what is this decorative item?

So I see this decorative… thing nearly every day, since it’s smack in the middle of my field of view while I’m waiting for the next streetcar near my apartment.  And now, even after seven months of living here, I still have no idea what it is.  not sure what this thing on top of this building is

My best guess is that it’s a ceramic sculpture of a seahorse dressed as a stormtrooper.  Anyone else have ideas?


going on a trip

I have a busy next couple of weeks.  Tomorrow I leave for the RoboCup German Open, which is a robotics competition being held in Magdeburg, Germany.  And the day after I get back from that, my parents will arrive and we will travel together some more.  I’m looking forward to both trips!

Since I seemingly only ever post on a regular basis when I’m travelling, I though I’d schedule a blog post or two for the time I’m gone.  But for today, a picture of the streetcar tracks near my apartment.  Appropriate for the travel theme, no?

streetcar tracks near my apartment

fun friday: broadcast system test and melty-bead mario

I’m kind of scatterbrained today, since I’m doing last-minute packing for the Campus für Christus retreat I’m leaving on later today.  But I found a couple funny videos on Youtube that I can share.  They are both really random, but being scatterbrained right now, I’m posting them anyway.  🙂

The first is a test of an Emergency Broadcast System.  The song gets a little tiring after a while, but it’s fun for the first minute or two.  If you find the visuals annoying or offensive, I suggest you start this video to get the music going and immediately scroll down and start watching the video of a pretty screensaver below it instead.




The screen saver is included on all new Macs and is called Flurry, by the way.

I’m including this next one out of geekiness. It’s a stop-motion video someone made of melty beads.  Of Mario. Running around and beating Mario-game baddies in his/her house.  Pretty amazing, and I’m sure it was a LOT of work!  

Enjoy the videos and enjoy your weekend!


cow double dot

In my last Strukturdynamik lecture, I was pretty happy because I was understanding the technical vocabulary used during the lecture itself and in the textbook. But while listening to the professor speak, some of my friends from exchange program and I noticed something.

The professor was referring to a displacement of a beam being analyzed in an example as the variable q. As in, when the beam was pulled down, the end of the beam moved downward q centimeters. Similarly, the velocity of the movement of the beam was the time-derivative of q, often referred to as q-dot because it is written as a q with a dot over it. Acceleration, the second time-derivative of q, is q-double-dot.

Now’s a good time to mention that the letter q, in German, is pronounced very similarly to Kuh, the word for cow.

As soon as we realized why the professor kept talking about cows, we all started cracking up every time he mentioned q as a displacement variable in an example problem. And we did a lot of example problems.  Cow, cow, cow-dot.

In a break during the lecture, I drew you a picture.

derivative cows, inspired by my strukturdynamik class

As a translation, Kuh = cow, Punkt = dot, doppel = double. And µ is pronounced “mu,” for those of you who aren’t up-to-speed on your Greek pronunciation.

We noticed a few other funny pronunciation things, but the comics for those either aren’t drawn yet or didn’t turn out as well. But I may never be able to keep a straight face in Strukturdynamik again. 😀

werkzeugmaschinen und industrieroboter: my first class

I had my first real class period today.  It’s a class I was excited about as soon as I saw the name:  Werkzeugmaschinen und Industrieroboter (Machine Tools and Industrial Robots).

Those of you who know me in person know that I love robotics.  I like the idea of designing something with the intention of it moving, and then being able to sit at my computer and make the thing move.  I was expecting this class to be both useful and fun.

And this first class period didn’t disappoint.  This semester, it looks like I’ll be learning primarily about machining parts out of metal.  How to calculate the speed at which the rough part on the lathe needs to turn, or whether to have the milling machine cut a part out in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction (because it makes a difference in the end surface finish of the edge depending on the direction of the teeth of the milling cutting tool).

Leave it to me to go off on a tangent.  I’m such a nerd.  🙂  But anyway.  It looks like I’ll be learning about the machine tools used to create metal parts, such as parts for a robot.

The main challenge for me in this class will be the language.  The professor spoke fairly clear German, but he spoke quickly, making it hard for me to understand everything.

If I had ignored his powerpoint and had instead focused solely on what he was saying, I would have been able to follow more of his sentences from beginning to end.  But it’s hard to hear and understand someone speaking a foreign language while you’re trying to take notes and understand the concept and ignore the two people behind you who won’t quit talking during class.

I’m sure my German will improve this semester, and I’ll get better at understanding my professors better as time goes on.  There’s a German for Foreign Students class I’m planning on taking that focuses on being able to understand spoken German better, which I hope will help as well.  Until that all starts to click, though, I need to stay on top of my studying to keep up.

steve jobs

I’m sure many of you have heard by now, but Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple and its CEO until recently, has died. With his death, the world has lost a great thinker, innovator, and engineer.

I am sure Apple will carry on and develop more great gadgets and computers and operating systems. And I am sure that Apple will continue thinking different and developing the newest, greatest technology, all in honor of his memory. But it goes without saying: from all geeks, nerds, engineers, and thinkers everywhere–we will miss you, Steve.

how to pack books, or not

Since getting an iPad, I have begun to approach bookstores differently. Or rather, I have approached them less frequently, since I can buy the same book at the same cost for use in an eReader app.  This process can even occur while I am wearing pajamas, whereas a visit to a real bookstore could not.

reading asimov with an ereader app: not quite the same as a paper book, but not bad. and takes up less space in a suitcase.

The times in the past few days that I have gone to bookstores, I have seen interesting-sounding books that I decided to buy in eBook form at a later time.  (My main goal in going to bookstores recently, ironically enough, was to see if they had iPad covers.  They did not. Nook eReader covers? Yes.)

I do feel a bit sad about the increasing prevalence of eReaders. The new “I don’t need bookstores because I have a device for reading ebooks” mindset is partly what caused Borders, one of my favorite bookstores and hangout locations, to go out of business. But I do have travel circumstances coming up that make buying ebooks more sensible than buying paper books. My iPad takes up far less space in my luggage than all of the books I’d like to bring.

I’ll leave the debate of the economics involved to experts.  My personal debate is this:  if I have already bougth paper books that I want to take to Germany to read but cannot fit in my suitcase without displacing something else, should I buy eBooks of those books for travel? Or ask my parents to send me care packages of my own books?

Care packages all the way.  I can build my eLibrary once I have a real-world job.

trip to apple store today

I’m seriously considering buying an iPad 2. My iPod Touch has become an extension of my brain, and its potential is yet somewhat limited due to the teensy screen.

My iPod Touch serves as an on-the-go text-editing platform, my chief to-do list and organizer, my Bible (several versions, in both English and German, plus my own notes). I check my email on it, my calendar, and my RSS feedreader. I wrote most of this post on it. I have written large portions of lab reports on it while in line at dining halls and have read books and other PDFs on it in restaurants and at the beach. It is easier and faster to use my iPod in many cases than it is to pull out and login to my MacBook Pro. (Don’t get me wrong. I loooove my MBP. But iOS’s simplicity makes life so much easier.)

So I’ll soon be visiting the Apple Store in Tysons Corner Center in Virginia to take a closer look at the iPads. I would often avoid the iPad display when I went to Apple stores in the past, lest I convince myself to buy one on impulse. But now that I can actually see myself using it on a regular basis, it is time for an Apple store trip.

I’m excited. 🙂