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Denebola » Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net The Award-Winning, Official School Newspaper of Newton South High School, Newton, MA Fri, 17 Jun 2011 02:00:19 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.2 Why We’re Addicts http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/12/06/why-were-addicts/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/12/06/why-were-addicts/#comments Mon, 06 Dec 2010 10:00:58 +0000 Brittany Bishop http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5131 Almost everyone has a compulsion. Whether it’s obsessive cleaning, nail-biting, or even chewing gum, compulsions are a natural aspect of human life. While many urges result from harmful and chemically addicting drugs, an ever-growing epidemic of psychophysical ‘€and sometimes unnoticeable’€compulsive disorders exist in everyday life.
While observing a compulsion, one must look at both the emotional connection to the act and any sections of the brain that are unusually abnormal centers for certain activities.
Every habit has an emotional origin. When we find ourselves in situations that make us nervous or scared, we develop compulsions. Even though most of us dislike and want to cease our habits, we are inclined to repeat them due to the relief the action has brought us in the past.
Sometimes even the guilt of performing the habit increases your stress level and drives you to repeat it again.
No matter what we do, whether it’s ridding ourselves of all germs or checking Facebook, we relieve stress in the most addicting and inescapable manners.
Although many compulsions result from nervousness, compulsions can become more serious and become routine activities, turning into an unmanageable burden in a person’s life.
For instance, one may need to touch a door handle three times before allowing oneself to pass through, while another may have to carry around hand sanitizer and use purifying wipes on objects before touching them.
According to neurobiology teacher Jordan Kraus, obsessive-compulsive behavior is definitely neurologically based.
“The disorder is the result of differences in how someone’s brain is wired and the amount of neurotransmitters their brain makes or how those neurotransmitters bind to receptors in their brain, Kraus said.
In patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), areas of the brain associated with anxiety, habit formation, skill learning, and irregular chemical levels in the brain are affiliated with the condition.
The chemical abnormality causes specific circuits in the brain to stimulate the same reaction by continuous triggering.
Whether these chemicals cause or correlate with OCD is still unknown, but once the affects take place, they aid in the continuation of the compulsive behavior.
Many of these compulsions can result from genetic encoding that naturally creates very apprehensive and tense people.
“Certainly biting your nails would be signs that one was anxious or uptight, Kraus said. “Absolutely everything is encoded in our DNA, even [traits like biting your nails].
Along with genetics, these urges may stem from uneasiness or the effects of past events.
Some last a few years while others last a lifetime.
Adolescents tend to maintain habits until they reach the point in their lives when they feel stable, or when they finally conquer their fears.
“Many of the addictions among adolescents, like caffeine and nail biting, are anxiety-induced, and so it’s an OCD also, but [resulting from] the pressure of life or school, psychology teacher Lily Eng said.
Contrarily, when young children are subjected to highly stressful situations, the neurotransmitters released can physically change their brains permanently.
These high levels of stress usually result in diagnosable medical disorders such as multiple personality disorder or abusive behavior, but they can also result in subconscious fears that trigger compulsions.
The real issue with these compulsions is how to rid oneself of them. If you have an anxiety disorder, like OCD, psychiatrists can easily prescribe medication that corrects imbalances in the brain.
If the habits are stress-related, relieving stress with meditation or working to face your fears can solve the problem.

