Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Today is Wednesday, so I went with the 3-mile-run group. Our group swelled to five plus the proctor today, and we tried a new route. I enjoyed mixing it up some, as running the same course all the time gets boring. It's always good to have a little variety. After the run, I showered and went to breakfast. After breakfast, I headed to class, but Dawson was not there. We ended up waiting until 9:30, when he finally showed up. It turned out he had asked the  Academic Coordinator, David, to open the door for us at 9, but he got tied up in something else. When we walked in the classroom, there was a code on each of our desks. We decrypted them, and combined them into one message. It read, "Find me and Emily. Go to the steps of Wyatt with your calculator, pencil and map. Further instructions await." Since Dawson came to unlock the door, we were really just finding Emily. He really enjoyed watching us work together to solve the puzzle. When we got to the Wyatt building, there was another code to decrypt, which said to go to the Cohen Memorial Building. There we found Emily. After we found her, Dawson asked us if we liked the activity. I really enjoyed it. Decrypting a message is fun to begin with, but using that information in a activity is even better. Dawson told us that on Friday afternoon we will be doing a decoding scavenger hunt in teams. I am looking forward to it already. After our rather chaotic Puzzler, we went back to the classroom for independent study. I finished another section, and took the quiz. I passed with four out of five on the first try this time. I finished my quiz right on time: a couple minutes later, he ended independent study.

Afterwards, he gave a lecture on Classic Logic. In Classic Logic, everything is either true (1) or false (0). For this reason, it is often called "Two-value Logic." There are four connectives used to make logical arguments: or, and, not, and implication. Or statements are true if one or both of the values involved are true. And statements are only true when both values involved are true. Not just means the opposite of a number (0 goes to 1, and 1 goes to 0). Implication is the complicated one. It is true in every case, accept when the hypothesis (first term) is true, and the conclusion (second term) is false. Dawson had us solve some basic logic equations using these connectives, and then went over tautology statements. These are statements that are always true, no matter what values you plug in, so they really say nothing at all.

After this lecture, Dawson projected Sudoku puzzles on the board for us to solve as a class. By the time lunch started, we had solved four of them. We started out with a standard 9 x 9 grid, using the numbers 1-9. We solved this one relatively quickly, so Dawson moved us on the next one. But the next one did not use numbers it used the letters A-I. Even though the puzzles were very comparable in difficulty based on the given values, it was harder to do one with the alphabet. Next, we did one with the top row keyboard symbols (!, @, #, $, %, etc.) This was much harder, as there is real order to think of them it, so you easily forget about one. After this, we were running out of time, so we skipped the next puzzle which used the baseball positions (P, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, etc.) The final Sudoku puzzle before lunch was with Web-dings. These included gallows, a factory, a condemned house, a justice building, a city, a house, a beach, a neighborhood, and a desert. This was by far the hardest, because we were completely unfamiliar with these symbols, and again, there is no order to remember them in. If you see there is one empty spot in a row, it takes longer to figure out which figure goes there, than if you were to do the same with numbers. It's easy to see you are missing a six, but it's hard to find that you are missing a condemned house.
Sudoku in Excel with Web-dings
After lunch, we did more independent study, so I read into the next section. There was lots to read, and not much time, so I did not get through that many problems. After that, Dawson gave us Sudoku puzzles to solve individually. He started everyone out with an "easy" one. After you finished, you got a "medium" one. After that, you had the choice to do the "hard" and "evil" puzzles, or do more independent study. I love Sudoku, so I chose to do "hard" and "evil." I finished "hard," and started on "evil." Unfortunately, I did not finish the "evil" puzzle. Now I know what I'll be doing in my free time. You may be wondering why we are doing so much Sudoku. Well, our scavenger hunt on Friday is not all decrypting. There will be Sudoku puzzles to solve as well. Dawson wants everyone to have had a decent amount of exposure to them before then. This is a great idea, not just for the newbies, but also to refresh and sharpen the skills of Sudoku veterans like me.

Next up was study hall. Dawson rushed over to make sure we got the library computer, but it did not matter, as we had no competition today. I got a lot done in Study Hall today. My PowerPoint is fully animated, and I found some really hard problems for the class to solve. (If all the problems are too easy for high schoolers, they will be bored, and the lesson will fail.) I am not fully ready for the lesson, but I am confident it will go well on Friday.

