True Freedom

First post in a long, long time – hope it is any good!

One year of college has gone by. The entire year was marked by freedom: freedom to study what you want, freedom to befriend who you want, and freedom to live your life how you want. However, while some people took every advantage of the freedom that college offered, I chose to handle things a little different, particularly in the social nature of college. I believe that as the year went on, I began the long journey of freeing myself from my own insecurities; one means of doing so was by changing my perspective on the weekend. Therefore, after all this, I came to the following conclusion: I am the quintessential social deviant. Viewing deviance as a violation of social norms, sociologists have characterized it as any thought, feeling or action that members of a social group judge to be a violation of their values or rules. Through my time at BC, while I have not evaded the party and social scene by any means, I have managed to separate myself from the homogenous student body and its monotonous idea of an “amazing weekend.” In not going out all the time, the social deviant has managed to obtain freedom from the societal norms and pressures of college and make his or her own decisions.

Most individuals act in a similar manner every weekend. As Friday dawns, students begin to scramble. Nearly everybody sends out the same thousand texts and asks the same question: “what are you doing tonight?” These five words have defined the college experience for the majority of the student body, especially the eager freshman. Once the word of a party gets out, the next few hours, usually till about three or four in the morning, are spent in getting ready, pre-gaming, going to the party, dancing, and getting late night, among other things. Subsequently, as a result of the excessive drinking, most people wake up with a splitting headache in the afternoon. By the time anybody has recovered, it is already time to repeat the cycle and find out more parties for Saturday night. The same texts are sent out, the same questions are asked, and the nighttime festivities begin. As expected, Sunday morning mimics Saturday, and nobody can actually get down to doing something productive till late Sunday. Many at BC no longer look for alternatives to have fun with and have essentially gotten stuck in a rut.

However, the social deviant does not fall within this cycle of parties and hangovers every single weekend. While I am in no way someone who chooses to stay in all the time, I am also not someone who wishes to go out every weekend on both nights anymore. In fact, I actually was the typical student first semester. I simply became bored and tired of the same type of party / social activity every single weekend. This semester I began to question what I was doing and what was this phenomenon of the amazing weekend that I, along with everybody else, was running after? These questions were raised as a result of who I was before I came to college. In high school, only a few nights a month were devoted to the “party” scene. I used to go to the movies, go bowling, dine out (instead of throwing away limited money on beer), and do many other constructive activities. Essentially, sober fun without any pressures of getting into a “killer party” or hooking up with someone. I thus began reconsidering my social life and started wondering what suddenly changed when I came to college that changed my perspective towards the weekend.

In terms of the college scene, the typical student aims to experience “Amazing Weekend Night,” an idealistic notion we all chase after in order to provide some form of meaning to our very existence, especially as the weekend rolls around. Our want to exist around the this symbol is due to a lack inherent within us, one that makes us unable to ground our own identities because we cannot determine what it is that makes us “us.” No matter how much we wish to fill the lack, unfortunately, we never shall attain the objects of our pursuits. We aim to fill this lack in our existence by chasing the “Amazing Weekend Night.” Unfortunately, this sense of incompleteness we feel turns us into insecure beings who are driven by our animalistic tendencies to fall in line with the pack – a “herd mentality,” if you will. We cannot seem to grasp what it is that makes us feel empty. Therefore, those that fail to realize that they cannot fill this lack try to fill it by going out and engaging in simple pleasures (drinking, smoking, hooking up, etc.), even if they may not wish to on that occasion. Out of resistance to the idea that the lack cannot be filled, students push ahead towards trying to find that amazing weekend night. They attempt to use every weekend and opportunity that they have in order to top the previous weekend in an endless cycle of parties and hangovers. As long as the ideal is always there, as long as the “perfect” weekend has not been de-idealized, students are still satisfied in their chase. The “Amazing Weekend Night” is a target for most and they continuously desire it even when it is not possible, since the next weekend could always potentially be better. Insecurity arises within everybody because they begin to question themselves with “what if this weekend truly isn’t better?” or “what if there truly is some sense in staying in sometimes?” There are numerous people who force themselves to go out even though they wish to stay in, just because they feel that they have to. Instead of coming to this understanding that staying in is a choice, they go out and often regret the decision the next morning.

