Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wordpress > Blogspot

Just wanted to post my last blog on this website to let my readers (yes, all three of you excluding my family) know that I will no longer be blogging on this link any more. I've decided to switch from blogspot to wordpress. It's a very difficult web address to remember, so pay very very very close attention:

Read that to yourself 5 times before closing this page. STEPHEN. CLIFF. DOT COM. It's a tough one. Hope you check out the new blog : )

Monday, November 29, 2010

Espy: Play of the Year

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthday Video

Who said chivalry was dead? This video was made for a cancer stricken wife by her husband. It was for a birthday present. Seriously, get a tissue.

Rachel's Birthday Letter - Hi-res from

Patch Adams

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living in the Margins

I've finally learned one of life's most valuable lessons this week. Do you wanna hear? This idea has been thrown my way numerous times throughout my life time, but I never grasped it fully. If you've ever been a part of an athletic team, band, or any type of group project I can almost guarantee that you've let the words pass through your ears without realizing the potential stored in the advice. Maybe it will take a firsthand encounter, as it did for me, for my message to deeply resonate with you. Regardless, I still need to share. So here goes: The separation of mediocrity and excellence is found in the margins of life.

I learned this from the least conspicuous person in my life, Dr. Rockley, my inorganic chemistry professor. Let me preface this post a little bit before I send this man great praise. Simply put: he is evil. Evil, Evil, Evil. You've heard me talk about the difficulty of my previous chemistry professor last semester, trust me he was difficult, but he pales in comparison. I remember my last professor, Dr. Raff, saying that there was only one professor in Oklahoma State's Chemistry department that was more difficult than he was. . . I'll let you take one wild guess who I got for Inorganic two. The class average on our first exam: 24%. His feet barely touched the ground as he cheerfully skipped into lecture the following day. He proceeded to work out a 24 minute long equation covering three chalk boards to prove to us that statistically if we all closed our eyes and randomly guessed on the exam our class average should have been in a range of 25-27 %. In other words, as a class we would have been more successful if we had all guessed without looking at one problem and turned it in. After the cricket in the ceiling broke the threatening silence of the lecture hall, my neighbor stood up in frustration, blurted out a few obscenities, and stomped out of the classroom never to be seen again. Dr. Rockley's response: A crooked smirk accompanied by a humorously delayed, "loser".

The class average on exam two: 33%. Don't let this persuade you the exam was easier that its predecessor. No. This is simply a correlation to all the people who dropped the course after the first exam. The chemical engineering majors are bloating our average up into the all time highs in a Dr. Rockley chemistry course. And no, I'm really not joking to make this a better story. Thankfully, I've scored much higher than the class averages on both exam one and exam two, but I still am not attaining my goal of an 'A' letter grade. It's one of the first times in my life that I've been faced with such a mental antagonizing situation. Keep in mind this is a five hour course. In other words, it weighs substantially on my GPA. If I want a realistic shot at getting accepted into medical school than it's vital I don't mess up this course. And Dr. Rockley is in the opposing corner seemingly throwing upper-hooks at my dream. My enemy, my nemeses. A 5'4", 67 year old, New Zealander is making me question the realism in my intelligence. All semester I've hated his guts. Not because he's a bad professor, he's actually done a phenomenal job at making chemistry relevant to the medical field. Not because he isn't helpful, his office is located in an unused class room so he can effectively help students after hour teaching hours. Not because of his sadistic sense of humor or really even his level of toughness; it all boils down to the fact that I want to be a doctor and Dr. Rockley is doing all he can to prevent my dream from coming to fruition.

Before you jump the gun and inform me that no professor purposefully tries to fail his students, let me tell you about our lecture before the third exam that I took last night. With a numb brain from 16 consecutive hours studying chemistry, I stumbled into my seat in the chemistry lecture hall. The chemical equilibriums in my body spazing from the overdose of energy supplements and under dose of sleep could not keep me from missing chemistry lecture in fear of falling into the deepest hole ever dug at a university. The lecture that awaited us was not expected. I expected to learn how to solve complex acid/base equilibrium problems under dynamic pressure systems. Maybe add in a little advanced chemical thermodynamics to spice it up a bit. Unfortunately, I didn't get to learn any chemistry that day (no sarcasm implied). What I got was one of my life's greatest epiphanies. Like usual, Dr. Rockley walked into lecture five minutes late and found his way to the podium where he started a very unusual lecture. Neither chalk nor 60 pound textbook was needed to convey his simple, yet meaningful plea to my comrades and I. (Yes, military vernacular is needed, we are at war with this man, remember?) More seriously, he began to explain the simple message that excellence is found in the margins of life. He told us the gap between an average doctor and an exceptional doctor is being aware of the small things. An average doctor might not pay attention to the hidden clue that would save a person's life, while an exceptional doctor living in the margins would pick up on the subtle clues. An average doctor might put in mediocre effort and sometimes find a great result, while an exceptional doctor always puts in great effort and sometimes receives mediocre results. People are typically defined by the end results of their lives, but their lives are made up of these marginal decisions they make every single day. He went on to tell us he goes through his exams and looks deeply into each problem and tries to find where we could possibly make a mistake. In chemistry, a simple charge being different can ultimately change the entire outcome of a problem by three orders of magnitude. He purposefully makes his tests tricky because, "The only people to pass [his] class will be the exceptional people who pay attention to the little details". He refuses to pass a student who he personally would not feel confident in allowing them to be his own doctor in a life threatening situation. I know my parents and friends see him as being unrealistically harsh, but really think about what he's saying. It might be the first time I've thought it all semester, but he's exactly right. I don't even want to be a doctor if I feel incapable of taking care of someone. I want to try my hardest now so that my patients can have confidence in my abilities. Great people are made in the marginal decisions in everyday life. We are called to pay attention to the little things. In the end, it defines what you will become. Dr. Rockley might give me a grade that will hurt my GPA, but he's the only professor in three years of being in Stillwater that will leave a permanent mark on my life. I want to be the best I possibly can be. And that requires living in the margins. Thank you Dr. Rockley. I'll leave you with this to capstone my message.

"Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily." -Johann Schiller

P.S. I got an A on exam three. Miracles do and can happen while livin' in the margins.