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Friday, May 29, 2015

Keep Calm and Carry On: College Edition

We all have been through those terrible moments when you learn that you just failed your chemistry test or when you forget to do that homework assignment worth five points. Have you ever thought to yourself, "Well there go my chances of getting into college!"? Here is some advice from Winston Churchill: Keep calm and carry on. The Ivy League colleges only accept the top 6% of students. Does it really matter if I get into the top 6%? Absolutely NOT.

The book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be, by Frank Bruni, documents the success of students all over the United States who did not go to the top elite schools. Bruni questions the necessity of attending Ivy Leagues and affirms that realistically, equal success is achieved with degrees from other colleges. For example, Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, graduated from Alma College (Ten points if you know where Alma College is!) and did not receive his MBA.

Time Magazine's Michael Bernick writes, "Whether your degree, for example, is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters far less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers." Economists have also found that degrees from elite schools as opposed to other average colleges have no effect on future incomes.

Keep this in mind next time you begin to stress. Remember that altogether, it doesn't matter where you go to school. Trying one's best is what pays off in the end.

By Rebecca B., Homework Assistant


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grammarly: A New Option for Proofreading

It is 1:00 in the morning. Half-asleep, you robotically tap out that final sentence of an essay for History class. Wanting no more than to hit PRINT and call it a day (or should I say, call it a night), you forgo proofreading and collapse into bed. Inevitably, your paper is returned to you with a plethora of errors circled in red ink.

Proofreading is important; we’ve all known that since the third-grade. But it’s boring and time-consuming- some of the most dreaded adjectives for teenagers. What’s more, even when we do proofread our work, we often miss our own errors.

Enter Grammarly: an free, online proofreading and plagiarism checker established in 2009. Grammarly is essentially the BMW of spellcheckers; simply paste your text into the site and it will check for over 250 different kinds of grammar mistakes. Then, with the click of a mouse, users can correct the mistakes.
With Grammarly, never again.
Curious as to whether Grammarly would yield the promising results advertised by its webpage, I uploaded several of my old essays into the program.

Grammarly proved to be, overall, a positive experience. It was, however, a bit 
alarming to see the many mistakes I had made in my old work that neither my teacher nor I had caught. Grammarly drew my attention to several types of errors that are overlooked by Microsoft Word Spell Check. Firstly, Grammarly will attack those pesky usage errors. Though the sentence, “I loose my cellphone all the time” will make it through Microsoft Word (since “loose” is a word, just not the correct word in this context) Grammarly will consider the context of the sentence and suggest the correct word (lose).

Grammarly also knows what phrases should be hyphenated; I learned that, for example, middle-class should be hyphenated (another thing that my teacher didn’t notice either). This is another thing that won’t be addressed by Microsoft Spell Check.

One mistake I make at an alarming frequency: writing the same word twice without noticing. Grammarly found this sentence in my paper, “The city tried to contain the expansion of African American living space, in part, by using densely packed, centrally located high high rise public housing.” You know, sometimes you begin a sentence, get distracted by a shiny object, return to the sentence and forgot where you left off. It happens. A lot. And even if I do proofread, I never catch the the pesky Repeated Word (see what I did there?). Grammarly offers an easy and clear method for correcting errors such as this.
Is this relevant? Probably not. Do I like the idea of dinosaurs talking about grammar? Why yes, yes I do.
Grammarly is also set apart by its brief description of each mistake. If you confuse to and too, Grammarly won’t just correct the issue but also provide a quick blurb illustrating the correct usage for the two words. That way, you are less likely to make the same mistake twice.  

Grammarly is technically a free service (just make an account), however, many of the more sophisticated capabilities are reserved for those who would like to pay $29.00 a month for premium membership. With the premium package, Grammarly will analyze your writing for poor vocabulary choice, poor sentence structure, wordiness, and use of passive voice. According to its website, Grammarly helps its users “Write better, period.” Well, I don’t believe that that statement is entirely accurate. After all, the functions that actually improve the level and style of one’s writing are only available for the Premium customers. If you struggle with stylistic choices, purchasing Grammarly premium might be a good investment for you. Though in my experience, improving the style of one’s writing usually comes from both practice and guided revision, rather than from a website.

