I’m about to use the word farcical.

I just took a shower, and I have to make an observation. The entire room smelled like balls. It literally smelled like someone rubbed his balls on everything in the room. Well, everything at ball level or lower.

Other than that, today was mostly okay. I watched my rented movie (Blade Runner, which sucked), which finishes up my current stack of 4. I know there are a lot of Blade Runner fans out there, but I was bored with the pace and the way it dealt with the themes of the story. I think my problem with movies is that I’ve seen good movies on a ton of topics now, so it’s really hard for me to be impressed with something that covers the same topic.

For instance, Blade Runner’s environment and theme about dealing with death are handled much better in Dark City. Actually, so is the theme about being human. I guess what I’m saying is that you should watch Dark City instead of Blade Runner. It has Jennifer Connolly, but no boobies. I guess if you want like a half of scene of boobs, you should get Blade Runner.

Anyway, work is still really dull. We’re still waiting on yet another setback in the software, which has been almost our entire time so far. We’ve started work on our report (sort of), but we don’t have a result and we’ve gone over what we know so many times it won’t be a big effort when we end up writing it.

The big thing today was working on our poster for the undergraduate research symposium on the 31st. It is a total waste of time. I’m not saying that poster fairs are a waste, and we’re working hard at getting good images for our poster, but the biggest pain is how seriously they take it. You have to go to 2 sessions, each 2 hours long, on how to design a poster. The first one was completely farcical, and the second one is a big “peer evaluation” session. The major problem with that is they never mentioned we needed rough drafts until this morning. Sure, they technically mentioned it at the first meeting, but no one was listening.

So we got a bunch of images from our various software programs, and slapped that bitch together. Now we’re working on getting the right amount of text on there, which is a fairly small amount. Also, you can read our abstract online: http://www.ncsu.edu/ugrs/summer/2008/reumabs.htm#Davis

We have to have our draft finished and printed in triplicate by 3 pm tomorrow. We’re “really worried” about getting this “serious matter” resolved.

My big disappointment this week was that “The World Ends With You,” an RPG about Shinigami in modern-day Japan, was total shit. The story was really compelling, and the design of the game seemed good, but the battle system is a fucking nightmare. All of the “pins,” or modes of attack, involve scraping, tapping, or slapping the touch screen like mad and work maybe 1/4 of the time. It’s so much fun! Anyway, I got to the first boss and couldn’t take it anymore. All of the strategy comes from preparing for battle, but when you get there you just have to cross your fingers and pretend that something’s going to work.

Batman: Gotham Knight is really good. It’s pretty much good (short) episodes of BTAS with anime directors. Hearing the “original” voice of Batman was a nice change, and it did a good job of working in the new Chris Nolan universe. Only one segment was kind of strange, “Field Test.” I’ve never seen Batman look like more of a bishounen. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but I sort of expected to see him put on some lipstick before heading out of the batmobile. It was made up for by the fact that his batman costume looks just like Femto. I’m very excited for the movie, but I can’t see it until Friday because of my “important” job.

Pretty much the only other thing that’s happened (besides a ton of movies, both rented and theatrical) is a bit of personal drama. It’s sort of interesting because I haven’t dealt with drama in such a long time. I also need to write my two abortion articles.

I watched Trigun for the first time. It was much better than I thought it would be, but very different. It had a good ending (well, not perfect), fairly deep characters that weren’t just cliches, a continuous plot that didn’t get boring, and no unnecessary filler. The two female characters were really interesting, in stark contrast to Fuu from Samurai Champloo, who is the lamest girl in anime in years.

That’s about it. I leave here in something like 15 days, and I’m excited to get back to Lincoln in the fall. I’m wondering if I should try and get a math department job even though I’ll be working at the DN. I’ll probably be okay because most of my classes shouldn’t have hidden bonus work. Plus, who doesn’t like to be totally busy?

Living in NC

I have prepared an itemized list of the many facets of living here for the summer. Having spent 3 weeks here as of today, I feel like I can speak with some authority about the experience. Results may very as time goes on.

