James Cassell's Blog

Friday, February 29, 2008

57th Joint Service Military Ball

Being in Naval ROTC, I had a mandatory ball that I attended this evening. The best way to describe my experience was awkward -- for a contiguous four hours. I didn't really have enough acquaintances where I could be talking to someone the whole time, nor did I have anyone I could leach onto without making the situation worse.

There were lots of important (relatively) high-ranking people there. I didn't really care to talk to these people any more than I cared to be there. Thankfully, the captain didn't stay too long after the ceremony was concluded. (We could not leave until the captain left.) The three (including me) people in the car I was riding in did not have dates, so all of us were eager to get out of there as soon as possible.

Sadly, the time that I spent at the ball would have been better spent doing a computer science project that is due at midnight (but on which I now have to waste my final late day.) The seven hours or so I would have had to do it would have been sufficient to get it done.

(I will clean up this post at the same time as I clean up the previous; the same conditions are true as then.)

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Best Tool for the Job

I have recently become quite interested in open source software. As a matter of fact, I have made it to a point where I prefer, for example, Linux (in my case, Fedora,) over Microsoft's Windows. Given two functionaly equivalent pieces of software, one open source and the other closed, the clear choice is the open source option. Having said that, I will choose the best tool for the job regardless of whether or not it is open source.

One example of my choosing the best tool for the job is my choice to use Opera as my web browser. I like opera because it is a lightweight browser with a rich feature set. It has an integrated feed reader, mail client, chat client, as well as many other useful features.

More recently, I switched to using Sun's Java virtual machine as an alternative to the using the fully open source version that came bundled with Fedora. I am guessing that the open-source virtual machine has some unknown incompatibility with my hardware; Eclipse, my java-based development environment, had many stability problems until I switched virtual machines. I had been blaming the extremely poor performance on Eclipse and the fact that it was written in Java when, in fact, the problem was a faulty implementation the virtual machine. (This problem actually gave me a large amount of grief; my Google searches turned up no one else with the same problem, which is quite unusual for any computer-related problem.)

Another proprietary program that I decided to use instead of the open-source alternative is NX, a remote desktop solution that works on both Linux and Windows. I initialy tried the open-source version of it, but that gave much grief.

There are also a great many open source tools that happen to be the best tool for their respective jobs. Examples of these include Linux itself; Eclipse, my IDE; Pidgin, my instant message application; as well as a great host of other open source software solutions.

One tool that happens to be the best for its job is µTorrent. This is the absolute best Bit Torrent client available. Unfortunately, it is only available on Windows. This has been my stated reason for still having Windows Vista on my Alienware notebook. I have read that µTorrent can be run on Linux through WINE, but have had neither the time, nor the modivation to try it to this point.

Linus Torvalds, the mastermind behind Linux, also happens to hold this viewpoint. At one time, it came back to bite him. He had been using a proprietary solution for keeping track of the Linux kernel source code, but the company decided to not renew the free license that had been granted. Linus's solution to this problem was to write a new best tool for the job: git. Git is now the fastest, and arguably, the best tool for keeping track of source code. Linus was fortunate enough in being a genius that he could simply write the best tool for the job when the old one was no longer available to him.

(At this point, I'm just rambling as I'm very tired; I'll clean this up later.)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Correlation Between Font Size and Screen Brightness

Over the course of the day, I began to realize that there exists a strong inverse relationship between the size of the font on the screen and the light required to comfortably read it. I noticed that when I am in class, I have my laptop screen on the dimmest setting so as to allow my battery to last longer. At this low brightness setting, in a bright classroom, I blow up whatever I am looking at to nearly double its native size to be able to read it comfortably.

At the other end of the spectrum, I significantly decreased the font size in Eclipse, my programming environment, so that I could see more of my code at once. After doing this, the first thing that I did was turn up the brightness on my screen, which allowed me to see my code much more easily.

