Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Doing a little remodeling here.

Just a quick post to let you know I will be revising some of the of the pages I have links to such as the "Interesting employment opportunities" plus adding a few more. I'll also be adding a list of my skill if for any other reason, so that I can keep track of them (a little self-promotion doesn't hurt).

As for for the holiday funk I was in, I am getting over that. I am definitely looking forward to 2009, and the potential for some great new opportunities. Whether those opportunities mean I stay in the Seattle area or not is still up in the air.

I'll try and post more of my thoughts over the next few days, but for now I want to wish everyone out there a "Happy New Year" and best of luck to you all.

Psst! It's all right to leave a comment now and then too :-)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lessons from the resilience of bamboo.

The Puget Sound region has been hit with snow for over a week now, and this has impacted everyone's travel including mine. Being unemployed I really don't have any where to go, but it is nice to get out now and then and being stuck at home has contributed to the funk I have been in lately.

Staying positive while being unemployed during the holidays is hard, and it's really hard when there is nothing but bad news and you are stuck at home. I have tried to avoid letting the news get to me, but I'm sort of isolated and without much of a support network, so my funk hit me hard during the last week.

During the last week I did make one observation though that has given me a new outlook, and I would like to share that observation here.

Each time it snowed, the bamboo in my backyard would bend over due to the weight of the snow and then as the snow would start to melt the bamboo would start to spring back. The bamboo went through this process several times over the week, and now that the snow is starting to completely melt the bamboo is standing tall again.

The resilience of my bamboo gave me inspiration to spring up every time the weight of all the negativity starts to lessen, and keep on growing.

I know there is a really bad analogy to my bamboo being bent over, and my being unemployed, but I am not going to go there (Sorry I needed to throw in a little humor there :-)

With determination and a little humor to fertilize my inspiration I plan to keep springing up and stand tall just like my bamboo.

(I added this image to this entry several days after I originally published it. I wish I had taken a picture of the bamboo when it was snowing to accompany this one, but as it is this image stands on it's own)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Going slow, just getting by.

Over the last few days I've been sick and out of sorts, but I am getting back up to speed. Right now my major challenge is not letting others negativity get to me.

It's hard, but I am finding that if I involve myself in projects I find I am not so down. It's hard to stay motivated, but it's preferable to getting in a funk. Hopefully the employment picture improves after the start of the year.

Recently I've been learning more about Visual Studio 2008 Express, and moving forward with my reading. I have also been cleaning up my other blogs, so that there is a common appearance.

Maybe the end of the week, I'll have some news of more progress with the Lego NXT bot.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Diving into C#

I finished the fist chapter of Head First C#, and I must say it was prettying interesting and fun. I was able to build a contact list application that used a SQL database in just a few hours.

I use the term "build" instead of "write" because it appears that with C# there is a lot going under the hood that the developer does not have to worry about like with C or C++. Never the less I think this will be a fun programming language to work with, and I am looking forward to diving in even more.

Other than that, I am still plugging away with the other studies, and working on strategies to find a new job.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trying to stay on track

As I stated in a previous post, getting laid off sucks, especially if it happens twice in three months time.

To be honest I haven't been all the productive since getting laid off the day before Thanksgiving, and this being the holiday season hasn't helped my morale all that much. But this morning I woke up, and apparently was pissed off enough about the situation that I decided to give myself a good swift kick in the butt and get going again.

While it's not great progress, I have started reading Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML again. To be honest I should have finished this book several months ago. I am also cracking the pages of Head First C#, and setting up Visual Studio on a new system that someone gave me.

I am hoping that just burying myself in coding for a couple weeks will help me get over the funk and past the holidays. Playing with the NXT bot should help too.

I'll also be adding to the blog and updating some of the links I have, especially the Interesting employement links, and web development links.

That's it for now. Feel free to comment because it would be nice to know if somene actually reads this blog.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Just a ramble on being technology agnostic.

I have previously posted here before about the need to avoid being biased towards or against certain technologies such as browsers, and I would like to now expand upon my thoughts about technology agnosticism.

What brought this about is that now that I am looking for work again I have recently had several people tell me that I should get rid of my GMail account if I am thinking about applying at Microsoft, and in the past I have had recruiters tell me that I shouldn't list my UNIX or Linux experience on my resume if I want to work at Microsoft.

I find this kind of amusing since the people telling me to ditch GMail don't even work at Microsoft, and I know quite a few people working at Microsoft who use GMail, Yahoo email, or other non-Microsoft email services. Some people at Microsoft have told me that they could care less if I have UNIX or Linux experience listed on my resume. As a matter of fact, depending on the work, listing my UNIX and Linux experience may even help me find a job there.

I think a lot of this has to do with the mythology and misinformation that has been built up around Microsoft culture, and while I haven't had anyone tell me to ditch my Hotmail account if I plan to apply at Google, I am certain there are people out there telling potential Google applicants to do just that. Personally I don't plan to make any drastic changes either way.

