Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Yesterday was a busy day at the animal shelter. Mondays are always busy, just because we have animals building up over the weekend and everyone comes to reclaim them on Monday, but there were a lot of adoptions as well. I think the Christmas season makes a lot of people want to adopt a pet as a sort of "Christmas present."

Just make sure your wife/husband/other recipient WANTS a cat or dog (or white rat, or goat, or pig, or gerbil) around the house. They're not like most other presents that you can toss in the back of the closet or return if you don't want them. And a toaster is a toaster, but a lot of people only like a certain color or type of dog or cat, and the gift-giver might not know which. For example, I really like heelers, but I don't like shi tzus. "But they're both smaller dogs!" someone might say. Yeah, well, heelers are cute and shi tzus aren't.

I learned an interesting lesson yesterday as well. We had a giant husky come in, and they're usually very confident dogs. However, as I walked this one to the front desk to get a collar for him, then to his cage, he would every now and then flatten himself on the floor, stubbornly refusing to move. Dogs do this frequently when they're nervous , but there's a lot of dogs to take care of and we don't always have time to nicely persuade them to move. It took some impatient tugging on the leash to get this husky to move, but I finally got him to his cage. I stepped him through the door, but it wasn't until he turned around and ran into the cage door that I had just shut that I realized he was blind.

His eyes looked perfectly normal, but as I jerked my hand towards his face, stopping an inch short, he didn't even blink or flinch. (And his owners came in that afternoon to pick him up and confirmed it.) Well, that explained the nervousness and flattening himself on the floor while I was walking him--he had no idea where he was going, or if he was about to hit something.

I said it was a lesson to me, and the lesson was this: sometimes people may frusterate you (refusing to move, pulling the wrong way on the leash, etc.) and it MAY just be out of contrariness, but sometimes they may have a legitimate reason (like the blind dog). Sometimes you just don't know the reason, so don't be too quick to judge.

Friday, December 15, 2006

It's 2 AM and I'm wondering what I'm doing posting to my blog, but after you've been staying up to 2 or 3 AM for several days, what's another 20 minutes? At least I'll sleep in my bed tonight, unlike last night--rather than go home at 3 AM only to come back for a 9:30 AM class, I used my backpack as a pillow, threw my coat over me, and slept under the desk in my research lab. I slept through the janitor emptying the trash, the network guy resetting a switch in our lab, and my advisor coming through, waking up 5 minutes before class started.

Why the late hours? Today was the last day of Fall semester, meaning that final projects were due, and I slid my last one under my teacher's door ten minutes ago. Now, I just have my two finals to take; one Monday, and one Tuesday. After that, I'm free for the Christmas break!

Desperate to get away from school for a few hours, I went by the animal shelter, where I got pressed into giving vaccination shots to a group (covey? conglomeration? herd?) of cats. These were the cats that were getting moved from "strays" to "adoption," and we had to bring them up to date on their health records. I've given a shot once or twice before, but this was my first time doing it en masse. And I only shot myself once while doing it.

We also had an interesting conversation about decapitation. Two police officers from different towns stopped by at the same time, both dropping off stray dogs; and they, the shelter director (an ex-cop), and the shelter supervisor (an otherwise no-nonsense lady with a soft spot for cats) starting discussing procedures when an animal was brought in that had attacked someone. Animals that attack humans have to be checked for rabies, and since they're scheduled for euthanasia anyway, you can do two things.

One, you can keep them for 10 days, watching for signs of rabies, then have a vet come by to check them before euthanizing them. Two, you can immediately euthanize them, cut off their head, and send it to the state lab for the brain to be analyzed for rabies. It's a trade-off: in the first method, you have to use up resources taking care of a dog that will be euthanized anyway; in the second, you have to...well, cut off their head. It's not a job for everyone.

The shelter director was saying that he was always willing to do the job (decapitation) himself, he never forced one of the shelter employees to do it if they were unwilling. He was going on about how hard it was, and how few people had the ability to do it, and the shelter supervisor was laughing because she and I had decapitated a cat only a few days earlier.

"Are you squeamish?" she had asked me, walking past.

