Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Boat Cruise!

Apparently I took 800 photos today.


That's rather a lot.

Those photographs combined with earlier photos from the past few days were enough to fill up my giant memory card; I think I may have the file sizes a little high, but I prefer the quality the bigger files give me with my camera.

Today was, as you could probably guess by the number of photographs, rather exciting. Instead of heading to a light breakfast at 9 with an hour to spare until class, at 8:15 AM our Constitutional Law class met and headed out to the District courthouse in New York. There, we sat in on a criminal trial (a RICO case I believe) and met with the judge during the breaks; our class asked him a lot of questions, ranging from what he found hardest about the job to how he moved from being a lawyer to becoming a federal judge. Watching the actual court proceedings (which are not as dramatic as Law & Order would have you believe) was really informative, sort of like a backstage pass to our system of justice.

After the trial broke for lunch, the class headed back to Columbia University, where we were dismissed early at around 2:30, with reminders to choose our paper topics (which are due tomorrow) and information about how they would get us our homework for the night, through good old email.

Then came time for us ILCers to hop on the Subway to meet Ms. Kronenberg and Mrs. L at Times Square, our rendezvous point for the boat tour of the city we had decided to take. My, the photos I got during that cruise! Don't worry, I won't be putting anywhere near the 800 of today's possible photograph choices up, but here's a taste.

Order In The Court

Today the Constitutional Law course was able to witness a testimony at New York’s District Court. The trial was a criminal trial, a RECO trial to be specific, dealing with sex and drug trafficking in addition to a laundry list of other charges. The testimony from the government’s witness was interesting for two reasons. First off, the witness doesn’t understand English so a translator was needed which slowed the process down. Secondly, I was intrigued by the line of questions from the prosecution, the government. The attorney asked the witness to tell his story about how he became close with a head of a gambling business, and the roles of the major players. He would then ask what would happen if one had to borrow money to play cards and what would happen if one didn’t. The witness used a personal story where he claimed that a man placed a knife against his body and asked why he hasn’t paid yet. The defense immediately used this against the man by quoting what the witness said to FBI investigators. Acoording to the record, the man claimed that a knife was “placed against his neck”, however in his testimony today, he failed to mention to. The defense attorney used this to try and prove that his story was inconsistent. I thought the defense had a great lead and were going to make the testimony look useless, but the attorney spent the next thirty minutes until the judge had to stop him for lunch to learn how to play a card game that the witness plays and how the operation makes money…which I didn’t understand.

After that we left the court and headed back to Columbia where I relaxed in Butler library until it was time for our cruise around Manhattan. Our cohort headed to Times Square to meet up with not only Mrs. L. but administrator Mrs. Kronenberg as well. I was truly looking forward to the cruise because, I’ve always wanted to sail in a boat and I wanted to see the sunset as we passed Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan "Concrete Jungle"

The cruise was amazing. Not only did we get to talk to Mrs. Kronenberg about how our class is going, but we got to relax and take in the beautiful sunset. Our timing couldn’t have been better. As we turned around on the East River near the U.N. building, the sun was setting between the buildings of the concrete jungle, better known as New York City.

Empire State Building

As we circled around the Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty, the sky was full of brilliant colors. This was a day to remember!

The Statue Of Liberty
Liberty Island

The most beautiful woman in the world

I'd like to start off by showing you this picture. It is of a plant that I started to grow just last week. When I first moved in, my RAs gave each of us a cup with some dirt and some seeds in it. It was up to us to take care of our cup of dirt. At first, I paid no attention to it. I didn't care whether there was a plant growing or if it remained a cup of dirt. After seeing the rest of the suite's plants, I decided I wanted mine to grow.I started to water it and now I have a prospering plant. What kind of plant it is, I have no idea. It will remain a mystery.

This is exactly a metaphor for how my time here at Columbia has been so far. At first, I was too homesick to want to do anything. The days crept along and I remained in my shell, refusing to branch out. After a while, I realized that other people were having the time of their lives and I should too. I started to "water" my time here, and now look. I'm a prospering plant, having the time of my life like everyone else. Thought I would share my little story with you.

I find that the resources at Columbia are amazing. Yesterday I had ameeting with a librarian, Mary, who helped me find resources to use when looking for research. She even requested some materials through the interlibrary loan system for me so that I can use them in my paper. Her knowledge about the library system really helped a lot since my professor had written as a comment on my outline that I needed more journal and primary sources. The librarian helped me find just that.

