School starts when?!

29 08 2007

Note: Thanks to the kind comments of people here and a relaxing evening reading some T.H. Huxley I’m feeling much better, although I’m sure putting out this little rant helped too. I’m going to try to make the best of the position I’ve found myself in, and hopefully I’ll move on to better things after I get my B.S. (both meanings apply) straightened out. Thanks to everyone who’s stopped in to show me some encouragement and support during this rough journey.

I’m not less than a week away from the start of the fall semester, and I’m definitely not done with summer yet (hell, I didn’t even go and get my first Rita’s gelati until Saturday). Still, I really need to buckle down and do well this semester as I’m essentially out of “last chances.”

Some of you might remember that I was considering switching into Evolutionary Anthropology. It appears that I cannot. Rutgers was recently restructured to consist of the School of Arts and Sciences (Busch, Livingston, Douglass, and College Avenue campuses) and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (Cook campus), and I have too low of a GPA and too many credits (121) to transfer into the program. Perhaps if things were as they have been for a number of years I could have made a case, but it appears that there’s a whole new set of rules and administrative B.S. and I do not have much hope for my appeal for a transfer. I stupidly painted myself into a corner academically, and now I don’t have much choice other than to finish up my current program and try to escape in one piece.

Indeed, the coming semester is not really going to be an enjoyable one, as many of the classes I have to take are basic courses that are required for students that I had not taken in my early years. This fall I’ll be taking;

Precalculus – I can’t put it off any longer; I must face the math demons and hope to come out in one piece. If I fail this course I’ll be prevented from taking other courses that are critical next spring and summer, and so the pressure is definitely on.

Computer Science 110 – Basic computers course on Excel, Word, etc. that everyone has to take. It’s not hard, but it’s mind-numbingly boring and I have little use for it. Still, it’s something I have to take care of.

Fundamentals of Ecological Modeling – I’m a few credits short of my requirement for ecological courses within my major, and this was the only one that fit in my schedule. The name just screams “Math!” at me though, and I don’t particularly have a good feeling about this one.

Soils and Society – I tried to take care of my “soils” requirement last semester, but I ultimately picked the wrong course. “Soils and Water” kicked my butt and now I have to take the easier version (which I wished I had found out about beforehand). I don’t think this one will be difficult, but I’d be lying if I said I was interested.

Living Primates – The one course I’m actually looking forward to. Even though I can’t major in Evolutionary Anthropology, at least I’ll have this one “fun” course to make things a bit more enjoyable and even out my GPA a bit (hopefully). I may have to drop this one though, especially if I’m struggling in more important courses or I need to work more in order to pay the rent.

I apologize for being such a sad-sack, but I simply am not looking forward to finishing out my degree. I need to have a degree in something, and past mistakes have led me down a path with no other choice. My wife opined that it would be wonderful if they just let me write a thesis and handed me a degree (you would figure I would have fulfilled the general requirements for some course of study by now), but such a fanciful notion will never come to pass.

What does this mean as far as blogging goes? I’ll still be on here, and I’ll still have something new up every day, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to actually post. I actually usually don’t write during the evening as I read during that time, but even my reading is likely to be curtailed. I’m sure my attitude to this whole affair isn’t helping either, but in general I feel trapped into a course of study that doesn’t engage my interests during a time of year when I start to feel the effects of seasonal depression (I’m a warm-weather creature). Still, things as they are now are still better than the alternative of getting a minimum wage job at a retail store, and I’m not ever going to be happy or contribute anything if I don’t try and make it through this last year and a half of college.



14 responses

29 08 2007
Zach Miller

Ooh, math. As I was telling that most ethical of palentologists, Julia, math is my sworn enemy. I worked my butt off to get an A in College Algebra, and I barely passed the high school version of chemistry, and outright failed intro to chemistry, all because of stupid math. Chemistry is not so much science as math, I noticed.

Anyway, living primates sounds fun. Back when I was kickin’ it in school, I took a paleoanthropology class, only to find that the professor had been giving the same lecture for fifteen years. Several new fossil primates, including a new hominid (or two, I think) were published during the class, but they were not brought up. She was still calling Paranthropus boisei by its old Australophithecus name. Made me cry.

Why do you have to take a basic computing class? Is that just a special thing at Rutgers?

29 08 2007


I try to keep my profs up-to-date, too. When I took Paleontology and Evolution in Geologic Time last year I printed out the newest paleo papers that I saw in Nature and tried to make sure they were up on the new stuff. They definitely were smart and great teachers, but I still wanted to share some of the new stuff that they might not have heard about.

As for the computers class, everyone has to take some kind of computers class, and the basic one is the only one I really have use for. The other ones are so specific (or advanced) that it would be academically suicidal to go into them, so I have to take it. Plus, I took it once and didn’t go to the smaller meetings (like an idiot) so I should replace the grade with a better one, anyhow.

I also have to take Chemistry, pt. II and a year of physics (which I’ll probably do over the summer in one shot), and those are the main courses that are holding me back. If it wasn’t for them, things wouldn’t be so bad, but I am definitely dreading chemistry and physics and statistics (hence why I wanted to switch to evo. anthro.).