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Desirable No. 1: Harry Potter attracts muggles worldwide http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/desirable-no-1-harry-potter-attracts-muggles-worldwide/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/desirable-no-1-harry-potter-attracts-muggles-worldwide/#comments Tue, 02 Nov 2010 08:30:45 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4975 Tired but wired from the coffee you drank in the car, you walk through a dark, crowded parking lot and arrive at the doors of the theatre.
You see your warm breath form misty clouds in the frigid November air, you feel your heart pounding in your chest. The anticipation is almost painful to endure.
Inside the theatre, you realize you aren’t as hardcore as the girls who drew scars on their foreheads with eyeliner, or the guy wearing a very real-looking Gryffindor quidditch cloak over his flawless Hogwarts uniform.
You notice a group of twenty-somethings standing in a fierce group, wands at the ready, posing for a picture that they’ll one day show to their grandchildren.
But you are an hour early’€you must get good seats.
You weave your way through hundreds of anxious waiting moviegoers dressed as wizards and witches and finally find decent seats in the overcrowded theatre. And then you wait.
Harry Potter fans all over the world flocked to theatres Thursday at midnight to experience the magic of The Deathly Hallows before everyone else.
Demographically, the audience is somewhere between sixteen and twenty-two years old: anyone younger isn’t strong enough to fight their parents (try “Obliviate), and anyone older has work the next morning (that’s obviously more important than hunting Horcruxes).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, the penultimate movie based on the series by J.K. Rowling, was expected to accumulate a gross revenue of $150 million during the first weekend of its release on November 19; it surpassed this by gaining $170 million.
The movie, to the say the least, was a thriller. No longer at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out to destroy Voldemort’s secret to immortality: his Horcruxes.
So far, Harry has destroyed Tom Riddle’s diary and Dumbledore has destroyed Tom Riddle Sr.’s ring. And now that Bill and Fleur’s wedding has been so rudely interrupted by Death Eaters, the three friends must set off to save the world from a second dark magic holocaust¦by hiding in forests.
The events in the movie (except a few minor details) are true to the book. But we all know that the film actors are much more attractive than the respective characters they portray on paper.
And audiences finally get to meet Bill Weasley, Quibbler editor Xenophilius Lovegood, and A History of Magic author Bathilda Bagshot.
Things have changed since The Half-Blood Prince, and they’re never returning to normal. Neville and the other Gryffindors finally get the good seats on the Hogwarts Express with the tables.
A magic mirror shard with a mysterious eye is suddenly in Harry’s possession with no explanation whatsoever.
Ginny, who couldn’t have created a more awkward scene than the “That [kiss] can stay hidden up here [in the Room of Requirement] too, if you like scene in the sixth movie, contributes to one of the most awkward scenes in movie history involving herself, her love interest, and a zipper.
While it would be rude to completely spoil the movie, it must be said: Harry is a terrible dancer. He had a go at it with Parvati Patil back in the fourth movie during the Yule Ball, and even then he was less than decent on his feet.
Now he’s back with more moves, more pizzazz, and, finally, a sense of humor about his whole situation.
Death Toll Part I
Good Guys :7 (8 including Harry’s wand)
Bad Guys: 3 (4 including Lucius Malfoy’s wand)
And then, as shocking as it started, the vast screen goes black. The words “Directed by David Yates appear, and the entire audience around you lets out a breath of relief. The first part is over, but you know that the real action hasn’t even begun.
You wonder how good the second movie will be, how deaf you’ll feel afterwards, and how it’ll all end. (Spoiler alert: Everyone dies except for Harry.)
The people who dressed up as Hogwarts students with uniforms feel foolish because there is not a single student to be seen in the entire movie.
And life is different, just a bit, because those sixteen-to-twenty-two-year-olds realize that Harry Potter isn’t just a worldwide phenomenon’€it was a part of their childhood.
It was a household name, it was the doorway to a world that became so real to so many of us.
It was that sense of belonging when we proclaimed to another, “Yeah, I’m a Slytherin, or, “Ravenclaw is clearly the best, regardless of the fact that it was all invented.
It was the pang of disappointment when the Hogwarts acceptance letter didn’t come in the mail on our eleventh birthdays.
And it’s the sadness we know we’ll feel after the eighth and final movie comes out next July’€not because it marks the end of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s childhood, but because it marks the end of ours as well.

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Governor debate http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/governor-debate/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/governor-debate/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 11:08:43 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4759 The four Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates responded to a variety of pressing issues at an action on October 17 hosted by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), a nonprofit group of diverse political activists with common goals.

This forum was held at Temple Israel in Boston, where over 1,200 people showed up to hear the candidates and to show support.
The gubernatorial candidates drew straws to determine the order in which they would speak.

The four candidates running are Democrat and incumbent Deval Patrick, Republican Charlie Baker, Independent Timothy Cahill, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein.

In the final days leading up to election day, November 2, polls show that Patrick and Baker are in tight competition for the title, with Patrick in the lead at 43 percent and Baker trailing closely behind at 39 percent. With the poll’s 4.3 percent margin of error, however, either candidate could be in the lead.

Cahill received eight percent of the votes, while Stein received two percent.

The questions on the election ballot involve removing the 5.25 percent state sales tax on alcoholic beverages, allowing comprehensive permits for low- or moderate-income housing, rather than separate permits, and reducing the state sales and use tax rates from 6.25 percent to three percent.

At the end of the forum, the four candidates were asked to sign GBIO’ s Questions 2 & 3 Initiatives Statement, a promise to oppose both ballot questions. Question 2 is about the repeal of Affordable Housing Law and Question 3 is about the decrease of Massachusetts sales.

Candidates answered the following questions at the GBIO forum:
1) What to do about the status of Haitian refugees in Massachusetts.
2) What to do about the inner city youth violence.
3) The candidate’s plans to resist unlawful banking practices in Massachusetts.

Charlie Baker:
Republican Charlie Baker proposed that the Massachusetts government work with the federal government to provide Haitian immigrants with temporary work status and more permanent board.

“It is not appropriate, he argued, “To spend excessive amounts of money on homeless families living in hotels. We can think of better strategies.

On teen violence, Baker strayed from the original question and dwelled in to the specifics of the merit of public trials and the District Attorney’s inadequate budget.

He finally announced that he would aid charter schools and increase the number of policemen to help curb violence in urban areas.
Baker expressed interest in helping local banks and small businesses to counter the influence of prominent lenders.

Deval Patrick:
Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick, like Baker, stated that displaced Haitians should be allowed to work; “Until authorization happens, stabilization cannot happen, Patrick said.

He argued that fixing problems with violence is not solely the responsibility of the government’€the most important thing we can do, he said, is “act like adults. Patrick clarified his position by taking a stance favoring improvement of district schools rather than charter schools.

On the issue of unlawful banking Patrick supported the government’s oversight of privately controlled agencies to control reckless investments.

