BA Quest

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A job for you and me.

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By Daniel Fockler

Well the time is upon us. The graduating women and men are are being shuttled to the precipice. “Find a job!,” they yell as you fall and look up at them with a confused look on your face. The more I look for the jobs the less I want one.  I have applied to a few large companies. I’ve been turned down by two. I have yet to get an interview or a positive message back from anyone. From a jobseeker’s view it feels like I might as well be putting my resume in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean. The worst part is that I don’t actually want these jobs and I still don’t know what I want. I know what I can do, and I know I have potential to do better. So where does that leave me? The fortunate part is that I can do anything I want. Entertaining the idea of a low-wage job for a while is something I have thought about. It would be nice to not have artificial stress for a while, the foreign concept that it is. After I have graduated there is no one to push me any more. I will have to break out the oars and row myself, which will be a nice change.

Sailing the High SeasLife is out there waiting to be taken, squandered, spoiled, cherished, whatever! The field that I’m in gives me options, and that is terrifying and awesome. It’s just something that you have to deal with if you want to succeed. I think fear is the contributing factor to whether people are able to succeed in life. Although there are two kinds of fear. That lovely paralyzing fear that turns you into a tree, unable to move, then there is that glorious motivational fear. Motivational fear causes you to run fast and far, knowing you are going to die and not wanting to in the slightest. It’s only you, and you must accomplish something on your own. The good fear is not always easy to attain. You need support. You and your trusty shotgun are out there on the road killing the zombies of life. You can’t lay down and die. You’re better than that!

Bam Bam!I’m not sure what I was thinking when I was younger but there are no fantastic revelations waiting for you out there. It’s just there and you can do what you want with it. The world I mean. I recently realized that society is the creation of a collection of motivated and unmotivated individuals. The motivated ones create and force society to move. The unmotivated ones move within society, following the wake of those that determined the will of society. I truly think that the only way to be an individual is to create. Create whatever you want, be it video games, movies, books, art, buildings, science, organizations, anything! If you are not creating you are consuming, consuming what others have made. That fear of death should cause you to create. If you have ever wanted to be immortal, creation is your best opportunity to do so. Take god for instance, his/her only claim to immortality is the ability to create. Shakespeare, Newton, Cleopatra, Einstein, Bach, they all created; they created empires, theories, plays, or music. But we don’t remember them as people. We remember them for the things they did, the things that they created. I’m not saying that you must become great at creating for people to remember you. Just try, people who don’t challenge their own ideas die in them like coffins. They become entrenched in those ideas and they are never able to leave, change, or get any perspective. These are hindrances to creation.

Those are your hands!If you aren’t creating then what are you doing? Wasting, that’s what! You are wasting away, swiftly! You will not have made anything, and you will have not left any mark on anyone. You will become a forgotten gravestone in the ground. It’s a harsh sentiment, but an important one for motivation in the current spectrum of world order. So please, please, please go out and create. It will make you feel better, and the people around you feel better. You may fail in what you wanted, but you will have tried and your ideas will have changed, and made you better. Live a life you would be proud of. There’s nothing you can’t try. Except drugs, maybe only once.

Written by dfockler

06/24/2012 at 11:26 PM

Kids and Programming: A Goa’uld Symbiosis

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Ok so it’s not really a Goa’uld symbiosis, let’s make that perfectly clear. For a while now, probably ever since the early 90’s when GUI systems came out in force, there has been a new trend in programming. This trend is pushing toward making it easier to for the uninitiated to build and author their own software for the devices they love. Smart phones and App Stores (I’m using the term ‘App Store’ to mean any easily accessible software distribution platform) have pushed this at a much faster pace, but young people are at the forefront of this evolution in software development. It seems like once they pop out of the womb the doctor hands them an iPhone. It’s difficult to deny that technology is becoming integral to functioning in our society and kids are not being left out of this trend. Being a computer geek doesn’t carry the same connotation as it once did, with new movies and shows about people who use computers, The Social Network and iCarly come to mind. With this new found digital acceptance at an early age it makes sense that a small subset of these new young computer users will be interested in building software.

