Cake or pie?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


On Tuesday morning early, it started to snow, like maybe around 5 or 6 a.m. Snow is pretty awesome usually. I have class on Tuesdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., two lectures followed by two labs. At the end of my second lab, someone mentions, "Oh yeah, by the way, evening classes are canceled." Awesome, I'm so glad the university came to that decision AFTER my full day of classes.

The roads iced over pretty bad though, and classes today were canceled until noon, other than the law school's classes. I thought that was pretty unfortunate, today was the first meeting for my microbiology lab, which I was really looking forward to. On Tuesday, I realized my chemistry lab professor is awesome. He has a good sense of humor, but is also no-nonsense about lab safety. He is a stickler for the rules and from what I've heard, he's definitely kicked people out of labs before in the past, and he told a story about a girl who was taking a quiz in the class, leaning over the lab bench in front of her, and her hair wasn't up, it fell down and rested on the bench. Smart quiz-girl then proceeded to take her hair, which previously had been laying on said lab bench, and thread it into her mouth and chewed/sucked on it. I'm sure everyone has seen this done before. Anyway, he was shocked by it.. he didn't kick her out of the lab, but he asked, "Do you know what's been on that lab bench??" She said, "No..." and he said "Yeah me neither! But whatever chemicals used in the experiments in the lab you've now ingested." Whoops. Remind me to tie my hair back if I ever grow it out. Thanks.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Well, my first week of classes is finished. Due to the inauguration, most of my labs were canceled, or didn't meet since Tuesday classes were canceled. Previously, I think I had mentioned that the classes I'm taking this semester are the second half of Anatomy & Physiology, General Chemistry II, Microbiology and Animal Biology. All of the lectures have met other than General Chemistry, but I am taking the same professor for it that I took for Gen Chem I, so there are no surprises there. I know what to expect when it comes to him.

My honest appraisal is that I like all of my professors and the one TA I have had so far. My animal biology lecturer is very straight-forward with his expectations, and very internet-savvy and connected. Responsiveness is always something that I appreciate from a professor. I know they may have 200 students per section of some courses, but I honestly like it more when they say "Don't call me, either e-mail me or stop by my office hours." Maybe that's just me?

The one lab I have that met was for animal biology, and the main thing we covered was taxonomy and getting reacquainted with microscopy... in this case it was microscopy of red blood cells of different animals. We did a blood count for leukocytes, which BTW was not a complete blood count or "CBC" by any means, we were told to count and classify the leukocytes until we hit 100 to make it easy to calculate the percentage present of each of the types, i.e. neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes and monocytes. My method was just scanning the slide from left to right, top to bottom until I hit 100, and my percentage observed seemed to be pretty close to what's expected.. which is always good, I suppose. I definitely noticed that the majority of the leukocytes present were neutrophils, over 60%. We were also given about twenty animals and one plant to write down the complete nomenclature from kingdom to species, and then organize them in a chart.

One of the questions in the lab manual asked which two species were more similar - human and a particular bat or a particular fish and the great white shark. It turns out the human and the bat are more similar due to both being in the Mammalia class. One funny thing was that the lab I signed up for meets right after the lecture on Thursdays, so when our lab TA was asking us questions, we were all primed with the right answers from the lecture, i.e. she would ask something like "Who came up with the current system of nomenclature used to classify organisms?" and the 1/2 the lab section said "Linnaeus. Next!" Just kidding about the next.

The other interesting thing about my animal bio lab section is that at my lab bench, 3/4 of us already have our degrees and came back to school for something else. Next to me, is the 1/4 who is an undergrad pre-med biology major. Across from me are two pre-dents, one a woman with a degree in business, a husband and children, and the other with a degree in English. I guess my table is the non-trad friendly one, all though there is another non-trad in the section at a different bench, I guess she didn't sit with us because we were all filled up by the time she strolled in. This is kind of an aside, but it doesn't seem odd to me that we tend to seek each other out, especially in the labs I've been in. My lab partner for general chemistry last semester was a non-trad pre-med like me, with a master's in statistics and she was 30.

