Monthly Archives: December 2005

Professor and TA quotes

Throughout the semester as I’m taking notes in lecture or discussion, if the professor or TA says something humorous, I try to write the quote down at the top of my page of notes. Unfortunately I usually forget it there and never see it again, but this semester I’ve been coming across these quotes again as I’m studying for finals, and I thought I should share some of them.

Prof. Moo Chung (Stats 311):
“As you can see, computing the probability that [some equation on the board] is less than t is quite difficult. I mean you can write it, and for me it’s easy, but for other people it’s very hard.”

Prof. Sean Teuton (American Indian Studies 172), displaying his amazing arithmetic skills (amazing for an English professor, I suppose):
“[The Zia are] demanding $1 million per year for every year New Mexico continues to use their ancient symbol [on their flag]. So the Zia have this lawsuit, it’s in the millions of dollars now.”

Kevin Piper (AIS 172 Instructor), with a quote that I really hope isn’t true, for the sake of us all:
“A favorite party trick of [English] grad students and professors is to take a novel and say, ‘Everyone thinks this is a romance novel, but I’m going to prove that it’s actually a realistic novel,’ or whatever.”

If I find more quotes as I go through my ECE 352 notes this week, I’ll toss them up here, too. Then maybe over winter break when I go through left over stuff from last year I’ll find my quotes from Prof. Sigurd Angenent, who is by far the funniest professor I’ve ever had, not to mention being an excellent mathematics teacher. I highly recommend him, if you’re going to be taking any Calculus in the future.

One for the ages

Jared and I played our greatest racquetball match in our 1.5-year history tonight. To give you the background, racquetball games are played to 15 points, with 2 of 3 games winning a match. In the past 1.5 years, I’ve won zero matches and about half a dozen games against Jared, which is dismal, given that we play weekly. (So I’ve won about 6 of around 150 games.) Not only that, but I have a tendancy to lose with less than 10 points… so most of the games aren’t really even close. I suppose it’s fair, since Jared outscores me on tests with about the same frequency that I beat him in racquetball. (Though usually he’s right behind me or tied if he doesn’t outscore me)

Tonight though, tonight was different. The first game I opened strong and beat the living crap out of Jared, 15-6. I’ve never beat him that resoundingly, ever. The streak continued in game 2, which could have clinched me my first match win ever, had I not screwed up around 8 points and ended up losing 12-15. Sad. The game though, was awesome. We fought nearly half an hour for that game, including one amazing volley that I swear must have lasted 5 minutes, including both of us completing off-the-back-wall saves. What a good time. Definitely the best I’ve ever played.

From chili to halo

Jon hosted an end-of-the-semester party tonight. We enjoyed some excellent homemade chili over a heated game of Pictionary. One lesson learned there: if you have three separate groups in an all-play, it’s really hard to know who got the answer first. We ended up winning, but there were several times that we didn’t know if we had answered first, or if one of the other teams had, so they gave it to us since we were behind by half the board at the time… Not sure if we can really claim any victory there. Fact is we sucked the whole first half of the game.

After that I learned that I suck at Halo. Like really suck. Only 3 kills when everyone else gets 15 to 25 suck. I got better as the night progressed, but by the time the bus came at 11:45 I was still unchallenged for last place :-/ … we’ll call that a learning experience, and chalk most of it up to my inability to handle the awkward controls. Watching my half of the TV made for a good laugh though. Maybe it’s worth investing in an Xbox to practice on and hack into a media center pc?

Anyway, one of the highlights of the night that most people missed was the pie. I’m going to have to take cooking lessons from Jon. French silk pie = awesome.

Other than that, all my classes are done, and two finals besides. Just 3 to go. Tomorrow will be devoted to a lot of circuit analysis and statistics studying. If anybody’s interested in going somewhere and studying in the morning/afternoon so that I don’t spend the whole day here at my desk, let me know. A brief racquetball/supper respite is planned for the 5:15 timeframe when Jared gets done with his review session.

Dr. Brian Greene

Just got back from seeing Dr. Brian Greene’s presentation on the concepts of string theory at the Memorial Union. For those who don’t recognize the name, Dr. Greene is the author of The Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos, two New York Times-bestseller books on the nature of the universe and current theories in Physics and Mathematics. The presentation was really cool, though he didn’t present a whole lot of material that I hadn’t already heard. If you’re interested in insane physics like Superstring Theory, check out NOVA’s excellent program.

The presentation reminded me tonight of one of the coolest things in this world. Just how much there is to know. For instance, you’ve probably heard of “quantum physics” or “quantum mechanics” or quantum something-or-other. You’ve also probably heard of atoms, and understand that they are rediculously small. Did you realize, though, that the “quantum” scale you’re hearing about is 100 billion billion times smaller than an atom? I, for one, had no idea it was that small. And learning that was one of the coolest things from the whole presentation, because it reminded me just how much I don’t know. That’s awe-inspiring. I wish I had the time (and brain capacity) to learn everything. If college was free, I’d take 120 courses instead of 120 credits before I graduated.

