Robin Williams (1951-2014)

A few hours ago, I learned that a hero of mine, Robin Williams, passed away this morning. He was found in his home just before noon, dead of asphyxiation. It appears that he took his own life.

I have a Bachelor of the Arts in Theater. I have been an actor (in one form or another) since I was about 14. I was inspired to pursue that path in life by the performances that this wonderful man performed. Whether as a genie, a father posing as a nanny, or Peter Pan, he inspired me to become something more than I was.

The world was a happier place with him in it, and it will be a little dimmer for his passing. What breaks my heart the most is that this wonderful man, who brought so much happiness to so many people, died from sadness.

I feel like there are so many things I want to say about him, but the words just won’t come, so I’ll leave with this thought:

Seize the day. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die.

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When is the future?

In Back to the Future II, Marty McFly travels to the future in an attempt to help out his future children. That future is soon upon us.

So, I wanted to make sure I knew when Marty McFly arrives. Using IFTTT, I created a recipe to send me an SMS on the day that Marty McFly arrives. IFTTT’s Date and Time channel doesn’t let me create one-time events, so I created an annual event (so I’ll get an SMS on the pre-anniversary as well).

So, here you have it. Don’t let this historic event pass you by.

IFTTT Recipe: Send me a text to announce Marty McFly's arrival! #backtothefuture connects date-time to sms

membash: Memcache for the BASH shell

I recently had an idea that required using memcache from a BASH script. So, I decided I would write a script that would allow me to do exactly that.

First, I set out to find if anyone had already done that. I found a script on github that supposedly could do that already, but it doesn’t work on Debian-based systems (such as my OS of choice: Ubuntu), and it didn’t seem very user friendly, anyhow. So, I forked that project and created my own version.

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How I automatically download YouTube videos recommended on Reddit

There are a number of subreddits in which people regularly post links to YouTube videos that I might like to later view. I’ve put together a system that downloads these videos to my computer for later viewing. I thought other people might like to learn how I’ve put this together so that they can reproduce it on their home computer. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ll use /r/Music as an example, since it frequently contains posts to music videos.

There are a number of prerequisites to make this work. I think my method should, theoretically, work on any operating system, but I use Linux (Ubuntu, specifically), and think it’s probably a lot easier to set up there than any other OS. The other programs you’ll need are:

Additionally, there is a PHP script I wrote to make it work together, but we’ll get to that later. youtube-dl and FlexGet both require Python, and several other dependencies.

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Thoughts on Fatherhood

This post is well overdue, but between moving across the country and starting a new job, I just hadn’t gotten around to it until now. Three months ago, I became a father. My wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I’ve certainly changed a great deal because of her. I’d like to share a few thoughts and experiences I’ve had over the past few months.

Emma Smiling

The first thing I’ve learned is that my capacity to love is greater than I ever thought possible. I love and have loved many people in my life: parents, siblings, friends, girlfriends, and my wife, to name a few. The love I feel for my daughter, however, is unlike any I’ve felt before. When I held her for the first time, I had a feeling like I’d never quite felt in my life. It was like what I felt when I was married, in terms of magnitude and type, but it felt more real, more tangible than any love I’ve felt before. Whereas the love I feel for my parents, siblings, and wife is something I feel deep in my heart, the love I feel for my daughter is almost tangible. It’s as if I can feel, smell, taste, touch, and hear it.

I understand now why my parents (and countless other parents) sacrificed as much as they did for me and my siblings, and always cared for us, no matter what we did. I always knew my parents loved me, but always assumed that much of what they did for us was due to a sense of duty. Now, having held my daughter in my arms and looked into her eyes, I know that I would do anything for her to keep her safe and loved, not because my fatherhood gives me a sense of duty, but for some other reason that I simply can’t explain.

The first experience I’d like to share was about a month ago. We were sitting around watching TV, as I held her in my arms. I was slightly watching the TV, but mostly watching her. At one point, she reaches up, and grabs my finger. Her entire hand was wrapped around the tip of my forefinger. I looked down to her, and at the same time she looked up at me. As we looked into each other’s eyes, I felt closer to her than I’d ever felt to anyone. It was almost as if I could see the rest of her life.

The second experience I’d like to share happened last week. She woke up after having laid down to bed. I heard her from the other room and went in to check on her. I picked her up and began rocking her back to sleep. As I held her, and rocked her back and forth in my arms, I saw myself about 16 years in the future. I was sitting on the couch late at night with a computer in my hand. Maybe I was reading a book, or maybe I was doing some work. I’m not sure. As I was sitting there, my daughter, now a young woman, came down the stairs and went into the kitchen. She had been struggling with a very difficult challenge in her life, and I supposed she was having trouble sleeping, so she came down to a get a glass of milk to help her sleep (much like I often do). As she walked out of the kitchen, I saw a beautiful woman, looking very much like her mother. She sat down beside me on the couch. We had already talked about her problem in depth previously, and there was, unfortunately, nothing more I could say that would get her through this challenge. So, I set the computer down beside me and put my arm around her. She leaned her head on my shoulder, and I began to sing to her my favorite hymn, “A Child’s Prayer.” As she finished her glass of milk, and I finished the song, she got up, kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks, Daddy. Goodnight,” she said as she started back upstairs. “Goodnight princess. I love you,” I said back.

