Day 645

I tell you what.  I'm starting to annoy myself with how irregular I am with these posts.  There are just a lot of days where I don't feel like writing.  Or life has just been too dull to post.

Yesterday evening was actually somewhat eventful.  I went to a meeting hosted by the Society of Actuaries.  I guess it was less of a meeting and more of a panel discussion.  They talked about what the society does, some of the recent changes, and how to get involved.  Then at the end the different people shared some memorable experiences from the exam process (they all finished the exams).  One of the speakers was very down to earth (which I appreciated) and reminded everyone that being smart doesn't guarantee that you will pass on your first or even second attempt... and failing doesn't mean that you aren't smart.  There are a small percentage that are just ridiculously smart and are going to pass without undo trouble.  There are some that just aren't going to pass, regardless of how much they study.  But most of the exam takers fall into a category where we are intelligent, but we have to put in lots of hours.  Many many many hours.  And we all have to make big sacrifices to get through the exams, whether it's not being able to hang out with your friends or less sleep or not having the time to do all your own cooking.  I so badly want to get through this exam while I'm still in school... 

For this exam, I've put in 300 - 350 hours of studying (which is around the recommended amount).  So at this point, it's just a matter of trying to get some more review in before the big day!  It's about a week away.  The restless nights have begun.

Today was ok.  I got up, went up to campus, did some studying.  I talked with the people in the math office for a while about the upcoming Pi day celebration.  One thing that I'm going to miss about school is hanging out in the math department offices.  I really enjoy the set-up here at Ball State because the main office for the math department is right across the hall from a computer lab (mainly used by math students).  So it's very common for some of my friends and fellow GAs to be milling around, doing homework or collaborating (i.e. talking and pretending like it's productive).  It's a very welcoming feeling.  Even though I'm not close with everyone I see, I can at least say recognize and say hi to most people.... I've either had class with them, worked with them, or just seen them around enough to start a conversation.  There's just something very comforting and academic about the smell of coffee, dry-erase markers, and someone somewhere talking to someone else about math.  And even if I don't know the class, I can usually pick up enough to (very loosely) follow along.

When I got home, Kimmy and I made some dinner.  Lasagna!  I studied while it cooked, then we ate.  And I studied some more after it was over.  I was having a really hard time focusing tonight, so I took a break for a while.  I'm going to get an early start tomorrow.

Ok, that's it from me.  Good night!


Day 643

Today was pretty eventful.  For me, anyhow.  Things aren't usually very exciting, but I take whatever I can get.

This morning was great.  I went to shower and saw that one of the cats had left me a nice little hairball to clean up.  Oh joy, just how I wanted my day to start.  After that short bit of excitement, I went up to campus to get some work done.  I studied in my office for a while, then talked with some other math Graduate Assistants.  Really I just wanted to put of studying.

So I had class, then I went to go teach.  I asked my students how many plan on coming to class on Friday (since it's the day before spring break) and I was surprised to see about 7 people say they plan on showing up.  I was expecting maybe 2.  Maybe.  But we'll see what *actually* happens.

I was home for a few minutes before I had to leave again to go tutor.  That went well.  Uneventful, but it went well.  I'm still having a hard time getting a few concepts across, but that's mainly due to a) one of the kids comes to tutoring directly from sports practice, so he's very mentally and physically tired, and b) both of the kids are under the age of 16 and their brains just haven't finished developing.  I'm used to teaching college students whose relevant parts of the brain have (generally) fully developed.  Not so with these two.  So it's been a challenge.

When I got home, Kimmy and I had dinner, then I studied for a while.  I was having trouble staying focused and being productive, so I decided to go finish writing the test.  It was still relatively early, so I didn't want to give up being productive yet.  But when I finished with the test I decided to call it a night.

And now.... it is formally the end.  Good night.


Day 642

Hello all.

It's late, so this will be short.  It wasn't a very exciting day... but it still happened.

