Monthly Archives: October 2013

Financial Aid: Good News and Bad News

Yesterday, I discovered to my delight that the state of Florida is giving me a $500 grant for college (FL. Student Assistance Grant). I didn’t know they did that, and I didn’t know I was getting it, but hooray! It looks like they’ll give me another grant of the same amount in the spring. That’s not much toward the $17,000 estimated cost of attendance for the year, but it’ll sure help when the rent bill comes.

Now the bad news… Apparently, some colleges are charging students an additional fee, and they don’t allow financial aid or scholarships to be used to pay them. Some stupid shit about students being better students if they have to pay out-of-pocket for it. Well, what about poor people such as myself? I’m struggling to pay rent and maintain an internet connection. How the hell would I be expected to pay some stupid $1500-$4000 fee because a school thinks it’ll make me a better student? Read the story here and the original report here. The obvious solution to this problem is that scholarship providers need to pay cash directly to the student instead of to the school.

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Categories: Affording College, College | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Registered for Spring Courses

Einstein says...

Einstein says…

This week, registration opened up at my college for Spring 2014 courses. Having learned my lesson the last time I registered for courses, I decided that this time I would be among the first students to register. No more third-rate classes because all the good ones are full! For this reason, at 12:15 AM, yes, that was early morning 15 minutes after registration opened, I was online and registering for my courses. Many of the available courses were already starting to fill up, and I noticed that the website was much slower than usual due to the increased traffic.

My plan is to transfer to a university with a good physics program after completing the spring 2015 semester here at State College of Florida. With that in mind, I had spent the previous several hours researching the requirements for admission to physics colleges (I’ve done this several times over the past year, by the way). I don’t know which university I’ll transfer to, so there’s a bit of uncertainty involved in selecting prerequisites. To deal with this uncertainty, I decided to model my list of courses after the admission requirements of Florida State University’s Physics College. I don’t know if I’ll end up going to FSU or some other school–I would like to try MIT or Caltech, but I figure if I prepare for FSU, then at least I’m prepared for something. That being said, there’s a good chance that I’ll transfer to FSU because they have what seems to be a decent undergraduate physics program, the instate tuition will be cheap, and my significant other and I would only be four or five hours from her family.

So… FSU’s prerequisites for entering their physics program is essentially the following:

  • General Chemistry I and II
  • Calculus with Analytical Geometry I, II, and III
  • General Physics with Calculus I and II
  • Differential Equations
  • And the majority of other courses required to receive a B.S. from FSU

With all of that in mind, I built a calendar of courses for the remaining year and a half that I’ll be spending at State College of Florida. Calculus I is now a prerequisite instead of a corequisite for Physics I, which is a pain in my furry rump. I had planned on taking both courses next spring, but that’s out of the question now. My courses for next spring will be Calculus I, Chemistry I, Western Civilization I (history), and Speech Communication. The speech communication course will, of course, be the most difficult of them all. Just the idea of speaking up in a room that contains more than myself usually results in a stuttering, quivering lump of useless flesh that used to be me.

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Math Tests and Hominid Skulls

Last week was horrible. I had a pre-calculus exam that covered the previous month of study and a trigonometry mid-term on the same day. I love math, but I don’t think it’s the greatest idea to be taking two math courses at once.

I spent every free hour of the week drilling the trigonometry into my brain. Most of pre-calculus is just a review of concepts I’ve covered before, so I thought it would be better to focus on the trig. Besides the pre-calc test was just one of four and the trig test was one of two, so my score on the trig test would have twice as much of an impact on my overall score in that course compared to the pre-calc test and course.

So the day of the course comes, and I have to drive about 30 miles south of home to take the 4:00PM pre-calc test on my college’s southernmost campus. It turns out I should have studied more. The pre-calc test was a bitch. It would’ve been easy if I had reviewed for several days prior to taking it. Still, I persevered and took almost the whole two hours, and in the end I did get 100% on the test. After that, I hopped back in my truck and headed 45 miles north to my college’s nothernmost campus for the 7:00PM trig test. This one was easier, but only because I had spent the whole week reviewing. The first half had to be done without calculator, so we could prove a good conceptual grasp of the subject. That’s why I love trig–most people hate deriving formulas and proving identities, but I think it’s the best part of math, and trig is filled with it. I took the entire 2 hours, checking and double-checking my work. I haven’t received my score yet, but I feel very confident. I finally got home at 9:30 that night. I think I would have vomited if I saw another equation.

