Shields at 20%

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So, I'm fucking up (by my standards) my Engineering class.

I just got my second quiz grade back, which was 7/10.  Now, it's a quiz, so that shouldn't be much of an issue, but I also made an idiotic mistake on the midterm and got an 80% (like, literally, flipped one sign on one problem and, as a result, lost 20% of the exam).

So, right now, I've actually got a B in the class.  88.33%.  Since I came back to school, I've never been this low in a class.  Further, the grading scale doesn't have much room for leeway: the midterm, quizzes, and final are, combined, 70% of the grade.  With only three quizzes, we only have one left (I got 100% on the first one).  I'm already at 95% with the homework itself, but that's also only 10% of the grade, so there's not a lot of leeway there.

If I get 100% on everything remaining until the final, I need an 88% on the final to get a 90% in the class.  Chances are that I'm not going to get 100% on everything.  So, really I need to get a mid to high A, if not a perfect score, on the final, or I get a B.

The class average right now is a 79.2%, so it's not like everyone's doing badly.  I'm just doing much, much worse than normal.  I think a big factor is simply that so many of the tests and quizzes are 2 or 3 problems: if I make even one mistake somewhere, that's a huge portion of the test down. Also, there is zero partial credit for anything; her philosophy (which is understandable) is that it's either right or its wrong.  So, for example, the one errant + sign for the midterm meant that my x-value was wrong but my y-value was correct; it doesn't matter that I then knew how to correctly calculate the total force and resulting angle for those given x and y; because the x-value was wrong, the force and angle were wrong.  So, out of 20 points, I lost 15 (3 out of 4).

With so few points per test or quiz, any mistake is magnified.  If I get another 7/10 on my third quiz, then I need a perfect score on the Final to get an A, even if everything else is perfect.  And chances are the final and the quiz will also be only a few questions each, which means even one small mistake will mean getting a B.

Heck, even the 88% on the final means likely missing only one part of one problem out of three or four.  For someone with ADHD and dyslexia, having essentially no tolerance for potential errors is essentially a recipe to fail.

The shitty part is that I'm usually the one helping everyone else get things right.  Conceptually, I understand this stuff more than most people.  But one errant plus sign and now who knows what I did on the quiz mean that I may blow my 4.0.  This quiz thing is even worse - I explicitly double-checked my answers.  The only thing I can think of is that a value she gave was meant to be for diameter rather than radius, which obviously would change a lot, but I swear she said it was radius in class (and the diagram itself was completely ambiguous).

This isn't the end of the world.  Life would go on.  But I really, really don't want to get my first (and even then hopefully only) B in a class that is intrinsic to my future career.  That's kind of a bad sign.  There's also a huge, huge impact psychologically to losing the "straight As" rank, not to mention what kind of impact it may have on transferring (my app is already in, but they still consider classes prior to actual admission).

I'll keep working for the A.  I just don't have much confidence in myself to get it at this point.  If I screw anything else up in the class at all, it won't be possible - and the odds are (especially based on history) that I'll screw something up.

Half way there

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So, cute guy has a girlfriend.  Oh well :)  Also found out he's from South Africa, which may be part of the "sending me weird vibes" thing.

It's midterms now.  I have a test in every class next week, one Tuesday and two Wednesday.  I'm taking Wednesday off, not to study necessarily but just to make sure I'm relaxed and will have slept well.

Business Law should be easy; there haven't been many ideas or terms that I haven't encountered before, even if only in a vague way.  Statics will be "easy" in the difficulty sense, but I need to be sure to double-check my work whenever possible and be very careful not to make calculation mistakes.

Differential Equations is still the big issue.  I earned a 91% on the last test (but got a 98% due to curve), so I'm not at all doing badly.  However, there are a lot of complicated details for the class that don't necessarily mesh well with my kind of thinking: less about how to apply and execute, more about names and memorizing theorems.  I'm not worried, per se, and I plan to spend the weekend reviewing material.  But I'd like to get as high a grade on the test as possible, preferably over a 95%, just so that I'm better buffered for later tests and the final.

I've also got to get finished on my personal statements for my applications.  My UCI "tag" is still in review (I wouldn't expect anything about that until Monday at the earliest, but it might not be until next month), but the UC apps in general are due by the end of November.  The essays are short and the two I've written already are, I feel really good at getting across what I want to say.  I just need to hammer out the other two and then have someone review them.

The applications for CalTech and Harvey Mudd aren't due until next year, which is good for a variety of reasons.  One, I have more time to work on them (and they require a lot more than UC does).  Two, my GPA should be a lot better by then.  Right now, I have 54 units of As and 12 units of Fs (from 20 years ago) still on my transcripts; 3 of those F units don't count for UCs at all, which is what gives me the 3.42 for that application.  However, 2 of my classes this semester are "replacing" two of those Fs, so by December I should (hopefully) have 68 units of As and only 6 units of Fs left.  I can't really re-take those last two classes, but I'll still be at 3.67 at that point (and, the real hope, a 4.0 if the schools decide to ignore those way-older grades, none of which are at all relevant for my transfer).

