Alcohol, Sex, and Smith County, TX

April 2, 2010

I’m currently at a university nestled in East Texas, the former retirement destination of Tyler. It’s a small city, steadily growing over the last decade, but it has one huge flaw – prohibition of alcohol sales to the public.

In this town, I can go to a restaurant, and for a $5 fee, I can join a "club" that allows them to sell me alcohol by the glass, for prices well above what a bar would normally sell. I’m talking a $10 rum and coke. That is the only available way for me to buy alcohol in town.

If I desire to buy a fifth of rum, or god help me, a 6 pack of beer, I have to drive no less than 25 minutes to leave Smith County. Unfortunately, that 25 minute location just doesn’t have that great of a selection, which leaves me with a 40 minute drive in a different direction. It’s horrible.

But something else stood out as I took the travel to the store 25 minutes away this afternoon: Smith County has a drive in XXX movie theater with adult book/movie store within it’s jurisdiction, but alcohol is prohibited. If there was one potential "moral vice" out of alcohol or sex, I would have bet my life savings that sex would be the one banned. I’m shocked that it’s allowed, although I’m not against banning XXX businesses either. I’m just amazed the conservatives in the area would allow it.

Hopefully this Sam Adams Summer Mix Pack and a Michigan Baseball win will have me feeling better about that gross injustice sometime soon.


Meltdown Happening

January 10, 2010

So the last week and a half have been one whirlwind after another for me. With classes soon approaching, I have no idea what classes I’m taking, much less at what school, much less in what state. In the last 72 hours, I’ve gone from everything being taken care of to go to McNeese State in Lake Charles to now taking an impromptu trip to Tyler, Texas tomorrow morning.

So things are a bit hectic.

The last month has been busy enough as it is. I researched apartments, visited with advisors, arranged my financial aid, scouted various local sporting teams. Things were going well.

I spent all day Wednesday driving around Lake Charles and learning the different areas. You couldn’t get me to rent on the 5th avenue area for my life. Cars were on blocks. A hooker was outside one of the complexes with a cardboard sign. I ran a stop sign to get out of the area.

Closer to campus was a bit more friendly. I found a complex that I fell in love with, even if their idea of flooring is sealed concrete. It actually made it that much more interesting. As I continued past campus, I visited the high end apartments. Faking interest in them just to look around was a great waste of my time.

In the end, I sent in my application for housing to the one right across the street from campus. The building hadn’t even opened yet, but the community seemed close, and the buildings were all brand new. By Friday at 2pm, I had my application in and the deposit ready to go in the mail.

But then fun started. I’m not sure if the University of Texas at Tyler intentionally mailed their acceptance letter to me in an attempt for me to get it on my birthday, but if they did, I want to beat that person over the head with a baseball bat. While I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, I received the acceptance letter in the mail Friday at 4:30pm.

At first hearing this, you may say, well, you’re probably past the point of no return right? McNeese move in is a week from this and classes at UT-Tyler start this upcoming Monday. There’s no way you’ll be ready to go to Tyler in just 3 days.

Yeah, no. I spent the next 30 minutes of my Friday afternoon calling every office that was still open in Tyler. Admissions tells me I can’t register online and that I’ll have to late register on Monday at my advisor’s office. Great.

So I call my advisor’s office at the civil engineering department. The lady’s response to my telling her my story, "Oh, well, dear."

I told her, "I know," and she went to get the advisor’s office hours for Monday. Apparently he doesn’t have normal office hours on Monday so she had to set up a tentative appointment at the end of the day Monday.

So I’m driving up to Tyler, about a 5 hour drive, on Monday without any idea what’s going to happen.

Friday night was all about calming my nerves. Being my birthday, my two best friends took me out to Sherlock’s in Clear Lake and totally "alleviated" any concerns I had. After 8-9 drinks, I was just where I needed to be to forget all about Monday’s impending last-minute life decision.

Yesterday’s hangover didn’t help the situation, but it at least distracted me from thinking about things too much. Today, though, I’m hitting the googles hard trying to sort out a life in Tyler. I’ve gone through every academic information I can muster.

