Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Trip 9

            How do you explain a Science Olympiad competition to someone who has never been there?  I don’t properly know, but I will attempt.

            We got up at a nice 5:30 AM.  I left to the campus soon after in an attempt to practice Wheeled Vehicle.  But unfortunately I forgot about practice and impounded the vehicle.  So I waited for my turn with Kelvin.  When it came we went in and messed everything up.  Oh well, I proceeded to Can’t Judge a Powder by it’s Color, where you analyze a powder and list it’s color, size, etc.  We hadn’t practiced that in almost a month so we did rather badly.  But we had expected that.  Picture This, the next event, was very different.  We had been studying for that event as if our life depended on it.  We got 17 out of 21, not terrible, but not winning either.  After a lunch break I headed over to Road Scholar, the one we had the best chance in.  The judge for this contest likes to write interesting stories to go along with his tests.  Unfortunately, the stories are often so large and elaborate that you have to skip over them to get to the questions.  From the glimpses that I got this one looked rather funny, it had the National Science Olympiad director stealing a horse from a board member.  The board member then chases him through a certain town.  Like I said, entertaining.  When we completed that test the competition was over for me, so I had to wait for the awards ceremony at 5:00.

            The Awards Ceremony is the best and worst part of any Science Olympiad competition.  It is the worst because of the tension.  Sitting there with your team waiting for the scores to be announced can put anyone on the edge.  Additionally, the announcers have an annoying habit of wasting time, causing more anxiety.  They have to talk about this, then about that, then they do other awards, then they talk more, it easily drives people nuts.  But it is the best part when the tension goes away, in other words, when you start getting medals.  Which reminds me that---- I didn’t get any.  However, 9th out of 54 is pretty good for Picture This.  In Road Scholar we got 12th.  So we didn’t do perfectly, but okay. 

            Lesson?  National competitions are hard; if you want to win you have to work like you do.  Dedication is what counts for this contest, and most others.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Trip 8

            On this day in history many important things happened, but the most important thing for our purposes happened during 2004 when we went to the Indian Caverns and the first parts of Nationals.
            The Indian cavern is a limestone cave of considerable size.  Indians, and later various white people, used it for winter quarters.  One chief was buried there and many arrowheads etc. were found.  In one room radium deposits glow, the Indians thought that the green spots were the eyes of evil spirits looking at them.  In another room a rock gives out a tone when hit, it is probably a metallic substance.  But throughout the tour I kept in mind Tolkein’s wisdom.  “The dangerous part about caves: you don’t know how far they go back, sometimes, or where a passage behind may lead to, or what is waiting for you inside.”  A rather sobering thought as the cave is quite large and the tour only visits a small fraction of it.  There are several large holes that shoot off in various directions, including one that goes down a long ways to an underground lake.  The tour guide said that the cave had been mapped out by Penn State, but I have my doubts about the completeness of the survey, as the depth of the lake is not known.  Oh well, no reason to obsess over it.  The visit was very nice.
            After we ate lunch we headed to the campus to begin the contest.  When we arrived at the team tents we discovered that they were arranged in the shape of the Periodic Table.  Being Iodine, we were positioned in the non-metals.  Soon it was time to line up for the Parade of States, where several members of each team marches through the stadium with banners and various flags.  Although this is considered an honor, you get the privilege of waiting outside for two hours on a 95-degree day.  When it was our turn we discovered that what would supposedly be marching music was actually Mummer’s “music,” which amounts to syncopation with several different instruments.  Usually, the school band plays real marching music, but Juniata is so small it doesn’t have a band.  To tell the truth the campus is only slightly bigger than Clark College, something that I will probably rant about in the future.
            After the parade of states was the opening ceremonies.  The keynote speaker is a guy who works on cooling the atoms in atomic clocks.  So he gave plenty of demonstrations with really cold stuff, otherwise known as liquid nitrogen.  Although virtually everyone there knew why he could stuff nine balloons in a very small cooler it was rather nice all the same.  
            As soon as the Opening Ceremonies were over they announced that a thunderstorm was coming in.  This meant that we could not use the team tents for the Swap Meet, a treasured Science Olympiad event.  So they shuttled us off to a gym that doesn’t happen to have air conditioning.  Believe it or not, several thousand people can heat up a room very quickly so the temperature spiked to above one hundred degrees.  Later that night we discovered that Mrs. Goss had heat exhaustion.  So the entire Swap Meet was a bit of a disappointment for some of the people who hold it in deep respect.
            On the way back to the cabins Kevin managed to pull a light stick apart and splatter it on his eye.  So we washed it off with bottled water.  But he informed us that it still hurt.  So after seeing many policemen, nurses, a chemical shower and a doctor we managed to get it all out.  We did not go to bed very early that night.
            As I said above, the Indian caves were nice, the first part of nationals was fair, and we had some late night excitement.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Doom date

