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Sunday, February 14, 2010


Week 4 came to an unexpected close: Dallas got record-levels of snowfall so my chemistry test scheduled for last Thursday is postponed until this Tuesday. I DID take the biology test on Wednesday and I think I did awesome on it. I knew at least 90% of the answers, and several others I did a little process of elimination based on what I did know. I expect a good grade on that, and this cements me into the coursework - not that I was hugely worried, but I feel confident I can carry on at least through the semester.

Then again, chapter 4-5 in Biology is about how carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and nucleic acids are made and right now it's giving me a headache. But the snowfall created a somewhat relaxed weekend for a change, and I decided to get ahead. Lots of studying for the lab test on Monday, and chem test on Tuesday. Plus, reading ahead to try and shortcut my learning curve.

So I bought a microscope. It’s on its way this week. My friend Karen who is going to be a vet and has taken nearly exactly the coursework I am undertaking for my pre-requisites has one as well. And so do some other classmates who are getting into the medical field. So, I caved under peer-pressure a little, and microscopes are just cool if you are into all this.

I remember getting a microscope when I was a kid – for my birthday, and how much I enjoyed science. It’s kind of funny how I was all into this stuff in 5th grade and then somehow it turned into art and then computers. So, it’s somewhat gratifying. And this new microscope has all the modern features not available to an 8-year old in the 70s. Like, I can hook it up to the computer and take pictures of my microscopic discoveries.

It's not the best time to be making purchases like this, but it seems like one of the trade offs you sometimes have to make. It'll make the experience richer and is a small investment (relatively) to improve the eventual outcome. As I read through the books I keep wanting to see the stuff being talked about. I'm only able to be in the bio lab for 1 1/2 hours twice a week and that time is frantically spent doing lab packets and experiments. No time for wonder.

My first big hurdle hit last week, where it really sunk in that I won't have much time for work when I actually get into the MCN program, in a year or so. Without work, there's no income (like most of 2009), and savings are pretty low because of it. I have been hoarding what I can with the work I am doing, but it won't be enough to get me through approximately 3 years of work. So there are decisions to be made. I'm not stopping the ideal because of money, but it sure makes a dent.

So off I go - had a good valentines evening with Dawn, and studied a lot this weekend. Now wrapping up the night to get some sleep early. If all goes well, I can start the day off with a workout, some work, and then back to school.

Shout out to my friends who haven't heard much from me lately because I've been so busy. Nod to Tom and Jen who are partying it up in Vancouver at the Olympics.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Go ahead. Be explosive.

Week three of classes is complete, but the studying must go on. The first three weeks of biology and chemistry were reminiscent of things I learned in high school, and as dim as that past is, I still found that I understood what we were talking about in these classes. Now, however, the realm of the really unknown is creeping in. For example, we're learning about electrons in much greater detail: their orbits, direction, spin, pathways, and all sorts of things like that.

We've covered the the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and some Einstein equations and quantum numbers, quantum angular momentum, and so on.

I'm probably making it sound more impressive than it is, because my chem professor has told us we are only seeing the results of some heart-stoppingly difficuly equations, and I believe him. I'm walking into a lot of this not knowing what the hell we are talking about, but after digesting it some, I seem to be asking the right questions. I also seem to be the only one asking questions. A couple of times the professor said I am thinking one class ahead - that the stuff I am trying to figure out - because it doesn't make direct sense - is more complex than what is covered in this class. But, he said he likes I am thinking that way, and the things I am figuring out on my own are very good. Even if I don't totally understand it, my thinking is right.

What's really been interesting is that these past 3 weeks have really highlighted how I learn. I never did a lot of great studying in high school and so rather than focus on that lack, I see it as an opportunity to learn how to study MY way. I'm finding that I have a 3-phased approach: read the chapter, listen to lecture, and read the chapter again. This leads to the 4th-phase: epiphany, where I totally get what we were reading and being taught. It's quite an "Aha!" moment each time.

What I've discovered also is that I have a terrible time with rote memorization of words. Just reading words or memorizing terms is almost impossible for me. I have to connect something to it and visualize it to really remember it.

This weekend is a challenging weekend: I have several social events happening while at the same time I need to study for two unit tests (Chapters 1-3 in Biology on Wednesday ad Chapters 1-3 in Chemistry on Thursday). Both will be tough. I'm told VERY tough. Good. Bring it. Let's see what I've learned. I also have to start studying chapter 4 for each class. Busy weekend.

So, I am off to go attend an information session at the school I am hoping to eventually attend: UT Southwestern Medical Center. My first social activity of the weekend. Catch ya next time!

P.S. First lab in chemistry yesterday. I did NOT blow up the lab, despite promises to the contrary.