Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happiness Parents

Recently, we had our very last show choir concert of the 2009-1010 show choirs. It went really well considering we have only had one practice in the last month or two. While it was sad considering how many seniors are graduation and will not be apart of the choir program next year, it was also a really good concert. The parents put on a display of their own (as they do every year) mocking Happiness Inc.'s show this year. The above video is the from the concert, and is of the parents performance.

"The Hot Zone"

Most of the time, I really dread reading non-fiction books. I think it’s the stereotypical view that non-fiction are boring, that causes me to avoid realistic literature. But this book “The Hot Zone” was a fascinating story about several deadly viruses.
The “Hot Zone” discusses several different types of viruses, where major break outs have occurred, and the personal stories of several individuals who have encountered the viruses. One of the viruses that has been discussed is the Marburg Virus, and the author, Richard Preston, gives a vivid narration of a man named Charles Monet, who was infected and killed by this virus. Another Virus discussed in this book is the Ebola virus. Richard Preston discusses a little about the history of the virus, and also the story of a woman working with Ebola infected monkeys that almost contracted the disease herself.
The Marburg virus, and the two types of known Ebola viruses are in the same family and are all known as filoviruses. The two Ebola viruses are called Ebola Zaire, and Ebola Sudan. Of these three related viruses, Ebola Zaire is the worst, and Marburg is the best to contract. By no means however is Marburg a good virus to contract. When Charles Monet contracted the virus, his symptoms were painful headaches, red eyes, vomiting blood mixed with a black substance, and massive bleeding which finally resulted in his death.
One connection between the Marburg, Ebola Zaire, and Ebola Sudan virus is that they have largely affected both the physical, and mental well-being of many people who live in Africa. What then is the cause of each of these viruses, where can it most commonly be found, and what is it that should be avoided so as to not contract any of these viruses? Scientists still do not know from what, or where it was that Charles contracted the horrible Marburg virus that ended his life.

This information has a huge impact not only on our nation, or on Africa, but on the whole world. This is because these viruses don’t care what race or what ethnic group a person is from, all that matters to these viruses is finding a host. The information in this book is, in a sense, a warning of what a bad impact these viruses could have on everyone. In fact, there was one break out of the Ebola virus in Bumba that never spread much further than its origins. The reason for this is unknown, but breakouts like these have the potential to spread across the globe, infecting anyone, and everyone in its path.
We should care very much about this information because if a breakout of one of these viruses were to occur again, there could be countless casualties. We should care about finding a cure or prevention to these viruses, and gaining the knowledge of where they can be found.
I think that the information presented in “The Hot Zone” has both pros and cons. The pros are that we have been warned against a terrible virus, and have some time to do more research about it in preparation for a potential breakout. The cons of this information are the sheer terror it presents, and hopelessness of the truth that lies behind it. It makes a person realize just how fragile the people in our world are, how at any moment, something smaller than the period at the end of this sentence could easily destroy us, and at the moment, there is nothing we can do to stop it.
I think that even though this information isn’t pleasant, it is necessary to help the overall good of our world.
I like this book so far, I can relate all of the information about viruses back to my knowledge in biology. I like reading scientific literature like this because it is interesting, and it makes me feel smart because I am able to draw parallels between what I read and what I know.

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College Tennis

Yesterday, after playing the defending state champion, I received an email from the coach of Coe College (a local area college) about considering attending Coe College after high school. The coach told me that he had come to my match that day and saw how I played, and he was impressed (even though I lost by such a convincing margin). I have considered attending Coe College before, but about the only thing that makes me not want to enroll there for college is the fact that it is so close to home.
Coe College is about eight minutes away from where I live right now, and as much as I want to consider going there, I’m just not sure if I would be happy going to school somewhere so close to home. When I picture myself at college, I picture myself starting out in a city that I am unfamiliar with, not in a place that I have spent my whole life.
I realize that there are a lot of perks of attending a local college, but right now, I really want to go to another, more distant city from where I am now.
All this considered, I have not ruled out the possibility of attending Coe College someday. While I have done very little research on any college, Coe seems to really be a great college, and the only thing deterring me from considering enrollment there is it’s location.

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Yesterday was the first tennis meet we played in that will help determine which teams qualify to play in the state tournament. We played Marshalltown and won the meet five one (Marshalltown is where the defending state champion attends school), and so we will be advancing to play one more school next Saturday, and if we win that meet, another school later that same day.
At the Marshalltown meet yesterday, I was most fortunate in that I was the one that got to play the defending state singles champion. It was an interesting experience.
While the score of our match wasn’t even relatively close (I lost zero and one), several games went to deuce, and I wouldn’t say that she completely blew me out of the water. I was able to return most of her serves (no small feat!) and we had several rallies that lasted for a respectable amount of time. Playing her was a neat experience for me because it helped me set goals for myself that I hope to achieve in the near future.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ocean Reflux

I read an article about Ocean Reflux from "Discover" magazine, I wrote a response to it. Part of the article can be read online at

