Underdogs always make the best stories.

Every sport has those stories. You know, the new athlete enters the mix and is hyped up to the extreme which usually means they are destined to fail, sometimes though, they end up surprising us. At the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships that were held in Omaha, NE this past week this is exactly what happened.
Two names that were repeated almost ad naseam leading up to the championships were Gracie Gold and Joshua Farris. For both, this competition was their first on the Senior level. Though both had excelled on the Junior level, and proved themselves on the Senior (Gold placing second in women’s and Farris placing fourth in men’s), what was unusual is that nearly everyone knew their names and believed they would perform amazingly without much proof of how they would adjust to skating in a senior level competition.

For those who don’t know how skating works, here’s a short breakdown. Skaters, just like any other sport, work up through the various levels (novice, junior, senior, etc.) based off of skills and testing. As you increase in levels, the more difficult jumps, spins and choreography is required of you as well as longer programs. The reason why it’s unusual to even hear about a junior level competitor moving up to senior is because in their first year, they usually do poorly.

The longer programs and more skill required is very tiring, especially if not used to it. But another hindrance is what they call the “first time jitters.” You go from near anonymity on the junior level to being in the spotlight with the skaters who have competed at the Olympics and sometimes are household names.

Now to bring it back to Gold and Farris. As I mentioned before, both did very well on the Junior level. But my question is, why did everyone care about them this year? It’s not that they were bad, but because they were the underdogs. With big names such as Jeremy Abbott who was competing for his fourth national title and Ashley Wagner who was going for her second, many wanted fresh faces to challenge them.

Gold’s remarkable comeback from 9th after the short program to second in the final shocked most, but with all the hype, the story became greater. Sure, she didn’t defeat Wagner, but she got more attention, making for a better story.

Farris’ story was a little different. To be honest, I don’t think anyone expected him to win, but he placed fourth. The best example to see how unusual this is, is to look at the champion of the men’s event this year, Max Aaron. Last year was Aaron’s first year competing on the Senior level. He placed 8th. Needless to say, I had never heard of him before this year.

Not only did he perform admirably, but managed to know Jeremy Abbott off of his pedestal in the long program. Aaron, essentially, was the typical underdog. No one payed him much attention until he threw down a performance with two quadruple jumps and several triples.

Why were Gold and Farris hyped so much? It remains to be seen, but hopefully, they will continue to live up to it.

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The reality of mental illness, final editorial

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, a variety of reactions and emotions are felt by the person and those around them. Fear of the unknown, sympathy and support surround the cancer patient. When someone is diagnosed with severe depression, the reaction is usually starkly different. It is very common from someone suffering from depression to be told by various people to just “get over it.”

The difference between cancer and depression? Understanding. Cancer is understandable. You can see on a scan where it is and see how to treat it. However, depression is not easily seen and you can’t cut it out of the brain or treat it with radiation.

In an article by Richard Friedman of the New York Times, he mentions that some suggested that rather than focus on gun control; we focus on targeting those with mental illness who use firearms. This as Friedman states would be wrong to do because mental illness is only a small factor for violence that is cause.

As the country begins to come back from the most recent tragic shooting in Connecticut, mental illness has been brought up throughout the nation, however, not to the degree that it needs to be addressed. But before help can be given, we must understand how severe of a problem mental illness is.

According to the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Eighteen million of these people are in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health also states that untreated, depression is the number one cause of suicide. More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder (NIMH).

An important aspect of mental illness is that for the majority of people who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, is that it’s treatable. Through counseling and sometimes medication there is a way to defeat or at least control mental illness. Only in extreme cases are further measures such as institutions or 24 hour watch needed.

In America we are fortunate to have medical advances that allow us to research more in depth about what causes mental illnesses such as depression and how to treat it effectively. But with all of these medical advances, mental illness is still a largely unspoken issue.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosable mental disorders receive mental health services in a given year.” What holds people back from receiving help is the embarrassment that comes with not being able to control your emotions or actions because of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many people who have mental illness, go without treatment because they do not have the support behind them.

Healing from mental illness will never be a quick process. However, it has become increasingly detrimental in this country to provide help for those who suffer from it. Understanding that mental illness is a real disease is the first step to creating more opportunities for people to get help form areal problem that cannot be ignored.

We have a mental illness problem.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, a variety of reactions and emotions are felt by the person and those around them. Fear of the unknown, sympathy and support surround the cancer patient. When someone is diagnosed with severe depression, the reaction is usually starkly different. It is very common from someone suffering from depression to be told by various people to just “get over it.”

The difference between cancer and depression? Understanding. Cancer is understandable. You can see on a scan where it is and see how to treat it. However, depression is not easily seen and you can’t cut it out of the brain or treat it with radiation.

