Ever heard about the Menuhin Competition?

By Keerthi Selvam

In May of 2020, a new era of classical musicians will try their hand at winning one of the most distinguished competitions in the world. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t stress. The Menuhin Competition is a prestigious competition for young violinists, specifically those under twenty-two. The competition is held every two years, and some of the most sophisticated players from all over the world have participated.

So, where did this competition come from?

The story starts in 1916, where a child by the name of Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York. He picked up the violin at the age of five and displayed incredible skill, leading to his debut at the age of just eleven. Labeled a prodigy, Menuhin proceeded to travel the world. He began to study in Paris, but spent most of his career playing in England. Simply put, Menuhin had numerous spellbinding performances, including one at Lake Placid, USA for the Winter Olympics. However, he also founded the Menuhin Competition in 1983. Yehudi Menuhin died in 1999, leaving behind a legacy. Some of the most well-known musicians that have competed in the Menuhin include Ray Chen and Julia Fischer. In 2018, however, was a ten-year old by the name of Chloe Chua.

Chloe Chua

Her repertoire included Vivaldi’s popular ‘Winter’ from Le quattro stagioni, or ‘the Four Seasons’ and Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 8. Last year, the competition was held in Geneva. This year,
however, the Menuhin is taking place in Richmond, VA, making it accessible to those of us who
live nearby.
For those of us who don’t quite fancy classical music, why not give the Menuhin a try? It may just
shatter your vision of classical music being played solely by men from the 18th century.

“Metal Memories” by Saanvi Gutta

A whisper blew through the bare trees as a foggy, lonely mist settled around the forest. Small creaks and hollow moans echoed across the empty playground as the breeze drifted by. A summer taste lingered in the sky, contrasting the cold sweat the mist left behind.

Whirrrrr. A small robot rolled into view, clean and white. Little lime and cyan lights flashed on its body as it traveled around the rusted, brittle metal playground equipment.

“Rover!” called a young voice. A girl came running after the robot, wild black hair rustling in the wind. A blush crept over her ears, cheeks, and nose, bringing out her pale complexion.

The girl stopped short, glancing around the clearing. Her eyes widened.

“Rover! Avoid the metal!” She pulled her shirt up to her nose to prevent inhalation. Cautiously, she approached the slide.

Remnants of red paint hung from the rusted metal, clinging for dear life. The metal was all bent, and though the metal must have been smooth before, it was all rough now.

“Detecting uranium,” said the robot. “117 years.”

The girl shook her head in dismay. How would she search in this contaminated place?

Closing her eyes, she envisioned a little boy sliding down the polished red slide, squealing with laughter. A little girl, straining from the effort, would be hanging from the sturdy blue bars. And a little babbling baby with a cute pink dress, pushed by her tired but happy mother, would be on the creaky swing. A few kids by the colorful swinging horses mimicking neighs and shouting cowboy phrases as they rocked back and forth, and there’d be some older kids digging in the dirt, getting it all over their fingers and pants.

All these people would be spending time in this playground. But they can’t anymore. Sighing, she turned back around, pulling her shirt back down.

“Rover! Let’s go! It’s not here.” With that, the girl began walking to where she came from, with the little robot following closely at her heels.

“Faceless” by Saanvi Gutta

I can’t see their faces.

Blank heads without features,

Without eyes,

Without ears,

Without a nose,

Or a mouth.

They can’t see me.

They can’t hear me.

They won’t be able to catch a whiff or feel my aura.

They won’t be able to speak to me.

Although,

It’s hypocritical to ask for them to,

When I can’t do the same.

I can’t see, hear, feel, or speak to them,

Because just like I can’t see their faces, they…

They can’t see mine either.

They can’t see my face.Fa

How VR Happens by Jivom Sharavanah

So how does VR happen?

Many things are involved with VR. First off, measurements need to be taken of six vital things in order for the screens you see to look real.

Image resolution, the number of pixels in an image, and field of view, the amount of the image you can see, need to be decided. Then the refresh rate, the rate in hertz at which the screen refreshes, and motion delays need to be calculated. Not to mention that pixel persistence, the amount of time the display is lit rather than dark per frame, has to be taken account of and audio/video synchronization, connecting the audio to the video, should be sorted out.

A VR headset has a setup of two screens, one for each eye. By looking through two lenses (screens), it gives users a sense of depth, stereoscopic display, explained in the VR development section above.

The VR headset contains motion sensors to detect the user’s motion by measuring positions and angles. For example, if the user turns to the left, then he or she may see a store. But if the user turns to the right, then he or she may see a library. The images are in place the whole time. The user is just changing his or her perspective relative to space.

