Sunday, August 26, 2012

What a week!

One more week has gone by in San Francisco and it was crazy. It was jam packed with exciting things almost every night. So here is a brief overview!

We had our first community night on Tuesday. Community night is a mandatory night once a week (Tuesdays for us) that the VSC program requires us to have. It is supposed to be a time where the whole house gets together and eats together and then does an activity to grow in our faith. We are also supposed to invite our support people to join as well. Support people are individuals that are there for us locally for anything that we need spiritually. We have two support people for the San Francisco house: RJ, who is a previous VSC volunteer and Sr. Kathleen, who works at De Marillac with me.

Our first community night I was "lead" chef and we had spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, and a salad with homemade salad dressing. The 9 of us sat around the table and ate together, asking questions, talking about our days, and just enjoying each others company. Afterwords we did a simple faith, get to know you game. I introduced them to the challenge of summing up your current faith life up in 6 words. Hard right? The exercise is for you to take all the words out of your though and focus them into a simple meaning. I have done this quite a few times, but each time it changes and this time I came up with I'm here, I'm willing, I'm ready. Short, simple, and to the point.
Our Beautiful Meal.

Thursday I had the privilege to go to a conference put on by Evernote. It was an amazing experience! It was a 2 day conference and since I needed to request time off, I was able to go to the educators conference on thursday rather than the "programming" conference on Friday. The conference cost me only $12 (I got a discount code for being a volunteer!) and I got breakfast and lunch. I met lots of educators excited about integrating technology into their curriculums. Education is changing so much! I was in high school only 5 years ago and the only thing you used a computer for was to type assignments and do a small amount of research. Now though, gradebooks, curriculums, schedules, ways to teach, portfolios, and most paperwork is now digital and online. ITS CRAZY. I think there is a very delicate balance of the use of technology in the classroom and now society is trying to find that line.... but thats another posting for another day.

At the end of the conference LiveScribe did a presentation about their product and how it integrates with Evernote. But to show their dedication to educators, they gave everyone there a free LiveScribe Pen! I have yet to test it out, but I'm pretty excited.
Evernote's Educational Conference

That night I went out with some co-workers to the California Academy of Sciences (discounted of course). IT WAS AMAZING! If my family ever comes to see me, this is one of the places I will take you! The special thing about Thursdays is that the whole museum becomes a huge party for guests. They have bar tables, DJs, and lots of food around the museum. So you can go there and socialize and see all of the exhibits too. They have a bio dome, a planetarium, a huge aquarium, and an earthquake simulator, and more! I was like a little kid in a candy store, I hope to go back soon to say the least :)
Bio Dome!

Jellyfish. So cool!

This was the BEST exhibit there. Proof that the earth spins. Its a huge pendulum and because of the earth's rotation, the  ball slowly moves in a circle knocking down all the pins!

The crazy huge aquarium!

Since I was only able to get one day off for the Evernote Conference, I signed up for the after party  on Friday (starting at 5:30) and was only $3.75 with my special discount. I was able to get there a little early and listen to a panel of questions about Evernote and where they think their company is going, it was really interesting to say the least. One of the questions was concerning education and I taped what they had to say about it:

Soon after the party began and I quickly realized they had great bluegrass musicians there, free arcade games, free swag, complimentary food, and an open bar.... and remember I only paid $3.75 for it. I made a lot of connections and had a lot of good talks with the people there about what it takes to be in the "start up" business. I don't think I would ever want to be in that world, but its just interesting how passionate these people are that their ideas will change the world.
Oh yeah I saw this on my way to the conference!
Some of us from my house decided we were going to go to the Golden Gate bridge, and so we did. It was a lot of fun to to a little road trip with my roommates. 

Look mom, its amazing!

Action photo!

King of the world, oh yeah!

This was the third time I was able to go to the bridge, but the first time I wasn't under a time constraint. I was really happy about this because I had time to read through the information on how it was constructed, why certain decisions were made about the bridge, and just see how the bridge was built... amazing.

