Monday, December 16, 2013

Hidden Gems

Disneyland and In-n-Out are great and all but what about those secluded or hidden places that bring a new kind of happiness?  My English teacher recently gave a PowerPoint presentation on the top 50 places to take a date.  I hadn't even heard of most of them.  A lot of the locations were "what's the password" or locals only type of places.  Every year, my church and the surrounding churches have a Christmas tradition.  While participating in this tradition last night, I realized that I had found a hidden gem of my own, a gem that needs to be shared and shine on the world.

 The Prince of Peace Pageant is put on by St. Luke's Lutheran church in Long Beach, along with neighboring churches.  The Pageant consists of 16 scenes that tell the story of Jesus' birth (the true Christmas story). 

Ever since I was old enough, I have been an actor in one of the scenes.  I see it as my Christmas gift to Jesus.  I had been involved with the Pageant long before I met the 15 year old age requirement by greeting viewers with candy canes or lighting candles.  It's always great to see all the people who come and hear the news of Jesus Christ but I didn't fully appreciate what this Pageant was accomplishing until I was an actor in a scene and listened to those who came to look.

Being in a scene, I'm expected to remain still for an hour and a half but hearing parents explain the story of Jesus to their children deeply moves my heart.  Those that walk by and thank me or those who drive by and shout a "God bless you!" assure me that my 90 minutes are well spent.

The Pageant always attracts a lot of foot traffic and yet I wish that the event could extend its influence over more and more people.  The Christmas story needs to be shared and there are many who especially need to hear it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The 4th Quarter: A Message to High School Seniors

Senioritus is a commonly heard phrase as my days in high school come to a close.  Students have begun to use it as an excuse to blow off homework and teachers have used it since last year as a threat to make us do our homework.  Why is it so hard to finish when we've come so far?  Students aren't the only ones suffering, athletes are as well.

My basketball team's record as of tonight is 3-3.  There's no reason it couldn't be 6-0, no reason except for the 4th quarter.  Our wins are won by 30+ points and our losses are by 2 or 3 points.  The losses weren't close games though, not before the 4th quarter anyways.  Those games from quarters 1 to 3 had favorable scores much like the final scores of our undeniable wins.

Were we too comfortable with our lead, already chalking it up as win?  Had we checked out of the game already, too tired or uninterested to finish?  I don't know the answer.  I wish I did.

Finishing may come as a challenge but when that challenge is overcome, as a team or as an individual, the rewards are rich.  Freshmen-Junior year efforts are not thrown out.  Put all four quarters together and you will have your victory.  Finish strong my fellow seniors, finish strong.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Technical Trouble

Advancements in technology have lengthened human life and have raised the standard of living.  Thanks to technology, the Earth can support a greater population.  In return, technology has asked for our dependence and teachers have willingly given it.

When technology lets teachers down, students take the hardest hit.  When power points don't load for a student's presentation, the student must improvise and continue.  The teacher, on the other hand, may simply change lesson plans.  When a school site crashes, students frantically ask one another what the homework is.  The same happens when teachers forget to post the assignment online.  Some teachers will post the assignment in the early hours of the next morning and expect it done and other teachers will tell students to do it the next night, along with the newly assigned homework.  Even when teachers do upload the assignment, complications are always a reality.

Teachers enjoy the ease of posting assignments online and not having to print photo copies for the class.  I can't even do my math homework half the time without having to log into Facebook!  With more and more assignments requiring internet, it is becoming harder and harder for me to complete my homework by a decent hour.
In elementary and middle school, I could take my homework with me and work on it during car rides or while waiting at the dentist's.  This is rarely the case now.  Now readings, questions, and activities are all online.

This is not typically a problem for those with smart phones or other Wi-Fi devices.  I am not one of those people.  I had a basketball game tonight that required a 40 minute car ride each way.  There was a minimal amount of homework I was able to complete in those 80 minutes.  That is why tonight will be a late night and tomorrow morning will be an early one.  Tonight is not a lone case.  Tonight's game is just one game in a tournament of games.

Is technology making our lives easier?  Sure.  Is technology making my homework harder to complete than it should be?  Definitely.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Paying for Public School

My Macroeconomics teacher stressed that nothing is free.  This is especially true when it comes to public education in America.  The law requires children to go to school so naturally they have to make this service "free" and available to everyone.  But has the government succeeded in creating a structured, productive, and free learning environment?  Not by a long shot.

This is not entirely their fault.  The government supplies schools with a however limited money supply, as it is able and sees fit.  But it is the expectations of future employers and demands of teachers who prohibit public school from being truly free. (and the law of economics as well.)