I think I should warn anyone who reads this. I will be inviting some ideological enemies from Scioly to this blog. This will probably happen sometime in August, if and when I get the Settings fixed to how I want it. I expect that things will get interesting as November comes up. And who knows what sort of other thing could happen which would lead to a nice uproar here. I would expect arguements about certain types of marriage, (I don't want to set the Blogger ad generator onto something) gun control, abortion, the whole deal. So, you can't say I didn't warn you ;)

Trip 7


On this day we headed towards Huntingdon Pennsylvania, where Juniata College is located. This meant more of Grandpa’s wonderful driving habits. On the way we stopped at Hershey Park with most of the team.

Hershey was plenty of fun. I mainly did the water rides, on all of which you have no choice but to get soaked. On one roller coaster people on the ground use huge squirt guns to soak the people on the coaster. But the carts on the coaster are equipped with four shots of water. Of course, the physics behind the aiming of these, “water bombs” as we called them, escapes most people. So when they actually used one they almost always missed. But with the squirt guns on the ground it is almost impossible to miss. Of course, I still got wet, mostly by recklessly running through second-hand spray. I better finish this, looks like I am having too much fun writing it. As you can see, Hershey Park was a lot of fun.

As we drove through the Appalachians I noticed that they look like green clouds. They get this appearance from the deciduous trees. It would be very easy for someone to think they are puffy, green clouds.

When we arrived at the cabins we got what you would expect for the poorest place in the country. They were rather dilapidated. If there was a Science Olympiad event on insects and various similar species this would have been the perfect place to study it. According to reports from the females there was a 3-inch diameter spider in their cabin. The water has sulfur in it, so whenever the showers where on the whole place stank. But the bunks were fine, so the whole deal went well.

If you had stopped in anytime during our stay at the cabins you would probably have seen a lot of people gathered around the TV and Gamecube playing Super Smash Brothers. Of course, trying to play a four-player game with about twenty people is not much fun. Because of this there was constant bickering among the younger, and several of the older, kids about who would get to play next. It got annoying after awhile to say the least.

As is evident, we had another eventful day, with Hershey Park and the cabins. That is the one annoying thing about all the vacations I have ever taken, we are constantly busy with some thing or another. That is too close to real-life to feel relaxing, but then, you aren’t supposed to be relaxed at a National tournament I suppose.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Trip 6

Today we went to the Natural History Museum and the International Spy Museum.

The Natural History Museum is enormous. We were there for 2 hours and only got through four exhibits. That leaves at least two thirds to go. The mammals exhibit was interesting, with many stuffed specimens. The Western Culture exhibit was much more interesting. The progress of a certain culture was tracked up to the Roman times. Such things as life expectancy, diseases and technology were accounted for. But one of the more dynamic exhibits was the gem and mineral one. On display there are many famous jewels such as the Hope diamond and royal gems from various kings and queens. I wonder how much of the national deficit could be eliminated by the sale of this collection. But my favorite display was one on Pompeii and the efforts to restore it. Included was a high quality computer animation of a villa and the eruption. After taking a tour of the villa the eruption is simulated. With it’s flaming rocks this simulation would be rather difficult to distinguish between several scenes in the Return of the King. So even if we didn’t see very much of this massive building I have to give it an A.

The second place that we visited was the International Spy Museum. In it the basic principles of spying was demonstrated. From lock picking, covers and bugs to sneaking. The sneaking was demonstrated by an air-duct to crawl through. That was fine in itself except that rowdy teenagers often hammered on the sheet metal, to the annoyance of the people below. Unfortunately, most of the things demonstrated there are not applicable to anyone other than a spy, but it is very interesting all the same.

After we finished at the museums we had to go out of town to get sleeping bags. After getting lost several times (Grandpa is the one man who actually asks for directions, and guess where it gets him?) we found a Wal-Mart and returned to the hotel. But we were on the wrong side of the Potomac. I wonder what is going when we pass one bridge, then another. Grandpa pulls onto a parallel road that does not exit on to the last two bridges, so we pass those also. I remembered about an English lady who had driven deep into France before finding a place to turn around. But somehow or other (the usual Grandpa way for arriving somewhere) we got to the hotel.

To conclude this paper on this day we went to the Natural History and International Spy Museums.