by Lars Nordquist '21
As might be known from the fact that I take both Latin and Greek, I have a fascination with language. My progression into the world of linguistics for the most part has been spurred on by my sister, beginning with her encouraging me to take Latin and continuing with me stealing her linguistics books. One of the most interesting facets of the linguistics is the ‘conlang’ (constructed language) community, where people invent their own languages, for various purposes and in various ways, including famous languages like Esperanto, Klingon, or Tolkien’s Elvish. As my fascination with ‘conlanging’ grew, I decided to create a language myself with the help of my friend Augie Spendley, and while it is not much more than an outline at this point, general interest in it has led me to write this article explaining in more detail its general structure.
The phonology of the language is fairly broad in that it contains 29 consonants of a wide variety; however, in a fashion similar to natural languages it heavily favors some over others. For the most part, the nitty-gritty of this is unimportant, other than that it includes several sounds hard for English speakers, kh, gh, lh, and rr, in the International Phonetic Alphabet x, ɣ, ɬ, and r, and several hard for native speakers of other languages, th, dh, and wh, which in IPA are θ, ð, and ៳. Contrastingly, the vowel system is limited to three vowels, a as in ‘father’, i as in ‘free’, and u as in ‘boot’, much like Classical Arabic or Inuktitut, in contrast to a more typical five vowel system of a, e, i, o, and u like in Japanese or Spanish. This decision has led to quite a few three way distinctions being made throughout the language, such as between the three grammatical genders, three verb tenses, three sets of cases with three cases apiece, and so on.
Moving on to general grammatical features, this language has what linguists would call ‘agglutinative’ or ‘synthetic’ characteristics: it heavily features sentences built of words made of smaller parts, each chunk representing one part of the meaning, which tends to lead to very long words complex in meaning. English itself is fairly ‘analytic’ in grammar, meaning that on the whole it tends to express meaning through a series of short words, each contributing to the meaning of the whole.
Starting off with verbs, the language has a complex system of voices, tenses, aspects, moods, modes, persons, and numbers. Starting off with tense, shockingly given its elsewhere complexity the language features a mere three: future, present, and past, each formed with one of the three vowels. However, the aspect system adds some more complexity, with the simple (‘I go’), continuative (‘I am going’), perfect (‘I have gone’), and iterative or habitual (lacking in most dialects of English, but in AAVE ‘I be going’). For an even more ridiculous system, these aspects can be combined in any way, with the exception of the simple, giving four more compound aspects, three double and one triple, for a total of eight. In addition, there are three voices, active (‘I eat’), middle (‘I eat [myself]), and passive (‘I am eaten’), which for obvious reasons cannot be combined. Next, there are two moods, indicative and subjunctive, used in similar ways as to Spanish, with the indicative reflecting facts, and the subjunctive reflecting the uncertain, hypothetical, or opinions. These can be combined with nine modes, a list far too long to include in detail, but needless to say these can imply complex things about the meaning of each word. For example, the optative expresses the subject’s wish to carry out the verb; the imperative is a direct command, whereas the obligatory is a more polite version of the imperative, used for suggestions and obligations. Each of these ‘modes’ can tentatively be strung together, with some exceptions. Finally, there are four persons and two numbers, depending on how they are counted: the first person (I and we), the second person (you and y’all), the third person (he, she, it, they), and finally the ‘fourth’ person, used for mass nouns. As you might be immediately be able to tell, the combination of these leads to an absurd number of distinct verb combinations.
The noun system is much more simple compared to the verb system. There are three genders, animate, inanimate, and abstract, each taking one of the three vowels. There are three numbers, single, plural, and ‘collective,’ which is hard to explain, but essentially reflects a unified mass made of many very small parts, like water or sand. The complexity is brought in by the case system, which has ten cases. For those unfamiliar, ‘cases’ are different forms of a noun which change form to reflect their role in the sentence. Generally, English lacks these as distinct endings, other than a rudimentary possessive, formed by ’s, and in pronouns, and instead uses prepositions. Here they are formed by endings put on the end of a word after the gender and number markings. Aside from the nominative, which is used for subjects and the objects of linking verbs like be, there are three classes of cases. First are the ‘basic’ cases, which are most the commonly used, including the genitive, dative, and accusative, the first two represented in English by ‘of,’ ‘to’ or ‘for,’ and the last one unrepresented other than in pronouns. The next three cases relate to location, the ablative, locative, and allative, represented in English by ‘toward,’ ‘at’ or ‘in,’ and ‘from.’ Finally, the last three cases are the least common and refer to more ‘advanced’ relationships of nouns, including the causal, instrumental, and associative, the first one represented in English by ‘because of,’ and the last two represented by ‘with’ in different meanings.
