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Unfinished Thoughts

Unfinished Thoughts

by William Flake

Salkehatchie Sunday

Sunday. The Sabbath. The day of rest before the week. This is always one of the longest days of the Salkehatchie week, because we’re itching to get started, but have to wait.

Home Site meetings

First thing this morning, the newly formed youth site team met with our homeowner for the first time. It was a good meeting, albeit a little rushed because Mrs. McCauley had to get to church. We discussed our plans for the week, and listened to her desires for other projects. There’s a lot on our plate, very little money to do it with, and a questionable amount of time. It should be doable, though, and I’m confident that at the end of the week she I’ll be very happy.

The team sitting around tables in Starbucks
The team at Starbucks
After the meeting, we had time to kill before our worship service started, so we went to Target and began some of the shopping for the worksite tomorrow. To ensure that we had happy campers, we took the opportunity to fellowship at Starbucks.

Camp Photos

Following the worship service, we took the camp photos for the year. They were completely different than in any year past. In past years, photos would either be nicely posed, or posed with a single member being goofy. This year, each team spontaneously competed to have the most original photo. Not to gloat, but I think that my team won.

A posed photo of the entire camp A photo of Frank, our largest teammate, laying on top of the rest of the campers while being fanned and offered fruit

Building the Teams

We had a bunch of fun team building exercises in the sanctuary, which ranged from rock/paper/scissors tag to Life Savers relays. They were a good opportunity to laugh and meet all the people in our new team. We then went bowling. In total, 3 guys bowled against 5 ladies on adjacent lanes. It was tough, but the men managed to just barely lead out the women’s scores in both games. It was good to be able to laugh and share such a time with each other.

People Bowling

Commissioning Service

Inside of the Ranson House for dinner

We had a brief team meeting, got all of our ducks in a row for the morning, and proceeded to the Ranson House for dinner. I sat with some of the other leaders, and met the ghost who also appears to inhabit the room (as indicated by a perpetually cold spot, regardless of outside temperature or A/C.

The commissioning service

We came back to the church for our ceremony, and we were led through music and a devotional by Perry and Tresca. The theme for the week is “Serving Like Jesus.” As a reminder of this theme (somehow) our symbol are friendship bracelets handmade by Mona. Each one is unique and imperfect, but each contains a small cross that is perfectly made. It’s a good, soft, wearable symbol.

Work starts tomorrow. Wish us luck! I’m excited to go out and serve God and serve others through this ministry.

Salkehatchie Saturday

Today began my 7th Salkehatchie Summer Service camp. This year, like last, is marked by several changes. First, I actually had to drive up here by myself. The trip is a lot longer when you can’t fall asleep in Columbia. Secondly, I am a site leader this year. It’s a major increase in responsibility, especially given that last year the other adults didn’t trust me with the driving directions. I must have done something right though. Fortunately, I am working with a very experienced team of adults, and we have a skilled group of youth this camp. I’m excited about jumping right in!

Pre-Camp Activities

View of the shower trailer
The probably-soon-to-tip shower trailer

Frank and I had agreed to get to camp rather early this year. That way, if we needed to do any last minute discussions about our site, we could do so with enough time to go to Home Depot. As it turns out, we did enough planning beforehand that we did not need the additional time. Instead, I was tasked with setting up the shower trailer and getting music ready for the slideshow. The music was the easy part. As for the shower stall… it could still use a bit of work. I’m pretty sure that none of the showers are going to drain, and the entire contraption might just fall over. We’ll see!

Tour of Homes

Youth standing outside one of the houses
Standing outside just before the rains started

The tour of homes this year was interesting. For the first time in anyone’s memory, it rained. Not just a little sprinkle either; it was pouring. For the last couple of homes, we had to give the tour in shifts. It certainly made taking Before pictures a lot more interesting. Good thing I had Mom’s waterproof camera (thanks Mom!)


People eating dinner

Delicious as always. Nom nom nom.

Worship and “Getting to Know You”s

Room full of adults and youth standing and singing

We began our evening session with the slideshow from last year. It’s always amazing when you look back at a previous years’ camp. All of my memories of the home I worked on were from the finished product; it was a shock to see what the homes looked like before we worked on them. After this many years, it still amazes me what kind of transformations are possible.