Be careful how you answer that question. Next thing I knew, I was hold a dead, stiff cat (it had been in the cooler) while she wielded a giant pair of pruning shears. It was surprisingly clean and simple, one snip and it was done, and there was no blood since the cat was a cool 42 degrees.

Well, enough about decapitation. Back on the school note, I left a program running on my work computer that is supposedly trying to figure out a good equation for guessing movie ratings. Netflix is offering a million dollar prize to anyone who can develop a program that recommends movies better than theirs, and I chose that problem as my semester-project in my machine learning class.

I don't have any expectations of winning, or even coming close--and the final report of the project was the one I already turned in--but the problem is intriguing and I want to leave my program running a few days longer, to see how it fares. We'll see. If I get around to it, I'll try to post a high-level description of my approach. Not that it's interesting to anyone but me, but hey! it's my blog!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yesterday Child and I went to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. It was amazing--hearing them on CD is great, but hearing them live, with the lasers, and lights, and sound system, is just awesome. Of course, at times I was more interested in analyzing the patterns the smoke made in the lasers, or how the lasers had been carefully aimed to only hit the ceiling or the balcony floor, but that's just me.

Sitting in my car in the parking lot, waiting for them to open the doors, Child and I were watching people go by. Surprisingly, there were quite a few "old" people (I put "old" in quotes because now that I'm a quarter-century old, I'm almost in that category). There was one older couple all dressed up in formal attire, and me and Child started wondering what type of orchestra they thought they were going to see. We could picture them looking at the crowds as they walked inside, and the wife saying to the husband, "My goodness, dear, isn't it wonderful to see so many young people taking an interest in the arts? But they really must work on dressing properly to attend an orchestra."

Then when the guy got on stage at the beginning and screamed, "Are you ready to rock, Salt Lake?!" the old couple would look at each other, the beginnings of doubt in their eyes, screaming "young folk" surrounding them, lasers starting to flash, and the husband would whisper to the wife, "Maybe it's interpretive."

On our way there, we stopped at Burger King so I could get some food, and Child could get a hamburger without meat. (I gave the Burger King employee who gave us our food permission to mock Child after we left.) As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I was scanning the heavy traffic, waiting for a break so I could dash into it, when all of a sudden this thing stabs me in the side of the face.

Child claims she was trying to feed me the french fry, but I think she was trying to kill us. Regardless, she found my sudden reaction mildy amusing, laughing all the way to the Events Center, although I deny all claims that I gave a manly shout. She's just lucky I didn't slam down the accelerator and swerve in front of a semi or something.

Plus, she was killed that night in the online game of Werewolf we were both participating in, so....ha.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My birthday was yesterday, and it was awesome. First, Child made me crepes for breakfast, and they were delicious. Not only that, but there were enough that I was able to eat the leftovers for lunch.

After breakfast, I went to a writing meeting, and it was hilarious. One story had the two characters named "Grey Gull" and "Scuttling Crab", and one girl (who, in her defense, read the story early in morning while still half-asleep), though it was a story about a crab and a sea gull. It made her comments a little surrealistic, but we finally figured the misconception out.

After the writing meeting, I went to the animal shelter. It was fun, as usual, especially since I've been there so long that I'm pretty much just another employee. We had a guy come in to get his dog, which had been maced and picked up by a police officer. The guy held out his hand for his dog to sniff and said, "Hey Chance, it's me! Chance? Don't you know me?" His dog showed no recognition, but I pointed out that after being maced, his dog might take a day or two to get his smell back. (Reminds me of a short story I read once, where a man was assasinated--killed by his two dobermans when he got back from vacation, after someone injected him with a drug that changed his smell.)

I also confirmed what I've always guessed: I hate washing cat dishes. I normally only deal with the dogs, but since one of the inmate workers had gotten "rolled up" ("with handcuffs and everything!" another inmate told me) the previous day, they were a little short on dishwashers. Let me tell you, washing food dishes is bad enough, but 70-odd litterboxes are worse. :)

We also have a record-high three pregnant dogs. The shelter manager mentioned that she had been thinking of taking one of them home before we found out it was pregnant, and I told that if she did, she'd end up with 8 or 9 guard dogs instead of just one. Anyway, we're going to have a heck of a lot of puppies really soon...

