The Last Hurrah

Posted May 21st, 2013 by denisea

After two years of walking in (late) into room 503, I’m sad to say that my time in room 503 is up. However, it’s a bittersweet moment, for I’m happy that I spent two years with Ms. Lahaise, because I attained various skills during those 80 weeks. From learning how to write a proper essay, finding the most obscure rhetorical devices in a paper, to learning how to present information effectively, I can say that I did not waste a single minute in this class.

Before I walked into room 503, I already fell in love with reading. As a measly junior, the most difficult book I read for pleasure was most likely the Harry Potter series. I was absolutely thrilled with having a certain amount of time devoted to reading. As we read the Great Gatsby, the Grapes of Wrath ( I have my reservations about this one), and Into the Wild, I was prompted to step out of my comfort zone and read books that were much more challenging. The Great Gatsby proved to be immensely interesting, which in turn piqued my interests in the classics. (That doesn’t mean I actually read it, but I honestly intend to) Being exposed to other genres let me expand my horizons in the aspect of reading.

Writing always seemed to be a daunting task for me. Words cannot express how bothersome essay sections are in major tests—the SAT, ACT, and the AP Language test. However, the tips and tricks I picked up on throughout my time in room 503 made essay-writing more bearable. The rigor of the Columnist assignment showed me how to structure my essays, along with providing the tiniest bit of flow. The frequent writing involved with this class proved to be the most valuable practice of all. Along with the writing, the silent reading allowed me to see actual examples of effective writing.

Every assignment assigned was for a purpose. No assignment was merely busy work. My personal favorite would be the literature circle roles. It is my favorite assignment for it involved reading. The books I thoroughly enjoyed reading were The Great Gatsby and Native Son. Those two books were far easier to connect with than any other book, although I didn’t like the other books because they simply weren’t interesting to me. Doing literature circle roles allowed me to easily pick out rhetorical devices and their effectiveness within a certain piece of work. These literature circle roles can get a little tedious at times, such as in the Grapes of Wrath, but I understood why the Grapes of Wrath were given to us. It was much harder to pull out significant portions, for we were yet to be exposed to more books. Hence, it was really helpful in terms of preparation for college.

I would like to add that I now know the purpose of semi-colons other than being a component of a winky face.

After my two years with Ms. Lahaise, I have grown in terms of my work habits in English. The weight on each assignment provoked me to finish my work in a timely manner. I also learned not to sacrifice quality when trying to finish my assignments quickly. I also learned that participating in discussions can be helpful. At first, I was incredibly shy (this didn’t last very long), but I soon participated in discussions. Although actually participating wasn’t the problem, it was that I couldn’t find the proper words to deliver a strong argument. I would know exactly what I’m thinking, but it was incredibly difficult to put my thoughts into coherent words. Participating in the post-journal discussions helped me in this aspect. Not only did participating help with my speech-delivering skills, but also with my writing.

Blogging seemed almost natural to me. At first, I thought blogging would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, there were many more aspects to persuading the online community. I really liked being able to voice my opinion about certain issues, or even share some stunning information. Blogging definitely honed my writing skills. Along with my writing, the analysis involved with blogging did wonders with helping me write my personal statement for college. It allowed me to take an event and analyze it to the fullest. Blogging was so helpful for me, and I’m very grateful I was given the opportunity to practice my writing skills thusly.

This class was very valuable to me. For those who will enter room 503 for the first time, I would highly suggest that you make the most of the resources Ms. Lahaise gives you. If you take blogs seriously, you will actually attain very useful skills. (You may not notice it at first, but it’s there.) All of the assignments are there for a reason, so put a lot of effort into them. This class made me ready for college, and I’m happy I got to spend two years with Ms. Lahaise.

But Why?

Posted May 20th, 2013 by denisea

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We’ve all been there. “Why?” It seems to be a pressing question almost every young child has asked. If not, then you must have fallen victim to the unending “why’s” of a curious child. Being a victim may not be the most appropriate term, but when a child starts the sequence of why’s, you know you’re going to be answering questions for a long while. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful stage to go through, for you can expand your horizons and know how much is out there.

