A blog about the many neat things in life, along with the many other things that are lying around. Categories include: political things, philosophy things, design things, template things, garage things, music things, and lots and lots of other things!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On College and Getting Things Done

The ask metafilter question regarding how to be productive in college is making the rounds on the GTD-enabled blogs. Of course the metafilterites suggested reading David Allen's book. They gave a lot of great suggestions on how to be productive; working in dashes, paper vs. electronic systems, time management vs. action management...

The one thing I have found in trying to implement a GTD system at college is that it was way too much. Getting Things Done proved to be too much organization for me to keep up with, and I was spending as much time maintaining my system as actually doing any work. Trying to check 3 or 4 todo lists per bored period was too much to deal with, and I found myself abandoning my system (and thus, forgetting homework assignments and losing important papers).

Upon realizing this, I decided to strip out all the elements I wasn't using, and go for kind of a "GTD Lite" system. Here's how it works:

  • Assignments all go into my palmpilot, on a single todo list titled "Homework." I copied them down from all my syllabi at once, so all my homework for the semester is in there now, and I rarely add to it. Palm lets you organize todo items by due date, and I took advantage of this. Now when I flick open my todo list, it shows me what assignments are due in all my classes for the next 2-3 days.

    • I also put meta-assignments in here; "study for Management quiz" due on the day of the quiz. Reminds me to study while I'm doing deliverable homework.

  • Events and dates all go into my palm pilot calendar. "DDR Club Callout" -- anything with a solid date to it that can't be altered. This is primarily for stuff I'll forget; classes stay out because I should know darn well when I'm in and out of classes. Exams go here in addition to on the todo list so I can have more specific location and time info.

  • Papers all come home with me. I bought one accordian file which I have organized by class, and no further. I stick stuff in in generally chronological order, so I can sift through papers and find the right one if I really need to, but it's reference material, and rarely accessed at that.

  • I don't take notes too often; most of my classes don't require heavy note-taking. The ones that do, I bring my computer to, because I type faster than I write. I have a .rtf file on my powerbook for each class. "256 Notes.rtf" and the like. I keep all my notes in bulleted lists in these easy-access, searchable text files.

  • I keep project files in my Documents folder, and give them filenames with the class names in them. I use Spotlight to find them when I need them. It's the GMail concept -- out of sight, out of mind, until I need them. Keeps my desktop clean for my own projects, and lets me save as much as I want to.

You'll notice what's missing from that: personal projects. I don't keep track of my personal projects in my system, or things that I want to do. If I do that, the system starts getting cumbersome, and I stop using it. This weekend I forgot to get a remote for the TV. I can't seem to get around to working with my new music software. Can't find time to exercise, or become an artist. This blog hasn't been updated in a while. But I have made a lot of progress on my professional web site, pimped out my dorm room (more to come on that), and played a lot of DDR. These non-school projects are not critical to my life; if they are important to me, I will remember them. If I forget them, then I wasn't really that focused on them anyway. It's better for me to let them happen as they will than to bog down my system with excess meta inputs and outflows. This also keeps my personal life exciting, and avoids the feeling that some GTD'ers get that their lives are nothing but trudging through endless todo lists.

The other missing thing: index cards. I'm not a hipster; I'm a dork. I like my gadgets, and Treos, Macs, and the like are designed for hyper-fast-and-easy usability. It's not much harder to type a note into my Treo than it is for somebody else to write something on an HPDA, and it removes the need to seperate gathering and processing.

Streamlined and lite -- my system has worked pretty well the last two weeks, and I'm thinking I'll be keeping this one for most of college. If I tweak it, you'll see it here.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Quoteable Things

Quote of the Day: I don't think God would send you to Hell for dead baby jokes.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Personalized Google

I just thought this was cool, and had to plug my site with it.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Wiley SW2 Tshirt

Wiley SW2 Tshirt
Originally uploaded by agius.

Our RA has a big sign on his door that says "Slide T-shirt design entries underneath!" I wasn't going to enter anything, and then I thought of something amusing. So, this is my entry. Made in photoshop.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lugar Votes Against Katrina Investigation

Just sent the following to our esteemed Senator Lugar, of Indiana.
Dear Sen. Lugar:

As a registered Indiana Republican, I am shocked and appalled that you would vote against a bipartisan, independant investigation into the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina. National security has always been one of the top priorities of the Republican party, and in this case it is obviously something that the Republican party needs to improve on. And yet, as an Indiana Republican, here you are blocking progress on a grave matter of national security. What if Katrina had been another plane crash, or (God help us) a successful nuclear attack by terrorists? Would the President have waited 2 days to leave his vacation and get to work on getting evacuation and aid to the survivors? I'm frightened by the answer to that.

