Thursday, December 30, 2010


Why do I do this to myself?

Before starting an essay, the only thing I do is read the prompt. I don't look at the word limit, or if I do, I misread it. I once started writing a 3500 word essay before realizing that was the character count. Yeah, it seemed a bit long for an admissions essay when I finished.

Right now, I got ready to turn in the one for Cornell (due a full 4 days from now! Responsible!). 500 word limit. I have an 800 word essay. On the bright side, I'm learning to be ruthless with my writing and cut out all the unnecessary thoughts and superfluous words.

I mean, who needs verbs, right?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays to You, Too.

Two pieces of mail have arrived that made my holidays.

1. I get to re-take the CFA (for the Air Force Academy) and try for a better score. That's an excellent opportunity.

2. I got an acceptance letter from Hofstra. With this nice little handwritten note:

3. Hofstra is also offering me a scholarship worth $19,000 per year (with conditions on my GPA and all that, of course).

Am I bragging? Yeah, a bit.

Thanks, Jane. Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Possible Acceptance - Hofstra

Ok, my last note was desperate and rushed. I've found something that looks promising: a list of what they sent me in the mail. (Sorry for laughing at you, Hofstra, you're not quite in the Stone Age still).

Here it is:
  • Enrollment Orientation Card
  • Housing Application
  • Dining Contract
  • Medical Record
  • First Year Folder
  • First Year Folder Inserts
  • Meningitis Information
Judging mainly by the Enrollment Orientation Card, I think I'm in. Wheee, now I can study Russian...

Look at that last point on the list again. See, that's the exact sort of thing a first year college student hopeful wants to receive. Aside from worrying about debt, housing, food, studying, moving away from home, we also need a letter warning us to watch out for a possibly paralizing infection that causes the brain to swell. Because the stress of going to college for the first time just isn't enough on it's own.

Side note: most people's first reaction to hearing about a new disease is to Google it. The more you know, and all that. I've learned my lesson about carelessly Googling diseases after searching "headache" and coming up with horrifying images of people whose heads have been blown up by bombs (and I know you're going to go search for it right now, so turn off you're content filters, pick up a barf bag).

In view of this, I go straight to Wiki, who usually provides all the info I need without gratuitous blood. The article on Meningococcal disease has a picture of a baby whose arms are swollen, covered in rashes, and bloody, whose tiny fingers have turned black. The caption informs me that she survived, after having both arms amputated.

Thanks a lot, Wiki, I trusted you!

High Tech Hofstra

After doing most of the admissions process completely online, it's pretty clear that the days of mailing in huge envelopes of essays and transcripts are over. Unfortunately, it's a one-way deal.

Here's the message I got when I checked into my status page on Hofstra just a few days ago:

"We decided whether you've been accepted. We know, but you don't. You'll have to wait 'til you get a letter in the mail! Hahahaha, mine is an evil laugh..."

It's been paraphrased.

I just checked again now, to see what's going on, but instead of my little checklist telling me what's missing, or the evil little note I saw last time, there's nothing about admissions. I can't for the life of me figure out who they think I am. Do they think I have the letter? Is there a crucial piece of information in the mail that will let me know where I stand?

Come on, I'm in Limbo here! Going through the website, I find calendars, bus schedules, a welcome letter... There's only one thing I want to know now, and this site doesn't have it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Costa Rican Universities

I have my results back for the Costa Rican universities.

I don't remember the exact score I received from the TEC admissions test, but it was around 685 (of 800), easily enough to let me study biotecnology, which was my first choice. I may have mentioned this, but once you establish your choices, there's no turning back, you're stuck with that major.

For the UCR, I got a 741 (out of 800), which gave me a comfortable 30 points of leeway, about that many over the highest cut-off point for any major. Medicine, the highest, hasn't risen over 706 in the last 5 years, and is unlikely to go much higher this year. I now have my choice of career path, at least at that university. My score is in the top 100, out of 31 042 that took the test. The full list of top 100 scores was in the Sunday paper, and my physics teacher was kind enough to point out that I'd made it.

Fun fact: The student who scored a perfect 800 is studying physics. Its cut-off score is in the low 500s. Funner fact: 4 years ago, the student with a perfect 800 chose to study ballet.

At the very best (read: prestigious), I can become a practicing doctor in 5 years, at the ripe old age of 22. I could also become a lawyer a year younger.

Shame I'm not interested.

My father is pushing for these options, despite my repeated protestations to the contrary. His argument is that it would be good to have a degree at 22 that in the US would require grad school. It would save me 3 years of study. My counter-argument is that it would be 5 years of my life wasted, since I really don't want to study that at all.

Well, not quite true. It would be cool to work in a hospital, I think, blood doesn't bother me (a person actively bleeding and in pain is something else, though). Meaningless anecdote: one of my biology teachers is also a nurse. He told us (the class) that medical professionals are under the obligation to help a wounded person, even if off duty. He also told us that no medical professional he knows would do so, for fear of a lawsuit. (Does this tell us more of the profession or the company he keeps?). Also, no nurse would administer any drug, none, under no circumstances, without a written prescription from the doctor ordering it. No matter how urgent.

Interesting to be a lawyer. However, a cousin of mine, attorney-at-law, spends most of his time signing documents and writing them and notarizing and certifying and putting his fancy little gold seal on official documents. He won't take cases that require him to defend or represent a client in court. He also refuses to handle marriages or divorces (despite the fact that the former could cause the latter, doubling his business). Just me, or doesn't that defeat the purpose of that law degree?

So, if I stayed in Costa Rica, what would I study? Well, the UCR also offers Mechanical Engineering, that's pretty similar (in some cases identical) to what I want to study in the US. On the other hand, I think I really am interested in medical school, but I truly need more time to decide. 17 is just too young. Another reason I would really want to study in the US.

Last option: I could join a circus. I'm learning how to juggle, and intend to ask for a unicycle for my birthday.


I took both Mathematics II and Physics. I was unprepared for both.

Let's start with MATH II.
This one requires a calculator, preferably graphing, but scientific is also accepted. Of course, you can do it without one at all, but not very well.

Now I happen to have two calculators at hand. See:

The scientific one I bought 4 years ago, in 7th grade. This faithful brick has been at my side for all my important tests (except the math ones, my teacher hates calculators, for which I thank her). It only rarely refuses to turn on, but this can be fixed with a solid whack and it's good as new. It's limited in logarithms and exponents when compared to more recent versions, and a bit scratched up, but functional nonetheless.

The graphing one is a wonder of modern technology. It's the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition. Follow this link to see everything about it. Nice display, will graph, anything the other one can do, it can do better. It even has a periodic chart. It always turns on. I bought it this year.
Fancy name for something I couldn't use.

Really, have never used it in my life, and taking a test with an average of 72 seconds per question is not the time to start. So I didn't. I used the one with a whimsical battery, no graphing capacity, and whited-out numbers (to dissuade classmates from borrowing it without permission. I lent it to a friend and she returned it with the numbers written in ink over the white out. Then I have another friend who pulled out the keys on his and rearranged them. No one can figure out how to use that one.). Although, let me clarify, it is approved for the SAT II, many fellow testers had the same one and were using it with (probably) more success than I.

Excuses, excuses!

I also didn't study. However, I will defend this idiotic decision by pointing out that I was at a beach side resort the three days prior, getting sunburnt in the morning and partying till the next.

The test had a few things my calculator (had I known how to use it) would have saved me on. Matrices, logarithms, so forth, but I have only myself to blame. Interestingly enough, the test asks you a series of background questions first. These determine what level of math you have seen in school, and what kind of calculator you're using. Since "electronic brick with choleric batteries" didn't make the list, I choose scientific calculator. Abacuses also weren't included, which I consider a pretty big oversight (kidding, I can't use those, either).

All in all, I left an estimated 10 questions blank (of 50) and got God knows how many more wrong. Luckily, this test has a pretty generous curve, so I may have gotten a score I could admit to without hiding ostrich-like in my denial.


