f[8,9,10,11] user guide

We (the Fedora Documentation team) just finished reorganizing the User Guide for Fedora 8 (we're kinda behind).  It can be found at https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/F8_User_Guide.

I recently volunteered to take the lead on the User Guide, and one thing we're trying to do is catch up to F10 while also cleaning up our style and organization (this is something the entire team is looking at for all our docs).  One thing that we are particularly pushing is new user friendliness.

So if anyone is willing to, please take the time to look at that user guide above, browse through a few sections, and send me some suggestions on... whatever.  Does it say something that perhaps you have no clue about?  Something that an experienced Linux user writing it might understand, but that you, the new user, can't decode?  Help me out here by showing me the weak points in our communication.

And hey, if anyone is feeling really volunteery, you can join the Fedora Docs team and help edit these documents.  No experience is necessary, and in some cases (like making things more new-user friendly) a lack of experience can be pseudo-desirable.  Just let me know if you're interested.


printer god

So about a month or two ago, I  posted this blog entry: when you give a moron a printer. It was about me getting upset because I reloaded a paper tray in the library printer and had to wait for the past 40 minutes worth of documents to come out.  What really upset me was that, among those documents printed, I got three copies of a girl's bank information, including username, password, SSN, address, mother's maiden name, etc.

Today, the library has no extra paper available.  I've come to print a lot of stuff, and am sitting right by the main East printer.  It turns out that, while trays 2 and 3 are empty, tray 4 is stocked plenty full of paper.  The issue is that the printer won't default to tray 4; it always asks you to confirm skipping over both trays 2 and 3 before drawing from tray 4.

That's fine.  You just hit the confirm button a few times and it works.

But nobody seems to understand this.

So today, I'm the printer god.  I'm a deus ex machina, making sure your documents are successfully printed.

I even wrote a fucking sign, that looked like this (except in blue gel pen):
Hit the green button twice for your title page, then hit it two more times for your document.
I put this notice right next to the viewscreen on the printer.  The one that tells you to confirm going to tray 4.  But apparently people look at neither the bright blue screen nor my dark blue ink; they just get upset because their document isn't printed.  They don't notice the green "Attention" light blinking away furiously, begging them to look at the status on the blue screen.  They just sigh and whine.  So I reach over and double tap the button for them.

This all goes back to my idea that we should seriously be doing more educating in school about basic computer, networking, and printing.  Kids need to know this stuff.  CCIT wasn't even open in the library today, so there was nowhere to go for help.  People need to learn the basic operation of networks and peripherals, and they need to know how to interpret the controls of a basic machine.  They'll need to; our reliance on them is going up drastically, and will continue to do so.

So please, do a bit of practice with your own printer, scanner, et cetera.  Friends don't let friends be idiots with printers and networking devices.


music out of math

So one day, I was talking to this guy about coding projects I've been doing, and out of nowhere an idea popped into my head.  Anyone who has ever seen the electricsheep screensaver project knows how awesome that is, and I realized that perhaps the same thing could be done with music.  I'm sure people have tried this before, but I've never seen any good results or examples, so now it's my turn to try.

So I talked to my trusty friend Sherwin, with whom I attack all random coding projects.  In the past, we've tried things like Sifu (for using reliable proxies distributed across a torrent-like network in order to bypass school internet restrictions), libtion (a framework for implementing abstract network structures), and Craft (an AJAX delivered course management system; I'm actually still working actively on this one, but on my own because Sherwin doesn't like Java), among other things.

So this time, we're writing our project as follows (so far): we've envisioned several abstract structures, namely signals, engrams, and sequences.  A signal is simply a waveform.  An engram is a set of signals (like in the figure above, shamelessly taken from a random page I googled) with a set duration, and a sequence is just all the engrams in a row.  Since we know so little about music theory, we're trying to make them pretty mathematically rooted:

Signal: s ≡ ( ν, A, Φ )

Engram: E ≡ { s1, s2, s3, ... ,  s},
and E has a property of length in time El

Sequence: S ≡ < E1, E2, E3, ... ,  E>

From here, we have some pseudo-mathematical descriptions of methods we will use to mutate our initial sequence and its descendants so that they can undergo natural selection against each other.  These mutations include signal-base mutations, engram-base mutations, and sequence-base mutations; basically, each type of mutation affects the type of object for which it is named.  So signal-base mutations affect signals themselves; this means that their properties, namely frequency, amplitude, and phase shift (as seen in the ordered triplet defined above) are fundamentally altered.  Examples of some engram-base mutations include insertion (where a signal is added to an engram), deletion (the opposite of insertion), propagation (where a signal replicates and spreads to nearby engrams), and nondisjunction (where a signal is moved from one engram to an adjacent one).  Sequence base mutations involve adding engrams, deleting them, moving them around, or inverting the order of some partition of engrams.

The plan is to start with a single waveform - that's to say, a single signal with some defined parameters which is the lone signal in a lone engram in a lone sequence - and then let it "reproduce" via fusion where both of its children are run through mutation engines.  The population will then be played for human observers who will rate each sequence according to its relative beauty, and the most favored sequences will have more chances to reproduce (just like in natural selection).

Perhaps in a year or so I'll have my hands on a pretty awesome song I can market.  Sherwin and I are willing to take investment money right now in return for a percentage of the profit we make off of our world-famous scores of the future.  Donations can be made via hard cash or checks, or in some material form that's useful to us (like servers, Star Trek episodes, dice, coffee, swords, or other useful stuff).


a not immediately pertinent dilemma

So a few weeks ago I decided to pick up a double major in math (in addition to physics, my current/primary major).  I emailed my adviser about it and she said she thought it looked like a good idea, but today I went and talked to her; partially, just to talk.

That was the beginning of my little pre-life crisis.  We talked a bit, and she suggested a few different options for my undergraduate career:

  1. Follow my current plan; double major in math and physics.
  2. Major in Physics and graduate in 3 years.
  3. Major in Physics, graduate in 4 years, and - as a result - have a light course load, allowing me to do lots of research.
  4. Become an economist instead of physicist - it pays way better, has way more job options, and is still mathematics-based, so I'd enjoy it.
Karen later suggested that I consider Law school.

What do I do?  The worse part is that Dr. Marinesque actually gave some pretty good reasons for not being a physicist - which is doubly disturbing, seeing as how she's a physicist.  I guess it seems like such a different profession, since we learn about the glorified scientists of Bell Labs and in government research programs and such.  It turns out that, today, employment rate for physicists in industry is effectively zero, because nobody does any fundamental research anymore.  National Labs (under DoE) does virtually no research either; there is no market for physicists.

So where do you get hired (currently) as a physicist?  Academia.  And she said that there are 20 to 30 jobs available worldwide per year.

