Friday, December 31, 2004

My Year in Review

What a fantastic year 2004 turned out to be. It is amazing how time goes by; it feels like we just faced January yesterday. I suppose the year wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take a little time to recap how things went, or at least try. What a journey 2004 turned out to be. I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities to learn and grow. I suppose that at its essence one of the beauties of life is that we get to learn. I have learned the value of ones time, and the need to use it carefully and wisely. It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when dedication and perseverance are attached to a task.

I love the lyrics from the Switchfoot song, Dare you to move:

“Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be.”


I found that it is that tension that drives the motivated person to figure it out, and become “who you could be.” It certainly isn’t easy, and I have a lot to learn still, but the experiences of 2004 have taught me that I can make those changes.

Here is a brief summary of the major events in my life in 2004:

January: Anxious beginnings on a new major in computer science, being non-matriculated with regard to the School of Computing. Spring semester opened and I took three classes: Introduction to Unix, Introduction to Computer Science I, Physics for Scientists and Engineer’s.

February: Got deeper into my classes. Had my first experience with SCHEME an interesting programming language that belongs to the LiSP family. I got a tutor for my Physics class; it was an interesting experience, as I think he cared more about my grade than I did at first. I think I managed to get to the Opera in February, I think it was Hansel and Gretel.

March: Still working on school, tutoring sessions in physics two times a week. I completed my first major QA/Testing assignment at work. I was the main QA person involved with the release of our new corporate 1099 tax reporting process. It was a good learning experience, though the actual release wouldn’t happen until July.

April: Had my first major experience with Java as a programming language. What a thrilling experience to make programs that would run and do something useful. Enjoyed singing with the Viva-Voce! Men’s chorus in their spring concert, “Go West Young Man”.

May: Finished up finals from spring semester, continued to make progress on the 1099 project at work, and began summer semester.

June:I built my first computer from the ground up, it was quite the learning experience. Got interested in blogging, though I had really high expectations for how and what I wanted my blog to be. I took some time to read books about CSS, Java, XML, and PHP. In school, I was taking one class, Calculus III. I found for the first time in my life that I actually was enjoying mathematics.

July: Fourth of July with the family. Continued work on School, found that the best place to study was not at home, but in the Engineering classroom building at school. Finally, all of the hoops had been jumped and we were able to launch the Beta for the 1099 project at work.

August:
Gave a presentation with a business owner at work re: the 1099 changes at a major user meeting. Took a two week consolidated class on Globalization at school to finish up my general education. I engineered a recoding for Marion Miller, a vocal coach at the University of Utah. Her CD turned out quite nice, considering my novice ability as a recording engineer. It was a fascinating class and I really learned a lot. Prepared for the beginning of fall semester, and started blogging!

September:
I spent much of September adjusting to life with my new classes. I celebrated my 25th birthday, where I received a digital camera, which started my obsession with flickr. It was a fantastic time to see the world through the LCD screen of my camera. It brought part of me back to life that had long been dormant. School was a challenge, but I was enjoying it. I also found that Discrete Math and ODE’s were a lot easier when aided by a tutor. I made the decision that I needed to focus more on school, and as such, was forced to put my singing with Viva Voce! on the side for a while. At work, the actual 1099 release went out.

October: We could call October the month of cultural events. I think I attended the Symphony twice and the Opera once. Aida was absolutely amazing; it had me from the first aria. School continued, it was pretty much a way of life; tests every other week, trying to work 20-25 hours a week, and doing programming assignments on the weekend. I experienced my first time being “on-call” at work. I had to get used to wearing a pager.

November: The grueling schedule continued, and classes continued to get more difficult I found that I pretty much had to recluse into study mode. I applied for full major status as a major of computer science at the University of Utah. My cohort of classmates finally decided that if we were to study together as a group, we would all benefit from each others strengths. In the depths of my studying I created a list of things that I wanted to do when I had a break from school.

December: Studying like crazy up to finals, and then rest. I started to attack my massive out of school to-do list. I worked on my photography, and took time off of work to relax. I stressed for a while in limbo land with regard to getting accepted into the computer science major. I rejoiced with my family, friends, and co-workers with the good news of my acceptance into the major. Started to make plans for 2005.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Finally

A classmate just called me and told me to check the course registration page again and...

I GOT ACCEPTED!!!

I am now officially a

COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJOR.

What a relief. I am so excited. I promise to write more later, but what a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

Still Waiting

Is it because I am a type A personality, or because I am obsessively compulsive? Or am I obsessively compulsive because I have a type A personality? I am not sure, but I can tell you that if I check my email or try to register for an upper division computer science class one more time today, it would be safe to say that I am obsessively compulsively type A. It feels like my entire professional life hangs in the balance, and at this point it is so completely out of my control. So, I sit here at work, at home, wherever there is an internet connection checking to see if perchance my major has been changed, or maybe if I got an email, or if by some chance I could register for the classes that I should take. It is like a little thought in the back of my mind that will not go away it says things like:

“What are you going to do if you don’t get accepted?”
“Maybe you should go check your email and the school site again?”
“They probably don’t think that you are good enough.”
“If you go check again, maybe they have made some decision or announcement.”

And then the little thought repeats itself over and over. The only comforting point in this whole waiting period is that I am not quite facing it alone. None of my classmates have heard from the school or been able to register yet either.

I feel trapped. Isolated. Stuck. Every time I see that my major has not yet been changed, I feel like the world gets a little bit smaller. Yes, I am probably taking this way too far, but I just want to know.

And so I wait, and try not to compulsively check my email.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sushi for Lunch


Ahh Sushi!
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

Today I went back to work. I have not been to work since Wednesday of last week, so being back in the office was something of a shock, even more so since I was on the second level support pager today. Stories of the pager really could be a blog unto itself, so I will spare us all the pain for the day.

Many of my co-workers are still on vacation. However, the few of us that were there today decided that we would go to lunch. Sushi was the name of the game. I was somewhat frightened by the whole thing at first. I am not a huge fish fan, and the idea of eating it raw sounded terribly frightening. Much to my surprise however, my tuna roll that had been wrapped in seaweed and briefly fried wasn't too bad at all. Yes, I know that it wasn't full on raw fish, but it was a step in the right direction. I look forward to visiting the sushi place again. I loved the ambiance of the place. I had never tried wasabi before today. I was an immediate fan. I really love spicy and hot foods. Wasabi really fits the bill.

Anyway, it was a good day. It was nice to be back to work. Good to work on some goals. Cool to eat sushi.

Still no news on the school of computing, and you already know how I feel about that.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Progress on the ToDo List

What a day I had today. Being that I have to go back to work tomorrow, I decided that I really needed to make some progress on the infamous “to-do” list:

  • Take the car for its 30k mile maintenance

  • Get a haircut

  • Get a new wireless card for the family PC

  • Go to the mall, redeem a gift card received in October

  • While at the mall, buy some pants

  • Have a print of one of my recent photographs made

  • Organize my CD’s

  • Buy a book on C++ programming


The list kept me really busy. I did actually accomplish the whole thing. It was really nice being able to use my finger to erase each of these things off of the list sitting on the whiteboard in my room. I can’t explain it, but I find great satisfaction in finishing things. At least I no longer have to worry about the above items nagging at me. I did manage to get some pants that will go with a shirt that I received for Christmas, the look good, and I also resisted the temptation to buy a new pair of shoes. The only drawback is that it ended up costing a bit of money. I have been saving for a while, but I have been reminded as to why I generally stay out of the stores. You see, it is much easier to save and not buy when you don’t go in. I suppose everyone deserves some self spoilage every now and again.

I really want to hear about admittance to the school of computing. The waiting is just making me ill. I want to know. If the news is good, then I can celebrate, and if the news is bad, I can work on getting over it. Again, knowing would be nice.

I guess it is time to go and read my books, and bask in the uncertainty of my education, and buyer’s remorse from today’s shopping spree.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Grades and Other Doings

It is really time that I be getting ready for bed, but there is something nagging at me to sit down and write a about the goings on of my life, as I have pretty much taken the last several days off. Today, I did not take any pictures; in fact, the camera is still sitting here on my desk where I left it last night. I didn’t pick up my reading either, something about it just seemed too laborious, I slept in this morning, and was pretty lazy. It was a good day to chat with the family, peruse the offerings at iTunes, and just take some time to relax.

