Friday, February 27, 2009

Conservation of Socks? I think not.

A little background: If you ever take Physics (or Chemistry, or maybe even Biology, or maybe even Earth Science), you'll learn about the Conservation of Energy. This basically means that energy can't be created or destroyed; the amount of energy in the universe never changes, it just gets converted into other forms.

"But what about when I ride a bike? I'm creating kinetic energy [[energy due to motion]] then!" No, you're not creating kinetic energy. You've simply converted the chemical energy stored in your muscles to mechanical energy, pedaling the bike. That chemical energy comes from the food you eat. The energy in the food (let's say you ate an apple) comes from the sun (photosynthesis)- if you're eating meat, the energy you get comes from the energy stored in the animal's muscles, which comes from plants. Pretty cool, huh? The amount of energy that was in the universe 3 billion years ago is the same amount today. Energy doesn't just magically disappear or appear; it is converted from one form to another (i.e. mechanical to electrical). Awesome.

However, there is, apparently, no such thing as the Conservation of Socks.

How would I know this? Experience.

See, I used to have this thing when I was home that I would go in to one room, decide my feet were too hot, and take off my socks. I don't really do that any more. But I do wear socks, and I swear, the amount of socks in the world (or at least, the amount of socks that are under my ownership) does not obey the law of conservation.

I usually wear socks to sleep, because usually my feet are cold. But then I'll wake up in the morning, and one sock, sometimes two, has (have) fallen off of my foot (feet). So I'll pick up the blankets, and search around... and there is, approximately, a 50% chance that I will not find the sock. I search and search... and no sock. It's like the sock just disappears.

Sometimes, I'll take my shoes off, and leave my socks in my shoes, and they might not be there when I get back.

When I stay somewhere (besides my home) overnight, I pack a pair of socks (so, including the pair I'm wearing, I'll have 2 pairs). There is approximately a 20% chance that I will return home with 3 socks or fewer.

Last July, I probably had 15 pairs of nice, white, normal socks. I have not given any away, nor have I sold any. But now, I'm somehow down to like... 5 (I have other socks- fuzzy ones, polka dot ones, but I like plain white socks best). Where have all my socks gone? I have no clue.

***EDIT 3/3/09- this picture explains everything. ***

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The End of an Era

So one day in 9th grade, at morning meeting, I heard someone make an announcement- anyone who was interested in joining the school's varsity swim team (no experience necessary) should come to the meeting later that week. Hm, I thought, I like swimming. Maybe I should join the swim team!

When I got home, I mentioned the announcement to my mom, who immediately encouraged me to join the swim team. I was a little wary at first, but I decided to do it. After all, how bad could it be? I had never swam competitively before, but I'd be okay, right? Especially since I was friendly with some of the people on the team, I figured it wouldn't be that bad- and besides, I could always quit if I hated it.

So I went to the meeting, and signed up for the team. There was still a month left until practice would actually start, which at first felt like a pretty long time. But the date loomed closer and closer, and I felt a mix of nervousness and excitement as I shopped for swim suits, goggles, and swim caps.

Finally it was time for the first practice. I placed myself in the slowest lane- I figured I would probably be one of the slowest ones on the team (I was right). I also figured that I probably wouldn't get to swim in any meets or earn a varsity letter (I was wrong on both accounts).

I knew that swimming would, if nothing else, be a great workout. I could barely move my arms after the first practice. I was exhausted, in a new sense of the word. Sure, I'd had tough gymnastics practices before, but this was a different kind of tiredness- the feeling was new to me.

I didn't swim in the very first swim meet; instead the coach had me keep score (which was pretty boring, to be honest). I did, however, swim in almost every meet after that. I even got to swim in the County, Conference, and Prep Championship meets! Sure, pretty much all I swam was a 50 free, and sure, I always came in last, and sure, my goggles fell off a lot when I dove in, but I was swimming in big meets! I was so excited when I earned my varsity letter. Going in to high school, who would have ever thought that I would earn a varsity letter? I certainly wouldn't have.