Later that evening, Child blindfolded me and drove me to a top-secret location, where she had set up an amazing dinner complete with candle, christmas lights, and of course mistletoe. There was lasagna, breadsticks, and especially hot chocolate, which was good since it was an outside dinner (she warned me ahead of time to dress veeeeerrrryyyy warm). She also got me the Serenity movie and the Firefly series, which I love, and gave me a massage (she gives amazing massages!). I think my favorite present, though, was the letter she wrote to me.

So it turned out to be the best birthday ever, and I still get cherry cream pie tonight at my family's house!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

So this morning I walked out to my car to find a new ventiliation system had been installed during the night. A small neat hole had been punched in the back side window, evidently to let in a tiny burglar. My case of CDs that had been sitting in the back seat of the car were gone, leaving me nothing to play in my CD player, but the thief thoughtfully took the CD player from my dash as well, saving me from that dilemma.

Turns out I wasn't the only one. While I was filling out a police report, a maintainence man from my apartment complex stopped by and told the cop that another car had its trunk open, and it looked like its CD player had been stolen as well. Not only that, but another renter stopped by and mentioned that his car had been broken into the exact same way about a month earlier, same parking lot, and his friend's car as well (although they hadn't filed police reports). Sounds like the apartment complex needs more lighting at the back end of the parking lot.

Ironic Note 1: that morning at breakfast, I had been reading an article in a church magazine titled "Adversity." Like I've said before, God has a sense of humor.

Ironic Note 2: this afternoon, our apartment got a note from the management asking for quotes for a marketing campaign. Mine would probably be: "Tired of all your material possessions? Need some change in your life? Want to get your car broken into on a regular basis? Try Stadium Terrace Apartments! Our motto: if your car isn't stolen, your laundry will be!"
Last night, Child and I attended a school concert comprised of student compositions. The first student conductor got up and I thought we were about to start, but it was just silent. Five minutes later, one of the violinists finally plucked a string. Another five minutes passed, then a flute played a quavering note, followed by a three or four more minutes of silence, then a single chime.

I suddenly realized, to my horror, that this was an "interpretive" song. It was probably called something like, "My Interpretation of a Glacier Moving Through Peanut Butter," or so I judged from the speed the song moved. Approximately 500 years passed but the song finally ended, and the next one began. Unfortunately, it was exactly the same, except the glacier was moving through molasses instead of peanut butter. I sunk deeper into my seat. This might take a while.

Some of the other songs were slightly more active (the way a slug is slightly more active than pond scum) but they were all still "interpretive," which is a musicology term meaning "no melody, no beat, and no point." Random drum beats mixed with shrilling flutes, arbitrary chimes, and wayward oboe notes. Child and I agreed that half the songs were probably being made up on the spot, by composition students that had forgotten the final was that evening ("Wait, that's tonight? Dude, I've got, like, nothing ready. Guess I'll do something 'interpretive.' Should I set the metronome for 'slug' or 'pond scum'?")

The faster songs still had no distinguishable melody, and had names like, "My Interpretation of the Three Violins, a Flute, and Two Cymbals Falling Off a Moving Car, part 1 of 10," "My Interpretation of an Oboe, a Timpani, and Four Xylaphones Falling Off a Moving Bus, part 1 of 15," and "My Interpretation of a Bus and a Car Carrying Six Bongo Drums, Four Cellos, and Five Trumpets Colliding."

My favorite, though, was "A Rabid Chipmunk Loose Inside a Viola." It also had no melody, but it was amusing watching the intense look of complete seriousness on the musician's face; he obviously knew that his teacher was looking for any sign that he was making it up as he went and was desparately repeating to himself, keep a straight face, keep a straight face.

Oh, and at the end, we all got a balloon, and got to go down to the stage and wander through the instruments while the musicians played, so we could "feel the sound of the music in our fingertips." I felt like Kronk, in Emperor's New Groove. "Ooh, I'm feelin' it." I also felt like taking a Music Composition class, so I could show the other students a thing or two. ("Look! I'm playing two consecutive notes on the same instrument! Yes, it's possible!")