Some VR headsets have an infrared controller which monitors the direction of your eyes inside a virtual environment. With this, users receive an even deeper and realistic field of view. VR headsets also include auditory technology, like the Frights Nightmare Roller Coaster, to stimulate your other senses. From there, other VR technology can impact your sense of smell, touch, and taste.

VR is a very STEM influenced technology, and you can try your hand at VR here at ACL. To learn more about how VR works in depth, click the source https://thinkmobiles.com/blog/what-is-vr/ and watch a cool interactive video that covers the facts.

Strange Holiday Traditions by Keerthi Selvam

Celebrating Mari Lwyd in Wales.

With Christmas just around the corner (well, sort of), most of us are getting into the holiday season. However, millions of people celebrate their own holiday traditions, ranging from a KFC-Day in Japan and a day to burn trash on the streets in Guatemala. As you may learn in this article, not all holiday traditions are centered around jolly old men.

  1. Noche de Rabanos, Mexico

Literally translating to “Night of the Radishes”, this festival is Mexico’s version of America’s pumpkin carving tradition. Noche de Rabanos began with merchants carving designs on radishes in hopes of attracting customers to their shops. The townspeople loved it- they would use the radishes as Christmas centerpieces. In 1897, the mayor of the city declared December 23rd as the Night of the Radishes, and it has stuck ever since.

  1. The Yule Cat, Iceland

Though cats are usually viewed as cute and docile, the Yule Cat (or Jólakötturinn) is anything but. This giant kitty eats all the children who misbehave. As per Icelandic tradition, children who behave well will receive new clothes for Christmas, but those who don’t must face the wrath of the murderous Yule Cat. This particular feline is larger than a house, and is rumored to peer into the windows of houses to search for socks. If the Yule Cat is unable to find new clothes, it will simply devour the child who couldn’t earn their socks.

  1. Krampus, Austria

This Austrian tradition has a similar concept to the aforementioned Yule Cat. It involves jolly old Saint Nicholas’ not so friendly assistant, known as the Krampus. His name originates from the German word krampen, which means claw. The Krampus has a demented face, knotted fur, and two goat horns poking out of his head. This hideous creature is known for lugging around a sack. The children who misbehave are shoved into the bag and brought back to his lair, where they are presumably eaten. The luckier ones are simply beaten with dead branches and are left at that.

  1. Mari Lwyd, Wales

Ever head of caroling with dead horses? In Wales, one may find a horse skull on a stick waiting for them outside their house. This figure is decorated with bells and ribbons, and a white cloth is draped over the person carrying it to give a ghostly appearance to the peculiar figure. This “horse” even has a name- Mari Lwyd. Typically, once Mari Lwyd appears on your doorstep, she will challenge you to a rhyming battle. Only after you compete in the poetry battle are you allowed to earn food and drink.

  1. El Caganer, Spain

Forget Elf on the Shelf. Spain’s take on the well-known tradition involves small figurines with their pulled down pants around their ankles. This seemingly obscure practice dates back to the 18th century, when, in Catalonia, caganers represented good harvest and fortune. The traditional caganer is a squatting peasant with a red hat, but newer versions involve famous figures like Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and Albert Einstein.

Works Cited

Billock, Jennifer. “The Origin of Krampus, Europe’s Evil Twist on Santa.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 4 Dec. 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-

A Look Into VR Development by Jivom Sharavanah

It all began in 1838, when Sir Charles Wheatstone coined the term “stereopsis,”  the perception of depth produced by the reception in the brain of visual stimuli from both eyes. In his research of building a stereoscope, he showed that the brain conjoined two photographs of the same object taken from different points to make the image 3D.

In 1965, Ivan Sutherland publized the “Ultimate Display,” a concept of a virtual world through HMD where users could interact with objects. This was considered “the fundamental blueprint for VR.” Three years later, he and his student Bob Sproull created the first virtual reality HMD named “The Sword of Damocles.” Whenever the user moved his or her head, the perspective changed with them using the head-tracking system first developed in 1962 by Morton Heilig.

In 1969, Myron Krueger developed a series of “artificial reality” experiences, computer-generated environments responding to the users, leading to VIDEO PLACE technology. Krueger’s VIDEO PLACE gave users in other dark rooms, where large screens were set up, the ability to communicate with other users in the same virtual world. Between 1986 and 1989, the Super Cockpit, a flight simulator with 3D maps, advanced imagery, and a tracking system and sensors, was created by Furness. This allowed the pilot to drive the aircraft with gestures, utilizing gesture recognition introduced in 1982, and voice commands.

