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Purdue Sophomore Year ('01-'02) - Semester III

I survived the first year, so here I am at the second. Courses are definitely becoming a bit more challenging, although I'm starting to enjoy them more as well (at least I think). As usual, descriptions of each class I'm taking follow.

MA 266 - Ordinary Differential Equations

This course is quite interesting. Differential equations can be applied to just about every situation you can encounter in life. Modeling circuit behavior, simple spring-mass systems, populations that are dependent on food supply, predators, etc., just about anything can be modeled by a differential equation. The professor for this class isn't all that bad either. He does a decent job of explaining most concepts, and he can be rather amusing from time to time in the way he responds to certain situations. All in all I've found this class to be enjoyable and I know for certain that what I'm learning in here will be critical to the rest of my computer engineering degree.

PHYS 261 - Electricity and Optics

After Physics 152, Mechanics, last year you'd think I'd be permanently scarred into hating physics. Interestingly enough, this is not the case. This course has been infinitely better than 152 was. The professor is really interesting, and does a good job of covering things in lecture. The really amusing thing is that at random times he interjects little statements along the lines of "and this can be used with handguns..." or something relating to how we're going to kill Osama Bin Laden. Our TA for this class is great as well. English is his primary language, which is always a good start, and he understands what he's doing. He's great at explaining problems, and he doesn't force the students that don't want to be there to stay. I think that this creates a great environment overall. This course has been really interesting, and it's managed to restore my faith in the Physics Department here at Purdue.

EE 201 - Linear Circuit Analysis I

One of my very first computer engineering courses, this definitely frightened me in the beginning. I was unfortunate enough to have never taken any type of electronics course before this, so the introduction of anything relating to a circuit was pretty much entirely new to me. I struggled a bit in the beginning, but now that I've gotten the basics down the rest isn't all that bad. The massive amount of imaginary numbers that we're now using in this course is amazing, however. When we briefly touched on imaginary numbers in high school I never thought that they'd really apply to anything that I did after that. I was severely wrong in that conclusion. Anyway, with the introduction of phasors (and my TI-89's ability to deal with them), circuit analysis is made considerably easier than it was at the start of the course. Our professor in this course isn't exactly the best, as he tends to not explain things all that well. He also gives ambiguous answers regarding tests and quizzes a lot of the time, trying to imply that he wants to teach us the material and not just prepare us for a test. I understand the point, but he contradicts himself a lot when trying to explain it. Overall I'll be glad when this course is over, although I will have learned a considerable amount from it.

SPAN 201 - Spanish Level III

Well, I'd initially hoped to avoid taking this course. Inevitably though, the realization came that by taking this course I instantly eliminated 9 of my general education elective requirements. That's a good thing. The best part about this class is that it's almost entirely review. We haven't covered anything that I didn't learn in high school, and I'm doing pretty well in the class. The tests are considerably easier than the high school tests, despite having to watch an annoying CD-ROM with videos on it to prepare. Our teacher is really nice, but I don't think she exactly knows what she's doing with regard to the general layout of the course. As far as I can tell, the foreign language department grabbed a native Spanish-speaker from the Mechanical Engineering program and said "teach this class." Not exactly how I'd go about getting a teacher for a course, but *shrug* she seems to be doing okay.

EE 207 - Electronic Measurement Techniques

I suppose this could be considered the lab counterpart to EE 201, but not really. In here we're learning how to operate all of the equipment that we'll be using for the remainder of our stay at Purdue. We've also been exploring basic circuit elements, along with simple operational amplifier layouts. We have two TA's for this lab, the head TA who knows what he's talking about and is entirely competent, and the assistant TA who has no idea what the hell he's doing. That's okay though, both my lab partner and I have been doing fairly well in the course. The only thing that really annoys me is how I stupidly kept misreading the color bars on the resistors for the last lab practical. Ah well, we'll see how badly I do as a result of that sometime soon I'm sure.

