Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review of Language as a Way of Knowing Presentation

When I got my group, to be completely honest, I was a little worried about how the project would go. I barely knew Rebekah, rarely talked to Jada outside of debate, and almost never saw Gabe talk for five minutes straight. I knew Nykia, but almost never saw her in academic classes. I also was not very interested in language because to me, it seemed kind of boring. How can speaking change your thoughts at all? It's just language. I was worried and honestly, a little stressed I would have to do this all by myself.

Once we started working though, I knew I was wrong. One of the many challenges of IB is having to work with people who are very different for you and being able to recognize their strengths, which is usually something that I am not very good at, however, when grouped with strong, smart, individual people like the ones in my group, there is no way in which you can not notice your own failings and their strengths. 

Without the people in my group, my presentation probably would have gone along the lines of "Here is all of the information about language ever written on a not pretty slide" and there probably would not have been any discussion at all because I would have been so long-winded and information focused. However, Gabe knew how to edit down all of our ideas to what we really needed while also making the presentation actually presentable and not just the signature Eva word soup. Nykia helped me research and also get off of tangent to get back on track, which is one of my major problems. Jada is one of those people who is not afraid to tell you when she thinks something is stupid or just is not going to work at all, and that save our group from many things that probably would have led to a terrible presentation. When Rebekah and I talked about language and what we could present, I had my ideas on what we should talk about and am usually resistant to any change, but she brought up many possibilities and ideas that I never would have though of in a million years and made the presentation infinitely better.
Image result for language

I even started to really enjoy learning about language. By the first day, I had fallen into an internet black hole about how we think without languages and how we seemingly create them out of thin air. I found a RadioLab (that I highly suggest everyone listen to) that I probably would have never listened to without this project, and I learned about a sign language I never even knew existed that turned out to be one of the most famous linguistical phenomena in the past century. Not only did this project help me learn how to work with others and see everyone's value but to also realize that there is something enjoyable to learn in everything. 

When we eventually presented, the group got through everything we wanted to with very few stops, pauses, or fumbles. The class paid attention and they were engaged and seemed to enjoy the content, and the group presented well together, with everyone doing their part and enjoying presenting, without too much evident stress. The discussion in the class was integral to success of the presentation. Our format of information then questions in order to get the class to think about it helps everyone pay attention and be engaged. I also think that since everyone in the group appeared happy and engaged with the presentation which then encourages the class to be engaged. In the end, this project helped me become a better IB learner, more open-minded and knowledgeable, but also more excited for future group projects, which is new, but good.

Edited September 6, 2017 to add more information

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Only Truth, Tea

I believe in tea. Not the sweet iced tea that is the traditional drink of people in the South, but hot black tea with milk, no sugar please. I have been drinking hot tea with milk ever since I was born. My father taught me how to make it, straining the tea and waiting for it to steep. His father taught him, and his father taught him. All of my siblings drink tea as well, which is admittedly weird. In a world of devoted coffee drinkers, my family is the odd one out.
When everything is moving too fast, when your mind is too busy and the world is falling in, tea is always there as a calming, strong force. No matter the issue, taking time out of your day to make tea and drink it always helps. In 2015, my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and he slowly started forgetting everything. By that point in my life, I had already made the transition to coffee that every student makes in their life. I was drinking up to four cups a day just to stay alive and awake in class, then be able to go home and study, and had completely forgotten my beloved tea. I worked and worked on school, studying till late everyday, and going and visiting my grandparents of the weekend, then studying after that in order to try to let go of the fact that he was deteriorating and the man I knew was leaving. I had replaced my family ritual with extreme studying and drinking excessive amounts of coffee.
Image result for tea I could feel myself going crazy. I never took time out of my day, every single minute was devoted to working. When you work and worry, then just work some more, eventually you know that something is wrong. So I made tea. I quit. I sat down, took twenty minutes out of my day to properly make tea and to properly drink it. I took a moment of calm in my life of crazy and tried to understand everything. Of course it didn’t solve all of my problems immediately and I led a completely happy life after that, but I never forgot my ritual again. I take twenty minutes, just twenty minutes to make tea everyday. It calms you and makes you take stock of your life, taking time to do something just for you. Tea is what helps me. It doesn’t give you energy like coffee and make you hyper-aware, like if someone jolted you from a deep sleep, but it calms me down and makes me happy, as if I woke up from a amazing nap to see the world as it is, beautiful.

My grandpa has not gotten better and my workload is ten times what it was in 2015, but I feel happier and more content with life. Whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed, or feel like I don’t have any time, I force myself stop stop and breath. I remind myself that I always have time and the ability to slow down, enjoy life, and drink tea. If I can’t believe in anything else, I can believe in tea, preferably Earl Grey, but it all works.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What does it mean to say we know something?