This article was an informative piece that talked about the effects that green house gases, mainly CO2 were having on the ocean. Excess C02 is made as a waste product of several different things. Once CO2 is produced, the ocean absorbs the gas, and it lowers the Ph level of the ocean. This problem began with the start of the Industrial Revolution, and since the beginning of that time frame, the Ph of the ocean has dropped about 30%. Scientists were curious about the effect a more acidic environment would have on the marine life. Many experiments have been conducted, and most, if not all, have suggested that a more acidic environment is harmful to the underwater sea life. A more acidic environment causes many animals with shells to dissolve. Of course, with this known fact, it is now obvious that the ocean’s eco system will be greatly affected if the ocean’s water becomes too acidic. This would be a very bad thing because of the food chain. Certain animals that really on shelled-creatures as a source of food would die, and larger animals that rely on those animals would die, and so on and so forth. Another effect the rising acidity of the ocean will have, is on coral reefs. The Coral reefs do not thrive in very acidic environments, and if the Ph level is low, then reefs will start dying, and that wouldn’t be good because there are many animals that depend on the reefs for a habitat.
This information has an impact on the world, because if acid levels become too high in the oceans, than the “circle of life” will be thrown off balance, and some organisms would probably drastically decrease in population, or even become extinct. This article presents both good, and bad news. Its bad news because obviously we do not like to see the acid levels of oceans rise, but this information is also good news, because it helps others become more aware of things that need to be done to protect the environment. I think that this information is important because it is a warning of something devastating that could happen if more care isn’t taken with disposing of CO2.
I think don’t think that this article would benefit a lot of people. I think that it would benefit people who have direct authority of CO2 waste and how it is disposed of. I probably would recommend this article to some people, but not others, because it would probably get some people really stressed out, but it could help other people be more conservative in how much CO2 they produce.

Short People

We recently had our end of the year choir concert, where the top two choirs in the school performed sets of music, and all of the seniors were recognized. I am in both of the choirs that performed this past week, and while I just barely made it to the concert on time (I had an away tennis meet the same day which ended fifteen minutes before the scheduled start of the concert), both performances went pretty well.
Chamber choir is the top choir at my high school, there are just under thirty students in this choir, and the music we do in that class is often much harder than the music we do in the next highest choir (that choir has more than one hundred students).
Because of the increasingly large numbers of students allowed into the top two choirs this year, and because so many people tried out to be in a choir or in a show choir for next year, our directors have decided to make several changes to the choir program for next year.
The biggest changes being made for next year is the amount of people let into Chamber choir and into Concert choir (choir second to Chamber choir in terms of skill, and in terms of difficulty to make the group). There was a big problem faced by Concert Choir this year due to the imbalance of the group. There were probably at least twice as many sopranos than any other voice part in the choir, and there were about half as many guys than girls (altos and sopranos). In an effort to fix the blend and balance of the choir, our director is seriously thinking of cutting the number of each voice part down to twenty per section. This would mean a considerate cut in the number of students in the group this year, and a significant increase in the number of students in the intermediate choir. I feel confident that I would make Concert Choir again for next year, but I feel less certain about whether I’d make Chamber Choir again.
Our director recognizes Chamber Choir as the most select choir at our school. He feels though, that over the past few years, the choir has become less and less select. There are just under thirty students in Chamber Choir, and our director wants to redo the structure of Chamber Choir for next year so that there will only be sixteen people in the group. This means that several of the students who are members of Chamber Choir this year, will not be members next year. The soprano section will be especially competitive to be a part of ( I am a soprano).
In Chamber choir, there are currently eleven sopranos, but only four of them are seniors, which means there are seven current Chamber Choir sopranos auditioning for four openings. This concept becomes even more nerve-racking when you take into account that there are three current freshman sopranos that are apparently amazing. I feel confident about making concert choir, but after going over the numbers, I feel less confident in whether or not I will make Chamber Choir next year.

This video is of a small group singing one of the songs Chamber Choir performed at our last concert.


Tennis Team Seniors

As the school year and tennis season come to a close (we only have one regular season meet left before the state qualifying rounds begin) I have started thinking about, and in some ways dreading my final year on the tennis team.
The top six-eight players from each school are normally the players that make up the varsity lineup. This year I have been playing number one singles and doubles for my team, and the number two singles position has been played by a freshman. The rest of our varsity line-up is made entirely of seniors (with the exception of one junior, but she is graduating early…). With our last meet of the season being this Tuesday, I can’t help but feel disappointed that the girls I have been playing tennis with for the past two-three years will be graduating this year, and won’t be on the team with me next year.
Our team is currently ranked as the number three 2A team in the state (or at least I’m pretty sure we are…), and it’s the realization that we are losing four of our top six players that makes me think this is my last opportunity to make it to team state (we placed third last year, were in the top eight my freshman year-but really should have placed second at state).
It’s the realization that over half of the varsity team is graduating this year that will serve as motivation for me to work harder to make it to individual state. Because I know that this could very well be my last year competing at team state, and next year will be my last year to compete at individual state, I feel determined to work really hard over the next year in order to have an extremely successful year individually next year.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

