Sunday, November 13, 2011

High school sports

High school in general is a point in life where kids begin to learn and develop qualities that will help them later on in life. Within high school, there are different parts that teach you different things. You've got your classes you go to every day that are divided into different subjects to teach you the basics of that subject and to develop your problem-solving skills on different ways. Then there is sports, my favorite aspect of high school. Different sports need their players to meet certain physical and mental characteristics, therefore developing different traits necessary for life. My high school offers many different sports, all the main ones such as football and baseball for the boys, and volleyball and soccer for the girls, as well as a bunch of others, such as tennis, badminton, wrestling, basketball, and my favorite, cross country.
            "Four fifty-nine! Four fifty-nine! You are looking great bud, keep it up!" A coach from another team called out to his runner as we finished the first loop and passed the first mile marker. We were about one-third of the way  through with the race, as this particular course is a 5k, five kilometers or about 3.1 miles, and I was already breathing heavily, a little too heavily to be completely honest. Despite the rapidly increasing breathing rate and the longer, more calm breaths being replaced by shorter gasps, I kept close with the pack. There was one guy from Del Campo who had gotten out to a big lead and had distanced himself from the rest of us, but the next fifteen people were all within ten seconds of each other. We neared the turn to go into the loop again for the second time and I was hurting. My legs ached, my lungs burned, and I started to drop a little bit, four spots to be exact. I fell from 10th to 14th, the back of the pack we had formed. My confidence was fading fast, and as the other runners passed by, I couldn't help thinking back to that rather fast start I had and second guessing it. My mind began to spin and all the things a runner is not supposed to worry about during a race came flooding in. The thought of letting my team down if I fell off from the pack, letting myself down, and every pain felt a million times worse. As we went up and over the first of many hills in that loop I heard my coach, "You need to move up, Jordan. We need you right now! Don't let them get away! Move!" I began to think about everything I had done to prepare for this particular race, the seven months of exhausting training I had done to do well here. I began to pick up speed and I passed a guy going over a hill. The pack had stretched out so I had a little more ground to make up than I would have liked, but I began to move up. The finish line was about 800 meters away and I knew I had to get at least one more guy. I shot passed him and ended up finishing just good enough; good enough to be the first person my coach has ever had qualify to race at the State meet.
            Cross country has taught me many different things. I run myself to exhaustion every day, just so I can do it again the next day, and the next day, and then in the upcoming race. It's voluntarily putting yourself through pain just because. It teaches its participants mental toughness and determination, the will to never let yourself give up, no matter the pain you are in. The previously mentioned race is an example of these traits put on display. I was hurting in every muscle I have in my legs, yet I pushed on. My lungs burned from the shortage of oxygen getting to them, yet I pushed on. I had an abdominal hernia, so every step I took resulted in my receiving a little jolt of pain in my abs, yet I pushed on. I pushed on because my mind has been molded to deal with pain, to accept it as a matter of life and move on because if you don't, there is zero chance that you will have even a smidgen of success in the sport of cross country.
            There are more sports than just cross country, as you know, which is where other traits are acquired. Now I don't have a story for football as I did for cross country because I do not play football, but unlike cross country where the concept of mental toughness overrides all others, the game of football requires mainly physical toughness. In football, players run down the field as fast as they can to hit another player as hard as they can. For sixty straight minutes, players mash into each other, seeing who can hit the hardest the longest because whoever that is, whichever team is the most physically fit will usually end up winning the game.
            Another sport that contributes a different trait is tennis. Tennis is not about toughness, mentally or physically, it is about being smart. Just because you can hit a tennis ball harder than your opponent does not mean you will beat them. In tennis you must know when it would be better to smash or to go for a finesse shot into a corner where your opponent cannot reach. You must know when to come up right next to the net to try shorten your opponent's reaction time and when to stay back and let them come to you. 
            The developing of greater reactions and greater reaction speed can be credited to baseball. How long do you have to react when a guy throws you a 90 mph fastball? What makes it even tougher is that you do not know whether it's going to be a fastball or a curveball or a changeup or anything else. You have to read it out of the pitcher's hand and immediately react to what is coming.