Dr. Greene fielded some questions after the talk, which ranged from the insightful and interesting to the retarded ([Audience member] Q: “If Martians looked at the Earth through a really long telescope (wtf?), would human interactions be like quantum stuff?” [plus 3 minutes explaining this asinine idea]. [Dr Greene] A: “What??” No joke. That exact conversation [roughly] occured.). Any way, Dr. Greene’s ability to hear the rest of these questions and come up with explanations off the top of his head was amazing. Without even pausing to think, he gave answers that both addressed the question and did so with an appropriate level of complexity so that we learned something new, but still based the answer on the groundwork he had laid during his talk. Excellent speaker. I was very impressed.

New Acquisitions

Here’s some of the stuff Colin has gotten recently (and a bit of what he’s been up to):

Tau Beta Pi bent. I received this Saturday morning at the Tau Beta Pi initiation banquet. These were especially cool because we actually made them ourselves. My triceps can attest to the physical labor involved in packing molds full of oil and sand to be filled by the molten bronze that made these very bents. See earlier post. Well, that process has finally come to completion, and after meeting other requirements, we officially became Tau Bates on Saturday morning.

A solderfree breadboard for playing with electronics / circuits. Got this off EBay for about $25 after shipping. Should make designing circuits a lot easier. (Last time, I physically soldered all the parts together and kindof hoped that they would work…) One project on the todo list: an infrared receiver/decoder that will control my stereo system since it came without a remote and I’m too lazy at night to get off the couch and walk the 2 steps across the dorm room to the volume controls.

College of Engineering Mug. I won this from the weekly CoE trivia question, also located on the College of Engineering homepage. You (especially Tim) should keep your eye on this Wednesday mornings next semester, and you, too, could win.

Microsoft Student Ambassador plaque. This came, a wee bit delayed, this weekend. Microsoft flew us out to Seattle on September 30, for reference. I’m guessing delays in the company that engraved all the plaques. Yes, I understand the irony in the picture. It was the only black thing in my room large enough to lean the plaque against to make it readble in the picture…. Or at least, that’s my excuse.

Finally, I picked up this box yesterday from the DoIT store, along with a static-proof bag of silicon, gold, and various substrates. I was happy.

Needless to say, today’s blog entry brought to you by Apple, and my really cool new 15″ PowerBook G4. Here’s a picture of my PowerBook family: [click to enlarge]

So, in summary: [click to enlarge]

Rent auf Deutsch

I found the German transcription of the musical Rent about a year ago or more, and happened to come across the bookmark again today whilst listening to the english soundtrack.

I decided it would be cool to read the German version along with the music, and it was, but I found myself disappointed with the translator. He changed a lot of the lyrics to make the German words fit the melodies/rhythms of the original, but I think some parts lost something in the transition. If you’ve never seen Rent (the musical… I can’t compare to the movie, not having seen it), the following maybe won’t make sense, but for those who have, here’s some snippets of “What you Own” that bothered me:

The form of these quotes will be:
Original English lyrics
German lyrics English translation

You’re living in America,
Leave your conscience at the tone.

Du lebst doch in Amerika,
Scham ist selten hier zu Gast.
You’re living in America,
Shame is an infrequent visitor here/shame is seldom seen here

Colin’s take: The original seems much wittier. Granted I’m no master of German idioms, and granted the German, like the english, takes a phrase intended for the physical and twists it to the intangible, but still. I like the original better; it seems a much more “modern” non-anachronistic statement.

What was it about that night?
Connection, in an isolating age.
For once, the shadows gave way to light.
For once, I didn’t disengage.

Hat uns jene Nacht geheilt?
Gemeinschaft, einmal nicht mehr isoliert.
Das Licht, es hat das Dunkel zerteilt.
Und ich – ich hab’ mich engagiert.
Did that night heal us?
Community/companionship, for once no longer isolated,
The light, it dissipated the darkness,
And I, I engaged.

Colin’s take: I think the German feels too disconnected here. In the English, the characters are talking about an extremely important moment in their lives, a feeling of connection and companionship that brought them from isolated individualism into some higher realm together where the world was more in order. But the German seems both too uninterestingly direct in asking straight out “did that night heal us?”, and too disjointed, without much flow between the phrases. (I liked the “for once…, for once…” in the English) Perhaps it’s a bit… sentimental? emotional? overly-dramatic? corny?… but I really liked this song in English; I was disappointed in the German.

Boo Heinz Rudolf Kunze.

