Thursday, March 31, 2011

Daily Report: Still Here

It's been a cloudy week here in Florida, but still temperatures hover in the mid-70's, and there is always a gentle wafting breeze. It sure beats the hell out of winter in New York. If I'm going to be in America, this is as nice as you can get, weather wise: sunnier and far less humidity than Thailand, about the same temperature as The Philippines but a better breeze (now... by gods it was cold back in January though, fluke as it may have been).

When the clouds are not powdering or muddling the sky, I enjoy going to the pool at the clubhouse: There is a gymnasium, a hot whirlpool, and a cool swimming pool (as well as a billiard hall... nice!). It's Spring Break now and lots of families are down from up north enjoying the summer-ish weather; lots of kids splashing around having a good time.

I cooked my wife's family's recipe of sweet and sour chicken for Mom, Paul, and Mom's friend, Carol. It turned out okay: The taste was right, but the consistency needed improvement. I'll get that right the next time. I also bought all the ingredients to make a Singapore Sling. (Couldn't do that in Asia, believe it or not: Cherry brandy is not found in any liquor stores.) That was fun and packed quite a whallop.

Work on the website continues apace. It's all programmed now... but still the content has to be written and I want to get that right, hence the time involved.

Epril and I video chatted on Skype while she was at the beach this evening. It was her father's birthday, so she was back in Jasaan for the day but apparently got out of the family house and went off to the beach. It was nice to see a bit more of home than just Epril's front porch. I'm looking forward to showing Epril the beaches here in Florida. (Nearby Siesta Key actually ranks perennially on Conde Nast's "best beaches in the world" list.)

Big storms are scheduled here this evening. One downside about Florida as compared to the places I lived in Asia: Hurricanes and their kin. Nothing of the sort is coming now — just a bit of wind and rain, not a major tempest — but you never know when you're going to have to batten down the hatches. Fortunately this house has had all the necessary upgrades (roof, windows, et cetera) to withstand a direct hit by one of those huge storms. (I enjoy a bit of rain and am always prone to sit and pay witness to an especially ferocious storm, but I've never been through a proper hurricane before. Unless there is an order to leave at the next occurrence though, I will see one then.)

Other tidbits: Work is going well. I'm finishing reading the next Rutherfurd book, "New York". I got my taxes done finally. Puppy Gracie has learned to fetch her toy "Flat Rat" exceptionally well; from anywhere in the house. She spends most of her time walking around with the toy in her mouth, chewing on the "squeaky" noise maker, trying to find somebody to throw it for her so she can go running after. Paul laid down some patio bricks back behind the house to make a very nice evening place to sit and enjoy cocktails. (Next year, he'll be enclosing the back lanai and turning it into a second living room, brighter and airier than the first, so we needed a replacement "fresh air" location.)

Mom bought a new dishwasher for the house as well. Not too exciting, but I haven't seen modern appliances in a while, and I'm suitably impressed with the improved design and performance over what I had known in the past: It's so quiet you really don't even know it is on, and you can fit almost every pot and pan in the kitchen inside the same amount of space in which you could only fit the dirty dishes of dinner for 4 before.

That's it for now. If I wrote about any more non-eventful non-news, it might get a bit tedious!

Regarding Libya

I've been watching... barely... the situation unfold in Libya.

I really have no idea what President Obama is doing, except attempting to score some cheap and easy political points. This really is the same stupid kind of stuff that smart minds have been bitching about for the last 8 years: getting involved in an effort to overthrow a dictator in an unstable Muslim country, whose local politics and culture we barely understand, which has no chance of stability, little chance of democracy, and is gutted by 30 years of dictatorial rule. To top it off, we're apparently backing a bunch of rebel imbeciles who don't even know how to pull a pin out of a grenade... but they're asking us to give them tanks to drive around in.

It's a tragic farce, really. If this were not Qaddafi we are dealing with — the safest, easiest, weakest, most alone, and most comical dictator on the planet — this wouldn't be happening. But it is, and somehow that makes it okay for America... Obama, actually... to wander into yet another (using Obama's own words to describe the situation) "turd sandwich".

