Matthew's Big Blog of Adventure!

Thursday, July 28

Internship complete

Today was the last day of my internship! We only had two presentations this afternoon -- and both guys did a really great job. :) After waiting about in an hour in the Swearingen building for the hail and torrential rains to stop, we walked across the railroad tracks to the California Dreaming for dinner. The building is really nice! It's mostly the original structure of the former Union Station that stood there X decades ago.

After a quick summary meeting with my project partner after dinner, I started the long task of packing all of this JUNK up and moving out. So far, all of my clothes save what I'm using tomorrow are packed away into my suitcase and garment bag. Thankfully, most of my library here fit in my suitcase too. :D

It would be really great if there were a food bank close by so I could drop off my perishables, but I suppose they'll last without refrigeration for an hour or so without too much of a problem.

My computer, of course, is the last thing that gets packed since it's both my stereo and link to scintillating discussions on the Teenpact alumni board. ;) Actually, I'm waiting for some emails from my faculty advisors who are in Italy and the Netherlands, respectively.

Mom is going over to Crista's house this weekend to help her finish painting. Dad and I are planning to hit the electronics stores to buy me a replacement monitor. My existing one's screen frequently fuzzes-out and does all sorts of cool, unexpected acrobatic tricks for me.

Borders keeps trying to siphon away my hard-earned summer savings with its 30%-off sales. Click here for the coupon! It works for Waldenbooks too, apparently. It's good for 30% off the regular price of one paperback. Last week, they had the same 30% sale on music and DVDs, so of course I picked up two CDs I've been looking at for a long time. With the discount, it was even cheaper than buying them online!

Sorry for the lack of images in my most recent posts. My image host suddenly flaked out, so I'm search for a new one. Any suggestions?

Have a wonderful, safe, cool, and productive weekend!

Monday, July 25

The end is near

This weekend, Grandma and I got to spend some quality time together. Among other things, I took her to her hair salon and then to Walmart for some things for kitty. Grandma's bird feeder ran out of seed two weeks ago, but I couldn't find the seed bucket and everyone else was gone. This week, I found the bucket and refilled it after cleaning out the feeder. Grandma and kitty are so happy that the birds are back! Mom filled the hummingbird feeders too, so now the backyard is alive again with red wings of all kinds. :)

Steve and I went through our presentation twice today and it's getting better. We actually deliver it Wednesday afternoon, so there's still time to give it a few more run-throughs.

Since we didn't have a meeting this morning, I took care of some unfinished business with Garden I placed an order way back on June 16, and sent an email at the beginning of July asking what the status of the shipment was, but never got an answer. I called the number on their website, and was pleasantly surprised by a real, live person who was friendly and helpful. She said that probably the order was canceled because the order total was under their minimum without shipping factored in. I'm just glad the order is on its way -- I can't wait to see if dill and garlic chives will grow in a college dorm. ;D

I uploaded Mom's pictures from Nelson's wedding to my Flickr account. It turns out that Flickr will only let you see the last 200 photos you uploaded unless you pay $25 a year for their pro account, so I have no way of accessing all of my old PCC photos. }:( I'm glad Google doesn't play silly games like that with their services. Yahoo (owns Flickr) should take some notes.

After this internship ends Thursday, I need to find the local DNR office to get the hunter safety DVD to get my hunting license for this winter. Much sooner than that, I have a ton of stuff to pack into the Sable! I made the mistake of bringing things from home every week during the internship, so now I'm up to my nostrils in *stuff*.

Fading fast... good night.

MSN Virtual Earth

Microsoft just made their online Virtual Earth available in order to compete with Google Maps. The interface is a lot slower than Google Maps, and while it tries to have a nice transparency effect with the menus hovering over the map, whenever I try to drag the map around it looks really choppy as the menus refresh more slowly than the rest of the map pane.

The satelitte photos seem to have more coverage than Google Maps. Here's PCC! Google Maps only has the Academy down the road in its maps. Unfortunately, Virtual Earth's maps aren't in color -- maybe they'll fix that later.

Try them out!

Thursday, July 21

BOSE Factory Fieldtrip

Outside of BOSE FactoryYesterday, we took a tour through the BOSE factory near Columbia off I77. It was really neat to see all of the automated machinery that builds and tests the wave radios and CD players they make there. There is still a fair amount of human labor involved, but only for the tasks that a computer or robot can't do -- even stacking pallets is done by a giant machine they call "Big Bertha."

Our tour guides were very knowledgable; one of them was even mostly responsible for the automation of the factory! Even cooler, he was a USC grad and got to work with Dr. Bowles, one of our advisors, on a IEEE project.

To top it all off, we even got free pens!

Sadly, they wouldn't let me take my camera into the factory itself lest I steal company secrets and such, I suppose. The grounds are veery nice though, and you can see some pictures of them and the other REU students in my photo album.

