Bagel Shop

Ok so recently my favorite “quick” restaurant to go to has been this really awesome bagel shop about 5 minutes away from my school, called the Bagel Street Cafe. I’ve been going there for a long time, and usually go there either on my way back from school or on my way up to or back from flying lessons (it’s right on the way). Whenever I go there, unless they are out of them (usually in the afternoon) I get a toasted honey corn bagel with scallion (green onion) cream cheese. The honey corn bagel can change (really all of theirs are good), but the scallion cream cheese is a must. If you haven’t had it before, stop reading this and do so now. Seriously. It’s good. Very. Anyways, this is my favorite quick restaurant to go to for a fairly cheap, but really awesome and really convenient snack or lunch. The people there know me so well now that I don’t even have to really say my order, just affirm that I am getting my usual…

Earth Hour 2015

In English class, we just watched this video about Earth Day 2015. Basically, this Saturday, all across the world, at 8:30 local time, everyone will turn out their lights, including several major cities and landmarks. I think that this is a very good event for raising awareness, and while it will probably make an insignificant difference, it will get people thinking about helping the environment, which is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s kind of sad that people can’t do this on their own and need guidance…

The Curious Incident of the Videoed Literature Circle in the Daytime

I’ve been lately reading, with a couple of other people, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. On Monday March 23, we did a literature circle discussion about it, but unlike our previous literature circles, we videotaped this one. Once Dante finishes editing it, I’ll attach it to this post. When we did this literature circle, we had just found out who the killer of the dog was (I won’t spoil this), as well as something else major (I won’t spoil this either). So, what did I learn during this discussion? I learned that the other people in my group had some very interesting views on Christoper (the main character, an autistic 15 year old). Background first-I have an autistic brother who is in 6th grade right now (two years younger than me). I’m not going to go into what that entails (believe me, it’s A LOT), as the only relevant portion here is that I have an insight that most people don’t into what people with autism act like and how it influences the people around them. My brother is a lot lower functioning than Christopher, and is very different from him in many ways, but he is still very similar. One interesting point that someone in our group brought up was that they thought that Christoper could do fine in society without other people helping him along the way. Aside from clearly knowing that this is not the case for my brother, there were several pieces of evidence in the book that did not support this. To summarize, his overly logical view of the world sometimes precludes his ability to understand human nature. Several of the ilogicalities that he has also mean that he cares about many small things that other people don’t care about, but due to this and his disability it means that he can overreact to many things that we will simply encounter during our daily lives. This would also make it hard to live independently. Finally, and I only know this because I read ahead, when he tries to go to London on his own in the book, it is extremely hard for him to make it there. Imagine that process for everything that he does daily, basically. Not going to end very well. At any rate, despite my disagreement with their statement, I thought that it was interesting to see how some other people with a different viewpoint thought of Christoper. I think what we did well was taking turns and referencing page numbers, and we did talk about some good topics in my opinion. However, I think we hadn’t prepared nearly enough, since a lot of the time we were just not really talking about anything, and kind of ran out of things to say at the end. So, I think that is a point for improvement next time. I think that this video analysis is a good thing to be doing, as it will let us reflect on our own participation as well as our groups, so we can improve next time. Personally, I think that I sometimes didn’t reference the book nearly enough and was as guilty as anyone else for not having enough to talk about. Or rather, I thought I had some things to talk about, but didn’t mention them either because they didn’t fit in well, or I thought it would not be beneficial to our discussion. So, that is a point for improvement as well. I’ll try and embed the video when I receive it, like I said earlier.

 

Update: Here’s the video.

Meaning of Life

Okay this is going to be for both activity 3 and activity 8. My friend Jimmy and I have been talking a lot about this recently, so I decided to do a graph and poem to describe basically our discussions.

Link to graph: http://crappygraphs.com/user_graphs/?id=8244 -created by me

Ninety years-what will

Matter, school will not, nothing

So temporary.

 

Okay a note: I don’t fully believe this. As in, I think it is still worth it to try hard. But it is pretty interesting to think about the greater meaning of everything.

 

 

Flying

I’ve been writing a lot about books lately, but today for the Student Blogging Challenge, I’m going to talk about one of my interests that I have been pursuing for the last year and a half or so, which is aviation and flying.

Okay some background first-I’ve been interested in flying and airplanes basically since I was 4 or 5. I’ve always had a goal of someday getting a pilot license and flying airplanes, and recently, when I discovered that, while I need to be 16 in order to solo and 17 in order to get a license, I can take flying lessons at any age, I started taking lessons. This was back in October 2013, and I now have around 25 hours of experience, give or take an hour or two. For the first year and 1/4 or so, I was flying a Garmin 1000 equipped Cessna 172, but the airport and company that I am taking lessons from recently got a new Garmin G3X touchscreen equipped (its basically like having an ipad for your flight instruments) Vans RV-12, which has been different but pretty fun. So, each lesson is about two hours, with about 1-1.5 hours of that actually up in the plane flying. On the ground, we go over what I read for homework, and what we will be doing in the air that day. Then, we go out to the plane, and start preflighting it. Unlike in a car, if an airplane has something important break in flight, you can’t just pull over, so you always do a careful preflight.

In both planes, it’s pretty similar-check that the wings are in good condition, all the attachment points for the flaps are secure, same for the ailerons (actually the rv combines the ailerons and the flaps into one-flaperons). The RV actually has detachable wings, so one of the items on the preflight checklist basically boils down to “make sure the wings are on!”. Okay, moving on. You basically do the same general check for the tail and the rudder and elevators (The RV combines horizontal stabilizer and elevator into a stabliator-this means the entire tail moves to control pitch, like on airliners. Okay this is random but while I’m making comparisons to larger planes… this $125,000 two seater has the same autopilot as the $1.2 million 6 seater Piper Mirage that is on the airport… my instructor has flown that one as well) to make sure the control surfaces are moving correctly. Then, move around to the other wing and do the same. Check that the exhaust pipe is not cracked (by tapping it, if it is cracked it will make a more dull, less bell like sound), drain the fuel (to check for water or other contaminants), and check the engine coolant and oil level (which in the rv is actually pretty complicated, but kind of lenghty so I won’t talk about it now), and make sure the air vents are clear. That is obviously a simplification, but those are the basics. Moving on, once we are sure that the airplane is working correctly we can get in and start the engine.

Once the engine is running, we can taxi out to the runway. There are two runways at Gnoss field, 13 and 31 (meaning their magnetic headings are about 130 and 310, respectively). Gnoss is notorious for having very strong crosswinds, but if possible, we want to take off into the wind for a variety of reasons. We can use a combination of the windsock and listening to the AWOS to find out the wind direction. The Cessna is a lot easier to taxi than the RV (because of the way the rudder pedals and nosewheel work), but the RV is kind of fun once you get used to it (which I still haven’t quite). Enough about ground operations.

Once we are at the runway, we stop at the end and basically do a couple of tests to make sure we are really good to go (called the “run-up”). Once we are there, I make a radio call (I’m doing basically all of the communications now). “Gnoss traffic {who we are talking to}, Cessna 372 Alpha Hotel (or RV 272 Victor Alpha) {who we are}, taking off runway 13 (or 31), left (or right, usually left though) closed traffic (or left crosswind departure) {what we are doing, left closed traffic means we are staying in a rectangular pattern around the airport, making left turns}, Gnoss {who we are calling again}”. Then, we taxi on the the runway, full power, nose up (rotate) at around 55 or so knots (nautical miles per hour), retract the flaps (in the RV) and climb to about 600 feet or so at around 75 knots. Once we are at 600 feet, “Gnoss traffic, Cessna 2 Alpha Hotel (or RV 2 Victor Alpha) turning left crosswind runway 13 Gnoss”, and we turn so we are 90 degrees to the runway. At this point, we would continue straight on climbing, and eventually turn on course once well away from the field. If we are practicing landings, once we are about .5-1 mile away from the runway we turn downwind (parallel to the runway and in the opposite direction) and make basically the same call as before except put downwind in instead of crosswind. We level off at 1000 feet above the ground and put the power at 2150 RPM (in the Cessna, due to the geared engine of the RV its more like 4000 RPM in that aircraft) for a 90-100 knot traffic pattern. Once we are in line (its directly off our left wing) with the landing zone (where we want to land) we power back to about 1500 rpm in the Cessna (I’m still learning the power settings for the RV), put in the first notch of flaps, and try to hold about 85 knots as we descend. Okay, since I still am learning the speeds and power settings for the RV the rest of this section will just be referring to the Cessna.

