Monday, April 28, 2008

How to Ace that Final You're Cramming For....

If you're like me, you wish every finals week that you had started studying earlier. After you take your final, you go over some of the problems you could have gotten right if you just had time to read that extra chapter or do that extra problem. Sometimes I get the feeling some of the questions on the final are common knowledge to people here at Duke; everyone excluding me of course.

Questions like: What syndrome in primates causes hyperorality, motivational agnosia, and changes in sexual and feeding behavior? A lesion to which brain region causes hemispatial neglect? If you're like me, you answered "Dick Vitale Syndrome" for the first one because you thought hyperorality meant you talked too much (it doesn't, and hopefully you're not like me).

This doesn't solve your problem, though. You need a way to cram 20 chapters of that 1347-page textbook into your head in just 24 hours. Why? Well, it doesn't matter how you got there. It was probably your fault, but you don't care about that, you're here to know: How? How do I memorize this stuff? How do I fit those 20 chapters in my sleep-deprived, McDonald's-eating brain.

Good question, here's how. The bad news is there is no easy way, but the good news is there's a better way then what you're probably doing. If you're a perfectionist, you're neatly highlighting and taking color-coded notes. If you don't care, you're just jotting down as much crap and memorizing it rote as possible. If you're smart, you could do it a different way.

First, you need to ask yourself some questions. What kind of final is it? Is it short answer for most of the questions? Do you have to know specifics? Is it an all multiple-choice test? Are you going to be writing essays? If you are, then you're fucked. Sorry. But if you have multiple choice and short answer, you're good to go. If the test is spread out through the whole book with no emphasis on earlier or later chapters, well that sucks. But we can work with that.

Second, you need to build a visual map. This works best for the sciences but if you're intelligent you can probably tweak it for something like History or Public Policy. I'll take cognitive neuroscience, the final I had today, as an example.

Neuroscience is about two things. It's about memorizing terms like extinction, abstraction, priming, or long-term potentiation. However, it's equally about memorizing specific areas of the brain, how they get their information and what they do with it. This can get very intimidating.

Now, we need to somehow take these areas of the brain (occipital, lateral geniculate, blah blah blah), combine them with pathways (ventral stream, dorsal stream, etc. etc.) and then finally integrate what it is that they do here (let you see things, let you smell things, blah blah blah). We need a visual map! We need to take this information, analogize it to something we see everyday, or perhaps know a lot about, and then label it with our areas of the brain, its functions, and pathways.

For example, if we wanted to know how the visual system worked in the brain, we could analogize it to an object or a picture of something. Let's take a vacuum; weird, I know. The retina would be the bristles, and the tube could be the optic tract. The lateral geniculate nucleus would be the HEPA filter, and then finally the posterior occipital lobes would be the vacuum bag. I just took the test, so bear with me.

I did that example in about 2 minutes, and it's very poor, but the point of this visual map system is to convert all your knowledge about the subject into a system of easily remembered objects. If you can remember one part of the chain (the bristles, in this example) it will help you remember the whole, and then you can work from there. So now everytime you think visual pathway, you'll think vacuum, and then get confused as hell. No, but you will be able to transfer something that you don't know, into something you know intimately and that is easily remembered.

Some of the finals that I did the best on, but only managed to cram for a day or two before, were the ones that I could remember pictures objects and then take those analogies with me. I didn't have to know orbital energies, chemical formulas, or resonance structures. I had these things already embedded in me, because I had memorized whole pictures from the textbook, or had ready analogies that I could visualize.

They say that the people who can memorize the most use strategies like this. One likened memorizing which card was missing from a 51 card deck, when only shown the cards for a short period of time, to a room with 52 objects in it. Each object represented a single card, and had a sticky note on it. He would mentally remove the sticky notes of each card when he saw them, which left one object at the end still left. This was his card.