No calculator allowed, so everyone was at as much a disadvantage as I was. Hah!

On the other hand, they may have reviewed their formulas beforehand. In a similar case of irresponsibility and procrastination, I didn't realize those weren't included until the night before, at which point I huddled worriedly in my blankets and tried to remember the formula for invisible ink (lemon, to be revealed over a flame; or vinegar and water, to be revealed with purple cabbage use). I couldn't use it for two reasons: 1-I can't take either a cabbage or a candle into a test discretely, and 2- I have a conscience.

So I took the test fairly, with only my mind at hand. Actually, judging from the results, it was a bit further from me than it usually is. I left more questions blank, probably less than 10, but still quite a few. The questions weren't hard, I had worse on bachillerato (<-- Translation: Ministry Tests seniors have to pass to graduate. Given in Math, Spanish, Foreign Language (English for me because that's the only one my school offers, French or Italian in other cases), Social Studies, Civics, and Science (physics, in my case, either chemistry or biology, in others')). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Honestly, I feel it was a waste of 70 dollars (extra fees for testing abroad) and 5 hours (including travel time. On the other hand, we did buy doughnuts on the way back). I can only hope the scores will be high enough to let me send them to some schools.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New SAT Scores

Here ya go, taken November 6th.

Writing: 730 This went incredibly up an incredible 150 points. Last was a 580. The essay only got an 8, last time it got a 6, but I don't know how much of the total Writing it's worth.

Reading: 710 Went down by 20 points, but I rather think Writing compensates.

Math: 670 Went up by 20. I admit I'm a bit disappointed, but on the other hand, I had no reason to expect an increase if I didn't study Math (and I didn't, I spent my time writing mock-essays).

Total score: 2110

Total score last time: 1970

Pretty big difference, yeah? I think that the difference in the math part was that there were some I knew I didn't know and just left blank. Last time I guessed them all.

Now to finish, here are the percentiles. I like them even more than the actual scores, they say a lot more about how well or badly you did.

Math 89%
Reading: 96%
Writing: 98%

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SAT the Second Time Around

The first time I took the SAT I was sweaty palmed, alternately cold and hot and just all around nervous. I didn´t finish the essay, I didn´t even write a full page. I was completely unprepared for the writing part.

This time, I decided to prepare. I turned to trusty Google and asked for "SAT essay tips" and discovered a plethora (hah!) of horrible articles with terrible advice.

The most persistent one was on the use of the word "plethora". Seriously. I´m going to devide this into Good Tips and Bad Tips, and one special section dedicated to Horrible Tip, What The Hell Are You Thinking?

Good Tips
  • Write neatly: whether in cursive (that´s me!) or print, it has to be legible. The graders are peoople and therefore fallible, they will be influenced by the huge amount of scratched out words and writing that looks like you took the test on a roller coaster while being mauled by a baboon.

  • Do have at least a vague idea of what you´ll be saying before you start.

  • Don´t try to make a complicated rough draft, or any rough draft at all. You only have 25 minutes, that´s hardly enough time to fill the pages even when writing non stop.

  • Read the prompt first, then the quote. Sometimes they aren´t as directly related as ou think, make sure you write what they ask, not what you think of the quote.

  • Try to use precise words. Avoid "thing", "do" and others that don´t really mean anything.
  • Practice. There are dozens of old SAT prompts you can use. This will give you a good idea of how fast you write, what errors to look out for, and make it easier to think of good arguements quickly when given a subject.
Bad Tips
  • "Write as much as possible. Longer essays get higher scores". True, but that´s one of those cases where correlation doesn´t mean cause and effect. Consider that students who are good writers and know what they want to say will find it easier to write a lot. That doesn´t mean you should just write when you´re not sure what comes next.

  • Make a reference to a novel you´ve read, preferably a well known one. Sounds good so far, in my most recent essay I mentioned "War Torn", not particularly well known, but I think it helped make my point. Make one up if you have to. What!? No. Don´t make up novels.

  • End with a quote said by a well-known person. I do that on essays for school. Make it up if you have to. What is wrong with this guy?! Memorize some quotes to use on the essay. Who cares if they have nothing to do with the subject, right? Even theough the graders aren´t supposed to mark you down for factual mistakes, you´ll sound like an idiot with an ending that sounds like: "...which is why technology can be both a boon and a curse. As Neil Armstrong said, "To be or not to be, that is the question".
Horrible Tip, What The Hell Are You Thinking?!
  • Write the essay normally, then go back and change small words for bigger ones. For example, change "bad" and "many" for "egregious" and "plethora". What really gets me is that some student who´s never used the word "plethora" in their lives will remember this and end up with a sentence like: "The egregious boy missed plethora homework assignments". Think of the graders, please! I haven´t even mentioned that the whole thing will sound contrived and unwieldy. The huge words will be scrunched together and it´ll look like you puked up a thesaurus. There will be problems with tenses and times and a hundred other grammatical errors, not to mention the fact that you only have 25 minutes. I barely finished it, much less had time to proofread it and replace words like a demented spell checker.
Look, the simplest way to do well is practice writing fast. Try not to change a sentence once you´ve written it, you are more likely to end up with a repetition or verbs that don´t fit their subjects that you are otherwise. If you have time, go over it.

Don´t stress out. The graders know you have 25 minutes to read the prompt, choose a stance, come up with arguements and try to get them on paper. They aren´t expecting a thesis.

Here´s the link to the article. Pay close attention to the part about replacing words. The tips starts at the end of pages 3 and goes onto 4. Read it and weep.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Small Steps

Yes. 2 things solved.

Rensselaer checked its records and realized that I had, in fact, handed over 70 bucks.

My status on the USAFA page is still incomplete, but at least the whole transcript thing is solved. Despite the fact that it took them nearly 2 and a half months to do it. To be fair, there was a change of personnel in there at some time, so I kind of understand.

I should actually be further along in this whole admissions process at both schools, but now every little step counts. Although not quite fast enough. I still have a whole slew of translations to handle, which aren´t hard, but they are annoying. Some resumes and writing samples are still waiting and I´ve pretty much ignored the whole Common Apps thing.

Bright side: School´s out, in honor of which you get a link to Alice Cooper´s "School´s Out for the Summer". The muppet version.

Yay! More time to study for the SAT II! Speaking of which, I retook the SAT in November. I´ll cover that in my next post.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rensselaer Admissions Fee

Once I filled in my Candidate's Choice Application to Rensselaer, I almost immediately paid the $70 admissions fee online. This around September. Ok, so actually my father paid it, but the point is it was paid. Rensselaer doesn't think so. My status is still listed as unpaid.

Now when it comes to $70 with a credit card statement to back it up, this sort of thing annoys me. I sent them an (exceedingly polite) e-mail telling them to check their records and update my status, offering to send them a copy of the statement with dates, amount and recipient.

I hope they reply soon. Rensselaer looks like a good school.

Hofstra and the TEC

I'm done with all the Hofstra stuff. All I have to do now is wait for their response.

To be completely honest, I'm not all that excited about it. The only major that interests me even mildly there is Russian (they don't seem to offer Aeronautical or Aerospace engineering) and I don't think I really want to make a language my prime major.

On the other hand, I want to learn Russian at some point...

I'm done with the TEC, too. (Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica, no, I don't know how they managed to turn that into TEC). Before you take the admissions test you have to pick your major. There are ways to change it later, but its extremely hard and depends on whether there are any open spaces in the major to which you want to change. As it is, I'm accepted in Biotecnology, which sounds pretty cool, although I admit I didn't actually look it up at all. Since I don't seriously expect to go to the TEC (University of Costa Rica, UCR, is better), that doesn't bother me much.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hofstra Writing Sample

Hofstra asked me for a Personal Statement, a writing sample with the prompt "A book, movie, music or piece of art that has had an influence on you, and describe that influence". Word limit: 500. I wrote the following (sans image):

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is more of a religion than a book. Its readers are on constant lookout for the Ultimate Question (the answer, naturally, is 42), some await the coming of the Great White Handkerchief, and most of us have been caught absentmindedly scanning the sky for UFOs (preferably green). Somewhere between blowing up the Earth and witnessing the end of the universe at a fashionable restaurant, Douglas Adams managed to include some camouflaged lessons. There is practical advice, like "Take a towel" and "Never go back for your purse", but the deeper meanings aren't as spelled out.