The end goal of any programmer

With the incentive and ease of distribution of the App Store, who wouldn’t want to make a few bucks from writing a little game for the iPhone. The neighborhood grass grows tall because technically knowledgeable kids don’t have to mow lawns to make money anymore. If I wrote an app that cost $0.99 on the App Store, and only 100 people bought it, I would still make around $100. One man made over $500,000 off of his app in a few months. Sure this is the exception and not the rule, but you get the idea. I gain a user base, experience at making better apps, and I get feedback from my users as to what they would like to see in the app. As a poor high school or junior high kid the fun of letting other people see your work is incentive enough to make cool stuff, but getting paid for it is like the icing on the cake. The same way Steam has been a godsend for indie developers to get their game out there, the App Store has been a boon for iPhone and Android developers who want a good way to let people know about their work. I make it sound as if the App Stores are without their drawbacks, but I’m talking about how they mainly effect younger people, and if you just want to get your product out there, it’s a good way to go. Herein lies the kicker,  a still smaller subset of kids are becoming interested in what it means to write better software, how the computers and software they love to use works, and what types of skills it takes to become a professional software developer.

The end goal of any programmer

With the decline of state and therefore school budgets, less and less money gets pushed into expensive subjects. We are left with English, math, history, and science. Which of these are students probably the most interested in? If you said none of them, you are mostly correct. This is partly because the teaching styles used in schools and the lack of resources to teach in other ways besides lectures, homework, and then tests. Most students crave doing things hands on, because they don’t have to listen to someone else tell them what to do. They are in control and have to take ownership of the learning themselves. Programming lets you start with nothing, using just your own brain and the things you have learned, apply them to a problem, and end with something cool that you can share with other people. If you look at the subjects that people are really interested in it usually follows this pattern. Start with nothing, Create, Share. This is why students don’t like math or science, until you are doing college level mathematics or science, you don’t get to experiment or create. With music and art, creation is intuitive and almost anyone can do them. With something like invention or programming, you have to mix logic and the intuitive sense of creation, which is often difficult. The earlier you start thinking this way the better you will be at doing both. So when kids start programming at a young age, it gives me hope that it will catch on and have kids using logic to create. The end hope is that kids will then apply their logical minds to other problems outside of programming and make the world a better place.

Written by dfockler

03/04/2012 at 2:53 AM

Nerds abound, get yer finger based controller boards at the ready!

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This may come as a surprise to people who don’t understand what is it like to take a blank screen and add barely functioning logical rules, years worth of complicated half-coagulated libraries, backlogs of bad habits and terrible ideas, undocumented purely wizardry based command line tools, and little bit luck, but programming is a challenge, on par with golf. Sure you may say to yourself, “but there’s 16 year olds who make a million dollars on the app store.” I admit programming has been made much easier in the last half-decade. But, ask any one of those 16 year old prodigies what a quicksort algorithm is and in all honesty he could probably tell you. There are prodigies in every field, but computers are cool and kids like cool things, apparently. Back to the point, unless you have been thinking in a programmatic way for a few years, or have an aptitude for logical thinking, which of course your’s truly has one of these, programming is hard. It’s by definition not intuitive.

I personally don't wear a balaclava when I code

If you don’t adapt to it immediately it probably means you are a perfectly normal person. Changing your way of thinking from one in which you can communicate in a vague, expressive way, into one in which you must describe exacting specifications is not an easy task. You must be able to keep multiple variables juggled in your mind at the same time, and be able to imagine how each of those variables will affect the others. Here’s a thought for those intrepid few who have fallen down the slide and made it this far into my epilogue about my favorite subject. Imagine you are a girl, *wink wink*, you have 4 friends who need to come over for a party, Amy, Becka, Cindy, and Darla. They can come over in any order you want, but each order comes with dire consequences. If Amy comes over first, Becka will die. Uh oh. If Becka comes over first Cindy won’t come over at all, and Darla will bring her boyfriend Ethan, gross! If Cindy comes over first, the next person who can come over has to be Darla or Cindy. Now imagine these are variables in a billion dollar spaceship controlling the guidance computer of said ship.  If you get them out of order, the ship might crash into a major city. Bad news for you, the programmer of the control chip. I think you get the idea of being able to handle multiple variables. Sure it’s not equitable to either of these scenarios except the last one. *GASP*

I don't even...

Though once you learn to program and to love to learn to program, it is one of the most fulfilling things you can do. It’s both technical and creative, boring and exciting, applicable and trivial. It encompasses so much of everyday life and you learn to examine everything around you in a different way than you did previously. It will get you laid and/or paid. On second thought only paid. But I guess if you get paid enough you can get laid. It will get you extra laid if you are a girl, but we won’t go into that. You’ll always be able to both impress and shun yourself at parties, and most of the friends you end up with will also be programmers. It’s a very inclusive lifestyle, and I say lifestyle because that’s what it is. If you spend more than 5 hours a day doing the same thing, that thing is part of your lifestyle, so deal with it. Your interest in programming might go through ebbs and flows like it did for me, but it has stuck in my brain, and won’t let me escape at this point.

