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The Spectator The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper

Volume CIV  No. 15

June 3, 2014

An Author Already Among Us

Tuesday, June 10th, marks the day for run-off elections for Junior and Senior Caucuses, as well as Student Union (SU) president and vice president. With a number of different candidates running, The Spectator provides an in-depth coverage of this year’s candidates for student leadership positions. After an interview and a thorough analysis of each ticket, the editorial board has chosen to endorse one ticket for each of the elections. Read more about this on pages 15 to 18.

Wei Lin and Joyce Lee.

Jin Hee Yoo / The Spectator

By Alice Cheng and Rose Cytryn

Anne Duncan /The Spectator

Gabe Rosen and Justin Kong.

ourtesy of Wei Lin

• The National Physics Olympiad competition awarded semi-finalists seniors Sebastian Conyneare, Youbin Kim, and Michael Lim, and sophomore Calvin Lee gold medals. The United States Physics Olympiad finalist camp has accepted Kim for possible nomination to the United States team, consisting of five students that will compete in the international championship round. • Nine out of the 39 students who received gold medals in the National Spanish Examination will participate in the regional New York City award ceremony. • The Association of Orthodox Jewish Teachers Essay Contest awarded freshman Karen Chen first place and freshman Thomas Lin fourth place. • The Nation magazine published junior Kumaran Chanthrakumar’s article about cyberbullying. • The 2014 New York State History Teacher of the Year award was given to Social Studies teacher Robert Sandler. Sandler will receive a $1,000 stipend from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and will also be considered for the National History Teacher of the Year Award. • The Manhattan District Attorney’s Gang Awareness and Prevention Unit visited Civil Law teacher Linda Weissman’s class to discuss how the group is reversing the effect of gangs on New York City students.

stuyspec.com

SU Campaign Coverage 2014

Newsbeat

Keiran Carpen and Jonathan Aung.

While most of us were in seventh grade, learning about European explorers and algebra, sophomore Ruojia Sun was publishing a memoir. Translated, the title of this Chinese memoir is “I’m Going to School in America,” but between laughs she assured us, “It sounds really lame but […] we just wanted one that was really direct to catch the people’s attention.” It seems that not only the memoir itself, but her story also catches people’s attention. Born in China, Sun was raised by two diplomats and “was always having to be prepared to move,” she said. So, at the age of five and a half, Sun and her family moved to Washington D.C. After Washington, Sun moved back to China for a year before returning to America to live in New York. “I think after I moved to America for the third time I just really wanted to stay here, and my parents have been doing a lot of work to ensure that I can stay here.” It’s not easy for diplomats to stay in one place too long because they normally rotate every few years, but Sun’s supportive parents work to ensure she can remain here. “My parents are currently working in different places just so I can keep going to school here. So, I do want to go to college here. I think America is a really good place for education in general.”

Ella McAndrews / The Spectator

Stephen Wolfram Visits Stuyvesant

On Monday, May 12, Stephen Wolfram visited Stuyvesant and lectured numerous students about his work.

By Sharon Chao and Helen Jin The auditorium filled with applause and cheers as Stephen Wolfram, creator of the famed Wolfram Alpha, demonstrated the EdgeDetect function on his current work-in-progress computer language. After just one line of code, his language was able to sync with his computer camera to produce an image that traced the edges of his original picture. Even more surprisingly, as Wolfram waved to the crowd

Features

of adoring students, the image changed to delineate his moving hand, much like an animation. Many Stuyvesant students are familiar with Wolfram Alpha, a computational search engine that virtually does their math homework for them. Because Wolfram Alpha is so widely known, it isn’t surprising that hundreds of students showed up at the Stuyvesant theater to hear the lecture given by its creator, Stephen Wolfram, on Monday, May 12. Wolfram’s talk started during ninth period and included a presentation of Article on page 3.

On Tipsy Toes: Stuyvesant’s Alcohol Culture at a Glance Alcohol remains a touchy subject for Stuyvesant, and the Features department seeks to demistify all the taboo surrounding this culture on page 3.

Wolfram Alpha, a demonstration of his developing computer language, and a brief question and answer session. Computer science teacher Michael Zamansky was able to arrange this entire event a few days prior through personal connections. Wolfram was by no means an ordinary child. He first wrote an unpublished dictionary on physics when he was 12. He published his first paper on particle physics at the age of 15, and by the time he was 20, he received his PhD in particle physics from the California Institute of Technology. Wolfram started using a computer when he was still in college, and quickly became intrigued with the notion of scientific computing. He had to calculate various equations for a physics class, and because he was not a fan of these tedious manual calculations, he decided to create a computation application. Wolfram cited his early interest in physics as a factor in pursuing computer science. “I do technology to do science, and science lets me show technology,” Wolfram said. “I wanted to take a different approach of using technology instead of math equations.” With this in mind, Wolfram created Mathematica, an application solely for computations. This

“The Pulse of the Student Body”

was the basis for his later work, Wolfram Alpha, which expanded its horizons to be a search engine for general facts and formulas rather than just a calculator. Wolfram began the lecture by explaining Wolfram Alpha and its capabilities. It is not only an online calculator. Other than displaying the solution to a problem, Wolfram Alpha also shows fun facts related to the problem. For instance, inputting “y = 3x + 5” would return the name of the geometric figure, its graph, alternate forms, and even related questions. One of the features that make Wolfram Alpha so popular is that questions can be asked in vernacular and they do not necessarily have to be about math. For example, Wolfram Alpha is able to interpret “ATAT” as a genome sequence, and not just some random letters. Currently, Wolfram is working on his own computer language, which has not been released to the public yet. Stuyvesant students were able to experience some of its functions, and one aspect that particularly thrilled them was its plot representations, or the ability to make three-dimensional graphs of the data given. What makes this unique is that the user can drag the computer mouse to move the graph around and see the data from different angles. Article on page 24.

The support of her parents goes beyond helping Sun stay in America for school. Ever since elementary school, Sun has had a love for writing, and it was the belief her parents had in her that initially began the writing process. Sun shared, “My dad was just like, ‘I think it would really cool for you if you recorded your experiences.’ So I decided why not?” With this thought, Sun started to write her memoir when she was 11. Her parents were part-time writers as well, having previously published books about US law, immigration stories, and pirates in Somalia. As a result, their background in writing also helped Sun with revisions. In the summer of sixth grade, Sun and her parents dedicated the entire two months to editing her draft. They addressed word choice, grammar, and fluency to further clarify ideas. In addition, they reorganized parts of the book in order, and divided them into chapters. The book ended up going through more than 45 revisions. Afterwards, it was her parents who contacted publishing companies to accept her work and looked for ways to advertise the book when it was ready for sale. “My mom was the one who was mostly kind of like my book agent, and she went around trying to find companies that would [publish the book], it continued on page 3

Wolfram’s language is also symbolic, and is able to work with undefined variables. “If you type an ‘x’, in other languages, you would get an error. In our language, ‘x’ can stand for itself and can be represented by itself,” Wolfram said. This provides an easier interactive surface for the average user. Wolfram’s primary goal with his language was to make all knowledge accessible. He did not want his language to be too technical, and at the same time, he did not want to provide facts that weren’t actually applicable to real life. “It has to be able to talk about real things in the world,” he said. Stuyvesant students especially loved this aspect, which is not seen in other computer languages, like Java and Python. An example of his language being useful in everyday life is one function that compares pictures based on visual similarity. The U.S. flag was compared to those of European countries, and the five flags with the highest resemblances were returned. Aside from the computer programming, Wolfram had a larger lesson in mind for Stuyvesant students. “Go for what you’re interested in. I liked computer science, and it was a relatively unexplored field, so I chose to stick with it. It ended up getting me where I am today,” he said.

A&E Maya Angelou in Memoriam

In honor of legendary poet and author Maya Angelou, the A&E department celebrates her life and works on page 24.


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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

News Roof Garden Planned

Senior Rubaya Yeahia Wins Association of Supreme Court Justices Essay Contest

Stuyvesant’s rooftop garden is made up of dark green grasses called xerophytes.

By JAN LI and DAVID MASCIO Two years ago, art and technology teacher Leslie Bernstein planned to fill Stuyvesant’s currently empty 10th floor roof with plants in order to create an educational opportunity for students. Funding was secured by Principal Jie Zhang, and the project was slated to begin. However, the initiative soon ran into trouble. Essential to the rooftop garden was creating a set of wooden planters, and Bernstein was unable to find enough student help to build the planters. “There weren’t enough students to help with this project, and with SING! coming along, the whole thing lost its momentum and was dropped,” Bernstein said. Thanks to newfound student involvement from the Stuyvesant Environmental Club (SEC), Bernstein is reviving the initiative. The planters (approximately five feet long and two feet wide) will be made of reclaimed wood and are being donated by the Rosenwach Water Tower Restoration Group. Bernstein expects the project to be completed by mid-June. The exact form that the garden will take is still unclear. As part of the Garden to School Café program, the Stuyvesant Environmental Club has planted vegetables for the cafeteria at the Battery Urban Farm. The program may be expanded to the planned roof garden. “The project is newly

By Rebecca Chang and Namra Zulfiqar After nearly five years of attempting to ratify a new contract for teachers, a consensus was finally reached between New York City and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) board. Union delegates unofficially approved the new contract on Wednesday, May 7. The contract consists of a multitude of ideas including higher pay, a simpler system for teacher evaluations, and other benefits for teachers in the city. One of the central topics that the 47-page contract focuses on is how the city will deal with the retroactive pay (or back pay) that is owed to teachers. After the expiration of the last contract in 2009, the UFT and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg were not able to reach an agreement for a new contract, and thus teachers were not able to receive their yearly pay raises, typically about two percent. As a result, the UFT made it a priority to win their overdue pay raises during recent contract discussions, which total an absent eight percent salary increase between 2009 and 2014. Since the contract is supposed to last until 2018, members of the UFT are to receive an additional eight percent salary increase by that time. But because the city cannot afford

launched, so all the kinks about what will be planted and such have not been worked out yet. We [SEC] do have seeds from the hardware store near the school building to use and someone at Stuy has approached us about donating seeds to grow in the garden, so that will give us an idea of what kind of garden we will have,” junior and SEC president Sidney Lok said. “The garden could also be used for research purposes, like determining if plants have symbiotic relationships when grown together, or discovering what defense mechanisms plants employ,” sophomore and Environmental Club member Jackie Zheng said. Lok is also excited for this initiative. She said, “Having a school garden is going to be beneficial to Stuyvesant because gardens are so versatile. They can be live classrooms. They are a simple way to beautify a space. Perhaps if we grow produce, we can harvest and use some of it in cafeteria food or donate it to soup kitchens. There are so many possibilities. This is the beginning to a greener Stuy!” Over the summer, Environmental Club faculty advisor and biology teacher Marissa Maggio, Assistant Principal of Physics Scott Thomas, and Environmental Club members will tend the garden. No matter what plants fill the rooftop garden, “the project will give city kids a really special opportunity to learn about plants,” Bernstein said.

When senior Rubaya Yeahia handed in her Civil Law essay, she had never anticipated that it would end up on page two of the “New York Law Journal.” A month later, she was shocked to find herself the grand prize winner of the annual high school essay contest sponsored by the Association of Supreme Court Justices. The contest had participants respond to the theme “American Democracy and the Rule of Law—Why every vote matters.” Yeahia’s essay explained why the number of voters falling into the 18-21 age bracket has decreased so much in recent years, including statistics to display this issue and shadowing her essay with her own personal connection as someone approaching this age group. Yeahia is a student in social studies teacher Linda Weissman’s Civil Law class, which sparked her interest in law. “I really had no idea about law going into law class,” Yeahia said. “I had Ms. Weissman last term for government […] and she was always talking about court cases during government and that really peaked my interest.” Throughout the law course, Weissman emphasized the importance of voting and even handed out voter registration cards to her class, bringing the topic of the young person’s vote to Yeahia’s attention. When Yeahia received the assignment, she contemplated the reasons for the decreasing votes from young people. “We’re so caught up in social media that we become disillusioned with the government,” Yeahia said. She came to the conclusion that the distractions young people face isolate them in a separate world of popular culture and their own individual issues, inciting them to de-

Courtesy of Rubaya Yeahia

Jin Hee Yoo / The Spectator

By Julia Ingram

velop a “who cares” mentality about government and democratic representation, leading to the decline in young voters. Yeahia’s essay concluded by touching on the significance of a single vote. “Voting is not just a ballot that one casts into a pool of statistics and calculations, it is a symbol of how far we have come as Americans in regard to government and human rights,” she wrote. Among the hundreds of entries from high school students throughout New York City, nine finalists and one winner were selected. The 10 finalists were invited to an awards ceremony, at which the grand prize winner was announced. The winner receives a $100 check, certificate, and plaque at the awards ceremony. They also have the opportunity to hear speeches made by the Chief Judge of New York Jonathan Lippman, as well as those made by other judges within the second department of the Appellate Division of the New York City Supreme Court at the awards ceremony. Additionally, the 10 finalists have the opportunity to participate in a oneweek internship with a judge. When Yeahia was invited to attend the awards ceremony as a finalist, she was already taken aback. “Even

New UFT Contract Unofficially Approved to immediately raise teachers’ salaries by the overdue eight percent, the change proposed in the contract is to increase the salaries incrementally, resulting in about a two percent yearly increase as compensation. This proposal raises many concerns for teachers, especially for those who think the union could have argued for a greater increase. “[As for] the dollar amounts that we should’ve had all those years from 2009 to the present, we’re not going to be getting that spending power with the money that we finally get,” math teacher Gary Jaye said. “We are glad that we are getting something, but I know I am voting against the contract and a lot of people are.” Others, however, disagree with this, stating that the two percent increase is a big step in the right direction for the UFT and its members. “Given what’s going on around the country where many unions and employees are actually giving back benefits [and] losing things they already have like health benefits or pension benefits, not losing anything in a way is a victory and getting even small wins in the current climate is realistically the best that [the UFT] could’ve gotten,” parent coordinator Harvey Blumm said. Another major part of the

contract focuses on the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), a classification for teachers who have taught in schools that were closed down and are unable to find new jobs. These ATRs serve as substitute teachers around the city and continue to receive the same pay that they earned before losing their jobs. Although the new contract does come with benefits for these ATRs, such as the ability to be permanently hired by principals and increased severance pay based on how long the teacher has been working, it also has its drawbacks. One, for instance, is that these ATRs can potentially be fired if accused by two principals of “ineffective behavior,” a phrase that is not clearly outlined or defined in the contract. “It seems like what they could have in mind for the ATRs is a way of summarily dismissing them and getting them out of the system […] because evidently a principal can determine that this ATR is not worthy [by making] this snap judgment on the basis of one observation,” Jaye said. “To the extent that it’s implemented fairly, that would be really good, because I am sure there are a lot of good candidates out there who want to teach and can teach and should be given every opportunity to teach, but to use this just as a way to dis-

miss them—that’s questionable.” As for health benefits for teachers, the new contract includes a few additions to the current plan. One is allowing teachers to take three, rather than two, sick days per year to take care of ill family members. Another is a guarantee that teachers will not be disciplined or poorly rated for taking unpaid absences or paid sabbatical leaves of any duration for restoration of health. Another goal of the new agreement is to increase communication between parents and teachers. The contract has proposed mandating about 150 minutes each week for teachers to spend on training workshops and parent engagement, such sending e-mails and making phone calls to parents. The new contract also includes two parent-teacher conferences in November and May in addition to the current ones in September and March. The contract also makes changes in the process by which teachers are evaluated. Instead of using the 22 components of the Danielson Framework for Teaching to evaluate teachers, as has been done recently, teachers will now be judged on only eight components, reducing much of the work required of the assistant principals performing the evaluations. “From the supervisor’s point

then I was surprised that I was even a finalist, and then when I got there, I was even more surprised [to win],” she said. Weissman has assigned this contest as a project in past years with just as much success. In both the 2013 and 2012 contests, several of Weissman’s students were chosen as finalists. “It’s a nice opportunity to write a nice concise essay that’s more related [to current issues],” she said. Weissman plans on continuing to promote this project in future years as well. “If you’re interested in law, it’s a very nice way to be on the inside, and as a high school student, to get an internship with the judge is a wonderful experience and it’s great for your resume,” Weissman said. Perhaps the most valuable prize Yeahia received was getting her essay published in the “New York Law Journal.” “Yeahia will have been published by the ‘New York Law Journal,’ and attorneys don’t even have that privilege,” Weissman said. Weissman also expressed that Yeahia’s success was well deserved. “I’m very happy for her that she won. She really deserved it. Many students wrote excellent essays on a really good topic, and hers was the winning one, and I’m very proud of her.”

of view, the contract is really good and even though nominally they are not part of the contract, obviously the way they evaluate the teachers is a part of it,” Jaye said. The UFT Teacher Assembly, made up of representatives from each school in the city, gathered on Wednesday, May 7, to vote on the issue, resulting in roughly a 90 percent approval rate. The contract has yet to be ratified, however, as it must be voted on by the entirety of the UFT through a mail-in ballot. The final tally is expected to be announced in early June. “Little by little we have been getting more information about what the proposed contract actually entails,” physics teacher Rebecca Gorla said. “It seems like it’s taking a while to see what they [the UFT] are offering, which is unfortunate because it shouldn’t be this confusing this late in the game.” Blumm, however, remains confident that the deal will benefit teachers and is glad to see the UFT and the new city government’s cooperation. “I see how hard [teachers] work,” he said. “I think it shows that the city values and respects the great job that teachers do.”


The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

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Features

Alisa Su/The Spectator

On Tipsy Toes: Stuyvesant’s Alcohol Culture at a Glance

By Johnathan Rafailov with additional reporting by Alexander Gabriel Due to the sensitivity of the issue discussed in this article, many of the students interviewed have chosen to remain anonymous. To organize the article more efficiently, anonymous students have been listed as Anonymous 1, Anonymous 2, etc. When the administration found alcohol in a studentoccupied locker in the Student Union (SU) office, they responded by padlocking the doors. The SU office, which had previously been open to anybody and everybody, is now closed off to not only to the general public, but also to ARISTA, the SU, and the Big Sibs. Clearly, the administration feels the need to take drastic measures to prevent alcohol from becoming a frequently used substance among students. While the administration has a lot of power to restrict students while they are at Stuyvesant, they have virtually no influence over students once they walk out of the building. Unsurprisingly, the majority of students who drink alcohol do so outside of school, illustrating that the SU incident was a deviation from the norm. In the Spectator survey conducted earlier this year, around 20 percent of all students admitted to having been under the influence of alcohol at least once in their lives. However, only five percent admitted to having

drunk alcohol while in school. The disparity between these percentages demonstrates that though there are students who drink alcohol during school hours, most students who drink alcohol do so over the weekend or after school. Students generally drink alcohol at parties or while hanging out with their friends. Thus, many students view alcohol as a social device. “I definitely meet a lot more people because we feel more comfortable. I guess I’ve been introduced to hooking up with people on a more regular basis,” one anonymous student, Anonymous 1, said. Another student, Anonymous 2, agreed, explaining that alcohol provides social opportunities. “Alcohol is just another thing to talk about. I think people feel more ‘qualified’ or something when they’ve [drunk] at a party. It gives them stories to share like, ‘Oh my god, one time I got drunk and…’” said Anonymous 2 in an e-mail interview. Others agree that the appeal of alcohol is just to have fun: “I really do not drink frequently, but the appeal is the buzz it gives you. It seems kind of fun and risky,” Anonymous 3 explained. However, some students drink alcohol to escape from their stressful lives. Anonymous 4 said that alcohol serves as a “gateway to another land. You just have a lot more fun. You don’t really think about your day.” Similarly, Anonymous 5 said that alcohol relieves the

constant pressure that Stuyvesant and his/her parents put on him/her. “I was one of the best students in my old school. But coming to Stuy everyone is a [...] genius. And you just kinda lose it,” Anonymous 5 explained. While one might be surprised to hear that around one out of every five Stuyvesant students have been under the influence of alcohol at least once before in their lives, this statistic is not very different from the norm for high school students. In fact, Stuyvesant students drink less often than the nationwide average. A 2010 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that 26.3 percent of those aged 1220 reported drinking in the last month. In contrast, in the Spec-

“Drinking is common, and if you don’t know who does it, you’ll probably be shocked to find out how many of the people you know do.” —Anonymous tator’s survey only nine percent of students admitted to drinking alcohol in the last month. Despite the relative infrequency of alcohol consumption at Stuyvesant, students have noticed that alcohol has a presence at Stuyvesant. “You see [alcohol] a lot. You just have to get used to seeing it,” freshman Cindy Lin said. Perhaps there is an alcohol

culture at Stuyvesant because drinks are relatively easy to acquire. According to Anonymous 5, “Drinks are just really easy to come by. If you know who to talk to, and it’s not hard to find out who to talk to, then getting alcohol is simple.” Anonymous 4 agreed, saying that there are people in Stuyvesant’s neighborhood who sell him/her various alcoholic beverages including “Absolut vodka [and] Sapporo.” Other students do not buy alcohol themselves, and instead obtain alcohol from their friends. Anonymous 1 said that he/she acquires “beer, vodka, rum, gin, wine, tequila, scotch, anything really” from “some of her friends who have fake [IDs].” He/She added, “We have older friends that get it for us. Or sometimes we can get it ourselves at certain places. We say we’re like 18 and they’re like ‘fine.’” Even students who do not drink alcohol are able to attain it easily. “It won’t take that long. I can easily get it from my friends,” sophomore Miah Feroz said. In other instances, students acquire alcohol from their parents. “I was introduced to alcohol by my parents. European parents are much less strict with alcohol because they know that you need to start early to build tolerance,” Anonymous 2 said. A different anonymous student, Anonymous 3, has a similar situation. “With my parents, I drink wine. My Dad and Grandpa always have offered me wine, but my mom hates that,” said Anonymous 3 in an e-mail interview. Anonymous 3’s mother works in the field of drug and alcohol prevention, “so it is a little complicated with her. She is interested in teenage patterns because of her work so I do tell her a lot, but overall I don’t think I would say ‘last night I drank,’” Anonymous 3 said. Despite these two students’ familial introductions, both of them said that they continue to drink mostly with friends at parties. In spite of the Spectator’s survey results, SPARK counselor Angel Colon said that the trend

“We have older friends that get [alcohol] for us. Or sometimes we can get it ourselves at certain places. We say we’re like 18 and they’re like ‘fine.’” —Anonymous of alcohol consumption has definitely died down recently. “It’s gotten a lot better whether it’s a part of the initiatives I’ve done over the years or more students [...] just getting involved,” Colon said. Colon frequently encourages students to “get involved” in the effort to diminish alcohol consumption. “I’m not telling people to be snitches or to be rats, [but it’s] like in the subway: if you see something, say something,” Colon said. With a similar viewpoint to Colon’s, an anonymous student brought up a daunting question surrounding substance use by students: “Drinking is not going to solve problems, but it could potentially become a problem. Wouldn’t you rather not take that risk and do something productive?” However, not everyone had the same outlook. One student who drinks alcohol said, “Drinking is common, and if you don’t know who does it, you’ll probably be shocked to find out how many of the people you know do. It’s not all that bad though. The same things that apply to adults apply to kids: you just have to do it responsibly, you know?”