Your counterpart, the democrat Evan Bayh, voted for the independant commission. You have been outflanked on national security by a democrat. As your constituent, I would like to know why you are not taking our national security seriously in the Senate, and I would like assurances that you will vote for an investigation in the future, as I am sure this is not the last we have heard of a Katrina commission.

Let's hope he responds.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First Abortion of Gay Marraige Amendment

Two words: fuck yeah! Take that, governer Romney!

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Dems vs. Republicans: Web Pages

Bill O'Reilly's web site as of 9-14-05.

Michael Moore's web site as of 9-14-05.

Rush Limbaugh's web page as of 9-14-05.

Al Franken's web page as of 9-14-05.

Notice a theme?

This article should be read by every American, now.

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Blog Things

Just posted the following on my old Livejournal account:
You can add RSS feeds from other sites (like my blog) to your friends list. It's pretty easy. First, you have to know the link to the RSS/Atom file on the blog you are reading. Then, go to http://www.livejournal.com/syn/, scroll down to the bottom, enter the URL in the box and click "add." For my site, you would want to enter http://neatthings.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Kudos to LJ for adding RSS aggregation.
Some kudos to 'em, but as is typical of Livejournal, I had to find this feature through 15 Google searches and About.com. They really need a designer.

On the upshot, it appears Google has taken note of Technorati and PubSub and decided to launch its own Blogsearch, with which to find blogs about specific topics. A quick search on the Freedom Walk turns up the story
of a protestor who was arrested for holding up a sign. It will be interesting to see how Google's search compares to the other blog-oriented search engines, and I congratulate Google on their efforts to provide better search by creating more topic-specific engines. For example, their Katrina resources and specialized search will hopefully be of great help to the victims.

Google is having a meeting on my campus next Tuesday in BRNG 2280 to talk to local coders, designers, and engineers. Count me in.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Line-Dancing on the Graves of the Fallen

9-11 Gravedancing Party:
I've seen a lot of marches on the mall in my 20 years in Washington, but I've never seen one where 15,000 people arrive between 11am and noon, and are all gone, and everything's cleaned up, two hours later.

I still remember the first thing I heard after the announcement in my high school that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. One of my acquantences in the front row didn't miss a beat saying, "God, what a dumbass pilot!" We didn't know what terrorism was until we got home.

What's sad is that now, when I hear 9/11, I don't think of these things. I don't think of solemn memorials or a national tragedy. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the words "nine eleven" are war-mongering, flag-waving neo-fascist Republicans blaming the gays and dancing on the graves of the dead. Which is exactly what this party was. It was a pathetic attempt to re-tie the shattered knot connecting the uncaught Osama and the very caught Saddam. It's digging up the bodies of the victims and cutting off parts to shove down the throats of anyone who, for any reason, disagrees with the neo-conservative pro-war policies. It's idolizing into religious worship the sacrifice of the victims: the World Trade Center died for your sins! It's country music bouncing to the beat of falling rubble. It's turning a national tragedy into a national celebration. It's sick and wrong.

What would I do as a rememberence of 9-11? I'd have a front-page story or two about remembering it. Maybe sidebar that one, and put Katrina victims center. I'd have a moment of silence in all the churches that met yesterday. I'd make a modest speech, in which I'd encourage people to think about how the world was then, and how it is now. Not in the empty rhetoric of how much you Support the Troops, but in what your life is like now vs. then. I'd tell people to remember fondly those who were lost, and to live on in America as a way of honoring them. I would not throw a multimillion dollar party with money that should be spent dealing with the latest disaster.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Creepy Things

I was just reading Seth Godin's free eBook, Who's There?, in which one of the points he makes about blogging is that users can immediately tell if you are faking anything. He says that Gen. Y people, who have grown up with computers, can figure out genuine text almost instinctively. He said that subtle cues in writing, tone, and diction can alert readers of blogs instantly if somebody else is ghostwriting, or if the author is not writing their genuine opinion. I think this is true, as it has come up with me on a number of occasions.