So why do people who are good at memorizing just remember the cards in the deck like they are? Why not just remember that there were 3 kings, 2 queens, and a seven played, rather than taking sticky notes off of imaginary objects? Well, it's because our spatial memories are much more advanced and organized then other memories. On any given day, you're visualizing a whole lot more data then you are taking in through any other sense. You've never heard about people who have had perfect auditory memories, have you? People with so called photographic memories are the ones that can memorize sheets upon sheets of useless data to their advantage.

So, I hope you might have gleaned a thing or two from this to help you study for your final, and if so inclined you should leave a comment telling me what you think about all this.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

You Wanna Have a Debate...OK

Coming off a 9% win in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton had this to say: "I hope we will be able to have a good old-fashioned Lincoln-Douglas debate right here in Indiana, so that you can see for yourself to make the decision about who our next President should be." Basically, Clinton wants a 90-minute debate without a moderator, which she likens to the Lincoln-Douglas debates back in 1858.

I read that thinking that she really had no idea what debates were like then. So I researched it. On Wikipedia: "Each debate had this format: one candidate spoke for an hour, then the other candidate spoke for an hour and a half, and then the first candidate was allowed a half hour "rejoinder." The candidates alternated speaking first."

As I remember being told in history class, the candidates would remember pages and paragraphs of rhetoric and recite them. Key word being: recite. As in from memory. Imagine going to a debate nowadays and hearing one of the candidates talk for an hour straight. I doubt any of the candidates could do that today, nor would we want them to. I suppose we're all too used to sound bites nowadays.

After all that, does Clinton even know that Lincoln is from Illinois, not Indiana?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...of Twitter

So I recently stumbled upon Twitter, this social networking site, where you can let friends know what you're doing all the time. I'd liken it to Facebook status on crack. Anyway, I found some interesting articles about people who have used Twitter for

The Good

The Bad


The Ugly

Interesting to say the least.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Finals Time

So this week we have our finals for Duke but, I can't stop playing Trick Shot Basketball and listening to Chris Cagle and Toto (a weird combo for sure). So as you know I love altversions of songs:

And a sweet dude on piano covering it also:

But more importantly, this was our LDOC lineup:

Absent Star....some rock band that was marginal.

The Roots...

Check out their sweet sousaphone player, Tuba Gooding Jr. Heh.

And of course, Third Eye Blind..."Graduate" was one of my favorite songs:

Happy Thursday guys.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Happened in Pennsylvania?

Obviously by now you know I'm a big Obama fan, but I'd just like to say that all this hoopla over Clinton's Pennsylvania win is a tad overrated.

Yes, she won by double digits, but just barely at 10%, stating that "I won that double-digit victory that everybody on TV said I had to win." So, I guess that statement is correct, but she also ONLY picked up 14 delegates...and she's still behind in the delegate count by at least 130. Nice.

I also heard some figure that Hillary Clinton's campaign is in debt up to $20 million dollars. That's a lot of money around these parts...And while in terms of money, the two were nearly tied two months ago, Obama has a $45 million dollar lead at this point. Not to mention that I have yet to see a state count or popular vote count that has Hillary in the lead at this point.

All this and Clinton has said: "The tide is turning." Really? Didn't Obama hand that state on a silver platter to you with his "misspoken" bitter comments?? And what tide? I didn't know anybody was a closet Clinton supporter that was just waiting for that breadbasket 10% victory.

Now, I don't wanna be a pessimist, but Clinton would have to win with at least 60% of the vote in ALL of the remaining primary states to clinch the nomination. Likely? I wouldn't really know, I wasn't allowed to vote in a primary, so anything could happen here...

Another classroom doodle

thanks for putting so much white space at the bottom of the powerpoint

anyone know how to make this not look like crap?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


OK, I love random facts, and this one is sweet. Did you know Akon has three wives? Yeah, neither did I. Yet, he doesn't drink or smoke.

Morals. He has them.

On another note, I love versions of rap songs, that aren't the real thing.
Like this guy, David Sides, who's sweet as shit by the way:

And the Duke Pitchforks:

The dude who does Lil Wayne does a pretty good job...

