Monday, October 23, 2006

It's been a little while since I posted, so let me try to get up to date...

I had TWO WHOLE midterms this semester, both this last week. My friends hit me when I say that, but they're 600-level tests.

The first was a closed-book, closed-notes, timed, take-home test. Obviously our teacher is placing a lot of trust in his students, but he also takes a unique view to cheating. Obviously if he catches a student cheating he'll fail him/her, but he's not obsessed with catching cheaters. He pointed out in class that if someone cheats, it'll catch up sooner or later...on the final when you're in the testing center and don't know the material and don't have a chance to cheat because of the monitors walking up and down the rows...or in the next class, or simply later on in life.

The second was an open-book, open-notes, open-friend/classmates/internet/anything, three-question take-home test. The problem was that each question were Master's Thesis-type questions, and I probably spent about eight hours over three days taking the test. The nice part was that at least you're satisfied that you gave the best answer you could, unlike closed-book notes where you're never quite sure if you remembered things properly.

So with those out of the way, I just have to focus on labs, homework, and the semester-project in my machine learning class...curses!! I just remembered that homework is due tomorrow in one of my classes, and it's not one of those "easy" homeworks. Guess I'll be up for another couple hours...

Animal Shelter
The animal shelter was interesting this morning. I got there a little early and the front door was still locked, but there was a couple policemen at their sally port behind the building bringing in a (dead) dog, so I slipped in through their door. Right when I got in, the first shelter employee arrived, and together we looked over the animals that had come in over the weekend.

In one of the cat cages, there were about eight newborn puppies, not more than a day or two old. They were freezing cold, and so stiff that their legs stuck straight out. They were still alive though, so we found them a blanket, stole the heating pad from the iguana's cage, and mixed up some milk for them. After a few minutes working them over they started to look a little healthier, and later that day, one of the shelter employees with a nursing dog took the puppies home to see if she'd take them.

We also caught a live mouse, and it's temporarily housed in a large pickle jar. We're still trying to decide what to do with it.

The third exciting thing was that we got to shave (a small part of) a mule. It had a freeze-brand (branded by a super-cold iron [liquid nitrogen] rather than a hot iron). The freeze-branding kills the color-pigment cells, so the hair grows white instead of colored. We had to shave the mule's winter coat over the brand though, so we could read it clearly.

Last Saturday was me and Child's fourth anniversary of knowing each other, and tomorrow is our third month anniversary of "officially dating". Child is amazing, and it's been a wonderful four months.

Hmmm... seems like I had a couple more things to mention, but that homework is on my mind now. I better go do it, and if I remember, I'll add it.

...oh, right. I was a "finalist" (top six) in the Writer's of the Future contest, but a friend of mine who's "in the know" told me I didn't place in the top three. Too bad. There's still a chance that I could be a "published" finalist, but I'm moving on. Time to write another story to submit.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hoo boy. It's been a busy past few days.

Brandon Sanderson
Turns out Brandon Sanderson, of Elantris and Mistborn fame, teaches a class right here at BYU. I've never read the books, but I'm always interested in learning from published authors. The literature section of the sci-fi/fantasy club I attend at BYU (Quark) got him to give a presentation, which I attended. It was great, with a lot of good information.

I think the thing that stuck to me the most was his technique of coming up with a lot of ideas, then just letting them bump around in his head until they start to make connections. That makes a lot of sense--I think I tend to come up with one idea, then try to force other ideas to hook into it. The past couple days though, I've been getting some good ideas for the novel I plan to write.

Lost Season Opener
So I watched the Lost season opener with Child. It was good--confusing at the start, but not in a bad way. I thought at first it was a flashback, then went crazy when I realized it wasn't. It should be a good season, but I think Child's contemplating waiting until the whole season comes out before watching it, so that's what I'll probably end up doing as well.