This morning was pretty normal.  We got up, went to church, then got lunch with Jessie and Richard.  At one point in the sermon, pastor Mark talked about  how John the Baptist preached 20 miles away from Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was at the top of a 4000 foot peak.  I tried to let that go, but I couldn't keep from wondering what the angle of the hill had to be for this to be possible.  And since I couldn't let it go, I was able to (with some approximations) come up with an disappointing answer of arctan(.04), which turns out to be about 2.3 degrees.

When we got home, I took a timed practice test.  It was one I'd already done, but that's not super significant.  I don't often recall problems if I've only done the test once, or if I do it's usually a matter of "oh yes, I had no idea what to do last time either."

That was pretty much my entire afternoon.  So then Kimmy and I made some tasty dinner and tried to watch a movie.  However, the DVD was pretty scratched up so we couldn't finish it.

After dinner I wrote a test for my students, then I tried to schedule some appointments for apartment visits!  Kimmy and I looked at the floor plans for one particular complex for a while.  It's the furthest away but is probably the best price for the floor space.  We'll see which ones we like once we get down there.

That about sums up my day.  Sooooo good night!


Day 641

Oh my, what a day!

Originally, I imagined that it was going to be a fairly typical Friday.  Class, teach, tutor, study.  But apparently, that's not how it turned out.

After I got to school, I got a text from the guy whose children I tutor that they wouldn't be needing help today.  Hey, not a problem, I got to spend more time at home.

While I was studying in my office, I got a request to help a professor proctor an exam.  So I went and helped do that.  It was partially on the computer, partially on paper, and it got pretty hectic in there.  There was a lot going on, and I don't know how well I could have concentrated.

I did some more review in my class today.  I think most of them are getting tired of it, but that usually means they get it pretty well.  I think.  Hopefully.

When I came home, Kimmy and I got ready and went out on a super fancy date!  We hadn't been on one in a long time.  So we got Wendy's and went to go see a movie.  It was fun.  It's been a while since I've gone to see a movie on a Friday night... and now I remember why.  There were so many middle school and high school kids there!  I felt old.  But we survived.

And now it's time for bed!  Night!


Day 639

I have successfully completed another day.

Today's adventure began with waking up late and being technically late for a meeting.  In reality, I still arrived before the person running the meeting, so I was on time.

After my meeting, I planned my lesson for the day, then did some studying in my office.  I also talked with my office mate for a while.  He's from Bangladesh and told me about some of the big transitional issues he's had coming to the US for school and some of his fears with being here, especially with regards to getting a job. It's tough.  He's most likely one of the smartest and hardest working students I've encountered at Ball State, but a lot of companies simply do not want to hire international students because there are some things that take extra time and money.

I had my classes, then I taught.  I thought my lesson went really well today.  I used one base example and went through all of the different things we talked about during the chapter.  Hopefully it helped tie in some of the different ideas that we discussed.

When I got home, I studied for a little bit, but I just didn't have a lot left in me today.  So we made some dinner and I studied a little bit more.  After dinner I studied for a while longer, but my brain was just pretty worn out from the day.  I worked on my computer for a while, then ate cookies.  It was a pretty good evening.

And now I'm trying this thing where I go to bed early.  We'll see how it goes.

Good night!

Day 638

And here we are again, back into the week!

This morning was pretty normal.  I did some studying, then went up to campus to do homework with Tim B.  We were successful.  

Then I came home, got some lunch, and attempted to fix our toilet.  It got randomly clogged a few days ago, and now amount of plunging, water pouring, or angry staring has fixed it yet.  I finally emailed the landlord to have someone come fix it.

Later on in the afternoon I went to go tutor.  The daughter didn't have any homework, so we worked through some of the areas of arithmetic that have been giving her trouble, along with some simple mental math exercises.  It's been a while since I've tutored someone who wasn't in college, so I have to use a lot of tactics and styles of explanation that I haven't used in a while.

