CHS competes at SkillsUSA

Senior Juan Ramirez won 4th place for his design

Formed 54 years ago, SkillsUSA is an organization that offers opportunities to CTE students across the nation. With state competitions as well as a national competition, students are able to improve their skills and engage with other talented individuals in many different areas.

From fantasy makeup to cabinet making, skillsUSA offers it all; there is a competition for everyone, and many talented students to test one’s skills against. Even if someone doesn’t end up with a medal, they can still grow from the experience of competing against people who are as capable or more capable than they; a huge part of improvement is the ability to compare one’s work of ability to that of others, and adapt accordingly.

Last weekend, thirty-odd Carrboro High Schools students set off to SkillsUSA NC, ready to compete against other North Carolinians in contests such as advertising design, technical drafting and video design.

There were issues with the bus, which ended up leaving the school an hour late, and the hotel the students were meant to stay at was overbooked; despite these setbacks, all hands were on deck, and all students were able to participate in their competitions.

Once on site, some students had to attend orientations, some set up displays for their design work and some were busy filming in and outside of the hotel. The experience for students in different competitions varies greatly, and all participants are expected to attend and complete what they need to without help–this enforces the idea of responsibility, since students must be fairly independent (though a buddy system is in place to ensure safety).

After two days of hard work, fourteen different Carrboro High School students placed top five, three of those being first-place; the categories students placed in were adobe video design, adobe visual design, advertising design, digital cinema, extemporaneous poster, poster and T-shirt design. Congrats to CHS SkillsUSA!

A, B, C or D: A Choice I don’t Want to Make

Most people do not like taking tests. They’re stressful, a pain to thoroughly study for and can contain deadly pitfalls, like trick questions or “none of the above” answer choices; but the worst kind of test is actually the one most people seem to prefer. Multiple choice tests have the potential to hands down be the worst kind of test someone can be given, yet most students seem to prefer them over free-write tests.

Multiple choice tests are typically seen as being ‘easier,’ since you can just pick the answer choice that looks the better than the others and do well; however, if you’re taking a MC (multiple choice) test that has real effort put into it, the agonizing experience outdoes the pain of most free-response tests.

Multiple choice tests contain tricky psychological mind games, which spawn from a combination of the MC test structure, the teacher’s choices and the student’s thought process.

The first and most common one of these “mind games” is the tendency for students to feel insecure about certain answer choices, simply because they’ve already selected the same letter a few times in a row. For example, if the answers to questions one through three were ‘B’, and the student is stuck between answers ‘A’ and ‘B’ for question four, they’re much more likely to choose ‘A’, because it seems odd that four questions in a row would have the same letter choice. This can lead to students selecting incorrect answers for no other  reason than ‘it felt wrong.’

This ideology is especially destructive when paired with how teachers make MC tests. I made one myself for a homework assignment once, and discovered that I had a tendency to gravitate back to a certain letter to be the right answer, and found it hard to deviate — many teachers have this issue as well. A result of this phenomenon is the occasional string of same-letter answer choices, which results in students doubting and second-guessing their answers.

In many MC tests I’ve taken, there is usually one default ‘right’ answer choice; a letter that pops up frequently during the test as the right answer. This can be useful or harmful, depending on how this letter appears during the test. For this example, let’s say that the teacher has a tendency to choose B as the right answer choice.

If a string of Bs are presented as the right answer choice for several questions in a row, then a student might choose another answer out of fear that they’re wrong; but if the Bs occur more frequently than the other letter choices — but not necessarily in a row — the student can use this to their advantage. If a student is on the fence about an answer choice, and ‘B’ is a viable option, selecting it would give him/her a better chance of getting the answer right. Finding that equivalent of ‘B’ in other MC tests can lead to a failsafe answer choice: the one you select if it’s an option, but you’re not entirely sure is correct.

Another issue with MC tests is how some of them are created solely to be a major headache. Some teachers create questions with answers that are all slightly correct, but one is the right choice due to some small detail that makes it “the most correct.” Depending on the subject, the line between objective correctness and subjective correctness can be blurred, leading to post-test conflict between teacher and student. In a free response test, you can sometimes get partial points for a partially correct answer, but in a MC test, an answer choice that’s not perfect lands you with zero credit.

There are advantages and disadvantages to multiple choice tests, most of them psychological; in the end, taking the test itself becomes a large part of the actual testing process, rather than a pure gauge of knowledge. This applies to all tests, but is especially obvious and annoying in multiple choice tests.