To be honest I think it is in the nature of every good geek to try different technologies, and it's always a good idea to check out the competition. Focusing exclusively on one type or brand of technology can only limit ones experience. Broadening your horizons can only help, not hurt you.

It's like the ridiculous OS wars, or Vi vs. Emacs debate. Getting all worked up over which technology is best is a waste of time. Technology is a tool, nothing more, and people should use what tool works for them.

Hey, if I could afford it and if I had the time, I would be playing with every OS out there. I still work with Windows 98 for some legacy projects, and I will continue to do so. As a matter of fact I have plans to put Windows 95 on an older system (when I have time :) Eventually I will have a NAS using FreeNAS, and possibly a Open BSD firewall on my network too. As for what distro of Linux is best, again it's a matter of what works for each person, and I plan to play with several.

In the prevoius post on browsers, I admitted that I was biased and that I needed to work with IE, as well as other browsers. While people may not alway have the time, energy, or finances, to play around with different technologies, they should at least be willing to try new technologies should the opportunity present itself, so take the opportunity when you can.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bots and blogs

Here are a couple shots of the Lego NXT robot I built over the last few days. Right now I am using the canned programs that came with the kit, but over time I hope to learn C# and then use the Microsoft Robotics Studio to create new routines for the robot.

It's not a bad little bot, and the motors have more than enough power to send it flying right off the table. The robot seemed a little flimsy while I was building it, but it was sturdy enough once I finished. My one complaint is that it requires 6 AA batteries, so I need to pick up some more AA Ni-MH if I am going to get serious about working with the bot.

On other fronts I have been updating my resume, reading Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, and updating my other blogs. I'm hoping to get some feedback on both the Cloudymidnights, and Urbanspelunkers blogs. If you have a moment, check out the blogs and let me know what you think.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Working on a new plan and trying to stay positive.

I was able to get in a little decompression in over the holiday weekend along with quiet time to think about where I go from here. Getting laid off sucks, especially twice in one year, and getting laid off sucks even more if it's during the holidays.

I cannot let myself get down, nor am I blaming anyone, it's just a fact of life given the economy. I just have to focus on staying positive, and I know I can do this if I focus on my studies and several creative projects I have had in the back of my head for some time. This will help me get past the holidays, and I can move forward.

I have been expanding scope of the Urbanspelunkers blog, and will start reworking of the site this week. There are articles planned for the Cloudymidnights blog, several of which are focused on resources for visually impaired astronomers.

As for the studies, I need to finish up Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, then move forward with some more advanced web design books, along with starting up C# studies.

I am still flushing out my long term plans, but regardless of where I finally decide to go, I know it will the right move for me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back on the bus again.

I just found out today that I am being laid off due to a restructuring, so I am back to looking for work again.

What is particularly sad about this lay off is that I was working with a great group of people, and many of them are also being let go too.

I'm going to use the holiday break to decompress a little, and then get going with the job search again on Monday. I'll also be hitting the books harder too.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fonts, colors, and weight with CSS.

I didn't get a lot of reading done over the last week, but I did dive back in to Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML and got going with Chapter 9. It is slow progress, but progress none the less. It's great learning how to set fonts, colors, and weight with CSS. It will be nice once I get done to finally apply this stuff to my sites. Yeah, I know, once I get done. This seems to be taking a long time, but given the dynamics of everything that has happened in the last few months, I think I am doing quite well.

As for getting started with the robotics, I decided to go through the NXT manual and familiarize myself with everything instead of just loading the software and trundling along getting lost. Hopefully by next weekend I'll have a little bot running around. I'll post some pictures if I get something running.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Settling in.

I am starting to settle in to my new job, and I am hoping to get back to my studies and hobbies in the new future. I know I haven't been posting here that much, but I haven't really had much to say with regards to studies or my hobbies.

I do need to get back on track with the studies so I can improve my sites and actually make them worth viewing. Maybe I should just spend some time reworking the sites off-line, so as to push me to study more. There have to be some tricks out there to get the studies going again.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Catching up for the week.

I have been really busy over the last week, so I have not had a chance to post here until now.

Work is going great! I am settling in and I am making good progress and learning a lot. I would like to say I have been making the same progress with my HTML studies, but just haven't had time to sit down with the Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML book lately. I am hoping get in so study time over this weekend. Even though I have a job, I still want to develop and improve my skill set, and I definitely need to clean up my web sites. I also will continue to develop my interest in web accessibility.

I am going to drop the Apache, PHP, and MySQL studies for now, and start up with C# shortly. Studying C# will not only help me at work, but also may be beneficial with my robotics work using Microsoft Robotics Studio (MRS) from what I have been told. I will be using the Lego NXT system to start with because it can be used with MRS and it's easy to work with.

Given that it's now "that season" in the Seattle (cloudy, rainy, dreary) I'll be taking my astonomy interest inside and play with some of the free astronomy programs that come with Ubuntu as well as working with the Astro Link Blog and the Cloudymidnights Blog. I'll also be playing around with my CoCo, though I'll be posting more about that on the 8-Bit Retro Computing Blog.

I think I'll be busy for quite some time. Cheers! :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New job is great.

