I frickin' passed, baby! It wasn't as hard as it was supposed to be -- I even kinda wished it was harder.
But I passed, and I'm happy. I am a mother-lovin' Ph.D. candidate!
The theme of this blog (currently) is the fact that the Un-Candidate (me) will be taking my candidacy exam on June 30, 2004. [I think it's kind of ironic that I will be finding out the short-term direction of the rest of my life the same day that Iraqis will be taking their first steps to nationhood.] Anyway, my best friend took that same candidacy exam today at 3 p.m.
I don't know the details at the moment. Even if I did and even though I am posting anonymously, I wouldn't talk about it. In any case, here's my best buddy, a guy that I'd feel comfortable with telling my deepest, darkest secrets and he failed. What the hell am I going to do about that? I guess I'll do my best to be a friend; I just simply don't understand how this happened.
It's not an easy exam. It's also known as the "graduate school oral" or the "research oral." You get the idea -- it's all about the research that you've done, whether you understand it and whether you can complete a decent enough amount of work in the remaining year. You go into a little room, present your research results for about twenty minutes and then your committee [three professors in the department and your advisor (for me, the Boss.)] They can ask you anything they want for as long as they want.
My boss ('The Boss') is known for being a tough questioner and not holding back on his students. My other committee members are pretty fair, but interesting enough and random enough to keep me on my toes. I might have to answer questions about nitrogen chemistry, reaction kinetics and computational chemistry. My boss knows what I'm weak in -- that's frightening, too.
After my best friend's experience, I'm a little stunned.
I suppose I could best sum up these past few days with a chemistry axiom: sometimes, the idea that you had briefly was the right one all along.
I had been pig-headedly been trying to protect an alcohol using basic means to attach a PMB-ether; I should have known that the PMB-imidate would have worked well without touching the TBDPS group. But noooo, I had to try the freakin' PMB-bromide. Serves me right.
I also spent time nailing down a couple more mechanisms and transition states, including the altogether tricky-but-still-pretty-basic Evans aldol transition states. I still can't explain why I don't get any higher than 60% yield. The 'punt team' answer is that the propyl group is bigger than the methyls that are usually used in Evans' reactions; it's entirely reasonable the sterics cut down on reactivity. Problem is, I don't know if that's a 10-yard shank or a 60-yarder coffin corner kick.
Helped my buddy prepare for his candidacy exam, too.
...sometimes you're the ball.
Well, it's been relaxing, but not very productive hereabouts. (Part of this is due to the fact that the Boss is out of town.) But this stupid PMB-protection that I've been running has been killing my precious material -- it's so f***ing frustrating that a stupid protection is eating my material alive. So frustrating.
I'll run it again tomorrow, dammit. But I've just kissed 500 mgs of material goodbye -- I can't keep doing this, dammit.
Diet, not so good. Exercise, not good either. Frustration level, high. I'm going home to bed.
Goodbye, Mr. President. I remember Ronald Reagan -- I remember listening to him address the 1992 Republican Convention. Whatta great speaker.
I shall choose to remember him as a happy, strong man. America will miss him. I'll send you over to Stephen Green's site, for a quote from Peggy Noonan.
By the way, President Bush sure sounds broken up in that taped statement.
This is the first, hopefully, in a series of posts about popular country music. I am not kidding when I say that I love the stuff: I started listening to it in the spring of 1995 and I haven't looked back since. Is there a finer song of the early 90s than Clint Black's State of Mind with its incredible entering harmonica solo? Can people name a truer, sadder song than Tim McGraw's Everywhere? So they're not "American Pie" -- but they're great to sing along to, they express a mindset that your average person can relate to and they're catchy.
Gear shift: songwriters could not help but write about September 11, 2001. I strongly feel that Toby Keith's Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue was a justified song. Do recall that the song was originally titled "The Angry American"; the song wasn't a policy recommendation, it was just an expression of how the average person felt sometimes. I can't emphasize that enough: it was a mood, a feeling.
On the flip side of Toby Keith (or maybe just a different facet of the same window) was the song written by Tim McGraw called Comfort Me. Here are some of the lyrics:
You walk on water / searching the East
The souls of the masses / pass at your feet
Looking up at you / tears in their eyes
Fathers of fathers of fathers gone by
Walk me down old main streets / Ride me down rusty rails
Fields full of summer wheat / Peppered with rounded bales
Steeples where church bells ring / Lighthouses by the sea
Reach out through gathered storms / Faithfully comfort me
If you haven't figured it out, the young woman in question is her. Awfully pretty girl, isn't it? It's country music at its best: patriotic and subtle. It's not a perfect song -- I'd prefer slightly less Celtic-ness. People seem to think that country music post-9/11 has been all blood, guts and guns. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.
