How I spent my summer “vacation”

a.k.a. Moving really sucks. So does starting a job just after said moving.

So, I’ve been more or less radio silent for the better part of… a week now, I think? Then again, most of the people who read this have seen me in that time, so they know I’m alive and that I love them. Which is, y’know, cool.

Long story short, a lot (we are talking imperial shit tonnes—yes, “tonnes”) has changed in that time.

Like, I have a car. A lovely car. It’s less than 10 years old, runs like it’s new, and needs only a 90k mile tuneup, which is so much better than the first two cars I looked at.

Let me start from the beginning on this one, actually.

My mom wanted me to have a car. Paying for one builds character (and a credit score). I wanted to have a car. Life is just much easier with one. So, we went to [REDACTED], about 10 minutes south of my parents’, because I’d seen cars that might be a good deal.

I knew I’d made a mistake when I could smell the cologne before I hit the lot. My mistake was confirmed when the first salesguy to greet us had on a somewhat silky looking purple shirt, buttoned down to show more of his “manly” chest than I was comfortable with. The first car we looked at… No way. Not in a million years. You tap the gas pedal and go flying forward, and the back hatch needed greasing in order to close. In other words, no bueno.

The second car we looked at, I liked a lot better. It handled fairly well, and looked safe enough, but when we took it to our mechanic for a second opinion, though it passed their inspection (barely, but many cars from that lot didn’t because they are mostly trade-ins and auction cars), it needed about $1000 worth of work. Not bad on the whole, but not great. Still, we Kelley Blue Book’d it, only to find that their asking price was less than half of the dealer’s asking price, even before you take out all the work that would have to be done. Negotiation was worth a try, but when the dealer tries to tell you that they’re never more than $2000 under KBB value when you have direct proof to the contrary, and that they’re *ahem* only making less than $4000 off of it, you kind of want to laugh hysterically. We settled for walking away.

The next business day after that, we went to the way less shady dealership where my mom got her most recent car. I tried out the one that I got, and it was love. It totally checked out mechanically, and, like I said, looks and feels quite like new, and we thought, all told, that we were getting an excellent deal, so we went for it.

The day after that, we moved, the boyfriend and I. Packing and unpacking hell was basically that entire day. I got almost all of my unpacking done, and a lot of the kitchen (my parents had more or less set up the basics of my room, though, so I had more than a fair head start). The boyfriend got the smaller room, and it’s too tiny to hold his desk and bed, sadly, so we’re still working on setting him up however works for him.

The next day, we went to IKEA with the boyfriend’s mom. It’s only the second time I’ve been, and I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty cool place. They even sell elk-shaped pasta! Show me a person who doesn’t want elk-shaped pasta, and I’ll show you a liar. Or someone who’s gluten or wheat intolerant.

Anyway, we got lots of useful things. Like kitchen chairs. And a 5-quart pot. And kitchen trash and recycling bins. Useful things. After that, there was a late lunch at Wendy’s. (First time ever going there. I gotta say, it’s pretty good!) We also went to the grocery store for, well, groceries, and the office supply store for a router.

After a bit of a tumultuous start, we got the router working for wireless, though it doesn’t seem to like wired connections so much. We’ll see where that goes. (I wrote this before last night, when we actually seem to have gotten it working. Fingers crossed!)

Now, the other fun thing is this: the company that I’m working for doesn’t acknowledge my existence. Or rather, some parts of it do, but other parts don’t.

Let me start at the beginning of this one.

Last year, in going through security checks to get an internship (at the same company I now ostensibly work for), I mis-keyed my social security number. I was off by 1 digit, but, as you can imagine, when they tried to run background checks, this caused a minor catastrophe. The HR department called me and got it fixed (or so I thought), and we all went on our merry way.

About a month ago, in trying to make sure I was good to go, I was contacted a few more times by phone and email, because apparently, my SSN hadn’t made its way through the system. I corrected it each time, and thought that would be the end of it.

Then, I showed up to orientation.

Though I’d been given a time (the wrong one—mine started an hour later than the one I was told to go to), and I was obviously on some list of new hires, I wasn’t in the system except for last year’s intern records, which couldn’t be re-activated. My offer letter wasn’t printed, and I couldn’t get my badge or any of the other supplies the company gives out. No badge = no entry.

My acting manager, God bless ‘im, tried to figure out what he could do to help. The short answer: nothing, other than file a trouble ticket that says, “You guys hired this chick; make it so she can work!” (Which he did do, just so we’re all on the same page.)

