Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Momma, I'm Comin' Home

I know that's a lyric to a song, but would someone please enlighten me as to which song and which artist???

Anyways, I just got finished with my English final (20 minutes of writing about what we learned this semester), so I am getting ready to head for home! All I need to do is load everything in the car and stop for gas, etc. and I'll be ready! Well, I also need to check out of the room (since we all have to leave over Christmas Break) and sell my books back, if they will buy them. Other than that, I'm done!

I will try to blog at least a couple times while I am home, but no promises! I will be sure to update everyone as soon as I can, and I hope you will continue to do the same. So, if I don't hear from y'all before then, Merry Christmas, and have a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Three Hours...

That's how much sleep I got last night. I went to bed around midnight, which is early for me, especially considering I had been studying for finals. But alas, I didn't fully fall asleep until after 4:00 this morning, with the majority of the time before then being spent TRYING to get to sleep. I don't know what got over me, but I just couldn't stop thinking long enough to get to sleep! Has that ever happened to anyone else? It happens to me all the time, and I just don't know what to do about it! That's probably the reason why I take naps all the time, which in turn makes it hard to get to sleep at night, which starts the whole vicious cycle all over again. Oh well, I'll be home soon enough and that will hopefully break the cycle.

As I write this, I have just finished my first final, Sociology. I have my Organic Chemistry final at 10:30, and I have just been looking over a few things to refresh my memory. Oh, and the University did something special with the coffee machines, so everyone can get free coffee or cocoa all day today! So, of course, after my final I went and got some hot chocolate (not really a coffee person), and boy was it good! Maybe I'll get another after my next final...

Well, I must be off, as this Chemistry isn't going to do itself (if only it could...). I will be sure to post again before I leave on Wednesday and let everyone know how my finals (a.k.a. Hell Week) have gone.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Last Full Week of Classes

In case you all didn't see my comment on my last post, I finally got the other pictures posted. Apparently I can't post my pictures to the center of the page, so I had to align them to the side. It still works, and it actually takes up less space since the text wraps around the picture so nicely.

This week marks the official end of the Fall Semester, so all my classes are getting ready for that big finish. This week will be filled with reviews and putting together those loose ends in the learning process, among other things. I had the first part of a two-part Calculus test today (the other part being on Wednesday), I have a final Chemistry Lab test tomorrow, and an English paper due on Friday. But even though classes will be technically over, there are still finals to take next week. Here's what my exam schedule looks like next week:

Monday - Sociology and Organic Chemistry
Tuesday - Botany Lab
Wednesday - Botany lecture, Calculus, and English

Yep, Wednesday is going to be a very busy day! But at least I will be going home afterwards, so I will have something to look forward to. The one thing that bothers me about this is that normally you don't take finals for lab courses. Well, my Botany professor thought otherwise, so she decided to create another test to take during finals week. However, the good thing about her exams is that they are not cumulative/comprehensive, so there will not be a whole lot of material on there.

After exams are over, I'm homeward bound! Here's a question for everyone: when is everyone else getting out of school for Christmas? My friends back home are getting out this week after finals, and going back the same week in January as I am (week of the 16th). That means they get out a week early and go back at the same time! What's up with that? There are others that get out this week and go back a week earlier, which I think is more fair. What do you think? Isn't this cutting close to the Christmas holiday?

Well, I need to get to studying for my Chemistry Lab test. Luckily this test isn't cumulative either, so it should not be too hard. I will talk to y'all later!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Krohn Conservatory

I said in my last post that I wanted to discuss with you my Botany field trip to the local Krohn Conservatory, so here it is! Krohn is just about five minutes from here, and is apparently a top attraction in the city of Cincinnati. This is my second visit here; my first was in the second semester of General Biology Lab. However, since Botany is exclusively a class for plants and GENERAL Biology covers just about everything, you can imagine that this visit was a bit different. This time around we were presented with a map/guide and about 60 questions to answer while we walked along.

The Conservatory itself has five major rooms: the Tropical House, the Desert Room, the Palm House, the Orchid House, and the Display Room. There were other rooms that held smaller potted plants such as bonsai trees and the like, but we were not required to look at those. I'll just go briefly through each room with the website's picture of each.

