Thursday, August 28, 2008

Neoprene is cool stuff.

I have a new routine of putting my bike in the back of my truck, driving to VCU, and then riding my bike the half mile to class. Today it is raining, so my task is a little more complicated. My backpack is not waterproof though it is a bit water resistant. I was concerned about the safety of my laptop until I remembered it is in a neoprene sleeve. I honestly wondered why they always make the sleeves out of neoprene, but now my internal stupid question has been answered. My computer has its own little dry-suit. That makes my happy, for everything in my backpack would have been soaked if the rain were just a little more severe. Now I can blog from the comfort of the quiet room in the Trani Life Sciences Building here at VCU. By the way, that is the best name for any building here at school. The Tranies are infamous here in Richmond.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let the home work begin!

I spent the first half of Saturday doing Dynamics homework. The problems were really interesting, and I felt well prepared for them. We jumped right in to some pretty cool Physics involving gravity equations. As usual, I got stumped for a long time because I was misunderstanding the text, but the problems took no time once I realized my mistake. Today I'll be doing Differential Equations, but the homework is Calculus review. Material Science is going to be a little like Biology because there's no way to learn it other than to read it over and over. Physics II seems like a really cool class, and the professor works really hard to make sure everybody gets it. Bare in mind, these are all first impressions, but I'm pretty excited to finally be in a real Engineering community.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last Week of Freedom?

This was supposed to be my last week of freedom until the fall semester begins, but then I made the decision to transfer to VCU. Now my classes begin this week on Thursday, and there are a ton of preparations to be done. I already have assignments on Blackboard. This week, instead of going bowling or finishing my Thomas Jefferson biography, I'll be reading Dynamics, Material Science, and Physics texts. I'm not at all bummed to be diving in this way, but the end of summer just crept up on me. As each new semester progresses, the new material makes the previous semester's lessons feel like kid stuff. I'm not even going to try to do any reading for Differential Equations until after the first lecture; that would be just nuts.
Now I'm at a real university, so there is actual help to be found. I have tutors for all my classes at my disposal, so a phone call to Klaus won't be my only option when I'm near tears in frustration. I'll probably still call him because he happens to be gifted at explaining complicated things. He's also gifted at guitar, piano, and accurately imitating languages he can't actually speak. Although, he does speak Spanish and a little German.
Speaking of my gifted bandmates, Mike just got the call of a lifetime. Rick Rubin called Mike's management and said, "I need to get this guy back to L.A.." You see, Mike had just moved his family to Nashville because L.A. is too freaking expensive. They arrived in Nashville on August 12th, Mike's birthday is August 13th, and he was back in L.A. on the 14th. He got back home August 16th, and I called him immediately. He stayed at the studio which happened to be a 6-bedroom mountaintop house overlooking the Pacific ocean. Wow. He hung out with Rick Rubin for a while, and Rick asked to hear some of the Agency CD. Mike told me Rubin said, "Wow, I didn't know you guys were this good." It feels pretty good hearing that somebody as influential as that likes my music. It sounds like Mike's session career was made this week. I don't think I'll ever be more excited for a friend as long as I live.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodbye TNCC!

I am officially a student at VCU! I've registered and paid for all my classes and dropped all my TNCC classes. I'll be in Richmond from Monday through Friday. That's 100 miles a day. I wasn't planning on transferring to VCU until the Spring, but I couldn't stop thinking about how weak my Fall TNCC semester was. TNCC is clearly not really capable of keeping up with agressive students, so they didn't offer enough class sections. My classes were going to be late at night, and there were schedule conflicts that kept me from having a full load. As soon as I looked at the VCU schedule, I realized they mean business. I literally could not make my schedule conflict. They did such a good job planning the classes that I could actually choose any class section without worry. The registration process was easy with the exception of having to get an override for my Physics II class. It was closed, but they let me in.
A little experience goes a long way, too. A group of people walked over to the Physics department for overrides, but the person in charge was no where to be found. They waited a few minutes and then took off. I waited another 40 minutes and got the exact spot I wanted, and I met my professor who told me not to worry about buying the book. I already own two calculus-based physics books; I don't need another.
Another bit of wisdom got me out of some nonsense. Apparently, I need to take an ethics class, but that sounds like perfect summer semester material. The advisor was trying to get me to take it during the fall, but I need to take engineering classes during the spring and fall since they are not offered during the summer.
All and all, I am stoked!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chris does not need shots!

