Tag Archives: education



Comic via Doghouse Diaries.

The fashionable thing to do after you graduate, I’m told, is to get a job and start paying off your HECS fees. Either that, or go back for more education, either in the form of an Honours/Masters degree or a PhD in the field of your choice.

But apparently I must have missed that particular memo (or more likely, fallen asleep during that particular lecture), because thus far, I’m still as unemployed as I was when I started my degree.

Part of the problem lies in the fact I’m still very unsure about what kind of job I want, and is compounded by the fact that a Computing degree doesn’t necessarily mean I should get a degree doing something with computers, although in this day and age that’s more or less inevitable. I’m fairly sure I don’t want a full-time “programming” job, as I’ve never really liked programming. I’m not really interested in graphic design, 3D modelling, or web development, even though a large part of my degree was doing web stuff.

I remember when I was getting close to graduation the first or second time, and a colleague was asking me about what kind of job I was going to end up with after I graduated. I replied with not a little melancholy that I’d probably end up doing websites for clients, which would lead to my eventual suicide due to how depressing that life would be. I don’t really know what it is, by web development has never really appealed to me. I can get by hacking my own WordPress theme and fiddling with the occasional bit of PHP, but building websites for others is an unimaginable level of hell.

It should have been the precursor to my post on time a month or so ago, but I didn’t get around to writing a thing on the kind of job I want. Like the vast majority of people, I could probably just get some 9-5 job doing some horrible drudgery, only to come home and have a few hours to myself before going back for more the following day, but that’s no way to live. A better alternative would be to find something I find interesting, something stimulating, something that won’t leave me wanting to kill myself when 5:30 rolls around. The reality is, I probably wouldn’t mind a typical 9-5 job, it would just have to be something I enjoyed doing. Which is kind of why my current situation works pretty well, which leads on nicely to the next part.

The eagle-eyed among you would have noted my use of the word colleague earlier, a strange term to use when one is unemployed. But maybe for my particular situation, unemployed isn’t exactly the right term. I have and have had a job since 2007, just one that isn’t full time. I mostly work on the weekend, with a few days during the week here and there. The current arrangement I have works pretty well, actually. I get plenty of time to myself to do whatever I want — sleep until noon, get up, play some DotA 2, eat, play some more DotA — and because my daily expenses are pretty low, I can even save a little money on the side.

Did I tell you about that time I applied for money from the government to assist my Uni studies, but because I had been at Uni for too long, they wanted me to start proving I was looking for work? And that entailed a mandatory visit to an employment agency to help me get started, which felt really wrong? Not because looking for work is something I detest, but because that visit to the employment agency felt like I was using resources would could have been better used helping the less able and less fortunate to find work. My Centerlink payments stopped soon after that, because I felt like there were people that were more deserving of the government’s assistance than I. No, this isn’t some kind of high-horse that I’m sitting on, just a recognition of the fact that as far things go, I’m pretty lucky. And besides, I found my current job on my own when I was still in high school, so I didn’t really need the help of an employment agency to find work1.

And what about that time I was almost suckered into a pyramid scheme? Now that’s a truly enthralling tale for another time.

With very little idea of what kind of job I want, you could say the job hunt is proceeding as expected.

That’s not to say I haven’t been looking for a suitable full-time job. There was even a job I applied for, way back in July. Unlike other jobs, I kind of wanted this one: I thought I was a pretty strong candidate as it suited my previous experience to a T, the pay was great, and it would have meant moving out of my parents’ house and becoming independent. But even though I thought I was a pretty good candidate, HR apparently didn’t think so. My interpretation of the feedback I received essentially boiled down to “HR is more concerned with protecting themselves and their managers than finding the best candidate for the job” — that may be reading between the lines slightly, but that one job application made me so angry about the entire process that I haven’t bothered looking for or applying for anything else since.

Perhaps I wanted that job more than I let myself think I did, but either way, I’m enjoying being semi-unemployed. The right job will come along eventually, and until then, there’s plenty of other heroes to get good at in DotA.

  1. Not to mention, their offices had a really off-putting vibe to them, too. Not like creepy or anything, but I was a little weirded out by how they measured their job performance as the number of people they had gotten employed. That’s important, for sure, but how does job happiness factor into the grand scheme of things? It made me wonder about whether they actually cared about getting people in jobs or whether they just worried about lumping sacks of flesh with other sacks of flesh. 


I promise you, this is a photo of me shaking the hand of the Dean at my graduation ceremony, not just a noisy, slightly out-of-focus shot of people in some funny hats. But it's that too, of course.

