Monday, March 28, 2011

Exam Kitten

So I have to say, I love Notewagon. They are wonderful. Mostly because they send me very interesting updates to their site. Not the usual boring ones, but actually pretty entertaining ones. See early this morning, I checked my inbox, I had a new email from "Hi (" with the subject line "'Friday, Friday, Studying on Friday". The amusement start immediately, and continued upon opening the email, revealing this:


The adorableness!

And yes, I now realize that it's time to start the cram session. This kitty has served its purpose in reminding me of my awaiting textbooks. So plans set down:
  1. Create giant biology study guide/sheet
  2. Create a giant math study sheet with all important equations and such
  3. Use unit analysis on everything we've learned in Physics
  4. Generally review some chemistry; not sure if I want to make a study sheet for this too
  5. Find some time in the midst of all this to write my history essay
Also discovered that my one possible good physics marks hope went down the drain. This means I'll have to score at least a 90 on the exam to maintain my average. ... so be it. I'm considering deactivating my facebook to make sure the only things to distract me will be blogging and msn. Will consider this idea more once the cram session fully kicks in.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Electron flow allows me to do my chemistry

I sometimes feel like my reliance on technology will be my ultimate doom... after spending a night on Wolfram|Alpha plotting different graphs to check my chemistry lab...

Also, google and wiki were used many times to check laws, theories and equations for further explanations than the textbook. Is it bad that the internet teaches me more than a textbook sometimes? Seriously, my entire lab consists of technology! From the research (on wiki) to the error checking (on google) to the graphs (on excel)!

I then proceeded to do my actual calculations... WITH A CALCULATOR!

It's really amazing how much some simple complex arrangements of electron flow can allow for such wonderful tools that can do simple math that even I cannot do. We've come a long way from the first galvanic cell, speaking of which happens to be my insane-monstrous lab on Tuesday!

Aside from the fact that I have never covered electro-chemistry before (hence the insane wiki and google sprees), the formal lab write up is due the day after the lab. Normally I get a week to keen, but only 1 night and half a day? Not to mention I have a dinner to attend Tuesday night that I simply refuse to back out of. Looks like I'll be up a tad bit later than predicted.

Hopefully I'll be able to finish everything for the prelab before heading back to the dorm, then I'll spend the rest of the night writing up the introduction and non-result based parts of the formal report. All shall be good.

This lab is actually pretty interesting, comparing different voltages of galvanic cells may seem like a bore, but I just realized that electrons flow so willingly from one place to another!

My only confusion here is over the fact that throughout all of chemistry, we've been taught that reactions only occur when 2 substances are close together. After all, I don't see random electrons bouncing off of just any metal... or do they?

I would have had more time to do this lab if not for Earth hour last night. At first I tried to work in the candle light..

(totally serious here, did not get that photo from google, that's actually my lab book...)

It worked for a small while, but then the candle on the right kept flickering and I got annoyed. So I proceeded to fold paper. That didn't last too long since origami requires a good amount of light and attention, which I was unable to achieve with mere candles. Still, with the help of a lovely basket of pretty pebbles I have, I managed to make a somewhat appealing display that I plan on adding to in the future.

It would seem that many of the stars got lost to the pebbles... oh well! 

So finally when earth hour ended, I was ready to sit down and do my chemistry... however by then my parents had already gone to sleep since my father was ill, meaning I was not able to type since my typing is loud.

With no other choice, I moved my chemistry stuff over to my room and did the pre-lab on my bed instead of reading a book to sleep. I then realized how important electricity was to my survival, and so I grew extremely fond of this electro-chemistry lab. 

Electrons are exciting. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


In my biology lab today I looked at Paramecia. They looked like this:

Normal people would think me strange, but AREN'T THEY ADORABLE?!? You can't see in this photo, but their contractile vacuole's pretty awesome. I found one that was dying and watched its contractile vacuole contract in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

This lab made me wish I could get an amoeba to look at.

Which reminds me of the Naegleria fowler, dubbed the Brain-eating amoeba. 

But getting back to my paramecium. 