By request from Sonya:
1. Chris needs your sex talk...
2. Chris needs this. (How vague.)
3. Chris needs to give me cancer. (I don't think I have that power.)
4. Chris needs tech support. (Thanks Jason.)
5. Chris needs a job. (That's why I'm in school!)
6. Chris needs quiet time on Flickr. (I don't take time for intentional misspellings)
7. Chris needs your wish list.
8. Chris needs to get laid.
9. Chris needs suggestions for 130 Christmas cards!
10. Chris needs a nickname. (Chris is a nickname!)

Oh yeah, the doctor told me I already had all those shots! Sweet!!!!


Today I have to go to the doctor and get vaccinated for school. No, I'm not five! I am, however, terrified of needles. It makes me sick just thinking about shots. No matter how many times I've had blood tests or shots and feel no pain, I'm still scared. I might be able to get out of it because I was vaccinated before my short lived stint at FIU in 2004. I'm not sure how long the vaccines work, but here's hoping... Speaking of FIU; I hated that place more than junior high school. Every system they had was designed to be a big pain in the butt, and my advisor put me in classes for which I was in no way ready. I dropped calculus at FIU and felt retarded; then I went to TNCC and got an A. Back to shots - I was reading the fine print on my vaccines, and it seems and can get a waiver. The recommended ages for these things is 18-25. I think 32 is old enough to be able to get out of it; also, I worked for a year as a waste water treatment plant operator. That must have built up my immunity!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Computers aren't cheap, but I am.

As I can't contain my excitement at transferring to VCU, I've been fiercely reviewing their website for advice and general expectations. VCU requires all students have a computer - preferably a laptop. Well, I own a laptop which I purchased in 2003, which was super-fancy back then, and which is quite antiquated now. Upon looking at the price of new fancy laptops, I remembered the pain I experienced the first time I shelled out the dough for my VAIO, and I couldn't bare to go through it again. The problem I now face is that my laptop is showing its age and runs a little slow. It also has a small, by current standards, disc drive. I have endeavoured on a quest to maximize my computer for the least possible expense, and this is what I've done. First, I have upgraded my memory to the maximum 1 gigabyte at a cost of $25. Second, I bought a 160 gigabyte disc drive for $80. Third, I bought a new battery for $70. Finally, I removed Windows from my laptop and replaced it with UBUNTU which is a free Linux-based OS. My buddy Jason is a computer whiz, and managed to get my Belkin wireless PC card to work with the new OS. Linux is the OS that all engineers and people in the know swear-by.
One of the deciding factors for me in keeping my laptop and switching the operating system to UBUNTU was the poor reviews I've seen for Leopard (the new MAC OS) and VISTA (the Microsoft OS debacle.) Mainly, memory has become so cheap that software writers have become lazy in their programming, and they have gone graphics-crazy with the interface. Linux is simpler, more secure, and more adaptable. It does require some know-how, but UBUNTU has been nearly Windows-like in its ease of operation. Their are plenty of other Linux-based OS options out there; most folks seem to like Red Hat's Fadora Core.
I think the UBUNTU folks must know me, or I am just a perfectly predictable demographic, for they included all of my favorite games. You get solitaire, mahjong, and Tetris. Also, all of my old files open without any issue using the Sun Microsystems open-source OpenOffice.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

2 blogs for the price of one.