            Every trait a sport helps you develop can be used later on in life. When you and your spouse are going through that fight that may lead to a divorce, mental toughness comes into play. That physical toughness comes in handy when you are redecorating your house to make it safer for the baby that is on its way. When you meet that "carpet cleaner" who says he'll clean your carpets for free, those street smarts will kick in and save you from losing all you've got. and who knows what's going to happen when you're driving down the street in the pouring rain and you can't see more than ten feet in front of you; that's where reactions come in. All sports benefit you in some way or another down the road, so get out there and participate.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Definition essay: Wealth

In today's society, when a person speaks of wealth, they are usually referring to having a rather large amount of money, being rich. When you Google search "wealthiest men in the world", people such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are the top hits. But whatever happened to wealth being more than just money, but more along the lines of a loving family and caring friends? A person's wealth is not defined by the amount of money they have saved up in the bank, or how fat their wallet is. Being wealthy is when a person is blessed to have a family that loves and cares about them, with an abundance of friends who feel the same way.
            Wealth and happiness sort of go arm-in-arm if you think about it. People believe that if you are wealthy, you are happy, which is true only if your view on wealth is having a good family. If you really sat down and thought about it, the majority of people's main goal in life is to accumulate as much money as they can in their relatively short existence to try to be happy. Money is their key to everything. That new, fancy, do-it-all car they "have to have", the newest, fastest phone, it all costs money, yet what personal value does it have? They are just objects of which you waste countless hours of your life occupying yourself with. Heck, some see money as a way to get them a wife, which, sadly, is true these days, as young women go around looking for rich old men to marry, they're only reason being that they will receive the old man's fortune once he passes. People seem to think that the more money they have, the more fun they'll have in life, and the more of a chance they have of being remembered. However, who will possess and pass down all those memories of you and your life to future generations? Family or money? Last time I checked, money could not speak. So what will be more useful as you near the end of your life, money or a compassionate family? When the game of life begins the final home stretch, memory begins to fade, aches and pains are newly discovered every morning as it takes multiple frustrating attempts to climb out of bed, and everything just seems to be going wrong, the support and compassion of your wealth of family and friends is the only antidote.
            I read a book, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, in which the main character, Amir, is born into a rich family. His father is a highly respected man in the Afghan society and money flows into their household. With this abundance of money, Amir has the ability to buy pretty much anything his little heart desires, yet he is still incredibly unhappy. His mother died when he was born, for the most part his father views him as a disappointment, and the rest of his family does not appreciate him. The only time he is truly happy is when he becomes truly wealthy, when he and his father move to America. Upon arriving in the United States, Amir and his father were completely broke. As Amir was more of a grown up now, his father began to respect him and treat him as an equal. He began to show compassion toward Amir and their relationship grew. They immediately began to work in order to support themselves as best they could in their economic situation. They lived in a bus that they also drove around during the day to flea markets to buy items they could then go sell. At one particular flea market Amir meets a woman whom he ends up marrying. When Amir marries this particular woman, he has almost no money, but his wife and father both loved him, and he became a truly wealthy man.
            Though I have no income besides the weekly ten dollars I receive for yard work each weekend, which I usually end up spending by the end of that weekend anyway, I would have to say I view myself as wealthy. I'm happy to say that I have three pairs of grandparents, a couple aunts and uncles, a few cousins and a couple great-grandparents on my list of family members, and each one of those individuals cares for me as much as the other, and as much as I care for them. I know that no matter how messy the situation or how severe the problem, I have someone I can turn to in my family for good, quality advice. I have a pair of grandparents who live a mere two minutes away if something goes wrong and my parents are not there to take care of it. Another pair of grandparents lives almost eight hours away, yet they will drive those eight hours just so they can see me run a race for 16 minutes. My aunt and uncle live in Ohio, yet they still find a way to come all the way across the country every other Christmas just to spend time with me. My other uncle worked all night at the hospital, and on not a minute of sleep, drove all the way out to my house because he refused to miss my birthday party. On my last day of school in second grade, I walked out to where my mother would usually pick me up to find my aunt, who lived in Louisiana at the time, waiting to pick me up. She came from Louisiana for my last day of school all because she missed me. I have friends who would kill to have a family like mine.
