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Well, THAT was a day.

December 20, 2012 4 comments

As previously noted, I was a 3/4-time student this semester, because of the ongoing recovery from my summer medical adventure.  I took three classes; one was online and did not have a final exam.

So, naturally, the finals in the other two – completely unrelated classes in different colleges, one for my MET degree and one for my history degree – ended up scheduled back-to-back on the Wednesday of finals week.  Which was today.

I should note that it started snowing here in north-central Maine on Monday afternoon… and, apart from occasional periods of sleet and/or freezing rain, which is not a helpful change, it hasn’t stopped yet.  For the past two days, the University of Maine has basically been the only school in Penobscot County not closed on account of the weather.

I got up this morning and went outside to find that my front walk and car were covered with around a foot of wet, heavy, hard-to-shovel snow.  It wasn’t until I’d finished shoveling that lot up, and in the process kicking off an asthma flareup that still hasn’t subsided, that I noticed I had a bigger problem: the man who plows our driveway hadn’t been by yet, and the municipal public works plows had left a three-foot-high wall of packed ice across the end of the driveway that there was no way any of our tools around the house were going to shift.  By the time Mom’s husband Vince managed to track down the plow guy and get him to come over and scrape that away, I’d have been running late for my first exam on a normal day, much less on Day 2 of a heavy snowfall.

I emailed my professors and let them know what I was up against, but that I was going to give it the old college try, then set off.  I live 12 miles via State Route 157, a typical two-lane country road, from Interstate 95.  This normally takes between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on (believe it or not) the traffic.*

Forty minutes later, I had just about reached the Interstate when my history professor, whose exam was scheduled to begin fairly soon, phoned me to say that I shouldn’t drive down on account of his class if I didn’t think it was safe, and that he’d get with the TA who’s been in charge of the class subsection I’m in and work out another way of handling my final.  With an extra couple of hours suddenly added to my schedule and the prospect of possibly not having to make the trip at all, I bought a meat snack and a hot chocolate at the gas station by the Interstate exit and made my way slowly back home, thinking I’d at least have time to get some lunch.

I had just about arrived at home when my other professor (Thermal Science), whose exam was set for later in the afternoon, emailed me and cheerfully related that he’d checked his records, and I’d be all set if I chose not to turn up for the final in his class.  With my excellent homework record and decent-to-quite-good range of scores on preliminary exams, I’d end up with a C-, easily clearing the minimum requirement to progress on to his Thermal Applications course next semester.

Please note that he was not being sarcastic or snide with that.  He’s genuinely not bothered about how much you pass his class by, as long as you pass it.  With a perfectly aligned engineer’s mindset, he’d crunched the numbers and determined that the outcome would be Acceptable, and he was pleased to let me know that my troubles were over.

I like Professor Crosby a lot, but coming from a background where I’d be grounded for a month if I brought home a B in math, I find his mindset on grading a little difficult to get behind; and anyway, I don’t think the financial aid gods would have been quite so sanguine about what that’d do to my GPA, so I scratched lunch from my plans and got ready to go out and do battle with the snow again.

It was at this point that Vincent called and insisted that, if I was planning to go back out into the snow, I should take his 4WD pickup truck instead of my poor old Pontiac.  Which meant slogging across the yard to Mom’s house for the keys.  Note that Mom and Vincent were both at home sick with some kind of Arcturan misery virus today, so naturally this would be the day when, while I stood in their front hall trying to breathe as shallowly as possible (already feeling wheezy in the chest) and thinking dark thoughts about swarming pathogens, they couldn’t find the keys.  Protesting that A) I was already going to be late because of this and B) I don’t want bird flu, I tried to leave four or five times, to increasingly plaintive cries of no wait wait I know they’re here somewhere from my mother, before I finally escaped.

Then, in the driveway, I thought hmm, I wonder, tried the door of the pickup, and found that it was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition.  I believe it was last driven sometime last week.

So I shlepped my things across and hit the trail again, feeling marginally more confident.  I was about halfway to the Interstate again when I looked down and found that the truck was nearly out of gas.

OK, don’t panic, I thought, there’s that full-service gas station in East Millinocket, I’ll fill up there and won’t even have to get out of the truck.

