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.)

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

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...

Labels: , , , ,

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.)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Incensed by Culture

I'll preface this post, by mentioning that I have several other half-written posts that haven't been published, due to my busy-ness with school and other things, but this one was pressing enough for me to write and publish.

Today in drill, someone from the health center spoke to us on the topic of "protecting oneself," and how to do so properly. This could have been done in a much better manner than it was. In her manner of giving the presentation, the lady doing doing so legitimized sodomy and many additional immoral acts. In the scenarios she proposed, she made it seem as if the things she was encouraging us to do "safely" were things that were perfectly normal to do.

The Unit XO was a single voice of reason in this mess. After the lady from the health center left, he gave an 8-minute spiel about abstinence, and didn't bother hiding his disapproval of the presentation we were given.

(I tried to keep this G-, or at most, PG-rated)

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Corrupted Vista Registry


About a two months ago, I had a problem with Windows. I got the following error: "Windows could not start because the following is missing or corrupt: \Windows\System32\config\SYSTEM" I went to the Help Desk at the VCC, and surprise, surprise, after several hours, they weren't able to fix the problem.

About a week later, solved the problem myself, and am documenting it for you here.


So, the solution is to boot into a recovery environment, and to copy the file at "C:\Windows\System32\config\RegBack\SYSTEM.OLD" to "C:\Windows\System32\config\SYSTEM", making sure to back up the old "C:\Windows\System32\config\SYSTEM" first, just in case. As far as "recovery environments" go, I just booted into Linux, though a Live CD, or even the Windows installation disc would work just as well.

This same problem happened to me about two weeks ago, and this same procedure saved my system again.

There is a Microsoft KB article that describes how one could solve the problem for Windows XP, but that wasn't much help for the same sort of problem on Vista.

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Small Dorm Room

Last Spring, there was a "lottery," where the order in which students would get to choose their rooms was chosen. I didn't get too bad of a number, but by the time my turn came around, my preferred choices for a room were gone. (These were Davidson, or Nugent Halls.) I ended up with a small single in the Quadrangle, otherwise known as "The Quad." One thing that I declared to be a requirement for my room was air conditioning. The Quad does have air conditioning, which I am happy about.

When I first got into my room, I was really disappointed at how small it really was. There was almost no room to move around. I had planned to mitigate the small space by lofting my bed, and placing my desk underneath. This turned out to not be an option for a couple of reasons. First, my bed has drawers built-in under the mattress, which loses me two feet of vertical space. Second, the ceiling is only eight feet high, and the regulations state that there must be at least three feet of clearance between the top of the mattress and the ceiling. The combination of these two would have left me with only about three feet under the bed, which is insufficient to fit a desk. Another peculiarity of the room is that it is more narrow than it is tall.

When I got into the room, the bed and the desk were parallel, with about 2 feet between. This was not sufficient space to pull my chair out from the desk and comfortably sit in it. What I ended up doing was to re-arrange the furniture in the room. I rotated the bed ninety degrees, which was in and of itself a challenge, as the room wasn't wide enough to properly do so. I pushed the bed as close to the window as I could, which was several feet away because the air conditioner kind of got in the way. I have my servers as well as printer in this space between my bed and the window. Now that I have done all this re-arranging, I have a consolidated floor space, where I can comfortably pull out my chair to sit in.

At this point, I am satisfied with my room, and my initial concerns have been mitigated. I am really enjoying the air conditioning.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Churning Mind

Last night, I went to bed at the decent hour of 2200 (10 P.M.) I was planning to almost get a full night's sleep, and to do my homework this morning instead of last night. Unfortunately, at around 0220 this morning, I was rudely awakened by the fire alarm. Apparently, someone had used the fire extinguisher, and there was smoke; I don't really know what happened. At any rate, we all had to go outside and wait for the fire department to get to the dorm and check it out.

