Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hendrix Application

Well, I submitted my Hendrix application last night, so that's one more college down. Only three more college applications left. That just leaves honors college apps and scholarship apps...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

MIT Interview

I just had my last college interview. It was my first interview in person. I was more nervous than I had been for any of my Skype interviews, maybe because it was in person, or maybe I just felt like this one was scarier.
I know it's best not to get my hopes up--MIT turns down thousands of people every year, and many of my classmates are also applying.
I was able to learn some interesting information, because my interviewer was an alumnus. I'm glad I heard his take on campus dining--he said that it wasn't a lot like traditional campus dining, and he only once ate in an MIT dining hall, although it wasn't bad. If I get to that point, I might need to consider picking a dorm that does not require me to buy a meal plan. He had heard of the freshman ESG (Experimental Study Group) program, but he didn't know details about it because he had not participated in it personally. I did hear a lot of good things about the IAP (Independent Activities Period), which was good, because that was one of the things I really liked about MIT. The opportunity to do "externships", or take fun classes, or take a credit class all at once, just as a break in the middle of the year, sounds really cool.
He also mentioned their Study Abroad program, which I hadn't heard a lot about. What he had to say was good. The way he described it, at least some of the programs were internships abroad, not just a semester in another country.
I really like that MIT has opportunities for undergrads to do research (UROPs). When I visited, I found that the student culture reminded me a lot of MSMS. One thing that goes on during the IAP is MIT's Mystery Hunt, which is something I thought sounded like a lot of fun in my online research. I could see a similar (less elaborate) type of event being great fun at MSMS, although it would be a lot of work for whoever would run it. I also like how each dorm has a unique culture to it, which reminded me of the house systems some colleges use, but seems to be a more flexible system.
I will probably submit my Part II essays tonight or tomorrow (they're nearly done, I just need to double check them), and then I'll have done everything I can, until I hear something back.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


We had a mandatory dress code meeting Thursday night, for the girls only. Mostly there's a lot of confusion about how our dress code is being enforced, which doesn't always match up with what our handbook says.
Afterwards, most of us were pretty upset. It's not that our dress code is particularly unreasonable--it's not. And I agree, as do probably all of the other girls, that yes, people do need to dress appropriately. However, no one ever lectures guys about the length of their shorts, or how low-cut their tops are. No one has to--guy's bodies, and how covered or not they are, just isn't that big of a deal in our culture.
Friday at school, a lot of girls wore signs, like the ones pictured here, to protest. Most of our teachers and faculty seemed to be somewhat supportive, although some avoided voicing an opinion on the matter. A few guys mocked the girl's signs, one even wearing a sign that said "Kiss me if you hate dress code".
People who don't realize the point may think otherwise, but it's not the dress code that we are really upset about, but the fact that we live in a world where there has to be a girls-only dress code meeting. This meeting tapped into a lot of anger all at once, not because there's any easy solution, but because there is an overarching problem, which we will probably fight all our lives.
Every generation of women has had different goals, and different ideas about what feminism means to them. Feminism is often a word used to label--a set of values or beliefs that may often have negative connotations. However, each person who chooses to describe herself or himself as a feminist has a unique viewpoint on what that word means. Each person has to decide, which is why it shouldn't be used as a label. This incident is just one of many that will shape this small group's ideas on what they believe in and what they value most.
This may be something really small, but we are still in high school. Someday, I will quite possibly be required to wear high heels, shoes with the potential to cause permanent damage to my feet and back, for my job. Getting a job, and keeping a job, could rest on making my appearance fall somewhere on a constantly sliding scale, not unflattering or unfashionable, but not inappropriate. It's not that I'm against high heels or makeup, but it's the idea that I might be forced to do something, whether I like it or not, in order to fit into a job for which I may not even be getting equal pay.

Bowdoin Interview

So I just finished with my interview for Bowdoin. I would love to go off to college in Maine; I know they get snow there! I was able to tour Bowdoin last summer, so I did not have as many questions to ask as I did about Carleton, but I was still able to get a few answers.
It was good to hear what my interviewer said about food allergies. I am only mildly gluten and dairy intolerant, but it is still important that I am able to eat at college. Also, not only did she say that her largest introductory level class was around ninety to one hundred people, but she said that her professor made an effort to know people's names and interests.
She seemed curious about MSMS--she said she had done some research on the school before my interview. The college admissions process has made me think about just how lucky I am that MSMS exists the way it does today, and that I am here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

First College Interview

So today was my first college interview (of four). I Skyped my interviewer for Carleton College. The interview has reassured me that Carleton deserves its place as one of my top-choice schools.

