Grand Old Days

If you didn’t go to Grand Old Days this year in St. Paul, you missed out. The festival this year was held on Saturday, June 4th, and it lasted all day long. Grand Old Days is a fun filled exciting day that runs up and down Grand Ave all day. The day is full of fun activities like bouncy houses, slides, and fun little mini games like bags or home run derby.

There is also a lot of different kinds of foods available. The food is served via food stands and is cooked right in front of you, so it is always new and fresh. The foods they serve include all your typical festival foods like corn dogs, hamburgers, and hot dogs, but there are also some different foods that in my opinion taste better. The options don’t stop at food though, and there are many drinks like Jamba Juice, lemonade, soda, and this year I even saw drinks served in whole coconuts.

Grand Old Days is a place to go if you want to go and have a good time with your friends and family or by yourself.

Once you have eaten and walked around, and enjoyed what there is to see, you can have a little rest and wait for the parade. The parade is a fantastic parade that includes small and big businesses and organizations, shops on Grand, and of course candy. The parade is never disappointing and always very interesting to see what floats they make to use in the parade. This year there was a wide variety of floats in the parade ranging from small flashy and colorful floats to huge floats packed to the brim with people throwing out candy.

Grand Old Days, as an overall activity, is a great family friendly fun event where you enjoy every second that you are there. I know that I had fun at Grand Old Days and I’m confident that if I asked people that went they would say the same.

Another thing that is very cool at Grand Old Days is the amount of local businesses that have been given space and booths at the event. Many events now are just overrun by big companies and businesses, but at Grand Old Days, and in most of St. Paul, they encourage and support small businesses and local stores or companies.

On the Grand Old Days webpage, they have a whole section devoted to local businesses, and at the event they have two whole blocks set aside for local businesses. I think that this is a very cool thing that they are doing because, like I said before, most events are overrun by big companies and businesses, but I feel that new ideas do need to be expressed and I’ve found that most small and local businesses have very unique and new ideas. Now this isn’t to say that every small business does, but it is more common. This is why I enjoy Grand Old Days as much as I do, because they give everyone a chance to express themselves and share what they have to offer.

Freshmen year

My freshman year was really fun and enjoyable. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be before I came to high school. Since I was new to Highland, there weren’t many people that I knew except for some freshman that came from my middle school, but I made friends throughout my freshman year.

High school isn’t really hard, unless you don’t do your work, study, etc. so, that’s some advice for the new upcoming freshmen. High school is fun, if you don’t make it boring and not fun. In my opinion, all of my classes were fun, both academic and non-academic. I was able to be in Beginning Drawing, Beginning Painting, and Newspaper, all of those elective classes were really fun, but I liked Beginning Drawing and Newspaper more. I was able to step out of my comfort zone and try something new, which was Newspaper and that was nice. I recommend students to join Newspaper, and try it because they might find it fun too.

Also, the club that I joined at Highland was ACC, which is known also as, Asian Culture Club. ACC was fun; I was able to participate in performances and the activities that they had planned.

I was also able to play on the Badminton team this year. Badminton was really fun, and the season went really well, there were many good players, everyone got along with each other, and we all worked really well with each other.

The best part of my freshman year was being able to try out the different elective classes that I had, and being part of ACC, and the Badminton team. Another best part of my freshman year was, being myself and being able to have fun in all the activities that I participated in.  

Overall, my freshman year was really fun. I have many fun and enjoyable moments in my freshman year. I hope to have an even better year, within the next year, and throughout my high school career.

Are fidget spinners O.K. at Highland?

It seems like at least once a year a new craze will sweep across the youth of America. Whether it’s a new toy, dance, or app, it seems unavoidable. This year, a new trend has spun the world into a debate. What is this subject of mass dispute one might ask? You probably guessed it – the fidget spinner.

If you aren’t aware of what these little gadgets look like, just picture three exposed ball bearings surrounding a capped ball bearing in the middle, connected with plastic. (If that description didn’t help just look at the photograph below).

The creator of the fidget spinner, Catherine Hettinger, had the idea for the now very popular toy more than 20 years ago. When Catherine was in Israel she saw boys throwing rocks at law enforcement officials. This gave here the idea to create a way for kids to release their stress, and negative emotions, in an appropriate fashion. In 1997, she pitched the idea to Hasbro Toys, but was shot down. Despite this setback, she got a patent. Unfortunately for Catherine, she patented the idea back in 1997, and the patent expired just this year; meaning the rightful creator is getting no money or credit. It’s really unfortunate when you consider tens of millions of spinners have been sold within the last few months.

photo courtesy of Elliot Wall

So, what has people all worked up about these seemingly harmless toys? Well, a few things. For one, teachers absolutely despise them because they are just another distraction for a generation with more than enough distractions. So, like cell phones, teachers have started to confiscate all fidget spinners seen out during class. Some schools have went as far as to ban them completely from school grounds.

