Joannes Blog

September 7th, 2015

Using Social Studies to Understand the Spice Trade

The Spice Trade dates back all the way to the 15th century, an era with an exceedingly rich history, where huge advancements of economy and technology were made, and relations between great nations arose and befell. Facts and evidences have been pieced together to form our understanding for the Spice Trade today. However, specialists and historians are utilising the various subjects of social studies, including geography, economy, history, religion, and cultural anthropology to ensure a deeper analysis of the area in focus, that is, the Spice Trade.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.57.00 am

It is in no doubt that geography played a huge role during this time period. The map (shown above) indicates the path of which these merchants took in order to trade with other countries. By establishing the route to trade spices, it also developed a place for people to exchange ideas, beliefs, and spread religion, resulting in the increase in economy. Islam took over the major population of the region and spread all throughout the East to Maritime South-East Asia, and the practice of Christianity spread to Asia after Europe was getting involved in the trade. The art, literacy, craftsmanship, and promotion of trading activities of the Hindu and Buddhist religious establishments also benefited the local economy. According to the “Spice it Up” reading, the Europeans borrowed the compass and stern-post rudder from China, the lateen sail from Arabia, and maps from the Muslim. By using these designs and inventions, the Europeans were able to venture through vast oceanic endeavours to access the spice trade network, and be involved in the trade. Supply and demand of spices also increased the spice trade economy, with more merchants and middlemen wanting to make profit each time that the products were resold. It is evident that during this time, the economy of the Spice Trade was rapidly rising, and was souring at new heights like never before.


Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 3.03.48 amWhile the Spice Trade did change the world for the good, at the same time it also triggered several encounters and disputes between various nations and populaces. After the Europeans decided to colonise the Spice Islands as their own, the farmers and traders lost their land, freedom and wealth, resulting in Europe eventually taking over the Spice Trade market. In an observation made by British merchant seaman George Early (shown above), it is mentioned that the supreme government of Dutch India monopolised spices and trade, which meant that the natives of the islands were the targets of high taxation. They were being mistreated and oppressed by the government, which led to the rebellion of the locals, where they burned down their own plantations. However, this was not the only negative encounter for the Dutch India Company. In 1656, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese for the land of Kochi, this triumphant scene was captured in the painting (shown above) at the coast of Malabar. This shows that not only were the Europeans in conflict with non-Europeans, they were also in conflict with each other and was fighting for power of land over seas, and as Europe continued to take over the Spice Trade, their connection with many other populations including the Muslims continued to worsened drastically.


24 Fun Facts About Cochin “Kochi” India. Digital image. Traveling with the Jones. Janis, 8 Mar. 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.

Spice Trade. Digital image. Wikiwand. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.

J. M. Gullick, Adventures and Encounters: Europeans in South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995.

May 18th, 2015


What are your especially proud of with this project? Explain or give examples.The part of the project that I am most proud of would be my travel writing. This writing format was a brand new concept introduced to me, since I have never really been exposed to this format before. Also, it was something that I spent the most time on to edit and write.What could you have done better? Explain or give examples.Personally, I think that if there was more time, I could have done better on my movement infographic for the Naxi minority. When I was working on this element, the information I found online were very limited, which was a bit frustrating. I later learned from my peers about some other applications on the internet that were good to make infographics with. So next time, I would spend more time exploring firsrt instead of rushing through to make the final product. What was a lesson you learned while working on this project?  This could be a “lesson” on any level (personal, academic, group dynamics). In past group projects, we would all do our own part of the assignment and eventually put it together. In this project, we had to work even harder as a group to make sure that there was a cohesive plan to make everything turnout the way we want it to. Also, this was the first time I have used the application Pages to do a project. In the past few weeks, I have learned a lot about this application from the teachers and peers. I enjoy using Pages more than Microsoft Word, and it is now something that I will continue to use for many other purposes. What advice would you give to students doing this project next year? Do not procrastinate and leave your work to the last day. Make sure to make progress every day with your travel writing and elements, so that it is magazine-worthy. Communicate with group members, this is essential when putting together your magazine. If one person makes a mistake, it may cause the entire magazine to turn out differently.

May 10th, 2015

Cassette Tape Confessions – Found Poem


(Click above to see GIF)

I don’t believe it

I’m on the list



Swallow a handful of pills




I swallow hard

These tapes shouldn’t be here

It has to be a mistake

This is a Found Poem I have created from page 23 of the book: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. There are many types of conflicts in this novel, but I chose to focus on a person vs. self conflict that the main protagonist Clay Jensen is experiencing. This entire novel is written in Clay’s perspective. A friend of his, Hanna Baker, commit suicide a few weeks ago and left behind eight cassette tapes, each directed at a single person that has made her life miserable. Clay receives the tapes and is petrified of being one of the people that has caused Hanna to end her life. Every time Clay plays a new cassette tape, he is afraid that Hanna may call his name, “a line of hot sweat rises along my hairline. ‘Alex Standall, it’s your turn.’ A single bead of sweat slides down my temple and I wipe it away” (Asher 31). The phrases that I have picked are to describe what is going on in Clay’s head when he first received the tapes in the mail. He was confused on why his name was on Hanna’s list, and he feels as if “the world around [him] twists and splits” (38). Not just that, he also finds it hard to continue playing these tapes, since it still seems unreal to him that Hanna was gone. I used Adobe Photoshop to digitally draw the cassette tape, screen-shot the poem phrases, then put everything together on to create the GIF.

