4th Grade Basketball

The NCAA tournament starts in just a few days, and with it comes the typical madness. The basketball madness most think of is crazy half-court buzzer beaters and monstrous dunks all performed by the nation’s best. And yet, there exists another madness. One filled with more mania than any NCAA tournament. The madness I refer to is, of course, that of 4th grade basketball championship.

Growing up, I was never the athletic kid. I was a nerdy kid who knew a lot about sports, but could never put my knowledge into effect. I’d be getting pushed and shoved around while never actually touching the ball. I’d face plant while running and would easily offer up the ball to others. However, I didn’t let these painful experiences discourage my love for the game, just my ability to play it. I knew so much about the basketball and American football game that I thought I could be a coach one day. When my mom pointed out the obvious, I said “Mom you don’t need to be a good player to be a good coach”. Statistics and numbers appeal to me more than the physical act of playing the game, an opinion in stark contrast to that of my little brother. He prefers to run around and be wild. He thrives in the rough world of 4th grade basketball despite being small for his age. His abilities were far beyond any that I had at the time and his work ethic, much higher. When he signed up for 4th grade In-house basketball I knew he would see success.

His team, the Thunder, was co-coached by my dad. My dad is very much like my brother, or rather my brother takes after my dad. They both share a passion for any sport and are naturally very athletic. My dad also played a lot of basketball growing up. He was the captain of his 10th grade basketball team. My dad coached my teams too and was frequently surprised by my lack of physicality and maybe a tad disappointed that I didn’t care to win or lose. He was elated to coach a team with my hard-working, competitive brother.

The Thunder had a strong start to the 2017 season, winning 3 games and tying one. With every win, my brother’s excitement grew …… The Thunder amassed a record of 5-1-2, their one loss coming at the hands of the Mavericks, a game when my dad was traveling on business.  My dad drew up game plans and plays far beyond what I ,or anyone else, would deem to be necessary for 4th grade basketball. He spent hours just working on basketball with and without my brother. Him and the other coach worked hard on making every player on the team better than they had been before. At the time I believed everything he put in is just  his characteristic subtle competitiveness, but I later realized it was something much deeper.

The Thunder  won all of their games in the playoffs to qualify for the finals. They were to face the Mavericks, the team that had defeated them in the regular season. My brother was on cloud nine and with him, my father. With every increase in my brother’s happiness marked a 10 times increase in my dad’s happiness. My dad counted on my brother, just as much as my brother counted on my dad.

The Thunder had played exceptionally in the playoffs and felt that winning was a guarantee. I, despite being mainly indifferent about the whole situation, even began to catch some of the optimism radiating from my brother. But like every good story, this one has a twist. My dad could not come to the game. On the morning of the game he had a flight to New York. My brother was disappointed but not half as disappointed as my dad. He had hoped to be there for the team, and more importantly Arin. Any other person would have shrugged and let things unfold, but not my father. He stayed up late calling to see if his flight could get postponed. And in the case that he couldn’t delay his flight he wrote up a full game-plan for the other coach to follow, complete with scouting of players on the other team and preferred defensive matchups. My dad worked so hard just so his son could be happy.

Like any good story this has a happy ending. Well, a happyish ending. My dad was able to delay his flight and coach the Thunder. It was a hard fought defensive matchup but the aggressive play of the Mavericks secured them the victory. MY brother was disappointed, but not as much as he would have been. Instead of moping around, he ran and hugged my dad in front of everyone else.

Why did my father put so much effort into this basketball team? This is not NBA or a college team or a high school team, they are just 4th graders. In my heart I know he did so not because he cared, what my brother cared for. My brother hates to lose and when he loses he usually mopes and is sad. My dad reached NYC at midnight without any regrets as he saw my brother happy.

As I reflect I remember that he has done this many times with every member of my family. My father is a truly special individual to all who meet him. His actions are reflective of someone who truly  cares about those he loves. We all have a different aspect of basketball that we like, but that like brings us closer together as a family.