Just a quick note to say my new job is great, and I am enjoying it. I haven't had any time to study, but I hope to get some time in this weekend. Once things settle down I know I will start making steady progress again. I'll post more later in the week.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Getting ready to start my new job!

I am really excited about starting my new job tomorrow and I know it's going to be a great experience for me especially since it's line line with my goals.

I know I should have posted more than once last week, but I was busy finishing up some projects around the house plus trying to get in some study time. I didn't finish the Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML book like I wanted to, but I'll keep plugging at it. I am starting to learn about classes in HTML/CSS and I am putting down some ideas I have come with to retool my sites. I will post more about that later.

One of the house projects that I am glad to have finished was setting up my old Radio Shack Color Computer (CoCo) in it's own dedicated spot. I have photos up on the 8-Bit-Retro Blog. Swing by and take a look, and leave a comment if you want.

Well it's time for me to get some sleep. I promise to post more this week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting back to work.

The last few days have been really exciting. Like the subject says, I am getting back to work and will start my new job in a week. I'm really stoked about finding a new job, especially one that falls inline with with my goals.

I won't go into too much detail right now, but I will eventually rework my Linkedin profile to reflect my new position. What really made getting this job exciting is that it wasn't the only offer I had within a 24 hour period.

Getting back to work means I will have to change my self study program a bit, but I will still focus on web development. I plan to finish Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML before I start the new job and then move on to C# and do a little refreshing of my network fundimentals.

I'll add more over the next few days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not bad after a week off from studies.

I was pretty much able to pick up where I left off a week ago, and start getting a good grip on CSS.

It's pretty amazing how having each page reference a style sheet can add so much flexibility and streamline the design process. I can definitely see how this will help in the retooling of all of my sites, plus any projects that come my way in the future.

After some correspondence with one of the experts in accessibility, I have decided to forgo the HTML vs. XHTML debate for now, and stay focused on learning XHTML. Down the road HTML 5.0 will make itself know, but I need to learn the basics and focusing on XHTML is the best course for me now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Catching up.

Wow! I missed a weeks worth of posting to this blog. I have been buried with my job search, and really haven't had time to do much else besides some cleaning.

I had to put my web design studies on hold last week, but I will be getting back to them now. I haven't lost my focus in the pursuit of my goals, just a weeks worth of time due to a very hectic schedule. I will get back in the swing of things this week.

Now that my place is more organized, including my SOHO network, I now can move forward with more aspects of my studies including running at least one dedicated web server. I'll also be able to dive into a few other projects like my Lego robotics system, and my retro-computing.

Things are moving along, maybe not as fast as I would like, but I am seeing progress.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dealing with disappointment and moving forward.

Friday evening I found out that one of the positions I interviewed for last week went to someone else. Needless to say I was a little disappointed, but that's life and I have to keep moving forward in my job search and studies.

One thing I did yesterday to help get my mind off the disappointment of not getting the job was to go on a cleaning binge.

Not only did the cleaning binge help me deal with Friday's disappointment, it also helped clear out even more stuff that I don't need, and in the process I got better organized so I can move forward with my job search. Getting organized will also help my studies in web development as well as some personal projects (robotics, and retro-computing).

If you have been following this blog for any length of time you may be wondering how much stuff I really have stashed at my place. The simple answer is "way too freaking much"

I am a geek, and like many geeks I have more than a passing interest in way too many things. I have been making good use of my time off from work to refocus my life and priorities, and it is starting to pay off.

Some times you just have to take the disappointments in life, and use them to motivate yourself to better things, and that is what I am doing.

I'll have more on my studies and and possibly other topics in the next blog entry.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Being "old" vs. being "experienced"

I've been buried all week long with my job search as well as working on clearing out even more stuff, so I can focus more on my priorities. Needless to say studies have taken a back seat, but I am still moving forward with them (learning CSS now)

One thing that kind of hit me like a gut punch when I first started my job search was several recruiters telling me not to list my total years experience, so I am not considered too "senior" for the positions I am applying for. Having just turned 50 I am a little concerned about bias due to my age, but that may not be the case. I believe the term "senior" has more to do with title and compensation expectations more than age, and considering I am looking for something more mid-range that should not be an issue.

It is interesting that the last couple interviews I have had have been with companies needing someone with a lot of experience to help them move forward in their product development. In my 26 years in high tech, I have participated in the release of many new products and technologies, and functioned on several different levels in that capacity.

So maybe being considered senior with compensation and title expectations may not be a good thing for me, but being considered senior with regards to the experience that I can offer a prospective employer is a good thing. So now I have another tool to help market myself.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Moving on to CSS!

Because lot's of stuff came up between this and the previous blog Chapter 7 of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML took a lot longer for me to finish than I wanted to take, but it's done and I am diving in to Chapter 8.

Chapter 7 dealt with XHTML 1.0 which is very close to HTML 4.01 that was covered in the prevouse chapters. According to the book XHTML is supposed to next thing, but given that the book is now several years old and that HTML 5.0 is coming out, I wonder if this is still true.

