Second Semester Courses

It has been two weeks since the start of my school’s second semester, and that means that I have new courses with different classmates. After having gotten to know my new courses I’ll be sharing which courses I am currently taking and my thoughts on each class.

My first-period class is English and so far we haven’t actually done too much. Throughout the first week, we’ve gone over basic grammar such as proper sentence structure and how to use conjunctions. We even took a day to make posters for the “Seven Grandfather” teachings which is basically how you should treat other people. It was only until recently that we started with the grade 9 curriculum with storytelling and narratives. The class material hasn’t been too difficult so far though.

As for the people in the class, there are some students that just don’t stop talking, and it doesn’t matter whether the teacher is presenting or if we’re doing independent work. What I find most annoying about it though is that the teacher doesn’t even try to keep them quiet and instead talks back to them. This can become quite distracting, especially when we’re assigned in-class reading and all you can hear is the teacher and students talking back and forth really loudly.

After English, I have Non-Tradition Arts and the course revolves around art, except it’s mainly using computer technology such as animation and Photoshop. During the first week, it was quite interesting and fun learning how to use Photoshop, but the current assignment that we are working on right now is pretty frustrating.

Since the teacher doesn’t exactly have time to go around showing every single what they should be doing, she put up an example online. However, she explained how a majority of the examples would only get you around a 70-79% mark. The instructions on what to do haven’t been really clear. Even if you follow the guidelines she set at the start of the assignment she’ll tell you to change something because “I might not catch it when I’m marking it.”

For my third-period class, I have Science which has actually been relatively well. Taking notes in class is quite easy since we take them using a PDF file course package that the teacher has given us. I’m also really glad that we had the option to take a digital version of the textbook so my bag doesn’t get too heavy. The only problem I have in the class is with the people. Just like my English class, it feels like some students can’t stop talking and just want attention. At times you can visually see on everyone else’s faces that they’re just annoyed after a while. Other than that though, Science has been fun and we even get to use the lab room.

My last-period class is French which is probably the most normal class I have this semester. The only problem I have with the class is that I’m really bad at French. If we’re covering reading and writing I can usually do alright, but when we get to listening comprehension I can’t really figure anything out. Despite that, I feel like French class passes the most quickly out of all of my other classes which might be a good thing.

Overall, I would definitely prefer my classes from semester one over the current one. However, I think that if even just a couple of this semester’s classes start to shape up a little bit better I just might start enjoying it a bit better.

Arknights

Arknights is a mobile game that released globally around a month ago. The game is a tower defense that follows a story where you’re the main character that commands different operators. This week I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experience while playing Arknights.

The way the gameplay of Arknights works is that you have different units called operators, and each operator belongs to a certain class with different skills, traits, and abilities. Operators have different rarity values and usually, the rarer ones are better, but that’s not always the case depending on the situation. Since each operator can only be deployed once in a battle, you get to have twelve different operators to use each battle. Experimenting with different combinations of operators on different stages is part of the game.

Your objective in each stage or battle is to prevent enemies from entering your zone which is represented by one or more blue cubes. Depending on the stage there will also be red cubes where the enemies come from, and different stages have different types of enemies that have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes there are boss enemies that usually have very unique traits such as being able to teleport through your operators or disable certain tiles.

Arknights at the beginning is pretty easy and it follows you through most of the mechanics. For the first few stages, you can get by without using too much strategy, but later on in the game, you’ll have to figure out which operators to specifically level up and use. A lot of the times you won’t be able to use the exact same twelve operators for every single stage, so you’ll have to end up changing your roster depending on the layout of the stage and what enemies come out.

There’s also base that you have where you can produce and sell resources, and the layout is extremely similar to Fallout Shelter with different types of facilities and jobs that need to be filled. Even though the base isn’t too interesting, it’s very important if you want to be able to efficiently upgrade and level up your operators.

New operators can be obtained through a recruitment system that happens over time or you can spend in-game currency to roll for a random operator. Some operators have increased chances when you roll, but they rotate every few weeks. Since Arknights was released in China first, there are currently operators that are still limited to the Chinese servers.