While many aspects of this language have not been hammered out, including extremely important things such as its name, a massive amount of vocabulary, and a writing system other than Latin characters, I think that all in all attempting to create a language of my own has taught me a great deal more about linguistics than I would have otherwise found out on my own. My fascination with language continues to grow, and I hope in college I will be able to take courses that deal with more advanced facets of this fascinating study.
by Smith Mohler '19
Electric, eccentric, and entertaining are all words tossed around when people talk about The Office Hour. I have heard some people refer to the podcast as a smoothie: a perfect blend of comedy and reading the news with precision. Some say we’re a podcast, and others say we are a cultural revolution, but Kyle Davies, a leading member of the group, believes that we are “the founding fathers of the high school podcast game.”
We have gathered together a team of four young, strapping lads who just love to deliver to the listeners. Our lowest ranking member, William “Numbers guy” O'Brien, is, believe it or not, an essential part of our podcast. He can be seen as a waterboy of sorts, allowing the star players to truly outshine his consistently poor performances. Some fun facts about William are that he likes to eat old cheese and sing in the shower. When asked who he saw himself as, in terms of a contributing member of the podcast, he said “I like to imagine myself as a Jackson Pollock type.” This is potentially one of the few things he has said that I wholeheartedly agree with. If you have ever seen a piece by Pollock, it is almost impossible to tell what message he is trying to get across, or if there even is a point to be made.
Aidan Stretch, one of our top three members, is the glue between the cracks of our dynasty. His grace, poise, and knowledge can be heard through the eloquent and formative ideas he vocalizes on the air. It comes as no surprise to me and the rest of the universe that Aidan is a foe to be reckoned with inside or outside of the classroom. Some fun facts about Aidan are that he knows the entirety of the alphabet, and can count up to the number 87. When asked who he saw himself as, in terms of a contributing member of the podcast, he said “Michael Jordan.” Through his efforts to better the St. Albans Community as a whole, Aidan Stretch embodies the main characteristics that presidential candidates usually have: knowledge, power, and confidence.
Kyle “The Rock” Davies, our North Star, has a 99% approval rating in terms of overall content. Being the creative genius that he is, Kyle is able to worm himself into the hearts of thousands of loyal fans. Not only can Kyle read, he can also write (only with monosyllabic words). Kyle may shine during our recording sessions, but he also grinds behind the scenes. He schedules our weekly recordings, talks to our sponsors (Nike, The Washington Capitals, and Ideal Life Clothing). Besides lifting weights and delivering the news, Kyle Davies spends his free time with his nine parakeets, whose names are Jacqueline, Demeatis, Pontius, Caesar, Kyle Senior, Pontius, Felipe, Paco, and Fred. When asked who he saw himself as, in terms of a contributing member of the podcast, “The Rock” said “God.”
Our final, and potentially number-one man, Smith “All-Star” Mohler, has been referred to as “the number one name in podcasting”. Smith has never held below a 97% average in his tenure at St. Albans. When asked about his college application process he said, “I expect to get in everywhere I apply, and if I do get rejected I will lie to everyone.” Not only can Smith make anyone's day brighter by lifting broken spirits, he can also draw well; flowers are his specialty. Some fun facts about Smith are that he is really cool and everyone likes him, and he can fix a mean iPhone. Smith Mohler directly compares himself to no one because, and I quote, “I am the peak of human existence.”
The Office Hour owes everything to its fans, and that is why they have decided to name them the “Officers”. If you are a fan of gaining knowledge, strength, and ethics, tune into the Office Hour. Godspeed.
by Raj Sastry '20
We go to school in a pretty incredible place. The wonder of our school is not just the knowledgeable teachers, excellent facilities, and talented peers, but also the sheer beauty of our surroundings here on the Close. What began as a few photos here and there during my free period freshman year really hasn’t changed two years later. Almost all of these I photographed while going about my day on the Close (a few of them I specifically went to the Olmsted woods to get while the fall foliage was still intact). I took most of the photos with my iPhone 6, and a few with my iPhone Xs. One of the fortunate side effects of my photography hobby was curiosity about the history of the Close, so midway through freshman year, I started to read the Cathedral’s official guidebook (incidentally written by my STA English teacher Ms. Victoria Dawson), which taught me almost everything there is to know about the Cathedral and the Close’s history — but that hobby is for another article.
By Damian Hackett '21
For me, aerial cinematography combines three equally fun and interesting things: playing with cool toys (ie. drones), photography/videography, and video editing. Furthermore, a good aerial cinematographer can combine these three skills to create something that is pleasing for an audience to watch.