... Ironically, I'm applying for those two just for fun.  It'll be fiscally irresponsible for me to attend either of them unless I get significant financial assistance from somewhere, and so far none of the (granted, tiny) scholarships I've applied for have panned out.  But I have to apply, nonetheless.

I've been playing the heck out of XCOM 2, though.  It seems to be a decent blend of 10- to 15-minute pieces but enough coherence that I enjoy playing longer.  Also, the random nature of the missions and some of the character aspects (especially with the expansion) keeps it interesting.  I find I have far more fun going from the beginning to just before the final missions than I do playing the final missions; by that point, I've got everything running so smoothly that it's almost no longer a challenge.

First Class

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School's going well.  Three classes at the moment with an 8-week class starting in late October.  So far, the only class that has been problematic for homework is math (Differential Equations), and that's not even been that bad.

On a different tact, though... there's a cute guy in my engineering class.

I randomly sat next to him the first day - honest, it was random.  It's mid-day, and I have to leave work to head over.  Depending on traffic and how long it takes to find a parking spot, I'm often getting to class just a few minutes before it starts.  The first day of class, I was there about 5 minutes early, and one of the few spots left was next to him. It was also at the front of the class (which I almost always pick for ADHD and glasses reasons), so it was the logical choice.

Anyway, we've pretty much kept the same seating.  We chat before class, goof off a little during (there's a lot of group work), and chat a little afterwards as we're leaving.  If I have a physical type, he's probably it (kind of, mid-western "corn fed" or California surfer look; could go either way), but really he's just got that "thing" in his personality that I click on.

No clue if he's gay, so of course the odds are against me there.  He doesn't wear a wedding ring and hasn't mentioned dating life at all, but then neither have I.  We just progressed to barely talking about work yesterday, so maybe we'll get more into that tomorrow (class is two days a week).  I think he's closer to my age than not - he has one degree already and something he said made me think he's mid-30s.  Yes, I looked him up on Facebook, but his profile is locked down (which is a good thing; too many people expose too much); that's also an indication that he's likely older, as most college-students I know don't restrict access very much.

I've briefly tossed out the notion of getting together outside of class to work on homework if he wants, but he works on weekends whereas that's pretty much the only time I'm not working.  So, not sure if that will happen.

In all likelihood nothing will come of it, but it's so rare that I meet someone I'm actually attracted to that that in itself is kind of fun.  There's no danger of me making him uncomfortable - quite the opposite, the danger is in me not pursuing it enough to even give it a chance.  But there it is.

The Other One Percent

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In 1993 (fall), I got a 1480 on my SATs.  770 Math, 710 English.  That was 24 years ago.  Until last night, I didn't realize what that meant.

Some background: listen to the song "Perfect" by Alanis Morissette.  Okay, not exactly, but close enough.

To understand the background, you have to know two things: whatever else I can say about her, my older sister is undeniably brilliant; and I have ADHD and dyslexia and had a speech impediment until I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.  For many years, I was considered "the slow one".  It made a kind of sense - one off-the-charts smart kid, one slightly-behind-the-curve kid - so no one really questioned it.  Then she started going off the rails, and about the same time someone noticed that I was doing 5th grade math in 2nd grade.

I won a spelling bee in 1st grade (on a bet, actually).  I remember my mother being really proud of me.  It's the last time I remember her being proud of me - or at least of telling me so - until I was in my 20s.  As soon as it was decided that I was "gifted", expectations changed.  Anything less than perfect meant I wasn't trying hard enough; anything perfect simply meant that I was meeting expectations and wasn't worth talking about.

That isn't an exaggeration, and it wasn't just my parents.  As a sophmore in high school, I won first place in Math at the Academic Decathalon.  The proctor for the team actually chastised me for not getting a perfect score - I got something like 49 out of 50 - and then never apologized when it was announced that one of the questions couldn't have been answered correctly.  I got a 4 on my AP Physics test as a junior, and my parents were disappointed I hadn't gotten a 5.  I should add that we didn't have an AP Physics class: I just took the test on my own.  The 5 I got on my AP Calculus test, as one of two Juniors in the class, was waved off as "good job" and then never mentioned again.

So, back to my SATs.  770 Math, 710 English.  I don't remember much about the reaction, other than my parents being disappointed I didn't get perfect 1600s.  That was my fall score, which meant I could retake it in the spring, but by that point I knew I wasn't getting into a university (no way to pay for it and my GPA sucked), so I never bothered.  I just kept this impression that 1480 was mediocre - above-average, sure, but nothing impressive.  In my head, it took a 1500 or 1550 or higher to really be "college-worthy".

