Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Great Grandma's Birthday

Today was a very exciting day because it was my great-grandma's 104th birthday. She is a very amazing lady not only because of her age but because she still lives in her home all by herself. In order to celebrate, all my family members and I went over to her house. There were a lot of us because my great-grandmother had 8 children, one of them being my grandpa. Her house is pretty small, so it was a tight squeeze to fit everybody in it but we did. I always enjoy celebrating my great-grandma’s birthday because she has made it to such an old age. Some years we have a big gathering at a community location but this year we didn’t. What amazes me the most about my grandma is that even though she is over one hundred years old her memory is in perfect condition and she remains very independent. She has a button on her wrist she can press if she falls or needs any help but other than that she lives alone. He children that live in town come and visit her every week and my grandpa goes to visit her just about every day. I try to visit her whenever I can because I know each day could be her last.

Every year she remembers my birthday and always sends me a beautiful card with a long hand written message on it. Her cursive she learned when she was a small child is still as beautiful as ever and I always enjoy reading it.
Every year it is a tradition for us to write a song for my great-grandma and sing it to her. We have been doing this since she turned 90 years old. It is usually to the tune of Christmas song because her birthday is near Christmas. This is the song we wrote for her this year (it is to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”-“Sleigh bells ring…” :

Birthday songs
We are singing
Birthday cheer
We are bringing
A beautiful day
We’re so happy to say
Mother is a hundred and four!

She’s a jewel
Of a mother
She’s a Grandma
Like none other
We give her our praise
She blesses our days
Mother is a hundred and four!

She was born before there were computers
She lived half her life without TV
She grew up without an air conditioner
But she survived just fine as you can see

We love you
Your love is boundless
You are wise
Your friends are countless
There’s one thing that’s clear
You’re a treasure most dear
Our mother is one hundred and four!

Here is a link to the song Winter Wonderland. This is the song we used to write my great grandma's song.

Biology: Swine Flu

For the past few months, many people have been freaking out over the dangers of Swine Flu. These people had very good reasons to do so because Swine Flu, which is formally known as H1N1, is a mutation of the 1918 Spanish Flu. The 1918 Spanish Flu was devastating as it took 50 million to 100 million lives around the world. The fear is that Swine Flu will act as the Spanish Flu did. You may be thinking to yourself, Swine flu hasn’t been any worse than the regular flu has been, has it? What scares scientists studying this mutated form of the Spanish Flu is that it still has a lot of potential. The Spanish flu came through in the spring and was rather mild, but then came back in the fall and was absolutely deadly; Swine flu could do just that. Another surprising fact about Swine flu is that is that is does not matter what age you are, it can infect and kill you. With the regular flu, usually the only people to be concerned with complications are infants and the elderly. Swine flu can infect and kill anybody, despite their age, although pregnant women, infants, and the elderly are the group most likely to die from the Swine flu.

Luckily, we have some time to prepare for the potential of this flu. In September, 5 pharmaceutical companies promised to create 250 million doses of the Swine flu vaccine. These vaccinations have been tested and are proven to be safe. After the first week in November, 26 million doses had been distributed. The first of these doses are not open to just anybody. The target groups are: pregnant women, people in close contact with any children under 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, all people from 6 months to 24 years of age, and anybody from 25 to 64 years of age who have health conditions that could lead to complications with influenza. People 6 months through 18 years of age are a target group because they are in close contact with each other during the school days which increase the likelihood that the disease will spread. Adults 19 years through 24 years of age are at risk because this age group often works, lives and studies in a close proximity to each other according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eventually the entire population will be able to be vaccinated and most hospitals have made the vaccination open for all at this point in time. The best way to prevent the spread of the disease is to make sure that every member of the population possible gets vaccinated and to have sick people stay home from school or work.

This is a link to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Website for H1N1.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Phantom Regiment

Since marching band season is over right now at Kennedy I haven’t had much to say about band. Due to this, I have decided to feature some professional marching bands, also known as drum and bungle corps. The Phantom Regiment is a very prominent drum corp located in Rockford, Illinois. Auditions for this prestigious group are going on now and during the summer they will travel around the United States to compete. The Phantom Regiment drum line is one of the best in the country and at one time was ranked 2nd in the world. I have a friend who plays the tenors that is auditioning for the Phantom Regiment and he has made the call backs so hopefully he will get in!

The pre-season is made up of several different camps instead of the simply one week band camp we have in high school. The first camp started on December 4th and ended on December 6th so it was pretty short. The object of this camp was to audition and try and secure a spot in the regiment. The second camp is scheduled for January 8th through January 10th. The third camp, later in the month, is scheduled from January 5th through the 7th. These camps continue throughout the months up until early May. At the end of May, the regiment travels to Texas to have major rehearsals as the performance season draws near. Throughout May and June the different sections of the regiment continue to prepare and rehearse for the season. Most of the people not rehearsing in Texas have their rehearsals/camps in Rockford, Illinois. The show season finally starts on June 21st when the regiment performs in Charleston, West Virginia. They have a total of about 31 shows throughout their competition season. They end the season with their last show in West Chester, Pennsylvania on August 8th. After this though, the season is not completely over because there are still the DCI World Championships to compete in.

The Phantom Regiment was originally under the name of the Rangers and their all girl color guard was therefore named the Rangerettes. This name did not last long though, and before their first competition they had changed it to the name that they still hold today, The Phantom Regiment. The all girl color guard became the Phantomettes. They started their career out as just average competitors. They were newly created and still had not established themselves yet. Unfortunately, around 1965 a fire wiped out the instruments and materials that were essential to the drum corp and they were forced to abandon the season due to a lack of money. The Phantom Regiment has made amazing advances since then and now they compete annually for the drum and bungle corps world championship.

Here is a performance of the pre show and opener of the 2008 show Spartacus.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soccer Championships

<---This is the symbol for the Real Madrid Soccer Team.

As of recently, the list of who will be playing in each category for the soccer championships has been posted. I still don’t totally understand the way the championships work because I just started paying attention to soccer when I went to Spain over the summer. In Spain, soccer is as big if not bigger than football. Spaniards as well as the rest of Europe are extremely patriotic to their teams. My favorite team is Real Madrid. I don’t really know why I picked them as my favorite team, other than their jersey was the cheapest one I could find in Spain so I bought it. Don’t get me wrong, they are a famous and very popular team; I think the jersey was cheap because it was purple. After that I just decided that they would be the team I would root for.

There are 8 different categories of teams. They are labeled as Group A, Group B, Group C so and so forth ending at Group H. The groups are put together based on their performance over the season. I think Group A is the best performing teams. It would make sense because Sevilla didn’t have a very good season this year and they are ranked in Group G. One thing that stands out in my memory is a protest that occurred while I was in Spain, over the new coach of the Sevilla team who the supporters disliked; probably because of their bad season. To get back on topic, each team will play another team in their group. The teams in each group are about the same ability level. Real Madrid is in Group C and I think they are at the top of their group ability wise. Manchester United is in Group B, Sevilla is in Group G, and Barcelona is in Group F; those are mainly the only soccer teams I have heard of. Sevilla would probably be my second favorite soccer team just because of the protest I witnessed. I don’t really have any good reason for liking the teams I like other than I have some sort of connection to them. I also like Barcelona and I also bought one of their soccer jerseys when I was in Spain. Also, when I went to Barcelona I went to their soccer stadium; I didn’t take a tour of it or anything but it was cool to be there. Anyway, these soccer games are kind of like the Olympics for soccer because the best teams from all around the world compete. I think some of the games have already started and I know they continue through a good part of 2010. Sorry I wasn’t very informative on the subject, although I’m trying to learn more as the season progresses.

Here's a link for the Group Listings and other information

This is a video of Real Madrid playing Atletico Madrid(another team in Madrid) earlier this year.


The very heated debate of whether vaccines can cause autism in newborns is ongoing. Millions of dollars have been spent testing this theory and it has almost always been shot down. Why do people, mainly mothers of autistic children, still believe that these vaccines are to blame? The main reason is that up until 2001, most MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines contained mercury. The mercury was located in an additive called thimerosal which has now been removed from all vaccines. Even though the mercury has been removed from the vaccine, parents are still concerned about the vaccinations. The main reason being is that most autism cases are diagnosed when an infant is around 18 months of age which is also around the time that an infant receives a large amount of their vaccines. Over and over studies have shown that there is no linkage between the two.

