James Cassell's Blog

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mother of All Stressful Semesters

So, I had an incredibly stressful semester. Part of it was that I ended up taking 27 credit hours. I learned the hard way that this was a very bad idea.

The beginning of the semester started off quite well. I got to sleep before 11 P.M. every night for about a week and a half, before some assignment required me to be up later than that. Also, at the beginning of the semester, I actually did assigned readings, which I found to be very helpful. As the semester went on, the amount of stuff I had to do increased quite a bit. I moved from getting things done "slightly early" to "on time" to "before the end of the class they were due," and at the end, I had stuff being late, which is not good for grades.

Just about every minute of my week was spoken for. I had Drill Team , Ballroom, Officer Christian Fellowship, as well as team meetings, classes, etc. At one point, the Drill Team commander asked me if I actually had time to do Drill Team. I said that if I hadn't already put it into my schedule I wouldn't be able to do it. I was also on the mailing lists of several clubs for which I wished I had time to spend.

I ended up not doing too bad GPA-wise. The main thing that I am disappointed about is that I got a C in Electric Circuits, when I understood the material at a level worth at least a B. The thing that bothered me about the course was the exams; the only exam that I actually finished was the first one. On all of the others, there were at least 2 problems that I didn't finish (and theses are 7-problem exams.)

The other grade about which I wasn't terribly pleased was American Government. I got a B-, which isn't too bad considering that the exams were essay-based, on which I have a history of doing poorly. The class was certainly interesting. We would discuss current events and have opinionated discussions. I had a nice contrast between this class, where the professor was liberal, and my Leadership and Management class, where the professor was conservative. The latter I found to be refreshing, as I have conservative viewpoints.

The only class in which I was certain of an A was Music Theory I. I got A's in the rest of my classes, but only by the skin on my teeth, or in reality, due to the mercy of my professors and classmates (in those classes in which I had peer evaluations.)

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Peer Evaluations

In classes that have group projects, peer evaluations often comprise a certain portion of one's grade. I have had several such classes during my time at RPI. I don't know what standards most people use in making peer evaluations, but I'll list mine for anyone who might be interested.

In general, as long as each person contributed a reasonable amount to the project, I give everyone the maximum amount of credit possible in peer evaluations. If someone caused the group some trouble, I might give just under the maximum points, depending on how much was contributed despite the trouble. In the worst case, if someone greatly impedes the progress of the group and doesn't make up for it in some other way, I will seriously consider giving a negative peer evaluation.

The reason I do evaluations this way has a lot to do with the golden rule found in Luke 6:31. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." I understand that people are human and that they generally try to pull their fair share of the weight. I would like other people to have the same attitude when completing their peer evaluations. Only in cases of severe lack of participation should a peer evaluation be negative.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Stressful Fourth Semester at RPI


So, this was my most stressful semester, that's for sure. I always had something that was eminently due. My most stressful course, by far, was Material Science. Biology was a pain, but not quite as much as I had feared. Continuing the trend, Models of Computation was more trouble than I had expected it to be. My other classes were a cake walk compared to these. Operating Systems was my favorite class, by far, with CANOS (Computer Architecture, Networks, and Operating Systems) coming in second. As a departure from other semesters, my Navy class, Ship Systems, was just above the middle of the stack (rather than being closer to the bottom.)

...Posting yet another post unfinished -- maybe I'll finish it later...

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Finding a Good Church in Troy


As of today, I have been to four different churches in Troy. The first three were within walking distance of RPI. When I had initially searched for a church here, I only looked at churches that were within walking distance. None of these used the King James Version of the Bible.

When I was home for Christmas break, I really appreciated being at my own church where all was right with the world. I even delayed my return to school so that I could go to church on the last Sunday of vacation.

The Search

Due to my desire to have a church where I would feel at home, I decided to broaden my search for a good church in Troy. Instead of only searching for churches within walking distance, I broadened my search to include churches within bus distance. I did a Google search for "Baptist Churches in Troy," which brought many results, many of which were eliminated due to not being within bus distance. There were a few that had websites. The first one whose website I visited had an out-of-date and stagnant site, and didn't give very much information.

A Possible Find

The second site I visited was that of Grace Baptist Church. Their site indicated that they were a conservative Baptist church. Of note, on their home page was the inflammatory tag-line: "If you don't have a King James Bible, you don't have a Bible!" At the time, I thought this was a bit harsh, and I was a bit cautious. I decided that I would visit this church the next Sunday.


With the help of Google, I figured out an itinerary on which I could get to this new church. Based on my past experiences with the public transportation around here, I got to the bus stop 2 minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive. I waited twenty minutes, but the bus never showed. I took this to mean that the bus had come early. I didn't make it to church at all that day.

The following Sunday, I approached the bus stop about 6 minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive. As I was approaching the stop, the bus blew past, and again, I missed church. Today, I was determined that I wouldn't miss the bus. I arrived at the stop fifteen minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive. The bus arrived almost exactly ten minutes ahead of schedule. I've speculated that this is due to low ridership on Sunday mornings, and therefore, fewer stops the bus has to make along the way.

I was now on my way to this new church. I got off the bus, and headed to the address that Google had given me as the address of the church. As I approached it, I saw there was a sign posted stating that they had moved. I walked about 7 blocks to the new location.

Grace Baptist Church

Upon entering the church, I went through two sets of doors before I saw anyone (which was slightly unnerving.) Lo and behold, the first person I saw was none other than my NROTC Unit XO, whom I mentioned in my previous post. He was there with his family, and pointed me to where the sanctuary was. I found a seat, and was greeted by several people.

The service started with several traditional hymns, and continued with a very good message about family. Between the opening hymns and the message, the pastor called me out, and asked my name and how I heard about the church. Normally I don't like to be put on the spot, but the friendly atmosphere there made it such that I wasn't bothered.

