School Is Back In Session

It’s something I’ve mentioned in my monthly wrap-up posts, but I wanted to do a post specifically about it.

I’m back in school!  My goal is get into a health information technology program, and once I graduate from that program, there is a test I can take which, assuming I pass, means I’ll be a registered health information technician.  So I’ll basically be certified to do the job I’m currently doing, plus a few other things.

That’s going to be a long ways off, because I’m doing all of the prerequisite stuff I need to get into the program and to graduate with an associate’s degree.

Let’s talk about summer classes!

Summer school was definitely interesting!  I took three classes, so I was really busy for a couple of months.  I took math (to get it out of the way), English (I needed it to take a lot of other classes) and medical terminology (to even get into the HIT program, and as a pre-req for another class to get into the HIT program).

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I ended up with an A in English.  I would have been annoyed with myself if I did.  After book blogging for so long, it was really fun to talk about books.  I felt like that actually made the class easier!  I liked the books we read- Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet and The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society, and the third book was a book we got to choose.  Of course I went with Illuminae, which was a very good decision on my part.

My other A was medical terminology, which wasn’t a surprise because I’ve worked in healthcare for over 8 years now.  Also, if I got anything lower, I would have been really disappointed in myself.  It really was a great class, and with the discussion posts, we got to apply what we were reading to a real life situation.  I learned a lot and I’m actually finding it’s making my job easier!

Math was the one I was worried about, and the first couple of weeks were rough.  I’ve never been a math person, and I’ve always struggled with it.  But I somehow got a B, and it was the one class where I didn’t particularly care what my grade was, as long as it was a grade that meant I didn’t have to take it again.

Math was definitely interesting.  I worked super-hard that first week, only to have a professor change one week in…and all of the homework I did that first week didn’t count for my grade.  It was super-frustrating, but at least I knew that material pretty well.  A different professor meant a completely different grading system and a completely different access code for My Math Lab because he used a different book.

On the plus side, though, we had unlimited attempts for the tests, so I could take it as many times as I wanted until I got the grade I wanted.  And it was the same for the homework- if we got a problem wrong, we could get similar problems until we got it right.  That helped a lot because for the stuff I struggled with, I could do it over and over until I got right and understood it.

I can honestly tell you I have not used trigonometry in over 10 years, when I was last in school.  And I’m pretty sure I will not actually need it in the future, but it was a requirement that is now done, and I will never have to worry about it again.

And now that the fall semester has started, let’s talk about that!

This part is going to be a lot shorter, because I’m only a couple weeks in.

History is really interesting.  I’m taking Native American history, since I’m not really familiar with their history.  It’s a lot of reading and discussion posts with a few tests.  Since I’ve always loved history, so I’m not super-worried about this class.  There is some supplementary material given to us every week, like movies or websites to check out.  But the workload isn’t too bad.

Astronomy is pretty similar to history in that it’s reading and a few participation exercises each week.  There are videos and links to extra material for both astronomy and history, and with both classes, there’s a lot of structure and support from the professors.  It really feels like they want us to do well.

Unfortunately, I don’t get that same feeling with human anatomy and physiology.  The material itself is fine, but a few weeks in, and I’m finding this class to be frustrating.  The tests are really strange- there is some repetition with the questions, in that some of the questions show up several times but with a slightly wording.  Some of the answers are bizarre- you see answers like brain, all of the above, heart, liver.  And some of the questions are worded really weird.

On top of that, with the tests I’ve taken so far, there are always a few questions that have nothing to do with the assigned material for the week.  It’s material that’s not in the book, or referenced anywhere in the class- no links to videos or things we need to read.  It’s frustrating, because it’s hard to study for a test when I don’t know what I need to study!  The workbook the teacher put together that we have to turn in at the end of the semester doesn’t completely match up with the textbook, so it’s hard to do that on a weekly basis.

Overall, my ultimate impression of this class is that the professor isn’t interested in engaging with us or the material.  I feel like we’re on our own, with no guidance from the professor at all.  Other than a few announcements the first day or two, there’s been radio silence from the professor.

This is a weird time to be in school.

I know teaching online is very different than teaching in-person, and that with COVID, a lot of people who aren’t used to teaching online/remotely now have to.  It would just be nice to feel like he’s putting in some effort, or interested in us learning the material.  I’ve gotten that from every other class, but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.  I really am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, because it’s been a weird year but I am struggling with being understanding.

Still, I think I have some hope it will get better, but it is what is and in the end, I’m sure I’ll do just fine.

That’s all for today, and I hope today is a good one for you.

See you next time,

Book Review: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady Of DNA by Brenda Maddox

Book: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady Of DNA by Brenda Maddox

Published October 2002 by Harper|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Biography/Science

In March 1953, Maurice Wilkins of King’s College, London, announced the departure of his obstructive colleague Rosalind Franklin to rival Cavendish Laboratory scientist Francis Crick. But it was too late. Franklin’s unpublished data and crucial photograph of DNA had already been seen by her competitors at the Cambridge University lab. With the aid of these, plus their own knowledge, Watson and Crick discovered the structure of the molecule that genes are composed of — DNA, the secret of life. Five years later, at the age of thirty-seven, after more brilliant research under J. D. Bernal at Birkbeck College, Rosalind died of ovarian cancer. In 1962, Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize for their elucidation of DNA’s structure. Franklin’s part was forgotten until she was caricatured in Watson’s book The Double Helix.

In this full and balanced biography, Brenda Maddox has been given unique access to Franklin’s personal correspondence and has interviewed all the principal scientists involved, including Crick, Watson and Wilkins.

This is a powerful story, told by one of the finest biographers, of a remarkably single-minded, forthright and tempestuous young woman who, at the age of fifteen, decided she was going to be a scientist, but who was airbrushed out of the greatest scientific discovery of the twentieth century.