When I got back, Kimmy had made a really tasty chili-macaroni dish.  Then.... it was back to studying.  I've been consistently getting around 80% of the questions correct, which is comforting.  There just always seem to be a few questions that completely throw me off.  For some of them, I could probably figure them out if I had enough time to start from scratch.  But there simply isn't enough time on the actual exam to work stuff from scratch.  One of the issues with having such a tight time constraint is that it reinforces a bad habit I already have: not checking my work.  I have to practice doing things right on the first try because there isn't enough time to check every question.  I'm not missing nearly as many questions due to misreading or calculator errors, but I still want to get a higher percentage correct.  I know that on test day, I'm going to be nervous and make stupid mistakes because of that.

Well, I'd say it's time for bed.  Good night!


Day 636

Well, it looks like we're back to the regularly scheduled week!

This morning at church, Pastor Mark talked some more about how we prioritize our lives and how this is very telling about what things we find most important.  And this is something I've been thinking about a lot recently.  I have very conflicting thoughts on this issue in my own life.  I have a lot of things going on in my life.  Mostly related to school, teaching, and studying, but then there are also the regular daily activities like cooking and cleaning.  And that pretty much eats up all of my time right there.  I don't feel like I'm just creating things to put in my free time... but no one feels like that.  Everyone's busy, but somehow time can be made?  I'm sure that once I'm out of school I'll see things differently, but right now I just do not see extra time existing anywhere.  It's not the sort of thing that I let bother me... but I always wonder what fills people's time up when they're not working.  Most people like to stay busy (or have to stay busy to pay the bills) in some sense to maintain some sense of worth and identity.  I certainly do.  But maybe in a few months (or years, after all my exams are done) I'll be able to actually choose how I fill my non-work time.  Huh... that sounds pretty great.

After church I went to lunch with Jessie and Richard, then came home to start studying.  Kimmy had to work all afternoon, so... yeah I just studied.  I timed myself in one hour increments (mainly because I had other chores that I needed to get done this afternoon) and was pleased with my results.  I also worked through another practice exam and did decently well.  The test I'm taking is made of up easy, medium, and hard questions and the practice exams are structured similarly.  Except that as I progress in the practice exams, there are more medium and hard questions, less easy questions.  Which is good, but frustrating when everything is just so difficult.

I made some meatloaf for dinner.  It was ok.  I'm not very good at shaping meatloaf, so it just turns into a blob of meat.  So that's pretty.  After dinner I finished up my studying, then relaxed for a little bit.

And now I'm going to bed.  Good night, everyone.


Day 635

 Hi everyone!

Here I shall summarize my past couple of days where I did not blog.

The exciting events are as follows: I studied, we made pizza, we got new dishes (yay!), I studied some more, and... I had school!  Boy, what a great time it's been.

I've actually become quite fond of teaching on Fridays.  Usually about half the class shows up, but it's the half who really enjoy being there.  A lot of the time we have some pretty meaningful discussions and good conversation.  It is a good time.

Also, we finally got our new dishes!  They are happy things.

And we had to test them out!  So we made pizza and it was tasty.

Other than that.... It's been pretty normal.  Kimmy's trying to get over a cold or sinus infection or something, so hopefully that goes away soon.  I've just been studying... a lot.  I worked through around 50 problems today and my brain just felt like mush.  I also talked with mom and dad on the phone and got caught up on everything happening in Findlay.

I think that's about it from here.  So I'm gonna go to bed now.  Good night.


Day 632

Today was a typical Wednesday.

I woke up and my routine began: make breakfast, eat breakfast, silently wish that the dishes would magically get clean (they never do), fumble around the kitchen as I try to make eggs and coffee (and secretly wish there were pancakes to accompany my eggs), and finally sit down to eat breakfast.  Most of the time, I work through some practice exercises for my exam while eating breakfast, and today was no different.

After breakfast, I finished getting ready for school and began the (generally nice) walk to school.  On my way, someone honked and waved at me.  I didn't recognize the vehicle.... so I have no idea who it was.

When I got to school I did some grading.  I had a little catching up to do, so my office hours made a convenient time for catching up on everything.

After class and everything I came home.  Before I left for school I started some soup in the crock pot, so the house smelled pretty good when I got back.  For Christmas, Kimmy and I got a cook book from her cousin Amanda with some recipes that are popular on Kimmy's side of the family.  We made some potato soup and it was quite tasty!