I think the main reason parents are so attached to the fact that the vaccines could be harming their children is because it is all they have to hold onto. If it isn’t vaccines that are causing autism, then why does one in every 91 children have some form of autism in the United States? Parents are desperate to find the answers and they don’t have anything else to go off of. One other possible cause, which we studied in my biology class, was that it is being caused by deficiencies in vitamin D. A striking number of children in the United States have been found to have deficiencies in vitamin D. Vitamin D is what allows calcium to be absorbed in the bones. It is found in many milk products and most importantly in the sun. The only problem is that sunscreen blocks the absorption of vitamin D. Each day, children and adults need a mere 10 minutes out in the sun without sunscreen. This is not long enough to damage the skin and yet all that is needed for a healthy child. The next question asked is, why do scientists link vitamin D deficiency and autism? Although research is still being conducted, so far it is shown that babies who are in the womb mostly during the summer time are less likely to develop autism. This is because their mothers are outside and soaking up the sun. In contrast, babies who are mostly in the womb during the winter time have more of a chance of developing autism. Mothers are most likely to get less amounts of vitamin D during this time period because of the lack of sun. At the time babies are in the womb, it is such a critical growing time for their brains that a deficiency in a vitamin this important can have devastating effects.

Here is a website that talks about research and the links between autism and vitamin D deficiency.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Day!

This week was a pretty slow paced week because we had not one, not two, but three snow days. Our first snow day was on Tuesday and I was not expecting it at all. We got the call that school was cancelled around 5:30 in the morning. I was excited but kind of confused because I knew the snow wasn’t supposed to start falling until later in the day; I expected an early out but by no means a cancellation of school. I didn’t really do much on Tuesday and Wednesday besides watch TV and facebook. So on Thursday I decided that I needed to get out of the house. I went to my friend Mildred's house and we went sledding in her backyard which has a small hill. The real reason I enjoy sledding at her house is that behind her backyard is nothing but woods, although a few houses are beginning to take our area over.

I think we have pretty much deemed this territory ours because every winter since we were in elementary school we have gone into the woods and explored. I wouldn’t call us modern day versions of Lewis and Clark, but were pretty close. The woods are full of hills but it is kind of dangerous because as you are going down you have to dodge the trees. This makes the sledding a bit more exciting. It was going good until our exploring started and we reached this small river. Most of it was solid ice so we thought it would be fun to go ice skating on it; without the skates of course. Unfortunately, I hit an area of the ice that was anything but solid and fell right through. As I attempted to get out I realized that my boots were suctioned into the mud and that all the ice around me I was trying to grab was also breaking. All while my friends are laughing around me. Looking back I can laugh, but at the time being submerged in freezing cold water when it was below zero was not fun. The worst part was the 2 mile uphill trek we had to make back to Mildred's house. When I got back I was freezing. I took my boots of and my feet were bright red, purple, and puffy. I’m just thankful I didn’t have to amputate anything. Nevertheless, I would put it in the books as one of the most exciting snow days I’ve had even though I had a narrow escape with death.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Volunteering at the Christmas Party

I am just using this picture until the person who has the actual picture I want has time to upload it onto her computer.

As of recently I was accepted into National Honor Society which means I now much start my expedition to obtain 6 hours of community service. I thought that was a very small requirement but I guess the less the better. Today I got about 4 and ½ hours by volunteering at AEGON for the children’s Christmas party. I volunteered at it last year because my dad works at AEGON so I guess you could say I would have done it regardless of the fact that I needed volunteer hours. My friend Susie (name has been changed to protect her identity) and her brother did it with me so that also made it a bit more fun.

I had to arrive at AEGON around 11:30 today because they served us pizza. I’m not going to lie, half the reason I did this volunteer project was for the free pizza. After that we were assigned our areas we would be working at for the day. Susie, her brother, and I worked at the Reindeer Ring Toss. We made Susie’s brother do most the work will we sat and handed out the prizes. It was pretty fun for the first half, but it got annoying when the children could not decide what prize they wanted. Most of them treated their choice as one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Despite how annoying their slowness became, after a while the party died down because most of the kids went home. During this time period Susie and I ate about 10 cookies each due to our boredom.

At one point a cute little family came through the line to play the game with their kids. They were a Chinese family and it was so cute because they were speaking Chinese to their kids and then their kids would speak English to us. It reminded me the amount of difficulty I have learning Spanish and only depressed me because I realized a 5 year old Chinese girl picked up English faster than I could pick up Spanish. I am not saying this in a racist sort of way I just want to point out my sorry attempt at learning a second language seems inferior to what this girl has done at the mere age of 5.

Thankfully, at 4 o’clock the party ended. As much fun as I had had playing with the prizes I was glad to be done. We still had to clean up but that didn’t take more than 30 minutes. Before cleaning up though, Susie and I went to go sit on Santa’s lap. It is a tradition for us (a fairly recent one) to go and sit on Santa’s lap after we are done volunteering. We have a picture of it, which I will be able to post to this blog once I get it put on the computer.

Catholicism in Spain

The first thing that I think of when I think about Spain is beautiful cathedrals with ancient architecture. Most of this architecture was influenced by the major religions in Spain. The most widely practiced religion in Spain is Catholicism. Starting in the 1400’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella declared that all Spaniards were required to be Roman Catholic. At this time, there were a large number of Jewish people and Muslims living in Spain. This was a cruel time period in history and therefore the Jews and the Muslims were forced to convert to Catholicism or leave the country. Even though they were forced to leave the country, they were around long enough before this ruling and after it to affect many of much of the Spanish architecture. Now, the Jews and the Muslims are able to live in peace in Spain. Today the headquarters of the Catholic Church are located in Toledo; no this is not Toledo, Iowa but rather Toledo, Spain. Toledo more specifically is found in the province of Castilla La Mancha, located almost in the center of the country. If the name Toledo sounds familiar, it is probably because Toledo is known around the world for its fancy jewelry and expensive swords. Toledo is a very important city to most Spaniards because 97% of their population is Roman Catholic.

Although the Catholic religion is very prominent in Spain, it is not the official religion of Spain because Spain has a secular government. Even though it cannot be the official language of Spain, it receives special privileges including money from the government which the other religions in Spain don’t receive. Each year, many Catholics from around the world make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain to visit a cathedral where a saint is believed to have been buried.

One of the most famous Catholic cathedrals in Spain is found in the heart of Catholic Spain, Toledo. A lot of the architecture of this cathedral was influenced by the Gothic cathedrals of France. This is a huge cathedral standing 295 feet high. It was built from 1380-1440 which was around the time the Jews and Muslims were being expelled from Spain and other parts of Europe. The Transfiguration is a famous carving found in this cathedral. There isn’t much information about this carving that I found but I thought it was interesting because it was the title of the first essay we read by Annie Dillard.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Winter Pep Assembly

Today was the pep assembly for the winter term. I was looking forward to it because it meant that classes would be shorter; which I always enjoy. For the pep assembly, I had to sit with the band, instead of with the junior class. Don’t get me wrong, I like sitting with the band and playing, but I think it would be nice every once in a while to get to sit with my class and do the cheers. Nevertheless, I had a fun time in the band section. We don’t actually do that much playing. In the end, we end up having played the fight song twice and that’s just about it. This pep assembly was different though because our director had recently gotten us new pep band music. She decided that we would play one of our new songs today. The new song that she chose was Thriller by Michael Jackson. We have only rehearsed the song once, so it didn’t actually sound that great but it was fun because people could recognize the song. We also have two other new songs: “I Saw Her Standing There,” by The Beatles, and “Zombie Nation,” by a band of which I don’t know their name. We have only rehearsed The Beatles song once and we still haven’t gotten the Zombie Nation song. I’m sure that most of you know the Beatles song off the top of your head but the Zombie Nation song is a little less known. I know you would recognize it if you heard it though because it is played at almost all of the football games over the loud speakers; that is how our director got the idea to purchase the music. Due to this, I am more excited than usual for basketball pep band. Next week we have two pep bands, one on Tuesday and one on Friday. I am going to both of them and I hope that we get to play the new songs. We have a total of 12 pep bands this season, 6 of which we are required to play at; I signed up for all 12 not only because I think band is fun, but because I will get into the basketball game for free.

