Pages

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Goals and Accomplishing Things.

There's a lot of stuff on my list to do over this break. The biggest things are applying for colleges, getting ready for the spring, re-reading as much of the wheel of time as I can for the release of AMOL on Jan 8, and learning 3+ guitar pieces for the spring semester.

Here's a quote that I like: "When you do not have time for something, that is not an issue of scheduling, it is an issue of values."

So, I have too many things I want to do. *Minor* things on my list include writing a book, typesetting an entire semester of calculus notes, writing an entire app (game), and typesetting about 15 pages of music, if not more.

So yeah, I'm busy for the next few weeks, and then the semester starts. I've already had to make some decisions on what's really important, and what isn't. I've stepped back from re-reading the entire WoT series, to just reading what I can. If I wanted to get the entire thing done, I'd be spending 6-8 hours every day reading.

But I wish that I didn't have to, that I had enough time to do something. It really felt like an issue of scheduling, but it truly is an issue of values. Do I value reading more than getting in to college? More than being ready for another semester? No, I don't. And I've had to step back and realize that.

That being said, I do want to knock down my todo list. Besides what I've listed here, other minor stuff is probably enough on its own to keep me busy for the entire break.

So what am I going to do? Well, I think I figured out what my problem is. I had (have) such a huge list because, once I started making the list, whenever something came up, I said, "I'll put that on my Christmas Break todo list!", and felt organized and accomplished.

Yeah, that didn't work. So now, I don't have a xmas break todo list. I have an ongoing todo list. I'll get as much as I can, done over this break, but what I can't get done, I'll keep working on during the semester. Yes, I'll still focus really heavily on schoolwork. But I still want to get things done, too.

Note: I typed up pretty much the entire Allemande from Bach yesterday, and I'm planning to knock out the Courante today. But I've taken the music scores page down for the time being, and I'll talk more about that later. Right now, I'm going to go be productive.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nostalgia.



Today's post is a short one. I went to my best friend from high school and middle school's birthday and graduation party today.

The top picture is the two of us, with some friends, on a middle school science team, when we won 1st place in a regional competition. It's from 2006.

The second picture is today. 4 of the same people, the girl is the guy on the right's sister.

Wow, we've grown up. The one in the middle (his party) is graduating, and the others of us are all off at various colleges.

I'm too young to be feeling this old...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

School

Well, the semester is about over. I really consider it to be over now, even though I still have 2 exams to take today.

This post is going to be about how hard work pays off, if you're not in the mood to read about that kind of thing, you can just skip it now.

Okay, so, I've made an A in all of my classes this semester. But wait, I've not taken 2 final exams yet, how is that possible? Hard work man, hard work.

First, I took 5 classes this semester. The government ended up getting dropped, and I'm taking more classes than I'd like next summer, but it'll work out.

So, Guitar, Calculus, Physics, Computers, and History.

Guitar, if you show up to lessons every week, practice, and play well in the end of semester recital, you get an A. I don't know that it's really possible to not get an A in this one. That's not to say it was easy, I spent lots of time practicing for it, and will hopefully be spending even more next semester.

Calculus. The teacher usually assigns odd problems, but I do all of the ones in the range he assigns; so if the assignment is 7-31 odds, I do 7-32, all. And it helps so much. My test grades were 90, 93 (final exam), 97, and 99. I did not have a single grade the entire semester that was below a 90 in the class, and I had room to relax for the final. I also made a typed up 2-3 page review sheet for each test, as I went, so for the final, all I had to do was make one more for new material, and study the sheets I already had for previous tests.

Physics. I pretty much ran my groups' labs (post on that later), did all the homework, and had 92, 96, and 96 on the tests. I needed a 60 on the final to get an A. I haven't gotten my final exam grade back yet, but unless an asteroid destroys my test, I'm not in the least worried about it. Also, we were allowed note-cards on each of the tests, and I simply added to the same one every time, even as I went along doing the homework, so I had all of the formulas with me for every test, and never really sweated about them.

Computers. I worked hard, did every single assignment, turned in all of them plenty before time, and spent extra time on every program making sure the formatting and comments were especially how the teacher wanted them. I read the book before class every day, and reviewed the slides before every test. I needed a 35 on the final, I made a 74 because I knew I didn't need to study for the test, and spent my time studying for Physics and Calculus. The test today in the class is simply to replace your lowest grade, it can't hurt your final grade. My teacher has already emailed me and told me I have and A without having to do anything else, so I'm just taking the one today for fun. (And because I have to be on campus to take care of some other paperwork for future semesters, and college visits. A post on that later too.)

History. The teacher offered extra credit activities in class, extra credit on the tests, outside extra credit (go to a lecture on a Saturday, and write up a 3 paragraph report on the speakers), and I did every single exercise. I need 5 points out of 125 (+20 extra credit) points today, to make my A.

Moral of the story: Work hard during the semester. Do every exercise, activity, and extra credit assignment that your teachers give you, do them well, and make notes to study for your tests as you go along. If you do this, as well as getting help in your classes when you don't know what's going on (I mostly got help in Physics, but I visited my Calculus teacher at least every other week with homework questions, and asked for plenty of help in Computers too.), you'll be fine for finals. I love being able to relax, review old notes, and not have to stress when it's finals time. It's incredibly rewarding.

Note: This amount of work means that you usually have to drop doing some other things that you enjoy doing, such as blogging, during the semester. But it's totally worth it. Trust me.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Teachers

Are awesome. No, seriously. Well, most of them at least.

I've talked about it a little in previous posts, I think, but one of my goals is to become a teacher. I'm currently pursuing a double major in mathematics and computer science. If I follow the mathematics degree all the way through, I'm aiming to get a job teaching math at either a community college or a university.

Why do I want to be a teacher? There are many reasons. One of them is the teachers that I have had. Some of my teachers are the most awesome people I've ever met. I've had my share of bad apples, but I'm going to be talking about a few of my favorites here.

Kim Perlak. She's my guitar teacher. I've been taking lessons from her since my junior year of high school. She has her doctorate at UT Austin, and really knows her stuff. She's always encouraging, and has gotten me several gig opportunities, and other chances to play. She always has a funny story, and my lessons are often the brightest point of my week.

Edgar Fisher. I had him for Calculus II. There's a post down there somewhere about hair, it's mostly about him. He walked in to class the first day and said, "I don't suffer from ADHD. I enjoy every minute of it!" He's always very energetic, teaches well, and his class is the easiest class to take notes for that I've ever had. He's also got an awesome sense of humor. The other day, I asked him, "Do you know when the math competition is this semester?". He replied, "Yes," and kept walking. 20 feet later, he stopped, looked back, and asked, "Oh, you wanted to know when it was?" Also, the last question on his final exam was about the zombie apocalypse.

Marcus McGuff. He's my current Calculus III professor, and I'm signed up to take both Differential Equations and Calculus IV next semester with him. His class is the first math class that has really challenged me. And he's one of the smartest guys I've ever met. He's incredibly passionate about math, and being lazy - often at the same time. Many people don't like him because they see him as a hard teacher. I have learned more in the first 8 weeks of this semester than I have from 8 weeks of any other math class, and I'm sure that by the end of this semester, I'll have learned more than in any other math class. Until the spring. He's also very willing to answer questions in his office hours, and, if he sees that you're interested, will explain things way beyond what the course covers.

Jennifer Corte. I had her for College Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus I. She also gets bad reviews as a hard teacher. I think it's because she's very precise. And it's important. She wants you to use the proper notation, to do things correctly, and she will count off if you don't. Many people blow this off, but I've found this preparation with her to be very helpful for my higher classes, because if you don't understand the proper notation, you'll quickly get lost in the math. She also projects a very professional attitude during class, which leads many students to think she has no personality. They simply haven't met her! She is very available during her office hours, and she wants to help you. She is a nice person, and she wants you to succeed, so if you're having problems, go talk to her. She also teaches very very clearly, and if you make sure you understand what she's saying in class and ask any questions you have, you will understand your topic very thoroughly.