Once the runway is about 45 degrees off our left wing and we are hopefully at 800 feet above the ground (AGL), we turn so we are perpendicular to the runway (called the base leg) and put in the second notch of flaps once the wings are level. After we are on base, and this seems counter-intuitive at first, we start moving the nose up and down (pitch) to hold 75 knots, and use the power to control our rate of descent. We ideally will be at 500 feet AGL once we are almost in line with the runway (if we wait until we are in line to turn we will overshoot), and we turn onto final approach, put in full flaps and pitch to hold 65 knots, and use power to keep us at a constant rate of descent that will put us down at the right place on the runway (there is a neat visual trick that you can use to help with this), once over the runway, power back to idle, hold the plane off the runway as long as possible, and ideally have the yoke (yoke in the Cessna, kind of like a steering wheel that can also move forwards and backwards, but a center control stick in the RV) fully aft and be in a stall (no its not the same as an engine stall) right as you hit the runway.

That’s just what you do if you are landing (or practicing landings, and there is even more to do if you are coming in to land from far away), some of the things that we do if we aren’t doing landings are: stalls (important to practice, its when the wing stops producing adequate lift, NOT when the engine stops working, that’s an engine failure), turns, climbs, and descents, steep turns (greater than 30° banked turns), navigation, emergency procedures (like engine failures, no we don’t actually shut off the engine), and probably some other things that I have forgotten to mention. My most recent lessons have basically been familiarization with the new RV and some of the maneuvers I just mentioned. Once we are back on the ground, we go over any questions that I have and didn’t ask in flight, sometimes a more detailed explanation of something that my instructor said in flight, and homework assignments (usually reading out of some handbooks).

Finally, differences between the RV and the Cessna. They are both awesome to fly, the RV is maybe a little more fun and a little simpler. The control stick on the RV as opposed to a yoke is different but easy to get used to. Steering is a little weird on the ground since the Cessna has the pedals directly connected to the nosewheel, while the RV has a free castoring nose wheel, so to make any kind of turn in the RV you have to basically fully deflect the rudder AND use some differential toe braking AND add a little bit of power as well. But, in flight, the rudder and all the other controls are a lot more sensitive so you deflect the controls less than in the Cessna. Basically, lots more on the ground, lots less in flight. The engine is really the only thing that is more complicated in the RV, it is a geared engine and has a couple of quirks. Oh, and the flap handle in the Cessna is electric, but manual in the RV, so it was a little harder at first to get used to, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Finally, the RV is lighter, so it is a little bumpier and more affected by the wind. I welcome comments, and I can elaborate more on anything mentioned if you want, I was trying to keep this as concise as possible (and didn’t really succeed, there’s a lot to say!).

Alex

Noggin Lit Circle Discussion 2/10/15 (and final Noggin post)

So, we had another discussion (by we I mean Lucas and I) about what we have read so far in Noggin, which is up to chapter 26. We actually didn’t talk that much about the story and book itself, but more about some choices the author made, why we thought it would or wouldn’t be very good for future class reading, and what we thought the author could have done differently. We both agreed (I think I’ve talked about this before) that while the story idea was good, it was poorly executed and wouldn’t be very good for a literature circle. Both of us thought that while the characters were developed quite well (more on that in a moment), the author didn’t pay that much attention to scenery details, or place in time (very applicable given the plot). The other book we are reading, Of Mice and Men, while I don’t like the story very much so far, has much more of these small details. Noggin, however, does develop it’s characters quite well. I personally think that the characters aren’t very believable though. We were talking about this, and I mentioned that this story would have been better if the main character was around the age of 11-14. It would have made his naiveness a little more bearable. I mean, come on, you’re 16! You should know some things by now. Basically, we mostly talked about a couple things the book didn’t do so well, how it could have improved on those things, and made some comparisons to the other class book we are currently reading. And this next part I wrote at a different time but am putting on this post…