This is seemingly random, but getting the new pep band music was not a simple matter of just buying it. One day, it took a group of us about an hour to take all of the old music out of the pep band folders and organize it. As I was doing this, I realized it would only be a matter of time before we had to put all the new music in; this would presumably take another hour.

This is one of the songs that we are playing for pepband. It is called Zombie Nation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Cross Country Banquet

Cross Country season has now been officially over for a while because our team did not make it to State. On Thursday we had our Banquet to end the season. I didn’t really want to go because I had a ton of homework that night and I was tired since it was Thursday but my parents made me so I had no other choice. For dinner we had Fizzoli’s which was yummy. There was spaghetti and fettuccine alfredo which is my favorite. There were also bread sticks which were delicious. It is not as good as Zio Johno’s I must admit, but it was still good.

After we were done eating we went up into the library to talk about the season. The boys have a bigger team then we do so they got to stay in the cafeteria where we ate. Our coach spoke about how good our season was and that making it to state is a good goal for the future, but that it was okay we didn’t make it because we did the best we could. After this he handed out the awards to everyone and then individually talked about each of the seniors. We only had three seniors this year, and by the time our coach was done talking about the last girl KM (irunifly) he was crying. When I say he was crying, I don’t mean that he was bawling his eyes out but you could definitely see tears welling up.

After this we got to give the seniors their senior gifts. I was excited to give them their gifts because we put a lot of effort into making them this year. We gave them each a personalized blanket that had their name and the words, cross country, embroidered on them. Each blanket was made with different fabric and the juniors got together as a team to make them. I think they really liked their gift, especially since it was actually usable. In the past, juniors(who are in charge of the senior gifts), get too hooked on giving the seniors a bunch of little trinkets that are supposed to be funny, instead of getting them one really nice item that shows how much they meant to the team. Our assistant cross country coach also had pillow cases (green and gold!) with their names embroidered on them as well. It is a tradition for her to do this every year for the seniors. For our coach’s gift, we gave him a pair of shoes with his name embroidered on them. I guess embroidery is just popular this year.

Indoor Marching Band Classic

Even though marching band is over now, on Monday it wasn’t over. Monday was the last time we marched our show. It was sad to know it was the last time we would get to perform the show because I really enjoyed it. Nevertheless, Monday was still a really fun day.

We had to rehearse at the U.S. Cellular Center at around 1 o’clock which means I didn’t have to go to 5th or 6th hour which was really nice. We have to rehearse the show because we must condense it. We are marching inside on the floor of the U.S. Cellular Center which is not as big as a football field, so there are specific parts of the show we have to change. So after 4th hour I hopped in the car with my friends and we rode downtown to rehearse. We rehearsed for about 2 hours and then we were dismissed to go home, only to come back to school at 5 o’clock. At this time we had to change into our uniforms and put our instruments together because unlike most performances, we weren’t changing at the location of the performance. This was not a competition, but it was a performance. The show is called the Indoor Marching Band Classic. All the bands from the CR Community School District and the Marion School District come to perform. Even though it is not a scored competition it is still important because the show is broadcast on local television for the rest of the year, all the way up until the next Indoor Marching Band Classic is tapped. This is what motivates us to give a good last show.

Another cool thing about the night is that after all the high school bands perform we get to watch the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band. Every year a different marching band comes. My freshmen year the UNI marching band came and my sophomore year the ISU marching band came. Out of the three performances I’ve seen the Iowa Marching Band was definitely my favorite. They don’t actually march a show for us, but they do play really good music. They can’t march anything because the U.S. Cellular Center is not the size of a full football field and their band is very large. Not only does the marching band come but the Iowa Hawkeye Dance team and the Iowa Hawkeye cheerleaders come too. It was fun to see them perform. After this it is a tradition for all the high schools to stand and play a song with the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band. We rehearse it earlier in the day before the show starts so it usually sounds pretty good. After this we get back on the buses and head back to the school to unload. It is always a fun night every year but it is a school night as well, and we don’t get back until about 10:30, which makes it a late night.

Concert Band Auditions

Now that marching band is over during first hour I have concert band. This is really depressing for me because concert band is really boring. But it is also kind of nice in a way because it is a lot less time consuming. No more 3 hour, Thursday night practices or being gone at competitions all weekend. So in that respect it is nice to just relax a little bit. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get to relax until auditions for concert band were over. I had my audition for concert band on Thursday. It went pretty well and I was very happy with my chair. I am currently 2nd chair flute in Symphonic Sand. For those of you not in band, here is a little background information. There are three bands: Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Symphony. Concert Band is the name of the lowest band, usually made up of freshmen. This can be kind of confusing though because concert band is also the general name for band during 2nd and 3rd term when we don’t march. Symphonic Band is the middle band and it is made up mostly of sophomores and juniors (that’s me!). Wind Symphony is the top band and it is mostly made up of seniors. This being said, the grade of which you are in has nothing to do with your placement within the band.

So I am 2nd chair in the middle band, Symphonic Band. I am very happy with this because last year I was last chair in this band of about 8 flutes, and this year I am 2nd. A lot of my friends are in Wind Symphony but I don’t mind because the flute section is really competitive. Where I am at right now in my placing is actually a pretty high chair, even though it might not be considered that in other sections.

My audition went pretty well but not perfectly, not that anybody’s ever does. The audition process can get complicated at times but it is not too bad. Firstly, our director posts our identification numbers on the wall with the times we are to audition at. These auditions are live but also blind. This means our director is in the room but she doesn’t know who the person auditioning is. This is so that all seating arrangements are fair and there is no bias. When you go into the room, you write your name on a sheet so she knows the order of which everyone has come in, in case anybody is missing from the identification sheet. Then she will start naming scales, if you know the scale she calls out then you play it, if you don’t, just remain silent and she will go onto the next scale. There are 12 major scales and she will eventually call them all out. It is important that you don’t speak because then she will know who you are, which will ruin the whole point of the blind audition. After this she instructs you to play an etude that you have prepared. An etude is just a short song. Before auditions she hands out two etudes on a sheet of paper, you receive more points if you play the harder of the two etudes. I played the harder one. Then there is the sight reading. Sight reading is playing a sheet of music that you have never seen before. This is usually scary because you only get one shot to play the sheet of music that you have never seen before and therefore haven’t gotten a chance to practice. Because of this, usually the sight reading portion has a fairly easy key signature and does not express a wide range of notes.

On Monday, concert band begins to rehearse. Unfortunately, this is the beginning of a boring season of concert band. I am a little more excited than last year, because my chair is higher. I like where I am, because if I was first chair I would have to play the solos and the piccolo, which would not be fun. I also know that the music will be harder because I will play Flute 1 music instead of Flute 2 music but I am still partially excited. Usually, during first term we have band for two days and then get one day off. This is because there are 3 bands, and only two directors. Second term, one band gets moved to rehearsing second hour, but until then we have to make do. It was always nice to have a study hall every two days but I don’t think that will happen this year because the freshmen already have 2nd hour because they didn’t do marching band this year. So I guess that issue is now simply a problem of the past.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mole Day

Friday October 23rd was one of the best days I have had in a LONG time. I knew it was going to be a good day right from the start because it was MOLE DAY. For those of you who do not know about mole day, it was created as a day to celebrate chemistry. It is not to celebrate the moles found under the ground as some of you may have been thinking up to this point. A mole is a unit of measurement, and is expressed as 6.02X10^23 atoms, molecules, or ions. Moles are pretty confusing at first and when I learned about moles in AP Biology, I didn’t really understand it very much. Then later on in my chemistry class my teacher was explaining to and it made so much more sense. As extra credit for chemistry, I made a mole day t-shirt and tie died it to wear on mole day.

For chemistry we had to make a mole that looked like a specific scientist. This time it was the animal kind of mole because we were using a play on words. I sewed a mole together, and then I had to make him look like my scientist, Sir John Joseph Thomson. Sir John Joseph Thomson won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in physics and chemistry. His major area of study was the structure of an atom. We brought our moles to school and on Friday we got to look at everybody’s and vote which ones we thought were the best. The top three in each class period get extra credit so I really hope people liked mine! After that we got to play mole day games. One game was on the smart board, the object was to locate the elements listed on the periodic table as fast as possible. Another game was to get a “mole” in one while playing a little miniature golf course our teacher set up. All this sounds really like elementary school but it was just a nice break for all the hard work we had done so far in the school year.

Other than that mole day was great because I didn’t have any quizzes or tests in any of my classes which is a very rare event for me. I was supposed to have a quiz in AP U.S. History but our teacher played the old read the directions which said don’t take this quiz. Ever since I was in elementary school teachers have been handing out these quizzes which say at the top, Directions: If you are reading this do not take this quiz. Simply wait a few minutes, then get up and hand a blank quiz in. I always read the directions on quizzes and tests so it is funny to look around the room and watch almost everybody else frantically writing down their answers to the nonexistent quiz. The moral of the story was supposed to be that one must always read directions before taking tests and quizzes. I can still remember the sigh of relief I felt when I realized I didn’t have to take the quiz.

My 1st(maybe 2nd) Spanish Club Meeting

On Thursday I went to my first Spanish club meeting! Well, to be exact it was my 2nd Spanish club meeting if I count the time I went my sophomore year because it was right before the Spain meeting to go to Spain. I don’t really like going to clubs, but it seems like all of my friends are in clubs so I figured I better get more involved. Yes, I know peer pressure isn’t usually good but this is the positive kind.

It was really convenient to go to Spanish club because I have Spanish 6th hour with the teacher who teaches Spanish club so all I had to do was wait a little while after class. One of my friends, AM, decided to join with me so we waited together for about 10 minutes until people started showing up. The Day of the Dead is coming up, which is a Spanish holiday so we colored masks. We had to color a lot of them because Senor K plans on posting them along the hallways. Luckily though, he didn’t make us cut them all out. I will talk more about Day of the Dead once it gets nearer to the holiday but I just want to mention that it is not the Spanish Halloween. It kind of seems like it because it is all scary and spooky like Halloween and also around the same time as Halloween.

After we colored out masks we ate cookies. They were the good kind too, all soft and chewy with a thick layer of frosting on the top. I really wanted to eat the whole box but I figured I needed to save some for the other kids. As we ate our cookies we decided to work on what we were going to make our club t-shirts look like. It’s really funny because it seems like no matter what organization I join the first thing that always comes to everyone’s mind is what our t-shirts are going to look like. I don’t think I have been to a single club meeting or out for a single sport that doesn’t insist on spending days deciding how our t-shirts are going to look. Don’t get me wrong, I love t-shirts, especially when they are specially designed. All I know is that when I graduate from high school I am going to have WAY TOO MANY t-shirts.

District Cross Country Meet

This week was the district cross country meet at Noelridge Park. It was a varsity meet only so I didn’t run. I was going to go watch the meet since it was just up at Noelridge but it was pouring rain after school and I had Spanish club so I decided not to. Later I felt bad that I didn’t go because I knew that my teammates were out there running in the rain and the least I could have done was go out and support them. Unfortunately, they didn’t qualify for state at the meet. I was bummed out when I heard because it’s fun to get to be part of a team that goes to state. We also get to make the state qualifying t-shirts, but that hasn’t happened since my freshman year.

According to JS, one of my friends that went to the meet but couldn’t run because she has two stress fractures, said that they ran really well. We were only behind the 3rd place team by 4 points. In cross country, unlike marching band, 4 points is very little. It is about the difference of two girls moving up two places in the race. I think our coach was bummed that they came so close, but that they didn’t make it. If you don’t know much about cross country, all you need to know is that at the district race, the top three teams qualify for state. We were the fourth team. Each section of Iowa runs a district meet. The top three teams from each of those races will then go onto the state meet. Kennedy did this my freshman year by getting 3rd at Districts which was really exciting. Even if your team doesn’t qualify, but you do really well individually, you can still go to state, without your team. I believe it is the top 15 runners that automatically go to state. I personally think it would be scary to have to go to the state meet knowing you were the only person from your team running but I also know it would be a great achievement.

Overall, I think our team could have qualified for state. I know people say, could of, would of, should of, all day but I really believe it. Our best runner on the team, KM (irunifly), had a really bad cold and didn’t feel good the day of the race. Another one of our really good runners hurt her ankle and she couldn’t compete. I’m sure other teams had setbacks just as we did though. Either way, I am happy the team did so well and I hope they can qualify next year! We also decided what we are going to do for the senior gifts, but I can’t talk about that until after the banquet on Thursday just in case KM reads this post!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Topics

Okay so I never really did a blog post about what my topics for this year were going to be. The reason being it took me quite a while to decide but I have finally come up with them. My first topic is going to be school activities. Mostly these will be ones I am involved in like pep band, marching band, concert band, cross country, track, or other various clubs. This topic also might include any other school events. So basically this is just a broad topic of "school" if that is allowed. Don't be surprised if I talk about marching band a lot, since that is one of my interests in life. My second topic is going to be Spain. As I have mentioned numerous times before I went to Spain over the summer and I had the time of my life! If I ever get the chance to go to another country again Spain will be on the TOP of my list. When I talk about Spain I will try to include some facts about the country while sharing an experience I had while I was there. My third topic I had chosen is biology. I really like science in general and as of recently I have ordered an issue of a science magazine(I can't remember the name but I will find out when it comes in the mail). Sometimes I read Scientific American articles on the Internet and other such stuff but this is the first time I am actually going to PAY to read the articles which will be nice since I usually don't get the full length article online. Once I get my magazine in the mail I can start this topic since I haven't actually done a post on it yet. I will probably just write about interesting articles I read and scientific mysteries(those are my favorite!).

So although I probably won't talk about each of these topics each week I will definitively talk about them over the course of the year. I hope you find my topics interesting as I do! Hopefully soon I will get to add some visuals to my page.

The End of Marching Band Season

Lately many people have been getting sick with swine flu and other illnesses as winter approaches. Unfortunately, the marching band at Kennedy was hit pretty hard. We were continually missing at least 20 kids from class everyday, which is a good size portion of our entire band. I didn’t think it would matter that much, although I did want the people to get better and get back soon. Unfortunately, our principal and director thought that we had too many people sick and that we needed to cancel the competition we had planned for Saturday. We were going to head to Ankeny and perform in our last competition of the year. I was really excited because I love marching band and I really wanted to end our season on a high note. Our director though, knew most of us who were coming to school were also sick and as much as I know she wanted to go, she knew putting us all on a bus together would only make us sicker. She also thought our show had too many holes and it just wouldn’t be worth it. I found out that our competition was cancelled at the beginning of 6th hour and I was pretty depressed I’m not going to lie. Some kids were really excited but I really look forward to these, especially this competition because it was our last one. I guess I am not a senior, thank goodness, so there is always next year.

Even though our marching band competition was cancelled we still performed at the Friday night football game against Dubuque Hempstead. We lost the game in the last 50 seconds which was sad but other than that the night was pretty fun. I was still kind of bummed that we weren’t going to Ankeny but I wanted to make our show good since it would be the last time we would perform it for the football crowd. It was also senior night so we got to watch all the seniors walk across the track and hear their college and major of choice. That was nice to hear and it was fun cheering for all the band kids. After that we performed our show for the last time on the football field. I felt that it went really good. At the end of every performance our director usually gives us a little speech on how we did. Afterwards she did give us a speech which also explained why she chose for us not to go to Ankeny. I realized that she really did have our best interests at heart but it was still hard to understand why we weren’t going. She told us we did everything we could with what she had given us and she even got teary eyed at the end. I thought it was a very emotional speech and I was glad she gave it. Earlier in the week she had given us a speech and said that no matter how old we were or where we went with our lives we would always remember being a part of the Kennedy Marching Band as well as all the people we met along the way. I know that she means this because every year at our competitions all the college students who have graduated come back to watch us perform and they really want us to do well. It makes me happy to know that even though I only have one year left after this my friends and I will always be a part of the marching band. Out of all the teachers I have had at Kennedy, my marching band director has taught me the most. I have some of the worst memories when I think of band: grueling long hot days at band camp and boring days sitting in Symphonic Band. But when I look back at the best memories I have of high school so far they all seem to be of marching band with the great people I met in marching band. Sometimes marching band really sucks, but yet I find myself coming back every year because I just can’t quit. I don’t really know why I love it so much, I mean we are just marching around a field playing music. It’s just that feeling I get every time I hear a recording of us playing Carmina Burana, or how I feel as I march off the field at Valley knowing I did my best as the drum line plays the cadence behind us. It’s the feeling that we are all one big family. Once I leave the halls of Kennedy to move on to what some would say are bigger and better things I know I will always remember the family I had at Kennedy and as well as the one class that made me smile every day(at least almost every day).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Last Cross Country Meet of My Junior Year

Today was my last cross country meet of my junior year. I hate to say it but I was happy it was coming to an end. I like to run but it's nice to take a break after running for so many months. Instead of going to practice after school I'll be able to go home or attend club meetings which I couldn't do all of first term. Tomorrow will be the first day of no running for me and I am very excited. Me and some people are getting together and we are going to make mole day t-shirts for chemistry because October 23rd is mole day.

