CAS inspiration #1

As part of the promised CAS inspirations we present the first story. CAS stands for Creativity, Activity and Service- this time we focus on Activity. An individual one, rather than group or collaborated.

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Spinning is a indoor cycling class, with music and usually in a darker room. Bicycles generally stand in lines in front of the instructor. The rhythm of the songs set the pace of the exercise. The class lasts 60 minutes, with elements of warming up, cardio and stretching afterwards. It’s offered in the majority of gyms, so it’s a convenient option even for someone who doesn’t live in a huge city.

Everyone can alter their own pace and intensity of the exercise. It doesn’t involve a lot of choreography, as there are only three basic positions. However, spinning is very challenging and demanding in terms of physical condition. It is not like riding a basic bicycle; except for standing in place, it also has more options concerning the resistance. And while one can adjust it so they ride on without any problems, it’s only adviced during sprinting. A class can also include standing, sitting and “riding up a hill”.

It’s a great activity for people who would rather exercise by themselves than cooperate in a group sport. It’s always encouraged to make the best of your CAS experience, to make it enjoyable for you. And if a little alone time is what you need- then spinning might just be for you. You can get lost in the music and let your thoughts wander. You don’t have to talk to anyone– but it’s always a possibility, so stay open-minded. It’s a great break from school and its problems. It’s a great environment for working on your shape. All in all, it can be an activity rewarding both physically and psychologically- just make it your own.

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How to deal with writer’s block

If you have to sometimes write essays for class or you enjoy writing your own stories, you’ve probably experienced the writer’s block – the total inability to write anything or an extremely creative slowdown. Or at times, you keep on writing for what feels like AGES, but you still can’t produce anything  that you could be even remotely proud of. It’s annoying, I know. Sadly, these blocks are part of every creative process. What causes them? Reasons can be anything from stress to perfectionism to simple tiredness with the topic (when you write for the umpteenth time about how the author uses repetition to emphasise their point, you’ll understand what I mean). The question is, how can we overcome them and is it even possible?

One of the most repeated answers on the the omniscient Internet says that the best way to deal with writer’s block is… to write more. Well, it doesn’t sound very helpful in our case, heh? Well, there may be some truth to it.  Authors of articles suggest setting up a journal and write down  anything that comes to your mind, so that no good idea or well-thought- out sentence will be forgotten. It’s definitely worth a try, but I’m afraid that all these single ideas will be no use if we can’t bring ourselves to make them anything more than just ideas. Another recommended activity is simply relaxing a little bit: making yourself coffee, reading a book, going for a walk, listening to some music or doing anything else that can help you wind down. This is especially helpful if you have a deadline and you’re a person who doesn’t perform well under pressure. Just remember to stop at some point, so that you’ll do everything on time!

A solution that always works for me, as bad as it is, is writing everything in one go the
evening before the deadline. I can’t tell if this method reduces the quality of my writing,
because I don’t have any comparison – my essays are always rushed, either written at home or in class. I AM trying to change that, I really am, but there always seem to be more important stuff to do. You know the way of thinking – “I could plan that essay now, BUT there is an actual proper homework that might be checked for tomorrow.” So you do the homework, and then decide to rest a little, seeing as there’s no impending tasks. And then you rest a little bit more. And a little bit more. And then, the new school day starts, bringing in another portion of homework and studying to do. That way, writing always ends up being done at the last minute. That’s also partly due to the good ol’ procrastination kicking in, but that’s the topic for some other time.

And on that note, ladies, gents and others, the article is coming to a close. After over four
hundred words of rambling and no definite conclusion. See you all next month.

M.

For anyone doing the ib or thinking about doing it

As an ib student that has just started the actual programme, but already survived the year of pre-ib, I’d like to present some of my little (but quite helpful) tips. Whether you are currently doing the ib, or only thinking about doing it, I suggest to use them anyway. See, they can be applied almost everywhere, but not a lot of people really follow them.


Give yourself about 10 minutes to outline every in-class essay before you start writing.

This way you can organise your response and carefully analyse the question. Make sure not to miss any details and arguments while actually writing! Your essay will hopefully make the impression of a finished and highly structured work, and your ideas and train of thought will be more clear for the grader.


Participate in class. 

I know that for some this might seem obvious, but more people than you think have problems with it or simply refuse to do so. Don’t waste time and try to speak up, especially in foreign language classes. Keep in mid, that at the very end you have to pass an oral exam. If you start practising your speaking skills early, you won’t have problems in the future.


