Monday, July 29, 2013

one more teenage driver on the road

Driver's license, check! And only six days after turning 16 and a half. I guess you could say I was eager to be able to drive! Now I can drive myself to work and get bubble tea at my own will. My mom has been relieved of her chauffeur duties. Here I am, super giddy after getting my license.

Before work today, my mom and I went to the Gaithersburg MVA for my driving test. I tried to find information about the test beforehand, but they are pretty good about keeping everything a mystery! So now that I've gone through the whole process, here's the inside scoop on how to pass the test.

Once at the MVA, you can bypass the long intake line at driver services if you have an appointment for the road test. You can go right to another line at the "road test" window.

My examiner had an electronic tablet and stylus where he was scoring me. I couldn't really see the screen from my angle, but it looked like he was checking boxes.

First, he asked me to turn on my front lights, high beams, hazards, and turn signals, and open my windows. It's a good thing they don't ask you to pop the hood or change the tires. Then, he got into the car and proceeded to turn the temperature down to 66°C. So that made for a loud and chilly drive. Make sure to lock the doors (which I forgot), adjust your seat and mirrors, and then put on your seat belt. My examiner put on his own seat belt, but I've heard some terrifying stories about the examiner pretending to buckle in and then failing you when you don't notice. But, seriously, what kind of person tries to trick nervous test-takers? Well, you should still check your examiner's seat belt in case they are in a bad mood and feel like failing some people.

Then, he told me some generic instructions in a very slow and monotonous voice, and we drove into the nearby parking lot. First, I had to parallel park in less than three minutes. There was a concrete curb to the side, and cones with flags to mark the front and back of the space. After I finished, I thought he was going to open his door to check that I was less than a foot from the curb, but he just told me to exit the spot. So, it all remains a mystery, but I assume that I was close enough to the curb, or he would have told me to readjust.

Then I had to do a two-point turn to back into a space. It was a tight space, marked again with cones on both sides. This skill will definitely come in handy for trips to the mall. Apparently, hitting a cone would be an automatic fail, so go slowly! In the real world, I guess that would equate to hitting the car next to you while parking. Not good.

Surprisingly, no three-point turn was required, so we went on to the street portion of the test. Luckily, I had practiced the course with my mom the day before! It definitely made me more confident for the test, so I recommend driving through the course ahead of time. Here is a map of the course that I spent way too long making. Click it to look at all of the details, including tiny symbols for traffic signals.

 Here are the directions:
  1. Left from test lot onto Metropolitan Grove Rd.
  2. Left onto Clopper Rd.
  3. Right onto Quince Orchard Rd.
  4. Right onto Bank St.
  5. Right onto Firstfield Rd.
  6. Right onto Bureau Dr.
  7. Right onto W. Diamond Ave./Clopper Rd.
  8. Right onto Metropolitan Grove Rd., and back to the MVA.
Your examiner might vary the test route slightly, but it will be in the same general area. My examiner actually shortened the route for me. After step 5, he told me to turn left onto Clopper Rd and then right onto Metropolitan Grove Rd.
My driver's ed instructor also showed me a shorter alternate route that the examiner might use. It's in a more residential area, and in my opinion, much less difficult. For this one:
  1. Left from test lot onto Metropolitan Grove Rd.
  2. Right onto Clopper Rd.
  3. Left onto Pheasant Run Dr. 
  4. Right onto Longdraft Rd.
  5. Right onto Clopper Rd.
  6. Left onto Metropolitan Grove Rd., and back to the MVA.
"Automatic Fail!" and what I didn't know before I took my in-car driver's ed lessons:
  • Do not exceed the speed limit by even 1 mph for a few seconds. My in-car instructor scolded me for this and claimed it is an automatic fail. Don't feel pressured to speed up by the many cars tailgating you.
  • Do not let the front bumper of your car pass the stop line or the sidewalk at a stop sign. According to my in-car instructor this is also an automatic fail.
  • Another rule that no real drivers follow: do not stop in front of a driveway. This may cause problems if the sensor for the traffic signal is under that spot.
  • Do not change lanes at an intersection, no matter how small the intersection is.
  • Make sure to look out for the signs on the road. The examiner will ask you to identify some signs after you pass them. Most of them are speed limit signs (25 or 35 mph), but there are also traffic signal warning signs, pedestrian warning signs, and no parking signs on the course. My examiner asked me about a sign when we were almost back at the MVA. I thought we were done, so I hadn't been looking at the signs. Luckily, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a no parking sign.
  • Check your mirrors and scan intersections as obviously as possible.
I was so nervous during the test that my legs kept trembling when I was stopped at traffic signals. Only pressing the pedals made my legs stop moving. And it didn't help that I had the most stoic examiner ever. When we finished the road test, he kept a blank face and gave me a ticket with a number on it. He just said, "Wait for your number to be called." So I was left to wait without knowing whether or not I passed. When my mom looked to me to see how I did, I could only shrug. But, I assumed that I passed, because it would be cruel to make me wait if I had failed. Then, everything started to set in when my number was called and I filled out the information for my license! To my dismay, they had to take a new license picture, rather than using the one from my learner's permit. When I asked if I could see the picture, the guy scoffed and said, "It's fine." Hmph. A woman would have understood and let me see the picture.

