Is Money Really the Best Way of Helping the Poor?

At least 10% of the world’s population lives on less than $10.00 (in USD) per day according to globalissues.org. I would imagine that most people are aware of current poverty but only few know to what extent it exists.

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I understand that this sounds extremely cliché but I will come up with a different approach.

Here is an analogy to explain it simply:

Poverty is a large monster that, once associated with a person, damages their life and their family’s life. Here in first world countries we provide money to support these individuals while their lives are taking a turn for the worse. The monster goes and eats the money and leaves the individuals to live happier lives temporarily until he is done eating it. Then it only continues to worsen.

How might we help poverty-stricken nations other than providing money which only lasts for so long?

We need to help them to find work for themselves such as teaching them how to perform certain trades like carpenters, construction worker, etc. The possibilities are endless, but the resources are limited. We should provide certain programs to teach them how to make a living according to their environment and assets.

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You could make sure to find a legitimate charity that supports these types of programs and carries them out with proven success.

Here are some pretty interesting ted talks on poverty.

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California

I can’t imagine a better place to live in than California.

20150311_190040  This image was taken from my neighborhood park on a regular afternoon at dusk.  Images such as these seem to occur almost daily and in fact, I have become almost impartial to sunsets.  This goes to show that I witness nature’s beauty almost every single day of the week.  Not only is Californian scenery beautiful, but the climate in Southern California is amazing.  For me, below 60 degrees is a jacket day.  I don’t mean to rub it in, but while many states across the east are packed in during a snow storm, I am sitting in my backyard soaking up the sun watching my avocados grow.  The difference between California in the “winter” (we don’t really have winter out here) and other areas of the country is astounding.   For example, I can go swim in the ocean in January while people in New York are stuck in a blizzard.

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This beautiful image was engraved into the sand by a receding bundle of kelp.  Things like this don’t happen very often in Oklahoma, do they?  Montana?  Nope.  On a nice winter day, I went running at the beach without a shirt and I managed to get a little tan whilst not freezing to death.  Try doing that in Chicago in the thick of the winter.

Anyways, back to the sunset.

neighbor sun

I hope my neighbor doesn’t mind me taking a picture of their house without asking, but it was for the sake of beauty!!!  Notice the reflection of the sunset in the house’s window.  That was the first time I had ever seen such a reflection, so I thought it was worthy of a picture.

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As the sun sets on this blog post, I remind myself how lucky I am to be living in California.  I can enjoy time at the beach virtually whenever I want, and I can watch sunsets almost every day as well.  Being a Californian will perhaps spoil me for the rest of my life if I live elsewhere, but I have to say that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else right now.

-Chris.

Western Conference NBA Playoff Predictions!

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While things in the east still aren’t set in stone, as of now it seems pretty clear the Thunder will hold on to that 8th spot in the West. God knows, anything can happen, but if the playoff picture stays the way it is, get ready for the most exciting Playoff’s in years!

Starting with the 1-8 matchup, the Golden State Warriors vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. This a very intriguing 1-8 matchup, as the two best point guards in the NBA, Westbrook and Curry, will be going at it. Unfortunately for the Thunder, they are without their superstar, Kevin Durant, and their star defensive player, Serge Ibaka. With their whole team, the Thunder can upset the Warriors. Although Westbrook will give it his all, the Warriors have too much firepower, and will win the series.

Next we have the 2-7 matchup, the Memphis Grizzlies vs the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams play a very old-brand of basketball, two grind-it out type teams. Although the 7 seed, the Mavericks are healthy and I feel can push the Grizzlies to their limit. Although picking up Rondo has been shaky, on paper they have the strongest starting lineup in the NBA, and I feel the Mavs will figure it out. I’m predicting an upset, with the Mavericks defeating the Grizzlies in the first round.

Now for the 3-6 matchup, the Houston Rockets vs the San Antonio Spurs. Spurs are the 6 seed?! The Spurs have been top two in the west for years, and they are the most experienced playoff team. While James Harden and the Rockets are playing well, I feel the Spurs will outwork and outcoach the Rockets. Another upset here, Spurs win.

Last but not least, the 4-5 matchup, the Portland Trailblazers vs the L.A Clippers. The Blazers have just lost a key starter to an achilles injury, and a top three 3-point shooter in the league, Wesley Matthews. The Clippers have played well, but still in my view have no real small forward. The duo of Lamarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard is simply too good, and I have the Blazers beating the Clippers.

