Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flower Light

One of the two days it rained on me in Spain. This picture was taken at La Alhambra (which, by the way has candidacy for the New 7 Wonders of the world: vote online at in Granada, España (Spain). It's not photoshopped. It really did look like there was light coming out of the center of it, which may be why I took a picture of this particular flower.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Piggy Bank

I haven't had a piggy bank in about ten years. But as of last Sunday, I have one that I'm now working on filling up. The container used to be a "party ball" (a 5 liter mini-keg-type-thing) of Warsteiner beer that I bought for my FSU v. UF party. After we drank all the beer out of it, I decided that I didn't want to throw it out, or just put it in my aluminum recycle. Whitney told me that I could make a lamp out of it, but I don't need another lamp. Neil suggested that I turn it into a piggy bank. A few modifications were needed so that coins could go in and out, but Neil's got the tools for that and he let me borrow them to do the job.

I wonder how much money there will be in that thing if I ever get around to filling it up. I think that I'm going to have to start making a lot more cash transactions if I want to get any change to put in it. I'm a big fan of using my credit know, it's a one month interest-free loan. But credit card transactions don't give you change for filling up a piggy bank.

Maybe the thing that I like the most about this piggy bank is that (I think) it is unique. I've seen 5-gallon water jugs used as piggy banks, but never party balls. Plus, I came up with a creative way to reuse something (ok, ok, it was Neil's idea...I lack creative insight).

p.s. it makes a crazy-loud noise right now if you shake that bitch up. I bet you could annoy a whole bunch of people at once with that thing. :::clank::: :::clank:::

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wanna Ride Bikes?

On two consecutive weekends (but not the ones just past) I have gone "riding bikes" with some of my friends. The first time was the weekend before the second econometrics test. Paula, Glen, Stephanie, & I went riding bikes up north of town by Paula's house. Pretty easy big loop, then some funner, tighter, windier trails in the middle of the big loop. It was pretty cool when I recognized where we were at a point during our trip. It was a place that I had been walking with Sarah, but Sarah & I approached it from the opposite direction that us bikers did that day. After that outing, we annihilated our hunger in a Mexican restaurant (much the same way that the M matrix annihilates the X vector). After dining, Paula & I studied 'metrix for a ridiculous amount of time.

The following weekend, I met Glen & Stephanie (Paula's car had a flat tire) in a different location and we rode for a couple hours on some alright trails that are pretty close to their house. Afterward, we went back to G&S's house and had some homemade pizza. It was good. And I got to meet their dog, Pria (sp?).

Here's the point: I feel like a little kid. My friends are planning these trips to go ride bikes. Isn't that what I did when I was in elementary/middle/even-into-high school?? It's kind of different now, though. I threw my bike in my trunk (gotta love the Grand Marquis) and met these people (also with bikes in their cars) and went riding. Glen & Stephanie are married (to each other), we're all grad students, Glen/Stephanie & I own our houses, and well, I don't just seems weird. Maybe riding bikes is something so cool that one never outgrows it. I saw some older people, probably older than 50, riding on the second weekend.

Furthermore, it's nice to be able to use my bike for leisure/recreation instead of just transportation all the time. But I feel a sense of irony when I stick my bike in my trunk & drive it somewhere in order to ride it.

Bringing it back to the kid aspect: a couple of neighborhood second graders came by my house the weekend before the first big-kid outing and they asked me if I could come out & play (how cute). They had ridden their bikes to my house, so I was like "umm, so, do you guys want to ride bikes??" and they responded with an enthusiastic "yeah!!" So, there you go, it's still popular with kids.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Poco de práctica

Alexis Dorf me ha dado un consejo: "tu debes escribir tu blog en espanol." Tiene razón. No voy a escribir todas los capítulos en español, pero creo que es una buena forma de practicar. Ahora, para no perder mis habilidades del idioma, veo la televisión española (más bien latina como no es de España) y a veces construyo frases o dichos con mi poesí magnética en español. También escucho la música grabada en español, pero no todos los días. Tengo miedo de perder mis mañas de hablar o de entender. Escribir es más fácil porque se puede buscar palabras que uno no sabe.

Ahora en Tallahassee, no estoy rodeado por gente que habla esa lengua como solía en el HC. Solamente encuentro el castellano cuando juego el fútbol (que sorpresa, ¿no?). Sé que podría encontrar amigos para hablar (como Paula), pero la trampa es que es casi siempre más fácil o conveniente hablar en inglés.

