Monday, August 24, 2009

An Epiphany Unlike Any Other

There are countless quizzes that one can take online which can be used to divulge the innermost traits of any person. With a click, I can discover whether my ideal vacation is a day on the beach or a hike through the mountains. I can find out whether my superhero power is super-strength (yeah, right) or flying, what my favorite color says about me, what my shoes mean, or what punctuation mark best represents me. These quizzes are very popular, but I’m not entirely sure why. I already know what my ideal vacation is, and it is neither a day on the beach nor a hike through the mountains. (I’m just saying that to prove a point… a day on the beach wouldn’t be so bad.) I have no superhero powers, except maybe elasticity; I discovered recently that I can bring my arms from behind my back over my head to my front with my hands clasped. Yet I’m not double-jointed! Although I’ve considered throwing on a bright-colored costume and jumping from building to building fighting crime, I decided that the publicity would be too much for me. I’ve resigned myself to making friends say, “Eww that’s gross!” (female) or “Dude that’s awesome! I’m gonna try! … OWWW!!!” (male.) My favorite color says nothing about me, as it can’t speak. Or if it can, it’s never talked to me. The only quiz I took was a personality test, with the discovery that I am an ENTJ, a Fieldmarshal, which means that I have the same personality type as Napoleon. Great.

These quizzes prompted me to consider whether a person ever can be summed up in a single color, shoe size, or constellation. How about me? The answer hit me today as my family left a nearby bike trail after going for a lengthy walk and headed towards a nearby ice cream place that had a variety of delicious flavors. It was truly a Facebook Quiz Moment; what ice cream flavor was I? In the face of countless choices, would I go for Death by Chocolate or Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Extravaganza? Nope. Neither. I had a small vanilla in a cup. Not even a cone. I realized that I actually couldn’t remember the last time I had gotten a flavor other than vanilla. Earlier in the day, my parents had offered to take me out to eat and asked me which restaurant I would prefer should we go out. I replied that I didn’t care; since the only thing I get when we go out is chicken fingers, all restaurants are pretty much the same to me.

In a moment of horror, a lightning bolt of inspired revelation, I realized that when it came to preferences… I was vanilla ice cream. I like my spaghetti with very little sauce. My favorite shirts are plain T-shirts or plain hooded sweatshirts. I dislike flashy cars or expensive excess. I eat the rolls put out at restaurants plain, without butter. There I was under the assumption that I was a complicated, developed human being. There’s no way one word could describe me! Ha, it would take days of probing, philosophical questioning for a person to really understand me. Then my illusions collapsed before me in an epiphany. Yes, I had an epiphany.  Most epiphanies are related to matters of great importance, possibly altering the course of mankind. When Socrates (I think it was him… either that it was Plato… some Greek dude) had an epiphany, he ran from his bathtub into the streets naked, shouting “Eureka!” This story changed the world, inspiring a Sci-Fi series with the title “Eureka.” All the fans of this show have someone who lived a looong time ago to thank for their evenings of viewing pleasure.  I think he also might have done something with density or volume and water… not sure though. Then, of course, there was the guy who realized one day that the Earth was not flat. His epiphany may not have been great enough for me to remember his name, but it was definitely important enough for him to be ridiculed for the rest of his life and thrown in prison. I think. I also really want to say it was Galileo, but I’m not sure. He might have been the one who had the epiphany that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. But the point is, he still had an epiphany. There is also the nameless man who worked in a factory that was using microwave technology. This nameless man was hungry and had a candy bar in his pocket to sneak later on, but when he took it out… IT WAS MELTED!!! Although I’m sure he was somewhat unhappy, as his fingers were sure to be covered in chocolate, we have him to thank for microwave ovens! Then there’s Bill Gates, who got kicked out of college for the epiphany known as Windows. A few decades later, he doesn’t even blink when his company lost $20 billion in a single day. Why? Because he’s got another $192 billion where that came from! (I kind of made those numbers up, but you get the picture.)

Sadly, my epiphany is unlikely to earn me a television series, billions and billions of dollars, or a jail cell. No. My epiphany is a somewhat sad one that pales in comparison to the other great epiphanies of history. If I was an ice cream, I would be vanilla. I have a feeling that the America is not going to start celebrating a day for me, although I think that maybe they should. I mean, we celebrate Columbus Day, and all he did was sail his boat in the wrong direction, get lost, think he found India, and then wipe out thousands of Native Americans whom he thought were Native Indians. He should have figured something was wrong when they didn’t speak Indian. Duh. And then it comes out that Columbus Day is a fraud because both the Chinese and Norse found America before him! Sorry. Vanilla ice cream. Right. That was my epiphany of the day, so I figured it at least merited a blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Videos Hate Me

I realize it sounds somewhat silly to say that presumably inanimate things hate me. But after reading this, you will wholeheartedly agree with me that videos, despite their clever acts, are actually living, breathing entities. Maybe not breathing. But definitely living and united against me.

The war between myself and videos actually began long ago. I purchased a video camera because I enjoy creating, filming, and editing videos, and looked forward to putting it to good use. I immediately immersed myself in creating a movie with some friends. Upon finishing the movie, I plugged the camera into my computer, sat back, and got ready to dazzle my limited audience with a spectacle of special effects and creative brilliance. My computer already had Windows Movie Maker installed, so I opened it up and proceeded to import videos from my video camera. That’s when I first saw it. The dreaded gray box with a red X through it. Hm… I pondered this problem and spent quite a bit of time trying to convince the computer to play the videos. I actually think I went through all the phases of grief. First, I refused to accept it. It'll play, I confidently told myself. Except it didn’t. As my denial left me, anger and frustration took its place. Shouting at the computer and slapping the monitor didn’t seem to work either, so next I tried bargaining with it. I apologized for my previous tactics and offered it some cookies. Then I promised that never again would I push my fingers against the screen to see the cool ripples that form or type on the keyboard while eating buttery popcorn. It still refused to cooperate. At 11:00 that night, I finally gave in. The computer, or, as I was soon to discover, the videos, had defeated me.

