Ryan's Journey

Winter Quarter ’07

On the 3rd I registered for Winter Quarter. Earlier this quarter, I amazed my professor by finding out some information without straight up asking proper people for it.

You see, this year the Disabled Student Services began having notes sent to this special e-mail account. So what happens is the note taker sends an e-mail with the notes attached in some fashion, and I am supposed to do is log on via the web interface and grab the e-mails that have my course number in the subject. Our e-mail is customizable on certain levels. For example, by default the subject line is highlighted in yellow. So what Disabled Student Services did was highlight the from address in black, and of course kept the text black also. So when an e-mail is opened, there is just a black bar there covering the from line. It takes a rocket scientist figure out to just highlight it, and bingo.

On top of that, I use another program to check University of Washington e-mails, and although you can make it do fancy stuff like that, it doesn’t carry over from the web version. So, I logged in, and there was the from address clear as day. Of course, I told my professor in the same order that I just did. This lead to him asking about my knowledge of computers. I told him they are my primary interest, and have a lot of knowledge about them.

The class that I am taking with him is a simulation of the United States Congress within the course about Congress. A fair majority of the simulation takes place online, at this site my professor came up with. At first I thought it was pretty sweet, that he’s a professor of political science, yet he put together this site, which simulates Congress. Well, he isn’t the person who actually put the site together, rather he’s the one that came up with the concept. While talking to him, he thought that it would be cool if I helped improve the site, mainly since I know about accessibility, and he figured that it would be best if the site was as accessible as possible, just incase somebody down the road had to use some assistive technology.

So, a few days before I was going to register, I went in and talked to my professor to see if me doing an independent study under him, that would be making improvements to the website. Well, the conversation drifted from working on that project to other projects that he is working on. The project that seemed most beneficial to both of us is one of his other projects.

This project takes bills that were in Congress from 1945 to nearly current, I forget the exact ending date, and puts them in electronic format. See the bills during this period are very hard to come by, some only exsisting in six places in the nation. Somebody may think why are 60 year old bills so important?

While I cannot exactly ramble of bills from the 1940′s or 1950′s off the top of my head, I can name a number from both the 1960′s and 1970′s that still have effect today. One of the obvious is the Civil Rights Act in 1965. But others include the Clean Air Act, and various vechicle safety bills.

At the University of Washington, we are fortunate enough to have a considerable amount of these in one of our libraries on campus, but they are in microfiece (spelling) format. Microfiece is like present day pdf files in the way they are displayed, but are stored on something that looks short of an 8-track. So it is a bit hard to view unless you are on campus. Well a few days before we talked, my professor he had submitted some paperwork on the project, and wished we had talked sooner, because I enlightened him on a few things that would help make his argument for this stronger. I am going to check up on this this upcoming week.

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