Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reconnect.

I had the opportunity to attend another close friend's wedding last night and had a blast. It was a fantastic service, and the reception was great. The groom was courteous enough to schedule it for Michigan's bye week, and the bridal party entered to The Victors, so I felt right at home.

One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed the wedding was just the ability to reconnect with all the friends I am unable to see while I go to school in Ann Arbor. It had been at least a couple of months since I had seen most of them, and even longer for others.

Being who I am, I have a lot of devices that rechargeable batteries. I can pull the plug for a while and the gadget will function just fine, but eventually the cells start to run dry. The warning beep sounds. I get a little red pop-up window on my laptop saying that it is "running on reserve power." That is when I need to bust out the power cord and find the nearest wall socket. Once it has been plugged back in, though, it runs just like it had before.

Solid friendships are similar. With many surface level friendships, being disconnected for a little while is really no huge problem, but after some time they go stale. That is what happens when you see someone in the grocery store that has been absent from your life. It is awkward. Great friends are different. Reconnecting brings both parties back to their last encounter, and conversation flows.

That was my experience last night. I had so much fun learning about where all of my friends are in either their education or their new careers, along with all of the other things going on in their lives. It was great to fill them in on my situation and plans as well.

Most of all, the evening put in perspective how blessed I am with good friends, both those that were at the wedding and all of the others as well. Many people have more friends than I do (mostly because I'm horrible at introducing myself to someone new), but the quality of the ones I do have is unmatched.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Thin Line.

It has been an incredibly busy week for me here in Ann Arbor, which is a little unfortunate since Monday and Tuesday were technically fall break and class was cancelled yesterday. I recall a few times when I thought about something I wanted to jot down here but completely forgot what they were. Evidently they were relatively unimportant. I have some time now before a discussion section though, and figured it would be a good time to write something.

The reason I have been so busy this last week is that out of my three classes, two have projects due today and the other has a research project that is just getting started. My Artificial Intelligence project was fairly easy and only took an hour or so to complete. (Still not sure if that counts as a project... felt more like a homework problem.) My Operating Systems project, on the other hand, has been a little more intense.

After spending seven hours in the library with my team on Monday, another five or six there on Tuesday, and probably another ten or fifteen hours on my own in my apartment working on it, that project is finally complete to a point where we feel comfortable handing it in. (We have a few more tweaks to do, but as of now our grade is guaranteed to be over 90%, probably closer to %95. I'll take it.) This is as good a place as any to express my extreme thanks for my teammates and their hard work. It feels great to work on a project and have everyone pulling their weight or more.

One interesting thing to me throughout the process though was how incredibly thin the line between frustration and elation can be.

Fixing the little problems in our software took a long time, and most of that time was spent staring at code that looked 100% correct to us but was clearly flawed. Then, after pounding our heads against the wall for hours, we would finally see something; a missed line of code, an extra one, or an incorrect function call. It is often hard to believe such a small error can mess things up so severely.

This is a phenomenon that is not unique to software development. Tiny mistakes cause huge problems all the time. Ever tried to shift from 3rd to 4th and gotten reverse instead? Run a chemistry experiment and added two mL of acid instead of one? Written an email and misspelled a critical word?

We live in a world on the edge of chaos. Things go wrong at the slightest provocation, but that fact happens to be what makes things so awesome when they go right.

That is why after pacing around my apartment talking to myself, walking myself through every line of code, and air-drumming along with whatever music I happened to be listening to at the time for what seemed like two hours, I went a little crazy when I found the bug. (It was actually more like 20 minutes. I know because I put in a pizza just when I was starting to go crazy and fixed the problem just as it was finishing up. Nothing like the aroma of cooking pepperoni to encourage productive thinking.) Proof of my insanity is preserved in my twitter account. I usually refrain from posting things like "WOOODEBUGGINGISHARDBUTFUNWHENYOUFIXSOMETHING!!!" I sent out texts to my team members that were entirely comprised of capital letters and exclamation points as well.

The feeling of frustration before a breakthrough is why people quit. The feeling of elation is why people don't.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

He's Unconscious!

This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time now (years even), and have yet to make any real sense of it, so if you have any advice or insight, please do not hesitate to leave feedback here, on facebook, via email, or whatever. I would love a little bit of conversation on the topic.

I watched another Michigan football game yesterday, and am still basking in the afterglow a bit. Sure, our defense is just plain not very good, but that Denard Robinson kid, well, he does his best to avoid putting out performances that can be confined by words. Too much fun. I have been looking for an illustration for my current topic for a while, and Denard's play seems fitting, though any other athlete playing at a high level is as well. (This will all hopefully make sense in a moment.)

Ever since Sunday school I have been told by adults, pastors, Bible study leaders, and so on that as Christians, we should live in such a way that we honor Christ. We should consider the question "What Would Jesus Do?" in all situations. Sounds simple. Think again.

It becomes so easy in our daily lives to forget to consider whether our decisions and actions are God-honoring that we can go hours or even days at a time without giving it a second thought. God could not possibly care less what I eat for breakfast, God is not interested in whether I spend another half hour watching TV, and God does not notice when I litter. That is the mindset I have on most days. Clearly it needs fixing, but how?

Great athletes hold at least part of the answer to this question. One phrase that is often used to describe the play of an athlete on a particularly outstanding day is, "Wow. He's just unconscious out there right now!" I have said this about Denard Robinson in the past few weeks on numerous occasions. He apparently lacks the need to take the time to think about his next action. Take the snap. Look left. Look right. Checkdown. No one open. Run left. Follow blocker. Defender coming, juke right, avoid safety. Run. Run. Run. Does he think through each of these steps and mentally check them off? Nope, that would be impossible. There is just not enough time for that type of thought process. It must be instinctual; each of his reads must be internalized so that he can avoid thinking and focus on playing.

It is the same way with our day to day Christian lives. There will be times that we need to press pause to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider what our next action should be, but for the most part we need to have internalized God's word and will to the point that our natural, instinctive, reflexive actions align with them.

The question then I suppose is, how can we get to that point? I have yet to find the full answer to that question, but I am sure it includes frequent study of the Bible and constant contact with God through prayer. Both of those are things I struggle with on a regular basis, but am trying to work on.

Thoughts, suggestions? I would love to get some feedback on this one.