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Signs of a Senior: Super Relieved

An update!
Phase 3 of my grand project is finally complete! (That’s why the blog has been so quiet these past few months) You can read a quick recap of my progress below.
Listen to the full audio documentary here: https://soundcloud.com/ammonty/sets/what-does-a-superhero-sound-like-audio-analysis-of-gender-media-and-technology

Monty's Mayhem

It’s finally done! No, not school. Not yet.

I’m referring to my project. Remember the prize I won to do research during the summer?

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Then I did research and bought equipment for an audio documentary.

(A M Montgomery 2015) (A M Montgomery 2015)

For the past nine months or so, I used that equipment to start the interview process of my audio documentary with my own radio show.

(AM Montgomery 2015) (AM Montgomery 2015)

Just a few weeks ago, I presented an excerpt of said documentary–combining my research, superhero sound bites, and interviews–my college’s annual showcase, Amherst Explorations.

(Rachael Hanley, Social and New Media Manager at Amherst College) (Rachael Hanley, Social and New Media Manager at Amherst College)

It was covered by my college and it got tons of buzz.

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Then I broadcast the entire audio documentary on my radio show (it’s an hour, split up into three parts, with commercial breaks) and now it’s on my SoundCloud

(Hadley Dorn 2016) (Hadley Dorn 2016)

And now…I’m done…

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Onslaught of Book to Movie: Review of “The Martian”

(Warning: There are three words of profanity in the following post)

Okay, so I cheated. It’s not a huge deal but I broke my own rule and is it awful that I don’t feel bad about it?

Let me back up a bit.

I don’t get out much. Why go pay to see a movie I may not enjoy when I could read the book it’s based on for free? Besides, aren’t the books supposed to be better anyway?

Thus began the rule that I must read the book before seeing the movie. If I see the movie before, I probably won’t read the book at all.

I’ve broken this rule three times in my life with:

  • The Bourne Identity
  • Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

and now, The Martian. In these cases, I read the books soon after I saw the movie, and it was usually a struggle since the reading the books take more time and I already know what’s going to happen.

The Martian was different.

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If you’re looking for a sign to go read or watch the movie, this is it. The Martian is the best movie I’ve seen all year (yes, that includes Avengers: Age of Ultron). Plus, the movie, directed by Ridley Scott, is so close to the book, you’re not really missing out. I enjoyed reading the book because it gave me even more details of hilarity.

So what is The Martian about?

Written by Andy Weir, the book begins in the year 2035, NASA’s Ares III crew is on a manned mission to Mars. They’ve landed and are doing routine collection and repairs when a dust storm, so severe it tips their shuttle Hermes, hits. They need to evacuate immediately.

They’re all trailing back to the ship when a piece of debris (antenna from the communications unit) pierces the astronaut, Mark Watney’s, suit and sends him flying backward, out of view.

The commander of the crew, Melissa Lewis, orders the rest of the crew into the shuttle before going back to search for Watney. Inside the shuttle, the rest of the crew members (Dr. Chris Beck, Beth Johanssen, and Dr. Alex Vogel) aid in the search for Watney, but the telemetry readings from his suit give no signs of life or pressure.

The pilot of the shuttle, Major Rick Martinez, keeps the shuttle upright as long as he can but before long, they need to blast off. The crew of six has turned into a crew of five as they begin the long journey back to Earth.

The rest of the book is the crew and Earth mourning Watney.

Just kidding.

How boring would that be?

Turns out, Watney is still alive. He wakes up long after the storm and his crew are gone, hustles himself to their makeshift base and stitches his wounds. He takes to the log in the Habitat and records,

I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.

If that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of piece, I’m not sure what else does. Watney begins rationing his food to last until the next Mars mission (it won’t be for years), even growing potatoes on Mars (He’s a botanist!), repairs the communications with Earth, and generally just tries to stay alive despite all the mess Mars throws at him.

Plus, he uses a lot of duct tape. Like a lot.

The book (and movie) throws a lot of science at you but it’s enjoyable because it does so with layers and layers of humor. I wish I laughed as much during AP Chemistry (sadly, there was only pain there).

Even though it’s pretty depressing and downright boring to be the only person on an entire planet, Watney finds a way to kill time in between being avoiding death from Mars and finding a way back home. Here’s one example, during one of his scouting missions for the next Mars site:

LOG ENTRY: SOL 381 I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.

Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.

So Mars is “international waters.”

NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.

Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.

That makes me a pirate!

A space pirate!”

One of the many gems you have to look forward to if you watch or read The Martian. So, as for me, is it a “yay” or “nay” for the book and movie?

In terms of scientific accuracy, humor, ’70s soundtrack, and even a tug on the old heartstrings, definitely two thumbs up.

(Source)

(Matt Damon as Mark Watney in The Martian (2015) Source)

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Senior Summer: Contributing–Why You Should Do It and How

Excited about my recent published article!

