Face, meet Mr. Concrete wall.

As I mentioned here previously, my last big job search after I got laid off from MIT was decidedly Not Fun…


I ended up taking a job I would normally never take, because I felt utterly backed up against a wall by the economy, increasing competition in the tech sector, and the big skeleton rattling around in my closet – the lack of a degree.

I got turned down by 2 or 3 prospective employers because of this, which is something that hasn’t happened to me for a very long time.

So, when I took said job, I steeled myself for the worst and called my old school, Worcester State College.

The result was not at all what I was expecting. I still only need two courses to get my bachelors degree!

I got all the paperwork filled out, jumped through all the necessary hoops and found out that I (still) need a science, and a science with a lab in order to graduate.

That information in hand, I went casting around for a science course I could take. Not easy, many of them required calculus, and those that didn’t hab lab periods smack dab in the middle of my work day.

I found one course, Astronomy, that only claimed to require College Algebra and was taught Tuesday and Thursday evenings. So, I leapt.

BIG mistake.

The course started a week and a half ago. Since that time, I have poured ~30 hours and a number of sleepless nights into it, and unfortunately I have to admit that there is eactly zero chance of my passing this course. No amount of effort, lack of sleep, or heroics short of quitting my job (Freaking unlikely since I’m INCREDIBLY happy where I am now. I escaped from Windows enterprise hell and am working for an amazing company, Blue State Digital.) will save me.

I had been expecting the math to kick my ass, but in the end analyais, I could handle that just fine! There wasn’t a single bit of algebraic manipulation I couldn’t get past with a little work and some Google thrown in for good measure.

It was the formulas! Crazy, INSANE formulas crawling across the page and eating my poor addled brain like some kind of scene out of Dawn of the Dead.

Fev / Fem = ( G Mv Me / Rev2 ) / ( G Mm Me / Rem2)

I have to withdraw from the battlefiend this time – I’ve lost the skirmish, but I am bound and determined to win the war!

I’ll take some time to recover, take a fresh look at the problem, and talk to my academic advisor to see if I can apply some ‘life credit’ or something, or at the very least not bludgeon myself senseless over my lack of higher math, so I can finish up the silly degree and get on with my life!


5 thoughts on “Face, meet Mr. Concrete wall.

  1. Recently I have been dabbling in the stock market. The long and arduous journey has lasted several years and many equations. The problem is not you! Equations, notations, format and interpretation vary more widely than is practical. PHD’s in the same field use different notation and different format for expressing common mathematical properties! It is pure madness! So do not take your inability to solve these problems as anything but a sign that you are unable to parse garbage. 🙂 I tend to think, however, that if you had the right tutor (as I did) that you could figure out the proper keys to understanding your equations! Gaining this understanding for me was the key to success.
    Good luck in your endevour. If they give out points for life experience, you should have at least three PHDs by now.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more. I have found by far my best bet for really learning math is to teach myself from books.

      I’ve been really enjoying Head First Algebra by O’Reilly.

      Now I need them to publish a Head First Guide to Calculus and I’ll be all set 🙂

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  2. I don’t know whether this would apply to your particular discipline, Chris, but you may want to explore the possibility of taking a CLEP exam. Back in the days of my comp sci studies, when I was also balancing a full-time job and a new family (that is, my wife’s difficult pregnancy and then the birth of who is now my oldest son), I was offered this option, where I could test out of some of my degree requirements, and still get the credit(s) needed to graduate. I don’t know whether CLEP exams cover the sciences (I think they did back then), but they do cover liberal arts areas, so if you’ve got any LA credits to earn, definitely think about it; if all you need are sciences, you should still raise this with your counselor (if you haven’t already), as a means of exploring options.
    Again back in the day, it cost only $50 to take the exam, and while no amount of study could help predict what questions I would encounter, the grade was either Pass or Fail, and if I passed (which I did in 3 out of 4 exams I took), bingo! credits, and time saved.
    Best of luck!
    – jim

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    1. I wish! Thanks for chiming in Jim, it’s great hearing from you!

      These are indeed hard science credits, and, truth be told, I haven’t really taken any action on this since the post and the failed course attempt. I will though, and soon 🙂

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