Greetings from the land of plenty, or whatever Indiana is famous for. I know that you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but the other day I was trying to come up with such a sentence and was unsuccessful, so I think I'll leave the first sentence alone. Do you think I ought to? Anyway, another year has come and gone (I'm not talking about 1936 either, although I would be just as correct in doing so).
1994 was a year of many firsts for me. I jumped onto the World Wide Web, took a three week solo vacation, got my first taste of research, reviewed a text book, started dating, flunked a test, and didn't use an umbrella the entire year. Alright, so now you're thinking, "What an idiot. He just told me everything about himself in the second paragraph. There's no way I'm going to read this entire letter now. If he asks me about the letter, I can pretend like I read the whole thing, and he'll never know the difference." Well, unfortunately for you, I have anticipated this. One of the firsts listed above is not true. You will have to read the letter if you want to find out which one is not true... unless, of course, you already know. In that case, you may as well pitch this thing now.
Simply (and somewhat incorrectly) put, the World Wide Web is a facility that allows users all around the world to interactively browse material placed on the internet for public viewing. This past summer I helped to create a homepage (a document with text, graphics, video, and/or sound) for HKN, the electrical engineering honor society at Purdue. I also created a homepage for myself which contains a number of different things that I have done in the past including a Unix manual I wrote and pictures from my recent vacations. Those of you who have access to a WWW browser can look at my stuff at http://albrecht.ecn.purdue.edu/~taylor/. For those of you who don't have access, I have included a portion of the homepage below.
He has consumed four tons of cow's milk and counted to 125,000 by ones all in the last decade. He walks to school most days and runs the rest. Chris was not homecoming king in high school or college, he did not graduate at the top of his high school class. He was not involved with any political movements in the 1960's and has never been in a rock band, but he has held hands with an orangutan.
Chris hasn't been convicted of grand theft auto in the last five years and has never been convicted of a violent crime. He has moved eighteen different times living in four countries and three states but contends that he is not running from anything or anyone. He has ridden more elephants than horses and hopes to one day swim across the Arctic Ocean.
After graduating in May... Uh, did I mention that I graduated this year? I guess I forgot, but in May I received my MSEE. Anyway, after I graduated I spent three weeks touring some of the National Parks in the U.S. and Canada. I drove 8584.4 miles, consumed 200 gallons of gas (okay, my car had most of it), and hiked 59.8 miles in my journey to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Badlands National Park, Waterton National Park, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park, fourteen National Forests, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Devil's Tower National Monument, and Mount Rushmore National Monument. I'll bet you didn't realize that it was possible to put "National" in one sentence seventeen times. Well, now you do. This alone probably makes this letter worth reading, but don't stop yet. I managed to keep expenses down by only eating out twice and camping in National Forests. In fact, Purdue's electrical engineering department paid for the whole thing with an award that I received last spring for "excellence in teaching." If you ever get a chance to take a trip like this, don't pass it up without a lot of thought. I had a great time---even by myself.
Last spring I began to get my research feet wet. I did small research project under the supervision of the man who is now my major professor. My goal was to develop an automated technique for color calibrating the monitors in our research lab. This fall I worked in the area of digital image halftoning. The basic idea is to try to fool human eyes into thinking they are seeing a better image than they really are. As many of you probably know, laser printers can only print black dots (on white paper). As a result they can only produce black and white images. What we would really like is to somehow create shades of gray, even though we don't have any gray "ink." We can fool the eyes into thinking a pattern of black dots on a white background looks gray, provided the dots are small enough and the paper is held sufficiently far away. Our goal was/is to develop algorithms that help a computer decide where these dots should be placed in order to make a black and white picture look most nearly like the original gray scale picture.
Much of this work has already been done by other people. My task was to improve upon previous work by taking into account imperfections in the shape of the actual printed dots. Unfortunately, I was not very successful and will continue this work this next year. I also plan to extend this work to color printers. In the case of color printers we have three different colors and white to play with, so everything gets more complicated. I have included a couple of pictures from my vacation this summer. If you look closely, particularly in very light or dark areas of low contrast you can see that there are only black dots on white paper; however, if you hold the paper at arm's length, the picture looks like it contains shades of gray. [I have omitted the pictures here; however, a number of photographs from this vacation are available for viewing.]
