Thursday, January 11, 2007

About Me

So, well, I've noticed that this blog is kind of dry.

Boy, it took him long enough...

I talk about the project I'm doing here at North, and not too much else. I was hoping this blog might be a good way to publish my work in an easily followable format, following the spirit of open source in the hopes that it might be useful to someone out there...and, admittedly, I did have the hope that people would be tripping over themselves to give me useful pearls of wisdom that would help me solve the issues I come up against.

It hasn't really worked that way. And that's ok. I really had (have, to be completely honest) no idea what the most useful way to do this whole blogging thing is. I've found an excellent way not to make it useful.

I was surprised, soon after beginning this blog, at how many people I met in real life at events and in the online community who were already following along with it (especially since people rarely comment). I wouldn't be surprised now to find that I've bored you all to the point of unsubscribing me from your RSS feeds. My one saving grace in this regard may be that since I post so infrequently, you might have simply forgotten to unsubscribe me.

In an effort to liven my blog up a bit, and maybe give you all a little context on who the man behind this particular curtain is, I've decided to write a blog post all about...


Ok, so it's a bit narcissistic, I know, but hear me out:

If you're reading this you might actually be interested. If you're not, then I won't be offended if you skip it. I however, find that I like getting to know the people whose blogs I read, so I'd like to give anyone out there who feels the same a chance to get to know me. I'll see what I can do about keeping it all more or less on-topic.

So, split into a few sections:

Basic Info (or, Vital Statistics, Plus!)

A Portrait of Me

My name is Simón Anibal Ruiz Rolfs. I was born almost exactly 24 years ago in Cumaná, capital of the Venezuelan state of Sucre and the oldest living European city on the American mainland (home of the oldest American castle, as well). My father was born in the same Venezuelan state, and my mother was born in the U.S. state of Kansas. I am a citizen of both Venezuela--where I live in Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui--and the Unites States--where I live in Bloomington, Indiana.

I also have bouts of insomnia, thus this post.

Education and Me (or, Learning My Way)

Education flows through my veins. It's the family business.I grew up with both of my parents working as professors at the university level; my father taught electrical engineering and my mother, a linguist, taught English as a Second Language at the Universidad de Oriente. Nowadays my mother continues working with ESL at the Intensive English Program at Indiana University, and my sister teaches Spanish up in Chicago.

I love learning! That said, however, I can't say the same about the education systems I passed through: some classes were great and really taught me a thing or two, and in some classes I learned despite the teacher.

My experience of education as I was growing up was quite diverse; bouncing back and forth between two different countries, two different languages, two vastly different cultures and education systems ensured that. I have attended both private and public schools, even one all-boys Catholic school; I've been in a school where one classroom held 50 screaming second graders, and a school where the dozen or so kids in my classroom were split between 3 grade levels; I've encountered a wide variety of both inspiring and revolting teachers and classmates; etc.

I'll be honest, though, I was not the ideal student: just ask some of my former teachers (some of who are now my co-workers). In elementary school I was a hyperactive mess. I probably turned in about half of the homework I was assigned in high school, most often late. Some classes I slept or read a book through (though, in my defense, I aced all the tests in those classes more or less effortlessly). I would not wish having me in class--as I was in primary through secondary school--on any teacher.

After graduating from Bloomington High School North in 2000, I took some time away from school because I had a very vivid presentiment that if I continued right on to college I would just crash and burn...that, and my GPA was too low to be accepted into Indiana University here in Bloomington, Indiana. I worked a few jobs, and got some living under my belt before I started taking classes again, part-time at Ivy Tech Community College, also here in Bloomington. The break from school was just what I needed to re-evaluate how I approached my classes, and I have managed to keep a 4.0 GPA so far in my college career.

Although I was very impressed and pleased with the quality of the General Studies classes I took at Ivy Tech--they have some AMAZING teachers--their degree programs are too narrow and focused for someone like me. I want a more general and well-rounded education than they're built to provide. At Ivy Tech you pick a very definite course of study--like say Cisco Networking, or Novell Networking, or Microsoft Networking--and you do not deviate from the required credits for that degree (usually none of which go above the 200 level). There are no real electives beyond the 100 level General Studies courses. This is a beautiful setup for some people, but not me.