College Tennis

This week my high school tennis coach told me that a college had called him, and they were interested in recruiting me for their tennis team. I had never heard, or had hear very little about, the college that had called him, but it was still a neat feeling to know that a college coach is interested in having me on his team.
After talking to my coach (not my high school coach) about the situation, I have decided not to go to this particular college. My coach told me that the school wasn’t very good, and implied that the tennis program wouldn’t be a good fit for me either. He did tell me though, that he had talked to another coach of a different college about me, and while I haven’t decided whether or not I want to go to that particular college (it’s a local college) it was neat to hear that I was the subject of a portion of his conversation.
I know that I have wavered in my decision about whether or not I am going to play tennis in college, but after seeing how well this tennis season has been going, as of now, I plan on playing college tennis.

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Senior Year

With next year being my senior year of high school, I’ve been thinking more and more lately about which classes I should take.
We signed up for classes this January, and my schedule includes: AP Literature, AP Spanish, AP Calculus, government/economics, Concert choir, AP Chemistry, Show choir, and Chamber choir (assuming I’m accepted into this group). As I look at this rigorous list of classes for next year, I can’t help but already feel overwhelmed with what lays ahead. I really don’t want to have a super busy year next year (homework-wise) because:
a.) It’s my senior year
b.) I really want to play a ton of tennis and win a state title next year
c.) I don’t like homework

I am an over-achiever. I don’t like settling for regular classes when there is an AP or advanced version I can take. But now I am seriously considering dropping a couple of my scheduled classes completely or at least taking a less rigorous course equivalent. But the question I am faced with making is which classes I should change.
I am very much tempted to take a non-AP language arts class, I feel like a big draw back to doing that is missing out on AP Literature, which is the class that graduates say helped them the most once they entered college. As much as I dislike reading and writing, it would be really nice to miss out on a couple of language arts classes in college if I were to get AP credits from taking the class in high school.
I really don’t like Spanish class, at all. The only reason I am currently taking Spanish is because I don’t want to have to take a foreign language in college (because I am told that many colleges require at least two years of a foreign language). I’m not bad at Spanish, I’ve always done pretty well in Spanish class, but it’s never really been something that I enjoy. One of my only other reasons for wanting to take AP Spanish next year is the teacher. The AP Spanish teacher is also the Spanish II teacher (I had him as a teacher last year) and he is definitely in my top three favorite teachers of all time. I really don’t like Spanish, but I really like the instructor, plus we have had conversations in which he has told me that he expects to see me in one of his AP classes my senior year.
Ever since the eighth grade I have been a part of the advanced math program, taking the advanced versions of math classes intended for the grade ahead of me. Being apart of this program for the past several years, I feel my only choice is between AP Calculus and AP Statistics. I am starting to think now that I might save myself the stress and take regular calculus instead.
Government/economics is non-negotiable; it’s a required class that I have to take before graduating.
Concert choir is also required for those that participate in show choir, so that class is also non-negotiable.
AP Chemistry is the class that I am most likely to drop completely from my schedule. After the end of this year I will have already taken four science classes (the requirement is three), I’ve already taken regular chemistry (didn’t like that at all…) and none of the other science classes are of much interest to me.
I have decided to audition for Chamber choir (I didn’t last year, but was later able to join because a member of the soprano section moved to Florida), and if I make that, then that class will meet every other day with the show choir class.
After thinking about all the choices I have in changing my schedule, I do feel more certain that I will end up changing my schedule for a less rigorous list of courses. I am still uncertain as to which classes I plan on dropping, but I feel more sure of the fact that I want to change my schedule.

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Dual Meet

Yesterday was a really big match-up for tennis. We had another dual meet against both of the Iowa-City tennis teams, and it proved to be a very trying match.
After the six singles matches were over the score was three-three, so the outcome of the meet would come down to doubles. I personally lost my singles match, but was still pretty pleased with how I had played. The girl I was playing had placed third at state the previous year, and I forced our match into a tie-breaker, so the score was really close.
We ended up winning two out of the six doubles matches that day which secured an overall victory with a score of five-four. As of that day we were ranked third in the state, and that first team we played were also ranked in the top ten teams in the state.
The second team we played later that day was ranked number two in the state, so I speculated that the meet would have a very tight final score.
Like the morning match, the score after singles was three-three, so as with the morning match, the afternoon match came down to the results of the double’s matches. We ended up losing two of the three doubles matches, which made the final score of the meet four-five, our first loss of the season.
What was some-what exciting about this match-up was that even though we did lose, the probably could have won. In my doubles match we were winning four or five-one, but somehow lost our momentum and ended up losing our lead and the match seven-ten.
I’m not saying that we were the better doubles team and should have won the match, but I do think that the results of the match could have ended up differently. So if we end up playing each other again in the state-tournament, hopefully, things will turn out a little bit differently.

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