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actually went pretty smoothly,” Sun recalled. Her rare perspective as a child put down into words was something companies were eager to find. The memoir was published in the spring of Sun’s seventh grade year. Sun said with a chuckle, “I think in a way they were more excited than I was.” According to Sun, her parents will always be her two biggest fans, encouraging her to keep on writing from start to finish. It was after Sun moved to China for one year when she started noticing the separate lifestyles of each country; when she traveled back to New York, she set out to record them. In her memoir, Sun compares and contrasts the school curriculum, children’s hobbies, and celebrated hobbies between the two countries. However, Sun emphasizes the freedom with which she went about these subjects: “A lot of my book didn’t directly compare the school systems. Much of it was just describing what happened in American classes so that my readers can get an idea of the differences themselves.” An example Sun wrote about in her book was the way

writing was taught in schools. In America, students are given a lot more freedom to write how they feel, but Sun explains that writing in China is a bit more restricting, as you must write along the teacher’s vision of the topic given. With subjects like math, however, Sun noted differences in interest. “[It] is a subject that receives a lot of attention in both countries,” Sun informed. With math, Sun saw that in China, the answer was more important than the process in achieving it. Teachers even encouraged students to not show work, while in the U.S., students are given partial credit. In addition, students in America have a stronger foundation in arithmetic compared to those in China, and this made teaching more complex lessons trickier in China’s school curriculum. The final result of Sun’s hard work and detailed observations amounted to 232 pages. Despite the shocking amount of effort put into the book, never mind the tremendous number of revisions done at such a young age, Sun points out that with a little bit of discipline, the process is not as difficult as most people assume. “It’s a lot more manageable than most people think. You have to start somewhere small,” she ex-

plained. She began writing about the little interesting things in her everyday life that she would tell her friends. Although there were days when Sun admits she struggled, the belief that she could do whatever she wanted as long as she set her mind to it and her deep passion for writing helped Sun overcome these difficulties. Not long after the steady sales, Sun received a call from a popular magazine in China asking if she would like to write a monthly-featured column for their paper. With the magazine producing 5000 copies a month, Sun plans to use this opportunity to teach kids in China how to write with an open mind, using the experiences she has gained from American schooling as the foundation. Although Sun is now preoccupied with her job as a feature columnist, she is considering writing another memoir detailing her memories of high school life. “I have a drastically different voice than I did when I was little and have a different perspective on what it is like to go to school in America,” she claimed. Sun believes her writing may have sounded immature and childish due to her young age when she had written it. This was what defined her product as unique.

Derrick Lui / The Spectator

An Author Already Among Us

Sophomore Ruojia Sun wrote a memoir comparing her life in America and China when she was a seventh grader.

Writing another memoir from the perspective of a young adult would surely depict a different side of the American school life. Looking toward the future, Sun agreed that she would definitely like to be a part-time writer. Her real aspiration, however, is to become a diplomat like her parents. “[They] gave me a lot of chances that I wouldn’t have had if I just lived in one place,” said Sun appreciatively. Although Sun would prefer to stay at Stuyvesant for the next three years, she wouldn’t mind traveling and living in other countries after grad-

uation. To her, it is not to travel as a tourist, but to live and become immersed in the country’s culture that she is interested in experiencing. Sun also hopes that her book has inspired others to follow their dreams as well. Thinking back to her younger days as kid, Sun advised us, “Aside from disciplining yourself, just believing in yourself takes you halfway there.” At the young age of 11, her parent’s moral values enabled her to do exactly that and more.


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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Features

Alice Oh / The Spectator

The Real Phantoms of the Opera

Sophomore Lily Lu-Lerner and Junior Natan Zamansky are both talented opera singers at Stuyvesant.

By Kachun Leung and Stella Ma Most people imagine opera as a long and sometimes even dreadful affair with a fat soprano dressed as a Viking singing notes that seem almost impossible for the average person to replicate, notes high pitched enough that it can shatter glass. While people wearing posh outfits stare towards a regal and elegant stage, their faces morph into bored expressions as they try to understand the strange Italian or German lyrics coming from the fat woman’s mouth. For two Stuyvesant students, however, the opera is much more than this stereotype. It’s a world of magic with stories like Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and the acrobatic sounds of a coloratura soprano, suspense as the title character Tosca confronts the villain in Puccini’s masterpiece, or horror as the character slowly drifts into insanity. The Fanatic Composer If you look at the iPod of any Stuyvesant student, you’ll most likely find the latest pop songs and jams, far from an obscure list of all the songs overplayed by radios. Yet, in a time when pop music is so readily found, few people can talk for hours about opera. Unless you’re junior Natan Zamansky, of course, who has had a passion for the music since the age of six. In spite of Zamansky’s current love of the opera, he didn’t start off listening to it. “My sister and I [were] essentially raised on Broadway show tunes. My dad is not super into the Broadway thing, but he has us listen to Gilbert and Sullivan,” he said before mentioning that the works of librettist Gilbert and composer Sullivan are typically used as an introduction to operatic music. These works are classified as operatic in their form, but their music also has a Broadway musical show tune-style to it that has been influential in musical theater. Zamansky recalls that his earliest memory of being at the opera was when he saw Puccini’s “Turandot” for the first time. “My dad had a friend who worked at the Metropolitan Opera House. One day she said, ‘Hey, do you want to go see Turandot? Free tickets!’ so we went and we saw Turandot. And then over the course of the next bunch of years, we saw a bunch of other operas,” he said. Zamansky recalls that he was caught off guard by the musical style at first. “I enjoyed

Turandot, [although] I remember being slightly freaked out by the on-stage beheading,” explaining that the opera begins with one of the characters being killed after failing to answer three riddles. Later on, Zamansky slowly grew accustomed to the style and beauty of operatic singing and performances. For Zamansky, opera wasn’t like any other types of music. “Opera is not a genre, it is a form. There are a lot of different types of operas. On one hand, we have the early baroque stuff, the classical stuff, the Mozart, the whole sort of bel canto, which is my favorite style,” he said. Zamansky admits that one of the aspects of opera that appealed to him was the engaging storylines commonly found in operatic pieces. “I have to say one of my favorite operas that I seen live were [Borodin’s] Prince Igor,” he said, awed by the story of medieval invasion and triumph. With an eager pace and an enthusiastic tone, Zamansky passionately expressed his love and interest for opera by sharing his broad knowledge about the topic. He fervently discussed the famous German composer, Wagner, and his plan to create a Gesamkunstwerk, which he describes as “a complete work of art, encompassing music, theater, poetry, dance—everything you can reasonably throw on a stage.” After he reached the topic of modern operas like “Nixon in China” by John Adams, Zamansky reluctantly ceased journeying through the colorful history of opera. Although, Zamansky has never sung professionally, he sings with the school’s chorus. “I wouldn’t say it’s affected my view of opera, but I do think I learned a lot from being in the chorus about music and about technique,” he said. As an avid enthusiast of these techniques, Zamansky implemented the skills he learned into creating his own modern operas. He wrote his first opera titled “The Imperial Office” —with an overture of the same name—during the summer. The opera, which is split into two acts, involves the story of an election for the king of a fictional country. Zamansky didn’t originally plan on writing an opera, aiming instead to tell a story. “After running through the story, getting it down on paper, [and] working out the kinks, I realized it was rather Gilbertian,” he said, referencing his early experiences with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas. It was from this realization that Zamansky transformed his story into an opera.

Since then, he has also started writing a second opera that he titled, “II Fernicio in Eggito,” which translates to “A Phoenician in Egypt.” “The title is a nod to a number of operas with a title of the form ‘the person in the location,’ such as Rossini’s ‘L’Italiana In Algeri,’ ‘Il Turco In Italia,’ and ‘Mose in Egitto,’ among others,” he said. His second opera is set in Egypt during the Roman invasion, and it tells the story of a princess who has fallen in love with a lowly commoner. In writing his operas, Zamansky noticed his work has become influenced by the works of others, such as Sondheim, Rossini, and other bel canto-style composers. He explained that the style of the music that he’s working on greatly affects the composer that he is influenced by. “Some pieces I write are largely Western in style, taking most of their influence from Sullivan and Rossini and so on. Some are more Eastern, and they take primary influence from the other guys.” While Zamansky’s compositions are beautifully made, the process of writing his own music and operas isn’t easy. One of his greatest challenges is writing the libretto to his operas. “I’m happy with [my music], but I can’t write a satisfactory libretto. I’ve been considering trying to find a librettist, but I also have a few reservations about that,” he said. He added that having someone write his librettos may also be problematic. “I come up with a lot of my own stories, and I don’t know that I’d trust another librettist to write those scripts the way I’d envision them. I have a very good idea as to what I want from ‘Il Fenicio In Egitto’; the question is whether I can get it there.” Another problem is that he sometimes has to cut parts out of his opera. While he was writing “Il Fenicio In Egitto,” one of his favorite parts was an aria for the protagonist, but he had to take it out when the story behind the aria became too complicated. Though sometimes troublesome in retrospect, Zamansky doesn’t have plans to stop writing operas anytime soon. “I have several more plots and concept music for future operas stashed away, not to mention a number of chamber pieces and other works,” he said. For Zamansky, the opera is more than just arias and dramatic storylines. “I could go on forever about the importance of music and lyrics fitting together,” Zamansky said, just barely holding back the information he wished to share at the tip of his tongue. The Unexpected Chorus Singer If you walked down Bowery Street in the East Village about five years ago, you might have seen a thin and seemingly mundane-looking building sandwiched between two Manhattan townhouses. However, like most things in the world, looks are deceiving. Within the building’s walls is an intricately decorated black stage that contrasts vividly with the powdered beige bricks surrounding the sides. This stage once belonged to the Amato Opera, an opera company that has been staging productions since 1964. To sophomore Lily

Lu-Lerner, however, this was where she started singing opera in a children’s choir at age eight. Lu-Lerner had joined the opera unexpectedly. “I saw a show [at the Amato Opera] with one of my friends and my mom asked the director if I could join,” she said, later explaining that her desire to perform as a child was the motivation behind her mother’s request. Her inclination towards joining that specific opera company was further stimulated when she saw a children’s chorus. “We had never considered opera [before], but it seemed like the perfect chance,” she said, relaying to us her prior lack of confidence. She auditioned for a spot, and she later became a part of the opera company’s chorus. Although it was easy for LuLerner to join the opera company, performing with her chorus was a whole different matter. “When I first performed, I was pretty scared,” she said. However, as she gained more experience, singing in front of an audience became easier. However, Lu-Lerner still feels slightly jittery whenever she performs today. “At this point I am kind of used to it [but] sometimes on an opening night of the show I get a little anxious. I’ll keep in mind as a performer ‘people are watching me, people are watching me,’ but it’s sort of changing as you do performance after performance—like you become relaxed,” she said.

“We had never considered opera [before], but it seemed like the perfect chance.” —Lily Lu-Lerner, sophomore

Luckily the nights of her performances aren’t always as worrisome. One of her favorite memories of performing was actually during intermission: she remembers having to sell raffle tickets with other members of the children’s choir. “I was about nine years old at the time. I was selling a few [tickets] to an old man when he told me quietly that I was his favorite part of the whole show. Although I was only a background character and I knew he was simply trying to be nice, part of me believed he was actually serious,” she said. Even though Lu-Lerner was able to become accustomed to performing, she also had to balance schoolwork with going to rehearsals. She admits that even though rehearsing at the opera companies that she worked at wasn’t as strict as it was in other places, it still

wasn’t easy. “The rehearsal schedule is very loose; the rehearsals weren’t as frequent. There were three per week for the children’s chorus,” she said. After performing at the Amato Opera for several years, the company had to shut down, so she then moved on to singing with two other opera companies called Amore and Regina. These opera companies had a different rehearsal schedule than the children’s choir that she previously sang at. “The one I perform at now is pretty frequent with their rehearsals as we’re drawing closer to the show,” she said, hinting to the opera company’s upcoming production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” Singing for these other two opera companies was also quite different from the children’s choir she used to sing at. According to Lu-Lerner, one of the most significant differences is that she is currently in a position where she is the youngest participant in the chorus she performs in. For her, not being able to talk to and relate to other performers of the same age as her in the chorus has become somewhat troublesome. “I guess it’s a little lonely from time to time because a lot of them don’t talk to me that much, but I’m usually okay with that,” she said, mentioning that a lot of the other members of the chorus are in college or have recently graduated. However, instead of feeling intimidated by the adults around her, she looks up to some of them as role models. “I have people to look up to, which is nice, and a lot of the people are very talented,” she said. For LuLerner, seeing older members of the chorus show such a great amount of dedication—even when they sometimes have low-paying and tedious jobs outside of the opera—has influenced her greatly. The adults’ effort to pursue their love of opera singing inspires her to walk that extra mile towards opera. Since performing, Lu-Lerner, like Zamansky, has also fallen in love with the music. “It’s sort of an acquired taste. It isn’t necessarily full of melodic or catchy tunes; when I actually developed an interest for it, I found that it had a certain kind of beauty and immense emotional depth,” she said. She later went on to explain that, for her, the music can sometimes evoke feelings and memories, citing that as one of the most powerful aspects of opera for her. “I marvel at how easily opera singers can manipulate how the audience feels by their portrayal of a character and how they convey the meaning of the music they sing. I simply love how expressive the music from opera can be.” When asked about the future, Lu-Lerner hesitated for a brief moment before expressing her uncertainty about a career in opera. However, her connection with opera singing and the inspiring singers she encounters at her opera company keep her attached to the idea. In the end, Lu-Lerner agreed to pass the decision on to fate and the element of surprise. “I’ll go wherever the wind takes me because I didn’t expect to ever join the second opera company,” she said. “I might surprise myself.”


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 5

Features A Peek Inside Our English Teachers’ Notebooks By Fionna Du, Danielle Eisenman, and Lela Ni Many of Stuyvesant’s English teachers lead quite unsurprising double lives as teachers by day and writers by night. Whether they write poetry, memoirs, or essays, many teachers are passionate writers—a side of them that is rarely exposed to their students. However, three English teachers, Alicia Pohan, Amanda Usher, and Mark Henderson have agreed to share some of their creative writing with the Spectator. Their writing, alongside a short synopsis of their lives as writers, is featured below.

Amanda Usher

Danielle Eisenman / The Spectator

Amanda Usher is a student teacher in Stuyvesant and is currently a student at the Teachers College at Columbia University. She has harbored a love for writing since high school, where, as a junior, she wrote her first piece about the death of a friend. Usher, who went on to major in Creative Writing/English at Barnard College, began writing to better understand herself. According to Usher, writing is “a more private and self reflective process,” she said. Usher often revises older pieces because “as a writer, you must have an active eye and remember that no piece is ever final or even finished,” she explained. The poem, “Dear Daddy, I Hate Football,” was inspired by Usher’s relationship with her father. “I have a very unique relationship with my father and writing about him has always been difficult. This piece best highlights my happier thoughts regarding my dad and the very few things he’s taught me: enjoy sports, eat and drink well, and even if you aren’t content, well, fake it,” Usher said. Dear Daddy, I Hate Football By: Amanda Usher It was never a struggle. She used to watch you do it all the time as if it were natural she wore your glasses, she drank milk and ate cookies, all the etceteras of content while you leaned on the couch arm-extended jaw-opened and oh

Alicia Pohan.

Alicia Pohan

she was so comfortable like a gymnast that bends at the hips-flopping over in halves she would smile and laugh at war paint.

Mark Henderson Mark Henderson is a tall, bearded man who wears sneakers and glasses. He teaches Freshman Composition, American Literature, and AP Society and Self. Henderson has managed to combine his life as a writer with his life as a teacher, as he often writes the pieces that he assigns to his classes. Being the father of two six-year-old boys, Henderson is generally very busy and has difficulty getting himself to just sit down and write. However, his students motivate him to write or rewrite four to five pieces a year. “If I tell a bunch of teenagers, ‘Oh, I’m doing this, too!’ then I can’t back out,” he said. Henderson also writes assignments with his students to show them that their work can be personal and meaningful at the same time. “The material we ask [our students] to write can sometimes be difficult, or hard to get out on paper,” he said. “So I feel like I should have the experience of writing these types of things, too.” Henderson wrote “Out of the Mud, Into the Ice Cream” with his Society and Self class. It is an emulation of “Middlesex” by Jeffery Eugenides, a multigenerational autobiography. “Out of the Mud, Into the Ice Cream” is funny, poignant, and confusingly brilliant. It’s something that every member of the student body can connect with, because, as Henderson said, “Everyone has a memoir.” Excerpt from Out of the Mud, Into the Ice Cream By: Mark Henderson I’m maybe thirty years old. Grandpa Henderson is still alive, and we’re visiting. Every year or two, my father would drive from Nevada to New Jersey to make what always seemed like an obligatory visit to his family. After my grandmother died, those visits got harder. When I was young, my grandmother would sit with me on the porch, playing Boggle and drinking birch beer. My grandfather would drive me down to a store to pick out a Luke Skywalker action figure to take home with me. His car smelled like old pipe smoke and rain.

This is Alicia Pohan’s first year at Stuyvesant, and she is currently teaching Freshman Composition and Early British Literature. She wrote poetry constantly from seventh through ninth grade, but then stopped because she began to feel like her writing was becoming less personal. Additionally, Pohan began to feel more shy sharing her poetry. It wasn’t until a few years ago in graduate school that Pohan felt “poetry calling [her] back” after she was asked to do a lot of personal writing, which pushed her out of her comfort zone. Her poem “Firebreak” was written for a workshop assignment themed “rhythm.” While volunteering at a monkey rehabilitation center in South Africa in 2006, Pohan was tasked with creating a firebreak, which is an empty piece of land that stops a wildfire from spreading. She cites the “rhythmic hacking of the machetes” as she and others cleared an area of plants and trees as the inspiration for this poem. Firebreak By: Alicia Pohan sun bears down on me and all the other women wielding sword-like blades, creating space for fire to stop before it gets too vast and takes the whole of fields and huts and lands made dry by lack of rain, and so we thrash, and hack, and clear a path—but fire is always fire, and we are only women.

When I got a bit older, I realized that there were tensions all around me. I’d visit my father’s parents once a year, or every two years, and I’d start to notice how little my father talked when we were there. How he and my grandfather were almost never in the same room as each other. And when the whole family was gathered, we seemed to relate to each other entirely through sarcastic put-downs. Anyway, on this day about ten years ago, there were five of us sitting in the living room of my grandfather’s house out by the Delaware Water Gap. Me, my father, my grandfather, my brother Clark and, lucky her, Elena. Four Henderson men and my now-wife. We had no plans for the afternoon except to “visit.” What this meant in Henderson terms is that we’d sit awkwardly, terribly, for hours. We’d stare off at the walls, perhaps at some picture that happened to get in the way of our gaze, but more often at a wall, a curtain. We’d struggle to make conversation about weather, graduations, pets. The conversation might go like this: Me: “Is it always so hot out here?” Grandpa Henderson: “Yep.” My brother Clark: “….” My father: “….”

Danielle Eisenman / The Spectator

Grandpa Henderson: “And it snows in the winter.” Me: “Ah.” My father, angrily: “….” Clark: “….” Elena, inwardly: “What the hell is happening?” We were used to these silences. We’d long lost the ability to say real things to each other. In a way, the fact that we could all be in the same place together, suffering quietly, was the ultimate testimony to our status as a family. We couldn’t talk to each other, except for a brief go-round about my grandfather’s Rush Limbaugh magazine, or my brother’s upcoming enlistment in the Marines. But we knew how to wait out the silence together.

Mark Henderson.


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 6

Features

Courtesy of Alex Selkirk

Let’s Ponder About That

Stuy alumnus Alex Selkirk is the CEO of Ponder, an application that allows students to write phrases in both text and video online that can be shared with the class.

By Alice Cheng Approximately 200 freshmen participated in the use of a new app in Global History teacher Anthony Valentin’s freshman Global History class starting in early October 2013. The app allows students to comment on certain phrases that they choose to underline on documents online, and have these annotations visible for the entire class to see. Students can then add remarks in response to other people’s comments, and therefore learn from each other’s notes through the thread. Stuyvesant High School was one of the three high schools that participated in this experiment in New York City, the other two being Trinity High School and The Washington Heights Expeditionary High School. Coincidentally, the CEO and product designer, Alex Selkirk and Mimi Yin, also happen to be Stuyvesant alumni of the class of ‘95, and were happy to share their memories of Stuyvesant, as well as their story behind Ponder, with The Spectator. Selkirk describes Stuyvesant High School to be “crazy and out of control in a good way,” and found the deep motivation in academics among his peers a quality he loved. He first learned about Stuyvesant as an elementary school student, when he joined a youth journalism program. There, he met many admirable older members, and when they were accepted into Stuyvesant, he wanted to go too. Describing his first time entering the school, Selkirk said, “In eighth grade I went to visit with a ninth grade friend at Stuy in the old building on 15th street, and I fell in love with the building and the narrow crowded winding staircases and the deeply worn concrete steps.” Although he bumped into many difficulties with schoolwork along the way, fresh-

By Geena Jung and Katrina Wong “Every time I look around the Senior Bar, I see chess players, but I don’t see a single girl there,” sophomore AnneGail Moreland said. When leaving school in the afternoon, Moreland always sees boys bent over their chessboards, eagerly playing with their friends. Sometimes there are even groups of boys huddled around particularly intense chess matches, watching with the seriousness usually dedicated to the last two minutes of a basketball game. However, there are rarely any female chess players or spectators. Moreland and co-founder sophomore Irena Mp hope to reverse this observation with the school’s newest club addition: Women’s Chess Society. Moreland first became interested in chess when she was in kindergarten. “I started at NY Chess Kids School which was small at the time and garnered little attention or recognition for our efforts,” Moreland said. As she got older, she realized that there was a social stigma against girls playing chess. “I was ostracized for being weird or nerdy. I tried to assimilate into cooler sports like soccer, and although I had the physique, I was never interested,” she said. Throughout her time playing chess Moreland has always felt that

man year quickly became the best experience he ever had. He has many fond memories of his teachers: “I had amazing Mr. Irgang for U.S History and Micro-economics and… Dr. Shapiro’s senior English elective, called ‘Crisis in Values,’ forced me to confront life for the first time.” During his years of high school, Selkirk participated on the Cross Country team, co-founded an essay/debate magazine called “Active Ingredients,” and participated in the Westinghouse Project (now called Intel). Selkirk also had an interest in building and testing machines, and entered various competitions on engineering while attending Stuyvesant. After high school, Selkirk went to Yale and chose to major in Political Science due to his aspiration to learn more about history, decisionmaking, policy, and how the world revolved around politics. Nevertheless, his love for engineering was not forgotten. In 1997 and 1999, Selkirk joined Yale’s team for the Sunrayce competition, a contest that focuses on the racing of solar cars. The contest is held once every two to three years, but participants use the time in between contests to fundraise, plan, and construct their cars from the ground up. Cars are then raced on open highways with other traffic for several days, traveling from state to state, until they cross the entire country. After Selkirk graduated from Yale, he worked for four years at the company behind Epinions.com, a consumer review website. In 2003, Selkirk left Epinions to work for Microsoft. Toward the end of 2006, Selkirk decided to start his own consulting firm called SGM alongside a non-profit organization called The Common Data Project. There, Selkirk designed privacyaware systems for data-packed companies until he came up with the idea of Ponder.

