Sunday, December 28, 2008

The future

As a new year is coming up, I thought I'd put up a post about my future. The start of a new year seems like a good time to look ahead. This post won't have goals for the new year, nor speculations as to where I want to be by the end of the year. I'm not one to sit around and muse about what the new year will bring. I'm much more likely just to get on google and search for my answers. And that is exactly what I did. So yeah, no speculations here, just straight up facts about my future.

To know the future, some people get visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, others use time machines. I personally, like to rely on good old fashion future seeing websites.

The first thing I learned was that I will be successful. I visited sites that promised me they could predict my future, and each one told me that. Some said I would be rich and famous, and generously help build houses for the poor in exotic places. Others told me I would be rich and famous, running a fortune 500 company. In fact, one went as far as to say I would invent glow in the dark office supplies right before a huge black out, which would make sales go through the roof. The point is, all websites agree, I will be rich and famous.

Let's your future I see success...riches...and is that a glow in the dark stapler?

I learned something else from these future predicting websites. While they are obviously pretty accurate with the longer term, they appear not to give many short term warnings. For example, it would have been wonderful if one of the websites had told me: "You will be rich and successful. Also, be warned, the next website you try and open is going to cause your computer to crash and all of the websites you have open are going to be lost." Sadly, no such warning. So I guess I've learned my end destination in the future, but I don't know all the twists and turns, bumps and potholes that the road leading there will have. If there are many more serious trials like computer programs locking up, I may just call it quits and just live at home eating junk food. I've been trying it out this last week, and it seems about as good as being rich and famous.

Where were you on this one, future predicting websites?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Adventure returns to my life

The day: Tuesday, the day of my last final, the day that would end in happiness and freedom...or so I thought. Little did I know, tragedy, heartbreak, misery and woe (yes both misery and woe) were in store. Here's the tale.

I know what you're thinking. I missed my true calling in life as a graphic design type of person. And you're probably right, I mean, just when you think a logo can't get better, I add lightning bolts.

So, Tuesday started the same as any other Tuesday, except that I had a final (this changed the day quite a bit, so essentially it started different from all other Tuesdays). I got up, studied, and went and took the test. It was painful, but pain is my middle name. Not a day in my life passes that I don't regret that my parents named me Michael Pain McMurtrey. Afterwards, did some adventerous stuff for a while, and left to wait for the bus around 8:40. I take the city bus to school, so as to save the environment. Not because I am too lazy to go and buy a parking pass.

This is Captain Planet. We have a lot in common. He's saves the world by fighting polluting super villains. I save the world by taking public transportation.

While waiting for the bus, two classmates drove up and offered me a ride home. I accepted. Carpooling is also on the list of ways I save the environment. If not for me, this world probably would have been destroyed years ago. I was being dropped off second. After we got to the first guy's apartment, I moved to the front, rather than continue awkwardly sitting in the back. We continued on. We got to my place, and I went to my apartment. Chalk me up for another success at finding my way home at the end of the day. Then it happened. I felt lighter than usual. I did a quick check. I hadn't lost weight due to some sort of miracle diet. I emptied my pockets. Sure enough, I lost my cell phone. I checked the apartment. No luck. I checked my friend's car. Failure and frustration resulted. Did I leave it at my desk on campus? I thought not. But thinking isn't always my strong point, so I decided to ignore what I thought, and go check.

Well...this picture speaks for itself, thus making the caption pointless...

I grabbed my car keys and left. Roads were treacherous. Snow, ice, slush, salt, dirt, and loose gravel were everywhere. I didn't care though. I had lost my phone. I sped around corners like a grandma in the Grand Prix. I got to the building I work/study in. I realized I had emptied out my pockets, meaning I didn't have my keys which would get me into the building. I silently cursed in my mind with words like "Man" and "Yar, this sucks". Several door attempts later, I managed to secure a cell phone off of another poor soul trying to get into the locked building. I called a student in my research group that I knew was still there. She let me in. I checked. No phone. I left very dejectedly. I, of course, didn't care about a worldly thing like a cell phone, given that I am much above that sort of thing. However, the fact that I had lost something, that I had failed to protect something in my care, and that I was unable to be successful despite my best effort...that's what really hurt. Well...and the fact that it's hard to talk to anyone I know when I don't have a cell phone...that kind of hurt too. But it was like being stung by a bee while falling into a pit full of boiling lava and failure.
This is what it's like to try and not succeed. Imagine what it's like to jump in there. Best never to try if you're just going to fail.

I decided it must have fallen out of my pocket. Either when I was getting in the car, or when I moved to the front of the car. I searched through the feet (feet should be read as inches here) of snow where I had gotten in my friend's car. No luck. My coworker who had let me into the building saw me and offered to call my phone for me. We went to the parking lot where I had switched places in my friend's car. It took about 3 wrong turns, and 4 checked parking lots before we found the right one. I looked in the snow and saw it. My poor frozen phone, covered in ice and snow, yet still alive, if just barely. I quickly cleaned him off, warmed him by the fire, and got him a steaming cup of hot chocolate. All's well that ends well...except the hours of frustration, cold and humiliation...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

So, do you have what it takes to be a nuclear engineer?

Every once in a while, when I tell people I'm studying nuclear engineering, I get strange comments like "Nuclear engineering, that must be hard.", or "Wow, that sounds cool". And of course, the inevitable "That sounds incredibly boring and lame". I think many people have the wrong impression about nuclear engineering. Maybe they see me and they think that to be a nuclear engineer, you need to be ruggedly handsome, witty, incredibly strong, graceful yet manly (girls might not worry about the manly part so much), and have a clear, stately manner of speaking. But, don't worry, while these traits are ideal, you do not need them in order to be a nuclear engineer. In fact, I'm here to let you know anyone who has the desire can make it. In fact, the desire, it turns out, is optional.

