Learning Java in the Big Apple
I've been in New York City since Sunday afternoon and will be here until Friday afternoon. A week's worth of java class (Object Oriented Programming using Visual Age for Java) to be exact.

I selected New York (two of my collegues are in Chicago right now taking the same course) because my oldest offspring dwells here in the midst of the concrete canyons... well, actually he lives in Brooklyn but he works in Manhatten. I was able to get together with him and his girlfriend Monday night and expect to visit with them again tomorrow night. It has been delightful to get a chance to visit with them and I have been wanting to take this course for quite some time now... but... I am exhausted, suffering from a head cold. Nancy was sick heading into this past weekend, was unable to sleep most of Thanksgiving night due to a bad sore thoat, etc. I had been hoping to avoid catching it from her, but no such luck, and was suffering from a bad sore throat on my train ride down here. Today I kept coughing and sneezing all during class; hope I'm not spreading germs throughout the city.

I have a good instructor for the class, for which I am grateful because the course material itself is somewhat lacking. Partly it is the wrong class for me. There is an equvalent course -- Object Oriented Programing using Java -- which would be better for me... sigh The benefits of 20/20 hindsight. I had avoided that choice (along with my co-workers) because the description indicated that it was for people with C programming experience. As it turns out, the course I am taking is identical except that the Visual Age for Java IDE is overlaid on the other course... which is why I am not happy with the course materials: the student exercises are the very same, except done using Visual Age (without being adapted in any significant way and without any supporting material dealing with navigation through the IDE) and, moreover, the adaption seems to have been done in one quick pass, without any proofing or edit checking or QA of any kind. There are typographical errors in every exercise and some mangled sentences that make no sense at all. I'm not claiming that the course materials that I develop are without flaw, but this material is really poorly done. Even the main set of course materials, although not nearly as flawed as the exercise guide, contains some poorly worded and even downright misleading statements. Fortunately, our instructor, although relatively young (at least from my aged viewpoint), has considerable subject matter expertise and has been doing a good job.

At one point I commented that I wished that this were the non-Visual Age course because (ignoring the poorly written exercise guide) I would be more comfortable just writing out the java code in Notepad (or some similar simple text editor) rather than building it in tiny disconnected pieces in Visual Age. She replied that that would be like typing out your own html. Uh, yeah, of course, I told her, I always code my html manually. Of course if you began programming by punching holes in 5081 cards and had gone through a bachelor's degree and many years of grad school using a manual typewriter for term papers, then using a full screen text editor was like heaven. (Yeah, I'm writing this in WordPad on my laptop here in my hotel room.)

I'm looking forward to Friday afternoon when I can catch a train back home. A few people wondered at my taking a train to New York rather than flying. The last time I came to New York by train I got the same reaction. In fact, when I tried to explain and began by using the pharase "all the way to Warwick" which caused a burst of laughter and the accusation that I had become a Rhode Islander. (In the realm of local humor, a native Rhode Islander is someone who feels he has to pack a lunch for any trip over twenty miles.) However, taking the train strikes me as being the obvious choice. I can travel five miles or so to an AmTrak station or drive about twenty-five miles to the airport. You have to park at the airport, then wait in line at the airline checkin counter -- Did-you-pack-your-bags-yourself, have-they-been-in-your-possession-at-all-times, has-anyone-given-you-a-package-to-carry -- (Yeah, some guy with a thick middle-Eastern accent asked me to carry this box on the plane for him so I said "Sure, no problem....") and then through the xray machines and then get in line again at the gate to check in there and then sit around and wait and wait and then get called to board and finally get on the plane and taxi out to a runway and wait and then takeoff and learn about what to do in the case of loss of cabin pressure and how to use my seat as a flotation device should we happen to ditch in the middle of Long Island Sound and eat my little bag of peanuts or pretzels and drink my coke and land at JFK and taxi around for miles and finally get to a gate and disembark and go to the luggage carousel and wait for my suitcase and now here I am out on Long Island and all I have to do is hike about eleven miles through the terminal to find a taxi stand and take a pleasant cab ride into Manhatten to my hotel. Hmmmm, or I could go to the train station, get on the train, read for four hours, arrive at Penn Station, go up to ground level and take a taxi to my hotel. Guess which means of transportation has less hassle and aggravation... and may actually take the same or even less time? Of course Amtrak seems to go out of its way to keep rail travel from being too attractive. I had thought that the line is electrified now but apparently not... at least the train still stops in New Haven forever. Maybe they still need to change engines there? But to take so long to do it? They kept announcing on the train's PA system that it would be leaving New Haven promptly at 5:35 and anyone stepping out of the train for "fresh air" (i.e., to grab a smoke?) had better stay very close to the train because it was definitely going to be leaving at 5:35 sharp, absolutely... and, in actual fact, it really did manage to leave only a couple minutes past 5:50...

Okay, think I'm going to close this file, read for a little while, then get some sleep....

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