A little reprieve (+ FE/EIT thoughts)

I want to say I miss writing, but I can’t.

I haven’t actually stopped writing this time.

The past one and a half years this blog has been up, there have been several occasions where I’ve had to stop writing for whatever reason, and every time I come back I worry that I’ve forgotten how to write. I’d look over some of my old entries, some of my favorites, and then some others I’d spent a lot of energy writing yet the final product produced was not one I particularly enjoyed reading. How am I going to not going to make a fool of myself, What kind of image was I generally painting before and how do I get back to that? There’d always be a couple of hiccups, but the rhythm came back eventually. Perhaps the melody changed a bit each time, but that’s inevitable. Preferable even; I’ve hoped to keep this blog away from the textbook-style problem-solution posts some single-topic blogs usually turn into.

This time the rhythm never went away. A rest was planned, but an interlude happened instead.

This “chain of short stories” style that I’ve tried out in Intermissions is a good format. It allows directness in the immediate without directness in the whole, indirectness in the whole without indirectness in the immediate. There are certain things which can be said in this style that cannot be said, or are conveyed much less effectively, in writing where everything is made explicit first and then things are brought up from ground zero. By “cannot”, I mean more that they “should not”, in the same sense that you should not be asking someone to go out to buy you pizza or snow bubble. These things simply are not the same if you are not there to experience it as they happen. Can you still have them in the other fashion? No one says you cannot have warm soda. But I will not produce it anymore, now that I have seen how to keep it cold. In a world of hyper accurate data and more colorful than life pictures, it requires some strength of imagination to see how delivering it differently changes the “actual content”. In this analogy, I will only produce photographs of certain things in black and white.

It also allows me to be personal without being personal. As much as I value removing the “me” off the stage so I can direct the spotlight onto the idea, every so often I’d stop the show and have something where I simply rant without nearly as much discretion or finesse. These are fine, and perhaps necessary: anger is good so long as its execution is attempted coherently and cohesively. But I have more things in my head, and want to convey more things, than simply pure anger or pure thought. Mysticism too has a place and some of its points should be developed more fully: anger already makes cameos with sarcasm and thoughts appear with tangential questions, magic too should also have more than a simple poetic arrangement of words here or there. Ironically, they appear to be much cleaner posts. Keeping a pure-thought post is very difficult, and pure-anger is always going to be dirty, but a pure-magic can easily be kept clean by directing whatever kind of energy I have at the moment to a different section of the post. If there is a switch of energy type, I work the other sections and come back later.

When I realized I don’t aim to be a “content creator” or someone who must create novel things at a nitpick rate, it really doesn’t feel like I’ve stopped at all.

Just a little change in course, the boat never set down anchor.

__________________

The main justification for the planned hiatus was the Engineer in Training, or Fundamentals of Engineering exam. That exam occurred yesterday, so the reason no longer exists. It will not exist again in the future even if I have to retake it, unless they dramatically change its format – its format is the most important thing.

The FE/EIT was different from what I had expected. My only knowledge of it came from my dad and my uncles, who took it thirty or so years ago. Of course I had the little bulletpoints data from various sources including the NCEES itself, but they are the colorings to the main structure, which I build from listening to the experience of others. I was told that the first half was multiple choice and the second half was long answer, so I prepared for that. When I found out that both halves were now multiple choice, I still prepared to show every single step. When I found out the second half was 60 questions and not 10 or fewer, and the first half was 120 questions, I pressurized my prior understanding of the evidence and deduced it would be an extremely hard exam.

But it wasn’t. And this can be said regardless of whether I end up passing or not, because the structure is different.

Some preliminary numbers. These reflect only my experience of the April 2013 FE Exam in “Other Disciplines”. Re-note that I expected a very different exam going into the test, and did not realize it was different from what I expected until I completed my first pass on the first half. Absorbing this knowledge will probably have effects on how you think of the test and thus also how you approach studying it. Though I did not study all too much in the end, I did drop many things in the anticipation of needing to be completely thorough (my default understanding of any test is that I have to ace not relative to my peers, but relative to the test). Mental state is important.

This discussion does not violate the NCEES Candidate agreement. No “disclosing of exam questions, problems, or answers” occurs.

AM: 4 hours, 120 questions – avg 2 min/question

Total time to complete: 4 hours
First pass: ~3 hours, 23/120 skipped (19.2%) – avg 1.8 min/question completed
Final pass: 4 hours, 0 skipped – avg 2.6 min/qC
Other: 10/23 were on one topic.

PM: 4 hours, 60 questions – avg 4 min/question

Total time to complete: 3 hours 45 minutes
First pass: ~90 minutes, 18/60 skipped (30%) – avg 2.1 min/qC
Second pass: +~110 minutes, 6/60 skipped (10%) – avg 9.2 min/qC
Final pass: +~45 minutes, 0 skipped – avg 7.5 min/qC

The FE exam has no truly complex problems.

All of the questions are written in such a way so that you either know it or you don’t. Ignoring reading errors or something procedural, it is technically possible to do every problem with no pauses for “Hmm, what do I do next?”.  The average for first pass of all completed problems would probably be closer to about 1.2 for both the first and second halves, if you omitted pondering over the questions that weren’t done on the first pass. There were a handful of problems which took a couple of minutes for simply executing the math, but the conceptual setup was two or fewer steps for every single problem. Every problem that was doable was hit-and-go: read, understand, scan possible answers for an obvious choice, if not then execute and plug in calculator. On the first passes, I did not use the supplied reference manual. Some things on there were trivia questions, trivia both as “superfluous” and as “fundamental”. After a year or so with engineering courses that take an hour or three per homework problem, this was very different.