Another reason people don’t like the little toys are the fact that they are just annoying. People complain about the obnoxious buzzing noise they make. They also complain about the little kids running around wildly spinning.

One more reason people don’t like them is the are “just a fad.” Although it’s 100% true that fidget spinners are a fad, and a kind of dumb fad at that, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy it.

At Highland, it isn’t uncommon to see a kid with a spinner (one author of this article has three). So, is it O.K. to bring them to class? A few teachers were asked to give their opinion of fidget spinners:

Mrs. Corbett, the math teacher, was asked what she thought when she saw kids spinning in class: “I don’t care when I see them out in class but I don’t think they help with ADD or anything. More like a Tech Deck, just a toy to play with… oh and also the kids who use the app are ridiculous.”  

Agriculture and floral design teacher Ms. Wedger was also asked about fidget spinners in the classroom: “It doesn’t bother me. It really bothers me when kids start timing them [how long they spin] or having competitions. I think they can help a very specific group of people, only sometimes, but most kids don’t need them.”

Finally, Mr. Manthis, an English teacher, was asked about his feelings: “I understand their purpose and I don’t care if people are spinning alone. When kids start passing them back and forth is when it becomes distracting.”

We think that fidget spinners are harmless, but can become a nuisance when kids are buying light up, speaker versions and constantly spinning in class. Teachers seem to think the same thing. As long as you keep the spinner to yourself, make sure it’s quiet, and don’t have competitions, it seems like it’s fine to bring them to Highland.

The unfair valley

I usually go on field trips for one reason: getting out of class, and food. Since it’s May, as a Senior, I hardly have anything going on in my class. So, I went to Valleyfair to hang out with my friends, and eat food. I’ve never really been a fan of rides, so that might have been a huge factor in my experience.

Basically, going to Valleyfair was probably the worst decision I made in May.

Despite the strange weather pattern, I thought it was right to dress lightly. And I was right, as it was very warm and humid. And yet, I didn’t think to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, or even a hat. I was constantly looking for shade, as having very fair skin means I get burned easily.

Even if we did decide to go on rides, the lines were very long, and in mostly unshaded areas. The arcade was a ripoff, with heavily inflated prices, and as we were told by the staff themselves, paid out very little.

That seemed to be a recurring theme among the park – high prices. The “theme” of the park was capitalism, or at least, unchecked capitalism. I brought $48 with me, and used it all up on about 4 things. We had lunch at a little 50s-style burger joint place. It looked cool, but that was all – the cheapest meal, a cheeseburger and fries, was about $13, and didn’t even include a drink. The malt I ordered was $6, and didn’t even come in one of those retro cups! The fries were unsalted, and I had to cover them in salt, pepper, and ketchup to make them edible. The burger itself though, was okay.

Drinks were very expensive; the cheapest being $5, with no refill. Near the end of the day, I bought a soft pretzel, which was $7, and for an extra $1, got a small drop of cheese sauce. The pretzel was so salty that I was desperate enough to buy one of the $4 drinks from a vending machine. I was out of money by this point, but my good friend Alex let me borrow $4. The machine itself was finicky and took about ten minutes to buy a single drink.

So, when you become a senior, don’t come to the Unfair Valley, a testament of capitalism unchecked.

Dependence

The week that the Seniors turned in our iPads was strife with technical difficulty. We were all short one more device, and on top of that, the Internet was acting all goofy. Sometimes it didn’t work, sometimes it did. Having no internet for even just an hour really set us back. All of this happening made me realize how dependant we are on technology.

I have always been extremely grateful for my iPad. I have terrible handwriting, and having the tablet really helped me take notes and write things. Having no smart phone until September last year, this also was just really great to have on hand. To look something up, I didn’t need to go on a computer, and for the longest time, it was against the rules in my house to use more than one electronic device at once.

And now, having it removed, it made me realize how much I relied on it. Every morning I would sit down and read about world news and other things. I also used it to write not just for school work, but on my novel. I’ve probably written well over 20,000 words of the book on the iPad alone. In a way, the device was an extension of my brain.