I guess it wasn't all bad though, there was one half-way decent part...wait, no, that was the ice cream I had afterwards. At least Child didn't attempt to strangle me as we left the concert, so that's another plus.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A few things to report, starting with last night.

Sleep Deprivation
Somewhere in the early morning hours, I was woken by siumultaneous shouting, swearing, blaring music, and flashing lights from the other bedroom in my apartment. Having spent an all-nighter the previous night, I only woke up enough to hear mixed in the crazed shouts something about "keep me awake, will you?!" then I fell back asleep.

In the morning, I asked the guy who had been doing the shouting what had happened. He explained that over the past couple months, his roommate had kept him awake with constant snoring, middle-of-the-night phone calls, and things like that. I guess he had woken up three times last night from the snoring, and had finally gone crazy. He had grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and charged into his room, turning on the music, flashing the lights, and swearing up a storm.

Probably scared his poor roommate to death, and I guess his roommate didn't snore that night--because he didn't dare go back to sleep.

Still, there's probably better approaches to take. Heck, I've slept on a sofa for an entire semester in a different apartment for the same reason (snoring roommate).

Sleep Deprivation II
To celebrate NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), my writing group decided to pull an all-nighter writing activity. We met at Child's house and fueled by sugar-highs, started writing. It took me all night to do a single chapter, but it was the first chapter in my novel and one I had put off writing forever, so it was great to finally get it out. Granted, it'll need a lot of polishing, but at least it seemed brilliant at 4 AM in the morning.

(Child's blog post)

Last weekend I want canyoneering down in the Robber's Roost area of southern Utah. The canyon was called Little Blue John, made famous by a hiker back in 2003 who got his arm caught under a boulder while hiking alone, and had to cut if off to free himself.

I'm not sure if it's possible for canyons to be Jonahs, but we almost had another accident happen on our trip. We started hiking Saturday morning, reaching the first drop about 10 AM. It was a 25 foot cliff, but because it was a narrow slot and had a slight slope to it, it was probably down-climbable. However, we had a brand-new canyoneer with us, along with an older guy who didn't like down-climbing, so we decided to rig it for a rapel.

We made an anchor out of a pile of stones, wrapping webbing around to attach our ropes to. (Webbing is the material used in seat belts and vehicle tow ropes.) The rocks were sharp sandstone boulders, and somewhere underneath our anchor, the webbing had been mostly cut through. I was the first one on rapel, starting down a sloping ledge that led to the main drop. Right when I reached the drop, the webbing broke.

I started falling, and instictively stretched out my arms. Miraculously, I caught the sides of the crack and stopped myself about 10 feet down the drop. I got a few scrapes on one of my arms, but if it had been any other rapel (like the two 70-foot drops we did later that day), it could have easily been deadly.

Something like that accident is fortunately VERY rare in canyoneering. The group of guys I go with are very safe, and we take all precautions to stay out of trouble. Still, accidents do happen.

Most of us in the group are religious, and the rest don't object to a prayer before we start a canyon, so we've made it habit. The ironic part is that I always joke that we should stop praying, because then nothing bad ever happens and we have no stories to tell when we get home. Now I firmly believe that the Lord has a sense of humor and some might think this incident proves that, but I think he was also making a point. I guess that's one joke I'll stop making.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I think the "busy holiday season" has officially started...you know, the one that doesn't end until the second or so week of January? Yesterday was Halloween, tonight is a surprise B-Day party for a member of my writing group (being thrown by another member of the writing group of the opposite gender), this weekend is a canyoneering trip, then football games, tests, Thanksgiving, birthday, Christmas, Mexico, and finally school starting again!

Oh, and my sister is in town with my new nephew while her husband is in Italy giving a presentation on Search and Rescue at a conference. I left my camera up at my family's house, but I'll try to post some pictures later.
So an amusing incident happened yesterday to which I was tangentially related. There were three important facts that contributed to the confusion:
  • One of my roommates works with Child's sister
  • I'm moving to a different apartment in my complex today
  • Child failed to mention the move to her mom
The incident happened something like this. Her mom stopped by their work to say Hi, and according to Child, the conversation went something like this:

Mom: "Oh, so you live with Ben?"
Roommate: "Not for long!"
Mom's thought process: "Premise: Daughter's boyfriend is moving. Premise: Boyfriend hasn't mentioned this event to me. Premise: Daughter hasn't said anything about it to me either. Conclusion: my daughter and her boyfriend are about to elope."

