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Erik Trautman

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
-- Pablo Picasso

40% Chance of Rain

The last couple weeks have defined the term "busy" while I packed up the apartment, gave away or sold off a whole bunch of crap (including a car), and moved into a storage unit. My aspirations to spend the whole time coding were quickly dashed when the enormity of the move became clear. Aaah well, such is life. I'm just glad the hours of my youth that I wasted spent playing Tetris came in handy.

Houston is finally in the rear view mirror and my multi-month roundabout journey takes me east through New Orleans. The original plan to tow the motorcycle up to Newport was scrapped when it displayed an alarming lean around corners due to the rake of the front end.

Sometimes having studied mechanical engineering can be a problem. I was never the least bit hesitant about flying until I took a flight class in college and realized what was actually going on around the wings. In this recent case, I was seeing force diagrams in my head and watching the bike lean made me too uncomfortable to allow those stresses to occur over 4000 miles of driving. I guess my trust in the magic of things has been shaken since high school physics (thank you, Dr. Watt). So, Plan B: I put a couple of huge boxes in the mail, hid the Jeep strategically in one of Houston's many housing complexes, and took off on the bike.

This morning's forecast was for a 40% chance of rain. A 10-20% chance is often at best an afternoon drizzle but with 40-50% you can bet there are real storms crawling around out there somewhere. Figuring that you can locate a highway exit in time to pull out your rain gear if necessary is a rosy assumption in Louisiana, where the exits often have 10-15 miles of bayou causeways between them and the storms move faster than you do.

It doesn't get much truer than the old adage, "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst." My soaking gear says it like this: "To take on a 40% chance of precipitation, you'd better be ready to get 100% wet."


Passion vs Fulfillment

It wasn't long ago that I finally internalized the difference between passion and fulfillment, and it upended a lot of things in my world. I followed my passion into finance and energy and it sustained me for five years. In the beginning, my career was fulfilling too. Over time, though, the little things that made it fulfilling were gradually lost to disillusionment and epiphany and I was left powered by a rocket running out of fuel and I quit. That's really the heart of the difference between the two terms and why they are interrelated "“ passion drives the moment while fulfillment is necessary to replenish that energy when it cannot sustain itself.

Pas"¢sion /'paSHen/
1. Strong and barely controllable emotion.
2. A state or outburst of such emotion.


Using a CSS Framework

Lately I've been focusing heavily on design and front-end development skills. I first read one of my new favorite textbooks in order to learn (x)HTML/CSS (it's called "Learning Web Design" by Jennifer Niederst Robbins) and it was a fantastic, though time consuming, introduction to those skills. I am currently focusing on building a base of JavaScript knowledge so I can begin making my pages dynamic. For that, I have been taking a web development course on which, to be honest, hasn't impressed me much so far. Contrary to my expectations, so far the good textbook is actually far ahead of the poor video course.

Building a blog is a classic programming project because it involves so many different types of coding to make the front and back ends function properly. As I mentioned before, despite this blog running live right now on Wordpress (where you are presumably reading it), my intention has always been to create an independent blog website as my first real project. At this point, I've got enough knowledge to begin the process.


The Quandary of Self Education (Part II)

What is the most effective way to learn? I figured out that just absorbing static knowledge is a terrible approach because I can't prioritize lessons properly and it doesn't make optimal use of my time. That means that I need to combine the best elements of the in-classroom social experience with the flexibility of personal education. As I stated before in Part I, my user case is:

I want a low cost way to leverage the brightest professors in the world through a self-directed but vetted curriculum and to reinforce my learning by using a community of real people combined with personal projects for skills validation.
Luckily, my need is not unique and has been recognized by a variety of institutions. The ability to disrupt traditional delivery channels is a specialty of the Internet, and this is certainly true here as well. Online, typically for-profit, universities (like the University of Phoenix) are certainly nothing new, but they haven't exactly been top tier bastions of academic rigor. A handful of startups are looking to address the shortfall in quality by partnering with top-tier universities who have recognized the seismic shift in traditional educational methodologies towards serving cost-sensitive and geographically-dispersed individuals.