The thing that impressed me the most was that I was actually asked, and asked by two different people, if I knew for certain whether I would go to heaven were I to die today. Both times, I replied, "yes," and both times, the person who asked followed up asking how I knew. Of the other churches I had visited, I don't recall once being asked such a question.

After the service, the XO offered to give me a ride back to RPI, but I declined. The bus schedule worked out such that I could catch the bus shortly after the service was over.

The King James Bible

The statement on their website regarding the King James Bible as the only Bible piqued my interest. I spent all afternoon reading up on the history of different translations, and the controversies surrounding them. It seems to boil down to this: The King James Version is translated from the "Received Text," which can be traced back to Antioch. This text is where 95% (a large majority) of manuscripts agree. All other modern English translations are based on the "Majority Text," which can be traced to Alexandria. This happens to be a picking-and-choosing of texts, and isn't what its name would imply.

I also found my answer to the question of whether the new English Standard Version was an acceptable version to use. It is marketed as being a replacement of the King James, but is based on the line of manuscripts from Alexandria, rather than the line from Antioch. (I was also shown a few perversions present in this version.)

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Fall 2008 at Rensselaer: Outcome

At the beginning of the semester, I had written a brief summary of my classes. The fact that I took all technical classes may have helped me have my most successful semester so far (GPA-wise, at least.) I always had lots of work to do, though, so didn't really have time to have much fun.

Computer Organization was my favorite class, and the only one in which I had been certain I was going to receive an A. We learned, from a logical standpoint, how a processor works. For our only real project, we wrote an implementation of a mutual exclusion lock for use in multi-threaded programs, and benchmarked it against several other implementations of locks. I found this quite enjoyable, and probably put 40 hours of work into it. Near the end of the class, however, the things that we were going over were just minute details specific to the hypothetical processor that we had watch be designed for us. I wasn't particularly interested in it anymore. I bombed the last two quizzes, not due to lack of understanding, but due to lack of time to complete them; if I had memorized the layout of the hypothetical processor, I would have been able to complete them in the allotted time. Due to this, I ended up with a B in the class.

LITEC, or "Laboratory Introduction to Embedded Control," was a slightly interesting class, where we did a very small amount of circuit-building, and a lot of microcontroller programming. We learned about what features the microcontroller offered to us, and how to access them. In doing this, we were able to program a small remote-controlled, or more accurately, a self-controlled car. We also got to program a blimp. In the end, though, we were racing the clock to get everything done, and the last few class periods were stressful. I fully deserved the A that I received, based on the amount of work I put into this course.

Unfinished Post

So, I got really busy and never got around to finishing this post. I probably told several people the story in real life, and got it out of my system or something. I'm publishing this even though it's unfinished. Maybe I'll finish it later.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

An Unexpected Adventure

This past Saturday, I woke around noon to the sound of my cell phone. Strangely, it wasn't a telemarketer calling to tell me that the non-existent warranty on my non-existent car was about to expire. One of my friends was having a computer problem, the likes of which I had never heard before. One thing that I have noticed semi-recently is that it is difficult to troubleshoot an unknown computer problem over the phone. (If it's something I've run into before, that's a different story.)

Technical Aspect

Not that it will interest the reader, but I'll describe the symptoms of the problem anyway. (Maybe someone who has a solution will post it in a comment.) Windows Vista would boot fine to the login screen. After typing the password was when the problems started appearing. The "Welcome" message would show for a few seconds, then, when the desktop should have appeared, only a royal blue background appeared. At this point, the mouse was functional (i.e., it moved around,) but there was nothing to click on. It seemed as if explorer had never started. All of the normal approaches to diagnose such a problem (e.g., Ctrl+Alt+Del, Ctrl+Alt+Esc, etc.) were useless. I asked on IRC, but no one had any solutions. Neither did Google. As a side note, it would boot into safe mode.

Eventually, we were able to get the desktop to come up by going into msconfig and disabling all of the startup items as well as all of the (non-essential) services (as defined by msconfig.) Upon re-enabling the services, we were able to get a functional desktop for about one boot, but when we rebooted, the initial problem re-appeared.

I didn't want to try the same solution again because, as Einstein said, it is insane to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. My next suggestion would have been to get the computer re-imaged. We had been working on this problem for over five hours by this point, and I didn't want to send my friend away having wasted so much time. Since the Help Desk wouldn't be open until the following afternoon, I proposed another solution. Last year, I had taken a backup image of my computer the day that it was issued. I still had this backup, (that consisted of six DVDs,) and proposed that we do a restore from this image. We did so, followed by downloading all of the updates that had been released since. This second option took about six hours. The system was now in a pristine state.

Human Aspect

As can be inferred from the above, this ended up being an all-day event. Some may exclaim, "what a boring way to spend one's Saturday!" I look at it differently. In addition to the fact that "...we know that all things work together for good to them that love God..." (Romans 8:28, KJV), I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday than getting to better know my friends. In case you know nothing about humans, people don't sit and stare blankly at one another for more than eleven hours, while waiting for a computer to do its thing. Another of my friends joined us about half-way through, and hung out until the end. I met both of these friends at Silver Bay, where, many will agree, the best times since heading off to college, have taken place. This opinion was voiced several times through the day.

