Happy (albeit belated) April fool’s?

Yes, I am aware that it has been literal ages since I last posted (not that I think anyone would actually care? this being more of a self indulgence than an actual functioning blog)

Life gets in the way, and it gets in the way a lot. Tibbets of fiction and nonfiction and thoughts will still go up sporadically, but precisely that – sporadically. 

april fool's

Sometimes we all need an excuse to get out of some things, and an excuse to make mischief. That is not to say that we always need it, or that some (most) wouldn’t do it without the excuse – it’s just easier for everyone when there is.

April fool’s has been that day for us. I can’t vouch for other people, but for as long as I can remember April fool’s actually being a thing – which basically means since middle school for me – it’s been a very grandiose thing without exception. Back in middle school, I’d trade places in class with my then-doppelganger, sitting out of place in the seniors’ classroom but everyone enjoying themselves a bit too much when the teacher passes by the girl in short hair that really does resemble the boy she’s replacing. We’d drag our desks out into the outer hallways, exclaiming that we had a picnic class of sorts, or we’d hold our teacher hostage (there were karate chops involved) until she bargained to get out of it over the ransom pay of ice cream. Flip the desks to face the other side of the classroom, be absolutely nowhere we had to be – it was really the time of our lives, in a way.

And then high school came, and even if it weren’t that much of a giant change, it really couldn’t be denied that it was indeed one. Crazy things weren’t that largely tolerated, because craziness. Craziness is usually frowned upon when not everyone is crazy. Not just on April fool’s, but in general, the crazier part, eccentricities of a person had to be subdued or risk something akin to derision on every corner. Of course, it managed to manifest itself in ways outside of it, but still – it was a bit of a shock that for some people, obsessions of every kind were frowned upon. Three years of absolutely living outside normalcy had ruined normal for me – it was bland and uninteresting, to say the least. I don’t even remember what we did for the last two years – it’s very plausible that we didn’t do anything at all, or at least not anything worth note.

But the last year of high school – now that’s special. There are two spaces of time in a Korean human being’s life when being near clinically insane is passed over with a cluck of the tongues and light head shaking at the most. The first is when you’re born and you’re a helpless baby who literally can’t do anything to fare for their actions. The second is when you’re in your last year of high school.

(Truth be told, anytime between that and your admission into college, but that’s just a little bit too depressing of a story to think about.)

There’s a bit of a tradition for us, and for our homeroom teacher. His spans a bit further than ours. He’s been in charge of the last class on the roster for six years to boot, and always the Spanish majors. Mostly because the subject he’s in charge is happens to be Spanish. (There is word, on good grounds, that his subject isn’t actually Spanish but the well-rounded subject of college itself.) And the Third-graders, the Goh-Sahms of the country, will take it upon themselves to mutilate the teacher’s long suffered and loved car with whatever equipment they can find. A couple of years back, they themed it into a wedding car, with the ribbons and flowers to complete the look – last year and the year before that had been a thorough coverage of the car, meticulously done in post-it notes. This year, we envisioned a tank – envisioned being the key word.

As the photo will no doubt prove, it wasn’t a very nicely done job. Our cannon, devised out of connected Pringles’ containers broke down in the middle of the taping process; we ran out of paper to cover the car with soon enough that we ultimately decided that we won’t do the parts of the car that went unseen unless you took efforts to go that way; and even then, it was a very hastily and messily done job. Some of the kids scoffed at us, claiming that they needed to actually go to college and went in the way to stop us doing it properly. It was a mess, and frankly, the end result was little short of embarrassing.

But it had been so much fun.

And really, that was all it. Sure, the things we were doing were thanks to tradition, and for the most part it was for show. But that didn’t mean that the process, no matter how butchered and how messy it had been, was fun. It was fun because it gave us the chance to unhinge – to go crazy, mad, stop thinking about responsibilities (ironically enough it was through another responsibility that we managed to do it but still) and just go for it, for once. It failed spectacularly, but who cares? It was all nothing more than pieces of construction paper that we were going to tear off sooner rather than later.

There hadn’t been that many incidences when I felt that I could truly unhinge, especially after coming to high school. High school had made that count closer to nil than I would have liked. Being a Third grader certainly didn’t help. But for once, to unhinge, to let go – it had felt so immensely good.

And even if I am aware that this is probably a very illogical and very odd conclusion to come to, not to mentioned hurried, (I really do have to go to sleep and I’d prefer to not put this post off for any longer), it really was just that. The chance to unwind, to have fun regardless of the consequences. Another eight months of this and it probably will be close to being done with; I can’t wait to see what that might bring. College apparently brings forth chances for you to regress into your high school uniforms and to relive memories. I have no doubt this one, this year, has been one that will etch itself into my memory to spring back at those moments, along with the ones where I was stuck in the place of my doppelganger. :)

Happy April fool’s, everyone.

