Semester 4 Grad School Reflection

Guys, I’m back after a much longer hiatus than I was expecting to. I was hoping that I would just put things off for a bit before getting back to things, but that’s not what happened. It’s actually what I was doing this semester that kept me from my planned activities.

This semester, I was preparing for my qualifying exam. One of three major steps in getting my Ph.D. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the biggest deal, but I was pretty stressed out about it, and did nothing but study until my eyes could not look at a screen anymore. The way mine went, since department and universities, can have different requirements, was that each professor on my committee would ask me a question where I was given a week to respond and then had a verbal component to expand on the answer. They could ask me anything that had been covered during my course work. Anything I learned over the last two years could have been on this exam, so I went into hyperdrive doing nothing but studying it felt like. But in the end, it worked out because I passed my qualifying exam, so I guess everything was fine. I just crashed for the next two weeks and did nothing of substance. But, yeah, totally fine.

Learning Money the Nerdy Way

Every year, I try to read at least one book on financial literacy. Here, in the US, it is a sorely undertaught subject, that really should. The first time I had to fill out a tax return, I was nearly sent into a panic attack. I do my best, not to understand everything there is to know, but I want to at least understand the basics. There are people who go to school for years to actually understand everything this. This time around, I read Stacked: You Super-Serious Guide to Modern Money Management Joe Saul-Sehy and Emily Guy Birken.

The “super-serious” book is written in the style of one of my old girl scout badge manuals. It gives all of the basics of personal finance without going to far in depth requiring your to constantly look things up. There are also “achievements” for every aspect of going through your finances. It gives you step-by-step guide on how you should handle researching for yourself the best strategies to implement. There is no size fits all method, but at least there is some comic relief from the musings of the very nerdy authors (my favorite kind). I would definitely suggest reading this book whether it is your first ever personal finance book or you need a refresher. It’s not dry, and will keep you every engaged.

Kings of the Island

I’ve been making my way through several older novels that have been on my “to-read” list for what feels like years now. The book I decided to conquer next was Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This classic novel was a trip and a half, discussing the fragility of human nature and groupthink in a pseudo-World War III situation. Apparently, this was a rewriting of another book, but written as a way to make the children more “realistic.” Reading this, I’ve noticed several things about myself. I am not the biggest fan of dystopian novels. If you do, you may want to take the next section with a grain of salt.

The book follows the exploit of a group of boys as they crash land on an inhabited island. The entire time, I felt I was yelling at the characters for their quick descent into madness. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was a short novel or the fact that you had to imagine everything happening in a shorter amount of time than what really happened. I do find the concepts behind groupthink in a more academic sense. I found The Lucifer Effect fascinating because of every fact, but the senselessness got to me. I know that it was supposed to make a point in many ways, but maybe I just would like to believe that children are not as cruel as Golding made them out to be in this novel. I think, in many ways, I was more horrified than interested in the character development that we saw portrayed. Was I meant to feel this way, or did I read too much into everything? I’ll let you decide.

The course of true love…

…never was this confusing as it is portrayed in Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That is if love is just the spitting of words on the page and no actual course of where it is going throughout the timeline. For lack of a better phrase, this love triangle explores a world that really can only happen in the past with strange gender roles and political arguments that mark the time that it occurs within. Don’t go outside of your class. Outside of your husband, you really don’t have anything. You better marry before the age of 21, even though you are still immature and really shouldn’t be getting into a serious relationship with someone significantly older than you. You know, the usual.

While this book is a mental roller coaster with many things going on at once, it is a good read, as long as you don’t overthink it. There are racist themes that you can miss if you don’t look up what some words mean, some very strange views on sex and sexual assault from both male and female characters that can be pretty mind-boggling, and too much talk about what occurs in the bathroom. Honestly, a “romance” novel should not spend as much time in the bathroom as this one does. That might have been the strangest part of all of this. Overall, it was a good book if you like period pieces, although I do not know how accurate it is to the setting. A very absorbing story that is hard to put down.

Gone to the Animals

The world has gone to the animals, or at least a small portion of it. Manor Farm–excuse me–Animal Farm has been taken over by the animals from their evil masters, the humans, because the best way to talk about the human condition is to not actually talk about humans. Animal Farm by George Orwell is a masterpiece when talking about power dynamics, because all animals are equal, but some are more equal.

I think is is a wonderful piece on talking about how power corrupts. I wouldn’t say that it advocates for any particular point of view, even though I believe that many people may say that it does. I mean, I now know where calling people sheep comes from. It is really hard to describe this book without giving important plot points way, but a feel that this needs to be experienced first hand rather than from a summary somewhere. It’s a quick read, so don’t worry. Definitely take time out of your way to pick up this book.

So It Goes

I’ve been sitting with a blank screen for an hour trying to truly capture how I felt about this book. I feel that I should begin by saying that I, for the most part, hate any story that talks about World War II from an American point of view. I usually find it very disrespectful considering the country’s many flaws that took place over that period of time and celebrates their involvement way too much. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a welcome reprieve from the glory that usually comes from talking about war.

