Archive for January, 2014

January 27, 2014

What I learned last week #2

by Janie Jones

So this week I learned a few things life that will change my life forever.

In Ceramics I learned that it is not as easy to make a lattice weave bowl as it is to make a lattice weave pie crust.  Tomorrow I will see if it survived drying and then, if that was successful, I will cross my fingers and hope my 5 hours of labor survives firing.

In Biology I learned that the iconic White Cliffs of Dover are actually a graveyard for two tiny species of Protists, the foraminiferans and the radiolarians.  That’s a lot of dead microscopic critters.  The cell walls of these critters contain calcium carbonate and silica and are in part responsible for the famous cliff formation.

And, that’s about it for last week.

January 20, 2014

What I learned last week #1

by Janie Jones

So the first week of spring semester has come and gone.

To prove I’m getting my educational dollar’s worth, I’m going to recount some factoids that I have learned so far.

1#  From O-Chem:  The same kinds of compounds responsible for what we “smell” are responsible for what we “see.”

Aromatic compounds (molecules containing cyclic species with alternating, or conjugate, double bonds) where first discovered due to their fragrance.  Now chemists know that not all aromatic compounds have fragrance, but it’s still impressive that this feature was recognized in the days before electron microscopes.  Interestingly enough they  are also responsible for color in such molecules as beta-Carotene.  The conjugated cyclic nature of beta-Carotene absorbs light at 455 nm on the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum visible to the human eye.  Furthermore, enzymes in the liver convert beta-Carotene from dietary sources into Vitamin A, and through the “magic” of chemistry the Vitamin A is transformed into an isomer known as 11-cis-retinal.  In the rod cells of our eyes, this 11-cis-retinal and a protein creates rhodopsin.  When light passes through our eye and encounters the rod cells containing this rhodopsin, the light causes rhodopsin to change the position of it’s bonds forming the isomer trans-rhodopsin triggering a nerve impulse which the brain translates as “vision.”  What is also fascinating about this process is that it happens in the tiniest fraction of a second (200 femtoseconds to be exact, if you know what a femtosecond is), but if no light were present the process would take about 1100 years according to my text book.

#2  From Biology:  Mammals that spurned millennia of evolving legs just to return to the sea.

Ever wonder how whales evolved?  We might never know the exact hows or whys, but science is giving us some ideas on the trail from land back to sea.  Apparently within the last 10 years some new evidence has given taxonomists reason to rethink previous family trees.  Genetic studies on the two species have suggested that whales closest mammal kin are hippos.  A discovery of an ancient whale species that still had external legs strengthened this genetic evidence by showing that hippos and ancient whale precursors share ankle bone structure too similar to be coincidental.  Creatively we can fill in the gaps, millennia ago an ancient mammal species diverged into aquatic habitats.  Some evolved into modern whales and eventually some evolved into hippos.  Fascinating.

#3  From Calc I:  My brain is a sieve.

It is very sad.  3 semesters of algebra (beginning, advanced and college algebra) and I totally have no recollection of some of the concepts Calc teacher expects us to recall.  Luckily, I still have my algebra textbooks.  Seems I need to re learn sections of algebra in order to do my Calc homework.  Be afwaid, be vewy, vewy afwaid.  This is just the pre Calc review.  We technically haven’t learned any real Calc yet.  Only 15 more weeks to go!  Yippee!

#4  From Ceramics:  One place where pounding and wedging is socially acceptable.

If you like to beat, smash and pound on things, working with clay is probably a perfect place for you to be.  I’m not so sure about the “pounding” and “wedging” as it’s called, but it does wake you up and keep you warm.  Which is what you need in a night class in the Great White North.  I think it will be fun, and hopefully I’ll beat the living snot out of my clay, burn off some frustration and not have my pieces explode in the kiln (which will happen if you don’t adequately beat your clay).  I’m sure the terminology here will make all sorts of fun off color material this semester.  That is if I actually have the time and motivation to blog regularly.

So,  now don’t you feel all smart and well rounded?

January 12, 2014

And so it begins once more

by Janie Jones

Another holiday over.  Another semester just beginning.

