It is almost 2:00am, I am sitting in the second library of the night (the first one closed, technically this one is closed too, but there are loopholes…), and I’m working diligently (well, minus this break to write this post) on a 15 page paper due tomorrow. Due today. Due in ten hours.
Technically, its just a rough draft. So it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, it doesn’t need to be fully formed, it doesn’t even need to be a full 15 pages.
Thus far, I’ve written two of my three case studies, and haven’t even started my introduction or conclusion. I’ll probably leave my conclusion for the final draft, but if I don’t write an introduction, then I’ll need to write a literature review for the rough draft.
So I’ve basically got half the paper I intend to turn in tomorrow written. (Since yesterday, I might add.)
I’ve written 15 pages.
Technically, I’m done. Technically, I should be cutting what I’ve written thus far down, to make space for the aforementioned and as-yet unwritten intro/conclusion. Technically, my professor said 15 pages minimum.
When I was in middle school, we didn’t get normal grades. Instead of an A,B,C,D,F scale, we had AS, MS, BS: Above Standards, Meeting Standards, and Below Standards. Now, the teachers may or may not have explicitly mentioned this, but the standards were individual standards. Different students were held to different standards in different subjects; if you were strong in one subject but struggled in another, the school wanted to reward effort, not just knowledge.
It seems a bit intense, and certainly took a bit to get used to, but it truly was (and is) a great system. As a student, you learn to push yourself. You learn what truly great work looks like for you. You learn to have high expectations for yourself. You learn to meet, and even exceed them. After all, what is “Above Standards” other than doing better than anyone thought you could do?
15 pages. I’m not that proud of them. I can tell I wrote them in a day. I know that my writing is more cohesive than many of my classmates, that my thoughts are more nuanced, that my citations more thorough. But I’m not impressed. And, most importantly, I know that my professor has standards. Like anyone.
Teachers theoretically grade us all to the same standard, but we all know that isn’t *actually* true. Students joke that being a teacher’s pet makes life easier – he already likes you, so you don’t have to try as hard and he’ll likely grade you highly. But sometimes, a professor has a sliding scale of standards. Sometimes, she sees what you’re capable of, and pushes you to reach that edge. Combine that with the internalized desire to be better than I can be, (yes I realize the impossibility inherent in that statement) and all of a sudden it is 2:03 in the morning and you’re halfway through a rough draft of a paper that has already met the length expectation. Ooops.
See you tomorrow. Or is it today?
As a student of the sciences, I think it is high time I thank the people who have saved me over and over again over the years. And no, I’m not talking about my parents. (Although they did provide me with a brain capable of comprehending…so thanks to you too, I guess.)
No, I’m talking about all those authors who write science books for non-scientists. This is a genre of books I’ve always loved. I loved the science for kids books and, as I grew up, I’ve loved books that explain something (anything, really!) to me. But this week, I need to express a particular appreciation for Richard Martin, author of Super Fuel.
Eventually, I’ll finish the book, and you’ll get a TBTW about it, I promise! But for now, I just need to say:
If you got past Science 101 in college, then you know that science textbooks go very quickly (read: instantaneously) from 1) a superficial overview of a number of topics that include gross generalizations and simplifications in order to expose the student to a broad swath of the subject to 2) a very specific consideration of a topic that assumes complex understanding of about a million classes you never took.
For example, in chemistry, quantum mechanics assumes you already understand all of kinematics, and kinematics assumes you get quantum mechanics (does anyone really get quantum mechanics?) Or in physics, where the advanced lab course requires the topics taught in optics, and optics requires the lab technique taught in the advanced lab course. Regardless of the science you’re studying, there will come a time when the textbook assumes intimate knowledge of topics you’ve never heard of (and the Wikipedia page is similarly bad) and you will want to cry because nothing you’re supposed to be learning makes sense.
Enter science for non-scientists. Specifically, books that have to do with topics you’re intimately interested in.
Because every so often, your Fundamentals of Nuclear Reactor Physics textbook’s pages upon pages of equations do an exemplary job at explaining something like nuclear flux without any actual words, so the wikipedia page (which is all words, and no equations) makes just as much sense. But then the kind science writer explains “in technical terms the ‘neutron flux’ – the density of neutrons zipping around” (pg 68) and all those equations instantly make sense. In just two pages, the entire chapter that made very little, if any, sense at all, suddenly makes sense now. Not because the author incredibly compacted 40 pages of equations into two pages of text, but because he provided the words and the analogies that made the complex ideas “click.”
