Use It

Posted in Life, Random, School on November 30th, 2007 by Tom

So, all types of things going on recently. I would make some excuse that I’ve been busy, but it would be a lie. I have about as much free time as ever, I just do not blog too often. As per usual, I am working on fixing this.

Tonight, I chose to work on that at 2 AM.

Our first order of business will be that I have accomplished a lifelong dream.
Please check this One Webcomic I Read to fully understand the gravity of the situation. It’s like that.

If I permitted myself to title my blogs things non-song-titles, today’s would be called “Eigenblog”.
You know not what that means, for I doubt anyone has ever said that word before. It’s OK, becuase I am going to explain: In math there are these fancy things called eigenvectors and eigenvalues. They’re special because:

If you “operate” on an eigenvector, you will always get the eigenvector back, multiplied by some number, called an eigenvalue. It’s still lost on me where this slick math business comes from, but eigenstuff is very useful. *halt: why are we talking about eigenstuff?*

It is a lifelong dream of mine to learn a single thing that will be applicable in every single one of my courses in a given semester. Think of a given semester, and try to imagine what you could POSSIBLY learn that would be the same in all classes. Crazy, huh? Well it’s always been something I wanted to happen.

Last week, it did.

Linear Algebra: We learned the formal approach to eigenvectors/values. Basically, how you make them work with matrices, and expand them into eigenspaces and such. [Refer to Wikipedia’s exhaustive Eigenspace article for more information. Isn’t it odd how irritatingly formal and lengthy their math/science articles are? I feel it is so.]

Modern Physics: Technically, I first learned of eigenthings in this course. They are useful in determining if a given wave function is well-behaved for a given operator. [A poorly behaved wave function is not an eigenvector, and thus gets no eigendinner before it goes to eigenbed.]

Vibrations and Waves: I think this is the first place where maybe I can make you understand about eigenstuff. Say I have three masses, linked together with springs. Say I pull one of them back, and let it go. Eigenstuff tells me how they will all slosh back-and-forth… which is useful is you’re into that kindof thing. [I am not, but that’s cool, becuase the semester is almost over]

German: Eigen is the German word for “correct”, or “true”. Eigentlich is the word for “actually”. This is said frequently in German class.

At this point, you may still be like “whatever.” Some weird German math guy named this thing in German. It’s used in science. That’s gotta happen often enough, right? So why should you be impressed?

Political Science: We are learning to do linear regression analysis, which is essentially creating a line of best fit. If I have all these points in roughly one shape, what is the line that is closest to all of those points at once? A regression line. I asked one day, “What if the pattern isn’t linear. What is the distribution is parabolic, or a cubic function?” Answer? “Well, that requires matrix algebra manipulation using something called an EIGENVECTOR, so we won’t be doing that for this class.”

Flawless victory. The same concept in ALL five of my classes this semester within a week. Like I said, it was something of a dream that is now a reality, and I’m glad I could share it with you.

After that amazing sequence of events, I went home for Thanksgiving. It was good, all-in-all, but kinda weird. I wanna say “Thanks,” to everyone that came over to my house for the Plaza Lights! I like keeping that tradition alive, even if everyone seemed kinda worn-out this year. I’ll make a point to plan activities next year. Also: the mayor’s Christmas tree lighting was neat too. The tree is all wicked-tall and from Oregon… as most wicked-tall things are.

Aside from that… things are all different back home. Not in like a really awful way, but it’s just not the same. I was really trying to cling to the notion that when everyone got back from college, it would like quasi-high-school again. That expectation is now completely lost, and probably for the better.

Things are different now.
Saying more than that would do the situation an injustice, so I’ll leave it at that.

I am right now in the middle of reading a webcomic. This is a pretty bad time for me in truth. Auf Deutsch, this would be called “meine Tage,” which is a German euphanism for a woman’s menstral cycle. I guess I just mean to say that I am not entirely myself during this time.

I read a single strip from a comic, like it, and hit the “return to first” button. Next thing I know, I have 6 years of 3-comics-per-week to make it through before I’m caught up to the regular pace of production. You simply can’t take that all in one sitting. But you certainly can get sucked in for an hour or so, which is dangerous. Especially when by “or so,” I mean “three hours,” which is not something I’m really proud of.

It’s called Achewood. I really, REALLY enjoy it.
Lizz cares for it less, because she dislikes the style.

Thankfully, I am almost caught up. It has caused most of my sleep-lacking evenings.
I must also apologize if my rhetoric, vocabulary, or cadence seems off.
Reading stupid comics for hours on end gets me talking all like the characters and such.
[a personal favorite]


Posted in Life, Nerd, School on November 13th, 2007 by Tom

So here we are, coming into the home-stretch of the semester. It’s a very exciting time. Thankfully it is NOT shaping up to be like last month’s “Perfect Storm”. Same amount of work, but it’s spread out more or less evenly over the next week, which is manageable, and at the very least… fair.

However, it will stand in stark contrast to the past week, when I did virtually nothing.
Which was rockin’. I’ve gotten really good at enjoying my fleeting periods that lack work.

If I’m not stressing over something though, it seems like everyone else is.
Glad break’s coming coon.

