Sunday, August 19, 2012


Welcome to the palindrome Q&A post! I hope you enjoy.

Q: What is a palindrome?

A: A palindrome is a sequence of characters that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. Consider the word "racecar". If you read it front-to-back you get the letters r-a-c-e-c-a-r. If you read it backwards you get the letters r-a-c-e-c-a-r. So, "racecar" is a palindrome because it's the same backwards and forwards. You can make palindromes out of numbers, and those are the ones that you'll see most on my Facebook wall. the sequence "13331" is a palindrome. Get the idea?

Q: Why do you keep posting pictures of odometers on your wall?

A: I post pictures of odometers when they are palindromic, or when they read the same forwards as they do backwards. This is a special event in the life of each odometer and I think that it deserves to be recognized. Depending on how many miles your car has, this may or may not happen all that often. It's a fun nerdy hobby. Some people watch birds. Other people watch odometers. 

Q: Where do you get all of these pictures?

A: I posted my first palindromic odometer picture of June 29th, 2012. By August 19th I had received 27 pictures from friends of their own odometers when they achieved palindromicity (note: that's not actually a word..... yet). People from all walks of life have snagged the pictures and sent them in. So far I have received pictures from Utah, Idaho, California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Montana, Wyoming, and Maryland. Only 41 states to go! I'm not sure why, but everybody seems to love catching their odometer when its a palindrome. I honestly never expected this to catch on. I've been shocked by the number of people that come up to me in the real world and tell me that they're working hard to find me a palindrome. It's a pretty great feeling. 

Q: Okay, I want to play, how do I help?

A: You can help by taking a picture of your odometer the next time that it is palindromic. It should likely happen somewhere in the next 1100 miles. Snag a picture of it when it is palindromic and send me the photo. The easiest way is to send me a facebook message or an email at cjthatcher, you know, at Attach the photo as well as any additional information you want to include. I can't promise it will be posted super quickly-- I have a backlog and I don't want to spam people by posting more than one a day, but I do promise that it will be posted. 

Q: Taking these pictures while driving sounds pretty dangerous...

A: So, you're right. You should definitely do everything you can to be safe while you take this picture. My favorite method is to drive with a buddy and have them take the picture while you drive like a normal human being. If that is not possible, consider pulling off to the side of the road (you know, uh, safely). As much as I love palindromes, I feel like your life is worth more than a cell-phone-camera-quality picture of a cool string of numbers. Please be safe. 

Q: So, uhh, aren't you worried that no one will ever go on a date with you again because you post about number theory on Facebook every night?

A: Yes.

Q: What if I think this is all sort of stupid, can we still be friends?

A: Absolutely! I have great respect for people who thinks palindromes are stupid. 

Leave me a comment if you have any other questions that I haven't covered yet. Much love~

Growing Body of Evidence

I saw this piece of news on a website that I sometimes read. While I choose to take a neutral stance on the issue, I do believe that this evidence is worth taking into consideration when discussing such topics.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that dogs (especially puppies) cause cancer and most genocide events. Nine out of ten oncologists agree that you shouldn't let them in your house unless you are slowly trying to kill yourself or those that you love. 

You can see the full article here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dating - A Nerd's Perspective

Hi, I'm Chris Thatcher, and I misuse commas. I try to look at dating like I look at math and it doesn't always work. I think I'm a decent guy, and I'm looking for a spectacular girl. This post is a little bit out there for me-- it's not something that I'd be comfortable writing all the time. For whatever reason I have written it tonight, and I feel pretty good about it. My hope is that this post doesn't discourage anyone. I've written down a lot of my feelings towards dating. Most of them are fears, but I promise that this is not all negative. As always, I really appreciate comments and hope that you'll enjoy the post.

Dating-- oh how I would like to do that. One of the less understood things in my life. I will once again echo the refrain that Levi told me. "I know exactly what I want in every single aspect of my life except dating". A lot of questions. Incredibly far reaching consequences.

I have a few general policies here on the blog. One of those policies is  to never complain (coincidentally, another policy is to never split the infinitive of a verb, but you can see how well I'm doing at that...) I may or may not break this policy all the time.  The other policy is to never mention specifics about relationships. It's just bad practice. The good news is that my life is pretty dang free of relationships right now. Since I have virtually no interaction with the opposite gender outside of a few texts a week, there is nobody out there that can read this post and be like "Oh my gosh, I think he's talking about me!" So, because of that, I think I will outline a few of the challenges I feel like I'm facing with dating.

I do not intend for this to be discouraging for anyone. Nor do I intend for it to be complain-y. I do intend for it to be enlightening- mostly for my own benefit. I think that stuff like this has value not because it carries with it any inherent truth or understanding, but because it is indicative of what I perceive as my challenges right now. How am I feeling? A valuable part of understanding a situation is less about what the true circumstances are and more about how people are responding to those true circumstances.

So, what scares me about dating? Dating scares me because I recognize that I can fall in love with someone that's not perfect for me. I know that at the end of the day this is right-- it is functioning as designed. I know that no one will be perfect for me. But what if I pick someone that's like, not-that-great for me? I can fall in love with that person and we can be happy together. But why couldn't I have picked someone that was, you know, great for me? I know I won't find perfect, but I'm always afraid that any choice I make won't be optimal. The good news behind this is that I'm convinced that love is real and is more important than the optimal solution.

I'm scared of getting into a "plan b" relationship and then missing the boat on "plan a". How often does someone come along that you are legitimately interested in? Not just a fleeting, "Hey, I could maybe see myself dating this person..." , but someone that makes you think "I will move Heaven and Earth if only for the chance to date her!" Thoughts like this, though rare, do happen to me. So what do you do when that doesn't work out? What do you do when there's no one that currently inspires you to move mountains? Do you pursue the "I could maybe see myself dating this person"- person? Do you hold out and trust that next time will go better than the last awkward time you called a girl on the phone? What is the appropriate response? Where do you draw the line between waiting for that perfect person and doing the best with what is currently available?

I have decided that you can't quantify people. You cannot assign a numeric value to someone. The Levi inside of me would love that to work out. I can't do it. I don't think anyone can. Nor can you know how things will work out in the future. This was the case a lot on the mission. How am I going to be in two years? How is this person going to be in two years? Well, person Y gets back in X months, do I just hold off till then? Will person Y's value in X months exceed person Z's value right now? See, stuff like that doesn't work out. I think it's a good thing it doesn't work out. I am still a little bummed that my normal approach is useless here.

One important thing- people appreciate over time. That is, they become worth more to me over time. When I've felt like there is no one that currently inspires me to move mountains I have never intend to throw all the wonderful girls around me under the bus. I'm sure that there are people that, given time, would inspire me to move mountains. I just haven't discovered that yet. I feel like I've been blessed with an ability to care about people. I'm so grateful for this. But that care takes time to develop. It's hard to have a superficial understanding of someone and care deeply about them. So how do you develop that care? Do you just pick someone that looks promising and get to know them so you can care about them deeply? Is that the gamble I want to play? Do you do a general approach, get to know everyone, and then gamble from there based on preliminary results? Do you pick the best looking one and hope that works out? Random number generators? Come on now, anything would help.