Selkirk became inspired to create Ponder when he noticed how his friends did interesting things in their personal and professional lives. Selkirk listed the variety of professions of his friends: “Engineers, journalists, marketers, salespeople, lawyers, musicians, designers, bankers, film makers, policy wonks, scientists, professors/teachers, and all of their jobs require them to be learning and adapting to the changing world around them all the time.” He wanted to find a practical way for these different types of people to share their experiences and perspectives about the things that go on in their daily lives, but to do so without the hinderance of time and distance. Selkirk did not feel the Internet had an adequate service that could provide these types of interesting interactions. So he decided to create the service himself, the service that we would eventually come to know as Ponder. When asked about her impression of Stuyvesant, Yin described it a bureaucracy, “it doesn’t hold your hand, and oftentimes feel uncaring. Yet, the bureaucracy works because it actually gets you somewhere.” She deems herself an omnivore when it comes to her appetite for learning. In high school, she loved a large variety of subjects: anything from Math to English to Chemistry to Government. Afterschool, Yin participated in Policy Debate and Model UN. Yin met many inspirational teachers at Stuyvesant, such as her social studies and homeroom teacher Mr. Krinsky and chemistry teacher Dr. Lefkowitz. Her most influential teacher, however, was English teacher Mr. Gern, whose emphasis on reflection was what Yin thought made him unique. He often showed this by standing suspended in thought while lecturing his students. “Him standing there thinking…I took it as, he was showing us what it meant to actually understand something,” Yin explained. “It wasn’t about being the first to raise your hand because you know the answer to some factoid.” She found herself lucky enough to have him for Freshman Comp and for AP English. After graduating high school, Yin attended Yale, just as Selkirk, majoring in Music. She picked Music because she felt it was the purest expression of art through math. To pay the tuition, Yin did graphic design at Health Education Office. The pay was just as much as she would have gotten washing dishes, but easier to acquire. Yin felt the same way about music and design. She believed that there are rules to explain how to create cer-

tain things, but no recipe on how to use it to emotionally affect a person, as that is up to the decisions of the artist. Afterwards, Yin worked in the Bay Area to design experimental interfaces to help people collaborate at work before becoming the product designer for Ponder. Yin also teaches and does research at ITP, a graduate program in the NYU Tisch School for the Arts that focuses on Art/Design and Technology. When Ponder began, there were only three people: Selkirk, Yin, and Tony Gibbon. The prototype was created in 2011 using data from their consulting firm, and they gave it the codename Parlor based off of the name of the room where discussions in 18th and 19th century salons occurred. At first the app was envisioned only for jobs, but later, Selkirk was asked by Geoff Desa, a professor at San Francisco State University and a close friend of his, if he could use the app for his classes. This gave birth to the idea of possibly using Parlor to help students with their education. Incorporating computer software into instructing subjects such as History and English is known to be a tricky problem. By enabling students to share each other’s feedback online, Selkirk hoped that Parlor could help students develop critical reading skills while keeping the whole process fun. “A dialogue as opposed to a monologue,” Yin summarized. Yin further expanded on this, stating that her role as product designer is to help students evaluate, not merely identify: “Once you’ve identified that something is a claim or evidence, what do you think of it? Do you buy it? Or do you smell a rat? And if you do, what is it? I think that’s an interesting conversation to have in class.” Opposed to a defined rubric, Yin wants students to go beyond being tested on facts and basic writing skills. Starting in the fall of 2011, the company spent five semesters applying the software in approximately a dozen collegelevel classes, and Geoff Desa joined their company as an advisor. They worked on Ponder as a part-time work project up until 2012, when Selkirk decided to stop taking in consulting projects completely, and started working on Ponder fulltime. The name Parlor was then changed to Ponder to resonate with the goal many teachers have for their students: to think deeply. The app was launched in the summer of 2013, around the same time that Valentin came across Ponder in the Teacher’s College of Columbia University. After attending a workshop at the school, Valentin came across a section of

Chess, Tea, and Girl Problems

girls were not well represented. “I’ve been playing chess for a really long time, about ten years. At one point I felt pressured not to do chess because there were only guys in my section. For about five years I didn’t play chess as much,” Moreland said. She explained that she wanted to start playing again and knew that there were other girls in Stuyvesant with the same goal, one such person being Mp. Mp, like Moreland, played chess throughout her childhood. “When I was younger, I would just have my dad to play with and not have any friends to play with. [AnneGail and I] picked up on the shared experience that as a girl it’s hard to develop chess skills, and we just wanted a community where girls could come together,” Mp said. Their wish to create a community for girls to play chess was also spurred by a number of distressing remarks Moreland heard about her chess playing skills. Moreland recalled hearing someone on the Stuyvesant chess team say that no matter how skillful she was, she wouldn’t be able to join unless another girl player joined the team with her. Moreland was even more upset by the fact that there were people, even her peers, who encouraged boys to go easy on her and “not make her cry,” she said.

Moreland feels that women are considered a minority in chess when they should not be. Freshman Chang Ju Kim, an active member of the chess club, agreed that girls are indeed a minority in chess, but it is something that is more or less inevitable. “It happens in every sport and it’s just how things are at the moment. To me, having guys and girls all on the same team and both being treated equally isn’t very realistic, but I think it’s possible in the future,” Kim said, still emphasizing that girls have as much potential as boys. While Moreland and Mp sound like the perfect pair to create a chess club, they found each other largely through a series of fortuities. Long before the idea of a chess club even occurred to them, Mp and Moreland spoke to each other in the Physical Education locker rooms. Coincidentally, Mp and Moreland began conversing about chess and how there are barely any girls at the chess club and tournaments, thus deciding to work together to create a chess club for girls. Starting the Women’s Chess Society was very simple for Moreland and Mp. They simply had to fill out the club charter, get it signed, and voila! The main goal of the club is to teach chess in a comfortable environment. According to Moreland, the club is aimed towards involv-

ing not just girls already proficient in chess, but also those who are inexperienced and interested in learning. “The goal of the club is to harbor a passion for chess in girls who might not have had a chance to develop that,” Mp said. “They might have perceived it as geeky, or not something girls do, or not an impressive skill to develop.” Mp and Moreland are planning to hold sessions where the more experienced players guide the beginners as they play. “You don’t have to be a player, just have interest,” Mp said. Moreland agreed, saying, “You can call the knight a ‘horsie’ and we won’t even care.” Mp and Moreland do not want their club to be all about intense chess playing, and they hope to create a comfortable setting for all their members. “We want to gear [the club] more socially than academically, but we’re going to try to teach all our members chess,” Moreland said. To make sure this club remains a partially social institution, Moreland and Mp plan to serve tea at their meetings and encourage the members of the club to “open up.” “We’re geared towards making a very comfortable atmosphere and that includes us serving tea and talking about girl issues,” Moreland said. The idea to serve tea was inspired by Moreland’s dedication to

Teacher’s College devoted to teaching students in new, creative ways. Upon further online investigation, Valentin found Ponder and was attracted by its interesting title. “I saw that the initiative was meant to improve how students use reading materials in their courses, and because there’s a lot of reading done in the study of history, I thought this would be something that would be official to use,” Valentin said. Valentin also saw Ponder as a way to allow everyone in his classes to provide feedback for his documents without taking any valuable time in the classroom. Students who were known to be reticent in class would also get their chance to prove to him that they were processing and analyzing data just like the rest of their peers. Through e-mail, Valentin contacted Selkirk asking if he could utilize Ponder in his incoming freshman classes. The response was positive. Selkirk was already looking to try out his app in the K-12 realm, and since Stuyvesant was the high school Selkirk knew best, it was the perfect opportunity. Since then, the experiment has given the consulting firm valuable information for improving their app. “Mr. Valentin was one of several K-12 teachers whose feedback and testing helped reassure us that Ponder is useful before college,” Selkirk said. For example, when Ponder was first introduced to Valentin’s classes, students were only able to choose prewritten comments to express their thoughts on a document. Data from Valentin’s classes convinced the company to open up the students’ choices to free-written comments, under a limited amount of space. After the fall semester was over, the pilot was deemed a success, and Ponder was officially opened up to all K-12 schools in the spring. The company has changed vastly as compared to its beginnings in 2011. Ponder has expanded to video annotation and has released French, Spanish, Latin, and Gaelic versions of their app to the public. Their company has also grown to include six employees. In addition, several bloggers and educational organizations have acknowledged Ponder since its launch in 2013. “But the most inspiring responses have been from the teachers and students using Ponder,” Alex confirms. He believes their help to be the most contributive to their app, and as the company looks forward to the future, they aspire for Ponder to “provide a platform for thoughtful sharing of ideas that will be useful across classrooms and grade levels, and extend into our careers and our lives as citizens.”

“exploring different kinds of tea,” as Mp put it. “I thought that if she had that love for that [tea], then we could incorporate it...it’s just another interesting addition to the club. Like if the chess didn’t sell you, maybe the opportunity to try the tea that AnneGail brings [will]!” said Mp, laughing. The first meeting took place on Thursday, May 22. As promised, tea was served at the meeting, and a form was sent out to all the members in an effort to find out how experienced the various members are. Besides learning how to play chess, the tea that was served was very impressive. Rather than offering the usual green tea, Moreland brought the extraordinary Glitter and Gold flavor from David’s Tea. Moreland described it as being “an orange blend with gold sugar crystals that when soaked creates thousands of minuscule gold specks that float in the tea and make it sweet.” To make hot water, Moreland and Mp used a portable water heater. As the club grows, plans for chess tournaments will be made and new bonds will be created. The girl’s chess club certainly has much to offer for its members, especially to those who are too shy to vocalize their interest in chess. Besides, what’s more to love than chess and Glitter and Gold tea combined?


The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

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Page 7


The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

Page 8

Editorials Staff Editorial

The Spectator The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper

“The Pulse of the Student Body” E DI TORs

I N

C HIE F

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d i r e ct o r s

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E d i to r s

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M anag e r s

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F ac u lt y

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Throughout our time in Stuyvesant, we are exposed to a wide variety of subjects we would not otherwise be exposed to. From one to two semesters of required Computer Science to one semester of Art Appreciation, the school makes a strong effort to ensure that all students come out well-versed in many subject areas. One unfortunate result, however, is that these required subjects limit students’ abilities to immerse themselves more in electives for the subjects they know they enjoy. In this editorial, we analyze the necessity of requiring each of the courses not needed under New York State regulations. While we believe that there is great value to be found in each of the required courses, certain modifications would make them more beneficial to the student body.

E d i to r s

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Editors

The Ideal Graduation Requirements

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Ph oto gr a ph y E dito r s

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The Stuyvesant Spectator 345 Chambers Street New York, NY 10282 If you have any questions, e-mail us at: archives@stuyspectator.com

3 Years of Foreign Language Knowledge of a foreign language is useful in a variety of circumstances. From communicating with foreign business partners to traveling and experiencing different places around the world, the ability to speak languages such as Spanish, German, Japanese, French, and Mandarin is indispensable to American citizens in a rapidly globalizing world. Consequently, three years is not enough to master a foreign language. We can see this through the scope of the Spanish language curriculum. It is imperative that students can fully articulate themselves, and this objective can only be achieved with a higher level course such as AP or Conversational Spanish. Many students, however, opt out of this path for senior year, possibly due to the rote memorization associated with language classes, and the Expresate textbook in particular. Foreign language classes often facilitate methods of cramming vocabulary which don’t necessarily lead to long term mastery of the language. Having studied a language for three years is not a major factor in a large number of professions later in life. Altering the way language at the school is taught, though, can teach students with all areas of interest a way of thinking and communicating they otherwise would not learn. The disposal of the Expresate textbook next year needs to come with an overhaul of the way language is taught at this school. A strong foundation in communication can only be achieved with constant oral practice. The importance of written exams must be diminished, a focus on oral presentations and projects should be emphasized, and more culture associated with the languages should be studied. With these changes, more students will find the class worthwhile and enjoyable enough for it to be a worthy requirement for three, and possibly even four years.

1 Term of Technical Drawing Technical Drawing allows students to recreate the objects seen in daily life through a geometrically aligned method of drawing, introducing students to visualizing shapes from different perspectives. Drafting’s use in cinema and architecture prove that the class is useful and has real life applications in potential occupations. But regardless of whether students wish to be architects or designers, expanding our ability to visualize and draw diagrams is important in a much larger set of subjects. The skills necessary to lay out an image are important in planning projects, and are thus underappreciated. One issue with drafting is the computerized portion of the class. In the real world, a program known as AUTOCAD is used to create visuals of objects. Despite the pilot program started last year in an attempt to bring the classes at Stuyvesant up to date, some teachers are still using CADKEY 98, a program that is now obsolete, and others have not yet mastered the teaching of AUTOCAD. As a result, many students come out of the class with a poor knowledge of computerized drafting. While this class should still be required, the pressure of finishing drafting projects too quickly takes away from the experience. Teachers are often forced to divide their time among students when they request help and students are unable to learn through repetition, due to time constraints. A two-term option similar to the one offered in Computer Science may be useful for students to grasp a greater understanding of the techniques. The class should not be a stress-inducer forcing students to rush through projects. The drawing element of the class should be relaxing, while also teaching students the valuable skills of observation and visualization.

Intro Computer Science

A Note to Our Readers: The Spectator will now accept unsolicited Op-Ed pieces written by outside students, faculty, and alumni. These columns, if selected, will be published in The Spectator’s Opinions section. Recommended length is 700 words. Articles should address school related topics or items of student interest. Columns can be e-mailed to specreaderopinions@gmail.com.

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In recent years there has been much debate over the necessity of requiring two semesters of intro computer science. In an experiment led by Mr. Zamansky, the computer science requirement was changed to include two semesters for the class of 2015. The class of 2016, however, was given the option of taking one or two terms of the class. Requiring two semesters of computer science proved to have a very positive impact on many students. The second semester allows students an exposure to more languages, ensuring that their experience with computer science is not formed only by one teacher and by the basic languages of Scheme and Netlogo. The study of more computer science algorithms and ways of tackling problems gives AP students a significant advantage when learning Java. Lastly, because computer science teaches students to think logically in a way that no other subject truly does, the argument for two semesters of coding seems like a no-brainer. However, for students who know they do not want to pursue a career in computer science from the start, or became disinterested after the first semester, that second semester ends up taking away valuable time that could have been spent in a class much more worthwhile. One semester of computer science gives students a taste of what the subject is like, teaches students new ways of solving problems, such as recursion, and introduces students to a fun, basic teaching language: Netlogo. A second semester, in which Python is taught, is meant for more in-depth learning of the subject, but isn’t that what AP Computer Science is for? Students can take an extra full year of computer science at an advanced level with this class if they wish, so it is unnecessary to require all students to take the full year. The requirements for the class of 2016 are ideal. Every student must at try his or her hand at computer science, and those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the subject can take the full year.


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 9

Opinions All Stuyvesant High School students beginning with the Class of 2016 must complete a minimum of the following courses between grades 9-12: Subject Area

Course Requirements

Is passing a NYS Regents Exam Required?

English

4 years, grades 9-12

English Regents

Social Studies

4 years, grades 9-12. If a year of history (e.g., Global History I) is completed in 8th Grade, two terms of history courses must be substituted.

Global History Regents

Regents Living Environment

Living Environment Regents

Regents Chemistry

Chemistry Regents

Regents Physics

Physics Regents

Sciences

US History Regents

1 year of Science electives (2 years if Living Environment and Regents taken in 8th Grade) Mathematics

4 years of Mathematics, grades 9-12

Miscellany

Integrated Algebra Regents Geometry Regents Algebra II and Trigonometry Regents

Science Electives may be any science course except Lab Techniques, Vertebrate Zoology, Intel Research classes, and Psychology courses. AP Psychology will count as a science elective under certain conditions (see Online Course Guide).

Math Research, Math Team, and Computer Science courses do not fulfill the Math requirement. Completion of Pre-calculus or Advanced Algebra is required.

World Languages

3 years of the same language at Stuyvesant

Regents Exam after Level 6

A minimum of Language Level 6 must be completed. If students have completed 3 years of language study and passed the Regents in junior high school, they must choose a new language, complete 3 years of study, and pass the Regents in the new language

Health and Physical Education

8 terms of Physical Education

No

Students who fail any Physical Education class must make up the class in Summer School.

1 term of Health Education Technology Education

1 term of Tech Graphic No Communications TDS11 1 term of Intro to Computer Science, MKS21 and either 1 term of Intro to Comp Sci 2 or 5 period Technology

Students who complete a 2-pd Intel Research class and submit a paper to Intel are exempted from Applied Learning.

2 terms of Applied Learning Classes Music and Fine Arts Education

1 term Art Appreciation

No

Students in the Band, Orchestra or Chorus (for at least three terms) are exempted from Music Appreciation.

No

This requirement can be fulfilled by taking anyone credit course that is not being taken to fulfill another requirement. Intel Research classes do NOT fulfill this requirement.

1 term Music Appreciation

Miscellaneous

2 terms of Senior Electives (one course taken each term of senior year)

Students who successfully complete participation in the Band, Orchestra or Chorus are exempted from Applied Learning.

1 Term of Music Appreciation Prior to taking Music Appreciation, many incoming freshmen rarely or never listen to music written before the 1900s. Yet many of these students come out of the class with a particular genre of classical music that they enjoy listening to. The course not only introduces students to famous music that is referenced in films, among other media, but it also allows students to listen to and study beautiful music during a long, tiring school day. Nearly all kids love listening to music, and a course that broadens our musical horizons is both beneficial to music-lovers and important for those who have not been exposed to music. The idea that students who participate in band, chorus, and orchestra don’t have to take music appreciation because they are so exposed to different genres of music, is questionable. Students playing instruments or singing in any of those three groups are not taught the music history that they would receive in Music Appreciation, knowledge that is very valuable for musicians, as all composers build off those who came before them. On the other hand, because musicians may already know the majority of the basic music theory and terminology taught in the course, many of the topics studied would be a waste of time, so their exemption from the requirement is understandable.

4 Years of Science The requirement to take two terms of science electives is valuable because it forces students to concentrate on a specific area of science and thoroughly learn about this topic. With the wide range of science electives available, students are encouraged to explore topics they may not have had the chance to learn about before, such as Genetics, Astronomy, or Organic Chemistry, and may end of truly enjoying a subject about which they knew nothing prior to taking the class. The drawback to a required year of science electives, however, is that it does not allow students who are not science-oriented to focus in on a subject they are more passionate about. Instead, they are forced to sit through a science class when they would rather be taking advantage of all the computer science courses, for example, that Stuyvesant has to offer. If students aren’t intrigued to learn more science after sampling biology, chemistry, and physics, they shouldn’t have to take another class in one of these three major subjects. One way to combat this downside would be to create more courses that can serve as “science electives” to fulfill the graduation requirement. Classes such as Psychology, Science Writing, and the newly created Human Reasoning course should all count towards this graduation requirement, thus satisfying both the need to explore science and the need to allow students to focus on one subject if they would like to do so.

4 Years of Mathematics Stuyvesant requires four years in all of the core subjects: English, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics. However, this year’s graduating class does not need to take the fourth year of Mathematics. While a focus on mathematics makes sense for a “math and science school,” there are plenty of dissenters, and for good reason. For those who wish to excel in the math and science fields, the opportunities are plenty. Stuyvesant offers honors math and science at every level, in addition to numerous science electives and AP science classes. Math Research and Math Team are available elective classes for those who want to spend more time pursuing these, though they do not count as part of the four years of required math classes. Because many students end up electing to take Calculus in their senior year, then-Principal Stanley Teitel found it reasonable to require the fourth year of math. It’s also arguable that calculus is a valuable class for a college student to have taken, as it offers a higher understanding of math, but it is not at all applicable to everyday life, so to a student focusing on the arts or humanities, it is not worthwhile. That said, AP Statistics is another option for students who need to fulfill their math requirement, but students who are not math-oriented may find this course too advanced as well. For those few Stuyvesant students who do not wish to pursue the more logic-based fields, the math requirement is too much. As it is, science already takes up more periods than any other class. There is a larger focus on math and science in general at our school, especially considering that it is a requirement to take two math regents and three science regents. For those who would rather not take the fourth year of math in order to focus on the subjects they are more passionate about, that fourth year is a waste of time.

1 Term of Art Appreciation Very few of us walk into Art Appreciation excited about art history. Nevertheless, it plays an important role in our curriculum. Understanding artistic movements not only equips students with the basic cultural literacy they need moving forward as members of society, but much of the knowledge acquired in this course acts as enrichment for history classes that simply don’t have the time to cover this information. The title of the course, however, may be a misnomer. Freshmen are supposed to come out of this class appreciating art in all of its different media and styles. Yet a large portion of students do not enjoy the course and do not end up with an increased interest in art, largely due to the memorization-based nature of the class. Those who do enjoy the course are plentiful as well. During the few projects during the year, students have the rare opportunity to express themselves through art. The issue is that after this semester is over, due to limited class space and course selections, few will ever do so again inside of Stuyvesant’s halls. Furthermore, students who are passionate about art history are left at loss. Stuyvesant does not currently offer an Art History AP course, so there is no way to further an individual’s art history education at Stuyvesant. More appropriately dubbed Art History, this required course could use a few modifications, such as more art projects, less focus on memorizing facts, and a greater focus on more recent eras of art. But all in all, what we learn on the 10th floor is important, and whether we appreciate art when we walk out the door matters much less than being able to acknowledge its significance.


Page 10

The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

Opinions By Nadia Filanovsky

Joy Yang / The Spectator

When my dad’s best friend had kidney cancer, my parents agreed that if the transplant he had wasn’t successful, they would both get tested. If either one of them matched, then they would donate their kidney to him. Luckily, the transplant was successful. I asked my mom if she would’ve gotten tested to donate a kidney for someone she didn’t know, and she said no, which surprised me. One donated kidney saves a life, regardless of whose life it is. But she went on to say that a kidney donation would have her out of work for a good four to six weeks—something she just couldn’t afford. My family is solid middle class. If they can’t afford the

aftermath of a donation, then who can? Six weeks off of work (unpaid), possible travel expenses for the procedures (which may or may not happen close to home), as well as pre-screening costs (which may or may not be covered by insurance). And, after all of that, any complications following the surgery wouldn’t be covered. Today, donating kidneys is an altruism, but the massive demand simply isn’t supported by a few good Samaritans. There are currently 100,000 people waiting for a kidney in the United States, with about 17,000 transplants a year. While that figure doesn’t initially seem too daunting, consider the fact that last year, with 14,029 transplants performed, 9,314 of them were from de-

ceased donors. In addition, of the 4,715 living donors, only 463 of these donations were from unrelated, living donors. The deficit numbers have also increased by over 500% in the last 20 years. One of the main reasons that this deficit is so high is because of the lack of education of potential donors. Many people don’t realize that they can survive without a kidney. But many do, and are still not donating. Something is stopping people from donating their kidneys. It’s finance. The full cost of the procedure is too large for your average person. However, many people are willing to donate organs for close friends or family members, like in the case of my parents, and pay the costs needed. Mutual agreements between two families who both have donors who match each other could be set up to each receive the other’s kidney, which are called paired donations, according to Living Donors Online. The donors from each family would donate to the person in the other family who needs the kidney. This way, two willing donors could donate because they both have a match. This could enable donations from people who want to help their friends, but didn’t match them and could not help them directly. Yet, while this may yield a few more matches and successful transfer of kidneys, there is no way that it could quintuple the number of kidney’s being donated. While this proposed idea is complex, the arrangements could be made with much cooperation from both parties. In 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), was passed, which set up a registry system to match donors to recipients, to create a universal place to document

Jessica Wu / The Spectator

What Would You Do To Donate A Kidney?

all the transactions, making documentation of organ transactions easier and more reliable, and to help find more donors to fill the deficit. This

If a financially solid, middle class family can’t afford the aftermath of a kidney donation, then who can? law has been ineffective; it has not come close to filling the deficit that it was passed to fill. The continued existence of this deficit has actually created a black market through which people illegally buy and sell organs without getting tested for a match. The law needs revision; donors should get financial compensation for their donations, which should cover, at a bare minimum, all of the costs involved pre-, during, and post-exchange of the kidney. This compensation should be put in place

through a government subsidy program. Though money is scarce in the government, issues as common as kidney failure should be dealt with promptly. Money could also go toward research in creating artificial organs, which could someday help to fill the deficit quite substantially. Right now, however, we should be focused on getting living donors, as we don’t know how long it will be until a functional artificial kidney can be made. We need to act on this issue soon, as the gap between donors and people who need kidneys steadily grows larger. However, none of these steps can be taken without a push for donors to be financially compensated. An effort needs to be made to educate the public about the problem, because many people don’t understand how prevalent it is or what they can do to help. For example, many people are unaware that they can register to donate organs after they die. Every day while we’re in school, 22 more people get added to the kidney transplant waiting list, and fourteen people die as a result of kidney failure, some of whom had been waiting years for a kidney. Every day we don’t take action, we lose more lives.

Stephanie Chen / The Spectator

Barbara Walters Retires

By IOANA SOLOMON “Mr. President, why are you so unpopular?” Barbara Walters asked President Barack Obama on November 26, 2010. It was the kind of question I expected she would ask. I grew up as the child of a fiercely-dedicated journalist. I became accustomed to the smell and touch of freshly printed newspapers and learned print letters faster

than the script I was taught in school. I witnessed the sweat running down the sides of my mother’s face as her fingers drummed on the old Windows keyboard, rushing to finish almost inhumanely tight deadlines. I grew to admire the power of information. When I listened to interviews from my mother’s old recorder, which was often, I was in awe at how sharp, professional, and fearless she was. Her questions were cold, intelligent, and never easy. I soon learned why. For a dense two week marathon during the spring break I had been too sick for us to go on vacation, my mother walked me through every Barbara Walters interview she had ever watched and pointed to every lesson in interviewing she had ever learned. Walters was more than just sharp. She was legendary. She asked the questions no one else would. It was through Walters’s interview with Betty Ford that the nation realized the First Lady was an alcoholic. She interviewed every US president since Richard

Nixon, whom she put on the spot when she asked if he would burn the Oval Office recordings if he had to live through Watergate again. She interviewed world leaders, movie stars, and murderers. She held a historic joint talk with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel in 1977. She interviewed Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, in what became the first interview with an American journalist to be shown in the Communist country. Walters broke barriers no one before her could. In Romania, a post-communist nation still subject to rampant corruption, bribery, and censorship, where the flaws of its political system and the crimes of its leaders almost never reach the front pages, Barbara Walters taught me that the right combination or professionalism, wittiness, and severity can unveil the truth and answer the questions everyone wants answered. Walters taught journalists like my mother the basic te-

nets of a successful interview. But she also gave women a stronger voice. Walters was the first woman to co-host the “Today” show and the first female co-anchor of a nightly news program. She later founded the first unscripted, female-run TV series, The View, which served as a reminder that women, too, could debate social and political issues. Walters became a pioneer of female journalism, disintegrating the lasting tradition of entrenched sexism in the news industry. Barbara Walters officially retired from her life-long career as a newswoman on May 16 of this year, at the age of 84. An entire newspaper wouldn’t be enough to cover her remarkable achievements. But just as she challenged countless barriers and societal norms, I challenge you to get to know her—truly know her. Take a break from your homework, type her name in a YouTube search bar, listen to one of her interviews, and you’ll understand why she is who she is.

