During the summer of 2019, I went to my very first and- to this day- my last orchestra camp. I have not gone to one again in the past 3-4 years, and most likely will not ever again. That summer camp left me with a bitter resentment towards myself and my instrument that I was determined to change.

I’ve been playing the violin for almost 9 years now; so since I was 5 years old. The violin has always been the sole instrument I loved and wanted to play. Today, I’m not sure what exactly drew me to this particular instrument, but I can say that it was something I was dead set on. I still remember my first lesson and the amount of joy I had when playing it. As soon as I got home I started practicing. Despite only knowing how to play open-string rhythms I felt excited. It was my instrument. My violin, and I was playing it. Over the course of my lessons I started to play notes. Basic rhythms and melodies from my beginner’s book. I eventually had my very first recital. My piece was the classic, “Twinkle Twinkle”. I think I was last to perform and I remember how nervous I was. I remember holding a paper with the names of students performing unfamiliar pieces and listening to the faint sound of music. Eventually it was my turn. Just as it started, it was over. It was, really, a wonderful moment in my life. I don’t remember my performance details, but I remember feeling proud and accomplished that day. I continued to improve as a musician and I grew with my instrument. I remember each time I got a bigger instrument and how I preferred certain cases over others. I remember my practice sessions and how my teacher would convince me to practice with musical bingo. This continued until our move in 2016. 

Texas was different than the Ohio I had grown up in. Over the course of getting settled, we also had started looking for a violin teacher for me. I’ve had at least 10 different violin teachers from the time I first started up to now. More than half of those come from 2016-2019. Each teacher had a different way of teaching and a different reason we couldn’t continue with them. One was too far away, another was constantly late. One of them left and a different teacher took their place. A different teacher left a year or so after I joined and was then replaced twice. The second time was the last teacher I had before I started middle school. Over these years I grew distant from my instrument. I lost all joy in playing it. It became more of a burden when I had violin lessons than an opportunity to learn. I never practiced or even touched my instrument anytime other than during lessons. I never learned during that period. I remember that before I moved I had just started learning how to use my 4th finger on the instrument. After the move, not a single teacher ever taught me how to use it. I couldn’t even tune my own instrument. No one had ever taught me how to. I always gave it to my teacher and waited until they were finished. Now, not all my teachers were bad. Some of them actually taught me things to improve my musical abilities. But due to the constant switching I never was able to continue those things. 5 years into playing my violin, I still had the skills of a beginner. Maybe even worse than I did when I first started. I never realized it or even felt the need to do anything about it. That all changed during the summer of 2019.

A very good friend of mine has been playing the violin since she was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Not as long as I have, but much, much better than I am. Even though I’ve heard her play for over 4 years, she never fails to amaze me with her skills. She’s an excellent musician and is remarkable. When we first became friends we found out we have a common interest: playing the violin. She invited me for this string camp over the summer to which I was really excited for. There were a few problems though. One, I had a brand new instrument. I had gotten a bigger violin a few weeks prior to the camp and I did not know how to play it. I was still playing with tapes and could not even accurately play a note without them. I was grateful that my friend’s teacher offered to put them on for me when I brought her some tape. Even still, I couldn’t play. Two, the music was difficult. Looking over the string music makes me laugh. The pieces are quite easy and very simple to play. Back then the music frightened me. I couldn’t play or even understand the basic melody at all. It took time for me to even process where we were or what was happening each time we rehearsed. I had to fake every second of it. The camp was a week long- Monday to Friday- and we had a performance Friday afternoon. For 5 whole days, my life was like hell. Each day I went was a feeling of dread. I constantly asked my parents to let me skip or to quit. 

The key memory I have from this was when we had individual sectionals. Each day, after rehearsal all together, we would practice with our individual section. It was the day before our performance. We had a chair test. Everyone had to play a few measures from the given piece, and they would determine which seat you had. Before it started I had told our teacher that I was new and might play at a slow speed. She assured me it was fine and to do my best. So there I sat, maybe 4th to play, anxiously waiting for my turn. My heart was pounding rapidly and my palms were becoming sweatier by the second. It was finally my turn to play. I had heard the previous kids play and I was terrified. I was shaking as I held up my instrument and tried to play. I looked at the page and placed my fingers down. I played one note and that’s it. I couldn’t comprehend where to place my fingers after that or what the next note was. I didn’t know how to play at all. That moment was the most humiliating moment of my life. I could feel all eyes on me as I struggled. I was too overwhelmed and burst into tears. The teacher just silently patted me on the back and told me to go get my performance shirt. I can only imagine what they all through as I walked out. Perhaps ridicule or maybe pity. I don’t even know how I managed to go back there with everyone else after what happened. I was placed last for my section. It gave me the benefit of being hidden so no one knew if I was faking or not, but also showed how poorly I must have done to get that chair. The day during the performance was really the only time I could lighten up. I felt happier solely because it was almost over. We were the second group to play, so while the first was warming up the rest of us were in the audience chatting. I sat with my friend and her other friend. Like my friend, the other girl was remarkable at playing. A piece of advice she gave me when taking was, “Don’t be lazy like me when practicing.” At that time I could only feel frustration and annoyance. Looking back, I can assume she may have only meant well and was being nice. But given the circumstances, I thought she was ridiculing me for my poor performance and was comparing it to herself. 

