Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Right now in my U.S. History class we are learning about hippies. It’s really interesting to learn about the counterculture during the Vietnam War because most people in this generation only think of hippies as long haired, tie dye lovers. But in fact, the counterculture during the Vietnam War era was much more than that. The hippies started out as peaceful individuals concerned about their fellow Americans. They wanted to make a difference and make others realize that life wasn’t about material things. The hippie movement started in San Francisco, California in the Haight-Ashbury district. Here a small group of quiet, peaceful and loving hippies lived. They made sure everyone in their neighborhood had 2 meals a day, they put together little stores like the Salvation Army, to make sure everyone had clothing. Their idea was simple: live life peacefully and help others. Hippies didn’t work, because they felt a community could work together to support each other and that sitting in an office job just to make money was absurd. Of course, there were drugs too. But the original hippies handled these drugs well; they didn’t overdose and they didn’t walk around acting as a disturbance to the neighborhood. They took LSD, and this helped open their minds to new ideas; at the time LSD was completely legal.

The sad reality is the small community of hippies that lived and worked for the betterment of one another quickly ended. As summer approached, college students and bums began to move to San Francisco. They didn’t have the same values that the original hippies had, as many of them just came for the free food and drugs. And of course, any where that there are drugs, there is also violence. Soon, there were more hippies in San Francisco that the city could handle. The original inhabitants of San Francisco were angry; they felt that the counterculture had completely taken away their once medium sized town. As more and more people started taking LSD, the drug became widely available. People became to make bad decisions when taking LSD and they were having unprotected sex a lot, with people they didn’t know. A major part of the hippie movement was to love one another, and they took that literally. In one video we watched, a man who grew up as a hippie said, “You could meet a woman, go out and make love for the day, not say a word, and that was okay.” Due to this exploitation of sexuality, STD’s began to make their first major appearance. Syphilis was one of the many diseases that were common in the San Francisco area. It is sad to look back and see what the basic principles of being a hippie in the counterculture movement was, and then look and see how they were all ruined. Drugs violence became out of hand, people on drugs were making love with different people every day and spreading diseases, and the community eventually fell apart.

Real Madrid

As you may known based on early blog posts, I love Spanish soccer. I might not know a ton about it, but I have been following it ever since I went to Spain last summer. On Sunday Real Madrid (my favorite team) played their final game of the season. Before the Real Madrid game on Sunday, the team had 95 points and Barcelona had 96. But before I go any further, let me back up and explain the point system. This is how it works: for every game a team wins, they receive 3 points, for every game that is a tie, both teams receive 1 point, and if they lose, they don’t receive any points. A perfect score would be 115 points, at the end of the season, Barcelona had 99 points. This is the highest a team has ever scored. At the end of the season, the points are added up and the team with the highest number of points wins the Spanish Championship. Unfortunately, Barcelona won their game, giving them 3 points and Real Madrid tied giving them only one point. Barcelona ended their season with 99 points and Real Madrid ended their season with 96 points.

I was really disappointed Real Madrid didn’t win, especially because they came so close. Real is still a very competitive team though, and they have won more championships than any other team in Spain, with Barcelona coming in second and Atletico Madrid coming in third. To truly understand how big of a loss this is, you must understand the Barcelona, Real rivalry. When these two teams play each other in Spain, it is like the Iowa, Iowa State game time 100. The people of Spain are very passionate about soccer, and let’s just say they take it very seriously.

Last summer when I was in Spain, I got a glimpse of just how seriously Spaniards take their soccer. When I was in Sevilla, a huge soccer protest was going on, because the Sevilla fans believed their team needed a new coach, as they had been just recently been demoted to Division 2. What happens every year after the points are added is that the top 4 Division 2 teams move up to Division 1 and the bottom 4 Division 2 teams move up to Division 1. The people of Sevilla were very angry about this, and a mob of protestors decked out in their Sevilla jerseys, paraded the city for hours.

Here is a link to the article on Barcelona's win.


This is a base flute, which is one of the unconventional flutes we used during our performance at IBA.

On Friday, I and a group of 11 other flutists got the opportunity to play at IBA. IBA is a prestigious conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The conference is for all instruments including brass, woodwind, and percussion. I played in a flute choir in the lobby. Being able to play at IBA is an honor, because it is something you have to be invited to play at, you don’t just sign up. There were band directors there from all over the state of Iowa to listen to us and the other performers. It was nice to get a chance to show off all the hard work we had put into our music. Other than playing at the conference, we were able to go around and visit different organizations that had set up stands. Some of these were travel agencies (to organize band trips), music companies, and fundraising companies. They all had one thing in mind though; catch the attention of the band students and directors because they wanted our business. The fundraising stands were the best though because they had samples of basically everything they sold, including cheesecake, which is my favorite. After we performed and walked around at the conference, we watched the Washington Band perform. Out of all the schools in Cedar Rapids, Kennedy and Washington were the only schools that got asked to perform. We went to see the Washington band to support them; it was also a good learning experience for us as musicians. The performance seemed long but it was very good.

After we left the conference we all went to dinner at the Spaghetti House in Des Moines. It was between that and the Cheesecake Factory, but we were in a hurry to get home and the Spaghetti House was closer. The food there was really good and it was a nice celebration in honor of all the hard work we had been putting into band. The band parents even agreed to cover the cost of the dinner using the band account as a reward.

The performance for the flute choir was the last major thing we have this year. We are not done yet though, as next Friday we have to perform at graduation. After graduation, we are done until Hog Wild Days, which means we will just work on our marching skills. I’m really excited for this because we will be able to teach the freshmen how to march since they have never done it before.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Kennedy Assasination

Right now in my U.S. History class we are studying the Kennedy assassination. A lot of people think that his assassination could have been a conspiracy and not just the work of Lee Harvey Oswald. We watched on the conspiracy theory and after watching it I was almost 100% convinced that this was a conspiracy. If you look at all the small things in the case, they just don’t add up to one gunman. I talked to my dad about it and he thinks I’m crazy for thinking that it was a conspiracy but I’m just going off the facts.

Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s brother, was the first one to propose that this had been a conspiracy. He studied the facts of the case and helped put the word out there that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Kennedy explained that the FBI and the CIA were working together to work secretly to defeat Fidel Castro in Cuba. Government officials believed Kennedy was being too soft on the communists. Bobby Kennedy had good reason to believe that the CIA killed his brother too. Bobby received the Cuban portfolio after the Bay of Pigs fiasco; in this portfolio was evidence of an alliance between the CIA, the Mafia and militant Cuban exiles. This group planned on assassinating Castro and forcing a regime change in Havana. He believes that because his brother decided to betray the anti- Castro cause, they decided to have him assassinated. This is just one of the many reasons I think that his murder was a conspiracy and not just a single gunman. Here is an article supporting the conspiracy theory that gives a much more in depth look at why this is the truth.


Today I rode my bike for one of the first times since it has gotten warm out, so I decided to do a little history of the bicycle. In 1817 the draisienne was created and from this the bicycles of the later 18th century branched off. The draisienne was a small vehicle similar to a scooter. The first bicycle to be produced was simply a more modified version of the draisienne and it was designed by Baron Karl Von Drais of Germany. This bicycle would not by any means meet the standard of a bicycle today because it had no wheels. The bike was steered using a bar that was connected to the front wheel. Then in 1839, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, added pedals to the bicycle and created the first bicycle of this type. Not long after this, in 1866, Pierre Lallement, a French mechanic, created what is called the pedal-powered bicycle. Lallement took out a U.S. patent on his new invention. Following the pedal-powered bicycle was the High-Wheeler in 1870. The High Wheeler was also called Ordinary or Penny- Farthing. The bike got the name High- Wheeler from its extremely large front wheel which on an average High- Wheeler bike would be five feet. The High-Wheeler had a small rear wheel. In 1885, the Safety Bicycle was created by J.K. Starley. Starley was an English bicycle manufacturer when he created it. This was the first bicycle that was considered safe to ride. The wheels on the bicycle were of even size unlike on the High-Wheeler, which is what made this bicycle so much safer and much easier to ride. This bike had several modifications and changes which include using a chain and sprocket system, and by 1890 air filled tires, the coaster brake and an adjustable handlebar. In the late 1800s the bicycle became a big hit and was very popular. As many as 4 million American’s rode bicycles at this time according to the World Book Millennium Encyclopedia. This did not last long though, by the 1900’s automobiles had become popular and bicycles were no longer as useful and essential as they had once been.