My microbiology class looks very interesting to me. The professor is a virologist by training. We didn't cover much other than the rules of the road in the first meeting on Wednesday, but on Friday we got into the methods of how microbiota are named, by their shape (coccus/cocci, etc.) and arrangement. I learned a fun fact, "staphylo" originally comes from the Greek and means a cluster of grapes, so now we know why Staphylococcus aureus gets its name, the organism is spherical and arranged in an irregular clump like a cluster of grapes. The only thing that sucked on Friday is "The Hills" sat in front of me - three girls that talked the entire time, like they were giving a running commentary and I wasn't eavesdropping but I could tell it had nothing to do with the class. I actually care about the lectures, I actually care about not being able to hear, I actually care for once. I want to do well. I don't want to feel like a grumpy old man, especially when I'm only 28. Did I say something? Yes. I could care less what they think. For all I know, they're probably pre-med too, or pre-dent or pre-pharmacy. Hope it works out, but they should think about saving the socializing for outside of class.

My anatomy & physiology class looks like more of the same. We talked about what we're going to cover this semester and got into "the special senses" a little bit - vision, balance, hearing and all that jazz. The professor said she really likes the second half of the class more so than the first half even though it's about equal as far as learning new vocabulary, but the first half is really bogged down at the cellular level and the second half is more of a systems approach, and after the special senses, we'll get into the immune and lymphatic systems, the cardiovascular system, the urinary and the reproductive systems, and I'm probably leaving something out. Oh well, time to hit the hay, or watch Burn Notice and try to. :D

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I used to coach an all-girl all star cheerleading squad. If you are completely unfamiliar with the cheer world, all star programs have proliferated in the past 10-15 years. It's basically the same thing as a travel team in soccer, it's a bunch of kids from different schools that cheer on a team outside of their schools' cheerleading programs, which they may or may not participate in as well. On the whole, the talent level and dedication on all star teams is somewhat higher than those for most, but not all, school cheerleading programs. I know that is a huge generalization, but there are definitely exceptions to that, i.e. incredibly talented and dedicated school programs.

The main difference is that the focus in all star cheerleading is competition, compared to the focus for school teams is promoting school spirit and cheering on teams at games. Competition is a possible pursuit for schools to consider outside of and after those primary goals. All star teams practice with one goal in mind, which is to compete. The program I coached for, which is now defunct/was absorbed by another program, generally focused on no more than 1 competition per month, with the major ones near the end of the season. The season in all star cheerleading is essentially year-round, with tryouts for most programs in April or May, practices through the summer, and finally the arrival of the fall season marks the start of the "competition season."

I'm sorry for all that exposition if you already knew all that! Anyway, as you may or may not realize, coaching, providing guidance for and at times trying to corral teenaged girls is no small feat. One year, I had to sit them down for a "heart-to-heart" kind of chat because I had perceived I wasn't getting their best effort. I made an agenda, which I found just now as I was cleaning out old files and storage, with a list of "business" to discuss with the team. They were all good kids, but at the time they were playing around too much, not applying themselves (God, I am starting to sound really old) and like I said, I wasn't pleased with it. I admit I was partially to blame as well for not providing more structure, guidance and direction. I wrote down the "business" as bullet points to flesh out in our little "heart-to-heart." In hindsight, maybe it was a little tough love-ish but I think they respected me more for it in the end.

