Home > Documenting the Process, General Musings > Semester 2: Non-Electric Boogaloo

Semester 2: Non-Electric Boogaloo

My new groove as a mechanical engineering technology major begins tomorrow, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I’m not ready to go back to school.

Oh, I’ve got my books – well, most of them, anyway.  My schedule is straightforward enough, even if it does involve rather more being out in the wilderness after dark than I would really prefer.  I have plenty of lovely woolly socks from Christmas, four new blank single-subject notebooks for my LiveScribe smartpen, a 2011 organizer, fresh ink cartridges, all that jazz.

What I don’t have is much sense of having rested over my vacation, primarily because for the last week or so of it, I haven’t.  I’ve had a cold, or the flu, or pneumonic plague, or some damn thing.  I came down with it while I was visiting my grandparents just after New Year’s and it’s dogged me all week.  In fact, classes start in 11 hours (well, mine don’t, I wasn’t daft enough to schedule an 8 o’clocker, but) and I still have it.  I think it’s starting to taper off a bit, but I’ve thought that before over the course of this week and then been cruelly disabused of the notion a few hours later, when my sinuses slam shut like a book again and I’m up out of bed and pacing the floor (I can’t sleep if I can’t breathe through my nose).

This has been going on since last Monday, and it isn’t conducive to that tanned, rested and ready feeling that’s so essential for going back to school with a smile, or at least without a foot-dragging spectre of dread.

Also, I’m entangled in the usual bureaucratic hassles.  I tried to switch from the somewhat-more-basic math course the department automatically signed me up for this semester back to the main calculus sequence, thinking it would provide more flexibility later on, but the Calculus I section that meets at the same time is full.  The system automatically waitlisted me, but it informed me as it did so that I’m #11 with a bullet, which is not too encouraging – and I’m not sure if it automatically removed me from the other math course at the same time.  If it did, well, that’s not good – I need to be taking something.  So I guess I’ll have to pop into the department office in the morning and see if we can sort that out.  And ask someone if what I heard last month about licensure in other states is true.

Also, I got an email yesterday morning from the instructor of the machine tool lab class I’m taking with a reading assignment for the first class in it (which is tomorrow).  Uh?  Call me a tad bit petulant, but I’m not down with the semester starting before the bit on the calendar that says "semester starts".  Elsewhere in the course materials for that class there’s an offhanded note to bring your steel-toed shoes and safety glasses to the first lab (which is also tomorrow in my case).  If I can work out a diplomatic way to do it, I might point out that they should probably make a note of those things being required in the course’s catalog description, so people know about it before the day before class.  As it happens, I’m not going to be able to comply with that one, as my boot shop isn’t open on Mondays.  So that should be interesting.

Also in tomorrow’s campus chase, I may try once again to get hold of the physics department office and inquire as to how in the name of Zarquon the Redeemer I managed to get a D in AST 110.  I realize I had my disagreements with WebCT (mentioned previously), but was my observation project really that bad?  I thought that half of the class went quite well.

Oh, yeah, I’ve been meaning to post about that for a while, I don’t think I ever actually shared my grades from last semester.  Apart from AST 110, which was rather worse than I was expecting, the others were all either as expected or pleasant surprises, thus:

  • AST 110 (Intro to Astronomy – Lab): D (?)
  • MAT 122 (Pre-Calculus): A (!)
  • ECE 100 (Intro to Electrical Engineering Seminar): P
  • ECE 101 (Intro to Electrical Engineering w/Lab): A-
  • CMJ 103 (Fundamentals of Public Communication): A

Even with the D in AST 110, that gives me a semester GPA of 3.6mumble (it was only a 1-credit course).  Annoyingly, because of the F I pulled in COS 220 (Intro C Programming) in 1993, my overall cumulative GPA is now 3.22, which is .08 below the threshold for the dean’s list.  But hey.That A in MAT 122 is the main reason why I tried to swap out TME 152 (Technical Mathematics II, half of which would just be a recap of MAT 122 anyway) for MAT 126 (Calculus I) – if I managed to stay ahead of the curve in that class, maybe proceeding into the main calculus cycle isn’t as crazy as it seemed like it was going to be back in November.