In fact, it is not even the case that the social deviant does not ever go out and stays in all the time. Instead, he or she has the freedom to choose when to go out and when not to go out. This has been achieved by breaking free from the current societal norm of always going out. The only way to do this is by breaking from the commands of the symbol of the “Amazing Weekend Night” and staying in. This of course begs the question of why one would stay in on a weekend and contemplate stuff like this, rather than go out, get drunk, and have a good time. Sometimes, like the social deviant did, each one of us needs to take the impossible choice and perform the radical act (i.e. stay in). For example, Slavoj Zizek uses the idea of Keyser Soeze from the Usual Suspects, when he “returns home and finds his wife and small daughter held at gunpoint by the members of the rival mob, he resorts to the radical gesture of shooting his wife and daughter themselves dead – this act enables him mercilessly to pursue members of the rival gang…in a situation of the forced  choice, the subject makes the ‘crazy,’ impossible choice of, in a way, striking at himself at what is most precious to himself.” Even though the college social scene is not such an extreme case, it is still something that seems radical for college students because we have a very limited scope of the world. Going out is the biggest thing for most 18-22 year olds, so not going out is naively viewed as the “radical act.” Only by doing so does one “change the coordinates of the situation in which the subject finds himself: by cutting himself loose from the precious object…the subject gains the space of free action.” Each and every one of us must break free from this constant cycle of parties and realize that this notion of the perfect weekend night can never be achieved. In coming to this realization, we do not make it our constant goal to always go out every weekend but rather, we take the calculated choice to either go out or not go out, like the social deviant.

Of course, the obvious reaction to this thesis is just saying, “I go out just because it is fun! There is no need to over-think the simple act of partying.” While this may be in some sense over-thinking, it still is an accurate portrayal of the human psyche and how we choose to do things because of our innate insecurities buried within us. People do go out because it is fun, but the social deviant also chooses to do the same thing. However, the difference is that he or she will go out only because it is fun, not because he or she feels that it is required. The constant party-goer always has to go out, but the social deviant has choice.

Each and every person who reads this post should try and reconsider the way the college weekends are handled. Do not force yourselves to constantly drink – think about the many other things you used to enjoy before college. Nobody is saying that you should not go out and have a great time – but only, only if you truly want to.

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Pants on the Ground!

…or are they? Apparently, not anymore! At least, they won’t be in the sunny state of Florida between 8 AM and 3 PM. State Senator Gary Siplin won approval on April 14th, 2010 from the Senate committee for his bill that requires school districts to adopt a new “revolutionary” dress code. The text of the bill describes the Senator’s intention to ban students from wearing clothing that “exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner.” Failure to adhere to this law the first time would result in a verbal warning and a phone call from the principal to the parent. After the second offense, the student is banned from participating in extra-curricular activities or sports. However, after the third offense, things start getting a little more serious – the student would be given a three-day in-school suspension and up to 30-day ban on extra-curricular events. All of this – just over pants.

Some of you may be wondering if such extreme measures are needed. According to Siplin, “it hurts their ability to get jobs and is generally offensive to decent fashion sense,” as he was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel. He wishes to clean up the society and wants kids to “play by society’s standards and rules.”

Personally, I believe that such a law is possibly one of the most ridiculous things in existence. When I heard about the issue, I could not stop laughing, nor could any of the other people that I told. People are not going to change if they have to pull up their pants for only 6 hours every day; they will just pull them back down at 3 o’clock.

Additionally, low pants also serve as a very effective crime fighting technique. Last year, in North Babylon, NY, Robert Pittman tried to rob a convenience store. As he was running out, he tripped on his low-pants and was arrested. If such legislation is passed in New York, our crime rate can potentially skyrocket.

Edgemont students also almost unanimously agree that it is a ridiculous idea for a law. However, some believe that it may not be so bad, as long as it is not in the hands of the government. Junior Michael Meyerson remarked, “I don’t think it should be illegal to sag your pants, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few less buttcracks. That’d be cool.”

Some others just see this as an absolute waste of time. In the midst of one of the worst recessions in history, legislators are wasting their time discussing laws about pants. Junior Saaket Mehta agrees, and says, “With the many cracks that are in America today, Florida seems to be focusing on the least important one. Pun definitely intended.” The Florida State Senate needs to learn what their priorities are. Rather than focusing on kids and their pants, “they should focus on improving education within the schools,” according to Junior Sara Eiferman. Florida is also struggling in its economy because almost a million jobs have been lost. Siplin should focus on more pressing issues like those.

However, at the same time, Eiferman comments on the unfair nature of the dress code system. She believes that “as ridiculous as it sounds, its nice to see guys getting dress codes because girls always have them; I know if a girl ever had her underwear hanging out, it would be a huge controversy.” Eiferman just thinks that this is a matter for school districts, not state senates.