I felt like I ran okay at my meet. I feel like I could have done better but I usually always feel like that. It was very cold out to say the least. When we got there it was raining on and off and the wind chill made it feel like it was snowing outside. Luckily, I was all wrapped up in my warm clothes but I was dreading the moment I would have to take them off to run. I sat around and froze for a while until the freshman and sophomore race began. Then I decided that despite how cold it was, I needed to get up and cheer for them. After that it was time to warm up. It was terrible at first because I was so cold I didn't even want to move. Luckily though, I warmed up pretty quickly. In no time at all we were at the starting line ready to run. I kept my sweats on as long as possible to try and stay warm. A few minutes before the man shot the gun I quickly took all my sweats off. It was very hard to do because it was so cold outside. All I had on to race in my uniform- shorts and a tank top like shirt. We were allowed to wear under amour but it had to be black and of course I manage to only buy bright colors of under amour so that was a problem for me. It didn't end up mattering that much because once I began running I no longer felt very cold. It was definitely the muddiest course I have ever run on. Before my race some of the freshman and sophomore girls told me that they slipped and fell. This worried me a little but I was wearing spikes so I didn’t think it would matter. I had a little more friction running up and down the hills in my spikes but I still had some pretty close calls. By the time I was finished my legs were covered in mud. I didn’t really mind too much, it was actually kind of fun to get all muddy for a change of pace. It was the third time I had run that specific course and it was the most enjoyable of all the times.

Once I was done I did a cool down with my teammates. It was nice to know that I was done for the season and that I would be able to just relax for a while and sleep in on the weekends. Unfortunately, on Saturday I won’t get to sleep in because I have to take the PSAT but hopefully on the weekends after that I will get to. After the cool down I cheered for the varsity girls and when they were done we immediately headed on the bus to go back to CR. We were so excited to get on the bus because it was so cold outside and we had been freezing for far too long. On the way back we ate subway which was really good and just relaxed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

IC Cross Country Meet Number 2

On Thursday night I had my second to last cross country meet of the season. I enjoy cross country, but I am definitely ready for the season to come to an end. It is always nice just to relax once the season is over and just come home after school instead of having to run. Granted, I will only be able to take a week or two off before I need to start running again for track season but those two weeks off will be very nice. Our coach says we are going to have a 400 club with t-shirts for the people that put in 400 miles between cross country and track season and I definitely would like to be part of that. The meet on Thursday night was in IC. It is a really nice track and I know it very well so I was pumped to run despite the cold conditions. We kept our sweats on up until about a minute before our race was to start. We then stripped down solely to our uniforms, which are shorts and a tank top. Some of the other teams were wearing under amour under their uniforms but our coach said we shouldn’t do that so I listened. It ended up being good advice because once the gun went off I didn’t even think about the cold air. It was very cold out but I just focused on running and before I knew it I actually felt a little warm. The race went very well and I got one of my better times for the season.

After the race, I ate a huge muffin. It was double chocolate chip and it was so good. Everybody on the team received a muffin when they were done running as a snack. After that I went on to cheer for the varsity girls with my teammates and the other fresh/soph runners who had run earlier. Our team did pretty well as a whole and our coach was happy. Once we got back to school, I had to attempt to make it to the Kingston game I had to march in. It was an interesting experience to say the least. I was with two other girls who also do cross country and marching band. They had to go into the band room to retrieve their instruments (I already had mine) but unfortunately the doors were locked to the band room. We spent about 15 minutes trying to find someone to unlock the doors when I finally came across a man. I asked him kindly if he was a janitor, simply because we had been running into a lot of construction workers. He looked at me very funny and I explained the situation about why we needed to get into the band room. As I was doing this I realized he was clearly not a janitor. He agreed to open the doors for us and we thanked him, but I think he was still a little offended that I had at once thought he was a janitor. All the rushing ended up being for nothing because we made it there in plenty of time for half time.


This Saturday was one of the biggest days of the season for the marching band. We headed to West Des Moines Valley for Valley fest which is a really big marching band competition with a lot of good bands. There were even bands from South Dakota and Minnesota. Coincidently one of them was Irondale, who we traveled up north to compete with earlier in the year. This is usually the biggest out of all the competitions for us, but this year we traveled up to Irondale which we don’t usually do. Irondale was probably just as big and competitive as this competition if not more.

Earlier in the day, on Saturday, we had the state competition at Kingston. This is always more of a warm up for the competition later on in the day. Usually this is a pretty enjoyable competition, and don’t get me wrong, it was, minus the fact that it was absolutely freezing outside. Earlier in the day we had a practice and it was actually snowing outside! It was still a fun competition but I could have done without the cold weather. We didn’t stay for the awards because we had to get onto our next competition. We later found out we got a Division 1 scoring here, which is really good. After this we ate lunch and packed up for Valley. I was super excited for the competition, even though it was freezing. The bus ride to Valley usually takes forever but this time it seemed really short. It was probably because it was the most fun I had ever had on a bus ride. I don’t know if it is because I am an upperclassmen now or what, but bus rides seem to just get more and more fun over the years.

When we got to Valley we had to get our game faces on because the bus ride there had been rather rowdy. It was kind of disappointing because usually when we get there we all run around, play games, and eat dinner in the grass but this time it was so cold we didn’t even want to get off the bus. Unfortunately though, we had too, so we hesitantly got off the bus and changed into our uniforms. We then walked to our warm up area to prepare. Another disappointing factor of the night was that usually before our show we have about 10 minutes were we get together with our sections and the seniors give inspirational speeches about how our season is coming to an end and we all need to do our best because this is one of our last competitions and its big. This part of the night was left out for some reason, despite my enthusiasm for it. I guess I always have next year though, when me and the other seniors will get to be the motivational speakers. After our warm up we performed. I thought our performance was pretty good and according to our director we only tore once. Ideally we wouldn’t have torn at all but once is better than twice. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that great in the scoring and we were beat by Washington and Jefferson, our biggest rivals. We usually beat Jefferson but I guess they really stepped their game up. We haven’t gotten a chance to listen to any of the judge’s tapes yet which we will probably do on Tuesday. That will bring more insight into where we really need to work at for next weekend when we go to Ankeny.

Thursday Night Football Game

Sadly enough there was no football game on Friday night at Kingston. There was one on Thursday night but those are never as good because there is always the stress of having to go home to a pile of homework. I played with marching band at the Thursday night game and it wasn’t actually too bad. It’s kind of nice to watch the football games when we actually win. I can’t even remember who we played but I know we beat them. I was a little late getting to the game because I had a cross country meet in IC beforehand so I missed pregame. For pregame the marching band just goes out and plays the Star-Spangled Banner followed by the Fight Song so I didn’t miss much there. It was a pretty cold night but nothing compared to the temperatures that it would be over the weekend. Finally halftime came and we marched our show. Football games are basically just good times for us to run through our shows and practice for our competitions. We put everything we had on the field so our director would know where we were at and what needed to be worked on and cleaned up for the upcoming competition. When we were done our directors gave us feedback on how our performance went and what we needed to work on for the next show. They thought it was overall pretty good, but that we needed to work on little things, like having more confidence in everything you do on the field. I thought it went pretty good despite the cold temperature. When it gets really cold out, it makes it more difficult to play because not only do are your fingers and mouth frozen but the instruments get really out of tune. Occasionally keys will also stick or freeze which is not good either. After our show I was pretty much dreading pep band. I had a ton of homework to get done and on top of that I was really cold. Due to this, I was extremely excited when our director told us we could go home for the night and just forget about pep band. She didn’t want any of us to get sick because the following Saturday we had a big competition at Valley and it would not have been good if half of our band was out sick. So all in all, it ended up being a good night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bull Fighting in Spain Part Two

Recently Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the Olympics in 2016. The four original candidates included: Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro. Chicago was eliminated first and followed by Tokyo. Then it was between Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. My first chose was obviously Chicago simply because it is practically down the street from where we live. My second chose was Madrid because I absolutely love the country of Spain and thought it would be a good opportunity for me to go back to Spain. Unfortunately, Rio de Janeiro came out victorious, probably because South America has never hosted the Olympics before. I was disappointed when I found out but I guess it won’t be the last Olympics so the United States and Spain still have another shot.