In his conclusion Patrick quoted Winston Churchill, “We are entering a period of consequences, he said, and ended by asking those present to engage in the election. “I’m not fighting for my job, he said. “I’m fighting for yours.

Jill Stein:
Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein began with a rallying cry to “raise the bar even higher on the government’s strengths.
She supported giving Haitians working status, saying, “We owe it to them! Then, she spoke of economic inequality: “It’s not that there’s no money…it’s that it’s all at the top.

To combat violence, Stein proposed an $18 million supplement to the current $8 million currently being spent to keep urban youth off the streets.

Stein advocated moving funds out of the four largest lenders to crack down on usury and to bring interest rates down from 18 to 10 percent. She plans to help homeowners renegotiate mortgages and aid small businesses.

Stein attacked economic inequality and condemned charter schools. Most important to her were restoring funds to “critical programs and establishing single-payer healthcare to benefit all citizens.

Timothy Cahill:
The independent candidate, Treasurer Timothy Cahill, spoke next, agreeing with the other three candidates by saying “The best social program is a job.

He encouraged the relocation of Haitians in Massachusetts from hotels into more “livable situations.

Cahill addressed inner-city violence by emphasizing the importance of crime prevention, and planned to hire more police officers and rebuild urban schools.

On the third issue of corrupt banking, he announced that he had been using his title as treasurer to forge relationships with three of the four major banks: Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. Cahill said that has yet to compromise with JPMorgan Chase.
Further plans included investing state deposits in smaller banks.

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Technology at its worst http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/technology-at-its-worst/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/technology-at-its-worst/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 09:02:29 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4801 While we were all enjoying our Wednesday two weeks ago, perhaps sitting through long-block math or realizing there were actually three classes left instead of two, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River and died.

Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, had gone to his RA complaining of his roommate, Dharun Ravi, who had used his webcam to record Clementi’s intimate activity with another man days prior to the suicide. Ravi and another Rutgers student, Molly Wei, watched the encounter from another room.

Ravi reportedly frequently updated gossip about Clementi via Twitter, including an invitation to “anyone with iChat to videochat him regarding a second public streaming of Clementi’s romantic engagement: “Yes it’s happening again, he Tweeted.

Then, the next day, police found Clementi’s wallet and cell phone on the George Washington Bridge. The day after that, a body washed up near the Columbia University boathouse and was identified as Tyler Clementi.

Gay rights activists, friends of Ravi and Wei, law enforcement officials, and University spokespeople all assessed the tragedy slightly differently. But for those of us who didn’t know Clementi, who maybe don’t belong to any of these groups’€how are we affected?
There’s an aspect of the story that connects us all, regardless of where our sympathies lie: technology. How is new media culture transforming us? Is the ability to, say, secretly video someone and then broadcast the footage on the Internet, destroying our moral compass?

Many people enthusiastically shout YES, with the fear that if we don’t do something soon, generations that grew up with this technology will begin to use it for evil. Others pin youths’ unethical behavior on human flaw’€technology is powerful, and we have the choice to use it either as a helpful tool or as a vicious weapon.

Here at South, students’ witness cyber bullying all across the web.

More specifically, kids use Facebook as a tool to create an unsafe environment with cruel comments and untruthful claims. According to senior Joe Step, childish jokes online can be misinterpreted and lead to hurt feelings. “[Poking fun] can often be misconstrued and people can get offended, Step said.

“People are targeted by statuses, senior Kirby Howell said. “I’ve seen full out fights on [Facebook] photos.

According to research company Pear Analytics, “pointless babble and “conversational Tweets make up almost 80% of all Tweets originating from the United States, or written in English. Among those is Ravi’s string of Tweets about his roommate.
This begs the question: How many other Tweets out there are as potentially harmful as Ravi’s were? It’s a free country; there is no limit to what can be revealed over the Internet.

But if some things, like Ravi’s Tweets and his webcam footage, cause so much harm, it becomes difficult to confidently support the original intention of sites like Twitter, applications like iChat, or inventions like the webcam.

New Jersey officials are investigating the nature of the incident; privacy charges against Ravi and Wei carry up to five years in jail, and the case still remains to be classified as a hate crime.

Regardless, the events leading up to Clementi’s death have shed light on some uses of modern technology that have yet to be managed.

If nothing else, Clementi taught us a lesson when he died. Just hours prior to his suicide, Clementi updated his Facebook status: “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.

