October 14, 2008
Ah yes, the gigantic break in the middle of fall semester that we all look forward to: Fall Break. Okay, so the break is only two days off (Monday and Tuesday), but since there have been no days off since the beginning of the semester (not even labor day), this break is a big deal. A huge percentage of students go home for the long weekend. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’d estimate it to be about 80%.
Me? I stayed at Cornell for break. It’s fun to hang out here when there is no (immediate) work to do. I played board games, ate food, slept, watched anime, and just relaxed. The fences blocking of the new grass on west campus were removed just in time for when everyone left for break and it makes for nice walking. Finally all signs of construction on west campus are gone.
The toughest thing about fall break is food. All the dining halls close and then the closest place to get food is college town. While it’s annoying I can’t really blame Cornell because with so many people gone it would be kind of silly to have the dining halls open. Being on meal plan, I rarely eat off campus, so it was a nice change of pace. When I was here taking classes summer ’07 I ate at college town a lot so it was somewhat nostalgic, but it didn’t take too long for me to get sick of it again and feel the strain on my wallet.
The weather during break was great and made walking the 10 minutes to college town more of a joy than an inconvenience. The pictures you see chronicles one of my tremendous journeys. There are two main ways of going from west to college town. One is by the main roads that you see here and one is through some nice small paths. After living in west for over a year I still don’t know which one I prefer.
September 7, 2008
Orientation was only a couple of days, but there sure was a lot going on. I spent a good amount of time helping out the club I’m in, the Cornell Japanese Animation Society (CJAS). We’re known around campus for our impressive chalkings. Chalkings in case you don’t know are a common form of advertising at Cornell and many other Schools. Students write down events and such in chalk on walkways in hope that people will read them while walking around. Ithaca isn’t perhaps the best place in the world to do chalkings as it rains so often, but the weather has been nice lately and getting fresh blood is crucial for organizations.
Different groups have there own signature chalkings. The Hangovers have their many smiley faces, The Cordials have their colorful martini glasses, and CJAS has their anime characters. Competition over chalking area is fierce especially during orientation. Also, it’s important for organizations to follow SAO guidelines. For the most part these rules are followed, but not always. Also, writing over another clubs advertisements is a big no no, just wait for rain and then there will be lots more room to use.
CJAS really only has two skilled artists but lots of people can help out with the tedious parts of chalking like filling in colors thoroughly and doing lettering for information (if they can spell). So I don’t have much drawing skill, but I am an expert at filling in the colors. I remember all those long grueling hours of training as a child for this. This orientation we did three chalkings around campus. My fingers hurt after a while, and my pants turned strange colors, but I did discover the answer to a long pondered question. Can you get sunburned in Ithaca? The answer is yes.
I also went to ClubFest last Sunday. I helped out with the table for CJAS and wondered around. As usual there was a lot of enthusiasm from clubs and a big turnout. My only complaint is that they had really loud music. I hurt my voice trying to talk to people. It seems silly to have ClubFest when people have trouble talking to each other.
Right now it has been only two weeks since I got back to Ithaca. Classes have started and I’ve already had problem sets due. So many things are going on that it already feels like I’ve never left.
August 26, 2008
Again new students, welcome to Cornell! I’ve made a little list of things that I think may be helpful for new students
- Bag in bag: On one of my first days at Cornell it rained a lot (big surprise). I got wet, which isn’t a huge deal as I don’t dissolve in the rain, but all the papers and books in my bag got wet, which is a big deal. So I used a handy Cornell Store plastic bag to protect what’s in my backpack and have never had a problem since. I suppose this could be avoided with a waterproof bag, but extra protection never hurts. Water can be very destructive and in Ithaca you never know when it can show up.
- Get good shoes: Again with rain, but now I brag about my shoes. My shoes are awesome, they are water proof (not just water resistant), breathable, comfortable, and they are better than yours. When I by mistake step in a deep puddle (this will happen to you), my feet rarely get wet; there’s little worse than sitting though a boring classes for hours with soggy feet. I suppose the moral of the story is that you should always be prepared for rain in Ithaca.
- Schedulizer: http://www.schedulizer.com is a very useful site for scheduling your classes. The software that Cornell uses has a rudimentary capability of displaying your full schedule, but schedulizer is more powerful (and colorful!) and you can use it outside of the add/drop period. Just be careful not to rely on it as it’s not officially affiliated with Cornell and may not always be up to date with Cornell classes. Update: Schedulizer no longer has Cornell Classes because “Cornell has made it prohibitively difficult for us to maintain accurate course information” Update: Schedulizer is back up, but classes may be out of date.
