April 30, 2004

Project of Doom

The project that wouldn't die has finally died. A few minor tweaks and some excellent work by the inimitable Phil, and life is good. Food tastes good again. Flowers have scent again. You get the point. Heck, depending on a few things, I may have just wiggled out of a final exam.

School Size

The first in my series on stuff:

School size makes a big difference in your college experience, I have decided, especially in engineering. You can get benefits from either, but they are very different, and it helps to know what you want out of a college experience. At a big school (NC State for example) there is a definite hierarchy among the students that goes something like this: 1. Ph.D students 2. Masters Thesis 3. Masters No Thesis 4. Senior 5. Junior 6. Sophomore 7. Freshman. The students don't make too much of it, but if you want to get a professor's attention, it helps to be closer to 1 than 7. Another attribute of large schools is resources and class diversity. At NC State, you have a lot more options at the undergraduate level for specialization. People interested in Digital Communications will take different courses than people interested in Microprocessor Design. This is different from a a small school like Messiah. However, with these extra resources, you have to take on the fact that there are a lot more people like you out there who are vying for grades, class spots, and professors' attention. When it comes to being done and finding a job, the big school is more well known, but there are a lot more graduates pouring out every spring into the workforce so it can be hard to get a job in a specific part of the country, if at all, since if a company wants to hire an NC State grad, they can pick from Masters or Bachelors students, and the Masters wins most of the time.

On the other hand, there is the small school (let's call it Messiah College, just for fun). You can never say the professors are only there to research, since they do a boatload of teaching, and most of them seem to like it. Also, they all know your name and are generally willing to help with pretty much anything. Of course, you don't want to harass them too much, but some take it better than others (I think it made Dr. Gray's day when James walked into his office). The classes are small and the level of individual attention is intense, which is never a bad thing, especially when learning difficult concepts. That part of it I wouldn't trade for all the class selection in the world. However, having to tell every prospective employer what state your school is in doesn't help the job prospects. They don't have 80 or so years of history to back them up like some larger schools. The main drawback to the small school is the lack of class selection or specialization (mind you, most of what I'm saying applies only to engineering). There is little opportunity to get very in depth into a certain aspect of your major. This can hurt in grad school or in a job search, but it isn't a reason not to choose a small school.

The real choice comes down to a few things. One of them was so eloquently put by one Mr. Don Horning, who's smarter than anyone ever gave him credit for. "You can be a big fish in a small pond, a big fish in a big pond, a small fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond." He was talking about wrestling in college at the time, but the concept holds. Decide what you want out of college, and then try to pick one that gets the job done. Maybe you want to get out without any debt. For that you will likely have to pick the big state school, and that's not a bad choice, especially if you're majoring in a field with sketchy job prospects. There's nothing quite like 30 grand in debt when you're working at Starbucks. Anyhow, pick a school with a program that seems good enough for you and with an atmostphere (big or small) that you like. Personally, I had a great time at Messiah, though I'd change a few things about their program, but they're not deal breaker type things. It was good to have every professor in the department know me on sight, which is darn near impossible at NC State, unless your name is Philip Rivers.

Stories that bear repeating

After my class yesterday, I witnessed the following exchange:

Guy 1: How about that ride you offered me?
Guy 2: Oh, I can't today, I have to go to my fiancee's house.
1: You're getting married?
2: Yeah, in August.
1: You're too young.
2: Ha ha.

Ok, this is uneventful so far, and I'm thinking to myself, "Oh, he must have got a new car." So we get down to the street, and Guy 2 goes and gets into a Ferrari. Now, I'm not sure which one it was, but it looked an awful lot like the picture accompanying this post, which retails for $150,000. Either way, there's no way a grad student just picked up a new Ferrari, so I'm wondering what the real story is here. For me, it was the first Ferrari I'd seen since a few summers ago when I was cruising around Beverly Hills, where one might expect to see that sort of thing.

April 29, 2004

Frenetic. Adj. Wildly excited or active; frantic; frenzied.

That about sums up this past week for me. The project that refuses to die reared its ugly head one last time. I promise to drive a stake through its heart once and for all by Sunday night. In a few hours, I will have attended my last class of the semester here at NC State. What have I learned? I've learned a lot, not just about engineering, but about life, myself, and the differences between large (make that gigantic) and small schools.

