Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Week Without the 'Book - Life Graphs

I am a grapher. I love graphing different things in my life to help me understand what is going on and what I should do about it. Graphs are super cool because you can explain the relationship between any number of things in the blink of an eye. There's a depth of understanding that comes from a graph. You know what's happening now, what happened a minute ago, and you certainly know what will happen as time approaches infinity.

I want to write about something I've been thinking about that I'm calling life graphs. A life graph is a Radar Chart or Star Plot. The idea is pretty easy- you put five lines (or howev
er many you want, you know, like n) coming out from the center. Each line represents something important that you can assign a value to. I know for a fact that Dance Dance Revolution once used a radar chart called a "Groove Radar" to show you how difficult a song was. Pokemon (at least in one of the guides) used to show how good a pokemon was using radar charts. Following their good lead, let's think about humans instead of Polywraths.

Consider a life graph with 5 axes (that's axises for those of you from central and southern Utah...) that represent five important aspects of life- school, work, family, spiritual stuff, social stuff. Depending on how you rate yourself on those things, we can make a sweet radar graph. Check it out.

So our friend Pablo has got the social stuff down- but he's lacking in other categories. The life graph is fun for looking at strengths and weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

One of the cool things about radar graphs is that their area does not increase linearly- it goes up as a square. A graph of [1,1, 1, 1, 1] has one quarter the area of a [2, 2, 2, 2, 2] graph. Moral of the story? If we take total graph area to represent satisfaction with life, a small improvement in one area can lead to a disproportionately large increase in area and happiness. Theoretically, of course.

An important thing to note is that these axes (axises...) are completely arbitrary. This is just an idea, so we could toss any ridiculous axes in there we want. We could have a 7-spoked graph or a 12-spoked graph. I suppose that deep down, as humans, we have certain things that are truly important to us, whether we recognize it or not. Perhaps there is an official life graph inside of us that we don't fully recognize. Maybe we should find out what its axes are.

An important thing to note is that the relative values on the axes are not necessarily weighted the same between different axes. A score of 20 on my "Starcraft II l33t skillz" axis probably isn't worth as much as a 20 on my "school" axis. Visually, this means that each one unit in my SCII axis doesn't move me as far away from the origin as every one unit does in my school axis.

I've been feeling lately that life is about balance. Our life graphs are constantly fluctuating. A month and a half ago my school axis was dominating and my social axis was pretty shallow. These days my social axis is doing much better- but possibly at the expense of school. I find that it is very difficult to dominate at all things at once. In the words of a wiser man, life exists in both abundance and scarcity at the same time. My goal right now is to balance and therefore increase area.

Spencer had a great application. He suggested a "wife graph" instead of a "life graph". The current idea is a 4-spoked graph that quickly evaluates any marriage candidate based on our ridiculous ideas. We think it'd be nice if these graphs were displayed automatically when girls walked into the room. Maybe we'll program an app for that...

Consider the following examples:

"Maria" (a fictional character) is lacking a brain- which is a total shame. See, aren't graphs fun?

Girl Y (also fictional) has balance. See, I told you graphs were fun.

We could go on and on, but we probably shouldn't. What is the moral of the story? Why have you read this far? Because graphs are cool and can be used to understand ourselves and others. I understand that this is a complete oversimplification of the whole system, but it is the idea that counts. These things are not that stable.

Here's the optional homework for willing candidates.

1) Make your own life graph. Figure out how many axes you want, figure out what you want those axes to be, and then evaluate yourself on them. I've had fun evaluating things between 0 and 6, but you can use whatever scale you want. After you do that, take a look at what you want to work on and make a goal to do so. Balance is important, but remember that that doesn't mean backing down on your high scores- it just means bringing your low scores up. A change from a 2 to a 3 is pretty significant. This brings up some significant questions that we can address. What are the axes that are important to me? What is truly going to give me satisfaction with life? Where are am I doing well? Where do I need to improve? What do I need to do to improve in that area? A quote from the guys I don't know talking in my living room right now: "I'd rather be decent at socializing than fantastic at hoops" (I'm assuming he's referring to basketball). I know people that would disagree. We define our own graphs here based on our priorities.

