Friday, January 30, 2004

Got a job

I figured the post on Monday was long enough to last for a while. Anyway, I probably got a job to make a website for a friend of a friend. I've been learning MySQL and Python to prepare. It's for a dental office. I think it should be exciting work. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 26, 2004

NYC Trip Yesterday

So yesterday I went to New York City to meet four people from the Hatrack Chatroom which I frequent. It was really a great adventure so I want to tell everyone about it.

I took a Greyhound bus both ways. The ride up to the city was rather nice. The bus was only half full, and I got two seats to myself. In the seats across from me there was a baby girl who was very cute, and we looked at eachother a lot and I passed most of my time just watching her and gazing into her eyes. I also read some, and we had two stops, but we arrived at Port Authority station twenty-five minutes early.

I found the C line in the subway, which was to take me to the apartment where we were all going to meet. This took me up the west side of Central Park. When I got off, there were two girls who got off from the car behind me as well. I glanced back a couple times, and caught a glimpse of the expected orange of Kristina's garb. So amazing that we got off at exactly the same time, and they had arrived in the city one and a half hours before! We greeted each other and walked to the apartment.

At the apartment, we sat around and talked, and the third princess arrived. Jeremy, the one whose brother was a renter of the apartment, was cooking us a fine Indian meal, which we all enjoyed together with all the other roommates. I played a mix of popular songs from the mid-nineties in accoustic form as well as a Switchfoot CD. Then Sarah(the third princess) left to go meet with other friends. We sat around for some time more, and then decided to go out at around 4:30.

We decided to walk through Central Park, which was very nice. Our intention was to go to the Met, but we got there just as it was closing, at 5:15. We wanted to go somewhere warm, since we were freezing our jaws shut. We took a bus and a subway to Times Square, and walked around till we found ourselves inside the largest Toys 'R Us in the country. It had a ferris wheel and every toy and game you could imagine. There were three floors and on the third we found this motion sensitive floor projection, with a bunch of nifty little games that cycled through about every minute. We spent a lot of time just playing with that, kicking puppies and doing paint-by-color with our feet.

My Uncle Terry and I had planned to meet for dinner, but it turned out he was too busy, so I didn't get to. So, since we were hungry, we looked for a place to eat, and decided to eat at a four-floor TGI Friday's. Unfortunately, the food was inordinately expensive, with about a $4 mark-up compared to an ordinary franchise. Since we were also getting horrible service, we decided to leave.

I had left my backpack at the apartment(I have a bad back and I get cranky when I have to carry something around for a long time). So we went back to get it, and find a cheaper place to eat. It was a horrid trek back to the subway station, since the first one we arrived at was under construction. But eventually we made it and I retrieved my belongings. It was late...about 8:15, so I we needed to find a place fast. We found a little pizza shop and we each ordered a slice. I finished off Sarah the Younger's piece as well, and we were off. We parted with Jeremy, and took the subway back to Port Authority. We escorted Sarah the Younger to the Grand Central Station shuttle, and said goodbye to her. Kristina and I headed back to the Port Authority bus terminal, and we hugged and went to our respective gates to wait for our buses.

It was a wonderful time, and it could've ended there, but this is where the adventure begins! The lady at the information desk told me the wrong gate number, and an attendent informed me that my bus hadn't arrived yet, and that it was to arrive at gate seventy-three, and not seventy-four! The thing is that there were more people lined up at seventy-three than could fit on one bus. I went to another information desk and asked if my bus had arrived yet, and the lady said that it had already left. Worried, I returned to the gate and wandered around, observing, until a bus arrived at seventy-three. I went to the same attendant and asked about my bus again to make sure, and he said that the bus which had just arrived was mine. So I got in line, and before I go to the front, the gate is closed!