I think the bicycle was a very significant invention of the 1880’s because of how it affected the world. The bicycles helped immensely in the 1800’s when travel by automobile was not available. This allowed people to travel much longer distances and they were able to do it much faster than if they were on foot. With the invention of the bicycle cultures were able to interact more with cultures that once would not have been within walking distance. Although the bicycle in the United States is ridden more for entertainment and exercise so countries in the world use bicycles much more often than the United States. In China, bikes are used by a large population of people to travel to and from work every day and to go other places.

Experimentation on Monkeys

Whether the life of a human is worth more than the life of an animal has always been a heated topic that has been debated for years. The topic is taken to an even higher level when it is monkeys being experimented with verses when it is a mouse or rat because monkeys are evolutionarily close to us. At one United Kingdom University that doesn’t want to be named for privacy reasons, students and scientists are studying monkeys up close, performing a delicate surgery on their brains. In this surgery holes are drilled into the skull of the monkey and up to eight lesions are made, where small quantities of toxins are injected to destroy parts of the monkeys’ brain. This helps scientists discover what parts of the brain monkeys use to do different things and because of the similarities between humans and monkeys this helps make advancements in human medicine.

This can help identify several human brain disorders including Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD, and Depression. In this laboratory monkeys are kept in cages that try to stimulate their environments if they were living in the wild and monkeys are kept with up to fifteen other monkeys to provide interaction and play time. According to researchers the monkeys seem generally excited about testing, and are even disappointed on days they don’t get to be tested. In this specific scenario a monkey is brought out of his or her large cage and is put in what is known as a Perspex box. Then the monkey is given two options and presses a button, if the monkey chooses the correct button he or she is rewarded with a banana milkshake. If the monkey is wrong he or she will experience a short period of darkness in the Perspex box. Most of the monkeys are not stressed from this and don’t even seem disappointed when their light is turned off.

This brings up the next issue. Animal rights extremists think that because an animal might answer the questions wrong, the scientists are starving the animals until they get it right. At the institute in the article this is not the case. The scientists say that the food the monkeys are getting is just extra treats; the monkeys are still being served a healthy diet, even similar to the fruits they would be able to find in the wild. In a counter argument in this article, famous Primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, stated that the amazing human brain should find other ways of experimenting that does not involve the use of beings that have feelings and are capable of suffering. Although the author expressed both sides of the argument in this article it is evident that the author was leaning towards the idea that animal research, when done in a healthy and safe environment, is okay. The overall debate of this article is whether the testing of monkeys or for that matter animals in general should be allowed if the experiments could in the future lead to advances in human medicine.

Based on the information I have read in this article I take the side of the scientists that support animal testing. As long as the animal testing centers take the required steps to make the testing safe and provide an environment for the animals that is similar to what they would be experiencing in the wild. I agree with what the scientists at this United Kingdom University are doing because they are safely, without harming the monkeys, trying to study the brain in a way that could not otherwise be studied, which would provide crucial information for possibly creating life changing medicine in the future. I think that animal rights extremists are trying to make the institutions that support this research look bad most of the time, but it is my hope that animal extremists will continue what they do in order to discover other institutions that maybe aren’t treating their animals as they should be treating them and hopefully they can report them. After reading this article I was able to open my mind to animal research and realize that even though there are many institutions out there harming animals there are also a handful of institutions and universities that are doing important studies to better the human race at little or no expense to the animals whatsoever.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was one of the most debated wars in history. It started out just as the Korean War had, in an effort to contain communism. The war continued to go downhill though, as the Vietnamese used Guerilla warfare and underground tunnels to escape the U.S. troops. The war quickly lost the support of the American people and ended in the first loss America had ever experienced.

Decades ago, the French colonized Vietnam. After World War II, Ho Chi Min and his band of communist soldiers fought a guerilla war against the French throughout the country. The conflict elevated in 1954 when the Vietnamese communists defeated the French in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and thereby occupied Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam. Due to this, the French left Vietnam. Then, the United Nations split Vietnam into the North and the South. This was a compromise between communist powers and the western democracies. The North became communist and the South became a democracy. I think that the United States should have left Vietnam alone. During this time period, the people of the United States were happy and going to war with a country that they didn’t even understand was not something they supported. Without the support of the American people the war was even harder to fight and continue.

After North Vietnamese patrol boats allegedly attacked U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, President Johnson convinced the U.S. Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This was an unprecedented act by a U.S. president which allowed him to conduct a war without congressional approval. From 1959 to 1964 there were only a few thousand U.S. soldiers in Vietnam and they usually were not involved in combat. After the Gulf of Tokin Resolution was passed, it increased the number of troops from thousands to close to a half a million. Even though I don’t think we should have ever got involved in the Vietnam War, I think the president made the right decision by passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This allowed him to make quick decisions and not always have to rely on congress to approve them.

In 1966, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launched a massive attack to surprise the U.S. troops. Before this attack, the U.S. public generally agreed that the U.S. was winning the war; this was the way the U.S. media portrayed it. The attack, which became known at the Tet Offensive, was a turning point in the war because it caused many Americans to no longer support the war. Even though the United States won the battle, the fact that the Viet Cong had the capability to stage such a major attack surprised Americans. I think allowing the media to share this information to the public was a mistake because without the support of the Americans at home, the war was guaranteed not to last long. This gave rise to many protests and movements against the war.

Due to the overwhelming superiority of American firepower and military strength, the Viet Cong had to resort to unconventional guerilla warfare against the United States. One of these tactics was the use of tunnels under South Vietnam. They used these tunnels to carry equipment, hide, and care for the sick and wounded. I was amazed to find out about these tunnels and I couldn’t believe that they had actually created entire cities and hospitals underground. I think that without these tunnels they would not have stood a chance against the American troops.

As the Vietnam War continued, more and more people began to openly protest the war. In 1967, a huge protest occurred at the Lincoln Memorial. Up to 50,000 people protested, including Mohammad Ali, who refused to be drafted into the war. It reached its peak in 1970 when 4 students attending Kansas State University were shot by the National Guard during a campus protest. I believe that these protests led to the U.S. government to end the war. The government realized how unpopular the war was and with the very little support of the American people, I think they knew they had to end the war as quickly as possible.

While I don’t believe that the United States should have gotten involved in the Vietnam War to begin with, I believe that once we did get involved, it was our responsibility to finish it. I think leaving Vietnam defeated only lowered the morale of the soldiers and the general American opinion of the war. Once we entered Vietnam, we should have done whatever it took to complete the mission, which was to ensure democracy to South Vietnam and even North Vietnam.


I recently read an article on BBC News about a man with leprosy. I love researching different medical conditions and I had never even heard of leprosy. When I read the article about the man I was astounded I had gone this long without ever encountering information on this rare but infamous disease. For Simeon Peterson, or Mr. Pete, his journey started when he was diagnosed with leprosy at age 5. Leprosy is a disease that attacks the skin, peripheral nerves, and mucous membranes. Leprosy is basically an infection of the bacteria mycobacterium leprae. When this was discovered by the Norwegian doctor Gerhard Armauer Hanson it became formally known as Hansen’s disease. This disease affects about 6,500 people in the United States and between 150 and 200 people in the United States is diagnosed with this disease every year.

The reason leprosy is so rare is because 95% of the population have a natural immunity to leprosy. Mr. Pete and his family are one of the 5% who don’t. Mr. Pete lives in a community especially for people with leprosy. The community isn’t large like it used to be, because now there is treatment for people with leprosy that not only cures it but makes it so they don’t pass the infectious disease on. When treatment wasn’t available though, many leprosy patients were locked up in this community because the public was scared they would contaminate others with their condition. Mr. Pete, who is no longer confined to the community but enjoys living there, talks to groups of children about the rare disease to get the word out. The main message he wanted to get out to the children was that even though he has leprosy and he was mistreated as a young adult with this disease, now he has a good life and he is happy.

Here is the article about Mr. Pete

State Large Group Contest

On Saturday I had State Large Group Contest at Linn-Marr High School. State Large Group Contest is a very important contest for the people of Eastern Iowa. High School bands come to perform and the judging is very difficult. Linn-Marr High School recently got a new auditorium and it is really nice. The way it is set up helps to exemplify our sound. I wasn’t really looking forward to dedicating part of my Saturday to this, but we ended up doing really well, and that was rewarding. Our director was really proud of the way we played.

