Tag Archive for 'classwork'

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No Rest For The Weary

Work life has been rough for me recently. I spent most of last week trying to diagnose my ill workstation, only to find late on Wednesday that the problem seemed to be a corrupt SolidWorks file that had managed to destabilize the entire OS. I couldn’t even get a virus scan complete in safe mode. Eventually, I was able to delete the problem file and then all those troubles disappeared. I set the data I’d been taking on Friday when the problems started to process overnight.

Now, on Wednesday, I’d awakened with hearing problems that I assumed were caused by my ears being congested. One of the side effects of this was that it was physically painful for me to be near constant droning noises like electronics and fans. Guess what you find in wind tunnel labs?

So when I woke up with the same problem on Thursday while, at the same time, feeling less well overall, I decided that after I went to pick up the recently processed data, I would make a visit to health services. I ended up spending half of my day there, getting diagnosed with the early stages of a middle ear infection (in both ears!), and loading up on drugs and antibiotics. By this point, I was feeling feverish, but my advisor really wanted that data, so I slogged through all the data analysis I could think of in my debilitated state, and went up to report it. I could say more on that, but I’ll refrain and instead say that, having planned to leave early since I was sick, I didn’t get to leave campus until 4:45.

On Friday, I got an e-mail from my advisor asking me, by Tuesday, for a “schematic drawing” of the multiple camera assembly on which I’ve been working. Well, all of that existed in my head, sure, but I hadn’t had the time (broken computer! data taking!) to get things drafted in SolidWorks (which broke the computer!). My Friday afternoon was spent desperately attempting a) learn SolidWorks and b) model all the components of the multi-camera sled. I went in on Satuday, and, after some eight hours of work to get one screenshot of everything put together, I send an e-mail with the picture and ask if this is alright, and, if not, please get back to me so that I can fix it. I got a reply late Sunday night: thanks, but no. I wanted X and Y and Z and A and B, too!

Cue the freaking out. How am I supposed to model all these things in SolidWorks by Tuesday when I have classes today? Screw it, I decided. It was time to put my mad Photoshop skillz to use. I had about an hour before my first class, so I rushed into the work. About forty-five minutes in, Photoshop erased all of my work. The office was filled with the sound of my cursing. I redid as much of it as possible, rushed away to class, and spent an hour desperately trying to keep up with a TA who erased things she put on the board immediately after finishing her sentence. Then I returned to my desk and ate lunch while continuing to work in Photoshop.

On top of that, I read the lab manual for my first optics experiment. Now, this is an undergraduate-level physics course, but I’ve never had any significant amount of optics before, and it’s been five years since the subject’s even been touched. Moreover, it’s a course that meets for six hours of lab and one hour of lecture every week. Overkill, anyone? Steph and I arrive to find that we are two of four students, so there’s no chance of hiding behind others, and, naturally, the professor decides to ask me the first question. It doesn’t take very long at all for me to fumble things completely, at which point I tried to excuse myself by explaining exactly how little optics and waves I’ve studied and just how long ago that was.

My first task was to do an equipment inventory. Fine. I had a list, and it wasn’t too tough to figure out what half the optics equipment was. But then I got lovely visits from the professor, who wanted me to do things like show him how I could figure out what the focal lengths of the lens were and determine which of these damn things was a quarter-wave plate. For reference, I’d never heard of circularly polarized light, let alone a quarter-wave plate before this afternoon. We finally got through the theory of what-the-hell-is-this, and, of course, he then wanted me to set up polarizers and the quarter-wave plate with the laser so that I could verify that it was, in fact, one of these mythical quarter-wave plate things. Thankfully, they left me alone for long enough that I could start setting up the optics and put together the photo sensor so that I could measure intensities properly. At one point the professor came back in and watched me work for a minute, then said, “You are very precise. That is excellent!” I got a similar compliment from the TA when I was doing the first part of my experiment–he noted that I was very particular about my safety precautions and alignments. I laughed and told him that I’m an experimentalist–I may not know much about optics, but I can handle setting up experiments and doing them properly. So, in the end, I guess that came out okay.

Then it was back to my office for a quick meeting with my advisor (two minutes? maybe?) and another hour or so of working on that Photoshop picture.

I got home to discover that my toilet was clogged by my roommate for the second time in less than 24 hours.

The only real bright spot in my day? Receiving the Once soundtrack, the new Josh Ritter album, and a Josh Ritter EP from Amazon.

I can has weekend now? Please?

Lab Day

Spring Work has come and gone, and I’m heading back into the world of Too Much Stuff To Do That’s Not Research. I don’t dare look forward to the days when I won’t have classes anymore because that’s still semesters away, but it is nice to think that the summer is coming, and that, in not too long, I will have days where I come in around 9:30, work until 5 or so, and then I go home and spend my evenings and weekends in whatever manner I see fit. All that stands between me and that pleasure? Weeks more of classes, tons more graded work, and my qualifiers. I am, for the moment, determined not to let that get me down. Happy thoughts seem a lot easier to maintain when the weather is pleasantly springlike. Either that, or I really did have that B-6 vitamin deficiency like the doctor suggested.

The weather was so wonderful on Monday that Joe and I took a walk to the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve and sat by Six Mile Creek and watched the swollen waters rush past. Until it warms up enough that I can chance the hike down into the gorge below Wells Falls, the MWP is the next best thing. One of the other things about this summer that I’m really looking forward to is the chance to wade in some of the creeks. The little kid in me can’t help but remember how much fun wading barefoot in the creek that fed Lake Atalanta was when I was younger. I remember my school’s gifted and talented program having competition once were we built little boats out of cardboard and tape and straws and the like and raced them on that creek. Standing by Six Mile Creek on Monday, I really wanted to do that again, but that may have had something more to do with wanting to see how long such a boat could manage not to get swamped by the rushing water.

I’m expecting a very busy but fun week next week. Well, I don’t expect classes and research to be all that fantastic, especially as I’ll be having make-up lectures for lectures not had this week–but next week is my little sister’s Spring Break, and she’s coming up for a visit. Since I’m all about earning Best Big Sister Ever status, I’ve promised her all sorts of fun. I’m hoping that the nice weather is kind enough to stick around most of next week. Knowing this part of the country, though, I’m not about to hold my breath.

Mmm, Margaritas

In the strict sense, my Spring Work is now over. Most of the week was spent in the “new” lab learning how to use our fancy set-up with the laser and camera sled and such. Aside from the usual glitches with software crashes–I apparently need to learn some heavier duty programming so that I can figure out why the hell our movie files are getting corrupted in transfer–and a couple of OMG-we’re-all-going-to-die moments with the Class IV laser, things went well and we managed to take a decent amount of data–somewhere between 500 and 600 movies. Now we just need, oh, about 3500 more.

I spent all of this afternoon working on my turbulence mid-term. The first problem just killed me. In two-and-a-half hours I hardly made any progress on it. Finally, I gave up and started on the second two problems. Things picked up then, and I’ve probably got the test a little more than half-way finished. Enough that I don’t feel the need to go up to campus and work on it this weekend since it’s not due until next Friday.

I came home tonight to tomatillo chicken–thank God for crockpots–and margaritas. I threw in some Soul Calibur II for good measure, and, all of a sudden, it was like I was on break or something. Imagine that!