Category Archives: Work

Grad School Visits

This past week for Spring Break, I spent time with my family and visited the two grad schools I have currently been accepted to: the University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut, Storrs. While I’m still waiting to hear back from one school and a job opportunity, both of them were relative long shots, so it looks like my summer and fall (and the next five or so years…) has boiled down to a binary choice: ND or UConn?


This was the first school I visited, and man did things go well! Ms. Shari Herman, the “Second Mom” to everyone pursuing a physics Ph.D. at ND, took out all of the stops in setting up a stellar visit for me. I drove down Monday afternoon, right after picking my little brother up from school and visiting with my high school physics teacher, and it went fine. No traffic, I had money for the tolls, and I found my way to the hotel (the Morris Inn, right on ND’s campus) relatively fine. Once I checked in, I hung out in my hotel room, watching TV and lamenting the fact that I could not yet play Pokémon Black.

I woke up the next morning, showered, ate breakfast, and read through the packet of material that Ms. Herman had given me, then checked out and waited for the actual visit to start. I met one of the roughly 90 grad students, and we took a quick tour around campus before my meeting with the first professor on my schedule. Since this was my first time ever visiting ND, it was great to walk around and see the campus, especially with the student body still there since they weren’t on spring break. We eventually made our way over to Nieuwland Science Hall, home of the department and where I would be spending the next nine hours or so.

For the rest of the day, I went from visiting one professor to the next, sitting down and talking for half an hour about the research they were doing, different things going on around campus, how they got involved with ND and physics, and a bunch of other things. I also got a tour of the nuclear physics accelerator lab, got to sit in on a cosmology seminar (with a free lunch!), and got a glimpse of what I’d be doing my first year of school in the form of the grad TA first year lounge (alongside the end of my career with a few fourth- and fifth-years). All in all, a very full day that got added to twice while I was still there!

To end it, I went out to dinner with two other grad students to Legends, a local bar/restaurant establishment just off campus, all on the physics department’s tab. The food was great, and I didn’t really have to stop on the way back for any more food (huge surprise, but I did have a detour right at the beginning of my return journey…), and I had a good time just hanging out away from the more structured environment I had been in for much of the day. All in all, I had a great time, met some amazing people, and really enjoyed myself while I was there. I got back home around midnight, played some Pokémon Black, then went to sleep.


The next and final trip (so far…) was out to Connecticut to visit the department at UConn. I flew out from Detroit early Friday morning after delays on the runway from some of the freshly fallen snow from the night before. Once we took off, though, the flight was fine, the landing smooth, and the pick-up of the rental car (a relatively new Jeep Compass!) went perfectly. But I was still a little late due to that delay, so I showed up to the offices slightly out of breath from sprinting up the flights of stairs to the top of the building. Thankfully, Prof. Dunne (the person who had set up this visitation) didn’t seem to mind, and we talked before meeting a few grad students and heading out to lunch. Since UConn was on spring break, we didn’t really run into any students at all, but the campus was flooded with middle- and high-school students for some convention, so we still had to contend with a mass of hormone-infused saplings as we ate our meal.

Once the last of my meatball sub was firmly in my stomach, we took a quick tour around campus, which was beautiful! It reminded me a lot of State, since it was a little more open, a little disjointed, roads crossed through and around the buildings, and a couple places were under construction, so I felt right at home! While the campus was much quieter during this tour than ND had been, that was good since I could just focus on the buildings and the scenery and not look at the the students walking past.

We returned to the physics building, and I sat with a half-dozen professors to talk about their research to see how it would fit with my interests, just like at ND. Once that was over, I met again with Prof. Dunne to finalize a few things, then I was off to return the rental car to the airport and spend time with my relatives. I won’t go into that since this is about my grad school visits, but just know that I had a blast, and that it more than made up for missing last summer’s reunion.

From today, I have thirty days to wait for the last few pieces of information and make a decision, although I’m sure that I will be making a decision earlier than that. Unfortunately, ND lost to Louisville during the Big East tourney, so I couldn’t use the outcome of the ND-UConn championship game to make the decision for me!