I am sure that this trend has its limits in either direction; if you get too dark, you won't be able to see the text, no matter how large you make it. Since the human eye only has a certain level of precision, if you make the text too small, increasing the brightness will not do enough to make the text readable. I am fortunate to have good enough eye-sight for this observation to hold for a relatively large range of brightness levels.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Qualifying Statements

The art of qualifying statements is something that nearly every politician has mastered. I have used it myself, notably in my Thoughts on Harry Potter before reading Book 7. Nothing I said in that post turned out to be incorrect. I referenced things such as "the apparent [emphasis added] murder of Albus Dumbledore," and argued that Snape was "not as [emphasis added] evil as it would seem."

In the first case, my "apparent" qualifier was warranted; it is revealed in The Deathly Hallows that "murder" is a bad characterization of what happened. In the second case, it turns out that my qualifier was not needed at all, and my proposition was completely correct.

I was having a conversation with my friend the other day, and he asked me a question about where technology was going. My response was so well qualified that, if examined closely, it conveyed no information at all; at most, it may have conveyed an opinion, but nothing more. I find it interesting how anything can be said truthfully as long as it is properly qualified.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Rodney McKay

When I was watching Stargate Atlantis the other week, I realized that I was very much like the character Rodney McKay with the major exception that I know how to keep my mouth shut. The episode I was watching when I realized this was "Trio." McKay believes himself to be able to do anything and thinks very highly of himself. He also has a bit of trouble relating with other people. The major difference between the character McKay and me is my knowledge of when to hold my tongue and my choice to hold it much, much more often than does McKay.

McKay and Dr. Keller are quickly becoming my favorite characters on the show. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes comes from a dialog between the two:

Keller: McKay! I've been trying to reach you.

McKay: Well, you know, trying to save the city and what not.

[several minutes later]

McKay: You're a genius.

Keller: Well, you know, trying to save a life and what not.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hard Drive Encryption Vulnerability

Within the past few days, a vulnerability in the implementation of hard drive encryption was publicized. The problem applies to just about all hard drive encryption schemes -- Windows and Linux alike.

The Problem

The root of the problem is the same as the problem with DRM; the computer must hold the decryption key in order to be able to make use of the encrypted resource. This has been implemented by storing the key in RAM, which, common knowledge tells us, loses its contents when power is lost. This common knowledge assumption has a caveat that is not common knowledge; this loss of memory is not instantaneous. The memory may hold its contents for minutes after it loses its power. If the RAM is chilled before having its power cut, it will hold its contents for hours.

There are several ways that this can be exploited. If someone steps away from their laptop for a moment, an attacker could cut the power, connect an external device from which to boot, and their device could copy the contents of the memory onto itself. Somewhere in this copy of the memory would be the encryption key, which can be used to read the contents of the drive.

A Possible Solution

The article I referenced says that "There seems to be no easy fix for these problems." The hardest part of that assertion to contradict is the "easy" qualifier. However, upon reading about this problem, a seemingly obvious solution came to me. Modern processors have plenty of registers as well as on-board cache. Why not reserve one or more of these registers to hold an encryption key? If using a register would be too expensive, surely it would not be too expensive to use some of the plenteous cache that modern processors possess.

Upon considering this, I realized that people may very well want to have more than one encryption key. A possible solution for this is to store a key (say, a 256-bit key) that is randomly generated each time the system is booted. It could be stored in the manner I described above. This key could then be used to encrypt any other encryption keys before they are stored in RAM, and to decrypt them anytime they are retrieved. The only thing that needs to be done is to ensure that this randomly-generated key does not ever find itself in RAM.

A Word of Caution

Before writing this, I searched through the several hundred comments on the article, and found that several other people had mentioned the processor cache, asking if it were vulnerable. This indicates to me that this solution is, to some extent, common sense. It would be necessary to have security experts examine this approach before anyone tried to implement it, so as to avoid another disaster similar to what happened with the fatal weaknesses of WEP.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Great Sadness over a Trivial Concern

As the title may have indicated, I am very sad right now. I woke up this afternoon (as I do on most Saturday afternoons after catching up on sleep). I saw on my phone that I had missed several calls because it was on silent and I didn't hear it. I saw that both of my parents had called me several times, and that there were several messages. It turns out that, today, my father and sister were visiting the Military Academy at West Point, which is less than a hundred miles from here. They had been trying to get a hold of my because they were going to stop by and visit briefly.

