Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Crazy Days

This week is getting to me a bit.

Monday. Oh, Monday....
Because of my son's surgery this Thursday, I've had to condense my entire week into three days. I won't be going to class on Thursday or Friday.

Monday had two midterms and a quiz. Today, I had another quiz. Tomorrow, a huge lab. I arranged to do my bio lab - normally on Fridays - this evening, so at least I have that out of the way. I've been going at 100% since last Friday, when I kicked up my studying for midterms, and I am just about fried.

One more midterm after this week. I have a big lab report which I have to email by 1:30 on Friday, but that's no trouble. I'm taking a break from it right now to write this. My prelab for tomorrow is done.

So, I just need to get through class tomorrow, and my lab, then I am done until Monday.

On the plus side, I'm still maintaining really good grades, right with my goals. My overall average is still around 96%. All I have left this semester is two chem labs, one chem midterm, three physics labs, two bio labs, one more quiz in calc, one small assignment and a quiz in Spanish, and finals.

I'm one of those people who is really comfortable with tests, so I'm not worried about finals. My first is over a month away but I've already started reviewing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sorted

Well, I sorted the daycare situation out.

The daycare the kids were going to was not... ideal. It was poorly run in general, not as clean as I'd like, and rather crowded. I needed a place in short order and it was available. When I started the kids there, I did intend it to be short term until I found a better place anyway. Them kicking my son out accelerated that timeline.

Besides that, I was getting pretty sick of my kids coming home filthy. Now, kids get dirty while playing outside, that's normal. But they had so many kids there (perfectly within legal limits, but at the higher end of them) and the play yard was poorly designed enough that they just frankly got completely filthy. Head to toe, needed a bath as soon as we got home every day. In the past couple weeks, my daughter has had a dirty diaper every time I have picked her up, and she's developed a stubborn diaper rash, despite my telling them to change her more frequently.

Every day she'd have a snotty nose when I picked her up, dry and crusty from them not wiping it.

Clearly, not a good centre and we're well rid of it. The one I saw today was sparkling clean, nicely decorated, the kids were all nice and clean and tidy, noses wiped, everything nicely organized. MUCH better.

Even better is that it is right along my commute route, so I won't need to go to the other side of town anymore (not a big town, but still annoying to deal with) and it is two blocks from my son's school so he won't be on the bus for nearly an hour after school anymore, which should help his behaviour considerably.

Overall, works out nicely. Gave our notice at the current place, and the kids start at the new on on November 13th.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Precocious

My son cleaned the living room today without me asking and got his sister to pitch in, so as a 'thank you' he got twenty minutes of iPad time.

Five minutes in:
"mommy, what is tes-tos-ter-one?" (he pronounced the last syllable like the number.)
"What?"
"Tes-tos-ter-one. What is it?"
*the clue-by-four hits me*
"Sweetheart, stop reading my biology book."
"But I like it!"

Definitely my kid.

Methods

Tomorrow, like almost every Monday, I have a physics quiz. After our lab -  which takes an hour and a half - we have a 90 minute tutorial to go over questions assigned the previous week. At the start f tutorial, we have a quiz on last week's material. The quiz is completely based on a certain portion of the questions we are assigned (typically 5-6 analytical problems.) It actually can be quite difficult.

By the time Monday rolls around, I have usually done these questions three or four times. I do not study material the day before a quiz or test, generally. My brain just doesn't work well doing that, so I just do something completely different.

But for today, I'm going to break that habit and I'm going over the questions again tonight. Just to make sure I really have it.

I absolutely must know this material, because it's going to get a lot harder from here out. I am really enjoying physics, though. The prof I have is very tough, he marks very strictly, and most of my class is not doing well at all. I love the challenge.

Wish I could afford to take more challenging classes. I like having to work hard to maintain my grades, but I just can't risk potentially jeopardizing my GPA. Makes me a bit sad that my choice of future career is limiting my ability to enjoy my undergrad to its fullest extent, but I can always come back and do the things that I most enjoy. Later.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Biased

You know, I think it is wonderful that my profs post notes. I will refer to them for clarification, but for the most part - except for in one class - I do not use them as my primary notes. The notes are a red herring for the unprepared. It'd be too easy to fall into the trap of thinking the notes have all the information that will be tested. They don't, probably only around 60-80% depending on the class. 

I have a notebook for every class. I hand write everything, adding clarification, highlighting things as I go. I have a little code; underline it if brought up twice, highlight if mentioned three times. Underlined means it will likely be tested, highlighted means it will definitely be tested.

So far, this has proven a very reliable method. My bio prof makes things particularly easy in that he actually says "X will be tested." Those things are highlighted and circled. But, he also will bring up things in class 'as an aside' but they end up being things that are tested. I note these things in the margins of my notebook. Figures that he refers to more than once are noted in the margins, highlighted, rapidly sketched in my notes, and I take a screenshot from the ebook and put them directly into my typed notes.