Finally, I got my grades from fall semester. I have been stewing about them ever since class let out on the sixteenth. I have checked the website multiple times, daily since then hoping to get my final grades. It was a long semester, and as I said, I could have done better in some classes. However, on the whole, I can’t complain too much. I got an A- in CS2020 (Intro to Computer Science II), a B+ in MATH2250 (Linear Algebra/Ordinary Differential Equations), and a C in CS2100 (Discrete Math). Given my attitude toward CS2100, I think I will count my blessings that I passed, barely. I generally do not celebrate the reception of a C, but in this case, I can celebrate that I do not have to repeat the class.

I learned some valuable lessons from CS2100. First, it pays to get to know the professor early in the semester. Second, attendance of any outside discussion sections can be to your advantage. Third, sometimes the only way to get through a class is brute force memorization. Fourth, you should never give up.

I don’t plan on making C’s a regular part of my CS grading scheme. CS2100 was a bugger of a class, and having survived that league of the journey, I think that I am now better prepared to face what lies ahead. I still have not heard from the School of Computing regarding my application for full major status. I anxiously await any news at this point. Patience seems to be the name of the game. I hope that the admissions committee sees my willingness to work hard. I have a lot to prove to them. I hope that they find me worthy. Until I hear of acceptance or rejection, my registration for next semester is very much in limbo. With my personality this uncertainty is hard for me to endure. Until I hear, I suppose I will just keep doing what I can to keep busy on other things.

This evening I accompanied my family to visit my Grandmother, we all opened the presents that she had purchased for us, and I was the proud recipient of a beautiful dress shirt. I have so been in the need of clothes as of late that it came as a welcome sight for sore eyes. It was good to look at photos of days gone by, and enjoy a moment together.

Of other news, I spent most of Christmas afternoon working on making the family PC work. Several months ago it had a major blowup, which required us to find a replacement motherboard, and consequently, a partial re-install of the Windows operating system. Ever since, the machine hasn’t worked up to the families expectation, so I took to backing up everyone’s files, formatting the machine, re-installing a clean copy of windows and all the other software that they use, and restoring their files. Unfortunately, some of my father’s stuff was a casualty of the format, as not all of his stuff was where he thought it was. He was not the first person to be frustrated by the Microsoft way of saving files away. Apple should be commended for its approach to saving user files. At least back in the dark ages of MacOS, the user could set up a system default where ALL applications would write their saved files, in the long run, I think that it saved users time and troubles. If only the Microsoft world would catch on. (No I am not a poster boy for Apple, I don’t even own one at the moment.)

I think I have more than written anyone’s eyes out for the evening, and having completed my little update, I can go to bed.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

Merry Christmas friends!
May your day be filled with joy and love.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Trip to Elberta


Composite
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

When I woke up this morning I thought that I would be checking into the office around noon and working until five. Isn’t it interesting how our plans change? The more time I spent home, the easier it was to decide that today would be a day off. I have put in my obligatory twenty hours, and it was time to go and have some fun. Yes, this week has been very photographic. Perhaps I have photography on the brain, but it has been entertaining for me and something to break up the monotony. Today I convinced my little sister that she needed to go on a journey with me. She agreed, and after running an errand with her friend we were in my car an on our way to Elbera, Utah, where a co-worker informed me that I would find a very interesting gas station with an old fashioned pump. Above you see one of the artifacts from the journey. It was a good drive on a very cold day. It was nice to get out of town for a little bit, even if it was only a four hour round trip. There is something unique and wonderful about seeing places that you have never been, and experiencing what appears to be a life very different from the life lived in suburbia.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Day in the Life followup -- Recognition

Here are a few of my most favorite flickr photos, note that none of these are mine, and by clicking on each photo you will be taken to the photo in the owner’s photo stream.

Albert Einstein said, “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition.” It is interesting to note how often our most basic desires and wants are those that we had when we were little children. Children don’t assume, they don’t pre-judge, they ask a lot of questions, they love unconditionally, and sometimes in their mind the very world revolves around them. Christian religion teaches that one should become like a little child.

Einstein says that creativity is stimulated by childlike play and want for recognition. The thought is quite insightful. To be creative, one must think outside the preverbal box. Truly new and unique ideas do not come along every day. Perhaps one of the reasons that Einstein suggested that creativity was dependant first upon childlike inclination to play is that one must see things as if they were looking at them for the first time if they are to find interesting angles on a traditional something.

The second point was desire for recognition. Children yearn to be recognized, and they especially love positive feedback. However, if they can’t get it positively, negative would do as well. How many times has the common anecdote been quoted: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The young psyche thrives on human interaction. Even as adults, people still feel a need to be connected to something. The notion of childlike desire for recognition does however raise a question. It gives cause for one to wonder if somewhere in the forming years of youth that people are taught to not seek recognition. Is it conceivable that the idea of seeking recognition is not socially acceptable? Yet at the same time, it is a primal human desire. By learning that outwardly seeking recognition is not politically correct, is one shut off to creativity?

Perhaps not. Some of the greatest minds in the world produced their works in solitude and well beyond the reach of other human interaction, maybe by choice, maybe not. The question still remains, were they doing it because they wanted to out of pure self motivation, or was there something bigger serving as the motivating factor?

My involvement with flickr has brought some of these thoughts to a front for me. Do I take pictures because I want to have a remembrance for myself of how I saw the world at a given time, or do I take pictures because I want others to see the world the way I saw it, hoping that they will find it pleasing? Honestly, I think that it is a little bit of both. I love recognition as much as the next person. Getting comments here on this blog, seeing a photo was marked as a “favorite” by someone on flickr, or even seeing the hit counters go up does my little heart good. Maybe that is part of “feeling connected”, even if at the outset it sometimes feels a bit like the Dr. Seuss book: The Sneetches.

Creativity is a good thing. Childlike curiosity is as well, and I suppose that recognition also has its good place. I try hard to recognize the strengths in others. Maybe it is just another place where the application of the golden rule goes a long way to making the world a better place .

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Photo Day

Today was almost a standard day. I spent it at work. It would have been completely normal except for the “Day in the life” photo project that I was participating in as a member of the flickr online community. I think I came up with an ok photoset, it probably could have been more concise, and perhaps I could have stayed on theme a bit more as far as telling a story. All in all, I had a really good time with it, and am looking forward to the next time that we all get to participate again.

It is very obvious that my co-workers are ready for Christmas and their vacations. There were doughnuts in the break room again this morning, and I think that people spent a great deal more time than they usually would just loitering around the office making small talk. I am not sure if it is just that people are already closing shop and there really isn’t a lot going on, or if people are just ready for vacation, and are putting off the work. I really am thinking it is the latter.

I think that tomorrow I will only work half of a day. I would like to spend some quality time with this stack of books that I need to read before school starts again on January 10th. No, I have not given up on my desire to re-design this blog, and I have even spent some time looking at how I would go about doing it. I haven’t made the time to actually code it out.

I am still waiting for the verdict on my grades and acceptance to the school of computing. More to come in the future.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Darkroom


Barn 2
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

I finally managed to get back into the darkroom. It has been over a year since I sat down to develop film and print my own pictures. This negative was developed a year ago, and I just now got around to printing it.

There is something wonderful about chemical photography. The smells, the feel of the chemicals on your fingers, watching the print magically appear when in the developer, looking at the clock waiting until you can turn on the light.

Good times.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Update

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I have had some time to have good conversations with family members, have had time to dig into that stack of books that I want to read, have taken some photos, and am piece by piece chipping away at the “to-do” list. It has been so wonderful to have time to just relax. I don’t think that I would recommend living without a schedule as a life style, but after having finished a big project it is nice to just sit back and take things as they come for a spot.

I had some time to sit and think yesterday, and I was reflecting on the questions I asked in my blog entry dated December 14. Yes, I was still thinking about the concept of being the Jack of all trades and master of none. I was pondering on some of my talented friends. They all have careers in different disciplines, it was at that point that I began to understand something that one would thing should be obvious, but I had not thought of it yet. My very talented friends aren’t masters of everything that they take up, nor do they have to be. They are often very skilled in the fields where they chose to focus their education, and while they have many talents, they are truly spectacular in that one area that they chose to study.

