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Posts Tagged ‘what am I doing?’

Did I Miss Anything?

July 18, 2012 2 comments

OK, well, been a while, sorry about that.  I got a little sidetracked.  Actually, I am a little sidetracked, but I have a few minutes, so here’s a quick update on three things that have gone on since January.

1) Program Changes

This past spring, during the first week of the semester, I found myself dissatisfied with my choice of program again.  This was not quite the same as my disenchantment with electrical engineering at the end of Fall ‘10 – it had more to do with the fact that one of the courses I was enrolled in seemed not to know quite what it wanted to be, in a way that made me wonder whether the MET program was really the thing.  (That, and I’ve been told by professors in other fields that graduates of the School of Engineering Technology aren’t eligible for licensure as professional engineers in states other than Maine, which is cause for concern if, like me, you’ve been tired of living here since about 1989.)

I considered switching to straight mechanical engineering, but eventually decided against it because there’s very little portability between the two programs.  I’d essentially have been starting over, and there’s always the enhanced math requirements of the MEE program to consider.  Then I got to thinking about something Professor Miller had said to me in an email back in the fall semester – to the effect that he thought I had a real flair for history and had I considered majoring in it?  In fact, I was a history major the first time I was at UMaine, in 1993-94… but the engineering and engineering tech programs have by far the best (and by “best” I really mean “least dismal” in this day and age) post-graduation employment potential.

I had just about convinced myself that that wasn’t important – that what I really needed to do was Follow My Heart regardless of future considerations and “go home” to the history department – by the time I arrived at that department’s office and asked the lady there for the form I would need to get it done…

… and then she asked me, “Do you intend to drop your engineering major?”

And I thought, Well, obviously – I’ve no intention of carrying two majors…

And what I said out loud was, “Oh no, certainly not.”

I mulled that snap decision over for the rest of that week, and what I eventually concluded was that I’d had an idea that hadn’t made its way to my conscious mind yet.  Either that or I’m really good at rationalizing.  Either way, what I’m thinking now is this: I’ll do both majors – in fact, I need to file another paper to split my program into two completely separate degrees – and then use the technical background my MET degree provides to develop a place for myself as a technology historian.  I’ve been told repeatedly (by people within as well as outside the program) that SET grads can basically forget about graduate school in engineering, so, fine – I’ll do it in history.

Mind you, there is not exactly a booming job market for historians with a specific focus on science, technology, and engineering, but there must be some way in.  I mean, I once saw a television documentary which featured a man whose job title was “forensic paleoclimatologist”.  If there’s a corner of the academic world for someone with a specialization like that, surely there’s one for what I’m thinking of doing.  And if not, well, I’ll still be able to work as a mechanical engineer.  In Maine.

It’s not the tastiest fallback position, but at least it is one.

2) The Spring Semester

With a plan thus in place, I went ahead and firmed up my course selections for the semester.  This was largely a continuation of Fall ‘11, with Introductory German 2 at UMaine and Physics 2 at EMCC following on their predecessors from the fall; same instructors, too, and in the case of Physics, the same days and times of day.  I also had the first of the MET program’s mechanics courses, Statics, which met at 8 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – not my favorite, but the class itself turned out to be great.

I stumbled a little early on with Statics, mainly because of the time of day, and partly because (as a corollary) I hadn’t quite divined Professor Dvorak’s attitude toward examinations when the time came for the first one.  He announced it in class a week before it was to be held and pointed out, sort of by the way, that since the UMaine academic day starts at 8, there was no class scheduled in the room before ours.  “I’m going to be here at seven,” he said, “but you don’t have to come in until the regular time.”

So I did go in at the regular time, and had about 70% of the exam finished when the class period ended and we all had to GTFO to make room for the guys who needed the room for 9 o’clock.  I turned out that I had that 70% done right, so if I’d had time to finish I’d have aced the test.  Well, lesson learned; I showed up no later than 7:15 for the others (apart from the one I missed for medical reasons and had to make up on an afternoon in the last week of the semester), finished them all in plenty of time, and walked away with an A in the class.

Physics similarly went well, because by then I did have a clear read on Mr. Marquis and his preferences for the way the class ran.  It was basically just like the course I’d taken in the fall hadn’t finished yet – more of the same, just with different faces in the lab section.  Physics 2 is largely focused on electromagnetism, acoustics, and optics, all of which is good times to me.  No worries there, apart from the week when I inexplicably lost my lab report somewhere between home and class.  It turned out not to hurt me in the end, because my other labs were good enough that the lowest-grade-dropped being a zero didn’t leave me with a bleeding wound elsewhere on the score sheet.  A there as well.

