Contributing to family and society

I’m currently in Japan. Here, I’m trying to spend time especially with my grandmother. Given that I’ll have a vehicle next semester, I need money to pay for insurance and gas, so found a job through a friend. It was full-time, and despite me thinking I could balance family with work, I couldn’t. Because it was physical labor and it took one hour each way to commute to work, I’d barely have enough time to shower and eat before hitting the hay.

After four days of work, I quit and realized I couldn’t contribute to society properly without first contributing to my family. In the mean time, what am I going to do with the rest of my summer?

I want to spend time with family, of course, but when I can I want to see friends in Japan. What I can do to contribute to society is work on open-source projects. I’m reading up on how to do that now. Even though I won’t be paid to do so, it’s a good resume-builder since I want to go into programming as a career. Also, even with some brief reading, I’ve learned a lot about software architecture, not just programming.

My summer classes end this week. Even though I didn’t spend too much time on the classes anyway, it’ll be another requirement off my list for the summer.

If I’m going to be doing open-source development, it’s time for me to put some flavor of Linux on my machine (which I’ve been putting off for a while… shh)

My Greyhound experience

11:40 AM. I’ve finally finished packing everything for the summer, and am ready to get on the 11:55 bus to start my journey to Kentucky. I pull out my ticket, and my heart starts racing.

The bus is scheduled for 11:25. I missed my first bus. Suddenly, there’s a pressure behind my eyes threatening to break and release a torrent of tears.

Alright, what’s done is done. Just talk with the lady at the counter to see what I can do. “Oh, that bus hasn’t gotten here yet,” she said, barely looking up from her phone.

“Are you sure? How would I know when the bus gets here?” I ask.

“I’ll just yell it out,” she said calmly.

Alright. I’m still nervous and am frantically searching for delay information using my phone. Nothing available.

Finally, past noon, the bus arrives. After loading up my undercarriage baggage, I was on the bus.

Bus 1: Longview, TX to Vicksburg, MS–the tatted ordained minister and coast bicyclist


The person behind me had tats and was talking with the person next to him, a college student. She switched majors from pastor to writer. “You can become an ordained minister with online courses, you know. I’m one, even though I’ve never used it” the guy with tats said.

Now, you aren’t supposed to judge by appearance but this guy was old and had tats all over, with a word I can’t remember but didn’t bring pleasant thoughts prominently displayed on the back of his neck. So that guy was interesting.

Then, there was a bicyclist across the aisle. He came from the center of California on the coast, and was heading to Myrtle Beach. He talked a lot about biking through Colorado and other things.

Bus 2: Vicksburg, MS to Memphis, TN

Nothing too interesting on this bus. I had two seats to myself so watched as much Legend of Korra as I could.

There was lots of farmland, and a lot of the ground was sand. Wonder that things grew there.

Bus 3: Memphis, TN to Louisville, KY–confessing to felonies and police

Between Memphis and Nashville, I sat next to a guy who was taller and wider than me. I’m big enough, you don’t have to put two big guys next to each other. While I was trying to get some shut-eye, the guy started talking with a lady across the aisle. He said he stole multiple cars, broke them apart for parts, and sold them. The police came and knew he did something, but couldn’t find evidence. When we got off at Nashville, I switched seats.

At Nashville, we had a two-hour layover. I didn’t feel safe, so chose not to sleep and instead watched some more Legend of Korra. Two hours passed quickly with that.

We got back on the bus, and before we left, the driver asked about a bag that matched the description of mine. Apparently, we were supposed to pick up all baggage and get a baggage claim tag. My bag was almost left in Nashville!

When we did leave, the sun was threatening to rise above the horizon. People didn’t get much sleep, so we wanted to maximize our darkness time. Then, out of the blue, a lot of laughter from the rear of the bus. One of the employees got up to check on the ruckus and give warnings. A woman talked back and said “I can do whatever I want.”

