Things I Should Have Learned in Chem I (but didn’t)

Coastal Carolina Community College, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Coastal Carolina Community College, by LouFCD @ Flickr

I love my school. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

I love the campus (tore up with construction as it is at the moment), I love the size, I love the variety of classes offered (though I wish there were more, of course), I love the high standards, and most of all I love the faculty and staff. I don’t think I’ve ever met a conglomeration of people so dedicated to the purpose of helping a rag-tag, diverse bunch of people and their unique needs as the faculty at Coastal. With one exception (an instructor no longer there, I might add), I’ve spent nearly two years watching instructors fall all over themselves to help students understand the presented material, and inspire us to think about it, evaluate it, expand on it, and run like hell with it. I don’t know if this is the norm for the community college as I’ve never attended another, but it certainly wasn’t my university experience lo, those many years ago. I will sorely miss Coastal when I graduate this Spring and transfer to UNCW this Fall, regardless of how wonderful an experience that might be.

That freedom, I tend to think, has taken a rather extensive toll on this blog (not to mention JanieBelle’s!). I expend a great deal of creative energy going above and beyond, working my ass off to not just pass my classes, but to excel in them, and when I get home, quite frankly, there’s little left for personal projects like blogging or even photography.

So it pains me to level a criticism, valid as it may be, in any shape or form. I have already taken my concern to several of the instructors there, and to The Chair, and I am satisfied that my voice has been heard and the situation is properly addressed. Nevertheless, I thought a bit of explanation for the title and point of this post is in order.

I took CHM 151 (Chem I) online last semester. I didn’t want to, but it was only offered at times when other classes that I needed were offered, and it was the best of a list of unsatisfactory choices for me, near as I could tell with the information I had in hand. Some days will be like that. Coastal can’t possibly tailor their entire schedule to every student, and they do go out of their way to do the best they can with what they have to work with. So with the consolation that at least I’d have a real on-campus lab, I elected to do the online lecture.

Big mistake.

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From the Seashore, by Anna Petrovna Bunina (1806)

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

In 1806, a Russian poet by the name of Anna Petrovna Bunina wrote something strange, and dark, and beautiful. She titled it, “С ПРИМОРСКОГО БЕРЕГА”, roughly translated “From the Seashore”. We read a translation by Pamela Perkins (in the Norton Anthology) early in our semester in my World Lit II class, and honestly it took a while to grow on me.

When it came time to begin work on our creative project for the semester, I turned to this piece for my inspiration. Since I’d been working on my photography it seemed natural to blend the two and see what happened.

The photo above is an outtake from that project. (As usual, all images in this post are linked to their respective Flickr page. For desktop-sized versions, click through to Flickr and then click the “All Sizes” button above each photo.)

I’m very tickled. In fact, I’m so tickled that although it’s usually my policy not to put my school work on the blog until after it’s graded and returned to me, I just can’t wait any more. You’re getting this before it’s even due. (This Thursday, for the record.)

The poem in its original Russian, an English translation by me, my photos from the project, and a few more outtakes are below the fold. (If you have religious nudity-related neuroses, no need to tell me about them, just move along. I don’t really care.)

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Sitting

Turtle Nest, by LouFCD on Flickr

Turtle Nest, by LouFCD on Flickr

I’ve been in the field a few times in the last several weeks. Though my classwork has me about buried, I really enjoy these little stress relievers where I can just enjoy the surroundings and take a few pictures. It started around Labor Day weekend, when I spent several nights sitting a nest of Loggerhead Sea Turtles down on North Topsail Beach. The turtles were due to hatch about any day, so I was very excited. Alas, they never did hatch out while I was there, but it was a relaxing time for the most part anyway.

In fact the Sea Turtle Hospital has no record of a hatch to date (nest 55). There are several possible reasons for that. They may have hatched during a storm while no one was looking, with the storm erasing every trace of their leaving the nest. That happens sometimes. The turtles could have been drowned by a storm as they were hatching, too. Also, while the possibility exists that this was a false nest, the Sea Turtle Hospital folks were pretty sure this was a real nest.

So it was a bit frustrating, sad, and disappointing, but I got some photos of other things that I thought I’d share here anyway. They are below the fold.