My Job: I’m not very impressed so far. I have next to nothing to do, due to software issues or only having one thing to work on for the group of three people. When this happens, my input is generally extraneous or unhelpful. We gave our first presentation Friday, but I got nervous and forgot to mention a lot of material. There were only 8 or so people in the room, which doesn’t bode well if I have to present this material at a) UNL or b) a conference next year. Part of the problem is that I speak best when I have complete command of the material, and I’m still not clear on everything with this project. Anyway, I don’t think it mattered too much.

I’ve busied myself at work by visiting “Project Euler,” which is a bunch of math problems you can solve by writing programs. This has proven a good way to practice programming with MATLAB, and review Java when that’s more convenient. I think the work will pick up a bit this week, but we’re already fairly far ahead of the game.

My Future Job: I will be an editor and opinion columnist next year at the Daily Nebraskan. I wouldn’t think much about it, except email correspondence from the editor-in-chief began this week. I also got a “welcome” email from the opinion editor. These messages are kind of nice, as they make me feel like less of a lameass for checking my school email every two hours, because I’ll actually get something from time to time.

I also have an assignment: writing two articles about abortion from the pro-choice and anti-choice viewpoints. I have to find good arguments for each side. The real problem is that it’s an argument with a dead end. Namely, there’s no reason for abortion to be illegal that isn’t based in morality. From a pragmatic point of view, legalized abortion is simply safer. There’s no real argument against it, but it’s also a little like flipping the table in a chess game (“I’ve got your argument right here!”). I’ll try to restrict my piece to the ethical dilemma. Anyway, more to follow.

(less boring items now)

The Shower: The shower is the nearest place where I can get nude and wear sandals. As such, I visit it quite frequently. I have already selected the particular shower I prefer, having used another one just twice. Every time I visit my shower of choice, there is a bug there. Not just any bug, but the same one. I’m sure of it. He sits around and only moves when the water splashes near him. Generally this move is to a drier place, but he still stays put. I have to wonder why he stays in the shower all the time. Is it where he lives or does he just like the scent of male BO?

Also of note is the septic stench that arises from the shower. It’s a little like sewage, and it comes in waves, so there is no constant smell but a whiff every once in while. It smells awful. Here are the potential sources of the odor in order of likelihood:

1. The Drain. There is a good chance that the warm shower water gets the drain smellier. I don’t know what the physics behind this involve, but it seems quite likely. It could be some kind of settling or warming effect, but either way it does not smell good.

2. The Nozzle. I’m slightly worried that it’s coming from the shower head. I doubt this is true, because the water doesn’t seem to have a smell, but it’s possible.

3. An Orifice. This is extremely unlikely, but since no one else has reported the smell it could be coming from me somehow. I’m really hoping I don’t randomly smell like sewage, though. There are no social prospects for the “sewage stench guy,” I assure you.

The Sun: The sun is a large radioactive ball of fusing gases. It is also the devil. I have realized that while throughout history the sun is often revered as a god or highly important object, it is actually an evil one. The sun does not care about you. It is trying as hard as it can to melt you with ultraviolet radiation, and the only thing that stops it is outer space. Space is the real hero.

The reason I mention this is that every day is full of sunshine. I hate it. My skin is constantly hot, which is really annoying. Also, I have learned that while I don’t sweat much from my armpits, the crevasse beneath my man boobs gets damned sweaty. This is kind of unpleasant when I’m wearing a light-colored shirt. Plus, sweat takes forever to evaporate. My back sweats, too.

It has rained twice here, both for periods of like 10 minutes. I did go outside the first time, but the second time I just sat around, like I always do. Anyway, this is the only place I know that is brighter and warmer when the sun is blocked by clouds. Clouds just piss it off more…

Nintendo DS: The DS came out in November 2004. Ever since then, I have been waiting to have the money to buy one. The aforementioned dull job has ponied up the cash to enable this. I’m thrilled. I promptly bought 6 games at Walmart and 3 at Gamestop. I intend to buy a few more on Amazon.com soon, to have them shipped here. Anyway, the 9 I have are: Brain Age 1 & 2, New Super Mario Bros., Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Elite Beat Agents, Professor Leyton, USA Today Crossword Challenge (I wanted Crosswords DS but there was a mix-up. It doesn’t really matter.), Drawn to Life, and The World Ends with You.