The Manga Guide to Physiology by Etsuro Tanaka and Keiko Koyam is perhaps one of the best books I have read. The Guide is an understandable and entertaining guide to human body. It intertwines the story of Kumiko, a nursing student attempting to learn physiology , and the workings of human body. Dr. Kaisei ,a new professor, agrees to teach Kumiko about the body. In every chapter, we see Kumiko in a new situation and Kaisei using that situation to teach her about the body. The book itself is more a graphic novel than a textbook. It equals a comic book in all aspects but content. The authors present information with comical drawings and dialogues. The book does a great job of hitting the main ideas of physiology and providing more specific detail without overwhelming the reader. The book can be found on Amazon here


Manga is a Japanese art form that has achieved an almost cult-like following across the globe. More often than not, Manga is used in graphic novels. The Manga guide is part graphic novel, and part guide to the body. The authors write the book in a way that the story and the information are on equal ground. The story isn’t the focal point, but at the same time it isn’t treated as a mere sidenote. Tanaka and Koyam expertly balance the story and the subject matter.  Kumiko is a nursing student that has just failed her physiology test. With some strategic pleading, she is allowed to retake the exam. Unfortunately, Kumiko is absolutely awful at physiology and doesn’t have much of a work ethic. To make matters worse, she must represent her school in a marathon on the same day as the test. Through the inadvertent destruction of a $1000 model of the body, Kumiko meets Dr. Kaisei.  Dr Kaisei promises not to charge Kumiko for the model if she will learn physiology from him to prepare him for his classes. Kumiko is skeptical at first but begins to enjoy learning from Dr Kaisei. Throughout the story we learn more about Dr. Kaisei and Kumiko while also learning about physiology. Kumiko’s personality and subtle crush on Kaisei often lead to amusing situations.The book covers the big ideas in the comic strips, and focuses on the concepts in greater detail in sections between each chapter. Dr. Kaisei uses interesting examples to explain his topic such as explaining the workings of the kidney using his unnatural love for a junk pile, and purposely giving Kumiko and his lab assistants brain freeze to teach Kumiko about nerves. For me, the best part about this book was the diagrams.   The diagrams aren’t as overwhelming as those found in a textbook because of its unique manga form. The diagrams also engage and entertain the reader, leading to a truly special reading experience.


I would credit this book with inspiring my fascination with physiology. Because of this book, I signed up for Johns Hopkins biology course and have been exploring volunteer options at medical facilities. This book has been truly inspiring to myself and hopefully to other readers.  It isn’t often that book ,much less a graphic novel, inspires the reader to such an extent. Such books are truly great reads. Whether you are a student of physiology, a medical professional, or someone with an interest this book is sure to satisfy.


Art and Science Essay

This was an essay for a class

Prompt: How are Art and Science similar?

Art and science are similar in that they are both fields of imagination. The so-called “boring” scientist dreams up an interesting explanation for a mystifying phenomenon. He then tests this theory multiple times in order to find the truth. While this may be fascinating to him and his colleagues, the public does not share the thrill they experience. The public gets lost in the complicated Latin labels and the seemingly enigmatic figures and tables. They see science as an isolated feel, only for “nerds.”

Moving on to art, the creative artist ponders over how to express his/her views on society and life among other things. They furiously create until they finish their work of art, which is then brought to a place where visitors may either glance upon it for no more than a second, or stare at for hours trying to find the true meaning behind it. How often people stare at it usually depends on how famous the artist is, and if the certain style he/she used is popular among sophisticated art fans The general public either sees art as a pleasant distraction from the troubles of our world, a tool for getting ideas out to other people, or a useless endeavor that should have no place in society. Those who believe the latter are fans of the practicality of the sciences.

The beliefs of the public are influenced by pop culture. Scientists in movies are more likely to be the assistant rather than the star. The scientist in the movie spouts scientific jargon that isn’t supposed to make sense to the viewing audience. The scientists are usually the nerds and are more likely to die in the movie than the adventurous explorer. The scientists in the movie invent splendid gadgets that catch our attention, yet we think of it as magic rather than a product of science. We also ,in our minds, give more credit to the jock using the gadgets. If we had taken the time to educate the public about science, these gadgets could have been reality in our lifetime

Art is also influenced by pop culture. The artist is always the quirky assistant who is funny, but basically useless. In this way, we discredit the arts and put more focus on adventure and thrill. We misrepresent the real heroes and instead praise the fictional ones (not to discredit Indiana Jones). Art is considered free, while science is considered constricted by rules and ethics. The opinions of the public could not be further from the truth.

Art and science are also similar in that they awe the public. While we may not give as much credit as we like to art or science, we are inspired by their accomplishments. The Moon Landing was a result of science, and kickstarted a new generation of aspiring astronauts. The age of animated movies inspired a new generation of animators, who are still artists in their own like. We never thought of these events as science and art, but rather as magic and wonder. This consideration may very well be a product of our deficient education system. Science and art inspire the public and shock them with new discoveries and projects. They capture the attention of the public with their accomplishments, but are forced to keep coming out with new and spectacular products to keep the said attention. Even with this pressure, they deliver and deserve credit.

