Life Lessons
Sunday, December 28, 2003 ~ 08:08 p.m.

No good deed goes unpunished.

My family is big on the Good Samaritan thing. Over the years, my parents have stopped countless times to render assistance in various roadside situations - it's just something they do. Some situations have been pretty serious and even scary. Some, like today's regular tire-changing-for-an-old-lady are pretty mundane. And then, every now and again, there comes a situation where all four of us sit back and think, "We should have just kept driving."

My mom's mother lives out in the back of beyond in East Tennessee. It's not quite the boonies, but you can see them from there. We're talking long, dark, lane-and-a-half road to a dead end in the hills. So Friday night, we're trekking back out to civilization after a very large and very delicious Christmas dinner, when we come around a curve and see a car with its wheels wedged into the muddy ditch and a girl inside.

Now, there were three houses at that intersection, all of them occupied, but this girl was sitting all alone in her car (unharmed, I might add...she just slid off the curve). First warning sign. My dad got out to talk to her, she asked to borrow a phone, and, to make a long story short, we offered to drive her to her home, which we had determined, after some work, was in roughly the same neighborhood as my grandparents' house.

It wasn't until after we'd started to drive away that we realized that this girl was a total and complete LUNATIC. The child was lit up on something so bad she was seeing things and talking to people that were definitely NOT in attendance - babbling utter nonsense. If her head had started spinning around and around, I daresay I wouldn't have been surprised (although if she'd vomited pea soup, I'd have insisted she not ride in the middle).

If we hadn't been just around the corner from what she said was her house, we'd probably just have called the authorities to come and take care of her. But by the time we realized exactly how messed up she was, it was almost over. In a few short minutes, we could drop her at her parent's house, tell them to keep an eye on her and where to find her car, and call it an evening. Not much further.

Then she asked me to open the window. I figured she wanted to call her imaginary dog again - harmless enough and it would distract her from drooling on my knee - so I rolled it down. Then she leaned across me and tossed something small out the window. I heard a clink. Oh shit.

Me: "What was that?"
Her: *giggle* "My orange! I didn't want it anymore."
Me: "......."
Her: *gasp* "My keys were with that orange!!!!!!!!"

For the record, THERE WAS NO ORANGE. After taking a moment to suppress the hysterical laughter that threatened to well up, I yelled to my dad, he hit the brakes, and next thing you know we were out with flashlights looking for her damn car keys - in the middle of nowhere, in the cold and the dark. I tried to tell her to stay in the car with my mom and my sister, "No, no I'll look, you stay. You're already two for two, sweetheart." She took offense to that and "helped" us look anyway. Really she just staggered around yelling at us to "Look for the fucking orange!" I considered patting her on the head - with my flashlight - but decided that my mother would probably be upset if I concussed the poor girl. So we kept looking.

By some miracle, my father actually found the damn things. And so we were back on the road, with the troublesome car keys clutched safe in my mother's hand. After we managed to get more directions out of the girl (an adventure in and of itself), we finally found "her" house. Once we confirmed that people there actually knew her, we left, called the sheriff, and hoped everything ended as well as possible. I suspect it would have been kinder to have left her in her car to freeze, considering her daddy's probable reaction when he found out what she'd been up to that night.

It was an interesting night. Next time, I believe we'll just call the cops and forget the good deed thing. Today, when we stopped on the interstate for the old lady, my sister and I were pretty skeptical. Fortunately, had she turned out to be another crazy, I think my mother would have been more than happy to let me brain someone with the flashlight.

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On the first day of Christmas...
Thursday, December 25, 2003 ~ 08:07 p.m.

"Mother always taught me, never eat singing food." - Rizzo the Rat

It's been a wonderful day! Christmas Eve is always my favorite, but I love watching people open presents. Of course, after going to the midnight service last night and getting up at 7 this morning, we slept most of the afternoon. But that was nice, in and of itself.

So now we're watching A Muppet Christmas Carol and waiting on my dad to finish making the fudge. Tomorrow we're heading to Oak Ridge for the weekend, to see my mother's parents and sister.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Yearly Update
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 ~ 06:44 p.m.

Today I ate lunch with Sarah Fairchild, a friend of mine from high school. We've more or less kept in touch, not really as close friends, but we get together every now and then to share news and to talk. Part of the ritual is to update each other on what all the other people we've kept in touch with are up to. It sums up like this:

Everyone I expected to go far away, stayed.
Everyone I expected to stay, left.
People I never thought would get married, have.
People I never thought would have children, have.
Even the lesbians.
Some have totally changed their majors and their projected course in life.
Others have proceeded happily down the paths we forcasted for them years ago.
And some have gone off the deep end.