Lets take for example one of my friends who is a musician. This person is really amazing when it comes to playing an instrument, and has a great ear for how music should be performed. This person has spent many years working on perfecting that skill set. Lessons, schooling and practice, eventually it all adds up to make a master. I think that for the longest time, I have ignored those very principles of learning: lessons, schooling, and most importantly practice.

This semester in school, this principle was brought home to me in my ODE/Linear Algebra class. Something finally clicked, and seemingly for the first time I was able to really understand Algebra and Calculus. At long last, I am beginning to reap the rewards of hours of study, and the time and money I put into class attendance and private tutors.

If I continue to place the emphasis on my schooling, soaking up the information presented in my classes, and practicing those things presented, there is no reason that I can’t become a master of the Computer Science discipline. To answer my question of last week, it is not that one has to give up everything in order to gain mastery, but it is that he/she may need to make it a more serious priority than other things. One can learn to be a master of something and still have time be a human. In my mind, it seems to come down to where one places the priority and emphasis. Given 168 hours in a week, it is all about where and how you choose to spend the time.

Friday, December 17, 2004

A Day


Mirrored Building
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

I am just going to call it a day. There was a nice Christmas luncheon at work. I managed to leave the office early today and take some photos. I love Flickr, but then I have allready obsessed over that in recent posts.

I am still waiting on the results from finals. I won't have that information until late next week.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Time for a Rest

Though it will not be a rest from all things, it will be a rest from formal schooling. I finished the marathon. Sixteen weeks ago I started out on this voyage, and today I can say that I finished the race that was fall semester. I am reasonably pleased with the performance that I gave in my classes, though as I noted on Monday, I know that I could have done some things better. I know that I put forth a lot of effort, and I know some of the areas into which I will need to place more effort spring semester.

The big questions that remain are:

1. Was my performance adequate for me to gain acceptance into the School of Computing, and thus allowing me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science?

2. Did I make enough improvement in CS2100 (Discrete Math) that I won’t end up taking it again next semester for a better grade?

Both queries have me feeling somewhat uneasy. Number one, because if I don’t get accepted, I am not sure what direction my academic pursuits will take. Number two, because the class was such a challenge in the first place that it would take a great deal of mental stamina and character strength to go through it all again. Perhaps it would be better to not consider the negative. If I did have to face the consequences of one, the other, or both, the bridge could be crossed at that time.

I do not have all of the answers, but I feel that the past 16 weeks have been a time of self-discovery and self-mastery. I have accomplished things that before I didn’t think that I could do. I have learned how to better use the collegiate system to my advantage. I have learned that when I really have to, I can push myself to do extraordinary things. I have learned that there are people all around me that are on my side, there to cheer and support as is necessary. I feel that I have learned lessons in this past 16 weeks that will not only help to make me a great computer scientist, but a better person.

I now have the next 24 days to decompress, rest, earn some money, work on things that the school schedule won’t allow for, and to do all those things that will allow me to have a good and successful spring semester. I am excited to do some reading, to work on this website, to pursue my hobby of photography, and to learn a little bit about C++.

Though the holiday music has been playing on the radio since November, I finally feel like my holiday can commence, and with that, I’ll call this a blog entry.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

One Down, Two to Go

Yes, that is right. I survived the ODE final. I think I did ok. Hopefully well enough to maintain my grade. The test was a lot harder than I had anticipated. The problem types were all things that we had seen and worked with, but there was an added twist in nearly every set that made it slightly more difficult. Golem, from the Lord of the Rings, would call it “trixy”.

I have taken the next three days off of work; today and tomorrow for studying, Thursday for exam taking. This should give me ample time to be sure that I am completely up to speed for my back to back finals on Thursday. I learned that 1/3 of my Discrete Math final will be true and false questions that we have seen on the past exams. It looks like it would be a wise investment to spend some time making sure that I could pick up those easy points.

A Perplexity:
Have you ever wanted to be the “best” at anything? It is fun having lots of interests, it makes for a well rounded person, but sometimes I feel like the Jack of all trades, and master of none. Does becoming the master of a skill require that all else is sacrificed in order that one can be a master of one domain? I have done tolerably well in school this semester, but I can still think of times when I could have given more, stayed up for a few more hours, or just plain paid more attention. What does it take to give undying focus to a discipline? Is it possible? When I think about how I spend my time, and then look at my academic standing, I know that I do very well for the time that I put in. However, if I would stretch a bit more, cut out more of the nonsense, and put even more into it I know I could see improvement above where I stand now.

The question is, is becoming the master of one thing, worth giving up everything else? I will still be a good computer scientist, even if I don’t have a 4.0 GPA. I am still a reasonable singer, though I don’t take lessons or sing in a choir right now. I am a good employee, but I miss out on special projects because my time is so divided. If I didn’t take some time each week to just relax, I would go crazy. Yet, when I know I should be doing something, and I am idle, or not doing one of the things that I should be doing, I feel guilty for not attending to the list of things that I must do. So, because my sense of “to-do” says I can’t work on the “other stuff” until the “real stuff” gets done, and I spend time idle.

Well that was a thought and a half. I don’t know the answers, but something needs to change. Perhaps it has to do with learning the art of time management.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Approach

Finals begin tomorrow. I have that anxious, excited, sick feeling—I feel like I am almost ready for my ODE final tomorrow. I have done well on all of my assignments and mid-terms, so I don’t know why the final would be any different. I just hope that I am able to recall these things that I have been learning and studying for the past three months. In my own universe, I wonder if I would have finals. Perhaps it really is something that students need. Something to give a student that extra push to really learn. A time to show the professor that you really did spend all those hours to master a subject. Oh how student’s lives would be easier if a comprehensive final was not ever looming more near each day as the semester progressed.

The list of “fun things to do” is ever calling, and gets longer by the day. I just need to stick to my guns for a while longer. It will all pay off in the end.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Day in the Life of...

This idea has always fascinated me. The photojournalistic side of me gets all warm and fuzzy with even the mention of an idea like this. Humanity is such an interesting thing. Billions of us on this planet all going about our days, doing the things that we need to do in order to live life. What is it all about? Yes, I know that is a loaded question, but it is interesting to think about. I am not one of the “loudest” social figures when I am out and about, but one thing I love to do is people watch. It is just fascinating to see what people do, how they react, where they are going.

Several years ago, my father and I were visiting an aunt who lives a few hours to the south of where we do. It was a nice little vacation, but one of the things that I keep in my memory about that trip was a book that my aunt had on her coffee table. No, I don’t remember its name, but it was some photo contest. Each photographer was challenged to show the community where they lived. It was a 24 hour thing, and the photos from different photographers were just stunning.

With the advent of flickr, this is type of project can be so much bigger, and though we won’t be publishing a book when all is said and done. Hundreds of people will have contributed their “day in the life” to a collection. Though flickr is like this every day, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, I think that this group has potential. It will be interesting to see what people come up with, knowing that they are showing “their day”.

So, if you have a camera, get out there on the 21st of December and photograph your day. Then share the pictures with the rest of the world. Flickr accounts are free, and lots of fun to use. Perhaps one of the reasons that I love my camera so much, is that it gives me a way to show others how I see the world, and that in its self is a deep subject.

You can visit the group page here.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Goodnight World


The Cart
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

Somewhere in the goings on that made my day, I ended up at a grocery store. To make a long story short, I haven’t taken any pictures in a couple of weeks and was feeling like I needed to. Even if it was just one, so I put the camera in my coat pocket today. Getting out of the grocery store, I was again enjoying the warmth of the sun, the feeling of the brisk December cold, and really began to enjoy the quality of the light. The question however, is what would make for an interesting photo. At that point I saw the shadow of the shopping cart. Perhaps it isn’t the most glamorous photo in the world, but at least I managed to get one.

Today started like most of my Saturday mornings. It was very beautiful outside, though there was frost on the grass and on my windshield this morning, the sun was warm and bright. Because of the rain we have had for the last couple of days, the sky was clear, and the air was clean. Today was the kind of day that helps you to remember what life is all about, the kind of day that restores your faith in good things to come.

I ate at a new Mexican fast food restaurant today. I almost slipped into speaking Spanish. The food was excellent and spicy, just as I like it.