The second pass was when the reference manual came in. For all the problems requiring knowledge you don’t have or can’t bring up on the spot, it is in the manual (except for those trivia questions). If the first pass was about memory and recall, the second pass was about searching quickly. Though the answers are basically in the reference manual for every problem, the problem is whether or not you can find the information in time. The reference manual is 264 pages with a noninsignificant density of equations and words on each page. It is not exactly an answer key; you must be able to disseminate effectively with your time. This applies also to the problems themselves: are you understanding what the problem is asking? This was my trouble with the economics problems, which were the 10/23 I skipped on the first pass of the first half.

But they were all doable in the end. In a sense, all problems were hit-and-go. I hit all the problems. I just didn’t, on some of them, go very quickly after hitting because I didn’t understand what was going on. Understanding what is going on is also a skill, and I think it is something underrated in this “information-driven world”. The way the exam is set up, it was very clear that the “Other Disciplines” or “General” engineer really didn’t need to study completely in depth what toxicology or biology topics there were. Don’t remember the formula for sonic booms, or never even learned about concrete? That’s fine. There’s a book here. Can you find what you need, and can you understand what it says in the standardized way we have written it in?I think it is the essence of thinking and learning. Learning always will require “regurgitation” of some manner, otherwise it’d be creation. But there is a difference between linear storage and reproduction and its nonlinear “counterpart”. For the former, both the source and the receiver are obvious, and no mental motion or agility is necessary. For the latter, you don’t know where you’re going to find the information you need; finding the source is part of the work.

NCEES could not allow simply open book everything due to the existence of telecommunications, but a 264 page handbook is pretty close to that.

At least in structure, I think the FE/EIT is a respectable test.

__________________

It’s been a while since I’ve made a non-magical-style post. According to dating, “Journey” was posted on 1/14, so exactly three months. I believe most of the occurrences were covered one way or another inside sections of the Intermissions, so I’ll go over just a list of things that have occurred that I’ve not posted about due to a desire to keep a fluency.

    • New Year’s Resolution has not been dropped, though liberties have been taken. Jan-Feb had two books: Hagakure, which fit the age requirement, and Antifragile, which fit the length requirement. They were both influential books, though perhaps not as influential as they would be had I written my thoughts on them. I plan on rereading Antifragile eventually, as it has a wealth of various ideas I did not fully absorb on this first pass. My memory of the book is centered around the chapter “Via Negativa”, which is very similar to my not so concise “All else is halation” (they are both what they sound like). Hagakure I am currently rereading and collecting the best quotes. At the very least my quotes list will be modified with a couple of entries from Hagakure, but I may also make a post on what I found were the best quotes, or even do an Art of War additional commentary style along with it. Current reading for March-April was not decided on until last week or so; George Fitzhugh’s “Sociology for the South: The Failure of Free Society”. Will probably spill over into May.
    • I have not been reading any Manosphere posts, and will remove them from the blogroll sometime in the near future. Some exceptions of course, being those that have very intelligent writers and can be used to train the mind with “game” or “pick up artistry” simply happening to be the training ground. While I continue to respect their viewpoint and will read the world with a more conscious eye towards women, I do not think the direction is very respectable. For the more respectable ones there is a lack of direction, for the less respectable ones they are creating misdirections. There is a site called “Return of Kings”, about picking up women. Is that what it means to be a king? How much you can market yourself to women? I do not think so.
    • No more videogames. Ever since I posted the quote about videogames from Muv-Luv Unlimited here, I’ve basically stopped. I want to play with friends, but I have no friends to play with who understand games in the same fashion (which is necessary). However, this has also led me to realize that I’ve always had something to play that trains my mind at speed and precise [analog] positioning. Now with no more video games, I have been searching for something to fill the gap. The potential solution at the moment is music. I have obtained an old electronic piano, and am looking at obtaining an electric violin.
    • Sleep has been getting lighter and shorter. This is partially due to the hotter temperatures and the fact that my room is situated above the AC unit of the apartment below, but also due to other untraced reasons.
    • I’m going to continue linking back to previous important entries. This one will have links in time, just lazy at the moment. The intermissions will not be retroactively edited in this manner, though future magic-style posts will probably have them, at least in certain sections.
    • I am not quitting cycling. I like going fast.
    • However, I am “quitting” engineering. Though completely shitty classes, uncaring professors, and a complete disconnect between the stories I hear from the older generation to what I see and experience with applying for jobs and internships, civilization has managed to break my dream of expanding to space. It is fairly clear to me there is no place for anyone in this world. It is all too easy now to see that the world does not actually “need” more engineers. If you need someone, you do not make them crawl and beg. In retrospect it’s obvious. Silicon Valley needs more science majors? Sure they do, and they’ll continue importing them from India. Does this make me bitchy? As much as I love the Glengarry Glen Ross speech from Alec Baldwin, that existed in a context of a different world. There is no “other context” in this world anymore, not as far as I can see. If anything the foreground and background have switched places: now the wife you used to go home to is doing PR, and the man who worked cutthroat is doing everything behind the scenes. There is nothing left. If you truly need no one else, can forge your own existence from nothing to something, and hold everything off for all time… good for you. I cannot. Does this make me weak? I’d like to think that, in the context of the rest of my personality, it makes me human.
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