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This is the second installment of a series of blog posts that I plan to do between now and the end of May where I talk about things I remember from public school/high school. In this post, I am going to talk about my experience on the Science Olympiad team during the last six months. You can read the first post here.

It honestly doesn’t seem that much time between when I signed up for Science Olympiad in
October to now, the eve before our state competition. I want to write a little bit about it before I go to state because I need to organize my thoughts before I turn off the lights and lay awake in the dark where my mind finds the most horrible outcomes of a situation and turns them against me.

Before:

Even though we’ve only had two regional competitions, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I did procrastinate my studying quite a bit, but I picked it up before it was too late and I did better than I thought I was going to (as an individual, anyway, I wanted to rock everyone else’s socks off, but it didn’t happen that way). The thing about Science Olympiad was that it was less about the effort of a team and even less about the effort of a pair of people and more about what I could do on my own.

I learn things on my own well enough, I watch documentaries and read Wikipedia articles for
kicks, I just rarely learn anything overly useful without prompting. I honestly didn’t think I would do any studying for Science Olympiad. I’m just not a person who studies, but as my previous post will tell you, I’ve never done anything that really required me to apply myself (besides math, where I didn’t apply myself at all). The thing is, I’ve always loved science, even though it was a little upstaged by my passion for English. English was my main thing where I sat down and wrote words down on a page or typed them into a computer. Science has always been what I do when I’m sick of sitting down. English is something you learn, something you apply, but Science has always been something you do.

That may not make any grammatical sense, but for once, I don’t care. There’s always been a curiosity inside me that I can never quite satisfy. Perhaps I grew tired of my family always
questioning why things happened and never finding an answer. It may be one of the reasons why I hate rhetorical questions as well. With science, there are no unanswerable questions. You can experiment over and over to find the answer. It may not be a perfect answer and it may not even be the right answer, but at least we’re looking for it instead of throwing questions onto a page to think about but never engage.

The more I think about it, the more excited it makes me feel. I’ve never been an adrenaline
junky and I always try to cling to safety. English, to me, is a safety blanket. I understand what is going on with words and language and communication. I don’t need to think a whole lot about why the words do what they do, I just need to let them lead my thoughts into a place where theories are made and hypothetical situations reign.

Science is my risk. It’s hard and I always risk failing. There are things that I need to understand and there are lines and walls that will always remain impervious to prodding (unlike the english language, filled, as it is, with exceptions and accommodations  and can never be justified away.

Science makes me feel like I can take chances and do things that are hard, even though I’m a lazy person who is likely to give up. Science makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something that no number of finished novels, sitting on my harddrive, can make me feel.
As I talked about in my last post, achieving even a small amount of success in science gives
me the confidence and the audacity to try hard things. Hard things that I never even imagined myself doing. Science is my secret love affair.

Tomorrow morning, I will be on my way to my final competition, after months of independent
work. Work that I am proud of for having made myself focus on something that I would need to apply in the future. I’m horribly nervous, but I feel like I can keep my cool for this. I’ve always been a good test-taker.

After:

My love of Science persists and grows larger. In a second, I’m going to dive right in, but I’ll just say that State Science Olympiad was the exact opposite of what the Regional comps told me to expect.

We had to wake up early and drive for forever to get to The University of Utah, but the drive was not annoying at all. First of all, no one wanted shotgun because that meant you’d have to sit in the front seat with our coach and no one wants to do that, so I had no opposition in claiming shotgun. I hate riding in the back seat because I like to see where we’re going and the front seat is always much more comfortable. Everyone else in the vehicle fell asleep, but my coach and I had a series of conversations about television and heart attacks, which was fun. Teachers are the best conversationalists, I find, so it’s interesting that students don’t ever want to talk to them.

