Archive for November, 2000

Why My Life is a Mess – 11.29.00

Wednesday, November 29th, 2000

Since I don’t have enough time to write a decent diary entry I thought I would list the reasons why this is the case. I promise to explain what has really been going on in my life at a later date because it isn’t ALL boring.

Reasons my life is a mess:
1) The IPPD System Level Design Review takes places next Monday (peer presentation) and Wednesday (industry presentation). Considering that neither our report nor presentation is finished yet that means that there will be sleepless nights spent in the design lab between now and then.
2) We have a stability and control project report and presentation due next Tuesday and that involves a lot of work on the part of our group.
3) The experimental methods exam from yesterday turned out to be a take-home test because no one was finished by the end of the class period. Now I need to have it done to turn in tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM.
4) Our last aero-thermal processes homework is due next Wednesday.
5) Our last structures quiz is on Friday.
6) The Alpha Chi Omega gift-giving party is on Saturday morning and I am not finished wrapping all of my presents yet.
7) Bottom line – FINAL EXAMS!

Here is my final exam schedule:
Monday, December 11 – Experimental methods @ 7:30 AM, Aero-thermal processes @ 12 PM
Wednesday, December 13 – Stability and control @10 AM
Friday, December 15 – Structures @ 12:30 PM

Maybe now you can tell why my last diary entry was from a week and a half ago. I am hoping to be able to write up something before the end of the semester but I can make no promises. Life is hectic and Christmas break is going to be like a dream. Let’s hope I can make it until then.

I Need Caffeine – 11.18.00

Saturday, November 18th, 2000

I thought I’d take a break from my stability and control homework to write about my week. Actually there isn’t much to tell but the idea of getting my textbook out of my sight for a little while seemed like a much-needed vacation. I am very much looking forward to the Thanksgiving break next week even though it doesn’t mean a break from homework – having two days off from classes will be a gift itself. I have a stability and control exam on Tuesday (of which I am extremely frightened) and an experimental methods exam the next Tuesday. After those tests are over I will start worrying about final exams since they will only be about two weeks away at that time. Christmas break is going to be like heaven. I realized this week that my break is actually three weeks long instead of the usual two. What am I going to do with myself for all of that time?

As usual I am taking a look at my planner to see what has happened over the past week. The kinds of things that I deemed important enough to write down were homework assignment due dates, an exam date, a couple of meetings, and my shopping schedule for Friday night. I guess those are the kinds of things that have kept me busy but they don’t inspire me to write about them. We did have a structures exam on Wednesday that I was hopeful of getting a good grade on. It didn’t quite turn out as I expected and that’s probably all anyone wants to know about that.

Last Sunday I got to fly in the AeMES department airplane. It is a Cessna 172 and has four seats. In my stability and control class we have a project that involves using the plane and my group did our experiment last Sunday morning at 8 AM. Two of the members of my group refused to fly, due to the fact that we had heard that many people have become violently ill during flights, so that left Danny and me to run the experiment from the plane. Our group project was to calculate the phugoid point of the plane and the experiment wasn’t made out to be the most pleasant. Here’s a quick run-through of the procedure:

1) Fly the plan straight and level at 100 mph
2) Put a clamp on the stick to indicate its position at this flight condition
3) Pull back on the stick until the airspeed is 80 mph
4) Quickly move the stick back to the clamp position and let go

If you can imagine what happens after these steps have been followed you’ll know why I was a little afraid of getting sick during the flight. (I didn’t eat breakfast that morning just in case.) After the stick is moved back to the 100 mph position the plane pitches downward quite sharply and picks up speed. Eventually the inherent stability of the plane will get it back to the original equilibrium at 100 mph but not until after about sixty seconds of oscillating about this equilibrium. Even though I was nervous about the initial pitch down it turned out to be a lot of fun. I am a serious roller coaster lover and somehow a small maneuver like this at two thousand feet impressed me more than the most modern thrill ride. I never realized how strange Paine’s Prairie looks amongst the dense woods of North Florida but from the air it sticks out like a sore thumb. Also there is a huge lake just east of Gainesville that I didn’t even know existed. It’s amazing the things you learn from a bird’s eye view.

I had better get back to work now. There are three other lateral stability derivatives in my assignment that aren’t going to derive themselves. Tomorrow I am planning to spend going over my class notes and trying to get the hang of this material. I didn’t do so well on the first stability exam so I can’t afford to screw up again this time. I am so tired. Where’s the Coke machine again?

Composites, Cable, and CAD – 11.10.00

Friday, November 10th, 2000

We got the proofs of our sorority composite pictures this week so that we could choose which pose each of us wants to appear on the actual display. The process of doing this is kind of strange though. After you chose the one shot that you like the best that’s the only one you send back to the company. So the logic in this system says that we get to keep the bad pictures. Is this supposed to make us happy? Who wants bad pictures of themselves?

