I’m leaving for California at the end of the week to spend three months with my mom in Union City. She will be taking the first week off, after which I will be working at Goodwill of San Francisco for a volunteer internship, which should involve transitioning them from the LAMP stack to Microsoft SharePoint for their intranet CMS. My mom also works there. I will also be taking a tour of Google’s campus.
My mom left in 1998, so I’ve lived with my Dad since then. This is a good time to visit her, since I’ve got nothing important going on in Florida. I will be getting to see my 10 year old sister for the first time since 2006.
I won’t be taking any computers, musical instruments, or many clothes, instead relying on buying stuff there and using my mom’s computer. I will take my camera, cell phone, and a portable hard drive for data storage, but I’m limiting myself to one carry-on bag so I don’t have to defend or wait for luggage. I have a four hour layover in Atlanta, so I’ll probably take a book to read. I’m taking a shuttle from Daytona Beach to Orlando, since it’s the same price as the gas for a round trip to Orlando. My mom has promised to buy me a piano, and I may have to buy a monochrome laser printer so I can print sheet music and whatever else I need.
This will be my first time traveling alone, flying on an airplane, and leaving the state, besides a funeral in NC in 2006. I will also be turning 20 on August 17 while in CA. This will be a very significant trip. I’m sure I’ll miss my family, home, and a few key friends in Florida, but I’ll have my cell phone to keep in touch, email, Facebook, blogging, etc. I will also be keeping busy, so the time might pass very quickly. I can’t say for sure until I get out there.
I’m debating which GPS to take, since my mom will let me use her car. I have a Magellan GPS unit I like, but the maps are from 2009 and it costs money to update the maps. My TomTom GPS has free unlimited map updates, but the directions are confusing and the user interface is terrible. I don’t like how the Magellan GPS does not go past 1798 Ridgewood Ave. in Holly Hill, even though that road goes up to higher street addresses. I guess that part of that road may have been in a different city a few years ago. I will probably take the Magellan GPS, and hopefully the roads will not have significantly changed in the bay area in the past two years.
If I like California, I could stay out there or go back later. According to the CA website, I can claim domicile after staying a total of 6 months within a 12 month period, so I would have to go back for another 3 months before May. Then I could go to college at UC Berkeley at the in-state rate, which is about 30 miles from Union City. Hopefully Daytona State College will grant my AA degree at the end of the month, at which point I could go to work on some sort of Bachelor’s degree. However, in FL I can continue receiving the BrightFutures scholarship. I’ve already used up 4 of the 7 years on the AA portion, but can continue receiving it if I work on my Bachelor’s degree here within the next three years, if I’ve read the rules correctly. New BrightFutures students have only 5 years to complete their degree, but I have 7 since I came in under the 2007 rules.
Since I will not have most of my possessions in CA, such as my desktop computer, violin, saxophone, cello, and Chihuahua, I will be relying more on my intellect and my ability to convince my mom to buy me stuff. I won’t be able to help my family with computer issues, nor will I be able to remotely access my computer, since we are having our Internet disconnected tomorrow. I switched from AT&T DSL (768Kb) to Brighthouse cable (10Mb) six months ago, but now they are trying to raise it from $29.99 to $50.00 per month, and their “lite” speed (7Mb) has also increased from $32.99 to $35.00. AT&T now says they only have dial-up in our location, since they are at-capacity for DSL subscribers. Normally, technology advances over time, but in Ormond Beach, FL, it moves backwards. I have to take our cable modem back tomorrow and will be downloading Netzero and/or Juno again for their 10 hours free dialup access per month, for the next few days before I leave. Hopefully they still offer that. I really don’t feel too much loyalty to Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, Volusia County, or Florida in general at this point.
Since there are thousands of gang members roaming the streets of Oakland, I will have to be very careful not to stay our at night, and to avoid wearing blue, red, or black T-shirts, since those are the major gang colors, according to my research. Since I will be in a strange environment, I will naturally be more careful than in my hometown, so I’m not too worried about all the things that could possibly go wrong.