This summer I was honored with the opportunity to review a text book for John Wiley and Sons. The text book is intended to be used in an upper-level undergrad/intro grad class on optimization methods. Although this sounds pretty impressive, I am convinced that one of the professors who wrote the book (and who taught a class I took using a rough draft of the book) suggested my name to the publisher, not because of any exceptionally keen intellectual grasp of the material, but because I kept bothering him with little typos and other suggestions.
At the end of this summer I took my first and, unfortunately, not last crack at the Ph.D. qualifying exam. I joined the large group of "non-passers," and qualified for a second opportunity to take the exam. Please note that this is not the goal of the exam. The "qualifying" part of the name is to qualify for the Ph.D. program, not to qualify to take the exam over. Although this was, or maybe because it was a very humbling experience, it has been quite beneficial. It has forced me to realize once again my dependence on God for all I have or ever will have. I have taken the exam again, but the results are not out yet.
In keeping with my practice of doing something strange every year, (Just in case people start to think I am normal.) By the way, one of my friends (Hi Ken) once told me, "Everyone wants to be normal, but nobody wants to be average." Anyway, I'm not even going to try to finish the first sentence of this paragraph. I interrupted myself too many times to recover. Let's just start over. The year of 1994 was my year for not using an umbrella. You should now be able to figure out which of those things in the beginning of letter I didn't do. Which pretty much means that I am done with this letter.
Of course I continued to be involved in the same old things that I have been involved with. Those activities included teaching a couple labs each semester, church choir, the Navigators (including leading the group that plans our large group meetings and leading a Bible study in the spring), HKN (including being Laser & Lab Committee Chairs and Web Committee Co-Chair and helping out with an Engineering Olympics event where we had blind-folded contestants push a teammate (sitting on a computer terminal (How many levels deep in parentheses do you think I can go (Do you care? (Do you think I care? (You're right (I think))))) around a short track), the American Society of Engineering Educators, and the electronic junkmail messages that pester so many of you with electronic mail.
Given current trends in postage pricing, I am not certain I will be able to afford to send out copies of the 1996 newsletter. I have decided to include a few highlights for 1996 just in case the feared becomes reality. This spring I am not taking any EE classes. Instead I am taking one psychology class. The class is about human vision. I hope to be able to use what I learn in this class in my research. Probably the biggest news for me this semester though, is being asked to teach a lecture class. In the past I have been teaching laboratory sections. In contrast, I am teaching an actual three credit class. The class is a sophomore level digital logic design class. I have around 75 students in it. This is a great opportunity for me to see if I really do like this teaching stuff as much as I think I will. Although preparing lectures and tests will take time, the department has given me a teaching assistant (another grad student) to help by doing the solutions to homework I assign and holding office hours to help answer students' questions. They also have allowed me to hire someone to grade the homework so all I will need to grade is the tests. On top of all that, one of the secretaries has volunteered to keep track of my grades for me. On the down side, as far as I can tell, this is the first time in a long time they have asked a grad student to do a lecture during a regular semester. As a result, there are a number of logistical things that haven't been worked out. Hopefully these will get worked out in the near future.
A big thanks to all of you who took the time to send me Christmas cards. I enjoyed every one of them except... well, yeah, I enjoyed every one of them.
May your tongue never sweat,
Chris Taylor --- taylor@REMOVEMEecn.purdue.edu
P.S. You're pretty geeky if you noticed that I was missing a closing parenthesis.
P.P.S. Thirteen grammar rules were broken in the process of making this letter. Can you find them? Hint: Although "alright" is nonstandard, it is in my dictionary, so it doesn't count.
P.P.P.S. Sorry this year's letter wasn't very funny. I didn't have as much time to devote to it as I would have liked.