I let this blog sit dead for most of the last year.
I’ve moved my blogging engine from Toto to Octopress. Octopress is a plugin for Jekyll, which Github uses to power their “sites” section. It’s very similar to Toto; another static site generated from markdown files. Its a little beefier though, and more widely adopted. It was very easy to install new themes and do a little bit of customization without learning all of the internals.
I’ve also added a reading notes section. I read a lot of books, but definitely don’t write about all of them. In an interest to retain a little more, keep track of what I’ve been reading, and form actual opinions on what I read, I’ve started keeping notes as I read, or after I finish. These are just notes, reactions and first impressions. They may be useful to someone other than me, but that’s not the primary goal.
What have I been doing the whole year that I haven’t been updating this site? In a word, graduating.
Chronologically, some of the more important things that happened to me in the last year
Last summer I got an internship at Logik Systems. I learned an incredible amount about how software is produced, and the challenges of building a new, innovative product. Logik makes eDiscovery software, which is involved in litigation between large companies. I only have a surface understanding of what the application is supposed to actually do, but that isn’t really what I had to do. I was a code monkey, learning about how Rails works in production, writing integration tests and getting really good at ping-pong. Apart from getting better at programming (doing it every day…go figure), the most important thing I learned was the scalable, distributed architecture that makes cloud applications possible. It was such a good experience that I worked there over winter break and have another internship with them this summer.
In August I went back to school. I was voted one of the captains for our Ultimate team, which was perhaps the most important change in the last year. It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot from it, both about the challenges of organizing humans and about the sport of Ultimate. I should probably write up a longer reflection about the experience, but it may prove to personal.
In November, I flew to Melbourne, Australia to present a paper at the CODE2012 conference. This was an incredible opportunity, and sealed my decision to keep pursuing academia. I applied for the conference on a whim. The reading list was almost all stuff I had already read for fun or for my senior seminar a year prior, and I had a Code Studies paper that I thought might fit. So, I wrote up an abstract and fired of a response to the CFP. Shockingly (to me) I was accepted. UMW came through with enough funding that I could just barely afford to go.
I was only there for one jetlagged week, but Melbourne was a wonderful city. I very much hope to go back, perhaps to do some sort of study at one of the many Universities with interesting games/media programs. At the conference itself, I met a few people, although not as many as I had hoped. Networking did not come easily, and I didn’t know a single person there, even by reputation. The other papers and panels were fascinating, and the overall energy at the conference was inspirational. My own paper did not get the reception I had hoped. I fumbled the presentation, and turned out to be the only person (who I saw) actually engaging with concrete examples of computer code. Everyone else was operating at a much higher level of Critical Theory or Media/Cultural studies. Fascinating, but I was not prepared for that kind of discussion. It was a great experience regardless.
That Fall I also failed at doing an individual study through the CS department at Mary Wash. My friend Ross and I attempted to build an adaptive, gamebased web environment for teaching introductory programing concepts. The basic concept was to align the puzzles and narrative of the story together to reflect the basic programming skills (branching, looping, variables, functions, etc). I still think it’s a good idea, but we did not give it the time it deserved. Between Ultimate (Ross was another captain), my travels to Australia, and graduate school applications we let the project sit for most of the semester. It was overly ambitious, but still a very valuable learning experience about project management, time management, and scoping. I should write up a more in depth post-mortem of the research we did.
In December I applied to two graduate programs, the GA Tech digital media PhD, and the UC Santa Cruz Computer Science PhD program.
In March I was denied from GA Tech, which sucked, but UCSC funded me so, after a visit and much pondering, I accepted their offer. Santa Cruz is nicer than Atlanta anyways.
In May I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Computer Science, and a second major in English (that isn’t on the diploma anywhere but I finished it dammit).
At the beginning of June I started back up at Logik.
That has been my year. It was busy, but I also spent plenty of time playing Ultimate, disc golf, board games and Star Craft 2. Hopefully the next is just as good, or better.