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The Road Trip Summer 2015

road trip
Team Eric begins, eric at the wheel. gw bridge traffic in new York at midnight. the furnace of the cars rush in as we pull down windows. i take my first cig.

middle Pennsylvania at 7. Team Darsh to drive (with me in shotgun). Abundance of trucks. A Starbucks and my first cig. Stopped at a gas station in Ohio rural. Sold beer and prided itself with deer hunt photos. The sun is bright into store behind the lady at the register. Rude looking portapotty out back

Friday Afternoon
A long interstate. blue sky over a rest area stop. Meeting of doppelgangers and their daughters. Reached Indianapolis. A walk along a Venice canal and a university. Lunch at Burgerhaus. Indianapolis was real nice.

I drive to Chicago as team Darsh. Wind farm. Giant windmill for unending miles out into the hazy distance. Team Eric missed it all. A discussion of video game development.
Arrived at Hammond. Our unease of the ghetto. beautiful brown metallic industrial infrastructure. Bridge to Chicago.

Starbucks' depressed barista. Sears tower group selfie to Charles. A walk through the city. Women. Falling out of their shorts. Women. A drained Mike. Brown buildings. Mike tips a bum and gets shit in return. The white sculpture face. The mirrored bean. Looking up the underside of the bean to glimpse infinity. A bird's nest outdoor entertainment venue. Waiting for Deep dish pizza. The girl with Beatles LP and not much on. Another bum. A violent cocktail inside him. Takes our change but wants more while dropping the change. Shows his wrist. Staggers and hobbles away after a long exchange. Mike manages a talk.

Friday night
leaving chivago under team eric, enroute to Minneapolis, and it is 10. Team Darsh falls asleep. Midway to Minneapolis and we stop at Madison's Ho-Chunk casino. More smoke than oxygen. We arrive 15 minutes before they instate smoke-free rule forever. Eric loses 20 and gets it all back. The crowd is half native. A black entry attendant hands out cushiony stress-reliever toys, a happy yellow pooh bear, pants free and buttocks well defined. We brush our teeth in the parking lot. Eric loses out on the last two slices.

Past midnigjt
Between a rock and hard place. We are 4 hours from Minneapolis but our escape room appoinent there is 9:30pm at night. The hotel check-in won't be till noon. We head there anyway, team eric at the helm some more. Clear skies, a bright piercing full moon provides for the sea of farmland to our right. It is dark enough not to discern what is out in the fields, but the moving aquatic land is ghostly under the lunar glare. Team Darsh takes over but even the red bulls can't keep us up. The road is a long 120 miles but he makes only halfway before taking a rest area for regen. Team eric dorsnt even wake up to the sudden motionless silence of the car.

I wake with a start as Darsh gets back in car. Full disorienting confusion before I realize it's been a nap of two hours. We head out once again, down the straight road to our el Dorado. Another group selfie of me and a still motionless team eric, Mike giving me a careless look.
Free parking outside farmers market. Eats at mickeys diner. 80 year old restaurant. A no shit waitress. Hashbrowns that look like mashed potatoes with a crusty skin. I think of the movies filmed here. A search for bathroom. The skyway has a locked one. A city tour guide tells us with an earnest smile "pee? You mean like a man? there's an alleyway just around the corner and there is a wall with graffiti. There's a dumpster next to it..." We try a coffee shop. Eric realizes the one stall is taken by someone shooting up. I realize he and Mike need to take a number 2. A long walk to get back to car, headed for the mall of America, for the public toilet situation on Minneapolis is shot.

Saturday afternoon
Mall of America and Mike and Eric finds relief. We find no one is over 18. An aquarium and Nickelodeon amusement park. Lego monstrosities. Bubble tea. A tour of the largest mall I have ever seen. Back to the car and darshs meltdown. Figure the Ac been used to its limits and the car hasn't felt a moments rest. We sit at the lobby of a hotel hours before check-in. I am empty of reserves. A run across avenues, through heat and grass and grazing ducks in suburban twin town of Minneapolis, straight to McDonalds. Mcdouble with big Mac sauce. Check-in. 3 hours before escape room and we are dead to the world.