Science and art are really not that different. The only difference is that one (usually (cough cough Climate Change deniers) ) uses practical methods with a generous amount of creativity, while the other uses purely creativity to achieve true beauty. We must understand that art and science are human endeavors, not gated fields of magic.  If we do that we will, as a society, achieve enlightenment and prosperity.


Question: “If science and art are so similar, how come some people are good at science but terrible at art?”

The answer to this question depends on your idea of art. Art, itself, is not limited to drawing with a pencil. Art is the ability to imagine and create beautiful things with any materials, be they paints and pencils, or garbage and computer software. You do not need to be good at drawing in order to be an artist. If we use this definition of art, we see that anyone can be an artist should they try. I am one of those people, who can’t draw a straight line to save my life, but I can still be an artist in my own right. Using the proper tools, anyone can create something beautiful. I have a friend, who is a terrible painter, drawer, and sculptor (in his opinion and mine too). He used an online graphing calculator called Desmos, and created art. On Desmos, you can graph different lines with different colors and create funny drawings. If you go to their website and scroll down, you can see featured Desmos art. The answer to this question is that no one is truly terrible at art. There are those who think they are, but given the proper tools and the right motivation, they can create something amazing.



Persuasive Essay (Teacher Pay)


Think back to school, and imagine one teacher; the one teacher who inspired you to be you. The teacher who gave you the most priceless gift of all: The gift of learning. Teachers have a big impact in educating and preparing future members of a civilized society. Would it surprise you to hear that according to a McKinsey and Company study called “Closing the Talent Gap”, after 25 years, a teacher, earning $67,000, will still be paid less than a skycapper, a person who moves luggage around, at an airport (qtd Strauss 4)? Considering that the amount of education necessary to become a teacher is greater than that required to become a skycapper, should our teachers be earning more? In fact, the average salary of a teacher is between $43,000 and $48,000 but can go lower than $40,000 depending on the experience the teacher has (10). Given the impact of teachers on society, our nation’s teachers are grossly underpaid. Paying teachers more is both the fair thing to do and is beneficial to our education system. All teachers should be paid more than the current national average because they have a challenging job, their current salaries are insufficient, and a higher salary would lead to a better quality of education.

In our country, teachers perform a challenging job and thus deserve to be compensated. Teachers put a sizeable amount of time into their work. According to the National Education Association, teachers work 50 hours a week during school year and, contrary to popular belief, work in the summer (NEA,7). Compare that to the average American coming in at 34.4 hours a week (Isidor, Luhby,9) and the difference is evident. Teachers are working much more than the average American. Those 50 hours per week do not even tell half of the story. Teachers also have to face many challenges in performing the job. Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford Graduate School of Education, said that teachers have to face many challenges including low pay, growing class sizes, teacher-bashing from politicians, accountability mandates from No Child Left Behind, layoffs, having to compensate for poverty in school, and bureaucracy that eliminates the fun of being a teacher (qtd Strauss 8). These challenges can deter potential candidates. Mr. Stevenson, a US history and nonfiction writing teacher, also spoke about a challenge in teaching. He said: “ Society has greatly undervalued teachers. Teaching is being treated as a business which must turn profits, i.e, successful students. While manufacturers can choose which parts they want to use, teachers cannot choose their students.” (6) Teachers are undervalued in society. After going through all of these challenges, they are still expected to produce results with every group of children. Teachers still manage to adapt to and control every situation. Most importantly, they inspire children to learn and provide them with an unforgettable learning experience. Our educators are invaluable to society, it is time we started treating them like so.

Despite how challenging teaching is, the current teacher salary is still insufficient. Many teachers take second jobs and must take other measures. According to Ninive Calgari, a teacher and activist, “Most teachers pay for their own graduate school and ongoing professional training, and over 92 percent buy supplies for their students out of their own pockets. But over the past few years, we’ve seen over 60 percent of teachers working second jobs, dining with their children at food banks, and even selling their blood to make ends meet.” (qtd Strauss 4) No teacher should have to make these tough decisions just to survive. They still have to pay off student loans and support their family with so little pay. The teachers that inspire us, should be treated with respect, not apathy. Critics may say that the budget of public schools is stretched too thin, this is not true. According to the same Mckinsey and Company study mentioned earlier, if salaries had grown proportionally to classroom spending, the current teacher’s salary would be nearly $120,000 (qtd Strauss 4). The problem is not the budget itself but the distribution of the budget. If the government re-allocated the budget, say taking from our 800 billion dollar defense budget, increasing teachers pay could certainly be feasible. Another study performed by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, two nationally recognized economists, found that in 2015 the weekly wages of a teacher were 17% lower than comparable college educated professionals (qtd Strauss 2). The situation has not changed from 2015. Teachers are clearly getting underpaid comparative to professions with similar amounts of education. Mckinsey and Company in their study used the comparison of lawyer to teacher to illustrate this gap. They said that in 1970 the difference in salary of a lawyer entering a prominent law firm in New York City and a teacher was only $2000. Today, that difference is $115,000 adjusted for inflation (qtd Strauss 4). The salary of a teacher has not changed for over 25 years. While the challenges of teaching have grown, pay has not. Teachers deserve to be rewarded for all of the time and effort they have to put into their job. Some may say the job security, pension, and healthcare benefits are worth the lower pay. What use is job security if you are not earning enough to support your family? What good are healthcare benefits and pensions if you do not have money now? The current teacher’s pay is dismal. Could you imagine your favorite teacher, getting paid less than a plumber?