By the time I got their messages, they were already on their way home, having not been able to reach me. I called my dad, and my sister answered and told me as much (that they were on their way home.) My verbal response was, "oh, well," as is my response in any situation where a loss on my part can in any way be considered my fault. I must say that this displeased me greatly. I realize that, in the long run, this annoyance has very little meaning. Despite this, I am very sad.

I decided to go get some food where I believe that at least two people wished they hadn't said, "how's it going?" in passing. They had to listen to my recount of why today is a bad day.

To make matters worse, today would have been an ideal day for them to have visited as there are "Winterfest" activities going on all weekend on campus. I must say that I haven't been this sad since shortly after leaving NYLF/tech. It seems to me that I had a legitimate concern in the case of NYLF/tech, but I will see my family again in a few weeks during spring break.

Well, I'm glad that is out of my system. I feel much better (and have my composure back as well.) I am considering not publishing this post, but I have a feeling that that would undo the "getting it out of my system" that has been done by writing it.

P.S. If you're clever, you can read the redacted part of this post.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Validating Input

When writing code, always validate the input. This may seem like common sense -- and it is under most circumstances -- but in one particular case, it is not. In the case of a computer science class when the instructor guarantees proper input, it is very tempting to not validate the input and simply assume that it is correct. This will save you a little time on each assignment, but is not worth it in the long run. I found this out today. I had a computer science project due at midnight last night. I didn't have it done on time, so I had to waste my remaining late day on it. I spent nearly 24 hours trying to debug my program that should have been working.

When I was debugging, I kept seeing things that could go wrong with improper input, but remembered that I only had to deal with proper input. My program seemed very brittle; the difference between a segmentation fault and the program running fine (but exiting early) was the difference between a break; and a continue; statement. It was at this that I randomly noticed that there was one line of the input was causing the crash. The input was improper despite assurances of the contrary the instructor.

I checked on-line to verify that I didn't mistakenly modify the file. Sure enough, the file on-line was correct, but the date on the on-line file was more recent than the date on my file. Apparently, the teacher noticed (or was informed of) the mistake, and updated the files on-line. What he did not do was send a general notice of the mistake and subsequent correction. Because of all this, I wasted nearly 24 hours of my time as well as a "late day" for turning in homework.

The moral of the story is that one should always check his input even if it has been guaranteed that it will be correct. The benefits of checking the input greatly outweigh the costs. Besides this, it is simply good practice, especially for any code that will be used in production. I had to deal with this when I was writing the contact form for my site; most of my time was spent writing the validation code to prevent any security problems.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Context in Perception of Scents

I noticed something interesting just now. How you perceive a scent depends heavily on where you believe the smell is coming from. Someone sat down next to me, and I thought he smelled like a dead animal. This was quite disconcerting. Shortly thereafter, I looked over and saw that he was eating a turkey sandwich. Immediately, the odor of a dead animal was gone, and the smell of a turkey sandwich was present.

I think it is interesting how the brain interprets the same odor differently depending on where it believes it originated. I would imagine this is somewhat similar/related to how taste is heavily dependent on smell; you can't really taste anything if you have a cold or a stuffy nose.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Briefly: Dvorak Update

I recently switched exclusively to the Dvorak keyboard layout and have been going at it for nearly six weeks. Dvorak is almost second nature to me by this point; my speed is still not as high as it was before I switched, but I expect to get there soon. I am currently typing at around 42 words per minute, not discounting for errors. This is about two thirds of my speed on the qwerty layout. My most common typing mistake with the Dvorak layout is mistakenly typing the sequence "it" instead of the sequence "ti" (e.g. as in "imagination".) I usually catch such mistakes before I publish by means of running a spell checker.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2008 Presidential Candidates

Finding Out About the Candidates

It's pretty late into the candidate-selection season to be posting this, but I am finally getting around to doing so. My initial research into the candidates happened around Thanksgiving. I watched a Republican debate and liked only two of the candidates. At that time, I didn't register in my head the names of these candidates, only their positions on the stage and possibly their faces and voices. I grew somewhat apathetic towards the whole thing until I noticed a surplus of articles on Digg bashing Mike Huckabee.

