elwen: (reading)
I've had to redefine my concept of "reading" this semester. I'd started reading a fair amount of non-fiction lately, and I've been finding it a real slog. Even though I chose to read the first few books (The World Without Us, The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It, and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature -- all highly recommended, BTW) because they were on topics interesting to me, and I absorbed a lot of interesting information from them, and am generally glad I read them... they were still really hard to get through.

Then I started this semester. One of my classes is Law and Society in Japan, and I guess it's more of a sociology/humanities class than a law class. And the prof talked about how there's a lot of reading, but it's like undergrad reading, where there's a ton of it, and no one really expects you to get through all of it and absorb all the details, but you at least skim, and read the headings and conclusions and whatnot.

Well. I never really took those kinds of classes in undergrad, since I went to Tech. But one class, that I audited, was kind of like that (the totally awesome class on the history of Vikings). But still, I managed that class more by not reading than by "reading" intelligently.

So I tried to take what the prof said, about skimming and only reading the "important" parts, to heart. It helped that the second reading assignment consisted of an entire book that we had to read over the weekend. I also had to finish another book that weekend, because it was due the next Tuesday. So I started skipping anecdotes that seemed pointless. And it helped a lot.

Some part of me still feels guilty about it, like I'm not really "reading" the book if I don't plod obediently through the entire text, the way I read fiction. (And, I think, the way you have to read fiction, when you're trying to enjoy the story and actually are reading for pleasure.) But I guess I am slowly coming to terms with the idea that non-fiction is different, and that, unlike well-organized scientific papers and legal briefs, non-fiction is just wandering and disorganized and full of stories that are much longer than their morals deserve. With all three of the books I listed above, my major criticism after reading them has been: too disorganized. They were all more or less mindblowing in some of their theses, but I think they could have been so much more so if they'd just organized things in a better way. In a more I'm-trying-to-persuade-a-judge-to-rule-in-my-favor-by-getting-his-clerk-to-like-and-understand-my-brief way, perhaps. (Sadly, my comments hold for The Future of the Internet, which is written by a lawyer, or at least a legal academic.)

Anyway, I will have lots more practice this semester with this new concept that I will call "efficient non-fiction reading". All of my classes but one are reading-intensive -- not the wisest combination for my final semester, perhaps -- and the reading material is different in each, too. I get: historical and sociological research papers (Law and Society in Japan), scientific research papers and textbook excerpts (Fundamentals of Neuroscience for Non-Bioscientists), and business books and social science research papers (Negotiation), in addition to the usual legal fare of cases, statutes, and treatises. I think it took me almost all of my two summers of doing legal work to learn how to read unedited cases efficiently, but those are kind of unique.

[I was planning on talking about my classes and their reading-intensive-ness in a separate entry, but that's alright. I'll talk more about them in other contexts -- like their fluffiness or seriousness -- some other time.]

FAIL Blog.

Nov. 23rd, 2008 05:04 pm
elwen: (lol)
Thanks to mole-spam leading me to discover FAIL Blog, I turned in yet another assembled-at-the-last-minute-and-not-as-coherent-as-I'd-wished response paper for my originalism class. It's my last one, too. Perhaps I am counting too much on the class being graded off-mean... But what am I going to do about it now?

But now I can keep going back through the archives without any additional guilt.

This one made me giggle like a madwoman. Oh, the power of inertia.

Lots of other good stuff there, too.


Dec. 12th, 2007 07:23 pm
elwen: (studying and classes)
46 pages this time. Gah, I really need to stop dumping in every single thing from my notes.

I just hope that with a subject as mushy and policy-oriented as trademarks, it will be at least somewhat helpful because I can discuss things by example or analogy... if I can find it in those 46 pages.