Does anyone out there have an opinion regarding HTML vs. XHTML that they would like to share? If so, post a comment because I would like to others think.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's hump day, and I am tying to get over some humps

The brand new printer that I got to print out cover letters and customized resumes died yesterday. I have solutions to work around the problem until a replacement printer arrives, so I am not completely stuck and I am moving forward (albeit a bit hobbled).

What was left of my time yesterday was spent working on my job search, so didn't get in any time for my studies. It looks like today will be focused exclusively on the job search, but hopefully tonight I will be able to get in some time and learn more about XHTML.

I know what I want to do with the knowledge I will get from Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, but I am not sure if I should move forward with the PHP studies, or shift my focus to C#. I would like to learn both because both interest me and I see the demand for those skills, but I only have so much time.

While I know what my long term goals are, I am struggling to find the right path to get to where I want to go. There are so many pathes that present opportunities that I lose my focus at times. Keeping my focus and continuing to stay hopeful are are just two more humps in the road ahead for me, but I will get over them.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Done with Chapter 6 and moving to XHTML

I finished Chapter 6 of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML over the weekend, and I can definitely say I learned a lot about web standards and compliance.

It was interesting to use the W3C Markup Validation Service to check the code samples in the book, as well as my own sites (miba51, cloudymidnights, and urbanspelunkers) I wasn't surprised to find that all three of my sites had bugs, but I am still going to hold off correcting and updating my sites until I am done with book.

Since I am paying for hosting those sites, I might as well use them as part of my portfolio with cloudymidnights emphasizing accessibility, and urbandspelunkers to experiement with style.

I am now starting Chapter 7 and diving in to XHTML and hopefully in a couple more chapters I'll begin working with CSS. I wish I were making faster progress, but there are other priorities, and at least I am making progress on many fronts right now.

I scapped out 4 old PC hulks I had lying around, and I have two or three more to scrap out by the end of next weekend. My place is looking more organized than it has in years. Who knows, I may actually get some of my other projects off the ground. It's amazing what you can accomplish once you define and narrow your focus.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Coming up for (but just for a little bit)

The job search is plugging along and I am starting to make some good contacts. I am still staying positive and working toward my goals.

I've been networking with some great people in the accessibility field and I have found some great resources that will help me move forward. I am impressed at how helpful people are in sharing information about accessibility.

My studies have been going in spurts. As I have stated before this is due to the time I am spending on my job search, but like my job search I am making progress. I am currently on Chapter 6 of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML and I hope to finish it by the weekend.

I am finding that HTML seems to just come naturally to me and even though I haven't started working with CSS I have been able to understand the few examples that have been listed in the exercises.

Even though it's a cloudy day today, I'm feeling pretty positive about where I am heading.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Really made some progress.

I finally finished Chapter 5 of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML and I am ready to move on to Chapter 6. The reason it has been taking so long is that I dove into a major cleaning project over the last few days. Things are a lot more organized now and I believe I can make a lot of progress now.

I want to post more but I'm just drained right now. I follow up tomorrow evening with more news.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Something's missing! Look to the left.

If you look over to the left you will see that the "Free Books" comment and link are missing. That's because someone came over today and picked up a bulk of the books. What was left wasn't worth trying to find a home for so they are now residing in the recycling bin. All of the non-fiction books are heading off to a used book store tomorrow. I am finding as I become more focused on my goals, getting rid of stuff I don't need is becoming easier.

Studies are going slow, but I am still moving forward. I believe that clearing out a lot of stuff will provide a better study environment, and help me move towards my goal so things should pick up. I'm also starting to do some research on web accessibility for the visually impaired, and I am gathering a lot of information which I hope to incorporate in to my upgrades to the Cloudymidnights site.

Since I have Tron running in the background at the moment, I guess I'll end this entry with a good old fashion "EOL"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did you know?

Pencil line is 35 miles long
Just a little something from today's studies. Yes, Chapter 5 is going much slower than it should, but I will get back up to speed in the next few days. That's it for today. I am one tired, but optimistic puppy.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Turning 50 and looking forward to the future.

Since today was my 50th birthday I decided to take a break and didn't get much done. I did do some studying, but nothing worth writing about and most likely I will reread the sections tomorrow.

I was planning to write about another job opportunity, but I realize that for the most part it is already listed, and actually is the first two opportunities I listed.

Because I want to help people, I think it would be great to find a job working with web accessibility applications for the visually impaired, and this fits right in with the second opportunity I listed as well as the purpose of the Cloudymidnights site and blog that I run.

It is even possible to test web accessibility applications on or for embedded systems such as PDAs and other devices. I have the embedded systems experience, and I am learning web development (albeit a little slower than I like, but hey!, I have to find a job right now)

Both the embedded systems testing and accessibility testing fit right in with the goals of my purpose. The science writing can be something I can do on my own separate from work, though eventually I may end up writing for a living (or at least some pocket change)

Monday, September 08, 2008


I don't think it's the same level of techno-religious argument as Vi vs. Emacs, but Chapter Five of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML did go into the differences between JPEG and GIF and why one may be better than then other for specific applications.