You’re not going to believe this next part, but I swear it is the truth.  As I arrived in East Millinocket – literally just as my eye sought out and focused on the lit-up sign showing today’s price at the full-service Shell station on Main Street:

The power went out.

Gas station and neighboring credit union signs suddenly dark, town’s one traffic light goes into blinky yellow “the grid has failed me” mode.  Zap.

I believe I said aloud something along the lines of, “Are you f—king kidding me?!”

I wondered if the power would still be out when I got to Medway, the next and last town before the Interstate.  It was.  The Citgo station and the Dysart’s one, both dark.  Now I have a serious problem developing.  I don’t have enough gas to make it to Orono, and the next town down the line from Medway, Lincoln, is miles off the highway via an access road.  If the Irving station out by the Interstate (where I had, you may recall, earlier bought a meat snack and a hot chocolate) is out as well, I’m beached.  I’ll have to turn around and pick my way back across 157 to Millinocket again, at which point I’ll be so late I might as well not show up at all.

Here, at last, the Force was with me a little, because just as I arrived at the Irving station, the power came back on (giving me the interesting sight of the electronic price sign saying that the per-gallon cost of regular unleaded was ERROR).  Breathing a sigh of relief, I pulled up, went through the usual procedure, pressed the button to select the grade of gasoline I wanted, and received the message, NETWORK ERROR PLEASE TRY AGAIN.

“Oh, the power’s just been out,” said a voice behind me, making me jump slightly.  I turned to see the woman I’d bought the meat snack and hot chocolate from earlier, holding a roll of tape and a handful of signs reading CREDIT CARD READERS OUT OF ORDER PLEASE PAY INSIDE.  This apparently happens often enough that they already had these signs ready to go.

“I don’t have any cash,” I said.

“The one inside works, it has a backup system,” she told me.  “It’s just the ones in the pumps.  Reset it and hit PAY INSIDE and you’ll be fine.”

(Modulo the backup system actually involving a dial-as-required screechy modem somewhere under the counter and about a five-minute wait for authentication, anyway.)

Thermo exam scheduled start time: 2:45 PM.

Speed limit on Interstate 95 today: 45 MPH.

My arrival time in the room where the Thermo exam was happening: 3:15 PM.

Prof. Crosby was startled to see me arrive; having told me not to sweat it and that I’d pass the class if I didn’t show, he figured that’d be the end of it.  Fortunately, since no one else needed the room after us, he let everyone overrun the scheduled exam end time (5:00) a bit, stretching it out until 5:30.  Which was good, because I needed that extra half-hour.  I still didn’t quite finish the exam, but with a little help from Our Lady of Partial Credit, I may yet pull a decent score on it – and since I already knew I had a C- without it, anything I manage to score on it will be gravy in a way.

As we packed up to leave, Prof. Crosby said, “You’re not going back tonight, are you?  Feel free to bunk on one of the couches in the MTL student lounge and head back in the morning if you think it’d be safer.  Nobody will bother you in there.”  This was mildly tempting, but indeed I was heading back forthwith, because – an email from my history professor which had arrived while I was phone-off for the Thermo exam informed me – my history final was waiting in my inbox at home, for me to complete tonight, on my honor, without reference to the textbook.

Which I did when I finally got home around 10.

Phew.  Man.  Some days you get the elevator and some days you just get the shaft.  Props to Professor Riordan and Lee-the-TA for cutting me a break on the history exam, though.  And that’s one more semester in the can.  And I don’t have to go anywhere for the next several days… which is good, because I think it’s supposed to snow again on Friday…

Edited to add: It’s Friday and I have, in fact, got the flu.

* By “traffic” I don’t mean gridlock, but rather that it’s a two-lane country road in an area where the mean age is something like, no kidding, 55 – which means one stands a fairly good chance of ending up behind some aged citizen who lacks any sort of sense of urgency, and if you’re thwarted by oncoming traffic at the one or two good places to pass, one can easily end up having to dawdle along at 35 MPH or worse the whole way, even on a perfectly clear, dry summer day.  This is unspeakably infuriating when it happens, which, naturally, it tends to do when one is running late.  In this case it didn’t happen, but frankly it wouldn’t have mattered if it had, since I don’t think I got about 30 at any time anyway.

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.

Well, That’s One in the Bag

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

With today’s MAT 122 final over with, my first semester as a comically overage undergraduate is complete.