Regardless, making a free Grammarly account is certainly worthwhile for students seeking a more comprehensive version of Microsoft Spell Check. So during your next 1:00 a.m. drafting party, remember: with Grammarly, an error-free essay and imminent sleep is just a few clicks away. 
You did it! Now you can dream about an A+ essay!
Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Awesome Things to do BEFORE You Finish High School

I officially only have a year and a quarter left of high school (scary!). While I am excited to get out of high school, I also want to make the best of it before I leave. I have compiled a list from different websites of advice for how to make the most before you leave! 
  • Take a class you genuinely enjoy! 
    • There are so many requirements of what you need to graduate. Once you are finished with those, take a class just for the sake of enjoying it! 
  • Take care of yourself!
    • Now you may roll your eyes at this but learning how to take care of yourself in high school is extremely important. The ability to exercise and manage your sleep schedule are skills that benefit you all the way to college. Generally, taking care of yourself reduces stress and increases your happiness. 
  • Go to Prom or any other dance!
    • Even if you hate it with every fiber of your being, let's face it. It is a night you will remember forever. Everyone you know dresses up and has one central objective: to have fun! It is also extremely fun to ASK someone. On pi day, I was asked to Prom with a pie and a little note that read "Wouldn't we be cutie-pi's if we went to Prom together?" 
  • Support your friends in their activities
    • I never ever thought I would enjoy any school plays or sports game. As soon as I actually went, I realized how fun it was to cheer on and support my friends. Not only does this bring one closer to their friends, it also gives one new experiences to learn from. 
  • Have fun with your friends
    • School doesn't always have to be straight A's, five AP classes, or a perfect SAT score. It can be those memories with your friends. One extremely fun thing to do is pull pranks on your friends. Now don't get the impression that you should go pull off the biggest prank in the history of mankind. Just do fun little things with your friends! It will make their day and yours. My freshman year, I surprised my friend by sticking Oreos on the exterior of his car. Be sure to also find a fun activity to do with your friends so it can be your activity. For example, have a book or movie marathon during breaks. It is an activity that will benefit everyone. 
  • Make new friends and make amends with any you have drifted away from!
    • It is true that the people you least expect to be friends with you end up being your closest. Take a leap of faith and be friendly to someone new. Also be sure to make amends with any "frenemies," It reduces stress and generally allows one to feel happier.
  • Make a time capsule! 
    • It will be amazing to see what you were like in high school and how much you changed. Time capsules help you see the fun you had and bring back awesome memories. 
I'm sure there are countless other things that can be added to this list! Be sure to comment below with any you think of! 


by Rebecca B., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Brief (but Delicious!) History of Gummy Bears

If you are anything like me, you are probably in love with gummy bears. Gummy bears are perfect because they are small, easily accessible, and very tasting.

Origin - According to candy historian Beth Kimmerle, "Gummy candies descend from Turkish delight and even Japanese rice candy."

1909 - Wine gums originated in Great Britain and played a key role in shaping the recipe for gummy bears.

1920 - Hans Riegel of Bonn, Germany, started his own company, Haribo (the first two letters of each of his names)! Riegel's company did not start successfully. He improved the centuries-old formula of gummy candy to make the shape of a bear.

1945 - At this point, the Haribo company was so successful, it had over 400 employees. Han Riegel became ill and died. His sons, responsible for jumpstarting the business, had been imprisoned by Allied forces. The company shrank to 30 people.

1950 - Riegel's sons built the company back up again and had over 1,000 employees this time.

1960 - The company begins to mass market Gummibarchen (little gummy bears) to kids across Europe.

1975 - Haribo trademarked Goldbaren (playoff of "gold" and "cute").

1981 - The Jelly Belly factory creates their own gummy bears and Trolli launches Gummy Worms.

1982 - Haribo opens an American office in Baltimore.

Gummy bears have been loved and cherished by children around the world. Their success is incorporated into society and is now a part of American childhoods. It has inspired a YouTube hit and has inspired many television series. The references made to gummy bears in movies and songs are countless. Thank you, Hans Riegel, for making possibly the most delicious creation on the Earth! We are eternally grateful!

by Rebecca B., Homework Assistant

Link to Bon Appetit History of Gummy Bears

Monday, May 25, 2015

Keep Calm and Carry On: Prom Edition

Every girl imagines their Prom to fit the perfect High School Musical mold. Perfect dance. Perfect dress. Perfect dinner. Perfect evening. However, in my small town the Mountain View a series of unfortunate events took place. 

Tragically, my choir concert was scheduled the same day. I persuaded my choir teacher to let me go to Prom because my date was a senior and it was his last Prom. Ever. My choir teacher said the concert would end at 8:30 which meant I could go to the last two hours of dance. Perfect! The concert started at 7 so I figured I could still take pictures at 5 and go to the early pre-dance dinner at 5:30 with my friends all before the concert. However, pictures did not get started until 5:30 and the traffic was congested so there was no way we could make it to the dinner.

The concert was in a chapel in downtown Palo Alto. The downtown is packed with restaurants. YES! By the time we got there, we only had 20 minutes to eat. NO! I knew this really fast Indian restaurant. We ordered our food at the counter and then realized we both left our wallets in his car (which was parked on the other side of the block because of traffic). Great. They gave us our food free luckily and we hurried off to my concert.

My concert should have lasted an hour and a half. Nope. After one Beethoven piece, a 55-minute mass promoting world peace, and three kids passing out, the concert ended at 9:45. Prom ended at 10:30 so we realized that we could not make it as it was 30 minutes away. So my date and I went straight to the after party. Since everyone was still at the dance, we just jumped on a trampoline for 20 minutes and headed straight to Laser Quest.