So, I’ve had about 2 half-days of non-work so far. It happens. Just not usually to me, and I’m pretty frustrated that this continues to be an issue, but what can I do? I’ve already provided proof of my own existence other than my SSN, and I’ve provided my SSN. The rest really is up to HR—not like I can march in (no badge, remember?) and sit down and rearrange the entire system. Would that I could, but, well, from here, it’s a waiting game. Hopefully, it ends today.

That Weird Feeling…

It still hasn’t sunk in yet.

Even though I’m moving in a little less than two weeks and looking at things for my new job (seriously, making one’s own healthcare decisions is HARD!) and stuff like that, I don’t know that reality is going to sink in until July 8th. Heck, maybe not until September… oh… whenever university starts back up again for the boyfriend. Or when I get my diploma—whichever comes first.

I think part of this has to do with being put under earlier this week to get the wisdom tooth surgery; I’ve been kind of muzzy the past several days, and when that hasn’t been the case, I’ve been escaping by reading. It’s really easy to lose track of time when one is reading. Time, space… the whole kit’n’kaboodle, really.

So, that’s why I haven’t been sticking to my schedule. Again. I’m kind of glad readership isn’t way the heck up there for that reason, but maybe that would give me the incentive to write more? I dunno. I just don’t know.

But apparently I know computer science, so there’s that…

I also know a few other things. A quick rundown:

–A year of ASL (I haven’t been using it as much as I should, though, so my production is… not so awesome…)
–Two quarters of calculus (integrals and 3D calculus)
–A quarter of atmospheric sciences (takeaway: weather prediction is inexact at best)
–A quarter of Shakespeare (a quote from the professor about Hamlet: Anyone who’s skipping class, I’m just going to assume is helping someone avenge their father.)
–A quarter each of computational biology and computational linguistics (yay, Hidden Markov Models!)
–Two quarters of Greek and Latin roots (my dad’s a biologist—take a guess as to what my grades were for those classes)
–A quarter of art history (helped greatly by a similar class in high school)
–A quarter each of surveys of psychology (The prof, at the end of every class, as flatly as possible: Okay I’m done g’byenow), philosophy (pious pancakes!), geology (yay, rocks!), and linguistics (fascinating)
–Intro to Judaism (I was asked, “Wait, you grew up Catholic? Why are you taking this?!” no fewer than 5 times. Um, maybe because it’s interesting!)
–Two quarters of phsyics: motion (ahh, memories of building a functional—if miniature—trebuchet in high school!) and electromagnetics (ahh, memories of my high school physics teacher frying everyone’s homemade speakers…)
–A quarter of physical geography (like the atmospheric science class and the geology survey rolled into one!)
–A quarter of the history of my area’s geography (soooooo much logging…)

There you have it. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot. And it’s gonna keep on going, if I have anything to say about it. I guess that determination is a lot of why the “school’s out forever” feeling hasn’t sunk in yet. And I’m kinda hoping it never does.

The Last 4 Years: a Contemplation

Well, I’m done.

It’s strange. I feel like a mix of an a-bomb, the “Hallelujah” chorus of Handel’s Messiah, floating just under the surface of a body of water, and David Tennant’s heart wrenching “I don’t wanna go” as the tenth Doctor are all going off in my head in turns, but I’m more or less utterly calm on the outside.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve freaked out about it so much over the past few weeks—the past year, really—that I’m more or less done. I’ve come to accept it: I’m a big, important computer scientist, and soon, I will be unleashed on the world to wreak utter havoc with your online retail experience. I won’t be a student anymore.

Well, not really. I mean, I won’t be attending a school, but you can bet money, food, or various parts of your body that I will keep on learning. That’s who I am; I love knowledge. If I could just walk into a library and soak up all its knowledge, I would. So, I guess that nothing’s really going to change, other than what I do during the day. Like I said, your online retail experience will never be the same. And now, you’re going to be forever paranoid. (This is probably going to be made all the worse by the recent Big Brother leaks that have rocked the U.S. news. I’m sorry.)

Looking back, I can’t say I have many regrets. A few, but none that keep me up at night. If nothing else, I do what I feel comfortable with—that was one of those lessons I learned early on—we’re talking kindergarten, here.

I’ve been a student for the past 17 years. 19-ish, if you count pre-school. I did learn a lot there. Like how to make paintings with colored shaving cream. And how to duck and cover during an earthquake. And that I really, really hate fire alarms. REALLY.

In many ways, college is supposed to be the culmination of our learning. But, thinking back on it, I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. We start general in grade school and go specific in college. Sure, there’s distribution requirements, but it’s easy enough to mold those into what we really want. Not that that’s a bad thing—we need to come into who we are as naturally as possible, and focus on what we want. These four(-ish) years are incredibly crucial, but then, you could make that argument for almost any other moment in your life. I am who and where I am today because I went to college, and a lot of things would definitely be different had I not chosen this path. But I didn’t learn what life is all about. I didn’t learn everything I wanted to—there’s just no way I could do that in four or even ten years.