I had five classes, but since two were only one credit apiece (and one was four), my total course load was a mere 12 credits – the minimum necessary to maintain standing as a full-time student.  Of those five classes, four were graded (A-F) and one was pass/fail; the latter doesn’t count toward GPA.

I haven’t received my grades –the deadline for posting them is December 27 – so I don’t know for certain where I’ll stand once all the scores are in, but neither final exam felt particularly disastrous and my performance in both of those classes has been decent, as far as I can tell.  I’m not one to keep track obsessively of how my coursework is going over the span of the semester, but I think I’d have noticed if I’d gone down in flames at any point, and though there were some dicey moments in ECE 101, my actual graded-work performance has been fairly solid.  And though I haven’t received my score for last Friday’s speech in CMJ 103 either, that same speech won the Oak Awards later that afternoon, so I think I can be excused for being reasonably confident about that one.

So, touch wood, I think I’ve done pretty well.  Especially considering how much rust there was on a lot of those neural pathways, I trust I have not disgraced my clan.

Ironically, the big question mark here is AST 110, and the reason it’s a question mark is because of the way the course was presented.  I had a great time in the observation sessions, despite nearly freezing to death* in the final one, but the rest of the course was an exercise in frustration and annoyance.  You may recall that, due to scheduling problems, I had to take the online version of the course.  This was presented using the University’s WebCT system, and it was, not to put too fine a point on it, infuriating.

The problem with WebCT, at least as regards AST 110, is twofold:

1) Interaction with the instructors is exceedingly minimal.  There are discussion boards, but the instructors don’t appear to monitor them, or at least they’re under no obligation to respond – they’re a little like those boards MMOs maintain, where the GMs read them but you can only expect answers from the other players.  This is often annoying, because

2) WebCT isn’t a good system for presenting that particular course as currently prepared.  This isn’t a general "WebCT is rubbish" complaint – there are specific reasons why it doesn’t work for AST 110.  Basically, a lot of the learning modules, as prepared, involve making eyeball estimates from diagrams and/or charts, then basing some calculations on those estimates.  The problem there is that WebCT is a very stupid multiple-choice system that’s programmed to expect very precise answers – answers it is not likely to get, at least not with the degree of precision required, from students who had to eyeball a diagram on the screen to start calculating them.

The upshot of these two shortcomings was that a lot of the learning modules were as much exercises in engineering what WebCT was expecting as they were about actually mastering the astronomical concepts being presented, and eventually I just gave up messing with that, plugged in the answers I was getting, and let the chips fall where they may.  I have no idea whether the instructors have any override authority to compensate for WebCT’s insistence on precise figures a student can, in many cases, only arrive at by blind luck, nor whether they particularly care to exercise it if they do.  If they do, the damage probably isn’t as bad as I think.  If they don’t, my grade in that course may not be all that good, which is a shame, because I have a great love for astronomy and did usually come out of the learning modules understanding what they were trying to put across to me – I just didn’t have any way of persuading WebCT of that because the assessment were so poorly structured.

On the other hand, it’s only a one-credit lab, so as long as I passed, it won’t do all that much harm to my GPA.  (And yes, I did note all of the above in my semester’s-end course evaluation, for all the good I expect it will do.  I’m not convinced anyone actually reads those, for all that the University takes their administration achingly seriously.)

Right now, thanks to a computer science course I neglected to withdraw from properly in the fall of 1993 and so logged an F in, my GPA is 2.937 – a tiny, tiny bit below the threshold for most, if not all, supplementary financial aid (read "upperclass scholarships").  We shall see within a week or so whether my performance this semester has been sufficient to improve that.  (I’ve only just learned that I could have applied for readmission as a pseudo-transfer student, since I need well over 30 credits to graduate and had been gone more than five years – that would have wiped my old GPA and started me over.  But I didn’t know that at the time, and now it’s too late.  Alas.)

 

* not really

The End Approaches

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Today opens the final two weeks of classes for this semester.  Once they’re over, there’s only final exams – of which I only have two this semester, so I’ll be done altogether by early on the afternoon of the 14th.