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Photoblogging My Coastal Friends

Bianca, by LouFCD on Flickr

Bianca, by LouFCD on Flickr

My good friend and Zoology classmate Bianca (pictued above – forget it, she’s married) noted to me at school that Crowded Head has been very ranty of late. While it’s true that this is my own special place for venting, I’d rather not allow that to become the general tone here, either.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking for something to write that doesn’t involve a great deal of venom and spittle. I’ve not really been inspired to write much lately though, what with school sucking up all my creative energy like a sponge on a bar.

It occurs to me that I haven’t posted any of my recent photos here, however, so I’m going to share some of my favorites that I’ve taken lately.

I’ve shot a handful of friends from school, and I have an idea about doing a specific collection (I’ll write about it when it’s done). Meanwhile, these have begun to grow into a bit of a personal yearbook.

More photos of my friends and schoolmates lie below the fold.

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Wooden Horses

My Instructor's remark.

My Instructor's remark.

This is my second reading and response for Paul Verlaine (read the first here). The poem I chose to read and respond to was “Wooden Horses”  (1874), wherein Verlaine takes aim at using a carousel as symbolic for life. While this could have been his best of the lot, the didacticism of his Victorian mores is as sophomorically simplistic as it is blatant. “Wooden Horses” has all the subtlety of a sixteen-pound sledgehammer wielded by a bridge troll.

He uses gross stereotyping to create a strawman version of hedonistic pleasure, with as much negative imagery as humanly possible. I was particularly annoyed by “… the fattest maid / riding your backs as if in their chamber”, roughly translated into modern English as “the big fat ho / fucking the wooden carousel horse like nobody’s business”. Could he be anymore derisive or crass? I found it offensive in the extreme, what with my modern feminist sensibilities and all. That kind of crap is uncalled for in any time period, though it’s pervasive in the writings of fuckaphobes throughout history.

Fuck you in your dead ass, Paul.

I cannot stress enough how much I disliked reading Verlaine. Trite and unimaginative, puritanical and offensive. These are not the traits I look for in a decent writer, much less a poet. Fortunately, we have moved on through Mallarmé and now we’re on to Chekhov, writers with a bit of sense and perspective.

The poem by Verlaine (again translated by C. F. MacIntyre) and my response in rhyming couplets lies below the fold.

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Sir, You Do Not Know the Moon

My instructor's remarks.

My instructor's remarks.

Paul Verlaine was a French poet whose 19th century work sort of straddled the Romantic and Symbolist movements. Critics seem to love the guy, but I found his stuff rather uninspiring. While the case has been forwarded that Verlaine only sounds trite and prosaic now because it’s old and been done over and over since then, I would argue that it had all been done before by better poets (The Bard of Avon comes to mind).

Our assignment for World Lit was to read two of the five offered (translated by C. F. MacIntyre) selections and write a paragraph in response to each. As I was bored to tears with him and his shallow fling, I went a bit creative with my responses. About the only thing I found interesting about Verlaine was the progression of his style over time.

For my first response, I actually read and addressed two related poems, “Moonlight” (1869) and “The White Moonglow”  (originally untitled from 1870). Those poems and my Sonnet in response lie below the fold. (Read the second reading and response here in another post.)

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Blogging My Zoology Class 20090904

Our textbook, Animal Diversity, by Hickman, et al

Our textbook, Animal Diversity, by Hickman, et al

I’m going to get back to the Blogging My Biology Class series, finish out 111, do up 112, and tack on my Zoology class as well. It’s going to be a bit jumpy, though, but on the main series page they’ll all wind up in order by date of the class, rather than date of posting.

For now, my classmate Kristy needs notes from a particular day, so that’s up first.

We started out with a few announcements, a reminder that anyone wanting to do 20 hours of service learning would receive 4 points on their final grade, but that forms were due in to the Student Services office by Friday, 11 September. It’s more than half a letter grade in our 7 point grading system, so it’s worth the price of admission.

Next up was Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Sitting down on Topsail Island. There are several nests ready to hatch out any day, and anyone wanting to see this was welcome to head down and hang out. I wound up sitting at a nest on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, several hours each night, but no turtles thus far. I may or may not be able to make it tonight. It’s pouring down the rain, I’ve developed a head cold, and I have an 8 AM English class tomorrow. Of course, if I don’t make it, they’ll hatch tonight just to spite me. Little bastards.

Wary Gull, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Wary Gull, by LouFCD @ Flickr

I took a bunch of pictures of other stuff while waiting, and I’ll be posting them here on the blog for your viewing pleasure.

