Monday, November 30, 2009


I finally got my scores today and I did not pass either exam. I knew I was taking a risk. I've been working full-time, taking a 4 credit course, and trying to study for the blasted finals. It was too much. Sorry, but I'm too disappointed to post more tonight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still Waiting

It's been almost 3 weeks since I took that disastrous exam and 2.5 weeks since I took the exam that wasn't too bad. I still have not heard what my results are. My oral is next Wednesday and is not supposed to take place until all of the written exams have been passed. Since I haven't heard whether I passed or not, how can I know whether to take the oral or not?

I've done what I could to find out the results. I sent emails, made phone calls, and knocked on doors. I think the most reasonable way to handle this is to proceed with studying and preparing for the oral. So that is what I will be doing during this holiday weekend.

I hope that you have a good Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Three Down (Maybe) and One to Go

I hope it's three down. I had a final today and one last Friday. The one today wasn't bad. I think it was a very fair exam. It took me about 8.5 hours to complete it.

The final on Friday was a disaster. That one has a reputation for being the most difficult final for our program. Usually the exam is held in a building up near the center of campus in a quiet classroom. This time it was held in a conference room that is close to our program study room. For those of you who know where this is, we were in the center conference room. The whole conference room area can be one big room or divided up into three rooms with dividers separating each room. I don't know what those dividers are made out of, but they are not soundproof.

So on Friday, a colleague and I had been taking the exam for about 1.5 hours when we heard preparations starting in one of the rooms for the monthly Friday morning coffee break. They had a new coffee pot and for about 20 minutes were talking loudly about their new toy. Then people starting showing up for the break and it really got noisy. My colleague and I could not work on the exam. So I went in to join the coffee break. It only lasts for about 30 minutes, so after it was over, we got back to work on the exam.

We had only 30 minutes of peace. Someone in the other conference starting setting up for a seminar. The seminar lasted from 11:00 - 12:15. Again, we had peace. It only lasted until 1:00. A lady came into our room even though there was a sign on the door that said "Exam in Progress Do Not Enter". She took chairs out of the room and into the room where the coffee break had been. That room started filling with people and it got noisy. I think they were having a combination lab party and lab meeting. Then we could hear preparations starting in the other room for something. So from 1:00 until 5:00, we had loud talking, laughter and clapping going on from both adjoining rooms.

The test was scheduled to end at 5:00, but I wasn't finished. Because of the extenuating circumstances, our proctor let us go longer. By 7:00, I was not done, but I was so done. I did not finish the herbicide calibration calculations; I forgot that photosynthesis has a Photosystem II and Photosystem I; I forgot how many feet are in 1 mile and who knows how many other things I blanked on.

The noise level had a serious impact on my ability to concentrate and to take my exit exam. I don't know what my score is yet, but I know that I did not make it to 80%. There was no way I could have. The question is, will they pass me anyway because of the extenuating circumstances or will I have to take that final again next semester. I guess I'll find out in a few days.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Three More Days

This Friday, I will take my second final and next Monday, I will take the third one. I am not ready. There is so much material to cover; it's impossible for me to get through all of it. I hope that by the time I get to each final, the amount that I have studied will be enough to get me to 80%, which is the minimum for a passing grade.

I'm taking this week off from work; I should have taken last week off as well. But it's too late for the should haves, or the could haves. It is what it is and I will do the best that I can. It's not the end of the world if I have to stay in school another semester.

I probably will not do another post until after Monday's final. Wish me luck. I need it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm Still Here

This semester is rough, but I'm surviving. All of my paperwork for graduation has been completed and my finals are coming up faster than I want to think about. But I have to think about it and deal with the fact that I am not studying enough. So, I am going to reduce my work hours a little more. I mentioned in my previous post that I reduced my hours to 32 hours a week. Instead I have been working 35 hours. Starting next week I will work 30 hours per week for 3 weeks and then take off the first week of November. I hope that will give me enough time to study.

Very few students in this program have taken 3 of the finals in one semester. I know of only two others who have done that; one suffered from cramps in their hand from all the writing and the other turned into a basket case at the end. What will happen to me, I wonder?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side of Life

In spite of the fact that 25% of the Angeles National Forest is in ruins, life goes on. Some of the positive things in my life are:

1. I did not know that Mt. Wilson had a TowerCam until the fire occurred. Not only do I like to look at it, several others do as well. So, I have placed a link on the right side of my blog under "Links". It will be there as long as either the TowerCam exists or as long as I have this blog.

2. Having a few posts about the fire has increased the readership of my blog and that makes me happy.

3. I made and acted upon the decision to reduce my work hours. I was working 40 hrs a week and it was too much. It left me with very little time to study for my finals. So I have reduced my hours to 32 hrs per week with the agreement and support of my supervisors. I was apprehensive about telling them that I needed to work less, but I did it and the outcome was positive.

4. I am moving toward the finish line of my doctoral program.

5. I gave my final seminar last week and it was very well received. It was a relief to get it done.

6. I have started studying now for my three remaining finals: two written and one oral. This is a positive because I haven't had time to study until now and that was causing me a lot of anxiety. So the anxiety has diminished and I am studying.

Life consists of both negative and positive things. It's up to us to choose what we are going to focus on.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Angeles Crest Highway After the Station Fire

This is a video of the drive that Hal McAlister, Director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, and his wife Susan, took to reach Mt. Wilson after the fire. Words that are being used to describe the Angeles National Forest along the Angeles Crest Highway are: utter desolation, a moonscape, and a landscape in an ashen gray winter.

