Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring Break!

No school until April 7th...yay! Thursday was a pretty awesome day of school. I really thought that I failed my AP Lang exam. Not finishing an essay seemed like a huge deal, but luckily she averaged the two essay scores and the 6 short responses (B+) and then averaged that to the Vocab/Reading Comp. score (B), which magically turned my grade into a B! Phhheeeww. I don't think I've ever been so excited to have a C in a class, and a B on the exam. Same with APUSH (except I have higher than a C in the class). The DBQ didn't quite make sense to me, so I kind of BSed the essay. Also, I've never gotten a grade higher than a C on any exam in that class (I suck with dates) and magically, on the midterm, I get a B. I'm pretty satisfied with mediocrity for once (even though most of the class failed). But honestly, I didn't work that hard this semester since I was distracted with something else, so I know I'll do tons better 4th quarter.

Now that that boring school stuff is out of the way, on to Spring Break. So far I have absolutely nothing to do but work on Physics. I've played more Guitar Hero in the last 4 days than I have since I've had the game. It's fun, but I reeaaalllly want Rock Band. Which is expensive. But not for the PS2. Which means I need a 360. Which is expensive. Which means I won't get Rock Band. :( After playing once, it's like you're hooked forever.

I spend all of today watching robotics regionals on GameDay. It was pretty awesome toggling between Bayou, Greater Toronto, and Boston throughout the day, and it almost felt like I was there during some parts. Even behind my computer, it was so exciting! The Bayou finals were pretty intense, with 118 and 148 on the same alliance, though 148 died a few times, and 118 missed a few shots. I was cheering for the Krunchy Bacon (1902-79-?) alliance, but they weren't doing to hot. Of course 1114 dominated at GTR, no surprise there. The Blue Man Group played at the Boston regional, and the show was pretty um, interesting, though cool nonetheless. What was more awesome was Woodie Flowers' entrance from the second level of the area by rope down to the field level. I watched a bit of the Hawaii regional, but it was clear that Pink and 254 were gonna win it. I think the NYC regional is the only one next week, hopefully it'll be exciting -- all eyes on them.

I can't wait for the Championship! We've had a pretty successful season, and now this is the big show. We were originally staying at the Omni, but due to that Tornado that wrecked downtown ATL, the Omni is no longer available to teams during that time, so we got relocated to the Westin again. The Westin's not too bad, I mean it's a wonderful hotel, but the elevator situation is ridiculous. With 72 floors, 6 elevators does not cut it, especially during peak hours (6:45am - 8am) when teams are leaving and (6pm - 8pm) when teams are getting back. Oh well. Meyers said he asked the travel agent to try to book lower floors (where the view sucks and you'll probably get a view of a parking lot), but I hope for higher floors with an amazing view (since it really doesn't make a difference with the elevators). Whoa, I used a lot of parenthetical phrases there.

Back to the Championship, I'm already pumped and sure it'll be a blast. I'm really anxious about divisions, since as soon as they are released we can start to scout. Most of the dominant forces have been made apparent since practically all of the regionals have been played out, so now we're all just hanging in there until mid-April. From what I've seen in Atlanta, nothing can be guaranteed, and no one can ensure a spot on Einstein. I don't know why I'm still rambling on...

Today (yesterday rather) there was an energy conservation effort, Earth Hour, where you were supposed to turn off your lights between 8-9pm to conserve energy. I found out about it this morning from the blackened Google homepage, which explained the event. I participated, because I happened to be taking a nap during that time. Apparently entire cities and corporate facilities are doing so also. Pretty cool...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Two More Days!

Some of the news feeds that I read daily are Lifehacker, Unclutterer, and Zen Habits. I find this type of stuff interesting, but as much as I have pretended to be all organized and such, I really haven't been lately. I realized how pathetic I was, so I decided to optimize my life and get back on track as a good student and a real human being. You can learn quite a bit from those web blogs, and instead of me usually going "hmm, that's interesting" I actually took some of the stuff I read and applied it (oooh!).
  • Today I read about a neat trick on Lifehacker that allows you to embed a to-do list right into your desktop. I thought it was pretty cool and useful, so I tried it out. Much better than notes jotted down on random sheets of paper in my backpack that rarely see the light.
  • For the past 5 days, I have gone to sleep at a consistent time. Though 5 hours of sleep isn't really adequate according to blah blah, its WAY better than the 1.5 - 4 hours that I'd been getting for the past month. Going to bed at 12 is still pretty difficult.
  • In addition to going to sleep at a reasonable hour, in those 5 days, I didn't press the 'Snooze' button on my alarm clock. I found that if I actually wake up on time, and move at a reasonable pace, I won't have to rush to do everything in the last 5 minutes before walking out the door. I also found that my cell phone alarm is a minute or two faster than my alarm clock, so I often end up waiting for my secondary alarm to go off as a signal to "GET UP!"
  • My backpack has been horrible this entire school year. I thought that cramming a semester's worth of work into 1 or 2 plastic folders would do the trick, but it failed miserably. The result was random pieces of paper in my book bag, getting folded, crushed, and lost. This afternoon, I found a binder, punched holes in everything that needed holes, and neatly organized all of the work that was in those poor folders.
It's a pretty refreshing feeling, being on top of everything and such, but there's still a ton more that I need to work on. I have a really huge problem with falling asleep as soon as I get home, and then I can't wake up until 7pm, and then I can't seem to do anything productive for 2 hours, and then it's like not until 10pm where I actually start working on homework. I wonder what's worse, staying awake and being cranky and tired from 4pm-11pm, or sleeping and being cranky for 1 hour, and then cramming in work from 10pm-1am?

