Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Journalist's Path

Though school has been my main focus for the past month and many more months to come, my writing has not ceased. Though my writing may be sparse on this blog from now on, it is because I have moved on to the life of a journalist. Currently, I am writing for my school's newspaper, The Matador, and my school's food blog, Acquired Tastes. Our first issue is set to come out next week, so I am quite excited to see my name in print. I remember last year during my freshman year, I would always be so excited when I saw the crate filled with newspapers set outside for students to pick up every month.

Since reading my first issue, I would almost always read through it cover to cover, pondering the ideas that the writers wrote about. It often felt like a fresh take on some ideas, and admittedly, I liked looking at the pictures too. After reading the newspaper for a while, I thought, would it not be great to be like these journalists who get to write these articles? Later, I found out that freshmen could apply to be in journalism for sophomore year during second semester. Therefore, until then, I just kept reading. After a long wait, I was finally able to apply, and I got in.

It was strange though. When this year began and I went to my first few journalism classes, I felt nervous. I was with many people I never met before, and I was sitting there learning about news writing. Then, I had to try out news writing with a group of people. We had to write about the recent pep rally, and I was just stressing over it since I had no idea what to write or how to write it. I feared that my whole year would be me stressing over articles. However, as we started to work on the first issue, those fears gradually faded away. I believe it dispersed once my first article was posted online (as our newspaper also has an online section). I felt a sense of accomplishment and that perhaps I really could do this. Soon after that, I was set to write three more articles for the newspaper.

With those finished, I feel a sense of ease, and I realize that this is something I actually like to do. It is fun meeting great new people and becoming their friends as you are conducting interviews on them and writing articles that allow you to put your voice out there.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summertime Joys and Lament

My summer vacation is soon coming to a close as school is starting for me this week. I wonder where the time has gone. It feels like it was never really a vacation to begin with. However, I don't regret for a single moment of what I spent my summer doing. So what did I spend my summer doing? Well, for the majority of my summer, I volunteered with this summer tutoring program for children. In reality, it was more like I supervised and disciplined children. It was a quite an experience, and I met many great people. I also learned quite a bit about methods of dealing with children, and I know now that I probably don't want a profession that works too much with them. Occasionally, it's fine, but seeing them everyday is a different story. It seems like it was such a long time ago since my last day when in reality, it has been a little less than two weeks.

Those two weeks after volunteering were not spent idly though. They were spent at band camp, and the only word that comes to mind to describe it is hot. Marching in time while playing an instrument is hard enough as it is, but when it is about a hundred degrees, you pretty much wish you had never gotten out of bed to leave in the first place. Admittedly, it was fun part of the time as there were some games here and there, and we received some pretty cool music this year. I am still debating whether it was worth the arm tan and the fatigue though, but for now, let's just say it was. Hmm... when I look back, I actually had a pretty productive summer. Though how I got through doing all that in this heat, I'll never know.

Anyways, today was my first and probably last opportunity for me to have a stargazing session, since when I go back to school, my nights will most likely be filled with homework rather than stars. However, it was nice to know I have not lost my touch for identifying stars. Tonight, there was a clear sky this cool evening, as there usually is during the summer, and I was immediately able to locate the Summer Triangle, which sat prominently towards the center of the sky. Deneb, Vega, and Altair were able to guide me to seeing the constellation of Cygnus, the swan. After that, I followed Vega to the brightest star in the constellation of Draco, the dragon. I was unable to view the full constellation due to the fact that my roof covered half of it, and I was unable to see all the dimmer stars. I spent a long time staring that some stars beneath Draco, wondering what they could be. I concluded that they might possibly be some stars that are a part of the constellation, Cepheus, named after the King of Aethiopia. Soon, my eyes wandered to a couple of dimmer stars towards the eastern horizon, and I eventually identified it as stars from Pegasus, the winged horse. I spent a while looking for Ursa Major and Minor since it used to be the first constellation I would locate in the sky, but today, I was a little too late as it had already began rotating towards the west where the roof obscured my vision. 