I called out to an attendant and asked if we would be let on. He said the bus was full, and the service is on a first-come-first-serve basis. So me and a few others are left waiting in line for one and a half hours for the next bus, at 11PM. It came, finally, and we rode home. As we neared Baltimore, the weather got worse and worse. There was a driving snow falling and the bus had to slow down to about 40mph by the time we were approaching the beltway. The roads weren't in driving condition, and when we finally arrived in Baltimore at a little before 3AM, the driver announced that all further bus service was canceled until further notice. This left a lot of people headed to North Carolina and such stranded.

I bought a bottle of water at the convenience store inside the bus station since I was very thirsty, and I was about to leave when a man a little older than thirty approached me and asked if I would buy his ticket for $10 so he could call a cab. He said his job was on the line. I said I didn't need a bus ticket because I was going to drive home in my car. He perked up and asked if I would give him a ride. So I asked him where he was going, and he said it was just four blocks over. He seemed safe enough to me, so I agreed to drive him. While I turned on the car he wiped all the snow off with my ice scraper. We waited for the engine to warm, and then I carefully drove him through Baltimore's unplowed streets, and into the slums of west Baltimore, the worst part of the city.

He said he had just moved from Tennessee, and indeed he had a fitting accent which I recognized. He works on fiber-optics and needed to meet someone who works for him and lives in this part of Baltimore, he said. We arrived at the place he needed to go, so he thanked me and I drove off. I drove back through to 95 and took that down pretty slowly to home, and arrived safely at about 4:30AM.

What an adventure! Hope you've enjoyed hearing about it!
Here are some pictures.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Second Wind

The Demaij was too heavy for Lorri to move on her own. She tested its weight against her strength, pulling as hard as she could. Probably it weighed as much as two grown men. There would be no way she'd get that all the way back to the village.

The Demaij were a cacophony of brilliant and mysterious golden red metal combined with a network of living tissue that entangled part of the metallic surface. There was no sign of damage that Lorri could recognize. But then, no one really knew how these things were made, by whom, or what they were for. All Lorri knew was that the Demaij had been raiding her people's villages for as long as anyone could remember, killing a few, and then making a quick exit before anyone realized they had gone.

It was surprising, seeing a downed Demaij. None had ever been captured. There were legends of great warriors who had died in battle against a Demaij, and only one warrior who had been victorious against one of the ore-beasts. But that was only a myth, and besides, no one had the faintest idea how it could be done again.

Lorri again grappled her capper-cross under herself, revved the contraption, and slowly lifted about six feet into the air. The spinners whirred around her in all directions and she accelerated forward, this time headed back to the village. She would need some help to move this unholy assassin.

Just as Lorri was moving away from the ore-beast, she heard a noise. Looking back, the Demaij was once again vibrant with life, and attempting to rise from the ground with its snake-like tentacles. Lorri increased her speed in an attempt to make some distance before the ore-beast could start following. But on a second look half a minute later, she saw that the Demaij was indeed following her at a steady pace, floating carelessly off the ground, its tentacles whipping around vigorously on the ground.

Lorri had two choices: she could either try to outrun the ore-beast to the village, where she could get some help, or she could try to save the lives of her people and head the Demaij in the wrong direction. If she chose the former, it could mean the killing of people she loved and cared for. In the latter case, she would surely run out of juice for the capper-cross and be found and destroyed by the Demaij.

She decided that she should do a combination. If she could get close enough to the village to send out a warning signal that her people would see, and then veer toward the thick foliage of the forest, she might be able to outrun the ore-beast. That was her best chance to save everyone including herself. Maybe the other scouts would come to rescue her. Yes, they would at least try.

Lorri reached the mountain pass, with the Demaij gaining still. She passed through the crevaces and, at the highest and steepest point, the wind began to blow again. It felt good on her back, and comforted her with mountain lullabies even as she was being pursued. When she looked back now, though, the Demaij was no longer gaining, but just keeping a steady distance behind. Or could it be losing ground? No way that could be so. Lorri pushed onward at full speed and reached the foot of the windward side of the mountain.