Two of my profs made it clear that we can expect everything they bring up in class to be tested. Fair enough, I study to make sure I know everything.

Thanks to my lecture notes habit, I'm able to fairly accurately predict what is on tests. I even bet a few friends that something that was neither in the book nor notes would be on our bio midterm. I was right. Now that I got my bio midterm back, I cross-referenced the actual midterm with my list of highlighted/underlined topics. Everything I highlighted and underlined was covered. All of it.

So, I seem to have found my method and it does appear to be working well. The key to succeeding in university does, in fact, appear to be the exact thing everyone has been saying all along. GO TO CLASS!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Why I have not been blogging much.

More than a dozen quizzes, a handful of midterms, many labs, and several assignments in and my current GPA is 4.0 on the OMSAS scale.

My actual average is 97.66%, with no class lower than 95% and only one (sadly) still at 100%. I'm doing better with not beating myself up over one or two mistakes here or there, but it still does sting a bit when I lose marks for not properly expressing something that I do really understand. I am very pleased with my performance so far, I'm doing as well as I'd hoped and better than I'd expected. It is an insane amount of work, but it is fun so I suppose that helps.

Two midterms left; second bio, and the second chem (which I previously forgot about.) My marks are artificially high right now, though. Most of my exams are worth 40-50% each so there is room for me to royally screw up yet.

For next semester, I dropped the much-complained about Global Issues class that I really, really don't want to take. I've registered for a web-only class in religious studies that looks interesting. The fact that there's no lecture time and it is primarily a discussion-based class means it will be both fun and challenging. Also means I have two days a week with only one class, conveniently.

Strategic planning. Less lecture time means more study time.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Vet vet vet vet vet vet vet vet MED vet vet vet

My school has a veterinary medicine college. They have designed a science program that covers all the prerequisites for vet school in two years, and have obviously called it the prevet stream.

Almost everyone I meet who is serious about their grades is in the prevet stream. I can tell which of my classes are part of it, because they are the largest. I have so far only met three premeds, but one has already dropped out. One of the other two is failing two classes and doesn't study (by their own admission) so I'm doubting this person will make it into med school without a serious shift in perspective.

It's now making sense why so few people from my province apply to med school. It's in the range of 30-50 a year. They all want to be vets because they can do that here, without leaving home.

Thing is, you can't throw a stick in this province without hitting a vet clinic. There's no way for these kids to practice here except in the off chance that they can buy a practice fom a retiring/relocating vet. So, we have a bit of a brain drain. Our best and brightest get into vet school, then leave. Of the ones who get into med school, fewer than half will pursue family med, which means their chances of coming home are relatively small as well.

The rabid competitiveness that premeds from other schools see amongst premeds is not present at my school. My school is very small - fewer than 4,000 students, including graduate students - but there are still so few premeds that many of us don't even encounter the others. There's no reason for competitiveness amongst us as, provided we get decent grades, the majority of us will get in somewhere if we keep our options open.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Tough Lesson

My chem prof uploaded the midterms he has given for the past three years so that we could use them as study aids. I set a timer for 50 minutes, sat down with my pencil and calculator, and wrote each of them, then graded myself according to his rubric. My scores were spectacular, so I was pretty confident.

I still studied, did a lot of reading through my notes, doing the questions assigned for work, poking around the online homework tool, and so on.

Then we got the actual midterm. It was 25% longer. Three quarters of the questions were long, calculation based ones. There was one 'fill in the blanks' and one where we had to circle the molecules with a particular property, and explain why they are soluble, those were the shortest two. There were two short answer questions, which he has never had on tests before.

I almost ran out of time. No one in the class left until the very last few minutes. No one. I am usually one of the first out of any test because I don't get nervous at all about tests, and I read very quickly.

Around a third of the people I have spoken to ran out of time completely.

So, lesson learned: Do not make the mistake of assuming a test will be anything like ones from previous years. It's a trap, sometimes. Bio was. Chem was a totally different ballpark.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

I feel better

Well, after the rather nasty business of that terrible mark on my first physics quiz (which I still have not gotten back so I do not yet know *how* I lost so many points) I am feeling better. Got 100% on my last one.

This last one, I had to write it with my left hand because my stupid right hand wasn't working. I was, at one point, ambidextrous, but I had gotten completely out of the habit of using my left hand. A week of having to write completely with my left seems to have reactivated my skills, anyway.

I also got my first big Spanish quiz - which counts for as much of my mark as my midterms do in other classes, so I'm calling it a midterm - and was disappointed to have only gotten 96% on it.

Which is ridiculous, really. I can't get 100% in everything, and I need to accept that I will make mistakes. Accepting it doesn't mean I have to like it though, or that I don't have to work to make them as rare as possible. But I shouldn't be beating myself up over marks that really are quite good.

