Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Just a LITTLE Off-Part II

Just before falling asleep, Christie mentioned to me that she was pretty sure some of the Road Scholar info she needed for the event was in Dan's locker. As we were pulling out behind Mr. Kamp, I remembered this and asked Chris and Dan if they'd figured it out. Upon figuring out that they didn't have the info, I pulled back in the parking lot so they could go find it. As I waited for them with Dominic, Mr. Kamp came back in and asked if we wanted him to wait so we could follow him. I had a map that looked reasonably easy for someone to give me directions from, and Mr Kamp really needed to get to West Ottawa to get everything to work as far as registration and stuff. For those reasons, I told him that we would be fine, to go ahead. He agreed, and left. Dan and Chris came out without the necessary info, and we left without it, hoping that the other people on the event had it. I called one of the other people and they did end up having it.

With that minor crisis delt with, Christie and Dan were named navigators, since I can't read a map or tell direction if my life depended on it, esp. if I have no clue where I'm going. They directed me to the highway, and we were off. Apparently I'm not a very even driver. I slow down and speed up alot, and supposedly i'm not very good at staying in my lane. Christie was reading to me about capacitors when I noticed how PRETTY the land we were driving through was. I commented that I don't remember noticing it last year when I'd ridden out there. It was about 8:15 when I decided to call Coach P. to see what exit it was that we had to get off, since the directions didn't really say and I had no clue where exactly we were.

He answered his phone and upon hearing my question, asked where we were. I looked up at that exact moment to see a sign that read Big Rapids, one mile. Big Rapids is about an 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids, about an hour and a 1/4 away from West Ottawa. I almost had a heart attack as I read this to Phil. "YOU'RE WHERE???????" he bellowed. "PLEASE tell me you're kidding." "Umm actually not...CRAAAAAAAAP!!!!!!!!" was my spazzed out reply. I got off at the first available exit and pulled into a gas station. I was NOT happy at this point. Phil wasn't either. He told me I was DEF. going to need more gas. Dominic got out and pumped $20 worth of gas into my tank, and I handed the phone to Dan for Phil to give directions to. Apparently we had taken 131 North instead of 31 north!! ONLY 100 off.

We were supposed the be at West Ottawa in about 45 minutes at that point. All devices had to be impounded by 9 a.m. Since both the robots and the scramblers were in my van, there was NO way that was happening. This fact did NOT make any of us happy. Dominic and I both had events at 9, and Dan was supposed to run his scrambler at 9:30. With all this in mind and new directions in Dan's possesion, we set off back to where we were supposed to be. I set the cruise control at 83 and crossed my fingers no cops would be around. Chris was laughing her slightly hysterical laugh, and Dan was convinced he was going to get a urinary tract infection from having to pee so bad.

It was around the time when we realized there was NO way we were going to make our 9 o'clock events that Christie's voice cut the tension...."Erika, SLOW DOWN, there's a COP car!!!" I was NOT happy with this turn of events. "I do NOT need a ticket on TOP of all this!!" I bellowed back. Dan and Dominic where looking back at the cop we'd just flown by. He was pulling out after us...and I was pretty much hysterical at that point. I could have sworn I saw his lights go on, too. Thankfully, he must have needed a donut or something, because he didn't follow us. I called Phil again, this time inquiring about impounding. I found out that they weren't going to let the robots run for points, but that they would let the scramblers run, and probably just push back Dan's run time so he would be able to make it. This was pretty much devestating to me. I'd spent HOURS the night before on Brutus and Gwinniper, and now that was all a total waste. NOT cool at all.

We were supposed to get on some other highway at that point, and I followed Dan's directions, figuring that it would seem we were going the right way. By now it was a few minutes before 9. We were supposed to get off at exit 55. Glancing at the signs we saw exit 36-ish, and figured it would be awhile. We drove on, still in a state of disbelief about everything that was happening to us. It just didn't seem fair!! After a few minutes, Dan was the first to notice yet another problem...the numbers were going DOWN!! We had reached exit 25 when he pointed this out. This resulted in another call to Phil. “So Phil, we’re supposed to get off at exit 50, right?” “Yeah…” He replied warily. “Ok, so if we’re at exit 24, how come the exits are going DOWN??” “Hang on, 24?? Where ARE you???” “Well, the exit coming up says Marne…that isn’t right?” “NOOOOOO!!”

