Friday, April 29, 2005

A Goddamn Racket, Part 2

So today was my arraignment for my traffic ticket. It wasn't too bad; I'm able to do traffic school to get rid of both charges. But there was one problem: I'm not able to pay for the ticket with community service.

See, all politicians are idiots. Perhaps that's overstating things, but I don't think so. However, there is one thing that politicians are good at: taking people's money. They're very good at it, and they make very elaborate systems to ensure that they get their money. For instance, I couldn't pay my fine in community service because the "fine" one has to pay for an infraction becomes a traffic school fee. And guess what? You can't pay traffic school fees with community service. So I had to actually pay the fine instead of working it off. It's really a elegant system designed to ensure that the state gets their money. I thought I'd be able to get out of this without paying anything, but I thought wrong.

But I suppose I should be happy the fine got cut in half. When all was said and done, The traffic school fee was about $157 instead of about $300. And then of course there's the real traffic school fee I'm going to have to pay for the actual traffic school.

On a similar but somewhat unrelated note, today I learned that if you plead not guilty to a traffic infraction and are found guilty in court, you're no longer eligible for traffic school. The judge is allowed to let the accused take traffic school to get rid of the point, but it's not guaranteed as it is if you plead guilty or no contest and meet the eligibility requirements. Which I suppose they do to keep you from pleading not guilty and hoping the citing officer doesn't show up to court.


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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Why Must I be Easily Distr...Oh Look At the Pretty flowers

It has recently come to my attention that I get distracted too easily. This week especially has been difficult due to the massive distractions that have taken me away from my studying. For example, Sunday I planned on spending all day studying for my bio test. Unfortunately, my computer was sitting on my lap, and I had a sudden desire to read on on Qt for embedded devices. Specifically, I wanted to see if Qt had been ported to my MediaMVP, which it had. Then I decided I wanted to build the toolkit for the MediaMVP so I could hack on the firmware I used for it. This took more time. Then Catherine, Jerry, and Forrest came over to watch CSI, which took even more time. Eventually the clock struck midnight, and I hadn't really studied at all for the test at 9:00. I ended up studying until 3:00 am, at which point I gave up and went to bed. I'm pretty sure that I failed the test unless my guesses were more accurate than I think they were.

A similar thing happened on Tuesday night. I was supposed to be working on my OS lab. Instead, I was adding wraparound menus to my MediaMVP's firmware. It was really pissing me off that the file browser provided by the firmware would only let me scroll down when I was at the very top of the menu and wanted to reach something at the very bottom. I wanted a way to press up at the top of the menu and reach the bottom of it. So I did. It works pretty well.

As an aside (or distraction), the code I was working on was pretty awful. I use the MediaMVP Media Center firmware, which has some very cool features. I appreciate the hard work that I'm sure goes into the firmware, but I also get the feeling that the UI gets neglected in favor of working on the cooler hardware aspects of the firmware. Which is fine, as I'd rather people do that instead, especially since I know how to code GUI's and am not as fluent in the language of communication with hardware. But here's an example of the bad code I was working on.

static void key(mvp_widget_t *widget, char c) { int i, j; void *k; char *str; switch (c) { /*...*/ case MVPW_KEY_CHAN_UP: if (widget-> > 0) { i = widget->; /**/ if (widget-> < 0) widget-> = 0; i = widget->; /*...*/ } break; /*...*/ case MVPW_KEY_CHAN_DOWN: if (widget-> < (widget-> { i = widget->; /*...*/ } break; /*In a different file*/ #IFDEF 1 /*do something*/ #ENDIF

You get the idea. In every single case statement, i gets set to the exact same thing. Why did they do it that way? I don't know. In this particular case the coding style's just very redundant and ugly, not necessarily horrible, though the #IFDEF 1 still confuses me. I spent Wednesday night trying to add a popup error message show up when the user tries to play a file they don't have permission to open when I should have been studying for my algorithms midterm today, and I should be studying for my OS midterm instead of writing all this. When will I learn?


Blogger Arthaey said...

Oh my god, that dog has a poofy tail!

4/28/2005 10:38 PM  
Blogger Arthaey said...

But seriously. We should band together to keep from being distracted. not doing this whole blog thing... Hrm. Drat... Poofy tail!

4/28/2005 10:40 PM  

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Sweet Zombie Jesus

So there I was, sitting around and watching Firefly, when I decide to check out my favorite bittorrent site, when lo and behold I see the following at the top of the list of torrents:

Family Guy S04E01 PREAIR XviD-DONG

My heart stops; thoughts run through my head. What was Family Guy's last season? It was three, wasn't it? It was. Oh shit. Quickly I click on the link to start downloading it. Unfortunately my Internet connection was too slow. It took all of 10 minutes to download a 200 MB file. 10 minutes too long for Family Guy. It finishes. I press play. It begins playing.