Talking to my interviewer makes the college sound amazing, and I would love to go there. The weather includes snow, they have a strong outdoors club, a strong quiz bowl, a great liberal arts education, good opportunities for the science-oriented, and, probably most uniquely, the Dacie Moses House, where you can always come in and bake some cookies.

Strangely enough, my interviewer also mentioned that baking (chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, to be specific) was a stress-reliever for her; I suppose I'm not as weird as I thought. I'm really excited to be applying to Carleton, and I hope I will be accepted.

Next up: Interview for MIT

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pictures from the Summit Bechtel Reserve

Sunset over the CONSOL Energy Bridge.

Monty exploring his new environment.
Monty at Twelve Points.
Map of the Summit Bechtel Reserve.
A view of the Rocks.
Looking down the Energy Bridge.
Monty does a bit of "rock climbing" on his own.
We were rather surprised to meet this little bat on the rock climbing wall.
Monty fits right in at Adventure Valley.
Base Camp Bravo.

Summit Day 5

Today was our final full day at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve. My group (six out of ten of us) went to the Ropes in the morning and the Rocks in the afternoon. Ropes is multiple aerial challenge courses high in the treetops. It was a lot of fun, but not too terribly tiring. I don't think any of our crew members fell during the whole morning (we did two courses).
The afternoon was rock climbing, which was good. Most of the rock climbing courses are set up with an auto-belay system which is actually quite convenient, and simpler than being belayed by a person. The staff only had to check our carabiners and harnesses and keep an eye on us - they could be climbing walls too. The best I climbed was a 5.6, but we have a few spider monkeys in our crew who made valiant efforts at the 5.10's and 5.11's. There was also an area for bouldering. We are required to have two people spotting for every person climbing, but it was fun. It's strange climbing without a harness, and even scarier than usual, if that's possible. (I really don't like heights.) After bouldering and rock climbing, we rappelled down the side of the rappelling tower, and did the Leap of Faith. The Leap of Faith is almost like a zip line set up with the auto belay system, so as you jump off the rappelling tower you move out and down. It was a lot of fun.
That evening was the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony is basically a flag ceremony at Twelve Points, and then you get your evaluation forms, patches, Big Zip cards, etc. The patches say Christen High Adventure Base, and don't have a year on them. Unfortunately, the Duty to God and Outdoor Ethics patches are not available yet.
Overall, going to the Summit was a lot of fun. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again or recommend it to another crew. However, it is most definitely a new camp that is still rather disorganized and has a lot of learning to do. Also, don't expect a high adventure experience like Philmont, Northern Tier, or SeaBase. The Summit claims to be a high adventure base, but it is really more like an extreme version of summer camp.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summit Day 4

I feel like our week is nearly over.
Last night was incredibly cold. No matter the amount of clothing and blankets I add, I'm still shivering in my sleeping bag.
Today we began with our service project. We raked mountain bike trails, getting dead leaves and loose rocks out of the path. The majority of the time was spent on hiking, waiting for tools to be found, and being driven to and from the site. It wasn't bad, although we didn't do much work.
After lunch and a ride back to the Scott Visitor Center, we stopped at our campsite and then continued beyond Bravo Camp to The Canopy, our elective. We did two sets of zip line courses in two groups. It was pretty fun, but uneventful.
Tonight all the usual activities will be open. A few people will have latrine duty. We also have to start thinking about preparing to leave on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summit Day 3

Today was our day of whitewater rafting. The weather was somewhat sunny, and colder than desirable, but no one got hypothermia and died. In the morning when we got up, the fog was so thick that we couldn't see to the other end of the energy bridge.
Rafting was great. I'd love to investigate the possibility of doing a whitewater rafting 50 miler. We did one Class V rapid and several Class IVs. Only one crew member on our raft fell out once, so we were mostly successful.
Rafts are much easier than the duckies were because the guide does all the steering, there are eight people paddling, it isn't necessary to paddle constantly, and the rapids are more fun and more frequent.
Tomorrow we have a service project and our Canopy elective.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summit Day 2