I managed to finish my computer science assignment this afternoon. I feel like a great burden has been lifted off of my shoulders. With that assignment taken care of, the path is now clear for me to study hard for finals. First thing on the radar is ODE'€™s, then Discrete Math, and then Computer Science. However, because Discrete Math and Computer Science fall on the same day, I am going to have to devise some way to make sure that they both get adequate study time. I think it means I will be taking some time off of work this week. I want to do well. I want to get accepted into this program. Few times in my life have I been so insistent about something happening. Let’s hope that it shows in my grades, and that the admissions board feels I am worthy.

And now I lay me down to sleep. Comfortable knowing that I am so close to completing the marathon that is fall semester. I just need to complete them well. Five days and counting...

Friday, December 10, 2004

FireFox 1.0

I tend to be a very habitual person, and like many habitual people that means that once I am committed to something I don’t back down very easily. So, when I changed my default web browser from internet explorer to fire fox last night, it was a pretty big deal. Some forms of change are hard for me. Once I am used to the look and feel of a piece of software, even an upgrade can be a trial at times. It is just such a hassle to have to learn new key commands, find new buttons, and to learn how to exploit all of the new features. If the software is truly a good upgrade, then eventually I will get over the “newness” and be very happy. However, the product has to really offer me something to get me to persevere though the change and adopt the new. Four years I made the switch form Netscape to IE. I found from moment one that I really enjoyed IE. Generally, I didn’t have any problems with how web pages displayed, and it “looked” more pleasing than its counter part. Anyway, I jumped on the Microsoft train and did the IE thing for four years, always downloading the newest versions and have been happy ever since.

As you may or may not know, a new browser based on the Mozilla engine was released about a month ago, and has been garnering support for much longer than that. My classmates at school kept telling me that I needed to make the switch, and though I downloaded it a month or so ago taking the dive and making it my browser was something that I just couldn’t bring myself to do. Perhaps I felt like I was betraying IE, but giving in to the pressure applied by colleagues I took the dive. The funny thing is, I feel much like the guy in Green Eggs and Ham, once I really gave it a try, and its added controls and features sold me on the spot. Tabbed browsing is wonderful for desktop management, and I really love its ability to subscribe to ATOM and RRS feeds. Each time the browser loads, it automatically checks the feeds for new posts, and presents them as bookmarks that are dynamically updated. Yes, I know that I should probably check out a newsreader, and truth be told I did once. I didn’t find a free one that I liked, so I have yet to jump on that boat. However, Fire Fox gets me half way there.

If I were a security expert, I could talk about why many people believe this browser to be superior to IE and others. It has a lot of features that just make sense.

Anyway, if you get a second, you should check it out. You won’t be sorry.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Random Unrelated Stuff

There are so many exciting things that I would like to share today. I am just not sure that there is any way to tie them all together into one coherent post. So perhaps it would just be easier to list them off, and let you try to make sense of the whole thing.

Today was the last day of classes for fall semester. That is a happy thought all by itself. There is still half of a programming assignment hanging over my head along with finals in all three of my classes. However, studying for the finals should not be too ominous, as I have studied diligently all semester. I will spend the requisite hours studying, but I shouldn’t be facing anything that I haven’t seen before. Review is a lot easier than learning the first time. The best part of today really was that in ONE WEEK, I will be done with school and ready to enjoy my 24 day break from all things homework.

Of other more technical news, yesterday I found the blog of a designer who works for ESPN. Not only is his site absolutely beautiful, but he also really knows what he is talking about. I see websites like that, and am reminded: a) how little I know about web development, and b) how very simple this website is in comparison to what the professionals do.

Anyway, while reading Mike Davidson’s site, I found that he has been working with some people to develop this great technology that allows you to render typefaces in the browser as flash movies. While to the average Joe, this doesn’t mean a lot, upon further study, it really does mean quite a bit. The ability to add scalable text in beautiful typefaces to an HTML document easily, and in a cross-browser compatible fashion is really quite the accomplishment.

If you are interested in learning about this process called sIFR, you can follow these links and learn all you need to know, assuming you have a basic knowledge of XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Flash.

sIFR 1, sIFR 2, sIFR 3

It has given me all sorts of desire to get working on the re-design of this website. It is on the to-do list for the winter recess, so be set for changes here in the near future. Design really is an art, with some luck, patience, and maybe a bit of skill I will end up with something I can be proud of.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Weather

It may still be overcast, but at least the wind and rain cleared out the smog – both literally and figuratively. Last Friday, Salt Lake City was an asthma attack waiting to happen. Though it is still cold today, the valley is clean, and you can actually see the horizon clearly. School feels a lot like that right now. There are still things on the school to-do list, but it is getting smaller by the day. After this current CS assignment it will be down to preparation for finals and taking them.

I have a list on the whiteboard in my bedroom titled “wants.” This particular list of wants has to do with things that I would like to do during my 24-day winter recess. The books I would read, the code I would write, the places to visit, the photos to take, and the time to enjoy. I am looking forward to this break, the way a child looks to Christmas morning. It occurred to me today, that perhaps I should set some reasonable expectations for this break, as I don’t want to kill myself off, I just want to do some of these things that the school grind doesn’t allow for.

I guess we will see what happens.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Monday

Lyrics made famous by the Carpenter’s “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down,” were rushing through my head as I made the drive down the hill from the university into the city center where I work. Monday is all about confronting a new week, fraught with challenges to face and tasks to accomplish. I could go to bed at 8:30 on Sunday night, and still find my encounter with Monday morning difficult (and yes, I did go to bed at 8:30 last night).

In ODE’s we are discussing LaPlace transforms. Interesting little buggers they are. Fascinating, considering how much they can do for the mathematician. Frightening if you are a student staring at this new method that seems to magically spit out answers to differential equations. In my experience, math classes always get frightening in the last few lectures because of the interesting ways that EVERYTHING that you have learned seems to come at you in one problem. Even more interesting is the way that the professor writes up “draft” solutions leaving chalkboards worth of calculations and figures for the student to figure out as “missing details”.

Following staff meeting here at work today, I think I will be taking the rest of the day off, as I still have a great deal of work that needs to be done in all three of my classes before I can even think about finals. The frightening thought is, had I been procrastinating, how horrible would this mess be? I look at how much effort I am expending right now, and I have stayed caught up all semester. I can’t imagine what some of my colleagues are going through at this moment.

Thank goodness for an understanding employer, patient friends, tutors, and some motivation that I didn’t know I had to keep going. While Monday may have me at this moment, at least I can look forward to Friday in two weeks.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Learning and CSS

One who is in search of knowledge will never run out of things to learn. It takes so many different areas of discipline to make the world as wonderful as it is today. Daily, I find myself on a journey of learning. When trying to learn about one thing, it isn’t difficult to come across several other topics that would also be worthwhile to delve into.

Six months ago I learned about Cascading Style Sheets for the first time. It really changed the whole way I see web-pages and though I haven’t had the time to really play with them, the more I learn about CSS and its capabilities the more I am impressed. I was taking a break from the homework grind by doing some web surfing, and came across this article. The author makes some an assertion: attractive navigation design without flash or JavaScript, I think it really is a great idea. Most of the modern web standards groups would probably agree. Anyway, for those that find web design interesting, you may enjoy the linked article.

Computing really is a gigantic field. There are so many technologies to use, and ideas about best practice. I really don’t know how current professionals keep on top of it all. I guess it is a good thing that I love to learn.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Struggle

It is good that things in life keep us humble, and remind us how little we know. The computer science assignment that I spent last night and a great deal of this afternoon working on proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. The professor said that “it is a short assignment, and shouldn’t take you too long to finish”. Boy, did I ever struggle with it. Thank goodness for some good classmates, and instant messenger. We all worked together, and pushed each other on to complete the assignment.

I know that I often tell you how quickly the semester is going to end, I probably keep reminding you of it as a reminder to myself that I just have to keep pushing for a couple of more weeks. I just need to take a deep breath, and attack it one task at a time.

Between now and Monday, I need to spend some serious time with both ODE’s and Discrete Math. Thankfully, I have finished the CS assignment.