April 19th, 2015

Secret Ballads of the Universe

Aristotle goes through both internal and external conflicts regarding his friendship with Danté. The ten following songs are representations of the situations that the two go through as we approach the rising action of the novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Tunes of Aristotle by New User on Grooveshark

“Welcome To My Life” – Simple Plan

To be hurt,
To feel lost,
To be left out in the dark,
To be kicked when you’re down,
To feel like you’ve been pushed around,
To be on the edge of breaking down, and no ones there to save you,
No, you don’t know what its like,
Welcome to my life.

“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.” (Sáenz 8) Ari’s previous life was shambolic; family issues and the appalling behaviour of his peers have caused him to lose trust against all people, which was why he was considered an outcast at school and didn’t have any friends. This song portrays the message that Ari sends out in the beginning of this novel, of how much he was living in misery.


“She Is” – The Fray

She is everything I need that I never knew I wanted,
She is everything I want that I never knew I needed.

After meeting Danté at the community pool, he becomes Ari’s everything. Ari never thought that he could connect with somebody on such a level, “he had given me a piece of himself that he had never given to another human being” (141).


“Love Someone” – Jason Mraz

Oh ain’t it nice this life, we’ve got each other;
And I am right beside you,
More than just a partner or a lover,
I’m your friend.

Ari and Dante are spending so much time together, they grow fonder of each other every day, and are willing to do anything for one another. They have such a close bond that when Ari hears the news about Danté’s family moving to Chicago, he “feels like [he] was the saddest boy in the universe. And that the world was ending.” (154).


“Same Love” – Macklemore with Ryan Lewis (feat. Mary Lambert)

When kids are walking ‘round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart,
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are.

“Swimming and you, Ari. Those are the things I [Danté] love the most” (151). Following up on the topic of Ari and Dante’s friendship, Danté tells Ari that he loves him, and Ari feels the same but is afraid to admit it. This song explores the theme of youth homosexuality in modern society, which fits in to what both Ari and Danté are going through in this novel.


“Grenade” – Bruno Mars

I’d catch a grenade for you,
Throw my hand on a blade for you,
I’d jump in front of a train for you,
You know I’d do anything for you.

This song fits in perfectly to the plot where an incoming car is approaching, and Ari without any hesitation dives right in front of it to push Danté out of the way. Ari spends months in a wheelchair but that was only a small price he was willing to pay for Danté. “I thought that maybe Danté was dead, and then there was all this panic living side of me” (113), this proves that Ari is willing to do anything for the ones he loves.


“Chasing Pavements” – Adele

Should I give up?
Or should I just keep chasin’ pavements,
Even if it leads nowhere?

Ari is afraid to speak up about the real reason why he really jumped in front of the car to save Danté. He tells him that it is because of his own instincts, when truly it was because Danté meant the world to him, and he was afraid of losing him forever.


“Brave” – Sara Bareilles

You can be the outcast,
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love,
Or you can start speaking up.

I wonder what would happen if you,
Say what you wanna say,
And let the words fall out,
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.

Bravery is the courageous behaviour of a character. Ari discovers that he cannot hide in his own shell forever; he needs to get out there and start speaking up for himself, but “he’s scared, he’s very scared” (113), and sometimes feels that he doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to do it. Danté has helped him through so much, he is his catalyst, he makes him better. But Ari is still finding it hard to step up and be brave enough to tell Danté how he truly feels


“Lost Stars” – Maroon 5

But are we all lost stars,
Trying to light up the dark?

One of the internal conflicts Ari is facing in this novel is finding out who he is throughout his teenage years. This song sums up how everybody on this earth is trying to discover his or her own identity. “I wanted to ask her, Mom, when will I know who I am? (148).


Easy” – Rascal Flatts (feat. Natasha Bedingfield)

What she don’t know,
Is how hard it is to make it look so easy. 

This song is about a break up, and how hard it is for one to get over the other. Though this does not exactly tie in with the plot of the story, I think that this line describes Ari’s personality very well. All of these emotions are running through his head and he struggles to make his own decisions. This whole situation is not easy on Ari; in fact it’s pretty hard-hitting. He acts all tough on the outside, yet inside he is so vulnerable and unsure of his own feelings, and it is hard for him to make covering his own emotions look ‘easy’.