We just finished Noggin and this is my final blog post pertaining to it. First I am going to talk a little about my notetaking (or lack thereof). In general, I don’t take notes if I have a choice. Personally, I never look back at them or use them in any way. Everything that I want to remember for later on I can keep in my head, or if I want to discuss it in a literature circle, I’ll write it down on a separate sheet of paper. That said, when I’m reading, I mostly pay attention to plot details and character details. I often try to figure out what might happen next in the book. I also have kind of a habit of really letting myself in the story, and with this book I often found myself getting mad at characters and sometimes just face-palming at some of their actions. I also sometimes notice themes in the story, though in general I have to look closely to see them. I think that the author is trying to convey a large number of themes in this one book, which I personally think hurt it because no one theme was really covered in-depth. The most developed one I think is the idea that life is a continuum of sorts. It is not black and white, living and dead like most people think of it as. Here is one passage that illustrates this, from page 80, “Then they stood there, holding hands, and they watched as my eyes began to close, as the chemicals began to tell my brain to go to sleep, to take the longest nap in history. And they told me they’d see me soon.” This illustrates the point because he is referring to death as sleep, as “a long nap”. This is similar to an in between point between life and death, because when we are sleeping, sure, we are alive, but we aren’t really fully alive. I think that the comparison of sleep to death shows how the author is trying to make us think differently about it. Another is on page 99, “Well, you’re better. Lord knows that’s a big improvement from the last time I saw you.” Again, this is referring to life as a continuum. Alive is an improvement implies that there is something worse than life. Obviously in this case this is not death, we already know this, but it is something in between (in this case, dying from cancer). Clearly, the author is trying to get us to think about life and death in a different way. This is important to us now because we really have to think about the morality of this kind of technology (while it may not be exactly the same as described in the book, I believe that we will have something similar within the next three centuries), while it is great to save people’s lives, at what point do we begin interfering with the natural course of human life? This is clearly a hard question to answer, and one that we will need to think a lot about in the coming years. Overall, I would rate this book 5/10. I’ve already talked a lot about what I liked and didn’t like in this book, so I won’t go too in-depth, but basically I thought that it was a good idea for a story and good character development marred by repetition, a bad writing style, and unrealistic characters.

More about Noggin-Through Chapter 13

So, we just finished Chapter 13. Basically, a lot develops with his best friend, Kyle, and his (former) girlfriend, Cate. Basically, we find out that just before Travis died, Kyle told him that he was gay. Now, Travis finds out that Kyle has a girlfriend, and decides to confront him on the issue. He was trying to help Kyle realize that it’s okay to accept who you are, but all he actually succeeded in doing was getting Kyle angry at him. Then, in chapter 13, when Travis and his parents are at the movie theater, he sees Cate there. He was about to go over to her and talk to her, thinking that it’s been five years and shes 21 now, but none of that matters! The minute that she sees him everything will be the same and they will run off and get married! Yeah, no. He decides to not talk to her once he sees her fiancé, Turner, go in and give her a kiss. He already knew about him, but for Travis, seeing them actually together almost made the reality even worse. It is clear that he had not yet accepted the truth of the situation. Basically, he has lost one of his friends, has maybe started to realize the fact that he is not going to get his girlfriend back, and overall the future is looking pretty bleak for him. Our discussion was basically revolving around how we thought that the storyline idea was overall good, but we all agreed that it could have been written better. Lucas thought that it was a story that was technically first person, but was told as a third person story would, meaning that, for example, we didn’t really get to hear a lot of his thoughts in some situations. I thought that it would have been much better if they had made the book slightly longer, taken away from the teeth-grinding repetitiveness of the last half (I’ve finished it already), put more content into the first half, and had chapters from perspectives other than Travis. There was a lot more in our discussion, but that was a shortish summary. A quote that we all thought really summarized the overall tone of the story was on page 99. It was said by Cate’s mother,  “”So maybe some things have changed.” She lightly tapped one finger on my forehead. “But not where it matters.”” This really summarizes the tone of the author and Travis’ thoughts. It is basically saying how yes, some things have changed, but what really matters hasn’t. This is basically how everyone else thinks and how they think Travis should be thinking. But, what they don’t realize is that to Travis, what really matters has changed. He lost Cate. Nothing is the same as before. This quote is, in that way, symbolic of personal struggle to accept reality that Travis has to deal with through the entire book.

Noggin

In addition to reading Of Mice and Men, we are reading our own books in small groups. I am reading Noggin with my classmates Lucas and Alex. It is by John Corey Whaley. We read chapters 1-4, which were about how the main character, Travis, was dying of cancer and had no chance of surviving. The doctors decided to try an experimental procedure where they would cut off his head and then, several years later, reattach it to a new body. So far, the book has revolved around him getting acclimated to living in a new world with a new body 5 years later. There were four things that I wrote down as notes to bring to the discussion. I was wondering if/when he would get to see his friends again, what they would think of him. I also thought that it would be interesting to discuss the moral implications of this procedure, as there is effectively no downside, since the person is already dying. In addition, I thought it would be interesting to discuss what our predictions for the rest of the book would be and what it would really end up being about. Finally, I wanted to discuss what he said about not knowing anybody-in all likelihood, he would end up finding new friends. I think that one of the big ideas that Whaley is asking us to think about is the real meaning of life. I mean, if you can just chop of a dying kids head, freeze it, and then reattach it 5 years later and have the person go on with their life like nothing happened, that has some major implications regarding death. If this was real and common, it would both be incredibly good, as people who die young for the wrong reasons would not have to. However, it would reduce the significance of death a lot. It would become something much less sad and mourned, which could be both a good thing and a bad thing. It is a dilemma shared with all life-extending (potentially) technology-at which point does it stop being a good society-benefiting thing, and at what point does it start becoming artificial and not quite the same. I think that this technology would definitely be on that line, and it would have to be balanced to make sure it wasn’t abused. Overall, I think that this has been a good book so far, and it is making me think about some really interesting and confusing topics.

