Mar 05

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Part 3

He said …

Admittedly, the day I first met Jess, I thought she was exceptionally cute. Beyond that, I didn’t know what to think, seeing as how I didn’t know her. What I did know was that she was a good friend of Emilie’s, I was surprisingly comfortable with her, and she seemed to be looking for a steady group of friends she could rely on. Though my initial interests may have been more flirtatious than anything else, I quickly established that what I wanted to be for her was just what she was searching for: a close friend she could rely on. I knew the rest of our friend group would be just the same for her. Therefore, I cast aside any other notions that entered my mind with ease and dedicated my efforts becoming trusted friend of Jess.

The semester was hastily drawing to a close. The first invitation I had extended to Jess to study with me in The Hive turned into a second, third, and countless more. In fact, our afternoon meetings became such a given that the invitations soon became unnecessary. And as the Cedarville volleyball team was winning the National Championship title, Jess and I were quickly growing to be close friends.

By the time Emilie returned from her week in Colorado, she was confused (and pleased) to find that Jess was an established member of our group. Jess even started initiating group events and inviting Emilie along.

Just as our friendship seemed to be in full bloom, Christmas Break hit. We were driven (literally speaking) hundreds of miles apart for a full month. But if you think that stopped us from staying in touch and getting close, you’d be wrong. We spent the majority of break chatting on Facebook (I wasn’t feeling bold enough to call her just yet), sending each other emails, and writing creative stories on each other’s wall involving everything from our families to the consistency of Candy Corn (which we determined to be made of pottery clay).

Before we knew it, Christmas break was over, we were back at school, and we had made arrangements to meet back in The Hive for another unproductive study date.


She said …

I glanced casually over my shoulder at the clock in the back of the classroom. Just a couple minutes until class was over. It was the first day of a new semester, so class was far from exciting, and I found myself spending most of it daydreaming while watching the snow falling outside the window. Finally, the professor dismissed us and I jumped up and dumped my books and new syllabus in my bag, and pulled on my coat, hat and scarf. The school day was finally over, which meant it was time for my study date with Alex—the first one of the semester.

I chuckled to myself as I headed out the door into the blustery Ohio afternoon toward The Hive, our regular meeting place. One could hardly consider what we did to be “studying”. It was mostly an hour or so of laughing and telling stories about anything and everything before meeting the rest of the group for dinner. No one would guess that we had only known each other a couple of months, because we talked and enjoyed each other’s company with the comfort and ease of two old friends.

And a “date”? It was even more absurd to call it that. Alex was funny, cute, and charming, and I was amazed at how comfortable I felt with him after such a short time. But a date? I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit attracted to him. But this is college, I reminded myself. Grow up. I was sure it was perfectly common for a guy to just be good friends with a girl. There’s no way Alex was thinking of it in any other way than that, so neither should I. Even so, I couldn’t help but notice how lately our conversations weren’t all just about silly stories and memories, but they were becoming blended with more serious topics: thoughts about life, our pasts, and our faith. Things I don’t readily share with just anyone.

Oh, stop it, I instructed myself. He’s just a friend. Why did I need to remind myself of that? I pulled open the door to The Hive and shook the snow from my boots.

“Jess! Over here.” I glanced up and saw Alex waving me over to a table. He was smiling and eating mozzarella sticks. He slid them across the table over to me as I sat down, knowing that I’d only pick off the outside and give him the cheese. It was a good and well-established system. I smiled back and picked one up, pushing my private thoughts from the walk over out of my mind.

“So, how was the first day?” Alex asked.

“Well, you were right about Professor Greene …” I responded, launching into a story about a professor Alex had warned me about.

An hour later, I was wiping tears from my eyes from laughing and trying to catch my breath. In the midst of story after story, I had forgotten all about the things I had been thinking about on the way over and was just enjoying hanging out with my new friend.

“Yeah, and that wasn’t even the worst thing I ever ate,” Alex said proudly, between his own fits of laughter. “One time, I ate a cotton ball. Trust me—bad idea.”

I choked on my mouthful of mozzarella crust. “Wait … a cotton ball? That was you at that insane party?!”

Alex laughed and launched into his story. “Oh my word, it was horrible. I had cramps for—” He suddenly paused and started at me blankly. “Wait … how did you know about that party?”
It was my turn to laugh out loud in disbelief. “I was there! Emilie invited me. I can’t believe that was you. I thought you were absolutely crazy! Wow, I always thought that you looked familiar.”

“I can’t believe you were there! There were so many people packed in there, I must not have seen you.”

The irony of the situation was too much. We laughed and laughed, reminiscing about that party and agreeing it was for the best that I hadn’t put two and two together sooner, or else I might have quickly disassociated myself from Alex.

After dinner that night, I walked back through the snow to my dorm thinking about the afternoon. Even though Alex and I talked a great deal over Christmas break, I had missed our times in The Hive. Communication just wasn’t as easy via Facebook or email, and I was sure that was what had triggered thoughts about the possibility of something more between Alex and me. But after our afternoon together, I realized that the only thing developing between us was a deep and close friendship—and I was fine with that. I enjoyed his company immensely, and was unusually comfortable with him. Anything beyond friendship would just complicate things, and potentially threaten a friendship I had quickly come to value a great deal. I cared about our developing friendship too much to jeopardize it in any way. I quickly decided to leave those thoughts and questions back on Christmas break.

The next few weeks passed in much of the same manner. Alex and I continued to spend many afternoons in The Hive talking and even studying on occasion. We had developed an easy rhythm with each other, and at this point, Alex felt like a best friend or a brother, not someone I just met mere months before. The thoughts of a potential relationship between Alex and I had long been forgotten and had been replaced with the comfort of a trusting and loyal friend. Life seemed completely back to normal … until one fateful snow day.

Snow days are a rare joy in college, but on a freezing day in late January, the good Lord choose to bless us with one. Minutes after getting the news of canceled glasses, my phone began to ring. I answered while pulling up the blinds to see the thick blanket of snow covering campus. It was Dave, Alex’s roommate.

“Jess! We’re going sledding! Want to come? I still have those trays we swiped out of the cafeteria.” He said mischievously.

“Of course! Be ready soon!” Sledding was one of my most favorite winter activities, and there was no way I was going to pass that up.

My next phone call was to Alex. “Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to come. I don’t really like sledding. Or snow. Or the cold.”

“You’re ridiculous. Okfine. See you when we get back, wimp.” Apparently Alex was vehemently opposed to fun of all kinds. I’d miss having him along, but I knew it would still be a great time.

A few minutes later, I was jumping into a car driven by our friend Jesse. There was a blond guy with bright blue eyes sitting in the front seat whom I’d never seen before.

“Jess, this is my good buddy Sid.” Jesse said, glancing at me in the rear-view mirror. Sid turned around and extended a hand.