A few months ago, my parents (now much older) mentioned one of my nephews got 1200-something and got into a semi-exclusive technical school.  I thought that was odd, but didn't think much else on it.  A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation online with some folks talking about SAT scores - theirs and their kids.  Someone said something about a 1300s score, and I kind of blew it off as being "alright" - and then got chewed out for a bit as to why I was being so "fucking elitist".  I accepted the dressing-down, but then asked someone else privately later what it was all about.  I said, "I mean, I got a 1480 and I know that wasn't anything fantastic; 1300 is good but it's not great."  Said friend told me I really needed to go back and look at the scoring for the SATs.

I finally did last night.  I can't find specific data for 1994, because College Board "recentered" scores in 1995.  Essentially, the SAT is supposed to be like an IQ test: for IQ, 100 is supposed to be "average", and for the SAT, 500 on any test is supposed to be "average".  Scores had been decreasing, however, and so they adjusted the tests in 1995 to raise the scores a bit.  My 1480 in 93/94 is equivalent to 1580 after "recentering".  That put me in the 99th percentile for college-bound students.

I took the test at the start of my junior year, without much prep at all (and certainly no studying), with undiagnosed (and certainly untreated) ADHD and dyslexia, and got in the top 1% of college-bound students nationwide.  And the only response I can remember getting was vague disappointment that I hadn't done better.

If people have trouble really understanding why I cringe every time someone says "of course you did well" or "you'll be fine" when I talk about anything school-related, or why I'm not talking about school with most people (and especially my parents), they need to read that last paragraph.  I don't hold it against my parents - I know they probably did the best they knew how to do - but that doesn't change the fact that 24 years later I'm still having to deal with the fallout.

Life is complicated.

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I haven't spoken to my father - my real father - in about 22 years.  We didn't have a falling out so much as a drifting apart.  It's important to note that I lived with my mother for a good portion of that time: while I made no effort to reach out to him, he made none towards me either.  I won't say it was a mutual decision since I doubt either of us actually made such a decision, but it was at the least mutual ambivalence that allowed it to happen.

A few years ago, though, I had my younger stepbrother - my step-mom's youngest son, about 7 years younger than I am - contact me on Facebook.  We've had a few amicable discussions - he ended up being gay as well - and we're "friends" on Facebook, though I never actually do more than "like" some of his posts.  I'm also, through him, "friends" with his sister, who is 2 years older than I am.  I don't even "like" stuff from her.  The restriction on both is self-imposed: I'm glad they're doing well, and I hold no animosity towards any of them, but anything I did would be seen by their mother and likely get back to my father and, thus, cause complications that none of us really need.

One of the side effects, though, is that I've come across photos of my stepmom that include (explicitly or in the background) my dad.  He looks well and happy, and though his hair is almost white it's also still all there (probably a good sign for me personally, since I'm almost his spitting image physically).

I also just came across photos of their house (which they had 22 years ago) - or, at least, what used to be their house.  Apparently, they moved to Washington recently, and the photos (which show some dramatic changes to the house, things I confirmed with a quick Google Earth search) were for the real estate ads.  The irony is that for the last 6 years or so I've lived closer to that address than at any other time in my life (I'm about 15 miles from the house my parents owned when I was born).

I've actually, since I moved, given more than a passing thought to the possibility of running into them in the area, especially as I currently attend the community college my stepmom graduated from.  I guess that's no longer something I need to consider.

Another complication: my sister, who I've mentioned before and is (or was) extremely toxic to a lot of people in my life, also lived in Washington the last I heard.  In fact, my father is now living about 30 miles from the high school my nephew went to.  I have no idea if either of them knows this or if they're at all associating.

I don't know why this is all coming up now.  I'm getting ready to apply for transfer soon - the application are available next month, though most can't be submitted until October or November - and maybe it's just the nature of transitions that make us think about our lives.

I don't wish any of them ill - I hope they are all well and happy.  But I also don't necessarily want them back in my life (especially my sister).  I don't know how I'd handle it if the issue was forced. I also fully expect that some day, in the next 10 years or so, I'm going to get a call that my father is dying (he's been pretty hard on himself over the years, physically, and I have to assume that has taken a toll; he's also about 69 at this point).  I already know I'll go see him at that point, but I don't feel any need to do anything prior.  And if I never get the call and simply find out after the fact, well, so be it.

The past is what it was.  The future is what it will be.  All we can do is live today.

Off the port bow

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Spring break was last week. I did the glorious and amazing thing of "absolutely nothing" for a whole 9 days.

Well, not quite true: on Saturday, I (and a C&D) went on a brief (3.5 hour) little wildlife sea tour off the coast of Ventura.  It's the same one I did years ago when I saw the blue whale; while I was totally hoping for something similar - especially as it's explicitly whale-watching season off the west coast - I really just wanted to get back to the sea.  It had been too long, frankly.

The wildlife certainly went along with the idea, however.  Less than half an hour out, we spotted two gray whales some of the first mother-calf pairs heading north (the solitary whales swim faster and passed by earlier in April; most of the rest of the mother/calf pairs will pass in May).  We then came across a blue whale off Anacapa, as well as a humpback and a fin on the way back.  All in all, a good day.