When we were done with dinner, it was study time.  Ick.  I do not like study time.  Oh well. I studied for a couple of hours, but my brain was pretty tired from being on the go all day, so I took a break for a while, then I just finished studying for a little bit longer before bed.

Ok.  I'm off to bed now.  Good night.

Day 631

I don't really have anything interesting to talk about today, but here's something anyhow.

It was a pretty normal day.  I spent a good 5 hour studying.  About 2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, then another hour after dinner.  I did a little prep-work for teaching, but not really that much.  Usually I do that the morning of class.

I'm feeling better about my studying.  I worked through about 50 problems today and got about 80% of them correct.  There are still a few concepts that I need to take from the "Oh, that's an interesting idea...I wonder how it works?" stage to the "ah, I've done this 100 times before!" stage.  It's a critical part of taking these exams (as well as doing everything near-lighting fast with near perfect precision).  I mean, if I could just know everything and work every problem perfectly and instantly, this would be easy!

I also went to go tutor today.  It's getting better as I figure out how each of the kids learn and what the best way to instruct them is.

Also, I made a pretty fantastic dinner.  Kimmy was gone, so I decided to have a classic Joel dinner (which usually involves throwing various foods into a skillet and seeing how it turns out).  Today's mix was: goetta (a gift from Tim B.), dill pickles, rice, and worcestershire sauce. All topped with sour cream.  It was absolutely delightful and glorious and my stomach despises me now.  Totally worth it.

Ok.  That's all from here.  Night!


Day 629

Oh wow.  Just... wow.

I decided to take a practice exam this afternoon after church.  Since I take my exam in 3.5 weeks, I figured I needed to start working on my time and seeing how fast I can get through these.  My exam is structured to be 30 questions in 3 hours.  So I sat down with a practice exam and got to it.  After 2 hours I'd attempted about 20 questions (4 of which I couldn't get a solution that matched any of the multiple choice selections).  And my brain was in serious agony.  Oh my word, I thought something had exploded.  I've had my brain feel tired... sometimes very sore... but it was incredibly painful.  I decided that I would not finish my remaining hour because I wasn't going to benefit from it. Instead I took a nice long break to let me brain recover from the torture I'd just put it through.

Kimmy made us some very tasty dinner, then I continued my break.  I made an attempt to do some grading (and at least be a little productive while not studying), but I just couldn't focus.  So I stopped.

After my brain had recovered (mostly), I decided to do some more problems.  This time, I started working through a selection of sample problems that was created by the same organization that writes the exams.  These are different from the exercises/practice exams in my study manual.  It turns out that the sample problems are significantly easier than the practice exam I tried earlier today.  That was comforting.

I think my next plan of attack is going to be working up to a 3-hour test.  I'll start at 1.5 hours (maybe 2 hours), and just work up from there.  We'll see how it goes.  I know I still have over three weeks... but it will go by way too quickly.  Yikes.

Ok.  Time to get some rest.  Good night.

Day 628

I tell you what.  I'm tired.

Not really physically tired... just drained.  It's been a about two months since I've gotten to take a full day without working on either school, my exam, or work.  Even the idea of only having to cook and clean and run errands for a day sounds great.  I would love a day where I could just do that.  But as it stands, I do those things when I'm not working or studying.  26 more days until my exam.... wow that seems way too close.

In more exciting news, Kimmy and I had some extra money so we got new dishes!  Macy's had a really good sale, so with Kimmy's employee discount and everything we ended up two sets for less than one set is at full price.  We're pretty excited.  AND we got girl scout cookies.  What a day.

I tried to study this afternoon, but it just wasn't going to happen.  I needed a break.  So I tried to relax for a couple of hours this afternoon to wind down before I got back to studying.

After we made dinner, Kimmy went to work and I started studying.  There are less questions that I'm not understanding, but there are still too many questions that I miss because of something else.  There were about three today that I just felt were poorly worded (or they'd left out an important detail).  I never finished fixing all of the errata in the book, so I guess it's possible.  Either way, I'm hoping to get all of my issues ironed out in the next week or so.  Ugh, I just want it to be over.