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Graduation Drawing Near

It’s already February. Not such a scary thought, except when you consider that in two-and-a-half months’ time I’ll know what I’ll be doing for at least the next four years, and in three months’ time I’ll have graduated. Right now, I’m just trying to make it through the semester that’s ahead of me, but with the prospect of the rest of my life looming ahead, it’s a little hard to focus. Here’s a few things that are distracting me:

Quidditch
Yep, the sport from Harry Potter. I joined one of the intramural teams this past fall, which has been great, and spent three hours in the sixteen-some inches of snow for tryouts for the travel team. The game is exceedingly fun to play, and it always garners a barrage of questions whenever it comes up that I play (wherever I may be at the time). It’s also pretty funny to look at the strange looks employees give me when I walk into, say, McDonald’s holding a broom in one hand and cleats in the other. With practices only once a week (or more, depending if my tryouts today went favorably), and games pretty infrequent, it doesn’t take up as much time as that other MSU sport I played, not like these semester grades mean that much anyway…

Here’s a State News article about the team following the World Cup (held in November in New York), and a video of the team playing Syracuse. Since I joined late, I wasn’t there, but hopefully I can go this upcoming fall, depending on what happens in my life.

Programming
I’m teaching myself C++! Why, might you ask? Well, I figured that, since I’ll eventually have to learn it anyway, I might as well. That of course was my initial reasoning, but now it’s also because I can get a job programming in C++, which will definitely help me out in the long run. Right now, I have two books on the subject, with one of them arriving earlier today (Programming Embedded Systems in C and C++ by Michael Barr). I haven’t started reading that one yet, since I’m still in the middle of my other book, but most likely I’ll flip back and forth between the two, especially since large sections of my first book were covered in one of my math courses last semester.

To go along with that, I’m still slowly working on my senior thesis. It’s just frustrating when scientific papers don’t include all of the details of their simulation runs, like what initial or final values they’re using for such uncommon variables as time or temperature, so I’ve been busy sifting through about a half-dozen articles trying to piece together some idea of how to move forward. Yes, I’m a little behind, but once I find those magic numbers, I just need to set it up and go and move on. In other words, mostly because of my newfound enjoyment of C/C++, I don’t like Fortran that much any more…

Grad School Applications
While all of my applications have been in for at least a month, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still at the back of my mind all of the time. This is half of where my life might lead me, so it’s a big deal! I did, however, breathe a sigh of relief earlier this week when I found out that I was accepted into the Notre Dame Physics PhD program, meaning that at the very least I won’t be moving back home upon graduation! It actually kind of surprised me that I got wind of it so soon, but I think that it was just part of their first-round “draft picks,” as at least one of my other friends was also accepted.

Job Opportunities
Well, the last three things all hinted at this, but I may not be going to grad school come summer/fall. Obviously, that won’t be because I didn’t get in anywhere, but more a change in who I am as a person over the past two months (yes, the change was that quick!). You see, I’m not sure if grad school is something that I want to do right away, and what could I get out of it? A lot, in fact, but I’m not sure if I will still want what I get out of it when I get out of it. To that end, I’ve applied to a job that fits with all of my likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, etc. that I may take (if accepted) over grad school. I’m not going to mention that job here, but if you’ve talked to me recently you know what it is. I just think that, right now, being a commercial programmer for a growing company involved in one of my biggest interests may be a better prospect than continuing on in school.

Don’t get me wrong, though! I’ll still go to grad school eventually, just further down the road after working, and probably in a different field. I do think that continuing my education is important (hence teaching myself an additional programming language in my spare time), and I don’t plan to ever stop learning.

I’ll just be learning in a different way.

In other news, today is now the one-year anniversary of the end of my Mars Desert Research Station mission. It’s strange to think that a year ago I was leaving the Hab with five other people who had become family for good, after spending two weeks working and laughing and enjoying Carla’s amazing cooking. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.

MST@MSU 2010 – Planning

On Wednesday, I had the first meeting before the start of the MST@MSU 2010 summer camp, which I am getting really excited about! This is the same camp I worked last year, but things change every year (aside from kids coming and going) so it will still be a fun experience. One of the best parts is that our entire RA is returning, plus we’re adding a new coordinator to help retain as much of Troy’s sanity as we can.

I woke up after only a few hours of sleep and walked over to Bessey, stopping at QD to pick up a bag of chips (Cooler Ranch Doritos) for the luncheon. No one ended up eating any of those chips, so I got to take the whole bag back home for my personal enjoyment, but that’s not important. I showed up about 10-15 minutes early, mostly because I walked a little faster than I thought to the building, and saw Troy standing in the hallway. We talked a little bit before various camp staff started showing up, including Darin. He and I would be the only RAs there, since Mazur is in a different time zone and Priya is… Priya. While I did miss not seeing the rest of the crew, we’ll be having a pre-MST reunion before the camp begins, then living together for two weeks, so it’s not like I won’t be seeing them for a while.