I’ve already beaten New Super Mario Bros, and I’m almost done with Zelda. I’ve also been doing the Brain Age games, although I’ll probably just play them once in a while after this week. In other words, 4 out of my 9 games are pretty much complete, and the crossword game is just for when I’m bored. I think my exhaustive supply will be worth the money. Plus, what am I getting paid for anyway?

Neon Genesis Evangelion: This show sucks majorly. I can’t believe it’s so popular. I was playing Zelda whilst watching it or else I would have died of boredom and annoyance. SUCKED. Lord, I hate mecha anime.

The Mall: This was fun. I took a trip to the mall Saturday to buy things. I spent a bunch on the DS games and some books by Kevin Smith and Vonnegut. I’d had them on my amazon wish list for a while, but I’ll probably read them while I’m here. I also have a bunch of “classics” I want to read, but those take me forever to get to. It’s heavy reading. Anyway, the bus is free for NC State students. I enjoyed the trip, although I ended up waiting for the bus for a long time. I blame the schedule online, which was clearly not right. Ah, well.

The mall is really nice, although I’m kind of lame and hate clothes. This meant that I only visited maybe 5 stores. It was nice to do something different. I might make this a weekly event if only because it’s free and gives me something to do. Maybe I should start buying some books or ordering them. Which reminds me, I ordered 2 from a nearby comic store that won’t show up for like 2 weeks. God, I hate brick-and-mortar stores. I thought, “hey, I’ll support this place,” but no luck. I also have some dedicated-deck card games I want, but no one to play them with so they’re low on the purchasing priority queue.

Other notes: The new episodes of Venture Bros. are terrific. All the plot details are kind of cool. They’re taking the series in a whole new direction, which is good.

I’m finally in the prime of my life (unless that happens at 23). This happened without much fanfare, which was good. My biggest celebratory action was the DS purchase. So worth it. I think it’s released all of my pent-up game-buying drives, because I’ve been unable to get all of the DS games for nearly 4 years. I was a junior in high school when it came out. It’s funny, because all of the games I want stopped being on shelves like 2 years ago. Here’s hoping I can get some bargains online.

Anyway. Not much else happens here. I hope everyone had a good father’s day. For the first time in like 25 years, my dad didn’t have one of his sons around. I feel kind of bad for him, but I honestly don’t think we would have done anything together if I had been there.

I thought for a long time if the sun would come out, it would make things better. I guess now I just want it to go away again. Life is strange sometimes.

Self-diagnosis

I am now in North Carolina, enjoying the plenty that is the deep South. I’ve eaten at a number of restaurants on the main street near campus and the 3 dining halls that are open for the next two months. Apparently the best dining hall, which is the one adjacent to my current dorm, has closed for the summer. In other words, to get dinner is a 15 minute walk from my dorm, whereas lunch is a scant 2 minutes from where I work during the day, itself about 10 away from the dorm. So I’m sort of isolated from anything helpful here.

What’s more, there is a ton of construction on campus. Not only are they building a new mathematics building (one year too late, in my opinion), they are changing several other buildings, meaning that many pedestrian paths are closed or covered in red dust. Speaking of pavement, everything here is brick: buildings, small streets, sidewalks, etc. It gets kind of frustrating because there’s nowhere to look when you want to not see brick.

My room is quite typical for a college dorm, all in off white with tile. The tile has a yellow and black pattern which I just now noticed when searching for a way to describe it. There’s a sink in the room, which has been convenient for shaving, tooth brushing, and hair combing. I have two beds and no roommate, which means there are a number of items on the second bed that haven’t moved in 2 weeks. I think it’s the natural way.

Foodwise, I need to figure out what to eat on weekends because nothing on campus is open. I have no means of transportation besides asking for rides, which I’m opposed to out of principle. Last weekend this meant Jimmy John’s and other such cheap eateries, although frozen food seems more productive. I bought some utensils so I could eat those kinds of things, but I’m not able to buy them without going to the overpriced convenience store.

