Monday, May 27, 2013

Downward Spiral

The annoying thing about procrastination is that (if you haven't guessed already because of the post title) it is often a downward spiral. Take this situation for an example:

  1. On day 1 procrastinate for X hours
  2. And then stay up extra X hours to finish homework
  3. Next day be really tired
  4. Which leads to more inefficiency
  5. That leads to staying up late again
  6. Go back to step 1 (minus the fact that its no longer day 1)
Okay, that was a really bad example/not really an example. For me the problem is that procrastinating leads to being tired which leads to more procrastination which... Like this:

The downward spiral.

The trick is to get out of the spiral (no duh!), but that's easier said than done (*cough Internet *cough). I've contemplated plugging the Ethernet plug in my wireless router at home, but then there's my phone, which I could shut off, but then there's the fact that I have to do homework online... So no. That doesn't work. And even if I did pull the plug on the Internet there's still books and something to procrastinate on. Like other non-essential/not high priority work (kinda like this). Any good ways to not procrastinate?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rain Gardens

For the lack of a better topic to write about I'll talk about not having class and going outside to dig ditches and massacre plants. While a good third of the freshmen grade at my school today were busy with AP Bio, the remainder was consigned to forced manual labor. So instead of enriching our minds with various bits of knowledge, we were trundled out into the cold and put to work at our daunting tasks for roughly an hour or so. To put things into perspective "forced manual labor" means helping to weed a garden for an hour or so instead of sitting in a classroom and learning about plants and all those other things you need to know to pass biology. And "cold" means mid 50s. And "task" means a square meter of garden space that needs to be cleared of some vegetation.

Specifically our school has two rain gardens along one of the parking lots on the south side of the building, if I my memory/sense of direction is right (It's probably not). Okay, Google has confirmed that I have not suffered short term memory loss, yet. So, back to rain gardens.

Basically, the point of a rain garden is that when it rains, run off water flows across surfaces, e.g. parking lots and meadows, and picks up stuff along the way before draining into bodies of water. Specifically, on parking lots, which are more often then not used as places to park cars, which sometimes leak various chemicals, water can pick up a bunch of nasty pollutants, which are not something one wants in our water supply. This is where the rain gardens come in. Instead of letting water happily flow into a storm drain, stream, pond, lake, river, etc. the rain garden keeps water away from those sources and lets the water drain through the ground, which acts as a filter before the water reaches the ground water. This is done by basically digging a ditch in the way of the water flow. and planting some plants. Wikipedia probably has a better explanation on rain gardens.

Finally, back to what actually happened. If you were hoping for something interesting or unusual, you've come to the wrong place (or at least clicked the wrong link). Nothing really remarkable happened. Some gardeners came, told us what to do, and we got to work. A note of advice to anyone who is considering doing something like this: use gloves, and an action hoe is invaluable. Being the idiot I am I decided to use my hands instead of using a hoe/other tool to remove weeds in my area. In my defense there was a limited supply of tools, but using my hands without gloves was pretty stupid. But still, weeding was still a nice break from school work and it definitely beats sitting in a room for four hours bubbling circles.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Fault In Our Stars

Recently I've started reading more like how I used to read. Not including manga I haven't read that much this year, but just today I finally finished a really touching book. If the title wasn't obvious enough it was John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. After reading it I could easily see why it was so highly praised by both my classmates, teachers, and the rest of the world. 

Going into the book, I had no idea what it was about as I had simply gotten a copy and started reading without consulting any insides of covers or summaries. With no previous knowledge, except that so many people had said it was good, I had high hopes for the novel. And I wasn't disappointed. Somewhat surprisingly, I found my myself getting engrossed with the novel even though the topic wasn't anything that I particularly enjoyed. It was not science-fiction nor really adventure and I had never had that much interest in reading about cancer, which is a big part of The Fault in Our Stars. But, the way John Green wrote his story made me continue turning the pages, or rather press the next page buttons, to find out what would happen.

Which brings me to a slightly unrelated topic, which requires me to go back in time a year or so. So jumping back a couple of years in middle school I convinced my parents to buy me a Kindle. And, while I did end up using it to read a decent amount of books, it was a painful experience. In the course of one year I managed to break my Kindle's screen 4 times. 4 times. Which averaged to once every 3 months. The thing was, all I ever did was light usage and I even got a case. Thankfully, because of the warranty each time I got it repaired for free, but on the 4th time, which was just weeks before my warranty was up, I just gave up and never shipped it back to Amazon. So, it was pretty surprising that my parents bought me a Nook last Black Friday, then again, there was a steep discount...

Now, to bring this back to The Fault in Our Stars, I do regret not reading the book as a physical copy. In it there were several instances where there were images, and every time they weren't rendered properly. And I have a feeling the fonts and layout in a real book would have been different. Still, if it weren't for eBooks, I probably would never gotten a chance to read it so soon so I'll live with this win-lose situation. Now, time to start Looking for Alaska.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reorganizing My Homescreen

My first encounter with a smartphone was sometime ago when I borrowed an iPhone from someone and played around with it. That was before Android, Google, Windows Phone, and the modern state of the smartphone market. It was when Blackberries still dominated and the iPhone was only beginning to gain traction. It was when Palm was still a company. Today, the mobile technology sector is a far-cry from those early days. Android, Samsung, and Windows Phone have risen up (okay, Windows Phone is a stretch, it only holds something like <5% of the market...) and Palm and Blackberry have regressed, and disappeared, in Palm's case. Personally, I've jumped from an iOS user to Android. (Please do not try to start a fanboy war here.) I appreciate features from both of them (and all the other OS's out there), but I've settled down with Android since it works for me.