While most of the meeting was centered on the actual instructors, as it should be, there was a fair amount of detail that was relevant for me. Currently, the camp stands at 53 students (one more than last year), with applications still open until July 1st and a couple prospective applicants waiting. Right now, we’re hoping for sixty students, but for me the difference between 53 and 60 is almost negligible. Speaking of the kids, each RA will have their own color group, unlike last year were we had two-and-a-half color groups (Blue, Green, and the half-sized Red). This means that I’ll be responsible for knowing ten-twelve kids, much better than trying to swallow thirty names on the first day last year. Plus, the greater fragmentation of the students will be better for our various team activities (scavenger hunt, field day, ropes course, etc.), which I’m really looking forward to. A little competition never hurt, and I’m hoping that I get Red or Green for my color, but honestly any color would be fine.
Note: I’m going to guess the five colors will be Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Orange. The first four are probably definites, with Orange possibly switching for Purple or Brown, but my money’s on Orange.

EDIT 7.6.2010 – Color group information: Red, Green, Blue, Orange, and Purple. I was close… I’m also the leader for Team Green.

Once the meeting was over, I realized exactly how close the camp actually is: in three weeks from this upcoming Saturday, I’ll be moving into Shaw Hall for two weeks. That means I have three weeks to adjust my sleep schedule and mentally prepare myself for running every morning and taking the kids to basketball most likely every day. Of course the camp will be a ton of fun, as it was last year, so I almost wish that it could start sooner, but then again if it did, I’d still wish for it to start early.

My First Days as a College Senior

Of course, I can’t really talk about those first days until I talk about my last days as a college junior, so I’ll be back-tracking a few weeks. Get ready for a bumpy ride!

This past week were my three final exams (and my one mandatory class discussion session…) which I feel I did really well on. Due to some poor grades following my MDRS absence, I needed pretty high scores on my finals to get the grades that I wanted, or close to the grades that I wanted. Right now, three of my grades are officially recorded, one more is pretty much determined, and the last one is completely up in the air. For the three official ones (MTH 320, PHY 440, and PHY 472), the finals for the first and third went really well. I needed high-80s/low-90s to bump up to the next grade-point level, which I achieved! PHY 440 didn’t have a final since half the class was labs, and I still got a reasonable grade in that one. Due to some poor semester planning and missing two weeks, this semester was far from stellar grade-wise, so I’m really glad that it’s now behind me. One thing I am proud of, though, is only losing two points out of three-hundred on my various papers and homework assignments for LB 334 (the practically determined 4.0 that’s not quite official yet…).

But the end of the semester went a little tough… Homework assignments and fitting in study time and working all took a mental and physical toll on me, which I’ll be slowly recovering from over the next few days. I enjoyed most of my classes most of the time, which was a nice change from the LB 145 and PSY 280 days of yore. Another academically-related ending is my Calculus Learning Assistant job. I graded final exams this morning, finally ending my involvement with that past employment. I won’t even need to worry about the transition to the Physics LA job until mid/late-summer when our sections are decided, which is pretty nice. One minor detail that I am looking forward to due to that change is the possibility of having former students in my class again.

I also gave two talks about my MDRS experience: the UURAF and the Briggs Symposium. I’ve attended both of these events in the past, although my presentations have always been as part of a class, so it was nice to be there presenting on my own accord. At the UURAF, which I was at between 0930 and 1130, I was off in a side room of the Union with the other natural science posters, which were only about another ten or so. Small group, but it was nice being out of the mob scene that was the main hall. For the most part, I talked with some of the other presenters, visited a few of my current (or, at the time current) students’ posters, and just hung out. When the judge finally came around, we talked for twenty minutes or so about how I was selected, what I actually did there, my thoughts on the future direction of American manned spaceflight, my plans for the future, and random things I learned while there. Since most of the judges are volunteers, I think the judge that came around to me was glad that my poster was muddied with technical jargon and unintelligible results, hence my 13/15 combined on Delivery, Comprehensibility, and Visual Aids (each being out of five). I also talked with a few former professors, some old classmates, and random people walking by about similar topics. My only regret is that I didn’t bring a copy of The State News that I appeared on, but hindsight is always 20-20, right?

