Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Yummies

Don't know if I'll get to have an artist night this week, so I decided to make some Christmas treats today. Just because they make me happy. Not just that though, I'm going to take them to my family party today. Hopefully they will enjoy them. If not, at least I had fun making them.

The first ones I made are these Russian Tea Cakes. They are quickly becoming my favorite Christmas treat. They're really easy to make as well. Don't they look like little snowballs of goodness?

These are my other favorite Christmas candies - Chow Mein Chocolates. They're also very simple to make. My favorite part is that they're full of chocolately goodness. Yum.

Maybe I'll get to make some others this season, I still have other favorites to make. Like peanut brittle. Yeah, so exciting.

The Kids Aren't Alright

Image: Simon Howden

The Kids Aren't Alright - a strange video, but one of my favorite songs on my "Angry" play list.

Monday is not my favorite day of the week. In fact, all Mondays have earned the title "Evil Monday" among a group of my friends. Last Monday was no different. Between issues at work and all the things going on in my life at home, it was a pretty evil Monday.

I don't use Facebook very much. Once in a while I'll log on and maybe post a comment for someone's birthday. Sometimes I chat with old friends on there. I use an app on my phone that updates both my Twitter and Facebook status, but that only saves me from logging in more often. Unfortunately, last Evil Monday, I thought I'd try to relieve stress by looking through pages from old high-school friends that have added me over the years. I also took the chance to clean up some of these so-called "friends" who I didn't really talk to in high school, but who have added me for some odd reason since then. While going through this list of friends, I discovered some crazy things that I didn't really want to know about them. Consequently, I disabled my Facebook account - I'll turn it on again, this is mostly to prevent me from looking into even more. Here's some of the craziness I found:

One of my better friends from high school has really taken a turn for the worse. She was a little over-weight back then, but now she's huge. Not only that, but she's decided she's a lesbian and likes to spend her time drinking in bars. Maybe that's how she gained the extra weight, but that's not something I would have imagined from her. To add to that craziness, and maybe this is part of the cause, her father committed suicide when she was younger.

Last time I saw friend #2, she was working as a waitress by where I went to high school. At the time, she was pretty happy and was preparing to go on a mission. Fast forward about 5 years to present. Now she hates the church and declares herself independent from it. She also hates guys. I don't think she's a lesbian, but who knows. Silly girl, I hate it when that happens.

Friend #3 was totally awesome in high school. She came from a pretty well-off family and had lots going for her. She was really talented musically and, if I remember correctly, was a sterling scholar at our high school. She was also really pretty and very nice. Not only that, but she was smart. She really could have had anything she wanted in life. But, I guess she didn't want anything - she decided to kill herself. Sad day.

Friend #4 is really an odd one. I knew he was headed down the wrong road even back in high school. He decided he was gay and then started experimenting with drugs. He's interesting because I couldn't really find much about him. I know he decided to change his name and his whole appearance. My guess is that he either finally decided he was a girl and so I can't find "him" or he decided to do himself in too. I actually wouldn't be surprised if he did - I know he started doing some crazy self-mutilation stuff for a while.

Friends #5 & #6 are doing alright. But I didn't recognize them at first because they had gained so much weight. Both were really skinny in high school, I guess they just let themselves go afterward. It could be worse, they could be like the other friends, but it's still surprising.

 Friend #7 lived on the next street over from where I lived. Friend #7 is doing just fine. But their neighbors also went to our high school. Neighbor girl was murdered by her high school boyfriend in the mountains just west of the high school. Holy cow!

There's plenty more, but I think that's a pretty good taste of what has happened with some of my friends from high school. Being more positive, many of my friends from back then are doing very well. Some have even changed for the better - they were in to some horrible things in high school and are now doing just fine. I'm happy for them.

On a separate note, I didn't think suicide was really all that common. Looking at this list, I have two friends directly affected by it (possibly 3). I was also dating a girl here in Utah for a while when her uncle suddenly killed himself. One of my good friends from college also lost his sister to suicide. Maybe it is more common than I thought.