As the country begins to come back from the most recent tragic shooting in Connecticut, mental illness has been brought up throughout the nation, however, not to the degree that it needs to be addressed. But before help can be given, we must understand how severe of a problem mental illness is.

According to the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Eighteen million of these people are in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health also states that untreated, depression is the number one cause of suicide. More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder (NIMH).

An important aspect of mental illness is that for the majority of people who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, is that it’s treatable. Through counseling and sometimes medication there is a way to defeat or at least control mental illness. Only in extreme cases are further measures such as institutions or 24 hour watch needed.

In America we are fortunate to have medical advances that allow us to research more in depth about what causes mental illnesses such as depression and how to treat it effectively. But with all of these medical advances, mental illness is still a largely unspoken issue.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosable mental disorders receive mental health services in a given year (NAMI).” What holds people back from receiving help is the embarrassment that comes with not being able to control your emotions or actions because of chemical imbalances in the brain. The stigma on depression and mental illness is so great that many will go without treatment for fear of rejection.

Slowly though, the stigma of mental illness is receding, with the help of groups such as TWLOHA and the National Hopeline Network, but not fast enough. In order to defeat an unknown adversary, we must understand how it fights and gather the support that’s needed to win.

Healing from mental illness will never be a quick process. However, it has become increasingly detrimental in this country to provide help for those who suffer from it. The first step to this is not a government overhaul or to shut away everyone with mental illness, but to open the conversation and expose the reality that mental illness is a problem that can no longer be ignored.

(This is a rough draft of my editorial for class. What do you think of the title? Let me know!)

Russian adoption ban about more than the children.

At the end of 2012, Vladimir Putin signed a parliament-passed ban on adoption of Russian children to Americans. According to the editorial, “Putin’s adoption ban retaliation against United States,” from the Courier Press, this most recent development will put strain on U.S. and Russia relations as many parent, some of whom have already met their adopted children, have been put in limbo as to where their adoption stands.

According to the article, this ban has seemingly nothing to do with the rare cases of mistreatment by American adoptive parents, but more of a retaliation to a recent bill signed by the Obama Administration that bars “Russian human rights abusers from traveling to or having financial transactions in the United States.” Putin has also retaliated by banning nongonvernmental organizations with U.S. funding from political activity in Russia.

As the editorial continues, it talks about those who are negatively affected by this. Russia, in its need to spite the U.S. is harming its own children. The majority of the children adopted from Russia are given good homes and chances that they would never have if left in the Russian orphanages. According to the article, some of the adopted children had serious illnesses and have been able to thrive in the U.S. and with Russian orphanages easily overcrowded, these children will not have the quality of life they deserve. The ban on adoptions from Russia will, as the article says, cause more tension and most likely break the already fragile relationship that Russia and the U.S. has had since the end of the Cold War.

Though in recent developments, Russia has said that it will allow some of the adoptions that are already in process to be completed, it is essentially harming itself because of this ban. With many heartbroken hopeful parents in the U.S. there are equal if not more children in Russia who will no longer have a chance at a good home.

Praying for the president.

I dislike politics with a passion. When the arguments begin, I shut off. Mostly because the arguments are usually aimed at putting down the other side. They give the air of “my opinion is better and right and I’m going to patronize you until you give up.” But I also dislike politics because it dehumanizes those who are in power in this country. They become entities of either good or evil, depending on your opinion, and the divisions of parties reduce all politicians to whiny children (or so it seems).

As congress continues to play humpty-dumpty, Obama is entering his second term as president of the United States. Many are elated and many are furious. But America decided and I believe that we must come to terms with this. I grew up in a conservative family but have many liberal friends. While both sides are very vocal in their disdain, or love, for the president. There is always one thing missing from both conversations: the realization that Barrack Obama is only a human being.

I do not agree with all of what Obama stands for. As a Christian, I believe in God, it is my faith and how I hope to live my life. And though I do not believe in or agree with certain policies and agendas that our president has, my response to the fragile state of America and the recent swearing in of the president, is based in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

We ideally hope that the politicians we elect will be the saviors of us and give us, and America, the fix it needs to be a thriving society. Unfortunately though, our president and the rest of the politicians in Congress and all over the U.S. are only human. When we look at the president with that in mind, then he seems less like this formidable enemy or loving god, but someone who resembles the rest of us.

When I look at the president, I see a man who has the weight of this nation on his shoulders. Whatever decisions he makes will affect every American as well as many internationally. I see a man who worries about the future his children will have and the future that all the children of America will have. I also see a man who loves his wife and family, and I do believe that he loves this country too.

