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

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fun (with mistranslation) friday: power poems

I’m currently studying for my first Strukturdynamik (Vibrational Mechanics) exam, which happens on Saturday.  …Ok, I’m currently writing a blog post, but much of this week has been studying.  Details, details.  Anyway.

Last week, the professor gave a list of topics that would be covered on the test.  One of the topics he mentioned was Leistungsdichte.  I don’t think we’ve ever used Leistungsdichte in homework or had an example of it, but it’s in the textbook somewhere.  But I didn’t know how to use them or what they even were.

I didn’t think I needed to look the word up in a dictionary.  After all, I knew that Leistung means power, and I figured that since some equations that have specific names end in the word Satz, which means sentence, I thought that this was a similar case.  The word Gedicht means poem, so maybe since the word Leistungssatz was already in use as the name of equations that calculate power, they decided to stick dichte on the end.  Power poems.  Sounds pretty fun, right?

I finally went up after class on Wednesday and asked a TA for clarification, mentioning at the beginning of the conversation that I was an exchange student, so I might have missed some details due to the language barrier.  He showed me where in the book the relevant equations were found and clarified the terms used, and then said that, in English, Leistungsdichte means Power Density Spectrum.

Good to know.  I still think Power Poems sounds cooler, though.  🙂

wok recipes in control systems class

Today in Systemtheorie und Regelungstechnik (my Control Systems class), the professor wrote “WOK Rezept” as the heading for the notes he was writing out.  That translates to “WOK recipe,” and I thought it was funny, so I drew you a picture.

wok recipe drawing

(please pardon the rushed handwriting and my mediocre art skills. The first I blame on taking notes in a foreign language. The second has no real excuse, but doodling in my notes is fun, so too bad 🙂 )

It turns out he was talking about WurzelOrtsKurve, or root-locus plots.  And here I thought we were about to get a primer in Asian cooking.  But the pun made class more fun and made the concept more memorable.  I love it when professors come up with good ways to remember things!

 

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. 😀

study plan: zeil mall in frankfurt

My study habits are kind of odd.  I find myself best able to study in locations that have a lot of background noise but no distinctly understandable conversations. That would explain why I did much of my homework and studying at Virginia Tech in the dining halls.  But for final exams, a bunch of other people got that idea.  So what did I do?  I studied at the mall in Christiansburg.  It was a twenty-minute drive from my apartment, but I got a lot of good studying done in the food court there.  Weird, but it worked!

Here in Darmstadt, I’ve realized that the dining halls may not be so good for my study habits.  They are closed on weekends and only open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays.  And even when they are open, the tables are set up for large groups, not for individuals on study marathons.  And the mall in Darmstadt has lamentably little seating, so for a while, I thought I would be stuck studying in my room all the time.

But I found a mall in Frankfurt I think I can study at. Frankfurt is an hour away from my apartment by streetcar and S-Bahn, but I can study on the S-Bahn too.

The mall itself is on the Zeil in Frankfurt. The Zeil seems to be Frankfurt’s shopping district.  The mall was a bit small compared to American malls, but it made up for it in visuals:

the distinctive glass vortex, as seen from the inside of the mallThat giant glass cylinder makes this mall easy to spot from the outside, since it is the only building with a giant hole going from the front glass wall to the glass roof.

And the seating is rock-garden inspired:

rock-garden inspired seating.  surprisingly comfy.It may not be Virginia Tech, and I may have to carefully plan out when I’ll come out here to study, since it is a two-hour round trip.  But I will be able to study here quite happily, I think.  Good noise levels, good seating, and great views for when I’m sick of Strukturdynamik and need a break.  (Oh, and retail therapy is a good remedy for being tired of studying.)

 

 

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.

frankfurter buchmesse

I like reading.  I may not have as much time for pleasure reading as I’d like, but I still enjoy curling up with a good book.  And where better to celebrate reading than the Frankfurter Buchmesse?  (Buchmesse means something similar to Book Fair or Book Convention.)

So yesterday, a friend of mine from church and I went to explore the final day of the Buchmesse for this year.

the entrance to the frankfurter buchmesse Flags for the Buchmesse waving at the entrance to the Messe (convention center).

there were a lot of publishers and a lot of people at the buchmesseThere were a lot of publishers and authors selling books, a great number of books (duh) and audiobooks for sale, and a lot of people.

a lot of people at the buchmesse

Exhibit A of there being a lot of people at the Buchmesse.  But that’s cool.  The world needs more bookworms, right?  🙂

All in all, my friend K and I had a great time.  We each bought a book or two and wandered around looking at many more, picking up brochures and catalogs as well.  There was even a guy in the international books section who was packing up his booth and gave us free tote bags that say “Mexico means culture” on them.  Thanks, mister!  You saved my hands from cramping up from carrying around my posters and my Folkmanis catalog (yep, Folkmanis, the puppet manufacturer, had a booth, and I really exercised a lot of restraint in not buying any of the cute fuzzy puppets).

(Seriously, who doesn’t love Folkmanis?)

And then K and I ate cheesecake at a cute little cafe to end out the day.  Any day that involves books and ends in cheesecake has to be good, right?  Yes.

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.