I'm not exactly sure what her next few actions were, but I'm assuming they had to do with calling her daughter and asking a few searching questions. Anyway, the confusion was finally resolved, and I'm sure Child's mother will unhandcuff her from her house in a few days (j/k :).

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's been a little while since I posted, so let me try to get up to date...

I had TWO WHOLE midterms this semester, both this last week. My friends hit me when I say that, but they're 600-level tests.

The first was a closed-book, closed-notes, timed, take-home test. Obviously our teacher is placing a lot of trust in his students, but he also takes a unique view to cheating. Obviously if he catches a student cheating he'll fail him/her, but he's not obsessed with catching cheaters. He pointed out in class that if someone cheats, it'll catch up sooner or later...on the final when you're in the testing center and don't know the material and don't have a chance to cheat because of the monitors walking up and down the rows...or in the next class, or simply later on in life.

The second was an open-book, open-notes, open-friend/classmates/internet/anything, three-question take-home test. The problem was that each question were Master's Thesis-type questions, and I probably spent about eight hours over three days taking the test. The nice part was that at least you're satisfied that you gave the best answer you could, unlike closed-book notes where you're never quite sure if you remembered things properly.

So with those out of the way, I just have to focus on labs, homework, and the semester-project in my machine learning class...curses!! I just remembered that homework is due tomorrow in one of my classes, and it's not one of those "easy" homeworks. Guess I'll be up for another couple hours...

Animal Shelter
The animal shelter was interesting this morning. I got there a little early and the front door was still locked, but there was a couple policemen at their sally port behind the building bringing in a (dead) dog, so I slipped in through their door. Right when I got in, the first shelter employee arrived, and together we looked over the animals that had come in over the weekend.

In one of the cat cages, there were about eight newborn puppies, not more than a day or two old. They were freezing cold, and so stiff that their legs stuck straight out. They were still alive though, so we found them a blanket, stole the heating pad from the iguana's cage, and mixed up some milk for them. After a few minutes working them over they started to look a little healthier, and later that day, one of the shelter employees with a nursing dog took the puppies home to see if she'd take them.

We also caught a live mouse, and it's temporarily housed in a large pickle jar. We're still trying to decide what to do with it.

The third exciting thing was that we got to shave (a small part of) a mule. It had a freeze-brand (branded by a super-cold iron [liquid nitrogen] rather than a hot iron). The freeze-branding kills the color-pigment cells, so the hair grows white instead of colored. We had to shave the mule's winter coat over the brand though, so we could read it clearly.

Last Saturday was me and Child's fourth anniversary of knowing each other, and tomorrow is our third month anniversary of "officially dating". Child is amazing, and it's been a wonderful four months.

Hmmm...it seems like I had a couple more things to mention, but that homework is on my mind now. I better go do it, and if I remember, I'll add it.

...oh, right. I was a "finalist" (top six) in the Writer's of the Future contest, but a friend of mine who's "in the know" told me I didn't place in the top three. Too bad. There's still a chance that I could be a "published" finalist, but I'm moving on. Time to write another story to submit.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hoo boy. It's been a busy past few days.

Brandon Sanderson
Turns out Brandon Sanderson, of Elantris and Mistborn fame, teaches a class right here at BYU. I've never read the books, but I'm always interested in learning from published authors. The literature section of the sci-fi/fantasy club I attend at BYU (Quark) got him to give a presentation, which I attended. It was great, with a lot of good information.

I think the thing that stuck to me the most was his technique of coming up with a lot of ideas, then just letting them bump around in his head until they start to make connections. That makes a lot of sense--I think I tend to come up with one idea, then try to force other ideas to hook into it. The past couple days though, I've been getting some good ideas for the novel I plan to write.