There we were, going the wrong way yet AGAIN!! We had taken 196 instead of I-196…or something like that. So we got off at the next exit, and Phil once again gave Dan directions to get me to wherever the heck we were supposed to be next. By this time, it was after 9, and my frustration and that of everyone else in the car was mounting. FINALLY though, we were pretty sure we were on the right track. The only major issue at that point was that we ALL had to pee.

As Dan and Christie directed me, I finally recognized exactly where we were. It was right by Phil and Paula and Amos’s houses…if someone had just TOLD me to go toward their houses it would have been SO much easier. We were on the right road this time…Phil had made the directions VERY clear this time. Chris, Dominic, Dan and I by this time were despairing of making the 9 o’clock event at ALL by this point as it was nearing 20 to 10. Christie was spazzing out because she and Abbs were in Write It/Do It, an event that REQUIRED two people. Abbs isn’t on the team, so it would be her only chance to compete in that event. Chris REALLY wanted to be there for it. Dan was supposed to run the trebuchet for Storm the Castle at 10:15 and he really needed to be there. We were definitely all a bit stressed, to say the least.

We saw the sign that announced Holland within a reasonable amount of time. Now all we had to do was end up on 31 (NOT 131!!) and turn off of that onto something and then somewhere else, and then get to the school…theoretically it wouldn’t be that hard, right? Hopefully by now you’ve realized that nothing is easy for those of us in that car. The directions specifically mentioned shopping malls that we should have seen on our way in. Somehow we were in the middle of downtown Holland by the market or something and we’d never seen any malls.

Of course this led to yet another panicked call to Phil. At this point he turned the phone over to Mr. Ash, who knew the area better. Then Chris Blok called Dan’s phone to ask about the trebuchet charts for Storm the Castle. Mr. Ash gave Dominic directions, and Dan had Chris get people to be waiting for us at the door of West Ottawa. We pulled into the school at about 10:10. We’d totally missed the 9 o’clock events and were late for the 10 o’clock ones. Mr. and Mrs. Ash, Phil, Chris, and I think a couple other people were waiting for us. I grabbed my bag and binders and went flying inside, Christie and Dan followed suit. Mr. Ash was so gracious as the park my van for me, and Chris and Phil and stuff helped Dan get everything where it needed to be.

I arrived at Chem Lab, my 10 o’clock event, huffing and puffing and about to keel over…I’m VERY out of shape, let me tell ya!! I walked in, only to discover that Amber, my partner in the event, had grabbed Ashley and brought her in at the last second for moral support since I wasn’t there. Rather dismayed and disappointed at having missed two of my four events, plus the robot that I wouldn’t get to run, so really three of my four events, I slunk to the team camp. Paula Lou, my faithful sidekick, was there to give me a big hug. That started a few tears…the stress, sleeplessness, stupidity, and unfairness of it all caught up with me for a second, lol. But after letting go for that instant I pulled back together and went to watch the other spectator events, since Astronomy, my last event, wasn’t until 1.

The trebuchet was entertaining. Chris and Dan forgot to adjust the angle of some pin thingie or other, so it flew BACKWARD…not quite what they’d had in mind. Then too their charts were in feet, when they actually needed to be in meters. Minor setbacks, to be sure. The scramblers were both quite a spectacle. We had been worrying about them hitting the table super hard…we shouldn’t have. They went about 7 feet and stopped. Thankfully no one had very high hopes for them to actually work. Bri saw the name…Cleopatra…on the laucher and about had a breakdown. We told him that as coach, if he’d been there to control the actions of the night before he would have been able to stop the decorations. There really wasn’t a whole lot he could say to that.