“Nice to meet you,” he said smiling. I shook his hand and my heart fluttered a tiny bit. He was very cute, and I introduced myself and giggled like a school girl with a crush. For the rest of the drive, Jesse was mostly quiet as Sid and I chatted away about our majors, where we were from, etc. I learned that Sid loved snowboarding, and was much more interested in that today than sledding.

“What?! You’ve never snowboarded before?” Sid responded, appalled when I admitted the sad truth. “Well, today is your lucky day, Missy, because I am going to teach you.” He flashed a smile at me, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about sledding either.
Several hours later, I was freezing, soaked to the skin, and only slightly better at sno
wboarding than I was when I started. Sid was an excellent teacher, but I found myself more often lost in his intense blue eyes than in his instructions. On the drive back, he flirtatiously teased me about my lack of snowboarding skills, and I joked back and pretended to be hurt. As they dropped me off at my dorm, I turned to Sid.

“Well, I wasn’t a very good student, but thank you for the snowboarding lesson.”

“My pleasure.” He smiled and then looked a little nervous. “Hey, um, would you like to have coffee with me sometime?”

My heart flip flopped again. “I’d love to.”

I floated up the walk and into my dorm, enthralled by the blond guy who had spent the afternoon teaching me to snowboard. I sat down at my desk and opened my laptop. Moments later, a message popped up from Alex.

Alex Laird: So, how was sledding?

I pulled off my coat and boots and then sat down to respond. Just then a second message popped up.

Sid: So, how about that coffee date?

My heart did that flippity thing, and I instantly sat down and replied. An hour later, I signed offline and got into bed, unaware that Alex’s message still sat unanswered.

Feb 26

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Part 2

She said …

I was sitting at my desk, drumming my fingers on the textbook I had just finished reading. It was the beginning of the awkward few weeks of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was bored. Life was going to get insanely hectic with finals in a couple weeks, but for now, I was still trying to talk my body out of its post-Turkey Day haze and enjoy a week of peace before madness took over. So, I did what I always did when I was bored; I strolled across the lounge of my suite to the room diagonal mine and flopped down on the floor.

I spent a lot of time on the floor of Emilie’s room. With me strewn out across the small floor space and Emilie perched on her desk chair, we always had our best talks. Emilie was so used to me letting myself in and taking my place on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, that she didn’t even look up from pulling her hair back into a ponytail.

“I’m bored.” I started counting the ceiling tiles.

“Well, I’m just on my way out to go watch a movie with some friends. You should come.” Emilie turned toward me. Still counting the tiles, I weighed the options. Stay in my room all evening, or go watch a movie? The choice was simple.

“Hmm … alright. Lemme go change.”

A few minutes later, we were stepping out of the bluster cold and into the Bible Building. Because guys and girls are not allowed in each other’s dorms, the prime movie-watching locations were the small Collaborations Rooms on campus, complete with wall-mounted widescreen monitors.

“Who are we meeting, anyway?” Before Emilie could answer, she pushed the door open. The guy closest to the door turned and looked up at us. His brown eyes looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place where I had seen him before. But then again, it was a small campus. I’d seen pretty much everyone before. Even so, as he offered Emilie and me seats, I couldn’t shake the notion that I knew him from somewhere.


He said …

“Have a seat, Em. Hey, I’m Alex,” I said, extending the hand of friendship to the foreign creature. She timidly introduced herself as Jess, and I offered her the seat between Emilie and me. Ryan tipped his hat to her, Gabe gave her The Friendly Eyes over the magazine he was reading, and Dave grunted in her direction.

“Pinball’s the game. Emilie and I are left and right flipper; you can be the launcher.” Jess stared at me blankly, obviously completely lost. Emilie and I rolled our eyes at each other—so naïve.

Emilie was leaving for the NAIA National Volleyball Championship in Colorado tomorrow, so those of us relaxing in the Collaboration Room were trying to absorb as much Emilie Time as possible. It was no time at all before Emilie and I were frustrated with Jess (she was really struggling with the Pinball launcher), I had bitten Jess’ finger at least once, Gabe had read through his entire magazine, Ryan and Dave were fed up with studying, and the Bible Building was closing for the night.

“It’s closing already?” Emilie questioned. “But we never even watched The Goonies!” But there wasn’t any sound of remorse in the tone of her voice. She was just smiling in Jess’ direction.

The security guard kicked us out of the building, and we huddled around each other like football players at a pep rally … or maybe volleyball players. Our voices carried into the night as we hooted and hollered, shouting sports-related words of encouragement to Emilie. We each gave Emilie a hug, shook hands with Jess, and left the two girls at their dorm.

“You know,” I pondered, as the four of us guys headed back to our dorm on the other end of campus. “We’re going to have to find other ways to amuse ourselves for the next week.”

“That’s true,” Gabe continued. “Without Emilie and Kylee around, two members of our Wolf Pack will be missing.”

Dave and I pushed open the door to our room, threw our backpacks on the couch, and plopped down into our respective chairs. “What are your thoughts on this Jess character?” Dave asked.

“Well, I think she may be a pretty good stand-in for Emilie while she’s in Colorado,” I responded. “But I’ll get back to you on that.” I spun around in my desk chair and opened Facebook. Jessica Rathburn, I typed into the search bar. She was holding a light pole and wearing a black peacoat in her profile picture.

Jess' Profile Picture

My mouse hovered over the “Add Friend” button. Not knowing that she had been at Pyhäinpäivä, I thought I had only just met Jess tonight. Did I really know her well enough to “Friend” her?

I clicked the button before allowing myself to dwell on a few strange notions that were beginning to surface. She must have been online, because she confirmed my request almost immediately. Still feeling particularly forward, I opened up Facebook Chat and clicked on her name.

Alex Laird: Hey. We’ve met, like, once, which practically constitutes a friendship. Emilie is cool, and she seems to think you’re alright, and I thought you were pretty alright when I met you tonight. So, I added you. Thus ends the story of how we became Facebook Friends.
Jessica Rathburn: Well, “Hello” to you too. Thanks for the offer of friendship. I guess I accept … Well, I already did.

The quickest way to my heart was through sarcasm, and Jess proved to be sarcastic and amusing over the next hour and a half. We bonded over our mutual friendship with Emilie, plans of bank heists and car thievery (we needed money and transportation to visit Emilie in Colorado), and the proper technique for attaining invisibility (which we thought might come in handy during the bank heist).

Alex Laird: I have a proposition for you.
Jessica Rathburn: I’m not interested until I get an apology for you biting my finger.
Alex Laird: We can skip the pleasantries for now. Here’s the deal: you need new friends, and we need someone to replace Emilie while she’s gone this week. You seem like a pretty alright person, so I’m speaking for the group and requesting that you join us for dinner tomorrow night.
Jessica Rathburn: Still waiting on that apology …
Alex Laird: Alright, fine. Dear Jessica, I’m sorry for biting your finger. In all honesty, it didn’t even taste that good. I don’t mean that in a rude sort of way, because I don’t think fingers are supposed to taste good, so don’t take offense to that … This apology is going south. Anyway, please forgive me for biting your finger. Love, Alex.
Jessica Rathburn: Apology accepted. And the dinner invitation as well.

