Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Attention: C Sucks Ass. In other news, the world is ending.

I must say, C is not one of the better programming languages I have worked with. The sub-standard string functions, the idiocy of pointers, and the fact that we are forced to use UNIX are all really irritating me. In the lab today (the one where the TA didn't even show up), we were expected to create a function that takes a string of characters and tells you whether it is palindromic or not. Because of my intense dislike for pointers, I decided to try and do it without. Apparently, this is impossible, because C doesn't treat string arrays the same as other arrays. Even though strings are really just arrays of a different name. I'm beginning to think I took the wrong programming class; nobody else seemed to have any problem with the assignment. Speaking of assignments, we have one due next Tuesday that is being a huge pain in the ass. Basically, all my knowledge of other programming languages is useless in C. I'm literally learning programming all over again. I wish they had programming classes where all you had to do was write things in pseudocode. Even better, someone should make a compiler for pseudocode. Now that would be a much better programming course.

As of late, it has become increasingly apparent that the world is coming to an end. First we had the hurricanes. More hurricanes in such a short period of time since sometime in the 1800's. Now, apparently Mt. St. Helens is acting up again; threatening to blow its top. And just today there was a relatively large earthquake in California, with the promise of even larger ones to come. To top it all off, a huge asteroid is passing by the Earth tomorrow. Damn, it would be a shame to be destroyed just as things were getting exciting.

Addendum: Oh, and, North Korea now has nukes. Yes, I sense that the end is near.

Liquid N2 Containers, The Future of Space Flight, and Shaun of the Dead

This morning, I got to sleep in, so I was happy. My physics lab is only every other week, and this was my off week. But being the off week, it meant that I had to hand in my written up physics lab from last week. Now, I knew the room where the TA has his office where I was supposed to hand it in. It's FINDING the room that is the hard part. It was in the basement of McLennan Physical Laboratories, and the basement is an absolute maze. I swear, it was designed with confusion in mind. I wandered around in the basement for a good 20 minutes before is finally got to the room. Every room I walked by had some sort of warning sign on the door. There were three large tanks of liquid nitrogen sitting out in the hall. I think they were empty, because they weren't cold. It had a big "DANGER: LASER RADIATION" sign on the door, and there was a box where we were to hand in our completed labs. And then began the arduous task of finding my way OUT of the basement. I don't think I have ever seen that many warning signs in one place before. Honestly, do we really need to be warned of an "intense magnetic field"? Oh well. It was some excitement (not much really) in an otherwise dull day.

Later on in the day, I came across an interesting article about some rich guy who is starting up a space company that will take paying passengers up into space. It's nothing new, I suppose, but he is planning on having commercial space flights in three years. And with enough profit, he is then planning orbital flights, space hotels, and possibly flights to the Moon. Cool. They can count me in, that's for sure.

I also *ahem* acquired the movie "Shaun of the Dead". If you like crazy British humour, then this movie is for you. It is one of the most hilarious things I have seen in the past couple of days (ever since I last watched Harold and Kumar). I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I suppose I should wait 6 minutes so that the datestamp is different, but...

Well, today was pretty boring. I got my laundry done, and I got my physics lab done...

Oh, and I watched the movie Aliens. That's a great movie. But honestly, when the aliens are all coming through the ceiling, I could not help thinking "OMQ ZERG RUSH!!!!111!!!!111". Yes, I know I am a disturbed individual.

After the movie, I found this gem on albinoblacksheep.com. I must warn you, it's not for the weak minded.

Addendum: Fire Alarm

Well, I was on my computer, chatting on MSN, minding my own business. When suddenly, the fire alarms goes off. This was at 3:30 in the morning. So, I begin cursing as I reluctantly made my way to the exit. Well, it turned out to be quite a social event. Nothing brings people together like a fire alarm in the middle of the night.