Now, having checked Wikipedia as I write this, I see that she kinda tricked me.  Sure, no physicists are hired... to be theorists and researchers.  But as I had predicted, physicists are hired in lots of fields where either a general knowledge of science (or just proof that one is an intelligent person) is needed, so I feel kinda better.   It was still disturbing, though.

One thing she suggested was that, since I like math, that I become an economist.  She cited that:
  1. Economists are very well paid
  2. Economists are very much wanted industry/the economy
  3. I could have an awesome, rich, happy life
But I'm really feeling the physics/math thing, to be honest.  Oh, and Karen suggested that I go to law school, which I wouldn't say no to, but that I probably wouldn't say yes to.

You know, I just feel like I'm fooling myself into a romanticized life that'll end up being a huge failure, eh?  I don't want that.  I want to be successful in whatever I end up doing, so I can live comfortably, support my family.

Perhaps most importantly - and this, I think, is what's the core of my being worried - I want to have time in my life to do what I want.  Namely, besides my work responsibilities, I want to have time with my family, I want time to do cool projects with poetry and coding and music, and I really, really want to keep doing martial arts.  Like, for the rest of my life.

I mean, I tell people this, but I don't think they take me seriously: I would be really happy opening a kung fu studio.  It would make me happy, it would be profitable if I did well with it from a business perspective, et cetera.  I would love to do it.  But the strange, invisible pressures of society tell me that I can't do that.  Something forces me to think that by getting a college education, especially in a science, and then applying that knowledge to the "real" world, I'm a better person.

*sigh* @ being mildly depressed.


clemson chinese martial arts club

So, in light of my recent Cuong Nhu fallout, I've decided for several reasons to start my own martial arts club.  I hope nobody takes it the wrong way; I'm not mad at Darius or at Cuong Nhu.  I respectfully disagree with their philosophies on the martial arts, and I also am disappointed that there isn't already a Chinese marital arts club at Clemson.  In an effort to "be the change you want to see in the world", so to speak, I've started designing my own club that I can hopefully start in the spring semester, although I may wait until next fall so I can have a larger student starting base (since I can have an exhibit at the club fair then).

I had an issue when I was coming up with this in my head, though.  The issue is this: I know a lot of kung fu, but I don't want to rush the teaching of it.  I want to teach the forms slowly, and include lots of applications, breathing exercises, and drills.  This means that if I teach a linear curriculum to all students, I would get through perhaps a quarter of what I know before I graduate.  But if the club is going to continue after that, they would need to collectively know a bit more than that.

Instead of using a linear curriculum then, I took inspiration from both sifu Yao Li's curriculum, as well as an idea of specialization that you see in lots of RPGs (sort of like sub classes), and have decided to use a curriculum that offers several paths of study.  Observe my cool image:
In my curriculum, everybody (with some exceptions) would start with learning 1st Long Fist.  The reasoning here is that 1st Long Fist includes a lot of general movements and patterns in it that are seen throughout the martial arts.  In this way, everybody can at least come from a similar background when discussing mechanics of kung fu.  The form would also build flexibility and endurance, which is good for all branches of martial arts.  Finally, it will let everyone get to work together before being in more specific groups.  The rare exception I would make to this rule would be if someone wanted to take Tai Chi but didn't feel like they had the capacity for the kind of exercise required for a wushu form.  This might pop up if an older adult or someone with health problems wanted to take tai chi for its health benefits.

After learning 1st Long Fist, students could choose their next form out of these three: 2nd Long Fist, the 24 move Yang style tai chi form, or the baby mantis form (which I may start calling "junior" mantis to remove the negativish connotation).  After learning this form, the idea is that they would continue along the track they chose, but they could always change tracks if they so desired.

As for the different tracks, I tried to place forms in what seemed to me to be a logical ordering.  For the Tai Chi track, I started with the 24, which seems like an obvious starting point and is kind of a universal standard for starting off with the Yang style.  After that, I inserted some Chi Kung, and some philosophy will probably go in there as well, in addition to push hands exercises and meditation.  Following that, the student can learn, in whatever order they wish, the other three forms: the 42 combined sword form, the 48 combined open hand form, or the fan form I learned.  Of course, after that, I'll hopefully have learned more myself so there is something else to teach!

In the Wu Shu track, the students would learn 2nd Long Fist right after 1st Long Fist.  Following this, they would get their first exposure to a weapon with the 32 long staff.  From there, they could pick up the 32 short staff, 32 spear, or compulsory (108) long fist.  If, god forbid, they finished all that, I would still have plenty to teach them, so I'm not so worried about that.  They would probably continue with the two 32 swords, compulsory long staff, compulsory broadsword, double broadsword, etc.

The last track is an odd one.  Since I made the first two tracks kind of pure in their topics, I didn't know what to do with the other stuff I knew.  As such, I created what I initially wanted to call an "Exotic" track, but decided to call the "Survey" track instead, which was probably a good decision.  It would start of with the mantis form and then go either to some southern forms like nan chuan and nan quin, or they would learn fonza and eagle.  Beyond that, they might pick up things like bei shaolin (if I ever learn it), and 18 elbows, which my instructor said I'll be learning at some point.  If nothing else, they could pick up some more long fist forms.

So that's that.  If any mandarin speakers are reading this, please excuse my awful romanizations.


vitamins and vector fields

We'll discuss the title in reverse order though.

Remember those useless slope fields we got in Calc AB?  Turns out they were just special cases of vector fields, which are both awesome and powerful.  We took notes on them today, so I've included said notes here as photos.  I may type them up or properly scan them at some point, and I'll put them up then.  I have also included some notes on triple integration over spherical coordinates for the overachieving reader.

Finally, I'd like to let everyone know that I'm having a pure fruit breakfast this morning, and that the smoothies are pretty okay.  They're pineapply, which is good.


martial philosophy fallout - my story of cuong nhu failure

Tonight, I'm considering quitting Cuong Nhu.  And, strangely, although it's been sitting in my mind for a while, everything has been put into place by one of the people I've come to respect most at Clemson - Darius Jones, my Cuong Nhu teacher.

I originally started Cuong Nhu because I was afraid to lose the aspect of my life which is so centered on martial arts.  Looking around at what clubs existed at Clemson, I found a disheartening lack of any Chinese martial arts (which seem to be going strong at all the other institutions I have friends at).  The closest thing I could find was Cuong Nhu, which blends several arts together including Wing Chun and T'ai Chi Chuan.

So I enrolled.

A particularly interesting thing about Cuong Nhu that attracted me was its similarity to Kempo.  With that in mind, I felt pretty good about how I was doing in class.  I tried to be very careful about over-performing, so to speak.  And I did pretty well at that too.