Now, to actually relate this post to the title... after yet another side note. So, one reason why I became an Android user was the ability to customize Android phones. While on iOS one's limited to a basically a grid of icons, on Android one can add widgets that change dynamically and provide both useful information and more variety in visual material when first viewing the phone. Additionally, one can download third-party (not made by Google, which makes Android) launchers which basically replace the standard home screens and application drawer. So what I've done is downloaded Apex launcher and used it to change the appearance of my launcher. Here are two screenshots comparing my standard home screen (that I never use) and the one made with Apex:


Left: Standard home screen with 4 by 4 grid with dock and search bar. Widgets used: Battery Solo Widget, Tiny Flashlight, Minimal Text
Right: My current home screen using Apex launcher to make a 5 by 7 grid without dock and search bar. Widgets used: Built in clock widget, Tiny Flashlight, Minimal Text, Lightflow

Overall, using Apex I've made a more appealing home screen that better utilizes the size of my phone's screen. This isn't a completely fair comparison as I haven't updated the former screen for a long time and this is my second and better designed home screen on Apex. Still, using Apex has given me more flexibility. If there's one complaint I have, it's that Apex lags a bit sometimes. Still, both stock and Apex give me far more options compared to iOS, which I think is one reason why I chose to get an Android phone instead of an iPhone.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Motivation

After writing almost daily for the month of March I've started to lose motivation to keep up this pace. While Slice of Life (SOL) was an interesting challenge, I don't think I'm going to be able to continue writing blog posts daily. As seen by yet another missed day (yesterday) I'm already losing focus and blogging is being pushed down my lists of priorities. One key thing is that this is post number 25, which happens to be the required amount that my English teacher is requiring for a grade. So, with that of the back of my mind I really don't know if I'm going to continue. Still, there is that small voice in the back of my head that keeps on nagging me about keeping this up, just because it's good for me. But... laziness and other things have taken priority over blogging. Still, at the very least I've come away from SOL with something.

2 things that I learned:

  1. There's almost always something to write about. If you think hard enough, or just pay attention, you'll eventually get something to write about, even if it's really boring/mundane. 
  2. Blogging takes time. While it may only be a few paragraphs, looking online for motivation/reading other posts can take a lot of time... Especially in our world of hyperlinks...
And thus I conclude my blog for all of eternity. Or at least until I get the motivation to make another post...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Schedules

So after keeping up a streak of 23 days I finally forgot to post a blog post... So today is only 24 instead of 25 (and it would be 26 if I hadn't missed March 1st...) Actually I did have something I was going to write about, which I haven't forgotten yet, so might as well start for today.

While break means more time to relax, it's also a time where I should have more time to work on long term assignments and projects. However, when it comes to group projects, meeting during break still proves to be as difficult as meeting during normal school weeks.

And on the note of school, I think this spring break was the first time that I went to school willingly over a break to do work... While school officially was out last Friday, my biology (and research) teacher was at school yesterday and he had offered to let students working on research projects to go to school and work. So in the end, instead of staying at home and wasting time on Monday morning, I went to school and worked on planting lettuce and radishes. Fun, no really, going to school over break wasn't bad at all. For one thing, I got to get a binder that I had forgotten to take home, now where's that lunch box that I lost... And seeing my school empty was an interesting experience.

Now back to scheduling issues. Besides that project I had to do in school yesterday, I was also involved in several other group projects. Scheduling them has been annoying, to say the least. While we had a week to find a day to meet, in the end, because of conflicting schedules and agendas we were forced into a single afternoon. Which was suppose to be this afternoon, but then because of scheduling changes we changed to Thursday. All this change is making me stress. Hopefully we'll be able to finish what we need to do.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Random Problems

First world problems aren't real problems, right? Anyways, minor annoyances are really annoying at times, so I'll talk about 2 minor problems that I've had for a while.

First is my issue with having too many accounts and passwords. When I first started I just tried to memorize passwords, but I'm kinda paranoid and use a different password for all my accounts (unless they're really unimportant) so that never worked. In the end I'm using a password protected source, but it's still a pain syncing and making sure I have the right information with me. And then I might forget the master password...

Problem number 2 is a more significant problem, though it is still really stupid. It actually is a chain of small, insignificant problems. First, my phone's battery life is horrendous. On a good day I'll get through with <20% left. So this leads to a number of energy saving procedures which include turning down display brightness and using airplane mode (which shuts off the mobile radio, which is used for phone calls, texts, 3G, 4G, etc.). Airplane mode is one part of the "bigger problem." But first the second part.

The second part of problem number 2 starts with school. Specifically, to keep my phone from ringing during class, and causing a number of issues, I put my phone into silent mode. Which along with airplane mode make up the "larger problem."

So... this "larger problem" is that I have a phone, but often when my parents call me I don't pickup. Why? Because of the two issues above. Just today I left my phone on airplane mode and when my parents called me to pick me up from an activity I never received their call... until after my dad found me. Only then did I did I realize that I had forgotten to disable airplane mode. So, yeah...

I did mention these were minor issues, right?