I've had many other good teachers. But these have been some of the best. They are my inspiration, and a large part of the reason that I, too, want to be a teacher.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Testing.

Testing. 1, 2, 3.

No, I'm actually talking about school tests, specifically ones in a class for a grade. At my school, there's two types of tests. You can take them in class, and you're timed, and limited to only the length of the class period. And there's a testing center on campus.

They both are kind of yucky. The in class tests are, obviously, timed. They can be really annoying and stressful, but I don't find them particularly so. I'm fast. That doesn't mean I'm smarter than you are, but I'm darn fast at taking tests in class. If I'm not one of the first three people done, then there's something wrong, and I'm stuck somewhere.

In the testing center, there's no time limit. I generally find this to be a bad thing, as it means that the teachers feel that they can just put everything on the test, because you can't run out of time to take the test. This can lead to much longer tests. Yes, they're harder too, but that's cool by me. I love me a good challenge, and I have yet to meet a test that's too hard.

The testing center has some bleh restrictions, though. For one, you can't use the restroom. It makes sense, but it's still annoying when you're in there for hours on end. Also, no cell phones, food/drinks, and if you're taking a test that allows a calculator, you aren't allowed to bring the cover in.

The restrictions make me sad. I'm in school for one reason. I want to get a degree, so that I can get a job. And to do my job correctly, I have to know what I'm doing. That means that, if I'm taking a class, I want to learn the material in the class. I also just love learning. Yes, I'm weird like that. But it means that I'm not the kind of person to be cheating, and so I find the restrictions unnecessarily sad, and resent the people who do cheat, the people that the restrictions are written for.

It also makes it a nuisance to take a long test. Among other things, I get headaches when I'm dehydrated. But I can't stock up and drink before I go in, because if I need to go, I have to leave the testing center, and then I'm done with the test, no matter where on it I was. Nor can I bring in anything to sip on. So I just really hope that I don't get a headache, basically.

My campus also has the smallest testing center of any campus. I took a math test yesterday, and I had to wait an hour and a half to get in, through the line. It then took me about an hour and twenty minutes to actually take the test.

The teacher had told us to allot 3-4 hours, and because it was my first test in the class, I was trying to be smart and allow that much time. I'm so glad I was able to take it about as quickly as I usually do, because, while there's no time limit, the testing center closes after a certain time. And with the line, by the time I got in, I didn't have a full 4 hours left.

Moral of the story. Get good at taking tests so you don't have to worry about this stuff. And please, please, please. Don't invent another method of cheating. I don't want to have to, you know, take tests in my underwear because of you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hair.

Hair is awesome. I have way too much of it.

I have hair that's about 12-15 inches long, and I keep it tied back in a pony tail, pretty much all the time. Yes, I'm a guy. But I like my hair, and it's staying where it is. I wash and brush it daily, it's not offensive or harmful to anyone, and there's no reason not to like it.

But people can still be bullies, and will hate on anything. I used to get called a girl A LOT when I was younger, and people seemed to enjoy pulling on my hair. Jerks.

So, I have a respect for guys with long hair, because I know what they have to go through to have the fashion they want. Kudos if you're one of those guys.

My Calculus teacher in the spring, Edgar Fisher, had long hair. I instantly liked him. Plus, he was one of the most awesome teachers I've ever had. If you are going to ACC, and take a calculus class, he's an awesome person to take, I highly recommend him.

The day after spring break, first class back, I went in to his office hours, and asked him about a homework problem. There was a guy in the office who looked exactly like him, but with short hair. He said he was Elliot Fisher, Edgar's twin brother, and was subbing for the day. He answered my questions, and sent me up to class. Several of the other students also came up, after having gone to his office hours. We all started to wonder.

He came up and taught class, and did everything that Edgar did, including shooting baskets in the trash with chalk. But he called role, and called our names, saying he didn't know anyone, and insisted that he was Elliot the entire time. Right at the end of class, he finally admitted that it was a trick. He was our regular teacher. And he was so happy that he had tricked us for the entire class period, and gotten us to debate it. He's just awesome like that. Although I liked the long hair better.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book.

So, I'll admit it. I've been going behind your back, Mr. Blog. I'm sorry. I've admitted it.

What have I been doing? I'm trying to write a book. I don't know how long it will be, but it has been a lot of fun. I've been spending what writing time I have, amid my schoolwork, working on that. I know this is fun too, but I guess I get more satisfaction from writing a book for two reasons.

I can make stuff up. Here, I typically write about reality. Reality can be darn boring some times. This is also why I play games, music, do math, and read books, to some extent. Games and books are obvious, you can escape to another world with almost no effort. Music, well, good music can transport you to another world, or at least it can for me. And math? The math I love the most is totally abstract and useless. But it can describe another world, or it can be so abstract as to BE its own world, and have no connections to ours.

It's also longer. And thus, completing more and more of it, gives me a huge sense, a huge feeling of satisfaction. And I like being satisfied.

So, I'm writing a book. Will it be any good? Probably not. But I'm enjoying the heck out of it. I'm keeping this post short as I'm going to go do schoolwork, so I can finish that early and write more of my book. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nerds.

Here's a great info-thingy. Go read it.

So, we were introducing ourselves in class the other day. I made the comment that I'm a Mathematics major, with a possible double major in Computer Science. In response to questions, my GPA is a 3.97, and I'm taking 19 hours this semester. The teacher's comment? "I always hated kids like that."

EXCUSE ME? Number one, you're being very rude. Number two, Um... Excuse me. I work hard. I'm not a genius. I earned every single one of my grades, my test scores, and everything. I'm sorry, but did you just say you hated me because I worked harder in school than you did?

As I said a few days ago, people seem to think that, just because I'm a home schooler, I don't have any social skills. I replied with a "Thanks...", and left it at that, despite what I was obviously thinking. The teacher was the one who made the rude comment. I noticed that after that, as everyone else went around and introduced themselves, they were a lot quieter about majors and grades, and all that stuff.

I'm keeping this one short, because it's basically just a rant. I'll leave you with a quote I had from a conversation with a friend, a few months back.

Me: Something about being nerds...

Friend: Hey, it's okay. Nerds will rule the world some day.

Me: We already do. We just haven't told everybody yet.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Do You Worry About Your Social Skills?

No.

I do not. I was home schooled, and this is the first question I get so often when I tell people that I was home schooled. It is seriously about the rudest thing you can say to me. It's the equivalent of me asking you, "Don't you worry about your education?" when you tell me you went to a public school. And my question is probably more relevant.

When you ask me this, all you are doing is conforming to an untrue stereotype. When I was in middle school, I was on the middle school math team, science team, I played on the chess club, I went to week long camps several times a year, I was in Boy Scouts, and did so many other things that are slipping my mind at the moment. In high school, I was on the high school math team (And won a nice handful of awards), on the science team (We went to the national competition one year.), took classes outside the house, took classes at ACC for the last two years of high school, continued Boy Scouts, took group guitar lessons, and continued attending summer camps. I also signed up to volunteer with several groups, including the ACGS, and others. I was in a high school honor society.

I say all that not to brag, but to show you how socially involved and exposed I was. I did a lot of activities, and so many of them were run at a more mature level than classes and events at public schools that I honestly feel that I got a much better social experience than many of my peers.