I appreciate chick flicks and love songs because they make me feel stuff in my heart that I don't get to feel that often. I have friends that classify themselves as romantics. I guess that's not me. But when I watch a good chick flick or listen to great songs that I could have slow-danced to at a region dance, it really makes me want to date someone-- it really makes me want to care deeply about someone and spend the rest of my life helping them be happy. There's a very natural desire and need there that occasionally gets buried in the text books and nerdiness of day to day life. Feelings vary wildly, but I'm grateful for the feelings that kick me in the butt and get me out the door and on a date.

I had a great talk with a great friend the other day. He expressed his fear of making decisions based on fleeting emotions. He basically said that he knew he would face a situation where he would feel a certain way. He knows exactly how he'll feel in three months, but he won't know why he feels that way. Will he want to move mountains for this girl because that's what he truly wants or because he's been out of town forever? Because he won't be able to ascertain why he feels that way he has decided that he will ignore the feeling altogether.

This scares me to death. Yeah, feelings are fleeting-- but I think we have them for a reason. Without them I'm sure we'd all grow up to be excellent and lonely engineers. So that's a question for the books- where do we draw the line between what we think and what we feel? Can we trust our feelings exclusively? Can we trust our mind exclusively? When do we throw one out the window in favor of the other?

So where do I stand? The truth is that I think things are alright. Fear is the opposite of faith, right? So why do I say that things scare me to death if I'm trying to be faithful? Well, I still have my concerns. Heck, I still have my fears. I'm working on this faith thing, but I'm man enough to say that I haven't perfect it yet.

Here's what I think. I think that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I think that it's absurd to wait forever for the perfect girl. I do not want to be 40 and lonely because I passed by a trillion excellent girls in pursuit of the nonexistent perfect girl. I don't want to pass up excellent people because they did not impress me in the first superficial seven seconds I spent evaluating them. People's true worth will probably never be known, but I know that I certainly can't approximate it in seven seconds. People deserve a chance.

I think that one day I'm going to meet someone that inspires me to move mountains for her. She will impress me on multiple levels and I will be willing to make a fool of myself to get her to notice me. I will make a valiant attempt-- this attempt will likely be entirely ridiculous. Note that so far none of this is new. It has happened multiple times in the past. The new part is that this girl that inspires me to move mountains will also think I'm pretty cool. Someday I will be impressed by someone that is at least partially impressed by me too. I will logically know that this is a good choice, and I'll feel it too. I won't have to throw either heart or mind out the window because both will be on board. When this happens, we will both be available in one way or another. Timing has historically been my enemy, but when things work out, well shoot, they will work out.

When things work out, I won't feel like I'm playing on insane difficulty when it comes to the relationship. When things work out, they will work. All these questions without answers will stop being such a big deal because we'll both feel that this is working out. We'll both be able to see it working out. We'll wonder why we thought it was so terribly difficult in the first place-- we didn't have to spend forever and a day agonizing over every unanswered question, we just had to find each other.

(oh gag me-- I sound so sappy)

So, somewhere, someday, this is going to work out. Of that I am confident. Until then, well, I'll do the best I can I guess. But I'm sure there's a solution out there for me. And my favorite part of all that is knowing that whoever my solution is, I get to be her solution. Because after all, this is a two way street. I'm searching, sure, but she's gotta be searching too, right? I mean, me trying to find a needle in a haystack isn't the world's easiest thing, but if that needle is trying to find me, well boy howdy, it should go at least twice as fast that way, right?

Dating is complicated. It's not math, and because it's not math it's a little bit over my head sometimes. There's a huge part of me that just wishes I could text girls and ask them out. Society indicates that that's not okay, and fine, I'll play by your rules. At the end of the day I often feel like I'm not cut out for all of this. But hey, that's the way the game is right now. I trust that one day I will find a solution, and because of that I am willing to play the game.

Hmm, it has been good to write tonight. Dating can often be discouraging, but I don't feel so discouraged right now. We work and do the best we can, and one day things work out. Sign me up for that.

Writing to Reach You II

There is a song by Travis titled "Writing to Reach You". I don't particularly like the song and I'm not writing this post to 'reach' anyone. It is, however, an awesome title. So I'm using it.

Tonight I feel a little off, and since tomorrow is a holiday and I don't have work, I'm doing something I haven't done for years. I'm listening to Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband -- Dream Big and writing a blog post. This used to be the song I'd listen to whenever I'd make plans for the future. It's a good song.

Life is different for me than it has ever been before. I've never quite been where I am right now. It has its ups and downs. The ups are pretty excellent. My job is absolutely perfect for me. I couldn't possibly ask for anything better. I have been incredibly blessed in this one. I'm learning a lot. Things are going very well at the singles' ward down here. I have a calling that I love and things are moving forward there. I'm living at home and I'm able to spend all day long with my family. I spend the work day with a few of my brothers and then get to see the rest of my family almost every evening. Things are great.

My social life, unfortunately, is quite dead. That's something that I would like to fix. I really loved the way things were going in Logan right before semester ended. I was super comfortable in my environment. I knew nearly everyone around me and we were able to do fun stuff pretty often. I miss that. My social circle right now is my immediate family. I love my family, but I know that I need to get out there and build a social life. No matter how antisocial I pretend to be, I know that I need that social interaction in order to be a happy person. I'm totally grumpy when I don't get out.

As last semester drew to a close I vowed that I would make this the best summer ever. In order to accomplish this I had some specific goals and initiatives set up. I haven't gotten there yet. A few things I was hoping for fell through. Things aren't as feasible as I once hoped they would be. I have some adjustments that I need to make. I will say that so far this summer has not been the best summer ever. The good news is that it is yet young. I recognize that it's going to come down to my choices. I can make choices that will make this the best summer ever. What those choices are, well, I don't quite know yet.

It has been said that life is simultaneously full of scarcity and surplus. I have so much time for family and economic progress right now it's insane. I have good opportunity to really serve and make a difference in this sphere. I have no car, no social life, and no time for naps when I need them. Things have never quite been like this before.

You know, it seems it always takes me a little while to get comfortable and confident in a new situation. I show up to a new place and have some rough days to start. It always makes me wonder-- I'm not particularly used to or fond of rough days. I wonder what I am doing that leads to discouragement or lack of success. Over time, though, things start to get better.

There's a lot to be said about experience. There's a lot to be said about making a mistake and then knowing how to avoid that mistake next time. There's something to be said about knowing and caring about the people around you. These are things that come with time. It's a little foolish to assume that I can walk into a situation and immediately excel. It's not surprising that things start out rough.

I've been learning this with work. There is so much you can learn about principles, but at the end of the day you need to be familiar with the with which you are working. Principles can help you get familiar a little faster, but when push comes to shove it's going to take you time to figure things out. Once you have them figured out, however, you can become pretty powerful. This is one reason that I love my job so much. For the first time in my life I'm getting real experience in something that I plan to work in for the rest of my life. This is huge.

Life is good. Life is simultaneously difficult. That's the way things are, and I think that that is by design. I don't know precisely what decisions I need to make in order to improve my situation, but I would like to start moving in that direction. Things are on the up and up. We're going to get there, you know.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Four Minutes to Remember How Small We Are

Sorry the sizing doesn't quite work out. So, you may have asked yourself "What would I do if I were stuck on the International Space Station for weeks at a time?" The answer, apparently, is make wicked sick time lapse videos in order to remind us of our own mortality. Four minutes-- probably worth your time. Give it a look.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Live Blog From CSII

12:33 PM- Hey, this is Chris Thatcher here, live blogging my own attempt to stay awake through a whole class of CS1410. I have fallen asleep in class each of the last six times I have attended. My goal for today is to stay awake for the entire 50 minutes of class. I have come to the conclusion that taking notes during class doesn't quite do it for me. I am therefore live-blogging this event. Wish my luck.

