Monday, April 21, 2008

Yeah for infinite series!

If anybody read my post about infinite series a couple weeks back, I'm proud to say I was able to wrap my head around the topic well enough to score a 95 on my test! That means I have a 94.5 average going into the final on May 1st. That also means I can get an 81 on my final and still get an A in the class. I really hope I mesh as well with my next professor. I've had very good luck with Math instructors at Thomas Nelson, and I'll be a little sad to say goodbye to those folks when I transfer.

I had to leave my Calc. II class a little early the other day, so I had to go to Mr. Tyler's office to get my test back. I always like to talk to him anyway, so I didn't mind sticking around TNCC for his office hours. Mr. Tyler is probably about 70 years old and has spent his whole life in Hampton Roads. I knew from talking to him before that he is from Charles City County, but it took until this last office visit to put the pieces together. His family has been in this area for hundreds of years, and his name should be pretty familiar to anybody with the slightest knowledge of US history. The most notable Tyler would probably be our tenth president John Tyler. John Tyler was the vice president to William Henry Harrison who has some significance in my family. The Tyler's influence in the area can be felt by Sonya and me in pretty much every direction. We live off of John Tyler Highway, Sonya works at William & Mary in Tyler Hall, and the courtyard outside her office is dedicated to the Tyler family and includes a plaque with my professor's name, George Tyler.
As I mentioned before, I really enjoy talking to Mr. Tyler. He was talking to me about his collection of Volkswagens. He has a hobby of finding beat up Volkswagens of any variety and fixing them up. He has had a collection of Beetles, Karman Ghia, Buses, Porsche 914s, and even "The Thing."
He told me about a cross-country trip he took with his wife and kids in an old Volkswagen bus that reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine. I don't think his trip was nearly so calamitous, but it did sound like fun.
We got to talking about how long people have been doing calculus with nothing more than a feather, some ink, and some paper. He showed me his father's Calculus book from 1919. I think I want to collect antique Calculus books. His father's book was small, leather-bound, and filled with his father's notes in pencil. There was even some notebook paper folded in the middle of the book, and Mr. Tyler wasn't sure if it was his or his father's handwriting. It's amazing to me that this man has Mathematics in his family the way my brother and I have photography and chess boards in ours. The difference being that Mr. Tyler teaches calculus, and I can only take photos with an automatic camera, and I don't even know the rules to chess.
The next week is going to be pretty hectic. I've got two more days of classes followed by three days of finals. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Electric Cars

Sonya and I want a new car. I want an electric car. I know that's very Ed Begley, Jr. of me, but that's what I want. I found the car I want and it's in Canada. Zenn Motor Company is coming out with a fully electric car that has a 250 mile range, a top speed of 80 mph, and a charge time of 5 minutes. Isn't that the exact car that everybody wants? As of now this car does not meet US safety standards, and I actually think the standards are ridiculous. It's all physics. Our standards are based on big heavy cars smashing into other big heavy cars. We've got all these giant SUVs playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with little cars, so we ban the little car instead of the man-eating hippo.

There must be a way to import this car to the states, some exemption, some way to apply reason to the unreasonable. Zenn is using the ultra capacitor, and much of the buzz is so positive that it provokes skepticism. This wave of "green" automobiles currently in development is so inspiring, but as per usual, the US manufacturers seem thoroughly uninspired. The Chevy Volt could be the exception, but Chevy is too concerned with making their car look American (big and stupid) that they're missing the boat entirely. Hybrids should be considered a temporary quick fix, and they are magnificent for that purpose. Now there are better options, and that is the direction any smart, forward-thinking company would lean. So Zenn is from Canada, and I could be proud to at least buy a North American car even if that north American country is not the US.

Another interesting car is french-developed Compressed Air Technology (CATs) car designed by Moteur Development International. This car probably does meet US safety standards, and it's cheap (about $18,000.) The body is all carbon fiber, so it can be stronger than steel. There's no frame, so it's light. You'll have to read the story at the link on the CATs system because I can't explain it properly. As far as I can tell, this car runs on magic.