Sweet God.

The opening scene showed Lois bemoaning the fact that they got cancelled, then wondering aloud if they'll ever get back on the air. For at least 30 seconds, Peter rattles off the names of just about all the shows Fox has cancelled since Family Guy went off the air, then tells us that if all those shows get cancelled, they may have a shot back on the air. It was amazing; they didn't miss a beat.

In classic Family Guy fashion, the show was full of random tangents. The first of these showed what would happen if Peter were Jesus and being tortured by the Romans. I won't give away much of it, but I will say that the animation has a different feel to it than past Family Guy episodes. Whereas seasons 1 through 3 had relatively simple animation with mostly solid colors, this episode had more complex and smooth animation. Either Forrest or Jerry likened it to Futurama-style animation, though I don't think it's quite that slick. I should add that this only applies to the backgrounds; the characters still look the same as they ever did. All in all, it was one of the best 30 minutes of my life; and definitely the best 30 minutes of this year. I would say that watching this episode was probably the fourth religious experience I've had (first one being the Tool concert in Bakersfield, the second being the purchase of Volume 2 of Family Guy, and the third being Sanitarium). The only drawback is that I'll have to wait awhile before I get to watch the rest of this season. But I have a feeling it'll be well worth it.


Anonymous Will said...

I like how all of your religious experiences either have to do with Family Guy or awesome concerts. ;-)

You wouldn't still happen to have a link to that, would you?

4/24/2005 2:06 PM  

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Goddamn Racket

So most of you probably know that I got a ticket the Friday before spring break for stopping past the limit line on a stop light and driving at night without my headlights on. Stupid mistakes that anyone and everyone has made at some point in their lives. Well, a couple days ago I got a letter from the county courthouse reminding me that I needed to take care of the ticket before the 22nd of this month. Enclosed in this letter was a listing of traffic schools that I may be able to attend. I haven't yet figured out whether or not I can attend traffic school since I was cited for 2 violations, but that's not the point. The point is the fact that the traffic schools are a joke. Allow me to list some of the fine upstanding traffic schools I can attend.

  • Great Comedians Traffic School
  • Great Comedy School
  • Pizza 4U -- Great Comedians
  • Comedy School
  • Comedy For Less Traffic School

So right there is 5 traffic schools that include the word "comedy" in the title. I'm reminded of an episode of King Of The Hill where Hank attends a comedy traffic school taught by Chris Rock. I always thought it was a joke; I mean, they couldn't really have traffic schools like that. How could you learn anything? But yes, they can and do.

Which brings me to my point. Traffic schools and traffic violations are a goddamn racket perpetuated by the state. See, if the state really wanted to use traffic school to actually teach people, there wouldn't be any traffic schools that started with the word "comedy". Traffic schools might actually teach people to drive safer than they do. But if they did that, the state might lose revenue from traffic tickets due to people who actually learn something in the class instead of blowing it off. So they make it easy, and traffic schools are more than happy to oblige. They know that most people see traffic tickets as an annoyance, and the easier they can make their traffic school, the more people will sign up.

Of course, if the state made traffic school hard, people would complain that the traffic school was too much of a pain in the ass; and I'm sure I'd be first in line to say that. But I'd still feel a little better shelling out the money for traffic school if I weren't asked questions like this:

What should you do if you see a pedestrian in a crosswalk?
Run him/her over
Stop until the person crosses, then proceed with caution

I don't know if I had that exact question the last time I took traffic school, but I had some very similar to it. I must say that the online traffic schools are definitely the way to go. You get through an 8 hour class in about 2 hours.


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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Cold and Lost

This has quite possibly been the worst weekend of my life. It's also probably been the most reflective one of my life, though I wouldn't wish any of this on my worst enemy. It's really weird writing this, but I think it's in my and everyone who cares about me's best interest that I do this. Fuck, how do I put this. For the first time in a long time, I took an honest look at my relationship with God and concluded that there wasn't one. Even scarier, I concluded that I don't really want one at this point in my life. Even though you've gotten the punchline already, I'd ask that you keep reading. I know it's long but it's important, at least to me. However, since it is long, I'll hide the long winded part so you're not forced to read it. Click on "The Whole Story" if you want to read it.