 It is the end of our second day at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia. Today we went whitewater kayaking. We didn't actually use kayaks, we used inflatable kayaks, called "duckies". Most of them are designed for two people, and it's a lot like canoeing, although you use double-bladed kayak paddles. They are difficult to steer- real kayaks are more maneuverable, in my opinion.
We kayaked 9 miles in total, and did two Class III rapids in the afternoon, which was a lot of fun. That means we have completed a portion of our watercraft elective for the Ranger Award. We also built, claimed, fought over, and destroyed a large floating fortress created out of overturned duckies. It rained on and off throughout the day, but wasn't terribly cold. We were worried anyway, because today is Hypothermia Day.
I explored the Sustainability Treehouse, which was kind of neat, although I still don't understand why they didn't build a useful building, like the Visitor's Center/Trading Post, sustainably. As it is, they've made a cool, sustainable building that is not suited to any purpose besides displaying how sustainable it is. It's still cool, but it would be nice to see the solar panels and sustainable technology incorporated into places like the bathhouses.
At Action Point, I attempted BMX and mountain biking, which was pretty terrible. I also had latrine duty tonight. One of my crew members was sweeping out the youth male bathroom, and was mistaken for a bathroom authority figure due to the fact that he was holding a broom. He was questioned as to the proper methods for showering, which was quite strange.
Tomorrow is whitewater rafting, and it's supposed to be sunnier.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summit Day 1

Playing hangman on our way there.
It is the end of our first day at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia. The start of our week was the Big Zip. It's a 45 minute uphill hike to the launch point, but the zip was worth it. It was quite fast - it is supposed to go up to 65mph. So that was pretty cool.
After that, we hiked a short ways down to Bravo Lake for kayaking. That was a lot of fun. I like kayaking much better than canoeing; it is easier to coordinate just yourself than working with a second person. The Summit has nice PFDs and equipment; it is their first year. We practiced wet exits, team rescues, two-man rescues, self rescues, swamped and  unswamped kayaks. The best part of the day was Ultimate Frisbee in kayaks, which was intense.
During the afternoon, we saw an ambulance whizz by on one of the roads with lights flashing and sirens wailing. Later we saw a helicopter, and we are pretty sure somebody got airlifted. (Later found out that a boy fell wrong mountain biking, broke his arm, and then lost consciousness, but was fine).
The view from Rock City.
Another Rock City picture.
Venturing uniform under blacklight.
Creepy gnomes in the Fairyland Cavern
Ruby Falls.
After dinner, Action Point was open for activities. I did a challenge course with my brother, while several other crew members did BMX and mountain biking. Some of us took naps, and our advisors had their coffee meeting.
We will go over our info for camp duties, whitewater kayaking in the morning, do our LNT discussions, and do our devotional, as well as do our Thorns and Roses before we get to bed tonight. Whitewater kayaking tomorrow!
Monty has been in several photos, and I'll put them up here when I get a chance to go through them.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Camp

So, Venture Crew 70 went out of council for summer camp this year. Troop 70 and Crew 70 both went to Camp Yocona in Yocona Area Council this year.
I really enjoyed the experience, and it was one of the best trips I've had with my crew. All ten of us were there.
Six crew members, myself included, did COPE. Four crew members did merit badge classes. On Monday, we all got COPE names: Radar, Strawberry, Brains, Siri, Wilbur, and Beans. We played a lot of icebreaker type games. Monday and Tuesday were spent on low course elements and team building exercises.
Wednesday we did the trust fall in the morning and rock climbing in the afternoon. That night was the OA campfire, which was pretty impressive, but very long. One of the troop boys got tapped out, as well as, to her great surprise, my mother.
Thursday was quite rainy, so we played board games in the morning before rappelling that afternoon. We cooked hobo packs and Dutch oven cobbler in the campsite that night, but had to leave before all the food was ready for some Venturer-only events.
Yocona's council is a lot more Venturing friendly and has multiple Venture crews. They also offer trainings for Boy Scouts, Venturers, Advisors, and Scoutmasters that aren't offered in our council and can only be taken at the council level.
We attended an ice cream social with a few other venturers, and roasted s'mores over a campfire - a crucial part of every camping experience. Then we took Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews, a council level training not offered in our area. Now that we've taken it, we can bring that training (or the troop version) back to our own council, or qualify to take National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT).
Friday was our last day - in COPE, we did tightropes with a walking belay and the zipline, which was pretty fun. We had a closing campfire that night as well. Many troops had already left by then. We performed the "Johnny Got Hit By a Bus" skit. Six of us got our knots for doing COPE. We were also the first venture crew to earn honor "crew" at Camp Yocona. Overall, it was a really awesome week of camping. I would certainly like to go back to Yocona, or COPE, or NYLT training.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Princeton Visit