I struggled a little in German, or at least felt like I did.  It was a strange experience.  For no really evident reason I found myself walking out of every test (and there’s one every couple of weeks in Intro German, rather than the more usual university-level three or four a semester) thinking Well, that was a disaster, only to discover when they came back on Monday that I’d done fine, or fallen down on one section and saved myself with the extra credit at the end, or some similar oddity.  The resulting A- is one of those “game was not as close as the score implies” things.  Annoyingly, I can’t take Intermediate German this fall because it’s only offered at the same time as an MET course I critically need.

Of course, now all of that is up in the air because

3) Impending Medical Adventures

I’ve gone into greater detail about this elsewhere, but most of the details aren’t really germane to Extra Sheets, so here’s the really short version: I have to have major surgery in a couple of weeks.  This was originally supposed to happen much earlier in the month, when it would just have been possible that I’d have been recovered by the start of the fall semester.  That’s entirely out of the question now.

I’m exploring my options with the help of the student disability services office, the SET program office, and others at the University.  I may be able to cut my course load back to a part-time schedule and just take the two MET courses I have to have to stay on track with the program.  It’s a small program, a lot of the courses are specific prereqs for others, and many are only offered in one semester or the other, so if I miss this fall’s pieces that basically sets me back a full year.  Would really like to avoid that if I can help it, although at this point I’m not sure I can.  We’ll see.

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Got Those First Two Weeks of the Semester Blues

September 6, 2011 2 comments

Seriously, I hate the first two weeks of the semester.  There are a number of reasons for this.  One is that I’m coming off a prolonged period of inactivity, and moving again is always accompanied by the mental screech of rusty joints.  Another is that I spend the first week, if not two, not quite remembering when or where anything is, in a constant state of feeling like I’ve forgotten something important which is usually – but not always – false.  A third is simply that it’s hard to see the end of the semester from the beginning.  That was one of the things I liked about the seven-week terms at WPI; you could always see the other end of the tunnel.

Anyway.  The fall semester at the University of Maine started a week ago today – well, Monday – and, having made it through the first week, I have a few things to report.

First: This is kind of a strange semester.  I knew it would be in the spring, when I signed up for the classes I’m taking, but now that I’m actually doing them it’s even a little weirder than I thought.  Mainly this is because I’m still in a technical major – still mechanical engineering technology – but I’m not taking any courses directly relating to that program.  It’s almost like being a humanities student again.

This is not just because I didn’t feel like it, of course; it’s because I’ve run into a major bottleneck in the program.  It turns out that almost everything after the really basic freshman stuff, which I took in the spring, has Physics I as a prerequisite.  Seriously, the lot.  If I had a copy of the flow chart my advisor showed me I’d inline it here so you can see.  After the first semester, it pinches down to PHY 107 like a crowd control choke point at an airport.  On the other hand, I still needed to be taking at least 12 credits this fall to maintain my standing as a full-time student…

After a great deal of Pauli Exclusion Principle Bingo with the online catalog, I managed to find a selection of classes that looked interesting, might not be a complete waste of my time, and in one case ticks off the two remaining boxes on the General Education Requirements form.  My advisor will no doubt give me hell about it when we meet up to plan Spring 2012 later on this fall and he sees what I ended up with, because he’s very efficiency-oriented and will be terribly annoyed that I A) took humanities classes that fit GenEd categories I’ve already met and B) didn’t take Chemistry I.  (Two lab sciences in the same semester?  Er, no thanks.)

So what am I taking?  In no particular order:

GER 101.  Yes, this is what you think it is: Introductory German I.  "Why in God’s name would you take German I?" I hear you asking.  (Actually, I hear Professor Crosby asking, because he did, last April, when it appeared on my Wish List.)  I’ll give you the same answers I gave him: One, I’ve always kind of wanted to learn German, and they didn’t offer it at my high school; two, German strikes me as a more-than-usually useful foreign language for an engineer to know; and three, I still might manage to swing a semester abroad next year, and if I do I’ll probably end up in Austria.  Everywhere else the University has overseas consortium agreements with only offers liberal arts stuff.  (This might technically be a corollary to point two rather than a point in its own right.)

HTY 279.  This class is entitled "European Military History" and, as you might expect, has a lot of ROTC kids in it.  They must be slightly puzzled by the presence of the pasty-faced, leviathine civilian in the corner, but the hell with it.  This one Prof. Crosby doesn’t know about, since I discovered and added it after our meeting.  It might come in handy if I decide to declare a history minor, which would also give me something useful to do with all those history credits I have from my previous lives.  If not, well, it’s still more interesting than sitting at home and slipping to part-time enrollment status.