The beauty of this country is that we have a right to our beliefs, whatever they are. We are able to disagree with our political leaders and have the ability of a free election to vote our leaders in or out. Though I disagree with the president, I pray that he will be wise in his decisions. I urge everyone, regardless of beliefs, to look at all of our politicians as what they are. As human beings who are like the rest of us when it comes to the basic idea that they must make decisions to represent us. And though it seems that their decisions and decision-making are ineffective, they are still responsible, and we must, respectfully, let them know that.

All Digital Public Library? Not quite yet.

Recently I came across an article unveiling the plans to open the first 100 percent digital public library system in Bexar County, Texas. Since we are well into the technological age, a completely digital public library sounds like an excellent idea. However, I believe that going digital will do more harm than good for public libraries at this time.

According to the American Library Association, “The rapid growth of e-books has stimulated increasing demand for them in libraries, but libraries only have limited access to e-books because of restrictions placed on their use by publishers. Macmillan Publishing, Simon and Schuster and Hachette Book Group refused to sell e-books to libraries. HarperCollins imposed an arbitrary 26 loans per e-book license, and Penguin refused to let libraries lend its new titles altogether.”

The limited availability of ebooks would drastically decrease the diversity of patrons that frequent public libraries. It would become necessary for library patrons to own e-readers or have constant access to a computer or smartphone. Though sales of e-readers and ebooks are increasing, the largest concern for an all digital library would be the limited availability of e-readers that a library could provide.

Also from the ALA, though 76 percent of libraries offer access to e-books, only 39 percent of libraries provide e-readers for check-out by patrons. This number would have to increase to account for the fact that all digital libraries only offer ebooks with no option for paper copies.

Also to consider is that not all of the books and resources are offered online. With the continuous budget cuts, the ALA reports that 57 percent of libraries have reported flat of decreased operating budgets in 2011. The cost of converting all paper materials that are available in a normal public library would be a cost that most libraries would not be able to afford to cover.

The costs of securing 10,000 titles for the Bexar County digital public library, was approximately $250,000. Though the article says that this library is not a replacement of the old libraries but an enhancement, and might be cost effective in the long-run, I do not see it becoming a feasible part of libraries for awhile.

Public libraries are moving forward into the digital age. All public libraries offer computers and internet services which are beneficial to the community. I am all for incorporating technology into the library system. It wouldn’t survive if it stayed offline. However, the idea of libraries going all digital at this point in time will exclude different patrons if their needs do not include using a computer.

At some point in the future, all digital public libraries may be all there are, however we are not there yet.

What are your thoughts? Would you prefer an all digital public library?

It’s not just guns.

Last month while scrolling Facebook, I learned of the tragic event of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. As the latest in a string of shootings, gun control debates have become even more prominent in Washington. At the same time, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre made several bold statements about the need for armed guards in every school as the solution to the problem.

Which according to an article by CNN, “LaPierre’s position sets the stage for a contentious battle between the NRA, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, and the Obama administration, which has promised quick action on ‘real reforms’ to gun laws.”

While the gun control issue has become increasingly volatile, I personally, do not completely agree with a complete ban of guns nor arming every school in the country. However, a major part of this issue, the part that affects me most, has been passed over and received very little attention.

In the case of Adam Lanza, as well as many others who have committed these horrific acts, mental illness played a huge role in the motivation of his actions. This in no way excuses him from the consequences of his actions, but it brings to light a progressively drastic epidemic. Mental illness has become an increasingly difficult problem as more people have been diagnosed with either depression or more serious forms of mental illness in the U.S.

According to the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Eighteen million of these cases are in the U.S. This not including the statistics from other forms of mental illness such as schizophrenia or manic depressive disorder. However, regardless of how prevalent the issue of mental illness is in the U.S., our government or at least our media, seem to be relatively quiet about the issue.

One who was not quiet on the issue was LaPierre when speaking about the Sandy Hook tragedy and our inability to know how many people live with mental illness saying, “How can we possibly guess how many [mentally ill], given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill.”

As the government seems to have deemed this issue for the back burner, LaPierre’s argument is reminiscent of an X-Men movie. Just as with the debate on gun control, mental illness needs to be on the forefront of Washington’s agenda. The most important aspect is understanding.

Having grown up around those who suffer with severe depression, I’ve seen firsthand how important it is for those with mental illness to feel that it’s safe to get treatment. Mental illness is as serious as cancer and the resources for people seek help need to become more accessible. Creating a list of every person with mental illness would cause the opposite reaction.

The recent tragedies that have happened in this country have sparked heated debates about gun control and safety, however, Washington also needs to consider mental illness seriously. Perhaps if services for those suffer from mental illness were more prevalent, then some of these tragedies could be prevented.