Soon, though, I came to realize that something was missing.  I'm not sure if it was because I knew too much already, or if it was because of a lack of something in the instructors' roles, but I was certainly not being mentally stimulated.  The physical conditioning was great, don't get me wrong.  But I hold the strong opinion that the martial arts are not just physical, but also both mental and spiritual, and I was not getting the latter two of those stimulations.

I had kind of known all along that this was going to happen to a degree, because I would initially be training alongside less experienced martial artists; and that's okay.  I actually enjoy watching them learn, and I'm glad that I can help them when I can.  So I knew this was coming, but I had a plan.  To compensate, my plan was to make an effort to more deeply understand the art.  My plan was to examine every part of it carefully, with scrutiny, and perhaps understand the both the mechanics and the philosophy of it with more depth.

In the first few weeks of my classes, this kinda worked out.  And to my surprise, some of my instructors even seemed to supplement my training.  I remember that during our first class about rolling, Sensai Nick coached me on new, harder things try since I initially knew how to do it all or picked it up with a good bit of ease.

I'm not saying that I got everything right, of course.  Many things were harder for me, since I was accustomed to other philosophies of fighting.  But that's okay.

Sadly, though, things like that faded.  I was back to my initial plan; criticize, examine, scrutinize, disassemble, and comprehend.  I didn't have malicious intent with these things; my plan was not to expose flaws in the system.  I figured that if a scholar learns by careful analysis of literature, why shouldn't an martial practitioner learn by careful analysis of his art?  So this is what I did, and I kept it in my head, in notebooks, and some of it in my muscle memory.

Today, though, I was corrected for the form I took on my "inner chop" strike (crosshand shuto strike).  I didn't really mind, and I corrected it, but I asked afterwards why we should fully chamber the hand instead of striking from the waist.  I knew the answer, of course, because I had been asked the question seemingly hundreds of times by white belts, especially the younger ones.  But I asked anyway, because I felt that having mastered the basic strike, it was more efficient and practical to not fully chamber to the ear.

This is the point at which our marital philosophies took separate paths.  My answer to this question would be "because we learn it this way to make your strike better as you perfect it", meaning that we learn it this way as white belts so that we understand the outline of motion, but that it is clearly ideal to generate equal force across a shorter (and therefore quicker) path of attack.  We will also, then, eliminate telegraphing the strike to the opponent.

Sensai Darius's answer, however was simply - and I paraphrase, of course, because I can't remember verbatim - that we do it this way because that's the way it is.  This answer was, on the whole, not what I expected.  I've given that answer to questions before too, but usually when it pertained to the order of moves in forms and katas or the names associated with techniques.  I almost never given such an answer when a student has questioned the mechanics or practicality of a strike, and neither have my instructors before me.  Even if the answer is "we'll talk about it later", I try to explain the reasoning behind the move.

I was so surprised by this answer that I was actually somewhat... distraught?  From a man I had come to respect and, to a degree, admire as a martial artist, I had expected a more elaborate comparison of my suggestion against his dictated form.  He acknowledged that my way might make sense sometimes, but that we did it this way for basics.

Clearly, this makes sense, right?  Well, sort of, but not really.  I understand that this would be the answer to someone who has just learned the strike, but he and I both know that I've been doing the strike for 14 years.  I can do the strike in my sleep.  If our roles were switched, I would have allowed it to be done differently in basics if it made more sense and wasn't too big of a change.  Why?  Because basics are where we engrain technique into our muscle memory.  In a fighting situation, simply knowing that it would be faster to throw a shuto from the hip means nothing if all you've ever done is thrown it from the ear, just like remembering what a technique looks like doesn't help you until you've practiced it over and over.

[On a separate note, I also asked why we have to start our wrist from a weird rotated position before executing a middle (#1 or #2) block.  He did give me an answer this time; but I can't make sense of it.  He claimed that by rotating the arm as it blocked, it would "torque" the arm to give it more power.  I can't make sense of this, though; the only effect outside of the arm would be a (very!) slight increase in angular momentum, but on the axis of the arm, not the axis of motion.]

Anyway, I asked him this while everyone was getting water, and class restarted afterwards.  It continued and ended.

After class, he pulled me aside into the equipment room, along with Sensai Bruce.

The first thing he told me about was that some of the time I was standing with my arms crossed or on my belt, and that it wasn't really following etiquette.  Mreh, I think, okay.  I know that I do that sometimes, especially when I'm tired, and I understand where he's coming from (even though it's not in the etiquette list that he claimed stated it).  So whatever.  I'll try to fix that.

But then... ugh.  Then it came.

Paraphrasing (hopefully not too unfairly), he said that my question was to some degree out of line, but that my follow up response of dissatisfaction with his answer came off as arrogant and cocky.  To his credit, he did allow that perhaps it just came off this way and that I didn't mean it, but it was quite clear from his manner of speech and his follow up remarks that he was quite convinced that I was was being cocky and arrogant.

Which is untrue!  If I write a critical analysis of Kant, am I claiming to be a superior philosopher?  If I question the mechanics of a proof in calculus, am I claiming to be a superior mathematician to my professor?  Can I not question - and requestion, if necessary - the mechanics of a martial art?

Apparently, the answer is no.  He made it quite clear (although Sensai Bruce seemed to keep contradicting him on a few points, a pattern for which I was quite thankful) that Cuong Nhu was static and, to put in short, set in stone until his superiors say otherwise.

In some ways, I find this to be arrogant.  Consider the various styles of Chinese wu shu.  They have been around for millenia, and are still being refined - not by some core board of directors, but by both masters and students across the world, bettering styles and letting them be adopted through a genetic natural selection of sorts.  But in accordance with Taoist philosophy, there is very little close-mindedness in the Chinese arts.

I thought this was true with Cuong Nhu, considering that one of their "Five O's" is "Open Mind."  But I suppose your mind can only be open to yourself.

What came next was a bigger surprise; after I talked a bit about practicality in self-defense, Darius made the (in my opinion, very broad and philosophical) claim that Cuong Nhu is not primarily about self defense, but about self betterment.  I could see where he was going until he said that "the moves are irrelevant... if we are told [to load a shuto from the forehead], then we should do it."  While many martial arts are deeply rooted in philosophy and many, especially Chinese arts, ultimately aspire to other than physical perfection, I have never heard of a respected martial art which disregards the "martial" aspect as nothing more than a medium for self improvement and "following orders" (as he said).

I don't just want a self-improvement program, and I don't just want a physical fitness regimen.  I want an art.

This is why I am considering quitting, but I'll probably let the semester run through and see how I feel then.  If I do quit, I will probably start a Clemson Wu Shu Association of sorts, since I know some people who have expressed interest.  It seems to be pretty popular at colleges these days anyway, and I know a few people from Charleston and North Carolina who I might be able to get to do some cool seminars on occasion.