Still, next year is going to be harder. Many, many people are telling me that second year is a killer. So, I need to be ready for it, which means a certain level of fanaticism when it comes to the material so that I have no gaps in my foundational skills.

Study, study, study. I can and will rock this. Big chemistry study group tomorrow in preparation for Friday's midterm. I think it's going to be great!

Monday, 8 October 2012

I knew this day would come

I don't feel like studying. At all. I've been a bit lax about it this long weekend since my daughter has been cranky and kept waking up during my study time so I've probably only put in 6 out of a possible 9 hours since Friday. I'm really comfortable with my preparation so far for my chem midterm and the upcoming calc one (in ten days.) I have no outstanding assignments, the only thing I need to do is study, but I really don't feel like it.

To be honest, I'm putting in 35 hours or more a week of studying outside of class and labs, so 60+ hours a week dedicated to school. If the kids are asleep (or even if my daughter is napping and my son is occupied) I am studying. Doing questions, flash cards for chem, running through potential problems in my head as I walk places.

I described my walk to the car in vectors. Did it all in my head, but I estimated my displacement and already knew the time - I have actually timed how long it takes me to walk places on campus, my schedule for myself is *that* precise - so I calculated my average velocity, then started considering the downward slope towards the parking lot, then when I got to my car, glared at the speedometer because it's so much easier for the car to tell me how fast I'm going.

Unless I am engaged in playing with my kids, I am thinking about school. Cooking prompts thoughts of chemistry and biology. Cleaning the cat box definitely makes me think of chemistry (I *hate* ammonia!) I call my mother and we chat in Spanish, or I listen to Spanish music while cleaning, trying to translate it as I hear it.

While my grades are good, it is not a matter of inherent talent, it is because no waking hour goes by without my coursework entering my mind.

So tonight, I don't feel like studying and I am slacking off. I think I've earned it, and I should give my brain a break.

Maybe do some light reading. About neurotransmitters.

Well, that's cool.

I logged into our course management site this morning and as usual, my first stop was my grades page to see if anything new had been entered.

To my surprise, my bio midterm grade went up. The majority of it was on Scantron sheets, and I did erase a couple and correct them so I suppose they may be going though manually and checking them for scanning errors. 

Still, very pleasant to wake up and find out I actually have 96%. :-D

It could have gone down, in which case I'd have likely cried. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Q & A with a Five Year Old

"Mommy, can I come to your lab and light things on fire?"

No, dear. That's what the girl at my bench who doesn't know how to use a Bunsen burner is doing. I'll be surprised if we don't lose at least one pair of eyebrows in my session this semester.

"Are labs dangerous?"

Only when there are other students there.

"Do you get to cut things up?"

Yep. That elodea plant was absolutely vicious and only my scalpel saved me. Didn't think I'd survive the potato, the starchy bastard.

"Is your school like Mythbusters?"

Well, we did discuss why the anti-evolution arguments are bunk in biology, so I suppose.

"Are your teachers nice?"

Nerd, nerd, nerd, awesome, and terrified to be in front of the class. All are nice. The nerds are the best, particularly the nerd who jumps off of tables and the one who used hydrochloric acid instead of water accidentally.

Midterms!

So far, two are out of the way. A couple of my classes have more than one, so it's nice to have two gone.

The remainder:
Oct 12th: Chemistry
Oct 18th: Calculus
Oct 29th: Biology #2, Spanish Part 2

Physics doesn't have a midterm because we have weekly tutorial quizzes and graded in-class response device questions ('clicker.')

I've been doing the practice tests for Chem, and I'm feeling comfortable about it, but am practicing over and over to keep my skills sharp.

A few people I know don't quite get why I'm so rabid about my marks and knowing the material. I don't learn so I can pass tests, I'm learning it so I can understand it.

Thing is, to do well *next* year, I need to know everything from *this* year. I made a poll on the premed board, and a plurality of respondents felt second year was hardest. I've heard this from many people now, so really, I'm just preparing for second year right by doing well in first year.

I am such a freaking nerd.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Bitter Medicine

My son had, for a long time, been really rough with the birds, enjoyed scaring them and so on. As a result, they were afraid of him and I didn't let them out when he was around.

He'd been working very hard to regain the trust of Kiwi, my Quaker, and it was going well. She'll sit on his shoulder, steal his food, and if he starts moving too fast, she flies to me.

  Well, my kids wanted the birds to come out. Okay, fine.  B For, my cockatiel, usually just hangs out on top of the TV. Kiwi will come down to play. The finches only free fly in very controlled surroundings without the kids home/awake.

B For, instead of hanging out in his usual spot, flew into the kitchen and, being rather old, landed on the floor instead of the counter or fridge. My son promptly stepped on him.

