Thursday, December 27, 2012

The iPhone 5

The iPhone 5. "It's the thinnest, fastest, lightest iPhone ever."

That's what they always say. Which doesn't mean I'm disappointed in the product, it just means that I'm not amazed or surprised. I got one for my 16th birthday, and I love it. Going from a $10 Target pay-by-the month phone that barely did anything to an iPhone 5 that does virtually everything, is a huge leap forward for me.
Most people already know that it has an 8-megapixel camera with flash as well as a pretty decent front-facing camera for video chatting. They also have probably heard that the new "EarPods" that come in the box are much better quality than Apple's previous attempts at making headphones. However, there are a few things about these EarPods that you may not have known. The small little remote on the right EarPod looks deceptively simple. People normally assume that it only has a built in mic and can be used to turn the volume up or down. However, the space in between the + and - buttons is actually a button in itself                                                that has a multitude of functions:

  1. One click: pause/play
  2. Long press: activates Siri
  3. Double click: skips to the next song
  4. Triple click: goes back to the previous song
  5. Double click and hold: fast-forward
  6. Triple-click and hold: rewind

The smartphone is amazingly fast, and the multitude of apps that you can get in the App Store is astonishing. You can do anything from reading books and playing games to watching TV and doing work on it. It is truly a phenomenon in the age of technology.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Sectionals. They started on my birthday. Which meant that I would technically be 15 for a few extra days. It would be my last meet as a 15-year-old.

It started on Thursday, December 13, and I was exhausted from the action-packed 3-day meet that I mentioned in my post previous post: Las Vegas!!!. Katelyn and I had made it for a couple individuals, and Jordan and Makenna would join us for the relays on Saturday and Sunday. This meet, held at the Belmont Olympic Pool in Long Beach, CA, was decidedly more professional and businesslike than any meet I had ever been to. All of the swimmers who qualified for sectionals were insanely fast, many of them just coming back from Junior Nationals the week before.

Before my first race, the 100 free, I was sitting up at the bleachers and caught sight of people's bag tags on their backpacks. Many of them read 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, or 2012 North American Cup Challenge - huge meets that indicated that the people here were extremely talented, and some of the best in the nation. I was in a pond with some pretty big fish. This wasn't your regular age group meet, this was a senior meet, where everyone was competing against everyone, and age wasn't a factor. I saw people as young as 12, and people past college-age competing. By the end of the meet I was completely exhausted from the two demanding back-to-back meets.

I went from being at the top of the meet to being somewhere in the middle of these incredibly speedy people of all ages from California and Nevada. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. I was swimming with people who will definitely be swimmers to watch at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I realized that for these people it wasn't just about the fun and games, but that the people in this meet were in the "Big Leagues." These are people who were breaking National Age Group Records, and I was extremely humbled. It was amazing and extremely inspiring that I got the chance to compete in the same meet as them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Las Vegas!!!!

"Real athletes swim. The rest just play games."

After months of intense training, the moment finally arrived. We were going to Las Vegas for our Winter Age Group Championship Meet. It's a 3-day meet that's usually right before or around the same time as my birthday. The crazy anticipation was tangible in all of us in the week leading up to the meet. This was the very first out-of-state meet that I was going to attend, and I was beyond excited.

Despite being indoors, the pool felt really fast, and Thursday night when we were warming up, they were playing Christmas music through underwater speakers so that all of the swimmers could hear it.

From the moment I swam my first race, I knew that all of my hard work had finally paid off. To the surprise of the entire team, I won gold in the 100 free finals the very first night of the meet, and then found out that I broke the meet record. That was the very first time I had ever won a gold medal at such a big meet, and I was one of the youngest people in my age group. Even my hard-to-please Russian coach smiled and actually said, "Good job!" It was only the second time I had ever heard him say that to anyone in my life.

Our Team Logo
The rest of the meet went just as well. Jordan Stead, Katelyn Farrow, Makenna DuBois, and I were in every single relay and we medaled in 3 out of the 4 relays despite being seeded much lower. We would come back from behind even though we were swimming in the outer lanes, while the inner lanes are the ones predicted to win. I had to anchor (go last) in all four of the relays.
The highlight of the relays was the 200 Medley relay in which we got the gold.

Then, to close out the the weekend, I swam the 200 free and 50 free in finals, Sunday night, medaling in both, and getting another gold medal to add to my collection from the crazy sprint: the 50 free.

Since our team (OC Riptide Aquatics) is only a year and a half old, the performance of all of our swimmers made a splash in Vegas. We created a name for our team, and established it as a force to be reckoned with in the midst of many well-known, esteemed teams.

At the end of the meet, Katelyn and I found out we qualified for sectionals (an even higher meet) in some of our individuals, and that our relays had qualified too. All four of us were going to have to race again, within the next week.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Science to Sleeping?

App Store Icon
Sleep is the key to success. If you get enough sleep, you perform better, in all aspects of life including sports and school.

Last summer, my friend told me about a sleep cycle alarm app. She said it woke you up at the time when you'd feel the most rested. I decided to give it a try. The app was only $1, and it turned out to be one of the best $1 investments of my life.

The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock by Maciek Drejak Labs ingeniously calculates the optimal time for you to wake up. By putting in the time you need to wake up by, the app creates a half an hour time slot for when it will wake you up. It wakes you up in your lightest sleep phase, when you're closest to being awake. At first I was a bit skeptical. Could it be a fluke? Could it really be possible for this $1 app to accurately map out your sleep cycles? Weren't applications/software like that usually extremely expensive? Yet, as I read the reviews, tens of thousands of people were extremely satisfied with it.

Recommended Placement
When I finally downloaded it, the app immediately caught my attention. I put it under my mattress cover, like it instructed me to, and went to sleep. Not expecting much the first night (because it takes 5 days to calibrate), I surprisingly woke up at a time when I actually felt good, and not extremely groggy from the previous night's sleep.

As I continued using it, the app became more and more astonishing. Not only did it show you a graph showing your sleep movement, but it gave you a percentage of sleep quality. Depending on the calmness and length of time you slept, you would have a different sleep quality ranging from 0%-100%. It would also generate other graphs that showed what things affected your sleep quality and averages for the amount of time you spend in bed as well as what time you go to bed.

I would highly recommend this app to people who feel like smashing their alarm clock to bits when they wake up in the morning, as well as anyone else looking for an exemplary alarm clock.

Here is the link to download the app in the App Store/iTunes (it's currently only available on the iPod, iPhone, and iPad):