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.