We arrived and were stationed in the Jon M. Huntsman Arena, which is just this massive circle. When I first walked in, I felt like I was standing at the edge of a cliff. We found the area we were supposed to sit in and then everyone who had an event time in the first round left for their events. I didn’t have an event at first, so I just sat in a seat and started next week’s AP Chemistry homework. When I left for my first event, I was completely lost. Unlike Westminster College and Weber State University, the sites for our Regional comps, The University of Utah is MASSIVE and not at all navigable

As a side note, the way people in Utah tell directions is by the mountains, which run north to south along pretty much the whole length of Utah. Whenever we leave Utah, we lose all sense of direction because we don’t have the mountains there. Unfortunately U of U is right on the side of the mountain, so it was like the mountain was surrounding us and I couldn’t get myself oriented. Fortunately, there were maps everywhere, so I reached the building I was supposed to be in within fifteen minutes of leaving “home base.”

I met my partner, Kayla, in the hallway outside the room we were supposed to be at and we sat for a little while talking about her first event. One of our test coordinators let us into the room so that we could get situated (and he also gave us pastries). The event was Anatomy and Physiology and our Region experience was not comforting at all. We had about 60 stations and we had, like, one minute to answer the questions. The State competition only had 10 stations and we had 6 minutes for each.

Our first question wasn’t very encouraging, so we just guessed, and the second station wasn’t much better, but I knew a few elements of the question from watching that movie Hawking (the one about Stephen Hawking)(I tried to explain how I knew the information, but Kayla didn’t know who Stephen Hawking is… seriously, we’re at a SCIENCE Olympiad and she doesn’t know who Stephen Hawking is…). The next station made us as giddy as kindergartners. We got to look at the cross section of a REAL, HUMAN KIDNEY. The event coordinator even told us that we were allowed to touch if we wanted to… which we did… more than was probably necessary.

Next was a question that we surmised the answer to, even though we didn’t know anything about the filtration rate of blood. There was a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope sitting next to the station, so Kayla took my blood pressure while we were waiting to go to the next station. The event coordinators laughed so hard when they saw us.

The next station was about a disease and the treatments. Kayla’s CNA class helped with this one and we provided a pretty good answer, but I couldn’t help answering the question of treatment for the patient with “A hot shower and a good long nap” after Kayla was finished.

The next station was A REAL, HUMAN GI TRACT. We were allowed to see and touch the rugae in the stomach and stroke the small intestine, which was so amazing. We did the same with THE REAL, HUMAN HEAD…. well, it was half a head, but still. Some guy had donated his body to science and science had cut him up for our amusem…. uhh… education… We may or may not have poked his brain, tongue, and nasal cavity…. He also had a crazy eyebrow. They seriously just took a dead guy’s head, cut it in half, and stuck it in a container so that we could identify parts of the brain. It was the coolest thing ever and we were geeking out so hard, you have no idea.

My next event was Forensics, which didn’t really go well because we didn’t have time enough to get everything done and we didn’t really know which suspect to accuse, so we just accused two of them because of evidence found on both. My partner, Kendall, and I aren’t really sure we did all that well, but it was really fun, even if it was overwhelming. I feel like I would have had a blast if I were given enough time to methodically go over all the evidence and work in a lab that wasn’t filled with so many other people. My main thing was that I didn’t have to carry our forensics kit back up the hill. Kendall carried it for me and we chatted as we walked up the hill, even though my next event was way out of the way.

The only time I’ve ever talked to Kendall was when I needed to tell him about our event because he’s a sophomore and I’m a senior and we don’t run in the same circle of friends at all. Come to think of it, the only reason I know things about him at all are because his dad is my AP Chemistry teacher and our Science Olympiad coach  I doubt I’ll ever communicate with him again, even though we do have 3D Animation for fourth hour together, but he’s a pretty intelligent guy and he’s not so bad, even if he’s a squishy, squishy squashmore. Anyway, I digress.

My next event was Circuit Lab, an event that I’ve been preparing for for only three weeks. It’s funny because my partner, Jason, and I both decided to do the event because we both have dads who work as electricians. Unfortunately, our Region competition went horribly. We didn’t know how to build a circuit and we didn’t know enough to solve any of the theoretical problems. We did take 4th place out of 32 schools, but we didn’t know anything. So, for the three weeks I had, I studied like mad for this event. Unfortunately, Jason didn’t have time to study, so he wasn’t a whole lot more knowledgeable about the event this time.

I was totally ready, though. We finished everything we had to do in plenty of time and I knew how to answer all but two of the problems. I don’t think I got all of them right, but I feel like I have a chance of getting a majority of them right. Not to mention, I could build a circuit now and we were able to do more on our practical lab portion than draw pictures of bunnies and stick figures saying witty jokes about electricity.

Last of all, Jason and I walked across campus (yet again) to our Chemistry lab. We were so confident about it because our Region event went super smoothly. This time, however, none of the answers we got match the table we were supposed to be matching things to. We followed all the steps the way that the example problem told us and we titrated our basic solution correctly, but we just couldn’t make the numbers work. In the end, with five minutes left, we just guessed on every answer on our score sheet. There were probably ten multiple choice questions that I just circled random letters for and we identified the substances with the ones in the provided table without any evidence to support the answers. We’re probably going to place really low, but we feel like we still have a chance that we got all the answers correct by guessing.

We hitched a ride on a golf cart back up the hill to the Huntsman Arena and back to the rest of the team and then we went and got food.

It was so much fun and, even though I didn’t eat anything all day long until around 4:30 this afternoon (my hands are still shaking), I felt fantastic and I still love science, even though it has taken a lot out of me during the last six months. Now I have to focus on the AP Chem test that will take place in less than a month. I’m not freaking out yet, but I know I will. I just hope my teacher has a lot of materials for us to study, otherwise, I won’t know how to do anything. I’m also going to make him tell me how to figure out the titrations lab thing or else it’s going to bug me for forever.

I know that no one could possibly make it this far into a blog post, but I have over a hundred blog posts and almost no following at all and I keep blogging. I’m pretty sure that I do this for myself mostly. If you did happen to make it this far down without killing yourself because of my inability to write concisely, I applaud you, but I question your sanity if you can read through this and not quit.

Toodles.

P.S. If you want to know my event placings, you can go here.

Next episode in the series.

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Due to my insane desire to earn a “gold star” (fulfill the lettering requirements) in Orchestra, I found myself reflecting on my junior year of high school. The one that happened last school year. Mostly, I needed to remember all the music related activities I did because I can earn points for them. I thought of a bunch from my freshmen and sophomore years and, obviously, this year was easier to remember, but nothing stuck out to me about my junior year, which I thought was really odd. I have really loved high school and I figured I would remember more of it. So, I decided to go back through my Twitter feed to see if I’d posted anything useful. I tried Facebook first, but I have no informative posts on there, for some reason.

Naturally, my Twitter feed is pretty useless. Not to mention disjointed. It has reminded me of things that were happening a year ago, though. I remarked a lot about things that weren’t really interesting to me then, but have since become important to me.

One year ago, I was very sure about my future. I was going to major in English because that was the only thing I could conceivably be interested in long-term. Now, one year later, I am seriously considering changing my major to something related to Chemistry or at the very least do a double major with English. I’m realizing that I avoid thinking about my future as much as I can. I’ve never been the type of person to look at things with a long-term perspective.

I’ve always been what those in the NaNoWriMo circle call a “pantser.” I fly by the seat of my pants and just make things up as they come along. For some reason this has always worked well for me. Every English paper I need to write comes about in half an hour to an hour of sprint-writing. I usually get perfect grades (except for in English 1010…).

This year, however, I’ve involved myself in every extracurricular activity that I could that requires preparation and anticipation. It’s been horrible and amazing. For the most part, it just irritates my anxiety, but I wouldn’t be doing them if they weren’t immensely fun. I wasn’t going to go into detail, but now I feel like it, which means this post is going to be SUPER long and no one is going to get to the bottom. Actually, I’m going to make this a series of blog posts. It’s about time I get this out of my head.

The first thing I got myself into was AP Chemistry. I had a fantastic time in Chemistry my junior year and my teacher was one of my favorite people. He kept telling me I should do AP Chemistry, which I signed up for without hesitation. After all, I was finding AP Literature easy, so AP Chemistry couldn’t be that hard, right? Normal Chemistry was a cinch, so AP Chemistry couldn’t be too complicated, could it?