This was nothing more than one of the many daydreams that I have on a regular basis. But instead of daydreaming about being able to shoot blasts of energy from my hands like Havok, or Starfire, or being able to change into something/someone else like Mystique, or a Tanuki, I saw myself, as I am: a father. It was a much better daydream than any other that I’ve ever had.

My life has now permanently changed. I know that I will face many challenges as a father, but I also know that the joy that fatherhood brings me is worth any difficulties that may accompany it. I heard a few weeks ago that a recent study showed that parents live shorter lives than non-parents. That seems unlikely to me, but even if it is true, that’s fine with me. I’d rather have a shorter life with her than live forever without her.

Life happens

I’ve been doing a lot of introspection, and reflection lately. I’ve thought a lot about how the events in my life have flown, one into the other, and I’ve recently noticed connections, that I previously had failed to notice. I’d like to share some of my thoughts, and a bit of my life.

Near the beginning of 2007, I set a goal for my life. I thought long and hard about this goal, and prayed long and hard about it as well. I was certain that this goal upon which I had decided was one of which my God approved. He wanted me to pursue this goal, of this I was certain. I told my roommates about my goal, so I could have a greater accountability for it. My goal was to become engaged to be married by 15 January 2009. That day would be five years from the time that I returned from Scotland following my service as a missionary. I didn’t have any prospects of marriage at the time, but felt certain that because my Father in Heaven approved, I would be able to achieve it.

Around the summer of 2008, I was not noticeably closer to achieving this goal, but I was not disheartened, because I was certain that six months was plenty of time to meet a woman with whom I wanted to share eternity. However, something happened. I was presented with an opportunity. A friend told me about a program to which I could apply that, if accepted, would allow me to become an English teacher in Japan. This seemed like an opportunity which was especially made for me. However, if I focused my time on getting to Japan, it seemed highly unlikely that I would be able to achieve my marriage goal and I had pledged to God that I would work to achieve that goal. So I prayed about another course in my life. I told my Father in Heaven about the opportunity, and explained to him that I would have to set aside my previous goal, if I went after this, and sought his guidance on how I should proceed.

The answer I got was clear. While He was happy with the goal I had set, and the efforts I had made to achieve it, I should set that aside for the time being, and apply to this program. I felt as if God Himself was going to bring me to Japan. My application was strong, and I had heavenly powers on my side; I was sure I would be leaving this country for the Land of the Rising Sun, but as I’m sure you know, I did not get accepted into the program.

I won’t discuss that further, except to say that I felt cheated, and it took some very sincere (albeit perhaps angrier than necessary) prayer for me to accept what happened. As it happened, the week I would have left for Japan, a new person came into my life. I had met this woman many months prior when she came over from California to visit my roommate. During the period that I was trying to go to Japan, she had decided to move to Texas. Had I gone to Japan, our paths would barely have crossed again, and she would just have become another person among my Facebook friends, whose activity I ignore. But because I was staying, we had the opportunity to become friends. Friendship led to romance, and romance led to marriage.

Engagement Picture

I said in a previous post that I have felt the Hand of God in my life quite a bit recently. But as I have thought over these events, I realize even more so how true it is. Had I not chosen to apply to the JET program, I likely would have married someone else. I’m certain that whomever I would have married would have been a good wife to me. But God had someone in particular in store for me, and so he had me put off my goal, and he did it in such a way that I learned many valuable lessons. As with all the other life decisions that I have mentioned, I have prayed often and sincerely about my decision to marry my wife. I know not only does God approve of my decision, but it’s the exact decision He wanted me to make. I am truly blessed to have a wife whom I love with all my heart and soul, and with whom God wants me to spend eternity.

My life right now, though, is anything but simple. The trials I am facing are very real, and the uncertainty in my life is definitely frightening. But I cannot doubt that God is on my side, as he is for each of you, and I’m certain that whatever he wishes me to learn through these trials will make me a better man, and hopefully, a better husband and father.

What a beautiful day

After work today, I picked up my fiancée and we went back to my apartment. Over the last weekend, we had gone down to California, among other things, to pick up the remainder of her belongings from her parents, and bring them back to Texas. We got back Tuesday, but have not finished unloading all of her stuff from the U-Haul. You see, she has a lot of stuff. Some of it will go to her current apartment. A lot of it will stay in my apartment. Anything left over will be put in a storage unit. So, the U-Haul has been mostly sitting at my apartment complex since then, and she has been going through it to figure out what can go where. Since nothing is really organized in the truck, this process can take a while. Hopefully we’ll be done by Saturday, because that’s when we have to return the truck.

