Grad school Part 2.1

GradesIt might be fascinating to chronicle what it’s like to take an online graduate course from a continuing studies school of a well-respected university. I doubt anyone has done this, as I certainly didn’t find anything along these lines when I was trying to decide for a year-and-a-half whether I should actually make a go at this program. But I’m not the one to do that. Obviously, I didn’t write much of anything about the last course I took, and I don’t have the time to do so now. I figured I should get some writing in. Perhaps I’ll say more than I’m intending to right now. I never quite know what I’m going to write about when I start typing.

Quick review of that first course. My final grade was a 98. What does that even mean? I don’t look at that number with a whole lot of pride. Seriously. I don’t know what the grade distribution was, and I know damn well I slacked off in the second half, during which my grade actually went up. I did put a great deal of time into that class, so I suppose it’s hard to say what grade I would’ve received otherwise. But I put in a lot of time because I delve off-topic and take a long time to synthesize what I’m trying to say. I do a poor job of writing conceptually. That’s the best way I know how to say that. It’s true at work, too. I take forever to compose an email. I take forever to compose one sentence of a paper. I’m glad I’m doing *this* right now because I’m taking about 20 seconds to compose each sentence. My mind is in desperate need of this. Anyway, so, I don’t know what that grade means. The important thing is, did I get anything out of the class? Did I learn anything? Certainly. I have a much better understanding of…oh, oops…yeah, I wasn’t going to mention anything specific about this program. I can have a more intelligent conversation with someone about the topic. I generally feel good about what I learned.

But I hate the format. I hate the asynchronous online learning modality. The optional sync sessions are bullshit. The discussion forums are bullshit. Online learning may be giving a lot more people access to higher education, but I can’t see how it can ever be a more enriching experience than face-to-face interaction. Then again, this is asynchronous. I work with synchronous video technologies in my job everyday. Video calls. Video conferencing in high-definition. It’s not hard. I don’t understand for the life of me why an online program, particularly an online graduate-level program through a prestigious university, can’t bother to use easily available technology to deliver something to superior to what the offer now.

And it’s friggin experience. Student loans. I don’t want these. But it’s either student loans or get my employer to reimburse for tuition. I tried. I didn’t push for the first quarter, because I wasn’t sure I’d still be with my current employer by the end of the quarter. I tried for this quarter, though. I drew up a plan of how I’d utilize the degree where I’m at, and I was even a little excited about it! I never know what I want to do with my life, but this plan is a bit inspired. But…re-orgs. Funding issues. I don’t have the core skills that make my company run. They’re not investing in me. I just found this out a few days ago.

My motivation for my job and my schoolwork is pretty low at the moment.

My second course officially began on Monday. I’m already quite behind. Last quarter, I would generally take off Mondays and Tuesdays. That’s fine as long as I pick up the pace on Wednesday and Thursday. I can’t say I’ve done that quite yet, although orienting myself to the course and filling out my discussion forum introduction were necessary steps.

I’ve got other topics to write about before I head off to sleep, so I need to end this post. More another time, perhaps.

[Meta-blogging note: this 3-column theme is awful. If I'm going to be writing more than 25 words, the width has to be greater. I don't need that 3rd column. No time to bother with this now.]

40 days later

Grief need not take form like this. No need to crumble or sob. No need to cry out, “I want my puppy back.” No need to become a puddle of grief. No need to feel time stopping and devastation consuming you. It seems abnormal not to experience grief like this. I haven’t been writing about just how I have been grieving the loss of my dog. I’m not going to write about how it has been.

But I did just briefly describe how it is right now. 40 days later, I’m suddenly overcome by a tsunami.

I miss my boy so much.


I Still Can’t Sleep

5:12AM. Not good at all. I don’t know if I actually slept tonight. I presumed that the combination of having taking an intense acting workshop over the weekend and consuming some carbs (Kroger kettle popcorn which has been sitting around since pre-low-carbing began in October) late into the evening would ensure I’d get some sleep. Nope.

