Site Changes!

Filed Under Us

I think I am done changing things around now! I made a couple navigation changes (moved the links to the top and ditched the blogroll) and moved the ads back up the page. Note too that I am still working on complete integration of Gallery here, so the format of the pictures pages might change. A bit. Maybe, we will see.

Also, I finally managed to post pictures from MOST of the early part of the year. I am still working on pictures from Iris’s birthday, but since I have something like 300 pictures from three cameras, it is a bit challenging to put them all together and whittle down the numbers. They are all so cute! Thanks again to Andrea and Phyllis for bringing in the big guns, the pictures you both took were amazing.

Spring 2007 Week 10

Filed Under School Week Journal

This is it. Just finals left now. Well, two finals.

Most of the week was a blur, what with getting ready for my organic chemistry lab final, which as predicted was hell. I could have studied more, but really there were questions on the final that were unnecessary. Considering how NOONE in a class of almost 400 students received anywhere near a perfect score… that should say something. I myself scored a 71 out of 150. Median was 62. It is a middle-B. But I know these tests are not my strong point (thank god… no employer I’ve ever met values your ability to regurgitate inane facts with 100% accuracy)… and my lab grades it turns out are quite good. I am gunning for the A, but who knows since our lab sections get “normalized”, which is some nefarious process whereby all lab sections medians get set to a global median… and some hand waving… and then you fail the class when you had a C on the back of the napkin, etc.

Statistics. Ha. Funny. Our LAST class, in as it happens to be the LAST TEN MINUTES OF CLASS, Dr. Zeger is asked pointedly by one of the students that sits in the front row: “I know we have been doing this for a while and it is complicated, and you have done a good job of covering the salient points, but we have not had a concrete example in six weeks… can you show us how the central limit theorem is applied to a real world problem?”

You can guess what his answer was.

Markov Chains!

Ok, maybe you did not guess that. Really, it blew my mind that this entire class was just a primer. That nothing we used is directly applicable to anything. That there are no real applications except in statistical modeling, but only after you have taken this work to the next level (or three more levels). He literally said “If you are interested in this stuff, I highly encourage you to read more on Markov Chains and maybe take a graduate level class, because this stuff is really interesting!”

Yeah. Show me the money. I am going to side with Einstein on this one: statistics is a tool for people who have no clue what is going on. Although, I can’t help but reflect that at this level, Markov Chains start to look like fractal sets. I will have to ponder that one more.

History ended with a flourish. Dr. Oreskes got really into lecturing about global warming, so much so that she went over the lecture time by two minutes and almost caused me to be late for my bus!

Oh yeah, and our ACSSA end-of-the-year banquet was good. Liz and I went (a bit too late for Iris)… what should have been dinner with faculty turned into dinner with just us and our new advisor Gourisankar Ghosh, who is a very nice man and was interesting to talk to. Dinner was good, it was at the Barolo restaurant near where we used to live in UTC. Liz had the most amazing pear and walnut ravioli. I had dumplings in pesto, which was good but needed some acid to liven it up.

Ok, like I said, finals now!

Spring 07 Week 9

Filed Under School Week Journal

This is it, the last week where I could decide to drop my statistics class with a “W”. Due to the holiday on Monday, there was only one lab day for me, which was a complete waste. This last lab is an unknown identification (analytical chemistry) and I was floundering badly: all my tests were negative, which to me meant nothing because all the tests were difficult to understand. My IR spectrogram was a mess. So Thursday I felt compelled to redo my IR to see if it was a bad run or not. It was not. Damnit. So when I left lab Thursday I was as confused as ever.

My last statistics class was not a winner in my mind. It is frustrating because I really do want to learn how to apply statistics to real chemical problems, but the only application problems we have been taught to date are card tricks, coin flips, and dice problems (so called discrete statistics). The sick part is that most real problems are of the continuous variety, and he is teaching us how to work them but not showing us how they are used. It is the same complaint I have had with most of my math teachers (except Tom Teegarden, who is the greatest calculus teacher I have ever seen): you can learn all the cool math tricks you want, but the only ones that matter are ones you can apply. At this point, I think I will take the final and just get this requirement over with… maybe take a statistical analysis class as a graduate or as pass-fail or something.

Anyways, after that fiasco, I went to the library and pulled up every single IR spectra for each of the 200 plus unknowns that we could be assigned in my lab class. About fifty in I spotted my unknown. I was overjoyed, because I was really getting mad at not being able to identify this stinky, oily crap I was assigned: Isobutyrophenone.

Next week is my Chemistry lab final, and week after that is the other two finals. Almost over!

Spring 07 Week 8

Filed Under School Week Journal

I started this week off stressed out. Besides the lab report that was due Tuesday at 8 AM, I had an exam in my history class that afternoon. The exam was a bear to study for. Our TA had been teaching the class for the previous two meetings, and no offense to him, but he needs to tone down his material: reading over 200 pages per class meeting is just too much. How do you really retain that much information? And I am not talking pulp fiction here, I am talking hardcore historical analysis. At the end of the book I was literally reading for the thesis statement and conclusion paragraph of each chapter. And I finished reading the book at 12:30 the night before the exam. Whew. Luckily the lab report was relatively easy to write up, but as usual I spent too much time working on it.

The exam itself was difficult. Her exams have been three part written affairs: Identification, Short Answer (paragraph) and Essay. I totally forgot who two people where in the identification section (Ostwald Avery and T.H. Morgan) which was six percent thrown down the toilet. The rest was thrown together so fast it made my head and hand hurt. Nothing like writing a three page essay in ten minutes either!

After that, I felt burned out as usual. The next day I went home after my morning lecture (after discovering that like three people go to my statistics discussion section I don’t go anymore). Thursday was the day of the ACSSA student research symposium, which I was all dressed up for. But I forgot to study for the final quiz in my chemistry lab: oops! The TA was nice though, instead of asking us evil questions like “what is the mechanism of the Tollens test?” he asked us to restate the purpose of the lab. As luck would have it, I had just written the lab purpose ten minutes prior! Yay!

The symposium was great too. The food was exquisite, but that is what we get for forking over $1600 for catering. I do have to say however that there were too many biochemistry posters. I will have to work on that for next year… personally I guess.