            Situations such as the ones stated above show a family that deeply loves and cares for one another. They are a prime example of what being wealthy is all about: loving family members who will go out of their way to do anything and everything just to make sure you and everything in your life is okay.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cause And Effect Blog

The Chem 20 Factor talks about a college course which students who want to become doctors, or nurses, and such, take before they begin pre-med. The class begins the year with an overwhelmingly large number of students, but finishes the year with only a handful of students remaining. The reason for this, is that there are certain tasks out there that can only be done successfully by people with particular characteristics. High schools have "screening processes" as well that can lead to success or failure in college applications such as AP classes, the the basic concept of grades, and tests like SATs and ACTs.
            The course that The Chem 20 Factor analyzes is basically just an enormous filtering system for the rather difficult medical field. Only a handful of the students who enroll in the class make it through the course successfully with an A or a B. This same concept is true for high school students in AP classes. AP(Advanced Placement) classes are an opportunity for high school students to earn college credits while still in a rather relaxed high school atmosphere. Kids who consider themselves "smart", or are thought of by others as "smart" are the ones who challenge themselves with the difficult AP classes. Upon entrance to an AP class, the students will soon find out if they really are "smart" or if they are just an average kid trying to make it in a smart-person world when they get bombarded with an excessive amount of work that some cannot keep up with. To receive an A or a B in those types of classes, a student must put in a lot of time and effort into their work. The concept of having a social life begins to dwindle until pretty soon you begin to ask yourself, "now when was the last time I actually hung out with my friends?" If the student participates in a sport as well, then it takes that much more effort to pass because, let's face it, an essay is a lot easier to write when you have not already run ten miles. Though the going gets tough, the payoff is rather good, definitely worth it if you ask me. Passing one of these such classes with an A or a B really adds to one's college application in a positive way; it shows the student's willingness to challenge themselves and work hard to achieve their goals, which is exactly the kind of personality traits college admissions are looking for.
            Another important "screening process" high schools have for college admissions is the rather simple concept of the grading scale. High school students know that in order to get accepted into college in general, whether it be a big Division I university or a small, local community college, their grades have to be above average; they need to have, and maintain, As and Bs all throughout their high school career. College admissions people will rarely give a student's application with a C average the time of day because there are other students applying who possess grades of a B average, and most likely even students with an A average. When a student receives anything n\below a B or an A in a class, it shows the college admission officer that the student does not always want to work hard and put in the effort to submit good, quality work to their professor, and may not always challenge themselves to be the best that they can in the classroom. When a student receives a D or an F in a class, this especially highlights the the problem of having a lack of a good work ethic, which is not the type of person college admissions officers are looking for. When a student receives mostly As and Bs, but then has one D or F, this really poses a problem if that particular student is hoping to be college bound the fall after the graduate high school. Having one F while at the same time receiving As and Bs in all the other classes highlights laziness as well. If a student can get As and Bs in every class except for one, then the student is either extremely ignorant in the one subject, or extremely lazy; in most cases it is the latter. As a college admissions officer, would you accept a student's application if the student showed signs of being lazy and possessing a poor work ethic? I know I would not.
            Country-wide tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, are also a part of this "screening process". Every high school student who wants to attend college is required to take either the SAT or the ACT, and sometimes, depending on the college you are looking to attend, taking both is a requirement. These tests help college admissions officers gain a perspective on how intelligent their applicants actually are. Grades are an important factor in the decision between accepting or rejecting a student's application because it shows how good the student's work ethic is, but SAT and ACT scores are probably a tad more important when it comes to judging intelligence. Different teachers for the same subject often have different teaching methods and give different amounts of work, resulting in some classes being easier than others, even though they are the same subject, so grades do not always accurately show how smart one really is. That's why we have the SAT and ACT. Every test is basically the same, so the admissions officers have an easier way to compare applicants intelligence. Higher scores on SATs and ACTs show more intelligence, which is a trait colleges would like to see in their students.
