Field of Science

47% Pride

As basically everyone knows Romney came out to a bunch of his multimillionaire buddies. Well he didn't come out as in he admires Paul Ryan's abs o' steel or anything. He came out as a heartless bastard that really doesn't understand the real world. Of course he isn't elitist, you have to be educated to be elitist (at least in republican circles).

One of the key comments Romney made is:

"Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.  All right?  There are 47% who are with him.  Who are dependent upon government, who believe that-- that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.  But that's-- it's an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.  And they will vote for this president no matter what. 
And-- and-- I mean the president starts off with 48%, 49%, 40-- or he-- he starts off with a huge number.  These are people who pay no income tax.  47% of Americans pay no income taxes.  So our message of low taxes doesn't connect.  And he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.  I mean that's what they sell every-- every four years. 
And-- and so my job is not to worry about those people.  I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives.  What I have to do is convince the 5% to 10% in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion.  Whether they like the guy or not.  What they-- what it looks like.  I mean the-- it's the-- the-- when you ask those people-- we do all these polls.  I find it amazing.  We poll all these people, see where you stand in the polls.  About 45% of the people will vote for the Republican and 48% or 49%--"
Let me tell you a story.

My mom is a personal hero of mine. She embodies all those family values republicans supposedly cherish. She raised two kids, I was one of them. She's a single mom, because my parents got divorced not because she was one of those 'women who have lots of unprotected sex to make babies for the government to support' that republicans love to fantasize about. I realize many with the republican mindset still feel my mom is deficient because she was unable to keep her marriage intact. Regardless, she raised my brother and I and we both went to college (ergo we're elitists and use words like ergo). She worked full-time while raising us, while my dad did not pay court ordered child-support. She found time to attend my after school functions including marching and jazz band events. So I think by most criteria my mom fulfills those 'real american' values republicans love to crow about. Hell, my mom even voted republican for many years (she got better).

My mom is also one of those 47%ers Romney dislikes and discounts. She is also one of those 47%ers many non-rich Romney supporters dislike and discount.

From the earliest time I can remember, my mom worked full-time. The first job I am aware of is as an assistant nurse type job at a nursing home a few miles from our home. I remember that she worked the overnight shift, at least for a time, and I didn't get to spend much time with her. I also remember going there numerous times to see the patients and getting to know a few of them pretty well. I was probably 4 or 5 at the time. The owners of the nursing home stopped running it and went into real estate, Century 21 if I recall correctly. So my mom found a new job in a secretarial or accounting capacity, I think, at an advertising company, the kind that put up billboards. I also remember going to the office on weekends some times so she could do some work that needed doing. I got to wander around the garage area and mess around with stray supplies. I also encountered my first swimsuit calendar there, I was in the 6 - 9 range. Then she started working at a semi-conductor factory closer to home. She worked there until around the time I graduated and went to college when the plant shut down. Not exactly sure what she did there, she wasn't a floor worker but wasn't a front office secretary either. I think she was an assistant to the management team or something along those lines. She then did a short stint in a nursing assistant type position, before taking a position at an eye clinic. That was the last job she had, which lasted close to 15 years. She was always trying to better herself, to learn new things, gain new skills (elitist!). Towards the end of her tenure with the eye clinic, she was trying to become a technician in order to do certain aspects of the examination.

My mom owned her house outright. She paid off the mortgage and although it needed a bunch of work, it was hers. She basically drove the same car for as long as one could drive it and when the time came to replace it, she bought a used one. In fact, I recall only one new car being bought which occurred when I was real young and my parents were still married. My dad totaled it shortly after we got it.

I remember lay-away plans for Christmas gifts and the Christmas clubs through the banks. We never had many of the bells and whistles associated with solid middle class living, but we had a nice house in a nice neighborhood, I had toys to play with, though my next door neighbor always had much better toys (which is probably why I spent so much time at his house as opposed to vice versa). I probably would have benefited from more attention and guidance with schoolwork, but single mom remember?

But I also know we did not have to use food stamps or access welfare services. Unless we consider free/reduced school lunches of course, in that case I was one of those victimized 10 year olds who felt they're entitled to food.

So although my mom raised two sons to be at least reasonably successful. She paid her own way and paid income tax until she stopped working. (She also paid payroll taxes, sales tax, property tax, etc. just like all those other 47%ers who 'don't pay taxes'.)

