Thursday, January 22, 2009

Profiling for a Lab Partner

I’ve been in college now going on 5 semesters, and it seems that every semester my course load is always filled with long tedious lab periods. I remember that my very first semester I had 3 labs: General Chemistry, Animal Biology, and even an Intro to Engineering lab. The thing about labs is that they are always more work than they are worth. Every week you are in lab for an insanely long period time (up to 3 full hours), and then the rest of the week is taken up with writing up the stupid lab report about how you "attempted" to perform the lab, and yet it somehow failed miserably anyway. I heard that, "Prayer will never be taken out of schools as long as teachers continue to give exams". I agree completely with this last statement and add my little pearl of wisdom, "that as long as students continue to perform simple experiments, the basic laws and theories of physics, chemistry, and all other modern sciences will continue to be disproved on a regular basis."

I used to think that having three 3-hour lab periods a week was terribly unfair and completely abnormal (which in speaking with other students whose majors are "normal" and NOT Biomedical Engineering, I’ve discovered that this is the case), but since my schedule hasn’t deviated much in the three years that I’ve been in college, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll never be able to escape labs as long as I’m in school. I’ve taken so many lab classes that I’m not sure I can remember them all: Animal and Plant Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Engineering, Electrical Circuits, Physics, Physiology, Biomechanics, Biomedical Instrumentation, Biotransport, Digital Signal Processing, and I’m sure I’m leaving out one or two. However, if there is one advantage to taking so many labs it’s that you become very proficient in picking out just the right lab partner! This is key to one’s success to surviving the weekly 3-hour-1-credit-hell know as lab! I learned this lesson my very first year in college. I wasn’t pro-active in choosing my lab partner and so I got the "bottom of the barrel". I soon found out that the "bottom of the barrel" doesn’t always come to class (mine came 5 times out of 9…which is above 50%, but just barely…haha) and they tend to leave things until the last minute. So my freshman year, while I sat alone soldering together "our" robot project I vowed never to let someone else chose my partner for me.

This semester started off no differently than any other. 3 labs on my class schedule meant 3 chances to get screwed with another leech of a lab partner. Today, I started my Organic Chemistry Lab. Organic Chemistry is a hell in it of itself, so combine it with a lab and you get hell squared! (I think I now understand what the Italian author, Dante, was talking about when he wrote about the "Ninth Circle of Inferno" in his Divine Comedy). Since I didn’t know anybody that was going to be in the lab section with me, I decided that I would arrive several minutes early. This way I would be able to scope out any "potential" lab partners, thereby assuring myself that I wouldn’t be stuck with some bozo of a lab partner that would just sit back, do nothing, and make me do everything! But actually….come to think of it, if I were someone that wanted to find a lab partner that would do all of the work for me so that I could kick back and chill, I would most definitely show up early on the first day of lab too. That way I could find some super-smart kid that would do all the work and I could just show up and reap the benefits (Dang it! My plan may have back-fired on me!!! Curses)

As I stood outside of the lab room, a few people caught my eye. Some good, some not so good. Blood-shot eyes and bed-head were definitely negative marks against potential candidates; while clean shaven faces and lab books in hand were signs that I might be getting closer to finding my new lab partner for the semester. I finally decided that this one dude in my lab looked pretty smart, and that I would try to be his lab partner. "What made him look smart?" you may ask. Well, for starters, he had glasses! You can always tell a bookworm by his glasses. Since he was early to class and carried his lab manual with him, I thought that we’d make a good team for the semester. Plus he was Asian. We introduced ourselves to one another, and I soon realized that we were actually in the same Organic Chemistry Lecture class. There are about 200 of us so it’s not surprising that we hadn’t really ever met before. But what was surprising was what I learned next about my new lab partner. He told me that he was actually the President of the Pre-Med Society! I could hardly believe it! I had hit the jack-pot of lab partners! President of the Pre-Med Society! You know this guy needs an A in Organic Chemistry. He’s got to apply for Med-School someday, and all pre-med students are always studying so they can make the good grades they need to get accepted into Med-School. So it would appear that this semester is looking up for me, and that I won’t be stressing out over lab partners that don’t show up to class. Atleast I hope not…knock on wood.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Brog: Holiday Edition

I had the best intentions of blogging all about my holiday happenings, but as I’m sure you are well aware, time has a way of slipping through your fingers just like sand. You just never seem to have as much time as you think you do. And so, I hope you will accept my apology for the lateness, read on, and enjoy the Zentgraf Family Holiday report.