In 1989, Scott Foster’s company, _________, developed real-time binaural 3D audio processing for NASA’s astronaut program. Then two years later, Antonio Medina designed a VR system to drive the Mars robot rovers from Earth in as real-time the distance between the planets allowed.

Finally, in 2015, VR became available to the public. Since then, VR was being innovated by numerous companies. A majority of these headsets involved dynamic binaural audio, undermining haptic interfaces, systems that allowed users to interact with a computer using their touch and movements. Due to this, handsets were almost always operated with buttons.

VR has gone through a lot of changes, and more changes and innovations lie in its future as well. To learn more and in depth about VR’s history, use the source https://virtualspeech.com/blog/history-of-vr.

The VR Experience by Saanvi Gutta – Part 2

We’ve all heard of virtual reality, otherwise known as VR. VR for sick students to continue school, medical students to experience surgery and examination beforehand, airplane simulators for trainees, and just the appeal of it for fun. It’s so advanced, being one of the technologies that mark our tech age today. VR- it sounds futuristic and so advanced, but an opportunity you may not experience. However, that isn’t the case. The Academies of Loudoun now offers students an opportunity to use these VR headsets, and like every opportunity, it’s important to take it. It’s unique to ACL, and it’s a fun thing you can try for just about five minutes of your time.

To be honest, when the Frights Nightmare Roller Coaster began, I was so overwhelmed I crumpled to the floor. I had been standing initially, and standing on a roller coaster (which you never want to do) made me feel vulnerable and panicked (hence the panic cited in the glimpse section). I went from standing by the windows near the library to the top of a roller coaster that seemed very, very real. My stomach just dropped, and I had nothing to hold on to. Anxiety, fear, surprise, you name it. All at once. Of course, after I got used to the sensation overload, I was able to enjoy the simulation a little easier and standing up. As a forewarning, some others who tried the roller coaster felt dizzy afterwards.

The simulation was truly an experience. After I took the headset off, I was so excited. I’ve heard of the impact VR can bring to this world, but it was more personal when I tried it. All at once I realized the potential of this little yet incredible thing, and all the future possibilities in using these VRs in science, medicine, and education. I felt its future impact, rather than just know of it. And I recommend coming to the library and asking one of our wonderful librarians to try on a headset during your lunch period. 

A Glimpse Into Another Reality by Saanvi Gutta – Part 1

At first, all I see is a deep orange sky radiating into my vision, outlining the black precipice-like mountains before me. Woah. A red roller coaster track lies before me, looping up into the mountains, which are towering dauntingly above me. The little car I’m sitting in is shaped like a dull-colored coffin, with a cross embedded at the front. It seems old and rusty, with white seats stained from age. Suddenly, with a jerk, the cart began to move.

Immediately, I’m taken up, climbing the tall slope of the track into the mountains. Blue fog covers the tracks, rising up with eerie notice. My stomach still drops, and I find something to hold onto in sheer panic. Slowly, I reach the top of the incline, out of the fog, and I glance down at the impending drop into a swirl of twists and turns in the pitch black mountains. My heart leaps into my throat with anticipation.

And then I’m falling, twisting to the left, then to the right. And after a few seconds of getting accustomed, I begin to enjoy myself. Black skeleton ghouls jump before me as I travel along the track’s hills and turns, and ghostly white apparitions fly across the track as I pass by. Blackened crosses stick from the ground, and scraggly leafless dark trees stand out against the horizon. At times, I pass slowly through graveyards covered in the blue fog, strange noises drifting through my ears.

At last, the roller coaster begins to slow, the blue fog rising again as I pass through a set of half-opened gates. A ghoul waits for me at the end, and _______ ______(no spoilers)______ ____________. The screen goes black, and a menu pops up. Jittery from the excitement and nerves, I pull off my virtual reality simulation headset.

TO BE CONTINUED …

“Dreams Make” by Saanvi Gutta

They say clouds are made from dreams.

But I don’t think that’s true.

Colored white like lies and

Covering a sky so blue?

 

They never stay long,

Always on the go.

They bring horrid rain, hail,

Misery, and cold snow.

 

What kind of dream

Would such a tragedy be?

I think the sky is what holds

The dreams of you and me.

 

The sky is always blue,

Unless it’s the end of day,

Then it explodes into color, 

Like paint on a blank array.

 

Even if it’s dark,

It lets the stars glow and shine.

It’s a never-ending expanse,

That withstood the weight of time.

 

Head above the clouds?

So that head can see the sky.

Even our old proverbs,

Tell us the clouds lie.

 

We made a sky,

Of hopes and dreams.

Clouds are just doubts

Of what they all mean.