Blegh.  If you got all the way to here without skipping, you gain 450 exp.  Congratulations.  I have more to say, but this is way too long as it is, so I'll discuss it later.


nature's spectral lines: recipe for meditative thought #2.

(1) Find somewhere to sit where you are relatively unencumbered by manmade architecture.  For example, a porch is okay; a balcony is better; literally sitting outside is the best; but don't do this looking out of a 3' x 6' window.

(2) Make sure that your view is also relatively natural.  Some well designed buildings are okay, but you can't just be looking at a concrete jungle.  There needs to be plentiful natural ground.

(3) Figure out what color the trees are, and don't say green.

(4) Try to notice contrasts in brightness, especially on the z-axis (foreground versus background).

(5) Take a sip of luke-cool water and start over from (2).

(6) Refill your water bottle and repeat.  Light instrumental music is optional.


unlucky charms

Karen mentioned to me the other day that Lucky Charms would be better if we just had all marshmellows and none of the... other things.  I kinda agreed, but noted that since they were all the same, the marshmallows wouldn't be as fun to eat.
Well, this morning, I got some Lucky Charms.  A few were spilling as I put them into my bowl, but they were just the... other kind.  But then... I spilled a marshmallow! It was the oddest thing; I went from "oops, lol, spilled some cereal" to "OMG MY MARSHMELLOW!"
It was at this moment that I realized the truth; all these charms are part of a caste system.  We love the upper class marshmallows, the "Lucky" charms, if you will, but nobody gives a fuck about the... other cereal, whatever it's called. But see, without that lower class, the upper class wouldn't exist!  First of all, it's the lower class that does all the work (marshmallows are not part of your balanced breakfast), and secondly, they have to contrast the sweetness of the marshmallows so that it's not just disgusting sugar-milk.
But I think the marshmallows are okay, because the other cereal will never be smart enough to revolt.  They'll just keep living their lives, being spilled and eaten, and not cared for, selectively discriminated against by kids everywhere trying to maximize the marshmallow/cereal ratio.  We're all dirty racists, really.  Racist against non-marshmallows.
Or... do the marshmallows control us?


ChLa_4Fa_2: chem lab "4" the fail x 2

It's questions like these that make me worry about my Chemistry Lab class.  I've annotated beneath them in case you can't read it on the image.
You drop a ball from one height and it knocks the ball at the bottom to the other side of the cavity (it knocks it too high, by the way.  Even if all the kinetic energy was transferred to the black ball, the black ball is said to be heavier, so it can attain no more gravitational potential energy than the white ball started out with).  So the question says that this guy wants to find out if the height the ball is released from has an effect on where the other ball ends up.  So the MC question asks: what ball should he drop from the high spot?  The second one - and this is the worst part (this kind of question was on every page) asked: what is your reason?

OMG guess what, volume displaces water, not mass.  Morons.
Oh, guess what, mass and volume aren't related.  


So yeah.  We answered about 30 minutes of questions like that today in Chem Lab.  There was this really good one I wanted to put up.  It has a bunch of rats of different sizes and tail colors, and asked if it showed a relation between size and tail color.  It was pretty obvious that they wanted you to say yes, but I found that the standard deviation was less than one and answered accordingly.  Sadly, "Because I calculate the standard deviation, fucktard" wasn't an option in the reasoning section.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that none of the choices were either complete sentences or even valid reasons for any argument at all.  

Also sadly, my TA threatened to fail me if I didn't stop taking pictures of the test, so I didn't get to that page.


o2 shortages

I'm getting lightheaded, singing these songs too much and too loud:

Across the Universe
Let It Be
Hey Jude
Norwegian Wood
I'll Be Right Behind You, Josephine
Naked As We Came

Can you guess what mood I'm in?

tea in the mic

I just came back from dinner at Harcombe (a fairly unimpressive meal), but the few hours before are what I want to blog about.  At 4:30 today, I went to the Hendrix Center for International Tea and Coffee Hour.  It was pretty neat; I talked to this grad student from Sri Lanka about research he's doing on synthesizing membranes which can sustain hydrogen fuel cell reactions at 120 degrees, I talked to an electrical engineering guy from India, also a grad student, who's working on voice recognition improvements by analyzing mouth movements.  I also talked to a girl from Beijing (her name I forgot, but she told me to call her Summer).  We just talked about tea.

But sadly, I was out of place.  They were all grad students, and they were all foreign.  And everybody asked me... "What country are you from?"  And when I answered, they said "Oh... I thought this was just for International Students."]
What they meant was,
"Oh, you're just a dumb white person."
Well, perhaps that's not what they meant.  But it did feel like it at times.  Anyway, after that, I went outside to lay on the grass and I tried to write a poem for the open mic night tonight.  I started writing several, but finished none.  Here are the ones I had:

The sky was cerulean, that day.
Like the polish, flaking from her fingernails.
But the cornflower and cotton clouds were less kind,
Last night.

Last night started with a bang - not
The fun kind, nor the fucked kind,
But the loud kind, as the
Electric potential ripped down across the mountain.

That one was going to be about my first LEAF, when Anastasia, Catie, Katherine and I were running through a thunderstorm and I remember Catie falling into the mud as we ran.  But I couldn't get the poetry out.  Here was the next failure:

In my world, there are two ways to play the guitar.
You can strum the strings, and
You can sweep them.

The musicians may tell you otherwise,
And the musicians may say "but he doesn't even
Play the guitar!"

And the musicians who do play guitar
Might just scoff and block me out, but that means
That they are strummers.

I learned this in Physics class -
When you play all the strings at the same time
If things are just right, then
You get a chord.

And don't get me wrong, musicians; I love

That's all that came out of that one.  It was supposed to evolve into a piece about both individuality and caring about details, paying attention to the leaf and not just the tree.  But it fell apart as well.  Here were the next two that fell apart immediately:

This is a poem.  As I sit down to wr
Hannah McClesky is my hero.

Both failures in the first line.

The next one had more promise:

My best friend owns a white Volvo.
It isn't brand-new-macbook white,
But it isn't really off-white either, it's just
And you'll have to trust me on that,
Kinda like I trusted him.

I figured that as Jack left for college, he would
Lend me a final
From the white machine,
That carried away,
Half my heart that day.
And he did.  But the first time he came back
The chuckle way changed (but the Volvo was not).

That was going to be a piece on how college changes people dramatically and how you absolutely cannot understand it until you've been there.  That's what I didn't trust; don't think that I lost faith in Jackson's honesty, or anything.

The next one I wrote was pretty sexual, so I won't repeat it.  But let it suffice to say that it also failed.

And that's that.  Dinner sucked.