Don't take yourself, or anyone else, too seriously. Most things don't make sense. Most people's motives will go way over your head and there's not much to do about it. Life is full of weird, unrelated coincidences that will drive you insane. Sometimes you have to ignore the little green men and their little green problems and get on with your own life.

There are no hard and fast rules. Things change and you have to change with them. You will eventually have to make a split second decision where the familiar rules don't apply. Here, you have to be flexible. A rigid outlook tries to force a situation into a known shape to apply the standard procedure. The devil in the details will have none of that. Chances are, important things will be overlooked because of the assumption that the shape fits, and everything goes wrong. I know all about this. From not bothering to read a test question and answering something completely unrelated to assuming my shoelaces are tied because they usually are, the results are less than pleasant.

I almost agree with the next lesson. According to Ix: "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" The character is talking about a mythical planet but it's used to argue against the need for gods. I have no problem with mythical planets and the second argument doesn't interest me right now, the real problem I have with it is the suggestion that there's something wrong with garden fairies. I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy. I would like to believe that Ix is out there collecting information for the Guide's next update. I don't actually believe it, and there are a 1000+ other reasons for space exploration, but I like the idea of some hapless astronaut meeting a travel-weary alien who has seen too many other species to care much about humans. What a trip.

On the other hand, there really is too much beauty in real life to disregard it in favor of fantasy. Science astounds me. An Earth-like planet has been detected. Drones are getting more accurate and actually used in war. Computer technologies are advancing at a vertiginous pace. The fairies pale in comparison.

*I failed to mention Marvin the Paranoid Android, one of my favorite characters, but he never taught me much. Life is useless? Whine? It's all going to go "BOOM!" anyway?

* Actually, I do have a firm stand on the "gods issue", and no intention of disclosing my position on any essay. Not their business.

*There's a hilariously out-of-date role-playing game based on the books. You read white letters on black screen, type instructions that usually aren't understood by the program, and die. Great fun!


I took the final CFA today, here are the results, (under Today) compared to the last time (Last Time) and the difference between them (Difference). Pretty self-explanatory. Actually, I only turn in the highest basketball throw and the fastest Shuttle Run. Here, I included three basketball throws and all the shuttle runs (grand total of 2).

Event____________Today __________Last time_______ Difference

BB Throw
1 ____________30 ft, 2.2 in_______ 27ft, 6.6 in______ +3ft, 7 in
2 ____________29 ft, 6.33 in ______27 ft, 6.6 in______ + 2 ft
3 ____________28 ft, 0.61 in______ 26 ft, 2.88 in_____ + 2 ft

Arm Hang _____32.58 s__________ 37. 89 s_________ - 4s

Shuttle Run
1 ___________11"13 s__________ 13 s____________ + 2.8 s
2 ___________10"60 s _________14 "78 s_________ + 4 s

Sit-ups _______72_____________ 55_____________ + 17

Push-ups _____24_____________ 11 (collapsed at 1:21)_ + 13

Mile ________8 min 47s 97 mill___ 9 min ____________+ 13 s

Interestingly enough, blogger doesn't have an easy way to insert columns or tables. I tried copy/ pasting from Word, going through Paint, and copy/pasting from an e-mail, all of which resulted in illegible monstrosities.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Air Force Academy

What´s missing?

CFA: which I will do the second week of October.

Personal Data Record: because I live outside of the US and the damn form doesn´t have an option for that. Yeah, even I´m tired of hearing myself go on about that. It's being taken care of, though.

Vice-Presidential Nomination: same complaint as above, but with even less chance of contacting someone who could do something useful about it. Considering that this form is probably used by everyone outside of US territories, how can it not have the living abroad option?

Transcripts: Not missing, just not processed yet.

Preferred major: Aeronautical Engineering

Percent accepted compared to total applying:
14% (according to Collegeboard)



Monday, September 27, 2010


I got an aswer from the USAFA regarding the Personal Data Record. Apparently, they took the e-mail apart and different people were in charge of answering different questions, which is why very little was answered in the first response. I was just asked to give them my complete address and it would be updated for me. Thank you. Very prompt. I noticed I keep asking for help from these people (the Academy) and then being surprised when I get it. It is their job...

On the other hand, writing the complete content of your e-mail in the subject line is annoying and leaves me wondering why you sent me an e-mail with just your signature. It took me a few minutes turning it over to notice the instructions, hiding between e-mail addresses, dates, and times.

Next posts:
Lists of universities and how much else has to be done. There are going to be some long posts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Air Force ROTC

What´s missing?

Resume: mainly about math olympiads, essay contests and volunteer work. I´ve never held a job. (Technically, I helped my mother and aunt out in their restaurant (which they´ve since sold) every once in a while, but hardly enough to call a steady job).

Personal Statement: Why do I want to be an officer? What can I offer the US Air Force?

PFA: like the CFA, but a hell of a lot easier. For a top score:
42 push-ups in 1 minute (compare to 50 in two minutes for the USAFA)
51 crunches in 1 minutes (compare to 95 in two minutes for the USAFA)
1.5 mile run in 11:06 (compare to 1 mile run in 7:40 for the USAFA)

Interview: usually done in person, but this will probably be done by phone.

What´s done?
The online portion. You know, the standard name, SSN, military duty, drug use questionnaire. Along with a couple of questions about how I heard about it, doubtless to see what kind of recruitment is the most efficient.

Counselor Report: names, addresses, activities I´m in, grades and class rank.



The ones I´ve started, in order of completeness, are:

Air Force Academy

Air Force ROTC Scholarship

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (I´ve been misspelling it, it´s correct here)

Common Applications

The next few posts will be orderly lists of what has to be done for each, and me complaining about it. Enjoy.


My USAFA profile is still incomplete. Aside from the CFA (which will be turned in the first week of October), the other forms have no true justification. I'm still missing the Personal Data form and the transcript.

The USAFA Candidate Personal Data form asks for a permanent state or region. All listed belong to the US, with no hint of the chance that there might be people beyond its territories.

My transcript hasn't been added to my online profile yet, and I sent it nearly 3 weeks ago.

I'm asked for a notarized copy of my "Report of Citizen Born Abroad". If it has to be notarized through the Embassy, it's going to be a couple of annoying trips to the capital and lots of waiting in line. Or, it could be done by a notary public which might take 15 minutes. Either way, it's only if I'm offered an appointment. but if it has to be done by the Embassy I should start now.

En fin, I sent the Selections Office an e-mail asking about these three problems, and the reply only answered the two least important ones... and not even completely. The response:
-No mention of the permanent state or region.
-The transcript is there, but hasn't been updated.
-Send a copy of the report to [address].

You'll notice the only useful one is the second. I don't know who has to notarize the report. I can't submit the Personal Data form without a permanent address.

I tried calling the Counselor, but was told to leave a message and number and they would call back within two business days. I did, they haven't. (Granted, my cellphone was turned off during the 5 hour math test). I'm calling again today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

DoDMERB Resets the Password

I got a reply from DoDMERB.

I sent an e-mail before asking for my username, and received it, but apparently I had that right and the problem was with the password. Could you send me my password, or let me reset it? Thank you!"

"I will reset it for you."

These people have no words to spare, apparently.

NOTE: I just signed in and have to reset my password anyway. I have to change it at least every 90 days. It has to have weird punctuation, numbers, upper and lower case letters. No wonder I couldn´t remember the original one.

I´m in. My profile says: "Qualified". Exactly like the USAFA page whose password I do remember.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Liaison Officer Interview

I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire
Don't touch me I'm a real live wire
-Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

The formal interview with The Major (my Liaison Officer) was today. I messed up the time zones, I thought I was an hour behind when it was actually 2, which put the interview at 7 am. I was awake at 5:40. It lasted about 2 hours, with a brief interruption thanks to my almost uncharged cellphone.