Saturday night
I get up with a start in confusion. We drunkenly arrive at the escape room and after the door closes and locks behind us I wake up. Two other groups are handcuffed with us, two couples and a father and son. We lose. Our streak ends. The hotel's cold water runs from the arctic and the showerhead pressure is vicious. We sleep, long and dormant.

7:30 on the dot Mike wakes for the complimentary breakfast. I follow suit. Darsh arrives later, then Eric. I see that Rousey won in 34 seconds from the night previously. Back in hotel room and a heated debate over equality and socialism between Eric and Mike. Darsh referees. I take my painful cold shower. Back out into the road, to north Dakota and Montana and beyond. 14 hours away. The second step of the Google maps directions reads 900 miles.

Rest stop, a bathroom that smells like a chicken coop. drag of a cigarette, but this is not my first time this road trip, nor the second.
Flat land. Lush farm land. Corn and wheat. The stretch to the left and right, behind us and ahead of us. The hours pass. Folk, country music against the blue cloudless above. Sun shines upon the open. We stop at the gas station. Hells angels roar into the lot. I smoke with Mike against hood of car overlooking the fields of infinity.
Back on the road and the sun edges lower over our west-looking windshield. A mesa. More hills. The farmland recedes as the hilly prairie takes the stage. Out in the distance rolling humps of land.
7:00 but the timezone just went back an hour. Now 8.5 hours on the road. Mike still going strong, but now needs a coffee. He has just driven two timezones in a day. A gas station for refill and I see what seems to be the same hells angels, maybe a member or two replaced. Our gang is quieter. The colors of the sky are warmer. Team eric pulls down the blinders to shield the sun. We keep driving the straight road West.
Theodore Roosevelt canyon and the setting sun. Dead sound, except for the crunch of gravel and grass under our shoe.

Mike continues behind the wheel while I take copilot. The road becomes barren. Rocky hills sprout from the ground all around. The sun is an orange. it dips out of view. 'the Evening redness in the west.' An exit and a smoke break. One truck passes. 'Home on the range.' A Serene soundtrack, slow magic. Philosophizing with Mike on our 4 hour of speeding trek through Montana night. False alarm of deer. Fears of false cops and slenderman and coyotes... and deer. 75 on cruise control. We pass by one truck every hour. Blood moon. stars are out but not the milky band. Dark sentinels among flat unknown land pass by. A new York car passes us doing 95. He definitely did not come out of any of the exits we pass. Discussion of art and friends.

Sunday midnight
Billings. A gas station with a slots casino. Mike parks and turns to us and pauses in contemplation. "Fuck this im done" and moves to the backseat. i waggle beef jerky at Mike for a solid minute, and he gives in. Burger king and lost bets. Men haggle at a ford dealership: "Fuck my wife for that car". the yelowjacket wasp who got in. The ashy motel. Making of the mob new York. 'They "fired" the capo without severance.' Sleep and my Cotton mouth dream.

Breakfast. I realize we haven't had a real meal in 4 days. Gas station snacks and hotel brunches. The road to Yellowstone

It is a white sky day, but the humidity is low. We are now team yellow vs team white. Yellow at the wheel, and I continue copiloting. Billings is a flat town surrounded by mesas and buttes. We pronounce it butt. The Rockies are faded in white and come closer. We tail a Tesla far from home. A ranch stye gas station and the Montana bottle opener. The mountains grow and grow. The trees and desert hills and black oxen. We enter the mountains. The valley is larger than anything we've seen. The road climbs the mountains. Darsh freaks out. The road is narrow. I go pro the rise. Snow caps in the distance. The temperature drops. We are at the very top, a flat expanse. No trees but rolling plains and distant rises. An enormous mound of rocks in the distance that I walk towards. The hiss of hidden snakes. A thought of resident bobcats in the mound and I turn my heels and give up pursuit. A descent on the other side. The pine trees and ponds and lakes and Laketown.

We arrive in cooke city right outside Yellowstone. Bikers in full force. $30 admission. The tour of yellowstone, 100 miles. Vast fields and hills, pine trees and clearings. This is grizzly country. Buffalo out grazing. distances and majesty. People out and experiencing. We try a rest stop. The tour continues and The hours go by and our eyes grow heavy. too many trees. Mike needs a snickers. Boiling hot springs rust-coloring the stone its water runs on. Steam rises. Old Faithful. A ring of hundreds crowd the geyser. Twin daschunds. I burn my thumb from a cig. Team white takes the wheel. Traffic.

