Friday, January 30, 2009

My Art Portfolio

Marky, your comment on my previous post made me realize that I could now post my artwork up on my blog now and display it using the slideshow function. Thanks for the realization.

This slideshow contains most of my artwork, from 7th grade through 12th. I took art all four years of high school and focused on Black & White images. I also liked self-portraits. I am in no way an artist, only an amateur, but I like to draw. I don't really have much time for it in this stage of my life, but I'm sure one day I'll get back into it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snowstorm 09

This is day 2 of our crazy snow/ice storm. We received around 5 inches or so of snow and ice in various layers. Everything is crazy. Power has been out throughout the city. Of course, since I live in the world's weirdest climate, one week ago it was almost 70*F and Sunday is supposed to be almost 50*F. Hope the slide show works. If it does, I'll love Google even more than I already do.

Wow, it does work. This proves that Google is on its way to global domination. You've won my heart, Google. And the Picasa program is pretty cool. Seriously, though, this storm was absolutely wild. Really cool, but fatal, too. Be careful out there folks. Enjoy.

PS: The statue of The Thinker is one of only 4 (I think 4, give or take a few) authentic replicas in the world. Pretty cool, eh?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Late, again, and the tick tick goes on and on.
Outside there is four inches of ice and snow
And buried beneath is a small pile from my puppy.
The sleep that seems inside me is wanting out,
But my curiosity is keeping me up at night,
Playing with Google and its many functions.

My toes are cold.
My eyes are heavy.
My brain is clouded.
My wife is sick.

Early, still, and the clock hasn’t stopped its cycle
And outside there’s six inches of ice and snow
And buried beneath the covers is a small pile: my puppy.
I can’t help but feel that there is more to the insides of me,
More than sleepiness, more than blood and bones,
More than I am even aware of, but I know it’s there,
Wanting out.

Why, when it’s so cold and messy outside?
Stay in where it’s warm and gooey and hidden.
Stay in and hide and leave me alone.
Let me have my peace.

What are the merits associated with ambition?
When it is so easy to float, why should I rise above?
I’m comfortable. I’m restless, but comfortable.
Complacent. Satisfied. Appeased?

The lights are flickering.
My toes are cold.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Homelessness and Poverty

Last night we decided to go to Dairy Queen for the Buy One Get One Free gimmick of blizzards since it snowed yesterday. Before the DQ trip we all ate at Santa Fe, a Mexican restaurant. In fact, we've ate out several times in the past week, and odds are you probably have, too. Regardless, while we were at Dairy Queen a man made his way into the store and bought himself a burger. He sat a few tables away from us and ate his single burger silently and alone. He was wrapped in a heavy coat and his skin was hard and leather looking. I am sad to say that I did not notice any of this until the very end. Keisha pointed out the man as he was getting ready to leave. She pointed out that he was counting out change on the table as if he was figuring whether or not he had enough money for more food. While she was discreetly telling me, the man left the store. We sat and talked quietly about the situation, and I silently prayed that the man would still be outside when we left.

I thank God that he was. Neither of us had cash on us but we approached the man as we were making our way to the truck. "I think you dropped this," I said to the man, holding out a $10 bill and placing it into his hand. We looked at each other in the eyes and he seemed confused. I repeated what I said and he smiled and replied with a "God bless you." Ten dollars isn't much money, but to the man it was another warm meal or two. To me it was an opportunity to share kindness and love with a person in need.

Homelessness breaks my heart in a different way than starving kids in Africa or war-stricken villages in Afghanistan. Homelessness is at my doorstep and I can do something immediately to help. I keep a Bible with some money in my car on the chance that I meet someone on the side of the road needing help. I've gone through my clothes and packed warm things and non-perishable foods in Kroger bags and kept them in my car to give away to someone that may need it. I try to ask for the people's names when I give things so I can pray for them, and I hope by showing kindness to the person that another Follower of the Cross will be able to work with the seed that I planted.

We are so blessed that we don't even stop to think about it. We have our warm homes with enough electronics to scare Russia into thinking we're starting another Cold War. Our fridges and cabinets are well stocked. Our trash is full of food that we don't like and/or didn't finish eating. Our closets are stuffed with clothes we don't wear, but we think they look pretty or we could wear them someday. Outside it's 26* and feels like 20*, and there's a very likely chance that 3-6" of ice and snow will fall through the night. Outside our homes there are millions of people in need of not only the basic sustenance, but also in need of some kindness and generosity.

