Friday, May 4, 2018

51 - Un SOL en Français

...Seulement parce-que j'ai eu la classe de Français et je veux écrire en Français. C'est amusant, et ce me donne la pratique.

Je n'ai pas un bouton traducteur sur mon blog, mais je pense que tu parles un peu, oui? Autrement, le Français est très facile parce que c'est une langue romane, et il y a beaucoup de cognates avec l'Anglais.

J'ai pris cette langue pour seulement une année, mais je crois que je peux parler ça bien. Je vais (et je dois) prendre la classe pour trois ans pour recevoir mon diplôme. C'est les règles de Kent. Mais oui, j'aime la langue.

Parfois, c'est confus. Je sais parler deux langues (l'Anglais et le Français) et demi de deux autres (l'Hébreu et le Japonais, parce que je peux lire et écrire très bien, et je peux parler un très petit peu). Quelques mois derniers, j'ai dit les nombres Hébreux au lieu des nombres Français en classe de Français. Aussi, j'ai oublié beaucoup des mots Japonais au cause de Français.

J'ai une amie qui sait parler plus de quatre langues couramment. Elle a habité en Allemagne jusqu'à l'année dernière, donc elle sait l'Allemand, et aussi le Mandarin, le Croate, et d'autres que j'ai oublié (l'Arabe, je pense?). Elle est très sympa et trop cool. Elle a deux frères avec qui elle parle l'Allemand, et parfois elle parle l'Allemand juste pour le fun.

Un jour, je veux pouvoir parler l'Hébreu et le Japonais, et le Russe et le Turc parce qu'ils sont très intéressant. Particulièrement, je veux pouvoir savoir et comprendre tout les langues, même si les langues Asiatiques sont compliqué parce que ils ne sont pas des langues romanes. Je pense que c'est très intéressant. Un jour.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

SOL 50 - Colors

He's tall, not quite taller than Billy, but around six feet nonetheless. His most prominent feature is perhaps the way he stands; upright at first, with his stance wide and powerful, then he shoves his hands into his back pockets–just like I do–and his legs curve backward. Gazelle is the first word that comes to mind, and it's strange how a boy such as he could look so graceful when he's only standing up.
His eyes are emerald green and sunken. I saw them as hazel when I first met him, but then he looked toward me into the sun on one bus ride, and the light hit his eyes and turned them into gems. I couldn't stop staring. With his eyes, olive skin, and short, wavy brown hair, he looks like he came straight out of a movie.
He has a small mouth and a deep, lilting voice. The cadence of his tone is distinctive; I can recognize him talking from two hundred feet down the hall. For you, I would describe his speech pattern as very similar to Miles'. What seems to be his favorite expression to use is, "winner winner chicken dinner" whenever he succeeds at something. He uses it so often that we've made "chicken dinner" a function in the robot code. Billy has commented on several occasions that, "once a Logan kid, always a Logan kid," and I agree. We do love our expressions.
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Her hair, once short and tangled into waves (which she now calls her "I would like to speak to the manager" phase), is usually pulled into low pigtails over her shoulders. It's jet black, thick enough to break many a hair tie I lent her, and still light on the ends from last summer's bleaching. From a dark pixie cut to elbow-length in three years, her hair grows faster than anything I've ever seen.
She's pale, tall, and very slim. Her face is heart-shaped and dainty, with a ski slope nose and scattered freckles. Glinting in the light, shining in the dark, her long-lashed green eyes stand out against her skin and hair. Her pouty, Cupid's-bow lips are cherry red. She almost resembles a fairy.
Her long, slender legs stride briskly as she glides down the hallway, her hair flowing in a black mane after her. She commands attention, her voice high but powerful, her combat boots firm on the floor in an "I could kick you across the room if I wanted to" stance.
She loves the color red; that much is obvious in her beat-up Converse, her crimson jacket, her two identical red sweatshirts (she's quite proud of her two identical red sweatshirts), and even the red eye ring on her finger. She's a whirlwind of ruby, pitch, and snow, a force to be reckoned with.
Related image
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She's short, only an inch taller than I, with a swimmer's build. Her clothes are everything I wish I could pull off– pastel, knitted sweaters with puffy sleeves that would look like something out of the Middle Ages on anyone but her, black overalls, and old white sneakers that her dog bit a heel off of, but that she wears anyway. Her light blue backpack is covered with patches of the periodic table, buttons that say, "You had me at Hello World," and other fantastically nerdy, yet simultaneously artistic, additions. She wears a bright yellow, knee length coat in the winter. I love it. With or without the coat, she is a walking ray of sunshine, and she brightens anyone's day. She's incredibly optimistic, hopelessly so at times.
She has a round face framed by long blonde hair, which she ties into a ponytail at the base of her neck. She wears thick-framed glasses, behind which her blue eyes squint to slits when she smiles. She smiles often. She's the nice one in our group of twenty, the one who never gives up and encourages anyone who will listen to keep trying.

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Here are some color palettes without descriptions for some more people whom you know (yourself included). Try to guess!



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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

SOL 49 - An Update Into the Life of a Thea

My grade sucks.
All my friends are leaving.
This sucks.

What next?

Because I'm (overly) involved in robotics, most of my friends at this school are upperclassmen. I'm not complaining. However, I am one of only three freshmen in the robotics club for a reason; my grade sucks.

Last week, apparently, some gossip got out that the whole grade is talking about. Everyone is too invested in everyone else's lives. It's really not healthy. Billy is somehow in the center of everything and can get a rumor to the moon and back by 9:00 am. Don't ask me how. He once told me that he knows enough to bring the entire social hierarchy crumbling down if he wanted, and I wholeheartedly believe him.

Two out of the three freshmen, as you may have guessed, are the two of us. In terms of our grade, other than that... Imagine 50 Cadens and 50 Haleys. Increase the intensity of each generalization by 10. Yep. Vineyard Vines owns the school. I guess that's private high school for you, though. Did everyone lose their personalities?

I'm taking AP Computer Science next year, along with honors chemistry, so I'm not exactly Madame Popular. Again, not complaining. I'm incredibly excited; my advisor is the CompSci teacher, and they've been jonesing for me to take their class since before I even came to the school. Plus, I'll hopefully be more useful in terms of the robot!

I have to go to class now. I have a Geometry Honors test this period. Sigh. A+ for Thea!
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I'm back (hopefully with an A+). This period is the last one of the day, and it's study hall, aka Blogspot time!

To reiterate my point about my friends leaving, the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors had an assembly this morning about class signups. We were referred to by the teacher speaking as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. AAAAAAAH! Sloan is going to be a junior! She's already picking out colleges! She has a spreadsheet! This sucks!
My robotics team captain is a junior. I can't believe he'll be a senior next year. He's so... nice. He's like an older brother (though I'm positive he finds me annoying as all hell, but that's what older brothers are for, right?). I don't want him to be leaving, and I especially don't want him to be a senior and sit in the very front of the auditorium in assembly and all that other senior-y goodness.
My teammate and friend is a senior. She'll be gone next year (to an Ivy, I'm proud to say on her behalf).
My friend from my stagecraft class is a sophomore, and she's leaving to go back to a boarding school in Vienna next year. She's only been here for two years.

And me: what will I do? I'll finally be allowed in Bogue, the school cafe (there's this weird unspoken rule that freshmen are banned from Bogue. Seems perfectly acceptable to me; the freshmen already have an area nicknamed "Fresh City," and some of them like to stand... in... the... middle... of... the... f***ing... hallway... and... not... move...) for more than just grabbing pumpkin bread and skedaddling. I won't be looked down upon... Figuratively, at least. I'll get to fill up all available electives with science courses!

I just caught that I referred to the freshmen as "them" and not "us." I do not affiliate myself with the ones who like to stand in the hallway. Frankly, I do not affiliate myself with any of them. My grade is ruthless, mean, backstabbing, and exclusive. Or so I've heard. Did I mention that, for the majority of the year, I've spent quite literally all of my free time (including the 10-minute break) in the robotics lab?
There isn't a single other freshman who's interested in STEM. There is a surplus of people interested in sports... what else... uhh... not the play, there were only two in that... not speech and debate, only one... umm...

What are people interested in?

Is this all there is to my grade?

I'm angry, if you couldn't tell. I'm angry that people don't feel comfortable branching out from the norm. I'm angry that there's a lack of individuality. I'm angry that my friends are leaving, and that school will only get more difficult as teachers throw more and more work at me, and that I have to spend three more years trapped here with virtually nobody aside from Cadens and Haleys.

It's only March, though, right?

Worlds robotics is in April.

I have four weeks until then.

What next?

Friday, February 2, 2018

SOL 48 - We Are The Champions, My Robots

     A new silver trophy now sits on a shelf, turned at a slight angle, along with countless others in the robotics room. Six signatures in red Sharpie are unseen on the back of the metal. The front bears a plaque which proudly announces, "VEX Robotics: Tournament Champion."
     Last week, my team and I staged what may as well have been the greatest comeback in the Kent robotics club's history. In four short rounds, two games each, we rose from #24 on the leaderboard (out of 24 teams at the event) to winning the entire tournament. Uly credits it to my driving; I credit the win to 1069E and 9019R.

     January 10th, 2018
     8:00 am
     "Are you f***ing kidding me?!" Sloan thrusts a sheet of paper into Sophia's face, who glances at it, cringes, sighs, and then hands it to me. Six lines on the extensive chart have been highlighted; this is the schedule of  C's matches, along with who our alliance partner and our two opposing teams will be for each one.
     "What's so ba– oh." I trail off after looking at the list more closely. In over half of the matches, we play team 974X and three of the 80550 teams... also known as some of the top-ranked teams in the state. 974X especially beat all of the Kent teams to a metallic pulp in both of our previous matches. If that weren't enough bad luck, we play with... how to put this bluntly... sh*t teams in every. Single. Match.
   
     Flash forward a couple hours, two breakdowns per team member, and enough cursing to fill a book later, and C is ranked dead last. However, I scored more points during each round than all of the top ten teams, so we aren't complete crap. We have a good driver and terrible luck.
   
     1:00 pm
     After we've all downed sorrowful slices of pizza for lunch, it's time for seeds. Before lunch, four teams play each other no matter the outcome of the previous matches. Each team plays 5-6 times. After lunch, VEX robotics tournaments are set up something like this (but with one more series of games on the left):



      If before lunch can be compared to a friendly neighborhood barbecue, after lunch is a battlefield. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else. Previously allied teams turn on each other. At least one robot goes mysteriously missing. (I'm kidding, it isn't that bad. Only one robot goes missing.) Before this madness can ensue, however, the top ten ranked teams must pick their alliance partners for the rest of the day. There are usually alliances of two, but there were three at this tournament. And C, being at the bottom of the list, would obviously be a third seed pick.
     Here's where our luck turned for the better. The top ranked team, 974X (of course), was debating between picking us for third or the other two teams from their school. They ended up picking their teams which left the sorry sight of C to second place, or 9019 and 1069. My team captain practically bounced over when the representative of 9019 called out our name.
     "You can do cones? Oh, great, we are awesome at mobile goals."
     "Do you have an auton?"
     "Yes, either ten or twenty point. Which side does yours run from?"
     "We prefer to run opposite the preload station."
     "Great, that's perfect. So R and E will play the first, then R and C with play the second since each team has to play at least once. Cool?"
     "Cool."
     And so it went. Our allied teams were incredible. My robot has a lift and a claw for stacking cones, but it wasn't reliable and none of us had much practice, so we didn't use it. Thus, it was only me on the controls like last time. Matches are played "best two-out-of-three" style. We won the first and the second matches in the quarterfinals by a large margin, lost one but won the last in the semis, and then rushed over to the leaderboard to see who we would be against in the final match.
     All three of the 974 teams.
     Great.
     By our policy of rotating through the three alliance teams every other match, I had to play the first round of the finals.
     Even better.
     
     The captain of 9019, who would be playing with me this round, suddenly turned to me. "I heard that their strategy is to sit by the preload station and stack an insane amount of cones, then score it. I'll focus on stacking on ours. Get as many mobile goals as you can, we'll get the rest and put some cones on them, and then go shove X. If we can get them off-balance even a little, they'll drop all their cones."
     "Will do."
     So I shoved them. They were about fifteen cones up and heading for their zone to score, and I rammed into them with all the force of the useless lift and one very angry and determined driver. They started hurrying to get just the mobile goal into their zone, so I got behind them and pushed them halfway across the field before they realized what was happening. There were ten seconds left in the game. We won.
 
     In the next match, all twenty-or-so members of the Kent robotics club sat on the bleachers and waiting in suspense. The other teams had lost in the quarter or semifinals. Everything rested on E.
     I'd begun to worry that they had forgotten R's advice about the pushing. With thirty seconds left in the round, X started stacking.
     Come on... Come on... Go push them... What are you doing?! Go push them! Push them or we'll lose!
     Twenty seconds. X had a huge stack of cones. E came over, and all of them fell.

     Good.

     The win qualified us for the Colorado State Championship, which Kent is hosting next weekend. We have to win at that to carry us to Worlds. Call me a pessimist (truthfully, too), but I don't think we'll win. If we can get allied with someone like our previous partners, though, we might have a shot.
   

Monday, December 11, 2017

SOL 47 - Not Completely "In The Zone"

     I tug at the collar of my white polo shirt. I shouldn't be here. I'm completely out of place. Why do they all think that I'm good at driving? Jude could drive. Sloan could drive. A piece of pizza driving a robot would probably be better at it than I. And yet here I am, in the middle of a crowded gymnasium halfway across the state, clenching a controller as my robot bumps its way to a win.
     My robot. 
     A couple of months ago, I thought robots were complicated automatons that only a genius such as, well, Sloan could build. Boy, was I wrong. 
     My team's name is 3946C. C officially stands for Clement, after a teacher here at Kent. Unofficially, it stands for "close enough." 
     My robot. I still can't believe that I, a girl who consistently fumbles and drops all the screwdrivers in the vicinity, built this robot. Sort of. For the first couple weeks when I didn't know anything, I was C's tool thief. Nobody would suspect a freshman loitering by their table to steal their metal parts, would they? Whenever Sloan saw me looking bored, she would wink and say, "y'know, Thea, I could really use a small allen right now. I saw W with one earlier, Plus, Seb's a jerk. Go do what you must," and I'd hop off the table and produce a screwdriver within 30 seconds. 
     Ah, the days before knowledge and responsibility set in. Now the fate of tournaments rests on my shoulders and whatever.

     Snap out of it! I flash back to the field. 12 feet by 12 feet, four 18x18 robots jostling each other around and competing for the win– 12 feet is not nearly enough room, and one minute is not nearly enough time. Blue versus Red, two of each team. Cones are worth two points, highest stacks in each of the zones and on the stationary goals are all worth.. five? I'll have to check with Uly. There's a five, ten, and twenty point zone in the opposite two corners of the field, mobile goals in the center and in the other corners. Remember the autonomous routine; an automatic thirty points, if all goes well. A win in Auton is worth whatever you scored, plus an extra ten. Score mobile goals in the zones. In The Zone is the name of the game. Drive–drive well–they're all counting on you–drive, Thea, drive! The game starts in ten–
Nine–
Eight–
Seven–
Six–
Five–
Hold your controller out in front of you so the judges can tell that you aren't cheating. The first ten seconds are autonomous, then you have a minute of driver control. 
Four–
Three–
Two–
One–
The autonomous period has begun!