EE 264 - Advanced C Programming

Next to Band 110, this is the best course that I'm taking this semester. The professor for this class is awesome. He has the deepest understanding of computing of any person that I've met thus far in my life. He does an excellent job of teaching the material, and the homework problems that we have to do are good at illustrating each concept. Apparently a lot of people are finding the course to be seriously challenging, or so I've heard. Luckily for me this all comes fairly naturally, and I'm having no difficulties at all with the material. I love programming. Another cool thing about the course is that lectures are held in EE 129, covered by the wireless LAN. This means I quite frequently bring my laptop to class and use to work on homework, compile examples that he's showing, or just play around if he's covering something that I already know.

EE 200 - ECE Sophomore Seminar

I don't know what it is with these x00 courses, but they all suck. Every last one of them. Last year I had that stupid EE 100 course or whatever it was, an introduction to engineering. Nobody took that class seriously, and nobody takes this one seriously either. To top it off, we don't even get a single credit for it despite the fact that it's required to graduate. The only thing that could have possibly been productive from this class is when they explained the Plan of Study, abbreviated POS (yea, that's what I thought the first time I saw it too), System. Luckily for me, I wasn't there that day. It really wasn't that hard to explore by yourself anyway. As for the remainder of the year, we basically listened to a lot of people that were in the coop program explain what they did the previous semester. We briefly covered ethics in one presentation which was just a complete joke. All in all I feel I should be compensated for the 10 or so hours of my life this class stole from me. Either way I'll be more than glad when I'm done.

BAND 110 - Marching Band

Ah yes, marching band once again. I'll never be able to get enough marching band. The Purdue "All-American" Marching Band is the best band on this planet, in my opinion. This semester our normal director, Dr. Leppla, is on sabbatical visiting other college marching bands around the nation. He's gathering information and comparing how they do things to what we do in an effort to improve our department, or at least verify that what we're doing is the best.

As such, Professor Kissinger is our acting director. He's competent, and we're getting along okay with him. We've also taken on a temporary assistant director, Boyd. Boyd's a very interesting person, and he seems competent as well. As for band itself, we've done some interesting shows this year, all of which have been enjoyable.

Our away trip for this year was OSU, and although we lost, it was really cool to interact with their marching band and see their stadium and a small part of their campus. To top it off, my Aunt & Uncle were there as well. I got to the see them for a few brief periods of time throughout the game.

We also had the unfortunate requirement of going to IU immediately following Thanksgiving this year. The experience was fitting, it permanently made IU synonymous with "hell hole" in my mind. Their "marching 100," I can't bring myself to call them a marching band, is just horrible. They lack basic marching skills of any kind. There was one formation where a group of them were supposed to be in a line on the hash. There were people two or three steps in front of and behind the hash! I fail to understand how that's even possible. In addition, their fans are extremely rude. Many of them tried to run between ranks in the band as we marched to and from the stadium, others threw items at us, and the remainder just swore and made rude comments towards us. Not to mention that it rained like mad for the first two quarters. We were all drenched to the bone. Ultimately our team lost, and we were all pretty happy that we got to get out of there and back to Purdue.

Keeping with recent history, Coach Tiller once again produced a winning season for the football team. As such, we became bowl eligible and ultimately ended up going to the Wells Fargo Sun Bowl. What follows is basically the entire diary I kept while on the trip, with a few parts trimmed out here and there. I should probably have given it an entirely separate page, but *shrug* I'm lazy.

As frequently happens to members of the Turkstra family (or at least me), the trip started out as a near disaster. The online itinerary that we were provided with implied that we were supposed to arrive at 12:45pm and depart on the busses around 1:30pm. The inherent problem was that apparently we were supposed to arrive around 10:00am-10:30am. That was really just the beginning, however. After that I foolishly parked my Dad's car in an area where the busses parked immediately behind upon arrival. This occurred as I ran around looking for baggage tags, necessary for the trip, and everything else that was required. Ultimately I succeeded in obtaining these things, and as I returned outside, I noticed how much of a screwed position I was in. Fortunately there was a gap almost immediately behind and to the left of the car. After repeatedly annoying the bus drivers and thanking them a lot, they moved two of the busses up 10ft. At that point I was able to back the car out. After this I immediately raced to the parking garage a block or so away, parked the vehicle, ran back to the busses, and got on. I had actually made it. Thankfully things got considerably better after this.