I have gone skiing, hiking, and camping in this forest and now it's all gone. It will take decades for it to regenerate back to the way it looked the last time I was there. That will not happen in my lifetime.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Mt. Wilson Solar TowerCam

The Mt. Wilson TowerCam is working again. I'm not sure what direction it is oriented; it looks like it might be facing towards the northeast. There is still some smoke, but there is also some blue sky. Best of all, the threat to Mt. Wilson is much less than in my previous post. Enjoy the view!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Hills Are Burning

My home city is Los Angeles, CA and I am not at all happy about the fire that is going on in the Angeles National Forest. As I post this, 21,000 acres have burned and thousands of homes are threatened. I could rant about the wisdom (or lack of it) in building homes on the hillsides, but I won't. I could rant about the lack of a controlled burn program in the Angeles National Forest (ANF), but I won't.

Mt. Wilson is a mountain in the ANF at an elevation of 5,700 ft. From the top, you can see most of the Los Angeles metropolitan area to the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. The Mt. Wilson Observatory has a 150 ft. solar tower with a TowerCam. The link is here. The fire is getting very close to Mt. Wilson, so I'm not sure how much longer this TowerCam will be operational. It is kind of interesting to look at.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Is My World

I was working on my job application today in the building where our program study room is located. I had to take a break, so I went outside and took this picture. This is what it looked like outside the back door of the building. It was just starting to drizzle.

Then I had to go back inside and continue on with the application. This is what I had to look at.

I guess I wasn't standing straight.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Pressure Is On

The summer semester is over and I have only one more semester to go before I graduate. So the rush to get everything done in time has begun. I have to complete registration for the fall, which involves filling out paperwork for internships, filling out a degree application, turning in my final program of study, making sure my graduate records are accurate, turning in my paperwork for the remaining competency finals, and studying for the finals. During the fall semester, I will also be presenting at 2 seminars, and taking 3 internships which total to 40 hours of work per week. How I am going to manage all this, I do not know.

To add to everything, I have to look for a job. I have already been looking and just saw tonight that a position with my favorite government agency has come open. It is located in my home state! It is in a city that is about 115 miles from my home city. Best of all, the pay is very good!!! I have to apply. The deadline to apply is Monday, Aug. 17. So I have one week and I'm sure it will be a very hectic one for me. These particular positions do not come open very often. The scientists that occupy these positions are so happy in them, that they stay until they are way past retirement age. So the only time this type of position comes up is when someone finally retires. The competition is fierce and there is no guarantee that I will even get to the interview stage.

I have to wonder whether it is wise for me to pursue this position when I have so much that has to be accomplished to graduate in December. But like I mentioned above, these positions do not come open very often and I don't know when another one will open up. Another reason in favor of applying now is that several faculty at the university have told me that I needed to be looking for this position title in my government job searches, because I am very skilled in this particular area. Or so they say. I don't quite know how that happened. I did not try to be skilled in that area, it just came naturally, I guess.

So, a busy week ahead for me here, but I just don't think I can pass up the opportunity to apply.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Life Is Good

It has been a while since I have posted anything, so I just wanted to provide an update. I am working full-time (two part-time jobs) and am enjoying it. I feel like I’m still on vacation. When I worked full time before going back to grad school, it did not feel like a vacation to me, but now full-time does. That is an indication of the intensity and difficulty of the graduate program that I am in. However, things are going to start speeding up for me. I have not started studying yet for the remaining three finals, but I have to start very soon. I have started preparing a presentation for a seminar that I have to give on September 17 and I am working on a lab notebook that is due next week. Yup, it’s going to start getting busy again and the pressure of deadlines will help me to start studying again.

Life feels good because in addition to being on "vacation", the financial aid office came through for me after I had given up on them. I got the phone number and email of my financial aid advisor and before giving up, I had called him a few times and sent a couple of emails. He always responded. Even though I was mad, I was very nice to him. So one day I got a big surprise! He emailed me and told me that he was going to combine the amount that I should have gotten for Summer 1 with the increased amount that I had petitioned to get for Summer 2. I quickly emailed my thanks and thoughts of gratitude to him. Soon afterward, I received the full amount of my student loan for the summer. Life is indeed good!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vacation Is Over

Ever since I completed the First Competency Final that I took on June 23, I have been working on increasing my laziness percentage. On Facebook, I took the 'How Lazy Are You' quiz and my result was 32% lazy. Although I have been working part-time in the mornings, I have spent my afternoons and weekends just reading novels and listening to music. Last night I'm sure I increased my laziness percentage considerably when I was thirsty and chose to get an unopened water bottle from my backpack which was 6 feet away from where I was sitting reading, instead of walking 25 feet into the kitchen to get a glass and fill it with water.

However, my time for relaxation is over. Tomorrow, I start working a second part-time job, so I will be working a full 40 hours a week. I will be getting internship credits for both of my part-time jobs. I also have to start studying for the rest of my finals. I will be taking 3 finals during the fall semester and I have to pass them. The financial aid office approved for me to receive aid only for the summer and fall semesters and that's it. I can't afford to be in school without financial aid. So, the pressure is on. I have to pass the finals and I have to graduate in December. I will start studying this afternoon and will study every night after work.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

War/No More Trouble

A few months ago my friend Makita posted this on her blog. I like it so much that I am posting it here.