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My day on Capitol Hill http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/my-day-on-capitol-hill/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/my-day-on-capitol-hill/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 07:04:03 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4893 At 6:30 AM on the morning of September 22, I was on a plane with my dad and sister headed to Washington DC. Around breakfast time, we were greeted by representatives from a Seattle-based law firm and we all walked up D Street to the Capitol Building.
After stopping for a quick photo, we went across the street to the Rayburn House Office Building.
We all filed through a long security line, but realizing we had about two hours to kill, my sister and I went down to the National Mall to take pictures and back’€it ended up being a very unexpected three mile excursion, roundtrip.
Back at Rayburn, we were stopped by an intimidating line of people dressed like ghosts and a peppy woman handing out pamphlets.
“Learn about the cruelty of egg farmers’€ she began, shoving a paper in my face.“Thanks, but we’re actually going to the hearing, I said. And we’re running very, very late, I wanted to add.
“Then you’ll need to have the information! she reasoned, still holding out the little booklet.
I sighed and took it. It was designed to look like an egg carton, but said “Eggs from Caged Hens¦100 percent Cruelty and “Keep the cruelty out of your refrigerator on it. There was a superimposed graphic of an imprisoned hen in the corner.
We proceeded through security for the second time and made our way to the right room. There must have been over a hundred people trying to squeeze into what was a disappointingly plain-looking room.
Members of the press lined every inch of the walls, and photographers were even sitting on the floor facing the witnesses’ table for a better view.
We snagged seats before it got too crowded.
To kickoff the congressional hearing, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-MI) gave opening statements reviewing details of the case. This consumer hazard was the thirteenth of its kind since 2007.
Two women who fell ill over the summer due to contaminated egg consumption sat up in the front row. Following all of the committee members’ short speeches, the two witnesses were asked to present their prepared statements.
Sarah Lewis, a 30-year-old mother of two, took the audience through her experience with salmonella upon being infected at her sister’s college graduation dinner.
“When I was admitted [to the hospital] the first time, I spent almost 12 hours in the ER because I was so sick they did not want to move me, she said.
“They thought I was going to need emergency bowel surgery because the CAT scan showed bowels that were so inflamed and sick.
Lewis was admitted to the hospital twice’€the first time she was discharged on the pretenses that she would “start the healing process and return to a normal life.
Two weeks later, she was admitted again and spent another five days on antibiotics, injected with intravenous hydration.
After leaving the hospital the second time, she developed a bacteria called C. difficile that caused additional “severe diarrhea and cramping. Lewis claimed that to this day, she suffers symptoms from the remnant illness.
“My sister and I look back at that night and say, ‘ËœWhat if our grandma or one of my daughters had eaten the tarts we received?’
She paused for effect. “They probably would have died.
The second witness, 77-year-old Carol Lobato, described her encounter with salmonella, which involved her consumption of “rattlesnake cake at a high-end restaurant in Morrison, Colorado.
“At first, I began to shake and experience chills, she said. “Then came the waves of vomiting and explosive diarrhea. My fever rose to 102 degrees.
Lobato also visited the hospital twice, sent home the first time after a few hours of tests and scans.
The second stay was longer’€five days’€and more serious due to her age the progression of the salmonella. “I almost certainly would have died without aggressive intervention.
The Committee did not select these women arbitrarily.
Sarah Lewis happens to be the daughter of the owner of a small butcher shop. During his time questioning the witnesses, Representative Stupak placed emphasis on Lewis’ family’s adherence to state and federal regulations regarding standards of any food-related establishment.
When Stupak directly asked the witness whether government regulation was “over-burdensome or “helpful in maintaining business, Lewis replied, “If we did not have regulations on our facility, there’s other butcher shops, and if they didn’t uphold to a certain standard, then the product¦is not going to be of a certain level.
And Lobato herself grew up on an Iowa farm and made itvery clear in her own statement: “We never had any problems on our farm because we kept things clean, took proper care of our chickens, and did things the right way.
Before long, five guilty-faced men, all owners of giant Iowa egg farms, rose from their seats and, bombarded by photographers, made their way to the witness stand.
Just as the first witness, Austin “Jack DeCoster introduced himself, two protestors rose from their seats in the crowd with a giant poster condemning unethical egg farms.
One of them rattled off a memorized speech about the evils of keeping caged hens and ended with a chorus of “All eggs kill! All eggs kill! as he was escorted out of the room by security.
Jack DeCoster, owner of Wright County Egg, and his son, Peter DeCoster, Wright County Egg Chief Operating Officer, offered statements.
“We were horrified to learn that our eggs may have made people sick, Jack DeCoster began. We apologize to everyone who may have been sickened by eating our eggs.
He continued with the story of his family’s egg business.
“We were big before we started adopting sophisticated procedures to be sure we met all of the government requirements, he said.
-“While we were big, but still acting like we were small, we got into trouble with government requirements several times.
Other witnesses included Orland Bethel, President of Hillandale Farms and Duane Mangskau, Production Manager of Hillandale Farms. Bethel invoked his fifth amendment right to remain silent; Mangskau gave a short statement, and offered words of comfort: “And even if the source of the Salmonella illness is never confirmed, where we have fallen short in Iowa we are committed to improving our operations.
Stupak heavily interrogated the DeCosters, leaving them to contemplate the fact that their farm’s violations “didn’t just [happen] overnight.
Finally, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a representative from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), presented his statement, explaining the regulations placed on all food producers in the Untied States and the measures the FDA has taken to control outbreaks of illnesses such as salmonella.
The members of the committee, starting with Stupak, questioned Sharfstein about FDA involvement in passing food regulations.
They targeted the FDA’s practices; Burgess noted that the FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ought to “cross-communicate to prevent instances like the recent breakout from happening again.
“It’s unusual to have salmonella inside the egg, isn’t it? asked Burgess.
“Not at [Wright County Egg], I don’t think, replied a cheeky Dr. Sharfstein.
The hearing was brought to a cliff-hanger close at 3:30 PM.
Introduced in May 2009, the new bill (the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act), an amendment to the existing Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, is still being debated by the Senate.
Having gotten sick from Wright County eggs, I can only wonder how long it will be before the bill is passed.
But at the same time, I’m almost glad this all happened, because otherwise major egg producers would have gone longer without abiding by safety regulations.