I really never gave it much thought until I started in with this chapter. In the past just posted images in whatever format worked for me at the time. Now I have a better understanding, and I will try follow to the guidelines in the book. It may take a while for the rules to sink in enough to where I don't need to regularly go back to the book to check, but I will get the hang of it as I build my own sites.

Moving on to other things, I am finding that I define my purpose more and more, it is becoming easier to get rid of a lot of the stuff I kept around the place for projects that just never got off the ground. As the stuff gets tossed, I am finding it easier and easier to focus on my goals, and that really helps me to stay positive right now. Clearing out all of the books over the next few months will really help.

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday, and Saturday will be one month since I was laid off, but more importantly Saturday will also be the 26th aniversary of my first job as a "technician". I think that now is a good time for a change and I really feel good about my chances.

I'll be adding another "Interesting Employment Opportunity" tomorrow. I'd do it tonight, but I've been working for almost 16 hours now, and it's time to get some Zs.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Slow progress, but still going at it.

I have made some progress with my studies, but I am finding that both the job search and going through and clearing out all the stuff I have is cutting into my time.

There is nothing I can do about the job search except streamline the process, and find a job of course. That is a priority right now.

As for clearing out the stuff, I have given up on selling the books and I am now listing all the technical books for free, and I will exchange the non-fiction and fiction books at a used book store for some books I can use such as books on web development.

Being flexible and adapting to changes in your circumstances is necessary to getting through times like these.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I am still here and still plugging away.

I have been very busy the last few days working on my job search, so much so that I have had to put the books down for a bit and just crank away at the job search.

I have made enough headway and have gotten organized enough to where my schedule will allow for more study time starting today (or at least I hope)

While my goals and purpose haven't changed, I do need to meet the requirements as required by the Employment Security Department, and so I have to balance my energies and priorities.

I have taken some time to gloss over Chapter Five of Head First book, and the perused the Crash Course book a bit, and once I clear a few things off my plate I am back to work at reading those two books.

The one thing that I am trying not to do is get down too hard on myself about the situation, and I am working hard at staying positive. I will say though I am putting in a lot of walks to help with the stress and keep me motivated.

That's it for now, and thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment. It would be nice to know that someone is reading this blog.

Cheers! ~ Jim

Monday, September 01, 2008

I've been busy!

I should have posted an entry yesterday, but I had a long day and was too tired and trashed to write a decent post. I spend a good portion of the day pulling books out of my storage coffers so that I can list them for sale here. If you look on the side bar you will now see a "Books for Sale!" with three separate links for Technical, Non-Fiction, and Fiction/Miscellaneous Books. I thought this was necessary given the sheer volume of stuff I plan to get rid of. Hopefully I can get rid of most of the stuff and make a little extra to help get by while I pursue my goals.

Speaking of goals, I finished Chapter 4 of "Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML" and learned some interesting things about my favorite attribute "target". In most of the pages that I have composed using a WYSIWYG editor, I have almost always selected the target="_blank" option for links so that the links will open to either a new window or tab. What was pointed out in the book is that this may not always be the right thing to do, especially since it may cause problems for those who are visually impaired. This is very important for me since my Cloudymidnights site and blog, are in part intended for visually impaired astronomers.

I've been making a lot of upates to the Cloudymidnights blog, but I am holding off on upating the site until my skill set is improved. Besides being useful to climatically challenged or visually impaired astronomy enthusiasts, I also want the site to be functional as well as a show piece of my work, and I also don't need any distractions right now, so the site will sit as is for the immediate future.

Reading of web site usability and my work on the Cloudymidnights blog tweaked my interest in possibly looking for work as a web site usability tester, so now I have another possible avenue to pursue and hopefully help me find a job sooner.

For me web site/application usability tester is right up there with testing web applications for embedded systems, especially since it will help others, and that is in line with my recently defined purpose that I am now pursuing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I guess I have some catching up to do here!

I was a little too busy to post here yesterday, so now it's time to do a little catching up.

First off, I didn't get to dive in to Chapter Four of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML like I wanted to. I got a little tied up in some paperwork, and after that I did some serious thinking about where I really want to go with my life and career.

Someone once told me that there are three ways of looking at work. Work can either be a job, a career, or a calling. When I combine this view of work, with the concept of finding ones purpose as described in Jack Canfield's book "The Success Principles" (which I am reading on the side), I began to map out a strategy about find work that I will really enjoy doing.

I wrote down five things that I find I love doing and give me a sense of purpose, and they are:

1) I love learning and discovering, especially if science is involved.
2) I love organizing and presenting data.
3) I love communicating what I have found to people.
4) I love technology, and using technology to help others.
5) I enjoy helping other, and I feel lost when I am not allowed to help others.

Given these five things that I love doing, I truly belive my calling or purpose if you will, is writing or presenting scientific information to the public in a manner that will be both enjoyable and useful for them, and doing so via a technology such as the internet. Basically a science blogger or writer.