Tomorrow, we're going to the South Carolina Police Department's Computer Forensics Lab mysteriously acronymed "SLED." Hopefully, they'll let me take some pictures there.

I've been really enjoying StumbleUpon, a free social bookmarking plugin for your web browser. Church Sign Generator is one of my most recent stumbles. I think I can count on one hand the number of sites it's recommended to me that I didn't enjoy. Try it out and add me as a friend!

Gotta go finish my paper and start working on Power Point slides for my presentation Wednesday -- stay cool!

Monday, July 18

Back from the wedding!

The Getaway CarCongratulations, Nelson and Sarah!

I got back from Pennsylvania yesterday afternoon. My flight up Friday was really great -- even with an hour wait to take off, it was a most relaxing trip. I finished Robert Heinlein's Red Planet, and enjoyed it thoroughly. The wedding itself was Saturday afternoon at a nice church in Harrisburg, PA, so Saturday morning, we had a leisurely start and enjoyed the company of a friend in Columbia, MD. It's really incredible to think that Nelson's married now. :) It doesn't seem like very long ago that we were both living in Laurel and homeschooling. :o

Steve and I got a lot of work done on our paper today, so there shouldn't be very much pressure for the Thursday deadline for our rough draft. A little bit more literature review on two topics, references in their proper formats, and some more revising of the text body itself should see us through quickly. Now, we just need to find an appropriate computer conference to submit the paper to for publication.

In the meantime, I'm trying to find the Georgia Department of Wildlife's phone number to ask for the Hunter's Education CD that's supposed to be available. Annoyingly, their website now requires you to register an account with your birthday and social security number. *grumble grumble* Looks like I'll just wait and ask Dad to drop by the office some time.

That's pretty much all that's happening right now, though do remember to check out my photos for exclusive shots of the wedding. :D

Friday, July 15

Leaving for Pennsylvania

I'm leaving for my flight in 45 minutes. I've got an unread Robert Heinlein book Crista lent me, a new Mythadventures of Aahz and Skeeve book, and a commentary on Roman Catholic soteriological views. Additionally armed with my complete Beethoven symphonies CD set, I think I'm ready to hit the skies!

Hopefully, I should get into D.C. around 4pm and drive from there up to Pennsylvania for the wedding.

Have a great weekend! =)

Thursday, July 14

Cold water

Well, it looks like the cloudy weather is the result of another week-long spell of no hot water here in our environmentally friendly dormitory. It's not as cold as the water at PCC after the hurricane, thankfully, but it's still COLD! *shiver*

Our project is going pretty well. We finished the last analysis and are ready to start writing the paper today. I'm totally dissatisfied with the results, but our faculty advisor seems happy. (I'm hoping to secretly work on some more semantic processing algorithms by night and slipping them into the source code I'm cleaning up. ;D)

I've been spending late nights up doing geeky stuff again. Last night, I was making 3D paper desk calendars. Try it! It's fun!

Tomorrow afternoon I fly out of Columbia Metropolitan Airport to Washington and meet up with my family for my friend's wedding. :)

Tuesday, July 12

Grad school

In this morning's session, we had a visitor from the Office of Fellowships & Scholars Programs. She had some really good information on applying for fellowships that have encouraged me to consider the possibility of taking a couple years off after graduation to get a Masters degree in Music before pursuing additional Computer Science degrees. The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, provides funding for three years within a five-year period, allowing you to defer payment for two years while volunteering for Americorp, say. (That was the example she gave.)

I suppose I should focus now on simply graduating from undergrad. *sigh* At least I have some plans! Of course, all these plans could change depending on if I make one of those "lifelong friendships" PCC keeps advertising about. ;D

Sunday, July 10


This weekend sure was action-packed! Some relatives stopped by for the night Friday on their way home from visiting more family in the cold North (Carolina) and we had a nice dinner and visit. Yesterday around 2:00, an unbelievably strong dounpour started. While not as long-lasting, it was even stronger than the hurricane-induced showers we had back when we first moved to Georgia in 1996!

I was talking with a friend in Pensacola about the time the storms started here, and she said that it was just beginning to rain there as well. Hope everyone down there is ok now that the storm passed! Thank goodness it didn't linger as long as Ivan did.

Drip drip dripUnfortunately, our house is at the bottom of a hill and the house started flooding in throught the front door. Thankfully, while I was desperately out in the rain trying to re-dig the channels that were supposed to divert water around the house and into the drainage ditch in the backyard, my good neighbor pitched in with his ... pitchfork. Together, we were able to divert most of the water away from the front door, and clear away debris from the fence. The debris prevented the water from freely flowing into the back, welling up to 3-4 feet in some places!

Even with all this, there was still a lot of flooding in the foyer. While shoving the water away with a (surprisingly effective) pushbroom, I came to the conclusion that I needed sandbags to reclaim my home from the sea. Frantically dashing around to the garage, I grabbed the closest thing to a sandbag we have -- the contents of the mending basket. These are textiles that, in the course of the Royal family's illustrious dynasty, have come to be excessively worn or to be in need of some minor repair. Many of my childhood clothes still live in that basket. Armed with loads of old towels and blankets (and a torn pair of jeans,) the rushing tide was stopped enough for me to bail with a 40-lb detergent bucket.

