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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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 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.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.55 PM

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.

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.)

Senior Summer: Maybe I Can Actually Get Stuff Done This Summer? Maybe?

There’s no good time to make and keep a goal…except maybe during a three-month vacation? Short of launching a multi-billionaire entrepreneurship or being employed as a teacher (and even the former isn’t likely to take breaks, giving how tech is innovated these days), a three-month vacation isn’t likely to ever happen again.

So why not take advantage of it? Some scientists say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. That pretty much means that you have three tries to get it right this summer.

Keep it simple. Don’t be super ambitious like run 5 miles everyday if you haven’t even broken in a pair of sneakers. Maybe just running three times a week. If you want to enhance your photog skills, learn how to use free apps and take an artsy photo everyday. Tackle a Buzzfeed challenge. Start off small.

And once you have a goal (or goals, maybe you are ambitious!), here are some tips to help you reach it.

As for me, I have been woefully remiss on my leisure activities this year. Surprisingly, being an English major doesn’t allow me a lot of time to read for fun or watch for fun, so I’ll be tackling (fingers crossed) a book and a show a week–either catching up on a current show or finishing the series of a cancelled show. (Below are this week’s:)

That said, I also, finally learned how to use the app I bought over a year ago. You can get Gif Brewery through the Apple Store. I finally had fun with some old videos:

A M Montgomery 2015 Gif

A M Montgomery 2015 Gif

Good luck on your goals, guys!

Season Caught-up/Series Complete: Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix

(Great series but so violently graphic at times, I had to cover both my eyes and ears)

Book Read: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

(Dessen is very predictable when it comes to romance; that said, I wish it would have ended a bit more realistically)

Senior Summer: So You Didn’t Get That Internship, Now What?

A M Montgomery 2014

A M Montgomery 2014

What has two thumbs, no summer job prospects, and a much needed break? This girl!

I apologize for the delay in posting (though in my defense I have been updating my other blog). Since I’m now covering the majority of my expenses (everything except tuition and part of room and board), it’s been difficult to juggle class, work, sleep, and free time. I hoped to gain some paid experience this summer and applied to over fifty internships and jobs. Some I made it into the first round of interviews, but nothing after that. Long story short, I didn’t get a single internship I applied for. So what do I do now?

Good news: The amount of money I hoped to earn is taken care of through some prizes I won (see here).

Bad news: Even if I didn’t have my little brother to baby-sit some days, I still need to do something, not only for my resume but also for me (I’m that kid who assigned herself workbook pages during the summers).

So what should I do this summer? If you search in any search engine, the results are always articles that say you should “get an internship,” “get a job,” or “volunteer” (I kid you not) as well as some other options you may not be able to afford like traveling, exploring, and paying for additional courses. Well, if I actually had those options, I wouldn’t exactly be searching for something to do on Google, now would I? It’s the same thing in the results year after year…

Because I start my senior year in the fall, this is my last official free summer. I have a few ideas, but stay tuned this summer to find out exactly what they are.

Journal of a Junior Pt. 2: SurPrize

Sorry for the crickets. Here’s a bit what I’ve been up to!
I won some awards in English and Journalism!

Monty's Mayhem

It’s been an interesting two weeks.

I apologize for my absence last week. I was struck suddenly by what was most likely strep throat. For the first time all semester, I actually missed class. It was a bit of a bummer since the last two weeks of class are usually more relaxed than the ones prior, in the humanities majors at least.

Still under the influence of my sickness, I trooped out to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. Don’t worry, you won’t see any spoilers here (just that I thought it was amazing!). In going to see it, I crossed an item off my checklist: see a movie alone.

(Not my pic but such a good movie)

With all the projects and papers and sickness, I’ve been spending more time alone, but I was glad I got to spend a bit of time with my friends today. If…

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Onslaught of Book to Movie: Review of “The Spectacular Now”

"The Spectacular Now" by Tim Tharp (2008) Photo Source

“The Spectacular Now” by Tim Tharp (2008) Photo Source

Tried and true, I read the book version of The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (2008)before watching its movie counterpart. Unlike most of the books I review, I had high hopes for the movie version to be different for one simple reason: I absolutely detested the book.

If you read last week’s Monty’s Mayhem, my sentiment should come as no surprise. As an English major, I am often confronted with the question–“Did you really hate the book or was it the narrator?” For Invisible Man (1952), it was the narrator. For The Spectacular Now (2008), it was a bit of both. If you’ve actually read it (or are feeling gutsy enough to peruse a copy), you’ll find that the narrator, Sutter Keely, is not too much of a bad guy. He enjoys a good time, likes to tell stories and make people laugh, and he hates math. Seems like a typical, non-threatening teenager, right?

Well, what bugged me the most about Sutter is that he is drunk. All. the. time. He drinks first thing in the morning, he drinks before going to work and school and his sister’s fancy dinner party, and he drinks behind the wheel. Let’s ignore the fact that he is underage and try to assume that his boss, classmates, and family actually like the “buzzed” Sutter. Let’s, for the sake of argument, try.

Despite all of that, he is still driving under the influence and with the influence. Not only is this incredibly irresponsible in terms of his own health (he adamantly denies that he is an alcoholic), but also dangerously reckless with the lives of anyone near him or riding with him. I suppose that is where my main problem with Sutter stems from.

I can handle him being so unmotivated that he flunks math and misses graduation. I can handle him being so lost that he lies about where his father is yet jumps at the chance to see him. I can even handle (albeit barely) him messing with Amy, when it’s obvious her feelings overpower his (and don’t even get me started on her). I can handle what he inflicts on himself and on those who choose to be around him, but subjecting strangers to the aftermath of your actions is sickening.

“The Spectacular Now” Starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller (yes, they were both in “Divergent” as well) (2013) Secondary Photo Source

If you’re wondering how the movie (2013) differs, I make two time-saving suggestions to you. You can read the book, then skip the first eighty-six minutes of the movie and be caught up. The other option is to watch the movie all the way through (this way you can avoid reading the book) and realize the main difference between the movie and book occur after the eighty-six minute mark. Obviously, there are some major differences throughout the course of the film, such as

  • Sutter’s stepfather does not exist
  • The friendship between Ray and Sutter is less pronounced
  • Amy’s sister is located in Philadelphia instead of New Mexico
  • Sutter and Amy don’t go to the prom after-party

However, for the most part, the book and movie coincide very closely. Usually in book-to-movie adaptations, this is a good thing. I was just really hoping the screenplay would pull a Percy Jackson and not be like the book at all.

So what happens after the eighty-six minute mark? Unlike Book Sutter, Movie Sutter realizes the error of his ways. He works to get his well-to-do sister and mother reunited. Instead of just leaving Amy high and dry in Philadelphia alone (after he promised to go with her then bailed “for her own good”), Sutter goes there to surprise her and the film ends with Amy looking surprised but pleased. Considering that Sutter is the reason Amy became a heavy vodka drinker, had to get a cast on her arm (after she got clipped by a car on highway after he told her to get out of his car), and he abandoned her, I’m not sure if this ending is much of an improvement (for Amy at least).

Of course, almost anything is an improvement over Book Sutter going to get drunk, drive in swerves, fade into oblivion, and calling his life “spectacular.” Please, oh goodness, do not read this book and don’t see the movie. If you feel differently, please defend your position in the comments. I’m very curious to read your argument.