So much to do, so little energy

Work_Jan23

Road map

Next week, I begin my first semester as a grad student at KU, and my second semester teaching full time, teaching two sections of Discrete Math, and one each of Data Structures and Programming II. Moosader is also on my mind, and I feel like I have a bit more of a focus for what we should do in 2017. Marriage is also on my mind, though I’ve never been engaged before or planned for such a thing before.

 

Grad School

kuOrientation at KU opened my eyes to some possibilities that I had not thought of; I had originally just planned on doing it for the paper, to push forward my career, but talking to the EECS faculty inspired me a bit.

I like watching Day9’s Mostly Walking series, and one of the guests on that web show is Sean Bouchard. Sometimes he talks about his work, and though I don’t know much about it, it had piqued my interest prior to even thinking about grad school, and going to orientation made me think of some of the things he had talked about, which got me excited.

Now I see grad school as more of a journey than just a means to an end. Perhaps at some point I will switch from working full time and studying part time to vice versa – going back to being an adjunct and studying full time so that I can spend time on a research project, centered around software and education.

 

Teaching

This year, I’m an assistant professor. The previous semester, I was a full-time-temp, so I worked full time but I didn’t have the same responsibilities; it was like being an adjunct but with more hours.

I’ve been with my community college for a full year now – all of 2016. I really enjoy the teaching aspects, but this is the first place I’ve worked where I keep being put in the middle of faction politics. Perhaps I just hadn’t been at any software companies long enough to experience this, or I was always really low on the totem pole.

It isn’t making my job unpleasant at this point, per se; I mostly see it as weird, bizarre entertainment. But, it has affected my long-term goals there. That, and also being full time means I have more responsibilities now, such as attending meetings and a “butt-in-seat” policy (having to be physically present at the workplace to “prove” that you’re working, when really it just proves that you know how to look busy.)

I left the software industry to get away from arbitrary things that kill my productivity, such as required work hours and require work locations. If you want me to create my best work, you need to trust that I know how to best produce that productivity in me, rather than restrict me to silly standards that make no sense.

Anyway, this is part of why I’ve shifted my excitement towards grad school, and why I’m thinking of adjuncting after my year-and-a-half contract is up. Keep a foot in the door, but put my efforts elseware.

 

Moosader

fdeIn 2016, I was convinced that I could put out Fin ‘N’ Kit, rewriting it in C++ so that I could control more of its features than what the original engine had allowed for. However, this just ended up meaning I was the bottleneck and my team didn’t have anything they could work on. In 2016, we basically just re-released Gift Grab with new graphics as a free game with ads, since in 2015 we basically had about 12 sales.

So one of the things I’ve learned is that, this early in, we need to be building games with tools that increase our speed. Visual Novels in RenPy, or maybe using other engines or languages, rather than rewriting a full engine in C++. Fin ‘N’ Kit is in alpha, but there just isn’t much interest, so I guess it is suspended for now.

I put out a survey – in English and in Esperanto – with a list of some of the games we have prototyped, or just ideas for, to see where the interest lies. Mostly, the interest is around the language learning educational apps, moreso than anything that we’ve worked on purely for entertainment. Sure, there’s a little interest in a game where you’re a courier in a post-apocalyptic setting, handing out bills for peoples’ still-active student loans, and returning the payments back to the student loan H.Q. — Because, even after the apocalypse, student loans will continue to exist. Get it? 😛

And, honestly, it is hard for me to find inspiration for the “purely for fun” types of games anymore. This inspiration was severely killed off during my years as a software developer, as my soul was slowly killed as I zombied through the days. It was language learning that rekindled any sort of passion in me. As a result, I can easily think of games that I would like to play to help me learn languages, in the style that I best learn, so designing these sorts of games comes much more naturally. Coming up with something purely fun for fun’s sake outside the context of learning, my brain just doesn’t do that anymore.

 

Marriage?
rai22016 had mostly been good to me, up until a certain point. I began taking antidepressants/antianxiety meds, started my new job as an adjunct instructor, which I really enjoyed, and started my relationship with Rai, whom I met on Tinder. I had not been intending to find a serious boyfriend, and only date around to fill time, but we actually hit it off really well, and it had been the most healthy, supportive relationship I had ever been in.