The Major called my cellphone, which I wasn't expecting. In fact, I was going to turn the thing off to avoid interruptions. Even worse, halfway through one of my answers, the damn thing's battery died. Halfway through the interview. I had to look frantically through my e-mail to find his number and call him back (on the normal phone).

Some of the questions were, as he put it, canned questions, others were his own. TM means The Major made it up, C means it's canned. It's easy to tell the difference, and the ones he made up give more insight into the candidate than the others, which were the kind of questions anyone would expect in a similar interiew.

How would your best friend describe you (TM)?
She thinks I'm insane, I warn her it's contagious. Actually, I didn't really answer that one, but I sent her a message asking her to describe me, and I'll e-mail her answer to The Major. One answered back: "Independent, friendly, like to accomplish the goals she sets herself. Eccentric." The others haven't answered (at 9am on a Sunday, they probably aren't awake)

What do you think being an officer means (C)?
Responsibility, being in charge of other people, giving orders and having them followed. If anyone messes up, it's your fault as much as (if not more than) theirs.

What's your strongest point (C)?
Math, writing. I like to write. I like math. My future, though, is definitely in engineering.

What's your weakest point (C)?
Definitely the physical.

What's something you really regret and how would you re-do it if you could (TM)?
My answer: not taking advantage of summer vacations to study, work out, do something useful.

This is true, but a truer answer is: We had a really hard physics test. Students were saying they'd be happy if they got over a 50 (pass grade is 70, scale 0-100). I said I probably got an 80. One of the smarter students laughed, a lot. Then told everyone else what I'd said and they laughed. He got the test back, graded with something like a 50. I got my test back: 85. I gloated, and might have rubbed it into his face. He congratulated me sincerely. I felt like a complete and utter rat for gloating. I wish I could go back and be less petty. On the other hand, he's beaten me on every test since then. Serves me right.

I considered giving this answer, but for some reason didn't feel like I should. It's a bit hard to explain, and inconsequential.

He told me a bit about his job. He was deployed and described that, as well as what it's like to be in the Air Force. Apparently, only something like 5 other candidates are applying from Central and South America. I bet we're all vying for the coveted Vice-Presidential nomination. Almost related: he usually talks to the candidates in person up to 5 or 6 times before the actual interview. This is the only time I've actually spoken to The Major.

He also told me about an interesting web site: Air Force Times, and he'll send me some more links later, which I'll post as I get.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

College Spam

When I registered for the SAT, I let Universities and Scholarships programs have access to my scores. This resulted in quite a few e-mails, and one physical package, from some of the colleges. Here's a list of them, in order of contact:
  • Rutgers University
  • Saint Louis University - Madrid Campus
  • Westminster College
  • Loyola University New Orleans (2)
  • Suffolk University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (5)
  • The University of Chicago (2)
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University
  • Florida International University (2)
  • Wheaton College
  • Franklin College Switzerland
  • Colgate University
  • University of Pennsylvania (I think I contacted them, first)
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Harvard

Allow me to be completely honest. The names I recognize are Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Rensselaer. No others. I read the list aloud to my father, and he seemed incredulous, and far to optimistic about my chances of acceptance. Any US university seems like a long shot from here.

It also seems like any admissions process is going to be an incredible pain. The Harvard offer came in the mail, along with the Common Application form. Along with yet another Teacher Evaluation form. This means I'm going to have to sit down with my English teacher, translate the form, give them to teachers that like me, and translate their answers. Then, if I ask for letters of recommendation (and I'd better, if I want to be considered) guess who'll have to help translate those as well? Yup, me.

*Note: if you're wondering how wise this is, letting the student translate these, the English teacher goes over them, makes corrections, strikes out the "Coolest student ever, saved the world from an alien invasion" comments I add, and authorizes them

As for Scholarships, all I've gotten is an e-mail from QuestBridge, which helps low income students pay for a college education. It has a pretty prestigious list of universities to which it's related.

Something else I discovered: the form for the Vice-Presidential nomination asks me to pick my region from a list. That list also neglects mention of South and Central America, along with Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, etc. Apparently, US citizens living abroad are out of luck. And no, there's no "Citizen Abroad" option, either. I think I've said this before, but that's a huge oversight.

Friday, September 10, 2010

DoDMERB Response

Ok, I feel like I owe DoDMERB an apology. Last post I mentioned I sent them an e-mail and that I didn´t expect a useful asnwer. I got the answer 1 1/2 days later. A brief but excellent:

Hi ******

Your username is Ambermutt.


Wow, thank you.

Update: Drat. I tried to sign in again, and apparently the problem is not with the username (which is exactly what I thought it was), it´s with the password. I´m going to feel like an idiot sending another e-mail saying "Hi, me again. I messed up before, the problem is with the password. Could you send that, too?". How incredibly irresponsible, but damn it, I´m sure of the password!

Monday, September 6, 2010

DoDMERB Medical Report

I just checked my profile on the USAFA page, and info from my medical is in. "Qualified".

I can get more details on the DoDMERB page, but I forgot my name. This is usually hard for me to do becuase I use the same name on everything. Unsafe, I know, but it keeps things like this from happening. What´s worse is that I know exactly what the password is, but I can´t for the life of me remember the name. That´s what happens when I don´t use Ambermutt.

I just sent the Webmaster an e-mail asking if there´s any way to get the name, or delete the old account and create a new one. From this years experience trying to get answers from any institution through e-mails, I don´t expect an answer anytime useful.

The good thing is that I don´t need waivers or remedials, so I don´t actually need to see that page.

Profiles and Statistics

My Liason Officer sent me the Year of 2014 Class Profile. Here are the more interesting numbers:

Applicants and Nominees (This one really puts things into perspective, what's horrible is the comparison between Qualified Candidates and Offers of Admission)

Candidate Pool

Qualified Candidates

Offers of Admission

New U.S. Cadets 1269
New International Students 17
Turnbacks Returning 8

College Board Scores (SAT)
(for comparison: My math was 650, my Reading was 740, my Writing was 580. I don't know how they get to Verbal, but if it's a normal average, then mine is 660. These scores are ok, but I'll need better to make up for my CFA. Yeah, I know it doesn't work that way (a bad CFA is reason enough to disqualify you) but I need something to make me look good.)

The first number is the Mid 50% Range

Mean: 640

Mean: 666

Geographical distribution was pretty cool, aside from all 50 states and Territory of Guam, there were people from: Brunei, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Jordan, South Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia and Uganda. Count them, that fits exactly the International Student count. One from each country.

High School Honors and Activities
(these numbers are pretty impressive, specially the Athletic Letter Awards. I think I only fit in the Class President category).

Class President

Class Vice-President



National Honor Society

Boys’/Girls’ State or Nation Representative

Yearbook/Newspaper (Editor or Business Mgr)

Yearbook/Newspaper (Other Staff Mbr)

Debate Team

Dramatic Production

Band or Orchestra

Chorus/Glee Club

Boy/Girl Scouts

Eagle Scout/Gold Award


Civil Air Patrol

Academic Bowl Team

Athletic Letter Awards (1 or More/Any Sport)

Football 22%
Basketball 11%
Baseball 9%
Track 27%
Swimming 11%
Soccer 13%

Average GPA (mine is something like 3.65 or thereabouts.)

There's more information, like ACT scores (which doesn't affect me in the least) and Sons and Daughters of Alumni (again, irrelevant, but 14 students had parents that attended the same academy).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

4 to go

There are only four things left to send in to the Academy. The CFA, Personal Data Record, the interview and the nomination.

I´m putting off the physical as long as possible. I ran a mile today in 8:34 (that´s 8 minutes, not hours), a full 28 seconds faster than last time. The problem is I have to run it with someone else to pace myself, or I burn myself out too fast. I have to run alone. I can run 3 times a week, despite my schedule (explained further down).

