More Psets! by Evan B. '10
This starts out artsy, but I promise it's going to go downhill really fast.
I woke up this morning at 8:15, 45 minutes after my alarm was going to go off. I go and look at my computer (which is supposed to be my alarm clock) to find that the power adapter askew enough that my laptop’s battery had completely drained. I wait 20 minutes for the shower, and then trudge through the rain to Sunny’s, the greatest breakfast joint in Cambridge, to meet some friends for breakfast…only to run into them walking to campus on my way there.
And thus began the second of the dreariest, grayest, rainiest first two days of school I can remember.
Fortunately, I was intentionally getting up well before my classes started and the breakfast was tasty, so it all works out in the end.
Anyway! Enough of that. I think of my “list of potential blog entries” as a stack, not a queue – I do the most recent things first. So today I’m exploiting that property to put off writing about last semester even longer in favor of the classic what-classes-am-I-taking-this-term post.
I’m signed up for 66 units of classwork this year. In theory, one unit corresponds to one hour of work per week, be that in the classroom, in lab, or at home. In practice, the correspondence usually isn’t so great, but it’s still a good indicator of just how hosed you’re going to be. To put this in perspective, for the last two terms I’ve signed up for 51 units. This should be an interesting term.
(Additionally, courses are broken down by how the expected distribution of hours, to give you a sense of how you will be spending your time. These are usually written A-B-C, which means A hours in the classroom, B hours in lab, and C hours doing out of class work. I’ll go ahead and put those in, too.)
6.003 Signals and Systems (4-2-9): This class covers basic signals analysis, how to build filters, and analyzing things in the frequency domain, instead of the time domain by using Fourier, Laplace, and z-transforms. Lots of cool concepts, but the class has a reputation for being “grungy math part II” (to 6.002’s “grungy math part I”).
6.004 Computation Structures (4-3-8): Alternatively titled by the instructors as “The Way Digital Things Work”. This class starts at the level of MOSFETs (basic electronic switching devices) and moves up through gates, modules, integrated circuits, processors, and a basic operating system. By showing you how to take some small thing, build something bigger, and then stop caring about the smaller thing, you learn how to build very, very complex components with millions or billions of individual MOSFETs. And in the process, you do actually build each of these pieces in simulation, using software that was designed for the course. 6.004 has a reputation for being one of the best classes in Course VI, and many people (Jessie included, I believe) count it as their favorite class at the ‘tvte. This term, 6.004 is being co-taught by Steve Ward and Chris Terman. I’m really excited about having another class with Chris, who was the professor for 6.111 last term.
6.033 Computer System Engineering (5-0-7): According to the Underground Guide Course Evaluations, covers “everything you ever wanted to know about computers, but didn’t know to ask.” Things from how the X Windows System works to why Worse-Is-Better is a better development philosophy than Do-The-Right-Thing (the jury’s still out on that one, for the record, or at least I think it is). It should be a good class, and the lecturers are supposed to be excellent. This class is also a CI-M, a “communications intensive in major” course. I have to have two to graduate, so this will finish off that requirement (6.111 was one as well).
18.440 Probability and Random Variables (3-0-9): Many of the EE-related classes require a probability class, either 6.041 or 18.440, which is supposed to be a little more mathematically rigorous. A friend of mine just changed his major to 18, and has to take 18.440 as one of the requirements, so I figured I’d take that, because classes are always more fun when you’re taking them with people you know.
(Ok – I wrote that blurb this morning, but having actually been to today’s lecture, I’m actually really excited about it, because while I usually hate probability, Professor Kelner seems to be a really good teacher who gives very well prepared lectures. He’s a recent MIT graduate student, so he also seems to be fairly understanding of students’ needs – for example, he’s planning to hold one set of office hours the night before the psets are due.)
17.42 Causes and Prevention of War (4-0-8): The only reason I signed up for this class is that lots of my friends were as well. I’ve never taken a political science class before, so this should be interesting. It’s a CI-H (“communications intensive humanities”). I need two of these as well, but I already have 2, so I’m actually taking this one because it counts towards the HASS-D requirement (you have to take classes in a certain variety of disciplines. Please don’t ask me to explain the various HASS requirements. I honestly don’t think anyone really understands them).
Hmm…well, I wrote just about everything up above this morning. Then classes happened, I got distracted, and am only just now finishing.
It turns out that the end of my day made the perfect counterpart to the start of my day.
First, some background. My room doesn’t get much circulation, so as a general rule, I leave my window opened a few inches when I leave in the morning so that it’s not uncomfortably hot when I get back from classes. This is normally fine – even when it rains – because Burton-Conner has the interesting property that it always seems to be at a higher pressure than the outside world. That, combined with the screen in the window, seems to keep my room cool and dry.
Of course, today I leave W20, where I had been doing homework, to walk home. After a day of fairly clear weather, it’s raining again, and harder than before. So I get back to my dorm soaked, and walk up to my room to find the third of my bed closest to the window nicely doused by the rain.
But that’s ok. It was a good day. My classes are interesting. My professors are good. It should be a good term.