Now pursuing this calling will not imeadiately put food on the table or keep a roof over my head, so here my long term plan.

1) Find a job in software or systems testing that hopefully will involve working with web development to some degree. Something along the lines of testing web applications for embedded systems is my best bet.
2) Use the job to eventually move into a career in web development, quite possibly developing web based applications for embedded systems.
3) While pursuing the job and career, I will continue to learn evrything I can about the field of web development and hone my writing skills for the content side of things. If I follow this path I know I will reach my goal as a science writer (my purpose/calling).

Now from all my conversations with writers that I know, I know that I shouldn't give up my day job, and to be honest, my writing will most likely be something that I will do on the side for quite a long time. I may never get a chance to do it full time until I retire, but this is the path I feel is right for me, and I am going to follow it as best I can. There will be some detours, and delays, but in the end I am going to reach my goal.

So now I am done with the the philosophical rant for the day. I need to do some serious cleaning and organizing around the place, plus I have to dive into Chapter Four and keep the momentum going.

I will post later today if I have the time.

Cheers! ~ Jim

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chapter 3 is done and so am I for the night.

I finished Chapter 3 of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML earlier today, and I am looking forward jumping in to Chapter 4 tomorrow, but only after I get some sleep tonight.

I added some new features to this blog, including a RSS feed for several web development blogs, and some links such as W3 Schools: HTML 4.01 / XHTML 1.0 Reference (a neat list of tags) . I also set up mirrors blog of this blog on both Wordpress and LiveJournal. There may be some original content on those blog, and if so that content will be mirrored back to this blog.

It looks like I am going to have to have multiple versions of my resume. One for "tech" work, another for software testing, and one for entry level web development/testing.

There will be more books added to the Books For Sale list tomorrow, specifically some Windows 2000 books, and maybe more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hacking away at Chapter 3, and even more books for sale.

I made some good progress with Chapter 3 of "Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML" and plan to dive back into it after completing this post. I learned some concepts about layout and the quote and blockquote tags.

I also learned not to move files and directories around while your editor is still open on pages you are working on. I know better, but I didn't pay attention and due to "clickitis" I ended up deleting some pages and having to redo them. Hey! It was good practice, and I learned from it.

I started a rewrite of my resume as well as starting to compile a list of potential employers.

Lastly, I added more books to the "Books For Sale" list, including some hacking/security books, and some older FreeBSD books. I have more than enough FreeBSD books, and the hacking/security books do not fit into my current plans.

Well, back to my studies. (Pssst! Every book listed is OBO, so make an offer if your are interested)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Some more progress, and more books for sale.

I got going with Chapter 3 of the the Head First book about a half hour ago, and I realized that if I dove in too deep it wouldn't be until the wee hours of the evening before I got to sleep, so I am winding down for the night. It looks like tomorrow is going to be a fun day though.

I finished a short chapter in the MySQL book. It primarily dealt with permissions which given my set up will not be that important (yet). Speaking of MySQL, I found this article on

Protecting your MySQL database from SQL injection attacks with GreenSQL

Maybe it will be of interest to some of the readers of this blog.

I also went through my piles of books and pulled some of the older Linux books out and listed them on the Books For Sale page. Hopefully someone will buy some of the books. I need the space and the extra cash wouldn't hurt either.

Finished chapter 2!

I just finished Chapter 2 of Head First HTML with XHTML & CSS! It was still pretty basic stuff, but I did learn a lot, especially the "href" attribute, and directory structure for web sites.

Using a WYSIWYG editor, and browsing the W3 Schools: HTML Tutorial, I had some understanding of how to create links, but the book went a little farther than my previous experience, and now I have a better understanding.

As for directroy structure I think one of the first things I will do with my own sites is create a decent directory structure and replace the blob of files I currently have online. Chapter 2 showed me the error of my ways.

I will start up with Chapter 3 later tonight, but before that I need to take care of some job search stuff, and read then next chapter in the Apache/MySQL/PHP crash course book.

I will say that the Head First book with it's interactive format does get one thinking. I have never been big on writing in books, especially working out exercises, but this book is breaking me of that habit. So much so that the book will be trashed by the time I am done and in this case that is a good thing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Made some progress, but not so much with studies

Before jumping into the Head First book, I decided to wind down my involvement with another project, so that I would have more time to study. This took a little longer than I would have liked, but it is done now, and I can move forward with my studies much faster.

I only got a little ways into Chapter 2 before my eyes got heavy and I started yawning every minute or so. So I am winding down for the night now.

I will say that there are times where my prior experience with both web sites, and blog makes me want to skip some of the material, but I am forcing myself to read it because it does reinforce my understanding of the material. Also actually entering the code in an editor such as Notepad Plus really helps in learning the syntax.

I have used a WYSIWYG editor such as Kompozer in the past, and have looked at the HTML source and made sense of most of it, but building by scratch definitely helps build a good foundation.

Well I am off to catch some Zs.

Took a break.

While I am happy with the progress I have made so far and the direction I am heading, I needed to take a day away from my studies to take a break as well as get some cleaning done.