In addition to making a teacher’s salary sustainable, a higher salary will lead to a better education for all. In a study performed by international economists Peter Dolton and Oscar Marcanero-Gutierrez, collected data from the OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) and many other education organizations and found that better pay leads to better teacher quality which leads to better student performance (qtd Walker 3). This means that schools that pay teachers more are likely to have increased student performance, the ultimate goal of our education system. The Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis found that increasing salary could attract new better-qualified applicants to urban school districts thus increasing the overall quality of education in those districts (Hough 5). Poorer districts can benefit from paying teachers more. In order to achieve this, the government must allocate more of its budget,by taking just a fraction of our defense budget, to support poorer districts. Doing this will benefit the students, teachers, and the community. Naysayers may say that increasing the salary has not been tested and proven in the US, they are wrong. A charter school was started called The Equity Project, where teachers were paid as much as $125,000. A study was performed, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They found that after increasing the salary of the teachers, the eighth-graders gained more than a year in math and half a year in reading compared with schools of similar demographics (qtd Brody 1). They did this at no financial cost; class sizes were increased from 27 to 31, there were not as many fringe benefits (extra benefits supplementing the salary), and fewer administrators were hired. The method of increasing salary has been proven to work in the US. We want more results from our educations system, increasing the salary of teachers has been proven to do so.

Teachers in the United States should be paid more because they have a challenging job, their current salaries are insufficient, and a higher salary would lead to a better quality of education. Think about your children or your grandchildren. How will their education be if the teaching profession lacks qualified candidates? Will he or she ever gain the love of learning that was instilled in you by your teacher? Perhaps only when our teachers are finally compensated, will our education system truly flourish, and future generations will have the joy of learning instilled in them by that one special teacher.


  1. Brody, Leslie. “Charter School Boasts Big Pay and Big Results.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 July 2017
  2. Strauss, Valerie. “Think Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough? It’s Worse than You Think.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 19 July 2017.
  3. Walker, Tim. “International Study Links Higher Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality.” NEA Today. N.p., 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 July 2017.
  4. Strauss, Valerie. “Why Teachers’ Salaries Should Be Doubled — Now.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 July 2017.
  5. Hough, Heather J. “Salary Incentives and Teacher Quality: The Effect of a District-level Salary Increase on Teacher Recruitment.” Center for Education Policy Analysis. Stanford University, 2012. Web. 19 July 2017.
  6. Stevenson, Michael, Personal interview, 18 July, 2017
  7. “Myths and Facts about Educator Pay.” NEA. National Education Association, n.d. Web. 19 July 2017
  8. Strauss, Valerie. “How Hard Is Teaching?” The Washington Post. WP Company, 27 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 July 2017.
  9. Isidore, Chris, and Tami Luhby. “Turns out Americans Work Really Hard…but Some Want to Work Harder.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 9 July 2015. Web. 21 July 2017
  10. “Average Salary for All K-12 Teachers.” Teacher Salary – Average Teacher Salaries | PayScale. N.p., 2017. Web. 21 July 2017.




3 Tips from a Current Student to Manage Stress in School


School is actually here. Students are now faced with reality. Homework, social life, and the imminent threat of college all weigh heavy on one’s peace of mind. These three burdens are commonly grouped into one category known as stress. Stress is usually a bad thing. According to The Mayo Clinic, stress can have effects on your physical well-being and your mental well-being. It can cause headaches and fatigue as well as anxiety and even depression. While weighed down with projects and the threat of finals, it’s easy to allow stress to get to you. Enrolling in a demanding academic course before high school prepared me for this stress. Here are 5 methods of dealing with stress that I use.