At first I had a bunch of them without the quieting solution, and I have to say these things are fast! I did find one that was moving a bit slowly, it might have been dying. I was going to name it but I wasn't sure what would be a suitable name for a single-celled microbe. 

Then we got to feed our Paramecium yeast! I must say that yeast is tiny, they looked like fish eggs in comparison to the Paramecium. But that might have been because they were dyed with congo-red and therefore took on a more caviar like appearance being round and clumped together and all. 

So upon feeding my Paramecium, I added the quieting solution and gave them some time to eat. Then I found a cluster of them. I think they were trying to move around but since they were all bunched together and in each others way it was more difficult. Eventually one got out so I followed it around for a bit. I named it Fasty since it was fast, it was also a bit fat as far as Paramecia went...

Anyways, Fasty ate a bunch of yeast was was already digesting them by the time I found it, so I got a bit bored of it after a while. Then I realized I had to find a less mobile Paramecium to draw for my actual assignment. 

After much scanning I found one that really wasn't doing much, I later realized that it was probably not doing much because it was dying (as mentioned before). But regardless it was a wonderful specimen to make a good sketch of! 

It was also around this point that other people decided that since they couldn't find a paramecium on 40x lens they would hijack my mine since I'm clearly awesome and able to use a microscope efficiently. I didn't really mind since I already finished my drawing. So I let the crowd of people gather.

Then when the last person was having a look, she tapped my shoulder and asked if the paramecium had exploded. At first I was curious since I did know that this was a dying paramecium, but as far as I knew microbes did not undergo cell apoptosis. So I had a look. 

AND IT WAS TRUE! My poor dying paramecium had been ruptured sometime when everyone was watching it! It's contractile vacuole wasn't even pumping water anymore! I was saddened. 

Of course the Paramecia deaths do not end there. At the end of the lab I looked for them in my slide again and wondered why I couldn't find any when I had previously seen one wherever I looked. Then I realized; the slide had dried up. So I looked around for shriveled up paramecia, but then realized that they had all converged quite unshriveled at the bottom right corner of the slide. Of course they were all dead. But I took this as an opportunity to examine them closer and saw the 3D shape of the cell much more easily.

So lesson learned today: microbes are awesome when they're alive and much easier to examine when dead. Much like the rest of the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Keener

There used to be the geek, then the nerd, then the genuis, then the geek-nerd, then the geek-genuis then the nerd-genuis, then the nerd-geek-genius (not specifically in that order). Now though, there is perhaps one label to surpass all others: The Keener.

Before I continue, there is indeed (according to the interwebs) a difference between a nerd and a geek. Please see: for more details. 

Basic summary though:

Geek (GPA 3.0): 
  • Memorizes EVERYTHING no almost no apparent reason
  • Is a massive human encyclopedia
  • Is likely good with technology
  • Likely uses 'big' words
Nerd (GPA 3.7):
  • Really likes learning
  • Enjoys problem solving
  • Also good with technology
  • May or may not be slightly anti-social
  • Grades do not usually fall below a 90%
Genius (GPA 3.9-4.0):
  • Is capable of doing everything a nerd and geek can do
  • If the Genius is neither a Nerd nor a Geek, (s)he probably does not enjoy the intellectual pursuit 
Keener (GPA 4.0):
  • Tries extremely hard in school
  • Does assigned work before the halfway point between getting the assignment and the due date
  • Starts studying for a test at the beginning of the course
  • Has probably emailed a professor 
  • Has probably asked a professor a question face to face
  • Will horde all notes to save for review in the future
  • Takes good notes
  • Memorizes all formulas; even if a formula sheet is given on tests
  • Usually tends to have a limited social life (if not no social life at all)
  • Generally gets amazing marks 
  • A mark below a 90% may cause the Keener to undergo metamorphosis and become an Emo
  • You probably don't see a Keener much since they tend to do nothing but study, eat, sleep, and use the washroom. And breath. 
As you can see, Keeners are intense. 

Now you can mix up these labels as much as you want to assign a proper label to someone. Just put the label that matches said person the most at the beginning and add dashes in between labels. For example a nerd-keener-genius-geek probably really likes school, works hard at it, really likes learning and is very good at academics. I also find that geek-geniuses tend to be good peer tutors. 