In the summer between 9th and 10th grade, I joined a summer rec swim team at my town pool. Having had the experience of varsity swimming, the rec team practices felt relatively easy. The meets were long- there were only like 6 events (50 free, 50 back, 50 fly, 50 breast, 100 IM, 200 free relay, I think), but there were boys and girls divisions for each event; and then there were the age groups (8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-18); and within each age group, there were multiple heats. I clearly remember, one morning, leaving the house for a meet at 6:45am, and getting home around 1:30pm. I liked the summer swim team so much that I even considered trying out for the YMCA swim team in my town. That would be a huge commitment- year round practices several times a week, sometimes at 5:30am! I ended up not trying out (I probably wouldn't have made it; the Y team in my town is really good).

Then one morning, after practice, I went to gymnastics. I tore my meniscus and ACL. That September (10th grade), I had surgery. The orthopedist told me I could swim, but I couldn't flipturn for "awhile" (I could flipturn by January), I also couldn't dive in for "awhile" (I dove in for the first time at the Prep Championship meet in February), I couldn't swim breaststroke (I still can't really swim breaststroke), and I should always wear flipflops on the pool deck and be really careful not to slip (I still am). I would have to miss practice once a week for physical therapy, though.

Not being able to dive in was, in a weird way, a sort of blessing. I started racing backstroke. It took awhile to perfect my turns (actually, I never really "perfected" my turns). But I really liked backstroke. I remember clearly one meet that year, I was swimming the 100 back, I was about to do the turn at the end of the first lap, and I saw some of my team mates cheering me on, and it was just the coolest thing ever.

11th grade was a pretty "normal" season. Except I had to miss a lot of practices- driving lessons, guitar lessons, and too much homework (Junior year, winter term = so much homework!).

This year (12th grade) it took until a few weeks into the season for me to realize that this was my last swim season. I didn't get to swim in the first meet (it was a tri-meet, meaning three teams instead of the usual two), so I was upset. I didn't stay for the whole thing (it was a Friday, I'd had a long day, and frankly, I just wanted to get home!). I was so annoyed that I didn't get to swim in the first meet (come on, I'm a senior!) that I briefly considered quitting the swim team, and instead trying out for the school musical. Then I realized that not only would I probably not get a part in the musical if I tried out, I would also miss swimming.

So I stuck it out. The first few weeks of the swim season were tough, because I was juggling so much: swim practice and meets, ballet, homework, and college applications. Needless to say, I didn't sleep quite as much as I wanted to.

Then came County Championships- you know, that time when I had to wake up at 6am on the first day back from winter break? The next week, on Friday, was Conference Championships- you know, that time when I had to stay at school past 9pm.

This past Wednesday was the Prep Championship meet. Our guys team came in 3rd at their Prep meet on Tuesday (which is pretty awesome), and they're actually going to the state tournament this week (which is also pretty awesome).

The Prep Championship meet is always a really long day. It was basically like this:
9:45am- We got on the bus. There's a TV on the bus, so someone puts on Fight Club, but I just put on my iPod, and prepare myself for the ride.
11:15- We get to the school where the meet is held. It's a boarding school, and the campus is really nice. The pool area isn't open yet, so we all hang out in the hallway.
11:30- The pool is opened, so we put our stuff down, and go change.
12:00pm- Warm-up starts, but my team has the second warm-up, so I read my book. I'm reading Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. I think Scott Westerfeld is an awesome writer. He writes mostly science fiction-y stuff for teens. It's not like dorky sci-fi, I just can't think of another word to describe it.
12:30- Time to warm up! I'm not really excited to get in the pool, but I get in anyway and swim. I realize that this is (most likely) the last time I'll be swimming in a competitive environment.
1:00- The meet starts, with the 200 medley relay. I read Topdog Underdog for English. It's okay. I'm reading for awhile, and then I have to go to the bathroom. As it happens every year, the bathroom has run out of toilet paper, which is awkward.
2:ooish- Time for my Exhibition 50 free. An "exhibition 50" is basically exactly what it sounds like: a 50 free that doesn't count for anything, a.k.a. a waste of time. I don't really know why my coach put me in an exhibition 50, since I was actually swimming a "real" race- 100 back. But whatever. I'm pretty sure the coach totally made up my seed time, so I'm in a heat with people who are much faster than me. But I do okay in the race. Not great, but okay.
2:05- After the race is done, I go back to my seat, and finish the reading for English. Then I read some more of Peeps, and generally just sit and watch the meet.
A few hours later- Finally it was time for my 100 back. I was excited, but nervous. I mean, it was my last race ever. I did alright. Not great, but alright. I came in either last or second to last in my heat, I don't quite remember. After my race, I shower and get changed. It's nice to not be sitting in a damp bathing suit. Dry clothes feel good.
6:30ish- We leave the meet. I see a van that says "SCHOOL STUDENTS" on it. Um, I thought the word "school" was implied in the word "students" (but correct me if I'm wrong).
7:00ish- We stop at Burger King. I'm starving. Since I'm a vegetarian, and I happen to know that Burger King's veggie burgers suck (I tried one sophomore year, after Preps), I just get fries and a chocolate milkshake. Do you know when the last time I had a chocolate milkshake was? I don't either, but it was a long time ago. I love milkshakes, but I don't have them very often.
7:30- We get back to school. After getting some stuff from my locker, I get in my car to drive home.
8:05- I get home.

