Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Official OFFICIAL Job Offer

I'm so excited. I finally got my official job offer. I've already had a verbal offer, but now it's in writing!

Praise the good Lord Jesus!

I'm too excited.

Up Next: Housing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

American Gods, A Reflection

I've just finished reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The book leaves me thinking many things.  This post may contain some slight spoilery.

1. I'm really not sure whether or not I fully understood the book. Some things were explained, others were left up to the imagination. This is fine by me. But what did I glean from the novel? What was the theme? From what I gather, gods need people to believe in them, or they cease to exist. More important is the life of America. Does America change so much, growing in culture and mythos, that it forgets long-forgotten beings?

2. I really liked the style of writing. I felt like I was thrown into a meta-stream-of-conscience/third-person novel. Sure, I was lost on occasion, but I was always intrigued.

3. The fact that I did not, do not, completely understand the book gives me mixed feelings. The concept of magic and mystique was vague, but implied, while grounded in the real world. I felt that this could be explained better or more fully, but Gaiman knows what he's doing.

4. The allusions: there were many, many allusions and references to pop culture and past culture. Several sites, towns, etc really exist here in America, making the novel fun. Also, I felt like many themes and ideas were connected to the Sandman comics, which I've posted on here. Too many to mention, in fact.

5. Mythology: I am a big fan of mythology and folklore. If I ever decided to continue my education, I think I would want to take classes in folklore, fairy tales, myths, and the like. With that, American Gods has extensive characters from many cultures and religions and beliefs from all over the world. I didn't know who some of the characters were supposed to be, but I liked them.

6. Denouement: The conclusion of the story was acceptable. There seemed to be one main plot, the fate of the gods, and a few subplots (Laura, Lakeside, identity), and all were resolved satisfactorily. Though, it did sadden me a bit that Shadow met Easter, while Laura did not.

7. Laura: This was the most confusing character in the book. Laura is Shadow's recently deceased wife. Why does she come back from the dead? How? There were many questions about Laura, but her character was important for the development of Shadow.

There you have it. Some meager reflections on Gaiman's novel. After finishing the book, I thought that it would make for an excellent movie, provided the director, writer, actors, and effects were up to the quality of the book.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The End is Nigh, The Beginning Imminent

School, that is, lecture and class, is officially over. Let's all pause and reflect on this for a moment.

Ah, okay. I've been a student for 14 consecutive semesters, since the Fall of 2004. It's been a long and winding road, one with many difficulties, but also with numerous joys. Now I have one final to take (which is next Wednesday, which I do not particularly care about) and then school, that is, in its entirety, is officially over.

Soon, I'll be graduating and starting a job. You see, yesterday I had an official interview with a company near home. The position is a Highway Drainage Engineer, which is related to my field of study. In the job I'll be working on hydraulic and hydrologic aspects of highway construction projects. At the conclusion of the interview, I was told to be expecting an offer within the next week. Let's all pause and thank God for a long moment.

Okay. Soon after my interview, my wife and I headed to see our realtor, who took us to look at a few houses. We found one that we both loved and immediately decided that that was the house for us.

Now, this brings up an interesting time table of events. If I get my job offer by next Thursday, I can meet with the bank on Friday to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Then, after I'm pre-approved, I can contact my realtor and put in an offer on the home. There are a million things going on simultaneously, and it's slightly stressful, but mostly fun.

On a completely different note, I read an interesting comic yesterday. Marvel Zombies. It's hard to describe it accurately, but basically the Marvel superheroes have all been infected and turned into zombies. Like all zombies, they hunger for flesh and brains. With that, it's a strange-but-humorous take on the heroes I grew up with. It was short and fun.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

ArcGIS Final

This map is a research project I did for my final in ArcGIS. I think it's pretty simple, yet cool enough to look at and see. The most remarkable thing about this project is the fact that most of Jefferson County is some sort of impermeable surface, and of that imperviousness, 37% is subdivisions!

I think maps generated using the ArcMap software are pretty remarkable. Flashy, stylish, and simple, they look like they belong in textbooks. I really enjoy this class.

Let me know if you have any questions.

It's a marvelous night for a moondance.

Stream Restoration

My posting has been sporadic here of late. I've been swamped, trying to finish everything I can for school before it's technically due. And, in fact, I have succeeded in that. I've only one large project to go, Advanced Hydrology, a graduate Capstone presentation to a review panel, and a few other presentations to give. Thus, practically all of my actual work is finished for the semester. Now I just have to present this stuff.

So, with that, I have volunteered to do some GIS work for the Stream Institute at the University of Louisville. The Stream Institute is a group that works with stream restoration and wetland development throughout Kentucky, and also some other states. I am in the class currently. Ultimately the goal is to restore a man-made stream into something natural looking. Doing this will lower shear stresses throughout the channel, thus reducing erosion and flooding only things that are meant to be flooded.