I got the results back today for the two tests I took just before Thanksgiving break; my scores were 88% on the CMJ 103 one (gods damn ambiguous multiple-choice terminology questions!) and ~86% on the ECE 101 one (I may get a point or two back from some omitted work that wasn’t actually omitted, but eluded the instructor’s notice because I did it on the back of the page and forgot to include a TURN OVER FOR WORK-> note on the front – we’re going to talk it over in lab on Wednesday).  Either way, I am reasonably pleased.  There’s no final exam in CMJ 103, so unless I utterly tank on speech #4, I should have no problems pulling an excellent final grade in that class, and ECE 101… well, that all depends on how I do on the final.

In other news, I got last week’s double homework and attendant quiz in MAT 122 finished with more than a full day to spare – even got some of it done from Chapman, which is a good showing, given the lack of really comprehensive facilities there.  There’s one more week’s worth of homework and one quiz to go in that course, then a week of review sessions and the final exam.  Again, unless I completely blow the final (which is conceivable), I should be well-positioned to make a respectable showing there.

I should note that two things of major significance remain in ECE 101: the final exam and the robot testing. (There are also three homework assignments left to do, though they’re fairly short compared to some of the monsters we’ve had earlier in the semester.)  We have two lab periods left; in one we have to complete and program the robot we’ve been building all semester, and in the other there will be a competition in which the robot must navigate a maze and then travel a set distance (not revealed to us until almost go time) in a straight line.  The second actually has potential to be the greater challenge, given that few of the robots, built as they are from recycled parts by fairly cack-handed students, are liable to track all that straight (which makes getting them to travel a set distance and only a set distance not as simple as just saying “proceed forward for $NUMBER motor steps”).

I’m a little nervous about the robot competition.  For one thing, I don’t particularly like competitions in general; for another, Let’s Call Him Matt and I still aren’t finished building ours.  We haven’t slacked off, particularly, but we’re not very speedy builders, and we know for a fact that two of our robot’s four photosensors aren’t working.  We’ve known that for months, actually, but when we first discovered it the TAs said, “Don’t worry about it, you’ll have a chance to fix those later.”  Well, it’s later, and they’re not fixed.  Plus, there’s a certain amount of creative programming required (and I strongly suspect the sample code we’ve been given has some deliberate mistakes in it to force us to debug as we go), and – as we have previously established here – I am crap at that.

So I dunno.  I don’t think you actually fail the course if your robot doesn’t perform very well, but I think it does at least have to work

Oh, and the weather has been so lousy this fall that we’re still not finished with all the observations we’re on the hook for in AST 110, which means tonight – which is forecast to be clear and bloody freezing – we’re up.  Which is why I’m in the library on campus blogging, waiting for it to be 8 PM so I can get my frostbite on.  On the other hand, this late in the year, Orion will actually be above the horizon before the session is over, so I can get my favorite asterism on the board after all.  (And then I get to drive to Moonbase Dad in a car whose heater controls packed up earlier today!  Hooray the Mini’s ongoing electronic senility!)

I’ve got more to say about AST 110-0990, but I’ll save that for an after-semester postmortem.

(Where the hell is all that noise coming from?  It sounds like a high school cafeteria in here.  This is a library, for Christ’s sake.  Kids these days.)

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.

Is It That Time Again Already?

November 1, 2010 5 comments

The second MAT 122 exam is coming up on Wednesday evening (why they schedule these things from 6 to 8 PM I really couldn’t tell you).  Oddly, I have so far found the material we’ve covered since the first exam to be easier than what we did in the first section.  OK, yes, I did fall down rather badly on this week’s quiz, but that’s because I got complacent and tried to intuit transformations to the graphs of trigonometric functions on the fly rather than actually working them out.  That works fine with sine and cosine graphs, but not so well for secant/cosecant and really not so much with tangent/cotangent. Result: that’ll be the quiz that gets thrown out at the end of the semester, and a lesson is learned.

Apart from that little difficulty, I’m feeling more sanguine about this exam than the first one.  On the other hand, I managed to pull an 83% on that one despite a feeling of utter impending doom upon leaving the exam room, so what do I know about taking tests?  At any rate, there’s a review session in the morning, and then I must rush home and vote.  This will probably be more futile than the math review session, since – as usual – no one is running who I particularly think should be holding public office in the first place – but it must be done.

