Sunday, January 6, 2002

Please, Make it Stop!

I have a new theory: computer geeks aren't born, they are created...and sometimes against their own wills!



I always thought that geeks were simply drawn to computers because they lacked social graces and the desire for personal interaction, bringing obsessive-compulsive Type-A hyperlinear personalities to a medium created by others of their kind. Now I believe that, while there are certainly many people born with a predilection for codes and sliderules and abstract math, other people are lured into computer-geekdom against their better judgements.



Take me, for example. I've always been a pretty artsy-fartsy, Type-B, left-brained kind of queen. Always interested in history rather than math, languages rather than sciences, arts rather than applications. Well, one day my father, who is and always has been mechanically-minded, bought a computer (1-meg hard-drive, 286-MHZ processor, DOS 3) and I discovered how fun and easy it is to draw floorplans (an old hobby of mine) on a computer with a generic CAD program. Later on, I discovered how much easier it is to write on a computer, when I sat down and wrote an entire novel in a couple of months (a really bad novel, but long and complete, nonetheless...) Then I discovered how much easier it is to do lots of other things, like keeping track of addresses and playing backgammon.



As a freshman in college, I took a word processing class as a form of occupational enrichment; by the end of the semester, I was a teaching assistant in the Business Computers department (not to be confused with those geeky Computer Sciences people), exhibiting a flair for problem-solving and for learning new applications as they came down the never-ending Microsoft slough; I eventually got a job that involved working a lot on a computer, typing and desktop publishing and keeping books and maintaining a membership database (all things I had assistant-taught in college)...



And then I met the Internet. The internet has almost nothing but the three things I love most: reading, writing, and images. I was dazzled! I was seduced! I became an internet junkie almost immediately. First it was email, then it was research, then it was artworks, and then it was porn...and I was completely addicted.



Then there was the little come-on from AOL Hometown...create your own homepage...express yourself...let others get to know you better...it's easy...it's free... So I created my first AOL Hometown Homepage. I loved it! It was like getting published, except I didn't have to go through a publisher or get criticized by professionals (or get paid). And everyone who visited my home page loved it, told me how much they loved it and how clever I was...it was very much like applause! Soon the one page was four linked pages, then five. I updated the pages every couple of months or so, whenever I had the time to devote and something to say. And I continued emailing frantically, and then I got involved in message boards, and then the two collided in the form of personals ads. If I was more than two days away from the computer, I freaked out.



And then along came Rula Planet and her blog website. "Blogging?" I asked, "Sounds dirty, what is it?" Well, Rula told me all about it, and gave me a couple of links so I could investigate (both of which you will find in the column to your right). From those two sites I followed many other links to many other blogs. It seemed that people were writing every day about their lives, in various styles, with varying degrees of exhibitionism. Thousands, perhaps even millions of people were maintaining online works-in-progress. Some were diaries, some were commentaries, some were elaborate comedies, some were just links and references. "Hmmm," I said to myself, "this could be fun."



When Rula launched rulaplanet.com, I started blogging right away. I loved it! It was so much fun! It was a forum, with an audience even! The website was an instant hit, with phenomenal traffic, becoming a Blog of Note right away...and I got even more positive feedback from even more people than I had on my own homepage. I was hooked.



But being part of a group blog has certain constraints: my sisters weren't as prolific as I, and I didn't like taking up too much room, turning the Galaxy Girls website into my own personal diary. Eventually I decided to create my own blog to take the overflow of persiflage that I was holding back...I mean, every time I logged into Blogger, there was this little icon that said "Create your own Blog"...come on...it's easy...it's free...



And that's when I went completely insane. God, it was only a month ago! Less than that, even! First, I had to choose a template. But there weren't very many templates that struck me as attractive, certainly not as attractive as the many other blogs I'd been reading all along. So I opened up the "edit this blog's template" button and encountered HTML for the first time. I was confused. Baffled, even. But then that old logical problem-solving that did me so much good in college came to the fore, and I started figuring it out. When I went to my favorite websites, I would right-click and select the "view source" option, opening the HTML of the page in Notepad so I could figure out what was different in this and that page. Then I started playing around with FrontPage Express, the free software that comes with Internet Explorer, which comes with Windows, which comes with most PCs (which is why Bill Gates is so damned rich, more power to him). I would make a table, or insert a graphic, or change a fontface, then go to the "View HTML" window and study it. Eventually I grasped an understanding of basic HTML jargon.



And that was the end for me. As soon as I understood HTML, the whole thing took on a tweaky-geeky feel. And ever since then, I have been obsessed with HTML and web-publishing. I spent all month futzing with this blog, working between Blogger and FrontPage to get the HTML right, making it pretty and fun for visitors. And once I declared myself finished, did I step away from the computer and find something else to do?



No.



I decided that my old AOL Hometown pages could use a good revamping. So I started futzing and tweaking at those. I figured out how to download my old pages from AOL, then fix them in FrontPage, and upload them again into AOL's secured FTP space server. I spent a good deal of Friday at the office working on the homepage. And then I came home and started working on the Bio page. And today I totally revamped the Gallery page and the Favorites page.



It was this last one that really brought home to me what a total geek I have become. My old Favorites page had a few paragraphs about what I like to do on the web, where I like to go off the web, who I like to read in libraries and what I like to listen to on the radio. Now, however, it is the biggest collection of hard-sought links I've ever seen. Every 'Person' I listed in my favorites page has a website reference that I hunted down with the help of Lycos & HotBot, Yahoo!-Search, and Ask Jeeves. Every Place in my favorites was searched as well, yielding quite a few results before I made myself stop. I was about to start looking up pictures for favorite vacation spots and recipes for favorite foods, when I finally decided that I had better publish it and get it out of my hair while I still had some hair left.



And now, after sitting in front of my home computer for twelve straight hours, breaking only to potty and to eat one meal, I have had it. I am going to go do some serious left-brainy, nonlinear, cool-not-geeky stuff. I'm going to go watch late-Saturday-night television, then get in bed alone and read Lord of the Rings...



Oh, God, it's too late.



I'm a geek.

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