When I meet people, I don't tell them that I was homeschooled. Why not? Because I don't want their preconceived notions to color their perception of me before they know me. I let them get to know me first. And then, when I tell them I was homeschooled, and they inevitably ask, "Don't you worry about your lack of social skills?" I can then say, "You've known me for several months, we have had class together, hung out a fair bit, talked, worked on projects together, and you've seen me interact with several other people. You didn't even know until I told you that I had been homeschooled. How do YOU feel about my social skills?"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

WIKAPEDIA

Wikipedia*. If you're going to be insultingly wrong, please at least do it with proper spelling. It's called common courtesy. Thank you.

Although, I wonder if I can exploit this as a loophole?

Okay, you're clueless. Fine, I'll talk. I'm taking a government class here at ACC, and my teacher's syllabus (I ended up in the class after my math class was cancelled at the last minute, AND the section I wanted to get in to filled up before I was able to get approval to overload my number of hours.) said that YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE WIKAPEDIA FOR YOUR ASSIGNMENTS. Wikipedia*. And hold off on the caps please. That's called spamming, and I typically mute people for it.

I'm wondering if I can exploit this loophole; if I'll be fine, so long as I don't use any sites called "wikapedia". Probably not, but it would be worth a try. Except the teacher threatens to give you a 0 if you use it. Yeah. A 0.

I wonder what you'd get if you used the Encyclopedia Britannica? Probably a good grade. Now, let me say a few things. In 2005, (Yes, 2005. 7 years ago.), Wikipedia was almost as accurate as the Britannica, according to a study published in Nature. The Encyclopedia Britannica is a very respected source, so being almost as good should be plenty good enough for teachers.

But that was 7 years ago. There haven't been any large formalized studies since then, although I would really like to see some. 7 years, with the number of edits and editors that Wikipedia has, it's guaranteed to have only gotten better. Maybe much so, but we won't know. Smaller studies have indicated that it is now more accurate than the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as other online sources of comparable repute.

Wikipedia is not the end all of Encyclopedias. But it's good, and it's just as darn accurate as the other sources that you have us use, so you have no right to ban it if you're totally ignorant about it, and only know the bad rap that you've heard from your colleagues. Who are just as ignorant as you are.

Note: I'm not saying to only use Wikipedia. Please don't. But it's an awesome place to start looking, get a lot of general information, and perhaps move on to other sites much much quicker than you would with a mere google search.

Also, if you're going to be ignorant, at least know how to spell what it is you're insulting, and please don't spam me with all caps. My mute stick is a little rusty, and I'd love to use it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bike!

Here's my bike. I rode it 5 miles to school today, and will be riding another 5 to get home. I'm writing this from my laptop (more later), and I took the train as well as my bike (more on that later too.)

Here is the webpage about my particular bike, although the Dahon brand offers several more really nice ones.

Yes, it folds up. Yes, it unfolds to be a regular, full sized bike. Yes, it works just as well as any other bike. Better than most, actually. It has 8 gears, in an internal gear hub, and I've had it for a bit over a year now, with absolutely no problems with the gears. They're very well spaced. As the guy who sold it to me said, you could ride up a tree in first gear. And as I say, I can go downhill and get to 25 or 30 MPH and still be peddling to try to go faster in 8th gear.

I (obviously) have a helmet, and won't ride anywhere without it. I value my head, or what's left of it, too much for that. I also have a nifty little mirror (below) that is basically a rear-view mirror.


I like to keep myself safe. And 10 miles a day on a bike is really really good exercise. Considering that I'll probably be doing it 3 days a week for maybe 15 of the 16 weeks this semester, that's 450-480 miles on my bike. Awesomeness.

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of the Fall Semester

Well, it's done. Day one. Yay? So, I had three classes. Physics, Cal III, and Guitar.

Guitar was a lot of fun, because I've been working on some pieces all summer, and I'm now getting to play them for my teacher, and they're sounding good, and will only sound better once we've worked on them in class. As a note, I have the same teacher that I've had for several years, and I really like her. She's really good.

Physics, I'm reserving judgement on. The guy seemed ridiculously scattered and all over the place, we didn't cover much but the syllabus, and then the definition of science and physics. We then did a lab where, because the teacher didn't have enough equipment, I ended up in a single lab group of 6 people. Yuck, and I'm not sure how well we actually did on the lab. I'm a bit worried about it.

Calculus was okay. I think I'm going to like my teacher a lot; he has a good sense of humor. We covered the syllabus (yawn), and the first two sections of the class. They were stuff I've seen before, and at 8 at night, time of this writing, I've already finished the homework for the first section of it. I'm planning to finish the second section tonight, so that I can be really proud of myself. (Yeah, that's the only reason.)

In other news, I got a government class. The wrong one, but it will fulfill my requirements. I now have a three hour period in the middle of the day where I'm stuck at school, and class as late as 6 on Tues/Thurs. I know, I know. It's not that bad. But it's not perfect, so I hate it!!!!!

It was honestly just a lot more stress than it needed to be. I'll live with it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Skewl.

Also known as school. Mine starts tomorrow.

Now, I don't know what my actual schedule is going to be yet. Which kind of annoys me.

I'm the kind of person that plans things out, and then has them go according to plan, or else. So I've actually been registered and paid for all of my fall classes since before I went to Spain, and I knew which busses and trains to take, etc. I was really happy with that, I love structure and predictability in my life.

So, Friday, I went by school to get a parking permit and a bus pass for the fall. When I get home, I've got a nice little email sitting there for me. My Differential Equations class has been canceled due to under-enrollment.

Now, I had not only planned out this fall's schedule, but my schedule for spring too. I had everything set out so that I could graduate at the end of the spring, spend the summer working (and maybe moving. Eek.) and then go to a four year university in the fall.

Because Differential Equations is a four hour class, I've had to switch out 2 three hour classes from the spring to make room for it there, and try to put them in to this semester. This would put me under a hell of a work load for the next two semesters, but it would get the job done, assuming they don't cancel anything in the spring. If they do... I'm screwed. Royally. :P

Anyways. When I went Friday afternoon to sign up, I found that registration didn't open back up until Saturday. So, I stayed up until midnight and tried to register. Come midnight, they put up a notice saying that the server is down for maintenance or some such, and it'll be up at 9. Wohoo!

So, I went to sleep, and got up in time to register at 9:01. And I'm darn glad, because the class I got in to, I filled the last empty seat. Now, this put me at a total of 16 hours. The limit per semester is 18. I did that last fall, and it was yuck. But the other class I need to take this semester is 3 hours. Which would put me at 19. So I can't register for it online, I have to fill out a petition for overload and get it approved by the office. And the petition is nowhere online, so I can't even have it ready to hand in.

I have to go in Monday (tomorrow), after my classes are over (the office isn't open until 9, and that's when my first class starts), and hope I can get the petition granted, and then hope that the class hasn't filled up (It's at 32/36 right now.) and that I can get in.

If I can't, I'm in a bad spot.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Teh Bloggy + Freerice

I'm sorry about the lack of updates over the past few days. I went out of town rather suddenly. Also, school is starting again very soon, so I'm going to be rather busy. I'll try to keep these up as much as I can, but I'm not making any promises.

Today, I'm talking about Freerice. If you haven't already seen it, you should go check it out.

The premise of the site is really simple. You define vocabulary words from multiple choice answers, and because you're viewing advertisements at the same time, you are earning money. That money goes to buying rice for children in need. You generate 10 grains of rice for every word you get correct.

It's an amazingly easy way to help both people in need and yourself. You learn new vocabulary every time you use it. And it's not just vocabulary. You can choose math questions, learn about famous paintings, study chemistry or geography, even study for the SAT.

You are also helping people on the other side of the world who are starving. There's not much better cause than that.