Over in ECE 101, things are… odd.  We just finished what Andy insists was the hardest part of the course, which I suppose is the good news (although this week’s homework, which Andy says is easier than last week’s, might as well be in Amharic as far as I’m concerned, so don’t go by me).  The bad news is, that means we’re on the doorstep of the part of the course that’s all C programming.  The last time I tried to program in C, the year started with a 1 and the first President Bush (remember him?) was running for re-election.  And it sucked.  It sucked so much I abandoned computer science rather than ever have to do it again, only to discover, to my considerable dismay, that it’s followed me to electrical engineering (all the CS kiddies program in Java now).  I really don’t want to do that again.

But really, I should feel fortunate, I suppose.  I mean, I only have to come up with enough C to get our maze robot to work, and perhaps my lab partner – who started out as a computer engineering major and has already changed his major to computer science – will do some of that.  It’s next semester that I’ll have to take an entire course in the damn thing, ’cause that’s when ECE 177, Introduction to Programming for Engineers, arrives.  And, as I may have previously mentioned, it doesn’t matter if you’re not a CE major, or want nothing to do with computer programming ever again; in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, we all float down here.

Sigh.

In the short term, though, maybe the programming section will re-engage Let’s Call Him Matt a little.  Since he informed me a couple of lab sessions ago that a) physics sucks b) wire-wrapping sucks and c) Wednesdays suck (and for the record I can’t really argue with any of those), and that as a result he’s changed his major, his participation has been a bit… desultory.  He doesn’t technically need ECE 101 any more; it’s not going to do him a lick of good as regards his eventual degree in computer science.  He’s still trying to finish it, because this late in the semester it’ll still affect his GPA, but other than that it’s not that important.  He’s not explicitly punting, for which I am grateful, but he’s certainly neither bright-eyed nor bushy-tailed.

I sympathize.  His Wednesday schedule is such that by the time he arrives for our three-hour lab at 2 PM, he’s been going since 9 AM, and he still has one more class to go to before he’s done for the day at 8 PM.   Judging by the state of him when he gets to lab, he doesn’t seem to have time for lunch, either, as he’s always starving.  I had a Wednesday that looked like that myself, at the start of the semester, but I dropped the class that would’ve had me in at 9 and out at 8 because, well, I had the leisure to do it.  I’m carrying the bare minimum of credit hours required to maintain full-time student classification, because unlike most of these kids, I’m not really fussed about finishing in four years.  It’s rather liberating.  I can see where it wouldn’t be an option if you’ve got your parents to answer to, though.

Anyway, I wish Let’s Call Him Matt well in his new field, and I hope it’s what he’s looking for and that the reduced science requirement means he no longer has to take any sucky physics courses.  (I’m scheduled for the one that’s kicking his ass this semester, next semester.)  I just hope he doesn’t check out entirely before the semester’s over, ’cause I’m a fairly slow worker and, left to do it all myself, would probably have our robot working in time for graduation.

Speaking of scheduling for next semester, I mentioned last time that I’ve done it on the school’s "wish list" course reg tool (since I can’t actually register until the 10th).  Well, it’s not shot day +1 now, and I can tell you that I still don’t much like what I see there.  Picking up only the three courses required on Semester 2 of the current EE curriculum (for a minimum 12-credit load again), I’m still on campus a lot more than I have to be in this 12-credit semester, for some odd reason.  Worse, I couldn’t arrange for any blank days during the week at all, something I very much wanted in the winter semester, what with every day I’m on campus representing a 120-mile round trip, 4-6 gallons of gas, and all.  But no, it appears there’s no way to take MAT 126 that doesn’t require appearing on campus every single day.  Feh.

(And why does PHY 121, Physics for Engineers I, start at 5 PM?  Has the prof got a day job or something?)

I remain very tempted to change programs myself, though not until semester’s end, but I’m not sure where to go.  EET is a possibility, as is ME, though in both cases there are introductory classes that are only offered in the fall semester, so I’d spend the spring taking electives (which wouldn’t be so bad, actually) and then basically start over again next fall.  And there’s still part of me that would very much like to just get the hell away from anything that requires advanced math, but that part has so far been stayed by the grim realities of the graduate employment picture in the humanities these days.