The real version isn't bad either, but I only watch til 1:20. For my money, you can't get much better than R.Kelly:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lacking Common Sense #1

Just the other day I went to the TED home page (for those of you who don't know what TED is, it's basically this conference where they have speakers talk about their amazing ideas and thoughts). I clicked on Al Gore's new slide show on global warming. I sat through the whole 30 minutes. Basically, I thought to myself, "So, what's new?". The earth is warming, theoretically; now let's see how the other 6 billion or so people on the planet react to this. Scrolling through the comments, it's like a bad Youtube comments section, except with better grammar.

The comments were of two varieties: 1) Al Gore, you suck. Don't bring your propaganda in here. Global warming is a hoax! And now Al Gore is in bed with the environmental companies. The data is skewed....etc, etc, etc.
2)I can't believe people are still blind to see there is a huge climate crisis on our hands. Look around you people! I'm gonna buy solar cells, a hybrid, eat soy, and not fart for the rest of my life....etc, etc, etc.
After two of these comments you get to the people who take crap personally, and start arguing emotionally. Which of course never works.

What's the point?

First, the issue, while it is being politicized, has also entered the court of public opinion. Not only has it become a social fad (green cars, green companies, green this green that), but now everyone who has read an article about global warming, or has seen Al Gore's slide shows suddenly has some unbreakable belief to one extreme or the other. Everyone argues with emotion either way. Documentaries are aimed to do just that: persuade people to one POV or another. What we need is facts and action. What we don't need are unshakable black and white beliefs! The world is grey.

The issue isn't about Al Gore, George Bush, gas companies or whatever, though. The issue is: is the world getting warmer? is it getting warmer at an appreciable rate? is this unnatural? is it dangerous? should we do something about it?

Second, those questions have little to do with what your opinion about Al Gore or any other gas company is. The gas companies will keep doing what they're doing no matter what you think of them. They are entrenched. And Al Gore will keep proselytizing about GW, whether you think he exaggerates or not. Al Gore could talk shenanigans out of his mouth for all I know, but I think he has one thing right: change comes from the people when they believe that something is amiss and government must respond to this.

The point is if we don't do something about the climate now, we'll pay for it now and later. If WE DO do something now, then we'll pay a LITTLE now and reap more benefits later. I realize that stats can show anything you want them to, but Al Gore has a point. That being, we shouldn't stand around and assume someone else is doing something to reduce global warming.

Whether you're a democrat, republican or whatever. Whether you think the oil companies are at fault. Whether you think this issue should be politicized or made into a social fad. We need to address it now, so we aren't addressing the (perhaps, irreversible) problems it will cause 50 years down the road.

In class doodle

Trust me, there's more where this came from:

Even though you probably don't care, I'll offer a backstory for those that have them.
This was inspired by Mr. Benjamin Paz. He was explaining how when you make a business plan, you select the option that gives you the highest probability for success, even though it may not necessarily be the best plan by the time everything plays out. He compared it to the reasoning for going to Wake Forest. "You could have gone to Beach University USA, but you came here instead. While you can go to another school and be successful in your career, you chose to go here because you think it gives you the best chance of success."
Hence, my artistic rendering of Mr. Paz's lecture: the guy from Beach U. chillin, and the Wake guy holding a briefcase full of dollars. (And if by now you're thinking we're a bunch of pompous jerks, you might be right)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Obama Owns

No explanation needed. It's over...

succeeding in college

Thinking about stuff that would be interesting to read about, I think about the common thread in almost all the blogs and sites I read: I read them in hopes they will make me more successful. Here, I'm hoping to do just that.

Step 1: Clean your room.
While it isn't necessary to have your home as tidy as the Vanderbilt mansion, there's no excuse for it to be a disaster, either. My mom, every time she sees my room, says "messiness sucks energy out of the room." Even though it sounds ridiculous, it's true. In a messy room, even if all the lights are on, it seems kind of dark and lifeless all the time.
Another reason to cleaning up the room is pretty self-evident: you will make your life easier if you know where to find things and don't have to sort through piles of crap to find it. Finally, it just makes a better impression on visitors when you don't need a bulldozer to make a place for them to sit.