And that worries me.

200 years ago, local journalists just wrote things down. I at first thought I wouldn’t survive in that field with my bad handwriting, but I write far faster than I think. With all this information from the Internet, maybe that’s why I think so fast? I am writing this down on a piece of technology, and you will read it on that. Even if I printed this out, the text would have been made by computers, which is still technology. But then again, isn’t pen and paper technically a technology?

Are we already cyborgs?

Trump’s first 100 days

Trump

Image Via Slate.com

Ever since the groundbreaking social welfare programs that Roosevelt rolled out during his first 100 days, this period has been one of the first points at which the public (mostly the media if we’re being honest) passes judgement on a new president. It is a mostly arbitrary number, but it’s round, and roughly corresponds to when the president’s honeymoon period ends. President Trump recently passed his 100 day mark (on April 28th), so despite the problems with just looking at the first 100 days, now seems as good of a time as any to review his progress so far.

As many have noted, Trump has hardly had the traditional honeymoon period that a president receives; in fact, according to Nate Silver, his popularity hovers around 40%, which is down from around 50% immediately after he was elected. For reference, after 100 days, Obama was at 65%, George W. Bush was at 62%, Bill Clinton was at 55%, and George H.W. Bush was at 54%. So, clearly, the public doesn’t think he’s doing a great job, but 40% is still 120 million people, so he does have some support.

In terms of actual achievements during his first 100 days, Trump again scores relatively low. While he passed 29 laws, more than Obama’s 14 in the same time period, this figure is somewhat misleading. Most of the laws he passed lacked substance, or where minor measures in the first place. As a result, only 133 pages were included in these laws, compared to Obama’s 1,602.

Executive orders have also been ineffective for Trump, with many being struck down by the courts, or amended until their original purpose wasn’t really fulfilled.

Arguably, the most successful, or at least most decisive, aspect of Trump’s presidency was his attack on a Syrian air base. This strike was ostensibly a response to Bashar Al-Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. However, the PR disaster that surrounded it somewhat diminished the posturing.

Overall, it’s probably fair to say Trump isn’t a very effective president, but it’s also probably not fair to say he isn’t trying. He has pushed stuff forward, and as he catches on to Washington politics, may become more and more effective.

Bill O’Reilly: Dropped from Fox News

Recently, Bill O’Reilly was dropped from Fox News, and lost his slot at 7 pm with his show The O’Reilly Factor. Mr. O’Reilly had reportedly sexuallly harrased many different female colleague at Fox News. After the story began to spread, more than 50 advertisers removed their ads from his show, including popular Fox advertiser, Jenny Craig.

Shortly after the show started losing many of its sponsors, Fox decided to let go of O’Reilly. He responded, “Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in  history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television.” He also was dissapointed in having to leave as he said: “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.”

After O’Reilly was let go from Fox News, he decided to start his own new podcast called “No Spin News.” The podcast is only available to premium members of his website.

According to Rupert Murdoch (the head of 21st Century Fox) he was the one who decided to let him go, but also had much praise for his show:  “By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news,” Murdoch wrote, “In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable.”

Many people have praise for Bill O’Reilly, and his conservative views on his popular talk show, but Fox was right to take action in this situation.

Arkansas death penalty

Arkansas carried out the U.S.’s first double execution in 17 years on April 24th, 2017. The last double execution to occur happened in Texas, in 2000, when the state executed two killers.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, or DPIC, Jack Jones and Marcel Williams were the inmates who were put on death row and executed on April 24, 2017. Both Jack Jones and Marcel Williams were convicted for murder, kidnapping, and rape, and were sent to prison with life sentences. These two were the second and third people executed in a eight day period.

After the two men’s trials, the Governor of Arkansas had to make a tough choice of whether to let them live with life sentences or to issue a death penalty. According to CBS News, the Governor decided to issue the death penalty, and the jury voted with Governor Hutchinson, backing his decision to issue the death penalty.

One horrific reason, that Governor Hutchinson used to justify his decision, was that the state needed to use up its supply of midazolam, a drug used for lethal injections before it expired.

Pharmacists have been hesitant to supply states with the drug midazolam because they don’t want to be the cause of someone’s death. Midazolam has also been involved in several botched executions according to Live Science. The term “botched” is used as in the drug either didn’t work as it was supposed to, and left the person conscious, or the IV was placed incorrectly and the drug never fully worked.

This story truly became interesting when the details of the other Arkansas executions were uncovered. According to lawyers, and other media sources present, almost all of the deaths were botched in some way, ways that would make the death slow and tortuous.