For the most part, this is all I saw tonight as I was only outside for about half an hour around the ten o' clock hour. In a more ideal situation, I would be out in my front yard at a later time with no light pollution for a longer period of time. However, I know that the only things I somewhat have control over are the time and the location. Sometimes, I feel I should make a proposition to the city or county to have a day where everyone just turns off their lights for one night, and we all look up at the night sky. As much as I think it would be pretty cool, I know it probably wouldn't happen. Oh well, I will have to find other ways to see more in the sky. I suppose I do need to learn how to control my telescope a little better anyways.

This summer, to supplement my lack of stargazing, I have been doing research online during my spare time on astronomy. Most of the time, I go online to the NASA or JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) to see what is the latest news and what opportunities there are for students. For news, I mostly read what appears interesting to me such as merging star clusters and the Perseid meteor shower. For the opportunities, I have not found many. Some of them included projects that you create and submit to NASA, but with school coming up, I don't really have time for that. Then, there is Space Week that will be coming up in October, in which I will try to do something that week. Other than those few things, there is not much I can do. Well, I guess I'll just keep up with the news and if an opportunity comes knocking, I'll be ready.

To sum it up, my summer has been pretty productive and not much of a vacation. I am pretty happy with all the things I did this summer though. I am pretty sure it beats sitting at home for hours on end trying to come up with something interesting to do. So as my summer vacation will soon come to a close, my journey back to school will soon begin. Good bye summer! It was nice while it lasted!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice which is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the start of summer. This is when the sun is farthest north for the year and begins its six-month return southward. Meanwhile, it also marks the shortest day for the southern hemisphere and the start of winter. This year, the solstice began earlier due to the fact that 2012 is a leap year, so I hope you all enjoyed the longest day of the year.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus

Today was the extremely rare opportunity to view Venus's transit across the sun. It will be the last transit in our lifetime. There are only two transits in our lifetime. One was today, and the other was in 2004. Therefore, it is quite an amazing experience to see this. Venus only appeared as a small dot on the sun, but it was quite cool. The transit began at around three and ended several hours later past sundown. Of course, it was only visible until the sun went down from our location though.

Today, I mostly had to settle for a webcast. I tried to use my pinhole projection box, but Venus was too small to be seen on it. Then, I tried projecting with a really cheap pair of binoculars, but they were even worse. Finally, I tried using my telescope. Under a low magnification lens, I was only able to see the light of the sun. Under high magnification lens, I saw an amazing view of Venus. However, it proved to be a bad idea. I think I may have directly my telescope too directly at the sun as the plastic part around my lens began to burn and melt. Luckily, I noticed after a couple of seconds, so it isn't really damaged. I believe and hope it works perfectly fine, but I can obviously tells something happened when I look inside. At least I noticed before anything too bad happened though, so I should be thankful. However, that is probably the end of my solar adventures using my telescope. I must be content with pinhole projection and webcast. Today, I used this link.

During the webcast, there was a lot of background told of this transit. It was supposedly used to help find the distance between the sun and the earth, which was a large ordeal back then. After it was discovered, it led to so many other discoveries.

Along the same lines of the transit, I discovered something quite interesting in my research. Being in marching band, the name John Philip Sousa sticks out like a sore thumb with him being the 'March King'. Therefore, I was intrigued upon reading this at this website:

"John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was very interested in the 1882 transit of Venus. In 1882-3 he wrote his 'Venus Transit March.' He didn't write it specifically to commemorate the transit itself, but wrote it to honor the great American physicist Prof. Joseph Henry who had died on May 13, 1878.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. asked Sousa to write this march for the planned unveiling of the statue of Henry in front of the Smithsonian Institution in 1883. The music was to be played while dignitaries solomnly walked from the museum to a special receiving stand in front of the Smithsonian. Sousa's Transit of Venus March remains a delightful, and rarely-played addition to Sousa's opus of compositions."

Somehow, this was just interesting to me since it somehow combined music and astronomy. Anyways, most of my research came from this site, since it was pretty informative on the transit. It also provided links to find more information. I found the information quite helpful for my viewing, and there were multiple links to webcasts  being conducted from different locations. In the end, I was glad that I was able to see this magnificent sight and will always be glad that I watched it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Baking Adventures

Today was my usual relaxing, boring Sunday. I probably should have been using this time for studying, but I decided to try something else instead. I decided to try my hand at baking. I had helped my sisters with their baking before, but I had never done it on my own so it was an exciting experience for me. I wanted something to share with some of my friends at school, so I choose to bake cupcakes. I eventually decided to use half of this recipe for a vanilla cupcake with this buttercream frosting. Seeing how this was my first time on my own, I wasn't sure what to expect and chose to make only twelve cupcakes in case something went wrong.