Sin embargo, no me han huido las frutas de todo mi estudio de este lenguaje. Tal vez no estoy todavía en un nivel muy alto de producir comunicación en el castellano, pero puedo comunicar. Ahora, mi barrera más grande es entender la gente con acento muy fuerte, con sonidos omitidos (como los cubanos).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Prison Break

After Neil & I returned from Thanksgiving dinner @ Whitney's house, we both passed out for about an hour, which means that the food must have been pretty good. Then he encouraged me to watch some Prison Break (he has the first season on DVD). I said that I would watch 2 episodes. Ended up watching about 7. There are 22 episodes in the first season, and I watched all of them between Thursday night and Saturday night. Mind you that these are hour long episodes, not half-hours (~45 minutes on DVD sans commercials).

I don't watch much TV. But it's somehow different on DVD...maybe because you don't have to suffer through commercials. The thing about this show is that they leave you with ridiculous cliff hangers every time. You just feel compelled to watch the next one. And maybe it's harder to exercise self-control when all you have to do is hit a button on the remote to satisfy your curiosity. Better than waiting a week. For sure.

Prison Break doesn't seem like a TV show. It's more like an arpeggiated movie. Neil pointed out that it's filmed like a movie, and I think that the plot more or less follows something like a movie's as opposed to something that is different every week, independent of prior episodes (like Family Guy).

This event kind of reminds me why I should not read for pleasure or get into TV or anything like that during the semester. I neglect my studies because that other stuff is so much more fun than school. I'm starting to not enjoy school so much. Maybe that will change next semester. I decided to take this weekend off of school work because I'm shifting into a higher gear next week in order to start studying for finals. My first final is on Dec. 8 and I have 2 the following week.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mabry Mill

This is the Mabry Mill, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. This picture makes me ask myself a question: how do I feel about taking the same picture that everyone takes (for postcards, books, magnets, keychains, etc.)?? I like the picture. I took it. I guess that makes it original. Nobody else took one at the same time from the same location (but that's true of EVERY picture). I guess I don't have a philosophy of photography. Maybe I don't know enough about the topic to have a philosophy of it yet.

I usually take pictures for one of the following reasons: documentation (I was here; look what happened; check out the hurricane damage, you insurance companies, you; aesthetic value (see above or the Cotopaxi picture below); something's funny (like "80 months 'til completion of a new building on the MacArthur campus); or for show & tell (usually taken then almost immediately sent through email).

Lately I've printed out some of the awesome pictures I've taken and framed them and put the up for display in my house. I think I will make a rule that the only framed pictures hanging in my house are ones that I have taken, even though there are some great pictures by Sarah or my dad or other random people that would look cool. If you're close by, you should check them out the next time you come to my house.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Because I can control what happens in my house, I am trying to be eco-friendly. It's something that I support in theory, and now I have an opportunity to support it in practice.

The other day I saw the FSU ESP (Environmental Service Program) out at a tent at FSU "raising awareness" during recycling week. They handed me a couple of flyers with suggestions of how you can be better for the environment. I had already taken all the actions that were printed on one flyer. I'm probably forgetting some of the stuff I do, but here's a pretty decent list:

Most of the furniture in my house was salvaged from back rooms in houses of people who were not using it.
I've cut back on my meat consumption (but mostly for financial reasons and time constraints).
I replaced 20 bulbs in my house with the spiral incandescent ones.
Got a blanket for my water heater.
Try not to run the AC/heat very much.
Take navy showers (most of the time) like I always have.
Bike to/from school (I haven't driven my car to class one day this semester!) and occasionally to something else like a party, soccer, or an event on campus.
Hang clothes out on clothesline to dry instead of using dryer (when the weather cooperates)
Buy recycled: rugs (ya, they make good presents too), clothesline, hangers,
Reuse: yogurt cups are good at holding leftovers, brown bags for lunches can be reused for weeks, paper

After I get a second roommate (translated as more money), I'm going to sign up with a program that the City of Tallahassee Utilities department has where I can get 450 KWh of electricity each month from renewable sources for only $10/month. Once again, something I support in theory, so I might as well contribute to it in reality just as soon as I can.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dishonest, but Fair

Today I ran into a personal/professional/moral dilemma...I was approached by a student wanting to know what his attendance record is. In this particular class, the syllabus says that if you miss more than 2 days, then you will be penalized 1% on your final grade for every day that you miss. This student had 3 absences...we're not sure if that's going to get him 1% or 3% off the final grade (syllabus wording is ambiguous).

