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Registration Day

October 29, 2012 1 comment

I just registered for my spring classes.  I think the schedule I’ve constructed might be a little too ambitious – I’ll be jumping from 9 credits this semester to 18 in the next – but it does have its advantages.

spring2013sched

Here’s the schedule grid for the week after we get back from Spring Break.  Notice the big block off to the right?  That’s an odd, odd course; it meets all day Saturday, but only three times over the course of the semester.  You may have noticed that the designation shown on the schedule is somewhat less than illuminating.  That’s because it’s one of those catchall course designations that can mean different things at different times.  I’m taking a course called HTY 398 this semester, too – an online class entitled “Maine in the American Revolution” – but next semester it’s a non-online class that meets on three Saturdays and involves attending a full-weekend conference in Camden in February with the ominous title The Middle East: What Next?

Now, I’ll admit right up front that I am not terribly interested in the Middle East barring T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but one of the requirements for a history degree at the University of Maine is that you must have taken at least two courses involving the history of some part of the world other than Europe and North America.  With the schedule above I’m hitting both of those next semester (“History of the British Empire” counts as one too; Britain is in Europe, or at least next to it, but the Empire was not), as well as clearing off the last of the 100-level courses required (106, the followup to HTY 105, which I took in fall 1993).

I also have to admit that I’m awfully tempted to drop HTY 450, despite the fact that it gets the other half of the foreign history requirement out of the way (and that the instructor is my HTY advisor, Professor Miller), because it’s been verrry nice having Tuesday and Thursday off this semester, not only from an oh-God-not-more-driving perspective but also from an oh-God-not-buying-more-gasoline perspective.

On the MET side, what I’ve got there is the sequel to this semester’s thermodynamics class; officially they’re “Thermal Science” and “Thermal Applications”, but basically they’re Thermodynamics I and II.  MET 126 is also a sequel to a class I’ve had already, but has a new instructor.  Not sure what to make of his scheduling choices.  Has he got a day job or something?  I think the way that and Thermo II are scheduled will keep me out of my work study gig altogether on those days, but on the other hand I’ll be open for both the afternoon and night labs on Tuesday and Thursday, which is a point in favor of not dropping HTY 450.

Have to wrap this up right now, as I need to go post a sign at the MTL noting that there is no night lab tonight, then head home and wait for the power to go out.

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There are two interesting things about this.

January 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s something from the online student service thingy.

holdrefund

There are two interesting things about this.  One is what it says under Start Term – quite ambitious for a campus information system, I should think.

The other is that they didn’t do it.

For those of you who remember the excitement at the beginning of last semester, I was informed somewhat after the fact that, since I was taking Physics I at Eastern Maine Community College and thus considered an Away Student, the Bursar’s Office was holding my refund and wouldn’t release it until they’d received proof of enrollment from EMCC – proof that would not be forthcoming, EMCC’s people told me, until the second week of the semester, after their Add/Drop period expired.  This led to a bit of a desperate scramble for the first couple weeks of the semester.

Well, this semester, I’m taking Physics II at EMCC, and was warned ahead of time (for once) to expect the same dance again.  There was some fairly grim hatch-battening going on this last week as a result, I assure you.

So imagine my surprise when the aforementioned spring semester refund arrived in the mail this morning.

Actually, this was doubly surprising, because A) they insisted last month that it wasn’t ever going to happen and I should prepare to eat ramen and steal other people’s gasoline for the first week or two and B) my driveway is icy, which usually causes the postman to wave off and not bother delivering my mail.

I’d call them Monday and ask what the deal is, if I wasn’t 80% sure that would cause a Bureaucratic Correction involving the money somehow being rescinded until later in the month, and, well, no.  Not gonna do it; wouldn’t be prudent.

So That Was Fall ‘11

December 24, 2011 2 comments

Every semester there seems to be one grade that gets posted long after the others, just before the Student Records deadline.  Interestingly, it usually seems to be for the online course.  Correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but perhaps the phenomenon needs more study.

Anyway, they’re all in now.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I did not match my 4.0 performance in the spring semester; taking a technical subject was my downfall there.  (Once again I reflect that this always seems to happen, and yet I persist in a technical discipline, which makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me.)  Still, with a little last-minute (completely legitimate) exam retaking, I did get my lecture grade in Physics I up to a B, and my lab grade turned out to be a surprising A- (I say “surprising” because I think I scored 60% on the first lab report).

I don’t have my GPA all calculated neatly for me this time, because I took Physics at Eastern Maine Community College and those grades won’t appear on my UMaine transcript until they’ve managed to grind their way through the machinery at both schools.  However, I can work out what it would’ve been if I’d had all my classes at the same school easily enough.  EMCC calculates GPA using something rather revoltingly called “quality points”, but that’s just a label for the same trick UMaine uses to break down grades vs. how many credits for each class.  In the spirit of my physics lab reports, here is a breakdown of my calculations so that you can backcheck my math.

HTY 279 European Military History: A (4.0) x 3 credits = 12.00

GER 101 Introductory German I: A (4.0) x 4 credits = 16.00

INT 400 Impact of Technology on Society: A (4.0) x 3 credits = 12.00

PHY 121 Physics I lecture: B (3.0) x 3 credits = 9.00 “quality points”

PHY 121 Physics I (lab): A- (3.67) x 1 credit = 3.67 “quality points”

Total credits: 14  Total grade/”quality” points: 52.67

52.67 / 14 ≈ 3.76 (semester GPA)

So not quite last semester, but far from disastrous.  I think they’ll let me keep my financial aid with numbers like that.

