Programming and fun with Minecraft – Unemployed Education and depression

Well, I suppose it is admission time.  I am unemployed.  It is a long sob story.  I left one employer and went to another.  Found the employer I went to didn’t really offer what I needed and I left them and decided to take some time off and get my PMP and a Microsoft Certification – in Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

Employers only see the gap in employment.  Funny, when I was a member of team searching for people to employ I didn’t even think about that.  It was more about what they had done, their personality, and if I thought they would be a good fit and knowledge level for the job.  One of the three candidates I participated in hiring was unemployed at the time.  He ended up being tied for best with another one of the people we hired.  Someone with a strong work history and presently employed turned out to be toxic to the team and caused significant problems.

Anyway, that doesn’t have much to do with Minecraft or programming.  I just thought I would do a little public disclosure.

I try to keep active and learning; however, I am experiencing depression and it is hard to find things that are educational that keep my interest.  I have one recruiter that is working closely with me and he said people are looking for experts not people who have been educated in subject x, y or z.  So, my motivation for continuing education as a source of gaining employment has been pretty much harpooned.

I have 4 children and even with my spouse there is plenty to do at home.  Still, we need income even though I have been completely demoralized by the job search.  Debt builds up.  I’m taking medication for my mental health for the first time in my life.  I really can’t tell if it is working.  Medication for mental health and depression feels like going to the eye doctor.  Which one of these two are better?  What the hell they both look pretty good.

At least a by-product of taking the medicine for depression is weight loss.  While I am sure that can only account for some of my weight loss – I have lost approximately 50 pounds.  I went from 210 to 215 to 160 to 165.  I’m 5’9″ so I’m in the normal body weight region for the first time in a long time.  My blood pressure is back in the normal range.  It is funny, you think it would be worse with the unemployment – but it is a different kind of stress than working.  Working is high stress and definitely takes a toll on both mind and body.

So, after 440 words or so – to my main subject.

I need to do something that is both creative, keeps my skills up to date and used, and keeps my interest.  My kids all love Minecraft.  They want to install Mods and all sorts of stuff like that.  Half the time they download crap that tries to destroy their computers.

I enjoy playing Minecraft as well.  Not as much as they do.  They have shown me some awesome things.  Online Minecraft servers with wildly modified games – games within the game.

I thought to myself that it would be nice to do something that works for me and maybe I can make something for my kids.  Idly, in the background is the idea that maybe I could turn it into something that can make money and save my life – but that might be too much to hope for.

Naturally, I took to Amazon and did some searching for a decent book to learn modding Minecraft.  I know, there are lots of knowledge resources online; however, for taking something up from the ground up I’m a bit of a traditionalist and like to have a book.  A good book that has been reviewed (and good reviews) and solid content.

Sometimes this all goes wrong and I buy a book and everything looks great and then it turns out to be a piece of garbage.  When I was working I did a lot of work with SAP and I bought loads of books from SAP Press.  It is a crap shoot with SAP Press if the book is useful, (expensive) marketing fluff, or tells you stuff but no where close to what you need to actually do stuff.  That last group is particularly annoying.

I am presently 1/3 of the way through “Minecraft Modding with Forge: A Family-Friendly Guide to Building Fun Mods in Java” by Arun Gupta and Aditya Gupta.  This book belongs in the section “book is useful”!  I have many years programming in Java, but it has also been many years since I have written code in Java.  I’m a native T-SQL coder and VB.NET that enjoys the occasional foray in to R programming language.

I have to say all programming books should be written the way this one is written.  It is clear.  Every line of code is explained – even if that line or a very similar one has appeared before in the code.  Repetition is one of the keys to learning.  The entire code is in the book (granted these are small programs/mods).  The instructions for setting up the environment were clear and worked.  The code works.

Let me repeat that.  The code works!  When the code doesn’t work it is because I bitched it up.  You may not have any idea how important this is.  You can have confidence in a book.  It starts at 100% when you start to read it.  Then you read the text and if it isn’t clear the confidence starts to erode.  That confidence level can drop down from 100% to near 0% if the code is wrong.  Then not only do you have to check that your code matches the book (or the books online source files), but you have to question if the code in the book is correct.  After a few book code errors you begin to question every line of code.  As confidence level in the book declines, frustration level increases – exponentially (or so it seems).

Then depending on how important it is that you learn the topic – you either get frustrated and stop the process or doggedly ram your head against a wall until the right code comes out of your head.  I promise you, it can be satisfying when you bang your head against a wall until the right lines of code comes out – but it is not beneficial nor is it an efficient way to learn.  Pages can fly by when the code is correct.  It can take hours to get through a single sample when the code is wrong.  At some point with enough problems in the code and successfully figuring out the problems you start to think you are smarter or more knowledgeable than the author of the book.  Then you have a real problem.  You just paid hard-earned money (up to $100 per book) on a book that has been useless and you can’t return this piece of garbage.

I have found the book “Minecraft Modding with Forge: A Family-Friendly Guide to Building Fun Mods in Java”  to be enjoyable, it has increased my interest in Java, and has given me ideas of what can be done with Minecraft.

I won’t disclose my ideas as that is the part where the gnomes hope to make money.  I can only say that if you have a bit of time, want to learn a bit of programming, and have kids or are a kid that likes Minecraft – this book is something you *need* to get.

In fact, in battling depression the successes in learning anything (but especially something fun) helps.  I won’t over-emphasize it though.  I’m still jobless and I’m still depressed.  Just never underestimate the positive feelings of taking nothing and making it do something.

Just as a side note – as I said previously, it has been years since I coded in Java.  The difference between coding in EditPlus and using Eclipse were only minor then.  Eclipse was a slow, not very helpful IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and not worth the time of installing and waiting for it to start.  Eclipse has evolved greatly since then.  I would not consider using EditPlus or any regular text editor for creating mods for Minecraft given the help that Eclipse gives in the development process.  Eclipse is closing in and I think catching up to Micosoft’s Visual Studio IDE in terms of helping the programmer get well written working code created quickly.

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