While this day may have been a bad day for the victim of the computer problem, it was one of the best days that I have had since returning to Rensselaer. The only thing that I would change about the day is my allowing the conversation to be steered to my planned activity for the day: sleeping into the late afternoon. This caused my friend to feel bad for waking me, and, in turn, made me feel guilty for causing this bad feeling. This could become a vicious circle. Aside from that, I'd say that the day was an excellent unexpected adventure!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beginning of Sophomore Year Classes

This semester, I am taking 23 credit-hours. An interesting thing is that they are all technical classes, which could turn out to be a bad thing, or a good think. I don't know yet. These are the classes I'm taking:

  • Introduction to Engineering Design
  • Embedded Control
  • Computer Organization
  • Computer Components and Operations
  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Navigation

Navigation is my Navy class, and I have a feeling that it will be the easiest Navy class that I will have the chance to take, given its technical nature. We actually have a civilian taking the class because that which is taught also can be applied in the civilian world. (Not that that isn't true for the other Navy classes; it is simply more obviously true for this class.) So far in this class, we have started with the "Rules of the Road," which is basically how to drive on the water.

Introduction to Engineering Design looks like it will require the most work out of me this semester. This is a "design" class, which means that everyone has to design and build something, which, in this case, happens to be a robot (for which we haven't received the requirements. There will be a project done on an individual basis as well as one that is done as a team, the latter of which will count for most of our grade. I found out the answer to a requirement oddity the first day of Introduction to Engineering Design: Professional Development 1 is part of the course. In the requirements for my major, "Professional Development III" was listed as a requirement, but I and II weren't.

My Data Structures and Algorithms teacher has a very heavy accent, and is quite difficult to understand. This will almost certainly be my most difficult class in terms of subject matter. From what others who have taken the class say, it requires many hours of work, and the concepts are somewhat difficult to fully grasp. This difficulty combined with my instructors heavy accent will probably make this class a difficult challenge.

One interesting thing that I noticed between the three other classes, Embedded Control, Computer Organization, and Computer Components and Operations, through yesterday, they were all teaching us the same material, in an attempt to get everyone to a common baseline. This material was, for the most part, the binary and hexadecimal number systems as well as a discussion of number systems in general. Having built a calculator from scratch as a high school freshman as well as my geek mentality, I already knew this material (as did many in the class, to an even greater extent than I.) The school administrator at the time told me that I was doing college-level work, and, low and behold, in one of these classes, we will be doing a project very similar to my winning high school science fair. This easy-going spurt ended abruptly for me today, as each of the classes started on new material, and diverged to cover material specific to that class.

In Embedded Control, we will be programming micro-controllers, and messing with electronic hardware. By the end of the semester, we will have automated things that range from RC cars to small blimps (which have been provided to Rensselaer by BAE Systems.)

Computer Components and Operations looks like it will have the most material with which I am already familiar, discussing how computers do what they do. I had explored this topic somewhat deeply during my high school years.

Computer Organization -- actually, I'm drawing a blank for any specifics of this one. I'm pretty sure that anything that was covered, I already knew, and dismissed as "no need to re-learn this." (Which reminds me of a "sea story" from the beginning of last semester, but I'll tell that another day, if someone asks me in person.)

Update: 1 Sep 2008 @ 1832 EDT (UTC -0400): Now that I have gone back to the class, I remember what it is. The professor has set up a Linux server for us to complete our assignments. The first topic that we are covering is an Introduction to Unix and C. Both of these I am familiar with to a certain degree, which is why I was drawing a blank earlier. (This strongly goes along with my aforementioned "sea story.")

Overall, this semester, no one class looks like it will be particularly hard; my only concern is that they will present a very large amount of work.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Questions for Me

These are questions I have been given to answer over the summer.

  1. What do you want to do:
    • In the Navy?
    • In Life?
  2. What do you want to get out of a M.S. in Computer and Systems Engineering?
  3. What do you aspire to be next year in the NROTC program?
  4. How can you balance the requirements of a M.S. and the NROTC program while maximizing the benefits of each?

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cheating at Rensselaer

This afternoon, I was taking a test on which I was faring poorly. I had studied for a couple of hours, but not as much as I should have. Actually, I will be happy if I pass the test. When I was taking the test, I happened to notice that the person sitting in front of me was cheating. This caused me to have a silent outrage; as I saw it, neither of us were ready for the test, but he got an unfair advantage. He had a piece of notebook paper that he was keeping discreetly hidden. I can only guess that this had formulas or other such information on it.

Such things as this have always outraged me. Either I have felt that it wasn't fair that I should have studied, and they didn't have to; or I hadn't, and neither had they, but they get the grade as if they had. This being college, the stakes for getting caught are much higher, but as I found out today, cheating still happens. I don't know why I had assumed that I wouldn't see cheating here at RPI, but for some reason, I did.

It makes me sad that such things happen here at Rensselaer. I do believe that these people eventually get what's coming to them. It is just frustrating now when it seems to be benefiting them so well.

[tagged for clean-up]

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Beautiful Weather in Troy

Troy, New York is significantly colder than my hometown of Stafford, Virginia. Recently, we had temperatures as cold as -19°C (-3°F), which, believe me, is very cold. I have, for the most part, become acclimated to this cold weather. The past couple of days here, the temperatures have been above freezing. Everything is melting, and it is balmy outside. The other day, I went to my classes without my fleece, and had only my long-sleeved shirt.

I remember when my dad drove me up here in August, it was in the fifties (Fahrenheit), and we thought it was cold. I think it is interesting how one can become accustomed to a new climate.

On Tuesday, we (that is, ROTC,) even went for a nice run outside. It was actually raining today, which, while not ideal, was pretty nice compared to all the snow and sleet we had been having all winter. It seems that spring is finally coming along. I am, however, not looking forward to temperatures over 60°F. My dorm does not have air conditioning, and this provides for a very uncomfortable atmosphere. I remember all too well from the beginning of last semester what that was like.

(I have not been proofreading my posts lately, so they are of lesser quality. I will correct this over spring break, which starts in a very few days.)

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Friends at Rensselaer

So, I'm finally getting around to writing this post. No one bothered to comment on my Proposed Topics for Discussion, but a couple of people told me personally that this one would interest them. Anyway, I'll get on with it.