As she reached a familiar lookout spot, Lorri grabbed her smoke shot, pulled the pin, and flung it in the air. The blue smoke billowed up into the air, carried by the wind. Just then, she looked back for the pursuing Demaij, only to see it collapse to the ground again with a series of metallic clankings as it rolled to a stop on the green grass.

Lorri sped on. Only now, she headed straight for the village...

Monday, January 19, 2004

Job Hunting

Here's what I don't like about looking for a job. I think you'll all agree with me on these points.

Looking for a job, and I don't mean a McDonald's job, is all about acting like you're the best at whatever the employer is looking for. So, when I'm at an interview, I've got to tell him about how great I am. And OK, I've got a pretty high opinion of myself in general, but the way interviews go is over the top! I don't like spewing out all my "accomplishments" to some stranger so that just maybe I'll get considered for a second interview. It just doesn't seem worth it to me. I think the issue is that I know the interviewer doesn't particularly care about me as a person on the whole. He's going to interview all these other people. He's going to sit there and act toward all of them just like he's acting toward me.

I also hate applications. Anything I can't do in 15 minutes is too long for me. And some of those applications are HUGE! I prefer just sending my resume and cover letter and that's it. That's much more efficient.

And the waiting! I think we can all agree that this is the worst part of job hunting. We all want the decision to come the next day. But instead, you've got to wait a week or more. And I think more than half the time, I don't even get a response! So it's just left up in the air and you feel worse than if you got a rejection letter.

I've never gotten a job through an application-interview process. All my jobs have been through connections I've had. I've applied to two places in DC that my friends have worked at, and they've recommended me to their supervisors. So that's my best chance. ::cross fingers::

Thursday, January 15, 2004

New Hope For Space Flight

Yesterday, President Bush outlined a new proposal for NASA's future, complete with an increase of funding: one billion dollars over five years. The overarching vision of the recent climate among NASA officials and the administration is to take a manned mission to Mars. The current Mars mission, which features the newest generation in Martian rovers, is generating a lot of press no doubt fueled by the administration's plans to expand our extra-terrestrial reach.

The proposed schedule is to develop a new spacecraft and have people on the moon again between 2015 and 2020. The new spacecraft will presumably be much improved over the old space shuttle models, which are fairly outdated.

This plan has met much controversy. With an election quickly approaching and a looming deficit, many are asking why there should be this focus on such a seemingly impractical investment of the nation's tax dollars. After all, we should be focusing on balancing the budget and improving our domestic social programs, helping the poor and the lower class. We should be at the very least investing in the stability of Iraq so the US presence can be significantly reduced. And many find the plan to be a cheap trick of smoke and mirrors to hide insufficiencies in domestic issues in order to gain support before the election.

But this is simply a matter of perspective. Every special interest lobbying group is grappling to procure some of our precious resources. There are so many directions we could go, as the strongest and wealthiest nation on Earth. We aren't limited to subsistence and survival. We offer our services out of charity to many nations and NGO's, both deserving and undeserving. We do both bad and good, noble and reckless acts. The questions you must ask yourself in considering the prudence and value of the space proposal: Do you care if we go into space? Are you willing to sacrifice for our dream of colonizing Mars that lies in the distance? Is the current plan going to be effective to help get us there?

To me, I think the colonization of Mars is quite inevitable. And I would rather have it come sooner than later. As a lover of technology and an academic, I have a natural bias towards supporting the sort of plan that has been proposed. Some say it won't be enough. They say that the schedule won't hold with the amount of money being proposed for the project. Maybe it won't. This should be scrutinized by all parties, and not rejected off-handedly by the opposition just because it was proposed by a Republican. Apart from the technological advances that will benefit society as a whole, just the principle of exploration of the new frontier is enough to merit a good and solid plan to push us forward.

