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I really have no words to describe how it feels to be done with school for potentially forever.  I mean REALLY potentially forever.  Especially when it’s ALWAYS been over my head – for my entire life – now, it’s just…I’m underemployed.  And a well-oiled science-class study machine at this point, which is so out of character that even D is impressed.

Honestly, I have never EVER studied with the intensity that I studied over the last 2 months…EVER.

I’m not really a study-er.  Let’s just say it wasn’t necessary.  I managed, and it worked out, probably because I write decent papers (some might actually say they are more than decent, but there have been some not-decent ones in there, too, started the night before they are due, written with bursts of clarity and “brilliance” at 4 am, and turned in at 9 am with absolutely. no. editing.….I can admit it, those really were not-so-decent) (although unfortunately, I never suffered, grade-wise, for that behavior, which would be the reason that it never actually stopped) (until the last 2 months, when it finally dawned on me that paper-writing really wasn’t the desired skill in biology or physics) – anyway, all of this to say that I am not used to studying.  At all.

(Those previous posts about studying?  Which you can find if you look hard enough?  Yeah, I mean, I did do that for points in time, but it was always a) late at night, and b) a day late, a dollar short…like in o-chem last summer.  So I guess yes, I did study, but not really in the effective way that one really *should* study.) (And I blogged a lot.  And took a lot of internet/walk the dog/talk on the phone/look at Facebook/eat some food/stand on my head breaks.)

And, in the last 2 months of my completely convoluted education path, I figured it out.  It only took….well, I’m 30, and I’ve been in school for most of the last billion years, so….that’s how long it took.

(I am starting MCAT studying next week.)

(I think those study habits of the last 2 months will probably come in handy for that.)

(Because have I mentioned how much I *suck* at science?!?  In hard science, you have a *right* answer and a *wrong* answer.  I INEVITABLY pick the WRONG answer.  And try very hard, with my lovely skills of Logic and Reason and Writing Prowess – that worked so well in previous courses – to explain why, after 4000 years of Conclusive Evidence-Based Research, that, really, it is This Answer that is ACTUALLY the right one.  Scientists have just not really understood anything all these years.  That, really, *they* should be grateful to *me* for FINALLY enlightening them.)

(It hasn’t worked.  Although in social science, where there are almost *no* Right Answers, or, at least, there are Some Right Answers, and Some Wrong Answers, and really, you could make a good case for any of them, and as long as it’s backed up by Someone’s Research, preferably published in a Peer-Reviewed Journal, it is totally fine.)

(Can we see why, perhaps, there was a taking-hard-science-classes learning curve?)

Going out with a bang, I did take the opportunity to write some love notes on my exam last night, mostly as a way to kind of pull it all (as in, all of these years) together.  Sample question:

A woman owns some sheep, and she loves them very much until they are 2 years old, when she ships them off to become food.  However, sometimes the neighbor’s mangy dogs come and eat the little lambs.  They never eat the big sheep, though.  Which survivorship curve best describes this population of sheep?

Now, the whole question of survivorship curves really depends on whether there is a sizeable population of sheep that can make to adulthood – ie, live a long, (prosperous?) life, and then croak.

But I sat there in the damn exam, wondering, “How old are sheep when they are technically adults?  Does it happen at 2?”

(And then, if you really want to know, I thought, “Well, Little is an adult at 2.  But oh, LITTLE!  Would we kill you for mutton chops?  Oh, that would be so sad.  I would not consider Little to be an adult, but I am pretty sure that is the standard for big dogs…isn’t it?  He still acts like a puppy now, and he’s four.  He still scampers!  But for cats – I think that is a year, to be an adult cat, isn’t it?  I wish I’d paid attention to the sheep at the petting zoo.  I wonder if that said when they are adults….” and on.  I’m sure you get the picture.)

So I wrote a little note.  “My answer is D, but if sheep aren’t at maturity at 2, my answer is B.