I don't think I really have much else to report.  So.... the end.  Good night.


Day 626

Oh boy, what a day!

I got up early this morning to go to a meeting up on campus.  Then I stayed up there, did some studying, and other work.  My first class was canceled, so I ended up just studying some more and talking with other students and professors.  It was productive.

So, I gave a test today.  I didn't think it would be too bad, especially since I'd taken some questions off from the last version of this test that I gave.  But at the end of the period there were still 6 people who hadn't quite finished.  We all went up to the floor where my office is and I let them finish.  There is a row of single-desk cubicles where people can study or take tests, so I had them use those (since my office is waaaay too small for 7 people).  I technically could have just taken the exams as there were at the end of the period, but I didn't feel like that would really be fair.  It was a minor inconvenience for me that could make a fairly significant difference for some of my students.

When I got home, Kimmy and I went for a short walk around our neighborhood-area.  It's the first day in quite some time that a) Kimmy hasn't had to work (after standing on her feet for 4 -8 hours, she doesn't usually feel like going on a walk and I don't blame her) or b) it hasn't been really cold.  It was a tad chilly, but not too bad.

When we got back, we had some dinner, then I got to working on homework.  Yuck.  I worked on an assignment that's due on Friday for a while, then began studying for MFE again.  Tomorrow is the 4 week mark.  I'm feeling a bit better about some of the harder topics now that I've gone over those chapters again, so I'm doing more review.  We'll see how it goes.

Ok.  Time for bed.  Good night, everyone!


Day 624

This was a pretty full and exhausting day.  I woke up around 7:30.  Then I had a really nice blink and it was 8:30.  At that point I decided I really needed to get up.  I knew it was going to be a very full day, so I wanted to get some studying in before I went to class and everything.

I did end up getting some studying done.  I really hope that more things start to stick in the next week.  There's just so much material.  On the four tests I've done (total of 120 problems), there are only about 2 or 3 that I didn't know how to do... it's just a matter of remembering how to do them, which model to use, and what the trick to solving the problem is (because they can never be straight forward).

After some studying,  I got ready for school, then went up for my office hours.  And studied some more.  I certainly get more done in the morning... but the morning goes away so quickly!  There needs to be more morning.  And afternoon.  And evening.  And night.  Actually, I just need to not need sleep.  That would be a dream right now.  If there was a pun in that last sentence, it was not intended.

So then there was some class and some teaching.  Today was even more evidence that my students really do not listen to anything I say.  It was funny, but unfortunate for them. I think I told them at least 4 times that there is a test on Wednesday (this is the third class period I've mentioned this), the study guide is on Blackboard, and the take home portion is also on Blackboard.  I should make them recite everything back to me.

After teaching I made a quick stop at home to start cooking the meat for dinner, then went to go tutor.  Tutoring was ok.  We're making progress, but it's going to take a few more sessions to really figure out how to best teach both of them.

When I got home, Kimmy had made some amazing chili!  We've both recently become big fans of Cincinnati chili, so we decided to try to make some from scratch.  And we did!  More accurately, Kimmy did!  And it was super tasty.

After dinner I did some more studying.  This round was less productive than I would have liked... but my brain was just so tired from everything that I had a hard time figuring the problems out.  So eventually I just called it a night.  I also talked with mom and dad on the phone.  Mom's having hip replacement surgery tomorrow.  No more hip pain for her!  Yay!

Ok.  I'm going to try to get an early start tomorrow... and hopefully no hour-long blinks.  Good night!


Day 623

It's official.  I don't feel like going back to school tomorrow.

Well let's see.  Today.... today started off with going to church.  It was good. Pastor Mark continued from his sermon last week and talked about how we know what things are truly important to us, versus what we say is important.  And as always, it comes down to where you spend your time, money, and thoughts.

