Monday, April 27, 2009

Working Abroad and Brewing Update

In my quest to find a permanent job doing something I enjoy (such as teaching), I have realized that the job market here in the States is somewhat... lacking. Before last November, I never had trouble finding a job, especially as a teacher. My resume is quite shiny, I'm enthusiastic, and I actually like working with adolescents. The inability to find a decent job is a new experience, and it as me thinking. I've always wanted to live in another country, at least for a time. This could be the time for me to pursue that.

I don't have a real job, I'm not in any sort of romantic relationship, and everything I've tried to establish in the last few years seems to have fallen apart. While I've been initially upset over most of these things, I am fairly well set up for traveling the world right now. It has been an aspiration of mine for years. The likelihood of my being this free of obligations later in life is low. Marriage can make it more difficult, as can an established career or children should I decided to have any.

Two of the programs that I'm looking into are English First and the JET Program English First is present in 51 countries around the world, the biggest and most involved being China. I am currently scheduling an interview with them to find out more. The job offers insurance benefits, flies you there and back, paid vacation, and in China I would have the option of learning Mandarin.

The JET Program is the premier program in Japan. I've always wanted to go to Japan. Japanese history is fascinating, along with the culture. I might be able to convince a few of my friends to go into the JET program with me, as well. That would be fairly nifty.

I will keep everyone updated on that.

Speaking of updates, I now have four batches of brews going. One of the jugs sort of exploded. It wasn't a huge mess and the batch wasn't a total loss, as I was handling the jug at the time and could salvage a good part of it. The batch tastes fairly similar to Strongbow Cider, which is my favourite brand of cider. It isn't very strong, but I'm going for good taste. I've never understood drinking malt beverages to get drunk.

That is all for now. we're working a lot of overtime so I've been sleeping most of the time I've been home, but I hope to be able to work posting back into my regular schedule.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You Hear About It, Yes...

...but sometimes the extent of taxes boggles the mind.

I just found out that Kansas has a drug tax, along with a few other states. Maybe this isn't news to anyone else, but in Kansas, as a drug dealer, you actually go to Topeka and buy stamps to put on your drugs as you sell them. Failure to do so can get you up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, as well as civil penalties that can include seizure of the dealer's property to pay for taxes owed.

Do the stamps make the drugs legal? No. However, affixing the stamp is basically a way to buy yourself out of even more penalty.

Contemplation on this level requires cookie dough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Omegle

So Richard mentioned Omegle and I had to try it out. Most of the conversations were a bust.

Things I have learned on Omegle:

-Nobody wants to talk to 25-year-old males
-Especially if they're from Kansas
-Porn and product promotion are BIG on there
-People from the Netherlands are pretty cool

These are gross generalizations, but I'm amused nonetheless.

Also, for the record, my eyes are still twitching.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time Got Away, But Returned With Brilliant Ideas

It usually does. I've never been particularly good with time. For example, a word like "recently" can indicate time anywhere on the spectrum of "a few minutes ago" to "since I learned to drive." That is a fairly broad range of things. I can usually construct time lines to figure things out, as well as draw on the fragmented relationships between people's ages to figure out how old people are. Even so, it's always seemed rather suspect to me because it often just leaves me hanging.

Occasionally, I get brilliant ideas. It's ideas like these that inspired one of my high school nicknames, which is a variant of the word.

See, this weekend I took a trip to my parents' place to visit them and go to a friend's wedding. On the way back, there were a few traffic backups and drive that should have taken no longer than four hours (even considering the heavy rain I began in) turned into six and a half. After a while, I needed a break from listening to my musicals and my voice needed a break from making that noise I call singing.

I was looking at the car in front of me, being amused by the bored college girls for a moment, when it struck me. I had a bottle of Dave's Insanity Sauce with me. Now, I almost always have some sort of hot sauce with me, just in case I need to add a bit of a kick. Being out of anything else to do, I decided that it was a good idea to take a swig.

"Hmmm," I said to myself, "that's not actually that bad." I am, after all, a fan of hot stuff. And that's when the brilliant idea struck me. Capsican is the chemical behind the heat in a friendly, tasty bottle of Dave's and in pepper spray.

"If I'm so used to eating the stuff that I can drink it... I wonder how I would handle being hit with a drop directly in the eye?" I mean, I'd gotten small amounts in my eye before and it wasn't that bad at this point.

Somehow, the best way to do it seemed to apply it in the corner next to my contact, with my toothbrush. While I was driving.