After the Golden Gate bridge, we went to Fishermans walf to walk around and then called it a day... a really good one. :)

WOW! It really was a busy week, but a good one. To all my readers: I think about all of you a lot, I'm finding it really hard to keep up with everyone though. Please though don't take this the wrong way, I want to know about you! and this is the best way that I feel like I can give you an incite into my life right now. I hope that I am able to connect with all of you soon! And most of all I love you.

From the darkness we come into the light.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My new life

I have now been in California for 3 weeks now. Things are finally starting to settle, habits are forming,  I'm starting to see usual patterns, and normality is attempting to set in.  The first week here I have professional development days at De Marillac, the second week was learning how to be a Vincentian, and this last week was learning how to teach 4th graders.

All I have to say is teaching is hard! Its physically taxing, you always seem to have a "mask" on, and intellectual conversations are hard to come by during the day. This last week I started to grow a new found respect for teachers and the teaching industry. My mother, father, and one of my sisters are all teachers and I have always respected them, but this brings a completely new understanding to their lives and how they live them.

I can't say that this week was all sunshine and rainbows for me, but I can say that I opened my life for change and change is what I got. I am constantly learning new things at my job, seeing problems in the school systems, hating technology more and yet growing a new found love for it. Seeing technology progress forward sometimes I wonder what they point of it all is? Why fix something if its not broken? Why do schools get grants for technology and yet struggle to get new books, teaching supplies, and even teachers? What is this strong pull that everyone thinks technology is the solution?

I personally see technology as a growing crutch to the developed world.On the other side of it though I see  technology as a beautiful catalystic organism that is allowing humanity the chance to fully express how we see the world and how we want to be apart of it... no matter where we are in the world. My two cents: "Be aware of how much you rely on technology and take a break from it once in a while"

Here is a nice assortment of  pictures from the last week. Miss all my readers from Iowa!
My roommate Laura at the top of Twin Peaks

A great view from the top of Twin Peaks

Our first successful trip to Costco! And we are only out $230!

We had a movie night... Yes Titanic on Two VHS tapes.

My roommate Peyton at the top of Twin Peaks

We decided to go to Dolores Park and throw the football around. Yes, I can throw a football!

Lisa Engler, ISU graduate, fellow Trumpeteer, and the greatest graphic designer I know!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Security Scare

I have found that in San Francisco I am starting to live a double (maybe soon to be triple life): My VSC life and my computer engineering life. While I was at my VSC orientation this last week I was extremely involved (and now almost finished) with a book by the name of  KingPin. It is a book on the life of Max Vision (Butler) aka Iceman and the cyber criminal underground. Its really a good book and has really opened my eyes to how vulnerable the cyber world is. Knowledge is power, but no one ever said with knowledge come only good. It has re-sparked an interest in security and understanding infrastructure for me.

Along with reading KingPin, I had a huge security breach in my twitter account. The trickest part about it though was the fact that all parties involved didn't even know there was a security break... including the accidental hacker.

I received a weird tweet from one of my friends on Tuesday and looked at the tweet they replied to and realized I did not send it. My phone had been charging  out in the open at the retreat center and so I figured one of my new friends saw me unlock my phone and then they used that to their advantage to tweet on my behalf. So I kept my phone with me until I figured out who the culprit was. My friend later tweeted back to me and low and behold the hacker replied back to my friend "who are you?". I had my phone with me, someone was accessing my account from somewhere else.

At this point I started to get a bit more nervous, but figured that it was still one of my friends screwing with me.. somewhere. So I watched all of my social networking sites and email to see if there was a intrusion on them (if there had been, that would mean my passwords were compromised), nothing. So only twitter was hacked by one of my friends.... but how? All of the boxes that I signed into are either with me or in my closet at my parents house password protected..... My work. 
This last summer  I worked with my brother-in-law at his company and after I left I know he took my computer so he could have all the code I had written over the summer, no biggy. But then I realized I was signed into twitter on that computer and he could have noticed and decided to play a nice prank on me (he's soo nice...). I texted him and he told me that he wasn't on my work computer... at this point I was starting to panic a bit, my password must have been cracked.