After that performance I only hoped to not go to another string camp again. I never did, but I faced the reality of being in a school orchestra. I started middle school in Concert Orchestra, Second violin, last chair. It was a relatively small orchestra but it was still disappointing. Compared to the Symphonic Orchestra my friend, and a violist in our grade we knew, was in, or the Chamber Orchestra with breathtaking students, Concert was a sad sight. I dreaded 7th period Orchestra every day until I faced the reality: I had to improve. The benefit of a school orchestra is the option of private lessons. They had different PL teachers you could learn from and that was like a dream. The teacher I started with- in middle school- was strict but also wonderful. Immediately on my first day she helped me improve in so many ways. She helped me relax when playing, produce a better sound, tone, and actually play. I remember going home that night and showing my parents what I learned. They were impressed, and more than that, I was overjoyed with this new revelation. The once put out fire I had for learning my instrument started to rekindle again. From that day, I started practicing everyday. I dedicated at least 30 minutes each day to my instrument. As soon as I got home, I would unease and start playing. Over the course of that year, so many things happened. One, I actually learned how to turn my instrument. The one thing I had never been suggested was a tuner. I got my first tuner and learned how to tune my instrument by myself. My days of anxiously asking an adult to tune it for me were over. Two, I moved up. In less than 4 months I moved up from second violin last chair, to first violin second chair. I remained as a first violin from that point and continued to grow. Three, I got my final PL teacher. The teacher I currently learn with has been teaching me for almost 4 years now, and I could not be more grateful for her. She has helped me learn and improve in so many more ways in these 4 years than I ever could have in the past. My goal from that year was to make it into Chamber Orchestra. The Orchestra I could only dream about. I finally did that next year, and was still in it the year after that. I went through a few auditions in that period. I auditioned for Region last year and made it. I auditioned for FWYO Philharmonic Orchestra, twice, and even though I haven’t gotten in yet, I still feel determined to try again. I auditioned and got into Camerata  Orchestra in my high school Orchestra. (The highest a freshman can audition for) The progress I made form that state to now is something I’m proud of. Even though, today, I may not be the best in my Orchestra, I’m still improving. From the beginning of the school year to now I’ve improved and still am. This is what matters most to me. 

We’re currently playing Carmen by Georges Bizet. When we first got this piece I could only gulp nervously and play softly. But now I can play this piece. I can play in the “stratosphere”- as my director likes to call it- and I can play the main themes well. For the other students it may not seem like a big deal to play Carmen, but for me, the fact I can play a piece of this difficulty and play it with my peers at a crazy fast performance speed makes me proud. Considering where I started 3 years from now, I can only feel determined to work harder to improve more. My next goal is to get into high school region, and to make it into our high school Chamber Orchestra. When they first played during our Fall Concert, I decided I wanted to be part of that orchestra. It was middle school all over again. They were truly breath-taking, and I want to be part of that one day. I also want to perform music as complex, beautiful, and wonderful as they did, and play to amaze a crowd like I was that day. I may not be the best right now, but given the previous results, a little determination- and practice- can go a long way. 

Not just for violin, but for any other setback I’ve had in my life. I’ve realized that determination and hard work is what it takes to reach the top. No matter what, that’s the key. 












So there’s been huge news regarding students using AI-based websites such as ChatGPT to complete their work for them. This includes using it to write essays and do assignments they should be doing themselves. Now, I’ve just recently discovered ChatGPT and even discovered it is restricted by my school. Funny story actually. I started using a different device at school than my school-issued one, and I had ChatGPT pulled on up one of the tabs to experiment with it. I accidentally clicked on the tab at school, it refreshed, and popped up as restricted for Academic Fraud. So yeah, it’s banned at my school. At many schools, actually. But that’s besides the point. The whole point is, really, how we could use AI such as ChatGPT at school for BENEFICIAL purposes. No I don’t mean to get a wonderful and fake report card from cheating in order to get a new phone. No no no. I mean, to have a TRULY MODERN way of learning using ChatGPT and other such resources. So let us begin. 

The advancement of technology has become a major breakthrough in our lives, and yet we’re still working on improving it. Technology is outdated when it becomes inefficient and a faster method to do something is found. Every new technological invention is made to be faster than the current, yet will get replaced by a newer faster version. Take writing for example. We used to write essays and papers by hand, and spend painstaking hours creating something to perfection. Especially at a time where ink was commonly used. Imagine how many times the U.S. Constitution could have been re-written due to a spelling mistake. After quills we had pens and pencils. Then typewriters and after that, computers. Computers started advancing and becoming smaller and more powerful. We now have speech recognizing devices like Alexa or Google Home. There’s even development in Natural Language Processing and Neural Networks so we can use our thoughts to write. Technology will never last in one form forever. It’ll keep advancing and soon the world will as well. People will need to keep up with this in order to survive. Those who didn’t will go extinct. (Not literally but you get the idea.) 

So how does this relate to ChatGPT? Well for starters, we can’t ignore the presence in technology in our lives. It’s everywhere around us. However, simply banning it our trying to prevent it from being used isn’t working. Schools are trying to ban the use of ChatGPT and other similar sites to prevent students from cheating. Is that really necessary though? Although ChatGPT can be used to generate essays and do work for students, it can also be used as a supplement to help enhance the learning experience. 

Schools are made solely to teach kids. To make them proficient in the basics of where the current world is today. It’s preparing us for the world by kind of, fueling us with essential information. They want us to learn and then test us to make sure we’ve understood that concept. But the way everyone learns is different. Some can pick up on things quick and ace the topic while others need more time. Even when explained it can be difficult to understand. Sometimes the questions asked aren’t answered and students are left worse than they began. ChatGPT can solve that. It can provide one-on-one tutoring to help them learn at their own pace and even provide practice tests and answers to help them understand. ChatGPT can take the most difficult thing and simplify it in a way you could understand. Perhaps it’s easier written like a poem or maybe composed like a song. ChatGPT could do that and create something truly remarkable that will benefit you. 