- NetID’s: You should already know by now your NetID. Besides being the your all important Cornell email addresses, they are often used for identification. I recommend forwarding your email to another account since the Cornell interface for mail is pretty basic. You can do this at http://whoiam.cornell.edu/. My mail goes to my gmail account, which I really like. It’s also important to be aware of the personal information connected with your NetID in the Cornell Electronic Directory. Through searching on Cornell.edu, you can find people by using their names or NetIDs. By default, your campus address and telephone are displayed. If you are concerned with privacy issues you can edit and remove information on jtf.cornell.edu although for me it took a long time for changes to take affect. The Electronic Directory can be a useful tool for finding people, but I think that it is important for people to realize that the information up there is public for the world to see.
- Workload: Maintaining a healthy consistent workload is a difficult yet critical task. I have by no means mastered this myself yet, but I’d recommend experimenting to find how far you can go before it’s too much. Go ahead a try taking classes that seem like a stretch, but know when you have taken on too much.
- NUBB: Stands for the Network Usage Based Billing System. There is a charge of $0.0015 per additional MB of bandwidth you use over 10 GB every Month at cornell. It’s a good idea to keep track of your bandwidth usage by visiting nubb.cornell.edu although it’s only updated daily. You will get an email when you pass 10 GB, but with the speed of Cornell’s network it very easy to go way over quickly. As to why there are charges for bandwidth and what I think about them, that’s a whole other article.
- Cornell Planner: It’s smart to keep track of everything with this little book. It is a calendar with a lot of useful dates specific to Cornell University. This year it’s a nice looking blue color with a picture of Uris library from west campus. This is my third planner, I think I’m gonna start a collection.
I hope everyone is enjoying orientation, I know I am.
August 17, 2008
There has been a ton of stuff that’s happened since my last post long ago in April. Well to sum it up, I survived the semester. I passed all of my classes and did alright on 3 of the 4 (let’s not talk about the 4th….). The end of the semester was fun. There was CornellCon, with anime, video games, and sword fighting in late April and of course Slope Day in early May. Last slope day I was stuck finishing up a lab, but this year I had some free time and actually went. Partying isn’t really my thing, but it was fun just to wander around and check out the scene. I also went through the cool underground tunnel from Olin Library to Uris Library that’s open on slope day. I took some cool pictures of the slope from Uris, too bad McGraw tower was closed (I actually still have never been up there shame on me).
So two years down, two more to go. Sophomore year was a good year, although not without its share of difficulties. Things could have better, things could have been worse, but what’s important is that I avoided disaster and stuck with things. After two years of classes I have narrowed down my interests to Physics (huge range of topics), Astronomy, Computer Science, and possibly Math. The more I learn about them, the more I find out how little I actually know. There is so much cool stuff out there to learn, unfortunately I’m too lazy to learn everything I’d like to : ( But I have two years left and I hope to make the best out of them. I know I’ll have a tremendous amount of work to do, but considering how much I’ve learned from the past two years of mostly intro classes, I’m really excited about continuing my education and hope I can keep with it.
April 17, 2008
A common question about Cornell is “how is the workload?” The short unhelpful answer is that it depends, duh. Here is the longer answer:
If you really want to graduate with doing hardly any work, it’s possible. Take an “easy” major, just meet the minimum requirements; it isn’t all that hard. But then if you do that, why are you even bothering to go to Cornell, just to get a certificate that says that you’re smart? If you want to get the most out of Cornell, you will take the major you want to take independent of how “easy” or “hard” it is considered to be. Any major will be difficult if you apply yourself to it, but I can’t really talk about anything other than my own major, AEP, which has been extremely difficult so far.
My life at Cornell has been centered around doing work (especially this semester), I’m always thinking about upcoming tests and assignments; it’s the focus of why I’m here. But of course I don’t do nearly as much work as I ought to, there are always so many cool things to do and only so few hours in the day. Whenever a small break in work comes around and I slack off some, I’m suddenly behind in everything. It’s really tough to keep on top of everything all the time and sometimes I just get sick of the constant battle and need a nice break even at the expense of my work. It’s really hard now that spring has come just look how green it is! But somehow I’m surviving the battle and I enjoy being challenged; I think I’m getting a lot out of my hard classes.