Our next stop: Princeton.

Princeton was okay, but I didn't like it much. Their mandatory Senior Thesis program sounded interesting. Their campus architecture was beautiful. 

However, the person leading our information session was so long-winded that there was no time left for questions. There was no mention of Princeton's famous eating clubs in the info session, and only a sentence or two for them on the campus tour. It makes me wonder if the subject is purposefully being avoided.

Princeton is also a much larger school than Swarthmore. At Swarthmore, the largest classes, introductory level classes of which a student might only take a few, are around 50 people. At Princeton, these classes are 450 people.

I didn't like how Princeton felt, although there were some aspects of it I liked.

Swarthmore Visit

The first college on our journey was Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. I liked Swarthmore College - it reminded me a lot of my own highschool.

It was exciting to see that Swarthmore seemed very committed to sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

We were also able to eat gluten free in the campus snack bar, a big plus.

Swarthmore is a small private liberal arts college. At least on the tour and in the info session, they claimed to have strong math, science, and engineering programs. They had a shady amphitheater (Scott Ampitheater) used for ceremonies and other events. Their library has a ground floor for collaborative study, and each upper level becomes increasingly quieter as you go up. The Crum Woods, part of campus, are filled with walking trails and so on. Unfortunately, outdoor adventure does not seem to have a strong presence.

Philadelphia is a 20 minute train ride away. Many events are available on campus, and free to students. Swarthmore students can also take classes at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and UPenn, as well as attend any of those college's events that are free to that college's own students.

At the end of their sophomore year,Swarthmore  students write a paper to declare their major and plan how to reach that goal. About a third of students also choose to participate in the Honors Program and have even smaller classes, and more depth to their studies. Honors students go through an external examination in order to graduate.

Overall, I think Swarthmore can stay on my list for now.

The college visit journey begins.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mu Alpha Theta Convention

I was selected, along with about thirty other MSMS students, to attend Mississippi's State Mu Alpha Theta Convention. This is my first year in Mu Alpha Theta, and I didn't even know that State Convention existed before then. I was pretty excited.
I was signed up to do the Trigonometry test, the Relay competition, and Intermediate level ciphering. We left school around 11:45am on Sunday, April 13, 2014, to travel to Pearl, where the competition was held.
My first event was the Trigonometry subject area test. I feel like the test went extremely well, and I checked my work, too. However, I was one of the last to turn in my test, so if there was a tie, I definitely lost it.
Next was Intermediate Ciphering. I thought the entire packet of problems was pretty awful. However, everyone else seemed to agree with that sentiment.
I later learned that I had made the Intermediate Ciphering team for finals. This only means that I beat half of the eight total MSMS students in that event to make the top four for our school, but it's still something.
I was also put on the Interschool team, which had a total of around 20 people. 

Today is the 2nd day of convention and my first event was Interschool. It was terrible. I really have no idea how well we did overall, but personally, I spent the entire time on one problem and didn't have a clue what was going on.
My next event was Relay. I feel like my questions were pretty simple, and my part should have gone well. There was a glitch with how the problems were printed, but after the first question, it was dealt with.
My last event was Intermediate Ciphering Finals. I actually felt that it was better than the first round of ciphering. We got to work as a team, which was helpful. We definitely missed a few, and some took two minutes. However a good many were correct. I don't know how it went overall yet; that depends on other teams' performances as well.

UPDATE: The entire team's performance was awesome! Overall, MSMS won the entire convention. I cannot keep track of all the awards, but my team got 2nd in Intermediate Ciphering, 2nd in Relay, and 5th in Interschool. I also placed 1st in Trigonometry written test. One of our students was also elected state Mu Alpha Theta President.  Overall, the convention was a pretty good experience.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Are you ready?