But behind the president's plan is a darker side. There is another space race that has begun. The Chinese have recently put a man in space, independently of the US or Russia. The US was the most recent country to launch its first manned spacecraft, all those years ago. The Chinese are ambitious and while they are still behind the US in its space-faring abilities, they could quickly catch up. This is the reason underlying all the hype, I think.

China seems to me a somewhat dangerous rival. While there is a strained diplomacy between our two nations, we only extend this because we cannot afford to have China as an enemy. With North Korea already hostile and threatening its neighbors with a potential nuclear arsenal, China is essential to keep some control over the Far East. If given our druthers, the US would harshly condemn and sanction China for its humanitarian crimes against its own citizens. But since China is in the position of power in the Far East, we find it necessary to at least keep China in a neutral position, as they seem to be acting in the North Korean negotiations.

I'm not very sure of the ramifications that would come with a China that has matched our space-faring abilities, but if there are great enough risks to merit an expansion to our own space program, I will support it. For now, we should carefully weigh the issues that confront our nation. We should not forget to dream of reaching further than we've ever gone before. After all, this dream made our country the greatest in all the world.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Last Exile

I was loaned a copy of an anime series called Last Exile by my crazy friend Alex Chen. It was pretty good. The animation is high quality, and the plot is rich. The story begins following a boy named Claus and a girl named Ravey, about 14 or 15 I would suppose. Their parents are not around, and so they support themselves by running a courier service. Their method of transportation is a vanship. The vanships are small two-man flyers without wings.

These characters become entangled in a struggle for control of the world between the elitist Guild which lives in the air and the kingdoms of Anatoure and Deusis which live on the Earth and are essentially dependent on some of the technology of the Guild. Our protagonists find themselves delivering "cargo" to a rogue battle ship, the Sylvana, and fall into the service of it.

They have many adventures and fight not only for the world, but for eachother's love.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The First Wind

It was late morning.

Lorri strode forward as though she was on a mission. She descended on a beautiful valley, magnificent in its desolation. She stopped, suddenly deep in thought. Isolated shrubs and small trees were scattered throughout, but were most concentrated in the lowest part of the basin. It occurred to Lorri, every time she walked through this valley, that it was rather like a house of mirrors. Each plant appeared to her as a reflection of her distance from everything, with the look of a survivor etched deeply into the very core of its very being.

Lorri dug her capper-cross into the ground, twisting it around a bit, digging up some dirt. She walked down to where the small trees seemed huddled together, or at least what passed for that in this region. No tree would budge. She had been trying for months. She slapped the branch closest to her, and the branch violently rebounded and vibrated as they are wont to do.

It was the wind. Or, rather, there was none. Well, it wasn't exactly that there wasn't any wind. Of course there was a little. If she gazed at the most delicate bugs for a long time, without breathing toward them, she could sometimes make out hairs being moved by the wind. Nothing significant to speak of, though. The great currents had gone from this land. Worse still, no wind means no clouds, and no clouds means no rain. Most of the people had left by now, to the windward side of the mountain. What was blocking the wind from stirring? This was the question Lorri was sent to answer.

There was no great reason to send Lorri in particular. She didn't know much about the crafty elements, which always seemed to be doing exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. That's the way things went in this world, though. The air was stale here. The wind was keeping away. From what? Was the wind angry? Most likely, Lorri thought. It seemed that precisely when she passed by the peak of the mountain at the pass, that's when the wind stopped. An eerie hush. No whistling through the tunnel. No rustling of the leaves. Nothing. It was life without a friend. Even if no one was with her, the wind was like a friend following along and dancing around. It whistled stories, played with her hair, urged her forward. The cave would tell a story, and the wind would carry it to the giant cedar. The giant cedar would continue the story and the wind would tell it to the lake. And the lake to the cave, and so on. Lorri could hear the whole conversation.

