Tuesday, March 31, 2009

universal priorities.

maybe i should start putting "soap box" in the title of blogs that are nothing but a platform for me to fume or rant... maybe. we'll see.

anyway, this morning i didn't have a chance to grab breakfast before class, so i went to the student center to buy a banana and an orange juice. i grabbed a paper and sat down for a few minutes while i ate.'the voice of the brigham young university community' is the daily universe, the school paper. i understand that it is a student paper, and it's free, so you can't be too nitpicky. however, sometimes things can get out of hand.

north korea has been in the news a bit lately because it's had some rather aggressive statements concerning neighboring countries and its ability to launch missiles and so on and so forth. this has been going on for a few weeks. this post is not about north korea, though. this is about the daily universe, and the fact that, quoting a headline, "warships set sail ahead of north korean launch," made second page news while the cover featured "bike rules apply on byu campus," "motorcycles hold thrills and dangers," and "local owner build success." i don't mean to lower the importance of things happening on campus or in the community. but honestly, would it kill them to at least mention on the front page that a potentially hostile nation is apparently sending out preliminary warships? seriously. and it's not as if this is unusual--that's what gets me. to keep up with a general idea even of what's going on with the whole issue, you'd have to search in order to find the weekly half paragraph that's mentioned it for the last two weeks.

now to be fair, the front page also had one called "obama puts breaks on automakers" on the side. so they do make an effort to mention things of importance on the front. however, today's paper is more of the straw that broke the camel's back. other issues have been even more confusing in their priorities. a perfect example can be found here. while shootings (local and abroad) are interspersed throughout the paper, cupcakes have the front page priority. oh, excuse me, a cupcake craze coming to utah, i mean.

i suppose what it really comes down to is the reader. if the daily universe doesn't print what people want to read, people don't read it. but while i understand that some people do care about such a cupcake craze, i still can't grasp why it required a half-page photo and the title story of the entire issue. there was even an article on birthing techniques. we're at byu, surely many people would be more interested in that.

i spoke to a girl in my study group about this and she pointed out that she would buy a paper that "only printed stories about good things happening, because it would be refreshing." i can see value in this. i can also see how announcements and things in article form might be useful. however, it's supposed to be a newspaper. "news" being the keyword. while there is much news to print, surely some news has a bit more reason to be placed on the front cover. maybe i'm a cold-hearted grouch, but i'd rather hear about missile threats and national issues than cupcakes and the dangers of motorcycles. if nothing else, can we at least split the front page half and half?

anyway, that's my rant. my apologies if you really enjoyed the cupcake article, or wrote it, or decided it had the first page priority. it's nothing personal.
on the upside though, the daily universe does include that campus police beat, and that alone will keep me reading if nothing else.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

keyboard cocktail.

last night i dissected a keyboard, and it was pretty awesome. and yes, that martini glass is full of keyboard keys. it's also worth noting that i wanted to call this post "you got servered", which was a hilarious quip from my roommate brad. i thought it stretched being related enough, however. but just you wait and see--life will find a way.

anyway, the di offered a few winning opportunities. the first being the fact that i found a killer ergonomic keyboard for three dollars that's fully functioning, fully awesome, and fully being used right now. the only disadvantage to the keyboard is that due to some short you can no longer use the numpad to type numbers. however, this is made up for in the fact that i figured out how to use the numpad as the mouse. sure, it takes some getting used to. but with some setting adjustments, it's starting to feel pretty natural. besides, this means i can sit at the couch with my laptop two feet ahead of me as a type on this keyboard rather than huddling over the laptop keyboard, desperately trying to type more quickly so i can stop the huddling. so, the ergonomic keyboard was a winning three dollar investment.

i bought another keyboard as well. this one was just a standard issue pc keyboard. it was a bit worn, but the keys worked like a dream and so on and so forth. when we left the di we had a few small breaks and then we were off to autumn's apartment to watch dune once again and experiment with the new typing equipment. the keyboard cocktail featured above was a reslut of this.

step one) remove the keyboard's screws with a butter knife compliments of the absence of a phillips head.

step two) realize too late that you undid the mounting screws for the connective hardware in the top write corner. oh well...

step three) borrow the laptop from autumn and try out the keyboard. at this point, the keyboard is simply a piece of plastic with inlay circuit work and little rubber domes over each key. because you already removed the mounting screws for the hardware, you'll simply have to press down on it with my thumb to keep it in place, but the keys will work... with a bit of tlc.