The bus stopped at the next freeway exit and waited for the police to escort her off the bus. She went willingly, it seemed.

I got plenty of sleep after that until nearly Louisville.

Bus 4: Louisville to Lexington, KY

Last stretch of the trip. This bus was relatively empty. I watched a whole lot of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Finally met up with my parents after starting out with a delay


Interesting people on bus. Tatted ordained minister, a person confessing to felonies, and the police taking a woman off the bus. Every possible Greyhound story happened on my trip.


  • Dang, do people on these buses like to smoke. At least 1/5 of the bus took a smoke break every time we stopped.
  • Instructions unclear. No electronic display boards for people to know which bus is at which gate, nor information about delays. Not even online. No information about me needing to get a baggage claim tag.
  • The microphone goes to their heads. Drivers like to drive, and not deal with passengers, their payload. So every little bit of power like access to a microphone and knowing they could kick off a passenger at any time seems to give a majority of the drivers an excuse to be as rude as possible. Think about where your paycheck comes from.
  • If the bus weren’t delayed, or the driver didn’t point out my baggage, I would have had a much harder trip. Divine intervention there!

A General Life Update

It’s been a little more than a month since I settled in at LeTourneau University.

Classes have been fun, but I wish I had more credit hours. My adviser said that I had challenging classes, so should take fewer credit hours. I’m blazing through homework in those “challenging” classes and the fifth week of school is over. I could have taken three more credit hours and still be under the 18 hr/sem limit.

Speaking of classes, I’m really enjoying our Bible class. It’s more challenging than my high school’s Bible classes (well, I’d hope so…) but we’re also going through lots of books outside of C.S. Lewis and it’s making me understand my faith more. I’m thinking about things frequently that had never crossed my mind a year ago.

I’ve joined the rugby club for exercise and socialization, and that’s going well. Practices are 6 hr/wk.

Because I have experience with yearbooking in high school, I supposed it wouldn’t be bad to do it here. I get paid by the spread, and I get to meet new people through my work, so I’ll try my best to take advantage of that.

Getting along well with my roommate. He’s cool.

Found a church that I think I will continue attending. Some of my friends also attend, so that’s nice. Right now, we’re going through the book of James. It’s good that our pastor started off with emphasizing that works are a fruit of faith, and not the other way around. So many people tend to justify salvation through works based on the book of James. Plus, the youth group there is cool with coffee and the discussions. Separate from the main pastor’s sermon, we’re going through what it means to “strengthen oneself in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:1-6).

In a way, the fewer credit hours are opening up different opportunities for socialization/getting to fit in with yearbook and rugby, so I’ll try to look on the bright side of that.

About my recent non-functioning photos

A while ago, my images stopped displaying correctly. After a lot of troubleshooting and forum posts, I finally found the reason (and solution to) my image links not displaying correctly.

Images on the web work by referencing other files; like receiving a letter without photos but the letter itself asks the receiver to look at images they can already look at (maybe like “remember our summer on ’06? Take a look at the album we made all those years ago!”). The images could not be loaded because the sender asked the receiver to look in the wrong location for the photos.

This happened because I had moved WordPress multiple times and it moved my photos to that same location as well—however, my “letters” didn’t update the “receiver” to look in the right place. Now, WordPress posts are managed by a database. I can easily update the database to point the old locations to a new location by looking for patterns. I ran a SQL command like this:

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE(post_content, "src=\"", "src=\"")

WHERE post_content LIKE "src=\" %"

It ran. I couldn’t for the life of me get the SQL command to return a result, the whole reason for running such a command. So I’m now manually replacing such information using a fantastic Mac application called Sequel Pro.

The fact that I can’t correctly write a SQL command just shows that I have to brush up on my MySQL.

Until next time.

The Challenges of Cooking in Japan

Living in Japan, you have to make many lifestyle adjustments; cooking and baking is one of them.