The Whole Story

I suppose I'll start at the beginning of this story, as if I actually know where the story begins. I'll just start it at this week. This Tuesday was a Bible study scheduled as there always is, and I didn't go. Worse yet, I didn't miss it. The same thing happened on Friday for Large Group (the large meeting of all the Bible studies). Now, I wouldn't usually think of it, but I did for some reason this time. And now that I think about it, I do know what it was that set everything in motion. Here I am again, lying to myself. On Friday, Hillel had one of the dinners they do to try to get people interested in the club. On that note, as an aside, bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon is really good. You wouldn't think so to hear it, but it is. Anyways, myself, Forrest, Catherine, Joe, Andy (friend of Joe's, acquaintance of mine), Jeremy (friend of Joe's, acquaintance of mine), and others were all sitting together. Andy made some off comment about Joe being a Christian, and I found myself not saying that I was one. This bothered me quite a bit, and I didn't know why I didn't say anything. So on Saturday I sat down and read the Bible for the first time since my Bib Lit class. I wanted to find out if I really believed what I said I did. So I sat down and found that I didn't really agree with some of God's notions of justice. For instance, let's look at Romans 9:16-21

It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Well, I don't like the answer given: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? It dodges a valid question. How can it be just for someone to be blamed for something they have no choice but do. Sure the creator has the right to make one pot for noble uses and one for common ones, but I don't think I can say "I'm going to break a pot", throw one off the top of a four-story building, and then blame the pot when it breaks.

There were some other issues, though that was probably the main one. Those wouldn't be so bad in and of themselves. Probably nothing that some clarification with someone more knowledgeable than myself couldn't provide. But then today came. I had told my plight to my roommate Dan, who suggested that I go to church with him today to speak with the pastor about the questions I had. I accepted since this I considered this issue important enough to wake up early to go. The last time I told Dan to wake me up for church, it didn't go so well; so I told Dan to drag me out of bed if necessary to get me to go. I was glad I did. While everyone else sang during the beginning of the service, I thought about why I didn't ever make any effort to learn more about God. I concluded that it required effort, and that I didn't want to make the sacrifice. Then what causes me to make sacrifices? Surely anyone who knows me knows that I have made sacrifices. 206, 305, and 435 are all evidence of this. I concluded that I make sacrifices when things are relevant to me. Bettering myself as a computer scientist is relevant to me, so I'm willing to make sacrifices to that end. As a Christian, God and learning more about God should be relevant to me, but I just concluded it wasn't. That's a problem. Then came the sermon.

The pastor spoke as one divinely inspired, or at least he spoke as one with authority on the scriptures. The topic he spoke about was one that I needed to hear: a letter to the church in Laodicea. For those not in the know, this letter talks about a church which was preaching Christianity but not really living it. From this letter comes the famed passage, I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Meaning that one needs to live their live completely for God or not at all; no half-assed stuff allowed. I had heard and read that passage many times before, but today was the first time I took an honest look at myself as I heard the message. I was not living my life completely for God, nor was I not living for God at all. I was lukewarm and needed to pick a side. My decision was made shortly later as the pastor discussed what living a life for God entailed. He talked about the body of Christ being one of people looking for hope, people who know they are unable to live their life alone. But I am an individual; I see myself as an individual and do not really consider myself unable to live my life alone. Being in the Church requires that one want to renew themselves and allow God to change them. I am happy with myself the way I am at the present. I don't want to change. God is supposed to be at the center of the person's life; after an honest reflection, I decided that God is not the center of my life. If anything is at the center, it would be myself. Put more precisely, I do not want God in control of my life; I want to be in control of my own life. These 3 things are incompatible with me being a member of the Church, of me being a Christian. Damn, it's weird me seeing that on print.

I think that I've been fooling myself for some time, trying to make God fit me. That's not something that should be done; one must make themselves fit God. I don't know why I had lied to myself for so long. Perhaps it was easier than rejecting it outright. It's certainly easier to believe the lie than to conclude that you're lying to yourself. Again, it's not something I'd want to see anyone go through. That said, the truth is better than the lie, especially in this case. I at least know that I have picked a side, and am not straddling the fence.

I made an appointment to see the pastor on Thursday at 9. I plan on telling him pretty much what I've written here. I doubt he'll be able to do much, as the decision is all on me. I know what I need to do, but I can't bring myself to do it. Not yet.

The time may come when I'm ready to change my ways and live for someone/something else, but that time is not today. I sincerely hope that it will happen someday, and I hope to rejoin the Church once it does. If/when I do and I'm still around this area, I'll definitely be going back to the church I attended today (Shoreline Chapel, for those who care). I want to sincerely thank Dan for helping me through this. He provided an ear for me to babble, explain, and justify into, and he tried to offer guidance where he could. For his first time having to deal with a crisis such as this, I think he handled it quite well.


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