On another note, I recently found Barber’s Adagio for Strings, op.11. What a beautiful piece of music. It is so full of emotion and feeling, with such a powerful past. I can just close my eyes and let my soul vibrate to the feelings roused by this powerful piece. I think that right now, it could be a soundtrack for my life. It is not every day I find something to which I can resonate so well.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Still At It

Well, I had a somewhat relaxing evening last night, but will end up paying for it today. You see, though I didn’t have anything due today, I have a few things due tomorrow. As a result I will get to play with the computer algebra system tonight. If I finish that, I will work on some discrete math. Classes end one week from today, and then I have finals the week following. There is so much to do between now and then!

A co-worker sent me my horoscope for the day:
“You may find yourself right smack-dab in the middle of a melodrama. You won't like it much, but you'll deal with it if a dear one is involved. Be patient. Think about what's really important to you.”

Isn’t it odd that you can almost always relate these things to the goings on in life?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Paradox

Between work and school, it seems I never run out of things to be thinking about. Today we will re-visit one of my old favorites. Program Design.

An interesting paradox:
Create a secure application that is capable of preventing/identifying fraud.
We can’t tell you what you are to secure, and what holes there are in the design, as we wouldn’t want you to exploit them.

Yes, separation of duties is important.
Yes, confidentiality is also paramount to keeping public knowledge of vulnerabilities to a minimum.
But, if you can’t trust your development team, at least to help with the design, whom can you trust?

In a development team, where exactly are the barriers? How stiff should they be? Is there a hard and fast answer? Project management is a challenge; there are a lot of questions to be answered. This is perhaps one of the reasons that people working in information technology need to have a keen sense of personal ethics.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Math Lab



In subdued light they sit, heads bowed toward their books.
In the background one can hear faint conversations of mathematical principles
Integral of this, derivative of that, laws of sines and cosines, much the same
But different

Problems are solved meticulously with patience and care
Sometimes it helps to be in the presence of others
For the common battle gives us all strength

At times one wonders why they must learn math
But then he is reminded of its sublime power
For math is the language of science

While the students pay homage to their precious math tombs
There is determination in their brows
And yet, while one watches the sublime spectacle
He can’t but help think that he too must get to work

For to understand math
Is to understand the world
It is ever so useful
If one will just
Try.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Monday after Holiday

Returning to regular life after a holiday weekend is a challenge for most normal people. Thankfully, the return to school and work today hasn’t been too terrible. The thanksgiving holiday provided me with adequate time to prepare for the upcoming week, and get some needed rest. It was very cold this morning; winter has finally arrived in the Salt Lake valley. I usually listen to the radio on my way to school, but today opted for silence. It was nice to have a moment to put the day into perspective.

On Monday’s I only have one class, it begins at seven thirty in the morning. It was very encouraging to see the professor outline the next three weeks of class leading up to our final. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Though the topics in the ordinary differential equation class are getting advanced, with some perseverance, it is possible to learn. Getting out of class, I started off toward work, again without the company of the radio.

Today is one of those days that I am grateful that I work downtown. Every day I walk through a mall on my way to the elevator that will take me up to work. Today upon entering the mall, I noticed that the music was louder than normal. When I got up the escalator, I found that the music was live (and thus louder). One of the local radio stations has decided to put on live “mini-concerts” for the holiday season. It was great to start the workday to some live Christmas music. I noticed that several of my co-workers were also enjoying the concert, before we headed up into the office tower.

Feeling the end of the semester, accompanied by a wonderful mini concert would have been completely sufficient to get my Monday of to a terrific start, but the day got even better. Monday morning my work team always has staff meeting. We have recently been involved in a large consolidation project, which we finally finished last week. Today, our supervisor told us that we needed to watch a compliance video, but when she turned it on, the video turned out to be “A Christmas Story”. We all had a good laugh together this morning. What a great way to start off a busy week.

There is still a lot that needs to be done, but I am beginning to think that will be a constant. Onward and upward we go!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Leadership

A Mr. Rogers thought:

“It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It’s easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.”

What a wonderful thought. I grew up watching Fred Rodgers on television, and while I can’t give Mr. Rogers credit for everything that I am today, I do think that he had an effect upon a small boy who was curious about the world around him. Mr. Rogers reinforced good solid principles taught by parents, and Sunday school teachers. Looking back on it now, I wonder how Fred Rodgers was able to be so good, so loving, and so tolerant. On his show we talked about happy things, and sad things, at times people were even angry, but there always was an undercurrent of love and understanding.

Sometimes, I find myself in situations where I am supposed to be a leader, in moments like those; I should be the person on the moral high ground. I should really study out the issues, and make sure that the things that I do and say will not hurt others. I once read a book that claimed that to be a leader that there was no room for compassion if you were to reach your goals. To whoever it was that wrote that book, I emphatically disagree. It may take more work, and you as the leader may have to be more creative, but if those you lead know that you love them, and understand that you want them to love each other, wouldn’t things like assuming good intent, having mutual respect, and overall productivity increase?

In the last week or so, I may not have been the best leader in all aspects of my life. Metaphorically speaking, I may have thrown out the baby with the bath water. Interactions with different people are always so intricate, there is so much always going on in the background. The question of today’s post has to do with the opening quote. Yes, working things out is dramatic, and it is exciting and wonderful to see two people with different views respect each other, but something I have learned the hard way is that I can only directly control myself. How do you foster the understanding and respect that it takes to get two third parties to agree to disagree, and yet respect each other and have a good working relationship from there on out. From a leadership perspective I would find this very interesting, because it may not be the Leader can not force anything, but he may very well have to clean up some of the mess. Unfortunately, sometimes the decisions we make have a ripple effect, and thereby, a dispute at one end of the pool very well could disrupt the whole thing.

Maybe we all just need to be a little more conscious of our actions. Certainly, no one is perfect, and I really believe that few in this world set out to cause trouble, most people are inherently good. The trick is that we need to see the good in each other.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Crayons?


04_11_26c 011
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

Feeling too lazy to write a longer, more substantive blog entry today, I have opted to share a photo with you. I have wanted to do a photographic object study on crayons for quite a while now. I think that it is probably because as a child in grade school I always loved our coloring projects. Crayons remind me of a simpler time. Not that today is bad, but there was something truly wonderful about coloring a bright outside scene with a sun, blue sky that touched the green green grass.

Christmas is up in my home.
I checked off a speech that I had to write for an upcoming meeting today.
I also managed to read one chapter on Graph theory for discrete math. One down, one more to go.


I also revisited some of the programming assignment that I completed on Wednesday. It seems that I had left out some case analysis that I never would have thought of on my own. Thank goodness for classmates. Incidentally, he said that he came across the cases by accident. Which helps me not to feel so badly abut missing it in the first place.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving

Ah yes, a promised turkey day post. Today was nice and relaxing. It has been a very long while since I last had the opportunity to sleep in. Today I was afforded that luxury, and though by many standards nine isn’t the longest to sleep in, when you are used to waking up between 5:30 and 6:30, nine seems very nice. Thankfully I got my laundry done, and I also had some time to just relax and think this morning. Everyone needs time to themselves sometimes; it seems that finding it is really the challenge. In my personal time today I was able to do some non school related studying, and also spent a few minutes contemplating thanksgiving in general. All things considered, I there are many things for which I am profoundly grateful. Though this probably isn’t the place to get into it, suffice it to say that I am grateful for the life that I have.

Thanksgiving dinner was held this afternoon at the grandparent’s home. A very classic thanksgiving meal by menu, excellently prepared, and well presented. It is always nice to break bread with those you love and respect. We ate well, and had some good conversations. I was pleased to see how helpful everyone was in putting on the event as dinner for 23 is a suitable task for anyone.