Rumor had it that they might let us run the robots, and word came to me that it was a TRUE rumor. I went happily out to get them from my van and Brandon, the guy who I was going to have run the robot, and I went and impounded Brutus and Gwinniper. Brutus’s left wheel was about to break at any minute, as the last second repairs Nate and I had made the night before were by no means professional. I warned Amos, who would drive him, of that little qwirk, telling him that Brutus could well just break down in the middle of the run. Gwinniper pretty much gave me heart failure yet again when I realized that one of her wheels didn’t run. Brandon solved the issue temporarily by just pulling the controller a certain way.

I went off to do my Stars test with Scott pretty soon after that. We ran out of time and didn’t know how to do a couple of the things, but we felt pretty good about it. Since I was in stars when Amos ran Brutus, I didn’t get to see how that went. He reported that the wheel had broken part way through, but he’d managed to finish despite that. Brandon ran Gwinniper at 3:10. We weren’t trying to accomplish much else beyond pushing a few things around and calling it good. We accomplished that goal easily.

The rest of the time was ours until the awards ceremony at 4. We sat around and chitchatted for awhile about the events of the day. I had about 5 gazillion people offer me maps, directions, and navigation systems, and another 5 gazillion tell me that 31 and 131 are 100 off…I KNEW THAT ALREADY!! We packed everything up a little before four and headed to the gym for the awards. No one was overly optimistic. Several of the study events were pretty sure they’d totally bombed. Those of us in building events KNEW we had.

Our fears were realized in some areas, but greatly wrong in others. Since it was an invitational, there were only 33 teams present. Also, no matter what the overall score was, everyone was going the Regionals, the official first competition. Many of the schools present had more than one time, for example we had Plymouth Silver and Plymouth Blue. In Astronomy, Scott and I got 6th place, which was kind of disappointing, but acceptable…to me at least. Neil, on the other team, got 3rd, which was really good, too. Dan and Brandon got 2nd in Dynamic planet, for which I was VERY excited for them. Christie and Abbs managed to medal 5th in Write it/Do It, as well. Chris and Dan both totally deserved to do so well after the chaos of the morning. Neil and Amos were VERY happy with their first place in circuits, the event that I was on with Scott at 9 but I’d missed. Scott didn’t medal, but he got 8th in it, which is amazingly good considering he was by himself and we hadn’t learned how to do stuff in 2 of the 3 problems!! Paula and Joel surprised themselves in getting 3rd in Forensics, which was the event they said they hadn’t even had time to finish!! Lauren and Meg got 4th in Health Science, an event that had them nearly in tears when they walked out of it. Several other events medaled, as well. Overall though, it wasn’t good enough for the Blue team to be in the top 6. The silver team, however, got 5th overall, which was quite impressive. The lack of medals, however, will hopefully inspire everyone to work harder.

On the way home, only Dan and Dominic rode with me. Dan was pretty much the worst backseat driver ever. He quite literally told me when to speed up, slow down, turn on my signals, and he and Dom made it their personal responsibility to do my head checks for me so I could stay looking straight ahead. I followed Mr. Kamp back out of town, never once letting him out of my sight. The way he went out was def. NOT the same way we’d come in. I have NO clue how we made it from where we had been!! We made it back to school in less than 45 minutes…a far cry from the almost 3 hours we’d been in the car on the way.

It was a day that taught us all a lot. We had a lot of fun in some of our events, and made memories that we’ll never forget. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard or been so frustrated since…Mission Possible in 9th grade and last year. This was only West Ottawa…I can’t wait to see what happens before Regionals!!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Only a LITTLE Off- Part I

All good stories start out once upon a time. This story should definently NOT be starting that way!! This past Friday I stayed after school to work on Gwinniper and Brutus, the two robot we were going to run at West Ottawa the next day. Theoretically, the repairs that needed to be made were minor. By now I should know that NOTHING in Science O is ever minor. Coach N. was waiting at 3 to help me make the necessary repairs. We quickly did so, and Nate left by 4. I had to finish up Brutus and do a practice run on Gwinniper, and plus I had to wait for Christie and Dan to be done with their Scrambler (named Cleopatra, much to Bri's great dismay when he found out). That wasn't happening in the foreseeable future. Chris and Dan tend to be rather...snippy to each other. Mostly its all in good fun. However, without the guidance of a coach, neither Brutus nor Cleopatra was getting much in the way of construction.