The other document should be pretty easy to fill out. I mean, name, address, phone numbers, so on... but it asks me to choose my region from a list that doesn´t include Central, South or North America, which seems a pretty big omission to me.

The interview with my Liason Officer is also missing, but we´re having trouble setting a date. The way it´s set up, right now would be the ideal time for most US students to work on admissions, the year is barely started, and there´s not much homework or tests. My school year, on the other hand, is just ending. This means: UCR admissions test, high school finals, Math Olypiads, and Ministry Tests (math, english, spanish, science (physics), civics, social studies). Oh, and General Chemistry I, because I felt like putting my brain in a blender. Just kidding, we already covered it in class, but I want the credits so I don´t lose any time next year.

The nomination is shaping up all right. I´m almost done with the essay, which I´ll post once I send it in. By Sunday, I hope. I´ll also post my writing samples on of these days.

Note: no update last week because I spent the weekend at a biological reserve collecting frogs and taking their pictures. Greatest field trip yet. I´m seriously considering studying biology and statistics if I go to the State University (neither aeronautical nor aerospace engineering is offered).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Candidate Fitness Assesment.

Well, that went pretty badly.

I started off pretty nervous. Butterflies in my stomache, cold hands, all of it. Once I started I was okay, and after the first basketball throw I just felt humiliated.

I used my school shoes. These are black sneakers, but not meant for anything too ambitious. The soles are extremely slippery, but they get a decent grip at my school´s gym. I didn´t take the test at my school´s gym.

The gym had a waxed wood floor.

The agility/speed test was ridiculous. I had to start skidding about a yard from the end line to slide in, and even then fell to my knees at least twice. Trying to return was even worse. I was running in place for the first few steps before I could even begin moving forward. I asked if I could run barefoot the second time, but they wouldn't let me.

I know I can't do pull -ups. I did the flexed arm hang, but that was less than mediocre, at 33 seconds.

Push ups were bad. I can do 20 in a row pretty easily, rest in push up position, then start doing 5, rest, 5 rest, for a bit more. Unfortunately, I'm used to turning my elbows out. I get my elbows to the full 90 degree angle, but at a 90 degree angle from my body, as well. My hands are straight forward, so this in probably bad for my wrists. They made me keep my elbows close to my body. I made 11, realized I couldn't do any more, as just stopped. At a 1:20, I just go so discouraged I asked the testers to mark it incomplete. I may have been able to hang on a bit longer, by I was just too depressed to try by then. That was definitely the most disappointing performance of all, I wasn´t aware that I could give up like that.

I ran the mile in the rain. I heard it in the gym, and rain on a tin roof is a relaxing, sleepy sound, so I ignored it. Then at the 30 minute mark realized I would have to run in that. The puddles were half-way to ankle deep. That sounds shallow, but not when you're kicking up water into your face. I'm badly out of shape, and ran a 9 minute mile. The last 20 yards were nice, though. It's that moment when you run as fast as you can and don't feel anything, but you can tell your legs are stretching out and see your arms swing longer and longer until you're going all out. Then you walk another lap to cool down and really feel miserable.

As a final note: 2 minutes actually is a pretty long rest period. Enough to catch your breath.

I missed three hours worth of physics to take the test. I feel bad about that.

Arm strength is the main problem here. Only a few weeks ago I learned to serve a volleyball and actually get it across a net. That's more technique than strength, but it illustrates the point.

I listened to Dylan's Series of Dreams repeatedly when I finished. Have you ever realized you were dreaming and knew that if you just pulled in the right direction you would wake up? I felt like I was in that dreaming stage but couldn't pull myself out quite right. Here's a song that usually makes me feel better after something's gone wrong: Aerosmith's Amazing. Just listen to the lyrics.


I have to turn these in soon for early acceptance, which is what most people who are accepted to. That would do more harm than good, I´m better off retaking it in a month or two.

Bright side: Cornell has an excellent ROTC program, and is a great school for engineering.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I sent in my "Candidate Activities Record". Here, I get to brag about how many sports teams I'm on, about acting, musical talent, debate team, speeches, flying experience, boy/girl scouts... none of which apply to me.

My school, as I've mentioned, has nothing in the way of extracurricular, aside from the academic Olympiads. Wheeee, math!! (<-- not sarcasm).

All I get to brag about is speaking Spanish, a bronze medal in the Math Olympiads last year, first place in an essay contest, getting to the finals in the Chemistry Olympiads... and that's about it.

The rest was explaining that because of the way my school works, that's all we have time for. Really, there's a 44% drop-out rate. Or rather, kick-out rate. If you don't make the grade, you're sent back to our original high school. The last class started with 30 students, and only 12 graduated (yes, that's more than 44%, that percent is from these high-schools country wide, not just mine).

I guess I'm doing pretty well, aside from a sad lack in everything sports related. Which will show up in the CFA next week. I mean, I swim, and pretty well, but not competitively. I play volleyball with my friends, but I'm terrible at serving. I'm in average shape now, and no time to work out. Once school's over (or just eases up, really) I'll be hitting the gym. Next year I'm joining the local university's swim team for the one semester I'm enrolling. Right now? Nothing spectacular. In fact, when it comes to pull ups, nothing short of pathetic.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Med Report

The last medical exam was last week. Dr. Zoidberg just measured me, checked my pulse and blood pressure and did a general going over to make sure I was pretty much normal (surprise, I am). He also had to record all tattoos, piercings and sizeable scars: none on all counts, not even pierced ears. He translated and passed the results from all the other medical reports and signed everything off.

En fin: the only abnormalities were a dislocated shoulder at age 2 and having had to wear glasses for the last few years.

The report (which included a questionnaire about whether I was an alcoholic drug addict trying to commit suicide) is in the mail. That leaves just the CFA and nomination to worry about, the rest is pretty much done.

Side-note: it´s August, I can now start the online application to MIT. I also enrolled at the University of Costa Rica (my high school gets to send students there, if they´re willing to risk passing and getting stuck with a low grade), I´m taking Chemistry I. Unfortunately, we´re not allowed to take Calculus despite already pretty much covering it in class.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I had my hearing tested today. We got a late start, the road we planned on taking was shut down for repairs, but we made it with 15 minutes to spare anyway.

The doctor was brazilian, she had a wonderful accent when speaking in spanish. All the "s" sounds were pronounced "z", and she spoke really clearly. I guess if you plan on testing how well people hear you, you have to make sure you aren't the one messing them up. It was kind of interesting to listen to her talk with that accent while my father talked in spanish with his english accent. Three people with completely different accents talking to each other.

She explained everything she was doing as she did it. Including the little graphs she printed out, the basic (very basic) anatomy of an ear, and how the tests spot where, exactly, the problem lays.

It was standard procedure. Put on some earphones and lift your hand when you hear a beep. At one point, they were placed on the ridge of bone right behind the ear, which means you detect the sound only with the inner ear, since it's actually vibrating all around your skull. Then they were placed on my forehead, again, only the inner ear detects it, and if your hearing is fine you should hear the beep equally with both ears.

The other part was just her reading a list of words/senseless monosyllables whose volume got softer and softer and having me repeat them.

I asked the doctor a bit about her job. It took her 5 years of college (in Brazil), and she's accredited in New York, as well. It only takes 3 years of study in this country, which apparently is because the private universities are a business, so they teach the students which buttons on which machines to press. That's about all they need to know to be able to charge for the results.

She spent a bit of time talking to be trying to convince me to look into that as a career. I actually will go into medicine if I study in the State University, but seriously doubt I'll go into Audiology.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Student Bloggers

To those interested in what life is actually like at the universities I´m trying to get into, here is a list of blogs from students who actually go there.

You can find a pretty good list right here:

Another one with a pretty big group of resident bloggers:

University of Pennsylvania and the US Air Force Academy:
I´ve never mentioned this first one before, have I? I didn't send them my SAT score report in May. I also can't find a list of student blogs, apparently they don't have any attached to the school. That isn't to say that their students don't write about it. I'll try to find blogs by students and post them as they come up.