Obviously, there was no fire. However, I noticed two strange things when I came back to my room. First, the entire third floor smells like burning (probably caused by someone's lack of skill with a microwave. Second (and even weirder), when I came into my room, two out of three of my air fresheners (AKA: Bounce dryer sheets hanging from the fan) had fallen off. And they were there when I left. Very strange indeed.

Wrong Rooms, Chinese Convenience Stores, and Movie Stars

So, yesterday (or rather, Friday), I go to my Engineering Design tutorial with my fully completed assignment. I'm all ready to hand it in as I walk towards the room, but suddenly I see that there is nobody there, and the door is locked. Shit. I had forgotten that I was supposed to go to a different room. But damn if I have no idea where this "different room" is. I at least have a pretty good idea what building it is in. So I walk over to the building, and begin looking. I look into every room on the first floor. Nothing. I walk up to the second floor and begin the same process. Anyways, after I had just begun searching the second floor, I found someone who was doing the same thing I was. However, they had already looked on that floor, and so we deduced that it was probably on the third floor. So up to the third floor we go, and at last, we get to the tutorial. Just in time to see the demonstration of stress and strain on a steel wire. Which, in other words, means weighting it down until it finally snaps. Which was cool. But what was even cooler is that we got our first quiz back. And I pulled off a sweet 100%. Score!

Later on that day, after my final class, I decided that I would go shopping. You see, there were two things that I desperately needed: duct tape, and CD-Rs. Actually I needed neither of these things, but I figured they might come in handy. So from my last class, I began walking south, because I vaguely remembered seeing some stores an unknown distance away from the university in a somewhat southerly direction. Anyways, after being detoured away from my planned path by some construction, I found myself walking through some sort of residential area. But, I thought, if I continued walking straight, I would eventually get to a store. And indeed I did. However, by this time, I was right in the heart of Chinatown. I entered a convenience store, hoping to find duct tape and recordable CDs. I found the duct tape, but when I asked the store clerk "Do you sell CD-Rs?", she thought I asked "Do you know how to get to city hall?". I had a hell of a time trying to explain that I wanted "A compact disk that your computer can record on", and finally she found me a box of 10 CD-Rs. However, I was looking for a bit more than 10, and I was not going to shell out the $15 bucks it was going to cost for the 10-pack. So, I left, and began walking north. Eventually, I went to the university bookstore and bought a 100-pack there. Problem solved.

Today (or rather yesterday), I went to visit my Aunt Suzanne in Scarborough. We went out to walk her dog, and she told me how the other day, she was walking through the park, and there was a big setup for filming a movie. Apparently, parts of the upcoming movie "Cinderella Man" (IMDb it, lazy ass) are being shot in that park, which is meant to look like New York's Central Park in the 1930's. Anyways, to make a long story short, my aunt met the director Ron Howard. So that's kind of cool. However, I can beat that, because I personally met the guy who played "Extreme Sports Punk #1" in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. He works with my uncle; they run a skateboarding store. He's a cool guy; he gave me stickers for the store which are now residing on my refridgerator and dresser. You should check out their website here . And no, I'm not getting paid for advertising it...


I have just been personally informed that a girl thinks I am "cute". Sweet!

*And now, back to your regular broadcast.*

Anyways, I actually met the guy a couple of weeks ago, at which time I had no idea that he was in the movie. Although, he did look really familiar when I met him. I only found out tonight that he was in the movie when my unvle was driving me back to the residence. So when I got back here, I checked it out on IMDb, and sure enough, there he was. I also checked to see what other movies were filmed in Toronto. And there were quite a few. There were even some that were filmed right here at the university (most recently, the movie "Mean Girls"). But the most famous would definitely have to be "Good Will Hunting", which not only was filmed here on campus, but parts of it were filmed right in this residence. Room 206, if I remember correctly. I was down there the other night, and the girl who lives in that room told me about it. So that's pretty neat. I actually have never seen the movie Good Will Hunting; I think I may watch that after this.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Forgotten Assignments, Evil C Compiler, and the Stress-Strain Curve of Steel