Throughout the course of the night, Dan, Chris and I bonded in a way that only late nights at school can bond a group of people. Dan managed to burn Christie in the neck with a drill, which apparently was just retaliation for a hot glue burn she'd given him earlier. I was trying to study the HUGE stack of stars info Coach P. had given me at the end of the day for my astronomy event the next day, as well. Cleopatra wasn't working out quite as planned. She just wasn't firing right, and Dan was getting a LITTLE irritated. I finally got around to taking Gwinniper out of her box, only to take another half hour or so to figure out which controller was the right one. However, once I located it, I realized that Gwinniper was not going anywhere. I called Coach N. in a panic. After figuring out that something really was wrong, he said that he'd be there in a few minutes.

True to his word, he arrived around 7. He quickly discovered the problem with Gwinniper, that her box that Amos had built was too heavy. He put me to work tearing the metal box off and building a new wood one. He also helped Dan and Christie with Cleopatra, giving them something to do as well. In the 45 or so minutes he was there, we accomplished a ton. He had to leave, however, and from that minute on, things went downhill. Mr Blok left around 1/4 to 9, and Mr VanderWaal shortly thereafter. This left Dan, Chris and I alone in the school. Being the honest and upright kids we are, we didn't destroy a single thing:-) We listened to a CD or two, but that was about it.

We were all pretty crabby and stressed out. We'd never actually gotten around to eating supper, either. By around 9, we all figured out that it was NOT working!! I'd found Brutus to have another issue, and Gwinniper kept falling over backwards. The Scramblers were having issues far worse than the robots. In despair, I called Coach N. yet again around 9:30. After a bit of confusion, he arrived at school to bail us out yet AGAIN. Let me impress upon you that Nate is the COACH of Robot. I'm on the event, and so are a couple other people, none of whom were there. Nate also is NOT the coach of Scrambler, yet as soon as he helped me re-fix Gwinniper he immediately asked Dan what was wrong and how he could help. Needless to say Coach N. was quite high on our list of people we really appreciated that night!!

Nate managed to help us all put everything relatively right. Neither scrambler was working quite as it should, but they were passable. This was the case for both the robots, as well. He told us all to go home and get a good nights sleep. He left at around 10:20, and we left school at 10:40. SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS working on those devices...and a whole bunch of less than savory words, yelling, spazzing out, burning, singing, laughing, and bonding had taken place in that time.

Chris and I stopped at Forest Hills to get ourselves some food....Christie said something about being famished and hungry enough to eat a horse. By the time we got home and ate and tried to wind down a bit, it was after midnight. We climbed into bed and studied and talked on and off until 2 a.m., when Chris fell asleep. All the stress and everything must have really gotten to me, though, because I never actually went to sleep. A little before 5 I gave up trying to sleep, figuring that an hour of sleep would be worse than none at all. I studied my circuits stuff for an hour before getting up and showering at 6. After I got out and got dressed, I woke the near comatose Christie from her sound sleep and we had breakfast and finished getting ready.

We had to be at school by 7:15 to get our ride out to West Ottawa. I had both robots as well as the scrambler launcher in the back of my van, all of which had to get to the competition. The plan had been to ride with Mr. Kamp. Our plan went awry when we realized there was no way any of it was fitting in his van. I agreed to driving, making it easier on all of us. I would follow Mr. Kamp and all would be fine. Christie, Dan, and Dominic all piled into my van. We would be arriving at West Ottawa by 8:30 according to the present timetable. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men...

Guesses on what happened next? Those of you who know can NOT tell!!