Last summer I prayed that I could make it through the fall semester with the minimum amount of stress and difficulty.  You all have an inkling of how that worked out for me….  But much to my amazement, I actually did best in my math classes, scoring A’s in both College Algebra and Trig.  I bombed my Organic Chem final, but still managed to pull off a B in the class.  This frustrates me because O Chem got the short end of the study stick and should have been an A performance.  I liked that class best.  What is that the French say?  C’est la vie.

The spud brought her germs home for the holidays and I ended up spending 9 tenths of the holiday too sick to do much besides sit like a lump on the sofa and blow my nose.  Then her departure got pushed back 4 whole days.  On the one hand it was nice to spend extra time with her, but on the other, I had to work and get myself ready for school on top of being sick.  So, here I am, staring down the barrel of yet another semester I’m rushing into exhausted and ill prepared.  Damn those French and their “C’est la vie.”

On tap this semester is:

  • Organic Chem, part two
  • College Biology, part two (making up for the disaster last spring semester)
  • Calculus (twitch,twitch)
  • and Ceramics (one of my remaining “Liberal Education” requirement options)

Come February, when I’m not studying and working I have to begin the long dreaded and yet much anticipated hunt for lodgings in the Big City.  While this has been an ongoing process of some concern, it must truly and irrevocably begin in all earnestness, because the semi written in stone date we have to be out of the current Casa de Jones is June 1.

If all goes well, Leif will be closing on his farm before the end of the month and his moving process will slowly unfold over the next 4 months.

Oh, yeah, and I have to keep on Stickittoyou U to make sure my file is properly reactivated so I can return there either this summer or fall to finish my last few semesters for my Bachelor’s degree.  They’ve already screwed it up once, so I can’t count on anything until I actually see my bill.

I don’t do the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing.  But, it is a good time to stop and take stock of where you’re going and where you’ve been.  I’ve been slogging through some rough, miserable terrain.  I see a lot more ahead before I make it to the top of the mountain.  Popular wisdom chirpily reminds us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  Still it sure would be nice if the Universe could see fit to throw me a bone here.  In the words of the Immortal Forrest Gump, “I’m pretty tired.  I think I’d like to go home now.”

As I take stock of where I’ve been, all my trials and tribulations of the last 3 years have been slowly moving me toward this point and I’m still really looking forward to getting back to Stickittoyou U.  I’m looking forward to finishing my maths and all the other “required” crap I’m not really interested in and focusing on the bio-chem stuff.  I am looking forward to living in the Big City.  This is my dream.  And, I do have this sense of crossing a major hurdle and entering the down hill slide of the first major goal.  So, as I gird myself with my stalwart big girl panties and stride forward into the unknown and likely ferocious battle for education, career opportunity and general health and happiness at the end, I can at least say I think I’m doing the right thing and still keeping my eye on the prize.

In the quiet hours when I have the least number of distractions and my poor, exhausted brain can process all this there’s really just one fear, one obstacle, one unknown factor I am unable to control and solely at the mercy of: I have no money.  Nothing kills a dream faster than not being able to afford a place to live, than not being able to afford gas to get to class or work, than not being able to afford tuition.  Sure there’s some federal, state and other financial aid out there, but a lot of people are depending on it besides just me.  And what you get after all the scraping and begging and hoping and praying and filling out 10 million forms in duplicate, triplicate and promising your first born to be sacrificed to the harvest moon is never enough to really take care of your needs.

This spring I’m not praying for smooth sailing and the least amount of trial and tribulation possible.  This spring I’m praying for a financial miracle.  All my carefully laid plans, all the set-backs, all the strife, all the long hours of studying, making good grades, worrying and getting back up, drying the tears and dusting myself off come down to one thing:  Can I actually summon the dollars and cents necessary for this final leg of my journey to my Bachelor’s degree?

Stay tuned.

January 6, 2014

Caveat Emptor

by Janie Jones

Looking to save some money I tried to order a Calculus text from eCampus. 

I don’t advise you ever trying this. 

It happened like so:

December 26:

Order placed, money debited from my checking account immediately

January 3:

An email is received from eCampus.com

“Thank you for shopping with eCampus.com.

We regret that the Marketplace item you purchased (Calculus)  is no longer available from the vendor you selected and has been cancelled.