I urge you to lend a helping hand to someone in need whenever the opportunity arises. We have the blessing and opportunity to make money, but someone out on the street most likely does not. Give and give sacrificially. Prove to yourself that you are not a heartless, greedy, typical American. Help someone.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Books I Read

I spend a lot of time reading. Nearly always, whenever I leave my home, I bring a book with me, just in case there is an opportunity to read. I have loved reading my whole life. I can remember as a small child reading Goosebumps and Wayside School and things. I can remember being in the middle school and reading my first real novel: Sphere, by Michael Crichton. I can also remember my best friend buying Lord of the Rings and reading it, then passing it along for me to read, too. (There were three of us that would read books and then pass them along to each other to read, that is, assuming they were good.) I can't recall if Tolkien was the reason I fell in love with the fantasy genre or not, but I am irrevocably devoted to fantasy novels. Terry Brooks was the love of my literature life growing up, and I ate through all 20+ books quickly.

I could go on and on about fantasy books for a while, but I won't. This post is about the books I read, which implies more than just one genre if you think about it long and hard. So, it should not surprise you that I also read a lot of Science-Fiction, too. Sci-fi is closely related to fantasy that I struggle to tell the difference, but there are some books that are unconditionally science-fiction. For instance, STAR WARS novels were plentiful, and still are, and I read them as often as I read my Bible, if not more...

I also developed a deep appreciation and interest in Classic books. This genre is difficult to classify, but Classic to me means books that are old and contain an important element to literature and history. I remember reading 1984 when I was volunteering as a tutor, and I shamelessly fell in love with it. In fact, Orwell's masterpiece is still one of my all time favorite books. Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Of Mice and Men, Cat's Cradle (I didn't like Slaughterhouse Five), and the like are all excellent reads. I still enjoy reading these old books, and I soon hope to read some Faulkner.

In short, I've spent much of my life reading books. I got hooked on John Grisham once and read many of his books back to back to back. There is a wonderful feeling to opening a book and enjoying it so much that you sit and read the entire thing in one sitting, which I did with Hawkes Harbor, by S.E. Hinton. Going outside on a beautiful day with a book to read is an excellent way to spend a day.

I imagine I will continue to have a passion for literature my whole life. My wife likes to read, too, and so I'm sure our kids will. We both want to house a mini-library collection of books in our home in the future. The written word is fantastic, and I suppose we owe thanks and gratitude to Gutenberg and our ancestors who decided to develop a system of writing. I just don't think I'd enjoy an oral tradition based society.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stream & Wetland Restoration

This semester I am taking a Stream & Wetland Restoration class. In it, we focus on a local watershed and work on restoring streams to their natural conditions, or a condition that resembles natural. Last Monday, MLK day, the temperature was around 28 degrees F, and the previous days had been the coldest in Kentucky history for several years back. We had to perform a basic pebble count on the stream on that day. A pebble count allows the engineer to see how the stream is transporting sediment and rocks down the system. To perform the test, a riffle of a stream is selected. Using a grid approach, a number of rocks/pebbles are collected and the diameter is measured. The diameter must be not the largest or smallest of the rock, but the mid size diameter. For our lab, 400 pebbles were collected.

The water was so cold that after 5 or 6 pebbles were collected, our hands were numb and feeling was impossible. We had to stick our bare hands into the frigid waters repeatedly and measure the diameter. Then we would classify the rock (silt, sand, pebble, cobble, boulder) and pitch it in the opposite direction. There was also large sections of the stream with inch+ thickness of ice on it, which we traversed on and broke to collect rocks. It was reminiscent of being a child, playing on ice and snow. Extremely cold and numbing, but fun.

The class looks to be informative, and most of the time should be spent out on the stream we are working on. We'll be dealing with bank erosion problems, unnatural cuts and irregular meanders, and who knows what else. I think the class will be exciting, but I can't wait until it warms up a bit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

LOST S5 E1 & E2 Reflection

For those of you that don't know, I am a huge LOST fan. For those of you that don't know, LOST is a television show that comes on ABC about a group of plane crash survivors and their quest on a mysterious island. For those of you that don't know, a television, or tv, is a gateway into another world...