ChatGPT could even be used for research assistance. They can help students find and organize research needed by providing summaries, related articles and more. Ever had a difficult time finding an answer to one question? How many articles or websites would you have had to search through to either give up in defeat or finally get it? ChatGPT can help with that. It can quickly pull up exactly what you need. Now, as ChatGPT is an AI model, and like all AI, is imperfect, something’s may be incorrect. AI can only do as much as it is told to do. Hence, it can only have information up to the amount it’s been programmed with. ChatGPT is limited to knowledge up to 2020 (as far as I know) so recent events may not be provided. Even still, it may mess up. Like, earlier today just for fun I asked ChatGPT to list the members of SEVENTEEN in order by age. It took about three tries for it to successfully list all 13 members by age. The first time it started off almost 4 members late and repeated some of them. The second time one member was missing. After correcting the AI for a final time only did it successfully do what was asked. 

Instead of banning AI websites like ChatGPT altogether, maybe they should create a feature that disables them. ChatGPT could be used to learn about new topics and develop a full understanding of them, but turned off when it comes to testing. Simply copy and pasting isn’t learning. If one uses ChatGPT in a way it should be intended- to answer questions and fill the gaps we are unfamiliar with- then is it really that harmful? I don’t think so. Is it wrong to try and learn? In certain circumstances yes, most likely, but otherwise? 

As a way to conclude this post I wanted to share some other AI websites I found that are similar to ChatGPT, except with their own respective characteristics. 

  • ChatSonic (The underlying technology behind ChatGPT but going beyond ChatGPT’s limitations)
  • Rytr (A way to generate ideas to help get started on a post)
  • WordTune (A way to articulate your thoughts or when they sound awkward)
  • Essaybot (I would consider this one cheating as it gives you a pre written paragraph re-worded, but otherwise this is an option)
  •  Talk to Books (Exploring ideas by getting answers from books)
These were some quick websites I found on the internet. I’m not trying to promote the use of AI websites to do your work. Instead, I’m trying to explain it’s benefits and how it can be used to enhance our learning and working process in order to be more successful. That is not equivalent to copy paste. Anyways, I hope you all have a wonderful evening and I will see you next post. Bye!









So there’s been some pretty intense dramas going on in the past week about the next speaker of the house. If you didn’t know, our new Speak of the House is Kevin McCarthy who gained this position after 15 ballots. Surprisingly, it’s not the highest as the most ballots ever is actually 133. But anyways, let’s indulge in this topic and explore why it took 15 ballots to elect Speaker McCarthy.

Firstly, and for one of my absolute favorite reasons, there’s drama. It’s the classic teenage high school drama, except with adults at higher levels and with more serious topics. One of the representatives who absolutely refused to vote for Speaker McCarthy until the 15th ballot was Matt Gaetz. So apparently there’s this little beef between the two that Mr. Gartz has not let go of. When Mr. Gaetz was accused with sex trafficking claims, apparently, Mr. McCarthy did not present a strong enough defense for Mr. Gaetz. For this reason, Mr. Gaetz absolutely refused to vote for him. If you ask me, I find it amusing how government officials who are respected adults and members still act the way my current peers do. It’s really funny.

In the end, he did vote for him, which is why Mr. McCarthy got the position. Why did it take so long though? What made Mr. Gaetz and the other representatives who refused to vote for him, suddenly changed their mind?

Two words. Back scratching. “I scratch you back if you scratch mine.” The price for Mr. McCarthy to become the next speaker required patience, determination, and a little bit of luck to get the right proposal for a vote.

According to CNN, some of the requirements for Mr. McCarthy to become speaker include:

  • Seventy two hours to review the bills before they come to the floor
  • Giving members the ability to offer more amendments on the House floor
  • More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the powerful House Rules Committee
  • A McCarthy-aligned super PAC agreed to not play in open Republican primaries in safe seats
  • Any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair – this is significant because it would make it much easier than it is currently to trigger what is effectively a no confidence vote in the speaker. Conservatives pushed hard for this, while moderates are worried it will weaken McCarthy’s hand.
  • Restoring the Holman Rule, which can be used to reduce the salary of government officials

Now the most eye-catching is the Holman Rule. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it before and that’s why it stood out. In fact, I had never heard of it before. (As well as a few other things on the list but that’s for later) So you know what I had to do. I did a little research, and here’s what I found.

The Holman rule is a provision in the rules of the United States House of Representatives that allows for individual line items in appropriations bills to be targeted for reduction or elimination. The rule, which was first implemented in 1876 and has been used intermittently since then, allows for any member of the House to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that would reduce or eliminate a specific item of spending. The rule is typically used as a tool to target spending on specific programs or projects that an individual member or group of members oppose.

Now, reading that, it doesn’t include anything about cutting salaries. I know. Let me explain. As a measure to make it easier for lawmakers to eliminate federal agencies or slash the pay of individual agencies, the House restored the Holman Rule. As part of this rules package. It will “allow individual lawmakers to reduce the number of federal workers at specific agencies or cut their compensation as a provision or amendment to an appropriation bill.” This rule also allows lawmakers to target specific federal programs or offices, such as the FBI. They can use this to target the FBI or to “zero-out funding for specific federal investigations”. Essentially, they can use this bill as a reason to specifically target and remove agencies they do not want. Sly isn’t it?

Another shady back scratching deal that took place includes a “one-member election trigger”. 20 Republicans held out on voting for McCarthy until the 15th ballot. Why? For different reasons, they all could dislike Mr. McCarthy. That’s why this one-member election trigger agreement must have been a really good deal. The concession gives the ability for just ONE legislator to trigger a vote on whether to remove the Speaker from office. So anytime a legislator, even for a second, doesn’t want Mr. McCarthy as Speaker, all they have to do is say so. (Of course there’s most likely a longer process, but you get the point) This motion has had a long history, but it was raised to a minimum of 5 people to trigger the vacate. This time, it just takes one person. It could be Mr. Matt Gaetz, or maybe Ms. Lauren Boebert. It could be any of those 20 who refused to do so. It could even be a Democrat representative.