Walters was the pioneer of female journalism, disintegrating a lasting tradition of entrenched sexism in the news industry.


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 11

Opinions

Philip Shin / The Spectator

Jennifer Dikler / The Spectator

Tapping Into Our Inner Genius

By Sharon Lin and Claire Jin When we first heard about how Google allots 20 percent of every week for engineers to work on projects that interest them, we were intrigued. In fact, the company attributes Adsense, Google News, and even Gmail to this research. Dubbed as “Innovation Time Off,” the policy has taken off in other corporations around Silicon Valley, where employers are harnessing the creativity of their workers to benefit their company. Praised as the complement to our modern education system, various schools have integrated the 20 percent idea into their curricula, giving students as young as ten the opportunity to learn the natural way -- through exploration and cu-

riosity. Looking at our current education system, it breeds a type of student who is prepared for the challenges of a career, having survived over a decade of a constant battering of examinations, always reminded that the path they take will lead to success and happiness. However, a similarly striking trend in recent college graduates is lack of satisfaction and passion for their careers. It is easy to blame them for choosing careers based on salary or prestige, but what if colleges graduates simply don’t have the creativity and research-skills necessary to find innovative, interesting work? The premise behind the 20 percent idea is to give students the opportunity to pursue their interests while still making an effort to learn. Katherine von Jan, the CEO of RadMatter and strategic adviser to universities

and schools, notes the simplicity of the idea’s implementation within schools. “It doesn’t have to be that complicated, as reinventing the entire school. It can start with giving students their 20%. Every parent and citizen should take the time to ask a child everyday, ‘what would you like to learn?’” she wrote in an article for the Huffington Post. Kevin Brookhauser, an educator at the York School in Monterey County, pioneered the 20 Time project in 2011 with his sophomore English class. “For over 20 years a trend in education has been gaining momentum that suggests the role of the teacher ought to shift away from an industrial model where the teacher stands in the front of the classroom to dispense knowledge through lectures, and the students sit to consume the information. Rather than being the ‘sage on the stage’ as some pedagogical experts maintain, teachers increasingly ought to play the role of the ‘guide on the side,’” Brookhauser explained in a letter to his students. He advocated student-guided learning, citing David Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About what Motivates Us as a crucial element in his process of designing the project. On his blog, “I Teach I Think,” he noted the crucial steps for a successful administration of the project: the Proposal, the Blog, the Product and Productivity, and the Presentation. His students began by making a game plan for how they would carry out their project, whether it was making a website to help kids with math problems, organizing a benefit concert for a local library, or teaching senior citizens to use Facebook. The second step was to create a blog to monitor their process. Then they had about one day a week to work on their project. Eventually, the students put together a TED-style conference to showcase their work. Obviously, with more ambitious goals, students are des-

tined to stumble and even fail. However, Brookhauser writes, “The world’s best entrepreneurs embrace failure.” He says that this philosophy may not apply to job areas where precision is key, such as packaging and dentistry, but that where creativity is the goal, failure can only lead to a better idea of what doesn’t work. “The only truly failed project is the one that doesn’t get done. I want students to strive to show off a successful product at the end of the year, but I don’t want the quest for perfection to lead to an incomplete project,” Brookhauser writes. There is, sadly, a lack of higher-level studies at Stuyvesant. Whereas in the past, students were encouraged to seek out more advanced classes with the aid of their teachers, now students must go through an extensive process even to skip courses that they have already taken. Additionally, for students interested in more abstract mathematical concepts, or who perhaps wish to pursue an obscure scientific area, the limited selection of classes does not suffice. Though they teach more complex concepts, the honors research science and math classes put little to no emphasis on actual research and exploration. Sticking to rigid class curriculums with only a set amount of time to work on projects is not beneficial to students, because their individual interests may not conform to the curriculum of the school. This precise issue prompted senior Teddy Becker-Jacob to pursue an independent study course in topology, a branch of mathematics not often covered in high school. “I worked out of a college textbook. Each week I would read a new chapter and work through the problems,” Becker-Jacob said. He noted that the course required more independent study. “I can spend all night working out a problem that I wouldn’t do if it was just homework,” he said. Some other positive aspects he noted were the versatility of

his course of study, as well as the pace. “If there’s something interesting I want to explore, I can do so,” Becker-Jacob said. “The math department didn’t have any way of accrediting this. While it wasn’t important to me, [the work] definitely deserved credit. In addition, [Mr. Stern] is not getting compensated for this at all, and he probably should be. I think more opportunities for independent studies would be beneficial.” His occasional meetings with math teacher Joseph Stern are the only classroom interaction he has within his course. While the popular Intel classes exist, they are primarily aimed at giving students the chance to compete on the same level as other students performing high-quality research around the world. However, the same problem arises: there is not enough freedom for the students. Because the course is aimed at their success in a standardized competition, they are subject to the strict boundaries that come as a consequence of their participation. Rather than allowing freedom and exploration, these types of programs are restrictive. It may be noted that the Intel competition is not inherently restrictive, but the structure of the classes forces students to conform to the boundaries within a very specific subject. An independent study program at Stuyvesant would allow our school to harness the potential of its brilliant minds. In recent years, the freedom of course selections has trended downwards. While the logistics are certainly a huge issue surrounding the implementation of this idea, adopting this philosophy in our curriculum would at least give students the chance to explore topics they would never have covered in class otherwise. Creativity is an essential skill in our time and age, and research has shown that students learn best through self-guided initiatives. If it works for Google, it can work for us.

A Penny for My Thoughts By Sharon Chao *This article was written in response to “A Penny Made is Two Pennies Lost,” which appeared in Issue 14. As the saying goes, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Well, what if there were no pennies to begin with? In today’s economy, many people are beginning to wonder whether the penny should still be minted. There is even a nationwide group, called Citizens to Retire the U.S. Penny, arguing that the penny has lost its purpose. Pennies are not accepted by many vending machines and toll booths, so people end up keeping them in a dusty, old jar and ultimately putting them out of circulation. Our fellow Canadians and Australians stopped making pennies a while ago. So, what exactly are pennies still doing in the United States? Critics argue that the penny’s production cost is greater than its face value, because it supposedly takes 1.8 cents to

mint a penny. This is, in fact, false. The U.S. Mint’s fabrication and distribution costs include fixed prices that will remain the same even if pennies are eliminated. If we were to drop the penny, the $17.7 million originally allocated to the penny would not actually be saved; the money would only be distributed among the other denominations because there would have to be a higher production of nickels, dimes and quarters to make up for the absence of pennies. The U.S. Mint itself illustrated a possible scenario in which nickel production increased without the penny, but we would lose even more money with the nickel: a nickel costs eleven cents to make! In total, Navigant predicted an additional net cost of $10.9 million if penny production ceased. Furthermore, the elimination of pennies would cause a system of rounding that would be confusing and detrimental to everyone. Without the penny, all consumers would be subject to a “rounding tax”. The claim that rounding would

have no effect is based on the flawed idea that there is an equal chance of prices ending in each digit. However, research has shown that prices end in “9” by far the most often. A study done by Ray Lombra, Professor of Economics at Penn State University, found that rounding sales to the nearest nickel would cost consumers $600 million annually, redistributing this money to the upper-class businesses. This estimate was conducted under the most conservative conditions, with a net of one cent of rounding per day for people eighteen and older who, based on Federal Reserve Surveys, make $500 of cash transactions per month. Lombra’s analysis did not include those under eighteen, suggesting that the overall loss would be much greater than $600 million. To emphasize the rounding situation, Lombra told the House Banking Committee in 1990 that businesses would round their prices up in order to maximize profits. In addition, because rounding would only be used in cash transac-

tions, it would disproportionately impact the poor and the elderly. Federal Reserve surveys demonstrated that people with incomes under $10,000, nonwhites, and adults with less than twelve years of education pay for more than half their total purchases in cash. Aside from the economic and concrete effects, many people want to keep the penny. According to a 2012 poll conducted by Americans for Common Cents, 67 percent of those surveyed were in favor of keeping the penny. Over the past two decades, the general opinion has been the same; polls by other organizations, such as Coinstar, USA Today, and CNN show unwavering public support that has never dropped below 60 percent. Upon first thought, pennies may not seem necessary. After all, they’re only worth a cent. But, after looking at the numerous effects they have, it becomes evident that small things really can make huge differences.

Rounding sales to the nearest nickel would cost consumers $600 million annually, redistributing this money to the upper-class businesses


Page 12

The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

Opinions

Anne Duncan / The Spectator

Kill the Notion of Male Entitlement

By DANIEL KODSI “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you for it. I am going to enter the hottest sorority of UCSB, and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde I see inside there.” —Elliot Rodger I promise to be brief, because this article should not be necessary. I am sure it is not for the vast majority of us. I know it isn’t for any of my friends, nor most of the students I talk to in class, nor most of the acquaintances I have on Facebook. But for some, it is, and that shocks me beyond belief. The message I am about to deliver should be universally understood and never have to be spoken: women don’t owe men romantic or sexual feelings. And yet, within one month of each other, we’ve borne witness to the actions of both Chris Plaskon and Elliot Rodger. The former was a 16-year-old high school student in Milford, Connecticut, who killed classmate Maren Sanchez

because she rejected his invitation to prom. He asked her with a knife already in his possession, almost certainly knowing that she would say no—after all, she was already going with her boyfriend. The latter killed six women and sexually active men near University of California, Santa Barbara, and then committed suicide, because he was, as he deemed himself in the 141 page manifesto he left behind, “a kissless virgin,” lonely and rejected. Both committed coldblooded murder with the message, as one article eloquently puts it, “Women: Give yourselves to men you’re not attracted to, because if you don’t, he may fly off the handle.” The murders themselves are disgusting, but the societal reaction is terrifying. There are men who have justified Plaskon and Rodger’s actions and there are others who have gone even further and blamed the crimes on the victims. Such logic runs along one of two similar lines: (a) It’s a simple matter of cause and effect. If girls hadn’t rejected Plaskon or

Rodger, there never would have been motive for the crimes, or (b) Rejection really hurts and women need to account for how men might feel when they’re turned down. These reactions cast a light on what makes the killings so important. They show that they’re not simply the work of two deranged, perhaps mentally-ill sociopaths, but emblematic of a greater flaw in gender relations. To be blunt, they reveal a horrifying sense of male entitlement to the female body. Suddenly, because of this sense of entitlement, instead of being seen as just uninterested, when a woman rejects a man she is accused of having led him on, of having ‘friendzoned’ him, or of being too full of herself to recognize his worth. And from that sense of unfair rejection flows anger not just towards women who don’t reciprocate romantic or sexual advances, but towards women in general. It is the anger behind misogyny and violent sexism. It is the anger that produced Chris Plaskon and Elliot Rodger. It is the anger that produces daily harassment on the subway or in bars and that results in rape and domestic abuse. Over the last week, women have used the hashtag #YesAllWomen on Twitter and Facebook to share their experiences with male entitlement. Over a million women have attached the tag to their tweets and posts, chronicling stories of subjugation and abuse, of harassment and unfair treatment. Importantly, #YesAllWomen is much more than just a response to the killings. It is a means for women across the country to break through fear and repression to share their stories with each other and with the

world. It also highlights how deeply Rodger’s mass murder struck a vein in today’s society and provides evidence that while Plaskon and Rodger might have been the only two to take to murder, there are many, many more men who have bought into the idea of male entitlement. We need to kill the notion that men are entitled to women. Not shun it, not condemn it, but outright reject it whenever it’s seen. Those of us who recognize the immorality of justifying Plaskon and Rodger’s actions cannot merely

do so internally; the backlash must be public and universal. For me, The Spectator is the best way to get my message out. I now call all of you reading to use whatever tools (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email) are at your disposal to do the same. The ramifications of silence, even a disapproving one, extend far beyond murder. We risk letting an atmosphere of fear and sexual harassment spread further. Stand up to the Rodger apologists and to the Plaskon sympathizers. Make your voice heard.

“Social media posts such as these reflect the notion that women owe men romantic or sexual feelings.”

Stephanie Chen / The Spectator

Big Data, Not So Big

By Ioana Solomon With an infectious smile, most likely the result of a fun, restful vacation, your Spanish teacher asks, “What did you do during Spring break? I need a 200 word response, en español, due tomorrow.” Ignoring the fact that you probably spent 50% of your time sleeping, 10% eating and 40% studying for the tests you were told you had every day of the following week, you still sit down at your desk, sigh regretfully, and try to think of the most plausible lies. You guiltily open up Google Translate (first checking to see that your door is closed because heavens forbid someone sees you). You start typing in the left box until you reach the word count, do a quick copy & paste, a fancy margin and spacing adjustment, and click print. A few weeks later, you get it back, and it looks almost unrecognizable -- a form of abstractionist art in

red. But it’s Google Translate, you think. It must be right. The simple answer is, it’s not. Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor for the Economist, and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, explain in their best-selling 2013 book Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think that more than 98% of data is now digitized. They go on to say that as a consequence of the use of Internet, social networking, smart phones and credit cards, “more data is being collected and stored about us than ever before— a level of surveillance the Stasi could only dream about.” This information is then converged into data sets that are far too large and complex to be analyzed or manipulated through traditional methods, hence the term Big Data. But because so much data is being collected, Cukier and Mayer-Schoenberger argue that a tradeoff must be made— we must “give up on clean, carefully curated data and tolerate some messiness.” Take language translation. The IBM used statistical machines for the first time in the 1990s, remodeling the process of language translation into a series of mathematical and probabilistic calculations. Google took it even further; instead of relying on a relatively small number of high quality translations, Google collected data from the less controllable, more prone to error, Internet. “Data in the wild,” the authors term it, this information included “translations from cor-

porate websites, documents in every language from the European Union, even translations from its giant book-scanning project.” Billions of pages of text were analyzed – all so that we can simply type, “translate” in our search bar and let the Internet do magic before our eyes. But it isn’t so fantastic. The reason you probably got a paper coated in red marks after using Google Translate is because of the tradeoff Cukier and Mayer Schoenberger mentioned. In their New York Times piece, “Eight (No, Nine!) Problems With Big Data,” Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis elucidate the costs of repeatedly prioritizing the quantity of data over its quality. On the issue of language translation, Marcus and Davis propound the idea of an “echo-chamber effect,” a consequence of the extensive use of web data. Translation programs, most notably Google Translate, use parallel texts from different languages to determine linguistic patterns. In particular, Wikipedia entries in multiple languages may be used to determine the translation patterns between those languages. But the effect Marcus and Davis describe occurs when some of the articles written in less popular languages are themselves written using Google Translate. Any errors present in the initial translations will continue to serve as translation models for the next. Yet the problem goes far beyond language translation. We can live if our Spanish essay isn’t perfect, but when we rely on statistical models to predict

the spread of diseases, and they don’t get it right, then that’s where it gets serious. A Harvard Business Review article from March 25, 2014 explains the failure behind Google Flu Trends (GFT). Using five years of web logs, and analyzing hundreds of billions of searches, Google created a predictive model which it claimed worked just as accurately but more timely than the government statistics “with their natural reporting lags.” But in 2009, only months after its launch, GFT missed the swine flu pandemic entirely. In 2012, Nature reported that the program had overestimated by 50 percent the peak Christmas flu and a team of Harvard-affiliated researches recently found that the model had overestimated the prevalence of the flu for 100 of 108 weeks. The Smithsonian explained that Google hadn’t “taken into account the uptick in flu-related queries that occur as a result of the media-driven flu hysteria that occurs every winter.” With GFT, those who exhibit minor cold symptoms may be induced into thinking that they suffer from the flu, thus succumbing to unnecessary, often costly, medical visits. That combined with an overproduction of flu medicine can lead to both health risks and financial costs. The conclusion: Big Data isn’t as Big as it seems. But let’s go back to Marcus and Davis. GFT’s rocky start was only one of their nine criticisms. They also explain the failure of Big Data in scientific inquiry, and its impact on the questions we don’t ask, but should. With Big Data, we get

correlation. What we don’t get is causation—and that’s what matters. Big Data can tell us that the number of cases of autism from 1998 to 2007 rose as sharply as the sales of organic food, but we need to know the causes of autism, and Big Data doesn’t help with that. What does help is conducting real experiments and giving each question the inquiry it deserves instead of letting the Internet be our subject and computers our eyes. Big Data isn’t evil; it’s simply overestimated. It’s flawed, misleading and oftentimes wrong. But it’s still probably necessary. Making it a success depends less on our ability to fix every data set on the “wild” Web, and more on our ability to fix the way we rely on data. By understanding its limitations, and working to perfect the system as opposed to marveling at its technological glory, we can make Big Data a tool and not an answer. Use Google Translate to get a rough understanding of a foreign passage you’d otherwise stare blankly at, but don’t use it to cheat your way through Spanish class. Look at GFT trends to know when to take precautions, but don’t think you’re dying just yet. And perhaps most importantly, start asking the right questions. The next time you’re debating, experimenting, or researching, don’t just gulp down statistics for their fancy words and big numbers—try focusing on why something is true, not just that it is.


The Spectator â—? June 3, 2014

Page 13

Commute

By The Photo Department


The Spectator â—?June 3, 2014

Page 14

SU Endorsements The Bi-Weekly Poll: Do Students Have a Voice? By The News Department With Student Union (SU) elections quickly approaching, The Spectator News Department hopes to find out the general sentiment of the student body regarding SU effectiveness. In addition, we set out to explore how students felt about their voices at Stuyvesant and how other organizations apart from the Student Union have affected the student body. The following poll was conducted by asking 233 random people in Stuyvesant High School exiting the Tribeca Bridge the four questions listed below. Participants answered the questions on a 1-5 scale in which 1 meant the least aware/no influence/no impact and 5 meant very aware/large influence/large impact.

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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 15

SU Endorsements: General Election

Jin Hee Yoo / The Spectator

Gabe Rosen and Justin Kong

We have seen a year with little progress made in advancing students’ rights. The election of current leaders Eddie Zilberbrand and Keiran Carpen was without a popular mandate and marred by controversy, which is justified. As The Spectator pointed out in a recent editorial, Zilberbrand and Carpen failed to follow through on most of their promises and effectively left the student body with little representation for a full year. It is with this in mind that The Editorial Board has chosen to endorse Gabriel Rosen and Justin Kong for the Student Union presidency. In a vote among the editorial board, the result was close when

deciding what action we should take—not close in that an equal number of editors was divided between the tickets of Rosen and Kong, Carpen and Jonathan Aung or Wei Lin and Joyce Lee, but close in that we nearly opted to endorse nobody at all. In none of the candidacies did we see a promise of true reform or the wherewithal to actively combat a reticent administration. And thus, we fell back upon Rosen and Kong, whom we believe to be, if not inspiring, then at least better than the rest—better than the ineffective Carpen and the inexperienced Lin. Above all, what Rosen and Kong promise to bring to the table

is the possibility of change. Rosen, whose main leadership experience is that he is president of the Stuyvesant Young Democrats Club, is clearly dominant in the pair, his presence dwarfing that of the demure Kong. Indeed, Kong’s lack of leadership experience at Stuyvesant is very concerning. As for Rosen, a passionate speaker, he seems to have drawn from his experience in city politics to craft his platform, the main objectives being a Homeroom Board Senate, a Congress of Student Organizations (CSO), and teaching the student body general governmental practices. However, the idea of a Homeroom Board Senate, which Rosen and Kong promise will “be pivotal in instilling a sense of civic duty and school pride throughout the Stuyvesant student body, and will work to enhance and preserve the character of the school’s many unique communities” (according to their campaign page), seems likely to be dysfunctional. It is difficult already for the caucuses to recruit a single representative from each homeroom, and if Rosen and Kong intend to task the Homeroom Board Senate with drafting proposals, we are likely to see little progress. It also marks a devolution in the powers of the SU president and vice-president, which raises the question of how

forceful Rosen and Kong intend to be should they be elected. This plan, alongside the other two components of their platform, the CSO and general government practices, fail to directly address the real concerns of Stuyvesant students. Therein lies the real problem with Rosen and Kong’s campaign. In few of their Facebook posts or on their website, and barely in their interview with The Spectator’s Managing Board, have they proposed concrete actions that they would take to ameliorate student life. And when they have, it often has felt like mere lip service to the common grievances students express, such as not being able to go outside during frees and being able to sit around on more floors than just one and two. Teaching students how to vote is unique and it is ambitious, but it has no tangible impact on daily life at Stuyvesant. The campaign is a politician’s campaign—high on rhetoric of “civic duty” and “democractic ideals,” but low on implementable policy. At least Rosen and Kong have provided the student body with an alternative to the incumbent Carpen, if not much else. If reform comes, it will come through the challengers, and we have no reason yet to believe that Rosen and Kong will fail to fulfill promises

as Zilberbrand and Carpen did. In fact, they have already begun reaching out to other SUs across the city, and Townshend Harris is on board with Rosen’s ideas. And while Rosen’s platform might be low on substance, he was certainly able to explain it to the Editorial Board with resounding passion, an aptitude that would likely come in handy when dealing with the administration. Rosen’s idea to create a CSO is also an interesting and easily implementable one. If the leaders of many influential clubs can meet regularly and combine their hopes to improve student life into a common goal, the student body may find itself more powerful than if the SU was the only organization pushing for change. In the end, even if Rosen and Kong were to fail once elected—a big possibility—we are certain that they would have, at the very least, tried, because even though Rosen seems a politician, he seems a politician who possesses a unique vision for our school. Since the choice is between a ticket that has proven it will accomplish nothing, and one that at least stands a chance of doing something, we hope to see Rosen and Kong as our president and vice-president after June 13’s final election.

