February and thoughts of spring

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So I haven’t written in a long time *coughs* but for whatever reason, the Brain is saying “Write stuff!” so here I am. Brain gonna do what brain’s gonna do. Post profile pick is a hamster going on an epic space adventure, which I thought was pretty cute, honestly.

2023 has launched itself into the news cycle with quite a bang; we’ve got chemical train derailments, Rhirhi’s Super Bowl halftime show (didn’t watch, I don’t care about football), dystopian levels of political bullshit, fascinating-yet-terrifying developments in AI providing new tools that no one quite knows how to use yet, spy balloons. Oh and a chunk of the sun flew off or something? Yeah. Oh and one of the space billionaires can make silicon panels and wiring out of moon rock now, so maybe we will colonize our faithful companion in my lifetime after all.

So there’s all that.

Can’t deny that the “state of the world” is dark. Instead of getting the nuclear winter apocalypse I was promised as a Gen-X kid, apparently we get climate disasters and fascism. Huh. (For the record, I would prefer that we get our shit together as a species and save the planet, depose the .001% who own everything, and use their money to fund solutions for the rest of us.)

Oh, and Elon Musk broke the algorithms that ran my Twitter feed, one that I had carefully curated over years, and I’m pretty pissed that a unique community of information and online folks is just… invisible now. Fuck billionaires.

All that aside, life in my corner of the world is quite calm. I wrapped up my doctorate last summer, which led to nothing new in particular. (Applied to three jobs in my organization last year but none panned out. My favorite of the three was the institutional research position doing qualitative research and focus groups on the student experience. I lost out to a PhD in sociology/education from the University of Southern California, so I can’t even be too sad – she looked pretty awesome (on paper; I’ve not met her). My career aspirations have always been a shrug, so I’m settled into a posture of “satisfaction” with what I’m doing for work, not-dissatisfied-enough about the pay to go look for another job at this point.

I did take advantage of an employee perk and began the BS Computer Science degree at my institution. I’ve been learning a TON – I already had some decent skills in Python and not-bad SQL, but the coursework has been teaching me so many new things!

My current courses include Computer Architecture, which was an utterly fascinating read — I really am a confirmed nerd, plus a course in basic scripting and programming (applications) which asks me to write a C++ program to generate a course roster given a file of student information (comma-delimited). I’m *almost* done with the programming task; I’ve bene stuck for a while on how to generate an array of pointers to objects (in this case, instances of the class Student) as a class roster array, but I just ran across something on the new Bing search that should help me figure it out. (I can’t believe I’m writing a sentence about Bing being “good,” but Google search is just absolute garbage these days… desperate measures for desperate times!)

The foray into computer science (I started in December and have passed about 5 courses so far in this competency-based model) has shown me that I should have started down this road a decade ago (or earlier). I don’t have it in me to be mad that the universe never sent someone across my path who could have said, “oh hey, you’ve got a good brain, you like solving problems, did you realize that code is just a language you use to build solutions? no you don’t have to be a math whiz!” … but I’m not happy about it either. You don’t know what you don’t know, you know?

I’ve also been experimenting with the AI tools that people are very upset about right now. We’re about to enter a rather complex time period, methinks; one during which people who see their jobs being eroded or gobbled up by AI suffer while other people reap big benefits.

In general, I think new tools bring new opportunities, and that’s generally a good thing. I’m not ok with artists or writers losing paying work because we can’t be bothered to regulate how innovation disrupts our economy, plus America has zero safety net to catch people whose jobs are lost to automation. We’re going to be seeing a lot of both in the coming years. Genie out of the bottle, and all that.

I am excited to see how new tools unlock creative expression for people who can’t use the tools needed (with their hands or computer) to bring ideas in their head to life. For every artist who gets paid to draw an illustration for a game or book or [project], there are millions of un-created ideas languishing in the minds of people who can’t afford to pay someone $150-500 to get those ideas into the real world. For that reason, I’m not on the team wanting to ban AI tools which can create art or narratives based on training data (though compensating the artists or authors whose creativity was used to train the AI should be part of a quickly-derived regulation on these tools).

Anyway, my primary goals for the next few months are

  1. to enjoy life and friends and the goodness of each day;
  2. to learn as much as I can in my computer science courses;
  3. to build a mini game idea (coding) that’s been percolating in my head for a bit – to stretch my programming skills;
  4. to develop a functional TTPRG that Jesse and I have been talking about for ages and actually bring it to market, at least as a sharable PDF with a working game system;
  5. to make plans to enjoy the year of our 25th anniversary of marriage, hopefully with some travel since we’ve been homebodies for too long now.

That’s about it. Good coffee, good books, good wine, good conversation, good friends – these are all assumed to be part of the plan. 😉

It’s easy to be happy on a day like today, where, despite it being February, the sun is out and the air is a balmy 71 degrees. It’s too early for spring (don’t kill the peach crop, ok, Mother Nature?!) but I’ll take these warm days when they pop up. Winter makes me “hunker down”; spring brings me to life.

Feels kinda good to be writing again. Not making any promises about sticking to it as a habit, we’ll see.

not my creation, but something I saw on Midjourney and enjoyed

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