Taking a break and kicking back (just a bit) along with clearing out the clutter around the house definitely helps clear out your head.

For a long time now I have known that I have way too many books on way too many subjects, so I have decided to get rid of those books I do not need, and possibly make a buck on the side while I am at it. Take a look at the Books For Sale link in my personal links section.

I don't expcet to get rich off of what I sell. I just want to clear out a lot of space, and possibly get some cash while I am at it. I am just getting started with the list, so take a peek now and then if you want some books real cheap.

Later today I plan to dive head first into the second chapter of the "Head First" book. I'll post an entry about how things went some time tonight.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Course change feels right.

I finished the first chapter of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, and feel pretty good about the progress. A lot of what was covered I already had a handle on it, but the style of the book helped reinforce what I knew and going through the exercises definitely reinforced my knowledge.

My "Starbuzz Coffee" pages are looking good (You'll only understand if you have read the book)

I received a good tip from one of my Linkedin connections for a new GUI Admin Tool for MySQL. You can find it here: (thanks Marko)

I think the new course is the right one, and with determination and a little luck I will be moving forward with my career and job search.

Making progress and a slight course change.

The weekend Apache/MySQL/PHP crash course is turning into a week long or longer crash course, and actually that is a good thing.

Given the issues with the book being out of date, I have decided to slow down the pace with this course of study, but keep at it. I am not moving it to the back burner, but instead turning down the heat. I have a new book on order: Head First PHP & MySQL. This book is due in mid-September, and I should have the first book done by then and what I learned will help move forward with the new book. I should have read the reviews on Amazon before diving into the first book. If I had I would have started my studies with HTML a lot sooner.

Having said that, I now plan to refocus my efforts on learning HTML, XHTML, and CSS with the Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML from O'Reilly. This is where I should have started in the first place, but as they say - "you live and learn".

I thought that diving into PHP and MySQL with a crash course book would be give me some additional momentum towards my end goal, but unfortunately there were some issues. Fortunately the issues I encountered I was able to turn into good learning experiences.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Staying with it.

I decided to take a break after the late night session on Monday night / Tuesday Morning otherwise my efforts with the crash course book may have resulted in my crashing and burning.

The one thing I have learned from the reading this book so far is always make certain that the material you are reading about is up-to-date. Having said that, I will say that I did learn from my efforts, so I am staying with it. It will just take more than a weekend to finish this book though.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It may not be a major milestone for many, but it is for me!

Considering I am using a book that references older versions of Apache, PHP, and MySQL, and all the changes that have taken place, I think getting the words "hello world" to appear in my browser by way of a PHP script is pretty good progress especially since that is several chapters down the road. Yeah, I just had to stumble ahead, but it was fun.

There seems to be some issues with getting the PHP CLI to work, though I think I just need to tweak some environment variables. A major change with MySQL is that winmysqladmin.exe is no longer available, and this will require some improvsation on my part, but I will manage.

(It's really late, so please excuse any typos.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Read the documentation Jim!

I finally was able to get PHP up and running with Apache, but the version of PHP I am using is not what the Crash Course book says to use. Instead of completing a manual installation with PHP 4.4.9, I ended up using the installer package for PHP 5.2.6

The book is based PHP 4.X.X. and Apache 2.0, and not Apache 2.2. If I had paid attention to what version of Apache I installed, and this note on the PHP site, I wouldn't have taken so much time to get PHP installed:

"Note: Apache 2.2.x Support
Users of Apache 2.2.x may use the documentation below except the appropriate DLL file is named php5apache2_2.dll and it only exists as of PHP 5.2.0. See also »"

Trying to install php 4.4.9 using the php4apache2.dll in the httpd.conf Apache config file, just isn't going to work.

Was this a waste of time. No! I am certain I can do a manual install of PHP 4.4.9 on another system, but I have to make sure I am using Apache 2.0.x and not Apache 2.2 I may end up doing this if I have some spare cycles later on.

Several notes to anyone else trying this.
  1. Only print out the PHP installation readme if you want to kill off a forest. (35 pages!)
  2. Try to have two systems running when you do this. One system to install PHP on, and the other to read the install instructions on the site (since the book is a little out of date with regards to the latest version of Apache). This luxery may not be available to everyone, but it sure helps to be able to access site on one monitor while you are installing on another system. This can be done with a single system single or dual monitors, but it saves time if you have reboot the system you are installing PHP on.
  3. Check the errata on the book. There was also a typo regarding the php4apache2.dll. The book has phpapache2.dll not php4apache2.dll.
Well now I move on to installing MySQL. This little delay cost me some time, but it was a learning experience.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Made some progress today.

Well I downloaded PHP and MySQL and they are now ready to be installed on the server, and after I install PHP and MySQL, I have still yet to configure and secure Apache.

I also posted the Self study program and Staying positive while unemployed pages today. The links are permanently posted in the "My Links" list on the left sidebar.

(I updated this entry to correct a brain cramp on my part.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Browser bias: Get over it!