Thoughts on Student-Run Literature Circles and Of Mice and Men Chapter 1

Lately in English class we have been doing literature discussions that we are in control of, as opposed to our teacher. There have been some advantages to doing it this way, but also some disadvantages. I really like that we can take the discussion where we want it to go. We often end up talking about something totally random that only has a loose connection to the original topic. On the other hand, this sometimes means that we get off topic and distracted. Also, since we don’t have any one person who is “leading” the discussion, it means that we can get stuck easier, since we don’t have someone to get us back on track. Overall, I think that the freedom it gives us is nice to have, and the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Anyways, we are about to do a literature circle on the first chapter of Of Mice and Men (OMAM), so I am going to write here three things that I am going to bring to the literature circle to discuss.

The first thing that I would like to discuss is the pattern of leader vs. follower with George and Lennie. So far, there has been a definite pattern of George leading and Lennie following. I was wondering what this mean for the rest of the story, especially if they get separated at some point. The second thing that I would like to discuss is George telling Lennie to not say anything to their new boss. It seemed kind of odd that he would be telling him that, since it will probably give their boss some weird thoughts. I wonder what he is so worried about Lennie saying that it is worth having their boss think he can’t hear and/or talk. The final thing is the repetition of mice in the story. Mice have already had a major appearance, and I am wondering what their significance will be for the rest of the story. Given that it is in the title, I’m guessing that there will be major significance later on. We’re early on in the book, but it is fun to already be able to start thinking about what will happen next and make predictions about the rest of the story.

American Teenager Project

Last month in English class, we did a project where we studied a book of interviews of teenagers. The author would interview many different teenagers about their life and their beliefs, take a picture of them, and then put it into the book. After we studied these, we did our own interviews. This is what I said when my partner, Leo, interviewed me.

Alex S. 14, Marin County, California

 

I have a mom, a dad, and a younger brother. My family gets along well most of the time. My brother is visually impaired and autistic, so that sometimes makes things difficult, because he can really irritate me sometimes. However, this has also, I think, given me greater understanding for other people like him. Overall though, my family gets along pretty well. I think that family is important, because I think that it is important in life to have people around you who care for you.

I get most of my information from the internet. I think that this is the best way because you can type in a subject, and within seconds you can have several different places to go that all have information. I think that this quickness is very useful. It also means that within minutes of something happening, you can find out about it. Also, since anyone can contribute to the internet, it means that while one person may not individually know everything there is to know about something, the composite knowledge of a lot of people can be a lot greater than one individual.

I’m not sure yet what I will become. I want to have a career in something relating to aerospace, such as engineering. I want to get a pilots license, but I’m not sure if I will try to have a career as a pilot. I’ve always had an interest in aeronautics and space flight, and I want to have a job in that field. However, I’m still not sure what I will become.

I think that one of the biggest problems in the world is that people just don’t realize that we are all the same. I think that a lot of the major problems in the world stem off of this, and that if people would finally realize that, then everyone in the world would get along a lot better. I’m not really sure how this could happen though. Most of the people who this would be needed to be directed to would probably not be very willing to listen.

I am in 8th grade. My favorite subjects in school are science and math. I have always been really interested in science and how it affects our daily lives. I honestly don’t really have any one “least favorite subject”. I think that school is important because I think that it is necessary to learn certain things that we will need to know. Also, many of the things that we learn can be interesting. It also helps to increase the overall knowledge of humans as a whole. I want to go to college. I’m not sure where yet, or how I will pay for it.

Not yet. Sometime though, maybe next summer, I want to get a job at Gnoss airport, doing something like cleaning bugs off of wings and windshields. I would do this because it is related to one of my passions, flying, and would also help pay for the flying lessons that I take.

IMG_1157.jpg