Monday, March 11, 2013

on tour part 6: impersonating a grad student at The Farm

My college tour continues in San Francisco, California! My mom had a meeting at Stanford, so I came along for a college visit.

My mom's meeting was on Friday, so we drove to Stanford together, and then I was on my own to explore the campus. I experienced a typical day as a Stanford student, complete with a morning lecture, lunch at the Union, and visitors asking me for directions! I was on a very tight schedule that required a lot of quick walking. And I mean a lot. I went between three main points that are spread out in a large triangle. On this map, I drew where I walked throughout the day, with the paths in rainbow order from red to blue.

Red: From a morning class to the visitor center for a walking tour.
Orange: The walking tour from the visitor center to the bookstore and dining areas. 
Yellow: From the endpoint of the tour back to the visitor center for a Q&A session with Stanford students.
Green: From the visitor center back toward the dining areas for lunch at Tresidder Union. I got a little lost along the way and accidentally went on the walking tour a second time...
Blue: From Tresidder Union back to my mom's meeting.

I actually used the map scale to measure how far I walked, and I walked more than 5 miles! Strangely, it was much more tiring than running 5 miles, and my legs ached afterwards. Now I understand the appeal of a small, urban campus. No wonder all of the students were biking around. Here is a long row of bikes parked outside one building.

First, I went to a lecture from 9 to 10:50 am, called "BioE222B: Multimodality Molecular Imaging in Living Subjects II." As I was looking for the lecture room in a building of classrooms and offices, I was suddenly surrounded by medical machines and nurses wheeling around patients. I must have looked so strange, wandering through a hospital with a large campus map and confused facial expression. I had to ask a doctor for directions to the classroom. Eventually, I found the classroom entrance in this courtyard, which is where I was before I started looking!

I was really excited for the class because I'm interested in studying bioengineering in college. The professor, Dr. Brian Rutt, was a guest lecturer from the Department of Radiology. When I asked him whether I could sit in on the class, he asked me if I was a prospective grad student! Yes! I can pass for a 21 year old! Most people are excited to look 21 years old so they can get into bars, but I'm excited because I look like I belong in an undergrad/grad class. The lesson was on MR probes and particles, and the professor went through a whopping 81 slides in about 35 minutes! The surprising thing about the class was that all of the students were late. We started class about 10 minutes late, and even then, only one-third of the students had arrived. Some stragglers came in more than an hour late. Maybe they were up late the night before working on the business plans for their start-ups.

After the class, I had 10 minutes to get to the visitor center for the guided walking tour, so I did a combination of speed walking and very slow jogging to get there on time. Obviously, the tour couldn't cover the huge 8,180 acre campus in 60 minutes, so we just walked past some main buildings and landmarks, through the Main Quad, and ended near the bookstore and dining areas. The campus was beautiful, and the sunny California weather definitely didn't hurt.

Here is the Hoover Tower, a major landmark on the campus. I heard that there is a gorgeous view of Palo Alto from the top of the tower!

This is The Oval, a large grassy area in the middle of campus. The grass really is greener in California!

The Main Quad is one of the best places to admire the beautiful architecture at Stanford. In the center of the Quad, you're surrounded by it! The buildings were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park. I love the Spanish-style design, with the red tile roofs and sandstone.

In the Quad, you can see the Memorial Church, which has so many amazing details painted on it!

And, of course, it wouldn't be California without the palm trees! Here is one in front of Montag Hall.

After the tour, I did some more speed walking to get back to the starting point of the tour for a Q&A session with current Stanford students. There were four Stanford students and about 10 visiting students at the session (with no parents), so it was very personal and casual. We all sat in a circle, introduced ourselves, and talked about anything we were curious about. The session gave me a really good sense of the people and everyday life at Stanford. The students were so friendly and easy to relate to. Surprisingly, they only had great things to say about Stanford! It was nice to talk directly with students about their experience at Stanford rather than reading a brochure or going to an information session, which eventually starts to sound the same at every college. I asked about the research opportunities on campus, and the Stanford students said all together, as if on cue, that it's really easy to find research.

