Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Reflection on Creating an Electronic Portfolio

The process of creating an electronic portfolio was definitely a challenge for me because I have never done it before. At first I was confused regarding almost every aspect of creating the portfolio, including the sole creation of the blog. However, in the course of my work, I realized how much I actually enjoyed posting my writing. The positive feedback which I received from my peers was very beneficial for me because it helped me improve my grammar, style and sentence structure. Sadly, I did not have the chance to communicate actively with the student from Kentucky, however I was really happy to go through the blogs of my classmates and see the wonderful job that each one of them has done. Reading the portfolios of the other participants in the project made me compare my own writing to theirs and find my faults and strengths. In this way I became a better writer and learned that in order to improve, I have to write on a regular basis and put effort and thought into what I am doing. I am sure that the experience that I have gathered through this assignment would be useful further in my life and I intend on having a blog and using it as a way to communicate with others. One thing that I would like to develop is being able to incorporate more media in my blog. I would surely scan some of my art work and post it as a way to get background, opinions and comments on it. Now that I am done with this assignment, I am looking forward to even greater challenges in my IB English class.

Twilight Book Review

The book Twilight is the new teenage bestseller which is written by Stephanie Meyer and was first published in 2005. This book debuted as New York Times #5 within the month of its release and soon took the first place. What made this book such a success? This question intrigues so many people all over the world, but yet the mystery remains unsolved. Twilight is a story about a 17-year old girl, Bella Swan, who meets Edward Cullen, the love of her life. At first the plot seems really common and trite, completely identical to the million other “romance books” in the stores, however, what is different is that in the town of Forks, where Bella and Edward live, nothing is the way it appears to be. In the course of the book, the real identity of Edward is revealed- he is a vampire. The story is told in first person from Bella’s point of view and so the life and past of Edward and his family remain in secret even by the end of the book. On the other side, the connection between Bella and Edward is also a secret for Edward who realizes that he cannot apply his mind reading abilities on his beloved one. It seems as if two worlds are brought together in order to create a love of imaginable dimensions. This is why even though the target readers of the book are at the age of 15-25, Twilight remains a novel which crosses the age barriers and intrigues the souls of both children and adults. Even though the book is often claimed to have a simple style and plain storyline, the world that Stephanie Meyer draws with her pen is so vivid and real that often the reader sees and hears every picture and every sound. The fast pace at which the action happens as well as the new perspective of supernatural powers brought into the mundane life of a normal girl, makes Twilight very entertaining and easy to read. On the other hand, the romance between Bella and Edward is intriguing and passionate, but also shows morality. Although the feelings between the two main characters are strong and compelling, there is no sex. It seems like their love is brought to a whole new level which teaches the audience the importance of the spiritual relationship over the physical one. This concept would surely appeal to almost every girl and women of all age, and will make them eager to read the sequel of this modern version of forbidden love.

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The Remarkable Life and Work of Thomas Alva Edison

