Friday, January 26, 2007

Is Your Thermometer Happy?

Today marked the end of my second week back at school, and boy are there stories to tell! The first one is the source of the title of this post...

I am currently taking Organic Chemistry II Lab, and I have a professor who is obviously Indian (her name is Vimala Majeti). Well she just goes right along with all the stereotypes we have of women from India: short, long black hair, thick accent, quiet, yet strict and firm. She wants everything done the right way (HER way) and anything other than her way is wrong! I had this experience yesterday in lab when I was setting up a distillation apparatus (it involves a series of glass tubing, a flask to hold the sample at the bottom, and a flask to collect the distillate at the top). There are several clamps to hold everything together on a stand, and a thermometer must be placed inside as the liquid is being heated, in order to determine the maximum boiling point.

As I was setting up my apparatus, here she comes criticizing everyone's work (true, this is her job, but she doesn't have to be so mean about it!). One look at my setup and she was all over me about it. Apparently everything that we had done last semester when we learned how to set this up was wrong (different teacher) so she was quite frustrated. She stood back and looked everything over, and said to me, "Stand back and look at this. Is your thermometer happy?" I didn't know what to say to that, so I just started repositioning my thermometer slightly. "No, no, no. Stand at the end of the bench and look. Your thermometer isn't happy." Apparently "happy" means straight up and down, perpendicular to the floor. I looked and mine was slightly unhappy, or tilted to the side. Well, I fixed that part, and she went off on her way. Boy, she sure knows how to trample on someone's self-confidence! I went through the rest of my experiment just fine, and from now on, my thermometer will always be happy.

The other interesting thing that I learned this week was about Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), which is a technique used by organic chemists to figure out the components of an organic molecule. One part of the lab this week was to have a talk with one of the Organic Chemistry professors and have them show us how to perform an NMR. Well, the professor that came to do this talk for my class is the head of the department, so he definitely knows a thing or two about Chemistry. We got to look at all the gadgets used for NMR, which uses giant magnets and computers to analyze samples. He showed us how to load the samples and get the spectrum for the unknowns we were to test. I found out that you have to remove your watches and wallets before stepping too close to the machine, since the magnet will stop watches and demagnetize credit cards....interesting! Later we all got to print out our spectra for an unknown to analyze for next class. Now if I can only figure out what all these lines and curves mean........

Well, that's all that's been interesting this week. I will be sure to write again soon, as soon as I get some rest this weekend! I hope y'all have a great one too.

Monday, January 22, 2007

First Full Week Is Finished, and I'm Learnin'!

That's right, I have officially finished my first full week of classes. Due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, classes didn't start until Tuesday, so my school week started last Tuesday and ended today. So what have I learned so far? Here are a few things:

1. A person can be in constant atrial fibrillation and have little or no noticeable side effects.
2. The Chinese name "Huizhen" means "Jean" in English.
3. A "categorical random variable" is a variable in which observations are categorical responses.
4. It is possible to live fairly normally after a railroad spike has been driven completely through one's skull.
5. Leaving one's student ID in one's dresser drawer at home is detrimental to one's meal plan.

Let's go over these one by one in a little bit more detail...

The person who is in constant atrial fibrillation is my Cell Biology professor. He is probably in his mid-60's and in fairly good health, but apparently has a heart defect of some kind. He has to go in to the doctor every two weeks (I think) and get shocked to get back to normal heart rhythms. Apparently one can live normally with constant atrial fibrillation, and the only noticeable side effect is an increase in heart rate (probably an increase in blood pressure also).

My Statistics professor is Huizhen Guo, a Chinese lady who told us her name means "Jean" in English.

The definition of "categorical random variable" came from my Statistics class. The reason I included it in my list was because it was quite humorous to myself and a couple other classmates. This is because we have been taught not to use parts of a word in it's definition, as our Chinese professor did. She has obviously not completely mastered the English language, in case you couldn't tell.