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South speaks: Spanish http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/south-speaks-spanish/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/south-speaks-spanish/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 06:06:16 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4911 You’re in an obscure rural village in Uruguay. It’s cien degrees in the shade. You wish that tuvieras algo para comer y beber. No tienes ni efectivo ni una tarjeta de crédito, y necesitas agua y/o comida inmediatamente porque no te quieres morir.
This becomes problematic for two reasons. First: nobody in Obscureville, Uruguay speaks English. Second: you don’t speak Spanish.
Thankfully, I anticipated this very situation when I was eleven years old, when I decided which language I would study for the rest of my high school life.
Aside from being the second most-spoken language in the world (I concede that Mandarin will become the international auxiliary language soon enough), Spanish is quite useful to know given our geographical location.
As Norteamericanos, we have an obligation to become familiar with the common language of our neighbors to the south.
We expect others to learn English for us. And this is all good and dandy as long as we do our part to learn foreign languages as well.
Spanish in particular is also a very pretty language. With the rolling of the r’s, the habitually rapid yet unfailingly elegant speech, and words like ‘Ëœcivilación’ said with a ceceo (lisp), the Spanish language is inarguably quite an aesthetically pleasing language to hear.
Latin, while useful for the SATs and for decoding collegiate mottos, is sort of a clunky language. It doesn’t flow; the words aren’t very nice sounding. Take the word ‘Ëœpulchra’ for instance. Say it aloud. Ugly, right? It means ‘Ëœpretty’.
I decided against French because of its unnecessary letters. It seems like almost every word has random letters tacked on to the end that nobody pronounces.
In Spanish, every letter has a job. You pronounce words how they are spelled. I suspect this advantage makes Spanish somewhat easier to learn to read and write.
Furthermore, the Spanish language is a romance language and therefore inherently linked to other languages of the same origin.
Studying Spanish may help me down the line if I decide to learn another similar language’€Portuguese or Italian, for instance. People who speak Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese can more easily understand each other than Spanish and French-speaking people.
Perhaps the main reason I chose to learn Spanish is¦Mexican food. Everyone knows what a tortilla is, everyone knows what a burrito is.
But what if you’re in a restaurant with no translations on the menu? What if you’re wondering what ‘ËœLengua’ is?
It looks good, but you would never know. What if you see ‘ËœSopa’ on the menu, but from the looks of it you might just be ordering yourself a bar of soap?
From taking Spanish, I can warn you against choosing the lengua because it is beef tongue. I can also advise you to go ahead and order the sopa because it is soup and soup is delicious.

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Fair Grading http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/fair-grading/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/fair-grading/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 09:30:20 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4580 How do teachers maintain fair grades? Each one has a different technique or system of doing so, which includes number systems, grading tests page-by-page, or disregarding the student’s name entirely. Here, teachers explain their methods and their reasons behind them.

“For me, I feel the key is to make my expectations as clear as possible. I will let students know what is due with a syllabus and I expect them to use that syllabus to plan their week. After this, I will let them know a week in advance of a test and give them a study guide several days in
- Eugene Stein, History Teacher

The Number System
By Amanda Sands

Almost every student speculates whether or not a teacher grades fairly. Did you get a bad grade because of who you are, or because of what your work is like? To make grading fair, teachers find new ways to ensure their students’ anonymity to limit bias.

In the English Department specifically, some teachers have implemented a system in which students replace four-digit numbers with their names on the top of each assignment.

“Students appreciate the system because sometimes they worry about getting ‘Ëœstuck’ at a particular grade, or that their teacher has made certain assumptions about them or their writing, English teacher Dana Arnaboldi said.

With this system, students are able to earn the fair grades they deserve.

Instead of the loud kid who drives the teacher crazy, you’re known only as 4819. The quiet suck-up who always offers to hand back papers is simply 1022.

Grades may vary based on the effort put into the work, or its overall validity, but Arnaboldi’s perseption of her students will almost never color her opinion of their writing.

“The rationale, she said, “is that I can read a paper with ‘Ëœfresh eyes,’ and not let a student’s previous writings or contributions to class discussion affect my reading.

Some people expressed skepticism toward such a number system, usually because, they argue, a teacher simply needs to know who is writing each paper. For Arnaboldi, this aspect is equally as important as anonymity:

“Of course, I do not always use the code system because there are times when we workshop a paper multiple times, and it is important that I do know whose paper I am reading so I can see how a student has improved.

Most students in her junior honors English class espouse the integrity of this bias-reduction method.

“I like the number system because it assures the student that [his or her] teacher is grading their work solely on academic value without personal or non-academic factors, junior Shervin Rezaei, said.

There’s obviously no way to completely eliminate teacher bias, but this number system, at least in Arnaboldi’s class, seems to be effective.
“It’s not a perfect system, said Arnaboldi, “but it has worked for me.