Are you ready? Venture Crew 70 is heading to the Summit-Bechtel Scout Reserve this summer. Our arrival date is July 13th. Our program is the river, so there ought to be a lot of time on the water. We still have a lot of work to do, but we're looking forward to it.

Course Selection Time

It's that time of year - time to select courses for my last year of high school. It's stressful, because I know this is my last year to take classes before college, and there are so many classes to take. Basically, I want to take all the classes.
There are a lot of options. For math, I want to continue taking more calculus, as well as taking statistics. For biology, I definitely want to take Human Infectious Diseases, as well as Ecology. Plant Physiology and Animal Physiology are also options. For chemistry, there is Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Analytical Chemistry. I don't know how much physics I will take, but my options include AP Physics C, or Thermodynamics and Modern Physics. There are also electives I want to take - like Number Sense, a course geared towards preparing for math competitions.  I don't know yet what I'm going to choose, but it's going to be a hard choice.
Of course senior year is going to involve more than just coursework. I know that college applications are purportedly a time-sucking vampire. I'm also interested  in doing research. Of course I want to keep up with my extracurricular activities as well - Venture Crew, Mu Alpha Theta, Science Bowl, and probably others. Eventually it will all work out - for now I just have to decide what I want most.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

State Science Olympiad Competition, Part IV

As we filed out, we learned that there had been a mistake. The Science Olympiad administrators said that we had not participated in the Fermi Questions event.
Those two team members had turned in a test, properly labeled. After a long, tense wait, the test was found between two pieces of scratch paper and scored.
We had actually scored third in that event, which, when everything was corrected, subtracted fifteen points from our score, and won us first place (lowest score wins).
Personally, I feel pretty terrible for Oxford having won and then being told it was a mistake. It makes it a lot harder for me to feel good about winning, even though it was not our team's fault that the mixup happened.
However, once everything was sorted out, we switched trophies with Oxford and claimed first place. We will be going to Science Olympiad Nationals in Florida, which is exciting.

EDIT: We took 6th Place for Disease Detectives and 5th Place for Water Quality.

State Science Olympiad Competition, Part III

At the awards ceremony, everyone was very anxious after the day's events. Personally, I wasn't expecting to win after so many events that had not gone as well as expected.
After a lot of waiting, the awards ceremony was finally underway. I got first for A&P, and 2nd for Chem Lab. I was pretty surprised about A&P. Overall, MSMS had a lot of medals, but we also heard Oxford and Park Lane called up a lot as well. We were pretty certain that we had not done well enough to beat Oxford.
Finally, they announced the overall winners. Park Lane won third. We won second. Oxford won first. As we walked up to get our picture taken, we tried to reconcile ourselves to our failure, although it hurt. I know I hated to have failed my team, although I could stop studying now that the competition was over, which would be a relief.

State Science Olympiad Competition, Part II

My first event was Water Quality at 8:30. It was awful, but participating prevented us from placing last.
Disease Detectives was next, at 12. The test seemed rather simple. We thought it went pretty well, although we didn't enjoy the free response format.
Chem Lab was next. It went pretty smoothly...once we realized that we had a pH meter available. We were a little confused about how to do it before we realized that.
My last event was one of the last two events of the day: A&P. The test was extremely difficult. It was one hundred questions long, but we still finished with plenty of time to spare. The proctor said that it was harder than the test at nationals. We hoped everyone else had felt as awful about the test as we had, but when we saw people leaving they claimed it was great. That didn't make us feel any better about it.
Most of the team had already packed the bus, and were waiting at the awards ceremony, so we headed that way.