Injuries and their Devastating Effect on the NBA

At the beginning of the season, there is no way someone could have predicted all the injuries that would occur and what a strong effect they would have on the landscape. Every team throughout the NBA has faced these issues, although some have been hit much harder. Looking in the Western Conference, we see the OKC Thunder, a 2 seed from last year stacked with 2 superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, good enough to make any team an instant contender. Instead, Durant went down in a preseason game and has missed most of the season coming back sporadically, while Westbrook missed 14 early games, causing the shallow Thunder to limp to a weak 5-12 start. Many strong teams have had their fair share of injuries, causing the playoff picture to completely warp from last year. The Spurs went a significant time without Kawhi Leonard and started off slowly. The Rockets lost Dwight Howard for a long time and now are missing two more of their starters as they head to the playoffs. The Pelicans have been absolutely hammered, missing Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, and Ryan Anderson for large chunks of time, that have left them fighting with the Thunder for the last playoff spot. Two of the strongest teams in the West are those that have been relatively injury free. The Golden State Warriors have only had one major injury with David Lee, but even that turned out to be a blessing as we saw the potent Draymond Green shine in his new starting spot, while the Grizzlies have had no real significant injuries to their roster.  In the NBA, their is a constant unpredictability that makes it so the league is always competitive as they fight for the Playoffs, but you have to realize that part of the season just boils down to luck. Even with the strongest roster in history, it’ll have no effect if you can’t get these superstars off the pine. A teams hopes for the future can be shattered in an instant, like the Indiana Pacers after Paul George shattered his leg with Team USA and was out for the year. Without a leader to guide your team, even people that would regularly be a sure contender can slip, and fall right out of that playoff picture and straight into the lottery. In the NBA, it does take hard work, but it is essential to have a little bit of luck.

What is the Relationship Between an Individual and a Community?

What is the relationship between and individual and a community? A community is a group of people who have, “A common feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” And an individual is someone who, “Is not part of a group because of their own goals or interests.” In The Scarlet Letter, the idea of and individual vs. community comes up multiple times throughout the story. Hester is seen as the individual who has to try to survive against the rest of the colonists, a community, who use her when needed, otherwise they throw her away as an outcast. For an individual to help a group, they have to think about how they can accomplish their own goals while still improving the community as a whole. History shows that it has always been hard for an individual to live a good and faithful life without becoming part of a community. In The Scarlet Letter, the community is the colonists that live with Hester. Hester is the lone individual who is secluded from society. The community only gives attention to Hester when they need her amazing sowing skills. He talent of being an amazing seamstress was used for funerals, babies, and fashion. In chapter 5 of the book, Hester’s: “Handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion. Whether from commiseration for a woman of so miserable a destiny; or from the morbid curiosity that gives a fictitious value even to common or worthless things…” The community didn’t care about her sin when they needed he talent for their benefit. But once they received what they needed, they again shunned her from their community. This shows the relationship between the community and the individual in The Scarlet Letter; there was only a one way benefit that  supported the community and never the lone individual. And the community didn’t think to care that this was they only way Hester was surviving and making money, while they all had businesses and each other as support in case something horrible happens and one of them goes broke or something. Also, the individual, Hester is never allowed to participate in a joyous occasion for the community. As Hester’s’ products and, “Skill was never called in to embroider the white veil which was to cover the pure blushes of a bride.” This is when they all remember Hester’s sin and decide to bring their society back together. Hester Prynne has no benefits as being the individual in this individual vs. community relationship.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail in response to a public statement directed to him by eight Alabama clergymen. The eight Alabama clergymen wrote the public statement to denounce King Jr.’s work and call it “unwise” and “untimely.” As Martin Luther King Jr. writes to these men, he is saying that for these human rights to be granted to African-American people the white people must join with the human rights activists. Something that really caught my eye in this letter was when he says that an African-American’s main: ” Stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” This specific part from the entire letter stands out to me because it takes an objective side to the whole argument of the relationship of an individual and a community than that in The Scarlet Letter. In the Letter from Birmingham Jail the one in need of help from the other is the community. The community needs the individuals who want order and peace but don’t want to stand up for justice. Martin Luther King Jr. is more frustrated with these type of people because they don’t say it, but they are basically rejecting you, your community, a your ideas. This rejection by individual support leads to a loss of supporters to join the community that needs everyone to help them. This letter shows that sometimes the community needs the support of the individuals. In “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” from Walden by Henry David Thoreau, he talks about his wish to live in the woods. As he ponders about how it would be to live alone and secluded in the woods he comes across the idea of only having individuals and no communities. He comes to t conclusion that this would not work because if everyone had their own ideas, no one would make roads and other innovations important to life. Thee would be no agreements amongst any people who wanted to innovate. Throughout all my research, I’ve figured out that there will always be one side who will attain the upper hand. However, it will not always be the same side, as I showed you in various examples. After all, a community and an individual are very closely related. A community is up of a group of INDIVIDUALS who share a certain idea or interest. Thanks for reading! -Hamza Ayub