The next several days I took it easy. Bad idea! This week I’m still suffering from a lack of ambition. Is it mid-semester blues? Am I burned-out from all the math last week? Taking several days off probably didn’t actually help me. Instead of being revitalizing me, it made me lazy.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Today, news sites are filled with the story of a hominid skull found in Georgia (the European country). Apparently, the researchers believe this skull could mean a rewrite of hominid taxonomy. According to one article, the skull “could be evidence that early hominids are actually all members of a single species.” Why is this important to me? Well, just two weeks ago I did a research essay for my anthropology course where I proposed this very “rewrite” on the basis of previous evidence. Now I feel validated. When I had written the essay, I assumed that my position was probably wrong–that I simply did not have the background in anthropology to make sweeping proposals like that. However, given the little knowledge I did have of the subject it seemed to me that the evidence suggests that early hominids were all the same species. I’m sure my knowledge was too limited and my reasoning to shallow to convince anthropologists on the basis of my essay alone, but it feels good to know that I may actually have had some insight into a subject that is still new to me.

Categories: College, College Life, Math | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

No More Dew Boy

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This isn’t my stack. Mine would’ve been way bigger!

I enjoy a can of Mountain Dew about once or twice a month. Not bad huh? Well, for years I had gulped this nectar of the gods at a rate of 5 or 6 cans a day. In fact, it was so bad that the friendly clerk at my neighborhood convenience store knew me only as ‘Dew boy’. Any of my friends could go into the convenience store and tell the clerk that Dew boy needed cigarettes and the clerk would hand them my cigarettes (another bad habit that I plan on quitting). Oh, and it had to be cans. Mountain Dew in plastic bottles doesn’t taste the same… I swear!

I knew that drinking soda to that excess couldn’t be good for my long-term survival, but the sugar and caffeine gave me boosts throughout the day that were phenomenal. The first thing I’d do upon awakening (in the late forenoons) was grab a cold can of the good stuff. Was I addicted to it? Maybe, but if I was, that addiction was nothing like my addiction to nicotine. Most likely, I was just habituated to the taste and the sugar rush.

The final push that got me to quit was one of my Facebook friends. I had never met the guy, but we had inhabited few a similar email groups over the years. He is one of those new-Agey, conspiracy-theorist, health nuts, but his posts bashing the ‘Man’, which included soda companies, gave me the final push to quit. I had always wanted to quit, and everybody around me told me that I would get fat and diabetic because of it. It didn’t help that my body requires little maintenance–I can work out for a month and enjoy ripped abs for the next several years during which time I do nothing but sit at my computer. The effect of excessive soda consumption was just not making itself seen in my body. Still, every 200th can or so brought along with it a foreboding sense of impending doom, and I wanted to quit… I really did. I decided that 2013 would be the perfect year to quit given the ongoing reinvention of myself.

So here I am–essentially Mountain Dew free. Quitting wasn’t as hard as I imagined it would be. I simply stopped buying the stuff. Probably the biggest help in quitting was an ever-present glass of water on my desk. Every time I got the urge, I drank some water. I also upped my coffee intake from one to three or four cups a day. Looking back, it wasn’t nearly as difficult to quit as I had imagined it would be. I’m glad I did it. Now it’s on to the quitting of more difficult things.

Image credit: Stack of Mountain Dew image copyright (c) 2005 Dan Carter and made available under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Categories: College Life | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Stage 3… Separation, Course Adjustment, and Acceleration

Stage three has separated... Commencing acceleration to orbit!

Stage three has separated… Commencing acceleration to orbit!

The reason I started this blog… yes, I’m finally posting the first post. Bear with me, we’ll get to the reasons, but first I’ll force you to suffer through my life history.

Stage 1

“Look it’s a little Amish baby, complete with wide-brimmed black hat, long white beard, and filled to the hat brim with dogma,” said my mother. Well, maybe she didn’t say that when I was born, but that’s how I imagine it–my placenta-encrusted hat a sharp contrast to the immaculate hospital room. Okay, that’s just gross.

