Matthew's Big Blog of Adventure!

Tuesday, June 28

In which Mrs. Royal is delayed and Matthew considers a life in Acadamia

Airplane!Dad drove up to Columbia today to drop Mom off at the airport. Independence Air has some really great airfares, and the closest airport they fly to is here in Columbia. Mom's going up to visit my Grandpa, Aunt, and Uncle to help prepare for our family reunion a week or so from now. Unfortunately, her flight was canceled when they found a crack in the luggage compartment. Since the backup plane had a crack too, she missed her connecting flight Washington-Dulles and will probably get in late tonight.

Yesterday, Deepa went through her thesis defense trial run. Aparently, since her faculty advisor will be in Europe during her actual defense, she was allowed to have a somewhat unusal practice run. It wasn't nearly as bad as I was thinking it would be! This really gives me hope for the possibility of someday pursuing my own Masters degree! Hmm... I'm going to have to live in a place with a nice University and start working on having my own post-name-alphabet nights. :)

Which states have YOU been to?

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Sunday, June 26

Statistical bumps

Praise the Lord! The Sable is back from the car shop and has its air conditioning working even better than before! The windshield wiper blades are acting up a bit -- had trouble seeing clearly in the rain driving back to Columbia, but I'm sure a little pounding will put them back into their place. }:) Don't get me wrong -- Mom's Explorer is great. Remember all those neat commercials where the SUV is driving out in the middle of a desert or jungle? Y'know... the ones with big boulders that it leaps in a single bound? I have discovered that through a technological breakthrough, Ford has discovered how to let you -- the average suburb dweller -- experience this remarkably liberating experience of having your teeth jolted out of place on the average highway. Yes! You too can feel like you're driving offroad with even the slightest asphaltic imperfections! Go! Buy one now! You should feel this guy on grooved pavement!:D

Today was the last day our family will eat together until the end of July, I believe. Today, Charlotte left for a week long art camp, inciting riots and widespread jealousy in the rest of us who can only dream of fulfilling such artistic aspirations as sculpting, animation, and oil painting. Mom leaves Tuesday to help my aunts prepare for a family reunion a week or so from now. Dad and Charlotte (if she can be pried away from her paintbrushes) will then shoot up to Massachusetts for the reunion, and then lazily float back down the coast, picking up other family members at odd places. I'm flying up to Washington in mid-July for a good friend's wedding, and will catch a ride back with them to Columbia.

Take the MIT Weblog SurveyYes, I have again irrationally decided to give away a bit of personal information and many minutes of time to place an icon on my blog. MIT is conducting a survey of bloggers and their habits, and I just couldn't resist. If you have a blog, take a look!

I got to play in church today! Thought we were going to play some pre-specified hymns, but wung it when they started picking new hymns out of the blue. It's good practice, and since Mom will be gone for the next three weeks, it looks like I'll get a whole lot more! ;) This Wednesday, I get to play for the chapel here in Columbia too!

Getting tired... must sleep...

Wednesday, June 22

Plumbing Apathy

Hey! This new dorm that we're in sure is temperamental... first I couldn't get enough water out of my bathroom faucet, and then I couldn't get the toilet's "raging flush" to stop. It was going for over 24 hours solid! Thankfully, I was able to visit with my project partner for most of the day to get way from the noise. After three calls to maintenance and a day's wait, it's now working properly! All it takes to get a job done is persistence! Speaking of which, BlessedFeet has a truly excellent article on apathy being the real root of poverty in our country in her blog. If you read just one other article today online, choose that one!

What a provocative title met my eyes yesterday at my recently stumbled upon favorite, Capitalism Magazine! We Are All Budweisers, by Thomas Sowell has nothing to do with beer, but rather the small town of Budweis in Bohemia where, for a time, Czechs and Germans lived in unity and peace. That is, until ethnic identity politics started tearing this society of Budweisers into separate German and Czechoslovakian camps. Perhaps there is something to be learned here that we can apply in our own country. Too many times, people feel that America needs to increase its diversity and cater to and encourage small groups within our country. Incoming immigrants should serve to enrich our culture and make it grow even richer[NYTimes: free reg.]. America must become a melting pot again until We Are All Americans.

Speaking of nationalist tendencies, it's been interesting how some of my reading has been converging. A friend was talking to me about the policies on religion Hitler's old Reich had, so I thought I should dispel some of my own ignorance and just finished the first chapter of James Murphy's translation of his book Mein Kampf. Hitler's perception of his own goodness is striking, even in the first chapter. He claims at the end of the chapter that he honored his father, but loved his mother. Apparently he ignores how it was admittedly his own refusal to accept his father's dream of his becoming a civil servant that led to his father's embittered death.