Sophomore Anik Chaudhry knows that this bill will be utterly ineffective in raising the morals of society because “kids will continue to wear the pants low after school.” He also takes on a more Constitutional stance and believes that it impedes upon the individual’s right to express him or herself in any way that he or she wants.

On the other end, Junior Marshall Donner is concerned about the many Edgemont grandparents living in Florida. While he does believe that people should be able to wear their pants as low as they want, as long as they are covered up, he does see how “Florida’s growing old population could find people whose pants are low offensive.”

In any case, it is still not the place of the government to tell America’s youth how to wear their pants. Let kids decide for themselves.

*This was an article I had written for my school newspaper a few months ago – I still find it hilarious =D

Blackberry vs. iPhone

So before I go on, I do realize that this is a very generic topic – almost every blog on the internet has some article or another comparing the two devices. Okay fine, maybe I’m exaggerating, but still – its a pretty big topic, right? So here I go…

Honestly, after using both devices extensively (my Blackberry Bold and my mom’s iPhone), I have come to a conclusion: both devices are really, really good. Before you all start yelling and call this a cop-out, just hear me out! Both phones are meant for people with different interests – so before people go out and buy either, they really should figure out what their priorities are.

These are the people who should get a Blackberry: people who want a tactile keyboard, people who want the free and fast Blackberry Messenger, people who don’t really care about browsing, and people who don’t really care about the butt-load of applications that Apple offers.

These are the people who should get an iPhone: people who really need a beautiful looking browser, people who need the ridiculous amounts of apps from Apple, people who wanna play really good games, and people who don’t care about losing a tactile keyboard.

Face it, the Blackberry is a work phone and the iPhone is a fun phone. The iPhone CAN be used as a work phone, but the Blackberry does not have too much fun involved with it – the only thing, once again, is BBM. The iPhone has begun to release some apps that allow free iPhone to iPhone messaging – however, its going to take too long before this takes off, since most people looking for messaging have already hooked onto Blackberry Messenger.

Plus, who really uses the iPhone upto its full capacity? Many people don’t have time to fiddle around with the thousands of apps, and others may not want to spend money, even if only a few dollars, behind their phone (the data services alone are way too expensive). My suggestion is to actually get a Blackberry and then an iPod Touch – you get the advantage of a full keyboard and BBM and get all of the iPhone’s apps too! It’s a win-win situation – also, trusting an iPhone now, with the abhorrent state of the iPhone 4, is a very risky move.

However, the Blackberry DEFINITELY has its shortcomings – for one, RIM really needs to update its browsers. Why is it so difficult for them? This is where the iPhone wins HANDS DOWN – its browser is superb, and is pretty much just like browsing on a computer.

So here we go – my final verdict. Blackberry wins – the keyboard and BBM outweighs the ridiculous amount of useless iPhone apps anyday. The iPhone does come close because of the beautiful browser, but for me, BBM and the keyboard win.

Everybody who’s undecided, just go out and get a Blackberry and an iPod Touch (if you can afford it, obviously).

So yeah —– go Blackberry!

I am neurotic

Not really.

But…

This is a great new website – whoever reads my blog (which I’m pretty sure is a grand total of 1) should check it out. Especially all the neurotic people. You will really relate =P

http://iamneurotic.com/

This is as good of a time waster as Texts From Last Night or F-My Life

Back to Reality

Roger Federer’s fans aren’t too worried — at least, they shouldn’t be. Who cares that Tommy Berdych has a match point against him — who really cares? Federer has often been in tough situations like these, and he has always managed to escape……right? Especially because this is Wimbledon, Federer’s favorite tournament…….right?

Wrong.

Federer has lost. The match is over, and the king has left Wimbledon for the first time in 7 years without reaching the finals. In fact, he hasn’t even reached the semifinals — arguably the greatest tennis player of all time left in just the quarterfinals. The 6-foot-5 Czech has triumphed in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

As Federer was hitting ball after ball into the net, many of the commentators exclaimed “What’s happening?” Well, to answer their question, I believe that this signals a return to REALITY and REAL TENNIS. Truth be told, the fans (myself included), the commentators, the owners, the coaches, and the players themselves,  expected WAY too much out of Federer. Even though he is an incredible player, nobody is perfect. However, whenever Federer does not walk away with the giant trophy, it feels like something is wrong with him, with the sport, and with the universe! Federer has failed himself, and the rest of us too.