The project I'm doing actually sounds pretty cool. I have 60 digital aerial photos of the stream that is being researched. These images are circa 1970 and black & white. I am to import them into ArcMap, georeference them, and process them. Then, I am to import topo maps and compare the stream's position to the topo maps. Finally, I am to bring in current (2006) aerial photography and compare the stream.

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle. The black & white photos are the pieces. I have a topo map that serves as the box cover, letting me know what my goal is to look like. I am working with a mostly urban landscape. However, in the 70s it wasn't as urbanized. For me, I get to see, literally, how the land changed in 30 years.

The difficult part is actually finding where the pieces go. See, the topo map includes the entire county, and some of the neighboring county. The images may not all go adjacent, and most definitely will not fill the county. It's like having 60 jigsaw pieces to a 200 piece puzzle.

Once I get everything imported and processed, I'm essentially done. By learning how much a stream has moved over a given time, we can calculate how much sediment was deposited. I don't fully understand the rationale, but sediment deposits are officially counted as a pollutant.

It really is dramatic to see how much a stream has changed over the course of time. A well-intentioned farmer 10 miles downstream may have straightened out a channel to keep his farmland from flooding. Straightening a channel is never natural. In doing so, a headcut develops (usually) and works its way upstream, tearing through the soil like any normal person going through a Dairy Queen blizzard. The headcut is a destructive force in the stream, and can only be stopped with the appropriate amount of pool and riffle sequences, or if the headcut meets a culvert, etc.

Overall, the project seems like it will be interesting. I'm trying to finish as quickly as possible, but it seems like it'll take a while. On a related note, the 60 images were .TIFF files, huge image files that took up around 5 gigs. A friend recommended using irfanview to convert these .TIFFs to .JPEGs. I brought 5 gigs down to just over 700 megs, keeping the same quality and functionality. If you have image files, movie files, or sound files you need to convert, you should check it out.

I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Funniest Video I've Ever Watched

I typically don't post twice in one day, but I just had to share.

This is guaranteed to make you laugh. I guarantee it. It's funny the entire 9 minutes. Enjoy, and share.

Advanced Hydrology Term Project

For Advanced Hydrology we were given a semester project to work on. A big, long one that will require a lot of our time to do. In addition to the project, we have to create a presentation and write a fancy report. As a term project, you would expect us to have the entire term to be working on it, but, unfortunately that is not the case for Advanced Hydrology. We got the project on Monday. That's seven-days-until-the-end-of-the-semester Monday. Allow me to explain through question 1.


Note: The first order Markov Model (order p=1) for Normally distributed flows can be expressed as: Xi,j+1=ux,j+1+px,j(1)*(sx,j+1/sx,j)*(Xi,j-ux,j)+tx,j+1*sx,j+1*sqrt(1-(px,j(1)^2)

Using both monthly flows Xi,j and Zi,j series at the streamflow gauging site:

i. Plot the time series

ii. Compute basic statistics like the mean, standard deviation, coefficient of skew and correlation coefficients between monthly flows. Note: This step will require the use monthly flows grouped by month like January together etc for series.

iii. Compute the auto-correlogram of the Zi,j series for a maximum of 12 lags of the time series treating it as a stationary series with no periodicity. Note: This step will treat the monthly flows as one combined time series. Hence the lags are accomplished by simply lagging the series by 1,2,3...12 times. Compare and comment on the differences between the auto-correlation for different lags from 1,2...12 with thos obtained for each month in Step (ii) above.

iv. Use the monthly correlation coefficient matrix from Step (i) to identify the order p for the Auto Regressive (AR) model both series.

v. Write out the complete format for the Autoregressive model to give Xi,j and Zi,j as a function of previous values of {Xi,j-1,Xi,j-2,...} or {Zi,j-1,Zi,j-2....} and other required components. This will look like the Markov Model (Eq. 15.17 which is for order 1, page 378 with additional lags if needed (see secion on Higher order Autoregressive models on page 379-380 equation 15.20 and 15.21, text). Note: If you have more than one order 1-R^2 term in Eq. 15.21 will be (1-p(1)^2-p(2)^2...)


Everything above is typed as it appears on my sheet. The boldface is boldfaced. The typos are typo-d. Is it just me, or does reading through that stuff make your head hurt? I'm in a hydrology class, not an advanced statistics class. This entire semester has been statistics, statistics, probability, and more statistics. The only thing that makes it hydrologically related is the fact that we use streamflow data for our data to run statistical models on.