Create a plan of action.

Not only will it calm you when you have tons of things on your shoulders and only so many hours in a day, but also help you organise. Make a timetable, buy a calendar (that’s actually a must for an ib student- write all the deadlines in it), stick post its everywhere- whatever works best for you. Just distribute your time evenly and cleverly. Remember you’re only human (and most humans need to sleep too).


Don’t procrastinate.

It feels great while you’re doing it, but trust me- the consequences are downright awful. Staying up late ’till the early hours of the morning and stressing about something you could have done two weeks earlier doesn’t leave you in a glorious state when you you have to get ut of bed at 6 a.m. The deadlines are for something, too. Professors set them to help you; if you follow them all you will probably progress smoothly. A good way to start is to make yourself small tasks to complete instead of seeing everything as a giant goal and getting overwhelmed and demotivated.


Do not rely on your professors to pass you all the knowledge.

They are there to guide you in the right direction with your study, rather than to give you everything on a plate. You should focus on reading the materials, guides, textbooks and everything you can get your hands on instead of just listening to the lectures. Without your own input you won’t achieve much.


Pick your subjects carefully.

I cannot stress that enough. Always remeber that you’ll study those subjects until you graduate and you really don’t want to be stuck with something you don’t like doing.

And eventually you’ll have to write exams.

In those subjects.

That you probably ignored, because you preferred to read materials for literally everything else.

Oh, and yes- maths studies will greet you with open arms if the great SL plan fails in the end.


Good luck, everyone!

#1

Ernest Kowalski could bear much. For all of his forty-year life he had to do a job that was not easy, and when he tried to complete it faithfully, he was criticized. He was insulted when he reminded customers of any uncomfortable loopholes or asked for a signature on another contract. He was not respected, he was treated like any secretary employed immediately after or even without completing university, just because she wore dresses with a décolletage.

Ernest was suffering from injustice. He was educated, yet lived in a panelák instead of one of those modern buildings, from which at one a.m. he left Yolanda with messy hair and in tights with holes in them.

He was always dressed according to the dress code, and yet he had been doing the same job for fifteen years, while Christine from some department he didn’t care about was promoted from cleaning the goddamn floors to the position of assistant to the manager of the company.

To his superiors he spoke in a correct and polite manner, and the girls who told vulgar jokes were greeted with applause and bursts of laughter.

Ernest lived in a society which was ruled by men obedient to their urges. In a world full of women confident with themselves and the effect they had on men.

Injustice was a chronic and annoying disease. At every step, it reminded him of itself in a degrading and depressing manner. He was able to withstand it for a long time. He clenched his jaw, his fists, and continued, his highest goal still obeying the law and doing his job well. He had no family, his parents had died earlier; the year when he was about to turn forty. They wanted to go together to a nice restaurant. Or maybe start saving for a better apartment or car. They died suddenly in an accident and left behind only a testament that was written few years earlier in anger, during the only argument they’d ever had. It gave the whole fortune for a distant cousin somewhere on another continent. Ernest was only happy that a black shirt was accepted at his workplace.

His psychologist gave him an alternative name for the injustice he suffered from, but he disagreed. He never showed up for the next visit.

****

The day of his fortieth birthday was approaching mercilessly fast. He assumed that he would spend it celebrating his promotion. Marina Z. resigned recently, running out crying from her boss’ office, shouting at him. She usually only screamed inside the room.

That would also explain why he did not receive anything earlier. They were waiting for the big four-and-zero. They probably wanted to put his guard down and surprise him with a raise on his birthday.

The calendar was beginning to be filled with crosses, and in the closet hung a pre-ironed shirt from van Graaf, which he found in a charity shop and which was supposed to end the mournful black.

Dressed in pink, for the first time in many months, he walked with a smile on his lips to work. The grey sky hung somewhere between the grey skyscrapers and the grey stripes of roads, hanging like garlands at different heights, full of grey people. Earphones from Poundland quickly found their place in his ears, pouring the joyous sounds of an overly enthusiastic band into them.

Ernest stepped into the glass building eighty stories high, when his boss greeted him at the door.

“What are you doing here, Kowalski? We moved you to a smaller facility in the outskirts of the city. Didn’t you get the email?” he said, touching the hologram hovering over his phone, not looking at the man.

“They cut off my power this week, sir.”

“Jesus, Kowalski. Go to Janine. I don’t have time for this now” he added hurriedly and began pushing through the doors, in which they stood. He turned around and added, “Oh, and next time, put something else on. Pink isn’t in our dress code, but I’ll turn a blind eye on it this time. You’re turning fifty soon, right?”

“Forty, sir. Today” Ernest replied, but the man was long gone before he could finish.

He shambled to the secretary’s desk, who then took a few minutes to notice him, letting her nails dry. She handed him a sheet of paper with all the necessary information and told him to go home.

He walked out of the building towards the lowest street, the ugliest one, which, according to the instructions on the paper, was supposed to lead him to the place where he was supposed to work now.

He imagined a cosy corner in a small office set up for domestic transactions, where he might have less work for the same salary. Instead, he found a ruined, deserted building on the edge of the city, in which a seventy-year-old green-haired secretary would greet him, as he observed through the window. When he wanted to go in, the doors rang the bells hanging from a low ceiling with patches of dry paint coming off.

Like in a goddamn cheap ice cream shop, he thought, violently turning and running away from that godforsaken place. He ran as long as his lack of fitness let him. He ran until he found himself in a dark alley, where he finally stopped to breathe. Calming his breath took a while, during which he decided to spit out every swearword he could think of in every language he knew.

“Hey, buddy? You alright?” A strange, distant voice called out to him. Ernest slowly started to raise his head to see the person the words were coming from.

****

~ nieestetyczna

From the editors…

Dear readers,

We are proud to announce that a new crew of writers for the IB Journal has been created and hopes to continue the tradition of what was started by professor Kozłowska years ago. The Journal was created as a platform for the students of our school, with the aim of informing, giving tips, and entertaining its readers. We wish to do just that, and possibly more. We are an all-girls group with different interests and hobbies, that will try to show the diversity of our school’s society in all of its aspects, as well as write articles about issues that are the most important for us. But, fear not, the Journal won’t consist only of that- we promise a bigger variety of themes. To come more regularly is a number of short stories, tips for future IB students and satirical drawings commenting on the current worldwide situation (also called memes).

We would like to thank everyone that may read this editorial and our other articles, as well as anyone who happens to stumble upon this page and stays a few minutes.

Please note, that this is not a closed “institution”. If You wish to contribute, You can contact the crew or professor Kozłowska anytime and join us!

Once again thank You,

Jagoda Marcinkowska, Jagoda Nowak, Magdalena Przewoźna & Kornelia Winiarska

The shifting baseline of our planet’s stability

This summer I had the pleasure of visiting the East Coast of the United States for the first time in my life. I had heard that it is not nearly as scenic as the West Coast but it was only when I looked at it from the plane that I understood why, just like I understood why Americans consider themselves as a great nation. It was quite difficult for me to spot a green patch of land; the color grey was dominant in hundreds of kilometers (or should I say miles?) of freeways with thousands and thousands of cars contributing to the traffic. It was all a proof of how much we have transformed the environment to our initial benefit. Right now, however, the time has come for us to pay the price for all the resources we have taken and we’re constantly being reminded of it.

When I used to think about protecting the environment I would think about recycling. Bikes instead of cars. Energy-saving domestic appliances and lightbulbs. Staying away from plastic bags and holding on to the reusable ones. These are the basic things that help protect the environment and my generation has been taught to do that from the very beginning of our education. We know about freon and CO2 emission, about greenhouse effect and ozone depletion. But there are also other aspects of the environmental damage we’re causing that we are way less aware of.

A few years ago media covered the “bee crisis” that, as a matter of fact, we created. Nutrition of bees is dependent on flowers – carbohydrates are obtained from nectar, protein comes from pollen. We’ve slowly transformed colorful meadows into flowerless landscapes, therefore limiting bees’ possibilities of obtaining proper nutrients. Increased application of pesticides causes the toxin to move up the plant into pollen and nectar, putting the insects in danger of obtaining a lethal dose of the chemicals or at least significantly weakening their immune system. Pollination is necessary to maintain stable crop productions and therefore stable food prices – but it is only possible while maintaining stable bee populations.

