Wednesday, August 10, 2005


For the first time I can remember, I have completely used up a three-subject notebook.

The first day of classes was two months ago, on June 9. I started out by making a note about the fact that water molecules are "polar," whatever that meant. And there was some stuff about hydrocarbon chains. Soap was described as a "functional (and big-ass) molecule," with a hydrophillic head and a hydrophobic tail. And there was some parenthetical stuff thrown in about how I thought it would be cool to look at what magnesium sulfate is, and why it helps with migraines. Then I settled down to some problems (I guess there were not too many notes that first day) and the next day we started with the lab. Real notes started the following Monday, with Dalton and Rutherford and atomic theory.

This notebook ends with a back page where I'm finding a bunch of resonance structures for C5H12 (there are three, by the way). The organized part ends with yesterday's notes about the molecular orbitals in CO2, using SALCs to show which combinations of SP2 hybrid orbitals work, and where the sigma, sigma*, pi, and pi* bonds are in relation to the original energy levels of the MOs in the molecule. The chart looks like crap, but the info is correct.

We are not in Kansas anymore, people. I complain about the truncated, compressed, five-week Summer courses. It's just enough like Keanu getting an eight-inch RCA plug through the back of the neck to be unpleasant, and regrettably not as fast (not to mention, the kung fu I know now is arguably not as cool). But it's getting clearer that what appeared impenetrable is now, four to nine weeks later, nearly easy. This occurred to me after I sat down and whipped out some stuff today that I need for a project, and remarked on the foreign language I've been learning.

See, a water molecule is polar because the electronegativity of oxygen is 3.5, versus the 2.1 on hydrogen, plus the structure is bent, which puts the net dipole of the O up on its own end. I can create a nifty graphic in Gaussian, or run a sample through the UV-vis or the NMR to show you more about it, but really all you need to do is see how the boiling point of water is way higher than that of, say, methane. The mag sulfate thing will be more thoroughly explained in Biochem, I'm sure. I think that's in Spring term.

Another nice thing about today was that Dr. Fargo, a friend from back home who finished his EM residency
at the Center of Excellence and now works in the 'burbs, sent me some notes he says he plans to use when he writes the letter of rec he will be sending to my program here. It'll be part of the committee letter, or maybe accompany it, when the time comes for me to work on the big med school application. He doesn't have to do this, and in some ways I'd rather he didn't, but hey, if a guy asks how many "l's" are in "excellent," what are you going to say? (No, that didn't actually happen, but I'm saying he's writing it, not me.)

Sure, my grades so far do nothing to boost my soggy GPA and the faculty is probably worried I'll go completely sideways on the day of my MCAT, but the letters are looking good so far. Fargo says some things about me that make me go "gawsh" and look at my shoes. But at the same time, it's a nice reminder of "hey, yeah, I know what this is all about; these ain't just pajamas I'm wearing" and "ohhh yeah, that's why I've volunteered for this absurd adventure." And I will cheerfully own anything that helps me do that.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Best song lyric of my life (this week)

P-p-p-"pneumothorax" is a word that is long
They’re just tryin’ to put the punk back into "punctured lung"

The Kaiser Chiefs rule.