I've set myself a goal of 1000 grains minimum every day that I'm able (read: have internet and am home more than just to get up and go to bed) and you can check me out here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

*Cough*

*Hack* *Wheeze*

This is what I sounded like last year, whenever I was outside at ACC. Why? Because of the quantity and quality of second hand smoke. In this case, quality means thickness, and at times, it was quite thick. It makes me feel sick, I really want to throw up when I'm around it for too long. And I don't even want to think about what it's doing to my lungs.

This year, I've felt much better and healthier while walking around campus. I also smell better. ACC decided to ban smoking on their campuses, and I support and thank them wholeheartedly. I can now breathe easier, and I don't worry so much about dying from smoke from smokers. (Living in a city with pollution though, can I ever rest easy?)

There are people who are objecting to the ban. For one, they're saying that people now have nowhere to smoke. This is not true. I see smokers out by the street, just off the edge of campus, every day when I come in. I'm fine with that. When they're way out there, they aren't hurting anyone but themselves.

Another objection is that it's not hurting anyone. That is just plain wrong. According to the American Cancer Society, 3,400 people die from lung cancer caused by second hand smoke alone, every year. That's not to mention the 46,000 deaths from heart disease. All from second hand smoke, in the United States alone, not to mention the rest of the world. I don't want to die because someone else wanted to feel good for a little while and wasn't polite enough to move somewhere away from other people.

Universities are supposed to be a place of learning and safety. I don't want to have to hurt myself every time I walk out side. I believe that anti smoking laws should be put into effect for all college and university campuses, as ACC has shown that it's perfectly viable and easy to do.

(Note, this is stolen from my political blog. I'm lazy today.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guitar

I play the classical guitar. There's a lot of reasons for this, and I'll try to explain some of them here. First, I'll talk about why I play my instrument, and then I'll talk about why I play music. Or maybe they'll end up all mixed up. Who knows?

Anyways. I have minor hearing problems (Minor. Right.) and I don't want to go deaf, so I chose an instrument that wasn't terribly loud. Nothing electric, and no drums. None of the wind instruments either, at least not the brass ones.

I like being able to play an instrument with my fingers, I don't like a bow, or keys between me and what's making the sound. That's not to say I don't like the piano or the cello or violin. I do. I have learned how to play the piano, and I think the cello would be fun if I had the time. But they're not my first choices because I'm not touching the strings.

This left me with only a few choices. I wanted something modern and very portable, something I could put in the car for road trips, and find people who play it, and music written for it. Thus, I chose the classical guitar. It fits all of these criteria.

 With the guitar, you can produce, in my opinion, more timbres than any other instrument, more feelings for every note. This gives the guitar an incredible expressive range. And while it's a quiet instrument relatively, a good guitar can still fill a concert hall with no amplification. Yet it's still quiet enough to be played in an intimate living room, for a mere handful of people. I love the guitar because it is so versatile.

I love the classical guitar because it has an amazing repertoire. You can play Bach on it. (I do.) You can play Beatles. (I don't.) You can play some really fun new pieces that sound really cool (Villa Lobos and Andrew York spring to mind.), and also play music from several hundred years ago that, while transcribed, sounds like it fits the instrument. I love the guitar because of it's repertoire.

I chose the classical guitar, and I have never once regretted my choice. I love the instrument. As for why I play music, I suppose that's another post. I'll just say this here: Music is what emotions sound like.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Wheel of Time 3

Last post about this series for a while, I promise. I'm here to talk about my impressions for the series and why it's my favorite series.

First, the world is real. No, I don't mean that he took our world and used it. He invented his own. But it feels just as real as ours, and more real than most books set in our world. He has obviously world built this world for years, and has plotted an extensive history for it. Not only that, but there are a large number of cultures, but you can immediately tell which one a character is from, because they are so well defined.

Not only are the cultures well defined, they are varied and sensible. Things fit in each culture, and you can see how the cultures all fit with each other, and fit in with the world. It's amazingly well crafted.

His characters are amazing. Every single one has a unique background. You can tell what culture they are from, but you can also almost immediately tell what makes them different from the rest of their culture as well; what makes them interesting.

Not only are the unique, they are engaging. Every single one wants something different from the world, and they are all actively pursuing it. Active characters are more interesting than inactive ones, and Jordan's characters are some of the most active lot I've ever read.

And this is no mean feat with, say, two characters. Jordan has at least 20, and many more minor characters that are still interesting and intriguing.

Now, this does NOT mean that he spends time showing you all kinds of boring stuff. His books read slow the first time, with months in between them. Now that I'm re-reading them, and going from one to the next to the next, they're very fast. His pacing is good, and there's always so many things moving towards resolution that I don't feel any of it is boring.

His foreshadowing is almost eerie, as I'm re-reading, I'm seeing things set up that happen in books 12 and 13, which were written by another author, more than 20 years later. And yet he knew they would happen, and set them up. This has made some of the later books incredibly rewarding, and promises to make the last one very satisfying.

I also LOVE the epic scope of the series. Almost everything else now feels short and unsatisfying, like there's so much that could have been explored that wasn't due to space constraints. Major kudos to Jordan for writing it the length it needed to be. (He originally pitched it as a three book series. LOL!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Wheel of Time 2

Thousands of years ago, Lew Therin Telamon fought the Dark One. In the end, he won the struggle, but the cost was great. Saidin was tainted. In the world of the Wheel of Time, there is a magic divided into two halves, Saidin and Saidar. Certain people at random (genetically?) can access one half or the other of the "True Source". Males use Saidin, and females use Saidar. When the Dark One tainted Saidin, he made it such that any male who channels it goes insane eventually.

Awesome, isn't it? Now, take a world with something like thousands of magic users. Now, strip half of them of their sanity, but leave them with their magical powers. Yeah. This lead to the Breaking of the World, which reshaped mountains, moved oceans, and destroyed most of civilization. In the years since, humans have built themselves back up, but it's been a long and difficult process, slowed by many wars.

Lews Therin Telamon went insane before he died too, and killed all of his family, earning him the name Lews Therin Kinslayer. He is also named The Dragon. There is a prophecy that says The Dragon will be reborn again. And when he does, the Dark One will break free once again, and they will fight. In his attempts to defeat the Dark One, The Dragon Reborn will break the world once again. And his victory is not certain.

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and go. What was, what will be, what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time."

The Dragon has been Reborn. The time has come. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson tells this tale. I highly recommend it. I guess after giving the background today, I'll be giving my impressions tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Wheel of Time 1

The Wheel of Time is not an epic fantasy series. It is THE Epic Fantasy series. There are currently 13 books out, plus a prequel. The last, #14, comes out next year. The first book came out on 15 January, 1990, before I was born. (November 1991)

This post is about how I came to read the Wheel of Time series. Tomorrow, I'll talk about the series itself. :)

In 2005, I went to Korea for a martial arts tournament. That's another story. Anyways, the plane flight home was some 12 hours long. I was sitting with a friend that I had met in Korea, and we had a good time. The guy next to us had a book from the Wheel of Time series. I think it was The Dragon Reborn, #3, but I'm not 100% sure. He recommended it to us highly. My friend wanted the name of the series, to read it herself, so I wrote it down and took it home to send to her.

I don't know if she actually ever read those. I really need to contact her... I'll do that right after this. :)

I did. I went and bought the prequel, New Spring, and read it. I liked it, but I didn't appreciate it fully. I got the rest of the series to date and read them, intermittently. I read several other books between each one, and it was a rather broken experience. However, I still really enjoyed them. It wasn't long after I finished Knife of Dreams, #11, that I found out that the author, Robert Jordan had died.

I was devastated. Here was a book series that I had followed for 11 books, and the author goes and dies on me. Shame on him. I later found out that he had left notes, and that Brandon Sanderson would be finishing the series. I had never heard of this guy. Who was he, and what business did he have with my Wheel of Time books?