1. Think Positively

Just changing the way you think can drastically affect your mood. When dealing with a tough project, don’t say “I’m going to have to study all night” or “This sucks.” The organization Power of Positivity explains: “The thalamus is responsible to sending sensory and motor signals to the rest of the body but it does not understand that negative thoughts aren’t the same as real danger. When you think negative thoughts, the thalamus assumes that it needs to prepare the body to flee. As a result, our bodies experience real stress symptoms of rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and a state of heightened arousal.” This is also known as the “Fight or flight” response. Telling yourself “You can do this!” or “This will be over soon” makes all the difference. A method I sometimes use is trickery. I convince myself to believe that everything will be alright. Mind you I don’t lie about the amount of work I have (Procrastination). I simply trick myself into believing that the work will get done efficiently. When in doubt, think positive thoughts.

2. Sleep Early

This is the biggest challenge. Teenagers are wired to stay up late and wake up late. However, High Schools are designed to start unreasonably early and end early. Teenagers and High Schools don’t often get along. Sleep is important. According to NZ Law Society, “Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. High stress levels can make sleeping more difficult. They can even lead to sleep disorders. At the same time, getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce the effects of stress.” Try not to pull late night study sessions. Pace your work beforehand and sleep early. The extra sleep is worth it.

3. Drink Herbal Tea

This is purely a home remedy. Herbal tea is the best beverage anyone can drink. It’s hot and tastes good. That’s all you need to know. Unlike caffeine, herbal tea soothes your body rather than violently shaking it awake. Drinking herbal tea will help you focus and will refresh your body. I would recommend non-caffeinated herbal tea but caffeinated herbal tea is still fine. Boil a big pot of water to continuously refill your teacup. My favorite tea brands are TAZO™ and Traditional Medicinals™. Embrace your inner peace and finish your math homework.

Image credit of mchcityzen.com

Copyright Arush Iyer 2017

My top 8 old (Last 10 years) songs

Feeling nostalgic for the days of party anthems and light pop? I, with the help of the all knowing internet, compiled a list (7 songs+an album) of hit songs from the late 2000s to early 2010s. These all are songs I vaguely remember hearing on the radio at 8 years. Listen to these songs and remember the days of Obama and Indie Pop.

Note: There are no rap or hardcore rock songs on this list. The songs are mostly pop and indie music. I’m sorry.

1. “Some Nights” by Fun

A soul-searching Indie Pop anthem with a powerful chorus. Nate Ruess slips into a conversational style of singing midway, but it only adds to the songs quirky feel. The lyrics of this song are actually pretty deep. Who knew soul-searching could sound this good. Thank you Indie Pop.

2. Every Night Visions song by “Imagine Dragons”

This is an album, but we can make an exception. There is no modern band greater than Imagine Dragons. While Fun may have taken the top song, Imagine Dragons is the best band. Power chords with rock-like vocals mixed with soft ,almost pop-like, rock lead to a great degree of variety. Night Visions catapulted them to stardom with songs like “Demons” and “Radioactive” winning multiple awards, even leading a certain blogger to play “Demons” for his 5th grade talent show. Imagine Dragons can never get old.

 3. “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra

An art pop (according to wikipedia) hit with catchy background music and vocals. The story narrated is a person is mad at his ex for cutting him off. Gotye starts out soft then lifts his voice higher during the chorus. Kimbra provides a nice contrast and opposing narrator in the story. The talented vocalists combined with the background music made it worthy of its multiple Grammy awards.

4. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

Tired of depressing news headlines? Are Politics getting you down? Go back to 2008 and Jason Mraz. “I’m Yours” is a carefree pop hit with a catchy melody. Through Jason Mraz’s voice, you can feel the happiness of those without care or worry. Listen to this song, and forget your worries, until you read the latest politics headlines.

5. “Hey Soul Sister” by Train

Pop rock is great. The lyrics aren’t very deep, but the powerful voice of Patrick Monahan lift it out of the Justin Bieber category. Try not to sing along to this song. You may hold it in, but sooner or later you’ll find yourself mumbling “Hey Soul Sister.”

6. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers

A throwback to disco (at the time), the catchy guitar and French House music will immediately lift your mood. Pharrell Williams is great on vocals and the music by Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers is a staple of any dance club.

7. “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring Will.i.am

An Indie Rock song with a positive message. The song starts out with a nice piano solo then moves on to the powerful voice of Danny O’Donohue supplemented by the awesomeness of W.ill.l.am. “Hall of Fame” is a nice break from angsty love songs.

8. “Counting Stars” by One-Republic

The smash hit of 2013 is timeless. The smooth and powerful voice of Ryan Tedder and the dance-worthy music by his band make this a powerful anthem. The lyrics are also pretty deep. I’d sure like to count stars. Even dollars would be fine.