Dec. 7th, 2007 10:18 pm
elwen: (studying and classes)
I can't believe I just finished a 49 page outline. Holy crap. That's going to be totally useless on the exam. D:


Dec. 7th, 2007 05:57 am
elwen: (studying and classes)
At 37 pages, my patents outline is already 20% longer than any other outline I have ever written, and I still have more than a quarter of the course to go through. I wish I could say this is because patents is a complicated subject, but I think it's really just because I've forgotten how to be discriminating and am just throwing in a bunch of unnecessary crap. Like, do I really care that Congress passed § 112 ¶ 6 to overrule the Supreme Court in Halliburton, which held that functional claiming was not allowed at the exact point of novelty, or do I just care what § 112 ¶ 6 does?

The other exciting part is that this outline will remain up-to-date for, oh, maybe two months before the Supreme Court or Federal Circuit or Congress decides to mess with patent law some more. D: At least we didn't talk that much about exhaustion (of patent rights, not of me), which is the thing that the Supreme Court is looking at for sure.

One day left, at least some of which needs to be spent (1) sleeping and (2) reviewing past exams. Hmm...

And I just know there will be something about the doctrine of equivalents on the exam, because we spent so much time on it and it's so mushy and perfect for an open-ended exam question, and I really don't get it any more than I did before. Hopefully it comes up in the policy question, because I get the policy, I just have no clue what the hell the Federal Circuit is trying to do with it doctrinally. (Other than kill it, that is. That part is pretty clear. But the important part is how.)

Gah. Why do I keep doing this to myself?
elwen: (facepalm)
So the writers of my trademarks book (Trademarks and Unfair Competition: Law and Policy, by Dinwoodie and Janis, 2nd ed. 2007) had way too much fun writing it. Most of their fun comes in the form of insulting sports teams, which mostly goes over my head, but I seem to have hit upon a treasure trove of groan- and/or chuckle-inducing excerpts today.

[Possibly this is because I have been reading several "Notes and Comments" sections in a row with no cases in between, so it's as if I've read a week's worth of material actually written by the authors. Rant about Notes and Comments sections. )]

So here are some fun ones...

Said the [Federal Circuit], "[T]he relationship between cooking classes and kitchen textiles is more akin to the relationship between restaurant services and beer," . . . which is the sort of thing we expect will show up some day as an LSAT question.

Fortunately, LSATs don't have an analogy section. Since most lawyers never took the GRE, I guess the authors must have been thinking of the SAT but blocked out the memory of such a test ever existing.

[OMG, I just snarked a textbook author's snarking of the Federal Circuit's snark. How awesome is that?]

More... )

So does the fact that I've been able to remember and dig up all these examples of snark -- by linking them to the relevant legal topics -- mean that they actually have pedagogical value? Or does it mean that I'm being way too distracted by them? Can I sue when, during the exam, all I can remember is that the Federal Circuit writes LSAT questions and not that relatedness of goods is a relevant factor in assessing likelihood of confusion?

Well, in any event, I guess I should get back to actually finishing the reading assignment now. ._.
elwen: (Loki)
Yesterday I learned how a 3 unit pass-fail class can be more terrible (and terrifying) than any 9 or 12 unit graded class I've taken. Ch/ChE91 is the CORE-replacement for the department, and it sounds like a mess. I'm sure everyone in the class either has a SURF paper they're going to copy or they're floundering as much as I am. I'm also sure that the chemistry majors will have a much easier time with it than ChemEs. Starting with the fact that they want the paper to be in the format you'd find in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

It's kind of bizarre how opposite Ch91 is to E11, the scientific writing class most engineering majors have to take. In E11, you're not allowed to copy a SURF paper, and you're absolutely not allowed to make anything up. If you don't have any research, you should write a review paper. In Ch91, you absolutely have to write a research paper, and if you don't have the data for it, you either make up the rest, or you get unpublished data from somewhere [some magical source that they wouldn't tell us how to find, naturally].

So I'm dropping that. I could probably scrounge something together if I took it now, and assuming it's actually pass-fail [about which the prof isn't certain] I'd probably pass. But it's just not worth the amount of stress it would create. If I take it next year, I'll have plenty of topics to choose from, but right now I'd have to rush my understanding of something I'm just starting to get into.

