February 25, 2004

As bad as a wench...

You know, it's very bad when I want to curse loudly and vulgarly. I really don't appreciate the situation into which I have been placed by a combination of AP tests and the HNRS program.

So, the HNRS 1023 homework is on Arte/Scienza, or the infamous left-brain/right-brain business. So I've done most of the homework, and that is good because that means I will get a good grade. However, the freaking book is retarded. It's made me stupider for reading it.

This chapter, supposedly about striking a balance between art and science, is really about building up the right brained, artsy side. He quotes Lord Kenneth Clark (known as Papa Kenny to those in my European History class), "It is often said that Leonardo drew so well because he knew about things; it is truer to say that he knew about things because he drew so well." Lord Clark, as an art historian is clearly going to be slightly biased about these things. So we go on...

Then the author starts talking about "mind mapping," which is essentially an "artistic" way of brainstorming. It's basically what I do in my head before I start writing things down on paper. On paper. Gelb goes through this whole explanation about how mind mapping is a creative experience designed to allow your thoughts to progress as freely and naturally as possible. Here are the seven rules for mind-mapping:

  1. Begin your mind map with a symbol or a picture (representing your topic) in the center of the page.
  2. Write down key words.
  3. Connect the key words with lines radiating from your central image.
  4. Print your key words. Printing is easier to read and remember than writing.
  5. Print one key word per line.
  6. Print your key words on the lines and make the length of the word the same as the line it is on.
  7. Use colors, pictures, dimension, and codes for greater association and emphasis.

Those are the seven rules (to be followed in order) for the creative and free-thinking project of mind mapping. Apparently, it takes someone with a dominant left brain to recognize the contradicton here. The author sure didn't pick up on it. He then goes on to give an example of a mind map, with pictures of the picture at every step.

Apparently, I do not have enough sfumato or I would be able to hold this contradiction inside my head without question. Or, at least, that's what I understood from the lesson on sfumato.

Having sufficiently calmed my need to curse, I present the following:
Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn.

Now I feel better.

Posted by Gallagher at 09:45 PM

February 22, 2004

To Symphony and Beyond!

So tonight was the symphony. It was... amazing. Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D was wonderful, as were the pieces by Haydn and Brahms. However, I must say that the soloist was much better than the ETBU choir. I'm glad that I have so many friends that enjoy the finer things in life. A night to sit with friends, listen to a wonderful performance of wonderful music, then top that off with going out to eat with those same friends...

I am clearly not the same person that I was when I came to LeTourneau. While I'm still introverted, I have come to thoroughly enjoy spending time with all my friends. Which is something I could never quite bring myself to in Sherman. Not that I like them less, but it always seemed that it would be easier not to hang out with them, staying at home with my computer, reading, or possibly watching movies. Here it seems easier to hang out with friends than sit back at my computer coding or reading or whatever.

What have you people done to me? :-)

Posted by Gallagher at 07:15 AM

February 17, 2004

Spam! Oh Wonderful Spam!

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that our government has finally caught up with the times!

Now instead of getting democratic propaganda in the mail, we'll get it by email, as well! Oh the joys. But then, we'll also get republican propaganda! My inbox runneth over!

Naturally, I would assume that were this to get realized, the politcal incumbents would be free of that tax as well.

Posted by Gallagher at 03:01 AM

February 12, 2004

The Adventures of HNRS 1023 and other tales...

Well, English was fun today (as always). Too bad text strips all of the sarcasm out of my communication. So I get to class, fully expecting to make a presentation on Michelangelo and watching the four girls do their respective presentations on their respective artists. Sarah brought cake (not sure what it had to do with her presentation), Katie brought lamps, Elizabeth got all dressed up, and then Batts comes in and says that we'll be doing the presentations next Tuesday and that we had a "field trip" today. That's always a good sign...

So he tells us that we'll be going to the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, such as it is, and then proceeds to hand back quizzes, talk a little, hand out some worksheets, and talk for a little more. We ended up spending about 20 minutes talking before he actually left to go get his car. Then Katie and Elizabeth went back to their rooms and were late coming out. So we finally came around to the museum and the road was closed. So he goes around downtown some more and finally decides to park. So we go inside, look around for about 20 minutes, recording things about four pieces we decided we liked. Then we left and came back to the university.

Now, as far as ideas go, this one wasn't bad. It wouldn't have bothered me to stay at the museum for another 20 minutes or so (any longer than that and I could have memorized every piece of art in there), but because of various things, not the least of which was him yammering before we actually left, we didn't have very long to look at the art or write about it.

So that's the story of Batts' class today.

A few days ago, I was reading an Irish story about the Four White Swans, the children of Lir, one of the Irish heroes. As the story goes, Lir's second wife, the step-mother of his four children, becomes jealous of the children because Lir loves them more than he loves her. So she turns them into swans, cursed to live as swans for 900 years, until there is a certain queen in Ireland, the Good Saint (Patrick) comes to Ireland, and the Christ-bell rings. In the 300-600 year period of the curse, the siblings are to sleep in a meterologically violent area on the shore, where they are to be attacked by storms most nights. And they are. Then, in the middle of this period, the following exchange takes place.

