Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another great weekend

I've been slowly recovering from that crazy nearly sleepless night on Thursday. This weekend I've had the chance to sleep in both days (I had to get up at 8AM this morning for worship band practice, but we went to bed pretty early).

Yesterday Kimberly and I got up and had breakfast together, and then I went to Greg and Marie's to help with bathroom renovations, along with John. We successfully replaced their old light blue toilet with a nice new and modern one. They're fixing things up in preparation to sell their place later this year.

After we finished up there, John and I went back to my apartment and picked up Kimberly and Laura and went up to Nashua. Early last week, John read a Penny Arcade entry that was eerily reminiscent of Funworld and decided that we had to make a trip. Spending $20 on tokens gets you an extra $7 worth free, so each couple contributed $10 and the fun began. Highlights included spending six tokens each on this huge space shooting game in which Kimberly's half of the projected screen was out of focus, and weaving through huge crowds of teenagers and their kids. But serious, it was pretty darn fun. Dinner was at Tio Juan's Margaritas in downtown Nashua.

Today was church and then Kimberly made Thai noodles with chicken for lunch. The weather was so nice that we took an hour walk around the Highlands. After playing some Zelda on the Wii I joined Kimberly at her 3-10 shift at PPM.

I could use prayer for peace from my recent anxieties and for strength and humility for times ahead. I do feel like things are looking up, so thanks to everyone who has remembered me in their prayers lately.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's 2:15AM and I find myself awake and contemplative...

Stress related insomnia :-/

So I've decided to go back to school, one way or another. Most people with bachelor's degrees go on to careers, or post-graduate studies, or both. I am inclining rather strongly toward the initially less lucrative, counter-cultural second bachelor's degree. Many considerations have gone into this decision and I'd like to lay them out for my own benefit.

The first vital step is examining my current degree: Bachelor of Music, Sound Recording Technology, Magna cum laude. This degree is presented as being not of the trade school, instructional sort, but rather as conceptual and theoretical. That is, in fact, exactly what it is. I did not finish the program with total understanding of the workings of a professional music recording studio, but rather with a foundation that allowed me to adapt and quickly comprehend a host of audio related concepts. This wonderful sounding truth is exactly where I find myself in trouble.

At this point in my life, I'm on the verge of regret over choosing and completing this degree. I cannot, however, bring this sentiment to its conclusion. I do not regret pursuing a recording degree. I love this art, and I am proud to have worked so hard to be a part of it. If I do regret anything about my tertiary education thus far, it is that I didn't sooner understand the state of my industry, sometimes ignoring signs about my personality or direct but sparse warnings from others.

The state of my industry is such that the barriers to being an architect or pioneer of the technology are too great for my degree to bridge. The signs about my personality were that though I love recording, I'm fundamentally not a producer, but a conceptualist. The warnings from other similarly minded people were that if they could do it all over, they would have a double major in recording and proper engineering.

Though proper engineering will forever remain a fundamental component of my industry, a trend that began decades ago, digital audio, has come to totally dominate. More and more functions that were once in the domain of mechanical and electrical engineers are now the brainchildren of computer programmers.

So I find myself craving entry into a world that is just out of reach. My solution is to take a cue from this industry trend toward bits over circuits and supplement my education with a second foundation: computer science. The end result of this huge undertaking will be that I'll be in a rather elite position of being intimate with both sides of the industry, which is the point at which I will truly find myself at home in professional audio.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Winter hiking!

This morning Nathan and I went up to Peterborough, NH to do some winter mountain climbing. We decided to attempt Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock, in Miller State Park. Though we've done some hiking in Franconia Notch in early spring and late fall, this was our first real winter excursion.

At quarter of seven this morning, the reading for Peterborough was four degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of -16. When we reached the trail head a bit before 9:00AM, the temperature was about the same. To our surprise, there was another hiker in a pickup truck preparing for the climb.

Shortly after beginning our ascent, we noticed that our gear was actually sufficient! Though the temperature was very cold, we were quite comfortable. Through the day I came to decide that the most crucial piece of gear I was missing was gaiters, which prevent snow from getting one's boots, socks, and pant legs wet.

It was a beautiful day! The sky was so clear that we had no problem at all immediately seeing Boston from the fire tower atop Pack Monadnock. After a short break there we continued on down the saddle that separates this mountain from North Pack. To our surprise, a few minutes into this leg of the hike we came to the end of the packed snow. No one had attempted to traverse the saddle since the last snow fall, early last week. So the next and longest part of the hike was spent taking turns in the lead, breaking the snow and taking care to follow the trail blazes.

So we continued on to North Pack Monadnock, ate some snacks and some hot coffee, and then circled back the way we came. It was surprising how challenging the snow made the ascending portions of the hike. It felt like we had experienced quite a bit more elevation gain than we actually hiked. Going down, though, was a blast. It is so easy to run down with a cushion of snow to break your fall, should you slip.

On a whole it was a great experience, and a decent benchmark to teach us about preparedness for future, more serious winter hikes.

Time: approx. 5 hours. Distance: 8.3 miles. Elevation gain: approx. 2030 feet. Lowest temperature observed: -4°F (approx. -25°F wind chill with 20 mph wind gusts).

Me with Mt. Monadnock in the background.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Finally an update

This weekend has been very restorative so far.

Today we slept in, had a great breakfast, and then went up to Nashua where Kimberly had an eye doctor appointment. We stopped into Trader Joe's and bought some frozen food for the week to come, as well as some Harpoon IPA flavored cheddar cheese from Cabot, which is strangely amazing.

