MMP - The Quest Lives On

It was 1987. A two family house much like all the rest sat contentedly near a busily used but rather unimportant blood vessel in the highway circulatory system of Suburbia’s vast landscapes. In the living room of the downstairs unit of this house, a toy model of a double-decker bus suddenly found itself rudely hoisted from its resting place and turned this way and that while its innards are manhandled. This was not the first time the toy bus has had to endure such treatment, and it won’t be the last. Resignedly accepting of its fate, the bus said nothing.

I peered intently through the small windows of the mass-produced plastic plaything. You see, the vividly red bus had a door, hinged in the middle, and two yellow buttons protruding from the top like two evergreens in the Sahara desert. I was endeavoring to discover exactly how depressing one button would simultaneously raise the other button and open the door, while depressing the second button would raise the first and close the door, focusing on the problem with an intensity and gravity that only three year old Mad Scientists can muster. After all, this was fate of the world type work.

To my parents, observing my investigations, my behavior came as no surprise. My fascination with the world around me had shown itself before, from an uncanny proficiency with basic geometrical figures to inventing my own measurement system with which I would “count up” just about everything around me, including my parents.

And so began my Quest. It is a Quest that consumed me as it consumes few others. It is how I eat my food, it is how I look at a painting, it is how I read a book, it is how I talk to people. It is how I think, it is who I am. By the age of three, I am a walking, talking Quest to understand the Universe.

Soon enough, I started formal schooling. You might guess that I distinguished myself in such an arena, and you are absolutely correct. I quickly set myself apart from my classmates – but for all the wrong reasons. Before I was halfway through the first grade, it was evident that I didn’t fit The Mold. And not in any small way. I was so far from being Mold material that never in his most horrific nightmares did the Mold-maker imagine such a creature as I. Had his nocturnal theater seen fit to grace his subconscious with visions of what I would do to the adults around me, he would have awoken screaming in a cold sweat, and quit the Mold-making business forever, in favor of a much more calming occupation, like studying live volcanoes.

My parents were, naturally, worried. Their promising young paragon of precocity had a very short fuse, and a staggering disregard for the adult authorities. I was sent to a variety of psychologists. One of them wanted me to do some sort of word association exercise with images he had on cards. I, of course, had no patience for such trifles. The drawing on the card is clearly a truck, and there’s no reason to belabor the point. After conferring with my parents in the next room, the psychologist was soon running back in after he hears the sound of his cards being calmly ripped in two.

Although my antics were humorous at times, the reality was far more grim. My deviance was such that if left unchecked, I would be unable to function within society, much less continue attending school. Fortunately a psychiatrist was soon found with the infinite patience required to help me.

After much deliberation, I was diagnosed with Minimal Brain Damage. Or, as it’s known these days, Attention Deficit Disorder. Say what you will about the over-, under-, sideways-, or corkscrew-diagnosis of this condition, I presented a major problem to those whose job it is to educate me, and this diagnosis got me on the right track. And though I was (and still am) given Ritalin, the problem does not go away immediately. It is only through years of counseling and self-ordeal that I learned to behave within expectations.

One particular explanation for the effect of ADD was especially influential on me. Whether it is correct or not is irrelevant, it is how I came to relate myself to everyone else. I was told that those without ADD are like farmers, able to plow back and forth across a large field many times, focusing only on the overall job. I, on the other hand, was like the hunter, who must be aware of every movement, every rustle, every sound.

This dichotomy formed the basis of the fundamental obstacle to my Quest, but an explanation of why requires more of the story.

By the time I was in the second grade, I knew I want to be a physicist. How I arrived at this I cannot say, save that I did so after discarding the careers of a stand up comedian and a sculptor. Whatever it was that secured me to this path did so with an adhesion of which the strongest industrial epoxy resins can only dream. Despite my utter lack of knowledge of what physics work actually entails, I continued to hold fast to it as my destiny in life, as the fulfillment of my Quest.

Throughout my public schooling I learned more about this, the most fundamental of sciences. In the seventh grade, my report on the quantum physics and the photoelectric effect opened my eyes to the world of the subatomic, and I was infatuated. I did not hear the quiet but insidious sound of the intellectual bastions of my Quest beginning to eat themselves away from the inside.

In the summer before my senior year of high school, I picked up a book called Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, by Lee Smolin. I can’t remember what possessed me to pick up that book. Perhaps it was that I had been told over and over again that the Big Problem in physics was unifying relativity with quantum mechanics. At any rate, I became fascinated by the descriptions of loop quantum gravity contained in that book.