Monday, February 20, 2006


This past Friday I went to see the Sikmas in Fiddler on the Roof. It was an AWESOME play, I loved it. In keeping with tradition, I did manage to get myself lost on the way. I've never been on M6 or out to the Caledonia part of town, so I guess I have a LITTLE excuse as to how I ended up going in a complete circle and using half a tank of gas. Poor Pete must cringe whenever we do something and he sees my number, calling frantically to figure out where the heck I am!! I don't know what it is, but EVERY time I manage to get lost. Me, Abbs, Lauren, and Paula (Christie, I REALLY missed you!!) arrived about 2 minutes before they were scheduled to start. Thanks to early planning we had great seats (thanks to John for getting us those tickets!!). The play was about 3 hours long, but it FLEW by. Much of the humor was stuff that us PCHS people appreciated ("as the good book says..." and "for someone who was slow of speech, he sure talked a lot!!" among other things). The rest of the play had us laughing much of the time as well ("yes, and from THOSE children come OTHER children!!" and lots more). I finally learned where Yenta-izing came from!! Yente and her matchmaking had me laughing over and over again....that would be SO much fun!! Throughout it all the amount of FUN all the kids were having was totally obvious to me. Abbs and I were both VERY jealous of their opportunity to perform in such a way. The music was great, too. The matchmaker song and the tradition one were in my head for awhile, as was the Rich Man song. The last song they sang at the very end almost brought tears to my eyes. Pete made a great Lazar Wolfe...his pillow stuffed up his shirt was hilarious. John the beggar (no, the begggar!!) and his carrot, plus the hat he held on his head made me and Paula laugh every time we saw him. The rest of the cast did a wonderful job, as well. I know I had a blast, and I've VERY glad I went!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Bah Humbug!!

Happy Valentines Day....here's to another year of kissing frogs!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hallmark Cards

This semester we have to take Speech class. Today I gave my introduction speech. I could introduce whoever I wanted, and say whatever I wanted. We were supposed to pretend we were introducing our person to an audience that he or she would be speaking to. I knew who I would do right away. Someone imaginary, but one who I could talk about endlessly. This was, more or less, my speech.

There’s no such thing as the perfect guy, right? That IS true. However, I believe that with a little guidance even the most pathetic guy can turn out pretty good. That’s what we’re going to show you this afternoon.

I know for me, the search for the elusive “prince charming” seemed hopeless. I’d read the happily ever after books, seen the movies, and spent countless hours daydreaming about a perfect guy that would make me happy. I’d nearly given up hope when one day I met a guy named Ethan.

Rather than your typical girl-sees-guy-and-falls-madly-in-love scenario, Ethan and I were friends. We hung out a lot. We liked to do the same things and had the same sense of humor. He could always cheer me up if I was having a bad day. We talked about everything, and no matter what we did we always had fun.

We’d been friends for awhile when Ethan asked me out. I was surprised at first, and I had no clue what to do. I did NOT want to ruin our friendship. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized what a great guy Ethan really was. I put aside my fears and accepted the date.

It turned out to be the first of many for us. Ethan was great. He would send me flowers at work and call me just to hear my voice. Before I knew it, entirely unconsciously, I realized that I had fallen in love with Ethan. He continued to be his wonderful self. I loved how his eyes lit up when he saw me, and how he would spend ages picking out the perfect Hallmark card because he knew I loved them. He would call whenever one of “our songs” came on the radio.

We had our ups and downs, neither of us is without our faults. All in all, however, Ethan was an awesome guy. It was the little things, the cards, songs, flowers, plus all the laughs and good times we shared that made him so special to me. When he asked me to marry him, I was more than happy to say yes. Ethan loves me for who I am, no matter what.

Now he is here today to help all of you guys become better boyfriends and husbands. Please help me welcome Ethan, MY perfect guy.

Sadly, Ethan isn’t a real person. He’s actually a guy off of a Hollister bag from spring break two years go, lol. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just find the REAL Ethan now?!? He’s GOT to be out there somewhere. Let me know if you find him, k?