The Tropical House:

The Tropical House, as you can imagine, has a lot of tropical plants and trees. Some noteworthy plants included the vanilla plant, the cacao tree (mmm...chocolate), sugar cane, papaya, fig tree, and lots of hibiscus flowers. Almost all of these plants are only grown in warm, moist climates, such as in Florida and the tropics. There weren't too many flowers in bloom, but the ones that were blooming were vivid and beautiful. The colors ranged from bright pinks to dark reds, and even blue and purple. The plants ranged in size from low to the ground to reaching all the way to the ceiling. Oh, and because these are all tropical plants, it was quite warm and moist in that room. This even allowed us to shed our winter coats!

The Desert Room:

The Desert Room was quite a change coming from the Tropical House. In contrast, it was quite dry and stuffy in that room, but these plants flourished just as well as those in other rooms. The typical desert inhabitants such as cacti were in there, but also some plants with very elaborate leaves. The only different between these and other leafy plants is that the leaves are stiff and thick in order to conserve water. Also, a lot of the plants had spines or "pricklies" as leaves to prevent water loss in the dry environment. There were some flowers present, and they were just as bright and vivid as those tropical plants. It really was surprising that such beauty can grow in such harsh environments.

The Palm House:

As you can probably imagine from the name of the room, the Palm House contained those trees you in Florida and California are familiar with: the palms. However, this room also included flowering trees and non-palm trees that grow in similar habitats. The tallest tree in there was the Florida royal palm, which practically touched the 45 foot-high ceiling. There were fern palms, "pine" trees, begonias, coffee trees, a coconut palm, and even a banana tree with REAL bananas growing! These plants are some of the species found in the tropical rain forests, so there was also some information about the rain forests themselves. We found out that they only habitate 8% of the earth's surface, but contain 50% of all plant and animal species. This is only one reason why the rain forests are so important, and why conservationists are so adamant about saving them. At the end of the room there was a giant waterfall, which really was spectacular. Some of the plants had to grow near the water, and there were even some of the plants that grew IN the water. This really shows how important water is in these ecosystems.

The Orchid House:

I don't have a picture of this house since it's pretty new to the Conservatory, but I'll try to describe it for you. Orchids are some of the most numerous flowering plants, so there were dozens of different plants. There were different colors everywhere, almost covering the entire visible spectrum: red, orange, yellow, blue, purple, and white. These plants also require a lot of water, so this room had running water in it. One interesting fact that we found out was that the Conservatory is a storage center for endangered plants for the government. They even collect confiscated plants from airports, etc. when people try to bring them illegally into the U.S. It was a really colorful room, and even smelled good, too.

The Display Room:

The Display Room was another of the rooms we didn't have to look in, but we were encouraged to view it anyways. They change it from time to time depending on the time of year, and although I don't have the current picture, I'm sure you can imagine what is in there now. Any takers? Well, it was decorated with Christmas-related plants like poinsettias and lilies, and not to mention a Christmas tree or two. It really was very nice and along with the music in the background, got me into the spirit of the season.

Well, that concludes our trip to Krohn Conservatory. If you want to find out more (and why wouldn't you?), just click on the link I placed in my first sentence of this post. That's really all I have to say for now, but I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about at the end of this week. I hope everyone is doing well, and looking forward to Christmas like I am.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Back to School and News from Home

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back on here, but I just haven't found enough time until now to sit down and write for awhile. I got back here in Cincinnati on Sunday night, and it was fairly late, as usual. Plus I have had two tests this week and a paper due, plus some major homework, so I have been spending most of my time with school, as should be expected. But I'm always glad to be back here talking to y'all!

I won't go into too much detail about my trip home, but I will summarize some of the high (and low) points. To start, I wanted to talk about the drive back home, which normally wouldn't be something to write home about... This was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but I didn't expect too much traffic, since I hardly found any last year. But lo and behold, right through downtown Cincinnati and about a half an hour south of Lexington the traffic was at a dead halt. I was only in downtown Cincy for about five minutes, but in Kentucky I sat in traffic for more than an hour without moving more than two miles. By that time, my car started to overheat and as I looked over, I saw a cloud of white smoke start to puff out. Naturally I started to panic and really didn't know what to do. So I tried to leave room in front of me so I could speed up and get the air moving again. But that didn't help enough. Thankfully there was an exit coming up in a few hundred yards, which of course I took. It just so happened to be a Highway 25 exit, and this just happens to run into Knoxville. So I took the exit in an attempt to remedy the problem, and then ride the highway until I got home.