There were SEVERAL instances in this exam when I wrote such notes.  And, at one point, when discussing adrenal insufficiency – a topic I know a little too well, mostly because I am not the world’s most adherent patient, so I’ve taken it upon myself to be well-versed in what happens if one suddenly *stops* taking prednisone or whatever – which was REALLY not the question, but honestly, this man writes really *confusing* questions, and adrenal insufficiency was a *perfect* answer to his question, although it was not based on anything in any lecture or book – ANYWHOO, I wrote,

“Although I actually know this is correct, if this is not what you are looking for, please give me points for creativity.  Thanks!”

Which, you know, is right up there with Logic and Reason.

It’s over.


So…the end of the weekend.  I spent almost every moment of it studying or sleeping.  It wasn’t all that fun.

Tonight there was a review session for the bio exam.  I usually hate it when people say things like this, but I am going to say it – this test is on what seems to be an insane amount of material.  It is covering big topics, in a *lot* of detail, and some of the topics have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other.  See:  immune system, and hormones (ok, those are similar enough), and kidneys and not being cold or hot (ok, those are close enough), and…evolution.  (Huh?) And then back to…embryos.  Specifically, like, fertilization and the first oh, say, 10 cell divisions of an embryo (zygote).  In humans, birds, frogs, and…sea urchins.  Yeah, sea urchins.  So vitally important to know how *they* start out.

But in any case, so we get to learn about sperm and eggs and how they find each other and set up shop.  Great.  Well, one of the (many) things we need to know about is what is called the “fast block” to polyspermy (mulitple sperm going into the egg) (ie, preventing that from happening) and the “slow block” to polyspermy.  The fast block is something that sea urchins have, because their eggs are floating everywhere and surrounded by sperm everywhere and they need to be sure to only have one sperm get in that egg, right?  And the slow block is something that *everyone* – mammals, sea urchins, frogs, you, me…has.  (The fast block happens…faster…than the slow block.  As the name might imply.)

See where I’m going with this?

So I have learned all of the blocking polyspermy stuff.  I feel rather up-to-speed on these things, if only because hey – it is relevant to me (see previous post re: toaster magic, and peeing), and it was interesting.  It came up today in the review.

Volunteer former student running the review session: “So the fast block is… and the slow block is… and they are in all animals”.

Dude in the class:  “Wait, I thought the fast block wasn’t in mammals?”

Volunteer dude running session: “It isn’t? [Fumble.]  Hmm…”

Another dude in the class:  “So few sperm get to the mammal egg that they don’t NEED the fast block…by the time you need to block the sperm, the slow block is in place.”

(Me…thinking about how I WISHED mammals had a fast block and a slow block.)

(Some ensuing discussion about whether mammals had fast blocks or not, and why polyspermy is a Bad Thing.)

Someone in the room: “Because what a MESS it would be if there were more than one sperm in the egg!!”

Everyone…laughs.  All I was thinking was, “It’s not that funny when it actually happens…”  I was just short of breaking down, thinking about what a MESS our kid was.

A mess.

Yes, that’s exactly how I think of him.  A mess.

Anyway, part of me thinks I am being too sensitive.  (A big part.)  But the other part?  Wishes that mammals really DID evolve with both the fast block and slow block, because then I bet we wouldn’t have had the eager-beaver sperm problem.  Damn sperm.

Damn ineffective slow block.

And…back to studying.  Some more.

I am really, really committed to studying, so I have not been online at all recently.  It is amazing how a little lot of fear of failure will inspire such…behavior change.

Yes, I, Rachel, am now studying roughly 10-15 hours a day.  No joke.  No breaks.  Although I have noticed there is a diminishing return around the 10-11 hour mark.

(That should give you some idea of how far behind I am…the fact that that level of studying is necessary.)

Anyway, Jena is running a giveaway on her new blog Cute…Covered.  It is the second post down.  The blog is about being fashionable and modestly dressed, and she has some really great thoughts.  I just tried to characterize those thoughts and I totally failed, so I would encourage anyone who is interested to go check it out!!

As an aside, her blog is pretty much perfect for me, since I am very modest and have absolutely no sense of style.  In any way.  See, exhibit A:  sweatpants and torn alma mater sweatshirt.  See also:  $8 jeans and turtleneck sweaters in every color and for every season.  Yup.  (I only partly jest.)

So I have learned a lot from her already :).  Go enter!

