Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Math exam

The math exam seemed much more humane. We had ten problems and were told to do six, our choice. Anything else we did would be extra credit.

In the classical mechanics exam, we also had 1.8 the amount we could finish in the alloted time, but we were told to complete all of it. We worked in a sweaty frenzy. But in the end, we didn't finish, and the mean score, percentage-wise, will probably be the same as the overall math score (seeing as the target was 60% for math).

And then the scores are curved so that the average value is a C+/B-, etc. So the end result is the same, right? But somehow, we all came out of the math exam with a warm fuzzy, and came out of Classical Mechanics feeling like we'd just gotten a drubbing.

Interesting, no?

Monday, October 29, 2007


We got the Classical Mechanics exam back today. The prof let us know how disappointed he was with the lot of us. Although I've had exams at Berkeley where the mean was lower. But I actually beat the mean by half a standard deviation, which puts me at a solid B. Not too shabby, though believe me, I have no reason at all to be proud, considering that I didn't even finish the darned thing.

OK that's the report. Off to study for math!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sometimes, when I think too much or try to plan too carefully...

... I just feel darned overwhelmed. I think after I finish my PhD, I'll need to take up a less life-encompassing hobby other than collecting academic degrees...


I was feeling rather down about how I had done on my Classical Mechanics exam (nailed the easy question, only had time to do half each of the other two, and then, the following day, realized I had done one calculation, which I should have nailed, completely wrong). I wanted to vent, whine, etc, when I realized that no-one would want to hear this. I am so OVER complaining about school. Am I not here by choice? Any time I want to leave, I could turn tail and go back to the Sili Valley, likely at a higher salary than I left. If I were merely in love with Fairbanks, I could find an engineering job in town, no problem. But no, I really love learning again and need to take the stress of it with the fun of it. I also imagine BT, who has a charming trait of getting quite huffy when I complain about myself. "I feel SO STOOPID!" And immediately she bristles. "How DARE you say such things about my friend!" etc. So I just had this conversation with her, only in my head, and immediately felt better.

Thanks, BT!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


We had hoarfrost a few days ago:

And then the next day, we got more snow. Here is the same tree as the photos from a few days prior:


After I took this photo, he scolded me up and down!

My new pots!

My birthday cupcakes!

I passed these out at school like in the third grade! No one could help but smile!

Just so y'all know...

I got

a PERFECT SCORE on my last classical mechanics homework.


So now I'm 30...

If you had asked me on my 20th birthday what I'd be doing in ten years, I'm not sure what I would have guessed, but I can bet I wouldn't have guessed "grad school in Alaska." If you had told me that, I'd have been delighted, though, so I guess I'm doing well by myself! :)

Dan replaced all of my crappy goodwill pots with All-Clads! Best. Present. Evar. Who needs romance when you can have kitchen porn! BTW, kitchen porn store in Fairbanks, how cool is that?

In other observations, I counted yesterday when I got back from my run that I was wearing fourteen articles of clothing, counting the pair things (socks, gloves) as only one each. Fourteen articles of clothing! But it's really not that cold. I am finding running in the snow to be quite challenging... it's like soft sand. I spent much of summmer out of breath from acclimating to our hills, and finally when I started to feel stronger, the snow came. So now I get to spend much of Winter acclimating to running in snow! I will KICK ASS come Spring! Hah!

OK off to class.

Edit: My (now former) pots used to do an interesting thing in the cabin, which has one of those flat glass tops on the stove. When they got to temperature, they would go into resonance, and spin round and round the stovetop, rattling the whole way in a very alarming fashion. Nothing I could think of would make it stop--rearranging the contents, holding it veeeery still and releasing it from rest, etc. It was all quite alarming. OK that is all. I have to go home and prepare for my exam now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Just one thing...

As I arrived home last night, my neighbor down the street was heading out, so we passed each other on the road.

Me, in my car. He, on his dogsled. Behind a team of eight beautiful huskies.

It was wicked cool!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wish me luck

I have midterms, my students have their midterm. Le siiiiigh...

Here are snow piccies:

Me with a tree in front of the Natural Sciences Building:

I kind of ran out on impulse, and V took this photo for me. But yes, I do wear good boots and a jacket and hat and gloves, and no, it's not so cold that I cannot run out in my inside clothes for a few photos.

A sign I put up at the entrance to this property. I put it up as a surprise for Dan and Lori when they weren't home. They haven't mentioned it yet. They get home too late from work to see it. :(

Two shots of our neighborhood in the Winter sun:

Two shots at Creamer's Field:

The Chena at dusk:

My first bundt cake:

The tenants who rented this cabin before us left bundt cake pans. Lovely ones, too--enamel over steel. So I tried one for an early birthday cake. It sucks having my birthday over midterms, but what the hell, I made a bundt cake! Now I can spend my actual birthday studying! RAD!