What I have learned (on a more serious note than a few posts previous) is this: Life is learning. Life is scary. Life is exciting. Life is experiencing ups and downs. Life is unexpected. Life is constantly changing, and even when it isn’t, the world keeps on turning.

I think a lot of this can be summed up as follows:

Des’ree–“You Gotta Be”

This is the only appropriate song right now

Funny story, actually–every year, the RAs would threaten to play this to shoo people out of the residence halls. Apparently, if one isn’t out by noon on the Saturday after finals end, dire things happen, including being made to listen to an 80’s hair band. (Okay, maybe they weren’t technically a hair band, but watch the video and tell me they don’t come close to qualifying!)

How did we get here, again?

Yesterday was my last day of classes.

It was a beautiful day—sunny with a high that was supposed to be 75 but peaked at 80. The only thing I wish I’d done different is wear something shorter than jeans.

I can’t exactly say “That’s it; I’m done.” I still have a Greek/Latin roots final on Monday (which should be a breeze) and a final project and report for my database internals class, but those are manageable.

So, this really is more or less it.

I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, though part of that might be that I didn’t sleep well last night because it was oppressively muggy in my room.

We all react in different ways. One of my friends was high strung and random today, which would have been far more amusing if I’d been more awake. Not that it wasn’t amusing to begin with, but I was a little too tired to enjoy it. (I wound up taking a nap later after getting some work done.)

So now, in 8 days, I’ll be walking across the stage with about 350 other people total, if everyone shows up for the departmental ceremony. I am not walking in the big commencement, though—I don’t do well in large crowds for long periods of time. I’ve promised my dad that he can hold up a big “CHICKADOODLE IS #1!!!!!” sign. I’m wondering if he actually will. It’d be interesting. I’d probably shrivel up out of embarrassment, but he’s my dad, and he has the right to do these things after putting up with me.

Shortly after that, as I’ve complained about before, I’ll be getting my upper wisdom teeth removed. Seriously, has anyone else had to have two surgeries because their wisdom teeth didn’t come in all at the same time? It’s nuts! (Though, as I’ve also said, this surgery should be comparatively easier.)

A few weeks after that, the boyfriend and I will be moving into a different apartment for the next year. It’s a nice place: a two-bedroom affair with controlled-ish access, a huge living room, and a fireplace which is sadly non-functional. That’s okay, though, because we get radiant heating through the ceiling. I don’t quite understand it, but it works, so say the current tenants. It’s an exciting prospect, though we will have to grab a few things before we move in. Like a working microwave, as mine went kaput a few months ago. It was an 80’s microwave at the very newest, though, so I can’t say I miss it. I enjoy being to punch in that I want exactly 33 seconds on power level 4, as opposed to 40 seconds on low, whatever that means.

It’ll be an adjustment, especially because I turn around and start working again just days after we move in, and the boyfriend has his own summer job. We’re all busy people around here, most of us starting on July 8th.

We’ll get through it. We always do. I’m not dreading it… much. It’ll just be a crazy few weeks, and I don’t always handle crazy all that well. But I’ve got plenty of people I can lean on. (Watch them all scatter after they read this blog post… I’m totally kidding, guys!)

So… the beginning of the end… and onto another beginning. You’ll understand if my posts are spotty over the next bit. I will probably try to write a post the day I get my wisdom teeth out, just for kicks and giggles. Given I was remarkably lucid the last time I had wisdom teeth taken out, it probably won’t be noticeably different, except for more grammar/spelling errors. We’ll see.

Wish me luck!

(Also, because I think it’s appropriate: “Closing Time” by Semisonic)

What I’ve Learned In College

You learn a lot of things in college. Some of them will (hopefully) be pertinent to your future career. Some of them will make you a better person. Some will make you feel like you’re the worst person on the planet. Some seem like they’ll never be useful, but really will be.

In honor of my time at university drawing to a close, here are some things I’ve learned over the past four years.

–Food is a valid bargaining chip and can be used in place of money with the average college student. This is also more or less true of alcohol, but food will by and large make you far more friends, at least in my case.

–There are about 12 types of people you will meet in college, but each one of them is an individual.

–How to avoid La Rouchies.

–You’ll meet a lot of people who are just big high schoolers, or even big middle schoolers. At least one of them will be a professor or TA.

–Long weekends spent avoiding studying will allow for a lot of self-introspection. You will not always be happy with what you find, but you may also learn how to make peace with who you are.

–The quickest way from one end of campus to the other, excluding buildings that aren’t on campus proper. Like the ceramics studio. (Never had class there, and I’m thankful.)