“On changing the system, sometimes I’ll modify the percentage value of the grading categories–writing, tests, quizzes, homework–to better reflect the percentage of work they actually did during a given term.
- Alan Reinstein, English Teacher

A Different Style of Conventional Learning
By Amanda Sands

As students, we are on the receiving end of the grading system. We control what grades we receive’€to an extent.

There’s no universal template for our evaluation, just like there’s no universal ‘ËœA.’ Varying quality levels of schoolwork may receive the same grade; likewise, similar work may yield totally unlike final grades.

Many teachers have found alternate ways of grading their students to ensure fairness for everyone.

These modifications to the standard grading methods are more prevalent with history and English teachers, where grading papers is more subjective.

Most math and science teachers can get away with a more typical system because those subjects are much more objective.

One thing that housemaster and math teacher Josepha Blocker does is “grade tests one page at a time to make sure to give partial credit equally to every student for each problem. She also grades tests without looking at whose she is grading.

Blocker hands out a survey twice a year; one question asks if students feel that the grading is fair.

“Students pretty universally say yes, she said.

Another way she improves grading for her classes is weighting tests and quizzes differently for individual people if, for example, they do poorly on quizzes but “worked up to the grade on the unit test. Blocker counts the quizzes less for someone for whom “the journey was a little rocky, but who mastered the material for the final exam.

In her sophomore and junior classes, history teacher Deborah Linder also uses unique strategies for grading her students.

“I tend to count homework more than I count tests, she said, “[which helps students] on a day-to-day basis. I grade it, and leave comments. That way, students can see what they know and what they have yet to understand.

The satisfaction of her students with the grades they receive compared to their effort given “depends on what grades they’re getting, she said. “The majority of kids understand that I’m not grading to punish them.

Many students feel that they should be graded based on their effort, but “it’s not just about effort; it’s about content and quality. If there’s substance in the writing, that’s what gets you a good grade, Linder said.

A tricky part of grading students in such a diverse population at school is the possibility of a double standard.

Some kids, like ELL students or kids with IEPs or a 504 plan, may require an alternative grading curve.

“It’s important to take that into consideration, Linder said. But then, she explained, you wonder, “Why are you grading one kid different than the others when they end up getting the same grades for different work?

While kids may have equal knowledge, some may have more difficulty expressing their thoughts accurately.

To make grading more fair, sometimes Linder doesn’t look at whose paper she’s grading. “[With] some kids’€when you don’t look at who they are’€there are some surprises.

She also said that a good relationship with a teacher can lead to better grades.

Students have also found truth in this: “When you have a good relationship with a teacher, it can help boost a term grade, junior Natalie Walters said.

It is impossible that students expect to be graded solely based on their academic performance, as attitudes in the classroom are so prominent a part of a teacher’s view of a student.

“What happens in a classroom is a big part of class, freshman Rachel Hurwitz said. “[A final grade] can’t all be based off of homework and tests you study for at home.

Teachers at South have tried hard to make sure that their grading methods are fair.

At the same time, should the goal for students just be a good grade? Or should it be to “improve certain aspects of writing or comprehension? as Linder said.

This is still a matter to be resolved, but in the mean time, teachers’ individual modifications to the normal system have proven generally successful in reducing injustices in student evaluations.

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Israeli ambassador stirs controversy at Brandeis graduation http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/israeli-ambassador-stirs-controversy-at-brandeis-graduation/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/israeli-ambassador-stirs-controversy-at-brandeis-graduation/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 07:16:57 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4566 “This commencement is about you, announced Brandeis commencement speaker Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States, to thousands of graduates and their families on May 23. While many welcomed the esteemed author and historian, some undergraduates spoke out against Oren’s political positions, and openly protested his arrival on campus.

Brandeis Student Jon Sussman created the largest group on Facebook that objected to Oren speaking at Commencement, called “Commencement Was Supposed to Be About Us: Against Michael Oren as Speaker. In the description, Sussman argued that “with the selection of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, commencement has been hijacked to serve as part of a debate about Middle Eastern politics.

Since the group’s inception on April 25, Sussman’s sentiments were reflected in the group’s numerous wall posts by fellow angry Brandeis students.

Among other things, they posted petitions, Youtube videos, crudely-worded complaints, and relevant news articles.

The morning of Commencement, a small gathering of students and adults carried anti-Oren signs and marched around outside Brandeis’ field house, where the ceremony was held.

Several levels of security were ready and waiting for Oren’s arrival. Humid and cramped, the field house was crowded with parents, graduates, and members of the press waiting for something to happen.

Finally, they blasted Israeli pop and a wide range other lively ethnic music (including “O, Canada!) and the ceremony began.

Negativity toward Oren as speaker was impossible to detect during Commencement; the ambassador spoke, the student speaker addressed the class, and Paul Simon sang’€all without any obvious discord.

Later that day, a post appeared on Sussman’s Facebook group (from which Sussman ultimately resigned as administrator): “So, anyone [find] it funny how much Oren sucked as a speaker?

Possibly in an attempt to avoid taking decisive positions on the Middle East debate, a hot topic at Brandeis, students argued that they were only against Oren because “he is a divisive choice that politicizes what should be a day of celebration for graduates.