Room Mate

So, first, we have my room mate -- he is the first person I met here at RPI. We are both in ROTC, we both go to RPI, and we both have slightly similar opinions on political issues, but the similarities pretty much end there. His being a good room mate in combination with my being able to get along with anyone who is not trying to not get along with me makes for a decent combination. (I suspect that I probably get on his nerves at times, but he usually doesn't mention anything.)

ROTC Friends

The several days of a hell-like experience that we fourth-class midshipmen went through together created an environment where, for the most part, we are all comfortable with each other. When I go to the dining hall, there is a high chance that someone who is in ROTC will be there. If I don't see someone else with whom I wish to sit, I can always sit with one of these people. Of course, I am closer to some more than others, but from what I can tell, any community turns out this way.

"Silver Bay" Friends

My best friends here at RPI are those whom I met on the student orientation overnight trip, or through people I met on that trip. It still holds that that trip was the most fun that I have had since coming to college. Some of the people I met there, I hardly ever see, but the few whom I do still see regularly are my best friends here.

This semester, I haven't really done anything fun with my friends; the highlight of many of my days turns out to be mealtimes spent with friends. I always have a lot of work to do (thanks, partially, to my legacy of procrastination that still follows me.)

(I was entirely lucid when I wrote this post, unlike my previous two posts.)

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Friday, December 21, 2007

End of the First Semester

The first semester of college is now over, and I am on Christmas vacation. Actually, a quarter of it is already gone. Anyway, my grades are in, and they aren't as good as I wish they were, and in the case of my Introduction to Engineering Analysis class, worse than I expected -- worse even than my slightly pessimistic estimates. For some reason, I got an A- instead of an A in the class, which is the difference between a 4.0 and a 3.6 grade points. I only needed a 93.8 on the final exam to get an A, and I was quite sure I had done well enough.

I ended up with one "S" for satisfactory (this was a pass/fail class, which is graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory), a B, a B+, an A-, and 3 A's. This left me with a 3.6 GPA. This makes it impossible to get a 4.0 overall, which makes me sad. I actually had an A+ in Computer Science 1, but there is no such thing in the way RPI does things.

When I took my exams, I felt as if I had done well on 2 of them, and poorly on another. When I took my calculus exam, I was fine for the first four questions, but when I came to the last, my mind was blank as to how to solve it. I asked the teacher for a hint, but got none. If she had only said, "lambda," I would have remembered how to do the problem. I got nearly a perfect grade on the computer science final. I felt as if I did well on the IEA final, but apparently I did not, since I didn't get an A in the class.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007



Ever since I have been up here at Rensselaer, I have not had a proper pair of speakers. I did not have the time, nor the space in the car to bring them when my dad drove me up here in August. All music that I have listened to has been via the speakers on my laptops, or through headphones. I should mention that the speakers on my Alienware notebook are much better than average for a notebook.

When my mom came up to visit for parents weekend, she brought my set of speakers that I had left at her house. It is amazing how good they sound after only hearing notebook speakers for a few months. They aren't even very powerful speakers; they're nothing compared to the speakers in my dad's home theatre system, for instance. (I think they're like 21 watt speakers.)

Alienware Notebook

Recently, my Alienware notebook has been running very hot -- I mean to the point where I was getting stability problems. It got so bad that I couldn't even watch an entire episode of a TV show without my system crashing.

I the first thing that came to mind was that I might have applied the thermal grease incorrectly or after I replaced my processor shortly before coming up to RPI. On Friday, I decided to take it apart. Everything looked good as far as I could tell. I decided that while the computer was open, I would clean it out.

Armed with a few cotton swabs (Q-tips), some isopropyl rubbing alcohol, and some canned air (complements of my aunt and uncle), I started cleaning out the area where the fan was. I was quite surprised at the large amount of dust that came out. I started up the computer again, and low and behold: it ran much cooler.

I decided that if there were any way to test it out, it would be to run a graphic-intensive game. This was the perfect excuse for me to buy Steam's Orange Box, which includes Half-Life 2: Episode 2. I played that for about an hour at full resolution (1920x1200), and almost full settings. There were no longer any stability issues with my machine. It will probably be a long time before I get a chance to actually play and finish the game.

Because of this experience, if anyone ever has stability issues with a notebook computer, I will first recommend that he take it apart, and get all of the dust out.

Connecting to RPI's Wireless Network from Fedora

One problem that plagued me for several months was that I couldn't get my Rensselaer-issued laptop (hereafter, "ThinkPad") to connect to the wireless network here. I first tried with the GUI network tools that come with Fedora, but there was not a way to do it that way (that I could find). My next approach was to use wpa_supplicant, and connect via 802.1X PEAP-GTC. I thought this was my solution for nearly a month, but never could figure out how to do it -- a fact I attribute to the lack of documentation for configuring wpa_supplicant.

One day, I decided to post on the Facebook "Wall" of the RPI network asking if anyone was able to get it working, as I know that many people here run Linux. A few days later, I got a reply suggesting that I try the Cisco VPN client for Linux. I tried to do this, but is couldn't compile a kernel module, or some other non-sense that was way over my head. After researching this problem, I came across the mention of a program called vpnc. There were clear instructions on how to take a Cisco client configuration file, and extract the information necessary to get vpnc to connect to the VPN. At Last, I finally was able to connect to the wireless network from Fedora! The solution was to use vpnc, if I didn't make that obvious.

In other news, in my experimentation with Fedora, I got the original Half-Life to run with the proprietary nVidia driver through WINE, a Windows emulator for Linux. I was not, however, able to get any of the other games working. One day when I have some time, I may look into this further.

