Progress Report

I have now attended six total fencing club meetings, which amounts to a total of twelve hours invested in the sport. While I can’t say I’ve become a master I do feel I’ve made progress. I now have a low En Garde stance which burns my thighs to no end, and have grown more skilled with my blade placement. In particular I have developed my skill for keeping my épée pointed at my opponent’s chest. In regards to foot work I still have a long way to go. My advances and retreats still feel clunky and a little awkward as I need to think through the movement every time I do it (front foot out and placed on the heal then push off of my back leg and plant the front foot and the reverse for a retreat) as a result my double advances (two quick advances back to back) often fall short of graceful. Additionally my parry moves still lack the speed and precision of the coaches. While the blade should move in small tight circles I tend to make a much wider arc with my weapon, which allows my opponent to easily read my thoughts. Despite these issues I have won a few bouts, the first against a far more experienced opponent who was using his non-dominant hand (which in my opinion only counts for ~half a win)  and one against the second newest player (after myself). The bout went back and forth for a while before I slowly pushed my opponent to the back of the mat then launched into a flèche (a move where one player essentially charges the other) which made my opponent step out of bounds and so forfeit the point. Despite the win one of the certified coaches who works with the club reprimanded me for the more advanced move as I still hadn’t mastered my basics. A point I had to forfeit because he was correct.  While I have missed the past few practices (due to several midterms) I am hoping to return to the sport soon and continue my growth as a fencer.

The Beginnings of my Fencing Career

On Monday January 27 2020 I attended my first meeting of the OSU fencing club. I was more than a little intimidated at the prospect of meeting a new group of people who’s common interest I know next to nothing about. However I found the group to be very welcoming and when the topic finally rolled around to why I’d chosen to join fencing club, I explained my H&S spring project situation. The club’s leader seemed more happy to have another physics major in the group, then annoyed at the prospect of teaching footwork. But footwork I was taught beginning with the en guard stance (feet in an L shape about shoulder width apart), and then working on advances, retreats and lunges. After thirty minuets of footwork drills it was time for me to suit up. I greatly underestimated how much fencers wear, one half jacket (to protect the dominant side of the body), one full jacket with a less then comfortable strap between the legs, a body wire to register hits, a glove and a mask. Once I was suited up I was taught how to hold a blade, I chose to learn épée. One might expect that holding a sword would feel fairly natural but the handle of an épée is quite unique, if not a tad odd. Once my grip was correct, I began to learn basic steps first working on advancing and retreating again but this time while holding the blade at the proper level, then thrusts and lunges with the blade. After all that it was time to learn some “fancier” moves. I was drilled on three basic types of parry, parry six (turn your blade in a tight clockwise circle and push the opponents weapon aside then land a hit) , parry eight (turn your blade in a tight circle counter-clockwise and catch your opponents tip with your bell guard then thrust at an upward angle for a hit), and parry four (push your opponents tip aside with the mid region of your blade then thrust forward with your tip angled towards your opponents chest), as well as how to “beat” an opponents blade (knock their weapon aside with the mid region of yours and quickly land a hit). After my training montage was done I was ready to compete. I learned the rules of engaging an opponent and what the different calls of the referee meant, and then everyone wanted a turn whooping the new kid. I played several bouts, and while I didn’t expect to win any on my first day my goal was to score at least a point/bout which I was able to do. I have a fairly aggressive play style and was able to score three or four points in our five point bouts.

At the end of the two hours I helped the club clean up their equipment, removed my 13 tonnes of gear (yes metric), and spoke with some of the members getting names and learning majors. The fencing club meets twice a week in the RPAC multipurpose room #3, each time for two hours, and this is how I will meet my ten hour minimum.

My Other Portfolio

For more information about my academic life and professional skills take a look at my handshake profile which is still under construction.

https://app.joinhandshake.com/users/19881995

Spring Project

I am enrolled in the Honors and Scholars program at the Ohio State University, as you dear reader may know. On top of this I am carrying sixteen, credit hours, an internship and a part time job. I am very busy, which is unfortunate because all of this leaves me little time to be a normal human with normal human interests. However, this Spring Project gives my an opportunity to explore new hobbies and learn a new skill.   