I'm replacing the evilest 3 units ever with the easiest 3 units ever, namely Glee Club. Which leaves me with a pretty wussy 36 unit schedule, but I want to see what it's like to, you know, actually read for my humanities and stuff.

So I'm taking Glee Club, 6 units of research, Hum/Pl8, ChE103c, and ESE171. I'm also auditing H112 because the Registrar are nazis who won't let me take it because I haven't completed both of my freshman humanities and they won't let me co-enroll.

ESE171 is the introductory atmospheric chemistry class, which shouldn't be too bad. Hopefully it will remind me how much I enjoy free radical kinetics, which is what got me into atmospheric chemistry to begin with.

ChE103c is, well, ChE103. Should be easier than the previous two terms if only because the prof is not as much of a slave driver. [The previous prof was definitely of the Flores mold, for those to whom that means something.] And at some point this term, we should get to the two phase mass transport that I should have known for my research in Japan last summer. Hurrah.

Hum/Pl8 is the frosh hum on ethics. I'd previously sworn that I'd never touch the philosophy hums, but none of this histories this term appealed to me, and I really do need to finish off this requirement now. My choices were ethics or "Knowledge and Reality", and I was actually leaning towards the latter, but they didn't post the reading list while I was deciding, and for Hum/Pl8 I get to read Kant's Metaphysics of Morals. I'd been meaning to read some Kant since some internet selector thing said his philosophy most closely matched my own, so I figure this is a good way to get myself to do it. We're also reading Leviathan, another book that's been on my reading list, so that's good as well. And now that I think about it, it'll probably be more fun to argue discuss ethics than reality.

H112 is a history class on Vikings. Once I saw the reading list, there was no way I wasn't going to take the class. The required books are six sagas including the Volsungs and Beowulf. I'd always been meaning to follow up on my Norse thing, and I actually have etexts of a bunch of sagas and random bits of the Eddas that I could find. So this class will be lots of fun. I was going to say that the reading list would have been perfect if it included the Eddas, and then on the first day we got a handout that's an excerpt.

I hadn't been exactly certain what it means to audit a class, but I just used that term when asking the prof. Apparently to him it means I read the books and participate in class, but I don't have to write the papers. I still have half a mind to do all the stuff and get a grade from him and then petition UASH to give me credit, though. [I have no idea if that actually works; I just heard it from someone once.] But with no existing pressure to write papers, I probably won't. Especially since both H112 and Hum/Pl8 require three papers over the course of the term, which probably means they're on very similar schedules. I'm fine with just auditing, I just start feeling weird because I'm only taking 36 units but then I realize I actually have closer to 45. At least it explains why my schedule isn't as free as I feel like it should be.

So that's this term. I'm starting to see the aftermath of last term, too. For one thing, Ch21b gave me a lower grade than I've gotten since first term sophomore year, which grieves me to no end. And I thought I was doing okay, too. I guess my understanding was just barely enough to do it all, and I ended up being swallowed by the standard deviation. Other classes were okay, although I had an interesting discussion today with the 103 prof about my solution to one of the questions on the final. I was basically penalized for knowing too much math, and thus being too dependent on the math instead of the physics of the problem. [Or rather, for starting with the math because I knew how to start it, rather than sit there and think about the physics for a bit, since I was under time pressure. And then by the time the math pointed out the blindingly obvious physical simplifications, I couldn't go back and change it, even if I had thought it would give me more points.] I'm not going to argue about it, but I do think it's just slightly unreasonable because back when we did Navier-Stokes, he said there were multiple approaches, and one was thinking about the physics first and using that to figure out what was important, but the other was just doing the math, and letting that tell you which terms were negligible. Mneh.

Anyhow, time to go read more of the Leviathan now, I guess. Antiquated Modern English spellings are kind of charming, but the punctuation is so bizarre.
elwen: (Loki)
Once again, Ch21 decides to rienforce the helpful lesson: exams are not a good time to have epiphanies about the subject material.