I am watching my “thanksgiving holiday” evaporate before my eyes, and am just now wondering how on earth I am going to accomplish the to-do list. I guess it will be like everything else, one small task at a time. Only three more weeks to the end of fall semester, at that point some well deserved R&R is in order, until then, I must muster the strength and stamina to finish the race. One lesson I learned today is that perhaps I should try to widen my focus a bit more to take in more than school and work. Most of the rest of the world manages to do this, and tunnel vision over anything may not be the healthiest of characteristics. I will have to give that idea some more thought.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

1/3 Done

Well I finished my programming assignment. It took me a little longer than I had anticipated, but thank goodness it is done now. This way, I don’t have to worry about it all weekend. With CS2020 out of the way, that leaves me plenty of room to work on other things… like graph theory, ODE’s, and maybe, just maybe having some “me” time. I am too tired to say lots tonight. There will be time tomorrow, so I will be sure to get a turkey day blog in. Here’s to having one third of the homework I must complete this weekend done!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Build Versus Buy

Software development is an interesting thing, I love thinking about business processes and how technology can improve them. There is a great satisfaction to be found in studying business processes, and then designing software that helps to complete that process plan. It is interesting to note trends in IT, some fly in one day and are gone the next, others have a more lasting, permanent effect upon the way that we do business. I think that the trick for any manager would be to determine which technologies are cost-effective to develop, easy for the end user, and powerful enough to hold up in the competitive market place of today. Is the solution to buy third party products, or to develop in house? With the amount of information thrown at IT professionals today, how is it possible for them to know what will pass the test?

Yesterday in the evening I had a discussion with my bosses boss about this very topic. He posed some questions that certainly were not easy to answer, especially when it comes to deciding on various technologies that a company can pursue. The company that I work for prides its self with being on the cutting edge of technology in our field. If I were an IT manager, it isn’t clear to me how I would stay up on all of the technologies. I suppose some of it would have to be reliant upon hiring smart people who did their best to stay up with the latest. I seriously doubt that any one person could learn it all. It is all very interesting, but highly technical. Have you ever visited The World Wide Web Consortium? If you haven’t, you are in for a treat; they bring all new meaning to the words white paper.

Today I have been doing some research on enterprise document management. We have already heavily invested in a solution, but it we want more from it that it is willing to give us. Spending some time on this vendor’s website, I have learned that they have some solutions, but they come at a very high price. Because we are storing documents on a database that they designed, we would have to pay a heavy license fee to be able to retrieve documents to our own applications. Additionally, with this given vendor, you are welcome to do such things for the fee, but you also have to develop within the constraints of an API that they have developed. This is where this post comes full circle. Though we are already heavily invested in this company, is it worth the money requested to use their development kit, or would it me simpler to just abandon this document storage system and create our own?

Sometimes there just are not simple answers to be found.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Top Five Lists

I was reading a blog yesterday in the afternoon, and the writer was talking about how you could learn a lot about a person by reading a list of their "favorites." I am typically a person who holds that sort of information close to the breast, not really for fear of sharing, but I am not the type to have many strong convictions in the area of favorite media. For the most part, this was an experiment for me, to list things that I enjoy. I am still not totally convinced that I could say that they are my all time favorites, but what is listed is what came to mind. The lists are in no particular order, and of course are subject to mood changes.

One thing I learned about me is that the event of Napster and iTunes has really changed my music purchasing habits. As I listed my favorite songs, that wasn’t too difficult, except distilling a list of thousands of songs down to five was somewhat arduous. When it came to listing albums my tastes seemed to change immediately. I guess that I just haven’t purchased many full albums in recent years. The ones I listed are a few that I really could enjoy listening to the entire thing over and over.

It was an interesting experiment anyway. It also makes for a reasonable blog entry. So without further ado, here is a sampling of my top fives:

Top Fives:

Movies:
1. Star Wars – Episode Six
2. Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King
3. Sabrina (1995)
4. Twelfth Night (1996)
5. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Albums:
1. When I look in your eyes – Diana Krall
2. In Pieces – Garth Brooks
3. John Williams Greatest Hits 1969-1999
4. The Melody At Night, With You – Keith Jarrett
5. Jimmy Eat World

Songs:
1. O Magnum Mysterium – Robert Shaw
2. Cadillac of the Skys – John Williams
3. Float On – Modest Mouse
4. Tiny Dancer – Elton John
5. Somebody Told Me – The Killers

TV Shows:
1. ALIAS
2. 30 Minute Meals – Food Network
3. Seventh Heaven
4. Everwood
5. Summerland

Books:
1. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
2. Eragon – Christopher Paolini
3. Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
4. Core Java volumes I and II – Horstmann, Cornell
5. Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling

Restaurants:
1. Friday’s
2. Chili’s
3. The Rivers
4. The Boulevard
5. Tony Roma’s

I am sure that were I to sit and think about it longer there would be more, but the above represents a good survey.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

GO UTES!

ESPN College Game Day has come to visit the University of Utah this weekend.

A nice picture from the UofU website.




Today represents a big game for the Utes. We are still hoping that we can win a BCS bowl game, and well, punishing BYU would just add more joy to it.


Friday, November 19, 2004

A Step in the Right Direction

Well, it is officially out of my hands now. I finally turned in my application for full major status to the University of Utah School of Computing. I need to keep working hard on my current classes as part of my admission counts on the classes that I am taking this semester, but the work of it is all done. I won’t have an official answer until mid-late December, and that makes me a bit nervous as I can’t register for any more classes until receive full major status, so I get to wait, study and pray it all works out between now and then.

Computer Science feels like it will be a good fit for me. I enjoy the topic, and have a thirst to learn all I can about computers, software, and how they work. I have been quite lucky in the last year to have had some good mentors, and professors who love what they do, and love to share their knowledge of the topic. While I always tease about working for a big company like Microsoft, Apple, Google, or EAGames, part of me also thinks that it would be a thrill to teach introductory CS courses, and work at a university as a professor. If I could influence other peoples’ lives for good the way some key professors have influenced mine, working as a professor would be an awesome experience. I have time yet ahead of me, and the first step is getting full major status. The future may be uncertain, but it looks bright!

And now a story of Ordinary Differential Equations:

Last night never ended. I got so worked up over some ODE's that I didn’t quickly fall asleep. My mind just wouldn't quit on them. Over, and over, and over again I saw the problems in my mind. It wasn’t surprising to find out that I wasn’t wrong, and that it was just an issue of me being with it enough to actually see and understand what my answers meant. The problems were really quite simple, but last night as I sat in front of maple, after having hand worked the problems over and over, I couldn’t understand why maple and I were agreeing, but the back of the book was not. I did as best I could to explain the answer that maple and I were getting, and said that I would have to work on reconciling the book later. I arrived at home close to eleven last night, and couldn’t get my brain to shut down until around 2 AM. As a happy ending, at least the professor helped me to reconcile my answe4rs this morning.

Today in a rather sleep deprived way; I managed to attend my classes and learn a few things. New topics in ODE’s, preparation for the next quiz in Discrete Math and in CS2020 a nice lab on Binary Search Tree’s. Thank goodness for the weekend. There is a fair share of homework to be done, but like all other tasks that are worthwhile in this life, I just need to set aside some time to do it. When I am done with my blog, I think I will try and catch a nap, then this evening I should get to work on the whole programming assignment thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Study Session

Well I managed to survive Wednesday, and it actually felt like a good day. I was exhausted when all was said and done, but I felt like I actually accomplished some stuff. I learned some new things at work, made a tiny bit of progress towards some of the projects on my list, actually was able to follow the ODE lecture in the morning, and had a study group. Well, maybe we should call it more of a tutoring lesson for me, the purpose was supposed to be a study group.

I have forgotten how nice it is to work on an assignment in a group, especially if there is someone around who understands the material. On Tuesday night, I sent out an email to some of my Discrete Math classmates inviting them to have a study group last night. One of the guys was willing to do it, and I am so very grateful. We worked on the assignment last night from seven to ten in the evening. I thought that I had understood the information presented in class, but I was totally wrong. Thanks to this friend, I can actually say that I understand what is going on in that class right now. To make a long story short, I am really grateful to this classmate for taking time out of his busy schedule to help me better understand the concepts presented in class.

Had I been more on top of things, I think that it would have been wise to start a study group at the very beginning of the semester rather than waiting until there were only three weeks remaining. None the less, I will make use of it while I can. One of the greatest things about a study group is that the participants are all in the class together, so everyone knows what is being discussed. We all experienced the lecture, and we should all have some of the basic knowledge. The other thing that is nice about study groups is that you don’t have to pay for them, like you do with tutoring sessions.

The long and short of today’s entry is that I am grateful for smart kind people who are willing to help their classmates.