Throughout all of High School and Middle School I enjoyed playing tennis, and was fortunate enough to be the captain of my varsity team two years in a row. While I did love tennis I often wondered about a sport that would require an even greater reservoir of skill, and even faster reflexes. I was and still am a huge fan of Star Wars (this is related) and often as a kid would violently swing a blue lightsaber around breaking valuable things in the house. This project gives me the chance to marry these two loves into the competitive sport of fencing.

The sport has three types of play depending on which sword you use (foil, épée, or saber) and each type has different rules. While I am uncertain about the type of fencing I will take up I look forward to a return to competitive sports and to mastering my inner jedi.

Diversity at Ohio State University

Diversity is a word that is thrown around a lot in news, and popular media. While many people have a vague understanding of what it means when a setting or society is “diverse” very few people actually comprehend the larger value of diversity. I was fortunate enough to get to attend an event hosted by the Ohio State Office of Diversity and Inclusion. At the event I was invited to reflect on how even little things in day to day life can seem vastly different for people of different groups. (social, ethical, racial ect…). An activity, which I don’t often spend a lot of time on. Towards the end of the class the room was guided in accessing their privileges, and silence fell as people took a moment to note the little things one does not normally think about. The short group discussion that fallowed this activity lead to some answers common to the whole (fortunate to have functioning legs and arms, privileged to be attending a University, and live in a free country) but there were also things that I had never thought of. One student mentioned the privilege of never having to be afraid of a Law Enforcement Officer. Now I recognize that all Police Officers may not be pillars of virture (which is in no way meant to undermine the value and bravery of their work) but I would never think of being afraid of someone in uniform for no reason other then the pigmentation of my skin. However, in the seminar I realized that there are many good people who, quite reasonably, share a mistrust of Police Officers due to their skin alone. To be totally honest I almost felt stupid for having never realized that before. But then when I read stories about police brutality they are not as personal to me as they are to others. This idea which was completely new to me makes total sense, but is something I never would have thought of. Now do I feel that this realization is going to have stark effects on every moment of my day to day life from hence forth? No. But in realizing something I never have before I feel I have gained a deeper world view, and so grown a little because of it. This is the real value of diversity. I guarantee if the room was full of people like me (middle class straight white men) the idea of a relationship with the police that is less than ideal never would have come up. Through the inclusion of different groups I was able to learn something about the people around me and the world I live in. The value of diversity in a society can be seen in far more then just a genetic sense, the wealth of ideas that a group of people coming from different backgrounds can bring into a room is staggering, especially when compared to the ideas a group of people of one background may have.

Student Health Services

As you, my dear reader, may be aware I am from Helotes Texas. In Texas the typical length of all seasons that are not summer is about two weeks (total between the other three, I wish I was joking). Because I am in no way used to the cold, I have found myself quite unprepared for the pestilence borne of freezing winds.  I was even less prepared for these winds to persist longer then a week (again if you think I’m joking it was almost 90 degrees back home this week). Because of how unready I was it is no surprise that I contracted quite an illness. It started, as all things do, with a slight cough and a bit of a headache. I believed myself to just be a little under the weather and so put off any form of treatment. Much to my (unhappy) surprise my symptoms did not vanish in a week but rather grew. Now I had a constantly stuffy nose, none stop headaches and a cough that could only be described as indefatigable and moist. Accompanying these coughing fits was the hacking up of dun and sallow colored phlegm. All of these symptoms were unpleasant but no cause for concern to me. It was not until I began to consistently blow cherry red blood from my nose and into my tissues that I grew quite worried. Well a few more days of that went bye and my eyes began to burn and constantly experience a dull pressure. Finally a week ago from the day this post will be published I succumbed to my illness. And died.

 

Not really, I finally made the choice to contact Student Health Services (hence the title of the post). I, like many a man, HATE to talk on the phone but unfortunately found this obstacle unavoidable. I want to take a moment to note that you can in fact schedule appointments on the computer, but I had failed to fill out some paper work allowing me to do this. So I called Student Health Services. Now dear reader (who I assume at this point is only the person who grades these posts) I was not in the mood to have a chitchat on the phone. Luckily this is not what I found. I told them I wanted an appointment as soon as possible, and was quickly presented several options. I chose to attend a doctors visit first thing in the morning (8:00 am) the next day. I arrived for my appointment thirty minuets early as requested and was directed to a small kiosk where I completed some digital paper work. Once all of this was done I was went to my waiting area and began to settle in for the long haul. I don’t like to wait, and part of my distastes for doctor/dentist appointments is the act of waiting in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar room with other dying people. Fortunately, I was again surprised! The doctor called my back right at my appointment and after a short talk with the nurse I was seen and diagnosed. Two counts of pink eye and one pretty bad sinus infection (oh whatever will I get for the other ten days of Christmas?) The doctor than asked me ‘Why didn’t you come to see us sooner” and ladies and gentlemen if I had known how easy working was Student Health Services was I would have.

