Saturday, 20 September 2014

September So Far - Writing, Stress, Sciencing it Up


I finally got back to writing 1,000 words every day in my WIP* on Sunday 7th September, after easing back into it with 500 two days before that. So that's good. It means I passed 50,000 words this week (woo!) and am now at 53,049. Which is 114 A4 pages according to LibreOffice, and 212 book-pages according to my dodgy calculations. 

Oh, by the way, since my MS Word trial is about to run out, I downloaded LibreOffice. It's completely free and I haven't noticed any important differences between it and MS Word yet. Plus, I was able to 'Open' the WIP into LibreOffice and start working immediately (which was great because it saved me the 10 seconds copying and pasting 40,000+ words would have taken). So I highly recommend it. 

I did a detailed outline for the first half of the WIP (or about 45,000 words of it). So now I'm on shaky ground because I'm running without plotting everything meticulously. Fortunately, it's going well. I do have a broad outline for what's to happen which is a lot more than I had in last summer's novel-thing (that I have since ditched). 

Speaking of writing, my friend Jerry (who I mentioned in my CTYI post ) has started a blog where he's pledged to write one haiku a day for the next 365 days. I suggested this, so hopefully he'll keep going. Give him some love for me, or write a comment on his blog suggesting a haiku-worthy topic. 

In yet more writing 'news', I submitted an article pitch to the Listverse forum yesterday. I got pretty caught up in school and haven't written one in about three weeks, so I need to get a move on if I want to pay for CTYI next year. Apparently it'll be checked tomorrow so ... fingers crossed it gets greenlit. 

On a related note, do you ever realise just how much content there is on the internet? I can sit there brainstorming ideas for ages and find that 90% of the time someone's already written an article on that topic. Frustrating, but kind of amazing at the same time. 

My non-internet social life is effectively dead right now, thanks to Fifth Year and general commitments. I never anticipated how stressful 5th Year would be (That's ... Grade 11, I think, for the Americans), but its a huge level up from Junior Cert (and TY was a totally different kind of stress). The teachers just load us with homework and I already had stuff to study/catch up on in the second weekend. 

I picked up Physics after practically all the science teachers came after me and told me I should, which meant I had to drop Biology in school and am now doing it outside so I have all three sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). Bit stressful, but what isn't lately? 

As if I didn't already have enough on my plate (I think I've mentioned before that I find it very difficult to say no to opportunities), I joined the Student Council this year, became the Choir Journal writer, joined Chess and will join the Ukulele Orchestra hopefully next week (I always bring my ukulele in on the wrong day and then have to cart it around. At least it's light.)  That's adding to all the stuff I mentioned in my first post. Chess is going okay though. I finally got over my paralyzing fear of losing and have won all (two) games I've played so far. I'm being put against someone who's certain to beat me next, but whatevs, be grand.

Me playing my ukulele. I'll get a better picture at some point. 

I'm still going well with Duolingo (currently on, I think, a 13-day streak, and haven't missed more than one day in a row since I started). When I started it in late August it said I could read around 29% of all French text, and today it told me I could read 63%. So it's working. (Phew, because I find French boring in school.) I need to get onto Codecademy and, actually. 

I went to the lab in Trinity yesterday to work on my project. It went well, though I won't go into detail because there's not really any point. Just glad, because I'm feeling a bit under pressure now. Need to download the application form this weekend.

Recently discovered I love Kelly Clarkson's music, particularly 'Because of You", "Since U Been Gone" and "You Found Me". And I'm probably missing some. Also, Pentatonix are the absolute best. I've been listening to their covers of "Somebody that I Used to Know" and "Say Something" a lot while writing lately. I so regret not going to their concert with my school choir last year, but I couldn't afford it. Working to recify that.

Plans for today? Very little. Can't see boyfriend due to the fact that he lives across the country, and Dad's not keen on my paying for a train again today since I was up in Dublin just yesterday. Might be seeing Jerry tomorrow if things go right. 

There you go: my recap of September so far. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014


I said in my last post that I'd talk more about CTYI, so here it is. (If you want to skip to the pictures, they're at the end). 

A bit of background: CTYI stands for Centre for Talented Youth Ireland, a.k.a nerd camp. There are two parts, one for students aged 6-12 and one for those between 13 and 17, both held in DCU.

The latter is the Older Students CTYI, and that's what I'll be talking about. The idea of CTYI is that you take a test and if you score above the 95th percentile for your age in Critical Reading, Writing and/or Maths, you qualify for the programme. There are two sessions during the summer, each just under three weeks long. You attend classes in a college subject of your choice (e.g. Journalism, Japanese, Economics & Politics, War & Conflict, Philosophy, Social Psychology, Biotechnology, Medicine) Monday to Friday during the session, and on weekends there are outings and activities.

