1999-08-08 The Farm: current news (from the archives)

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

Ongoing Goings-On: current news
8.8.99

What is there to say? I start a new job tomorrow which may or may not pan out.

When I clock-in tomorrow morning, I will be one hour shy of being unemployed for a whole sixty days. It’ll feel good to work again.

Whether this new job works out in a favorable manner or not, I’m ready to get back into the flow of society. These past two months have done their part in disorienting me enough to where I’ll take anything that comes along.

Hence, this job.

My bills are seriously far behind, and the spectre of dealing with them looms over me, but I can catch up and take care of them soon enough. I have that much faith. Actually, the sobriety of taking care of business feels good. I’m starting to have a purpose again, and I’m pleased.

It’s all gonna work out by the time it’s over with. I believe that.

At least that’s what Manic of the dynamic-duo Manic-Depressive is telling me.

1999-08-08 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
8.8.99

The heft of tomorrow

I have found a job. Good, good, good. I start tomorrow, Monday. It may be a good deal.

Heck, working is a good deal.

I found a job through Express Personnel and I’ll be working for a local “company” maintaining (i.e. designing) their website. From the description they gave me before I accepted the job, it sounded like an absolute gravy-job.

Boy, was I in for a suprise.

OK. Here’s the deal with the whole thing. This guy, a long-time mechanic and hot-rod junkie, has an idea. He wants to sell nothing but parts for Dodge trucks online. It’s a good idea. It’s a very good idea.

BUT, I’m not sure about how he’s going about it.

Currently, it’s nothing more than an idea and a few webpages in the works, none of them posted online. And it will be my job to take that idea and make him a full-blown completely working e-commerce website within the space of two or so months. Honestly, that scares me.

First off — my “specialty” (read: experience) is front-end coding: writing the code that is used inside the browser. I know nothing, nothing at all, about the back end. I have a clue, but I don’t know the first thing about setting up a server-side database, maintaining it, and writing applications that use that database. I don’t know the first thing about setting up a merchant account with credit-card agencies, I know nothing about credit-card validation services. I know very little about the legalities involved with e-commerce, and how to satisfy customer complaints and inquiries. That bothers me.

Now, granted, this whole thing could be a very good learning experience for me, but it’s large, much too large, for me to handle on my own. This company currently is too small as it is, and I seriously would like to know how to do all of this, how to make an e-commerce site from scratch, but I’d like to do it in the company of people who know. I’d like to be part of a team. This company exists of two people – my boss, and me. Not large enough.

I completely understand that it’s the start of something that may be beautiful, something that may be good. There’s no way I can really expect to be in league with several people who know the things that I want to learn. This is all starting with an idea; I can’t expect more out of that so soon.

But my trepidation is because of the uncertainty in this thing. It may be a fleeting idea, it may be a good idea that is poorly executed from the get-go, but just as well, it may germinate into something lasting. I don’t know, and that too bothers me.

Tomorrow, when I go in to work, I have no choice but to sit my boss down and explain to him the details of what he’s getting into. I don’t know how carefully he’s thought of this, nor if he has any idea of what it takes to run a successful e-commerce business complete with website, warehouse, shipping, and customer service. My job, at least for this week, will be to tell him about all these things. I feel that this is not my job; he hired me, and will be paying me, to write the website. But all things being told, when it’s all said and done, writing the actual website is the last thing on the agenda.

The absolute last.

I’m not sure how long this job will last. I’m not sure where it will go. I want to drop it and take another job elsewhere, but I’m also curious (and trepidatious) about how this will work out. Should it fall together well, and actually work, then I will have some serious experience under my belt that would travel well with me to wherever I should go in life. Should it fail, however, I’ve done little but waste my time, his time, and his money.

Last week, inside the span of a one-second spurious thought, I got inspired with another one of my world-famous W.A.I.’s (“Wild-Assed Idea” — not to be confused with WAIS, or “Wide-Area Information Service”). It was a small thought that flittered through my mind, but it stuck and stayed there. Here it is: pack up my necessities and just move to Austin for a few days. Go down there to scout around for jobs and housing. It sounds like a very good, if chancy, idea. To this day, all of my W.A.I.’s never worked out as expected, but they did give me new experiences and a chance to live by the seat of my pants. I like the idea of moving there, and moving there VERY soon.

My plan is to take a “vacation” of sorts and couch-surf with any one of my friends down there while I scout around for a simple joe-job and begin work. I could find a joe-job down there fairly easily, I believe. That would buy me some time while I look for better jobs in my chosen career. Taking joe-jobs is really the only viable option I have: currently, my application with www.monster.com has yeilded me zero results (my application has been looked at all of FOUR times), so I don’t expect much result from that any time soon. So, the joe-job idea is one that I will go with.

As a plus with moving down there, Austin Community College is offering webwriting courses in their Webmaster Certificate Program, which sounds pretty cool. The courses are comparitively inexpensive, and the idea of taking only what I need and testing out of what I already know for much cheaper really appeal to me. Most of my college education to date has been superfluous – the ideal of the Liberal Arts education is a very good thing, but now that I’ve had it, I want to get into specifics. This expenditure, though it may still be a good chunk of change, will be spent more efficiently. As a good result, I will have a certification, even though one really is not needed in order to commercially write websites. But, it will be a comforting thing to have; it will be a way of having someone important, someone bigger than me, vouch for me saying “Yes, he can do the job, and do it well.” I like that idea.

Just as well, I could stay here in Texarkana and scout for joe-jobs up here and attempt to rebuild myself, get caught-up on all my bills and debts, and then attempt to jetison off to Austin. I pretty-much have free rent and cheap food up here, and the pressure to stay afloat isn’t as harsh. That idea, even though it’ll have to be done here, still sounds like a good plan. I know of several joe-jobs that are more appealing than this webwriting assignment that I start tomorrow, and I may just go ahead and go with those. Burn a little time. I honestly do not like this webwriting task that’s been set before me: it’s too much, too soon. I have enough sense to know what I can do and what I can’t do. I’m usually given to delusion, but this time, it’s all realistic.

One step at a time. That’s all I can do.

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.