Thursday, October 23, 2008

Me Learn Everything

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.

I’m having a blast from the past this week, and it has to do with HTML.

Back in the mid-1990s, while I was a student at the University of Idaho, this whole Internet and e-mail thing was pretty new to us all. This is back in the dinosaur years, when most people had 486s and thought they were the bees’ knees, though they were jealous of these people who were getting that newfangled Pentium chip.

But I digress from Miss Deets. The university encouraged us all to use computers and the Internet because, well, they were paying for it all. Each student was given e-mail and their own website – and most of us did little with the web end than the default setup that the university gave us – name, rank and serial number.

I don’t remember what started it – but I got to tinkering. Someone pointed me on to the concept of looking at the “code” for the websites I visited (using AltaVista in those oh-so-heady days of Yuri Gagarin when the world still trembled at the sound of our keystrokes). I figured it didn’t look that hard. So I started making my site a little better. I was writing for the college paper at the time, and so started reproducing my columns there after they’d been printed. Soon I moved on to book reviews. Then I entered the thrall of nerdom: Fansites. One for the Secret of NIMH, the other for Watership Down. Then another one on sage brush, because my would-be girlfriend (whom I later married, Hi Michelle!) thought I was obsessed with it. Then I built a website for the church I attended at the time. What a geek I was. And I was rewarded. I got a letter – an e-mail, actually – from the IT guys at the university which said I was using too much server space. So they gave me more. Absolutely fabulous. And absolutely geeky.

Then I left university and entered the Fred Flintstone world of newspapers, where, for the first two years, I used a DOS-based monstrosity that was modern in, say, 1972. When I left, the university shut down my websites because I wasn’t there any more. And I suppose it didn’t bother me.

I retrogressed. I didn’t begin blogging until late last year. And until I took a class this semester on digital media, I hadn’t touched HTML at all since my university days. Now I’m all excited again. But I can tell I’ve got a lot to learn about this newfangled stuff, because it’s changed a lot since 1994. By several orders of magnitude, to say the least. But I can tell where this skill would come in handy, and plan to supplement my masters degree work with more explorations here. (I’m getting a MS degree in technical communication. I can tell I need to supplement that with more computer coursework and experimentation.) If (and I say this with much respect, because I really like the guy) the “bearded road apple,” as Alice from Dilbert might describe him, who teaches the class I’m in now can learn this stuff, so can I. And I don’t even wear suspenders.

So another neophyte enters the world of life-long learning. Crazily enough, I’m also interested in taking a physics course, given the place where I work (landfill). (Well, radioactive waste landfill. If the criticality safety officer is running, I’d at least like to know why he’s running as I race along behind him.) And possibly chemistry. That doesn’t sound possible, from the twit who got a D in high school chemistry and figured (pay attention, you snot-nosed brats still in school) that he’d NEVER, EVER want to know that stuff, or ever have the opportunity to use what he remembered, which, right now, are a few random bits like Kelvin, carbon monoxide, playing with those little balls of mercury on the lab table when the teacher wasn’t looking, and the first few from the periodic table of the elements: hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, blah blah blah. I saw no use in science or mathematics when I was in high school. What a fool I was. Because now, as I look on these subjects, I feel like I’ve got the patience, if not the immediate brain capacity, to tackle them. So here I go. I won’t be waiting until next year, like this guy. And I’ll do it on my own, as I don’t get education assistance where I work. But that’s okay. That means I can study what I want. Updates as events warrant.

No comments: