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28 January 2006

Wall of Shame 1

In searching for a good literary analysis of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for the last of my three term papers, I came across a couple difficult sites. Not difficult to understand, not difficult to navigate, just difficult. I was then inspired to start a new periodic series (and no, I haven't forgotten about the last one). Introducing the Wall of Shame, a place where I can vent about websites I simply don't like.

Wall of Shame 1: Proud and Prejudiced

Take, for instance the following, which I found at preceding a list of links to the full text of each chapter:

Chapter descriptions are designed to be very vague and cryptic. They are for people who are familiar with the book to help them find the chapter they want, and they are not designed for the student who might be looking for a quick way to get out of reading the novel.

Okay, fine. I had only gotten through about three-fourths of the novel, and I would have liked to have found a quick summary of the twelve or thirteen chapters I hadn't had time to read, but that wasn't why I went there. I simply wanted some searchable text for the novel so that I wouldn't be asking myself whether something happened in Chapter 5 or in Chapter 12 or anywhere in between.

Even though that comment wasn't very nice, I found an entire statement on "Homework Policy" at the Republic of Pemberley website. Here's an excerpt:

Are you here because you choose to spend your free time reading Jane Austen -- or because you need something? It makes a difference to us.

The interactive parts of this web site are for recreational talk about Jane Austen. We really don't want to see your questions on our bulletin boards if you are here because you need to get information rather than having a desire to join a community of like minds*.

And of course, they tried to be funny by adding the little footnote:

* Don't pretend you want to be friends. We can tell. The people who run this site are an eerily exact cross between your mother and your English teacher.

This made me wonder what kinds of crazy people put this site together. Then I read on:

Students are often astonished (and even put out!) to learn that this friendly group who loves to talk should not be willing to open its arms to any and every seeker of Austen information, but that is not our charter; it's much narrower and more specific. This web site is run by volunteers obsessed with Austen for others who are similarly afflicted.

Duh. As if it wasn't already obvious these people were "afflicted" with their obsession. Nevertheless, I did find a few good literary analyses on their site (just a few). They continued justifying their stance:

A secondary reason for taking a hard line on homework help is that once a discussion site becomes known for allowing requests for help, it attracts more of the same inquiries. No offense to the Campfire Chat board -- some awfully good discussion goes on there, but it is a textbook example of how a recreational book forum can become choked with weeds before you know it.

If you are not just a weekend tourist in the Republic merely because you have a paper due, please check out the newcomer's page.

"Weeds"? "A weekend tourist"? I am offended. These two sites are the first two inductees into my Wall of Shame. And to add insult to injury, the bottom of every page at the Republic of Pemberley website says, "No, you've not lost your way. You remain safe within the borders of The Republic of Pemberley." I don't think so.


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26 January 2006

My Schedule

Today is the first day of the spring semester, my last as a high school student (sob). In my opinion, this semester's schedule is more demanding than in the fall, but we'll see. It should be fun. This is what I have for the second semester:

Monday - Friday
07:48-07:53 Homeroom
07:57-09:17 (1) Independent Study Physics II
09:21-10:41 (2) Independent Study AP Calculus BC
10:45-11:13 Tutorial Period
11:17-11:57 (3A) Concert Band
11:59-12:29 (3B) Lunch
12:31-13:11 (3C) Concert Choir
13:15-14:35 (4) AP Government & Politics: United States

Classes run through 08 June. The third quarter ends on 03 April.

Probably the most difficult part of this schedule for me will be the back-to-back independent studies in the morning. My schedule was such a mess back in August that this was the only way we could get it to work. For Physics II, the actual class meets during module 3, so on days when they do group labs, I'll have to skip out of band and choir to do them (don't worry, I've already run this by the directors). As for AP Calculus BC, the highest math class they offer at my school is really AP Calculus AB, which I took last year. So my independent study is during module 2, which is when the AB class meets anyways. It's going to be an interesting semester.

In the fall, I mentioned having 1.85 new teachers (see the post for an explanation if you really want one). Well, this semester I have none. I had the Physics II and AP Calculus BC teachers last spring for Physics I and AP Calculus AB, respectively (although technically since Physics II has a student teacher, you could consider her new). The band and choir are still under the same directors as before. And strangely enough, AP Government is going to be taught by my seventh grade World Cultures teacher! My brother had him last year, and it doesn't seem like he's changed much, but we'll see this afternoon.

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up for District Chorus next week. I'll have more posts later.

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15 January 2006

Fridays the Thirteenth

As you are probably well aware, this past Friday was Friday the Thirteenth. It was the first Friday the Thirteenth since the birth of this blog on 14 May 2005, which, ironically, was the day after the last Friday the Thirteenth (13 May 2005). While I would like to have posted on that day in particular, circumstances would not allow it. As such, I shall simply post about it today.