–Everything you know is wrong, if only slightly.

–One does not magically become an adult by living on one’s own.

–How to get drunk neighbors to shut up/how to stand up for yourself when your neighbors will not shut up at 2 AM during finals week.

–How to manage with communal showers.

–Relatedly, that there are such things as paper towel dispensers and they produce these magical sheets of recycled wood product that can be placed between your hand and the hair clogging the drain.

–How to have fun on a budget.

–Dorm wifi sucks.

–Off-campus wifi really isn’t any better, and you have to pay more for it.

–How not to set off the dorm fire alarms while cooking.

–How to not be that jackass who sets off fire alarms at 2 AM sending everyone else out into the snow and ice in their goddamn pajamas. (Still haven’t gotten over that.)

–I can’t pull all-nighters.

–I can, however, talk until 3 AM with friends while trying to calm down from a panic attack.

–How to not live in an isolated bubble so that the real world seems like only a dream.

–How to cut coupons like a madwoman.

I would conclude with mushy stuff about how I have awesome friends I never want to lose touch with. This is very true, and while some of us are scattering to the four corners of the earth (or at least the southwest corner of the U.S.), we already know we’ll be staying in touch, so I’m not going to write sappy comments that would make me bawl my eyes out. There will be enough of that after I get my wisdom teeth out.

From 50% Chill to 0% Chill in 1 week

In 5 weeks, I’ll be out the door of college and onto greener pastures, namely being an SDE at a pretty nice company, if I do say so, myself.

And yet, I am terrified.

With 5 weeks to go, and it being necessary that I get a 2.0 or greater in every class this quarter (I’m worried about only one, but I’ve emailed my professor, and I seem to be doing well enough so far), I’m terrified that I’ll slip up and fail, despite working hours upon hours to debug a database management system that I’m building for this class. (The professor wasn’t kidding when she said we’d be writing ~10000 lines of code this quarter…) On top of this, I have 2 other classes.

One is Greek and Latin roots for people who had no idea that Greek and Latin are very much alive and kicking through many languages today. (Well, Greek shouldn’t be so surprising…) Considering that my dad’s been defining Greek and Latin for me since before I can remember (he’s a taxonomist), and I’ve always had a voracious appetite for words and what they mean, this is pretty easy. I haven’t actually missed any points yet, except maybe a few in participation. The other is a Computational Linguistics class that is turning out to be less of a challenge than I’d expected. While I’d hoped things would be a little more meaty, given that I’m spending upwards of 30 hours per week on the databases class, this isn’t entirely unfortunate.

It’s just the databases class that has me terrified. I mean, I’ve already sent out announcements and invitations for graduation-related things, and I can’t help but feel I’m jinxing myself here, a bit. It’s not incredibly likely, but that stupid “what if?” monster has attached itself to my brain and just won’t let go. It’s worse than Shel Silverstein’s Yippiyuk!

And then, on the flip side of things, I feel like I’m not ready to let go of college yet. I’d probably feel better if more of my friends were graduating with me, but I understand why they’re not. Math is hard, people. Not so hard that you can’t do it, but it’s hard–I mean, I asked one of my friends to explain what he was learning to me. All I retained from that conversation was being glad I didn’t major in math. What am I going to do when I can’t hang out with my friends at lunch every day? Sure, I’ll make pals at work, and that’ll be well and good, but I’m really going to miss hanging out with people I really know, and just being in a place so incredibly endowed with knowledge that I could just stay there forever. (Really, if I could make a living as a student, like, getting paid simply to learn anything I desired, I’d take that in a heartbeat. Well, unless it paid really poorly. I gotta pay the bills somehow!)

I’ll be out there in that big, scary world, having to do important adult things like pay taxes and look for a car and actually manage my money (though that hasn’t been too much of an issue in recent years—I don’t enjoy knowing that I’ve borrowed money) and all that other stuff that post-college people do.

So what am I gonna do about it?

Well, a few mornings ago, after very little sleep and an annoyingly persistent cough, I broke down sobbing. I just couldn’t hold it all in. The boyfriend, bless him, held me and reminded me that he’s here and that everything will turn out okay. It did a lot of good; both the crying and the being held. I feel less anxious for now, and more annoyed at my stupid cough than anything.

Moving forward, I’ll just have to make sure that I keep in touch with my friends. Thankfully, most of us will still be in roughly the same area (though there are a few headed far and wide). We’ll visit and chat. Same with my family. I am looking forward to being able to reclaim my weekends to do that, at least. My job does not generally send all that much work home with me, anyway. And I’ll remember that I’m gonna be okay. I worked my arse off to get here; I’m not gonna stop now!