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Archive for the ‘college’ Category

Well it’s been a while since I last provided anything for my few and random readers. That’s got to stop; both the idea of a lack of readers as well as the lack of updates by me.

I started Jackowick as a place where I could document class projects, as well as add some comic book ramblings geared mostly towards my love of less popular Golden Age comics. I like exploring new tech from the everyday user standpoint, but overall I like exposing people to new ideas and things that are a little off the beaten path. “If you like using this, you might want to check this out”. Things that could help people get some new ideas, and hopefully say “huh, that’s kind of neat”. Recently, I HAVE found lots of neat things, little experiments/experiences, but just haven’t made the blogging process into a habit.

Habits are only habits when they occur with some frequency.

So here’s what planted and fertilized my new seedlings:

In March, I took a business trip to India for a little over 3 weeks. While in Kolkata, I did a lot of leisure reading, and found myself spending a LOT of time on two personal finance blogs, GetRichSlowly.org and TheSimpleDollar.com, and took the time to crawl through the archives and read the stories, not just the articles, by and about the creators, J.D. Roth and Trent Hamm respectively. The blogs are well written with reader submissions, variety, homespun advice, and personality.

One thing that stuck out about their collective advice and style was that a successful blog should have some connection to the reader, which is often achieved with the support of those extra details about the author, and exposing one more to the reader, making a connection, and getting personal.

Also, while in India and reading these blogs, and not having to pay for my food and lodging thanks to the company, I noticed the effects right away of being thrifty and saving money, and it’s given me some new insights into my own savings patterns. Very humbling to realize how many times I’ve made small mistakes or unnecessary purchases, and how they add up.

So while I’d love to get right into my recent projects like installing jolicloud on my netbook, working from across the world on my new HP laptop (and the whole purchase process with Best Buy), and my progress on my X-Men #1-200 collection project, I’d just like to take a moment to say “hello” for the first time really, and introduce my life.

I’m a 30something comic collector who works tangentially with tech stuff (I do testing, QC, and some diagnostics with a large company that sells data), and I like knowing more than the average Joe when it comes to computers, but I’m no code monkey. I started going back to school at the local community college many years ago in a never-ending quest to take classes for the enjoyment and learning process. I have almost finished an art history associates degree, am partial through an associates in the new Game Design Program (learning video game making) and I have a lot of extra credits stocked up in writing, English, and history. I recently bought my first home, and all of this combines into a semi-chaotic life of constantly moving around, organizing and reorganizing, and watching my money while chasing my dreams.

So stick around, I’ll be targeting at least 1 new update a week but also working towards 2-4 weekly updates on a regular writing schedule. As JD and Trent have shown me through their blogs, being organized is one of the best ways to accomplish any goal.

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This week started off terrible. I severely underestimated the time investment in my Networking Fundamentals class or whatever the official title is… and bombed the assignments.  The new plan is to get the readings done during the week, and focus on getting the online quizzes and labs done before Saturday; the assignment due date every week is midnight on Sunday.

Sounds like a plan, right?

It would be great, in theory, if not for the arrival of a certain video game franchise’s final/first chapter today.

Yes, it’s HALO time again.

I preordered my copy, and it’s on the way today, so when I get home from class, I’ll be able to fire it up for an hour or so and deal with the mayhem of 12 year olds cursing like sailors on XboxLive. 

Ah Halo. How I’ve missed ye.

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Well what a fun week already. Lots of random stuff today, so if you want a cohesive story, watch Transformers 2.

Video Game Culture and Design Class is fun but tough… to deal with kids who have short memories and tunnel vision. Most of them can’t relate to anything done before 1990, let alone anything that’s not a squad based first person shooter. If you put “deathmatch multiplayer” on a box of diapers, they’d run into the woods in Pampers and cry man-tears of joy.

If you can get past the shouting of “SUCKS” or “RULES” after each game mentioned, our teacher did bring up Jesper Juul (visit him at http://www.jesperjuul.net/ ) and his rules/theories on gameplay. Jesper is kind of heady, but his explanations of what makes a game rewarding are quite a cool read.  I’m just going to leave his website link there, but if you’re interested in games, psychology, or sociology, explore his page at your own pace.

Things on my mind today keeping me busy:

The fact that I need to shore up my linux device security.

Kidd Chris is on KUFO 101 FM in Portland.  NICE.

Comics Buyers Guide offers a 35 page pdf excerpt of from their Hot Wheels book if you sign up for their newsletter

And finally

I need to read 2 chapters for my gaming class this week, plus have my first assignments for my Cisco Networking Class due on Sunday night.

And it’s football season starting this weekend, and that’s not good for homework.

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So this weekend I was talking with a friend about a potential project/collaboration and realized right away that I’d need to do some research on a specific topic. But one thing we all fall prey to is the ease of googling (or duckduckgo.com plug plug plug) a topic, or just scouring Wikipedia to rehash an article. My intent is not the “bash” Wikipedia, just to give you some ways to think outside the box and maybe find a better tool for your specific needs. Wikipedia is a great place to gather ideas and outline your thesis, article, or project.

Many teachers in the new era of college have made it plain that they do NOT give Wikipedia credit as a source, and they look at plagiarism very seriously, including those nifty software tools they “claim” to have. I wonder how many teachers bluff and use this like the Doomsday Device in Doctor Strangelove.

Anyway, how do you research or look for “better” sources? Some ideas:

Specialized wiki

Many subjects that are entertainment or media related often end up with their own wiki. Wikia is a great portal into subjects from Public Domain Superheroes (one of my frequently visited sites) to KISS. Yep, Kiss. Lower level projects can often be solved by using this method. In a comparison example, the Wikia page for Eric Singer of Kiss is the same in both Wikia and Wikipedia, but Atoman is a little more fleshed out on Public Domain Super Heroes. Not much, but PDSH tells me at least how many issues he’s appeared in, plus the publishing company. Sites like Wookiepedia.com are supplemented with more art, deeper articles, and more sources for the ravenous Star Wars fan. Proof?