For more info go to Playing For Change.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nine Reasons to Celebrate America

In honor of America's Independence Day, BBC News has posted an article on nine inventions unique to America. They are as follows:

1. Air conditioning

2. Ice cubes

3. Valet parking

4. Aviation

5. Chewing gum

6. Cracker Jack

7. American cheese

8. Metal detector

9. Space pen

To read more go to BBC News Nine Reasons to Celebrate America.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Passed!!!

I passed my First Competency Final!!!!. What a relief! I was a bit worried because it was so hard and there was an interference during the exam that affected my ability to concentrate. I also wasn't in the best of shape physically because I was getting so stressed out that I was having trouble eating and sleeping.

With one big final out of the way, I can now start to study for the three finals that I will take during the fall semester. In the next few days, I will put up a countdown timer for the next final.

To relieve my stress, I've decided that I'm not going to pursue anything more with the financial aid office. There is one more multi-step thing I could do to get more student loan from them, but I'm not going to do it. I've had enough. I'll make do with whatever I can get from them as it now stands.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One Final Down and Three To Go

I took a really big final today. It lasted for 9 hours and 35 minutes straight. There was no time out for lunch. I snacked as I wrote. I did sight ID of nematodes and arthropods and provided their common names and scientific names. I provided pest management recommendations, drew graphs, provided field distributions of symptom patterns, and made insect and mite pest sampling plans and designs. I produced 21 full pages of handwritten answers.

I don't know how I survived it, but since I am sitting at my computer doing this post, I must still be alive. It will take about 2 weeks to find out whether I passed. I sure hope so, because I never want to go through this particular exam again. To pass, we have to score at least 80%. A point off here and a point off there...the points off add up and for some students add up to less than 80%. Even if I don't pass, I do feel a sense of accomplishment for taking it (especially considering how my life has been) and providing an answer for every question. Hopefully, I will pass.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Studying in Progress

I decided that I am going to continue moving forward and take the First Competency Final next Tuesday. I finished the paper today that is due on Friday. So that's one thing done. Now I am back to studying for the final. I'm taking time off from work to study even though I can't afford it. The financial pressures have felt like a 60 ton weight on my shoulders. I have chosen to throw the weight off and deal with it after the final.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Financial Aid Woes

As you know, ever since the loss of my assistantship, I have been battling with the Student Financial Aid Office to provide me with a viable financial aid package. Today, I lost the battle.

What this means for me, I do not completely know at the moment. I do not know whether I will be able to complete this program. I am fairly certain that I will not be taking the First Competency Final next week. I will keep you posted.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Financial Aid Saga and a Final

It has been a few days since I have posted anything, so I want to give you a quick update on things. The financial aid situation is not over. I don't know what the financial aid office did with their budget for my student loan, but by the time I paid my rent with the late fee, and a couple of small bills, my loan money was gone. I received much less than what I have received in previous summer semesters. So, I had to petition to get the university to increase the budget for my financial aid. They increased it by about $500 for Summer 1. Now I will have to somehow get them to disburse that to me. After looking at my student account, it is obvious that the financial aid office will not do anything until I contact them. I will probably have to go there in person. However I don't have the time, so I will call them and hope that is enough.

My Big Comprehensive Final is one week away and I am very nervous about it. I have been juggling 3 internships and I have a paper due this Friday for one of them. I have done very little studying for this final. However, I am taking a few days off from my internships and the paper is almost completed, so I have hope that I will be able to put in more study time after the paper is done.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is the Financial Aid Saga Over?

I went to the Financial Aid Office on Thursday and told them that I needed my student loan and that I could not wait any longer for it. I reminded them that Semester 1 was almost over and that if someone in their office had not screwed up I would have received my loan money 2.5 weeks ago. I told them that I was going to have to pay a late fee for my rent and that I was not happy about having to pay for their mistake. I told them that I had to the money and that I would stay right there until I got it. I can hardly believe I said these things, but it worked. I got the money right then and there! It is in the bank...what's left of it anyway...after having paid the rent.

I have spent a lot of time over the last few months dealing with financial issues related to being able to continue my education. I have lost a lot of study time over the last semester and now I haven't studied in two days. I hope that tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ongoing Saga About My Financial Aid

I should have known that something else would come up that would delay getting my financial aid. At this university our summer semester is split into two parts: Summer 1 and Summer 2. So student loans are disbursed two times during the summer. We are more than halfway through Summer 1 and I still have not received my student loan. I called the Financial Aid Office to find out why. After the FA Officer looked at my record, he basically said "oops". Someone had entered my scholarship in under the wrong code, which put a hold on the disbursement of my student loan. He said they would fix it that night and I should get my loan soon. The next morning when I look at my student account, I saw that my scholarship had been deleted from my financial aid offer. It was gone, it was not there. Unfortunately, because I am juggling 3 internships, I did not have time to call that day. The next day, when I looked at my account, I saw that the scholarship had been put back in but for a decreased amount. I picked up the phone and called my FA Officer. A message came on that said "due to the high volume of calls that we are receiving, I am not taking any calls from students. Please leave your message and I will call back in a few days."