For State Large Group, my band performed 2 different songs. The first song was called, Rollo Takes a Walk. It was a very unconventional song to play but at the same time really fun. It sounds weird at some parts because we are purposely playing notes that contradict each other. When you hear it, it makes you cringe at some parts because of the contrasting notes that aren’t usually played together. The song kind of makes fun of conventional music by going off the beaten path and making odd sounds. There is even a small section in the piece where we say, “Rollo, takes a walk,” to the tune of the notes we have been playing. For a small part of the song we even have a kazoo section. The second song we are playing is made up of three smaller songs, it is called, Greek Folk Song. I really like this music because it is so upbeat and festive. The second movement of the piece is really slow and every time I hear it, it moves me.

Now that it is coming to the end of the year we really don’t have many more band performances left. On Friday, we get to go to Des Moines to play at IBA, a prestigious flute convention. I am playing with a group of 11 other flutists and I think it will be nice to show off all the music we have been working on. Next Monday, we have our Band Banquet, where our awards are handed out. After that all we have left is Graduation, where we perform. Once summer starts though, we have to start up marching band again to prepare for the Hog Wild Days Parade which is in August. Overall, I’m really glad that this year is coming to an end because I am so ready for summer.

Great Grandma with the Bunny

On May 8th, 2010 my great grandma died. This was really hard for me because I have known her all of my life. When I was a child I used to call her grandma with the bunny, because whenever I would go to her house she would let me play with a stuffed bunny she had and she would give me a little box with animal crackers in it. It is little things like this that I will always remember. On top of trying to think of the good memories, I remind myself that she had a wonderful life. For her, dying was something she was ready to do. She was a strong woman, one day she told my aunt, “I’m not scared of death, I have seen death more than anyone else I know, and I understand it, only the way a 104 year old woman could understand death.” She was 104 years old and had given birth to 8 children. Her husband had died, along with 3 of her children. Two of them, died of complications at birth and one, my Aunt Rosanne, who died of cancer. I feel happy knowing that she is in heaven with her children and her husband. One day not too long ago, I went over and I played my flute for her. She always loved it when I brought my flute over to play for her. I didn’t know it at the time, but the day I played for her was the beginning of the illness that eventually took her life. I vividly remember her saying, “I don’t feel well today, but I always have time for music!”

Even though she was 104, she stilled lived at her home. When I made my conformation, she sent me a long letter congratulating me and telling me how proud she was. Every year on my birthday, she sent me long letters. She never forgot anything. She had the most beautiful cursive handwriting I had ever seen. She told me when she was a young child, they didn’t teach girls math and science, but they taught them how to write beautifully. I have kept every letter she ever wrote to me.

As she was dying, I went to visit her with my family. I was very sad to see her, knowing it would be the last time I ever saw her, but I wanted to say goodbye. She was lying in a bed, and she looked very tired. We all took turns holding her hands and sharing our memories of better times with her. I was happy that she knew who we were and that her memory was still intact, which was amazing to me. My mom even told her an inside joke, and she laughed. To entertain her, we stood around her bed and sang songs to her. The day after I visited her, my aunt called me and told me she had moved onto a different stage. She was still alive, but she was in a permanent sleep. Then, as her children sat around her bed, she stopped breathing. As far as I know, she never experienced any pain, she died happy. No matter how much you try to prepare for the death of a loved one, you never can. I tried so hard to come to terms with the fact that she was moving on to a better place. I thought that when she died I would accept it in a way. That didn’t happen. When she died, it felt like my breath had been knocked right out of me. It felt as if I had no idea she was going to die. Every time I think about her, I feel that exact same pain all over again. It was the same pain I felt a few years ago, when my great grandpa, “pickle” as I called him, died. Yet, when I cry, it’s not tears of sorrow, but tears of happiness in a way, because I know that she lived a long happy life surrounded by people that loved her.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Illegal Immigration

I recently watched a video on Hulu about a family of illegal immigrants. The video was directed by Morgan Spurlock, the same man who was in Super Size Me. In the video, a man who opposes illegal immigration moves in with a family of illegal immigrants. The man not only opposes illegal immigration but is a minuteman as well. A minuteman a someone who is somewhat of a vigilante; he helps patrol the U.S. border and alerts border control when he sees someone attempting to make it across. When he moves in with the family, it is very tense because they have such opposing viewpoints on immigration. The immigrant family lives well below the poverty line in a one bedroom house with many children. When the man goes and lives with the family, it actually puts faces and names to the problem. It is no longer just an immigration problem; he realizes that they are actual people. Watching it is very sad, because the family still have relatives living in Mexico who they can’t visit. They know if they travel back to Mexico chances are they will never make it back into the United States. The mother of the family had just lost her parents in Mexico and as they were dying, she wasn’t even able to visit them. If she would have, she would have risked never seeing her children again.

A part of the documentary that is especially touching is when the man who opposes illegal immigration travels to Mexico. He goes and visits the relatives of the family that he is staying with. He takes a video of them and they get to record what they have wanted to say to their loved ones back in the U.S. It is not as simple as just calling them, as these relatives in Mexico live in such poverty, a phone would be considered a luxury. In the end, the man decides that he still opposes illegal immigration, but that he supports families who come here with their papers. He even agreed that if the family of illegal immigrants got sent back home to Mexico, he would be willing to sponsor them. Families or individuals can come to the United States legally if a family here is willing to sponsor them.

One thing that surprised me about the movie was that one of the daughters in the family, who was an illegal immigrant, got accepted to a competitive college. I don’t think it was an Ivy League college, but it wasn’t a regular university either. I was surprised though because I thought that illegal immigrants almost had to hide. I didn’t think that it would be a possibility for them to apply for college and be accepted; considering they are here illegally. I still don’t know whether I support immigration or not. I do feel sorry for these people, and I want them to have a better life but I don’t think they should be doing it illegally. I think if we allow this to continue, at some point it is going to threaten our security. If we do allow immigration, we need to come up with an efficient and safe way to go about it. If we decide not to go about allowing immigration, then I think we need to send the families already here, back to Mexico immediately. Whatever we do, I think action needs to be taken. Obviously, many families are here illegally and people know about it, but they allow it still.

Recently, Arizona has passed a law saying that illegal immigrants in Arizona are committing a criminal offense. Police officers and officials are required to inspect anyone who appears to be here suspiciously. The people fear this will lead to racial profiling which is illegal in the state of Arizona. I don’t think they should be so concerned about racial profiling all the time, if that’s what it takes to make a state safe then that’s what it takes. Mexicans who are here legally shouldn’t worry, if they show the officials their papers they will be free to go about their lives. I feel like what we are doing right now is saying it is illegal, but then not stopping it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fatal Familial Insomnia

Imagine not being able to sleep. I’m sure some of you have experienced a few sleepless nights; maybe it was after the death of a loved one, or the night before a huge exam. But have you ever gone an entire year without a decent night’s sleep? For a small number of families around the world, this is their reality.

Fatal Familial Insomnia, better known as FFI, is a genetic disorder. If a single parent has the gene, the child has a 50% chance of receiving the gene, because it is dominant. There is a very simple blood test that can be done to determine if a child has inherited the disease although some people opt out of knowing. But why wouldn’t these people want to know if they inherited the gene which will inevitably bring them sleepless nights? This is because FFI not only brings a guarantee of sleepless nights, but a guaranteed death sentence within a year after the symptoms begin. Some people don’t want to live, knowing that they will die a tragic death in their 50’s. Others want to know, so they can prepare not only themselves but their families as well.

There are several different stages of FFI, each stage bringing the patient closer to death. A patient will usually begin the first stage anywhere between the ages of 30 to 60. Although the patient usually survives less than a year after they begin to notice their symptoms, it can last anywhere from 7 to 18 months. During the first stage a patient will begin to experience insomnia leading to panic attacks and new phobias. This stage lasts about 4 months. During the 2nd stage, the patient experiences hallucinations and increased panic attacks. This lasts about 5 months. During the 3rd stage, the patient loses all ability to sleep resulting in weight loss. This lasts about 3 months. During stage for, the last stage of the disease, the patient develops dementia and eventually becomes unresponsive. This usually lasts for 6 months. At this point, the patient dies, literally, from no sleep. What makes this different than other diseases is that, while the patient is dying, they are fully aware of what is happening to them, even if they are for the most part unresponsive. It seems like a terrible way to die and part of me understands why a person would not want to know whether they had the gene or not.