One more major event that took place was the restraining of Congressman Mike Rogers. After the 14th ballot, Mr. Rogers- an ally of Speaker McCarthy- was physically restrained for bellowing and jabbing fingers at a fellow Republican who was not supporting Mr. McCarthy. The main reason I brought this up was because it reminded me of The Caning of Charles Sumner. Senator Charles Sumner, an abolitionist Republican, was caned by Representative Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Democrat, in 1856. Charles Sumner denounced the Bleeding Kansas crisis in a speech. This speech argued for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state. He talked about the hateful embrace of slavery and the hideous crime. A response to this from Mr. Brooks included a caning. If I remember correctly from my history class, Mr. Sumner was badly beaten. To be fair, Mr. Brooks asked his fellow Representative on dueling etiquette , to which they replied that Charles Sumner was no gentleman - and a drunkard- and did not merit honorable treatment which is expected in a duel. That’s why they believed a cane beating in public to humiliate him would be better suited. Now although the two situations are rather different, this event was the first thing I thought of when I heard about the restraint.

Anyways, that was just the main points I wanted to cover regarding the Speaker elections. I’m now curious to see how things will play out and how each of these new requirements will be used in the future. Bye!


 Guess what Ireland’s famous for. Apple. Yeah, no seriously. I’m not joking. Up until like last Thursday I was sure Ireland was mainly known for it’s landscape and Irish whiskey and shamrocks. We’re adding Apple to the list now. Apple’s main headquarters are in Cupertino, California. Which now explains why I have Cupertino’s time zone on my phone despite it not being on the list. (The dots finally have connected.) Anyways, the main focus is on Apple’s other headquarters. The European headquarters.

Apple’s European headquarters are located  in Holly Hill, Co Cork in Ireland. I assure you there is something very important regarding why Apple chose to have it’s headquarters there, but before I explain, let’s go over basics. 

  • Shell Companies
  • Money Laundering
  • Cayman Islands/Swiss Accounts
  • Tax Avoidance
  • Panama Papers
So, shell companies. They are similar to what they sound like as they ARE shells of companies. They are pretty much like an empty shell. 


There’s nothing inside. It’s a firm with no current business activity or significant assets. Shell companies aren’t necessary illegal, but are sometimes used illegitimately for  reasons such as disguising business ownership from law enforcement or the public. But legitimately, they can be used to store a company’s money it’s raising before it launches, or for security reasons such as working in an unsafe region or country. 

When used illegitimately, shell companies are usually used during money laundering. Money laundering is pretty much just “laundering” money made through criminal activity like drug trafficking or terrorist funding,  in order to make it look clean. This money is, well, dirty, so so it needs to be laundered before it can actually be used. This is to make sure the money can be used effectively, and so there is no suspicion when using it. There are three parts in money laundering: placement, layering, and integration. The first, placement, comes from the need to deposit the money in legitimate financial institutions. The only way to do so is if it comes from legitimate sources, so often a business owned by the criminal organization is used. For example, a restaurant may inflate the receipts to funnel illegal cash through the restaurant and into the restaurant’s bank account. The next is layering. Layering consists of concealing the money through a series of transactions. This is to make it difficult to trace the original source. Layering is often done through chain-hopping which is the act of converting one cryptocurrency into another moving from one blockchain to another, mixing/tumbling which is the act of blending various transactions across several exchanges, or cycling. (More can be found at these links: complyadvantage.com and linkurious.com)

Not only that, shell companies can be used for tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is an action taken to lessen tax liability and maximize after-tax income. Simply put, finding a way to avoid paying taxes in a legal manner.  The best way to do so is setting up a shell company in a tax haven. 



What’s a tax haven? 

Before I explain let me interrupt. Happy New Year and Merry late Christmas. I actually spent my Christmas overseas and visited the Cayman Islands. We took a tour and had a lot of fun on our trip. In fact, on the tour we learned a lot of interesting facts about the islands, including one very important thing. The Cayman Islands have no income or withholding tax imposed on the individual. So like if something is $10, that’s all you have to pay. Literally. That makes the Cayman Islands a tax haven. Since no taxes are imposed, shell companies are commonly set up in the Cayman Islands to reduce tax bills and just get out of paying taxes legally. Another example includes Hong Kong, Switzerland, Panama, and even Ireland. See where I’m getting to? 


Ireland has a low tax rate of 12.5% , making it one of the lowest tax paying countries compared to the U.S. with a 35% rate. This is a reason why Apple long many other companies such as Google have shifted headquarters there. According to BBC, Apple created an avoidance structure that “helped it reduce it’s tax rate on profits outside the US to the extent that its foreign tax payments rarely amounted to more than 5% of its foreign profits.” In some years it’s dipped below 2%, and one Irish Apple Company had a tax rate for one year of 0.005% . For Apple, if tax haven benefits were not used, it would have owed the U.S. government $65.4 billion in taxes. However, this is about to change as Ireland announced in October 2021 that it will change it’s tax rate to 15% in 2024 (originally 2023). 

This entire process of tax avoidance is not new. It’s been around for a while. In 2016 11.5 million legal documents-called the Panama Papers- were leaked, containing personal financial information about many wealthy individuals and public officials. It exposed a network of 214,000 tax havens involving these officials and entities from 200 nations. Although most of the documents showed no illegal or inappropriate behavior, some of the shell companies set up by the firm from which the documents were leaked, were revealed to have been used for illegal purposes such as tax evasion and fraud. Hence, shell companies can be interpreted as illegal and used illegitimately. 