I waited several years, and because I was cautious, I got The Gathering Storm (#12) in paperback. It was good enough, but it felt a hair off. I decided I would stick with it, and read the final two, although I guessed the book was only good enough because Sanderson had so many notes to work with.

Boy was I wrong. Before I get any further, let me talk a little bit about how Sanderson was chosen. At the time he was chosen to finish this series, he had two books published, with another two scheduled to come out. Harriet Douglas, Jordan's widow and editor, read Mistborn, Sanderson's second book, and chose him based on that, and on this Eulogy he wrote. Beware, it's a good one. I cry every time I read it.

Okay, so enough story. I also got Towers of Midnight in paperback. Yow! It was the best book of the series yet, I was majorly happy. I figured I should give this Sanderson dude another look. That was when I found out about the Eulogy and stuff, and I've now read Warbreaker, the Mistborn trilogy, and The Way of Kings, and I'm in the middle of Elantris. He's now my favorite author, and I'm incredibly glad that he took over the series.

I've started again from the beginning, reading New Spring and most of Eye of the World while I was in Spain, and going from there. I'm taking breaks for other books, and I'll be reading slowly during the school year, but it's less than a year from when I started re-reading to when the last one will be read, and that's a short time, for over 4 million words.

The final book comes out on January 8 of next year. I am getting it the day it comes out, in hardcover. And I'm not planning anything for the next week. I'm really really looking forward to this, as the Wheel of Time has become my favorite series over the years for its rich epic scope. Brandon Sanderson has also become my favorite author for his other books. So, my favorite author finishing my favorite series. Yeah.

I'll end with a quote from the New York Times review of The Wheel of Time. (Keep in mind that they don't review fantasy on anything like a regular basis. That they even reviewed the series is a big deal.)
"Jordan has come to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dvorak 3

So, on Wednesday, I talked about the history of Dvorak. Yesterday, I convinced you that it's awesome. Today, I'm here to talk about how I switched. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about how to switch, other people have already done that really well. Here's a page on how to switch your software layout. Because there's so many types of computers, you should google if you want to switch the hardware too.





When I switched, I did it over Spring Break. It gave me a little time off to get used to using the keyboard before I had to jump back into the school routine again. I am glad I did this, and I would highly recommend that you do to. I also physically rearranged my keyboard; this made the switch a lot faster. Pictures Above.

It was a lot of fun, and once I had the arrangement and the software switched, I went straight back to what I usually do, talking to people. I don't teach myself with programs. I tried it the very first time I was learning. It was mindnumbingly boring. I then started playing online games where I was chatting for hours at a time. I got really good really fast. I even got accused of having a bot to type for me at times. And this was with QWERTY. When I switched to Dvorak, I was staring at the keyboard for about 5 hours. Then I was touch typing again. And I've only gotten faster since then. I've also gotten to where I can type Dvorak on a keyboard without rearranging the keys. So, when I got a new computer, I didn't rearrange the keys, mainly so that the little bumps on the f and j keys are still where my index fingers go.

I haven't forgotten how to type with QWERTY, as I talked about yesterday. And I love how comfortable it is for me to type in Dvorak. You've now heard the history of Dvorak, the reasons to switch, and my personal story. Now go switch!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dvorak 2

Okay, so yesterday I talked about the history of the Dvorak keyboard layout. Today, I'm going to talk about the Dvorak keyboard layout. I'm going to start by talking about a few of the things from yesterday again, incase you forgot them. I mean, you did sleep since then. Or at least, I hope you sleep at night. I don't want to know what you do if you're not sleeping.

When Dvorak first invented his keyboard and trained people to use it, they started winning typing competitions, and were banned for a time for "cheating". They were that much faster. They continue to win competitions legally today. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that they have won more typing awards for speed and accuracy than all of the QWERTY typists combined. Also, the fastest typist in the world, Barbara Blackburn, setter of world records, used Dvorak.

The US navy did a study, and found it would take less than three months to regain the costs of buying all new typewriters, retraining all of their staff, and losing the time spent retraining. All because of how much faster their typists would be on Dvorak. There is only one reason this did not happen. One person high up in the government didn't like Dvorak, personally. So he nixed all of the funding, and it never happened.

On the Dvorak keyboard, when you're typing normal English stuff, about 70% of your keystrokes will be on the home row. On QWERTY, that number is 32%! Less than 1/3, on the row where it's easiest to type! It's outrageously bad. Overall, when using Dvorak, your fingers move 37% less than they do on a QWERTY keyboard.

That can make a big difference. If you have Carpal Tunnel, or other repetitive strain injuries, Dvorak will help lessen the effect of those injuries, and if you don't, it will greatly decrease your risk of getting them.

Convinced yet? What's that I hear? You're afraid that you won't be able to switch over, because you have to use multiple keyboards? Well, for one, it's easy to switch the other keyboards, and then put them back to being backwards for others to use. I'll talk about the process of switching tomorrow. Also, you won't forget how to type QWERTY. I have suffered using it on essays in the testing center, where the computers are locked down and you can't do anything to them. I can still do it. It's painful, and I'm aware of how much more my fingers are having to move all the time. But I can still do it. Just because I learned how to speak Spanish, and spent three weeks in Spain speaking it, I didn't forget how to speak English. If absolutely necessary, you can be assured that you can be fluent in both.

I'll talk tomorrow about how to switch your keyboard. It's easy. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dvorak 1

Let me start with a story. Back when typewriters were first invented, the keys had a mechanism that would move them upwards to strike the paper. They were then allowed to fall back to their resting position by the force of gravity. The first typewriter keyboards also had an alphabetical layout, ABCD etc. This caused issues whenever someone pressed two adjacent keys in quick succession. They would jam against each other, typically causing the first letter to be repeated over and over again instead of different letters being used.

Some of the inventors of the typewriter sat around and rearranged keys to move common two letter combinations apart, so that there were as few collisions as possible. Their arrangement was fairly random. Near the end of the process, they also decided to move the letters for the word "typewriter" to the top row, so that salesman could show it off. Try it, if you haven't already.

If you hadn't guessed, they arrangement they came up with was the QWERTY keyboard layout, the same one we still use today. Or you still use, at least. There are alternatives. But that's getting ahead of myself, I've not told the whole story yet. But before I go on, I want to make something clear: QWERTY was NOT designed to slow typists down, or be massively and horrible inefficient. It was designed to remove key jams by placing commonly used key pairs apart from each other. The other things are just side effects.

When the second generation typewriter was produced, it included spring loaded keys that would snap back into place, essentially eliminating jams. However, people had learned to type on the QWERTY layout, and the manufacturer decided not to switch, even though the inventor himself came up with a much more efficient design.

Typewriters quickly caught on and became ubiquitous. In 1932, a man named August Dvorak became fed up with the inefficient design, and set out to design his own layout. Note: He's a distant cousin of Dvořák the composer. He spent a lot of time studying typing and methods of making it more efficient. Within a year, he had designed his own keyboard layout, the Dvorak layout. I'll talk a lot about it in tomorrow's post, I'm just writing the history here.

Anyways, this layout was crazy more efficient. Dvorak trained some students with his layout and found that it took about 1/3 of the time to learn Dvorak than it did for them to learn QWERTY. His students started winning so many typing speed competitions that they were quickly banned for "cheating". The Navy conducted a study and found that they would regain the costs of buying all new typewriters and retraining all of their typists to Dvorak within months. However, someone high up with a personal grudge against Dvorak stopped the transition. There are many other instances of such things happening, and things seemed to always go wrong, people seemed to always resist.

In 1975, Dvorak died, a bitter old man. Some of his last words were, "I'm tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race, they simply don't want to change!" In 1982, his keyboard layout was officially standardized by the ANSI, and it now comes as part of the software on all major operating systems. It's incredibly easy to switch.