On the upshot, he left the end of the song alone, which was really cool:

Sterben in Amerika,
ganz am Ende vom Jahrtausend Zwei,
man stirbt hier in Amerika,
um ganz bei sich zu sein.
Doch wenn wir sterben in Amerika,
ganz am Ende vom Jahrtausend Zwei,
dann nicht allein.
Nein, nicht allein.
Ich bin nicht allein.

Dying in America
at the end of the second millenium,
one dies here in America
to be completely oneself.
And if we’re dying in America,
at the end of the second millenium,
we’re not alone.
No, not alone.
I’m not alone.
(Nearly word-for-word the same as the English.)

In other news…

Edit: sorry for the length. Didn’t realize how much I had written…

Classes are winding up for the year. Had my ECE 270 (Circuits Laboratory I) bench exam last night. Went simmingly. I was out in maybe 25 minutes, having successfully measured the whopping 3 circuit parameters we were looking for, and circling whether the graph got bigger or smaller as I turned the frequency knob. Not a bad lab course overall, just not that challenging. Also finished my project with Dave for ECE 352 (Digital Design Fundamentals), and submitted that this morning. We had our last ECE 230 (Circuit Analysis) lecture with our professor yesterday, since he’s on his way to Seville, Spain, at the moment. Also had our last American Indian Studies 172 discussion this morning with a small group presentation that I think went pretty well. 4 days of class left this semester, plus 4 finals (1 in class instead of it’s 7:45 am timetable slot, fortunately), and that’s it.

The answer to this week’s Engineering trivia question is… the Science Olympiad. A big thanks goes to Jeni for reminding me to look at the question, and another thank you to Polygon, since that’s where I learned the answer. I won a College of Engineering mug or pen (the mug is really cool with the CoE fountain logo on it), that I have yet to pick up due to the aforementioned projects. Condolences to Tim who’ll have to wait for next semester…

I’ve relocated my laptop. See earlier post if you were unaware that I had one. For those who were unaware that it was missing, rest assured it never actually was missing… I had had it with me the whole time, just not where I thought it was.

I’ll be upgrading my laptop soon. After talking to my parents today I might be purchasing my upgraded laptop as soon as tomorrow, or at the latest, next week. Still debating whether I should open it and start playing with it now, or save it for Christmas, since my parents are helping me out a bit with paying for it. Any thoughts?

I am insufficiently coordinated to play air hockey. This was determined last night when Lauren beat me without breaking a sweat. At least I didn’t score as many goals on myself as Tim did his first game. All told the night was great; I went to the Memorial Union to join Jeni, Lauren, and Tim. (I think this paragraph gets an F as a newspaper article. Something about the information pyramid being upside down…)

I found a cool picture of the campus at night, as seen from (I would guess) the Engineering Research Building, while logging into My UW today. Probably everyone else has already seen it, but since I rarely log in, it was new to me, so here it is:

Finally, on the subject of pictures, I stole this one from Lauren, since I never got around to actually asking her to send it to me. Hopefully that’s kosher. The picture is me releasing my entry in the secret contest of approximately November 12. Not sure if this was the first or second such release… first one landed on the 2nd story roof. The egg survived though, and Craig (left, in black) and I tied for second place behind Tim (not pictured), whose ingenuity easily outshone us all. He lowered his egg safely to the ground by a rope made of the trash bag. At any rate, here’s the pic:


Edit: Disregard the previous title of this post. Embarassingly, the title/command was syntactically incorrect.

For those who didn’t spend their misbegotten high school study halls sending email messages in raw SMTP via telnet, the title is a command telling an email server that we would like to send out an email from the address Which, incidentally, is exactly what the Maquina Fountain is finally able to do again. I finished my email code this evening, and, except for one test case, it even works! So to those on the enlight-members list, I apologize if you get bombarded with “Come clean out the filters” emails next spring when 8 billion petals fall from buds directly into the fountain, but hey- at least it’ll stop flooding the sidewalk.

For anybody who followed the above link to the “Art of Engineering” page that may be wondering if this is truly anything new, seeing as that webpage reports such capability already existed, let me bring you up to speed. (If you’ve already heard the story, by all means skip this paragraph.) The fountain used to be able to send email, around the year 2000. Then everybody who knew anything about it disappeared, leaving their code, a model of the fountain, and little else behind. For the past couple years Enlight has been recreating the original work to get the fountain up and running again, doing things like rewriting all the code, physically repairing the aging sytems that run the fountain, and actually documenting how it all works. As part of that process, I wrote my email code, and so now that piece of the puzzle is ready to be restored. So hopefully I won’t waste your time repeating that tale anymore, and hopefully you’ll have a little better frame of reference when I mention working on this or that for the fountain.

Ok, everybody who skipped the above paragraph, start reading again.