As of now, I have completed almost all of the content in the main story except for the challenge modes, but there are still unreleased chapters of the story. In the meantime, I’ll be spending time upgrading my operators and trying to finish the side missions while I wait for the next content release.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun playing Arknights, and I usually don’t really play mobile games too much. There have been times where I was struggling on certain stages and had to look up some tutorials, but I’ve been able to get through a decent portion of the game on my own.

Playing The Violin For 5 Months

During my first semester of high school, I was in the school’s orchestral strings class. At the beginning of the semester, I hadn’t played the violin at all before. After five months in the class, I feel like I’ve made some progress from the beginning of the school year, and this blog post I’ll share most of the things that happened while I was learning how to play the instrument.

One of the first things that the music teacher wanted to teach the new students was how to take care of the instrument such as how to store the instrument and how you’re supposed to maintain the different parts. Maintenence for a violin is much more different than for a guitar which is what I’m used to. With a guitar, the only thing you really have to do is make sure you change the strings every once in a while and don’t let the wood get too dry. However, with a violin, every time you want to play you have to make sure that you’re bow has the right amount of rosin on it and is tightened to an appropriate amount. You also have to wipe down your strings after you play and should keep it stored inside its case most when you’re not playing.

In terms of playing, the violin was really difficult to get used to because I wasn’t really familiar with using something like a bow to play. Even now I still have trouble keeping the bow straight properly, but it’s definitely better than when I first started. For now, I’ve only learned how to play the basic scales like G, D, A, and C major which is generally what is expected by the end of the course. For the duration of the course, the beginner students including myself have only been playing in first position which is where your left hand is at the very end of the fingerboard on the violin. I plan on taking the course again next year, so hopefully, I’ll be able to improve my playing ability.

Additionally, I learned a little bit of theory during the course since usually I just use tablature for guitar. For our written exam, we had to have a certain amount of knowledge with intervals, key signatures, and scales which I was able to pick up relatively well by the end of the semester. I think that the theory element of the course is where I ended up having to practice the most because I’ve never really had to look at key signatures when playing on my own.

Overall, I think that I ended up progressing quite a lot by the end of the semester and the teacher thinks that I have too. I’m most likely going to take the course again next year, and since we’ve been allowed to keep the instruments until the end of the school year I have a chance to keep practicing. However, I feel like the violin will just end up sitting in its case most of the time.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones

During last year’s Cyber Monday sales after Black Friday, I decided to get Sony’s WH-1000XM3 ANC headphones. The XM3 headphones have been Sony’s flagship ANC headphones for over a year now. I’ve been using them for a little over a month now, so I’ll be writing about my experience with the headphones.

Initially, I was considering getting the Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones, but compared to the XM3s they were considerably more expensive. However, they did boast a better build and sound quality which I was certainly interested in. I couldn’t justify the price for it though, so I ended up opting for the XM3s.

The headphones have been really comfortable so far, but sometimes if you wear them for a long time your ears might get a bit uncomfortably warm. However, I think this is something that happens with most over the ear headphones anyways. Most of the headphones are made out of plastic which still kind of worries me; especially since the headphones I usually use for playing games feel higher quality while being cheaper. Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues concerning the durability of the headphones yet, but after all, it’s only been a month.

Sound-wise, the XM3s certainly perform much better than any other pair of headphones that I currently have, but I wouldn’t say that they would be better or as good as a pair of studio headphones. I don’t think that the sound quality of the headphones is the main selling point of the headphones although it is important. Most people would agree that the active noise cancellation feature of the headphones is the best part of the headphones. The XM3s have some of the best noise-canceling technology according to a lot of people, and I can say that it definitely works from my experience.

Unfortunately, I do have a few complaints about the headphones though. While they aren’t too big of an issue, I still think there could’ve been some areas of improvement. The first thing is that there isn’t any function for multi-point pairing with the headphones which means you have to repair the headphones if you want to use a different device. A lot of headphones already have this feature, and this was one of the biggest downsides of the headphones. The other issue that I personally don’t really like is the touch controls on the side of the earcup where you control your volume and tracks. Every time you want to change the volume or track without taking out your phone feels really awkward, and sometimes you even perform the wrong action by swiping in a weird direction. Some people have also experienced the touch controls activating without touching the headphones in cold weather, but I haven’t experienced that yet.