There is also a story to tell about the end of the study session, when we couldn’t figure out the answer to the last problem. It was 9:30ish so we decided to try our luck at finding the TA in his office. We sat there and watched him scribble on paper for the next 30 minutes to solve a “simple” problem. It didn’t help. I couldn’t reproduce what was written on those pages last night had my life depended on it. Figuring out that problem will be the challenge for the day. Maybe some other time, I shall have to write about this TA’s office. I am learning that the office of an academic can tell you volumes about him or her.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Three Quarters

I am really in the mood for a good technical blog about programming or some aspect of computer science. However, it seems that given my current state of business it just won’t be happening. I had this great idea that I would share some of the more salient points of recursive programming with you all today, but it will just have to wait. Suffice it to say that recursion is pretty dang cool, and it is absolutely amazing what you can do with it. As a concept it may be slightly challenging to grab at first, but after one spends some time with it, they come to understand how wonderfully simple it can be. Recursion is a very powerful tool, and hopefully someday I will get some time to write up some cool little examples to illustrate it.

Being on week 12 of a 16-week semester, things are really cooking right now. There are assignments due almost every day, and the time commitment seems to have been increased, as each professor tries to cram everything he can into his last four weeks of class. Twelve weeks ago I referred to this experience as a marathon. I am feeling exhausted. It is all I can do right now to try and keep all of the balls in the air. I keep focusing on the reward. I have worked hard, and so far am doing well in these classes. I just need to keep concentrating and putting the effort into learning everything that is placed before me.

Won’t the holiday break be nice? I already have a long list of things that I want to do. Some of it computer related, and some of it just decompress related. But until then… HOMEWORK HOMEWORK HOMEWORK!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Random Variable

I am one.

A thought from my Discrete Math text:

“The term random variable is, perhaps, one of the greatest misnomers in all of mathematics: A random variable is neither random nor variable! It is a function defined on a sample space. Random variables are used to model quantities whose value is random.”

Don’t you feel enlightened today? I knew that you would. You see that thought just made my day. Well, not really, but I can pretend can’t I? Yes, pretending is what we do in discrete math. I am still subscribing to the “fake it till you make it” model. This class is seriously one of the greatest academic challenges I have faced yet in this experience we call college. What makes random variables even more entertaining is that I can almost understand them. If I were to be a professional gambler, some of this discrete probability theory stuff would be wonderfully interesting, as half of the problems that we are working in class have to do with dice and cards. Maybe they do it this way to teach students how terrible your chances really are when engaging in a game of poker or craps.

Monday, November 15, 2004

One Foot in Front of the Other

I fight against my friend apathy every day. When a task gets difficult and starts to command more of me than I am wanting to give, this little switch flips in my head and I then begin to justify why I will not give my attention to said task. Note the following example.

Self: I really should write a blog entry today.

Apathy: You don’t have to. No one reads it anyway. Besides, you have been OH SO BUSY doing OTHER THINGS.

Self: But have those other things haven't been important since Thursday.

Apathy: Of course they were.

Self: Not really. You see, I should be furthering my education, reading, ironing, anything but wasting time watching movies and playing computer games.

Apathy: You worked hard last week and earned a break. Don’t worry about blogging or any such silly thing. The homework will still be there next week.

Self: But maybe it would be nice to get ahead.

Apathy: Then you would never get any rest.

Yes, I actually had a conversation with myself like that this weekend. Perhaps it says something about my mental state. The motivated type A side says that I really have a million things to do and that I do not have time to play. Mr. Apathy thinks that I don’t have enough fun, and that I really need to stop to smell the roses. At any rate, I went full bore through the two exams that I took last Thursday, and then pretty much let Mr. Apathy rule my life for the next three days, doing only that which I absolutely had to. As a result, I had a nice weekend, it was restful, and I did enjoy some guilt-laden time for myself. However, now I have to face the music that I will be done with fall semester in just about a month, and my classes will not be doing any letting up between now and then. One day at a time, and with some diligent effort, and it will all end nicely. It is all about fighting the Apathy, and making our normal selves do spectacular things.

A thought from C.S. Lewis:
“We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The "Kid"

Was today only Tuesday? A sabbatical would feel really good about now. I can not believe that we are still at the beginning of the week. Believe it or not, I actually have a story to tell today. I should probably be working on homework or studying, as I have two exams on Thursday, but the story is of interest.

Setting: Shortly after CS2020, walking in to the classroom where the CS2100 (discrete structures) discussion section would be held. We had about 20 minutes to go before the session would start, so my 2020 classmates and I kept talking.

Me: So what do you think will be on the exam on Thursday?

Friend in CS2020: It will be a fun one, you KNOW he will test the memory model.

Me: I kind of figured as much. I really don’t fancy implementing a linked list on the exam. I hope that doesn’t come up.

Annoying kid from CS2100: Linked lists are easy, I could implement one of those in five minutes.

Me: (to the kid) I am afraid you don’t understand, I am not talking about using the collection linked list, I am talking about building it from scratch.

Kid: Yes, I could do it in 5 minutes it is easy.

Friend: (dripping with sarcasm) I must be an idiot then, because it took me five hours to do it the first time.

Kid: It would be way easy in C++, it might take time in Java, but in C++ it would be a cinch.

Me: From what I know of C++, I think it would actually be more difficult.

Kid: Java isn’t a real language; I don’t know why they bother teaching that to you in those classes.

Friend: You had better get used to it. That is what you are going to be expected to learn

Kid: I didn’t have to take the 2010/2020 series I was able to skip right to 2100.

I will kill the conversation at this point to tell you that people that I have SO LITTLE PATIENCE for people like the “kid” in the above conversation. Perhaps I am low on self confidence; perhaps I just expect people to listen to me and at least pretend to understand my point of view. Arrogance won’t buy you any credit with me. This kid then goes on to tell me that C++ works on any platform more easily than the Java bite code, or the C# CRL. I was totally befuddled.

After class began the kid then proceeded to talk the whole time, interrupting the TA at every turn. I just wanted to lean over and tell him to SHUT UP. However, the civilized me just sat in my chair three rows behind, took some deep breaths, and tried to make sense of the gibberish on the chalkboard. The difficulty of discrete math, along with the frustration of the kid, was just about all I could take today.

Moral of the Story:
If you are smart and think you know it all, you probably don’t know anything. Discretion truly is the better part of valor.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Eclipse Running Java 1.5

For those of you who don’t particularly appreciate the technical blogs, this may be one that you would want to opt out on. On the other hand, if you are into nerdy computer programming stuff like I am, you may want to read the next short paragraph.

In September I wrote a blog entry about IDE’s, and was specifically talking about which ones my classmates and I liked to use. I still like to argue with my classmates about how I feel eclipse is superior to many of the other free IDE’s that are out there.

Eclipse has been great except for one small thing. If you are programming with J2SE 1.5 (the newest version of the Java SDK), eclipse hasn’t been upgraded to support all of the 1.5 goodness. So, as an unfortunate result, I have had to resort to using text-pad or another IDE like bluej – UNTIL TODAY!
I got this nice little email from one of my classmates this afternoon…

“By the way, I am in the process of installing the new java 1.5 plug-in for eclipse. You may want to check it out.....-> http://www.3plus4.de/eclipse/cheetah.html

How totally wonderful that someone spent the time to work on this little project, it has totally made my day. Anyway, you may want to check it out, if you are the eclipse programmer type.

If none of that made sense, I am sorry. This blog will return to something normal, and easy to read tomorrow (I hope). I uploaded some new pictures this evening to flickr! You may want to check that out.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Ready to Do It Again


fall plumb
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

Most of the homework is done. I feel rejuvenated and ready to face another week. It was a good weekend. There was time allowed for discussions with family and friends. There was time to prepare for the duties of the upcoming week. There was time to rest and relax.

It was a beautiful day outside today. The quality of the light was just amazing. For November in Utah, I really can not complain. This morning though there was frost on the ground, the light was balmy and plentiful. The plum tree in the back yard does not loose its leaves, and the picture above highlights the light on a single branch.

May the Lord bless us all in our endeavors this week. There are tests to be taken, work assignments to be completed, and visits to make. With some hard work the week will not only be survived, but perhaps we may thrive on those things we must do.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Writing and Blogging: Why?