In any case, getting the room clean is way easier than you think. If your room is really messy (like mine was a few days ago), pick a milestone that you're headed toward (mine was a Productions exam). Make a commitment to spend a pretty solid block of time on your room after that. It might sound like something you don't want to do after a big test or paper, but you'd be surprised how relaxing cleaning can be. Turn on some good music while you clean, or invite a friend over.
The main thing you need to do when starting out is make clearly defined piles. For most college students, 90% of the crap lying around will fall into two categories: clothing and books/papers.

Once you have everything separated, dive into it. Fold up all the clothes, throw stuff in the hamper, and don't stop until you've found a home for every piece of clothing. It's tempting to leave stuff out, but don't unless you know you're going to wear it within 24 hours (e.g. a polo shirt you're wearing to a party later that night).
Then, tackle the papers. Separate them into personal stuff (magazines, bills, etc), school papers, and junk. You'll be surprised by how much stuff you can get rid of in a short time just by recycling the papers you don't need. Then, depending on how organized you want to be, separate into sub-piles. Right now on my coffee table I have one pile for each class, RA stuff, general school papers, and mail. I'll discuss what to do with some of that stuff at a later date.
Finally, get rid of dust and dirt with a vacuum and/or broom.

Once you've got the room sufficiently organized, all you have to do is maintain it. A good rule is that you don't go to bed unless your room is satisfactorily clean. While that might sound like a pain, once again, you'll find that it isn't. It usually takes no more than 5 minutes and helps you unwind for the night. If you do this almost every night, the clutter that plagued you never has the chance to build up.

Now that my room is clean, it feels a lot bigger, and is just nicer to be in. I feel like I can actually enjoy it instead of worrying about navigating the obstacle course between the door and my bed.

Feel free to leave comments about how to keep it clean in between classes.

Right now, it's 3 a.m. and I've been studying for taxes for well over 12 hours, so if any of this doesn't make sense, blame the IRS.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I Love Duke Parking

So if you guys know me, then you've heard about my debacle with Duke Parking, but just in case you missed it here's a summary.

I just got a new car, and I bought a Temp Blue Zone permit for it. The Temp permits don't swipe into the lots, so I figured I would just park next to the lots and visit parking services on another day to ask them how the hell I was supposed to park in the Blue Zone. However, that night I come back to my car and realize I got a parking citation for parking in a fire lane. I look around and see no red line or fire lane in my parking space. The next day I figured I could go to parking services to appeal the violation. To my dismay, I found a second citation on the windshield, this time for an improper permit. How I can get an improper permit (which would mean its a parking space) and a fire lane violation is beyond me...

I paid the improper permit and appealed the fire lane violation. I rationalized, wrongly in this case, that a simple sketch showing that my car was parked in a space and not a fire lane would be sufficient. I was wrong. I got an email a few days later saying my fine was upheld and their decision was final. I would have to pay $200 for parking in a non-existent fire lane parking space. I decided to respond creatively, since there was no way in hell I was going to pay the $200. I wrote parking services a letter with pictures explaining my situation and finishing with this:

After receiving an email upholding the fire lane parking violation I decided that I would refuse to pay this fine until they make the parking spaces I parked in look like a fire lane. There is NO red line where I parked. Additionally, in the attached photos you can see clearly that there is a white parallel parking divider. You can also see the illegally parked car behind me that wasn’t ticketed. I understand that your Appeal decisions are final. Therefore I find it only fair that my money be put to good use to make it clearer to other vehicles that the parallel parking spaces they think they see is a well-disguised fire lane.

Throughout the letter I made sure to let them know that I did indeed know that other illegally parked vehicles, and matters of convenience were no excuse for parking in illegal areas.

I'll keep you guys updated on what actually happens. As of now I'm waiting for a call back from the Adjudications manager at Parking Services.