Days 138-150: finals

Three finals in November: Earth Sciences, Energy Tech (aka Formulas on Parade) and Energy Economics.  Lots of reading to go over, lots of concepts and equations to memorize.  Serious stuff.

Still …

Not all study techniques have to be completely serious.  The sheer volume of lecture materials in Earth Sciences — 1,000+ PowerPoint slides! — was pretty intimidating, so I experimented with different tactics to commit the material to memory.  At one point, while struggling to recall the names of the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere (thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere) I started chanting to myself just the prefixes:  thermo-meso-strato-tropo.  Before long, the chant took on a peculiar sing-song quality and I couldn’t get it out of my head:  thermo-meso-strato-tropo, thermo-meso-strato-tropo …

Atmospheric layers. Image credit: Skinner & Murck, The Blue Planet, 3d. Ed.

Also, I was hearing it sung in Jar-Jar Binks’ voice.

It’s been a long time since I had to cram for finals, and I now think it’s something you need to work up to if you don’t want to get a little warped.

There was an interesting angle to the energy tech final: rather than force you to try to memorize formulas — something that was never going to happen, even if Yoda himself decided to pitch in – the professor let you put together your own list of key equations, so long as you limited the list to two pages of notebook paper.  Even though you could use both sides of each sheet of paper, you had to write in exceedingly small script to get even a representative sample of the equations on the list.

As a teaching tool, this was pretty nifty.  I had to go over all my class notes and lecture slides twice: the first time to refresh my memory and the second to make sure I understood the equations.  I actually learned a great deal about the interrelationships between the formulas that I didn’t see while I was trying to keep up in class.  All things considered, I’m glad they came together before finals rather than after, but I could still tell it was going to be a grueling four-hour exam.

Also, Hobbes was getting a little annoyed that I was paying more attention to my notes than I was to the things that really matter, like petting the cat, and feeding the cat, and, well, you know — the cat.

Why aren’t you playing with me?

I felt pretty confident about the econ final.  The concepts fit together reasonably well after the first couple of weeks, and I did very well on both midterms.  It’s possible I was actually a little cocky about it.  You get to decide …

There’s a mall not far from where I live called Kringlan, and in it is a store called Tiger that sells all sorts of oddball items.  It’s where I ran across this flock of obviously-lost (but impeccably dressed!) birds, and also where I saw this stack of merchandise selling for about five bucks US per … um … head.

I knew I had to have one, because I knew I was going to have to reenact my favorite scenario from Gary Larson’s cartoon, The Far Side.  You know the one I’m thinking of, right?

Yeah, that’s the one.

Fortunately, the professor has a good sense of humor.  He came into the exam room about midway through the test, saw the brain sitting on the desk, and busted out laughing.

And that’s a wrap: three exams over and done.  But I have to mention one thing: in my earth sciences final, one of the questions called for a list of the layers in the Earth’s atmosphere, a description of their physical characteristics, and an explanation of how each contributes to the hydrological cycle.  And sure enough, I got stuck on the first part of the question … until you-know-who came to the rescue.

Jar jar
Me so helpful!  Image credit: Lucasfilms.

Actually, more than a little warped.  But at least it’s done!

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