Overall, the WH-1000XM3 headphones have been really good in my experience. They’ve been doing everything I’ve expected them to be able to do, and since Sony hasn’t announced a new XM4 model the current XM3s should hold up for a while. The headphones were really easy to set up and get going, and figuring out how to use them was simple as well.

Winter Break

Yesterday was my last school day of the year, and our winter break has just started. School starts again in around two weeks, so I want to have as much fun as possible before our break ends. I’ll most likely be playing video games with friends, but I still have some work to do before we start school again.

For the past month or so I haven’t had much time to play a lot of video games, and since a few of my friends all got Rainbow Six Siege at the same time, we plan on playing together over the break. We have the right amount of people for all of us to play in a group together, so we’re all just waiting until we all have time to play. I also want to play some more Counter-Strike and osu! since I haven’t played either of them in a while.

Most of my courses this semester didn’t give much homework to do over the break, but my math class has an assignment for making notes for our exams that start a little bit after the break ends. I plan on working on it throughout the break, but it shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve kept all the course material in my math binder. I’ve been doing pretty well in the course so far though, and the teacher just wants to make sure that we’re reviewing all of our units before the exams.

If I feel like it, I might also try to play around more with writing for orchestra since my music teachers haven’t really assigned me with anything specific to do. The last time I tried writing for an orchestra turned out pretty badly so I’m trying to improve in that area. My school does an annual student composition showcase during springtime so I’ll see how well I can get with orchestral music by then.

Additionally, I haven’t really caught up with all of the currently airing anime shows this season because I’ve been focusing more on finishing schoolwork. Some shows have already finished airing for this season and the rest should end in the next few weeks. Before the next season starts, I want to finish the shows that I’ve already started especially since most of my friends are already caught up with them.

Overall, this winter break I’m going to try to have a lot of fun with my friends and catch up on some things I’ve missed during school. I hope I get to play a lot more games and talk with some friends. Some of us have already planned to meet up during the break as well.

School Music Concert

Earlier this week I participated in my school’s annual winter music concert. The music department of the school puts on a concert each year with all of the students participating. In the past, I’ve had the opportunity to watch their previous concerts, but since I now attend the school myself I had the opportunity to perform in it myself.

I would say that the preparation for the concert starts as soon as the school year starts because all of the new students in each of the music classes learn how to play their instruments first. The pieces that we performed at the concert were pieces that we learned within the first three months of us picking up our instruments for the first time. In my opinion, I don’t think it really makes sense for the beginner students to perform though. Most of us haven’t played our instruments before until the start of the school year, but the school still makes us perform in a group of just the beginners. For a concert that some people are paying to see I don’t think we had enough experience or practice to perform.

However, while our beginners’ performance wasn’t great, I wouldn’t say that it was terrible. I still wouldn’t have paid to listen to it though. Fortunately, the senior students were able to put on a better performance than we did. Additionally, we had students from another high school come in to perform a few pieces for our concert. You could tell that their students were much better than our music department when you listen to them play.

During the concert, I also had the chance to perform a solo guitar performance, but I wasn’t originally planning to until around two weeks prior. I didn’t end up practicing too much for it, so I made quite a lot of mistakes during the concert. Some people said I did pretty good, but I think it could’ve been much better.

In terms of the rehearsal that went into the concert, we only had one practice run-through of the whole show. It was quite unorganized and there were a lot of times when we didn’t know where to go between performances. I think it would’ve been better to hold at least one more run-through of the show like we did for the school’s musical, but I guess the teachers couldn’t figure out a schedule.

Overall, I would say the concert went alright, but there are a lot of things that can still be changed to improve it. A few last-minute changes were made, rehearsals weren’t organized, and the overall playing could’ve been better. I felt underprepared when we performed, but it could’ve been worse.

School Musical

For the past two weeks, I’ve been helping out at my school for the musical that they do each year. Every year at the high school the drama department comes up with a new story to perform for the community before the winter break. I was helping out with sound and lights for the show this year, so I got to see a lot of what goes on behind the production.

