Well, technically, Summer ended four days ago at approximately 11:44am EDT. But for me, today is the end of my personal summer break. Today is the first day of the Fall quarter at Cal Poly Pomona. I am officially back at school.
It's definitely been another long while since I posted anything, but I've had quite a busy few months to make (baseless) excuses with. Sometimes I feel bad about not posting, but most of the time, it's just totally not on my mind. I happen to have a few minutes right now, and it just seems like a good time to write something with all the stuff that's been going on with me and the economy and the election and all of that.
I have sometimes asked myself, “Why write these things at all?” It's not like I'm making any money from it, and I have no idea how interested any of you actually are to be reading whatever it is that I'm writing here on such a seldom basis. But the reality is that I'm actually writing because I like writing. Curse you, Dr. Bridwell, for that high school English class that gave me the tools to communicate. :-p Okay, maybe it isn't such a bad thing. What this means is that I'd probably keep writing even if I found out that nobody at all actually read this stuff. So, here I am again.
As for the stuff that has gone on since my last post in the middle of May, here's a very basic synopsis: I finished my third quarter at Cal Poly, visited VA for a couple weeks and got engaged, spent a couple months of the summer back here with my fiancée, went to Knott's Berry Farm, Disneyland, Palm Springs, Catalina, and a host of other places, did a whole bunch of programming work, invested in gold and silver, became more interested in political matters, began wedding plans, and just now started school again. How's that for an overview?! Now for some detail.
First, the engagement. My engagement to Courtney actually happened on Christmas Day in 2007; we made an announcement to everyone back there when I flew in on the 12th of June (which was the four-year anniversary of the day we met), after a second proposal (yes, really) on Skyline Drive at the Shenandoah Overlook on the way back from the Dulles airport. This six-month delay between action and report caused some discomfort, and I have to say that given another chance, I might have gone in on Christmas Day and told everyone on the spot what happened. However, we had some good family-trouble-related reasons for waiting to avoid complicating the already volatile situation at the time. Having the engagement just to ourselves for six months really did change the dynamics of our relationship in a positive way though, and I really wonder whether the same thing would have happened if everyone else was let in on it at the same time. I kind of doubt it. It's not an easy thing to live across the country from your girlfriend.
This distance has also complicated the wedding plans, as you might imagine. Our dream is a sunset beach wedding in California. This creates a problem for those who would have to fly over here to attend, even though the guest list we had in mind is relatively small. We spent a long time debating which coast to have it on precisely because of this difficulty, and finally decided to do it here because it's our wedding and our dream from which to create memories—not to be selfish, but just to be true to ourselves in something where we get to look back on it for the rest of our lives. It didn't really make sense to us to compromise on something as foundational as that.
Our next task was to find a location in So Cal that would work for our needs. When your criteria include “beach” and “inexpensive,” that's almost a full-time job all by itself. There are always good things and bad things about every site we've looked at, and enough of each that nothing has been definitively a good choice. It's hard to say right now what we'll actually do. It's a good thing we still have almost ten months. I'd vote for something incredibly small and simple right now.
As for work, the last couple weeks have been probably the most demanding I've ever experienced, at least in terms of sustained effort. I had to code a web-based system that would communicate with (and ultimately replace) QuickBooks Online as part of the accounting subsystem of the project I've spent the last five years working on at the company I work for. I've averaged almost an 80-hour week for a couple weeks, and there have been multiple times we stayed after midnight, and one time where we stayed all the way through until the middle of the next morning. Yeesh. I really don't want to do that again. Things have calmed down now. I like the work and the people, but that much of anything can get really old. If school hadn't started to rescue my schedule, I might have gone insane. :-p Okay, not really. Things have been winding down on their own since we accomplished most of the goal.
Speaking of school, today I started my final year (not including any hypothetical graduate education). I talked with my Computer Science advisor today in between classes, and we determined that I actually only have 24 units left to take after my current quarter. Plus, if I'm really lucky, I can use one class from this quarter to satisfy two requirements, and then I'll only have 20 units left. That's one 16-unit quarter, and finally one quarter with only one or two classes in it. I am really stoked about that! I thought I'd have to do more; the numbers are all there though. Now I just need to pick one final elective, and then make sure I don't get anything less than a “C” in any class. I'm on track to graduate this spring. Sweet! This quarter, I have Numerical Methods (i.e. solving complex math problems with a computer), Database Systems, Algorithm Design, and Computer Networks. I'm looking forward to all of them so far, but I've only made it through one day of classes yet, so give me some time to become less optimistic. :-p
Now, on to political interest. I have discovered that perhaps a more fitting political label for me—as opposed to the often pejorative Libertarian—is the slightly tongue-in-cheek term "Paleoconservative" (which uses the Greek prefix paleo- to imply the old or ancient form of conservatism). I can't say 100% that I adhere to everything they say in the linked Wikipedia article, but I am at least very close. A few basic tenets are that federal control and intervention are dangerous and often destructive, and should be absolutely minimized; America should not be involved in foreign wars or wars of aggression, and should be extremely wary even of things like economic sanctions on other countries; secession by individual states was and should be Constitutional; the nuclear family is a key part of American society, and marriage should only be between a man and a woman. You can see more details in the article, if you're interested. I think it's a relatively new term though…there are only 22 people in the Orange County Facebook network that have labeled themselves as such. :-p
The only candidate that I felt I could actually support based on what I know was Ron Paul. He never really did have a chance, but his platform was incredible. He would have done exactly what we needed to have happen…which, I suppose, it probably why he never had a chance. It's pretty obvious that you can't make it into a position of being a serious contender for the office of the President without the support of one of the two major parties, and I firmly believe that you cannot possibly get that support unless you're corrupt enough to do what they want. The political system is devoid of altruism at this level. Nobody will give you any real power just because they think you're a good person. They have to get something back. If Americans cared enough as a whole, they might do something about it, but it's far too easy just to keep the status quo, since true fundamental change would probably require nothing short of a revolution, in the classical sense.
That being said, this time around I might vote for someone I know can't possibly win, just on principle. Although, living in California, it's probably safe bet to say any non-Obama vote isn't going to make a difference, since we're historically a solidly left-leaning state. We'll see though. It's just a real bummer that we're effectively forced into a decision between two terrible candidates. We should have a real multi-party system like some European countries have.
Economically…well, I'm not quite sure where to start or what to say. Some would say, if you have any equity, cash it out and buy a boatload of silver (which has many practical uses, and is currently very undervalued in relation to gold). There are a lot of indicators that the dollar could go belly-up soon. I'm not an economist though, and more importantly, I don't have any home equity to cash out, so it's kind of a moot point for me. However, I am currently buying silver (and some gold) with any income I can spare. Whether the dollar tanks or not, it's still a good investment. Just look at the historical prices over the last five or ten (or more!) years. Economically, we're actually in a place not all that far from where the USSR was before it broke apart. If that darn $700 billion government mortgage buyout goes through, we'll be one very large step closer.
Okay…I went all over the map with this one. I think I'll stop for now. I need to sleep. Anyone want to place bets on how long it will take me to post again?