I am inching ever so much closer to figuring out what I want to do with myself from here on out. I spoke with Infineon again today, and I'll be heading over there tomorrow morning to have one last talk with someone I missed meeting during my first interview. I'm assuming this is a good thing, since it means I'm still in the running. Apparently, whoever has to decide decided that they can hire some people, so now they will do it. Frankly, I'm optimistic that they would even want to talk to me again. I'm hoping this means they think they want to hire me and are just trying to figure out who gets me. Hey, think positive, right?

That's pretty much the lastest from me. Subsequent posts will address some of the issues raised above (you know, life, myself, school, that stuff). I'll also keep you posted on the continuing saga of Andy's Job Search. Teachers and nurses have it so easy.

Oh yeah, by the way

Nice work, Vikki. Those kids won't even see it coming.

April 25, 2004

Voted off the Island

Tim Romanoski and Alton Brown have been kicked off my links section for refusing to update their respective blogs. No more will I fruitlessly click, looking for updates. Any one of you could be next, so you better watch out.

April 24, 2004

Wouldn't be a problem in Vermont

So I'm on my way to the mall today to try to use up this JC Penney gift card. I wasn't sure what I would find there, but that's not really the point of this story. The point of this story is that I got halfway to the mall when I realized I was driving to the wrong mall. I would have a hard time using the gift card at Crabtree Valley, considering the fact that the JC Penney is in the Cary Towne Center. Needless to say, I turned around and went to the right mall. This would never happen in Vermont because there isn't anywhere that you could be heading to the wrong mall. There is, at most, one mall within reasonable driving distance, and it might be in New Hampshire, depending on where in Vermont you are.

Speaking of Vermont, Janet's parents are in town, and they brought the Springfield Reporter with them from back home. I understand it's a local paper in a really small town, but I was still ticked off. I read an article that had some less than nice things to say about the current Presidential Administration. This isn't what bothered me. Heck, it's a Vermont paper. They kick you out of the state if you write a newspaper article favorable to Republicans (John McCain is a special exemption to this rule). The thing that bothered me is that the writer of the column in question never referred to the President as the President or even used his name. He went with "Dubya" when talking about the head of the government in the country in which he lives. To me, this is completely unacceptable. Let's have a little journalistic integrity here. He's the President, and you're not. Respect the office at least, even if you don't like the man. Simply voting for the loser doesn't give every idiot with a computer the right to start throwing around derogatory nicknames about the Commander in Chief. Condoleezza Rice gets to be "Dr. Rice" in the article. Dick Cheney gets to be "the Vice President." I think this guy can get off his high horse and quit pulling a Peter Jennings and give the President some of the respect he deserves simply because he is the President.

April 21, 2004

They say you should blog every day

So that's what I'm doing here. Nothing new to report. The school year isn't over yet. I still don't like school. I still don't have a job. I do have someone who loves me, and my mom sent us a plant today, so it's not like I have a bad life or anything drastic like that. I might just have to get over myself.

April 20, 2004

Go get 'em

Well, hope it all works out for Vikki. At least she can get called back when she interviews for a job. I bet the people she interviews with even call her if they don't want to hire her. Me, I get to wait 6 weeks just to find out I'm still in the running. Campbell University is looking for a new head wrestling coach. That sounds like fun. The upside is that you're a head wrestling coach in Division I. The downside is that your mascot is the Camels.

April 18, 2004


I just turned in a mother of a project this evening. Well, the report is yet to be written, but the code and testing was due online tonight. Phil and I got it done, but it doesn't totally work the way it's supposed too, but I think we're just going to take the hit and be done with it. Personally, I'm planning to write a kickin' report about it so that we can maybe get back some of the points we're bound to lose. Frankly, I'm just glad to be done with it, though it didin't feel as good as I'd hoped after turning it in. It was a hard project, and some people (like me) were at a disadvantage to others. It seems as though a fair number of people in class had previous experience with Verilog and ASIC design. That would have helped me a lot, I think, since I was still learning things that would be helpful for the stupid thing up through last week, even though it was generally too late by then to implement most of them. However, it was a good learning experience, though I'm very glad that it's done.