A week from today, I’ll be on my way home to enjoy a 5-day weekend, complete with seeing friends and family, culminating in the Plaza-Lights-Lighting which somehow turned into kindof a big thing over the years. I’m really excited. I just read in the paper today that they’re going to have, for the first time in my recent memory, new lights! They’ll be under the bridges, and made from LED lamps, making them way more efficient, which is great for everyone.

After that though… it’s back to work. We have one week of class left, in which I have a gigantic project due, and after which is finals. Which I should maybe study for. But then… CHRISTMAS BREAK. I won’t have to think about a mathematical proof, a Gaussian wave packet distribution for a normalized wave function, the Eigenvalue equation for an oscillating system with n degrees of freedom, mein kopf schmertz von ein Deutsch Professor, oder whether or not a given set of variables has a strong association and is statistically siginificant.

I’m sick of that crap, no joke. I have occasional moments where I’m really interested in my classes, but they’re quickly crushed beyond recognition by the fact that I, for all my intuition and clever wit, have to work really hard to stay on top of stuff. I’ll do what I have to, but I get tired just like everyone else, and so I’m looking forward to a) No Class, and to a lesser extent b) Different Classes at semester, which I recently registered for:

  • Phys 251: Modern Physics II
  • Phys 382: Math Physics
  • Math 365: Ordinary Differential Equations
  • Chem 121: Chemical Principles II
  • Germ 231: Intermediate German II

Some curious news about what’s happening to me long-term: I will, in a matter of days, be signing a lease for a house in which myself and four other persons will live! I’m going to be the first one to live there because I’m going to be taking courses and *fingers crossed* doing research here over the summer.

For my parents, I took a few pictures of the place:

I didn’t take pictures of the bedrooms, because they had occupants, and taking pictures of them seemed particularly creepy, especially on the girl’s side. So sorry about that.

I should clarify: When I say “side”, I’m referring to the fact that our house is an ex-duplex, in that they just knocked down the wall in the middle and leave the other front door locked all the time. There’s five of us, so the two girls will take one “side”, and us boys will take another.

So more info on that as it comes. It seems crazy worrying about this in what was October, but I’m glad it’s done.

Back in the present, this last week was witness to the exciting game “Zombies vs. Humans” on Truman’s campus. It’s a pretty cool concept. Everyone signs up and gets a bandanna on their arms because they’re Human. One person is selected as the initial zombie, and they infect other people by touching them. Then those people put their bandannas on their head recognizing their now status as Zombies.

Humans can fight back by stunning a Zombie for 15 minutes using either socks or Nerf guns. Yes. Nerf Guns. It goes without saying that I am now obsessed with this game: the prospect of getting to sneak around campus in an ultra-paranoid state packing Nerf heat in order to combat the undead is VERY enticing. I’ve already got my Nerf gun purchased and am working on some modifications to make sure that I can give the undead their due when I get to play next semester.

[By The Way: There is an insane amount of literature in the form of archived forum posts concerning the ways and means of modding nerf guns into some pretty powerful armaments. Not like getting them to shoot rocks or anything, but more like getting them to shoot custom-made foam darts 100+ feet in good weather conditions. I mean… damn.]

While I’m here, I want to throw up a couple of other pictures.
The other day Lizz had a hairdo that just screamed to me, “Hey! I look like Princess Leia.” And I felt like sharing that with you. (Isn’t she cute? In a really “gallaxy far, far away” kinda way?)

So. That was a little longer than I meant for it to be, but there you go.
I hope everyone else can hang in there long enough to make it until Thanksgiving.

Midnight Coward

Posted in Maintenance, Music, Technology on November 1st, 2007 by Tom

I’m working on something kinda new.

It’s always been my dream that people could here the songs which I name the entires after. The problem’s always been that embedding audio is a royal pain, as Real, Windows Media Player, and Quicktime never came seem to agree on a happy medium.

So screw that. I found a stat which says that 97% of web users have Macromedia (Now Adobe, I believe) Flashplayer. Odds are that you are one of the 97%, and so I found a flash-based solution. Originally, I had tried XSPF Web Player, which was a small, simple player that actually uses an open source architecture for the structure of the playlists, which is rockin’, but it was too hard for me to get the hang of. [I couldn’t get the *.xspf files to behave correctly.]

A much simpler solution was the Audio Player for WordPress Plugin. It integrates directly with WordPress, and has a lot of customization without me needing to learn any crazy programming stuff. Which is neat.

So without further ado:

I think in the future I’ll just stick these right at the top. You can listen to the song and read the entry concurrently. Any feedback on this little feature would be stellar. Right now I’ll upload some legacy tracks to the entries on the homepage. I’m not sure if I’ll be leaving them there forever, but we’ll see.

I don’t want people munching up my bandwidth just listening to MP3s and not reading the posts, so it might be a “only 10 audio files online” at a time thing. We’ll see. For now though, enjoy!

I should also say: I got so distracted working on this little tweak that I neglected to study for a German test I had Wednesday until like… 2 AM on Wednesday… Which was dumb. But this thing’s really cool, and the test was a joke, so I guess it’s all good.

That probably was my latest college night this year, clocking in at 4:30 AM before I was in bed and turning off the light. I was fine the next day though, which is encouraging; though sleep-fest of this semester has made me soft, I still got it where it counts, you know?