For the record, in the future, I'll probably try to avoid conducting experiments that can alter my ability to see clearly until I'm not driving. Or, at least I'll only do one eye.

It wasn't as bad as it could have been. I teared up a lot and it burned a bit, but the biggest problem I had was the hyperactive twitching of my eyes for the rest of the night.

The whole story is vaguely reminiscent of a series of stories from my childhood. I was, and am, very curious. Death is just but one of many of the risks you take being a scientist. Especially the kind of scientist that gets brilliant ideas after sitting for too long.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Not Politics, It's Semantics.

Seriously, regardless of your political beliefs or affiliations... semantics can make for some fantastic and awkward situations.



On a news show? Are you kidding me? More importantly, are you trying to whack me via laughter?

High-Speed Rail?

President Obama announced plans for the federal funding of a new, high-speed rail system today. I have mixed feelings about this.

Being a mild train fanatic, I am all for high-speed rail expansion. Certain other places have made it an effective form of travel and I'm sure that we Americans, in all our riches and ingenuity, can do it too. It's funny how often the same people that constantly pump up this country's ego present public transportation to be impossible, with successful examples all over the world. I'm aware that circumstances are a bit different here, but if we were really so awesome and resourceful, couldn't we just figure it out?

As excited as I am, I have a few concerns about high-speed rail. I've traveled Amtrak a bit, and I don't want all of the current advantages to being a fan of rail transportation to dissipate now that it's mainstream because the popular kids like it. Things like:

~Rail Sharing. Right now, Amtrak does not own tracks. It rents from the freight companies that do own them. This leads to wonderful things like sitting for two hours just outside of 'Ellifikno, Indiana leeching Internets from a nearby farmhouse. By the way, Dave, God bless you and your router.

~Gratuitous Time Investment. Cross-country trips usually take 70% of your vacation time to reach the destination. In fact, if it's less than 36 hours each way and you don't look like you've been on the lam when you return home, it's probably not worthwhile taking the train.

~Security. I hate airports with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Why? Airport security. I'll go into specifics another time. Suffice to say that train security is great, and if you're out of line they can always just throw you off the moving train. You can do that in underpowered, under-used trains. It's therapeutic.

~Cred Issues. Right now, you get to know regular travelers on the train. It's like a subculture, and when the newbs flock in I'll have to deal with people telling me that I only ride trains because they're popular now. It'll be Pirates of the Caribbean all over again. Because I was born a pirate.

That said, I'd love for trains to become more popular. They're full of adventure, especially the overnights. High-speed rail would make vacationing more convenient for me and, in the end, be a generally more efficient way to move people across the country than cars and jets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not a whole lot to report today.

Geico woke me up later in the morning. Normally, 10 am isn't a big deal, but tonight I work from 8 pm to 4:30 am. Bah.

I spent the day cleaning out my car and attempting to organize things around here. I also ruined a batch of pasta that I had going because I was just a bit too involved in the reorganization.

My roommate and I have, over the last two nights, watched the first and second Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He'd never seen the second and third before. Unfortunately, my third movie is missing. I hope to find it soon.

I'm off to work.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Unlaid Off!

I've been called back to work. Hooray! I'd much rather work than not.

Still looking for a permanent, full-time job. It'd be nice to start my own business. I've always had a thing for getting lost in projects, anyhow, and that is a way to potentially make money. I'm always looking for an idea, especially one that doesn't require a large sum of starting capital.

In other news, it looks like the fermentation has begun. I've cleaned my entire closet out, and as it's the coolest and most convenient place for storage, that's where I will keep everything. Most of the rest of the apartment is a wreck at the moment, because I had quite a bit of stuff in the closet. It should be finished by this weekend, though.

On the romantic side of things, I'm not liking how I feel with this woman. She's pushing fast and in ways I'm uncomfortable with and I'm not sure I can do that. I don't think this is going to last. We aren't on the same level with anything, and we should be having a lot of fun but yet again I am in this... relationship... feeling more like a parent than a significant other.

Mom had a doctor's appointment Monday. Stage 0, things are looking really good.

Actually, things are looking up in general.

Monday, April 13, 2009

So I've decided to try my hand at brewing

Sister Dear and BiL , her husband and my best friend, have been taking a beer appreciation class. I've never cared terribly for most beers; in fact, I'm sort of an arrogant prick when it comes to beer. Unfortunately, most of my favourites are fairly expensive, and I prefer generally prefer wine or mixed drinks. The last few years have seen me open up more, and that leads to the idea behind this post.