After that, I got lunch at the Union and then met up with my mom after her meeting! We were planning on seeing the Rodin Sculpture Garden since apparently Rodin is kind of famous or something. But then, someone suggested the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, which wasn't listed anywhere. It was a hidden gem! The back-story was that the New Guinean artists were visiting campus and said they could do a better job than Rodin, so they made a bunch of pieces for this little park.

Here's one of the sculptures with geckos and fish on it! I love the intricate scales carved on the gecko.

Most of the sculptures were carved, but here's a painted one!

Ironically, I look pretty stupid in my thinking pose.

Posing for a picture with my new New Guinean friends!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

playing to the audience

Tonight, I performed at my school's Classical Me, a biannual concert for musicians at my high school! My private teacher doesn't organize recitals, so it's really nice to have a regular performance that isn't as stressful as auditions and helps me practice performing. The acoustics in the church are amazing, so it's a great place to perform and listen to other musicians! To read more about Classical Me and watch one of my performances from last year, click here.

I played Meditation from the opera Thais, by Jules Massenet. I love this piece; it's so beautiful and expressive. Here is a video of the performance:

I was fortunate to have my friend Hanalei accompany me! She's an amazing pianist! She organizes a music group at my school called Songs For Seniors that performs at senior homes around the county. We have concerts every month, and it's so much fun! It's really rewarding to see the residents enjoying the music and tapping along.

Our first performance of the school year was at The Village at Rockville in November. The person at the front desk asked us if we were all from the same family... They must not see many Asians. Or maybe all Asians look alike when holding string instruments.

The January performance was at the Brooke Grove Retirement Village. There was a good crowd of residents and their families. Later, I found out that one resident's family member once taught music. It was nice to be appreciated by someone who knew about music, and it might have made up for the fact that one resident asked me what instrument I play right after the performance.

This month, we performed at Sunrise at Fox Hills in February. The ambiance was a combination of a 4-star hotel and a minimum security prison. It was impossible to get to the concert room without a security escort! All the electronic locks were designed to keep residents from wandering out, but also to keep late musicians from getting to the concert.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

that's a wrap

One of my recent hobbies has been making jewelry with wire. I made some simple jewelry when I was younger, but now I'm getting into more intricate and complex designs. They all include a lot of wire wrapping which is very time-consuming and often makes my fingers sore. But, I love jewelry-making because I'm always proud of my work and homemade jewelry makes great presents for my friends and family! Here are some of the pieces I have made:

This wrapped barbell bracelet was my first complex piece of jewelry, with each barbell link wrapped with wire and connected with figure eights. I love to wear it!


I used simple loops and wraps to create this adjustable ring. I made one for me and my sister.

I made these earrings as a birthday gift for my mom. Like the barbell bracelet, these also required a lot of wire wrapping for each earring. I love the effect of the hollow compartments.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

monster on the horizon

It's winter break! After four months of slaving away in school, we finally made it! Ella and I are always determined to make the most of our breaks by doing "something fun" every day, whatever that means. Our many activities during school breaks and weekends include (but are definitely not limited to) bowling, ice skating, mini-golfing, rock climbing, swimming, pottery painting, and, much to our parents' dismay, shopping.

On Saturday, we decided to do some art! I painted a cup, and Ella made a fused glass plate and painted an ornament. Because of my meticulous painting style, pottery painting is always a big time commitment, but this was an extreme case. This was probably the longest I have ever spent something... It took about six hours over the course of two days!

I think I may have been too ambitious with my design: a sky background, clouds, an airplane with a "BEATRIZ" banner, extremely detailed buildings, and an adorable monster! The most time consuming part was definitely the buildings. I first painted three coats of light purple and three coats of light gray, waiting for each coat to dry in between. Then, it took me forever to scratch out the windows and doors on each building. Here are pictures of my piece from all angles before it was fired in the kiln. You might notice an advertisement for The Trizzle on one of the buildings!

Ella did a fused art project. She glued a bunch of small pieces of colored glass onto a large glass square to make a checkered rainbow pattern. When they fired the piece, they made it into a plate by folding the sides up! Time passed so quickly. Before I knew it, Ella had finished her fused art project, my parents were getting really bored, and the store was closing. We had to come in the next day so I could finish, and my sister painted a cute penguin ornament!


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