Friday, October 19, 2007

misc photos

The yard this morning:

Why do those snowflakes look so huge? Anyone know? Is it my camera, or the flash, or what?

Rae babysitting the doofi last night:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Misc Photos

Riddle me this: How can a small, gently-flowing river take longer to freeze than a large, wild one?

Here is the Chena today:

And here is the Tanana today:

I got lazy and missed my run this morning, so I made up for it this afternoon by joining Savannah for a stimulating game of "Let's Chase Each Other All Over the Yard." How could I resist this face?

Variations include "Let's Carry a Stick While We Chase Each Other All Over the Yard."
No, this does not include the traditional game of "fetch."

Here is Rae taking Savannah for a walk and passing Life Wisdom to her. She's all, "You have a lot to learn, my Young Sister.":

Here are some flowers I gathered up the road a few weeks ago (really, only a few weeks ago from this snow!), and pressed and mounted. Not bad for a non-artistically-gifted person, eh? I sent one to my mudder, so she and I will have matching sets of Interior Alaskan flowers as the seaons turn. Cool, huh?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Only in Alaska

Posted on the coffee shop door:


I've finished two (count 'em!) classical mechanics homework problems, out of five! Check out my bad-ass, non-procrastinating self!


Friday, October 12, 2007

Just because I understand it...

... it doesn't mean it takes any less time to do. I finished my first of five classical mechanics homework problems last night. Mofo took me five hours, and four sheets of rather tedious calculations. Hrrmph! *stamps foot and flops ears about*

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Well, it's about darned time!

I am finally able to utilize in my classical mechanics class, things I learned in mechanical engineering school. That only took five weeks. Seriously, a master's degree in mechanical engineering, and struggling with classical mechanics! Anyway, so I've looked at our next two weeks of material. Transformation matrices? Nailed (two semesters of how to calculate forces in orthogonal composites at Santa Clara University). Properties of plane cross sections (i.e., moments of inertia)? Been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt (a combined total of two years of beam theory, at Berkeley and SCU).

Yup. My outlook on classical mechanics is improving.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Running in the snow

I tried it for the first time this morning. The first time in my life, that is. It was okay. I didn't slip and whump on my arse, as I had feared, because the snow was so soft and powdery (though it's been sunny today, so we may have ice tomorrow morning!). I wasn't too cold, either. It really felt the same as last week, when there had been no snow yet.

The mornings are brighter with the sparkling snow. Another interesting thing is the tracks! I can see where Rae does her recon walks. I can see where the meese have come out into the road. I can see who has picked up their mail yet. It's quite interesting, that the snow allows no secrets, at least for a few hours...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Snow and More Snow

I have changed my commute into town to take the highway, which is flat and plowed, rather than driving along the river over the hill, which is narrow, winding, steep, and icy. Though it is so beautiful along the river, and I shall miss the view, which I will not see again until Spring, when I will no longer be terrified to drive there!

Anyway, the snow here for most of Winter (until Spring slushiness) is light and fluffy, not so good for snowball fights or snowman-making, but cleaner and easier to keep warm in. Yesterday, the first morning we had snow, I looked at my car and said to myself, "Dang, I should have bought a snow brush! Oh I know... I have that rag towel in the back. I'll use that." So I opened the hatchback, got out the towel, and slammed the door down. FLOOMP all the snow fell off, leaving the windows clean. That's some dry powder!

I've noticed that the people who work outdoors here (contractors, road construction crew), and who ought to know best about how to dress for cold weather, dress decidedly low-tech. No Arcteryx or Patagonia for them. Nope, they wear big, heavy coats from the hunting supply store that are lined with fleece, but whose outer shells are--gasp--cotton canvas! I wonder if I should try one of those and see if I like it better than my high-tech stuff.

Oh well. Off to do homework. Here is the yard today.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

First Dusting of Snow

We got our first dusting of snow last night. I went outside, and the yard looked like this:

After running errands in town, I decided to go to Creamer's Field. I cannot tell you how much I love Creamer's Field. It is somewhat like Golden Gate Park in San Francisco--you get the impression of wilderness, in the middle of the city (only there are no drug dealers or squatters' camps in Creamer's Field). I was generally always comfortable hiking solo in California, but here... not so much. But I can always go to Creamer's Field! I can happily wander around for several hours, not covering the same trail twice, and yet hardly leave sight of the barn. And after my walk, I can go to the little tourist trap shop at the front (which, amazingly, stays open year-round), and a nice little old lady will sell me a cup of hot chocolate. Nice!

Trees in a lively conversation, apparently!

I love this tree, but can't fit it all into a snapshot.