This book is the story of a prisoner of war by a prisoner of war. What I love is that this goes into the dark and gritty reality of war. War sucks, no matter what side you’re on, and does not deserve to be glorified. I think this book is an amazing representation what should be shown when discussing the realities that we live in. I definitely will need to read this again to make sure that I got all the messages this book was trying to convey. I definitely recommend any one to read this book. It was a beautiful read that I will have to get back to again.

Semester 3 Grad School Reflection

This is coming out later than I wanted, but that’s life sometimes. In December, I couldn’t handle all the things coming my way, and for the two weeks of my winter holiday, I did nothing but play video games and watch old TV shows. I also watched The Matrix for the first time, binging the trilogy in a day before seeing the newest movie the next. I had a fantastic break, but now it is time to get back to work, starting with reflecting on this past fall semester.

Firstly, this was the semester that we went back to in-person classes. It was a bit jarring since my first year was entirely online. Traveling across campus was a weird experience for me, especially with all the people who ended up being out and about. It was nice seeing people around town, but at the same time, there was the usual nonsense that I’d come to expect. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, crossing streets without looking both ways because your head is stuck in your phone.

Anyway, the class that I took this semester was a cancer biology course. I learned a lot and was very surprised with the A I got in the class. The material was challenging, and I was not expecting to do well in those classes even though I enjoyed it. Of course, every time I would be in class, I would wonder how any species has lived without any massive catastrophe because biology is wild. One mistake can cause several problems in the long term, and you just have to hope that everything goes well. This really just proves to me the evolution is wild.

Next, I would like to talk about my research. Right now, I think it is going pretty well. I have some experiments in the bag, and I hope that I can get a paper out sometime this next year. We have some pretty remarkable findings that we just need to validate before putting it out there. I am very excited about that. It will be nice to get something out before my research has to slow again. The lab is currently trying to start up a colony of mice that will generate the testicular cancer phenotype that we want. Even though we are following a paper, which makes this slightly more straightforward, we will have to have tons of mice and lots of breeding before doing any experiments. At least while my experiments are slowing down, I can focus on my exams.

This year, the focus will be getting ready for my qualifying and preliminary exams. My qualifying exams are answering questions in writing and being a part of an oral presentation with my committee members. This is the next step in becoming a Ph.D. candidate. I have no clue what I could be asked concerning these exams, so I just have to do the absolute best I can. I’ll be spending the next 3 to 4 months studying; I wish myself luck. I will be learning all that I can on testicular cancer, male reproduction in general, and toxicology topics since that is the focus of my research. I’m just hoping that I can handle the craziness that will be a part of this year and make it through okay. I suspect that I’ll have a couple of panic attacks along that way, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I think.

December Aside

I would like to take a step back for a week from all the geekage that I throw your way each and every week. As we get to the end of the year, I would like to take a moment to say how difficult things can be during this time of year. As many people are inevitably traveling across the country and world, I would like everyone to remember to be safe and take care of everyone around them. Mask up and vaccinate if you can.

Another opportunity I would like to bring up an opportunity to help others for those who are broke like I am. I am a broke grad student barely scraping by. Currently , Tab for a Cause is doing a promotion with No Kid Hungry to make sure that kids out of school can still get the meals they need. For every person who joins, they will help provide a meal. Another awesome thing is that you can earn money for charity, by doing something you are probably going to do anyways: opening a tab. If you would like to join this or the many other causes supported during the year, you can join using my link:

Take care of yourself this winter season.

Along that Yellow Brick Road Pt 7

Last book, I said that it was a good stopping point for the series. After reading the seventh book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, I completely stand by that. The opening book even included a stupid reason as to how our “Historian” was able to reach our friend Dorothy: telegraph waves that somehow got to Oz. I wish I was joking, but Baum is honestly lucky that these books are for children and that I’m already dedicated to reading all of these books.

New characters were introduced that really never went anywhere. They could have been interesting but the focus when back to Dorothy and Ozma. There was a fun adventure that was wrapped up way too quickly. It was your basic fetch quest mission trying to get items where getting one took half the book while everything else was lost. Also, I have the feeling that everyone decided to forget the all-powerful Glinda the Good. Everything could have been solved easily with less effort and travel.

An Entirely New World Pt 2

In this book, we have journeyed back to Narnia in order to save the world yet again. We learn that the year spent on Earth for our four siblings equals hundreds, if not thousands of years, in Narnia. Supernatural world follows supernatural timelines. As you have probably seen from my reviews of the Oz series, I’m usually all for this. Except for this time, it was not worth it.

In this book, the characters spent the majority of the time sitting around and talking. Adventure is usually what these books shout out as their main appeal: explore this supernatural world. I was more than halfway through the book before the characters even traveled across the land. They listened to a story for a good amount of time. They argued about what direction they were going in when they finally did actually get moving. There was really nothing of substance happening in the story. It felt like that author was trying to either capture the magic of the previous book or do some really bad foreshadowing or the next book, but I’m leaning toward the former. I hope the next book is something worth reading.

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