Knowledge is an understanding or a conclusion about the world around us that we can come to in many ways. One important thing to acknowledge about knowledge is that people can proclaim to “know” something that others say they “know” for a fact is wrong. Knowledge, though it is to some extent an awareness of the truth and irrefutable facts, is not only that. People know religion through faith and feeling, and though it may or may not be fact, it is still knowledge to them. People “knew” for the longest time that the earth was flat and for the longest time that was true, until it was discovered the earth was round. However, that does not make the fact that they knew the Earth was flat any less false, their knowledge was just incorrect. There are many different ways to know things and none of them are less true than any other.
You can know through proofs, logic, and experimentation. Things that can be proved, you know because they are true and can be proven to be true. Solving a conjecture turns assumptions and ideas into knowledge of truth. We can assume that conjectures are true, but we can not know it until it is proven. This was shown when Fermat’s Last Theorem was proven, 300 years after its conjecture. However, in 300 years, its was never considered knowledge, it was only an idea that was thought to be true. But again, knowledge does not equal truth. People know there is a god and other people know that there is not. People know that Jesus came and saved us all and other people know that Scientology is true. A feeling, faith or conviction in something, even though it can not be proved the way a scientific hypothesis can, is still knowledge. People of faith know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know god, and people who are not religious know that there is no god, whichever turns out to be true. Knowledge can also be trust in someone, trusting in the fact that what they told you was true therefore it is knowledge, even though you can not be sure if it is actually true. That falls into the same realm as faith and feeling, trusting that someone told you the truth once. This could be what is taught in science or history classes, or even names and birthdays. Knowledge is also a perception, our current view on the world. We perceive colors, but whether or no we are perceiving the “correct” thing, we have knowledge of what we are perceiving.
We are all sure of something, whether it is that a god exists, that Spinal Tap is the greatest movie ever made, or that the earth will keep spinning, Whatever we are sure in, whatever we hold conviction in, that is knowledge. You can know a god to exist with the same confidence you can know that the Quadratic Formula is true. Knowledge does not equal fact, even though it does include it. Knowledge is your beliefs, knowledge is your trust in people, and knowledge is your ability of logical thought.

Edited on Monday, August 14, 1:51 PM for minor editing and spelling errors

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Out Of Pain Comes Great Literature

I like to read. A lot. And that in and of itself is an understatement. I read more then I do any another activity willingly (because doing homework is not willing), and being a vivacious reader, I like to entertain myself with the thought that I can have educated opinions on a type of literature, however, that may just be a pipe dream.

Back to the topic at hand.

One type of literature seems to have always been overlooked in my opinion, a type of book that should never be overlooked or shoved to the side. Black Female Literature has shaped the way the world thinks about writing and story telling, from what used to be such an overtly formal affair to books filled with language and stories to be understood by everyone, while it still maintains those deep resonating motifs about the world. Black female literature has a beautifully simple way of taking the world and reducing it down to a few characters, a few people whom you, when you are reading the book, value more then anything else. These worlds conjured up by such profoundly gifted writers such as Alice Walker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Toni Morrison, and so many more, can cause you to see the world more clearly, as though the colors are suddenly brighter and society now makes sense. There is a tremendous beauty in the power to change people's lives with a few words, and black female literature has mastered that technique.

The book that changed my life and my whole perspective on literature was Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. The only possible way to describe this book is that after finishing it, all of the colors were brighter and life made sense. Hurston was able to take her own fierceness, her own experiences, and the experiences of many other black females around her, and seamlessly weave them into the main character Janie Crawford, and through her, explain what it means to be independent and free. Janie goes through three marriages, poverty, wealth, and a life searching for her own purpose in a book that explores the place of women and the meaning of freedom.

This book means the world to me. The language, the meaning, the characters are all so perfect that this book seems to imitate life, life to which we all can relate and which will make us all better.

The first lines of Their Eyes Were Watching God:

“Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” 
― Zora Neale HurstonTheir Eyes Were Watching God

Another amazing book that everyone should read is The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. A warning for all people who want to read this book: it does not shield you from anything. It is harsh and cruel and straightforward, but so is life. This is not an easy book to read, but it is worth the pain. You can feel the author's voice and sorrow in every word and in every line. You can feel the real-ness of it, the harsh unfair life the characters live, and understand that this truly is life. It is cruel and unfair and mean, yet we can, as Alice Walker does, find a form of beauty in that pain, a beauty that only people who have experience such pain and longing can feel and understand and that the rest of us can only hope we never do. 