About a week later, I attended the Briggs Symposium, which is similar in structure but used more for semester projects with only a smattering of independent research projects. I basically just hung out with some classmates and talked with former professors about what I did. My old Chemistry (LB 171/172) professors were really interested in the future direction of NASA, especially coming from someone with an “insider’s perspective,” while my Biology (LB 145) professor was more interested in understanding the finer points of general relativity and the issues with interplanetary travel and communication, especially with regards to the internet. This Symposium is much more relaxed since we’re not really judged (unless you count getting graded for a class as being judged…), plus everyone in Briggs either knows each other or can understand the stresses that they’re going through, so it’s really easy to just talk with each other without really needing an ice breaker (You wanted to burn the CFTR map in front of the prof after two weeks? Me too!).

The best part about both is that I now have two coupons to the MSU Dairy Store. I’m saving one for MST@MSU-2010, while the other will probably be used at some point next week while I’m out job hunting.

Blue Group from MST@MSU 2009

Speaking of job hunting, I’m still partially unemployed for the summer. I’ll be working at the MST@MSU summer camp for two weeks again with the same group of counselors, plus one new addition, which I am really looking forward to. But, for the other twelve or so weeks, I’ll have no job. The kind of bad part is that I’ll either need to run around downtown East Lansing all day tomorrow, or wait over a week before I can search again due to attending the STS-132 launch in one week. I’m sure that I’ll be able to find some job somewhere; it’s just the act of going out and doing it that’s a little delayed due to finals recovery and an extended absence from East Lansing.

But now this post is really jumping around, so let’s return to what has actually happened. Finals week started on Monday with my PHY 472 exam. I studied all day Sunday for it, plus a few times within the week prior, logging somewhere around twenty-four hours for Quantum Mechanics. I sat down in my seat, took out my pencils, and got to work on the exam. I blazed through the entire thing, then went up to ask the professor two small questions just to make sure I made the right assumptions. Once he verified that I had, I turned it in. “Woah, you’re already done? That was quick.” Yes, I was in fact done, and in seventy minutes. I didn’t need any more time, and based on my final grade (and the score I had calculated earlier that I needed on the final to get that final grade), I got a high-90 on the exam, potentially even a straight 100%. I just like finishing exams early, and when I’m confident about my answers, looking at them thinking, “I’m so good at this,” doesn’t get me a better grade, so why waste an extra ten or fifteen minutes?

Tuesday morning went similarly for MTH 320. I had stayed up until 0400 studying, starting right after getting back from the Quantum final, then I took a quick nap before the 0745 final. This final, however, was optional; the last day of class, the prof handed out our current grade, so we could either take it as is or take the final and try to improve it. Since my grade was much lower than I anticipated, due primarily to a string of poor homework grades that fell (you guessed it) during and after my MDRS mission, I decided that I would be taking the final.

. . .
. . .

I was the only one there.
. . .
. . .

The prof and I stayed in the classroom for about twenty minutes, me furiously writing proofs on printer paper, he working on a crossword puzzle, before moving to his office so that he could get some work done while I took the exam. We talked during the walk about how I was angry at myself for having the low grade at that point and why, he said that it was strange especially since I understood all of the information well when I was there, then I continued taking the exam. I was about ten minutes into the eleventh and last problem when he mentioned that I had forty-five minutes left. I worked on that last problem for the next twenty-five minutes before finally giving up. “I know what I needed to do,” I told him as I stapled the sheets together, “but I just couldn’t get the last one to work out.” But you did the first ten, he asked as I handed the stack over, which I answered in the affirmative. “I’m only grading ten, though, so which ones did you want me to grade?” I said, “Well shit, I’m an idiot. I was done forty minutes ago,” before telling him to lop the last problem off the record. Before that exchange, I was feeling a little badly about that grade, since I needed a 90 to bump the grade up, and dropping that problem would put me right on the cusp (and it’s good that it wasn’t counted, because I also did another problem completely wrong by proving the wrong theorem which put me right on the cusp). That walk home felt much better, and checking my grade yesterday and seeing that I had, in fact, bumped my grade up, was icing on the cake.