It took a lot to muster a fake apology out of me, but this girl I barely knew managed to do it. It was strangely easy to talk to her, but I hated the barrier of a chat client. For some reason I was feeling oddly selfish—I suddenly wanted to get to know her without the rest of the group around.

Alex Laird: Also, I’m probably going to be studying in The Hive tomorrow afternoon before dinner. You’re welcome to join me, if you like.
Jessica Rathburn: Maybe I will. Oh my word, it’s almost 1am! I have class in the morning. I should get to bed.

I logged off Facebook and got ready for bed. I had just spent several consecutive hours hanging out and chatting with a girl I barely even knew but had a lot of fun being around. I knew I wasn’t looking for anything more than a friendship, but Jess seemed like a unique and genuine individual; someone I’d love to be friends with. Of course, I could never let her know that. I’d be sure to play it up that she was merely a stand-in for Emilie for the next week. Who says girls are the only ones that can play Hard to Get?

Feb 19

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Part 1

He said …

It was Thursday, November 6th, 2008. The season was autumn. The weather was cold. Thursday night, ritualistically, was the night on which my friends and I gathered to watch The Office … you know, back when The Office was actually a show worth watching? On this particular Thursday, however, Dave, Gabe, and myself were feeling especially antsy—we wanted to do something, but it was too cold for outdoor antics.

“What if we throw a party? Griffin, can we throw a party here tonight?” Dave suggested. We were pretty used to inviting ourselves over to Griffin’s apartment.

“Uh, I guess. Halloween was, like, last week.” Griffin … he always was the voice of reason.

I quickly chimed in, “Just get on Wikipedia. It has that What Happened Today in History thing. See if today is a holiday somewhere.”

As luck would have it, the day was Pyhäinpäivä, the equivalent of All Saints Day in Finland. Or something like that. At any rate, we had an excuse for a party. We sent out a quick message to our friends informing them of the impending festivities that night. Luckily, since we were already planning on watching The Office together, everyone was available. It was already late afternoon, so with the few hours we had until the party commenced, we decided to abuse Wikipedia some more and make up bogus traditions.

As our friends started piling into the all-too-small apartment (there were over twenty people crammed into a living room that was smaller than an average dorm room), the Party Planning Committee had a quick Party Planning Council. We determined that, in order to get everyone into the spirit, one of us would have to do the first tradition. Naturally, I was game.


She said …

“I don’t know about this …” I said nervously to my friend Emilie as we hurried off campus to the apartments across the street. I pulled my jacket closer around me to shield the November wind and tried to feel more excited about the Halloween party I was about to attend. “I’m not going to know anyone there.”

“You’ll know me!” Emilie encouraged. “Come on, you’ll like them—I promise.” She linked her arm through mine as we crossed the parking lot of the overpriced gas station next to the apartments we were heading toward.

I wasn’t so sure. I had only been at Cedarville University a couple of months, and so far the closest friends I had were the seven girls I lived with, (of which Emilie was one) and the guys that I played soccer with in the field across the street from my dorm. But it was getting to be too cold for pick-up soccer, and even though I suddenly found myself feeling uncharacteristically shy about the party we were about to walk in on, I desperately wanted to find a group of friends to call my own. Emilie had wanted me to be meet her friends for as long as I had known her, and the Halloween party they were throwing seemed like the perfect opportunity. So, resolving myself to be intentional about making friends with these people, I took a deep breath and we opened the door and stepped inside.

The room was full of people who obviously all knew each other and were having a good time. A few were in costumes, but most were just in casual clothes. They were piled on couches and bean bag chairs, and were laughing and joking as they passed around bowls of chips and plates of cookies. I slid nervously down the wall to sit on the floor next to Emilie. A couple people in the room looked familiar, but most of them were new faces. Suddenly, the music playing in the background quieted.

“Attention, ladies and gentlemen!” A tall guy with shaggy brown hair stood up. He was obviously in costume, dressed in a long black leather jacket and black pants, but I had no idea what he was supposed to be. The room quieted and the tall guy, who introduced himself as Dave, began to speak.

“Welcome to Pyhäinpäivä! The party where we celebrate the little-known Finnish All Saints Day, which just so happens to be today, because we’re tired of Halloween. So get ready for crazy a night of games to reenact the traditions of those Fins!”

I glanced quickly around the room, expecting everyone else to look as confused as I felt. To my dismay, everyone else seemed to be totally tracking with Dave, and I was clearly the only one wondering what sort of party I had just walked into.

I shot a look at Emilie. “I thought you said this was a Halloween party?!” I whispered. She just shrugged and smiled, looking slightly sheepish. She opened her mouth to respond, but Dave had begun speaking again.

“For our first tradition, we need the oldest male present to step forward, who we have determined to be my roommate, Alex Laird.” A guy who had been standing to the side of Dave, a guy I had never met, stepped forward.

“And here he is!” Dave turned and began rustling through a plastic bag, as the other guy, Alex, stood grinning nervously. From my spot in the back of the room against the wall, I studied Alex for a moment. Unlike Dave, Alex was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and had his hands in his pockets. His light brown hair fell a little above deep, brown eyes, and his big, nervous smile made me smile in spite of myself. I couldn’t help but think he was cute.

“Alright, Mr. Laird.” Dave’s voice jerked me from my thoughts. “Long, long ago, in the Finnish blight of 1728, the Fins had to ingest their bedding and pillows to survive. To commemorate this sad time in history, you must eat one cotton ball.” Silence fell over the room as everyone tried to determine if Dave was serious or not.

I turned to Emilie in alarm. “He’s not really going to eat that, is he?” She shrugged and laughed. I tried to think back to high school biology and wondered whether or not a cotton ball could be digested. Cute or not, this guy was crazy to try and eat it. If he didn’t choke, he’d have a heck of a stomach ache tonight.


He said …

I stood next to Dave, confidently awaiting my cotton-ball-sealed fate. Dave fished around in the large bag of cotton balls, trying to find “just the right one,” which I later learned meant “the biggest one in the bag.” Finally, he whipped out a cotton ball and held it in front of my face—everyone in the room gasped and then laughed. I took the cotton ball, studied it intently, and then popped it into my mouth like an oversized gumball. It did not taste like a gumball. It did not chew like a gumball, and thus I could not get it down to a manageable size like a gumball.

I salivated as much as possible, trying to soak the cotton ball enough to where I could at least be confident in swallowing it. Unfortunately, it was a very large ball of cotton, and it was not soaking well at all. I grabbed the counter, trying to stabilize myself, and I gave my best effort at swallowing. For a second, I felt confident with this decision. Right up until the cotton ball was half way down my throat, where it effectively lodged itself and refused to budge.

