Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sleeping Efficiently

I just saw an article in WIRED magazine today that discussed how you could train your mind to maximize your awake time and alertness and get just two hours' sleep each day. How? By training your mind to quickly go into REM sleep and take one 20-minute nap every four hours. People who have done this report better quality sleep than those of us who take the normal path, and they get 22 hours of awake time every day on top of it.

Why mention this here? One of the things I noticed while in the thick of first semester was that I was developing (or re-developing) the ability to catnap. This was one of the things that saved me in college and allowed me to operate on about 3-4 hours per day (night) of sleep-- something that seems totally unimaginable today. Looking back, though, I took naps almost every day (during breaks from class) and I got very good at napping. During the semester just passed, I'd started taking a quick 20-30 minute nap after dinner and after putting the kids to bed, and found that I started dreaming almost as soon as I closed my eyes. REM sleep? Maybe. But it sure made a difference. Now I'm curious-- I'll have to experiment a bit more with this during second semester and see if I can hone my sleeping skills even further.

Stunned, and Done

I can't believe it: checking my university grades tonight, I see all my grades from first semester have come through. And I am stunned by my accounting grade-- really, I thought that one was a goner for sure. As it turns out, I placed above average, which is waaaay more than I expected. I completed the first semester with a better GPA than I carried in college, which is proof that maybe I've learned a little since the 1990s. Or maybe it's just that I'm a beneficiary of the university's bell curve policy. Actually, that must be it. Either way, I'm doney-done-done fellas, and I've got solid grades to show for my first quarter of my master's program.

That's about the nicest Christmas gift I could have asked for. Now it's time to crack a whole new set of books and get ready for second semester, which starts in less than three weeks!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gap of Time

I had an odd sensation last night. Sitting at home, e-mail up to date and the kids in bed, Katie was painting the upstairs bathroom and I was sitting there saying to myself, "now, isn't there something I should be doing?" For almost the last five months, the answer to that question has been YES! Either work for work, or work for school-- there was always more of it than I could reasonably expect to accomplish, so I never had to ask myself questions like, "should I clean the basement?"

Last night it was nice to have that freedom to select the things I wanted to spend my time doing, without having to worry about falling farther behind in either my schoolwork or my work work. I did end up choosing to clean the basement, and it was nice to be in that work, feeling the pace of it, without thinking I should be doing something else. But it was also a little strange-- I've become so conditioned to the trauma of nightly homework sessions, part of me still felt like I should be doing some other work.

Soon enough-- I already have my textbooks and homework for next semester, and classes begin in a few weeks, so I'll enjoy the time I have.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Put a Fork in It; It's Done!

Well, it's over. Our team just completed our final presentation for our three professors and our 55 colleagues in class. It still seems like a blur, and my pulse is still coming back down to earth, but initial impressions are that our team did not, in fact, crash and burn. In fact I think we did pretty well. We'll see how the peer evaluations come back, and I'm sure our professors will have more than a few nasty things to say, but hey, we're outta here, baby. Hasta la vista.

The punchline from this day of torment and suffering?

They gave us the books for our second semester classes in a giant black bag, along with our first homework assignment which is due at the start of our first class on January 11. So much for having time to kick back over the holidays-- time to get ramped up on Marketing Strategy and Managerial Accounting.

Just thinking about those classes fills me with dread, but right now it all seems like a lifetime away. For now, it's one more team presentation and then it's on to the bar for a class celebration!

Day of Reckoning

So, here we are, the last day of class in my first semester of graduate school. So many hours of pain, suffering, sleep deprivation, learning, and stretching my mind to get to this place.

Today's schedule: 10 straight presentations for eight hours. My group is #9 out of 10 so people will likely be in a coma by the time our group goes. I feel good about our content and it's wonderful to know that, either way, today it will be over!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Done-y-Done-Done (with Accounting)

Sometimes it's best just to be done, no matter how painful it was or how crappy a final product you end up turning out. Such are my feelings tonight after completing my accounting final-- we had 2 hours to complete the test and I just couldn't work quickly enough to get it done in anywhere close to that time, so much of it will be turned in undone.

How do I feel about this? On one hand, this is the first time I've turned in an incomplete test in probably my entire academic career. On the other hand, I heard one guy in our class actually handed in his midterm exam BLANK, so I guess I could have done less on this final than I did. In the end I gave it a solid two hours, and I produced some good work, but no additional amount of studying, time spent on the exam, or acts of God were going to get me through that mess with much better than I ended up doing. And you know what, I'm OK with that.

Mostly I am just exhilarated to be done with accounting. All of my classwork is now officially complete. Just one more "rock" to climb: our final team presentation on Saturday. That will be a breeze compared to the Hell that was accounting. I say it again: why anyone chooses this profession of their own free will is completely beyond me.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Remember when you were a kid in school, and you went to bed the night before a forecasted snowstorm hoping really hard that school would be canceled in the morning if enough snow fell? Some mornings you woke up and, sure enough, there was a ton of snow and school was canceled; just as often, you'd wake up to find the storm had missed your town and you'd trudge off to school.

Today there was a 6-10" snowstorm forecast to hit Minneapolis, and I was hoping against all hope it would be enough to forestall my accounting final. In the morning school still hadn't been canceled, so I drove to school and we had our first class. The snow began to fall right before lunch, and our accounting professor came into our other class and made a stunning announcement: in consideration of the weather, the final would now be a take-home test and it wouldn't be due for another two weeks! Amen, we all said, and the day was altered. Suddenly we could all breathe again.

I'm not going to wait two weeks to do the test-- I'm still stressing about it and I want the pain and suffering to end as quickly as possible. But it was so wonderful not to have to take that damn test today. I came home early and had a fantastic day with my family, enjoying the snow which in the end did actually turn out to be about 8".

All in all, a great day. And hard to believe we are officially finished with all our classes as of today. Just the final group presentations in two weeks, and we're done with the first 25% of our battle.