Disclaimers:  Rich isn't mine; most of the others mentioned are.  Takes place post-Sirocco, but before Damien and Stormy's wedding, when Rich is still studying with Damien and Ish in Charleston and Farrell's still healing.  Any mistakes, of course, are mine.
Rated:  PG, for some profanity.

Rich Ryan's journal, June 1998

That does it.  I'm damn well getting an education, whether I bother with a school or not.

I'm not stupid.  I know I'm not stupid.  I can't be, not if I managed to follow the bulk of that discussion, but damn it.... I'd better back up.

Ish spent most of the last fourteen years working in the Western Sahara with some kind of guerilla force.  Polisarios, he says, and SADR, and then he just laughs and says not to worry, I'd have had fun, too.  Ish has some damned odd ideas of 'fun,' I've noticed.  But he's been gone more than not for the last several years.  Which means computers have changed a lot.

They had PCs in 1984, but nothing anyone would bother to buy now.  Not from what I remember and what Damien says.  They weren't using punch card programs, but 64 KB used to be a lot of memory.  Man.  Things change!  But Ish hasn't been here to track the changes, so Damien decided to bring him up to speed.

Of course, it was Damien.  Bringing Ish up to speed started with a discussion on Ada Byron, Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine.  Whatever and whoever all of them were.  I'm hitting the 'Net next, and Encarta.  I'd never heard of them.  Ish had.  And Any-ack (I know that's not spelled right.  History of computers, maybe?) and Alan Turing and Enigma (which I thought was a sort of trance band), and transistors and capacitors (which I do know about, at least).  Then he started talking binary, and logic structures, and 'garbage in, garbage out,' which struck me as obvious....

Tomorrow, he starts in on the serious 'what the hardware is and how it works.'  That'll get interesting.  And from there it really gets out of hand, I think.  I've managed to mostly follow the discussion, too, which I'm really proud of.  Damien doesn't believe in talking down, and Ish just nods or makes him re-explain, or yells at him if he won't explain it in something approaching English.  But I've been keeping up while keeping my mouth shut.

Me.  Keeping my mouth shut.  Part of my new plan for how to get an education, but damn it's hard sometimes.  I'm more likely to sound off and cut up than ask useful things, though.  Old habits of being the smartass and the class clown die hard, I guess.

Most of my problem is that I know they're way older than I am, but damn, they make me feel stupid.  It's uneducated, not stupid, but man... I'll be glad when I at least take my GED next month.  If Tessa hadn't died, I'd have taken it that fall but I wasn't up to the math sections yet, and then I went to Europe and did a lot of stuff, but none of it really involved studying English and math and American history and basic science.  So, I've been doing night courses here, too, and Damien's been helping me with the math and Stormy's been working on the history with me.  Ish, of all people, really gets science and can explain it.  He loves chemistry and the experiments for physics.  Tess used to insist on proper English so that she wouldn't get into bad habits, so I'm all right there.  Farrell loves poetry (who knew?) and has been teaching me about symbolism and rhyme structure and themes and such, so I think I'm fine there.

Damn it, though.  I've got this horrible feeling that it's not just the 'undereducated.'  Or that it doesn't stop there, anyway.  This whole education thing is kind of fun.  (I'm still staring at that and thinking, 'Did I just type that ? And mean it?'  Man, if someone had told me five years ago that I'd want an education....)

When Aidan was handing me books to read, and then actually talking to me about them -- what did I think, what did I like, what did I not like, what about this point of view, or that opinion, and did I like the way it was laid out, or did it not make sense -- she'd talk to me, and then hand me something else that related to the last book.  It might be completely opposite of what I'd just read, or downright hostile to it, too.  She might tell me we were almost certainly going to argue about something in it... but she thought it was fun.  Hell.  She made it fun.

So do Damien and Ish.  They like reading things and arguing about them.  I'm not always sure what they actually think, because they're perfectly willing to play Devil's advocate.  (And why does the Devil need an advocate?  Aren't there plenty of lawyers in hell?)  Farrell has this lazy, laid-back way of sticking in his own opinions, whether they agree or not.  Sounds like him not arguing with Damien, actually, which is a complete blast to listen to.  Damien blowing up like Mt. St. Helen's and Farrell just sitting there watching and waiting to get his own side of things in, with Ish trying to stir up both sides.

They've been really good to me, all of them.  I mean, I think I'm going to do fine on my GED tests.  Farrell went and got me one of the study books when I was worried, and took me back to his apartment (away from the twin terrors, as he put it, and he didn't mean Alex and Xan, either).  He said if I was that worried, I might as well start working on the fear.  Ran me through the sample test sections, and even timed them.  Then he checked them, and I'd passed.  Man, that was a relief.

Then he went back over every one I'd missed and worked with me to see why I'd missed it.  I don't get it.  He's not any line-kin of mine, even if he is Ish and Damien's best friend, but... he acts more like a spare brother, so any cousin of theirs, I guess?  Hell.  I don't know.

What I know is that if school had been this interesting before, I'd have stuck around.  Be glad when I've finished this GED, though.  Studying for the GED, and learning bastard sword and knife, and finance, and programming, when I'm not out convincing former customers that they still need Damien's skill at cleaning up code... I don't know if I'm coming or going some days.  I'm doing pretty well, overall, except I've got a list of books I want to borrow next, and no time to read them.

Man.  My last few foster parents wouldn't believe me if they heard that.

Yeah, well, that'd be part of why I ran away.  No faith.

Fuck 'em.  I'm exactly where I need to be.

~~~ finis ~~~

Comments, Commentary, & Miscellanea:

ENIAC -- Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, built in 1945 and considered the first successful general digital computer.  It also weighed more than 30 tons and contained more than 18,000 vacuum tubes.

GED -- General Educational Development.  In the US, if you don't graduate from high school, you can come back and take the GED test to receive the equivalent of a high school diploma.  Essentially, it's proof you've successfully completed secondary education.

Somehow, I thought I'd posted this six years ago.  Apparently I hadn't.  I hope you enjoyed!

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