12:34 PM- Looking at binary trees. Now we're talking about typedef- this is important, I should pay attention. Hmm, typedef

so, typedef Node* Nodeptr; // This means that we can use Nodeptr to refer to Node*. So, more convenient I suppose.

12:37 PM- I gave myself a haircut last night. I think it turned out alright, but not great. It's a lot easier to cut someone else's hair than it is to cut your own. It's pretty apparent that I didn't get everything even. I think I'll probably fix it up tonight. Question: What's the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut? Answer: about a week and a half. Well then, friends, I'll see you in about a week and a half.

12:39 PM- Our assignment for this week is to make a learning binary tree. I don't feel like it should be too difficult- chances are I'll need lots more time than I anticipate. It always happens like that. It's basically a linked list, just a tiny bit more complicated. I think I can make this work.

12:40 PM- Quick laptop check around the room performed by yours truly: Girl to my left was just on canvas checking her calendar. Guy in front of her is checking Google+ (he's not a Facebook man, apparently). Guy to my right is coding in some IDE I don't recognize. Distance operator is on Facebook. Guy on far left is in Visual Studio taking notes, good for him. I'm in the newly redesigned Blogger typing a post. I will say that I highly dislike Google's new trend of using buttons without text. I love to hit the button that says "New Post". I despise having to mouse over three different buttons to see the tooltips before I know which new textless button means new post. I just see no advantage to using textless buttons. How many illiterate people are going to be writing new blog posts? Are we really trying to cater to the illiterate blogging population by making the interface more accessible to them? As I wrote that, I realized that this might make life easier for translation- if you offer this service to users in Spanish as well, you no longer have to translate your button's text. Only issue? Still need to translate the tooltip, so no real gain made. I don't like how gmail now uses images instead of text for buttons. I'm a text man, dangit. I didn't learn to read for nothing.

12:45 PM - Professor just mentioned that what he had just written on the board would be on the final exam. I failed to copy it down before it got erased. Alas.

12:46 - I decided to stop typing and pay more attention for a bit. That led to me getting drowsy. Yeah, that took all of 1.5 minutes to happen. Could be a long class period. You know, it's not that I don't love this class, because I really do. I love CS. I think the problems we are solving right now are awesome. I really like this professor's teaching style. So it's not boredom- it's just plain out sleepiness.

12:49 - Okay, the professor is pretty much coding the whole assignment for me. So I'll take some quick notes

I wrote some code here, but didn't really want that showing up in search results. It is now in a text file where I take normal class notes.

Now we're using a binary tree to do some binary searching. Coolish. Mmm, I want to go to Betos.

12:51 PM - Now he's mentioning stuff that we learned last time. I must have been entirely asleep for that part. My bad. Thank goodness for good books that cover the same material.

12:57 PM - I am a huge proponent of mice over trackpads. I do not love trackpads. My speed is greatly reduced when I'm restricted to the track pad. I see *tons* of people using the trackpad as their primary device on campus- even when they're at a place where it would make sense to use a mouse. I see roommates do it in the apartment. I'm grateful that trackpads exist. I'd choose a mouse with bad breath over a trackpad with a 10 dollar bill any day.

1:02 PM - There's a couple in this class that always cuddles during lecture time. I'm glad that's not me. Not because that wouldn't be fun, but because I don't think I would learn anything-- I'd be far too distracted. Not sure how they do it. They both appear to be doing well in the course. Then again, I sleep through lecture and am doing alright in the course, so to each his own and all that.

1:05 PM - Update: the kid who was checking Google+ earlier is now checking Facebook. I guess he's dual wielding his social networks. I wonder which one he prefers. I could spend the rest of the semester taking careful data on how much time he spends on each one during class, but that doesn't sound like much fun. I'd probably fall asleep before I got any good data.

1:07 PM - Today is definitely a fast food after class kind of day. I wonder if I will find someone to go with me or if I will go eat by myself. People are always very friendly when you go get a burger by yourself. I think they assume that you are trying to drown your loneliness in food. It's not so much about being lonely as it is about eating delicious food. Toss up between Carl's Jr. and El Sol right now. Learning towards Carl's, just because it feels more like a Carl's day than an El Sol day.

1:10 PM - I'm quite glad I'm staying awake today. I'm learning a lot.

1:13 PM - Note to self, I will certainly need extra time to debug this assignment when I get to writing it. Don't let me procrastinate starting it, okay? Thanks.

1:14 PM - Great news! Only six more minutes and then I will have stayed awake during the whole class. w00t!

1:19 PM - I made it! Score! Now I'm off to do some grading. Everybody loves grading! Thanks for sticking around for the live blog. Much love y'all, have a great Friday.

1:25 PM - Upstairs now, but the office I'm supposed to occupy (#OccupyTheGraderOffice) isn't available for another five minutes. You, my loyal readers, are therefore awarded two free rambling thoughts.

#1 -> It's tradition on campus to wear your game day Tshirt to school on Friday. I think it stems from the fact that we have football games on Fridays. It's not at all uncommon to see people running around in their navy blue shirts on a day like today. Since it is nearly laundry day, I too am wearing the game day shirt. I am always tempted to be totally obnoxious on days like today. Whenever I see a girl wearing her gameday shirt I want to go up to her and make a big old deal about the fact that we are wearing matching shirts. "Oh my gosh, we're matching! That's so incredible! I can't believe this! What are the odds? Wow, how did you decide to wear this shirt today? That's so weird- it must be destiny". Yeah, I've never actually done that, but I imagine it'd be a good time. Put that one on the list of "stupid things I feel like doing but hopefully won't ever do"

#2 -> There's something fun going on outside on the quad today. I'm not sure what it is. I probably won't visit. But it looks fun. I bet I could score some free food if I went. Hmmm. I may just change my mind. We'll see.

Well, it looks like I can go make my political protest in the grader office now. I'm not sure what I'm demanding, but I'm pretty sure that will just help me fit in with the rest of the disgruntled crowd. Word.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Week as an English Major

April 15, 2012. Last night I stayed up all night programming for Google Code Jam. It was the qualifying round, and you needed 20 points out of 100 to move on to the next round (okay, so the bar was set low). I scored 45/100, and my buddy Dallin got 60/100.

I recognize that the chances of me getting out of the next round alive are slim-to-nill. I'm not competing in this contest to win- I'm competing in it to learn and grow as a person. I want to be an excellent programmer, but I know I'm still a total noob. The way to get better, I figure, is to consistently work on it. So that's what I'm trying to do- throw myself up against problems that need to be solved so that I can get better at solving them. The problems I solved last night were trivial, and it took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to solve them. But the truth is, that's okay with me. You better believe I'm going to do much better next year. And that's why I do these things, because I know that my actions today are going to affect my abilities tomorrow. I'm super stoked that I live in a world where I am able to pursue my dreams like this. The great news is that there are resources available. If you want to get better at something, chances are you can find a way to do it. I like having things to work on.