Immediately after the injection of Jack Jones, the lawyer of Marcel Williams filed an emergency stay in federal district court. His reasoning was that Jones’ execution had seemed inhumane and painful, so he made this last ditch attempt to try and keep his client alive. The state completely disregarded this saying his claims were: “Utterly baseless.”

Witnesses of the Jones injection said it took the officials in charge 45 minutes to try to find a place for the injection in his neck. When they were finished sticking him in the neck, unsuccessfully trying to find a place to kill him, they eventually had to move elsewhere on his body. When the poor, scared man was finally injected, the officials didn’t wait the required 5 minutes to perform a consciousness check, and he was gulping air and struggling against the restraints.

The execution of Williams was held off until 9:30 pm Central Time after one judge accepted the appeal for a stay in court, and a short uneventful hearing took place. The Williams injection looked much less painful.

This double execution was part of a schedule set forth by the Governor to execute eight people in eleven days. Of those eight scheduled, only four have happened with the others receiving stays in court, and/or some clemency.

Why is it so hard for the government to find an effective injection that kills painlessly and quickly? This question will need to be answered if executions are to continue, but at the same time, the government could care less, after all, it would be a shame if their store of drugs for lethal injection went to waste.

Gorsuch confirmed; Senate filibuster removed

Gorsuch

Gorsuch at his confirmation hearings image taken from CNN.com

Following a months long battle in the Senate, and possibly years if you count former president Obama’s attempt to nominate Merrick Garland, Mr. Gorsuch was finally confirmed as the 9th justice on the Supreme Court. The final vote count was 54-45 (Johnny Isakson (R-GA) abstained), making the vote substantially more narrow than previous votes.

The process was perhaps most notable for the so called “nuclear option” – removing the ability to filibuster the cloture vote on a Supreme Court Justice. Cloture is distinct from the actual vote in that it is a vote to stop debate – had the democrats been able to filibuster at that point, debate would never technically end, and it would thus be impossible to fill the seat.

This has huge implications for the Senate, especially concerning future Supreme Court nominations. Unless the Senate is tied 50-50 (it hasn’t been since 2000), no bipartisanship is required to confirm a justice.

The problem here is bipartisanship has historically been a necessary part of operation in the Senate. This has certainly taken a backseat in recent years, due to extremism and partisanship on both sides, but even ObamaCare need some GOP votes, if only to avoid filibuster.

Confirming a justice without the opportunity for the opposition to filibuster sets a bad precedent, one that could have potentially devastating consequences on bipartisanship in the Senate.

WW3?

If you remember, back before the break, I had published an article trying to give hope during these bleak days. At the time, the news cycle was all about the Trump/Russia investigations. It was pretty boring compared to now.

But then everything changed when the United States attacked.

Or, more precisely, the United States attacked the Syrian Government in response to the chemical attack against the Syrian people. Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at an Airbase in Syria. The airbase was also used by Russia. Perhaps Trump did this to try to convince people that he “totally didn’t work with Russia?” While Russia-United States relations had been warm, Russia then condemned the attack. However, most of the world agreed with Trump, and soon, people panicked.

I remember the day it happened. It was Thursday of spring break. My dad was out playing poker with his friends, and my sister was at an Anime Convention. My brother and I were home alone; I was working on an entry for a contest and my Brother was probably having a rave in his room. It was about 7:30 pm when my mom got home, and she suggested we go out to eat. We decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants.

Right when we walked in, before we were seated, I looked at the TV to see something about Trump. I thought, “What has that idiot done now…” until I looked closer. It showed the missiles flying through the air, one after another, lighting up the dark sky. I must have only looked at it for 6 seconds before we were seated.

While I ate my burgers and fries, I looked at Twitter. People were making jokes about WW3. Someone even said something along the lines of, “While we’re at it, can we wipe out that ****** Kim Jong-Un? Who wants to grab literal and metaphorical shotgun?” #WW3 was the top trending topic.

And now, they might get their wish. In addition to the Syrian situation, the U.S. and North Korea are getting more aggressive towards each other. Mike Pence says that the U.S. will no longer be “strategically patient.” Even China, who Donald Trump hates, is working on trying to contain the North Korean conflict. Japan and South Korea have been discussing evacuation plans. If WW3 does break out, it will probably be NATO, Turkey, China, South Korea, and Japan vs Russia, North Korea, and Syria.

All in all, pretty scary.