The concept of “hell” is many different things to many different people. To some, it is a physical place where people rot and burn forever, whether justified or not. For others, it might be a child dying, or a foot aching forever, or being physically separated from a loved one and never being able to see them again.

Hell can also be the computer lab, locked in with an aging and decrepit teacher convinced that the absolute kindergarten basics of a computer- logging in, how to use the save button, how to type things into a spreadsheet- need to be revisited despite being a high school class.

I signed up for a class plainly named “Computer Applications” thinking I’d learn something. Maybe I’d finally find the motivation to wrap my head around C++ or JavaScript or Ruby or some other language I might need someday. Maybe I’d finally make sense of the mystifying terminal, Windows or one of a trillion Linux distros or whatever system it be on. Maybe I’d learn how to make a mini-server out of an old computer and deploy Nextcloud or whatever self-hosted apps I could possibly find useful.

I really shouldn’t have expected as much. This is a school that thinks Chromebooks are the absolute gold standard of computing and thinks throwing their network behind a captive portal could possibly be a good idea. (I used to go to a much bigger school that had an open network, and while that has the same security issues concerning potential sniffers, everything still turned out okay.)

There are a great many reasons why I only use my own hardware and not the school’s or anybody else’s. I can install whatever the hell I want on my own laptop, I can be reasonably sure that there aren’t any school-mandated spyware programs running in the background (the school network is a completely different story), and, most importantly, I can use whatever operating system I want.

I run Linux Mint on my computer. It’s fast, it’s far easier to update all my software all at once (and doesn’t take two hours just to reboot and apply system updates like Windows does), and I can sleep easy at night knowing that I’m not gonna wake up the next morning and see all my files deleted because the fools at Microsoft decided to use whatever backdoors they’ve cooked into OneDrive and arbitrarily deem me a violator of their Terms of Service.

But this teacher seemingly has a fetish for Microsoft Office, and, even if we have Office installed on our own machines, she forces us like a tyrant to use the spyware-riddled school machines. Never mind that I already have a fully functioning copy of LibreOffice on my own computer and that it can do everything the class teaches and more. Never mind that the spacebar on the computer I’ve been assigned is almost completely broken. If she can’t shut down the entire computer at the push of a button from her lazy seat at her desk, it might as well be a one-way ticket to the… office.

Funny how words work, isn’t it?

I could also rant about how, by only teaching corporate-made products and not the alternatives, this school and thousands others are essentially creating future customers for the companies they’re sucking up to. But others have made this point already, and, knowing my horrid memory, I probably already have as well.

Yes, there’s a network folder that the teacher requires all the work be put into that only resides on the school’s infrastructure, but that’s what we have flash drives and metadata scrubbers for. But, hell, even the network folder doesn’t work most of the time: all but a few of the kids in the class have no goddamn idea what they’re doing, all piling into the folder at the beginning of class to make a subfolder for themselves and rewriting over each other over and over and over again.

Is this what college is going to be like? A bunch of Snapchatting fools who can’t even capitalize the name of their own school and need someone to explain that the “Insert” tab in Excel is for… inserting things? (Who would have guessed?) I know all of this stuff already. I learned how to use PowerPoint in elementary school because that’s all we had at the time, and that’s all I knew.

And guess what? LibreOffice works just the same. And it doesn’t make me feel disgusting inside.

But there’s still the entire trimester, minus one day, left to go.


press rewind

press rewind

No, I’m not dead. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m alive, either. I’ll leave that for you to interpret as you wish.

I haven’t been able to write anything in a week. Writer’s block is hitting me like a sledgehammer, and it doesn’t really help that finals are coming up next week far faster than I can possibly run the mile that I’ll be forced to tomorrow. This is the fourth time this trimester. At which point does it go from “necessary” testing to cruel and unusual punishment?

The stars are falling out of my hands faster than I can catch them. The sand is shooting through the cracks between my fingers. And I certainly don’t have an inkling of what my future is going to look like.

But I’m trudging along. I’m still somewhere in between alive and dead. And that’s what’s supposed to matter in the end, right?