So…I changed the theme again to something with panels, with some navigation. The WordPress TwentyFourteen theme. So unimaginative. After years of bastardizing/customizing themes to demonstrate that I still had the ability to “code”, I’m done with that. Truly learning MySQL/PHP never happened. The Top 379 site was supposed to be my learning platform. Never came to be. Spent too much time researching where a song landed in the Japan-Osaka pop charts to fix a lousy layout and add basic functionality I had meant to implement.

Intense acting workshop? Meisner Intensive. Wow, Dave…improv, acting? Yeah, trying. That’s all I say. Sorry, J.

Today, I mentioned to a couple of people that I had a blog, which I haven’t done in ages, since there’s been no real content in awhile, and I’ve always been apprehensive about pointing people to do it. It’s one thing to throw links onto Facebook and have no idea who’s looking at it. It’s another to tell someone face-to-face that I have a blog, and it’s this.

And then I always get especially self-conscious that someone is going to visit this site for the first time. And I feel the need, more than usual, to offer up caveats and prefaces…

This isn’t real writing. I’m self-aware enough to know this. It’s stream-of-consciousness (except when it is an actual attempt, of sorts, at composition, but let’s just pretend it’s all stream-of-consciousness so the bar is set low.) As I said to someone today, I don’t read, so I’ll never really learn how to write. Though, the doing itself is better than the not doing. How fucking profound. What a revelation I’ve just had. (I think I need to join the study group for those who are searching for a sarcasm font. Then again, it loses the intended impact if I have to point out the sarcasm, right?)

What was I saying? Something about caveats…yeah…my extemporaneous writing is often so coherent…kind of like my improvising!

Let me put an end to this before it drags on for too long. Just metablogging until I’m ready to tackle an actual topic.

I shall offer up my spellbinding insights to the world

I’ve had insomnia for a couple of months now, and the usual solutions aren’t helping. I’m not writing to discuss my sleep woes. Any writing I do, for now, is purely experimental. I’d like to figure out how to write publicly. I was blogging and setting up web profiles at the Beginning, but I always used pseudonyms. When people started becoming comfortable carving out an internet persona that used their actual name, I didn’t get it. This was, perhaps, about five years ago, but it’s the norm now. People regularly post Twitter and Facebook comments with their actual name attached. Concern for repercussions is minimal. I’ve always written here about how I wouldn’t want to blog with my name unless my employment situation were stable for the long-term. I can’t risk anymore than I already do the possibility that very personal blog entries raise red flags and cause someone not to hire me in a scenario where I am either desperate for a job or have found some dream job. I can’t risk it…except…

At this point, I’ve had this strategy for about seven years. My thoughts, and there certainly have been far fewer of them on here over the last couple of years, did not belong to Dave S. They belonged to “Toastie”. I think I do have a lot of worthwhile things to say. Everyone thinks that, I know. But I do, and it’s a shame that I’m so afraid.

I have lots of witty and insightful observations about the world every day that go to…waste. I ought to have a real Twitter account. I should be participating in the global conversation, because I have things to say. At some point, well, with the invention of Twitter…what is it? six years ago, eight years ago? It’s birthday was celebrated recently. I don’t care to look it up. Anyway, everyone f*in person in the world (and f*in shall be my shorthand for another word, and I realize use of that word demonstrates my limited vocabulary) thinks their constant musings have some meaning. In most cases, these people have actual friends who are reading their “musings”. Why do I call them musings–I’m being quite generous. Anyway, I do have a Twitter account with my name that I set up a couple of years ago. I haven’t used it.

I never make public Facebook posts. Rarely do I make a public Facebook comment. Why not? I’ve used this “privacy” excuse for a few years now. If I am capable of being tactful in my public comments, there’s not a good reason for me to hide. 99% of what’s posted out there is unintelligible trash. Yup, I’m a snob. Garbage. Idiotic. (Yes, “idiot” is a derogatory word. Again, I need to expand my vocabulary). So I’m doing the world a disservice by not offering my spellbinding insights.