This week is much smoother than last week. With like 4 tests yesterday (before the exams!) and a bajillion and 92 vocabulary words to cram, it didn't seem like this week would shape up too well. Fortunately, it looks to be going a lot better, perhaps because I brought my easy button!

The AP English Lang midterm exam wasn't really that hard. It was the test that I was most concerned about and now it's over! There were about 80 vocabulary words, 6 short-response essays, 6 grammar questions, 8 reading comprehension questions, and 2 essays--one from a passage, and then other from the 2006 AP Exam. I took her suggestion and started with the vocabulary, gaining stamina and whizzing through the 4 or so pages of just vocabulary. I got through the rest of the test with ease, until I realized that I only had the last essay left, with only 25 minutes remaining to read the essay that I was supposed to be analyzing and write my own essay on the rhetorical strategies used. For once, I knew EXACTLY how to write the perfect essay. Unfortunately, this perfect essay was only 3 paragraphs long because I ran out of time. Sucks. My heart was racing by the time the bell rang, because I squeezed in four more awesome sentences in like 30 seconds, but they're all to waste since the essay was missing about 3 more paragraphs to make it awesome. With 10 more minutes I could have finished it up, and in 15 minutes I could have done it beautifully. That was a lot for 2 hours.

One more day of exams to endure (tomorrow), another half-day of school (Thursday), and I'm free for Spring Break! I don't even know why they're making us come to school on Thursday, since that's when the teachers usually grade all of their exams if grades are due that afternoon. Nothing makes sense around here anymore...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Catching Up

FL Regional
We were seeded first at the end of the qualification matches on Saturday, so that meant we would be the #1 Alliance Captain (first time in 108 history, as so I've heard). As soon as our last qualification match ended, I experienced the most intense scouting that I've ever seen in FIRST. Teams were coming up to us with their data and pleas, we were going around to other teams trying to figure out their agendas, it was insane. Minutes before we had to line up for selections, we figured out how everything was going to play out. Normally, being at the top shouldn't be so tough, we did have all 61 other teams at our fingertips, right...not really, but we knew that we'd get rejected by the #2, #3, and possibly #4 alliances to pair up with. No problem, because we picked them anyway so they couldn't pick each other (I made the mistake of not picking #4 due to other assumptions, but whatever, it's behind us). We ended up with 103 and 395 on our alliance, which was an awesome alliance. Despite trouble with 395's shooter in several matches, we made it through the quarterfinals with no sweat, though meeting quite a battle on the other side with the semifinals. We won our first semifinal match by a penalty, lost the second, and then lost the third by 12 points :(. We were actually attempting the last ball placement, which would've been worth 12 points and could've led us into a tiebreaker match, but it didn't happen... Regardless, I still had a blast and we were very successful (10-3). I can't say much about ATL yet since the divisional lists aren't out yet, but I'm sure we'll be competitive.

This last week absolutely sucked to no end. I don't even know where to start in describing the level of suckiness, but it was just horrible. I'm not happy with my grades at all, and I really don't think there was much I could've done to make them better, but whatever, what's done is done. Next week should breeze by with midterms Tuesday and Wednesday, early release Thursday, and no school Friday, and then spring break.