STEM Seminar

I genuinely enjoy my STEM seminar course, which I am not just saying because these posts are graded. The class is structured in such away so as to foster an open discourse about current issues in fields related to STEM (the validity of animal experimentation, weather or not research “as it is” needs to undergo a radical change, or the value of allowing the usage of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports to name a few) as well as a discussion of recent advancements in scientific fields of research. Each student is required to give a short (Two to five minute) speech on a research paper or article they read, and explain the questions they have, what they found interesting, and why the work is significant. The topics can very widely, from what city structure would limit tornado damage to the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cell technology. I intend to give my speech on the discovery of the three numbers, which when cubbed and added together give 42 as their sum. For example 3= (569,936,821,221,962,380,720)^3 + (-569,936,821,113,563,493,509)^3 +(-472,715,493,453,327,032)^3. Such a set exists for every number one to one-thousand except for 114, 390, 579, 627, 633, 732, 921 and 975 (such a set of cubes may not exist for these numbers or it may not yet be found). No spoilers for my speech but this type of number theory fascinates me and is part of what drew me to theoretical math as my second major. While I do enjoy the science themed discussions what I find most intriguing about the class are the discussions about philosophy and how it can apply to the scientific method and the role of scientists in society. Now I must offer a slight trigger warning, as we do have discussions that could dip into questions which may be considered offensive. On one such occasion we were talking about the passage of a law which reasoned “because it is illegal to beat your horse, it should be illegal to beat your wife as both are property”. When this idea was presented I posed a question to the effect of “is this law a moral good because it keeps people from beating their wife or a moral evil because it equates a wife to property?” My instructor’s reply was to consider the time at which the law was passed (circa 1600), then to consider a woman property was not a moral evil. This then prompted me to ask “isn’t considering a woman property ALWAYS a moral evil regardless of what time period you are in?” The reply surprised me but has really stuck with me; “No, you are too much like a physicists, you are looking for a universal truth. Like a Newtonian law, good and evil are not like that. They change with time.” This was an idea that had never before occurred to me, that when we weigh the actions of historical figures we must not use our current metric of good or bad but instead the scale of the time. This new revelation has caused me to re-analyze many of the philosophical views I hold and weigh my sense of morality not just against what is now acceptable but what maybe acceptable for years to come. 

 

Academic Support (or how I learned to stop worrying and go to tutoring)

As you may be aware from my previous posts, I am a student at the Ohio State University currently double majoring in Physics and Math. One may expect that with the undertaking of a double major there comes a fair amount of stress and homework. This is correct. I often find myself faced with several assignments due in the near future, and while some are the simple e-portfolio post or the reading of an article the assignments from my major courses (currently Physics 1250H and Math 1181H) can be quite a challenge. Due to the quick nature of these classes many of the homework assignments may cover topics that were only briefly discussed in lecture, but are important to the course nonetheless. In the past it was all I could do to read the material from the text book and try to learn what I could before going on to the assignment. Between the additional heavy reading and doing the assignment itself I had little time left to study or prepare for the weakly quizzes that Physics 1250H awards the students. For the first few weeks of courses I found this pattern to be seemingly unbreakable, and devoted copious amounts of time to work and study. I had always heard that college would be a big step up from High School, but the resources required to adequately complete all of my assignments left me with little time to eat or sleep. I knew about office hours for my professors, but the times that they were offered usually conflicted with my class schedule. Fellow students in my classes did not seem to be missing out on the sleep or calories that I was, and when asked how they managed everything they were more than happy to produce a list of study spots where one could receive extra help on assignments from upperclassmen or even graduate level students. Now these locations ranged from the usual (18th Avenue library, Thompson Library etc…) to the less common (businesses off campus and online forums). I attended a few of the sessions offered at the libraries but found them to be a little too popular to get any effective help. Some what put out I just accepted that I’d have to buckle down and get used to the strenuous life. Then one day as if by fate, after my last class of the day located in Smith Laboratory, the skies let down a bath of rain. Having no plans to slosh all the way back to my dorm in my shorts and T-shirt I sat down and began to work on my Physics homework, in the “physics lounge” of Smith Laboratory. Upon reaching a fairly nasty problem that I could not satisfactorily solve, I vocalized my frustrations rhetorically. Then the young lady across from me looked up from her book and asked me what physics I was in to which I gave the usual reply of “1250H”.  She informed me that right around the corner there was tutoring for all pre-graduate level classes, information which I had never received before. I quickly rounded the corner and found a bored looking senior sitting in a mostly empty room. When I showed him my problem not only was he able to solve it but he was also able to explain it, and ensured that I could duplicate the steps if it ever came up again. This was the kind of help and extra instruction I had needed. I now make it a habit to attend tutoring at Smith lab on Mondays and Tuesdays, and have seen improvement in my performance on my physics quizzes.