It's brilliant.

I've gone twice now. Last year I stayed residential, but this year I commuted for cost reasons. Last year I studied Journalism (with the best class group ever, don't even try to fight me on this). Before I went I was looking forward to the academia but honestly the social side was just phenomenal. I made such great friends and had the time of my life. The course was fab too, but the people are just amazing.

That did open up a lot of opportunities (unless it's just coincidence) - after that course I got on the school Yearbook team, did work experience in the Irish Times and wrote for an article that got published on So that was fun.

This year I did Biotech(nology). The course was very interesting, and useful, but overall the session was somehow better this year than last year. I didn't know that was possible, but it seems it. It was euphoric, really. Plus, the session ended over a month ago and I've stayed in contact with my friends from there. 

I'll focus on this year.

Here's a countdown:
21 How old CTYI is
20 The amount of quotes Bridget has on the wiki
18.5 days
17 Nevermore age, the age too many of my friends are
16 Spar bread rolls (approximately)
10 What C is
5 Koist priests
4 marital partners (Cian, Ciarán, Bridget, Cathal)
3 Koist marriages (EllexBridget; EllexCianxCiaránxBridgetxCathal; EllexCiarán)
2 oversleeps (I managed to sleep in 'til about half ten twice. Three hours late = very embarrassing)
2 years of CTYI
1 undersleep ( The time on my phone was wrong so I was walking to DCU at 6 a.m. thinking it was 8. Bear in mind this means I got up at 5. Although really, every day I didn't get enough sleep)


I'm trying to make a reasonably comprehensive CTYI post, so here's what generally happens during the day. 

8.00 - 9.00 Breakfast in the canteen. Good for catching up on/analysing whatever crazy shit happened the night before, although a lot of people are like zombies during breakfast (I'm looking at you, Briain). Some didn't even come at all, Cian. 

9.00 - 11.45 Class! There was a short break in the middle of this to get snacks in Spar. This passed relatively fast.

11.45 - 12.45 Lunchtime. Usually in the canteen but whatever. Canteen food at lunch included soggy rolls, questionable soup and sometimes nice crisps. There was also pizza sometimes but that might have been dinner. 

12.45 - 15.00 Afternoon class. I always found this half to go slowly but your mileage may vary. 

15.00 - 17.00 Activities! At 3pm, everyone left class and went to the Quad to choose an Activity to do for the next 2-ish hours. There were usually eight on offer, each headed up by an RA. Activities are great, especially since they're usually not sporty. When I went to the Gaeltacht we had 2 hours of sports every day after class (basketball, volleyball and something else if I remember correctly). Worst. Thing. Ever, since I'm dangerously bad at volleyball. I'll talk about  some of my favourite activities in CTYI below. 

17.00 - 18.30 Dinner. RA meetings were scattered throughout dinner, which was a bit inconvenient for inter-RA-group friends. 

18.30 - 20.30 Study. Either back in the classroom or in one of the computer labs. Led by a TA rather than the teacher. Usually pretty good craic. 

20.30 - 22.00 Social Time. Best part of the day albeit way too short. Everyone gathered in the Quad or in Res to, well, socialise. More on this below. 

22.00 - 22.30 Commuters tragically go home at 10pm, but residential students have until 22.30 to have their showers etc. before lights-out. 

So yes, it is very structured. Can feel a bit constrained but I think it works well. 

Some memories

I remember being confused on the first day: transitioning from residential to commuter during a big session was weird. It got sorted pretty quickly, and then I was back into familiar CTYI. I was in the same building as last year, the Biotech building, which was handy for navigational purposes (but decidedly irritating for getting to quickly after lunch. I think I was late pretty much every day). 

Class was so interesting. The level of challenge seemed unbalanced, but other than that it was fab. We learned tons of new things and had the bants in class too, which is always a good mix. 

I can't remember many of last year's activities, but Harry Potter Appreciation sticks out. Talent Show Auditions were also an Activity. That year I got in and ended up singing and playing ukulele to the Lumineers' Ho Hey. Fun times. 

This year there was a new activity called Feminist Discussion. It was really what it said on the tin. I remember joining the line and it being 90% boys cracking anti-feminist jokes. I gotta tell you, they really weren't funny. If you're going to make a rude joke, please make it actually funny. Thankfully, loads more people joined after that and the Activity ended up very reasonable. Which was a little disappointing in a way. Confrontation is entertaining. The RAs were irritatingly strict and wouldn't let anyone give a dissenting opinion. I felt sorry for some of the boys there to be honest, they just got booed a lot. 

Anyway, there was Harry Potter Appreciation again (which I didn't enjoy quite so much this time around because I was having a bad day, but still). There was also Rom-Com Appreciation, in which Cian and Ben narrated my wedding, which got interrupted by Adam Sandler (Ciarán?). Because the 'Com' part wasn't complete without Adam Sandler. 