The good news is most of the classes I need and can get into still have a few openings, so I should be able to get into them – I’ll be attempting to at least sit through some of them tomorrow. The bad news is my transfer credit leaves me with a few oddly placed classes. I took a senior level course as a sophomore at Michigan (just differences in different schools’ teaching order) and I’m missing one course, Statics, that I really need to move on. Statics is basically a prerequisite for everything and I haven’t been able to take it since leaving Michigan.

More good news is that the couple of other courses I REALLY need to get out of the way are offered in the summer. There’s at least 2 classes I’ll be taking this summer, and that should get me caught up to graduate AT LEAST one year quicker at UT-Tyler over McNeese State.

The one year difference between out of state tuition fees and a year of tuition could save me over $20,000 dollars in debt. This is why I feel like the point of no return on going to McNeese hasn’t passed. So while things like having a University of Texas degree might be more valuable than a University of Louisiana (McNeese State is part of the UL system), just the overall cost saving and time saving measures make this headache well worth the initial mental suffering.

The rest of the day is going to be spent researching housing options around campus and even the greater Tyler area. My head is going 1000 directions and close to exploding. I’m just glad I’ve stopped yelling F@#$ every time I think about Monday.

More on this soon.


Complexity of What to Write

September 1, 2009

I’ve come to the point in my writing at mgoblog that I’m really not sure where I should go next. Now that the season are starting for most of the teams, my google-stalking abilities only do so much. Most of what I’m capable of doing from a distance is just read the box scores and press releases. I don’t want to just rehash those, so I’ve got to find some other way of relaying what the teams are doing. Finding that way is hard.

Since I’ve started, baseball has always been my out, but I’ve hit the end of the rope on most of that posting. I’ve done some solid season previews (or at least I think so). The post on the volleyball team’s win was one of my better game recaps, baseball included, but that was because I was able to watch the game and get into it.

Now, going into the school year, I don’t have access to hardly any video of games. I’ve got very little radio through mgoblue. Even the few games I will be able to watch, they’ll be through streaming IPTV that I’m not even sure will hold up. What does make it through, I have no way of recording it. My life is too busy to watch all these games live for free.

So while the jihad bought me some time to think without people wondering where my writing is, I’m finding that I’m the odd man out and it sucks. I’m the writer disconnected from my topic. I’m the one that can’t be there to get the interesting input on the other side of Michigan sports – a place I really like being. So where do I go next?

My first thought is coach and player interviews, but how do I go about them? The ideal time would be right after games, but I can’t be there. So I go with midweek interviews, what do those really accomplish from a journalistic stand point? I’m not sure it’s much. Asking them about games they played a few days ago seems like dated information. Asking them personal information doesn’t seem like it would remain interesting as interviews would start to become stale for mgoblog’s readership. That kind of stuff is great on mgoblue, but mgoblog is an entirely different animal.

After that, I wonder what good I really can do with mgoblog as a full Olympic/non-revenue sports contributor. Do I just post a notes piece that bullet points how each team did? Do I try to preview weekends more in depth? I don’t know.

None of these ideas scream out to me the writer as something appealing, which makes it infinitely harder to write. If I’m not passionate about the information I’m spreading, I think it’s a waste for me to do it. I don’t want to waste my own effort.

What I am certain about though, is I want to continue to write, and that is what will have to drive me onward.


Options Limited

July 15, 2009

So since I received that email stating I wouldn’t be accepted into UofH, I’ve been doing a bit of soul searching.  While the initial response was all doom and gloom, I think there may be some options for me at the end of the tunnel.

Option A1

The first option I have is to still apply to UH but as an undeclared undergraduate.  From this step, I am faced with another decision: do I beg the Dean of Engineering at UH to accept me despite my grade point deficiencies?  With my recent string of high grades, as well as mass improvements in several classes, I might have a shot at being admitted as a probationary engineering student, but only if the dean is feeling particularly charitable that day.  This strategy really doesn’t carry much risk.  If I get accepted into engineering I win, if I am rejected again, other than a bad taste in my mouth, I’m no further down the ladder than I was.  If anything, at least I’m in a university.