Signing off for now... maybe I'll get out and about Columbia with my camera to show you my stomping grounds! :)

Tuesday, June 21

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, June 19

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

(All you other fathers can have a good day too. ;D)

The morning started out a little interesting. We had a visitor have a heart attack in the middle of the Lord's Supper this morning. Thankfully, there are two nurses in our assembly and were able to get an ambulance and do CPR and all that very quickly! Remember to keep the man in your prayers!

We had a relaxing day mostly at home. Dad and I drove out to check on Uncle David's house and "rescue" their food from the fridge. ;) They'll be in their Wyoming house for the rest of the summer, so they asked us to finish off their corn, oranges, and other perishables.

I'm back in Columbia now, eagerly anticipating the coming week. We really made some good progress in our background research last week, and it looks like we may get to start coding as early as tomorrow. Perhaps we'll even have the bulk done before the end of the month! That would give us the entire month of July to write the paper, and maybe even expand our research topic.

The water is back too! The city of Columbia was apparently working on the main line leading into our area, and had it back up and running (though a little muddy) around lunch time of the same day it broke.

Have a schmoltzenfodderific day!

Friday, June 17

Water's not working

Well, so much for moving to a new dorm to avoid water problems. I woke up this morning and discovered that the water doesn't work; just air in the pipes. Thank goodness I was able to get nearly everything I needed to do done with less than half a water bottle I had in the fridge. Thank you, Hurricane Ivan! :D

Thursday, June 16

New West Quad photos

The view from my windowI'm all moved in! We had to evacuate from our old suites in South Quad because the University is having some work done on our big steam vent (among other things.) The new dorm is really nice. The furnishings are all new, and I don't think that anyone has ever used this floor before. The rooms are a bit smaller than the ones in the South Quad, but they also have a lot more light! I really like working here at my computer desk -- there's just the right balance between subdued lighting and daylight to be unobstrusive. Click the photo to see all my photos from USC, including the ones of the new dorm!

We didn't have a morning session with our REU program administrators this morning, so I got to sleep in! It is such a wonderful feeling! What makes today even better is we got a lot of work done. Steve and my faculty advisors are in a big meeting in Washington, but have keptin touch with email. It looks like we will finally get to the bulk of the coding in the next week or so... possibly even tackling more of the project than we had originally thought possible! We may even write two papers this summer instead of just one! (Wonder if they'll pay us for an extra one too. ;D)

The battery on my poor digital watch died sometime today, so I need to run out to Wally World to pick up another cheapskate timepiece.

In more interesting news, I just discovered a really great extension that works in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and more! It's called StumbleUpon, and helps you stuble upon all sorts of interesting websites you may never have found even with Google. When you sign up, you specify which areas of interest about which you would like to find websites, and simply click the Stumble! button. It's taken me to all sorts of great places today! The idea behind it is when you find a neat website, you tell Stumbler through the handy toolbar. If it's a site no one else has ever told Stumbler about, you just put it into a category and write a brief, optional comment.

I've already ordered merchandise off of a website I stumbled across. It's a great site called GardenGuides and has a nice herbs section. They have really great prices for bulk seeds! They're offering a pound of dill seeds for $10 -- that's about 160,000 seeds! You can, of course, buy them in much smaller quantities. I bought a "pinch" for 75 cents, which is apparently even larger than a normal seed packet you pick up at the garden shop. I'm looking for low-light, drought-tolerant, decorative and edible plants for college. I once had a jade plant in my room at PCC, but I couldn't give it enough light. It's now permanently enjoying our subtropical temperatures back home next to the lemon and orange trees on our front walk.

Another cool site I stumbled across is Investopedia. It has a lot of good information on investing for beginners. This is something I'm really interested in right now, seeing as I'm going to be graduating in a couple years from college and have no school debt. Check it out! They have an entire section on mutual funds!

Monday, June 13

Dorms and AC

Yet another great weekend back home in Augusta! Saturday evening, we went to Mr. Rainey's open house there behind the chapel. It was a really great time getting to know him a bit better and fellowshipping with the rest of Bethany. ...and there was this amazing Hazelnut cream coffee... ;D I went out to Winn Dixie tonight and bought some creamer and sugar. Don't get me wrong, I love to drink black coffee -- but not for more than a week.

On Sunday, Charlotte and I were driving home from church, and just as we pulled into the driveway, the air conditioning stopped and the engine started smoking. Praise the Lord that it wasn't on the highway! Dad and I performed extensive tests to determine exactly what was wrong and after much experimentation and well-thought through reasonings have determined... that the air conditioning is broken. :) I brought it back up to Columbia and it did fine -- it was just really hot. The days have been up in the 90s, so tonight I sneaked out ~9pm to get groceries. (It was still really warm!)