Desktop Computer

My desktop is once again, nearly out of disk space. In reality I have around 120 gigabytes left, but it is not continuous; it is spread over 9 disk partitions, which is not very useful for moving and saving DVD images. I have many linux images, and other large files on my desktop (which is I am basically using as a server).

As a result of this free space being fragmented across many partitions, I have been wanting to build a RAID-5 server with several terabytes of storage in one continuous blob. The main thing precluding my from doing so at this time is funding. Additionally, I don't know which controller I would get. I need one that is reliable, fast, and cheap. (I know that the saying is usually "choose any 2".) I would end up getting some large disks from NewEgg. I would also need an inexpensive case to house the whole thing.

I would probably set it up as a Linux server, and make the space available to Windows clients via the samba protocol. I have never set up such a server before, so it would be very interesting.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Parents Weekend at RPI

This weekend at Rensselaer was parents weekend. There were several football games, for both of which Rensselaer's teams were successful. There was also a hockey game, about which I have not information. The only event that I really participated in was the Honors Convocation, in which I received the physical medal from the Rensselaer Medal Scholarship that I was awarded last year.

The Honors Convocation Ceremony was quite long, lasting about 2 hours. First, there was a procession in which all of the honorees, walked in followed by the important people of the institution. Six of the faculty were awarded some "highest honor", which sounded to me like tenure, but I didn't hear that word. After that, there were speeches. Eventually, they handed out the medals as each recipient walked across the stage, and shook President Jackson's hand. This part only took 15 minutes or so.

After the Honors Convocation was over, I took my mom and brother (who had come up for the event) on a tour of campus. My mom took a lot of photos of me, of which I may post a few here

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A More Difficult Second Day of Classes

Today was much more difficult for me than yesterday. First thing this morning, I had to get up at 5:00 for PT (Physical Training), then change into my white uniform to wear during the school day for ROTC. When wearing the uniform, we are required to carry our stuff in our left hand, and not on our backs. This is partially so that we will be able to salute senior officers and midshipmen as well as Air Force cadets.

My first class of the day was Introduction to Economics. It was a pretty good class, but it is going to require some work on my part. The professor said that the third edition of the text book would be sufficient, even though the current one is the fourth. I am going to return the new one I got from the library, and have ordered the third edition from eBay for $30 instead of over $100 for the new one. The subject matter of the economics class is somewhat interesting, but a lot of it seems like common sense. I am also happy that the professor is somewhat conservative rather than liberal.

Multi-variable calculus was slightly confusing, but I should be able to do fine in it. I don't have as good of a teacher as I did with Calculus 1 and 2, but I don't expect to ever have such a good teacher again, anyway. After hearing from my economics professor that the older version of the textbook was adequate, I decided to ask my calculus teacher if the older version of that book would also be adequate. She said that older versions would be fine since most of the questions aren't out of the book. I plan to return the books for this class and order the older versions for it also.

I have been enjoying being able to type my notes in class on my Rensselaer laptop. It has encouraged me to actually take notes -- something that I rarely, if ever, did in high school. The program that we were given for this task is Microsoft's OneNote. It is like a virtual notebook/filing cabinet with sections. It is quite easy to keep notes organized. Whenever I have taken notes on traditional paper with a pen, they would all get mixed up and I couldn't locate any of them. (I actually opened up my virtual notebook to refer to while writing this post; I have both laptops running side by side.)

My third class, and least favorite to this point, was Introduction to Engineering Analysis. I believe that the main reason for this is that the professor has forbidden the use of laptops in his classroom. The subject matter to this point (only the first day so far) has been physics, except that we have to use the English system of units, which I greatly despise for its complexity. We also have to hand in class work at the end of each class period in addition to homework. So far, this class seems to be the one that will be the most work.

Overall, the day was more difficult than yesterday, but I'd say that if this is as tough as it gets, I'll do fine.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Start of Classes

This morning, I went to my first class, Computer Science 1. From everything that the professor said, I should probably take Computer Science 2 instead. Unfortuantely, when I tried to make it work with the classes I'm currently taking, it wouldn't. My ROTC drill period interferes with Computer Science 2, and ROTC will always come first since they are paying for my tuition. I'm going to see what I can work out with the schedule, and hopefully everything goes well.

The second class I attended today was a period where we would normally go over the previous lesson, so it was very short given that we haven't had any lessons yet.

My laptop is becoming more manageable as I customize it to my liking. I still haven't gotten around to removing all the suff slowing it down yet, though. Also, the RPI Scheduler java program doesn't work for some reason. I hope to get it sorted out soon, though.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

End of Orientation

This has been an interesting two weeks. By far, the best part was the Adventure Quest at Silver Bay. Since returning from Silver Bay, life has been mostly uneventful.

Several days a week, movies are shown in an auditorium on campus. Tickets cost $2.50, but there were two free movies this week to whet our appetite for them (my reasoning there). The first one, Music and Lyrics was shown on Wednesday. If I had seen the first five minutes of it on television, I would have instantly changed the channel, but I sat through it, and it wasn't too bad of a movie. The second movie, Disturbia, was shown last night. I thought it was a pretty good movie, and kept you guessing until near the end.

Today, people on my floor finally got our Rensselaer laptops. It is a decent computer, but mine is faster. I still have the same gripes that I have mentioned previously. I plan to install Fedora on the Rensselaer laptop alongside Windows. One thing about the laptop that is better than was advertised, but not unexpected to me, is that it has Office 2007 Enterprise edition rather than Professional edition.

Later this afternoon, we had a "Convocation" ceremony where many of the important people of the college were introduced, and a few spoke. At the end, Rensselaer's a cappella group, The Rusty Pipes, sang the Alma Mater. I believe that I was one of very few freshmen who already knew it. I downloaded it a few months ago, and have heard it enough times to know it by now.