While a child is usually seen as a human with less sophisticated thinking, the questions they ask can actually make you think about the answer. Some questions may even put you at a loss for words. Why is an apple called an apple? Why is a certain called blue and not red? Questions like this can tempt one to say, “Well, just because it is!” Mind boggling questions might catch one off guard, but have no fear! I have the answer: symbolism. I learned about the concept of symbolism in my Anthropology class. If you come to think about it, everything is a symbol. A symbol is an object or idea that represents another piece of information.  We see symbols everyday; we see the cross on the hospital, or the colors red, white, and blue for the American Flag. Just like when a bitten apple can symbolize a Macintosh computer, symbols can represent absolutely anything. The most important concept of a symbol is that every symbol is arbitrary.

Who said that green represented envy? Or that white represented purity? All of these symbols are arbitrary. Our ancestors arbitrarily created meanings for certain shapes, colors, and objects. Although not all symbols were made in a day, it is safe to say that many symbols don’t have hard evidence needed to successfully support the correlation between symbol and subject. That everything is arbitrary, that I call this laptop a laptop, is very mind boggling to me. Then again, it also makes sense.

Bringing it back to the never-ending “why’s”, it is actually very appropriate to say, “just because” to questions like, “Why is the color blue called blue?”. The color blue is a symbol, and its name was created arbitrarily, for one can easily call this color red or green if we really wanted to. Now, you have a valid reason to say, “Just because,” to a very persistent child.

It’s a No Brainer !

Posted May 13th, 2013 by denisea

Think of a physical exam. A nurse checks your vital signs, and the doctor makes you say, “Ah”. He checks your temperature, and uses his stethoscope to hear your heartbeat. Normal, isn’t it? Until you break a bone. It is only practical to get an x-ray and view the bone. With that in mind, does it not make sense to look at a brain when it is not functioning correctly? Aditi Shankardass points out that it is not the case:

During her TED Talk, Shakardass shows us that brain disorders are diagnosed through physical symptoms. The shocking statistic tells us that out of six children, one is bound to have a brain developmental disorder. Of course, these unseen numbers are hard to believe. Then again, many are misdiagnosed. Shakardass tells her audience a story on how a child had the physical signs of autism, but actually had brain seizures, not autism. Now think of all of the other children who have been misdiagnosed, and actually don’t have a problem.

This hits home for me, for I have a nephew diagnosed with ADHD. As of now, he exhibits the symptoms of ADHD, but to me, he seems like a very energetic child. He was just like me, the child who never wanted to sit down, the one that always wanted to be moving. Various doctors have diagnosed him based on the fact that he loves to talk and move around. None of the doctors this child has seen referred them to examine the brain, and many most likely would not even if the equipment were to be available. If my nephew acts similarly to the way I acted in grade school, does that not imply that I too have ADHD? A doctor’s basis on whether or not a child has a developmental disorder is absolutely inaccurate. Hence, I think it’s a great idea to actually understand a disorder’s brain wave patterns and scan a child who might be showing symptoms.

This new EEG technology can revolutionize the diagnosing and treatment of developmental disorders. Not only will families save money from the unnecessary or incorrect medication, but these families and children will also attain peace of mind. I could only imagine how much effort it took to develop this kind of technology, the kind that would bring certainty to the most erratic organ in the body. Its ability to track brain waves and calculate whether abnormal waves are statistically significant is very interesting. Hopefully the EEG will reach all countries, for no child should be put through a great ordeal because one may seem too quiet or too hyper. Shakardass shows us that with technology, we can improve people’s lives by correctly diagnosing them.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Not-So-Nice

Posted April 22nd, 2013 by denisea

Now, let’s get a little spicy with this video:

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Yes, it may be a source of entertainment for many viewers, (including me) but a recent publication showed that the cinnamon challenge can pose many health risks. For those of you who have tried the cinnamon challenge, you shouldn’t panic because the long-term ramifications are still under research. If you have not, keep in mind that you could be one of the few people who develop complications such as, “coughing, vomiting, nosebleeds, or chest tightness”. Quite honestly, I’d rather save myself from a trip to the emergency room.