The school semester is half way over; I've still got As in all my classes, and I'm not terribly worried about any of them at this point.  Just had a physics midterm yesterday, and I think I did alright: on the last mid-term, I felt like I bombed it but got a B (and needed a D to maintain my A), so we'll see how this comes out.

The summer schedule gets released in May, so I'll finally get to see what classes if any I can sign up for.  I need one - chemistry 1A, hopefully - and might take a statics class if it is offered (since it's so rarely offered).  But I need to know the schedules so I can plan any birthday trip I want to take.

I haven't hung out with L (or even spoken to him on the phone) in 8 weeks, though we've emailed a bit.  I'm not missing it, though I imagine he is probably depressed.  While that's not good, it's also not my - or really anyone else's - responsibility to fix it for him.

Parents come back in a few weeks.  I ought to have at least a couple of tomato plants ready for them by then; my starts are coming along nicely, especially with the weather the last week or so.

... and I just had someone effusively praise a poem I posted in support of a friend (who is feeling rather down).  Like, going on for 5 minutes in chat about how I need to get published and such.  While that kind of praise tends to make me uncomfortable, it's also good to get validation like that sometimes.

On that note, back to work.

School days

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First week of classes done - though it's a short week due to the holiday and a professor's medical appointment.

The Intro to Comp Sci honors class is the one I was most worried about - mostly because it's 1) honors and 2) a complete unknown when it comes to workload.  At this point, I think it'll be okay.  The professor is brilliant and has a lot of facts and tidbits that go with the data (some of which I think are dubious, as I've head them contested, but at least it's all interesting).  Also, given the fact that it's an Intro course, I've already got far more background on the subject (at least from a practical standpoint) than most of the class.

The physics professor seems like he really knows his stuff and is also interested in students learning physics.  He went so far as to say, "If you come up with an integral on a test that you can't do, come up to me and I'll do it for you.  This is a physics class, not a math class."  I also know two of the people in my lab group from past semesters, and the third is in my math class.

The math class is possibly going to be the easiest.  That sounds weird, since it's multivariable calculus, but much of what we're going to learn (skimming through the material) is related to concepts we covered in linear equations.  The professor is also fairly young (I'd guess low to mid 30s) and seems like he really enjoys the material.

So, a fair bit of homework to do this weekend, since I want to try to get ahead in at least physics and calculus, but I think the semester will work out well.

The calm after the storm

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Had a nice lazy weekend.  Actually, started reading the next physics chapter, since I'll have to get homework and such done by this weekend - I want to end up a chapter ahead as early as possible so that I won't be on the edge all semester.  But really, most just lazed around the apartment.

Classes start tomorrow, and I'm actually somewhat nervous.  I think it's mostly just jitters - I've been out for 8 weeks now, and this is going to be a high workload semester (essentially two labs), but there's nothing here I really need to worry about.  My biggest concern at the moment is that I haven't gotten my parking pass yet; it should theoretically arrive in the mail today, but I'm not sure if there's mail delivery due to the holiday.

Things to do for school: 1) meet with honors counselor to go over education plan 2) meet with DSPS counselor to go over accommodation plan 3) start working on personal statements for scholarships and applications 4) prep to take the chemistry placement exam so I can take Chem1A over the summer.  That last one bothers me a little: I'm not sure why a placement is needed for college-level chemistry.  My understanding is that it's mostly about equipment and valence and such.  I'll have to review a bit just to make sure, but I've already found an online resource that should be decent.

The boss told us all to work from home Friday if we could, so I managed to avoid going out in the rains.  It wasn't so bad in my area - about 3.5" total for Friday - but there were flooded or mud-covered freeways all over the southland, not to mention all the usual accidents.  It's funny and annoying: everyone always claims that "people in Los Angeles don't know how to drive in the rain", but it's actually people who come from elsewhere and think they know how to drive in the rain that cause more accidents here.  See, the first rain after a dry spell  of even just a week or so results in highly slick freeways; it's closer to driving on ice than on wet pavement.  Us natives know this and know how to compensate (drive a little slower, leave more room, stay out of certain lanes, don't make sudden moves, etc.), but people who didn't grow up around it think it's just a little water.

There's more coming in this week, and most weeks for the foreseeable future.  We're definitely out of the drought, even if groundwater hasn't recovered yet.  Most of the reservoirs are dangerously full, and we haven't even hit snow-melt yet (which is usually what fills them).  I'm actually wondering if this year isn't in fact one of the 150-year floods but that the water management efforts of the state and years of drought have (mostly) managed to contain it.

To put it in perspective, Oroville (which has been in the news a lot lately) when from 40% to 100% full in a week.  That's 2,000,000 acre-feet in a few days in just one reservoir and what caused all the drama there over the last few weeks.  Since the entire state uses about 50 mil acre-feet in a year, that's basically a couple weeks' worth of water flowing into a single reservoir in a single week.  Without Oroville Dam, that all would have hit the central valley, almost assuredly flooding out most of it.