INT 400.  This is an odd one.  I mentioned it in my previous post, back in May.  It’s one Prof. Crosby won’t argue with, because it knocks off my last two GenEd requirements.  This class is a bit puzzling, because it has three catalog numbers, a different title to go with each of them, and is being taught by a veritable Senate subcommittee of professors.  The incarnation I signed up for, INT 400, is entitled "Pop!Tech: Impact of Technology on Society", but in the online course tools it also answers to PAX 398, "Topics in Peace and Reconciliation Studies", and PAX 598, "Independent Graduate Study".  At its heart it’s geared toward an online participation in and analysis of the annual Pop!Tech conference in Camden, which I gather is sort of a northeastern TED Conference, but with such a profusion of instructors (each of whom appears to be taking point on 10 days’ worth of the course), it’s bound to be a bit… chaotic.  I’m still feeling my way through the syllabus, but I’ve gotten the first week’s worth of work done and it does at least look like it’s going to be interesting.  If nothing else, I assure you it was by far the least desperate-looking of all the offerings that clocked the Ethics and Population & The Environment GenEd requirements.  (I have very finite interest in sustainable arboriculture in the Pacific Northwest.)

Oh yes – and after all that, I’m not actually taking PHY 107.

Not exactly.

You see, the School of Engineering Technology at UMaine began in the early ’70s as a two-year associate degree program, designed to create sort of proto-engineers who were expected to complement the tradespeople emerging from the state’s system of Vocational-Technical Institutes, one of which is over in Bangor.  As such, SET has always had a fairly close relationship with those schools, which continues today, even though they’re no longer VTIs.  They’ve changed names twice since then, in fact, first to Technical Colleges and then to Community Colleges.  They even offer some four-year degrees themselves now, and SET morphed into a four-year program long ago (which means the University is in the peculiar business of running two parallel four-year engineering programs).

One of the interesting side effects of this is that the introductory physics courses offered over at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor are accepted credit-for-credit by SET.  Three credits for the lecture and one for the accompanying lab, just like you were staying on campus and taking PHY 107 from the gang in Bennett Hall.

The difference?

Well, there’s an evening division, which means I don’t have to be attempting to operate a physics lab at 9 in the morning, but the really critical difference from my perspective is that PHY 107 at the University costs $1,188.00 plus about $400 worth of books and gadgets (they use a sort of game-show-buzzer class-participation widget called an "i>clicker") and meets five times a week, whereas PHY 121/122 at EMCC – for the exact same credit – costs $400 and meets twice a week.

There are tradeoffs, of course.  EMCC doesn’t have quite the same cachet as the University, and it’s slightly further away; also, studying "away" in this fashion causes the Financial Aid office at the University to get weird and refuse to release the balance of my financial aid until they get a form from EMCC proving I’m really showing up for classes ,which EMCC refuses to send until their add/drop period is over (which isn’t until Wednesday).  This has caused some interesting cash flow problems.  Still.  The entire class costs as much as the books for the UMaine version.  I think I’ll take the win.  And as for cachet, it’s still going to be the University of Maine’s name on my degree, so what the hell?

(I am indebted to my MET 107 teammate Bill Long for this tip, which he gave me as we were leaving the Machine Tool Lab on the last day of the class.)

So that’s the lineup, such as it is.  I dropped Differential Equations after getting nowhere with an attempt at reviewing calculus on my own time over the summer.  Not sure what I’m going to do about that.  I don’t intend to take Calculus I and II over for credit; if nothing else, it would waste eight credits’ worth of my financial aid capacity on stuff I’ve already finished.  It was 20 years ago, though, so I need something.  I should swing by the Math Department office and see what the procedure is for auditing, if that’s even an option any more.  Or change to a program where I don’t need any more math credits than I already have.

I keep thinking maybe I’d like to be an architect.  The only problems there are that the University doesn’t have an architecture program and I can’t draw.  These are not trivial problems.

In future posts, we’ll take a closer look at my classes individually, and I’ll have an update about my workstudy situation.  Right now, bedtime.

So Much To Do

November 15, 2010 4 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.

Maybe I’m Starting to Catch On

September 15, 2010 5 comments

And on the other hand, maybe not.

As we approach the end of Week 3, I was just starting to feel a little bit comfortable – not totally on top of things, but at least less like I’ve got no business being where I am, doing what I’m doing.  My first outing in CMJ 103 went well, I’ve got a topic in hand for my second speech in a couple of weeks (and I’m looking forward to doing some research in the process of putting it together), and attending the lecture sessions in MAT 122 was definitely the right call; I feel almost like I might know what I’m doing when I work on that material now.