Further research and consulting a friend with experience with Movie Maker informed me that the videos wouldn’t play because they were the wrong file type. My video camera took film in .MOV format, which just happened to be the one format that Movie Maker doesn’t play. Until I told my friend and he said, “That’s odd… .MOV plays on my Movie Maker.” That was when the beginning tendrils of a dark suspicion uncertainly gripped me. Was there something going on here…? No… no, that’s impossible. I decided that I would have to purchase a video editor that could edit .MOV files or convert them to a different file type, such as .AVI, which I learned was the most common. I determinedly walked into Best Buy, gift card in hand.

“Can I help you?” a smiling employee inquired.

“I’m looking for a video editing program that can either edit MOV files or convert them to AVI,” I boomed confidently.

The smile seemed to fade slowly away, as if it were a liquid dripping off the employee’s chin. Not sure where that imagery came from.

“I’d better get someone else.”

Another employee, presumably more intelligent when it came to the world of video editing.

“What are you looking for?” he asked. This one had a concerned, trying-to-be-helpful look. I repeated exactly what I wanted. The employee looked dumbfounded. He blinked a few times before asking me to wait just a moment. He walked off, approaching the first employee. They laughed in a I-have-no-idea-what-he’s-talking-about-I’m-just-a-part-time-teenager fashion. They then scurried off to find someone was from the same strange, foreign-language-speaking country as I. A middle-aged man approached me. When I told him what I wanted, he wasted no time. He rushed off, gesturing for me to follow him into the alien realm of video software. I did so, and he handed me what I believed to be the answer to my needs: a program that could edit nearly any file type and also convert it to nearly any other file type. In addition, it was far more advanced than Movie Maker, granting me the power to dazzle audiences even more. I purchased it for $50.

The next time I had to make a movie was for a school project, lending it somewhat more importance than a movie with friends. I was counting on my new program to give me an A. I imported the videos and waited with bated breath. They could be edited! With a rapidly beating heart, I worked my movie magic and created a true masterpiece. This would earn me more than an A. I would surely earn a letter like I, which was so legendary, it was believed to be imaginary. So, I saved it and emailed it to myself to test. And found that nothing except my video editor could play it. Devastation is the best word to use here. Wait! I can convert it to AVI or WMV so it can be played! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I had outsmarted it! So I clicked convert. Ugh. Two hours. That’s alright, I could wait. I plopped down on a couch to relax and congratulate myself. Then my night was ruined. I made the mistake of checking on its progress. “Error: Conversion could not be completed. Please try again.” An hour and a half had passed. Only 31 minutes left. I looked at the clock. It was 10:00pm. One more try. Same message, an hour and a half later. I was running out of options. I tried burning it onto a CD. There was no bar or anything indicating how much time was left. At about 12:30, I gave up. I was forced to play my video scene by scene by hooking up my camera to the TV.

That was when I saw the truth. The computer was a mere pawn. The videos themselves were the masters, utilizing every technicality they could to prevent me from accomplishing anything. It was sickening, but there was nothing I could do. I wearily threw in the towel. Until a few months ago, I received a camera that could record in AVI. Trumpets sounded. Heavenly golden light flooded my soul. I made a successful movie. I had finally won a battle. But the war was far from over.

I decided that I would apply to be a blogger for the MIT Admissions Office. One of the essays was a video! I excitedly went forward, utilizing every trick I knew, throwing everything I had into 22 minutes of concentrated SHAZAM!!! I saved it to my computer. Everything was going fine. At long last, the videos would bow to my will! My shackles had been broken and theirs forged! If you couldn’t tell, I was pretty excited. It took an hour to upload. That was alright though. The videos could stall, but I would emerge victorious in the end. “Upload Complete.” YESSS!!! Processing video… Huh? What was this? Why in the world are you processing anything? I just uploaded you!!! I gave it some time. Then grew suspicious. Was it possible that the videos had pulled something? Some ace in the hole, some trick I had never seen? Yes. I Googled “how long does it take a video to process?” The answers I found said that the time varied, but something else caught my eye. “Videos longer than 10 minutes will be deleted at this step.”

No.

Panicking, I brought up my video. I had edited it, making it much shorter, but would it be short enough? It began playing. I looked at the time thing. And froze. I think my heart stopped.

10:24.

Ten minutes and twenty four seconds. That was twenty four seconds too long. With a wail of agony, I collapsed. I could hear the videos snickering, pointing at me, finally claiming victory. I had no time left to upload the video. Forget time; I was out of patience. I just couldn’t take it anymore. The videos had won. I proceeded to upload the sad replacement for the video, which can be found in the entry below. Chances are that will make me or break me. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll be tending to my wounds…

An Introduction to Uxbridge

This entry is the response to Short Answer #2 on the MIT blogging application. But here’s the thing. I made a video to introduce everyone to the countless exciting things in Uxbridge. I did. And even though when I put it together it was only about 2MB’s, after I saved it and tried to upload it, it magically became about 66MB’s. And that means it would take two hours to upload, when I need to submit everything in forty-four minutes. Doesn’t quite fit. This leaves me in a dire situation. As I am no longer able to upload a video, the only other option is to use photos. I am not in the habit of running around town taking pictures because there’s really nothing to take pictures of. So I am posting the only three pictures I have of my humble town.