The ironic thing is I kind of enjoyed some of the statistical methods back at the beginning of the class. When we were running simple regression and analysis. Generating hypothesis tests. And then we got in to this weird, higher order stuff, and the entire class lost it.

Ah, well. I guess I'm supposed to complain. All students do, right? I've made it this long, with just o'er a week to go until school is done, so I can handle it. Once I get through question 1, I'll have question 2 to worry about.

Until then, I'll just keep on a chooglin.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Update + Dr. Horrible

Life has been extremely hectic these past few days. School is wrapping up, very quickly, and projects are coming to a close almost too fast for my comfort. I've been swamped, to be blunt. Also, I'm still looking for a job (but hopefully for not much longer) and a home for when school is over.

Even with all the commotion and the hustle and bustle, I still find myself relishing the fact that school will be over very soon. Less than one month and I will have my Masters degree in Civil & Environmental engineering and then I shall be finished for the time being. That means I won't have homework when I'm home. That means I won't have to study. That means that I'll not have to sit through more lectures.

With that, I'll be brief. I listen to music all the time, especially when I'm studying. Also, I'm a fan of hulu, even if they're plotting to take over the world. I found that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was available for a full view. Sure, I've purchased the phenomenal experience on iTunes and have it on my iPod, but it just seems easier to view it on hulu.

Anyway, for those of you that have never heard of the show, or if you've heard but never watched it, I highly endorse and recommend it. Basically, it was created during the writers strike last year, made by the Whedon clan to prove a point, and the result was simply amazing. So amazing that TIME magazine called it the 15th best invention of 2008. It won numerous awards and has a fanbase in the trillions. (Okay, obviously not that high, but still a huge one, I'll wager.)

So feel free to watch and enjoy the hit. It's only 43 minutes. And it's definitely worth every second. Take care, folks. And wish me luck.

Monday, April 06, 2009

You Tube + Radiohead

It's hard to think back when You Tube wasn't around. I'm not a fanatic, heck, I'm not even addicted. But I do think that it's a great tool for finding videos or watching videos or seeing cute puppies and kitties or watching young artists do original pieces or many other things. That said, I've recently been on a Radiohead kick. Maybe it's because of my friend William. Or maybe it's because 15 Step stays in my head all the time.

Whatever the case may be, I do like listening to Radiohead. What I've found is that people are either Radiohead fans, they're indifferent, or they loathe the group. For me, I love them. When they started they were completely original and unique. Still, they're sound is definitely their sound, but there are others that put me in mind of them (MUSE, for example). With that, I'll post some great videos here by the band.

Karma Police
House of Cards
Paranoid Android (A Radiohead song, but this is done using Mario Paint, which is quite awesome)

Unfortunately, You Tube does not allow me to embed these videos. I'm not sure why, but I can't. Sorry. Have a great night, folks.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Bad Days

Some days, I am sure, I am only going to fail. Those days--the Bad Days--are the days that leave me feeling hollow, contemplative, wondering exactly why I am the way I am. Is there a conspiracy against me, or am I truly stupid for the day? Usually I am a thinker, that is I like to think well ahead before speaking; I truly believe the tongue is a beast unable to be broken. On those days, days like today, I screw up and the world screws up around me. I make a list of things to do for the day, early in the morning, and I accomplish two out of the ten, and those were the easy ones, like make a pot of tea and do the dishes. And then, somehow, I wind up being stupid and feelings get hurt and then nothing productive happens for a while, which is okay, but stressful. And then things are going good, but I open my mouth and say something and feelings get hurt and still nothing productive happens. We go and grill out, which is great, cause it's nice feeling outside, and we are visited by a self-proclaimed hobo. The man, Lee, had just been kicked off a train and was walking around when he said he could smell our food, which he asks if he can have or buy a burger off of us. We give him two, but we have no buns with us outside, but he's thankful. Tells us about his travels and all he has on him is a light jacket and a plastic bag full of odds and ends. And then supper's all done and we bid Lee a good night, head in and eat with some old friends and talk about times back in the dorms, back when we lived on the 4th floor of Threlkeld. We talked about the time a water balloon was dropped and hit that man in a suit. We talked about blowing up water bottles in the microwave. We talked about filling a room with somewhere around thirty life-size cut-outs of ARMY men. But still nothing productive. Me and Keisha leave and go get gas, which is productive, but not in the sense I need to be productive. We get home and I sit down, here, still contemplative. See, I'm an engineer, and so I think about things differently than the layman. I want to do things efficiently and productively, I like to budget and plan, and these things lead me to being less stressed. I like spontaneity, sure, but just as long as I've made time for it. And my mind still thinks back to things said and actions done earlier, and I still feel slightly hollow, even if I'm full from the burgers. What do I have to show for the day? A gallon of tea and some clean dishes. That's it. I've got a billion projects to finish for school and homework to complete and papers to write, but I just don't have the motivation to do it. Instead, I find myself typing my thoughts here, on my blog, for no apparent reason but to put my mind onto paper, albeit an electronic pad. But who cares? I'm young, right, so I should do this kind of stuff. Stay up late and procrastinate. I hate procrastination, friends. I hate it with a passion. But I fear that I am one of the only ones left on this planet with that attitude.