First of all, students have to supply their own pencils, paper, ink, calculators, etc. for a class.  Then there are school projects that require poster board, supplies for 3-D models, and gasoline to make trips to the store.  Even regular assignments often can not be done without some form of monetary exchange.
Teachers resolve to sweep this issue under the rug.  Assignments that require a substantial amount of money are labeled "extra credit."  So now fortunate students are able to buy their grades, or rather, their parents buy their grades.  Or the teachers will claim that there is a way to complete the project without buying anything, but any student knows that their project will not be able to compare in the least bit.  And of course, there are the teachers who will not mention anything financial and simply give students a due date and that's that.

I recently completed a science project that required me to have sealed containers for three different biomes, filled with a self-sustaining system that includes plants, animals, soil, water, and whatever else you might find in a desert, forest, or lake.  Clearly, this is no small scale project.  The species inside the biomes have to survive in a sealed environment (no gas exchange) for 3 weeks.

My partner and I built our own terrarium in an effort to save money but needless to say, our total expenses was no where close to $0.  This three week long project, for one of my five classes, cost a grand total of $90.29 (not including the prices of the supplies we already had at home.)

Our teacher made no effort to cut the costs.  She only suggested that if we had a terrarium lying around, we should use that.  Very unlikely.  In my opinion, the project should have at least been a group assignment to help cut the costs instead of an individual/partner one.

With the limited budget for school, teachers are finding ways to tap into the funds of students' parents.  Many science classes have lab donation fee letters sent home and are expected to be returned with a check.  My required high school art class, ceramics, requires a flat fee of $20 per semester plus an additional $1 for every bag of clay I use on required assignments.

When I built a boat as a physics extra credit assignment, the wood and paper was "supplied" for $5.  But the project also required glue and water-based paint as well as tools to cut the wood, paint brushes, and clamps.

If this is what free education costs, I fear for my parents' wallets when I begin college.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gathering in Sorrow

Most people would argue that in a perfect world there would be no suffering, no heartbreak, no pain.  This would be followed by wishes to end all wars once and for all or to find a definite cure for cancer.  That sounds like a world I want to live in.  But after watching ESPN films: 30 for 30 - The Guru of Go, my mindset began to shift.

The Guru of Go follows the coaching career of Paul Westhead but also encompasses the unique story of Hank Gathers and his team.  Hank Gathers died during a game of college basketball.  This is without a question a tragedy for his friends, team, and family.  Despite all the sorrow, the story following his death is a powerful one.

Hank's death brought his team closer together.  Hank's teammate shot and made a left handed free throw in his honor.  Each one of his teammate's will remember that game and remember that player who was so passionate about what he did, he paid the ultimate sacrifice.  He inspired those who knew him and continues to inspire young generations of athletes.

Tragedy seems to bring people together.  Is sorrow and pain and suffering therefore necessary to a society?  It's hard to find a happier moment than when a soldier is returned home safely to his or her family.  Without that fear of never seeing each other again, would the family had still been as thankful for one another?  Or when a funeral brings a family together or an injured teammate rallies a team or a youth groups works together to rebuild homes after a hurricane- is misfortune the instrumental variable in all of these?

In a perfect world, families get along, friends lend helping hands, and neighbors care for one another.  Is the united fight against evil and all the pain it brings what makes a society "perfect"?

Monday, November 4, 2013


To be spontaneously innovative is proving to be quite a challenge for me.  Sophomore year it was the 150 point project, last year it was the DIY project, and now it's a "what if?" project.  Different names, same vague instructions.  My creative juices are running dry.

While reading with the kids that I babysit tonight, memories from my glorious DIY project were brought back.  (Read all the details of last year's golden project:  The rewards were rich, helping kids to grow both intellectually and socially.  In the timeline of my high school years, this project gets a gold star.
I hope to recreate that awesomeness in another project this year but what made everything work out so perfectly last year?  I had a partner with invaluable resources, a teacher who allowed me to miss his class once a week, and a classroom of eager six year olds.  Once my partner and I had our idea and it was deemed possible by our mentors, we hit the ground running.  Those were the glory days.

Our class this year has spent a lot of time discussing where great ideas come from.  I believe they are found when opportunity is recognized.  Last year, the stage was set- I knew the right people.  As for this year, I must continue to seek out opportunities.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Silent Connection

Snapchat, Facebook, Skype- the list goes on and on.  With the continual advances of social media, humans are finding it easier and easier to connect with one another.  Is any one of these methods superior?  Who can say.  But there is one method that is so overlooked, most would even not consider it a way to connect with one another.  At least not prior to having read this blog post.

Talking on the phone, chatting live over the Internet, and sending videos- what do these things all not have in common?  Silence.  Not many speak of the power of silence but it really exists, probably with a much stronger force than you realize.

My AP English teacher likes to start each class with silence.  The bell rings and all mouths are zipped.  Silence ensues and the class is silent and still save for wondering eyes.  Now our class is a family.  Now can class begin.

