Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school, and summer has officially ended. First impressions of my classes:

Per. 1 AP Chemistry

We were all very surprised to hear Mr. N's description of the class today. I knew that it wouldn't be as hard as Biology was last year, in part because it doesn't rely on memorization, but it turns out to be even easier than I thought it would be, definitely one of the easiest APs in the school. The only drawback is that, while almost everyone gets an A in the class, the AP test pass rate isn't the highest - I suppose I'll have to do some independent studying before the AP exam. Well at any rate, the class should be pretty fun and Mr. N seems to be a good teacher, so I'm happy with AP Chem.

Per. 2 Guitar

I still can't believe I get to take Guitar as a class!! :D Mr. O is a big fan of Joe Satriani and classic rock, so this should be quite fun. Hopefully my guitar playing will be a bit less sloppy by the end of the year. :P

Per. 3 Spanish III

Can't give any impressions at the moment, as Mrs. F wasn't here today. At any rate, there is no way that I would ever enjoy a Spanish class (still wishing I could take Esperanto instead :P), and Mrs. F seems to have a bad reputation. Pity.

Per. 4 AP English III (Language/Composition)

English was never a particularly strong subject for me, but hopefully I'll survive this class. Mrs. S is a little bit scary: we must use a specific pen in her classroom (Pilot P-700 to be precise), and we have a whole list of things that we aren't allowed to do because they distract her (including getting up to get a tissue and using a holepunch).

Per. 5 Computer Animation

Like Guitar, Computer Animation should be a pretty fun elective. Past students say that it's a piece of cake, and most of the time is spent playing games. And I'm earning VPA credit for this, hurray!

Per. 6 AP U.S. History

After taking AP Euro last year, U.S. History shouldn't be too difficult, and Mr. J seems to be a good teacher. The workload is quite high, but not particularly challenging.

All in all, my APs aren't as hard as last year's, and after two years of not taking any electives, I'm finally taking a couple. I think it's going to be a fun year. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summer is Ending :(

High school registration yesterday. As though I needed any reminding that summer is about to end. :(

On the other hand, this school year promises to be fun. My schedule:

1. Chemistry AP
2. Guitar
3. Spanish III
4. AP English III (Language/Composition)
5. Computer Animation
6. AP US History

Fairly easy AP classes, and two electives. Not bad.

I actually signed up for seven classes, not six (wanted to take Computer Graphics too) but I didn't like the idea of going to school at 7:30 from the start, and didn't complain when for some reason or other I didn't get the class. :P

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sweden, Photos!

I promised photos, and here they are! 423 of 'em, no less.

They're not sorted by day, but knowing that 8/4/07 was Day 1 and allowing a few hours for time zone differences, one should be able to match up photos with blog entries using the date and time conveniently posted in red letters at the bottom of each photo.

Sweden, Days 9-10

Day 9
Had a bit of a scare this morning when my camera, with all our photographs from days 5-8, would neither charge nor turn on. Fortunately this problem was fixed by removing the rechargeable battery and putting it back in.

I played a game of chess with Ivan. Surprisingly, it remained tied up until the late-midgame, when I accidentaly lost a rook. Ivan remains undefeated, after previous games with my dad and my aunt's uncle (see for an analysis of the end-game position of one of these games).

Had another picnic this evening, this time with 28 people in total, of whom all but one were my relatives.

Day 10

We all woke up at 5:00 in the morning and at 6:00 were on our way to Arlanda Airport in a taxi. After two flights and several humorous incidents with airport security (involving, among other things, yogurt and automatically hibernating laptops) we were back in Oak Park. I miss Sweden.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sweden, Days 7-8

Day 7

We spent just about the whole day on a luxury ship going to and from the autonomous Finnish archipelago of Åland, making Finland the fifth European country I've been to (after Belarus, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden). It's a pity that we couldn't stay in Åland longer though - as soon as we reached the main island, Fasta Åland, we were pushed into the ship that took usd back, making the whole journey a little bit pointless in my opinion. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience, because it was my first time traveling in such a big ship (twelve stories!!)

Day 8

Sadly, we are going home in two days, and while Regina and I want to switch places, it wouldn't work because passports are verified against the seating order in planes (why? why??)

Today we hiked through a real Swedish forests. Very green, both the vegetation and the water. This evening we had a family reunion picnic, which was nice, although there was very little to do.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sweden, Days 5-6

Day 5

We went to Skansen today, the happiest place on earth! Or it may have been, if a rather heavy rain hadn't interrupted our stay there. Nevertheless, we saw most of the sites of the outdoor museum. Very interesting place indeed.