Spent a while looking at my retirement accounts.  Even if I didn't put any money in while going to college, I should be okay projection-wise; being able to continue contributions for those years will just put me that much more ahead.  Of course, that's assuming I don't have to pull any money out for school; doing so changes the math a bit depending on how much it ends up being.  Realistically, if I don't get some major funding support, I'm not going anywhere expensive (as much as I would love to go to CalTech or MIT, I'm not going in debt for $200k for a degree).  The UCs will be more about $40k-60k, and there's a far greater likelihood I could get scholarships to cover it, but pulling $40k out of my plans wouldn't be a show-stopper (essentially, that's my SEP).

I wonder how many college applicants plan on using retirement savings to pay for their first bachelor's.

Under water

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Oh boy.

Big news today is that the company we'd invested in to take over my project is folding.  The CEO before the current one essentially blew through millions of dollars in a year without telling anyone; he was replaced, but the damage had already been done.  So, the IP and all the assets and clients are reverting back to us.

... Except that the product I currently support is pretty simple and easy, and the new version that they developed takes a whole team to manage it.  My original assumption was that if their company failed, we'd just get out of that line entirely; that is apparently not the case.  So I have no idea what is going to happen.  I'm not even sure that management understands exactly what it is they might be asking me to do here.

Considering how in-over-one's-head one feels at the moment, one sympathizes with the dam at Oroville.

This has, however, opened up a potential solution to another problem.  My assumption has always been that I'd have to quit here when I go to school: I'll likely have a part-time job somewhere, but I didn't think there'd be any justification for keeping me on here at my current company part-time.  Now, granted, I have no idea (outside of freelance stuff) where I'd make anywhere near the money I make now (over $50 an hour), especially under part-time conditions, but that was something to deal with later.

With this change in situation, my manager has expressed interest in keeping me on part-time even if it means working from home half the time and only coming in once or twice a week (given the variability of school schedules, that's a necessary condition).  So, if I get into pretty much any of the three schools I'd like, I could likely keep my job in a part-time status.  It'd be a fair bit of a drive for some of them, but I'd certainly prefer that to most of the other options (would you like fries with that?).  Even if it was only short-term until I found something else, it would save a lot of stress.

Classes start next week; I ordered the two books I needed for the programming class, and they should be delivered by tomorrow.  I'm getting the usual nervous-excited feeling.  It's going to be a tough semester, but I think it's also going to be fun.

Schedule A

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I made a temporary decision and put my veggie box "on hold" for the next six weeks - not really a cancellation of the service, but they won't charge me while it's on hold.  The idea is that I can see if I miss it or how well I go about eating healthier without it.  I contacted a local CSA - literally local, as it's run by the school district in my area - to see if they actually have the half-order they say they have.  If I could do that, I'd try it for a few months: it'd be cheaper, less food, and 50% tax deductible (the food is grown on the school farm, mostly, and the school uses it to teach agriculture and raise scholarships for students).

I also filed my taxes this weekend.  Mom of course did the "hard" part (my taxes are simple, but she feels better if she does it), but I pushed the buttons when asked and signed the papers.  Turns out I'm getting about $2200 back, which is awesome; it's usually around $1300.  My first thought was to get a Surface, which I've been wanting for a while; however, I'd probably spend more than the $800 or so that I'd be willing to put into it, so I'm putting that off.  While I'd like the notebook, I'd also like to get myself better prepped for quitting in 18 months.  I might compromise and get a Surface 3 instead of a 4 and only spend $500 or so on it.  We'll see; I don't even have the money yet (one is going in by mail, while the other was submitted electronically).

Amusingly, my Asus Transformer tablet seems like it's dying, so I might actually need a tablet to replace it.  The Surface would obviously be that.  Alternatively, I could skip the surface and find another android tablet I like; right now, the tablet's the only place I can install a lot of apps, since most things are made for Android or iOS but not Windows Mobile.  At the same time, I'm going to have to replace my cell phone at some point, and I'm not sure if there will be Windows phones in the future.

... Yes, I actually like the Windows mobile OS.  I feel like they got screwed by anti-windows 10 hysteria rather than because of the system itself.

Didn't hang out with L last weekend; he told me (Friday night) he was going to dinner with some other friends.  I'm perfectly fine with that, though the last-minute nature as a little annoying; I'd rather plans be last minute than cancellations.  This is the last month we'll have the regular standing thing, though, so I don't have to put up with it much longer.  We'll probably be hanging out this coming weekend.

School starts back up two weeks from today (the 20th is a holiday).  I'm looking forward to it, but it's going to be a tough semester.  I've already started getting up earlier, and I'm planning on starting my "booster" pills in the afternoon to make sure I'm acclimated to them before classes start.