I came to realize that, grand unified theories aside, space and time are the least understood entities in physics today, and yet they underlie …well, the Universe. So I set out to figure out how spacetime works. Since all we know about it (aside from a few quantum phenomena like the Casimir effect) is that it conveys the gravitational force, that means studying planck-scale gravity. My Quest was reborn.

As high school progressed, my grades and the level of effort I put into my studies promised great things. I thoroughly impressed all of my teachers; my father and my guidance counselor secured me a scholarship at RPI. The last vestiges of my elementary school troubles were gone, or so I thought. In reality, the signs of trouble ahead were all around me.

Those signs followed me to Troy, NY, and continued to hide in plain sight. They became great building-sized affairs, neon pronouncements flashing so brightly a blind man could have seen them. From under a rock. In a cave. On Mars.

But I blithely ignored them nonetheless. I was much too busy using my AP credit from high school to craft grandiose plans for my future and my Quest. At first I wanted to stay on for five years and finish my master’s degree, but I eventually decided to simply graduate early and go straight for my PhD, after learning that the two are a package deal in physics graduate school.

I discovered, per my refined goal of quantum gravity, the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, in the same city as Waterloo University. It’s somewhat analogous to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, save that the Perimeter Institute isn’t officially attached to the school. Nevertheless, many Institute researchers, leading lights in the small but growing field of quantum gravity, are Waterloo faculty. Insert metaphor about eggs in baskets here. Emotional eggs in a mental basket, because I also began applying to five other schools: Cornell, Syracuse, Rutgers, UMD, and PSU.

It’s now the fall of 2005, the beginning of my third and final year at RPI. Preparations for graduate school started out as a light sprinkling, but soon were falling fast and furious. In particular, I devoted most of what time I had to preparing for that crown jewel of the admissions process, the Physics GRE. I did my best against the dearth of past exams available from the ETS, taking each of the three under test conditions and reviewing what I missed. My scores steadily rose.

On the day of the test, those signs of trouble finally got tired of blinking at me. While I’m sitting there in the lecture hall, they dropped a few 16-ton safes on me, but to no avail. I finished insanely early, wondering whose ass I kissed to get such an easy test. I told everyone I’m “cautiously optimistic,” but this was merely a cover-up. My inner three-year-old was giggling madly, ecstatic that the Quest would soon be fulfilled.

At this point you’re wondering when the other shoe will drop, when the hammer will fall, when I’ll finally hear the music and turn to face it. Here’s what happened. I went to my professor’s office so she could return to me the midterm in my graduate physics course. I hadn’t done well on it, the lowest score in the class, but a good grade was still salvageable. She told me that while I always understood the physics she teaches, I didn’t have the proper facility with the mathematics.

And suddenly it all clicked into place. Every problem I ever had in school was a result of this. Because I had lived by the farmer-hunter ADD analogy, within a few years I was unable to handle tedium of any sort, and before long anything that required mostly memorizing formulas I would dismiss as not relevant to my Quest. From the repetitive arithmetic assignments of elementary and middle school, to the downright monotonous two line proofs of high school geometry, to the syntax-related difficulties of my Computer Science II class, to every minus sign I had ever dropped or number miswritten on a homework assignment or test, to every formula I misremembered or simply forgot, this was what I was missing all along.

Like the klutzy, dumb, but lovable cartoon cat who slowly realizes that the grenade is next to him, I slowly realized I was sitting on a massive ticking time bomb. By the time I had stood up and turned around, my Physics GRE score came back, and the whole thing exploded in my face.

I’m not sure how exactly the perceived easiness of the test resulted in the score it did, but where I needed a 50th percentile to have a chance at being admitted to Waterloo, I received a 32nd. It felt as though someone had erased Waterloo, Ontario from the map. It felt as though someone had welded a Dunce cap to my head. I sat in a daze, wondering how I had ever thought myself capable of studying physics. My inner three-year-old was wailing pure anguish.

But this is not a tragic story. Because it’s not over yet. Instead of going directly to Waterloo next fall, there are two possible paths:

  1. I have added Dartmouth and RPI to the list of schools to which I am applying. In addition to PSU, these schools are ranked low enough to consider me even with my low score, while still having good programs. After a couple of years of demonstrating that I can in fact handle grad school, I can transfer.

  2. The next opportunity to take the test is in April, and I will be taking it. Should I do well enough on this test to go directly to Waterloo, I need only find a suitable internship until January or September 2007.