Anyway, I am a huge fan of LOST. I've watched it since it premiered a few years ago with Season 1. The island has waged so many mysteries that my mind cannot remember them all. The character relationships with each other, in the past and present and future, are intriguing. The definition of good and evil and faith and science are all very questionable, and ofttimes it's hard to know how to describe accurately any character. You may think they are acting one way, when their intent is something completely different.


But this post isn't a post about why I like LOST. This post is a reflection of last nights episodes, "Because You Left" and "The Lie." The post-island Oceanic 6 have all slid into depression/madness/paranoia, and they all are acting differently than they were when on the island. Ben is wanting to collect them all, including a dead Jeremy Bentham, and to try and return to the island. The folks that remained on the island are now going through a space/time warp, traveling both frontwards and backwards through time. Daniel Faraday emerges as a leader (which I approve of) and attempts to explain this to the viewer. A good summary of the episodes is this: things get crazier and crazier on and off the island.

I enjoyed the episodes mainly because I've been dying to watch LOST since Season 4 ended last Spring. The story is still intriguing me, though I feel that its complexity may be losing viewers. People sometimes want a normal story. LOST is far from normal, as its creators tell the stories from many different and unique perspectives. I think Season 5 looks promising, but probably won't be as good as the earlier seasons. But my hopes are high and my expectations realistic, so I think I should be fine.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mighty Muggs: A Defense of Darth Maul

This is my new tv stand decor item. Mighty Muggs is a toy type from the Hasbro company. It is made from "100% recycled awesome", though I am unsure what that means. Nevertheless, I thought this particular MM figure was pretty cool for three good reasons.

(1) Darth Maul has always been awesome in the STAR WARS universe. His appearance as the Phantom Menace from Episode I was brilliant, and his use of the double-blade light saber phenomenal. The body tattoos and art was reminiscent of Mephistopheles, except way cooler and the ability to manipulate the Force. In addition to this, his few lines provided some insight to his interpretation of the Force, and his beliefs to bring down the Jedi were very clear.

(2) Several of my friends call me Darth. It is one of my many nicknames. One reason for this is that many of them know that I love STAR WARS and so they call me that. Furthermore, I created an alternate identity on Facebook as Darth Logeon.

(3) Darth Maul is so cool that my senior year of high school I woke up a few hours early on Halloween so my brother could paint my face in the style of Darth Maul. Since my brother is an artist and he is a STAR WARS fan, the end product looked very, very cool. Sadly, back then I did not appreciate pictures and so I have no pictures to provide as substantiating evidence.

There you have it. A defense on why Darth Maul is absolutely one of the coolest villains ever created. One other thing I failed to mention. When I bought my MM figure I just couldn't help myself to one other STAR WARS purchase: a bobble head Boba Fett.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dead Space: A Review

My friend recently purchased Dead Space for the PS3 because I kept insisting that he buy the game, as it looked fun and slightly freaky. And after he beat it I began playing the game. It is a first person shooter, but filled with mystery and puzzles to solve. The game takes place on the USG Ishimura, a mining space craft that has recently sent out a distress call. The protagonist, Isaac Clarke, is a mining engineer that goes on the rescue mission to find his stranded girlfriend, a passenger on the Ishimura. The rescue shuttle arrives at the downed ship to find radio silence and a massacre.

From the beginning of the game you see the Necromorphs, the alien specie that has caused the bloodshed. The creatures basically are human, but appear to be zombies and something else, too. There are several different types of the creatures throughout the game, but the majority are similar to the ones shown in the picture.

The story is told by collecting video, audio, and text logs that have been scattered about the Ishimura. And the player finds that what first seemed like a simple rescue mission to a downed mining ship is in fact much more complex. Religion, faith, brutality, and fear are all very strong themes in this game.

A couple things that make Dead Space so spooky: lighting, sounds, blood. The ship has been all but destroyed, and many lights are busted and not working. However, some lights flicker and others are motion sensored (which are really amazing), and your eyes play tricks on you. The noises of the ship are eerily quiet, and the occasional soft pattern of footsteps or a snarl can cause you to draw your gun so quick that you'll laugh at yourself at your jumpiness. But the blood is the most gruesome, disturbing part of the game. Apparently the passengers were ripped apart and blood splattered everywhere. There is writing on the wall with blood (often which contains hints). There is an infirmary and a morgue onboard the ship, and both of these places are literally covered in crimson.