“Run Every Time” – Gavin DeGraw

She’s ready, I’m not ready,
I hear people go crazy for steady,
But me, I run every time,
I run every time I’m close.

Whenever situations like this come close, Ari runs away. In this song, the girl wants to settle down with him and get married but he is emotionally not ready for any of it, therefore he runs away. Both of these characters are afraid of facing the truth, and in Ari’s case: telling Danté his feelings.


April 18th, 2015

Polymer Project: Entry #5

Posted by Joanne in Science  Tagged , , , ,    

Though our product is far from the level of being market-worthy, the consistency and texture of our polymer turned out to be a little too soft in my opinion, but was still suitable for our product goal, which is a protective shield for a wide range of electronic devices including smartphones and laptops.

I would say that the process of creating our polymer was very prolonged. My partner and I struggled to get the right recipe at first, and after that we were having trouble re-creating the same polymers. We were very experimental during the class periods, (which later on we found out was very time-consuming), and towards the end we began to run out of time. The Friday after-school session was crucial for us, since at that point we had nothing that turned out to be anywhere close to our goal.

The after-school session my partner and I came in for was a huge milestone for us, because by then we have finally produced our final product. At first, our polymer was too stiff and wouldn’t stretch the way we envisioned it to. Another group saw us struggling and gave us some advice of putting corn and liquid starch instead of Borax to make the polymer softer and easier to mold. Then, we added some baby powder (that another group brought in) to thicken and give the polymer more solidity. After these final changes, our finished product turned out a lot better than the ones that were produced before. It was soft and pliable (easy to mold), and also hardened after being exposed to air overnight. But the final product was still short from what we originally envisioned it to be, we wanted even more structure and solidity, and sadly we did not quite reach that goal.

When it came time for the infomercial, some of the challenges my partner and I faced when creating the video were mostly on how to express our ideas. Did we want to film footages ourselves? Or find them online? After some precise debate and planning with my partner, we decided to find statistics from online and footages both our own polymer and short YouTube videos to tie in to our infomercial. We came up with the name ‘Polyshield’, which came from the words Poly (Polymer) and Shield (protective case).

I thought it was a fascinating experience to be part of the ‘Dream-On’ team. We were able to watch the other groups present their original polymer product designs and their pleasurable infomercial. One thing I found difficult while evaluating the other groups’ polymer designs were seeing if the polymer had succeeded or not. Since we only had a brief introduction to each product, and limited footage in the infomercial, I found it difficult to make sense of if these polymers worked in real-life and give them a suitable grade.

This polymer project was far from our typical ‘lab report’ experiments where we would do the tests, then write a lab report over it. In this assignment, students were not strained over anything; it was mainly fun for all of us. This is by far one of my favorite projects, it not just allowed students to explore and experiment by themselves, but there was very little limitation to what we couldn’t do, which gave students the chance to let their own creativity thrive.

April 10th, 2015

Polymer Project: Entry #4

Posted by Joanne in Science  Tagged , , , ,    


Stirring Food Coloring, Water, and Glue


Adding Borax Solution into the mix


Kneading the Polymer

My partner and I took half of the polymer we created the class before and put it in a fridge for 24 hours, and the other half exposed to air for 12 hours. We predicted that when the polymer is exposed to lower temperatures, it would become more rigid. We later found that the polymer becomes more stiff and durable after being exposed to air, which was the exact opposite of what we predicted. Out of the three prototypes created the class before, we have found one that worked extremely well, but then realized that the recipe that was recorded down somehow did not produce the same polymer as expected. This was a huge barrier for our team since now we will have to attempt to recreate the recipe once again. So, last class, we continued on to find the right recipe/create new prototypes for our polymer. Other groups with similar prototype polymers were kind enough to give us some feedback and how they made theirs. So far, I believe that we are on the right track, andthat after a few more times of test trials, we will be able to create our final product. Further on, our group has researched and found that oil and silicon are the components to making a waterproof/water resistant polymer, which is the goal we are striving for next if we are able to access these materials.

April 7th, 2015

Polymer Project: Entry #3

Posted by Joanne in Science  Tagged , , , ,    


Test Polymer #1 :

10ml water

2cm cup of glue

10ml borax solution



Test Polymer #2 :

10ml of water

40ml borax solution

40ml of glue


Test Polymer #3:

10ml of water

20ml borax solution

30ml of glue


Last class, my partner and I experimented further with the recipes and continued on to find ways to modify our polymer. The three recipes of the polymers that were made in class are listed above.

At the moment, we are still modifying our polymer recipe to create it the way we are envisioning it to. We are testing if temperature (freezing it in low temperatures) would benefit us and improve our polymer. Our group is also researching a little bit about water-proof polymers and how they work. If it is possible to make these water-proof polymers with the materials that we have, my partner and I want to create a polymer that is also water resistant.