I promise you, this is a photo of me shaking the hand of the Dean at my graduation ceremony, not just a noisy, slightly out-of-focus shot of people in some funny hats. But it’s that too, of course.

On the 10th of August this year, at approximately 11:20 AM, I graduated.

It took me four and a half years to do it — when it probably should have taken just three — but it’s done, and honestly, I’m kind of glad it’s over.

When people asked me how uni was going, I almost always said “OK”, or “alright”. Never “fantastic”, “great”, or even “good”, but just “fine”, or “not bad”. I told others that I didn’t mind uni, but the truth is that I just liked the uni lifestyle; being able to do basically nothing for weeks on end was pretty great, right up until the point where I hadn’t started an assignment that was due in the next 72 hours.

Back in high school I was pretty adamant I wanted to go to uni after finishing year 12. Others in my grade weren’t so sure: some wanted to do apprenticeships, and others still wanted to do TAFE, or have a gap year before getting back into study. Of course, there were people like me who wanted to go to uni straight after finishing year 12, but those that wanted to jump straight into uni without taking a break were in the minority, I feel.

Looking back at my time at uni, there’s a bunch of stuff I would rather forget. I’m ashamed to admit I failed more than a few classes due to sheer laziness on my part, and repeated multiple classes because I pulled stunts like not going to to the final exam. Mostly when I knew I wasn’t passing internally, but still. I’m keenly aware of the fact that if I was just a little motivated, or procrastinated just a little less, then I might have been able to complete my degree in maybe three and a half years, instead of the four and a half it took me.

It was around the end of my forth year when one particular individual asked me what I was doing at uni and how it was all going. This one time, I didn’t say that it was fine or good, but I said something along the lines of “it’s different to what I expected”, or “I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would”. It wasn’t intended to be a negative comment, but it just kind of came out that way. He seemed to sympathise, and said a degree was something that was good to have “under your belt”, so I should soldier on and keep at it.

I must have taken those words to heart, because that’s what I did.

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I’m a fifth year computing student.

No, wait.

I’m five years into my three-year degree.

Still wrong.

My degree usually takes three years, but this is my fifth.

You don’t really realise how bad it sounds until you say out it loud. Say it out loud to a friend you haven’t seen in a few years, and you might as well wish for the earth to swallow you up right there and then.

I guess whichever way I put it, there’s no getting around the fact that saying that “I’m a fifth-year computing student that isn’t doing honours” is awkward as all hell. And really, as awkward as it might be, it’s fair enough — it is a pretty awkward situation to be in, if I’m honest.

If you’ve bought stuff online from the US before, you might have had the option of shipping your goods via USPS. The United States Postal Service is kind of weird in that their basic service is called “first class”, and a faster service is called priority1. On the surface, this makes very little sense: if you want something shipped fast and have the choice between “first class” and “priority”, which one do you choose? You might lean towards first class, as that usually represents the best out of all the possible choices (it certainly does in terms of airline tickets, anyway), but then you realise that priority is more expensive. This is totally weird the first time you come across it, and if you’re not careful, can lead to a package arriving later than you expected. Depending on how impatient you are, this may be the worst thing in the world, or you might not care.

For the longest time, I’ve put “student” as my occupation in forms and surveys. But it was only the other day that I realised what this actually meant: for me, it means the only priority in my life should be to finish my degree and graduate. Not to be proficient at Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on the platinum difficultly level. Not to capture the flag in Battlefield 3’s End Game. Not to operate like an operator in ARMA 2’s Wasteland. Because when it comes down to it, I should have no other priority than to graduate this semester. Actually, I could have graduated last semester too, but I got lazy.

Now that I think about it, I get lazy a lot.

It just gets to a certain point in the semester where there’s just too much work to do and too little time to do it in, so I just… don’t do any of it. And as stupid as that sounds, I usually write it off with excuses like “it’s just a Benny thing” or “I couldn’t have passed that unit internally anyway” and skive off the exam.

I’ve long considered the possibility that I have an issue with how University-level assessment works, in that it encourages cramming and rote-learning (memorising stuff, then forgetting it over the summer break), and to a certain extent, that’s true. I don’t like how it works. Java? I did that in first year, and I’ll be damned if I can remember even a fraction of it.