I never thought that CNN would become a part of my daily life but for the past few days I have probably visited the website fifty times to check on the election results. When I went to bed on Tuesday night I was fully expecting to see the name of our new president-elect on the front page of the Gainesville Sun the next morning. To my surprise nothing had been decided by that time. As I am sitting at my computer now the presidential race is still in limbo and may stay that way for days, weeks, or possibly months if the courts get involved. At first on Tuesday night Florida was declared won by Gore soon after the polls closed due to exit poll data. Then the actual vote count margin between Bush and Gore made the networks change their mind and Florida was moved back into the undecided category. That classification hasn’t changed again. Living in the state that will ultimately decide who the next President of the United States will be is kind of surreal. There have been allegations of election fraud, stolen ballot boxes, and deceptive ballots that are causing a national news frenzy. At this point everyone in the world just wants to hear the outcome, no matter what that outcome is.

I checked on the internet last night and Bush lead Gore in the Florida recount by only 327 votes. There is a pending recount by hand in Palm Beach County today to account for the ballots that were invalidated due to double punching. Strangely organized ballots have caused this problem and every news agency has been talking about it since Tuesday. When I turned on the TV this morning the CNN reporter was standing in the Florida Capitol courtyard in Tallahassee, holding up a copy of the Tallahassee Democrat, and describing the election events occurring in the state government. This was yet another surreal experience. If Gore loses the presidency he will be one of less than a handful of men who have lost the election after winning the popular vote. The margin is so small. There was a comedian on Conan O’Brien the other night that with this vote count we are telling ourselves that we don’t want either one of these guys as our president! I am beginning to think he is entirely correct. Talking to my friends in aerospace they mentioned that whoever wins this four-year term in office will probably be displaced by someone else in the next election. That’s just how the cards are stacked. Considering the consequences of this election I can see major changes happening to the procedure so that this crazy situation doesn’t happen again. Maybe our Electoral College has to go.

On a slightly less serious note, I have spent many hours with my IPPD team in the past two days. We have been working on a visual representation of our design this week and last night we spent five hours in the CAD Lab trying to finish it. It was exciting when finally we all started working together and the design began to come to life on the computer screen. At about midnight we realized that we were just too tired and the drawing wouldn’t be finished then. This morning we met with Dr. Fitz-Coy (at 8:30 AM even though it is Veteran’s Day and we don’t have class today) and discussed the design. Eventually all of this is going to come together and we will have a System Level Design Report (SLDP) ready when it needs to be – I hope. Until our meeting tomorrow night I am going to be working on homework rather than worry about IPPD. That also means that I can’t have any fun this weekend but what did I expect?

Feeling Sorry for Myself – 11.07.00

Tuesday, November 7th, 2000

I never thought I would ever hear Dan Rather use the phrase “the mother-load” but you never know what will come to pass during a presidential election. At this moment the nation is still waiting to hear the final results of the extremely close and highly controversial election for our next president. I was quite excited to have the opportunity to vote today, even though it required me walking for an hour to do so. I didn’t realize how far away my voting precinct was until I decided to take a stroll that way this afternoon. In order to make the trip and cast my vote I had to skip my experimental methods lab section and get extremely sweaty on the way. It seems like a lot of trouble for a little “I Voted” sticker. The need for each and every vote is critical this year, however, since the pre-election numbers were showing such small margins between Bush and Gore. For that reason I knew that I needed to get to the polls today and I was lucky that missing my lab was no big deal this week. We’ll have to wait and see how the Electoral College turns out.

I thought of the title for this entry while I was in the shower but now, as I reconsider it, the day hasn’t been as bad as it seemed then. Besides having to take that hour-long walk to the voting precinct there were several other things that collectively made my day practically a waste of time. I was under the impression that Mark and the other Boeing recruiters were going to set up their display in the New Engineering Building atrium today so I paged him this morning at 7:45 AM as I was walking to class. He called me back only to let me know that his plans had changed and he was still in Daytona. That made my life easier because I wasn’t sure how the whole display thing was going to work anyway but I was upset that I didn’t know about the changes earlier. So I got through class and my voting episode with little thought towards Boeing. Soon after I arrived back at my house, very sweaty but sporting my “I Voted” sticker, I had to leave and meet the recruiters at the Reitz Union. Let me just say now that only about twenty people showed up for the “Meet the Recruiter” presentation and that upset me. Considering the work I put into this, with the reservations and fliers and emails and such, I am one to take personal offense to the lack of warm bodies in that auditorium. Mark told me not to be disappointed about the bad turnout and that this sort of thing happens even at MIT but sometimes I can’t be comforted for something that I perceive to be my fault. It will be a real blow to UF if few interns and co-ops are hired from here so let’s hope that the two days of interviews to come are more successful than tonight’s presentation attendance.