Back to…today, bio, and then tonight, physics.  Mostly because physics is a lost cause.  Mostly because…well, you know how you plug in a toaster?  Into that socket in the wall?  Yeah, so I have been plugging in toasters for most of my life, and not really thinking for more than 2.2 seconds about how it is that the toaster works.  It is JUST MAGIC.  POOF.  And it turns out, it really would have behooved me to actually think about what the hell happens behind the three holes that miraculously give life to my toaster.

Or to the hair dryer.

Or the alarm clock.

Or any other electrical object.  It turns out that the area of my ignorance is vast, and it is unlikely (highly, highly, highly unlikely) that I will come CLOSE to filling in the holes in the next 4 days.  Like, I don’t even KNOW what I don’t know.

So…biology.  I actually *have* paid attention to, you know, PEEING.

…today it is going to happen.


(for the record, I have two songs that are running through my head like a soundtrack for my life in the last month:

When you’re going through hell, keep on going (Rodney Atkins)


Bring the Rain – Mercy Me

(I did not say they were impressive.)

(If you click on the links, it pulls up a YouTube video – just a warning for those reading in an office cube…)

I will say that last night was a Rodney night, and this morning is a Mercy Me morning.

“Bring me joy, bring me peace, bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings you glory
And I know there will be days when this life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise You…Jesus bring the rain.”

Or, as Maya Angelou says,

Still I Rise.

(It was a bad night last night emotionally and academically.)

(I had half a beer over physics homework, which made it – the night/homework/life – somewhat better.)

(It was my first beer in 6 months, and I normally have the tolerance of a flea.)

(And now, I am going to study…I need all the encouragement I can get in this arena.)


(p.s.  also, we have doctor’s appointment this morning.)

(also, a blog I have on my reader published this very sad story about a homeless woman in Kyrgyzstan.  it made the morning more of the mercy me morning vs. a rodney morning.)

(wow, do we live in a broken world.  Lord?)

(that’s all i have to say about that.)

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really, really, really, really, REALLY hates physics.

And I don’t care that umpteen college freshman take it and dance through it. I. don’t. care. I suck at it, which means I am suffering, and even though I am a full (many years) older than them, I think it sucks.

And what’s more: I am really freaking GLAD I didn’t take it when I was 18, because I don’t know that my ego could have handled it at that tender age.

And THAT, my friends, is why I don’t have Twitter.

Too verbose.

P.S.  New high for me today:  While brushing my teeth, I puked a little, and I just…kept on brushing.  And then had a conversation with DB.

Not a thang, this perpetual barfing.  Not. a. thang.

I am pretty sure I’ve used that title before.  I am also pretty sure it won’t be the last time I use it.

This is BAD, y’all.  This procrastination.  It is really, really bad right now.

I woke up this morning intent on studying.  See, I missed my physics final (yes, undergraduate physics.  No, I didn’t take it the first time around.  I had a far more varied palate of classes back then) due to intratable vomiting.  It was also on Inauguration Day, but really – I was vomiting.  Intractably.  And so I missed it.

And it just so happens that when you miss a final at this school, they have Very Strict Guidelines about how to make it up – and my makeup final is on Saturday.

You would think I would have studied by this point for a final on Saturday, right?

You know, I would think I would have studied at this point, too.

The truth is, I sat with the papers in front of me…and I stared at the computer.

I emailed people.  (Some of you received those emails.)

I would say those emails were even FUNNY at points, and one was so funny that I might actually post it.

Cause I am a funny person, sometimes.

But honestly?  I did not study.

And believe me when I say it is not because I am good at physics, because trust me – I suck at physics.

Like I redefine sucking.

(OK, not that bad, but…)

What is my problem?

Part of me thinks it is a question of motivation.  I am a little preoccupied, you know.  I eat every hour or so (today’s total?  It’s kind of funny, actually – 1.5 bagels, a lot of cream cheese and some peanut butter, a lot of grapes, two kiwis, and a bowl of pasta, and I have not had dinner yet) (and yes, HALLELUJAH!  It has all stayed down!!!  There was one close call but HEE HEE!  It’s all in me!) (The close call was with showering…damn shower).  And many, many, many of those emails were about whether gecko baby will be a girl or a boy, and obviously, THAT is Very Important to discuss at 9 weeks.


