Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ft. Davis, the walking stick, and the odd midterm exam

As expected, the Ft. Davis trip was pretty much awesome. I posted some pictures on my Facebook for anyone who’s interested. For everyone who doesn’t know, Ft. Davis is a tiny town in west Texas. Dean’s Scholars goes because the McDonald Observatory is there.

The bus ride there wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst either. We watched movies or TV shows most of the way. One of the movies was about a west Texas town of 81 people that was filmed mostly in Ft. Davis. Dr. Cline, our administrator-type person and general leader, seemed to think this movie was somehow good or interesting, but it wasn’t.

The hotel was fairly nice. I got a room to myself, as we apparently reserved more than we needed. I didn’t argue with it. Its layout was a little weird; it was divided into at least four different buildings scattered around the downtown area. I think there were at least a few of us in every building.

We got up way too early both mornings. Saturday morning we went to the observatory for a tour. Seeing the telescopes and domes move was kind of impressive. Walking around the catwalk around one of them was fairly impressive, too, as that was the highest point for a considerable distance. The guy giving the tour was actually fairly interesting, too, much better than the standard public facility PR kind of person.

The fun part came after that when I and six others got off at the entrance to the state park on the way back, about four miles from town on the highway. We then hiked back to town, about six miles over the mountains. The first part was straight up the nearest peak and was much harder than the rest of the hike. The view was impressive; nothing like Colorado or Switzerland, but decent for Texas. The group and the path we chose were really a lot of fun. The senior that was generally leading the way said that more people had usually gone on earlier years, but I think seven was a good number. A bigger group would have taken forever to get through some of the rocks we climbed through and over on the way. Or we would have just chosen an easier path, which would have been less fun. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I seemed to be one of the more nimble hikers of the group; I guess I haven’t completely forgotten about all those afternoons spent wandering around in the creeks and such back home. Since I was fairly confident that I could catch up whenever I needed to, I generally hung back and kept whoever was falling behind company. Oh, I also picked up a really nice walking stick. I’m not sure what kind of plant it’s from; it’s not normal wood. It’s made of stuff that feels and looks a lot like bamboo except that it’s solid. It was growing out of a clump of some kind of big, flat, bright green, grass-looking-like plant. Whatever it was, it made a really good walking stick. It was still alive when I broke it off, so it was really strong.

We ended up going though an old cavalry fort at the edge of the state park on our way back into town. We then looked for a place to eat, as none of us had had a real lunch. It seemed like everything that looked like it had or might have recently been a restaurant was closed down and/or for sale. Even the one place we found that was open was for sale.

We went back to the observatory that evening for their “Star Party”. It wasn’t much more interesting than it sounds. The presentations were geared toward the 9-12 year old age group; we spent most of the rest of our time waiting in lines to spend 15 seconds or so at a time looking through one of their smaller telescopes at things like the moon, Jupiter and its moons, a “Ring Nebula”, or a cluster of stars. Not the most exciting stuff by any means. But, once again, the group I hung out with in the lines was fairly cool.

Sunday we got up at around 6 a.m. to go home. I was tired enough that I did manage to sleep for a couple of hours on the bus. It looked like most of the others did, too, as no one tried to put on any movies or anything until after our first stop.

And that was it. An interesting little excursion. After we got back that afternoon, we all went back to working on the homework we hadn’t been doing that weekend.

The rest of the week since then has been fairly routine. I went to Kealing for mentoring again on Monday, went to the physics homework discussion that evening, and went to another physics pizza lecture on Tuesday. I was slightly surprised to find lots of people and no pizza left when I got there; most of the earlier ones had had fairly thin audiences. I did have another chemistry midterm Tuesday evening, but that happens every now and then. We have our second midterm in calculus next week and Java a week after that. It’s starting to feel like we’ve finished a significant part of the semester.

I also worked out two likely options for what my schedule will look like next semester. No classes before 9 ever and none before 10 any day but Monday. I’ll also only have, at most, three hours of class on Friday. I think that worked out really nicely.

One last thing, my old BEST robotics team got 5th at their competition last Saturday. Go them! I work at the Capitol BEST contest this Friday and Saturday. Should be long, tiring, and hopefully amusing.

And now it’s time to sleep. I really will try to get back to the insightfulness and such sometime, just not now. Good night.

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