My final final was Wednesday afternoon and in Thermal Physics, the giant thorn in my semester among the less-sharp thorns. Unfortunately, I had no idea what grade I had going into the final, or at least didn’t know the exact value. I knew it was drastically low because the class just straight up sucked. Terrible professor, boring subject, unintelligible lectures and textbook, and ridiculously hard problems on the exams that were never covered in lectures, homework, the textbook, or furious Google searches after-the-fact. I don’t even know if there’s a sizable curve to help me out, but I would need a pretty big curve to save my grade. So, I studied for close to three total days on it, reading through the three-hundred textbook pages, all of my notes, previous exams and homeworks, close to four or five times each. I think it worked out, because I actually had an idea of what to do on all of the problems, but again, a miracle might be needed to save that grade.

And that was my finals week. I went back to my apartment, ate some Doritos and drank and Arnold Palmer, played some Legend of Zelda on my computer, and smiled. I was done with my junior year at Michigan State, and it couldn’t have felt better! I’m transitioning from three straight semesters of ridiculous courses and “my hardest semester yet” to my twenty-four total-credit senior year. How can you even worry about what happened over the past five months when the next fifteen will feel so good?

And now, I get to do this stuff for the summer. In there is a computer game I’m designing, some video games, a bunch of book I want to read, and a complete lack of due dates, exams, office hours, class discussions. I’m pretty excited…

…but it will have to wait a little bit longer. As I mentioned, I’m basically losing a week of the summer due to heading south for the Atlantis launch (which I don’t mind at all!), and once I return I’ll be (hopefully) working and studying for the GRE. Yes, I have two weeks to finish my preparation, which is primarily vocabulary anyway, then summer will really kick in. I’m just very glad that I don’t need to worry about an entire section (Math) of the test, which greatly reduces my stress level about it. It’s just all of that vocab memorization that’s the worst part. I can memorize equations and reactions and commands, but just simple words? My brain just has trouble thinking like that, plus I take Orwell’s words to heart, whether intentional or not. [Sidenote: when I finished that sentence about Orwell, this post’s word count according to WordPress was 1984 words…]

And that basically my life from the past few weeks and looking forward to the future. I know I grazed over a lot of topics, skipped some, meandered around, but I think I got everything out there… Just ask if something doesn’t seem right, or you want me to more deeply discuss my feelings about being the only student taking my math course final this semester or anything else.

The End of the Semester

Starting this weekend, I am in finals mode. I didn’t spend enough time studying last semester, and it showed slightly in my grades, so this time I’m making a more focused and coherent effort to prepare for my end of year exams. One good thing about this semester is that I only have three finals; my HPS class will just have a final three-page paper (I just finished the long paper, which is due tomorrow and takes up more of my grade), while my Electronics class has half of the grade weighted into the lab portion. Yes, I’ll still have quite a bit of work to do for all five of my courses even while studying, but at least my time actually taking exams will be minimal.

I scheduled my courses for next year, with only a few small alterations from what I said a month ago. For instance, I’ll be taking MTH 451 [Numerical Analysis I] in the fall, while my spring Math courses are MTH 415 [Applied Linear Algebra] and MTH 442 [Partial Differential Equations]. There also was a little shuffling of my Physics courses due to when they were actually offered, but that’s fine by me. I’m only taking fourteen credits each semester, plus have no lab in the fall, so I’m happy. That might change when I wake up for 0910 classes every morning, but since I got so lucky this year with my times, I knew that it would eventually run out.

My summer plans are getting closer to being set. I applied for two jobs last weekend and am still waiting to hear back from, I’m on the counselor list for MST@MSU 2010, I am all set for my drive to Florida to see the STS-132 launch, and I’m living in my apartment with both Greg and Chris. I don’t think it could get any better than that. Technically, I’m still waiting to hear back about the NASA USRP, but I’m not very optimistic about it… Oh well, since I’ve had some great research experience so far anyway that working for NASA would’ve just been icing and not the whole cake. Speaking of research, I’ll be presenting at the 2010 UURAF this Friday, with only a few small modifications to do to my poster before then. Plus, to celebrate, I have a Calculus LA pub crawl that night…

I’m also looking forward to having some free time. I’ve been playing two online games pretty frequently recently: Light Bot and NASA ROVER. Both are command-sequence run games where you set a command sequence, hit run, and the robot/rover follows that sequence to achieve a goal, whether it’s moving to a certain point or switching on lights. I’m planning on writing a similar game in Python (using PyGame) this summer, which should be a good couple months of programming and testing. Plus, I’m just looking forward to playing it and expanding it as I go along. I’ve worked on some character art already, plus planning out how I want it to function, so I really just need to learn the ins-and-outs of PyGame before I can get started.