2) Make your ideal wife graph (or dude graph, you know, if that's what you're into). Here's the only catch: You get as many axes as you want (which you can define yourselves) and you only get to use 50% of the available points. So, if you label each axis from zero to six and have four axes there would be a total of 24 points available. In that case you only get to use 12. The reason? Priorities :) One trillion bonus points to anyone who wants to share their graphs- whether anonymous or publicly.

Thanks for reading this post that has been altogether too long and way different than normal. I love the idea of the life graph, and have had a blast explaining it to my roommates using our whiteboard as a fridge today. Just imagine this post except a million times shorter and with moving dynamic pictures instead of jpgs. Yeah, it was that good. I hope you're all doing well. Have a great night!

My Week Without the 'Book - Day One

Happy Tuesday friends- it has been a good day. I made a decision over the Thanksgiving break that I would go one week without using Facebook. I did it mostly because I find myself wasting a lot of time on it and because I thought it would make for a good experiment. It's surprising how many times I check that blasted site per day. The only reason I know that now is because I've had to stop myself from checking it exactly that many times in the past 24 hours. I don't have an exact number, but I know that it is large.

So, here I am, writing in order to satisfy whatever strange desire I have for social interaction via my keyboard.

In a previous comment, "Johnson" asked if I had gotten my [Talk to a random girl on campus without mentioning the weather] achievement that I established during my week of the blue T-shirt. I'm proud to report that today, strictly because of that comment, I did so. I talked to a girl named Krista on the hill. She is nice. We had a good talk and I purposely didn't mention the weather. We got to a point where she was turning left. I had the choice to go left or straight- either way my distance was the same. I was enjoying talking to her but knew that if it went on much longer the weather would probably come up in some shape or form, so I opted to travel the other direction just to be safe. Call me a pansy, but I'm sitting on 10 achievement points because of it. I'll take that over human interaction any day. Oh wait...

Life is going quite well. I decided to shamelessly promote my blog via the 'Book earlier this week and the response was pretty overwhelming. I'm a total Google Analytics fanboy and the numbers were a lot of fun to watch. I posted my shameless plug on Sunday, November 27th. That day I had 51 visits and a total of 116 pageviews (that's 2.274 pageviews per visit). As a reference, in the month previous to the 27th I averaged 5.6 visits per day with each visitor seeing an average of 1.6 pages. So, with one status update on the 'Book I had the best day the blog has ever had and surpassed my average by nine times. Sweet. I appreciate all the visits and especially the kind things that were said.

I had a job interview yesterday and I feel like it went really well. I've never had a job interview before, if you can believe that. I applied for a temporary position at the bookstore here at Utah State. I've always had a dream of working there. There is always a huge rush at the end of semester so they hire a ton of four week employees. I wore khakis Monday morning on a whim- ha, I felt cool walking into the interview like I had planned that. It was an interesting experience- I walked into this little office where there were three girls sitting behind one desk. They told me to close the door behind me and then they introduced themselves. They alternated asking questions from an evaluation sheet and jotted down notes and a numeric rating for answers that I gave.

I don't feel like I did awesome with the answers, but I figure it went okay. I'll be honest- I absolutely love tests and this whole experience was a lot like a test. It might as well have been 13 "short answer" questions. I didn't have a ton of time to think of killer answers, but I did my best. I should know tomorrow or Thursday whether or not I got the job. I sure hope I get it.

There are only three weeks left of school and I'm working hard to leave this semester with a very competitive GPA. I find it interesting that my lowest grades throughout my scholastic career have always been in math classes. With the exception of a B+ in a physics class, my transcript is all A's except for my math classes. In fact, I haven't gotten an A in any math class up here at Utah State (A-'s don't count). So, funny that I'm here as a math major even though that's the most challenging thing I've done scholastically.

Great news on the math front. My stallion of a math professor, Dr. Brown, is teaching a course next semester on computational complexity. It's a readings course (by invite only, I think), but I really want to see what I can do to get invited. The course lives right between computer science and mathematics. The idea is to look at how mathematically complex the algorithms to solve certain problems are and see what can be done to make them less complex. Since I'm dualing in math and computer science that course is exactly where I want to be. Taking it would leave me sitting on 18 credits and a nasty workload, but I really want to try it. Opportunities are cool.