Lost Season Opener
So I watched the Lost season opener with Child. It was good--confusing at the start, but not in a bad way. I thought at first it was a flashback, then went crazy when I realized it wasn't. It should be a good season, but I think Child's contemplating waiting until the whole season comes out before watching it, so that's what I'll probably end up doing as well.

Domain Names
If there's any search engines checking this blog out, FASTWEBSITES=BAD!!! My uncle bought a domain name from them, to go with his home-business website. Long story short, the website had problems where it was hosted and he turned it over to me. I moved it to my own server, but the fastwebsite's login didn't work, and I couldn't change where the domain name pointed. The "support" line seemed to go to some guy's cell phone, who's voicemail was full, and there was no reply from repeated emails.

On the good side, a couple days ago, a month after I emailed them, I finally got a reply with the link, username, and password I needed. So now, my uncle's website finally works, and that's one less thing I have to worry about.

Saturday (yesterday) was busy, but a lot of fun. At 9 am I had a writing meeting. I'm the VP of the writing section of the Quark club, and we critique each other's stories every two weeks. We had about 10 people show up, a good crowd.

At 11, I headed to the animal shelter to help out. Saturdays they're only open 4 hours (10-2) so it's always busy. The previous day, me and one of the inmates who works there on "work release" from the jail next door, bombed another one of the inmates with water balloons. It was carefully planned; we got one of the front-desk girls to call him back to the intake room, then she walked out and we jumped in with the balloons. Oh, and we had pulled the hose to the door so after we hit him with the balloons, we finished him off with the hose.

I ended up leaving about 3, after all the cleaning was done, and turned on the radio in the car just in time to hear the closing seconds of the BYU - SDSU game. We rocked them, 47 to 17. I'm still on the top of our lab's guessing sheet, but not by much. A couple of the other guys are only a few points behind me.

At 4, me and Child went to play Ultimate Frisbee, and had about 2 hours of 5 on 5. It ended when a girl briefly fainted (due to not eating all day, I think), but we were about done anyway.

At 7:30, me and Child went and watched "The Music Man" at the Center Street theatre in Provo. It was a lot of fun, although it was hard to hear/understand the actors some of the time. I told Child we'd have to rent the movie, so she could actually hear what they were saying.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Today, me and Child hiked a mountain.

See the big white "Y" painted on the mountain? First, we hiked to that, then there's a trail that leads around the back side of the mountain. Two and a half hours later, we were on the very top. It was a killer climb, then a pounding hike back down, but it has an amazing view looking over Provo/Orem and Utah Lake.

I was impressed with Child. Like I said, it's not an easy climb, and I happen to know she ended up with blisters (she doesn't normally wear shoes), but I couldn't get her to complain. It started sprinkling on the way back down as well, but we got to the car before it turned serious.

I doubt I'll have any problems staying awake for the season 3 opener of Lost tonight, but I might have a hard time waking up tomorrow morning.
My philosophy today: "Why beat 'em if you can join 'em?"

When I got ready to bike to school, it was raining. My umbrella disappeared sometime over the summer, and I don't have any rain gear, and I didn't have time to walk. My solution was to throw on my swimsuit and a shirt and start biking.

It was great. It wasn't raining too hard--I probably got wetter from the water the bike tires threw up than the rain itself. When I got to school I was damp, but the swimsuit was made of polyester, which doesn't hold water very well, and it dried in minutes. I got a few odd looks from other students, who were all bundled up in coats and sweaters, or carrying umbrellas, but hey, I didn't have to worry about the rain.

On a related note, yesterday I wore a trenchcoat to school. I had gotten it years earlier and never really worn it, especially since the Columbine school shootings made people leery of anyone wearing a trenchcoat, but it was a cold day and I was feeling ambitious. Again, I got a few looks, but 99% of the time I'm just one more sheep, and I felt like being individualistic that day.

It's amazing how much the clothes you wear affect your perception of yourself, and your attitude while you carry them. Wearing the swimsuit to school, I felt casual and friendly, and smiled at everyone who walked past. Wearing the trenchcoat, I found myself adopting a look of polite indifference, nodding courteously to passing adults and ignoring other students. It was an interesting phenomenon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

So I'm a religious guy. I go to church every week, I'm on the activity committee, and I regularly read my scriptures, pray, and pay tithing. It's the latter one that I wanted to mention here.