Book Club was on at some point. Book Club is great, 'nuff said. There was also something about Shakespeare, and Karaoke, and then a faction insisted on having some sports so RA Éamonn led an Activity known as 'SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS', which included Ninja, probably Knutsack and ... I don't know, ask someone who's into Sports Sports Sports. 

A bunch of the science-related classes went to the Festival of Curiosity to listen to a woman talk about mola mola, which are ... sunfish, I gathered. We got goody bags and T-shirts, which was nice. It's nice how CTYI opens up things like that. 

Also, there was no Journalism class this year. Sad, since that was my course last year. Ironically, one of my articles for the newspaper was about discontinued courses. 

I remember Ciarán carrying me around pretty much everywhere. Plus overdosing on Skittles. The Discos, too. There are a ton of traditional songs, my favourites being Mr. Brightside, Gay Bar, Bohemian Rhapsody and Bad Touch (although I've really warmed to American Pie and Iris this year), but there's also a certain intangible quality to them ... I don't think I can describe it. Super-emotional. Shoutout to Cian for his unique dancing, and to Bridget for our Gay Bar-ing. Also, Ciarán picking me up and spinning me around during Footloose. Awesome. 

CTYI's very into traditions, so we have Pirate Wednesday (complete with resident Pirate Tom), Hitchhiker's Thursday, where you wear a towel or dressing-gown until 12 noon in anticipation of the world ending (or remembrance, I'm not sure), and Formal Friday. I also was given a ceremonial labcoat last year to wear until my last year of CTYI. I would've given it to my newbie Bridget this year but I'm not a Nevermore (thank god). 

I think my favourite thing about CTYI is the intimate friendships. You really bond with people there. My friends already know how I feel about them, so I'll leave you with photos now. 

I have so much more to say but .... no. Pictures.

(l-r) Victor, Cian and Cathal. All fabulous people. This picture was taken in the quad on one of the first days of the session.

 Here's James and me. James is tall, ridiculously strong and very stable (which is good, since throughout the session I just leaned on him without warning every so often). He's my literal support structure, ba dum tish. He's also awesome at guitar. And singing.

This picture is from when we were up in the common room with Micaiah bleaching Paddy's hair.

And eating pizza. I think.

Paddy with Pascal the frog/chameleon/green creature on his head. Notice the green hair and steampunk gear.
(l-r) Cian, Ciara and me. This is from our visit to Farmleigh on the second Sunday of the course. Such a good day. We didn't do much walking to be honest, spent a lot of time playing Sevens & Eights (the card game that goes by many different names) and talking. Also getting leaves off Cian's back. He's like a debris magnet.
Niamh! I met Niamh eight months before this year's CTYI, at a physics work experience in UCD. So it was awesome when she came as a CAT (Centre for Academic Talent) to CTYI. She did have to go home after two weeks, which was tragic, but still. Also, her outfits were always awesome.
 Cian returns, alongside a new face: Ben. For much of this session I thought Ben was a Nevermore (i.e. couldn't return next year) but it turns out he's not. Which is fab. Ben is the High Priest of our religion, Koism. Cian, Ciarán, Bridget and I are also priests. Cian's called Julius Koisar, I'm Nessie and Ciarán is Carpspawn Nekoi. Bridget is Nova Kelpie and Ben is Quasicarpo. I'm spelling these all terribly wrong.

Anyway, Ben and Cian performed The Confrontation from Les Mis at the talent show - with lightsabers! They were fab.
 There are so many of my favourite people in the world in this picture, it's great. Back row left to right is Jack, Cian, Teddy and Cathal, then front row is Ciarán.
 Here we have Jerry a.k.a Wally and the best person ever, a.k.a Bridget. Bridget was a newbie this year (as was Jerry, I think) but she's super fabulous and hella popular in CTYI. You go girl.

On the left we have Cian and Bridget - you already know about them. On the right, there's me and Ciarán in the corner, then Cian, Bridget and John Joe.
 Here's Ciarán looking magnificent. Ciarán wore cat ears essentially all the time. Commendations. He also carried me everywhere, which was fun.
John Joe! John Joe is hella smart and scarily perceptive. He did Game Theory. Also, he's really nice. He stayed over at my house twice for my birthday and we watched a lot of Glee. He has incredibly bouncy hair (which this picture sadly failed to capture). 

Dermot is the fashionista. He liked to remind me how bad my dress sense is every day, multiple times, and in turn I reminded him that he's a horrible person. Nah, he's fab. Ily.

This is Leona during probably our first class, where we modelled DNA using jelly snakes and jelly babies. Yup. I taught her a little bit of ukulele. She knows how to play a lot of instruments but not ukulele. Yet.