Friday, December 21, 2012


Today, my aunt received by far the best Christmas present ever. No, it was not an iPad. It was not a new phone, or a new purse, or jewelry, or chocolate, or silly things like that. She received PajamaGram--specifically, a full out leopard pajama body-suit. Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, it truly is as fantastic as it sounds. It is complete with a detachable tail, a hood with ears, and paw prints for both the hands and feet. Unfortunately, I was busy working on college applications when she opened it. This is rather sad, seeing as my mom told me her expression was priceless. There is only one obvious thing to do when a leopard pajama bodysuit resides in your home: photo shoot.

My sister was the first one to try it on. She fell in love with it and proceeded to look up other pajamas like it on the Internet. Apparently they make panda and bunny versions, for all you panda/bunny lovers out there. After hearing my sister gush about the aforementioned pajamas, I felt the only natural thing to do was try them on myself. Were they really as comfortable, soft, and warm as my sister had described them? To put it simply, yes. The suit was incredibly comfortable. It's always cold in our house (at least to me), so I'm constantly wearing sweatshirts and socks. This leopard suit eliminated the need for those two things. The hood with ears, the tail, and the pockets made for a nice touch. My sister and I took turns posing in the suit, because seriously, who wouldn't? I actually thought it would be great for college/Halloween. It's just that comfortable.

For anyone interested in PajamaGrams, this is the website: (You can see the Panda/Leopard/Bunny pajamas pictured on the bottom of the main page.).

Happy Holidays!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pillow egg. Yes, you read that correctly.

I'm incredibly sorry for taking a long break. These past 2-3 weeks have been the roughest academic weeks yet for me. I didn't think anything could be worse than the combination of chem and calc last fall semester, but I was sadly proven wrong. I've been doing a ton of stats and physics in the past two weeks, and now I'm very tempted to make a bar graph for the readers of this blog, with the categorical variable being either OS or country. Yeah. I'm obsessed. For one of my college apps, I need to say how your friends would describe me in x amount of words. I"m very tempted to do a survey, create a dotplot of the answers, and then choose the words with the highest frequencies. Mainly I just want to do that so I can say I mathematically chose my responses.

Physics is mindblowing. I will repeat: mind blowing. We were covering kinematics the other day, and I was just stupidly standing outside dropping two tennis balls to see if they really did hit the ground at the same time. Which leads me to the most awesome thing that has happened to me in the past couple weeks: egg drop. Who doesn't love a good egg drop? Build your little egg a nice contraption to keep it safe, watch it fall from a large height, and then watch as other people's eggs smash into little bits of yolk and shell. Really, at one point, my friend and I had to step back from the "splash zone." Anyway, so the egg drop occurred on a day when I got very minimal sleep the night before. I was resolved that our egg would die and break and crack. Then it happened. My team got an idea and it was awesome. The people running the egg drop (hi Oliver and Simon if you're reading this!) had given us a limited amount of supplies, which we were supposed to use all of. So our inventory basically consisted of a few flimsy pieces of paper, some stuffing/fluff, a square of foam, some straws, some popsicle sticks, and unlimited tape. Oh and a cork that we really had no idea what to do with. The catch was that we had to build a contraption in which we could easily insert or remove the egg. So unfortunately, we were not able to just wrap the egg up in a big ball of tape and fluff and foam. Originally we were going to make a pocket by taking the different layers of sheets, stuffing foam between each of them, and then taping it up. And then it hit us: pillow. We essentially made a pillow out of 5 pieces of paper, fluff, and tape. Then we built a little nest for our egg by cutting up foam and wrapping it around the egg. We cut another piece of foam for the bottom of the nest. Then we taped popsticle sticks all around the "nest" so that it would hold the top foam piece in place. And then we taped the entire contraption onto the pillow. It was a little box made out of foam glued onto a paper pillow, and it was beautiful in my eyes (mainly because I was unmotivated in the first place).

I'll be honest, when our egg was dropped I looked away. I get so pathetic about these competition sorts of things. Luckily, since our "nest" was in the center of the pillow, it balanced out and it fell straight down so that the impact was taken by the pillow. And our egg didn't die! It was great. The only problem was I had that  jingle for pillow pets stuck in my head. All. Day. All I could think about was "it's a pillow, it's a pet, it's a pillow pet!" And then I swapped out the words so it became, "it's a pillow, it's an egg, it's a pillow egg!" In my defense, it was a long day and I was running on coffee.

