Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah, yeah, it's cheesy but this truly is my favorite time of the year. I'm not really sure what makes winter and Christmas so special. It might be the hot chocolate, maybe the beautiful pure snow on the ground, or knowing your friends and family appreciate and love you even when the presents they give you aren’t the best. It might be the combination of all of these, but recently I’ve realized the most wonderful part about Christmas is the feeling of generosity and love that are shared by friends and family. I spent all day yesterday Christmas shopping, and the challenge of purchasing that perfect gift for my friends and family was utterly exhilarating. I loved thinking about their reactions. I loved that feeling right after I got the perfect present, and I loved their faces when they saw the gifts. I can be a selfish person, aren’t we all? But what I cherish about this time of the year is being able to thank those amazing people in our life who do so much for us, even if it is with a simple present. It’s the best feeling in the world; better than receiving any present. Although opening presents on Christmas day is one of the most exciting things, I’ve realized that those material things won’t matter in a couple of years. For instance, I was absolutely thrilled when I received Uggs last year for Christmas. I had wanted them for so long and finally holding them in my hands was magical. But now, they’re old. Sure, I still love them, but they don’t have that shiny “newness” that I loved about them. There are always going to be new things that we want, and those feelings of happiness and satisfaction won’t last forever. But what I have realized is that the feelings of happiness and satisfaction when you see the faces of your friends after you have given them a personalized and well thought out present, something you hope they will love, is priceless.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!J

Jacksonian Democracy

Jacksonian Democracy refers to the era during which the political philosophies of Andrew Jackson and his supporters were very powerful. Jackson followed in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson and his Jeffersonian Democracy. Changes in electoral politics broadened participation in government and politics. The Economic Policy
Andrew Jackson was president during the Age of the Common Man. Jackson was the first president to be elected as a commoner. Although he did come from a wealthy background, he had a very simple childhood. Because of this, the American population was able to easily relate to him. He felt that commoners should run the government. He thought that the government should be based on a self-reliant middle class with ideas that emerged from liberal education and free press. Jackson insisted on rotation in office: when a new administration came to power, old administration would have to leave and return to “regular society.” Changes in electoral politics greatly influenced the Jacksonian Democracy. Jackson promoted the strength of the executive branch and the president, without regard for the congress. He also wanted to involve the public in the government. Jackson believed in involving all white men in government and politics, rather than just landowners. He also supported the patronage system that allowed politicians to appoint their supporters into office. He claimed that the patronage system would reduce the powers of the upper class and prevent aristocracy. Jackson used the Spoils System to give government jobs to his friends, and win support for his legislative program. Ultimately, Jackson had created a system to clear out elected officials in government opposing parties and replace them with his supporters as a reward for their help. With Congress controlled by his enemies, Jackson relied heavily on the power of the veto to block their moves.

Jacksonian Democracy was clearly opposed the the American System developed by Henry Clay. Jackson focused his presidency on two parts of the American System: the National Bank and protective tarrifs. Jackson did not support the National Bank because he feared that it favored the wealthy. He wanted to reduce the economic power that the bank held. In October of 1833 Jackson announced that federal funds would no longer be controlled by the National Bank. He ordered Roger Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to remove all money from the bank. Jackson then evenly distributed that money to thirty-three banks set up across the nation. However, these individual banks eventually led to problems, because they were using their own currency. People would purchase federal land and pay with their own currency, and this money would be completely useless. To solve this problem, Jackson issued the Specie Circular. The Specie Circular stated that land could only be bought with money backed by gold or silver. Due to the Specie Circular, many banks failed, people entered bankrupcy and unemployment, and this led to the Panic of 1837. The tarrif of 1828 resulted in a major political crisis with South Carolina. They nullified the Tarrif of 1828. Although Jackson wanted to reduce national powers, he could not justify what South Carolina had done. They had opposed the constitution by wanting to nullify federal law, and Jackson stated that this could even be considered treason. Jackson requested congress to pass the Force Bill in 1833 which allowed him to use the army and navy to force South Carolina to obey national laws. Jackson then helped South Carolina through compromise by the Tarrif Act that provided for a gradual reduction in tax rates. The compromise worked and Sotuh Carolina took back its nullification of the tarrif.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Forgotten Friends