But you know what? My mom has succumbed to Alzheimer's disease. She had early onset which started in her early 60s. This is ultimately why she lost her job at the eye clinic. She could not reliably function, she forgot how things were done and made many mistakes. She also had extreme problems filling out a check to pay a bill. It wasn't like she didn't try to pay her bills, she would go to the counter at the cable company and not know how to fill out the check! She frequently could not even understand how to pay using money. As far as modern medicine is concerned, she had no control over her disease. She did not 'do anything wrong' to cause this disease. She had been a smoker, but had quit cold turkey about 20 years earlier. She drank a little wine or a beer occasionally, but there were no puritanical reasons to assume my mom brought the disease on herself. It just fucking happened. She did not have the fucking option of taking responsibility for herself. I took on that responsibility.

I moved my mom out to Minnesota from her only home in Maine about 10 years ago. My brother and I sold her stuff and sold her home. Her savings, retirement, and essentially everything she ever earned over a life-time of hard work was liquidated and used to pay for her healthcare. I wonder if Romney has ever wondered what it would be like if after a lifetime of work all his children had to remember him by were a few trinkets and pictures. I expect not.

So my mom paid taxes for decades and sold off all her assets to cover her expenses. And you know what, she hasn't paid income tax in a fair number of years. She is the 47%. Apparently you should despise my mom more than the other members of the 47% because she isn't even using her government freebies (social security) to buy things with the added sales tax. My mom spends her day sitting in a chair or laying on a bed, requiring a nurse or nurse assistant to move her between the two. She cannot feed herself or in anyway take care of herself. This is who she is now. As Romney said:
Who are dependent upon government, who believe that-- that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.  But that's-- it's an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.
I guess it fact my mom doesn't think she's a victim or that she's 'entitled to healthcare, food, housing, you name it.' My mom doesn't think many thoughts, if any at all. She doesn't recognize me or her grandson, she hasn't been able to speak in quite some time. But I think that. I think as a citizen of the USA who contributed her entire life, raised a family, paid taxes on so many levels that she deserves access to the riches of this country. I guess she didn't build those businesses she worked in, but she contributed to their success. Maybe if I think her government should support her now, I should take over my mother's care. I guess that makes some sense. Im not qualified in healthcare, but I could probably figure out the simple things. Of course my mom requires 24/7/365 day care. So I could quit my job and stop paying taxes to take care of her. Of course that means my son will now be living on the street and not getting 3 square meals a day. Im sure not having a sense of security regarding housing and food will be a character building exercise for him.

Obviously to be an upstanding citizen and father, I won't let him have government paid for food, he can forage from garbage cans. Ill also take him out of school since we won't be paying property taxes. I'll have to do this based on Romney's logic, because I don't want him growing up thinking of himself as a victim entitled to "healthcare, food, housing, you name it." Hmm, you know what, that sounds fucking insane. How about this greatest country on the planet stop fucking whining about protecting its citizens.

I have told numerous people that I am not voting for Obama because I consider him the lesser of two evils, which is still evil. Obama has done some good things in my opinion, but those do not offset the truly horrible things I think he has done: warrantless wiretaps, allowing torture to pass by unperturbed, DOJ raiding marijuana clinics at record levels, eliminating due process, and other aspects of executive overreach. I know it is near impossible to do anything with Congress as it is, but ultimately Obama does not represent many of my views. So, I was not voting for Obama, I also wasn't voting for Romney because he is evil, great big evil.

Well Im voting for Obama now. In fact, I just donated to his campaign for the first time this election. I will do so again. Not because Obama is now a great candidate, but because Romney convinced me that he is such a complete douchebag.

So when you go to vote remember Romney's viewpoint
And-- and so my job is not to worry about those people.  I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives.  What I have to do is convince the 5% to 10% in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion.  Whether they like the guy or not."
Those people is my mom. Romney is not worried about her. Romney thinks my mom didn't take personal responsibility and care for her life. Romney thinks he can convince 5 - 10%  of voters that are independents that my mom thinks "they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.  But that's-- it's an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them."

Well I got good news for you Romney, my mom cannot vote. So, she's one of the 47% who is not voting for Obama. Unfortunately the bad news is that I am one of the 53% that now is voting for Obama.

From the Tax Policy Center
On behalf of my mom, my hero, who I knew well before the Alzheimer's took her, FUCK YOU ROMNEY! And fuck you Romney supporters who think the 47% represents those mythical lazy shits who do nothing but live high on the hog and not the elderly, the working poor, and the unemployed. (You really can't forget about the unemployed, you cannot blame them for not having jobs while at the same time blaming Obama for not making jobs. You realize that if there are fewer jobs available than unemployed people, then some people have to be unemployed?)

How to Study: a Repost

This seems timely to repost.