After noticing this, I asked myself, "who is this Huckabee fellow, and why should I care?" I went on an Internet fact-finding mission. I found out that Huckabee was a God-fearing man, and that his political positions were, for the most part, in alignment with mine.

By this time, it was Christmas vacation. I began asking people close to me who they thought would make the best president. I didn't really get any definite answers. I would get answers along the lines of "someone else," or "I haven't looked into it." When I asked my dad, he said that he thought Alan Keyes was the best, but that Keyes didn't have a very good chance at winning.

Alan Keyes: The Best Man for the Job

At this, I did my research on Alan Keyes. I found Keyes to agree with Huckabee on many issues, but there were also disagreements. Keyes is the most conservative of the candidates. He is very strong on all the moral issues as well as all other issues. He is not afraid of being somewhat politically incorrect in expressing these views. After researching Keyes, I was fully convinced that he was -- and still is -- the best candidate for the White House.

There was only one thing on Alan Keyes's issues page that I initially disagreed with. As I started to read his argument for the importance of the family farm, I disagreed with what I was reading. I recalled the lessons I learned in my economics class last semester; economically speaking, family farms are of no benefit; large corporate farms would be more economically efficient. As I continued to read, however, Keyes acknowledged this and stated that family farms have an "indispensable value in sustaining our nation's strong moral character." I can agree with this point. I believe that one of the most threatening problems with this nation is its rapidly corroding respect for godly morals. If it hasn't been made clear, I believe that Alan Keyes is most certainly the best candidate for the presidency.

Mike Huckabee: A Strong Second

Sadly, Alan Keyes is greatly under-represented. In Iowa, his name wasn't even on the ballot! At some point in the near future, I fear that Keyes will find it impossible to win the Republican nomination. If he were to run as an independent, it would only serve to fracture the conservative vote and ensure that a Democrat won the election. (The Democrats have a frighteningly bad reputation with regard to moral issues.) Since Alan Keyes is basically out of the running based on the current state of things, this leaves me to fall back on the candidate I was initially interested in: Mike Huckabee. His positions on the issues are very solid and have not wavered throughout the campaign. One thing that differentiates Huckabee from your typical conservative candidate is his position on the environment. He asserts that we have not been good stewards of our environment, and that we need to do better. Now, this is all well and good with me until he decides to use my tax money to make it happen, or alternatively, to cause the prices of goods and services to go up due to government regulations on such things. Thankfully, this does not strike me as too-large of threat to deal with.

McCain would be a distant third choice for me, but my second choice is an order of magnitude better, and my first, an order of magnitude better that. Recently, with the exit of Romney from the scene, Dr. James Dobson gave a half-hearted endorsement of Mike Huckabee. At this point, I think that the best thing would be for Huckabee to win the Republican nomination, (which at this point is a stretch,) and for Alan Keyes to be on the ticket for Vice President.

The Democrats?

In choosing from the Democrats, it's a choice between the lesser of two evils. Because of his positions on the a few of the technological issues, I would prefer to have Obama as president over Hilary Clinton. In addition to this, the prospect of having Hilary Clinton as president is downright scary. The same is true with Obama, but to a slightly lesser degree. Strategically, I think Clinton would be easier to defeat in a general election as it would be easier to convince people to get out and vote specifically against her. This does lead to a conflict of interest; one would rather have the lesser of two evils on office, but the worse of the evils would be easier to defeat. I don't have a solution for this problem.


