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20 February 2007

Exams, Cycles, the Flu, and Nerdiness!

Today is Mardi Gras. Already. Wow; time has flown.

Back in high school, this would mean that we'd get a party in French class if we dressed up in a costume relating somehow to Mardi Gras, French or Creole culture, or the French language. I would always dress as aujourd'hui, "today."

Which wasn't all that hard to do. I cut out a square of cardboard from an old cereal box about 4 inches by 5.5 inches. Then I created a little daily flipbook of calendar dates, each to be cut to a quarter-page, similar to what I have shown at left. Nothing much, just two or three pages to imply the functionality of a standard page-a-day calendar.

A few staples, a hole punch, and a string of yarn later, and I was officially dressed as aujourd'hui. Yes, I'm a nerd. And for whatever reason, my French teacher found it extremely creative and loved every minute of it. Probably because I was the only one nerdy enough to ever think of it.

And that's my little rant about the holiday.

In other news, remember those exams I'd been worried about? What, I didn't mention them here? Oh, well. Well, I had exams on Thursday and Friday, and I already have the grades back for both. First, for PHYS, I just saw my score, which doing some math implies that I aced it except for missing one multiple-choice question. The only other possibility (less likely) is that I aced all the multiple-choice questions and messed up a conceptual problem by an amount equal to the weight of a multiple-choice question. I'm not sure I like all-or-nothing multiple-choice questions in Physics; in my opinion, physics exam problems should be "conceptual, computational, and/or explanational explanatory."

Yes, I had to throw that in there. Once again, I am a nerd.

In CHEM, my exam score was just under 75% mathematically, but above the class average by several points, and continuing to show improvement over past exams. But of course, the number means very little, as it's an honors course, and so to make up for the difficulty, a 67% will get you a B. If the other tests aren't ridiculously bad like some of last term's were, I think I'll find it easy to do well again in the spring.

Unless lab reports kill me first.

For the third week in a row, I was up past 04:00 on Sunday Monday morning finishing up the week's work. And this week, we not only had to turn in a report on last week's lab, but also a double report on two labs our section couldn't do because of the Martin Luther King Holiday, given sample data. That's right: I said "also" a double lab report.

If I had to sum up the emotional cycle I've been feeling lately, it would be like this:

I think that fact that this curve could stand to be leveled out implies that I may not be handling things as well as I could. But I'm dealing with it, and surviving. And that's all that counts, even if college, my very lifestyle, is the bane of my existence once every seven days.

One of our recent assignments for the service learning course involved making a web page for our team (in addition to, and in tandem with the individual ones we already had). It's not quite entirely up-to-date at the moment, but it should be later this week.

Our project proposal presentation to DRS was this afternoon. But Mageena, who was actually going to present a good chunk of the proposal, got the stomach flu and couldn't make it. We found out less than 10 minutes beforehand when I called her on a semi-related matter. So Ryan and I did what we could, and all went well.

I came back to the room and took a short catnap before choir. I awoke to the sound of my roommate vomiting into his garbage can. Yay. I only hope I don't catch the bug that's apparently going around campus. Because I haven't thrown up in over 12 years now. And I'd kind of like to keep that going for as long as I can help it. Besides, I'm not a winter sickness person. I get sick in the summer usually for a day, although this past summer it was like four.

And now I find myself lacking a segue into my next topic of choice. So, I'll jump right into it.

Last week was <3 UR : Week (or LYCW) here at the University. For those of you scratching your heads at the apparent lack of consistency in acronyms, or for those scratching because you don't speak 1337, and for those scratching further because I just made reference to a "language" that's apparently a number, "<3 UR :" means "Love Your Computer," hence the acronym LYCW. If you still don't understand, just accept it as fact and move on. It's complicated.

The first time I heard about <3 UR : Week was at my PittStart session in June. Computing Services and Systems Development put on a presentation about all the services they offer, and they mentioned that <3 UR : Week was held for the first time last February.

Appropriately enough, the color theme last year was black and pink, and because lots of the information sessions were held in the morning, they had a bunch of shirts left over, even at the end of June. So naturally, I took one. But seriously, if you're out and about on campus in the morning, it's for class. You just don't walk around that early for the fun of it.

This year's color was a nice green, which I must say fits rather well with my blog's color scheme, don't you think? Corey said he didn't think CSSD would care if I put the logo up here. And this year, I actually earned my T-shirt... well, as close as you could get to earning them since they'd hand you one just for walking by the table into the Union's ballroom for their Carnival. Yes, they had an LYCW Carnival.