From Yellowstone, Wyoming, Heading south. cut past Idaho and our destination, Utah salt lake city. The immense hills and valleys give way to open barrens. We are ringed by tall hills distant. Then busy trees to put right and a gas station left. A smoke. Back on road. Mike throws a banana peel as if in disgust with the land we're passing through. We laugh. Eric folows with suit with an apple core, but it doesnt leave the car. The land darkens and stays flat. thousand-acre animal pens to our left and right. a Debate about relationship and trust. Mountainous dark approach to salt lake. We can't find a cheap room. Quiet tempers in the car. But it's the best room.

The room looks out into the surrounding mountains. Utah excursion. It is a spotless city. A discussion of racism. Burger joint: "we don't call 911 here". The red haired waitress.
The used Book store. I am drawn by its hidden size.
Mormon temple. Mike panhandles outside the gates. The father tour guide. The sisters' endless smiles. Connecticut is not in their vocab. A movie regales the temple founding. The tabernacle pin drop. Eric is deeply disturbed by the Mormons. Mike resolves to be savior.

Presunset departure from salt lake. Team yellow. I want mikes driving record. Mountainous right and sun bleached flatlands left. We clear the city and into the mountains. Come out to Idaho desert on the other side. I puncture a red bull can with ice. The distant horizon town is shrouded by storm clouds. Riding into the apocalypse. Quiet Lightning, whirlwind inferno. Nightfall Red bull at Travelers Oasis. The car is silent except Darsh. Road stretches into the dark. I keep watch on the map. Volcano glimmer in The desert void. Broad Discussions with Darsh. Hour 6 I try a town. Crackheads that become stoners. Warm coffee. Back on the road. Struggle is real. Sleep tugging at me. Oregon crossing. We will never document the state crossings of our journey. Last station, last caffeine missile. Ribbons of wildfire in the distant right. The horizon blinks red.

We follow the Washington border on the other side of the river. The river catches the blue dawn twilight. Bare desert mountain valleys the river. Maxed ac and full bladder is the new caffeine. We mark an overlook of the river in the predawn. The ski towns. Morning bright. Tall pines. Cloud carpet rings a steep hill. The Mountain that floats on the blue. The park with the massively panoramic river. A cig out in front of that dawn expanse. We are the only people for miles. 13 hours and 900 miles closer to Portland and I have more to go.

Coffee at a portland exclusive. The bums. We leave Portland.

Team White on the wheel. I cannot sleep in the back. I'm out cold for 20 minutes before the cop stops us. Mike foots the $106 fine. He is the opposite of happy.

3g and a blunt. Reunion of old friends. Thai food and Mike hangs with a homeless vet/ufc fighter. Toking behind travelers' secrets. The day is done at 4pm.

The fourth and final continental brunch. On foot across 8 lane intersections in Search for smoking rooms. Pregame Blaze for Seattle. Mike gets catcalled in the middle of the woods. Team white can't handle the high. Team Yellow snickers. Chinatown restaurant. I comment on "mom and pop oldies" playing. Pike place, the flea market. More like a museum tour of overpriced vendors. the crowd is heavy. i get the good news from my roommate that we've found our new third. Mexican chocokate cream cheese. Cold brew in a can. The failed attempt to finish the bud.

No continental breakfast. Pseudo hot pot at the Boiling Point. Seattle stadium. Taylor Swift invades. The merch store. Mike gets a jersey. Parking ticket did not get validated. Church of Scientology. No free coffee. Mike questions the Faith. Seatac airport. Darsh parts ways. The wait inside the gates, Mike remembering his ticket also parted ways with Darsh, fish n chips by the glass wall, the red-eye rest, Logan airport morning, shu arrives, and the fellowship ends.
So here is an update on what's going on and my progress. Just after I typed a few words for this post, I had taken a look for the first time the date of the previous post, and I have to say, it's quite surprising how much (how little) I've had done over the course of a week. Without any deadlines for this project or even a practical purpose for making it other than as a means for self-improvement or honing of programming technique, I find I'm unintentionally relegating the task to casual hobby status instead of seriously pouring my time into it day and night like others do. I wish I could breathe code like those who manage 8-10 hours a day in front of their text editors, but quite frankly, I just can't. At least not right now, not in this environment, o' summer of '13.