Now most Nerds are also often Keeners since both are fond of school and learning. However Keeners do not have to like learning, and so a keener-genius (a frighteningly effective being) does not really like learning. They're probably just in school out of boredom or because their parents told them to so. 

You may also now be thinking that genius-nerds may be rare since Nerds enjoy learning while Geniuses don't really care too much. However if you will note that in the definition of a Genius, said being does not care for learning unless (s)he also has a Nerd/Geek trait.

Now if there is a genius-geek-nerd somewhere who can help me come up with a mathematical equation to find the average percentage mark received by any combination of these traits, that'd be really helpful. I'm afraid I'm not Geek or Genius enough to do so and I'm far too Keener to bother using my time to continue this already rather long blog blob. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

School Subjects as Friends

Peer pressured to do this… twisted it to make it my own story. The original idea was to write about the school subjects as if they were your friends. So here goes something.

Back in Kindergarten, I met Math, she terrified me. I was forced for days and nights to be stuck with her. She was not interesting. She was a whole massive bunch of repetition after repetition. At the same time I was introduced to English, who was also full of repetitions… in fact in Kindergarten everyone seemed to lack flare. Everyone except for Art. Art was bright and kind, and you always knew how to make her happy. My parents would always encourage me to play new games with Art, even though I didn't like them telling me what to do. It was also through art that I met Music, but I never saw music much and though I really wanted to be friends with her I was already so busy with everyone else!

Then I entered grade school. Math was as dull as she always was, but it seemed no one else really liked her, and since I already understood her so well I somewhat pitied those who couldn't. Math and I became closer friends. It was here too where I was forced to spend every waking moment of my life with English. It was annoying, and challenging for me refrain from pushing him away, but my parents demanded that I become fast friends with him, so I pretended to.

It was in grade school that I met Science, he was an interesting fellow, and I would always respect him. The things he said made perfect sense, and yet was not so simple as to be as boring as Math was.

Once again I met Music, and this time we became friends. My parents thought it was a good lasting friendship between us, especially since I didn't see Art a lot anymore. Even today, I still keep in contact with Music though Art and I have long since lost touch.

In grade four I met French, she reminded me of when I first met English, but since I had already met English I knew how to approach her, and so we became friends.

All these friends I kept with me as I moved again. Science remained my closest friend, math was still boring but we got along, English and I had a terrible disagreement in grade 4 and so we were sworn enemies. I sometimes kept in touch with Art, but it was never the same as it was before. French stayed with me, but we were never too close.

After some time I realized the existence of Gym and Health, they were always there I just never really noticed them. But now all the other kids in my class loved Gym, and he was very mean to me so I never liked him. Health was dating Gym at the time, but she was kind to me and we talked readily. We didn't really keep in contact much afterwards.

As time went on, Math learned quite a lot more and ceased to be boring. She and Science were also becoming very close. In fact in a few years they married and had four children; AlgebraPhysicsChemistry, and Biology.

Math died in childbirth, but the things she taught me I used to help Science raise their children for a bit. Soon after English and I got over our previous disagreements and I found that we had both changed a lot. I became closer to him and started developing an attraction. But on the day Science died, I felt obligated to look after his children rather than pursue what my emotions said.

Biology was always nice, simple to get along with easy to relate to. We shared good times with Chemistry. After a while Chemistry started to become very much like his mother, Math, and so I grew a bit bored with him.

Physics was always a fun one, a wonderful mix of both his parents. Practical and understandable like his mother, yet interesting and intriguing like his father. No matter how much time went, or how many arguments we had, I was always fond of Physics.

My favorite was always Algebra, and I was disappointed when she became such a rebel, going as far as to change her name to Calculus. She never seemed to grow out of her rebel stage, but she did get very close to Physics, and eventually I decided her new self wasn't so bad.

During all this time, English and I became even closer, and he introduced me to his friend Philosophy. It was an instant attraction. We talked about everything, thought about everything, even when I was talking to other people he was the only thing on my mind.

But soon came the time when I realized my obligations to Math and Science to look after their children was more important. I had stopped caring much about Calculus and we started having misunderstandings. And Chemistry and I continued with our falling out. I realized that Philosophy and I had to go our separate ways.