Happy beginning of fall!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fathom is my new best friend.

I'm sorry. I've been so remiss about loving and caring for my blog. Please forgive me...It's been a crazy week--classes are officially in full swing, and college apps are right around the corner. On the other hand, because classes have started, I've discovered a whole new world of math and science-y goodness. I also found out for comp sci that we're going to be creating a program for an art character who dances the hokey pokey. Epic.geek.out.ensued. I'm so incredibly sad that I have to wait for November until that happens. Expect a blog post on that in ~2 months.

Anyway, how many of you out there have had to graph something at some point in your life? Ever since precalc, graphing paper and a ruler have always been within an arm's reach. It was good to get the experience graphing functions and data by hand, really. I'm not taking away from that. But there were some days in chemistry when my lab partner and I would stare stupidly at the paper for fifteen minutes trying to figure out an adequate scale for our graphs. It was kind of amazing really. We had just spent 3 hours using I don't even know how many formulas, and hand us a piece of paper and a bunch of data, and we were like a bunch of lost puppies trying to find our way home (literally--we didn't want to leave the lab until we had our graph scale approved by our professor).

But then our professor introduced us to using the computer to record data and create graphs, which we used when we were using things like pH meters, calorimeters, and thermometers. It was awesome, to put it frankly. After spending an entire first semester recording data and graphs by hand, it was pretty neat to see the little dots of data pop up onto the computer screen as the experiment timer counted down. After chemistry ended, any thoughts about using a computer to graph such data disappeared. Actually, I wasn't thinking about it, honestly. My summer was blissfully graph-free.

Enter physics. And stats. And Fathom. My very first physics lab involved graphing two graphs. At the same time, my statistics teacher had just introduced us to the statistical software Fathom, and she taught us how to take data and data tables and transform them into graphs. After spending 30 minutes working on my physics graph by hand, I had an epiphany. Why not try using the computer software to graph it? So I did, and it worked beautifully. I still have to graph a bunch of stuff by hand for statistics, and I'll practice doing some graphs by hand for physics, but I do love the convenience of Fathom when I'm short on time. What's really cool about the program is that there's an option to import data from the Internet. You can literally drag the webpage with the data over the Fathom window, and a little "S" button pops up next to the data website's URL. If you click it, the data is automatically imported into its own little collection in Fathom. It's awesome. My stats teacher had us try it out with data online about hot dogs. For some reason, I found that very amusing. The only downside is Fathom does have a cost. What other stats software have people used? Any cool open-source ones?

Happy start of classes/September!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Woo. I finally got my Technorati code, as seen in the title. For those unfamiliar with Technorati, it's this awesome site filled will all kinds of cool techy stuff that I'm trying to submit my blog URL to. And to do that, I had to post a code to show that I'm actually the author of said blog.

Enough about blog directories. Let's talk chocolate, specifically M&M's. Yesterday I had to count a ton of M&M's for stats. Specifically, over 640. Yes, there really are over 600 M&M's in each 19.2 oz bag. Hard to believe, huh? For the record, counting the number of M&M's for each individual color in the bag is not for a neurotic person like myself. I messed up (or at least, I thought so) my counting about 5 times, so then I had to recount again (I didn't want to screw up my results). In short, it took about an hour just to do a few simple things with a bag of M&M's. I felt pathetic. Thankfully, the information that I needed has been submitted, and now my bag of M&M's sits on my desk for me to eat while working. Oh statistics, how I love you so. Math and chocolate? It doesn't get much better than this.

Other than lots of counting, chocolate, and sig figs, I have developed a bad case of the senior jitters. It's terrible. I'm slightly terrified of all the applications I need to fill out and submit. It doesn't help that I feel like I'm suffering from an incurable case of writer's block. I really hate writer's block. It just feels like I can't find a way around it. I'm reading "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" for lit, and the author talked about how long it took him to write one of the chapters in the book. He said something about baking bread to get rid of the writer's block. Maybe I should do that. It goes beyond just writer's block for me though. I have ending block. It's that little thing when you spend a ton of time writing an essay, and you think it's really good, and you love the way it flows, and then it hits you. You can't think of a proper ending. You try, and you try, but everything that you write sounds trite, lame, or Disneyesque. And that is currently the phase I'm stuck in. Hopefully the creativity bug will return soon, and I'll have some amazing spark of inspiration to write about something interesting. Until then, I'll just have to keep trying.

Hoping all the other seniors out there are not suffering from anxiety/writer's block,

Monday, August 27, 2012

The sig figs strike back.

Okay, the title is a really bad pun based on "The Empire Strikes Back." Forgive me. Anyway, "sig figs" (significant figures) really have returned into my life via the first chapter of my physics book. Can I just say I really dislike the first chapter of any science book? I swear that most of them are all the same. (Insert science here) is broken into many different areas x, y, z. Then it goes into scientific theories and observations and the whole point of being a scientist. Then they go over units and significant figures and how to properly show work. Seriously. The first chapters of my chemistry and physics books, other than the fact that they have a little more emphasis on their respective sciences, are strikingly similar (notice the reappearance of strike? It's just that type of punny day.). Anyway, sig figs. They were the bane of my existence the first couple months of junior year. My chemistry professor all but hammered them into my head, which was good, just slightly painful. I hate to admit it, but the first quiz I took in chemistry, I was so nervous that I miscounted the significant figures. It was really quite sad. I think I counted 5 instead of 7. It's amazing that I made it past basic arithmetic. Even after I felt like a pro at sig figs, they still reared their nasty little heads on complicated lab calculations. It got to the point when my lab partner and I hung our heads in shame over missed points on our lab because of sig figs. It was really depressing. It's like, you did everything you were supposed to do in the experiment, you didn't light yourself on fire with the Bunsen burner, you didn't break the crucible, you didn't fall off the lab stool in front of your professor (unless you're me), and bam. A couple tiny little numbers get you every single time. Okay, not every single time, but it sure felt like it was happening more than it should have been.

At this point, you're probably wondering what my point is. My point is very simple: obey the sig figs. Really. They are like the rulers (rulers as in dictators, not the measuring devices) of all scientific calculations. That's a bit extreme, but seriously, it helps to know the rules and to apply the rules when performing calculations. I'm not going to delve into these rules because professors and textbooks and teachers are much more well-versed in the realm of sig figs than I am. For me, they just kinda clicked eventually. It was the ultimate "aha" moment, at least within the time span of the first two weeks of class. And thus ends my rant about sig figs. They are important, but that doesn't mean I don't get to rant about screwing them up every now and then.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The title is a reference to the fact that I've made it through the chapter on binary signals today for my comp sci reading. Whoohoo, 2 chapters down, 2 to go. I feel so productive.  It's actually kind of sad since I took about 5 pages of notes just for a fairly short chapter.....I like to think I'm being thorough, but I'm probably killing three trees in the process. The nice thing about my computer science class is that the textbook is online, which seems fitting. You can find it at: So far, I think the explanations are pretty easy to understand; of course, I'm still going over the relatively simple basics of computers, so all of that could change when I actually start getting into the meat of programming. Until then, I'll enjoy the seemingly easiness of it all. I actually really enjoyed the first chapter, which talked about things like the CPU, main memory, hard disks/secondary memory, the motherboard, and the role of the OS in running a computer system. Even though I had spent a lot of time on the computer before then, it was pretty cool to get a basic idea of how my computer actually works. If you're interested in learning about your computer from a functional standpoint, I would definitely recommend the first chapter, even if you aren't interested in actual programming.

On a slightly different note, I've become very acquainted with the Kindle application for the computer in the past couple days. I downloaded my Latin book for the Kindle, but I wanted to be able to access it on my computer (bigger screen, easier to read), so I also downloaded the app available through Amazon. In my opinion (which you can take with a grain of salt), the Kindle app is definitely worth the download, especially if you have a book with a lot of dense material (read: textbook). It also makes flipping back to past chapters fairly easy, seeing as you can just click a button and go to the table of contents. I thought this was a little easier than navigating the book on my mom's traditional Kindle. I have a Kindle touch, but I didn't have it with me when I downloaded my Latin book, so I can't really speak to the navigability of the Kindle app vs. the Kindle touch. The app is also nice if you're taking notes/doing problem sets since you can just glance up at your computer screen, instead of having to look down at the Kindle. I definitely love the portability of the Kindle vs. my laptop, but if I'm set up in a relatively stationary work position, I prefer the computer app. Anyway, that's just my two cents. Check it out if you're interested. You can download the app at: PC app or Mac app.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Essays, essays, and more essays.

So it's been a while since my last post. My only excuse is that I've been devoting the last couple weeks of summer to filling out my common app. So far, in the past three days, I've written three very different essays only to come back to the essay I wrote three months ago. Yeah. I'm a little indecisive. And that doesn't even include college supplement essays. I'm doomed to be writing essays for the next 5 months.......One of the things I've been struggling with is finding my voice. I know that sounds really cheesy, but I feel like this whole essay-writing-process has really made me question who I actually am. Now I'm starting to sound like a Disney movie, but I'm dead serious. I've written a ton of essays courtesy AP Lang, but only a couple were as personal as what I'm supposed to be doing for this essay. It's tough having to make the decision about what best represents me and what best represents my writing. I'm a pretty indecisive person, so that's not helping either. I just get so absorbed in my writing that it can be hard to stand back and look at it from someone else's perspective. In my mind, it definitely makes sense. In someone else's? Maybe not so much. Then there's the matter of making sure I sound like me. Which can be hard, seeing as I get so used to seeing the same essay for however many number of hours that it all starts to blur together into triteness and insincerity. I think I've found a way around it, but we'll see. Thankfully, I still have about 2.5 months until my first application is due (insert mini freak out here).

On the other hand, I have successfully finished reading and taking notes on the 1st chapter of computer science!!! Yay. It's pretty interesting so far. The sad part is that I still have 3 chapters to go...My stats book came in the mail today, which is again very exciting. This is the same book that was mentioned in my post about ez sniper. It is in practically brand-new condition, so that's a definite plus. I also got a couple books out from the library today about applying to college. Talk about a ton of reading to do...Anyway, that is it for now. My essay is feeling neglected from not being worked on. I should go give it some love.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nerdy English goodness.

I had an epic English geek-out a couple days ago. The story began in a book store in downtown Princeton. It is a very nice book store that I have been to a bunch of times in the past. Recently, they started selling t-shirts with the covers of famous books on the front of them. There is one for Great Gatsby, another for Pride and Prejudice, one for the Wizard of Oz, etc, etc. There also happens to be an amazing red t-shirt for A Clockwork Orange. A Clockwork Orange is probably in my top 3 books of all-time. I saw the shirt and a little part of my inner lit nerd died and went to heaven. Okay, that's a little melodramatic, but I seriously spent 15 minutes searching through all the bins for a women's shirt in my size. Wait for it, wait for it....there were no women's shirts. Zip. Nada. None. It was really sad.

The incident at the book store lead me to google search to see if the brand had its own website. When in doubt, google. Lo and behold, there was the site: amazing site of English goodness. The only problem is that it's not for indecisive people like myself. I'm torn between 5 or 6 different shirts. It also caused me to question which books are my favorites. Talk about a pensive evaluation. Anyway, so then I shared it with all my AP Lang friends, so that was fun (if any of you guys are reading this, yay!). I even sent in a suggestion that they make a shirt/sweatshirt for The Phantom of the Opera (another top 3 book). I was a tad bit enthusiastic.

Speaking of the wonders of literature, I've started reading "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" for AP lit summer reading. It's actually quite good. The author has a very easy-to-read style, and he raises a lot of valid points (I already have a page of notes and I'm not even past the first 10 pages...whoops). My copy of The Great Gatsby also arrived in the mail yesterday, so I'm super excited to read that and discuss it to pieces. I'm also incredibly excited for the movie...I think I've watched the movie trailer about 10 times consecutively already. Anyway, English reading/Latin exercises are calling my name. Enjoy your last couple weeks of summer vacation.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sniping. (Read: Gleefully watching third-party software win an online auction in the last three seconds.)

Let me give some background on the sniping situation. For AP Stats, I need the textbook "A Practice of Statistics" 4th/AP edition. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. I'm a big proponent of buying used textbooks. It kills a little piece of me inside to buy a brand new book for a lot more when there are tons of slightly worn books out on the market. They just need a little love, some tape on the binding, and they're good to go. Some books that I've ordered in the past were in such good condition that I didn't realize they were used. Anyway, so this particular stats book does not have very good used options available online. Most of the used books I found were priced somewhere in the $100s....I wasn't very happy. Then, the other night, my dad and I ventured back into the land of used books. This time, we hit something on Ebay. It was going for half the price of the previously seen used books, but there was a catch: there were already two bids, and I can only imagine the amount of people watching it (it really was a steal). So we went to EZsniper. EZsniper is pretty sweet. You put in the auction code for the item you're trying to get, a max bid amount, and the software will go in at the last minute of the auction for the kill, ripping the book away from other hopeful buyers. Let's just say it appealed to the competitive part of me.

That was a few days ago. The auction ended a few minutes ago. I was eagerly watching the price of the book during the last ten minutes, but it stayed constant until the very last minute. Then it started skyrocketing. It kept climbing, and I got more and more anxious as it neared our max bid amount. With literally only three seconds left of the auction, the max bid clocked in at 74.71, a mere 29 cents below our max bid. I waited out those three seconds with bated breath. The bidding ceased. The auction was won. I think I was probably a little more excited about it than I should have been. Oh well. This may seem a tad bit melodramatic, but it was exciting. My dad and I were both gleefully exclaiming about it. It was a little sad that winning a textbook in an auction made us that happy. Auctions used to freak me out because I thought there was no way to win them. Moral of the story: if you find a steal on a book, but there is no "buy now" option, do not despair. Find an online auction sniper, wait, and cross your fingers. Thankfully, all of my book buying is now officially completed for the year. The next textbooks I buy will be for college...(cue freak out).

Happy book-buying,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Applications, classes, and prep books oh my.

This summer flew by way too fast. One minute, it was the end of June and I was done with the SATs forever and ever and ever (I was a tad bit emphatic). Now, I'm a little over two weeks away before AP classes and everything else begins. I'm also painfully aware of an entire book that needs to be read for lit, four chapters that need to be read for comp sci, and a whole lot of application filling-out/planning/stressing over extra-curriculars. It's pretty sad really. One second there were two months of pure glorious relaxation in front of me, and the next it was all taken away and replaced by work. Not that I don't like academic work, but it's still depressing to see such an amazing summer come to an end.

And then there is the matter of books. I had to get books for all my classes, and let me tell you, it's really frustrating. I was able to find some of the books used for a lot less than the "new" price. But my stats textbook, which is specifically used for AP, has been really hard to find used. We (my dad and I) did find a copy on ebay. We're still waiting for the outcome of the auction. Expect to see a blog post on ez sniper in the near future. I've found a ton of books on ebay, and as long as I checked the edition/seller reviews/feedback rating, I never had a problem. I've actually found that the deals are sometimes a lot better on there than on Amazon marketplace. It depends on the book you're looking for. There is also the matter of prep books. I think these are even more finicky than the textbooks honestly. Barron's made me feel like I had the intelligence level of a pea. Not fun. Princeton Review made me feel a bit too confident. Cliffs AP English Lang made me want to tear up the practice multiple choice tests and burn them. But they did help, so I won't complain any further. Here's a rundown based on my own personal experience with the different prep books I used for science/math tests (I'll save the English ones and the SAT/PSAT ones for another day).

Barron's AP Chemistry--This book had so much information that I started reviewing it three weeks before the actual exam. This is not a book you want to use a couple days before the exam to refresh your memory. I generally completed each chapter (there may have been some chapters on topics I felt really good about that I skipped). The practice problems at the end of each chapter are a nice touch. The actual practice exams are a total ego killer. I thought that chemistry was going to be the easiest exam for me until I took one of those Barron's exams. I think I ended up getting less than 50% on the practice MC. Bottom line: A lot of the important information can get lost among the massive quantity of other information. If you know your weak spots, it's a lot easier to navigate this book. Don't let the tough MC crush your dreams of majoring in chemistry or acing the exam or any other pre-Barron's notions of chemistry.

Princeton Review Chemistry SAT Subject Test--Sadly enough, someone at my library had the Princeton Review AP checked out for a very long time. I didn't get to use it (thought I've generally heard good things about it), but I did get to use PR for the chem subject test. I liked the book well enough. I literally read through it the night before the test. My biggest issue with the actual test had to do more with timing than content. If you know chem really well, and if you already took AP Chem, I would advise taking a bunch of practice tests, since you only get an hour for 80 questions. The content might seem easier, but the timing is most definitely not. Bottom line: this is a good book if you're doing a fast review and don't want to deal with a book with a ton of details. It was sweet and to the point.

Barron's Math Level 2--This is the book if you're aiming for that perfect 800. Seriously. Get this book. It is amazing. My friend Viktor (shout-out!) recommended this to me (it's also widely hailed online), and it was exactly what I needed. I strongly suggest going over ever single part of this book. It's not super huge, but it provides questions at the end of each chapter on the different topics covered. Those are helpful if you're brushing up on your precalc. The exams at the end of the book are hard--I never finished any of them within the time limit. They also made the real exam seem a lot easier. For a confidence booster, I took the Math Level 2 exam out of the Official SAT Subject Test book, and I was able to finish on time with only a couple questions wrong. Bottom line: This book is awesome. The diagnostic test may crush your ego, but in the end it's worth it.

Be Prepared for the AP Calculus Exam--My calc teacher assigned us this book. At the beginning of the year, I hated it. I think the reason I hated it was because I still didn't feel confident with things such as differentiation and integration and the Chain Rule. When I went through the entire exam again a couple of weeks before my final and AP exam, I understood it a lot better. I thought that the practice questions covered a lot of what I found on the actual exam, and I thought the practice exams were pretty dead-on in difficulty level, if just slightly more difficult than the actual exam. Bottom line: it's a well-written book that covered everything I needed to know. The practice exams were very accurate. I didn't feel the need to use another book along with it.

Another thing that I found valuable was taking released exams. I ordered the two most recently released chemistry exams, and then found a free released one on the College Board site which can be accessed here: I also did a ton of the released FRQ's in the two weeks before the exam. I did the same thing for english and calc. Taking advantage of the released FRQ's made the actual FRQ's less stressful and more routine. The nice thing is that the College Board includes both the solutions and how the questions are broken down into points. If you do enough of these problems, you'll start to notice that certain types of problems always have the same point break-down. Anyway, happy getting ready for classes/ordering books/enjoying the last few weeks of summer.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Meet Esteban.

This is Esteban. 
You may be wondering why I gave my TI-84 a name. It goes back to the fall semester of 2011. Enter AP Calculus. Enter 3 hours of studying calculus every day. Enter staying up til 12 am doing said calculus.  It got a little old telling people that I spent a majority of my time with my pencil, paper, and graphing calculator. It sounded way too boring (which it was most definitely not). Besides, it's much more amusing to say "Where is Esteban?" as opposed to "Where is my TI-84 graphing calculator?" Now, you may be wondering,"Of all names, why Esteban?" The answer is simple: I like how it sounds. Plus, it either (a) befuddles or (b) amuses people when I tell them that I named my calculator. Or I get very weird looks (especially from my mother). Anyway, Esteban and I have been through a lot. The PSAT, two SATs, the AP calc exam, the AP chem exam, and the math level 2 SAT subject test. To put it frankly, I use him a lot. It's gotten to the point where I carry him around everywhere.  Surprisingly enough, given the large amount of usage over the course of the year, Esteban has never actually run out of battery power. I switched his batteries a few times before major standardized tests, but other than that I've never had a problem. Anyway, in honor of having Esteban for about a year now, I'm going to talk about some things about him I wish I had learned sooner, and also how to program the quadratic formula into your own TI 83/84. Trust me, if you have to pick just one program, this is the one to have. I can't tell you how much time this saved me over the course of the year.

-For some reason, it took me a while to figure out how to use the differentiation function within the calculator. I used the integration a lot, but I didn't realize I could also use the differentiation. Afterwords, I felt like a total idiot. To get to both of these functions, hit the "Math" button, and scroll down to "nDeriv(" and "fnInt(." These two saved me a ton of time on the calculator portion of the AP calc exam.

- If you want to program formulas into your graphing calculator, they don't make you clear your memory for the SAT or the SAT subject tests or the AP exams. However, you can only use your calculator during the math/calculator portions, so don't waste your time trying to smuggle in non-math information.

-If you ever need to find the sec, csc, or cot using your graphing calculator, you'll notice that there are no buttons for these trig functions. The way you would find csc of 90 degrees is by inputting 1/sin(90). For sec it would be 1/cos(90). For cot it would be 1/tan(90). This can get a little annoying after a while.

-Speaking of trig functions/identities, always check to see if your calculator is in "Radian" or "Degree" mode. To change/check this, press "Mode" and then scroll down and highlight whichever mode you want to use. This is pretty important because whether the calculator is in "degree" or "radian" mode will the effect the way a graphed trig function appears. Any number your calculator spits back to you when you use one of the trig buttons will also vary depending on the mode.

-Another big thing, which can also get annoying, is making sure to use proper parentheses when putting a long convoluted function into the integration program. If you don't, the order of operation gets thrown off, and you'll end up with an incorrect answer. This has happened to me more than I care to admit.