There are no known cures or even treatments for the disease. Gene therapy has been unsuccessful and sleeping pills seem to only speed up the process of insomnia. Out of all the diseases I have come across throughout my life, I definitely think this is the worst one. If you have cancer, it is tough no doubt, but at least there is hope for survival. With just about any other disease, there is always the hope for survival. With FFI, patients have no hope, once the symptoms begin, death is inevitable. If I found out I had a parent with the disease, I would definitely want the blood test to find out if I had it. It would have a huge effect on how I lived the rest of my life. For one thing, I would never have children because that would not be something I would want to give to them. I wouldn’t save for retirement either because chances are I would never reach that point in my life. Overall, studying this disease has made me realize how lucky I am to be healthy.

This is a little irrelevant to my post, but I just wanted to point out that in cases like these, designer babies, as they are called, might be appropriate. If a FFI patient was young and wanted to have her/his own child, but they didn’t want to pass the gene on, they could make sure the baby didn’t have the gene before it is taken to a long term pregnancy.

Here is a link to a family I researched to help me better understand the disease. This Italian family has had FFI as far back as they can remember. Unlike most diseases, it hasn't been eradicated from the family because women with the disease don't die until later on in life. Leaving plenty of time for them to reproduce and pass it on.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

University of Iowa

This week, I did research on the University of Iowa. This is one of the colleges that I am seriously perusing for a number of reasons, not all of them I am willing to disclose to my parents. For most of my life I have wanted to go to the University of Iowa because I have grown up going to the Iowa football games on the weekends. Going to the games is one of my favorite things to do during football season and I know that if I went to the college I would be able to go every weekend there was a home game. Another reason I really want to go to the school is because one of my best friends is going there next year and I really want to be able to go to college with some of my high school friends.

Of course, it’s not just football that has attracted me to the University of Iowa. First of all, I like that it is a bigger school because not only can you meet a lot of people, but you can basically major in whatever you want. This is unlike small schools where sometimes there is a limited selection of what you can major in. It also won’t be an everybody knows everyone type of thing and I like that. The school also has a lot of academic opportunities as well. Growing up here, I have always thought of medicine when I thought of the University because that’s what it is known for. Upon going on their official website, I discovered that they are known for their research programs in genetics, hydraulics, speech and hearing, agricultural medicine, biocatalysis, biomedical engineering, biomedical sciences, and pharmacology education. I am considering pursing pharmacy and I have heard they have a really good pharmaceutical program, as my aunt went through it. They are known for their graduate programs in audiology, printmaking, creative writing, speech-language pathology, and nursing service administration. The University also operates one of the nation’s most advanced university owned teaching hospitals and has developed the most technically advanced driving stimulator in the world.

So basically, Iowa is a really good school because it is limitless academically, has an amazing football team, and was also named one of the top 10 party schools in 2009 by Playboy (I didn’t know they made these?). If you’re looking for a school where you can have academic excellence and at the same time have fun, the University of Iowa is definitely the place to go.

Here is a link to the official University of Iowa website!

All- City and State Contest

Last weekend for me was very stressful because I had the State Music Contest. The weekend before that was the All-City Music Contest. At both of these contests I played a solo, a flute ensemble, and in a woodwind choir. All of them were very challenging and it took me a long time to learn the music. All-City didn’t end up going that well because I didn’t do very good on my solo, which was what I was most concerned about. I thought my performance was pretty good but me and my pianist weren’t really in sync and that brought down my score. At All-City, my woodwind choir received a division one rating, which is the highest score a group can receive so I was very pleased with that performance. Our flute ensemble got a 2 which wasn’t too bad for our first performance.

At City Contest, the grading goes like this (best to worst scores): 1+, this is a perfect score, reserved for solos only; 1, this is basically a perfect score for ensembles and groups; 2, this is an okay score, but means your music still needs works and more preparations; 3, this is the lowest score at City and is usually reserved for unrehearsed performances. For middle school students, the All-City Contest is a big deal, as it is the only one they will play in for the year. For high school students, All-City is just a rehearsal for the next weekend, which is State.

At State Contest, I did a lot better on my solo and I was very proud of my performance, as was my teacher. The grading at State is similar but it has a larger scale. Performers can’t receive a 1+, but they can get anywhere between a 1 and a 5; 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Grading at State is also less forgiving. At All-City, judges write down comments and at the end of the performance decided what score they feel the student deserves. At State Contest, points are awarded in the following categories: tone quality, intonation, rhythm, balance and blend, technique, interpretation and musicianship, articulation, and other performance factors such as posture and attire. At the end, the judge totals up the points and gives you a score. The score then determines what division rating you will receive.

I have been playing at the All-City Contest since 7th grade, which makes it my 5th solo. I have decided not to play a solo next year and I’m glad that I ended my last solo performance on a positive note. I will still perform with ensembles and large groups though, which I really enjoy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nuclear Weapons

Recently in my U.S. History class we learned about World War Two and the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. These atomic bombs completely ended World War Two since the Germans had already surrendered after Hitler committed suicide. It was the simplest solution in ending the war most would say, and it was the only way that made it possible for no more American lives to be lost. Looking from our point of view, I would say we made the right decision. Why send hundreds of thousands of more soldiers over to be killed, when dropping one or two bombs ends it? The problem is, dropping nuclear bombs doesn't just kill soldiers, and the majority of its victims are civilians; most of whom didn't even want a war. Not only were innocent lives lost, but the economy of the country was in ruins, as most of their structures in the cities had been knocked down and the air was filled with radiation. Looking from the point of view of the Japanese, the atomic bomb seems like maybe it wasn't a good idea.

Today, many people think the story is very different. People don't realize that atomic bombs are still a very big threat to us. With most Middle Eastern and communist countries hating us, it's a wonder that we don't still have bomb shelters to protect us from radioactive fallout if a nuclear bomb was dropped. Obama recognizes this threat though, and is taking steps to help ensure our safety. The plan requires every nation to keep their stocks of weapons out of the hands of terrorists. This is not the first action he has taken though; Russia and the United States also signed an agreement to dispose of 68 tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. Each of the two countries disposed of 34 tons; the two added together are enough to make 17,000 nuclear warheads. The disposal of this was not cheap though; Russia estimated their cost to be 2.5 billion and the United States has agreed to give them 400 million dollars in assistance.

I personally think that all nuclear weapons should be destroyed. The only reason countries would need them would be for destruction and/or to threaten other countries. Removing all nuclear weapons from the planet would move us closer to peace on Earth. Pointing missiles at each other and threatening the lives of innocent civilians is not a good way to solve any political or religious problem.

Here is a link to the article about Obama's nuclear plan.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Oberlin College

This week, I did a little research on Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio. I’m not really considering this college but I wanted to learn about it because my cousin Alex goes there. My cousin attends mostly the conservatory of music portion of the college and is very immersed in the performing arts of the school as well. He has had the lead role many plays and hopes to get a degree in music. I look to my cousin as sort of a role model because he is one of only a very few cousins I have that is older than me. He has also been very successful in college. Oberlin is a very famous college known around the nation for its performing arts and music conservatory.

I went to the official Oberlin website and it was really unique because it had profiles of about 10 different students attending the college. I noticed that every time I refreshed the page it would bring up the profiles of different students. Some of them were current students while others were alumni. I thought it was interesting because I have never seen a college do something like this on their website before. This is possible because Oberlin is a smaller school with about 2,774 students. It is also a very selective college as it accepts only 33% of its applicants. This is compared to the 76% that Wartburg selects. Here is a link to more detailed information on the degrees you can obtain at Oberlin and here is the link to the official Oberlin website.


Just today, I came across a very sad article on AOL News. A single mother had adopted a son from Russia. After raising the boy for a while, she decided to send him back to Russia, saying that he was a dangerous and violent child. The boy’s grandmother supported the mother saying that he had even given the family death threats, even though he is only 7 years old. The mother sent the boy back to Russia with only his Spiderman backpack and a note that read, “The child is mentally unstable.” When the boy arrived in Russia by himself, he met up with a man who took him the Russian Education and Science Ministry. The man was paid 200 dollars by the little boy’s family in the United States to do this. It seems so sad to me that the mother didn’t try harder to raise the boy and it seems that she never even loved the child to begin with. If she loved him, I don’t think she would have been able to send him back. The mother’s story though, is being questioned by authorities because so far, no one else has seen the so called dangerous and psychopathic behavior this child supposedly exhibits. The adults around him on the plane said he played like a normal 7 year old boy and even listened to them when they would ask him to sit down. The doctors in Russia who examined him found nothing out of the ordinary with him after doing extensive tests with him to determine his mental state. It is difficult to tell if the mother is telling the truth or not because neighbors claim they never saw the family. One neighbor in a video I watched said that she had only seen the boy a few times and that the mother kept him isolated in the house. The boy didn’t even attend a school.