After we got back from Skansen, we took a walk down Queen Street. We got to see the infamous harmonica hobo of Stockholm. I took a video and am editing it for Youtube as we speak.

Sweden gets more and more ununsual every day. The tap water here is clean enough to drink, and in fact everyone does. There's so few cars that pedestrians never pay attention to the lights. Clerks at grocery stores do not bag your purchases; you even have to buy the bag yourself!

Day 6

We went to the Swedish Royal Palace today, although it certainly seemed more like a museum than a palace. Most of the palace was accessible to the public and some rooms even had museum-like display cases. Nevertheless, it was an interesting trip, even if it didn't seem like anyone would live or work there. Immediately after leaving the palace, we got to see the changing of the guard, for the second time now. This time we saw the whole ceremony, which was quite long and interesting to watch.

For most of the rest of the day, I had a walking tour of the "real" Stockholm, complete with stores, cafes, and libraries, with Regina and her friend Elizabeth.

I am quite used now to people staring at me when I say that I'd rather stay in Sweden than go back to California.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sweden, Days 3-4

Day 3

Today we hiked to Kaknästornet, from which we could see most of the city. Stockholm is really one of the most interesting places I've ever been to, because the city is situated on 14 islands, and different districts are very much different.

It was very hot today, as it was yesterday and the day before ... We're experiencing very strange weather here in Sweden, the one week a year when the heat actually matches that of California, the very heat that we tried to escape by going to Sweden. The locals seem to like this change from the usual.

In the news: a suicide bomber was caught by police only four metro stations from where we live (it's a unit of measurement :P). Also, a murder took place in the small town where my cousin's friend was chillin'. Violent crime is relatively rare rare, but because of Sweden's small population, when it does happen it feels very close.

Most television programs here are in English, with Swedish subtitles, as opposed to most other European countries, where programs have dubbed sound.

Public restrooms cost 5 kronen (about $.80) to use, sometimes even for customers in restaurants and cafes. Socialism!

Day 4

We went to the Stockholm City Hall today (very interesting place, photos on the way!). We wanted to see this guy, but we couldn't find him anywhere. We'll have to look again tomorrow. We did find the Little Dancer though.

We didn't have much to do today, I met some of my cousin Regina's friends ... over MSN. Seem like nice people, most of them, others are just weird. The people in Sweden aren't so different from the U.S. of A.

Everyone in Sweden seems to be able to speak English, but everyone also has a British accent, due to the education that they receive. It's terrible, it really is. I'm trying to teach my cousins some real English ("yo wazzup home dawg" and so on and so forth) ...

Everyone here also seems to be a soccer player, and a very good one too. My brother and cousins never have to look far for a game.

My brother is an aspiring songwriter, and I decided to look for a guitar to put his gibberish to music. We managed to find an old acoustic that belonged to my second-aunt's husband, Ivan. The fifth string was snapped, but we managed to patch it together in a primitive knot; it works fine but occasionally gives problems when we attempt to tune it.

Well, that's it for now!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sweden, Days 1-2 (Two for the price of one! :P)

Day 1

Flew in to Stockholm this morning, after 36 hours (!!) in transit (had to stay in Newark for ten hours, and time zone difference accounts for the rest). My parents rented a hotel room, but there's not enough room for all of us, so I'm sleeping over at my cousins'. Speaking of which, I just met about a dozen of my aunts, uncles, and cousins for the first time - fun fun fun!

First impressions of Stockholm:

  • Very clean place, at least those areas that I saw. People seem friendly.

  • It's clean for the most part. The amount of graffiti in this place is unbelievable, even to one who's been to LA and Detroit. Apparently, the government sends people to clean the place up regularly, but the grafitti just comes back again - a lot of money down the drain for the government.

  • Car theft also seems to be a serious problem. My relatives have lost count of the attempted thefts of their car.

  • Speaking of cars, I've never seen so many small cars in one place! Everything in Sweden seems to be small, from cars to ketchup bottles.

  • Public transportation system is amazing. Bus lines, train lines, and metro lines (color coded for your convenience!) are all interconnected. Buy one ticket, and you can use any public transport service you want for a week. Sweet.

  • There's a curious mix of old and new technology. Escalators are faster, automatic doors are more sensitive, toilets are more powerful. And yet, my parents' hotel room key is just a punch card. Most elevators I've seen don't have automatic doors, and something that I've never seen in the States.

Day 2

Went on a long tour of Stockholm today. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I have a ton of pictures to post, not today though.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

To Sweden!

In just a few minutes, I will be heading to the airport and flying to Sweden, where I'll be vacationing with my family for ten days. I'll make sure to blog about what I see! =)