I'm looking forward to the class reunion in another five years.

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Sounds like fun
Wednesday, December 17, 2003 ~ 10:04 a.m.

Hey, this is actually really cool: Programmer Makes 'WMD' Treasure Hunt Game

"The game includes a booklet with 10 clues and a master clue; a map of Iraq; and a CD-ROM that contains 3,000 public documents, leaflets dropped in Iraq and text transcripts...The 10 answers help players solve the master clue, which directs them to the "WMD" trophy.

...The treasure at the end of Messer's hunt is a 14k gold trophy that has been appraised at $6,632 by a Nashville jeweler. The single winner also gets 10 percent of the profits and a barrel of oil.

Messer has hidden replicas of the real trophy in 65 major U.S. cities and four in the United Kingdom. Whoever finds a replica will be given instructions on how to trade it in for the real prize but the winner must be able to explain how he or she deduced the answer."

And just because I'm evil, I'll show you this.

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Comings and Goings
Wednesday, December 17, 2003 ~ 09:10 a.m.

I leave for Nashville Friday night. There's still so much I have to do between now and then. First on my list it to clean my apartment of its end-of-semester scariness. I half afraid that a term paper gnome or something is going to jump out at me from the piles of papers and books.

Apparently my time management skills still suck because I don't really seem to have very much more free time. It's kind of depressing. I'm really looking forward to not working for the next two weeks. I'll probably even be in Huntsville for two of those days, the week after Christmas.

I got out with all A's my last semester. That's comforting, since none of the classes were really that difficult, just time-consuming. They want me to come back in the spring to present my honors project at the Alabama system research symposium. I told them I'd think about it - after all, I'm not planning on moving anywhere else.

I really should do some Christmas shopping at some point.

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It's the strangest feeling
Friday, December 12, 2003 ~ 09:18 a.m.

As of 4 PM yesterday, I am no longer a student at UAH. I'm not really a graduate until diplomas are posted, so I'm in a kind of in limbo right now, not really anything. Mostly what I am is just HAPPY.

I woke up this morning and my first thought as usual was, "what do I have to do today?" The somewhat groggy dance of elation began as soon as the sleep haze cleared enough for my brain to comprehend the meaning of the word "nothing."

Still, it hasn't quite sunk in yet. I've been in school since the age of 4. 18 years! The fact that, unless I choose to go back, I am done with school FOREVER is mindboggling.

Unless something happens with another one of the resumes I sent out, I'll be accepting the job offer here at QORE. They want to move me over to the environmental department as a staff engineer. I'll be working a lot in the field for the first year, drilling sites, taking samples, working on site cleanup and other projects. They'll also pull me every now and then for geotech projects. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of really neat experience.

Life never ceases to amaze me. How things just come together in patterns you never saw coming, how events coincide so that things just happen to work out. I ended up at UAH for whatever reason - I still don't remember what finally tipped the decision, although it may have been the 6-foot snowdrifts at Virginia Tech. I chose civil engineering - I'm not really sure why, except that I had a passing interest in space habitats. Along the way, I met people that I never imagined would play such important roles in my life. I have done so many things I never thought I could do four years ago. The job I'll be starting in January came out of a whim I had one day - I never expected anything to come out of it. It's been a great four years, but I'm always vaguely surprised to see where I've ended up and how.

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Thursday, December 11, 2003 ~ 08:12 a.m.

Happy Birthday, Todd!

Sorry you're stuck out in freezing Colorado on your birthday, although you being absent really does cut down on the age jokes. That's okay, though. I'll just store them away for when you come back. :-)

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Anywhere but here
Tuesday, December 9, 2003 ~ 08:05 p.m.

Farscape fans, read this.

I can think of approximately ten BAZILLION things I'd rather be doing than studying sociology. Ritual suicide is higher on my list, along with brushing my teeth with the toilet brush. That's how much I loathe this stuff.

But come Thursday night, it will all be over for good. Part of me is getting all nostalgic and sniffly at leaving college. The other part is simply oozing manaical glee. Freeeedoooooooom.

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New Layout, Part Deux
Monday, December 8, 2003 ~ 10:58 p.m.

That's definitely got to be a first. I played around with the layout until I got to work. Now it renders perfectly in Mozilla (or at least MY version of Mozilla) but it's still got that pesky little gap under the picture in IE. How annoying. It's probably because my HTML is so damn ghetto. I keep telling myself should learn how to really do this stuff. As it is, I know just enough to make myself a nuisance.

I finished my honors paper. The GIS project is almost done. Progress has been made, the celebratory beer has been drunk, and now I'm going to bed.

