So Much To Do

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hi!  Um.  There’s been a lot going on the last little while.  Where to start?

First, I suppose, with a Most Recent Progress report.  I mentioned an upcoming math exam and my third CMJ 103 speech in the last couple of posts, so let’s go over those first.

The speech received almost full marks; I got dinged slightly for going over time and for completely omitting visual aids, having somehow failed to notice that the assignment called for at least one.  That won’t be a problem in speech #4, as I’ve already got a plan for at least six.

In mathland, things went… not quite so well, but at least better than I thought they’d gone when I left the exam.  Seventy-three percent is not a spectacular grade, but it is a passing one, and my quiz and homework averages remain strong.  Couple that with my 83% on the first exam and I can still manage a respectable showing in MAT 122 with a decent performance on the final.  (In fact, if the calculations I just did using a spreadsheet the instructor provided are correct, I’m currently averaging about 84 for the course as a whole, which I will certainly take.)

I’m essentially finished with AST 110, having completed all but a handful of questions in the online assessments in a fit of completionism over the weekend.  The ones I’m missing are predicated on owning a copy of the AST 109 textbook, which is a bit of a problem, since I took that class in 1993.  I don’t still have my copy of the textbook handy, and even if I did it would be the wrong book.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.  Obviously buying a copy of the textbook for a class that I’m not taking in order to answer a handful of questions in a single quiz on an online course is absurd.  They might have a copy handy in the university library; I meant to check on that today, but forgot.  Thanks to the weather, we haven’t had an observing session on Monday in at least a month; we still need at least one more to reach the target number of observed objects, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate before the end of the semester, which is really not that far away now, the targets will be adjusted accordingly so we don’t all get screwed by Forces Beyond Our Control.  Which is nice of them.

ECE 101 proceeds.  Let’s Call Him Matt and I are still wire-wrapping on our robot in lab where the rest of our lab group has moved on to messing around with the motors, and the lecture portion of the course has moved into the rudimentary C programming necessary to make the robot work, which fills me with loathing and dismay.  I knew I hated C, but I had forgotten just how much.

Which brings me neatly around to the fact that I’ve changed major.  After meeting with a number of persons in different departments last week, discussing things with my father, and doing a fair bit of soul-searching, I filed the paperwork last Friday to change from EE (in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) to Mechanical Engineering Technology (in the School of Engineering Technology), with the possibility, once I meet with my new ET advisor, of doubling up with Electrical Engineering Technology down the line.

I did this for a number of reasons which don’t easily bear articulating, as I discovered while fumbling witlessly through an exit interview with the chair of the ECE department this afternoon.  Part of it does have to do with my hatred of C in particular and computer programming in general, although, as Prof. Musavi pointed out during our talk, everyone is doing everything with computers nowadays and you can’t study any technical field without having to do some.  Even in MET, to my utter facepalming dismay, there is a computer programming class required next semester, though I believe the one MET students have to take is in Visual BASIC, not C or – believe it or not, the straight Mechanical Engineering students still have to take this – FORTRAN.  Part of it is because I think working with machine tools and making metal things might be more interesting and less vague than what I’m seeing in the intro electrical material.  And part of it is because power engineering – the thing in engineering that really interests me, if anything in the field can genuinely be said to do so – is sort of a hybrid of mechanical and electrical, and is mostly being pursued on the Engineering Technology side of the fence, leaving the ECE department to work primarily with computers, microelectronics, nanoelectronics, and other things that don’t particularly turn me on.

He didn’t come right out and say it in so many words, but it was fairly apparent that Prof. Musavi thinks I’m basically just bitching out.  Engineering Tech has easier math requirements and is a lot less theoretical than straight-up engineering, at least at UMaine, and it’s evident that most of the engineering faculty view it as a jumped-up vocational-technology program.  Which it is, to be honest; it started as a two-year associate-degree program back in the ’70s and evolved into its current four-year form more or less by default, as the university’s mainstream engineering program became more heavily academic and research-focused.  Both Prof. Musavi and the SET director, Dr. Dunning, have noted to me during this process that if you go for an ET degree, you can basically forget about graduate school.

