Monthly Archives: July 1999

1999-07-29 The Farm: projects (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

“idle hands are the tools of the devil.”
7.29.99

Friends, I regret to announce that the [Gutterhaunt] project is no more.

That’s right. One of the best and most forward-thinking bands Texarkana has ever seen has called it quits. Gutterhaunt is gone. I am equally sad to announce that the project has also come to an abrupt halt, and I will be doing no further work on it.

I will, however, leave it posted for a while in case you want to see the half-built vision that is now an empty shell.

For those of you who have watched the Gutterhaunt web project grow from nothing to what it is today, I want to thank you for keeping watch, offering suggestions, and helping me make it better by sending me your bug reports. Without people like you, I couldn’t have come as far as I have.

During the project, I learned a lot about designing sites for other people, about learning new web techniques and technology, and I learned a good deal about site structure, design, page flow, and “the user interface.” There were some nifty techniques I had looked into, things I had wanted to do but never had a need to do, this like pop-up windows, automated “write once” on-the-fly html creation, CSS layering, and other stuff of that nature. I’ve found ways to enhance the user’s site experience and have thus extended my “artist’s toolbox.”

For me, with web design, I find it fun to figure out how to put all these pieces together in such a way to where they all fit well and make for a very good site. I’ve come a long way, but I know better than to rest on my laurels. I still have a long way to go. I suppose all those times of doing the mind-puzzles in the back of Omni magazine are paying off.

I’m also working on my own future site and doing basic graphics for it. I want a good site with a strong, iconic theme spread throughout the whole site. It will be a personal site, obviously, one of self-promotion and externalized thoughts, but I also want it to be my “programmer’s playground” much akin to [www.superbad.com]. I like the idea of using my space to play around with oddball programming concepts.

This week, I’ve been playing around hard-and-heavy with dynamic HTML and designing code that is cross-browser compatible and degrades gracefully for older browsers. I’ve found a lot of resources related to Cascading Style Sheets, DHTML, advanced HTML, and using JavaScript to control all of those features.

As an example of what I’ve learned this week, I wrote some code that puts a “rubber ball” image in the browser window and sets it in motion so that it bounces around the window. I probably pulled out most of my hair with getting it to work in both Netscape4 and IE4+, but now, I believe, it’s working. As an aid in writing DHTML for cross-browser compatibility, I am currently using DHTMLLib, an external javascript library written by the people at [www.insideDHTML.com]. DHTMLLib allows the programmer to write Dynamic HTML for Internet Explorer 4.0 and above’s Document Object Model and effortlessly translate that code so it is compatible with Netscape Navigator 4.0 and above’s Document Object Model. For general stuff, it works pretty well and saves me time and code by automatically doing browser detection within the library so I don’t have to do it. When the page is browsed using Navigator, DHTMLLib will simulate IE’s DOM and interface the programmer’s code into the Navigator DOM. This saves a lot of effort. If you are interested, see their site for more details.

If your browser supports the features necessary to do so, you’ll find the link close to the bottom of this page that will start the ball. Click it and play around. Have some fun with it.

I know I have.

Keep your eyes opened: I’m coming up with some new ideas to try out, and I may just start tricking-out here on this site. Cheers!

1999-07-24 The Farm: current news (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

Ongoing Goings-On: current news
7.24.99

Things are currently on a roller-coaster ride as I take care of the day’s responsibilities, gather up the remains of the day, and prepare for the next day.

Day in, day out.

As mentioned, job-hunting is becoming a full-time occupation without pay, and it really is annoying. I’m starting to get used to the idea of opening up dialogs with potential employers and repeating all the lines that I’ve cited previously to other potential employers only to be returned with not applause, but “Fill out this application and we’ll get back in touch.”

Annoying.

Sometimes, I’m glad I never took to acting in theatre but, this time, doing a show for weeks at a stretch to countless audiences and critics doesn’t sound too bad. It would have helped callous me to rejection, which would help.

Currently, of note, I’ve been online a lot and most of that is spent on projects, designs, and making better of myself. It’s getting less-and-less of a waste of time and more of a lesson in productivity. That’s a good thing.

The grown-up bills are calling me now, and it’s getting to be a scary situation. I had a dream last night that the creditors came and repossessed my car. Call me names, steal my code, but don’t take my car. I know a little about legalities concerning cars, loans, and other things damnable, but I feel I have just a little more time before repossession becomes a legal remedy, but that time is coming all too soon.