That might be a reference to the last post, I'm not sure. Anyhoo, it's my fourth day. No studying today (actually, that's not true -- I was trying to figure out the molecular orbitals for 1,3-dipoles) and I have only set up one reaction. To be honest, I could do better. But I did have a exciting day: lots of university intrigue (professor politics, oh how fun!), a pretty fun group meeting and then the ultimate kick-in-the-ass, group meeting announcements.
You see, the Un-Candidate works for a great professor, hereon known as the Boss. He's a great guy and a tough boss -- one of the things that makes him tough is his group meetings where you present your research. As it is, the Boss scheduled the latest group meeting the same day (June 17, Day 17) as my practice oral. Ohhh, crap -- it's time to get my posterior in gear.
Soooo, it was home for a quick dinner and a phone call to my girlfriend, the Mighty Spider-Killer. Back to work and worked up four reactions. Cleaned up my sink and pulled my head out overall. I've got slightly less than two weeks -- let's get it on.
Derek Lowe's post of a couple of days ago really reminded me of an episode of my undergraduate years. We were working on cleaning our THF still (as Derek has said before, this is where most lab fire stories start) and I was being taught on how to replenish the potassium.
You have a little glass dish with lots of big chunks of potassium in hexanes. Hexanes is a mixture of hydrocarbon solvents; it's pretty flammable stuff, really. Well, I had cut off all the oxidized potassium, exposed the shiny surface of the potassium and gotten enough of it into the still. I was cleaning up and I saw the little dish full of potassium bits and hexanes. Just to be curious, I spritzed just a tiny amount of water into the dish (big mistake!) and up in flames it went. (You see, potassium metal plus water equals heat and flame; hexanes makes a nice fuel, wouldn't ya know?)
I dumped a little baking soda on it -- that didn't do it. I went and got the fire extinguisher, held my breath, pulled the pin and fired at the dish. Instead of shooting across the fire, I shot the spray across the flames. It blew the flames to a huge five-foot wave that went into my hood and then shot out of my hood, caught my lab coat on fire. I then said quite sharply a choice word and shot the extinguisher again -- it quenched it, thankfully. By the time people had gotten to my hood, all the excitement was over.
That was my first and last instance of foolin' with old man fire. Thankfully, I've never done anything like that ever again. Whew.
Well, it's been only a day and I missed posting. But I was busy, you see -- no really!
How many reactions have I done? Weeeel, I did two yesterday and I did three today, so that's not too bad. There are reactions that I'm avoiding doing, like this Carreira addition that's catalytic in nature. It's one of those things where I KNOW the reaction isn't going to work, so why do it?
As far as my diet has gone, it's good. (Although I should not have gone for that second bowl of chili tonight and the midnight Frosty last night.) Well, could be worse, I suppose. I have managed to go rollerblading both yesterday and today, so that's progress.
I suppose the big news was that I finally, finally, finally figured out the Woodward-Hoffman rules for cycloadditions and electrocyclic ring openings and closings. (I'm still working on sigmatropic rearrangements, as I haven't quite grasped the subtleties of supra- and antarafacial just quite yet.) But the drawing of the molecular orbitals had really escaped my brain for the past well, five years. But I got it down solid now -- I promise.
I think I'm going to schedule my practice grilling for the 16th of June. Gulp! At least three of my best friends and group members will sit down, go over my presentation with a fine-toothed comb and beat most of the ignorance out of me. Good God Almighty, I'm already frightened.
Well, here we are at day one of this great endeavor. What'd we do today?
I did one reaction (a Weinreb amide formation) and one purification. Hmm -- not so hot. I did, however, clean out my hood, look into my new apartment and study for an hour. More reactions, more studying, less blog-surfing. Did my trek around the campus on rollerblades (I need new wheels) and went shopping. Not a complete waste, but not exactly really productive.
I'm about to quench a reaction and I have about three to set up here tomorrow (hopefully more.) We'll see -- after I quench this Carreira reaction, I gotta go home and talk to the Official Girlfriend of the Un-Candidate, also known as the Mighty Spider-Killer. (She's great.)
Diet consisted of: morning oatmeal, lunch wrap, dinner oatmeal and wrap, afternoon choco-taco, post-dinner ice cream cone. Not too bad of a dinner day, methinks.