The rather alarming fact about inhaling cinnamon is that it is made of a compound called cellulose fiber, which does not breakdown once in your lungs. In severe cases, the cinnamon could cause pneumonia. Because this new trend is fairly recent, participants and physicians alike are not aware of the long-term repercussions. A study done on mice hints shows the cellulose fiber trapped in a mouse’s lungs can cause scarring of lung tissue. Wow.  Can you imagine having pulmonary issues because your peers coerced you into eating a spoonful of cinnamon?

This fad has been so popular, but why? This concept has been publicized by every type of social media. From friends posting and tweeting about it on Facebook and Twitter, to others posting YouTube videos, there is no wonder as to why this challenge has spread so fast. The availability of information has created a whole new world for humanity, and there are times that this rise in communication can do people harm.

The increased opportunities for virtual communication–for example, Facebook and YouTube–has allowed for the magnification of peer pressure. It opens up a new gateway for “why not?”s in a person’s mind. My friends on Facebook did it, so why not? A whole army of YouTube stars did it, so why not ? These thoughts could easily pop into a teen’s head. “Since everybody’s doing it, I’ll do it too,” seems to be many teens’ mindset when it comes to doing absurd things such as the cinnamon challenge. It is also infinitely easier to plant this mindset into their brains if they see videos of people suddenly spitting out their cinnamon and laughing about it later. This mindset can be potentially dangerous, for people can develop the misconception that things like the cinnamon challenge is “safe” because almost everybody who took on the challenge walked away unscathed.

Social networks spread ideas, but what if ideas like the cinnamon challenge can actually cause people harm? There aren’t many videos on how dangerous the cinnamon challenge can be, and videos about someone’s trip to the ER will most likely ward off some spectators. I believe that everything on the internet should have both sides. Whether it be a successful spoonful of cinnamon swallowed, or someone’s coughing fit that leads them to seek medical help, all sides should be available. How can teens make decisions based on only one side? For all they know, that’s the only side. Hence, it should be known that a spoonful of cinnamon could definitely challenge your system.

The Vicious Circle

Posted April 8th, 2013 by denisea

 

 

As of right now, I fit right into the “everyone else” category. Neither born into extreme privilege, nor beautiful, nor ruthless, nor charismatic, nor courageous, nor gifted—I am none of those. Although I am still young enough to become courageous, I am still skipping in the “everyone else” route. This vicious circle rules our lives. This vicious “circle of life” symbolizes societies all over the world. This picture is clever in such a way that the special attributes become progressively easier to acquire as you go through the circle. Hardest of all, is being born into privilege. Toward the end, one notices the “courageous” door, which tells us that if we are willing to make the leap of faith, we might actually get there. Hence the rope, which tells us that one can either hit it, or miss it. I am a tad bit torn on how to apply this to my life. I will either feel miserable about being like “everyone else”, or I will motivate myself to be either charismatic or courageous. (It’s a little late to become born into privilege)

It’s actually really depressing that this picture tells people that if you don’t have one of those “special” characteristics, you’re in for a rather boring existence. Our society calls for those who are original. It calls for innovation, for the ruthless to fight their way to the top and for the courageous to speak up for change. Sadly, those kinds of people are few and far between. There are only a few spots at the top. It’s very disheartening to see that the chances a single person will have at ultimate success is slim to none. Thus, I feel miserable for getting filed into the “everyone else” category. Then again, I can always see this not as a hindrance, but a challenge.

Do you know that burst of motivation you get in those rare but beautiful times? This picture definitely ignites a spark within me, a spark that pushes me to work hard, and I can eventually be one of the special few. This picture can be seen as a reality check, that the road to success is a brutal path. But then again, I can see it as those who are not born into success may still attain it if they are willing to fight others for the coveted position at the top of the ladder. I may just print this out and look at it every day, for it pushes me to work my hardest and be one of those special people. I refuse to roam around as “everyone else” until the end of my days.

The Hunt is On!

Posted March 25th, 2013 by denisea

 

 

 

 

 

Picture your worst nightmare. Was it about a missing vial of a potentially deadly virus? Well, maybe not, but at the University of Texas, this has become an unpleasant reality. Recently, a small but potent vial of the virus, Guanarito, was reported missing from the frozen storage in the college. 

