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Well that feels better

Does the site look different to you? It shouldn’t, except perhaps when you hover over a link like this one (which doesn’t go anywhere, by the way). But underneath, at the level a CS major cares about, the whole works just suffered a major overhaul, and things look much, much prettier. One of the issues with creating your own blog program is the potential of re-committing mistakes that others have struggled with, and I made a few in my original implementation. At the time I wrote the scripts to write and display posts, I knew nothing about CSS, which turned out to be a very big deal, code-wise. I’m happy with the way the site looks – that’s why I kept it about the same – but making even a tiny change to it involved poring over hundreds of lines of perl. If you’re familiar with CSS, you already understand its great benefits, and if you’re not, take my word for it that it’s much, much easier to tweak the look and feel of the page. I’m beginning to understand why web consortiums deprecated the use of the <font> tag.

Enough geek talk, for now.

The weekend was, and still is, pretty busy. It started with an Oceanography department kegger at the Marine Sciences building, to which Michele invited me and Bryan; Marta is an insider, so she came on her own merits. Certain departments throw keggers for their students and faculty periodically – the Computer Science dept. used to give one each quarter, but not anymore – and the Oceanography dept. leads the list with a party a month; it’s called First Friday, because it takes place on the first Friday of each month, obviously. The amount of beer varies, but it’s usually at least a couple pony kegs. Bryan and I showed up a little late and so got the dregs of the last keg, but it wasn’t our fault.

Before the kegger, we were in his basement room recording a few tracks of my new album, Zach sings, Vol. 1, and lost track of time. Bryan has a mixing board, a couple microphones and stands, and a 32-track mixing program on his iMac, and he walked me through the process for “Aeroplane over the Sea,” “Lucky Ball and Chain,” and “Photobooth”. I learned that the recording process amplifies each and every mistake, and was intensely dissatisfied with the results of even the “good” takes; more than half the takes end with me swearing for several seconds before Bryan stopped the recording. My voice sounds lovely and sonorous echoing inside my own head, but when recorded and played back on the computer speakers makes me cringe. My original plan was to lay each track down in one take, but I realize now that that’s just not feasible. Even if I lose all my indie cred, I’m going to have to record each song in two tracks, one for the guitar and one for the voice – it’s impossible to get the volume ratio right otherwise. Bryan’s going to donate me his equipment and room one Saturday afternoon and let me wail away until I have ten or so songs that I’m happy with. The goal is to get the album out before I leave for Vienna (more on that in a second), but no promises.

When we finally looked at the clock in his sunless room, we were already 45 minutes late to the kegger. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have mattered too much, except that we were incapable of finding the building we needed – it took over an hour to walk there from Greek row. I’m still not sure how we got so hopelessly lost so many times, but it probably has something to do with Bryan’s deficient sense of direction and my own preoccupation. In any case, I haven’t been so lost on campus since the first week of Freshman year – the path we took to the building as we hiked all over campus must look like a “dotted line” strip from Family Circus. But we did arrive in time to get a glass apiece out of the wheezing keg. As I furiously pumped to fill Bryan’s cup, several bystanders asked if the keg was dying. “Not on my watch, it’s not,” I replied grimly. They laughed, but I was dead serious – we’d worked too hard to not be rewarded with beer.

For the rest of the weekend, I was lame. Certain of my friends must think that I hold them in bitter scorn, given how many times I’ve spurned their invitations to hang out lately, but that’s simply not the case. I just have more things to do than I have time, and a party one night means no party the next in my world. Last night I was supposed to meet Dillon and company at the Monkey Pub, but it didn’t pan out: by the time I fulfilled all my pressing obligations to school and such, it was past midnight. The bar closed in an hour, and there was probably a cover for the band that was playing there, so I gave up. I can only hope that Dillon and company were too drunk to notice my absence.

Earlier in the day, I attended my five-hour study-abroad orientation in the HUB. Marta told me that the large, general-info session was tedious and that things would pick up when we split into smaller, country-based groups, but I found the opposite to be the case. Everyone who’s going to Austria next quarter, with the exception of Kelly and myself, are taking a class this quarter to learn how. They all know each other, and are all staying in the same dorm in Vienna. As I explained to Kelly once we were safely out of earshot, there’s got to be a fundamental difference between people who do that and people who just sign up for the program and fly out, as Kelly and I are. Their questions for our session leader Anna, an exchange student from Vienna, completely baffled me: where are the best clubs; where is a good bar; what’s a good cafe, grocery store, book store; what kind of shoes should I wear; are Birkenstock’s OK; what about regular sandals; should I carry a backpack; what about a water bottle? My question for them is: why are you bothering to go abroad? You clearly have no business leaving your home. There are some things which make sense to ask, such as, “what is the weather like” or “is it safe to walk alone at night” (unpredictable, always), but if you’re going to let one person from Vienna dictate your travel itinerary and mannerisms… oh man. Figure it out yourself!

Now I have a midterm paper to write for my writing class, on patent law. It’s a rough draft, and I never know what’s acceptable for those. Is it OK to write half the length of the final well, or do we need the full seven pages in whatever roughness we’re comfortable with? I’m not clear on any of this, but if I don’t get started like, now, I’m in trouble. Hopefully the new post script works with the new site-display script, but of course I haven’t tested it. Fingers crossed!

Posted in Musings.


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