I’ve learned from experience that the people you care about the most will let you down eventually. How can you expect them not to? No, this is not cynicism, pessimism, or a hatred for life, but the truth. This past week, I have come to terms with the fact that three of the most wonderful friendships I formed at camp have ended bitterly. Surprisingly enough, it’s just the fact that we’ve lost touch. We seem to have nothing in common anymore. With the end of camp, and the transition back to our old lives, we move on. Our old friends replace the new ones, show choir and play practices keep you out until 9 pm, and homework seems to take over your life. Sure, there’s time for that occasional text or two, but when the conversation that once used to be easy, as natural as breathing, becomes awkward and strange, it breaks your heart. Rather than hearing about important life events from these people, you read it on their Facebook wall or hear it from some one else. Just recently, I saw one of these friends’ statuses that referred to their college acceptance. They were to find out tonight whether or not they got accepted into MIT; a life changing acceptance letter could come in the mail, and they didn’t tell me, their “so called” camp friend. However, They still mean the world to me, even though we can’t seem to have a conversation without a dreaded awkward silence. The memories we share at camp are forever etched in my heart, and even though time has brought us apart, they truly have shaped the person I am today. Whether or not they know it, they mean everything to me. So let those friendships disappear, let them not call or text, let them get accepted into an Ivy League school and not inform me. They have been my shoulder to cry on, arms to fall into, and ears to fill with irrelevant talk, and that means the world to me.

Sum 41 says it better than I ever could:)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans is a historical movie about the British and French troops battle in colonial America, with aid from various Native American war parties. The British troops enlist the help of local colonial militiamen, but they do not want to leave their homes undefended. A romance between a British officer's daughter and an independent man who was reared as a Mohawk makes things more difficult for the British officer, as the adopted Mohawk rebels against the British, despite the tension between both sides. Like most historically based movies, a lot of the scenes were much more overdramatic and grand than what really happened. Although the movie did an excellent job of entertaining and informing about the events during this era, there were several historical inaccuracies.

The first historical inaccuracy was during the withdrawal from Fort Henry. Indians kill all of the Redcoats, Colonel Munro, and the civilians. But in reality the Indians only attacked the back of the column, mainly made up of civilians. The Indians killed approximately 70 to 180 people, and in the movie it seemed like the death toll was much higher. In fact, the majority of the Redcoats were not attacked, and Colonel Munro survived as well.
This film was considered to be a historical romance (like the novel) for entertainment purposes, and this was not the case in reality. However, the costumes and props in this movie were very accurate. The battle scenes are also very historically accurate, and the actors, plots and cinematography are exceptional as they make the events seem even more realistic. A lot of research was done on this actual event before the movie was made, therefore, for the most part the movie does not have very many inaccuracies.

Skin Color

DNA analysis indicates that all humans descended from a single ancestral group of Africans. Despite the fact that all humans came from the same place, there is still a large variety in the types of skin color, and almost no two skin colors are the same. Scientists have recently done research on the genetics of skin color and how it is passed on from generation to generation. They have determined that it is an incomplete codominant trait, and the color of your skin is affected by the amount of melanin in your body. Light-skinned people have smaller amounts of melanin and dark-skinned people have larger amounts of melanin. The gene that controls the amount of melanin has at least three alleles. Relating skin color back to geography, the worldwide pattern of human skin color is the product of natural selection to regulate the effects of the suns UV radiation in different regions on key nutrients crucial to reproductive success.
One environmental factor that affects skin color is the place you live. If the area receives a lot of sunlight, you will have darker skin (in order to absorb the UV rays) but if your region receives very little sunlight you will have lighter skin. Scientists believe that this is why people living near the tropics tend to be darker skinned then people living near the poles. But if we all were descended from the same area, why are our skin colors so different? The reason for this is migration and natural selection. As humans left Africa and traveled to the poles and reproduced, their offspring did not need to produce as much melanin, because there was not very much sunlight for the melanin to absorb. Another important factor of skin color is vitamin D absorption. A person with very dark skin is able to handle UV rays very well, but if their skin is too dark they will not be able to create vitamin d. Likewise, light skinned people do not handle UV rays well but they are able to produce vitamin D easily.

To read a very interesting article about skin color and the genetics and DNA involved click here