Why do I pay tithing? Why, as a college student who makes $11/hr as a research assistant, do I give up 1/10 of my income? The short answer? I can't afford not to. The long answer? Read on.

To someone who isn't religious, it seems completely paradoxical to give up money in one area and expect to be better off financially in a completely unrelated area. However, to a religious person, the idea isn't preposterous--God rewards those who obey his commandments. Speaking tithinically (it's, uh, a religious word...):

Malachi 3:8-10
"8. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

The commandment: pay tithing. The promise: God will pour out a blessing so large we can't receive it. The catch: it takes faith. Do I have the faith to do what any economist would say is impossible? Give up 1/10 of my income and expect to be better off financially than if I didn't?

For me, yes, I have the faith. I've planted the seed, I've watered it, I've seen the fruit. I was taught the principle by my parents as a child, I've continued the practice as an adult, and I've seen the results firsthand. In this one principle of the gospel at least, my faith has turned to knowledge.

What are the results I've seen?
  • I'm working on my Master's thesis in Computer Science and I've never had to take out a school loan.
  • I just bought a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier, and was able to pay for it with cash.
  • From the time I was 12 years old I've never lacked for a job, with new jobs appearing sometimes the very day an old job ended, and sometimes finding their way to me through amazingly convoluted channels (a friend of a cousin of a neighbor of an army buddy...you get the idea).
  • Recent specifics that prompted this post? A month ago I needed to pay tuition of $1,500. I only had $800 in my bank account. I happened to be digging through some old belongings, and found $700 in a box of envelopes, where I had stuck it after selling my previous car, then forgotten it. You do the math.
  • Today, I realized rent was due (first of the month). I have the money in my bank account, but after I pay rent, I'll have $18.99 left over to last me until Oct. 13--two weeks from now. That won't even pay to fill up my gas tank. Driving home from Child's house, however, I suddenly remembered that I hadn't checked my PayPal account for several months. Getting home, I checked it, and found $300 in it, which I transferred to my bank account.

    So a doubter might say that all those have logical explanations. None of that money appeared from thin air, I had simply forgotten it. Any of those jobs I got could have been a combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time, or knowing the right people. At some point, however, the coincidences become overwhelming, and you have to recognize God's hand in it. Who loses $700, or forgets $300, only to find it or remember it when there's no other solution? No, I believe in the law of tithing, and God hasn't failed me yet.
  • Monday, October 02, 2006

    It's been a busy past week. For starters, BYU beat #17 ranked TCU, 31-17. Yay! Not only were they ranked and BYU wasn't, but TCU was on a 13-game winning streak, which we broke. ...related, I'm currently at the top of my research lab's guessing game.

    Uncle Again
    So I mentioned in my last post that my sister had her baby. The baby is named "Maile," which according to my brother in law is "pronounced My Lei as in you go to hawaii, someone gives you a lei and you put it on and someone comes and grabs it...you say NO, its My Lei!"

    Exciting! I'm an uncle three times over now! On another related note, my girlfriend just found out that her sister was pregnant, and she's going to be an aunt for the first time. She was very excited, to put it lightly. :)

    Animal Shelter
    According to Pat at the Animal Shelter, Bear was taken by a rescue on Friday. Rescues are independent organizations/people that take animals from the Shelter and adopt them out on their own. I'm happy for Bear, since she'll get more attention and care than the county Animal Shelter can give her, but I wish I had gotten time to take a picture of her first. Anyway, here's wishing her the best!

    My friend Paul IM'd me this morning, asking if I wanted to start weight-lifting with him again. We did it for a semester last year, and it was great, but when the new semester came around, he was too busy and I didn't want to go by myself. This time, we're going to do it Tuesday/Thursday, and we'll be trying 6 AM. Ouch. We'll see if I can hack it. If I'm feeling REALLY ambitious, I might start running on M/W/F.