The Unfortunate Truth About Health Industries

In this day and age, pharmaceutical companies claim to help patients’ conditions, food companies claim to provide “healthy” food to individuals, and nutritionists and licensed dietitians give out-of-date information to needy patients.

1. Pharmaceutical Companies

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Companies like Pfizer and AstraZeneca are very powerful. They have the resources to influence the food industry to use more foods that are more likely to cause medical conditions that these pharmaceuticals treat. The more patients suffering from a cardiovascular illness, for example, means more people taking medications for these illnesses, resulting in more money for these companies.

2. Food companies

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Innumerable amounts of foods contain deceptive marketing leading people to believe that certain products are healthier than they really are. The reality is that processed food should not be trusted, no matter what the label leads you to believe. Some of the chemicals used in these foods are not very safe for human consumption, let alone healthy. There are additives in processed foods that are not listed in the ingredients list nor any part of the packaging.

3. Nutritionists

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Nutritionists often use the incorrect and out-dated “food pyramid” guide as advice for patients. Especially when one suffers from illnesses derived from obesity, the last thing a physician should recommend is grains, bread, pasta, and other forms of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates drive up insulin levels which in turn drive up fat storage and is counter-productive in weight loss. This increases the amount of nutrients that reach fat cells. This weight gain is a recipe for all kinds of metabolic disorders from diabetes to heart disease to atherosclerosis.

-Daniel

The Piano

We have all played it, some of us better than others, but everyone has probably played a piano in their lives whether they possess musical talent or not.  The piano has been a cornerstone of music and it can be heard in a variety of music genres.

Hey look, it's a piano!

Hey look, it’s a piano!

Breaking the cliche, pianos do not come in all shapes and sizes.  All pianos come equipped with 88 keys; a bunch of white ones and less than a bunch of black ones.  When the key is pressed, the string inside the piano is struck, causing it to vibrate and make the audible noise that is called a note.  The length of the string determines the frequency, or pitch of the sound.  The shorter the string, the higher the frequency.  Pressing down hard on a key will cause the string to be struck quickly and with more intensity.  This produces a louder sound.  The opposite applies as well; striking the key softly will create a softer sound.  Music contains much more science than you think.  In fact, I learned how about how sounds are made in physics class, not art class.

Now, this may look like a piano, but it really is not an authentic piano.

Hey look- wait, that isn't a piano?

Hey look- wait, that isn’t a piano?

This is what is called a keyboard.  This particular keyboard comes with only 55 keys, unlike the piano’s full 88.  When the keys are struck they do not cause a string to vibrate, instead they cause data to be played.  When the C note is struck on the keyboard, the data is sent from the key to the keyboard’s data center where the sound is played through the speakers.  This sending of data is called MIDI.  Don’t ask me what that stands for because I don’t know, for all intensive purposes it isn’t even an acronym, but it relates to the sending of data.  The keyboard in the picture can be used to play digital instruments using music software.  The same transfer of data is used.  Let’s say I’m using music software such as Ableton Live.  Inside the music program, I have chosen to play an electric guitar instrument.  Well, I don’t have an electric guitar, but because the music software knows exactly how an electric guitar sounds, when I have my keyboard connected to my computer, I can play the electric guitar with my keyboard.  It’s quite fascinating actually.  When you’re listening to a song with synth keys in it, the synths were most likely played with a keyboard.

Well, I hope you’ve learned a little bit about how piano sounds are made and what the difference is between a piano and a keyboard.  Thanks for reading!

-Chris.