One online project I would like to work on while in CA is getting my text, photos, and videos onto as many websites as possible. While I’ve previously written about the dangers of relying on community websites like Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, YouTube, and Etsy, I now realize it’s much easier to get people to visit you on these websites than a personal website, and these sites do offer hosting for your content and ideas, serving as a sort of online backup on foreign servers, free of charge, so long as the moderators of such services do not ban you or erase your submissions. When I share my photos, I always try to do so at the highest resolution possible. While some people post only thumbnails with watermarks to protect their intellectual property, I would prefer the peace-of-mind of knowing that even if my house, WiredTree’s datacenter, and all of my relatives’ houses burn down, my photos will still exist on some computers or in someone’s files somewhere. Proliferation is better than protectionism. I’m hoping to take a lot of photos of the Golden Gate bridge.
Rather than selling individual images, soliciting donations, or relying on passive income, it may be easier and more fun to offer freelance photography services. A widespread online presence facilitates this, since even though Facebook may take all my ad revenue, it can generate leads that are far more profitable. I photographed a wedding at the beginning of April, and enjoyed it a lot, taking 750 pictures of the wedding at Tavern in the Garden, the couple after the wedding, family and guests, and the reception in New Smyrna Beach. I enjoyed capturing others’ precious moments, and I edited over 300 of the photos for color and contrast, providing all of them on two DVD+Rs, including the 750 raw files (8GB total). While many photographers safeguard their photos to milk for future profit, I prefer to provide my clients with all the files, so they exist in multiple geographic locations and because I would want a photographer to do the same for me. If you don’t know your clients well, it’s a good idea to not give up any files until you get paid. Fortunately, most people don’t even know how to edit or process raw files, so you can use your editing skills as a selling point. I use FastStone Image Viewer to create JPEGs from the embedded preview images in my Canon Rebel’s .cr2 files, with some automated contrast enhancements. This way, I can give my clients a lot of JPEGs and have them tell me which ones they want edited. The bride and groom created a wedding photo book on Shutterfly and ordered it themselves, so I didn’t even have to print anything. Since most photographers charge a lot, you can always market yourself as someone who does not offer all the professional printing services, but charges less. It helps if you have a nice website with a lot of text and no Adobe Flash.
I’ve been posting a lot of videos of me playing piano and violin on my YouTube account, and I will take some more videos in California, while developing my musical skills. I’ve also been learning foreign languages with my pirated copy of Rosetta Stone, focusing on Hindi and Mandarin Chinese to start. I will continue working on this in California, and might take a microphone for the speech recognition parts. If I start learning foreign languages now, I will be much better at them at 29 than I would be at them if I never started. While my dad says it’s impossible to become fluent in a language if you don’t have people to speak with, and that it’s far harder to learn another language at 19 than it would be at 9 or from birth, I can’t change the past so I’m not going to dwell on it. I was never enthusiastic about Spanish in high school, and I refused to listen to my mom’s instructions in Mandarin at 3 years old, instead preferring English, but I’m hoping to become poly-lingual over the next few years. Since my mom is fluent in English and Mandarin, she should help me when I visit her. My step-mom knows Vietnamese and Pali, but I never picked either up.
I could decide there is no point in learning anything since I’m going to die anyway, or I could decide not to learn anything unless it generates measurable, purpose-driven results. More likely, I could make no progress due to a lack of love for learning, or because I keep practicing at the same level over and over again without advancing. It helps to have a computer program to direct your learning for you, since you can use it at anytime and it remembers where you left off. When I read my college textbooks, I would often find myself re-reading the same parts over and over, because when I came back after a break, I would forget where I left off previously. This could also indicate I was not interested in the material, since I’d probably remember it if I found it interesting. Years ago, I switched from piano to photography since photos were more easy to share online, I did not have a good understanding of sheet music or music theory, and I disliked how long it took to make progress in music. Now, I feel just the opposite, and I haven’t even been using my camera much since I’ve been working more on learning the Moonlight Sonata, basic pieces on the saxophone, the Granada Sherlock Holmes theme on the violin, and chords on the guitar. Unless you suffer massive brain damage, all your practice and experience contribute to your current skill level.
Anyway, I will leave off by saying I’ve been taking 5000 I.U. of vitamin D per day and I haven’t gotten a cold or flu in a few months. It could also be because I haven’t been around many people, but I think vitamin D is much more significant than vitamin C in preventing illness. Cod liver oil, B complex, niacin, and CoQ-10 are also good vitamins to take.
I am looking forward to California and the new friendships that await!