People with huge companies like Nike or Apple often do this for many reasons. One could be for greed. With so much money one would want to keep it to themselves. Not only that, with so much money they would have to pay higher taxes. Arguments against this include, “using the same amount of road someone making less than them uses”. Why should they pay more when they use the same services as others? As a result, they’ll try to pay lower taxes or even get out of it completely. Such methods as we’ve discussed include tax havens and shell companies. 

Why should we care about this? Well for starters, they aren’t paying their taxes. As I’ve mentioned before, taxes are essential to providing us benefits such as public school dunking, building roads, and other public services. Everyone pays a fair share of their income that they worked hard for these taxes and yet these big companies who have more wealth decide to reduce their amount simply because they want their money to themselves. If that’s so then why don’t we also keep our money to ourselves? Taxes take away a huge portion and we could easily use that money for so many other things instead. It’s simply not fair. If they can “escape” paying the tax in full amount, they why not us? Then what would happen? Would we be able to experience the luxuries of maintained, smooth roads, or having public education or other services? Most likely not. We need to pay our taxes, no matter how much money you make. It’s to benefit us and make our lives better. 

Sources + More Reading:

:. (2019, July 23). AML - Shell companies, front companies and the misuse of real estate. Finextra Research. https://www.finextra.com/blogposting/17537/aml---shell-companies-front-companies-and-the-misuse-of-real-estate

Anti money laundering (AML). (2005, July 21). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/aml.asp

Corporate Finance Institute. (2022, November 8). Tax havenhttps://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/economics/what-is-tax-haven/

GB, J. (2017, November 7). Where does Apple Pay taxes? Medium. https://medium.com/@javiergb_com/where-does-apple-pay-taxes-5a09955abd92

List of the world's most notorious tax havens. (n.d.). Worlddata.info. https://www.worlddata.info/tax-havens.php

Lyons, K. (2021, October 7). Ireland’s status as tax haven for tech firms like Google, Facebook, and Apple is ending. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/7/22715229/ireland-status-tax-haven-google-facebook-apple

Money laundering: What it is and how to prevent it. (2003, November 24). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/moneylaundering.asp

Paradise Papers reporting team. (2017, November 6). Paradise papers: Apple's secret tax bolthole revealed. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41889787

Shell corporations: Everything you need to know. (n.d.). Business Intelligence Platform - Data on 13+ Million Companies - Red Flag Alert. https://www.redflagalert.com/articles/risk/shell-corporations-everything-you-need-to-know

Tax avoidance is a legal way to limit taxes; Tax evasion is not. (2007, May 10). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tax_avoidance.asp

Tax brackets and federal income tax rates: 2022-2023. (2018, January 24). NerdWallet. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/taxes/federal-income-tax-brackets#:~:text=There%20are%20seven%20federal%20tax,taxable%20income%20and%20filing%20status

Tax evasion. (2003, November 24). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/taxevasion.asp

What is a shell company (Shell Corporation)? - SmartAsset blog. (2022, September 27). SmartAsset. https://smartasset.com/investing/what-is-a-shell-company#:~:text=A%20shell%20company%20is%20a,customers%20with%20products%20or%20services

What is a shell Corporation? How it's used, examples and legality. (2003, November 26). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/shellcorporation.asp#:~:text=A%20shell%20corporation%20is%20a,law%20enforcement%20or%20the%20public




Cryptocurrency. We’ve probably all heard about it by now. Bitcoin….and bitcoin…and yeah…That’s all I really know (knew) about it. That was before I got a WONDERFUL- emphasize wonderful- opportunity to take some time off and actually learn something about it. And really, it wasn’t that bad. So let me enlighten you a little about cryptocurrency, how it really works, and how it relates to Central Bank Digital Currencies. (CBDC).

So let’s start with the basics. What exactly is cryptocurrency? Well, for starters, cryptocurrency is “a digital payment system that doesn’t rely on banks”, or a third-party, “to verify transactions.” In short, it’s a digital currency that is an alternative form of payment by using encryption algorithms. (We’ll get into more of that later.)


Cryptocurrency is created through something called mining. No, not like mining for gold. (Although it would be funny.) But really, mining is “the process of validating cryptocurrency transactions and creating new units of cryptocurrency”. It uses powerful computer hardware and software to-drumroll please- solve complex math problems. Yep. Cryptocurrency is literally made from solving complex math problems. Using powerful computer hardware and software, of course.

But really this is more complex. You see, cryptocurrencies use blockchain technology. A blockchain is a distributed database or ledger that is shared among the nodes of a computer network. Think of it as a ledger, or even a database. As a database, a blockchain stores information electronically in digital format. It’s a form of a public ledger, which is “a series of blocks on which transaction details are recorded after suitable authentication and verification by the designated network participants.” (It’s best known for their crucial role in cryptocurrency systems, for maintaining a secure and decentralized record of transactions.

Compared to a typical database, a blockchain structures its data into blocks which are strung together, rather than into tables. This structure makes an irreversible timeline of data when implemented in a decentralized nature. As a block is filled it finalizes and becomes part of this timeline.


So why would cryptocurrency be made? What was the main purpose? Anything made is often to make something easier. We always innovate something new to make what we’re already working with easier, faster, and simpler.
Well, for starters it was to engage in financial transactions without exclusively relying on banks or governments. When we usually partake in transactions, a third-party, such as a bank, is used to do so.
Whenever we perform transactions, our money doesn’t immediately get transferred to the other person. For transactions from different banks, it can take one to five days. Why does this happen? Well, it’s excessive to continuously pay a transaction to another bank in small amounts. If I make a transaction of $10 dollars to another person, someone else could be making a transaction of $50 to another. Instead of continuously processing transactions in amounts like this, something called the Delta of Transactions takes place. This process happens over a periodic basis.
So let’s say I make a transaction of $30 to someone at another bank, and someone at that bank needs to pay a transaction of $10 to someone at mine. Instead of updating a don performing every transaction, the banks will wait until the end of the day, and transfer the net amount to each other. In this case, since the other bank will ‘gain’ $30 and ‘lose’ $10, my bank will transfer $20 to the other bank. That is the net amount.