We then had lunch at On the Border to celebrate seven years of being together (it was seven years ago today that Kimberly finally said "yes" in a conversation on AOL [instant messaging, before the stand-alone Instant Messenger was popular]). We shared a fajita plate, which was enough to stuff us both.

Later in the day we made it back home where Kimberly took a nap and I played Zelda on the Wii for the first time in over two months, which I understand is shameful. We had some dinner and watched the first half of Seven Samurai, until it started skipping in our Playstation 2, which is a poor DVD video player. We had to switch over to the last couple of episodes of disc four of season one of Lost, which now has us completely hooked.

I can only hope that the last couple of days of the long weekend work out as well as this one. It is encouraging to finally have a proper day of rest.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cogito, ergo sum.

Tony and I are in an ongoing carpool discussion about the duality of the mind and the physical universe, as it relates to information theory, and the logical conclusions thereof. I thought it might be helpful to write down my thoughts on the the subject of this duality.

The physical universe is, by the standards of physical law, self sustaining. (This standard is not, of course, what I believe to be a complete world-view, which includes an active and present God sustaining creation at all points, but by this I mean that these physical laws, as far as they go, are probably enough to account for a complete closed system.) The universe obeys physical law. The subject of the origin of these laws does not need to enter this argument, only that they are observed to be a thorough and complete description of "what the universe does."

The human mind, however, is a complete oddity in this scheme. If the universe were truly such a closed system then we would have no basis to believe that consciousness (and with it morality) were any more than an illusion. What we observe introspectively is an absolute reality of the mind. No person can live as though they were an unconscious machine. Without delving deeply into a philosophic quagmire, the practical absurdity of man as a physical law abiding machine should be, if we are at all honest with ourselves, totally apparent. Likewise, even in our age of moral and intellectual relativism, not even the most die-hard naturalist (in this case, someone who believes that the physical universe is in fact a closed system) cannot live as if they had no absolute moral foundation.

So it seems that we cannot get rid of this oddity in the universe: the mind. If we accept this, it is helpful to examine how the mind differs from the physical universe. The mind, of course, differs from the material world in its immateriality. Thought does not have weight nor does it occupy space. The mind is rational, whereas the universe is a network of cause and effect chains. The mind is moral. It has laws and imperatives that do not and cannot apply to the physical world.

The real question is how these two exclusive entities interact. My thoughts are that the human mind invades the closed physical system of the universe through the human brain. The brain is a conduit, so to speak, or a transducer. When our brains are damaged or not functioning at their peaks (e.g. when we're tired, hungry, fatigued, intoxicated, etc.) it is not the mind that is disabled, but the brains transitive functions. The only way that the brain affects the mind is in our ability to analyze the physical universe through our senses. Our brains respond physically to physical stimuli, and the mind captures these stimuli and translates them into information.

Information is, in my system, totally mental. No information exists apart from the mind. The physical universe is real. It is an absolute. It exists. Information concerning it, though, is not woven into its independent and closed existence, but rather is woven into this separate and adjacent reality of the mind.

Through this understanding, and only by these conclusions, I find ideas such as PCs that will one day become sentient, and the universe containing proto-conscious tendencies that are substantiated in the human brain to be incomplete and incompatible with reality. There are wonderful and coherent conclusions to which my system will lead (not the least of which is the relation of our mind-over-matter duality to Biblical miracles,) but these ideas are certainly excluded.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Wow, I actually finished everything on my list for yesterday evening. I think I was partially motivated by the fact that I wrote it down here. Taxes looked scary for a while, as Kimberly had an improper amount taken from her check at both of her jobs early in 2006, but I found an educational credit that she hadn't been eligible for in the past that she could take this year, so we'll be getting a decent refund!

I also had the chance to check out a bit more of a PHP tutorial last night. I've recently decided that I'm going to go back to school to get a second bachelor's degree, this time in computer science. Any survey of the music industry will reveal the host of opportunities that this sort of degree could provide, and the deeper I get into this industry, the more compelled I am by acoustic research and product development.

I've begun studying PHP in particular not for these ends, but because (with the invaluable help of Tony Astolfi) I've been working on an idea to help increase the transparency of the warehouse at my work. If we had a web app that could interface with our printed product codes, it would be very easy to communicate the location of any item in the warehouse.

This evening we're picking up a book for one of Kimberly's classes at the Lowell Public Library and then heading out to do some shopping. It is looking like Wednesday will be our first full evening staying in since last Monday. Making proper use of the time we are given is a constant challenge.

Stand plate, anyone?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Entry One

Today started with worship band practice. The orignal plan for today's service was to have two worship sets, one led by Rhesa with the full band, and one with Damon and no drums or electric guitar. Unfortunately, Rhesa was out with a sick child, so it was an impromptu practice of repatching the stage and hurrying through a few of our songs (with new Damon-friendly keys.) Despite this hectic start, I felt like things came together exceptionally well. I played in a very worshipful state, which is a blessing for someone who too often ends up focusing on the parts and not the purpose.

I just got back from a run. We're about a week into our new (old) healthy lifestyle of counting our calories to prevent overeating and exercising whenever possible. It is truly amazing how quickly one begins to feel better after returning to this sort of lifestyle. I lost a couple of pounds in one week (thanks to the loss of that great initial easy-to-burn and water-heavy glycogen reserve), which allowed me to wear some clothes that have been in the closet for a few months and gave me a ton of much needed extra energy.

On the agenda for the evening:

-Pick up groceries, etc.
-Cook dinner and bring it to Kimberly at her work.
-Do the taxes (woo).
-Do the budget.
-Prepare for small group.