Taking videos and pictures from the air is nothing new: aerial shots have been a staple of Hollywood films for decades, but up until recently these usually required a helicopter or plane. However, in the past decade the rise of affordable, high-quality consumer camera drones has made this type of filmmaking accessible to a much greater number of people. Combined with the popularity of sites like YouTube, “drone videos” have exploded in popularity (according to Google Trends, searches for things like “drone video” have increased by a factor of 30 compared to ten years ago).
The first step in the filmmaking process is, obviously, filming. Once you have picked a location, and the drone is in the air, there are two things to think about: where the camera is pointing, and where the drone is going. On drones such as the DJI Mavic that I use, the camera is mounted on an independently controlled, 3-axis gimbal. This is what allows the drone to be flown at up to 40 miles per hour while maintaining a perfectly steady shot. The complete maneuverability of a camera in the sky, combined with a plethora of recording features, allow for almost complete creative control when it comes to filming. With things like automated tracking of moving subjects and obstacle avoidance, it’s not hard at all to capture beautiful shots, whether at the beach or skiing in the mountains.
However, capturing the footage is only half the work. If you are trying to make a finished product such as a short (few minutes) film with your footage, you need to edit that raw video down to something that is coherent and somewhat bearable to watch. This can mean taking as much as an hour of 4K video and cutting out the vast majority of it. Almost as important to the finished product as the video is the music: good music matches the feel of the footage and adds artistic expression. Matching the music to the footage can be a painstaking process: transitions need to be in time with the music, accurate the the hundredths of a second. The rest of the video editing process is completely up to the individual. Programs such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere CC allow for footage to be sped up, slowed down, reversed, spliced, inverted, color corrected, etc. in an endless amount of ways.
After anywhere from a couple of hours to days of work, it’s finally time to export. A couple of minutes later, the fruits of your labors: a crisp few minutes of 4K footage, ready to upload to YouTube, share with family and friends, or sit on your computer forever. And then it’s time to do it all again, hopefully better than the last time.
Here is some footage from a recent trip to Georgia (the country): https://youtu.be/PK6wzFWBhvo
By Emilia Boggs '20
I have been skating for as long as I remember. Figure skating is my favorite hobby and sport, so, when I found out that NCS would allow me to pursue what I loved most through doing an independent project as my winter sport, I quickly took the opportunity. I skate seven days a week from the months of November to March. During the rest of the year, I try to get on the ice as much as possible and usually skate two or three times a week. In the months that I skate everyday, my schedule consists of both afternoon and morning practices.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I get to the rink around 3:30 and skate until 5:30 and sometimes 6. On these days, the time when I am on the ice is called a “freestyle session”. During these freestyle sessions, I have private lessons, and in the remaining time, I can work on various different elements that I learned during my lesson. When I am on my own during these sessions, I work on moves in the field, which consist of different levels each with progressing difficulty that I have to practice in order to “test” them in front of multiple judges. Moves in the field are equivalent to footwork consisting of different turns each using a different edge and speed. In addition, I work on freestyle tests and dance tests. Freestyle tests are the same concept of moves in the field but, in order to test them, one must create a choreographed program filled with different elements such as jumps, spins, and footwork. Additionally, to prepare for dance tests, each level has three or more dances that you have to learn and finally perform with a partner. Freestyle session are a great time to solidify and practice everything I have learned in order to make sure that I will either pass tests or do well at competitions.
On the other days where I skate, I either have a group class or synchronized skating practice. On Thursdays and Saturdays I have group classes. Thursday consists of a thirty-minute “skills on ice” class followed by an hour of off-ice conditioning. During the on-ice portion of class, we work on something new each week. Sometimes we do turns and other times we do jumps. Then, on off-ice, we either do bodyweight circuits, ab circuits, or sometimes yoga. In addition, Saturday class is called power skating. During this time, we do a bunch of intervals of various speeds along with a mix of squats, sprints, or different leg positions such as one leg in the air.
Finally, on Sundays and Tuesdays, I have synchronized skating practice. On Sundays we have off ice from 1-2:15 followed by on ice from 2:30 to 3:30. Then, on Tuesdays we have morning practice from 5:45-7 am. Synchronized skating is when a team of about 12-16 skaters all skate on the ice at once doing a program in synch. As one can imagine, it is pretty hard for this many people to all learn the same step sequences, music counts, and footwork in order to look organized and together. My team starts our program in August each year. We learn the steps from August to about November and then competition season starts. Each year, we do about three competitions all over the East Coast. We even went to Florida last year to compete in the Easterns Synchronized Sectional Competition. Our first competition of the year usually serves as a critique and the judges give us feedback on how we could improve. Then, we take that feedback and alter our program in order for it to be the best it can be by the time of Easterns. Easterns is a qualifying competition for Nationals. The goal is to come in the top four during the first round to move on to the next round and then skate again in the qualifying round. The top teams then move on to Nationals and compete against other teams from all around the USA.