Since a new semester is about to begin I think a post on how to study would be apropos. So here is an advice column for students looking for some techniques to improve their study habits. I am not an expert in learning, but I am an expert in being a college student with no fucking idea how to study and had to figure it out over the course of a year or two. I was one of those students who didn't have to do much to maintain an A/B average in high school. Although I was exposed to study skills and habits while in high school, none of it stuck because I really didn't need to study to do reasonably well. So here is what I learned that worked for me. If you have your own successful techniques, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Learning is an active process, it requires energy. It may not be as physically taxing as a 45 minute work out, but then again you may not be doing it right. What I discovered is that I learn when I do things, when I engage the material, when I'm an active participant. If it's a couple of days before the big exam and you're wondering to yourself 'What's the best way I can study? I know, I'll take some time to play online and get some tips.' Well, if this is you, you're fucked or at least I don't have anything for you. Come back after your upcoming exam, my advice might help you for the next exam. Right now, you are in cram mode, so you better start cramming and not wasting your time reading blogs. I will admit that cramming works, to a degree. Cramming is a short term solution, getting enough material under you belt to survive or even succeed at the exam. But it's a long-term problem. Are you really in college to survive exams and classes? That was really high school wasn't it? Cramming is problematic because the material is never actually learned, it may come up again on the final, it will likely be important next semester or the semester after that in your more advanced classes. Learning and cramming both take energy, but the former is far less stressful and provides both short-term and long-term gains.

Step 1. Find an environment to study in. Ultimately this became at my desk in the bedroom of my apartment. I also kept my stereo close to police notification level. I learned quickly that I could ignore the music, but sounds from the street, from the kitchen/dining/living room area, or from anywhere outside my room were distracting. To this day, when Im working on grants or papers and do not want to be disturbed, I  close my office door and crank up some music. Although I am a chaotic person by nature, my desk was neat and organized. I needed a place to work comfortably and that was it. My textbooks and notebooks were stacked in/on some milk crates I used for shelves. (These of course were the store bought kind of 'milk crates' not the easily available sturdy and inexpensive milk crates available behind 7/11s, like the one across the street of my apartment. Although if they were the illicit version, which they weren't, they would have been returned when I moved to go to graduate school.)

$0.69 for 3 in 1989
Step 2. Get a bunch of notebooks. I used spiral bound notebooks available for next to nothing at drug stores. Of course these notebooks will have absurd cover designs or pictures you would never in a million years gravitate towards (see picture of my Molecular Biology notebook). That's not the point. The point is what's inside the notebook, and that will be gold. I mixed up the designs on the notebooks I bought so I could easily identify which one I wanted. The alternative is to be flipping through them wondering if this is the black notebook Im looking for. Get one notebook for every class you take (except maybe for the golf/tennis/etc classes). Any class that has a lecture has its own notebook. No cheating by getting a three-subject notebook. Also, get a couple of additional notebooks.

These things are evidence of evil
Since you're at the drug store all ready, get some pens and pencils. I love pens, but despise cheap ass ball point pens. You'll be using these a lot, so get pens/pencils you are comfortable with. Make sure you get a variety of colors. I survived with black, blue, and red, but there is a veritable palate of colored inks now. Get what you love or at least can tolerate. I prefer mechanical pencils, but if you get classic ones, you better kick in for a decent pencil sharpener or two. Also grab some highlighters also in assorted colors.

Step 3. Do the readings strategically. Chapter 3 is covered Wednesday? Read it through by Tuesday night. That isn't very strategic is it? The strategy is to skim read the text. Get a sense of what's in there and what will be the likely topics and points for the upcoming lecture. You don't need to be more than familiar with the material. (In the case of labs, this is not true. You must be intimately aware of the material, because you will be using that information in the lab. Hell, there may even be a quiz on the lab manual!)

Step 4. Go to class. Although you probably couldn't pass a quiz on the readings material, the vocabulary is familiar. Now you already know a bit about the upcoming lecture. Gather up your pens and pencils and one of the extra notebooks. Leave your textbooks at home, along with the highlighters, and other notebooks. You don't need much.

Get to class on time and get a good seat. In large classes, I recommend a seat near to the front and in the middle where the professor can actually see you. Why? Psychology that's why. Take two students doing equally well, one student the professor recognizes, even if there is no name associated with the face, and one student the professor has barely, if ever, seen. If both come to discuss an issue regarding an examination or writing assignment, which one will have at least a sub-conscious advantage?