Classes start tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes. My first class is at 8:00 in the morning.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Starting College Life in Troy, New York

ROTC Orientation

Last Monday night (13 Aug 2007), my dad drove me up to Rensselaer. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the way up. It was a pretty good book and finished the series well.

The first thing I did this past week was the ROTC orientation week. We were issued uniforms, and said goodbye to our parents, and were marched off. We were loaded onto buses to go to the Air Force base (I don't remember what it was called). We spent most of our orientation there.

Throughout the week, we were supposed to be memorizing information out of "Foundations" booklets. The first day shortly after arriving at the Air Force base, I lost mine in the chaos. Throughout the week, I received a lot of flack about it, and many of the times I was yelled at started because it was noticed that I didn't have it.

Though it felt like a lot of hard work, the week went fine overall, I would say. They never gave us a formal exam on the information in the "Foundations" booklet, though I did learn most of it by borrowing my roommate's. We spent the last two days of ROTC orientation at Rensselaer, and on Saturday afternoon, there was a ceremony where we took an oath, and became midshipmen.

Silver Bay Adventure Quest

Several months ago, I received a packet from Rensselaer asking me which overnight "Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond" trip I wanted to go on. I chose aviation and white-water rafting as my primary and backup choices, but didn't get either. I received a call about a month ago asking if I wanted to go on the only remaining trip. I said that I would, and I ended up going on the Silver Bay Adventure Quest trip.

Silver Bay is a very large YMCA off of Lake George in New York. It is an hour-and-a-half to two-hour bus ride from Rensselaer. The main purpose of the program at Silver Bay was team building. There were many activities where working together was necessary to successfully complete the task. Many of these included a blindfold.

My favorite part of the trip was that it allowed me to make friends with a few people who are attending Rensselaer. I probably met at least 20 or 30 people whom I will be able to recognize by sight, but there are fewer than a dozen whose names I remember. (I'd list them there, but I haven't obtained permission from said people to post their names.) Walking around campus, I have seen a few people that I recognize from when I was here in July for the Student Orientation, but I remember them by sight only, and don't know their names. (I'm terrible with names if you haven't figured out.) Anyway, back on topic, the longest activity that I did at Silver Bay was a hike that lasted from 9 o'clock in the morning to about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

"Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond" (Orientation at Rensselaer)

Since returning from Silver Bay, some orientation activities have been going on here on campus. On Tuesday (yesterday), after we returned, there was a barbecue with all 1300 freshmen; I must say that it was a lot of people.

Today (Wednesday), everyone went on a day trip. I went on the "Precision Air Rifle Shooting" trip, which happened to be right on campus in the basement of the Armory. There is a shooting range that had been used for M1's in World War II. We used air rifles which were powered by canisters of air compressed at 3000 PSI. The ammunition was little pellet-like pieces of lead. Shooting the rifles was kind of fun for a while, but became slightly onerous, with the need to reload after each shot.

This evening, there was an event in the Student Union where many video game systems, board games, and other entertainment were set up. There are people here at Rensselaer with amazing talents. Some people are insanely good at video games such as Dance Dance Revolution; others put on a good comedic show on stage; and most enjoyable to me, some have extraordinary musical talents. There was a room with a grand piano, and several students who have been playing for over a decade were playing on it through the evening. I spent most of my time in that room listening to their amazing musical talents.

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Friday, July 20, 2007


My how time flies! I only have three weeks left until I have to head off to RPI. I am no doubt excited about this, but there are some things that I wish to accomplish first.

Firstly, and probably most importantly, I want to finish off my work on the NHS web site. The work that remains to be done consists mostly of completing the system for updating the site via a web interface. I have done virtually no work on it so far this summer.

The next thing my queue of things to complete is a Beowulf cluster that my friend and I have been working on over the summer. We have been gathering older computers, and are attempting to get them to work together in parallel to perform computing-intensive tasks. We are doing it as mainly a proof-of-concept and to gain some additional experience.

Less importantly, but possibly unwisely high on my list, I am re-reading the first six Harry Potter books. As I type this, I am paused at the end of the fourteenth chapter of the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I am re-reading the first six books so that the story line will be fresh in my mind when the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out tomorrow. I have ordered a boxed set of the entire series in hardcover, but it won't arrive until October according to Amazon.

Getting back on topic, I have recently noticed that there is too little time. There are all of the things mentioned above that I want to do, and more, but time seems to be flying. It is already Friday, and it feels as if Monday were yesterday. I notice that I am probably about a quarter of the way through my life, supposing I live to be seventy-six years old. There are several other things to be done this summer. For one, I need to start getting in shape for next month when I will go up to Rensselaer for the ROTC program. I also want to, some time in the future, watch the entire series of Star Trek Voyager. I watched an episode of it the other day on television, and it reminded me of how good the show is. I have watched the entire series of the following shows: Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, 24, and Smallville.

Anyway, back to reading Harry Potter -- if I don't fall asleep first, that is.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rensselaer Student Orientation

I recently attended the student orientation at RPI. I learned a little about the school that I didn't know about the school before, but not very much. Most of what I remember from Student Orientation was arguing my case with the registrar's office about receiving credit for Calculus 2. I took Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 at Germanna Community College this past school year, and expected to receive credit for both at RPI. They only wanted to give me credit for Calculus 1 because there were some things that weren't in the course description for the course I took at Germanna as opposed to the course description for Calculus 2 at RPI.

When I registered for classes, the system wouldn't let me register for Multi-variable Calculus. I asked the person who was helping with registration to over-ride the system, who did so after my explaining the problem. I still had to go to the registrar's office, and convince them to give me credit for Calculus 2, which they grudgingly did. They said that they would give me the credit, but put a not in the file that there were possible holes in the course I took at Germanna. I am satisfied that I got the schedule that I wanted for the first semester. Hopefully, all will go well.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Advanced Placement (AP) Credit

I haven't yet received my score that I got on the AP Statistics test, though I have been able to call the College Board for the past week or so to get it for $8.00 which is kind of expensive. On the student information system at Rensselaer, I am shown as having 4 credits from the AP Statistics test. That means that I scored either a 4 or a 5 on the test because that is what RPI requires to receive credit.