This was a pretty interesting read.  It’s been a really long time since I took biology, so I don’t remember much of anything.  But I’m glad I picked up this biography because I really had no idea that she had a role in figuring out the whole DNA thing.  I mean, I (very vaguely) remember Crick and Watson, and Wilkins seems sort of familiar, but Franklin doesn’t ring a bell at all.  I don’t know if it’s because she never came up (it was high school biology, after all), or if it’s because she did, and I just don’t remember anything.

It was clear she loved science, and that it was what she wanted to do.  She was determined and hard-working and pretty successful, and it’s sad that she didn’t get more recognition.  It’s not surprising, because she was working in the U.K. after World War 2, in a male-dominated field.  I thought that Maddox did a great job at showing why she didn’t get the recognition she deserved.

It’s a pretty balanced book- we learn about who she was as a person, but we also learn a lot about the scientific developments of the time.  Things really seemed to start changing at that time, and it was interesting to see how her work played such a huge role in figuring out the mysteries of DNA.  She was so close to figuring it out herself, and it was sad that her work was passed along without her knowledge.  That other people got the credit for figuring it out when they couldn’t have done it without her…I really felt for her.  It’s too bad she didn’t get more recognition for all of the work and research she did.

I didn’t love it, and there were times where I had to put it down because I did struggle just the smallest bit with reading it.  I’m not sure why, because I thought it was a pretty interesting read.  I did like that it wasn’t too technical, and it felt like the material was pretty easy to understand.  I do wonder what would have happened had she not died so young- she died from cancer the age of 37, and she did a lot in her life.  Would else would she have discovered and done had she not died?

3 stars.  I didn’t love it- I’m not sure why, but generally speaking I’m not a huge biography person, so that might be it.  While I really liked her story, and while I wish she got the recognition she deserved, I wasn’t as into it as I thought it would be.  I think’s a story everyone should know, because she contributed a lot to one of the biggest scientific discoveries we’ve seen.

Book Review: Panic In Level Four by Richard Preston

panic-in-level-4-coverBook: Panic In Level Four by Richard Preston

Published May 2008 by Random House|188 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Science

What It’s About:

Bizarre illnesses and plagues that kill people in the most unspeakable ways. Obsessive and inspired efforts by scientists to solve mysteries and save lives. From The Hot Zone to The Demon in the Freezer and beyond, Richard Preston’s bestselling works have mesmerized readers everywhere by showing them strange worlds of nature they never dreamed of.

Panic in Level 4 is a grand tour through the eerie and unforgettable universe of Richard Preston, filled with incredible characters and mysteries that refuse to leave one’s mind. Here are dramatic true stories from this acclaimed and award-winning author, including:

• The phenomenon of “self-cannibals,” who suffer from a rare genetic condition caused by one wrong letter in their DNA that forces them to compulsively chew their own flesh–and why everyone may have a touch of this disease.
• The search for the unknown host of Ebola virus, an organism hidden somewhere in African rain forests, where the disease finds its way into the human species, causing outbreaks of unparalleled horror.
• The brilliant Russian brothers–“one mathematician divided between two bodies”–who built a supercomputer in their apartment from mail-order parts in an attempt to find hidden order in the number pi (π).

In fascinating, intimate, and exhilarating detail, Richard Preston portrays the frightening forces and constructive discoveries that are currently roiling and reordering our world, once again proving himself a master of the nonfiction narrative and, as noted in The Washington Post, “a science writer with an uncommon gift for turning complex biology into riveting page-turners.”

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Panic On Level 4 seemed like it would be interesting and different and informative, but I ended up not liking it as much as I thought.  I thought it would be a lot more compelling than it actually was.  And this might be an unfair comparison, but it makes me wonder how different the book would be if it were written by Mary Roach.

Each chapter is about something different, so I thought I’d talk about what I thought about each chapter.

  • The Mountains Of Pi: This chapter is about 2 brothers, both mathematicians.  I thought this chapter was boring and uninteresting, and not the best chapter to start the book with, especially given the introduction talks about ebola.   Back to this chapter, though, because ebola does come up later.  I found I didn’t really care about finding however many billions of digits of pi, and why it was so important to them.
  • A Death In The Forest: I don’t remember anything about this chapter, and I’m glad I haven’t returned the book to the library, because I had to flip through this chapter to remember what it was about- this one type of insect that destroys hemlock trees.  I was too bored to actually re-read the chapter.
  • The Search For Ebola: I think this chapter should have started off the book, and it was one of two chapters I was actually interested in.  It seems like there’s a lot we don’t know about it, and I know there was this one video I watched in a couple classes in high school about it.  I would definitely read this chapter if you pick up this book.
  • The Human Kabbalah: This chapter is about the Human Genome Project.  I’ve heard of it, but I don’t really know anything about it.  I’m not surprised by the politics involved in a few different groups working on genomes, and this was the other chapter I was really interested in.  It makes me want to learn more about it.
  • The Lost Unicorn: This about several unicorn tapestries, and this chapter was really out of place.  It didn’t fit with the other chapters (all of which were about math and science and health).  It was definitely one of my least favorite chapters in the book.
  • The Self-Cannibals: This was sort of interesting.  Not as interesting as the chapter about Ebola or the Human Genome Project, but it was better than the bugs in the forest, the Unicorn Tapestries or the pi mathematicians.  I didn’t even know that there were people who, in essence, were self-cannibals, but at the same time, it also shows how weird genes and DNA can be.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars.  Overall, it was okay.  It’s definitely not my thing, but a couple of things were interesting.  Definitely read the chapter about ebola and the Human Genome Project (and maybe the one about self-cannibals) but skip the rest of them.  I thought it would be a different book than the one I read.