There is a certain stigma about Fridays the Thirteenth. Bad luck seems to abound, people are wary of black cats and ladders. My question is: "Why?" Why Friday, and why the thirteenth? Why not Tuesday the Twenty-Second or Saturday the Third or Wednesday the Twenty-Ninth?

I don't know, and quite possibly no one knows the origins of this seemingly antediluvian superstition. But I do know one thing: that Friday the Thirteenth is just another day in many other countries. There is no superstition surrounding that day in Italy, for instance; they just go about their normal business. This is not to say, however, that the Italians are without their own superstitions, however. No, in Italy, the day that is feared is Friday the Seventeenth.

I learned this by reading an article in the newspaper a few Fridays the Thirteenth ago. I felt that it explained a lot about most of the bad luck I seemed to have had in my life. I have never really had bad luck on any Friday the Thirteenth that I can imagine. In fact, I very often have good luck on such days. Rather, my unluckiest of days have, interestingly enough, been Fridays the Seventeenth. As I am of Italian descent on one side of my family, I felt that this was appropriate.

Enough about that, however, and on to how my Friday the Thirteenth actually went (it really has been a while since I've posted about my daily life). This was definitely one of those Fridays the Thirteenth on which I had good luck.

First, in English Lit, the class convinced the teacher to show a short video portrayal of a story written by an author we had recently studied. The teacher warned us that the video was "very much racially offensive," and that if anybody had any objections to watching such a video, he would not show it to the class. None of us objected, and after watching it, we all wondered what the fuss was about. We honestly saw worse in middle school; the only "racially offensive" part of the video was the use of the N-word two or three times right at the beginning. We felt like we were being treated as extremely sheltered elementary-school students, being so strongly warned about an author who "doesn't sugar-coat anything" and chose to include "all the strong racial slurs" of the era. Oh, well.

Wellness & Nutrition went well; we made spaghetti and meatballs, which turned out quite well I must say, despite some of the group's members' initially neglecting to put the egg into the meatball mixture, and then forgetting to beat it once they did.

The senior class was called to the auditorium during Tutorial by the Dean of Students regarding their walkout protest at last Tuesday's pep assembly. At every pep assembly, there is a cheering competition between the classes, and until this year, the seniors always won. Always. (Well, there was one time a few years ago when the juniors won because the seniors cheated.) Anyways, at Tuesday's assembly for our basketball teams, some senior got hold of the microphone and cheered into it during the competition. As such, the seniors were eliminated in the next round of competition, and the juniors were ecstatic. They started cheering such things as "We are the seniors," even though they clearly are scheduled to graduate in 2007. So when it was the juniors' turn during the next round of the competition, about 95% of the senior class simply walked out of the gymnasium. It didn't really matter anyways; it was 14:34 and we were about to be dismissed.

So the Dean of Students called us to the auditorium, the initial intent was to uninvite the Class of 2006 from the next pep assembly. But he actually listened to what we had to say. Our class has felt slighted out of nearly everything over the last five years. First, the traditional eighth grade field trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio was cancelled; we went to a local fitness club for a day instead. Then, the traditional eighth grade semiformal dance was discontinued. Requirements for graduation projects were changed in the middle of our high school career, as was the decision to use block scheduling, which muddled many of our schedules. Finally, after suffering through three years of high school, waiting to become seniors, the Class of 2007 totally disrespects us by trying to take over. Needless to say, it was more than a bit disheartening to many seniors.

The Dean of Students said he didn't realize that there was so much emotion behind the protest, and agreed that we should be getting more respect from the underclassmen, but told us that walking out of a pep assembly isn't the way to earn it. He said that we deserve to be proud of being seniors, and that the juniors should have no right to take that away from us. So now the juniors are going to be called to the auditorium during Tutorial on Tuesday.

Our band director, Mr. Dearbeck, was at an Honors Band festival at a local college with a few students, so the class was essentially a free-for-all. The guys I hung out with were hitting a tennis ball around one of the smaller rooms in the Music Department. I simply hid behind a tower of foam for the bell choir tables, terrified, but enjoying every minute of it. Even though I was scared for my life, I had the most fun I've had probably in years. It's been a while since I've "hung out with the guys." So I'd definitely like to do stuff like that more often, though not during school, at the risk of breaking first-place championship marching band trophies from before I was born.