We made it to the airport at just about as perfect of a time one could expect, got on the plane without too much hassle, and proceeded to take off. The plane ride was rather uneventful, with the usual "interesting" airplane food. Ultimately we arrived in El Paso, got off the plane, and were greeted by a very interesting Mariachi Band. They consumed about 30 minutes of our time, and then we boarded the busses, waited for the luggage to finish loading, and went to our hotel.

The hotel was quite nice. We were fortunate to obtain a suite, which appeared to me to actually be a suite and another room connected together. It was great. We had a patio that overlooked the airport, where mountains could be seen in the background and there was plenty of space all around. Devin and I were in one bedroom, with a large bed; Krause was in the living room on a pull out couch (we even had a fireplace and a nice bar area); and Julian was left to the other room.

We unpacked for a short period of time and then went down to the busses. After spending around 25 minutes on the bus, we arrived at some high school which turned out to be our practice location for the remainder of our stay. We played music for an extended period of time and finally got to return home.

Upon arrival back at the hotel, a large group of us (the altos) and a piccolo headed off to find food. Ultimately we ended up at Denny's, along with a large majority of the band. We waited for an hour to an hour and half but managed to finally get some food. We then returned home and acted generally non productive for the remainder of the evening.

The following morning, we headed down to the busses and proceeded to go to the Team Luncheon, where there was theoretically supposed to be a "Battle of the Bands." As it turned out, the other band never showed (at least to my knowledge). The audience for the event turned out to be rather small as well. It increased in size some as time moved on, but it was definitely nothing even close to last year's Rose Bowl turnout.

The event was not without a source of amusement, however: two fluffy looking pink and yellow bears representing Wells Fargo, the sponsor of the Sun Bowl. They had really weird speakers that drastically distorted their voices making them sound as though they had just recently sucked a massive amount of helium. Throughout the entire performance they wandered around behind the band making really weird comments that were made infinitely more amusing by their voices. Ultimately I was able to obtain a picture with them, and then we headed up to a balcony like setting on one of the buildings to eat pizza. Following this we loaded the busses and headed back to the hotel for a brief period of time.

Back at the hotel, we quickly returned to our rooms, changed clothes, and headed off to rehearsal at the high school. Once there, we had a 20 minute or so challenge and then proceeded immediately into rehearsal. Keeping with tradition, our first marching rehearsal at the bowl site sucked in just about every way possible. I fail to understand how after doing the show like 3 or 4 times, so many people can still have no idea what they're doing. Ultimately it resulted in us getting talked to by Boyd, kind of like Doc did at the Sun Bowl but not really. Anyway, the rehearsal went on and on and on. Finally, we boarded the busses once again and took off to the "Cattleman's Ranch."

The Cattleman's Ranch was definitely the highlight of the day. We got to go on a hay ride around the base of some small mountains (or large hills, depending on your point of view), which also happened to be the site of a movie made a few years back...I can't recall the name. Regardless, it was really enjoyable. After that we took a tour of the ranch itself, which contained many other interesting things. It had a small zoo-like area with various animals (even a rattlesnake pit) that we got to see, an interesting Indian Maze which really wasn't that challenging, and a beautiful small pond with lighting. After the tour was concluded, we all headed indoors to consume a very delicious meal. The steak was outstanding, and was accompanied with a rather large potato and a few other items. As we finished dinner, we were privileged enough to observe people making fools of themselves while singing karaoke. Ultimately we turned out to be the fools though, as we ourselves sang a song...something from Guns and Roses, again I don't recall the name. It was quite amusing. What was even more amusing, though, was the fact that both Bill and Boyd took the opportunity to present their own solos. Finally a few other altos and I went for a brief evening walk on the boardwalk and over to a small island. When we returned it was about time to head out and so we were off to return to the hotel.

At the hotel things continued until around 1am. Finally around 12am people started filtering out of our room and everyone was gone by 1am. We proceeded to take care of our nightly routines and head off to bed.

