A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 11 1998 3:30 AM


       I'm not sure how wise my course selection was for this term. Since I'm nearing the end of my high-school career, I decided to sign up for courses that I really wanted to take. One of those courses was Advanced Placement Music Theory and Composition, and while I'm certainly interested in music, my musical "talent" (both theoretically and compositionally) would need to improve dramatically just to rise to mediocrity. I really enjoy the course, but it's frustrating to work so hard with such poor results. Especially when about half the class consists of musical prodigies. (Let's see, there's this one kid named Ludwig, another named Wolfgang, and a Johannes or two. They're all pretty bright.)
       After coming back to my dorm, I checked my stock portfolio and then headed to lunch for my meeting with the deans' council. Present at the meeting were all the various deans of my school, along with several technical people, and our student president. I spoke in favor of adding more phone lines to our campus network, arguing that even when the school completes the transition of granting students direct access to the Internet, the phone lines will still be tied up. Right now, about 50 percent of the traffic on our phone lines is modem-related. Since a student with access to a direct network connection will not need a modem, the strain placed on the phone lines should go down. But, many students at my school simply don't have the right equipment to use the direct connection; that means that they will continue to use their modems. And even if students stopped using modems altogether, the strain on the phone lines would still be too great. The downside of installing more lines would be the additional cost incurred, and one of the members of the deans' council brought up some quoted figures from a local phone company.
       This summer, I worked for a hedge fund, and one of the things that I did was move the firm to a different phone system; my experience with phone systems allowed me to explain to the deans' council how the costs could be cut down from the "quoted" price. (Nobody should ever pay list price for anything that comes from a phone company.)
       I didn't used to have any aspirations to serve on any form of student government. I didn't think that I would win, and I thought (correctly, to some degree) that the student council didn't do anything. But sometime around my sophomore year, I learned that the simple act of communication can get things done. When my school sealed off all the fire escapes in my dorm, I was roused to action, as I found this act to be, well, not too intelligent. I first tried talking to several responsible individuals in the school, but after that started going nowhere fast, I called the building inspectors and Fire Department for the town of Andover. A week later, my dorm was swarming with bureaucrats trying to assess the conditions of my dorm. Unfortunately, not even these inspectors agreed that our fire escapes should be unsealed (I'm still puzzled by this), but I'm not the kind of person who just sits around complaining about things. I take action.
       The first week of this school year, I had a meeting with the director of our dining hall (and his supervisor at Aramark, who drove down to the school to meet with me) to discuss problems with the food. (Many people at my school think the food is like New England weather--it's bad, and nothing can be done about it.) A lot still has to be done, but things are slowly starting to get better. I'm trying to be patient, but all it takes is (yet another) bad meal to get me worked up again.
       I've also applied the same sort of action in my business. I've written a few highly popular programs for America Online, and most of them simply make AOL easier (and less annoying) to use, which AOL wants to do anyway.
       I routinely get many e-mails from customers telling me that without my software, they would have canceled their AOL subscription a long time ago. Ideally, I'd like to work with AOL, since we seem to have a common goal. So last year I called Steve Case on several occasions. I was never actually able to talk to him, but just recently I received a phone call from Miles Gilburne, a senior vice president of AOL. I've been playing telephone tag with him for weeks, but I hope to get through to him tomorrow. This could be a big development for my business.
       Today was yet another slow day for my company. I spent about two hours playing squash today; next week I'm going to have to be ready for varsity tryouts. I'm also working on a long English paper comparing Moby Dick with the Iliad. And I've been working twice as hard in music class to try to enhance my understanding of the material. All these things cut into the time that I have to work on my business. Today was also a pretty slow day in terms of revenue--only about $100. I'm trying to figure out how to start advertising my software in a way so as to target my potential audience, at a reasonable cost. The primary problem facing all my software programs is lack of recognition. I'm certain that there are thousands of people out there who would be willing to purchase my software, if they only knew of its existence. I need to start finding them, since it's difficult for them to find me.