State Science Olympiad Competition, Part I

Friday, March 28, was the state Science Olympiad competition, held at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
We left on Thursday around 5. All our supplies and stuff had to be loaded into a bus - printer, study materials, pre-built constructions, safety equipment, tools, and so on. It was a very long ride to Hattiesburg and our hotel where we spent the night.
Everyone, well...mostly everyone, was busy that night. Last minute cramming, cheat sheet construction, putting the finishing touches on build events. Most of us had a lot to do and didn't get much sleep- except for the one person with all his events already built and ready to go.
Most people went to sleep by two. A few were asleep earlier, and some unfortunates had an hour-long nap before it was time to go to the competition that morning.
The weather was awful. After carrying our equipment through the pouring rain, we finally found a good location to set up our base. Those with build events rushed to get their contraptions to impound. At 8:30, the events would begin.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MSMS Math Tournament

MSMS hosts a math tournament annually. Mu Alpha Theta runs it and sets it all up, but every student is assigned a task. I was assigned to be a committee head for the Algebra I/Geometry written test and ciphering competition.
Most students are either runners or graders. Runners collect answers from the ciphering competition and graders score and tally correct answers. As a committee head, my job is to check students in in the morning, get scores and forms to the Tally Room, and generally sort scores, check answers, take care of problems, and do whatever is required. I also will be staying at the Convention Center until at least 3, while most students will return before lunch.
The experience of working the competition has actually been sort of fun. It's hectic, and is an amazing example of ordered chaos. All sorts of things went wrong, but problems were dealt with, and the event still went off very well overall.
We also get the day off class, which is a nice bonus. This wouldn't be nearly as fun if I knew that I was going to return to school having missed four classes, many of which are labs. I also enjoyed learning about the planning that goes on behind hosting any sort of competition.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Science Olympiad North Regionals

This Saturday was regionals for Science Olympiad at Mississippi State University. I've never done Science Olympiad before, and I didn't know what it was going to be like at all. I only had one event at regionals, although I have three events for state.
I took the A&P test for MSMS, along with my partner. We scored 2nd place. One of Oxford's teams placed 3rd and one of Oxford's teams placed 1st. We understood that only the nervous and integumentary systems would be on the test, but we found out that immune was also on the test. I suppose that was just what we got for not studying ahead for state. Luckily, I knew some of the immune system answers. However, there were others that I could not remember for when I took AP Biology, which was frustrating.
I have a lot of studying to do before state - the immune system, more about the nervous and integumentary systems, chem lab, and water quality. However, I feel like the whole team did really well at regionals. Regionals forces us to prepare for state before the last minute. Our build events were all pretty spectacular.
Collectively, our team placed 1st in the competition. There were six or seven other high schools present, and Oxford's two teams took 2nd and 3rd. Oxford will be upset about the loss, and ready to win at state, which is why we cannot rest on our laurels yet.

University of Alabama Physics Competiton

Last Tuesday, I attended the physics competition at the University of Alabama. The first part of the competition was the individual written test. I was surprised that I had learned how to do many of the problems (I have not yet completed my first year of physics). However, it was rather frustrating that I had forgotten many of the equations to complete the problems; I'm used to an equation sheet with my physics tests. The test was very heavy on mechanics, and didn't include much of what we've learned in waves, although there was some work with circuits, which we have not covered yet. One of our students placed ninth out of all the students present in the individual test, the only one of our students to place.
The second part of the competition was a team competition. My team did decently well. MSMS is the only school in our division, so there were seven teams of MSMS students competing against each other. Normally, the AL School for Math and Science is in our division as well, but due to the rescheduling and short notice, they didn't make it this year. MSMS-6 took 1st place. MSMS-1 took 2nd place. And MSMS-2, my team, took 3rd place.
After the competition portion of the day, there are physics demos and so on to interest smart physics students in coming to University of Alabama to study physics. Unfortunately, I have little understanding of what people actually do in current physics, so much of the information about the search for neutrinos and dark matter was completely lost on me. The other presentation was rather disappointing - they were demonstrating using the same motion sensing equipment and DataStudio software that we routinely use in class. I suppose they had no way to know that we were already familiar with that system, but we were not the only ones who frequently used that type of equipment for physics labs.
The University of Alabama does have a pretty campus, and they're known for giving out generous merit aid. However, I don't know much about them. In the end, it was a good day and a fun trip. I missed a Tuesday, which is four classes, but I don't mind that much.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Equestrian Trip, Part I