This division that Oren’s presence would allegedly create in the Brandeis community was arguably reinforced through the founding of such Facebook groups and public protests. As one student wrote to the members of the group, “You guys are the ones causing the divide.

Two hundred and forty seven students joined the Facebook group’€out of 3,185 total undergraduates. Not all students firmly disapproved of Michael Oren on campus. “The protestors are creating the divisiveness within the Brandeis community, expressed student Katie Waizer.

Parents and some professors were appreciative of the speaker and critical of the protest. “Do yourselves a favor and don’t embarrass Brandeis anymore than you already [have].

Another student wrote a couple hours later, “I just wonder if Brandeis is about anything besides Israel. Even the group’s founder backed off: “This group/petition is made of members of the Brandeis community who see Oren’s selection as a political gesture, and would rather not have that at graduation.

Still, dissatisfied students did not want to take advice from the ambassador if his views strayed so much from theirs. Ultimately this controversy came down to a free-speech argument. Students from schools other than Brandeis wrote wall posts complaining that Brandeis was ruining free speech.

Spencer Burger, a Canadian student, was especially outspoken on the issue: “Develop some thicker skin, get beyond your demonization of Israel, and recognize this man’s right to free speech. If you disagree with him, good for you, but that is no reason to be against his very right to give you a commencement address.

Oren himself candidly addrssed the tenion, “As an ambassador, he said, “I must grapple with issues that affect millions of lives¦and frequently face criticism in the media and on campuses.

Filled to the brim with warm personal anecdotes, life lessons, and biblical allusion, Oren’s eloquent speech was mainly centered around Jewish lore, but also touched upon Middle East conflicts.

Oren used his former experience as a paratrooper to thread together an allegory about having to leap from airplanes, and sometimes needing a push in order to fulfill a duty.

Not surprisingly everyone present was served a large dose of anticipated future achievement as seen through a Biblical/Israeli/.Jewish lens. The theme from “The Lion King sounded over the speakers, Paul Simon sang “The Boxer, and Brandeis’ senior class of 2010 finally graduated.

Freedom of speech was honored, and Oren fed the graduates what he felt would benefit them in life.

“It is my duty’€it is my privilege’€to leave you with a few modest words of advice, concluded Oren.

“Seek your transformative moments, and seize them. Dream. Take responsibility. Take pride. Serve. Be strong. Be courageous. And though you may occasionally need a push, jump.

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Does the Apple Fall Far from the Tree? http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/03/24/does-the-apple-fall-far-from-the-tree/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/03/24/does-the-apple-fall-far-from-the-tree/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 08:16:15 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3848 Maybe not, but in this neck of the woods, the wind is picking up…

Cultural clashes have existed since the beginning of humanity, often appearing in literature, television, and the general progression of history through time. Differences in custom, social class, and etiquette are some of the main reasons for familial conflict in today’s world. Pop culture has embraced this aspect of life, such as in the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, or the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Even the musical theatre industry has adapted familial conflict in Fiddler on the Roof. In our country, and even in our own school, hostility and opposition arises within families due to contrasting cultures, religious beliefs, and political views.

Every household has a generation gap that accounts for certain differences between the adults’ and the kids’ day-to-day life’€simple choices that range from the appropriate way to dress or dating, to more controversial topics like political party or religion. Many young people feel as though their parents come from a different world.

Parents were born in an entirely different era, however, and they all grew up in distinctly dissimilar cultures from those of their teenage children.

Parents often have different outlooks on life due to past experiences and learned morals derived from their upbringings.

Naturally, the same was true when they were children themselves: if a teenager of any generation hasn’t been ordered to change her clothing or to turn off his loud music, then he or she is rather lucky.

America is characteristically diverse; it’s a melting pot of hundreds of cultures and traditions. Like in any society of mixed beliefs and customs from varying backgrounds, disagreements will emerge.

South, a school containing a variety of different backgrounds including students who are either first generation Americans with foreign parents or who are immigrants themselves, is precisely the same way.

The teenage immigrant commonly faces struggles that many of his peers typically don’t worry about: maintaining his cultural heritage or sustaining the traditions of his birthplace. Because the American lifestyle differs considerably from his mother country’s culture, arguments over social status, fashion choices, relationships, and even arranged marriages will begin to tear apart his family.

From the beginning of time, children and their parents have been at odds with one another. Especially when the folks come from a different neck of the woods, the apple certainly does fall far from the tree.

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Sweeter than most, Sweet Charity is a success http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/sweeter-than-most-sweet-charity-is-a-success/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/sweeter-than-most-sweet-charity-is-a-success/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2010 08:36:24 +0000 Amanda Sands http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3641 On February 4, 5, and 6, South Stage gave three performances of the 1966 musical, Sweet Charity. Under the direction of Leah Fine and choreographer Monica Stein, the cast of nearly 40 pulled together a riveting show that displayed a unique cohesion, talent, and sense of humor.

Starring sophomore Hannah Dober as Charity Hope Valentine, a recently brokenhearted yet optimistic dance hostess at the Fandango Ballroom, and junior Jake Light as Oscar, an accountant who falls in love with Charity, the show assembled a full house of students and parents alike for all performances.