In late October, however, the company that Rai was subcontracted under had budget cuts and rolled him off the project. He was given two weeks to return back to India. So, November 1st, he returned, where he continues waiting for another assignment and spending time training on Selenium.

We are still together, though “together” through WhatsApp. He is 11-and-a-half hours away, which is a difficult schedule. There is a chance that the company that rolled him off the project will be reassessing their budget from Q1, and be up for hiring him back in Q2.  I hate having to rely on corporations, they never come through and they have no respect or care for their employees.

Beyond that, I need to renew my passport, and I’m planning on booking a trip to India in May of this year, where we will go to Uttarakhand and meet his parents. I need to make sure to study Hindi daily, as his parents do not speak English. We’ve gotten approval from them already, but it is good to meet.

IMG-20170111-WA0016The marriage I’m willing, but weddings are a pain in the butt, and even more so now that we have to think of weddings in two countries. I like to keep things simple, but simple does not describe an Indian wedding. In the U.S., I figured it would be my parents, his parents, my sister, her bf, and my cousin and her husband. I do not want any more people than that. Simple, clean, low-stress, mostly casual. But how far apart would we have the two weddings, getting visas, and how all of this works, is just another stress on my plate when I already have so much to think about.

I finally am working full time so I can actually feasibly pay for flight(s) to India, but trying to fly myself and my parents, or flying his parents over, so many flights! So much money! Blarg.

From V.B. on Twitter :)

had to do this much sooner. I just want to thank you for your programming tutorials, I started coding by watching your tutorials, many years ago, and that shaped me to be the person I am today. Thank you for giving me a way to escape “poverty” and giving me some kind of guidance for life. I think that is the most important thing for a young kid. Finding myself early helped me to shape my life and goals. And that at the end helped me to live alone, have apartment, teach and my friends the same way you did help me. I think that people like you should hear stuff like this and get many thanks once in a while. Cheers! 🙂

 

Inspiration and meaning

Since the election, I have had such a hard time getting inspired.

As news unfolds, creating an unwelcome climate here in the U.S., but also news from other countries such as the atrocities happening in Syria, I find myself wanting to do something with my work, but don’t really know how to go about it. At the moment, the best I can do is donate my money.

As we think of the next game that we are going to make, or just little games I could make in my spare time, I keep wondering what I can make that has meaning. That makes a difference.

Of course, making games that make people happy can be important, too. Sometimes, we all need a little escapism, and it can be hard to stay motivated to get shit done if you’re depressed and worried constantly. If you can at least get some reprieve, you can work towards doing more good.

But beyond fun games, what else could I be making? To help support others? To teach others? What?

I’m not one to sit around idle while I wait for an answer to be fed to me, so I’ll keep going. I got hired on full time at my school, which means a steady income for now, and I can set up monthly donations. I can work on projects and work on making my business more viable, and perhaps once we have money (beyond what I put in out-of-pocket), my company can have more weight.

I’m just kind of stuck in a rut without any inspiration, because I have essentially been constantly worried since November.

Helping out the Sioux Tribe / Standing Rock

What is going on at Standing Rock is terrible. I have donated $25 to each of these funds to help out the cause. If you have the ability to, please consider donating as well.

Mni Wiconi Health Clinic Partnership at Standing Rock
https://crowdfund.ucsf.edu/project/2913/wall

Sacred Stone Camp
https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp

Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund
https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf

Directly to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Dakota Access Pipeline fund
http://standingrock.org/news/standing-rock-sioux-tribe–dakota-access-pipeline-donation-fund/

OK, here’s my plan

This is my plan in response to the election results, to try to mitigate the damage as best as I can. I’m sharing this so I can get feedback and more ideas, or just to give other people ideas who aren’t sure what to do.

I will vote with my wallet – Donate and boycott

Money moves things in this country, for better or worse. I have already signed up to have monthly donations going to Planned Parenthood and ACLU. It’s not a lot, my work situation is kind of unstable at the moment, but it’s something.