DB mentioned the ease with which mead was made. One thing lead to another, and we're sort of going to try our hands at brewing. Dad knows some guys that do it, and I figure that it's not entirely beyond me, what with it being a science and all. So I began reading about it, and the more I read the more accessible that brewing actually seems to be to me.

As it turns out, there is a fairly local brewing supply store, Bacchus and Barleycorn, Ltd. I shot on over today to check it out, primarily in search of yeast. Because as it turns out, fermentation can take quite a long time without the use of yeast. I didn't browse for terribly long, but I did end up choosing Safale S-04 yeast. It's a fast fermenting English Ale yeast with a good temperature range and used in a wide range of ales. I'm not looking to make specialties at this point, just get some of the basics down.

I'm probably doing this incorrectly, or at least in a less than optimal way. I am using (quite well washed) milk jugs for this. I suppose, though, that I'll find out in a week or two whether this part of the experiment was successful. I'll let you know.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Birthday and Easter

It so happens that my BFF/brother-in-law BiL's birthday falls on Easter this year. I'm in StL for the weekend, so I made my way to his and Sister Dear's apartment for some old-school celebration. We didn't go out, we didn't have a wild party, none of that. We celebrated just like in the olden-days: a few beverages, a few snacks, a few shows, a lot of games, and good friends.

I could do that pretty much every day.

Now, we're off to church and later to M&D's for ribs and the celebration of Easter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rest in Peace, Kirby

I just read this morning that Kirby, the basset hound of PVP's Scott Kurtz, finally died. My condolences go out to him and his family. Kirby is in a better place now.

I cannot help but feel sadness myself. I've been reading PVP since September of 1999. He has always been a dog person, which is something we've been able to share. The way Kirby has come to life in his comics has made PVP more accessible and personal to me. Kurtz has managed to let all of us meet his dog this way, as well as many other members of his family. At this point, Kirby could have been the friendly dog next door for the last 11 years.

It occurs to me that I have been a regular follower and reader of PVP for longer than any other comic. PVP was the second web comic I discovered, after Joe-the-Circle, and has been a persistent part of my routine ever since. It has outlasted regular viewings of Garfield, Dilbert, and any other traditional comic, while it predates my interest in Penny Arcade, XKCD.

I think the reason is that Kurtz has managed to create well-defined characters and amusing plots. I've become so wrapped up in their personal lives that I have never minded the soap opera-like story lines about the loves lives of various characters, in spite of the fact that I was originally sucked in by the video game and comic jokes. I am aware that the romantic lines have been a major complaint from many of the earlier fans, but it makes the cast more dynamic and allows for me to identify well with the characters as I have begun growing up as well. For what it's worth, I began in the age bracket as Francis and Marcey, so it's nice that they have changed with me, albeit more slowly.

On a bit of a subject change, I have never cared for "RIP." Rest In Peace, written out, seems heartfelt. RIP, in my mind, is associated with the grim reaper characters. It's both darker and more casual. Therefore, I prefer to write it out.

Rest In Peace, Kirby, King of the Basset Hounds.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On the Lighter Side of Things...

...I recently read the condensed version of Harry Potter, by Molly Ringle. As far as I can tell, there are three parodies: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone US), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I laughed myself silly with them, and must highly recommend them. This is a great find for me; as an avid reader and former writer of terrible fanfiction, I like the inside jokes based off of given worlds (although I also have an actual appreciation for good literature). I especially like the notation of points that excite or disappoint various fanfiction writers/readers.

I sort of have a history of this. One of my favourite movies, for example, is Final Fantasy: Advent Children. This is basically a gigantic, expensive fan film based on Final Fantasy VII. It's kinda all right unless you've played the game, in which case it's awesome. We even have a drinking game, for anyone that likes alcohol poisoning.

Tough News

I found out the other day that Mom has breast cancer. I wasn't expecting it, because the biopsy sort of got lost in the shuffle as she also just had her gallbladder removed.

Anyhow, it's ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It's actually a pretty good prognosis, all things considered. It's non-invasive and appears to be one of the less aggressive cancers around. We already have a friend that's been through it fairly well.

Of course, having another friend that died from breast cancer , I am more than a little unnerved by this. I'm not sure what type it was, but it went out of remission a few years ago. Things went downhill fast and took most of us by surprise. Well, I guess a few of us anyhow.