Earlier in my blog writing I talked briefly about my experience with bull fighting in Spain. Even though I thought it was cruel, it is still nonetheless a crucial part of their culture that must be learned about. The first bull fight ever recorded in Spain was during the crowning of King Alfonso VIII. It has become so popular in the country since then, that every year over one million people go to watch bull fights. To start a bull fight, one bull is let into the ring where it is met by an assistant of the matador (the chief bull fighter). The assistant will wave a brightly colored cap in front of the bull to make it charge. This helps the matador determine what type of a bull it is going to be, because many bulls have different personalities. If the bull is determined to be unaggressive during this section they will remove him from the ring and attempt a new bull. Nonaggressive bulls will not put up a good fight and the crowd will not be happy with this. One more thing I need to mention before I move any further is that before the bull enters the bull fighting ring, he has never seen a human walking on two feet. These bulls are raised far out from civilization and are trained by a man riding on a horse to be highly aggressive. When they are young, they are tested to see if they have the potential to be aggressive bulls, if not, they are killed right then and there. The fact that this is the first time a bull has ever seen a human walking on two feet and for that matter a crowd of humans puts him out of his element.

After this a picador on a horse will go and stick a spear into the neck of the bull. This is where the crucial muscles for a bull are, making him very angry. Next the matador, which is the most skilled bull fighter, will come onto the arena. This is the most anticipated part of the show because the bull fighter will show his strength and courage. He will run around the bull making him angry while placing several spears in the bulls back. The more dangerous the stunt the matador performs, the more the crowd will cheer. This is very dangerous because one wrong move and the bull fighter could be impaled with the horns of the bull. In Spain, Matadors are celebrities, the more accomplished they become and the higher up in the rankings of celebrity status they go. After the matador has shown his courage, he will prepare to kill the bull by fatally stabbing it through the heart. This is a difficult task to complete because often times the matador will hit bone and if the matador is successful on the first try he is usually awarded. At this point, the crowd begins to feel sorry for the bull and wants it to die as quickly as possible. If the crowd is pleased with the bull fight, they will waive their handkerchiefs in the air. The president of the bull fighting ring, present at every bull fight, will determine whether the bull fighter will receive one ear, two ears, the tail, or the hoof of the bull. Most often times the bull fighter will receive nothing because these awards are very difficult to receive. At the bull fight I went to there were a total of 6 bulls killed and although the bull fighters were good, none of them received any part of the bulls.

IC Cross Country Meet

At the same time that other school activities seem to be wrapping up, cross country is as well. Even though it is getting to the end for most activities the amount of stress, effort, and time that is put into these events is only increasing. As our marching band director says, we can see the finish line, and in a race when you see the finish line instead of stopping, you push harder than you ever have before. I run cross country and I only have 2 meets left. On one hand I was sad that marching band was coming to an end, but I am not really disappointed that cross country is coming to an end because I don’t find it as fun. I don’t remember exactly where our last two meets are but I know that one of them is in IC, which I am partially excited for because I know the course really well. When I go into a race knowing a course it is much less stressful and more enjoyable because the worry about getting lost or coming across an unexpected hill isn’t there, you know everything you possibly can about the course.

This past week we had a cross country meet at IC and it went pretty well. I don’t know how we placed but I did knock some time off my running so I was happy. Since it seems to be a good course, hopefully when I run there again this season I will be able to knock some more time off of my run. Even though I only have 2 meets left, the varsity girls have at least 3 meets left. Next week is a regular meet and the meet after that is the divisional meet, which the whole team runs in also. That race will be the end of my season, but the varsity girls will run at districts the next week. If they are able to place in the top 3 at districts, which we of course are all hoping for, then they will get to run in the state meet. My freshmen year our team did really good and managed to get 3rd place which qualified them for the big state meet. Unfortunately, last year we didn’t qualify but hopefully that won’t happen again. Part of our chances of qualifying will be determined when we find out what teams we run against at districts. This being said, I think we have really good chances of qualifying for state due to our strong varsity team this year.

Kingston Five Seasons Marching Band Competition

It’s hard to believe that already it is midterm. One minute it is the first day of my junior year and the next minute I’m halfway through the first term of my junior year. They always say it goes by fast but those nights I’m cramming for tests or just trying to finish a lab report it seems that my high school career is never ending. I was recently looking at my schedule for marching band and realized that after this weekend we only had 3 competitions left! Sadly, I soon realized that the fun of marching band couldn’t last forever. Granted, I still have next year but that is far off.

This weekend we had a competition at Kingston stadium. It was hosted by the CR Community School District which means that we were scored but didn’t get a placing, in other words we were exhibition. Nevertheless, we were still excited for our performance. It wouldn’t be the most important performance, but it still did carry some weight because we performed right after the Jefferson Band and right before the Washington Band. These are two of our biggest competitors not only in marching band but in just about every other sport. Unfortunately, some people in band don’t take it as serious simply because we aren’t being judged but most of us knew we needed to do well. We don’t know our scoring until Monday when we get back to school but I think we did okay.

Before we competed at the competition we had to march out onto the field with the little middle school students. Every year before this competition starts Jefferson, Washington, and Kennedy march onto the field with middle school students from the CR Community School District and we play the Star Spangled Banner, America, and another fun song that the band directors select. It is usually pretty funny because the middle school students have never done any kind of marching in their lives and some of them find it difficult to simply walk on the field when directed, put their horns up when directed and play their music correctly when directed. This exercise is simple for us because we are used to practically running around the field in step while playing music a lot more difficult. We usually rehearse it a few times before the actual performance, just to make sure that everyone will stay together as we play it. Of course, it proceeded to rain as we were practicing and even harder later when we were performing it. It had been pretty cold out all day but the rain was just icing on top of the cake. It was worse for the middle school students though because we were suited in our full uniforms and they just had t-shirts and jeans. Luckily the rain didn’t stop the rest of the competition from going off without a hitch.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Noelridge Cross Country Meet

Most fall sports are in full swing right now and at the top of their game. Our golf team is one of the best in the state, our swim team and volleyball teams are doing really well, and our football team isn’t doing too badly if you forget about the last two games we have had. Cross country, often the forgotten sport by most of the school is also in full swing. We have been having a good season and our varsity team is really good this year due to some pretty fast freshmen as well as returning runners. For a while now, we have continually been beaten by the Xavier team at our meets. Our coach always says that we are creeping up behind them but we never seem to be able to get them. On Thursday of this past week we were finally able to get them. I am not sure of the exact placing but I know we beat Xavier at the meet which they hosted at Noelridge Park.

At the meet I ran okay as usual. I had a confirmed sickness from a doctor’s appointment earlier in the day and didn’t feel good but I decided to run anyways just to see how I could do. It went fine but unfortunately I was about 5-10 minutes late to the meet which I had to pay for at practice the next day by walking down the soccer field twice with my hands and feet flat on the ground. I am not really sure what to call the exercise or how to explain it other than it was very painful. It really didn’t help that I had just completed 6 miles and was extremely worn out from the long week either. I can honestly say I have learned by lesson and will NEVER be late to a cross country meet again.