And now I frankly don't care about going to open mic night, and since I can tell that Karen, Sarah, and Sammie don't want to go either, I probably won't go.  I was hoping they'd come with me, but I won't make them.

And that's that.


jjw v leaf

Or, more verbosely:
"Jump, Jive, and Wail, versus the Lake Eden Arts Festival"

They're both fun!  I'm going to JJW this weekend.  To be honest though, if it were possible, I would love to go to LEAF instead.
But since it isn't really possible, and since I do want to spend some time in Charleston and with Anastasia, I am happy to be going to JJW.  It's a pretty awesome event.  My first JJW was in my sophomore year of high school (2005).  Jackson took me, and I remember that Sytske was the first person I danced with.  I didn't get to go the next year, but I went with Anastasia in 2007 and we're going again this weekend.  This is seriously a high class event; much nicer than any other school event I've seen put on (except, of course, Harmony Fest).  If you haven't been, and you get a chance to go, you should definitely take advantage of it.  It's a great night, and you get to dress up but not uncomfortably so.  It's in bus depot by the visitor's center (I remember being scared of "The Bus Depot" the first time Jackson told me its name).

Oh, and if you don't know how to swing dance, it's okay.  All the cool people from contra are there, and - just like at contra - they'll help you out.  That's how I learned... although I'm actually not too good.

LEAF... god.  Leaf is like heaven.  It's the most amazing event of the year.  It's just full of art, music, nature, rhythm, life, harmony, beauty, humanity, poetry, euphoria, peace, and oneness.  If you ever - ever - get a chance to attend, please do it.  You won't be sorry.  As soon as you take up the courage to remove your shoes and turn off your blackberry, you'll love it.  It's definitely a release from technology, as Araba advocates in her recent draft article.  You can learn to heal, to dance, to love, and to listen, to play, to poet, and to eat all around the beauty of Lake Eden in the mountains of North Carolina.  

If there was any one place I could go, Leaf is pretty well tied with Charleston.  

Man, why did you put so many tags on this post, Matthew?  Well, probably because Leaf represents them all.

newsflash: gcd receives several beatings in its young age

Guess what? If you google "finding the gcd using the euclidean algorithm", my post is the first one!  Hurray!

Since I did this with my last newsflash about e&m, I'll post the new visitor map for all to see:
I'd like to point out, by the way, that my scientific posts seem to get much more traffic from outside my circle of friends than my personal ones do.  Hmm.  

is there anybody...

going to listen to my story? Cause it's pretty long, unlike the Beatles song.

Part I: The short part.

My presentation went very well today!  Also, I had some tea!  Also, I feel pretty good!

Oh, so also, my STS professor (who's running my Creative Inquiry class on SR) comes up to me and is like "Hey, Matt, I realized last night that you're not going to learn anything from this Creative Inquiry class.  I think you know more about this than I do." Which is true, but I would never actually say that.  I think he just figured it out.  But here's the exciting part.  He told me that he really wants me to get something out of it, so he's going to start giving me my own side assignments specifically focusing on the philosophy of science (his specialty). It made me feel like I was at magnet, getting personal attention from a teacher who had my learning in his best interest.  It was nice.

Part II: The long part.

Last night, laying in bed, I reflected on who my closest friends were.  It was a good thought-session, honestly.  So with this post, I'd like to go through and talk about some (but not necessarily all!) of my closest friends.  If you're not here, no worries; I just happened to not be able to analyze you.

This non-all-inclusive list is alphabetical by first name.

Anastasia: Strangely, I can't think of too much to say; not because there's nothing to say, but because it's so hard to put in words.  You know I love you, Anastasia, and I doubt we could ever be any less than closest friends (not to say that we aren't more).  What appeals most to me about our friendship (on the non-sexual/romantic plane) is your hippie-insightfulness.  Your creativity fused with your free spirit, good nature, and - although you might not admit it - high intelligence, makes you a great person to lay with on damp grass, under the stars, with warm tea, and talk about everything... or nothing at all... *sigh*.  I miss you, love.  I miss everything about you.  I want you back.

Araba: Oh, Araba.  I love you a whole lot, as well (although in a different way, of course).  I love talking to you, especially because our talks seem to be so unique, you know?  I'm not really sure if I converse with anyone the way I converse with you.  Like you kinda said once, we're, in a way, spiritually similar. I think our world views - though unique - share lots of values.  And of course, I admire to a huge degree your intelligence, passion, and determination.  I still need to take you out for coffee... or maybe we can make it tea.  I think we should also take some good long strolls this winter and have some good long talks, in person.  I really miss your conversation.

Jackson: Hey, buddy.  Whatever is between us is amazing.  We really don't talk a whole lot over long distances, but whenever I'm with you I feel like you're my closest confident.  I can tell you anything.  I'd like to think that you can tell me anything.  Your eclectic knowledge of everything that seems important at the time is astounding, and I love being with you, even if it means buying your coffee.  I hope we can get together some time soon.  I miss you.  You know, the other day, I came across that poem I wrote a long time ago, before you went off to college.  The one that ended "the white machine/that carried away/half my heart that day./Luckily, today is not/that day."  I love you, man.

Karen: Hey, dear.  We aren't exactly best friends.  But since we hang out a lot, I have a feeling we might get closer, so this is a preemptive paragraph of admiration.  You're a lot different from most of my friends; your personality is less reserved, less controlled, and has a strong wild streak.  It's a nice contrast; I'm not used to that kind of thing.  I look forward to being your friend, and, hopefully, playing guitar with you.  I would say the same about Sarah and Guillherme, but they always "study" instead of hang out...

Mark: Hey!  If you come to Clemson, I really hope we can room together at some point.  I just enjoy talking with you, you know?  I love arguing for the sake of personal development, and I think you do to.  We can argue without sour feelings, because it's a good exercise.  You're also, of course, just a generally level-headed and intelligent guy.  I look forward to seeing you!


Sherwin: Let me tell you, sir, what's great about you.  You're like... the person I miss most when I look around my classes.  You're the real-life hacker, the person who tries to understand, create, solve, fix, and build everything.  I miss working on problems with you, you explaining stuff, and me arguing with you until we finally work it out.  I'm glad we got to do that SR last night on my whiteboard... it reminded me of the good old days.

I have the feeling, of course, that I left someone out.  If someone notices, please alert me quickly so I can fix it before they see!

special relativity and journal

First thing to note:  I'm kinda splitting my writing between here and my dA journal.  I've added it as a blog in my sidebar, but I'm going to include my most recent post here, because I like it.  It's called: "tea with milk".
Last time I wrote a journal, I was drinking coffee quite regularly. But now, with the realization that I have tea bags and the dining hall has hot water, sugar, and milk... I've been drinking almost all tea! And I like it much better.