This last week, for example, I've been getting really creepy emails from somebody on the collegiate social networking site Facebook. Now, I have met a lot of neat people from Facebook, and most everyone on it are normal, functional people looking for an online way to network and interact. It's a Good Thing. But when I got this email, I knew something was strange.
Hey, do you still live in [my dorm] or do you live in an apartment now? I don't mean this in a bad way, but are you the only gay person at [our dorm]? I was just wondering if there are any others here. I was wondering if there would be any and I haven't found any so far. Well, I hope to talk to you later!
People just don't introduce themselves that way. My first thought is, "Why does he really want to locate all the gay people living in my dorm? That doesn't sound kosher. I did some checking, and he doesn't self-identify as homosexual on the site, and he is listed as having a girlfriend. He is also part of a number of Catholic groups on facebook. Something was definitely strange.

But, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's just socially retarded, and has no idea how to interact with other guys. I've met a number of people that freakish, and especially if he's closeted, he's not gonna know how to talk to somebody. So, I try to be helpful, but I make sure to call him on it.
Indeed, I do still live in [our dorm], in the same room I was in last year as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, I don't really know any other gay guys here, so I can't really help you out. I'm a little confused as to why you'd be looking for gay guys anyway, seeing as how your profile indicates you have a girlfriend... but yeah, sorry I can't help.
I wasn't sure if that would be the end of it, and as it happened, it wasn't.
Do you have a roommate? Is he gay, and does he support your decision to be gay? Well, I would ask that you keep this confidential, but while I am in a relationship, before her, my best friend and I, and we are the only ones who know about us, had some moments. I just wondered who in [our dorm] was gay. I thought I might like to meet them.
Again. Creepy, right? Can you pick out why? First off, he says "decision to be gay." Anyone who has had honest homosexual inclinations is not gonna say it's a decision (unless they are deluded, self-hating souls needing professional counseling). He's already asking for privacy, which might be normal for closeted people, but in this case it's off beat. He's not confiding in me in the hopes of camaraderie; he's hoping to prove his credentials as a Real Gay Guy. Very strange.

But we have not yet reached the point where I'm willing to say out and out he's dishonest. I've met some people who were quite honest about being freakishly strange, so I'm still giving him the benefit of the doubt at this point. I'll try to be helpful, I rationalize. Whatever the reality is, maybe I can get to the bottom of this. Take the standard safety measures and meet up -- meet in a public space where he can't do anything to me, don't reveal my room's location, and see what he's really about.
I have a straight roommate - what do you mean decision to be gay? I never made a decision. If you wanted to meet, we could meet up in the lobby, or perhaps get some dinner or coffee at some point. Let me know what works for you.
I was hoping he'd say sure. He didn't.
Ok, maybe we will meet sometime. I just didn't know if your roommate was always in the room. I mean, if we were to ever get together, I would hope that no one else was present unless they wanted to join. What room are you in? Well, I will definitely have to look you up. I can just tell my roommate that I am going to do homework. That way there are no questions. Well, it is time for bed so I will see you later.
"Unless they wanted to join?" Asking for my room number, when I haven't provided it publicly or privately? He's gonna "look me up?" Alright, this is downright creepy. If he's an idiot, he needs the manners lesson. If he's a scoundrel, he needs to know I will not let myself be messed with. I'll be gentle; there's still a remote chance he's just a moron. And if he's a scoundrel, I'd still like to meet him - safely! - and get to the bottom of it.
Your messages are seriously creeping me out. First, I will not meet you for the first time in private, and I will not give you my room number when I don't know anything about you. Nothing personal, but I have to be concerned with my own safety. If you are so paranoid that your friends might find you (gasp!) talking to some random guy, then we could meet in [several] dining halls. They are public spaces chaotic enough that run-ins are rare. But frankly, you are allowed to talk to other guys (even gay ones) and not be gay. If you're still interested in meeting up, let me know, but please stop with the careful insinuations and underhandedness.
I figured by this point that he wanted me alone, for one of any number of reasons. I wasn't going to give it to him, so he was going to give me a bad response. I was not disappointed.
I am sorry. If it bothers you that much, then I will no try to meet you at all. In fact, I should just drop the entire subject and pretend that each of us do not exist. I think that would be better for both of us. If you think otherwise, I will have to see. I do have a girlfriend and I don't need to meet any gay guys or other guys for that matter. I have my friends and I will keep it that way. So, I guess I will say goodbye and you will never hear from me again.
Oh the drama! Tears are streaming down my face right now because I am so sad this creep has decided to leave me alone! Did he think he could pity me into reconsidering? I'm not responding to that trash.

There are a couple scenarios which could have possibly produced this kind of exchange. Some are more likely than others. Let me give an outline of what I thought I was looking at.