So thanks, Mr. Martin. I look forward to the next 150 pages of your book.
(And yes, when I got fed up with my nuclear physics, I went running to nuclear physics to escape. Don’t judge.)
This week marks the second week of December, which college students around the country know affectionately as the week before they get to go home, or less affectionately as the dreaded finals week. My finals this semester have been both easy and impossibly difficult – I started finals before finals started, courtesy of a professor who decided to have his final during the last class period. (They think this is helpful, since we have fewer finals during the four days that is the legitimate finals period. Plus, they then can also go home earlier. But when you have a final, two problem sets, an essay, and a presentation in the last three days of classes, said professor appears to be a bit of an ass…)
Anyways, courtesy of that early final, I only had two tests during finals week (and a project and accompanying paper). Only two tests. In Chemistry and Physics. On the same day. THE SAME DAY. People, if you’ve never taken two or more math/science classes in one semester, you do not understand the struggle that it represents. Problem sets due? They’re probably on the same day. Chances are high you have a unit test in both during the same week. But two finals on the same day is horrendous. I strongly encourage everyone to never, ever, ever do that.
Sometimes, however, these circumstances cannot be helped. And so, here we go! Study for approximately three straight days without ever leaving the house, and you need something to keep you going. Some people love silence, but I need noise in the background to work effectively, but I don’t need the stress of being around other people freaking out. So I usually loop something on my computer. In the past years, I’ve had a constant stream of Gilmore Girls going (as a show I know so well that I don’t need to watch or even listen to more than 3 seconds every 10 minutes to know exactly what is going on). But this semester, for whatever reason, GG wasn’t appealing to me. So I started with my Pandora Wicked playlist, and then quickly decided I just wanted to listen to Idina Menzel forever and ever, which is difficult when the majority of her popularity on the internet is her singing “Let it Go” from Frozen. (You may also know her as Elphaba in Wicked or Maureen in RENT…) But then I found If/Then.
A musical currently on Broadway that I swear was written for her, If/Then has a beautiful score, and one that is perfect for studying to. It has enough variety in the music to not be boring, but enough consistency to not be distracting. I started with the Youtube channel that consists of the recordings; after three or four loops I broke down and bought the original cast album. And then proceeded to listen to it 27 times. 27 times. For reference, the soundtrack is 75 minutes long, so I listened to at least 33 hours of Idina Menzel over Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday… Needless to say, Idina Menzel’s wonderful, fabulous, phenomenal voice got me through these past few days. And will continue to be my motivating factor as I finish my project and paper before I go home on Monday!!
Anyway, I just wanted to share my most recent obsession and also make a public statement thanking Ms. Menzel for her amazing voice (and her parents for a. creating her and b. paying for all those voice lessons for all those years…).
In addition, you can’t deny that she is amazing just as she is. She starred on Broadway, won a Tony, took a decade for herself, got married and had a kid, and then went back to Broadway and is starring again. Plus, she’s funny (really funny!) and seems so down to earth and I would LOVE it if Idina Menzel became an idol for the current generation!
My dearest Tufts University recently released its Class of 2018 Supplement to the Common Application questions, including this optional one that has been getting a lot of press:
The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?
If there is one truly wonderful thing about being at college, it is that you can literally (and shamelessly!) celebrate your birthday for an entire week! Especially when your birthday is in the middle of the week, and you have good friends celebrating their birthdays on the Friday before and the Friday after.
And then there is dinner on campus the day of, dinner with the friends, a planned birthday picnic, the “surprise” murder mystery party, dinner with the boy… Seriously, a lunch/dinner/other celebration for everyday of the birthday week.
Not to mention an overflowing mailbox and a bunch of emails from mail services. (Seriously, why is mail services on the completely opposite side of campus?!)
Perhaps the best part of getting to celebrate a birthday on a college campus is that you get to tell people your birthday is today (/soon/just happened). Unlike high school or the “real world,” where you see the same people every single day, I have classes with different people every day of the week. And somehow, (subconsciously, I swear!) birthdays manage to weasel their way into each and every conversation I have. Which basically just means that I get to talk about myself and my birthday for an entire week.
When we were little kids, we talked about our birthdays incessantly (“I’m 4 and 3/4,” anyone?), and I honestly think we all want to talk about ourselves for a while… and birthdays make a great opportunity to do so, don’t you think? Therefore, I am embracing my birthday week, even though it is slightly absurd to harp on it so much at almost-20.
Happy birthday to me, and a very merry unbirthday to you!