Alright, I'm out of here. I hope y'all have a great day. Don't forget symmetric matrices.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Best of TheOtherDentist

Happy Friday, friends. I hope that you're all doing great. Life here is good. Great things are happening for me and my family. We've really been overwhelmed with the goodness of the people that surround us. People take their lives and their decisions seriously, and I love it. We're all in this together (cue James and Levi to start singing High School Musical...).

This blog has meant many things to me over the years. As it becomes large and unwieldy (I will hit my 500th post in no time) I have decided to post a "Best of TheOtherDentist" guide to help new visitors get a feel for what it has all been about. I've been rambling here since the 9th grade. What started out as an assignment for my Journalism class has turned into something that has helped me better understand myself and, hopefully, make the world a little better place.

The unwritten goal of this blog has always been that: to make the world a better place. My theory on world-benefiting is different from most. Given that I am in the world, my improvement means that the world improves. Since you, loyal reader, are in the world, your improvement or benefit causes a net improvement or benefit to the whole. Sometimes that improvement comes by way of motivation or encouragement. More often, I think, it comes by way of a little smile or sunshine. I hope the blog has done that over the years.

Without further delay, my very own "Best of TheOtherDentist" list. This is not comprehensive and I don't intend for it to actually mean that this is the best. This is just a good place to start.

Posts With Meaning:

Freshman year of college- I went to a party where there was a girl I really really really really liked. I pretty much knew she liked me, but didn't do anything about it. Frustrated at this situation and recognizing that many of my comrades (yes, I did just use "comrades") were in the same boat, I wrote this post to complain.

We like our girls cute, modest, intelligent, and ninety meters away where we can't do anything stupid. We'd step in front of a bullet for them, yes we would, but when it comes to saying "hi" in the mornings we'll kindly pass, thank you very much. That bullet starts to sound mighty appetizing when it's time to graduate from texting to real phone calls, I'll tell you what.

We are a noble class of gentlemen. We get good grades. We do our duty. We tie our ties well. We've never ever offended you, your sisters, your friends, or your mom. We have no criminal record. We have clean language, and you better believe that we drive safely.
This is our anthem. Too good to settle for the easy ones, too stupid to go for the right ones, and too cowardly to go for our dreams. We are sandpaper, and proud of it.
Freshman year of college- I include this post not because I feel like it is my best writing, but because it effectively captures two of the major themes of my blog. First: I love Ultimate and get way too into it. Second (and more importantly): The way that I feel on Thursday is not the same way that I felt on Wednesday. The person that I am on Thursday owes something to the person I was on Wednesday, and ought to respect the way that I felt and decisions that I made. I hope that makes sense.

This particular post was written as we prepared to go play some kids from Murray high in Ultimate. They had been talking trash against Taylorsville and we desperately wanted to put them in their places. The match never took place. I didn't know that was going to happen when I wrote this post.

In 13 hours I'm going to start a match that I've been waiting a very long time to play. Brad's going to start a match that he wanted to play in high school but never got the chance to play. This isn't just a match for right now.

This match, like so many other things in my life, counts as a monument to the person that I've been. That person who helped put me where I am today. This match is more for him than it is for me. I know that sounds so corny and stupid, but it's sort of true.
Freshman year of college- I was really working on figuring out who I was my freshman year. I had come off of a very successful high school situation and was suddenly a very small fish in a very big pond. I learned a lot of important life lessons during this time. In an attempt to capture what I was learning I did a blogaday project where I posted every night for a month. This was day nineteen, and it was important to me.

But tonight I realized what it is that I actually fear. The thing that legitimately has me worried.

I'm afraid that I'm going to change. I'm afraid that even though I've been on fire before, I'm not going to be on fire anymore. I'm afraid that even though I used to be a runner that I'll never be a runner again.

