Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tomorrow at this time I will be on an airplane.

Have I mentioned how much I love flying? Maybe it's just because it implies traveling. Maybe because it's a rare treat. Anyway, it's great. And I'm doing it tomorrow.

This week's been relaxing after work. I've taken a couple of relax days- just sitting at home, cooking for a while, playing some guitar and bass (and trombone!), reading some books. It's so peaceful! If I had a couple of relax-hours each day, and I could still spend time with friends and work a fulfilling job, that'd be neat. Maybe I should just create them.
"You have enough time to do anything. If you say you don't have enough time, what you really mean is that it's not high enough on your priority list." - Me

Speaking of reading books, I've been reading watered-down versions of some facets of Taoism and Hinduism, namely in The Tao of Pooh and The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are.

They're so brilliant! The religions, not the books. (the books are good too) Granted, I'm getting such a limited picture of the religions, I'm sure, but what I read, I like. You can argue philosophy all day, but when it comes down to it, the essential point in each seems to be: enjoy life! That's so refreshing! It certainly goes against:
- modern American middle-class life (which says "you should get more money and things")
- Protestantism, my supposed native religion ("Believe the Bible and do good works")
- What I thought Eastern philosophies were ("Meditate a lot until you transcend the world and reach Nirvana")
- Catholicism (I won't even get started here)

Maybe I'm extracting from them what I want to hear. Maybe I'm only reading the "fun parts" of the religions. But still, they both make a lot of sense, and it seems like we'd be a lot better off if we followed them. And whatever it is that we're all trying now certainly isn't working. Rock on, Eastern religions that I know very little about!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Good news

My grandpa's doing a lot better. He's home, he's walking around a little bit- my mom (who is down there now) says that in a week, when he puts on a hat, he'll look pretty normal.

Speaking of "in a week", I'm going down there in a week. Rock! I'll be gone Friday (6/30) at like 3 PM to Tuesday (7/4) at like 9 PM. It'll be great to see them again. And, as a bonus, I'll get to see my Uncle Jim and Aunt Conny before they jet off to Australia and New Zealand.

I love flying! I was considering taking an 8-hour flight from Tampa to Pittsburgh just so I could have a 3.5 hour layover in New York. But then I found out JFK airport is like 30-45 minutes away, so I probably wouldn't be able to see anything without sweating out the safety margins. I guess it'd be different if I weren't going to New York in a month and a half. Wheeee!

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I don't use capital letters much, but look at this!
Where the hell is Matt?

In other news, I have not too much to say. Wait, yes I do. I'm ME, I always love to spout what's on my mind! Went to Ohiopyle with my family last weekend. Father's Day. It was nice. Nice is a good word for it, because it was bourgeois. The kind of "hike for a mile, then stop for ice cream" kind of trip that my parents love and that bugs me for no good reason (look, if it makes my family happy, then quit whining, right?)

I've had this argument with myself before, and it always ends up with me being petty and immature. The solution is to just grin and bear it, and travel on my own. Hello, spring 2007!

Umm... in serious news, Gramp is doing worse. The other day it was looking like he might not even come home (from the hospital, where he has some kind of complications from chemotherapy in his lung). Now, it looks like he might, but it's looking like a question of "how long", not "if." I may fly down there soon. I'm not going to avoid mentioning the word "death" like it's some taboo (which, in our society it is); in Gramp's own words, "whatever happens, will." So I realize he might die, which is kind of unfair (he was pretty healthy, exercised regularly, kept active, etc) but what can you do? It's a part of life. I'll keep you posted, loyal blog readers, but I'll be straightforward with it; don't mistake that for being disrespectful.

Enough of this, I'm going to play some guitar. Better get in all the practice I can before my enjoyment of it wears thin in a week, just like everything else I ever start. But I'll leave you with a happy thought: Man, if that guy can travel the world, well, it gives me hope.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I am not succeeding, and I don't blame anyone else.

First: how's life? I hate coding so much. What am I even doing in this industry? The people at work are pretty cool, and they're not asking me to do anything particularly great, but I just can't get anything done. And, of course, I want to do a good job, and I'm not so far. I think. Who knows? In summary, I am hating my job, and feeling bad about myself for doing so.

How lame is that? That is not the way to solve anything. With a couple more hours of sleep in me, maybe I can do better.

Listening to some good music, though. Abbey Road and Rubber Soul have been on the ol' iTunes, along with Tally Hall and OK Go, and a little bit of Eels. Abbey Road is pretty good, except "Her Majesty", despite what you think, Ram. Tally Hall is pretty good, and varied, and so good for them! But one of the genres they go into is "boy band". They'll have to work on that.

I'll be gone this weekend, at Ohiopyle w/ my family. Should be neat. I'll be back on Sunday (for the concert on Sunday night, anyway)

As the Eels have said, "That's Life!"