Anybody who thinks like this is a bit overzealous. Fans need to realize that everyone goes past their prime – players grow old, players have injuries, players  run out of steam, players are just outplayed by younger, fresher people. It happens. Nobody, especially in sports, is great forever. The only exception is perhaps Andre Agassi, who reached a US Open final even at the age of 35 — other than that, not much more can be expected of Federer. Maybe a Slam or two, I believe. He is only human.

Moreover, we should also not sell Berdych short. He  played incredibly, and was able to exploit all of Federer’s weaknesses. This is the second Slam in a row that Federer has been sent packing by a tall player, the other being at the French Open earlier this year when he lost to the 6-foot-4 tall Robin Soderling. Federer clearly has some problem playing these big servers, and needs to step his game up – nonetheless, Berdych did play fantastically, sailing in flat shots that were full of power. Of course, Federer’s numerous unforced errors did not push him towards victory…

In any case, let me get back to the point of this article: this loss should not be seen as a decline of a great, but should be seen as a trip back to reality. The crowd will soon realize that tennis is not a game where the winner is always guaranteed and it really is anybody’s game. No sport is interesting when the winner is always guaranteed. However, in the last few years, every time either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer have stepped onto the court, the public knew who was going to win – the only interesting matches  left were the ones between the two of them. Now the game has a sense of uncertainty, especially with Federer’s drop to #3 in the rankings, his lowest in 6 years.

At the same time, this should not be considered an end to Federer’s so-called “era”. He is in no way in “decline” and easily has a few solid years left in him. All this means is that tennis is no more just in control of one or two players, but anybody who wishes to step up and take the glory.

However, I am almost certain that people will not be willing to believe that Federer “lost” the match. During the post-match presser, he blamed his loss on his knee and back injuries. Therefore, his fans will not believe that Federer lost because Berdych played well, but instead because Federer was hurt. In some fans’ minds, this is not a return to reality, but only a small break from Federer’s glory. They will keep saying to themselves, “Don’t worry! The king will be back on top soon. It will all be okay, he was JUST hurt.” True, he was hurt — but that’s not all. Federer can lose guys, he is not Superman.

So now, all we can do is wait and see – will he win again? Or has his decline begun? Time will only tell.

Guatemala City Sinkhole

In the wake of the storm Agatha in Central America, a natural phenomenon occurred in Guatemala City, Guatemala – a giant sinkhole appeared in the middle of town, swallowing up “a clothing factory” and other buildings:

Sinkhole

This hole runs 200 meters deep, and is said to have killed over 115 people. I was shocked when I read of this event, and began to look up why something like this would happen.

According to National Geographic, “natural sinkholes generally form when heavy, water-saturated soil causes the roof of an underground limestone cavity to collapse, or when water widens a natural fracture in limestone bedrock.” However, in that same article, titled “Guatemala Sinkhole Created by Humans, not Nature,” the magazine proceeded to say that the sinkhole can be blamed on the poor infrastructure of the city. According to Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth, “a burst sewer pipe or storm drain probably hollowed out the underground cavity that allowed the chasm to form.”

Another possible reason, according to Bonis, is the volcanic pumice that is under the city. The entire underground infrastructure of the city is “built in a region where the first few hundred meters of ground are mostly made up of a material called pumice fill, deposited during past volcanic eruptions…[the pumice is] unconsolidated, it’s loose. It hasn’t been hardened into a rock yet, so it’s easily eroded.”

This is a tragic moment for Guatemala and a wake up call for any nation with poor infrastructure to begin fixing their cities.

However, on a lighter note, I have an alternate theory to this. Even though I am not a geologist, I believe that this sinkhole can be attributed to the Silver Surfer coming to Earth, followed by his boss, Galactus, the vast cosmic planet-eater. If anybody wants proof, just watch the second Fantastic Four movie. Here’s a screen shot:

Sinkhole in the Thames

California’s Route #1

Some photos I took along the Pacific Coast – hope you like them! I really wish I had a) a nicer camera and b) real photography skills because it is really something I love. Oh plus I REALLY need somebody to teach me how to use photoshop…

The Bane of my Junior Year

So I thought I would kick off my blog by discussing the most ruthless and merciless corporation in the world: Collegeboard. This is particularly the best time because I just finished my final SAT II today!!! While this may not seem like much of an accomplishment, trust me, it is.