Totally, Absolutely Legitimate Horoscopes

Aries (March 21-April 19)

The GMO-free cosmic forces of the universe suggest that soon you may find yourself tempted to be “healthy” or “productive.” Though these concepts sound appealing to your more rational side, you will find that sitting inside all day binging Netflix is the best way to align your inner energies.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

The energies of romance are on your side today; your love interest will make awkward eye contact with you for a few life-altering moments. You should definitely propose on the spot, as the stars are clearly aligned in your favor. If you are rejected, it is likely due to your love interest’s chakras being conflicted, and you should not take it too personally.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

Though your friends beg you to stop making bad jokes and puns, you should most definitely continue to do so. The forces of nature are on your side, and every distasteful pun you make will secretly bring joy and laughter into your friends’ hearts. When they stop talking to you, it’s because they are in denial of your comedic genius. Don’t worry — they will come around eventually. Your humor rejuvenates and uplifts the inner souls of those around you, so don’t hold back.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

You may think that it’s a good idea study for that upcoming test, but the elusive energies of luck are definitely on your side, so you should spend your time procrastinating instead. With the forces of fortune on your side, you will most certainly pull a high A; there’s no need to look over that silly twelve page review sheet.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

In the near future, you may be tempted to impulsively buy something that others say is a waste of money. In actuality, their minds are clouded by a negative force, which will prevent them from seeing the truth in the situation. You should follow your heart and purchase whatever you like as it is the destiny the star forces have
decided for you. Saving up money to be “financially secure” is a concept that only appeals to weak-willed people who are not truly living life to its fullest.

Virgo (August 23-September 22)

You may be feeling restless or under the weather recently. This is due to your classmates emanating negative energies, which are actually influencing your soul’s spiritual balances. The best solution to this problem is to be a positive force in your classmates’ lives by bringing them happiness and inner fulfillment, which will give your soul peace in return. Singing a few uplifting songs during class time would be a highly effective way to lift this negative aura, but if this is too forward for your tastes, there are more subtle methods. Leaning forward and chanting mantras into your classmate’s ear during a test can have an amazing impact on reducing their stress,
and they will surely thank you for it afterward. You may be kicked out of the room for “being a disturbance,” but no great revolution ever goes without its complications.

Libra (September 23-October 22)

The cosmic forces are on your side today, and you should take some great risks. Approach a stranger! Buy some thing on an impulse! Walk to NYC! Drop out of school! Your shy disposition holds you back, but go forward with confidence as nothing can go wrong today. Do not listen to those who doubt you as they are simply trying to hold you back.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)

One of your friends will soon come to you with an issue of utmost importance and will ask for your advice; you are someone who is more than qualified to help them out, so assure them that they have come to the right person. Take your friend to an empty room, then ask them to meditate with you; their problem can be solved by dissolving negative energies, so with a bit of meditation, any issue they have will be resolved within minutes. If your friend refuses to meditate, force them to. They are just in denial and will benefit from your spiritual genius.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)

You will likely have an upcoming paper to write in your English class. Instead of actually writing it yourself, you should have your little brother/sister/pet do it instead as their natural energies are currently more aligned with the stars than yours are, and they will have greater success than you ever could. It’s not cheating, since you are merely unlucky due to your soul’s misalignment.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)

Though getting a full night’s sleep is said to be healthy, the cosmic energies suggest otherwise. Staying up late and procrastinating for several hours is the most effective way you can find your purpose in life as the earthly forces have deemed it so. Your inner spirit will be most in tune with the universe if you get as little sleep as humanly possible.

Aquarius (January 20 to February 18)

Due to negative energies plaguing your household, it would be a good idea for you to burn large amounts of incense in your room to lessen their strength. The spiritual power incense holds is well-known. The smokier your room is, the stronger your barrier against negative energy. If you are worried about the fire alarm going off, feel free to disable it.

Pisces (February 19 to March 20)

Recently you may have had issues connecting with other people and properly displaying your emotions. This issue is easily solved through interpretive dance. As dance is a highly emotional art form, you can easily convey what you are feeling to those around you. The next time your teacher gives you a pop quiz or a bad grade, connect to them through spiritually-charged choreography. No one can resist the power of dance.

A lesser-known Black Friday

Almost all U.S. citizens know of Black Friday, the day when large retailers offer amazingly generous deals, resulting in malls packed full of oppor-tunistic shoppers; however, “Black Friday” didn’t always refer to a yearly consumer craze, but a gold scandal in 1869 that led our country to the brink of an economic depression.

As a country that had just gone through a civil war, the U.S. was struggling financially; in fact, the Federal Government was $2.8 billion dollars in debt by the time Ulysses S. Grant was elected president. As a result, George Boutwell — the Secretary of Treasury at the time — sold gold at the New York Gold Exchange to help pay it off. At first, this did help — but soon after, disaster struck.