I also need to file my FAFSA - not that I am going to get any scholarships or aid, and really not that I need it at the moment.  But, I'm going to want to sign up for scholarships this year to prep for next year.  I'm also going to be applying to schools this year.

-- Holy crap, I'm going to be applying for schools this year.  That totally just hit me.  I think I need to go think about this a bit, since I just sat staring at the keyboard for a solid minute.

Streetlights

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Years ago - I was probably 17 - I was working at a retail store after school.  I didn't have a car yet, and we'd get done usually at about 9:30-10pm.  Sometimes I'd get a ride from someone, sometimes I'd take the bus, but often I'd just walk home - it was only about 3 miles down one of the busiest roads in town.

Well, busy most of the day, but it often let up at night.  There was a stretch, about 3 or 4 blocks long equivalent along a dirt lot (now a series of shopping centers), where there were no streetlights at all on the north side; the south side was lit fine.  I have one memory in particular that has always stood out.

It wasn't really raining, as such, but a heavy mist hung in the air.  I don't remember why I specifically decided to walk home that night, but I did.  I was dressed in shirt, tie, slacks, and a long black coat that I still have.  I turned the collar up and just started walking.

The streets were mostly empty; a car would occasionally pass, but it was pretty rare.  Mostly, all I could hear were the click-click sounds of my dress boots as I walked on the sidewalk.  The mist killed most ambient light; what was left were these little pools of light, almost perfectly defined, beneath each streetlight along the sidewalk.

I just walked steady, passing from one pool of light to another.  I must have been nearly invisible in the shadows, and something of an apparition in the light.  And always just the steady, regular sound of footsteps in the silence.

And then I stopped.  I got to the last pool of light before the empty stretch.  I could look up and see, in the distance, the stoplights and the next streetlight down at the other end, but between me and it lay this vast, empty darkness.

I wasn't afraid - I'd walked this many times before.  I'm not altogether certain why I stopped in the first place.  But once I had - once I looked out and saw the black unknown, and looked down and saw my own shadow outlined perfectly in a pool of light, I just started thinking.

About the known vs the unknown.  About walking down paths with unsure footing.  About the moment when we decide to step outside the safe and comfortable, even if we can't tell where it's going to lead.  About how we light of light - sunlight, starlight, moonlight, candles, any kind of illumination - as comfort or security or something positive, but that it was really a trap in which we could find ourselves caught.  About how the light only really matters when we first figure out how to shine it into darkness.

And I stood there, at the edge of the light and dark, staring at the border between them.  To anyone passing by or following, it would likely have made an excellent photograph: a single dark figure, standing in the last pool of light before the darkness (some day, I may have to commission someone to paint something along those lines).  I'm not even sure how long I stood there.

But then, without even really thinking about it, without any sense at all that I'd even stopped, I stepped out of the light and into the darkness.

Once I had and my eyes adjusted, I realized that the moon and stars were faintly visible in the sky through the low mist.  That the sidewalk could be seen, if barely.  That it was the light that had made the dark seem deeper than it actually was.

When I got home, I wrote the phrase that popped into my mind at that moment:

"And so I say to you: walk your own path, for the night is young, the air is crisp, and the stars twinkle in anticipation of your eye."

Thought for food

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One of the things I started doing when I moved into my current apartment was participating in a community-sourced agriculture company.  Essentially, I paid $20 a week ($23 now) to get a small box of produce every week.  The original idea was to expose myself to new and different foods; I've been horrible about fruits and veggies for most of my life, and I wanted to try to break that a bit.

Well, that was 5 years ago.  I've certainly expanded my tastes, but the whole concept has a snag.  You see, the box is well worth the money, but it's too much produce for one person (at least, too much for me); it's intended to feed a family of 2 to 4.  So, when L was always broke, I started giving him part of the contents (I pick it up Saturday, and was hanging out with him Saturday night, so it worked out).  It started as about half, but at this point I realize I'm giving him most of the box every week.

As a result, I'm probably going to cancel the service: it makes no sense to pay for stuff I'm not using.  I'd still like to continue something like it, though, but I'm thinking more about those meal delivery plans.  The problem is, those are far, far more expensive (from what I can see) and usually assume a household of two people.  Like, HomeFresh isn't bad on a per-person-meal basis ($9.99), but it's always for 2 and has a minimum of 3 per week; that's $60 a week, and I'm not sure how well I could split the "leftovers" to make two meals out of it.  Other services I've seen are even more expensive.

I really need to think about how I'm going to handle food going forward.  Yes, cooking for myself is far cheaper, and I do that - to a point.  But especially with school, I often don't have time: this semester, I'll be away from home from about 6:30 in the morning (for work) until 10 pm three days a week.  Easy or prepared meals would be great.  I can always go back to the lean cuisine style meals, which I actually generally think are okay but haven't had in years, but I was hoping for something fresher.

I also could just cut the delivery back to once every two weeks, or even just see if I start using more of it if I'm not giving it to L.  I just don't think, with school, that it's going to work out well.