I could go at length describing the list of things working against me, like the unwillingness to stay indoors and sober after 10 till curfew virtually every night of each week, like the two month long summer class on multi-variable calculus (even with the open note exams pretty much obliterating the need to study), like the endless distractions afforded by my reddit and netflix apps, like when I wake up at two in the afternoon and through sheer otherworldy willpower manage my body in front of my computer at four, get to thinking about actual programming after half an hour managing my music playlist and getting the eight tabs I have open on Firefox to close, only to realize that I'd have to hit the gym pretty soon, plus cook and eat which of course takes up more time, and then it'd be late enough to go over to my buddy's and smoke up a bit and chill.

But in the end, I would be whining a little too much.

Change. Progress. Improvement. All things in good time, right? It is always a continual battle to stay positive, to stay convinced that you are slowly moving up through the levels to a higher position and towards a better mindset, when there is very little to show for it. Programming is a tremendously complex subject. My experience includes just that one jagged tip of an ice pebble among thousands of other pebbles on the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even begun to understand how the build process goes for Java compiling since IDE's abstract that entire process out. There's an entire field behind server-side programming, and then maybe another equally sized field on the front-end side. There are schools devoted to game programming itself. Then there are design patterns and paradigms like object-oriented and functional programming. Books have been written on data structures and algorithms and in about twelve days I'll be sitting in a lecture starting my first formal lesson on them.

...and here I am, barely starting to understand the hows and whys of the IDE I'm using to write a trivial casino game that has taken all summer, that isn't trying to reinvent any wheels or anything, that uses these simple, little text boxes instead of actual pictures of cards to display the action.

As I've said before, tomorrow is going to be here. It's become sort of like my daily mantra in the past year. And the only way I'll ever get it to come is to put in the work. Change and progress should always be turning its own cogs, even if it is from the smallest things. But my uncertainty with this, ultimately, is just how much is good enough? Or am I always putting in just “good enough,” because honestly, that's how I'd been wired to work my entire life.

Change, progress, improvement. Slow and steady wins the race. But it can't be that simple all the time, right? I believe that at some point in time or place, there needs to be a sudden jolt, that kick to the ass when you've become too complacent and comfortable. Because true progress requires that things... actually change. That they change for good instead of just half-assing the idea of change incrementally day by day, not knowing that your old tricks of habit, workarounds, and exploits have already crept into the system you think you had pegged out.

Because I think that's where I'm at currently.

And with the upcoming first semester of sophomore year looming ahead, I think I'm going to need that jolt real soon.

PS: Well, the progress update on the project itself is gonna have to be backlogged till tomorrow, I guess.

Cuz there's tons to write on that, for the little progress I seemed to have made.

Insurance hasn't been entirely figured out, and I debated the whole weekend (though I didn't program during it) on how the Blackjack player action mechanics should be designed. I even wrote a good 500 word block of notes about how to keep track of each seat and the perils of giving in to the time-wasting urge of refactoring every single little thing.

There's also more, too, but...

Tomorrow :)
For today, I figured out the general gist of how to handle custom dialog boxes. First define your content pane, the layout that will hold all the child components you plan to put onto the frame, or the dialog box in my case. But since I'm relying on the user input that's to be retrieved from the box, I would need to wire in action listeners to actually be able to read the input. Since this particular box is for an optional insurance bet, all I need is a spinner for specifying the bet amount and two buttons for OK and Cancel.

While I'm saving the insurance implementation for tomorrow, I have a rough idea how it should go. So right after the user clicks the deal first cards button, which deals two cards to the dealer and all seats with a valid bet, the actionPerformed method for the button checks to see if the dealer is showing an ace or a face card. If that is a yes, then a further check is made through another method in the cardSet class to determine if the dealer has a Blackjack. checkForDealerBlackjack() will return an int, either a 2 or 0. If a face is showing, it is always 2. But if an ace is showing, the user has a choice of whether or not to put up insurance. Clicking cancel will return 2 and clicking OK will return a 0. Finally, I'll write a conditional for if it is 0 that is returned (user wants insurance).