I’m not giving up. Even if both of these options fall through, I will not give up. I will never give up. I have already formed plans involving entire boxes of physics problem-solving books to remedy my longstanding error. I will never give up. I will immerse myself in mathematics until my head spins, and then I’ll really get started. I will never give up. The graduate directors of every program in the world can come and tell me they’ll never accept me, and I will go back to studying. I will never give up. I will juggle page-long equations until I can explain them six ways to Sunday, dissect them, put them back together, eat, breathe, sleep, and live them, shake them upside down by the ankles and beat them within an inch of their lives if I have to. I will never give up.

The Quest lives on.

Great OP Spatial. I especially like the part about beating up on math. I was never all that great at math myself but never considered beating it up. Bet I coulda beat it up real good too! Good luck on The Quest.

I got all the Christmas junk I bought all wrapped (well, mostly bagged) up this weekend. That’s pretty much what I did this weekend. Maybe I’ll have more to yak on and on about later.

There but for the grace of Og go I.
Although I don’t have your ADD, math was my downfall in the physics world also. I was the only one of the science geeks in my senior year to take AP Physics and not AP Calculus. To this day, I still can’t get past diffy-qs.

I still have all my present shopping to do, but I did get the outside lights up yesterday at the house. So there was some progress made. And we went back to Trader Joes for more stuff Sunday morning.

Oh, please…let’s be PC here. We’re numerically challenged. :smiley: Funny how some of us end up messing with numbers for a living. About one-quarter of my job description deals with miscellaneous billing for eleven public relations clients. OW! Brain hurts! OW!

Good job, sr47!!

Got Mr. Anachi’s presents all done on Saturday. I even almost felt all Christmas Spirity while I was doing it. Hope it lasts. I still have stocking stuffers to get for the kids.

Two days of work this week and then I’m off till Tuesday after Christmas. YAY!


So **Mika **and I actually got to meet **Spatial **this weekend. Good food, good company, good times. :slight_smile:

I think my shopping’s done. I’m planning to make Mom some Russian Tea Cakes as one of her gifts so I’ve got to actually do that sometime but other than that I think I have everything I need. **KeithT **and I are giving each other a trip to NYC as our xmas gifts so that cuts down on what I have to get. He’s never been there before so that should be fun. He’ll be here a week from tonight! Yay!

And I only have a 4 1/2 day week this week! :smiley:

I recall taking Honors Physics in 10th grade (before Chemistry, which I think is ridiculous, but that’s how my school did it), and I got a D minus. I was fine with that. I’m not really a sciencey person, as long as the laws of physics apply, I will obey them, but I don’t really care so much about the Legislature of Physics. But having a Quest is always important, so good on you, Rifty! (That’s your new name. At least in my head.)

I left work early on Friday because I wasn’t feeling well, and spent most of the weekend on my couch, crocheting madly. I have finished all my gifts with the exception of one hat I can probably get done tonight. Almost all my wrapping is done, and almost all the gifts I need to have by Friday are bought. I still need to make one more set of candles to give out at work, and then I’ll be as close to done as I ever get. What concerns me is the house. I need to clean it by Friday night, which is when Jessmas will be taking place.

The History of Jessmas is relatively simple–My name is Jessie. My birthday is Christmas Eve. I decided that all my friends must pay homage and give me gifts, but since I wanted to get the lazy buggers out of their houses, I had to promise them stuff, too. Thus, the first Jessmas came to be. Everybody comes over my house, we give each other presents, and since we usually give each other toys, we spend the rest of the evening playing with them. It’s usually held on Christmas Eve, but since we’ve got a free Friday night, we’ll use it.

In other news, I discovered that the wedding I was supposed to be in come April has been canceled, as the couple went ahead and eloped this weekend. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but that’s one less thing I have to worry about. My mother has informed me that the rules for the Family Holiday Grab Bag game have changed, and I am currently working on a way to sneak into where all the presents are kept while avoiding thirty-odd family members, then unwrapping all the presents, replacing them with rubber chickens, and re-wrapping everything. (Story of explanation available after I get my morning work done. :slight_smile: )

In conclusion, I’m damned tired today.

Gah. An OP that mentions MATH. Double gah and blech and yuck and yick and ewwwwww…
Nice MMP, Rifty (note how close that is to Rigby…heh). I am pulling for you, (but I didn’t need to hear a story about confidence re GRE and resultant poor performance.) <looks at GRE practice book and blenches–maybe my vocab DOES suck…>
Query: can one channel their ADD in such a way? I thought that one reason it was so difficult to teach was due to the jumping from thing to thing–the attention deficit bit of Attention Deficit Disorder (heh). Or maybe I’m discovering that I have a bit of ADD meself, since I loathe rote work of any kind (housework, anyone?).