The other day, my dad made an amazing poppy seed lemon cake using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Problem was, it used eight egg yolks and I didn’t really have a recipe to use up the egg whites. A few days later my dad made macaroons using two of the egg whites, and I just was given some peppermint candies, so I used a recipe from Simply Recipes to make peppermint meringue cookies. It requires that you cook the cookies for just one minute at 300°F/150°C, using the residual heat overnight to make the cookies nice and fluffy.

The first problem, though minor, is the units, especially for temperature. Most recipes use imperial units for baking, yet most of the world uses metric units and you have to refer to an external source for converting units. Maybe I’m just really lazy.

Second is the ovens. Most homes in Japan don’t have gas ovens, and if you do, you pay through the nose for one. Often, it’s a combination electric oven/microwave (if even that). The size is smaller, AND most models have fans to cool down the oven after it’s used. That means I couldn’t use the residual heat overnight… but I overcame that by simply unplugging the ovens so the fans couldn’t spin 😀

The final and most frustrating problem with this recipe was the recommendation to make it on a dry day. Too bad—Japan, being an island country, can be considered relatively humid almost every day. I should have realized that the recipe would fail when the crushed peppermint candies started to stick to each other, but I pushed on to see if the recipe would work. It didn’t. Everything was gooey in the morning, so I continued to bake them for 10 minutes at 100°C to dry them out, to almost no avail.

End result: the meringues tasted good, but were more of a chewy/icky candy mixture in your mouth, like melted marshmallows sans third-degree tongue burns.

There are issues with cooking in Japan, most of which can be overcome, but with recipes that are humidity-sensitive, it may be best to leave those untested (unless you have a dry room in your home that’s artificially adjusted to have ultra-low humidity).

MLA Basics for a Bible Student at CAJ Using Apple’s Pages

I’m writing this post for a friend who isn’t familiar with MLA format for Bible classes at CAJ, due to the fact that he entered his Junior year in a school where we’ve been practicing MLA since at least middle school, if not earlier.

A template for Pages that has everything of Part One to Four set up. Just open the file and Pages should recognize it as a template.

Part One: Page Setup

First, you need to set up your paper to use A4 so that it doesn’t get fudged up when it’s printed on A4 when your computer’s assuming that it’s printing in US Letter. In Pages, do a (command-shift-p) to bring up this dialog:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.13.07To keep it in A4, go to System Preferences, Print & Scan, then change the default paper size:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.17.56That was fun… maybe. Last step for this part: page margins. The MLA standard has rules for margin sizes, with enforcement of the standard depending on the teacher. Might as well play it safe. Bring up the Inspector dialog by either clicking “Inspector” in the toolbar or hitting (command-option-i):

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.22.01Then change the margin settings to 1 inch all over, with half an inch for headers and footers.

Part Two: Name Block and Header

The second part consists of making your paper identifiable by the teacher. This includes your name, teacher’s name, class, and due date. In the header would be your last name and page number of the paper. We can even have Pages set up your date automatically, but I like the control I have manually, so I don’t do that. This is my header:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.32.37


I have Pages set up to automatically insert page numbers for every page of my paper.

The date standard is (day month year), with the month being spelled out in its entirety, while the date and year are typed out in numbers. Set up the header’s automatic page number insertion like so:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.41.52


Under the “Insert” menu item, select “Auto Page Numbers.” The following dialog should show up:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.42.56


Change the settings to account for the MLA standard, with the position being in the header, aligned to the right, then click the big blue “Insert” button.

Part Three: Body

In your paper’s content, the MLA standard wants you to use 12pt Times New Roman. If your paper isn’t already so, change this now. Do the same for the header, as Pages doesn’t adjust the font of your header unless you explicitly tell it to do so.

MLA papers are all double-spaced, meaning that there are huge margins between two lines of text, often so there is space to write notes. Do this in the format bar, where there is a double-arrow line pushing vertically against two parallel lines:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.49.08


Finally, using the blue sliders in the ruler right below the format bar, move the horizontal bar to the half-inch position—this makes it so that you have a half-inch indentation with each new paragraph.