Anne Duncan/ The Spectator

Keiran Carpen and Jonathan Aung

In a recent staff editorial, “Tell Us What’s Going On!,” the Editorial Board criticized the Student Union (SU) for failing to effectively communicate with the student body. And, at first sight, SU candidates Keiran Carpen and Jonathan Aung seem committed to the idea of improving communication: ranging from hosting open Executive Council meetings to giving the Student Leadership Team (SLT) representative his/her own email, the reforms proposed by the two appear to be sweeping and comprehensive. In addition, Carpen claims that

his experience as SU Vice President has allowed him to build rapport with the administration—a rapport that would help enable the SU in its role as an advocate for student interests. But because the administration has demonstrated an interest in cultivating relationships with all student leaders, any ticket that is elected will be able to build rapport with the administration quickly if it chooses to do so. The creation of the Spirit Council, a body that meets with the principal to discuss and enact ways to improve school spirit, by an ordinary student illustrates

this principle. Thus, we shouldn’t focus on Carpen’s current relationship with the administration, but instead on whether or not we see him and Aung as leaders who can make change. Carpen’s poor track record as Vice President and Aung’s lack of experience with the SU lead us to believe that they will unlikely follow up on their ambitious platform if elected. Poor communication is just one of the many shortcomings of our current SU—a weak and ineffective one that is partially headed by Carpen. And, ultimately, the Editorial Board cannot place its faith in a presidential candidate who was unable to lobby for student interests and follow through on his promises in the past. Some of the ideas that Carpen and Aung have offered in their platform were ones that were a part of Carpen’s platform last year—the problem is that these ideas weren’t executed once Carpen came to power as Vice President. Carpen and Aung want to place a school calendar on the first floor that will display weekly and/or monthly schedules and to create an official SU events calendar, but a plan proposed earlier this year to have an electronic school calen-

dar on the first floor was derailed by technical difficulties. Instead of seeking out more motivated and qualified individuals to replace the ones who failed in completing the project, SU president Eddie Zilberbrand and SU vice president Keiran Carpen just opted to let the task stall. Furthermore, Carpen and Aung’s promises to host more student events, along with the calendar proposal, was another idea that Zilberbrand and Carpen advocated for in their platform last year that we have yet to see be implemented. Other ideas that Carpen and Aung support were ones the SU unsuccessfully proposed to the administration earlier this year. Carpen and Aung hope to create an official Survey Monkey account with the hopes of using it to poll the student body—but this very idea was proposed by Carpen to the administration and rejected. Carpen believes that, if elected, he and Aung will be able to use money from the SU budget to pay a fee and create the account. But this illustrates a telling incongruity: if the SU had the option of buying this account earlier, why didn’t it do so? Why wait until next year? We believe that the less innova-

tive outreach methods that Carpen and Aung promise to use—including using social media, sending mass messages through the school email system, and creating more positions in the SU—and the more innovative ones—including giving the SLT Representative his/her own email account and hosting monthly Executive Council meeting—have potential to improve communication between the SU and the student body, but don’t make for an original cornerstone of a campaign platform. There is very little reason to believe that Carpen and Aung will change the status-quo and mold the Student Union into a more active body that will unfalteringly advocate for student interests. Their platform is incredibly generic and overarching, with very few specific policy changes they hope to push for, and the ones they did mention in our interview (free movie night, allotting more money to clubs and pubs, and keeping the SU office open to students) are not innovative. The Editorial Board is a strong proponent of changing the statusquo, so it has opted not to endorse the candidacy of Keiran Carpen and Jonathan Aung.

Courtesy of Wei Lin

Wei Lin and Joyce Lee

Candidates running for Student Union (SU) are often insiders to the political process. Wei Lin and Joyce Lee, however, are not. Despite popular opinion, Lin and Lee believe that this is not a weakness, but rather a strength. They believe that being outsiders to the SU will result in a better understanding of what students want. “Because we

are part of the student body, we are integrated. We are both involved in Acapella, I’m in Speech and Debate, and Wei [Lin] is on the football team. We are so integrated into the school that we’re able to understand the typical student that cares about the school and wants to help out, but doesn’t know how to properly voice that opinion,” Lee said.

Lin and Lee’s platform is largely built on two points: increasing spirit and increasing communication. They plan to increase spirit by creating a Facebook page much like “Stuy Student Updates” through which they will announce accomplishments of the student body. Lin and Lee explained that the newsletters Parent Coordinator Harvey Blumm sends out are not widely read, making Facebook a more effective way to get the word out about what the student body is doing so that Stuyvesant pride can be increased. In terms of increasing communication, both Lin and Lee expressed a desire to advocate for online polls and emails to the student body. Aside from spirit and communication, the SU is responsible for many school events, but Lin and Lee did not have many new ideas when asked for specifics about this responsibility. The halfhearted responses Lin and Lee gave when asked how they

would get things done and work with administration made The Spectator feel less confident in their abilities. In addition to this, many of the ideas they had were not unique and the ideas that had potential seemed to be not fully thought out. This, as a result, gave off an impression of unpreparedness and made us feel as if the ideas they expressed would be forgotten once they finished the interview. Both Lin and Lee also do not have a prior relationship with the administration; a factor that The Spectator believes will make it hard for them to enact any of their ambiguous plans, if elected. Despite this, Lin and Lee are very passionate about what their candidacy and seem to genuinely care about the school, stressing that they are not doing this for college and saying how much they loved Stuyvesant many times throughout their interview. While passion is incredibly important in a candidate, The Spectator decided to not endorse Lin and

Lee, in part because we believe they are not assertive enough to run the school. Both Lin and Lee stressed the fact that they were team players, yet we believe that the people running this school cannot simply be team players, they must be leaders. This willingness to integrate themselves too much into the school resulted in a lack of confidence in their plans with many instances of “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” coming out of their mouths during our interview with them. Lin and Lee also did not clearly express how they would go about making their platform a reality. While having ideas like increasing communication and spirit is something we would like, without a concrete plan, ideas are of no use. Passion and relatability are essential in any candidate, but these are not unique to Lin and Lee. The Spectator is looking for real change and concrete ideas, and we don’t see that in this ticket.


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The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

SU Endorsements: Senior Caucus

Anne Duncan/ The Spectator

George Kitsios and George Triantafillou

After a successful junior year complete with fulfilled campaign promises, the guarantee of an amazing junior prom, and a series of comedic YouTube videos with Student Union (SU) updates, George Kitsios and George Triantafillou have proven themselves

once again as credible and passionate leaders, winning The Spectator’s endorsement for this year’s Senior Caucus election. Last year, Kitsios and Triantafillou ran for Junior Caucus with a platform promising a successful package of college

trips, following the disorganization that occurred the previous year under the leadership of now-seniors Christine Xu and Jason Duong, and the pair delivered, creating two popular trips with minimal trouble. In addition to this, Kitsios and Triantafillou were keen on expanding senior free privileges to the juniors, and were able to accomplish this goal by working closely with the administration. However, what sets Kitsios and Triantafillou apart from all other candidates this year is their unique stance in fighting student apathy. This past year, they’ve met tremendous success with decreasing the culture of apathy in Stuyvesant. A few years ago, both Soph-Frosh Semiformal and Junior Prom were scoffed at. Semiformal wasn’t even held

for a few years, and though Junior Prom was, it was anything but popular. While Kitsios and Triantafillou were Sophomore and Junior Caucus President and Vice President, not only were both dances held, but they were also widely popular. While dances are, on the surface, not the most significant parts of the school year, they are big steps towards decreasing apathy and creating a healthy environment in Stuyvesant. Furthermore, Kitsios and Triantafillou seek to expand on this mission against apathy once again, as seen in their Senior Caucus platform. In addition to the regular promises for an unforgettable senior prom, more spirit days and activities, and more college trips, their Attack Apathy (AA) campaign hopes to

improve transparency with SU actions and to expand outreach through online and face-to-face communication, with the goal of getting the student body more involved. For the past two years, The Spectator has been very impressed by the performance of Kitsios and Triantafillou as representatives of the student body. Last year, we endorsed Kitsios and Triantafillou because they had outperformed their promises sophomore year, and we endorse them this year because they exceeded our expectations once again during their term as Junior Caucus President and Vice President. The Spectator looks forward to seeing what Kitsios and Triantafillou, as this year’s potential Senior Caucus leaders, will accomplish with one more year.

Adam DeHovitz and Sanam Bhatia After placing second in last year’s Junior Caucus election, Adam DeHovitz and Sanam Bhatia are running for Senior Caucus in hopes of increasing its influence in the Student Union (SU). They have specific plans to improve both the caucus’s and students’ relationship with the SU, including meeting more regularly and posting a whiteboard with announcements outside the SU office. Their first and foremost proposed change, however, is to create a more active, open Advisory Council—

one in which members apply for specific roles within the council, such as tech or event coordination. Meetings will be more frequent, there will be an open-door policy, and minutes will be posted immediately after meetings. Additionally, students outside the SU will be able to join the meetings as special members, creating a rotating council through which more students can get directly involved. We support this original idea to give ordinary students more of a say on topics about which they are passionate, but ques-

tion whether or not students will have the initiative to take advantage of it. DeHovitz and Bhatia will also work to foster grade unity. By planning Spirit Days earlier in the year, creating more of them (such as tie-dye day and a winter formal), and posting a schedule of days on a Senior Caucus blog, they hope to create a more fun environment and greater participation on these days. They also plan to post bi-weekly spotlights on cool endeavors in which seniors are involved on this blog. Lastly, they hope

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to create a committee early in the year to plan Senior Prom and represent the opinions of the senior class as a whole. Their main goal will be to lower the ticket price so that more people can attend, and they will ask for student feedback online regarding critical issues such as ticket price. The proposals to increase grade unity are concrete and appear to be well within the candidates’ abilities. Though they both serve as members of the SU and will fight to have a strong influence in the SU, they are not as accustomed

to student leadership or the inner workings of the SU as their opponents, George Kitsios and George Triantafillou, who have proven their ability to communicate with the student body during the past year. Ultimately, DeHovitz and Bhatia are competent and passionate candidates with a strong platform, but their overall goals were less focused than those of their more experienced and proven opponents.


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 17

SU Endorsements: Junior Caucus

Courtesy of Keshara Senanayake

Krzysztof Hochlewicz and William Yang

Junior Caucus candidates Krzysztof Hochlewicz and William Yang have proven themselves to be professional and capable, thus winning The Spectator’s endorsement in this year’s

Junior Caucus elections. When running for Sophomore Caucus, Hochlewicz and Yang put forth an ambitious platform including the continuation of the Soph-Frosh semiformal,

more school dances throughout the year, and a program to restart broken escalators. Though they did not implement all of these ideas, we decided to endorse Hochlewicz and Yang because of their success in gauging student interest in their proposals through surveys, and their work in actually following through with the ideas their grade felt strongly about. One important achievement of Hochlewicz and Yang is their success in planning the SophFrosh Semiformal. They sold out tickets to the event and impressively acquired two chocolate fountains. Additionally, they made decisions regarding the Soph-Frosh Semiformal, such as whether to have entrees and desserts, just entrees, or just desserts, in the trademark Hochlewicz-

Yang fashion: through surveys distributed during homeroom. Beyond the Semiformal, we took note of the fact that Hochlewicz and Yang gave rising juniors the chance to sign up for Junior Swimming, an accomplishment that was the direct result of surveys and their speaking to the Assistant Principal of Athletics, Larry Barth. If elected to Junior Caucus, Hochlewicz and Yang plan on improving communication between the Student Union (SU), the Administration, and the student body. They would like to achieve these aims by continuing the use of surveys, encouraging personal communication between themselves and their grade, and making the advisory council a more potent body. While The Spectator has

noted that these plans are lacking in specificity, we believe that Hochlewicz and Yang’s prior experience and familiarity with the administration will give them an edge over other candidates. Other elements of their platform include giving all students .edu email addresses, running a successful Junior Prom, planning three to four college trips, and arranging for college admission officers from West Coast schools to visit Stuyvesant. Beyond the .edu email addresses, these goals are not unique, but uniqueness is not always the top priority in SU elections. Rather, we believe that efficiency and effectiveness are the most important qualities of SU candidates, and Hochlewicz and Yang have demonstrated these traits.

Sorato Doken and Shuhei Yamaguchi

Courtesy of Shuhei Yamaguchi

Unlike most tickets, Sorato Doken and Shuhei Yamaguchi are candidates who want to fight for the status quo. They want to find what they call a “sustainable status quo,” as they find that students are often put off by change. By maintaining the status quo, the candidates wish to cooperate with the administration on policies, such as out during frees for juniors and the library policy. The candidates did not seem prepared to make any significant reforms

and are currently unfamiliar with the administration. Their vague and moderately confusing platform included the addition of a junior lounge similar to the senior bar, a junior exclusive billboard in order to keep students connected, more extensive gym course options, and an accessible rooftop garden. While some of their ideas are interesting, most are either very small steps, or generalizations that address problems such as consistent

homework policy or cleaner bathrooms. The candidates do not touch upon how they will implement their ideas beyond communication with the junior class. Doken and Yamaguchi’s adherence to the status quo is certainly unique, but the Spectator believes that the student body needs candidates who will better challenge the administration and fight for the rights of the Class of 2016.

Jennifer Dikler and Rahul Debnath Junior caucus candidates Jennifer Dikler and Rahul Debnath both feel confident in their abilities to hold leadership positions due to their experience as members of the current Sophomore Advisory Counsel, headed by Sophomore Caucus President Krzysztof Hochlewicz and William Yang. However, The Spectator has chosen to not endorse Dikler and Debnath because they lack an innovative platform

and they have only established a limited working relationship with the administration. Their platform focused solely on maintaining the success and efficiency attained by this year’s Junior Caucus president and vice president: George Kitsios and George Triantafillou. When delving into specifics, however, their platform was unoriginal. The only entirely new idea they bring to the table is

obtaining .edu email addresses for the student body, which can lead to student discounts and other benefits. However, even this was taken from an idea first proposed by current Sophomore Caucus president and vice president Kryszztof Hochlewicz and William Yang. In addition to this, Dikler and Debath want to continue carrying out many of the established junior caucus duties, such as planning col-

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lege trips to desirable schools and organizing junior prom. One campaign promise included a plan to sell $1 tickets to weekly movie nights, which would be coupled with a bake sale. They also hope to raffle off unsold Student Union apparel to raise money and clear the existing inventory. The Spectator is unconfident in these strategies due to the minimal profit margins and heavy reliance on

direct student involvement. Though Dikler and Debnath give off an enthusiastic attitude towards leading the student body, The Spectator hesitates to endorse them because of their lack of experience and innovation in comparison to Hochlewicz and Yang.


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The Spectator ●June 3, 2014

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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 19

Arts and Entertainment Television

Steve Jobs Was a Poser; He Didn’t Even Write Code By Shahruz Ghaemi “[Facebook co-founder] Dustin Moscowitz, [investor] Elon Musk, [Google chairman] Eric Schmidt…[rock star] Kid Rock is the poorest guy here,” says Erlich (T. J. Miller) of an extravagant house party thrown by some recent-millionaires. So begins HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” an outrageous yet sophisticated comedy show that lampoons the world of stereotypically-introverted coders, feuding billionaires, and fast-flowing money that notso-secretly lies at the very heart of our daily lives. It’s a familiar world, unless you live under a rock, still use Myspace, or have no familiarity with the name “Steve Jobs.”

It lampoons the world of stereotypicallyintroverted coders, feuding billionaires, and fast-flowing money. “Silicon Valley”’s protagonists are the programmers and coders who work behind the scenes to create our technological lives. Richard Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch) is a disaffected employee of the Google-like corporate behemoth Hooli. He’s also created a

piece of software genius while living at the “incubator” (read: rooming house) of Erlich, a pretentious, chauvinist, drugusing tech entrepreneur. Joining Richard are Bertram Guilfoyle (Martin Starr), an illegal Canadian immigrant and practicing LeVayan Satanist “with some theistic tendencies,” and Dinesh Chugtai (Kumail Nanjiani), a trash-talking programmer who constantly clashes with Guilfoyle. As much as they want to, they fit less the charismatic business tycoon role of Steve Jobs than that of Steve Wozniak, the less famous co-founder of Apple who did much of the actual programming (“Jobs was a poser; he didn’t even write code,” says Richard). Jared Dunn (Zach Woods) rounds out the team as the tall, waif-like, obsequious business manager. At the show’s start, Richard’s music-searching app Pied Piper (pitched as “the Google of music”) is discovered to be a nugget of pure software gold. For those interested, he develops an algorithm for the perfect, lossless compression of files as well as a way to scan “across a compressed dataspace.” As Richard struggles to get funding for his project, Pied Piper comes to the attention of Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and his rival Peter Gregory (Christopher Welch). Gavin offers $10 million for the app but Richard takes Peter’s offer, which guarantees him the ownership of his own company as well as Peter’s business advice. The characters populating Palo Alto are familiar in their general construction, but more realistic than anything on “The Big Bang Theory.” The show pokes plenty of fun at stereotypes of introverted program-

mers, including the comedic staple that is the guys’ inability to interact with women. Richard, Dinesh, and Big Head all literally get up and flee from a prostitute whom Erlich had hired to celebrate the company’s launch. Most of their time is spent either coding or playing video games. The actors are mostly seasoned comedians and they obviously play off each other well. Dinesh and Guilfoyle compete to show their coding supremacy, insulting each other while sitting five feet apart at their computers. One of the best laugh-out-loud scenes occurs when Jared, Richard, and Dinesh chant their names while cowering from a burly, jock-like rival because “screaming your name forces the assailant to acknowledge you as a human.” The actors are also real-life nerds—Nanjiani (who plays Dinesh) and his wife Emily V. Gordon have a video game podcast in the Nerdist media empire—and that genuinity adds to the most important aspect of the show: its depiction of Silicon Valley culture. What is most critically raked over the coals is the inanity of corporate culture. Branding, organizational hierarchy, CEOworship, and taking oneself far too seriously is perhaps best lampooned by a ridiculous Hooli poster hanging in the palatial corporate headquarters: Gavin Belson stares into the distance whilst squatting amidst a group of appropriately-undernourished and equally serious-looking African children, all under the motto “It takes change to make change.” You don’t even need to look past the surface to be physically compelled to scoff. One characterization that

should be near and dear to Stuy students’ hearts, however, is the image of the programmer plugging away at his keyboard on an all-nighter. In one episode, the team brings in The Carver, a sneering teen genius who subsists on a diet of “Mello-Yello, Oreos, and Adderall,” to help integrate the cloud functionalities of Pied Piper in one marathon, 48-hour coding session. He has a deep human moment, though, when he critically messes up on a piece of code and just breaks down. He’s still a child, after all.

One characterization that should be near and dear to Stuy student’s hearts, however, is the image of the programmer plugging away at their keyboard on an all-nighter. The rest of the show very much has the vibe of watching children play make-believe with money and power. Even though we live in an era where nerds have to ability to amass huge wealth and power in the blink of an eye or the sale of an

app, these tech titans are still socially awkward young guys with sometimes no idea what to do with this newfound supremacy. For example, when faced with critical decisions involving millions of dollars, Richard very understandably loses control of the situation and suffers panic attacks. He doesn’t know how to spin words to form a nicesounding “corporate vision,” nor does he know how to manage the politics of a Board of Directors. The show essentially charts his journey into these very grown-up waters, though he’s just a guy who wants to follow his coding passion. The show certainly fills the glaring void of contemporary popular media about our newest class of cultural groundbreakers, the (mostly—actually, 98%) guys in Silicon Valley whose innovations shape our technological habits. They are the Don Drapers of today, and yet “Mad Men” is entering its seventh season while people like Jobs and Wozniak are curiously unrepresented on TV. The cultural discussion now is wholly serious—are video games bad for our youth? Are smartphones taking over our lives? While these are important questions, we cannot let the realities of a changing world be entirely overshadowed by moral handwringing. A comedy like this offers both a humanizing and humorous look into this world. After all, programmers like Richard are a very real, very important, and very permanent part of today’s society. “Silicon Valley” offers a fair and funny representation of life on the technological frontier; a place intensely familiar and relevant to us.

By Mahfuza Sabiha As untraditional 21st century pop culture is growing more liberal with its message in the media, television shows do not fail to keep up. Hundreds of new shows circle around the effect of being gay in today’s generation and how it doesn’t change how you should be treated. Many television writers, while trying to keep up with what their viewers want to see, end up excluding homosexual relationships in the focus of their show. Those which do focus on homosexuals never seem to shed light on a lesbian. MTV’s newly released teenage comedy “Faking It” is a show with a pretty unusual twist to a cliché high school romance. The show promises an opportunity for homosexuals to envision a life where they would feel no threat in society, because according to “Faking It,” “Bullying the gays … reeks of the late ’90s.” “Faking It”—a show that premiered on April 22, 2014— airs at 10:30pm every Tuesday. It follows the lives of two best friends, Karma, played by Katie Stevens, and Amy, played by Rita Volk. They both attend Hester High School, an extremely liberal school where being an outcast makes you more popular than being a traditional high school “queen bee.” Karma and Amy are outed as a lesbian couple by the school’s most popular gay guy, Shane, played by Michael Willett. They

play along since they receive a great deal of popularity from it. The plot, at a glance, sounds cringe-worthy and disrespectful to the LGBT community. At a closer look, however, one may be able to understand MTV’s aim, which is to inspire rather than to offend. In the midst of all the petty teen-typical desires to reach the top of the social ladder, Amy only agrees to keep up the act for the sake of popularityobsessed Karma’s happiness. She starts to question her own sexuality as she tries to sort out her newfound feelings for her best friend, which began to develop after they first kiss to prove their alleged homosexuality. “Faking It” outlines the troubles of the typical fallingfor-the-best friend story, but atypically having a female fall for her female best friend. When it comes to the characters on the show, it’s pretty easy to deduce which of the characters have actual substance, and which have a little less appeal. Karma is the one of the pair that initiates lying to the whole school about her sexuality in return for popularity— a despicable action. While she has no trouble dragging her best friend through a lot of drama, part of her motive is to attract her crush, Liam Booker (Gregg Sulkin) who is also the most popular guy at school and Shane’s best friend. Liam, who is progressive and artistic, ends up showing interest in Karma.

We find out later this is only because she’s a new conquest for him—a lesbian. Amy, however, is a character with potential. Rita Volk is able to properly vent out the frustration that a confused teenage girl would feel when she wishes to prevent friendships from being awkward. Amy goes to different lengths to make her feelings for her best friend vanish, like kissing another guy in hopes of being straight again, or going to gay bars in order to transfer her feelings onto someone else. Amy is initially against the idea of lying to the school, but changes her decision once she sees how important it is to Karma. So far, the show seems to focus on the situation’s affect on her. Amy has very traditional Texas-type parents, who don’t approve of her albeit fake sexuality. Her soon-to-be stepsister, Lauren, a blonde and preppy teen who hates how untraditional her school is, also makes things difficult for her. Lauren goes through many lengths to make her sister uncomfortable, such as revealing Amy’s sexuality to her mother in the most uncomfortable way possible and replacing Amy’s position as her mother’s perfect daughter. Amy allies with Shane, who has been openly gay since the fourth grade, and he becomes Amy’s support as she struggles to figure her way out of her predicaments. With only about six episodes released as of yet, ���Faking

Cynthia Sze / The Spectator

Faking It: The Real Deal?

It” doesn’t reach the full potential it could have. For example, the show would be even more appealing if the majority of the cast was of color. The only significant characters so far of color are Tommy, Lauren’s boyfriend, and Leila, Lauren’s minion. “Faking It” could also be more interesting if they included dealing with different sexualities besides gay and straight, since it would fit well with the story line as well as be relatable to more viewers. The storyline could definitely use better development, such as providing the reader with an understanding of Karma’s desperation for popularity, but then again, no show has an amazing first sea-

son. While ‘Faking It’ does seem like an extremely dry and crude show, perhaps a second chance would surprise viewers—it has the potential to be both interesting and relatable. The liberal outlook of the students at Hester High gives hope to gay teenagers who feel afraid of being open with their own sexuality. The show relays the fact that there are places and people who will accept you for who you are, no matter how different. It also sends the message that all cheesy and cliché relationship scenarios are not always between a girl and a boy, but are just as normal for two girls or two guys.