This was my "philosophy" or the "business" I had listed:
1) The difference between arrogance and ignorance.
2) Commitment (huge).
3) Impatience/self-importance
4) Omitted.
5) Let Jen do it. [Note: Jen was a workhorse on the team, she did everything asked, she did it well, and she did it without complaining.]
6) Why are you here?
7) Excuses?
8) Corrections
9) Putting the team before yourself.
10) Do something with your whole heart or don't do it.
11) One drop of poison in a well kills the entire village. [Note: I was trying to stress having a positive attitude, pulling for each other, etc.]
12) Expectations
13) Value of hard work. "Do you think it's luck when teams hit their routines? It's hard work."
14) Limitations - we don't limit what you're capable of, you do it to yourself.
15) Faith - believe in your abilities.
16) Comparisons - don't worry about what other teams are doing.
17) Let things bother you. Take it seriously when something isn't working out. Don't get frustrated though, get some perspective, ask for help.
18) I'm never disappointed in how you do unless you're disappointed in yourself.
19) What are you doing today that makes you a better member of this team?
20) It should be fun, but it's only possible to have fun when you're taking care of business. Take care of business before business takes care of you.
21) Need to be detail-oriented. It's the little things that separate good teams from great teams.
22) When we laugh, it's usually at my expense, but occasionally it's really at yours. It's okay to laugh. :)

There is a lot of overlap between some of the points, but that was because those in particular were the ones that I wanted to hammer home the hardest, which was to dedicate yourself to it, do the best you can, not worry about everybody else, try to continually improve your skill set, and last but not least to have fun doing it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pre-Inauguration/Pre-Spring Semester

Tomorrow was supposed to be the first day of the spring semester. However, there is kind of a big deal historic event going on tomorrow in the D.C. area (where I live, actually Northern Virginia), the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama. The actual oath of office is pretty short, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," and is mandated by the Constitution, Article 2, Clause 8, and historically the President-elect adds "so help me God," even though it's not in the Constitution. I'm excited for a few reasons, I voted for Obama, I'm looking forward to his inaugural address even though I think a lot of people may have overly high expectations of it, and I'm also looking forward to see how he pays off his campaign promises.

The weather is supposed to be in the lower 30s, and they're expecting about millions of people on the mall, in the ticketed area in front of the western side of the Capitol, and all along the parade route between the Capitol and White House in the general vicinity. Here's a picture of the layout, courtesy of the Washington Post, for anyone unfamiliar with D.C. I will be watching from my warm couch.

I had a dentist appointment today for my semi-annual (is that the correct word for twice a year?) cleaning. On the dental front, everything is a-ok, even though after I left my job with the intellectual property law firm, I lost my insurance. To continue the work insurance, via COBRA, it would have been around $400+ a month for my health insurance and dental insurance. That seemed like a rip-off to me, and I know that when you leave an employer, they are no longer required to subsidize the cost of your insurance, so you get to bear full freight for it. I have no pre-existing conditions, and I'm generally healthy so I figured I wouldn't be denied. I thought I could get a better deal elsewhere, so I got insurance on my own and it's about $151/month and includes a dental rider. I can't complain.

Due to the inauguration, and the gridlock & congestion they are predicting, tomorrow's first day of classes were canceled, so the first day of class will now be Wednesday the 21st. This semester I'm taking the second half of anatomy & physiology, animal biology, general chemistry II, and microbiology. I have the same professors for gen chem II, and the a & p lecture and lab. I'm excited, but I also am taking 4 labs, versus the 3 labs I took last semester. I think I'll be able to handle it, and do well, and after the spring semester the only prerequisites I will have left to finish are organic chemistry I & II and physics I & II, and I will be ready to apply to medical school. One of the gifts I got for Christmas was a whiteboard/dry-erase board from my sister, which will come in handy this semester, I will be able to do practice problems, draw diagrams, etc. on it which can only help in reinforcing and consolidating what I'm learning, and it's plenty big enough to keep track of a bunch of things. I guess that's pretty adorkable of me to get so excited over a whiteboard, but hey that's me!

In another note, there are a few internships I'm interested in applying in, one in particular is nearby, has a $3500 stipend, and the deadline for filing an application is February 1, so I better get on it if I'm going to do it.