And now, swim season of my senior year is over. I may not be "MVS" (Most Valuable Swimmer), but so what? I swam because I wanted to. And now, I keep wanting to type "I swim because I want to, or "I'm a varsity swimmer." I can no longer say either or those things. It's, "I swam because I wanted to", or "I was a varsity swimmer". I'm probably not going to swim in college, because frankly, I'm just not that good. If I had had to try out for the varsity swim team, I probably wouldn't have made it, but at my school, pretty much anyone who wants to do a sport can, and most people end up getting some time in the game- or, in the case of swimming, some chances to race in a meet.

I've accomplished a lot in swimming. I mean, I'm not significantly faster than I was when I started. But I'm in better shape, sort of. I swam 1500 yards in the first T-30, and at County Championships this year, I got first in my heat of the 100 back! When I swam on the summer rec team, I once got 2nd in my heat of the 50 back (2nd out of 2, but I still got a ribbon!), and my 200 free relay once got 1st place (again, I got a ribbon!).

I even wrote one of my college essays ("What experience in high school has mattered the most to you?" or something- kudos to anyone who knows what college it is) about swimming. I talked about how it helped me with setting and reaching goals, time management, competition, and perhaps something else that I can't remember.

I've gone through so many suits, caps, and pairs of goggles that I've lost count. It makes me sad, in a way, to see this "evidence" of my years on swim team in a pile on the floor (actually, this stuff really is in a pile on my floor, because my little sister had to borrow my swim bag for a sleepover). But it's cool, because I feel accomplished.

It's not like I'll never go swimming again. I mean, I have lifeguard training this spring, and this summer, I'll be lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons at the camp I work at (which is at my school). But it's different.

Do I regret swimming? Absolutely not. I figure that I spent close to 500 hours swimming. What would I have done with those 500 (or so) hours otherwise? Homework, perhaps. Maybe I would have gotten better grades, but maybe I wouldn't have. Watch TV. Read. Write. Play guitar. Maybe I would have taken dance classes. Maybe I wouldn't have had to stop gymnastics for 4 months freshman year, and maybe I never would have hurt my knee(s). Who knows? I'm not really sure what I would've done with all the extra time every winter, other than sleep in on Saturdays. I know one thing for sure, though- I wouldn't be the same person I am now. The end of swimming is truly the end of an era.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My classes- Part 3- AP AB/BC Calculus

So Math has pretty much always been easy for me. I think Math is the only subject area in which I've actually never gotten a C on a test (I've had some grades of C- and lower- on tests/assignments in science, English, French, and humanities).

In 6th grade, I took Pre-Algebra. It was easy. Pythagorean theorem? Cool! In 7th grade, I took "Algebra 1 part 1 honors" (or something like that). Inequalities? Very, very awesome. I got a 100 on the final, I think. In 8th grade, I took "Algebra 1 part 2 honors" (or something like that). Parabolas were hard to learn, but pretty interesting. In 8th grade, I didn't think it was "cool" to be good at math, so I made a point out of purposely not trying as hard as I knew I could. Trigonometry was kind of hard, but pretty cool.