As for last year: the story is mostly told. What happened the rest of the semester? A lot of not very much. I became an instigator in the group, then eventually left the group after meeting other folks who I found more interested in things that I found fun. That's life too. Somewhere in there, I ended up getting a couple of Facebook groups and the Fence named after me. I guess life works out for the Beta male.

Wait, except, remember how in wolf packs, only the alpha male and alpha female mate? I'd argue that life at CMU is similar to life in a wolf pack. (for example, both places, sometimes you wake up next to a bear.) To be honest, I am not finding anyone particularly interesting (nor vice versa) and I can't keep blaming CMU.

Which brings us to this year. I'm meeting this group, performing very well in this social game, if I do say so myself. But I'm not particulary spending a lot of time with them, because I'd rather spend time with my current friends. Which is fine. Except I'd still like to meet more girls. See Beej's previous comment. I mean, really, that's it. Which is why it's kind of lame because I've been doing stuff like playing poker and ultimate frisbee with this group's alpha male's high school friends (all dudes.) I don't even like poker! And, well, in ultimate frisbee, the one time I really got to throw the frisbee, I, uh, threw it into the next field.

"That's Life!"

And then there's The Tao of Pooh, which is making me think about my world once again. It's pretty neat. I mean, the author's pretty much a condescending dick, but he (or rather the Taoists who wrote the stuff that he read) makes a lot of great points. "Don't worry." "Deal with it." It's so laid-back. (another interesting bit is that, just as I'm thinking that I'm in the wrong field because I hate programming, I read the chapter about Tigger in "The Te of Piglet", and how we modern people are always starting new things and never finishing, and we never stick it out and accomplish anything. Coincidence?)

I'd write more, but probably the main problem with me right now is the lack of sleep. As always, right? I'm off to the dream world now. See you all Sunday.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Group Dynamics, unit 1, chapter 3

This week was turbulent. That's not a bad thing.

First, jobwise, because that's easier. It got worse, because I worked for about a week, and felt like I didn't really accomplish anything. I'm just befuddled by all this coding- I don't know what the hell to do. I don't want to ask for help every five minutes, because then I'm not being "independent" (plus my boss is really busy), but I do need the help.

(obvious solution, right? just ask for help! if he's given me an assignment that I can't do, I should ask for help. of course my next argument is "it's not that simple," right? well, maybe it is, and I'm just not assertive enough. well, what can you do. ask me in a week how my job is, and I'll probably be all smiles)

Still with me? Good. This is the more interesting part: Meeting a Bunch of New People.

The other interns that I've met seem mostly all right. Some of them are from the PSLC (where I work), some of them work elsewhere, and I just happened to meet them because they live in New House along with the people that I work with. As a whole, they seem like pretty normal people, not a bunch of programmers. (this is because most of them actually aren't programmers.) They seem to be winners, too- not proverbial dumb jocks or preps or any other stereotypical group that doesn't really exist but kind of does. And there's a decent male/female ratio, I think. That's good. So they've earned my respect, and as a result, I want to earn theirs. Fair enough.

But how does this work? I don't remember at all. The last time I met a group of people that I respected from the start who were equally unfamiliar with each other was freshman year, in Henderson House. You know, the Dorm Friends that you meet at the start of college. The last time it had really happened like that before then was the beginning of high school, and I don't think my voice had changed yet. That doesn't really count.

Anyway, I was desperate to appear a Cool Dude. Aren't we all? You want to be the biggest fish in the pond, or risk being scorned and relegated to a lower pond, right? And at a lower level, it may all go back to the instinctual desire to impress the opposite sex.

(before I go on, I'd like to note that I'm talking about status as if it exists. I know, in an ideal world it doesn't, and everyone's equal, and everyone is friends with everyone. But come on. Think of four people of higher status than you. Now think of four lower. That didn't take long, right?)

(oh yeah, and I'm also talking about this all as if I'm a professor. I know that I don't know any more about people than any of you. If anything I say sounds wrong, or if you have other input, let me know. Thanks!)

Anyway, so it's freshman year. I want to appear cool. From the first night we sat around the lounge and played the game where you add an adjective to your name (e.g. "Dangerous Dan") and try to learn everyone's names, I could tell who would become the "Big Man on Campus" of the house. Well, I picked two, and was half right. This guy, as Alpha Males are everywhere, was smart, athletic, energetic, genuinely interested in about everything, had a couple of areas of expertise, and was pretty good at everything. Oh yeah, and above all else, good looking, because let's face it, if you're good looking, you get a whole lot of leeway. (For reference, I'll call this alpha male "Alf.")

