28 April 2007

National Science Bowl 2007

Well, I've been in Washington, D.C., for two days now. Science bowl is a science competition for high schoolers in which I participated back in high school; it was probably my favorite part of all 12 grades.

This year I asked to come back as a moderator -- basically like Alex Trebek, except cooler, and there are a lot of us and we don't have moustaches and aren't on syndicated TV. But it's the same general idea. The actual competition starts tomorrow, although we moderators have spent most of today taking turns as moderators and competitors among ourselves (tons of fun, but still kinda exhausting over an 8-hour time period).

Yesterday and the previous evening we've been around the downtown area. I broke off from the rest of the group on Friday and walked around the museums on the mall. The Hirshorn modern art museum didn't have very good exhibits this time around (when I went two novembers ago it had some pretty cool stuff). I browsed quickly through the new Native American museum; its most interesting blurb was about an American Indian who dressed up in traditional clothes and lay down with his eyes closed in a glass box in a real museum as though he were an exhibit, as a rebellion against the idea that their traditions and heritage are only a thing of the past.

My favorite exhibit of anything in DC is by far the gems and minerals exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. It is amazing.

Yesterday evening I met up with my friend who graduated and moved up here to work for the NRC -- we had a good time. The day before that I walked around the chevy chase neighborhood admiring the cherry and dogwood trees in bloom; it was pretty. Also, the house two doors North of the 4H campus has a Lamborghini in its driveway.

It's also weird to be around 350 high schoolers for most of each day. Especially when so many of them are so incredibly pretentious. A lot of them are brilliant, but that's still no excuse for the way they behave. The Secretary of Energy spoke to us on Friday morning -- one kid asked him a question about uranium reprocessing. The Secretary gave a very competent answer, but apparently it wasn't what the kid wanted to hear -- he actually started talking back to the guy about U-238. It must have taken incredible patience for the guy to say, "Yes. I know," and to continue unfazed. When you're speaking to someone that important who knows so much more than you do (not only has he been informed from whatever briefings he gets, but also he has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering or something) you need to ask your question, learn from his answer, and sit down. The kid wasted the time of both the Secretary and the rest of the audience, and he made himself look like an idiot in the process. Ugh.

But besides being around those kind of people part of the time (my roommate is sort of like that -- it's obvious he and his accomplishments are the only thing he cares about) it has been a lot of fun. Plus, my friend from high school and A&M is volunteering as well.


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