Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pleasant distractions.

My brachioradialis are hella sore from splitting wood all day. So now I'm sitting in front of a fire and contemplating the throbbing ache in my forearms. All of which is to say: I'm done with the quarter and not stressed for the first time in a long time. It's a welcome change of pace (and change of concern) from the usual during school.

Some moments worth capturing from the past week...

Fellowship for winter quarter! (w00t!) What a satisfying result for all that effort. I am now on the path to the Engineer's degree, and looking forward to another 1.5 years of school.

Received an A- in my Decision Analysis class. Go figure, right? This was the class in which I received a -0.43/60 on the midterm. I thought it highly unlikely to make it into this grade cluster, but there you go. Even after my decision to take it Pass/Fail (which was a good one), I continued to invest a great deal of time into the class. I don't mind that the A- won't appear on my transcript even though I worked my ass off for it. This was a tough quarter and it's entirely reasonable for me to take a class outside my department as P/F. (Even after falling below the median for the probabilistic portion of the final... I have no idea how I landed an A-.)

Submitted my NDSEG application on time, with all the necessary materials meeting the deadline. Talk about lucky! The whole GRE scores fiasco really had me going for a day... I did my best, now I wait until April to hear back from them and the NSF.

Almost finished with Fallout: New Vegas. Yes, I'm referring to a video game. I mention it because I haven't played a video game in something like eight months. It's mighty fun to enjoy a game from time to time, and this is a good one. It's also deeply satisfying to waste time and not feel guilty about it. Haven't done that in a while...

Listening to The Road by Cormac McCarthy on the way up to PDX. Holy crap that story is intense. Now I can empathize with Lauren, whom read it in one day because she 'couldn't bear to stay in that world for more than a day.'

Friday, December 16, 2011

Excellent news.

Remember my rant about the ETS and the NDSEG?

It all worked out in the end. (Surprise!) After making some calls, it became evident that there would still be a chance for me to submit my NDSEG application and have my GRE scores show up on time.

Two days ago, they were received by the NDSEG.

Whoo hoo! Funding opportunity not lost! Time to finish up my application and submit it before 2pm...

Monday, December 12, 2011



Oh, it feels so good to be finished with the quarter. Sure, I have stuff to do, but all my fall classes are OFFICIALLY FINISHED.

I think the DA exam went pretty well. Played it relatively safe with the probability assignments, mostly because I don't have much to gain from aiming for the 90th percentile -- and a whole lot to lose. Taking it pass/fail, as I mentioned, really simplified my decision-making process.

Now, to celebrate!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nearly through.

Hard to believe my quarter is almost finished. Completed my last big assignment for Building Information Modeling (BIM) at about 3pm. Hoo boy that was a major ordeal. I was in charge of the structural modeling for a sample building project. This didn't seem particularly bad -- I have a background in structures and the tutorial shown by our teacher made the structural analysis program (ETABS) seem straightforward. Boy, was I mistaken. I spent at least 10 hours on the homework project. Possibly more. Almost all of it was in troubleshooting mode, which is not a particularly fun mode to be in. At the end of the day, I still couldn't get the model to work properly. Even after working with my teacher for thirty minutes, we couldn't resolve the problem. He eventually suggested a workaround so I could at least get results from the analysis program that I could interpret for my design. I'm more familiar with the program, but oy at what cost? Not like I'll likely need to know ETABS for the future. Oh well, there's something to be said for keeping practiced in the art of learning new programs.

Then went on to study more for Decision Analysis (DA). The second practice final exam went a lot better than the first. 26 / 60 on the probabilistic portion, up from -2 / 60 on the first. (Yeah, ouch.) If anything, I can say that I'm at least learning important habits or tricks for the exam. I have never had so much trouble with a class before... I am so glad to be taking it pass/fail. I would be a complete wreck otherwise. No longer do I feel compelled to answer problems with great certainty in an effort to achieve a high score.

The probabilistic grading method taught me valuable lessons about characterizing my own uncertainty, but it does not gel with my desire to do well in classes. Sure, I have undue certainty in my answers in the academic realm, but I think that blind surety helped get me to where I am today. It reminds me of a quote from Prof. Griggs, my infrastructure professor. He said it's fortunate that humans have optimism bias (i.e. the tendency to underestimate the risks and overstate the benefits in planning), because otherwise nothing would get done; the greatest endeavors of human ingenuity and tenacity would have been left at the drawing board.

By about 8pm, I was wiped. Just didn't have any energy left to do more work. Then I realized: I'm pretty much done. Just the exam tomorrow. Well, and the NDSEG application, but that's a much less of a big deal.

Hoping to celebrate tomorrow. Drinking, perhaps? Dancing, perhaps? Both, perhaps? Whatever it is, I hope it will be in the presence of good friends. Most folks seem to be hella busy, so it will be surprising if people are actually available.

After a fun family dinner with Ithaka, it was back to St. Stevens. It was only 10:30pm. So I've decided to treat myself to something decadent and watch an episode of "Six Feet Under." Watching a whole hour of television - what a notion! It's nice to do something like that and not feel guilty about it.

In case you're wondering...

I'm back in school. Graduate school, at Stanford. Hence why I have not made a new post in three months. Apologies!