It might be a question of ambivalence.  See, if I fail this exam, I will not be able to apply to med school.  This decision will be made for me, by me, but in a totally passive way.

Not that I do not want to attend med school, but I am just…not so sure.  I have this baby growing inside me, and s/he is making me think.  A lot.

Except that how strange is it that this is happening, given that this was the PLAN?  The PLAN was to apply to med school with a CHILD.  Because there is child care on site at this particular med school, and it will take me approximately five years to complete from the time of gecko child’s birth, which, in my honest opinion, is pretty much perfect.

(Then there is residency, which gives me a stomach ache to think about, so let’s not go there.  I mean, I am going there in my head right now, and it will be a moot point if I do not do well in physics.)

So I called (in my total procrastination) a nursing school today.  Because (oh, yes, there is a because) a) I like nurses, a lot, and b) you do not need to take physics to go to nursing school.  Which is really making me happy now.

The guy was kind of a jerk (can I say that? He really really was) and made me not want to attend his nursing school.

Which is probably a good thing, because I was —-><—– that close to not taking this final!  And although I have gotten some really crappy grades before, I have never actually failed a class.

THAT would be TRAGIC.

No, I think the main problem here is that I am just battling Evil.  Satan, if you will.  (Please go with me here.)  Seriously.  I do not think God wants me to be sitting on my butt thinking about whether the ancient Chinese gender prediction chart is really accurate, and I do not think God wants me to be thinking about whether I should be going to med school in two years (although that guy?  That Christian parenting guy?  He would like me to think that God does not want me to go to med school…).  Perhaps that is true – God really has an opinion about this – but frankly, I do not believe God has an opinion about this, similar to the way I decided that God really did not have an opinion about whether I went to one graduate school or another for my Ph.D., or whether I eat grapes or chocolate cake for dinner.

At least, my God does not really care that much about these things.

My God cares about whether I believe in Him.  Whether I am a good witness to His gospel. Whether I glorify Him in the things that I do, in the things that I say, in the ways I interact with people on the street and with my husband and with my dog and my cat.  In the ways that I care for my body, now that there is a raspberry-sized life inside.  I mean, I fail…a LOT.  But I try.  And I think that’s what Jesus cares about.

I know this is really foreign to a lot of you.  It is my prayer that this does not sound nearly as insane to you as it might have sounded to me many years ago, and you are WELCOME to email me if you would like to talk about this.  (Although I might take until Saturday afternoon to write you back.)

I read on someone’s facebook list of 25 things (I LOVE those things, by the way – if those were physics I would be getting 100%)(but you should really click on that link, because it is a really funny article from Time) a statement that really made me think.  She wrote (and I am not going to list who it is), “Jesus did not die on the cross so that I could procrastinate my life away.” (Or something to that effect.  I am doing a good job and not actually GOING BACK TO FACEBOOK so I am going to have to paraphrase.)

Now, that is an interesting way of putting it.

Because do I really think Jesus died on the cross so that I could take physics?  I mean, yes and no.  Again, I do not think God really wants me to take physics, per se, but as I said, I think God wants me to glorify Him in the things that I do.

I am pretty sure I am not glorifying Him by procrastinating all day.

So here it is:  my little pledge to my teeny-tiny readership:  I am going to study from here until Saturday.  The only time I am going to look at my email is when I have finished a test.  (OMGoodness that is going to be REALLY REALLY HARD.)

You know what is playing in the background now?  Gabriel and the Vagabond.  If you have not heard it, it is a phenomenal song.

It always makes me think.

P.S.  You can still comment and, you know, make me super excited to read my email.  Cloth diapering anyone?  Ha!

You will be impressed to know that I held back SEVERAL parenthetical observations throughout to try to stay on topic for this post.  I know I failed a few times, but still.  That deserves a shout-out, no?

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Every Thursday, I have physics homework due, at 6:00 pm SHARP.

Now, in my defense, there have been a few (maybe even several) weeks when DB and I have bonded together on the couch, completing said painful homework on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  Those weeks are Good Weeks.  I learn the material and I do not (totally) suck at it.  (Notice I did not say, “I do not cry”.  Oh, for sure, tears are involved.  But I still end up learning the stupid material.)