I have stretched out my spring semester student loan as far as it will go. It is gone. I have no more stipend and it will be at least 2.5 weeks before I get a paycheck. My rent is now late and I will have to pay a late fee because someone in the FA Office screwed up. I like the program that I am in, but this university sucks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Hidden Cost of a Solar Power Plant

It's been almost 3 years since the death of my beloved desert tortoise, Brock. In honor of the beauty that he brought to my life, go on over to Discovery Earth and take a look at what would be lost if a Solar Power Plant were built in the Ivanpah Valley of the Mojave Desert in California.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Studying

I did some more studying today, although not as much as I had hoped. Today I studied the following:

1. Differences between parthenogenesis, thelytoky, and arrhenotoky
2. Life history, biology, pest status, host plants, damage caused by 17 plant pests
3. Studied cultural, biological, and chemical methods that can be used to control or manage the 17 pests.

Even though this doesn't look like much, studying about 17 insect pests feels like a lot to me. I now have only 3 weekends remaining to study for the final. It will be hard to study Monday through Friday because I'm taking 3 internships. However I am going to try for at least 1 hour a day.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Studying for the Final

I managed to get some studying done today. I think that blogging about my progress will help.

Today I did the following:

1. Reviewed sight ID of 38 plant pests
2. Studied sight ID of 24 additional plant pests
3. Prepared some practice questions on root knot nematodes, nematodes that transmit viruses, nema lab techniques, diagnostic characteristics for some major insects, Phytoseid predator mites and the mites they prey on, how to solve a spider mite problem in a chosen crop, and many more things.
4. Studied the differences between insects and mites
5. Studied how mites compensate for their small size
6. Studied arrhenotoky genetic system in mites and its relevance to pest control
7. Studied Integrated Mite Management
8. Studied definition of biological control terms: classical biological control, augmentation, inundation, inoculation
9. Studied how to conserve natural enemies in a cropping system
10. Compared the effectiveness, advantages and disadvantages of phytoseiids vs insects as natural enemies

I studied 7.5 hours today. It's not enough. I will have to crank it up some more.

Crunch Time

I have 4 weekends left to study for my First Comprehensive Final and I am having a hard time concentrating. I feel so burned out. Last semester just did me in. Somehow I have to find the strength and concentration to keep studying. Because I'm feeling so burned out, I am planning to take only one final this summer. I will have to take 3 finals during the fall semester. So the final that I need to prepare for now is on June 23; I have to be ready for it and I have to pass it.

I have been trying to figure out a way to make progress with the studying in spite of how I feel. I have come up with a plan. Tonight I am posting here a brief general outline of the topics that that will be on the final. At the end of every day, I will post the topics I have completed studying that day. Monday through Friday, I will not be able to study very much because I am juggling 3 internships and 1 part-time job. But I will study something, even if it is not much. During the 4 weekends that I have left, I will have to study a lot. I will have to push myself to the max and then push some more.

General Topics for the Comprehensive Final

Part 1. Diagnostics
1. Nematode identification, quantification, and management recommendations for each nematode id'd
2. Insect and mite identification (98 of them) - know life history, life stages, pest status, host plant (including part of plant), types of cultural, biological, chemical control

Part 2. Concepts and Principles (7-10 questions)
1. Nematology - races, resistance, extraction techniques, lab techniques, major diseases, virus vectors
2. Mites - differences between insects and mites, the different mites, life stages, host plants, damage, predator mites, mite reproduction, management and control strategies
3. Integrated Pest Management - definition of IPM, economic injury level, economic threshold level, sampling methods, trapping methods
4. Biological Control - definition, terminology, important uses of biological control in the past
5. Insect Toxicology - insect nervous system, resistance
6. Pesticides - nematicides, acaricides, insecticides, major resistance issues in this state.

Part 3. Broad-scope integrative questions (3-4 questions, 2-3 page answers for each question is required)
1. Acarology - steps and procedures involved in finding a natural enemy in another country for an invasive mite pest in the U.S., then bringing the natural enemy to the U.S., rearing it, and releasing it.
2. Entomology - design a study to determine the efficacy of 3 insecticides. Defend the experimental design.
3. Nematology

Later tonight I will post what topics I studied today. I hope this helps me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Appeal Accepted!

The financial aid office approved my appeal! So much has happened with financing in the last few months and I feel like I've been on a roller coaster ride. However unless something else happens, I should now have all the financing I need to complete my program. Woohoo!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Spiders are great for agriculture. They help to reduce the number of pests that can harm a crop. When one is scouting and going along a crop row, if spider webs or spiders are observed among the foliage, that is an indication that a good pest management system is in place.

But I don't want spiders in my car! Almost every day I see one in there. A couple of days ago, I was driving along on a busy street and a spider dropped down from the visor and hung on its web right in front of my face. I felt like stopping the car right then and there, but I could not. So, I kept driving with the thing hanging right there. Fortunately, it went back up the web to the visor and walked over to the other visor and stayed there until I reached my destination. I quickly got out of the car, grabbed a kleenex, put it over the spider which was again hanging from its web and put it in some bushes. I don't like to kill spiders, so I let it live and it walked away. I wish that I didn't have a fear of spiders.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

End of My Assistantship

I have a lot of studying to do, but I want to post an update of two things:

1. I turned in my appeal and supporting documentation to the financial aid office on Monday. It takes about 5 days for them to make a decision. So I am waiting.

2. In a previous post, I mentioned that the last day of my assistantship/job was coming up soon and my Graduate Advisor had not given any indication that he was going to give me a going away lunch. This bothered me because he had given a going away lunch for another student. So, last Thursday, the day before my last day, I went into his office to talk with him and this is how our conversation went:

Me: So, tomorrow is my last day here.