AP Chemistry was probably the first sign I had that I had been babied my whole public school experience. The work was so intensive that, if I weren’t so prideful, I would have quit after the first trimester. We started out with nine people in the class. Two were gone by the end of the first week and we lost another only halfway through the trimester. At the beginning of the second trimester, we lost another and one became the teacher’s assistant to avoid the work. There were four of us left. Quite honestly, I don’t remember a lot about that first trimester. I was just barely keeping it together and the other people in the class weren’t really interested in bonding.

During the second trimester, the four of us who remained became a strange brand of friends. I’m not really sure what kind of friends we are. Kayla and I are in Orchestra together. We were pretty good friends before AP Chem, so I think we would have been good friends anyway. There’s just something about all the hard work we’ve done together and being the only two girls from the beginning. We aren’t as smart as the boys, but we get by well enough. Edward runs with the same group of friends as I do, but we’ve never been… chummy. In AP Chem, though, we make nerd jokes that Kayla and Jason don’t really understand. Jason and I would not be more than acquaintances if not for AP Chem. He’s more of a popular guy. He’s into sports and things, but he’s also my partner for our Science Olympiad team and we’ve become closer friends through being both really good and really bad at our events.

The four of us and our teacher have a fantastic time in class, joking, finding science interesting, and teasing each other. The environment just helps me not be stressed about how much I truly suck at it. For once in my life, I’m not naturally good at the subject. It isn’t even like math where I just do not try at all. I try so hard to understand the concepts and I do, eventually, it just takes me a lot longer to get it than the others seem to. For once, I’m not the smart kid, I’m the one who gets the worst scores consistently. The thing is that… I just really like it. Things don’t usually hold my attention like Chemistry does. Not even English and I LOVE English.

It’s weird that this whole experience doesn’t seem disheartening to me. I think that’s what happened with me and math. I find math interesting, actually, but in ninth grade Geometry, I didn’t quite get it and everything just got harder and I got discouraged and gave up. I settled for B’s in math because those were the grades I could get without having to apply myself very much. That isn’t happening with Chemistry, though. The further we get into it, the more the stuff I didn’t understand before gets applied and I finally understand what it’s for. I’m still behind the other people because they can look at a problem and tell me how to get an answer and spout equations like none other and I just stare at the problem.

I’m really not sure how well I’m going to do on the AP Chem exam, but every time I express doubt, my teacher and classmates encourage me and I feel like I have some sort of a chance. Of course, I should be studying for said test right now instead of blogging, but I’m in a mood.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m standing outside a door that is beginning to open rather than like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff. I feel like AP Chemistry has propelled me to this pathway and I feel like I can do things. For my whole life, I thought I would grow up and only do the things that came naturally to me, but struggling through Chemistry has shown me that I can do anything I want to do. I can accomplish hard things if I want to and I’m finding that I want to.

People say that you can do anything you want all the time, and I knew that I could do anything, but I never thought I was motivated enough to do hard things. Now that I want to do the work and dive into the hard things, I feel like I have options. It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe. My randomly signing up for AP Chemistry gave this to me and I will never regret that, even if I fail the AP exam and end up a loser, alone with a crummy job that provides no challenge or interest to me, I won’t ever regret the things I’ve learned and I won’t forget the people it brought me close to.

Next in the series.

Lightning

362px-LightningK This book is my favorite book. I always forget that whenever I’m not reading it, but when I am, I know that it’s my favorite. The first time I read it, my brother lent it to me and I spent years afterward looking for it. When I finally did find it, there were two copies at the local DI, which seemed unfair to me since I had been looking there for so long.

You will like this book if you like time travel. The time travel in this novel represents what I believe time travel would be if it were possible, no matter how much I love Doctor Who.

It’s hard to explain just why this book is so fantastic to me, but I think it’s mostly due to the connection to the past. I think a lot about the past and a lot about the effects of changing things in the past. There’s this fantastic motif of how knowledge and hindsight can affect how decisions are made.