I darted a big-eyed look at Dave. Everyone in the room was quiet, waiting for me to show some sign of victory (or maybe it was death). Frantically, I looked around for any form of liquid. I grabbed the nearest cup, threw my head back, and downed its entire contents: Mountain Dew. Much to my relief, this was finally enough for the cotton ball to slide down into my stomach. I could breath again!


She said …

Alex finished the last bit of Mountain Dew and raised his arms triumphantly, to the relief of the rest of the party as a shout of joy went out in the room. I folded my arms across my chest in disgust and amazement. What a weirdo. At least I could just sit in the back of the room and not be a part of all of this. I was suddenly feeling less motivated to make friends with these people.

“And now, for our next tradition!” The guy sitting next to me, dressed head-to-toe as Spiderman, handed me a carton of eggs and through his mask, instructed me to take one.

“What? I-I …” I turned to Emilie jabbing me in the side.

“Just take one!” Her eyes were excited and mischievous. Reluctantly, I reached in the carton and pulled out an egg, regretting ever agreeing to come to this ridiculous party.

An hour later, I was completely convinced I was sitting in a room full of crazy people. I had played some strange rendition of Never Have I Ever using spinning eggs and lost miserably. With every eye in the room on me, I had been forced to describe to a guy dressed in a karate outfit, whom I had never met, what I would give him for Christmas, all while holding a stick of butter. In honor of some Finnish king, we all stood up and sang the theme song of The Fresh Prince Bel-Air, a song that I did not know, which meant I just awkwardly mouthed the words. It had been the most ridiculous night I had experienced so far at Cedarville. If nothing else, at least I could rule these insane people out of my options for a group of friends. Just when I thought the party had to be over, Dave stood up again.

“Our final tradition! The conga line!” Before I could protest or even comprehend what was happening, I found myself being dragged into a wild, dancing line. After circling the apartment a couple times, we burst out the front door and began winding through the parking lot, and finally into the door of the neighboring gas station. I ducked my head in dismay and hoped no one there recognized me. We were definitely attracting a lot of attention. I was relieved when the party finally ended.

“Wasn’t that crazy?” Emilie asked excitedly as we headed back to our dorm a little while later. I rolled my eyes.

“Crazy? That guy who ate the cotton ball is lucky he didn’t choke. I can’t believe he’d do that on a dare.” I answered smugly.

“I meant the party.” Emilie said, amused.

“Oh, that. Yeah, it was pretty crazy. Your friends are kind of … well, strange.”

“Yeah, I know.” Emilie said matter-of-factly, “But you’ll grow to love them.”

I laughed to myself at Emilie’s last statement. I had no plans of growing to love a bunch of crazies who parade around gas stations in celebration of obscure Finnish holidays. In fact, I was pretty sure I would be just fine going about the rest of college without hanging around a bunch of cotton ball-eating weirdos.


He said …

For the record, Jess was right—I did have a horrible stomachache the next day. If you care read of my suffering, or if you just want to know more about the party at which Jess and I first met, click here to read the blog I posted the day after the very first Pyhäinpäivä.

Feb 14

Once Upon a Cotton Ball, Preface

We Said …

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of the Day of Love, we (Alex and Jess) have decided to totally rip off Jenna and Joey’s idea from a few years back and write out our gushy love story for the entire world to see. It’s a lengthy story that dates back to way before we were dating, so we figure most of you haven’t actually heard the entire thing. We’ve decided to post one entry each Saturday leading up to our wedding, May 14th, 2011. Consequently, our story will be in 14 parts—the final installment appearing on the morning of our wedding, three months from today.

“But Alex and Jess,” you may say, “there are only thirteen weeks until your wedding! Your math is off!” Don’t you think we realize that? Don’t you think we have lists and chains informing us as to exactly how many days and weeks are left until our wedding? Well … Jess does. Alex doesn’t. He just keeps track in his head. But anyway. The thirteenth part will actually be posted on Friday the thirteenth, the day before our wedding.

Two names in the following story have been changed: Sid and Ted (in order of appearance). Their characters would have been omitted if they had not played such a significant roll in the development of our relationship—really, we owe it to them that we’re even got together in the first place. All that to say, we never mean to paint either of them in a negative light—they are both actually nice people—we only mean to show how their involvement contributed to our story.

That’s all the information you’re getting for now. Naturally, we assume you’ll be looking forward to the first installment this Saturday. Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

Feb 07

Java: OS X Dock Icon and Name

For as long as I’ve been developing in Java, its lack of native support for OS X has always bothered me. This is more than likely an issue with Apple’s proprietary interface rather than Java, but, for the sake of being loyal to my Master, we’ll pretend the fault is on Java.

I don’t want the default Java icon–I want my applications icon to appear in the dock! And why does setTitle not actually change the name of my program in the menu bar? It still remains the name of the Java package that the main () method is contained within. I don’t want people to know the package layout of my software.

Of course, Apple’s “solution” to this is contained within Xcode … Just make an .app wrapper for your application! Native dock icon, native dock name. But then that’s just the problem–the application now appears to be native and is no longer portable. There has to a better solution …

Well, there isn’t. There’s no real solution to this problem, but I can offer you a slight hack that works for the dock icon and name, at least. Unfortunately, it only works for the dock icon, and the actual application icon in Finder will still remain the Java default.

First, we’ll look at the snippet of code that allows you to change the dock icon … macApp =;
macApp.setDockIconImage (new ImageIcon (getClass ().
 getResource ("/path/to/package/icon.png")).
 getImage ());

You’ll find that there are actually quite a few cool things you can do to the dock from inside the Application class. Unfortunately, none of them are changing the dock name of your Java application. You’ll also notice that, while your program now compiles and runs beautifully on OS X, it is broken everywhere else … Apparently is a missing package on anything but OS X. What happened to portability?

Never fear. Apple has been kind enough to give us stubs that can still be called (and ignored) from platforms other than OS X. You’ll need to include the stubs JAR in your project for your application to be able to compile and run on other platforms again.

Download AppleJavaExtensions

Okay, so what about the OS X dock name then? Sadly, there’s no good solution to that. Here’s the best work-around that I’ve found–put your main () in a class by itself in your applications default package. I know, the default package is evil … That’s why the first and only thing you’ll do is call JFrame.setVisible () from within this function.

This does mean that, as far as the menu bar is concerned, your application title cannot have any spaces. It will be the exact name of the class your main function is in, so, for instance, Get Organized shows up as GetOrganized. My GetOrganized class immediately launches MainFrame from deeper within the package system, but the average user no longer has to see the package layout.

A lousy work-around? Definitely. But it’s all they’re giving us. And considering Apple seems to hate Java as of late, I doubt they’ll ever give us anything more.

Sep 04

Booting Linux from a USB Drive on Apple Hardware

After hours of frustration and failure, I finally set up a USB bootable Linux distribution that worked on both a BIOS-based PC or EFI-based Apple system. Ten minutes later, I repeated the process with a second distribution.