I need something fun to do; I need a hobby.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Florida Regional 2008

This should be a quickie:

I'm up in Orlando right now for our second competition, our home regional, the Florida Regional. Everything is going great so far. As of right now, we are ranked #1 (5-1), and we also won the Rockwell Automation Leadership in Controls Award this afternoon. It's such an awesome feeling hearing the words you spoke to a judge in the pit transferred to the announcer briefing the features that made your team worthy of the award. I don't know how to describe how I'm feeling at the moment. We're doing really well, and all day, people have been asking "Noelle, are you exicted?!" and I just respond with a simple "Sure." It's just really weird, since as a team, we've never been in this dominant position before, where teams are coming up asking us to pick them, or how we're just able to bring the robot back to the pit, do a few software updates, and then relax. Perhaps I'll be more excited on Saturday afternoon if I have a gold medal around my neck...or even silver. I'm pretty excited now, I just have different ways of showing it, I suppose. (If you couldn't tell, I even danced to like 4 [Cha Cha Slide, Chicken Dance, Cotton Eyed Joe, Macarena] of those dance songs during a field reset/break; SOAP archived the footage, it should be up tomorrow or later this weekend).

If we win our last match tomorrow, we'll most likely be picking. I had a bunch of scouting stuff planned out to walk around the pits and such, but with all the commotion and fast-paced scheduling, it was pretty much impossible until the end of the day. I got a pretty good idea of some robots from waiting in queuing and playing with/against them, but it would've been nice to have had some raw match data. There are enough good teams to form a strong alliance regardless of where we're seeded.'s 1:08am now (NICE!) and I should be sleeping or packing or showering or scouting or not blogging...

PS: I'm really excited for tomorrow

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I Suck getting things done. Why can I not win this battle with procrastination?!

Woke up at 1:30pm, did nothing worth mentioning for 3 hours, and then started to get to work. Less than 30 minutes later, my mind started to wander:

"Hmm, I wonder if [blogger] updated?"
"Hey, there should be a new post on that thread on Chief Delphi!"
"I wonder if anyone is online..."
"I haven't read any webcomics in a while..."
"Oooh, [Person] commented on a photo of me on Facebook?"

I have such a lack of motivation for anything these days. I believe we learned in AP Psychology that this is called avoidance motivation, compared to achievement motivation. I am doing work not because I want to, but because I don't want to fail and I just want an A. I liked it better when I enjoyed learning...

Yesterday I did go to Best Buy, and I did buy SingStar, but it wasn't really the one that I wanted. 80s is pretty fun, but I really wanted SingStar Rocks. I also went to the Party City next year and got some blue hairspray for this weekend...oh yeah, Noelle is jumping on the "FIRST Spirit" bandwagon.

While doing some work this weekend, I realized that I love and hate my music collection, or perhaps the Party Shuffle function. Often, I admire the variety of music that I have and that I could never get bored with all of it, then at other times, I feel as if I'm listening to the same stuff over and over again. Now I want new music, but I can't find anything cool to listen to, nor do I have the time to browse for hours on end like I used to do on weekends.

Awesome! I just realized that I don't have as much APUSH work to do as I thought. Now for all of this English reading and the 80 million vocabulary words to flashcardize...

[Back to Work!]

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Space. Money. Time.

Music: ~20GB
Pictures: ~20GB
Videos: ~10GB
Program Files, Installers, and Random Crap: 34.3GB

Capacity: 84.3GB
Space Available: 1.90GB

SPACE CRISIS! I need to backup and delete a lot of stuff like, now. No wonder why my computer is so slow...videos are going first, the rest will be hard. Having a laptop as your primary computer is no fun :/


I think if I have time this weekend I'll go over to Best Buy and use up that gift card I have to by SingStar Rocks, since I'm getting a little bored with the song selection on SingStar Pop. Originally, I was stuck between Rocks and 80's, but I just looked at the tracklists again and Rocks is definitely lightyears better. I'll get 80's eventually. Should make for some more good fun in Orlando

Speaking of Orlando, I just found out today that the trip will cost $467, sans Islands of Adventure and Disney Quest. Not happy. Apparently, it's cheaper to fly halfway across the country. People suck, especially liars.


With this being the weekend before a regional, lots of stuff to do...again. I have to make sure to get caught up in AP Lang so I won't fall so far behind again when I come back next week like I did this week. Also a ton of APUSH work to do, which I didn't expect, but it's gotta get done. I really promised myself that I would stay on top of my online classwork, but somehow, I managed to push it to the backburner (it's just TOO easy to do with FLVS work), and now I'm behind -- gotta get caught up by Sunday.

I'd like to avoid packing 20 minutes before I leave again too (especially since we leave after school, so I'll have to pack the night before), so hopefully I'll get some stuff done this weekend. And since my suitcase got broken on the flight back from Philly, I'll have to take a smaller bag and pack less.

Somehow, I'd like to find time to squeeze in watching the webcasts for the final day of the NASA/VCU Regional and Arizona. Matt created this cool dashboard program, SOAP GameDay, which is extremely awesome, and allows you to watch all the webcasts at once, check up on the scores, rankings, and other event info, and even has a little ticker with updates -- all in one window!