Grad Advisor: Tomorrow? Already? Oh...I wasn't keeping track...

Me: Yes, well...tomorrow is my last day. So I just wanted to tell you that I will have to come in over the weekend to clear out my desk because I've been too busy to do it before my last day.

Grad Advisor: don't have to rush. You can take your time. The only thing that has changed is that I don't have money to provide an assistantship for you, but...but you don't have to go.

Me: Ummm (I was stunned, could not think of anything to say to him).

Grad Advisor: I hope you won't forget about us. You are going to come by to visit us aren't you?

Me: Of course. You are still the chair of my supervisory committee. That will not change.

So, he did not plan a going away lunch for me because he was in denial that I was leaving. I have done good work for him and we have had a pretty good advisor-grad student relationship, so I did not understand why I wasn't getting a lunch send-off.'s his fault that I'm not there anymore. He was depending on only one grant to staff his office. What faculty/researcher in their right mind would have only one grant in place to run and staff their office and lab?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Another Obstacle in the Road

I received an email today from the financial aid office telling me that because I have too many credits (more than 120) that I am not eligible for more financial aid. This is the too many credits issue that I have written about a couple of times previously on this blog. About a month ago, the fa office told me that I might not need to file an appeal and that they would let me know if I needed to. So why have they waited until a Saturday..the Saturday before the start of the summer semester? Thank goodness I had a partial statement of appeal already prepared. They require supporting documentation, but they don't tell us what documentation they require. They leave it up to the student filing the appeal to figure it out and hope they get it right. So I am going to turn in everything I can think of that proves that I have to take 20 more credits to meet the requirements of my program so that I can receive my doctorate. This is so stressful. And I thought that the financing of the rest of my education was all settled. I am so close to being finished. What will I do if my appeal is not accepted and my already approved student loan becomes what...un-approved? This is so crazy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sad Thoughts and Friends

Friday is my last day at work. My assistantship is ending because my advisor lost his funding. About a month ago he took everyone in the office out to lunch as a goodbye lunch for another student who had recently graduated and was leaving for another position. I am now leaving for another position and so far he hasn't said a word about taking me for a goodbye lunch. Perhaps it could be argued that he is waiting until the last minute to say something, but I don't think so. For the recently graduated student, he sent an email around with the lunch invitation almost 2 weeks before the event. I think that he is not going to take me to lunch. My last day will or would have come and gone as if it were any other day. How sad...I've been there for over 2.5 years.

During the time that I have been working in the office, everyone's birthday has been celebrated. Except mine. The assistant director of the office would always make sure that cake was purchased, cards made/purchased and signed by everyone. But not for me. I don't know why.

One of my co-worker's/friend has noticed the slight and commented on it. So on Friday, even though it is not my birthday, we are going to celebrate my birthday. We are going out and everyone in the office has been invited except for the assistant director (who is no longer in our office due to the funding cut) and my advisor. K is a good friend.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Funding for the Summer!

I have funding all set for the summer semester. First of all, I got accepted for the Minority Supplemental Retention Scholarship! It is going to pay for all of the 10 credits that I am taking for the summer! Woohoo!!!

Second, I got another part-time job. I will be working as a Nematology Identifier in a nematode assay lab. The position is for 20 hours a week and it will start in about 2 weeks. I will be getting internship credits for working and as a result I do not have to hunt around for another internship this summer. In addition, I still have the other part-time job that I started half way through the spring semester. I will continue to work at that one for 10 hours a week. A few weeks ago, I was told that a part-time 20 hr per week position is going to open up at a government facility near campus and was asked whether I was interested. I am! It involves citrus. So when that opens up, I'll apply and if I get it, I'll drop the 10 hr a week position. So, I have income sources set up for both the summer and fall! These are all positions that I could continue to work at even after graduation if there is a delay in finding the 'right' job.

Third, I will be receiving the remainder of my unsubsidized student loan (which will be maxed out with the first summer disbursement) and I will receive the Graduate Plus Loan.

So I am all set for the summer and almost set for the fall! I will have to apply again for the Supplemental Retention Scholarship for the fall semester, but that is the only thing left to do as far as funding for the fall is concerned. I will have income and the student loan.

So now I have to get on with the business of studying for the big comprehensive program finals. I will take 2 of them this summer. The first one is on June 23 and the second one is on June 26. They last all day. I'm actually concerned about the one on June 26. I have heard students who have taken it before say that it lasts for 9.5 hours and that there is no time to eat lunch and barely time to go the restroom. I will have to take snacks and eat as I write.

Friday, May 1, 2009

About Joyce

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Joyce!
  1. You share your birthday with Joyce.
  2. If you toss Joyce 10000 times, she will not land heads 5000 times, but more like 4950, because her head weighs more and thus ends up on the bottom!
  3. The first domain name ever registered was
  4. If every star in the Milky Way was a grain of salt they would fill Joyce!
  5. Joyce can't sweat.
  6. Over 46,000 pieces of Joyce float on every square mile of ocean!
  7. Finding Joyce on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.
  8. Fish travel in schools, but whales travel in Joyce!
  9. It takes a lobster approximately 7 years to grow to be Joyce!
  10. The deepest part of Joyce is over 35,000 feet deep.

Just having some fun. If you want to try it go to the Mechanical Contrivium.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Semester is Over!!!

