Five years ago, a battery

In fourth grade (nearly five years ago!), our class began to study basic electricity. As part of the unit, every student (around 20 or so in our class) received a small box with our names on them, containing four snippets of wire, a large D-size battery, a small light-bulb, a battery holder, and a few other trinkets.

Our teacher told us to be careful with our new equipment. We were told that this was the only set of items we would receive; if broken, the student would simply be left with nothing, and he or she would be forced to only watch as others conducted experiments. Then she told us, ironically, to play around for 20 minutes or so.

Immediately, everyone opened their boxes and examined the items. Some students, me included, already understood a bit of what we were doing. We placed the battery in the holder, looped wires from both ends to the light-bulb, and smiled when the light flickered on. These lights were dotted around the classroom, serving as an engine of jealousy for those other students who were furiously trying (and failing) to get their light-bulb to light up.

But after a few minutes, everyone else had figured it out, the room was now filled with lights corner to corner, and when the teacher turned off the lights, the classroom was a firefly show. It was no longer “elite” to simply have a weakly glowing bulb, and the focus was now on other things. Continue reading

Egypt’s actions signal the beginning of the end

Over the past few days, I’ve found out how proud I am to be an American citizen, and to enjoy the rights I have, as stated by the Constitution. The freedom of speech. The freedom of press. The freedom of life in a country that, despite internal disputes, remains unarguably one of the greatest in the world.

On January 27, the Egyptian government stopped the Internet. Egypt cut off all telecommunications between Egyptian citizens and the rest of the world. As hundreds of prestigious news organizations, including  CNN and the Committee to Protect Journalists have reported, this most certainly wasn’t an accident. The focus in the mainstream media has primarily been focused around the importance of non-violence and the limiting of access to the Internet and communications; since it’s important to me, I’ll talk about the latter.

The Internet itself was founded upon principles of freedom in communication. The web, in its current uncensored state, would never have flourished like it did if governments had put limitations on its distribution. This we take for a generally accepted fact; for those who need convincing, look no further than conglomerates like Google, Facebook, and companies who have re-invented the way we communicate.

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To the “Tiger Mother”: You don’t represent everyone

Recently writing on the Wall Street Journal has made its rounds across media. Basically, one woman, Amy Chua, has raised her daughters in what she calls the “Chinese way”. She’s written a book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother on her parenting methods, and she’s been interviewed by MSNBC.

Here’s what I have to say to her: you don’t represent everyone. Your parenting methods are not the “Chinese parenting method”. Stop calling it that. This is part of the reason why this particular stereotype of Asian parents even exist.

Before you read this article, please read her writing on the Wall Street Journal and watch her interview by MSNBC. If you’re in a state of disbelief and insult: you’re not the only one.

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The “Keep a Breast” campaign, and how it may not be great

Our t-shirts and bracelets act as an awareness-raising tool that speaks directly to our target audience in a way that is authentic, inspiring and refreshing. #

I love boobies, say bright pink wristbands that are now on the arms of so many of my classmates. Bold and daring, the bands provoke attention. Part of a campaign for breast cancer, they’re a daring new strike from the Keep a Breast Foundation.

But the onslaught of media attention, the banning of these bands by schools and businesses, and other feedback suggest more than a few are raising questions. While certainly for a good cause, a number of reasons suggest perhaps that these bracelets were not the best way to raise awareness.

I’d like to raise a few questions to ponder.

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Education, without a good heart, is dangerous

There is a very thin boundary line between many things in life. The line between playing around and harmful behavior is very small, very faint, but the consequences are anything but.

We constantly hear about online cyber-bullying. In the news, we hear about people who have been arrested for harassment – and we always think to ourselves that these people must be freaks of nature, that it’s a very good thing they’re being put away in a jail cell for a very long time, away from your kids.

And chances are, you’re right. But at the same time, you may be wrong. Because those offenders are people just like me and you. They might have crossed that very thin line at a time when they didn’t realize they were stepping over the boundary. I did.

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To succeed in business, you must care

On a recent flight aboard AirTran Airways, I was pleasantly surprised to find that instead of the airline’s usual bland mix of music and talk, complimentary XM Radio was available. The flight also offered in-flight wireless internet (for a reasonable fee).