One thing that kind of bugged me was this idea of destiny that kept coming up throughout the book. It did make for a more robust plot, but otherwise, I disagree with the idea of destiny for the most part.

There isn’t a lot I can say about why the book appeals to me without spoiling it. Anyway, this book should be read by you. All of you. Now.

Goal-Setting

Up until I passed my 100th post, every time I posted, there would be a little line telling me how many posts I had and giving me a small goal to reach, but after I passed 100, it stopped giving me goals to reach and then rewarding me when I reached them. I found this very annoying until it stopped. Now I am disappointed that I don’t have a goal to work toward.

I’m not really one for making goals because I don’t really care about them and I find them ridiculous. I know people that need to have goals to accomplish or else they don’t feel like they’re doing anything productive, whereas I feel productive when I do anything at all. I know that it’s important to set goals so that they motivate you to reach them, but I don’t feel like we should decide what the line is that we can reach to feel good about ourselves. Life seems like it would be so much more than just a bazillion different little lines or marks that we need to pass, like the mile markers on roads.

Our family went on a trip to California last summer. We drove all the way from Utah. I’m not sure how many miles that is, but it took us ten hours(ish) to get there. The entire time we were driving, I was either sleeping or watching the mile markers. Mile markers fascinate me, for some reason, especially the ones that we saw on our trip, seeing as the little markers look different depending on what state you’re in. In California, the mile markers didn’t just have the number of the mile you were at, they had a whole bunch of things on the sign (also, they were white with black writing instead of green with white writing, like they are in Utah). It took me a week of staring at them with hypnotic fascination to figure out that they stated the mile, the highway/name of the road, and the county that you were driving in.

The point is that my father kept giving us the number of miles to where we were going, seeing as he had no idea how long it would take us to get there, so I kept staring at the signs, keeping track of how many miles we had gone so that I would know when we would arrive. This probably kept me from seeing a lot of things on our trip. I’m sure there were cool things to see, but I missed them because I was staring at the same part of the side of the road, waiting for the next mile marker. I do this whenever we drive anywhere. I like knowing how many miles we’ve gone. This is where I tie the story in with what I was talking about:

Little goals can sometimes be like mile markers. If we keep obsessing over them, we’re going to miss some stuff. Now that I think about it, little goals are also like pennies. Maybe they are more like pennies than mile markers. When I walk down the hallway at school, I keep my eyes glued to the ground, number one, so that I don’t fall over, and number two, so that if I see any stray coins, I can snatch them up. It’s rewarding (sort of), but if I actually payed (is it payed or paid? I’m never sure…) attention to what was going on around me, I may get to see people and wave at them or talk to them or something else.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have goals, I’m just saying that people shouldn’t obsess about goals. They also shouldn’t be so obsessive about productivity. You can contribute to people’s lives even if you aren’t being productive.

For example, during the month of November (and occasionally during the months of June and August), I write a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I set specific goals (big and small) and then I make a detailed plan of everything I do to make sure that I finish the novel in the time I am allotted and to make sure that my story-line isn’t just one big plot hole. Fortunately, after November is over, I have written a novel that I’m usually quite proud of (at least for a while until I realize how horrible it is). Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind on my school work or I have neglected some other aspect of my life (There aren’t really all that many aspects in my life, but whatever).

It’s nice to feel like I’m being productive and writing a novel is SUPER fun, but afterwards I’m glad I’m not in the middle of NaNoWriMo because it’s stressful and I am particularly prone to stress. People are always wondering why their lives are so stressful, but it’s really not all that hard to figure out. People think that getting organized will help with the stress (and it may very well do that), but a better way to decrease stress is to stop doing so much stuff. Stop setting such horrific goals, stop worrying so much about how far you’ve come and start enjoying where you’re going.

Unless, of course, you don’t like where you’re going, then that’s going to be stressful, so just make sure you’re going someplace nice… like a castle… or a forest. Forests are nice.