We have found a goal for our final product, we are aiming to create a polymer that is easy to mold and shape, that eventually makes a protective case for everyday electronics like smartphones. The purpose of this invention is so that people are able to mold their own cases based on their own wants and needs, for example: people may want to have a better grip on the back of their phones. We are testing to see if the water-resistant idea would work, so that our final product not just can mold into a desired shape for a smartphone, but also protect it from water.


March 31st, 2015

Cultural Un-Barriers

Posted by Joanne in Art  Tagged , , , , ,    

Final Reflection

 “Cultural Un-Barriers”

 The process of creating this artwork consisted of printing our background, creating our digital portraits, and making our cultural stamps. We first brainstormed ideas for our cultural identity stamp, and did some rough sketches then eventually printed our final ideas onto the foam to make a stamp. We used different textures and paint to create a background; we then stamped our own stamps along with another stamp that we could relate to onto it. After that, we took full-body self-portrait photos and used Adobe Illustrator to draw them digitally. Finally, after the self-portraits were printed out, we would paste them on top of our background, which forms our art media final product.

In my stamp design, I decided to incorporate the sun of the Taiwanese flag and the star of the Chinese flag to represent my culture, family roots and where I have lived. The Ying-yang symbol in the center represents balance, of how both of these cultures have impacted my life in significant aspects; they have shaped my life in terms of values, belief and lifestyle. I chose to use Emerson from 8-7’s stamp in my background; her stamp symbolized all the places that she has lived. I can easily relate to her cultural identity since we both have lived and have a connection with the country Taiwan, which was why I decided to add her stamp onto my stamp background.

In the past, I have never had much exposure to digital art. Occasionally we would use photo-shop to edit a photo, but it has never really interested me in such a way. Throughout this art media project, we have learned to use Adobe illustrator, an application that I have never used before. One main aspect I have learned throughout this project was about the creative process of brainstorming, planning, drafting, and critiquing. You first need to brainstorm different ideas and choose a certain one that appeals to you the most. After you have chosen that path, you have to keep coming up with ideas, and get critiques from your peers to improve your design. This is a much longer process than what it looks like; and now I understand why a single art project may take such a prolonged time.

Though this part was also the most challenging, I thought that the most enjoyable part about this project was creating our digital portraits. It was a whole new concept to me, since I have never used Adobe Illustrator before, and it was really fascinating to see how the final products looks very similar to the photo portraits that we took. In the beginning, I found Adobe Illustrator to be quite difficult to use, but after I broke through that barrier of learning to use a brand new software, it was smooth-sailing from there. I thought that the most frustrating part was creating our stamps; since it took so many tries and rough drafts to finally get it the way you want it to look like. Overall, I really enjoyed this art media project; and there was not a specific part that I did not enjoy doing.

March 25th, 2015

Polymer Project: Entry #1

Posted by Joanne in Science  Tagged , , , , ,    

We have recently started a project called the ‘polymer project’, where students work in groups to create a polymer that would have an impact on our world. The process of this project includes constructing, testing, and refining polymers to generate a final product. Eventually, students would have to advertise and sell their products to a panel called the “Dream-On” team, the Inventions and Innovations Company.

After some brief research of the basics of polymers, we took all of the information that was gathered and created a concept map (shown above). We have learned that polymers can be seen anywhere; from school supplies to the surgical gloves used by doctors. Last class, we began to experiment with “goober slimes”, which had a slimy,  jelly-like texture. Though we do not have an idea on our final product yet, we know that we would try experimenting with a stiffer polymers since these polymers are too soft to work with. Our group is still in the process of brainstorming ideas of what our final product would be. Our plan is to first learn more about this topic, and have some hands-on experience with different types of polymers before finally coming up with an idea.



March 20th, 2015

A Journey Through the French Revolution

This is a journal entry about the French Revolution in a character’s perspective. Alexis Roland was born into the bourgeoisies, also known as the richer half of the third-estate. His occupation is a banker and earns a decent amount of income to feed his own family and not struggle financially. Throughout the entries, Alexis reflects on the events and effects that has happened during the French Revolution.

The French Revolution started the rising of nationalism, the spread of democracy throughout Europe, and also influenced revolutions in many other countries. Aside from giving way to the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, France unified and increased the power of the national state, and set a precedent for a democratic French government. Although it did not solve class inequalities, the French Revolution led to the emergence of the middle class. Within the ten years of the French Revolution, France has evolved from a monarchy in crisis to being a vast empire that has shaped modern nations today.  Over the course of the decade, France started out having a monarchy government, with King Louis XVI; and ended with the rise of Napoleon. The people of France have been fighting for the freedom of a monarch government for even longer than the revolution, yet ten years later, they still got one.

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