Later during the flight, during the snacks I noticed on the bag of pretzels that they had printed a list of rather amusing directions to eating them –

1. Think about our wonderful low fares at as you open packet.
2. …with each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are…

On the flight back, the pilot of our airplane also made a few wisecracks on the passengers still not understanding how to buckle a seatbelt before ending by telling us he “approved” the message.

It strikes me as special in that I have not, in all my years of flights (actually quite a few given my age), ever had this level of service before.

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The Advent of Tennis

Tennis – such a lovely sport. Watching a bright green ball fly from one side of a dark green court to another. Actually getting in the game, swinging your racket in just the right position, just the right spot, hitting the tennis ball and smiling in satisfaction of your perfect hit.

But perhaps you’re not perfect at tennis. Maybe you don’t play at Wimbledon. Maybe every time you swing your racket, you’ll miss. Maybe once in a while, when you actually hit it, the ball doesn’t go anywhere where you expect it.

But you know what? You keep on going. You don’t stop. Because that’s what sports – that’s what tennis – is about: trying, failing, and trying, until you succeed. And enjoying every step of the way. Because whether you’re playing against a brick wall, or whether you’re playing with friends at night and the mosquitoes are biting and the heat is stunning but you don’t care, or even if you play at Wimbledon along with the big names, or even if you are one of the big names in tennis – you don’t stop.

Because that’s what tennis is all about. That’s what sports are about. Now stop reading, go forth, go for your dreams, and keep in mind these principles that I’ve used for tennis – don’t stop, keep going, and try, fail, try, and succeed. Most importantly, have fun every step of the way.

Chess, and How It Changed Entertainment at Camp

It is free time at a summer camp we have lovingly dubbed “nerd camp”. For one hour, we are free to do whatever we choose, within reason. Many of us watch television – the World Cup games are exciting, after all. Some go outside and play in the sun. Yet an entire group of people do neither of these things.

Instead of watching soccer – World Cup is only on so much of the time – or playing outside (and getting all sweaty and gross), around ten people chose to watch chess.

The idea of watching chess anywhere else but “nerd camp” may be strange. It is very hard to invite a friend over and ask them to play chess. While chess is certainly a fun game, given many other options, it’s usually not a person’s first choice.

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The Fall of a Killer

Prose and poetry done at a recent writing class.

“The visiting times have ended,” a nurse said to Jason. “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but rules are rules, and you’ll have to leave now. You’re welcome to come back tomorrow morning.”

Jason watched the heart monitor screen fluctuate – up and down, up and down. IV tubing delivered medicines and saline into his daughter Eliza’s arm. Her face bore no emotion.

He was quiet. Eliza’s skin was pale. Jason reached forward, touching her tender lips. He wanted her to talk. To speak to him. To smile. To say hello.

No sounds came out of her lips. She did not move. The steady beeps of the heart monitor continued. Memories flashed through Jason’s mind.

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How Right, How Wrong (plus one more)

Prose and poetry done at a writing class taken recently.

A quiet and crisp night – only the moon shines through the forest. It is silent, like God has put a silken sheet over the world. Only the soft drips of raindrops as they fall to the floor of the forest can be heard.

Rain is curiously simple in some aspects – it is really just water – yet it embodies a much more complex idea behind it. Standing in the forest, one cannot help but listen to the rain dripping downwards, drenching the leaves like tears from a forgotten goddess. The pitter-patter forms music, and thunder becomes the rhythmic offset to the moment.

As the lightning flashes, however, much more becomes evident. A deer, running for safety from the rain. An ant, desperately making for its home but being caught in the pools of tears. Suddenly, as the clouds rumble overhead, a more saddening situation is felt.

You feel one with the animals, small, weak, and helpless. One with the forest, and one of many.

This is beauty.

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To Love What You Do: A Pastrami Ham Story

This morning, as I got ready for school, my father helped me make a quick sandwich. As he got out the deli bag of pastrami ham we had purchased the previous day, however, we both noticed something peculiar. This bag of pastrami was different from before.

I have eaten a sandwich for breakfast for the last two years. Crucial for what I deem to be a healthy breakfast, we have purchased bag after bag of ham, turkey, and other sliced meats fresh from the deli counter at our local grocery store.

Over the months, I felt as if the quality of the service was degrading. Workers appeared more sleepier. Most seemed very anxious to get home. On some occasions they would be completely off in their weight estimations, and at other times they would close the deli early without notice in their eagerness to get home.

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