I’ve been perusing this fine internet of hours all day, reviewing and attempting to complete step-by-step tutorials that were supposed to allow me to do this. Unfortunately, none of them would actually work on my MacBook Pro, as they promised they would. After finally acquiring a resolution, I decided to post my own step-by-step set of instructions that also claimed to work for a BIOS system or an EFI system. Hopefully it actually works for you as it did for me :).


My System, My Recommendation, and My Disclaimer

The systems I was trying to get this work was in conjunction with my out dated, 2008, 2 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro with a measly 2GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. I dual boot between OS X Leopard and Windows 7 using Boot Camp. I plug into a 24” Samsung display and use a Bluetooth Logitech MX 5500 keyboard and mouse set at my desk. Using Slax, all of this was compatible and immediately recognized!! I had absolutely no problems with hardware, so I highly recommend using Slax as your portable Linux distribution. I had success with DSL after initial frustrations (the track pad is not recognized, so I was forced to plug a USB mouse in), and it’s simply not as clean or power of a system as Slax is.

Doing all of this in no way effected positively or negatively the booting, reliability or functionality of OS X Leopard or Windows 7 on my system or Windows XP on any of the BIOS-based systems I ran this on. However, as always, proceed at your own risk.

I recommend the 4GB flash drive from Amazon below, as it is cheap and reliable. Though you don’t need a full 4GB flash drive, if you ever want to throw a larger distribution of Linux onto the flash drive at any time, or if you’d like to use the drive for other storage at a later date, this is a good size and a great price.  Also … it’s hard to find a smaller drive than 4GB these days!


Setting Up an EFI System

Boot into Mac OS and follow these steps:

  1. Download and install rEFIt.
  2. Restart your computer.

Complicated, huh? The initial restart after installing rEFIt will not show a boot loader, but all following restarts will display a boot loader if multiple bootable systems are attached to your Apple computer or other EFI-based system.

rEFIt will essentially overtake Boot Camp. Before installing rEFIt on my system, when I wanted to boot into Windows 7 I had to hold down the Alt-Option key when booting. Once rEFIt is installed, the boot menu is shown whenever the computer is booted. After a given number of seconds, it will boot into the default operating system, which is usually OS X.


Setting Up a BIOS System

Your BIOS must support the ability to boot from a USB drive. Follow these instructions on a BIOS-based (any standard Windows-based) computer:

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. At some point your computer will inform you that you can press some key to enter the BIOS setup (probably some key like F8, F12, or Del). Hold that key down. If you miss it, restart and try again.
  3. Unfortunately, every computer is different in the BIOS menu setup. Do not change anything you are unfamiliar.
  4. You may need to enable the ability to boot from a USB drive.
  5. You will most likely need to change the boot sequence, moving your USB drive higher than your standard HDD.
  6. Make sure that you save your changes to the BIOS before restarting.


Setting Up Your USB Drive

NOTE: Generally speaking, the instructions given on a portable Linux distribution’s website will tell you to run some bootinst.bat file that will configure your USB drive to boot properly. This will work for most BIOS-based systems, and may work with some distributions on some EFI systems, but it generally would not work for me. The solution given below, theoretically, works on all systems.

In a Windows environment (it’s just easiest that way, trust me), follow these steps:

  1. Download and extract Syslinux. Since we’re in Windows, it’d be most beneficial to download the zip file. Extract it to a convenient location like C:\Syslinux.
  2. Download your favorite portable Linux distribution. It has been verified that this works with DSL (I can’t spell it out … My Mom reads this!), DSL-N, and Slax.
  3. Plug your USB drive into your computer.
  4. Backup any data on the USB drive you wish to keep! Right-click on the USB drive and select “Format.” Format the drive to either FAT-16 or FAT-32. I recommend FAT-32. A quick format will be fine.
  5. Extract the contents of your favorite portable Linux distribution onto your USB drive using your favorite decompression program.
  6. In Windows XP, click Start then Run, type “cmd,” then press Enter.
  7. In Windows Vista or Windows 7, click Start and simply type “cmd.” Click on the Command Prompt icon to launch it.
  8. From the Command Prompt, navigate to the win32 folder of where you extracted Syslinux. So, in my case, type “cd C:\Syslinux\win32\”.
  9. From the win32 folder of Syslinux, type “syslinux.exe -ma :” where is replaced with the drive letter of your USB drive. Most commonly this will be E or F (it does need to be followed by a colon), but you can verify this by checking in My Computer.
  10. Assuming you don’t receive any errors, your USB drive should now be set up for booting.



In theory, you should now be able restart your system and it will notice that you have a bootable USB drive in the computer (assuming, of course, that you do). If rEFIt opens, use the arrow keys to navigate to your USB drive and press Enter. If your on a BIOS system, you may need to press a key (if it tells you to press a key for the boot menu), but most likely it will pop up with a message telling you to press any key to boot Linux. If you don’t press any key, it may continue into your standard operating system, so you’ll want to strike that Enter key.

I hope this works as well for all of you as it did for me! It’s always handy to have a portable, friendly, and compatible version of Linux in your slacks that you can whip out and use anytime, on any computer.

Dec 03

Hotel California

Joe Kmetz and I were on our way to Krista’s house over Turkey Break and I had designated Joe as the DJ for the trip. At some point during the drive we ended up listening to “Hotel California,” probably the best song the Eagles ever wrote and performed. This spawned a discussion as to the meaning of the song. Unfortunately, neither of us knew for sure, but I promised Joe I would investigate the song as soon as I had time.

Though you can play “Hotel California” on Guitar Hero by yourself and sound surprisingly similar to the original track, there’s nothing realistic about that. On the Hell Freezes Over album, the Eagles used eight guitars to perform this song. In the original studio mix, only five were used. Still, this should give you some measure of the caliber of this song. It is an amazing piece for guitar, and I never tire of listening to it.

Musical melodies aside, the lyrics of the song span quite a bit of controversies. The interpretations of this song range from the drug use, cannibalism, Hotel California being another name for the Camarillo State Hospital (a psychiatric hospital), to devil worship and the Church of Satan.

I’m going to have to go ahead and debunk all the most popular rumors, as none of them are even remotely close to being true (except possibly the drug use one, though indirectly). Let’s lay out the most popular rumors and look at why they aren’t true. For your convenience, you can find the lyrics to the song here and you can listen to the song here.

Background on the Eagles

The Eagles are one of the most successful American rock bands of the 1970s. The Eagles were founded in the early 70s in Los Angeles, California, by Glenn Frey (singer, guitarist, songwriter), Don Henley (singer, guitarist, drummer, songwriter), Randy Meisner (singer, bassist, songwriter), and Bernie Leadon (singer, guitarist). It’s also worth mentioning the former member Don Felder (singer, guitarist, songwriter), as he helped write “Hotel California” and performed part of the guitar solo. The band has five number-one singles and six number-one albums so far. Their fifth album was Hotel California.