Those infected with Guanarito experience hemorrhagic fever. This virus is important to the scientists at the University of Texas because Guanarito has the potential to be used in biological warfare. As of now, it cannot be used as a biological weapon because it cannot be transmitted from human to human, but it could be transferred by rodents. Although it is highly unlikely that it was stolen from the locked freezer for biological warfare, it still raises some concern as to where the little vial of destruction placed itself.

Biological warfare. I personally find this concept so destructive, but all the while interesting. (Mind you, I’m not supporting war, the concept is just fascinating.) Imagine one flu-virus attacking your entire immune system. Now imagine thousands of these viruses. Imagine the damage it could do to an entire population! Engaging in biological warfare can result in the events like the thousands of Native Americans that died from the diseases the Europeans carried over to the New World, or catastrophically worse. If the unintentional spread of these diseases single-handedly wiped out a remarkable percentage of a population, I can only imagine what would happen when people intend use biological weapons to wipe out a whole race. These biological weapons can kill more people at a faster rate than a copious amount of bullets. These biological weapons are especially effective in very crowded places, for people are so close together that they infect each other at mind boggling rates. Just think about how easy it would be to expose a dangerous and contagious virus to an urban population. It would spread like wildfire. Imagine using a strain of the Guanarito virus that can be transmitted from human-to-human contact. Everybody would have this illness. If this virus—and many others that are more dangerous—can get into the hands of the wrong people, the results can be catastrophic.

If weapons such as highly contagious viruses can fall into the hands of destructive people, you can expect an epidemic. But how can one truly know another’s intentions? Unfortunately, that is out of our hands. However, we could prevent anything as terrible as the scene I just painted out for you from happening with routine checks like the ones the University of Texas does. Thankfully, they did weekly checks, so scientists can commence the search for the tiny vial of Guanarito.

I find it absolutely fascinating how tiny viruses, not even a millimeter large, can wreak havoc on the most powerful species in the world. I mean, we totally changed the land to fit our adaptations, how can a measly virus kill so many humans in such a short amount of time? Their ability apparently exceeds ours. So far, I haven’t seen any human conquer an organism a billion times bigger than him and proceed to kill it. Hence, I give kudos to those little viruses, for you are worrying the entire human race with your disappearance. The search for Guanarito is on!

 

SMART Goals

Posted March 18th, 2013 by denisea

1. I will make my blogs from here on at least 500 words, with only around 100 words dedicated to a summary of my topic.

2. I will finish my one-page journals by the end of the class period.

3. I will finish one book every two weeks.

It’s a Gold Mine !

Posted March 10th, 2013 by denisea

For years, people have been trying to figure out the cheapest, most efficient way of producing gold. This quest for acquiring gold has gone back centuries, back before the medieval alchemists. Countless studies and machines have been created to make gold, but has one ever thought about bacteria ? These simple prokaryotes can make gold materialize itself from seemingly thin water. This bacteria, Delftia Acidovorans, produce a chemical in which prompts gold ions in the water to spontaneously precipitate. This discovery is amazing, considering that gold makes our world go round. Beware ! The chemical Delftibactin, shown here, can also perform the same process with iron.:

Scientists will definitely revere this bacteria, for it is a breakthrough in their world. It’s absolutely mind boggling to discover a life form that can make gold precipitate. Although it’s stunning to learn of a bacteria’s functions, it’s ironic that this bacteria continues to produce what humans call a precious metal, but these bacteria don’t find it precious at all.

Now I must pose the question, “Why gold? Why is gold more precious than any other metal?” Even before we discovered its useful properties such as its ability to resist corrosion, gold has been valued all over the world. Gold has been such a monumental part of our life that many countries went by the gold standard, a system that measures wealth upon how much gold a country owns. Why have we grown attached to such a metal, one that isn’t nearly as rare as other elements on the periodic table of elements? This shiny element is of such importance that nations have gone to war in order to monopolize the mining of it. Humans have arbitrarily made this metal precious, because it’s shiny and relatively rare. It’s funny how we could prize gold as something so precious that we would use them as jewelry, but why not iron? Or copper ? It’s relatively mind-boggling to see what humans consider valuable, such as gold, oil, and diamonds. We value such things, but we could easily value other things as well if we found it before gold. We stumbled upon gold by chance, and it is one of the first metals to be used by humans. We value it because it is rarer than iron, copper, and aluminum; its rarity seems to lure us humans in like hotcakes. Humans value things that are rare, ones that are unique. We want things we can’t have, and it is just our nature. Gold is one of the many things we deem rare and many of us can’t have. Although, it’s still puzzling to know how much of an effect in our lives gold can have.