Alan Keyes is undeniably the best candidate. With him, you can have your cake and eat it too! Since Keyes doesn't really have a chance of winning, Huckabee comes in second as the best candidate with any chance of winning. On the Democrat side of the house, Obama is the lesser of two evils, but Hilary Clinton would be easier to defeat in an election.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Awkward Situations

Everyone has been in an awkward situation at one point or another. No one likes them, but I think they are a part of life. (It is weird how as I just start to write about a topic, I change my thesis as I write the first sentences.) One of my most harsh criticisms of the Harry Potter movies in their deviations from the books is in their side-stepping of awkward situations. When watching the each movies for the first time, I would cringe when an awkward situation was just about to happen. Just then, the scene would change, and the situation would be avoided entirely. The movies would have been immeasurably better if they had not chickened out by cutting (or never filming) these scenes.

This brings us to my life. I absolutely hate awkward situations. When faced with an awkward situation, my default reaction is to disappear as quickly as possible with as few people noticing as possible (preferably, no one.) Obviously, this is an undesirable solution to an equally undesirable problem. Therefore, I try to learn from my mistakes. After encountering such a situation, I think back try to determine how to diffuse the awkwardness.

Two situations I experienced (is that the right word?) recently, neither of which I shall mention here, were of this awkward type. For the first situation, upon careful consideration, I was able to come up with a solution. I have since had several opportunities to test this solution in practice, and can say that it has worked flawlessly.

The second such situation that comes to mind has given me more grief. The only diffusing solutions I could come up with would require one or more additional awkward situations, which I despise so greatly. I wish I could come up with a simple solution for every problem, but I am simply not omniscient. My temporary (or rather semi-permanent) solution for this second type of situation is to carefully watch out for and identify its potential occurrence, and to steer clear (physically, if possible) of its occurrence.

P.S. Some time in the future, I may update this post with the specifics of these situations, but, at this time, they are too pertinent and sensitive for me to mention (considering that this is a publicly-accessible medium.)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Communism in Open Source Software

At first glance, in the area of technology, and more specifically, in open source software, it appears that there exists a thriving communist community. Now, everything that my other opinions point to would say that, in practice, communism is doomed to failure, and is a very bad thing (e.g. Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union.) My initial thoughts on this issue told me that technology is an exception to my previously-stated opinions of how things should work. Upon further observation, I realized that the notable examples of open-source software successes have always had the backing of some corporation.

For example, Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution, is financially backed by Canonical. Another example is Firefox, which is backed by Mozilla who relatively recently formed a for-profit entity so that they could legally make a profit from Firefox. (Much of their money comes from advertising partnerships with Google.)

Additionally, you have the open-source database, MySQL, which makes money by selling licenses to use their software to commercial entities. MySQL was recently acquired by Sun.

An example that is closer to home for me is Fedora. This is my preferred distribution of Linux (and the one I am using to type this post). Fedora is backed by Red Hat who sells another commercial distribution of Linux.

Perhaps, the two most successful open-source projects of all are the Linux kernel itself, and the Apache HTTP Server. The Linux kernel has many financial backers, many of whom are mentioned on the Linux Foundation Members page. The Apache server is the most commonly used HTTP server on the planet. It also has many financial backers who are featured on the respective Apache Thanks page.

This post is turning out much differently that I initially thought it would. Don't get me wrong; I think that free open source software is an excellent thing, and that all that people can do to promote it should be done. Having been using free open source software almost exclusively for about three and a half months, I will say that it has reached a point where it poses a legitimate threat to Microsoft; it offers a viable alternative to Microsoft software to the average user. I could have used many more examples of open source projects that are financially backed by corporate entities, but I think what I have gets the point across. Even in the area of technology, communism does not work.

Having said all this, I have seemingly left out all the open-source developers who have donated much their time to improve the quality of open-source software. I would like to thank all those who have done so, and encourage them to continue their good work.

P.S. I initially had this as a rather large section of my previous post under the heading "Technology".

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Politics: Where I Stand

In general, my position on any given issue will be conservative. My source for absolute truth is The Holy Bible -- anything that contradicts the Bible must be wrong or inaccurate. As a result of what I just stated, my opinion on any issue (excluding technological issues) will be in stark contrast to that of the Digg crowd.

