Anal Retentive Wallpaper

I like to keep my desktop neat. Everything has it’s place. This summer, I took this concept to a new level and designed an anal retentive wallpaper. It’s a great piece of engineering. It has places for files, folders, system stuff, games, and random junk that doesn’t fit any catagory. Why am I deciding to share this now? Because I ran upon it today and decided to use it again for awhile. It really is nice to keep everything organized. If you want your very own copy of this gorgeous background, click on the small image to the right to get the full size image. Once it loads, right click and “Set as Desktop Background.” Happy organizing!

Elevator Slugs

I am increasingly disgusted by the fat and lazy who are too sorry to take the stairs in the Combs Building. The area in front of the elevator is so clogged between class changes that it is nearly impossible to navigate past it. If you’re lazy enough to take the elevator, at least stand back out of the way of those of us who are mobile (or at least attempt to be).

If you legitimately have a problem that prevents you from using the stairs, taking the elevator is an acceptable thing to do. If, however, you simply lack the wherewithall to climb two flights of stairs to the 2nd floor, you need somebody to shake you! The media wants to blame McDonald’s for the obesity that is prevalent in this nation. I blame the people who always have to use the elevator.

Anticipation

I’ve be hunting fervently trying to find a teaching job for the fall but to no avail. The way it looks, I’ll have to substitute my way through the MaT program. That’s ok by me, but I’ll be living poor for awhile longer. I don’t require a lot of money, but I really don’t want to live with my parents anymore. They’re great and all, but when you’re 22, you don’t want to answer to them everytime you come in late or make too much noise running a late-night computer experiment. (And yes, I will still run late-night computer experiments even though computers won’t be my primary profession. I love them, remember!)

I really like being young. The future is still really far ahead of me and I haven’t made any decisions yet (marriage, children, etc.) that limit my ability to go where I can be happiest. The next couple years will be uncertain, which is something I normally don’t like. At the moment, however, I don’t think I mind what’s going on. Let somebody else worry about what to do with me for awhile. I am a sentient being who reasonably capable of finding some form of income. Besides, when is the last time somebody starved to death in America who was willing to go find some food! As far as my thoughts on my future, I’ll let Einstein sum it up for me: “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”

Ice & Snow

The weather here the last two days has been so incredibly odd. Sunday evening, we were greeted with about half an inch of ice. Looking outside at the crystaline water was incredibly deceptive. The ground looked as though it had maybe a dusting of snow on it. When I went to my 10:20 am class yesterday, I soon discovered why everybody had been asking me if we had class. The streets and sidewalks were covered with ice, so I gimped my way onto the grass whenever possible to avoid busting my tail. By noon, though, the ice was almost completely gone. It had went from 25 degrees to about 65 in about 5 hours!

This morning, I woke up and looked outside. The sky was the craziest shade of orange I had ever seen. It looked as if Morehead were being sucked into some hell dimension (or at least what I imagine it would look like). I showered and came back to the room. The sky had went from crazy orange to a foggy gray in a 20 minute timespan. About an hour later, it started snowing like crazy. Right now, it’s super cold and windy, and it’ll be snowing one minute and clear the next. This is just another example of how Kentucky has some of the most unique weather patterns in the world.

Hello, Boys and Girls

I have decided to forego a job in the computer industry and instead teach. There are two reasons for this decison. One is that as a teacher, I get all holidays and summers off. The other is that the only way I can change the many things I hate about eastern Kentucky is to take hold of the education process. Instilling a love for education in kids is tough. I read one study that said that kids are only influenced somewhere around 12% by what they are taught in school. There’s no way I’d bet on a horse race with those kinds of odds, but I think there are enough kids living in eastern Kentucky right now that have the potential to do great things. My job as a teacher will be to help them find opportunities that they may have otherwised missed.

I guess all my years of studying computers won’t go totally to waste since that’s what I’m going to try to teach. As far as ushering my students into the 21st century, I couldn’t have picked a better subject. There is almost no job or skill these days that doesn’t require some computer knowledge. I hope my students become so proficient with technology that there is no way that companies will send jobs to India. I’m sick of hearing about the superiority of India: Educated eastern-Kentuckians will do just fine!

The obvious response to my mission is that thousands of teachers started with the same vision yet it seems that none have managed to do very much about it. This is true. To put this as arrogantly as possible, I haven’t tried yet. If I weren’t so bull-headed, I wouldn’t have made it this far. If I devote my life to the cause of education, I believe that things will change. I may not live to see it, but I can sow seeds that will blossom long after I’ve gone. No matter what happens, at least I can say I tried.

The Tech of 2003

Even though it is the 11th of January, I figured I’d post my thoughts on the state of technology in 2003. In a nutshell, 2003 was a very disappointing year. Nothing revolutionary (or for that matter evolutionary) happened. PCs got faster with better graphics and more memory, but the applications that take advantage of this power never materialized. Statistical analysis and number crunching have benefited because raw proccessing power is the key to such apps. There are plenty holy grail applications that have failed for years because of the lack of speed. Voice recognition, facial recognition, and natural language text translation could become a reality now if somebody would try to code them again in earnest.