I will probably receive my official score in the mail sometime in the next week or so. Statistics was the second AP test that I have taken. The first was U.S. History. I only got a 2 on that test.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rensselaer Laptop

The specs for the laptop package that Rensselaer will be offering were released late last week. It is a very decent computer, though I do have a few complaints. The specs are as follows:

  • ThinkPad T61
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 processor at 2.0 GHz (4 MB L2 cache, 800 MHz FSB, 64-bit CPU)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680x1050) TFT display
  • 160GB 5400RPM hard drive with Intel Turbo Memory hard drive cache
  • 128MB NVIDIA Quadra NVS 140M graphic processing unit
  • CD writer/DVD writer (dual layer)
  • 10/100/1000 on-board Ethernet and 56K modem
  • 802.11a/b/g/n integrated wireless
  • Ports: 3 USB 2.0, Docking/Port Replicator, External Display, Headphone / Line out, Microphone / Line in
  • PC Card Slot, ExpressCard Slot, Media Card Slot
  • UltraNav (touch pad/TrackPoint) pointing device
  • Fingerprint Reader
  • Bluetooth
  • Firewire (IEEE 1394)
  • 9-cell Lithium-ion battery (one-year warranty)

My main problem with the computer is that the resolution is not as high as I would like. It is 1680x1050, but I wish it were 1920x1200. Also, I would have preferred 256 MB of video memory rather than 128 MB. Finally, I would have preferred a faster (i.e. 7200 RPM) hard drive.

What this breaks down to is "I like everything about the RPI laptop package except where it is not as good as my current notebook computer." Based on that statement, I guess I will also mention that I wish it had 4 GB of memory rather than 2 GB. I will end up buying the package anyway because obtaining the required software legally would be prohibitively expensive.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Excitement about Rensselaer

Yesterday, I logged onto the Rensselaer accepted student forums. People have profiles that include photos, locations, and stuff about themselves. I set mine, and added a photo of myself. It was one from when I still had my braces, so I decided to Photoshop them out. It took quite some time, though most of it was that I hadn't used Photoshop before.

Anyway, I was reading through the posts there, and reading people's profiles. I was actually up until 3 A.M. yesterday (it is like 2 A.M. now). I have access to all of Rensselaer's online resources, and reading through all of what they have, I am pretty excited about going there.

I was reading about the computer package they have. The specs have not yet been released for the 2007 computer, but it will be top-of-the line, or pretty close to it. I have my notebook that I bought at the beginning of this school year, but the battery life is terrible. I am wondering if I can get the new computer each year, and sell the old. I like the idea of constantly having a new machine. My only concern about the machine that they will have is the screen resolution. This is a very large concern for me. After having my current notebook at 1920 by 1200 pixels, it is difficult for me to use anything lower; I feel very restrained when I try to do so, such as on the computers at high school.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

End of Classes at Community College

This past school year, I took two semesters each of calculus and physics. I took calculus at Germanna Community College, and physics at Northern Virginia Community College. I went to class for the final time this week. I ended up with A's in all of them, and am pretty happy about this. I am taking a Dual-Enrollment English class at my high school in conjunction with Germanna Community. For the first semester, I received a B+, which according to Germanna's grading scale should've been an A (Germanna is on a 10-point scale; my high school is on a 6-point scale). My grade shown in the records at Germanna is in fact, a B rather than an A. If I had taken the class physically at Germanna as I had done with calculus, I believe that I would've earned an A.

Anyway, It's nice to have free time after school. I am still working on the NHS site. I spoke to one of the teacher sponsors today about getting a link to the NHS site from the Mountain View site. She said that she didn't think it was going to happen. I intend to ask her whom I should speak to in order for this to happen.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

College Decision

The first of May is just around the corner. This is the day that all of the colleges and universities want a decision. I have decided to attend RPI. I went on a thousand-mile round trip a few weeks ago to visit Rensselaer in Troy, New York. I liked what I saw, especially the technology. I also liked their innovative class rooms. Instead of every class being in a lecture hall, (though there are some of these,) they have "studio-based" classrooms that allow everything to be hands-on. There are two very long circular and concentric desks around the edge of the room. The outer one is elevated so that those seated there can see over the heads of those in front of them. There are also monitors spaced out across the circular tables. On these monitors, the instructor can show whatever he is doing, be it an experiment, or a Power Point presentation. Also, every student has a powerful notebook computer. I went on a tour around the campus, and it was quite nice. My dad went with me, and his only complaint was that it was so cold. It didn't bother me too much, though.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

MIT and College

I just heard back from MIT, my first choice for college. They rejected me, saying, "we are unable to offer you admission to MIT." I have a feeling that my school never sent out the mid-year grade report, and that that had something to do with it. If that is the case, I will be pretty angry. I have no idea where I am going to go. Stanford is the only other school that rejected me. I have been accepted to Georgia Tech, RPI, Virginia Tech, and George Mason University. I have also been accepted to four service academies: the Naval Academy, Military Academy, Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy. I don't know where I am going to go. I am deeply disappointed that I didn't make it into MIT.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Responses from Colleges

I have over the past few days heard back from several colleges. Stanford turned me down, and said that I wasn't allowed to re-apply this year. MIT, my top choice deferred me to the regular admission. Georgia Tech accepted me. The Coast Guard Academy also accepted me. And just yesterday, I found out that RPI also accepted me. I still haven't heard back from the other academies. I do hope that MIT likes my application when they look at it during regular admission.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Life lately