However, we do have copies in stock and available for immediate shipment. If you would like to order, just click on the link below. We will add the correct item to your shopping cart and give you an in-store credit of $5.00 that you can apply to your new order.We appreciate your business and we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to save money.  In stock supplies of this item are limited so please don’t delay.

Thank you,

ecampus.com Marketplace

January 3:

I post a response to the email

“I am very angry it took a week to figure out you didn’t have this book in stock anymore, and now I don’t have time to order a new one before class starts.  I also don’t have money to buy another one from you as you haven’t refunded my money yet.  I won’t do business with eCampus again.

–Janie Jones”

January 6:

An email is received from eCampus.com

“Dear eCampus.com customer,

Thanks for your recent purchase from eCampus.com!

Here is your survey to rate your experience with eCampus.com. We’d appreciate hearing about and sharing your experience, please take a moment to tell us about it by rating eCampus.com below. Your review will help millions of customers like you make informed decisions.

Your complete review of this store/service earns you an entry into our monthly giveaway to win a Apple iPad .

 

How was your overall experience with eCampus.com? Click a rating to continue….”

 

January 6:

I leave the following comment (note, no response was received to my first reply to the cancellation of my order).

“BUYERS: BEWARE! You might get nothing for your money. I ordered a textbook and that very same day they charged my debit card. A WHOLE WEEK LATER they finally told me they no longer had the book and my order was cancelled. It has been nearly two weeks and I STILL HAVEN’T RECEIVED MY MONEY BACK. I had to order a new book elsewhere, as I WON’T DO BUSINESS WITH THEM AGAIN, but as they still have my money I had to borrow money to buy a replacement book until my refund finally shows up. I think it is very WRONG they can take your money on the day you order but not refund it as quickly. Also, because it took so long to find out they didn’t have my book anymore, I had to pay priority shipping fees to get a new book on time for class to start. BUYER, BEWARE OF USING ECAMPUS! You might get nothing for your money paid.”

–Janie Jones

January 6:

Within a couple of hours I get the following email from eCampus.com

“Hello Janie Jones,

This is regarding the review that you wrote about eCampus.com at ResellerRatings.com.

We thought you would like to know that eCampus.com has written a public comment in reply to your review. Please visit the link below to view your review along with the merchant’s reply:

Thanks,

Exxx
The ResellerRatings Team”

January 6:

Naturally, I go see what their response is.

“Hi Janie Jones!

I apologize for the inconvenience. Your order is an eCampus Marketplace order. The Marketplace is where an individual sells his/her book on our site and chooses a listing price. eCampus allows Marketplace sellers up to 7 business days to confirm and ship your order. If the seller does not confirm the order within this time frame, the order will automatically be cancelled. This was the case in regards to your order. An email was sent to your email address on file notifying you of this. For security purposes charge for an order at the time an order is placed. This allows us to check the authenticity of the information to protect our customers. As a customer courtesy I have applied $15 of in store credit to your account for use on a future order. (What they don’t mention is that the only other copies which *claim* to be available are running about double the price or more, it is a used book brokerage, not an actual store so there are no set prices.  I am certainly not about to pay twice the price when I can rent the damn book for a fraction of the price.)

We appreciate your feedback!

Axxxxx
Customer Service Representative”

 

January 6:

Unimpressed and totally unappeased, I respond by email with the following message.
“Thank you for your message.  I have reviewed eCampus’s response, and found it inadequate; I already understood all this information. I feel it ignores the real issue of my dissatisfaction and what future customers need to know about doing business here.  What is not addressed in the eCampus reply and makes me most angry is that you can debit my account on the same day I order, but you apparently can’t refund on the same day you cancel.  Protecting your seller’s interests, as eCampus calls it, is fine, but what about the buyer’s interests?  It seems I’m the one needing your protection, and by my logic, the only way I get that is with an immediate refund.  I don’t even get a estimate of when I might get my money back.