And here is a picture of Rae smiling, just because she is so sweet and charming:

The doofi don't mind Rae any more. I guess she visits often enough. The puppy, however, is another story. Our house has reached mutal agreement that there will be no more puppy visits!

Friday, October 5, 2007

They really listen to me!

My students are mostly bright, motivated, and a good group to work with. I like them, I really do.

Last week in lab, while I was giving the prelab lecture, I said to them, "You can ignore the mass and friction of the pulleys, and the mass of the string." Then I had a funny idea. I wrote on the board:

"You may ignore:
Friction in pulley
Mass of pulley
Mass of string
Air resistance
Light pressure
Tidal forces relating to our Moon
Temporal anomolies"

And damned if they didn't all scribble it down in their notebooks without so much as a word in response or questioning!

I will have to be careful what I tell these passive sponges of mine from now on. Next week I will read them "Neutrinos" by John Updike. :)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I would like to have it known that I kicked ass on my second Classical Mechanics homework. Our prof even wrote on top, "Excellent! Keep up the good work!" Yes, with the exclamation points. Yeah, baby!

And this demonstrates a funny consequence of being in school full-time. My sphere of what makes me happy and what upsets me has become so very focused. Of course, working in the Sili Valley is similar in that regard. Project went to build? CAD database released? WOOHOO! ProE crashed just one too many times today? ARGH! I am ready to slam my head into a wall!

I remember once when I had just quit my most recent job. I thought to myself with amazement, things that had caused me quite a bit of stress the previous week had suddenly become utterly, utterly irrelevant to my life. Sure, I had done my best to wrap up what I could before leaving, since I had grown to care personally about my colleagues and did not want to leave them a mess to clean up. But beyond that, I didn't give a rip about my former job. Suddenly, my new job became my big focus.

Although I have always been generally successful about maintaining work-life balance, I still obssess over things. But now I know that I can control what I obssess over. Sure, my personality will always make me prone to spending unhealthful amounts of time scrutinizing tree bark, but I can choose the forest! That's pretty cool.

In other news:

1) Classical mechanics is really cool, and why didn't we learn about Lagrangians in mechanical engineering? Just messing around with math the other night, I re-found F=ma, and Kepler's second law of planetary orbits! How cool is that?

2) I used four, count 'em, FOUR of my former textbooks to do my current homework tonight. I'm not sure what this means. Well, at least it means I have a pretty good library at home.

3) We had our first light dusting of snow early this morning (well, it will have been yesterday morning by the time I publish this, seeing as our network connection is down at home again). It was dry like powder. I am told that snow here is almost always like that. No snowmen or snowball fights. I noticed when I left campus last night that the temperature was 31 deg F, but I didn't feel very cold. People around here, when you say "It regularly gets to MINUS FORTY?!?" like to respond, "yes, but it's a DRY cold!" That used to make me laugh, because it reminded me of how people say the same thing when you gasp about summer temperatures in Arizona. "Yes, but it's a DRY heat!" I'd be like, yeah? But so what? Wet or dry, it's still freaking cold/freaking hot! But a fellow TA finally put it into a way I can understand. She said to me, "This is what 'dry cold' means. Would you prefer to stand in a tub of water at 55 deg F, or in a freezer, which is below 32 deg F?" And I went, "Ooooooohhhhh. Aaaaaaahhhh... Okay, I see now!"

4) I have a whole new respect for foreign students. Native English speakers struggle enough. ESL students have to struggle with language. Non-westerners even have to struggle with culture! First-year physics problems tend to be cutesy. They won't ever say "a particle is on a rotating disk." Nooooo, they say "a cat is snoozing on a merry-go-round." Seriously, this was a problem this Congolese undergrad brought to me today. I knew he was a bright kid, and wondered how such a simple problem about centripetal acceleration could have tripped him up. Well, it turns out that he really had no concept of merry-go-round. And what does this mean, to "snooze"? Re-reading the whole problem from his perspective, I laughed out loud. The "cute" physics problems are really quite silly. A particle on a rotating disk, okay? Geeze.

5) Millie is ridiculously cute. Look, she lets me hug her, unlike some other rabbits I won't name.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Colder days

So it's October now, and believe it or not, I've only seen the first real frost today! It has been below freezing at night before today, but I guess it's just been too dry for frost. This morning, when I stepped outside, everything was sparkling in the semidarkness.

The landscape is monochromatic, especially in the pale predawn light. The sky is white, the almost-bare birch trees are white. I've always felt that the quality of light is different in th Fall. Even in the Bay Area, where we don't have obvious seasons, the blue of the sky, the green of the trees and grass, everything seems more richly colored. The effect here is even more obvious. The transition from Fall to Winter is like turning down the color dial on the television screen.

This photo is for my sister, who told me that she thought the rabbits were looking thinner. HAH!