Yup. This is me. And someday I might be a nuclear engineer. Speaks wonders for the profession, doesn't it?

To be a good nuclear engineer, you need first and foremost, a good sense of humor. The idea is, you sit through classes that may be boring and you may not understand, and then afterwards you get together with your classmates and joke about how you really enjoyed all the many things you learned in class, and how easy it was. Also, you must have a strong ability to complain. After the joking, a complaining session usually is in order. If you're complaining abilities are weak, you may not have the endurance to last through this. It can be very long, and very intense.

When all else means no matter what, you are most likely going to fail too, so you might as well have fun with it. This guy had the right idea.

Nuclear engineering isn't all about classes. A significant amount of it is lab work. You need a highly developed skill set in order to be successful here. You will be asked to do things like: heat something up. Cool something down. Clean something. And my personal favorite: spend hours on end sanding and polishing steel bars. If you don't have these skills already, they can be developed. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it is possible. Watching the Karate Kid can help, especially the part where he sands the deck.
See, first you glue metal bars to a bigger metal bar. Notice how uneven and unshiny they appear. Your job as a nuclear engineer is to change that. You must clamp them down and then sand the day...and possibly most of the night, away. Only when you've masted the art of sanding, will you be worthy to gain the title nuclear engineer.

So yeah, if you can joke around, complain, and sand things, you could quite possibly be an exceptional nuclear engineer. In related news, Salvation Army has an impressive selection of awesome sweaters. There are like two rows of them and they are even sorted by color. It's kind of like being in heaven. Knowing that somehow heaven must be better than Salvation Army really motivates me to make good choices in this life.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Talking to yourself

A skill, an art, a game, a sign of craziness.

I'm not sure why, but I've been thinking about the idea of talking to oneself (or is it one's self...). Possibly because when I was trying to think of what to write, I debated with myself.

Me: I know, I could write about talking to myself!
Me: I don't know, do you really want people to know you talk to me?
Me: Hmmm might seem a little weird, but...not that much weirder than other things I've written. I could just write about it in a subtle manner so people don't know I'm talking from experience.
Me: I don't my experiences you're not very subtle.
Me: Hey, what are you talking about??!! You take that back.

"So I've got this great idea, what do you guys think?" (By the way, if you're worried someone will think you're crazy if they catch you talking to yourself...that's nothing like the fear that a roommate will think you're crazy if he sees you taking multiple pictures of yourself on the couch...)

Obviously I won the argument and decided to write about talking to myself. Also obvious is the fact that I was right and I'm not very subtle. But seriously, talking to yourself is great for many things, not just debating an idea. Sometimes, if you're struggling with something, who better to give you a pep talk than yourself? You know exactly what the problem is, and you always know just what to say. Here's another example...of what a friend might do, not me though...

My "friend": I don't know, I just don't think I can do it...
"Friend": Are you serious? Why not, come on, you're great, you just got to pull yourself together.
"Friend": You think so? ...No, no, you're wrong, I can't do this.
"Friend": Hey, yes you can. Look at me. In the eyes, not at my shoes. Ok, now, I want you to stop all this crazy bad talk about yourself and say "This is me, this is what I was born for. I can do this!" You know you can, you've got to stop tearing yourself down. Now, keep your head up high and go out there, and just do it!

Remember, common courtesy to roommates says that you should wash hand prints off mirror after any high fives given during motivational self talks. (Also remember, this is a picture of a friend of mine. We look similar, but I stress the fact that we are friends, not the same person)

I'm not sure why, but I also like to justify myself out loud. Especially when I'm about to do something dumb and I know it, but I want to do it anyways. I'm not sure why I do this...maybe just in case people in the next life can get together and watch tapes of people's lives, I want them to know I recognized that it was a bad idea. Usually just one quick statement out loud to myself covers this, like this one:

Me: Well...this is a really dumb idea. I probably won't live through this...but hey, you can't let fear govern your life, right? Sometimes you've got to do dumb things to learn. I mean, I just want to live a little.

Then I jump on the sled with my friends, heading towards an intersection, where either a car will come and hit us, or we will hit the giant wall of ice on the other side. Had we died, I was covered, I had proclaimed to myself that I knew this was a dumb idea, but I wasn't going to let knowledge ruin my life!

"So, I've got to maneuver between the cars, hope no more cars come, dodge the parked cars on the other side, and watch out for the guy shoveling the walk. This may not be a good idea..."

So, I know what you're asking yourself right now. Probably something like this:

You: Man, he's right, talking to yourself is useful and fun. Why do people think it's crazy?
You: I have no idea. Maybe people who don't talk to themselves are crazy.
You: Yeah, I bet you're right.

I think the problem comes if either half of you in the conversation forgets you're talking to yourself. I mean, think of how confusing and crazy it could sound.

You: So yeah, then I asked her/him if she/he wanted to go watch a movie together, and he/she totally shot me down. It sucked.
You: Ha, man, what a loser you are.
You: Hey, you're supposed to build me up.
You: Why would I do that, you suck, you should try being more like me.
You: ...I am you, what are you talking about.
You: What? What on earth are you talking about? You are me? What, are you living two lives or something? That's crazy talk.
You: No, really, we're the same person, we're talking to ourselves right now.
You: Oh man, you really are crazy.

Then you would run around yelling hey, this guy/girl is crazy, watch out. He/She thinks he/she is me. People would look at you, and probably think you were crazy. At least that's my theory of why people think you're crazy if you talk to yourself. A few crazy people ruin it for the rest of us.