Unfortunately, over the years this is not the first case of this I have seen. Last year, I saw an episode on Dr. Phil about a woman who wanted to send her child back to his home country, claiming that the child was unable to be loved. This sounds absurd, but Dr. Phil explained that this is an actual disorder but he was unsure whether this was what was actually wrong with the child. This brings up a debate, should adoptive parents be allowed to send their children back to their home country if the adoption doesn’t turn out to be successful? My opinion is that they should not be allowed to. When you adopt a child, you go into it knowing fully that it will not be an easy road. This is true especially if the child is no longer an infant. The child may have been abused, malnourished, denied education, grown up in poverty, or not have had any parents to guide him or her. If you adopt a child, you are agreeing that you won’t give up on them and that you will continue to take care of them and love them as if they are biologically your own.

Here is a link to the article that originally attracted me to the story.


On Friday I didn’t have to come to school because my Spanish class was taking a field trip. I was really excited because not only were we going to Chicago but I also got to miss an entire day of school. We managed to fit the trip all into one day by leaving at about 6 o’clock in the morning and arriving back home at about 9 o’clock. When we first arrived in Chicago we went to a Spanish tapas restaurant and had tapas. After that, we went to an art museum to view Spanish art. Right before we left, we went to the nearby park and walked around the city a little bit.

When we first arrived in Chicago we went to a spot by the lake and took pictures of the beautiful city. Living in Iowa, it’s always pretty cool when you get to see all the skyscrapers packed into such a small area. Then we went to the tapas restaurant. In case you don’t know, having tapas is when the waiter brings out many different plates of food, one after the other. Every person has a plate in front of them and just serves themselves off of the large plates. It is kind of like having a Thanksgiving dinner. The food was traditional Spanish food and it was okay. It tasted like most of the food that I ate when I had traveled to Spain which I didn’t really like then either. Nevertheless, I forced myself to try at least a bite of everything that came to our table. I can’t remember everything that I ate, but the octopus and bloody ham (at least I think it was ham) stick out the most. The octopus, was fried I believe, and the meat was in circles. Due to this, I’m pretty sure it was the little suction cups that are found on an octopus. The bloody ham was ham that was cooked in the pig’s blood. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to eat all of this. The food wasn’t all gross though, we also had shrimp, garlic potatoes, spicy potatoes, bread with goat cheese and salsa and chicken. For desert, I ordered chocolate flan. Flan is a mix between ice cream and pudding.

After eating at the tapas restaurant we went to the art museum. There we were able to see famous art work by all the painters we have been studying in our class including Velazquez, Goya, El Greco and Picasso. It was really cool to see some of the paintings that we have been studying up close and in person, since usually we are studying them from a book. After the art museum we went to the nearby park to walk around. When we got there, we realized they were filming a movie. There was even a sign that said if we walked in the area they had the right to use us in their filming. Chances of actually getting in the film though are pretty slim. We were even more surprised when we found out that Jake Gyllenhaal was in the movie and that he would be there Chicago in less than 20 minutes on the set. In case you don’t know, Jake Gyllenhaal is an extremely hot actor who most recently starred in the movie Brothers. Unfortunately, our teacher did not feel same way as we did about this opportunity, and forced us to get back on the bus to head home before he came.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Wartburg, located in Waverly Iowa, is a private college with about 1, 810 students. The college was established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1852. Wartburg also has a satellite college located in Denver, Colorado known as Wartburg West. Their athletic teams are known as the Knights and the college offers competitive football, basketball, baseball, cross country, tennis, soccer, wrestling, volleyball and softball and cheerleading.

Wartburg offers many different academic programs and allows students to obtain up to a bachelors degree. Degrees range from accounting to biochemistry to religious studies. There are about 70 degrees offered at Wartburg in the science field, which is more than at any other college. Here is a link of all the degrees you can obtain at Wartburg. About 95% of students at Wartburg submitted their ACT exams to the college during their application process. Only about 6% of the students submitted their SAT scores, or even took the SAT test for that matter. The average ACT composite score for students attending Wartburg is between 21 and 27. The acceptance rate for Wartburg is pretty high with about 72% of all males getting accepted and 76% of all females.

The Wartburg website is very helpful and shows lots of information on events going on at Wartburg right now that may be of interest. For example, you can take a virtual tour of Wartburg and all of its new editions. I was amazed to find out that the school recently spent 75 million dollars on adding on and renovating. The tour shows the large swimming pool, the huge rock climbing wall, and the state of the art theatre among other things.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mississippi Prom

Recently in the news there was a story about a girl who wanted to attend her prom with her date. Nothing wrong with this, right? Except for that her date was also a girl. Her school, in the state of Mississippi, decided to cancel the school’s prom because of it. The girl, Constance McMillen, sued the school district with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and partially won her case. The judge decided that the school did violate her civil rights but they did not force the school to reinstate the prom. The students were of course very mad at McMillen for being part of a problem that caused their prom to be cancelled. McMillen said she still held her head high though and continued to attend school every day. Unfortunately though, parents decided to schedule their own prom for the students of the school, outraged that the schools prom had been cancelled. McMillen though, was not invited to this prom. McMillen was invited to a separate prom at a Country Club in the area. Only 7 students including herself and her date attended the prom. All this was happening while a bigger prom was going on that the majority of the students at the school attended. McMillen felt very offended by this when she found out, as I am sure any teen would.

The larger topic at hand though is if gay marriage should be legal. I can see the opinion coming from both sides of the debate but I tend to side with gay marriage being okay. The first side is that gay marriage is okay. I mean, why wouldn’t it be okay? The couple isn’t hurting anyone or causing any direct problems. If they are happy, then the world should let them live how they want. It may go against the Bible, but every day I see people go against the Bible. Anyway, last I checked we had this thing called freedom of religion in America, meaning you don’t even have to believe in the Bible. Another thing is, lots of people argue that gay couples shouldn’t be able to have children. Their argument is that the child would grow up without a father or in some cases a mother. Although this is true, I don’t think it is a good enough reason for them to not be allowed to adopt children. Children in the foster care system just need stability in their lives. Most of them will turn 18 and age out of the system and end up on the streets. Not to mention the thousands of children in the United States who grow up in single family households as it is. Yes, children with gay parents will have obstacles to overcome but I’ve never met a person in my life that doesn’t have obstacles in their lives. Basically, I would say that being adopted by a same sex couple would be a far more nurturing and fulfilling childhood compared traveling from one foster care family after another. The side I tend to take is that same sex marriage should be legal in America. Doesn’t America stand for freedom?

Here is the article about McMillen and the most recent incident.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Today was Easter Sunday and it was pretty uneventful for me. When I was a kid, Easter used to be my favorite holiday because I loved searching for Easter eggs in my backyard. I never really knew what Easter meant, other than it was the day that Christ had risen, and it was also the day that the Easter bunny came to our house. Obviously, since then a lot has changed. I now know that the Easter bunny isn’t real and coincidently, when I stopped believing he stopped coming to my house. Easter is a different type of holiday in that aspect because once you stop believing in the Easter bunny he usually stops coming. This is unlike Christmas where, Santa continues to come throughout your teenage years even though you stopped believing in him long ago.

Usually on Easter we all go to my grandmother’s house and have Easter dinner. I couldn’t go this year though because I had to work. I was okay with it though, because my family saved me a plate of food. I was a little bummed out though, because I always enjoy running around the yard with my younger cousins trying to help them find the Easter eggs.

The real point of Easter though, is to celebrate the day that Christ rose and ascended into heaven. If he wouldn’t have ascended into heaven, everything that he had preached up until that point would have meant nothing. Since he did ascend into heaven, Christians knew that they would be granted eternal life if they believed in him and what he stood for. This I would say is pretty common knowledge for any Christian, but what some Christians don’t know is how Easter was celebrated even before the word of God and Christianity had spread throughout the world. This story, takes a completely different path.

Originally, Easter was celebrated by Pagans who saw the day of feast as renewal and rebirth. The day honored the Pagan Saxon goddess Eastre. This holiday took a different turn though, when Christian missionaries traveled to England and converted the Saxons to Christianity. The day that newly converted Christians saw as renewal and rebirth happened to be around the same time as the day Jesus ascended into heaven. Due to this, they merged the two different occasions together and called it Easter. Easter was still a time of renewal and rebirth, but was no longer associated with any Pagan Gods, but rather with Jesus.