I'll talk about how to switch as well as how much better the Dvorak layout actually is, tomorrow. Until then, you can always Google it. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Music

Music. Sheet music. It's expensive, and I don't understand why. Oh, the stuff that people own, which is generally anything written since 1923. Stuff published before that in the United States is essentially public domain. (Yow, that's a lot of legalese.) But this stuff is still sold by many publishers. For example, I'm playing the Bach Cello Suite 1 BWV 1007, it cost me $15 + Shipping and handling. And then I had to make copies, so that I would have a clean original.

Bach is awesome, and I'm not saying his work isn't worth $15. It is. Easily. (I wrote about it two days ago in the Jorge Caballero post.) But Bach died in 1750. Music doesn't get much more public domain than that. Yet, I could still only find quality scores if I wanted to pay a lot of money.

Okay, now, enter music typesetting software. This is software that allows you to write the music up on your computer, and do tweaks and stuff to your heart's content. The issue is that the big ones cost $600 or so for a professional copy. Thank goodness there are free ones that are just as good, if a little harder to find. I use Lilypond. Why and stuff is another post, just know that it's awesome and free.

Anyways. I typed up the Prelude to the Suite, and I've posted it. That's what the link up at the top leads to, a page for scores that I want to share for free. Right now, only the prelude is there, but I'm working on the Allemande right now, and hope to have the whole suite up eventually. Then I'll move on to other stuff. I'm not sure what yet. If there's something specific that you want put up, leave me a message and maybe we can talk. (I can't put anything up if I don't have a score to work from.)

The prelude is taken from various editions. But I've refingered it myself, quite extensively in places. I'll be doing the rest of the suite too, because I'm playing it. If I do anything that's not a guitar piece, I can't guarantee the accuracy of fingerings, since I won't be playing the piece myself. But I'll give it a look and see what I can do, if you provide me with a score.

My eventual goal is to have every piece of music that's in the public domain up here. (HA! Give me infinite monkeys, maybe...) Barring that, I'll put up whatever I can. One thing I will not do is rush and put up low quality transcriptions. I'm a perfectionist, and I'll do things to look as nice as I can make them. I'll also be correcting things, so if there are any wrong notes or things that just look weird, let me know.

I could ramble about this for hours. It's been an idea for years, putting the music up free where anyone can use it, and I've put a lot of thinking behind it. I'll post more later when I feel like it... Then again, that's how I do everything, when I feel like it.

For now, enjoy the prelude. Oh yeah, here's a video of me playing it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat

Nope, I just checked, both of my cats are alive. And still sticking their noses where they don't belong. But that's not the curiosity I'm talking about. I'm talking about Curiosity, the latest Mars rover, which landed some time early this morning. Safely, I might add. It's now looking around and starting to explore. It joins the long running Opportunity rover.

I was much younger when the Spirit and Opportunity rovers landed, but I can remember them clearly. At the time, I wanted to be an astronomer, and I wrote several papers and did a lot of research on the two little guys, as well as followed their activities daily. Over time, my interest waned, but I have always checked up on them relatively often. I remember being very sad when they declared Spirit dead. I'm happy today because Opportunity is still going strong. Or at least, still going, some eight years after its mission was set to end. It is truly thanks to these rovers that we know what we do about the red planet.

I also remember following the Phoenix lander, and being a bit disappointed when it didn't last much past its mission date. Although I should have know it would not, since it wasn't built to withstand freezing.

I haven't followed Curiosity as much as I did the other rovers and landers. I'm not sure why not. Maybe it's because it's been done before. Maybe I don't think anything can beat the lifespan and discoveries of Spirit and Opportunity. Maybe I don't want anything to; they were my rovers, from my time. Maybe I'm just not as curious as I used to be. Or maybe I'm lazy.

However it may be, I'm happy to see that the rover has landed, and might just start following its daily activities again. Perhaps its name is well deserved. I hope that it does grab the curiosity of many people. Maybe there's some kid out there who will follow this rover as I followed the previous ones. I hope so.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jorge Caballero

I went to see a concert last night. It was the Miró Quartet, and classical guitarist Jorge Caballero. The Miró Quartet is amazing. They're a world class string quartet, they've played everywhere, and won lots of awards. They played some beautiful music last night. I'm not here to talk about them.

Jorge Caballero writes his own rules for what's possible on the classical guitar. Most people will call you crazy if you try to take a virtuoso piano piece and transcribe it for solo guitar. Kazuhito Yamashita did it. He was insane, it was crazy good. That was some 30 years ago. Since then, only Jorge Caballero has been able to play it, of all of the professional guitarists that I know of. I heard him play this last year, when he was here in Austin. Here's a recording. I'll let it speak for itself. Pictures at an Exhibition.

This year, in addition to playing some really fun pieces with the quartet, he pulled out pulled out Bach's Partita, BWV 1013. He played it like I've never heard Bach before. For me, Bach always has this sense of momentum and, well, I don't know. It's like a train. Always moving forward, continuously, and unstoppably. Well, when Jorge moved into the Corrente movement of the piece, it was like a bullet train. Moving along at incredible speeds, amazingly smoothly, and he seemed to not even be working very hard. It was the most relaxed and easy speed I've ever heard, and it still had all of the elements of what makes Bach so beautiful, with every voice and note handled with care.

Here's another Bach, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. This man has inspired me greatly, and the concert was well worth it. It was put on by the Austin Classical Guitar Society. If you're in Austin, you really should go check out their events. The next one is Grisha Goryachev. I'll talk about him when it's time for his concert, but for now just say that he's a flamenco guitarist who makes other flamenco guitarists look boring.

I'm inspired, time to go learn some Bach. (I try to play classical guitar. I'm not terribly good, but I enjoy it.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

You did good!

When I finish something and someone tells me, "You did good!" I get mad at them.

Good is an adjective. Adjectives modify nouns. Good modifies nouns. Did is a verb. Adjectives do not modify did. Good does not modify did. (Why don't we call them adnouns?)

Well is an adverb. Adverbs modify verbs. Well modifies verbs. Did is a verb. Adverbs modify did. Well modifies did.

So when you want to tell something how much you like what they did, tell them, "You did well!" and you'll be correct. And you won't have me mad at you.

Note: If you want to talk about the job they did, it's perfectly fine to say, "You did a good job," because job is a noun, and good can modify that noun.

Friday, August 3, 2012

No More DST!


The original intent of Daylight Savings Time was to save energy. It was supposed to reduce usage of incandescent lighting, which was once a primary user of electricity. Now, our main consumers of electricity are heating and cooling systems, in part because of the widespread use of such systems, and in part because of newer, more energy efficient methods of lighting. This has rendered Daylight Savings Time not only ineffective, but also harmful. This is because, while having more daylight hours means using less lighting, it means being awake during the hotter parts of the day, and thus using more electricity for cooling. Studies have proven that more electricity is used during Daylight Savings Time than during other times of the year, and than in places where Daylight Savings Time is not in effect. This additional strain on our electricity needs to be dealt with, especially when so much of our electricity is made in a way that damages the environment. Reducing electricity usage would also help relieve some of the stress on our overloaded and antiquated electricity delivery system, perhaps helping to prevent some of the blackouts that have plagued us during the past years.

Daylight Savings Time also affects people who rely on the sun. These people, such as farmers, lose money during Daylight Savings Time. Wikipedia says, "For example, grain harvesting is best done after dew evaporates, so when field hands arrive and leave earlier in summer their labor is less valuable." Thus, our farming industry suffers because of Daylight Savings Time.

