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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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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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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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.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Lack of a Normal Sleep Schedule

This past week, I have pulled three all-nighters. I'm sure that this isn't healthy, but I get quite a bit of work done when I'm at the computing center. Most frequently, I seem to pull these all-nighters on Wednesday nights; Thursdays are my hardest days this semester. On Thursdays, I have class from 0600 (6 A.M.) until 1700 (5 P.M.) I really should get all of this work done on the weekends, but it never happens.

Hopefully, after Spring break, I can get into the habit of getting all of my work done on the weekends. I would then, theoretically, be able to get back to a normal sleep schedule. Since all of my things tend to be due at the end of the week, and since I have a history of procrastination following me around, I often find myself in a bad position with more work to do than can be done in an evening. I resort to pulling all-nighters that cause staying awake through my classes to be quite difficult.

I believe that this semester is so difficult for me because my typical week is unequally balanced; most of my work and classes are at the end of the week rather being evenly spaced throughout the week.

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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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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Printer: Brother HL-5250DN

When I came to school last semester, I brought my dad's old printer with me. It initially had the problem of black lines through whatever was printed. I fixed this by buying a new toner cartridge for it. About half way through last semester, it died. It was giving me a "50 Service" error. I found that this could be fixed with a $70 replacement piece. I was reluctant to spend so much money on such an old printer.

Last week, I had had enough with using the school printers, which both cost money to use, and didn't print as well as could be desired. I started looking at printers over at my favorite on-line retailer, NewEgg. I decided to go with the Brother HL-5250DN. It is a network laser printer, the only kind I would consider buying, and it has a built-in duplexer (that is, it can print on both sides of the page). It prints at 1200x1200 DPI, which is very sharp. (The LaserJet II that I had only printed at 300x300 DPI.)

Currently, I have the printer set up so that it is on it's own isolated network (which is just it and a wireless router). I connect to the wireless router whenever I want to print. To set it up properly (i.e., so that I could print to it from anywhere on campus), I would have to have to obtain some more networking hardware. Currently, my five-port switch is full and I don't have the desire to spend money on more networking hardware.

The printouts from the printer are very clean, and it is pretty quiet. The only negative thing about the printer is that whenever it gets ready to print, it draws a large amount of current, causing the lights in the room to flicker. Other than that I am very happy with this printer. The replacement toner costs around $75 or so, but I won't need that for a while.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Validating Input

When writing code, always validate the input. This may seem like common sense -- and it is under most circumstances -- but in one particular case, it is not. In the case of a computer science class when the instructor guarantees proper input, it is very tempting to not validate the input and simply assume that it is correct. This will save you a little time on each assignment, but is not worth it in the long run. I found this out today. I had a computer science project due at midnight last night. I didn't have it done on time, so I had to waste my remaining late day on it. I spent nearly 24 hours trying to debug my program that should have been working.

When I was debugging, I kept seeing things that could go wrong with improper input, but remembered that I only had to deal with proper input. My program seemed very brittle; the difference between a segmentation fault and the program running fine (but exiting early) was the difference between a break; and a continue; statement. It was at this that I randomly noticed that there was one line of the input was causing the crash. The input was improper despite assurances of the contrary the instructor.

I checked on-line to verify that I didn't mistakenly modify the file. Sure enough, the file on-line was correct, but the date on the on-line file was more recent than the date on my file. Apparently, the teacher noticed (or was informed of) the mistake, and updated the files on-line. What he did not do was send a general notice of the mistake and subsequent correction. Because of all this, I wasted nearly 24 hours of my time as well as a "late day" for turning in homework.

The moral of the story is that one should always check his input even if it has been guaranteed that it will be correct. The benefits of checking the input greatly outweigh the costs. Besides this, it is simply good practice, especially for any code that will be used in production. I had to deal with this when I was writing the contact form for my site; most of my time was spent writing the validation code to prevent any security problems.

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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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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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Friday, June 22, 2007


A little over a week ago, I graduated from Mountain View High School. My final GPA was 4.32. If only my senior year were considered, I would have a 4.625 on a 4.5 scale. Here are my final grades for my senior classes:

Class NameGradeGrade Points
DE English CompositionB+4.5
AP StatisticsA5.0
Introduction to EngineeringA+4.5
Principles of TechnologyA+4.5
Spanish IVA4.0
DE CalculusA5.0
DE PhysicsA5.0

I graduated Summa Cum Laude, and had both an honor stole for that and a National Honor Society honor stole. It was surprising to me how many seniors put in too little effort in the end, and did not receive their NHS honor stole.

I am, as I have stated previously, excited about attending Rensselaer in the fall. It did not hit me, however, that I would not see many of my high school friends for a very long time until recently. I think it hit me after I attended a graduation party, and said goodbye to many of my friends there. I felt similar to how I felt when I had to come back home from the National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology (NYLF/Tech), though I was more saddened then than now. I will very likely never see the people I met at NYLF/Tech again, but will very likely see many of my high school friends again at future reunions.

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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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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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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Restrictions at School

I hate when a few misbehaving individuals abuse privileges and get them taken away from the whole group. Today when I entered the library, I was informed that I would not be able to leave until the bell rang at the end of lunch. I regularly use the library during my lunch period to use the computers. I then leave about two minutes before lunch ends so that I can beat the crowds to get to my next class. Apparently, some kids were skipping class and doing other unspecified activities that caused "administration" to create this new rule. This type of thing has happened to me on several occasions. When I worked at Sam's Pizza and Subs, some people abused the free food by getting very expensive meals. My boss said that because of this, the only free food that we could get would be sandwiches. There was a similar incident in school this year; kids who ate in the courtyard outside didn't pick up their mess and caused the privilege of eating outside to be revoked. It has gotten on my nerves each and every time. I believe that the librarian is not particularly pleased with the new rule, but she must enforce it. I hope that this new rule will be relaxed. I'm thinking that the issue could be forced if everyone who used the library during their lunch periods were to stop doing so until the rule is revoked, but I think that the chances of this happening is virtually zero.

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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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