Domain Names
If there's any search engines checking this blog out, FASTWEBSITES=BAD!!! My uncle bought a domain name from them, to go with his home-business website. Long story short, the website had problems where it was hosted and he turned it over to me. I moved it to my own server, but the fastwebsite's login didn't work, and I couldn't change where the domain name pointed. The "support" line seemed to go to some guy's cell phone, who's voicemail was full, and there was no reply from repeated emails.

On the good side, a couple days ago, a month after I emailed them, I finally got a reply with the link, username, and password I needed. So now, my uncle's website finally works, and that's one less thing I have to worry about.

Saturday (yesterday) was busy, but a lot of fun. At 9 am I had a writing meeting. I'm the VP of the writing section of the Quark club, and we critique each other's stories every two weeks. We had about 10 people show up, a good crowd.

At 11, I headed to the animal shelter to help out. Saturdays they're only open 4 hours (10-2) so it's always busy. The previous day, me and one of the inmates who works there on "work release" from the jail next door, bombed another one of the inmates with water balloons. It was carefully planned; we got one of the front-desk girls to call him back to the intake room, then she walked out and we jumped in with the balloons. Oh, and we had pulled the hose to the door so after we hit him with the balloons, we finished him off with the hose.

I ended up leaving about 3, after all the cleaning was done, and turned on the radio in the car just in time to hear the closing seconds of the BYU - SDSU game. We rocked them, 47 to 17. I'm still on the top of our lab's guessing sheet, but not by much. A couple of the other guys are only a few points behind me.

At 4, me and Child went to play Ultimate Frisbee, and had about 2 hours of 5 on 5. It ended when a girl briefly fainted (due to not eating all day, I think), but we were about done anyway.

At 7:30, me and Child went and watched "The Music Man" at the Center Street theatre in Provo. It was a lot of fun, although it was hard to hear/understand the actors some of the time. I told Child we'd have to rent the movie, so she could actually hear what they were saying.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Today, me and Child hiked a mountain.

See the big white "Y" painted on the mountain? First, we hiked to that, then there's a trail that leads around the back side of the mountain. Two and a half hours later, we were on the very top. It was a killer climb, then a pounding hike back down, but it has an amazing view looking over Provo/Orem and Utah Lake.

I was impressed with Child. Like I said, it's not an easy climb, and I happen to know she ended up with blisters (she doesn't normally wear shoes), but I couldn't get her to complain. It started sprinkling on the way back down as well, but we got to the car before it turned serious.

I doubt I'll have any problems staying awake for the season 3 opener of Lost tonight, but I might have a hard time waking up tomorrow morning.
My philosophy today: "Why beat 'em if you can join 'em?"

When I got ready to bike to school, it was raining. My umbrella disappeared sometime over the summer, and I don't have any rain gear, and I didn't have time to walk. My solution was to throw on my swimsuit and a shirt and start biking.

It was great. It wasn't raining too hard--I probably got wetter from the water the bike tires threw up than the rain itself. When I got to school I was damp, but the swimsuit was made of polyester, which doesn't hold water very well, and it dried in minutes. I got a few odd looks from other students, who were all bundled up in coats and sweaters, or carrying umbrellas, but hey, I didn't have to worry about the rain.

On a related note, yesterday I wore a trenchcoat to school. I had gotten it years earlier and never really worn it, especially since the Columbine school shootings made people leery of anyone wearing a trenchcoat, but it was a cold day and I was feeling ambitious. Again, I got a few looks, but 99% of the time I'm just one more sheep, and I felt like being individualistic that day.

It's amazing how much the clothes you wear affect your perception of yourself, and your attitude while you carry them. Wearing the swimsuit to school, I felt casual and friendly, and smiled at everyone who walked past. Wearing the trenchcoat, I found myself adopting a look of polite indifference, nodding courteously to passing adults and ignoring other students. It was an interesting phenomenon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

So I'm a religious guy. I go to church every week, I'm on the activity committee, and I regularly read my scriptures, pray, and pay tithing. It's the latter one that I wanted to mention here.

Why do I pay tithing? Why, as a college student who makes $11/hr as a research assistant, do I give up 1/10 of my income? The short answer? I can't afford not to. The long answer? Read on.