Attendance is taken by a "sign-in sheet" that gets passed around student to student on randomly selected days. I found the sign in sheet for one of the days that he had missed, and there was a blank spot where students had just skipped writing their was definately big enough to fit his name in there without looking suspicious. Then, there's the electronic record to worry about...I had already sent an electronic copy containing this absence to the other TA.

Now, I think I need to say that this student missed these classes because he does not think that the teacher does a particularly good job of explaining things in class. (I happen to agree, but that's beside the point). He told me that he spent the days he missed in his room reading the book, making flashcards, studying, etc. I believe him because he has scored the second highest grade on both of the tests in the class to date. He started going to every class after he realized how the attendance policy would affect his grade (should have read the syllabus in the fist place, I know). Now, he tells me about the way that the second test was curved (class average about 64). The curving system seems to favor those with lower grades without also boosting those students who scored in the top echelon.

At this point, I feel like helping the guy out. In fact, if it hadn't been for the electronic copy of the attendance sheet that I sent to the other TA, I very well may have fudged the records in this kid's favor. But I had to go ask the other TA what he thinks. He said that he thinks it's dishonest. He's right. BUT I feel that the change may have been justified in the name of fairness. I know that this student is one of the ones who puts in the most effort (it shows in his class participation, conduct, and most of all--test grades). Furthermore, there are days that don't have an attendance list/sign-in-sheet passed around. So, it is possible for students to have missed many days and not get penalized for those days. Kind of sucks if the only days that you did miss were on sign-in days. Then again, this student told me that he had missed 5 class periods.

Turns out that our solution is that he studies hard for the final and gets a great grade on it. He might come in for tutoring in the computer lab just to make sure that he's on pace to get that good final grade. He's also asking for clarification on whether it will be 1% or 3% off the final grade.

I think that it is possible to be dishonest, but fair. Unfair but dishonest. Which is valued more? "Life's not fair" seems to express a common sentiment on the subject, but I don't think that came about by comparing fairness with the honest aspects of life. I think that it is possible to make decisions for situations like these on an individual basis.

As it turns out, I was unsure about the Pareto-impact this decision would have on the class as a whole. If records were not fudged, then that is a Pareto-efficient outcome, as nobody is worse off than they were before. If records were fudged, then it is Pareto-efficient only if it would affect this student's grade in a way that didn't impact the curve, because if the curve got shifted up because of him, then other students would get lower grades and that would not be Pareto-efficient. That would all depend on how the curve works, and it's safe to say that nobody knows how the final curve will be derived.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Newfound Skills

So it seems that I have acquired the ability to do some new things this semester. I can solve a macroeconomic model (in continuous time, at least...still working of discrete time methods), make sense of matricies (for the most part), fix things when they break in my house (even if I've never done it before), score a goal at the pick-up soccer game (well, it doesn't happen every time), tolerate the cold (better than before), write a coherent proof (if I understand the space I'm working in and know enough to start with), save money (even though I'm spending more than I ever have before), deal with coming home to an empty house (most of the time), cook (ok, most of the time I just mix things together and heat them up, but I can make some pretty incredibly tasty vittles when I have time).

Kind of interesting how I have been able to pick up on all this stuff. At times, I feel like I'm slacking. Like I'm not giving enough effort to my economics program. Like I could be so much better at life. Maybe I could. I wonder if it's that I lack the drive, like some of my motivation's been left somewhere. Maybe I'll find it over the winter break.

I think I'm straddling the border between the "real world" and the familiar scholastic setting. It's kind of like standing on the equator: you can be in two hemispheres and not feel any different than you ever have before...but you're occupying space that is somehow unique.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To all my supporters

So, I told Sona that she inspired me to start a blog. Sorry if it sucks.

Anyway, I would like to start off saying that I have many friends who have influenced me over the years, sharing their time and energies with me. I could not have developed into the person I am today without all of them. In fact, I feel that I am in a very privileged position, and I credit where I am to those who helped me get here combined with my (at times) hard work.

Examples of how I've been super lucky:
1. Parents who support me in all aspects of my life
2. Rich people felt like it would be a good idea to pay for my education.
3. I've always had excellent roommates who like to have a good time, keep me out of trouble, or get me into a little.
4. I went to a college where I was able to get to know a lot of people on a more-than-superficial level.
5. Being born in the USA.

So, to cap off, sorry for a crappy first post (it should get better with practice, right?). But if you're reading this, then I probably would like to thank you for what you have contributed to my life.