Overall, skating is one of the things I love to do most outside of school, and as you can tell, it takes a lot of time. I am so thankful to go to a school that allows me to use my sports credit towards something that I am so passionate about. Even though it can be frustrating at times, the satisfaction of a well-done program is one of the best feelings in the world.
By Nadya Osman '19
Not many people voluntarily get beaten up. No one wants the bruises, the pain, or the embarrassment. But, hey, that’s what I do every other day after school, and the incredible thing is: I have come to enjoy it.
I started taekwondo as a wee fourth grader, very shy and hesitant of the sport. After all, martial arts seem to be dominated by extroverts — the people who are the best are the people that yell the loudest and are the most intense. I was shaken by this fact, but the sport nonetheless came naturally to me. I remember going to my first competition as a yellow belt and coming home with a gold medal to a cheering dojo. I became more confident in my techniques and myself. It seemed I was on a roll.
However, every hero’s journey has to have some sort of setback. For my athletic heroism, it was the heightened rigor of NCS as I grew older. I struggled with a growing workload, my delayed progress in the sport, and a loss of interest. Taekwondo no longer seemed like a fun pastime — it was a chore. I was as close to giving up as my car is to another car when I attempt to parallel park (dangerously close).
My coach (who is sometimes featured on my Snapchat story), however, saved me from that fate. He talked some sense into me: I was going to have to find a balance between school and taekwondo. I had made it more than halfway to black belt, so what would giving up teach me?
So, I put all of my effort into finding other things in the sport that would give me joy, and gradually I found them. My coach opened the door for me to a whole other side of martial arts: tricks, stunts, and weapon training. Every day I kept up with my homework and actually looked forward to going to taekwondo. I even enrolled in more tournaments: I went to Maryland State for the first time where I won silver for my age group, qualified for nationals, and then won gold at the USA Taekwondo National Championships in Salt Lake City for my age group this past summer. Just a month later, I finally received my black belt after taking a six-hour-long, physically and mentally exhausting test. Possibly the scariest moment of the test was when I had to fight two people at once. I, literally, did not know what I was doing and decided my only tactic was to pick up my opponent and throw her against the other.
I am proud to say that it worked.
Overall, taekwondo has become fun and interesting to me again. I look forward to practices where we just have a good time attacking each other with bow staffs, doing crazy flips, and trying to film our own fight choreography shows. To get all mushy on you, taekwondo isn’t just a sport. It’s a way of life (damn, Nadya). I see taekwondo impacting me every day as it has taught me discipline, respect, thoughtfulness, endurance, and confidence. These characteristics are central to who I am, and I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t continued with it to this very day.
by Owen Nguyen '20
Quizbowl is a competition that is similar to “It’s Academic.” Each round there are twenty “toss-up” questions, and two teams consisting of four to six players try to answer the questions first. “Toss-ups” can vary from art to history to literature to science to “trash” (sports, current events, pop-culture, etc.) The hints given at first are obscure and hard, but gradually become simpler until the answer is basically given. When a team gets a “toss-up” correct, three additional bonus questions are read, which that team only can answer. For every “toss-up” and bonus question answered correct, ten points are awarded, but if a team answers a “toss-up” incorrectly, five points are deducted. At the end round, whichever team that has the most amount of points wins.
I started participating in Quizbowl tournaments starting in middle school. One of the biggest tournaments I went to was the national middle school tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. My middle school sent two teams, and both performed very well—one of them finishing 2nd out of over 150 teams.
When I decided to come to St. Albans, I planned on continuing my Quizbowl career. Halfway through last year, I gathered a group of classmates and formed a history bowl team (similar to Quizbowl but only contains history “toss-ups”). With little practice and experience, we managed to be very competitive in every tournament, and even managed to place 3rd in one of the three tournaments we attended. Because of our placement in these competitions, we qualified two teams for History Bowl nationals, which were held in Washington D.C that year.
Our record at nationals was fair, with us finishing around .500, but that wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs. Although disappointed at our result, I felt encouraged and hopeful for next year with a more experienced group.
This year I started an official club with Will Holland ‘20 and we held a couple of interest meetings earlier in the year. We’ve held multiple practices and planned out potential Quizbowl and History Bowl tournaments in the future. Just this past week we attended our first History Bowl competition of the year at St. Anselms. Unfortunately we didn’t qualify for nationals this time, but we were competitive and every game we played was close. We have many more tournaments ahead of us, and I hope that we will do well enough to go to nationals for both of them. The club is set up for success, and I’m looking forward to a great year for us.