Thanksgiving: I think that Thanksgiving is slowly becoming my most favorite holiday. While on my mission in Italy I missed out on two consecutive Thanksgiving feasts. Even though most simple Italian dinners can make you feel like it’s Thanksgiving everyday, there is just something about sitting down to a big plate of mash potatoes, gravy, turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls, and pumpkin pie that makes you feel great and glad that we celebrate past historical events by stuffing our faces with food! As is the normal Thanksgiving tradition here in Chesterfield, Virginia, Thanksgiving means Turkey Bowl! Over 40 men, young and old alike, woke up early Thanksgiving morning to show off their lack of skill. It really is quite the spectacle to see everyone who comes to the Turkey Bowl trying to look like the pros. Everyone wears their sports jerseys that no matter how much we would like, still can’t transform us into the real pro athletes, the cleats that don’t make us any quicker than we already are, and the gloves that don’t help us catch the ball even when we’re wide open! Everyone had fun, fortunately no major injuries occurred, and 3 ½ hours after it began, the Turkey Bowl came to an end, and we all left the field tired and ready to eat. The Zentgraf Thanksgiving Feast was shared with another family, the Gomez family, and their 5 kids (all under 12 years of age). And our day was filled with the three F’s: food, football, and friends.

Since Thanksgiving came so late this year, Whitney and I only had one week of classes before our fall semester concluded. This fall Whitney and I have been in the same Organic Chemistry class. It has been quite the experience for the both of us. Most of the time we’ve gotten along and not annoyed each other too much. There has always been a "friendly" debate in the Zentgraf house as to who the smartest Zentgraf is, and this class presented the perfect opportunity to put this debate to rest once and for all. With such a short period of time before the start of our final exams Whitney and I set our differences aside and took over the kitchen turning it into our very own Chemistry study hall with an explosion of old exams, flash cards, text books, and other scrap pieces of paper on the kitchen table. The final exam was very difficult, but fortunately Whitney and I were able to do well enough to both get A’s in the class. Unfortunately the answer to who the smartest Zentgraf child is, remains unanswered. I was lucky enough to get an A thanks to a generous class curve while Whitney logged a 90% grade without the curve! But I was able to excel in the laboratory portion of the class while Whitney encountered some difficulty, falling just short of the A grade. So I suppose we will just have to wait another semester before we can say who is the smartest. :) However when all is said and done the answer may not be Whitney or myself because Krystal consistently brings home report cards that are overflowing with A+ marks!

Christmas: This Christmas our family exchanged some early and unwanted "presents." My Dad was the first to give his cold to my Mom, who then returned the favor by giving it to me, and now Whitney has received a late Christmas present by starting to need to take tissues with her everywhere she goes. Mom’s cold was so bad that she couldn’t even make Christmas Eve dinner. With Mom out of commission and Dad just getting over his cold, the focus shifted to me to make something for Christmas dinner. Luckily I learned a thing or two about cooking on my mission, and I decided to make one of my favorite Italian dishes for Christmas dinner, which is Arancini Siciliani. Arancini are rice balls that are held together with Parmesan cheese and eggs and then filled with a homemade meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. The rice balls are then covered with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs and finally deep-fried in peanut oil. Making Arancini Siciliani is a lengthy process but they are well worth it because they taste like heaven on earth. The following pictures show the starting and finished product and some of the in-between steps. My mouth starts to water just by looking at the pictures.