 

SANY0109 SANY0114 SANY0116

This is a town joke and actually is probably the most interesting, or at least the most amusing, thing in Uxbridge. Both Pleasant St and, even more fittingly, Maryjane Ave are small roads off of High St. I wonder what kind of guy named these streets…

So I apologize that you won’t have the opportunity to watch the thrilling masterpiece I created specially for you, but this is the best I am able to do. I will try to upload the video anyways and if it works, you’ll still be able to watch it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Expect Me to Be Able to Do WHAT?!?!?!?

Today one of my friends and I were having a discussion on Facebook. Like many conversations on Facebook, it took place through comments. It went something like this:

Friend: 10 days until i leave for college! cant wait!

Me: dude thats awesome! im leaving in like 18. friday the 28th

Friend: um… thats 11 days… aren’t you going to MIT?

Me: hahaha oops im a week behind… yeah, and im majoring in math

Friend: …

Huh. So it turns out that math majors at MIT are expected to know how to count. I suppose that’s a logical expectation to have. This got me thinking about what MIT was really going to be like, and what kind of pressure I would be under there. It’s often been referred to as “drinking from a fire hose,” and fire hoses are without a doubt pressurized. It’s certainly going to be a change for me, but how much of a change? Throughout my entire high school career, I studied once for freshman final exams. After spending hours doing so, I soon discovered that I didn’t need to study. For anything. For four years. Every MIT student that has said what I just did talks about how MIT was different because they actually had to study for the first time in their lives. Don’t get me wrong; I relish the challenge! It’s just that I wonder sometimes about certain things… For example, the following was posted on the MIT Admissions Blog today regarding tiredness:

Mon: Tired

Tues: Tired

Wed: Hopelessly tired

Thurs: Drowning in tired while clinging to last shreds of willpower to floss regularly despite diminishing ability to lift hands past elbow level.

Fri:

Sat/Sun: Regain ability to english

Now, understandably, there are a few things about this post that mildly concern me. The “Tired’s” I can deal with. I was tired every day this past fall when I both played varsity soccer (I say that to make it sound like I’m wicked good at soccer, but there was actually no JV team…and they never cut anyone) and ran the Central Mass Hero singing competition, which was a massive singing competition among public high school in Worcester County and one of the most time-consuming, challenging, and rewarding things I’ve ever done. That was in addition to all the other student groups I was involved in. As for the hopelessly tired… yeah, I’ve had a bit of experience with that. Finishing sending emails at midnight after a late soccer game to get up at 5:00 the next morning to go to a National Honor Society meeting that I was expected to run could fall into that category. Thursday I’m not sure about. I’ve never actually experienced the inability to lift my hand past my elbow level. What I’m hoping is that the person who posted the above entry has freakishly heavy hands. Maybe they’ve developed arthritis at an early age and can’t move their elbows so well. Maybe they’re even 6’2” and elbow level for them is eye level for an average person. Friday, however, I’m finding it difficult to make excuses for. I find it highly unlikely that Yan Z., who posted the blog, just happened to forget Friday, yet moved on to the weekend. Somehow, the blankness of Friday is actually more intimidating than any of the words describing the previous four days. I can’t help but wonder if this was intentional. Sat/Sun actually may shed light on the sinister occurrences of Friday. “Regain ability to english.”  Hmm… yes, this is disturbing. I suspect that on Friday, Yan Z. actually dropped dead from exhaustion and was resuscitated on Saturday, using the weekend to regain motor functions, including the “ability to english.” Apparently she’s still trying to get that ability back, unless “english” has been made a verb and no one told me. Not that I expect Webster to run every change by me, but it would have been nice. The realization then struck me that this was a weekly schedule. This means that the Guinness Book of World Records is wrong: the record for greatest amount of times a person has died and been resuscitated should actually  belong to MIT students, because apparently they do it every week!

While my parents may not like the idea of me dying every Friday, I’m still very excited to be going there. After all, I’ve always wondered if there really is a white light at the end of the tunnel. During my zen-like contemplation of my morbid future, I decided that I no longer intend to join Concourse. Not that I think that I’ll be more likely to suffer some dark fate at its hands, but I read some stuff by other students, and I decided that I personally would get more out of the MIT experience by being in mainstream classes. While I am changing this aspect of my path, I am remaining stubborn on another. Despite evidence that I should consider a change, I am still intending to major in Course 18 (math.) To prepare, I’m getting up early every day to learn math from the expert; yes, I am referring to The Count on Sesame Street. Whether he’s counting apples or crayons, the man clearly knows what he’s doing, so I should be well-prepared for MIT in 18 days. I did that on purpose. I meant 11 days.

Through reading a variety of materials, I have come to the conclusion that expectations at MIT are high. A school that expects you to lose motor functions on Wednesdays, die on Fridays, get your drinking water each meal from a fire hose, and english away on the weekends is not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that it will be worth it. It may shorten my lifespan by a few years and give me bad breath due to the inability to floss regularly as cited on Thursdays, but I can deal with that. I’m ready. In 11 short days, I’ll be screaming IHTFP with the best of them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eating my Money

It is generally agreed upon that there are two kinds of people in the world. I take that back; depending on what classification system one uses, there could be anywhere from 1 to several thousand types of people in the world. But when it comes to spending habits, people usually fall into one of two categories: either they spend everything they can spare (and some they can’t spare, but spend anyways), and some who choose to save every dime they have. If you ever want to find out what category a person falls into, give them a million dollars and watch their behavior. Their spending behavior. Obviously they’re going to be excited. And no, there’s no government fund that you can apply to get the money for that behavioral test, although I’m sure the American Bailout Fund will be established soon to pay for (or borrow and then pay for) what is becoming a regular habit for our leaders. Anyways, I consider myself to be a saving type of person. I have a good job that I work full time over the summer, and all that money is directly deposited into my savings account. Besides things that everyone needs money for, like car insurance, Christmas gifts, college supplies, and a $200,000 college education (just kidding- MIT was a ton of help- all applicants should definitely look at their financial aid program!), I don’t really spend it on anything. It just kind of sits their earning me about a dollar a month in interest. Yippee! Nowadays I can’t even get penny candy for a buck… My brother, on the other hand, falls into the spending category. He does not have a job yet miraculously conjures money to feed his spending habits. Even when he has no money left, he, like our beloved government, manages to go out and buy stuff. I’m not sure how these people get buy, but if you know someone like this, then you can wholeheartedly attest to what I am saying.