Note: the Naval Academy isn´t included. I´ve come to the conclusion that I´m really more interested in getting into the Air Force than I am in attending a Service Academy. Applying to the Navy is no help at all if I would rather enlist in the Air Force anyway.

More Essays

I just finished the Ministry of Education´s writing test. It´s a bit like the SAT essay, but easier. You get 2 hours instead of 25 minutes; 1 of 4 prompts to choose from instead of 1 of 1. I guess it´s not much like the SAT at all. This gives me time to jot down ideas, make a rough draft, check and edit my rough draft, make a final copy, check that, and still have time to spare. It´s also worth 30% of my Spanish grade.

My prompt was: Is it necessary to be competent in various disciplines to enter the work force?
Answer: No. The disciplines are all one.

Very zen, don´t you think?

It does have a lot of annoying little rules. 300 word extension (which doesn´t actually fit on the 3 pages they give you, I got to 296), perfectly aligned margins, no lines between paragraphs, no mixing cursive and print, which seem logical (and are) except that they´re very strictly graded. You can lose points because the little tail on your "a" was too long, and looks vaguely cursive-ish. It´s scored on a 1-100 scale, a pass is a 70, and kind of hard to fail, really. Unless you go off on a different subject, then you get a 1.

En fin, I have to get used to writing essays, and writing them fast.

Note: this doesn´t actually affect college admisions, aside from the fact that if I flunk the Ministry tests I get held back.

Unrelated, but cool: One of the students from my high school (who was graduated 2 years ago) alog with my classmate went to the 42nd International Chemistry Olympiads in Japan. The latter received the highest score in the Americas, olym. By which I mean the whole continent. Which means he got a gold medal. He came back with a huge stuffed Pikachu. I´m really proud, kind of because he´s the guy preparing my group for the National Math Olympiads, but mainly becuase he is really smart and studious and really deserved this. He also has medals from math, more chemistry, physics, and geography.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Faint Praise

The teacher evaluation forms are given to 3 teachers, English, Math and Other. It contains questions about how you participate in class, whether you tend to lead, how well you follow, attention span, and so on. It also asks the teachers to add any comments they think would be useful to understand the student. Finally, it asks for a negative trait.

My current English teacher has only taught me for a few weeks, since my other English teacher recently moved to the US. He doesn´t really know me all that well, but he´s pretty likeable and a good teacher. Unfortunately, that means he had to ask me for my negative trait. Self-analyzing is never a good idea, and I can think of nothing... of course I have negative traits (I put my shoes on the bed, spend a lot of time reading webcomics, read too much sci-fi over serious literature), but when it comes to school, I´m pretty concentrated. Although I have the doubtful honor of being the only one in my generation who has received a report (that´s 10 points off the behavior grade)... for wearing a hat. I was completely unaware of that rule, and for what it´s worth, other similar rules aren´t enforced in the least. Not an excuse, I admit.

Eventually he thought of something on his own and sent in the report. I was afraid to ask.

Commend Me!

Well, I gave the English teacher/vice principal the papers about the high school profile, senior year schedule and all that. This last one is a bit tricky. It´s not exactly thought out here. Once the teachers have covered everything the Ministry makes them, they´re on their own. The Physics teachers deals by covering everything sloooowly, but thoroughly. The Chemistry teacher covered all of high school by the end of tenth, and then just started prepping us for the Chemistry Olympiads. Right now we´re going into organic chemistry in some detail, far more than required. The Math teacher is having a lot of fun with us. She´s just about finished taking us through calculus. A classmate tried to study by doing a University level test on the same subject... and it was too easy. The point is, no one really knows (or cares) what the teachers are doing with us as long as we pass the Ministry tests at the end of the year.

I talked my Chemistry teacher into giving me a letter of reccomendation. She is really smart. She was born in Ecuador, and studied a while in the US, but I´m not sure where, rumor has it in MIT (apparently she also found the fountain of youth, can turn lead into gold, and has a secret underground laboratory under the college library. She´s a legend). I´m kind of honored that she was actually willing to do this.

I´m trying to talk myself into asking the computer/robotics/programming/physics teacher for one, but i don´t quite seem to be able to do it, which is ridiculous, since this guy is happiest when he´s helping people. Case in point: I had to give a quick presentation on transformers (the kind on power lines, not the car/robot things) with a couple of friends, and we were doing the standard Powerpoint thing, when he sees us and asks what were doing. We tell him, and he goes:

"You morons! Why didn´t you tell me? What´s wrong with you??" The guy looks like he´s about to explode, we just cringe.

(Muttering) "Damn students, can´t ask for something simple, can they? They´ll come to you when they need a hovercraft, but a transformer? NOOOooooo!"

He´s ripping apart something vaguely electronic looking, tears some cables, and starts smashing it with a pair of pliers. We´re a bit worried now. He holds up the mess proudly,

"This is a transformer."

We ask if we can have it (what it came from is looking pretty useless by now). He instead threatens to throw it at our heads and offers to bring us a whole bunch of different types and gives us a couple of broken speakers to pull apart as well. He hands it to my friend and tells him to connect it to a socket so we can measure voltage, frecuency, and potential.

"What, like this?"

"Yeah, just any old way" Looks up, "Oh God no! Not like that!"

Rips it out of his hands and asks him not to touch the two stripped wires he was gripping. He also suggests we not put them in out mouths while it´s connected, which apparently has happened.

It´s a good thing I get along with all my teachers. Having to ask for their help reminds me of something that happened in physics. The teacher gave us a quiz. When we finished, he collected the papers, shuffled them, and handed them back out to the class, everyone got one that belonged to someone else. We had to score them (he put the answer and procedure on the board). The guy who got mine is the only one in my class I really don´t get along with, and just the night before I´d been fighting with him (which is our normal way of communicating). I made one mistake, put a minus where there should have been a plus. The whole procedure was right, though, with a pretty clearly labeled diagram. Other classmates had done worse and passed (thanks to the fact that everyone was trying to ward of bad karma with good scores). I flunked, of course. You never know when someone will get a chance to get even. Don´t make them.

On a more somber note, my knee still hurts. It´s been a week. Sometimes it´s alright, and then a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan or something and it feels horrible for a moment. Walking down steps is getting to be a challenge at times. It feels alot better today, but I´m still a little wary.

I sceduled the audiometer, and the physical (almost), which is the last of the medicals. The ophthalmologist´s report, which should have been here Monday, has failed to arrive. Again, it´s been a week, and I´m getting a bit annoyed.

I stopped doing my pushups for a day or two, and wow, what a difference. I´m back down to ten, dammit. Pull ups are getting easier, but are the first two inches the hardest, or what?

I also bought my first cellphone. Which I´m ridiculously happy about, even though I know I´ll pretty much never use it. And I forgot to bring my laptop´s charger, which is pretty important when its battery life is, this very second, (Sunday night, with a full week to go) is down to about 3 minutes. Guess why this was uploaded Monday?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Run, Mutt, Run

With little over a month left, I still have to prepare for the CFA. Here's what I have to do for a top score :

Event ..................................Male .............................................. Female
BB. Throw .......................... 102 .................................................... 66
Pull-Ups .............................. 18 ....................................................... 7
Shuttle Run ........................ 7.8 sec. ............................................. 8.6 sec.
Sit-ups .............................. 95 .......................................................95
Push-ups.............................75 .................................................... 50
Mile Run ............................ 5:20................................................... 6:00

You get two minutes for each, unless the score is a time, and three tries on the throw.

Now, I don't play sports. My school has no teams, and I'm better at individual sports anyway. I do run, love to swim, and I'm willing to try playing just about anything (I want to play rugby sometime, looks violent) although I've never actually trained. I'm actually fairly athletic.

Push-ups, however will be a problem. The arms are willing, but the core is weak. Basically, a push-up is holding the plank while your arms do the macarena.