step four) lose the mounting screws and search for upwards of ten minutes in the crevice of a couch.

step five) lose the lost screw once again when you throw away all the gross stuff from the couch. spend approximately twenty minutes trying to find the screw, which you'll eventually find sitting underneath your knee after you've given up the search.

step six) take the keyboard's exoskeleton with all of the keys, and use the same butter knife to remove each key.

step seven) talk with your girlfriend about making pushpins with the keys, at which point she will trump that idea with the idea of earrings. be sure she mentions how much computer engineers will love them.

step eight)go crazy and simply remove all the domes so you have nothing left but a flat membrane.

step nine) keep the honor code and go home before you need to be kicked out.

step ten) play with the membrane until you get the two layers to line up properly and superglue the corners to prevent shifting.

step eleven) at home, further test the new membranous keyboard and draw a skull and crossbones on the underside of the keyboard's original metal bottom to mark the placement of the f key.

step twelve) test it out and find that it works (with some pressure applied to the circuit board). make plans to use twine to solve the problem the next morning.

step thirteen) give the keyboard a prototype name. you should probably use a reference from dune and a roman numeral. i named mine STILGAR I.

and you're done. at least in copying my process. it was great fun. hopefully i get the wiring better secured in order to make it so i don't have to hold down the top right corner to type. i'll be sure to let you know how i do. and now, i'm off to prepare for cleaning inspections.

the finished product

sorry about the quality, i had to use my phone.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

the merchant of venice i. iii. 98.

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,

A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
--william shakespeare
the merchant of venice i. iii.

i find it hilarious when things are quoted without the realization of its source or context. it can be standing for something in complete opposition to the quoter's cause. i ran into a somewhat entertaining instance of such this morning at work.

for the unaware, i work in the benson building on byu campus doing early morning custodial work. and for those unaware further, byu (brigham young university) is a private institution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which i am a member. anyway, with the atmosphere on campus having a somewhat religous tone at times as it is a religious school, you can see various religious and spiritual posters, fliers, banners, and quotes from time to time. one collection of such is posted outside of an office in the building.

filling in for another employee, i had a different assignment and route today to fulfill which brought me past this sign.

right. seems reasonable enough. i make my own situation. i decide what i think of my surroundings. there is a problem, however. although the free standing quote may have application, the scribbles you see beneath the printed text highlight my current topic.
the pencil scribble reads, "p.s.--that's satan's line in paradise lost."

do you see where the issue is? the point this sign is trying to make is the polar opposite to the source's. i'm here being encouraged to make the most of things because i decide what i feel about my surroundings--that finding the good in all of God's works is the secret to happiness.
john milton's devil uses this line to tell me i don't need God or commandments because i call my own shots.

regardless of your own personal beliefs, i'm sure you can see the differences in the two philosophies.

there are thousands of instances like this that you can see all over the place.

in case you're once again unaware, i served a mission for the lds church. the handbook for such missionaries is called Preach My Gospel, and is quite a little number. anyway, one of the big points it tries to emphasize in both studying and teaching from the scriptures is that context is essential. to understand a verse, one must have and understanding of its context as a prerequisite. (this is one reason why there are so many different ideas branching from the same Bible, but that's another story... that you can read about here if you're curious.) i think that's why i'm so uptight about things like this. when you talk to people for two years, often discussing the same nine or ten scriptures, trying to show them how understanding the context of a given passage can make all the difference in the world, by nature you begin to get, not defensive, but sensitive to such errors.

anyway, i just found the flier ironic and wanted an excuse to make a post. it provided the opportunity well enough. so be sure that when you quote, you not only cite your sources, you know your sources well enough to quote them (and not require a pencil wielding english literature major to point out any philosophical holes).

