Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Whew - this week has been crazy. And I think we all know why ... it's USAMO time! Or was ...

Fortunately, I was able to talk to Messrs Block and Micek, and negotiated my ability to take the USAMO, but at great cost. The first day I had to take the USAMO in Micek's classroom ... while freshmen were taking the STAR testing. They were loud, to say the least, and I could focus only with great difficulty, at least until 12:20 (3:20 ET - that is, 1:40 before time was up) when the freshies left. (But don't worry, I didn't break any rules - I was proctored and I didn't chat.) This may explain my relatively poor performance on Day One.

The second day was easier, as I was able to negotiate taking the test in the library (don't worry, oh eagerly pissed-off USAMO graders, I was indeed proctored), and I performed much better. Big surprise.

I was quite out of shape mathematically. I had only started practicing seriously for the USAMO about a month before, and I couldn't seriously hope to do very well with so little practice. Of course, taking old tests is a little pointless if you can't solve a single problem... ;) In this regard, I think I did much better than I expected - in the immortal words of Ubemaya, "my goal is a non-negative score, although I'd be happy to get a negative score also."

My equipment wasn't the best either. The first day I took my dad's expensive Byelorussian sketching kit, but unfortunately the compasses there were rather dull, as they had not been used for quite awhile. Keeping this in mind, I took my own, much smaller compass set the next day, only to understand why I hadn't taken it the first day - the quality was so bad that I could hardly use them, and the set did not include a protractor, just when I needed one (for problem six, I finally had to resort to constructing right triangles on graph paper and then tracing 60 degree angles to draw a neat equilateral triangle). Once again Staedler's quality shows me why those guys should just stick to making erasers ...

But enough about working conditions. Time to talk about the problems!

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't do too well on the first day, partly because of the friggin freshmen, and partly because of my own stupidity of course. I immediately jumped ahead and solved the second problem, taking something like two hours to write up an incredibly neat, incredibly detailed solution - only to realize after faxing the solutions that I was supposed to find a circle with radius sqrt(2)/2, not a square with side length 1! Well, I hope I'll get two or three points, because other than this my solution is a pretty good one. Next, I attacked problem one, finding out some facts and then hitting a brick wall - I submitted some hastily done formulae in hope of maybe one point. And problem three - that I could hardly understand, let alone find a way to solve. Total for Day One: 3-4 points of a possible 21.

The second day I performed much better. I solved Problem Four satisfactorily, for six, maybe even seven points. The great thing about Problem Four was that it asks for an answer - 8025 - so I KNOW I got the problem right! =) And I proved the equilateral equality for #6, though I did not make any headway into proving the general inequality: I'm hoping for one or two points for the equality. Problem Five I stared at and stared at, but couldn't solve, as, I imagine after seeing the solution, neither could 99% of test takers. Total for Day Two: 7-9 points of a possible 21.

So, in total I got 10-13 points, which isn't bad at all for someone who expected to get zero (see my previous post for details about all that). After a little practice, and hopefully without interference from pesky freshmen, I may even qualify for MOP next year! (18-20 points needed to qualify for sophomores and juniors)

Sunday, April 22, 2007


By an unfortunate coincidence, the two 4.5-hour days of the USAMO fall right in the middle of standardized testing week. To add to the problem, Mr. Micek won't be able to proctor me this time, and I'll need web access to download the problems. And suspiciously, the vice principal, Mr. Block, always seems to be in a meeting when I come by the office, and doesn't respond to my emails either. Well, tomorrow's the day before the first day of the USAMO, so I'll have to get some answers from him, even if I have to camp out outside the office.

Of course, my practice test scores are rather depressing. By a very lenient scoring system, I give myself:

6 (must've been an easy year ;) )

Keep in mind that I'm practicing off old tests (4.5 hours / 5 problems), as opposed to new ones (9 hours / 6 problems). And I should remind my readers that the olympiad starts the day after tomorrow. Hopefully that gives an indication of how screwed I am >.<

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring Break!

Yes, Spring Break is here. But it won't be all parties for me, thanks to, you guessed it, Euro AP! As I mentioned in my previous entry, we are picking up the pace in Euro, but I never expected it to reach this level: over Spring Break we have to (1) write a 20-30 page report on the Cold War, (2) read "All Quiet on the Western Front" and write a 5 page review, and (3) reread 700 pages of our Euro textbook. All in one week! Ugh.

As if that weren't enough, it turns out that I qualified for the USAMO, something I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it's quite an accomplishment to make it there, but on the other hand, now I have to start practicing, so that I won't embarrass myself with a zero (which seems to be the median score on the USAMO >.<). So that's something like 5 hours Euro, 1 hour math already partitioned out each day. I'm losing almost half of my waking, non-eating hours!

The good news is that I still have half of spring break to call my own. ^_^ Some stuff that I'm working on:

- My site. I'm hoping to finish my new website by the end of Spring Break. I'm almost done already, so it shouldn't be too tough.

- European Chess. Ah, there's a lot of stuff going on here. First, Round 2 of the Design Competition just ended, so I have to add 3 countries, and edit a few more (people started complaining about Iraq and Mafia being too strong, and Prussia and Gaul too weak, so I'll have to balance them). Also, John wants to start a European Chess tournament next week, and although he promised to organize it himself, it'll still be a lot of work to keep up-to-date results on the website (a job that, of course, falls to me).

Now that European Chess is out and about on the Internet (a forum spam campaign on my part did a fairly good job of spreading the word), our biggest concern now is obtaining a patent. Apparently, we have less than a year to apply for a patent, or else European Chess falls into the public domain. Unfortunately, patent costs are monstrous (literally in the 5-digits), and being high school students we have nowhere near that kind of money. Our best bet is to somehow get Fienberg's uncle to provide us legal aid for free and then apply for a provisional patent, using our extra year to obtain the ~$3,000 we'll need outside of legal fees. Either that or give up, which I admit is an appealing option.

- One last item of the day: During Spring Break, and pretty much until mid-May, I have very little free time, so naturally I don't really have time to play most games, but there is one online game that takes very little time (~10 min. a day) and is incredibly addictive. I'm talking, of course, of Diplomacy, the board-game sensation that, thanks to, is now invading the Internet. After playing a game online with a few of my friends, I took the next step and formed what may be the first online Diplomacy league: "Donkeys United". Blatant ad: Have you got what it takes to join? Make an account on my forum and PM me for an invitation! Heh, just had to put that in.

Well, that concludes my first (and perhaps last) post during Spring Break. Ciao!