The plank: put your body in push-up position but rest on your forearms. Stay there. The following timeline shows the important incidents when I do the plank:

0:00 seconds: begin
0:50 seconds: start to tremble
0:55 feel back start to bow down, tighten stomache muscles and tremble even more.
Between 1:05 and 1:10 tightening muscles no longer has any effect on stability, I'm headed toward the ground whether I like it or not.
1:20 I'm making maximum effort even though my whole body is on the ground and my trembling muscles have reached Richter 8.
1:25 Collapse, luckily, there's nowhere to fall.

I'm getting measurably better, though. I can do 17 push-ups in a row. Hurray.

I can't do a single pull-up properly (I can do a couple if my hands are facing away from me). It's another case where my energy goes into shivering. There has to be a more efficient way to do this.

Sit-ups won't be a problem. I'm progressing with the basketball throw. I hurt my knee...

I run around my back yard for excercise. It's sloped and full of trees and broken branches to dodge. I trot doggedly up-slope and race across the level part leaping over fallen trunks and run back down. Speed isn't a problem here, judging the depth of the overgrown grass is. Suddenly, my leg is in the hole left from a rotten tree stump and temporarily delayed while the rest of me tries to leave it behind, forgetting that we're connected by some seriously loyal ligaments intent on keeping us together. My knee explodes in the ensuing battle, sending shards of bone like bloody shrapnel into the trees and an exposed artery throbs sickeningly, crimsonly in contrast with the green undergrowth...

No, of course not. I'm just kidding. It is sore, though.

On a related note, my father knows a guy well on his way to West Point who wrecked his knee (and chance of acceptance) kick starting his bike.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Wheeeee!!! I've been promoted!

According to my Air Force Academy Admissions Status page, I am now a Candidate. With a little asterisk next to it because I still lack a nomination, but a Candidate none-the-less.

With this comes a cheerful note informing me that I now have 45 days (of which only 37 remain) in which to complete the following forms (incomplete list and paraphrasing names):

High school profile, senior year profile, and transcript. (I suppose my English teacher, who is also something like the vice-principal, will have to help fill this out, since he's the guy that actually speaks English. My principal is rather unhelpful about stuff like finding out students' grades and class rank, she's really stressed. Of course, she just got the job this year, and isn't quite qualified. This isn't an insult, she literally doesn't have the training required to be a principal, however, she's doing a pretty good job of it, all things considered. )

Writing sample. ("Where did you hear about the Air Force Academy? What career do you want to go into? Why?" "What will be the hardest part of the academy for you, and how will you succeed?" "Describe a hardship you overcame in the past and how you would handle it now". These are limited to 300 or 500 words, so you have to keep your answers concise, but with enough relevant detail to make them stand out.)

Drug and Alcohol Abuse Statement (This was easy, I have never done drugs and I don't drink, for a few reasons. One of my friends drinks at parties and always throws up, falls asleep (or blacks out) in the bathrooms, slurs unintelligibly, or pees somewhere inappropriate. At every damn party. While other party-goers drink as much as he does and stomach their booze politely, if a bit too loudly. The other is that I have no intention of risking my motor functions, or any other for that matter, when they're just too valuable. The first reason is so much more concrete, though)

Personal Information. (Addresses, phone numbers, information about parents and guardians.)

Activities Record. (Sports teams, clubs, extracurriculars, jobs, volunteer hours, and a place to explain, in 5000 characters or less, your many accomplishments, of which I plan on taking full advantage (and don't end sentences with prepositions))

Evaluator Selection Form from Math, English, and Other teachers. (Language dilemma, do I send a letter from the guy who is actually my English teacher, who teaches English as a Second Language because it's a Spanish speaking country, or from my Spanish teacher, who's actually the one teaching Literature, Writing and Grammar?)

Candidate Fitness Assessment. (Suffice to say it's tough. The only requirement identical for men and women are the sit ups. 95 in two minutes for the top score. Ouch.)

Interview with a Liaison Officer. (In my case, it's going to be by phone. The Officer contacted me by e-mail asking for a brief resume so he could get to know me a bit before the interview. Normally, he speaks to the candidates in person a few times before the actual formal talk.)

Bull' s Eye

I did indeed go to the ophthalmologist yesterday. When I called to set up the appointment, I made a point of doing two things:

  • confirming that he speaks English.

  • faxing him the complete instructions for the eye exam, along with a photocopy of the form to fill out, even though Dr. Zoidberg (in my previous post) is actually the one in charge of filling them out. However, this way I can be certain that he does all the necessary tests, and can check them off the boxes as we go along.

An optometrist did a few quick tests to see how my eyes were. The first thing I discovered is that my eyes are incredibly over-corrected. I got the glasses I wear close to three years ago. The correction is -0.1. The optometrist puts me through my paces having me read off a chart and gaze past a lens into a picture of a ballon in the distance. The picture becomes blurry and then refocuses as the computer considers by eyes. She asks for my glasses, looks at them, and goes

"This is shocking, you shouldn't be wearing these."

Apparently my correction should be more along the lines of -0.05. Quite a difference, actually. She asks me if I always wear them (I usually don't), whether my eyes tire (not really), and whether I need them (to read the blackboard from the back of the class).

"Don't use these, ok? It's bad for you. Get a smaller correction as soon as possible and try not to use them too much."

What was really strange was that only 2 months ago I had my eyes checked and told the correction should be -0.075. Someone messed up... The good news is that eyes with a bit of under-correction can correct themselves. Over-corrected eyes tend to get worse and worse. So no glasses for me.

Next the ophthalmologist calls me in. We go through the obligatory chart readings. A screen half red, half green, asks me to identify the colors. Takes my eye's internal pressure. This is cool. He puts some drops in my eyes, pulls down my lower lids and inserts the round part of a tiny spoon-shaped thing. I don't really notice. A bit later, I realize my eyes are feeling really weird. I reach up to wipe them and notice I'm actually poking my eye and don't feel a thing. Weird. I ask the doctor what he did too me, and he responds that it was anesthetic. Cool! I spend a while happily poking myself in the eye as he fills out some sheets and feeling returns.

He then hands me a box lined with round, colored circles. He takes them out, mixes them up a bit, and leaves a blue one in the box. The rest are a mix of green, yellow, pink, violet and purple. There are maybe 15, and he asks me to order them beginning with the blue in the box. The final result should be a gradation from that, through the other colors, to purple. It's pretty easy to follow, generally, but two blues and two greens threw me off. I swear they were identical. I switched them around a couple of times, but whatever position I put them in, the other always looked better.

Then some more charts, and finally the fun part. He dilates my iris. He puts some drops in each eye and sends me outside to wait. I go out into the street, it's evening and beginning to darken, but not for me. My eyes expand. I come back inside, my father takes one look at me and goes:

"Whoa, man, what're you on?!"

I checked myself out in the mirror and it looked awesome. The Eye Guy checked it out with a very bright light. Everything is in working order. Supposedly, the results, along with my photocopied form, should be ready today, but the secretary told me there was an emergency and he couldn't finish his report. I should get it in the mail Monday or Tuesday.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I called the Embassy and got through to an actual human being. Patty asked me to send her some info (name, SSN, phone number) and she would get back to me. So I sent it, and she very kindly called back about 5 hours later. Which was cool, because precedent (described in my previous post) suggests it could take years.

We had had brief back-and-forth of :

"Get the tests done and then call.."

"Wait, what? Schedule tests, embassy physician"

"Embassy doesn't have one, but this one guy is really good at filling out forms...

"Wait, what?"

"Get the tests done, get this guy to do the forms"


Obviously, I was the "wait, what?"er.

My mind was still stuck on the naive fantasy that maybe I could get an appointment, take one day to go to some clinic, get the tests and forms filled, and go happily on my way. Actually, the embassy has no physician they can just schedule appointments with. I get to figure out who's willing to do the examination piecemeal (because the people in charge of the urinalysis aren't checking out my eyes), get the info from them, then take it all to a certain doctor hereafter referred to as Zoidberg who'll fill in the appropriate boxes and give me the physical.

My doctor.