This all lasted for probably 45 minutes or an hour. We were allowed back into the building. When I went back to bed, I couldn't immediately go back to sleep; my mind was flying in a million directions. I laid awake for nearly an hour before going back to sleep. At one point, I remember thinking of something that disengaged my mind, kind of like a clutch. I remember thinking, "well, that's interesting; now I can go to sleep." Shortly thereafter, I fell asleep. Sadly, I don't remember what it was that caused my mind to disengage, but it sure would be useful for times when I want to get to sleep in the future.

There have been a few times when I laid awake for the entire night. Needless to say, this is quite a waste, and if I could predict these times, I could use the time to do work. As Murphy's Law would predict, these difficulties of getting to sleep only plague me when I intend to go to sleep. At any other time, be it in class, watching a movie, riding in a vehicle, or almost anything else, if given the opportunity, I can go to sleep.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 10, 2008

Communications Cryptography and Key Signing

I have recently become interested in the encryption and authentication of messages. Several months ago, I started reading up on PGP and its open source implementation GPG. Basically, this is a technology that allows only the intended recipient to read a message. It also allows for the authentication of the sender.

This authentication and encryption is accomplished via public-key cryptography. Basically, each person has two keys: one public and the other private. The public key is given to anyone for verification of a cryptographic signature, or to enable him to send the owner an encrypted message. The private key is used by its owner to sign outgoing messages, and to decrypt incoming messages; it is never disclosed.

The preceding is a very simplified explanation, but should provide a basic idea of what is going on. There does come a small problem: how can you know that the public key you have for a someone is really owned by that person? This is where key signing comes in. One solution to this problem is to meet in person and exchange keys, but it would be a pain to meet each and every person with whom you wanted to communicate. Therefore, when you meet in person and exchange keys, you also sign the key of the person you met to inform people who trust your key that these new keys actually belong to their apparent owners.

A web of trust is created by many people signing each other's keys. In general, the fewer hops in this web between your own key and and other key indicates how much you can trust the authenticity of that other key.

Anyway, I have not yet attended a key signing party. I was pleased to find out that the ACM at Rensselaer is going have such a key signing party on March 24, 2008. Hopefully there will be quite a few people there so as to greatly increase the size of this "web of trust."

Labels: ,

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]

Labels: , , , ,

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.)

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

Soreness from Lifting Weights

This semester, someone decided that my squad in ROTC was going to exercise an additional time in the week separately from the rest of the battalion. (In reality, each of us is supposed to do additional exercise on our own throughout the week.) Yesterday was the first of these supplemental exercise sessions. My squad went to the Mueller Center, which is just off the Armory here at Rensselaer. We went to the lower floor where the weight room is. We were instructed and shown what we were supposed to do.

In doing the exercises, I could feel that my right arm is much stronger than my left arm. For some of the exercises, I couldn't complete all the repetitions. After the weight workout, we jogged a few miles, which was pretty easy. After finishing, my arms were only slightly sore, and I thought nothing of it for the rest of the day.

This morning when I got up, my arms were in pain -- it hurt to even lift them. My left arm, is especially sore, and the regular yawning-stretch thing I do when I'm slightly sore does little to nothing to help. It is slightly painful to make my left arm go all the way straight, and the inside of the elbow feels somewhat like it does after having blood drawn. After doing the lifting exercises yesterday, we were told that we would be sore the following several days since we weren't used to doing the exercises. Hopefully getting used to these exercises doesn't take too long as I'm not thrilled to feel consistently sore.

I experienced similar soreness when I first started track and cross-country in high school. In that case, it took about two weeks to get used to the routine, and not be sore after practice.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spell Checking in Blogger

It seems that spell checking in Blogger now works. I had complained about it previously, but am glad that they now have it fixed. Logging in and writing a post is still full of bugs in Opera, but I can manage, though I do hope that they fix it.

One thing that kind of annoyed me is that Blogger thought that "Rensselaer" was misspelled, and didn't offer any logical replacement. On the RPI message boards, there is an entire thread on misspellings of Rensselaer.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , ,