Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Unfulfilled Potential

Last night over beers with some friends from school, we somehow started talking about Harry Potter. Many at the table were eagerly anticipating the release of the final book and the next film in the series. I let everyone know that I had the inside scoop on what happens to Harry. I'll share with you what I told them:
Harry gets the Weasley girl pregnant and drops out of Hogwarts to take a job slinging burgers at a fast-food place in Diagon Alley. Occasionally, Voldemort visits the establishment to harass his once-powerful nemesis. Harry chokes back his anger during these infrequent visits. Each time as Voldemort leaves, Harry whispers "I'm Harry Potter, a very powerful wizard. I am the one." And each time, Harry's manager always yells at him to get back to work because "this ain't no fancy quiddich match, 'ere." In the evenings, Harry is emotionally distant and attempts to drown his sorrow in Butter Beer.
We all shared a good laugh and the conversation moved on to other topics. About five minutes later, one of my classmates yelled "That would never happen! They're wizards, they have contraceptive spells!"

"Fertilization renuncio!"

We all agreed. Then for the next ten minutes sat around randomly yelling spells and making wand motions to cast them. Overheard:
  • "Fertilization renuncio!"
  • "Spermato retreato!"
  • "Zygotus obliteratus"
  • "Abortivo levioso"
  • "Coitus interruptus!"

I Am Older. Wiser.

My grandmother would have turned 88 on the 25th of May. As my birthday is on the 26th, I always think of her. Every year, we'd call each other with wishes for a happy birthday and invitations to dinner. She's been gone a few years now and I still miss her terribly; I was absolutely crazy about her. I miss her laughter, the way her eyes would light up when you walked into her house, the incessant offerings of food or candy, her political rantings, the way she would hug you goodbye, and about a million other things that I didn't realized I'd noticed until she was out of reach. Make sure that those people you care about know it; go give them a hug or something, damn it.

My sister with Bamba, our grandmother.
This might be one of my favorite photos of her.

This year, my wife and I hosted a cookout on my birthday. My goal was to see people that I've not seen in a while due to school. My plan worked. It's pretty fun (and tiring) to see several distinct social circles mixing and mingling with one another. Anywho, we had a good time catching up with everyone, having some cold beer, and grilling.

I Am a Horseshoe Pitching Champion
On Sunday, we drove to my in-laws' mountain house near Helen for some R&R and quality time with the family. On Monday, they opened a horseshoe set and, wouldn't you know it, a tournament broke out. Seriously, people were challenging one another. Then, you followed through in your bracket. Intense. Unbelievably, I won the whole thing. In a proud day for our household, 1st and 2nd place trophies are on the mantle here. I defeated my wife in the championship match. Following is a video that I made from still photos I shot from my perch on the victor's throne. (At the time, though, it was a simple lawn chair; revisionism is awesome.)

In directly related news, I'm thinking of pushing the MCAT back indefinitely so that I can properly train for the rematch that will surely happen over the summer. I must defend my crown with strength and honor. I've joined the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America and signed up for regional tournaments. Look for me on ESPN2 in the coming months.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Canine Bliss

Today, our friend, "R," dropped off her dog, Moses, to play with Dylan. Usually, they play all day long without getting into too much. Earlier this week, however, they dug up the garden that "R" had planted. A few hours ago, I looked out the window and noticed that each dog is orange and that they've unearthed one of our sprinkler heads. Honestly, Moses looked like a lion at a kill. Seriously, his faces and haunches were so stained that he looked like he'd been ass-deep into a dead elephant. Classic.

Immediately after being discovered.

Moses, who enjoys sticking his entire face into mud.

Dylan, thoroughly covered in red mud.

Tonight is bath night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Day of Bliss

I know it sounds nuts but, for the last 10 days, I've not really cracked a textbook. I've casually been working on application-related things but have taken a vacation from the studies.

Here are a few things that I've done in the last 10 days that I've neglected over the last 12 months:
  • Played two consecutive games with the Sleestaks, my softball team. During the playoffs, I smashed a triple to right-center field for 3 RBIs during a rally that led to us beating the #1 seed by 1 run (22-21) after being down 19-10.
  • Worked in the yard planting hydrangeas and other plants for the day.
  • Sat on my front porch before 8am, having coffee, and reading "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Spent some good time and had a long conversation with my parents.
  • Slept until 8:30 for three consecutive mornings.
  • Walked the dog during the day.
  • Exhaled calmly while not really thinking about anything.
  • Started making the rounds to contact friends that I've neglected over the last year.
This too shall pass. I'm feeling the first twinges of what I like to call my "Oh Shit!" moment when I freak out and suddenly find the motivation to become laser-focused on something. MCAT, here I come!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Sigh of Relief

The results are in: I earned a "B-" in Organic Chem. Man, I was sweating it. I can't tell you how relieved I am to be over this hurdle. For the semester, I turned in the following performance:
  • Physics II : A
  • Biology : B
  • Organic Chem II : B-
Suddenly, things seem much more real. My cumulative GPA for the post-bacc program turned out to be 3.482. I wanted a 3.5 or higher but I'll take what I earned; it's not too shabby. Now, I simply need to kick some ass on the MCAT and I'll be okay.

Not a bad showing for such an intense year.

What a year. I remember starting this thing last year and being completely unsure that I was doing the right thing. (As evidenced by my earliest posts on this site. For example, this and this.) Basic algebra was really freaking me out. Certainly, I was making a huge mistake. Looking back though, it doesn't seem quite so bad. This might've been one of the most difficult things I've done. It is, of course, but the first step on this journey.

Now, I've got to get it in gear; no rest for the weary. (I'll take a breather when I'm 41.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Immediate Aftermath

I finished my finals. Honestly, the Organic Chem final was something from hell. Our prof give a standardized exam from the American Chemical Society so that she may gauge her students' performance against a national standard. When I opened the exam, I wondered what stinking language I was reading. Really, it looked SO different from anything I'd studied previously. I absolutely love feeling that way on a test, you know. You know, the old "What the hell is this? I've never seen any of this before!" feeling.

Anywho, I needed to make at least a 30 on the exam to keep a "C" in the class. I figured that I needed at least a 70 to earn a "B." This morning, I found my grade was in the high 70's about 5 points above the class average. Perfect! It looks like our prof is also working with the grades to move everyone up a few point. Right now, my cumulative grade shows up as a 79.52 excluding the stuff that she's adding in. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll get a "B." Hopefully, everything will work out for the best.

Final grades are officially posted tomorrow. I'll update then. Right now, however, I'm feeling more that a little relieved that I made higher than a 30 on the final. For a while there, I truly thought I'd be scraping out a 30.

Meanwhile, I've been taking a few days off to recover before I dive back into studying/applications. I'll begin with application work today before diving headlong into MCAT prep.

More later.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Two down...

One remaining exam: Organic Chemistry, the bane of my current academic endeavor. Tomorrow, I'll take the exam and relax.

Picture this: In a quiet, upscale romantic restaurant, many well-dressed patrons are quietly dining. Suddenly, a window bursts open as bodies crash through it. They fall to the floor wrestling. Customers shriek and scurry to a safe distance from the maelstrom and curiously watch as a guy who's on fire simultaneously fends off the vicious attacks of a ninja, a dwarf, and a sad clown. He's also being attacked by a puma that's snarling and swatting wildly at him.

Now, think of me as that guy.

Just trying to set the scene for tomorrow night.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Crybaby (Deluxe Edition)

I'm in the beginning of our finals period and am waiting for my "oh shit!" moment to propel me into full study mode. Right now, I'm sort of ambivalent about things and have taken the last day or so to clear my head and relax before heading into the gut-wrenching exam week.

I can't honestly say that I've finished this one on a high note. Organic Chemistry eludes me. On the last test, like most everyone in the class, I made a high D on the exam. That's right a "D." Now, that I've backed myself into a corner, nothing to do but fight my way out via the final exam. Keep your fingers crossed that I manage to pull a "C" or better in the class. I just don't get this stuff.

I'm not that unusual in this regard. A friend who is completing her Ph.D. in neuroscience at Emory told me that she too had a difficult time with it. Her theory is that you might be one of three kinds of people: someone who gets it an earns an "A," someone who never gets it and fails, or someone who gets it just enough to scrape by. I'm definitely scraping by on the seat of my pants.

One of the World's Biggest Crybaby Assholes
Seems that every social group will include at least one person who thrives on conflict and drama. You know, the idiot who has to create a shitstorm when everything is peaceful and easygoing. Well, the social dynamic among our program is no different. From the get go, one person seemed to be leading the charge in dodging accountability and creating drama. This person is always worrisome, terribly negative, and not totally grounded in reality. For example, if she received a low score on a test or something, she lay blame on the test for being unfair or poorly worded. If anything required critical thinking or an "out-of-the-box" approach, she shut down and cried foul to the professors. (Really, though, doctors don't need this type of skill because everything is just like a textbook - an open and shut diagnosis that clearly follows protocol.) Anyway, I've been getting slowly fed up and occasionally amused over the course of the year.

For all practical purposes, this photo represents my classmate.
Notably, however, the baby is more mature and trustworthy.

The last several weeks have found her reaping what she's sewn. Since last summer, she's been jointly enrolled in the Ph.D. program in which she was supposedly close to completing. Evidently, she's been taking funds from that university and, instead of using them to do the work expected of a doctoral candidate, using them to fund her participation in the post-bacc program at our institution. Needless to say, this finally caught up with her when she made a research proposal that was deemed "unviable." So, I believe that she's effectively shot herself in the foot on the Ph.D. thing. I feel bad for her situation but, deep down, she's in the hole that she dug for herself.

Anywho, the preceding anecdote is just fodder. A little background, if you will. Recent events that foreshadow upcoming acts of desperation.

I should also point out that, during the course of the program, things have generally been quite collaborative. People have banded together to help each other out. Our star has been the beneficiary of quite a bit of this help from various other students. She asked for help and people helped her out. Personally, I've spent a fair amount of time scanning old tests and working with "That Guy" to be sure that they were emailed to everyone so that we could study them.

One Step Over the Line
So, after the dreadful Organic test last week. I learn that there was an old test that a few people had been using to study. Turns out that the T.A. for the class had given it to our beloved, assuming that it would be shared with everyone. Obviously, this didn't happen. To make matters worse, it wasn't simply a case of forgetfulness or of passing something down a chain that breaks. It was a deliberate effort to withhold information from the entire group! Superstar told people to keep the test on the low-down and not to mention it to certain people, which evidently includes me and a few others. (The scuttlebutt is that because we don't "study" with their group, we're elitist or some other 5th grade bullshit.) Really? This is how it's going down? Seriously?

Turns out a few questions from the old test matched our exam. Conceivably, I could've earned a few more points and pulled a low "C." Light speed in black hole, right? Anywho, a few of us talked with the professor about it. We didn't ID anyone but because everyone signs an honor code at the start of the year and because the college holds moral integrity in high esteem, we thought she should know to help alleviate the same thing in the future. (Instead of the T.A. giving the exam to one person, post it online for all to access.) The icing on the cake is that nobody did well on the test. Even with her "competitive advantage," she still bit it.

I disgusted by it. After all the help she's received and after the collaboration that everyone has shown, she undermines it all like this? Unbelievable. Funny how adults can revert back to middle school social behavior, isn't it?

The Icing on the Cake
Tonight, I get an email from her regarding the final for the lab portion of Organic Chemistry, which was an open-book test. My jaw dropped. I really tried to just delete it without responding. When I was responding, I had to fight everything in me to call her out on being such an idiot. Here's her message :

From: [Crybaby Asshole]
Sent: Wed 5/2/2007 12:02 PM
To: [Lab Prof]
Subject: concerning lab final and final lab report

Dr. [Lab Prof],

I am concerned about the grade I received on the lab final. I spent several hours working on the final, finding the answers in the lab book, lab reports, organic chem text book, and even online sources. I knew that there were two questions that I was uncertain about but I was surprised when I submitted the final and missed 6. I would really like a copy of my lab final to see what exactly I missed so that I can figure out how I could have missed 4 more than I thought I might have. Also, days after the final many of us discussed our grades because many members of the class (who normally do well on the lab reports and lab quizzes) were similarly surprised by their low grades on the lab final and we were unable to figure out what questions we missed. Any light you can shed on this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