Essay: Thoughts on the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

If you grab a hold of anyone, literally anyone right now and ask them ‘What’s the biggest social media syndrome these days?’, it would probably be guaranteed that they will answer: “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. With the self-explanatory title, the ‘viral’ quality of putting something that can be interpreted as fun – more like downright hilarious in some cases – on video and posting it on social networking sites, and ‘nominating’ the next three people to either donate or go through the same ordeal, this campaign has probably had the most success in the least amount of time, and the most recognition out of the most recent funding events.

A brief explanation about the event (although I’m sure everyone knows about this already but just to make it a well-organized post): ALS(Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), more commonly referred to as Lou Gherig’s disease in certain countries. One of its most well-known victims is the scientist Stephen Hawking, and as we see in his case, reduced to a helpless state on a wheelchair that will only get you so far (even if it didn’t – much to the great relief of the scientific community – affect his ability to come up with genius scientific theories), ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that will most commonly lead to loss of control in the muscles, and eventually an early death (in most cases). The ice bucket challenge was coined from a previous awareness campaign that based itself on cancer research – once you are nominated by someone, you either donate 100$ to the ALS foundation or douse yourself in a bucket of ice water, nominating another three people in the process.

It is simple, it is (ironically enough) fun, and it is effective.

Of course, as all events are, it is not without its points to criticize. Many people have pointed out the fact that this is something that we’re supposed to approach with sincerity and not as a joke. The amount of water put to waste by all the people dumping buckets of it on their heads are also an unrecorded, but nonetheless severe consequence of the event. More practical concerns include the fact that the concentration of attention and donations to a single community out of the sheer millions of medical conditions – out of which ALS is far from the only one that needs more attention and more donations -, the sustainability of the donations, the effectiveness considering the usage of the money donated – there are many points to reconsider, and while it is obvious that the intentions of the campaign are admirable, the consequences and worries which it brings to mind are also not to be ignored.

Some concerns are easily discarded – for example, people are worried that the viral factor of the challenge, the ice bucket part, distracts people from fully understanding that this is a very severe problem and thus requires our very serious attentions. However – and it must be noted that this is merely a personal opinion – those people, I think, are taking things far too seriously. I’ve seen people on facebook practically condemning others for having laughed, for having not kept a straight face while they were doused in water. The Korean media – who loves to make things look as if they are better and more important than they are – even came up with the idea that the ice bucket factor was there so that participants would be able to ‘feel the pain of muscle contractions that the ALS patients go through daily’. Other than the fact that this is completely false (the ice bucket factor was coined from a cancer donation campaign that preceeded this one, not even to mention the fact that the pain of ALS is not something as light to be compared with merely a bucket of cold water), I think people are overlooking the fact that this is a campaign to raise awareness out of all things. Oftentimes, commercials or other advertising methods also take the form of short, well delievered humor, because it is effective. The same goes to this occasion as well. To think that the method itself is devoid of the humor factor seems ironic to me. And if it helped – well, it certainly reached the intended goal of awareness.

(This does bring upon the question of whether or not the ends can justify the means, however. However, in this particular case, especially since the means aren’t malintentional but more along the lines of ignorance when it does come into play, my belief is that when such good comes out of it, the possible errors made from ignorance can, indeed, be justified)

Of course, other problems are not so easily ignored. The most serious of which being the sustainability of the donations, and its repercussions to the ALS community. The Ice Bucket Challenge, long-lasting and influential as it was for a simple social media syndrome, is essentially that: a syndrome. In other words, it is, by definition, meant to be a one-time event. The ideal outcome of this flow of events would have been the people influenced by the proceedings of this event to maintain a continued interest, and support, to the ALS community. However, it goes without saying that the maintenance of this level of attention and support is borderline impossible; and that fact might end up doing the ALS community more harm than the good that it did. One side of analysis is a simple observation of market economics: if the value for something, expressed in the forms of investments and the like, rises astronomically in a short period of time, the cooling off period might bring the value of the said commodity down to a level even lower than it had been before. Applied into this situation, it could mean that the donations and the level of interest, having peaked so suddenly, might drop back down to the near-ignorance levels of before or even worse; to become practically forgotten.

Another problem is that research or any form of investment made by the ALS community would end up being unsustainable; rendering them unable to utilize the precious donations in the ways it would help the most. Medical research is a tricky and complicated procedure; you never know what exactly you’ll be able to achieve. Even with the astronomical amount of donations happening right now, it will inevitably run out at some point, which, when the time comes to it, will open up significant complications.

But, despite all such reservations and depressing possibilities (and let me add once again that these were just personal opinions and predictions on my part), I still do support the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It raised donations that would otherwise have not been used to any constructive purpose, it has helped the ALS community itself immensely already, and will continue to do so in the future if coupled with the correct judgment on how to handle the donations. But I also dearly hope that the attention doesn’t dwindle too drastically once everything cools off, and that more people would become aware of the situations of minority medical conditions. The value of human life and dignity aren’t something to be decided by how profitable it could be; I hope that the Ice Bucket Challenge has also helped in refuting that particular status quo, as it has done for me and several others.