For the longest time I was a devout Firefox follower and carried the anti-IE banner. Now that I exploring a career in web development, I realize I will need to use IE along with other browsers (Seamonkey, Safari, Opera, etc) to check my work, and I will have to be proficient in their use. Basically I have to become browser-agnostic.

Most browsers have similar behavior, and from the user's point of view are not all that different. But they do have their quirks, and I will need to learn my way around them. I just have to make sure that my geekitis doesn't flair up, and I spend too much time playing with the new toys.

(One little side note: I originally composed this entry on Seamonkey, and I noticed that the fonts and size were different than entries I created on Firefox. I believe I need to set the font and size in Seamonkey, but this is a good example of why you need to be browser-agnostic and learn the differences between your tools)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Planning your time while unemployed.

Yesterday and classic example of over planning and scheduling on my part. I had intended to do the folloing:
  1. Plan out my self study program and post it on a Google Page.
  2. Start up another Google Page about staying positive while unemployed.
  3. Continue building my network on and other sites.
  4. Add another links list to the sidebar and add links to the Google Pages listed above, and pages I will most likely create later on
  5. Get MySQL and PHP installed on my 2K server and get cracking.
  6. Look into some online programs from a local community college.
No! I didn't waste my time watching TV or just lounging around. Some other issues popped that had a much higher priority and they needed to get done.

Rethinking my scheduling and goal setting is a must now, especially if I want to make my career transition happen.

I plan to work on that list over the weekend. I'll let you know how it goes on Monday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moving forward!

Yesterday I and 60-some other people got the "AX" and were laid-off from work. As I have posted elsewhere, lay-offs are a fact of life, especially in the high tech field. I am surprised as to how positive I am staying about being laid-off.

To be honest I am going to use this as a chance to retool my career and move forward with my plans to learn all I can about web development and content management.

There are several things I plan to do today. The are
  1. Plan out my self study program and post it on a Google Page.
  2. Start up another Google Page about staying positive while unemployed.
  3. Continue building my network on and other sites.
  4. Add another links list to the sidebar and add links to the Google Pages listed above, and pages I will most likely create later on
  5. Get MySQL and PHP installed on my 2K server and get cracking.
  6. Look into some online programs from a local community college.
That's it for now. Check back later on

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Getting Apache installed.

I'm running a little late tonight, but I did take a step forward with my studies and got Apache installed on a Windows 2K system. Installing Apache on is very easy, but I need to secure it before I move forward with my PHP and MySQL studies.

I'm working from the "Apache, MySQL, and PHP Weekend Crash Course" book, and while the book is fairly straight forward, given my schedule I know it will take more than just a weekend to get though it.

Next step, download PHP and MySQL and get them installed on the system.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So what to do with this blog?

This blog is just one of a number of blogs that I have, and like several others it has sat dormant for much too long.

I've decided that I will use this blog to chronicle my career goals and how I want to implement them. I know that posting about ones career goals and changes in a public blog may not be the smart thing to do, but I need to make a change and pursue what I believe to be the right choice for me, and I need a place to put my thoughts. By posting on a public blog I am hoping that along the way I may meet others who are following a similar career path and maybe we can help each other.

I have over 25 years experience in testing and repairing electronics, and while I still enjoy working with electronics, I am finding that just testing electronics does not satisfy my creative needs, I think I have found something that will satisfy those needs.

I want to start learning all that I can about web hosting, development, and management. I have briefly worked at a web hosting company and have quite a bit of experience in maintaining my own SOHO network. I have also done quite a bit of web content development for my blogs and sites using a WYSIWYG editor. Given my experience and desire I now believe it's time to move up a notch, and utilize my experience and resources to build a web server and run it internal to my own network as a tool to develop the skills I need to move forward.

I am laying out a study plan and plan to start on it shortly. If anyone who stumbles upon this blog is considering or has done something similar then feel free to comment with your suggestions.

That's it for now ~ Jim

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Going gray!

I just finished updating all my Blogspot blogs, so that they all have a similar look. I think the changes work especially for both this blog and the Urbanspelunkers blog. That white text with a black background was getting a little "harsh" for me. I like the gray look of the blogs now.

The "gray look" also matches the look I am setting for my Nemo Black blogs on MySpace and Live Journal.

I know damn sure that people are going to look at all these blogs and sites of mine, and think that I am just "whacked", but I'm not. I just have a lot of interests, and I like playing with all the different stuff that's available for bloggers, so I have more toys in my internet toy box than most people.

I hope to be posting more on all the blogs as time goes on. This blog along with the MIBA51 site will be more focused on technology and such. I hope to list more about my CoCo projects in the near future, but that depends on how much time I make for those projects.

Well, that's it for now.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Well, it's been 18 months since I posted to this blog, and since then acquired a system with Windows XP and downloaded Microsoft Robotics Studio.

I really haven't done much with it, but I will in time.

I updated the layout of the blog to be easier to read, and to match the layout of the CloudyMidnights astronomy blog that I also have. To me the layout is much easier to read than the previous template I was using.

I am running out of steam right now, so I will add more later (within a day or so, and not 18 months)