Daylight Savings Time also has bad effects on our economy. Our economy, which many believe is currently in, or is just recovering from, a recession, suffers even more during shifts to and from Daylight Savings Time. For example, Wikipedia says, "Clock shifts correlate with decreased economic efficiency. In 2000 the daylight-saving effect implied an estimated one-day loss of $31 billion on U.S. stock exchanges." As you can see above, Daylight Savings Time has not only outlived its usefulness, but also become a harm. It now uses more energy than it saves, harms our already poor economy, and adversely affects people who rely on sunlight for their jobs. Thus, I honestly think that we should get rid of Daylight Savings Time once and for all.

Daylight Savings Time is a state level issue; individual states can opt out of it. Texas should opt out of it. We're a state that relies heavily farming, with over 130 thousand acres used for farming alone. We also have many large companies that suffer from the stock losses. None of this is to mention what happens on a much more personal level. Every year, car accidents go up, and more people commit suicide because of sleep deprivation due to Daylight Savings Time. Everything combined, it's past time we got rid of it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Apple's Customer Support

If you haven't guessed, I will just be jumping around to the most random things and writing posts about them whenever I feel like it, and try to get out one per day.

Today's post is about Apple Customer Support. I recently bought a new computer through them, with an educational discount. As such, I received a free $100 iTunes gift card, as well as a nice discount on the computer. However, the $100 card was charged to my account.

We went in to the local Apple store to ask. They said that since it was an online order, they couldn't do anything about it, in the store, but told us the support number to call. So, we did. When most companies have huge support systems, they automate the first part with a "Press 1 for English" system. Not Apple. You can talk to their automated system, and it will understand you, and interpret what you want it to do.

The system took my order number, information about what was wrong, and my account information, and then referred me to a person. Not only that, but it gave the person all of the info that it had, so that there wasn't any time wasted while the person asked for the same information again. That issue, where you put in your information, and the next person requires the exact same information, is one of my biggest peeves with customer support systems.

So, the person, with the information, was very surprised. It sounded like this had never happened before. However, she was able to quickly come up with a solution: Because we already had the gift card, she couldn't refund it. However, since my computer was on back order, she was able to simply reduce the price of the computer by $100.

We then had an issue when the computer finally came in, and they tried to charge us. The total amount was a bit over the credit limit on our card, so we had to call in again. A different person quickly approved the purchase to be made in two parts, one each day, so that it would go through the card. This went through their system with no problems, and again, she had our order ready to look at before we talked to her, thanks to the automated answering system.

Then we got a call from the credit card company, wanting to confirm that the computer was a valid charge. Their automated system was a push the numbers system, and took about 15 minutes to go through. Then, on the very last step, the system got caught in a loop and started refusing to recognize when we pushed any numbers. After 5 minutes of struggling, we called again and restarted, but forced them to forward us to an actual person. And despite the fact that we'd already entered our card number before talking to them, the person had no idea who we were or why we were calling. Once we finally got things cleared with them, the charge went through, and my computer was on its way.

I got the computer a few days later, and I love it. I've since been back in for several training sessions with my computer, but that's a topic for a different day. All in all, the customer support was fast, easy, and solved every problem quite quickly, even those they'd never seen before.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Warbreaker

I'm going to post a book review today for a lack of something better to do. :)

Warbreaker is an epic/high fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson, the author who is finishing the Wheel of time series, and stands in his own right with books such as the Mistborn Series and the Stormlight Archives. He also wrote the children's book series Alcatraz, and numerous other books, novellas, and short stories.

Warbreaker is set in a colorful world, a magical world. But they are the same, color and magic. One of the things that Sanderson does incredibly well, the thing that he's most often recognized for, is his magic systems. Warbreaker's system is no exception, it's very well thought out and interesting, with some interesting consequences. It's also incredibly original, and doesn't feel like just another rehashing of "The Force" as many magics do.

Warbreaker follows four characters through the story. Two sisters, a god, and a mysterious man. We don't know everything about the mysterious man, Vasher, even by the end of the book, but we get enough tidbits to make him fascinating. The god, Lightsong, is my favorite character of the book, and one of my favorite of all time. Lightsong is a man who doubts his own godhood, is incredibly witty, and shows us life from quite a different perspective. Vivenna, the first of the two sisters, is the eldest daughter of the king. She is doomed to be sent on her next birthday to be a wife to the evil king in the neighboring kingdom, who also happens to be one of the gods (not Lightsong). Siri is her younger sister, carefree and whimsical.

Another of Sanderson's amazing skills (I avoid the word talent because he puts a lot of work into learning how to do these things right.) that is often overlooked in favor of praising his magic systems is his characters. His main characters are all vibrantly different, and we get a strong sense of that almost immediately. Even many of his side characters are quite well developed and intriguing. I love his characters, and it's them, not necessarily the plot, that will drag you through the pages of this book.

That's not to say that the plot isn't good. It is quite interesting and mysterious, leaving you wondering until the end.

All in all, it's an amazing book, with just about everything done right. Including the price! It's free, here. However, if you really like it, I highly suggest you go out to a bookstore and buy it (or one of his other works) to support him.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

España 22

Here's where they sold stamps, the Tobacos.

This one is a bit random. I've blown it up so you can see the guy. He was the only street vendor I saw who wasn't black. And I didn't actually blow the picture up, I just put it at its regular size. All of the others are shrunk.

The lobby at the hotel. You can see how expensively everything is built. And there's the bar where they'll charge you way too much for food or drinks.

Here's the airport in Madrid. Last picture of Spain.

Visa for arriving, and leaving.

Our plane over the states at last, on the in flight entertainment system.

 Lines, lines, and more lines.

Some random notes on other stuff about Spain before I start talking about the day. People there that are my age (college age) dress like we do here. A generation older, people dress nicely, with a button shirt and slacks usually. But we blended in with no problem with our t-shirts and shorts or jeans, and I at least was quite happy that I'd packed comfortably.

Everyone was warning us about pick pocketing in Spain. As far as I know, nothing was stolen from any of the members of our group during our trip. I was, however, really paranoid. I kept a very close watch on my pockets at all times, and developed almost a sixth sense for who was around me and I could feel my phone and my wallet through my shorts with my legs as I was walking. It was interesting.

When they air commercials, they don't translate their slogans a lot of the time. So there'd be this big commercial for the new Samsung Galaxy S III. Designed for Humans. And they'd say it with a really Spanish accent. It stood out hilariously against the rest of the commercial in Spanish. And that wasn't the only commercial that did that, it was just the most common one.

So, last day in Spain and returning to the states. It was a bit of a sad day for all of us, but I also think we were all happy to be heading home, in a way. We got up, got on the bus, and went to the airport. After quite a bit of confusion involving almost switching flights to the next day and going to the wrong floor to look for our airplane, we made it through. The flight was actually really nice. There were inflight entertainment systems with games and movies. And the person in front of me didn't lean back! So I was only very uncomfortable, not in major pain for the entire trip.

Also, the flight attendants will look at you very oddly if you stand up and walk around and around just to get exercise, as is healthy on long flights. I solved this problem by using the bathroom at just the wrong time, and being "stuck" behind the beverage trolley for 15 minutes before they got past my seat.

The movies on the way back were actually good. I watched The Lorax, The Hunger Games, and Los Juegos Del Hambre. (Spanish for... The Hunger Games!) I realized as I was watching it in Spanish that they really don't talk a lot in the movie. Nevertheless, I was happy with how much of it I understood. Although it probably helped that I had just seen it in English, about an hour before. The flight back seemed to be a much shorter flight, and since I wasn't expected to sleep, I almost enjoyed it.

When we arrived in Spain, they waved us through and stamped our passports. When we were an hour or two out from the states, they started handing out immigration forms. For everyone, coming home and going to visit the states. We all filled them out, after much head scratching over how to classify and value things. We then got off the plane in Dallas and went to line #1. There, we got the forms signed, and they glanced at our passports. Then, for line #2, we got to wait to pick up our baggage! After that, we got in line #3, where we handed in our immigration forms and walked through. I'm certain that this line, where everyone had their baggage, was at least a mile long. That's what the videos are. Not exaggerating.