I’ve found it extremely difficult to find the right course load that works for me. Too much, I can’t focus enough on each class, too little I’m wasting my time here. Taking full advantage of everything at Cornell is impossible and it’s hard to find how far to extend yourself without becoming overwhelmed. The following guide may help tell if you have too much work:
You are overloaded with work if you find yourself:
- Trying to get some rest by closing your eyes while walking to classes
- Telling time based on exam dates and when assignments are due, “When was March, like 3 problem sets ago? I forget”
- Applying what you learn excessively, “Wow, I’ve been getting a lot of observations of photons at 510 nm lately” (trans: Wow, it’s been very green lately)
- Being jealous of people reading newspapers during lunch, “Who has time for that, don’t they have work to do?”
- Never posting on your blog as often as you should
- Thinking late times aren’t that late, “It’s only 2:31 am, I have plenty of time”
- Feeling uncomfortable, like something is not right with the universe, when you fully complete an assignment before it’s due
- Trivializing things not so trivial, “After that it’s just algebra” or “After that it’s just Calculus” or “After that it’s just solving the differential equation” or “After that it’s just solving Laplace’s equation in a toroidal coordinate system” or “After that it should be easily solvable somehow”
- Shielding yourself from being hit by an exorbitant number of photons on the rare chance you emerge from your protective shelter deep underground
March 13, 2008
Yay, it’s finally time for break. I’m going home to get some serious rest. This is a nice week-long break, although it ends on Easter Sunday arg. My suite is eerily silent as all my suite mates are already gone for the Cornell Glee Club China Tour. Unfortunately I do have work to do on break: a problem set for 322 and I need to implement Conway’s Game of Life for a project in CS 312. I’m not going to be doing much on break so I might as well get work done. It is now about the half way point in spring semester and I’m doing okay so far. My grades aren’t too good but I’m definitely passing everything and that means a lot! It has been a fun and exciting semester so far and I’ve already learned a ton of stuff. Some things haven’t worked out as nicely as I’d like but that’s how it goes.
I’m taking a bus home today so that means yes, I’m cutting a couple of classes and yes, I’m missing Dragon Day. Although I’d like to go to these, I feel a heavy case of laziness setting in and I need a break from school. Yes, Yes, I’m missing Dragon Day, how un-Cornellian like of me. I went last year and it was fun (I mean who doesn’t like a bonfire in the middle of the arts quad?), but it isn’t nearly the all glorious Cornell tradition that tour guides like to paint it as. The Architecture students are really into it as usual. They crashed Duffield the other night dressed up as “Engineers” (I was there; it wasn’t pretty) and ran through the arts quad all painted in green and wearing very little. Anyway, it is finally time for some relaxing. Goodbye Ithaca.
Update: I just learned from the Sun that apparently what happened at Duffield is called the “Nerd Walk”. The article here.
March 5, 2008
Bear Access is going to be replaced with PeopleSoft (owned by Oracle) during break. It is cool that Bear Access is created by Cornell, but it is always a pain getting it to work, especially for pre-enrollment, which was all I ever really used it for. From the main page on the Cornell University Registrar site:
We are implementing a new student system that brings admissions, student records, bursar & financial aid together into one system. We started several months ago with admissions & financial aid & this March, bursar & student records go live.
When you return from Spring Break you’ll see the reincarnation of Just the Facts/CoursEnroll with a different interface and new features. There will be some new terminology & we’ll be making the transition from 3 to 4-digit course numbers. The 4-digit numbers are in the current Courses of Study in parenthesis after the Department and 3-digit number, i.e., ASIAN 219(2219).
I hope this new system is easy to use, but there are always problems with such large changes. Cornell has been using Bear Access for a long time and this seems like a sudden switchover. The Sun talked to David Yeh, vice president of Student and Academic Services, about the change:
Yeh confirmed that in the upcoming pre-enrollment, students will be able to make use of five new features — a course-specific waitlist, auto mated section enrollment, swap, reserve capacity and dynamic dates … The new system has gone through “extensive testing,” but Yeh warned that issues could still occur when it is implemented because the system is “very complicated.”
The new system is be able to handle more simultaneous users, a big issue since most everyone accesses it right when it opens. It is will also now be through a browser (yay!) and have new features that will make pre-enrollment and managing classes easier. I’m pretty excited about the switch and think it is a good move given that pre-enrollment has been an unnecessary pain every semester; I just hope it transitions well.
March 5, 2008
Cornell has been pushing Ruckus, a company that provides free music downloads for students. According to this article in the Sun, almost 6 thousand people have registered for Ruckus at Cornell so far and “over 750,000 songs have been downloaded.” Now what exactly these numbers mean I wonder. I do know a lot of people who have signed up for Ruckus, but I don’t actually know anyone who liked it and still uses it. Also, how do number of songs downloaded relate to number of songs listened? In any event it is clear that some people actually do use Ruckus. I’m not a heavy music downloader, but what is important to me is that I can get what it is I’m looking for and that it is not DRM. Ruckus does not do this. The Sun goes on to say:
Cornell’s agreement with Ruckus is one of many initiatives to decrease illegal downloading and educate students about its consequences … Beginning this coming school year, the University will take further steps to educate new students in an effort to prevent illegal downloading.
