Whew! Last Final!

This afternoon I had my last final exam for the semester–chemistry. I feel pretty confident with my score. I should get a score around the mid-90’s, which isn’t bad considering that I didn’t review much for the exam. No worries, though… I can score all the down to 76% on the final and still walk away with an A for the course.

Last Friday I had my trigonometry and pre-calculus finals. I faced the same issue that I did with the mid-terms–I had to be at the college’s southern campus (45 minutes south of home) at 4:00PM for pre-calculus, then I had to be at the college’s northern campus (1/2 hour north of home) at 7:00PM for the trigonometry final. This time, however, I was well prepared for both exams and had no trouble. I aced both of them. So far (3 math courses) I haven’t had less than 100% on any proctored math exams. One time, I got one question partially wrong, but weirdly enough, a perfect score results in a score of a few percentage points more than 100, so that time I ended up getting exactly 100%.

I’m glad the semester is over. Toward the end there I was getting bored and having trouble with ambition. That, of course, resulted in some scary procrastination. Now I have about three weeks to catch up on other things before going back to school. This weekend our household (3 adults) is moving to a new place. That’ll be fun. Not. Next weekend, my fiancee and I plan on visiting Florida State University, which is likely to be the university that I transfer to for fall 2015. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to work a little more–save up some of that green stuff that I haven’t seen around much of late. Maybe, I’ll even have time to drink a few beers and do some reading.

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The Day After Beer

alcohol-148993_640The other weekend we had a party at our place. It was a small party–nothing fancy–just some friends and a few of my fiancee’s colleagues. We chatted, had some beers, sat around, had some wine, played charades, had more beer, and so on. I had fun. It had been a while since I’d had a drink so it didn’t take much for me to feel it.

The next day I remembered why I don’t drink much anymore. I had trouble concentrating and my brain felt fuzzier than normal. As I was staring uncomprehendingly at a trigonometry problem, I wondered if this was what being stupid feels like. I was reminded of why I don’t drink and study.

The lack of focus I felt wasn’t due to the classical hangover–I had had that the night before due to stopping my alcohol consumption several hours before going to bed. I didn’t have the classical hangover symptoms, but my ability to study was definitely stunted. This isn’t something new to me–in fact, I drink very little since starting college because I know how dramatically it affects my ability to study. I can’t drink before or during studying because it affects my concentration and comprehension abilities. I can’t drink after studying because I’m asleep–I just have no time for drinking.

Thinking that this phenomenon is probably pretty common, I did a quick search for research on the short-term effects of alcohol on study ability, but I couldn’t find anything. All I could find was a lot of info on the correlation between constant binge drinking and poor GPA. I know it’s just anecdotal, but I find it interesting that my studying ability seems to be negatively affected after consuming alcohol–long before I’ve drank enough to feel a “buzz” and long after any wooziness has faded. I must note that other than study ability, I seem to function normally. I don’t even notice this effect of alcohol unless I’m trying to do something that requires a lot of concentration–like studying trigonometry. Somebody should do a study now that I’ve raised awareness… for science, you know!

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Television: A Student’s Nemesis

tv-46909_640Here I am trying to write, but something keeps distracting me. It’s Chuck. Whenever I try to ignore him and try to get something done, Chuck whispers quietly to me. I don’t even like him that much, but unless I give him my undivided attention, he just keeps bugging me. It hasn’t always been like this. A few weeks ago I had never heard of Chuck. A few weeks ago it was Dexter that kept bugging me.

Yes… I’m talking about television. I have this bad habit of falling for television series. I’m not content watching one episode a week. Oh no. Not when I can watch five seasons in two weeks on Netflix or some darker corner of the web. I really liked Dexter–I think it’s a brilliant show for the most part. Watching Dexter was like taking a voyage into the depths of my psyche. It was like a character study of some dark, eccentric, and lonely portion of myself, and so I was able to wisely spend (i.e. waste) my time without feeling too guilty. I was deeply saddened after I watched the final episode and realized that Dexter was gone forever. Now, I’m watching Chuck. I don’t particularly like it. I think it’s poorly written and not even faintly realistic. I just don’t understand why I can’t stop watching it. Every time I get hungry I use it as an excuse to nuke a TV dinner or pour a bowl of cereal and watch 45 minutes of Chuck. Then I watch another one. Before I know it it’s 4:00AM and I’ve blown most of the day and the next.