Monty's Mayhem

This past week, I pitched and successfully submitted an article, which was NOT:

  • for one of my school’s publications
  • on one of my blogs
  • for an internship, paid or unpaid
It was also not for a job. So why I am happy about this?
It’s called contributing. When you contribute to a publication, you provide quality pieces in exchange for a byline, experience, and a clip to add to your portfolio.
  • Why the heck should I care? Portfolios aren’t just for writers! If you’re interested in a subject unrelated to your major/career of choice, it’s a great way to show employers and committees that you’re well-rounded. If it is related to your major/potential career, it provides more expertise by giving you more experience writing about topics relevant your job. Plus, contributing is done on your free time, which shows others that you’re passionate about a variety of interests.
  • Okay…

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Senior Summer: Grand Project

An update as to how I am spending the rest of my summer!

Monty's Mayhem

It’s officially July! Not only is one month of the summer gone but also half of the year. Freaking out yet?

Don’t. You still have plenty of time.

One of the things to work on this summer is a grand project.

(A M Montgomery 2015) (A M Montgomery 2015)

It stems from an idea in Cal Newport’s How to Win at College, which advises students to always be working on some grand project. While I don’t agree with all of his advice in the book (like “Never Nap,” seriously?) or even one of his other books So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I am still eternally grateful for the guidelines in How to Become a Straight-A Student. Plus, this idea (and yes, a few others in How to Win at Collegeare good advice.

On Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog (a valuable source), he lists some examples of grand projects

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Photo Credit: via Flickr from Justin C.)

SAT Error: Test-takers Petition the CollegeBoard

As a follow-up to my previous post in regards to the June 2015 SAT Error, students are not accepting CollegeBoard’s promise of accurate scores despite the mishap. Media is to the rescue for these concerned students and parents.

Photo Credit: via Flickr from Justin C.)

Photo Credit: via Flickr from Justin C.)

A pair of students, Courtney Noll and Sarah Choudhury, began a change.org petition against the CollegeBoard. Change.org is a platform that allows users to sign petitions online instead of the traditional in-person route. This particular petition “June 6 SAT Error –Petition for an Optional Retest” allows test-takers from all over the country to help reach the same goal: an optional re-test.

I had the opportunity to ask Noll and Choudhury about their petition and why it’s so important to them. (See transcript below)

1. What are some things you want your fellow test takers to know?
Courtney: First off, I would like to tell all my fellow test takers to sign the petition!! And for those who have already signed it, I would like to tell them how much their support means to Sarah and me. I know how much this mistake affected everyone, and I want them to know that we will keep petitioning the College Board until we get our retest.
Sarah: Hello fellow test takers, I guess I will apologize on behalf of the College Board for their actions…..or the lack thereof for effectively combatting their printing error. I know there are a lot of you who feel cheated and deceived by the College Board’s new way of grading, and for those of you, I say you should sign the petition for a free optional retest before October! After all, our dreams and aspirations are being put in the hands of the College Board who seem to care more about their money, rather than the students!
2. What would you like the College Board to know (as if you were speaking directly to them)?
Sarah and Courtney: Dear College Board,

After the dozens of phone calls we exchanged, you probably know how disappointed we are with you and your actions. From scheduling a retest for us that didn’t even exist, to thinking it’s okay to estimate student’s scores, we think that it’s more than clear that we will continue to fight. We’ve gained more supporters than ever before, and they will stand with us. You know that a retest is only fair, but your bank account thinks that saving money should be put first. We recently received an email from you, and it ended with “Challenging all students to own their future.” But let us tell you how loaded and ironic that statement is. Not only, did we lose control of our future to you, but you somehow decided to jeopardize it too! Having a “range” be acceptable for SAT scores, is completely and utterly unacceptable. You know what’s right, now make it right.

3. What are your plans if your petition receives enough signatures?
Courtney: I will definitely take the retest! I’ll probably throw a celebratory block party actually maybe even a city party (do they have those?) it’s okay we’ll petition for one! Okay but in all seriousness, I would definitely want to do something special for all of our supporters.
Sarah: First of all, there is no question, I would take the retest with out a doubt! I would thank the College Board for finally making the right decision and putting the students’ interests first. My faith in humanity would be restored once again and I guess I would come to Courtney’s block party. But if that happens, we would not be able to achieve this feat without the help of our nationwide and international supporters.
4. What are your future aspirations?
Courtney: So it’s crazy to think that we’ll be applying to college this fall! My sister currently attends Stanford University, so that’s one of my top choices. I’m also looking at many of the other Ivy Leauge schools. I’m looking at a career in either business, political science, or even computer science. 
Sarah: Wow I can’t believe college apps are so close! I would like to go into the field of medicine and apply to seven year programs or undergrad programs. I’ve been looking at John Hopkins, Stony Brook, and maybe even Ivy Leagues. However, these dream schools rely heavily on my SAT scores. So I hope the College Board gets its act together.

According to the Washington Post, a little under 500,000 people registered for the June 2015 SAT. The petition’s goal is receive 1,000 signatures. As of today, June 17, they have 865 supporters. You can view the petition here.