So it went; whenever he suggested a plan, others jumped on board. I was one of them. I developed a bit of a rapport with this guy- I was a little like a right hand man, in that I'd want to do things too, but lacked the natural charisma to be the Alpha Male. I'd usually agree with Alf's plan, and when two people do something, well, then, everyone does it. And here's the funny thing: even if I disagreed with him, I'd end up agreeing with him. We played soccer a lot, I think. I don't even like soccer. (of course Alf was good at soccer.)

As for the instinctual urge to impress the opposite sex, well, I did as well as I could, but clearly didn't "connect" with anyone in the way that that happens. in movies. Such is life. It should be noted that the Alpha Male can have any girl in the group that he wants.

But then school started and Alf, being an architect, went to studio forever. He slowly dropped out of our lives, leaving a power vacuum, right? As a result, we became sort of amorphous, with no real leader. The whole group would go out to dinner or whatever, and we'd all have to go: a couple instigators who wanted to go on the trip, a couple of friends they'd ask, and a lot of barns.

("barn" = "barnacle"- it's someone who just tags along, uninvited, or "barns along." Unfortunately, you can't tell a barn he's not invited, because, given the hive mind of college, it's assumed that everyone's invited to everything all the time. Also, barns happen all the time- I don't want to suggest that they are unique to this power vacuum that happens when an Alpha Male leaves a group)

Anyway, I apparently have a lot more to say than when I started. I think I'll try to chronicle what exactly happened freshman year, and then how it relates to what's going on now. I'm seeing the exact same things, and it's weird and frustrating and fun again. I'll try to pick this up later.

The point of the whole story, though, is that now I have to balance the new friends with the old friends, when really I'd love to just hang out with my existing friends all summer. It's so much fun. But you grow by meeting new people, right? It'd be nice to make friends among my summer coworkers. (and let's not forget the instinctual drive below all of this, eh?)

Monday, June 05, 2006

I might always want the opposite of what I have

This job is getting me a bit down. It doesn't make any sense: it's exactly what I feel like I want to be doing. Computer science plus AI plus teaching is great, right? Maybe it's because I'm not doing much AI/teaching yet. It's been a lot of code hacking. It's tough for me to dig in to a project that exists (hundreds of thousands of lines of code) and do anything. The more I learn, the better it will get. And sooner or later, I'll do something actually neat.

Today I walked outside after work, felt and saw the setting sun, and thought, good God, how I'd like to be climbing a mountain right now. I've done this once in my life, and by "climb a mountain" I mean "do some basic climbing on the side of a mountain." I can't say I feel some particular great holy closeness to nature. It's very pretty, to be sure, and runner's high combined with the feeling of having climbed a mountain make it nice, even as heat/cold/bugs/etc make it bad.

(sidebar: that doesn't explain why I then went inside to lift weights, and am now sitting in WRCT, in the basement, ripping CDs)

Point is, climbing a mountain is a lovely "life resume" piece. Like the other day, we were going around the table at this reception for the interns where I'm working, and we had to say one interesting things about ourselves, and this one professor said that he'd hiked the entire Appalachian trail. How cool is that? If I could say, for example, that I'd climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, that'd be pretty neat. But who am I trying to impress? Good question. Maybe myself? You're always your own worst critic.

Also, yesterday, I was in a bookstore, and I saw a book about "how to plan your bike trip from Pittsburgh to DC"- that's cool too! And I heard about a challenge to hike the 34-mile Rachel Carson trail (north of Pgh) in one day, sunup to sundown, and I thought how cool that would be too! I just want to do all these sweet physically challenging things. While I'm young. While I can do these things. So that, when I'm 70, or even when I'm 50 and have failing joints, or when I'm 30 and have cancer, I won't have to say "I wish that I'd climbed a mountain." or "I wish I'd biked more than 30 miles in a day" (for all my biking, I still haven't done that, I think. That's small change to bikers, right? See, I have to get my act together!)

Meanwhile, I'm stuck in a job sitting at a computer all day. Of course, if I had a job planting trees, I'd want to be in an office. See the title of this post: if I go on this way, I might never be content. I'm trying to get myself to live with minimal worldly attachment. But I still want to do all this sweet stuff. This is quite the trite internal debate, isn't it? Maybe I'll just live minimally AND do all this great stuff.

Aiii... there aren't enough hours in a day, or a life.

More posts to come, intermittently, whenever I have my computer and am not on the clock. Look, I'm not going to blog at work. And part of living minimally is living without a friggin computer sometimes. So there you go!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Jesus Saves!

... is the name of the wireless network I am piggybacking on. (Is that the right word? If not, I can't think of the right word right now. And I'm in a hurry because I want to get this post up before I lose the connection again.)

I don't officially have INTERNETS until June 11, when the cable folks come over. I do have a sweet apartment, complete with futon; a job that is so-far unfulfilling but promises to get better; three days of a vegetarian month completed; and a summerful of time with a yearful of optimism and energy.

In short:
Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.