Monday, February 07, 2005

Not Sure

Well, I made it through the calculus midterm mostly intact; even finished the computer science assignment (a record 1 hour and 24 minutes before the deadline). So just two more midterms, the easy ones, and I get to go home. It's interesting, though, that I am starting to realize that maybe "making it to the next time you get to go home" isn't really such a good goal. Perhaps there's something more important that I should be thinking about. The obvious answer is that I'm here to learn stuff so I can get a good job; and thus I should be placing more importance on my courses. But why? Really, why? What good is four (or five, or six) years of university going to do me in the long run? Am I really doing what I want? Where's the payoff here?

Truth is, I've wanted to have a career in the aerospace industry ever since I was four years old and my parents bought me a space picture book (which I still have). Sure, most kids go through phases. There's the "space" phase, there's the "dinosaur" phase, etc. But how many actually become astronauts or paleontologists? Are their dreams forgotten; are they content with mediocrity? Or is it I who is at fault, for not realizing that my dreams are impossible? Have I just never grown up from being the typical kid who wants to be an astronaut?

Am I even following the right path towards my goals? There's no list of "steps to follow if you want to go into space". The only real astronaut that I've talked to was a mechanical engineer, not an aerospace engineer, and he was in the military. Perhaps I should sign up for the army? Drop all my pretensions of being smart enough to do all this? Maybe instead, I should become an entrepreneur, eventually become the next Richard Branson or Paul Allen (hell, even Dennis Tito); fund my own ride into space?

But even as I write this, I am coming to grips with the fact that space in and of itself can no longer be considered a lifetime aspiration. Give it three years, and a couple hundred thousand dollars will get you on a sub-orbital sightseeing flight. Another three, and orbit will be a destination. There'll be a Starbucks on the Moon before NASA returns there, I'd put money on it. The future of space travel is something I've thought a lot about, but I hardly expected myself to be living it. Maybe I'll go into nanoengineering; focus on asteroid mining. Continue on my current path, pick up some classes on plasma dynamics; design fusion rockets? Become a civil engineer; build bases on Mars?

I don't know.

For now I'll keep my head down; keep working...

I wish people would stop pretending. They're your friend as long as it helps them, but then as soon as you need something... gone. Why are they so fickle? Why are females, in particular, so fickle? It's all illogical. But eventually, once you have your heart broken enough times, you give up. I've almost given up. But... that's what they do. They taunt me. Seemingly within my reach, but... they aren't. Taunting. Why why why why why. I don't understand any of it. Even my virus-infested computer is more logical. And it doesn't seem to have the desire to hurt me constantly. What are a computer's desires? Does it have any? What if we get to the point where they do? That would be bad... I can't even understand my own species, much less any other. Ah, fuck it.

When it becomes feasible, I'm going to build a spaceship, fly to the asteroid belt, and live out my days as a hermit on Ceres. And did I mention I'm up to 4,000 hits on this shitty blog too. If there are actually people reading this, do something. Post a comment. Click on an ad. E-mail me. I don't care. I don't care.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Light At The End of The Tunnel? Not Likely...

As this is the beginning of midterm season, it is the time during which the academic establishment tortures us poor students by piling on an amount of work that is higly disproportionate to the average amount of work we should be doing. And it came up so fast. Why, it seems like just yesterday I was stepping off the train and into Union Station; feeling fresh and ready to start the second semester. But that was over a month ago.

I know it sounds crazy. "Only one month, and midterms are starting already? That's madness!", I hear you thinking. But it's true. Though this is only the fifth week of class, everyone is rushing to fit in any midterms, assignments, projects, and essays before reading week. The professors do it, I think, mostly so they can take the week to mark everything. But in truth, I am happy that I can go home for a week and not have to worry about studying or doing any work (Work of the intellectual type, that is. It's basically guaranteed that my parents will have me stacking wood, moving hay, cleaning stalls; doing any and all of those myriad tasks that make living on a farm so much fun).

So in the long term, everything will work out nicely. In approximately seven days, sixteen hours, and 25 minutes, I'll be on my way home for a carefree week of fun and relaxation. But what about the time between now and then? I have everything from a poetry reading (no kidding) to a calculus midterm worth 20% of the final mark. It's this calculus midterm that's really bothering me right now. See, I have a problem. I don't know how to integrate. Now, I know what you're thinking. "This guy calls himself an engineer, and yet he can't do an absurdly simple task such as taking the integral of [cos(x)-sin(2x)]^(2/3)?". Well, it's true. The problem is that in last semester's calculus class, one could get by without an understanding of integration. But in this class, they expect you to know it right away. What's the deal here? And don't even get me started on the pages of identities that we are supposed to memorize. cos(x)^2 integrates to cos(2x)/4? Who the hell invented that? Surely it won't be detrimental to our learning if we were allowed to have some sort of reference for all these identities. Unfortunately, calculus at U of T is stuck in the dark ages. We don't even get to use calculators, so good luck trying to bring in a CRC book.

And don't try to get my hopes up by telling me that I'll remember everything once I get in there. During a quiz last week, I couldn't integrate e^x. Seriously.

Calculus notwithstanding, there's a heck of a lot of other stuff I need to get done, not the least of which is the computer science assignment. In this case, I know I have the ability to do it; the only question is whether I have the programming prowess to manage to seperate everything into classes, .h and .cpp files, functions, structures, etc. I failed miserably last time I tried, and in fact ended up submitting two copies of the program (a "working" version that had everything inside int main(), and a "non-working" version wherein everything was seperated and commented properly). Actually, on second thought, there is another problem with this assignment. Due in no small part to my procrastinating tendencies, I put off starting it until last Saturday. It's due in three days. Finishing it is one thing, but debugging it is another. From past experience, it's generally a 1:10 ratio between writing code and debugging said code. Given that I've spent rougly two hours on it so far, and I estimate I'm about 1/4 done, I don't have time to finish it even if I went the entire weekend without sleeping, eating, or playing video games.

In conclusion, sorry about the rant. I usually try to write about stuff that has at least a little bit of humour value, but it appears I have failed here. I'll hopefully be back - unless I flunk out and have to stary a blog titled "Kyle's Unemployment Escapades" - with someething a bit funnier, and more importantly, a bit shorter. Truth is, I'm most likely to update after the hit count passes 4,000.
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