Standard deviations

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Working on a project with a friend related to Twitter data.  We got together yesterday to go over some of what I need to arrange data-wise as well as how to approach the analysis and general concept.  We actually think there may be three papers coming out of this, easily, and that's just based on some basic starting concepts.

I suppose it can't hurt to have published papers in multiple disciplines when I apply to transfer, but part of me feels like it's a joke.  "Yes, I've been published. No, not in aerospace - in social media communications and biopsychosocial distress. ... Yes, I'm serious."

Oh well.  I've always considered that a single ego is an extremely limiting perspective from which to approach the universe.

Weighed myself this morning for the first time in years.  171, so about what my body seems to consider "baseline".  I'm hoping to get back into exercising a bit, since that's fallen completely off my radar; school's going to make that harder, but at least doing some basic stuff (pushups, crunches, that sort of thing) in the morning should be doable.  I just need to get back in the habit.

This month is the "alternating" schedule of hanging out with L on Saturdays.  I assume he's going to push back against it at some point, but I'm pretty firm on wanting my weekends back without a regularly scheduled thing with him, especially since I haven't been enjoying it much.

Oh, and should be getting about $1300 back in taxes, so that'll be nice.  The raise also works out to about $100 a paycheck; if I combine that with not hanging out with L, I should have about $300 more "free money" a paycheck this month and $500 more next month (and thereafter).  I'm also going to keep an eye on my retirement accounts; if/when I get to $270k, I'm going to cut back contributions so I can start paying more towards bills and saving up more for when I quit and go to school.  It's too bad I make too much to claim my education expenses right now, but them's the breaks.

I should also seriously work on applying for some scholarships this year.  Not that I need the money for my current school, but having as much as possible already on the books will help when I transfer.

Watching the chop

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I typically don't talk politics here.  I mean, really, I don't post much at all, but I don't know that I've ever posted about politics explicitly.

The problem is that the current administration is on a path to directly impact my job.  I work in healthcare; any changes to the PPACA, especially the partial-dismantling they've argued for and almost passed once, will totally disrupt my work environment.

Now, granted, I'm hopefully only here for another year and a half.  After that, I'll hopefully be in school full-time (don't know what I'll be doing for part-time work, but we'll see).  But I'm going to school to pursue a career that fundamentally relies on optimism and a stable society: aerospace is a "luxury" science for the most part, though a significant amount is paid for through the military.  If crap goes to hell like it's looking (he's frozen federal hiring with the intent to decrease government through attrition, he's gagged the EPA and the USDA, he's instructed agencies to play havoc with the PPACA financially, and Keystone XL is going through - and it's only day 5), there may not be much of an aerospace industry left when I'm ready to join it.

(And before anyone tells me that other countries may still be interested: the US spends more on Aerospace than the rest of the world combined.  The whole space budget for the planet is less than the state of California spends on public education in a year.  The *planet*.  And that includes military spending on aerospace.  If it dies here, it's dying everywhere.)

I'm not "worried", per se, and none of this changes any of my plans.  I'm doing this because I want to do it, for me, and whatever comes from it will be dealt with.  But these are all factors that have to be taken into account when I'm planning.  Even things like trying to guess how the stock market will do and how that will affect my retirement savings.

Of course, that's all separate from the social chaos that is likely to come.  Yes, I'm a white male, but I'm also gay and neurodivergent.  Being in California may dent the effects some, but if I have to move out of state for school or work, who knows what the result will be (if it comes down to a choice of working for NASA in Alabama, Florida, or Texas, or working for a private company in a friendly area, I'll probably have to pass on NASA - and that would be a really shitty decision to have to make).

The title of this blog invokes a specific concept - that I can't do more than ride the wave function as it collapses, surfing as best I can on whatever the result happens to be.  That's still true.  Let's just hope things don't get blown out.

... On a more typical note...

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Classes for next semester are paid for.  This'll be an honors programming course (with lab - so, a lot of hours per unit), multi-variable calculus, and physics 1c (which, for us, is electromagnetism).  14 units, though a heavy 14 units since it's effectively two labs.  The physics class is a hybrid, meaning the lab is in person but everything else is online; my physics class last semester was the same thing, though with a different professor.

I also have to take the chem placement test sometime this semester so that I can take Chem 1A over the summer.  See, I need two chem classes for some of the schools, and I also may want to take Physics 1D (which is relativity, quantum theory, and new discoveries) at my current school if a specific professor, who retired from CalTech to come to my school and teach "for fun", offers it in the next two semesters.  Since that would be three labs and I only have two full semesters left, one would have to be over a summer or winter session, so that means this summer.  I don't *need* Phys1D, but I'd like to take it with this specific prof if I can (and if it ends up being offered; he doesn't always teach it).  Chem over the summer is going to suck, since that usually means one class four days a week (and I'm not even sure how I'll make it work with my schedule), but it's something I'm going to plan on doing.