Now for that nifty quadratic formula program.

1. Press the "PRGM" button and scroll to the "NEW" tab. Select "Create New" and press ENTER.

2. Enter the name of your program by pressing the green "ALPHA" button and pressing the keys with the light green letters above them to spell out whatever you desire. Then press ENTER. I named mine QUAD2.

3. For the first line of the program, hit the button "PRGM" then scroll to the "I/O" tab. Select "Prompt." Then, staying on the first line, enter "A,B,C" after "Prompt." Enter the letters the same way you entered the letters for your program's name. There is a separate button for commas. Then press ENTER.

4. Now enter B^2-4AC-->D on the second line. To get the arrow press the "STO>" button on the lower left of the calculator. Press ENTER.

The "-" before the 4 is a minus sign, not  a negative sign.

5. On the third line, press "PRGM," scroll to the "I/O" tab, and select "Disp." Then input (-B+sqrt(D))/(2A). Press ENTER.
The "-" in front of the B is a negative sign.

6. On the fourth line, press "PRGM," scroll to "I/O," and select "Disp" again. Then input (-B-sqrt(D))/(2A). The "-" after the "-B" is a minus sign, not a negative sign. Press ENTER.

7. On the fifth line, enter "DelVar A" by pressing "PRGM," selecting the "CTL" tab, and selecting "DelVar." Enter A, and then press ENTER.

8. On the sixth line, enter "DelVar B" the same way. Press ENTER.

9. On the seventh line, enter "DelVar C" and then press ENTER.

10. On the eighth line, enter "DelVar D" and  press ENTER.

And your program is complete. To use your program go to "PRGM," scroll to "EXEC," select your program, and then press ENTER. When the prompt A=? shows up, enter the coefficient for the squared variable and then press ENTER. When B=? shows up, enter the coefficient for the non-squared variable. When C=? shows up, enter the value of the constant. The roots of the quadratic equation should then show up, assuming that they are real (If they are not real the error "NONREAL ANS" will appear.).


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Skeletons with a side of Poe.

The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia is pure scientific and medical goodness. Really. I'm not a huge fan of museums, but if you're interested in science, medicine, and weird medical abnormalities, this museum is for you. My boyfriend and I went there a couple of weeks ago after visiting Edgar Allen Poe's house (I'll get to that later). The outside was fairly unassuming, and so was the lobby. The actual museum area was pretty small compared to other museums, which meant that the exhibits were crammed very close to each other. This made for total sensory overload when I actually stepped into the museum area. And then there were the skeletons. Lots and lots and lots of skeletons. If you are not a fan of bones, this is not the museum for you. There was one glass case entirely filled with skulls. Another display discussed the size of Einstein's brain in comparison to the average man's brain. Throughout the museum was a handful of skeletons that were dried to preserve the prominent veins/muscles. The best exhibit, at least in my bias eyes, was an exhibit detailing the steps a forensic anthropologist takes in identifying skeletons; the exhibit included about 5 or 6 full skeletons. As a forensics junkie, I was in heaven. If you're a history buff, there was a big exhibit on John Wilkes Booth that we unfortunately did not get to see because of the massive quantity of stagnant people surrounding it. Oh well. My second favorite exhibit included the skeleton of a 7' 6" (or 7' 8," one of those two) man. Yeah, it was huge. The best part: they put it next to a "regular" man's skeleton to compare. The difference in the sizes of their rib cages was massive. You really need to see it to believe it.

Before our great escapade into the land of skeletons, we visited Edgar Allen Poe's real house in Philly. I love English, and I discovered the wonders (and creepiness) of Poe this year. When we first got to the place, we had to use a knocker to get in. I thought it was a nice touch. The house we went into was built right up against Poe's actual house, and it served as a lobby of sorts. We got to tour Poe's house on our own; the first room we entered was the parlor, shortly followed by the kitchen minus anything actually having to do with cooking. The plaster walls were original, and their age was apparent in the unevenness of the texture and color. Then we used the original staircase to get upstairs. The whole time I was exclaiming that Poe had actually walked up the stairs. Yeah, it was slightly pathetic. When we got upstairs, we went into the different bedrooms. And again, I couldn't help talking about how he probably wrote in the room we were standing in. The best part of the house by far was the cellar--it was entirely cobblestone, musty, chilly, cobwebbed, and incredibly creepy. It has been speculated that the cellar inspired a few of Poe's short horror stories. And I thought my basement was bad. Outside of the house there was an awesome raven statue, which I got a picture in front of:
The house on the right is the lobby one. The house with all the windows was Poe's house.
And that completes my account of Poe, skeletons, & Philly. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How not to fall off of lab stools (and other helpful hints).