This week, and particularly today – not one of those weeks.  (And did you notice I eliminated the is/are there?  I couldn’t figure out which one to use, and my battery juice is running low.)

I have been sitting at this table in the library for the LAST THREE HOURS staring at the physics book.  I check the Internet.  I read blogs.  I look at Facebook, the timesink of all time.  I look back at Physics Book From Hell.  I do a problem (ish).  Check my email.  (Hint:  clicking “refresh” does not make people write to you.  Seriously!) Blah blah blah…

I have, like, a few more problems to do, and then I’m going to call DB with my woes (the ones I didn’t understand – which is a painful ton of questions.  Have I mentioned that physics isn’t exactly a strength?  To say that is a gross understatement.  I SUCK AT PHYSICS), and then I’ll probably walk over to turn it in with such speed and grace that it is a wonder I had EVER dragged my feet completing such an assignment.  People watching me walk will say, “wow!  That girl!  She has so much energy!” 

But right now?

No energy.

I just want to sleep!

In fact, I am no longer SITTING at the desk.  I am STANDING at the desk.  Trying to convince myself that, really, self, it is in your best interest to finish your homework.  Really!  Keep studying!  Just 4…3….2…more problems!  You can do it!

My brain:  very, very, very frustrating.

In other news (before the computer dies), I went to my favorite doctor today – my opthalmologist/internal medicine guy.  He is awesome.  Verdict on my eyes?  For the first time since, like, 2nd grade, my eyes are AWESOME.  No change in acuity.  No change in color perception (that’s a big one).  No change in pressure.  And:  the biggest one:  no change in my optic nerves.


So why, again, does my exuberance over my eyes not translate to enthusiasm for physics?!?

(If you actually read this post, congratulations.  Seriously.  It wasn’t very interesting, I know.)

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If you are my friend on Facebook, you saw my (admittedly stupid) status update: I am starting a paper. I’m going to do this paper EARLY. Seriously.

I was really planning on it, too. Seriously.

But then I started my bio lab.

And I am very sidetracked by my bio lab. We are supposed to do a chi-square analysis of some ant data. For anyone who has spent any amount of time in public health, or with population (ANY population – ants, monkeys, people)-based studies, a chi-square is Not A Big Deal. At ALL. But here is the statement, in the middle of the paper:

“Do all the calculations, refer to [Table] for the critical value, and decide if you will accept or reject the null hypothesis.”

Emphasis mine.

Anyone see a problem with this particular phrasing?!? I DO! So here it is: My major contribution to the collective knowledge of the internet. Here you go. Ready?


Let me try it again.

You can NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER accept the null hypothesis.

You can reject the null hypothesis. You can fail to reject the null hypothesis. But you canNOT ACCEPT the null.

I can see you thinking: oh, but Rachel. That is totally an issue of semantics.

Actually, my friends, no, no, it is not.

I will try to explain.

The null states that the number of ants infected in population A are the same as the number of infected ants in population B. Get it? The two populations are the same with respect to the number of ants infected IN THIS SAMPLE OF ANTS. (That is an important distinction.)

The alternative hypothesis is this: The number of ants in population A are DIFFERENT from the number of ants in population B. Meaning that there are more, or less, infected ants in one population as compared to another.

Now, if we find there is an important distinction between the ant populations, we will reject the null hypothesis. We will say, “NO! One species of ant is way more infected than the other species.”

However, what if we find they are the same? We will say, “We cannot reject the null hypothesis. We do not have the evidence to suggest that it is any other way than they are the same”. We cannot say “We believe that all ant populations are the same with respect to infection.” We are simply saying, “we cannot conclude with any evidence that the null hypothesis is WRONG.”

Does that make sense?

If it doesn’t, just go with me on this one: You cannot prove a null hypothesis. You cannot accept a null hypothesis. All you can do is REJECT it, or fail to reject it. That’s it.

This is much more important in humans than in ant populations, but it’s statistics and thankfully, statistics is actually the same across disciplines. I know. I’ve gone through a few in the last 10 years.

If you would like more information, you are welcome to contact me.

I am now done with my Stats 101 post. Phew. That feels better now (a little bit.  Except I am still annoyed.)


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