After breakfast the following morning, we grabbed our instruments and anything else useful and headed off to the practice field at the high school. This morning's rehearsal was infinitely better than the previous evening's. People were doing semi-intelligent things, and we were able to do some cleaning and run-throughs of both halftime and pregame. With the exception of the clarinet rank that marches to the left of Rank 19 in many spots being entirely stupid as usual, the rehearsal went fairly well.

Upon the conclusion of rehearsal, I stood in line for a while to get the T-Shirt and sweatshirts with the Sun Bowl logos and stuff on them that I would've gotten at the beginning of the trip but we already know why that didn't happen. After that we boarded the bus and headed over to "Andre's Pizza Shop" for some Mexican food. I pretty much had two tacos and some ice cream, the other stuff I didn't find all that appealing. We also discovered at that time that it's a big mistake to try and feed the band at that location.

After lunch was finished, Doc (yes, Doc was there and made random appearances) gave a brief speech about how the staff this year has been so great and how we've been so great. I agree to the extent that Matt, our graduate assistant was definitely awesome.

As Doc's speech concluded, we all boarded the busses again and went "shopping." I placed shopping in quotes because it really wasn't shopping. As it turned out, we didn't go to the souvenir shop that they had originally planned. Instead, we went to some really "interesting" place that sold little trinkets for a homeowner to make their home look like Texas. There were a lot of rusted iron things. Fortunately they did have some sombreros for the individuals in the band that were so intent on getting one they'd pay obscene amounts of money. Finally we got back on the busses and went to the hotel.

We then had a great 5 hours of free time. Krause, as expected, threw a nice sized party in our suite, so we (Devin and I) took off and sat in Traci and Laura's room down in 310. Their room was considerably smaller than ours, but it was still a good time. After a while I went back up to our room to see if Michelle and/or Erin wanted to join us and perhaps go swimming or something.

Ultimately we didn't go swimming, but instead wandered around outside for a little while and then returned back to the room to continue talking. It was really just a series of really interesting stories. Finally around 1am we wandered back up to our room and started getting ready for bed.

The following day, Sunday, practice went significantly better than any of the others. We got things done, and it seemed to run fairly smoothly. As I was in Pep Band A, I got to eat lunch early and leave for about an hour. We went to the La Hacienda Cafe and played for the alumni. It was actually quite interesting. I got to see a good view of Mexico, with a giant flag flying over the city (Warez or something), and we even got close enough to see the Rio Grande and the barbed wire fence that separated Mexico from the US. Interestingly enough, there was a bridge that said "do not cross" or something similar that went right from Mexico to the US without any obstructions. The frequency at which I saw the border patrol moving back and forth leads me to believe that it really wouldn't be that difficult for someone to illegally immigrate into the US from Mexico. Hopefully I'm mistaken and there are other security methods in place that I couldn't see, but I somehow doubt that. Anyway, we played a few tunes for the alums, and according to Matt they stood up and clapped for the pep band for the first time in history. I guess we did a pretty good job :-).

We returned to the high school, where Washington State's pep band had already arrived and was preparing to perform their pregame and halftime shows. I liked the music that they chose to perform but in comparison to other marching bands I've seen...well, one of our directors said that their main goal is to have fun, and it definitely shows quality wise. Anyway, I think we pretty much blew them away with our performance. All in all it was a pretty cool event, we even interacted with the other band a little.

As the dress rehearsal concluded, we once again piled onto the busses and headed to a nice field up in the mountains a little ways. It really was beautiful. We lined up in parade block and marched past fans, played at a Purdue Pep Rally for a while, then lined up again to march to the Fan Fiesta Battle of the Bands. The Pep Rally was interesting, I must say...Coach Tiller actually tried to explain what "Boiler Up!" means. As far as I can tell, it sounded more like he was generating multiple definitions in an attempt to justify something that his wife came up with that really has no meaning. It was okay though, we found it amusing. Anyway, we marched over to the Fan Fiesta and played tunes back and forth between us and Washington State for a while after that. Again, I think we sounded significantly better than Washington State. Finally we marched out of the small field area enclosed by mountains, and returned to the busses. On our way we saw a hot air balloon basket (no actual balloon), with the fire generating engine thing on top. It was great, they kept pulling it and setting it off. The flames were pretty large.