Option A2

If, for some reason, I decide that it’s not worth it to plead to the dean or even if I’m rejected, I’m left with at least two backup majors that interest me.  The first backup major probably makes the most sense, construction technology (CT).  CT is a major that covers most of what I actually want to do with my Civil Engineering major, but it lacks the technical background that would open more doors for advancement and diversify me as an employee.  Civil engineering obviously makes me more versatile, not only as a commercial construction manager, but also as a general contractor who deals with engineers and architects quite often.  CT would teach me the business side, but it lacks several key parts of the actual structure.  That is really the part I’m most interested in, and losing that would be regrettable.

Option A3

My second backup major is a much more drastic change.  Having covered the Michigan baseball team on the blog(s) over the last season, I’ve become slightly interested in sports information.  For those of you not familiar with it, sports information is a department of the athletic departments of universities, or the marketing/media relations of professional teams.  I’ve had several positive experiences with the associate sports information director for baseball this previous season, and I really find his job to be fascinating.  Not only is he working with sports, but he’s also doing it with a flair of journalism.  I’ve found myself entrenched in journalism and media news over the last year.  After sports, journalism discussing journalism is often the next thing I read every day. Probably one of the more important aspects of it are the limited number of semester hours I’d have to put forward towards it.  To get the degree, I’d have to take about the same number of credits as I need for my engineering degree.

So while this sports information (communication) backup major is a possibility that sounds enjoyable, I’m somewhat cautious about jumping at it.  It’s a pretty drastic change from what I’ve been engaged in before, and I’m worried that it might just be a phase I’m going through.  The pros sound good now, but I think it is definitely in the back seat for now.

Option B

My second initial option is something that I’ve begun to mull over more and more of late.  There is a decent chance that Michigan could reinstate me as a student in the College of Engineering (COE).  I’ve taken the initial steps already to find out what this would take, and the returns have been mixed.  While I’ve run into little problem with the Scholastic Standing Committee (SSC) and my previous adviser, I’m not sure how the Civil Engineering Department will receive me.

The way the reinstatement process works is that my advisers, the department I’d be enrolled in, and the SSC all have to agree that I’m ready to attend, and they set up a list of rules and goals that I must achieve during my semester I return.  If I consent to those rules, they will admit me back in under probation.  I’d be limited to 12 hours, couldn’t score below a B-, and required to attend a certain number of hours of advising/mentoring every month.  The good news is one semester of probation would be enough to raise my GPA out of the probationary status.  So things could be good there.

Option B – Problems

One of the problems I see is that all the classes I’ve taken while away from Michigan won’t help my GPA, and many won’t transfer at all.  Of the classes I took the last two semesters, none will count towards my degree at UM.  They will count as electives only.  Of the classes I plan on taking this semester, I doubt any will count either.  I’m hoping that perhaps my taking differential equations might, but that’s only because I made a D in it the first time I took it at UM, therefore earning me credit in the class.  If I take it this semester and get a better grade (one that would count for prerequisites), I’m not sure that it will count.  I’m planning on calling tomorrow to make sure.

Another major con would be the cost.  Michigan isn’t cheap.  The out-of-state tuition rates are $37,389.  That’s just TUITION.  That doesn’t include room and board, books, or other costs of living.  The estimated costs according to the financial aid department is $49,451.  That’s steep.  I’m sure I’d receive a little bit of financial aid, but I’m already behind the curve there.  I need to adjust my FAFSA asap.

Also, when it comes to backups, I’ve got nothing at Michigan.  If I don’t get this Civil Engineering degree, any more time I spend at Michigan is a waste of tens of thousands of dollars.  Not having a backup frightens me pretty badly.

Option B – Am I Ready of It?

After getting past those initial pros and cons, I’ve also have to deal with a lot of “intangibles.”  I’ve got the general thoughts in my head that UM >> UH.  That goes without saying, but along those lines, I have to question on whether I can handle it in Ann Arbor.  I’ve already near failed out.  I’ve tried to rationalize with myself that I’m a different person now.  My time away from campus has seen me grow up quite a bit.  The 07-08 school year working on the road broke me of many 0f my undergraduate habits that were detrimental to my studies.  I’ve spent a year working hard at my academics and even made the Dean’s List in the spring.  I’ve rediscovered what it is to do homework in classes.  I’m just too pessimistic based on my previous results.