All my bills for this month will be late, and that scares me. It is very possible I may have to (dare I say it?) take a “shit job” just to keep some bills current. The shaaaame…. Really, though, I’ve been too picky with the current job offerings, and I may have to give it another go at taking that lowly job while searching high and low for something better. I’ve tried it before with no success, but I feel I’ll need to try again. I’d do that kind of thing in my webwriting, why not in my job-hunting?

I think I just might.

1999-07-24 The Farm: page2 (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

page 2: what’s on my mind
7.24.99

A New Rope
Alas, I feel a glimmer of hope.

Job hunting is growing long in the tooth, but I’ve made progress this week with a lot of application-filling, resume writing, self-promoting, teeth-gnashing bliss.

Ok, scratch the part about the bliss.

Job hunting is a full-time job, and speaking the language of the Headhunters is something I’m not used to doing. I’ve written my resume, rewritten my resume, run it past a few friends for their approval, sent it out, typed it up online at www.monster.com, and have used it to apply a lot of times to a lot of jobs on monster.com. I’m hoping that maybe, someday, I could find a job, and hopefully still, find that job in Austin. It’s a booming town, it has a good atmosphere, and my list of contacts down there grows at a decent rate.

I recall my days living down there back in ’81, and remember them fondly. I was young, it was early summer, and the vibe down there was very good. Still, after eighteen years, the vibe remains, in a certain sense, and I felt it the two times I visited last year. I’ve never been one to prefer living in big cities, but Austin is the exception to that rule.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent the last nine years in the Commercial Printing business, and have done a lot of things in that field. I learned about production, productivity, getting the job done regardless of my own set methods and routines, and so on. It gave me a penchant for getting things done right the first time.

Just as well, it gave me an eye for perfection and a tolerance for imperfection; a sense of knowing when “good enough” is good enough. In my web designing, I push myself and my browsers for complete perfection, and I try for that goal. If it can’t be achieved, I try another way. If, for no other reason, my vision of how things should be can’t be reached, I come to a point of acceptance. It’s through this push-pull of the media that I learn about the media.

That sense of exploration/discovery is probably the most important thing I’ve gained from Commercial Printing.

However, I no longer want to work in the Commercial Printing field. I’ve run the gamut; I’ve done a lot; I’ve come a long way. But now, after having said all that, I want to return to my love of a hobby, Computer Science, and try what I can to make a good living with it. What you see here is my love: webwriting. Some of you know that already.

What I want to do is go beyond brochure-style web design. I want to try out something with back-end programming: ASP, CGI, PERL, C++, VBScripts, SSI, and so on. So far, my experience with local ISP’s has left me with no choice but to stick with front-end presentation: HTML, Javascript, etc. That can only go so far. I want to play with the server. All of the ISP’s I’ve ever had would not allow CGI scripting of any kind without me shelling-out big dollars for access to their servers. It’s understandable, but it’s the only reason why I’ve not had any exposure to CGI or its brethren — NO ACCESS.

I hope, soon, that I can finally purchase my own rented web space and expose myself to scripting. First, and foremost, I need a job. Then, after my responsibilities are caught up, then I can play.

Until then, however, I search.

1999-07-16 The Farm: projects (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

“idle hands are the tools of the devil.” — cool.
7.16.99

My projects are coming along fairly well. I’m spending a lot of free-time on my computer, and it’s starting to show. Aside from working a bit on this site and doing stuff for my future website, I have bounded a large leap towards my goal of finishing the [Gutterhaunt] website. Go take a look at it. I have, finally, done something beyond the first page of their site.

I finally drummed-up enough creativity to sketch-out the basic framework for each page and coded them to HTML over a few days’ time. I spent quite a bit of time on the graphics as well. Everything is in place, and looking better. Now comes the next stage in the project: filling those pages with content. That’ll be fun.

It seems a lot of my friends are asking me for help with Paint Shop Pro 5. Apparently I’m a guru at it. I don’t mind helping them out; they ask, and I aid. Ignorance is a big bad thing to have, and if I can help someone find their way out of the dark, I’m there lending a hand.

I don’t mind helping out. Lately, I’ve been getting better at teaching people how to do things with their computer. Hell, I’m having fun teaching myself with new things. On occasion, I’ll fire up my Apache webserver on my pc and serve stuff temporarily from my computer. I found a copy of it compiled for Win32, installed it, and had a fun time configuring it to run. I still have a ways to go before I’m literate in it, but I have a clue, and that counts.