I watched Much Ado About Nothing yesterday with a great neighbor of mine. I had completely forgotten how awesome William Shakespeare was. That guy had serious moves. He was a true master of his craft. It was awesome to see a good play put on by very good actors. Sure, there are flaws to it, but it was a great moment for me. For some reason I had forgotten that the world wasn't made up entirely of amateurs. We get so very used to the mediocre. Yesterday it was great to see (arguably) the best playwright ever's work put on by (pretty great) actors that got paid a whole lot. I loved his writing. It reminded me how much I love English in general. I am not an English major, but I feel like there's a portion of me that would like to be. I remember how much I wrote in the past and how much I loved doing it. I remember how much I loved reading and analyzing. There's a huge part of me that just loves that stuff, but I don't get to express that part too often. It was good to let the English major inside of me out for a while.

I haven't had much homework this week. It has led to more free time, more social interaction, and in general a wider-range of thought and consideration. My thoughts and energy haven't been funneled entirely into homework of only one variety. In a way it feels like a historical trip to the past. Back in the blessed days of high school we learned about so many things at once. All of public schooling was designed to teach us a wide variety of important things. In college we're allowed to specialize. But just because I'm not studying History or English or Choir anymore doesn't mean that I don't love them and want them to be part of my life. Let's be completely honest, I read an article in the Atlantic and Kayne West and Jay-Z two nights ago just because I wanted some more variety.

I don't say this in any way to indicate that I am dissatisfied with my studies- I am super happy with my studies right now. All I'm saying is that we as people are so much more than what we study. We are so much more than what we choose to do for work. I can't let that define me. Being good at math doesn't mean I'm a poetic retard. Being a decent programmer doesn't make me socially inept or incapable of dominating a public speaking assignment. I suppose that I had gotten into that mindset earlier. It's nice to be out of it.

So, here I am, with three weeks left in the semester: loving life. I'm not sure how these three weeks will turn out. I'm sure the relative calm of this week will be replaced by the tornadoes of bookstore work, grading, assignments, tests, and the horrific experience that is moving out of an apartment and passing cleaning checks. There will be academic-all-nighters (Year to date: 3), a few dates (oh I sure hope so), the freedom and splurging that comes at the end of finals. I'm sure it'll be a good experience.

It's strange to confront such a finite range of time and recognize how important it is. Three weeks, that's all. Understanding that the people with which I've been in close proximity for nearly 8 months will all be gone in three weeks means that if ever there was a time to try to make friends, it is now. Procrastinating this one for more than 21 days will likely mean that the opportunity is gone. Academically speaking, despite the hard work we've all put in over the past 11-ish weeks, we could toss it all away if we stopped trying right now. So many things will change over these next three weeks. The really strange thing for me is that I know there will come a time when I will look back on those three weeks and know exactly how they went. I'll know which games the Utah Jazz won and which games they lost. I'll know which games our Ultimate team has won and lost-- I will likely know the contributing factors to the outcomes of those games. I will know what my final Java project ended up being, and I'll know exactly what was on the final in CS 1410. Right now all of those things are unknowns. Knowing them would certainly help right now.

I guess what I mean to say is that the future isn't written and that my decisions are going to change things forever. As terrifying as that is, I know that that's how things have been going since the beginning. Who will I choose to be for the next 21 days? Surely my decisions will impact the kind of person I am at the end of these three weeks. Who will I talk with? In what will I spend my time? It's all in the air. With what are clearly unclear consequences for every action, I am chronically stepping into the future and shaping my destiny as I go.

Is this terrifying? I'm not sure yet. It is at once empowering and staggering. Is there some predetermined outcome that, if not reached, will be considered "failure"? Or is this simply the freestyle section of the dancing game for the Kinect, you know, where you get to dance like a maniac for no good reason and then you see the sped-up video of it afterwards? Is there something I'm "supposed" to be making of myself, or is this simply a time to make of myself what I wish and then to live and thrive with the results? I tend to believe that it is the latter. When you start an RPG you make decisions about which class you will play and which abilities you will develop. Those choices are not meant to punish the uninformed, but rather to enrich the experience. I feel like that's how we are now. We're choosing who we'll be. The abilities and characteristics that we choose to develop now will certainly be with us for the rest of the game. We will use them, repeatedly, the beat bad guys and further the story line. At the end of the day, I hope to use them to rescue a princess. But the truth is, I could rescue the princess as a sentinel, soldier, or engineer. My choice to be a sentinel doesn't mean that's the only choice. I suppose that the most important thing of it all is that we make the most of the choices that we do make. If I am going to be a sentinel, I better be a dang good sentinel. Go big or go home.

Only 21 days remain in which I can make choices as a student during Spring semester of 2012. Roughly 100 or so days have already passed- my choices have brought me precisely -here-. Where will I be in three weeks? Geographically speaking, I'll be back at home, 90 minutes away. I'll likely be sitting at this very keyboard, typing on this very blog. But the person I am will be different. I'm hoping to be a better version of myself by then. I like remembering these things. They're not new thoughts. I'm sure you could find a nearly identical post somewhere in the archives. But it's important for me to remember them so I can keep them in perspective. It's important for me to write and use big words. I do enjoy the person that I am becoming. I'm happy to be where I am, and I'm grateful for all the mentors and friends that have helped me get here. I certainly wouldn't be who I am today without the great help and support of those around me.

Well friends, this pseudo-English major is headed to bed. Thanks for sticking around. Y'all mean a lot to me. I hope you're doing well and that life is treating you great. Things are rough sometimes, but that doesn't mean that things aren't okay.

(8) There's a reason for the world-- You and I (8)
(The Riddle - Five for Fighting) (and yes, I did just use the old MSN messenger emoticon key for the 8th note)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

This Nigerian Prince Needs Your Help

I have loved getting involved with the Computer Science department at Utah State. The department has been running a cool project for the past several years where they document all the bugs that commonly face beginning CS students. We've been doing some fairly aggressive data mining this semester in order to help beginning students not hate the major so much. Unfortunately for everybody, CS has a pretty high attrition rate. A sizeable percentage of students that start out as CS majors end up changing majors in the first three semesters or so. This would be alright, except for the fact that there is a huge demand for good developers in the country that is not being met. While I'm not exactly sad about this (high demand means high pay, assuming I can be one of those talented developers), we are all trying to do our part to stop the bleeding.

The department asked a few students to record a short video explaining why we decided to study CS and why it is pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread. The idea is to make these available online so we can steal people from the Engineering majors and other related lameness. They told us to make the videos jargon-less, that is, so anybody could understand.

So, I'd like your help. I think I did a decent job, but I'd really appreciate if y'all could give my video a look and tell me what you think. I promise it won't go over your head. If by the end of it you don't want to change your major and study CS, well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Thanks y'all :) My video is the third one down on the page.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


The trouble with a sunburn is that it is an unexpected change in appearance, hydration, and self-esteem.