As you may have gathered by now, I was born to Amish parents (whom I love dearly, by the way). We were Old Order Amish–no computers, no electricity, no cars,… the whole bag of enchiladas. As a child, I feared people with cameras. It was almost as if their verboten technology could drain the soul right out of a person. That’s basically what we thought of technology. But I have escaped, and I am safe now. Just kidding. There was no “escaping”. It’s not like I was being held against my will.

Growing up as an Amish boy is what I now consider to have been the first stage of my life.

Stage 2

The second stage of my life began when I left the Amish. That took courage, if I say so myself. I was eighteen years old and somewhat ignorant of the world that you know. Besides, from an early age, it had been drilled into us that people who leave the Amish, will probably burn in hell for all eternity. My parents weren’t quite that bad, but they’re still holding onto the hope that I’ll repent and return someday.

When I left the Amish, I moved into a mobile home with my two best friends. They were also ex-Amish. We had a big television set in no time, and in short order we learned how to pirate satellite television (by the way, what’s the statute of limitations on that?). It didn’t take long for me to buy a laptop and a truck. For several years I partied and fished and browsed the internet.

After two years, I moved to Florida. It was a completely different world for me. I was used to deciduous and coniferous forests. Palm trees were so exotic. I had no formal education, but I got lucky (job-wise). Over the next several years, I held white collar jobs (internet marketing and that sort of thing) until the economy made me poor and jobless again. Then a former colleague and I started a niche internet retail site. It is a moderately successful business, and I am still heavily involved in it, but it’s not my dream career.

In the years since I’ve left the Amish, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I believe, what I want, and when I would ever get around to doing something worthwhile with my life. Well, I’ve cast off a lot of dogma, figured out that I want to be a scientist (or at least an engineer), and that the time is now. That brings us to…

Stage 3

Stage 3 began early this spring. There were seven of us ex-Amish youngsters living in a 5-bedroom, two-story house. Living together gave us a sense of family (sometimes), but most importantly, it kept the rent down to a reasonable level. However, as is inevitable when large egos meet immovable minds, friction developed. We ended up disbanding.

In retrospect, that was just the catalyst I needed to reinvent myself. Moving away from some of the people that I had lived with for years, was a big change. I decided that now would be the time to make other changes. I re-organized my priorities, improved my time management, changed some of my health habits–I basically began an overall self-reinvention.

It was around this time that a new acquaintance strongly encouraged that I enroll in a community college. I had always planned on enrolling eventually, but I thought I just had to wait until I saved up enough money to live comfortably and without loans while in college. Besides, I had been pouring a lot of energy and hope into various entrepreneurial pursuits in the hope that I would strike gold with one of them. It didn’t happen. I mean, I found some dust and a nugget or two–but no veins. Enrolling in college would mean exchanging those hopes for the potentially risky pursuit of more meaningful dreams.

After several weeks of metaphorically tearing my hair out, I decided to take the risk. And here I am with this blog set to chronicle the third stage of my life. Join me on this grand adventure, why don’t you? Don’t just follow along vicariously, reinvent yourself!

Image credit: NASA

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Lazy Math Students

There it is!

There it is!

New Commandment: Any math student that leaves a test early and receives anything less than an A, shall be considered a failure and unworthy of the precision, the utter beauty, and the pure truth of mathematics.

Every math test that I’ve taken so far has been scheduled for a full two hours. Invariably though, half the students have left by the one hour mark. By the time I’ve triple-checked every equation, I’m one of the few that’s left. Always, I think, wow! this course has a lot of brilliant students! However, when I check the current average grades for the course, they’re around 65-80%. WHAT THE HELL?!?! Obviously, some of those students leaving early should keep right on walking and never look back.

What in bloody hell could possess students to leave a math test early AND do poorly on it at the same time? Do they not triple-check their work? Are there really students that are fine with C’s? Are there really people who pay good money to do things which will be on their permanent academic record and affect the rest of their academic life and subsequent career, AND they’re fine with mediocre?

Maybe those people should withdraw from college so that poor people that truly want an education can get the financial aid they need. I’m just putting it out there. If you don’t give it your everything, maybe you don’t deserve it.

Image credit: Math question image copyright (c) 2008 Jerry Paffendorf and made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Categories: Math | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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