I'm not as excited as I once was about fuel-cell cars. Let the fuel-cells generate electricity at home, and charge your electric car with your home fuel cell. Then you can add some minerals to your fuel cell's exhaust, and make your own Evian.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Who put on the brakes?!

Infinite Sequences and Series are difficult. Some things go pretty quickly, and some smack you around and call you Toby. This stuff is like shopping at Ross; there's crap everywhere. It's like everything I learned in calculus up to this point just got thrown back in my face. "We'll see what you remember," said Freidrich Bessel. I'm sure I'll wrap my head around this stuff; I just hope I get it before test day!
On a lighter note, my summer schedule has improved. I can't make Spanish 2 fit in, so I'll be done with the summer semester by July 12. I have Spanish 2 in my fall schedule now, but I'm not sure if its really doable. Adding another class eats into my study time, and I have a feeling I'm going to need all the study time I can get.
Next up in Calculus II: Multiplication and Division of Power Series. Gulp.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A little more thirty.

Milestones decrease after you turn 30, and instead of being fun, they are just kinda boring. Sonya and I have a joke about birthdays after you turn 30; you are just more 30 than you were before. Then you turn 40, and I guess it works the same. My mom likes to say that 55 is an important birthday, but I don't understand why. It shouldn't be any more important than 11, 22, 33, 44, etc. Maybe she's confused by the importance of 25 and 75, but those are clearly quarters of a century. She likes to put positive spins on otherwise mundane events, and maybe that's a good thing. It's easy to be cynical, and being cheery about nothing is pretty difficult. Sometimes I'm worried that she's just surprised to be alive, so every year is a big deal. Perhaps if you live your life that way, you'll never take anything for granted. I've been so stressed out and busy with school that I haven't had much time to really enjoy my free time. I feel like I'm always rushing to get my free time out of the way so I can get back to studying. It's not that I don't enjoy my free time, but I've always been the kind of person who can not sleep if I know of got unfinished business. That's the problem with school; you've always got unfinished business. Even when school gets out, I'm thinking about the next semester. I've got to order my books, refresh my memory on everything I'll need to know for my next semester of classes, and figure out how to make time for the really important people in my life. I'm always afraid that the people I love think that they don't matter to me because I spend so much time studying, but that's not the case. Hopefully, when I finally finish school, things will be different. Of course, then Sonya and I will have kids, careers, and home life, so it will be a challenge to make room for the other things that matter. We'll try our best to stay positive, and maybe after we've accomplished all of that, 55 will seem like a big deal.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Out of synch with the rest of the world.

You can tell you are out of synch with school semesters and you are taking unique courses when your schedule looks like mine. Luckily my summer semester doesn't look too bad, but my fall semester is the pits. Monday through Thursday I need to be at class at 11:00 am, but the following classes on those days don't start until 7:00 pm. The one exception is Physics II Lab which is on Tuesday at 4:00 PM. That cuts my wait time to three hours on Tuesday. This ridiculous schedule leaves me either having to head home after my first class and doubling my gas expenses or staying at school for 10 hours. I'll see Sonya for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. I guess that's what I get for waiting this long to finish school! So, Elizabeth, Abigail, Kate and Sarah ...stay in school! The good news in that otherwise dreadful schedule is ample study time, however, I will probably need to go to Panera to study because the facilities at TNCC are deplorable. I think the legs on the study tables are held together with Kindergarten paste, the computers here cannot load Gmail for some reason, and the student body looks like the cast of D.C. Cab. I pity the fool who tries to get his learn on in this place! (On a side note, Sonya knows students at William & Mary who do not know who Mr. T is. ...scary.) I'm beginning to fear my Spring '09 schedule. My only hope is that by the Spring I should be fully on track with the Engineering curriculum, so all of those classes should be priorities for the Engineering dept. to staff. Of course, most of the schedule blocks for math professors are going to be filled with College Algebra, Pre-Calculus II, or maybe Calculus II. They might have two sections of Differential Equations to offer, but I would be surprised. My other classes are pretty specialized, so I would be astonished if they offered more than one section. Curses.