Journey to the East

As of today, I have been to half of the fifty states. Today was the first time in my life I have ever been to New York and Connecticut, and yesterday was the first time I ever was in New Jersey and Delaware. Four new states in two days... want to know the other twenty-one where I've been? (They're listed regionally west-east, for lack of the creativity or ability to organize them differently.)

Alaska, Hawai'i, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Wisconisin, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania (and, of course, the District of Columbia)

Speaking of the DC, that's where my father and I flew in on Monday. First we had to go to Seattle, of course, where my grandparents were returning home from having been there for a week, and we had lunch at SeaTac as our travel intersected. Then we time-shifted from one coast to the other, from early afternoon in the west to late evening in the east. On the flight we sat right in front of Senator Begich, although we said no more than hello. I spent the time sleeping and finishing both The Sound and the Fury and the first week of April's edition of the Economist.

Probably the most important article in the Economist was one on a recent scientific study measuring the correlation of poverty, stress, and memory - in a larger sense, mental capability. The study found a strong correlation between all three of these factors - and it took significant lengths to check against other variables. If you think about it, the results make a lot of sense; it's practically obvious. The conclusion that was reached is basically that poverty causes stress in children, and that this stress lessens children's memories' "carrying capacity" - their ability to hold on to a certain number of facts at any one time.

To me, this finding comes as no surprise. There may certainly be genetic factors that have played into my success at school, but largely I would say all my good grades etc. etc. have been absolutely dependent on the stability (and quality) of my home and family life. If a child is in poverty, of course they're going to be mentally affected. Bear in mind that this study totally ruled out correlation with parental memorial capability; the fact is that economic inequality makes the poor less able to "compete." The poor are not poor because they are stupid. They're less able to escape being poor because they're poor.

The idea of the American dream, as it is now corrupted by capitalists, is that as long as you give "free" markets free reign, all people are able to fulfill their potential (which for them means being rich) as long as they "work hard" - or, if they work hard and don't make it, they just must be stupid. I'm sorry if this is a bit of a mischaracterization - but I tell you, "free markets" contain no freedom. The inequality that laissez-faire capitalism generates feeds a vicious circle - not based on merit, and certainly not on freedom - but only on cruelty. And yes, although I realize that the Economist's cover for the issue was satirical, I'm quite inclined to agree with it.

Anyways, I have much to talk of besides economics. After arriving in DC late on Monday, my dad began driving the two of us north. We passed through Maryland, then Delaware, then Philadelphia. Around 3:30 we made it at last to Princeton, New Jersey, and we toured the campus a bit by night. We awoke in the cheapest nearby hotel a bit past noon, but our afternoon at Princeton was actually quite productive. We walked around campus for a while before joining up with a tour, which answered quite a few questions and gave me a good sense of the college. Then at 3:30 (PM this time) I sat in on a 300-level "Politics in Africa" class. Amazingly, the lecture of the day was on genocide, Rwanda in particular, and the professor referenced Frontline's story "Ghosts of Rwanda," which is something our government classes watched just recently. The class focused on the causes of genocide and the differences between Rwanda's horrors of the early nineties and the atrocities that took place in Darfur a few years ago. Overall, I really took away a great impression of Princeton. If I get in off their wait list I could very likely be going to New Jersey for the long term.

After an early dinner in Princeton, we began driving north yet again. This time New Jersey made up the initial leg, then New York was the intermediary city, and Connecticut was the home stretch. Now I'm lying on a bed in New Haven, and in a few hours I'll be seeing Yale as early as possible. No, I didn't get accepted outright here either, (I got the wait list here too), but it'll be great to look at the place, especially on the off chance I'll get the chance of attending.

After completing our Ivy League foray by this afternoon, my dad and I will be zooming back to DC as quickly as possible. Then I'll spend the rest of the week at colleges I have been accepted to - and perhaps I'll decide myself a future.


  1. the motorcyclist11 May, 2009

    What kind of material did it use to test their memory? I've found in my travels that it seems far more obvious that the more stress a person is used to living with the better their capacity for memory and competence. Need creates means. What environment were they tested in? Did both groups have equal levels of stress and motivation for focus in the test? Did it test both groups in varying environments? I find its results surprising and difficult to believe.


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