“Hotel California” is a song by the Eagles on the rock album of the same name, Hotel California, released in 1976. The theme of the whole album is essentially that of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream and the rise and falls in-thereof. The album isn’t exactly a rock opera, but it does seem to follow a common theme: it starts with “Hotel California” and comes to a culmination with “The Last Resort,” a song that narrates the demise of society as the conclusive warning to the theme of the album.

After its release, Hotel California received a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1978, the song has been considered by Rolling Stone to be the 49th greatest song of all time, and Guitar World Magazine ranked the guitar solo as the 8th greatest of all time. “Hotel California” reached 20th on the Billboard Top 100 in 1977.

It’s a Real Hotel

It turns out there’s a real hotel in California! A few of them, actually. Unfortunately, there is no hotel in California that goes under the name of Hotel California. There is, however, a hotel in Todos Santos, Mexico, just across the border, that goes by the name of Hotel California. The hotel also went under the name of The Hotel Mission (“I heard the Mission bell”). The name of the hotel changed several times after the popularity of the song grew so as to attract tourists. The problem is the Eagles never actually stayed there, and that location is not what the song is referring to.

It’s an Insane Asylum

“Next thing I remember / I was running for the door / I had to find the passage back / To the place I was before / “Relax,” said the night man / “We are programmed to receive / You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave.”

People who believe this rumor may simply be getting confused by the fact that the Eagles’s record company for the album before Hotel California was Asylum Records. The song isn’t actually about an insane asylum; there is no asylum anywhere in California or even the entire United States by the name of Hotel California.

Some still insist that the Hotel California is a nickname for the Camarillo State Hospital in Camarillo, California. But since the Eagles said in an interview in 1995 that it wasn’t in reference to a particular location, and since it wouldn’t really make much sense to take the pictures for the album artwork at the Beverly Hills Hotel if the song were really about the Camarillo State Hospital, the song probably isn’t in reference to an insane asylum. Though the imagery in the song does seem to describe states of insanity at times.

It’s a Hospital

Still, people insist that the Hotel California must be a real building somewhere, so they conjecture that perhaps it is a hospital somewhere. The rumor further claims that the song is actually about cancer.

“My head grew heavy and my site grew dim.” It could be a reference to the pains of the cancer that is evidently killing the body. “There she stood in the doorway” is alleged to be a reference to a nurse, and “And she showed me the way / There were voices down the corridor” is the nurse leading him down the hallways of the hospital, other cancer patients calling out to the narrator as he walks by. “They stab it with their Steely knives / But they just can’t kill the beast” could be a reference to repeated attempts to kill the cancer.

The song could be a metaphor for cancer, if you chose to interpret that way, but that wasn’t the intention when it was written.

It’s About Steely Dan

The line “They stab it with their Steely knives / But they just can’t kill the beast” is a reference to Steely Dan, an American rock band that had a healthy competition with the Eagles around the time Hotel California came out.

The Eagles were apparently impressed by the fact that Steely Dan didn’t require any rhyme or reason to the meaning in the lyrics of their song. The Eagles decided it would be pretty sweet to mention Steely Dan in their song, even though the rest of the song has absolutely nothing to do with them. Steely Dan had previously mention the Eagles in their song Everything You Did with the line “Turn up the Eagles the neighbors are listening” in 1976.

It’s About Cannibalism

Apparently the references to a secluded hotel with corridors and hallways that were an endless maze that entrapped anyone who entered reminded too many people of H. H. Holmes and the Murder Castle. I guess he didn’t eat his guests, but his story probably set people up for paranoia.

One theory that got spread around via chain mail muses that the reason “You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave” is because the only way to truly leave is to be stabbed by those “Steely knives!” Apparently the hotel in the distance enticed you only to serve you up for dinner the following day. There’s really not much evidence of this in the song, and the band members have denied it.

It’s About the Church of Satan

Probably the most well known (and most misunderstood) meaning for the song says that it is a reference to devil worship and the Church of Satan. Such lines as “I was thinking to myself / This could be Heaven or this could be Hell,” “We haven’t had that spirit here / Since nineteen sixty-nine,” “… they just can’t kill the beast,” and “You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave” apparently solidify this claim. Additionally, the album artwork has a bit of an eerie feel, and people claim that the photographs were taken at the same place where the Satanic Bible was written. “The Beast” referred to in the song is alleged to be Satan.

Anton LeVay finished the Satanic Bible in 1969, three years after founding his church. Supposedly ever since the bible was finished the Holy Spirit hasn’t been present at the Satanic Church (as if he was before?) and that’s what the line in the song is referencing. This claim falls short when you recognize that the line directly before this clarifies a reference to the spirit of wine, not the Holy Spirit. Additionally, once you join the occult you are apparently unable to get out. Considering the previous claims fall short, I’m going to entertain the thought that “the beast” must be a metaphorical character referring to something other than Satan.

The artwork for the album was actually shot at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Eagles say that the reason for the shadowy figures is due to poor lighting and a poor camera. The ghostly figure in the window who many claim is supposed to be either Satan himself or Anton LaVey is actually a publicity guy from Asylum Records. Any physical similarities to LaVey or the Devil himself are purely coincidental.

Further claims state that the Hotel California is a reference to a hotel on California St. in San Francisco which the Church of Satan purchased and converted into their headquarters. The building in question was called The Black House and was actually an old Victorian mansion, not a hotel. It was the headquarters for the Church of Satan used by Anton LaVey in 1966 until his death in 1997. The Satanic Church lost custody of the house after LaVey’s death, and it was torn down in 2001.

It is also rumored that the Eagles were members of the Church of Satan and that they were disciples of LeVay. While a very unreliable source claims that the Waco Tribune-Herald interview Larry Salter, the Eagle’s manager, and he admitted that the Eagle’s were involved with the Church of Satan, the interview was apparently back in 1982 and the original can’t be found …

Then there’s that whole bit about playing the song backward to hear a satanic message. That’s a bit of a stretch. Especially considering sites like that try to say the same thing about Metallica, Megadeath, and Kiss songs and, let’s be honest, you don’t need to play those songs backward to hear a Satanic message. Anyway, if you listen to the entire song backward yourself, you’ll find that it’s quite bogus.

Some have said that the Church of Satan is registered in California under the name “Hotel California,” but there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

It’s about Sex and Drugs

“Warm smell of Colitas / Rising up through the air”
“I saw a shimmering light”
“There she stood in the doorway / I heard the mission bell / I was thinking to myself / This could be Heaven or this could be Hell. / Then she lit up a candle / And she showed me the way”
“She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys / That she calls friends / How they dance in the courtyard / Sweet summer sweat / Some dance to remember / Some dance to forget”
“And still the voices are calling from far away / Wake you up in the middle of the night”
“Mirrors on the ceiling / Pink champagne on ice / And she said, ‘We are all just prisoners here / Of our own device’”
“You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave”

This theory has the most overwhelming amount of evidence straight out of the song, and it’s also closest to the true meaning.