What cryptocurrency does is take out this step. Because we rely on the bank or a third-party to deliver the transaction, this Delta of Transactions process takes place, and our payment gets transferred after a while. But with cryptocurrency, it happens immediately. The thing with cryptocurrency is that your money stays with you. Compared to all your money being with the bank, you have your money. So whenever you want to process a transaction, it happens immediately because you’re doing it yourself. The only problem is that, if your money is with you, you could lose all of it. Cryptocurrency needs a cryptocurrency wallet. It’s something that stores the public and/or private keys for cryptocurrency transactions. Basically like a vault or a bank account. It holds the keys and allows you to access your coins. Because it’s with you, if you lose that ‘wallet” you end up losing all your money. If you have money stored in the bank, if you lose your wallet, you would still have money, and not have lost all of it.
However, there are certain situations where cryptocurrency is actually beneficial. Let’s take the Bahamas for example. The Bahamas consists of 70 scattered islands, and it can take over half a day to simply reach the bank. As a result, the Bahamas established a style of cryptocurrency called Sand Dollar to make money easily accessible.

So I mentioned CBDC at the very beginning. CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) is digital currency issued by a central bank, rather than a commercial bank. While CBDCs are controlled by a central bank, cryptocurrencies are almost always decentralized, meaning they cannot be regulated by a single authority.
CBDCs are pegged to the value of a country’s fiat currency. This fiat currency is issued and regulated by a nation’s monetary authority or central bank. ( Such as the US Treasury) In the US along with many other countries, many people do not have access to financial services. The main goal of CBDC is to “provide businesses and consumers with privacy transferability, convenience, accessibility, and financial security.” It would also reduce the risks of using digital currencies in their current form. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile and have a constantly fluctuating value. This can cause severe financial stress in many households and affect the overall stability of an economy. Bitcoin was made anonymously. Despite being believed to be made by a pseudonym group, nobody knows who created it. That being said, they can do whatever they want with Bitcoin. Who knows if they choose to make Bitcoin valued at a high price or suddenly drop it really low. To prevent this but still provide digital currency, governments are starting to create CBDCs.

digitalasset.com

So lastly why would this be important. Well for starters, everything in this world has to do with money. There’s nothing free in this world. The world revolves around money. You go to school to get a job to earn money. You need money to get food, get a house, and perform the basic functions to live. As technology develops, cryptocurrency or even digital currency would become widely used like regular currency. We need to learn how it’s used and the benefits of disadvantages to using it so that we’re prepared in the future. If I get a job and my boss asks if I could be paid in cryptocurrency or CBDC, I need to understand what happens when I use it. Although it’s not as useful now, we would eventually get to a point in time where it would be. This would eventually become a way of payment, and we need to understand how it works. It’s our money after all.


References + Resources:

The basics about cryptocurrency. (n.d.). Go Oswego | SUNY Oswego. https://www.oswego.edu/cts/basics-about-cryptocurrency 

Blockchain & distributed Ledger technology (DLT). (2018, May 8). World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/financialsector/brief/blockchain-dlt#:~:text=Distributed%20ledgers%20use%20independent%20computers,in%20an%20append%20only%20mode

Can RBI's digital rupee initiative help INDIA beat the USA’s SWIFT network dominance? (2022, November 5). YouTube. https://youtu.be/07yMvq5WxAs

Cryptocurrency explained with pros and cons for investment. (2013, July 29). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cryptocurrency.asp#:~:text=A%20blockchain%20is%20a%20digitally,use%20with%20cryptocurrencies%20and%20NFTs

Cryptocurrency vs CBDC vs digital money: What’s the difference? (2022, October 8). Business Today. https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/economy/story/cryptocurrency-vs-cbdc-vs-digital-money-whats-the-difference-349323-2022-10-08

Fiat money: What it is, how it works, example, pros & cons. (2003, November 20). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fiatmoney.asp

What is a Central Bank digital currency (CBDC)? (2018, September 6). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/central-bank-digital-currency-cbdc.asp

What is cryptocurrency and how does it work? (2022, February 9). www.kaspersky.com. https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/what-is-cryptocurrency

What is data encryption? (2022, March 30). www.kaspersky.com. https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/encryption

Blockchain facts: What is it, how it works, and how it can be used. (2014, June 13). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp


'FTX has been hacked': Crypto disaster worsens as exchange sees mysterious outflows exceeding $600M. (2022, November 14). CoinDesk: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Crypto News and Price Data. https://www.coindesk.com/business/2022/11/12/ftx-crypto-wallets-see-mysterious-late-night-outflows-totalling-more-than-380m/

How are cryptocurrencies created? (2022, May 5). GeeksforGeeks. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/how-are-cryptocurrencies-created/

Hey guys, so I’m back. We’re skipping the cutesy, simple posts of high school to economics. Why? Because I got dragged into the inescapable pit of it. (…) Anyways, moving on. 

America. It’s a great country. (Speaking from a biased American point of view) But to be clear, it’s a very powerful country. America is the world’s most dominant economic and military power. When mentioned, it’s naturally accepted. We don’t really take time to question how such a nation ended up at the top. We don’t stop and think about the factors that made it so, and so that’s why I want to take time to briefly explain not just how America became the strongest country in the world, but also how American currency became the most powerful. (To be clear, American currency is the main topic. It was just awkward talking about a small topic so I’m adding everything else in.) So let’s talk.

Our two leading questions are this: “How did America become the most powerful country in the world?” And, “How did the United States make the US Dollar the most powerful currency in the world?”

How did America become the most powerful country in the world?