Looking through this also makes me feel very blessed. Sure, I've had trials in my life, but I've never been worried about a girlfriend murdering me and I've never had to deal with being attracted to guys. A lot of the trials I face now are things like picking one opportunity out of four fantastic options. I can't complain about that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Artist Night - The Return!

It's been a while since I've had an artist night. I have been distracted with other things happening in my life. Lots of traveling, taking tests, applying to schools and such. But now thing's have calmed down some, so I'll get to do fun things again.

Artist night this week was about making video games. I've been wanting to try it for a while, and I got into 3D math and matrices for a while when I was programming with OpenGL. I realized I'd have a whole lot to program if I really wanted to make a game though, so I started looking for game making programs that could handle physics, collision detection, lighting, and all that other good stuff. I came across two that looked promising: Shiva 3D and Unity 3D. Of the two, Unity seemed to be a little more developed and had better documentation, so I gave it a try. I might try out Shiva in the future - it is much cheaper.

The first hour of artist night was spent going through some tutorials and kind of figuring out the program. There's not much to show for that time, it was mostly just playing around.

The second hour, I actually made something. It's definitely not good, but I can't complain for spending less than an hour on it. There's trees and grass that blows in the wind and gravity! If I were to program all that myself, it would take months. I'm happy that I'm not writing it all myself.

One of the features of Unity is that you can compile your game into a web application. I tried it out and it didn't seem to work so well. However, I did build it as a Windows executable which you can download here. Again, don't expect too much, but try not to fall off the edge of the world. Oh, and I promise I didn't add any viruses (or did I?).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ideas from student employees

One of the more interesting things about my work is that I get to work with a group of student employees. It can be really fun. It's also really challenging at other times. I really appreciate some of the new ideas they share with me. Here's two of my favorites, if you have any other interesting ideas then leave a comment.

Root Beer Dreams:
One student said that if you drink root beer right before bed, then you'll have the craziest dreams ever. The only catch is that it has to be A&W root beer, other kinds don't work as well. When I heard that, I though "well, that's simple enough to try" so I bought a can of it on my way home. That night, I drank the whole can, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. And you know what happened? I had super crazy dreams! I don't remember exactly what it was, but I remember having a very vivid dream. That was odd because I don't normally remember having dreams.
So the theory seemed to work. However, it became a bad habit for me. I started buying root beer every Friday night so that I could have at least one root beer dream a week. It got worse when I realized that a 2-liter was more cost-effective than buying smaller bottles or cans. Then I had a lot more to drink, and I'm not really a fan of carbonated drinks.
Eventually, I realized it had become a bad habit and gave it up altogether. I'll give it a try every now and then when someone gives me a can, but I don't buy root beer specifically for the dreams anymore. It was fun while it lasted though.

Calcium Tablets:
There was a period of time where I was sleeping horribly. It lasted for over a month and I would wake up every couple of hours and had a difficult time getting back to sleep. One of my other students said that she takes calcium tablets to help her sleep and encouraged me to try it. I looked it up online and the theory seemed to have some validity. The suggestion was to get calcium and magnesium tablets because the magnesium helps with absorption of calcium. I wasn't totally convinced with the idea, but thought it wouldn't hurt to get a bottle and give it a try.
I was expecting the tablets to help put me to sleep. Unfortunately, the tablets didn't help me sleep any better. I still stayed up late and still woke up every few hours. Nevertheless, they did have an interesting affect. I didn't get any more sleep than I had been getting, but I realized that I didn't feel as tired the next day. It seemed that it made the sleep I was getting more effective. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I wasn't dying to get back to sleep. Also, I felt just fine the next day when I really did wake up for the day. So the calcium tablets seemed to help after all.
In the end, I passed out of my horrible sleep stage. I still take the tablets, hoping that they will help me sleep less and not feel tired. It doesn't have the same effect as it did back then, but I think it does help some.