Don't get me wrong. The coffee pot on my desk is still an active little guy, and he makes a lot of coffee. But whereas before I drank coffee in my room and in the dining hall, I now drink tea in the dining hall and, it seems, slightly less coffee in my room as a result.

The tea makes me feel more at home.

I thought last night of sitting with someone on a bench at water front park, sipping a latte.

It made my heart stop.

I miss water.
So yeah, that's that.  Anyway, today I have to give a presentation on Special Relativity to my physics class.  Much thanks goes to Sherwin for helping me clarify things in my head and bounce around different ways of looking at things.  If you'd like to see my presentation, I'd be more than happy to show it to you.  Since I'll be using a department laptop to display my powerpoint (and hence not deal with the really frustrating projector) I'm going to use my laptop to record my presentation, and I may put it on youtube.  I'll link to it if that ends up being the case.

Anyway, I was going to rant more about SR and give you guys some good science education, but I need to go to class now.  I just wasted some time reclaiming 10 GB of hard drive space.


english skies

It really feels like it, anyway.  I'm sitting in Schilletter dining hall right now, and it's 9:01 AM.  I just got out of Calculus.

The skies are kind of dreary outside.  They're that blegh gray color where you can't quite tell if it's going to rain or not, but you know there won't be any sunshine for a while.

To add to the English feeling, I'm sitting here with a cup of tea. I drink green tea in my room all the time, but it just occurred to me as I was leaving class that the dining hall has hot water, milk, and sugar; all I needed to bring were tea bags. (I could theoretically make tea like this in my room, but it's a pain to go get milk that won't last long anyway just for a cuppa.)

So now, for the first time in too long, I have a cup of tea, and it feels great.  For some reason, tea always feels better with gray skies; I'm not sure why.

In other news, I'm thinking of taking some green tea to the meditation gardens this weekend.

My only regret is using a full teaspoon of sugar in such a small cup.


when you give a moron a printer...

There's a serious issue facing us these days. There's too many people who are computer illiterate.

Now, let me be quite frank about this. I don't give a fuck if some kid knows how to use Microsoft Excel. It'd be great if he did, especially if he's in my chemistry lab group, but to be quite realistic you can probably get by without knowing if you had to. And if you needed to learn, well, you could learn.

In that case, ignorance is okay. It's not like people can go around using Excel haphazardly, and it's not like they can mess anything up too bad by trying to use it.

When I speak about computer literacy (right now, at least), I'm talking more understanding the basic nature of how a computer, and especially a network, operates (the latter may be more important, in actuality). I say this - and I'm writing this post - because I had to clean up for some poor girl. You see, I came to the library - which is relatively empty (relatively) on a Friday afternoon - to print out some notes for Chemistry last week, as well as a paper my dad wanted me to proofread.

So I hit print, and go over to the printer. The time is 5:25.

Well, lo and behold, the printer is out of paper. No big deal... I load in some more paper and printing resumes.

The printing resumed with documents printed at 4:45.

Can nobody else load a fucking paper tray?

You know what, though? I can deal with it. I don't really care if people lost their documents. Yeah, I'm sorta upset that I had to wait 5 or 6 minutes for my document to be printed, but whatever. I'm pretty disgusted that nobody else can load paper into a printer, but whatever.

As an act of good will, in case these kids ever want to come retrieve their printouts, I decided to sort them all and lay them out on a table.

All documents across a Novell network are printed with cover sheets showing the username, time of printing, and document source. It helps a lot when people are swarming over the printers at lunch hour on Monday. But sorting them, I notice this one girl who printed out the same document thrice. I glance at the document source... the first thing I notice is that it's a secure site. The second thing I noticed was that it was from carolinafirst.com.

The last thing I noticed, when I turned the page, was that it contained her full name, address, phone, email, social security number, mother's maiden name, account listings and account numbers.

So I decided to sell it all online!

Of course not, but I know kids who might. So here's a lesson to everyone:

(1) To load a printer, open the drawer and put the paper in the container that's conveniently shaped like paper.

(2) If you execute a print command multiple times, whether you're using lpr or just clicking an icon in MS Word, your document will be printed multiple times. Computer's aren't hard of hearing; they do exactly as you command. Just be patient while they do things one at a time.

(3) Don't print information like your social security number and bank number on a public printer over a public network; and if god forbid that you do, make sure the fucking paper is in your hands before you leave!

As a side note, I went to carolinafirst.com. I would like to make it well known that I could have gotten into her account. In fact, I suppose it stands to reason that I still can, now that I have her information. But being the good person I am, I'm going to rip the information up like I did to the other two copies and throw it away. She'll get away with it this time.

But if I find that banking information again, I may just give her a bit more of a scare.


sunlight, graphite: recipe for meditative thought #1.

I'll be starting a series of meditative exercises for people to try if they so desire.  Here's the first one, which I did yesterday.

"Sunlight and Graphite"
(1) Make sure the room is comfortable to slightly cool.
(2) Prepare your favorite cozy beverage.  I picked black coffee, but various teas or cocoas would be alright as well.
(3) Find a hobby that is attention-intensive but not intellectually overbearing.  I picked sketching, which I think is a good suggestion for anybody.
(4) Sit in front of a window where the sunlight is coming in.  Open the window if it's comfortable outside.
(5) Put on some music, but nothing too fast or violent.
(6) Perform your activity in a meditative state.  The key is not to get frustrated.  Even if you're drawing something for the first time, you must take joy in the process of drawing and be unconcerned with the physical result.
(7) If you're using coffee or a similar drink, occasionally tip off your cup.  The sound of the pouring liquid is also meditative.
(8) Throughout the process, another key to getting the most out of it is opening the senses.  Feel the steam of your drink against your face contrasting with the cool room; listen to the graphite as your pencil streams across the paper; smell the air coming in through the window. Simply be aware.  Feel the rhythm of the music in your body.
(9) Ignore the clock.


fail: (time, care) → fail

So, it was not uncommon for us in high school to randomly graph things against other things, usually as a form of humor, and sometimes as a form of venting frustration.  Especially popular was graphing variables against the fail-axis.

Frequently, we would graph "fail" versus things like time of day, time of year, weather, teacher, amount of homework, amount of Halo involved, how much coffee was available, side of the room you sat on, amount of time sleeping the previous night, volume of music... et cetera.  At the end of senior year, as a way or reminiscing, many of us would plot our Care vs Time Since Freshman Day 1 plots on the same plane to compare.

But now I'm in multivariable calculus, so no more of these petty 2-D constructions!  Here's my latest graph: it's basic, but it's a start.  Keep in mind that fail is not necessarily the reciprocal of care.
The average student tends to follow the path represented by a plane cut through the graph at any point such that the plane is normal to the origin.