Monday, March 23, 2009


autumn and i had the grand opportunity this last saturday to go to utah lake's finer areas and enjoy half a day reading dune and eating little debbies. it was great.

if you'd like photos of the day or to read autumn's side of the story, you can find what your looking for here.

for the braver bunch, you're welcome to stick around.

waste out weekends aren't really satisfying if you stay around the house. sure, you can find satisfaction in watching humorous youtube videos and never actually changing out of your pyjamas--but it's all a bit hollow. you need to go somewhere and do something. and what something is to be done? here i quote ferris bueller and say, "how can i possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?" in addition to that, the last week was a nightmare, and after finishing another string of exams, i proved my generation and felt entitled to a day out.
and it was pretty awesome.

besides, we were reading. surely that counts for something.

in addition to read, we also had a grand time skipping stones, tasting the dirt from unpaved roads as one of us accidentally kicked up a pocket, and having a dog named bobo follow us in the car (we eventually had to drive back to where his owner was to get him to return).

it was a nice time. i felt very tom sawyer as we boarded the somewhat neglected dock on the edge of one part of the lake. any time losing your balance means falling into a batch of cattails you know you're living a life worth the living.

the cattails bring me to the next point.
i had no idea a spot like this even existed in utah. if you look at the photos (again, found here) you'll find a somewhat odd combination of ecosystems present. it's like this.

anyway, it was a grand time in an unexpectedly pleasant environment. good day all and all.

and now back to school.

Friday, March 20, 2009


don't you love the unexpected? two days ago i booted my laptop and was greeted with a single error message. it locked the computer so i wound up having to manually cut the power and then reboot. this time, it didn't shut down, but boy oh boy did my anti-virus software have a few things to say to me. i was on my rather slow computer for about a minute and suddenly my desktop was a mosaic of virus alerts and messages stating that messages i had sent were not delivered because the respective recipient e-mail noted it as spam. which of course it was.

so, it seemed that somehow someone had attempted to use my computer as a spam server. i enlisted brad (my resident computer whiz roommate) and we began file hunting to try to destroy the virus. we were moderately successful. after the virus alert's ten minute cycle of alerting me that "my" e-mails were undelivered, we explored and found "s.exe", which was mysteriously installed earlier that day. i'm still not sure how exactly i downloaded this file without realizing it, but oh well. anyway, eventually we killed the file and anything touching it so we could actually operate the computer as with the file still up it insisted on keeping full demand of my processor. we cleaned the place out and were finally able to reboot in safe mode.

blessed be the computer engineer who was the cause of the "system restore" feature. he (or she, to be fair) has saved my digital heinie more times than i can count, so thanks.

anyway, it was eventually cleared off and the system was restored to 8:38 am of the same day and all was well. well, almost.

you see, because i was uncertain as to the nature of my viral friend, i was unware of it's intent. fearing it would either have ben a key stroke memory program or one that could download my firefox details, i borrowed brad's computer and flushed out all my old passwords with new ones. this all went fine except when i later tried to log back onto my gmail account.

this is my theory as to what happened: gmail was the first password i reset. i usually try to have four main passwords: an easy one for things i don't care about, a medium one for things that are important, a hard one for things that are very important or are normally especially easy to hack, and an impossible one for anything to do with money. well, gmail is the third one. very difficult. and... apparently in my haste to reset all my passwords, i forgot to write down what i changed it to, and thus i had now idea what pattern or what have you was my password, spent half an hour guessing and failing, and eventually had to wait a day and restore it with my security question. so it all turned out in the end, but what a train of events.

the final thought i had after all of this was simply that, if my computer is to be hacked, please make the hack cool enough that even though i'm mad, i'm still impressed. for example, zero cool from the film hackers. pull a stunt like his, and i'll be angry but still impressed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the worm is the spice... the spice is the worm.

autumn purchased dune on saturday, and we were able to watch it the same night. i'd forgotten how awesome that book was.

i think i read it when i was a sophomore in highschool. i'm guessing this because i think i gave it to shane york in mr. millward's classroom when i had finished. anyway, it's always fun to sort of rediscover something you enjoyed at one point, but had since forgotten. it's good stuff.

for those unaquainted with dune, muad'dib, melange and house atreides, let me begin by informing you that patrick stewart is in the film. this alone would make it worth seeing the film as he stars as gurney halleck, who happens to be a favorite character of mine. if nothing here can sway you to read the book, maybe this can sway you to see the movie. both are worth doing, but nobody has all the time in the world, so i'll understand either way. but yeah, patrick is great here, so don't miss out.

i won't bother spending time giving you a synopsis because there are many available already (wikipedia has a winner as always, click here). however, it is awesome, and you should check it out if you're at all a sci-fi type. to be honest, i don't really even consider myself a sci-fi person beyond star wars (flight of the navigator and the last starfighter don't count, i think... but i love those in case you were wondering). so if you enjoyed that, you'll probably like this as well.
because it's awesome.