I've been busy lately. The National Honor Society site that I've been working on is almost ready for prime time. My injured leg still bothers me sometimes when I am swimming. I did get a Varsity Letter for Cross Country, though I never ran another race after I got injured. My Calculus class is almost over for this semester. I have my final exam tomorrow, or rather today considering that it's after midnight. Physics is almost over also, though I have a few more classes.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Life Since School Started

Well, school has started, and I have been going to my classes at NOVA and Germanna. My schedule worked out pretty nicely. My school has block scheduling. There are four blocks in the day, each lasting 85 minutes. Some classes are a semester long, and other classes are year-long. The year-long classes meet every other day. The days are divided up into X-days and Y-days. On X-days, I have Dual Enrollment English first block and AP Statistics second block. On Y-days, I have my internship with the Technology Department of the school system. I have Introduction to Engineering third block, and I have Principles of Technology fourth block every day for the first semester. After school, I have Cross Country practice. I then have Physics or Calculus in the evenings, depending on the day.

My internship is going well, and as far as I can tell, I'm doing a good job. Since school started, my job has changed slightly from doing some large task to helping people out with their individual computer problems. I have been able to fix most of the problems I have come across.

Cross Country is fun as always, but unfortunately I'm not as fast as I was last year. This is because I had been working in the last few weeks of summer, and didn't go to the practices that were held, as I had done last summer. As an example, yesterday, I ran 9:22 in a race that I ran in 9 minutes flat last year. I hope that I can work up to where I was last year. I'm considering doing winter track, and not swimming because I don't want to have to start all over when spring track comes around.

I have begun work on a web site for my school's National Honor Society. I bought two domains: mvnhs.us and mvnhs.net, as .com and .org were already taken. For now, I'm using the design of my site, as I don't yet have one for the NHS site. This will be my first web site for an organization, and I hope that they will like it, and use it, even after I am graduated and gone from the school. I'm going to try a CSS-powered pop-up navigation implementation developed by Steve Gibson, author of SpinRite software. It does work in Internet Explorer; something that few or no other CSS menus do. The current NHS design is destroyed by Internet Explorer, but that will have to be fixed, as it is the prominent browser.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Naval Academy Summer Seminar

I just got back from the Naval Academy Summer Seminar, and am detailing what happened to me. I'll be publishing this, then adding to the end of it, as it will take a while to write.

Naval Academy Summer Seminar

I just got back from NASS. As I posted before I left, I didn't know I was going to go until 3 days before the fact. The night before, I got very little sleep, as I had to pack, and had gotten back from work around midnight. I got maybe an hour of sleep. I live in Stafford, Virginia, and the Naval Academy is in Annapolis, Maryland. It was about a 3-hour drive because of traffic.

Day 1 - Saturday, 17 June 2006

When I got to the Naval Academy, my dad walked me to the building where we signed in, and then he left. When I signed in, the midshipman who was at the sign-in table told me that everyone was Sir, or Ma'am, and that shirts had to be tucked in. She also informed me that I was in Delta Company. Next, another midshipman took me and other candidates to Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory complex in the nation. We were told where our rooms were, and to drop off our stuff there. After dropping off my stuff in my room, I went back downstairs where there were several lines along the walls for different activities. First, I got in the line to eat lunch. There were all types of meat and sandwich makings on the table to make oneself a sandwich. The food was very decent. After eating, I went back up to my room to see if my roommate had arrived at the Academy yet. He had not, so I got in the line for a tour of the Academy. After waiting in that line for almost an hour, I got a very brief tour. After the tour, I once again went to my room to see if my roommate had arrived. He had. His name was Esteban, and he was from Puerto Rico. After I met him, I had no option except to get in the line to play sports. The sports were uneventful. After the sports, we were told to get into our dark blue shirts. I hadn't been issued any shirts, so I asked where we were supposed to get it. They said that it should be in our rooms, but took note that there had been none in my room. Later, when I was sitting in my room, a midshipman came into my room with some but not of all my clothes, which were size small. I wear large. She said that she was doing her best to get all the gear problems sorted out. It really got on my nerves that they got the gear problems wrong, but I couldn't complain to anyone besides my roommate because it would look bad.

After putting on my small shirt, we lined up in a formation, and went off to dinner. When we got to the dining hall, we stood behind our chairs, and I was the person to seat everyone in my squad by yelling, "Squad take ... seats". After we ate, we had what they called intramurals, where my squad played another squad in ultimate Frisbee. I hurt my back in the game, which I felt the next couple of days. My team lost, though we did score a few points. After that, we went to a briefing where the companies made lots of noise to see who was the most spirited. Then we were told what was going to happen during the week, and that our one job to do in the week was to decide if the United States Naval Academy is the school for us. They also passed out pieces of paper that we had to memorize by Wednesday. After that, we went back to Bancroft Hall (the dormitories) and had Blue and Gold, which is where everyone counts off to see how many of us there are, and then we sing the Naval Academy's alma mater. Then it is off to bed after being told by our squad leaders what to wear tomorrow.

Day 2 - Saturday, 18 June 2006

Update: 10 Mar 2008: I see that there are many hits on this post. To avoid people reloading this page, I am leaving this note: I never got around to finishing this post. By this time, I have forgotten much of what I would have written.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Invitation to Naval Academy Summer Seminar

Monday, I got a message on the phone saying that I could go to the Naval Academy Summer Seminar. I had originally applied in February, and was rejected. I suppose that someone they offered it to originally couldn't go or something. They gave me 4 days notice. I had to cancel my planned trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, reschedule my white-water rafting trip, reschedule my medical exam, and find someone to work for me on Saturday. I am not sure yet if I have done the last one. I have asked someone if he can work my shift for me, but have yet to receive a response.

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