Even in ECE 101, I was starting to feel like it was coming together for me.  Today’s class period was set aside for recitation; it was optional, but I went anyway, and another guy and I ended up scribbling resistive circuits on the blackboard and having a grand old time figuring out whether things were in parallel or series (it’s sometimes hard to tell from the schematic).  I’m not going to puff out my chest and say I’m on top of the material, but I’m keeping up; I don’t feel like the class is out ahead of me, as it were.  Pilots talk about being “behind the airplane”; that’s the way I’ve been feeling, and this morning that sensation was starting to ebb.

Until I turned up for our ECE 101 lab period this afternoon, and we started getting our introduction to MATLAB.

I should explain at this point that MATLAB is… well, to call it a math program is a bit like saying that the Pacific Ocean is “a body of water”, but it’ll have to suffice for our purposes.  In ECE 101 we’re using it primarily for graphing and working out the answers to hideously abstruse simultaneous equations.  I first encountered it back in 1991, when, like everything else on WPI’s computers at the time, it was a powerful but hilariously primitive command-line tool.  (Nowadays it’s a powerful but hilariously primitive command-line tool wrapped up in some X Window tinsel.  But not very much of it.)

And here’s where the wheels started to come off the bus a little bit.  The MAT in MATLAB, which is one of those Navy-style partial-word acronyms like COMSUBLANT, doesn’t stand for “math”; it stands for “matrix”.  It assumes that any set of variables you feed it represent a mathematical matrix and operates upon them accordingly.  Thus, to solve the aforementioned simultaneous equations (which, in the example we were using, were connected with something called the Kirchhoff current law), Andy explained, you have to use said equations to construct a set of matrices and then goad MATLAB into solving them for you.

Several of my classmates, at the workstations around me, had “oh yeah” moments, and a lively discussion of the ins and outs of pitting matrices against each other ensued.  I sat among them having one of those Hitchcock dolly zoom moments, and when a decent conversational lull occurred, I hesitantly interjected,

“I have no idea what you guys are talking about now.”

Andy gave me a blank look.  “Matrix algebra.”

“Which is… ?”

“High school stuff.  Algebra II, probably.”

And here’s the thing.  I know Algebra II was a long time ago for me.  I took it in my sophomore year of high school, which was several years before most of my classmates were even born.  But even so, I don’t remember a single thing about the topic of “matrix algebra”.  I sincerely don’t believe we covered it.  Maybe it was one of those things that was near the end of the book and we just didn’t get to it before the end of the school year; that happened a lot at Stearns High.  Maybe it hadn’t been invented yet.  Maybe we just didn’t cover it.  I don’t know.  But I’m fairly sure that I was never exposed to it.  If I was, I’ve managed to forget it so completely that I didn’t even remember the term.

Either way, it may not matter, because in the context of ECE 101 it appears I don’t actually have to know how it works, just how to plug it into MATLAB, which I’m now reasonably confident I can do.  But that was the first moment in which I’ve run up against an actual hole – not just a fuzzy spot but a genuine void – in the foreknowledge the curriculum assumes I have.  This doesn’t interact well with that growing sense of belonging-there I was talking about at the beginning…

Day One: Very Mixed Feelings

August 30, 2010 6 comments

Well.  Um.  That was Day One, then.

Academically, nothing much happens on the first day of the semester.  Syllabuses (the built-in WordPress type-as-you-go spell checker insists that this is correct and syllabi isn’t, though, oddly, it doesn’t recognize “WordPress” either) are handed out, instructors make their preferences known as regards classroom conduct and the like, and… that’s basically all they have time for.  As a student, you get lost a lot, particularly if it’s the beginning of your freshman year.  You bumble around looking for rooms, building entrances, in my case elevators.

In those respects, then, today was entirely typical (with one exception to the bumbling-around which I’ll get to in a moment).  In others, not so much.

For starters, the temperature here in northern Maine today was somewhere just shy of 100° F, with a humidity that (for whatever reason) felt a lot higher than the indicated 31%.  For those of you who are not materials scientists, 100° F is just barely not hot enough to melt lead.* This meant that I arrived at each and every one of my several destinations on campus today in a full comedy flop sweat, which only abated 10 or 15 minutes after entering the building – except in my first class, where the lecture hall was not air conditioned and the flop sweat abatement never happened at all.

OTOH, parking was not as horrible as I was afraid it would be.  There’s a lot with a nice row of handicapped spaces right near the building where my last class of the morning is, meaning that I can park up there and make a nice big triangle, with the least distance to cover at the end.  Not as good on lab day, I admit, but I can always go to lunch and then snout around for a better parking space when I get back for the afternoon stuff.  On Friday, when I have only morning classes, this will do nicely.