Two conniving speculators, Jay Gould and James Fisk, hatched a plan to exploit the gold market, planting ideas in President Grant’s head that the the gold sales were detrimental to Western farmers. As a result, Grant stopped Boutwell from releasing weekly gold from the Treasury Department, raising its value. Gould and Fisk had simultaneously been buying millions of dollars of gold, further raising this price. Gould’s gold account grew from $10 to $18 million as a result.

When the price of gold exceeded $155 an ounce on September 24, Grant decided to put an end to the scandal, instructing Boutwell to sell $4 million worth of gold and buy $4 million worth of bonds — tanking the value of gold from $160 an ounce to $138 in a matter of minutes. Panic in the Gold Room ensued; stock prices immediately dropped by 20 percent, ruining the careers of numerous speculators, and plunging the United States into a period of financial disrepair.

Black Friday may have gotten its name from the economic use of the word “black,” referring to profitability, since Gould and Fisk had enjoyed large profits up until the economic crash; however, due to the extremely negative results of the day, “black” could simply be a word used to exemplify the dread felt by those involved.

Philadelphia police officers later used the term “Black Friday” in the 1950s to describe the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers — eager to take advantage holiday sales — filled the streets; the cops couldn’t take the day off due to unruly swarms of people, and had to suffer through 12-hour-shifts.

The disgruntled officers began calling this day “Black Friday,” perhaps in cynical reference to the dreaded day of chaos back in 1869. Surprisingly, the term actually began to spread. Retailers hated the negative label, and attempted re-coining it “Big Friday,” to no avail. However, in the end, “Black Friday” was adopted, and retains the same commercial connotations today.

Not-So-Wonderous Woman

With likeable characters, fast-paced action and a strong female lead, Wonder Woman is a blockbuster that charmed many; however, it shot itself in the foot by incorporating one-dimensional villains and an amazingly uninspired ending.

It had the right idea, and came so close to being a superhero movie with a deeper meaning; however, for some inconceivable  reason, the writers decided to turn back on their own established message with a disappointingly blasé ending.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, played their roles with real charm and synergy, weaving an endearing and believable love story into the plot. Their interactions felt genuine, with quippy dialogue and solid acting that brought a spark to the large screen.

As for the action, it never left me wanting. Other action movies rely on filling the screen with chaos to replace real choreography, but Wonder Woman’s choreography and general action scenes were well-done and purely entertaining. Some slow motion shots captured the action perfectly, enhancing it effectively. There was a fight at the beginning of the movie, where the Amazonians clashed with invading German troops; despite having the disadvantage of inferior weapons, the women managed to overcome their enemies with bow & arrows, swords and a whole lot of airborne combat. This action sequence immediately set the standard for the rest of the movie’s entertaining conflict.

The romance and action parts of Wonder Woman worked well, but unfortunately, the villains and end scene did not.

Two of the main villains in Wonder Woman are Erich Ludendorff, an Evil Army Guy who killed people because he was evil, and Doctor Poison, a doctor who killed people with poison. Both of these villains were unintentionally hilarious, as they likely couldn’t have gotten any more stereotypically nefarious.

Doctor Poison was especially horrible in that regard, perfectly playing the role of the psychopathic mad scientist. She was likely not written in with originality in mind. In one of her first scenes, she is shown graphically murdering a human test subject, cackling evilly whilst doing so. Her character just seems so one-dimensional, like she’s there just to fill a role and carry the plot along, not to add more depth to it.

At the end of the move, Ares — the God of War, and Wonder Woman’s arch nemesis — is revealed to be Sir Patrick Morgan, an ally of Wonder Woman. This twist both did and did not surprise me. I didn’t expect Ludendorff to be Ares, and I did not expect Sir Patrick Morgan to be Ares either, because I didn’t think Ares was going to exist at all.

The whole point of the movie was that Ares was not causing the war, as Wonder Woman had been told, but that it was the darkness within humans that caused them to commit atrocities. Wonder Woman wasn’t meant to have an epic fight against Ares at the end because the issue was with humanity itself, something that couldn’t be resolved by defeating the God of War.

I watched the entire movie with the expectation that Ares was going to be a metaphor for the corruption in humanity, but I was disappointed when it turned out Ares was this random British politician.

Wonder Woman fights Ares in an amazingly epic battle with a plethora of explosions and CGI, and naturally our heroine comes out on top. With Ares defeated, dark clouds disperse, light shines down from above, and the Nazis stand and look around with a newfound wonder for life shining in their eyes.

The movie contradicts the point it tries so hard to get across: stopping one man was not meant to change the darkness in humanity. Wonder Woman could have played a role in breaking the dull dynamic of many modern superhero movies, which always seem to end the same way; however, it failed at the last second, leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

Depiction of a Wonder Woman script writer. Illustration by Ruby Handa