Of course, that won’t be until after the GRE, which I’m taking at the end of May. I’ve been studying vocab like it’s my job, almost to the complete exclusion of every other part of the test. I’m not worried about the math section; I’ll just need to make sure that I don’t make silly mistakes with my arithmetic or the directions. I’ve skimmed through everything, but the vocab is just what I’m worried about. I won’t be taking the Physics subject test until the fall, so I won’t need to worry about that for some time yet.

And that’s basically my life right now. This saturday, I’ll be shutting myself off from online social networking to fully get into finals mode, so you probably won’t hear from me until May 5th or later. So, until then, stay thirsty my friends.

The Importance of the Self

I had an amazing weekend these past few days, and it has probably been the best (or, at very worst, second-best) since returning to Earth following my MDRS mission. A lot happened this weekend too, not even considering two amazing wins by the MSU Men’s Basketball team: first date, “Compton” reunion pub crawl, cleaned my room, and started GRE prep, among other events. I also had a chance to reflect on who I was as a person, and who I wanted to be in the future. Quite the mental exercise for someone still in the middle of an exam season and only a month away from finals.

What did I determine? Well, I’ll need to break this up into a few smaller categories, since they only have mild connections. Plus, it’s easier to read (and write!) if compartmentalized like this, even if the categories are somewhat broad.

Academics
I recently ordered and received my first GRE Prep book: Cracking the GRE: 2010 Edition. Since I don’t really have the time to go to a bookstore to pick things up, I usually just order from Amazon, and this book (along with a vocab book that will be arriving tomorrow) was no different. I also really like picking up packages from my apartment complex’s office, which was just icing on the cake.

Right now, I’m trudging through the English-related sections of the book, and I’m slowly realizing how inadequate the current extent of my vocabulary is. Yes, I do know quite a variety of words, but there are many more that I have no idea even existed (or ones I thought I knew, but really didn’t). I haven’t looked at the Math-related sections yet, but I’m sure I’ll be fine with that and the essay, but that English section is just freaking me out a little bit. Hence the inclusion of a vocab-specific book to aide in my studying. I have two months to prepare, but at the same time I’ll be focused/distracted by actual schoolwork that actual study time will invariably be much less. I did give myself a window of two weeks following finals before the actual exam, so that should help make up for any deficiencies stemming from completing my junior year.

Speaking of that completion, I’m doing reasonably well in my classes. I just had two exams last week (Quantum II and Analysis I), and I have one more this upcoming Friday. Tomorrow night I’ll be completing homework for the classes that require it so I can more fully dedicate the tail of the week to preparing for that exam, especially considering that it is currently my worst class grade-wise. Using some gained knowledge from after the first exam, I should be in a much better position than I was (and I won’t be coming off missing seven straight classes), so I am not as worried about it. Of course, we’ll see on Friday exactly how much that pays off.

Non-Academic but close to it
I started work on the UURAF poster this past week (Research on Mars: Limitations in a Martian Analog Environment), although I am still far from completion. I’m still trying to pin down exactly what I want to discuss on the poster and during the judging phase, so my work has been more of a detailed outline than anything else. Thankfully, Jason Black at Plot to Punctuation offered to proofread my poster before the presentation, so I’m planning to get that to him by the end of the week. That will most likely mean sending him an e-mail by next Sunday following a weekend of just working on the poster due to my other time restraints.

I’ve done almost no programming following the Collatz Conjecture exercise, not including some basic class construction exercises. I did find in some of my freshman notes a description of a problem that I was contemplating solving as part of my Calculus I H-Option but discarded in favor of my coin flipping simulation. I’ll probably go back on work on that, since it will combine a few different techniques that I’ve learned so far in my studies. Of course, this has lower priorities than everything else, so it may be a while before I can even start actively thinking about it.

Personal Gain
Right now, I am training for a 10-kilometer race, which I am currently two weeks away from. This will be the longest race I’ve ran since the Capitol City River Run I completed my sophomore year, as well as the first race I’ve actively trained for since the end to my high school running career. So far, I’ve racked up a couple dozen miles, and my per mile times are down to around 7:20, which isn’t too bad considering starting from basically scratch. I figured, with Opportunity surpassing 20k and the missed opportunity to run a 5k completely in sim, a 10k was the least I could do. Plus, my dad and I will be carbo-loading the day before with Pizza House, which is definitely a plus.