However, I am not claiming to never spend money on things that I want. Once in a while, when something comes along that I’d really like, I can buy it, and I can do so easily and without borrowing from China. This is because I save and do not regularly spend. For example, a few months ago, I purchased a 16GB iPod Touch. I’ve found it to absolutely be worth the money; it is very convenient to have Facebook at my fingertips anywhere there is an internet connection. In addition, I’ve enjoyed many of the classier, high-end apps (all free, of course), such as Lightsaber (it even makes sounds!), Pac-Man, The Weather Channel (with a really good radar!), and Tap-Tap Revenge 2, the iPod’s version of Guitar Hero, which I have mastered. (I actually purchased Guitar Hero: Metallica the same day.) You can see why the device was worth about $300.

More often, however, I surprise myself with the amount of money I spend on more… edible… products. About 2 months ago I figured that I would buy some of my own candy and popcorn so that I wouldn’t be limited to the family stash. My original plans turned into a box of popcorn ($4.50), a 42oz. bag of M&M’s (7.00), and 3 or 4 Lindt and Cadbury candy bars ($10.00). For those of you who don’t share my enthusiasm for mathematics, the total was $21.50. Yes; I spent over twenty dollars on food, mostly chocolate. It’s really my mother’s fault. She’s the one who gave me the gene for absolutely loving chocolate candy. Today, I realized that my supply of candy and popcorn was completely decimated… there was nothing. I could not allow such a horrific situation to go uncorrected, so I remedied it. That means that I went to Wal-Mart and bought another box of popcorn, yet another 42oz bag of M&M’s, but no candy bars. Instead I bought a 3.75lb bag of mints. And, sadly, that is not a joke.

I have someone to blame for this too! During my senior year in high school I took AP English, and it just so happened that my English teacher had taken to purchasing massive bags of hard candy. Scattered among the chocolate mints, cinnamon things, and other assorted flavors were the real jewels: the red and white swirled mints. They were absolutely delicious. At first, one or two were enough for the class. After all, I didn’t want to look like a pig. Next, I decided that my mint-neediness surpassed the need for delicacy, so I ate anywhere from 4-10 per class. After that, I should have joined Mints Anonymous; I would stuff my pockets with the beauties for the rest of the day, occasionally popping in to replenish my supply. At a college fair, I once went to the Harvard Law table for the sole purpose of taking their entire stock of mints. (the mints were good, but it still wasn’t worth it…) That’s why I actually spent money on a 3.75-pound bag of mints. Because they’re DELICIOUS!

But I lucked out; the M&M’s had gone down in price! And not only that, but the bag of mints was less expensive than the numerous candy bars I purchased last time, bringing my grand total to a little more than $15.00. So although you may be reading this and asking why I have put my taste buds in control of both my brain and my wallet, consider this: my sporadic purchasing of food is almost entirely what I spend money on, and it’s not like it’s every day. Well, I eat it every day, but I don’t buy more every day. So it is with confidence that I am still able to defend myself as a person who falls into the saving-person category. Now- 11:11 MAKE A WISH!!! Sorry. It’s 11:11 right now. I usually miss it. What I was going to say was that if you’ll excuse me, I have to leave and make sure that my money was not wasted. More specifically, I’m going to go eat some M'&M’s. Maybe throw a mint or two in there. Maybe a few more mints actually…

Dry with a High Probability of Mathematics

The last few days haven’t been exceedingly exciting. Not a whole lot that is blog-worthy has taken place, which is why nothing has been posted for the last few days. Well that’s part of the reason. The other part is because last night I finished my proof at 11:37pm, and blogs take me about an hour or so to put together. I wasn’t particularly in the mood to be up until 1 in the morning writing about how I have nothing to write about. And besides, then it gets confusing; do I write as if it was Saturday or Sunday? You can see why I decided to just wait until this morning to write this. So although the title should give a pretty good idea of what my past few days have been like, here’s a more detailed overview.

I ended the last post on Thursday, after exploring one of the greatest issues that mankind has ever faced. No one can say this blog isn’t philosophically thought-provoking and important, confronting the great issues of the day. On Friday, I decided to begin the process of proving the various formulas that I have created for the integration of certain families of functions. I think I did that pretty much all day. Now before you judge, let me defend myself! Yes, I did math all day. I’m sorry. My father questioned this, making the perceptive comment that “It’s summer! You’re not supposed to be thinking.” Huh. Now first of all, that’s not a very good attitude to have. Let’s say I go out to eat at a restaurant during the summer months. Many of you may point out that I’m too busy with math to do anything remotely enjoyable, but just go with me on this. It’s hypothetical. I enjoy my chicken fingers (which anyone who’s ever gone to a restaurant with me can attest that I order every time, regardless of the restaurant) and then take a look at the bill. I see that the cost of the food is 20.00 (again, this is purely hypothetical.) Now because it’s summer, I have no motivation to think, so why bother figuring out the tip? I happen to have an extra $1 bill, so I toss it down and happily leave the establishment. The next time I eat there, I am bewildered to find that my chicken fingers have a strange, unpleasant “background” taste to them… the taste actually reminds me of the smell of a garbage disposal…