Open your notebook to page 1 get out a couple of writing implements and get ready. If the professor has handouts or, god forbid, print outs of the slides, then definitely pick them up, but DONT use them during the lecture (with rare exception). Your job is to take a shit ton of notes. Don't worry about neatness and perfection, just get the stuff written down. Write down the points on the slides, the drawings, incorporate what the professor is saying. The very act of writing things down is helping you learn the material. 'But we have the slide print outs, so why write stuff down?' you ask. In my more youthful days I would have responded with 'Because we didn't have the material presented to us, so stop being so fucking needy.' But in my dotage I think an example is better. What is another name for a television? Did 'idiot box' spring to mind? There's a reason for that. Some people watch tons of TV, these are not inherently the most educated people in the world. My mother loved to watch soap operas during the 70s, hours of soap operas. She was not an expert in social interactions because of this nor was she an expert story teller, she just watched a lot of soap operas. This is one of the biggest impediments to learning, fucking handouts. Remember I said learning was an active process. Lectures are not television. You should be doing something not just watching. The problem with handouts is that it facilitates the TV watching mentality. There are reasons to hand out the notes, which is why you are collecting them, but wait until later to use them. For now, take a shit ton of notes.  Do not be tempted to put notes in the margin of the print outs, you bought the cheap ass notebook, so use it. (Plus you'll want a pristine copy of those hand outs for later.) So, you were in class sitting in a strategic location, you took a shit ton of notes, now what? Go to your next class and repeat using the same notebook.

Notes on chromosomal
melting temps.
Step 5. THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP: The next day. So you went to all your classes, even the ones you think are boring, and you took a bunch of notes, even on things you think you know already. Now what? Hang out with friends, watch TV, play some Xbox, then go to bed and the next day go to all your other classes. At some point on this second day, you need to carve out some studying time. When depends on your schedule. I did this in the mid-late-afternoon, because I was generally done with classes then. Go to your studying environment, get out your notes from yesterday, one of the fresh notebooks that will be specific for a specific class, any handouts, and your textbook. Now you will rewrite your notes in a more organized and legible manner. As you rewrite, you will refer to the text for additional points, and in your class-specific notebook you can either incorporate the textbook material or simple refer to the page numbers/figure numbers. Either redraw or cut out the handout figures you need and add them to your notebook. This could take as long as the original lecture, but probably won't. Regardless, you are now learning some serious material. The act of rewriting helps embed the information into your memory, by organizing the material in a manner that works for you (which is probably like it was presented) you are thinking about the material in total not simply one fact after another. You are also reading the text in a more in depth way, which is easier because you already skimmed it and went to the lecture. Do this for those boring easy classes too. It helps maintain good study habits and instead of simply learning the material, you'll own it. Another benefit is that if you do this, you will know before the next lecture what material you may not understand. This gives you a ton of time to meet with your colleagues, TAs, professor to get things straight.

Step 6. When you finish going through the crappy notes, rip out the page(s) and throw them away. You don't need them anymore because they are rewritten and you'll feel good about the progress you made.

I won't guarantee these steps will improve your grade, but I do guarantee that they will improve your understanding and knowledge of the material.

Additional thoughts:

A. Write in your textbooks, at least highlight important information. I used different colored highlighters for different purposes. Red was for definitions, blue was for what I thought were key concepts, red was for things referring to my class notebook. Will writing in your textbook reduce its value when you resell it? Well hopefully you will not resell it. Having that chemistry textbook could come in handy when you need to revisit something you forgot in your molecular biology class. If you absolutely do not want the book, why buy it in the first place? Probably you could borrow one from a colleague or use the library.

B. Scheduling. You need to prepare ahead of time when things are getting done. If you don't, you will almost certainly get behind or not have enough time. If you want to go to that party or game, you may need to start rewriting your notes earlier than normal to make sure you have enough time to finish before going out. Also, there will be several big assignments due for other classes throughout the semester, you'll need to be prepared for catching up on those notes you couldn't rewrite the day after class. (Don't get more than a class or two behind or you'll defeat the purpose of rewriting.)

C. Turn off your phone. You can survive an hour or two without reading all those awesome texts and facebook postings coming in. A 30 second distraction actually amounts to much longer, because it takes time to get back to where you were before you were distracted. Every time you break focus, you are back to a more superficial level of learning and it takes some time to get back to that deeper level.

D. When it's test time, you'll find it much easier to study. The material is already there in your mind because you've been through it at least twice already. You may have to pull an occasional all-nighter, but it will be different than the cramming you did previously.

Notes for a recently submitted grant
from a relevant paper.
E. For the record, I still use these techniques to prepare grants and papers (see photo). I do a lot of background reading and have notebooks dedicated to taking notes on the papers, complete with different colored pens. This allows me to make connections and think about the material in a much deeper way than I would be able to otherwise. Same for seminars I attend, I bring a notebook.

With those words of advice,
Good luck and have a great semester!