Probably the most explicit reference in the song is that of Colitas, a Spanish term meaning “little tails,” which could be a reference to the Cannabis plant (marijuana). The rest of the imagery in the song is a very strong implication that the narrator may not be entirely sane (or lucid) while he’s telling us his tale. A shimmering light and a vision of a hotel? Voices echoing down the hallways? Mirrors on the ceiling (seeing many things from many angles, which would happen when you hallucinate)?

It’s usually said that the song is warning against the use of drugs, given it’s generally negative view towards the subject, especially considering the narrators regret that he can’t seem to get out of the lifestyle he has become trapped in.

So What’s it Really About?

And now we come to the true meaning of this song, which is only slightly disappointing after reading all the wild previous possibilities!

Well, Henley and Frey claim that Colitas is a desert flower that smells good. Well, it may very well be a desert flower, but it’s still most likely slang for Cannabis. In their defense, I did read somewhere that a Mexican translated the words “little bud” to “Colitas” for them, neglecting to mention the marijuana reference, so they may not have completely understood what they were saying.

That being said, they explained in an interview in 1995 that the song is about the dangers of hedonism and greed, specifically as it applies to the American Dream and their own achieving fame and fortune in the worlds eyes. They wanted to warn not only California of this, but the entire nation. Unfortunately, due to a poor choice in the title of both the song and the album, it’s most commonly only associated with the Californian mindset.

It’s not a reference to any type of building, it’s not about cannibalism, and it’s not about the Church of Satan. The Steely Dan reference was, in fact, true. The song was the Eagles’ look back at their own lives, realizing how they had become caught up in the famous lifestyle (“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted / She got a Mercedes-Benz”), a lifestyle which has trapped them and isn’t turning out to be everything they had wanted (“We are all just prisoners here / Of our own device,” “You can check out anytime you like / But you can never leave”).

It makes sense if you consider that the song is the first on the album that addresses the issues of drugs, temptation, fame, relationships, and the American Dream.


There you have it! That’s the true meaning of the song Hotel California. I’m glad we had this discussion. I was sick of hearing comparisons to the Church of Satan.

Nov 19

The Question of Music, Meaning, and Life Project

After viewing a few John Cage videos on YouTube (like this one, this one, and possibly this one), I thought to myself, “What the heck … I could write this crap.” And so, using his song 4’33” as my deepest inspiration, I proceeded to do just that. In fact, I made an entire album, with philosophical song explanations and artwork to go along with it.

If you’re going to download the album, just realize that it probably won’t actually make much sense unless you read the liner notes (which are only provided on the website at the link below). If you don’t read those, you will basically miss the point of this project.

People make money off this stuff. I just do it for fun. I apologize if you actually like John Cage, but that is not music. The following is meant for satirical purposes and not meant to be taken seriously … At all.

The Question of Music, Meaning, and Life Project

Nov 07

Cotton Balls and Cramps

I was never really good at Chemistry. Better at it than at Biology, but still not exceptional. Granted, I earned an A when I took Chemistry in college, but this was from Kirkwood, which doesn’t have the highest academic prestige, so the A was easily achieved without completely understanding the material. The same goes for Biology. That being said, I may not have the fullest understanding of acids and bases and things breaking down. (In fact, if the previous sentence really makes no sense, that’s probably why. I was just trying to throw the words out to sound intelligent.)

I’m also the type of person that, if you tell me to do something (you don’t even have to dare me, really) and it’s not against my morals and is unlikely to cause a fatality, I’ll probably do it. I’m always up for checking off experiences from my “Things To Do Before I Die” list. That certainly explains my black nails right now.

Last night, we celebrated the Finnish holiday of Pyhäinpäivä (PUH-HAH-IN-PIE-VAH). The American equivalent would be All Saints’ Day, but while All Saints’ Day is always on November 1st, Pyhäinpäivä is on the first Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Last night wasn’t Saturday. That’s very perceptive of you. We just realized this morning that Griffin actually gave us the wrong day to celebrated the beloved holiday of our ancestors, but we will try to forgive him. At any rate, since we didn’t get to celebrate Pyhäinpäivä last Saturday, we decided to celebrate it last night, the 6th, by watching The Office and performing several Finnish traditions with a large group of people.

It was a fantastic turnout. We had seventeen people show up to a celebration that they had never even heard of. During the commercial breaks of The Office, we muted the volume and partook together in the completely made up Finnish festivities that Dave, Gabe, and myself had thought up and planned just an hour before the party started. Such festivities included, but were not limited to the following:

  • As is custom, the host must advise all invited guests to bring their own eggs. At the celebration of Pyhäinpäivä, all guests must laugh at anyone who actually brings their own eggs. This ceremony is in commemoration of King Albert’s (of Mecklenburg) practice of sending out edicts via carrier chicken.
  • The oldest male must eat a cotton ball in memory of our ancestors that, in the Finnish blight of 1728, had to ingest their bedding and pillows to survive.
  • All guests must pass the flaming grease cup. This symbolizes the flame of unity and also reminds us of an old Finnish legend in which a crew of sailors were caught at sea during a long December. The crew was forced to burn their stores of bacon and butter for warmth to survive and was able to outlast the winter. The cup of grease must be passed counterclockwise, each person saying to the person to their right what they would give them for Christmas, if they could give them anything.
  • One volunteer, or victim chosen at random if no one should volunteer, must perform the traditional Finnish dance to keep the spirits at bay for the coming year. Since the traditional Finnish dance has long since been forgotten, the volunteer must improvise interpretively. The person must volunteer without knowing what they are agreeing to do, thus symbolizing the stark bravery of Finnish dancers.
  • A song must be sung to commemorate the coronation of King Valdemar of the house of Bjelbo. The original melody has long since been forgotten, so any song that is well known, radio-worthy, and at least nine years old may be sung. And, in light of King Valdemar’s decree regarding the Great Minstrel Hunt of 1264, the song must be sung a capella by all guests present.
  • There was a chicken virus that went around in Finland in 1355. At that time, whenever someone ate anything made out of eggs, they weren’t sure if the egg had been infected or not. The chance taken in eating things made with eggs is represented by a game of chance referred to as “Never Have I Ever” or, in Finnish, “Koskaan Olen Koskaan.” All guests must form a circle, placing an egg on the ground in front of them. One person says something that they have never done, and anyone in the circle who has done that thing must spin their egg. If the egg stops spinning while it is pointing at the person who spun it, they are officially out of the game. The last person remaining collects all the eggs at the end of the game.
  • The Finnish are known especially for two things: Their love of unity and friendship, and their exceptional hip-grabbing ability. To celebrate, all members present must participate in an impromptu conga line from the party’s locale to the nearest seller of overpriced goods, through their place of business, and back to the party.