To someone who isn't religious, it seems completely paradoxical to give up money in one area and expect to be better off financially in a completely unrelated area. However, to a religious person, the idea isn't preposterous--God rewards those who obey his commandments. Speaking tithinically (it's, uh, a religious word...):

Malachi 3:8-10
"8. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

The commandment: pay tithing. The promise: God will pour out a blessing so large we can't receive it. The catch: it takes faith. Do I have the faith to do what any economist would say is impossible? Give up 1/10 of my income and expect to be better off financially than if I didn't?

For me, yes, I have the faith. I've planted the seed, I've watered it, I've seen the fruit. I was taught the principle by my parents as a child, I've continued the practice as an adult, and I've seen the results firsthand. In this one principle of the gospel at least, my faith has turned to knowledge.

What are the results I've seen?
  • I'm working on my Master's thesis in Computer Science and I've never had to take out a school loan.
  • I just bought a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier, and was able to pay for it with cash.
  • From the time I was 12 years old I've never lacked for a job, with new jobs appearing sometimes the very day an old job ended, and sometimes finding their way to me through amazingly convoluted channels (a friend of a cousin of a neighbor of an army get the idea).
  • Recent specifics that prompted this post? A month ago I needed to pay tuition of $1,500. I only had $800 in my bank account. I happened to be digging through some old belongings, and found $700 in a box of envelopes, where I had stuck it after selling my previous car, then forgotten it. You do the math.
  • Today, I realized rent was due (first of the month). I have the money in my bank account, but after I pay rent, I'll have $18.99 left over to last me until Oct. 13--two weeks from now. That won't even pay to fill up my gas tank. Driving home from Child's house, however, I suddenly remembered that I hadn't checked my PayPal account for several months. Getting home, I checked it, and found $300 in it, which I transferred to my bank account.

    So a doubter might say that all those have logical explanations. None of that money appeared from thin air, I had simply forgotten it. Any of those jobs I got could have been a combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time, or knowing the right people. At some point, however, the coincidences become overwhelming, and you have to recognize God's hand in it. Who loses $700, or forgets $300, only to find it or remember it when there's no other solution? No, I believe in the law of tithing, and God hasn't failed me yet.
  • Monday, October 02, 2006

    It's been a busy past week. For starters, BYU beat #17 ranked TCU, 31-17. Yay! Not only were they ranked and BYU wasn't, but TCU was on a 13-game winning streak, which we broke. ...related, I'm currently at the top of my research lab's guessing game.

    Uncle Again
    So I mentioned in my last post that my sister had her baby. The baby is named "Maile," which according to my brother in law is "pronounced My Lei as in you go to hawaii, someone gives you a lei and you put it on and someone comes and grabs say NO, its My Lei!"

    Exciting! I'm an uncle three times over now! On another related note, my girlfriend just found out that her sister was pregnant, and she's going to be an aunt for the first time. She was very excited, to put it lightly. :)

    Animal Shelter
    According to Pat at the Animal Shelter, Bear was taken by a rescue on Friday. Rescues are independent organizations/people that take animals from the Shelter and adopt them out on their own. I'm happy for Bear, since she'll get more attention and care than the county Animal Shelter can give her, but I wish I had gotten time to take a picture of her first. Anyway, here's wishing her the best!

    My friend Paul IM'd me this morning, asking if I wanted to start weight-lifting with him again. We did it for a semester last year, and it was great, but when the new semester came around, he was too busy and I didn't want to go by myself. This time, we're going to do it Tuesday/Thursday, and we'll be trying 6 AM. Ouch. We'll see if I can hack it. If I'm feeling REALLY ambitious, I might start running on M/W/F.

    I know I'll be missing my sleep, but the exercise would really do me good. As a computer science student in college, I don't do much active stuff, just the occasional hiking trip or ultimate frisbee game.

    Friday and Saturday were also our church's Worldwide General Conference. A lot of good speakers, and once I have a chance to read through their talks, and I'll post a couple of my favorite quotes.