Likewise, I’m going to stop eating meat produced by the American meat industry. I’m going to stop spending money on a product that utilizes the work of undocumented immigrants and never gets punished by the government, instead the workers are punished. And if there are any more industries that I should be avoiding, let me know.

I will be vocal

I have always choked at confrontation and I’ve always told myself “I’m just not good at debate”. I’ve allowed myself to be quiet because I couldn’t find the words, or I was afraid of what people think. This has to stop. Moreso than convincing other people of your point of view, you need to be vocal so that those who are affected see that they are not alone. To me, that is infinitely more important. We still need to teach, but decreasing the alienation is important.

We need to hold discussions that fight apathy, complacency, to fight ignorance about the issues (because some people have the privilege to live in a bubble unaffected). We need to fight the “me and mine” mentality. We need to fight the idea that it’s OK for white people to just hang out with white people, to retreat to their homogeneous groups of people just like them.

The strategy that I’m trying out when dealing with confrontation is to ask questions. I’m not good at debating, but maybe if I break down their point of view enough by asking “Why?”, maybe I can find something for them to think about.

I will demand

Simply voting in this presidential election has failed, but we have to keep fighting. If the government passes a “bathroom bill” to restrict who can use what bathroom, then I’m going to demand that every business that I spend money at provides gender neutral bathrooms, ESPECIALLY if they are single-stalls. I’m going to demand equality when I hear about other businesses discriminating against people. I will email the state representatives and demand that they work for justice, because even though I didn’t elect them, they still work for me. At the same time, I’m going to try my best to educate those who did vote for them, so that they can also reach out to the representatives and tell them that every person must be treated with respect.

I will build safe spaces

I will continue working to make my classrooms a safe space, and to create safe spaces for others. I have only had one class since the election, but I will explicitly and verbally let everybody know that I respect them, no matter what their religion, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability is. I will let them all know that I will listen to them and advocate for them. I will let them know that I am with them.

I will fight to make the spaces that I am part of safe, by talking to the people responsible for that space, and by calling out inappropriate behavior in the space.

I will stand

I will make an effort to go to protests. I will continue to monitor police officers when they pull somebody over, to make sure they know they’re being watched and to make sure that who they’re interacting with is safe and respected. I will try my best to be physically present wherever I am needed to show solidarity with those being affected.

I will humanize

I will work with my Moo team to build games that humanize people. I think that too many people can shrug off the hardships of others, whether they’re in another city or country, or if they’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or of a different culture. Again, we need to stop this “me and mine” mentality, and we need to make it blatantly obvious that we expect human rights and respect for every person. EVERY PERSON. Regardless of whether they’re under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, or from another country, or don’t have a job, or has gone to prison before. Everybody has the right to live, to eat, to sleep, to be safe, to respect.

I will find other peoples’ works about people who aren’t just white men. I will share these works with others, and amplify. We need to tell more diverse stories.

I will vote

I am also making a commitment to being a more active voter. I will try to volunteer as time permits, but I will vote more than just once every four years.

I will listen and learn

I will continue talking to people around the world and learning about them. I will continue listening and supporting them. I will share feeds to these voices with people I know.

I will stay

We cannot leave this country. Not everybody who is affected can leave this country. We need to stay here, and protect our neighbors, and fight to make change. We cannot abandon this country, and we cannot abandon the people here.


That’s all I have at the moment. If you have any other ideas, let me know. We have to stay diligent and fight. We need to demand election reform – I’m sick of this winner-take-all system!

If you are interested in places where you can donate to, please check out this link:
A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support

You need to keep up with the news and keep an eye on the Trump administration’s agenda. Here’s where to start:
Here Is What Donald Trump Wants To Do In His First 100 Days

As I’ve been saying since I was a child: Make lunch, not war.


Here are some pictures for us.


 

Here are some videos to watch and think about, to help you figure out what we have to do.

 

 

Attack of the Mutant Lawnmowers, November 4th

Back when I was an awkward 12 year old, I loved staying up late, listening to the radio, and building adventure games in Visual Basic 5 on my very own compy. Attack of the Mutant Lawnmowers was one of these games, though I have long forgotten the ending of the game, as it crashes part-way through.