            All in all, the high school "screening process" is a rather good one, if you think about it. It tests intelligence and character, the two most important characteristics that a college admissions officer looks for in their applicants. The medical field has Chem 20 to cull the weak, colleges have high school AP classes, grades, and SATs and ACTs.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Compare and Contrast

            A divorce. A divorce is how it all got started. The American sitcom Two And A Half Men, viewed on CBS and created by Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn, follows the life of two brothers who are practically forced to live together after one of them goes through a divorce. Alan Harper, played by Jon Cryer, is the younger brother of Charlie Harper, played by Charlie Sheen, and after Alan's divorce, he moves in with Charlie for what was supposed to be "a couple days". These two would soon discover how drastically different they were, and that Alan would be there for more than a couple days.
            Alan Harper is not exactly the tallest man you will ever see, as he stands at about five feet nine inches tall, and he is rather skinny. Charlie Harper is a tad bit taller at about five feet ten inches, and is also a rather slender man, with no more or less plumpness than Alan. One will never find Alan Harper without his button-up shirt neatly tucked in to his jeans, unless he is getting ready for bed, whereas Charlie, on the other hand, always sports an untucked shirt, accompanied by a pair of khaki shorts.
            One thing the two brothers always had in common, was the pure hatred of their filthy-rich, realtor mother, Evelyn Harper. Since childhood she never really had been there for the two of them, as she was always caught up in her newest romance (she is far past a number reasonable to be considered the number of husbands one has had). Although the two dislike their selfish, conceited mother equally, the way Charlie interacts is a bit more condescending than the way Allan interacts with her. Charlie constantly complains whenever Evelyn shows up at Charlie's Malibu beach house unannounced, whereas Alan shows a more positive feeling when she arrives. Charlie continuously refers to their mother as "death", 'the devil", and "the unholy mother of us", and her speed dial number in his phone is 666.  Alan made the most of every visit, and was never afraid to offer his services to their mother.
            Before Alan moved in with Charlie at his beach house, he lived with his wife Judith, not far from the location of Charlie's house. Judith and Alan had a son, Jake, and to Alan, Jake was one of the best things that had ever happened to him. Even when Jake struggled in school, as he did quite often, Alan would usually support him in any way possible in order for him to pass and move up to the next grade. After Judith and Alan divorced, Jake and Alan moved in with Charlie. Charlie never had been the type who enjoyed being around kids, as he would much rather spend his time sleeping with any woman he could find. The concept of settling into a relationship never really settled well with Charlie. He almost married a couple times, once to a ballet teacher named Mia and again to a former one night stand named Chelsea, but he never made it all the way through; his old ways of drinking, gambling, and sleeping with any woman he could find always found a way to recapture his mind.
            Another thing Alan understood better than Charlie was the concept of having a good work ethic and determination. Charlie wrote commercial jingles for a living, whereas Alan worked as a chiropractor. On the one hand, Alan endured long, tough years of medical school in order to be successful enough to have the opportunity to open his own chiropractic business, and Charlie, on the other hand, kept to the motto of "something will turn up". At one point when chiropractic business was rather slow, Alan could not keep up with the cost of alimony, and run his chiropractic business at the same time with the little money he had. So rather than following Charlie's carefree motto of "something will turn up", Alan looked for a side job; looked for anything that could put that little amount of cash he needed to stay afloat. In the end, he ultimately had to turn to being a "lab rat" for some new medication some doctors had created. He endured hair loss and seizures, but earned enough money to keep his business running long enough, and to continue paying alimony until Judith (finally) remarried.