(on a completely unrelated note; Stephen Hawking has survived with ALS longer than any medical professional would have predicted – does that mean his status of Great Scientist and thus the subsequent amount of support might have possibly helped his survival? Or is it completely irrelevant? Something to think about, I guess)

Those who enjoy;

Finals week are approaching, and it is nothing if not a long, tedious and stressful affair. Students in our grade have to take eleven exams for the finals; including the language that you’re majoring in, your social studies elective(geography or economics), your required science subject (chemistry or biology), and one choice from either physics or sociology&culture.

I’m a spanish major myself, and I have physics, biology and economics as my electives. Since biology was notorious for its sheer overwhelming amount of material to study (and also the fact that the topic had to be genetics and heredity), physics for everyone’s collective inability to understand and economics for its complexity, many others with the same electives as I did were reduced to the verge of tears; even without all the other subjects, it was just too much.

Fortunately for me, I was rather blessed as to be able to understand most of the material given to me, and as a result, many of my classmates come to me to inquire about questions that they had while studying the material. I had somehow become the substitute teacher for most of my classmates, and to be perfectly honest, it was a really good feeling. Pride at the fact that I managed to understand something that so many others didn’t, gratitude at the fact that all these people trusted me to know the answer and to inform them accordingly, but also the strange feeling of achievement that came whenever I manage to explain something and the friend would leave with a, “You’re really good at this! Not just the material, but at explaining, too!”

I never minded people asking that of me; I know a lot of people with grades much higher than mine respond to such requests with a, “No thanks, I’m busy and I have a lot on my own plate right now.” But I tried not to do that if possible. Not just because I’ve too frequently been on the other side of such an exchange while in middle school, but also because it really was a win-win exchange. And I liked the feeling too. A lot. So I basically became the go-to person for biology, economics and physics.

In the final days before the actual exams began, it really began to peak. But something interesting happened regarding the issue. On my last period today, I’d basically given up studying for my own material, sporadically interrupted as it was by such questions, and had taken up to chatting with my classmates.

They were both taking economics as their electives, and were part of the social studies branch(as opposed to the science branch in Korean high schools). One of them were basically giving up on economics after a particularly hard question, and was demanding why I, a science branch-er, had better understanding of economics than he did. The other friend was defending my position (while I sat back and tried to claim that no, I’m not that good at economics) by telling the former of my affinity for economics, not just the school subject but in general. I’d once told him that I had read Guns, Germs and Steel and New Ideas from Dead Economists before, and he was saying that ‘she reads these things for fun, you know. She’s really interested in all of it, regardless of her branch.’

I was just sitting back, not sure how to participate in the conversation when the topic was about me, when a friend came over with an economics inquiry. I eagerly explained the relevant terms related to it, how to solve the problems with that information, and had just send her away when I realized my defender from before was looking at me with a curious stare. I asked why was he staring like that. The conversation went something like this:

“You must really like studying a lot, and I mean really.”

“…and whatever gave you that impression?”

“Just now, when you were answering her question? And explaining the material? Your eyes had this sparkle in it. The type that tells you, ‘I am so happy to be here, to be doing this right now. I feel so awesome.'”

Although my friend was a little off on exactly what had captivated me so much in that moment, it really made me think. I chose economics as opposed to geography not only because I hated geography with a passion but because I actually liked economics.

I enjoyed the time I spent in class learning the material, the feeling of achievement whenever I successfully tackled a particularly hard question and got it right. I’m not really sure if I started to like it because I was good at it, or if I came to be good at it because I liked it, but I definitely know that the two things worked as a positive feedback system: I started to put more effort into economics despite it not being particularly necessary for my college admissions, and getting good grades on the subject suddenly wasn’t a hardship anymore, especially compared with when I was in middle school.

Upon this epiphany, I was reminded of the old saying that goes something like this: “Geniuses cannot prevail over the ones who try hard, but even the ones who try hard must admit defeat to the ones who enjoy.” I’m not saying that I’m the epitome of academics or anything even close to that suggestion, but even from my case it is clear. Whatever your motivation for enjoying a subject, once you do, you achieve a level previously unimagined by just trying to ‘study’ a subject.

I’m not saying you should force yourself to enjoy something; if it were possible, such a saying wouldn’t even have a need to exist. But one’s reason for enjoying something need not be complex either – it could even be as simple as a form of attachment following a valiant effort. Heaven knows it worked for me at least. But thinking about that ‘sparkle’, about doing what I truly enjoy – I couldn’t help but feel warm inside, because it managed to reaffirm my passion: communication, and the sharing of information. People have suggested teaching as a legitimate prospect for my future, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not too strongly opposed to the idea either; I suppose we’ll see.

P.S. Finals are three days away and look at what I’ve just done! I really must be reluctant to study

APs and midterms finally over!

Just what it says in the title :)
I’ve been missing what with exam preps and APs (I completely flunked bio boohoo :(() and despite all the brilliant strokes of inspiration I had I was unable to actually write any of it down – but now I can!
I still do have the AP chemistry late exam to take, but since I’m debating whether or not I’ll actually be doing it or not at all, it’s much less pressure for me.
Stay tuned for new updates! I have some truly great ideas in store just now :)