Blog #1 - Charlottesville
Sonya and I decided to cut down on our Carbon Footprint this year and keep our vacation fairly local. This is easy because Virginia is a remarkable place. We drove the measly two hours to Charlottesville and stayed two nights at the Boar's Head Inn. Upon our arrival to Charlottesville, our first stop was for lunch at Michie Tavern. You can read all about their strange hours of operation and delicious food at the link. After lunch, we drove the short distance up to Monticello where we found large crowds and construction of a new visitors center, so we turned around and headed to Ash Lawn-Highland. We've been there once before, but it was late in the day so we didn't enter. We did notice the last time we were there that Ash Lawn is owned and operated by the College of William & Mary, so we figured we might be able to get a deal this time since Sonya is under the employ of the college. We were right; Sonya got in for free! The location of Ashlawn is arguably even more beautiful than Monticello though the house is much more humble. We spent an hour on the guided tour of the house and another hour walking the self guided tour of the grounds. By the time we were done with Ash Lawn, it was nearly check-in time at the Boar's Head.
We checked-in at 4:00, and Sonya took a nap while I hooked up the laptop to research dining options. We decided on C&O Restaurant. What a great place! Sonya had the Grilled Ahi tuna filet with horseradish-ginger sabayon, bulghur-feta croquette and Endive radicchio salad, and I had the Duck breast with blueberry-rhubarb glaze and curried Israeli couscous. Delicious! After our dinner, we realized the restaurant is right next door to the Charlottesville Pavilion where Willie Nelson was playing that night! Sadly, the concert was sold-out, so we headed back to the inn.
The next day, we awoke to realize the power was out in the room. Thankfully, the AC was running on generator power, so it was still comfortable in the room. Sonya was supposed to have a massage at 2:30, so we decided to walk down to the spa around 11:00 to check-in and enjoy the pool. We put on robes and walked over to the pool only to be told it was closed due to the power outage. By this time, I was getting a little more than annoyed and certainly not relaxed. They told us the the power was still on at the Sports Club, and we could use the pool there. So we walked the several hundred yards in our robes. By the time we arrived at the pool, we were sweating. The Sports Club pool is not private and was filled with screaming and yelling kids. We swam briefly and read our books. I am reading The American Sphinx, and Sonya is reading Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. It was too loud for me to concentrate, so we decided to ask someone there if the power was back on at the spa and if the pool there was open. The kid we asked ran over to ask someone - though he had a phone right next to him - and he said the spa and spa pool were open. We walked back down to discover that he was of course wrong. I was very un-relaxed at this point, and it was now quite hot in the spa, so Sonya cancelled her massage appointment. We walked back to the room, and as we approached the door to our room, the rest of the generator power went out, and the emergency lights came on. We entered our room and the AC was off. Nooooooooo! Seconds later, the power was fully restored! Huzzah!!!! Sonya called the spa and rescheduled her message for 3:15, and we headed down. The pool was open, the AC was on, and life was good. I was still a little disappointed to discover children playing at the spa pool, but they were reasonably quiet, and I was able to read. Aaaah, this was relaxation like I've never known it. Sonya got her massage, I swam to cool off, and life was all better.
That night, we decided to head to Staunton for our second-favorite German restaurant. Edelweiss is first for atmosphere, but second for quality of food compared to Eckhard's. We pigged out and bought our favorite German dark beer - Köstritzer Schwarzbier.
The next day we ordered breakfast in bed, and checked-out at noon. We headed up for a wine tasting at Barboursville Vineyards. The ruins of the Thomas Jefferson designed estate are there in the background as you taste 16 different wines for a mere $4 per person. Virginia's wine country is simply amazing. Next we drove to James Madison's Montpelier. Go there.
If anybody thinks we defeated the initial idea of reducing our carbon footprint though all the mountain driving, we reduced our carbon emissions by at least 1.47 metric tons by avoiding air travel.

Blog #2 - VCU
I found out upon our return from Charlottesville that I've been accepted to VCU. I have orientation on August 12th, so I'll be transferring in the fall as long as I can get all the classes I need. We're now considering buying a tiny, fuel-efficient car for my commute. I'm also looking into a vanpool service, but class schedules are a highly limiting factor on such things.