Current Music: 'Amsterdam' - Coldplay

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New Layout
Monday, December 8, 2003 ~ 12:38 p.m.

I fully expect screams of agony and hatred from all you Mozillites out there. Yes, I know it's an abomination. Yes, I know it is the embodiment of all that is evil and wrong in the world. I know you want to impale your eyeballs on handy kitchen utensils. Please, refrain from such until I've had a chance to go home and actually see what it looks like in Mozilla. I'll fix it once I figure out what I've screwed up.

In other news, my brain is feeling rather like a fried egg.

And so begins Hell Week. It's going to be a memorable one, I can tell you that.

Which Survivor of the Impending Nuclear Apocalypse Are You?
A Rum and Monkey joint.

"The blast must have hit you particularly strong, because you've gained a billion new superpowers and can take on anyone you want. Even that kid Gunrock-with-nine-arms from down the street. Only problem is, it's driven you completely insane and you now have a thirst for blood equalled only by your thirst for vengeance and peeing in the kitchen bin."

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Making Progress
Sunday, December 7, 2003 ~ 06:15 p.m.

Quote of the Day: "No, she's more of a Shih Tzu with a chemical imbalance, but you still have to respect that." - Get Fuzzy

I'm only two pages in, but I can honestly say that this is one of the coolest papers I've ever written. It's not that paper itself is any good, but the topic is just....neat. I'm talking about a couple of different things, but the highlights are based on the music that's pretty much inherent in everything in this universe. The earth hums constantly, galaxies sing, and even our DNA can be converted into music. It's actually *gasp* FUN.

The GIS project is all but done. I just have to blip in, write my conclusions, pretty it up a bit, and it'll be finished. It's not great, but given that I couldn't find JACK SHIT to work with as far as ArcView-compatible data goes, I'll say I've done well.

It's been a good weekend! Friday's swing dance was a lot of fun, as was Saturday night's impromptu Christmas celebration. Saturday morning we goofed off instead of having practice and I finally got the time to cook and clean a bit. I definitely needed the time off, although I'll probably regret it come Tuesday when the reality of finals sets in. At least my Seminar final is a pizza party. :-)

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In the news
Friday, December 5, 2003 ~ 09:31 a.m.

So...the same man who helped cripple the International Space Station program is suddenly expected to call for the United States to go back to the moon? WTF?

Don't get me wrong! The idea of us returning to the moon and then moving on to Mars is absolutely thrilling, but...still. I can't help but think it's just another desperate political bid to gain votes from an administration that every day is finding itself deeper and deeper in trouble. And if it is, I can easily see them making promises, reaping the political benefits, and leaving it up to another administration to shoulder the costs. Or just letting it die on the vine...again.

Still, if it really is true, I guess it doesn't matter the motivation. A good thing is still a good thing, even if done for all the wrong reasons. ;-) I'm not really sure what to think on the issue. Guess we'll have to wait until some kind of an official announcement (maybe Dec. 17) to really see what the plans are.

On a totally unrelated note, was there any 80's child who didn't love the Gummi Bears cartoon?

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Temporary Lull
Thursday, December 4, 2003 ~ 01:17 p.m.

Tofu: "Physically harmless, but very demoralizing."

My presentation is DONE!!!!! Done done done done DONE! No more! It's over! Wheeeeee!

And then I had to listen while some philosophy major tried to tell us that responsibility can be governed by a mathematical equation. The best part was when my seminar prof TORE HIM APART. It's little things like that that make you smile. :-)

I'm so happy!

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Too much stuff
Wednesday, December 3, 2003 ~ 09:38 a.m.

My brain feels uncomfortably full right now.

Oh and screw you, Murphy. As if I wasn't stressed enough already, I had to go and contract the plague. I can't really sleep sitting up, despite my formidiable skill at napping in class, so I catch thirty minute naps between bouts of hacking. For the last three nights, I've been up at 4 AM scraping my lungs back up off the floor. I can't take much more sleep deprivation - I'm starting to go really freakin' loopy.

Curent Music: 'Gravity' - Vienna Teng

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Jumping through hoops
Tuesday, December 2, 2003 ~ 09:13 a.m.

Holy crap. It's December.

The evil honors project is about 80% done. I should be able to finish the paper tonight and most of the presentation. I present it on Thursday. After that, all I have to worry about is my GIS project and my seminar paper. And finals. Eeee.

Apparently there's some sort of little acknowledgment ceremony Thursday afternoon for the people graduating this December. And it's DURING CLASS. What moron thought that up? I'd like to go, but I also really really need to be in my GIS class. Jessica, are you going?

In two weeks, this will all be over. It's like running a gauntlet, except that you aren't allowed to dodge.

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2003 slyflame. Header image Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.