Also, what does RPI stand for?
You can and will do this–I vote for a retake in March. You wait, someday you’ll tie a knot in String Theory–I just know it!
Tis colder than a witche’s tit out there (dunno quite what that means, but I’ve always wanted to use it!). It’s ZERO out at present. My old bones aren’t ready for this. I love winter, but I don’t like bitter. It IS pretty out–snow is all pristine and sparkly in the dying star beams. I need to do some foraging, I mean grocery shopping and then make some MORE Xmas cookies. I type Xmas 'cause it’s quicker than Christmas. Plus, Cecil has told us that it is NOT a slam to the Big Bday (which didn’t happen around now, anyway, but I digress).
Kids are home for vaca. Should be good.

Oh, and work was so bad this weekend that I am doubled in my resolve to ace the GRE and get into the LEEP program and become a librarian, toot sweet!

Great job, Spatial!

Not much news - you guys already know I met **Spatial ** and **taxi ** on Saturday. I’ll be back when I have something exciting to tell!

Great OP, Rifty! I wish I had a quest.

I only have to work one day this week, today. (And of course I’m on the boards.)

Tom got a free turkey from his company, but I already have one for Christmas dinner. So I called the food bank, and I will drop it off to them on Wednesday.

I’m gonna spend my time off shopping for a few remaining gifts,a nd cleaning and decorating the house.

Anybody got a recipe for squash casserole? I want to serve that at Xmas dinner. We have 4 picky eaters (meaning they hate veggies) and a vegetarian coming. The squash will be for the veggie and the rest of us. Mashed potatoes for them. Corn. Green beans. I don’t know what all - but I’m buying a springform pan and making a cheesecake. Mmm.

I have a Quest! And if I work long hours, steal extra shifts, save up my money, and hope really really really hard…

…the laptop will be mine! halo of light, angelic choir of voices

Anyways. Did I tell you all I failed Grade 11 math?

(Really. I bombed abysmally on the final, and I had to go and redo it in summer school, at a Catholic high school where they made us pray along with the anthem every morning, and the only reason I passed that course was because the teacher was a sleazebag. A fun sleazebag, mind you, but a total sleazebag.)

Math and me are like bananas and tomatoes–never shall us twain meet, expect in the produce section of the grocery store.

Spatial Rift 47, I understand. I’ve had to make my ADD an asset, instead of the liability it can be. I understand how frustrating when the world around me keeps secrets. I just want to know how things work. Is that really so much to ask?

On to other news: I’m getting hubby a kitten for Christmas. Inspired by FCM I when in search of.
I found the sweetest little boy. He’s blue-gray with moon colored eyes, and white feet. He isn’t quite old enough to leave mama, so I’ll be picking him up on the 22nd.

Hubby HAS QUIT SMOKING! Well, he’s had 3 in the last 5 days. Not so bad I guess.
He’s using a nic patch, but he didn’t tell me he used the last one. I’ll have to get more then drive one to him at work.
I made more candy on Friday; opera fudge with dried sour cherries. The fudge is very sweet, so the sour cherry is perfect.
Unfortunately, before I could get it into the packages I’m putting together, hubby ate half of it. It gave him a tummy ache. Serves him right. Hurrumpf.
Can I go back to bed now?

Don’t spend a lot of money. My first one I paid some dollahs for and it works great. I needed another so bought a set of three for less than ten dollahs Chez Target. Both pans work equally well for cheesecakes. :slight_smile:

Oh, yeah and you need to put a pan with water in it underneath when you’re baking the cheesecake. I was told it will keep your cheesecake from cracking.

Great job Rifty. I positively suck at math and loathe it. I only made it through Algebra and Geometry. After that, I had enough math credits and decided I didn’t need the torture anymore.

I only have three more Christmas presents to buy and then I’m done. I still need to pick up my roast beast on Friday, plus trimmings for the rest of the meal. I’m making smashed taters, gravy with red wine and chanterelle mushrooms, and I haven’t decided on the sides or dessert. I figure the rest of the family can bring the sides, desserts and appetizers.

I also need to buy wrapping paper, bows, and scotch tape. Seems all of mine has mysteriously disappeared.

I guess I better do some work now.

Bumba, how’re you feeling this morning?

