June 29, 2009

Fetch me a Porcupine and a Banana STAT!

 Rand Simberg links to this very good piece on 5 fallacies of happiness.
Read the whole thing. It tangentially segues into the content below the fold...which is just diary stuff.

About a month ago I learned that the difficulty I had in registering for Summer and Fall classes was NOT due to some unresolved debt. I was missing a pre-requisite. You see, I had taken freshman chemistry my freshman year. Unfortunately, in the intervening years, the course designations have changed a bit. Chem 115 is now required for science majors, not Chem 111. This means that I can't sign up for ANY of the upper level Oceanography courses I need until I take freshman chemistry...a two semester class...meaning in turn that I can only take the last 3-5 upper division classes AFTER next spring.
How, you may ask, was I able to take these 300 level courses? Well, this is such a subtle screw up that neither the adviser nor the computer caught it until this past semester, when the ODU registration computer finally noticed.

No doubt its ability to grasp such arcane issues is a sign that it is becoming self aware and will soon try to kill us all....but that that is of limited concern to me right now, because , as they say at the link above...

It Gets Worse.
The Oceanography department was sympathetic and I'm (mercifully) not loosing any of the courses I've taken the last few years. However, I do need to get this prerequisite out of the way.
This is an Evil University Bureaucrat thing not a College of Oceanography thing.
With next semester free of anything but Japanese and freshman chemistry, I decided to look into a double major, rather than a major and a minor. I've almost completed my minor, so if my graduation plans for spring are fuxxored, I figured I could at least look into making my Asian studies minor a full major. It seemed doable by filling out the vast empty spaces in my schedule over the fall and spring. So I sat down with the head of the Asian studies department and we went over my transcript...and that's when it got worse....

Art via

You see chillllren....when I first went to ODU in 1989, I tested out of several classes. I got a 5 on the history AP test for instance. I also transferred in with about 25 credits from two semesters at a community college, because... you see...I am a cheap rat bastard.

Going over my transcript the Department Head began going over my Gen Ed courses. She pointed out that the courses that transferred were accepted in lieu of classes that don't exist any more. For example a community college class might be taken in place of History 117....'cept there is no Hist117 anymore and since the community college classes have been renamed too there's no real way to determine transferability. The Department head knew I had taken a lot of developmental courses and ought to be covered for most of them except perhaps a few new requirements.  She was was horrified at what the regulations said, so she sent me to see the adviser to the college of arts and letters and their head exploded. So they called in one of the grand Pooh-Bahs of the College of Arts and letters...and I ambled back to the history dept to get a course by course assessment of the history classes I CLEPd. There was much sympathy...but the changes and new rules are pretty heinous.

Not everything was lost, but the college won't recognize the AP credits nor several of the Gen Ed courses from the community college.

Preliminary tally..out of 120 credits needed I now have fer sure ( in theory) a mere 50...

Son of a biscuit eater...

On the upside...
*I'll soon have 56 (I'm taking summer classes). I have another 4 that will be an "A" or a "B" as I'm waiting on a grade from a capstone (!!) class I took last semester. That class was administered by the aforementioned department head who got called out of country before she finished grades.this will bring me to at least 60.

*A few of the "lost classes" may actually be counted in spite of the nasty paper pushing bureaucrats in the old administration building. For instance, I have an "A" in an Asian military history class that the school hasn't offered in 15 years and is not on the class list at all....but the head of the Department insists it ought to count.
*Aside from Japanese, next semester is going to be relatively easy as it will be full of 100 level classes....assuming I can get into those at this late date.
*As stupid and infuriating and un necessary as this is, it is one of those things that could have really bitten me on the ass as I prepared to graduate with a job lined up. If so it would have pushed my graduation back at the worst possible time, as it would have caused me to break a contract.

*While this is the latest of a series of gut punches and sets back my plans more than any of the 9 times I've had to drop out...though far less than those incidents have in aggregate. It is galling, infuriating and expensive, but it is not insurmountable. If I take full loads I'll be able to graduate in 4 semesters
(very unrealistically 3 as 20 credits x 3semesters =60 but 20 is a self destructive hell of a load)

***That means graduating next December is theoretically doable.
*Unlike 10 percent of the US population I have a job.

The last little while I've thought long and hard about this. This has frankly knocked the wind out of my sails and me on my back.
I've thought about all the setbacks, and the lack of wisdom in throwing good money after bad.
If I'd just dropped out 15 years ago and gone driving full time at UPS, I'd be 5 years from retirement and in the catbird seat financially.