Second of all, math is fun for me. Now this may be hard to understand for many people. “How can he enjoy something so excruciatingly painful and dry?” I ask most of my friends a similar question. Why in the world do they find roller coasters and other such rides fun? I hate them! I’ve never been on a roller coaster in my life and never intend to change that. Roller coasters are frightening, yet people seem to enjoy that. While I admit that mathematics has never given me an adrenaline rush, this is the best comparison I can make; everyone enjoys different things, and most likely, one of those things will be hated by most other people. And besides, everyone has that one secret nerdy thing that they enjoy doing. Whether they have a calendar that has a different random fact each day, get books from the library with titles like “Parallel Universes” or “UFO’s: Top Secret,” or once sat on their bed for an hour while learning to say the alphabet backwards, everyone’s got something. At this point, I’m also choosing to ignore the fact that, as I’ve done everything on this list, I probably have a bit more nerdiness than others. That’s not important. What is important that by the end of Friday, I was frustrated because I could not get the proof to work. The two sums at the end shared the same ratio, but were not equal. I found that I somehow needed to work in a (k+1)(k+2) term. But, alas, that would have to wait. My girlfriend was coming over and we were scheduled to watch Good Will Hunting.

If the people around you reading this are laughing and you’re confused, that would be because Good Will Hunting is a movie about a kid who’s a janitor at MIT, but is a natural math genius more brilliant than anyone there. I swear that this is purely coincidence; I do NOT usually watch feature films about math. And besides, the movie is not really about math at all. It’s much more about the main character, Will Hunting, and his overcoming his fear of getting close to other people, having been abused and abandoned by his parents at a very young age. Just felt that was important to point out.

Saturday rolled around and it was my brother’s birthday, which meant that I got to eat Dunkin Donuts Munchkins for breakfast. Any guesses as to what I did the rest of the day? If you guessed math, you’re right!!! By the time that my grandparents had come over for my brother’s birthday party, I had done it; I had figured out how to get my needed term into the final sum. And the way to do that was by not magically deleting it from one line to the next. Yeah. The reason it was missing was because I actually had it in one line but forgot to copy it over to the next. So because I didn’t check my work, I had done hours of math for no reason. Not that I’m complaining. I finished the proof, as aforementioned, at 11:37 that night. I went to sleep afterwards. Duh. Sorry for making you wait until today to read this. So now I’ve gotta go and prove my next formula. Hopefully this time no terms will vanish between lines.

One final note: I hate mosquitoes. I woke up this morning with like 10 mosquito bites from last night. They’re awful. See, that proves liking math does not make me inhuman; when it comes to mosquitoes, I’m just like everyone else >:-O

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nghuhnm

Did I mistype the title? Did I break 3 fingers, inhibiting my ability to type coherently? Or perhaps I’m studying Mandarin Chinese… Nope, none of the above. In this entry, I will tackle one of the greatest, most infamous problems faced by not only Americans, but people of all nations. A problem that has confuddled the greatest of wits, stymied the most brilliant minds, and driven the coolest intellects to the brink of madness. And no, I haven’t proven the Riemann Hypothesis yet. That’s next week.

You see, today I had to go to the dentist for a cleaning and checkup. First, let me pose a valid question brought up by my ten-year-old brother today as we all climbed into my mom’s minivan. My mom had asked him if he had brushed his teeth today, and he replied, “I don’t understand why if we’re going to get our teeth cleaned, we have to clean them ourselves first.” This, to me, is quite a legitimate question. It actually brought to the surface other such situations. For example, during my time working at the bank, the cleaning lady came every Friday night. So, before closing on Friday, we all had to double-check that our counters and floors were completely cleaned. Then you’ve got the people who spend money to hire a maid and freak out an hour before the maid comes because their house is a mess. They proceed to clean it spotless, leaving the maid the afternoon to kick back, relax, maybe watch some TV. (By the way, the Patriots are winning right now 24-6!!!!!! Great way to start off the preseason!!!) So I just don’t understand such things. The insight of a ten-year-old…

Our trip to and arrival at the dentist’s office was uneventful. I was called into the hygienist’s office so that she could clean the teeth that I had thoroughly cleaned myself not an hour earlier. And I’m obviously doing a good job since I’ve never had a cavity. For a long time, from ages 5-12 or something, I was a proud member of the No Cavity Club. Yeah, that’s right. I’d post my membership card on here if they gave me one. Instead, all the awesome members of the No Cavity Club got their names on a poster on the wall of the waiting room. As the years progressed, more and more names were dropped from the wall as the truly worthy were identified. Now I’m too old so it doesn’t even matter.

The hygienist and I talked for a bit before beginning, with her asking me about college in the fall. I told her where I was going and then she put the paper towel thing over my front. I’m going to refer to it as a paper towel thing because that sounds more mature than a bib. But it takes longer to type… Fine, she put my bib on, presumably in case I began drooling in the middle of the cleaning process. Why I would begin drooling I have no idea. So I figured that with the bib on, my mouth open wide, and her now cleaning away at my sparkling-clean teeth, she and I had an understanding that our conversation would not be able to continue for the obvious reason that I couldn’t speak. I guess I shouldn’t assume anything.

“So, have you done Orientation yet?” she inquired, her voice muffled behind the mask she wore that resembled that of a welder.

“Nghuhnm,” I replied. Unfortunately, I was unable to elaborate on that point.

“I was thinking,” she began, her voice again muffled. I waited patiently for her to continue. My mouth was minty, thanks to the mint toothpaste I had selected. She didn’t continue. That’s odd… I thought.

“Did you get your dorm room?” she asked. Ah, a coherent question. This I could deal with.

“Ngmghguhmmg,” I replied. She smiled and switched to floss. I began to wonder if she actually understood what I was saying. Perhaps all dental hygienists were required to take a class in understanding people trying to speak when their mouths are open wide with tools shoved into them.