Not counting, of course, Camp NaNoWriMo June 2011 or NaNoWriMo 2009 and the two novels that never made it past the first day. First of all, NaNo 2009 was my first and I wasn’t aware of anything other than I needed to write a novel. No goals, no planning, no motivation, so it’s not surprising that I abandoned it almost immediately. NaNoWriMo, in reality, is pretty awful. You have to trick yourself into it and continue tricking yourself until the end or you’ll never make it. You have to lie to yourself a lot, sometimes saying that it’s all about the word count or that plot holes don’t matter. I wasn’t smart enough to lie to myself that first year. CampNaNo in June 2011, I got a huge cold on the first day and then I had to go on tour with my high school orchestra. I pretty much maintain my speed throughout the month, so if I start out not writing anything, I lose all motivation.

Anyway, that isn’t what I want to talk about. Those months have nothing to do with my success months. This June 2012 was a success month, but it very nearly wasn’t. It didn’t start well. I didn’t make the word count for the first two days, but I picked up my act and made the minimum word count up until day 13. That’s perfectly acceptable, but it was looking more like the trends of my two failed months rather than my three successes. My first success saw my daily word count at 2k or higher every single day (I even wrote that NaNo novel with pencil and paper). I planned out the novel a month in advance and then I wrote according to the plan. Pretty straight-forward. The next success, the August after my failed June, saw me writing nearly 5k every day and finishing on day 12ish, though I think I was channeling my excitement about Pottermore into my writing and that helped. The November after that, I finished on day 14, with school every day and I even had a math class that trimester (not that math is particularly terrible, but I procrastinate like nobody’s business).

This June was nothing like that. My worst setback happened on day 14 when our family went camping. I even took a notebook with me so that I could write, which is a joke because I knew I wouldn’t do it. We left on a Wednesday and were supposed to come back on the Sunday after that, but of course I decided to visit some relative afterwards, not getting home until Monday with my older brother in tow. As nearly always happens when people come to visit me, I forget about all the things that I meant to do and instead end up eating far too much food and playing video games for hours. Plus, he brought the first three seasons of Castle on DVD with him and told me to watch them, so I did. Writing whilst watching Castle doesn’t work very well. At this point, I lost my motivation, though, after my brother left a few days later, I did get back to writing (though I was still watching Castle). Mostly, it was because I was very excited about the story-line and because I felt guilt. No surprise there.

Then, a lonely five days before the end of the month, I realized how behind I was and kind of panicked. Despite two more visits from relatives, one of them the last two days of the month, I decided that I was going to finish. Truthfully, I wanted to finish the story and if I didn’t finish in June, I would have had to let it spill over into my July and I really wanted to relax during July and maybe casually plan for August’s Camp, so I resolved to finish it in June.

This time, I only sat in the same room as the video games with my laptop on my lap and Castle playing in the background. Fortunately, I wasn’t really into the game my cousin and brother were playing, so it wasn’t hard to tune that out. I stayed up until 2am every morning except for my final day in which I woke up early and told myself that I could nap when I was finished.

My mistake was that I thought that I couldn’t write unless I started out fabulously. It nearly prevented me from winning, so don’t give up, NaNoers, even if you’re fifteen thousand words behind on the 25 day of the month.

The really stupid thing was the ending of season three of Castle. I can’t believe I almost lost Camp NaNo for it.

Yesterday, I went through my entire iTunes library and erased several hundred songs that I never listen to anymore and then I replaced them mostly with music that I’d never heard before. I literally just looked up a bunch of bands that I’d heard about and then I downloaded their albums. Besides that, I tried to practice my Orchestra music, but in being at my friend, Leslie’s house for a few hours, our Orchestra folders got mixed up (not to mention, everything I have is covered with cat hair. I took my jacket off before going inside and stuck it in my backpack so it wouldn’t get hairy, but it did anyway. Ridiculous), so I practiced my music by memory, which worked rather well except for my skipping the parts that I couldn’t remember. I wrote a little in my screenplay, but mostly I watched Bones. Today, I finished all of my math homework for the week, colored some butterflies, and watched Pride and Prejudice with my mom. I swear, I’ve seen that movie so many times.

Weekends are so boring. We should just go to school every day. Every. Single. Day.