When we returned to the busses, we all expected that we would be going back to the hotel to change clothes in preparation for La Hacienda Cafe, which we were to remain at until 11pm dancing and stuff. Unfortunately this did not happen. We were running a bit late, and Bill chose to go directly to the cafe. That was arguably a mistake, but we still enjoyed going. The food was okay (I don't like Mexican all that much), and we got to wander outside for a little bit. I even got a picture of me climbing the fence to Mexico. There was a really cool Mariachi band there too. They were awesome, I must say. According to Bill a second band was supposed to arrive to play more dance-like music so we could all dance and such. They didn't show up before we started getting antsy, though. A significant number of people wandered outside and started getting on the busses around 8:30pm. The primary reasons probably were that we were in arguably uncomfortable clothes and people were really exhausted. It was Game Day tomorrow, and we all knew it. After a few minutes, we saw fireworks off in the distance above the mountains (about where the Fan Fiesta was located). We stood for around 15 to 30 minutes watching the display, and Bill came out at some point during that stretch. Ultimately after the fireworks we all boarded the busses and went back to the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel, Traci and I wandered down to 7/11 to get some lip balm for my lips and some film for her. We returned and sat around for a while. Laura came over, and Devin was packing. She looked at pictures while I started packing too. Traci was out in the other room watching a large number of people start accumulating. Ultimately we finished packing and went out to the living room area and told everyone they had to leave. It took a few times, but they finally got the point and left. Devin went right to bed, Traci went back to pack, and Laura and I sat in the living room watching an episode of Stargate: SG1 until 11, at which point she returned to her room and I went to bed.

I awoke bright and early the following day, around 6:15am. After the morning routine we all grabbed our luggage, dropped it off outside down by the busses, grabbed breakfast, and ate in our room as usual. Ultimately we got into uniformed, grabbed the rest of our stuff, and went down to the busses in anticipation of departure. Everyone finally got on, and the busses left at 8:30am for the Sun Bowl.

We got to the Sun Bowl, unloaded, got our boxed lunches, sat around for a while, got our instruments (it was really cold), and headed over to the Alumni Tent for a brief Pep Rally. It was rather amusing...most of the alums were in a closed tent, so they couldn't see us. Bill sent a few people from each section into the tent though to bring the pep band in there as well. We played a few tunes and headed back to the Sun Bowl.

At this point we were all in our seats at the stadium, and one of the football players played catch with the band for a while. He'd throw the football to us, we'd throw it back. It was amusing to watch. As game time approached and people started filling the stadium, we played a few tunes and listened to the other band as well. They looked incredibly small compared to us, as only 100 of them were permitted to travel. Ultimately we went down the field in preparation for pregame.

Pregame went well, in my opinion, and I think most people did a good job. We got to watch the other band's pregame too. It was, well, interesting. Anyway, they finished and the game started. We did better than I expected against Washington State, and were actually ahead for a while. We performed our halftime show, which also went fairly well...there were still some issues with the company fronts lining up as we came towards the sideline, but nothing major. Finally the end of the game neared, and as it turned out we lost. The final score was 33 to 27 I believe. Anyway, we headed back to the parking lot, helped pack and load instruments onto the truck, boarded the busses, and started off to the airport. It took about 30 minutes to get there, and we finally boarded the plane in preparation for the trip home. The flight was pretty uneventful again, Traci and I talked about the plane crashing and bad things happening just about the entire way home as usual, and other people gave us weird looks. It was quite amusing.

Anyway, as does happen in life, the great trip was over. The Rose Bowl was awesome because well, it was the Rose Bowl. We had nonstop performances and everything, and it was great. The Sun Bowl was awesome not because it was the Sun Bowl, but because we got to spend time with everyone as a band, as friends. We weren't under the constant pressure to perform that we were at the Rose Bowl and we had time to relax and interact. I really wish I had written a journal about the Rose Bowl...maybe if I have time I'll do a more detailed summary of what all I can remember. Regardless I think this finally concludes my "Sun Bowl Diary," yet another small excerpt from my life.