The other thought that I’m wrestling around with has to do with quitting.  I quit Michigan.  That doesn’t sit well with me.  I’m not a quitter.  To complicate it, I was failing.  I don’t take failure lightly.  And here’s where things start to get confusing (if they aren’t already).  I’ve begun to second guess myself.  If by wanting to go to Michigan to prove I’m not a quitter/failure, am I just playing to the stubbornness that caused all my troubles the first time I was enrolled?  During my last few semesters on campus, I refused help.  I ignored mandates by the SSC to go to advising, see a mentor, get help.  I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it.

Is this the mindset that I’m succumbing to in my decision to go back?  I’m not sure.  I feel like this time around it’s about proving to myself I can not only do it, but that I can ask for help.  I’ve read so many articles about engineers entering the workforce unable to work well in groups.  While I don’t worry too much about my social behavior, I think I’ve been one of those loner engineers the last few years.  The question then becomes, have I broken that habit?  I’d like to think I have.  Looking back at some of the work I did during my year off from school, I can recognize me working better with groups.  But will that translate to my studies, that’s hard to tell.  The last year didn’t see much of it.  I did things on my own, but that wasn’t because I wanted to; I did things alone because my peers just weren’t up to my level.  That’s the problem with JUCO’s I guess, the people who attend them aren’t generally future engineers.

So I’m left with scant examples of me working well with others.  I think the few examples that I can look at as solid proof of me accepting collaboration has to be my trips to the writing lab for my English paper.  My professor was more of my peer than the students in my class.  We were able to discuss not just the endless grammar lessons she preached in class to the students who continually failed at it, but we also discussed things such as paper writing philosophies.  How to go at it.  It was interesting and taught me more about my own writing (which yes, if you’re still reading, you know how bad it can still be).  So I find that to be at least a slightly positive sign.  Hell, the fact I was even in a writing lab is far and beyond what I would have done while at UM.

Wrap Up

This post has ended up quite a bit longer than I’ve wanted it to be.  I’ve got a few more weeks to decided what I’m going to do.  The deadline for the winter semester at UM is October 1st, but the deadline for UH is December 1st.  I have an appointment to call the Civil Engineering Department at Michigan on Tuesday, so I’ll know more things then.

Meanwhile, I’m only 2 P.E credits and a public speaking class from getting an associate’s degree in General Studies, which, like, who cares?  My other conundrum of the summer is do I pay $533 to get a degree I’m going to do nothing with?  I mean, $318 for the two PE credits.  WTF.  I could pay that and get a gym membership for a year (maybe?).  I find that to be a ridiculous scam.  So yeah, I probably won’t get the associate’s degree, although it would be nice to at least get a degree with my name on it.  I think I’ll just hold out for a bachelor’s.  Bah.


Unacceptable

July 11, 2009

I got an A in multivariable calculus, but it wasn’t enough to get me in.  I was told my GPA was .06 points below what was accepted this term.  Even after the A I’m going to get in my AutoCAD class, I’ll still be .01 points below the cut off.  It sucks to have worked this hard only to be rejected.  Now I’m being pushed back not only the 6 months I have to wait to get into a university, but also another 3 months as I’ll have to finish in a fall semester after a summer break. This puts my scheduled graduation date around December 2011 at the soonest, with a decent chance at May 2012.  I can’t help but think my whole life is going to end up in failure.  By then I’ll be 26 and just entering the real world.  I’ll be 4 years behind my peers.

What makes it worse, I’m not sure I can even get into the engineering programs until next fall as I try to boost my grades as quickly as possible.  If I can’t, I certainly won’t be graduating until at least May 2012, if not later.  With the way things are going, I’m almost wondering if I shouldn’t just change my major.  If I do that, I may have the chance to graduate a least a semester earlier (assuming I don’t get accepted directly into the engineering school).

Life sucks right now.  I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I’m planning on making a couple appointments this week with academic advisors at the JUCO I’m attending.  I’m not sure how much they’ll be able to help me, but it’s just about the last option I’ve got.

At this point, there are only 4 classes I can take to try and boost my GPA: differential equations, physics 1, chemistry 1, and calculus 2.  I’ve got C/C+’s in each of those and could definitely raise them to B+/A’s.  If I do that, I’ll still be a little low on the calculus math, sceince, English and engineering grades needed to make it into the engineering school.  My grades at Michigan in my engineering courses, as well as my several attempts at calc3/diffequ just drag my grade down horribly.  Add that my grades in Chem Lab 1&2 at michigan can’t be raised by retaking them, I’m left scrambling to find courses that will raise that GPA.