... Oh, right, I got straight A's last semester, so I'm at 35 units and a 4.0 since I came back to school.

On the personal front, I'm finally going to be ending hanging out regularly with L, of whom I've spoken many times and who really has been an emotional and financial drain.  Essentially, by the end of February, we'll stop our every-Saturday-night thing that I haven't really enjoyed in over a year and just hang out when it's desirable for both of us.  I don't dislike the guy, but hanging out with him has become obligatory rather than enjoyable.

The Adderall is working pretty well.  My doc just prescribed a booster for class days for next semester or on any day that I need it, which shouldn't be often outside of class.  I seem to be pretty sensitive to the XR, so I've been told I can take up to 2 of the 5 mg instant-release tabs or as little as 1/2 a tab as a booster depending on what I need.

In general, I'm trying to look at what regular "habits" or routines I've gotten into that may not be beneficial or enjoyable - essentially, looking at the stuff I do just because "it's what I do" and changing it if it makes sense.  I realize I'm (hopefully) going to have a major disruption to my life and lifestyle in 18 months, but clearing out some of the underbrush now (and, in some cases, saving money and paying down bills) gets me a leg up on those future changes.

Cutting loose

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So, this is a bit of a random post, but it's something that was of interest for discussion at a party this last weekend.

I always assumed most gay guys realized that circumcision isn't always done the same way; I figured that anyone who had seen and especially played with more than a few dicks would realize that there are differences.  Apparently that's not necessarily true.  Since I'm a bit of an odd duck in this case, it's something I've always been aware of from my very first time.

I assume (or hope) that most guys know what an uncut dick looks like: glans ("head") totally covered while flaccid ("soft") and even at least partially covered when erect, with a thin constrictive band at the tip.  I also assume that most guys know what a "typical" circumcision is like: glans totally uncovered, regardless of state, generally with very little motion or "loose skin" along the shaft.  How that shaft skin is "created" for a circumcised guy (whether it was originally from the underside of the foreskin or from the outer skin) determines some of the sensitivity of the penis, but that's pretty minor in most cases.  Circumcision can also be "loose" or "tight" - one friend described his cock as "about the same tightness as the skin on your finger", whereas other guys have a bit of movement (usually not enough to even bunch up under the base of the glans).  Additionally, the frenulum - the band of skin that holds the foreskin to the base of the glans and usually attaches up by the urethra (it's similar to the flap that holds your lips to your gums in the middle) - is often removed during circumcision, usually being trimmed or shaped in the process.

I have what's known as a "partial circumcision".  This isn't necessarily common - maybe 10% of guys, maybe less, though I'm given to understand it's a little more popular nowadays.  Part of the reason is medical: when born, the foreskin and glans are essentially fused together; they don't actually separate naturally until later in life, generally by puberty.  That means that, to circumcise a baby, the doctor is not only cutting off skin but manually separating the foreskin from the glans.  They usually remove enough skin so that the glans is left completely uncovered; if they don't, the remaining skin can try and heal back to the glans again in what are called "adhesions".

In a partial circumcision, the "band" at the tip of the foreskin is removed as well as some of the foreskin, but the glans isn't necessarily left entirely uncovered.  As stated, this can lead to adhesions, and in fact I had to be "circumcised" twice because of that (the second time was just removing the adhesions; no additional skin was removed).  But the main thrust (ahem) is that, when soft, my glans is usually entirely covered; it pulls back when erect, but I still have enough skin that I can easily and comfortably nearly cover the glans even while erect.  I also still have my frenulum intact.  Visually, I've had guys question whether or not I was cut if they only see me flaccid; I definitely don't look entirely uncircumcised, but I don't look circumcised either.

There are a few results from this.  One is that my glans seems to be more sensitive than most circumcised guys; that's likely because it is usually covered and so hasn't been as abraded.  The base and underside of the glans, especially, around the frenulum, is *really* sensitive; I've actually orgasmed just by using a lubed finger and carefully rubbing just my frenulum for a few minutes.  Speaking of lube, I also almost never use lube to masturbate: the skin is plenty loose enough that it isn't needed.  I will once in a while, because it's an entirely different sensation, but I usually don't bother due to the extra clean-up needed.  And, yes, I have to be more thorough when I shower, but that's not really a big deal.

Part of what I like about oral sex and playing with a guy's dick is figuring out their personal anatomy and sensitivity.  I love to learn what will set a guy off, because it varies from guy to guy.  I just never realized that other guys weren't necessarily aware of the differences.

None of this has anything to do with length or girth - I'm definitely not above (the real) average, but I'm not below, either.  It may have something to do with "grower not a shower", since (at least in my experience) uncut guys seem to be smaller when flaccid: I think it has to do with the additional constriction the extra skin exerts, so it's compacted more when not explicitly engorged, whereas circumcised guys just essentially have a deflated bag sitting there with nothing to retract or compress it.

... Anyway, not at all my usual kind of topic, but what the hell.