     The robot lurches out onto the field. The other three robots are motionless. Ha! No, don't get cocky now. Even though you're the only team with an auton routine, you're not guaranteed a win. It's going well so far. The robot mows down cones on its way to the mobile goal. It sets the mobile goal manipulator down right on time, jerks forward again to grab the goal, picks it up, and begins the spin. We've had trouble with spins in the past. The auton routine all depends on the quadrature encoder, which has been sketchy in its accuracy lately. Come on, come on... Success; the robot turns 180º, drives forward, turns to the right about 45º, drives forward, turns to the left again, and it's right in line with the 20-point zone. Three, two, one, and it charges directly for the two raised pipes marking the zones. The mobile goal manipulator lowers, and the cone is deposited into the farthest zone. 
     Uly and Maddy, my two "coaches" who were allowed to come up to the field with me while the other three sit in the stands, are practically bouncing with relief. Our alliance partner (another team with whom we are paired up with) looks glad that Blue won, as well. Unfortunately, it's not over yet.

     "The driver control period will commence in three... two... one... drivers, begin!" And C is off, my thumbs dancing across the joysticks, my other fingers poised above the buttons for the mobile goal manipulator. The left side controls the left drive, the right controls the right. int(AllDrive) = 127; 127 might be a little too fast! Oh well, we'll change it later. For now, blue mobile goal on the left. Blue mobile goal. Drive, point turn to the left, drive, mobile goal manipulator down, drive, there we go, mobile goal manipulator up, turn, slowly, slowly so the goal doesn't fall out, now go go go and drop it in the ten! It's in! Back up, point turn to the right, let's go get the other blue goal. Uh oh, Red's playing defense. I can try to sneak right past them... Yes! Got it! Back up, point turn, in-in-in-in-in, drop it, and it's in the ten as well!
Fourteen–
Thirteen–
Twelve–
Time's running out! Go park! Remember, we checked the rules this morning and it's an extra two points if you're even the slightest bit touching your color square. Go go go– Damn! Cones in the way of my square– Push them! I'm in.
Two–
One–

I drop my arms, still holding the controller. My eyes dart around the field, totalling the points scored by both teams in my head. Red got two in the five, one in the twenty, ooh but also highest stack in the five, that's thirty-five, plus two cones, thirty seven. We have one in the twenty, two in the ten, highest stack in the ten, auton, and parking. Looks like our alliance partner stacked three on a stationary goal as well... eighty seven? No, I'm doing the math wrong, but it doesn't matter because we won!

"Good game." Red and Blue face each other and give congratulatory handshakes down the line. Maddy is grabbing the robot, and it looks like the judges are still working on the score, but it's clear where the victory goes. After they give the all-clear, I unplug my controller, and all twelve people dash over to the scoreboard. It's scrolling through the forty or so teams at this tournament... scrolling... C's in first! The other three teammates have joined us in the rush. Everyone smiles at each other before walking back out of the gym to replace the robot's battery. 
     This isn't the end. We might be in the lead now, but there are three more games to play, and then we go on to the elimination round. But for now, we're winning, so let's celebrate. Keep your guard up. Stay in the zone.

This is a map of the field.
     (The results: we made it to semifinals and lost. The other Kent high school teams, W and E, also lost in this round. The middle school team, R, made it to finals and lost as well. C may not have won any awards today, but it was only the first tournament of the season. The next one's in January, and we'll have improved a lot by then. 
     For starters, we'll have a lift (the tall part for picking up cones). We ran out of time before this tournament and couldn't attach ours, hence only being able to manipulate mobile goals. When the lift is added we'll connect two controllers. One person will work the lift and one the drive. I'm looking forward to this. Less responsibility on me.)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

SOL 46?