By the time lunch had rolled around, I had found a total of three pennies and a dime on the floor. As I headed to Chorus, I casually mentioned to the art teacher that I had found thirteen cents and that I had better find another coin so as not to find only thirteen cents on Friday the Thirteenth. Completely unprompted, she said that she had a nickel in her pocket that she could drop on the floor for me to "find." So she did, and I hesitatingly "found" it. And then I went on to Chorus, reflecting on the sheer awkwardness of that conversation.

Our choral director was being observed and was a bit disconcerted that she was to be observed on Friday the Thirteenth. Nevertheless, she got through it fine. And since she wanted to prove to the observer that she could play the piano, she did not have me play as much of a role in helping her, so I actually got to sing during class for once! I think once the semester switches I'll make her a CD of accompaniment for some of the songs we're doing in class, so that I can actually sing more often in class; District Chorus is coming up 01-04 February and I need all the practice I can get.

In Chemistry, we got our tests back from Thursday; I got 37 out of 36. The teacher's computer then started acting up so much that she couldn't print our PowerPoint note skeletons. She jokingly decided that our lesson was going to be seeing how many pieces the laptop would break into if we smashed it against the wall. So we watched an old PBS video on acids and bases (blue to red, a-ced). At least it didn't say anything about water being the "commonest" substance on Earth. By the time the video was over, the teacher had managed to print our note skeletons, but the computer still wasn't working correctly, and it couldn't show a PowerPoint presentation while downloading a 50MB Service Pack, so we had half an hour to "read the chapter" for Tuesday.

After school, I had the pleasure of taking a nice long nap, something I haven't been able to afford to do since Christmas break. Around 17:30, my father woke me up and said that I had more mail from the University of Pittsburgh. Now, since hearing of my acceptance on 21 December, I have been getting mail from them almost non-stop. But this envelope was another big one like the one in which the acceptance letter came; the contents were clearly unfolded. I opened it, and was delighted to hear that I had been selected to receive a Full Tuition Honors Scholarship (renewable for four years with a 3.0 QPA) and that I'm eligible to compete for a Chancellor's Scholarship, which would also include room and board, a meal plan, and all other fees.

Although I'm still waiting to hear from a couple other schools I applied to, this scholarship certainly makes my decision significantly easier, unless, of course, something better comes up from one of the other schools. But we seriously doubt it. Also the same day in a separate mailing I was sent a 2006 calendar from the Pitt Pathfinders, which I proudly hung up in my room immediately (somehow they knew I needed a calendar).

Needless to say, this Friday the Thirteenth was certainly a lucky day for me. Now all I have to do is write my last of three term papers for English Lit on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and my weekend will be complete!


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04 January 2006

My Birthday

Well, I suppose that as far as anyone is really concerned, I'm now 18. Even my Blogger profile has updated itself. Although I wasn't born until late evening on that snowy day in 1988, I legally earned the status at midnight, along with all the advantages (and disadvantages) that come along with it. Not that I really plan on doing much of anything different any time soon.


Referring for the second post in a row to my recent reflective post, I guess I just never pictured myself as 18. But here I am. Wow.

I really won't be doing much to celebrate tonight. Not only do I have loads of reading to do in preparation for a test on Crime and Punishment and the last of three term papers (thank God!), this one on Pride and Prejudice, but the school bell choir is having their last performance of the winter season tonight—an anticlimactic concert of Christmas music at a local senior community (December was already booked when they called). Then, I've got to look up recipes for a cookbook project for Wellness & Nutrition that I've been putting off for weeks (months?).

Not to mention my ordinary Wednesday piano lesson at 17:00. I go first this week, and my brother takes the second slot. Since we've got to be at the school at 18:15 for bell choir, that means that I eat during his lesson and he eats during mine. Lovely. I just love forcing down food.

But still, I'm optimistic about the coming months. It's going to be great; I can feel it. I actually do get to celebrate my birthday, but not really until Saturday (right after a grueling Academic Decathlon competition). Oh, well. I suppose I've been waiting years for this celebration, what's another three days?

But I suppose I am 18 now, am I not?


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01 January 2006


I decided I'd use the scanner that is attached to the really old computer mentioned in my last post to wish everyone a very happy new year in a festive and unique way.

The aforementioned computer is so old that it doesn't remember that time keeps going when you turn it off. As such, I had to tell it that it was 2006 this afternoon, because it still thought it was whatever time in mid-December we last used it. But alas, I have to keep using it, because our scanner is also so old that it doesn't work with those fancy new computers (not even my main one, which was built in 2000 and runs Windows ME). At least the old computer is advanced enough to have been able to withstand an upgrade to Windows 95 and be networked to the newer machine.

So, here's a little something I did in Photoshop today. Yes, it's overly simplistic. Yes, it's taken straight off the sleeve of my band jacket. But I don't care. It's 2006 and I'm proud of this year, dangit!


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