It had to be a personal attack though because most bots, hackers, and malware will only crack your password and put general crap on your feed but never interact with followers. So at this point I changed my password on my twitter. That would cut this hacker from my account, once his cache refreshed. I waited a few hours to ensure that he would be kicked off and asked my friend to tweet me again to see if they got a reply and sure enough they did, "Who the hell are you, how did you get my number!". Weird.

All of the text messages were confusing, asking who my friend was and this last one the hacker referred to the reply as a "number". But why? I thought about it for a bit and everything became clear and I became extremely angry I did not catch it before and my mind exploded with thoughts about the third party privacy world we live in today.

I checked my twitter account and sure enough my settings confirmed my realization. My old phone was linked to the twitter account. I didn't port my number from US Cellular when I moved to AT&T because I use a google number. Everyone sees my google number so there was no point in porting over my USC number (it costed a pretty penny to do so). Well sites like facebook, twitter, emails, and other social sites allow you to link up your phone to get live updates via text message. For reasons I don't know these sites will not forward updates to a google number and so I had to put in my actual USC number.

When I dropped my number at USC the ONLY explanation they gave me for keeping my number is "you will have to tell all your contacts you have a new number and it will be a very tedious process, paying a little extra upfront cost for connivance is worth it". That was it. Nothing about "every network you have your number linked to will have to be deleted and readded if you want to keep your security". I don't know about about the general population, but if they would have said that, I probably would have kept my number. Third Party failure to keep their customers secure.

On the other end though, social networking third parties. To update and "link" your phone with their site all you do is type your number in, they send you text and you reply with a confirmation number the site tells you. This is a fairly secure 3 way handshake. But what happens when a new user takes the number? There is initial log in of the phone, but nothing after that. No verification each time someone replies to the site or anything. Third Party failure to fully secure and inform linked devices.

Yes, I am partly at fault for this as well. But me being a computer nerd, I could make these connections, but what if  I was a normal user? And what if my  "hacker" really wanted to screw with my account? I would have NO control over it. The only control I would have would be to delete my account. Fortunately for me, the guy was a nice trucker that just got a new phone. He was a nice and understanding guy by the way.

Moral of the story: Be aware of who you trust with your private information. And when involving third party companies with third party companies, security can potentially be breached.

I hope others find this interesting and learn from my mistake. Don't link your number to a device, link a manageable account.

The Vincentian Service Corps

Its been about one week since I have written last and I could could type forever! This last week I became a part of a bigger organization called the Vincentian Service Corp West. The program I am in has helped me decide what I want to do after college, brought me to California, started to change my thoughts and views, started on me on a path closer to God,  created a great network of contacts and friends in Silicon Valley, and most importantly gave me a new incite to serving the poor. And I have only been a Vincentian for a week!

St. Vincent De Paul was a good man and I can only hope to one day have a mind set like him. During our retreat we learned about the poor and how we can serve them this year. We learned about community and what it means to live simply. We learned about different forms of prayer and we learned about AmeriCorps. We even learned why each of us came out here.

The program is set up all around the US and I am apart of the Vincentian Service Corps West. In this branch there are 2 sites, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The LA house has 10 volunteers and the SF house has 7 volunteers including myself. The house I live in is known as the Pink Palace and I live on a floor with two other guys and the other floors are filled with four women. It seems like my house is excited to be active, the one thing I wanted in a community. :) They are excited to site see, bike, run, camp, hike, and just open to new experiences.
The 2012-2013 VSC West Volunteers

Vincentians live by four pillars: Spirituality, Living Simply, Community,  and Service. I love them all. I want to grow in my spirituality, I love living simply, community brings us closer, and I think service is a moral obligation of humanity. A wise friend once told me that the key to living a Christian life (to him) was based on three things: Friendship, Prayer, and Thankfulness. Since I have heard this, I have been striving to incorporate these in my life to their fullest. With the Vincentians, I think I will be able to take this to a new level.