I constantly compare myself to the smartest and most accomplished people I meet, and those I don’t meet but make presumptions about. I constantly do this, and it constantly makes me feel like shit. I’m always working on this. How I break out of this is not the point of my bringing it up. I bring this up because I’m so afraid to take public stands on anything because I am too aware of my the shortcomings of my knowledge. Who am I to weigh in when I know I’m not fully-informed? Well, I’m like ALMOST everyone else.

Ok, where is this going? It doesn’t have to go anywhere. I’m just typing. Just getting thoughts down, which feels pretty great, actually. I write in a private journal all the time, and these thoughts have been going into a void for quite awhile. For reasons of basic common sense, this, whatever this is…will it even be “Toastiest” in a week or two or three months from now…not going to substitute for my private journal.

So…still meta-blogging. No real topic at hand.

Thoughts on my dog Herman’s death? Not right now.

Grad school? Not right now.

Improv? I never write about improv.

So many topics…so many thoughts…swirling about all the time, but never landing anywhere. Perhaps they’ll start landing “here” again. We’ll see.

Let’s see if I can get six hours of sleep. That will an impressive feat.

One of the reasons I’m reluctant to write this is because I don’t want comments with suggestions on “how” I should get more sleep or deal with problem X. I’m not looking for advice. I don’t know if I want any feedback at all. Honestly…and you can take offense if you want…I won’t lie and say “don’t take offense”…most of the comments I get when I offer up anything serious in either here or in a Facebook post are not particularly helpful, and by that, they’re not even supportive. The intention may be to support me, but there is usually a tone-deafness to what my main point was. Someone seizes upon an off-hand remark I make in the course of my stream-of-consciousness that is beside the point. So please keep this in mind. The only thing worse than not expressing yourself is expressing yourself and not being understood.

Ok, I’m really done for tonight.

Toastiest Exists

For what purpose, I know not. I keep a private journal, and I was tired of the same default WordPress theme, which I had been staring at for a couple of years. So I switched to this minimalist Syntax theme. Even though I spent a lot of time over the years working on customizing my own themes, this is not an activity I have much of an interest in doing going work.

I do have an interest in free-form writing. I have the same privacy concerns as always. I’ll never be able to decouple my name from this blog because of a couple of links that are out there, and my feelings on that change from time to time.

It would have been nice to have chronicled this grad school experience.

Thoughts on my endless career purgatory.

Thoughts on all of my endless purgatories.

Thought on the life and death of my beloved puppy. Who doesn’t at least blog about that? Me. For now.

So…nothing to say, but the blog still exists. And I haven’t censored anything from the last 10 years, so there’s still plenty of brutally raw stuff out there if you go back beyond the last couple of years of mostly pet and music posts. Not that I’m inviting anyone to look or presuming that anyone would look.

Grad school Pt. 3

That paper that kicked my ass last weekend…I’m relieved to find that my instructor did find that I strayed off-topic and didn’t directly answer the prompt. 94.

First three weeks of online discussion participation…which I do think I sucked at, but my definition of suck is apparently getting 100.

And then there was the first assignment I got the 100 on.

So I’ve got a 97 going after 3 weeks.

I don’t need to try harder.

Meanwhile, a three-month process which found me looking into a significant employee change came to a conclusion today. There will be no change. To quote a friend, this whole situation was “really f*cking goofy.” Oh, sorry friend, that wasn’t the exact quote. Ive embellished.

One consequence of that goofy situation dragging out for three #*($()*#$ months was that I had to make a decision about grad school without knowing how that goofy situation was going to play out. In light of the goofy’s situation’s resolution, I think I’ve made the right call with this grad school thing…for now.