I spent 80 minutes outside today and came home with the most substantial sunburn I've had in at least a year. It's not a bad sunburn by any means, but that doesn't stop me from catching my red face in the mirror and thinking "Doofus!" every time I wash my hands. My multi-colored and splotchy arms are a reminder that even though I think I'm tough I am entirely powerless to survive in the sun under my own power. For all the work I do to keep myself alive, three hours in the sun without protection would turn me into a grumpy old person who doesn't move very fast. A sunburn is a worthwhile reminder of my own mortality. I think my least favorite part is having such a visible reminder of my oversight. Most stupid mistakes go unnoticed. I classify not wearing sun-screen as a stupid mistake, and I therefore naturally expect to sweep it under the rug like most other stupid mistakes. Despite its categorization as "weak-sauce", this blunder insists on declaring itself in shiny red discoloration all over my forehead. It's a visible reminder that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. "Oh hey guys, guess how stupid I was this weekend..."

I realized something today. I've never been turned down by a girl for not being nerdy enough. I've never been passed up for a job or anything like that on those grounds either. It makes me wonder, then, why so much of my life is focused on becoming more nerdy. The good news? My secret plan is totally working. I am nerdier today than I have ever been before. If these trends continue I'll be incapable of normal social interaction by fall semester of 2014. Just think of how much homework I'll get done once I am universally shunned by all other human beings. My productivity will go through the roof.

You know what I love? I love the flavor of the week program. I love the idea of being able to try something new at a reduced price (for a limited time only!). Case in point: Subways sub of the month, or whatever they called it. For one month a new sub is a five-dollar footlong. That just makes me happy. I've never ever bought one, but the idea is appealing to me. When one is single, I think similar things happen. There are flavors of the day or week or month. Sometimes we know that the idea won't stick around for long, but for at least a day we have one target. If you're me, you'll never ever talk to her anyways, but it's nice to actually have a target for a day instead of moping in the realm of "I've got nothing". I appreciate the flavor of the week program. Maybe one day I should man up and purchase the sandwich and actually talk to a girl. One day, one day...

Today has a song of the day. Not because today has any particular connection to this song, but because this song is a very good song that I like very much. There is no reason that this couldn't be the song of yesterday or the day before that. Today's song of the day is Sweet and Low, by Augustana. Will I embed the youtube video? Of course I will embed the Youtube video. I can vouch for the video- it doesn't contain any objectionable content. It is, in fact, safe for work.

Well friends, I'm out. I hope y'all have a good weekend. Catch conference if you can, it'll be great. One day, in the distant future, I will not have math homework hanging over my head. I'll have a job where I work on solving compelling problems. I'll have health insurance and a wife. Give me those four things, and shoot, I'll be a happy camper.

I've got to make it known, though, that I'm a happy camper right now, too. Life is good. Things are going excellent. I've got something to work for. Word, y'all have a good night. Enjoy the music.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A List of Things That I Would Like to Abolish

I have a really hard time with Tuesday and Thursday classes. The hour-and-a-half time limit just seems far too long for me. I have a Java class that is Tuesday/Thursday. I haven't been on time to that class more than a handful of times this semester. It's not that I'm not passionate about the material- because let's be honest, I love it. I recognize that being good at Java is directly tied to how much money I can expect to make in the next few years. I really like my instructor too- he's a total stallion and he's good at what he does. Sure, the lectures aren't the most exciting thing I've ever seen, but it's still good material. I just don't love Tuesday and Thursday classes. I know there's no real way to avoid them, but I'll try to minimize them in the future.

I also struggle with classes that are defined as the first class of the day. I am pretty good at being on time to classes that are after the first one, but shoot, I'm never on time to my first class. I would love to abolish the first class in general, but I realize that doing that isn't really mathematically possible. Curse you, well-ordering principle!

This gives me an idea. I'm going to start a list. I will probably update this list as time goes on. I am open to suggestions to the list. Here's what I've got so far.

A List of Things I'd Like to Abolish:

  • The first class of the day. To it I am always late. In it I am often asleep. If my first class were my second class, my transcript would look far better than it does.

  • Girls who wear rings but aren't married. Confession: I have no idea on which hand the wedding ring actually goes. I have texted my roommates twice since I've been back at school to double check. I see cute girls all the time with a ring on their ring finger, but since I'm incapable of remembering which hand counts as married, I have no idea whether I should talk to her or not. Is she single and she just likes rings? Is she married and would I be a dirtbag for talking to her? She has a ring on, but it's on her left hand. What if it were on her right hand? I have no idea. So, with these problems in mind, it makes more sense for me to abolish the wearing of any rings unless someone is married than for me to actually learn which hand is the marriage one. You know what we call this? This is ambiguity. It could mean one thing, but it might also mean another thing entirely. A program won't even compile if it's got ambiguity in it! Since I can't tell if a girl is married or not, I have no idea how I should operate around her. My life would be much less ambiguous if that ring finger were kept open on both hands until a wedding ring is there.

  • Speaking of relationship ambiguity- can we abolish those that do not have their relationship status posted on facebook? I've been guilty of this one in the past, yeah, my bad. In my defense, this is not a rational list- this is just me being ridiculous. Hypocrisy is allowed in a ridiculous list, right? So here's my beef with the no relationship status on facebook: I'm a researcher. Before I ask someone out or go indicate that I have any degree of interest in someone, I want to do my research. This preliminary research usually takes the form of a facebook stalk. Call me crazy, but you wouldn't buy a car without checking online first, right? Same story, I'm not about to go invest time/energy without some initial facebook stalking. The biggest thing I want to know is whether or not a girl is dating someone. A normal human being would just go talk to her and find out. I'm not even close to a normal human being, so I'm going to ignore the suggestion that I ditch my anti-social tendencies. Anywhom, this lack of relationship disclosure on facebook leaves me in the dark. How am I supposed to know if I can ask her out? It's just like the ring thing, except I can be confused without even being in the same room as a girl this way. To solve this problem, we should make relationship status a mandatory disclosure on facebook. Those that are found to be falsifying information will be drawn and quartered-- it's only fair. Since the "it's complicated" status can be potentially confusing, I think we should just make it a radio button that says "Chris Thatcher can ask me out" or "Chris Thatcher shouldn't ask me out". Two options-- clear as day. That way we don't even have to know about your relationship status. Those that want to remain dating someone anonymously can do so. All we just need to know how you feel about me. This is a great idea. I'll email Mark Zuckerberg right now.

Alright, so if you're new to the blog I should probably include this warning: I'm not really a dirtbag, I promise. But hey, every once in a while you need to throw out a ridiculous list, so here I am. I invite anybody with something they want abolished to leave a comment and to let me know. The revolution starts here, apparently.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Over Achiever

You know what I love about being a Computer Science student? I love the fact that I can go above and beyond on assignments. I love being able to put in an extra hour or two to make my program that much better than it would have been otherwise.

I just finished up an assignment for 1410. I had a great time doing it and I feel like I did a good job. The truth is, the last two hours I spent on it were pretty superfluous. I'm a grader for CS 1400- I know that we don't spend more than three minutes on each assignment if we can help it. If it functions like it is supposed to and doesn't have the glaring errors we check for, it gets credit and is passed on. I just spent an extra two hours making my program awesome, and there's a good chance that nobody will ever really notice it. I'm okay with that. I'm pretty proud of me.

Now, I think I should make it clear that my program isn't really all that awesome. It fulfills the requirements of the assignment in a little bit cooler way than it could have. I love it because it is mine. It's not revolutionary, but it's something I did and I therefore feel some pride in my work.