Note that the more you study, the more you stretch the graph along the care axis... but no matter how much you study, enough time spent on an assignment will inevitably lower your care values and fail will go up.

+ 20 points to whoever can figure out why the paper is upside down.  I did it on purpose, and there is a good reason.

Finally, on a side note, I'd like to let everyone know that I did some research and that John McCain was assigned as an Ensign to the USS Enterprise on Stardate 14161.8.  However cool this is, though, it still doesn't make up for his Palinitis.  Read Araba's blog for some views on the almost-Ms. Alaska.


a poem.

As we drove along one day,
And gazed into the Sun,
You quoted Shakespeare, in my ear,
And changed the station, some,

And when we got there, to the park,
We laid down in the grass,
I rubbed your shoulders, soothed your back,
And you dozed off to sleep.

I watched you breathing to the beat
Of birds across the way,
But I wish I would have asked you if --


what i learned in chem oneohone

We learned about pressure today.

If by "learned" you mean reviewed from Nettles' class. I wish I could have skipped to 102.

By the way, assuming a theoretical compound Rhettium which is free from the effects of gravity (or, in Physical Science class, occasionally experiences a negative effect), you could experience similar pressure effects as you do in that UFO if you're floating in a Rhettium cloud 20 km away from the center of a black hole with mass 6.734 x 1024 kg (and thus event horizon radius of 10 km) with an escape velocity of exactly c.

books and books... but mostly books

(Title half-stolen from Araba's blog.)

Oh my god... I had a shopping spree, this morning.  A book shopping spree.
Cooper Library (Clemson's main library) had a gigantic book sale this morning with incredible prices.  All hardbacks were $2, all CD's were $2, all paperbacks were $0.50, all magazines were $0.10, and I can't remember the rest but I do know that they were all $2.00 or less.

So I spent $23 or so.

Here's what I got.

Book #1: Encounters: an Introduction to Philosophy

Book #2: Elementary Differential Equations and Boundary Value Problems

Books #3, #4: Theory of Functions of a Complex Variable, Volumes I & II

Book #5: Analytic Geometry

Book #6: Modern Abstract Algebra

Book #7: Operating System Design: The XINU Approach

Book #8: Operating Systems: Concepts, Policies, and Mechanisms

Book #9: Vector Analysis

CD #1: Kiri Te Kanawa - Exsultate Jubilate (London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus) 
and CD #2: Birgit Nilsson - Wagner, Strauss, Verdi, Beethoven (Opera Gala)

Magazines: Mostly Scientific American, one National Geographic.

Now, let me tell a story about how hard it is to pull yourself away from such a book sale:

"One day, Matthew tried to pull himself away from a great book sale.  It was absurdly hard.  The end."

My suggestion?  Try to avoid news of book sales, because once you know about one you will undoubtedly spend lots of money there.

But hey, I actually kinda like what I bought, so there.


a summary of my psychic mechanisms

If you've seen my homepage, www.ces.clemson.edu/~mdaniel, you might have noticed that I claim to possess psychic ability.  Jimmy Mu challenged this claim tonight, and just clear everything up, I'd like to post a polished and edited FAQ we had.

Jimmy Mu: Dude, are you psychic?

Matthew Daniels: Absolutely!

JM: Read my mind right now!

MD: Sorry, I can't.  We have to be in relatively close range; you'd understand if you knew the mechanics of it.

JM: Well... can you read Rob's mind, since he's on campus?

MD: "BERR I LOVE STARCRAFT BUHDOH."  Heh.  Well, he thought that at one point, at least.  See, the thing is, thought waves -- or, more accurately, eddies, as we don't want to think of these as electromagnetic waves -- actually travel pretty slowly.  By the time I get a long range one, it may be pretty outdated.

JM: Tell us how you became psychic.

MD: Lots of pomegranate tea, actually.

JM: Are you sure?

MD: Well, no.  But that was the only significant lifestyle change I experienced leading up to my psychic abilities' manifestation.  There may very well have been other factors of which I was unaware.

JM: Matt, define "being psychic."

MD: Well, my brain has the ability to interpret radio-like waves which are ambient in the oosphere and which are transmitted from all sentient minds during the processes of conscious and unconscious thought -- but not during REM sleep.

JM:  Well, that's pretty amazing.  But can you predict the future?

MD: Only if I'm reading the mind of someone who can!  But who knows?  Maybe given enough time (and enough tea), I will.

JM:  How accurate are your abilities?

MD:  Well, I'm still perfecting them.  Right now, it seems that I only have a 50%-60% success interpretation rate.  I guess I'm still kind of tuning to the eddies' frequencies.  Oftentimes, I can finish sentences, know what people's plans are, or understand how they're feeling at the moment.  In the case of someone who's geographically distant, I might know what they were doing or thinking this morning (since the wave takes a while to catch up to me).

JM:  Cool!  Do you believe in other paranormal phenomena?

MD:  Not yet.  I've never contacted non-humanoids.  Unless, of course, you count yourself.

finding the gcd using the euclidean algorithm

Remember the GCD (or GCF) from our younger math days?  The greatest common denominator (or factor) seemed pretty retarded.  We never really used it... especially once we had calculators to guess and check for us (or until we all got our TI-83/84/89's and had a function to do it).

But as I hack and slash my way through the dense, unforgiving jungle of Deskin's Abstract Algebra (you'll remember that Mark gave it to me at my birthday, if you were there), I'm finding more and more reasons to think that basic math is cool.  The book is very hard to get through, extremely exact and unforgivingly precise and verbose... but the subjects are things like counting, finding GCD's and LCM's, and expressing integers.

So anyway, I came across the "Euclidean Algorithm" the other day, which basically helps you calculate the GCD of two numbers.  I'll summarize it here.

So suppose two numbers X and Y, and say that we want to find their greatest common factor.  In order for me to show do a simultaneous example with real numbers, let's call say that they happen to equal the integer values 320 and 144, respectively.

Before we calculate the greatest common factor, I need to make a quick segue and discuss the Divisor Theorem.  Another formalization of 3rd grade math, the Divisor Theorem says that the following expression holds for all integers a, b, q, and r, such that b > a > r:

b = aq + r

In 3rd grade terms, b divided by a equals q remainder r.

So with that in mind, let's return to our original problem.  Suppose X > Y (and it is, as 320 > 144).  Then we can create the expression:

X = Y*q1 + r1   |   320 = 144*q1 + r1

Right?  Of course we can, because those are all integers.  So a little third grade division tells us that our numerical example resolves to:

320 = 144*2 + 32

Now, watch this:  we're going to forget X, make Y the largest number, and make the old remainder the new quotient.  Then we'll add a new remainder:

Y = r1*q2 + r2   |   144 = 32*q2 + r2

Now we just solve this in the same fashion:

144 = 32*4 + 16

We follow the same variable shifting pattern (try writing these equations in order on your paper and using arrows to show how the variables move right to left as you go down.  The arrows should end up being diagonal lines from the top-right to the bottom left.):

r1 = r2*q3 + r3   |   32 = 16*q3 + r3

If you understand the pattern we're following, then good!  You know how to use this algorithm.  If not, you're screwed, because we're basically done.  Note that in the above example q3 = 2 and r3 is exactly 0 (because 16 is a factor of 32).  This means we're done!  The number that q3 is multiplying (here, r2=16) is the greatest common factor of the original numbers.  That's it!