After the ordeal, I rewarded myself with sweet tea, tylenol, and a package of carrot cake. *urp*

There's still mud everywhere downstairs, though thankfully, we were able to stop the flooding before it hit the family room. Ah well, we were planning on replacing that carpet with tile anyway.

Friday, July 8

West Quad Photos

Hey again!

This morning, we went on a tour of our dorm. We thought it was an odd idea since we've been living here for several weeks, but I guess none of us had really explored around it that much before because we saw some really neat things!

My dorm, West Quad AThe dorm is a "green dorm," meaning that it's supposed to be made out of things that are good for the environment such as energy efficient lights, wood from sustainable forests, and faucets that don't put out hardly any water at all. They say that our bathroom sink faucets run at the rate of half a gallon per minute. I believe it. It takes three times as long to wash soap off my hands with that sink than any other sink I've ever used. They say that the toilets flush 1.6 gallons per flush.

The toilets actually work fairly well, but given that the average flush time is 5 seconds according to my extensive tests, the three calls to maintenance and 24 hour waiting period for them to come and fix my perpetually flushing toilet, more than 27,648 gallons were wasted thanks to bureaucratic inefficiency... but I repeat myself.

I raise the issue because they claim they built this dormitory complex for less than the price of a non-"green" building of equivalent specifications. To put these savings in perspective, the three dorms cost the South Carolina taxpayer $30.9 million dollars. I have great difficulty believing that a dormitory complex which houses a mere 500 students couldn't have been constructed for less than $61,800 per resident. Additionally, the tour guide assured us that $80,000 a year is saved in utilities, meaning that these savings alone will pay for the dorm itself in a mere 386 years. When I asked him how a "green dorm," which requires exotic materials and expensive equipment, could come in under the budget for a "normal dorm," he replied that it was because they made all of the contractors (architect, electrician, plumper, etc.) sit down and come up with an "integrated design." Why couldn't there be even greater savings for regular buildings, then, following that same process? In any case, it seems they could save even more money by making their administrative processes more efficient. All of USC's new buildings will be "green buildings" now since they are obviously cheaper than traditional structures.

Uuuuunder the Sea!On a happier note -- and the title of this post -- I have more photos from my REU program! My library book on transformational grammar was due, so I took my camera for a little walk. My dorm, West Quad, is really quite comfortable and attractive. Make sure you check out photos of the dorm and also random photos of our REU cookout at the Eastmans' house.

Even though the week was much abbreviated by Independence Day, Steve and I were able to get a LOT of work done. We just have to run our system through some tests and perform some (very in-depth) statistical tests in order to write the "Results" section of our paper. Naturally, there are a million improvements I'd still like to make to the system, but I'm not sure that we can implement them all in the two weeks we have before presentations are due. I've got to learn how to make better Powerpoint slides too...

Time for me to head back to Augusta for the weekend. Stay cool, and remember to pray for the people hurricane Denis (now Category 4) is going to visit. It's projected path is the same as Ivans', so PCC looks like it's going to get it hard again.

Monday, July 4

Happy Independence Day!

While this photo is festive, it is actually from Charlotte's Graduation party. :)Howdy!

What a nice, relaxing weekend! The University took off for the 4th (surprisingly, given they ignored Memorial Day) so I got to have a bit of a long weekend at home. Charlotte got home from Art Camp on Friday, so we had a couple hours together before she and Dad joined Mom in Massachusetts via a two-day road trip up I95. The same night, Crista and I watched National Treasure, one of the Netflix that Mom ordered. It wasn't totally original, but it was still a pretty good film. We were talking to a friend the next day about it, and it turns out that the entire plot of the movie was "liberated" from a novel of an entirely different name. *sigh* I suppose this film upholds Disney's innovative renovative history.

Today, Crista made some really good hamburgers and I grilled them for all of us still at home. (Crista, Grandma, and me) It was really nice, and a great opportunity to clear out leftovers from the fridge. Crista will be leaving next weekend for the family reunion, so I've got to think about what Grandma and I are going to do for food. I know she likes traditional home-cooked meals, so I'll probably make some cornbread and a shepherd's pie or something. The following week, Crista will be back and I'll fly up to Pennsylvania for my friend's wedding and drive back down with the rest of the family on the 17th of July.

I'm still practicing the piano! The concertos for this fall and possibly more Hymn Keyboard Skills (groan) dash around just out of my peripheral vision, teasing and taunting me. Whenever I'm home and the moments I steal away in the School of Music seem just enough to keep the little spectres back in their mind-crannies, but I can hear them snickering among themselves. They know that as soon as the internship is over, I'll be too weakened to resist them. GAAAAA!!!!