September 27, 2002

I love Perl.
Posted by Jess in Tech Talk

I'm a perl addict now. I've always wanted to know how those webots and spiders work. Now I do, and I'm hooked. I've started a little coding experiment to do a project that I think will benefit a lot of people. I'll let everyone know what it is once it's done (hint: a really useful metasearch)... but personally, I'm surprised at how well it's going considering I started with nothing. I didn't script kiddie this, I started from scratch. And, like I said, I'm hooked.

I had *no* idea how powerful perl really is until I got down to the nitty gritty. Though it does get tough. Perl, javascript, lotusscript, C++... each language has it's own coding features, and it does get tough keeping it all straight. Let's just say it took me awhile to figure out how to declare a variable in Perl. Let's put it this way:

int x;
Dim x As Integer;
var x;

Arg! Who can keep it all straight? But, considering it actually worked, I don't really have much to complain about. Except for that one time last week that I spent an hour wondering why my code wouldn't compile until I realized I was passing a variable with quotes around it. D'oh. I just pretend that one never happened.

But, I digress. Back to the wondering capabilities of perl. I'm hooked. Take a chance, write a perl script and watch it work. I think there's no greater thrill.

September 24, 2002

Fractals and Thanskiving Dinner
Posted by Jess in Geek Humor

I was sitting at the kitchen table at my parentís house one Thanksgiving day, watching my mother get everything ready, when it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Iíd seen this before. Sure, it was the condensed version now, but it was still there. Itís in my genes to observe, analyze, think, ponder, and reflect. Yes! A fractal. Letís review:

Fractal: 'frak-t&l. noun. Any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size.

It occurred to me that the whole day, the rigmarole and ritual of what we call preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a pure, beautiful fractal of one whole college semester. Bear with me folks, youíll see it too. Itís all there. Not just the actions. The feelings and emotions are there too.

We begin right at the start. Right at the acceptance letter. ďItís MY turn to do Thanksgiving dinner this year?Ē Youíre a little excited now. And more than a little nervous. It starts at the grocery store. Like an overexcited child, you begin to buy, and leave the store armed to the teeth with your turkey, pumpkin pie mix, candied yams, and potatoes just waiting to be roasted (pencils, notebooks, manilla folders, and day planner). As an afterthought, you add in a knife-sharpener (pencil sharpener?) and pat yourself on the back for the extra credit and good thinking!

That night, as you lay in bed, you repeat the words you say to yourself EVERY year. ďThis year is going to be the BEST Thanksgiving dinner yet. Those previous years, when dinner didnít come out as good as I wanted, thatís in the past. Iím refreshed, Iíve got a clean slate, and now Iím ready to cook a damn good dinner!Ē. Now tell me you donít say that every year when school starts. Ye old clean slate. Whoever invented that phrase should be furious they didnít trademark it, because itís being ripped off by millions of college students every semester. Cue sleep, followed by pleasant dreams of a prize-winning 4.0 dinner and nods of approval from proud parents and guests. You gently brush the tassel away from your eyes on your chef hat. Your mom may or may not have tears in her eyes. Pomp and Circumstance is playing softly in the background.

Itís Thanksgiving day. You make plans to wake up a little bit early to get a nice head start on dinner. In fact, youíre so early, you skip ahead and read a couple of extra pages in the recipe book. Sound familiar? It should. Even in the 8 AM classes, in those first few days of class, Iíve never seen so many bright-eyed, bushy-tailed spring chickens eager to learn. But I digress. Itís now 10 AM, and youíve got everything under control. The potatoes are simmering, the turkey seems to be doing well, the veggies are chopped and waiting to be cooked, your first report was actually handed in on timeÖand youíre currently getting an ĎAí in Precalc.

The first creases of worry cross your forehead. Are things going a little too well? Why arenít you busier than you are? In fact, youíre so busy worrying, itís easy to miss that packet of rolls that havenít made it into the oven yet. And if cranberry sauce had a voice, Iím sure it would have yelled at you to buy it in the grocery store. But it didnít. Just like that pop quiz you missed in class, because of that day you left your day planner in the bathroom in the Student Union. But itís only 10 AM, and you know none of this just yet.

Dare I jump to 2 PM? What were you thinking? The best Thanksgiving dinner ever? Youíll be lucky if the turkey makes it out of the oven in one piece. You canít quite remember when things started getting out of control. Was it when you discovered the lack of cranberry sauce and had to go back out to the grocery store? ďSorry maíam, we havenít seen your day plannerĒ. The recipe book has long since been lost under a pile of flour and old asparagus (chopped at 10 AM), not unlike a syllabus buried under a pile of four-day old laundry.

At lastÖ dinner. 3 PM. Everyoneís starving, and waiting to see the fruits of your labor and holding their breaths to see how nice the turkey will be. Leave it to the University to send your grade report weeks after you come home from finals. You open the oven door with one eye closed and the other wincing (whoís got the envelope opener?)Ölooks good! Passing. Thatís all that matters. You proudly present your turkey, and no one has to know about how close they came to almost having no cranberry sauce (you had to settle for the generic brand, but thatís your little secret). The dinner topic covers how you did the whole thing without your recipe book. Give it 20 years, and youíll be telling your children how itís possible to finish a college semester with no syllabus (or day planner, for that matter).

As you go to bed that night, rest well, for you have passed. Now youíre ready to relax. Next year you get a clean slate all over again. Ready? Repeat the mantra Ė ďNext year will be my BEST Thanksgiving dinner yet. Iím ready!Ē

From Pomp to Circumstance, chapter 1

Coming Soon: From Pomp to Circumstance....
Posted by Jess in Announcements

I've been writing some technical articles lately, and was really starting to miss prose. So, I decided what better to write about than what I know besides geek speak?

Soon I'll be posting my thoughts on life after graduation. Sure, it was three years ago, but I think everyone goes through it. Hell, a lot's happened in three years! I got an apartment. Bought a brand new car. Got engaged. Got married. Helped celebrate all my friends getting married. Got a house. Helped celebrate my best friends having their first baby. We've all come so far from Kraft Mac n' Cheese, drinking games and living in our favorite pair of jeans.

Okay, ok, so we still do that on weekends! It's not ALL work and no play. ;-)

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