Before 9th grade, I took a placement test at the private school that I now go to (9th grade was my first year) to determine what math I would be in for 9th grade. The results came back, and I was recommended for Geometry Honors.

Geometry was okay. But it was weird because it wasn't really like Algebra. In Geometry, they give you the answer; you have to prove how you got there, whereas in Algebra, it's more about getting to the answer.

At the end of 9th grade, we started learning some Trigonometry. This time, Trigonometry was really cool.

At the very end of the year, we took a placement test to determine what class we'd be in for the next year- Algebra 2/Trigonometry, Algebra 2/Trigonometry Honors, or Math 3/4 (basically, Algebra 2/Trigonometry Honors and Pre-Calculus Honors combined in one year). The placement test and our final grade would determine which class we'd be placed in. Most people would go from Geometry Honors to Algebra 2/Trig Honors, but if you did really well (A-/A average for the year and a good score on the placement test), you'd go to Math 3/4, and if you didn't do so well (I'm guessing below a B average for the year) you'd go to Algebra 2/Trig.

I did really well on the placement test, but I had a B+ average for the year, so in 10th grade, I took Algebra 2/Trig Honors. At first, it was extremely easy, and the teacher talked to my parents and said that I probably should be in Math 3/4 because I was doing so well. But I didn't want to mess up my schedule or have to make up what I'd missed in Math 3/4, so I stayed in Algebra 2/ Trig Honors. I had multiple perfect scores on tests- and many times, the teacher would actually announce, "Guess what everybody, Molly got a hundred". The teacher would also shake the hand of everyone who did well or got an A (though both of these practices stopped part way through the year). I ended up with an A for the year.

So in 11th grade (last year) I took Pre-Calculus Honors. The first time we learned derivatives, I was really confused, but eventually they became really fun. We did trigonometry for most of the winter term, and on the first 3 tests, I got a 100, which was pretty cool. Since I had an A in Pre-Calculus, I was recommended for AP AB/BC Calculus for this year.

What, you ask, is AB/BC Calculus? Surely you've heard of AP AB Calculus and AP BC Calculus. Well, at my school, most people go from Pre-Calculus Honors to AP AB Calculus then AP BC Calculus. But if (like me) you did really well in Pre-Calculus Honors, then you take AB/BC Calculus, which is basically AP AB and BC Calculus combined in one year.

And let me tell you- AP AB/BC Calculus is awesome. Calculus in general is really cool, actually. I love numbers. It's just awesome. Picture a bowl, shaped like half a sphere. Okay, now picture water pouring in to the bowl at a constant rate. With calculus, you can figure out how fast the depth of the water is changing.

I ended up getting a B+ for fall term. I probably could have done better, though Riemann Sums basically ate my soul (not to mention the fact that I was extremely busy with college applications all fall).

For midterms this term, I had an A (zomg!). Since then, my grade has dropped to an A- (I got a 96 on the first test of the term- which is what was on the midterm- but an 83 on the second test). We're now learning about sequences and series- which is easy, but also pretty hard! I have a test on Tuesday- wish me luck, oh blog readers.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My classes- Part 2- IB Visual Arts (HL)

So in 9th grade, I took Painting for my elective class. I wasn't great, but I was pretty good. (Once, I painted an "orange" in various shades of purple; the teacher actually saved the painting to show to his classes the next year as an example of monochromatic painting. Sadly, someone started painting over it this year in orange.) I decided that I wanted to take a different type of art each year. Maybe I'd take Drawing in 10th grade, Ceramics in 11th, and then Photography in 12th. Then I decided that I wanted to stick with Painting- so I'd take Advanced Painting in 10th grade, and IB Painting in 11th and 12th grades (I wasn't, at the time, aware that there is no such class as "IB Painting"- just IB Visual Arts).