I’ve also considered the fact that, for the most part, I just don’t get programming. Everyone tells the joke about “to understand recursion, you must first understand recursion”, but recursion still makes very little sense. Looking at my code these days, it’s just really basic-level stuff; methods/functions that might do complex things, but it still consists of basic if-else statements at the core. There’s heaps of technical stuff I still don’t understand, either. I would have thought that computing students would be able to regex their way out of any given problem. I would have thought that computing students would be able to code fluently in several different programming languages, instead of constantly having to refer to documentation to figure out what any given function does. Maybe I need to re-adjust my view on programming as a whole (as in, how it “works”), but I would have thought that by now, programming would be easier than it is2.

All this makes me wonder: at the end of my degree, what will I have actually learned? I mean, anyone can copy and paste code from Stack Overflow. It might take a few more skills to work out what any given code does or why it doesn’t work, but what are those skills worth? A few years of your life? Tens of thousands of dollars in HECS fees?

Education or no, what you get out of it will depend on what your expectations are going in. I’ve wondered what life without a degree might be like — I see successful people all the time doing things that are completely unrelated to the degree they attained in university — and as much as I might have wanted to quit and drop out, they’ve all said it’s a good thing to get under my belt.

So I guess there’s nothing else to do but grin and bear it. As much as it sucks now, it probably won’t suck as much after, right?


  1. USPS also has an actual express service available, too. In order of fastest to slowest: express, priority, and first class. Go figure. 
  2. Maybe I needed to lower my expectations of what a computing degree would do for me, as if I would magically become some gung-ho programmer overnight. Tangentially related: maybe we expect too much of geeks

Apple’s iBooks Author, Interactive Textbooks, and All That Jazz

Below is an article that I wrote for MacTalk a few weeks ago. Thought I’d post it up here for posterity. Published without pictures unlike the MacTalk version.

Alternatively, Apple’s latest foray into the big bad world of education (and why it matters).

I’ve now had the whole weekend to think about what Apple’s education event means. Somewhere between the new Star Wars MMO, some epic rounds of Battlefield 3, and something that I’m calling “general internet procrastination”, I’ve thought about the implications for the education sector that this event has wrought.

As a quick recap, Apple released iBooks Author for the Mac alongside a plan to shake up the textbook industry as we know it (also featuring the iPad, iTunes U, and a few big-name publishers). There are those that think Apple don’t care about pros anymore, but Apple’s education event held in New York was proof enough that (and perhaps now more than ever), Apple cares about education.

What happens when you can’t see the forest for the trees?
Before we get into the meat of what all this really means for the future of education as we know it, I’d like to dispel a few misconceptions about iBooks Author that seem to have cropped up.

Firstly, there’s a few people getting caught up in the iBooks Author EULA, and how it apparently (depending on your preferred interpretation) dictates, totalitarian-style, what you can and cannot do with the app. Specifically, people have their underpants in a twist over the fact that books created using iBooks Author can only be sold via Apple; the question is, is that actually so unreasonable? Some say the whole situation draws certain parallels to the similar iOS/Mac app and Xcode equivalent, but others still say that’s different because Xcode doesn’t attempt to dictate what you can and cannot do with output from that app — iBooks Author, on the other hand, does. If we’re being really pedantic, there are even those that liken the iBooks Author EULA terms to what would happen if Adobe said you could only use files originating from Photoshop in a certain way. Those people are pretty far off the mark.

Let’s get one thing clear: Apple isn’t taking your copyright away.

Your content that you put into the app is still your content, you still retain full copyright of whatever material you put into an iBook, and pigs still don’t fly. Frankly, I think the whole “iBooks Author is telling me what I can and can’t do with files I produce using the app” is just a cry from those who are overly concerned about proprietary software and certain usage scenarios. Yes, Apple should probably open up iBooks Author (and iBooks themselves) to an iOS-like enterprise implementation, where books can be distributed internally in a company without having first been published to a public iBookstore. For the moment though, selling your iBooks through the iBookstore just means that you’ll get many more eyeballs on your content than if try to hawk it yourself. It’s also important to note at this point in time that you’re still very much permitted to give your work away for free — Apple aren’t preventing you from sticking your iBooks Author-produced iBook up on your website somewhere and letting it people download it for free. No, I guess the message from Apple here is that iBooks created using iBooks Author are much like iOS apps you create using Xcode: feel free to do other things with your iBook, but if you want to sell it, your best chance of success lies in the iBookstore.

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Adobe Illustrator – “Not Enough Memory”

Not Enough Memory

Illustrator: This is pretty much the worst thing you could have go wrong in an application other than it breaking your computer

via Adobe UI Gripes.

In other news… Adobe Flex Builder 3 weighs in a 390MB…

On the other hand, thanks to Adobe making it free for educational use. Now, if only that happened with the Creative Suite, my life would be complete… 😀