There are some positive developments that have surfaced from Mark’s visit already. One of the recruiters is a director from Boeing Southern California (ranking just below a vice-president) and she seemed very excited to meet another female engineer, especially one that could be a potential employee in the future. I was talking to her and Mark about the kind of job I would like to have for this summer and fall and they mentioned that I might be able to work on propulsion for the Integrated Defense System (IDS) which is brand new and top secret. Since I have been having such a hard time getting any companies to even interview me for an internship for this summer I am glad to have at least one job offer pretty much wrapped up. If I do end up at Boeing again I want a job that lasts for the summer and the fall. There is still a lot of time for me to consider all of my opportunities so I will come back to this subject later when there is more information on it.

I left my IPPD group meeting early tonight because I was just sitting there feeling sorry for myself and not being very productive. All it took was a good cry to get all of these problems out of my mind. I need to set my sights on opportunities of tomorrow rather than dwelling on the despairs of today. I just look at the clock and it is 1 AM. CNN is still debating the Bush/Gore presidential bids. The Electoral College right now reads 246 for Bush and 242 for Gore – too close for me. Florida still hasn’t been decided. It’s time for bed.

Reading and Reminiscing – 11.03.00

Friday, November 3rd, 2000

Can you remember what it feels like to hear your favorite song when you least expect it? It’s like at that moment there’s no where else you’d rather be and nothing else you want to do than stand there, close your eyes, and listen to every word. So imagine a poorly dressed college student in the grocery store, holding a basket filled with yogurt and orange juice, and blissfully smiling like she had no troubles in the world. That is what you probably would have seen if you had been in the candy aisle of Albertson’s at the same time that I was. Somehow hearing your favorite song is even more enchanting when it hasn’t been popular in four years and you can count on one hand the number of times you have heard it randomly on the radio since then. So as I recognized the telltale chords that announce the beginning of this song I couldn’t help but grin. Every time I hear it I suddenly forget all of the bad things that are happening in my life and assume it is a sign of the good are to come. It’s amazing how little things like that can completely change your outlook. It makes me glad to know that it is possible.

I had a great time in Tallahassee last weekend but I didn’t work on my homework at all. I thought I would pay dearly for this action in the number of hours of sleep I would miss but that turned out luckily not to be the case. The main purpose of this trip was to gather my winter clothes but of course I didn’t start packing them until late Saturday night and I made the mistake of leaving my gloves and earmuffs at home. There isn’t much use for earmuffs in a Florida winter but sometimes they come in handy. The gloves, on the other hand, are almost essential on winter mornings. (I bought new mittens at Wal-Mart tonight.) Anyway, I had fun with my family – going out to eat at Boston Market at the last minute when nothing at the grocery store interested out palates, going to Target on a Sunday morning just to look at Christmas decorations, and renting “Toy Story 2” to watch with my parents. I am a very lucky person. I also got a warm welcome from the family cats even though I haven’t been around for over a month and a half. They crawled all over me while I was sleeping and woke me by stepping on my hands in the morning. This is such behavior as I have not seen since they were very young. Sometimes you can go home again.

I finished Return of the King this afternoon and I almost cried as I read the last few sentences. This semester I have managed to read all four of Tolkien’s Middle-earth masterpiece novels and that is not as easy as it sounds. Finding time to read for enjoyment is practically impossible being an engineering student at this university. You have to have a lot of self-discipline to finish even one book per semester. That being said, I am proud but sad to announce that I came to the conclusion of this famous story today. I haven’t mentioned, however, that there are more than one hundred pages of appendices at the end of Return of the King and I borrowed my dad’s copy of The Simarillion, of the same author, last weekend when I was home so I have no lack of reading material. Also I plan to read the first four Harry Potter books again before the movie is released next December and I bought a copy of The Mists of Avalon at the used book store in Tallahassee. Reading is fun again. Actually it wasn’t ever not fun but when you have the opportunity to read stories that peak your interest and without the threat of any formal academic intrusion you enjoy the experience so much more.

So now I am sitting in the house TV room watching “Stargate” with my sister (and ex-roommate) Lelaine. My life is boring. It is 11:15 PM on a Friday night and all I can think about it is getting a good night’s sleep. Mark from Boeing is coming on Tuesday for his “Meet the Recruiter” presentation that I have worked on since I got back to school in August so that will be a stressful event for me. Also I have a structures exam on Wednesday that I am determined to do well on. Things are just as exciting as they could be right now. Check back next week and see if the stimulation has killed me yet.