Part Four: Works Cited

The MLA standard wants you to cite where you get your information on a separate page—which makes sense, as the MLA standard is for academic papers.

Insert a page break, then center the title as “Works Cited.” The indentation style for the works cited page is a bit different—it’s a “hanging indent” where the first line of your citation isn’t indented, while every line after the first is. Do this simply by reversing the sliders from Part Three:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.55.37


Part Five: Actually Citing the Bible

The most confusing thing about MLA is the citation style, as how you need to cite an article or passage of the Bible changes depending on the context of the article or your paper. For now, let’s stick to citing the Bible.

If you paraphrase a part of the Bible, you don’t need to say the version, only the passage it came from. This, too, is tricky, because you have to

  1. Find the correct abbreviation for the book of the Bible you’re citing
  2. Use periods instead of semicolons for chapter and verse separation

If you’re quoting directly from the Bible and it’s the first time doing so from that version in your paper, you have to cite which version the passage is from in full, which should be italicized. For the second time and onwards, if you’re using the same edition, there is no need to cite the edition, only the book, chapter, and verse(s).

The final product should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 13.00.57That’s it for citing the Bible. Good luck with your paper!


Stream of Consciousness Piece: “Snow”

Preface: in our English class today, we read Emerson’s “Nature.” This is just an exercise that we did that didn’t need to be publicized, but I’m doing it anyway.

It snowed today. Rare in Tokyo. Because of its rarity, the city goes into a seemingly tranquil panic—panicking because it may mess up the orderly life of the city, tranquil because of the beauty of the fluffy snow.

“Take the bus,” says my mother, looking at the snow outside. It is less than an inch thick. The small road leading into our residential area is covered in snow—packed down, threatening to form slippery, potentially life-threatening ice. My father wakes up, takes a look out the window and casually says “there’s no need to take public transportation; just take your bike like usual.” Cautiously, I strap my boots on and test the ground… an inch of snow, it’s nothing. Unlock my bike, and head down the hill in front of our neighbourhood.

The repeated passing of cars’ wheels have melted and pushed aside the snow and now it’s just water. An inch of snow, it’s nothing.

Down to another minor-traffic road and my wheels slip, but I regain balance without my feet contacting the ground. However, a man on his trike falls over. I get off my bike to help him up, yet he says he can take care of himself. Very well, I go on my way.

The rest of the trip was peaceful; the now-slush snow crunching under my tires, the occasional still-snow patch of snow painting my tires white. The melting snow falling off of branches in eraser-sized clumps. 2:30 PM, there is no trace of the snow from this morning.

The Stress of Dealing with a GPA

Oh, how time passes.

A year ago, I finished my first semester of Sophomore year. I took the year lightly, and although I cared a bit about my grade, I wasn’t necessarily stressed out about my GPA, nor was I striving to turn a B into a B+.

With Junior year already halfway done, I was doing some more research on what kind of grades I need to get in order to be eligible for competition in my desired school’s full scholarship program. Here are the requirements:

  • 1260 or more combined on the math and reading section of the SAT (I already have 1340)
  • GPA of 3.6 or more (they are unclear about weighted or not)

I’ve passed the SAT requirements, but need to show consistency in my schoolwork and since I’m taking the SAT again this weekend, should definitely focus on improving my critical reading and math scores. Currently, my weighted GPA is at a 3.5 or 3.6.

On another note, I’m taking Graphic Design class this semester. It fulfills my fine arts requirement for graduation and it seems like it’d be a class I sincerely enjoy.

Now that I’m stressing out about my GPA, I need to start organizing my time. Working is out of the question if I want to even compete for a full scholarship (which has a less than 10% acceptance rate). Since this school is the only one I’m planning on applying to, I’d have to be accepted (though I’m fairly confident that I’ll be accepted).