Scenario A: Horny, creepy guy
Likelihood: Low
Description: This kid is just some confused, closeted fellow looking for incognito sex behind his girlfriend's back. I highly doubt this is the case because:
  1. Gay/bi kids looking for sex wouldn't have used the religiously charged 'decision' line.
  2. He never actually mentioned sex. Gay guys are more upfront: if a homo wants sex from you, you will not doubt it.
  3. If he were just looking to meet more guys, he might have met with me without the promise of sex.
  4. He contacted me over a social networking site due to proximity. If he just wanted sex, he would've been looking for gay guys anywhere at Purdue, and probably would've gone to Gay.com
Scenario B: Rapist
Likelihood: Low
Description: This guy was looking for someone so he could overpower them and use them, possibly regularly. Not likely because:
  1. It sounded like he wanted consensual underground sex; not the kind of thing rapists are after.
  2. Most rapes happen on dates or between friends.
  3. All the reasons listed under Scenario A.
Scenario C: Gay Basher
Likelihood: Medium
Description: Some Christian asshat decides he doesn't want a gay guy in his dorm. He decides to take care of the problem using the fundamentalists' favorite tool: violence. He's looking to get someone in a vulnerable position so he (and possibly some friends) can beat the hell out of them and run them off campus on a rail. Medium likelihood because:
  1. He was not smooth. He didn't know how to act, which I would expect out of somebody who has no clue that homos are people, too.
  2. He used religiously charged language and would only meet me in such a way that I was vulnerable.
  3. He assumed I wanted cheap, anonymous sex, even though it says pretty clearly on my profile: looking for friendship, dating, relationship, NOT "random play" NOR "whatever I can get." That's how fundies see gay people.
Scenario D: Prankster
Likelihood: High
Description: Similar to Scenario C, but not as violent. He wanted to play some kind of nasty prank on me, rather than actually causing physical harm. Possibly, I was to be the butt (haha!) of some joke amongst his Catholic buddies (though where I come from, Catholics are better than fundies... but I guess that's not true everywhere). More likely than C because:
  1. It only takes mild amounts of homophobia and alcohol to engage in a prank; much less than a beating.
  2. All the reasons listed under C.
What do you all think? I certainly played it safe -- I have never had a bad experience meeting somebody from the Internet, because I know how to handle myself, and I can make very good analyses of the relative safety of such situations. I know how much risk a given situation entails, and I have hard and fast limits on the kind of risk I will take. Also, I don't do the whole cheap, anonymous sex thing, which puts me in a much safer spot than those who do.

Warning: the internet can be a scary, scary place.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Photoshop Things

This fuzzy image has been the death of me the last week. Life is always moving on, and even though I want to help raise money for Katrina relief funds (as well as work on a number of other personal projects), I've ended up making fuzzy critters in Photoshop. I want to help, but if I don't stay in school, I'll be in an even worse off position if something I could really help with comes up later.

So yes, enjoy the fuzzies; hopefully I'll be able to post something of merit in the next few days.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina Things

Donate to Katrina

Seriously. It's not like the Republicans are gonna help. They're too busy making the Leader look good instead of actually doing anything. This whole tragedy is like a giant black humor movie -- I read things like this, and it's almost funny, how horrible it all is. Then I see stuff like this, and I just want to cry. I will do something to help. Something beyond me, just giving money. There's gotta be something I can do.

And as for this Freedom Walk shit, I went ahead and sent the DoD a little note:
Tell me this is a joke, right? The Dept. of Defense is throwing a war party, on the anniversary of the death of over 3,000 people, while ignoring a massive and unspecified death toll in New Orleans (1,000? 3,000? 10,000? 40,000?)? How can anyone in the DoD live with themselves while helping with this effort?

Somebody's going to hell for this.

I went to our Purdue College Democrats [warning: site uses java, javascript, and other stuff that will kill your browser] callout yesterday, and as expected, it was pathetic. Barely organized, no big names from the state Dem party, no talk of Katrina or even any specific actions they want to take this year. Oh yeah; they're getting T-shirts. Whoop-de-doo. I think I will stick to the netroots, where action is praised over empty meetings.

Finally, the Purdue College Republicans are having their own little 'Freedom Walk' piece of crap on Sept. 14th to show support for the troops. For OYE, I can't let them get away with it. Maybe I can blast them for not helping with Katrina while I'm at it. They need to get crap for their total lack of effort in this.

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