“Well maybe,” she began again, her voice muffled. Again she didn’t continue. At that point, I understood that these two beginnings were actually misinterpreted questions! Great! I thought. Now she probably thinks I’m rude! I mean, what kind of awful person wouldn’t respond to a question when a) They have no idea what the question was. b) Their mouth is open and filled with toothpaste, water, and being flossed. And c) The asker of the question just snapped the floss in so hard that the victim- I mean, patient- feels blood begin to gently dribble onto his tongue.

“Well good luck at MIT!” she said after giving me some bottled water. She gave me bottled water to rinse with because the town’s water was infected with E-Coli. Wonderful.

“Thanks!” I replied, trying not to smile too widely so as not to reveal the blood coating my teeth.

She smiled again and then left the room, leaving me to ponder the eternal question: why in the world are dentists so intent on holding conversations with people who can’t talk? Dentistry really is a strange profession; they clean teeth that are already sparkling and speak to the only people in the room who can’t talk. The people who really need their teeth cleaned are the ones that don’t go to the dentists.

I left the dentist’s office that day with no cavities, but much more philosophical material to contemplate for the rest of the day. And in case you were wondering, the Patriots are now leading 27-22. Yikes. That’s what happens when you take Brady out. Whatever, it’s just preseason anyways…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Use Facebook to Defeat an Army of Senior Citizens

The town of Uxbridge has been locked in a vicious cycle for several years. While America has debated such hot-button issues as embryonic stem cell research, abortion, and now health care reform, Uxbridge has spent its time, energy, and money on the school debate. To build or not to build. The youth versus the seniors. Progress or the status quo. Uxbridge High School, the school which I attended, was built in the 1920’s. Needless to say, certain shifts have taken place in the demands of education; there were, for example, no computer labs in the 20’s. Our building is no longer adequate, as repeatedly affirmed by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges), which has placed the high school on probation. This has led to increasing levels of students school-choicing out as they are fed disinformation about Uxbridge not having its accreditation, which, of course, it does. These students cost the town over $500,00 a year. Clearly, there is an issue that needs to be addressed. And, to no avail, the town has tried.

It seems like every 2 years or so the town again applies for state funding to build the school, is granted the funding, and then, when the it comes to the vote, it does not pass. This is because if the town votes to build a new school, property taxes go up, and many senior citizens, who live on fixed incomes, may not be able to afford it. They also argue that since they turned out all right, we should too. What they fail to recognize is that the world we live in today is not the same world it was sixty or seventy years. A building that was made for students in the world of 1940 is not much use today. NEASC has recognized our academic programs are strong, yet acknowledged that they are also limited by the cramped building that houses them. So here lies the problem: how do you defeat countless senior citizens, many of whom are retired and have all the time in the world to pay attention to town politics and make sure that they vote, with parents and graduates? Especially when most parents work and are occupied with their children, and most graduates are no longer in touch with what is happening in Uxbridge. (The vote is at the annual town meeting in May, so the college students are either just getting our or studying for final exams.)

Facebook.

Yup. The tool that most senior citizens have never even heard of. Today, I have done something that I hope will alter the course of Uxbridge and break the stagnant cycle of paying for a feasibility study, finding that, yes, we need a new school, and then having it voted down. (Quick aside: Any average citizen could tell the state that we need a new school. Why we’re paying them thousands of dollars to repeatedly tell us what we already know is beyond me.) What have I done? No, I haven’t moved the date of the vote to bingo night. Nor have I created a retirement community several thousands of miles away from Uxbridge to ship all our senior citizens. I created a group on Facebook. It’s called “UHS Students for a New School.” Yeah, I realize it’s not too creative. But it’s not like I’m competing with anyone. There’s no “Senior Citizens Against a New School” group. I proceeded to invite all of my friends who reside in Uxbridge or graduated from Uxbridge and instructed them to invite all of their friends eligible to vote in Uxbridge, and so on. The group was formed this afternoon and I now have 104 members. I didn’t even invite that many people. But better yet, there are about 200 invites still pending. This is math teachers call “exponential growth” and I call totally owning the senior citizens. That’s already over 300 votes. And as the weeks go by, I am confident that this number will grow much larger. Through this group, I am able to keep all members informed of the progress of the new school (or renovation, if that’s what the feasibility study finds is necessary… yeah, right), which I will be keeping a close eye on. Then, the most pivotal moment… getting every member of this group to cast a YES vote at the May town meeting. If this happens, the true majority will finally rule. If this happens, our children and our children’s children will reap the benefits that we were denied. If this happens, it will honestly be a vision made reality, a culmination of the dreams of every parent, teacher, and student in Uxbridge. From here on, I sit back, watch the numbers grow, stay informed on town happenings, and then, in May, join my fellow graduates as Uxbridge finally declares

 

YES!

There’s a very good chance that today, one of the least exciting days of my summer, may turn out to be one of the most important in my life, and in the lives of all those who the YES vote will impact.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Taped Heads, Newspaper Clothes, Obese Men, and Vitamin C

Today I’m slightly worn out. After hiking miles yesterday with no lunch, I decided to attend the annual high school Student Council lock-in for a few hours. Yes, I know I’ve graduated, but it was a good opportunity for me to visit with some of my friends who haven’t graduated yet and also to take some pretty amusing pictures. So after watching the prime-time special of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and being shocked that the first contestant got out because he didn’t know that laws are like sausages, I headed out at 10:20ish to the high school. This is what I found:

SANY0175 No, this kid is not having some sort of reaction after eating year-old Halloween candy; notice his unique hat. It is not so much a hat as it is a piece of tissue paper with some double-sided tape attached. The object of this game was to roll around on the ground and pick up as much candy with your head as you could; anything you got you were allowed to keep and, presumably, eat.