With that, we got back to where we had left off on Wednesday, with the Tissue Level of Organization.

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A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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Summer Update

Turkey Vulture in the Clouds

Turkey Vulture in the Clouds

So the semester is over and summer is officially here for me, solstice be damned. I’ll probably be able to blog a bit more, and vent some of the accumulated thoughts jumbled up in my brain.

For now, a few bits of updates.

I’ll be reading and reviewing The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose, for Carnal Nation. I’ll post a link for you when it’s up.

I’ll be hosting the next Carnival of the Liberals here on May 20th. I’ve been receiving submissions and should be getting to those by tomorrow. To this point, they’ve been shunted into a folder in my mailbox just because they started coming in during the lead up to finals week.

Speaking of finals, I think our team project for English 113 (our final was a presentation on one of Hamlet’s soliloquys) went OK, and I expect an A on that and in the class.

I bumped into my Bio 112 prof in a store here in town a few hours after the Bio final. He stopped to say hello and told me I got an A on the final, and complimented my answer regarding The Tragedy of the Commons. I don’t think I did well on the previous exam, so I’m thinking I’m in A/B borderland. Hopefully the final will pull me above the line.

I’ve been doing a lot of photography, uploading pics to my Facebook albums and to Twitpic. Kay is prepping to graduate high school next month, and since the ceremony will be in the football stadium, we needed a decent camera. I had been scrounging to find some cash for summer tuition, but we diverted those funds (and then a little) into getting a Canon EOS Rebel xs a few days ago since I won’t be going to school this summer anyway, and I’ve been using the heck out of it and trying to figure out all those knobs and buttons.

And that’s a bit of a story, too. UNCW Center for Marine Science gives two paid internships per year to Coastal Biology students, and I was nominated by the department for one of them. That was awesome and I was very excited. But then Dub emailed The Chair to tell her that the economy tanked those two internships. That was not awesome and I was bummed. Then Dub emailed The Chair again, and offered one internship on a volunteer basis, and I was offered that. So I guess now I’m quasi-excited. I said from the beginning that I would have done it for free, and in fact assumed it was volunteer at first and was happy to do it, but then I found out I was going to be paid, and now that I’m not going to be paid… well, y’know. I’m excited, but feel a bit like a kid teased with a lolipop. Oh well, I’m looking forward to it. Dub is where I intend to finish my bachelors degree and they have a ton of interesting research projects going, so it’s still a great opportunity. I’m really proud of being nominated for that one slot.

Easy Cool

Easy Cool

And JP. James tried pole vaulting this year for the first time. It’s interesting in that he had no idea that my Pop was a pole vaulter in high school. He seems to love it, finished fifth in the conference, and even went to Regionals. He lettered, and he’s got three more years of vaulting ahead of him. How freaking cool is that?

Oh, and he’s fifteen today. Happy Birthday, son.

From whence came the art:

I took both of those images with my new Canon EOS Rebel xs, and they are each licensed by me under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- Share Alike 3.0 License.

Enter the Queen

Queen Gertrude, by Jim Carson @ Flickr

Queen Gertrude, by Jim Carson @ Flickr

One of the prompts for my last paper in English 113 was to write a soliloquy for Gertrude. The following essay was an eleventh hour idea that was instantly one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written.

I put it at the beginning of the play, as a prologue to the play itself. As such, I thought I’d give iambic pentameter a go, which sort of separates it from the main play.

(Note that Aros is an archaic alternate spelling of Eros.)

Enter the Queen

Prelude

GERTRUDE: Life was a field of hay when first we wed.

The joy and pain and lust and tame were mixed

within our bed. Where hath my lover gone?

Submissive colt, my sweet adoring man,

Hamlet my King, both Dane and thane. Secret

desires not known or feared among common

or high lay deep within the breast of him.

The rest of Gertrude’s soliloquy lies below the fold, click to read the rest.
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For the Love of Frost

An essay I turned in this morning for English 113.