    I know I'll be missing my sleep, but the exercise would really do me good. As a computer science student in college, I don't do much active stuff, just the occasional hiking trip or ultimate frisbee game.

    Friday and Saturday were also our church's Worldwide General Conference. A lot of good speakers, and once I have a chance to read through their talks, and I'll post a couple of my favorite quotes.

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    So today was a busy day. Woke up at 7:30, finished preparing for a short presentation I had to give in class ("Support Vector Machine Active Learning for Image Retrieval ...of Doom."). It wasn't hard--saying the title alone took up half my time. After preparing, I squoze (I say it's a word, so it is) in an hour of work, then headed to the animal shelter, where I volunteer on occasion.

    Some people are cat-people, some are dog-people, and some are skunk-people. I'm a dog person, so I mainly work with them. We get all kinds; big, little, mean, nice, abused, pampered, friendly, aloof, you name it, we see it. The same goes for the cats.

    Between the cats and dogs, everyone who works at the shelter has their favorite animal, who enjoys preferential treatment. They (the animal) get extra pampering, and the employee writes their name on the card, which tells the other employees to "DNE". Do Not Euthanize. It's an unfortunate fact that more animals come into the shelter than get adopted out, so occasionally some must be euthanized.

    I have a favorite every now and then as well. Maybe about once a month, a dog comes through who just seems to click with me. They're usually the ones who have been abused, but are just so anxious to be loved that they press their whole bodies against the cage door in hopes that you'll brush them with a finger as you pass, then squirm around your feet in joy when you let them out. What can I say, I'm a sucker for Bambi-eyes.

    I haven't had a "favorite" for a few weeks, but I got a new one on Saturday. The past couple have been adult dogs, but this one is a puppy, probably only two months old. She looks like she has a little German shepherd in her, maybe a little husky, but she looks like a bear. So, we named her, originally enough, Bear. She's almost old enough to get her shots, then we'll put her up for adoption and I'll cross my fingers for a good family to take her.

    While I was at the shelter, my dad called me on my cell and told me my sister went into the hospital for an emergency C-section. There were some complications with the pregnancy, so the doctors decided to take the kid a month and a half early. I got a (family-wide) email a few hours later telling that I have a new neice, and I have my fingers crossed that everything is alright with her. It's one of those things that we just have to wait and see. I'll be praying.

    After I left the shelter, I went home, showered, and went straight to school, where I gave my presentation. It went well, and I was able to answer all the teacher's questions, always a good thing. After that, I went back to work for a few hours (I'm a research student). Not sure what's on the schedule for tonight..."And now let's see / What [the next few hours] will do for me!" --Val Jean, Les Mis.

    Hopefully, it has something to do with a beautiful girl, who gets off work at 8 p.m. and seems to like me for some reason, I still haven't really figured out why. :)
    Sometimes, you just need to get a fresh start in life. You leave your bad habits behind you, swear you'll never do them again, realistically know you will, but hope that you'll have a net gain in the end. And sometimes, those "bad habits" are simply the lack of a good one, like keeping a journal.

    So why start a "rwxr--r--" blog instead of a "rwx------" journal? As Enjolras says so succintly to Marius in Les Mis, "Who cares about your lonely soul?" Why clog up the internet tubes with yet another random blog?

    Well, first, I just like writing. I would love to be a published, professional author someday, and writing of any sort is good practice. I also belong to a writing group that does an occasional Extremely Short Story Contest, and this blog would be a good place to post my entries, if only to provide my future children some humor. ("That's really your writing, dad? Ha ha! No WONDER you became a radioactive source handler*!")


    Second, my girlfriend, Child, expressed an interest in rooting out my innermost thoughts, dreams, secrets and fears, and this blog should be a good way to tantilize her. I can post pointlessly cryptic messages, then smirk irritatingly as she goes crazy trying to figure them out. (She would probably get the quote from Les Mis, which is why I went ahead and cited it, and I posted the comic behind "radioactive source handler" just to make her paranoid that EVERY thing I say has some background to it.)

    Third and finally, you know those "de-motivational" posters? You know that one that has the picture of the sinking ship? It's captioned: "Sometimes, your only purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others." So. Yeah. Here's your warning.