Gold has been such a monumental part of human history that the world goes crazy when they find a bacterium that sifts through water and produces gold. Now, would iron be more precious if it was rarer? 

Post-ScienceBowl-itis

Posted February 25th, 2013 by denisea

Many of us know how it feels to leave family behind, whether it be after a short visit or after a lengthy vacation. Having last weekend’s Regional Science Bowl competition come to an end feels as anguishing as leaving family. For almost one year, our science bowl teams have fought tooth and nail to memorize facts and understand concepts. Learning new things everyday about our respective subjects were embedded into our daily routine. This definitely showed during the competition, especially when SOCES’s own A team placed fourth in the region. The absence of this daily routine of studying and quizzing myself has left me feeling as if a huge chunk of my day simply disintegrated.

In the duration of the year, I have gotten to know some of the greatest people to a level in which I could call them family. Like a family, we work together, squabble, and have great times with each other. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and thus we were able to work as a cohesive unit. We are comfortable enough to point out each other’s weaknesses, but also care enough to help one another improve. The quality I find in my science bowl team that resembles a family the most is the support given and received from each member of the team. Every time one would answer a question quickly, the rest of the team would say, “good buzz,” or, “good job”. This moral support most likely aided us all into plowing through a high pressure situation like the competition.

I do regret that this is my first and last year competing, for I so wish that I joined Science Bowl earlier. This is an extracurricular activity that I immensely enjoy, for the pressure of answering questions correctly not only hones one’s reflexes but also motivates one to work harder. Being able to compete last Saturday was an honor, for competing and making playoffs was a once in a lifetime experience for me. Leaving my Science Bowl team behind for college is so difficult, as difficult as leaving your favorite cousin behind after a fun-filled family vacation.

Unfortunately, I will also be performing my last set of dance shows this weekend. After over four years of dancing and my one year of Science Bowl, I will never feel more empty as I will next week.

A Bookworm’s Motto

Posted February 11th, 2013 by denisea

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R. R. Martin

I cannot agree with this more. As an avid reader, I can name numerous times in which I have been submerged into a story line to the point where I can feel the joy, rage, and heartache of the protagonist. Whilst reading, one can delve into this whole new world that the author weaved together. In this world, one will know where all of the streets are, where the characters have run off to, and exactly what the buildings looked like. It’s like being transported to another dimension. Imagine being transported into another dimension every time you read a book. One day, you’ll be living in medieval England, a planet far, far away the next. Imagine being the king of the dragons one day, and a lowly midwife the next. Don’t you find it equally amazing that if you read a book, you can easily memorize the details of this new world better than your own ? The magic of books is in the ink, and the way an author can manifest a character that will make you laugh, cry, scream, or smile. Because of the variety of these great stories in beautiful binding, it is quite possible to metaphorically live a thousand lives.

During these characters’ lives, a reader will experience a wide variety of points of view. Whether it be one that changes one’s life, or simply living a queen’s life vicariously through sheets of paper, there are many ways in which characters in a book can perceive life. Reading books that portray characters from different socio-economic echelons, I can now see things from both perspectives. I would know why a peasant would be mad at a tax levy, but I can also understand why a king would see to raise them. If one cannot broaden their horizons from reading a book, one can definitely learn to sympathize with people who have different views on life than their own. Since everybody has a different point of view, every book is different. Every. Single. One. Think about all of the varying personalities and hidden information you can find in a library such as this library in Austria:

Can you imagine the plethora of information you can learn in this library? It’s like a bookworm’s heaven ! Such things as living a thousand lives is such a great metaphor, especially for readers who experience the beauty of the written word.