Taking a break from my reading

. . . to update this blog. Last week was one of the most hectic and excruciatingly stressful weeks I’ve had an in a very long time but not due to my studies at UCR. As a result, I didn’t get a chance to write much (at least not here) so I’m going to catch up today. The personal matters I’m dealing with have been simply overwhelming and I’m fighting to keep my head in my books. My classes at UCR; however, remain extraordinarily enlightening and I’m absolutely thrilled with the quality of instruction.

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken so many classes where the instructors (in this case, real professors) can not only chew gum and walk at the same time but are; indeed, brilliant individuals who have no need to pontificate on their own virtues. Each course is very dynamic and I walk away from each with a few million more questions than I had when I entered the classroom (which, is actually a good thing). One of the  things that strikes me as being very different than when I earned my Masters Degree is that the matter of “statistics” is now dealt with in a completely different manner. I can remember sitting in previous classes working over piles of statistical problems in order to understand the concepts (surprisingly, I haven’t forgotten everything I learned 20 years ago) while now, much of the work is now left to (or blamed on – ha, ha!) computers.

Mentioning computers – wow! How things have CHANGED over the past twenty years! I completed my Masters on a Commodore 64 using a word processor that I manually entered into the machine from magazine (and, for my BA, I had to use a typewriter <GASP!>). Now, I bring my laptop to class, do all of my work on a computer, e-mail my professors, even register for parking on the Internet. The young “whippersnappers” (a term that I’ve been using with increasing frequency) have no IDEA as to how much technology has enhanced formal academic pursuits. This does not mean that things are now “easy” (they’re not) but that much more attention can be provided on meaningful things – such as learning.

To emphasis this point, some of my fellow-students were “whining” that they had to manually enter data sets into a computer program for analysis (gosh, imagine that) and our instructor has now sent us files with contain the raw data so we don’t have to worry about such things. Okay, I admit, I’m getting spoiled too – I like it when those materials are provide to us. Just the same, entering data into a computer program and letting that construct pretty charts and graphs (not to mention, do all of the number crunching too) feels like a luxury compared to doing everything by hand. Ah, life is good!

Well, almost good. Aside from the ongoing personal trauma (again, unrelated to UCR), I’ve also come to temporarily HATE my computer. Actually, I don’t really hate it, I just hate Microsoft and friends. When school began, in addition to buying a few million books and other supplies, I had to get another computer. I’ve had my home PC for a very long time and it’s been trying to give up the ghost for at least a year – something that absolutely can’t happen during the middle of a quarter. As a geek, I knew that now was the time to get a new computer (if I want to survive) and got a great deal on a new system. While the machine is fabulous, setting it up and transferring data is an entirely different matter. To compound the situation, I’ve learned that it is now essential to keep everything backed up on redundant hard drives (through a system of networked RAID 1 drives) to prevent total meltdown. Case in point – I nearly killed my Commodore 64 (twenty years ago) when I stayed up all night (not an uncommon occurrence) finishing up a paper only to have the blankety-blank thing lock up on me when I hit “save” in order to preserve my document on a cassette tape. (Remember those? That was in the days when the pterodactyls still ruled the skies and even floppy drives hadn’t been invented yet.) I ended up having to re-write the ENTIRE paper which was not a pleasant experience. Not wanting to ever deal with that type of situation again and due to the fact that it is now relatively easy (did I say that?) to use networked drives in order to save my precious data from a computer meltdown. Getting back to “easy” – well, let’s say that it took me nearly an entire week and a half in order to get the blankety-blank thing working. Not only did I have to completely restore my new computer to its original state (I really did) but also spent endless hours on the phone to various tech support people in India who also couldn’t get things to work. Did I mention that this was a genuine nightmare?! I really don’t understand how anyone could deal with these issues if they weren’t fully computer literate.

Okay, I’m beginning to break out in hives from all of the stress just thinking about the computer mess – most things are working splendidly now so I can get on with my studies. Back to the books. . .