Which I did consider during my deliberations on the change, but, well… as my father pointed out with all the bluntness that makes him simultaneously such a social trial and a valued source of input, is that even on at my age?  I’d be approaching 50 by the time I burst onto the job search scene as a newly minted PhD.  How ridiculous is that?

What Dr. Dunning didn’t mention while we were meeting – and what Prof. Musavi only mentioned in a casual sort of by-the-way fashion after the paperwork was filed and the die was cast – is that, if you have an ET degree, you can also basically forget about qualifying for a Professional Engineer license in most states.  The State of Maine’s licensure board treats UMaine ET graduates the same as regular engineering grads, but those of most other states view the ET program as… well, as a jumped-up voke-tech program.  People Who Bitched Out of Calculus III Need Not Apply.

I’m not saying it absolutely would have changed my decision if I had known that?  But it would have been nice if someone had mentioned it at any point before that of no return.

Ah, well, hell with it.  I’m laying even odds I piss off back to the liberal arts where I belong at some point in the next calendar year anyway, even though my mother will probably smother me in my sleep if I do.  (It’s refreshingly straightforward, if a bit less than unconditionally supportive, to have one’s parents tell one to stick with a spiritually unrewarding but documentably lucrative field of study because they’re getting old and one will have to pay for their upkeep fairly soon.)

So, uh.  That’s how I spent my last week or so.  There was another thing, too, but that’s its own convoluted and somewhat bitchy story, so it should get its own post with its own tags and whatnot.

  1. FrozenCapybara
    November 15, 2010 at 23:46

    Before I get to the ranty bit, if the Astro book in question happens to be “Astronomy: Journey to the Cosmic Frontier” by John Fix, please do email me, I’d be happy to scan relevant bits. I doubt it is but I figured I’d offer. :)

    Regarding grad school: OK, so I did drop out of grad school, and this comment does come from a place of bitterness, but I don’t think it is particularly exaggerated:


    Or at least not in the sciences or engineering. Science/Engineering grad school in the US is an exercise in misery and horribleness. If you are remarkably, phenomenally lucky, you will spend 6-8 years of your life occasionally doing marginally interesting things that you might occasionally get a tiny bit of say in, but mostly teaching unmotivated undergrads and grading papers and doing boring stuff for your advisor, while getting paid a salary that’s only marginally above poverty level. More likely, you will end up spending 6-8 years of your life doing crappy boring projects for your advisor that you have no interest in (and teaching unmotivated undergrads) while getting paid a salary that qualifies you for food stamps, with no opportunity to earn extra money, because you are expected to be in the lab at all times when not sleeping, and you’re only allowed 4 hrs/day for that. With no particular promise of job prospects after graduation, as, especially in crappy economies, recently-graduated Ph.D.s are a dime a dozen.

    Grad school in engineering/science is something you should only do if you are so utterly and completely in love with the subject that you cannot imagine ever doing anything else, and are prepared to give up your entire life to do so for 6-8 years. When I say your entire life, I mean your ENTIRE life. You WILL work upwards of 80-hour weeks on a regular basis. You will not have time for TV, news, and frequently, sleep.

    In short, I wouldn’t feel too badly about giving it up.

    • Ben
      November 16, 2010 at 12:21

      The grad school thing doesn’t get me squinting skeptically at the fine print nearly as much as the licensure thing. I mean, the last thing I want – well, not the very last thing, I suppose, it’d be better than a gunshot wound, but – is to be trapped perpetually in Maine, of all places, because the professional credentials I’ve so inconvenienced myself to acquire aren’t valid anywhere else. And I’m a bit miffed at the SET people for not mentioning it at all.

      Also, regarding the book, alas it is not; it’s Comins and Kaufman’s Discovering the Universe, eighth edition. Only $84.40 used at the campus bookstore! Sigh.

  2. Mechaman
    November 17, 2010 at 18:45

    Has some for 15, but from experience the time for it to arrive may be too late.

    • Ben
      November 17, 2010 at 23:20

      Thanks, it’s cool – the Fogler Library had one, and, weirdly, it wasn’t already out. So I should be able to finish up the last of the online lessons this weekend.

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