I guess it's not as complicated as it sounds, but there's a good level of—and I could be exaggerating when I say this—of neuroticism that likes to accompany me in how I program, and to an extent in how I approach any problem solving situation. I tend to get bogged down by all the details in how to design an effective solution. I tend to think in terms of optimization and structure first. I mean, I'll know a general strategy for a particular problem right from the very start, but spend the next couple hours fighting over how the implementation should turn out in the end. For if I was truly hurting to make it work out due to a deadline restriction, I could have written the whole program in one script file. I would litter my classes with dead field variables that I'll forget to clean up. Instead of separating different functions into their own respective abstractions for easier comprehension, I'll write long, single lines of code chain calling ten different things from a single object.

And THAT'S why you have to outline and design a skeleton of your projects beforehand. I would be saving a whole lot of time for myself, that's for sure. I'm practically designing and redesigning the whole project in my head every time I open up Netbeans and step inside the code. I'll probably wait for when it finally comes around to bite me in the ass before taking that advice though :D.
So yeah, here's a little disclaimer on my post history. I opened this journal in November of 2003, ten years ago, back when it was invite only and I could still remember the day I was waiting impatiently for my invite to come through email. I was 16 back then.

So yeah, bear with me on the cringeworthiness, you livejournalists out there.
A spinner is a box with a number on the left side and two arrow buttons pointing up/down on the right. You press up and the number goes up, you press down and the number, you know, goes down. The dialog box is what usually pops up as errors, warnings, user input, or whatever. I spent about an hour or so looking up API documentation on Java Swing components before finally putting it together and getting a spinner to show up inside a dialog box.

So gist of it is, I have to first create a "pane" that holds all the content (the components like the spinner, buttons, etc). Then, I put that pane into the box by way of a .add() method. The reason it took that long to find the answer among the documentation was I just assumed it was a quick static method call of the pane class instead of having to individually instantiate each component and constructing the final product itself. (Also I just fucked around a lot because the music folder icon is right at the bottom of the screen and the new tab button in Firefox is right at the top. Procrastination is the root of all evil for me, but that requires a whole different post that I might write about for another time).

But yeah, all of this spinner-inside-a-box business has to do with the insurance procedure part of Blackjack. If the dealer shows an ace, the player has the option to put up to half his original bet as a hedge against a possible blackjack. That hedge is to show up as the spinner and hopefully I get the maximum value that it's supposed to go to to reflect the original bet.

Update on current Blackjack project

I'm going to try to write about updates to my various programming projects. Just trying to keep me motivated towards finishing things, and hopefully writing about them and analyzing them helps me to stay on track. I had started up school again back in September at UConn, majoring in Computer Science. These last two semesters I slaved through had been hectic as shit. It was all I could do to keep going at it, what with my goal of getting straight A's and having over half my school schedule made up of prerequisites that were almost entirely unrelated to CS.

But I prevailed. Here I am, sitting at home in this sweltering summer, with two semesters down, and 2 more years to go.

But yeah, over this past summer, I have been working on my first project, a small Blackjack application written in Java. It's coming along okay, but I'm still not sure what to do about the graphics and such once the underlying mechanics are implemented. The latter should not be too difficult, since I spent the first half of summer writing a console-text based version in which the mechanics WAS the purpose of the program. A simple copypaste to my current GUI version would even work if I was half-assedly enough to do it. But what's given me the most trouble was just working through and around the Swing library, getting a feel for how the components work, hooking up the event handlers--the internal "wiring" between them if you will--and so forth.

Alright I'll stop.

-Just added a few methods in Card and Hand so they would be chained up for a unified boolean method in an encapsulating class, CardSet, to check if the dealer's up card is an ace or a face card. Have yet to add in the actual checking for blackjack so that's on the itinerary for next time.
-Idea: I'm thinking CardSet should be the one class that handles all the blackjack gaming mechanics. After fiddling around with the GUI window class for the past three weeks, I'm noticing a general creeping-in of numerous variables and methods that a class focused on the visual interface should not be handling. Not that it CAN'T do it, but it shouldn't do it due to design philosophy. I'll probably refactor most of it later on.