After church we went to Pizza Hut for lunch with Jessie and Richard.  As we were discussing our living situations for next year, it became apparent that Jessie and Richard are starting a new hobby: collecting living rooms.  It seems that their new house has (technically) three living rooms.  So I think they're off to a good start.  Kimmy and I are going to start collecting dining rooms.  Our current house has one (a solid start).  We then discussed how awesome it would be to have a dining room that resembled a Norse dining hall:

Fire pit in the middle, tables all around the outside.  I seriously can't think of anything more awesome than this... sitting around eating huge meals of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, talking with your friends and family around the heat of the fire.  With the candle chandeliers, of course.

This afternoon was... studying.  Today was bit frustrating.  I worked really hard to solve each questions without looking at the solutions... and if I really couldn't even get started, I'd look in my notes (or I'd look in my notes to verify a formula before I started a long series of computations).  But the questions are just so difficult.  I have about 4 and a half weeks to get my speed down and memorization up.  Ugh.  I did a little bit better on average today than I have been the past few days, but still not where I'd like to be.  The other frustrating thing that happens is that after a certain point, my brain just doesn't function anymore.  There is still time in the day to study, but I can't even do simply problems because my brain is fried.  It's very frustrating. I try to get other productive things done at those times... but I wish I could be studying.

Well, here's to another busy week.  Cheers!


Day 622

You know what's really awesome?  Saturdays.

On this particular Saturday, I got up a little after 9, around the time that Kimmy was getting ready to go to work.  She had a pretty long day today at work.  After she left, I had some breakfast and started studying.  I got a little bit done, but mainly I was just working a few problems while I ate breakfast.  My study manual has 11 practice exams and each exam has 30 questions.  I'm trying to get through at least one exam a day.

Kimmy came home for lunch, but she didn't get to stay very long.  On her long days she gets an hour for lunch, but after accounting for travel time she's only at home for maybe 30 minutes.  After she went back to work, I started studying again.  Yeah, that was pretty much my day.  I keep a regular schedule of studying for around 2 hours, break for 30-60 minutes.  Then back to studying for a while longer.  And then another break.

When Kimmy was done working, we went grocery shopping.  Apparently Aldi's is a little busy on Saturday evenings.  In fact, I've found that the only time that it's not very busy is Saturday mornings.

Hm.  I finally finished up studying around 9.  My brain was pretty worn out from working problems, reading, and memorizing/deriving formulas.  There are just so many!  I have about 15 pages of formulas and notes I kept as I worked through the study manual, but I might re-write them and add some more things.  Bleh, there's just so much to remember.

Ok.  I'm done for now.  Good night!


Day 620

Oh hey, happy February, everyone!

Today was a study day.  Kimmy had to work most of the day, so I spent most of it studying.  I got started during breakfast with some MFE, then I studied for my quiz tomorrow.  It shouldn't be too bad.

After lunch I went up to campus to do some homework with Tim B. for our finance class.  It was really cold outside.  I decided to drive, partially to see whether it would save me any time, partially because it was really cold outside.  It took about 10 minutes to get from our house to my building and normally it takes about 20 minutes to walk.  So I'll probably still walk when it's nice out, but it was painfully cold out today.

When we were done with homework, I went to talk with someone about tutoring.  A professor emailed the math department about getting tutoring for his kids, so he and I have been emailing back and forth.  I'm going to start tutoring a few hours a week, starting tomorrow.  It shouldn't be too bad.  It will be nice to make a little extra money on the side.

When I got back, Kimmy and I made some dinner, then I went back to studying.  I started going through chapters that cover material I've been missing on the practice tests.  So I've been re-reading the chapters and trying to make more sense of things.  It all makes a lot more sense the second time through.  That's one of the most unfortunate parts about studying this material.... it usually makes little sense the first time, but I don't have time to read the entire book twice.  Well, I do have time but it wouldn't be the best use of my time.  It would be far better to keep working problems.  At this point I have to find an optimal balance between how much time I spend reading and working problems.

Around 9 my brain was done.  So I finished the evening with some budgeting and sending of emails.  And now I'm off to bed.  Good night.