I also had Cold Stone ice cream for the first time in a couple of years (excluding a free sample I got once), one of the two non-mandatory social events I’ve attended. The other was a highly necessary trip to Walmart for room supplies, including my two Transformers pillowcases. I’ve forgotten which pillow came with the room and which one is the eco-friendly corn-something-stuffed pillow I bought at the ‘mart. I’m probably just going to take the one I like, which will relate in some measure to the amount of saliva deposited in said pillow. In preparation, I’ve selected the pillow I really want to preserve and tried to avoid drooling excessively on it. I’m about 90% sure it’s the Walmart pillow, so the environment can be reasonably assured that I will continue sleeping with corn even after my summer experience.

After arriving here on Memorial Day, I went to the pizza feed event. It was pretty fun; the pizza reminded me of the pizza I used to get in my Mom’s hometown. It had one meat I’ve never seen on pizza before (gyro meat?) and one I’ve seen only one time (bacon). Damned good. I’ve been learning a lot of names in my characteristic fashion, although I’ve only spoken with maybe 8 of the 40 math students here. The math group has its own floor; it is the biggest mathematics REU ever.

The other mandatory social event was a North Carolina “pig pickin,'” in which the majority of a pig is smoked, chopped to bits, and “pulled” from the carcass in order to produce smaller pieces of pork for consumption. This is a damned fine ritual. I especially approved of the barbecue sauce, which was mostly vinegar (both distilled and red wine) with pepper flakes and a couple of other spices. This is a really good way to eat pig. I highly recommend it, although the preparation seems like a huge pain. Other notes: the dude who prepared the pig had the sweatiest head I’ve ever seen. The dinner was delayed by about 45 minutes because of confusion as to where the grill was to be set up. During this delay, I spoke for the first time with 2 of the 8 people I “know.”

I shouldn’t exaggerate; during the ice cream trip the next day, I did speak with the 5 people who went with me, so I guess it would be more like 12. That’s as high as I’ll concede.

Anyway, last week was spent learning Matlab and LaTeX, both instrumental in being a kickass mathematicist (or so they told me). Matlab is basically a C-family language with vector-based syntax, so nearly everything is represented as a vector.  Its implementation reminds me of Java, where nearly every function has been defined already but you have to find the right one: i.e. textscan vs. strscan and so on. LaTeX is just markup, although technically it’s “compiled.” The syntax is straightforward and the learning curve is just a matter of memorizing which tag represents which mathematical mark. It does look nice after compilation, but it’s mostly a hassle. Better than Microsoft’s equation editor, though.

After learning all of that crap and modeling a spring-mass system (easy), I started my group’s project. We’re quite far along already, because most of us are pretty good at this. One member is the person who I was sure I wouldn’t get along with, with a severe lack of social awareness but admirable programming skills (as if any programmers are socially inept. pff). He’s far ahead of me in terms of getting things done, so I don’t end up doing much. The other member worked on a similar project last year, with an aura of laziness and experience about him. I think he’s a good balancing member of the group, able to explain things to me when the programmer is busy or unable, and able to communicate my often improperly worded yet sometimes viable suggestions or ideas to him. My biggest worry is that there is no room for me when programming is going on, because the programmer takes the reins and the other member is much better at assisting him. I end up on my own computer doing all the things I do on my computer.

There are two professors and two graduate students assigned to the project. One professor is named after a character in a flash cartoon; the other is a former student here who has ties to the university. His company builds ray guns, making him cool by default, although he’s pretty awesome anyway. The primary graduate student is very easygoing and helpful and seems to like me despite my lack of productivity. I suppose on the occasion where I programmed something, it worked acceptably, so I at least look trainable. The other graduate student has only showed up once.

Naturally, she’s the one who will be around for the duration of the summer; the other grad student is leaving in two days. So is the ray gun specialist, whose company is in California. I’ll be left alone with the others to get progressively more frustrated with not helping. Maybe I can do presentations or something. God knows I need things explained to me simply enough, so I could maybe do the same for the other students. Here’s hoping I find a niche before someone gets pissed. Other than that, the project is fascinating, and I like the people. I just wish the people who I like the most would stick around. No choice, though.

Anyway, we’re getting to where we’ll be performing some extensive and time-consuming optimizations, so laziness will be perfectly acceptable. Our group also meets at 10am, meaning I can stay up ’til 1am or so and still be rested. God, I love college.