It was an awesome carnival, as any carnival with horribly bad computer puns is. There was a "phishing" pond game, a "clear your cookies" cookie-eating contest (a whole bag of animal crackers), a "quick keys" challenge (rapidly replacing all 101 keys that had been popped out of a standard keyboard in the right places), and more.

I saw Jennifer ("Howdy") there, working away at the Quick Keys challenge, and it took her quite a while. I mean, think about it: every single key. It's hard! The organizer of the event was quoted in the Pitt News as saying that "most times average around twelve minutes." I honestly don't know how that was possible. But whatever.

I won a ThinkGeek USB Snowbot for playing Plinko. But it wasn't because I got the puck in the right slot. See, I went early on in the carnival, and so when the person in front of me, had her puck stop dead-center on a peg halfway down, she was awarded a Snowbot. The same thing happened to me, and so I was awarded a prize, but not after the worker mentioned that they might need to change the rules in order to conserve the top prizes for the duration of the five-hour carnival.

I also won a squeezable flashing shark necklace (ages 5 and up!) and had my fill of popcorn and lemonade. And of course, I received the necessary pamphlet about the possible consequences of not updating your computer for the new Daylight Saving Time rules that go into effect on 11 March, less than three weeks away! So for users of Windows XP Service Pack 2 who haven't yet updated, install Update KB931836 now. For other versions of Windows, it's not so easy; the best I can do is give you a link to what Pitt gave us. Good luck.

And yes, only a nerd would care that much about DST.

Random tangent: I helped Emily brag to her friends from home by informing her that in the 540-hour period from 03:00 on 28 January to 15:00 on 19 February, Pittsburgh's air temperature was at or above 32°F for only 5 hours, and at or below 0°F for 19 hours. She mentioned temperatures of +1°F, and her friends wondered why the "positive" temperature needed to be specified. Nice... I'm just glad it's getting warmer...


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14 February 2007

Snow, Cancellation, Major Decision, Baby, and Valentines...

...all wrapped up in one neat little post! Okay, maybe not so little, considering I've got five distinct topics to cover...

But first, let me assure you that the title of my last post was not intended to contain double entendre in that it was a pun on a brand-name refrigerator. But it did, and it was. And in retrospect, had I thought about it beforehand, I still would have put it there intentionally.

That being said, I bet those of you in the Pittsburgh area noticed that the weather wasn't all that great on Tuesday either, but in a different way. A total of 5.5 inches of snow was officially recorded, and it was everywhere. I actually had trouble walking to a couple of my classes because the conditions of the walkways were so poor.

The symphonic band's trip to Harrisburg, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was cancelled due to the weather. Meanwhile, classes went on, so it was a pretty normal day. Emily went on a bit of a rant about how Pitt was one of the only colleges in Pittsburgh to not cancel classes, but soon after Pitt actually decided to make the call to cancel all classes starting at or after 16:00 Tuesday until 12:00 Wednesday.

Now, technically Heinz Chapel Choir is a class you can register for, and since rehearsals start at 16:00, it would have been cancelled by that logic. But we have a concert of sorts on Sunday, so most of the choir still showed up. We finished early though, which was nice.

Then I went to the women's basketball game, which Pitt won. This was welcome news after Monday's men's basketball loss (to Louisville, no less). After hanging out with Emily for a little while, I did a little bit of work then went to bed.

I couldn't sleep in too long, though, because as you can see from my schedule, I had class right at 12:00 when the cancellation ended. Granted, it was a recitation, but we have an exam in that class tomorrow. Then next came seminar at 14:00, and guess what? I filled out the paperwork to officially declare my major! Granted, the Freshman Engineering Program doesn't submit the paperwork until May, because they have to make sure my grades are good enough to move on. But I would have to get less than 0.35 this term and/or fail two classes for grades to be a problem. And what are the odds of that happening?

In other news, I had mentioned Monday 12 February earlier in that the men's basketball team lost big time. Well, something else happened. My great aunt Jana, who occasionally comments on this blog, and whom I had just seen at Laurel's birthday party on Saturday, had her baby! So that's exciting. Congratulations to the whole family!

And of course, today is Valentine's Day. I was walking through the Union on my way to a review session for Friday's CHEM exam when I heard members of the Heinz Chapel Choir practicing the Valentine's Day song. Apparently, as I found out just a few weeks ago, HCC members take shifts and deliver singing valentines as a fundraiser every year. Unfortunately, I've been busy all day, so I couldn't help this year. But I did learn the song, so I'll be ready... if I don't forget it.