This morning I woke up happy. Well, considering that it was 8:00 and I had gotten less than 6 hours of sleep, I was relatively happy. I was happy because I had a physics assignment due, and I was completely finished, and I had checked and rechecked my answers to my satisfaction (this is something new; back in high school I would do assignments at the last minute, if at all). Anyways, after a leisurely chili lunch, I went to my room and packed the assignment safely in my binder where it would be kept until handed in at the physics tutorial. I walked down the street to the Bahen center, up to the third floor, into my tutorial room, and I got out my assignment. It was missing a page. A very important page too, as the entire thing was only three pages. So, I calmly got up, walked out of the room, and ran as fast as I could back to my dorm to pick it up. Thank God that it's only 600 meters between my residence and the Bahen center, because I got it there just in the nick of time. In fact, it probably shouldn't have been allowed, because it was due in the first five minutes of class, and I got it there after seven minutes. I can only hope that my memory is better tomorrow morning, when I have to hand in my Engineering Design assignment.

Throughout the course of my life, I have come across several different programming languages. However, the award for the most non-user-friendly goes to C. Sure, the low-level stuff might come in handy once in a while, but give me good old Visual Basic anyday.

Seven Things I Hate About C: (It would be 10, but I couldn't be bothered to think of any more)
1. The semicolons at the end of each line.
2. "\n"
3. Pointers. One "*" in the wrong place can crash your system.
4. Having to put all the functions before the main procedure.
5. No booleans!
6. No 64-bit support (I assume that's why the compiler doesn't work on my system).
7. Having to use UNIX in the labs.

Anyways, I downloaded a C compiler for my computer (although you can apparently log in to the ECF lab remotely, the website is down whenever I try it). I started it off with something simple, a "Hello, world" program. It compiled, but when I tried to run the program, it just flashed some sort of command line window and closed it down again. So I'm completely at a loss, but I have not given up yet. The computers in the lab are so horrible that it is worth a bit of trouble to get C working properly on my system.

I believe I mentioned my "Engineering Design" course in the first paragraph. The full name of this class is "Structures and Materials: An Introduction to Engineering Design". This is, without a doubt, one of the best courses I have ever taken. Instead of learning theory, like my other courses, we are actually doing practical stuff. For example, in the tutorial last week we had a demonstration of a static force system, and we measured the angles in it and then did the calculations to show what the angles are. Also, the professor had a big model of a suspension bridge in one of the lectures, and we figured out the forces on some of the cables. Tomorrow we get to see a demonstration of how much force it takes to snap a steel wire. So naturally, today we started learning about material strength, and in particular we studied steel. Finally, I understand stress-stain curves. I also now know that the toughness of a material is equal to the area under the curve, and the resilience is the area under the elastic portion of the curve. For once in my life, I am actually learning something that will be useful to me in the future! It's amazing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Road Cones, Canceled Lectures, and Nuclear Electric Propulsion

Last night, my roommate Tyler and his friend Mike apparently decided they wanted to join a fraternity, and went off to some pledge initiation thing. I guess that afterwards, the frat guys took them out to a bar, and they got piss drunk. I had just gone to bed when they came in at around 2:00. With them, they brought a road cone. Not one of those small ones though; this was one of those monstrous cylindrical things. Here is a picture of it beside Tyler's bed.

Anyways, they were pretty drunk, and they wanted to watch a movie, and Mike apparently couldn't figure out how to work Tyler's computer. When he couldn't find the file, Tyler attempted to call Mike a "dipshit", but what came out was "You're a shitdip." Yes, he actually called him a "shitdip." Absolutely hilarious.