SANY0178 SANY0179 SANY0183 Next I ran into a whole group of kids wearing newspaper, cones, and short-shorts. And they were proud of it, flaunting their wears on a red carpet (it was actually a red plastic tablecloth, but it’s the thought that counts) for a crowd of laughing students. Crazed environmentalists? Nope, the Student Council President’s idea of a fashion show. I often question where the ideas for these workshops come from, and there have been some unique ones. I, in fact, ran one last year in which students threw themselves off tables expecting to be caught by the fellow students. Except for just one concussion, it went perfectly! Just kidding. There were no injuries, and the activity was clearly risk-free. Anyways, I’m not quite sure where the idea for this came from. Either the people running this workshop (one of whom was the President) had run out of time planning it and ran through the streets of Uxbridge collecting newspaper scraps and cones, or they simply decided that they felt like watching people make complete fools out of themselves all night. I thought that this workshop was the most fun and, although I’m not sure what anyone got out of it, everyone else had a great time too!

SANY0205 SANY0206 SANY0214 The next thing I came upon in my wanderings was an epic battle taking place between two morbidly obese men. Wait a minute… nope, just kids dressed as morbidly obese men. And it was pretty funny watching pairs of students battle it out on the mats with the Sumo Suits limiting their ability to do anything but run at each other. In the first picture, it is clear that the Sumo on top has… well… come out on top. The second photo depicts the final, finishing move that was ever so popular that night: the body slam. I have no desire to know what it felt like to first be strapped into a hot, sweaty Sumo Suit, be beaten to the ground, and then have the person who just beat me to the ground apply their fully body weight, wrapped within another hot, sweaty Sumo Suit, in the downward direction with quite a bit of momentum. Yikes. The final photo is none other than the President herself, who, after finishing embarrassing everyone in a fashion show, decided to embarrass herself a little bit. She is actually demonstrating a dilemma that every pair of Sumos faced: once you’re on the ground, it’s impossible to get up without the help of a student who is not dressed as a morbidly obese man. With nothing but orange underwear on.

So yeah, I was up until two and managed to survive kids rolling around on the ground with tape on their heads scrounging for candy, students totally decked out in probably every material known to man EXCEPT any fabric that clothes are made from, and rampaging classmates dressed as morbidly obese men. In orange underwear. Sweaty orange underwear. Upon arriving home, I immediately went to bed. Of course, I was awakened only five hours later by the beautiful sound of my alarm clock. A sound so beautiful that every time I hear it, I get a sudden urge to smash it. And the most annoying thing is that my alarm clock even goes off when it’s not set. That is, when the switch is set in the “OFF” position, the clock pretends that it’s set in the “ON” position and goes off anyways. Ugh. But I digress.

The reason I was up so early was because I was attending the final of three Educational Visions Workshops. In Uxbridge, the most debated, controversial issue in town is building a new school. We need one. Badly. The track team does hurdles in the hallway. Desks have “Class of ‘77” carved into them. Actually, there’s a good chance I’m misreading that and it actually says “Class of ‘17.” Probably 1817. The workshops are designed to help town politicians, school administration, and the students attending (just me and a friend) figure out exactly what they want the new building to look like. Now I could focus on the workshop itself, but then I’d have to explain the previous two, introduce all the people, and probably bore you. So I’ll focus on what I consumed during the workshop.

It began with an apple juice. I drank the entire thing and was offered more. I said no, but received another apple juice. Hm… well, I was kind of thirsty and apple juice was good for you. So I drank it. Then when that one was gone, I was like… whoa… I have nothing to keep my hands occupied. So I got another. Then we broke for lunch, so I switched things up a bit and got a Fruit Punch with my ham sandwich, chips, five cookies, and two brownies (in the image below I have already consumed any items mentioned but not shown. Obviously.)

SANY0226 When lunch was over, I knew that I would need something to keep my mouth moist, as I was always the one to present my groups work. So I got a water. After that, I got two more waters. Then I grabbed a Fruit Punch for the way home. On the way home, I glanced at the nutrition facts and discovered that it had 100% of my vitamin C for the day. The apple juice and Fruit Punch were the same company, container, etc., leading me to presume that each juice I drank today had 100% of the vitamin C I needed, giving a grand total of 500% of my vitamin C. That’s five days worth. I consumed five days worth of vitamin C and a total of 8 drinks in 7 hours. That’s a lot of fluid. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to use the bathroom. Hopefully I don’t drop dead from exhaustion on the way there.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Trip to Blue Hill Observatory

Today my family took a trip to the Blue Hill Weather Observatory in Milton, MA. I could go all Transcendental on you and start describing nature and the air and blahblahblah, but I think that this is going to be a more visual entry with narration...

SANY0118 Now I know that, as I’m a young kid, I can do physical things, such as hike up a mountain, with more ease than someone who is older. But really. Do you see any treacherous rocks on the path? Any dangerous ravines? No. I didn’t think so. So it puzzled me why this guy was only one of MANY adults I saw that felt the need to carry heavy duty hiking sticks on this very un-treacherous trail.

SANY0121 The view when we got to the top made it worth it to be held up on the trail by silly hikers with silly hiking sticks and stopping for silly breaks drinking silly dihydrogen monoxide. If you’re concerned that that is some type of deadly substance, don’t be; dihydrogen monoxide is H2O… water.

SANY0125 When we got to the top, I was shocked to discover that the Blue Hill was founded by an MIT graduate! Unfortunately, he must have messed up somewhere because it says it was owned and operated by Harvard for 60 years… If I ever made an observatory, I would be far more protective.

