Last thoughts?

Photo by Dan Mall on Unsplash

This might be my last chance to rant for a while. One month until my classes start and my new life at the University of Vermont begins. I wish I knew what to expect or what is expected of me. How will the material and the workload of my courses compare to classes I have taken in the past? What are the duties and expectations for a graduate teaching assistant?

I don’t know why I bother with these posts anymore. Are all the old posts from previous incarnations of this blog still around? I hope not. There’s nothing bad written here, but I don’t need something coming back to haunt me. What if I want to run for governor or something? With the skeletons in my closet, these pitiful blog posts are the least of my worries.

I have spent all summer not doing much of anything. Tutoring has not been at all busy or even interesting this summer. Most of my time has been spent helping my friend apply for jobs and navigate the hiring process for biotechnology companies. Why do people need to ask me for help with these things? The reason is not that I’m so smart and just understand everything because I’m not and I don’t. I have just learned how to solve problems, handle bureaucracy, scan documents, respond to emails, and all that standard business stuff.

Lonely or just alone?

I should be happy that anyone contacts me seeing as how I make no effort at all to communicate with people or make friends. It really is remarkable that anyone should want to talk to me at all. There is a general consensus that a person needs a rich social life with many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to give life meaning. I am not so sure about that. In my experience, over 40 years worth, people just make life messier and more complicated.

Seriously, I try to be helpful to everyone who asks. That’s the reason I enjoy being a tutor. A teacher has so many more responsibilities, but a tutor just gets to help students learn how to solve problems. That’s what I do. I don’t give out the answers. I try to show the step-by-step method including the thought process behind every step. There is no guarantee that my methods will work for anyone but they have gotten me this far. Even if I’m not the most original and creative physicist ever, I know how to manipulate theories and equations to solve the problem in front of me.

I can’t say for certain if I am happy or not. It feels like a loaded question. My daily existence is centered around minimizing stressful situations and accomplishing the tasks I set for myself. I have largely secured the survival necessities like food and shelter. Health care is a little more complex but I know that I have access to care and insurance through the university. Also, I have a car which, with recent repairs, should last me for several years – I have a five-year loan so, I hope it lasts at least that long. Financially, I’m okay but not living on easy street. It would be really nice to own my own place someday, whether a townhouse or condo or a trailer is secondary to the fact that it will belong to me.


This long and boring summer has given me a lot of time to think about stuff. And figuring out a way to navigate each day that offers the least resistance – stress is something I will go a long way to avoid. To get through each day without drinking (and that’s what it’s really all about) I develop a bunch of routines. My life is simple.

  • I try to get up early, but I don’t force it by setting alarm clocks.
  • Almost every morning I do yoga for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the routine I’m following. I get help from an app on FireTv that provides several built-in routines and allows me to create my own as well. That sets the tone for the day.
  • Then it’s coffee and Carnation instant breakfast.
  • Lunch is simple too, usually a sandwich or something to go with a blueberry or guava smoothie – something with lots of fiber.
  • I spend at least a couple of hours reading physics, practicing Python coding, or testing myself by answering challenging math problems on a tutoring website. Some of these problems are beyond my feeble grasp of complex mathematics, but I try anyway relishing the occassional success.
  • Some days, I have to tutor for a couple of hours but that’s easy.
  • Dinner consists of a salad with either tuna, salmon, or chicken on top.
  • All this will change in September when school starts.

Easy problem

\text{Find the distance the point }P\,(-2,2,3) \text{ is from the plane through the three points }Q\,(-1,0,2), R\,(1,-2,5),\text{and }S\,(-3,-2,4).

Medium problem

A 0.00125 kg wire .50 m long is under a tension of .10N. Determine the frequency of vibration required to produce a third harmonic standing wave in the wire.

Hard problem

\text{Let } \mathbf{F}=\left< 4x+y^2, 9y+z^2,2z+x^2\right>.\;\text{Use Stokes' theorem to evaluate} \int C F \; dr\, \text{where $C$ is the triangle with vertices}\\ \;(5,0,0), (0,5,0),\text{ and } (0,0,5)\,\text{oriented counterclockwise as seen from above.}

How to conclude a rambling post that has no destination or even follows a clear path? I have my class schedule for the fall, except for the one-credit Teaching Physics seminar. This morning, I got the list of physics courses that will be assigned to various teaching assistants (TAs). The best numbers that I can find online are from last spring when the physics department had 5 PhD and 2 masters students. I signed up to TA the three courses that my schedule will allow.

  • Physics 21  – algebra based mechanics lab (mostly pre-meds). In person hands on activities. Meets 1 day/week. In class with students and other graduate teaching assistants. 3 sections (GTAs attend 2 sections)
  • Physics 31 – calculus based mechanics (engineers). In person active learning course with hands-on activities. Meets 4 days/week. In the class with the professor, students, and undergraduate learning assistants. 1 section.
  • Physics 51 – calculus based mechanics (science majors). In person active learning course with hands-on activities. Meets 4 days/week. In the class with the professor, students, and undergraduate learning assistants. 1 section.

Author: earthling75

I'm a student and teacher of physics. This site began in 2018 as part of my recovery, but I keep it around for some reason still.

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