Another issue that is far from common knowledge is the problem of red tides. The term is interchangeable with a harmful algal bloom (HAB), which occurs when colonies of algae grow out of control, causing harmful effects on marine life as well as humans. As a result, fish is killed and shellfish is dangerous to consume. Although most of the algal blooms are beneficial, as they are eaten by marine organisms and therefore provide energy to the food chain, there are blooms that simply kill. Apart from releasing toxins, when large masses of such algae die and decompose, they use up oxygen, causing its percentage in water to be so low that the organisms around suffocate or are forced to leave the area. Algae become so numerous that they cause discoloration of coastal waters. Factors that are most likely to contribute to the formation of the phenomenon indicate that they are mostly results of human activity. High nutrient content (phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen) coming from lawns and farmlands flows down the river to the oceans “and build up at a rate that ‘overfeeds’ the algae that exist normally in the environment.” (NOAA). HABs are also linked to high temperatures and furthermore, low salinity which is also a result of melting glaciers. I first learned about red tides in the States, as living in Europe on the regular basis I have never seen such phenomenon. Red tides occur frequently in 3 places: on the Atlantic coastline from New England to Canada, on the Pacific from Mexico to Alaska and finally along the coasts of Australia and eastern Asia. Authorities in these regions may decide to shut down fisheries in order to prevent food poisoning. Moreover, HABs are noted every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The typical period of blooming used to be from July to October. Along with the intensification of effects of global warming, the time in which conditions for blooming are favorable is expanding.

One more issue connected with marine life receives significantly less attention than its size would suggest.  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of rubbish that ends up in large bodies of water. Also known as Pacific trash vortex, it actually consists of two garbage patches: the Western Garbage Patch near Japan, and Eastern Garbage Patch situated between Hawaii and California. The two are connected by the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The gyre, created by motion of 4 separate currents, covers the area of 20million square km. This “island” cannot be detected using satellite imagery because a large percentage of the debris is made up by microplastics – tiny fragments of plastic. “About 80% of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia. Trash from the coast of North America takes about six years to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, while trash from Japan and other Asian countries takes about a year,” reported National Geographic. Humans use significant amounts of plastic because it’s convenient and it’s everywhere – its costs of productions are lower than other, biodegradable materials. But it doesn’t disappear; instead it travels thousands of miles away from its origin to finally finish its journey in large bodies of water. At this point it constitutes a serious threat to marine life. Sea turtles take plastic bags for jellies, their regular food. Marine mammals, including seals, get entangled in fishing nets and often drown, without the possibility of getting out. Besides directly affecting fish and marine mammals, plastic patches also block access to sunlight for algae and plankton, which are the fundamental organisms in marine food web. This may have a dangerous effect on populations of marine life.

People have found ways of dealing with results of anthropogenic change in the environment. In places where bee populations are on the verge of disappearing, people are hired to pollinate flowers manually. More and more buildings are “enriched” in bee hives on their rooftops – this is especially common for hotels, but in essence any person can take the same initiative at their own house with some help from professional firms. But there are also issues we try hard not to pay attention to. Because of the relatively long distance of the plastic patches from essentially any country, no nation wants to take responsibility of at least attempting to clean it – and nothing is heard about a possible agreement on the topic. We double the amount of Nitrogen and Phosphorus flowing in the world just by using fertilizers, which contribute to the contamination of waters and loss of biodiversity, as well as already mentioned red tides. Agriculture produces commodities, which are essential for people to survive. But the way it produces them is far from sustainable. Expanding farmland leading to burning of tropical forests, releasing of methane by cows and rice and use of water on agricultural production and processing accounts for 30% of emitted greenhouse gases, making agriculture the largest emitter than any other human activity, including transportation and electricity.

The baseline continues to shift – what used to be a sign of threat to the planet Earth in the 1950s now becomes a plan for sustainable future. We’ve experienced a great acceleration of land degradation, biodiversity loss and content of CO2 in the atmosphere. A planet is supposed to be a self-regulating system. But ecosystems once damaged are very likely to function in a way that will prevent out social and economic growth, just like we have inhibited its biological development. Every citizen of developed countries can make choices that stand up for better future. We don’t have to wait for governments to take action in our name.

The world is unfair!

In my geography class, we’ve noticed that the subject is probably the most depressing one of all the curricula IB offers. You learn how many children die because of starvation every day, about the difference between the calorie intake of the developed world and sub-Saharan Africa. We study Nairobi and the fact that 60% of its population lives in slums, with little access to clean water and electricity. I’ve heard people say that the world is unfair, such things shouldn’t happen. I always found it weird that people would say such things, how can the world be unfair if there is nobody deciding that this and that amount of children should die today?

