Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Can AutoCAD

In furthering my educational goals of sometime in the future obtaining a Master’s Degree in Architecture, a couple of weeks ago, I started my second year and fourth class at Riverside Community College. Yes, I’m taking it slow. Well, because I have a full-time job, I’m a full-time stay-at-home dad and I have a host of other interests that demand some of my time.

In fact, I’ve got a list of 36 things I’d like to take care of sooner than later, anything from sending some letters, doing yard work and cleaning the bathrooms to selling a few things, washing the dog and hanging up some garage lights that I’ve owned for six years and are still I the box. So, life is full and right now, I’m doing Number 28: download AutoCAD software for my latest class, ENE-30.

CAD stands for Computer-Aided Drafting, which basically makes a drafting table and pencil completely obsolete, as the trick to mastering the program is merely point and click…and there’s no math involved, which is nice for someone who doesn’t really care for that sort of thing.

The class is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 until 9:45pm, but as is typical, I don’t think anyone in class has ever stayed that long before. I’m usually home by 8:30 at the latest, and for the first couple of weeks, the class has been remarkably easy.

The makeup of the students and the feel for the course, attitude of the instructor and the level of complexity in this class is exactly what I thought returning to college would be like. I thought it would be more serious, more difficult and more structured.

My entry-level drafting class I took last year was attended by a mix of kids, mostly slack-jawed teenagers misguided about their future and unsure about their present. Last year, I wrote extensively about the immaturity of those kids and their inexperience with how the school system works (ie diligence and determination, deadlines, etc). With one exception, I was the oldest person in class and enjoyed a higher level of camaraderie with the professor because of that fact. My A was solidified soon after class started.

A similar experience was felt in my second class, an online historical survey of various periods of architecture: I tried to add the class in the previous semester but it was full. A month later, the professor emailed me and asked if I’d still like to add it, as she wanted people in the class that were motivated to succeed, suggesting that I was that right person. Since I was a little apprehensive about taking an online class (back in my day, there was no such thing), I met with her to get some details. We had a nice hour or so chatting about a wide variety of things, partially solidifying my A in that class as well. As an aside, I don’t think I enjoyed the online experience because I seem to do better in a classroom setting. If I want to learn something by myself in my own office by reading a book, I don’t think I need to pay $120 (plus the $90 for the book) to do it; I’ll just start reading one of my own books. I missed the interactive conversations and debates normally found in a real classroom.

My next class, the intro to art class, which you saw many examples of my inability to draw anything with any sort of exemplary skills, was fun. It was the antithesis of what I thought college should be like. We called our instructor by her first name and it was filled with the largest collection of ne'er-do-wells to ever assemble this side of a comic book convention. But everyone was friendly, as it was a class designed around peer evaluation, so we would have discussions about our art and the methods to accomplish each drawing. Before class would start, since I’m wildly punctual to the point of being too early, the instructor and I would chat candidly about the dumbasses in our class…. To top it off, I was three years older than she was! She emailed me at the end of the class: “To avoid any suspence [sic] but as I am sure you already know your grade in my class is an A, one that you definately [sic] earned.” Note the misspellings.

This class, Engineering 30, Introduction to AutoCAD, is just the opposite. Each of us sit at our computers click and clacking away at our drawings while the professor (whom we can call by his first name) does his best to sound like Bill Cosby. There is very few interaction between the students and I talk to nobody.

The first day of class we were all guaranteed to at least get a C grade if we didn’t take any of the tests and didn’t turn in any of the assignments. This was a confusing concept until he explained that there are some people just taking the course so they can do better at their jobs, or as he said, so they don’t feel like they’re “getting jerked around” by their coworkers who know AutoCAD.

The first day was a madhouse. I got there early, as usual… too early as it turns out. My big hang up when starting a new class is finding a good place to sit, and then keeping it. I hate having someone plant himself at my desk on the second day of class if that’s where I’ve nested. There are 32 computers in the classroom, but there ended up being around 55 people in the class, around 15 of them wanted to add… and the professor added them all! However, he made it clear that they were second-class citizens in his class. Those that registered first had all of the rights to everything, desks, computers, handouts and chairs. The add-ons, as he referred to them, had to wait to see if anything was left over. He said that they could bring in their own computer… and chair… and desk to do the work. To make it nice for me, so I don’t have to go early to make sure I get my “regular” seat, we assigned computers. However, if I decide not to show up, the second-class citizen add-ons can’t take my seat for an hour after class starts.

So far, he’s talked us through the first 10 drawings, which were pretty easy, as I consider myself fairly computer literate. With the help of a couple of people, a book and a lot of messing around, I taught myself how to use Quark, Excel and Photoshop to a fairly competent level, so I figured AutoCAD 2009 would be no different. And it isn’t. If you can’t figure out how to do something, just press F1 (Help) and it will tell you. The beauty of the program is that there are several ways to do any one thing. If you want to draw a circle, there are about 10 ways to do it depending on what you have to start with.

Today, Number 28 on my list of things to do is supposed to save me some time, so I don’t have to spend so much of it in class. If I can download a free version of AutoCAD 2009 from the manufacturer (they offer it for a year), I can do all of my drawings at home and I won’t have to spend it in the lab. Win-Win.

So far, I’ve tried three times to successfully download and install this software and it hasn’t worked each time. It takes about two hours to download it to my computer and another half-hour to initialize it (when it tells me it can’t for whatever reason), so I’m getting a little frustrated. I’d just go out and buy it if it weren’t so bloody expensive. With a student discount, I can get it for around $2K… not really in the budget.

So, I’m stuck here, trying to download it from the site!

Meanwhile, I have to go to class and do it the hard way, each day learning something new.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Saddest Thing Ever

I came home from class today to find this sad little note.

Natalie's betta fish had died several weeks ago, but Kara said Natalie was thinking about her this morning, which inspired her tribute.

It says: "With out you i'm a fish out of water Yor the only fish for me. You changed my life for a long time. my life jist is int the same."

What a sweet little girl.

web site tracking
Sierra Trading Post