The One Break

Sometimes I wonder how much of success in life boils down to luck. Dad always told me that no matter how skilled you are, you need at least one break in life in order to make it. I think he was right. In a few short months, I’ll be striking out on my own trying to find a job. I hope my break comes sometime within this period. If somebody will take a chance on me and believe in my skills, I know I can make a name for myself.

I hope all the favors and help I have provided to others over the years comes back to me soon. Honestly, I don’t help others with the expectation of getting something in return, but I do believe there is something to kharma. I’m pretty sure I’ll get my break, but I just hope it comes sooner than later. Dad didn’t get his until he was a little older, and as a consequence, he had to work much harder. Only time will tell whether my hard work up to this point will pay off.

Legal Music Downloads

I have tried out iTunes & Napster over the last couple days. Each service lets you pay $0.99 for a song or $10 for an entire album. Once you have paid, you download your tracks. You can then burn the songs to a CD if you like. Considering how much flack the RIAA has given to those who download illegaly, this isn’t such a bad system. Besides, when is the last time you bought a CD where you liked every song on it? Most of the time, I concentrate on two, maybe three tracks. Instead of paying $3 for a single at Wal-Mart, now I can download the sucker at my lesuire for about a buck.

I like Napster better because you don’t have to put in your credit card info until you actually make a purchase. iTunes requires you to give credit card information up front before you can even get an account through them. I felt that this was too invasive. The interface for Napster is pretty quick and its easy to find groups, albums, or individual tracks. And the speed and quality of purchased tracks really is better than the illegal downloads we all know and love.

Blast from the Past

I ran across a box of old floppy disks last night and inside I found a piece of my history that I’d soon like to forget. I found two floppies that contained my earliest web pages. Apparently, giving someone a little knowledge of HTML is a very dangerous thing to do. I knew nothing of good, clean design. These sites are hideous. People were nice to me about them and would say stuff like, “Wow! That looks really good.” I can’t believe they were so nice. Anyway I decided to upload these old pages to show the world how far I have come artistically. Remember, these are to be viewed for nostalgia only.

  • First webpage ever – I put this up sometime around March 1998, shortly after I got the Internet. Notice the star background. This was all the rage back in the day.
  • Leslie County High School in 1998- This was my attempt at the LCHS homepage. I took it over in August of 1998. Notice the wierd buttons that change colors. I think that is JavaScript gone bad.
  • Leslie County High School in 1999-2000 – I revised the LCHS homepage over the summer of ’99 and this was the result. The eagle background is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. I was so proud of it. Therm was involved with much of this. I should smack him for allowing me to create such a monstrosity. He and I spent most of the snow days during that time period concocting this.
  • Trav’s HTML Workshop of early 2000 – This is a “tutorial” I wrote for an HTML/Frontpage workshop I did. After looking at this, I wonder why the poor teachers didn’t run from the room. Now I understand why I never recieved the $50 I was supposed to get for “teaching.”
  • Leslie County Bass Anglers – I did this in February of 2000 for a local fishing league. This page is passable, if not the most plain thing I ever did. Apparently, I had started reading some design manuals or something.

ZIP Drive

I hate this ZIP drive. I bought it in early 1998 just after I got my first computer. (I sold my trampoline for $250 in order to afford it.) Back then, 100 Megabytes on one disk was an amazing feat. To give you some perspective, my entire hard disk at the time was only 500 Megabytes. To top it off, the ZIP drive was fast, at least in comparison to the old floppy drive. All of my Internet downloads were saved to the ZIP drive so as to save my precious hard disk space.

Fast forward about 6 years. 100MB is negligible compared to my massive 220,000 Megabytes of hard disk space. And I have been able to write an entire CD, all 700MB worth, in about 5 minutes for a long time now. Yesterday, I was saving 89MB of Photoshop documents. It took about 9 minutes! Why can’t the art lab have CD-RW drives? ZIP drives are a thing of the past! They served us very well, but the time has come to move on.

Chicago

I got back from my excursion to Chicago on Sunday night. I didn’t want to come back. Because of a time shortage, let me just say now that Chicago is a great city. I had so much fun! When I get caught up and things calm down a little, I’ll post the pics I took and give you a rundown of all the neat things I did and saw.

Packing

Have you ever noticed that no two people pack the same way? I have a chaotic style: I meander around the room doing a visual scan and grabbig stuff I need to take with me and throw it in the suitcase shortly after I grasp it. Surprisingly, I usually don’t forget anything important. Mom, on the other hand, lays everything out before it gets near a suitcase. After she has scanned her laid out little pile to ensure that everything is there, she proceeds to place everything one item at a time into the container she has alloted for a certain purpose. Her method is obviously neater but it bugs me because packing is not a serious ordeal. To her, it’s like some quest for nirvana. For me, it is a prelude to the trip, which is the whole reason you pack to begin with.