These are my picks. Comment below on any notable snubs.

© Copyright Arush Iyer 2017






The Browsing Trap: Narrated by a Victim

      Even as I write this I am caught in the grasp of the Internet. It is taking hold. I cannot resist the urge to read the summaries of all the Transformers Movies because I just remembered those exist. I know I should be writing, but can’t that wait just a bit longer? “I’ll only take just a few minutes,” I say to myself as I pull up Wikipedia. As I whiz from movie summaries to book reviews to NFL statistics I repeat that same line: “I’ll stop after this page.” Of course, that never seems to happen. After all is clicked and done, my browsing time is over 2 hours. I have fallen victim yet again.

      The Browsing Trap regularly ensnares teenagers such as myself, usually when they are attempting to work on a homework assignment or do something they really don’t want to do. The Internet uses the deadly tools of Wikipedia and Facebook and Donald Trump’s Twitter to ensnare the careless researcher. You may start looking at math concepts but you will end up watching cat videos. When doing research for your Civics essay, you will find yourself eventually reading Donald Trump’s Twitter posts. The distractions of the internet are endless. Advertisements, social media, and Youtube make it difficult to get any work done. We promise ourselves we will take but a second and get back to our glorious project, but that never happens. Our irrational brains value instant gratification. “Why do what can do later, right away?” We ask ourselves.This reversal of common advice seems perfectly rational at the moment, yet completely idiotic the day before the project is due. Tim Urban perfectly explains procrastination in his TED Talk as The Rational Decision Maker and the Procrastination Monkey. Watching this TED Talk got me stuck in another Browsing Trap of watching TED Talks and gaining absolutely nothing from them. I hate irony.

      I am unfit to give any sort of advice regarding browsing habits. My Browsing Trap Time (BTT, yep I just invented that) was over 4 hours while writing this blog post. I get really distracted while working. In order to be more productive, I am going to experiment with a kind of treatment for browsing. For one week, I will stick to my browsing habits but set a timer that will calculate exactly how many hours a day I spend browsing. At the end of the week, I will add up how many hours I spent browsing and, based on that total, will set a browsing quota for the next week. If I meet or go below that quota, I will reward myself. If I exceed it, I will not reward myself. There are many flaws with this plan, such as the fact that it requires me to have the diligence to time myself, but it is an effective one. With this plan, I will finally be able to break the inefficient cycle of procrastination that currently affects me and will finally become productive! I’ll start tomorrow.

© Copyright Arush Iyer 2017

My brother, LEGO Star Wars, and I

      To say my little brother and I have a rocky relationship would be a gross understatement. To him, I am a bossy dictator. To me (The right opinion of course) he is a nettlesome little pest. As he tramps around our house he announces his presence by making a loud, blaring sound, usually in song form. If a brief moment of peace should occur, he feels obliged to shatter it like a glass window. Follow the lengthy trail of toys and you’ll have a map of which rooms he has visited. The most frustrating part is after my mom, dad, and I slog for hours trying to clean up our house, and the messy gremlin swoops in and dirties it up in a matter of minutes. To see hours of toil made irrelevant by just one little child is almost too much to bear.

      Nevertheless, I still love my brother. Love, however, is neither respect nor friendship. It was nearly impossible for me to relate to him. We are polar opposites in every way imaginable. He enjoys the sweat, speed, and dirtiness of sports while I prefer the finesse(i.e stats). He hates anything related to mathematics and science, the complete opposite of myself. While his go to TV show is some cartoony Disney Channel show, I prefer serious dramas and intelligent comedy. He likes vanilla more than chocolate, pizza more than pasta, and even cats more than dogs! He couldn’t have been more different than me, not to mentioned our 5-year age gap. Our differences made it nearly impossible to connect with each other on a brotherly level.

      In late July, about 4 years back, my 10-year-old self was sitting on the couch in my living room, a Wii remote in one hand, and a chocolate bar in the other. My living room is cluttered but cozy. It is a large, tall room with nine giant windows. The floors are covered with a stringy, golden carpet that can get stuck on your nails. The carpet smells of various food items as while my brother insists on eating on the carpet, he refuses to clean up his mess. The TV is situated in a large cupboard designed for it, adjacent to the window. We have two large couches parallel to the window and two fuzzy reclining chairs placed side by side facing the TV. A square, wooden table is in the middle, usually covered with papers. Blankets are usually on the sofa, along with an assortment of toys, books, and electronic devices. I had taken all the junk off of the sofa to make space for myself. As I was calmly  (save for a few angry words) playing NBA 2K11, my father walked in with my standardized test scores. Most children would be nervous, but not me.  I had a track record of over-achieving on standardized tests. My father stopped and began to speak: “Arush, you did very well on your standardized tests. A 98 on math and a 96 on reading; your mom and I have got you a gift.” At the mention of the word “gift” my ears perked, my head instantly swiveled, and my eyes were fixated on my dad in less than a second.