So the United States wasn’t always a very powerful country. They were very fragile, having won independence that “was a war away from being lost”. From 1783-1898, they were a fledgling power, concerned with expanding its borders from the Atlantic to Pacific Coast to fulfil the belief of Manifest Destiny- that God had ordained for the U.S. to expand its territory and control the whole continent. But over the course of time, things began to change.


The Idea of Manifest Destiny

The first factor was a shift from an agrarian economy to an industrialized one during an Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. This switch led to allowing the U.S. to make the necessary equipment to become a superpower. Within this time period, one major war took place, the Spanish-American War. The Spanish-American War was victorious for Americans against the crumbling Spanish Empire. In this, not only did it make for Puerto Rico and distant islands of Guam and Philippines colonies, but also allowed for America to project its power abroad through a colonial empire. From 1898-1945, America would set its sights on Asia and the Caribbean, cement its alliance with Britain and France through World Wars, and eventually, lead to America having the largest economy in the world and become the largest industrial producer.

So now let’s dig deeper. After World War II, the United States came out, unquestionably, as a superpower. Seen in both WWI and WWII, America acted as war merchants first, and then war participants. While the other countries and empires were dedicating their resources and manpower towards the war, America used its capital and manpower to instead, become the “major supplier of cotton, wheat, brass, rubber, automobile and machinery, and thousands of other goods”. This resulted in America facing one of the greatest economic booms in the world. This was seen in WWII as well, with the only participation seen when Pearl Harbor was bombed. From making so much money out of these two wars, America came out having 75% of the world’s monetary gold after WWII. Other countries were not only economically devastated, but also in ruins from the war, leaving America unscathed. Not only that, at the end of WWII after the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was undoubted the United States was indeed on another level. Emerging from the war, both America and the Soviet Union were seen as superpowers, both with very different ideas for the future.

After WWII, America set up a network of bases across the planet to allow itself to project it’s power worldwide. The Soviet Union, who wanted to spread communism, would quickly challenge this superpower. In retaliation, America would station soldiers in Japan and Europe to prevent the spread. This period of geopolitical tension between the two nations is known as the Cold War. They had open yet restricted fighting. There was no direct war, as both had access to nuclear weapons. Thus called the ‘Cold War’.

Source: {history.com}

So now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about how the US Dollar became so powerful.

After WWII, 44 countries met in “Bretton Woods' in July 1944 with the principal goals of creating an efficient foreign exchange system, preventing competitive devaluations of currencies, and promoting international economic growth.” (investopedia.com) As a result, they made the Breton Woods Agreement. Once implemented, its provisions called for the U.S. dollar to be pegged to the value of gold, and for all other currencies in the system to be pegged to the US dollar’s value. This agreement led to minimized international currency exchange rate volatility which helped international trade relations, more stability in foreign currency exchange, and currency stabilization for trade of goods and services as well as financing.


Source: {britannica.com}

This would help in situations where two countries look towards trading with each other, even if they didn’t trust each other. Think School provides an example as such, where Indonesia and Pakistan trade with each other. If Pakistan gives Indonesia 1 million dollars, Indonesia could easily trade that in with the U.S. for the equal amount of gold. However, if this was done in Pakistani Rupees, and let’s say 10,000 PKR= 1 gm gold, Pakistan could print more money and change it to 20,000 PKR= 1 gm gold. This could lead to a collapse in Indonesia’s value of trade. In order to prevent this, the transaction could be done in US dollars, making for the U.S. to guarantee the amount of dollars in gold. 

This Agreement also served as the creation of two major organizations today. The World Bank,and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Due to the ruins and devastation faced by countries in the war, they desperately needed funds and loans to build their country back up. So with the U.S. provided funds, the World Bank provided numerous long-term loans to countries to get them back on track. The IMF serves as a way to keep track of the global economy, assess policy makers, and lend money to countries in economic crisis.
This Agreement sealed the importance of the U.S. Dollar, and gave the Dollar its first wave of dominance.

So that was a brief explanation as to how America became a superpower. It took time, patience, and the use of some clever tactics. The result of this being the position and level to which it is at today. So, thanks for reading, and have a great day. 









 So I had my first homecoming. As in, I attended my first homecoming. Not that I was the one invited for homecoming. Confused? Me too. 

So lets break it down. Homecoming. Pretty much means what you would expect. Coming home. More specifically, the coming home of our prestigious alumni. (Insert singsongy voice) Homecoming is an annual, American tradition where people, towns, high schools, and colleges come together to welcome back former members of the community. I’m not disrespecting if that would still apply to us since we don’t really live near colleges. It might just be the welcoming back of former students, teachers, and community members. Maybe. I’m not sure. I’m new to high school, ask a senior. (Or someone more cultured than me) 

Homecoming usually takes place near late September to early October, and is built around a central event such as a banquet or dance, and most often, a game of American football. Yes the game that isn’t really football but is, hence the name American Football. Call it non-soccer, or non-football football. Anyways, many common activities that take place during this time include a parade featuring aspects of the school such as sports and marching band, a football game on the home field, coronation of a homecoming queen and/or king, and a dance that takes place the day after the game. I had my first homecoming dance last night. So that’s what I meant by attending homecoming. 

The first homecoming-like event was the University of Missouri’s 1911 football game where alumni were invited to attend. This was centered around a game and parade, and from this, it became an annual event. Homecoming usually has a backings court which is a representative group if students. My school’s homecoming court was Lord and Lady (Freshman), Due and Duchess (Sophomore), Prince and Princess (Junior), and then King and Queen which is Seniors. We also have His and Her Excellency which consists of two teachers/staff. I know, a little excessive. It’s a fun tradition though.