Moral Issues

I believe abortion is wrong and should be illegal. By extension, I believe that embryonic stem cell research is wrong and should also remain illegal. I believe that there is nothing wrong with capital punishment. One thing that I makes no sense to me is why many "liberals" want to permit the murder or "abortion" of innocent babies, but wish to prohibit the governmental execution of murderers.

As far as marriage goes, I think that we should have a federal marriage amendment specifying that marriage is between one man and one woman. I find it absurd that such a thing is even necessary, but with the state of the world as it is, sadly, such an amendment is necessary.

Economical Issues

Taxes should be kept to a minimum. All they do is hurt the economy (also, I want to keep more of my money.) I think getting rid of the income tax and replacing it with a consumption tax is a good idea. (Granted, this introduces the problem of people spending their money in other countries, but I'm sure there are solutions to this problem.) I personally hate debt, and therefore, think that the national debt should be kept to a bare minimum. Basically, I think that the government should take less of our money and also spend less of it.

Smoking and Drugs

I believe that both smoking and drugs (for non-medical uses) should be illegal. Just because someone wants to destroy their lungs doesn't mean I should have to have mine destroyed as well by means of inhaling their crap. An article: "A Different (Conservative) Take on the Proposed Smoking Ban" expresses this very well (in relation to a proposed smoking ban in Iowa). It is argued that tobacco is a drug and should be regulated as such. My favorite quote from the article, "your liberty ends where mine begins," very well expresses why there should be such a smoking ban.

Personally, I will never smoke, nor drink (alcohol). When I see someone smoking, my opinion of him drops substantially; if someone doesn't have enough respect for his body to not destroy it, my respect for such a person is equally degraded. For some reason, I don't frown as much on people who drink with moderation. I simply have made a personal decision to never drink.

United Nations

The idea of the United Nations having any control or influence over the United States does not sit well with me. Its very existence seems to threaten the sovereignty and independence of our nation.

This actually brings up another issue: currency. There are many European nations that have given up their sovereignty by giving up their own currency and adopting the Euro as their official currency. I would like to believe that the United States would never do such a thing, but inevitably, some time down the road, either the United States will cease to be a nation, or it will buy into a global currency. I hope to not be on this planet when such a thing happens.


I believe I should be able to do whatever I want to with my technology as well as my media. The DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 severely curtailed what people are allowed to do with their media. For example, it criminalized the copying one's DVDs to one's hard drive. It basically made it illegal to circumvent any sort of DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) scheme, "even when there is no infringement of copyright itself."

Another political technology issue is software patents. Initially, such patents were not allowed because software is nothing more than math, and math can't be patented. To get around this, companies described their software as hardware, and added a footnote that the preferred implementation is in software. Somewhere along the line, software patents became accepted. I am strongly opposed to allowing software patents. They do more to stifle innovation than to stimulate it. There are companies whose whole business model revolves around collecting these patents and suing other companies for infringement. A prime example of this is the Eolas suit against Microsoft for its use of web browser plug-in technology. Eolas won the suit. The prevalence of such patents strongly discourages new entrants into the market.


As you can see, my views are strongly conservative. If I did not address an issue here, either it slipped my mind, or I found it to be so much common sense that it didn't warrant a mention. (Sadly, there are many issues that fall into this category; they are such common sense that there should be no argument around them.) If you want me to address any particular issue, just leave a note in the comments, and I will update this post (or add another) addressing the issue.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Briefly: Politics

When looking at the things that each of the major political parties stand for, it amazes me that there are people who are in the middle of the road regarding the parties' views. The two parties core beliefs are almost perfectly out of phase -- that is, they almost perfectly contradict each other. The Democratic Party has very liberal views while the Republican Party has very conservative views. Though I have no data, it seems to me that these few-and-far-between people who are politically in the middle of the road are the people who decide the results of an election.