When I’m not watching “my show”, whatever it may be at the moment, I have trouble focusing and I experience withdrawal symptoms. If I give in and watch an episode, I feel dirty and guilty for not having accomplished something more productive… like studying for finals. The only solution seems to be to watch every episode as quickly as possible–to get it over with so I can concentrate on studying again. After such a marathon I’m usually good for a few weeks or even months, but eventually I start getting edgy and I begin feeling burned out with my life. When that happens, I examine myself and my lifestyle and try to figure out what’s wrong, and I realize that what I’m missing is a good television series.

Help! I think I need a vacation.

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Course Notes: ENC 1102 Written Communications II

I took ENC 1102 last semester, and finally, here are my thoughts on it.

ENC 1102 is the study of three forms of literature–short stories, poetry, and drama (plays). This course involves the critical analysis of various members of the aforementioned forms of literature. You have to really think about what you’re reading, break it down, analyze it, why this symbolism, why that allusion, and so on. I had to write one research paper during the course, and I chose William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”

One aspect of literary analysis that I’m not too fond of is the emphasis on interpretation. For any given classic, there seem to be hundreds of interpretations about the grander meaning or purpose of the work. One person says it’s about the idiocy of the North during the civil war, another says it’s about the silliness of the South during the civil war, another says it’s about the emergence of feminism, and so on and on and on. What if it was just meant to be an interesting story? Huh? Did you think about that possibility? What if the writer never harbored a hidden agenda that can only be teased out after months of speculation and tripping to conclusions?

As for reading drama, I don’t have too much to say about it–it’s just like watching the play in your head. After watching videos of the same plays, I realized that I enjoy the versions in my head better. During this course, I studied Hamlet for the first time, and after getting past the esoteric language, I actually enjoyed it and found moments that made me grin. The favorite play that I studied in this course would have to be Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Talk about LMAOing all over the floor…

What I’m about to say now may anger you and cause you to think condescendingly of me from hereon. This is particularly true if your major is literary in nature. Irregardless… just kidding. Regardless of how your opinion of my digital persona may change, the following things need to be said.

I’ll start in soft and easy…

To me, the purpose of writing is to convey information in an interesting manner. The best writers, then, are the ones that write unambiguously, and interestingly. It is quite the opposite with poetry. Petals on a wet, black bough? Bitch puhleeze! It takes a lot of effort for me to “understand” a poem, and even then, I can’t be sure that my interpretation is what the poet intended. I know that poetry is supposed to evoke emotion, but in me, the only evoked emotion is that of extreme irritation at the writer’s apparent inability to convey information in a clear and interesting manner. Poetry seems to be nothing more than a collection of vague verbal stimuli directed toward those that tend to find patterns in random nonsense. As such, it is more a verbal Rorschach Test than anything else. The fact is, ENC 1102 did nothing to mollify my unabashed hatred of poetry. I accept that I am missing out on a part of human experience that is important to many people, but that’s okay. I’ve come to terms with my condition.</end rant>

The only tip I really have, if you’re taking this course, is; if it’s a classic, and it tells a story; watch the movie.

P.S. Depending on your professor, you better wield your MLA with some serious skill (FYI: that last part included something called “alliteration.” You’ll learn all about that in ENC 1102).

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's your damn turkey!

Here’s your damn turkey!

Well, Happy Thanksgiving! It’s been weeks (months?) since I’ve posted on here, so here are a few updates.

The semester is almost over for me. I have a week’s worth of chemistry studies and one anthropology essay left, and then I’m down to final exams. This week has been fairly slow, but next week will be pretty hectic with my trigonometry and pre-calculus finals. I’ve done well this semester. As long as nothing goes wrong with the finals, I should have A’s in all four courses.

I’m glad the semester is almost over. Four months of focusing my attention on four specific subjects is almost too long. I’m starting to get bored. I can’t wait to start fresh in January with four new courses. I’m nearing the end of my second college semester and already college is becoming routine… I’m afraid that I’m already losing that sense of adventure, but hopefully, new courses and a new semester will revitalize me. This winter I’ll have a whole month off of school. Most of my courses finish in the first week of December, and the next semester doesn’t start until January 6 or so. It’ll be nice to have some time off of studying, but I’m afraid the break is almost too long… I’m afraid that I may lose some momentum or ambition.

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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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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.

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No More Dew Boy


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).

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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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