I gathered the ingredients and mixed then together.

Then, I filled the cupcake liners.

Then, I put them in the oven.

Then, I set them out to cool.

Finally, I frosted them.

After all that work, I tasted one, and it was actually better than I hoped. The top was a bit dry, but the inside was still moist. The frosting was pretty good as it was not too sweet unlike some store-bought frosting, but it was a travesty trying to get it on the cupcakes. Also, I may have added just a bit more vanilla than I wanted.  Overall, they were pretty good even though I know there is room for improvement. It was actually pretty fun making these by myself, and now, I have some cupcakes to share with my friends.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse - The Ring of Fire

Today was one of the rare opportunities for the people of California to view a solar eclipse. A solar eclipse is when the moon crosses between the sun and the earth, thus blocking the sun from the earth. Even though it was partial in Los Angeles, the moon still covered about 85% of the sun. It was especially rare because it was an annular eclipse creating a "ring of fire." The "ring of fire" is an eclipse in which the moon blocks out all except the sun's outer edge, creating a ring of light around a dark circle. It began at about 5:24 p.m. and reached its maximum at about 6:38 p.m. The transit of the moon ended at 7:42 p.m.

Using a pinhole projection box that I created, I was able to view the solar eclipse without injuring my eyes. Even though the image was small and it wasn't a complete "ring of fire", it was still breathtaking. When I first heard about the annular eclipse, I immediately started doing research and tried to learn as much as I could about it. All that research made the experience of viewing the solar eclipse so much more enjoyable and made me appreciate the site more than I would have otherwise. It has always been my goal to view a solar eclipse, and I suppose my goal was fulfilled. That only means that my next goal is to view a total solar eclipse. Perhaps when I'm older, I will travel to an area where you are able to see that. Some day, it is my goal to go on a retreat of sorts to just view the wonders the sky. Today was just another step on my journey to learning about the sky.

I know that many people in Los Angeles were eager to view the solar eclipse today because in 1992, Los Angeles missed the full "ring of fire" eclipse due to the clouds. In contrast, there was perfect weather for viewing it today. In addition, it is evident that people were excited seeing how the Griffith Observatory and several other places sold out of eclipse glasses. The eclipse was first seen in China and Japan before moving to be seen in parts of the western United States. If you want to read the full coverage of the eclipse that the LA Times had, here is the link

This map shows where the full annular eclipse could have been seen. It is indicated by the gray area of the map.

Despite the fact I did not have an eclipse glasses, I used the alternative way of viewing it using a pinhole projection box. It didn't exactly look the best, but it did a pretty good job considering it was a box and piece of white paper. An alternative way of looking at it was projecting an image of the sun with a telescope or binoculars onto the ground. You could have also used a welder's mask #14. Despite how safe it may have seemed, looking at the sun through sunglasses or film is not safe and still causes eye damage. It may be better than staring at the sun with a naked eye, but it can still cause damage The safest way to view it is when the sun is projected onto a surface. I know that there's nothing you can do about it now that it's over, but I just thought it should be known for the next solar eclipse.

This was my pinhole projection box. It was just a box with a pinhole and a piece of white paper. Viewing the solar eclipse was as easy as aiming that box at the sun. It was simple and effective.

Here is the projection of the eclipse onto the paper. It wasn't exactly as big of a projection as I would have liked, but it was amazing nonetheless.

According to an LA Times article, the next solar eclipse will be in 2023 when 78% of the sun's diameter will be blocked by the sun. The next two after that will cover 83% of the sun's diameter in 2044 and 2045. The next major solar eclipse that will be greater than the one today will occur in 2071 when 91% of the sun will be covered. It is probably disappointing if you missed today's eclipse but know that there will be a few others in Los Angeles during your lifetime and many other eclipses around the world.