Post-Senior year of High School- Probably the longest post I will put on this list. This post happened the same way most of my posts do- I started writing one night because I felt the need to write. I didn't have anything to say, but wrote what came to me, all stream of consciousness-like. Lots of religious undertones in this one. Pretty important ideas in this one.
Another reason that it happens is because of a dual weakness/strength that I have. My life is a sine graph. I realize that most teenagers believe that their life is a roller coaster. The math nerd inside of me knows that it's a sine graph. It's not exactly periodic, but it does *always* come back up (or down, depending on frame of reference).

11:41: "Why are things the way they are? Why, because if they were any other way, we would be asking ourselves why they are the way that they are, totally ignorant of the fact that things aren't the way that they are in the world where they're not different."
Senior Year of High School- This was my formalized theory for how relationships work as described by me right before I graduated. For better or for worse, I still pretty much feel this same way. I was on a personal finance kick and on a relationship kick, so here goes.

We've come up with the idea of investments, that is, long term investments and short term investments. We see a guy running up to a girl and giving her a hug (a la P Burn) to be a short term investment. It carries fairly high risk, but it is almost immediately either rewarding or disappointing. Its long term effects are not incredibly extensive. We classify short term investments as bold actions by a guy to get a girl's attention for at least a brief amount of time. These are very active investments.

On the other hand are long term investments. Me, Kyle, and James all see ourselves as long term-investors. Long term investments are actions taken by guys that will not immediately result in any significant recognition from a girl, but will, over time, improve our standing with them.

Creative Writing, Videos, Art, etc.:

Freshman year of college- I wrote this on a whim to make light of my brother's attempt to woo a girl that wasn't very talkative. I include it in this post because it's representative of my style at the time.

" She hadn't said it. But she hadn't argued with it either. He knew that this line of dealing with her couldn't end well. But he was desperate. Our hero had a gnawing paper-cut wound, after all.

With a happy heart he whisked her off to Chili's where they dined and enjoyed themselves. Our hero happily noted that he was one step closer to following the council of his priesthood leaders to “Get married! Now! Don't wait!”
*as a note, please don't assume I take any of my creative writing seriously. I am not one of those people.

Junior Year of High School - This isn't actually a post, it's a small "painting" I made in MS Paint. I include it because it's one of the very few artistic things I've done on my own. Word!

Junior Year of High School - Our friend Molly made a "Boy of the Week" program that she announced on her blog. I decided to officially endorse my friend Kyle as a candidate, and wrote a blog post explaining why. In this post I take almost nothing seriously and have a great time thinking of ridiculous stories. In all fairness, I must say that everything in the post is based loosely on truth.

As you know, Molly recently began taking suggestions for her "Boy of the Week" program. While I myself do not have a Boy-of-the-week program, I can see it's merit. It's not my style, but that's alright.

I have a suggestion to make for your boy of the week program, and his name is Kyle.

There are many reasons that one should consider liking Kyle Klein for a week or more. Aside from his towering stature and his rugged good looks, Kyle has a plethora of ninja-skills to back up his impressive aura of good looks.

One time, when Kyle was surrounded by communists and about to be gunned down by an execution squad, he sang the entire pokemon theme song in japanese. The Communists were so impressed that they dropped their weapons and wept for joy. Kyle later grew wings and flew back to America.
Junior Year of High School - My final project for my Junior Year AP English Composition class. We had to make a documentary. I noticed that most documentaries that I saw in class offered bold claims without any significant evidence or backing. I set forth to prove a satirical point about the need for scientific evidence. I credit Mr. Harward for teaching me some awesome stuff about literature that made this video tons of fun.

This is where I'd put a quote from the post. I can't quote an embedded youtube video. I highly reccomend you check this one out. You'll like it, I promise.
Junior Year of High School - So, I gave my sister a stapler submerged in Jello for her birthday, a la 'The Office'. I took pictures. You should look at them because they are neat.

Fun Posts:

Early Sophomore Year of High School- This was one of my first posts about Ultimate. You can tell I was young because I still referred to it as "Frisbee" and not as Ultimate. My mechanics weren't as good back in the day. I wrote about the most epic game I had ever played. Those were back in the days when Brad was still in charge of Frisbee Friday- before I became the leader and really started making things happen. This was before Kyle or Levi or James or any of my buddies started playing with us. This was back in the day when I was still the "young generation". Ha, it's great to read back and remember what it was like. Not my best writing, but definitely worth it for the walk down memory lane.

