Winter Term 2007

To sum up the last term:

I took three classes: Ordinary Differential Equations, Japanese 205, and Classical/Computational Mechanics, affectionately (though with a thin edge of nervousness) referred to by many physics majors as "Classy" and "Compy". These last two ate me alive: the average weekly problem set was 18 hours in length, although one went up to 25 hours. I spent a lot of mornings (9:00 P.M. -- 3:00 A.M.) in Olin, the physics building, staring at Mathematica and struggling through Lagrangians. "You know, the windmill is really pretty at sunrise," my friend Max told me. "You can see it through the windows of the Olin hallway."

The last two weeks of the term were consumed by a massive final project: building and modeling a tinkertoy siege engine with the use of Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. My partner and I wrote hundreds of lines of code, and dozens of pages of equations, trying to model the energy transfer between the pendulum falling and the motion of the wheeled base. The problem consumed my life; walking to dinner, waiting in line, even in other classes, I'd think about drag models, wheel inertia, and projectile efficiency. We worked somewhere around 60 hours per person over two weeks.

Then there was the take-home exam.

A 30 hour monstrosity--one problem, parts A through O, we wrote our own Runge-Kutta solver, derived Lagrangians and Hamiltonians, and non-dimensionalized the problem three different ways. By this point, eight hours of sleep a night was right out: I spent those two weeks doing coursework contiguously, with a one-hour break each weekend. Then, finally, it was done: the paper was finished, the model made accurate predictions, the powerpoint was finished, and we gave our talk. Maybe we did well, maybe not, but it was done.

There was another take-home for ODEs, and a Japanese final, but they didn't seem that hard. Everything worked out all right in the end. And, looking back, I'm sort of happy about the whole thing: much as I resented the professor at the time, he got us to accomplish some pretty incredible things. :-)

Other things happened, too: I was fortunate to play for two broomball teams: Harmony on Ice (the Aikido club), and Gays on Ice (self-explanatory, really). Harmony started out a little uncoordinated, but game after game we got better at passing, knowing positions, and controlling the ball. Joel-sensei is an astonishingly good player! We made it to the playoffs, and won our first three games 11:0. We were defeated in the fourth, but it was a great season. Totally ruined the knees of my pants, though: this summer, I'll have to patch them with something tougher.

After five terms of Japanese, I've decided to not take 206. It conflicted with Partials, and would have made made my schedule a lot harder. It's a tough thing to give up, though; I love the language.

I tested for pre-fourth kyu mid-term, and fourth at the end of last term. Despite messing up the timing of the buki technique (there were fourteen!), it went pretty well. Can almost do jump-breakfall #2 now. I'll be working on pre-third stuff most of Spring term, along with demo stuff for Ann Arbor.

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