For the Love of Frost

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,

So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,

Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,

But stretched away unto the edge of doom. (Frost, “Into My Own”)

With these words in 1913, an awkward, gangling farm boy inexpertly expressed his interest in the most popular girl in school, the one all the poets wanted. Robert Frost had made written acquaintance with the American public some years prior but it was not until he moved to England that we took notice of our would-be suitor. His adolescent flirting would rapidly mature to the lingering kisses of a timeless affaire d’amour. Though there were some lovers’ quarrels through the years, his voice still whispers the little nothings we love to hear as we think back on relaxing in those peaceful moments of intimate connection. Our relationship with Frost began as an awkward courtship, tarried in sensual consummation, and now drifts restfully in the memories of half-conscious pillow talk.

Though his initial overture was unpolished and inelegant, our débutante’s attention was captured and our interest piqued. We had previously been courted by a boy named Edgar, but he was a bit too brooding for our collective taste. Edgar was fine enough to sigh over but not much fun to date, and we were looking for someone new with whom to share our evenings. We commented in our diary about our new beau, “Mr. Frost’s [A Boy’s Will] is a little raw, and has in it a number of infelicities; underneath them it has the tang of the New Hampshire woods, and it has just this utter sincerity” (Pound – emphasis in the original). Ezra Pound perfectly captured the country’s enchantment with Robert Frost. What set Frost apart from other poets was his skillful use of modest language to talk about everyday life. Grand pronouncements on cosmic-scale themes he left for other poets, and it was exactly those sincere infelicities that won America’s heart and soul.

(Continues below the fold)

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Monster Tales from the 112 Lab

Hydra - Feeding Extension by ravenofdreams

Hydra - Feeding Extension by ravenofdreams

So today we did a bunch of cool stuff in our Biology 112 lab. We started out by prepping and inoculating some petri dishes with a couple different kinds of fungi.

Into our first four petri dishes, we inoculated some Arthrobotrys. Arthrobotrys is a genus of predacious fungus. We’ll give them a week to grow, and then next week we’re going to feed some nematodes to them. That’s pretty neat.

Two more dishes got one culture of wild Sordaria and one tan Sordaria for a cross. Two more got one wild and one gray.

Then the really monstrous critter stuff started.

We got a watchglass and a dissection microscope and put a little Hydra in it. We observed its behavior for a while, and then added a few Daphnia. Hydra feed on Daphnia. When the Daphnia comes close, the Hydra‘s tentacles grab it, and then sting it to death while it struggles. It was very cool to watch.

After that, we moved on to some pond water. We’d put a few drops of pond water onto a slide and check it out under the regular scope, and draw anything we saw moving around. I found some neat stuff, including a good size flatworm on one slidefull, and a few Urocetra (centrums?) on a few slides, a Diatom or two, a Ciliate that closely resembled a Paramecium (Doc II identified it as a Plagiopyla minuta or something close)…

It was all very small stuff, and I was busy chasing a Ciliate around the slide to try and get a good view of his cilia. They’re fast little buggers, and since the table mover knobs are on the right side of the scope, and I’m right handed, I was swapping between moving the table and making quick, partial sketches of what I saw. Everything was going along quietly when all of a sudden…

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Hanging Out the Shingle

Coastal Carolina Community College

Coastal Carolina Community College

When the PASS program started this semester, the administration gave us an office. Sort of. Actually, it was a break room/copy room kind of thing for the faculty in the Science building, and we just sort of met there.

It was uncomfortable, really. Personally, I felt like we were invading their common-space, and underfoot. Doc happened in there one day while I was working, and expressed his (and the other faculty’s) discomfort as well, noting that the network printer/copier was in there, and exams and such get printed there. Probably not the best situation, considering that we’re also students and have students coming to us for extra help. The traffic was kind of distracting as well.

Doc pointed out that there was an actual office available down the hall. It had been set aside for the adjuncts, but they didn’t use it. Seems they prefer the conference room and prep room to work. I liked the idea, needless to say, and Doc went to bat for us with the Science Department Chair.

Read more below the fold.

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For Biology 111 PASS Students

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

Click here.

Teaching College Science: Blogs and Beyond

Brian Switek, of Laelaps

Brian Switek, of Laelaps

One the sessions I attended at this weekend’s Science Online ’09 conference was Teaching College Science: Blogs and Beyond. Being an aspiring high school Biology teacher, I figured this would be both interesting and relevant. It was hard to choose sometimes between the simultaneous sessions, but this one was a ‘can’t miss’. I was not disappointed.

The session was hosted by Brian Switek of Laelaps and Andrea Novicki of the Center for Instructional Technology at Duke University.  “Official” group notes for the session can be found here. (Thanks to Andrea and Brian for the shout out.)