For my first homecoming experience, I have to say it’s as really exciting. My favorite part is the decoration I’m not sure how each school does it, but we had every sport, fine arts, club, and such decorate a window or a section of a wall. There were balloons and streamers, colorful pop outs, familiar cultural references *cough cough BTS cough cough*, and so many other cute decorations. I loved how each group had something unique and true to what they do, and I loved seeing the school decorated and glammed up for this. The spirit week for homecoming was also super exciting. Monday- Where did all the time go. Each grade had a different theme such as freshman as little kids and seniors as senior citizens. Tuesday- Dress up with another person. Have another person dress you up in a crazy, cool, or fun outfit. Wednesday was a favorite artist, celebrity, album day. Thursday was a pajama day, and Friday was a Hoco shirt (special shirts sold for Hoco ‘22) and Mums/Garters. Now. What is a mum? 

Frankly, I have no clue. This is apparently a Texas high school tradition, and is very popular. (Of course it is.) So a mum began as a “sweet Texas token of affection given to a girl by her date in honor of the high school homecoming football game and other events.” ( Schumann, Natalie. “How Giant Homecoming Mums Became a Texas Tradition.” Country Living, 20 Sept. 2020, https://www.countryliving.com/life/g28035883/homecoming-mums-tradition-ideas/. ) Boys would accent a chrysanthemum bloom ( which became the unofficial flower of homecoming events) with ribbons and ornaments and give them to a girl. These would be small and pinned on to clothing. However, over time, not only have they been worn around necks, but they’ve also grown in size. On Friday I saw a mum wider than a girl’s torso, with huge decorations. Some covered their entire torso and were heavily adorned with ribbons, bells, stuffed animals, ruffles, multiple artificial flowers, and such. Some even had lights on theirs. 

Source: {https://www.mymomsmums.com/pricing}

On home games, we have a pep rally during school. This usually consists of some stunts and tumbling performed by the cheer team, a bit of dancing by the Dazzlers, the band/marching band performing, a little about the football team, the drum line coming out and being the absolute coolest (my favorite part of you couldn’t tell), class chants, and a finale of singing the school anthem(?). I’m not sure if it’s the anthem. It’s more of a song, not a fight song, but it’s sung at the end of games and pep rallies. Pep rallies are the best. Except for the fact that literally no one in my grade wants to cheer along or participates in the class chant. I don’t know if other schools do this- they probably do- but each class has a special chant for all four years of high school. I think it might be because we’re new and we want to seem cool but in reality it makes us look like wimps and spiritless. Like, come on guys. You can do better. We’re the biggest class ever seen. We’re loud. Show that off! Stop being so shy. But yeah. That’s it. 

Now, final dance. Prom. I won’t be able to go to prom yet since it’s for Juniors and Seniors, another two years before I can, but it is something I’m looking forward to going when I can. Prom, short for Promenade, means (according to Merriam-Webster) “…a ceremonious opening of a formal ball consisting of a grand march of all the guests.” In th past, it was meant as a way to promote social etiquette for university’s senior classes as they finish their studying years and enter society. Over time it has now become something for high school juniors and seniors. It can often be seen as one last way for the class to have fun together before the year ends. The main reason I would want to attend is because one, it’s a final memory with my grade, and two, it reminds me of my 8th grade dance from last year. 

Homecoming. was really nice and I had a lot of fun. However, it was the entire school invited, and my friend and I could barely find people we knew. We had fun together, but not as much fun as we could have with other people. Last year’s dance was only 8th graders, and it was at the end of the school year. At that time, we were finishing the last of our final exams, and it was very easy-going at that time. We also knew each other very well, having bonded together over the past 3 years. It was really comfortable, and it was easy to enjoy. Homecoming is pretty early in the year, and we only started interacting with our peers. (Freshman I mean) Since two other middle schools’ 8th transitioning to 9th grade students were joining us at high school, we had classes with new people. It was 6th grade all over again. It would have been nice to have a dance at the end of the school year, where we had closer relationships with others and could enjoy better. But at least I got to go/ decided to go. Super happy I did. I was considering not going for some time but I’m really happy my parents convinced me to. It helped set up future expectations for the upcoming years. 

Firstly, wear comfortable shoes. As pretty as high heels look under a nice dress, they are absolute PAIN when dancing. I took off my heels around the last 45 minutes and my feet have never felt more relieved. It was so much more comfortable to jump and dance flat footed. A bunch of other girls wore white adidas, Nikes, and converse under their dresses as per fashion, but also because of this reason. Now, understanding why, I’ll try that next time. Second, the dress codes aren’t as strict as last year. There wasn’t a lot of action taken on revealing-ish dresses and so a lot of people wore short dresses, had open backs, low necklines, and the guys even took off their shirts near the end. (Ok that was weird to admit.) I mean, I get that it was super hot in the Student Union with everyone dancing, but c’mon man. There’s kids here. Have some decency. Lastly, I need a date. Not for a relationship or anything romantic, but for someone to carry my stuff for me or provide jackets if it’s too cold. And also if your friends abandon you and you want someone special to talk to. Maybe. Yeah. That’s it. (I kinda had a date to our dance last year. We went as ‘friends’ and had fun together. I kinda abandoned him a bunch of times to dance and meet other people.  (Sorry) But hey it was fun. *AHEM* Too personal. (HAHA) Anyways, yeah. School dances are fun. I understand why people make such a big deal out of them. I would say that a lot of people choose not to go because they don’t have a date. I think that’s incredibly stupid. I remember saying something like that for a dance in 6th grade. I missed out and regretted it ever since. School dances are just ways to have fun. 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a date, or no one you know is going. Just have fun. I can argue for the no friends going part, but I guarantee someone you know will be there. I have personal experience. The least likely people you expect will be there, and you can have fun with them. Just enjoy yourself. That’s all that matters. Just have fun, make memories, don’t do any funny business, and have a great time. That’s what should count. 

T