I feel like this is a good sign. I'm enjoying the work that I'm doing. Even though my math homework is a mean mean mistress, I do enjoy solving the problems. I love my CS homework even more. Grading is tedious, but it's still fun for me. I've got the best majors in the world.

I get worried pretty often that I'm not good enough yet. I'm certainly not at the level that I'd like to be. It's good to remind myself that I'm still but a wee lad when it comes to this schooling stuff. As far as computer science goes, I might as well be a freshman. I have a few years ahead of me where I'll be taking classes full-time so I can learn this stuff. I hope to one day be excellent. I'm not there yet, but I feel like I'm moving in the right direction.

So, this is me. Certainly without enough sleep, but satisfied and happy to be working on my education right now. There are good days and bad days when it comes to school, but I feel like today was a good day. I hope that things are going well for y'all as well.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Survival from Dave's Place

It's Friday night, and I survived the first week back from Spring break. You remember that time that I posted every night for a week? Yeah, that was because I had no school and no homework. This week has been awesome- I've had tons of work and haven't had a ton of time to relax. I really do value my time writing here, I just wish that I had more of it.

This week had a ton of grading for CS 1400. It's getting much easier and it really is a satisfying job for me. It's fun for me to try to help the kids in the class. I leave gigantic comments and try to teach stuff as I'm forced to take off points. I feel like it has helped me understand the basic concepts. I guess that it's a little unusual for an undergraduate student to have a grader position in the department. It's also unusual for someone who speaks English as their first language. We're working on a really cool research project where we document all the bugs that beginning undergraduate students have troubles with. It's tedious, but the end goal is that we understand better how to teach and help students. Computer Science has a huge attrition rate- somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of kids that start in the major drop out by the time they're through with CS3 (and yes, that 50% was just made up on the spot. It's still pretty high). Our goal in this project is to work on reducing that. I'm trying as a grader to help kids come along. I do love teaching and helping.

I'm attending a math conference this weekend. Yeah, you read that right, a math conference. Last week was the state math competition, and this week is the MAA conference. There was an awesome talk tonight on the pancake flipping problem. Tomorrow morning I'm giving a 15 minute talk on the Frobenius number problem, particularly comparing the lower-bound for sets of size 3 with their actual Frobenius numbers. I'm enjoying the conference a lot more than I thought that I would. It has been a busy week, and preparing for the conference added a lot of stress. Since it isn't directly related to my GPA it has been hard for me to justify delaying other things in order to get ready. It has been worth it so far. I've learned a lot and had a good experience.

I feel like things are going well academically. At the same time, I occasionally get this feeling that I've skipped a million steps and don't really belong here. I once felt like I knew calculus very well. That was years ago, and now I consider myself a complete n00b when it comes to calc. There was an integration bee at the math conference today. None of us from Utah State entered, but I would have got owned had I tried. I'm but a small lad in a big world. Like a little kid trying to wear big-boy pants. Same story for CS. I'm working hard and learning a ton, but I tend to surround myself with people that are way better at all this than I am.

Fitting Example: Last semester I had three math classes. Linear Algebra, Discrete Math, and Intro to Probability. So, there were three undergraduate-teaching-fellows that taught those classes- Scott, Dave, and Sarah. These people are awesome. So, there are four of us undergraduates that drove down to the math conference together today. I drove the tempo with Dave, Sarah, and Scott. It was way fun. In math we don't tend to separate ourselves too much. Last semester they were very clearly my superiors. They helped teach my classes, let's be honest. But today we're all just colleagues or contemporaries. I respect them a ton and they respect me as well. Given that I took a probability class, I'll just point out now that the probability of me driving a car from Logan to Salt Lake to attend a conference with the three undergrad-teaching-fellows I had last semester is pretty low. I wouldn't have seen this coming last semester. I'm grateful for the opportunity, definitely.

I've felt stressed this week, and I am way less friendly when I am stressed. My goal for this next week is to fall asleep thinking about something that is not math. I can't tell you how many times this week I've woken up in the middle of the night and can tell, despite not being more than 30% conscious, that I was working on math. Not that I'm capable of working on math when I'm asleep, but just that my brain was running all sorts of circles around the ideas. Yeah, this doesn't normally happen, and I'm taking it as a bad sign. Well, not the healthiest sign. But definitely nerdy, and generally that's a good thing for me.

Because of the stress level this week I don't feel like I've been making great decisions. I've needed to go grocery shopping since Monday. It is now Friday, and I never went. I've been out of milk since I left for Spring break. This has led to me not eating breakfast. I'll be honest- I don't love eating breakfast. I do believe it's important. I can survive without it, but I'm a firm believer that my days go better when I eat breakfast. Today I woke up, got ready, and threw down some oatmeal. Today was awesome. I need to take care of myself. In an effort to work uber hard this week I didn't take great care of myself, and that has led to me being unable to work uber hard. It's better for me to take care of myself.

I have found social life to be more difficult than I was hoping it would be. I am convinced that finding a girlfriend is NP-Hard. Maybe the fact that I have classified the computational complexity of finding a girlfriend is a good indication that maybe I should try a less nerdy approach to socializing.

Westminster has a pretty cool campus, by the way. We were there today and its pretty posh. I wouldn't attend, clearly, but I liked the old and classy feel that it had to it.

So what's the news? I'm glad to have made it through this week. I'm not quite through yet- I have several more hours that I need to dedicate to my optimization homework before Monday morning. Once I give this talk tomorrow morning, those hours of homework are the last things that stand between me and rest. I'm looking forward to that rest.

Well friends, I'm alive. Surviving. Here crashing at Dave's folk's house on the East side for the night before we all go back to the conference tomorrow. This should be a cool weekend. It's amazing we've made it this far. I hope y'all are doing great. This cat is going to get ready for bed. w00t.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Strong Force

Levi and I worked on registering our intramural team for ultimate tonight. We settled on the name "The Strong Force" as a play on a sweet physics principle and a great defensive mantra. The online system allows your team to have a logo, so I spent a little bit tonight whipping this up in Gimp. 'Hope you like it. Intramural championship here we come.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


We played Ultimate tonight. Despite the fears of high winds and fairly low turnout things ended up spectacular. The wind died down and we had a blast playing 5 on 5 on a shortened field.

Before game time me and my brother were both brushing our teeth, getting ready to go play. I told him that tonight I was going to lay-out for a touchdown. Laying-out, or "going-ho" as Kyle likes to call it (the ho stands for "horizontal", by the way), is ultimate terminology for diving to catch a disc. It's pretty much the height of awesomeness within the sport. There are few things that are more manly than throwing yourself through the air to catch an object that you shouldn't possibly be able to reach.

The thing about setting a goal like that is that the situation is not entirely within your control. Sure, you can play your heart out and make an attempt, but in order to succeed at all this a moment must exist when you are the exact distance away from a disc traveling at exactly the right speed at exactly the right direction to make it impossible to reach on foot and yet possible to reach by air. It's sort of tricky business, and tends to spawn run-on sentences as you can clearly see.

About 20 minutes or so into playing tonight I got my golden momente. Somebody threw a toss to one of my teammates in the end-zone, but the throw was too high and the other player had no chance at it. I was further back, towards the middle of the zone, and saw the disc coming. I ran at it like crazy. As I got closer I got the feeling that this was actually going to work. It was far enough away, but not too far. There was no way I'd get it without the dive. The disc was in that magical zone right between possibility and impossibility. It's rare that you get those sweet opportunities. Those chances to stretch yourself, as I commented a few nights ago, are few and far between. They are worth seeking after. It wasn't an easy catch; it wasn't an impossible catch. It was right where I wanted it.