To sum it up, I’ll need to step up my game a notch because I’ve been just scooting along, manage my time better, but also live life to the fullest by finding enjoyment in everything I do.

The Screwtape Letters chapter 8 response—or, “I’m feeling relatively lonely recently.”

Chapter 8 of The Screwtape Letters is about the natural undulations inherent to human nature. The Patient is currently in a “Christianity trough” in the ups-and-downs of Christian life. Every chapter that I read (or the class reads) is incredibly relevant to me and the world today.

As students are teaching/guiding the class, we have specific response questions to do. This chapter’s was something like “imagine that for the next two months, you have late assignments [our school penalizes 10% per day, stopping at 50% off] and still are assigned more and more, making even more late assignments, you’re getting into fights with your family members, don’t have a good time when you hang out with friends, and don’t have the funds to do what you want. On top of all that, you have several quizzes and tests every few weeks.”

This response prompt is so relevant to me, especially about the friends, that it hurts. I haven’t really felt a place among my classmates save for a few close friends. The problem seems to be that I’m involved in so much extracurricularly. I’m on my school and church’s sound and lights team, do middle school ministry at my church, work at my school after my studies three out of five days of the week. I’m just “the guy that’s always there” and get left out of many conversations in my classes. Even the one class I feel welcome in I’ll have to leave next week to start a new semester with Digital Photography.

What’s worst is that everyone thinks that I was at this school for my Freshman year. Well, I was overseas for the whole year. As one person described it, “Chris, we always feel your protective presence!” I have no idea if that’s good or bad, but what I do know is that I was left out of many class-bonding experiences that my class had in 2010-11. Among other things:

  • My class ousted the most-despised teacher in the school because of his sexual harassment of girls in any grade. Keep in mind that this guy was married, too. On top of showing gender-based favoritism (and harassment—not that equal-opportunity harassment is good), he also disliked Asians… too bad that half of our grade, if not more, is like that.
  • This was the year that the 3/11/11 earthquake happened in Japan. My schoolmates were out for over a month, taking classes and discussing online. While school was out, students were helping with whatever relief they could do, between asking for donations in the busiest parts of Tokyo and aiding in immediate relief.
  • Right when people seemed to be getting over the earthquake’s effects and graduation was drawing near, a Senior was involved in a motor accident which suddenly ended his life. The chapel that the school had following his death, was, obviously, filled with emotion with people who’d never think of doing so hugging each other.

It just seems weird that I haven’t been together in the bonding experiences in the worst trials, yet everyone thinks I was there. The more I think and write about it, it probably means I don’t even need to be in this grade because I pose no specific purpose to it “always being there” and all.

As for the other things, like school work, I’m taking seven classes out of the seven periods that we have every day, with no study hall at all. The only day I have free to do homework right after school (place and time I can concentrate the most) is Thursday. If need be, I can move things around, but it’s not ideal for myself or the others that are either hiring me or expecting me to be practicing with the chapel band. Next year is going to be equally stressful if I do take all the classes I’m anticipating to, which are

  1. Bible & PE (required)
  2. Spanish III (personally optional, but I want to learn more)
  3. AP Psychology
  4. Physics
  5. AP Calculus
  6. English (required)
  7. Japanese Culture/Global Issues (required)
  8. Computer Programming/CompSci (before school, so no schedule conflict yet and possibly a one-semester class)
  9. Art I (one semester)
  10. Yearbook (year-long class)

Those are eleven classes, of which four are required and one is before school. I’d need nine periods in the day to do what I want to do. I also have my job, which I can quit next year, but don’t want to. My service activities surrounding worship and other things are going to take at least ten hours out of every week. If I want to join the Student Council and am elected to do so, that’s another average of two to four hours out of my week. I can hardly do independent study, and Senior year is supposed to be even more stressful than Junior year because we have a thing called Senior Comprehensives where we need to find a global issue, present on it, and offer solutions for it as a year-long project. There’s so much that I want to do, but not enough homework time, motivation, and relaxing time.