This is a shout out to all those people who have totally made fools of themselves in front of a bunch of strangers, or in front of a new class, or in front of a new professor who they are desperately trying to impress. It happened about a year ago: I was taking general chemistry at the local community college, and it was the first of many 8 am labs to come (note: I plan on avoiding 8 am labs in the future). It started out normally enough, at least as normally as can be at 7:30 in the morning. For some reason I still can't quite figure out, I chose the lab bench that was front and center in the room. Big mistake. I had just succeeded in actually getting someone to sit down next to me when it happened. Cue falling off the lab stool like an utter idiot. My lab partner had the decency to ask if I was okay. Mortified, I scrambled up, but the damage was already done--the four rows of students behind us had already witnessed my plummet from the stool. To this day, I'm not quite sure if my professor actually saw my beautiful swan dive to meet the lab floor. His back was turned; either he heard/saw it and ignored it, or he was truly oblivious to my moment in the (awkward) spotlight. I never looked at those lab stools the same way again.

In an effort to help all those students taking a lab science this year, I have compiled a list of tips to help avoid potential hindrances (read: embarrassments) over the course of the year.

1. Always check out where your lab/lecture is going to be held before the first day of class. I failed to do this and ended up going to the room where my recitation was supposed to be. On the brink of hysterics, I was taken pity on by a few random guys who gave me directions to where I was actually supposed to be. Don't just rely on nice people; be prepared.

2. When your lab partner is drawn into an incredibly awkward situation/conversation, the best way out of it (at least for you) is to simply look the other way, fiddle with the computer, and deal with the wrath of your lab partner for abandoning him/her later. Honestly, this one works like a charm. The plus side: it makes for great inside jokes throughout the remainder of the semester.

3. Never try to kneel on those lab stools. I've already outlined the consequences in the first paragraph.

4. Always, I repeat, always double, triple, quadruple check a fax number, especially if said fax number is being used by your professor to send a letter of recommendation. I learned this one the hard way.

5. Don't pick up something that was just taken off of a Bunsen burner. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it happens. It didn't happen in my lab section, but the news traveled around the different sections pretty fast. You don't want to be known as the person who picked up a hot object, dropped it, and made a scorch mark on his/her lab report.

And thus completes the five most important things I wish I had known before my roller coaster ride in chemistry.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First post!

I was supposed to create this blog about a month ago. Oops. You could call it procrastination at its finest (or its worst, whichever you prefer). Originally, it was supposed to be a wonderfully fantastic blog about grilling all things vegetarian. When I realized I wanted to extend this blog past summer, my dream died a painful death as bad images of trying to grill in 2 feet of snow emerged. In its place, an idea for a geeky blog about my experience with science (forensics, genetics, chemistry, you name it), math (differentiation anyone?), AP's, Batman, and virtually any other topic that sparks my interest was born. The name is courtesy of the least geeky person I know: my sister. Can you believe that geekisms, cheeky geek, geek speak, scientifically speaking, speak of the geek, and gleefully geeky were all already taken as blog/website names?

Anyway, there are a few things you should know about me, assuming that someone stumbles upon this. I am currently going into my senior year of high school, and consequently I spend a lot of my time researching colleges and their respective chemistry/biochemistry/biomedical engineering programs. And graduate programs. College Prowler anyone? During the actual school year, I live and breath mock trial, which also means that I unfortunately have to wear a suit about 3-4 times a year. I'm slightly obsessed with forensic science, geeky calculus love songs (if you haven't already seen it, "The limit as x approaches girlfriend" is a must-watch video for math nerds), chemical equations, and all things English and writing. I'm hoping to keep this a daily blog, but I might fail horribly once classes and college applications and extra-curriculars are all in full-swing. I think an appropriate ending for a blog post belonging to a geeky blog is MTFBWY (May the force be with you). Or, I could just be channeling my inner Obi Wan/Yoda/Mace Windu. Either way, have a great day/week/rest of the summer, whether you're reading, getting ready to go to/apply to college, or simply awaiting the new season of Doctor Who in agonizing suspense.