I soon cleared things up with Calculus, and Chemistry grew to be kinder to me as well. Physics really grew up and it's gotten harder to connect with him, but we still get along. Biology learned a lot, and we share a common fondness of life. She also reminds me of things Philosophy and I discussed.

I still keep in contact with Philosophy and English, although we're farther apart now. Our conversations always open me up to new things to talk to the family about.

I know next year Calculus and Physics will be leaving, they've become so close that they're almost inseparable now. I'm going to miss them, but I know we'll keep in touch. Chemistry and Biology decided to stay by me, they keep telling me about their friend Immunology whom I'm hoping to meet soon.

Life has been full of people who come and go, but I know I have friends and family to count on.

GPA is (almost) EVERYTHING

Not sure about many of you, but I've always been at the top of my class. Cross that, I've been within the top few percents of the class. There were 1 or 2 people who could do better than me, but it took them that much more effort. Nope, throughout high school I got by brilliantly and still had time to do lots of other things (explaining my countless hobbies).

Of course I'm not about to sit here and type out all the reasons I'm awesome, we all already know that ^^. Thing now is I've noticed the differences in people's values of their grades now that I'm in university. I always knew there were people who didn't care much for their marks, as long as it was good enough, but most of the people who were at the top of the class certainly valued their averages. Not once in my life have I heard myself, or many of the people I labelled competition, say, "oh, it's an 75, it's good enough". In fact the joke was always that anything below an 80 didn't exist.

However now, faced with the increasing struggles of first year Life Sciences, I've discovered that sometimes a 75 can be considered pretty fair. In fact many people would be delighted in getting one.

Perhaps for most people, all throughout high school, the marks were just for entrance to university. Now that they're here, a pass is all they need.

For others I think it was their parents who pushed for them to get the high marks, and perhaps that just never became part of their own values.

Some people don't need a high average anymore, they just need to get involved and meet people in order to be set.

For for me, and some of the more traditional people I know, it seems the value of marks has been infused into our brain. Logically speaking, I just need 70% in everything to graduate and be able to fine some lab technician job, but that neither pays well nor is very appealing to my nature. In the end now, it's not even about my future. Yes, I need a 3.7 and up to find good research placements and get a good head start, but that's not why I want a 3.7 and that's why I will not settle for only a 3.7.

All those years I may not have been the best, and I don't strive to be perfect, but I know I'm good. Some people have come here without doing a shred of work, some people have come here by studying day and night. I'm a bit of the first, but competitive enough to put some work into the big projects just to make sure I win in the endless competition against my peers. Yes, I'm competitive, but that's what makes things fun, winning is something I believe one ought to be proud of, it's been programmed into our brains. And out of the many competitions in high school I wanted to make sure I wasn't at the bottom of any of them. So I didn't give 100% of my effort into every project or every test, I had a life, I had hobbies, I went out with friends. Because whether I want to admit it or not, in high school having a social life is important, and every teenaged mind wants to have a reputation for something. And so I just used my 'natural talents' to get by easily.

But now in university, having 'natural talent' is no longer enough, and luckily I am one of few to realize that. So I know with a bit of work I can make it back to the top, maybe not the very top (I do still need my hobby time), but at least not just 'above average'. I know a 4.0 is so easily possible, and so I should pursue it. Having a big social life is no longer the most important in my mind, I've easily grew out of that. Social as I can be, I am also easily socially satisfied. And all in all, a simple life can be just as fulfilling as one full of adventure.

So while people still decide to rely on what natural abilities they have, I have decided I will give up a few things here and there to learn more. I finally understand that I don't want to know I can get a 4.0; I want to have a 4.0.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Microsoft != Terrible

If you don't like Microsoft, I understand, but for someone as lazy as me it works well enough for me too remain too lazy to switch or download anything else.

Today I discovered the wonders of OneNote, a part of Microsoft office that I did not know existed until a friend showed it to me. Out of a rare moment of activeness and general boredom, I decided to play around with it.

It is wonderful. 