Often quoted saying “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration”, Thomas Alva Edison was one of the greatest and most hard working scientists ever. With his 1,093 inventions this American genius holds a world-wide record. Even though during his early years he quit school because he was considered to be a misfit, the passion, intelligence, and persistency of Edison changed the world forever.
The passion towards science that the inventor had was present almost since he was born. Thomas Alva Edison has been a very curious child. At the age of six he has started a fire at his parents’ barn and burned it totally. Even though he was not appreciated by his teachers at school who thought he was stupid, Thomas Edison started studying with his mother at home. By the age of ten, the inventor has already read literary works such as The Decline of the Roman Empire, History of England, History of the World, and The Age of Reason. When Edison was eleven, he constructed his own telegraph by using only a picture from a book. It was then when he decided that he wanted to be a telegrapher. It is clear that the early life of the scientist was marked by a constant interest in the surrounding world, and in the sphere of science and it was this curiosity that made the American inventor so admired for his work.
Intelligence and independent approach towards the problems Edison faced were other characteristics that became crucial for his development as one of the greatest scientist globally. The achievements that brought him fame and utmost respect started in 1872. From 1872 to 1877 Edison made invented the motograph, automatic telegraphs systems, and the carbon telephone transmitted “button” which made telephony a commercial success and lead to the development of microphone and transistor which makes so many modern devices possible. However, his most important invention is the incandescent electric lamp in 1879. This unbelievable achievement won Thomas Edison the name “Wizard of Menlo Park”. There are numerous great inventions that did not just make the American scientist famous, but also changed the world forever.
The effect of the dedication of Edison to his work made the lives of billion people totally different and new. The electric bulb was and is still used in almost every household. If it was not for the storage battery it would not be possible for people to start their cars, and without his perfecting the motion picture camera and projector there would be no movies now. The carbon telephone transmitter on the other side improved the telephones that are used nowadays in one’s home or office. All of the inventions made have reflected on a certain area of people’s life and have altered human’s existence.
The life of Thomas Edison is a proof of his unstoppable and everlasting ambition, enormous talent, curiosity and firmness which made him a living example of how the work of one man can shift the course of history. Many of the best science and technology historians believe that Thomas Alva Edison was indeed “The most influential figure of our millennium.”

Note: This essay was written recently after I read a very interesting online article about Thomas Alva Edison. Before that I knew almost nothing about him, but after reading further and looking into his biography and achievements, I realized how much he has influenced the life we live today. I consider him a true genius and an inspiration for me and the generations to come.

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The True Villainy (Othello Passage Commentary)

Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.
For I mine own gained knowledge should profane
If I would time expend with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor,
And it is though abroad that ‘twixt my sheets
‘Has done my office. I know not if’t be true,
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety. He holds me well.
The better shall my purpose work on him.
Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see now:
To get his place and to plume up my will
In double knavery – How? how? – let’s see.
After some time, to abuse Othello’s
That he is too familiar with his wife.
He hath a person and a smooth dispose
To be suspected, framed to make women false.
The Moor is of a free and open nature
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,
And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose
As asses are.
I have ‘t. It is engendered. Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.

(Act I, Scene iii, 426-446, p.55)