Grad school Pt. 2

12:32AM Ok, I’ll try this again. I’ll give myself 10 minutes. Ready, go…

I just submitted my first paper. It was due at 11:55PM. Fortunately, I realized about six hours ago that I actually had until 12:55AM Eastern, since the university is in Central. This was the first of only two papers I have to write on my own. There is a term paper that is part of a team project. Really, I’d prefer it were a paper I had to write on my own. Writing this paper has been exhausting and all-consuming, but in a way that I would not want to alter by having a collaborator.

Anyway, this only had to be a 3-4 page paper. I felt like I was going to have 15 pages. I would have if I hadn’t run out of time and was able to dig deeper. I wanted to. I was curious. I was learning. In the end, it was only 6 1/2 pages.

Thursday night. Friday night. Most of the day Saturday. Most of the day today. Just for 6 1/2 pages. 6 1/2 MEDIOCRE pages. I didn’t even follow the instructions of the assignment. I was all over the place. I had created this ridiculous mind map. I wish a classmate had never posted about mind maps. I spent way too much time worried about the mind map.

I’m being so vague…

I’ve had one assignment graded so far. It was something I put way too much time into last week, and I was unsure of how I had done. 80%, maybe? I hoped I had done better than that. Well, I got 100%. And while initially that was quite rewarding to see in Blackboard, I quickly found reasons to be upset with that grade. (Of course, I did.) I didn’t do a perfect job on that assignment. Give me a 96. Tell me I did a good job, but count SOMETHING against me, please. Did I get a 100 because I did such a great job, or did everyone get an A, and I could have spent half the time on it to get a 100?

This program is HARD. It truly is. It is kicking my ass. And my time is up as of 2 minutes ago.

3 provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That was the paper, by the way. And I really need to add something. I have enormous amount of contempt, like so much more than I did before this assignment, for anyone who publicly declares or privately believes that Obamacare should be repealed. Because someone who says that has know clue what they’re really saying. It would be like…shit it’s 12:51…I can’t go down that rabbit hole.

But I will just a little bit.


No, I won’t. I’m a graduate student studying health care in America. I’ve got to sound like it, and I won’t if I present hostile, extemporaneous arguments in an exhausted state.

Grad School

1:01AM Ok, let’s do this in 5 minutes. I don’t have time. Grad school is kicking my ass. Yes, grad school. Technically, I’ve been enrolled for over a year. I was accepted a year-and-a-half ago. But I procrastinated. I questioned the value of the program. I questioned everything. But I started taking this class three weeks ago. It’s an online class on the American health care system. It’s part of an online masters program in… well, I’m sensitive to be googlable. So let’s say it’s just a fancy term for IT in health care. It’s through a continuous studies school at… (and I spent a year-and-a-half…well, shoot, two years, more than two years…pondering if such a program has any value…is it a “real” grad program…because I am cursed to have known so many “real” grad students, and live amongst them now so close to the Gothic Wunderland)…anyway, it’s through the purple school that one of Coach K’s assistants left Duke for. Yeah, that school.

Anyway, it’s kicking my ass. No free time. I don’t know how to be a student.

And my 5 minutes is up. I’ll write some more about this soon, perhaps.

Herman health update

I suppose I can’t just blog about Herman having pneumonia without a follow-up. No time to blog. He’s been recovering. Been on meds. Coughing less and less. Has lost weight because he wasn’t eating much, and I wasn’t feeding him much. He’ll probably be weaker overall from now on, mostly because he’s 13, and he’s got all these other things wrong. And less physical activity (very short walks). But no vomiting or seizures. Just tired, probably partially due in part to the increased painkillers he’s been on since right before the pneumonia. He looks like he’s on his deathbed most of the time, but “deathbed” has also been his default facial expression since I got him 7 years ago. He is definitely weary. But he’s capable of perking up. I think his quality of life is still reasonable.

Herman Health Update part 2

Herman’s staying in the hospital overnight. Aspiration pneumonia. Pneumonia probably caused by combination of yesterday’s vomiting and summer’s laryngeal tie-back surgery. I know it sounds like the time you think about making that decision. It is. But, for now, the hospital stay may help him get through this, and he may still have some decent quality of life left.