Coe College

The college I decided to research this week was Coe College. My parents really want me to go this school because they, as well as a few of my aunts and uncles and grandma graduated from there. It’s another small private school, but a smaller than Drake. I found out that of the 1,300 students at Coe, they represent 33 states and 15 foreign countries. The average class sizes are very small, averaging at about 16 students with a student to teacher ratio of 11:1. Coe offers 40 different majors and four different degrees including: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and the Master of Arts in Teaching.

The education at Coe is superb and they have numbers to prove it. Within 6 months of graduation, 98% of students have a job or are attending graduate school. More than 50% of its graduates go on to complete higher education after they graduate which is usually law school, medical school, or by taking classes to earn a masters or doctorate degree. Coe is also only one of 5 private colleges in Iowa that have the Phi Beta Kappa Chapter honor. This is an honors program and only the most distinguished colleges with academic excellence are selected for it.

If you have ever been on the Coe campus, you know it is very nice. The sorority houses are always kept nice and the grass is always kept short. This adds to the overall appeal of Coe. Throughout elementary and middle school I would go to Coe for athletic programs, many of which are run by the athletic directors at Coe. I always had a really good experience when I would attend these camps and now that I’m considering colleges, it has made me seriously consider Coe. They have a newly renovated football field, a big swimming pool and nice wide open tennis courts. The campus is small though, and that can give a student a good feeling, as some students feel they can’t get lost in the crowd as easily because essentially, there is no crowd. In fact, upon researching it I was surprised to find out that there are fewer students at the college than there are at Kennedy. Another benefit to small private colleges like this one is that you are taught by actual professors, not students studying to get their doctorate degrees, which is often who you are taught by at the University of Iowa and other big colleges.

Here is a link to the official Coe College Website where I got my factual information.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Health Care

The most recent debate in the news has been about health care. Actually, for a while it seemed as if that was all that was in the news. A few days ago, a new plan for health care was passed by the democrats. There is a lot to the bill so I try to pay attention to just the main points. When I read the paper I was astonished to find that 32 million people that did not have health insurance would now have it. I couldn’t believe that that many people didn’t have it in the first place. I am a firm believer that everyone in the country should have heath care whether they want it or not. You may be a healthy person but you never know when you will be in a car accident or if you will be diagnosed with cancer.

When the health care bill was released, a lot of the pharmaceutical companies were against it for fear they would lose money. After all, under the new bill pharmaceutical companies would be required to pay millions more than usual to the government. The government, eager to strike back, explained that the revenue of the pharmaceutical companies would jump far higher than any bills they were forced to pay. This is because far more people, 32 million to be exact, would be able to get the drugs and medication they needed. The pharmaceutical companies would then get paid off by the insurance companies. The insurance companies, in this whole mess, I have found out will pretty much remain neutral. This means they won’t make more money, but at the same time they aren’t expected to lose any either. They also don’t have to worry about insurance run by the government taking them over because there won’t be any governmental insurance.

Another main topic of discussion was the stock market. It was expected that this new heath bill would make the market go down. For some reason this didn’t happen and the stock market actually increased. I don’t understand exactly why but I do know that it is good news. Another note of good news is that not only has the stock market benefited for the time being, the hospitals will also benefit. Emergency rooms treat patients’ everyday that don’t have health insurance. They lose out big time on these patients. With the new health bill these uninsured people would become insured people and would no longer be a problem to the hospitals. The biggest benefit to the new health care bill to me was that I will now be able to use my parents’ health insurance until I’m 26.

Here is a link to the many more benefits of the new health care bill!

Parlor City

Before Spring Break I applied for a job at Parlor City. I was pretty sure that I would get the job since my mom is good friends with the owner but I wasn’t for sure. Luckily, a few days before Spring Break I got a call from my new boss saying I had gotten the job! I was extremely excited, especially since this would be my first job. I didn’t really have any preparation to do, so I just waited for the first day which happened to be the first Sunday of Spring Break. Normally, kids would be bummed that they would have to work over break but since I had just gotten the job, I couldn’t wait to start working.

The first day I showed up in jeans, a t-shirt, tennis shoes and had my hair pulled back. Right away they handed me a t-shirt and welcomed me onto the staff. The first day I worked 5 hours, and it was very overwhelming to say the least. There were so many different ice cream treats you could order, so many different buttons on the cash register. As the day went on I got better, but it was still pretty scary. I had to work at the cash register the whole time because I didn’t know how to make anything yet. I did that for about 2 days and on the 3rd day they taught me how to make cones. You would think starting with a cone would be easy, but I actually think that the cones are the hardest to make. So far, mine look pretty bad but with practice I’m sure I’ll get better.

After the first few days things got a lot better. I began to know the girls that I was working with a little better and I was finally getting the hang of the cash register. I now know how to make just about everything except the specialty items and the coffee coolers. I’m still pretty new so they help me out whenever I need it. In the end, I’m really glad that I got to start my job over Spring Break because it was a lot less stressful for me. I work again tomorrow and I’m a little worried because it’s the first time I’ve had to work on a school night and I won’t have much time for homework. I guess it won’t matter though because it’s not any different than having a cross country meet or a marching band practice take up my whole night. In the end, I couldn’t be happier that I have my first job! Oh yea, and did I mention I get free ice cream?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Czech Republic

A few days ago I volunteered at a chili supper at St. Ludmila’s Church. My aunt is the secretary on the Czech School Board so I usually help out at the events. It also helps me get volunteer hours. Czech school is a nonprofit organization that puts together a school over the summer for children to go to and learn how to speak Czech. When I was younger I went to the school but as I got older I got too busy to continue. The organization is going strong and is even able to support teachers from the Czech Republic to teach the students. Each year about 4 or 5 young adults come from the Czech Republic and live with a family. During their time here, they are supported by the Czech Board and in return they teach the American students how to speak Czech. It helps them establish connections in the United States and gives them time to explore some of the country while expanding their English skills. The teacher I had when I attended the school, Petra, went on to move to the United States permanently and marry an American man.

My family has been involved in the Czech community as long as I can remember. My great grandpa, who died a few years ago, was from the Czechoslovakia. He moved to the United States when he was a little boy in the very beginning of the 1900’s. They moved into a small cute home, that my family still owns today. Before he died, my great grandpa would tell me stories of his childhood in Czechoslovakia. It made me and my family want to stay involved in the Czech community as much as possible. They are a very tight knit group of people; most the eldest generation was either born in Czechoslovakia or are the children of immigrants born there. I think it is a very interesting culture, especially since I know it is mine. Last year my family took a trip to the Czech Republic to visit our relatives that still live there. I couldn’t go because I would have missed over a month of school but I hope to visit my relatives and the country in the future!

Israeli Conflict

The other day in my US history class we had a debate on the situation in Israel. I hadn’t really formed an opinion yet because I honestly didn’t know a thing about it. Apparently, our teacher assumed this was something we knew about. After not having much to say during the debate, I went home and did some research on the topic. The first website I went to was BBC News because they always have an updated article on the situation, even though I have never taken the time to read it before. I watched a video on it and it seemed to be saying that the Israelis were the main source of the violence. The Israel’s can’t physically move the Arabs off of “their” land so they are trying to make life for the Arabs miserable in hopes that they will leave on their own accord. The problem is that the Arabs feel that it is their land just as much as the Israeli’s land. One specific Palestinian man explained that his family has lived on the land as far back as he can remember and that they continue to live there today. He couldn’t imagine picking up and leaving the only home he has ever known, even though he knows that being a Muslim in Israel gets more and more dangerous every day. Muslims living in Israel aren’t even allowed to have many basic rights including the right to vote.

The United States is in a tough position right now because it is not clear who the land should really belong to. The Jewish people had the land centuries ago but in the most recent history, the land belonged to the Arabs. After World War two, when the world felt extreme remorse for the small numbers of Jews that had survived the Holocaust, the United States helped create Israel for the Jewish people. At the time, this seemed like a good idea. It meant that the Jewish people who had lost their family members in the Holocaust could have a home; it was something to keep them together. Anti- Semitism was still very high in some parts of the world and the Jewish people didn’t have anywhere else to go. It was a gift from the world that served as an apology for the Holocaust. Now though, the two religious groups (Muslims versus Jews) are fighting more than ever. They have proven that they can’t live together peacefully and neither of them are about to give up the land they believe was given to them by God.

