Fall 2014 Courses

My fall schedule at IUPUI has changed somewhat. Tomorrow I will start the new term with the following courses:

  • ECE 301: Signals & Systems
  • ECE 311: Electricity & Magnetism
  • ECE 362: Introduction to Microprocessor Systems & Interfaces
  • ECE 200: Co-op
  • E148: T'ai Chi Ch'uan

That is 12 credit hours, which will keep me quite busy. ECE 311 is rumored to be the hardest course we will take. ECE 362 is allegedly a tough lab course.

Susan Brooks (R-IN) Votes to Militarize State and Local Police

My Congressional Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN) voted against HR 4870, which would have prohibited Federal funds being used to provide military equipment to state and local police departments. She joined 354 others in continuing the militarization of police departments; only 62 voted in favor.

According to Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), he voted for "...the Grayson of FL Amendment to #HR4870, which prohibits funding in the bill from being used to transfer aircraft, grenade launchers, toxicological agents, missiles, and other weapons from the federal government to state and local law enforcement. This is military-grade equipment that shouldn't be used on the street by state and local police. The amendment was not agreed to by 62-355."

The bill was titled "Making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes." Here is the summary of the bill.

Write Representative Brooks and let her know how you feel on the issue of militarizing the police.

AEP Transmission Co-op

On August 14, finished my first work period as an engineering co-op student with AEP Transmission. My assignment was in Transmission Field Services (Construction) for Protection and Control (P&C) at the Muncie Service Center in Muncie, Indiana; our station is part of Indiana Michigan Power Company. Field work is full of crises, surprises, and unexpected developments. One colleague summed it up as "Periods of extreme boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror." Allow me to attempt elaboration.

During my interview for the position, I was told that the job was usually 30% inside and 70% outside. That seemed to be the case for me. My 30% indoors was usually spent doing online training materials, doing some bureaucratic chores, and working with the large station prints (all proprietary) of wiring diagrams, panel layouts, and more.

My 70% was exceptional, not least because of the travel: Our service area covered northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and the Indiana-Michigan border zone, although we also went to stations near Terre Haute and Cincinnati. I had occasional overnight trips to Van Wert and Wapakoneta, Ohio, to observe construction and help bring things back into service. I passed through many small towns, learned who some of the big employers were by virtue of their being big customers, and sampled some local color and history. The amount of driving my colleagues do can be grueling.

The work itself varied substantially. In addition to observing construction, usually performed by contractors, I participated in relay calibration, trip and carrier testing, carrier tuning, and troubleshooting of many problems. I chased wires on diagrams to match them to the reality of the yard. In one case, I stripped and snipped wires then crimped lugs. I witnessed arcs and coronas and saw people scramble when faults appeared on the line and to isolate a circuit breaker. I felt the pervasive static beneath a 765kV line.

There was much that I did and saw that left me quite favorably impressed by the field engineers' work. But I was also greatly impressed by the engineers themselves, most of whom I spent much time with on drives to far-flung locations. I left AEP pleased as both a burgeoning electrical engineer and as an AEP shareholder.

Ban Zoning

The libertarian magazine Reason has produced a superb short video (below) on a "tiny house" in Washington, DC, that is running afoul of the six zoning agencies; apparently one is not enough when it comes to telling people how and where they will live. The video goes on to discuss how zoning laws appeared in New York City in 1916 then rapidly spread to major (and minor) cities everywhere.

Everywhere except Houston, Texas. That largely explains why Houston's housing is markedly cheaper than in cities of comparable size and location. It also explains why Houston has much greater, more organic, diversity of housing stock, unlike the often drab enforced uniformity of housing sectors in towns where such personal decisions have been turned over to bureaucrats.

During my time in Japan, I enjoyed its lack of zoning. In fact, I happened to spend a week living in a hotel in Tokushima City that violated the local building suggestions by being too tall (it's since been torn down) and in an apartment complex in Kunitachi City for the same reasons; the residents placed in the shade by the complex sued but lost their case. There are indeed businesses mixed among homes in Japan, but big businesses tend to move outside residential areas to cheaper land. The businesses that remain are small businesses: privately owned clinics and hospitals, bakeries, barber, coffee shops, 24-hour minimarts, and such. There is less residential-only and business-only uniformity found in much of the US, probably an inevitable result of letting bureaucrats dictate.

Get rid of zoning. It is dreary, costly, and officious.

Japanese in Muncie

The other day a colleague took me for lunch to a Panda Express in Muncie, Indiana. While seated and eating--taking care not to damage my teeth on the poorly cooked "steamed brown rice"--two Asians came in: a tall slender fellow with a smaller woman who was reading the menu to him, yet I could not here the language; however, I could read their company shirts' name tags. The man was JJ, not a very Japanese name, and the woman was Katsumi, very Japanese.

When I went to refill my drink, I asked Kaysumi whether she was Japanese: She was. We had a brief chat in which I learned they work at FCC Clutch in Portland, Indiana, which supplies parts for Honda. I learned some other things and told her about myself and why I can speak Japanese, though it worsens daily.

Always I enjoy running into Japanese, because they typically react very well to people who can speak their language, even if not very well.