      “Knowing how much you like Star Wars,” he dramatically stated, “We bought you LEGO Star Wars The Videogame.” I sprang up from the couch and jumped with joy. I was a huge fan of Star Wars (I still am), a huge fan of LEGOS, and a huge fan of video games. LEGO Star Wars the Video Game was like having three birthdays a year.  “There is one condition, however,” my dad continued, “You have to play this game with your brother.”  Right on cue, my then 5-year-old brother waltzed in with a mischievous smile on his face. Speak of the devil.

      I loved my brother but hated to do anything with him. He didn’t listen and didn’t play things the right way, i.e, my way. He always screwed things up. I had read that Lego Star Wars was a game that required skill and finesse, something my brother didn’t have.  “NOOOO!” I howled like Darth Vader after learning he killed Padme. My three birthdays a year had turned to year round school.  “Arush,” my dad warned, “You have to play with your brother.” He then proceeded to give me a lecture on the importance of a brother. I nodded appropriately and made the occasional murmur of understanding. My dad seemed satisfied with my exceptional performance and helped my brother and I set up the game. Our Star Wars adventure had begun.

      Our grand adventure began with arguing and confusion. I skimmed the manual, only really paying attention to the controls. I tested out all the controls in the Cantina. The Cantina represents the Mos Eisley Cantina featured in “A New Hope.” The Cantina is filled with shady, gun-toting patrons that will attack if provoked, hidden surprises, and a shop run by a cranky bartender in an ugly orange suit. As you walk around, you can hear the grumbling of the bartender and the deep voices of the patrons. It is also a gateway to all the levels. The levels are divided based on what story they correspond to. This game came out before the 7th movie was released so only 6 stories could be played. Once I had got the hang of Star Wars, I handed the controls to my brother, who was at that point very anxious to play. The starting characters were the unorthodox Jedi Qui Gon Jinn and his more disciplined padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi. My brother had trouble understanding force powers and moving around but was captivated by the shining lightsabers they wielded.  He then proceeded to destroy the various patrons of the Cantina for the next half an hour and would have kept going had I not, with great difficulty, stopped him. “I wanted to keep going,” he huffed. “No-one cares,” I grumbled and proceeded to set up the levels. The first level was the negotiations scene of “The Phantom Menace.”It did not go well.

      I wanted to explore and go as slowly as possible while my brother wanted to beat the level as fast as possible. This led to inevitable conflict. “Hurry up,” he nagged “We have to beat the level!”  “No way,” I argued, “We have to collect coins.” This went on and on. He also couldn’t make strategic jumps and couldn’t use the force to help me as some parts required.  He couldn’t cut down enemies nor use protocol droid terminals. Obi-Wan, his character (The irony is painful) was shot by droids countless times. I implored him to give me the controller but he stubbornly refused. He kept making the same mistake over and over again. He was seemingly the weak link in the team. My little brother would refuse to listen to my advice when I tried to help him. He would also make rash decisions that didn’t work out. He was the arrogant Luke and I was taller Yoda with a much shorter temper. All in all, it took us 2 hours to beat the simplest level in the game. By the end, we were both very frustrated with each other. Our adventure was falling apart before it had really begun.

      The next few levels went the same way. He wouldn’t listen and I would get frustrated at him. I loved the game, but hated to play with him. Still, I was forced to play by my parents. “Involve your brother,” my mom commanded,  “Play with him,” my dad ordered. They told me to be more patient with him. I attempted to be patient but couldn’t. I couldn’t tolerate his rashness and levity. This was a serious matter, how could he laugh over it? I tried approaching it in almost every possible way, but nothing worked. I would still get frustrated and he would get confused. The worst levels were the Spaceship Levels. My brother couldn’t maneuver the spaceship at all. It became all the more frustrating for me. While Obi-Wan and Anakin soared, my peace of mind was floored.

      One day as I set up the game and prepared for another hour of frustration, I noticed something. My brother was determined, determined to do well. We were on Kamino, I was Obi-Wan and he was an Astromech droid. He had to fly across chasms in order to help me. He failed the first time, and I thought, “here we go again.” I gave him routine basic instructions and he nodded assent. “I can do it,” he asserted. On his second try, he listened to my directions and made it across. He activated the terminal and helped me across. I was shocked, my brother actually listened to me. “I told you,” he smirked. We finished the level perfectly. Obi-Wan fought the bounty hunter Jango Fett and the astromech defended him from his misguided son Boba Fett. We triumphed together.