When I got PSP5, I had been using Paint Shop Pro 3.11 for the longest time, and had exceeded its capabilities. I had gotten well-versed enough with it where I was doing complex layering effects and the like before I had gotten my hands on the layer features of PSP5. I started into this new version and was amazed that all those extra steps I had been taking were a thing of the past. I set a lot of attention into learning it all. I’m still a ways off, but most of the main features I know fairly well.

I know them well enough where friends are asking me for tips, tricks, and advice. I like that.

You know, if you ask me nicely, I can fire up my webserver so you can see it. 8)

But who’d wanna do that?

Ah, this the current state of things. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff online and on my computer, and that, I believe, is where I’m happiest.

Here’s to productive happiness.

1999-07-16 The Farm: current news (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

Ongoing Goings-On: current news
7.16.99

The move is over, the phones are connected, and I’m online all the time.

Sounds like things can start happening again.

I’m setting myself to the task of getting a job again. After the last few weeks of putting it off so I could pack up the house, then move, then wait on the bastards from GTE to get their stuff straight, come over, and connect my modem line, I can finally get out of the house during daylight business hours and get a job.

In the past few weeks, I have had to wait, during business hours, on the techs from GTE to arrive at my house so they could install my new phone line. This house was originally wired for one phone line, and I wanted to have my own line installed so I could use my modem without tying up my main line. Due to GTE policy, which makes sense, someone needs to be at the residence when the tech shows up to install. Just before I moved in, I called GTE to arrange for a service transfer to the new residence. I gave them the address, and we set a date for installation of the new line. That date was June 29th. That day rolled around and no one showed up. I was furious. I checked my records, and sure enough, they were to have been here. Then something caught my attention: I gave them the address of the house exactly one block up the street. Ah, the finger turned to point at me.

I called GTE, explained the problem, and we re-scheduled the installation date. Meanwhile, I was still having to use my voice line for my modem, which meant call-waiting (which I can’t turn off – that’s an extra cost) kept kicking me off. So, a few days later, I receive a message on my machine stating they’d be here thursday, but no later than friday afternoon. “Oh, well, they’ll be here a week earlier,” I thought. So, I stay home, away from job-hunting, on thursday. No sign of the installer anywhere. I’m angry. Friday afternoon, another day away from job-searching, no one shows up. I’m furious. I then call GTE to question them. That message was in reference to the thursday and friday of the next week. I’m sick.

So, I get another phantom message on monday stating they’ll be there much earlier than scheduled. Hmmm. Did I trust this message? Yes. Tuesday wasted. Finally, later, on friday afternoon, after two more days wasted, the installer shows up. Great, good. I finally got my line.

Never look a gift-horse in the ass.

The new line had so much noise and distortion my modem refused to connect at any speed greater than 19.6 kbps, and refused to stay connected for longer than 15 minutes. I checked wires, I checked phones, I called my main line from my modem line and just listened to the static: I heard a loud AC hum, with harmonics, that popped in and out, and I also heard loud clicking which sounded like interference from my neighbors’ ringing phones. Completely unacceptable. Monday morning, I called GTE and explained the problem, and they dutifully scheduled another tech for tuesday. Tuesday comes, it’s a no-show, and I get a call from GTE, just fifteen minutes before the guaranteed time of repair, asking if a wednesday service call was acceptable. “Sure,” I said. I just wanted my line. It’s not like I have any other phone carrier I could take my business to. So, with six days wasted so far, I wait for them wednesday. Finally, they show up, replace my demarc, test the lines one more time, and now I’m set.

FINALLY.

I keep having this vision where I’m standing in front of a tall tree with low branches. I’m reaching up to climb the branches, trying to get up into a higher position in my life, but below me are thousands of little tiny hands clammoring at my feet grabbing onto me and trying to keep me pulled down.

This is one of those hands.

Do you have a utility horror story? Has a major service let you down? Send me your story at [dead@email].

So, I continue trying to pull myself up into the tree. Things around the house are getting squared away, stuff is getting put-up and hung in the right places, and my duties as handyman-O-the-house are leveling off. I’m wrestling with myself in small ways, and I think I’m winning. I’m keeping myself busy in my off-hours with my projects and hobbies, which, thankfully, don’t cost that much.

Things can only get better, I hope.

Shawn