I am truly blessed and greatful I have taken this opportunity to serve and grow this year.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My First Week in San Francisco

Well, I survived my first week here. Fortunately, it was a pretty slow week in terms of things I needed to do. I had my first experience in professional development days as a teacher, now to take on the kids (I would rather deal with adults any day). It will be a new and exciting experience for me and though I'm a bit nervous for it, I think I will do well once I understand how to be a teacher.

I was able to start to understand the public transit system here in SF which includes walking, biking, buses, and the subway. The subway is a bit of a scary place but I managed to puff out my chest and show everyone this Iowan boy ain't scared.
I think though my most exciting adventures this last week would probably be my running and biking adventures. They have taken me to the Golden Gate bridge, the beach, Golden Gate Park, Haight street, Market street, Corona Heights Park, Twin Peaks, and up lots of crazy hills. As much as I hate the hills though, I have come to appreciate them and the spectacular view they can give you.

A few pictures of my adventure to Twin Peaks

This is a picture of the hill I went up to reach Twin Peaks.. From that point almost a 900ft climb!

I have learned the number one skill I need to learn in a big city: how to clip in and out properly...

I went to visit my ISU triclone friend in South San Francisco and we went hot tubing and talked about Start Ups and the valley.

The other night when I was on my roof (yes, I have full access to my roof and it is awesome) after talking with one of my friends that is working at a start up company, I began wondering what my next step was. That made me realize something very nerve wrecking, where am I going? I have been so focused on getting out to San Francisco thinking that it would open up a door of opportunities but its hard to look when you don't know what that is. One thing that I have learned from talking to my friend, is that companies out here are looking for skill in a certain area. Coding projects, coding practices, new ideas, and big focus on mobile and web coding. I really don't know what my next step in life is yet, but one thing is for certain, I need to start coding. So if you have an idea, let me know!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Adventure begins!

I made it out to San Francisco and have started my professional development days at De Marillac Acadamy. Next week I start my Vincentian orientation and after that I start my full time volunteer job helping with 4th graders and technology at the school! Its all very new to me an am realizing a lot about myself and how different a school environment is compared to a tech environment.

I am dealing with it all and I think will do well with the kids once I learn procedures but the one thing I don't think I will ever get used to is the WORDINESS of the atmosphere. I am used to tasks, numbers, important information, and a "down to the point" ideas. I am finding in the teaching world there is a lot of words and ideas given and then you have to process it all and come out with the end idea for the whole speech. This is very stressful as an engineer, but hopefully I will learn to deal with it.

I am not a man of few words, but I like to think that I pick my words cautiously when speaking to a large amount of people to make sure my point is well emphasized. Its a new learning experience, that's all I have to  say about that.

Being an engineer in a middle school (and 4th and 5th grade) environment, I think a lot of teachers and administrators have noticed some uncertainty in the way I am at the school. It's not so much that their is uncertainty, but rather the most basic things I need to understand about teaching aren't being discussed because to everyone else this is second nature. So many of the topics we have been talking about is high level discussion, improving your teaching skills, and how to plan your curriculum better. I know that I will learn how to teach and support soon, but its just stressful and frustrating how "green" I feel. Good new is though that I am going to teach an enrichment course and I think I will base it on basic engineering projects and experiments :)

Along with professional developement during the day, I have been exploring at night. I have been to the Golden Gate bridge and back (11 mile run with 1000ft climb), to the ocean a few times, Golden Gate Park, and Twin Peaks. Oh yeah and I went to AT&T Park on Monday and saw the San Francisco Giants loose to the New York City Mets too. You can see all of my pictures from these adventures in the links below.

My First Adventure in SF
Bike Adventures in SF