Villainy is a fundamental state of depravity which regardless of time and place has existed in people’s lives. Some argue that it is an inborn quality, others believe that it is a consequence of being hurt or a result of a struggle to get something desired. Still, what is most interesting about every true villain is not how he becomes one, but how he manages to fulfill his plans by means of manipulation and treachery. In this sense, in many of his plays Shakespeare incorporates a villain who encompasses the most horrible and destructive human characteristics. The author uses the villain in order to show how even pure virtuousness and trust can be sullied and turned into suspicion and hatred. Among the many villains which Shakespeare creates Iago is the one who manages to destroy the lives of everyone around him by means of his evil plans and good manipulation skills. In fact, the monologue of the character in Act I, scene iii, reveals his personality as a villain plotting against his “enemies” and foreshadows the baleful fate which they will face.
It is false to conclude that Iago’s monologue is solely related to destroying Othello because there are several other names mentioned in his plot: first Roderigo’s, then Cassio’s and Desdemona’s. Indeed, Iago starts on by talking about his “friend” Roderigo by referring to him as a fool in line 426, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.” By saying that he gets his money from fools, Iago reveals himself as a manipulative character who treats people as a means to an end. Stealing from a person without feeling guilt infers that Iago does not care about anything other than his plan of destruction and disregards every human quality or virtue. What the villain does is focus only on the benefit that he can get, “For I mine own gained knowledge should profane / If I would time expend with such a snipe/ But for my sport and profit.” Indeed, the “profit” is the only motivation for him to have any sort of a relationship with Roderigo, or anyone else. This part also foreshadows that Iago has no intents to help the desperate Rodergio and thus, Roderigo will end up suffering. Iago’s actions define him not only as a villain, but also as a mercantile individual.
In his relationship with Othello on the other hand, Iago shows another side of his personality: his amorality. In lines 429-433, “I hate the Moor,/ And it is though abroad that ‘twixt my sheets/ ‘Has done my office. I know not if’t be true,/ But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,/ Will do as if for surety” Iago proves to be highly inconsiderate and lacking any feelings. The Shakespearean villain justifies his plotting by his sole hatred for someone and a rumor that his own wife may have cheated with Othello. Iago is not really concerned about Emilia’s hypothetical betrayal, but instead he is searching for a reason to hate “The Moor” even more, to punish him harsher. The key words here are “But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,/ Will do as if for surety.” The fact that only suspicion is enough for Iago to start his destructive plans against someone means that he is simply evil or in other words amoral. Furthermore, the idea of Iago’s amorality is also proved by the next few words in his monologue in Act I, “He holds me well./ The better shall my purpose work on him.” This quote represents a sudden shift in Iago’s thinking: the character is starting to plot against Othello. The villain is done justifying why he wants to destroy Othello and has quickly reached the point of putting things to work. As it seems, Iago uses what he has as a weapon against his enemy, even the fact that Othello respects Iago and has a high opinion of him. At this point except amoral, the villain is also being manipulative because he realizes that he can use Othello’s predisposition to be trusting and accepting.
It seems that in Iago’s monologue the first part is showing his personality and the second is foreshadowing the fate of the characters he is plotting against. What can be inferred from the words, “Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see now: /To get his place and to plume up my will/ In double knavery – How? how? – let’s see” is that Iago is about to use Cassio’s appearance and thus achieve two things: get his position by making Othello jealous as well as hurt Othello. By stating his plan, the villain practically tells the reader what the result of his actions will be, however, he does not explain the way he is going to do it. This builds up suspension throughout the play because the reader already knows Iago’s plan and goals, but is curious to see how he will achieve them. In this sense, Iago gives a clue to the reader by saying, “That thinks men honest that but seem to be so, And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose/ As asses are./ I have ‘t. It is engendered.” These three lines are of critical importance because in a way they reveal that the feelings and emotions of the others will be used as a main weapon and that the honesty and straightforwardness of Othello will be manipulated so that Iago’s plan is finally accomplished.
In his monologue in Scene I, Act iii, Iago proves to be a villain who is very mercantile, manipulative, but most of all amoral. His evil plans foreshadow that through adroit plotting he is going to destroy not only his main enemy, but also everyone Othello loves, trusts and respects. The mentioning of the words “hell and night” in the last two lines of the passage close the act and leave the feeling of predetermination that the devil is going to annihilate every positive human emotion in the souls of the Shakespearean characters.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Birthday Gift