Although a part of me was disappointed that we did not go to the actual Prom, I was honestly thrilled that I got a night so memorable. It certainly did not fit the traditional High School Musical mold, but I had way more fun than I ever would have otherwise.

by Rebecca B., Homework Assistant

Comment below on any Prom mishaps!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Well-Rounded Education

"Why do I even need to take this class?" This is an oft-repeated mantra in high school, especially because of its course requirements. (For example, in my school, students are required to take four years of English). These requirements can seem restrictive, especially as most students know what types of fields they will enter later in life, and may want to focus on that in their high school studies.
The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Davinci,
a great example of a Renaissance Man 

If such requirements seem a bit old-fashioned, it's because they are. Curriculums requiring extended education in many different types of studies can be traced back to 15th century Italy, where the idea of the Renaissance man was born. The Renaissance man is a man who is well-versed in many subject areas, from math and science to literature and art.This ideal became the model for education at the time and survived to modern day education, resulting in a more rounded, less specialized schooling.

But old-fashioned doesn't necessarily mean irrelevant. Having at least a rudimentary understanding in all major fields confers major advantages.  For example, knowing how to communicate clearly in writing helps in all careers, like when drafting a scientific research paper. And you never know when one subject will connect to another. For instance, when tasked with drafting a paragraph explaining what interests me about science, I drew from my knowledge of European history, discussing the Scientific Revolution. Another example could be how learning about the Great Depression and its causes and consequences can help to understand modern economics. The possibilities are endless.

As you can see, the idea of learning a variety of subjects is a beneficial one that spans back centuries. But if you still find yourself dreading the next English literature or trigonometry class, just think. A few more years and then you are off to college, free to pick and choose which subjects to take and specialize in.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Thursday, May 21, 2015

New SBAC Testing

Now that I finished all my AP tests (yay!) I can get a bit of time to relax before my next round of testing. But not for long, as I, with the other juniors of my school, must spend next week taking the SBAC test.

But what is SBAC? SBAC stands for "Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium", and is the new standardized test for the new nationwide Common Core Standards. These tests are entirely on the computer and include math, reading, and research.

The SBAC is designed to be based off of general concepts and application. This means that students will need to know foundation concepts, but not have to memorize formulas, to test critical thinking skills.

Because of the emphasis on critical thinking, some colleges have began looking at the scores and using the results to determine if incoming students should be placed in remedial classes. In California, all campuses in the California State University System and almost 80 community colleges have begun to do this.
Map of states participating in SBAC testing
However, this test has its critics. Some are concerned about the ability of elementary school students to take this exam, with its complicated computer-based set-up and the large amount of time it will take. Others question the validity of the SBAC in testing critical thinking skills and whether or not standardized testing is necessary for public education

Protest is mounting in numerous ways, from scathing internet posts to entire junior classes deciding to opt-out of them. 

But what do you think? Are the SBAC a welcome change from the previous STAR tests? Or is it just another hoop to jump through for public education?

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Useful Chromebook Extensions

Useful Chromebook Extensions

This year Los Altos High School implemented the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy which requires students who have a laptop to bring it to school every single day. For those students who don't have access to a laptop, the school provided Chromebooks which were bought thanks to the support of Google and the MVLA foundation. Mountain View High School will be implementing BYOD next year, so all you Spartans be prepared for this. There are many perks to this policy. For one, all students will have access to a computer which will make classwork assignment and homework assignments that require the use of a computer doable for all students. It also means that students can have access to more knowledge through the internet. Since the only browser on the google Chromebooks is google knowing what the google store can offer can make a difference in your use.

Here are some useful chrome extensions:

tab snooze -  this extension allows you to hide tabs that you aren't currently using but will in the future

stayfocusd - Blocks sites for a period of time. Great for when you are studying for tests, quizzes and final and don't want tumblr or facebook to distract you!

Lazarus- Have you ever been working on an online form an your browser suddenly crashes on you? Well, this extensions saves your work, so you don't have to worry about your page crashing and your hard work being erased.

gmail offline -allows you to use gmail without an internet connection. Comes in handy when there is no internet service and you want to make sure to write a few emails.

Turn off Lights- Great extension for when you want to watch a video in a cinema like experience

Tab scissors and Tab glue - This has to be my favorite set of extension for chrome. By installing tab scissors, you are able to split a window containing two tabs into two separate widows that are the same length which is great when you are researching and taking notes. When you want to merge the two open tabs you use tab glue which glues the tabs together again.

Adblock for YouTube- Create extension for blocking most of the ads on YouTube videos.

Highlight to Search- Great extensions that helps you search keywords//phrases when reading online by highlighting the word/phrase.

Written by Maria, Homework Assistant