I dove and made it. I flew at it belly-down, right arm extended for the catch. I made the connection then rotated to land and slide on my back and shoulder- all the while holding the disc straight up in the air to signify that I had made the completion. I had met my goal.

The thing to know about all of this: that catch felt great. I'm used to feeling good about things. The feeling you get when the test gets handed back and you find out that you got a killer score- the feeling you get when you get the email saying you got the position you applied for- all that jazz. I'm even used to that feeling in basketball and video games. You know, the feeling you get when you get a triple-kill in Halo or Dota? Yeah, that's the one.There's a good feeling that comes with triumph. Something about chemicals in the brain. What I've got to say is that the pure sense of victory and win that rushed through my brain when I made that catch trumps all of them. I haven't felt that awesome in a long time. I was surprised at how great it felt, really. Ultimate, as much as I love it, is entirely inconsequential. I'm not sure why a game that is so unimportant could stir such a physiological response from me. What I do know is that it did, and it felt great. I felt like a total all-star.

In hindsight, the combination of great weather, endorphins, and the presence of an exceedingly cute girl 10 feet away when I made the catch all probably have something to do with it. The girl is dating someone (tragedy, really), but that in no way interfered with my primordial manly desire to show off what a total stallion I think I am. There's something deep within us that wants to be the greatest on the field. That part of us wants to outperform everyone, including our own expectations and limitations. It felt like that part of me was dancing, on fire, in the middle of the Large Hadron Collider after I made that catch.

Most things I do make sense in my brain. The huge rush or satisfaction I got when I made that catch? Yeah, totally not expecting that. I was expecting to feel good, but not that good. I guess I cared about it a lot more than I thought I did.

That's my triumphant story of the night. Not so much that I made the catch (even though it was pretty sweet), but moreso that I felt so good about it. It's good to be human and to feel passionate about things sometimes. Even if they are inconsequential and not "mission-critical", it is awesome to care. Our ability to feel is something to be treasured. Tonight I felt like a stud-muffin, and that means the world to me. Tomorrow I'll feel something different. Chances are I won't like it as much, but I know that it will be valuable and will change me into the person that I am the day after tomorrow.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Break Successes

It's 4:17 AM and I'm writing a blog post. Must be Spring Break. I feel like I'm in high school again-- living at home, playing dota (2), and writing posts while staying up uber late. It's nice to be back in this world, at least for a little bit.

Today had three great successes. They are mostly inconsequential, but that's what Spring break is all about, right? Without further ado, the three coolest things that happened today.

  1. I just played an awesome game of dota 2. I random'ed whatever they call the old harbinger. Outworldly something-or-other. He's the intel hero whose ulti computes the difference between your intelligence and the bad guys' intelligence and then does 10x that much damage to them. I ended up going 12-10 or something like that. My record wasn't incredible, but the last two pushes that won the game were both fueled by me getting ultra kills on their whole time. I had an orchid, shiva's, and was in the middle of building a scythe. I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 230 intel. I was an insane DPS machine with the meanest ulti in the game. So, yeah, we played like a team and I feel awesome about the contribution I made. Not bad for still being a noob.

  2. I jogged between four and five miles today. I decided I wanted to do our old Monday morning distance run, except a little shorter. Had I gone full distance it would have been closer to nine miles, but since I didn't have a team with me and had all the time in the world, I jogged the first half and then intermittently walked and jogged back. I took a few minutes to sit down and watch the river go past, it was pretty nice to just take it easy. I feel good about hitting my goal to run it today. The best part about it was that it totally regulated my blood sugar all day long. I'm not quite sure what's up, but my body is a ton more responsive to insulin today than normal. I suppose it's the increased activity level (it's been years since I've run this far). I guess I should make this a more regular occurrence, I'm sure my kidneys will thank me for it.

  3. Today was a good hair day.

Word up friends. I hope y'all are doing well. Keep up the good work, I'll catch y'all on the flip side.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy 8th Anniversary to The Other Dentist

In ninth grade I got an assignment from Mr. Brough to find out which blogging service would best fit the needs of our Journalism class. I did some research and suggested that Brough have the students use blogger. He assigned us all to create a blog and write at least two posts. That was eight years ago. Most of the blogs that were created back in that day have since died, but I know a few that are still kicking. Ha, we don't go down too easily.

Happy pi day to everybody out there. That's really the only way that I know the anniversary- my first post was about pi day. I'm glad to see that I was a nerd back in ninth grade. That was eight years ago, apparently. Can you believe it? I feel like it was longer, honestly. I was a much different person in 9th grade. Same basic makeup, I suppose, but with much less experience. I'm confident that I'll look back in another 8 years and say the same thing about me right now. Same basic person, but can you imagine the experience that I'll have in 8 years? I should have a family and career by then. That's pretty insane. I might be driving a car that is not from 1993. Now that'd be pretty hardcore.

I spent the day up in Logan, proctoring the state math competition for high school and junior high kids. I loved attending the competition while I was in school, and I jumped at the opportunity to proctor this year. The whole concept is pretty simple: A few professors at the host university (it rotates every year) write two exceedingly difficult math tests, one for high school kids and another for junior high kids. Kids from every school in the state

(Err, surrounding region? Not sure) are bussed up to come take this radical test. We anticipated 2,200 kids on campus today. I didn't hear the final count, but it looked pretty realistic. The test is designed to be at least partially way over the head of most kids. There are some problems that are fairly easy, some that are difficult, but most that are just a little obscure and that never get treated by a high school math course. It's more of an exercise in problem solving than in hardcore mathematics. I haven't taken this years test (although I happen to have three copies of it in my backpack for a future time when Me, Levi, and Kyle want to nerd out together).

The thing that I love so much about the state math competition is that it really doesn't matter. I mean sure, we get to gather some information on how one school compares to another school in math, and we get to compare male vs. female scores for all grades and all that. But aside from the data collection, the scores don't really matter. I suppose that if you did incredibly well you would be offered a scholarship or something, but I haven't really seen it happen. It's just a chance to take a day off of school, visit a college campus, and try your hardest to solve some pretty difficult problems.

I was very impressed with the students in my room today. They are required to spend at least 1.5 hours on the test, but can take as much as 2.5 hours if they want. Once the first 1.5 hours were over we had a little more than half of the kids leave- they had clearly done as much as they knew how. The other half stuck around and just kept on trying. They were working uber hard to solve problems they'd never looked at before. These problems had exactly no bearing on their grade or chances at university acceptance. There existed something within the students that urged them to solve as many problems as they could, despite the fact that they were difficult and largely useless.

I'm impressed with the tenacity that I saw today. It takes a special kind of individual to throw themselves wholeheartedly at a problem whose solution is largely insignificant. Having participated in this event multiple times I can tell you that it truly doesn't matter. But here they were, students, in droves, fighting like crazy to do just a little bit better than the other guy. Or maybe not even better than the other guy, maybe they just wanted to prove to themselves that they were that good. Or perhaps it wasn't about proof at all, maybe it was just about discovering their true limits as a math nerd. It's not every day that you get a test that is so difficult that you can't possibly get 100 percent on it (note: it is not impossible to get 100 percent on this test. It is just highly unlikely).