Towards the end of 9th grade- some time in March- I started drawing. I got inspired by the design of the back of Good Charlotte's album The Young and The Hopeless. I drew Benji and Joel (Madden) in regular #2 pencil and used colored pencils for the background. Then, I decided that because I was a real artist, I should go buy some actual drawing supplies, so I did. I bought a drawing "kit" that had a few regular drawing pencils (if I remember correctly- 2B, 4B, 6B), an ebony pencil, a regular pink eraser, a gray "kneaded" eraser (I love these things), a sharpener, and 2 charcoal pencils. I also bought some real drawing paper (which is heavier than computer printer paper). I drew Billy Martin with an ebony pencil, and Paul Thomas with the charcoal. Then, I started doing some other drawings- mostly pictures of band guys that I found in magazines or online. Here's one I did of Tyson Ritter (lead singer of The All-American Rejects):

So I decided that, since I liked drawing, and I was okay at it, I should take Drawing in 10th grade. Then, about a month later, I decided I liked dance more than drawing, so I switched my schedule so I could take Intermediate Dance. Then, over the summer, I hurt my knee (more on that later), so I switched back in to Drawing.

Drawing was awesome. I really liked it. I had the same teacher for Drawing that I'd had for Painting (he is also one of the teachers of IB Art), and he was totally awesome.

In February of 10th grade, I was in the teacher's office because I had to print something out on the Arts computer printer. The teacher asked if I had considered applying for IB Art. I said no, not really, but he said that he thought I should.

So I decided that I might as well go for it. I applied for IB Art- I had to submit a "portfolio" of my strongest pieces (I included two paintings and several drawings), a one page "statement" of why I wanted to do IB Art, and I had to have an interview with the two teachers of IB Art. The interview went well, and on the last day of winter term, I found out that I had gotten in to IB Art (which, for the HL- higher level- class is 2 years, 11th and 12th grades). So I was totally psyched.

Last year (11th grade), was a lot of exploration. I used so many different mediums: oil pastels, soft pastels, pencil, charcoal, sharpies, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, photography, ceramics. This year (12th grade) has been a lot more studio time and focused on building a portfolio. I love having time to work on my art almost every single day.

The exam will be in April, and there's a few parts. (1) Send in 20 (25? 35?) photocopied pages of my "Research Workbook", which is basically a "journal" of all my art stuff. It's kind of hard to explain. (2) Send in a portfolio of my 12 strongest pieces. (3) A one-on-one critique with the IBO examiner.

Currently, I'm working on a piece that is soft pastels. Most of my work centers around music- musicians, instruments, songs, music videos.

Just because I feel like showing off, here's a few of my pieces of art (some aren't specifically for IB Art):

Saturday, February 07, 2009

My classes- Part 1- Biotechnology

So when I was a sophomore, I heard that my school offered a Biotechnology class, and I decided that I had to take it. So I signed up to take it junior year, but I handed in my course sign-up form late, and, as I found out that August, all of the slots had been filled up by seniors.

I went to the school, and talked to my principal (who is actually pretty cool) about what class I should take. I had already taken biology (in 8th grade), chemistry (freshman year), and physics (sophomore year). Biotechnology was filled up. I hadn't taken the required pre-course for AP Biology. I didn't have a high enough grade in Chemistry to take AP Chemistry. I hadn't taken Physics Honors, so I couldn't take AP Physics. Anatomy was also full, so what was left? AP Environmental Science. Enviro was cool, but this year (senior year), I'm finally taking Biotechnology.

And let me tell you, Biotechnology is AWESOME. I love it because it's SO interesting (and the class is great because it's not like an overload of work).

In the fall, we did mostly genetics stuff. The first thing we did was collect our own DNA and look at it under a microscope (which was pretty freaking cool). We also did paternity testing, blood typing (not with real blood!), and crime-scene DNA "fingerprinting". For my final project for the fall term, I did a presentation about Nanotechnology. Dude, nanotechnology is cool (see my post about it if you don't believe me). And the teacher loved the presentation, which was great.

This term, we're basically focused on sustainable living. Definitely not what I expected, but still really cool. We built terrariums out of old empty water bottles, dirt, moss, and charcoal (I planted corn seeds in mine, and they STILL haven't sprouted!) and water filters out of pebbles, charcoal, sand, and filter paper (the first few times you run the water through it, it just gets dirtier). Next, we're going to make ethanol, which should be exciting. We're also working on a term-long project of designing a "sustainable" house/city.

Coming soon: blogs about my other classes (AP French, AP Physics, AP Calculus, IB Art, and English) perhaps?