Let’s imagine that a coconut falls down from a tree and hits you, it’s not that bad, right? It hurt you a little, but that is not something that you get mad about, it’s just a coconut, it hurts, but what can you do? Now let’s imagine a totally different situation in which a guy named Tom loves watching people at the gym, where he works, in the locker rooms. He installs cameras in every bathroom and shows pictures he takes to his friends, who also enjoy it, and then deletes them. People who are victims of Tom’s strange and illegal hobby do not feel harmed, they have no idea what had been done to them. They go on living their regular wonderful or miserable lives. Now, let’s compare this situation to the unfortunate coconut, in the first situation you did feel that some harm was done to you, but you know it just happened that the coconut was about to fall (if you don’t have ninjas trying to kill you at least) when you were passing by, this was unintentional of the world or the coconut, but you were harmed. In the second situation, people were not harmed, their privacy was breached, but they had no way to feel it and will probably never know, but we can all agree that something wrong was done, Tom is a criminal- what he does is illegal. This shows that there is a distinction between harm and wrong-doing, one does not necessarily cause the other, harm may be caused by something we consider good (a visit at the dentist is harmful if you ask a child), or by something neutral or unintentional like the coconut mentioned before. So, when something happens to us, we have to think whether it was caused by any wrong-doing, if it was not, then we do not have any means to call the world unfair, it had not done anything to harm us, it had made no mistake which could have led to our unfortunate coconut accident.

Second, we should consider the deterministic point of view on free will. Determinism says that everything happens not for a reason, but is caused by something which had happened before it. It states that there is no free will, no choice, because we are influenced by external and internal factors, which eliminate any other possibilities. Let’s take me as an example, I am writing a text for the IB Journal not because I want to, but because I am an IB student, I have to do CAS, I had been recruited by a teacher two years ago to take care of the Journal and I continue to do so. Also, I am writing this article, because I am fed up with people saying the world is not fair, I am interested in philosophy and so on. I did not have a choice not to write this article, it just had to happen, I was determined by all my internal and external factors to do what I am doing right now. In this view calling the world unfair is pretty useless, the world had no choice in making something happen, every little thing was caused by another event of the past, like a row of dominos falling down, everything has its root somewhere else. In the coconut case it is quite obvious, the coconut tree grew there, because a coconut got there somehow, the environment was good and this made the tree grow other coconuts. When the coconut was finally big enough it was too heavy and it fell. You were passing by because your mum broke a leg and called you, you were in a hurry and did not notice the tree, the coconut detached from the tree because wind blew and then it happened. In this scenario, everything fits into the deterministic theory and there is nobody to blame for what happened. The world is not unfair, because all that happened was caused by something else,

You probably don’t want to agree with this theory, you do have free will, of course you do. You CHOSE to like this post on Facebook this morning and you CHOSE your CAS activities (even if made to do so). Many people had similar objections to the deterministic theory of free will and from their arguments a new theory was made- compatibilism. Here, it is stated that our choices are free unless an external factor deprives us of the choice and forces us to do something independent of us. Imagine you are picking ice-cream and taking a long time to decide, the people waiting in the queue behind you get annoyed and your friend picks it for you to make it quicker, the friend was an external factor, which deprived you of choice. Moreover, the friend was an agent, somebody who causes something. When we apply this to the world in general, we encounter some difficulty. First of all, we need to find an agent, somebody or something who decided that most of the people with AIDS live in Africa. You can ask how can I ask that. Well, if somebody says that the world is unfair, he or she implies that there had to be a decision made to disfavour some people and by this it is unfair. So who is this unfair agent? The government? Which government? Or rather the society? Why? Because they do not send all the money they have to other people? Or maybe God? But which one? From what I know, the Christian God gave people free will and famines do not come down from heaven. So for me, there is nobody who directly decided that there should be a famine in Somalia in 2011, it was a result of many factors such as lack of rainfall, economic and political instability as well as lack of self-reliance. So, if there is no agent, we cannot accuse him or her of doing anything unfair, of favouring one group over another.

To conclude, I believe that we should not call the world unfair, there are good and bad things which happen with wrong-doing and there is wrong-doing without harm. There are consequences without particular agents. Taking all this into consideration, I think calling the world unfair is simply looking for somebody to blame, without really finding anybody.