I swear that they didn't even look at my form for long enough to know that my name matched my passport.

After that, we rechecked our baggage, and I refilled my water bottle. Big mistake. Line #4 was security again, and they don't let you take liquids through security. So I had to drain a liter of water in about 30 seconds. After security, we finally got to wait for our next plane.

At the security here, they had me remove my shoes and put them in a separate bin, before putting me through a full body scanner. All of the full body scanners have issues with my pockets. I wear cargo shorts, and because the pockets are puffy and have air in them, the body scanners flag them every time, and they pat my pockets down. After they're sure I just want to get home and not blow something up, they let me through security. In Spain, I kept my shoes and belt on and wandered through a metal detector and picked up my stuff, all nice and cool.

Interesting note: None of the detectors seemed to have any issue with the metal plates in my head. But that's a story for another day or three.

The final game, Spain-Italy, happened while we were on the plane. The captain told us shortly before we landed that the score was 2-0 for Spain with about 15 minutes left and they were almost definitely winning this one. Imagine our surprise when we landed and the final score was 4-0. Spain really won that game. Half of the people on the flight were from Spain, so they went ballistic at the news. We were quite happy too. I, as well as some of my classmates, wore our Spain shirts for the flight home.

After a second flight from Dallas to Austin, we were finally home. I went out to dinner (at Cheddars!) just to stay awake, before coming home and crashing as early as I could. I was so happy to have a server who would talk to us, introduce himself, and check on us and refill our beverages occasionally. It was quite refreshing. In Spain, most of the servers take your order, and then you see them when they bring you food. I had one server who said two things to me the entire meal. Dígame and dígame. Literally, tell me. Like I said, it was really refreshing to have a server who was nice and polite.

It took several days before I was back on CST, and I was very glad that I had a week off between coming home and starting this government class that I'm suffering through right now. I feel very sorry for the people who had to go to work the next day.

So, that's my trip to Spain with ACC, summer of 2012. I don't know when I'll go back, but I really want to.

Monday, July 30, 2012

España 21

The full Don Quijote, in Spanish.

Some abanicos, fans that were very popular in Spain. Also, my feet.

A sideways sign. It's right side up in real life, and I'm not sure how to make the picture rotate.

So today, we basically got up, did a last little bit of shopping, got on a bus, spent 6 hours on a bus, and went to Madrid. We stayed in a hotel for one night. And it was an actual hotel, built exactly like the hotels here. No kitchen, nothing. And one of the expensive hotels too. There were sodas in the refrigerator. 3 euro for a can, if you drank one. All that annoying stuff. The internet was like 6 euro per hour, so I had no connection that night to communicate with anyone. The beds were also considerably less comfortable than the beds in the hostels, and our room was a two bedroom room with a third stuffed in and taking up all of the extra space and making the room really cramped. I shudder to think what was paid for that hotel, which was, in my opinion, the worst accommodations of the entire trip.

So, some of the other things I bought, and yes, I bought more than just cards. After seeing so many statues of, and hearing so much about, Miguel de Cervantes and his work Don Quijote, I went out and bought the complete thing at the Corte Inglés. It's hard reading, in Spanish, but I'm working on it.

But wait! Isn't the Corte Inglés the grocery store? No wait, it's where you sent letters. No, you bought books there. Gaah! Yeah, it's all that and more. The last picture there is a sign inside the Corte Inglés in Granada, that tells you what's on each floor. I tell you, they have everything.

Abanicos are a very traditional Spanish item, and very common. There were a lot of street vendors who sold them, as well as several shops. Probably 1/5 of the people I saw in Granada had them and used them quite a lot. The ones above are gifts for people here in the States. I've already given some of them away, and will be giving away the others when I can.

Tomorrow's the last day, and I'll talk about the trip back as well as other random reflections.

España 20

Here's our group at the restaurant for the farewell dinner.

So this is the post about Friday, again a day late. I'm sorry I'm so lazy.

We had our interviews this morning, the last thing for the class. Every single person in the class got an "A" on their interview. The teacher said that this was the first time this had happened to her, and was very happy with us. It also secured me as passing the class, so I was happy as well.

The interviews were really funny. We had to answer questions for about 3 minutes each. We went in in pairs, my partner was Ethan. So he answered questions, in Spanish, for about 3 minutes, and then I did as well. After that, we had a role playing scenario with objectives. Ethan was a flirty girlfriend and I was her jealous boyfriend. We ended up with a compromise: Ethan could still flirt with other guys, but not strangers, and especially not that creepy guy with tattoos. Roberto and Mariangela's turned out even funnier, but that's their story, not mine.

The farewell dinner was nice, much much better than the welcome dinner. We went to a nice restaurant, but one that actually served good food. We got the 3 course daily menus this time. I ended up with some soup (can't remember exactly...), a plate of chicken, and a chocolate cake. It was a good meal.

After the dinner, I went back to the apartment, and read for a while before sleeping. Some of the others stayed out all night, and didn't get any sleep. I didn't envy them the next day when we had to... But that's for the next post.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

España 19

L-R: Daniel, Roberto, Ethan. Spain-Portugal semifinals, Daniel and Ethan for Spain and Roberto for Portugal.


One of the local guitar shops in Spain.

Sorry this wasn't up yesterday. I'll try to be better about that in the future.

So today was the final exam, even though it wasn't the final day of class. We had interviews tomorrow. (I might have had a few odd tenses there. The interviews were the day after this post was talking about, which is Thursday, so they're in the future of the post, but the past of now.) I did decently well on the final exam, and was happy with my score.

So yeah. At this point, Italy had just beat Germany the day before to advance to the finals, and the winner of the Spain-Portugal game would play them for the championship title of the Eurocup. Roberto liked the Portugal team, and had a jersey for them, so he supported them for the game. Thankfully, he was smart enough to stay in the apartments; I think he would have been mugged if he'd gone out on the streets with that shirt. It was the best game of the entire cup in my opinion, with both teams playing very well. The game ended 0-0 after 2 hours, and the teams went into shootouts, which Spain won 4-2, and thus advanced. That meant they'd play Italy and the crazy mohawk shirt-ripper dude on Sunday, while we were flying back to the states. We were a bit disappointed that we were going to miss the game. (Note, I may actually have the game dates for Spain-Portugal and Italy-Germany backwards, but I'm too lazy to look them up.)

During the day, I went to a guitar shop. That's it in the second picture. Again, you can see the granadas-on-poles that lined all of the streets. This was a luthier's shop, meaning that he sold guitars that he made himself. He made all types, flamenco and classical, spruce and cedar. I'm partial to a cedar, myself, and spent most of the time trying out a nice cedar classical. I don't like it as much as I like the guitar I have at home, but I don't like much anything as much as I like the guitar I have at home. I love that guitar. However, the guitar was certainly a concert quality instrument, and cheaper than any other guitar that quality that you can find in the states. I didn't get to visit any more guitar shops, but I got the impression that the quality and pricing were typical in Granada, if not all of Spain.

I hadn't played for a good three weeks before going in, because I hadn't brought my guitar to Spain, and the days before were spent packing and studying like a madman. So, I didn't sound my best on the guitar, but it felt really really good to get to play it. During that afternoon, the entire crew except me and one other went to the beach, and when I went to take maybe an hour for my siesta, I ended up sleeping for a good 5-6 hours until the others returned, because it was actually quiet and peaceful in the apartment for once. Thus, it was a really really good day. Good final exam grade, fun playing a nice guitar, a long, uninterrupted nap, and Spain won a really good game of football.