I do not regret the comment I made, potential eCampus buyers need to know that if the merchandise they order is suddenly unavailable it could take an uncertain period of time to get their money back, not to mention it could take a whole week to find out they can’t get an advertised product.  I don’t have unlimited financial resources (or I wouldn’t by buying used books from the lowest bidder) or unlimited time before I need this book.  I would have left a less negative comment if eCampus had already given me my refund or at least left me some idea of getting one within a few days.  No refund in hand and no idea of when I might see one is unacceptable, especially when I had to find more funds I don’t have to secure a book for class before it starts.
I can’t help be angry I’m stuck waiting who knows how long for a refund and I see this as eCampus’s fault for not watching out better for the interests of buyers.  Your sellers won’t make any money if their buyers aren’t happy.  Holding on to buyer’s funds after a product is no longer available and failing to communicate a time frame for when that money might be returned is not just a bad business practice that pisses off your seller’s customers, it’s WRONG.  If you can take it out within minutes of a sale, you should give it back within minutes of a cancellation.  Other business I have dealt with can do this, so should you.  PERIOD.
Giving me a $15 credit to buy more merchandise doesn’t help as placing a second order from eCampus, even if I trusted this wouldn’t happen again, could never get the book I need here before my class starts.  Please just ensure I get a speedy refund, that is the only thing eCampus could do to mitigate my negativity toward your company.
–Janie Jones”
I don’t expect any real satisfaction or useful response. 
But I can tell you if I don’t get my money back soon, there will be no dropping this.
January 2, 2014

I’ve had to do a lot of inanely boring tasks in pursuit of my $8/hr, but this one is really killing me

by Janie Jones

So my boss is teaching a creative writing class this spring.  Apparently she used to teach one but she says it’s been about 20 years.  I don’t know why she was given a creative writing course this semester after all those years.  I didn’t ask.  I don’t really care and I’m really not one bit curious.  I get paid no matter what she teaches, and as she’s generally a great person to work for, and is grateful for all the boringly tedious jobs I do in her stead, it’s basically all the same to me.

At first I thought, “Oh, creative writing.  This should be interesting and fun.”

The class hasn’t even started yet and I am now so sick to death of it I hope with all my soul that I will have as little to do with it as possible.

Surprised?  Me too.

Curious as to why?  Well, I’ll assume you are or you would just stop reading.

First, the textbook is absolutely written to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Now, having helped for 5 semesters with the basic freshman composition classes, I know there’s a lot of people out there who manage to make it through high school who couldn’t write a clear, coherent, grammatically correct account of pouring a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast, much less make it interesting.  These people need textbooks which write in three and four letter words and studiously avoid anything exceeding two or three syllables.  They need to be told the ridiculous basics such as a complete sentence must have a noun and a verb.  But most of these students are just hoping to get through the class because it’s required for pretty much every “degree” and certificate program under the sun.  They don’t aspire to be writers.  However, this class is one students freely choose to take, presumably because they want to be writers. So, I feel they deserve and also need a higher caliber textbook; one that is going to challenge their intellect, make them think harder, one that assumes they are more than just mouth-breathing vegetables whose only experience with writing thus far is what they recently tweeted about, they need a class and a textbook that goes beyond the blatantly obvious.  This book is supposedly teaching people to be better creative writers. It kinda makes me vomit a bit in my mouth when the book is telling people things like how it’s important to use specific and descriptive words instead of vague, boring words, or how your work must exhibit tension and energy or it will not hold a reader’s interest.  I’m really sorry, but seriously?  Isn’t this kind of like saying the sky is blue?  If you really are someone who wants to be a creative writer shouldn’t this be something you instinctively understand?  In my mind it seems like if you had to be told this, you probably don’t belong in this class.  Naturally I see there is real value examining these concepts and practicing building your skill at these things, but if you don’t already realize their importance you’ve missed your calling.

Secondly, it seems to me that this author chose to write this textbook on how be a creative writer because she couldn’t hack it as one herself.  Her text book is boring to read, none of the pieces she uses as examples are remotely interesting to me, and she rambles and beats the dead horse of her various points into hamburger as if she was getting paid by the word.  Furthermore, both she and her editor seem to love incomplete sentences and, while I am definitely not an expert on comma placement, even I want to gouge my eyes out at all the superfluous commas not to mention all the dashes and miscellaneous and unnecessary punctuation sprinkled with great abandon throughout the text.  As my “job” over the holiday break was to type all the practice assignments and exercises in the textbook so my boss will be able to upload them to the online classroom, both myself and Microsoft’s grammar checker are having bona fide conniption fits at all these grammar and linguistic inconsistencies.   I have four more chapters to transcribe.  I hope the grammar checker doesn’t decide to crash and take MS Word with it, but, on the other hand, then I’d be able to get out of finishing this project.