But that same night did a dream come to the
swan-maiden, and, when she awoke, she cried
to her brothers to take heart. 'Believe, dear
brothers, in the great God who hath created
the earth with its fruits and the sea with
its terrible wonders. Trust in Him, and He will
yet save you.' And her brothers answered, 'We
will trust.'

And Finola also put her trust in God, and they
all fell into a deep slumber.

When the children of Lir awoke, behold! the sun
shone, and thereafter, until the three hundred
years on the Western Sea were ended, neither wind
nor wave nor rain nor frost did hurt to the four

Now that, indeed, is an interesting study for some of you historiographers. Who decided, back in the day, to take an old Irish story and convert it to Christian propaganda? Quite the stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. However, I want to know what the story was like in its original form, or what story this one is adapted from, because from that point on, it assumes that Christianity has come to Ireland, and I'm pretty sure that the monks wouldn't have made up stories about a jealous step-mother using magic to turn her step-children into swans.

I like old Irish stories. Talk about super powers. I want super powers...

Posted by Gallagher at 08:36 PM

February 05, 2004

How I became non-fuzzy

Well, I just got finished writing this thing for HNRS 1023, and, despite my best efforts, I think it will make Batts happy. But then, it also makes me happy, so I'm going to post it to make you happy.


My sophomore year in high school was a time full of change for me, as it was for many of my friends, and probably is for many people. At summer camp the previous July, I had re-dedicated my life, and so my life was changing particularly rapidly. My English teacher was very intent on getting all of his students to grow inwardly and discover who they really were (in addition to learning how to write essays and practicing penmanship). He had us read Annie Dillard's Essay, "Living Like Weasels" and write our own essay in response to it, and that essay helped me realize that life is only rewarding when we do that which we are called to do.

With this in mind, I was going through my year, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was planning on studying history and becoming a professor of history specializing in Ireland in the Dark Ages. Then my computer science teacher, Brian Everett, asked me to be a member on one of the teams in the programming contest that was going to come up in February. I agreed. My brother was already going, and I was going to be on a team with two of my friends, so even if we did not do well, we would still have fun.

Well, as three first-year computer science students, we did not do well at all. If I remember correctly, we did not get a single point. (My brother's team, on the other hand, placed third with fifty-six points.) But even so, I had had fun trying to solve these problems, even if I had been completely unsuccessful. It was then that I realized that while studying history was fun, it was not as rewarding as being able to solve a problem by having complete power over a computer. Thus began my interest in computer science.

But why, if I was so interested in history and English, did I agree to go to the competition in the first place? Brian also my youth minister at the time, and so I knew that he would make the trip enjoyable if nothing else. Also, there was no one else in the class capable enough or interested enough in going to the contest in the first place. I had also been talking to my brother John about computer science and mathematics and academia in general, and I realized that he had entirely too much fun solving problems like this. So my curiosity got the better of me and I agreed to go to the competition.

This was the initial event that sparked my interest in computer science and math. My love of programming came many months before my love of math. At some point, I decided that I would like to be able to program computer games [I even got one working], and in order to make a successful three-dimensional computer game, one must know all kinds of advanced linear algebra and other upper-level math concepts. At this point, I decided that it would be prudent to cultivate an interest in math, because I knew I would be studying it all through college. I was blessed with four excellent math teachers in high school, all of whom were teachers by vocation. My math teachers, Ms. Rivoire, Mrs. Britton, Ms. Butler, and Mrs. Garrett, were four of the best teachers that I have ever had, because all of them could explain the concepts in their classes with amazing clarity. So I found it incredibly easy to love math.

Sometime during Mrs. Garrett's calculus course, I realized that solving math problems was just as much fun as solving programming problems. Also, my brother and I had been talking about school again, and he had switched his major from computer science to a double major in computer science and math to a straight mathematics major. He was pleased that I realized that math was rewarding in and of itself, and I found myself loving math for the sake of math more and more. At some point, I gave up on wanting to program games and have since gone back to wanting to teach at a university. The study of algorithms and finding more efficient ways to do anything fascinates me, and would be a good application of both computer science and mathematics.

By the time I arrived at LeTourneau, I had decided to major in the combined computer science and math degree, because it suits me so well. I remember that I began this course because of one programming contest my sophomore year. Ever since, I have been living like a weasel, "yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity." The single necessity that I have discovered is to do that which most stimulates my mind and my spirit.


Right, so that last paragraph reeks of cheese. Particularly that last sentence. But then, "Living Like Weasels" is just a really cool essay. Rather ironic that an essay we read in English helped point me to the non-fuzz of computer science.

Posted by Gallagher at 02:19 AM