SANY0130 Of course, this explained why at the top, rather than having binocular-type things to look at the marvelous view, there was a chart of weather statistics. When it comes to MIT, I guess there are certain things one can always count on.

SANY0134 This was what they were selling at the store. Like I said… when it comes to MIT, there are certain things one can always count on.

SANY0132 No, this man does not have his arms raised in triumph. Like I said, the climb wasn’t too bad. He’s actually trying to fly a kite, and is being repeatedly frustrated as his efforts fail. Why, you ask? Um… yeah, good question…

SANY0142 Apparently, this group has trouble reading signs. Wait… there aren’t even words on that sign! Which means there was no reading involved at all… Huh… maybe they’re blind. Although that doesn’t strike me as being particularly safe… Then again, I do give them props for making it the top without hiking sticks.

 SANY0143 … Still trying to figure this one out. No idea how a car got on top of the mountain. And before one of you suggests a road----!!! Well, I didn’t see one, but I guess that must be it… unless it’s a Transformer!!!

SANY0145 Poor guy… okay, okay, yes that’s my father. He’s feeling rather confused and disappointed because he was under the impression that you’d be able to see Boston from the top. Boston was nowhere in sight. Just trees and sky. Understandably, he was somewhat put out…

SANY0146 He got over it pretty quickly. Was this staged? No. Does he usually smile like this? No. Is there something incredibly wrong and undiagnosed about this man? Possibly…

SANY0150 Ah, Boston! It turns out that there's this grand tower thing that you can climb up and see the city from afar. If you look really closely at the left side, you can just make out a building from the MIT campus! And no, my dad did not smile disturbingly this time. He was happy, he just didn’t express the complete, radiant joy that is portrayed in the picture above. Man… I don’t know if I’ve seen a more frightening picture…

SANY0155 Let me explain what this is. The previous photo was taken from a very high tower thing. This tower thing had three accessible viewing windows, all of which were open. The girl seen here has decided that the best available spot to take a break is a spot where if you so much as flinch you fall to your death. I am willing to put money on this girl becoming a tightrope walker or some other profession that requires either an incredible amount of bravery, or, as I suspect we see here, stupidity.

SANY0156 This is what I saw on the way back down, bringing up my former point. A walking stick?!?! Really??? If I stretch my imagination, I can think, Okay, maybe the first guy brought the sticks to be safe and then, after seeing the un-difficulty of the trail, decided to build some muscle carrying them around all day. But this woman is using a stick. I doubt she brought it from home. I mean, it’s possible that she has a very strong emotional attachment to this stick and brings it everywhere, kinda like a 4-year-old with a security blanket. More likely, she picked it up here, again leading to the ever-important question of WHY???????

SANY0158 This is right before the entrance. We are going down and these people coming up. Or they were coming up for about 3 feet before they decided they were tired and needed a break. “Alright guys! Only an hour to the top!!!”

SANY0161 Ahhh… the wonders of Dairy Queen. I am considering postulating that Dairy Queen ice cream has the uncanny ability to make an entire day a beautiful, truly delicious 24 hours.

As can be presumed from the above entry, I had a pretty good day with  lots of amusement. And ice cream :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

An End and a Beginning

Ah, another summer slowly coming to a close... except this time I won't be returning to the wonderful universe that is Uxbridge High School. Instead, I'll be attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world, the Massachvsetts Institvte of Technology. I'm honestly still not sure why it's written on the buildings with "v's"... Everything is being wrapped up here in Uxbridge: today was my last regular day of work, my "room," filled with piles of containers of hangers, towels, blankets, and other assorted goodies that I'm bringing to my dorm at MIT, has no room in it, and I received an invite to an event on Facebook called "Even if This is Goodbye," since it's the last weekend that all we Uxy kids will be at home.
While this is all quite sad, it's also quite exhilarating. Why? Because it means that in only twenty days I will be on campus at the place where I'll be learning for the next four years. It feels strange typing that. Twenty days. Twenty days until Orientation, and then after that, I'll be living in my dorm and taking my classes :) I'm sure you're asking yourself about now, What dorm are you in? What classes do you have? What great questions! Thanks for asking!
My dorm is MacGregor. MacGregor has all singles in it- STOP! I know you're probably thinking, wow, this kid either is antisocial or has major hygiene problems, but I promise that I fall into neither category. The singles in this dorm are in groups of six, forming a suite with its own lounge and kitchen, and two or three floors form an "entry." The entries are labeled "A" through "J", skipping "I" because, as any math geek knows, I is imaginary. Duh :-P The room I have for Orientation is in "G" entry, and then I get to rank each entry and get assigned hopefully to my top choice!
My classes are pretty certain, but not definite. I haven't received a schedule yet, but I intend on joining Concourse. Concourse is like a smaller school within a school; it's a group of about 60 kids who will have pretty much all the same classes together, outside of the mainstream classes. They're pretty much the same material as the mainstream classes, just with the same kids the whole time. Besides helping me to counteract the perceived antisocial-ness of MacGregor, it has its own lounge and kitchen, which is pretty cool. So in the fall, I'm taking 18.02, 8.01, 3.091, and SP.318. Ohhhh right... if you're a normal human, you have no idea what that means... Not that I'm implying that MIT kids aren't normal but... well... from my limited experience, they're not. Anyways, I'm taking Multivariable Calculus (18.02), Physics- Mechanics (8.01), Chemistry (3.091), and Intro to Psychology (SP.318). This is contingent on me getting into Concourse, which makes selections based on a lottery system. However, Concourse gives preference to those who have expressed interest over the summer, and that's me!!! So hopefully I'll be alright.
Well, that wraps up my first-ever blog entry. Even though absolutely no one has read this blog because no one yet knows it exists, be sure to check back tomorrow for an exciting update on my life!!!