I’ve met all but two of my instructors, and one of them is teaching an online class, so I’m probably not actually expected to meet him in person.  I obtained permission from my chemistry instructor to use my smartpen in the lectures despite the syllabus-specified ban on recording devices, with the understanding that I will not use the recordings for evil.  (She doesn’t want to end up being mocked on YouTube, which I can fully understand.)  I had a quick meeting with my advisor, to let him know that I was in fact in a math class after all and that all appeared to be well.  (WP’s spell checker doesn’t know advisor either.  It thinks I should use adviser.  That is, to use a technical term, wack.)

So I’ve accomplished a few things today.  I made the interesting discovery that the Memorial Union has a food court in it these days.  Last time I was there, there was one of those Taco Bell Express carts and… that was about it.  There’s a smaller one over in the Wells Center, at the other end of the Mall, which is nice because that’s much closer to where I’ll be at the beginning of lunchtime on days when I don’t need to go to the bookstore (which is also in the Union) and get a book that I missed the first time.  And I learned a few important lessons, such as:

1) I don’t care what Mom says, I do too need a canteen.

2) And I probably ought to carry a towel as well, because, damn.

All in all, then, not a bad day.  And yet, in any quiet moment, and on most of the drive home, and since I’ve arrived, my emotions have been very mixed and variable.  I had a massive mood crash an hour or so ago in which I came to the conclusion that this whole thing is an enormous mistake.  There were many points during the day today at which I felt a greater sense of not belonging than I have in a good long time.  And why did I choose a technical discipline again?  I’m like a dog running into a screen door.

I’m really not sure what I feel right now.  A lot of it is just that I spent the day hot and sweaty and arrived home feeling grubby and miserable and tired.  And that I had many moments in which I felt (and probably was) conspicuous and absurd, imagined the people around me wondering what the hell I was doing there, and not having any clear idea myself of the answer.  And I haven’t even done any actual coursework yet.

Maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe it’ll all make more sense when I’m actually working, as opposed to slumping around a roasting-hot campus figuring out where rooms are and wondering every few minutes why the publishers of Burge’s Chemistry, Second Edition felt compelled to make the covers out of (based on the volume’s weight and price) gold.

The high point of the day came when I ran into a group of students looking bewildered in the hall on the third floor of Boardman Hall and realized that they were in my ECE seminar.  The reason I knew that was because I had scouted the room for said seminar the previous week and knew it was in a strange place.  My classmates were standing in the hall between rooms 309 and 311 looking puzzled and bereft.

“You guys are looking for 310, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah, do you know where it is?” asked one of my classmates, who bore a startling resemblance to my friend Eric Reuss.

“Go down to – … follow me, it’s easier,” I said, and led the way down the hall, around a corner that, from the hallway, looks like it just leads to the stairwell, down a semi-hidden side hall, past several rooms not anywhere near 310 in the sequence, and to a pair of double doors marked “310”.

Where we found a sign that said, “ECE 100 MOVED TO ESRB (BARROWS 165)”.

So much for my moment of glory.  It’s a long slog to Barrows 165 (which is also nowhere near where you think it should be based on the numbers you see when you first enter the building) from the third floor of Boardman.  By the time we got there, my younger, fitter classmates had left me far behind (Not Eric Reuss paused at the top of the stairs leading down to the ESRB wing to give me a jaunty “this way, in your own time!” sort of wave) and I was in such an advanced state of sweatiness that Prof. Musavi asked concernedly if I was all right when I flopped into the lecture hall and dragged myself to a seat.  (The seats in Barrows 165 are armless desk chairs of the sort office supply catalogs call “task chairs”.  I think the one I sat in has a permanent sweaty assprint on its cheap fabric upholstery now.)

Tomorrow’s not going to be much better on the not-much-work-to-do front or the alienation one; I have only one class, but it’s the chemistry lab, and we’re going to spend the semester’s first lab period taking something called the Toledo Chemistry Placement Exam.  I would have thought that after the class begins was the wrong time to be giving placement exams, but that’s why I don’t run a university, I suppose.  Either way, it’s another opportunity to feel utterly unprepared and out of my depth, and I’m not looking forward to it.

On the plus side, I did get to read through the lab manual this evening, and it had many satisfying references to the safety showers and what to do if you set yourself on fire.  Nothing like a whiff of potential disaster to spice up an academic experience, I always say!

(* For values of “just barely” that include “531.43° F”.)