As my junior year comes to a close, I am reflecting on the amount of time and money I have spent behind Collegeboard – and how USELESS everything is. On the day before my SATs, I was doing one final practice test in “The Official SAT Study Guide” – I suddenly realized that if I spent one more day slaving over it, I would probably collapse. I then threw aside my study guide, more commonly known as the “big blue book.” Juniors flee and children cry at the sight of this monstrosity:

There honestly should be a warning sign at the bottom of the book, something like: “Warning: has been known to cause extreme sadness and tears.” I have written letters to them asking them to put the warning on the cover so that they wouldn’t get sued – then again, maybe I should just let it happen. I really haven’t, but I should – anyways, someone crazy enough is bound to do it someday.

Anyways, in order to get away from review and to get out all my anger, I began surfing for articles on how the SATs are awful, and I came across this one written by The Guardian titled “SATs not the answer.” Honestly, its one of the best descriptions of the SAT I’ve ever seen. I want to detail a few key points from it:

1) “Every question, no matter how simple or well-nigh impossible, counts for the same amount, so no extra credit for being  clever enough to answer the toughest questions if you are not fast enough through the easiest.”

This is kind of ridiculous – since everything is the same, if I am able (or not able) to answer a tough question, its the EXACT same penalty. Plus, the fact that there is no partial credit makes the test all the more unfair – who ever heard of a math test without partial credit?! People make calculation errors all the time – they shouldn’t be penalized so severely for them.

2) “…students actually have to pay for all this. The standard fee is $26, followed by further costs if you register late ($16), need to change your testing site ($17), want to look up your score online ($13), or a host of other likely contingencies (price varies). And this is designed to benefit underprivileged students?”

If I add up all the money I have spent on Collegeboard (including the review books and test taking courses) in the past three years, it comes out to a grand total of (well I don’t really want to add everything up right now, but trust me, it’s a LOT). This clearly hurts children that are not affluent because richer kids always have access to more resources. This post is more of a discussion on why the SATs are useless – to be honest, the AP exams and the SAT IIs are actually good because they give an accurate and a high-level assessment of what we learn in our respective courses. HOWEVER, there is no need for such high costs – for every AP exam I take, I have to pay $86. Why does it cost $86 to make one test booklet on very low-quality paper??? If Collegeboard truly is the non-profit organization that it claims it is, I really wonder where all the money goes.

3)  “SAT results are not an accurate reflection of what students have learned in school, and can have no bearing whatsoever on what students want to study”

This is 100% true – the SATs are based on NOTHING that I have learned in high school, except my ability to write an essay. Then again, these essays are so arbitrarily graded that it doesn’t even make a difference what I write – I believe that even if I spin an essay on “Monkeys Throwing Feces” to fit the prompt, I would get an adequate grade. Anyways, my point is that if anybody picks up a review book, reads it cover to cover and does all ten of the practice tests, then they would do well on it (and would also end up having absolutely no life). My point is that this is IMPOSSIBLE – with junior year already being really difficult, the SATs make it impossible for a person to do well unless they study really hard. I spent 4 hours every Sunday night for many months in order to get the score I have right now – and it made finishing everything else brutal. Plus, this really has nothing to do with what I truly know – only the subject tests are fitting.

4) Terrible Proctors

The above claim is my own observation – I do not know where our schools find the geniuses that run our exams. On two separate occasions, I have been cheated out of time on sections, which makes this test even more difficult. The time constraints are bad enough without the proctors messing everything up.

I applaud the schools that are trying to move away from the testing system – even the UCs have begun to question the usefulness of the SAT.  My complaints are in no regard to my score – they are just based on what I have observed about this ridiculous system.

To sum up, it is unfairly graded, richer kids statistically do better, it makes junior year even more difficult, and just is overall terrible. In my opinion, Collegeboard should get rid of the SATs and only have SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams as part of their system – those are the only types of exams that truly reflect a) what somebody wishes to learn and b) what somebody truly knows.

Honestly, nobody should be surprised if you find me a year from now on 45 Columbus Avenue in New York outside the Collegeboard Headquarters with a mob of angry students.

Here we go…

Hey everybody! Well, as of now there is no “everybody” because I just made this thing a couple of minutes ago – but hopefully, there will be soon.

Anyways, my reason for making this blog is to get out everything I want to say. A lot of things in the world intrigue me, anger me, and make me laugh, and I am sure that they will continue to do so. That brings us to the title – because the world around us never stops, my blog won’t either.

By everything, I really do mean anything. Politics. Economics. School. New York. Music. Pictures. Cartoons. Anything.

-Tej

P.S. I love taking pictures so you may see some posted – maybe you love them, maybe you don’t. Whatever the case is, I would love any feedback.