Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On the recycling of Wikipedia

(Just for reference, I've spent most of the day grading about a hundred 3-page-long Chemistry assignments. Hence this blog post as well as my last one.)


One question asks the students to define "conformational isomer." I have found that a large, large chunk of my students were making very similar and (to me) anomalous mistakes, using language that I hadn't heard in either Boydston's or my own Organic Chemistry class.

Among the more common mistakes I found were:

"Conformational isomers is a form of stereoisomerism in which the isomers can be interconverted exclusively by rotations about formerly single bonds"

"Conformational isomers differ by rotation about only one single bond."

"Conformational isomers require the breaking and reformation of chemical bonds."

Then, upon a spark of inspiration, I checked Wikipedia:

In chemistry, conformational isomerism is a form of stereoisomerism in which the isomers can be interconverted exclusively by rotations about formally single bonds.[1] Such isomers are generally referred to as conformational isomers or conformers and specifically as rotamers[2] when they differ by rotation about only one single bond. Conformational isomers are thus distinct from the other classes of stereoisomers for which interconversion necessarily involves breaking and reforming of chemical bonds. The rotational barrier, or barrier to rotation, is the activation energy required to interconvert rotamers.

The Peculiar Hell of Grading Short-Answer Questions


"What color is the sky?"




The sky is the part of the atmosphere or of outer space visible from the surface of any astronomical object. It is difficult to define precisely for several reasons. The sky is sometimes defined as the denser gaseous zone of a planet's atmosphere. At night the sky has the appearance of a black surface or region scattered with stars.

During the day the Sun can be seen in the sky, unless obscured by clouds. In the night sky (and to some extent during the day) the moon, planets and stars are visible in the sky. Some of the natural phenomena seen in the sky are clouds, rainbows, and aurorae. Lightning and precipitation can also be seen in the sky during storms. On Earth, birds, insects, aircraft, and kites are often considered to fly in the sky. As a result of human activities, smog during the day and light radiance during the night are often seen above large cities (see also light pollution).

In the field of astronomy, the sky is also called the celestial sphere. This is an imaginary dome where the sun, stars, planets, and the moon are seen to be traveling. The celestial sphere is divided into regions called constellations.

The sky is green.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Plan

So! We've decided to attempt to get Solium Infernum underway tomorrow. If any disagree, say "Nay!"

I feel like the ideal situation would be us blocking out an hour every two days or so to play, probably from 9-10 (or thereabouts.) Any thoughts? (Mind that this game takes quite a long time to play--probably take us about two weeks to get through a game even at this pace-- but I've got testimony from 3 sources other than myself that says it's totally worth it!)

On starting up, everyone should have access to the "Solium Infernum" dropbox folder with instructions written by our own Josh Williams.

Now then, gentlemen! Install your games! For it's a battle royale-- CAN YOU DIG IT?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Message To: Josh Williams

Get a blogspot account, you lazy SOB! I will also require your email, which has been lost to the mists of time, so I can send you a dropbox link.

In other news, we have for Solium Infernum six people, which is actually the maximum number the game can support! Excellent.


I actually have plans to give the multiplayer game a test run this weekend, since Josh, Branden, Chris and I are actually going to be in the same place for a period of time. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good times all around!

So my Advanced OChem professor is a pretty cool guy, eh. Very friendly, and is probably the best Chemistry professor I've had, but asking him questions almost always results in exchanges such as:

Me: Hey, professor, are these two reactants in Problem 3 in a 1:1 ratio with each other?
Him: Ha ha! I ask you, what in this question could possibly have made you think that?
Me: O_O (....)

But, like, in a friendly way which does not translate well to paper-- I'd say it comes out as 40% scorn, 60% playfulness. Surprisingly, this hasn't caused me to stop asking questions. I suspect that it's because I know that whichever question I ask, it will be mocked in front of the class. It's like I can accept this mockery beforehand, since I know it's coming, and I can therefore get over it before it happens. It's kinda zen when you think about it, if you don't think too hard.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh, also, an update!

Oh yeah! I forgot to say a bit about how I'm doing! Currently Branden and I are trying to find a gaming group; both out of a desire to game, and a desire to find somebody to hang out with that is not technically several hundred miles due south.