One of my favorite quotes from The Color Purple:

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way...I can't apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to... We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful...We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple

Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston's topic, writing styles, and diction are completely different, yet they both have the voice, the same tone, one that is filled with a longing, an aching pain, which is a voice I have only every found in black female literature. This type of writing is filled with pain and sorrow, yet an incessant hope drives the novel forward, an irrational and beautiful hope. 

The pain, and joy and hope reflected only in this type of novel explain ad represent life better than any other type of book I have ever read. It is the most human and the most damaged, and everyone should read it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Gaining Joy and Losing My GPA

To have your entire world crumble around you is a most terrifying thing. You think you know exactly how the world works, how you work, and how everyone else works, but in a second this world you have built for yourself comes crumbling down. You lose your self-image in the process and are left with nothing, a terrifying void from which you have to rebuild your life for better or for worse.

When I was in eighth grade, my world came crashing down at my feet. Before eight grade, I had this belief that to be the best and the happiest, you had to be the smartest, and being the smartest was defined by how high your grade point average (GPA) was. I wouldn't study, seeing that as below me, and yet, I would push my mental health to the limit because a 95 on a quiz wasn't good enough. I got the best grades and I was proud. I felt happy, because the only thing I knew about true happiness was that it meant I was okay with the world at that moment. I was okay, and that was good enough. 

However, with every rise there is a fall, and eventually I made a "bad" grade. On a test in math I got an awful 89, and I was crushed. How could I, the person with the best grades, fail? How could I possibly not do well? I always do well. In one fell swoop, my life had ended. I made excuses for that grade, I tried to avoid it, I hoped it would never happen again, and I soon went back to my old ways. I told myself it was just one grade, I was sick, and I, an incredibly smart person, would never do such a thing again. 

At the end of the eight grade, I saw myself as the smartest person in the grade. I was absolutely sure that my GPA, my defining factor, was safe. I viewed myself as a number, a number that was never good enough. But then it happened again. 

There was this award that the school gave to the person with the highest combined GPA, and I was sure I had it. But on the day that they gave it away, the realization cut sharper then a knife that I wasn't good enough. I had come short and was now definitely not the highest number. I lost my sense of self because I was no longer who I though I was, and I now had to redefine myself.

I no longer knew who I was. The number that I thought summed up my existence, that magical GPA, no longer worked. I was now facing a void in which I had to build myself up again. Now deciding that I was no longer the incredibly smart person I thought I was, I decided to avoid all academic pursuits. If I was to make good grades, I would make them for myself and not for some arbitrary number I was reaching for. I threw myself into things that wouldn't cause me incredible levels of stress. I discovered yoga and started reading literature and poetry more. I cooked and baked, throwing all the stress I had into something tangible, something that didn't have to do with school. Slowly, I built myself up again.

Humans are more then numbers. You are more then a number. For years I treated myself as a number and forgot that I was a person and I couldn't handle all the stress I was putting on myself. I forced myself to raise an arbitrary number and didn't take all of the chances that were given to me to be truly happy. After I was quite violently reminded of my own humanity, I was forced to see myself as a person, and that is scary. You have to learn what truly makes you happy, and not just normal happy, but actually joyful. You have to face your failures head on and then accept them. You have to face the darkness and win. 

After building myself up again, I feel infinitely happier then I ever did when I tried to reach an unachievable GPA. I feel truly joyful, happier then I ever did before. I am content with how I look, how I feel, and my grades. While I do still care about my GPA, I now know that I am more than that. I am more then a number. I am a human being and will treat myself with the respect deserving of one.

                                                                   Image found at

Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Defense of Maths

Everyone is good at math. Please don't laugh. Actually, let me rephrase my former statement. Everyone is good at math secretly. There seems to be a certain stigma about math in the modern day world, especially among high school kids. They believe that you are either good at math or you are not, and the conversation ends there.

A survey done in 2010 found that three out of ten Americans feel bad at math, that younger Americans (18-24) believe they can't do math at higher percentages than older Americans, and that one third of Americans would rather clean a bathroom then do math.

However, no person is "bad at math" inherently . It all depends on your attitude and your study habits. But mostly your attitude. And while there are certain math learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, that does not explain all of the people who complain about math.

If you approach math with the idea that you will fail anyway because of your substandard ability, then you will inevitably fail. Believing they you will not do well in math no matter your best efforts will cause you to not even try and to be adverse to the whole process of learning math.

If you are stuck in the belief that you are not good at math and you will never get better even if you study, you will not study and will therefore ever get better.