I also got a lovely card from my family in the mail today which helped to make my day even better. And I got a laugh from it, too, because I think one of my mother's hairs somehow got into the envelope.

My MATH professor also decided independently to cancel tonight's class. So I can finally finish up on that laundry I've been mostly putting off. And now this post is done! I think I got through everything, didn't I?

Random tangent: We were given pizza at Tuesday's women's game during halftime, but we weren't back in our spots soon enough to play the school songs as the team re-entered the court. So it started out with just two trumpeters and Jack (the director) on the drum set. We were at the club level, eating pizza, and fairly oblivious, when we saw Jack playing drums on PantherVision. That's when we knew it was bad. We rushed back and most of us got to our places before the start of the half. It was quite amusing, though.


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08 February 2007

Frigid Air

Let the record show that Pittsburgh International Airport recorded morning lows of -4°F and -5°F on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. See the image at left, which depicts low temperatures for the Northeast from Tuesday. Those deep blues are the positive single digits. The purples get into the negatives. Frigid. Absolutely frigid.

The temperature was -3°F as I left my dorm for CHEM Monday morning. After class, I had to walk back up the hill (against the wind) because I forgot certain books I'd need later in the day. At that time, the wind chill was -21°F. Brr.

I had been talking to my South Carolinian friend, Eleanor, whom I mentioned a while back, just about all night about the CHEM lab report that was due that day. So when I woke up, ready to go to CHEM lecture, I checked her AIM away message, just to see what was up with her, and if she was indeed coming after having been up so late. The message read (sic), "-3degrees? i didnt know that happened in you know, not alaska."

Silly Eleanor.

That was the first time Pittsburgh had dipped below zero in two years (-1°F one night in January 2005), and the coldest it's been here in over a decade. Compared to Erie, which was pretty much the only temperature relevant to me until last August, they actually did hit -5°F once and -3°F twice in the month of January 2005, but the difference there was that the highs actually got above 10°F. These last couple days in Pittsburgh, we didn't.

Laurel was reveling in the fact that Bethel Park School District cancelled school Monday and Tuesday, and started on a two-hour delay on Wednesday. And I had to go around walking in the stuff. Having misplaced my own gloves a few weeks ago, I signed out one of my roommate's extra pairs for the duration of the week. After we're out of this, I think I can survive by keeping my hands in my pockets. Or I can get new gloves. Or I can continue to "rent" Casey's until April seeing that he has three pairs, and has said repeatedly that he doesn't need all of them. Any of these options would work.

Anywho, Wednesday we got up to 17°, and the lowest windchill was only -7°F. You know what? I'll take it. It felt good walking in weather that's merely "seasonably cold" for a change.

Random tangent: Too many to mention. Instead of all these little vignettes labeled "Random tangent 1," "Random tangent 2," and et cetera, I'll just turn it all into another really random post.


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04 February 2007

Superbowl Reflections

Bah. I dislike the Colts. At least to the degree that I was disappointed when they won. But not to the degree that I would watch, although I wanted to. But I had too much work. I hear it was a really interesting game, and my roommate said the halftime show was phenomenal. Or something to that effect, because what he actually said is probably too weird to post here.

But for the first time in several years I couldn't watch the Superbowl. Ugh. I just hope I won't be so busy next year, especially if I team I actually like has a chance of winning. And there are a few of those, not just the Steelers.

It felt weird even thinking about football today, even if it was about the fact that I couldn't watch. I guess it was because by the time the Pittsburgh Panthers were done, the Steelers were already so far out of the running it was almost laughable. So I just paid no attention in December and January. I think it was even a few days after the Conference Championship games before I knew who was playing tonight.

Grr. The Colts won. Oh, well. Better luck next year.

Colts 29, Bears 17.


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I'm just a tad swamped this weekend. As usual. Just thought I'd let you know.

Choir camp in Highland Park was fun on Saturday, but took a chunk out of my schedule. My father happened to have to come down to Pitt for a recertification class in the morning, so he met up with me over our lunch break. Which was very nice.

Which reminds me. A few days before camp, our director gave us a list of buses we could catch to get to Highland Park and the times at which they would come. Checking a map and a bus schedule for the map of the route because I was convinced that I would get lost, I happened to notice that he had used the weekday schedules for one of the buses. Seeing that it was going to be cold at about the time people would be catching buses (officially it was 7°F at 08:53), I sent out an email to the distribution list we have set up alerting the members of the choir to this fact, providing correct times, and reproducing the rest of our director's list just out of convenience.