            When a man and women engage in a relationship, the man's parents will nearly always tell him to be a gentleman and treat her like a lady. With these two brothers, one follows the advice, whereas the other disregards it completely, and I'm sure you can guess which one follows it. Alan never was the best at making a relationship last, but he always tried. He always gave everything he had, tried his best to make it work; all or nothing. He would take them out to a nice dinner (as nice as he could afford on his low income) and never proceeded to take advantage of them. Charlie, however, never was one who would ask a girl out to dinner. He preferred heading to the bar late at nights, finding a girl who's thoughts consisted nothing but the "need" for more alcohol or something else to take their mind off the "need" for alcohol, and bringing them home for a "sleepover", as Alan often described it to the young, unknowing Jake.
            Even though Charlie lived in a beach house in Malibu, and was a lot wealthier than his younger brother, Alan had a better life than Charlie.  Sure Charlie got more girls than him and it appeared as if he had a better life, but Alan was the true man of these two brothers. In an article I once read called "Americanization Is Tough On Macho", the author, Rose Del Castillo Guilbault, explains the "real" definition of the term macho as "responsible" and "hard working", yet Americans have transformed it into a word referring to a man who is "selfish" and "sexually promiscuous". Charlie represents an Americanized macho man, while Alan is, without a doubt, a real macho man.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Raw or "Raw"?

Raw. What exactly does raw mean? This depends on where you're from. The most common definitions known by almost every person in the world are "undercooked" and "ignorant or unexperienced". Yet some of us know a different "definition", one you won't find in a Webster's dictionary.
            To us natives of Vacaville, raw is a word of high praise. Raw goes beyond amazing; it goes beyond incredible; it goes beyond superb. It's just raw. Being considered raw at what you do is something we strive for. It's why we run that extra mile even though our legs scream out it's time to be done. It's why you take those 50 extra swings in the batting cage when the entire team has already left.
            Now you're in the kitchen and you have the green beans and carrots finishing up their simmering; the baked potatoes' baking has come to a conclusion, and you take the meat off the grill. You gently cut open the piece of meat and you see a little too much pink. Yes it is raw, but it's not raw. You join the army and all the veterans refer to you as raw. You're the new, untrained rookie. That is not raw either. You run a mile in 4 minutes flat? That's raw. You batted .320 in the MLB? That's raw. It's not "undercooked" or "ignorant", it's just raw.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything Is An Argument

When one thinks of an "argument", they think of a disagreement in which the people or groups of people try to disprove the other's theory while still defending their own. An argument, however, can be just a beckoning by one to another to come explore their point of view. A person may make an argument just to inform someone else about a certain topic, as well. Even with these other options to pose an argument, the main purpose of most people's arguments are to win, though they may have another reason as a secondary objective.
            Durng this past summer, I read a book called My Prison Without Bars by Pete Rose and Rick Hill. It revisits the life of Major League Baseball's career hits king, and talks about the time when he was banned from the sport he so dearly loved. In September, 1985, Pete Rose, also known as "Charlie Hustle" for his "never give up" attitude, lined a 2-1 slider into left-center field for career hit number 4,192; breaking Ty Cobb's 60 year-old record. Now one would think that a player who holds the record for the most hits in a career would easily join the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but that did not happen.
            After his playing days ended, Pete took over as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, the same team he played for the majority of his career. After managing for a bit, he realized managing did not give him the thrill that playing did, so he began to bet. He bet on basketball and football, the common betting sports, until one day he made the worst mistake of his life; he bet on baseball.
            According to MLB rules, a player or manager is not allowed to bet on baseball because they could "throw" a game in order to win money. Well Pete Rose ignored that particular rule and bet anyway. He eventually got caught and was punished; no Hall of Fame for Mr. Rose.
            There are a few arguments that could be associated with the writing of this book. Was he making a point, trying to show he deserves the Hall of Fame? Was he just trying to tell people about himself and the things he did? What was the main argument of this particular book?