This was the time of the day when the sun was getting ready to disappear below the horizon and below the imaginable line drawn by the dusty roofs of the neighborhood’s houses. It was the time of the year when the infinitesimal teardrops of the people would surely freeze once they touched the burning red skin. The sky was getting gloomier and the clouds had the color of a gravestone covered in desperation. The air was rich with the smell of the exhausted gases of the cars and buses driving through the wet boulevards and streets, but no one seemed to notice the strikingly sharp and disgusting odor. All that the little creatures out there thought about was getting back to the quiet, warm places they called homes. It was a few minutes past the end of the work day, but there was almost no one out there to distract the distant bark of the homeless dogs. Only three confused and lost souls were still lavishly meandering around the bus stop waiting for a way to escape from the depressing atmosphere of the winter.
One of them was an old tall fair skinned man in a brown suit wearing a black and torn cap which had quite a good semblance with a dead crow. Next to the man there was a little lady carrying a small transparent plastic bag with a piece of bread in it. Her hand was holding firmly the bag as it was the last thing she had and maybe it was…The third person waiting for the bus was a girl or maybe a young woman. She was staring at the puddle next to her trying to see her own reflection. There she was wearing her pretty blue jacket that her father bought her at the black market when he went to a military conference in Warsaw. No one had a jacket like hers because there were no jackets like hers. The “regime” wanted from all of them to be the same because supposedly they were “all equal”. She had problems with everyone when she wore that pretty blue jacket the first day of school.
“Where did you steal this from?” asked the teacher when he saw her entering the classroom. “Answer to me” he continued. That was how people reacted when they saw something new and nice. No one would complement, but everyone would suspect because this was how they were taught to respond to the things they were not familiar with. Suspicion was what ruled the world that Tsveta lived in. Yes, the name of the girl was Tsveta.
Tsveta was a fragile and gentle girl who was everything that the “regime” did not like. She was simply different. The look on her face did not show the usual dissatisfaction and tiredness of the people around; on the contrary she was always smiling and happy. However, this day her reflection was not cheerful, but rather worried. Seriousness covered her face and her posture reminded that of a tree snapped off by a fierce storm. It was interesting how many things could be told by simply looking at Tsveta. She was like an open book because her sincere look could never hide anything. Sadly, what was written now on her face was immense fear. She never thought that what started as buying a gift for her own birthday would end with her almost arrested… “Almost”, she quietly repeated in her head. Everything was over and she was completely safe there, at the bus stop standing next the old man and the little lady, but still she could not stop thinking about what could have happened.
It was just about half past four when she entered the “Korekom” with thirty dollars in her pocket. Although she had the feeling that something would go terribly wrong, she pressed the cold handle of the door and walked in the shop. Warm air blew in her face as she headed towards the Women’s department. Tsveta was supposed to meet Lina, a friend of her mother’s, who worked at the “Korekom” and would help her pick up a pair of jeans as a birthday gift. As Tsveta was approaching the counter, she heard a familiar voice and turned around. “Hello my girl!” said Lina with a welcoming tone, “Are you ready to try these on?”
Tsveta gave Lina a warm smile and took the three pairs of jeans that the woman had prepared for her. They headed towards the changing rooms and Tsveta walked in the first one when suddenly Lina shut the door and whispered quickly, “Don’t move!” As she spoke those words the lady walked away.
Tsveta did not hear anything for a few minutes, but then a loud cold voice broke the silence, "Is there anyone in the changing rooms?”
“No, there is no one Mr. Officer” was all Tsveta heard. She knew what was about to happen if the officer was to come and search the place. The girl knew she was not supposed to be at the “Korekom”, but she never thought of the consequences. The “regime” prohibited the normal people from entering fancy and nice shops like the “Korekom” because it was considered that no one would need the clothes sold in it. Everyone was supposed to be “equal” and right now Tsveta was an outlaw for wanting something more. The girl was holding on to the jeans and praying that she does not get caught. She did not even notice the little teardrops falling down her cheeks.
“You can come out now” said Lina in the very same calm tone that she had when talking to the officer, “they are gone.” The words thank you resonated within the head of Tsveta as she walked out of her hiding place. She handed back the jeans and gave Lina the thirty dollars.
“Which pair do you want to keep?” asked the shop assistant and looked at her with a comforting smile.
“The Levi’s” is all the girl could say.
“I will bring them to you tonight then and now off you go! Be careful and use the back door of the shop!”
Tsveta did not need another invitation to escape from that place and so she turned around and disappeared in between the numerous clothes and accessories. A few minutes after that she was at the bus stop breathing heavily and shivering. No one seemed to notice that something was wrong with her because no one cared.
Tsveta looked into the darkness of the winter night and choked in desperation. The old man and the little lady were now gone. The bus never came.

