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Archive for July, 2011

[#5] – Sociology 100 – Introductory Sociology

July 28, 2011 5 comments

Prior to my matriculation to the UofA, I had the choice between registering in either: Introductory Sociology, or Introductory Anthropology.  As a naive high-school student, my knowledge base in regards to these subjects were nil to none.  The thought of having to take either one of these courses spawned an implacable uncertainty that I just couldn’t shake.

*Note: After a while of wavering, I finally chose to take Introductory Sociology.  My decision (if you could call it that) was based mainly on the grounds that I could incorporate it into my class schedule easier than Anthropology.

 

Sociology is a (very) broad Social Science.

 

Which class would prove more interesting?  Which one would it be easier to succeed in?  How difficult is the content?  I now realize that such fruitless questions yield fruitless answers.  The only way to know for sure –to quell the uncertainty,– is to dive headfirst and … take the course!

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Preamble:

As stated above, I had no prior knowledge about Sociology.  Frankly, the term hadn’t even been registered in my lexicon, until I heard it in around grade 11.  Before taking the class, I deduced that because it contained the root: “socio,” then it would probably be related to social studies?  Maybe?  Beyond my haphazard speculations, all I knew was that … I knew nothing at all. (Ergo, the headfirst dive begins!) Continue Reading >>

The Importance of Scheduling

July 23, 2011 1 comment

Ahh yes, the almighty calendar.  Both a blessing and a curse.  Since its inception, it has provided people with the ability to peer into the future; to map out the days, months, and even years ahead.  It supplies us with an ever-present backbone of rigidity in which we can use to successfully meander through our hectic lives.

On the flip-side, it is this very rigidity that, at times, constricts us.  An inflexible calendar, much like an inflexible backbone, does not allow for much spontaneity, does it?  Henceforth, we must strike a balance between the two.  An ideal schedule ought to contain a certain degree of rigidness, coupled with an element of plasticity!  Who’s with me?!  …  Just me?! .. Ummm, yeah, well .. I’ll just carry on then …

Anyways, all verbosity aside, today’s post is going to focus on none other than my (frenetic) first year timetable.  You should note that: I was given full reign over the construction of my schedule.  The times of the courses, and even the courses themselves were selected solely by moi (at the end of grade 12).  Looking back at my decisions, I can safely ask myself: “What was I thinking?!”  It appears as though I was attempting to brew the perfect recipe for disaster … I mean, who in their right mind would select only morning labs?  *You will see exactly what I’m referring to in the images below. 

 

This was my Fall 2009 Schedule ... Ain't it a beaut'?

 

This was my Winter 2010 Schedule. Whose lame-brained idea was it to choose three 8:00 a.m. labs? Oh yeah, it was my idea.

 

Now that you’ve witnessed this menacing monstrosity with your own eyes, let’s begin with our analysis.  Before I go on any further, however, I have to point out that I’m not particularly a morning person.  I would very much prefer to sleep late than to wake up early.  (I know quite a few people who are entirely opposite!  Go figure!) Continue Reading >>

[#4] – Math 113 – Elementary Calculus I

July 19, 2011 5 comments

At this very moment, I am taking an introductory physics course in beautiful British Columbia.  If you’ve been dutifully following my entries (in chronological order of course), the previous sentence should seem rather precarious.  After all, what brings an UofA student from Alberta, to a different university in a different province?! (In true cliffhanger fashion, you’ll have to wait for the answer to this question in an upcoming post)

 

Math is a language that helps us understand both the physcial, and the abstract dimensions of reality.

 

Anyways, you must also be wondering: “what does any of this nonsense have to do with today’s entry on elementary calculus?”  Well, to put it simply, today’s physics lecture dealt with the properties of electric flux.  In order to understand such a concept, one should be, at the very least, acquainted with the fundamentals of calculus.  Without such knowledge, it would be difficult, nigh impossible, to develop a solid comprehension of the subject.  What I’m getting at is: sometimes, even if we don’t like it, math can be used as a language, or stepping stone, for deciphering physical constructs (ie: electric flux). Continue Reading >>

The Merits and Demerits of Grading on a Bell Curve

July 15, 2011 13 comments

This entry will touch upon the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of grading on the infamous ‘Bell Curve‘.  For those of you unfamiliar with either this grading practice, or normal distributions in general, let me briefly elaborate:

Now, for the sake of brevity, I will try to spare you from all of the mathematical gobbledygook and statistical mumbo-jumbo that traditionally comes with these sorts of explanations.

