Here they come again: exams! So what will you do? How can or should you prepare? Are there any tactics to follow?

I DO NOT have a degree in education. I will just tell you what helped me. Those who know me will also know that I was quite a handfull during our exam time.  And I am also quite lucky to be a fast learner. What I am writing about might also best apply to engineering exams.

First thing’s first: if the exam is tomorrow and you haven’t prepared, you might be busted, but let’s just assume there’s enough time to prepare properly. I think the key to engineering exams is routine: the more you practise and the more problems you solve on your own or with friends, the easier it will get for you. And yes, that might mean very hard work over some time. What won’t work is copying the solutions from friends – even though you think you understand, you probably don’t. If you don’t try yourself, you’ll probably find out during the exam.

Second: look out for other students who you get along with and who are motivated. Meet regularly and prepare together. Of course, with my friends that often ended in cooking, playing around with computers, fun, stuff and more – not necessarily 8 hours of straight work 😉

Third: try to get exams from previous years and solve them under exam conditions. Use only what is allowed during the exam. That really helps to find out, how much work you’ll need to put into your preparations.

Fourth: organise your time well. Especially during the exam. Spending too much time on single problems happens very fast. Bring a clock to put on your desk – not your mobile phone – and look at it regularly. Most lecturers will tell you to read all problems and start with the one you like most. I didn’t do that, I only read the start of each problem so I knew about its topic and then I just started from the beginning. In the end I would have to solve all, so why bothering changing the order? But I limited the time, which I spent on problems and parts of the problems without finding a solution or at least a way closer to the solution. If the time passed, I would simply go on. And I also set a time limit for solving the problems in order – that was maybe two thirds of the overall time. Then I would just try to fill in the blanks. Even if it meant I would only sketch how the problem could be solved. There are many exams in which points are given for partial solutions.

Fifth: always try to sketch the solution, start working on the problem. Even if that’s nothing more than copying an expression from a formulary. You wouldn’t believe how many points one can get for that!

An example: I had to take an exam in analogue circuit design. 6 problems, 3 hours to solve them all. Only a starting point, a final formula and a final numerical value would give any points. No help from formularies or anything like that. I had already worked very hard during the semester, and also worked very hard with friends of mine, but I was still uber-afraid. I solved problems in the order they came for 2 hours and had a time limit of 5 to 10 minutes for not finding any solution. After those two hours I looked at the blanks which were left and tried to fill them. Time limit for not finding a start was only 1 to 2 minutes. I didn’t look at the clock all the time, so the time estimates are estimates. But I think you can see how I sped up.

The most important thing: even if you feel you have no chance, even if you feel you can’t get anything in or out of your head: do NOT give up!

So: good luck for everyone who has exams!


The Emergency Worker’s Paradox

Whether you are a pro or a volunteer, most emergency workers surely know the following dilemma:

after finishing your training or a seminar or maybe you just practised something during a meeting or … AND – let’s be honest – it was fun. And – at least I hope so – the work in the service is fun. Well, I’ll just write from my point of view from here. That’s easier 😉

I joined the firefighters as a volunteer. I had basics training – and

  • the first time up a ladder on the roof? FUN!
  • the first simulation of rescuing somebody from second floor? FUN! I can do it! At least I can pretend I can do it…
  • the first time opening a car with hydraulic rescue tools? FUN! I can cut metal! I can open a car as if it was just some soft stuff! (I sometimes fail opening food cans!)

And I want to do it again, I want to put what I’ve learned into practise. I want to use my new skills and I want to gain experience, so I can become good at what I do – or am supposed to do.

And here comes the not-so-fun-part: practising my skills means somebody’s house is burning, somebody had a car crash and probably lots of other bad things happening to people.

Talking about that with other emergency workers is often not too problematic. Most of them know this feelings and thoughts and they just see another newbie.  They know, that will go away. And I always make a point of saying, I’m fine with being told half way to the fire that the cook resolved the problem with his omelette is better than having to dig corpses from the ruins of a burnt house or something.

But talking to people outside the emergency services can be really difficult. Even though I am really really emphasising that I don’t want people to get hurt or loose their homes, lots of people scold me for wishing others bad. But I really don’t! Still I’d like to become a good firefighter. And for that, I will have to put out fires and rescue people from car wrecks.

And that’s the emergency worker’s paradox: we want to be good, and we want to love the job we’re doing, but for that bad thing s have to happen to people.


First of all, I guess, if this might be hurting somebody, please forgive me… It’s just, I currently can’t tell it any other way.

I am currently so utterly confused about myself. It’s really diffivult to sort my thoughts and feelings out. It is not that I am not in love with Mr Nicolaus any longer. I still am very very much.

It’s just… we haven’t seen each other for almost four weeks now. And neither of us is to blame. It was circumstances one cannot change. But I miss him. I miss him like hell. And it’s not getting any better. Sometimes I feel like something is trying cruch my chest and is choking me. It feels difficult to breathe and I really cry more often than I should. Sometimes I believe I can really feel the pain physically although it’s more my soul that’s in pain.

And I’d really like to tell. But on the other hand I don’t want to talk about that, because I want to be strong. But I am not. I am afraid that I am not strong enough. But I always thought I could be strong enough, just because I want to. Recently I am in doubt. I’d really like to be strong enough to fight of every challenge. Really.

I just don’t know any other way to communicate this. So please, don’t feel bad, because I suffer. Feel good, because you make me happy.

I am sorry, I guess this is still all very confusing. I still can’t get things straight. Forgive me.

Medieval Skirt

Mr Nicolaus and me went to the Hörnerfest music festival this year. I thought this was an medieval music festival and so I decided to sew some clothes: a long skirt and a sleeveless bliaut. (As far as I found out: a bliaut is a medieval women’s robe which is laced at the sides)

I still have to put some work in the bliaut because it doesn’t really fit yet. But I finished the skirt in time! The skirt is ankle length, made from black cotton and has four box pleads (two at the front and two at the back) which I made from red cotton. The box pleads run all the way from the waistband to the seam, so the waisband is laced. I bought the fabrics from a famous Swedish chain store 😉 at a ridiculously small price per meter. And I bought some pattern for a skirt, because I had no idea how to make a wasteband, that is formed to match a woman’s body.

First I had to change the pattern, as the skirts in the pattern featured an approximately 15cm wide waistband which reached up to the thigh. I reduced the width to 7cm and had it end just below my belly button.

Second I cut the single pieces for the waistband (all in all 8 times two because I inserted stiffener(?)). And the pieces for the skirt. The first try for the panels was disappointing but luckily I found out that combining two of the panels fit almost perfectly – which I only found out after quite some time trying to put things together. Next I cut out the panels for the box pleads, luckily those fit with my ideas.

The worst part was trying to put everything together. The manual for the pattern suggested to sew the waistband first, but that wouldn’t work for me because of the box pleads. After some trying I found the following order: first add two black panels together and sew them to the outer parts of the waistband, then add the box pleads and cut the black cloth that’s not needed anymore. Quite a puzzle, I can tell you. After putting everything together I added the inner parts of the waistband. Then I did the seam. And as a final touch I punched thread eyes through the waisband – 6 for every box plead and laced the skirt.

After some final ironing I put it on and it fit perfectly. Really. And of course I am really happy, that everything turned out well in the end.

On the weekend of the music festival the skirt was perfect: the sun was beating down, it was incredibly hot (I drank at least 10l in two days). I will try making some fotos and drawings.