But I had a goal and pursued it like a retarded pitt bull with an Ahab complex.

Now I'm 39 and for the last few weeks I've been looking at the rickety trailer and sparse bank account that are the current results of this quixotic series of decisions. I have little hope of getting a return on my investment in comparison to what I would have made had I simply saved the tens of thousands of dollars I have sunk into this ever in this degree....let alone tripled my income by going driving. There is something to be said for not throwing good money after bad and not repeating mistakes...

However, 14-16 months and ~12 thousand dollars are a pittance compared to what I've wasted. To be that close and have nothing to show for it seems foolish. And yes I realize that this sounds like a prospector going farther into the desert because he KNOWS there is gold there..I've mulled this over for a while.
In spite of everything, my debt is near nil, so I'll have one added bonus to getting a degree....unlike most Of my schoolmates I'll have a degree, but no $40,000-$70,000 debt to go with it.
I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I've come this far, and I'll be damned if I'm going to add "College Dropout" to my repertoire of fail..... I'm not on the last quarter anymore, but I'm at least halfway there, probably a bit more, I'm not going to give up now... I'm going to get the degree.

But Good Lord this was a gut punch.

Putting my self inflicted problems into stark perspective, Mom goes under the knife next Wednesday.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 07:47 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 1315 words, total size 9 kb.

1 I had a similar thing happen to me, I transferred into a college with a mix of AP credits, courses taken at another university, courses taken at a community college, and some military training that counted as course credits.  I then worked on a BS in computer science while doing various part time jobs, in my 'junior' and 'senior' years I was doing actual software development at a startup tech firm and learning far more there than in classes (of course).

It all ended when I was faced with a pretty much terminal scheduling conflict, I had two 400 level courses that between them blocked every other course I needed, they were only available at the same time, and that time was right in the middle of the work day.  While I was trying to figure out a way to get those courses and not lose my job, my pre-graduation advisor review turned up all sorts of problems with the credits I'd transferred in with, to the point that I went from needing about 18 units to graduating, to more like 70.  For me, it was then a no-brainer that I stick with the job.

I'm sure that was the right choice at the time, but now I'm one of those 10% of the people that doesn't have a job, and it's amazing how many of the jobs that are at a similar level to what I've been doing for the last five years want tens years of software development experience AND a BS in computer science, no substitutes accepted, and oh by the way your competitors mostly have masters degrees.  It's to the point that while it's pretty much inconcievable that I'll learn much of any use (at least as far as programming, some of the gen ed stuff might be fun), I'm almost going to have to go back to school to get my degree, and of course since I'm in a different state and it's been over nine years, I imagine very little is going to transfer this time.

Posted by: David at Tue Jun 30 02:48:58 2009 (n/RK7)

2 To continue the wall of text, in your place I'd probably suck it up and finish things off.  I've certainly had moments where I wished I'd managed to finish off my degree, just to have that item checked off on my personal "things I've done" list.  And of course in a job market like we have now (and probably will have for another two years), every competitive advantage you can get helps.

More and more recent studies are coming to the conclusion that a higher ed degree doesn't pay off in terms of time and money, but those studies are now going to be out of date as the market toughens, and of course you've already made most of the investment in both terms so the balance should be swinging in favor of completing it.  But I'd certainly look at taking your forced extra time to pick the most useful courses you can, both in terms of what they will teach you personally, and what will look good on an eventual resume.

Posted by: David at Tue Jun 30 02:55:40 2009 (n/RK7)

3 This is terrible news. I can't tell you how sorry I am.

Posted by: Colleen at Tue Jun 30 21:19:24 2009 (+PoXK)

4 I almost recommend going in again and bleeding all over their rug.  My college career stretched from 1971 to 1996 and included three different universities but, by enlisting the support of my departmental chairman and having thorough documentation of everything, managed to persuade the deities at central records to accept absolutely everything and permit me to graduate with a EE.  It definitely helped that the final chapter occured at a private college--don't think a public university would have been nearly so willing to give ground on transfer credits.  Still, if you can get enough big guns on your side, I think it is worth the effort.  BTW, the company I work for sold off their Electronic Division six months after I got my degrees--so I've never actually worked as a EE at all.  But still, having an engineering degree in an engineering company has opened many doors previously closed.  It was worth the trouble.  Keep at it!

Posted by: go-daigo at Tue Jun 30 21:51:33 2009 (IQN7J)

5 so there's now room for a weekly game in your schedule, right ?

Posted by: ELD at Fri Jul 3 13:44:01 2009 (EMDFf)

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