(Thank you to TMRSAT for bringing the petition to my attention)

Twitter DM Announcement

Twitter Will Increase DM Character Limit, Among Other Changes

Twitter is known for their 140-character limit, both for tweets and direct messages (DM). Other social network apps, like Facebook and WhatsApp (recently acquired by Facebook), have upped the bar by increasing their message character limits. Is Twitter stepping up to the challenge?

Twitter’s development team has been working on increasing the DM character limit from 140 to 10,000. Along with the increase in characters, users will also be able to create groups within the DMs, receive messages from people who do not follow them, and upload videos. The changes are set to begin in July.

Another adjustment to begin July 1 is Twitter CEO Dick Costolo stepping down. In his place, Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and chairman, will serve as interim CEO. Costolo, who will remain on the Board of Directors, did not give a reason for his departure.

Costolo states, “I am tremendously proud of the Twitter team and all that the team has accomplished together during my six years with the Company. We have great leaders who work well together and a clear strategy that informs our objectives and priorities. There is no one better than Jack Dorsey to lead Twitter during this transition.”

Amidst the changes to leadership and DM features, the 140-character limit on tweets will remain the same.

Students across the country complete standardized tests multiple times a year.(Photo Credit: via ccarlstead)

SAT Error Frustrates Test-takers

Students across the country complete standardized tests multiple times a year.(Photo Credit: via ccarlstead)

Students across the country complete standardized tests multiple times a year.(Photo Credit: via Flickr from ccarlstead)

There are big changes in store for the SAT in 2016, but what about now? During the June 6 testing date last week, there was an error printed in Educational Testing Service (ETS) booklets across the country. The error said to allow students 25-minutes on two of the sections instead of the actual allotted 20-minutes.

The Monday after the exam, CollegeBoard emailed June 2015 testers, notifying them  of the error, explaining the two sections would not be graded, and the test-takers would still receive accurate scores and would not need to re-test.

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Some test-takers, however, pointed out some unfairness in the CollegeBoard’s plans. What if a student scored well on the mislabeled sections, better than the sections that will be graded? By not grading the mislabeled sections, they are actually missing out on points they would have received. Some argued that a make-up should be mandatory or at least optional.

Bob Schaeffer is the public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing and a known critic of the CollegeBoard. He does not see the June 2015 testing error as an isolated problem. He argues, “If reliable and valid scores can be generated from June 6 exams despite a missing section, why do students at other SAT administrations have to spend the additional time answering questions that the test-makers now say are unnecessary?”

Indeed, there are changes coming to the SAT in less than a year, but what about those who will take the exam during the 2015 fall and 2016 winter quarters? Will they have to take these additional two sections even though their scores can be graded without them?

The redesign of question content, no guessing penalty as well as other changes to the SAT will be released in Spring 2016. When the CollegeBoard first announced these implements, I reported on high school counselors’ and college admissions officers’ plans for the new test and if they would implement new procedures as well.

Just recently, Khan Academy announced free online SAT prep for students is now available. In addition to the new changes to the test’s format, CollegeBoard is also partnering with Khan Academy in order to give more students access to preparation materials. The CollegeBoard hopes these changes will create a more level playing field for students, no matter their means available for test prep.

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Senior Summer: Clean Your(Online)self Up

Back in the olden days, people used resumes and work samples and maybe a few word-of-mouth connections here and there to get jobs. Today, however, employers want to be absolutely sure the person they’re hiring is the person they’ve presented themselves to be in interviews. And for that, they get a little help from this new-fangled invention called the internet.

It’s more than just good shopping these days as employers use social media to check up on you. Here are some tasks you, a potential job candidate, are employed to work on this summer:

  • If you don’t already have one, get a LinkedIn profile. If you do already have one (and if you followed the first sentence, you should!), improve it and make it even better. There are tips here.
  • Next up, all other social media accounts. We’ve heard the trite advice of not posting compromising pics and petty comments, but what about the type of blog you run? Your Profile settings? The apps you play? They may need to be adjusted some and here’s how.
  • Lastly, make yourself heard…in the right way. When you do post online, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress, make sure you’re respectfully yet interestingly grabbing your reader’s attention, formatting your communication in the most effective way possible, and most importantly, presenting yourself as, well, you. Be funny, passionate, intelligent, whoever that may be, and let your online presence show that.

With this advice in mind, you’re well on your way and hopefully, won’t be rejected for a position (summer or otherwise) again.

Season Caught-Up/Series Complete: Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra

(Finally finished! I sincerely miss the drawing styles of Michael Di Martino and Bryan Konietzko, who also created my all-time favorite series, Avatar: The Last Airbender; seriously, Nickelodeon’s highest-rated series)

Book Read: Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

(Not my pic; GeekGirl 's pic and she gives an excellent synopsis here)

(Not my pic; GeekGirl ‘s pic and she gives an excellent synopsis here)

(The last book in the Traveling Pants series left me with more tears than laughs and was tough to read at times, but overall, a good book and a comfortable ending to the series as well. Definitely a book about friendship but in a different way than in the previous books in the series.)