Oh, I'm sure the outcome will be to our satisfaction: The bad guy will get chased out of town, and the wide-eyed rebels will lay down their arms and welcome in foreign (American) help in establishing some cute and cuddly little newborn democracy. I'm sure this time around, things will be nothing like Iraq... because, obviously, Libya is nothing like Iraq. Right? Most certainly, America won't be paying for everything either because we have NATO helping this time. Right? This time, the new rebel government will be even-handed, impeccable, competent, and welcomed by all their fellow citizens. Right?

You know what? Actually, I'm willing to bet "yes" on all of the above. I'm guessing that this isn't a "fool me twice" situation. I'm guessing that even Al Quaida is on our side in this particular argument. But I really don't think that makes it right: Libya is precisely the kind of scenario we elected Obama to avoid — not the no-fly zone, or even the bombing of the assaulting artillery... but arming the rebels, sending in "specialists", et cetera. It sets a bad precedent for future "rebel uprisings" in other countries, and it obligates us to further "nation building".

It's really just not what I wanted to see happening.

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Rendering

Just wanted to get these online. The new website should be up by the end of this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily Report: The Purgatory Of Rendering

A small view of about 20 hours of work. Italian Country Palazzo with Infinity Pool.

I love creating 3D models, but I've never taken the time to get really serious about it before. Quite literally, all my life (just ask my mother), I've been creating fantasy spaces and vistas to fuel my imagination and sate my artistic drive.

I've downloaded this trial version of a particular rendering program. It's comparatively cheap ($100 compared to $600 for the higher end stuff), but I had to wait through 30 minutes of rendering time to get this photo. There is another rendering software for $150 that renders in 2 or 3 minutes, but doesn't have the reflection engine of this software. I'm going to end up picking one... and it won't cost $600.

If anybody knows of rendering software that (a) costs less than $150, (b) has both lighting and reflection engines built in, and (c) takes less than 5 minutes to render an image... let me know!

And that is how I spent my day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Daily Report: Quickie

Just a quick update: Sorry to go 2 weeks between posts. I've been busy actually. First, I put together a new website (finishing bits still on the back burner). Then I've been doing my favorite pass-time: Rendering a 3D model. That's taking up the lion's share of my days. Oh: A new version of Sid Meier's Civilization came out recently, and I bought that as a present to myself last week and, well... you lose 4 or 5 hours at a time with that.

It was my mother's birthday today, so it was all the aunts and uncles (and me) out to a wonderful steak dinner. That's about the most exciting thing I've done in the past 2 weeks, really.

Sorry, everybody: We all knew it wasn't going to be the most exciting period of my life. But I've got my eye on the horizon and lots of paths to follow.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Daily Report: Quiet Interval of Perceptible Progress

I woke up feverish this morning at 7:30. My ears were ringing, my head was woozy, and I was freezing. I called for my mommy, but I guess she was still asleep. I went back to sleep and had weird and feverish dreams until noontime: by then the fever was down quite a bit, but still noticeable. At that time, my mother came to wake me up and I asked for some Tylenol and a thermometer. The thermometer showed a temperature of 101½. The Tylenol did the trick and I spent the rest of the day relatively lucid.

Epril has escaped the nattering ninnies of Smallville and moved back to the privacy of the city. It turns out that one of the principal nattering ninnies was our own landlord, so Epril had extra incentive to move. Oh: and after putting 60,000 pisos ($1,500) worth of improvements into her house over the years, the landlady had the cheek to keep our security deposit. Well, if you want to rent a house with only one functioning water spigot, noisy neighbors; and have a landlord who will do no repairs, but will stick her nose in your personal business and keep your security deposit, you've seen the photos on this blog and know where to go.

Anyway, Epril's new house is in CDO. We're keeping the location a secret so that her mentally ill mother can't come to the house and attack, terrorize, and bully everybody there. Unfortunately regarding the new house, the through-thin-air USB dongle internet services don't work... or at least don't work inside the house (Epril has to sit on the front porch to get the weakest of signals). Instead, she is going to have either Parasat cable internet installed, or get one of the roof-antenna-to-modem, through-thin-air internet services.