Dr. Zoidberg then looks at the documents I got from the other doctors and fills out all the forms based on that. This isn't as weird as it sounds, the people from the lab probably dont speak much English and have neither the time nor inclination to pore over the annoying paperwork. Zoidberg has worked with the embassy before, so the paperwork is just run-of-the-mill stuff to him (I can only hope) and he speaks English. So all is cool.

I hope to get everything finished by the end of the week (ha!), because school starts again Monday (I'm on vacations at the moment) and will make getting to a doctor that much harder.

A quick rundown of what this entails:

Urinalysis. Take a sample, send it too a lab, pick up the results an hour later. It checks for blood, sugar and protein. I was negative on all counts, which is good. Sugar means diabetes, protein means diseases in the kidney, and blood can indicate some kind of infection.

Eye examination. At least 8 separate tests. I have an appointment on Thursday, so I'll describe them in detail then.

Hearing test. I've yet to schedule that. The last one I took it was in elementary school, they put a pair of earphones on me and asked me to raise the hand corresponding to the side I heard the beep in.

Reading aloud. Hones in on speech impediments. It's just standing and reading a paragraph out loud, this paragraph is included in the instructions, so you can practice and there's absolutely no reason to mess it up because of nerves. The tester stops you sharply if you make a mistake and has you start over. The idea is that if you stutter or stammer in the exact same spot, it's likely a speech impediment, if you make it through, it was probably just nerves.

Complete physical. Everything. Just everything. Mobility and strength of limbs. Skin problems, skeletal problems, GU system, the works.

My high school also made its students get a routine blood test done. Unfortunately, one of my friends has been diagnosed with leukemia. Fortunately, it's in the early stages, he's stable, and will get to participate in the Chemistry Olympiads in Japan. He is that awesome.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I shouldn't have any problems with the Medical Examination.I'm in good health, no sickness, no accidents, no conditions, no allergies, don't smoke, don't drink, not depressive, fine hearing, all my limbs move correctly, all organs in their proper places, so on. Average height and weight. A bit myopic, but I already knew that. Nope, no problems at all.

If I could just schedule the damn thing.

Living in a country with no US Military Bases, I was referred to the US Embassy. I have to schedule the examination with an Embassy Physician, ask for help scheduling it with some other physician in this country's military base, or pay a private physician. In that order of preference. This country has no military, consequently, no military bases. The private physician is the absolute last option because this place already has an Embassy. There's no excuse for going somewhere else. What, is the Embassy not good enough for you?

It does have an Embassy. A singularly unresponsive one. Two phone calls and one e-mail later, and no human contact at all. Actually, they're probably busy. It is tourist season (no, you can't get a license to hunt them).

I left messages both times I called, although one time the machine told me I could press (some number) for assistance or hold and leave a message. I should have pressed, but since they speakthisfast and you have to dial NOW! Too late, please leave a message after the tone. BEEP. You're still wondering whether you should supersize that before you realize you're being recorded.

Also, the phone operators, who send you across this wide expanse of wires, putting you on hold often, don't listen so much to your explanation as much as they do to key words. I could just have said "Medical examination, medical review board, service academy application" and ended up at the same place instead of giving my whole explanation, because that's what they hear anyway.

I know this because as I was explaining all this to a person, the second I said the keyword: "Medical review board" I was transferred with nary a word from my listener. One second I was saying "... board to schedule an..." to actual flesh and blood and the next some cold, toneless voice was interrupting to tell me to leave a message while I tried to explain my plight. There's no telling where they'll send you, either, the first time I was welcomed to the Health Department (or something like that) and the next there was nothing at all. I can only assume the sent me to some abandoned phone in a cellar used to receive calls no one knows what to do with. No doubt it's checked periodically to make sure it can still take calls, but they remain there unheard, unattended, until they have to be erased to make room for more.

Really, though, it seems as though it all went into a black hole. I'll call again tomorrow, and if I don't get through to someone who can schedule that appointment, I'm going in person. Where no doubt I'll be placed in a small featureless room with piped music and eventually told to leave a message with the secretary.

Oh, bureaucracy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scores! For Real, This Time.

After refreshing my collegeboard page for a few consecutive hours (having forgotten about time zones) my scores finally showed up. Here they are:

Reading: 740 Not too shabby at all.

Math: 650 Not good enough for the schools I'm after.

Writing: 580 I did explain about my essay, right? Worth 30% of this score.

I read a lot. I mean a lot. A whole bunch and almost constantly, so my reading score isn't a surprise. I should have done better on math, though, and since I bought a score report, I got to look over the questions I got wrong and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Apparently, I don't know what an integer is, I can't do conversions, and don't know how to find the area of a square. Wow, I feel like an incredible idiot. I could have done so much better. On the other hand, there were questions deep in WTF territory, but only about two, and thus this is not an acceptable excuse.

Writing has its reasons, if we accept the premise that I lost most of my points on the essay, on which got a score of 6 (highest score is 12), so it's a pretty stable premise. I don't get much of a chance to write it English, at least not essays, and not in under 25 minutes. My English teacher sometimes asks for short essays, but we get a full week to turn them in. Hell, I'm not used to writing fast in Spanish. The ministry test requires an essay, but we get to chose one of 4 topics, and 3 or 4 hours to write it (yeah, it gets hard to sit still that long). Basically, I've never had to write a coherent English essay in a short time on a given subject. I suppose I'll do better on that next time, now that I know how to prepare.

An interesting (if often depressing) statistic on CollegeBoard is the "How Do I Stack Up?". It lets you put in some information (mainly GPA and SAT/ACT scores) and then tell you how you compare to the middle 50% of a college's incoming class of last year. Mine was pretty interesting, my reading score was above average, by math score average (except MIT, more on that later) and my writing score low. I forget what my GPA was, but it's something like 3.75 or 3.8, which is mainly thanks to ninth grade, where I got straight As, while I dropped to mostly Bs and some Cs last year, due to my change of school from normal public to Nerd Academy. Not too bad, anyway.

About MIT. The middle 50% were somewhere in the range of [something]-800. Which means that more than a full 25% of last years freshmen got 800s on math. Holy freakin' cow, do my grades pale and faint in comparison.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Scores! No. Just the reports.

I have to send my scores now, and I haven't actually seen them yet. In fact, I don't get to see them for another 10 dyas or so. I'm limiting myself to four schools for a couple of reasons:

  • Free. My first 4 score reports are included in the price of the test.

  • Still unsure about where I'm headed. I can always send the scores later.

I finally decided on:

Air Force Academy: tough, right? There are more problems involved with this than you think. I'll explain them later. It's the one school I'm absolutely sure I want to go to, although the next one looks pretty damn good, too.

Naval Academy: close second, if not tied, with the Air Force. Interestingly enough, the eye-sight requirements for flying are stricter than the Air Force's. I do want to fly, but I'm a bit myopic (20/40, I barely make Navy requirements).

MIT: because who doesnt want to go there? Honestly, it's a cool school, tough (yessss) but rewarding,and an engineering school, which is great for someone who wants an engineering degree (I do). Not first choice because I can't stand having my heart broken into that many pieces. It also has ROTC.

Cornell: because an Ivy League had to be in here somewhere. Just kidding. Also a good engineering school, it's the only Ivy League with ROTC on campus (the others offer ROTC scholarships, but you have to travel to a nearby university to attend classes. Inconvenient when some start at 5:30 in the morning).

You may have noticed two things:

One: that is one tough list. Really.

Two: Military. Academies and scholarships, all pointing at one Ambermutt wanting to be an officer in the Navy or Air Force.

And one more university:

State. Which is actually the best school in the country, since this place's education system is nothing like the US. All private schools are held in contempt and my Social Studies teacher enjoys making fun of them. I could be a practicing doctor in 6 years, and graduate debt free, if I get in. My high school is known as "pre-college", basically its only reason for existing is to get its students into college, and that's practically a guarantee. There'll be another post soon about the admissions process to get into the State school. It's incredibly simple, if unforgiving.

Now I have to handle four different sets of deadlines. I can't start my online application to MIT until August. I already started the AFA one (which includes a marvelous Pre-Candidate Questionnaire). I haven't started the other two yet.