I intend to continue my higher education by getting accepted to IU either this coming summer or in the fall. I do not have plans to declare a major too soon (I know, vicariously, the dangers of declaring a major that your heart just isn't into), but rather to take a good variety of introductory level courses from various schools at IU. That said, I expect to study something to do with computing...and I've been told by my mother and my sister that it's useless for me to fight against getting a degree in Education. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up double or triple majoring in different fields.

Like I said, I love learning!

Technology and Me (or, Before Linux)

Technology also runs in my family. My father is a retired electrical engineering professor. His father was the first telegraph operator in the town my father born in. I remember growing up surrounded by all the fascinating, cool gadgetry, and have always felt a pretty strong affinity with technology, especially computers.

One of my earliest memories is the excitement of getting a computer in my room: A four megahertz Epson QX-10 running a version of CP/M (one of DOS's ancestors) or VALDOCS (an Office Suite/Operating System). This thing had a green-screen monitor, and two big 5.25" floppy drives (no hard disk). My dad's computer, the one in the office, was an IBM PC running MS-DOS with an amazing four-color display. Donald Duck's Playground is one of the first games I remember playing. I also spent a LOT of time with the original Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, and later Prince of Persia. (P.S. I've had a lot of fun rediscovering a lot of these old titles recently using dosbox on both Linux and Windows XP. If you remember these days, you should check it out as a good chunk of these titles have become "Abandonware", and available for download from the Internet.)

I learned the very basics of programming with BASIC back then, using MBASIC on the Epson, and GWBASIC on the IBM. I also learned to navigate my way around the DOS command prompt, at times with a little help from Norton Commander. When we eventually got a computer than could run Windows 3.0, a Goldstar 386 "IBM-Compatible", I was pretty impressed with the graphics (Jumping from CGA to SuperVGA was pretty dramatic), but otherwise unimpressed with the environment and kept to the more powerful command line, except for when I had to type up a paper for school using PFS:WindowWorks. I was playing Wolfenstein 3-D in those days, along with Ultima 6: The False Prophet and Ultima 7: The Black Gate.(Again, titles I've had the pleasure of re-discovering thanks to dosbox!)

It was with this Goldstar that I began to discover the world of modems, connecting to Bulletin Board Systems on my trusty 2400 bauder with Procomm. There was a great little Bulletin Board here in Bloomington that was my favorite hang-out, The Good News BBS. When that died, I found the Metropolis BBS, which was actually accesible from any Big Ten or Big Twelve college town. I started chatting with people all over the country and thought that was pretty amazing.

My freshman year of high school, I spent in Venezuela, and my father bought a 686 computer that ran Windows 95. I remember very clearly being pretty upset that the computer didn't boot to a command line by default; I was impressed by the vast improvement of the Windows GUI from 3.0, but it was a memory hog and had a habit of crashing. I saw the trend in Microsoft Operating Systems of distancing the end-user from having control over their computer, and I was NOT happy, but I didn't know there was any alternatives. I mostly played Doom 2 and Duke Nukem 3-D during this time.

With that computer, I discovered the Internet, and that cost my father dearly because we were charged by the hour for Internet service and by the minute for the local phone call. The bill reached over $100/month with as much time as I logged on the web and on IRC. Good times...

Working my way up through Windows 98, NT and XP (I missed ME, thank goodness...), I stayed a Microsoft user. I was the go-to guy among my friends and family when it came to anything to do with computers. I lived and breathed them, so it wasn't too surprising to anyone when I got a job supporting people's use of them...

Back to Bloomington High School North (or, I Meet Linux)

It is late, so I'll save this part for another time...

A request from ME to YOU, dear reader!

I'd like to know a little bit about who all is reading this stuff. Since you made it this far I would greatly appreciate it if you could spare a minute to comment on this entry and let me know who you are, where you're from, where you found me, and maybe a little something about yourself.

I always feel like noone reads my stuff because noone ever comments, so let me know if that's not true!!!

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