Long story short, this is where we are at today: the United States wants the Jewish people to remain in control of Israel. Most of the rest of the world, including the United Nations, tends to side with the Arabs. Luckily for Israel though, it has the support of the United States which is far stronger than most of the countries it is up against. The support of the United States is what has allowed Israel to survive for so long. Unfortunately, for the United States, this has come at a high cost. It has led to most Muslim countries hating us. This makes the people of the United States wonder whether we should continue to support the Israeli’s. Even though the United States seems to be siding with the Israeli’s, I don’t necessarily think that it is the best idea. I am somewhat torn between which side to support because my country supports the Israeli’s while my religion has openly supported the Palestinians. I think when coming to a conclusion on which country to support we need to look out for the welfare of not only our country but the world. If we continue to support pushing the Palestinians out we may be asking for more trouble than we are able to handle.

I think that in order to come to a conclusion we need to look at all sides of the conflict. Just looking at the news in the United States is not enough. The news coverage in the United States is very biased towards the Israeli's. Upon watching the following video I realized that the United States doesn't give us the whole story.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Search for the Perfect College

Lately, the pressure has been on to get good ACT and SAT scores and to take the most difficult classes possible senior year. This is all in hopes of getting accepted to the college of your choice. But getting accepted might not be good enough for you; you may also want a scholarship, whether it is academic or athletic. The problem is how do you know what colleges to apply to? How do you know what colleges are right for you, or which ones or out of your range? The truth is, I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I am becoming more knowledgeable on the subject.

The first college I looked into was Drake University. This is a private college in Des Moines. I started out looking on the Drake website. This included a wide variety of information, all the way from the campus life to the athletics at Drake. Drake University is a very prestigious college and is home to the annual Drake Relays. The Drake Relays is basically a huge track meet where runners from all around the United States have come to compete since 1910. Since I am I runner, this is the first thing that always comes to my mind when I think of Drake.

Drake is a private college so it does cost a little bit more than the 3 public universities in Iowa. The tuition comes to a total of $35,090 which includes room and board as well as the technology fee and the student activity fee. There are other various fees that students have to pay depending on what their major will be, as different materials are used. Here is a link to these different fees on the Drake Website.

Drake has about 5,000-6,000 students every year and is considered by most standards to be the 2nd most prestigious college in Iowa with Grinnell coming in 1st. The student to faculty ratio is 14:1 so the class sizes are not large compared to most universities. This allows for a more personal basis between students and their teachers. It also makes it possible for faculty to know students by their name, which is almost unheard of at large universities like Iowa or Iowa State. Drake has over 70 programs of study and allows students to combine majors and even create their own majors. Drake is so appealing to many people because it is a small school with the academic benefits of a large school.

Here is a link to the official Drake Website

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Winter Vacation

So about two hours ago I got back from Aspen. I’m extremely stressed out right now because I was basically busy every second of the trip; I had very little time for homework. Let’s just say that I will be paying for all the fun I had last week in the next two weeks and during finals. I know I already did a blog post about my trip but that was earlier in the week and a lot has happened since then.

First of all I got to meet the 7 Olympic athletes that are from Roaring Fork Valley. Roaring Fork Valley is the county that Aspen is located in. The event was held in downtown Aspen not far from where we were staying. It was so amazing to get to meet them and shake their hands knowing that in just a few short days they would be leaving to compete in Vancouver. After the little ceremony two of the athletes stayed to sign autographs. The lines (or should I say mobs?) you had to wait in to get the autographs were really long but I would have waited all night if I had to. The two athletes that stayed were Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Klug. Gretchen and Chris are both snowboarders. Gretchen has been my idol for as long as I can remember so I couldn’t believe it when I was actually meeting her. I had always been a skier until about 3 or 4 years ago when I read in depth about Gretchen in one of my magazines. I remember that day telling my parents that I wanted to snowboard the next year when we went on our trip, instead of skiing. I even hung a bunch of Gretchen Bleiler posters around my room not having any idea that one day I would be able to meet her. What made her even more amazing to me was that her favorite place to board was at Snowmass and she trained there as a kid. It is a family tradition to go to Snowmass so I felt like I had something in common with her. So basically meeting Gretchen was like a dream come true and an experience I will definitely be telling my grandchildren about. I also met Chris Klug and got his autograph. I like to follow him to, mainly because he is so freaking gorgeous. Needless to say, I am very excited to watch them perform in the Olympics in Vancouver.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Research Project

I can’t really decide what I want to do for my research topic but I just want to get some ideas out there. I kind of want to go into a medical field so I looked into that category and I again ran into the link between vaccinations and autism. I couldn’t really find anything else that actually interested me. My aunt is a pharmacist so I decided to give her a call and ask her what she thought, since she is in the medical field. She told me that marijuana is a hot topic right now because it is legalized in several states for medical uses. I know we aren’t supposed to take sides but I got a clear picture of the two sides: medical marijuana should be legal and helps people who are in desperate amounts of pain compared to marijuana is a highly addictive drug and should never be legalized no matter what the circumstances. Of course there is still everything in between as well. I also have no idea which side I would chose, further research would definitely help me with that. I haven’t chosen this topic for sure yet but I really like it and I might use it.

This was an interesting article that explained how the Los Angeles City Council recently developed an ordinance to allow medical marijuana.

My Sister's Keeper

Right now I’m about halfway through reading My Sister’s Keeper. I have already seen the movie but my friends spoiled it for me and told me that the movie’s ending is much different than the books ending. They didn’t stop here though; they told me exactly how they were different. I personally think that the ending to the movie is better than the book ending because it is a lot more realistic which is what I like. So if you haven’t read this book yet and you plan on reading it here is your spoiler alert: I suggest not reading any farther than this sentence. So in the book the ending happens like this: Anna ends up dying in a car crash and her sister Kate survives. Confused? You will be if you haven’t read the book yet. You see, Kate basically has terminal leukemia. When her parents find this out, they decided to have a baby so that Kate will have a donor. This isn’t done naturally though; it’s done using this high tec stuff I don’t really want to get into in this blog post. Basically, Anna spends her entire life in the hospital just as Kate does, even though she is not sick. Anna then decides that she wants to sue her parents for the right to her own body. At least that is what the reader thinks. Later we discover that Kate wants to die, she is tired of fighting the disease and just wants to go to heaven. This is why she asks her sister Anna to help her but not allowing her kidney to be donated. Long story short, in the movie Kate dies in the end. It is still a happy ending though because I felt that the family was at peace. They did everything they could to save their daughter even though it wasn’t good enough. You have to see the movie to understand though because I know that the last few sentences made very little sense from a parent’s point of view.

I think this book is really good and that every girl should make an effort to read it (Guys can too, but it’s kind of a chic book). It made me realize that the hardships I was going through in life weren’t really that bad and that it could be a whole lot worse. I could have some sort of terminal cancer or a disease that wouldn’t allow me to live my life the way I do today. Although it was a sad movie and I walked out of the theater crying, I feel that I also left the theater a different person because the movie (and the book for that matter) touched me so much. I don’t take setbacks in my life as hard now as I used to, I use the setbacks as stepping stones to move forward. For example, I used to freak out when I would fail a test or forget to turn in an assignment. Now, I just take it as a means to know I need to work harder the next time. In the end, that one little test or assignment won’t have that much effect on my life as a whole.

This is a link to an excerpt of the book.


So this week I’m on vacation in Aspen, Colorado. This is part of the reason I forgot until about 5 minutes ago that I had to finish my blog posts tonight. The other reason being that tonight was the Super Bowl and I just couldn’t pull myself away. It’s actually really interesting because I’m in the lobby right now of my hotel and there are a bunch of German men speaking none other than German of course.

It is a family tradition for us to come out to Aspen at least once every year and ski. It is definitely my favorite place to ski but that might be because it’s the only place I’ve ever skied. Other than at Dubuque but that can hardly be counted as skiing (Fake snow most of the time, hills instead of mountains, and a bunch of people that suck at skiing). No offense to any faithful Dubuque skiers. Today was my first day of skiing on the trip. It was quite painful; I’m not going to lie. The ski boots were tight (I’m pretty used to my comfortable Uggs) and on top of that I would say I’m pretty out of shape at the moment. Other than that it was a really fun first day. Okay, so this is random but right now I’m greatly distracted by these German men, who cannot figure out how to cook a bag of instant oatmeal. I feel a bit guilty not going over to help them but this blog post is more important at the moment because I really want to go to bed.