My best friend from childhood had cancer, too. Is it just me, or does everyone seem to get cancer these days?

Apologies for the depressing entry.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hitler and Storm Chashing

There are several videos on the Internet now that subtitle this particular scene, but I have found this one to be my favourite. This is also one of the best rant scenes that I've ever viewed, and it's made even better by the sound of the German language. Even the most beautiful phrases can be easily retooled to sound like blistering rage. I love Germanic languages for that.

It helps that I am interested in weather, forecasting, and that I've done some (extremely reckless) amateur storm chasing.



For the record, using a bicycle to chase tornadoes falls under the category of "Bad Ideas."

Structure

It's obvious to me that I need some sort of structure to really make this thing work. So naturally, I end up posting anything that comes to my mind. Essentially, you're getting something of a look at how my mind processes things. With my attention span being as small as it us, this typically means that following set schedules and themes is out unless I have some help. It's easy to keep that stuff up in a classroom, because my students have a certain expectation of me.

You, dear readers, are the complete opposite. Your lack of presence takes all the limits and constraints off of me. I can post anything that I want, whenever I want, with no real consequences. It works that way when you're the only one involved.

That's why the real source of the problem is you. That's right, you. I need your input, and without you I will never be whole. I am what I am, let's get that out in the open. Passionate, fragmented, distractable, and amusing. It is your job to set the schedule, themes, and specifics of content because Lord only knows I never will.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Commercial Interpretations

I have been wanting to post commercial interpretations for quite some time. I've decided to start by occasionally hitting the recent Superbowl's commercials a few at a time, as well as a perhaps a few new commercials as well. I rely on friends and family to send me commercials, as I rarely watch actual television outside of special events.

Company: Cars.com
Product: Car search and purchase engine?



My Interpretation: You humans are ineffective and weak.

Seriously, I'd hoped that someone like this David Abernathy guy would run the site, not be reduced to a simpering pile of nerves when buying a car. At least I can have faith in technology. I suppose that they're trying to appeal to all those macho guys that want to pretend like they have a handle on it, saying "Hey, it's OK. You can be confident and tough and use our service, all at the same time." To me, it still says that we should be nice to our iPods, because one day they will rule us.

Company: Pepsi
Product: Pepsi Max



My Interpretation: The celebrities are even drinking caffeine! Yay drug addiction and reliance! Let's emulate the celebrities, because they always have their ducks in a row.

Company: Frito-Lay
Product: Cheetos



My Interpretation: Eating Cheetos makes you a godlike being with control over pigeons. Excellent for revenge and petty thefts.

Company: Teleflora.com
Product: Internet-ordered flowers, I think



My Interpretation: Little Audry II's are effective for breaking up, use Teleflora.com to send flowers of happiness, and someone always wants to see you naked (although you're probably better off not knowing).

Actually, this might be a better method than purchasing flowers and hand-delivering them a thousand miles away during the winter. I'll have to keep that in mind next time I do the Valentine's Day flowers bit.

That will be all for now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Academic Resources

My wide variety of interests has been both a blessing and a curse to me. On the one hand, it is easy for me to become lost in a subject. Learning is easy when something interests you. On the other hand, it does make career decisions rather difficult. One reason that I became a teacher is that it allows me to indulge many interests at once, with the justification that during the adolescent phase of education a large portion of the teacher's job is to enthusiastically introduce a wide range of subjects to students.

That said, I rather enjoy having such fascination. I recently heard about Academic Earth and began frequenting the site online. Academic Earth is a project that collects video lectures from institutions of higher learning and places them online for all to see. I think that this is a wonderful idea, and an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about the subjects.

It's not perfect, of course. We certainly aren't getting the whole course for free, just the lecture portions. That means that recitations and discussion groups are out. Oftentimes, as well, certain images are left out due to copyright protections. However, it does give us access to some of the more famous and/or skilled lecturers out there. After all, not everyone can afford college in these time, whether for monetary reasons or time constraints.

My goal for this weekend was to try to make it through the entire lecture series on biomedical engineering, a subject that I find fascinating. Thus far, I have only finished through lecture nine, which is far short of the total twenty-five sermons in the series. However, it is a good start. During my day off and alone Friday, I listened to several of the lectures while cleaning up.

My goal for the rest of this week is to listen to at least one lecture per day. Perhaps I could challenge my readers, if I have any at this point, to join me? They run about 45 minutes or so, and are quite informative.

Also, feel free to post comments.