By the way, I think I need to get some stock in Red Robin, since they must be doing pretty well, since my friends seem to go there every single weekend. Also, I need to figure out where Jimmy gets his gas, since he burns up the road between the Cove and the West Shore every weekend as well. Recent gas prices have almost convinced me to sell our cars and gets some of those scoooters that get 80 miles a gallon. OK, maybe not, but that premium fuel will take it to your wallet.

It's bedtime, and another hectic week awaits.

April 15, 2004

For old times sake

Hey Shblade
Shiggity shiggity shwaa
Guess what idiot?
What you did today?
I got a new Super88 System.
You did not...
Swear to god i got it at Chunky's for 2 dollar-es.
Oh yea? Let me see it..... Wow.
Yeah, you like that idiot.
I do.
I got it, you dont.
Hey,guess what?
It has new game.
What game?
I want to play it. It is called Mario Twins.
They look the same.
They look so like the same person.
I would say to them "You want ice cream cone?"
Both of them say yes.
How in the heck?
They are twins. That's why.
What the heck?
Hey, Let's play it. Ready?
Do it.
There it goes.
(mario levels play)
Hey Blade, Blade!
Uh oh, You found the Princess!
She's in another house.
Go away!
What in the heck she is doing?
Hey, crap on this.
Let's go play Super Mario's Punch-out!
Alright. Let's quit this game.

April 13, 2004

It's Jobtastic

So, I got an email today from MCNC after trying for weeks to get in touch. Thankfully, it was a good email. I'm to have a sort of conference call interview tomorrow with some folks. Hopefully, good things will come of it, and the time between contacts will be a little shorter this time.

April 12, 2004

Wild Wild Weekend

Easter with the Krafts has come and gone. We'll leave it at that.

My ham, on the other hand, was kickin'. You all should wish you were there to eat it. Of course, I wish you were there to eat it too, since we have a giant stack of it sitting in our refrigerator and I'm not sure if I can eat it all. I guess I'll have to try, and maybe give some away. Oh, and the secret, the crust on the outside. Go to here for the scoop. Sounds a little weird, I know, but you'll just have to trust me.

Oh yeah, my latest summer work plan is to be a TA one day a week and try to see how many wrestling camps I can work the rest of the time. This seems to be the best idea, since no one I interview with wants to call me back. Oh, well. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

April 8, 2004

In the long run

I haven't been running in a while, but it was a beautiful day, so I went out for a quick 20 minute jog appropriate for someone in my state of conditionion. Well.....it was supposed to be 20 minutes. It turned into more like 35, and I got lost. I'm not sure how far I went, but probably not too far, since I wasn't running that fast, but I was definitely lost. I had a general idea of where I was, but not enough to avoid going down two dead end streets and having to retrace my steps. Of course, I could get in shape quicker if I got lost every time and ended up stretching my run out by and extra 75% every day, but I'd rather not.

Seen in a professor's web page biography

He learned how to swim when he was a junior by throwing himself into the school pool. His instructor could not give him a score in a swimming course he later took because his time of 100-meter breaststroke is too slow to be in the grading card. He eventually managed to pass the swimming course with a C (70/100) by running 1500 meters in 5 minutes 21 seconds.

So, basically, the guy can hardly swim 100 meters without drowning, but he could run a mile faster than almost anyone you know.

April 7, 2004

Easter Break

Easter break started today after I finished teaching the last lab section. Now I have a few days to do some work and get ready for Janet's grandparents. Dun dun DUN!

April 6, 2004

Jimmy's Car

I thought James usually just ignored the check engine light. At least, he pulled it off in his other car for quite some time. I remember conversing with him that a good solution to the problem is a piece of electrical tape covering up the light. If you can't see it, there's no problem. Maybe not, but it did make me think the gauges on his car are a little peculiar. Either way my car has a gas cap light, so I won't be doing what he did, which is good, since I can't be running off to Winston-Salem all the time. For him, I'm sure it was a minor annoyance, rather than the all day affair it would be for me. Either way, it's about time this Mini service station I keep hearing about finally gets built in the Triangle so I can relax about it.

