The Semester in Retrospect

What a semester – I can only say I’m glad it’s over! I haven’t posted here at all mainly because I’ve been so incredibly busy with this semester that I simply did not have time to shower on a daily basis, let alone write philosophical blog posts on snowboarding and hacking…

Hmmm let me reflect back on this semester. It sure was a busy one, to say the least. I think I finally reached my workload ceiling, I quite outdid myself in the amount of things I tackled.

It was my first semester with four technical classes – Physics 7C, Radioastronomy Lab 121, Computer Science 61C (Machine Structures), Electrical Engineering 120 (Signals and Systems). Radioastronomy was an amazing experience, but it also took anywhere between 15 and 50 hours per week to generate those awesome pictures and reports on my site. EE was challenging, serious math and a lot of smart people in the class, but with Babak as professor, it was awesome! It stripped off a lot of the mystery around Fourier, Laplace and Z transforms and I learn a whole bunch about signals and (you guessed it…) systems. I’m looking forward to getting into DSP, feedback control and communication systems! Computer Science ALWAYS takes time, and it’s amazing to see how far i’ve come. At the beginning of this semester I knew Scheme, some Ruby/Rails and Java. At the end of it, I’ve done C, PHP, MIPS, Digital logic design, some Flash and some C++ on top of that. Phew! The class itself taught me all about how a computer *really* works, and without the knowledge of caches, virtual memory, pipelines, machine language and assembly, I just won’t be a good coder. It was FUN to see my own processor chugging away, eating up MIPS instructions! Physics with Professor Adrian Lee was rewarding, fun, and almost always helter-skelter-almost-not-in-time! But DAMN it was awesome to prove that that electron you through you put it a cup can randomly appear outside it – just stare long enough ;)

Then, of course, I was a part-time employee of Yahoo! Research Berkeley during the course of the semester. 10 to 15 hours per week, phew! The stuff I get to do is exciting to say the least. Its incredibly gratifying to find myself in an environment where we’re literally hitting the tip of the iceberg in developments. Youtube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Jumpcut, etc etc… Old school, dude, that’s history – we’re doing the future right here. Man I can’t wait to get here every morning! And I’m learning so much in the process. Its great to see academic knowledge coming together with practical experience every day.

Hmm, and then I was of course still on Professor Alex Filippenko’s research team, looking for supernovae. He was voted US Professor of the Year 2007, which of course made me pretty chuffed to be working with this guy – Amazing! Last weekend was my first true observation run on top o fMt Hamilton with the 40″ Nickel telescope there, which was just insane. For two nights we spent the duration of the dark hours working with the telescope, learning the intricacies of observing. We also spent a significant time having fun with Weidong – this guy is just incredibly smart and such a great guy! I can’t wait for the next trip, and soon we’ll start doing regular remote observing. Fun fun! I also get to build a database system for the group to automate and keep trac of scheduling and the like. Sweet!

Ah, and I joined Tau Beta Pi, the general engineering honors society. Candidate requirements, events, interviews, workshops, fun activities, meetings, socials, game nights… you name it, we did it. The experience was less gratifying than I hoped for, but oh well! you can’t get everything perfect. I’ll write a post some other time on TBP and my opinions on the candidate process.

Oh, and I also made it into the EECS Honors program – so I better shape up, there’s gonna be more astrophysics coming my way!!

Since I’m not going to say more about my love life except for the fact that there *is* someone special (another time commitment right there!) I think that just about covers the big picture of my semester. The details will mostly be “I wanna sleep… I really realy wanna sleep… let’s get some Jolt and get on with this…”, so I’ll leave that out. I should comment that, so far, I kept it at another semester of all A’s, so it went well to say the least!!

Time to get home – and return these stupid headphones!

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