[Crybaby Asshole]


-----Original Message-----
From: [Crybaby Asshole]
Sent: Wed 5/2/2007 12:11 PM
To: The Scholar
Subject: FW: orgo lab final

[T.A.] said Dr. [Lab Prof] is going to be submitting our official lab grades by the end of the week. I have already sent him an email (above) and highly encourage you to do the same if you felt the lab final was unfair or flawed. I know it's finals time but let's rally team! It can't hurt us. :) (I didn't send this to everyone so please send on or remind other people in class to do the same.)

[Crybaby Asshole]


I didn't find it to be either unfair or flawed; I'm sure that the questions I missed were due to me fouling them up and not due to the exam. Good luck with this campaign and with finals.

-- The Scholar

I'm amazed at how she thinks that every grade she earns is negotiable. I really think that she believes she can argue like this in medical school. At what point does one become accountable for one's actions? Without a doubt, she's got the makings of a great doctor. (As long as you exclude accountability, strength of character, honesty, ethical behavior, critical thinking ability, and interpersonal skills.) Really, save the drama for the stage.

Whew. I feel a lot better. (For the record, I'm not an ass all the time. I feel this was warranted.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The National's Matt Berninger sold me new wheels

Ahh, the stress is finally peaking...

In my waking life, I'm starting to experience the dreaded VW electrical gremlins that inevitably plague older vehicles. After having my car in the shop for a couple of months (!) earlier this year to alleviate a problem with my alarm, my rear driver's side window suddenly stops working. Of course, this happens after I successfully let it down. Honestly, this is causing me little to no stress because, hey, I have no other monumentally stressful tasks to deal with at the moment.

In my dream life, I drive my car to the VW dealership which is more like a brightly-lit coffee house than repair shop. Berninger sits in the corner, at a desk absolutely covered with papers. On my entrance, he sees me and waves me over to his desk. He's timid and sleazy, in a used car salesman way. We quickly get to the business of repair talk.

"Sure, we can take care of the window," he assures me. "We'll have it up in no time."

I mention that I have no intention of sinking a ton of money into the repair because I'm going to trade it in very soon. I explain that the electrical problems are just too much, that I have neither the patience or the funds to continually make repairs.

After nodding his understanding, he asks "Well, what are you going to do about the wheels? You're missing a hub cap, huh? How long has that been gone?"

"About a year or two," I confess. "It's not that important to me."

"Well, nothing will up your resale value like a set of matching rims," he baits.


"Oh sure, it'll get you at least $500 more."

I agree to see what he has to offer me. First, he shows me some ultra shiny chrome wheels that would more likely belong on a superstar rapper's car than my humble Jetta. I decline and we continue to move down the list to the lower-tier options. Finally, I decide on a set of black rims that are exactly like the wheels currently on my car: basic wheels meant to be covered by a hub cap.

"Let me see what I can work out for you on the price," he tells me while escorting me to a conference room.

He excuses himself, returns to his desk, and begins vigorously working the phone. I'm watching him in his conversation. He's leaning back in the chair, phone held tightly to his face, gesturing wildly with his free hand. On his desk, a cigarette is burning in an amber ashtray full to overflowing with butts. When he sees me watching him from the conference room, he winks and gives me a thumbs up. Minutes later, he hangs up the phone and quickly walks back over to me.

"I worked a little magic for you," he says smiling. He pulls out a pen, writes a figure on a Post-It note, folds the paper, and pushes it across the table toward me. "This is our final number; it's the best we can do."

I open the paper and read it. "Four hundred and twenty-four dollars?," I ask.

"Installed," he replies.

"Deal," I proclaim as we shake hands.

Then, I ask him about their tour and the new album. I gush on and on about how I really dig what they're doing. I beg him to bring some Kentucky Gentleman to tonight's show at the Civic Center.

Next thing, I know, I'm awake and almost laughing. Matt Berninger from The National just sold me wheels for my car that are exactly like the ones I presently have.