My old dormIn other news, last night, I ran into another of the REU program participants, and she informed me that we had to move to a new dormitory. Dr. Eastman had warned us on Friday that we may have to move becacuse of maintenance work that needed to be done in South Quad. We all hustled in getting our stuff over to our new home (West Quad.) The inside is a lot nicer and newer than South Quad's, but I sure miss the steam vent that was right outside my window. Every morning had that wonderful Shangrila/Baker Street/"Jane Goodall and the Gorillas in the Mist" eeriness that reminds you how good it is just to sit down and drink your morning coffee.

Thursday, June 9


Today we presented our research proposals in front of our two faculty advisors and our peers. I think it went rather well! After the morning meeting, I pretty much got to hang around my room the whole day. When I transfered to this project, I returned my key to the security lab and in exchange have access to the Software Engineering lab now. Unfortunately, the system administrator is away on vacation and can't set us up with an Internet connection. Therefore, Steve (my partner in this project) and I have been working from our own PCs in the dorms. It's been working out really well; I find that it's convenient having my research all here on my computer. Together, we made a lot of headway evaluating one of the two semantic parsing tools we've been examining tonight. We wrote a couple of analyzation tools and are working on having our program automatically evaluate the results generated from the parser.

Family totem poleEnough geeky stuff! My sister just sent me an email today informing me that she has updated her photo album on Flickr. It has a grand assortment of Great American Roadtrip Adventure vacation shots! Go take a look! Go! Especially if you were there! She has some ancient graduation shots with old gang members in them -- so go check those out too!

Tomorrow is going to be GREAT! We get to take a tour of the library! Hopefully, I'll be able to find it, because we're meeting there instead of the Swearingen Engineering Building for our morning meeting. After that, dependning on what Steve wants to do, I might get to go back home while it's still daylight out! Some weekend, I'm going to have to stay in Columbia just to go the zoo! Last weekend, Mom and Dad gave me my renewed membership card to the National Science Center museums, so I'll need to drive up to Charlotte and explore their science center again. Unless things have changed, they have one of the 3 largest IMAX theaters in the world there.

I'm gonna try to get to bed now so I'll have time to find the library tomorrow morning ... if I can ever finish all these incoming emails. :)

Wednesday, June 8

Boys' State

Boys' StateHey Gang!

Even during the summer, there's always things going on here at USC! There are tons of summer camps for highschoolers. There's one in particular that has big rallies in the field right outside my window. I can hear them yelling and cheering and having a grand old time in my room and in the kitchen. At first, I thought it was a riot on television! ;D Despite what the picture looks like, there are a TON of guys on the field -- it extends waaaay to the left and right of the trees, and that field is bigger than a normal one for some reason.

Today was my first official day on the T2BN: Text to Bayesian Networks project. It looks really challenging! I'm hoping that my partner and I can come up with something substantive in the two months we have to work on it.

Got to go to Bethany Chapel here in Columbia again tonight. Afterwards, I went over to the School of Music and explored a bit. They have posters for a Madrigal group, but I don't think they're meeting during the summer. I was really tempted to call the Summer choir leader, but they started practicing at the end of May, and one of their performances is on a Sunday afternoon when I would prefer to be home in Augusta. The practice rooms are nice as far as I can tell -- they all have locks and I could only get into ones that people didn't completely close the doors to. ;D I wonder if this is going to be a good, consistent way to find a place to practice.

On a personal level, I'm kinda down about some things going on right now so I feel a bit sapped. For those moments when you are feeling apathetic, go over and visit ApathyOnline. It's a news site run by a college friend of mine. The thrust of the site is to show people some of the outrageous things happening in our country (and government) today in an attempt to arouse people out of their apathy and into the voting booth... or into action-oriented conversation with others. It's really a good idea.

Get up and do something!

Tuesday, June 7

Put up some pictures!

Hey gang!

Me at a Christmas Fine ArtsYou know I've been going on about Flickr, the free photo album that makes it easy to share pictures with your friends... Join and start sharing some of the awesome memories we've had together! Crista sent this one that I've never seen before. This was the Christmas fine arts The Importance of Being Earnest. I'm sure you guys have all sorts of photos too, so why not create a free account! I will continue to search the web for cool stuff like this and talk about it here on my blog. Even if photo aren't your thing, perhaps I'll find something cool you'd like to use. ;)

There are a couple places here on the urban USC campus that I'd still like to investigate. The Russell House has a big Student Union, bookstore, and more! I've got to remember to budget in a USC shirt to remember this summer before I leave at the end of July. Also, we were given our Thomas Cooper Library cards today and have a tour scheduled this Friday to see their multimedia lab. That'll be really cool! One of the other program participants was telling me about the local Richland County library. It's a HUGE green glass building a half dozen blocks or so away. The membership is $30 for the year, but from what she was saying, it has a really nice selection -- much nicer than the Augusta library system probably. ;) Seriously, our local library system cares more about having nice brand new buildings than they do about having a decent collection: they keep having book sales every time I drive by it seems. We have all of these books in our house we're trying to get rid of on eBay and that we would have donated to the library if we could know for sure they wouldn't turn around and sell them for a buck.

