School – and Hard Knocks

My ‘career’ as a student at Mississippi State University continues. This semester I’m taking courses in Severe Weather and Statistical Climatology.

Last night was not my finest educational hour.

The way it works is, each week you are supposed to watch a lecture, read some text, do homework and take a quiz. Then, every three weeks you take a test based on your homework answers. Finally, there is a midterm and final.

Except for some ridiculous ‘cake’ courses, I watch the lecture (at double speed if it’s on DVD, as most are) but seldom read the textbook or do the homework. I have found that I can skim the book when I need it and do the homework questions I need during the allotted time of the test.

That was until last night!

I had waited until the last minute and had one lecture, two quizzes and two tests to complete before I went to bed. I watched the Severe Weather lecture and then took its quiz and test first. No problem. It was thought provoking, but in the end, I got 100% on both.

The Statistical Climatology test was different. I immediately realized I had sorely underestimated the time it would take to do the problems. The math is simple, but there were a number of problems that demanded multiple calculations on 31 separate numbers.

My heartbeat quickened and I started to sweat.

I rushed through and actually got just about all the math right… but not doing as well as I might.

When I looked at the test result this morning, I had an 80. I know that’s not bad, but my goal has been to maintain a straight “A” average… to somehow make up for my first, ill fated, poorly executed, youthful, college experience. An 80 is awful. All is not lost, but I’m sure I’ll really be scared the next time.

One interesting thing was, two questions, one on the test and one on the quiz, had answers graded that didn’t match what I thought I had entered. That’s troubling. I have written the instructor, but more as a cautionary note should they hear this from others, than a plea for leniency.

I realized, after the test, that I could go about 50 times faster and more accurate with a statistical calculator. We have one very fancy TI model that Steffie uses and an older TI model that would probably do the job, except we no longer have the manual and TI doesn’t have it posted on its web site.

So, this afternoon, I stopped at Office Max and picked up a new calculator. It is a wiz at standard deviation, mean and other statistical calculations I’ll need to do. The amazing part is, it was $7.95.

So, now I’m wondering how do they do that? How did Casio get someone to write the software and design the circuitry, print the instructions (one giant piece of paper folded a bunch of ways like a road map), produce the calculator, package it, ship it from China, and sell it at Office Max with profit being made every step of the way. It’s only $7.95. There aren’t too many ways to split that.

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