Irondale Marching Band Competition

After the football game on Friday night at Kingston we (the marching band) all went home to get ready for our big competition the next day. We were all really pumped because we were going against big time bands like Irondale and Rosemont in Minnesota. These communities take marching band very seriously and put a lot of work into their shows. We were all excited but nervous at the same time because we knew the competition would be very tough. On Saturday morning we had about a 2 hour practice at Kennedy to get ready. It went pretty well and afterwards I felt a lot more confident with our show. After that we went home for a while to pack because we were going to spend the night in the Irondale gym at the school we were performing at considering it is about a 5 hour drive back home. I came back after lunch and we boarded the buses for the long bus ride. The bus ride was fun as usual and didn’t seem too long. When we arrived at the competition we could tell just how true everything was that our band director had been telling us. We watched a couple bands perform and they were very good. We still didn’t know exactly what we were up against because we were watching the 2A schools and we were a 3A school at this competition. After we watched a few bands perform we went to go get our uniforms on and then warmed up. By this time I was pretty nervous, not only for myself but for the band as a whole. In the last movement, which we recently put on, it is really hard to stay with the drum line in some parts and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to stick with their tempo.

Finally we were on the field and ready to perform, there was no going back. We were the first in our class to perform because it was the first time we had ever been to this competition. Our show went pretty well and I was relieved when it was over. I felt that I had done the best I could. I was a little disappointed because one of the keys on my flute tends to stick sometimes and of course it was sticking during the performance so not all the notes came out as good as they should have. There were 6 bands in our class and we got 6th place. I know this sounds bad, but I was kind of expecting it just because we had been warned what we were going up against. It was a little comforting though, that the band that came in 5th place beat us by less than a point. We were all still proud of ourselves because we knew the bands we had competed against were the best of the best in the area. Some of the bands like Rosemont even compete and place nationally. The other thing is that they start their season 2 weeks ahead of us, so they are a bit farther along. Even though we got last place I think the competition really prepared us for the season. The bands around here are not much competition and so we will only go up in scoring from here on out (hopefully).

We spent the night in the gym and the next morning we got up and went to a buffet. It was nice to just relax and have fun with all my friends knowing the competition was over. After that we went to Mall Of America and went shopping before we headed home. We didn’t get home until about 7 o’clock pm which is why I am now rushing to finish this blog post as well as the rest of my homework.

Washington Versus Kennedy Football Game

This past week the entire school was pumped for the Washington versus Kennedy game at Kingston. Unfortunately, we lost by a large margin. I am not sure what the final score was because they were ahead at half time and I stopped paying attention when they were about 5 touchdowns ahead of us and I am not over exaggerating. Even though we lost by a lot the game was still pretty fun as always. For marching band we only marched pre-game because it was not a home game but it was still at Kingston. This was a very important night for us because it was a run through performance for the big show we had coming up on Saturday in New Brighton, Minnesota at Irondale High School. We were really pumped for our competition so we made sure to really have a good performance at the football game to get ready. It went pretty well and the student section was fairly quiet. We played and marching through our entire show on the field for the first time. We have run through the whole show in practice a few times but never with stands full of people watching us. I have to admit I was a bit nervous due to the difficulty of our music and drill but I was still excited. The show went good, we had some issues but it was not that big of a deal because it was not a competition. Our director usually just makes note of the things that cause problems at the football games and we make sure to address and practice fixing them during our rehearsals.

Afterwards, we got to go back up into the stands play our pep band music which is fun because then we get to check on how the game is going. Of course, we were still losing but it was still a little fun to watch. At halftime we got to see Washington’s band perform their marching band show and it was really good. We later found out they got 1st place at a competition at Linn-Mar we were supposed to be at if we wouldn’t have been going to Irondale. Based on this information I know Washington is going to be tough competition this year but I am excited. This is my third year in marching band and I think we have only beat Washington once if at all but we usually come in right behind them. This year I really hope we can push ourselves and get our show clean enough to beat them and maybe even come in first at one of our competitions in the future!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bull Fighting in Spain

As I have mentioned all ready, over the summer I went to Spain with two of my good friends. While I was there I learned a lot about their culture and way of life. Some things in their culture I loved and wanted to continue learning about even once I got back to the United States. Not everything about their culture was like this though. Towards the end of our trip in Spain we had the option to go to a bull fight. I knew it would be very gruesome and I really didn’t want to go. After thinking about it I thought, I am only going to be in Spain once (I hope to go again but you never know) I should make the most of it and learn everything I possibly can. So I bought my ticket, which I believe was around 30 Euros, and went to the fight. It was very gruesome and sad just as I had expected. There is a long process to kill the bull, which maybe I will explain in a later post. There were 3 bull fighters and each of them killed 6 bulls. Even though it was not the best situation I experienced while I was in Spain I can honestly say I am glad I went and saw that part of their culture. To the Spaniards, going to a Sunday night Bull Fighting is like watching Sunday night football or going to the Iowa football games on Saturdays is to a American. In the United States, there is a lot more awareness of animal cruelty. In Spain it is not unusual to see more cruelty towards animals particularly with bulls. There is a select few animal rights activists in Spain who protest the bull fights but they have very little success because bull fighting is so ingrained in the minds and the culture of the Spanish people. I would say that I am against the bull fights, but it does make me feel a little bit better knowing that the meat of the bull is sold after every show.

Cedar Falls Meet and Around the Lake

As of recently, cross country has been going pretty well. The practices are still very demanding in terms of endurance but I can tell that I am becoming a better runner which is what I am striving to do. The beginning of the week went well, although I cannot remember exactly what we did at practice. On Thursday we had a big cross country meet in Cedar Falls. The course is a very nice course and I have run it before so I knew it pretty well. Once we got there and ran the course, we realized they had changed it a little bit, but for the most part it was the same and I was excited to run it. Although I have only run the course once, I can remember my freshmen year when varsity ran districts on the course and received third place which qualified them for the state meet. As it got closer for my time to race I got a little nervous but I was still excited. I ran my race and it went pretty well, it wasn’t the best time I have ever gotten but it was better than last week. When we were done we all got subway sandwiches which were really good. I had to leave a little bit early though because I had to make it back to Kennedy in time for marching band practice. As a whole our team did very well. One of the girls on the freshman/sophomore team got 1st place in the race which is a really amazing accomplishment. On Friday we got right back to work preparing for our next meet, which is on next Thursday. Unfortunately, it was a distance day and we had to run 7.3 miles. At the beginning of the run it was painful because my legs hurt and all I could think about was how in the world am I going to make it over 7 miles like this? When I made it to the 3 mile mark all I could think about was the fact that I was only half way there. Surprisingly though, it got better. My legs started to feel better and I had the prospect that I was headed back to Kennedy. With that going for me, the second half of the run ended up being pretty enjoyable even though it was really hot. When we run 7.3 miles we most commonly call it the run around the lake. This is because we start from Kennedy and we run down to a lake that is near Quaker Oats on the trail. Once we get there we run around the lake and then head back to Kennedy. It isn’t exactly the most scenic route because the lake is located downtown which is pretty dirty. Nevertheless, I made it around the lake and I felt very accomplished and relieved when I was back at Kennedy.

Homecoming Week and Johnson

Homecoming week is usually just about as crazy as it gets at Kennedy High School (this excludes the week of AP exams). On Wednesday there is the parade, Friday night is the football game with the crowing of king and queen, and finally on Saturday night is the much anticipated dance. Oh yea, and I cannot forget the pep assembly were all the king and queen candidates are announced. It couldn’t be a much busier week for most people but if you are in the marching band, it definitely gets a lot busier. On Wednesday night we marched in the parade. This doesn’t seem like that big of a time commitment right there but considering we had to be there at 5 o’clock and weren’t allowed to leave until about 6:30, it definitely took up a good chunk of time. After we marched through the streets around Kennedy we went to the back of the school where the student government was in charge of lighting a huge bonfire. We, of course, played through the fight song before being dismissed. Before the parade we had a flute sectional to get us ready for our upcoming performance we had scheduled for that Saturday. It might sound like I am complaining as I write all this, but I can honestly say that I love marching band.

The next night, Thursday night, we had marching band practice as usual and we were able to add some more sets to movement number 3, our last movement. For those of you not in marching band, sets are our positions on the field that we must learn in order to be able to make our different formations. Everybody’s sets are different because they will take them to different places on the field, which makes it a sort of memorization process. It is important that everyone on the field know their sets because if they don’t they will just be wandering aimlessly on the field (unfortunately this has happened to me several times before). I had to come late to practice because I had a cross country meet but luckily all the other flutes were able to help me catch up on where I was supposed to be.

