suspicions he might have some sort of special needs because of the sounds he made while playing. Finally when we were enduring the immense flooding (our entire yard and spilled across to the opposite side into our driveway, hard to really explain, but it was an extreme amount, not just along the fence we shared) for the fifth time I think I politely asked whoever was out there to keep the water in their pool because our yard was being flooded. My glasses were off because I had just finished setting up a bed frame and was under it, I could not see who was out there clearly but I got a nod and thanked them. When I first started requesting the water be turned off, I had not reached the fence either and was instead assuming an adult was out there watching the child (at the time I also did not know there was another child). So I go inside and say to my fiance I am not sure if that was an adult or an older child, but the water was turned off and I felt relieved that a solution seemed to have been reached.

A few minutes later our neighbor, the adult one, walks up to the fence we share and starts shouting at us, and yes we are inside at this point. She yells about how dare we talk to her kids that way and how they can run water all the way to Japan if they would so like. My fiance went to confront her after enduring a few minutes of verbal abuse and the situation didn’t really improve. I freaked out because I felt like I did something wrong. “How dare I talk to her children. She’s right, I didn’t even CHECK for an adult first. Shit, I messed up.” My brain is stuttering trying to right itself, reminding me that I was extremely polite. “But I really messed up, fuck.” “No, children are just easily intimidated, I you remember being a child right?”

All this time of this panicking and mixed dialogue, my fiance is engaging this wrath. I finally realize that I need to go address and say something, anything. I can’t leave her out there. That’s also messed up. I go out and the first thing I say is an apology that falls apart because I start tensing up again. I try to explain I didn’t know an adult was out there. The situation de-escalates a smidge and we go inside finally. Following day, my lovely fiance delivers cookies and little plush cows, “mini moos”, from chick-fil-a. They seem to be accepted and so we feel our olive branch mended the situation.

Fast forward a couple weeks, the yard is flooded again. HUGE confrontation. Way worse than last time. At this point we are informed by the woman that her child is autistic and this is the only way he really seems to have fun. Although that information is disseminated quite violently and with a great deal of vulgarity. I somehow remained calm, I don’t know how, God gave me some sort of stillness in the moment. Our neighbor seemed to punctuate her insults and exclamations by pounding her hand on the brick wall. She insisted she was pregnant or she would be “beating the shit” out of my fiance. Also if my fiance’s man (that’s me) weren’t here, same thing. I keep trying to return to the issue of compromise. We don’t want to take her son’s playing in the water away, but she will interpret this conversation as nothing else. Amidst her rantings and screaming about how my fiance should be “fucked up the ass with no Vaseline” she laments that she doesn’t have the money to regularly take her kids to the pool.

Rationally I feel that was a deflection, because that water bill can’t be less than trips to the pool. My fiance storms off while I try to calm our neighbor down. But afterwards I felt like I still owed my neighbor something. Rationally I knew this not to be true. Anyway, to shorten the story, I bought summer passes to the city’s pools. $100 out of my pocket to give to this lady who may not even use them. But it brought me peace of mind. I felt I went out of my way to right a wrong, which didn’t even exist. We truly did no wrong. But also, it felt like I was called to do that, as Christian/good person sort of thing.

But in the end, I remind myself, she’s just a person, like me. I laugh about how my neighbor is crazy. And then internally chastise myself for saying (and thinking) that. We are all the same I force the idea on myself, sometimes more easily than others. We are all the same, except that I am a little less.

I am the author, not the hero, I have an active role in the story, but I have no glory. I merely aim to keep the character’s stories alive. I don’t like sad stories, but things often turn to sorrow. It’s the little details that I cherish and make it worth it, the ones that other characters don’t observe or understand. The intent behind the writing, the motivations, not the actions. I aim to fill my heart with goodness and love, and spread that to others. I find myself relying on the author more and more. It’s okay that the characters are better than me, I enjoy this part of life more often than not.