Page 20

The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Arts and Entertainment

By Carmen Yeung As hordes of people arrived and lined up on the corner of Bowery and Kenmare Street, onlookers began to wonder what the commotion was all about. Some politely asked the eager and patient people on line what they were waiting for, only to be baffled by the response: a cat café. Cat cafés are most popular in Japan, having had a presence there for almost twenty years. The combination of steaming lattes and cuddly cats became a major hit in 1998 when the first cat café opened its doors in Taiwan, catering to those seeking animal companionship. The phenomenon soon spread to other parts of Asia, first encapsulating the streets of Tokyo and Osaka, then moving to Dubai, Bangkok, Korea, Malaysia, and eventually across the continent into Europe. Unfortunately, they aren’t very prominent in the United States, probably because creating one is no easy feat. Obtaining a license regarding animal health and protection can take years. Owners of the cafés also have to adhere to strict sanitary regulations and pay special attention to overseeing the mental health of the cats. Not only do cat cafés blend the coziness of a coffeehouse with the friendliness of cats, they also serve as a stress-free environment for their visitors. For many urban dwellers, cat cafés are some of the few respites from their often solitary city lives. In addition, for cat-lovers who face strict rules forbidding pets in their apartments, as is often the case in Japan, cat cafés provide opportunities for playful bonding and companionship at a minimal investment. Instead of buying a cat and having to search for a pet-friendly apartment, patrons can simply visit a local cat café after work. The recent establishment of a pop-up cat café in New York City gave cat-lovers here a glimpse of

this unique experience. In collaboration with North Shore Animal League, where the sixteen cats inside the café had been living, PurinaOne opened up North America’s first ever cat café in an attempt to get them all adopted. Although it was only open for four days, it proved to be wildly successful and was immensely well-received. From April 24th - 27th, the café opened at 10 AM and closed at 7 PM. Hundreds stood on line for each of the four days, with many disappointed hopefuls not receiving the chance to enter the doors. Although hundreds successfully circulated through the café daily, lines closed at 4 PM, leaving many who had arrived after school or work surprised and upset. Yet, this did not deter the patience and determination of the eager patrons, whose ages ranged anywhere from 5 to 65. Although the average waiting time was four hours, people did not seem exasperated or upset, only hopeful for and anticipating their turn. Upon entering the cozy establishment, one first encounters the café area, where each person is allowed to get one free drink and one free snack. The most popular drink was the cat’achino, which came in a cozy mug with a white, frothy cat drawn on top. Muffins and breads were also available for visitors, although, unsurprisingly, most headed straight for the cat area when they entered. Inside this section, visitors would first see a blue-green wall covered in photos of the cats, along with descriptions and names underneath. Some had already been adopted, as indicated by a little sticker on their photos, although their future owners would not be able to take them home until the fourday event was over. Deeper inside the cat lounge were several small tables, chairs, a comfy sofa, and, of course, cats. Depending on your luck, you would either encounter

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cats who were active and playful or cats who were curled up into furry balls, enjoying a calm afternoon nap. Lining the sides of the café were shelves, cat trees, and cat beds, allowing the cats to climb up and down or get some rest after meeting their countless visitors. Toys, such as dangling teaser wands and plush balls, were also made available to ease interactions with the cats. If the cats were asleep, patrons were not allowed to wake them up but could softly pet them, as many proceeded to do. Even this type of simple, one-sided affection proved to be soothing and relaxing and made many very content. Unfortunately, because the ratio of people to cats was about 4:1, the one-on-one nature of the original cat cafés in Asia could not be replicated. Instead of feeling relaxed and cozy, the atmosphere was, at times, uncomfortable, with a good handful of people roaming around, looking for a cat that wasn’t already being played with. The temporary nature of the café was evident, as much of the café was left undecorated and empty, as opposed to the cozy and homey décor of Asian cat cafés. Visitors were also discouraged from bringing their drinks into the cat lounge, a stark contrast to the concept of a comfy blend of cats and coffee. Nonetheless, this café in itself was a first not only for New York City but also for North America. The physical capacity of the pop-up café and limited number of cats may have restrained its visitors from experiencing the intimacy of an authentic cat café, but everyone left its doors with smiles on their faces. As for the event itself, all sixteen cats were happily adopted and are now in their new homes. While not perfect, this four-day phenomenon can be safely called a success and left its many guests hoping that the cat café would become a permanent staple in downtown Manhattan.

Movie A Look into Oculus

Yujie Fu / The Spectator

Food Cappuccinos, Coffee, and Cats Galore

By Rocky Lam Mirrors are everywhere in our lives, but what really lives in the reflections that we see? “Oculus” explores this question with its take on the mirror horror sub-genre. Ten years ago, a mirror tore apart the lives of the Russell family. After moving into a new house, siblings Kaylie Russell (“Doctor Who’s” Karen Gillan) and Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) begin to witness a series of supernatural events that seem to revolve around an antique mirror in their dad’s office. As these occurrences become more and more frequent, their parents’ already strained marriage begins to deteriorate rapidly, ultimately resulting in their deaths. Although Kaylie and Tim were fortunate enough to escape the wrath of the mirror, they now want revenge. Kaylie is determined to prove to the world that it was the supernatural force in the mirror that killed her parents and not her innocent brother, who has been committed to a psychiatric hospital for the past decade. The plot line is interestingly split into the past and the present, but transitions between the two feel almost psychedelic. Rather than sticking with clichéd flashbacks to explain the past, the film weaves together the past and present as if the two existed simultaneously. For example, in the present timeline, when Kaylie and Tim try to run away from the mirror’s ghosts, Kaylie suddenly sees an adolescent Tim beside her, and the past seems to be living in the present. This confusing jumble of time plays a role in messing up the characters’ perceptions of what is real and what is not. As a result, the audience has a share in the shock and scare that the characters experience. “Oculus” plunges its viewers into an endless rabbit hole of broken reality. Although the random shifts between the past and present are interesting, they make it difficult to follow character development. A big chunk of the movie is dedicated to illustrating the background story for the viewers, taking time away from the characters in the current timeline. Because of this lack of screen time, it feels like the characters are going through radical changes in such a short period of time. In one particular scene, Kaylie appears to be sane and rational for a minute until the scene cuts to the past. After the abrupt flashback, she quickly becomes disturbed, but the audience has no oppor-

tunity to track any character development. We do not know whether it was past trauma or present off-screen action that caused the change. In addition to this, the acting is as inconsistent as the storyline. At times, the actors are able to put on extremely convincible expressions of fear while at others, their acting seems exaggerated and forced. But what sets “Oculus” apart from other mirror horror movies, such as “Mirrors,” is the fact that the mirror does not take the lives of its victims directly. Instead, the mirror, named the Lasser Glass, manipulates the minds of its victims and only lets them see what it wants them to see, even outside of its frame. In one scene, Kaylie picks up an apple to bite into only to realize that it is a light bulb as she spits out bloody glass shards. But it doesn’t end there. She soon realizes that the apple actually is an apple and it is the mirror that is playing tricks on her to stop her from destroying it. With hallucinations like that, the characters’ sanity is broken down piece by piece and they eventually succumb to the psychological turmoil to commit irreversible actions. What is particularly upsetting about the story is the fact that it does not have the ending that a viewer would anticipate. As the film progressed, I started to feel some semblance of resolvability because it seemed as if the main characters were actually going to succeed in their endeavors. However, in the end, my expectations were crushed and the mystery of the mirror remains unresolved: the mirror stayed unharmed while the protagonists face their doom, exactly like what occurred ten years ago. Nonetheless, the mystery definitely leaves room open for a sequel. Shattering the mirror horror cliché, the mind-twisting story of “Oculus” does a commendable job of giving its viewers a lasting scare. Throughout the entire duration of the movie, the audience is treated to, “What just happened?!” scenes and the unresolved ending leaves the audience just as perplexed in their seats. Stressing dread and suspense over blood and gore, “Oculus” is a horror movie that focuses more on the plot rather than disgusting scenes of killing. The storyline is thus more compelling and convincing. After watching the movie, I think that sometimes there are other things that exist other than just my reflection in the mirrors around me.


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 21

Arts and Entertainment Music

(Lo)ve is Like a Drug

Songs From Eden

By Nicole Rosengurt A new pop queen is on the rise and she’s emerging from a dank, dark, underworld of nightclubs, drugs, and sex. Tove Lo is a Swedish indie pop/indie rock singer and songwriter with a brand new EP, “Truth Serum,” and a full album in the making. Though she’s previously written for Icona Pop and the likes, this is her first solo work. The album is a diary of her journey through a horrific breakup. The songs start her story by describing her euphoric love and as the album progresses, we see Tove Lo slowly fall into unhealthy coping tactics and eventually reflect on it all in the end. Lo brings a new darkness to electronic dance music by using unexpected realism that pulls you in despite your cringing at raunchy and graphic lyrics. Lo doesn’t hold back when she describes the sickening and twisted process she went through after her breakup. Her song “Habits,” released a year earlier, is a perfect example. Here she describes the downward spiral she went through after a breakup when she tried to forget an ex. She experiments with drugs, binge-drinking and passing out all day, “pick[ing] up daddies at the playground.” The video itself really brings her decay to life, complete with random hookups with strangers, and sobbing in nightclub bathroom stalls. The lack of inhibitions is vaguely horrifying but it pulls you in with a completely un-sugarcoated glimpse into her mind. Part of the appeal is that this life is one most people won’t ever experience and she truly opens her heart in these songs. She sings with such passion and pours everything she’s got into the vocals until she’s practically yelling, and her desperation and intensity are almost tangible. Even if we’ve never gone to measures as extreme as those of Lo, most can identify with the happiness felt through love, a desperate want for a person, or even a breakup you want to forget. Listening to “Truth Serum” is like partying in a sleazy, dark, night club during a drug induced haze. Lo shields her emotional vulnerability with sex, drugs, and rock-and- roll. She can however, turn quite soft and mellow. In “Over,” Lo gently questions, “Tell me, is this the part when we part ways forever,” and the vocals are dejected and toned down. Most of the songs on the album are a self-proclaimed “dangerous adrenaline rush” and the whipped up energy of each one sweeps you into the songs so you’re singing along by the second verse. One negative, however, is that, although the climaxes are all-encompassing and powerful, they’re too simi-

lar throughout the album, with too many hooks and catchy lyrics. The verses, however, are all fresh and unique. “Not On Drugs” starts out with a hypnotic beat and vivid lyrics like “I’m up on the sky and the dream’s so blue,” but not even a minute into the song we get the chorus, and its repetition pretty much

Listening to ‘Truth Serum’ is like partying in a sleazy, dark, night club during a drug induced haze with flickering strobe lights and wafting smoke all around you, except you’re also sobbing and feeling your heart break. makes up the rest of the song. The songs all fit together as a story, telling a tale of a love gone from drug-like ecstasy to pain and drug-induced oblivion. The style, too, repeats itself through the entire EP. It’s a mixture of synth, electro, and Swedish pop that still manages to break the confines of each of the genres. A deep, dark beat like a war drum or a heartbeat involves your whole body with the music and carries through all the songs, mixed with pulsating, psychedelic, electronic, and twangy transitions. Lo produces a haunting and echoey sound that easily erupts into powerful belts full of vibrato and rhythm. Her voice floats somewhere between light and airy and a sensual rasp, creating a unique sound that really helps convey her emotions to the audience. Tove Lo is building herself a place as a star performer, her hypnotizing electronic music working incredibly well with her raw and unguarded stories of love won and lost. With powerful rhythms, emotional lyrics, and a bad girl image of dirtiness and sex appeal, Tove Lo is a rising hit. Now that Lo’s in a much happier relationship, her future album is sure to bring brighter but no less revealing, sultry or mesmerizing music.

There are some songs that just really hit you hard, that take you and shake you by your shoulders until you get the message, that leave an impact on their audience. Hozier’s songs, emotional and conflicting, beautiful and evocative, make up the majority of these songs for me. It is no surprise that Hozier got under my skin, with his powerful voice, appealing melodies, and meaningful and intimate lyrics. The way he builds songs into intense exhibits of his heart is extremely effective. These techniques are what make “From Eden” such a worthy listen. Hozier, a single artist, was born Andrew Hozier-Byrne in Ireland. He taught himself to play guitar and piano and studied music in university. He was first noticed after the 2013 release of his first single, “Take Me to Church,” and EP of the same name. “Take Me to Church” presented a new artist with a lot of emotion and the amazing talent to express it. The EP included four songs: “Take Me to Church,” a heavy love song; “Cherry Wine” and “Real People,” both slow and sweet; and the Gospel-style “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene,” quiet at points and fast-paced at others. He grabbed his audience’s attention with his particularly graphic music video for “Take Me to Church,” featuring a prosecuted gay couple and Hozier’s own stirring music. This set the stage for a followup EP of the same quality and force. Released in April of 2014, “From Eden” contains another four songs with the same themes and styles (such as love, internal conflict, and temptation) seen on “Take Me to Church.” The first track on “From Eden,” which the EP is titled after, starts quietly with a guitar in the major key. As soon as Hozier’s powerful vocals come in, though, the whole mood changes. His voice emanates from the depths of his chest, loud and harsh. It is a love song, but thoughtful and even a little dark. It describes Hozier’s muse as tragic and lonesome, yet magic and wholesome. Surrounded by clever metaphors and personification, the context of the song’s title is revealed: “I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door,” drawing the comparison between Hozier and the evil snake in the Bible’s creation story, making his love tainted. The punctual drums make the lyrics even more impactful. Layered vocals swoop in toward the end of the

Lydia Wu / The Spectator

Sunny Chen / The Spectator

By Anne Duncan

song, adding aural complexity. The EP starts off on the right note: intensely emotional, yet appealing.

The EP starts off on the right note: intensely emotional, yet appealing. What comes next is smoother. “Work Song” starts off with hypnotic humming, setting the stage with background vocals. Hozier uses his falsetto to draw attention to his voice, which sing lyrics so sweet and romantic they become hyperbole: “My baby’s sweet as can be. She gives me toothaches just from kissing me.” As the background vocals become louder, the song increases in intensity. The entry of the electric guitar and the drums back the vocals up with something concrete. The juxtaposition of dark lyrics, such as “When my time comes around lay me gently in the cold dark earth,” and the aspects of a sweet love song, including the continual reference to his “baby,” create a complicated, moody tone to the song, lyrically similar to that of “From Eden,” but musically much darker. The humming background vocals continue in the next song, “Arsonist’s Lullabye,” forming a sense of continuity between the songs. However, this song then transitions to showcase an electric guitar playing bluesy riffs, drums, and the same intense, chesty vocals.

Again, dark lyrics about the appeal of arson paint the mood of the song (“When I was a child, I heard voices. Some would sing and some would scream”). The song builds and builds in intensity as the verses describe Hozier’s personal experience with his own sins, until the chorus climaxes and advocates for embracing the dark power of the song: “Don’t you ever tame your demons.” The potency dims back down for the last chorus and, as the emotion runs its course, the song ends as quietly as it started, leaving you more than a little spooked. Just as “Take Me to Church” did, “From Eden” ends with a live recording of one of Hozier’s quieter songs, “To Be Alone.” It starts with a fingerpicked melody on an electric guitar with lots of slides and trills that create a bluesy, legato line. The most emotional parts (such as “It feels good, girl, it feels good to be alone with you”) are conveyed by demandingly strong vocals, which then diminuendo for the more thoughtful and deep lines (“I feel like a person for a moment of my life”). Hozier demonstrates a wide vocal range with his controlled, yet overpowering falsetto at the end of each chorus, just as powerful as his growling chest voice, but sharper and more attention-grabbing. The contrast is skillful and interesting. “To Be Alone” concludes a notably darker EP than Hozier’s first, equal parts beautiful and haunting. Hozier’s grand total of eight produced songs are not many, yet they show many sides to his music, and the talent to back up each one. In fact, “From Eden” alone does that. Each song is different from the others. The EP has so much going on that it is like listening to a full album. Hozier’s debut full album will, in fact, be released in the summer of 2014. If it is anything like his first EPs, we are in for a treat.

Playlist

Pounding the City Streets “Go” Valley Lodge Power Pop

“Go Outside” Cults Indie Pop

“People Are Strange” The Doors Rock

“Shark Attack” Grouplove Indie Pop

“Shout to the Top” The Style Council R&B

“Lose yourself” Eminem Hip-hop

“Downtown” Petula Clark Pop

“Victoria” The Kinks Rock

“The Sun Shines Down on Me” Daniel Johnston Lo-fi


Page 22

The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Arts and Entertainment Food A Dual Fusion Charmer

Nutella: Spreading Its Way to NYC

Nanking is a Thai-Chinese restaurant located in midtown Manhattan​that serves various Asian cuisine.

By Vanathi Ganesan An evening at Nanking will send flavors exploding across your tongue like fireworks due to the variety of dishes and popping tastes available at a restaurant known for bringing together Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisines. The chain has several branches in the tri-state area and the location I went to eat at recently was in New Hyde Park, Long Island. One of the highlighting dishes of this restaurant is the Hakka Chili Chicken ($15), made with a variety of herbs and chili; its preparation underscores the traditional Chinese Hakka style, making for a combination of rich flavor and simplicity. On the Wednesday night that I went, it was somewhat busy and yet we, as a party of four, were able to get our seats immediately and had our drinks served at request. The restaurant itself was dimly lit and the shades on the windows were pulled down, which did not make it easy to read the menu. Despite the pulled-down shades, the large size of the windows, along with the gentle flute music in the background, created a comfortable atmosphere reflecting an Indian background. The center of the restaurant hosted a section of bamboo trees, invoking a sense of the Chinese culture as well. The television sets at either side of the restaurant made it a homey environment to be able to eat and entertain oneself. For the appetizers, we ordered spring rolls ($7), fried dumplings ($8), and the Mix Grill. The former two were both crispy and moderately spiced. The spring rolls were served with a sweet chili sauce, providing a contrast to their saltiness. The Mix Grill offered enough of a variety of chicken, kebabs and grilled shrimp to satisfy any meat-lover. Accompanying the already-spicy meats were both a mint sauce and a tamarind sauce, adding sweet taste. For the main course, we ordered, from the Chinese cuisine, Singapore Noodles ($12) and Schezwan Fried Rice ($12) and,

from the Indian, Chicken Tikka Masala ($15) and a Bread Basket ($8). The noodles were, upon request, made spicy. The spices were distributed throughout so that dots of red pepper were visible. The thin noodles were smooth and soft, a plus since some dishes come with stale, dry noodles. The chicken was adequately spiced, though sprinkled more on the top than throughout the dish itself. The Fried Rice was low on spices compared to the noodles but the red chili peppers sprinkled through the dish still offered a distinct flavor. The vegetables were not very varied—there was an abundance of peas and carrots—but still there were plenty to go around. The Chicken Tikka Masala was not as spicy, but the sauce gave the chicken a subtle and creamy taste in comparison to the boldness of the noodles and rice. The chicken was also delectably soft and juicy. This dish could be accompanied by the variety of naans (offered in the Bread Basket), a type of flatbread originating in South Asia that can be eaten with any dish (though they were eaten best with the Chicken Tikka Masala). The naans were crispy and pillow-soft, although there were a few that were slightly burned. For dessert we ordered the popular Indian dish Ras Malai ($5), cottage cheese in sweetened milk and sprinkled with pistachios. The sweet milk made it soft and delicate, with the pistachios breaking this smooth texture with a crunchy element. This dish resembled a rich cheesecake, without the crust. Overall, the experience at Nanking was satisfying and this should certainly be a restaurant on your list. The décor in the restaurant sets up a relaxing evening in a way reminiscent of the cultural blends that occur in the food itself, extending hospitality to a variety of groups. Although the dinner rates are rather expensive for the dishes, it will be an enjoyable experience for the fusion of exciting, new tastes.

New York City has its fair share of wine bars, candy bars, and sports bars, but the latest addition to the city’s culinary smorgasbord is sure to be a chocolate-lover’s paradise. Eataly’s Nutella Bar opened its doors on May 12th, welcoming long lines of customers with free slices of bread slathered with Nutella. This classic hazelnut treat originated in Italy and has since became quite the craze in America. With a decadent combination of cocoa and roasted hazelnuts, Nutella is known for its versatility and addictiveness. Located at 200 Fifth Avenue in a bustling part of Lower Manhattan, Eataly boasts several restaurants and markets specializing in gourmet Italian food. The new Nutella Bar replaced a wine bar, with the hopes of attracting a younger crowd. The customers seem to represent a wide age range, though, both young and old. With modest furniture and high ceilings, the bar has a minimalist ambience. The space is clearly planned for functionality, containing a roped-off line for ordering, and a food preparation area separated by a glass partition. The line itself can get lengthy, but tends to move at a reasonably quick pace. The seating is rather limited, however, comprising of only a few small wooden tables paired with transparent plastic chairs. This discourages visitors from staying too long and makes coming in a larger group especially difficult. Despite these unfortunate characteristics, the Nutella-lined walls and hardwood floors give the environment a whimsical feeling. With these features, the Nutella bar manages to combine both rustic and modern elements within its décor. The menu is short but offers an array of Nutella-clad treats, ranging from a simple pane con Nutella (homemade bread with Nutella) to a full-blown Nutella crepe. Everything is relatively affordable, the most expensive item being the crepe ($5.80). However, the sizes are a bit disappointing in comparison to the prices, and most of the items on the menu are standard fare at a bakery. A majority of the menu is made up of pastries spread with hazelnut goodness— delicious, but perhaps not particularly original. After ordering, customers wait off to the side while they watch their food being prepared. Some orders require minimal preparation, such as the pane con Nutella ($2.80), the preparation of which simply entails the spreading of Nutella on a slice of bread. In addition, many of the items are pre-made, such as the cookies with Nutella. Others, however, are more time-consuming to make. The crepes have the longest waiting time, but are entirely worth it and are arguably the best item on the menu. Each crepe is made-to-order, allowing the eater to see the delicate process of how their food is made: batter is poured over a griddle and drizzled with Nutella before being folded into a triangle. Crepes are best when eaten warm and these are no exception. The crepe might be a little hot when it comes out, but after waiting a bit for it to cool, it proves to be soft and easy to bite into. This is due in part to the doughy texture of the pancake, which differentiates it from many other standard Nutella crepes. Each bite offers a generous amount of Nutella, which complements the outer layer quite well without tasting overwhelmingly sweet. Nutella crepes are quite common, but the unique texture of this one

Ashley Lin / The Spectator

Jensen Foerster / The Spectator

By Dana Chen

The Nutella Bar is one of the many little restaurants featured in Eataly, a massive Italian food hall.

definitely makes it a standout. If you are looking for something a bit cheaper, the brioche con Nutella ($3.80) is a solid option. It is one of the simpler choices on the menu, but does not fail to satisfy the taste buds. This Nutella-filled croissant allows the chocolate-hazelnut filling to shine through as the main component. However, the breadto-Nutella ratio is skewed more towards the croissant. The buttery and flaky texture provides a substantial base for those who do not have too much of a sweet tooth. Other options include the

muffin con Nutella ($4.80), which unfortunately does not live up to the standards of the crepe and croissant. It is fairly bland and could easily be replicated by any modest bakery. Eataly’s latest venture is any Nutella-lover’s dream come true, as long as one avoids some of the less-than-stellar items on the menu. Though lacking in variety, each option is sure to satisfy any Nutella craving. So whenever you feel the need for a Nutella fix, do not hesitate to check out Eataly’s Nutella Bar.

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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 23

Arts and Entertainment Technology

Glass Goes Live By Joseph Han Google, mostly known for its heavily used search engine and Android operating system, has recently released a consumer edition of its futuristic gadget Google Glass, an accessory that pairs with a smartphone via Bluetooth to improve the user’s access to notifications and rapid Google searches. Before, only Glass members could purchase the product, but consumers can now order the device for the whopping price of $1,500. Google Glass consists of a titanium glasses-like frame with a small prism display and a computing system in the upper-right corner. The means of controlling this device is through either a touch-pad on the right side of the Glass that lets you swipe through a timeline interface, or a voice-command system called Google Now. You simply have to say, “Okay, glass…” followed by the command (such as “how is the weather?”). The device will follow the order, or, in this case, respond with the forecast. In terms of software, Glass has most features of current “smart” devices and supports many Google apps including Google Now, Maps, Gmail, and Google+. It also runs third-party apps, such as various tools, newsfeeds, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The list is growing as more developers dive into wearable tech,

but as of now, most of them are based on notifications, alerts, quick information access, and creative camera use. Despite its limited control, Glass is able to run music players and several games like Missile Beyond and Blackjack, bringing entertainment wherever it is worn. Just like most contemporary smartphones, Glass also comes with a 5-megapixel camera for taking pictures and recording videos in 720p. To use the camera, simply say, “Okay, glass, take a picture (or record a video),” or press a small button on top of the glass. The display for the interface is “the equivalent of a 25-inch high definition screen from eight feet away,” according to Google support, and audio is transmitted through bone conduction technology. This gadget’s quickly accessible smart features are helpful, and it will make you look more futuristically stylish. The obvious downside, though, is its price of $1,500 which could buy two premium smartphones offcontract or even a high-resolution Retina display Macbook Pro, all of which provide more features and for more productivity than the Glass. Additionally, you can get most of Glass’ features or even more in smart watches (like S Gear or Pebble) for as low as $200. With more customization and usability, I believe a smart watch is actually the better option. Considering the fact that Glass consists of

only $80 worth of components (according to tech site Teardown.com), it would be really helpful if Google lowered the price a bit. Plus, clumsy people who will most likely drop and damage Glass should expect a trip to the Google headquarters and a high repair fee.