I’m also working on eating healthier, starting with the complete elimination of soda from my diet. This mostly stemmed from MDRS not having any on hand, and I’ll tell you that it’s really tough to turn down a 24-pack of Dr Pepper soon after starting. Yes, I could’ve just lapsed for a few days until my roommates and I finished those off, but then what would stop me from relapsing over and over again? I figured that it would just be easier to not drink it then, making it a better chance that I wouldn’t drink it in the future. I figure that, if I keep this up, then all the better for my overall health. On the food side, I’m working on making sure I get enough calories (but more just guesstimating…) to fuel my athletic and academic pursuits, plus eating a wider variety of foods than just pizza, cereal, and peanut butter sandwiches.

My room is also clean, and I’m going to keep that trend going for as long as I can. On a similar note, I’m not going to buy any new clothes for a while, after noticing exactly how many t-shirts I own and how many I don’t wear. I had contemplated buying a new one (or two) a week or two ago, but decided against it because of some other purchases I had made earlier in the week, but now I figure that I don’t need any more for a while. Yes, I’ll be buying at least one shirt should I get a summer internship (still waiting to hear back from all of them, but NASA should be getting back to me this week), because I will need something that echoes back to my host institution.

And that’s basically it. There’s a few other things in there that I didn’t put down, plus my still-active New Year’s Resolutions, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure those out. Plus, there might be a life-chaning event coming up soon for me, so mentally preparing for that goes hand-in-hand (or is directly a part of) all of these other things…

T-Minus Two Months

In less than two months, I will be on summer vacation before starting my final year as an undergraduate, and possibly my last year at Michigan State. This being the first day back from Spring Break, I figured that now was a good time to take a “life inventory” to plan out these next weeks, plus some things that I am looking forward to or should happen within that time frame.

First, it was extremely hard to wake up this morning. Originally, I had planned to wake up around 0800 to schedule my last year as an undergraduate, but after getting an e-mail at 0300 (yes, I was still awake then) stating that my enrollment date wouldn’t be until the beginning of April, I decided to go back to my normal wake-up schedule. When the alarm went off at 1020, I surprising didn’t think about hitting the snooze until after I had shut off the alarm, when it would take much more time that it was worth to re-arm my alarm for ten minutes later to grab some extra sleep. I slowly made my way around my room and apartment getting ready for my four classes, although I’m sure that I’ll be well adjusted to early wake-ups by the end of the week. That first one is just always the hardest.

Classes went by fine, with me taking pretty good notes (except in Quantum due to a sub… I just can’t focus when the normal professor isn’t yielding the yellow chalk) and paying attention. This is a good start to my and my roommate’s plan to simply spend the next two months studying and preparing for finals, exams, and classes in general. I didn’t get off to the best start this semester, so I’ll need to kick my ass to pull off some good grades, but since I’m not going to be greatly distracted by interplanetary travels, I should be fine. I’m getting back into my pre-MDRS habit of finishing homework much earlier than it’s done (I’m half-way through Quantum, which is due on Friday), which is a good first step, especially with my second exam season coming up.

I have officially been accepted as an LBC Physics LA for next year (I only need to turn in the acceptance letter), which is a big relief for me. Yes, I knew that I already had the job, but having it official just makes it feel so much better. What I still don’t know about, however, is my summer plans. I’ve been asked back to work MST @ MSU 2010, which was a great camp last summer, but since I have no idea about my internships, I will probably have to decline since the deadline is coming up. In fact, I won’t be hearing from two of my internships until after the deadline for MST passes, even if I was notified on the first day. In case I get shafted everywhere, I probably will be able to get a job at the NSCL or somewhere else in East Lansing, just so that I don’t have to go back home for the summer again. Plus then I could make cameo appearances at MST…

And right at the end of this two-month window, and a week after finals, is the planned launch of the Atlantis! With some recently-developed problems which may be fixed soon, the Discovery launch, slated for April 5, may slide back to the next launch opportunity, forcing Atlantis back as well. This would put the Atlantis launch in the middle of one of my summer internships (should I be selected) or anything else that happens this summer, decreasing the chance that I’ll be able to go. Based on recent reports, however, the launch schedule should be fine, but I still worry…

And that’s basically it. Exams, homework, classes, and finals are basically all I have coming up. My programming will also take a minor hit, since actual schoolwork comes before the work that I’d like to do with Python, but I’ll have a lot of time to still work on it nonetheless. It will just be a busy and stressful two months.