Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Me study hard now.

No time to blog. Must study. Anatomy lab midterm coming up Wednesday. Must study bones and muscles. Tubercles and spines and foramen, oh my. Grammar going to pot. Writing in fragments. Brain melting. Can’t think. Must study.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Time Curve

Do you remember back in your college days when the rule of thumb was spending two hours outside of the classroom on homework and study for every hour you’re in the classroom? I’ve bounced that curve to the moon when it comes to my chemistry lab.

Class is scheduled for two hours a week. Theoretically I should be able to get everything I need to do outside the lab within four hours. Guess what? It ain’t happenin’. I think I spent four hours on Saturday and then another four hours on Sunday working through my lab assignments. It’s been grueling work, too. In some cases, the information I needed wasn’t available through the web resources we were told to look in. Fortunately, I’m smart enough to look at Wikipedia when I can’t find what I need.

I can’t believe I’m actually paying money to work this hard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dead Bodies

Last week in anatomy lab we got to see the cadaver for the first time. We’re not medical students, so we didn’t do any dissections or anything. This is just the body of an old woman that donated her body to science. Presumably this was done after she died. If it had been before she died I don’t think she’d have been very happy about it.

The body was prosected (that means they cut her into parts, but left most of them attached at certain points so we could move them around) by some of the professors at the college. Then they slathered her with fixatives and dropped her into a chemical bath to keep her from decomposing.

When I was a boy I visited my brother when he as studying animal science up at Utah State University. It was pretty interesting. I got to go with one of the vet’s on their rounds and that was pretty cool, especially for a fourteen year old from the suburbs. When she started drawing blood for various tests, though, the world started spinning a bit and I about hit the floor. Something about watching that needle go in and the blood come out I guess. Years later, when I was in my early twenty’s, I was trained as an EMT. During one portion of our training they showed photographic slides of actually emergency patients. “This woman has just had her lower jaw blown off by a shotgun. What are you doing to do?” Well, what I did was ask to be excused before I threw up.

Given that history, I wasn’t sure how I was going to react when I saw the cadaver. I mean, I knew we’d be studying her at some point, I just wasn’t sure if I’d pass out or not.

Well, I guess all the intervening years of working as a nursing assistant, and cleaning up after my children, have strengthened my stomach. Cleaning up round after round of blood, spit, and vomit from various sources does that to you, I guess.

It turns out that I’ve changed. Looking at the cadaver for the first time was really interesting. It was a combination of intellectual interest and grisly fascination. Part of my brain kept saying, “This is really cool! Look at that! So that’s how that works!” Another part of me couldn’t help but remember that the history of anatomical study hasn’t always been a “socially acceptable” one. There was a time when “anatomist” was a euphemism for “grave robber.”

Truly it was life changing experience for me, though. I felt both in awe of the elegance of living things, and the grisly horror of dead and damaged bodies. It took a few days to not look at any form of meat and not remember some structure on the cadaver. I cooked a roast last Sunday and couldn’t help but think, “This is what people are made of.”

At least I’m not up at the anatomy lab at the University of Utah. There you can dissect cadavers to the smell of microwaving Chinese food.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hitting MEGO

My Chemistry professor this semester, Dr. G, has a really interesting way of dealing with quizzes. They’re online. When we get done, we are given immediate feedback as to which questions we got right, and which we got wrong. What’s cooler is that we can make three attempts at each quiz. That means that, if you’re smart and understand the technology, you can make one attempt, print the test out, and then fix the problems you ... well … had problems with.

I got stuck on this last quiz, though. Here’s the question.

Calculate the fraction of atoms in a sample of argon gas at 400 K that have an energy of 12.5 kJ or greater.

Cough, choke, sputter. Say what? We’ve been studying kinetics, and moved into equilibrium topics but, I have to admit. I had no clue how to even approach this question. So I had to go to Dr. G this morning after class and say, “I have no clue how to even approach this question.”

Fortunately for me, Dr. G is very keen on his students learning so he clued me in and the light went on for me. He went on to explain a few things about it though, and I hit MEGO.

Are you familiar with MEGO? In addition to being a toy company, it stands for “my eyes glazed over.” That’s what happens when you suddenly lose comprehension. Your eyes literally glaze over. Watch what happens next time you’re explaining something complex to someone.

I don’t think I’ve every hit the end of understanding faster in my life. At least I know how to approach it now. I need to brush up on the Arhenius equation describing rates of chemical reactions. It actually takes into the frequency factor related to the frequency of molecular collisions having the proper orientation to react.

Wait. What’s that look in your eyes? Did you just hit MEGO?