I am finished with everything for this semester!!! It turned out that I had three colloquium synopses to write rather than only two. But, I just finished them and everything is now done. This semester is over and done! Woohoo!!!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

End of Semester Updated List

I am posting another list up here to help me keep everything straight. My good friend Makita pointed out to me that on my previous list some of the days and dates did not correlate. Just to complicate things, some of the dates for the finals have been changed and a quiz has been added to my list. What a mess. I am keeping the things that I have already completed on the list because I want to feel like I have accomplished something. So, my updated list is as follows:

1. Colloquium synopsis due Wed. 4/8 (not done, no way in hell...)- done!!!
2. Agricultural Law exam taken on Thurs. 4/9
3. Pesticides paper due Fri. 4/10 - completed (it sucked, but it's done)
4. Pesticides mini-exam taken on Fri. 4/10 (no time to study for it - bombed it)
5. File the too many credits appeal Mon. 4/13 (delayed - financial aid office said it may not be necessary to file)
6. Meet with Soils professor to go over data for presentation and paper on Tues. 10:30 (done...I now have a 2cm stack of SAS printout that I have to analyze, make conclusions from, make tables and charts, get into a PowerPoint to present on Thur. morning at 10:00am...Heaven help me)
7. Another Colloquium synopsis due Wed. 4/15 (no way in hell..)- done!!!
8. Plant Herbicides take-home quiz due Wed. 4/15 - completed on 4/13!!!
9. Soils presentation on Thurs. 4/16 - done!
10. Pesticides exam on Fri. 4/17 - done!
11. Plant Herbicides paper due on Fri. 4/17 by 5:00 pm - done!
12. Soils paper due on Tues. 4/21 - done!
13. Agricultural Law final on Tues. 4/21, 10:40-11:25 - done!
14. Plant Herbicides final on Wed. 4/22, 8:00 - 9:30 - done!!
15. Pesticides comprehensive final on Mon. 4/27, 12:50-2:50 - done!!!
16. Soils comprehensive final on Tues. 4/28, 10:00-12:00 - done!!!!

I do not know yet whether I will have an assistantship for the rest of my time in this program. I don't even have the time to deal with it.

Life is great when you can have the time to breathe.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Too Much To Do

The semester is going to be over soon and I have a lot of stuff that is going to be due very soon. There is so much that I can barely keep track of it all, so I am going to list it all here.

1. Colloquium synopsis due Wed. 4/7 (no way in hell is this going to get done on time)
2. Agricultural Law exam Thurs. 4/8
3. Pesticides paper due Fri. 4/9
4. Pesticides mini-exam Fri. 4/9
5. File the too many credits appeal Mon. 4/13
6. Another Colloquium synopsis due Wed. 4/15 (no way in hell...)
7. Soils presentation on Thurs. 4/16
8. Plant Herbicides paper due Fri. 4/17
9. Pesticides mini-exam Fri. 4/17
10. Soils paper due Tues. 4/21
11. Agricultural Law Final Tues. 4/21, 10:40-11:25
12. Soils Final Tues. 4/28, 10:00-12:00
13. Pesticides Final Wed. 4/29, 7:30-9:30
14. Plant Herbicides Final Wed. 4/29, 12:30-2:30

I also have to find the time somehow to work at my two jobs. I am still in the process of trying to get an assistantship. My 3 papers will total approximately 8000 words. I thought about posting my progress meter up here, but I don't want to take the time to do it. I feel so swamped.

Life is great is alive to feel swamped.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A New Allergy

A few weeks ago, I fell while carrying out my mission to get more studying done. I blogged about that totally embarrassing incident in my post When Will I Study Now?. I scraped my hands a bit and so a couple of days after that happened I finally decided I better go to the doctor. They looked at my abrasions and said two of them were deep, but did not require stitches. They recommended that I put Bacitracin on them and keep them bandaged when I was not at home.

For 6 weeks, I have been been faithfully applying Bacitracin and bandages on both of my hands. But last week, it dawned on me that the abrasions were not healing. In fact, they were getting more and more red and they were starting to hurt and itch. I stuck it out for a few more days and finally gave in and went to the Student Health Center yesterday. The doctor took one look and said "this is an allergic reaction to the Bacitracin". Soon all of the nurses and doctors in that part of the Center were in that little exam room looking at my hands. I felt like an experimental subject with them all gawking at me. They all took their look and then left the room. The nurse came in and told me that for 3 decades they have been recommending that students use Bacitracin for their scrapes, cuts, and abrasions. Prior to 3 decades ago, they recommended Polysporin, but a lot of students developed allergic reactions to the Polysporin so they started recommending Bacitracin. In the last few weeks, a good number of students have been going into the Student Health Center with allergic reactions to Bacitracin. Lucky me...I can now include myself in that growing number. So that's why everyone wanted to have a look at my hands.

I am now applying something else that they gave me to keep the abrasions from drying out and already they are not as red as they were yesterday.

So, now I'm wondering what has changed to cause the Bactracin allergy outbreak among students on our campus. Is it a regional thing? I used a generic from a local store, but this store has a presence throughout most of the southeastern U.S. I'm just curious and I suppose I can find out more when I go back for a check-up next week. This is all just a little something to occupy my brain while I avoid studying.

Life is great when you can keep the bandages off.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Good News!