The only thing worse to me than imagining what kind of assignments the students might conceive as a result of “learning” from this textbook is imagining that they might actually suppose that it gave them a good education on the creative writing process.  While I’m up on my soap box, I’d just like to say that if this textbook is the drivel that passes for a solid primer in training new and upcoming authors, then it is plain to see why 90% of them aren’t worth reading, much less the razing of entire forests of trees to produce the paper their “work” is printed on.  I don’t think it is necessary or even stimulating to read modern creative writing that is chock full of pattern pieces, initiations, and slang.  As I consider the classics, there are many authors who had exceptionally engaging works that still upheld the traditions of solid grammar and freely and unapologetically used multisyllabic words that engage one’s intellect whilst still entertaining.  I can’t help but feel this textbook does a sorry disservice to aspiring writers.  It implies that conventions of grammar and intellect in writing are not necessary, that you can hide behind “creativity” and ignore what makes a good writer stand out:  How to use the English language to it’s fullest potential.

If I ever find myself in a post apocalyptic world in which I have to stay warm by fire, I would seriously cry having to burn books to keep warm.  But, that said, I’d not loose one ounce of sleep flinging this textbook on the fire.  Heck, I might just burn it for the fun once the semester is over.

I’ll get down of my soap box now.  I still have to brave my way through 4 more chapters.

Someone please pass the Pepto.  I just read the first assignments in Chapter 7, and I feel sick.

January 1, 2014

All the great intentions in the world and still you get bupkiss

by Janie Jones

Sledding on New Years Eve 2013 018

I had wonderful intentions to do some blogging over the holidays.

Then the Spud, the first class disease vector she is, arrived home and shared the joy of the head cold she incubated at her Dad’s down in the midwest.  My gift of the lesser plague came snot wrapped on Christmas Day afternoon, and had pretty much knocked me out ever since.  I can report we have gone through about 4 boxes of Kleenex since her arrival and I have had to disengage the IV drip of tea as I was so stoned on caffeine it was hard to tell if the congestion or the buzz was keeping me up despite being absolutely exhausted.

I have managed to do some work on my laptop so I will still get paid over the holidays, but besides from that I’ve mostly been curled up in a fluffy blankey playing Free Cell, reading the books I got for Christmas and eating every manner of holiday treats I can get my hands on.  I remarked to Leif, who is also sick as a dog, that it’s been nice doing not much of anything, but I would prefer doing nothing while I’m healthy.  See, I’m never satisfied, am I?

I did feel slightly better yesterday so I took the Spud sledding.

Sledding on New Years Eve 2013 001

Rupert was much smarter than us, he got about 20 feet from the Jeep and decided “F*#k this, my holiday sweater isn’t rated to -30!” and ran back and jumped in the Jeep.

It wasn’t much sledding as much as it was like the luge without walls.  The snow had frozen into a sheet of ice which we pretty much careened down at breakneck speed until we hit the hard crusty snow banks below and were thrown from our sled.  While I don’t handle carnival rides quite as well as I used to, neither the Spud nor I was daunted by the primal screams extracted from our congestion encrusted lungs and continued to race down the sledding hill, laugh as we flew from the sled, and once confirming neither of us was actually injured and the sled still intact, we slogged back up for more again, and again, and again until the Spud’s feet got too cold.  Yesterday at sledding time the windchill was reported at -34, but it didn’t feel so bad when we were running up the hill and laughing like idiots and screaming with terror as we sped back down.  Oddly enough her Dad did not send her with winter boots rated to -30, so she had to borrow a pair of mine which we stuffed with extra sheep’s fleece.  Apparently, however, our efforts to pad my old boots were only half successful, as one foot stayed toasty and the other got painfully cold.

Sledding on New Years Eve 2013 003

So despite the colds, we are managing to enjoy our holiday as much as possible.  Besides from not blogging myself, I haven’t been visiting much, so I hope you all are enjoying your holidays, too.  The spud and her bio-hazard spewing mucosal membranes are returning south on Sunday.  Maybe I’ll heal up and be able to return to blogging before school resumes.

Maybe.

Happy New Year!

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