Blurs of people running around the room playing games
Note: They looked this blurry in real life too

Our brief worship time featured the musical stylings of Perry Brittain. (As an aside, I apologize for playing most of Perry’s set list during the slideshow. Imitation is flattery, right?) Then, Tresca, this year wearing the hat of Spiritual Director, led us in group building exercises and ice breakers. They were a lot of fun, and we somehow (narrowly) avoided two concussions, a shattered church door, and raw egg on the floor. We have a great group of youth this year, and I’m looking forward to serving alongside them.

Our Engagement Story

On Saturday night, my life changed. At just after , I asked Brittany Lynn Kidman to marry me. (Spoiler warning: she said yes.) It came as a surprise to her, and, to be honest, as a surprise to me too. More on that later. I’m sure by now, you’ve probably read her side of her story, but like all good tales (and even annoying, confusing tales like The Sound and the Fury) you miss a lot of details without hearing the other side. This is my story.

The Original Plan

For months, I have been planning how I would propose marriage to Brittany. It was going to be on the last day of exams at the end of this upcoming fall semester. When the campus was quiet, I would walk her though the President’s Park, stopping in the rotunda. At that point, she would probably figure out what was going on, and I would drop on a knee and ask. We would then proceed to the restaurant, where there would be champagne already on the table. At that point, the unicorns would come and serve our food, and a chariot powered by dreams would sweep us away into sunset. Needless to say, the plan still needed a lot of work, and, in retrospect, wasn’t that good to start.

Buying the Ring

A black leather ring with chain links and a skull Image from
The ring of Brittany’s dreams (I think)

Months ago, we decided that Brittany should accompany me to pick out the ring. Apparently, despite her consciously believing I could find a ring she would like, her subconscious felt differently. After a solid week of dreams/nightmares about me picking black leather rings with chains hanging off (or something similar), I decided that she should just pick out her own ring to eliminate the risk of her getting one she hated.

My plan was get the ring this summer before we got back to school. On , Brittany reminded me that the “summer before we got back to school” was rapidly approaching its end. Running out of time and having a free weekend for once led me to surprise her by saying, “Let’s go tomorrow!” I needed a ring, and the opportunity had plopped down on my doorstep, so I took it.

The next morning, Brittany and I, accompanied by my mom (for wisdom and moral support) got in the car and traveled to Skatell’s Jewelers in West Ashley. It was a wholly better experience when compared to the high-pressure sales practices used by the mall jewelers. We looked around, asked a bunch of questions, and eventually settled on a three stone ring with a plain band. After we ate lunch at the mall, though, Brittany told me that, although she liked the ring, she didn’t love it, per se. I was confused, because I am a guy.

On the way home, we decided to stop at Colucci’s Jewelers in downtown Summerville. The atmosphere was different still. It wasn’t a high pressure sale, but it also wasn’t relaxed like Skatell’s. Instead, everyone, from Mr. Colucci himself to the staff people took a genuine interest in our satisfaction.

Brittany's engagement ring on her finger
The ring she actually selected

The first ring that we picked up had three stones, all round cut, with a plain band. I honestly cannot tell you what was different between it and the one we settled on earlier. We looked at the ring carefully. I thought the stones looked rather dull. Mom and Brittany thought they were odd colors, but didn’t agree on the shade. In either case, our opinions on the merchandise bothered the whole staff, who immediately sent it back to be cleaned and reinspected. To prove to us that the quality was as high as they claimed, Mr. Colucci escorted us outside to view the ring in sunlight. I was struck by how much clearer it looked than under artificial light. Mom was struck by how cool the magnifying glass was. Brittany, on the other hand, was in love. Her face lit up, and was sparkling more brilliantly than the diamonds. She knew that it was the perfect ring, and I knew that she was right. I bought the ring on the spot.

The Ride Home

Even as all of the paperwork was filled out and we got into the car, that sparkle never left her face. I haven’t seen anyone look that happy in my life. Ever. All the way home, she was beaming, and the thought of making her wait until December to move forward began to seem downright cruel. Mom asked if I just wanted to stay at Brittany’s house, but I felt I needed to go home and think about what I needed to do. As we pulled out of her driveway, I looked at Mom and told her that I had to ask soon. She agreed.

Planning the Date

By this point, it was after 3:00 PM. I had to move fast. The 4th of July was the next day, and I knew it would be too hectic. That left that same evening.