Annoyingly, speaking of financial aid, next month I get to repeat this fall’s irritating bureaucratic dance, because I’m taking Physics II at EMCC as well (same instructor, same time slots, it’ll be like winter break never happened).  That means UMaine’s bursar’s office considers me an “away student” again, even though I’m taking 10 0f the semester’s 14 (or possibly 15 – more about this in a moment) credits in Orono, and won’t come across with my financial aid disbursement refund until after EMCC’s add/drop period ends.  That means no money until the second or third week of the semester, and that in turn means that those are going to be pretty long damn weeks.  Fortunately, I already have my book for German II (it being the same as the one for German I), and thanks to EMCC’s curious approach to these matters I don’t need one at all for Physics II, so I’ll only have to go into parental hock for about $300 worth of books.  And about that much again in gasoline.  This commuting business is a mug’s game, I tell you.

Anyway, the big surprise up there for me is my grade in INT 400.  That class was the inevitable one where I have no idea how I’m doing for much of the semester, not because I wasn’t getting any feedback from the instructors, but because the final grading rubric made no sense to me.  That meant I had no real idea how that feedback would boil down to a grade at the semester’s end.  Added to which, the course was generally fraught with confusion for me; I may post about it in greater detail at some point.

Next semester is a continuation of this one in a couple of respects.  German II and Physics II will have the same instructors as the first installments and there shouldn’t be any big surprises there.  One of my other classes is MET 126, Machine Drawing, which is the sequel to the CAD class I took last spring (MET 121, Technical Drawing), though sadly not with the same instructor, and they’ve redone the MET CAD lab such that it actually isn’t one any more – the computers are all gone.  Someone in the department finally realized that, since every student in the program is required to own a laptop computer capable of running Solid Edge, trying to maintain the ever-decaying CAD lab was a pointless waste of the department’s money – which, fair enough, but I wonder how we’re supposed to print in there now.  I suppose I’ll find out.

The real glaring flaw in next semester’s schedule is MET 150, Statics, the first of the physics-derived engineering-science courses in the program (and step 1 beyond the huge bottleneck in the program flow chart that was Physics I).  I’m not looking forward to Statics for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s a physics class, and as we have seen above, they’re a bit of a weak spot for me.  Second, and most importantly, it’s at 8 AM.

Now, my mother has always assumed that my deep inner aversion to things that start before about 10 in the morning is a simple matter of laziness.  I, on the other hand, contend that it runs much deeper than that.  I am lazy, yes, but that merely accounts for my general reluctance to go out of my way to do anything at any time.  The morning thing is not part of that.  It has, rather, to do with the fact that I am essentially useless at that hour.  “Well, go to bed earlier,” is her usual counter to that.  I’ve never been able to make her understand that it doesn’t matter when I go to bed.  I could have had 10 hours of sleep.  I’m still going to be only questionably sapient before 9:30 or 10 in the morning.  Now add to that the fact that my brain seems to work best between the hours of, say, 10 PM and 3 AM, and you have a scenario where I have to sacrifice my most potentially productive time every day in favor of being awake when there’s next to no point in it.

If you’ve got all that on board, you may just be able to understand why I might resent that a little.  Throw in the two-hour lead time required for me to get from bed to anywhere on the UMaine campus and you have a recipe for 16 weeks of, well, misery.  And misery of questionable usefulness, at that.  I’m genuinely not sanguine about my chances of succeeding in any class, much less a math-heavy technical one, that meets at that hour of the day.  And that doesn’t even take into account my work study gig, which tends to involve shifts from 6 to 9 PM, and what the hell.  And that’s the only time that class is ever offered – 8 AM M/W/F in the spring semester.  What Professor Dvorak is doing the rest of the time, I’m not sure.  Having a sleep disorder, would be my guess.

I have to admit I am sorely tempted to take my history prof’s advice at this point and jump ship from engineering altogether.  (I got an email from him partway through the semester saying basically, “You’ve got a real flair for this, have you considered becoming a history or history/IA major?”  And, well, of course I have, I was a history major in ‘93-‘94, but where are the jobs in that field?  I emailed him back and said I was very tempted by the thought, but that my mother would murder me in my sleep.)

Still.  Statics at 8 is a bridge I can burn in a couple of weeks if need be.  For right now I’m on break, I’m off to visit my grandparents for a few days tomorrow, my grades are in, and even if the governor manages to get me thrown out of the state’s health insurance scheme (which he very much wants the Legislature to do this spring), it probably won’t threaten my enrollment status until summer.  So I guess I won’t worry about that stuff right now.  Time for a week or two of laurel-resting.

Better Late, etc.

September 21, 2011 2 comments

I just received official notification that I’m on the Dean’s List  for Spring 2011 from my department head.

This is not a complaint.  I’m actually amused that a body which is not connected with the University in any way (the Maine Senate) beat him to it by nearly four months.  On the other hand, Dr. Dunning is busy running the School of Engineering Technology, while the Senate is just there to hamper the House and that probably leaves them with a lot of free time in the summer, so…

Ah, well, I doubt either of them will have the opportunity to congratulate me for perfect performance this semester.  Last night was the first exam in Physics I and I was hard-pressed to score an 80.  Mind you, I’ll have a chance to take it again.  In fact, technically speaking I’ll have at least four, possibly as many as eight, chances to take it again.  But still, not a spectacular start.  The instructor uses a computerized testing tool that reminds me unpleasantly of the way that astronomy lab I did so poorly in was run.  It wants a number, and it doesn’t care how you got it or where your calculations may have gone wrong.

Remember when we were kids and we felt a deep-rooted dread of the phrase "show your work" on math tests?  Turns out there’s actually a really good reason for doing that…

Ah, well.  Early days yet.