I scooped him up and examined him. His right leg was bleeding profusely, with what appeared to be bone sticking out of it. A compound fracture in a bird this old and frail is a death sentence. So, after about an hour of trying to stop the bleeding and get him loosely splinted, I called the vet. 

I do not think any f my animals has ever been injured during business hours. Im starting to think the vets must groan when the after hours answering service tells them I called. Three visits in the last eighteen months, two on holiday weekends. 

Anyway, the vet came and checked him out. My parents took the kids as I was sure he'd have to be euthanized. The leg is injured pretty badly, but the vet didn't feel a fracture. Something punctured his leg (his legs are about 2.5mm in diameter, there isn't much flesh to begin with) and that must have been sticking out, looking like bone. I have no idea what it could have been. Maybe a long-unnoticed sliver from a broken cup or something? I have no idea. 

He isn't out of the woods. He is hurting, he is still oozing a bit of blood that even the styptic isn't stopping. He is stressed out and in pain, and he is old. He may not survive. But this bird has been through so much, I think my shock should long have worn off. He'll be 16 in January and while he's old, I guess he's still got some time left in him. 

If the leg gets infected, we may have to reevaluate, but the vet didn't think he needed to be euthanized immediately. B is not terribly happy about the hospital cage, though. It is small and has no toys. So I gave him a bunch of clover to keep him happy. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Midterms rolling in and I am going to brag for a few minutes

First midterm: 94%. Class average: 65%

It really was not at all hard, but I guess a lot of people didn't study.

Most recent bio lab quiz: 105%. Class average: 68%

I honestly am not studying a whole lot, I just review as soon as I've learned things, and I have a set time to study every night. Nothing special. But, I am pulling in grades like these in every class. Well, my physics is somewhere around 95% right now because of a bad quiz mark, but they drop your lowest at the end of the semester, so I expect good grades.

I'm consistently amongst the top performers in all of my classes.  I also have a good memory, which certainly helps. I'm thinking I can keep up with my current pace, and more, as time goes on. I'm pretty confident now that I can and will get the marks necessary to get into medicine

This was my braggart moment for the week and yes, I realize how obnoxious this post sounded but I'm proud of my marks so far. But it's going to get harder and harder to maintain them as time goes on.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Curveball

Today was unpleasant.

Well, my Spanish dictation went well. Physics was fun, calc was, well.... we're a month in and *just* started derivatives today. So, the usual.

I have bio lab tomorrow (osmosis. yay.) and a big Spanish quiz in the morning, but aside from that it should be a calm day.

Well, except for the fact that I need to find a new daycare because my son is being kicked out of his.

Now, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that he's a difficult kid. He does not understand when enough is enough, he does not understand that others have feelings like he does. He has limited impulse control, and maturity wise he's closer to 3 than almost 6.

Thing is... this is a special needs daycare. It's right in their ad: "Accommodates Special Needs." They should be able to handle this. They have him, typically, for less than an hour a day.

But, no, they gave me two weeks notice today. Next week, daycares are only open two days because of Thanksgiving and then the teacher federation conference on the Thursday and Friday, so I have very little time to find a new place.

It took me months to find this one. Several didn't even call me back once they learned he has autism. Funny how time after time, the spaces they told me were open would fill up in the 2 hours it took them to call me back after my inquiry.

It's pissing me off. A lot. You hear about disability discrimination, but it's ridiculous how blatant it really is.

So here I am, middle of midterms, stressed to the max, and I have to figure out what to do with my son who gets off school when I am in the middle of labs or my afternoon classes. I have absolutely no idea what to do.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Coming Home

I'm so very in love with my school, with this education I am now pursuing. It sounds odd, perhaps, but it's true. I'm honoured to be there, and treat every day as a gift. Every class is a new experience, every quiz a personal challenge, every lab time to try something new.

My dedication to school is paying off. As of now; many quizzes, labs, assignments, and a midterm into the year, I still have a 4.0 GPA on the OMSAS scale (4.3 at my school.) 99.0% is my actual grade right now. I only have less than 100% in one class, physics. I am refusing to allow myself to get overconfident though, because I absolutely have to keep working hard.

Today, I encountered a very pleasant gentleman in my biology class who is also pursuing med school admissions. I've directed him towards the premed forum I frequent as he has many questions about the process.

It's amazing, really. I'm spending on average 10 hours a day doing school-related stuff, and I am not tired of it. I look forward to my evening study times. I've asked for extra work to hone my skills.

The nerve issue in my right arm from June is recurring so I can only use my left at the moment, which is inconvenient as I'm right-handed. So I've been writing labs and quizzes with my left hand. My professors have been immensely understanding of my barely legible script, and seem pleased that I'm not using my medical note to get out of things. They are giving me extra time, which is nice of them.

I love my school. I love science. I am so, so very happy to be doing this and I *know* I can meet my goals for this year.