Knowing myself, I'm sure only half of this will get done. But there's hope!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Jersey Regional

My last blog entry lied. I'm definitely not in New Jersey right now, and unfortunately at school instead. Normally I would write an incredibly long entry filled with pictures and video and anything else that appears in my mind. This time around, I just feel like giving a little summary. Eh, maybe not...

EDIT: pics here(you don't need a Facebook account to view)

The trip there was pretty smooth, 40 minute delay, ate crappy food at Ft. Lauderdale Airport, lost a SOAP laptop somewhere in Philly, and then played lots of SingStar and Guitar Hero my room. On Thursday, we learned that this hotel supplied possibly the worst continental breakfast that could ever be served. Also, DJ, Jhon, Gustavo, and I thought it would be an awesome idea to be the first ones to get to the arena. Ha, how clever of us...they ended up opening the doors at 9am, and we had to stand outside in the <20 style="font-style: italic;">I had no control over the arm and it was stuck in this ~90degree position. A miscommunication led to the arm getting snapped because the robot was driven full speed backwards under the overpass with the arm up. At that point, we though we were done for the day. It was even more disappointing since we had won all of our matches, and breaking the arm didn't seem worth 2 points when we were already >20 points ahead. Though in true 108 fashion, the robot got fixed. Our plan was just to remove the arm for our next match and take the position of the lap-bot, but with the help of the NASA Machine Shop (thank goodness they were there) and little parts from the other generous teams, we got the whole thing fixed and in working condition in less than an hour, making our next match. Though everything functioned properly, it was the only match of the regional that we lost. The rest of the day ran smoothly, winning our last match and ranking 3rd, 5-1 by the end of the day.

Anyone in FIRST knows that Friday's rankings don't really mean much if you're in the Top 8, because within the matter of 1 match on Saturday morning, everything can change. We didn't want to be too cocky, so we planned for the case of dropping out of the Top 8 -- doing scouting overnight and making sure to promote our robot to other teams. This wasn't necessary, because we ended up winning our last two matches, thus placing us #4, 7-1, by lunch time Saturday. (Lunchtime? who got to eat lunch...not me =/) As alliance captains, we had to quickly combine all of our scouting data and create a top 8 list of hurdlers, lap-bots, and secondary picks. At the supposedly competitive New Jersey Regional, this was a bit hard to do. On Friday night, we watched all the videos from the matches (exhausting!), and coming up with a list of consistent hurdlers was not easy. I was the representative from our team to pick (a bit nervous), and we selected 223, a pretty good hurdler, and 102, the most awesome lap-bot there. We got owned in the quarterfinals, since we were behind 24 points in hybrid mode each time, so the competition ended there for us. I'm definitely looking forward to FL now, since we have a bit of an advantage!

From the fun side, this trip was pretty awesome, I'd say. We didn't even have to plan out some fancy itinerary; fun in (or outside of) the hotel with the team was enough fun alone. As soon as we arrived on Wednesday, despite it being 11pm when we got there, we played SingStar and Guitar Hero for a few hours. Fun stuff. Thursday night was karaoke night, with Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Edition and SingStar being the highlights of the evening. I have video, but they are too dark to see anything. If you want to see 'em, I'll send/show if you'd like. Friday was the best night of them all. On the way back from dinner at the little Italian restaurant where DJ bought us all cheesecake (Thanks!), snow flurries started to fall. Even though there wasn't enough snow on the ground to form anything that resembled a snow ball, there were piles of snow on the edges of the parking lot from the blizzard a few days before. Let the battle begin! More and more people came out, and eventually we had the whole team outside for a 1.5 hour snowball fight, including an awesome ending with Students vs. Mentors. Guess who won? It ended when a woman complained that since we were playing the parking lot, we might hit her car. Boo her! Another hilarious thing was that we noticed after about an hour that there were 3 hotel windows with the curtains open...the Canadians were just sitting up in their nicely heated rooms laughing at us! "Those silly Floridians!" After the snowball fight, the night wasn't over. We gathered everyone in my room to read the Woodie Flowers Award submission to Diane (almost producing tears), and then headed off to do some scouting. We watched every single match video from Friday, trying to come up with a list of top teams...not easy to do. After that we visited another room to view some freshman-on-freshman pranking. Surprisingly, the freshmen were really cool to be around. Eventually I went to sleep... I don't know how, or when I managed to pack, but Saturday went by incredibly fast. I didn't get a chance to eat until we got to the airport, and realized that I was severely dehydrated sometime during the elimination rounds, making a mad dash to find something before my abilities were hindered. By the time we left on Saturday, most of us had adjusted to the cold, not wearing jackets at all. The entire weekend went by insanely fast, arriving back in Fort Lauderdale around 1am on Sunday.