29 08 2007

121 credits and you still have a year and a half to go, Brian? You’re going to have one Hell of a lot of credit hours when you’re done. I hope the remedial type classes aren’t too painful… being bored is horrible especially when one contemplates all the interesting courses that could be taken instead.

29 08 2007


I definitely will have a lot under my belt, and in reality I could probably just stay in for another year after I get my 1st degree and get a B.S. in geology or evolutionary anthropology if I wanted to (I don’t think I will though). About 20-30 of those credits are from when I got my associates degree in education, however, so I guess they don’t really “count.” My main concern this semester is precalculus, with the modeling course following after. Computers and Soils I can handle, although I have the feeling that I may have to drop primates if things get too hairy. Time will tell, I guess.

29 08 2007

It’s like hiking up a big mountain….you’re near the end, you’re tired, you just want to sit and rest….instead you just put your head down and trudge on….one foot after the other

in a couple of years, this semester will seem like a distant memory

29 08 2007

It’s funny you should use that analogy, Brian. I had very much that sort of experience hiking the AT along the scree and glacial till this weekend. Thanks for the support. 🙂

29 08 2007

Hang in there! I started out a biochemistry undergrad and realized I hated it. I was similarly stuck getting a degree in it, but I took a lot of other classes I was interested in. I’m now in grad school doing exactly what I want to be doing. So, hang in there. The degree will lead you onto bigger and better things. (For more on my education see my blog contribution to the first Accretionary Wedge carnival.)

29 08 2007

Thanks for the encouragement, Mel. I’m feeling a bit better than I did when I first wrote this (it’s amazing what a good rant can do), although I’m still dreading my math-based courses. Unfortunately, going the Charles Darwin route of travelling the world and spending many years describing barnacles isn’t really an option in this day and age, so I’ll do the best I can where I’m at. I’m definitely looking forward to your post in the 1st edition of the Accretionary Wedge, and thanks for the empathy.

30 08 2007

Keep it up – you’ll get through! I am in a similar situation – picking up (and passing, just) first year maths after doing every earth sciences course in sight so I can finally finish (5 years trying everything under the sun!)

PS: Wonderful blog! I’ve been enjoying your work quietly for a while 🙂

30 08 2007

Hi Laelaps,
You are not alone man!! Here I am, getting perilously close to 40, and I’ve been in graduate school for most of the past 11 years. I worked for 8 years pursuing a PhD, when it became clear it wasn’t going to happen and I settled for an MS. 8 years! As if I’m getting younger by the day. I have absolutely got to finish by Dec 08, but I’m shooting for Summer 08. I have so much research to do, and I love research, but research doesn’t seem to love me back. By now I’m close to 200 credits (I haven’t checked lately) in grad school. It’s insane. What I’m doing now, is not what I had planned for myself, and I don’t like my project particularly, which makes it really hard to suck it up and work my butt off. But I simply no longer have a choice. The best I can do is finish up as best as I can, and then go do something I do like. Good luck with all your choices, and you can do the math. I have seen you posts, read about the way you think, and I have utmost confidence in you. Cheer up, it’ll be ok.

30 08 2007

Just get the damn degree and go on and do what you want to do with your Master’s. Trust me, as a self-educated computer programmer without papers, the degree itself is worth more than what you get it in.

30 08 2007

I agree with Oldfart here. The degree itself is of primary importance; the fine print after the word “in” is secondary, and the list of courses is tertiary. For applying to graduate schools (and for funding, at least initially) the grades do matter, but the course titles not so much. So your best bet is probably exactly what you’re doing:
1. Finish the damn degree. Above comments about hazy memories after time X are almost certainly true.
2. Take the required courses for your program (like intro calculus)
3. Take the courses that aren’t specifically required but fullfill some other requirement, like course hours or “electives” or third-year courses or whatever, but that you know you can get high marks in. In your case, that looks like the computer course. Easy and boring? No problem – make the course interesting by vowing to score ridiculously high; make it the only course you’ll ever score a 96% average in, or something. Actually, learning about Excel in detail will be very useful regardless of what you find yourself doing later – despite the whole MicroSoft thing, Excel remains (in my opinion) the only “killer app” worth talking about. Tangent: computers are good at math, Excel makes it easy to harness this ability of a computer to a human that’s good at other things like creativity and discovery, therefore Excel transforms computers into tools for creativity and discovery, a neat trick.

Overall, I think you have no significant worries here. Sure, math will try to kick your butt, but you’ve got some excellent motivation there (courses next semester) to blast it. Plus, you’ve shown every sign of personal quality as a student (at least on this blog), so really it’s just a pile of hard work ahead of you, not some impossible challenge.

I, for one, am quite confident that you will do well this fall.


30 08 2007
John Pieret

Hey, “Soils and Society” might give you an excuse to read/write about Darwin’s book on worms. It was his most popular!

31 08 2007

As a gardener without a green thumb, I have always liked worms…..if I saw them in my soil in the spring when I first turned it over I figured I had done something right the year before. There’s nothing more complimentary than a good wormy soil unless it’s those pesky european worms that EAT soil instead of creating it…………………….

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