From what I could tell, the actual scriptwriting, dance choreography, and acting practice were done over the course of a few months before the actual rehearsals. Before our first rehearsal, we had to set up the stage and some stationary props. Since the acting was scripted for a stage that was larger than normal, we had to bring out some risers and wooden platforms to clamp and drill to the school’s original stage. We also brought in some rental equipment from the music store down the street because we needed a lot of microphones for the actors.

After setting up all of the equipment we had our first rehearsal over the weekend, and the main thing that we did was deciding who was going to be in charge of what during the show. We also discussed with the drama teacher about what kind of lighting and backdrops she wanted for each scene. I was eventually put in charge of changing the backdrops for each scene. The job itself isn’t too hard since all I do is press button to change a slide on the projector. However, I was told that is was important and I had to remember the cues to for when to switch the backdrop. New students like me weren’t put in charge of anything too difficult or important such as working the sound or light boards because that was left for the senior students.

The next few days were spent actually going through the entire show in order to make sure that everyone knew what was going to happen for the day of performances. This gave us time to make notes on our own individual scripts for whatever we needed to do at specific times. Additionally, we were informed that we needed to make the show shorter for the elementary schools that would be coming in to watch during school hours. This caused a bit of trouble because we had to make sure we knew which part of the script to change to in order to cut certain parts out.

Fortunately, we didn’t have too many problems during our actual performances except for a few things that went wrong such as microphone feedback, actors missing them cues, and curtains not closing on time. I’d say the worst part about being part of the tech crew was that we had to come in pretty early in order to set everything up and we also had to sit through the show over five times. Apparently, it’s been a running joke that the tech crew memorizes some of the lines and choreography by the end of all the shows. You also end up getting all the musical numbers stuck in your head for a while.

In terms of the actual show’s quality, I’d say it was alright, but it definitely could’ve been better. I personally think that the show was a bit too long, and we should’ve had more time to work with the drama department before the actual showings. Additionally, the drama teacher wanted to make a speech at the end of the last show which she didn’t mention anything about until 15 minutes before the end. It ended up with a lot of microphone feedback and she ended up using one the actor’s microphones, so it could’ve been avoided in the first place anyways.

Overall, working on the show was pretty fun since I got to learn a bunch of new things and talk to some new people. The show was actually a slightly altered version of The Greatest Showman, but what I found interesting was that the actors in the drama department were singing the songs differently from the originals. In the end, it turned out okay and the school definitely put in a lot of time, effort, and expensive equipment for the show’s production.

TSO Rehearsal Field Trip

Yesterday, my school’s music department took a field trip to downtown Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall in order to listen to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra rehearse for one of their upcoming shows later in the evening. We also got a chance to ask a few questions for their bass clarinet specialist Miles Jaques and walk around downtown on our own for about an hour or so.

In order to make it on time for the rehearsal, we had to get to school early in order for the bus to get us there on time. The bus ride was around an hour-long, and I think being on a bus with the music department kids is different from other bus rides I’ve been on. Specifically, the band kids because on the way to and back from downtown all you could hear throughout the ride was them singing from the back.

Once we made it to the Roy Thompson Hall we took a group picture and then immediately went inside to get a rundown on the rehearsal schedule and what we’d be listening to. I didn’t get a look at the actual physical program for that night’s show, but all the four pieces they performed were composed within the 20th to 21st century if I remember correctly.

When listening to the rehearse we got the chance to see how the conductor gives notes to certain sections and how the whole orchestra works. Additionally, we moved around the auditorium between pieces in order to get a better look at the different sections of the orchestra. In terms of their playing, you can definitely that they are all professional musicians that have been playing for a long time.

Between the second and third performances was when we got a chance to ask questions for Miles Jaques. He has been playing for the TSO for around two years and has been playing the clarinet since he was twelve years old. We learned a bit about his background, how he got into professional music, what he does in his spare time, and what type of music he listens to outside of classical music.

After all the performances were finished we had a little over an hour to go wherever we wanted around downtown in order to eat lunch, so my friend and I went on Yelp to find places nearby to eat. We found a ramen place called Hakata Ikkousha Ramen which was pretty close by so we went there to eat. I think that compared to the ramen places in Richmond Hill it was a lot better. Once we finished, we had some extra time so we walked around the Metro Centre area before going back to our meeting place.