I've been trying to get something together with the Official University of Washington Pencil and Paper RPGs Group, specifically by way of the forums. Sample conversation:

Forum: (Vast, gaping silence)
Me: The time is upon us for D&D, Arkham Horror, and assorted Cthonic shenanigans disregarded by mainstream society! JOIN ME, and I promise you times of great merriment and camaraderie, the likes of which never have been seen by human eyes!
Forum: (A limitless void of inactivity)
Me: Truly! You must only bring yourselves to the domain of the University, and all the riches and amusements at my command will unfold themselves before you, like a tremendous and vibrant forest! Nay, the greatest of redwoods shall not compare in splendour to even one of the extravagant entertainments I offer to you, this very fortnight!
One Forumer: Anybody wanna buy a set of D20's?
Me: σ_σ GET OUT

So that hasn't worked out incredibly well. Following a lead now, however. I'll let you know how it goes!

Also-- solium infernum! DO IT!

Solium Infernum!

Hey everyone! So I'm trying to round up enough folks for a game of Solium Infernum. This is a very singular game, wherein Lucifer has disappeared and you're now competing for the throne of Hell against various other interested persons, shadies, and gentledevils.

Gameplay-wise, I like... well, I'll repost an email I just sent to a few people.

Basically, I like that it kills off three of the big problems we keep running into in our free-for-all type games:

1) Stalemates-- the end of the game is set at a specific time, with whoever has the most "prestige" winning.
2) Everyone cuts down the tallest poppies, leading to nobody wanting to be tallest-- this is prevented via a system where you allocate one player as your nemesis, which reduces the cost of actions against that player. You can switch your nemesis, but it's not free, which makes it somewhat more difficult to just go after whoever happens to have gained a small lead.
3) The structure of the game is such that turtling is generally a bad strategy.

It also features deception, backstabbing, and political dickery. My favorite kind of dickery!

Anyhow, I can put this game up on Dropbox if anybody is interested. You guys up for it? (Note: I'd recommend trying a game or two vs. the AI so y'all can get a handle on it.)

Short review:

There's also a short tutorial here:

Now then! I was wondering if there were any readers of this blog who may be interested in playing a highly cutthroat, highly complicated game of strategery with me and whoever else is interested (I have recently gotten both HTMC and Branden on board, so that's three-- I'd say we could use at least two more for a really good, diplomatic game.)

As for the format, it's a play-by-email game, so it's fairly slow paced-- but this is a good thing, since it means your time commitment per-day is quite low.

Oh yeah, and one other thing I like about the game? The aesthetics. Not the board game-y aesthetics of the main interface, but the art and description accompanying every piece of equipment, each character, and each army in the game, which you can purchase from the Infernal Bazaar as the game goes on. You cannot buy a "Level 2 Amulet of Protection." You can buy an Alien God In A Bottle. (I am not making this up. This is actually the name of the artifact. It protects you from being spied on by your opponents.)

And you don't have any Level 3 Melee Armies. You've got The Beast.

And finally, there's Character Creation, a process that allows you to attach to your avatar such attributes as "Unnatural Prescience" and "Prince of Lies." Anyway, it's classy business. Anyone want to give it a shot? I can allow any interested parties access to Dropbox so as to procure the game.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Fear

Or, In Which Writing is Cathartic.

There's this thing that continually infests my thoughts these days, and has since I started research at Pomona a couple years ago. A phobia which, for whatever reason, twirls constantly around my thoughts and feelings regarding lab. Like a kind of whisper; keeping me in an unholy terror that somebody will, someday soon, figure it out that I'm a fraud. I've managed to sneak this far into grad school without any of my professors detecting that I'm not one of them, and a part of me continues to feel certain that when lab work actually starts, things will go okay-- for a time-- until somebody realizes that where others churn out research after research, I can only stare in horror at a reaction mixture that refuses to do or say anything. And then come the ritual sacrifices, and it all goes downhill from there. And I know that of all my fears, this is one of the most retarded. Nevertheless it persists.

....and then, some time after finishing that mini-essay, I looked on Wikipedia, saw Imposter Syndrome, and found the sentence:

The impostor syndrome was thought to be particularly common among women who are successful in their given careers, but has since been shown to occur for an equal number of men. It is commonly associated with academics and is widely found among graduate students.