I don't want this moment to ever end, where everything's nothing without you


Who starts a blog post with addition; it looks more like 3rd grade math homework. You might think I'm crazy, but you know what these numbers have in common, they produce a sum of 41. Sum 41, an alternative/punk/rock band that never fails to amaze me. Not one of their songs is dull or meaningless. I relate to all of their songs on a level that scares me sometimes. It's like they read my mind, pull out my exact thoughts and put them to a melody. I'm not a huge fan of hardcore heavy punk or anything, and that is why I love Sum 41. They manage to be a punk band with a great reputation without screaming nonsense onto a CD like some punk bands seem to do.
As crazy as it sounds, I actually discovered this band on Gossip Girl, probably the preppiest show you will find; not exactly a Sum 41 kind of show. However, in one of my favorite episodes of the show With Me blasted from my TV and I fell in love with the song. It sounds cheesy, but it was one of those songs that made me feel alive, made me want to learn the guitar chords immediately after, made me remember why I love music so much. The simple acoustic guitar in the beginning playing the most beautiful set of chords I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. The sultry voice of Derryck Webber (lead singer), and the exceptional chorus that is the perfect combination of punk and ballad rock. Maybe it’s all of those combined, but this song has become an obsession. I honestly listen to it at least 3 times a day, and know all the words. I have no idea how to play the guitar, and after obsessing over you tube tutorial videos, I finally learned how to play this song.
I don’t want this moment to ever end, where everything’s nothing without you. Something about those words, the placement of the words, the simplicity of it is truly magical. I want you to know, with everything I won’t let this go, these words are my heart and soul, I’ll hold onto this moment you know, cause I bleed my heart out to show, that I won’t let go. Honesty seeps out of this song. I can’t stop putting quotes from the song in this post, because every word has so much meaning and power. Anyways, all hail to Sum 41, quite possibly the greatest band in the history of music. Oh and do check the song out, it's life changing:)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rwandan Genocide

Ethnic conflicts, meaning a war or disagreement between two ethnic groups as a result of ethnic nationalism, are occurring in many parts of the world today. It is believed the ethnic conflicts occur because of competition against ethnicities to dominate nationalities, and overlapping of ethnicities and nationalities. One of the largest ethnic conflicts in history was the conflict in Rwanda against the Hutus and Tutsis in the 1990s.
In the 15th century, the Tutsis were considered the powerful and wealthy group and ruled over much of Rwanda even though they were not the majority of the population. Hutus, who made up approximately 80% of the population were mostly farmers and peasants who were discriminated against. Tutsi Kings, known as Mwamis started to centralize their power and authority, and instead of passing down land through lineage groups, they distributed land to certain individuals. Another system that the Mwamis put in action was a patronage system, in which they would only give Hutus land if they did manual labor. Hutus were being completely discriminated against by the Tutsis. People even started to believe that the labels of “Hutu” and “Tutsi” were not ethnic labels, but were really labels of power and status. Tension between these groups were starting to build even more until 1889, when Rwanda and Burundi were annexed by Germany. But after Germany was defeated in World War I, the two colonies were given to Belgium. The Belgians gave racial identification cards to all citizens, but still gave preferential treatment to Tutsis in education, politics, and business. In 1959, the Hutus reached a breaking point and decided to conduct a social revolution led by the nationalist party Parmehutu. This foundation resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 Tutsis, and 200,000 people fleeing to other countries. After the social revolution, Rwanda won its independence from Belgium in 1961.
The Hutu group remained powerful during the 1970s, because most Tutsis were still living in surrounding countries, afraid to return to their homelands. But Tutsis, were also building up their own army in the refugee camps. Many Tutsi refugees living in Uganda had joined the National Resistance Movement during the Ugandan Bush War. Finally on October 1, 1990 Tutsi forces invaded Rwanda trying to bring the Tutsi group back into power. The civil war in Rwanda had started. After three years of a brutal war, on August 4, 1993, the Rwandan Patriotic Front signed the Arusha Accrods that were supposed to end the civil war. The accords took away all power from Juvenal Habyarimana (president), and the power was transdfered to the Transitional Broad Based Government, until new political leaders could be elected. The Hutus, who were outraged at what the Tutsis had just done devised weapon caches and plans to destroy the Tutsis. The Hutus wanted to completely eliminate the Tutsi race, and preparations for genocide had begun. Most Tutsis were killed in their villages or in central towns often by neigbors and other people living in the same village. The militia typically killed them by beating them with machetes and rifles. The victims, desperate to avoid attacks hid in churches and school building, but Hutu Gangs found them there and killed them. Hutus who refused to kill the Tutsis and participate in the genocide were also killed. From July to April, it is estimated that 1,000,071 people were killed. The victory of the RPF rebels and overthrow of the Hutu regime ended the genocide in July 1994, 100 days after it started.
After the genocide, approximately two million Hutus who participated in the genocide and feared Tutsi retaliation fled to Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire, and stayed in refugee camps. Many of them died from cholera and dysentery epidemics.
Many people believe that the effort to help solve this conflict and settle problems among the Hutus and Tutsis was not strong enough. In fact, the United States was accused of not playing a role in preventing the genocide. The United States knew what to expect after threats of genocide from the Hutus, but still did not take action. The United States believed that it was an “unpreventable conflict” that was due to “ancient tribal hatreds”. The United States also accused this area of having many cases like this, and that this one was merely the same. Although the government tried to step in and change laws, they did not play an active role in trying to prevent the Hutus from killing millions of Tutsis. Some efforts that were made to try and solve the problem were taking power away from the Hutu president, transfering power to the Transitional Broad Based Government. The government also tried to help Tutsis by providing them places to stay when they fleed the country.
Rwanda, being a multiethnic state has had many problems because of ethnic competition to dominate a nationality. Today, most of the these problems have been solved due to ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing, a process in which a more powerful group forcibly removes a less powerful one in order to create a ethnically homogenous region. The Hutus being the majority of the population, succeded in turning Rwanda into a country with only one ethnicity. ]
The Rwandan Genocide was one of the largest ethnic conflicts in the world that was a result of two ethnicities in a competition for land and power. Over one-million people were killed in a time span of just two months, and even more were killed from refugee camps. This case is an excellent example of what may happen if something simple, like a feud over land can turn into something as huge as a genocide.