Next up was Arête. Today we were focused on anti-choke moves. Many of these involve painful pressure points, like under the jaw, and directly above the heart. Obviously, we did not press hard on these points, but even the light pressure caused them to sting for a little bit. I can't even imagine the pain a full press would cause.

After Arête, we had dinner at the Dean's house, which is in between Hank Ingram and the Commons Center. There were tables set up all over the backyard. Instead of eating common's food, a catering service delivered Mexican food, and it was served buffet style. I did not really enjoy the dinner. The food was excellent, but the weather and location were horrible. It started raining just after we arrived, but it stopped after 5 minutes, so we stayed outside in the humidity. The table I was sitting at was not on level ground. It was slanted about 15 degrees. Fortunately, I was on the higher side, so I did not have to worry about things falling, but it was still annoying. Also, we had to have the mock admissions papers that we received yesterday during dinner so we could use them afterwards. The idea was that we would read over them beforehand, but no one really did. They just ended up getting dirty on the ground and on people's laps. It would have been easier if they gave us the papers once we arrived at the Wyatt rotunda for the mock admissions.

I really enjoyed the mock admissions. First, Mr. Gains (the Head of Undergraduate Admissions) introduced us to the idea of holism, which means looking at the whole person, and not just one aspect. He also told us to be positive and find reasons to accept people, and not to look for flaws. We were divided up into 8 groups, and each group was lead by an admission officer. My group was lead by Mr. Gains. We started by dividing into four smaller subgroups. (one for each of the "applicants" to Red Brick University) Our job was to read our assigned applicant's profile, and create a case for their acceptance. After that, each group presented their person, and answered other's questions. We then voted on who to accept, who to put on the wait list, and who to reject. We had to accept one, wait list two, and reject one. 

Our group ended up accepting a student with extremely high test scores, high involvement in Student Government (all four years of high school), and who did a lot of community service. His only downside was that he did not have excellent grades, but he took as many Honors classes as he could, and multiple letters of recommendation said he is diligent, always tries his best, and actively participates in class. The other applicants included a student good in writing (high writing test scores and high English grades), but has a B+ average for every other class. Another applicant had lower test scores, and was suspended for underage drinking in her sophomore year. Since then, she improved her grades to A's and B's, and founded SADD (Students against Destructive Decisions). The third was an athlete with lower end test scores. Her grades steadily improved from her freshman year, and she now has all A's and B's. As an interesting twist, she also had a letter of recommendation from Red Brick University Swim Coach. The decision was not easy. After each group decided, we all came back to the rotunda and shared our results. After the sharing, Mr. Gains reminded us that these four applicants represent the middle of the pool. The excellent applicants have already been accepted, and the bad applicants have been rejected. He referred to this center as the "Muddy Middle," where one small detail is the difference between getting accepted and getting rejected. 

Once the event ended, I went and talked to Mr. Gains about double majoring in engineering and music. He told me to apply through the School of Engineering, because you can only get one degree from Vanderbilt, from your main school. (If your main school is engineering, you get a Bachelor's of Engineering with majors in music and engineering, while if Blair is your main school, you get a Bachelor's of Arts with majors in music and engineering.) I had never thought about this before. I was planning on applying through Blair, but now I don't know anymore. I will have to ask Dawson and Kathleen about their degree choice, and see if it really matters. 

I also got a chance to talk with the Northern California Admissions officer, David Lazo. I asked him the same question, but he said it did not matter. He also told me that he will be doing high school visits in the fall, so I might see him again. Overall, I thought the mock admissions/talking with admissions officers was very productive and educational. The mock admissions really put us in the admissions officer's shoes, so we fully understand what they are looking for. I think this is much better than just listening to an officer say, "We are looking for applicants with...." Also, getting to talk with the Head of Undergraduate Admissions and the California Admissions Officer was a truly unique experience. I am definitely going send them thank you emails.

Tomorrow we have SOFT night again. The Filmmaking class will be showing a "Really Bad Movie," and analyzing what makes it bad. I can't wait for Friday: I get to teach the class about mixture problems, and we have our scavenger hunt.

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