This weekend, the Venture Crew took a trip to Alabama. Our goal: work on the requirements to earn the Equestrian Elective for Ranger/Bronze. We had a successful trip.
When we arrived, we learned about feeding the twenty horses. After lunch, we groomed several of the horses, and saddled five of them. After some time in the round pen, we were all able to go on a trail ride.
Many horse rides only allow you to walk on the horses. We did a lot more than that - we were galloping up hills. It was amazing. Afterwards, we learned about cooling down the horses, watering, unsaddling, grooming, and feeding.
The next day, we worked on tack care. Overall, we completed all the requirements for the elective except the presentation requirement. Our plan is to return for a short trip in March, so newer members can meet the same requirements we did, while we present to them and finish our elective. I'm looking forward to it.
Once I meet the presentation requirement  I'll have this elective complete. I also have a Lifesaver elective that I can complete once I do a presentation. I've completed five out of eight Ranger core requirements, so when I finish those two things, I should have earned my Outdoor Bronze Award, and be well on my way to Ranger. Any advancement we do must be complete by December, because the system is being redesigned nationally, and we don't know yet what the new system will be like.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Traveling Science Carnival

Last Thursday, I participated in MSMS's Traveling Science Carnival. We went to Bettye Mae Jack Middle School in Morton, Mississippi.
I worked the Color presentation for Physics. First, we used diffraction glasses to teach the children about breaking white light into the entire spectrum of light. The kids got to keep the glasses, so they loved that. Then, we used tops to demonstrate the mixing of colors. Finally, we did a retinal fatigue exercise.
Our audiences were groups of second, third, and fifth graders. We've never done the presentations for children as old as fifth graders before, so it was a different experience. Some of the children asked really good questions - one boy asked about how different colors were made.
Overall, the day was absolutely exhausting. I could hardly speak by the end of it.
The school plans to continue the program annually, visiting a different school each time. Personally, I think it's a really cool way to reach out to other schools, and to teach kids about science.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mississippi College Math and Science Tournament

January and February always seem to be busy months for academic competitions and extracurriculars. Thursday was the Mississippi College Mathematics and Science Tournament. The competition is actually two days: Thursday and Friday, but we chose to attend on Thursday. Eleven seniors and juniors from MSMS competed.
The morning portion of the competition consists of two written tests, in some combination of Math, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (each student chooses which tests they would like to take). I took Math and Biology. Math was 40 questions in 45 minutes. It was all material I had learned before, but I was a lot weaker in geometry than I should have been. I last took geometry in the ninth grade, and although the problems were familiar, I had forgotten some of the theorems and postulates that would have been good to know. After a short break, the Biology test was 100 questions in 45 minutes. I thought this would be a struggle to finish in time, but I actually finished with more extra time than I had for the Math test. The questions were very straightforward.
After lunch, there was the Quiz Bowl style competition. Although it is called a "Quiz Bowl" competition, it is actually quite different from anything else I have ever done. I played on the team, along with three of my cohorts. Many teams would play at once, and the games were 40 questions long. Questions were math and science focused, and displayed on a projector screen. Captains had to raise their hand, with their answer written on a folded piece of paper in their hand. Checkers for each team verified if answers were correct, and spotters watched which teams raised their hands first. Points were received for first, second, and third fastest correct answers.
After this, there was the awards ceremony. Disappointingly, the computer system had issues, and individual placements were not announced. For the school wide competition, we do not compete, because MSMS students represent schools from all over the state. However, we did win 2nd place in the Quiz Bowl portion of the competition: Oxford took 1st place, and we beat Jackson Prep for 3rd place. We later looked up our placement for the individual scores. MSMS had four scores in the top 1%, one in the top 3%, and several in the top 10% and top 20%.
It made me miss my quiz bowl team - it was like something I would have done with them. I had thought I would get to see them there, but my home school chose to attend the competition on Friday instead, so that didn't happen, which was a bit disappointing. However, I enjoyed the competition, and the day off of school.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Science Bowl, Part II

We played our own A team. And we won. We weren't expecting it. We didn't really want it - we had enjoyed proving ourselves against them at practice, but knocking them out of the competition was not something we wanted or expected. We were all very upset after that game, but we had to move on to the next round.
We played Oxford for this game. We knew that after we had beaten our own A team, we had to win the rest of the competition. It was the least that we could do. We didn't. The match was very close. 36-26, in Oxford's favor. Ten points difference - less than one tossup and bonus between us. There were a thousand different ways the match could have gone in our favor - any one of us slightly faster on a question, or a lucky guess, or whether Oxford got the bonus correct on the final question - the match hung on the edge, and I suppose we were just on the wrong side of that edge.
After that match, Oxford beat Walnut for the first place. So technically, we took third/fourth place (more like third in my book). One of our A team players and one of our B team players placed for most individual points scored. Perhaps things would have been very different if we had drawn a different bracket. This was the second time in twenty-six years that MSMS did not send a team to the national competition.
We will come back next year, and next year we will be smarter, faster, and better. We have a score to settle, and I know that I will do everything I can to fix that.