April 4, 2004

The Party House

I apparently live in it. Well, if not the party house, it's the guest house for sure. We've had no fewer than 12 unique overnight guests since we moved into our new place. Of those 12, we had never met 7 of them before they came. Most of those were in the great Florida spring break migration, but we have two guests now.

Our buddy James from church called me up on Friday to ask if we had some space for two of his friends to stay with us for a few nights. After conferring with Janet, I let him know that it was cool. So...now we have some houseguests at least for last night and tonight (probably tomorrow night too). The upside of it all is that I never met anyone from Montana before, and now I know Merris and Stephanie. I can only imagine what Livingston, Montana is like in the winter. Nothing like Raleigh, that's for sure. They've regaled us with stories of cows freezing to death one winter and going to school when the wind chill was 30 below. They must grow tough kids up that way. You can bet I'd be at home shivering if it were that cold anywhere near me.

By the way, no matter what anyone tells you, there are speed limits in Montana now. I got it straight from the mouths of lifetime residents.

April 2, 2004

What I've been working on

I have a project in Digital ASIC design. It's a network intrusion detection thingy. I designed the module that checks the header of the packet against a given rule. The nerds in the audience (James, my Dad) can take a gander at my Verilog right here. It will be further tweaked, but the general functionality is there.

Financial Strategy

I hope not to disappoint, but this post won't be revealing any money making secrets. Rather, I will discuss my financial record keeping. It's pretty easy, and I'm glad we do it here. Basically, we use Microsoft Money, which came with the computer. It's ridiculously simple, yet I have all my bank records at my fingertips. With internet access, it's even easier, since I can download bank and credit card information without leaving my desk. This way, I can set schedules for bills and paychecks, keep track of what I spend, and where I spend it. I can tell you how much we spend on groceries in September if you wanted to know. It makes it easy to see how we've been doing on bills and such. It's easier than saying, "well, I have more money than I did last month, so I must be ok." This way, I can see where it all came from and where it all went in one happy place. It also reminds me to pay the rent and the car payment, and to go pick up my paycheck (ok, so I don't typically need to be reminded about that one). To anyone who may be making the great foray from college to the real world, I heartily recommend some financial record keeping software. Even if you have moved out on your own, but haven't been using it, I suggest you start. It's a good decision and it has helped us so far keep everything in line with decision making. An example was trying to decide if we could afford to move. We could look back at our income and expenses and see that we had enough left over to pay the extra rent. Now, we live in a real apartment, instead of that awful E.S. King Village.

What would Kerry do?

According to the latest data, non-farm payroll numbers shot up by 308,000 jobs in March. If this trend continues, does that mean we have to hear even more about John Kerry's war record, as another of his "issues" disappears.

Oh, yeah, regardless of political affiliation, you should find this funny.

April 1, 2004

A nice week off....sort of

No labs this week, which has given me a much more relaxing week than the last two. Also, I had a test in DSP Architecture, which meant no homework. What kind of backwards life is it when a test makes me less stressed out? Such is the life of a graduate student, I suppose. I have gotten some good time to devote to a project in another class that I enjoy. I'm not looking forward to all the time I'll have to spend on it, but it is at least interesting to me.

Speaking of interest, the countdown is on in Digital Communications. Only a few more weeks until I'm done with it and don't have to care about it anymore. Well....I don't really care about it now, but I have to care enough to pass the tests and do the homework and stuff. It's like one giant math class that has a certain focus. It's not that interesting to me. I hate random variables, random processes, and all their ilk. DSP and computer architecture is nice because you never do anything more complicated (mathematically, anyhow) than adding and multiplying. Also, it's real, not theoretical.

The advisor search continues to another day. I have been trying to find this professor for two weeks now. He wasn't in his office hour today, but I have the inside track now. His TA told me that even he can't get responses to emails he sends, but he did tell me where I could find him tomorrow afternoon. After tomorrow, I will have one of three things: an advisor, not an advisor, or an appointment to talk further about it. Any one of them is better than what I've got, but I'm hoping for advisor. That saga continues on . . .