Written by dfockler

02/23/2012 at 4:40 AM

The Impostor Syndrome

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By Daniel Fockler

For the past few years I have had this feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be where I was in my life. Sometimes I felt like I shouldn’t have the job I have, or have the grades that I get. I had just chalked it up to my already low self-confidence. I made myself believe that the accomplishments I had made were because I was lucky. I worried that everyone around me was doing so much better than I was and that I wouldn’t be able to compete with them. My self-doubt and low self-esteem in my abilities had prevented me from participating in high school activities before. My stress about failure coupled with my confidence issues, felt crippling when confronted with competition. I’m now a senior computer science student and these feelings still crop up. I worry that all of the other students will be able to find jobs and I will be unable, due to my self-evaluated programming skills.

Just recently I learned that this feeling was not uncommon but has a name, the Impostor Syndrome.  In a study done by psychologists Clance and Imes in 1978, they found that many female graduate students felt like they didn’t deserve what they had accomplished. In further studies done by other psychologists this same phenomenon was found in many other collegiate students and teachers in some cases. They also found that the syndrome presents in men equally to women. Often the ability to self-evaluate creates a situation in which the person cannot accurately evaluate themselves. They compare themselves to their peers even without the knowledge of their peers abilities. For all the impostor knows the other people they are competing with could feel exactly the same way, or have equal or worse abilities to them. Often times people will not congratulate themselves for their accomplishments, but they will dwell on their errors and failures. It’s a difficult thing to realize and even more difficult to correct.

I realize that more and more life is all about fake it til’ you make it. In my experience people with confidence rarely believe that they are better, they are just pretending until it becomes normal for them to feel that way. As a scientist it seems silly to judge my ideas on unknown information, but that is exactly what I was doing. I was letting my feelings of doubt affect how I viewed others and consequently how I judged myself. Whether I knew how my abilities stacked up didn’t matter. An important step in overcoming this feeling is to take an accurate look at your competence in your field and not to judge yourself against others without objective information of your progress. Do you know the materials you are learning? Is there any solid evidence that you are doing worse than you should be doing? It’s easy to slip back into the impostor way of thinking if you are having a tough time with your work. Truly analyze your abilities, look at your accomplishments and don’t let yourself undermine what accomplishments you have achieved. It’s easy to keep raising the bar and devaluing what you have done, but keep looking at the evidence and you will find that you are keeping up and deserve the success that you have.

Written by dfockler

12/14/2011 at 2:14 PM

A Rapidly Deteriorating Lifestyle

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By Daniel Fockler

When you get into college you have this idea of how it will be. You might imagine that you will study diligently every night in your dorm, and you will hang out in the library with the comforting quiet of the books surrounding you like a blanket. You might envision yourself partying everyday, coming to class hungover and tired, but still skating by on wit and charm. How ever you thought it would be there are fundamental truths about college that persist through the many years of the collegiate institution. It’s not about studying or partying though, it’s about the life you have in college.

The more I think about it the more I realize that school is a lifestyle and working is a completely separate lifestyle. I’m in my senior year and as I think about graduating, it feels like being let out of prison into the population. I’ve served my sentence for 16 years and my time is finally up. As soon as you’re done with your last day of classes the world is completely different than the minute before. You have no responsibility other than to your self. You have been trained for this for a decade and a half. A decade and a half of people telling you what to do, assigning you homework, and expecting things from you. Whether you flounder or fly is up to you, but you have been pushed out of the nest and the reliance on any form of structure you once had has disappeared beneath your feet.

I would imagine it’s similar to culture shock. The idea is that when you are introduced to a culture other than your own, their practices and standards are completely disorienting to you and cause you to have social anxiety. How you change from one lifestyle to a completely different lifestyle over the course of a month is the difference between succeeding as an adult and being stuck in your culture shock. Eventually people get out of their shock and acclimate, but until that happens not much progress is made. For whatever profession you chose/choose people will tell you the tips and tricks, how to network, how to succeed. But it doesn’t matter all that much compared to you, and how you are able to progress from one part of your life to the next.


Written by dfockler

10/31/2011 at 1:56 PM