Then she saw it...So it was here, floating ominously three meters off the ground on the other side of the ridge. The girl rushed back up the hill and pulled the capper-cross out of the ground. Diving behind a tree, she lay still, waiting for it. What she saw was unexpected, but at the same time she feared its presence always. Seeing it was like an unexpected gust of wind almost blowing you off your feet. Only, since there was no wind, the Demaij was a substitute, but certainly not a pleasant one. Then, for no apparent reason, it fell to the ground with a clank and a whine.

After waiting approximately 20 minutes with no sign of movement, she warily got up, mounted her capper-cross, and began towards the fallen Demaij...

Monday, January 05, 2004

The Princess Bride

I'm currently reading The Princess Bride by S. Morganstern, and wonderfully edited by William Goldman. A girl from Hatrack named Raia sent the book to me for Christmas.

Actually, S. Morganstern doesn't exist. Neither does Florin, since it existed before Europe and after America. The book will also give you some details that the movie doesn't. Such things as the Zoo Of Death(Pit of Despair in the movie), how the Count actually discovered Buttercup and told the Prince, and what the deal was with that neighboring country, Guilder.

And if you haven't seen the movie, do so now, for you are excruciatingly deprived! For the love of God, fill that gaping hole in your life that you only until now did not know how to fill!

Ha ha! William Goldman is a genius! Enjoy!

Saturday, January 03, 2004

I'm currently reading the book Robota by Orson Scott Card and illustrated by Doug Chiang.

Orson Scott Card is my favorite author who is best known for his book Ender's Game.

Doug Chiang is the same artist who had his hand in the CGI of the prequel Star Wars movies. He does excellent work as you'll see if you take a look at his website.

Essential Utilities

I want to settle this once and for all. If you're running Windows, you should be consistently using these utilities at a minimum! They are essential...

Zone Alarm Firewall
Spybot Search & Destroy Adware Blocker
Housecall Anti-virus

All of these programs are completely free and without obligation or ads. Use them! A lot!

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Things I Can Write.

It makes sense to me. The first significant post to my weblog should be about writing. Writing is the reason I started the weblog, in any case. So why did I choose to write instead of something else, like taking a walk?

These are some thoughts that led me to start this weblog... First, I'm recently graduated from University of Maryland, but no one has seen fit to hire me yet. So I'm in that "happy place," as my friend Jeff called it, where I have nearly no schedule or responsibility. So I want to do something which will give a semblance of legitimacy to what I'm doing with my time.

Writing is an extension of speech. It is more a way to record thoughts in a permanent way, although you can certainly communicate with writing, as I intend to do. In your speaking, if you are communicating to another person, then you have an intended audience. People nearby, however, may overhear you. More often than not, in speaking, being overheard is not desirable. However, I think writing differs a bit in this regard. You write to have your thoughts in a more permanent form. Often, when you do this, your writing gets found by people who you did not intend to find it. In retrospect, it's great when this happens, especially if you get feedback from this unintended audience.

This unintended readership happens a lot with webpages, like this weblog. One could think of it sort of as a permanent radio broadcast of a sort. Even with something as private as a letter, it may be found unintentionally after the writer has died. We could guess that in a lot of cases the writer would be happy that someone had found his letter who he did not intend to see it.

So unintended communication is what I'm trying to accomplish here! I know people who I think will read this page. I can even think of people who I don't think will read this page but who I would like to read the page(i.e. Orson Scott Card). But there are those people who I cannot even fathom who may read this page. In any case, my writing is imprinted here in this digital form, on a server somewhere or other, being broadcast in a fantastic way over the Internet.

Next time you're writing a letter, think for a second about what it would be like for it to be read far in the future by some person you don't know. Then smile, and don't change a thing. This is the treasure of our progeny. They will know the thoughts of men long since dead, and dream of the great age of the 21st century.
Hello! I hope I can put something halfway decent on this thing. This blog is meant as a means for me to express myself and hopefully inform and entertain at least one person besides myself each time I publish a new post. Enjoy!