Unlike Mom, I don’t operate under the illusion that clothes can be packed to avoid wrinkles. You can minimize wrinkling, but total avoidance is impossible. I don’t know why Mom gets so freaked out if she has to use an iron in the motel. It’s no big deal. As a matter of fact, it really doesn’t matter if your clothes are a little wrinkled. After about 20 minutes of body heat, they tend to unwrinkle anyway. Ce la vive!

Steve Jobs and the NExT Big Thing

I started reading a book today called Steve Jobs & the NExT Big Thing. The book chronicles Steve Jobs’ vain attempt to break away from his beloved Apple Computer to found NExT Computer. For those who may not know, Steve Jobs has had a very motley career in business. He co-founded Apple Computer in the late 70s with his college friend Steve Wozniak. Apple shortly became the fastest growing US company in history. Jobs’ moody and unpredictable nature lead to his ousting from Apple in 1986. Jobs decided he would go off and found NExT, a company with the goal of making a computer that everyone would want. (While at Apple, his goal was exactly the same.) NExT was given venture capital in excess of $250 million, despite the fact that it never achieved quarterly profit in a single quarter. Jobs came away smelling like a rose because he had bought Pixar, the company that hit the big time with 1995’s hit Toy Story. After the success of Toy Story, Jobs ended up making more money than he ever. In 1997, Jobs returned as the prodigal son to floundering Apple, where he has been the CEO ever since. (Apple has made quite the turnaround under his authority.)

I have read many accounts of Jobs but the NExT chapter of his life was usually just skimmed over. NeXT used its nearly endless capital to create some of the most innovative software to date. All modern OSs share loads of features that were available on NeXTSTEP (NeXT’s OS) over 15 years ago. The book should give me an idea why NeXT never actually got it together. (NeXT’s computers were highly overpriced, but a competent business team should have been able to make it work somehow.)

Real University Behavior

Being at a university, you expect that curiousity is something to be desired by everyone–including students and faculty. For the most part, I have found it true. However, in several of my computer classes, I have been chastized for deliberately trying to break a program or get the operating system to crash while I was writing programs. “Why would you want to do that, Trav?” you may ask. The answer is simple: If I know the exact thing that will cause an OS to die, I can take special precautions to safeguard against that cause and make sure my programs never destroy the machine of an end-user.

Yesterday in my database class, we were doing some simple queries that I learned how to do two years ago. Since I already knew how to do it, I was able to finish the exercises in about 2 minutes. When I got done, I started poking around in the help file for the database and finding “keywords,” which are things that cause something to happen in the database. When I would find one, I would type it in and see what happens. The professor suddenly appears over my shoulder. He surveyed my screen and saw that I was messing with parameters and such. Then he starts telling me all this other stuff I can do. He actually shows me how to change stuff that can kill the database if I don’t use it correctly, which is to imply that he trusts me enough to know I’ll keep the values within the boundries! Talk about fostering curiousity!

It’s Stability Charlie Brown

The one constant throughout the many years of my life has been the Charlie Brown specials. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was on last night. I hadn’t seen it in about 5 or 6 years. I guess the urgency to watch wears off as you get older. While I sat there watching, I felt very calm and happy inside. In all fairness, yesterday I managed to whack all my immediate due dates square in the head. But I don’t think I would have been as happy without Snoopy and gang.

I have always felt like Charlie Brown in many ways. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to kick the football (both figuratively and litterally). Also like Chuck, women remain a mystery to me. If only I were bald…

The passing of Charles Shultz in 2000 was very depressing to me because I admired his little cartoon about a group of kids and a wierd beagle so much. The concept was so simple, yet the daily trials of young life that he was able to capture are timeless. Shultz really loved his work, so I guess it was fitting that he died the day the last Peanuts was published. I can honestly say that I do not want to die slumped over my keyboard. I guess you can say that’s the difference between liking what you do and loving it.

Time Changes Suck

I have never liked daylight savings time. It is neat that it intended to give us more sunlight, but my circadian rythm has never gotten along with shifting the time off by an hour. I am the sort of person who looks at a clock whether I have something urgent to do or not. I almost always wake up two times a night and look at the clock. Since my life, right down to the sleeping habits, are so attatched to the notion of time and a clock, daylight savings time can be considered some sort of cruel torture. Most people can adjust in about three days. Not me. I’ll be out of sorts for three weeks. Ten days until Chicago!