Consumer electronics saw some really neat trends with the most important being digital music. Portable digital players got smaller and cheaper with higher capacities. The Apple iPod is the coolest even though it is more expensive than all the others. Napster, iTunes, and MusicMatch have all made buying digital music easy and legal. I think the music industry should have embraced the downloading of music years ago because they are making money hand over fist with it. It’s so much cheaper for them than trying to sale CDs retail style, especially now that they’ve finished digitizing the existing catalog. Aside from digital music, large format High Definition televisions got cheaper. Sadly, HDTV content didn’t get much of a boost despite government mandates that all stations must broadcast HDTV signals by 2006. Let’s just pray that 2004 is more interesting.

Game Boy Advance

Mom got me a Game Boy Advance for Christmas. I didn’t ask for anything this year, so this awesome gift really blew me out of the water. I really like the GBA as a platform because there are so many games for it that have been ported over from the Super Nintendo. Two games in particular that I’m incredibly excited about are Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

The first game I went to buy was Zelda since it really is my favorite game of all time. (I have beaten the game at least 2 times a year since I got it in for SNES in 1994.) The hunt for the GBA version of Zelda proved to be as elusive as the hunt for the Triforce itself. I started off going to the Wal-Mart here in Hazard. Not a trace of the tiny cartidge, even though I had seen one there not more than two days before Christmas. In an effort to find it, Mom, Dad, and I loaded up and went to the Super Wal-Mart in London. Again, no dice. We proceeded to the Big-K. Nada. On the way back, we passed by Manchester, which has the smallest, most decrepit Wal-Mart I have ever been to. Mom suggested we try there.

I merely laughed but Dad pulled off the exit anyway. I went in, navigating through the puny store to its proportionally matched electronics section. In the GBA case, there lay eight copies of that which I sought. Just as in the game, sometimes the most unlikely place will hold the key to a query.

Return of the Chili Cheese Burrito

Taco Bell has brought back the Chili Cheese Burrito. CCBs were the first thing I ever ate at Taco Bell. They have so much more flavor than a bean burrito and they’re nearly as cheap. Yay!

Beyond that, the break has been very good thusfar. I have watched the 5th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know, I know…Trav watches too much TV. (At least it makes more sense and is cheaper than zipping around some God-forsaken strip job on a four-wheeler.) I have also been playing a lot of video games, specifically Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and Tron 2.0. I have loved the Castlevania series since I was a kid, having spent countless hours beating my head in the carpet each time Dracula roasted me. The latest Castlevania has some of the best creepy fugal music I’ve heard in a long time.

Tron 2.0 picks up where the classic 1984 movie left off. The visuals are simply amazing. The black contrasting so sharply wiht all the neon colors is amazing. (I found out last night that the visuals are accomplished using the latest pixel shader technology.) There’s plenty of jumping, shooting, and puzzle solving to make this a good FPS title. I don’t say this enough, but at the momment, Life is good.

The Wall

When I go to sleep each night, I simply must be facing the closest wall. This ritual, as far as I remember, spawned from my childhood when I was extraordinarily afraid of the dark. I figured that if I didn’t see the monsters, they wouldn’t see me. The best way to keep from seeing them without smothering under the covers was to just make sure I faced the wall before I went to sleep. Fast forward about 15 years and I’m still doing it.

This semester, I decided to see whether or not I could manage to go to sleep without facing the wall, so I forced myself to lay on my side that doesn’t face the wall. I laid there for about an hour and a half and finally dozed off. I thought I’d won, but I woke up about 15 minutes later, I was looking square at the wall. So much for change.

Internet Explorer Woes

We all probably use Internet Explorer (IE) several times a day. It flawlessly renders our pages while allowing us to seemlessly download helper apps so we can experience sound, video, and animation. It truly is the easiest browser out there. However, I am seriously considering not using IE anymore not because it isn’t great for its purpose but because it makes me so vulnerable to a barrage of online attacks. Almost every single week since Windows XP launched, Microsoft has released patches to keep IE from providing script-kiddies access to my system. The most recent security hole, which hackers to spoof the URL of the current page very easily, is the last straw. No more IE for Trav.

You may be wondering what I’m going to use to acess the Net. The answers are Mozilla and Opera. Mozilla is the free open-source alternative. It has thousands of people around the world continuously pruning its code and finding the security bugs that IE is plauged with. It offers tabbed browsing and a fully-featured email client. Mozilla supports many of the plugins that IE does and it is very standards compliant. Ocassionally, you’ll run across a page that won’t render correctly in Mozilla, but most of the time, it’s not the browser’s fault: Some crappy webmasters worship only at the feet of IE.

The free version of Opera is ad-supported, meaning that there is an ad that always stays at the top with the navigation controls. Opera is absolutely the best for those of use who like to use the keyboard to navigate the web. One key allows me to instantly go back and forth without ever touching a mouse. Opera’s tabs are, in my opinion, better than Mozilla’s because they are easily accessible and opened from the keyboard. Opera also has a “Hotbar.” With the Hotbar, you can visit a site and add notes about it which will become available whenever you access the site they were written from. This is very handy for reasearch. Opera also has a nifty download manager that is a little more user-friendly than Mozilla’s. Opera’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t handle DHTML very well. (DHTML is the technology that allows for some of the neato menus that can be found at many sites.) Its DHTML support has gotten better over the years, but Mozilla is still stronger in this area.

In conclusion, let me say again: IE puts you at risk while you use the Internet. Consider using Mozilla or Opera.