I highly recommend Dead Space to anyone that has a PS3 or a 360 (there is also a PC version, but it didn't get very good reviews due to the controls or something). The game received amazing reviews throughout the video game world, and I heartily agree. The physics behind the graphics are simply beautiful. Zero gravity is awesome. The story is intriguing. The fright is fun.

Do yourself a favor and at least rent Dead Space. Or download the demo. The game only takes around 10 hours to beat, but it's a game you'll want to beat a couple of times to fully appreciate the complex story and the wonderful gameplay.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grad School

This is my final semester as a student. I graduate with a Masters of Engineering in May, and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've been going non-stop, year 'round, since the Fall of 2004. In my reckoning, that is a very long time to go without break. So, I was looking forward to my grad classes being easier, or at least more interesting, and I think I was only about 50% right on my expectations. I'm taking 15 hours, but it looks like it's going to require a lot more involvement than ever before.

Don't get me wrong. It should definitely be interesting, and possibly even fun, but super busy. One class, Stream and Wetland Restoration, will be really great because we get to go out to a watershed for 4 hours on a Monday afternoon and work in the field on things we are learning/have learned. However, since this goes until May that means I get to wade into frigid water weekly until the temperature starts to warm up. On the flip side, the class didn't require the purchase of any textbooks, only chest waders...

To my understanding, last year people had to break sheets of ice on top of the streams to get their water samples/rock samples/etc. I'm hoping that does not happen this year.

Another class I am taking is Green Engineering and Sustainability. Again, this class should be interesting, as "Green" and "Sustainability" are buzz words currently. But because they are buzz words does not make them interesting. Being environmentally aware of our impact on the earth is something everyone should familiarize themselves with. I'm not a tree hugger, but I do think we should strive to be good stewards of our beautiful, if not screwed up, planet.

Alas, I am off to class. Wish me luck. Long days and pleasant nights to you all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Caught in the Act by Thor

You can read the full story here. I listen to "Wait, Wait don't tell me" on NPR quite frequently. The other day they were talking about this story. My wife and I were absolutely brought to tears of laughter. Peter Sagal, the host of WWDTM, described the event as "...The single most gratifying experience" in the entire history of histories of mankind.

The strangeness of this story is what makes it wonderful, if not peculiar. I can perfectly visualize it in my head. A drunken burglar and an apparent Norse god. The man probably won't ever recover. I just thought that I'd post this wonderful bit o' news for everyone to enjoy.

Have fun, folks, and eat some licorice while you're at it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Recovery

Many of you may be aware of my recent bout with illness. Not the normal coughing, sneezing, running nose run-of-the-mill common cold, but a vomiting, abdominal pain, diahrreatic old-time case of bubonic plague. Needless to say, it was something I hope to never endure again.

I'm really not sure how I contracted the disease, and the doctors were really uncertain, too. It turns out, in real life hospitals things that happen on House or ER don't actually happen. So, I was practically bed bound and full of discomfort. My lungs actually felt like they were going to stop functioning.

Ultimately the plague was eradicated from my system, thanks to the wonders of technology and the miracles of modern medicine. But, being without insurance for the past several years, and still without, there remains the unpaid bill. I'm really not sure how that's going to be taken care of, but I'm sure it will. If not, Keisha, Stella, and I will just pack up and head to Londontown.

One thing I learned from my experience was a greater understanding of the people that endured the Black Death. I'm just thankful that I really never actually got the disease, and subsequently ne'er had to go to l'hopital, thus I don't have an unpaid bill, hence this whole post is untrue. Anyway.

Say hello to your grandmother for me, will ya?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Say "Hello" to Stella

I've mentioned that changes were coming. And by changes I really just mean change. Keisha and I recently decided to get a puppy. She is a cross between a Maltese and a Shih-Tzu, thus she is a Malt-Tzu or a MaltShih. She currently weighs 2 pounds. She loves to sleep about 20 hours per day. Play, potty, and food is reserved for the other 4 hours. Pictures are below.

These are just a few of the wonderful pictures of Stella. I'm sure there will be more forthcoming. But until then, I bid you adios.

NOTE: This post has been updated on 1/28/09 by replacing the original 5 pictures of Stella with a cool slide show application from Picasa.