Sometimes it feels like inspiration will never hit. Sometimes I wonder if blogging actually helps or hurts my writing. Sometimes I wish that I had the ability to craft a sentence that has the power to stand up to those of my colleagues. The blogosphere is an interesting place. I can’t say that I read a lot of blogs, but the ones that I do read are well written. One woman is an author, and her novel will be debut early next year. Another is the blog of my father, who got his degree in mass communication. I enjoy reading the technical blogs of programmers. I convinced an older gentleman, who used to be a sports-writer for the local paper to start blogging. Most recently, one of my best friends from back in high school has taken to blog writing. All of the aforementioned bloggers have a unique voice and whit about them. None of them are the same, but all of them know how to craft a line that reads well. Maybe if I keep this writing thing up long enough, I might figure out the strange art of writing.

Why is it that people are so compelled to sit in front of their computers and write blogs? My answer is that it is a method of self expression to the world. Never before in history has man been able to impart of his philosophies to the world so simply. The fact that in a few minutes, anyone with access to the internet could read my writings is truly a wonder. Perhaps the reason blogging is so popular is that it brings publishing power to the common man. Heaven knows I am not a writer, but here in my corner of the World Wide Web, I can be. Presumably it is the idea that I can pretend to know something that makes blogging so appealing. I don’t know who really reads this stuff, but in some little corner of my soul, I dream that lots of people read it, and that what I say is important – that probably has something to do with the idea that my siblings and I call “the family desire to fame.” Who wouldn’t want to feel important, and noticed? That is a deep thought, and one that I will attack at some later date. Regardless, blogging I think that blogging is good for the soul. It brings people together, allows one to vent, and allows one to be a star in their own universe.

I am going to credit this break from my usual banter about school to my friend Sam; you might want to drop by his little corner of the web by following this link. He has a wit about him, and not much gets past his careful eyes.

A thought from another hero, Fred Rodgers:“I must be an emotional archaeologist because I keep looking for the roots of things, particularly the roots of behavior and why I feel certain ways about certain things.”

Friday, November 05, 2004

Homework? Yes.

I know, it gets terribly borring to read about my homework every day, but it seems that homework is about all I am getting around to right now. If I am not at school then I am at work, and when I am not doing either of those, the probability is good that I am working on homework.

I spent most of this evening working on my latest CS assginment (due next Tuesday), thankfully I have most of it done. I have some bugs in one class, and I wrote the skeleton for the other class, now I just need to flesh it out. Both projects sound like good Saturday afternoon tasks. The IDE that the school wants us to use has this feature that does a UML schematic automatically as you make the classes. This one looked kindof interesting, so I thought that I would share it with you all.




Isn't that cool? Yes, I know it is really small, but I just wanted to show all of the lines. This would be a good introduction to the object oriented style of java programming. However, I am really too exhausted to start with that right now. We will see when I get some time.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Office East


Office East
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

Wednesdays are hard, long days. They start with a seven thirty class, then work for eight hours, then back to school for a study session, and a tutoring lesson. Work may not always be the funnest of places to be, but a look out the window reminds me of how lucky I am to live and work where I do. The Wasatch Mountains are beautiful year round. The above picture is how they looked on Monday.

Wednesday may indeed mark the week as half way done, but come wednesday, I am always reminded of how much I have to accomplish before the next Monday. It is times like these that I remember the addage from What About Bob, "Baby Steps." Sometimes, they are all one can take, but when regularly put one foot in front of the other, you just might amaze yourself with where you end up.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Voting: A Right and a Responsibility

Maybe an aspiring computer scientist really shouldn’t have anything to say about politics, political processes, or voting, but I do have an opinion, and I have the platform of this corner on the Internet to say express it, so I will.

After class this morning, I drove over to the local Junior High to go and cast my vote. There was a line, and I waited for about twenty minutes, it was good to see people showing up to voice their opinions, and let their voices be heard. Whether you agree with the Electoral College or not, it behooves every eligible American citizen to cast a ballot for the men or women whom the voter thinks will represent him or her and his values. Because of the criticality of the decisions being made in the voting booth, it is also of paramount importance that each person makes the effort to be informed of the issues. Listening to the radio, reading local and national newspapers/magazines, reading the voter guide, and just making sure that they have spent the time so that they can make an educated decision is important. If I am to elect someone to represent me, then I had better make sure that I know what I am getting into when I make my vote.

After voting today, I got into work and quickly checked a few of the message boards that I read daily. Usually these boards are not a place where politics are discussed, because of the varying backgrounds of the participants. However, for a change of pace someone had posted an “off topic” discussion where he stated that he was not going to vote and why. This man is highly educated, and respected in this particular online community, and all I can say is that though it is his right to say what he said, I completely disagree. Voting may indeed be a right, but it is also a responsibility. For whatever reason, I find it very sad that this person, who has opinions, and has studied the issues, feels that for whatever reason, the apathetic way is the best. Maybe said person feels he can’t support any of the candidates, is that a reason not to vote? Is there a way to find the lowest common denominator, and vote for the person that most closely matches what you feel is correct and good?

In the opinion section of the campus newspaper, the paper’s editorial staff says:

“Skip a class if you have to. Go ahead and walk those 10 miles uphill both ways in the snow without shoes and a little brother on your back to that voting booth (your grandparents apparently did it every day, you can do it for one).

And expect your neighbors to be doing the same. Let's go out there and live the dreams of everyone who gave their lives so we could walk into that little booth and check a name.

There's no way to know for certain what tomorrow or the next four years will hold. Some things are out of our control.

But one thing left entirely up to us is the ability to wear that little white sticker that says, "I voted."”

I whole-heartedly agree.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Of Finished Homework and Ice


Ice2
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.

The first signs of winter were upon us today. Because of the time change, when I went out to my car this morning, at least it was light outside again. I will be able to enjoy the beauty of morning light for a few more weeks, until the days shorten and it is again dark when I make my journey to school. There was a chilly bite to the air this morning, and I had to scrape ice off of the car. I am sure that if I lived in a warmer place, like sunny California, that I would not miss scraping the ice off of my car in the morning. But, where I live it is cold in the winter, and I do have to scrape the ice off of my car, so it is just something that I must get used to. One would think that after nearly ten years of winter driving, that cleaning off the car would become routine; but I still dislike it.

As promised in my last entry, when I returned I would be caught up with my schooling again. Thanks to a slower day at work, and the generosity of a professor, finishing up the homework wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In ODE's this morning, the professor lead a question and answer session in which most of use were able to get the help that we needed to be able to finish things up. It was just a matter of getting home and making 'presentation copies'. The programming assignment just took a fresh brain, and a new outlook on the problem. My version of a linked list compiled, and I was able to use it in a simple implementation, however, I am not feeling totally comfortable with all of the methods that we were asked to implement. For starters, I am not sure if I covered all of the cases when an exception could be thrown, and I am also not feeling too great about the methods that use an index rather than an object comparison. It was harder than some of our other assignments. If the object was to help us to better understand the concept of the linked list abstract data type then the assignment was a success. Additionally, it also served as a tool to help me better appreciate the Java Collections Framework. As I said earlier, I don't know how I will have done on the assignment, but at least I got it to compile, and run a simple test scenario.

Tomorrow is a big day; Americans will decide the leadership of their country for the next four years. Whether you agree with the Electoral College or not, if you are a citizen it becomes your civic duty to vote. Much blood has been spilt to give us this privilege.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

No Free Lunch

I am still working on homework. I feel like it has been a marathon homework weekend. It would wonderful to be able to report that I have finished it all. However, that just isn’t the way it is. I don’t plan on going to bed until ten or ten thirty tonight, and with this whole daylight savings time, I feel like that will be an achievement. We will see what I can accomplish homework wise before then.

If I do not manage to get all of my homework done tonight, there is always tomorrow. It isn’t that I haven’t been working on it; it is just that there is so much of it. The programming assignment won’t be due until Tuesday morning, and if the math assignment is done by Wednesday, I should be ok.

As my computer science professor noted to my class on Thursday, there is no free lunch. Someone must always pay the price, the details must be covered, and the work must get done. I think that is one of the lessons for the weekend. The devil is in the details.

Enough of a break for me, back to the books! When I report to the world again, I should at least be more on top of things than I am right now.