The obvious downside, though, is its price; with $1,500, you could buy two premium smartphones…

Glass also has privacy issues with its camera function. With a simple command or click, it is easy for users to record things or people without permission or even without being noticed by others. Even if Google adds a notification light to notify others that they are being recorded, users can cover the light with

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tape. This unfortunately limits its usage in certain places. StopTheCyborg.org has started giving out anti-Glass stickers to businesses to discourage its utilization and there are already places like The 5 Point Café in Seattle that ban this technology because it invades personal privacy. Those against Glass’ use in public have already given users an unflattering nickname that rhymes with “glass-poles.” In fact, Google has just released a list of Glass dos and don’ts for its consumers in order to stop users from being perceived as “creepy” and “rude,” recognizing this privacy problem. Consumers might feel proud once they get their hands on their own Glass, but they might have to consider facing the public. There are also some basic features that should be added or fixed. First of all, Google Glass should be waterproof; there are already smartphones (Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S5, Xperia X2) that come with this helpful feature, so why not the Google Glass? It will be useful on rainy days or when somebody accidentally spills liquid on your device. Furthermore, its battery and productivity level should be extended. Right now it only lasts about a day and with limited controls and memory (only 16GB flash total); it isn’t helpful as a work-related productive device. However, what’s unique about Google Glass is that it has

the potential to lead or inspire many fields of study further down the road. The commercial version of Glass originated in the idea of interactive glasses for soldiers on the battlefield. Glass has already cropped up in the medical field for doctors to quickly search up symptoms or biological terms. There’s also a possibility that it will be used in education for note taking or for quick and helpful references, such as the periodic table in Chemistry. It’s most advantageous feature is technology called augmented reality, which allows virtual images to be overlaid onto the real world, so that the two worlds can be seen at the same time. This will be extremely helpful to doctors performing surgery—as they cut open the body and examine what appears in front of them, Glass can bring up images of CT and x-ray images, as well as a general map of the body displaying where certain organs are. Because of such a powerful feature, Glass is slated to revolutionize the world. For the moment, though, Glass is still having trouble with basic consumer applications. Since the bang for your buck isn’t as great in its current form, Google Glass is not something that consumers should save up for yet. But if you were to get it for free or as a gift, sure, why not—maybe a movie or a round of Blackjack will relieve your stress in class.


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 24

Arts and Entertainment In Memoriam

Maya Angelou Passes Away By Shahruz Ghaemi Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist, and national icon, died in her North Carolina home on Wednesday May 28 at the age of 86. Born in 1928, she grew up in Jim Crow Arkansas and she discussed her difficult childhood --- including facing racism and being raped --- in her seminal autobiography (the first of six

great books) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Much of her work examined the forces of racism and sexism on a deeply personal level as an AfricanAmerican woman. But she also wrote about the world around her, its sensations and impressions. She lived variously in New York, Cairo, and Ghana, Her poetry and prose was critically

Awaking in New York

acclaimed and popularly received; she was invited to read at President Clinton’s inauguration and in 2011, President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. An inspirational figure to many, Maya Angelou was one of our country’s preeminent literary figures. She will be sorely missed. Below are two of her poems.

Curtains forcing their will against the wind, children sleep, exchanging dreams with seraphim. The city drags itself awake on subway straps; and I, an alarm, awake as a rumor of war, lie stretching into dawn, unasked and unheeded. Maya Angelou Caged Bird A free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wing in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom. The free bird thinks of another breeze and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn and he names the sky his own But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

Courtesy of NPR

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom. Maya Angelou

Crossword

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Fill in the grid with numbers 1 through 8. Do not repeat a number in any row or column. In each heavily outlined set of squares, the numbers must combine, in any order, to produce the target number in the top left corner using the operation indicated. If you finish the puzzle, send a picture of your completed grid to stuyspeckenken@gmail.com, and if you are the first student to complete the puzzle, you’ll get your name mentioned in the next issue of The Spectator. Issue 14 Winner: Dmitriy Kagno

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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 26

Humor These articles are works of fiction. All quotes are libel and slander.

By Randolph Higgins In a press release Friday, John Mui, Stuyvesant Head of Internship Finding, confirmed that junior Mark Norwich will be going to Syria in the weeks after finals to fight for opposition forces. When approached about his decision, Norwich said, “I just really need the extra-curriculars for my college applications.” Mui stated that, although Stuyvesant does not officially endorse joining Islamic-militant groups, that the decision would probably look “pretty kick-ass” on a college application. “Every junior with a brain is getting an internship or a job as we speak - forget helping the homeless, nothing says dedication and genuine academic interest in issues like foreign policy and government like getting high on amphetamines and blowing up cars in a foreign country.” Norwich, who is expected to HALO jump into Homs some time in late June, thinks he is especially well suited to this task, “I mean, I come pretty close to senselessly killing people almost every day during football season - we call it two lines but it’s honestly great practice for brutally murdering the first Al-Assad supporter I find in a building. Anyway, how hard

could it be to find and eliminate snipers, it’s just like Call of Duty.” Norwich’s time at Stuyvesant is also thought to be useful in his trip, teaching him to perform in cramped conditions, sweltering heat, and under the influence of lethal amounts of artificial stimulants. Many at Stuyvesant were quick to criticize the decision as rash and obscene. According to junior Stefan “Milton” Huber “I mean just think about how much it will disrupt his inner being. Like, it’s not just a person living, it’s like, a conscious decision, and like that affects other decisions and those decisions affect other decisions and the karma is crazy when you mess with entropy like this. I’ve got a book you should read.” However, many are not so quick to belittle: trigonometry teacher Joseph Stern confirms Norwich’s average in his class has increased 15 points since Norwich began a crash course on small arms ballistics. This is just the latest in a string of attempts by juniors to impress colleges, a trend brought to light with the revelation that a junior, who has not been identified by the administration, offered free back rubs to every representative at this year’s college fair.

By Ling Dong Students were surprised to find a special homeroom greeting them at the end of third period on Tuesday, April 8. The homeroom was called for the purpose of distributing the New York City School Learning Environment Survey, an annual survey handed out to collect useful information about the school. Despite the clear importance of the survey, students were shocked upon realizing that, for once, homeroom had a purpose. Some were unable to overcome this shock in time, and tragically could not complete the survey. Meanwhile, others expressed their objection to the lack of notice. It was a violation of school regulations regarding testing that had never been broken, teachers claimed. “I thought we were supposed to be given at least a week’s notice before tests. I only found out the night before, and I ended up staying up until five in the morning,” junior Sherry Ko said. Ko added that she started studying the period prior to homeroom.

Like Ko, underclassmen and upperclassmen alike were frustrated with the unfair survey, in addition to the school’s handling of the situation. “There was no warning. Shouldn’t we at least have a school website to tell us about these schedule changes? Like one with a blue banner at the top with ‘Stuyvesant High School’ in large print,” freshman Victor Cai said. “Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?” At the end of 10th period that day, the second floor bridge exit was crowded with students clamoring with discussion. A few determined that though the survey started out with reasonably difficult questions, such as identifying their grade level, it became excessively hard as the questions climbed into the double digits. “The question about race completely stumped me. I never saw our school as racist, but after reading that really convincing and eloquently written New York Post article, I don’t know what to believe anymore,” senior Saim Siddiqui said. “I probably only got a 98.” Siddiqui is not alone in hav-

ing struggled to complete the survey. “I got a whole bunch of Ds in a row, so I had to change my answers a bunch of times. But the paper never ripped! It’s really reassuring to know that our budget is going into important things like high quality paper,” junior Wei Hou Wu said. “I just wish they would test us on easier things though—like calculus.” As a result of the extreme difficulty of the survey, a protest was started with the goal of securing a moderate curve. There were suggestions ranging from a 50-point curve to a 100-point curve, but more realistic students set their goals to a mere 49.2825 points. Still, others felt confident after taking the survey. “I went online and found some practice questions. I was really unprepared last year, so I wanted to raise my average this year,” said a student who wishes to remain anonymous. “Which class does this get averaged into, anyways?” Everyone agreed on one thing: at least there was no short response.

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Andrew Fischer / The Spectator

Students walk down the hallway, nowhere else to go.

School Survey Distresses Student Body

Andrew Fischer / The Spectator

Tanumaya Bhowmik / The Spectator

Student in Need of Extracurricular Joins Syrian Opposition


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 27

Humor New Academic Month to be Added to Calendar

By Shane Lorenzen Hoping to unseat incumbent Student Union Vice President and Presidential candidate junior Keiran Carpen, junior George Kitsios has announced his decision to run for SU President. Kitsios has chosen a simple campaign message; in order to connect to the student body, he has opted to be as honest with the voters as possible. In an appeal to those students who are tired of empty campaign promises and disappointment, Kitsios has stressed that his goal as SU President would be to do absolutely nothing whatsoever. Making only promises he will actually keep, Kitsios has campaigned all around the school, shaking hands with students and kissing their health class baby dolls. Kitsios has listened to countless voters tell him their concerns about an uncaring administration, and a ridiculous and mounting workload. He has responded to each of these concerned individuals by smiling, looking them in the eyes and saying that even if he wanted to help them—which he does not—there would be nothing he or any other candidate could do, so he’s not even going to try. When asked in an interview what he plans to do first thing after taking office Kitsios paused and thought for a second before answering. “Definitely a nap!” he said, “and then maybe some English homework. I usually have a lot of English homework to do.” When asked about the long term plans of his administration Kitsios stated, “I hope that, as your student representative, I will have beaten 2048 on my iPhone before the end of my ten-month term.” However, not everyone buys into Kitsios’ confidence, and some question if he is the right man to get nothing of any prac-

By Adam DeHovitz

tical use done. “Our current administration has achieved record levels of nothing at all this year,” junior Kyle Oleksiuk said. “Is a regime change even necessary?” In response to these criticisms, Kitsios admits he could learn a thing or two from the current administration when it comes to getting nothing done. “We didn’t even have new Stuy apparel sales this year. That’s almost scary when you think about how little must have gotten done,” observed Kitsios. “But believe me, I will fight as hard as I can to keep that trend going.” Despite the pessimism, Kitsios remains sure of himself. He feels if Stuyvesant wants the SU to remain wallowing in its own smug complacency, then he is the man for the job. “Why vote for me? Because, of all the candidates, I’m the only one who’ll be honest to you and serious about doing nothing for you,” Kitsios said.

“Why vote for me? Because, of all the candidates, I’m the only one who’ll be honest to you, and serious about doing nothing for you.” – George Kitsios, junior

Citing Stuyvesant’s recent drop in U.S. News’ high school rankings, the administration has decided to add a new month into the academic calendar. This month, named Zhanguary, has been placed between May and June to allow for additional instructional time. “After reviewing last year’s scores, I saw that our global history average dropped from a 96.7 to a 96.4. I realized we just needed a few more weeks to prepare our students,” principal Jie Zhang said. She went on to comment that this move is not unheard of, citing Roman Emperor Augustus and Julius Caesar as two important precedents. Not everyone is enthusiastic about this new reform. “How am I supposed to remember all of the U.S. history I crammed for the AP for the SAT II in June if these two tests are, like, more than a month apart?” junior Wenhao Du said. “There aren’t even any standardized tests of-

fered during this new month. Like, what am I supposed to do?”

“There aren’t even any standardized tests offered in this new month. Like what am I supposed to do?” —Wenhao Du, junior Many have suggested creating an event to mark this new

month. Several Spectator members have advocated for an issue similar to The Disrespectator to be released on Zhanguary 1st, except this issue would be predominantly Arts and Entertainment articles with the rest devoted to advertisements for test prep companies. Not all responses to this proposed change have been negative. “I’m just so happy they’re implementing these changes now,” said one excited senior before walking away to his next free period. “I think it’s a great change. Now I’ll have time to share more stories with my students, and maybe I can even do a unit on the Corsican political structure in the ninth century,” social studies teacher Michael Waxman said. In fact, the new month may add too much class time for teachers, who are now pondering either what obscure subject matter to cover or what material they’d like to read in class while the students occupy themselves for the period.

Pegleg Organization for Retired Navy-men Sues Stuyvesant Peglegs for Libel

By Daniel Goynatsky

After yet another season of not winning the championship, the Stuyvesant Peglegs received an angry letter from the Pegleg Organization for Retired Navymen (PORN). The letter indicated that the PORN is suing Stuyvesant because the Peglegs are bringing shame to the Pegleg community. “We find it shameful that we spent our lives working in the seas and creating an intimidating name for ourselves, and these prepubescent children are crushing our identities,” retired navyman Sir Duke Dumsworthy said. “I don’t want people to think of the leg I lost in Iwo Jima and picture a high school football team that can barely salvage two touchdowns per game.” Many students felt this lawsuit was unnecessary and mean. “Are they trying to say something,” junior Mark Norwich said. “Because if they’re trying to start something, I can give them a second pegleg.” Others, on the other hand, believe that the Peglegs are indeed slacking. “I don’t see a PSAL banner for the football

Courtesy of racontrs.com

SU Candidate Puts Honesty First, Promises To Do Absolutely Nothing

team in the gym,” boys’ bowling team member David Yao said. “Anywhere you look on the 3rd and 5th floors, you see banners of some of Stuy’s greatest sports teams in history, like the curling team of ’54, and the lacrosse team of… wait, never mind.” After being informed about the lawsuit, the Peglegs’ coaches decided to challenge the PORN to a game of football. “We’ll have the spectators at the game vote on which team they thought was more fun to watch, and the

winner wins the lawsuit,” assistant coach Laron Blake said. “After all, how exciting can [the] PORN be?” This event was widely publicized in Stuyvesant. Posters were everywhere and everyone was as excited as they were for the $1 sale on AP prep books. “Unfortunately, I had to cancel the event, as the Peglegs advertised with more than three flyers per bulletin board,” Student Union President Eddie Zilberbrand said.

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Shy and Sensitive Hunk Looking for Love (Please) By Shindy Koo and Winton Yee Still need a date for Prom? Well, look no further, ladies (or gentlemen), junior George Zhang is the real deal*. This shy sweetheart has a platinum in League and a Platinum Pack of Trojans in his back pocket (fees will apply). A session of math tutoring (calc and integrals) will be added at no extra charge**. Applications are due by Monday, June 2nd, and on that day please report for an “interview” in the 9th floor boys’ bathroom, Stall #2. Move quickly ladies, or you’ll see this hunk snatched up! Everybody and their mother*** wants to take him!

Alisa Su / The Spectator

“George is really the most macho man I know, nobody rocks teenage peach fuzz better than this guy! He also once killed a man with a grape and his own beard.” – James Cocoros, math teacher *Deal does not include Prom ticket **This is not true ***His mother


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The Spectator â—? June 3, 2014

Sports Playoffs

By The Photo Department


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 29

Sports

Rocky Lam / The Spectator

A Little Love for Our Athletes

By Daniel Gutman Students at Stuyvesant are placed in a highly competitive environment where success is measured by how many APs they get into and by how many 95+ grades appear on their report cards. This academic pressure takes a severe toll on Stuyvesant’s student athletes. As a Pirate and a member of a swim team outside of the PSAL structure, the decision of when

to skip practice to study and when to leave a long-term assignment for later in favor of training becomes very difficult, because it seems like one of the two always gets pushed aside. The moment students come in through the bridge they are thrust into a sea of students who are all vying for the right to call themselves Stuyvesant’s best. Obtaining high grades in classes seems to be the sole marker of success for the vast majority at Stuyvesant—but I disagree with this idea. Being on a sports team exposes a student to new friends, allows them to partake in an activity they actually enjoy, and provides an escape from the stress of school. When I go to swim practice every night, I don’t think about upcoming tests, projects, homework or grades; I just swim. But these pressures force some students to make a choice between focusing on school and participating in sports. Though not all student-athletes struggle with this decision, some elect to drop sports in favor of boosting their transcript average by a point or two.

Even worse, other student athletes end up never competing in a Stuyvesant uniform and select to only play for their club team. This choice directly weakens the chances of Stuyvesant’s sports teams’ success and gives other schools the upper hand in certain sports—like swimming. For example, sophomore Jonathan Liu swam for the Pirates as a freshman, but chose to swim solely for his club team this year. I cannot say if he would have been the player to help Stuyvesant trump Brooklyn Tech, but he swam well last season and was an important part of the team. Our sports teams’ performances during games shouldn’t have to suffer because of the overbearing academic workload put on athletes. I myself considered dropping competitive swimming in favor of trying to boost my notvery-great grades up to something moderately acceptable to colleges. But grades aren’t the only way to get into the higher education institution of your choice. In fact, sports and other extracurriculars are one of the

deciding factors in your acceptance to college. And if Stuyvesant’s aim is to educate us and get us to the college of which we dream, then adopting a more lenient policy towards athletes is something the administration must do. And yet Stuyvesant is implementing policies that hurt athletes even more than the current policies do. Though next school year’s school day extension is mandated by the Board of Education, the longer day puts a lot more stress on the students and makes their athletic careers more convoluted than they already are. Those with full schedules will still have no solution to the early start of sports games, and students without a full schedule will finish much later than they do currently. Subsequently, they would have to miss either many classes or many games. The school’s administration needs to adopt policies that accommodate student athletes. A policy towards late homework would greatly benefit those athletes that get home extremely late from practices

and competitions and cannot complete the homework in a conscious state. Additionally, an exemption from physical education for those who are on a sports team would be a welcome change for athletes. Not only does physical education add to the risk of overworking or injury, those who compete at a high level already get plenty of exercise in during practices. In my case, I swim upwards of 14 hours per week, in addition to weight training. Physical education is not something that needs to be part of my schedule, considering that I already get a lot of physical activity through swimming. The addition of a free period instead of Physical Education for athletes would give them time to relax, finish up or start assignments, and catch up on much needed rest. The adoption of the above policies and changes similar to them would increase athlete happiness, performance in school, and, most importantly, success in sports.

Point-Counterpoint: Physical Education for Athletes Faults in the System Still Worth It As I sat in gy—I mean, Physical Education - with my legs folded neatly under me and my back slightly slouched, I was promptly, and somewhat aggressively, yelled at to fix my posture. Of course, how could I have forgotten that posture is the most important part of physical education? Immediately, I sat up as straight as I could; however, due to my lack of flexibility, the very act of sitting erect in the crisscross-applesauce position for 10 minutes cut circulation in my legs, and resulted in quite a bit of discomfort. This left me wondering why I had to be yelled at to sit upright in order to learn the tricks and caveats of the ever thrilling sport of race walking. As I sat and watched my teacher explain in great detail the intricacies of race walking to a thoroughly amused audience full of varsity and club athletes, the faults in the physical education system at Stuyvesant became quite clear. While the intentions—to keep everyone active and provide an outlet of athletics and physical movement for every student—are noble in theory, in practice they are, quite frankly, a waste of time for most who are athletes at the varsity level, or in some cases, at the regional, state, national, or international levels. Sure, this break in the middle of the day does allow us to release some stress or pent up energy, but in many cases, we may have a much more rigorous sports practice or game waiting for us at the end of the day that allows for far more stress release than Physical Education could ever provide. Thus, a physical education class that doesn’t even count towards our GPA serves little-to-no purpose to those who participate in the aforementioned activities. Additionally, the skills taught in physical education classes are basic and significantly lower than the physical capabilities of varsity athletes. For instance, taking 20 minutes to learn how to successfully complete a “lay up” in the basketball unit is a waste of time for those who are on basketball teams, and even for those who play street ball (which is common in Stuyvesant student culture). Additionally, the Stuyvesant varsity football team, the Peglegs, works incredibly hard to attain and maintain high levels of endurance and physical strength. For those athletes,

the 30 minutes of activity in a Physical Education barely work up a sweat. This holds true for most varsity athletes across all sports and both genders. As senior and varsity baseball starting catcher Shawn Gilhooley said, “There’s very little rigorous physical exercise you can accomplish in less than 40 minutes, especially when teachers take far too long to take attendance and set up. For varsity athletes, whose workout routines are far more lengthy and rigorous than that of a typical PE class, PE is essentially pointless. PE is meant to make kids be more physically fit, and sports teams already accomplish this goal.” Unfortunately, physical education is thoroughly intertwined with our mandated science classes, making it difficult to rearrange the system in order to make room for another full class. However, there is a solution: allow athletes who participate in rigorous sports teams to simply drop Physical Education. This removal of a physical education class would have very little effect on these students’ transcripts, and would allow these students to choose how to allocate their own time during this newly acquired free period. A little down time or extra time to study for that calculus test next period is always warranted and generally welcomed. However, is this unfair to those students who have to participate in physical education? Not at all. Students who invest their time in out-of-class athletics deserve this break from physical education. They need the extra in-school time to take care of business that the non student-athlete has time to take care of after school. Often after long games or intense practices, studentathletes are both physically and mentally drained. By the time these athletes arrive home at some ungodly hour, it takes an incredible amount of willpower to sacrifice their body’s much needed sleep in order to complete schoolwork. Athletes could use the extra time in school to get started on homework or studying while they are fresh. Essentially, when the pros and cons are weighed out for the student athletes, presence of physical education in an athlete’s schedule does not add great value. While I will cherish my race walking skills forever, I think that I would have much preferred that I got to sleep before midnight the day before a big game.

By Annique Wong Luke raises some really valid points for exempting student athletes from having to take physical education. Is it frustrating to get yelled at for not sitting up straight? Yes. Is it a struggle to sit in “crisscross applesauce” formation? Clearly for some. And I will be the first to admit that being in a third floor gymnasium that has little-to-no air circulation when it’s 80 degrees outside and very muggy is not a fun time. But being a student athlete should not exempt you from taking physical education. PE may not count towards our grade point averages, but that doesn’t mean that the class serves “little-tono purpose.” In fact, PE is a big reason why I am still slightly sane during my ten-period, lunch-less schedule. In physical education, we get to relax by shooting around a basketball, attempt to learn team handball, or scream and cheer on our friends while they play a game. As a member of the track period for three seasons, could I use this fourth period for lunch? Yes. But what makes PE different from having a free period or lunch is that it allows me to frolic with students with whom I don’t share any other classes, and it enables me to de-stress by being active and loud: two things that I am not allowed to be in the cafeteria or library. If I didn’t have this class I probably would spend those 40-odd minutes sitting down stressing, eating, or trying to cram for a test, both

of which are inferior options to being physically active for a period. According to Luke, PE isn’t worth taking since it isn’t worth the student athletes’ times and the skills taught in PE are below the physical capabilities of varsity athletes. In regards to the former, all I have to say is this: I once watched the boys’ baseball team spend a good twenty minutes trying to get a hackey sack off of a light post fixture on the third floor atrium. Students, athletes included, need time to de-stress during the long school day; PE provides a perfect way to do just that, instead of wasting time later. And in regards to the latter argument: varsity athletes, especially those whose PE classes feature the sport that they play, should step up as leaders and teach their peers how to properly play the sport. Think of sophomore Max Fischelson, math team member extraordinaire, helping his classmates in his BC Calculus class. The ability to participate on a sports team is a privilege, not a right. Before we are student athletes, we are students, which means that the responsibilities that come with being a student come before those of being an athlete. So students should not participate in sports teams if they cannot meet the prior demands of their academics, assuming that the word “academics” encompasses the requirements of all Stuyvesant students. It therefore shouldn’t be necessary for student athletes to have that extra free period or be exempt from PE.

Luna Oiwa / The Spectator

By Luke Morales


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The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Sports By Tahmid Khandaker For most students at Stuyvesant, being decent at a sport is good enough. For senior Noah Kramer, however, being good is just not good enough. An athlete who has excelled since elementary school, Kramer has pursued perfection in both basketball and lacrosse, earning himself the title of a High School All-American and a nomination for a Wingate award in the latter sport. A member of the varsity Running Rebels and the captain of the lacrosse team, it is evident that Kramer has consistently displayed his athletic prowess, grittiness, and knack for scoring, a combination unrivaled by many athletes. But what sets Kramer apart is his commitment and leadership which have garnered him respect. His striving to reach a level far higher than “good enough” has landed him acceptance to Hamilton College. Kramer has attributed a large portion of his success to preparation, whether it be during preseason or before a game. “[During the summer] I try to put on as much weight as I can, lift a few times a week, and run a few times a week,” Kramer said. During the school year, Kramer emphasizes improving his lacrosse skills. “I shoot around whenever there is an open field somewhere,” Kramer said. All this preparation has enabled Kramer to make countless big plays, especially in lacrosse. In just his freshman year, he amassed 57 goals and had 18 assists, and he never looked back since. Each season, Kramer had scored higher than 50 goals and has already scored a milestone 100 goals on 179 shots this season, earning him the reputation as the top scorer in PSAL lacrosse. But this recognition is not new

to Noah, who was in the top three in scoring in his previous three seasons. “What makes the 100-goal performance so impressive is that to get to the goal he has to get through two, three, and sometimes four opposing players. When you need a goal, Noah is the player you want with the ball,” coach Anthony Bascone said. The most notable example of Kramer’s scoring knack was during the Peglegs game against Midwood, when the game was tied with eight seconds left, and Noah flew in to intercept a pass and score the game-winning goal. “Noah is good at using his size and strength to drive to the goal and fake out the defenders to get an open shot,” senior and goalkeeper Robert Melamed said.