The session was productive, with the room split into several groups for discussion before we shared our thoughts with each other to produce the notes found there at the wiki. The actual discussion prompt was “How can you use blogs in teaching and learning science?”

I had the distinct pleasure of being in a group of four consisting of Cathy the Chemistry Teacher, Daniel the Biology Instructor, and the larger than life Blake Stacey. It was a bit difficult keeping JanieBelle seated (not on Blake’s lap) and properly focused (not on Blake) of course, but we all managed. (Ok, a gag and handcuffs may have been involved.)

One of the ideas that came up was motivating students to keep blogs, and I want to focus a bit on that. Though we all agreed that this would be helpful to students (it was for me, certainly), there are several hurdles that need to be lept. I encountered some of these myself as a student last semester, trying to Blog my Biology Class. The re-writing of notes when not under the gun of trying to keep up was extremely helpful to me to grasp concepts I didn’t quite get a handle on during the lecture. It was also helpful even when I fell behind on the blog a bit, to rehash mistakes I made on exams and quizzes and see why I missed particular questions.

(Continue reading, below the fold)

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Report Card

Got my report card today.

Wanna see it?

It’s below the fold.

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Blogging My Biology Class 20080924

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

Biology, Eighth Edition, by Campbell & Reece, et al.

My notes and thoughts from Biology 111, for Wednesday, September 24, 2008. The entire series can be found here.

Forgive the delay in this, the next installment of the series. At about this point in the semester, the workload and involvement in school just took off, and I needed to devote as much time as possible to homework and studying.

When last we left off, we had just begun a quick tour of the eukaryotic cell and its structures. We’d gone over the Nucleus and the Ribosomes, and some of the membrane-bound organelles like the Endoplasmic Reticulum (or ER), the Golgi Apparatus (or GA), and the Lysosomes.

We’ll pick it up here with number 7, the Mitochondria (another membrane-bound organelle), and we’ll go into more depth when we get to Chapter 9.

The mitochondria are sites of aerobic respiration. Recall that C:H bonds have a high potential energy because of the maximum distance of electrons from the nuclei of the Carbon and Hydrogen atoms. In other words, the electrons they share equally are midway between the C and the H.

(The lecture notes continue below the fold.)

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He terminado con el semestre.

El Pais, by stttijn @ Flickr

El Pais, by stttijn @ Flickr

Hago mi examen final en español hoy. Mi profesora envia nuestros resultados ya.

Tengo cien en el examen final y en la clase español. Estoy muy contento con este resultado.

¿Verdad?

De donde es el arte:

Esta foto se llama El Pais, de stttijn. (Gracias Javier)

Crunch Time

It’s finals week. Just so y’know.

Biology final tomorrow morning.

Final test in Biology lab tomorrow afternoon.

PreCalc final tomorrow night.

Final paper in English due Wednesday morning.

Spanish final Thursday morning.

P.S. The new WP dashboard sucks worse than the last one did when they first released that one. Just about the time it became usable and almost likable, they of course destroyed it for this horrid piece of crap.

hateit.

I Think I’ll PASS

Studying Hard by Kyle Kesselring

Studying Hard by Kyle Kesselring

Ok, I suppose the cat can be released at this point.

There are somewhere about 10 students left in my Bio 111 lecture, about the same in my lab. Considering we started out with well over double that, this is disappointing.

Coastal recognizes this is a persistent problem in particular classes and has a plan to address this high drop/fail rate in these classes. Building on a model from U Missouri KC, they are considering instituting what will be known as the PASS program (Peer Assisted Study Sessions). They will be taking a student that has done well in the class in a previous semester and having that student lead a voluntary group study session a few times a week, so that the student who did well in the past can give students currently taking the class some help.

It’s a paid position (not much, but some), and the peer group leader has to keep separate office hours in addition to the group study sessions, to be available for individual assistance.

Additionally, the peer group leader repeats the class (for free and not for a grade) to keep current with the various sections.

Doc asked me a few weeks ago if I’d do this next semester (assuming the college follows through – it’s not 100% commitment yet), and at the time said I was the first one he thought of. I was pretty chuffed about that, regardless of whether I got the position.

He gave me a letter of recommendation, and I turned that in with my application for employment, and the interview went well, I think.

(More below the fold)

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