Our next mission is to work distributed computing into the project, meaning my lappy will have to help out, as will some other computers in the building (I suppose). The minimizing algorithm benefits most from 3 separate processors running different parts, so maybe just one more computer would be needed. Where or if we’ll get it is unresolved. Done properly, this would actually cut the time taken by 2/3, although there will be overhead for the distribution.

Having covered recent events, I have to move on to the most interesting part of the past two days: my self-diagnosis of my neuroses. This is exciting, so get ready.

1. I am a highly sensitive person. This means that I analyze sensory input more than most people, causing a few symptoms, one of which is hypervigilance, my “paranoid” tendencies. One thing this has made me realize is that while I am observant, I place more value on my insights about people than observations of the world. One thing that happened that was kind of weird was that I realized that one person was either engaged or a newlywed with no evidence, but I turned out to be correct. I came to that conclusion without looking for rings, but from behavioral clues. I have no idea how.

2. I have avoidant personality disorder. Essentially what this means is that I would rather be alone than interact socially because I consider the risks too great. This was a weird thing to find, but an apt description of my behavior. I’ve long known I had a generalized anxiety disorder, particularly in social situations, and I’m fairly agoraphobic, but I didn’t realize how significant those attributes were. The fear of crowds also stems from too much sensory input relating to #1.

The reason I looked this up (besides my typical wikipedian curiosity) was because of my recent anxiety. My lack of social contact has been somewhat oppressive here, continuing a trend that started 6 years ago. It doesn’t help that for some reason, groups congregate in the hallway in the area around my door and talk loudly very often. Anyway, I made my typical mistake that somehow I’d stop being reclusive if I were in a new environment (the fresh start hypothesis). Even I’m amazed at how much I buy into it. It’s like I think I’ll be someone else if I have the chance, but it almost always gets much worse.

I’ve had some frenetic mood swings in the past two days. On Monday evening, I was in a really good mood thinking about potential. Tuesday reminded me that I don’t have any, so I ended up trying to take a nap at 6pm to avoid thinking about it. That failed and I had some feelings I thought I had left behind a long time ago,  but I finally got out of bed and got online. Then I spent the next 4 hours looking up stuff online, including all of my various neuroses. During that process, I crashed violently back into the realm of normal emotions, feeling much better. Now I’m just trying not to think about it, which is my usual method for dealing with these things. It seems promising so far.

I think I like it here. I just wish I could have more realistic expectations. Maybe next time.

Embracing Obstreperousness

Looking over this, it is not only extremely long and very inane, it also rambles at the end. I was just writing what was in my head, seeing if anything interesting came out. It didn’t. I’m going to bed.

Also, this is 1324 words. I wish I could write that much about something interesting

I need a place where I can talk about all the things I can’t talk about. This is not that place. However, I still feel like cracking out a few hundred words only seven people will read, so here I go.

My classes are going well so far. I’m getting the hang of the MIPS assembly language, so that will make CS fairly straightforward. Japanese is the same old busywork. English is going to be English. I wish I didn’t have to read a textbook, but I think the papers will at least be fun. I would love to take an English class that wasn’t the same as all the ones I’ve taken before. Math is easy, even though it’s really abstract (it’s abstract algebra, and the title is actually quite apt) and not practical at all. That basically means that everyone in the class is a math major. Fortunately, I’m definitely at the top of the class, which is nice.

I need to contract 6 honors hours by the end of the semester or lose my books scholarship for next year. My plan is to contract CS and Math, the two subjects I should be able to annihilate. Both instructors seem perfectly fine with my doing that, so I just need to figure out what extra work I will do. I’m also applying for upperclass scholarships, although I’m not all that sure I’ll get one (there aren’t a whole lot of scholarships for the UNL Math Dept.)

On the employment front, I still have an extremely small chance of grading for the CS department (highly unlikely, Riedesel implied it’s only going to happen if one of the grad students doesn’t want the job), and I applied to be an RA next year. The interview is in mid February, and I think I’m a solid candidate, so I should get an offer (knock on wood), but I don’t know if it will be someplace nice or not. If it’s not a good place, I will probably just try and get a TA position in the math department again. Except I’d want one with “responsibility” or I’ll be bored out of my gourd. Maybe I’m too picky. Hm.

