Overdue Reflections

I’ve been meaning to write my reflections for some time now, but between packing, driving, unpacking, re-packing, re-unpacking, and just general craziness (and laziness on my part), I haven’t found the time till now.

Hmm, where to start…?

From the perspective of classes: I had a dichotomy of study techniques. First semester, I studied with a group (Angela, Visakha, and Kristina) in the Link for many hours of the day night. Second semester, I studied exclusively by myself (mostly in the Tower, sometimes in K4). Grades turned out very similarly for both semesters, so I can’t say which was a more effective study technique. But psychologically speaking, there was a major difference. Working 24/7 with a group of people stressed me out. I always felt like everyone else in the study group had already finished assignments that I hadn’t even e-printed. Additionally, I constantly felt behind in life-plans. Which brings me to learning point number 1 (and one that I’m still working on):

(1) Focus on the work that I need to do rather than what others are doing.

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Study break in the Link

Noelle took a big step in her life when she decided to rush DST. Her life was completely consumed by rush during the first two months of spring semester, which left me completely alone. I was annoyed at first, mostly because I missed having my roommate. Missed having someone to chat with about the day’s events. Missed my study-break snack time buddy. But like all (or most) things, I grew used to it and began to really appreciate having the room to myself. One of the greatest benefits I drew from Noelle’s absence was aloneness.(Aloneness meaning not being in the same physical space as another human being.) Prior to this year, aloneness was mostly relegated to an hour a day: trail time. But having aloneness for 5+ hours a day resulted in forced introspection as well as highlighted what it means to have human connection.

Aloneness is like being hungry. A little bit of hunger is good, but being hungry for too long can take a toll on one’s mental and physical state. While I did appreciate and probably needed this time to think, I also realized that I naturally crave human interaction, especially on Saturdays when (on the very worst days) I might go up to 8 consecutive hours of working by myself. (Mountain-side hermit is definitely not on my list of possible future professions.) Even just working next to one other person–not talking, just working–creates a completely different environment. Learning point number 2 (a work in progress for next year):

(2) Find a balance between working with people versus working by myself…aka find a healthy amount of aloneness time.

View from my desk’s window

Ok, now I’m happy that I was able to get these thoughts down in writing.

Currently Reading

Currently reading George Dyson’s Turing’s Cathedral which narrates the development of the Princeton computer alongside the development of both the atomic and H-bombs. Here’s an excerpt describing the punch cards required to carry out the calculations for an atomic bomb explosion:

“‘The real trouble was that no one had ever told these fellows anything,’ explains Feynman. “The Army had selected them from all over the country for a thing called Special Engineer Detachment–clever boys from high school who had engineering ability. They sent them up to Los Alamos. They put them in barracks. And they would tell them nothing.” Feynman secured permission from Oppenheimer to give a lecture to the recruits. “They were all excited: ‘We’re fighting a war! We see what it is!’ They knew what the numbers meant. If the pressure came out higher, that meant there was more energy released. Complete transformation! They began to invent ways of doing it better. They improved the scheme. They worked at night.” Productivity went up by a factor of ten.”

This reminded me of the recent Education Ted Talks that aired on PBS. One of the most common questions students ask is “why am I learning this?” If teachers give vague, hand-wavy answers, or even worse, the “just do it because you have to–don’t ask questions” response, we’re killing the desire to learn. I think that one (informal) measure of the success of education is when students stop asking “why am I learning this,” but rather, start initiating our own studies because we already have the answer to why. 

Also, random thoughts that occurred while reading:

(0) It’s pretty crazy that our entire world is pushed around by little 1’s and 0’s.

(1) Thank goodness we no longer need to use punch cards to code!

Door Unlocker LCD Screen

The motivation:

My next project is to create a door-unlocker using an Arduino, an LCD shield, and  servos. When I’m out on the trails and when Noelle is at the gym we never bring our keys. As a result, we’re forced to leave our door unlocked. Although we live on the 5th floor and there is a very small probability that a thief would climb five flights of stairs, it still leaves me a bit nervous. (Especially after the series of laptop thefts that struck Kilgo this past semester…)

It would be great if we had a way to lock/unlock our door without having to bring our keys!

Continue reading “Door Unlocker LCD Screen”

Home! (and the inside of a USB car charger)

Finally made it home today! After a long day of driving and unpacking, I’m exhausted…definitely looking forward to day of lounging and ice cream eating tomorrow.

Anyway, I found this little guy on the kitchen counter:

Circuit board of a usb-car charger

Dad said it stopped working. He opened it in hopes that it was just a broken wire he could solder. Unfortunately all the wires were intact, meaning one of the components failed…but we don’t know which one. Regardless, it was still neat to see all of my favorite electronic parts: resistors, capacitors, and diodes (oh my!).

Yearly reflections and project updates will be coming soon!