The School of Music has a large building not too far away too that I'm hoping has practice rooms I could use. Gotta look into it...

Relaxing WeekendThis weekend, I got to go back home and visit the family. On Saturday, we had a whole day long picnic out at West Dam. Great times of hotdogs and fellowship are such happy moments in life! Dad, Crista, and I took a quick trip after lunch to check on Uncle David and Aunt Merris' new house in Lincolnton since they're away right now. It's a good thing too since two windows had been left open. They got a great house! Corps land is right behind it, and they even have a boat dock with swinging benches. It would be really cool to get a used Jet ski and dock it there. Thurmond Lake is so HUGE you'd never run out of places to ski around and explore. I think it has 1200-some miles of shoreline! The only negative thing I have to say about the area is the ticks. I flicked a tick off my leg while we were down at the dock talking, and when I got back to Columbia I had to yank one off my side. (I've got a huge bump now.) We went back to the picnic and spent the whole afternoon and part of the evening there and had another great meal. Visiting the chapel on Sunday was another highlight of the trip.

I'm hoping to be able to go back home nearly every weekend, but I still want to go the zoo here in Columbia, find the Happy Bookseller, possibly go down to Charleston and see what it's all about, and maybe take a quick trip up to Charlotte to see the science center there.

Keep in touch!

Georgia Renaissance Festival

Hey ya'll!

I finally got around to processing some of the photos I took two weeks ago when Miss Cindy, Crista, and I went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival. It's really quite a nice setup -- they have all sorts of special areas for corporate visitors, and even have a nice, green field for your picture perfect fairytale wedding! I got a number of pretty nice photos from the trip. You've got to go and try the food! They're finished for this season, but drop on by next year to have an historically inaccurate, yet delightful time!

Outside the Festival gatesInside the tapestry shopAn Ent just outside Atlanta

I've updated my Flickr photo album to include all of the Georgia Renaissance festival photos in one group. Click here to see all the festival photos!

Wednesday, June 1


Hey again!

Bethany Chapel was certainly a blessing! There are a fairly small group of believers there, but tonight's meeting was a wonderful time of prayer and reflection. They were really excited to hear that I go to the Bethany Chapel in Augusta, and seemed to already know some of the happenings there. When I told some of the women there that Les Rainy (spelling?) is living in the house behind the chapel, they were enthusiastically making plans for asking him to come, visit, and speak. :) They were saying that Mr. Rainy was one of their favorite speakers at the youth conferences they attended as girls, and that he was always an encouragement to them to live strongly for the Lord.

The prayer meeting didn't seem to last very long! Tonight, I'm hoping to find a Barnes and Nobles in eastern Columbia and read the remaining 32 pages of a 36 page paper for tomorrow. The professor who is in charge of my area of study (Inference Control[links to powerpoint] for XML data) arrived back in Columbia today after a vacation, and there is a chance of me being able to meet with her to discuss my project for the summer. Hopefully, after reading this paper, I will be prepared to at least understand the technical jargon and basic concepts related to the field so I will be able to explore possible topics ... or even as Deepa, a Masters student who is also helping us REU folk, said, the meeting will let me know whether this is a field I want research. She seems concerned that since there has been so little work done in Inference Control (and its seeming impossibility,) that finding a suitable two-month project may be difficult.

Even if it's something that it turns out I'd rather not do, apparently a guy who got selected for the other project I'd like to work on is looking at our project instead. The other project is called T2BN: Text to Bayesian Networks, and is supposed to result in software that accepts regular text and produces cause and effect relationships from the text. The Dr. heading up that program says that it'll be used on field reports in intelligence agencies in order to help link possibly related events more quickly and efficiently. Sounds like fun!

My USC roomIn other news, since I got Internet access, I can show you all what USC looks like -- starting with my room! The rooms are nice, though smaller than the Young Tower PCC rooms. Of course, I get my OWN room instead of sharing it with three other guys, and there's a bigger shared living area the same size or larger than the room at PCC... ;) You can see more pictures of my room and the entire suite on my Flickr photo album. WEll, I'm gonna head of to Barnes and Nobles now ... looks like the guy I was waiting for won't return from his Bible study in time. Later!

Internet is working (for now)

This is my third day here at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and I finally got Internet access! It turns out my username and password were bad, so this morning, I called the CS help desk for the 5th time and they sent a troupe here to figure out what was wrong. They discovered... that my username and password were bad. ;) Well at least something can be done about it now. :D Right now, I'm still logged in using the tech's password, though I'm not sure how long it will last.

Tonight, I'm going to visit an assembly recommended to me from someone at church. It'll be great! It's really close too!

I'll try to post some more tonight on what's been going on with the internship, and perhaps even some photos of the dormitory!