Some days I just feel like a cynic. On the Bad Days, though, I feel like a ghost.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Lost Recap

This season of Lost has been very exciting for me. I've watched the show since it started, and I've loved it ever since. Sure the series has had its poor episodes, but there have been far more interesting and great episodes than otherwise.

Season 5 started out pretty rough, but it has consistently been very entertaining. With the survivors finally back on the Island, albeit in 1977, things are getting very interesting. We finally see some of the history of the Island being explained, especially between the Hostiles and the Dharma folk. The mystery of the Island is still very much alive, constantly growing.

The last episode, "Whatever Happened, Happened," was one of my favorites of this season. Although it was a Kate-centric episode, and I'm not a fan of Kate, everything that was going on On Island was pure entertainment. The flashbacks served to provide some insight to Kate's On Island actions, which currently is to save Young Benjamin Linus from a gunshot wound. Ben was dying, and Juliet requested for Jack to help her, but Jack's pride prohibited him from helping. As such, Jack's inaction led Kate to taking Ben to the Hostiles for help. While there, Richard Alpert warned Kate (and Sawyer) that by helping Ben he would be forever changed. He would lose his innocence. Kate and Sawyer agreed, and Ben was carried off into the Temple by Alpert.

The next scene was beautiful. The Old Ben wakes up from his injuries and comes face to face with John Locke, the very man Ben murdered. Locke says, in his kindly voice, "Hello Ben. Welcome back to the land of the living." The episode ends, and we are given a preview to next week's episode, which looks like it may be one of the greatest of the shows history.

Lost is such a great show for many different reasons. I love the allusions to pop culture, to literary classics, to philosophers, to mythology, and to religion. The mystery of the Island perpetuates the shows success, but also the mystery of the characters. Each person has their own story and their own mistakes, and the Island forces the person to make choices. Have faith and change, or stick with logic and remain unchanged. These ideas, while not original, are still fun and entertaining.

For an excellent blog to read on Lost, which is updated weekly, check out this site. These guys blog about all different sorts of things on television, but I particularly like what is said about Lost every week. For a wiki site of Lost, which I find myself referencing quite often, I recommend checking out this site.

As I've said, I am really enjoying this season of Lost. It's not as intriguing as the first season, but it still is top quality television, unlike Heroes, which seems to be taking a turn for the worse.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Comics You (Really) Should Read [Conclusion]

The final comic/graphic novel that you (really) should read is Blankets, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson. Blankets is a memoir, and as such it tells the story of the authors early childhood, growing up in a Christian home and coming to terms with himself, God, and his first love. I read this novel a few months ago, but I still remember a lot of the story contained therein. In fact, Time magazine has listed Blankets as one of the ten greatest graphic novels of all time.

Part of the reason I liked this book so much is the fact that it is real. It's raw. It's something that I easily related to. Thompson has a brother close in age, I have a brother close in age. Thompson grew up in a Christian home, I grew up in a Christian home. Thompson wasn't the cool kid at school, neither was I. We've done things differently in our lives, and I would not have done the same things he did, but I easily related to the story.

The art was also simple. Beautiful. Real. There were no spandex super heroes or any mystical gods, just simple, normal folks. And that was refreshing. To read something so personal, something by someone with questions and without definite answers. It was a great trip, journeying with Thompson and his life.

I typically am a fiction reader, but this was different. I don't think I would have enjoyed the story had it been a novel, but as an illustrated novel (i.e. graphic novel) the pages were richer and more enlightening. I highly recommend Blankets to you. Yes, you. Why you, you may think? Because I know you have questions about life, you have thoughts about things that Thompson has, and you've never read anything like it. You may have some of the same fears Thompson has. You may have a similar first love experience. Whatever the case, this graphic novel is wonderful.


There you have it, three comics that you (really) should read. You can find Sandman in TPB form, or in the Absolute forms, but these are very expensive. My library had them, actually. Fables is also out in TPB, but there is also the monthly edition published. Blankets will be available at your nearest Borders, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you usually buy your books. If you typically do not read comics, but think that they are something you would enjoy, I easily recommend starting with these. These three represent some of the best out there, but there are plenty more.

Perhaps in the future I'll post more on some of my favorite comic classics, like Batman or Spiderman, but for now this is concluded. Enjoy these recommendations if you decide to read them.