Word Count: 1110 words

The Inner Struggle for Progress as a Main Reason for the Economic Crisis

Every crisis and every success are caused by the very same thing: desire for progress. Progress is what pushes the world towards improvement; however, it is also what drags it backwards. The reason for that is simple: progress involves taking big risks. This fact is often forgotten by the zealous dreamers who look ahead of themselves instead of focusing on real situations. In this sense, I believe that the current economic crisis was caused by something very straightforward: an attempted effort to progress which failed in many ways. Furthermore, there is never only one factor which causes a crisis to appear that is why I think that the two main factors which led to the current economic hardship are people who took mortgages that they could not afford as well as the banks that gave easily too much money, now debt, to customers.
There is no doubt that one of the main reasons for the economic crisis is the unsuccessful attempt of many people wanting to live a better life; therefore, they took mortgages which they could not pay back. The time that we live in is very much influenced by the tendency to consume more, and it is logical for the individual in the 21st century to become a consumer. All of the advertisements on TV channels, on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines aim to trigger the consumer in us, make us want to have more and be successful. Gradually, the natural struggle of the human being towards progress and security led to a tendency of buying more and more real estate. The greater demand for real estate properties created a burst in the prices, a phenomenon referred to as the “house bubble”. On the other hand, the presence of the “house bubble” logically meant that people had to take bigger mortgages in order to purchase a new home. At this point, many failed to evaluate their own financial situation. Consequently, what seemed at first to be a success for the owners quickly turned into a nightmare because people could not pay back the money to the banks. This simply proves that the risk towards progress turned into bankruptcy for both the purchasers and the banks.
The banking system is also an important factor when analyzing the economic crisis because if mortgages were not given so easily, then probably there would not have been so many bank crashes. The main purpose of the bank is to earn income by lending and borrowing money. This automatically means that the bigger the credit that the bank gives, the bigger the interest that the bank will earn. In this sense, just like people want to progress and develop, the bank, being an institution which is run by people, also wants to progress and develop. Thus, many banks sought the opportunity to win more by lending more. As a result they started to give too much money to people who could not pay it back. The greed of the banking system did not only lead to bankruptcy of small financial institutions, but also to devastating consequences for banks with huge capital such as Lehman Brothers. The mortgage crisis that started when people stopped paying their mortgages resulted in bankruptcy for Lehman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy filing in the U.S. history. This example shows that the unjustified risks no matter if they concern a single individual or a huge financial institution lead to severe results.
There are, of course, many other causes of the economic crisis, but they are all united by the very same struggle for progress. The desire of human beings to develop and have a better future is something useful and beneficial, but only when people are able to balance between their inner ambitions and their actual abilities.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coffee or No Coffee at ACS

Every day people meander lavishly in a search of truth, of some general truth about today’s life and often they don’t realize how simple it is. The truth about life is not complicated, not obscure in any way, but plain and obvious: Our world runs on coffee and gasoline. Suddenly, a question arises: What if one of these two essential components is missing? You would say, “Deal with it, don’t be co-dependent”…Maybe this is true for the first day, the second day and the third day you don’t have coffee or gasoline, but then on the forth day there’s the drama, followed by a quiet protest, which is followed by the Armageddon! You, don’t believe it?! Then ask the students at the American College of Sofia who are currently forbidden to access any drinks containing caffeine just because someone decided that coffee is unhealthy and addictive. Is coffee unhealthy? If this was the case, why would 112 million people in the U.S. alone drink coffee everyday? No one has heard of 112 million people getting sick or dying because they drink coffee…Then why would some random people in the random small country of Bulgaria suddenly decide that coffee is so bad that they should banish people from drinking it?
The key word is that “someone decided” that coffee is not good for the students, but actually this is a rather erroneous conclusion. A recent article titled Coffee: The New Healthy Food? from the magazine WebMD shows that indeed “plenty of benefits are brewing in America’s beloved beverage”. It is also mentioned that coffee lowers the risk of diabetes, Parkonson’s disease, and colon cancer as well as treats headaches. Furthermore, according to the 1958 Food and Drug Administration’s list coffee is recognized as a safe drink. Interestingly enough, from the information given it can be inferred that coffee is neither a poison nor a drug. Coffee is just a delightful way to start another morning and meet some people: as an anonymous member of the class of 2010 at ACS likes to say, “A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.” Sadly, even though coffee is a beloved beverage which is good and healthy, the banish still remains and the cups of the students are only filled with milk or just hot water. The world in which the ACS students live does not run on coffee anymore.
At least there is still some gasoline left…