I happen to know at least one of these middle-of-the-road people, and, at least for this election cycle, we're both rooting for the same candidate. I will leave the issue of my personal political positions for another post as I am writing this between classes and am operating on very little sleep. (For the same reason, this post may not be as coherent as I would like it to be.)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Soreness from Lifting Weights

This semester, someone decided that my squad in ROTC was going to exercise an additional time in the week separately from the rest of the battalion. (In reality, each of us is supposed to do additional exercise on our own throughout the week.) Yesterday was the first of these supplemental exercise sessions. My squad went to the Mueller Center, which is just off the Armory here at Rensselaer. We went to the lower floor where the weight room is. We were instructed and shown what we were supposed to do.

In doing the exercises, I could feel that my right arm is much stronger than my left arm. For some of the exercises, I couldn't complete all the repetitions. After the weight workout, we jogged a few miles, which was pretty easy. After finishing, my arms were only slightly sore, and I thought nothing of it for the rest of the day.

This morning when I got up, my arms were in pain -- it hurt to even lift them. My left arm, is especially sore, and the regular yawning-stretch thing I do when I'm slightly sore does little to nothing to help. It is slightly painful to make my left arm go all the way straight, and the inside of the elbow feels somewhat like it does after having blood drawn. After doing the lifting exercises yesterday, we were told that we would be sore the following several days since we weren't used to doing the exercises. Hopefully getting used to these exercises doesn't take too long as I'm not thrilled to feel consistently sore.

I experienced similar soreness when I first started track and cross-country in high school. In that case, it took about two weeks to get used to the routine, and not be sore after practice.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Future Topics for Discussion

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about possible topics about which I could write. Then I had the crazy idea to list them here and see if anyone would comment as to which he (or she) would like to see first. I have been writing frequently so as to assist my effort of re-learning how to type (using the Dvorak keyboard) -- I won't improve without practice. With that, I give you my list of possible topics of discussion:

  • Friends at RPI
  • Fedora vs. Vista
  • My Alienware Notebook
  • Git Version Control System
  • Step-by-Step Installation of Fedora 8 on a Lenovo ThinkPad T61
  • Politics
  • This Semester at RPI
  • Only at RPI: Being at a School of Geeks

Feel free to leave comments if you care one way or another. You can even propose your own topic if you feel so inclined.


Friday, February 01, 2008

About this Blog

I started this blog back in 2003 shortly after reading How Blogs Work. I was, at the time, trying to read every article on How Stuff Works, a goal I never accomplished. I find it interesting to read back over my old posts -- they are, for the most part, short and dry, and have grammar mistakes that I would be embarrassed to make today. The most annoying of these mistakes is my improper usage of "who" when I should have used "whom."

I generally stuck to the policy of never mentioning anyone explicitly -- I will often say "the network lady," or "my best friend," avoiding names. This is an artifact of my being told (by well-meaning parents) that one should never use names on the Internet. In reading through my old posts, I found two violations of this policy.

Recently, my posts have been written as a one-sided conversation. Sometimes, there is a spoken conversation that inspires a post. However, more times than not, my inspiration to post has been my having a topic I wished to discuss, but having no one at hand who would be interested in such a topic. Sometimes, I will post specifically because it would have been helpful to me if someone else had posted on the topic. An example of this is my MATLAB R2007b on T61 with Vista.

Another thing that I have tried to do is to include helpful links in-line when appropriate (never using text similar to "click here" as the anchor). I have also encoded the expansion of any abbreviation or acronym in an <abbr> tag so that when one hovers an abbreviation with a mouse, a tool-tip shows the expanded version. Also, in all of my more recent posts, I have tried to choose a descriptive title. Sadly, I was too lazy to do this with my earliest posts. Additionally, for brevity, I will often use "he" when I speak of the third-person singular. This is what I was taught to do when I was in the third grade (which was before the modern advocacy of the more politically-correct "he or she" variation.)

In very recent years, I have tried to use proper grammar and spelling. These things are technical, and I have no excuse for getting technical things wrong, especially when I expect and want others to get them right.

This post will probably end up being my "about page" for this blog.

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