On one hand, I understand things better afterwards. On the other hand, I really should have known better, as in, known before I opened the exam. It's just so hard to bridge the gap between knowing enough to muddle through the homework and knowing enough to tackle a midterm. I don't know if it's because I just don't have a knack for the material or because the professor's teaching style totally doesn't suit me. Mneh.
elwen: (Loki)
So in the end all of my finals weren't so bad except the one I thought wouldn't be a problem. (Well, the Japanese final took forever, and involved by far the most difficult thing I've ever had to translate, but I think it'll be okay.) It's probably because the class had been fairly low-stress and I didn't have to struggle to learn the material like in some of my other classes. The homework was short and not particularly intensive in anything. In fact, I wasn't really sure what the final would be like at all. He said it'd be "like the homework", but then again, it was closed book, so there wouldn't really be any equations, and the homework was largely plug-and-chug. It turned out to be a lot of struggling to remember a lot of things I barely memorized while studying, like the dry adiabatic lapse rate, pre- and post-industrial mixing ratios for methane, and the scale height of earth's atmosphere. It didn't really seem like what I was supposed to have gotten out of the class, and was just kind of disappointing, even ignoring the fact that I hated taking it.

So yeah, that was ESE148.

Both ChE103 and Ch21 didn't seem like a very fun prospect after their respective midterms, but both weren't too bad, I thought. Everyone else didn't seem very happy about the 103, though, so maybe I missed something important. I doubt it could be because the second half of term was largely solving the same partial differential problem with different boundary conditions, and I actually started understanding the problem-solving techniques after a few sets. I mean, that hardly helped me in 95c. The prof was kind enough to offer to email us our grades if we put our address on the exam, so I'll find out Tuesday.

I'm actually not particularly happy about how, for the last few weeks of Ch21, they seemed to just give up trying to teach us any material or problem-solving in lieu of telling us the answers ahead of time or giving really strong hints on the homework. It was certainly a more pleasant experience than the midterm, but I doubt there's going to be much spread, which means the grades are determined by the midterm scores. And being told in advance what questions are on the final is just a stupid idea. It's like how on the feedback forms they ask if the professor was able to "provide emphasis". Doing a thing like that just means he couldn't. Like on the midterm when it turned out we were supposed to know all sorts of things, some that wasn't even taught in class. To top it all off, the final was horribly typo-ridden. There were typos of all sorts: the ones that are immediately obvious, the ones that turn a question nonsensical, and the ones that give you the wrong sign if you believe their equations. It was almost like two exams in one: can you solve the problems, and are you sharp enough to catch the mistakes, with the confidence to go with your version. This has been my failing point on many past exams: when something seems weird, I don't usually trust myself, and I get flustered and end up writing down nothing. I guess I'm trying to improve on that.

So the last final I took was ESE175, which was basically like one of the homework sets with a time limit. One thing was that it was open computer and pretty much said we could use whatever software. Then there were questions that began with "Using the methods available to you, estimate..." So I wonder, if someone had a program that predicted the properties of a molecule given, say, its structure, could you just cite the result from the program? I don't really want to argue whether that would be a fair or unfair advantage, but I hope you see my point. But yeah. Again, it didn't seem like a spread-inducing final, which is unsettling, because I don't think I've been doing particularly well on the homework. But then I talked to someone turning it in, and he said he ran out of time, which surprised me, because I thought 3 hours was pretty good; I finished just around then, but that was because I'd spent maybe half an hour stuck on trying to figure out such irrelevant things as how to calculate unsaturation number.

So most of my grades feel pretty tenuous. Some things seem like they were easy for everyone, so it's very hard to resolve differences that might put me above another. And some classes were just crazy up and down, so I'm not sure where I ended up.

But I'm much less obsessive about grades this year/term, I think. Maybe because GPA points are more diluted now. Or something. I'm just glad finals are over, as un-stressful as they were this time.


elwen: (Default)

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