I was approved for the U.S. Department of Education Graduate Plus Loan! A requirement for the Grad Plus Loan is a good credit record. I have traveled a hard road to get to where I am right now and as a result my credit is not exactly stellar. And yet I got the loan!!! I was very concerned about what my options might be if I did not get it. Any option that I could think of involved working full-time and taking my remaining internship credits over a longer period of time. As of yet, I do not have an assistantship offer, but I have had a few job offers. Now, I don't need to accept them. I don't even need an assistantship. I could theoretically just keep my one new 10 hour a week job, take all the credits I need during my remaining two semesters and then I can graduate in December 2009. I feel like a 16 ton block of concrete has rolled off my back.

Life is great when something good finally happens.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Space Shuttle Liftoff!

Space Shuttle Discovery had a spectacular twilight liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center at 7:43 pm this evening. The following images of the liftoff were taken from Paynes Prairie in the northern part of Florida. They are all unedited. Click on each image to enlarge.

The view to my right about 5 minutes before liftoff. People waiting in anticipation.
(Click on the image to enlarge.)

The view to my left. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

There it is! (Click on the image to enlarge.)

You can see more of it if you click on the image.

Wow! (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The launch plume.

May their journey be successful and safe.

Life is great when the space shuttle has a safe liftoff.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Decison Has Been Made

I have decided that I am not going to take the first Big Program Final on March 24. It was a difficult decision to make, but I just cannot take such an important final when I have so much going on in my life that I can barely study. I actually have a list of things to justify my decision. Some of these things are as follows:

1. I received confirmation about two weeks ago that my graduate advisor does not have enough money to continue funding my assistantship after the end of the spring semester. So I have been looking for either another assistantship or a job. I found another part-time job and I started it this week. The employer could not wait until the end of my assistantship for me to begin the new job. I was reluctant to add an additional thing to my already too hectic schedule, but I had to be sure that I did not end up without an income after my assistantship has ended, so I accepted the position. So, in addition to the work I do for my assistantship and my 13 credits of courses, I now have another job. After my assistantship has ended, this part-time one will not be enough. I am continuing the job hunt.

2. I have more than 120 credits which according to the university is too many. They will not allow me to continue receiving financial aid after the end of the spring semester. So I have to appeal. I have some work to do with this one.

3. Since it is likely that I will not have an assistantship for the summer semester, I am going to apply for a graduate supplemental retention award. This award will pay for up to 6 credits per semester for the last 3 semesters. I've got the paperwork; have to make the time somehow to fill it out and turn it in by next week.

4. I am having a couple of health issues which are taking up way too much of my time. The graduate students insurance has a prescription drug capitation limit of $2000. So, they are no longer paying for my asthma medicines. I spent about 5 hours last week dealing with the paperwork to apply to a patient assistant program. Unfortunately, there appears to be a slight glitch in the system and I am not going to get the medicines for at least a month. Since I can't wait that long, I'm now searching for other options.

Am I justified in my decision to not take the final on March 24? Yes, absolutely! Hopefully I can get my life in order and stabilized soon.

I will take the first Big Program Final on Tuesday, June 23 and the second one on Friday, June 26.

Life is great when one can finally make a difficult decision.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Scientists for Better PCR

The PCR Song

There was a time when to amplify DNA,

You had to grow tons and tons of tiny cells.

Then along came a guy named Dr. Kary Mullis,

Said you can amplify in vitro just as well.

Just mix your template with a buffer and some primers,

Nucleotides and polymerases, too.

Denaturing, annealing, and extending.

Well it’s amazing what heating and cooling and heating will do.

PCR, when you need to detect mutations.

PCR, when you need to recombine.

PCR, when you need to find out who the daddy is.

PCR, when you need to solve a crime.

"Scientists for Better PCR" is a Bio-Rad Music Video. Click here for more information.

I admit it, I miss doing PCR.

Life is great when you can hear a really good song.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

When Will I Study Now?

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to find more time to study. So I decided that I would start studying on the bus and when I walk from class to class or to work.

A few days ago, I was carrying out my mission of trying to study while walking from a class to my car. I was walking along the side of one of the campus roads. I had my backpack on and was carrying a 2 inch binder full of lecture notes and articles, some of which were loose in the binder. I had one article out in front of me as I was reading it.

So, I was walking along reading and I tripped. Down I went, flat on the pavement. My binder went down, papers went flying, my backpack came off, the water bottle came out and rolled away. My first thought as I lay on the ground was..."oh shit, how embarrassing". I quickly got up, collected my stuff, and acted as if nothing had happened.

So, I have several lacerations on my hands, two of them are deep, but fortunately did not require any stitches. I guess I'm going to have to find another way to maximize my study time.

Life is great when one can laugh at the stupid things one does.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Joyce's Aliases

I have allowed myself to be tagged by Sciencewomen. I've practically shot my anonymity to hell by playing this game, but I had fun doing it. Consider yourself tagged.


2. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother and fathers middle name)
Lira Lane

3. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother's dad, father's dad)
Efren Miles

4. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)

5. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal)
Blue tortoise

6. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, town where you were born)
Lee Glendale

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
The Green Mocha

8. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)

9. STREET NAME: (fav ice cream flavor, fav cookie)
French Vanilla Chocolate Chip

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet's name, street you grew up on)
Sweety Chapman

11. YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (first 3 letters of last name plus izzle)

13. YOUR GOTH NAME: (black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Brock

Life is great when you can play a game for fun.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Challenge For This Semester

My first Big Program Final is just 43 days away and I do not have the time to study for it. I am studying for 16 credits plus trying to study for the Final and I am not able to do it all. I don't know why I thought I could. I thought that I was strong and energetic enough, but I am not. I have just lost 4 days of study due to a migraine. Even without the migraine, the time I would have had was not enough.