To learn more about the Rwandan Genocide, click here


“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after”, says Oliver Goldsmith. Without a role model there are no good influences for people to follow. A role model is someone who puts forth their best effort in everything and treats everyone with respect. Of course many role models already attain these qualities but my role model is someone who has these qualities and so many more amazing traits. My perfect role model would have to be my older brother.

A brother is someone to play sports with, laugh with, talk to and just be happy with. Unfortunately I don’t have a brother. What I do have is an autistic sibling who surprises me everyday. He has autism. A 6-letter word that sends chills through my body when I think of it. This dreadful disability poisoned his life and his friends and family’s life forever but in a way made it better. When I realized I would never have a normal brother I was devastated but then I realized that this disease made him special and it also made him special. He is autistic but you would never believe this at first glance. He’s just a normal kid. He deserves the same amount of love everyone else gets.

If love is what makes the world go round why do some people not get any? My brother gives enormous amounts of love to so many people. Even by flashing a simple grin, or giving a compliment he is pouring the feelings in his heart out. He is so loveable but no one looks past his autism. Love is what my brother only receives from some people but gives to everyone, which is very upsetting. Why is autism so important? If no one knew if he was autism he would be able to do everything. Making friends and being loved is my brother’s biggest dream in life that will probably never come true.

Life is all about doing something amazing. This is a moral my brother lives his life with. He never lets his disability hold him back and he’s always living life to its fullest. It feels remarkable to be able to see the warm glow on my brother’s face when he walks through the door. His happiness spreads through the air, its contagious. My brother never lets anything get him down. One thing I love about him is that he always makes the best of life.

Last, but not least my brother’s struggles teach me plenty about life. They teach me to learn from my mistakes. My brother gets things wrong so many times a day but he always learns from them and teaches him not to make them again. Another superior thing I learn is to take risks. Live life on the wild side is one of my brother’s favorite things to do! Always take chances even if they lead somewhere bad.

In conclusion my brother is an incredible person. He reaches out to everyone and always lives life to its fullest. He never lets anything bring him down and always keeps a smile on his face. He is autistic and I am extremely proud of him. He may not be the smartest or a normal brother but he is a wonderful person who survives with autism everyday. He makes the world a better place for everyone, which is why I love him.

Happy Little Ear of Corn

If I could be any animal in the world, it would definitely not be a snail. They’re slow, slimy, and definitely not the most attractive mollusks, but for the last couple of months, I have been given an inside look at the life of a snail. They were ridiculous purple sweatpants and leotards, and top it all off with a flamboyant purple skirt and don’t forget the glitzy sequined belt. They wear shocking purple wigs with silly antennae headbands, and most importantly they have a huge purple shell that feels like the weight of the world has been placed on their back; no wonder they’re so slow. How do I know this, you might ask? Well two words; Playtime Poppy. Yes, the annual children’s theatre show that Kennedy produces this year was none other than “A Year With Frog and Toad”. This production was complete with snails, squirrels, lizards, turtles, mice, and any other animal you could find in a swamp. The plot was simple and easy to follow. It told the heartwarming tale of Frog and Toad, best friends who seem to do everything together. The play took the audience through the numerous adventures Frog and Toad seemed to share, from baking cookies, to sledding down a huge hill. They end up getting in a fight at the end of the play, but eventually reconcile on Christmas Eve, and realize that their friendship means everything to them. I was so happy to be a part of this show, and even though it was for children, I feel like all of us did a spectacular job.

Children told me they loved it, and some came to see it twice or even three times. Adults told me that it was very professionally done, and the sets, acting, and costumes were exceptional. At first, I was a bit skeptical about doing this play. It did not have an interesting story line or extravagant songs and dances, but I am so glad that I decided to do it. Not only did we put on an amazing show, cheesy as it sounds, I made new friends that I am so happy to have. It’s funny how a theatre production can bring people closer together, but after spending loads of time together doing something you all love, you’re bound to get close together. So on closing night, as we all serenaded into the dressing room singing “In The Jungle” at the top of our lungs, I realized that my memories and friendships I have made through Playtime Poppy are unforgettable.