I offered Ryan a rolly-polly baby Panda for Christmas, Shannon performed the interpretive dance, we sang Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in memory of King Valdemar, and I happened to be the oldest male present. So I ate a cotton ball. Not just any cotton ball, mind you, but probably the largest one in the bag; it was dark and I just reached in and grabbed one, but it happened to be enormous. After mustering up all my gumption, I stuck the cotton ball in my mouth and started salivating to get it wet enough to slide down my throat. It took me quite a while, but finally I tried swallowing. It got stuck half way. I grabbed the nearest cup of Mountain Dew and forced the cotton ball the remainder of the way into my stomach. There was much rejoicing, and I took my seat again as The Office came back on.

Had I paid closer attention in my aforementioned Community College classes, I might have known that the acids in your stomach can’t actually break down cotton for some reason (which leaves me thoroughly unimpressed with my own stomach), and I may have been more wary of eating a cotton ball. As it was, I simply thought it would digest and there would be no problems.

This morning I woke up with horrendous cramps (on top of an already very upset stomach) and a terrible headache. I tried sitting up in bed, but that seemed to hurt too much, so I just laid there for a very long time, eventually skipping my first class.

So let this be a lesson to all of you! I know Buddy eats cotton balls in Elf, and it looks like fun and that he doesn’t suffer any consequences from his actions. But. Trust me. He does! Your stomach, intestines, and basically any part of your digestive tract don’t get along well with cotton balls.

See what you missed out on last night, Jon McGill?

Sep 25

Browser Reviews: A Brief History

After Al Gore invented the internet for us, we realized we needed a way to walk around the thousands upon thousands (and now billions upon billions) of sites that were out there. Meet the browser. To the best of my knowledge, Al Gore has never claimed part in inventing the browser, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Just for fun, and before we start to really rip apart the benchmarks of Google Chrome, let’s look at some old, failed browsers so we can scoff at them (by order of appearance).

WorldWideWeb (1991-1994) – I actually can’t call this pioneer a failure. After all, it was the world’s first web browser. By the way, it was only released for NeXTSTEP OS. The operating system created by NeXT Computer, a company that was founded by none other than Steve Jobs. The NeXTSTEP OS was quite literally the parent of Mac OS X, and it was also the very first object-oriented and multi-task-ready operating system. (Boy, it’s amazing what that Steve Jobs can do …) However, in 1993 the developers released the source code, thus making the program freeware and allowing for the development of it’s children, ViolaWWW, MidasWWW, MacWWW, and their big brother Mosaic.

Netscape Navigator (1994-2007) – Mosaic/Netscape rose to power and popularity much faster than Internet Explorer did, and since it was owned by Netscape Communications, a successful company that was pivotal in getting internet readily accessible in every home, the browser had plenty of funding. However, Microsoft was simply a bigger, more powerful company, and the beneficial wars between Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer were eventually won by Internet Explorer. While Netscape failed miserably by allowing their poorly coded browser to get disgustingly bloated with features, their ultimate failure was in 1999 when they allowed America Online to buy then. Who cares if they offered you ten billion dollars! Immediately following Netscape’s acquisition by AOL, they lost over 30% of their market share in less than one year.

HotJava (1994-1999) – A very customizable, extensible browser that was built around Java in order to easily execute Applets. The ingenuity of HotJava is that it’s a browser coded entirely in Java, thus making it extremely portable. The downside to HotJava is that it’s coded entirely in Java, thus limiting it to the JRE and leaving it a fairly slow memory hog, and with the presence of Java so readily incorporated into more recent browsers and the growing popularity of Macromedia’s Flash, the project was terminated.

Internet Explorer (1995-Present) – It doesn’t need much introduction or explanation. But Internet Explorer has always been interested in integrating (not outsourcing to extensions) functionality at the expense of ease-of-use, security, and speed. And, let’s be honest, it’s Microsoft … Therefore, a failure.

OmniWeb (1995-Present) – Wouldn’t you know it, it’s another NeXTSTEP OS browser! That being the case, it graduated, along with it’s OS, to Mac OS X, and that is where it resides today. Unfortunately, this is a limit for it. While it was a good browser in the area of speed, and very minimalistic, it lacked key functionality and compatibility with some of the most recent web innovations, so it falls short.

Internet Explorer for Mac (1996-2005) – Wow. It was simply horrible. Probably the worst maintained browser of all time. It went through three updates in one year, went silent for three years, released it’s fourth update in 2000, then was untouched until it’s termination in 2005. It was incompatible, buggy, crashed more than anything, and incredibly slow!

Opera (1996-Present) – I’ve always felt that Opera failed when it came to honesty in advertising. They used to claim to be the “fastest browser” ever made. Well, they’ve since revoked that claim … It claims it’s “faster” on their website now. Faster than what? I’m not sure, because until the most recent release (9.5) I’ve never been pleased with the speed of the browser. Though, even with 9.5, I still think Firefox is faster, and you can’t argue with the speed I get from Safari. Around version 7, Opera bloated the browser beyond belief, thus slowing it to a crawl. They’ve since revamped the interface and it the newest release it’s actually quite efficient. However, compatibility has always been an issue with it.

Gzilla (1997-1999) – The developer was last heard from on August 16, 1999, pleading for help on his very own site. Apparently he could get his browser to compile on anything other than Linux/x86, so he was begging for outside help. It’s rumored the browser emerged a few months later as as Dillo, but that’s just probably not true. I’m guessing Mozilla felt threatened by the last five letters of his browser’s name, so they took him out.

MyIE/Maxthon (2000-Present) – Maxthon’s clincher is that it’s extremely customizable. It advertises itself as an adaptable alternative to Internet Explorer. The negative clincher is it’s only for Windows. On top of that, it crashes too frequently. It’s not slow, but reliability is a big factor when writing a browser, and if your browser crashes on me too often, I’m not going to use it.

Firefox (2002-Present) – The most successful browser to incorporate extensions. Since Netscape completely fell of the face of the planet somewhere around 2003, Firefox has been the most used cross-platform web browser. It boasts speed, elegance, and integrated functionality. Even better, you can add basically any functionality you desire through extensions; this is what has made Firefox so well known. Unfortunately, Firefox loses a lot of security when they allow third-party extensions. More than that, extensions are impossible for the creators of Firefox to maintain, so when the browser is updated, there’s always the risk (and it very frequently happens) of losing compatibility with extensions. Not very convenient for the extension programmers or their users.

AOL Explorer (2005-Present?) – It’s AOL … We already know why it fails: Overpriced, slow, inefficient, and unstable. Apparently the browser is still around, but it’s now a part of the AIM package.

Flock (2005-Present) – Flock’s biggest asset is that it’s multi-platform. On top of that, much like Maxthon, it boasts customizability! It integrates beautifully with many popular websites, including Facebook, iGoogle, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, etc. On top of that, it does allow extensions. It has a main page that keeps all of your favorites and information organized and easily accessible. Unfortunately, it still is rather buggy, and speed is also a bit of an issue with it. It enjoys freezing on it’s users.

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