Today was going to be the day where I had to come here on my blog and admit that once again I had been royally effed by the postal service — this time the American one. I sent out Epril's I-129F visa application on February 5 and since then had neither received the e-mail confirmation that the package had arrived and been opened, nor the NOA-1 receipt that stated the package had been put into the system. I called the USCIS, and they stated that I would have to wait 30 days after mailing before they would consider the package missing.

Wouldn't you know it, at 1:20 a.m. on the morning of the 31st day, the e-mail arrived in my in-box from USCIS stating that they had received my package, and that an NOA-1 (with receipt number xxx) had been mailed out. I went to the USCIS website and entered receipt number xxx into their "Check Your Case Status" box and found out that the NOA-1 receipt was dated February 14: they had apparently forgotten to send either the e-mail or the NOA-1. Good news, but quite discouraging to the future possibility of a seamless, unhindered visa application.

Well, with that caveat lector given, Epril's application should be processed in mid-July, she should have her meeting with the American embassy in Manila some time in August, and she should be here in Florida in September.

Work is going well by the way. My daily average dropped in January and has been climbing back since. I'm back up to 1,300 lines per day. Generally, whatever my line per day average is, my two-week paycheck is the same number of dollars: so a 1,300 line per day average results in a $1,300 biweekly paycheck after taxes. My goal is to get back up to and maintain a 1,500-line-per-day average, which works out to about $60,000 per year before taxes. That, plus a second job that I'm looking at, should put me over The Mark (the 6-figure one), as it were.

Facebook Fun

Had some fun with my profile picture today on Facebook. No, not my own idea, but I thought it was cool.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Daily Report: Deplanned

I ordered a copy of my old college transcript so that I could see exactly where my historical GPA stands. In summary, I did one year of community college immediately after my time in the Navy and completed 34 transfer credits (no GPA attached); then I went to state college and did another 141 credits in 4 years. I maintained a nice B+ 3.3 grade point average until starting the final year, when I simply came a cropper and my GPA bombed down to 2.8.

What does this mean now for going to the Radiography program here in Florida? Well, the radiography program director told me that the general cutoff GPA for accepted applications is around 3.0. In order to raise my GPA from 2.8 to 3.0, I would need to get straight A's in 26 credits of courses. If I want to apply for the Radiography program in next January's enrollment, those 26 credits would need to be completed by December 31 of this year: over the next 2 semesters. (Unfortunately, as a still-out-of-state resident, I would be paying $350 per credit hour to the college instead of the locals' $100.)

So the upshot is: I would be spending over $9000 on classes, while getting nothing but A's, placing myself only right at the cutoff point (with many other applicants) of being accepted — in other words, having only a chance of being accepted — into the radiography program. Failure to get into the program would mean waiting an entire year (until January of 2013) to apply again (presumably having taken more credits to improve my total GPA to a less-risky distance from the cutoff point), in which case I wouldn't complete the program until June of 2015.

The way I see it, at my age if a college doesn't say, "Come in and sit down; let's get started today," then I just can't get that excited about doing some studies. I'm not going to spend a year or more — and all that money — taking all the prerequisite classes for a course of study into which there is a good chance I wouldn't be accepted. It's a shame too: I would have kicked ass on that curriculum and graduated at the top of my class. Their loss.

Well: I am going to stop by the college on Monday to talk to a guidance counselor about applying some "statute of limitations" to my old college records. As I said before: one shitty spate of grades in senior-level college economic courses taken 20 years ago should not in any reasonable mind be a vitiating factor for entry into a radiography course today;

But I fully expect they will tell me it is.

(Another option is to look at other colleges' radiography programs that might either cut me a break or have less competitive — and more sensible — entry requirements. That will be another blog post, perhaps.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

See What Happens When You Live In America?

You miss songs like this, which is a number one hit in 107 countries.

(Written by Australians, surprisingly. Based on an Italian song from the 1950's.)