Other than that I haven’t done anything too exciting yet. I guess me and my cousins did go hot tubing earlier which was okay. Then we ran into the snow and made snow angels. I thought it would be fun to just back into the hot water but I was wrong. It stung like hell but for some reason we kept doing it. We also watched the Super Bowl which was good. I found the commercials a lot more interesting than the actual game but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that. I didn’t really care who won but I kind of wanted the Indiana Colts to win just because they’re from the Midwest. That’s usually the way I decide what team I want to win when Iowa isn’t playing. Of course New Orleans won but I wasn’t too bummed or anything. Not like I would have been if Iowa would have lost to Iowa State during the season.

I am kind of backtracking a little bit but I just wanted to say that the way out to Colorado was pretty fun because we rode the train which we have never done before. The only other time I have spent the night on the train was when I went to Spain last summer. The ride was a bit bumpy but it was way better than being in a cramped car all those days. The meals were also very nice because there was always desert. I didn’t have to talk my aunt and uncle into buying it either because it was free with the ticket we bought. It was a lot slower than flying which we usually do but it was a lot less stressful so it was worth it.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I think I have already written a blog post similar to this but I’m going to write another one because this topic is so big right now. And no, I am not talking about the War in Iraq or the economy; I am talking about the debate on whether vaccines cause autism. I have a very strong view point on this debate: vaccines DO NOT cause autism. It puzzles me where people even get this idea to begin with. As they always say, “Correlation does not imply causation.” And yet so many American parents assume just because the symptoms of autism occurred around the same time their baby got most of their vaccinations, one must be caused by the other. There is no scientific evidence to prove this though. All valid scientific evidence has shown no correlation whatsoever. The parents go even further as to blame the vaccine creators as greedy men who just want to make money.

Why then, do so many parents cling to vaccinations as the cause of their child’s autism? It is for one simple reason, parents love their children more than anything in the world and they want to come up with a reason as to why something is wrong with their child. It’s like this; every parent wants to brag about their children. Jane and Joe down the street want their little Bobby to be the best at everything. When their child is not meeting all the milestones they should be making they have to point the finger at somebody. “Well my little Bobby can’t have been born with any problems,” Jane might say, someone must have done this to my little baby. This might not be the case with all parents but this is what I think is likely.

I think parents need to stop blaming the pharmaceutical companies for their children’s problems. Parents who decide to not get their children vaccinated not only risk the lives of their children but also everyone who comes in contact with their child. And for the parents, who claim that these vaccines could give their children autism, let me ask you, would you rather take the risk of your child getting autism or risk your child getting Hib meningitis? Hib meningitis causes death or severe brain damage if you’re lucky. The list could go on and on of course because vaccines protect against so many different deadly diseases including polio and measles. The only reason these 2% of kids that don’t get vaccinated are healthy is because the rest of us take the “risk” and get the shots so outbreaks don’t occur. Paul Offit, vaccine creator who is constantly under scrutiny is quoted as saying, “I used to say that the tide would turn when children started to die [from not being vaccinated]. Well, children have started to die. So now I’ve changed it to ‘when enough children start to die.’ Because obviously, we’re not there yet.”

Here is the article that led me to write this blog post titled, "An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endagers Us All."

Super Size Me

So on Friday I heard from my fellow zero hour peers that we were going to get to watch part of the documentary about the man who ate McDonald’s everyday for a month in class that day. I was all excited to watch it but then we didn’t get too because our discussion lasted too long. So, that afternoon when I got home I went online to read AOL news like I do every day. I realized that there was a link to the video on Hulu so I decided to go watch it. I found out that the video was titled, “Super Size Me.” It was almost a two hour video and I watched the whole thing. I couldn’t believe how interesting it was.

Morgan Spurlock, the author of the video, eats McDonald’s every day for an entire month. During the course of this time, he must super size every time he is asked to. He also must eat everything on the menu at least once. Over the course of this month, he saw his health plummet. In the beginning, he went to numerous doctors and athletic trainers to get a clean bill of health. This let us know that he was going into this experiment with above average health as well as no serious health threats in his immediate family that he might have inherited. His first few days started out okay, but on about the 3rd day (I can’t remember exactly) he was asked to super size and he did. As he was eating in his car he began to not feel well and threw up. This was definitely one of the most disgusting parts of the film, next to the time that he found the curly black hair in his parfait cup. Nevertheless, he kept trucking along each day. Eating this food seemed to slow him down and make him a lot more tired. He went in for his checkups regularly to check how his heath was doing. He went from 185 pounds in the beginning to over 200 pounds at the end, in just that one month. Tests also showed that damage was being done inside his body, especially to his liver. He even has a scare one night when he woke up and he couldn’t breathe. The doctors tell him all along that he needs to stop doing this diet because he could be doing permanent damage. He keeps going though and successfully only eats McDonald’s everyday for one month.

Obviously this video was to the extreme because nobody in their right minds would live off three square meals at McDonald’s everyday for a too long of a period. It did show just how bad McDonald’s was for you though. In just one short month his heath took a turn for the worst. His doctors even told him that if his skin or eyes began to turn yellow he needed to call an ambulance immediately. I don’t know about you but if a doctor told me that I would be pretty scared. He was determined to make this experiment work though and I guess it paid off since his film is so popular now.

The video really left an impact on me. I mean, I know fast food is really bad and that is should be limited but I didn’t know that it could damage the liver that severely. The documentary also talks about how McDonald’s needs to take some responsibility for the obesity epidemic in the United States. Through commercials, advertisements, and giving children toys in their happy meals they do everything to lure young kids in. Once those kids have had a bite of their delicious greasy and salty French fries they’re customers for life. In other words, grab them while they’re young. Sound like any other company under scrutiny? Yep, that’s right, tobacco industries. While I see that the people that support this viewpoint are right about what McDonald’s is doing I don’t think its McDonald’s fault. They are a company with one goal: make money. It is the goal of just about every company in the United States.

Whose do I blame obesity on then, if I don’t blame it on the companies? I blame it on the people. You have to be smarter and know better than that. Everybody knows that McDonald’s is unhealthy so if you eat there and get fat, you have no one to blame but yourself. Are you really going to say, “I didn’t know that those French fries were so unhealthy?!” So stop complaining that McDonald’s doesn’t make their customers aware of the health risks and use your common sense. I have known since I was in kindergarten that anything from fast food restaurants, especially a burger and fries, could not be trusted. I don’t know call me a genius but I thought this was common knowledge. McDonald’s should not have to change their menus and ruin it for the rest of us who know how to eat in moderation, control ourselves, and use common sense. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

Here is the Super Size Video:)

Technology Today

Upon reading the two articles about Cornucopia I was impressed. Cornucopias are 3D printing machines that can print your food, hence the name, and combine all of your favorite ingredients into it. I thought it was interesting because I have never heard of anything like it before. It seems to be very convenient; put in all of your favorite flavors of food and out comes a plateful of dinner. Isn’t that what we’re all about these days? The object of the 21st century seems to be to make an object bigger (in some cases smaller), better, faster, and more efficient. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the advances of the 21st century are wonderful, especially the medical advancements. Sometimes though, I think we need to stop and smell the roses and slow down a little bit in life. Yea, the new stuff being created and invented all the time is cool, but is it needed?

Inventors spend millions and millions of dollars testing and building more advanced products all the time. The truth is, as much as we want all this stuff, we don’t need it. I admit I am just as guilty as most people out there. Whenever something new comes out I always want to be the first one to have it. I don’t necessarily get it right away but I usually beg my parents for every new piece of technology that comes out. When Dell created the new Inspiron notebooks, I jumped right on the band wagon and got myself a bright pink one. When the touch screen phones became popular, I ditched my 2 year phone agreement (for a price of course), switched to Verizon, and bought the coolest touch screen they sold at the time. I could go on forever with lists of new technology I have always had to have. But if I think about it, I only wanted those things because they were the cool new thing. I never needed any of them. The Inspiron notebook wasn’t needed; I already had an Apple computer that worked just fine. The new touch screen phone wasn’t needed; I already had a pink razor less than a year old. It was that I WANTED all of these things. People put all their money into these technological advancements and then they complain about the price or gas or the price of their education. Okay so I have kind of gotten a little off topic here but I think that the technological advancements have become a little too extreme. Nobody needs them; they want them because they make our lives easier for the moment. In the end though, looking at the big picture they only make our lives more complicated. So next time the newest version of iPod comes out, before you rush to the store, ask yourself if you really need it. Instead, put your money towards your college savings account and stop complaining about how expensive college is these days.

Here is a link to the Cornucopia: Digital Gastronomy 3D printer I was talking about.