My days (Monday through Friday) go something like this: drag myself out of bed at 6:30 am, go to class, go to work right after class, eat lunch while working, go to class, go back to work, go to another class, and finally home for dinner. I fall asleep while my husband makes dinner, then stumble to the table to eat, then back to campus to our Program Study Room to study for the assignments, quizzes or tests that are due the next day, until about 12:30 or 1:00 am. Then I go home, but it takes about 1.5 hours to unwind enough to go to sleep. After about 4 hours of sleep, I have to drag myself out of bed and start all over again. All this is just for my 16 credits. There is no time left to study for the Big Program Final. On the weekends, I can't get out of bed until about 11:30 am. Then I have to continue studying for the assignments that are due at the beginning of the week.

I am also suppose to be looking for a job because my assistantship will end at the end of April, but I don't have the time to look. I have bitten off more than I can chew. The question now is what am I going to do about it? Is it hopeless to continue at this pace and continue with my plan to take the Big Program Final on March 24? I do have Spring Break to study for it, but I don't think 1 week is enough. It would be devastating to fail the Final. If I don't take it this semester, I will have to take 2 of the Big Program Finals in the same semester and they will be only 2 days apart. I don't know what I am going to do.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'd Rather Be Blogging

Blogging is relaxing and what I have been doing is not. Nine credits is considered full-time for grad students at my university. This semester I am taking 13 credits, unofficially auditing 3 additional credits, and preparing to take my first Big Program Final. In addition, I am searching for an assistantship or a job. I'm not insane yet, but I just might be by the time the semester is over. If I don't post much for the next few weeks, it's because I am either buried under journal articles or hovering over insects, mites, and nematodes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Verbal Shorthand

I went to Office Max today to get some notebook binders for my classes. I selected my binders and then proceeded to the checkout. I placed my binders on the counter. The cashier asked me how I was today and I said, I'm fine. Then the following exchange took place:

Cashier: Ink or paper

Me: I beg your pardon?

Cashier: Ink or paper

Me: Ink or paper?

Cashier: Would you like to buy some ink or paper today?

What do you think about that? Is this some new shorthand verbal language that Office Max is teaching their cashiers? Is the shorthand of text messaging now carrying over to verbal conversations?

This exchange has similarities to when a cashier asks at the grocery store 'Paper or plastic', where we choose one or the other. Is this a new sales technique in which Office Max is trying to make the customer feel like they have to choose either ink or paper? Whatever you call it, I don't like it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

An Upcoming Change

I am dissatisfied with the template and colors of my blog. I am considering changing them to something else. I have tried every template that is available in blogger and I'm not entirely satisfied with any of them. Unfortunately, my knowledge of HTML is very limited so I have to decide which blogger template to choose. Some of my preferred background colors are black, white, or green. Since I am studying plants, it would make sense to have a green background like with the Rounders or Rounders 4 template. But, those just do not feel right. Besides, sometimes I blog about things other than my studies. So I am probably going to go with either the Minima black or white template. Please do not be too shocked if the next time you look at my blog, it looks completely different.

Have you ever considered a blog template/color change and did you make the change? Was it hard to make the change? I'm finding it a difficult thing to do. I think that our blogs function as our identity on the internet. So, to change some aspect of our blog is synonymous with changing some aspect of our identity. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

To My Readers

Crimsonpanda's artwork has generated a fair amount of traffic to my blog. I have let Crimsonpanda know this and she is thrilled! So am I! Unfortunately, some of the traffic has been spam, so I have added word verification to the comments section. I don't like word verification and I was hoping to not have to use it for my blog, but for now the situation necessitates that I use it. Hopefully that will help to reduce the spam. Please do not let it deter you from making comments. I enjoy reading your comments very much. Hopefully once the traffic dies down, I can remove the word verification. Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Dragon Horse

Photographic Artwork by Crimsonpanda

The spring semester starts this week so I may not have time to post anything for a few days. In the meantime, here is a work of photographic art by one of my favorite artists. It is used with permission.

Creative Commons License

Friday, January 2, 2009

Planning For A New Year

In yesterdays post, I said that I hope that 2009 is a better year than 2008 was. Well, I am going to have to take action in order for 2009 to be better for me. Last year, Congress made some changes to the Farm Bill which caused all funding to be frozen until new proposals were submitted. The funds for my assistantship came a farm bill grant. My major professor is working on a new proposal and it will be submitted soon, but there is no guarantee that it will be approved or that there will be funding for an assistantship for me after April. In addition, I am going to reach the maximum of $138,500 for the U.S. Department of Education Direct Student Loan in May.

To have 2 sources of funding for me end at almost the same time has me very concerned. I didn't expect to ever reach the U.S. Dept. of Ed. maximum. It's shocking to me that I have. I went to a very expensive private school for my undergrad. Although I went to a public university for my masters degree, I really should have graduated sooner that I did. Now here I am working on my doctorate and almost out of funds.

I have to apply for the Graduate Plus Loan, however I am not sure that I will qualify for it. That loan requires that one has a good credit and due to the long hard road that I have traveled, my credit is not so good. But I have to apply anyway.

The actions that I take to make 2009 better for me will in part depend on whether my assistantship gets renewed and whether I get approved for the loan. But there are some other things I have to do as well. I will write about them in a future post.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Goodbye and good riddance to 2008. I hope that 2009 is better.