We got home and my parents and I started bouncing ideas off each other. Brittany always said she wanted to be dressed up when I proposed, so I tried to think of a place which would force her to dress nicely. Dad suggested the dining room at Woodlands Inn, which is the old 5 star restaurant in the state. That seemed to do the trick. A few more minor details were lined up, and a half hour later, we had 8:00 reservations and a well thought out date. I even had a fake story lined up: as far as Brittany knew, this would be our annual 4th of July date, but a day earlier to keep the next day somewhat sane.

A Brief Diversion

Before any of the evening’s festivities could unfold, though, we had to first go to Red, White, and Blue on the Green in downtown Summerville. It was just about as entertaining as could be expected: lots of games that could only appeal to kids, a man dressed in a pig suit, a dog dressed as the statue of liberty, and a Fleetwood Mac cover band. We ended up spending most of our time walking though the rest of downtown, chatting about trivial stuff, all the while I was trying to speak slowly and seem nonchalant about the upcoming “date.” It was darn near impossible.

Changing, Asking, and Last Minute Corrections

Once we got back to her house, I decided to go ahead and change into my suit, even though it was really too early. This was intentional; she would not want to get prettied-up that soon, so I would have a bit of time to take care of last-minute arrangements. I placed the ring inside my coat pocket, and walked outside. As luck would have it, she had just started getting ready, giving me ample time to ask for the blessing of her mother and stepfather in person and her father over the phone (not ideal, but necessary given the circumstances.) Just as I got off the phone with her dad, she came out in her little black dress.

Just as we prepared to go, a thought crossed my mind: Brittany is a hugger. Surely she would feel the ring in my coat pocket when she went in for the hug. As I was trying to figure out how to cope with this situation, Brittany’s mom told her to turn off the light in the back room. This was my chance! I got back there, moved the ring where my keys were, my keys where my iPod was, and I then set my iPod on he kitchen table next to her purse. With that, my pockets felt the same as before, and the ring was comfortably concealed. Show time.

Bumbling and Stumbling

We got to Woodlands at just about 7:00. We parked (not realizing they had a valet) and walked up towards the door. On the way in, Brittany pulled out my iPod from her purse, and was confused as to how it got there. My heart needlessly started racing, for I figured that she would realize that it was not in my pocket, and begin to speculate what was holding its place. She didn’t put more thought into it. I resumed breathing.

The valet met us at the front steps and asked us if we had reservations, and then offered that we could be seated early. I declined, and told him that we would prefer to wait outside for a while. I walked Brittany down the brick path to the side doors where we took our prom pictures two years ago. Aside: prom was two years ago…

Us taking pictures before our senior prom in the same location that I later proposed.
Photo from Prom 2008. This same spot is where I proposed

I began reciting my hastily rehearsed speech. I began by reminding her how much I love her. It was completely unnecessary, but seemed like a good place to start. I then started talking about the events of the day, and how excited I was to see her face lighting up like the midday sun. She replied that it would be even more radiant when finally proposed. That caught me off guard. How do you respond to a sarcastic comment about “someday” getting engaged while in the middle of asking. I decided the best course of action would be to shrug it off.

At that point in my story about the day, I had already come to the present moment. I started talking about the place we were, and what we had first thought about it. When we first moved here a decade ago, someone mentioned Woodlands to my family. We were shocked to discover it was a 5 star restaurant, because the name could work equally well as a southern barbecue joint or something. I wrapped this part of the story up quickly, because it ended up being less interesting in real life than I had imagined earlier.

Finally, I used the name of the place as a segue to names in general. This part I had rehearsed for months:

You know, it’s funny how many names I’ve called you in just the short time we’ve dated. When I met you, you were Bacon. Then Brittany. Lynn. Gold leader. Baby. But even with all these names and nicknames, there’s one more that I want you to have.

She jokingly interjected, Yours!

I replied, Yes, mine.

At that point I slowly dropped to my knee and started fumbling in my pocket for the ring. It was caught underneath my wallet, and I couldn’t get it out. Not wanting to delay the question any longer, I threw my wallet on the ground, pulled out the ring, asked Brittany to marry me, and slid the ring on her finger. In her shock, she was crying and could not verbally say yes, but her nodding got the point across. In my shock at actually surprising her, the next few minutes became a blur.

The next thing I remember, we were walking towards the front of the restaurant again. The hosts had both door opened wide for us, a handful of tissues for Brittany, and congratulated us. After asking my name for the reservation, we were introduced as Mr. and the soon to be Mrs. Flake. It was a great sound.