At 13-13, play starts to get fierce. It brings out the very best and worst of all the players on the field. When you make a good play, you know it, and your heart goes wild. When you screw up, it's one of the very worst feelings you've ever had. You've invested so much into the game, it hurts to lose it. Your legs hurt, your hands are getting hashed from catching, swatting, and throwing. Your lung hurt from the cold air, your breath comes out hard and short, and very frosty. But you know why you're in the game, and you know that you want to win. You put everything out there. This is when Frisbee gets real.
Right before Senior Year of High School - I had to cover for my mom at work one day, and kept a written journal (with time stamps) of important things that happened. Tons of fun.

10:12 Am - A guy with a hat that says "Terminator just walked by... gasp! A lady just walked in mid write, and is like "Do you sell only girls?" and I'm like "As far as I know... wait! There's a tuxedo over there, in white!" then she left. 2 more customers. Woman and man. Man wants to be here as much as I do. Deep breaths. Oooh, another good song. They're gonna buy something. Deep breaths.
Sophomore Year of High School - I had to include one post about track. My woes in the 3200 meter race are fully documented. This is a shorter post, rejoice!

How could I lose? The establishment was on my side.

Yeah, they lied to me. I got slaughtered. These robot boys just kept on running. I don't know how they did it. There was no mercy, they just went, and I didn't. They ran fast, but I was slow and steady.

Slow and steady doesn't win any races.

Ridiculously fast and steady, now that's where the money is at.

The Conclusion: I love my blog with a fiery passion. I have learned so much about myself as I have created it. I look through my old posts and want to include all of them. They capture who I really was and what I was really feeling at the time. I'm so glad it exists. I've realized that most of my posts are pretty similar. My style and rhythm remain the same.

This blog has always been fueled by the comments of its readers. It exists to serve the community. That means me and the great people that I've been associated with. I know that mos of my readers of yesteryear have moved on, but I'm very grateful that they were here for the ride. They gave me a reason to be good and do my best at life.

I want to continue to be me. This blog is a decent representation of who I am and where I've been. I want to live up to the hopes and dreams of the kid that wrote all these posts so long ago. How am I doing? There's a spirit of unconquerableness that always pervaded the things that I wrote back in the day. Do I still believe I'm capable of the excellence that I wrote about back in the day? I sure hope so. I can't forget who I want to be.

Thanks for reading, friends. Whether you're oldschool like Nickmo or Jaron or whether you're a new facebook-stalking friend from Germany, I hope that you find something here that will bring a smile to your face and help you make it through your day. Life is good. Much love, keep up the great work, friends.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Blast From the Past

Behold, our 9th grade Spanish project!

In 2005 me, Kyle, Levi, and James all had Spanish together in Señor Hortin's class. For one of our assignments we had to read a book, Caminos Peligrosos. Each group of four was assigned one chapter and told to make a multimedia presentation recapping the major points of the plot. The book itself was all sorts of fun. Apparently some people from Argentina (I think) went to the Yucatan peninsula to steal some artifacts in order to make ludicrous amounts of money back at home (they were probably in trouble with the mafia or something, I forget). They got to the peninsula, found the artifacts, but needed a special declaration/paper in order to get them through customs. Our story picks up when Maria Josefa (James) and Eduardo (Kyle) are trying to hassle Alonso (myself) into giving him the paper. Later we see them flee the scene of the crime and then evade police by pretending to be lovers. One million bonus points are awarded to James for being willing to play a girl and hug Kyle in a video that would eventually make it to youtube (not sure he ever saw that coming...)

Filming, audio, editing, and publishing all happened after school at my place the day before the project was due. We had initially planned to do it with video but were unable to find my brothers video camera. We improvised by taking stills with a digital camera and then recording the audio separately on my computer. Best part? Check out the picture at 2:09, you know, the one with Levi in the sweet Jazz Band jacket from T-ville. Yeah, check out the lower right hand corner. You can see the camera charging on the desk behind him.... Not sure how we missed that the first time.