Wikipedia Grand Moff Tarkin.
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Wookiepedia Wilhuff Tarkin.
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Yeah.

Hit the Source Page

Think about who/what/where would/should have the records you’re looking to use. I’ll use the example of one of my favorite ball players.
File:Satchel Paige.jpg

If you’re looking up information on Satchel Paige, think about whether you are targeting information that might be best referenced from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the official Satchel Paige website, or MLB.com. Maybe even the Baseball Hall of Fame. What is your topic, what is your thesis, what is your need? Many Wikipedia articles will cite references that may allow you to go deeper and right to where the information was summarized originally.

Public Records

Simple, effective, and wonderful. New Jersey has a great site, for example, in the NJDARM. I can find an all in one list of the Governors of New Jersey here,  and the pre 1947 list including colonials here. If I am researching Governors of New Jersey from 1700-1800, Wikipedia has this broken up on 2 separate pages. Advantage: Public Records. You can also pay for research, which may be cost prohibitive, but you get a cleaner, well documented resource. NJ has some examples here.

The Horse’s Mouth… or the Next Closest Horse

Yes I know we like to cut and paste and read at leisure, but the beauty of the internet that we overlook is the ability to find someone and get in touch with them directly. Email has created a wonderful forum for this. Seems too simple, right? Let’s say you are interested in the high school records and scouting reports on Steve Howe. I’m willing to bet the Clarkston High School Athletic Director has a better shot at getting you that deep research on their famous alumni than a wiki page. You might get a “thanks but no thanks” but with proper people skills and a well crafted letter, you might get another name and email for a former teammate or assistant coach. You might get a tip on something more special, like a regional resource. Although Steve Howe wasn’t from South Jersey, you might find a great interview with a member of the Hot Stovers aka the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame who played with him or against him at some level in his career.

Jackalope Wrap Up and Regret

So I hope this long winded blog entry gave you some ideas. Remember, sometimes finding “an answer” isn’t the end of a good report, article, or paper. Sometimes you need to prove an answer yourself, find the real source, or attack it another way. If you have a child (or are a student yourself), using these alternate research ideas can make a paper stand out and leave less questions about authenticity of your work.

Back in college, in the dawn of the internet, I was accused of plagiarism once. I had NOT plagiarized, but I had left the window of doubt open by taking common top level research as my sources. I was deeply hurt, offended, and scared by the personal, educational, and professional ramifications. I talked to my professor and offered a solution that involved a more direct source contact, and a plea bargain to have my paper graded lower than the normal “worthy” mark for the material.  It paid off, and my final paper was actually much better than the original as a result. If I knew then what I know now, I would have put in the extra effort from the beginning, and made a paper that stood out for the RIGHT reasons, not the wrong ones.

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So I dropped my class for the summer. I’m not going to say I’m a quitter, but there are strategic and tactical reasons to walk away from something.

In this case, I hated the teacher.

My computer science class last semester, where we learned to program with the beautiful Alice software, was very challenging and difficult at times, like when I was spending entire Sundays trying to embed my commands in the neatest, most efficient set of loops. The problem with this class is that the teacher, though young and energetic, is too green for teaching. He even admitted that he didn’t teach Flash before this class. There were too many assumptions and cross referencing to programs and classes that are NOT pre-reqs (if I hear him say “just like Final Cut” one more time, I’d have to pour coffee on his iPhone). And with a class size of 8, it was too far in for him to adapt his lesson plan for us/me. I’ve been the slow kid, the old guy, the rookie before and done fine, but I’m cutting my losses for the summer. Flash is great, it is easy to learn and there are a lot of deeper levels to it, but when you’re dealing with projects for class with specific requirements, well…

… sometimes you gotta know when to leave…

… so you’ll be ready to go back in…

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Ahh class critiques tonight.

It’s that wonderful time when people shit on provide feedback on your projects up for public display. My 3 hours of Flash experience showed, but class was very nice. In the end, I was glad I didn’t bite off more than I could chew, and I saw how using the shape tweens was a better choice than the motion tweens, which we’ll be learning and using in our next Flash project.

Some really great projects tonight, including a great animation of a vector drawn deer running through a photo of a forest. The guy who made it actually hand carved the trees in the photo to insert fore, middle, and background, and it was very very very cool. I’m starting to like Flash a lot, but wondering if it’s worth the $180 for a student discount license for the software on my home PC.

Hopefully, in the next project or two I can import some screen caps of some good old comic folks, maybe the Black Terror or Sky Man to make some low grade animations, like those old Marvel cartoons.  These were great, comic panels with limited animation and dialog:


I’m partial to Iron Man’s intro myself…

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Tonight in class we have our project critiques. Not a big deal, usually a pretty dull class whenever I’ve had them. I can’t wait to hear what the pros in class have done for their projects.

In the meantime, I’ve become concerned about plugins after a Silverlight popup told me my work PC wasn’t up to date. Here’s a handy site for checking lots of your plugins, courtesy of the folks at Mozilla:

http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/plugincheck/

I’ve also been staring at my “old” Dell XPS 410 and think I missed the narrow window when I could have made a good return on ebay with it. At this point, the best move is to upgrade my existing PC memory with the Dell’s boards, and then strip out the Dell mobo, sell that and the case separately.

And finally,

I still can’t find a *current* copy of Flash for much cheaper than the $170-180 student discount.  Maybe it’s time to suck it up and buy it. Or maybe it’s time to decide if this is really something I want to do long term.

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