The rest of the evening was magical. The food was delicious, the staff was wonderful, and we received congratulations all night long. For any other guys looking for a proposal venue, this was perfect: we were made to feel like royalty (the only downside was that I had to pay like royalty too.)

How such an unplanned day could have gone so well I will never know. Going ring shopping was suggested on a whim. Going to a second store was impulsive. That store being open and us being treated so well was luck. Throwing out my plans and starting over was terrifying, but ended up worrying out better than I could have dreamed. One completely off-the-cuff afternoon turned into one of the greatest days of my life.

Fall 2010 Schedule of Classes

It’s that time of the semester again: the time when Facebook albums get clogged with ugly tables and obscure abbreviations that make little sense to anyone. That’s right, it’s course registration time!

Going into registration this time, I was fully convinced that my department head is a Dale Jr. fan. By the initial course list, I had single sections of four classes, and those classes made the shape a perfect number 8 on the schedule. Fortunately for my sense of good taste (and unfortunately for my ability to plan ahead) these classes got horribly jumbled around, forcing me to actually think about what classes I was adding.

All told though, it’s not a bad schedule, aside from the three 8:00am classes, which I had no way to work around. Oh well, a fifth semester of having to wake up at a decent hour won’t kill me.

ID Name Time Days
C E 351-002 Civil Engineering Materials 12:30-1:45 TR
C E L 351-004 Civil Engineering Materials Lab 2:30-5:00 W
C E 331-001 Construction Engineering & Management 8:00-8:50 MWF
EX ST 301-003 Introductory Statistics 10:10-11:00 MW
EX ST L 301-022 Introductory Statistics Lab 10:10-12:00 F
C E 341-001 Introduction to Fluid Mechanics 9:05-9:55 MWF
C E L 341-001 Introduction to Fluid Mechanics Lab 2:30-5:00 M
C E 301-002 Structural Analysis 9:30-10:45 TR

Unfinished Thoughts 2.0

It’s been a big week for this website. Almost everything is new. The server is new. The design is new. Heck, there’s even a new blog post! Let’s dive in and I’ll show you around.

The Invisible Stuff

For the past year, I’ve hosted my website with A2 Hosting. A2 has been a great host for me. It gave great performance, unlimited storage and bandwidth, and lots of extras that make web hosting a little easier.

About a week ago, I was browsing through Twitter and stumbled across a link to As I read through the documentation on their services, I realized some important things:

  1. As little traffic as I get, I really don’t need unlimited bandwidth.
  2. I only used one of the many extras offered, and it has been spitting back errors at me for weeks.
  3. Given these things, I was paying far too much.

Being a bit of a tightwad, I switched over to Near Free Speech’s pay-as-you-go model rather than the all-you-can-eat model I used before. So far I have been nothing but impressed with the new service, and the 3-4¢ per day is much more attractive.

The Visible

What good is it to replace the entire backend and not have much to really show for it? I decided that the time was right to give the old place a fresh coat of paint.

When I first designed version 1.0 of this site last April, I was focused on getting an online identity established. I wanted it to feel simple, yet somewhat sophisticated. Whether I hit that target or not is up to your judgement.

Over the past year, the code behind the site has undergone a lot of transformations. I’ve redesigned little pieces of the site at different times. I began with the blog. Then I overhauled the About Me section in a similar, but not completely consistent way. Then I redesigned the ePortfolio in a third, vaguely similar but not quite the same fashion. These styles got changed again and again as I repeatedly changed the backend code; it always looked similar, but not exactly the same as before.

The time had come for a spring cleaning.

The new design required me to touch nearly every box on the page, subtly tweaking it and drawing it in line with other similar elements. My goal was to make the site more polished and less “heavy” feeling. I know that such very subjective criteria are not the best descriptors, but they are the ideas which governed every change. Gone is the dark gray and black page header, replaced by a less heavy white and a small red navigation bar. Elements that were placed arbitrarily on the page (such as the blog navigation boxes on the right) are now shifted into more deliberately placed and aligned locations.

The ePortfolio saw the biggest changes, with the entire page layout being flipped horizontally to reflect the layout of the blog. The incongruence of these two pages had really irked my in the old design. Now, nearly all similar elements have matching styles, and the entire site feels more unified.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the results of both the hosting transfer and redesign. I think I have a good foundation for future features, enhancements, and über-enlightening blog posts.

Take some time, browse around, reminisce my great posts of yore. If you find any problems, or have any suggestions or comments, let me know in the comments.