The next morning, I received an email in response that said, and I quote: "Bite me, Tim!"

The best part was that he replied to all, which was only two email address: me and the D-list. But that meant that everybody got his response. Then my inbox received several side comments like "Whoa," and "Let's keep the biting to [a] minimum." And I think just about every choir member who talked to me Saturday mentioned it in some way or another. So now one of the numerous inside jokes that the various choir classes have is centered around me. Which I guess is fine.

But all fun aside, if you can call that "fun," the main reason I'm swamped is that CHEM lab reports and homework problems are due every Monday afternoon. So that's what I'm taking a short "blog-break" from right now. Then this afternoon I'm meeting with the service learning group because we have a sizable project proposal due on Tuesday, which will be reviewed, and ultimately presented to our "client," DRS, on 15 February. Yikes! Here's hoping the one-page outline we were given explains things well enough. And somewhere in there I should at least look at the MATH review worksheet for Wednesday's exam and do a little more work on my PS paper.

And later today I have to turn in my housing deposit for next year, now that Dad gave me the check. The deadline's fast approaching, and they're sending constant reminders telling us to beat the rush and the long lines. And when Pitt says "long lines," they mean long lines.

So basically, unless something spectacular happens (which, knowing Feb'y, is likely), I won't blog much until Thursday evening or Friday at the earliest once this coming week's events are over. Which is just fine, because lately I've been ahead of my normal pace anyway.

Random tangent: Superbowl kickoff at 18:25 ET today. My Illinois-native acquaintance is back in Illinois to appropriately celebrate the Bears' Superbowl appearance with his family.


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02 February 2007

A Newer New System

To those who read and commented on my 30 January post, "A New System," thank you. It's now deleted from this blog. As you may recall, I was fairly negative in that post about a wide variety of topics, having reached a boiling point on many issues. Most of the problems I mentioned in the original post have since been rectified, and the remaining ones are working toward that point. Much like the last time I blogged when I was angry (May 2005, and that's been deleted, too), it received poor reviews. However, this one was exceptional in that it was given a parental rating of "No, Tim."

As such, I must repost an edited version, as a good portion of it was legitimate and not vindictive in the slightest. My only concern is that people would be more likely to miss my shorter post from 01 February, "Feb'y." So if you haven't read that, make sure you do when you're done with this. If you've already read both posts, you may as well stop here; I'll spare you from reading over 1,000 words you've already read. But the rest of you must read on.

And so, for the benefit of those who hadn't yet read it, here is the pared-down version of the original post, "A New System," from Tuesday 30 January:

Right about this point in the term (Week 5), I get to the point where I can no longer "play by ear" what needs done when. I need a functional system. Yesterday, 29 January, being the first time we've had classes on consecutive Mondays, I have realized that I am in need of a new system for Mondays.

As you'll recall by looking at my schedule for this term, my Mondays are quite horrible. Granted, I have hours off at 10:00, 12:00, and 17:00. Generally, however, I spend the 10:00 hour getting ahead (or catching up) on work, sitting in my seat ready for my 11:00 class. The 12:00 hour is spent eating and reprinting my CHEM lab report due at 13:00 after noticing all the errors that got printed the first time. And the 17:00 hour is finally where I can usually squeeze in a break to head back to the dorm to drop all of my books, pick up new ones, and maybe even catch a "Z" or two before heading off to MATH recitation at 18:00. For people like Andrea who are occasionally concerned about me finding time to eat, I typically do that around 18:55 when recitation lets out. The dining halls aren't as crowded then, so I can easily be done in time to make the 19:30 lecture.

During the day, though, it's not what I do that's the problem. It's what I take with me.

Notebooks for CHEM and PS. That makes sense. But then considering the fact that the CHEM lab period is both a lab and a recitation, I also have to bring my textbook, lab manual, data booklet, any relevant papers, my calculator, and my high-impact chemical splash goggle. And yes, if you only have one, it's just a goggle.

My backpack is filled to the brim all day, and in the evening I exchange all but the calculator for one flimsy notebook. Not to mention the fact that if I finish my CHEM lab early, I'm somewhat expected to stay until 16:50 doing calculations in the lab, something that Shane (one of my lab partners this week) mentioned could be done much more quickly using Excel. Which is very tempting because the calculations are half of the work in these lab reports that take me a good portion of the weekend to complete.

It is thus evident that something ought to change in the quite near future. Optimally, now.

