Spring 07 Week Seven

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Overwhelmed, overjoyed… I think I am over this year. Really, I am quite burned out. Considering that school has been taking up all my free time for the past six (almost seven now) years is saying something. The fresh-from-high-school kids that are in all my classes have no idea what that is like. The GRADUATE students know what I am talking about. But they love telling the stories of how they had three years off to start a sushi restaurant in Atlanta, or climb Mt. Everest, or whatever. No break like that for me.

Last week was mostly anticipation for getting my statistics exam back. I did get a better-than-average score (correcting my previous assertion that I was just average). My score was 12.5, with the average being a 10, out of 30. Yes, 30. What’s more, the standard deviation was a 7.1. That means that a just-failing C- is a score of 3. THREE. The grade histogram is particularly scary. If you look at it, there was a whole group of people (19 students) that scored between zero and five, and I can only assume that these people are feeling like dropping the course. So if that comes to pass, then my 12.5 becomes more perfectly-average again. The crappy part is this exam was 40% of your final grade.

Long and the short of it is I am not dropping the course, I will stick with it and see what happens on the final. The numerical methods get much more abstract from here: alot of “given the probability density function is (insert function type here), derive a definition of the mean in terms of (insert variable names here)”. Interesting enough, Dr. Zeger does not concentrate on word problems (real problems), which is a little perplexing given that the class is full of engineers. Whatever.

I am also getting a bit nervous in my chemistry lab. The TA has so far handed us back only experiment one graded. So here I am working on turning in experiment five, and I have almost no clue how he wants his lab reports written. So, I have been erring on the side of caution and OVER writing them. Which takes more time and is more stressful. Getting the picture? Classic downward spiral… not making me a happy puppy. So the lab this week was our first synthesis, and I think I botched it (with half the class apparently). It was an esterification. After refluxing acetic acid, sulfuric acid catalyst, and an unknown alcohol at possibly too-high a temp (whoops) I then had to neutralize the acid (workup) and got the pH test part wrong. I was adding basic solution, mixing, then removing the aqueous layer and adding it to a test tube with the previous layers, then testing that solution. I SHOULD have been testing each layer. Whoops, got it way too basic. Apparently that can destroy your ester. Hope my IR spectrum shows I still have an ester! Otherwise bad grade for me!

History has been increasingly frustrating as well. Our professor has turned us over to the TA, a grad student. He has been lecturing us on the history of space (science?). I tried to point out that space “science” is really just an engineering discipline by taking up the argument that the real reason the Soviets were ahead in the early days of the space race was that they just spent more time working out the problems. Calling “engineering” a science is IMHO a BIG mistake. Science is dominated by the scientific method, where you propose hypotheses, work them out, and refine them into theory, etc. Engineering is a discipline dominated by problem solving. Science is dominated by experiments where the number of dependent variables is reduced to one (best case of course). Engineering is dominated by nonlinear problem spaces, where the number of dependent variables sometimes is less than the ways of connecting the variables (so-called overspecified problems), where the only way to arrive at solutions sometimes is to make approximations and see how badly the model self-destructs. Like rocketry! I did not make these arguments however… didn’t feel like having an argument with the guy. Anyways, we are learning about how Sputnik was a watershed event for science. And I do not see the connection with science, at least as he presents it. Presenting it as a geo-political event does not connect it with science. And ultimately, the class is “The History of Science”. Grr. Our second midterm is next week, so we will see how I do.

I did average!

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Yay! I got a perfectly average score on my statistics exam! You cannot BELIEVE how OVERJOYED I am that I scored AVERAGE!! YAY!

Spring 07 Week Six

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Ok, I am overwhelmed now. Since I have been keeping up with housework so much more due to Liz having intense morning sickness, my weekends are laundry, shopping, and cleaning. Once I saw the practice midterms for my statistics class on Tuesday, I shiat myself. HUGE problems. I kind of froze up, then forgot about it and finished all the work I had to get done for my labs. I felt the homework was easy, so I again tried to comprehend some of the questions on the previous midterms, and was just confounded by half of them. I shiat myself again and went to plan B: how can I drop this class.

Yes, I know just about everyone says this every quarter… “I swear if the professor does X or Y, I will drop that class like a…” etc. I have not said this about many classes though… even o-chem B last quarter I stuck with. But this…

So I get into the exam (open notes, open books, but NO ELECTRONICS). First question was like problem one on this old midterm… basically a logic problem with alot of fundamental discrete statistics crap in it. I crapped myself again. Problem two and three were not easy either, but they were more approachable (more calculus than logic). I had the option of walking out without turning in the exam, but that would have made my final worth 100% of my grade… so I turned in what I had. My plan is to see what my grade is and decide then whether to drop the class. If I feel I am a standard deviation below the mean, then I am out of there.

Sad. I did go to the bar and get a beer afterwards. I felt much better.

Lab was fun of course. We did a distillation.

Spring 07 Week Five

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It was bound to happen. After finishing up my caffeine lab and sitting in my math lecture on Tuesday, I got a call from Liz. After class I called her back: Iris threw a 100 degree fever at school, then threw up in the car when Liz was taking her home from school. I finished up my day, then got home and helped out. I spent Wednesday with Iris at home (she was still pretty sick in the morning) and cleaning up the car seat. Mostly cleaning up the car seat to be honest. Ever taken a car seat apart? Putting one back together is not trivial either: you better get it right, you don’t get second chances on things like car accidents.

Thursday was easy compared to nursing a sick kid. I started my fourth lab, chromatography. Dissatisfied with my result, but I should be able to recover next lab. Math, we finally got into interesting things like probability density functions (thank god). History we had a guest speaker, Dr. Robert Proctor, who spoke about tobacco and the tobacco industry. Interesting, but I guess he is a popular dude.

Spring 07 Week Four

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Week four has come to mean “Mid Terms” for me up till now. Due to the “drop date” being at the end of week 4. For some odd reason though, only one of my classes had an examination this week (history).

Lab was a controlled disaster. My previous week’s lab was a liquid-liquid separation, which finishes with separating three components (insoluble mild acid and base and a neutral). So Tuesday I was finishing up, and felt behind. I did some melting points and got my neutral separated, and of course it refused to crystalize. Great, it must be impure junk. Great. I threw it in the dessicator and prayed the impurity was just water. Thursday I got it out and it was at least crystalline. Melting point was not good though, great… it was impure. While I was taking the final melting point, I was running my third experiment which was an extraction of caffeine from tea leaves. Of course, in the third step my centrifuge tube exploded in the centrifuge. Had to start over.

Math, no big deal.

My history class… well, I was all stressed out about the test I had. It was cake. I came out thinking “This is what it feels like to be a history major, huh?” I wish all my tests were that easy!