Opportunities to push ourselves this hard don't come along too often. We don't normally get to push as hard as we can. We most often just push super hard and the car either moves or it doesn't. It is rare that we can push as hard as we can, see some small movement, and then keep pushing as hard as we can and keep moving forward. It's like this sweet mushy spot of progress that makes me happy. I think the state math test does that. You get to push your brain as hard as you can against it. It's not like doing that will give you 100 percent, and its' not like doing that will give you 0 percent. You end up splattered somewhere in the middle, and that is where you lie. I love standardized testing.

Scoring on the test is worth mentioning. Leaving a question blank is worth 1 point. Marking an incorrect answer on a question is worth minus 2 points. Getting a question correct is worth 5 points. Some students were advocating the "If you don't know, don't guess" strategy. I think that's totally bogus. Assuming that we have 5 options, a blind guess will result in +5 points one-out-of-five times. If it weren't for the minus penalty, you'd be striking even with not putting anything at all. So, if probability holds, we could guess on five questions. Four of them would be wrong, for minus 8 points, and one of them would be right, for plus 5. We're at a -3 right now.

The cool thing about multiple choice tests is that you can eliminate answers that you know are not correct. If you can eliminate one answer, all the sudden you are gaining +1.25 points on every guess instead of just +1. If you eliminate two, or three, you are dominating. The elimination game in standardized testing is way too valuable to ignore. I wish somebody would teach this in high school. When it comes to scoring high on exams, you are going to need to be able to guess. Knowing how to guess is definitely going to come in handy.

In the past 24 hours I've only had about 70 minutes of sleep, so I'm going to head to bed. Merry pi day to everybody out there. I hope life is going well. Here's to continued postage.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Becoming Prolific

I was once a prolific blogger. I feel like I added value to myself as I wrote. I learned more about who I am and what I care about. I appreciated all the comments and encouragement that I received from readers. It really is what kept me going.

I'm at a point where I want to become a prolific blogger once again. I've almost always had this desire. I think that my audience, in large part, has refreshed. There will be a few old familiar faces, but more or less I will be writing to a completely new group of people. I'm convinced that most of those people don't exist yet.

I feel strange writing this. I'm still trying to write to the old audience. There are certain things that I have typed and then erased- this is not the fearless writing style that I espouses throughout my high school blogging career. The things that I'm thinking about writing about (ha, that's an about sandwich with writing in the middle of it) are not necessarily innocuous things. My current plan is to write about the way that I think and feel about things. If someone were attempting to stalk me this would be the new place to do it. I'm planning to write how I feel about school, politics, social issues, etc. etc. I want to do this because I'm feeling increasingly insulated socially. I have discovered that I require a fairly large amount of social interaction. If I don't get this interaction I get a little cranky.

Now, typing blindly to an audience that may or may not exist doesn't really seem like suitable social interaction, but I am confident that it will produce the results that I am looking for.

So I'm not sure what this will all turn into. But I want to start writing often again. Doing so will require me to be more vulnerable than I have recently been. Vulnerability is an interesting topic- it means that I share more than usual and am therefore more apt to get pwned for it. I feel like this is a good change for me to make, so I'm going to go ahead and give it a shot.

Just a quick shout-out to a few of my blogging heroes- particularly Jaron and Nate. They are good fellows that add value to the spaces they inhabit.

So, here's to more content. I can't guarantee quality content, but I can certainly guarantee some increased quantity of it. I have found a direct correlation to the number of naps that I take and the number of posts that I write. Since this is Spring Break I took a massive nap today. Hmm.

Well, here's to a new kind of Dentist. I hope this goes well.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Facebook Lent

Happy Friday evening folks. I'm here to announce another fun decision. I've decided to go on an official Facebook fast until I finish my "Learn Java in 21 days" book. I'm currently on day 6, and I'm hoping that this will give me some motivation to finish it.

I programmed a sweet solver to the Frobenius number problem yesterday. It's not the most efficient algorithm ever, but I feel like it rocks. Coolest thing I've ever coded in Java, hands down.

School is going really well. My classes are awesome and I feel like I'm making progress with networking with professors and all that. I'm enjoying my job and moving forward with social life I suppose.

Anywhom, I hope all is well for y'all. Have a good evening. peace

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I have a rocky relationship with late nights. What I mean to say by that is that except for one big thing, I love everything about late nights.

I could go on and on about how I love doing homework when all my roommates are asleep so the apartment is quiet and without distraction. I could talk about how I feel like I can focus like crazy at night time and get everything done. I could talk about how nobody ever schedules anything this late at night so there's no way I could ever be late to something. I could talk about how it offers me a chance to think and ponder and read and write without falling asleep (if I tried any of those things during the afternoon I'd be out cold in a heartbeat). I love late nights.

My one complaint, the whole reason this relationship is a little rocky, is how other people act late at night. Many individuals have commented that they laugh at things that aren't funny late at night. This is usually expressed as something like
"oh my gosh, I'm so tired, I can't stop laughing and it's not even that funny."
Here's the issue: there's nothing I love more than making people laugh. It's what I do when I'm with a group. Like anything, though, I draw energy from my audience. If I'm making jokes and people are laughing and having a good time, shoot, that's the best. I get on a roll and keep building on things and we have a great time. I feel like an all-star whenever that happens. It's rare, but boy howdy is it fun.

When it comes to late nights, most of my skills and abilities are sharpened. I feel like I think, focus, and do math better as the night progresses. I used to think that the same was true of my humor. People just laughed more the later it got.

It ends up that I'm not any funnier late at night.

People just laugh more because they're tired. That's all.

See, that's why me and late nights are in this situation right now. You know, the situation where we're in couple's therapy because we really need to "work some things out". I love late nights, but the fact that she gets my hopes up- making me think I'm the funniest guy in the apartment complex- and then shatters the illusion is really getting me down. I mean sure, I like making people laugh, but when they're not laughing because I'm funny, well, come on now, that's like beating little kids at basketball. You don't want the easy wins. You want the good ones! Let me beat someone at basketball that can tie their own shoes for once.

So that's my rocky relationship with late nights. I hope y'all are doing well. Peace out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Landing Page

So, let's be honest, I have nothing noteworthy to post tonight. I just made a ridiculous picture to put on Facebook and felt stupid uploading it without my obligatory blog-promotion on it.

I therefore bid a fond welcome to any of you who have stumbled here via facebook trying to join the crusade to stop gorgeous girls from going on missions. It is, in fact, not a real crusade. It does not reflect the views or opinions of 20th century Fox or its affiliates. Levi wanted me to make it clear that he was not involved. I'm not really starting a crusade, I just felt like making a funny image.

So, yeah, if that's not a dissappointing post I don't know what is. I hope this doesn't make me a terrible person. For the record I'm totally down with girls going on missions. Even gorgeous ones. If we really wanted to stop it from happening we'd ask them to marry us. While we all sigh when someone completely gorgeous leaves our presence for 18 months, we know it's for a good cause. We do not discourage it. The mission is the best thing I've ever done in my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't discourage anyone from going- gorgeous or not. So, with that disclaimer in mind- welcome to the crusade.