The whole production was pretty rudimentary, but not too shabby for a project in 9th grade under the gun. Señor Hortin, who always tried to be a tough guy, was laughing his head off. He even took the disc down the hall to our good friend Ms. Peck and showed it to her because he knew she'd get a kick out of it too. We were approached by a lot* of agents telling us they wanted to take our film to Sundance, but we decided against it so we could focus our time on the nerd team instead. *that didn't actually happen.

There's nothing I love more than exceeding expectations. Looking back on it this project really isn't that impressive, but at the time we thought it was the coolest thing ever. There's a great feeling that comes with producing something that is good. A feeling of pride comes with it. There's an additional sense of satisfaction that comes when you can make others laugh and feel good with you. Step by tiny little step, we're going around making the world a little better of a place. For what it's worth, we made our Spanish teacher have a little bit better of a day that day. After all he did for us, we're glad we could help just a tiny bit. We're going to keep trying to make the world better. Much love y'all.

Friday, November 04, 2011


If this were Quake or Counter-Strike tonight would be the night we'd hear the announcer yell "First Blood!". Since this isn't a video game, we'll just have to be content with a picture of the parking lot. It begins!

The Week of the Blue T-Shirt: Wrap-up

Howdy friends, welcome back.

So, my father passed away last week. It wasn't too unexpected and we are very happy that he didn't have to suffer too much. He was an incredible man and I'm so proud of the person he was and the way he lived his life. I'm at peace knowing he's feeling better now and that he's doing good work. I will miss him. I hope to be the kind of man that he was.

Because of that, the week of the blue T-shirt was cut short, and I think I'm going to let it lie like that. I wanted to come back and review some of the highlights before I moved on to some other cool posts.

I had a blast with the Week of the Blue T-shirt. I had been writing myself to-do lists for a long time with varied success, but this was a completely different experience. Instead of focusing on things I had to do in order to not fail school, I was focusing on little things I could do to improve myself and raise my over-all level of happiness. This change was pretty significant for me.

I discovered that being social is something that makes me really happy despite being entirely unnatural for me. Without considerable effort on my part I tend to keep to myself on campus and everywhere else. One of the first goals I set was the goal to talk to a new girl on campus every day. This was a huge stretch for me but really paid off. I was proud of myself for doing something difficult for me. As with all things, I get better at it as I keep doing it, and I've already seen progress. It's becoming more normal for me. Today I talked to three girls on campus. I know that sounds entirely lame, but it's a big old deal for me. If this experiment were good for nothing else, that alone would have made it worth it for me.

I rediscovered the simple truth that working out makes me feel better. There's this inherent feeling of progress whenever I work out. I've got this theory that every mile counts. When it is cross country time, as the theory goes, the kid that runs 1000 miles during the summer is going to have an edge on the kid that only ran 999. Likewise, the kid that runs 1001 has an edge on the kid that only ran the 1000. Even though I haven't been very consistent and even though my workout program is anything but awesome, I feel great about making progress. I'll tell you that my abs, arms, and mile time feel better this week about themselves because of what I did last week. I can't guarantee that there is any measurable improvement over last week, but I am confident that deep down inside I'm stronger for having done those little things. The good news is that as I continue to do these little things I will continue to improve. Baby steps back into good shape, w00t.

I rediscovered that I absolutely love blogging and I love trying to influence others to do good stuff. Consistency has always been my issue. True to form, I wasn't able to complete the week like I wanted to, but I feel like the blogging experience made me a better person and gave a little nudge to other people. This is something I'd like to continue to do.

So what's the take-home message from the week? Certain choices lead to a happier me, and those choices are absolutely worth making. Most of them don't come naturally. Working out, talking to girls, programming, etc. aren't things that I just find myself doing. Every single time I did them last week they made me feel good and like I was making progress. If I can identify these things and continue to do them I will continue to improve. That's great news.

That's it for the Week of the Blue T-shirt. Thanks for being part of it, friends.

Final Score: 135/350 points (38.6% complete)
I'm calling it a success :) Stay tuned for more awesome posts.