Friday night we had the football game against Xavier which I was really looking forward to. We were ahead at halftime but unfortunately they creamed us in the second half of the game. For marching band we played pregame, which is just marching onto the field and playing the Star Spangled Banner and the Fight Song. Unfortunately, all of us band people had to miss the crowing of the king and queen as usual but we soon figured out who they were from the student section. Then, at halftime, we performed our show. We were only able to march about ¾ of it but we played the entire show. It went pretty well for still being the beginning of the season. The end didn’t go as good as it could have but we have the Xavier student section to thank partly for that. At the beginning of our performance, the loud speaker made an announcement to ask for the crowd to be quiet for a short time. The Kennedy student section was quieter than usual which we can be thankful for. The Xavier student section was another story. Either they didn’t understand English or simply wanted to be rude because during the second half of our performance they started to have a cheering contest. Xavier has always gotten the rep of being the “nice catholic school” where all the kids are respectable and well behaved. I am here to tell you that is about as far from the truth as could be possible. Nevertheless, our show ended well and we were pumped for our competition the next day.

On Saturday we had to be up at the school to depart for Johnson, Iowa at 6:30. The drive is about 2 hours and we needed to make sure we were there in plenty of time for our performance. The bus ride is usually one of the more fun parts but most of us were too tired to have much excitement. My friends and I were on the drum line bus because by the time we signed up for buses it was the only one that had enough seats for us all to be together. The reason this bus is usually a last resort for people is because the drum line insists on pulling out their pads and drum sticks and practicing their music the ENTIRE bus ride. It does not matter if it is a 2 hour bus ride or 5 hour bus ride, they will practice the entire time. Despite the drum line, the bus ride ended up being pretty fun. When we got there we got into our uniforms immediately and warmed up for our performance. Since it is early in the season, it was not a scored performance. Instead the judges just gave us comments and ways to improve our show. Our show went well for being our first actual performance. When we were done we headed straight home so that everyone would have time to get ready for Homecoming.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

All About Spain:)

Since the beginning of time teachers have been telling us, “Never start your papers saying…I’m going to talk about…” but that is exactly what I am going to do because I don’t know how else to start this. For this section of my blog I am going to talk about other countries, mostly Spain. I am going to talk about their culture, as well as fun experiences I had well I was there. Hopefully some of them will make you laugh, but most of them are had to be there moments. I absolutely love Spain and everything about their culture and way of life. This summer I went to Spain with two of my really good friends for the school trip. I had an amazing time and learned more about Spain in those two weeks that I could have learned in a lifetime from sitting home and reading textbooks about Spain. While we were in the country we went to museums and traveled around the country learning everything we possibly could. It was fun, but at the same time very difficult because it tested my Spanish skills, which I have learned, are very weak. It is much different talking to a native speaker who feels the need to talk a mile a minute even when they can tell you are not a native Spanish speaker versus when you are talking to a partner in Spanish class. There was one specific time I can remember when I was in the metro station in Spain. I am standing all alone in the line to buy a ticket for the metro because my friends ditched me, when this little old lady walks up to me. When she walks up to me she starts speaking as fast as I have ever heard any one talk in my life. I have to assume she was speaking Spanish considering I was in Spain. I believe she was asking me directions to a location but I guess I will never know. Unfortunately, I had to say no hablo espanol because there was really no hope of me understanding a word she was saying. I guess I could have just said no se, but that just didn’t cross my mind. Once I told her I didn’t speak Spanish, which truly isn’t that big of a lie, she walked away mumbling something incoherent that I didn’t understand. For the duration of the trip it was not very unusual to have several of these awkward encounters with different Spanish people because apparently I look like a native Spaniard. This was not always the case though, because sometimes I would say something to someone in Spanish and they would answer me in English. I guess I was just that bad at sounding like a native speaker. Hopefully I will be able to talk about actual Spain a little more in my next post.

The Beginning of the Marching Band Season

Now that school has started many activities have gotten into full swing. One of these activities is marching band! I am in marching band and I am very excited for the season. We started our season about 2 weeks before school started with the infamous band camp. For most people in marching band this is basically a death sentence. Band camp is an entire week of 8 o’clock in the morning to 5 o’clock at night of pure marching. Oh yea, and don’t forget that half hour lunch break we are so generously given. I on the other hand, find it very enjoyable. I love to march and play music even though it is a lot of work. My close friends and I look forward to a week of learning new drill and get our most anticipated music. This year we will be performing Hook, from Peter Pan.
This year is a bit different than other years because we are not marching freshman. Kennedy was one of the last schools in Iowa to march freshman and I was lucky enough to get to my freshman year. With the competition only getting better and the hope of keeping more freshmen in band, our director decided to not march them this year. Our band is a lot better because almost everyone in it has already marched for a year. To fill the holes in our drill and bring some more sound to our band, our director added a few freshmen to the band, but luckily they have been able to pick up the drill quickly. We also got rid of our 0 hour marching band practice, so now we only have it for first hour. This didn’t change much for me because I always had a different 0 hour, but I guess it is beneficial for the lazy people that want to sleep in 0 hour. Unfortunately for some, we still have our 6-9 marching band rehearsals on Thursday nights.
So far we have only had one football game to perform our show, but it went very well. Our director said we got many compliments from the band directors from other schools that attended. We have 3 movements that we have to put onto the field. So far we have 2 of the 3 movements done. Hopefully we can get the third movement put on the football field for our competition on Saturday at Johnson. This is coincidently the same day as homecoming, but our director continues to ensure us we will have “plenty” of time to get ready once the competition is over. Unfortunately this is because the competition starts early and we have to be on the buses at 6:30 AM on our Saturday morning. For homecoming week on Wednesday night we have the Homecoming Parade we march in and on Thursday night we have our 6-9 marching band practice. This is usually the highlight of me and my friends week because we are madly in love with the drum line instructors (did I just say that out loud? Oops!) Friday night we perform in the Xaiver Versus Kennedy game and then Saturday is our competition in Johnston. We have many more competitions and football games after this and I am looking forward to beating Washington’s marching band at every competition (hopefully!). Oh yea, and I cannot forget to say thanks to the soccer team for so graciously letting us tear up “their” field for a third year in a row.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Beginning of the Cross Country Season

Every year I tell myself that I am going to run every day of the summer. I think to myself, I could be so much better if I just started running during the summer, instead of waiting for the first day of practice. But of course what do I do every summer? I sit around making excuses for myself as to why I can’t run. These excuses include but are not limited to: I’m too tired, I’m too busy, or I have other plans. This might be the case about 5% of the time, but the other 95% of the time the reason I don’t run during the summer is due to pure laziness. Practice starts at about 8 o’clock every morning, 7 days a week, all summer. Somehow, every summer I let just about all of these opportunities to run, pass me by. All the while the rest of the girls are on my team are getting faster, better, and stronger. Of course, I treated this summer, my third summer/year of being on the cross country team, the same as every other summer. I made up excuses all summer, until I had no excuses left, and cross country practice had officially started. This was about two weeks before school started. Just as I was expecting, the first week of practice was brutal, just like every year. I ran as hard as I could, but after sitting around all summer, there was no way to escape the problems I had created for myself, due to pure laziness. I have only had 3 meets this year, and so far I can’t even come close to any of my times I was hitting last year(my sophomore year) or the year before(my freshman year). I realize that’s still early in the season, and that I still have time to get my head on straight and run some good times. The only way I’m going to be able to do this though, is if I run as hard as I can every day at practice. It is so easy to get into the habit of settling for just being good. So many days at practice I think, I could run harder or I could just do the bare minimum of what I need to do to get by. Most often times I chose the second option, when I need to chose the first. Slowly though, I am changing my mind set. This morning we had practice at 8 o’clock and I did better than usual. We ran 5 miles and I challenged myself to run with some of the girls on varsity. I was able to stay with them for about the first 4.5 miles, only losing them on the last .5 miles of the run. I am still disappointed in myself for not working as hard as I could have over the summer, but I am optimistic when I realize that I can still make a turnaround if I keep up what I am doing and push as hard as I can to be the best I can be every day at practice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The First Meet of the Year

On Tuesday, I had my first cross country meet of the season. The meet was at Prarie and my race started at about 6 o'clock. This was my third time running this course, so I knew it pretty well and I was excited to run. The previous two years the meet was extremely hot, but this year it was perfect running weather, about 70 degrees so the race was much more enjoyable. The race was about 20 meters short of 2.5 miles. My next meet is on Saturday, in Pella, so it will be a long drive there.