You do math in the produce section of the grocery store? I usually do my homework at my desk, but hey, whatever works for you. :stuck_out_tongue:

Rigby, I should emphasize that my troubles come from wrestling with the Physics GRE, one of the subject tests. The General GRE is far, far easier. RPI stands for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, NY.

About ADD, once I got on the ritalin and learned to control myself mostly, I found it easy enough to focus on something, as long as I enjoyed it. Tedious or memorization-based subjects apparently didn’t meet that criterion, hence the OP. But everyone has trouble focusing or really getting into something if they don’t enjoy it, it’s just that I and other ADD-types have far more trouble than most. In other words, there’s a little ADD in everyone, but those who have ADD have it to the extreme. Again, this is just from my experience, others may have a different perspective on it.

Thanks to all who enjoyed my OP. Writing it last night was a tremendous catharsis that I really needed. Now I feel I’m finally in a position to start undoing all the damage.

For the record, my inner three-year-old is pissed off.

Wonderful MMP today.

I teach math. Well, I teach math to LVN students. I’m learning that teaching the adult learner has unique challenges. Like, they hate the teacher. They sigh out loud. Occasionally they cry. I have developed a curriculum for getting them through this chaotic mess. I use humor. I write on the board furiously. I give them tips for short-cuts. I beg. I cajol. It doesn’t matter. Math is hard. After a class with those 22 students (1 younger male who yawns and feigns boredom, 21 women, most of them students returning to school after raising a family), I am generally drenched in sweat and on the verge of tears myself. And it’s not just math, it’s medical math. Grains, grams, drams, t or T. Try calculating an IV drip rate in front of 22 on-the-verge-of-seizure students.

Math is fun!!! Or, fill in the blank yourself - math is ___________!

Gah! I just got an e-mail that sent my blood pressure through the roof - full of lies and misinformation about prayer in schools, the Founding Fathers, the national motto, and how we should all be allowed to PRAY IN SCHOOLS!
Gah! Gah! Gah! Gah! I normally just delete them and move on with my life but not today, oh no. I sent back a detailed e-mail with links to Wikipedia and to Snopes and a bunch of request for cites?! AAAARGH! And I’m probably just going to get a pouty e-mail back saying “Why do you hate America?”

I’ll fill in the blank:

Math is cool when you’re using a spreadsheet.

I was really good at math in high school, and so I figured I’d major in something mathy when I got to college. I thought that a math degree in itself wasn’t practical for much other than teaching (which I now know isn’t the case, but whatever) and so opted for accounting instead.

Funny enough, there’s not as much math as you’d think in accounting. :smiley: Well, not a lot more than addition and subtraction anyway…

I went for a run this morning and tripped. I’m scuffed up, sore, and mad as a wet hen. I hope the day gets better from here.

Oooh, I do! I do!

Cook up a butternut squash. Mash it. Butter/Pam a casserole dish (size of dish dependent on size of squash). Put 1/2 the squash in the pan. Spread with a thin layer of pesto sauce (the jar stuff works fine for this if you don’t want to take the time to make your own). Sprinkle with a bunch of FRESH grated parmesan cheese (not the stuff that comes in a can… the kind that’s pre-shredded in the refrigerated section - fancy cheese section - of the grocery store is ok though). Add the rest of the squash, another layer of pesto and top with more parmesan. Bake at 350 for 40 min. Really really YUM. And filling enough to make a meal for the vegetarian (as long as they are ok with dairy).

Aha! Here’s the official recipe for the above dish. So you can ignore my indecipherable babbling.

So, my boss made a round of the Customer Service department to remind everyone that they should let customers know we’re closing down at 2:00 on Friday, for our company party. Late last month, I asked her if we were going to get out early that day, because I have a lot of stuff to do before my friends converge on my house, and wanted to make sure–I was willing to fill out the form and take a couple hours’ unpaid leave, as long as I was guaranteed to get out early. She told me that there was no problem, and not to bother.

Today, I asked her if she was sure about leaving early, because she wasn’t here last year, when we went downstairs for the party in the cafeteria … and then were told to go right back to our desks. I have been reassured multiple times that 2:00 on Friday is THE END.

If I have to stay till 5:30–or even 5:00–I’m going to be highly pissed.

Here is Paula Deen’s recipe for squash casserole. It is the classic southern squash casserole. There’s also a link to her recipe for tomato pie. Tomato pie is one nummy side dish that’s real easy to make. I strongly suggest this if’n you are a lover of tomatoes.

<snerk> Taters is making smashed taters! <snerk>