So I went to my lectures today, and TOOK NOTES. Not that I didn't take notes before, but this time I took notes on my computer, and not in a Word document. The mere fact that Microsoft came up with something like this still makes me laugh. I mean really, it's a great idea, but no doubt there are millions like it . 

Note taking was always a bother, I have to bring multiple notebooks to class, or go through the hassle and tree-killing of printing off the lecture slides. Organization of notes would always be a problem, but I'm fairly organized so it wasn't that bad. 

Then there was the issue of my hazardous hand writing. I mean I can understand what I wrote, but other people can't, so no one ever wants to borrow my notes. Which can be a good thing as I may be reducing the possible plagiarism. 

Of course the real problem came in Chemistry, where much of the lecture slides would consist of images. There was the occasional want to be able to just write on the pdf that were provided for the class, but that would require torrenting buying the full version of adobe reader or something of that sort. In the end I was able to make do with paper notes and drawing the molecules by hand when I needed to.

But now I no longer have to suffer for the inconveniences of my refusal to get good note taking programs because I have found OneNote!

I can keep all my notes in one little window on my laptop, I can not only lend my notes to people but I can sell them on Note Wagon, and more importantly, I can take screen-shot clippings from pdfs for chemistry! Hell I can screen-shot ANYTHING!

*Epic Screen-shot mood*

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Maybe blogging right now is not the best idea considering the amount of work that needs to be done, however I fear not for I am once again almost a week ahead! *keen

So after being tired with my obsessive poetry posting on Tumblr I have followed a dear friend's idea to start another blog via Blogger!

Being me I needed a theme, so I somewhat followed the theme of another dear friend's blog and decided to use this as a more or less commentary blog on the injustice and extreme fairness in the University of Toronto's Life Sciences program.

What should I comment on today? How about the intensity of the official Life Sciences calculus midterms? For those who are in MAT135, am I not wrong in saying that the last question is a hell of a lot of fun? Or pain?

For those who don't know about the class, basically on every midterm, the last question is hell. In fact it even tells you it's hell:

Oh, and yes, if you don't follow the correct procedure you get 0.

So unless you can get the last question perfectly, it's impossible to score above 92% on the test even if you get everything else perfect.

Not to mention after multiple choice number 10 things start to get annoying... I'm talking extremely long polynomials and fractions... very mean fractions. It's not really the solutions that are hard in the end, it's the simple math that most people will screw up on. One sign error here and maybe a miscalculation there (since calculators are not allowed) and it's all over!

By all over I mean each multiple choice question is worth 5 marks (Edit: IT'S ONLY WORTH 4 MARKS! HURRAY!). No marks given for work shown... in fact hell you can just circle any letter you want w/o doing any work and if it's right then you get the 4 marks!

Of course if one little mistake in your work makes you end up with the wrong answer, then that's 4 marks out of the 100 gone!

Though as traumatic as this test can be (I hear the 3rd term test is the worst one), you have to admit it's very cunningly designed. Out of the ~1500 students in first year life sciences, not many are really qualified for the upper level courses, so in a way this calculus course (which is mandatory) is used to weed out the weak. By having each multiple choice question worth 4-5 marks, students who can still manage to score above an 80% must have good attention to detail, check their work efficiently and/or are less susceptible to careless errors. These are all important traits for scientists and doctors alike and thus is deemed important to be tested on.

And for the demon question at the end of the test, it too has a good purpose. The last question(s) usually consist of problems that students have never seen before but should be able to solve given the concepts taught in class and pure hardcore logic. Students who are able to solve these questions, or are able to start on the correct solutions to these problems have the logic and problem solving mentality that makes a good researcher.

So while these tests are brutal to the average life science student, you have to admit; it works. And it works extremely well to make Life Sciences have such a high drop out rate!

But I personally feel attacked by the stress caused by this test; and so my roommate and I have decided that come Tuesday night, if we don't make it out of the test alive it will be due to the following reasons:

  1. Strangled to death by integral sign
  2. Cut into infinitely small vertical pieces dx
  3. Cut into infinitely small horizontal pieces dy
  4. Lost in a maze of special triangles
  5. Divided by zero and were thus transported to another dimension where calculus doesn't kill us.