Basically, you would keep following this pattern until you got to evenly dividing numbers such that the new remainder is zero.  The greatest common factor of the original X and Y is exactly the number in the position where Y started out.  When I say exactly, what I'm trying to say is that... that's it!  It's not possibly some multiple of that; that is the answer.

More later on how every integer can be expressed in the form ax + by = c, where all those numbers are integers.  It has a lot to do with greatest common factors.

Final note:  the greatest common factor of two numbers A and B is often expressed as (A, B).  This should be easily distinguishable from an ordered pair by the context it's used in.


newsflash: e&m receives several beatings in its old age

By beatings, of course, I mean hits.  And by hits, of course, I mean pageloads.
And by E&M, I mean my mindmap posts I made quite a while ago.  Remember those? This one was of a Dr. Mills lecture (and is the only reason I got a 5 on E&M), and this one was on a lecture by Mr. Newton.

So a while ago, I installed this hit counter widget on my page.  Don't go looking for it outside of the source html; it's just some embedded code.  But it lets me go to statcounter.com and see how many hits I get everyday from where in the world. It's pretty neat, actually!  I've had hits from all over the world:

So yeah!  That's pretty cool.  And the thing is, all these foreign people are coming off of google searches on E&M topics.  In fact, as of this posting, I'm the 5th result if you google "lectures about current resistance".  Try it and tell me if it still works!

Anyway, so I suppose if I want more hits, I should write more on E&M.  But I don't really feel like it, you know?

More to come.  Hold tight.  Comment.  And if you'd like to help me expand my userbase, you should link, blog about, digg, or otherwise propogate links to my blog.  It'll be fun!

Oh, and as of now, I've decided to end all comments of mine with a series of lucky numbers (see the comments on the immediately previous blog entry to this one to know why).  So if you see that convention somewhere, just know that it was my idea.


the truth about not-charleston

I had two significant online conversations last night (significant meaning I cared and they were longer than 10 lines): one with Araba, and one with Jackson.  Both were on the same subject.

I told Araba that "Mrs. Dobson is haunting me".  If you weren't in AP French or AP Fizz, you wouldn't understand. She would come in the room with a visitor and point to everyone around the room: "Arielle is going to Brown, Miguel is going to Stanford, Sally's going to Princeton, Araba's off to Harvard, Matthew's..., Sherwin's going to Yale..."

It was like that every fucking time.  She could not deal with the fact that I was going to Clemson.  I don't know why; I wasn't in the top ten or anything.  Perhaps it was because of the people I was always contrasted with by taking advanced classes.  Whatever it was, she could not deal with the fact that I was just going to Clemson.

Anyway.  I dunno.  I figured that for an undergraduate program, it didn't really matter where I went, right?  Multivariable calculus is pretty universal, and so is physics.  For undergrad courses, I would get the same education at any reasonably accredited institution.

And I'm probably still right.  But what I didn't think about was the people who I would be surrounded with, shaping my education in ways outside the classroom.  As I note in the excerpt below from my and Jackson's chat (which is released under the Creative Commons 2.0 License), I miss being surrounded by people who have this insatiable urge for progress.  I miss people who write poetry for the sake of writing poetry, who prove odd theorems for the hell of it, people who are researching a topic on wikipedia before you can finish the prompting sentence, and people who can't put down their cameras until they've stuffed their memory cards to the brink with photos to sift through.  I miss people who strive for self-betterment, and who are passionate about their passions.  Perhaps I simply miss people who have passion, in general.  As Jackson notes, it is "the undeniable truth that mediocrity vastly outnumbers drive and unique ability."

Maybe it isn't better in other places, and to be honest, it isn't that bad here.  Seriously, don't get me wrong; I really do love Clemson.  It's just that key cultural aspect that I sorely, sorely miss.
Maybe it isn't, but maybe it is.

Hmm.  Please comment.

=== Conversation Excerpt ===

me: We actually have a pretty low smoking rate, actually.
marijuana, that is.
about 15% I think.
although our drinking rates are absurd.
15% regular smokers, that is.
jackson.holder: I mean, I know. The WW kids might run around in a fog, but all you high achievers are gonna experience fatal liver failure at 28.
me: High Achievers?
Man, Jackson. Let me tell you.
I love it here.
But I am, occasionally,
Slapping myself pretty hard for not reaching higher.
I dunno. I dunno what to think about it anymore.
jackson.holder: hate to say you should have applied to MIT. Fortunately I don't have to, because I already did like 40 times.
me: Hate to say I wouldn't have made it into MIT. But it does stand to reason that I could have made it into Duke, or Davidson, or Yale, or something.
Maybe Emory, I dunno.
Maybe even Brown.
I guess I'll never know.
jackson.holder: not necessarily true.  
If you feel strongly about it you can always apply.
me: I don't feel strongly about it.  
It just lingers in the back of my mind, and pokes me occasionally.
jackson.holder: well then yes I suppose it is pretty late.
yeah it'll do that.
I know what you mean exactly.
me: I think the reason it's bothering me isn't the school so much as the people.
I mean.... I guess I was incredibly lucky with my friends.
People from all sides of my life in Charleston were esoteric poets and adventurous intellects.
Almost everyone had some sort of fervor in a particular field or subject, and loved what they did.
My magnet friends and my SOA friends.
jackson.holder: mmmyes.
me: And it seems like most people here are just sorta mreh.
jackson.holder: and now you are faced with the undeniable truth that mediocrity vastly outnumbers drive and unique ability.  
that very few people get the education you did, or got to experience the culture you experienced
me: Yeah.
jackson.holder: and that without the drive that a place like charleston and a community like ours provides, many people understand life to be a simple trial and reward system. A little work, a little alcohol.
pretty depressing.
me: Depressing indeed. I guess I just need to make sure it doesn't happen to me.
And the people I care about, if possible.
You know, you worded that all very well.
Do you mind if I reproduce it?
jackson.holder: go for it.
me: Under Creative Commons or something?
jackson.holder: just fucking jack it, call it yours, I don't care.
me: lol.
jackson.holder: I've had plenty of time to think about it.
me: Thanks, Jackson.
jackson.holder: it's realizations like this that changed me, matthew.