Of course if Ruckus really does decrease illegal downloading, it can only relate to music. This does nothing to illegal video and software downloading, which bandwidth-wise take up the bulk of pirating. I personally think that groups like the RIAA and MPAA are fighting a losing battle to control media as it becomes more and more user controlled. Ruckus is a nice compromise for music, but what happens when the user can’t find what they want?
See also Matt Hintsa on Ruckus, Wikipedia on Ruckus, Defective by Design
March 2, 2008
I have been super busy as of late. I’m always amazed by how much stuff there is to do and get done here at school, especially compared to when I’m at home. Anyway, last week I reached a point where the only way for me to even attempt to complete all of my work was to skip sleeping. It wasn’t because I was slacking off, I just had too much on plate. So because of my love of sleep I dropped MATH 413, I just simply didn’t have any time to devote to it. All my classes this semester are quite good, but it is pointless to take so many if I can’t spend enough time on each one. It is really hard to find the perfect balance between having plenty to do and being overwhelmed with work.
Despite this I’ve been enjoying my semester so far and I’ve already learned a lot. Here are a few random things that I’ve learned in the past six weeks:
- Applying for internships is a pain, but there are tons of cool jobs out there. You might as well apply.
- Even though every week of Mathematical Physics feels like it can’t get more difficult, it can and it does
- If you go sledding down the slope, don’t go down the steepest part with the asphalt path in your way that makes you flip over and fly into the air…
- I can’t survive without regularly consuming delicious Cornell chocolate milk and apple cider
- Simple combinatorics are never that simple
- When you can work with a partner on a CS project you really should, it helps a lot. This might have been why I was having so much trouble with CS 211 towards the end of last year. Speaking of CS211, there is a lecture up on Cornell Cast of 211 taught by Graeme Bailey, check it out. I’ve never had Bailey, but I always hear good things.
- I finally understand Cantor’s diagonal argument
- Astronomers are super clever in figuring out how to measure distances of far away objects
- Functional programing languages are very compact and powerful as well as awesome
- The physics of stars is incredibly interesting, difficult, and cool.
- The methods of solving differential equations are endless
- Being in the MSDNAA is quite awesome
- Always have backup batteries, even the simplest of devices can lead to failure. That and the fact no one uses AA anymore.
Oh, and if you so desire, click on this picture for a short clip of one of my treks up the slope. I’ve been playing around with video a bit but wordpress really seems to dislike embedding video.
November 1, 2007
So today was Halloween. Boy things have changed from when I was little. Instead of a magical day full of fun, excitement, and sugar rushes, my day was full of the magic of mathematics and of physics. I took photos throughout the day so you could live vicariously through me.
I first started off the day with the two best drinks in existence, chocolate milk and apple cider. Nothing else comes close to their awesomeness (Thank you Cornell). After that I trudged up the hill to psych 101 at 10:10 where Maas talked about visual perception.
Then in physics at 11:15, to try to illustrate superposition of waves, half the class sang one note, half another, and the teacher a third one. Unfortunately all this did was prove that physics students can’t sing.
12:25 was mathematical physics where we continued on the exponential form of Fourier Series. Apparently this is the useful form of the Fourier Series unlike the sine and cosine form that I learned last year.
Then at 1:25 I was off to circuits lab. The last experiment that I have pictured here was pretty cool. We were able to switch among four different analog signals by using a two bit digital input. Although it only required some logic gates and a switch IC, it quickly became a behemoth of wires. Luckily our circuit worked right away and didn’t require any painful troubleshooting yay! My lab partner and I sneaked out of lab an hour early at 3:30 and I went back down the slope towards west campus.
After I did a fair amount of lounging, eat dinner, and starred at my prelab assignment, I went off to my second lab of the day at 7:30. The lab was about polarization of light, which actually had little to do with the class it was for, but it was interesting none the less. I finished at 10:00 and then saw the cool Jack o’ Lantern clock on McGraw Tower on my way back. Sorry for the poor picture quality, you can view a better picture of it here.
It was a long and fulfilling day and even though some may have found my day rather dull, I thought it was exciting with lots of cool new things going on. But it was a very long day and now I am tired. Goodnight.