and now, on a completely unrelated note, i'd like to share something i felt might be of interest to anyone who found interest in this post.

i'm not sure i've ever seen sci-fi and fantasy blended in such a beautiful way. it's like the best of both worlds (though the star wars galaxy is cooler... at least in the film world). and on that note, goodbye for now.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

the power of print screen.

i love how software that's every feature you can imagine to warp, color, invert or ruin an image always has self imposed restrictions on them so you need to keep using that program until the piece is finished.

well, i just had my new photo taken for my student id.
it h
ad to be replaced because of byu's new id policy, and i wanted to be able to mess with the hue in order to make it a bit more interesting, suffice to say. however, the photoshop program available insisted it knew better than i did and yata yata yata, it wouldn't allow me to use certain functions because i had removed most of the color. and i was annoyed by this.

so, to strongarm the software (or outsmart it), i simply starting using the print screen key and then using microsoft paint. this sort of worked, but what really came out of it, was realizing i could save the file in paint and keep opening it back up in photoshop. i did so repeatedly, played with some sizing, and the result is the above photo, which is now my profile photo. it may change again soon, but i had to enjoy it for a bit.

the lesson of this story is simple. programs will often a)think they're smarter than you and not allow certain actions or b)want to limit your usage to get you to buy the full program or so on and so forth. however, you've the power to overcome such digital tyranny. there is always a way around if you're too lazy or too cheep to get it done at the mercy of software. this adventure's tactic was the print screen key, but there are so many others. use them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

trash drama.

just a quick entry.
so, last week there was a get together of sorts at my apartment complex. i didn't go.

but my roommate did, and he was so generous as to offer to even throw away a pickle jar afterward. instead, though, he forgot and it somehow wound up in front of our door. i didn't think anything much of it, until someone felt that it was either an invitation or it was annoying, and decided to send some sort of message by leaving a jug of expired milk next to it.
not feeling it was my responsibility, i left it there, and so did everyone else.

apparently, this didn't get the intended message across, so the phantom went one violent step further.
you've got me what his motivation was, but he violently emptied the jug of its expired contents and gently returned it to its place at our door.

then someone else joined the fun, but it wasn't as interesting.
all they did was open the pickle jar (possibly relieving themselves in it) and added two root beer bottles.

someone else cleaned it up eventually. probably the phantom who put it there in the first place.

like i said, not the most exciting post i've ever written, but random enough of an event chain that i thought i'd share.

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a bump in night (and other nocturnal onomatopoeias).

noise is weird. it's just a bizarre concept to me that something that exists somewhere around me has the ability to affect my brain by hitting something or utilizing some fleshy flaps in its throat to shout (or howl, or croak, etc.).

last night i was rather tired, and such noises seemed to be clouding around me. very strange. there were indeed some bumps as noted by the title, and indeed other nocturnal onomatopoeias as also noted. some personal favorites were hearing a door on the floor below slammed hard enough that the wall shook for a second afterward, a boy screaming like a girl and attempting to sing like a teen pop-star, my roommates discussion about whether or not the dashboard feature on macs is cool, and the sporadic sounds of a heavy drill that reminded me of both a hardware store and dentist's chair.

i think that there was probably a point in my life that i would have been bothered by this. a time where i wouldn't have been able to sleep with my roommate blasting nickelback and the apartment across the hall having what i would presume to be an irish drinking game by the noise content if i were at any other university.

but if there was, that time is past. these days, it's almost like some sort of collegiate lullaby that i've adapted to. it may or may not be bettering my sleep, but be it known that it can't really stop it either.

eat that, onomatopoeias. in your face.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

when storms seem to be staring.

the midterm nightmare period of the last two weeks is finally over. and thank goodness.

i'm currently in what you could equate to the eye of a storm. the current two weeks are void of any tests, papers, or group projects. one half of the storm has passed over, we're the placid center now, awaiting the second half of the storm to come and throw the oak tree behind my apartment three streets over.

the interesting thing is, it doesn't seem to be one big clump. almost as if this eye was actually two eyes which have met, and will cross and then continue with their respective storms. please see the diagram on the left.

it's clear here that the respective storms have individual courses and only meet by happen stance. however, this happenstance is going to be extremely satisfying as it means for once i can actually study all my class subjects rather than simply studying for each one for two days prior to exams.

you also note that it kind of looks like the storm is staring.

and now i have time to make stupid diagrams for a blog. hooray!