The day after Christmas was a red-letter day in the Zentgraf household. A year ago Emily received a Yoshii stuffed animal for Christmas, and in the past year Emily and Yoshii have been inseparable! They are practically an item, and Emily takes him to activity night at church, at night they have long talks in her room, and if she could she would take Yoshii to school with her (but we have to draw the line somewhere). Yoshii has basically become a regular member of the family, and so according to Emily’s wishes we had to celebrate Yoshii’s birthday! There we were on December 26th, the whole family, gathered around a birthday cake singing Happy Birthday to Yoshii. It was a little weird, but Emily sure did enjoy the joke. :)

This year I was asked to help out with one of the young men’s church basketball teams, and we recently had our Christmas Basketball Tournament. Our team was a definite under-dog! Of the 10 players on our team, only one of them is over 16 years old. Mark is our go-to-player mainly because he is over 5 feet tall and is the only kid who can score with any consistency. The other 9 players on our team are all deacon-age and most are barely 5 feet tall! Since our roster is filled with so many "vertically-challenged players" we have decided on a suitable team name: Mark and the 7 Dwarfs! :) My fellow coach and I didn’t really have very high expectations for our team’s ability to win games, but we entered the tournament with a desire to have fun and help our youth do the same. Amazingly our team, on the back of a 30-point-per-game scoring average by Mark, notched a 2-1 record falling just short of the championship game! It was a very exciting tournament for all involved!

New Years: This year’s New Years Eve Party was a true test of my partying endurance capabilities. Whitney and I decided to join a large group from our Singles Ward that was going to a regional activity in Virginia Beach. In all about 30 of us Richmond-ites, in several vehicles, made the two-hour drive down to the beach where we were certain a night of non-stop dancing, food, games, and flirting with some lovely ladies awaited us. We left Richmond around 6:30, however, my evening got off to an inauspicious start when I quickly discovered that I would be making the two-hour car trip in a truck filled with 6 guys and 0 ladies (a ratio that is definitely more conducive to "bro-mance" rather than some good old fashion romance!). To make matters even "more awesome" I was to be tightly nestled in between two very large single dudes throughout the duration of the trip! :) The ride down to the beach actually turned out to be a lot of fun, and my car, the self-proclaimed "half dirty dozen," had our own pre-party in the truck listening to some bumpin’ music and "pre-gaming" about how we were gonna put some smooth moves on some unsuspecting ladies before the New Year arrived. :)
The New Year’s Party was held in a local church building near the beach, and when we arrived we were greeted with a mile-long table of hot-wings, chicken, and cake, a dance floor for getting your groove thing on, and even carnival games that included a giant Velcro-wall and a very fun bungee-rope contraption. The selection of music left something to be desired, but as the evening progressed it seemed that the DJ’s music standards digressed transforming the YSA activity into more of hot nightclub. Early on during the more lame stages of the activity, the group flirted with the idea of leaving the church to go form our own new year’s party on a sandy beach with a small bonfire to set the mood. However, indecision and a wind-chill factor as low as 18 degrees were the main reasons that this private party never occurred. Inevitably 2009 arrived, and every guy in the building quickly tried his best line on the nearest girl in order to roll in the New Year with a kiss ;)

The caravan of Richmond-ites left the party around 1:30 am for a Mom and Pop Pancake Diner that was right on the oceanfront. One of our number was accidentally left behind at the New Year’s party when people (myself included) decided to switch up the seating arrangements, but he later rejoined us at the diner and we all had a good laugh at his expense. Finally around 3:30 we decided that we had had our fill of the diner’s food, and that the diner employees had had their fill of us. It was time to return back home, and once again I changed cars but this time it was to drive Whitney’s car back home so she could sleep and I could fight back any drunk drivers that might have been on the roads. And so early this morning, around 5:45 am, my New Year’s party marathon came to it’s conclusion as I slipped into my bed, pulled the covers over my face so as to hide the early morning sun from my view, and thought to myself "Happy New Year to All!" and finally fell asleep!