The number of underclassmen stars in the cast was astounding. “South Stage productions base casting on more important things than age¦seniority didn’t affect me at all, sophomore and cast member Allegra Borak said.

The musical opened with Charity sitting on a park bench with her boyfriend, a married man named Charlie, played by sophomore Evan Ogden, when she sings a song about how much she loves him. After this, he pushes her in the lake and snatches her purse.

In the first of many comical scenes, passersbies intrude on the situation, but no one is considerate enough to help the drowning girl.

In keeping with the overarching “every man for himself mantra, this mocks the all too human tendency to passively observe another’s misfortune.

Two cops finally pull Charity out of the water, and she makes her way to the ballroom under the inglorious employment of Herman, played by junior Max Grossman.

The choreographically impressive number “Big Spender follows with dozens of Fandango girls singing about “fun, laughs, and good time, which sums up the girls’ occupation.

While Charity is walking home, she spots the fictional famous movie actor, Vittorio Vidal, played by junior Harry Neff, on the street arguing with his girlfriend, Ursula, played by junior Ellie Crowley.

In this scene, Charity and the stoic doorman observe the fight, and in a huff of rage and vengeance, Vidal grabs Charity and recruits her as his date for the evening. At the Pompeii Club, “Big Spender is one-upped by “Rich Man’s Frug, a brilliantly executed musical number featuring the entire company.

Back at Vidal’s apartment, he offers Charity a hat and cane and mementos of his past movie roles, which she uses in her solo number, “If My Friends Could See Me Now.

Much to the audience’s surprise, Ursula comes to the door, begging to make up with Vidal. Charity, hat in one hand and cane in the other, hides in the closet until morning.

When Charity escapes from Vidal’s apartment, her friends back at the dance hall barely believe with whom she had spent the night.

Charity, Nikki, played by Borak, and Helene, played by senior Maya Lee-Parritz, then announce their plans to leave the ballroom and make something of themselves in the song “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.

Nikki and Helene give up their dream about 10 seconds after they stop singing, but Charity is determined to refine herself. On her way up to a class at the YMCA, an elevator stalls and traps her inside with Oscar Lindquist, a claustrophobic young man whom Charity must pacify while they wait together. They sing a song about bravery, and the first act is over.

It was clear that the entire cast was highly dedicated and that they spent a good amount of time learning their parts. “I think being in any show, regardless of the part or size of the part, requires an actor to be responsible, Borak said.

“Even if you fit a part perfectly, you have to do your homework. You need to think about your character’s objectives, what their relationships with the other characters are, how the character moves, and how he or she talks, Neff said.

The second act begins when Oscar brings Charity to a “church, which is under the Manhattan Bridge. The eccentric church leader, Daddy Brubeck, played by senior Michael RiCharde, leads his congregation in singing “The Rhythm of Life, another creative number complete with Bohemian costumes, unconventional choreography, and tongue-tying lyrics.

Oscar and Charity are from two different social classes, and as much as they love each other, Charity can’t seem to tell him about her job, not even when they’re stuck together on the top of a Coney Island parachute ride. Oscar comforts Charity, since she’s scared of heights, with the song “Sweet Charity.

Charity finally summons the courage to go to the Fandango Ballroom, quit her job, and meet Oscar to admit that she’s not as “pure as he thinks she is.

Oscar says he doesn’t care’€he already knew about her job’€and he suggests that they get married. The elated Charity sings “I’m a Brass Band as cast members skip on and off the stage in red marching band outfits.

After her burst of enthusiasm, she heads back to the dance hall to say goodbye to her friends and boss.  When she enters, Herman and the girls jump out to surprise her with a cheap cake that reads “Happy Birthday, Angelo and a wrapped box that contains baby clothes, due to the fact that one of the girls was under the impression that Charity was pregnant.

Herman and the girls sing “I Love to Cry at Weddings while Charity says her final goodbyes.

All seems well, but then, suddenly, Oscar breaks down, chickens out, and runs away from Charity, ending the engagement. Next is a curtain call.

Considering the comedy and vivacity of the show, Sweet Charity ended more depressingly than it had begun.

Is Charity’s life doomed to continue in this vicious cycle of failed romances?  Or does it all come down to hope and optimism’€that one day, if she doesn’t give up, Charity will end up all right?

Aside from its ending, which couldn’t be helped, the show overall was well done’€from the digital scenery and simplistic sets to the sound effects and meticulous attention to detail’€but it was the memorable ensemble numbers that enhanced its quality. These fabulous routines stood out from the other songs that only featured one or two people.

Although the entire play didn’t appear under-rehearsed to the audience, Neff felt that more rehearsals would have helped, and that some cast members didn’t think the show would be “polished enough by opening night. “However, I think we [exceeded] our own expectations. We had a lot of fun with it, Neff said.

“Focus during rehearsal and the amount of time put into a show outside of rehearsal [most affect the final performance], Borak said. “I think [our high] expectations were met because of the dedication and ability of our cast and crew.

“[The audience] seemed to enjoy it and it’s great to know we had done our job, Neff said.

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