To get the Moo team used to RenPy, we’re having a game jam this month to build a short story with RenPy. It is the Moopy Jam. My project is to remake Attack of the Mutant Lawnmowers.

Sometimes it is a lot of fun to step back from complex programming and just work with art and basic story. I’m terrible at writing stories, but oh well! I’m remaking a 16 year old game, so who cares?!

You rock

I had a student who wrote some notes on their recent exam that expressed frustration and embarrassment over some problems. I haven’t returned the exams yet (it’s a once-a-week class), but I sketched in their exam and left positive notes. I scanned the exam for this student and sent it to them, and let them know that these next chapters will be easier – no holiday getting in the middle of the class, I’m doing video lectures to help students out more, and we’ll work together to iron out tough bits.

The response I got back was “you rock”, so that was nice. 🙂

 

Rachel,
I really appreciate this email and thank you for your positive attachment! That was nice, but I can be really self-deprecating, so that’s where that came from.
I will let you know if I have any questions. I will get to my Discrete Math ASAP today; I’m such a procrastinator:(
You rock.

Video Lectures

A screenshot of a video being rendered

When I was a student, it was aggravating to no end, just knowing that I heard my professor say something in class, but not having it in my notes and not remembering what exactly it was.

I know I’ve dealt with being confused on a math topic and pouring through the book and examples and still not understanding; trying to find YouTube videos on the same topic that wouldn’t confuse me further.

Some teachers would record their entire in-class lecture and post those up online, but these were often over an hour long and difficult to parse; if it were a class session where the teacher was just coding the entire time, it would be hard to figure out what part of the class they said the thing I was looking for!


 

However, done right, video is a great medium for presenting information. For my CS 200 (JCCC) and CS 201R (UMKC) classes I taught in Spring 2016, I spent every weekend writing and recording lecture videos for them to watch as homework – then we’d spend the class period actually coding. This also means that I can reuse these videos – both for any other CS 200 sessions I’m teaching, but also to provide as review videos for classes after CS 200 – such as data structures, if the students need to review some core C++ topics!

More recently, as a result of having a Monday-only three-hour Discrete Math class and Labor Day nuking the class period for the week, I ended up recording a video lecture for the class that should have been that week. And, actually, I recorded video lectures for that entire chapter, to help my students study for the exam the following week. And it was pretty well received.

Part of building lecture videos is boiling down the book’s contents to its important bits; like panning dirt to find gold… or at least some cool pebbles.

An in-class lecture can be boiled down to 10 minutes when you’re building a lecture video by a script, rather than just hitting record and going for it. It also results in cleaner, easier to follow content.

The downside, however, is just that it takes time to do. For a standard lecture, I will…:

  • Go through the book, figuring out the important parts.
  • Write some presentation slides, then export them as separate images.
  • Throw those slides in my video editor (kdenlive).
  • For each slide, record narration (with audacity).
  • Then to work examples of the problems, record myself writing out and solving the problems in a paint program. (This requires GIMP, my Wacom tablet, and OBS) – If it’s a programming class, then Code::Blocks and OBS to record coding through some problems.
  • Putting it all together in the video editor, making sure it flows well.
  • Rendering!
  • Uploading to my server and/or YouTube.

Unfortunately, it can be a lot to ask any random teacher to build something like this. But I have the capability (I guess I’m from the “YouTube Generation” so a lot of us can handle a video editor), and the drive to do so. I feel like creating the video lectures also helps me understand the content even better, so that in class I can give a better lecture and answer questions better.

It also means that, even though it is a lot of work now, it will be less work in the long run.


 

You can view my educational content over at http://edu.moosader.com/

Programming Poems

Was just playing around with words to try to think of ways to get students to remember that they need == when comparing two values.

To compare if two values are equal,
Your equal sign needs a sequel. (==)

 

I posted it on FB, and was given the response “===” so then I wrote:

If you need to check the type and value both,
your equal signs will need another growth?

 

But a friend of mine, Chris M, also wrote a poem:

If checking type is on your minds,
why don’t you use three equal signs?

 

I just thought it was funny and cute. ^_^