Yeah, at first that didn't make since to me either.  This is a class focusing on innovation and aren't ideas spread best through communication with one another?  I didn't understand the sense of community silence brings until today, at my high school basketball game.

A basketball game?  Decked-out cheering fans, red-faced shouting coaches, and the blare of expiring shot clocks refuse to allow silence to have a seat on the bleachers.  Except today.

She was fouled after attempting a lay-up; flattened to the ground and suffered a high top to the face.  After being helped up, she made her way to the line to knock down her two shots.  The referee recognized she was still a little shaky from the foul and approached her.  Towering over her, he lowered his voice and spoke.

The court was silent, preparing to fight for the rebounds.  The bench was silent, hoping their player was okay.  The bleachers ended all side conversations and tried to discern what was being said between player and referee.  The fouled player nodded her head and the entire gym was silent.  Not just quiet silent, but silent as in a pin dropping would have been considered relatively loud.

Despite the tension of a third quarter varsity basketball game, the silence was shared by parents, coaches, and players of both teams. 

"Hey, why is it so quiet?!"  Our assistant broke the communal silence and the gym broke into laughter.  Because of silence the gym was united and unlike like two weeks ago, no parents were thrown out by referees for behavioral misconduct.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In Trust We Trust

Trust.  A little word with an immensely big meaning.  Trust makes us feel safe, allows us to venture out of our comfort zones, and to form relationships.  But when trust is broken, the consequences are catastrophic.

Human to human trust is tricky.  What is a safe level of trust?  It's not the same as trusting a pair of training wheels to do their job.  When human to human trust is broken, the hurt runs deep where it often remains and lurks.  The deeper the trust, the harder the fall.

In the ideal world, trusting one another wouldn't be so frightening.  If you trusted someone with your heart, it wouldn't be returned in pieces.  In the ideal world, Iago's would stay in Shakespeare's literary fiction.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Not So Secret Identity

Blogging as a student, I realized that I should take extra precaution as to what information I allow readers to see.  How can I trust my personal information with who I do not know?  Of course I won't be posting up my home address or personal phone numbers, but where is the line to be drawn?  Or more interestingly, what if there was no line to be drawn?

In this technologically advanced age, spreading and sharing information takes only the click of a mouse.  But with the Internet, it is easy to be drowned in the flood of YouTube stars, Blogger geeks, and fanatic Pinners.  So how does one make a name for him or herself without displaying too much personal information?

Back to that line drawing business.

If the world didn't have to worry about Internet stalkers, user name hackers, and just plain creeps, it would eliminate the concern we have for our identities.  In what world would this be possible?  This would require erasing the difference between stranger and friend.

What if we all already knew each other without ever needing to have previously met?  Anyone could talk to anyone and it would be okay.  Imagine the resources we would be able to pull from, the connections that could be made, the innovation that would transpire.  Without the fear of unknown, a worldwide necessity would be allowed to blossom- trust.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Simplest Catalyst

In a world of fast consumption, kindness is often overlooked.  It has no price tag so some jump to the conclusion that it has little to no value.  Others like the idea of kindness, think it sounds great but do little to share it with their neighbors.  They are so self-absorbed, trying to make things be the best for themselves.  If they just realized that if they helped others, they would be helping themselves, I'm positive many would make some major lifestyle adjustments.  Need evidence?  Watch this.

One little act can make a huge difference.  You may not see just how far your kindness goes but for me, just one brighter smile is all the proof I need.  Stand out in the world.  Be kind.

Monday, September 30, 2013

At the Day's End

We sleep for the very same reason that I am writing this blog post- it is a necessity.  But we have made sleep to be more than a necessity.  It's a luxury, a pastime, and a source of hope. 

The hope of sleep at the end of the day is often what gets me through the many long hours of daylight.  Basketball practice may make me exhausted and homework loads may keep me up until odd hours but I take refuge in the fact that no matter what, I will reach that moment when I am able to close all my books, let my head fall into the comfort of my pillow, and eject all other responsibilities to a spot on the sidelines.  For me, "pulling an all-nighter" is never an option.

But what if we didn't need sleep?  People would argue that this would be beneficial- we would be able to use all hours of the day and night to (potentially) be productive.  The idea of never having to give in to exhaustion is appealing; humans could just keep on going.

I disagree.  Sleep is our protection.  It is our protection against overwhelming strains on our time.  If we didn't need to sleep think of seriously increased level of expectations that would be piled on our already tightly knotted shoulders.  The human need to sleep is an undeniable justified reason for a break.  Even the craziest of craziest workaholics will eventually have to submit to slumber.  They may hate it, but in reality sleep is protecting them against earning the label "insane".

Another important reason for sleep is the power nap I just indulged in.  If such things did not exist, there would have been no inspiration for my blogging and this wonderfully thought-provoking blog post would never have been written.  Thank goodness for sleep!