1.  What exactly is a bell curve?

A bell curve, or more specifically, a Gaussian Distribution, is a symmetric curve that is pronounced in the middle, and tapered off at the edges (it really does look like a bell).  As such, the middle portion under the curve contains more area than either of the ends.

 

This is what a typical bell curve looks like.

 

2.  What does “grading on a curve” mean?

When courses are said to be “marked on the curve,” this usually means that a predetermined percentage of students will obtain each grade.  For example, a certain amount of students will receive an A+ (top 4%), a certain amount will receive an A (next 7%), and so on and so forth.  Ultimately, the distribution of grades will fit ‘nicely’ on a bell shaped curve; with the majority of students obtaining marks near the middle portion of the curve (‘B’ range).  Unfortunately, however; this also necessitates the fact that a certain percentage of students will inevitably obtain ‘F’ grades, and fail the course entirely (bottom 6%). Continue Reading >>

[#3] – English 122 – Texts and Contexts

July 12, 2011 2 comments

English, at the University level, is a member of what I like to call: The Terrible Two.  “The Terrible Two,” or TTT for short, consists of two vehemently dreaded courses that many undergraduates are required to take at some point during their academic careers.  TTT is comprised of the aforementioned English, and its diametrically opposed ‘evil’ sibling, Physics.  Today’s post will be directed exclusively towards English … I will have to tackle its uncouth relative on a later date.  Let’s spare no time and get started!

English Class ... whyz its importent ne wayz?

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Preamble:

As I stated in the opening paragraph, for whatever reason, countless students attach a negative stigma to English courses in general.  I have observed that this mindset is adopted very early in life; possibly as early as elementary (primary) school.  Perhaps people don’t like it because they believe it is far too subjective; maybe they’ve had a poor teacher once, or twice, or thrice …  The bottom line, however, is that there are an innumerable amount of reasons for people’s overall disdain for this subject.  With that said, the only thing we can know for certain, is the fact that many students simply do not want to take an English course (but must, because of university policy; prerequisite requirements; etc.) Continue Reading >>

Attitude versus Aptitude – A Rubber Band Analogy

July 8, 2011 5 comments

Oftentimes, we are unaware of our inherent limitations, whether they be intellectual, physical, spiritual, etc.  I’m willing to take this a step further, and posit that most of us tend to underestimate, and consequently, never fully realize our true potentials.  Today’s (opinionated) entry will revolve around the highly contested, “Nature versus Nurture” debate; something that never seems to fail at creating a considerable degree of ruckus amongst academia and laymen alike.  However, instead of the politically correct terms, ‘nurture’ and ‘nature,’ I prefer to use the words ‘attitude’ and ‘aptitude.’ (Why?  Oh, no particular reason, but in my mind, “nurture” seems to imply that we have less control over the matter than we actually do)

 

Bands come in every shape and size ... How we make use of the ones that we've been given, is what really counts.

 

Although the following analogy can generalize to a myriad of situations, let’s use academic performance as an example.  First of all, I want you to imagine a rubber band (any color will do).  Let us associate this band with a person; Person A.  Now imagine a second, larger band, and associate that with Person B.  You’ve probably realized by now where I’m headed with this, that is to say, one’s intrinsic ‘aptitude’ can be modeled by the size of one’s (metaphorical) rubber band.  Thus, the greater the magnitude of one’s (unstretched) rubber band, the greater the magnitude of one’s inherent abilities.  By the same token, we can also attribute one’s ‘attitude’ with the degree to which one is willing to stretch his or her band. Continue Reading >>

[#2] – Chemistry 101 – Introduction to University Chemistry I

July 5, 2011 4 comments

Today’s post will be centered around my first ever university chemistry course (a.k.a. Chem 101).  In all honesty, Chem 101 was my toughest class in first year (barring Stats 141, which I will talk about at a later date) – I found it very difficult to make the transition from high-school chemistry to university chemistry.  Even to this day, I’m still not completely certain why this was the case; however, I do have a sneaking suspicion of where I went wrong, albeit not a definitive one.

A standard periodic table for a standard chemistry course.

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Preamble:

Chemistry (more specifically, inorganic chem) was always one of my stronger subjects in high-school.  I enjoyed learning about it all throughout my grade-school years, and even managed to obtain my school’s highest mark award for grade 11 chem.  Given this background, it should not be surprising that I was rather disappointed with my relatively poor performance in university chemistry …  The following should shed some light on the reason(s) for my discombobulation in this course! Continue Reading >>