“He’s tough, gritty, and always willing to put his body on the line to make a big play.” — Jeffrey Zheng, junior

Kramer is dedicated to winning and is recognized for his hustle during games and practices. “He always knows how to keep it serious, and he’s

always working hard to give it his all on the court. He’s tough, gritty, and always willing to put his body on the line to make a big play,” junior and varsity basketball teammate Jeffrey Zheng said. During the basketball season, Kramer suffered several injuries, yet he played through them, including once when blood was gushing from his lip. During lacrosse season, Kramer embraced his responsibilities as the captain and has shown his maturity. “He has been leading the team ever since preseason and it’s noticeable that he really cares for everyone on the team, and that he’s been doing a good job,” junior Richard Zhou said. Often times Kramer gives half-time pep talks, addressing the team’s weaknesses and strengths, and energizing his teammates. “Noah is very unselfish and always looks for ways to set up his teammates and get the ball moving on offense. As a teammate and a captain he is always encouraging and trying to teach the rest of the team how to improve their skill sets,” Melamed said. Kramer has been leading, however, since his days as a freshman. “Noah had complete respect from all the players on the team even when he was a freshman, and he has definitely matured and taken on a bigger leadership role on the field and off,” Bascone said. Kramer is quick to point out his teammates’ errors and help them fix their mistakes. Kramer has inevitably obtained respect from opposing coaches and is always on their scouting reports. “Everyone in the league knows of Noah. When Stuyvesant lacrosse is mentioned, the next statement is ‘the team with Noah,’” Bascone said. It was obvious to Kramer that he should pursue lacrosse

in college. “I was always better at basketball, but I started to realize that I wasn’t tall enough or skilled enough for basketball, and that I liked playing lacrosse more. It’s much faster and more physical, and I didn’t have to be six feet five inches to be successful,” Kramer said. Though he was a member of varsity basketball, and started several games, his performance was subpar compared to his monstrous 50-goal seasons in lacrosse. Kramer has unlimited potential in his college lacrosse career due to his potent offensive skills. “Noah can play on any team […] and be their most valuable player,” coach Bascone said.

“As a teammate and a captain he is always encouraging and trying to teach the rest of the team how to improve their skillsets.” — Robert Melamed, senior

Once he realized he was an extraordinary talent in lacrosse, Kramer had to convince colleges of his abilities. Upon receiving unconvincing

Abigail Edwards / The Spectator

Good Is Not Good Enough

Senior Noah Kramer, an All-American lacrosse player and leading goal scorer in the PSAL, was recruited by Hamilton College.

results after emailing colleges, Kramer decided to take action. “The summer after my sophomore year, I went to a few recruiting camps where coaches just watch you play games,” Kramer said. “During junior year I went to a few recruiting camps and just stayed in touch with the coaches. By the end of July I had committed to Hamilton. It’s a really small liberal arts college, which is what I was looking for, and the feeling of the campus was right.” With a mixture of innate ability and dedication, Kramer sets an example for the rest of his team. “He’s an exceptional player and captain, and his shoes will be hard to fill when he leaves,” Zhou said. As Kramer embarks on a lacrosse career at a divisionthree college, he leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as an All-American lacrosse player, which will be “the benchmark for lacrosse student-athletes,” Bascone said. “As a coach I can only hope that there will be another Noah that walks on as a freshman and has the impact that he had on Stuyvesant lacrosse.”

Girls’ Table Tennis

Eva I / The Spectator

Growing Pains

Juniors Casey Wong and Qu Chen played first doubles against Cardozo High School on Monday, May 19th.

By Anthony Cheang Often in sports, we look for a way to substantiate results with statistics, the most important of which is usually team record. Often, however, statistics do not tell the whole story. Stuyvesant’s girls’ table tennis team went into its playoff game against Cardozo undefeated.

They absolutely smothered their division, despite the fact that many of their members were relatively new at table tennis. “A lot of our girls came into the year having never played the sport before, or even been part of a team,” coach Kristina Dvorakovskaya said. Facing 9-1 Cardozo, it seemed as if the matchup was

going to be a rough battle between two division heads, but instead, Cardozo nearly swept Stuyvesant, 4-1. “They were the better team, to be honest. Our division was not as tough as theirs,” freshman first singles player Karen Jin said. Cardozo simply dominated the match, winning every game by large margins, even sweeping the first singles matchup 3-0. Jin could not find her groove. She looked stiff and regularly missed the table with her shots. The loss was quickly followed by decisive sweeps in second and third singles as well, and the match was over just like that. The doubles teams both had relatively close games, with second doubles, composed of senior Elizabeth Reznik and freshman Erica Chao, managing to avoid a complete sweep by pulling out with a win. In their second set tiebreaker, the pair bounced back from a first set loss to edge out a tough victory. The game was capped off by a spectacular play in which Reznik saved a ball headed

towards the opposite corner, showing off the hustle to keep the point alive in what should have been a meaningless game. Stuyvesant clearly did not have enough experience, despite coming into the match with a 10-0 record. Cardozo had the much more experienced players, and having played in a rougher division, was well prepared to take Stuyvesant head on. With the postseason loss, Stuyvesant was eliminated in the semi-finals, and Cardozo moved onto the finals. However, Stuyvesant took solace in the fact that the team still has room to grow. “I think that we can improve next year because our team is so young,” freshman Alice Cheng said. Stuyvesant’s first, second and third singles players are all freshmen, so they have time to improve, as they’re going to be playing with each other and developing for the next three years. This, combined with the fact that they still managed to make it into the semi-finals of the playoffs despite their lack

of experience, shows that there are brighter times ahead for this young team, and growing pains are only part of the process. “We are going to improve over the off-season, and hopefully, we’ll be back, stronger than ever,” Dvorakovskaya said.

“We have room to grow, and get better.” — Kristina Dvorakovskaya, coach


The Spectator ● June 3, 2014

Page 31

Sports Boys’ Handball

Knights Slay the Dragons By Joshua Zhu After having their championship hopes destroyed in the semifinals against Bayside High School last season, the Dragons came into First Park on Monday, May 19, ready to journey back to the semifinals. After a 4-1 win over Transit Tech CTE High School, the Dragons were matched up with the James Madison Knights in the second round of the playoffs. The sixth-seeded Dragons clearly expected to win over the eleventh seeded Knights. “We anticipated to win all the games 5-0,” senior Wilson Li said. However, beginning from the first game, it was evident that the Dragons would not have it as easy as they thought. The first singles game matched Wilson Li with Madison senior Kevin Lai. Li was injured the entire season with elbow tendinitis, but was determined to give his team a win. Wilson Li’s injury didn’t seem be an issue at first, but he quickly lost his focus, characterized by several missed serves, allowing Lai to score 10 straight points. It seemed like Wilson Li was regaining his composure when he scored 3 points to make it a 10-6 game, but Lai quickly dissolved any momentum by reeling off another 10 straight points. Wilson Li showed a tremendous effort in this game, making several acrobatic saves. In one notable rally, Wilson Li dove to his left to save the ball

and quickly got back to his feet to receive a long ball to his right and win the rally. Nevertheless, it was ultimately not enough, as Wilson Li continued to struggle with his serve, and the Knights won the game 21-7. Wilson Li’s loss delivered a huge blow to the Dragons’ team morale. “There’s a lot of blame to put on myself because although I was injured I expected a win,” he said. “I was confident throughout the whole game, even though I was under.” The same cannot be said for junior and co-captain Young Kim, who played second singles. In the second singles match, Madison sophomore Jason Chong aced Kim on his first serve, showing signs of what was to come. Chong went on to have eight aces and came out with a dominant 21-3 win over Kim. “[Kim] was completely intimidated by [Chong]’s serve. He wasn’t ready for it,” coach Robert Sandler said. “[Kim] has to learn how to deal with pressure [by playing] in more competitive tournaments in order to develop a strong mental game.” For the first doubles match, Sandler decided to use a different duo than he had used in the regular season: junior Wilson Luo and junior Dylan Li. Luo, for most of the regular season, had played with junior Eddie Wang, but chemistry problems led to Sandler replacing Wang

with Dylan Li. For the most part, Dylan Li only had experience playing third singles and had only played one regular season game with Luo. Sandler took a risk replacing Wang with Dylan Li, hoping it would pay off. However, Luo and Dylan Li were unacquainted with each other’s playing tendencies. This, coupled by serving issues similar to the ones that plagued Wilson Li, led to a 21-9 loss. With three straight losses, the Dragons knew that they had been already eliminated from the playoffs. With the pressure lifted off, the Dragons performed considerably better in the ensuing matches, especially in serving, which had been a consistent problem in the prior three matches. Junior and co-captain Marco Liu played an extremely close game in the third singles match. With the game tied 2020, Liu’s quick, low serve forced opponent was forced to the ground, allowing Liu to have an easy kill which won the game and sealed the Dragons’ first win of the day. Following Liu’s match, junior Daniel Wu and senior Long Yip played the second doubles match, featuring two equally matched teams. In one play, what appeared to be an ace ball was instead saved by Yip. Their opponents, who had left their guard down, managed to return the ball with a tap, but Wu rushed in for a kill to make the game 7-7. After this impressive

point, they scored five straight points to go up 12-7. The Knights never got any closer than three points and the Dragons came out with a 21-14 win. “I didn’t really feel we did that well today. We won our third singles and second doubles, but to be honest, we should [have won] every game,” Liu said. Though the Dragons may be disappointed with their loss to Madison, they have nothing to be ashamed about. Sandler has repeatedly stressed that this season was a rebuilding year after the Dragons’ strongest players graduated last year. Taking that into account, the Dragons perhaps met expectations by reaching the second round of the playoffs. “We’ve had a lot of guys who never started last year. We have Daniel [Wu], we have Dylan [Li], we have all these new players who never started before. And we lost all of our seniors, so [that] was disappointing, but at the same time it was a rebuilding year. This is a good experience for them to see how much work they have to do,” Sandler said. The Dragons’ undefeated 13-0 season shows that, though they lost some of their best players, they certainly still possess the talent to win. Instead, the Dragons’ inner battle against their own nerves and their ability to step up against better opponents will be the biggest problem they must deal with,

as this match showed. “They need to focus more. They need to play small ball, not big blue in the playground, and they need to play in competitive tournaments in order to get a strong mental game,” Sandler said. Aside from seeing what they must work on, the Dragons had a few positives coming out of this season. One of these was how well Liu led the team. “[Marco Liu] has been a good captain, [has a] good attitude all the time, and he’s a good competitor, and I was impressed by that. He also held in his games,” Sandler said. With many members planning to play in competitive tournaments over the summer, the returning players hope to gain experience, helping them falter less when under large amounts of pressure. Chemistry problems that plagued the doubles teams should be resolved next season as they will have more time to play and adapt to each other’s styles. From this defeat, the Dragons will improve and be a force to be reckoned in the upcoming season. “These games will teach the team next year how to play with their nerves,” Wilson Li said. “I can understand where they’re coming from; during junior year I was nervous every game, but this year not so much. But it’s all in the learning experience, and they’ll learn how to play with their nerves.”

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Before we begin, you might want to know why on Earth you should take the advice of some company that decided to advertise in your newspaper. At this point we know that many of you are desperate—if we said that the secret to a higher score on the SAT or ACT was a diet of tarantulas and Red Bull, some of you might just try it. But before you run out in search of killer spiders or try to sprout a set of wings, take a deep breath. Trust us. We’ve worked with thousands of students, we train teachers how to teach the SAT and ACT, and (because we’re huge nerds) we tend to take the test every year just to make sure we’re still getting perfect scores. (It’s okay: most of us are over 30 and have master’s degrees; we should be getting perfect scores). So let’s get to it. Sophomores, we’ll get to you in a moment. For now, we’re talking to you, juniors. You guys have spent your entire high school careers studying, taking tests, and writing essays all in the hopes of getting into that dream school. And yet, there are still SATs/ACTs to take and scores to improve. Before you throw up your hands in frustration, break down and cry, or decide that you’re dropping out and working a minimum wage job instead of going to college, let’s talk about what your next few months should look like: 5 COMMANDMENTS FOR THE FINAL COUNTDOWN 1. Keep Studying. Hope alone will not raise your SAT/ACT score any more than it will win you the lottery. (If you’ve already won the lottery, why are you applying to college?) You can’t change your score without changing your habits. Students who take practice tests, study vocabulary, and refine their techniques are much more likely to see higher scores than those who are simply hoping to sit next to the smart kid and cheat. 2. Don’t Cheat. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CHEAT ON THE SAT OR ACT. As the pressure builds, students sometimes feel the urge to find any advantage they can, even if it’s dishonest. It’s just not worth it. Stealing a few answers from your neighbor to pick up a couple of points will not be the difference between acceptance and rejection—colleges see your scores as a range anyway. But if you get caught, you aren’t getting in anywhere. You have spent years building an academic profile. You don’t want to live in your parents’ basement for the next few years. 3. Don’t Give Up. Many students think they have little chance of scoring higher on a 2nd or 3rd attempt at a test. There is still plenty of time to study, and plenty of opportunities for

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june 3, 2014

Page 32

The Spectator SpoRts Boys’ Handball

Soham Ghoshal / The Spectator

Dragons Glide to Victory

Stuyvesant junior Young Kim faces a player from Transit Tech High School at the boys’ handball playoffs.

By Jeffrey Zheng “We’re going to 5-0 them, I guarantee it,” junior and first doubles player Wilson Luo said. Luo’s bold statement was almost correct. The sixth-seeded Dragons in the Manhattan II league moved on to the second round of the playoffs on Thursday, May 15, with a 4-1 win against the 27thseeded Transit Tech CTE. The Dragons came into the match with great confidence and, aside from a first singles match loss, backed it up with dominating performances. “We knew we were going to win. There was no doubt. But we knew there was a possibility they might have one or two good players and that was the case,” coach Robert Sandler said. The first singles match was played by junior and captain Young Kim, who was filling in for injured senior Wilson Li, who has elbow tendinitis. Small and skinny, Kim’s opponent, sophomore Juan Martinez, did not appear to be a threat at all. However, as the game progressed, it was evident that Martinez was not a joke. Kim’s calm composure broke when he quickly fell behind 8-1 resulting in a timeout called by Sandler. “I thought he was a scrub, but he was actually really good. I wasn’t expecting him to come out with two really good hands,” Kim said. Martinez, who went 9-0 in the regular season, showed off

his ambidexterity while hitting the ball with great strength and control despite his skinny arms. On top of that, his agility allowed him to return many of Kim’s hard serves. After the timeout, Kim scored two points but quickly fell behind 14-3 as Martinez collected himself after talking to his father on the sidelines and prevented Kim from rallying. Kim was extremely frustrated at this point and shouted, “Come on Young! Wake up!” after missing a rather easy shot. Kim then had two brilliant kills and scored four points to make the score 14-7, but Martinez served a couple of aces and eventually finished the match in style with a kill, winning 21-10. Despite a very shaky start, the Dragons had complete control in the rest of the matches. In the second singles match, junior and co-captain Marco Liu his opponent frustrated and confused as he failed over and over again to return Liu’s serves. Liu scored the first 18 points, had an outstanding 11 aces, and easily won 21-2. “Their second singles player was nothing compared to their first singles player. The second singles player could barely hit the ball,” Liu said. The first and second doubles matches were no different. Juniors and Eddie Wang and Luo barely broke a sweat in the first doubles match as they only allowed Transit Tech sophomores Elmer Lujan and Joshua Robinson to serve once. After a couple of serves, Luo and Wang realized that Lujan and Robinson

had weak left hands and used that weakness to their advantage. Picking on their left hands led to 15 total aces for Luo and Wang and the 21-0 shutout. In the second doubles match, junior Daniel Wu and senior and co-captain Long Yip took a 9-0 lead before losing one point to Transit Tech junior Hermadj Chandr and sophomore Pedro Adorno on a miscommunication as the ball sailed between them. The small blunder did not faze Wu and Yip as they picked on the obvious weak left hands of Chandr and Adorno. Wu and Yip effortlessly won 21-1. Wu had nine aces and three kills while Yip had two aces and four kills. The third singles match featured junior Dylan Li who usually plays in the first doubles match but had to switch position due to Wilson Li’s injury. Li missed some easy shots early in the match which caused him to start off a little slowly against sophomore Alexander Robles. Li often mistimed or misaimed his shot. Robles was able to keep the score close at 6-3 early in the match. As the match went on, it became evident that Li was the stronger player as he stopped making blunders and started to dominate Robles. Like many of the other Transit Tech players, Robles could not hit with his left hand. Li exposed this and easily scored 15 straight points to take the match 21-3. “I don’t think today’s game was a very difficult game to play. Besides the first match, I could have had all my subs play and we could have won all the games easily,” said Sandler. While the Dragons easily moved on to the second round of the playoffs, the other teams that they will face are much better. James Madison, Midwood, and Brooklyn Tech are potential matchups and all pose big threats to the Dragons’ playoff run. The Dragons will face much stronger singles players than Transit Tech’s Juan Martinez, such as Francis Lewis’ Darren Chin and Midwood’s Nicholas Liaros, who are widely regarded as the two best singles players in the city. The Dragons can be sure that there won’t be any more shutouts from here on out. continued boys’ handball coverage on page 31

Boys’ Table Tennis

Stuyvesant Breezes By Cardozo For First Playoff Win

By Jeffrey Su

The playoffs for any sport are usually marked by strong emotions and stark intensity. Compared to the regular season, the playoffs are a completely different animal. However, Stuyvesant’s boys’ table tennis playoff matchup against Cardozo on Monday, May 19, in the school cafeteria, was anything but intense. In a nonchalant fashion, Stuyvesant dominated Cardozo, winning all five matches. “Our guys were completely confident during the game,” coach Bernard Feigenbaum said. Prior to the start of the first match, whispers amongst the Cardozo players seemed to invoke awe as they watched their opponents warm-up. “We’re gonna get crushed,” one of the Cardozo players said. The first singles was a three-game sweep for freshman and captain, Pei

Yuan Wang. In the first game, Wang won by a score of 11-6. In the second game, which was closer, he came out on top with a well-placed serve that his opponent could not handle. Wang then closed out the match with an 11-3 victory in the third game. Stuyvesant won second singles as well, thanks to sophomore David Song. Playful banter was exchanged between the two, and the atmosphere of the cafeteria felt more like a regular season game than a playoff game. “We didn’t have much of a game plan; everyone knew what they had to do, and we stayed calm and did our best,” Song said. The matchup that garnered the most attention, however, was the doubles match involving senior Alan Baranov and freshman Eric Amstislavskiy, in which Cardozo was abso-

lutely overpowered time and time again. After a powerful kill by Baranov, one of the Cardozo players flipped his paddle around and stared in disbelief. That did not change their luck, however, as they were swept in three games as well. Victories by freshman William Yao in singles and sophomores Albert Lee and Chun Chieh Chou in doubles also helped Stuyvesant breeze by Cardozo. With their 9-1 record in the regular season, Stuyvesant evidently carried their good play into the postseason and made quick work of the lower-seeded Cardozo. However, Stuyvesant’s next playoff game against Brooklyn Tech will provide more of a challenge after losing to them earlier in the season. “We’ve already played them twice in the year, and we know what we have to do to win,” Feigenbaum said.

Sports Wrap-Up • Stuyvesant’s boys’ ultimate frisbee team, the Sticky Fingers, placed first in the state championships. • Stuyvesant’s boys’ table tennis team overcame Brooklyn Tech in the PSAL table tennis championships 3-2, marking themselves down as the first team to win gold in PSAL table tennis. • Stuyvesant’s boys’ badminton team ended their postseason run in the second round, losing to Bronx Science in a close 3-2 match. • The Vipers, Stuyvesant’s girls’ fencing team, won silver in the PSAL Girls Fencing Playoffs. • Stuyvesant’s co-ed golf team, the Eagles, advanced to the third round of the playoffs, surpassing Tottenville with a commanding 4-1 victory, and will play in the next round on Tuesday, June 3, at Dyker Beach Golf Course. • The Dragons, Stuyvesant’s boys’ handball team, previously undefeated, fell to James Madison in the second round of the playoffs in a tight 3-2 loss, marking an early end to their playoff run. • Stuyvesant’s girls’ handball team quickly dropped out of the postseason with a first round loss to New Dorp Central, losing in a close 3-2 match. • The Peglegs, Stuyvesant’s boys’ lacrosse team, fell to Bronx Science in the first round of the playoffs. • The Renegades, Stuyvesant’s girls’ softball team, ended their playoff run early in the first round, unable to score against the John Bowne Lady Wild Cats in a 2-0 defeat. • Despite an undefeated regular season, Stuyvesant’s girls’ table tennis team fell short early in the playoffs, losing to Cardozo 4-1 in the first round.

Girls’ Softball

Renegades Finish The Season Defensively By Sabrina Huang

After winning 10 regular season games, the Renegades played their first playoff game against John Bowne. The Renegades arrived in Brooklyn on Tuesday, May 20 ready to defeat John Bowne and advance into the next round. Despite their enormous effort, however, the Renegades fell short in their ability to make contact with the ball, and were ultimately defeated 2-0. Before the game began, the Renegades stood in a circle while senior and co-captain Marie Frolich gave the team a pep talk about how great the season was and how great of a team they were, fueling the team with excitement. The Renegades, however, had trouble getting on base throughout the first two innings, finally getting a hit when senior and co-captain Julia Witkowski came out with a double to start off the third inning. “It was pretty great since we were struggling with hits and getting on base for the entire game,” Witkowski said. “To get to second base with no outs was really promising for us, though ultimately, I was left on base.” Though John Bowne’s pitcher, sophomore Alexis Blanchard, consistently pitched balls too high, the evidently nervous Renegades eagerly swung at them, resulting in easy strikes for Blanchard. The fourth inning proved to be very frustrating for Frolich, the Renegades’ pitcher. After 17 games of pitching this year without a single officiating problem with her pitches, the umpire claimed that her motion was illegal. “In reality, his angle to the mound was off and he could not tell that I was dragging my toe, which he said I wasn’t, so he started calling my strike pitches illegal, making them balls,” Frolich said. “That all got in my head and I was frustrated that whole inning, [so] my mechanics were off.”

To make matters worse for the Renegades, Frolich’s pitches hit the legs of two girls from John Bowne, resulting in one run for John Bowne. “Hitting those girls was really upsetting, especially since Bowne only had three hits the whole game,” Frolich said. “It was the worst way to give up a run and I was upset about it.” Further adding to the setbacks, the Renegades were unable to score throughout the remainder of the game, as the team consistently struck out during the last few innings. In the last inning of the game, John Bowne was able to score one more run, solidifying their lead and marking the end of the season for the Renegades. Despite the loss, the Renegades felt that they played a really strong defensive game and have a lot of room for improvement. “While we made some crucial plays defensively, offensively speaking, our team could have played better because we weren’t able to make contact with the ball when we were up to bat,” sophomore Cristina Chong said. “It has been one of our weaknesses this season, and it was showcased in this game especially.” Throughout the season, the Renegades have been really friendly and welcoming, thus, fostering a great environment to be in. The team showed great unity and team spirit, as everyone would always cheer for each other at practice and games. “I feel like I’ve been able to improve myself as a player from being in such a great environment with teammates who are patient, kind, and welcoming,” sophomore Emily Hirtle said. Although the Renegades have the painful experience of losing in the first round of the playoffs three years in a row, they will have quite a few returning starters next season to try to change that trend. They hope to improve their hitting, especially with players on base.


Volume 104, Issue 15