      We began to perform much better as a team. My brother began to listen more and play the game with more skill. He was getting a hang of the game. As we began to work together, we began to have more fun together. Lego Star Wars became our special time. We would work together to achieve a noble goal. We were adventurers along with all the Star Wars characters. We fought general Grievous on Utapau, blew up the first death star, lassoed AT-AT walkers, and rescued Han Solo and Princess Leia from the slug like gangster, Jabba the Hutt. I even began to embrace his creative methods. We were not just a team, but the perfect team. I was usually the orderly one who would keep him on task, and he would help me if I was frustrated and wanted to quit. We also had fun exploring the Star Wars universe. We learned about all the characters and regularly talked about Star Wars. I genuinely had fun with my brother. For the first time ever, I began to look at him as more than just a pesky little brother.

      The most important level (but not the last) was the final duel. The level pitted Darth Vader and Luke against Darth Sidious. I was Darth Vader and my brother was Luke. The final battle took place in a gloomy, sinister palace hall. Sidious cackled evilly as Luke and Vader fought, but scowled when they united to turn on him. This level was the ultimate test. We had to show our mastery of the game and our cooperation. Instead of going for the glory we had to push each other up. We were so close, but one part had us stumped. Palpatine was up on a ledge, too far for us to jump. I had looked around for anything to help but could find nothing. My rational thinking had failed me. Then, Luke/my bro started destroying random things and jumping around like a frog on steroids. It turns out that an obscure crate in the corner could be destroyed and rebuilt into a fan to push us up. He also discovered a pattern in the Emperor’s Sith Lightning attacks, making it easier for us to defeat him. When the emperor was finally defeated we rejoiced. We finally had completed our Star Wars adventure.

      After that level, I began to think; I  originally thought of him as a useless pest. After Lego Star Wars, my perception of him changed. For the first time, I began to respect my brother. I began to respect his creativity and enjoy his unpredictability. His constant optimism built me up. We had become best friends. At first glance, he seemed clueless, but as we went on our Star Wars adventure, I noticed his positive qualities. He may actually be even better than me (Notice I said may). Star Wars brought out the best in both of us, and I am grateful for that.

      My brother and I are still close. While we may fight and disagree, we always come back to the brotherly love and cooperation that stemmed from Lego Star Wars. As the years have passed, I  have lost interest in Lego Star Wars, even though there were other minor objectives to complete. As a result, we don’t play video games that much anymore. A month back my dad got us the new Lego Star Wars. Sure enough, we beat that game in a couple of weeks. Even though there isn’t anything left to do, my brother still insists we play it. He wants to go back to having special time with me, and I am sure to oblige.

.© Copyright Arush Iyer 2017

“The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained” Book Review

Hello everybody,

      “The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained” is a nonfiction book that explains the big concepts of economics. To call it a textbook would do it a great disservice. While the structure is comparable to a textbook (chronological order with each page explaining a concept) the writing and layout are not. The book is written precisely and clearly, further differentiating it from a textbook. I had flipped through some economics textbooks but could never bring myself to read them. The language used in textbooks is dry, repetitive, and is incoherent to the amateur economist. The Economics Book wastes little time on economic jargon. Its goal, one it unquestionably achieves, is to educate the reader on the ideas that are at the root of economics. The terms and phrases matter, but the ideas are what affect the world.

      The layout was also very helpful. The colors were bright and the font was quirky, adding a lighter feel to the book. The book also included the name of the economic concept, the key thinker who developed or expanded this idea, a timeline of important events happening before and after the idea was developed and a brief biography of the key thinker. Most importantly, they include a flowchart on each page. To me, these flowcharts were the most helpful figures in the book. The flowchart explained the rationale behind the idea by showing how one can arrive at the conclusion that is this idea. It allows us a glimpse into the minds of great economists like Marx and Maynard-Keynes. The flowcharts helped me truly understand the big ideas of economics.

      True learning is having a full grasp of the concept, knowing not only what it is but why it is. Much of the time, students are content with accepting that something exists. In doing so they rob themselves of the opportunity to learn. This book is a rewarding experience to the reader. The Economics Book can be helpful for students studying economics or even a bored teenager with too much free time. “The Economics Book” pleasantly explains what has been called  “The Dismal Science” in a way that will appeal to all types of readers.

One Word/Phrase To Sum It Up:  Engaging