failing like never before


Writhing in Agony

I finally used a Target giftcard that I got for Christmas last year. I bought myself a Schwinn twelve-function bicycle computer, that can (amongst other things) tell me my current speed, average speed, maximum speed, distance traveled, and time traveled. So its quite the useful little device. I also bought myself some Franklin batting gloves, not for basebell mind you, (I don't play baseball) but for riding, because I've found that my hands tend to get amazinlgy cold when I'm riding and I couldn't find any riding gloves that covered a person's entire hand.

But back to the writhing in agony part, I took a longer ride today, just to see test my physical condition and to give my new Schwinn bike computer a test. As I was crusing along on my mountain bike at a solid 17 MPH, a bee hit me dead center in the forehead (or rather, I hit the bee). I stopped pedaling immediately, started to probe my forehead with my gloved fingers and discovered that the bee was still stuck to my forehead. Ow...

But since there was no way for me to safely remove the bee from my forehead with gloved hands, I grabbed my brake levers and slammed to a halt, intending to remove my gloves so that I could get rid of my new insect friend. I was perhaps a little too enthusiastic with the brakes and and the front wheel locked up, so that I was thrown foward. It would have almost been better for me to have flipped right over the handlebars, but instead I slammed my crotch into the solid metal headset. Sheer brilliance.

At this point, I stumbled out of my toe clips and collapsed on the side of the road writhing in agony, and it took a few seconds before I was able to extricate the bee from my forehead. Pretty sure people were staring at me, and I can't really blame them. Its not often you see a man laying on the side of a bike path, trying to clutch at both his forehead and pelvis region at the same time, all the while muttering incoherent curses.

Once the pain started to fade (which took a long time), I turned my mountain bike around and headed for home at a much slower pace. My stats for this ride where:

Distance traveled: 38.372 miles

Max speed: 33.5 MPH (I was going downhill of course.)

Average speed: 14.6 MPH

Elapsed time: 2 hours and 38 minutes

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The Vampires of Twilight

(This could be a little confusing if you haven't read Twilight before, or have no idea what its about.)

I had to see what all the fuss over Twilight was all about, so a few weeks ago, instead of studying, I decided to read Twilight. My literary background isn't exactly amazing, and the fact that I'm an engineering student probably does little to add credence to my literary analysis, but I'm still going to attempt a brief rant against Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

It seems to me that Stephenie Meyer isn't exactly overflowing with literary prowess, although I will conceded that she is a better writer then me (Face it, who isn't better then me?). Meyer has this thing where she feels she has to insert an awkwardly large number of adjectives into a sentence in order to describe one thing. I don't actually own a copy of the book so I don't have it in front of me and can't quote from it, but I think that anyone who has read the book can understand what I'm talking about. Maybe Meyer was just going for a dark, super-descriptive style, but if that was her goal, then she overshot it by a few hundred yards and ended up with something that reads like a grade schooler's attempt at a "descriptive writing" assignment.

I told a friend that I managed to read through Twilight in about an hour and thirty minutes. He was a little surprised to hear that (and rightly so) and asked me how I managed such a (almost) Herculean feat. The reasons behind my speedy-reading time is two-fold: firstly, I've had a lot of experience speed-reading through books, and secondly, (the big secret) I skipped all the parts where Bella expounded upon Edward's god-like attributes. I realize that Edward is supposed to posses inhuman beauty, and that Bella, as a teenage girl, is of course going to be admiring the physical attributes of her vampire boyfriend, but I think the description's of Edward's hotness are a little much. It seemed to me that every time Edward was mentioned, Bella immediately starts thinking about how beautiful and perfect Edward is (his perfect skin, teeth, scent, muscles, voice, etc.), and I started skipping whole lines of text at a time. Forgive me for not being a teenage girl (or a homosexual teenage boy) , but reading about Edward's god-like proportions brought me pretty close to my retching point, which is why I simply started skipping after I realized the descriptions were never going to stop.


Happy Boxing Day

I was going to wish all my readers a merry Christmas yesterday, but my server started acting funky on the 24th and had to shut down for almost all of Christmas day. So seeing as how today is the 26th, happy boxing day!

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Sometimes I really wonder if I'm fit to be an engineer. Take last Friday, for example. I had my linear algebra final just last Friday, my last final of this quarter, and since I didn't do too hot on the midterms I had been spending the better part of finals week studying linear algebra. I've poured far too many hours into doing practice problems and studying my notes, so many hours, that my grades on my other finals have suffered. Come the final, I felt a little nervous but fairly confident that my endless studying would pay off.

Of course it didn't.