            Though the majority of My Prison Without Bars is about the whole betting scandal Pete Rose was involved in, he makes an attempt to show he actually does belong in the Hall of Fame, an argument to convince, though many believe he does not. Pete Rose was undoubtedly one of the best baseball players to ever strap on the spikes, but the fact that he broke baseball's betting rule(Rule 21) caused many to believe that he should not be allowed in to the Hall of Fame. He tries to strengthen his argument by telling the story of his days as he neared Ty Cobb's "insurmountable" record, "They(the media) were camped out at my house on Indian Hill. They were camped out at the ballpark, and they pretty much followed me everywhere I went. For three straight weeks I did a press conference, TV, magazine, or newspaper interview every day of the week and twice on Sunday." With this quote, he is trying to support his point by showing how much everybody loved him and how everybody wanted him; they wanted to talk to him, and only him. He also threw in Mike Schmidt's quote, "Look at all these photos Pete. Just about every Hall of Famer in baseball is hanging on these walls and Pete Rose has more hits than all of them....So just remember: Baseball needs Charlie Hustle." and his own thoughts, "I wasn't even eligible for the Hall of Fame but everyone knew I had the credentials. In a subtle way, I was probably reminding them of who I was-Pete Rose, baseball's all-time Hit King." to emphasize his point and "win" the ongoing argument that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, despite the gambling scandal.
            When a person wants to tell people about certain issues they have experienced or are currently going through, they will usually write a book. Pete Rose did just that. He wanted to inform everyone who would listen about the life he lived and the mistakes he made. He showed that your life can go from great and successful to lousy and unattractive in a very small amount of time. He says, "When they take your freedom-there is nothing scarier in the whole world." This shows that he wants to make sure that nobody else makes the same mistake he did; mess up their life over something as silly as trying to pack more "thrills" into their life.
            The third and final argument I believe Pete Rose was making in this book is an argument to explore. Unlike his main argument, an argument to convince, this one was a little bit more subtle. An argument to explore is written with the purpose of making the reader want to further research and discuss the topic with others. If baseball is your "religion", as it was to Pete Rose, according to his daughter, then reading this book will make you want to further investigate this, and all the scandals throughout the history of Major League Baseball, such as the infamous "Black Sox Scandal" of 1919.
            My Prison Without Bars was written mainly for those who know and understand baseball and its history. A person with no prior knowledge to baseball and its history could not read and fully comprehend this book and its meaning. As an avid baseball fan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Pete Rose's life during the investigation and I somewhat agree with his position. We all make mistakes, I mean we're all human aren't we? You have to look for the good things people have accomplished, not focus on the negative. He 's the all-time Hit King! That has to deserve something! And a ban from baseball is not exactly the reward I believe he had in mind.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What does it mean to be a "reader"?

Every person in the world is a "reader". A "reader" is one who looks at something "carefully so as to understand the meaning of". People read things every day; whether it be a sign as you drive down the highway, a cereal box, or the newest, most anticipated fiction novel. Reading is just a common, everyday activity people everywhere participate in. What they choose to read, and why they read it, however, determines the type of "reader" they are.
Some enjoy the works of John Locke and Rousseau; others like to curl up under a warm blanket and crack open a good, fiction romance novel; while still others have only the desire to snap open the Sunday cartoons. However, I, myself, love to read about the real life adventures of athletes.
In elementary school, whenever my class would go to the library to pick out our books for the month, not a single one of us would step foot in the "nonfiction" section. It was as if by going over there, one would become an outcast. But one day in fourth grade, I watched a sixth grader walk into the library and head straight to the books about REAL people and I thought to myself(being the impressionable little fourth grader I was)"He's a sixth grader,I want to be like him." So I walked over and picked out the first book with the name of someone I had heard of. That month, I read about the life of Jackie Robinson and was hooked. The next couple years were filled with all the readings of sports stars I could find.
As I went through middle school and became interested in more and more sports, my variety of readings became larger. I became interested in a sport called "cross country" and now I will buy almost any book I see about the lives of runners. "Running With The Buffaloes" is the first title that comes to mind. It follows the 1998 NCAA cross country season of the Colorado Buffaloes and everything they did to be the third best cross country team in the country and describes, with amazing detail, how much effort their best runner had to put in to become the fastest college runner in nation. Reading about the detailed life of people who I aspire to be helps gain a perspective of what I need to do to obtain my dream.
We all have our own purpose and reasons for reading, as well as the particular things we enjoy reading, but we are all still "readers".