Growing Up

As life goes on, most of us grow up and things change. Outside of the death/taxes certainty, it can be hard to grasp exactly how life would change. Saturdays are probably the most eye-popping example for me.

When I was a child, Saturday mornings were a big deal. That is because Saturday was the special day. Brand new cartoons came out, with the latest pilots showing alongside new episodes of my favourite currently-playing shows. There was a motivation to get up as early as possible, and rarely was I up later than 5 am. From there, I would watch television until 9, 10... sometimes, even all the way until noon, if I didn't have a practice or activity of some sort going on.

I was thoroughly awake by that time. Mom would usually give me chores to do while watching these new shows, which I gladly did barring interference with my viewing.

Things are different nowadays. I went bowling my roommate the other day, and the big screens behind the lanes had a variety of stations playing, albeit muted. One of these was Cartoon Network. This station, as cable became more popular, helped make Saturday Morning Cartoons a thing of the past. For me, they helped make post-slumber Saturday mornings a thing of the past as well.

Remarking upon this turn of events, my friend came to a terrible realization: there was in fact a reason for us to get up on Saturdays. Every Saturday, at noon central time, we listen to wait wait... don't tell me, NPR's weekly news quiz show.

That's right. Instead of getting up to watch cartoons in the morning, we arise in the afternoon to listen to public radio. When did life take this turn? Where did we go wrong?

It is a fantastic show. One of these days, we're even going to road trip to Chicago and get tickets to a live recording in the Chase Auditorium. I still miss my reason to get up, though.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The "Animals" Part

Animals are kind of a big deal to me. I find them to be fascinating, and many of them have been excellent companions for me thus far in life. I think that we will be much better off if we respect animals, rather than simply use them as resources or fear them. As humans, we as a group have a great deal of power over most of the other living organisms on this planet. Ours is the ability, oftentimes, to determine the outcome of human-animal interactions.

Take, for example, venomous snakes. Fear of a snake is rather extreme. I will not live my life indoors, hiding because a snake might be outside in the bushes. Thanks, but I intend on experiencing the world, thanks. On the other hand, to just charge out on a hiking path and not be aware of these creatures is to invite issues. Even worse is to antagonize them. Snakes strike primarily in defense or fear themselves and would much rather avoid humans. These actions are disrespectful of the creatures and greatly increase your chance of being bitten.

Instead, use common sense and have respect for the animal. Try to put yourself in the snake's shoes. If you were just hiding out in the warm, rotting remains of a log, minding your own business, what would you think of this giant boot coming towards you? I know that I would defend myself as best as I could or run away. Instead of walking carelessly, give them wide berth. Don't stick your arm in a dark hole, step way over or go around their known hiding places, and generally keep an eye out for them. If you do so, then the likelihood of acquiring a body part fill of venom compliments of the snake diminishes drastically.

Speaking of snakes, I found this earlier:



This drew my attention because snakes also normally eat chinchillas, and my dear pet is a chinchilla. Of course, my belligerent little rodent would likely attack the snake if it got any attention...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Welcome to MEAL

I'm Sqrt(D), and I'll be posting my thoughts here on this blog. Here's the quick intro: I am a student, teacher, and practitioner of math and science. Musicals are one of my favourite forms of entertainment, I have a rescued chinchilla for a pet, and I prefer simple appearances in decorating and in dress. My favourite colour is green, I love the winter, and cooking is therapy for me.

MEAL stands for Musings, Entertainment, Animals, and Learning. It is a summary of the things that are most likely to appear here. I am told that I have a rather 'different' view on many things. I find entertainment, especially humour, in almost everything. Animals are a big deal to me, especially my baby chinchilla. Finally, as a teacher and a life-long learner, I will talk about education and various subjects that I am interested in.

God blessed me with an attention span that doesn't function quite right. That means I can get lost in a book (or anything else that really grabs my attention) and focus on it until that stimulation source ends. It also means that I had a lot of difficulty paying attention during lecture classes. This means that I avoid television most of the time, mostly limiting myself to DVDs and online videos.

Commercials and advertising, in particular, do not always achieve their goals with me. I often hyperfocus on one small part of a commercial and miss the point altogether. Oftentimes I cannot even identify the product that people want to sell me. Take this commercial, for example.



Company: Frito-Lay
Product: Doritos
Point of Commercial: Snow globes are most effectively utilized in smash and grabs. They are not effective devices of persuasion.

Chew on that, but avoid the Doritos. They probably have glass in them.