Tuesdays are bad days for me. I have seven hours of classes; I start at 9 and end at 6, with two hour-long breaks at odd times. So it's 3 in the afternoon, and I am sitting in my computer science lecture room waiting for the dude to get there. I call him a dude because it's a graduate student that is teaching us, not a professor. He finally runs in just before the class is about to start, and goes to the board and writes in big letters: "LECTURE CANCELLED TODAY." Then he proceeds to run out. He looked like he was in a hurry. So I got an extra hour of break time before my computer science practical, which was nice. The practical, or "lab", or whatever you want to call it, was relatively pointless. There were two parts to the lab, with the instructions on the internet for us to download. Get this: by the time you download them, you are already finished part one, which consisted of "Figuring out your login name and password", "How to get to the internet in linux", and "where to find the instructions for the lab." That's it. So then, naturally, I moved on to part 2. In this part, we had to complete the incredibly hard task of writing a "Hello, world" program in C. And we were given the code for the program. Not much difficulty here. Although, truthfully enough, the UNIX terminal takes some getting used to. The worst part, however, is that the keyboard is SO DAMNED CLOSE to the edge of the desk, and the computer is bolted down right behind it so it can't be moved. So after a session of using those computers, everyone has painful red lines across their wrists.

Later on, I was browsing the net, and I came across some interesting news stories. First off, there's the strange story about how Microsoft is helping to sell Macintosh video games in Japan. Read more here.

Another news item that caught my eye was the one about how NASA has chosen a contractor for the 2011 Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) probe. Read more here. This bad boy will be the largest space probe ever, and it is going to be using Nuclear Electric Propulsion. Why is this significant? Well, the efficiency of rocket engines is measured in specific impulse (Isp), which is the number of seconds that a pound of fuel can create a pound of thrust. The best liquid hydrogen/ liquid oxygen engines available have an Isp of about 450 seconds. Nuclear Electric Propulsion can have an Isp of up to 5,000 seconds. And this is the first mission to ever use this type of propulsion.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Missed Classes, Huge Hard Drives, and Michael Moore

So today, I get up and go to my physics laboratory from 9 to 12 AM. Apparently I was so engrossed in the exciting* experiment that I completely forgot about my computer science class right after it. It turned out okay though, because I got lunch early, and I got an extra hour to play Unreal Tournament 2004 (awesome game). It's not like one needs to go to any lectures to learn things here anyways; all the lecture notes are posted on the internet. However, I hope not to accidentally miss any more of my lectures (although I'm not saying anything about purposely missing them).

After dinner, I came back to the residence, and while browsing the internet, I came across the biggest hard drive I had ever seen. http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?id=10129
At this corner, weighing in at 1,600 gigabytes, is the monstrous LaCie "Bigger Disk Extreme"! At the other corner, at a relatively puny 200 gigabytes, is the hard drive I bought last month. You see, at the time I thought 200 gigs was plenty for anyone, right? Wrong. I neglected to take into account the fact that not only do I have high speed internet, but I am connected to the university network. A network containing thousands of movies, hundreds of thousands of songs, and gigs and gigs of the loveliest porn you can imagine... I filled up 60 gigabytes in less than 2 days. I really need to start breaking out the DVD-Rs. Before I came to university, I bought a stack of 25, and I have hardly used any at the moment.

Later on, I was talking to some girl on MSN. Apparently she was at a math camp I attended two summers ago, but in all honesty I have no idea who she is. Anyways, she apparently has never heard of Michael Moore. I really thought she was joking, so I told her that if she wanted to ask stupid questions ("Who is Michael Moore?"), she should ask Google, not me. It turns out, however, that she was serious. I hope that at least she learned the value of googling. Note: I realize that "googling" should be capitalized, because Google is a trademarked name. However, they never intended their name to be used as a verb, and therefore I am taking the liberty of dropping the capital.

*exciting is used sarcastically in this context. The experiment consisted of using a slightly inclined air track and a motion sensor to determine the acceleration due to gravity. This was stretched out over three hours.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

First Post

Well, this is my first post of my first blog. I figured since everyone and his dog has their own blog, I should too. Sure, I know, blogging is so 2003, but better late then never, right? Anyways, check my profile for information about me, and I'll try to post at least once daily.

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