In my Psychology class, we learned about a man named Phineas Gage that worked for a railroad company that drove spikes into the ground. As he was driving one into the ground with gun powder, it shot up and drove through his skull, starting below the eye and exiting at the top of his head. The spike severed a part of his brain (I think it's called the amygdala) which caused his emotions to be expressed without being controlled by the cerebrum (the cerebrum holds back those emotions to an extent; without the connection within the brain, emotions are expressed fully and can be wild or extreme). He lived a fairly normal life physically, but did not act like himself due to the brain damage. This led to discoveries about how small parts of the brain affect large parts of a person's personality.

And finally, no, I didn't learn about the student ID thing from a book. Unfortunately I learned about it from personal experience. I had taken my ID out of my wallet and placed it in my dresser drawer at the beginning of my break, merely to cut down on the bulk that was filling my wallet at the time (cards, receipts, etc.). However, once it was time to leave, I forgot to take it out of my dresser, and it was left behind. On Tuesday when I wanted to go to dinner (I had a sandwich that my mom bought for my trip that I didn't eat, and I had that for lunch that day), I opened my wallet and my ID was not there. So I had to have it mailed to me, which took about two days, and in the meantime I had to buy my meals with my own money. Thankfully the expense was minimum, and my mom got my ID to me in a very quick manner. Moms are great, aren't they?

Well, now you have learned a few things that you can share with your loved ones! I will make sure to write about my other "pearls" of wisdom as the semester progresses. Y'all have a good week!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Back to School Once Again

Here I am, once again! Before I start into anything else, I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that 2007 will be a great year for all.

I arrived back here at school late last night after three and a half weeks at home. Classes started for me at 9:00 this morning, with Cell Biology. Then after an hour or so break, I walked the long trek to Psychology in the cold and snow. (Let it also be known that I got sick right before I left home.) So, I have been trying to battle this cold as much as I can, drinking lots of water, taking naps, and, of course, the necessary medicines.

My Christmas Break was most excellent, and since there was so much going on, I will just summarize a few key events. Most of my time off was spent with family, in one form or another. I was home for most of this vacation, so I spent a lot of time with my immediate family, and this included baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, and just spending time around the house. We attended midnight Mass as we have a couple times in the past, and spent Christmas Day together as a family, which was very nice.

A few days after Christmas, we drove four hours south to see more family in Atlanta. We stayed at my grandparents' house and had lots of opportunities to visit with the extended family (you may recall that Aunt Cheryl and family, and Uncle Duane and family live in Atlanta). We had several meals together, as families do, and one of those meals was made with the assistance of yours truly! Uncle Duane, Aunt Debbie, and I prepared a vegetarian spaghetti dinner that was most excellent (and fun too!). Besides having meals together, we also played lots of games, with Catch Phrase being the favorite. We also played this new game my immediate family got for Christmas called Scene It, which involves movie trivia. We found out that most of us are not avid enough movie buffs for that game, but it was fun regardless. My brother, my cousin Danny, and I did go to see the movie "We Are Marshall" at one point, and it was excellent, but unfortunately not old enough to be in the game. The last day or two was spent talking and visiting (along with a couple of visits to Krystals), and ended with a little football watching, snacking type get-together. We left on New Year's Eve, and got home in enough time to make some snacks and ring in the New Year. All in all, it was an excellent trip, and I really enjoyed all the family events.

Besides spending time at home, I also went back to work a few days a week at Ingles. Since I wrote the book on bookkeeping at Ingles (literally; I wrote a complete guide/checklist for all the procedures we are to follow), the manager had me train a new bookkeeper for a couple days. Training is always a time-consuming chore, but he picked up on things fairly quickly (I give credit to my co-worker who trained him on the first day). I did have to stay a little later than usual on those days, but that's what you have to do to make sure the trainee gets it down flat. In the end I think he should do well, but only time will tell. It took me awhile to get everything down, but "repetition is the mother of learning" or whatever it is they say (my Calculus teacher said it in Latin, but I can't exactly remember: Repetitio Mater...something).

I guess that's a good summary of my Christmas Break, although not an exhaustive summary. If I have time later this week, I will fill in some blanks. But for now, I'll have to leave it at that. I'm back at school now (though I may not be fully ready mentally, it is time) and I guess it's time to get back to the studying thing. I shall talk to y'all later, and have a great week!