Overall, I had a lot of fun yesterday especially since I didn’t even have to do any work once I got back to my last period class because we were pretty much at the end of our unit. The rehearsal, question and answer session, and food was a fun way for me to end my week.

Nature Music Update

It’s been a while since I’ve started working on the music for some nature videos that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Last time was when it was about halfway done, but now it’s almost finished and there’s a few more things that I added.

Since the main ideas for the first two sections which are the fall leaves and raindrops are done, I had to figure out what I wanted to do for the last two sections which are a short timelapse of a town in winter and another timelapse of a flower blooming. Our entire project is only around a minute long so each section is around 15 seconds long which means I didn’t really have too much time to work with.

For the town timelapse I ended up writing out a mellow strings section for double bass, cello, and viola since that’s what I was kind of feeling at the moment. It went pretty well, but there were a few harmonies that my teacher pointed out that I fixed later. I also carried over the arpeggiated piano from the previous raindrops section and I think it went well with changing the texture between sections. Right now the section is pretty much considered finished, but I’m thinking about adding a high melody part later if it fits in.

After working on the town timelapse, we realized that our video for the blooming flower was actually really short. Since we liked the strings section from earlier, we decided to carry it over instead of writing something completely new. I think this was a good choice because it wouldn’t really make sense to add an entirely new element in the last 5-10 seconds of the project. We still haven’t really finished it though because although we’re using the same instruments, we felt like the feeling of the music had to change. The idea was decided just yesterday so I’m still trying to figure that part out within the following week.

Overall the project is almost done, but I’m still thinking of adding a few more layers in certain areas. I think that most of the sections sound pretty good individually. I’m mostly worried about how the transitions seem to flow since a lot of the transitions I’ve had in the past have been pretty bad. Other than that, I think the project has been going really smoothly.

Bring Your Kids To Work Day

Last Wednesday was Bring Your Kids to Work Day in Ontario and I got to visit one of my Uncle’s workplaces for a tour. The main point of BYKW day was so that grade 9 students would be able to experience working. It also allows high schools to have the opportunity to open up the grade 9 classes for tours for elementary schools.

Since my dad started working from home, I ended up going to one of my uncle’s workplace. He works at one of Mondelez’s Cadbury plants where they mainly produce chocolate. The people at Mondelez managed to set up a kind of schedule so that the whole day would be organized for us. I actually ended up arriving there early so I spent around an hour going around with my uncle until the other kids arrived.

There ended up only being around a dozen kids altogether and so we all watched the same safety instruction video that showed us all the rules and instructions to follow within the facility. After the video, we did an activity where we had to find some defects with certain candies, and then they explained to us why it’s important that all of their products have to follow certain guidelines. We spent a lot of time in a conference room where different departments of the plant came in to explain what they do and how they got to their current position. There was also a university student doing a coop program that told us a bit about coop programs in general and how beneficial they can be.

After a few presentations from different departments, we got to eat lunch which was some pizza, and then once we finished, they took us down to take a look at the machines that actually make the chocolate. It was pretty loud inside, but I was surprised that you can’t really hear much of it from the office floors. The amount of money that Mondelez invests in their plants was also quite interesting because it seems like they are trying to have a lot of up to date equipment even if it costs a lot to install.

We also took a visit to the president’s office where the original plant president used to work, and we also learned about the history of the plant facility itself. Additionally, they taught us how their marketing strategies have changed in the past and which ones worked and which ones didn’t. The last part of the day was a few more presentations from some other departments and then we were finished.

Once we left Mondelez gave us a lot of their different products from different brands that they own like Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Triscuits, and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. There were all kinds of different flavours of cookies and chocolates. What surprised me was that a lot of gum was included which I didn’t know they produced.

Overall, I think that the Mondelez plant tour was quite interesting. It was fun to see all of their machines and the history, but the presentations were kind of boring. Some of the presenters didn’t know how to use the programs they were presenting on which was kind of funny since I think most of the kids including myself knew what they were doing wrong, but nobody really said anything. I ended up leaving with a bunch of snacks though so it was like trick or treating for me without actually having to go trick or treating.