Imagine a room. It's a small room, about 5 feet by 12 feet, but it's missing one corner. Instead, the wall moves forward, sharply turns inward, curves back out to form a lightning bolt, and then continues inward to meet up with the other, straight wall in a triangle. It's shaped like the M of Cassiopeia.
There is one lightbulb in this room. It shines near the center of the room, closest to the M corner, casting dull yellow onto the grey carpet. The circle of light gradually fades outward to merge with the darkness of the opposite corners of the room. The only door is hidden in shadow.

You're standing directly underneath the light. You squint into the dark edges of the room, but your eyes have not yet adjusted to the dimness. You blink, and a shape starts to take form. A figure is crouched in a corner.

Who is it?

Monday, October 16, 2017

SOL 45 - A Rant About Science and Sexism

I'm on the robotics team this year. I know, right?! For all my interest, I can barely code the instructional path for a short maze, let alone an entire robot with claws and more motors than the ones on the drive and many moving parts! (the horror, the horror) Anyway, when the group first got our team assignments a couple weeks ago, I barely realized that all of the girls in robotics were on the same team.

I'm not good at pseudonyms, and I rarely use them, so I'll just call the girl we both know S. The other girls on the team are M and H.

Looking up at the three lists of names on the whiteboard, all three girls groan, stomp back to their seats, and look at me as if expecting me to react in the same way.
"What's wrong with our team?" I ask obliviously.
"We're the 'girl-powered' team," S tells me with a sigh in her voice.
"So? Why is that bad?"
M jumps in. "Usually, they put all the girls on one team to win this dumb 'girl-powered' award. It means nothing. It's an award that basically says 'holy sh*t, g... g... girls in STEM? STEM?! Gotta give them an award just for being here!' They're not rewarding us for our skill, or our brains, or our actual freaking robot, they're giving us a prize just for being girls."
"They dumb down science for our dainty little girl brains," S says in a high voice, throwing her hands up, glancing meekly to the side, and batting her eyelashes (I'm sure you can visualize this expression perfectly). "Last year at Worlds, some guys talked down on me and asked me if I could understand what they were talking about. We beat them, but the sexism is still there."
J, one of the two boys on the team, joins the conversation. "Oh yeah, everyone can see it. We're probably going to win awards that we don't deserve just because girls make up two-thirds of our team."
"I hate it. I'd rather lose than win unjustly," says H.
"Last year we had to write a story about what it was like to be a girl in STEM, so be prepared for that," S says with a grim smile.

After this, we discussed many things to make fun of the "girl-powered" award, such as having the robot hold a can of pink spray paint and constantly spraying all the other robots in the field pink (there's no rule against it!), or leaving a trail of glitter behind it as it plows down the other machines for the victory.

Now, everyone knows that I'm an anthropology nerd and I am definitely, no doubt about it, going to go into the science field of expanded learning and careers.

Well.

I'm sitting here in study hall after returning from the Monday-morning assembly. The women of the science department made an announcement about National Invincible Girl In Science day on November 7th. We will post messages of support on social media with the hashtag #girlinscience. The teachers projected a video naming ten of the most influential and important female figures in science. The whole school applauded after each one was named.

It's still appalling to think that this is necessary for people to respect and recognize women in STEM. It's easier for strangers or even extended family to believe that I want to be an artist or an actress than an anthropologist or an engineer. Even the fact that the teachers had to show that video, and that we have to post on social media for the general public to recognize that, surprise surprise, GIRLS HAVE BRAINS is a terrible thing. We are smart. We are your scientists and mathematicians and doctors and engineers, and we don't want or need you to dumb down science so we can understand. We understand perfectly that the world has a long way to go.

51 - Un SOL en Français

...Seulement parce-que j'ai eu la classe de Français et je veux écrire en Français. C'est amusant, et ce me donne la pratique. Je ...