Space Age Crystal Growing Kit

During my last visit to the Museum of Natural History, I saw some interesting things in the exhibits and found some intriguing items at the gift shop. Among those items was the Space Age Crystal Growing Kit. After walking around the museum and seeing the exhibit that had many sparkly gems in it, I was interested in trying to create some of my own. It's true that I probably could have created a sugar crystal (aka. rock candy), but I wanted to try something else. Instead, I tried to grow crystals using this kit that I found at the California Science Center. Unfortunately, the results were not great.

The first crystal I attempted to grow was an "aquamarine" cluster. The instructions seemed simple although I can't say I followed them exactly. First, I found a large rock that fit the requirements and a container to put it in. Next, I added the correct amount of boiling water and the blue crystal powder that was in the kit into the container with the rock. Admittedly, what happened was that the first container I tried was too big, so I had to re-pour the solution into a smaller container. After that, I continued to follow the instructions that included steps such as covering and uncovering the solution and adding seed crystals to it. After a week, I ended up with a strange set of crystals if I could even call it that. The rock didn't have anything on it that I could have called a crystal. However, on the bottom of it, there was a layer of crystal that had tiny crystals on it. I ended up parting the two pieces and throwing away the rock. The result was not what I expected at all, and I considered it a failure.

The next crystal I tried to grow was a "diamond" cluster. Like before, I followed the instructions that were similar to the first set of instructions except with different amounts of ingredients. I suppose the results of the second set of crystals was more successful but still far from my expectations. When the experiment was finished, I ended up with a lot of moist globs of powder that was neither here nor there. From that mess, I was able to locate a couple of crystals that actually looked like, well, crystals.

There are still two more crystals to grow, but I can't start them yet until I find an old saucepan that will never be used again. However, I'm not exactly eager to be trying to grow crystals again after the first two failures. The first time, I admit that it was probably my fault that it failed because of the transfer of the solution, but the second time should have worked. Now, I'm not sure if it is me that is the problem or the kit. I really tried but to no avail. So far, I believe that the crystals that I saw on display at the gift shop were misleading. Perhaps it was because I wasn't exact enough, but I can't be exact down to the last drop of water. It could also be that I heated the water first and then poured it into the container with the crystal powder since I did not have a saucepan that would never to used again to mix the powder into the water while boiling. I don't know for sure. I just know that this kit isn't working for me and was in some ways not worth it to me.

(Pictures to come)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alondra Hot Wings - Alhambra, CA

Since we had a minimum day on a Friday, my friends and I felt there was no better way to end the week than to grab a bite to eat to Alondra Hot Wings in Alhambra on Main Street. When you first enter the restaurant, you will notice that there are pictures of mobsters covering the walls. Also, you will notice that it is has a very lively and enjoyable atmosphere with televisions aimed at every angle, and you can hear the buzz of conversations. From the moment you step inside, you can pretty much tell what it is about with the smell of hot wings in the air. The wait time to get a table wasn't bad considering we entered with a party of about sixteen. After perhaps twenty minutes to a half hour, we were seated at three connected tables. 

Since there were so many people, we decided that each table would get their own food. We were all hungry, so we didn't really hesitate to order. Of course, since Alondra Hot Wings is known for its name, we all ordered wings. The table I sat at decided to get the Cajun Hot Wings and Gotti Pizza which was topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and black olives. I quite enjoyed our pizza even though I am not a big fan of olives. The Cajun Hot Wings were decent. It was not quite what we expected, but we still ate a lot of them. My friends and I assumed that the Cajun would be more of a seasoning, but it actually packed quite a punch as it was spicy. I guess it was probably nothing compared to the Atomic Hot Wing which some of my friends dared to try. I heard that it wasn't as bad this time because they allowed the hot wings to cool down a bit before eating, but they were still dying afterwards. The table next to ours decided to order both the Lemon Pepper Wings and BBQ Wings. These were not spicy unlike our wings. I sampled a couple of the BBQ Wings, and we really enjoyed the sweet flavor. If I come here again, I'll probably stick with what their table got. It was quite a pleasurable experience even though it certainly was different than my first time there, but it was different in a good way. At the end of the meal, we all had our fair share of wings. It was just a great day, and we all left with the smell of wings on our clothes. I will probably be back again.

515 W. Main Street
Alhambra, CA 91802
(626) 576-7119