I know I keep coming back to this subject here, and I apologize for that, but it’s because I keep circling back to it in my mind as I consider my future.  Because it’s a real Scylla/Charybdis sort of situation for me, knowing that I have the ability to pursue a technical career, but doubting whether I have the passion for it.  You know all the hearts-and-flowers talk high school guidance counselors give you about following your heart and money isn’t everything?  If my 19 years stumbling around in the private sector without any real qualifications taught me anything, it’s that, uh, yeah, actually, it kind of is.  And so I eye the exit wistfully but know that, practically speaking, I’m better off doing something that doesn’t really turn me on.

Sometimes You Get the Elevator

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Math continues to go well.  ECE 101, on the other hand, continues to be… up and down.

Last week, for instance, I enjoyed doing the homework quite a bit, and felt like I had what we were talking about in lecture pretty well surrounded.  Not to the point of smugness, but there was a certain sense of satisfaction involved.  The doom cloud from a few weeks ago had more or less dispersed.

That lasted until today, when I sat down to get busy on this week’s and discovered that it makes no sense at all.

Now, intellectually, I know why this is happening, and it isn’t because I’ve suddenly forgotten how to evaluate an RC circuit after doing a dozen of them last week.  It’s because I stupidly didn’t do my interferon shot on Friday evening; I put it off until midday Saturday.  That means I spent last night riding the side effects train, and today my brain is just too tired to concentrate.  Normally I get that out of the way on Saturday and then can get useful work done on Sunday, at least in the afternoon.  This weekend, not so much.  I’m not physically weary, but I can’t focus well enough to work on anything as demanding as my ECE homework.

So, lesson learned.  Do shot on Friday or don’t do it at all.  In the meantime, if I put in some diligence tomorrow or Tuesday and go to recitation on Wednesday, all should be well.  I hope.  One of the other side effects of shot day +1 is that I find it hard to be entirely convinced that all will be well – but at least I know that is a side effect, and that it should clear up if I wait it out and get enough sleep tonight.

In other news, the "wish list" functionality of the online course registration tool became available for spring 2011 yesterday.  I won’t actually be able to register for classes until Nov. 10, but I can start browsing and noting things down now – so I did, yesterday morning.  What I learned doesn’t really fill me with joy either, and that’s not the interferon talking.  I’ll be just as displeased with the results tomorrow, because, among other things, I learned that there is no way to take the classes I’m supposed to be taking in that semester and arrange things so that I have even one weekday off.  Which means commuting all five days, every week, in the semester that starts in the dead of winter.  And one of the classes I need is only offered starting at 5 PM, which is well after dark in January – I mean, what?

I considered switching to the less theoretical Electrical Engineering Technology program, which has different math and physics requirements (since the offending courses here are Calculus I and Physics I), only to discover that the introductory courses in that program are only offered in the fall semester – which means essentially just writing this year off and starting over in fall 2011.  It seems to me like that’s not really optimal either.  Mechanical Engineering is similarly fall-biased – and just to add insult to injury, the only fall-2011 EE class that isn’t a problem scheduling-wise is ECE 177, Introduction to Programming for Engineers.  The one I don’t really want any part of in the first place, but which is required for everyone in the program.

I would seriously consider jumping ship back to a non-technical major if there looked like being any future in any of them after college, but right now there simply doesn’t.  While I’ve determined to my satisfaction that I can absorb advanced math and technical subjects, I’m also rapidly approaching certitude that I don’t particularly enjoy them, and that’s making the whole prospect of the next three and a half years – and what comes after them – look really rather dreary.

Then again, on shot day +1, everything looks really rather dreary, so perhaps this is just another aspect of the thing that I need to wait out.

Over in CMJ 103, annoyingly, I drew the shortest possible straw for delivery of persuasive speech #3: I have to go first of everybody, 11 o’clock this very Wednesday, which means the person going last of all has more than a week longer to prepare.  That doesn’t strike me as overwhelmingly fair, but at least the draw was random, so if I’m being picked on, it’s just by fate.

And to end on a positive note, I got my exam in that class back on Friday, the one where I punted on the short answer question.  My instructor’s note next to that question pretty much sums it all up: "I laughed! But you did great so it’s okay you blanked."

If the season ended right now (as the fatuous sports reporting schtick puts it), I’d be in a pretty good position academically – but the season isn’t ending right now, and I have to try to stay focused.  I don’t remember high school being so psychologically uneven, but then I suppose I don’t really remember high school at all, academically speaking.