I’ve been exceptionally bipolar lately. It’s odd for me, because I’m in a good position with respect to classes, but I still have the same stuff that always bothers me. So I get in a good mood over school stuff, only to have my mood crushed by everything else. That’s the opposite of how it normally works. I’m also finding my usual solaces are crumbling, and that doesn’t help anything.

The big thing occupying my last few days is applying to do math research somewhere this summer. I’ve applied to 6 schools (UNL, Central Michigan, Univ. of MN-Duluth, Hope College, NC State, and Rutgers) to do 8 weeks of work through June and July. It would be nice to get out of the house for a break, and the stipend is around $3000 for most of them (sometimes less). Thank you National Science Foundation for including math in your funding umbrella. My advisor said I am a good candidate, although I’m not sure my personal statements were helpful. It’s hard for me to write what I want to do with math because I have so little experience. I’m not a bad writer, I just can’t talk about math that way. It’s unfortunate, because there’s a good chance I’ll have to write about it in later life.

All of my technology is breaking. Apple is in the process of replacing my out-of-warranty iPod because the effective battery life is around 1-2 hours. My laptop’s battery light is blinking a lovely orange-orange-orange-orang

e-green pattern at me constantly, although Dell’s advice was basically crap (Try another battery. ‘I don’t have another battery.’ Too bad.).

I’ll have to borrow Alan’s battery sometime, just to see if my battery is what’s causing it. If so, I’m screwed because the warranty on Dell batteries is 1 year (same as the iPod. I got both before I came to school and they’re already broken. I fucking hate technology. Built-in obsolescence is a horrible practice. Apple especially feels the need to employ it, and as someone pointed out, their motto is “don’t make it cheaper, upgrade it and keep the price the same. You don’t pay less, we give you more!” If you get that reference, you get an ‘A.’ Unless you’re Mark.). If it’s not the battery, I’m screwed because it’s the motherboard (there’s some battery-related component of the motherboard. Who cares, it’s all hardware. Software is where it’s at, bitches.). I might still have that under warranty, though it could only be the accidental damage one. This is pretty damned accidental, I guess (I sure as hell didn’t do it on purpose and it started at a random time).

I got a bunch of homework assigned today, and tomorrow I need to wash my T-shirts (haven’t done that since I left for home. That means nearly 6 weeks or 42 shirts. All stone sexy.), so I’ll have to do stuff in the afternoon. Tuesday is the best day of the week because I only have 1 hour of class and then 23 hours of free time. In a row. Although the last 9.5 hours of that is Wednesday. So I guess that Tuesday is, strictly speaking, the day where the majority of my largest span of free time within the working week occurs.

I reread my favorite book, House of Leaves, last week. It is an amazing book, and I recommend it to everyone. It is very complex and cool. I have a bunch of movies I want to watch, and I suspect I will persist in renting them weekly at least to burn through the list. There are a number of items on there that I’ll have to watch alone, because there’s no chance anyone I know would watch them with me (everyone hates on drama for some reason).

Speaking of drama, there is certainly a lot of it. Everything seems to upset someone lately. It makes my neutrality hard to maintain. I am a lot more listless about the things that are important to me, which should never happen. I can’t tell what’s happening around me (socially), but I can tell that it’s leaving me too productive. I don’t want to go down that path; it’s not pleasant.

It’s going to be cold tomorrow. I’m upset with the weather right now. I wish not having a heart gave me superpowers, like the fish guy from those pirate movies. I want to write something people will read. I haven’t properly cooked since I was in high school. The closest thing was last year, when I made cookies. Cookies are my favorite food. I also like mozzarella sticks and a properly cooked steak. I’d like to have all three, but I can’t.

I want to donate blood now that my heartbeat is acceptable. It’s not fair that I’m on a ridiculously strict diet and what is essentially heart medication at age 18. I love vegetables. I’m always tired but it takes me 45 minutes to fall asleep.

Human beings are immensely complex. You will never understand yourself, not even physiologically. But more importantly, you won’t even understand your own emotions and motivations. Sometimes, they just are. I have realized that this complexity makes it almost entirely impossible for someone to understand anyone else. There is just too much to understand about yourself; it’s impossibly hard to even try to figure someone else out. No wonder selfishness is so fundamental. I can’t remember what having a heart was like.

I hope the sun is out tomorrow.