My performance in MAT 122 and ECE 101 also brings to light an interesting phenomenon, that being: I apparently have no idea when I’m doing well in a class.  I spent most of the semester thinking that both of those courses were veering between mediocrity and certain doom, only to discover when the smoke cleared that I’d aced one (there must have been a grading curve involved – how else could I possibly have gotten an A in a class where one of my three exam scores was a 76?) and nearly so the other.  I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or makes me nervous, knowing that however I feel like I’m doing, I probably have no real idea.

This semester’s schedule has appeared here already, so I won’t bother with that again, but just to recap, the courses on tap for this time around are (as of the beginning of Add/Drop Week):

  • COS 120 (Introduction to Programming I) – yes, it’s another godforsaken computer programming class.  No matter where you go nowadays, there it is.  This one’s in Visual Basic, of all things.  Also, for no reason I can discern, it meets once a week for two hours starting at 5 PM.  Has the prof got a day job?
  • MET 107 (Machine Tool Laboratory I) – making things out of metal!  Involves more enforced teamwork, oh joy, but at least the teams are preselected, so we won’t have the awkward-milling-around phase on day 1.
  • MET 121 (Technical Drawing) – once again, this is a field that has been consumed by the all-devouring maw of the Computer.  There is unlikely to be any actual drafting with nifty tools and a nice slanty table here; my guess it it’s all CAD stuff, just as they no longer teach you how to work a slide rule in Calculus.  Involves three textbooks, one of which has the slightly dubious title Modern Graphics Communications, and a piece of software called Solid Edge, which sounds like an off-brand fighting game.
  • TME 152 (Technical Mathematics II) or MAT 126 (Calculus I) – we’ve covered this.
  • And possibly MUY 101 (Fundamentals of Music), an introductory music theory course, which satisfies one of the general education requirements and looks like it might be interesting.  Unfortunately, I ended up in the online section, and after my experience with AST 110 I’m not sure I’m eager to repeat that.  It’ll probably get dropped if I do make the switch to MAT 126, because that’s worth one more credit and requires more in-class time than TME 152.

I have to say, this all looked much more stimulating when I was signing up for it.  On the other hand, I’d had a lot more sleep over the previous seven days then.  Hopefully once things get rolling again, a rhythm will develop, as it did last semester, and everything will be fine.  Although I’m still concerned about the winter commute.  I’ve gotten rather deliciously used to not driving 140 miles a day.

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  1. Phil C
    January 12, 2011 at 07:20

    Not to cause any more panic than strictly necessary, and a question that’s almost been certainly answered in reality, if not in this particular forum, but is there a possibility that said 2 hour block of COS 120 is just the lab section, and there’s a separate lecture session or sessions? I only ask because my own experience with CSCI 1300 was like that; three 9:00 AM sessions, followed by a two hour lab starting at 5:00 PM on Wednesdays. This, combined with the arcane problems involved (“Solve the travelling salesman problem!”, “Make a program to make photo mosaics from these stock .jpegs!” was enough to dissuade me from a double-major and drive me back into the humanities.

    • Ben
      January 12, 2011 at 17:12

      Nope, that’s the only time that class meets. It’s a bit odd, but I ended up in the Department of Lifelong Learning (what they used to call Continuing Education, and Adult Ed before that) section of COS 120, because at the time my course schedule was originally planned, I had another class at the only time the regular version meets. So that once-a-week evening block is both lecture AND lab. (The other version has lecture for an hour on Monday morning and lab for an hour on Friday afternoon, which is about as inefficient as it could possibly be, I should think.) And it’s been canceled this week because of the snowstorm, or I’d be on my way to it right now.

      I don’t know quite what it’s going to entail, but it wouldn’t overly surprise me to discover that it has a similarly ridiculous sort of learning curve. Every other programming class I’ve ever attempted has. I’m particularly reminded of the Pascal class I took at WPI, which had a progression in the first three lessons something like:

      1) “hello world”
      2) Simple list processing (bubble sort)
      3) Invent an adaptive open-shortest-path-first IP routing protocol. Justify your design decisions.

      I failed that class in a very, very big way.

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