So, the result of all of this is that basically we have been moving her stuff into my apartment for most of the evening, and organizing it somewhat. Or in other words, we have been turning my apartment more into our apartment. It’s actually a pretty good feeling.

In between all the packing and stuff, we also played some board games, ate dinner while watching some TV, and so forth. When it came time to go, we got on my motorcycle, Jill, and headed back to her place. Right as I pulled onto the highway, I had a wonderful experience. One might call it an epiphany, but I will call it an inspired message.

Let me describe the situation. It was a cool night, about 70 degrees, but going down the road at 70 mph with my jacket partially open, the wind chill brought it down to about the upper 40s or lower 50s. It felt great. I was sitting atop my speedy little motorcycle, Jill. I wasn’t flying down the highway, giving her a real workout, but the feel of her warmth between my legs, the rumble of the pavement beneath, the movement as we swerve around the traffic is a wonderful feeling. And to top it all off, sitting behind me, is an amazing, beautiful, fantastic woman, whom I love with everything I have, and who will soon be my wife. My fiancée, Kali, is sitting there, and I can feel her legs against my thighs, and her hands resting lightly on my waist. I’m reminded of all that we’ve shared, and all that she means to me.

As this is happening, a feeling comes over me. But it wasn’t just a feeling, it was a message from my God. He said to me, “Daniel,” (He always calls me “Daniel,” never “Dan”) “I have put you here to have joy. The people I have placed in your life, and the experiences I have given you are for that purpose. Cherish them.”

I truly have a blessed life. My family (present and future), my friends, my good times, and my bad times make me a better person, and bring me more joy. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why the Lord blesses me so, but I know that he does, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Love of my life

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, keep up with me on Facebook, or see me on a day-to-day basis, you’ve probably already heard about the amazing new woman in my life. Kali Weber came into my life a short time ago, and immediately transformed it. After becoming fast friends, our friendship quickly transformed into romance. It was almost scary how quickly we became everything to each other, but I knew in my heart I had found the woman I should be with for eternity. So, after a two-week courtship, I asked her to make me the happiest man in the world by marrying me.

I know some people are going to be worried. Two weeks is a really short amount of time to really get to know a person. If you had asked me two months ago what I thought of people who got engaged so quickly, I would have told you I thought they were idiots. There is no way they could know after such a short time if they were right for each other. It just isn’t possible, and there’s no way I’d ever be one of those people. I would also have been wrong. It’s true that there is still a lot that we don’t know each other, but what I do know about Kali is that she’s caring, passionate, a lot of fun, friendly, loyal, and that I am totally and completely in love with her and can’t imagine myself with anyone else. Anything else I need to know, I can learn as I fall in love with her over and over again more and more each day for the rest of our lives.

Even more than that, I know that we never should have ended up together had it not been for Divine Providence. I have felt the Hand of God in my life more this past month than ever in my whole life. If the God of Heaven and Earth wants the two of us to be together, then I’m certainly not going to tell Him to cool it off and slow down a little.

I thank Him every day for this wonderful woman he has put in my life. I don’t know what good thing I did to deserve this amazing blessing in my life, but a blessing she is. I can’t wait to be united with her for all eternity, to spend our lives together, to overcome challenges together, to grow old together, to see children and grandchildren come into our life together. And for all this, I am truly blessed.

Sometimes life sucks

As you, my loyal readers (do I have loyal readers, other than my mom and sisters?) are aware, I have been anxiously awaiting word from the JET Program to find out if I will be spending the next year or so in Japan. I finally got word back from them last night. They selected me as an alternate. What that means is that if someone they accepted changes their mind about going, or if someone drops out after they’re there, I might get selected to take their place. So, anytime between now and December, I might get another email from them saying they want me after all. It also means that I still have to fill out the same paperwork as if I were going, without any guarantee that I will get accepted.

Needless to say, this is incredibly frustrating. It incredibly frustrates my job situation. Right now, I’m working part-time as an assistant webmaster at UT, in the ME department. They love me down here and there has been some serious discussion about making me full-time. Unfortunately this is a very involved and difficult process, because it involves creating a new position for me, so they’d have to entertain other applicants for the position, yada, yada, yada. And with recent budget cuts, it becames even more difficult, but even still, my boss, and my boss’s boss want to try to make it happen. But if I’m leaving for Japan later this year, it’s not worth it to them. I can’t tell them I’m going to stay, and a week after I’m made full-time tell them I’m going to leave.

The hardest part of this whole thing for me is that I prayed long and hard about this program before I applied, and He told me to go for it. I knew from the get-go that I should apply to this program. Unfortunately, He never told me I would get accepted, just that I should apply. That’s been really hard for me to accept. I had a long talk with Him last night. There were many tears and some angry voices (from me, not Him, of course). Eventually I came to realize that whatever happens, somehow this will all be for my good. Whatever He has in store for me, I know He loves me, and wants the best for me. So I just have to move forward, without seeing the path ahead, and trust in Him to lead me to a good place.