Science Bowl, Part I

One of the advantages of going to Mississippi's math and science high school is that there are a lot more extracurricular activities available than what was previously available to me. One of these is science bowl.
I remember when I first came to the interest meeting for science bowl, and even the first several practices. The room was always crowded. I was even quieter than normal during those first few uncomfortable weeks of school. Some of those days, I hardly had a chance to sit down at a buzzer, much less get a question correct. The questions were far harder than anything I had ever tried before - they were much more complex than the science questions asked in quiz bowl.
I was discouraged, and weekly sessions of losing had me ready to quit. I decided to at least stay until I was cut from the team. If nothing else, it was practice for quiz bowl. I was used to quiz bowl practice four days a week, and just once weekly still seems like very little to me.
I really liked the way that science bowl was run. The sponsor kept track of points - who was scoring, and in what subject areas. As the year progressed, players were cut, until the final teams were chosen. A similar program for a quiz bowl team could clear up a lot of confusion that I know was present in my previous team about who was playing for competitions, why, and if feelings would be hurt. With the team run this way, I couldn't hurt anything by coming to practice while practices were open.
I was surprised when I made the first cut. Twenty-one players were kept and sorted into four teams. I've always had a very poor sense of how well I am doing at something as stressful as a competition of this sort without being able to see any numbers or scores. I've frequently played quiz bowl competitions where scores are not visible, and I am under the impression that we are losing, while we have actually beaten the opposing team by a wide margin.
I was captain for my team of five. We only played three games - one against each of the other teams. We lost the first two games, and finally won the last one. After that, I was certain that I would not be making it any farther. However, when the players were cut again, I had made the B team as co-captain. I would be playing at regionals.
Practices were soul-crushing. The A team won, every time, frequently quadrupling our score. (I wonder if that's why they were the A team.) As the regional competition loomed, we increased practices to twice a week, and then daily during the week leading up to competition. We beat the A team a mere two out of the many matches we played against each other.
The competition finally approached. Matches did not begin until 12:30, and this left far too much time for thought. I could not pay attention during my classes that morning. The whole team was stressed - especially before matches and during the frequent breaks. During the qualifying rounds, both of our teams won all three matches and progressed to the single elimination bracket.
Next, we had to draw letters for our places in the bracket. The A team captain drew first: E. I drew later: F. We were playing our own team. Only one of us would make it past the next round - we knew it would be the A team, and that then they would win the rest of the competition. We had joked all day about what would happen if we played each other. We had laughed because we hoped it wouldn't happen - or at least not until the finals.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Back to School

My first week back to school is over. I like that so many of my classes are new. It's a fresh start in the middle of the year. I'm taking University Calculus I. We haven't started any actual calculus yet, so I don't know yet how that's going to work out, but I do like the teacher I have for that class. My Waves class is probably two times larger than my Mechanics class, but there's no way to change that without messing up all the classes I'm taking. I do miss having the small physics class.
And there's my brand new biology class, Microbiology. That class is interesting. It's mostly lab-based, and the final exam is a practical. For the final, we will have to identify an unknown organism in a Petri dish, and write a paper about how we did it. The correct identification is actually only five points of the grade. That's exciting, but a bit scary, too. I hope I enjoy biology labs as much as I like my chemistry labs, or I'm going to be in for a bad time. It's been a long time since I did my AP Biology labs, and it's hard to remember how I felt about them. I want to take Microbiology (and do well in it), so that I can take Human Infectious Diseases next year.
My English class this semester is Shakespeare II. All juniors have a required research paper this quarter, but it doesn't sound bad at all: 5 pages, 3 secondary sources. I have to pick a sonnet or play, but with the amount of other writing about Shakespeare, I hope it won't be too hard to find plenty of sources.
With my new schedule, I get out of school at 2:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, which is convenient. However, on Tuesdays, I have class from 8-4 non-stop, which is tiring.