Shane's suggestion made the premise of bringing my laptop for post-lab calculations more appealing because, after all, that's half the reason I got a laptop and not something else (by which, of course, I generally mean a desktop). But lugging that around with my textbook doesn't seem so appealing.

Then it hit me: The main reason I bring my textbook to recitation is so I know what the homework problems are. Why not take a small fraction of the time I'd save each weekend by doing post-lab calculations in lab, and use it to scan the two or three pages of homework problems each week, so that I can just carry a couple sheets of paper instead?

That works well. If only I'll remember that plan this weekend when I have to act on it. Which is why I think blogging about it will help. A bit.

But why stop there? For my homework due each Wednesday, I can intersperse something fun on Monday nights and Tuesday mornings. For example, I've been writing this post in small chunks between PHYS problems. I don't know if it'll work in the long run, but I do know that my PHYS homework is getting done already. And I still have another night to do it.

All in all, I'm feeling good about myself, both relating to my new system that may fail after just one week, and to life in general. Granted, staying up late to finish all my CHEM work Sunday night didn't help me get up Monday morning this time around, so it took a good amount of caffeine to get me where I'm at. But we started partial derivatives in MATH last night, so that helped. Because it seems as though I like partial derivatives, and functions of multiple variables in general. At least for now. We'll see what happens on 07 February when I have my first exam.

The first PS paper was assigned on Friday. Seven to ten pages on some recent public opinion polls, and what we would tell the President if we were interpreting the results in terms of how seriously he should regard them and how he might go about the task of making such results more favorable in the future. Not an entirely tough topic, but it might be a tough length. Thank goodness the professor understands, and gave us enough time to accomplish the task. An optional draft is due 09 February, Laurel's birthday, and the paper itself is due 23 February, Craig's birthday. Total time: 4 weeks. He advised us "not to wait 3 weeks, 6 days, and 23 hours" before starting. I certainly won't.

The DRS project is going fairly well, depending on how you look at it. On Friday, we were instructed to borrow a wheelchair and basically go around campus trying to get into various buildings. Some were easy. Some were not. Slush on the ramps didn't help us novice wheelchairers out, either. So on the client side of things, everything is dandy.

It does aggravate us, though, to some degree, that we are the tenth of ten groups in the first session. And the professor goes around to each group each day, starting with the first. As other teams are seen, they get to go out and do their work. But, as time runs out, we rarely get that, which means we have to spend more time outside of class completing our tasks. And because our schedules are barely compatible, that means a short period on Friday afternoons and Sundays. Which may come to be the ultimate demise of my System for Mondays.

Random tangent: Superbowl this weekend. Not as exciting as last year's, though, in my opinion. Although, there's an Illinois native across the hall who will surely be rooting for the Bears, loud and proud. But that aside, I'm really quite happy about things in general. At least for now...


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01 February 2007


It's an abbreviated month. I'm giving it an abbreviated name. It looks kind of cute, doesn't it?

At least on the outside. But there's deeper meaning here.

On the inside, the first week or so of Feb'y generally is bad. Bad things happen. Two of my worst days ever were 02/05/05 and 02/06/06, but I didn't let on at the time. Pure coincidence, I'm sure, but I can't help but wonder... So what's on tap for 02/07/07?

Well, normal CHEM, PS, and PHYS. Normal homework due in PHYS. Then in seminar, a "Department Selection Student Panel," preparing us for department selection, which apparently is actually 14 February, not 28 February. No homework will be due for MATH, which is a good thing, but it's because that's the day of my first exam this term: Calc 3. So, here's hoping that goes well. And I'm sure it will, because if anything goes wrong, it won't be in anything on this list, because that's just the way my life works.

And of course, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the slew of relatives I had die the first week of February 2001. That was hard to deal with, too.

Granted, some very good things have happened in the first week of Feb'y, too. I made a new friend, and the Steelers won the Superbowl. And of course, the last couple years, it coincided with District Choir, which as we all know, turned out well in the end.

But notice how the new friend post was posted very early the morning of 02/06/06. I was at an emotional high, as Ben had helped me recover from earlier events. Then everything came crashing down hours later, even worse. It was a good thing he was there to help me through at that time...

Ah, we'll see what happens. I'm not getting my hopes up, but I'm not inhibited by fear, either. What shall pass shall pass. And that will be that. It's all part of the roller-coaster that is, was, and always will be Feb'y.

Random tangent: And since it's Feb'y, the Cousin Club blog is decorated to reflect it. Check it out!


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