Confused and scared shitless would be an understatement of how I felt as I started flipping through the final. Most of the problems were proofs, asking us to prove some property of a determinant, or why the product of two matrixes of such-and-such form must assume a certain size. Some of the problems I worked through fairly easily, many of them I struggled through, and there were quite a few that I simply stared at for minutes on end. About two hours into the final, I passed through the scared stage and entered a sort of numb calmness that was strangely relaxing. But the only thing I could think of after the final, was "oh shit, I'm going to fail."

Against all possible beliefs, I got a "C" in linear algebra and so I didn't have to retake the class, unlike four other of my friends that took the class the year before. Apparently I was not the only one to suck on the final, so I didn't end up at the very end of the curve.

Granted, I used to be good at math in high school (I got a five on AP Calc AB with barely any studying, got a 130% on the final for that class, even despite the fact that my teacher was absolutely terrible.) but now I suck royally at math. Heck, I even suck at physics and electromagnetics, and I'm studying to become an electrical engineer! I find electromganetics to be amazingly dull and I've often been on the verge of falling asleep in class, something that never happened to me in high school even after a night of sleeping only a few hours. So not only do I suck at the subject material, I'm even starting to hate it, which begs the question yet again, why am I still an engineer?

I went to the library yesterday and checked out The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios, which I recalled my high school physics teacher briefly mentioned in class. As one might suspect from the title, the book attempts to explain how superheroes are capable of performing certain unrealistic acts, like how Electro can run up the side of a building or how Gwen Stacey died despite the fact that Spider-man caught her in his webbing before she hit the water. (I was actually quite surprised to find that Kakalios arranges the subject material in the book as one arrange a physics textbook, going from Newtonian mechanics, to thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and then quantum physics.) Kakalios's surprisingly thorough explanation of comic book superheroes has given me a small reminder just exactly why I originally wanted to be an engineer. Granted, his book is a physics textbook and isn't geared specifically towards engineering, but it still managed to remind me of how much I enjoyed learning about strange scientific theories and how science can explain things that are almost magical.

So lets just say, that I'm not entirely ready to change my major just yet.


The Inverse Ohm

It seems to me that electromagnetics has a surprisingly large amount of funky terms and units, things like retarded potentials, hysteresis curves, Teslas, Ohms, Henrys, Webers and Siemens.

The authors (Hayt and Buck) of my electromagnetics textbook have a proclivity to inserting random historical tidbits into their books, probably in the hopes that it will help students to tie together seemingly random bits of technical information. So I wasn't surprised to come across a little bit of history behind conductivity when I was reading through my textbook. What I was surprised to find, was what initially appeared to be a typo; the book stated that the units of measurement for conductivity used to be the "mho" (but was now siemens). I immediately assumed that of course, the authors had meant to write "ohm" but had mixed a few letters about. But then I remembered that ohms are a measurement of resistance and after reading a few more sentences in the textbook, I learned that the "mho" is the inverse of the "ohm."

The best part, is that the symbol for "ohms" is an omega, and the symbol for "mhos" is an upside omega!!!

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.


OMFG WordPress

As some of you may know, (and by "some," I do mean "me") I started my blog on a homemade CMS. It was simply and not particulary well written, but it did what I wanted it to and I never had problems with it after I finished its testing phase. I move to Typo because I wanted more and was too lazy to code a whole bunch of new features into my CMS, but discovered that, at the time, Typo was oh-so-slow and terribly buggy. So I switched to WordPress. And I've been on WordPress for almost a year now.

I like WordPress; its easy to use, and yet has a goodly number of features to get me through the day. The fact that I've stayed loyal to it after almost a year is a testament to how much I like it (I have a very short and fickle attention). But I cannot for the life of me, understand why the bloody hell the WordPress developers feel they have to push a new release at least once a month!

I generally don't have a problem with a rapid development timeline, but WordPress just really aggravates me. A Linux distribution with a nice package manager (Debian, Red Hat, Arch, etc.) can easily update all packages to the current version with a single very simple command. But such is generally not the case for the upgrading of WordPress. A lot of the people that run WordPress (like me) have to go and update their codebase by hand, which can really get old fast. Mind you, upgrading WordPress isn't hard at all, as it just requires some copy and pasting, but it does tend to be a pain in the butt, especially since you have to do it so often. (It just occurred to  me that I can simplify the whole process with a fairly basic script, but thats beside the point for now.)

I notice that a lot of WordPress releases are for bug fixes, rather then for new features, which begs the question why the development team doesn't just spend some more time debugging before they label their software as production-ready. And because of WordPress's constant bug fixes, I always feel impelled to upgrade to the newest release.

I'm starting to wander a little bit here, I know, so just to bring it back, OMFG WordPress!!! Why must you release so often??!?!