"Life moves."

Still around, still kickin, stagnatin

I'm gonna actually write about something.

You know, most other people probably have more elements of stress, things that actually happen in their lives than I do; I mean after all, I'm starting off this entry in sort of a blank of what to say.
Me having to deal with people only takes place at work itself. Outside of work, my social circle of friends amounts to just a handful of people, who I don't interact with even on a daily basis. Most of the time I spend outside of work is at home, glued to the computer, desperately finding anything to pass time with.

I had been a WoW addict beginning sometime in '06 around Halloween, which persisted with its ups and downs in frequency for four years. Quite a sad state of affairs when the only times in life I really felt alive and purposeful was being an invaluable "raider" to my guild, working together for the common goal of pixelated beast slaying. Surprisingly, it's wishful thinking to actually believe it led to the dissolving of my first relationship, but at least this addiction made the first real cracks in the seams between us. (The history between me and this game is a whole other entire story I won't be able to get into right now. Same with her) I've quit several times in the past, and in one instance, my abstinence last 10 months, but inevitably I was drawn back yet again.

At the moment, I'm currently abstaining, and I'm pretty optimistic this time that it'll work because for the first time, I broke off of playing due to boredom.

And oh, here I am back to the subject of trying to pass time. WoW was perfect for that; fuck, time just couldn't run any more faster when I was hooked, could it? Minutes turned to seconds, hours into minutes, weeks became days. It was potent as heroin. Being under its spell, I rejected social events. If friends called me up, they were put on the backburner if something important was scheduled at a conflicting time.

And I was lazy. If, on my way back from work, I had a few things that needed buying or like maybe the tank was running low, I had it procrastinated to "tomorrow." And when that tomorrow came, I only had my eyes on the next day again and again. I just didn't feel like doing anything. Time was of the essence; any of it spent away from the fucking screen was wasted. I economized relentlessly.

Now... fast forward to the past few months.

I have since found no excuse is too weak or far-fetched to get me to stay outside of the house. Whether it was to buy just one item from the local Shoprite or top off the tank with one gallon, it just had to be done. An important note here is that I only preferred to be outside at night. It could be the HOTASS weather we be having or the fact that maybe my general mood this past year had grown an affinity for the night; either way, when evening came I felt alive outside of the house. And it really wasn't all about being outside in the literal sense. No, I felt at ease and at home being among the after-hours denizens trudging along the aisles of a 24-hour Walmart. I jumped at any excuse to hit up a store to buy something, if even for just fifteen minutes of my time. And on my way home, I took the scenic routes in the darkness.

And great timing too that my friends stopped being active in these past few months. I can't even remember the last time we went out as a gang to watch a movie together before Inception, which was my idea originally (and I have never been one to suggest a movie, ever). (And Inception ruled by the way. Nolan can do no wrong it seems).

The only saving grace then had been my weekly commutes up to Mass. on Friday nights to hang with a few friends from work at a bar. This drive goes for almost two hours round trip so one would wonder, was it really worth mileage to spend a few after-hours at a bar only to get home dead exhausted and questionably sober? Well in my case, given what I was going through at the beginning (oh which was something Facebook related), this WAS my therapy. If I had it my way, I would have done it every night then. I just needed a certain picture out of my head. Hoping against hope she would be erased forever quickly.

Unsurprisingly, I was always the one last to leave, even though I was the "foreign" guy there, having to drive across state lines to get back home. But I didn't mind. I welcomed it. There is just something about driving home, alone and at night that clicked with me. And to spend an hour on that highway before getting back to Norwich just felt... right.

Other stuff/reasons forthcoming

Another bad dream last night...

We made love once again.

I ask her the many questions I had in mind over the past months, answers that I was never interested in before. As if I had never known who she really was. The things I took for granted during our time together. It's funny how all the questions start popping up during the time we were apart; spending that much time with her to find out she is a stranger.

She answers my questions in the ways I perfectly imagined them to be, reaffirming to me that she is still the same person I knew and loved.

Then I woke up.

..... and I'm still without peace of mind.