Also, research has shown that being good at math has less to do with natural ability and IQs then study habits. As amazing as math prodigies are, you do not have to be one to be decent at math. In earlier grades, having a higher IQ seems to yield a higher grade in mathematics, but that standard does not hold up in the higher grades. Natural talent at math doesn't seem to get you very far in the higher grades, studying for math (but not studying for memorization), does.

Math is different from other subjects. While other subjects have different realms for different subject matter and rarely any overlap, math would not work without overlap between algebra and geometry and number theory and calculus and logic, and all of the other math-based subjects you can think of. While learning math, you can not just memorize the equation, you have to figure out how that equation would look on a graph and the true meaning of what you are doing to the numbers. Math is not a subject you can sit down and absorb, to truly learn and get better, and therefore lose the idea that you are bad at math, you have to actively work to become better.

Think of how you treat your favorite subject. When you make a bad grade in that class or don't do as well as you thought, you don't immediately think that you are inherently bad at the subject, you just want to become better. That is how we should treat all our classes. Our goals shouldn't be good grades, they should be to strive to do better in every class, and that mentality seems to have been lost in the world of mathematics. Do not strive to not fail or to make a certain grade, and when you don't do well, blame it on your general inability, strive to get better and gain a new skill. 

Chose to like math, chose to not immediately dismiss it, chose to get better at a subject, and you will find it gets easier.

Edited on September 14, 2016 to fix spelling and grammer issues

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Becoming a Yogi, Or, Why I Drink Coffee

There are two constants in my life, my irrational love of tea and a frankly, insane amount of schoolwork. And thus, I became a yogi. And thus, I drink coffee.

Sorry, I should explain more.

When kids enter high school there is this expectation that suddenly, we all are able to immediately learn time management and study well and not procrastinate, even though up until that point, we have spent about thirteen years of our lives wonderfully oblivious to large amounts of homework. So when kids enter high school and they get stressed or fail projects or miss homework, the fact that they aren't doing so well comes as a surprise to everyone, well, everyone except the kid.

When the wave of new responsibility hit me, I saw the new stress manifest itself in two different ways: never-ending back pain (because some incredibly smart person at the Department of Education decided that it would just be wonderful if kids with still developing backs had to carry around huge textbooks), and unforeseen amounts of stress.

In the very beginning of ninth grade for me, staying up till one in the morning was not an uncommon practice, mostly because i would like to lie to myself and say i still had time to finish my work until it was an ungodly hour and I was forced to face the facts. However, I soon found out that if I do my homework earlier, I don't have to stay up later. Weird, right? And while my stress decreased minutely, my back pain only grew.

About halfway through the year, the pain became almost unbearable. Advil seemed to no longer work, and going to the doctor is not one of my favorite things, so I avoided that. My stress level started to increase because I had a hurting back all the time and science fair was coming into full swing. I believe the person who decided we all should have textbooks is the same person that decided we all should have to do that devilish torture that is science fair. After dealing with ever increasing back pain and stress, I finally decided to try that weird thing that my mom had once done that seemed to have worked for her, yoga.

I started on YouTube, because where else would any self-respecting Millennial start? I started on a YouTube channel titled Yoga with Adriene, and did what can only be described as flailing around for about two weeks. When I did my forward fold in the beginning (touching your toes), I couldn't even touch the ground. When I went into Dancer Pose, I fell over. I couldn't put my heels down in Downward Facing Dog.

                                                    The extremely hard dancer pose found here

I didn't notice any changes for a long time, so I quit for about two months. I had planned to not do yoga again because grudges are a wonderful thing. However, one day I was talking to one of my best friends and she informed me that her mom was getting certified as a yoga teacher. I immediately wondered about her sanity because why would anyone ever want to do such a thing? In a attempt to understand why anyone would want to teach such a thing, I started to do yoga again, but with an open mind.

Turns out, when you do something without rejecting it firsthand, it becomes more enjoyable

I fell in love with yoga and mediation. I still remember the day I was able to put my palms to the ground in a forward fold, or put my heels down in downward facing dog, or even do a headstand for the first time.

However, when the new school year started, I quickly found that I could not do yoga and go to sleep in a timely fashion. Again, I was waking up in the mornings so tired that I was forced to bypass my beloved tea for multiple cups of coffee. I was faced with a tremendous problem: continue yoga and be less stressed yet more tired or quit yoga ad get sleep.

I decided to quit for a while and just see how not doing yoga would go. Almost immediately, the back pain and the stress returned. Not only was I still waking up tired (but not tired enough for coffee), but I had stress and pain to deal with as well. I quickly returned to yoga. The benefits greatly outweighed the costs, and sacrificing tea for coffee is just a byproduct of being happier.

                                                                  Coffee found here