I think next semester I’ll be retaking all 4 of those classes to boost my GPA and a technical writing class.  That will most likely have me taking a combined 18 credits at two different JUCO’s.  I’m also debating the idea of adding another class and bringing my credit hours up to 22.

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While writing this, I took a break to look at what it would take to get my GPA up to the point where I could enroll in UH’s engineering school.  I need an A in 50 credits of classes.  That’s before I can even enroll.  I think it’s time to find a new major.  I’m so lost.


Vector Calculus: Green’s Theorem

July 7, 2009

Now that we’ve covered line integrals, we will begin to look at surface integrals.  The integrals we look at today involve vector fields over a flat area.  In this case, we’ll look only at flat surfaces that are simply closed (meaning there is no overlap of the line encompassing the area).

Green’s Theorem exists because of the property that integrals over a simply closed surface are equal that that of the integral of the line that surrounds them.  This is a pretty handy property because trying to get pretty integrals out of equations like the following don’t look so easy:

c xy dx + x2 dy over the area between lines y=x and y=x2

In that integral, it means the over the curve C.  In that case C would be a line from the origin along y=x2 until x=2, then back along the line y=2x until it hit the origin.  To do that integral, I’m not even sure where you’d start.  Do you start with integrating one part of the equation?  What then do you do with the other?  I don’t even know.  The best answer, though, is to use Green’s Theorem.  Let’s take a look at what area we’re talking about here.

No, it wasn’t me who drew those arrows in with MS Paint (seriously, it came from a UCLA homework page).  As you can see, the green arrow is the line y=x2 and the red line is y=x.  Now for the fun part of the theorem… Green’s Theorem specifically states, that an integral of the form ∫c M(x,y) dx + N(x,y) dy can be simplified to a double integral over the area.  In this case, M and N are functions of variables x and y.  His formula:

c M(x,y) dx + N(x,y) = ∫ ∫D Nx – My dA

In the formula, N is the derivative of the function Nx with respect to x (I’ll let you figure out what My must be then).  This combines the two awkward integrals of the closed line integral into a simple iterated integral with respect to dx and dy.

Let’s look back at our example from earlier, ∫c xy dx + x2 dy.  This would mean that M(x,y)=xy and N(x,y)=x2.  Using Green’s Theorem, we first find Nx = 2x. Next we find My = x.  Placing them into the intergral we get:

∫ ∫D 2x – x dA = ∫ ∫D x dA

This is a very easy iterated integral.  All we have left is to find the limits of integration, which we find by looking back at the graph above.  I’m going to integrate in respect to y first, but you could integrate in terms of x first if you really wanted to.  I’m choosing to integrate with respect to y first just because we already have the y-limits of integration from the two lines creating curve C.

01x2 x x dy dx

Apologies again for not using a formula editor, but the limits are from 0 to 1 for dx and x2 to x for dx.  Working it out, we have the following happen:

01 ( xy |x2 x ) dx =  ∫01 ( x*x)-(x*x2) dx =  ∫01 x2– x3 dx

Then it becomes a simple single integral, eventually yielding ½ – ⅓ = ⅙.  That’s much easier than being stuck at just the equation.  What’s good about Green’s Theorem is that a variation of it (Stokes Theorem) also works with 3D objects, which we will discuss in a later post (hopefully).

One last note before I go has to do with conservative vector fields.  You’ll notice that if the vector field is conservative, M and N will equal each other leaving you with the integral of ZERO.  That should make sense because the line around the area you are integrating is a closed loop (ending where it begins).  Therefore, if the field is conservative, your integral MUST equal zero.

Next up, if I get to it is creating parametric surfaces and – perhaps – taking integrals of those surfaces.


Vector Calculus: Line Integrals

July 6, 2009

This is section three of my series on vector calculus.  As always, if you are able to follow along and have questions pop up, or a section is totally unclear, drop a comment or email to me.  I’ve got the two exams coming up on Wednesday and Thursday.  I could theoretically bomb the crap out of the Wednesday one, I just have to pass the one on Thursday (matches lowest exam grade with the final).

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