Student Organization

I am an active member of the STEM Outreach Program at the Ohio State University. As a member of the organization I get to travel to elementary, middle, and high schools around the Ohio State University campus and demonstrate several different scientific concepts. These include “the jumping jack” which utilizes a battery, two wires and a spool of copper wire to make a nail “jump” (due to the electromagnetic interactions between the aforementioned materials). I originally discovered the STEM Outreach program at the student involvement fair, which stuck out to me due to my deep love of science and math. Additionally, the club seemed especially fitting as I’d just left a managerial position at a Kumon in my hometown to attend Ohio State. Kumon is an early learning center for children aged three to seventeen with an emphasis on reading and math as well as improving how quickly the students can complete computations. As a manager I got to work directly with students and experienced first hand the joy of teaching. While I did enjoy working with the younger students and teaching toddlers their letters and numbers, my favorite students were those a little farther along in the program. Often the reading older students did for the program covered advanced principals of physics or major historical events in a relatively digestible fashion. Such as one paper students were required to read that explained the time warping effects of travel near the speed of light by utilizing the “light bouncing off of moving mirrors” treatment. While the questions presented to the students themselves were relatively straight forward (who wrote the theory of relativity? When did he publish it?) the questions that the students had after reading such a work were far more enjoyable for me to answer. Often after reading something as mind boggling as the basics of special relativity students would ask “is this true?” or “how can such a thing be?”. While I was unable to present the atomic clock experiments to the students at the center I was able to explain the results of the tests and their far reaching ramifications, such as length dilation and gravitational lensing. On one such occasion I was even able to explain the twin paradox, to a set of twins! The higher level math problems that the students worked on were also very fun to solve with them. I enjoyed reciting old rhymes I had learned as a child (“multiplying fractions is no problem the top times the top and the bottom times the bottom” and the quadratic formula to the tune of “pop goes the weasel”) and getting to see the students face light up when they finally grasped what initially seemed like an impossible concept. It is my hope that through my involvement with the Ohio State University’s STEM Outreach program I will be able to spark a love of learning in many more students. Than I know I will be able to contribute to the field of science in a fashion beyond just research; by inspiring the next generation of innovators.

G.O.A.L.S.

[ “G.O.A.L.S.” is a place where students write about how their planned, current, and future activities may fit into the Honors & Scholars G.O.A.L.S.: Global Awareness, Original Inquiry, Academic Enrichment, Leadership Development, and Service Engagement. For more guidance on using your ePortfolio, including questions and prompts that will help you get started, please visit the Honors & Scholars ePortfolio course in Carmen. To get answers to specific questions, please email eportfolio@osu.edu. Delete these instructions and add your own post.

  • Global Awareness: Students cultivate and develop their appreciation for diversity and each individual’s unique differences. For example, consider course work, study abroad, involvement in cultural organizations or activities, etc.
  • Original Inquiry: Honors & Scholars students understand the research process by engaging in experiences ranging from in-class scholarly endeavors to creative inquiry projects to independent experiences with top researchers across campus and in the global community. For example, consider research, creative productions or performances, advanced course work, etc.
  • Academic Enrichment: Honors & Scholars students pursue academic excellence through rigorous curricular experiences beyond the university norm both in and out of the classroom.
  • Leadership Development: Honors & Scholars students develop leadership skills that can be demonstrated in the classroom, in the community, in their co-curricular activities, and in their future roles in society.
  • Service Engagement: Honors & Scholars students commit to service to the community.]