After I got off at the exit, I drive around for another ten minutes, but at least I was moving and getting air through the engine. My coolant light flashed on and off, which solved that problem. So I stopped at the first service station I found in "Podunkville" to add some coolant, which I just so happened to have in the car. When I opened the coolant intake cap (after letting the car cool down of course) I found that there was not a drop of coolant left...AHHH!!! Well it's a good thing I stopped because who knows what would have happened next? So I added the coolant (after needing to purchase some more) and got back on the road. I took 25 just to stay away from that interstate, and there was absolutely no traffic. Plus, since 25 runs close to parallel with I-75, I looked over and the three lanes had gone down to just ONE (what idiot thought about doing that crap close to the Thanksgiving holiday???). But after awhile I ventured onto the other local highways to check the interstate and it was back to normal. So, my 3.5-4 hour drive took more than five and a half hours; I was very tired when I got home.

Once I got there, I was very happy to see my family and finally get out of the car. I spent as much time as possible with my family while I was home, but because it was a reasonable amount of time for a break, I also worked a few days at the grocery store. As you can imagine, Wednesday night was quite busy, so that was hectic. But I also worked Thanksgiving morning so I would be able to have dinner that afternoon, and surprisingly it was still busy. By the time I left, however, it had died down significantly and I was able to go home right after my shift ended (unusual, since we usually don't get out right on time). When I got home, dinner was being prepared, and boy did it smell good!

We ate around 6:30 or so (that turkey took longer than expected), and we were all very hungry. Our table included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls, and, of course, pumpkin and pecan pies later for dessert. Let me tell you, it was an excellent meal! And I helped! (Does anyone else remember that Shake 'n' Bake commercial?) Since I had taken the traditional Beauregard nap before the dinner, we just spent the time after dinner talking and relaxing, followed by the scrumptious desserts. All in all, it was a wonderful holiday.

After Thanksgiving day, I worked a little more and spent more time with my family. I didn't really get out much, since I had spent so much darn time in the car. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't in a hurry to drive back up here on Sunday. I didn't end up leaving down until after 7:00 (yes, I know that's kind of late to leave), and I was definitely not ready to go. But, I just kept in mind that I would be home again in less than a month, so I tried to stay positive. So I got back here around 11:30, which given that I stopped to eat, was good time. After bringing all my stuff inside and finding a parking spot, it was almost midnight, and time for bed. And since I had class at 8:30 the next morning, I had to sleep fast, and I was quite tired throughout the day. But, everything worked out all right after I got my nap, and I was quickly back into the routine of school.

Since I'm sure some of you are wondering, I just wanted to let you know that everyone is doing great at home. Work and school keep everybody busy, but that is to be expected. We all had a great time while I was home, and it was very nice not to have to run at such a fast-pace as I do here. There was some bad news, however, when I got home. My uncle Bob, my dad's oldest brother, passed away about a week before Thanksgiving, and this was quite a shock to all of us. He had been driving a truck through Texas and had died while he was there; my aunt Bonnie didn't find out until a couple days later, and it was very unexpected and emotional for her. They held the funeral the Friday after Thanksgiving, but we didn't find out about this until late Thursday night and were unable to attend. I could tell that my dad was very sad about that, and it was quite depressing to think about such things over what's supposed to be a happy holiday. But that also gave us the opportunity to be thankful for family, and, for my dad, to remember all the good times he had with his (favorite) brother. So although this dampened our holiday significantly, we still managed to enjoy the time spent with one another.

Well, that's really all I wanted to report for now. On top of the tests and such this week, I also went on a field trip to a local plant conservatory here in Cincinnati. I wanted to tell you all a little bit about my adventures in the plant world, so I'll make sure to write about that tomorrow if I have time. Anyways, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday, and that you were able to spend time with the ones you love.