As for my outline, I received a fairly good score. I treat itas if I got a bad score. I'm not sure why I do this but I always do. It keeps me motivated and not get too comfortable thinking that just because I got a good score this time I am for sure going to get a good score the next time around. I'd rather thinkI did badly and be more motivated to improve than know I did good and take it easy. But, overall I am satisfied that on my first college assignment I did really well.

Today I also had a meeting with Dr. Z. to receive some input on my paper. She told me what I needed to work on like my sources, and how I should carry through with the rest of my paper. What I liked the most its that she didn't tell me what to write or how to write it, she simply told me to develop more here or be more precise. My professor is very easy to talk to and I'm glad my first experience being taught my acollege professor is not a horrifying one!

This evening I saw for the first time the most beautiful lady in the world. Ever since I could remember, I always thought of my grandmother as the most beautiful woman in the world. Don'tget me wrong, she still is... But, this other woman caught my eye not only because is she beautiful to me, but in the eyes of many others. As I stood on the boat that took us around Manhattan, I looked up and saw Lady Liberty. My first impression of her was how green she was. Then as I stood there I realized that this was the first face many immigrants saw of the US before actually arriving. This was the face that meant they were in a better world and could start a better life. It was kind of overwhelming, well at least to me.

The boat took us to see the Brooklyn Bridge, UN building, Twin Towers memorial site, and other famous landmarks. There is so much in New York I am not convinced you will never get bored here. Our tour guide also pointed out that the Hudson River that we were sailing on was where the pilot made the emergency landing a couple years ago. He stated that the plane had 90 seconds before it would sink if there wasn't another boat pumping water out of the plane. Luckily enough, a boat like the one we were on came to the rescue and helped pump the water and save the lives of this stranded on a plane in the middle of the Hudson.

Today was a very enjoyable day for me. I realized Columbia has its ups and downs like any other place, but I feel like so far I've seen a lot of ups and hopefully this week will continue to bring them.

Bridges and Boats

In class, we continued our discussion about Lincoln. I must say I am surprised at how complex Lincoln and his handling of the issue of slavery are. His views of slavery were evolving with the times and Dr. Z compared this issue with President Obama’s evolving views of gay marriage.

The afternoon session was very productive for me. I got a lot of work done on my rough draft. Then, the five of us met up with Mrs. Lilhanand and Mrs. Kronenberg for a fabulous boat tour of New York. The view really made me realize how big New York City really is.

Tomorrow, we meet with Brian Farkas, a Vassar alum and our morning class will be a guest lecture by Nancy Ramsey, a journalist.

Words From a Weary Mind

You know, in doing this blog, I try to provide insight into my own mind, my personal thoughts. And, I've always got a lot to think about, so each night I try my best to post something as interesting as it is new. I like to pride myself in being anti-formulaic sometimes.

So, I'd like to draw some comparisons between college and high school academic life. As we all know, they differ tremendously, but I would definitely venture to say that it is not a particularly infrequent occasion to draw a parallel between the two.

In terms of differences, college is essentially an entirely new academic (and social) playground. Reading levels soar, owned textbooks increases exceedingly, study is a requirement, attendance is no longer a sustainable route to a fair grade, classwork and homework loses much of its value, tests and exams constitute most of your grade, group work can no longer be handled by a single leader, and the teacher becomes a professor whom lacks as much availability and hand-holding as that of a high school teacher. The differences between college and high school solely in the academic field are astounding, but they are not without a collection of similarities.

To me, college is high school at an elevated plane. Both institutions require work to be done, but while high school enforces this with credit, college lets the student enforce his/her own work ethic. Both institutions utilize tests and exams as material evaluations, but while high school understands that you had a bad test day, college has expectations that are assumed to be adhered to. Both institutions provide the student with an appropriate academic atmosphere, but while high school tends to be more immature and less goal-oriented, college tends to be serious and meticulously motivated.

And, in assessing the academic capabilities of each institution, I dare not claim that one be greater than the other, for the context is completely altered for each. Maturity levels raise, personal awareness sees a rise, and determination is often time boosted.

I've learned a lot in high school, more than I thought I would have. I've learned just as much within the school campus as I have around my neighborhood. And, my time in high school has, indeed, been invaluable. In fact, I get all the more excited for my senior year as the summer gets closer to the end. So, I could never claim that college is all that much more omnipotent in comparison to high school, because high school is a necessary step on the way up life's ladder.

That said, I look forward to college more so than I do my senior year. I honestly do not think I'll learn more, or that college will be a better experience overall, or that I'll have done more by the end of my time in college. But, I know that I will do much, more than I expect to just as I did in high school. And, I'm excited for the experiences I will endure and the person I will become as a result of both high school and college.

And, those are my disorganized, rambled thoughts for today.